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ASU Fooball: Q&A with defensive coordinator Keith Patterson

What does he have to say about his group in 2014?

Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson instructs the defense during a 2014 Spring practice
Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson instructs the defense during a 2014 Spring practice
Nick Krueger/House of Sparky

Keith Patterson is a football coach, no doubt about it.

He speaks with a raspy tone that can only come from yelling and screaming at players on the field for over 20 seasons at the high school and college level.

He wears a visor, a long sleeve t-shirt, athletic shorts and tennis shoes to practice almost every day, and his voice booms across the Arizona State football practice fields like no other coach except maybe Todd Graham.

Perhaps that explains why the pair is back together at Arizona State, extending an already long-tenured relationship that goes back over 30 years. They've coached together at Allen High School in Texas, University of Tulsa, Pitt, and now Arizona State.

"When I see him, it's a mirror of myself," Graham said this past spring. "Except the thing that he brings that you don't see out here, is that he'll stand up and tell me exactly what he thinks and is not afraid to do that."

In the following Q&A with Patterson, the defensive coordinator uses "we" when referring to Todd Graham and himself, which reveals that he sees his journey up the coaching ladder as one he shares with Graham. The Sun Devil head coach must really trust him too, to help him build a defense from almost scratch into something that can compete in the Pac-12 in 2014.

He'll also be in charge of a special teams unit that Graham admitted was a mess at points last season. It's a lot of pressure, but if Patterson's experience is any sign, he shouldn't have any issues at all handling it.

House of Sparky: What are your keys for this defense to reach its highest potential?

Keith Patterson: Number one play as a unit. If we can get 11 people running to the football with a purpose and a passion, then I think we can continue to develop into a good defense. I'm proud of the effort that we've given, we've been fairly consistent but we've got a long way to go obviously.

HoS: Is there one player or one team defense that worries you in the Pac-12 this upcoming season?

KP: We watch video and opponents from a year ago. But really, right now, the beautiful thing about early in fall camp is that the focus is us. We're just trying to continue to get better every day at each position. And make sure we've got people in the right position so really we've got our eyes focused on ourselves right now.

HoS: Given your familiarity with Todd Graham, how seamless has this transition been for you?

KP: We just picked right back up where we left off. I guess our strengths and weaknesses all just kind of mesh together and it really makes it more complete. He's made the defense, the scheme, I really like the things he's done to make it and improve it.

HoS: What's one moment in your coaching career so far that you remember that's really special for you?

KP: I think when we were at the University of Tulsa, the smallest Division I school in America that plays Division I football, we beat Notre Dame at Notre Dame. I think that probably was the turning point in our career. After that game, coach (Graham) started receiving a lot of attention from other schools around the country as far as jobs were concerned. I point back to that game, it was just kind of a surreal moment.

HoS: What role do you envision for De'Marieya Nelson this season?

KP: I tell you what, from what we've seen so far, he's one of the most explosive guys on the field, very impressed with what we've seen from him, we're just going to continue and see how he develops over the next couple of weeks. We'll continue to build upon the scheme, but I feel good about where he is.

HoS: Special teams struggled as a unit last year. How confident are you in that group?

KP: We're going to perform, that's the bottom line. We've raised the standard of what we expect from those guys that we're going to put on there. We're going to be just like our offense and defense, we're going to be in an attack mode on special teams and you're going to see improvement.

HoS: Todd Graham said their were a lot of penalties in practice on Monday, what can you do in practice to try and limit that?

KP: It's a mental focus. What happens is we had a long day yesterday, we got guys lifting weights, meetings, we had a team activity and we had a walk through. Then all the sudden it's a quick turnaround and you've got to be able to hit the reset button and get focused for that next practice. That's all penalties are is just a lack of mental focus.