As different as West Virginia's offense will look this season, coordinator Jeff Casteel's defense should look about the same, especially in the secondary.
"To have a familiar coach, the same defensive scheme, I think it's pretty important," redshirt senior free safety Eain Smith said.
Only four starters return from the 2010 Mountaineers defense, but redshirt senior cornerback Keith Tandy and junior strong safety Terence Garvin play in the defensive backfield. Smith also has nine starts and 38 career appearances.
In fact, the secondary has a combined 49 career starts, more than the rest of the defensive roster combined.
"We've got a lot of players who have played in different situations, maybe not started, but have been in crucial situations," Tandy said. "They know what it's like out there when stuff gets tight."
The new starters, at least on the preseason depth chart, will be redshirt sophomore boundary safety Darwin Cook and junior cornerback Pat Miller. Both played in all 13 games for the Mountaineers last season, with Miller starting two games.
The biggest change involves Tandy, who will move to left cornerback after earning all-Big East Conference honors on the right side last year while leading the league with six interceptions.
All three veterans said they have assumed a leadership role to help the younger players slide into the starting lineup without any hiccups.
"The big thing is effort and running to the ball," Smith said. "We're a fast defense, and we like to get 11 men to the ball. That's what we try to emphasize to the younger guys."
Garvin was quick to credit Casteel as the reason not to expect any dropoff from a unit that ranked No. 3 in the country in both scoring defense and total defense a year ago.
"He really knows how to teach his defense," Garvin said. "He knows exactly what he wants, and he knows who he wants to do it and exactly how he wants it done."
The secondary also benefits from spending camp practicing against such a potentially explosive offense. In new coach Dana Holgorsen's pass-first spread, the Mountaineers are expected to move the ball quickly through the air.
"It definitely helps with your conditioning, and you've got to think a lot faster," Tandy said of practicing against his team's offense. "It makes you learn the stuff that much better. You don't have time to think about what the offense is doing."
He said such preparation will serve the defense well.
"Once we get to a game, it's going to seem like everything's so much slower," Tandy said. "We'll have all day."
Sam Werner: email@example.com or 412-263-1459.