Tuesday, April 17, 2012
West Virginia in no rush to study Big 12
By David Ubben
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia's not going to apologize for it.
Simply put: With five months and two weeks before the Mountaineers' first Big 12 game against Baylor, West Virginia's players aren't exactly experts on their new conference home.
"I know that it’s one of the more dominant conferences. They’ve got a lot of good teams," receiver Stedman Bailey said. "That’s pretty much all I can say."
Bailey has never stepped foot in Oklahoma or Texas, where six Big 12 teams -- more than half the new league -- reside.
"I know of a couple receivers from Oklahoma, and that’s about it. I really don’t know much of who’s who in the Big 12," he said.
West Virginia's players know they're in the Big 12. What else, though?
"I haven’t really heard anything about it. I really don’t pay attention to it," receiver Tavon Austin said.
Said running back Shawne Alston: "I knew Coach [Dana] Holgorsen used to coach there, and Texas was there. Not really too much else."
Linebacker Jared Barber's favorite team was Texas growing up, but since he signed with West Virginia, his focus has been on the Big East, where WVU took home a league title in 2010.
Said quarterback Geno Smith: "Aside from watching like Vince Young, I don’t know much about it."
It's no accident. That's exactly the way Holgorsen designed it this spring.
"It’s about us right now, it’s not about who we play," he said. "Once the Maryland game is over, we’ll be solely focused on Baylor."
Baylor alone, though. Holgorsen won't be sitting his team down to talk big-picture issues about the move to the Big 12. Every week, it'll get a crash course on what to expect on the weekend.
"We’ll talk about our opponent from a familiarity standpoint," Holgorsen said. "From a venue standpoint, if we’re playing them there, to what color their uniforms are, how big their stadium is, how loud their fans are to what their schemes are, some familiarity with who their players are. All that stuff will take place when we’re going to play that opponent."
That stands in contrast to TCU coach Gary Patterson, who lacks Holgorsen's nine years of experience coaching in the Big 12 but said earlier this spring that he has every 2011 Big 12 game on a DVD, and watches them constantly.
Not so much for Holgorsen.
"That’s just his confidence," Smith said. "I believe we’re not to that stage right now, worrying about other people. Right now, we’re focusing on getting better as a team and everyone getting better individually."
Once he broaches their new opponents each week, Holgorsen's evaluation to his team will be extensive, beyond just what to expect between the white lines once the game starts.
"The more information we can give them to know your opponent, the better prepared they’re going to be. That’s the whole deal," Holgorsen said. "This is what the airport’s going to look like in Lubbock, Texas. Here’s what the drive’s going to look like. Here’s what the fans are gonna say. All that stuff gets your team focused on what to expect."
Players like Austin might not know much about the Big 12, but they know one big truth about what's going on in Morgantown this spring.
"This is our chance to go in and do the one thing that West Virginia never did before: win the Big 12," he said.