A year ago, WVU sent Geno Smith, Tavon Austin, Joe Madsen and Will Clarke to the Big 12 media days in Dallas. It was the cotillion occasion for the Mountaineers and, on multiple levels, they did not disappoint.
They came here with a purpose, and while they didn’t intend to do it by singling out opponents or rattling coaches, they wanted their peers to know they were very much a part of this conference.
Being invited is one thing. Belonging is another.
“We all came out here knowing what our abilities are, so why not have that kind of swagger where we say what we feel and do what we want, but at the same time show respect and know it’s an honor being in the Big 12,” Madsen said.
Last week, quarterback Geno Smith was named the Big 12′s preseason offensive player of the year. On the following day, the conference media picked WVU to finish second in its preseason poll. Those were heavy distinctions for a team new to the league and it spurred a natural curiosity about how WVU would manage.
Madsen had a sharp reply. On a day when people wanted to learn about who and what the Mountaineers are, a member of the Rimington Trophy watch list he wore his hair in a spiked Mohawk.
“One reason I like the guys on this team, and you can tell this just talking to the guys we had here, is they’re confident,” Holgorsen said. “They’ve been in big games. They’re used to winning. That always gives you a chance.”
Of course, some people might say that that coming out party, or that attitude, was used against the Mountaineers, but let us digress.
That was quite a roster WVU brought with it to Dallas last season. It had two of the
conference’s country’s marquee players in Geno and Tavon, the ever-quotable Madsen and the thoughtful and articulate Clarke. I would argue no other team brought as much to the tables, though I suppose Baylor might quibble.
Well, we’ve now rounded the Fourth of July and we’re getting closer to the start of practice. The conference media days start next week and the Big 12′s is July 22-23. And if this isn’t a sign of the times, I don’t know what is: WVU is bringing Clarke, Quinton Spain and Karl Joseph. Hey, good players and clearly three of the best of the team, but, yikes, what a drop off.
Clarke is the resident old head and he can hold his own, which is good because he better be ready to address roughly 16,000 questions about being better in 2013 than 2012. He might need to get artistic with that one, though I trust he can — but this is why I’d send Darwin Cooke. His replies, to say nothing of his personality, would produce much different content. And every story written about the wacky Cook is one less written about that wacky defense.
Spain and Joseph are not what one would call big talkers. Big players? Absolutely and it’s pretty clear WVU expects both to have all-conference caliber seasons. The stage is good and it is earned for both, but I’ve always thought both were very good in small crowds and, as is the case with many people, occasionally undone by larger crowds.
I suppose one positive out of all this is that there will be a lot of attention and inches devoted to stories about WVU replacing lost production on offense. I would think people will have a hard time demanding definitive conclusions from Spain, which maybe mean people walk away thinking molehill as opposed to mountain.
Joseph is going to have to field questions about the defense, both old and new, but he’ll also be subjected to a lot of questions and stories about Karl Joesph. We should hope he’s well-versed on that topic, so maybe he gets some healthy recognition out of it.
At worst, I’m sure this can be spun some way to make both believe that they can’t possibly make it in leadership positions in the Big 12 if they can’t cut it against the ink-stained, pen-toting, camera-holstering, microphone-thrusting masses.