Back in act…ually, there isn’t much happening

May 18, 2015 by Mike Casazza

 

Hi, I’m Mike. I used to run things around here until stepping away two weeks ago. I heard there was an accident last week and I was needed to restore order, so, hi, I’m Mike.

Anyhow, I’ve been back since Friday, earning ovations and scouring through a week’s worth of headlines. Surprisingly, it seems events were minimal when I was gone.

Bob Huggins sewed up his 2015 recruiting class by getting a commitment from Lamont West, a 6-foot-7 wing the Mountaineers were looking for to further diversify their attack. Last I heard before my exit was Louisville and St. John’s were making a move, so score one for WVU there.

The baseball team kind of righted its course and did enough in the weekend series against potent Texas Tech to win the first two games and reach the Big 12 tournament. The Mountaineers will play Oklahoma State Wednesday.

The biggest ordeal, I suppose, was college basketball’s push for new rules, and we’ll look at those a little later.

In the meantime, thanks to Mack for doing what he does. My gift to him: Voila.

And thanks to you all for keeping this place running while I was overseas. My gift to you: If you thought Kevin White had an unbelievable journey (® The Bachelorette), have a look at what Ka’Raun White did so that he could enroll at West Virginia today.

“I think Ka’Raun’s story is crazier than Kevin’s,” said Kyzir White, the youngest of the three brothers. “He didn’t play in high school. He wasn’t always a star player. He wasn’t even playing for a while. And look where he is now.”

Ka’Raun White is the only member of WVU’s 2015 recruiting class who will enroll in the first wave of summer classes that begin Monday, though the Mountaineers expect most to enroll next month. It wasn’t long ago when White wouldn’t have entertained this possibility. He was too busy working at McDonald’s — two years after graduating from high school.

White made all the sandwiches on the menu. He started at $7.25 an hour and earned a nickel raise during the four-plus years he spent under the golden arches. It was 2012, and Kevin was two grades older and making a splash as a redshirt sophomore at Lackawanna when Ka’Raun decided he wanted to be a college football player, too.

“His journey is the reason I continued to play,” Ka’Raun said. “I pretty much gave up on it at one point. But I was determined. I was seeing my brother do it, so I said, ‘I can do that, too.’ He’s the only reason why I gave this a chance.”

Bye week

May 7, 2015 by Mike Casazza

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Bob Huggins spares no one

May 6, 2015 by Mike Casazza

West Virginia’s basketball coach is never denied admission to Canton’s Pro Football Hall of Fame Luncheon Club, hardly a half-court heave from Walsh College, where Huggins had his first head coaching job. His annual number Monday was as good as ever and he hit on pundits, peers, pressure defense, pains in the you-know-what and … honestly I don’t know what got into him here, but I don’t care, either.

Always a harsh critic of officiating, Huggins grumbled that officials do what ever they want without regard to the rule bookthat theyve become television celebrities. The best officials are the ones you dont remember after the game.” He was especially critical of officials who call shooting fouls, describing them as “orgasmic” when they get to motion and one”…. “its like sex to them.

 

Let us turn back the block

May 6, 2015 by Mike Casazza

Join me as we venture all the way back to the year 2010. It’s the start of the calendar year and West Virginia is two seasons and a  1-1 bowl game record removed from 13-9 and 48-28. Nobody really knows where this is going, and the Mountaineers are loitering in this odd place as the kings of a so-so conference with a penchant for beating big-time opponents in regular-season and postgame matchups. There needed to be shell with a bomb, a way to announce the program’s presence with authority, if not for staying power, then for steering power to push the star ship into a desired direction upward and onward.

And then along came national signing day and what was hailed by experts or “experts” as the Greatest Recruiting Class in School History. Proclamations in the moment are somewhat silly, but there was cause for celebration: This was a great haul for the Mountaineers. WVU wasn’t insisting this to be true in the news conference that day, but there were no indications the Mountaineers disagreed. The reviews were in and the Mountaineers were being hailed for the recruiting effortsThere’s no question this was a special class with lots of skill position athletes for the Mountaineers.

“No question…” bit much. We have answers now, and it’s sort of interesting. With the 2015 NFL draft now complete, the 2010 class is gone from WVU. Two players are in the NFL. One was drafted. One signed an undrafted rookie free agent deal. The former was a junior college player. The latter was a high school recruit. Nineteen players signed. Twelve never made it or never finished — and another not included ended up taking quite a ride.

All in all, a much different look for the Greatest Recruiting Class in School History, though the point is not to jump out from behind a column and yell, “Aha! I told you recruiting ratings are not to be trusted!” For all of WVU’s (honestly inarguable) praise that day and for the way WVU gets patted on the head for high school recruiting in spite of obstacles, the Mountaineers are nailing junior college recruiting and the wooing of college transfers, which makes them a destination on two fronts and on two levels of recruiting.

 

Check in next week, though

May 6, 2015 by Mike Casazza

This time last week, the Big 12 seemed to be sulking into a corner to put writing on the wall: A Big 12 championship game was coming, and the league commissioner was beholden to the warnings of the College Football Playoff committee and not the foundation of his conference structure.

Bob Bowlsby had just met with and listened to the CFP folks, which was a necessity because if the league was going to make a dramatic and seemingly unwanted change to re-introduce a conference championship game, then it had to be compelled to move in that direction. Someone in the CFP room absolutely had to say, “League, you cost yourself a spot in the playoff last year and the status quo will continue to haunt and hurt your membership going forward.”

Well, it looked like the CFP compelled Bowlsby and the Big 12.

Bowlsby wouldn’t definitively say the Big 12 will add a championship game in 2016 if a new NCAA rule allows 10-team members to do so. But given the knowledge he has now, Bowlsby said, “I surmise we would probably move in that direction.”

Bowlsby said he was told this week by CFP Selection Committee chairman Jeff Long that 13 data points are better than 12. Ohio State blew out Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game on the final week last season while Baylor and TCU won their final regular-season games in round-robin play.

“What we heard is if we don’t go to a championship game we’re at a disadvantage,” Bowlsby said. “All things being equal, 13 games are better than 12 games. That’s what we heard. So that gives us clear enough direction that we’re coming in at least at a modest disadvantage. We need to do whatever we can to mitigate that.”

Not to repeat myself repeating myself, but changing right now felt like a terrible idea … which is different from saying changing ever is a bad idea. I think it’s a bad idea overall, but it’s especially bad when it’s a forced and/or reactionary adjustment based on the smallest available sample size. If time proves the process wrong, then you can’t ignore that. But similarly, you can’t assume a problem exists when there’s little evidence to support that.

The whole “13 data points are better than 12″ idea sounds really good. It’s a talking point. It resonates. It’s also true. So let’s accept and apply that standard.

If 13 > 12, then isn’t 2 > 1? Of course it is. So let the second season of the CFP unfold and let the Big 12, which damn near had a team in the top four last season if not for variables that, I think, would have still prevailed if the conference had a championship game, see if it happens again or if something different happens. You can’t establish trends with one event.

And, lo, the Big 12 will not. At the conference meetings — which began yesterday and conclude today and no longer exist to expand and realign but to govern and keep house — the league announced it would acknowledge logic and would not jump into a championship game.

“I think we all believe that one year is not a long enough trial to draw any conclusions,” Bowlsby said. “We may find ourselves in better shape than some other conferences as a result of our model rather than in spite of our model.”

Bowlsby met with league athletic directors Tuesday morning and coaches Tuesday afternoon during the league’s spring meetings.

The Big 12 was upset when TCU dropped from No. 3 to No. 6 in the final CFP Rankings despite beating Iowa State by 52 on the last day of the season. Baylor, which beat TCU and ultimately shared the Big 12 title with the Frogs, finished fifth. An upset in one of the other conference title games might have allowed one or both into the top four.

“We were so close to being golden,” Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt said.

When asked if he overreacted to Long’s interpretation, Bowlsby said, “Maybe I did. I’m not immune to that.”

Kevin and Roger and Bears, oh my

May 1, 2015 by Mike Casazza

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It’s like Ness and Capone, the hero and the villain of Chicago side by side. Roger Goodell couldn’t have been booed more lustily and more deservedly last night, an no one was cheered quite like Kevin White. His story — or “journey,” if you watched any television or listened to any radio yesterday — ended in, I think, the most fitting way possible: He was picked No. 7 (that feels right) by the Chicago Bears, which meant he walked across the stage in Chicago in the first draft held in the city in 51 years.

My whimsy was appropriately redirected last night.

Previously, we oohed and aahed over the 40-yard dash and just how much money White made that day. White, compared throughout the process to new teammate Alshon Jeffery, can fit into another mold right now, too. A year ago, receiver Mike Evans from Texas A&M was picked No. 7 by the Buccaneers. His contract? Large.

And yet, poor Kevin White. He has to put his career ambitions on hold for a while

Draft. Root. Beer.

April 30, 2015 by Mike Casazza

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We’re back again, and I’ll be signing copies of my book. If you’ve already bought it. And if you bring it. And if you bring a Sharpie.

April 30, 2015 by Mike Casazza

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on the clock, and Kevin White is waiting for someone to call his name in tonight’s NFL draft, but the West Virginia star has waiting for this night for a long time. His is a life that tested him and would have bested others, which is why so many people want to see him make it.

Outtakes: Kevin White’s rise to riches

April 29, 2015 by Mike Casazza

Let me tell you some stories about telling Kevin White’s story, and we should begin at the start. When White enrolled at West Virginia in January 2013 and signed the following month, I did not know about the player. That’s unusual. I don’t follow recruiting all too closely, but I know who’s signing and then I’m searching for something to share on signing day. He was a late addition to the recruiting class, visiting and committing in December, and he had a weird run in junior college. Right away, White had my attention, but I didn’t have much else on him.

I asked about some people about him and came away with the idea he was a project who was there as a matter of convenience but also potential. There wasn’t much to him, and it was said that he could be good, if he so desired. Seemingly more important was that he could enroll in the spring semester and play spring football. That would give him an edge and WVU an advantage as both tried to replace Stedman Bailey outside. But it was clear to me that Mario Alford was the day’s better get, one pried from the claws of the Arizona Wildcats, and that he, in line to replace Tavon Austin inside, was the one to be more excited about, never mind he wouldn’t arrive until the eve of preseason camp. (If we’re being honest, more heed was paid to signing Ronald Carswell, who was once good enough for Alabama.)

To me, White was sort of fascinating and frustrating, sometimes all at once, from that point forward — and then the spring game happened, and he turned in the signature play. WVU rules kept him from speaking to the media during the spring, but there was no doubt he was a different specimen than all the other receivers. There would be some doubt about as to when or whether his potential would intersect with his capabilities, essentially because it had not yet happened. It came slowly in the fall. How many times did he fail to high-point a pass? How many times did he high-point a pass and not secure it? What good were these deep balls when they were 50-50 plays? How could you resist the temptation to send No. 11 deep and let him work?

He was injured early and he fumbled against Oklahoma (Aside: I’ll never get enough of Gabe Lynn bailing on Quinton Spain — twice!) He came on late in the season and found something with Clint Trickett, but we still didn’t know him or much about him.

He was irresistible in the following spring, when he flexed his muscle, literally if not figuratively, and dominated cornerbacks while looking like he was wearing a smaller uniform because he was just so big. When preseason practice started last summer, cornerback Daryl Worley told me that White made the fastest and easiest trips up law school hill. It’s the only time I’ve ever heard anyone excited to talk about law school hill. Trickett raved about White’s desire to be great, about how the seeds were planted on a car ride they shared from Pennsylvania to campus and how Trickett’s invitation to pass and study whenever White wanted was actually driving Trickett crazy because White, it turned out, was relentless.

And then this happened, and this encounter between Kevin White and Karl Joseph opened my eyes to White like never before.

Joseph’s a bad man. He was a high school wrestler and he’s been a missile in college. He usually owns that drill. You wouldn’t know any of it, and that was riveting. Look at White. That’s his drill. That’s his space. That’s his field. Who’s messing with that guy?

So I was all in, and I tried to find out more and more about White, which was difficult. Here’s his media guid bio for his senior season, and tell me where or how you’d solve the mystery. You can’t. What happened in the other season(s) at Lackawanna College? What were his high school stats? When did he graduate from Emmaus? Who were his other scholarship offers? And why wasn’t any of that included? (This is not a critique. It’s further proof this came out of nowhere.)

White’s star would explode, of course, and I think it’s important to know that when we did get to know him, we were too caught up in how awesome he was and thus too busy to look into his background story. We’d get some of your many answers, either in time or in abundance, as he became a bigger deal and his story became harder to ignore, but it wasn’t a lot, and it certainly wasn’t everything.

Without ruining the big feature we have running tomorrow, understand he moved from New Jersey to Pennsylvania before his freshman year of high school and moved again before his sophomore year. He didn’t start until his senior season at Emmaus and he redshirted because of a bum shoulder during his first year at Lackawanna. He was then out of school for a semester and then the best player on the team the following season.

And now he’s a first-round pick in the NFL draft? How did this happen?

Well, that Eric Thomas quote up top has something to do with it. It’s nestled into the big feature. What follows is not.

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And here come the chips

April 28, 2015 by Mike Casazza

We teased this in the F Double when discussing where Kevin White and his otherworldly story might land in Thursday’s draft, and we laid out scenarios that might be out of his control. One seems to be the whims of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who, if nothing else, are good at masking their intentions. A year ago they did what had not been expected or even speculated and took Blake Bortles. They’ve long been connected to Dante Fowler this year — and I mean, strongly connected to the University of Florida prospect.

Well, Friday was a long time ago, so April 8 is something like an eternity ago when it comes time to belly up to the draft, and a lot changes. I spoke to Someone over the weekend who wondered about the authenticity of dark smoke signals coming from the Jags camp and who did not want to take it so seriously. The thought on that end of the call was Jacksonville could double down on Bortles with a receiver. Ooooh!

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