Big 12 Media Days 2014: II of II

July 22, 2014 by Mike Casazza


You are looking live as the Big 12′s bowl hardware, which, you know, we haven’t really seen, but is on display today in the hallway outside the media rooms here at the Omni in Dallas. The second and final day starts here soon with Walt Anderson, the coordinator of officials. Dana Holgorsen speaks at 11 a.m.

I’m here all day.

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They’re all playing for second today

July 22, 2014 by Mike Casazza

Though I’m still sort of new to this Big 12 experience, we all have seen a popularization of teams and coaches and players the past few years go in line with the proliferation of social media and marketing and simple personality. With the mass exposure available to college football entities these days, there is a need and there are means for visibility.

So we’re more than a little qualified to dip into what follows: I’m not sure anyone has ever had a better Big 12 media day than Baylor did Monday.

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The tough act to follow

July 21, 2014 by Mike Casazza

I’m a big fan of Baylor’s big defensive end Shawn Oakman. He’s a freak. He’s a problem. He’s a damn wrecking ball on the end and he’s probably only now coming into his own … which is frightening.

But he also happens to be the proprietor of the best quotes from the first day of our Big 12 media days.

I was watching his show Monday and I noted his reverence for teammate Bryce Petty, but also the plethora of questions about the star quarterback. I had a hunch he was bristling, albeit politely, beneath the surface.

“Shawn,” I asked, “have you ever gotten your hands on Petty? Practice? Scrimmage?”

His eyes opened as wide as his wingspan. Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone.

“I’ll show you this,” he said. “This is the best picture ever.”

Who among us is going to argue with the man? Because that’s Oakman in spring practice and he’s fixing to swallow Petty whole.

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Jimmay makes the shot

July 21, 2014 by Mike Casazza

Football being a contact sport, one where defensive coaches task players to collision receivers and thus re-route them, you can forgive Kansas tight end Jimmay Mundine for not immediately remembering his meeting with Darwin Cook last season.

“Darwin Cook?” he asked. He wrinkled his forehead for a moment and quickly scanned a list of 2013 collisions, knowing it must have been a good one if he was being asked about it eight months later. The name just wasn’t ringing a bell, which was ironic since we were discussing a bona fide bell-ringing.

“Oooh,” he said. “Number 25?”


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Big 12 Media Days 2014: I of II

July 21, 2014 by Mike Casazza

You are looking live at a logo, but it’s the new Big 12 logo and we’re on the cusp of new season. The 2014 saga starts in essence and in earnest today with the first day of the two-day Big 12 media day gala.

West Virginia will have to wait until tomorrow. Today we’re treated to Baylor, Kansas, TCU, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. One WVU note, perhaps apropos of nothing, but I have the media guide on me — the cover is the same as the team poster — and it has bios for Donte Angus, Jacob McCrary, Jaylon Myers and Justin Scott. None of them are on campus as of yet, and a spot in the guide doesn’t guarantee anything, but WVU at minimum held out hope when it put this together just a few weeks ago.

Commissioner Bob Bowlsby starts things off with a press conference here shortly. he started some fires last year, so perhaps you ought to pay attention. Here. Of course, this thing is being televised, too, on Fox Sports.

Away we go…

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As the Wendell turns

July 18, 2014 by Mike Casazza

From the Delaware Department of Justice’s public information officer Friday night:

Mr. Smallwood was returned to Delaware yesterday.  He was arraigned today in Wilmington by Justice of the Peace Court 20 and was released after posting $40,000 secured bail.

That’s a promising development for the running back. I suspect we’ll hear from WVU sooner rather than later.

UPDATE: Oof. This isn’t a promising development: Recorded phone conversations! It’s naked evidence, but it’s strong, and it more or less proves this is not a simple misunderstanding — Smallwood did something, perhaps nothing worse that not realizing every phone call in prison is recorded.

Anyhow, he’s nevertheless on campus, I’m told, and I cant believe Delaware releases him and lets him go back to fun college if he’s going away for up to two years. A lot more left to be told here.

Friday Feedback

July 18, 2014 by Mike Casazza

Welcome to the Friday Feedback, which wants to take a step back and reassess things today. Because today is Friday. Wendell Smallwood was arrested Monday. He is still an active member of the West Virginia football roster with no prohibitions, notwithstanding the part where he’s in a Wilmington, Delaware, jail right now with a felony charge for witness intimidation on the way.

I assumed — and, yeah, that’s a dangerous word — Smallwood was in for a status change. Dana Holgorsen has been consistently consistent with doling out punishments for the various villains he’s encountered, from dismissing Branko Busick (Aside: He’s doing OK these days.) to suspending Travis Bell for the entire spring semester with every Korey Harris, D’Vante Henry and Ronald Carswell in between.

(I also know, and heard further this week, Holgorsen has been privately admirable about what I guess we’d tend to call second chances, or giving a kid a break, whether in academics, low-profile missteps, financial aid, a roster spot, so on and so forth. Maybe I can get him to disclose these things some day, but I doubt it.)

So the thought was Holgorsen would monitor the situation and act at the appropriate time, and the act could be anything from an indefinite suspension to an outright dismissal, though it made sense to go with the former with the player and the public understanding that route allowed for a return to the team and for exile.

Nothing wrong with thinking that or even endorsing that.

Except nothing happened, and, to me, that’s inconsistent with a pattern we’ve witnessed, and that I just explained above. Perhaps there is no appropriate time. I now think it’s natural to wonder if Smallwood is indeed ever due for a status change.

Let’s think about this: WVU knows the score. It was briefed, it asked questions to all parties and knows all it needs to know, including that a charge is coming. If there’s an impetus to act, WVU has it. Right?

Instead, a kid sat in a jail cell for four days and three nights, alone with his thoughts, and then had to go all the way to Delaware to be charged. We had some theories about this here Monday and, well, they seem sound now, don’t they?

Mean time, people are writing and forwarding opinions that Holgorsen should have acted by now, which is true, but only if Dana believed it was necessary … like he has all those times before. That he hasn’t done anything in this instance says something, I think.

I don’t know, but it’s my job to be skeptical and to put things together. I’ve thought things over a bunch the past few days and this thing, at the minimum, seems wonky. I don’t believe Dana wants to bring this to Dallas with him and deal with it throughout Big 12 media day, but maybe he won’t have to, or maybe that’s the plan attached to a belief this will be resolved soon and a hope it happens before WVU’s appearance Tuesday.

Housekeeping: I’m in Dallas Sunday-Wednesday and then go on vacation, which … let’s not say what we’re thinking, given what I just spent 500 words on. I return to regular duty Aug. 1 and camp opens a day later.

Onto the Feedback. As always, comments appear as posted, In other words, never forget

Bobby Heenan said:

“They really need a free safety to make this tick, though.”

Couldn’t agree more. To me, this is what scares me most about the defense this year. In a pass happy B12, looking at a depth chart at FS of Jeremy Tyler, Ricky Rumph, and Carlton Nash makes me a little nervous.

With absolutely nothing to substantiate this, I contend that had he kept out of trouble, senior Travis Bell would be our starting FS entering the fall.

I wouldn’t dismiss Bell because Dana hasn’t dismissed Bell. I suspect he’ll be reinstated, and though he’ll have work to do, he’ll at least be there. I wouldn’t forget about Dravon Henry, though that may be a long shot for a freshman. That may be more gradual than immediate. So that’s four names, no disrespect intended to Mr. Nash.

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Good news!

July 17, 2014 by Mike Casazza

Not long before WVU was picked to finish eighth in the Big 12′s preseason poll, Alabama got decidedly different news. The Crimson Tide are expected to win the SEC thanks to a slew of preseason all-conference picks — I mean, a total only matched once in the past 22 years.


So there are those two items and the news Wendell Smallwood is headed back to The First State, but the Mountaineers did get a healthy helping of really good, really needed news last night. Once and future wunderkind QB David Sills has committed to the class of 2015.

Take a commitment from a kid in the seventh grade, and everyone seems to expect a mix of Johnny United, Joe Montana, Brett Farve and John Elway.

Instead, David Sills is just David Sills, who happens to be a darn good high school quarterback. rates him as the No. 35 quarterback in the 2015 class.

Think about that.

He’s No. 35, ahead of thousands of others and good enough to be the marquee quarterback recruit as a Big 12 school, and people are wondering what happened to him, and ask, “wasn’t he supposed to be good?”

The fact is, Sills is good. He’s 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, get rid of the ball quickly, has good arm strength, is smart, reads defenses well and, best of all, is incredibly humble and gracious.

Two immediate reactions:

1) Eastern Christian Academy!
2) What now, Chris Chugunov?

Who is the dissenter?

July 17, 2014 by Mike Casazza

As expected, WVU found itself in eighth place in the Big 12 media’s preseason poll released Thursday. Two things here to discuss:

1) [REDACTED!] [Cripes, the title doesn't even work now...]

2) WVU was 127 points out of seventh place, which was only 80 points out of third place. That’s amazing and also concerning.

I wrote a little about this in Tuesday’s paper — “Placing is important, but point totals matter, too.” — because realistically the preseason polls and teams are about perception. Placing reveals the perceptions six weeks before the first game, but the point totals allow you to read between the list’s lines.

So the concern here is that not merely that WVU is in eighth place, for a second straight season, but that WVU is perceived to be alarmingly outside even the rather large middle class right now. That’s not a good thing in the third year of this deal.

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Time is ticking for Wendell Smallwood

July 17, 2014 by Mike Casazza

The West Virginia running back will be extradited to Wilmington, Delaware, today, where he’ll be charged with an act of intimidation for allegedly threatening a witness to a 2012 murder. He faces a maximum of two years in prison.

This, it seems, is not his first brush with the law.

Where things here go from there is yet unknown, but Dana Holgorsen has sat quietly for a few days now, monitoring the situation and waiting to “take action at the appropriate time,” as he said. That time is coming. Nothing has really changed from Monday until now, but a felony charge for a rather unbecoming act is officially something and it would be inconsistent with Holgorsen’s past decisions to let that happen without action.