Players Say Big 12 Brings National Influence

West Virginia's national influence is building, and its latest move to the Big 12 should aid that expansion, even into traditional recruiting grounds.

The Mountaineers currently have seven Texas natives on the roster: second-year players Paul Millard (QB) and Dustin Garrison (RB) and freshmen Ford Childress (QB), Garrett Hope (LB), Josh Lambert (PK), Jordan Thompson (WR) and Noble Nwachukwu (DE). That's a school record that will likely continue to get shattered for the next few seasons as the coaching staff mines the area for additional talent.

"I feel like we are kind of like the face of Texas here," Garrison said. "Jordan Thompson, Garrett (Hope), they are all new. We (veterans) have to show them around, let them know it's not too bad up here. It's a lot different than Texas, but we can make it work. It's great to have those guys show up, and hopefully in the future more recruits will want to go."

WVU obviously utilizes the current Texas-based players to recruit newcomers, and often the visiting players are paired with state natives to offer a comfort zone, a dose of familiarity on a recruiting trip at times more than 1,500 miles from home. Garrisson and Millard both noted that playing Big 12 games in the Lone Star State should help entice high-level recruits, and that they expect West Virginia to continue to develop the pipeline started by Dana Holgorsen.

South Florida native Stedman Bailey said he, too, though the move to the Big 12 would help WVU's recruiting despite there being no local schools anywhere near the league's current geographic footprint.

"You think Big 12 football, that's big time," said Bailey, a Miami native. "One of the premier conferences in college football. You think Texas, Oklahoma, big time schools and programs. I look at Texas, Oklahoma and others, that's like playing LSU. That's what I'm most looking forward to, that week-in and –out competition and the road game to Texas in front of 100,000."

Bailey is on pace to break the school's touchdown receptions record – if teammate Tavon Austin doesn't get there first. Austin needs seven TD catches, Bailey eight, to break the 23 set by Cedric Thomas from 1976-80. That surprisingly long run should easily be eclipsed this season, and it expects to be entertaining to watch Bailey and Austin tangle all season for the prize.

Bailey, who already holds the WVU record for receiving yards in a single season with 1,279 last year, said the Big 12 is very well respected in south Florida and that the level of competition increase should help with recruiting, more than offsetting the lack of games played at home. The real importance is often television, where kids are going to get the most exposure and be seen on national networks and in prime games.

"That Texas game, that's a big game. Oklahoma is big," he said. "A team like Oklahoma State. That's big. These are games you focus on. They have great defenses, good cornerbacks. I'd compare these defenses to LSU in that they fly around and have size."

Note: Bailey also said he expects newcomers to be able to add some depth and contribute. He said the seven on seven work was going well, and that he feels he can improve "everything" in his game. "There's always room," he said. "Running routes, understanding coverages, speed, hands."

Bailey said the receivers watch clips of NFL players, especially Chad Ochocinco. The newly-signed Miami Dolphins receiver, a cousin of WVU wideout Ivan McCartney, gets in and out of cuts well and breaks down well at the top of routes, Bailey noted.

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