Hickman: Plenty of confidence on display
DALLAS -- Cleaning out a crowded notebook and a cluttered mind between Bob Bowlsby's scathing critique of the NCAA on Monday to start and West Virginia's appearance today to end what is almost certainly the most lavish and well-organized media day event this side of a Super Bowl:
When West Virginia showed up for its first Big 12 football media day event a year ago, it was striking how self-confident the school's representatives seemed. Instead of being nervous in their new surroundings, Geno Smith and Co. wowed 'em with confidence that stopped just perfectly short of bravado.
Well, we don't know yet how WVU's representatives this year will act (Will Clarke, Karl Joseph and Quinton Spain arrive today), but there was plenty of confidence on display Monday.
Take Oklahoma State receiver Josh Stewart, for example.
"It's ridiculous how much talent we have, not just at wide receiver, but at running back, everywhere,'' said Stewart, one of five straight opponents who won offensive player of the week honors playing against WVU's defense when he had 13 catches for 172 yards and scored three times. "We've got the talent, we've got the coaching, we've got everything laid out for us. All we have to do is go out and do it.''
Or how about TCU running back Wayne James, who didn't even play most of last year because he was hurt?
"Scary,'' he said of the Horned Frogs. "We can do anything we want to do.''
Of course, then there's the flip side from Charlie Weis, whose team was a near-unanimous choice in the media poll to finish last.
"We were 1-11 and picked by everybody to finish last in the league. And that's justifiable,'' Weis said. "If I were you, I'd pick us in the same spot. We've given you no evidence or no reason to be picked anywhere other than that.''
Later, though, Weis was a bit miffed by some in the instant media who had already tweeted or blogged or written or otherwise inferred that Weis was saying to give up on his team. That's not what he was saying.
"I'm talking about what they saw last year,'' he said.
There are some really wide swings in the caliber of competition Big 12 teams are playing in the non-conference part of the schedule this season.
For instance, Baylor opens with Wofford and Buffalo; Kansas State with North Dakota State, Louisiana-Lafayette and UMass; West Virginia has William & Mary and Georgia State.
TCU opens with LSU.
"Football isn't like baseball or basketball. There you can set your schedule,'' TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "In basketball, you can look at your roster and what you have, how young or how veteran you are, and schedule most [of your non-conference] games accordingly. In football, you can't do that [because schedules are made so far in advance]. Maybe you can do it with one game, but otherwise you have no choice.''
Then there's Oklahoma State, the preseason pick to win the league. The Cowboys play Mississippi State in Houston to open, then go to Texas-San Antonio.
"It's good for us to play in the state of Texas,'' said coach Mike Gundy. "There are what, 350 recruitable athletes a year in Texas? We want them to see us.''
Favorite line of the day came from Kerry Hyder, a fifth-year senior defensive lineman from Texas Tech.
He was being quizzed by someone doing one of those random polls that ask everything from favorite opposing coach to least favorite road trip.
This guy wanted to play word association with the other power conference.
Pac-12? "Oregon,'' Hyder said.
Big Ten? "Running the ball.''
But the best was the ACC.
"They play football over there?'' Hyder asked.
And finally, about this Big 12 football media days event. In a word, wow.
I said the same thing a year ago at my first, but this one, with a change of venue precipitated by a previously-scheduled event at the previous home (the Westin Galleria), is even more striking. Even CBS Sports.com's Dennis Dodd, who bounces around to these things all over the country, tweeted "Stupendous setup at B12 media days. Stupendous. Roomy. Elegant. Just fantastic.''
Again, my only real comparison is 13 years spent covering what I thought was a pretty good event put on by the Big East, first at Giants Stadium and then in Newport, R.I. But as I said last year, the difference is like that between a Steven Spielberg production and public access TV covering city council.
I bring that up only to once again illustrate where West Virginia was and where it now is.
Yearn all you'd like for the good ol' days of regional rivalries and simpler times and having no need to travel 1,000 miles to conference games, but the fact of the matter is that setup no longer exists and even if it did, I'm not sure that the step up in quality of the league wouldn't be worth it.
Still, man, I miss those Monday night clambakes in Newport.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.