West Virginia University football fans who want to see Stedman Bailey wearing the Mountaineer uniform one more time better be securing their tickets for the Dec. 29 New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
In a pre-bowl press conference Monday, WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen announced that Bailey, a finalist for the Bilitnekoff Award this season and the school’s career leader in receiving touchdowns, will enter the NFL draft after his final game against Syracuse.
“He came in with Geno (Smith) and Tavon (Austin) and was forced to redshirt that first year,” said Holgorsen. “So I support him fully. If you put two good years together at receiver as an underclassman, then you have a chance to do some things in the NFL. That’s what they look for.”
Holgorsen said he talked with Bailey, who has 106 catches for 1,501 yards and 23 touchdowns this season, before the decision was final, but he said he tried to take any selfish thoughts out of that conversation.
“I didn’t think it was fair to try to talk him into coming back,” he said. “He’ll be a great pro and will represent West Virginia well for years to come.”
The other big news coming from Monday’s meeting with the media was the confirmation of the fact that Keith Patterson has now assumed the role of defensive coordinator for the Mountaineers.
Patterson was officially listed as the co-defensive coordinator this season, but Joe DeForest was listed as defensive coordinator (without the co-) and was calling the defensive sets.
Those roles will now be reversed. DeForest will keep his title as associate head coach, but Patterson will call the defenses.
“Joe DeForest wears a lot of hats and is very, very, very valuable to our coaching staff and to our football program,” said Holgorsen. “He’s a tremendous football coach. He’ll still be the associate head coach and the next guy in charge.
“Keith Patterson is a great defensive coordinator and has been for quite some time. Instead of having two guys share that responsibility, I think it’s probably important for one guy to take that lead, so he’ll do that.”
Patterson has been working with the defensive coaches for the last two weeks, Holgorsen said, and although the 3-4 scheme will remain basically the same, Holgorsen promised there would be some noticeable defensive changes for the bowl game.
“I can’t tell you what they are, because Syracuse will read it and start preparing for it,” he said. “But I think you’ll see a difference.”
Before coming to WVU, Patterson had been the defensive coordinator at Tulsa, Pitt and Arkansas State.
Graduate assistant Andrew McGee will also have a different role for the bowl game. The former Oklahoma State cornerback will coach the WVU corners against Syracuse, after Holgorsen fired cornerbacks coach Daron Roberts earlier this month.
“Daron’s a great friend and a great football coach, and we appreciate his time and energy,” said Holgorsen. “We wish him the best of luck.
“Andrew’s a really good, bright young man,” said Holgorsen. “He’s the leader of our FCA guys and he’s got a bright future. He’s been working with them since he got here and will take control of that.”
Holgorsen said a full-time replacement will be hired after the bowl game.
“We’ll get the right guy in here for a variety of reasons,” Holgorsen said.
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Although 28 days will have passed between WVU’s regular season finale against Kansas, a 59-10 Mountaineer victory, and the Pinstripe Bowl meeting with former Big East rival Syracuse, Holgorsen said the preparation time won’t be much different than a regular season game.
The players spent the last two weeks finishing up their classwork and completing final exams. Bowl practices didn’t actually begin until Monday.
“We had a good two weeks of getting guys regrouped and refocused, and we did a lot of recruiting,” said Holgorsen. “Now we’ll have a week with nothing to do but football.”
Holgorsen said his team will practice through Friday in Morgantown, putting in the bulk of the preparation work for the game. Players will be allowed to go home Friday to spend Christmas with their families, and everybody will meet back in New York on Christmas Night.
WVU will have two or three practices in New York and then take the field against the Orange.
“It will be a little different than it was last year in South Florida (at the Orange Bowl), just from a logistics standpoint,” said Holgorsen. “We won’t get as many practices in, but we’ll be ready to play.
“I think we have some unfinished business,” he continued. “For this team, 8-5 is a lot different than 7-6. We didn’t play very well when we went (to Syracuse) last year. But we’re a better team now than we were then. I think we’ll have some answers if they throw a whole bunch of different things at us.”