Move to Big 12 motivating WVU in summer workouts
Published: Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 06:06
As the West Virginia football team began workouts a few weeks ago, the players couldn’t help but feel a little more different than in years past. The Mountaineers entered summer workouts more motivated than ever.
And the reason is actually pretty simple.
"It has everything to do with joining the Big 12," said redshirt junior defensive end Will Clarke. "We care about everyone else’s high expectations of us joining a new conference.
"But we also have high expectations for ourselves. We would like to come right in and be successful."
With the move to the Big 12 coming in just a few days now, the Mountaineers have been preparing for what it’s going to be like in their new conference, which means they have to pay a lot more attention to conditioning.
Offenses in the conference like to play at a faster pace, so West Virginia has to have its players in better shape in order to be able to compete at the same speed as its opponents.
"I want to play as many plays as possible without dying," said sophomore linebacker Jared Barber. "With the Big 12, we’re going to be playing a lot more plays on offense and defense. Our conditioning is going to have to be a lot better than it was in the Big East.
"It’s definitely harder from last summer and winter workouts, but we’re taking it pretty well."
The increased emphasis on conditioning is tough on just about any player who has to go through it, but it can be even tougher for an incoming freshman.
Safety Sean Walters enrolled at WVU in January and was able to go through spring practice and understand just how important it’s going to be to be in good shape once they get into the Big 12.
"I just got a glimpse of it in the spring. It’s so up-tempo, and everything’s so fast-paced," Walters said. "Playing teams like Oklahoma State and Baylor – fast-paced teams like that – you just have to give it everything you’ve got at all times. You need to be in shape to do that."
With the move to the Big 12, the Mountaineers will be playing much better competition than they’ve played in recent years.
West Virginia will face five teams that have won 10 or more games last season in the Big 12; a big transition considering Cincinnati was the only Big East team other than WVU to win 10 games in 2011.
While squaring off against high-profile teams like Oklahoma and Texas every year could be intimidating to some teams as they enter a new league, the Mountaineers don’t see it like that at all.
"We take it day by day. It’s the Big 12; it’s a tough conference, but it doesn’t matter," Barber said. "We’re West Virginia.
"No matter who we play, we’re going to be West Virginia and play the way we play."