MORGANTOWN-With all of the preseason hype surrounding West Virginia's explosive offense led by Heisman Trophy hopefuls Geno Smith and Tavon Austin, it would be only appropriate for the Mountaineers' defensive players to feel a little bit under-appreciated as the old gold and blue head into its inaugural season in the Big 12.
That's not the case, however, according to senior defensive back Cecil Level.
"No, we (the defense) don't have a chip on our shoulders," explained the native of Fayetteville, Ga. "We are just coming in and getting ourselves ready. We all know what we are getting into."
What Level and his defensive mates have gotten themselves into is a Big 12 that possessed three of the top offenses in the country in 2011 as well as four of the top seven passing attacks in NCAA Division I.
"I'd say that there will be a lot more passing games," continued Level. "The Big East was a lot more running. The Big 12 is a lot more passing."
And the numbers back up the 186-pounder's analysis.
Conference USA member Houston, which is slated to join the Big East, led the nation in total offense with an average of 599.07 yards per game. Right behind the Cougars, however, was a Baylor Bears team led by Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III at 587.08 ypg and the Cowboys from Oklahoma State at 549.85. Rounding out the top 5 was Oregon (522.79) and Oklahoma (512.31).
West Virginia, thanks in part to that 70-point explosion against Clemson in the Orange Bowl, finished at No. 15 with an average of 469.54 yards per game while Texas Tech (470.58) came in at No. 13 and TCU (440.23) was at No. 28.
"They (the coaching staff) have got us on a great workout plan. Mostly lower body so I can get faster, but some upper body so that I can make tackles in the open field."
Even with the loss of Griffin and OSU's Brandon Weeden to the professional ranks, the Big 12 won't be without its 'star' signal-callers when WVU's opens conference play at Milan Puskar Stadium against visiting Baylor on Sept. 29.
The Sooners' Landry Jones completed 355-of-562 attempts for 4,463 yards and 29 touchdowns while Texas Tech's Seth Doege finished among the nation's Top 10 after completing 398-of-581 passes for 4,004 yards and 28 scores.
"The main thing is preparing one day at a time and getting ready for Marshall," said the senior. "We're not worrying about anything else. We are just getting ready for it (the season)."
That means getting through the remainder of summer workouts and then battling senior Pat Miller, redshirt freshman Terrell Chestnut and sophomore Anthony Vecchio for the boundary cornerback position in WVU's new 3-4 alignment as well as a spot on the Mountaineers' special teams.
"Right now, I'm on all of the special teams except punt," said Level. "Pat (Miller) is the No. 1 guy at boundary corner, but we'll just have to wait and see how that all works out this fall."