NFL Decision Looms for WVU's Bailey - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

NFL Decision Looms for WVU's Bailey

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MORGANTOWN -

If we just witnessed Stedman Bailey's final game on Mountaineer Field, he certainly made his impact on the outcome – and on the program – felt.

In the coming weeks, the West Virginia football staff will send out papers to the NFL for another of their juniors who would like to test the professional waters. They will wait to receive the draft grades and then make their decision based on many more factors than just a pro scout's analysis.

Many believe Bailey has already made his choice. With a vague tweet the night before WVU's season finale, the junior receiver seemed to indicate that it may also be his last game in Morgantown.

"I'm not sure about that yet," Bailey said when asked after the 59-10 win over Kansas. "I do have another year of eligibility."

One opinion is that Bailey could not make a stronger case for himself in the draft than he currently is in his junior season. Flanked by a quarterback who knows him better than any other passer possibly could and a complimentary receiver to take attention away from him, Bailey has built on a strong sophomore campaign to be spectacular in 2012.

His stat line reads like an entire career for Mountaineers in the past decade and stacks up favorably against many of Dana Holgorsen's previous pupils who are currently finding success in the NFL.

With 106 receptions, he trails just three others nationally, including teammate Tavon Austin. His 1,501 yards are good for No. 3 in the country and his 23 touchdowns blow away the competition, with the nearest receiver seven behind him.

Those touchdowns are the best mark by any player in a BCS conference, besting the previous mark of 22, held by Pittsburgh's Larry Fitzgerald (2003) and Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree (2007). He currently sits four shy of the FBS record, which Louisiana Tech's Troy Edwards set at 27 in the 1998 season.

Bailey is aware of that record and, well, he could see himself fighting to surpass it when the Mountaineers face Syracuse in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl later this month.

"I'll try," Bailey said honestly. "It's possible to score four touchdowns in this offense, so I'll definitely do all I can to help the team win first and if I could get it, that would be wonderful."

His numbers as a junior compare favorably to previous winners of the Biletnikoff Award, which recognizes the nation's top receiver and has been won by both Crabtree and Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon, both of whom worked in Holgorsen's offense.

Bailey believes year two in that offense could be his year to take home the award, which is presented on Thurs., Dec. 6.

"I think about my numbers this year, scoring 20 touchdowns, that never came to mind before the season started," Bailey says. "I've just been doing all I can to help my team win, so I think I'm deserving of it."

Other finalists for the award include Terrance Williams of Baylor and Marqise Lee of USC, each finishing with more yards than Bailey, but falling nine and 11 touchdowns shy of the Mountaineer's mark, respectively.

With a new quarterback replacing Geno Smith next season, the questions on offense may be enough to sway Bailey to leave. Add to the equation the fact that the receiver recently welcomed a son into the world and the NFL increases in attractiveness from a financial standpoint.

But Holgorsen says each of his players goes through the same process, which includes sending out papers to the league in order to get a draft grade before making a final evaluation and decision.

Smith and Austin went though the same process a year ago. Their junior seasons coming to a close, they sent out their papers and whatever the results, they believed the right move was to return for one more season.

"I rarely talk to him about that because we're so focused on what we've got to do here, but I believe Stedman can go in the draft and be drafted high," Smith said prior to senior day in Morgantown. "But it doesn't come down to me. It's up to those guys who are rating him and scouting him. The scouts and the way they evaluate it really has no definitive say as to how a player is going to correlate to the NFL, but I think Stedman's a guy who can do well up there.

"I'm not sure what his decision process is, but whatever it is, I'm going to support him."

A number of former WVU receivers have said that the biggest asset Bailey will show scouts may not be his success as a receiver, but his willingness to mix it up on special teams. With just 53 roster spots available on NFL teams, the versatility could make him a more attractive addition.

After the Kansas game, former NFL offensive coordinator Charlie Weis told Bailey as much.

"He just let me and Tavon know that we are great players and he hasn't really seen many guys in his time coaching like me and Tavon and just to never get content with how we are, always work hard and he could see us having a long future in the NFL," said Bailey.

While there are plenty of signs pointing to an early exit from the Mountaineer program, Bailey does acknowledge that the idea of another year to set as many NCAA records as he possibly could enters his mind as a reason to stick around.

WVU fans would certainly appreciate that sort of goal for their team's 2013 season.

"The fans tweet me a lot," Bailey says. Everyday, all day, just saying they hope I don't leave and I appreciate that all stuff. The fans are very loyal and, you know, [there's] nothing like Mountaineer Nation, so it's all good."

Enjoy him while you can, Mountaineer Nation.

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