MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia junior wide receiver Stedman Bailey said Monday he will declare for the NFL draft after the Pinstripe Bowl, a bittersweet decision that took him several weeks to reach.
Bailey, who has 1,501 receiving yards and an NCAA-leading 23 touchdowns this season, said he could not foresee a dramatic benefit to his draft position by returning to the team for another season.
"At this point, my stock probably couldn't get much higher," he said. "With the year I'm having this year, I don't think it could get much better. ... I think this is the right decision for me."
His departure makes the upcoming Pinstripe Bowl Dec. 29 against Syracuse the final game for the team's big-three playmakers: quarterback Geno Smith, receiver/running back Tavon Austin and Bailey.
The news was first shared by coach Dana Holgorsen in his first news conference since Dec. 2 when the team's bowl destination was announced.
"I support him fully," Holgorsen said. "I think it is time for him to go, and I support him. I think he will do well. He will represent West Virginia well in years to come."
Fueling Bailey's decision were multiple factors beyond the fact Smith -- also his high school quarterback -- will be moving on along with Austin.
Bailey became a father Nov. 5 when his girlfriend gave birth to Stedman Bailey Jr..
"It was pretty tough," he said. "There was a lot of things I had to sit down and think about. A lot of things that factored into it."
Ultimately, he said he has mixed emotions about leaving behind the program that let him soar.
"It's weird. It's bittersweet. It's exciting. It's a lot of mixed emotions," Bailey said. "The fact I won't be here next year, that's pretty tough. [I had] a lot of great moments here at West Virginia. The fans have been very loyal. It's bittersweet though. I'm looking forward to the next phase of my life. I'm ready to attack it."
Bailey, projected to be a third-round pick, could improve his draft position with a strong showing in the NFL Scouting Combine Feb. 20-26.
"I will be curious to see how he tests out, which obviously they look at that pretty highly," Holgorsen said.
Coaching change confirmed
Holgorsen confirmed that Keith Patterson will take over as defensive coordinator, reported last week.
It is a position Patterson has held six times in his career, including the 2011 season at Pitt.
He previously was the co-coordinator and linebackers coach under Joe DeForest.
"Instead of having two guys sharing that responsibility, I think it is important for one guy to take the lead, so he will be doing that," Holgorsen said. "It's easier for that to happen from a linebacker standpoint. When you're coaching the linebackers, you're closer to the front of things and closer to the back aspect of things"
Patterson said some change will be seen as soon as the bowl game, but major changes will take some time.
"You can't make wholesale changes at this point of the game, but I think you'll see some differences," he said. "We'll spoon-feed it as we go. It's going to be a process getting the guys to have an understanding of the concepts. We'll be very multiple in our coverage concepts. To do that you have to be multiple but simple."
Patterson said he will try to instill an aggressive attitude, which aligns with the things he has learned along the way.
"I think I'm different in a lot of ways, I've got to coach to my style, things that have allowed me to be successful during the course of my career," Patterson said. "I'm just trying to get the guys to develop my mentality of being aggressive, attacking, but being sound fundamentally, a disciplined group of people."
A request to speak with DeForest was denied.
Defensive graduate assistant Andrew McGee will coach the cornerbacks for the bowl game, Holgorsen said, and a permanent hire will be made after the bowl game.
Holgorsen fired Daron Roberts after the regular season and said Monday about Roberts: "We appreciate what he's done and wish him the best in the future."
Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, whose name has popped up in the rumor mill as a candidate for other positions, said: "I'm a Mountaineer. A lot of that stuff that gets popped up is so far from the truth it's amazing. A lot of those things, I didn't have any conversations with anybody. A lot of it is just smoke. I don't even know who starts it."
Jenn Menendez: email@example.com, 412-263-1959 and Twitter: @JennMenendez.