MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- When Josh Francis closes the door to his locker and heads for home, he leaves behind something valuable: Everything that happened to the West Virginia linebacker that day.
"Leave it there," Francis said. "Don't take it home with you."
The senior, second-season junior college transfer learned that lesson last season. He arrived last spring with All-America honors earned at Lackawanna (Pa.) College and All-American visions for the Mountaineers.
He ended up playing just eight games and starting but once. Francis made nine tackles and admitted at the start of his second spring practice that the 2011 season was as difficult as the statistics suggest.
"I could say it was extremely hard for me," the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Francis said. "I never gave football a rest. I felt myself bringing it home with me and then thinking about it way too much."
Francis was like all the other junior college transfers. He was eager and anxious and he knew he only had so much time with which to work. He wanted success fast and had a hard time coping when it didn't happen.
He was used to doing things his way at Lackawanna and raking in the rewards.
He wasn't used to doing things a new way - the 3-3-5 way - at WVU and having nothing to show for it.
Simply put, the season progressed and Francis didn't.
"I really didn't deal with it well," he said. "It wasn't until after everything had settled when I was able to understand that I was wrong in the was I was going about things last year."
Things have changed. The defensive coaching staff is entirely new and the Mountaineers will play a base 3-4 as opposed to the old 3-3-5 odd stack. The new scheme features linebackers differently and uses the "Buck" position to make the most of a player like Francis - fast enough to play an outside linebacker position, skilled enough to masquerade as a defensive end
"I feel more free now because I have more freedom," he said. "I don't bring the game home with me. I leave it where it's supposed to be and my mind is clear when I sleep."
Jeff Casteel, WVU's defensive coordinator and linebackers coach from 2003-11, didn't ask linebackers to blitz often. He wanted them instead to help control the pass and stop the run.
That was new for Francis.
"I've gotten through football all my life just by my reactions and my ability the Lord blessed me with," Francis said. "Every coach I've had was able to recognize that, I believe, and just drew up plays where it was more like reacting instead of, 'Don't go right. Don't go left.' It was, 'Here, just react to the football.'