Big 12: Texas A&M Aggies
"Now it's 'I want to play,' " Addazio, 55, said. "If you're talking about not playing them early, the majority are like 'What do you mean?'"
So, the ability to play or possibly even start as a true freshman has become a regular sales pitch for coaches from the Power Five to the Group of Five. It's certainly a tool in the belt for Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher. Last week, Fisher alluded to the number of freshmen All-Americans he's coached the last four seasons. Twenty-four hours later, it was on the program's official recruiting Twitter page.
"The last [four] years we've had 14 freshmen All-Americans," said Fisher, condensing multiple outlets' freshmen award teams into one, concise Florida State propaganda poster. "If you come in ready to play, we're willing to put you on the field. It's critical for guys to come in saying 'When I'm the best, I'll play.'"
Fisher has the goods to back up his claims, even if the numbers are obviously skewed to best represent his program. But how does his résumé compare to those coaching some of the country's other top programs?
I tried to come up with a way to accurately discern which schools play the most freshmen and decided true freshmen letterwinners was the simplest and most effective way to crunch the numbers. To earn a letter, a player has to actually play consistently through the season. The disclaimer is each program can use different benchmarks when awarding letters, but there is never going to be a perfect way.
I began with Florida State's, looking back at the 2011-2013 classes. To properly quantify the data from Florida State, I decided I'd look at the five schools ranked highest in the preseason polls that have had its coach in place at least five seasons. Oregon's Mark Helfrich was offered an exemption because he was promoted from within and is in his sixth season with the Ducks. Coaches in place at least five years was the stipulation since an incoming coach might be susceptible to playing the prospects he recruited or having a number of transfers that could open up starting or rotational spots.
The criteria: Each class was looked at and the total number of signees was pared down to just those who enrolled as members of the football team in the fall. Junior college signees were excluded, as were any recruits who were academically or medically disqualified before playing a game. That explains why the total number of freshmen for our purposes might look different than what might be seen on RecruitingNation. Any true freshmen who spent a year at a post-graduate or prep school was also excluded. Redshirt freshmen were disqualified, too.
Bottom line is if the player was not a part of the football team the fall following his high school graduation, he was excluded.
Nearly all of the data was collected after poring through media guides and archives, although the communications departments at some of the schools were also helpful providing numbers and deserve recognition.
So, here is the actual data:
It is hardly a coincidence that Fisher and Alabama's Nick Saban, who mentored Fisher at LSU, have identical percentages of true freshmen earning a letter. Fisher and Saban arguably have been the two best recruiters over the last few cycles, and, the data shows those two are not going to keep young talent off the field simply because of age. Nearly half of the true freshmen at Alabama and Florida State lettered over the last three seasons.
Mark Dantonio has built Michigan State into a national title contender in a different manor, relying on experience. Only 12 percent of true freshmen lettered over the last three seasons. Recruiting to Michigan State is not the easy task it is at some other top-10 programs, and the Spartans are not recruiting as many ESPN 300-level players as the likes of Alabama and Florida State.
It should be noted Michigan State, Oklahoma and Oregon don't have quite the recruiting base Alabama and Florida State do.
Inquiring minds want to see how that 45 percent stacks up to some of the other top programs in the country, so even though they did not fit the criteria I looked at a few other schools with coaches in place at least five seasons and lately in the top half of the rankings. LSU was worth a look considering it's Les Miles' 10th season in Baton Rouge and, like Fisher and Saban, has recruited exceptionally well for a long period of time. Mark Richt is in his 14th season at Georgia and, like Miles, usually has a highly-regarded recruiting class. Steve Spurrier is in his 10th season at South Carolina and has steadily improved the Gamecocks' class to the point that the 2015 class is No. 5 nationally. Dabo Swinney has turned Clemson from a perennial disappointment into a two-time BCS bowl participant. And Ohio State and Texas A&M, mainly because it's worth seeing how third-year Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer fares considering he frequently voices his preference to avoid redshirting. Kevin Sumlin is also in the process of trying to build an SEC power that can compete with Alabama and LSU in the SEC West.
For the Buckeyes, out of the 69 true freshmen to land in Columbus, Ohio, from 2011-2013, 31 lettered -- the same 45 percent. Looking at just Meyer's two seasons, however, he is decimals ahead of Fisher and Saban at 46 percent (21 out of 46), thanks in large part to 14 freshmen letterwinners in his first season.
Georgia's Mark Richt has a percentage of nearly 50 percent, but the Bulldogs' numbers might be the most skewed. Along with South Carolina, the Bulldogs had several recruits that either did not qualify or spent time at a prep school or junior college. Also, Georgia's long list of dismissals and transfers is well documented, and all of the departures has opened up spots for freshmen to earn immediate playing time.
It is Miles, though, who plays a higher percentage of freshmen than all of the others. Twelve true freshmen lettered for LSU in both 2012 and 2013, and another nine earned a letter in 2011. There were a total of 65 applicable freshmen to enter LSU during that span and 33 of them lettered. That's a percentage of 51 percent.
Certainly the numbers will fluctuate year to year, and coaches at every single program are playing freshmen more frequently than ever before. When taking into account the timeline is over three years, LSU averages just one more freshman letterwinner per season than Alabama and Florida State. For our intents and purposes, though, the data shows which top programs consistently play the most freshmen in this new era of freshmen phenoms.
And, uh, FYI, Alabama has 19 ESPN 300 players prepping for their freshmen season this fall. LSU has 16, and Florida State isn't far off with 13 of their own.
Kansas cornerback Aqib Talib is the lone Big 12-era defender who landed on the list as an honorable mention for the Jayhawks. Talib earned consensus All-American honors while helping the Jayhawks go 11-1, including a 24-21 win over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl in 2007.
Several Big 12 defenders have had stellar seasons since the conference was born in 1996. Here’s a look at other exceptional individual seasons for defenders during the Big 12 era.
Derrick Johnson, Texas linebacker, 2004: The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and Butkus Award winner, Johnson made plays from sideline to sideline for the Longhorns during the 2004 season. He finished with 130 tackles (70 solo stops), including 19 tackles for loss, eight pass breakups, nine forced fumbles and two sacks.
Curtis Lofton, Oklahoma linebacker, 2007: Lofton was exceptional during the 2007 season, earning All-American and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors. He had 157 tackles including 10.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and three interceptions in 14 games for the Sooners. He was the anchor of a defense that allowed 20.3 points per game and 4.98 yards per play as OU finished 11-2 with a Big 12 championship.
Von Miller, Texas A&M defensive end, 2009: The future NFL Pro Bowler was relentless and dominant during the 2007 season. He finished with 17 sacks, 21.5 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles in 13 games. He accounted for 47.2 percent of the Aggies’ sack total (36) during a 6-7 season. His 17 sacks remain the highest single season total in the Big 12 era.
Terence Newman, Kansas State cornerback, 2002: Newman was a nightmare for opponents during the 2002 season, locking down receivers on defense and putting fear into the hearts of defenders on special teams and offense. He won the Thorpe Award and was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. Even as offenses avoided him, Newman finished with 44 tackles, 14 pass breakups and five interceptions.
Shaun Rogers, Texas defensive tackle, 1999: The junior was a disruptive force in the middle for the Longhorns, finishing with 27 tackles for loss, the highest total from any Big 12 defender since the conference was born in 1996. He joined teammate Casey Hampton to give UT the Big 12’s top defensive tackle duo that season.
Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska defensive tackle, 2009: The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Suh’s 2009 season was second to none during the Big 12 era. Offenses focused on keeping Suh from dominating games yet he still dominated on his way to becoming a Heisman Trophy finalist, Lombardi Award and a lengthy list of individual accolades. He finished with 85 tackles including 24 for loss and 12 sacks.
Earl Thomas, Texas safety, 2009: Thomas proved he was NFL ready with a incredible redshirt sophomore campaign. He was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award while earning all-american honors with 77 tackles, five tackles for loss, 16 pass breakups and eight interceptions. He helped UT finish No. 1 nationally in interceptions (35) and forced turnovers (37).
Roy Williams, Oklahoma defensive back, 2001: The Jim Thorpe Award winner, Williams left a lasting legacy with his “Superman” play against Texas in the Red River Rivalry, forcing a Chris Simms’ fumble that sealed an OU win. He finished with 107 tackles including 14 tackles for loss, 22 pass breakups and five interceptions.
Grant Wistrom, Nebraska defensive end, 1997: He had a stellar 1996 season but his 1997 campaign should be considered even better. As the returning Big 12 defensive player of the year, Wistrom had 8.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss and 25 quarterback hurries on his way to Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors for the second straight season. He also earned the Lombardi Trophy in 1997.
But one of the sport's most storied rivalries was a victim of conference realignment, as the Longhorns and Aggies stopped playing each other when Texas A&M left the Big 12 for the SEC before the 2012 season.
While Texas and Texas A&M administrators have repeatedly said renewing the rivalry isn't on their front burners, new Longhorns coach Charlie Strong said he wants the rivalry to resume.
To read more, click here.
But other schools around the league are interested in the prospects of rekindling rivalries that were destroyed by two rounds of conference realignment.
While the Longhorns and Aggies remain at odds, Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt told ESPN.com this week he’s optimistic that he’ll be able to get Texas A&M on the Red Raiders’ schedule down the line again. Hocutt said there has been interest from Texas A&M’s side, as well.
“Hopefully that’s a series that at some point in time that could start again,” Hocutt said. “Is that a game that won’t happen again? No. We’ve had discussions about it. Hopefully we can reengage that in the coming years.”
Oklahoma and Nebraska already have an agreement in place to play a home-and-home in 2021-22. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel has reportedly said he thinks his school will play Kansas again someday.
And West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck, who has already added Penn State and Virginia Tech to future schedules, told ESPN.com he's hopeful he'll be able to revive the “Backyard Brawl” with Pitt at some point, as well.
“At some point we’ll get Pitt back on the schedule,” Luck said. “What I’m trying to do with our nonconference games is stay as regional as possible and rekindle some of our historical rivalries. Penn State is back on the schedule. Virginia Tech is back on the schedule. That game meant a lot to southern West Virginians. The Pitt game meant a lot to northern West Virginians. We’ve continued to play Pitt in many of the sports.
“We’ve both gone through transitions, so it’s tough schedule-wise for both of us. But I think at some point we’ll get Pitt back on the schedule. I see [Pitt athletic director] Steve Pederson every now and then at various conventions. And we’ve had some discussions about that. We just haven’t been able to really eyeball the proper time to get it going again.”
- The only running back to put up back-to-back 2,000-yard seasons, Iowa State's Troy Davis, won't be a member of the 2014 College Football Hall of Fame class.
- Davis isn't the only former standout at a Big 12 school who was left off the list. Former Oklahoma linebacker Brian Bosworth also will have to wait if he hopes to become a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
- Some key Longhorns seem to be responding positively to new Texas coach Charlie Strong's academic expectations.
- Kansas coach Charlie Weis wants to get the Jayhawks program "in the forefront" in the Wichita area as his program tries to make its mark recruiting the state of Kansas.
- Bryce Hager's brother has committed to Baylor.
- Here's a breakdown of the Big 12's schedules, courtesy of CBSsports.com.
Longtime instate rivals Texas and Texas A&M haven't faced each other on the football field since the Aggies bolted for the SEC in 2012. That, however, hasn't stopped the two sides from trading barbs on Twitter.
With the NFL draft coming up, new Texas defensive coordinator Vance Bedford riled up Texas A&M fans with his Twitter views on the pro prospects of former Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Bedford started out general then he got specific:
How many spread Qbs have success in the NFL. You must play under center— Vance Bedford (@CoachBedfordUT) May 4, 2014
Problem players in college become rich problems in the NFL— Vance Bedford (@CoachBedfordUT) May 4, 2014
Manziel is a top 10 pick by the scouts. I wish him the best. He played backyard ball for 3 years. Now he will have to learn how to be a Qb— Vance Bedford (@CoachBedfordUT) May 5, 2014
@1C_Easyy no. I wish him the best. Maybe he will be different— Vance Bedford (@CoachBedfordUT) May 5, 2014
Someone said should I be more concerned about BYU. Spring recruiting is the season of the day— Vance Bedford (@CoachBedfordUT) May 5, 2014
@BrandonLeone wow— Vance Bedford (@CoachBedfordUT) May 5, 2014
Twitter is great.— Vance Bedford (@CoachBedfordUT) May 5, 2014
@BeerGuyTX lol— Vance Bedford (@CoachBedfordUT) May 5, 2014
Seriously, what do we do to get the Longhorns and the Aggies on the same field again?
With the BCS done, we've come up with our Big 12 all-BCS era team (1998-2013) below:
RB: Ricky Williams, Texas (1998) -- Williams was part of the BCS era for only one season, but what a season it was. He rushed for 2,327 yards and won the Heisman Trophy going away. Only Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne has more career rushing yards than Williams (6,279).
RB: Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma (2004-06) -- Despite battling injuries throughout his career, Peterson still was a beast in college. After rushing for 1,925 yards while leading the Sooners to the national title game, he finished second in the ’04 Heisman voting, even though there was still a stigma then in voting for a freshman.
WR: Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech (2007-08) -- Crabtree became the first two-time winner of the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top receiver. In '08, he and QB Graham Harrell led the Red Raiders to an upset of Texas and a No. 2 ranking in the polls.
WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (2009-11) -- Blackmon became the second and only other two-time winner of the Biletnikoff. In his final two seasons, he finished with 233 receptions, 3,304 receiving yards and 38 touchdowns, and he helped propel the Cowboys to their first Big 12 title in '11.
TE: Chase Coffman, Missouri (2005-08) -- Coffman had a monster statistical college career for a tight end with 247 catches for 2,659 receiving yards and 30 touchdowns. He won the ’08 Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end. Missouri won 37 games during the four years Coffman was in the lineup.
OT: Jammal Brown, Oklahoma (2001-04) -- Brown was a unanimous All-American and a three-time All-Big 12 selection. He became the fifth Sooner to win the Outland Trophy, awarded to the nation’s top interior lineman.
OT: Russell Okung, Oklahoma State (2007-09) -- In Okung’s final two seasons, Oklahoma State led the Big 12 in rushing yards. The Cowboys were also third in the country in ’07 in fewest sacks allowed with Okung at left tackle. He was a unanimous All-American and Outland finalist in ’09 and became the sixth overall pick in the ’10 NFL draft.
OG: Cyril Richardson, Baylor (2010-13) -- Richardson became Baylor’s seventh all-time unanimous All-American. The Outland finalist was also a key piece on the nation’s highest-scoring offense this season.
OG: Justin Blalock, Texas (2003-06) -- Though a guard in the NFL, Blalock actually started 50 games for Texas, most coming at right tackle. He was a three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection and a consensus All-American in 2006.
C: Dominic Raiola, Nebraska (1998-2000) -- Raiola was the inaugural winner of the Rimington Award, named after former Nebraska center Dave Rimington, which recognizes the best center in college football. He was an Outland finalist and a consensus All-American.
APB: Darren Sproles, Kansas State (2001-04) -- One of the most prolific all-purpose performers in college football history, Sproles finished his career with 6,812 all-purpose yards. Among his 39 consecutive starts, his most memorable performance came in the ’03 Big 12 championship, when he had 235 yards rushing and 88 receiving, as K-State upset top-ranked Oklahoma 35-7.
DE: Brian Orakpo, Texas (2005-08) -- Orakpo captured the ’08 Nagurski Award as the most outstanding defensive player in the country, and the Lombardi Award, given to the best college lineman or linebacker. He also was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus All-American while piling up 11 sacks his senior year.
DE: Von Miller, Texas A&M (2007-10) -- Out of a hybrid defensive end/linebacker role, Miller led the nation with 17 sacks in ’09. He was a two-time All-American and won the Butkus Award in ’10 as the nation’s top linebacker.
DT: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska (2005-09) -- There was no more dominant defensive player in college football during the BCS era. Suh finished fourth in the Heisman voting in ’09 and won several national awards, including the Outland, Lombardi, Nagurski (most outstanding defensive player)and Bednarik (defensive player of the year). He was also a unanimous All-American and the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
DT: Tommie Harris, Oklahoma (2001-03) -- Harris was a force from the beginning as a freshman on the OU defensive line. He won the Lombardi his junior year, and he was a two-time consensus All-American, garnering unanimous honors in ’03.
LB: Derrick Johnson, Texas (2001-04) -- Johnson was a menacing linebacker for the Longhorns, earning consensus All-American honors in ’03 and unanimous honors in ’04. He was also a three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection, and won the Butkus (best linebacker) and Nagurski awards as a senior. Johnson finished his career with 458 tackles.
LB: Rocky Calmus, Oklahoma (1998-2001) -- Calmus played a major role in OU’s resurgence under Bob Stoops. He won the Butkus in ’01 and was a finalist for the Nagurski and Bednarik. A three-time All-Big 12 pick, Calmus led the Sooners in tackles in all three of those seasons.
LB: Teddy Lehman, Oklahoma (2000-03) -- Lehman too won the Butkus, beating out Johnson for the award in ’03. He also was Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, captured the Bednarik, was a unanimous All-American and played in two national championship games.
CB: Derrick Strait, Oklahoma (2000-03) -- A four-year starter, Strait finished with a school-record 52 career pass breakups. He also won the Thorpe, and was a unanimous All-American.
S: Roy Williams, Oklahoma (1999-2001) -- Nicknamed “Superman,” Williams was the Big 12’s most dominating defensive player until Suh came along. He won the Thorpe and Nagurski in ’01, and was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a unanimous All-American the same season. He also famously skied over the Texas offensive line to force the game-clinching interception to earn his moniker.
S: Michael Huff, Texas (2002-05) -- Huff became the first Longhorn to win the Thorpe, and was the leader of the ’05 national championship defense. He was also a unanimous All-American that season.
K: Mason Crosby, Colorado (2003-06) -- Crosby was three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection, and twice was a consensus All-American even though he never won the Lou Groza Award, given to the nation's top kicker. He was also the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year as a junior, and converted 66 field goals in his career.
P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State (2009-12) -- Sharp became the first three-time All-American in Oklahoma State history, and he earned All-American honors both as a punter and a kicker. He was twice named the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year. In his career, he made 50 of 59 field goals, averaged 45.9 yards per punt and missed only one extra point.
KR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia (2012) -- Austin was in the Big 12 only one season, but he was unstoppable that one season. On top of being one of the most dangerous kick returners in the country, Austin had 1,289 yards receiving and 643 rushing, and finished second in the country in all-purpose yards.
PR: Ryan Broyles Oklahoma (2008-11) -- On top of being a prolific punt returner, Broyles was one of the most efficient receivers in college football history. He finished his career with an FBS-record 349 receptions, and was a two-time consensus All-American before a knee injury cut his senior season short.
We’ll take a look at those topics and a few others in this week’s edition of Big 12 recruiting storylines.
We’ll be watching these games and many more on Saturday night and we’d like you to join in on the conversation. Head on over to Campus Connection at 8 ET and follow the action along with our eight reporters. Post your comments and questions and we’ll include as many of them as possible.
Chew on these nuggets of fun info and random trivia, and you’re sure to be the smartest guy or gal at your tailgate.
Did you know…
- Baylor leads the nation in tackles for loss after racking up 15 against Wofford last week.
- Lache Seastrunk is averaging 9.25 yards per carry in his last five games and has set a Baylor school record with five consecutive 100-yard performances.
- Baylor has produced at least 400 yards of total offense in 28 straight games, dating back to the end of the 2010 season.
- Bears kicker Aaron Jones leads in the nation in consecutive PAT kicks made. He’s hit on his last 116 attempts. The No. 2 kicker in the Big 12 in that category is Texas Tech’s Ryan Bustin with 64.
- Iowa State hadn’t had a receiver go for 100-plus yards in a season opener since 1997 before Justin Coleman did against Northern Iowa. Coleman’s first career catch was a 59-yard touchdown.
- Jack Trice Stadium has been packed with 50,000 or more fans for 14 consecutive games. Iowa State’s first four home games are expected to be sellouts this season.
- Since the start of the 2003 season, Kansas is 25-3 in nonconference home games and has won 25 of its last 32 game against non-Big 12 schools.
- Kansas running back James Sims has a chance to become the first player to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons in school history. He only needed eight games to reach 1,000 last year.
- Jake Heaps’ first start as Kansas starting quarterback will come 658 days after his final start for BYU on Nov. 19, 2011. In that game, he threw for 238 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-7 win over New Mexico State.
- Until Tyler Lockett (113 yards) and Tramaine Thompson (108) did so last week, Kansas State hadn’t had two receivers have 100-yard games on the same day since 2008.
- Before losing to North Dakota State in his KSU debut, Jake Waters had a 49-2 career record as a starting quarterback going back to his high school days.
- Oklahoma’s 34-0 win over Louisiana-Monroe was its fifth shutout since 2009. The only FBS team with more shutouts in that span is Alabama with eight.
- The Sooners outrushed UL-Monroe by a margin of 267 yards (305-38). The only FBS school that topped that in Week 1 was Wisconsin with a +293 differential.
- During the Bob Stoops era, Oklahoma is 14-0 when rushing for more than 300 yards in a game. In fact, the Sooners have only lost once since 1999 when rushing for 200-plus yards.
- Oklahoma State’s game at UTSA on Saturday will be the fourth consecutive game the Pokes have played in the state of Texas after games in Waco, Dallas and Houston.
- The Cowboys can improve to 9-1 in their last 10 games played in the state of Texas with a win over UTSA.
- UTSA coach Larry Coker was the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State during Mike Gundy’s playing career and coached in Stillwater for seven years before becoming the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma.
- With 125 rushing yards against Mississippi State, J.W. Walsh became the first OSU quarterback to run for 100-plus since Zac Robinson in 2007. Walsh’s previous career-best rushing performance entering the game was 73 yards against Louisiana-Lafayette.
- TCU is 24-8 in regular-season games following a loss since Gary Patterson became head coach in 2000.
- TCU might want to put its backs to work this weekend. The Frogs are 64-3 under Patterson when they rush for more than 200 yards.
- The Frogs have also won 47 consecutive games when they put up more rushing yards than passing yards.
- David Ash’s QBR on the first five drives of Texas’ season-opening win over New Mexico State was 14.6. His QBR for the rest of the game was a near-perfect 99.9.
- Texas takes on a BYU team this week that forced Virginia to punt 13 times last Saturday and still managed to lose. The only team to punt 13 times in one game in 2012 was Wake Forest, and that came in a 52-0 loss to Florida State.
- The Longhorns had six touchdown drives of less than 2 minutes against NMSU. They had just 16 such drives in the entire 2012 season.
- The last time Texas Tech played Stephen F. Austin was the 2001 season. Kliff Kingsbury threw for 366 yards and five scores in a 58-3 victory.
- Baker Mayfield set a school record with 43 pass completions against SMU, the most a Tech quarterback has connected on in a starting debut. He broke Tech freshman records for both passing yards and total offense.
- Texas Tech was won its past 20 home openers, with the last loss coming in 1992 to Oklahoma.
- West Virginia has 30 underclassmen on its depth chart, which evidently ranks eighth-most in FBS this season. Virginia is at the top of that list with 34.
- According to West Virginia, the Mountaineers are 6-0 since 2001 when they wear a gold jersey and blue pants. But they’re 3-3 when wearing gold pants with that gold jersey.
- WVU quarterback Paul Millard attempted as many passes (19) as he did in his entire 2012 season. He completed 76 percent of his passes in his first career start.
Here’s a look at the players who headline the Big 12's weekend wrap:
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From Judd Blevins on Twitter: Possibility of Oklahoma getting 2 more RBs in Joe Mixon and Nathan Starks are…?
William Wilkerson: Surprisingly decent. Not to say OU can’t pull two running backs of this caliber. It most certainly can. It’s just rare for two players as good as they are to end up in the same recruiting class, especially with ESPN 300 RB Samaje Perine (Pflugerville, Texas/Hendrickson) already on board with Bob Stoops’ program.
It’s long been thought that Mixon would stay on the west coast and play for either USC or UCLA, but that sentiment seems to have shifted and OU is a big reason why. He will officially visit the Sooners on Oct. 4.
As for Starks, it is no secret that he has long admired OU for its ability to recruit out-of-state backs but also make them into NFL talent. He currently has the Sooners in his top three along with Notre Dame and USC.
From James Robinson on Twitter: Are there any high school TEs Texas will pursue in the 2014 or 2015 classes?
WW: There are. Right now, Texas has offered ESPN 300 TE Tyler Luatua (La Mirada, CA/La Mirada) and is trying to get him on campus for a visit. The 6-foot-3, 243-pound TE is the top at his position in the country. So interest is high from everyone but he has expressed the desire to get to Austin at some point.
As for 2015, the Longhorns have offered ESPN Junior 300 TE Jordan Davis (Houston/Clear Lake). But it doesn’t look like that will lead to anything. Davis originally committed to Florida State but has since switched his verbal pledge to Texas A&M.
Texas has gone to the junior college ranks for the second year in a row to pick up a tight end. John Thomas (Trinity Valley CC), who was originally committed to LSU out of high school, gave his verbal pledge in June.
From Gold n Blue Nation on Twitter: Dravon Henry seems to be down to Penn St. and WVU with Pitt running third. What is your prediction?
WW: This could go any way at this point. I think he’ll eventually stay close to home and stick with Penn State. But that could change, especially given that the Nittany Lions already have commitments from two safeties and two cornerbacks in 2014. That’s definitely an angle that I would be selling to Henry if I were WVU’s staff, who only has one defensive back commitment in junior college cornerback Jaylon Myers. Pitt and Aliquippa have a long and prosperous history together so you can’t count out the Panthers. The key here could be where teammate Jaleel Fields lands. Pitt and WVU seem to be the front-runners for him.
From Jason Mitchum on Twitter: Do you see Peyton Newell staying in-state?
WW: I think he’ll end up with Bo Pelini. Mitchum visited the Cornhuskers on June 15 for Big Red Weekend, which really seemed to cement things in the minds of many. For what it’s worth, Kansas and Kansas State are amongst his finalists, which he will choose from at his school on Aug. 30.
From Jacob Ledo on Twitter: Update on Kevin Shorter?
WW: Things are getting really interesting here. It looked like Arkansas and Texas A&M were going to go head-to-head for his commitment, but Texas is squarely in the mix now. He’s visited the Longhorns twice within the last two weeks so there is obvious interest there. The fact that he has pushed his college decision back because he needs more time doesn’t bode well for the two original contenders. The Longhorns need another running back and are selling him on the idea of being that vertical threat out of the backfield. Larry Porter has done an incredible job with getting Texas in the mix.
Big 12 blogger David Ubben, SoonerNation’s Jake Trotter and Brandon Chatmon and HornsNation’s Max Olson polled 28 of the 34 players that attended Big 12 media days this week.
Last week, Oklahoma State was picked to win the Big 12 in the media’s annual preseason poll. The players, however, beg to differ, tabbing TCU instead as the favorite.
All told, the players were asked seven questions in the poll, including the school and coach they’d most like to play for, other than their own. The Horned Frogs swept both answers here, too.
The results of the poll:
(Note: players were not allowed to answer their own school in any of the questions)
Who is the team to beat this year in the Big 12?
Oklahoma State, 25%
Kansas State, 11%
Texas Tech, 4%
What they said:
“It’s TCU. I think they’re going to have a big year this year.”
“TCU, just how many guys they have returning and the talent they have coming back.”
“Oklahoma State with all those guys they‘re bringing back. But the fun part about this year is it’s pretty wide open.”
"Blake Bell at quarterback? I don't like that. Don't sleep on K-State.”
If you had to play for another Big 12 school, who would you play for?
Kansas State, 11%
What they said:
“TCU, because of Coach (Gary) Patterson.”
“I would want to play for Texas because they’ve got some beautiful women down here (in Texas).”
If you had to play for another Big 12 coach, who would you play for?
Gary Patterson (TCU), 25%
Bill Snyder (Kansas State), 14%
Mack Brown (Texas), 14%
Bob Stoops (Oklahoma), 11%
Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State), 7%
What they said:
“Coach Patterson seems like he’s a player’s coach who understands his guys and brings energy to the table.”
“Snyder, just because he has a great winning tradition up there.”
Your favorite road trip in the Big 12?
What they said:
“Stadium-wise, Oklahoma State. Trip-wise, Austin.”
“Oklahoma State. The fans, the atmosphere, it’s crazy. You can’t find another like that in college football.”
“Oklahoma. Hotel we stayed in was really nice and the food was even better.”
“Morgantown was a fun experience.”
Are you in favor of re-instituting the conference championship game?
What they said:
“Having a conference title game puts the Big 12 more in the spotlight than it has been these last two seasons.”
“That’s something I don’t really understand. As a kid growing up, I always wanted to play in that championship game. I feel we should get it back.”
Who has the best uniforms in the league?
Oklahoma State, 43%
What they said:
“I really like Oklahoma State’s – they’re pretty cool.”
"Kansas’ new baby blues are icy."
“The best is Baylor’s black uniforms.”
Who has the worst uniforms?
Kansas State, 32%
Iowa State, 18%
What they said:
"You know everybody will say us. We've got the worst uniforms – but you said we can't say our own team."
“Not the biggest fan of Kansas State’s white. I like the purple, the purple and silver is a lot better.”
Who has the best mascot?
The Mountaineer (West Virginia), 21%
Bevo (Texas), 14%
Pistol Pete (Oklahoma State), 3%
What they said:
“Anyone with a gun.”
“Texas or Oklahoma, just because of the historical significance. It actually has historical meaning.”
“Can't beat TCU because (the mascot) has blood coming out (his) eyes. I don't know a lot of other mascots that can do that.”
Who has the worst mascot?
Cy (Iowa State), 25%
Big Jay (Kansas), 11%
Willie the Wildcat (Kansas State), 11%
Boomer and Sooner (Oklahoma), 11%
Pistol Pete (Oklahoma State), 11%
Bevo (Texas), 11%
What they said:
“I don’t know how a bird matches a Cyclone.”
"OU – they got those horse-pig things."
“KU. It’s a mythical bird. Why wouldn’t you go with a blue jay or something that is known to be aggressive?”
The ACC held a special celebration in New York City to welcome Pitt and Syracuse, while the old Big East officially died and gave birth to The American, an aptly named league stretching from Connecticut to SMU in Dallas, though San Diego State and Boise State bailed before the doors were open.
Around the Big 12, though? July 1 was exactly what it's supposed to be: The beginning of a holiday-shortened week with no real news to fill the no-man's land of early July in college sports. That's a welcome development for the Big 12, which hasn't enjoyed that kind of quiet in July since all the way back in 2009.
In 2010, Nebraska had already announced plans to leave for the Big Ten and Colorado for the Pac-12, leading to an awkward Big 12 Media Days in late July and an even more awkward farewell season. July 1, 2011 was the day the Huskers and Buffaloes were officially gone. Later that month, the Big 12 members played nice and put on an, uh, interesting show at Media Days while working on a grant of rights deal.
Before conference play even heated up, Missouri and Texas A&M were gone, leaving the Big 12 to hand out invites to TCU and West Virginia. The moves became official on July 1, 2012.
Which leaves us to this week. The Big 12 sees itself in a position of strength after signing a 13-year grant of rights deal, and the ACC signing a similar deal took attractive options like Florida State, Clemson or Louisville mostly off the Big 12's radar.
At Big 12 meetings in Dallas last month, every league administrator I talked to couldn't help but smile at how little (which is to say, almost nil) conversation centered around expansion. That was a new development for the Big 12, which has been largely centered on the issue for the past three years.
The Big 12 can't replace the tradition, proximity and quality that programs like Nebraska, Texas A&M, Missouri and Colorado left behind, but handed out $22 million to members this year and the league's meeting table is as cordial as it's ever been.
There's no denying the Big 12 suffered major losses in realignment and now sits with a name that doesn't match its membership. Still, for a conference a few steps away from death on two occasions, stability, big money and success on the field (90 percent of the league qualifying for a bowl in 2012 was the highest in CFB history) have changed the perception of a conference most viewed as doing little more than stalling on its deathbed.
TCU and West Virginia relished lifesavers out of a dying Big East and for TCU, a reunion with old Southwest Conference rivals. It was a rough first year for both programs, but the Big 12 is unlikely to add any members any time soon as college football exits the BCS era and enters the playoff era.
Travel issues have provided hiccups for the Mountaineers, and a leaky defense showed the transition would look a lot different than it did in WVU's dreams. A drug scandal at TCU wasn't a good look for the newcomers, and quarterback Casey Pachall's off-field troubles assured the Frogs a disappointing debut.
It wasn't perfect, but it worked. Those problems were microscopic compared to the major fractures that led to four members' departures. Those departures were major blows for the Big 12, but it survived, and this July, enjoyed the tranquility of a league with good football, big money and the knowledge of who'll be in its league for the foreseeable future.
That's a plot pretty close to the Big 12's best-case scenario for a league that lost four founding members in two years.
Texas AD DeLoss Dodds has done as much as anyone, stating the SEC had a "sliver of the East side" of a presence in Texas, and back in March, reiterating that Texas will "get to decide" when the two teams play again.
Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin responded to the "sliver" comment by speaking for the state. "We think Texas in now SEC territory. It's a little bit of an extreme to say we're a sliver in the East there," he said.
At last week's SEC meetings, a reporter asked the Aggies' prominent bowtied leader if he had any one liners to lob the Longhorns' way.
Yes, and no, was apparently the answer.
From the Dallas Morning News:
"I don't have to make it anymore," Loftin said of A&M's former Big 12 rival, as he walked away. "It's not relevant to us anymore, that's the whole point. It's not an important issue."
I'm immensely entertained by the form this rivalry has taken since it moved off the field. The two sides are heating up on the recruiting trail, too, but neither side has come close to crossing any lines while taking swipes at the other, and both sides seem successful in riling up rival fans with incendiary comments.
It's harmless. It's fun. Dodds sat down with reporters at the Big 12 meetings this week, but the Aggies hardly came up and Dodds didn't seem real talkative about the maroon-clad folks about 100 miles east of Austin.
Ultimately, though, it just makes me sad that we can't see these two play on the field and have these comments be a run-up to annual November games. Those would mean perhaps more than ever with the two sides tacking on a little conference pride to one of college football's best in-state rivalries.
I've said it before, I'll say it again: College football is worse off when Texas and Texas A&M don't play. Even if the off-field shenanigans when they don't are entertaining, too.
BIG 12 SCOREBOARD
Final North Dakota State 34 Iowa State 14 Final West Virginia 23 2 Alabama 33 Final Louisiana Tech 16 4 Oklahoma 48 Final Samford 14 TCU 48 Final Central Arkansas 35 Texas Tech 42 Final Stephen F. Austin 16 20 Kansas State 55 Final North Texas 7 Texas 38 Final 1 Florida State 37 Oklahoma State 31