Tim's mailbag: Texas should be Defensive Back U

March, 27, 2009
3/27/09
4:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Spring practice has sparked an outpouring of letters and e-mails about the events taking place across the Big 12. Here are some of the more notable missives I received this week.

Jonny from Chicago writes: Hey, Tim. Are any Big 12 schools known for the type of NFL positions prospects they have produced over the years. For instance, Penn State is commonly referred to as "Linebacker U" and USC has the nickname of "Tailback U". Any in the Big 12 you can think of?

Tim Griffin: Good question. There aren't any as notable as the ones you mentioned, but here are a few of the most notable trends I could find when I thought about the Big 12 and the NFL draft.

Colorado: Wide receivers. The Buffaloes have had four first-round selections since 1991, although none since 1997. Included in the list are Rae Carruth, Charles Johnson, Michael Westbrook and Mike Pritchard.

Texas: Defensive backs. This is the conference's most consistent factory at any position. The Longhorns have six first-round selections at the position since 1991 -- Stanley Richard, Bryant Westbrook, Quentin Jammer, Michael Huff, Michael Griffin and Aaron Ross. It's almost like a machine turning out No. 1 picks under defensive backs coach Duane Akina.

Nebraska: Defensive ends. The Cornhuskers have had six defensive ends picked in the first two rounds of the NFL draft since 1997. That's included key producers like Grant Wistrom, Adam Carriker, Mike Rucker, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Chris Kelsay.

Oklahoma: It's more quantity for the Sooners than top-round quality, with nine defensive backs picked since Bob Stoops took over. That list has included only two first-round selections -- Roy Williams and Andre Woolfolk.


Steve from Overland Park, Kan., writes: Tim, if you were starting an NFL team and you could have your choice of any Big 12 player who is on a college roster this spring, who would you pick.

Tim Griffin: Given the choice, I think Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford would look awfully good on my team. I like his size and arm a little better than Colt McCoy, and I also think Bradford will hold up better in the NFL. Among others I would strongly consider include Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant, Texas defensive end/linebacker Sergio Kindle and Baylor defensive tackle Phil Taylor.


G from Gering, Neb., writes: Will you be attending any of Nebraska's spring practices this year? And what are you specifically looking for?

Tim Griffin: G, I'm headed up there to watch on Saturday morning if I don't get snowed out along the way. I know most coaches have vanilla workouts when the media is around. But I'll be curious if Zac Lee's arm is really as good as I've heard. I'm also going to be looking at Nebraska's receivers as they replace the sizable hole created by the departure of Nate Swift and Todd Peterson. And I'll be curious to see what kind of attitude the Cornhuskers have on defense. They need to be more aggressive in terms of creating turnovers. And if I know Bo Pelini, he's probably coaching that into them from their first spring practice.


Jason from Fort Collins, Colo., writes: Tim: In an offensive conference like the Big 12, who do you see as having the top defenses for this upcoming season?

Tim Griffin: I would expect the conference's top two defenses to be Oklahoma and Texas, who I also think will have the conference's two best teams.

I like Oklahoma's just a little bit more because of the return of players like McCoy, Jeremy Beal, Travis Lewis and Dominique Franks. If the Sooners can find a couple of safeties, they'll be one of the best in the country.

And linebackers Austin Box and Ryan Reynolds and defensive end Auston English could be among the best players in the conference at their best position if they can come back from injuries. Their return will only boost the production of Brent Venables' unit.

I also like Texas if they can find some help for Kindle along the defensive front. I expect some of the younger players in the secondary to challenge existing starters for playing time.

And I think Nebraska can be very good as the Cornhuskers work for the second season under Pelini. They need for Barry Turner to come back healthy at defensive end. And it will be interesting to see if Jared Crick is as good as I'm hearing at defensive tackle next to Ndamukong Suh.

Not coincedentially, those three teams should be among the best in the Big 12 this year. I think the teams with the best defenses will have a huge advantage in a conference like the Big 12 where the offenses will be so potent.


N. Hodgin from Alpharetta, Ga., writes: Tim, Where did Patrick Witt transfer to?

Tim Griffin: It still is undetermined, although I hear he's considering UCLA, Stanford, Duke and Yale.

Obviously, the question for him will be whether he wants to play immediately, which he could do if he went to an FCS school. Recent Big 12 transfers like Rhett Bomar and Bobby Reid were able to do that.

If Witt wants to play at another FBS school, he'll have to sit out a year.

His family has hinted to several Nebraska newspapers that he might move and give up his football career.

But I frankly don't see that happening. I would look for him to end up at another FBS school, getting a year to learn the offense before playing again 2010.


Zeyad from Tulsa writes: Oklahoma has a good chance at going undefeated this year as long as they get by Texas. But with the Sooners' soft schedule and their recent letdowns in big games do you think there's a chance they will get voted out of the national championship game if they finish undefeated? Especially if it would end up being a rematch of last season?

Tim Griffin: Zeyad, I think that any team that goes undefeated in the Big 12 is going to have a great shot at playing for the national championship. And I would also argue about Oklahoma having a soft schedule. The Sooners will be playing bowl teams like BYU and Tulsa and also have a trip to Miami among their nonconference games. That's in addition to playing all of the schools in the Big 12 South along with road games at projected Big 12 North title contenders Kansas and Nebraska and a potential Big 12 championship game. The Sooners won't have to apologize for that schedule.

Thanks again for all of the e-mails and letters and please keep them coming. We'll check back again next week.

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