My Big 12 media day musings
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The Big 12 media days are always one of my favorite events to cover every year. It's a great way to get excited about the upcoming season, and I can guarantee I came out of the festivities with that feeling after talking to all of the players and coaches.
It's always fun to see everybody. After having a day or so to decompress, I came away from it with a few observations I'd like to share with you.
- Not only are the Oklahoma Sooners the three-time defending Big 12 champions, but they also were easily the most impressive looking athletes I saw during my time at the media days. And the most impressive was Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, who looked like he added about 10 pounds of muscle during the offseason.
As I walked past him, I could have sworn that Bradford was bigger, stronger and better cut muscularly than many of the linebackers I saw during the week.
But Jermaine Gresham and Gerald McCoy weren't far behind. It looks like Sooners strength and conditioning coach Jerry Schmidt's work has paid off over the past few months.
- It used to be that these media days were kind of semi-formal affairs. I remember that many teams came dressed to the nines when they arrived.
The only team that came dressed in their coats and ties were the Kansas State Wildcats. They might reconsider in the future -- or at least let the players show a little originality and not come dressed in the same suits with the Powercat logo on the chest.
- It wasn't a surprise that the biggest throngs of media representatives followed Colt McCoy and Bradford. But coming close to them was a surprise. Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin almost had the same kind of elbow-to-elbow jostling that the other two South Division rivals had.
And if McCoy graduates and Bradford leaves for the NFL after his junior season, Griffin could have these proceedings to himself next year.
- It's hard to imagine too many better interviews than Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon.
Take his explanation for why the Tigers were blown out last season at Texas.
"I was so geeked-up when we played Texas that I didn't catch my breath until the second half," Weatherspoon said. "When I play against guys that I grew up [with], it puts more emphases on that game."
Also, give Weatherspoon credit for his candor when asked about the Tigers' roster last season.
"We had six guys get drafted last year and we could have had more than six," Weatherspoon said. "I'll put my teammates up against anybody."
- McCoy admitted that the "small-town" story about him playing at tiny Ned High School in Tuscola, Texas, is becoming over told.
That being said, I loved hearing him talk about his summer work on his grandfather's farm near Brownwood. Several media members -- obviously those who had done it -- were nodding approvingly when he talks about demands of bailing hay and how sore it made his fingers after a long day in the fields.
I've never bailed hay, but I've helped in gathering tobacco on my late grandfather's farm in the past. I remember how hard that was. And it gave me a new appreciation for McCoy's work ethic if he did that kind of intense manual labor this summer.
- I've been a connoisseur of visits to major league stadiums ever since my first trip to the old Busch Stadium in St. Louis when I was 5 years old. (Yes, that's the old playground that Stan Musial used to play in). Since then, I visited and worked in hundreds of big-league and college facilities. And I've never seen anything quite as opulent and gaudy as the new Dallas Cowboys' stadium in Arlington.
But my favorite indicator of the greed that Jerry Jones has carried into his new facility is this one. When you start tours, groups are forced to wait for several minutes in the Cowboys' mammoth gift shop. It's the same theory I've seen at places like Disney World and Sea World of Texas. And I guess fortunately for me, I was by myself when I visited and didn't have my 4-year-old in tow. Or else, my credit card still might be smoking.
- During my drive on Interstate 35 yesterday, I noticed an interesting billboard in Waco, Texas, only a couple of long touchdowns away from Floyd Casey Stadium.
Texas Tech has erected a large billboard, complete with the distinctive double-T logo, spotlighting its medical school and the school in general. And after last season's tough loss in Lubbock, it's got to be a grim reminder for the Bears every time they pass it.
- Most interesting discussion I heard from a coach came when Texas' Mack Brown talked about what he got out of visiting the Middle East this summer. Some might have discounted his motives when the trip was announced. But after talking with Brown, I get the idea he got a lot more out of his overseas trip than he ever would have imagined before he left.
- As expected, Mike Leach was the star attraction. But my favorite bit was when he talked about his plans for a 64-team playoff in college football. He punctuated his description with five self-inflicted pops to the head in about a 20-second sequence for emphasis.
Like I've always said, there aren't many like "The Pirate" in college football.
- I could have sworn that Kansas State coach Bill Snyder climbed into the DeLorean time machine from earlier in his career and fast-forwarded himself to his visit this week to the media gathering. Snyder might have even looked younger and spryer this week than he did at the end of his career.
There was a bounce in his step I didn't see very often during his final two seasons coaching when the Wildcats failed to make a bowl trip.
Who knows, there might have been something therapeutic in all of those kid baseball games he watched involving his grandchildren over the past few years.
- As I heard new Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads speak, I closed my eyes for a second and almost thought I was hearing his old boss Dan McCarney talking.
Rhoads knows the culture around Iowa State football better than most and understands how tough his job will be turning the program around. But he's not backing away at it.
Which reminds me: Exactly why did the Iowa State athletic brain trust decide to get rid of McCarney in the first place?
- Best example of the changing nature of the Big 12? Of the 37 players who attended, there was only one running back -- Nebraska I-back Roy Helu Jr.
Remember when this conference had backs like Ricky Williams, Ahman Green, Cedric Benson, Troy Davis, Byron Hanspard and Adrian Peterson? Those days have never seemed so far away.
- Sure, their quarterbacks are evolving into the best of friends this side of Laverne and Shirley, but after talking to their other teammates and coaches I still get the idea that Oklahoma and Texas can't wait for Oct. 17 at the Cotton Bowl.
I think there might be more anticipation for that game than any I can remember.
We're at 78 days and counting until that game.
- I wish San Antonio had a Red Hot and Blue re
staurant. The dry-rub ribs weren't exactly the same as those sold at the Rendezvous back in my hometown of Memphis, but it was still a very worthy -- and tasty -- substitute.