- David Ubben, College Football
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Thanks for all the e-mails this week. It's been a good one. Here's where you can reach me if you've got more to say.
Jerome Dan in Oklahoma City writes: Hello David, Every time I look at the recruiting ratings I see OU keeps slipping. I know a lot has to do with winning, but we thrash Texas on a regular basis and they always get a good recruiting class. What is the issue and what does OU need to do besides win?
David Ubben: It's a couple things. First off, Texas A&M's rise is thinning the pool of elite prospects in Texas. That's the biggest thing. The last three or four recruiting cycles beginning with Mike Sherman and carrying over until now have taken a big chunk out of Oklahoma's efforts in Texas. For a long time, when OU was making those runs to BCS title games, OU and Texas battled it out for the best players in Texas and didn't have anywhere near as much competition. Texas A&M has made the biggest impact there.
You also have a few SEC teams crashing the party when Alabama is grabbing guys like A'Shawn Robinson and Maurice Smith, two of the top 15 players in Texas last year. Rising programs across the Big 12 like Oklahoma State and Baylor are making an impact there, too. Baylor landed Robbie Rhodes and Chris Johnson, two of the top 25 players in Texas. Oklahoma State swiped Ra'Shaad Samples and Marcell Ateman, two of the best players in the state, too.
A lot of the Big 12 schools underestimated the impact of letting SEC teams start recruiting more heavily in Texas, and A&M's recruiting has only gotten stronger. That, combined with not being a factor in the national title race since 2008 are the biggest reasons we've seen Oklahoma's recruiting struggle.
Schloss in Falling Waters, W.Va. writes: DUBS! Love the blog; you get me through the dog days of summer. Let me preclude this by stating I am a WVU Alum and die-hard fan. For the sake of discussion, I think you are greatly underestimating my 'Eers. I'm not saying they are going to win the Big 12, but an 8,9 or even 10 win season is not a stretch. Holgorsen's offenses have been 'plug-and-play' wherever he has been (Houston, OK St, WVU). Players shine, they move on, and the next one steps in with success as a result of the SYSTEM. As great as Geno and Tavon were, there was definitely some big fluff to those numbers. I mean look at the YAC from those games where Geno threw those little dunk passes behind the line of scrimmage. That's not QB skill, that's Holgorsen making it work with what he has. And the defense MUST be better than it was last year. Again, not saying dominate, but markedly better with experience and some changes in coaching. So if the offense can perform anywhere near what routinely does with the defense improving, look out! That coupled with the LOW expectations from people around the media (cough, cough) and some impactful transfers, I think we are nearing a perfect storm for a dark horse run.
DU: To some degree, you have a point, Schloss, but you're way, way underrating the kinds of talent at quarterback Holgorsen has had at his last two stops. Yes, some of Geno Smith and Brandon Weeden's yardage numbers were a bit inflated, but those were both first-round guys in the NFL draft, even though Smith slid to the second round. Maybe Ford Childress will be one day, but right now, WVU doesn't have anything close to a first-round draft pick on its roster at QB. Weeden was a hidden gem. Smith was a predictable star.
This offense also doesn't have anyone as dangerous as Tavon Austin or as reliable as Stedman Bailey. The bottom line is the offense is going to take a step back this season. It's still going to be good and one of the better ones in the Big 12, but it's silly to lose those types of guys with no proven people behind them and expect the offense to not skip a beat.
The defense will be a bit better, and I agree there's some upside to WVU this year, but the Big 12 is really deep and it's going to be tough to win more than seven games for this team.
rtXc1 in Denison, Texas writes: Hey Dave! Which transfer QB is going to have the better career, Brewer or Lunt? Thanks.
DU: I'm going with Connor Brewer here, solely because Arizona is a ship that's already got some wind in its sails a little bit. I expect both to play a lot over the remainder of their careers, and both are hometown kids the fans will love. Bill Cubit's system is a good one at Illinois, but Wes Lunt just doesn't have a ton of talent around him and we're still talking about a 2-10 team here.
Arizona has a more established coach in Rich Rodriguez and a better foundation to build on. That's going to make life easier on Brewer in the future.
Marcus Banks in Seattle writes: Has Texas or Mack Brown or both lost respect? Or are they that bad? Texas has 19 returning starters and are picked to finish fourth in a soft Big 12. I can see OK State being picked ahead of UT with their recent rise, but OU seems to be going backwards with the people they lost. Usually a team (from a major school) returning that many players receive a little more respect.
DU: I was definitely surprised to see Texas picked fourth, but the more I thought about it, the less surprising it really was. Nationally, Texas still gets a lot of respect from voters, but from more of the regional media who have seen just how bad Texas can look at times over the last three years, it's hard to shake those memories and see Texas as a team who can win the Big 12 title when you just saw them get blown out by OU and almost lose to Kansas. The talent is there, but inexperience was a legitimate excuse in 2011 and last year's nine-win season was a decent effort for a still-maturing team. Not good enough, but nothing to really be embarrassed about.
I have Texas third, but 10 wins is about where I see Texas finishing. If the Longhorns really do finish fourth in the Big 12, you can expect a turbulent offseason in Austin.
As for Oklahoma, I'd say it's safe to assume those last two meetings in Dallas are the reason (and to be fair, the only reason, even if it's a huge one) that the Sooners are picked ahead of the Longhorns.
Bill in Nantucket, Mass. writes: Hey Ubbs, Mountaineer fan here in New England. Say your predictions are right and WVU struggles to a .500 season. How many of those do you think Holgy can survive before getting the boot? I think this upcoming season he gets a pass given the recent departures, but fans will grow tired and the leash will tighten.
DU: Winning a BCS game in your first year (as well as being a rising star in coaching in general) gets you a long leash. Trying to transition to a much tougher league makes that leash even longer. As long as the offense does what Holgorsen offenses do, he's going to have some hope and more chances to fix the defense. If WVU goes 6-6 this year, it can probably afford a sub-.500 year in 2014 before Holgorsen is on majorly thin ice going into 2015. Hard to see them actually making a change before then, but I expect WVU to bounce back before then. Winning a Big 12 title's going to be hard there, but consistently winning 8-9 games is a very realistic expectation in the near future.
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