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Friday, February 27, 2009
Mailbag: OU's Murray, Reynolds recovering nicely

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here's a batch of fresh letters from my readers who wrote me about various Big 12 topics this week.

Steve from Clearwater, Fla., writes: I'm wondering what's the status of Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray and Ryan Reynolds. Will they be ready for spring practice? Thanks again for all of your great coverage of Big 12 ball.

Tim Griffin: Hey, thanks for the kudos. Because of the severity of Murray's partial rupture of his left hamstring tendon and Reynolds torn knee ligaments, neither player will participate in a full spring practice regimen in the next few weeks. But Oklahoma officials say that both are progressing at or ahead of the normal pace of recovery for their injuries. The forecast for both key players participating in the 2009 season is bright, I am told.


Dale from Richmond, Texas, writes: Is John Chiles the next Percy Harvin? His athleticism is unquestionable on film. Moving Chiles to wide receiver is like finding a diamond in the rough! What is your opinion?

Tim Griffin: Like you mentioned, Chiles is an athlete and should be able to make plays in Texas' offense.

I'm wondering, however, if he might be better suited as a running back than a receiver. His speed and pass-catching abilities could be more useful there. I think the Longhorns are much weaker in the backfield with oft-injured Fozzy Whittaker, Tre' Newton and Vondrell McGee as their lone breakaway threats along with the hulking Cody Johnson. Among receivers, Chiles will have to challenge Dan Buckner, Malcolm Williams, Brandon Collins, James Kirkendoll and Jordan Shipley when he recovers from his injury. It will be very hard for him to crack that rotation.

An even more likely role for him will be as a kick returner. Mack Brown said that special emphasis will be placed on improving the Longhorns' kick returns after the Longhorns placed only sixth in the conference last season. I could see Chiles being very useful there.


Kent from Cushing, Iowa, writes: Tim, in your blog about what you don't love about the Big 12 you list human mascots and have my beloved Cyclones listed. Hey, we had a REAL cyclone for one game in Ames. It was against Colorado in 2005, I believe. CU just packed up Ralphie and went home.

Tim Griffin: I remember that game and the unusual weather conditions. But I still like animals rather than those mascots in costumes -- even if the climatic conditions might belong on The Weather Channel.


Kyle Highberg from Omaha writes: Hey, good blog and I greatly appreciate it. But that being sad, can the North Division get some love, too? Each and every day you blog about something going on at Texas. I know you live only an hour away from Austin, but I don't need to hear three updates a day on the same slow news story! Maybe it's just me, or maybe it is only February and I have a big itch for Big 12 football. Seriously, thanks for the blog!

Tim Griffin: The reason that Texas schools have been featured so prominently the last several days is that they are actually practicing. Texas is taking advantage of the warmer weather to start practice as the first team in the conference. Baylor will start its next week, leading to my story earlier today on Robert Griffin.

As I've often said, I consider the 12 schools in the conference as almost my children and I try not to show any one of them any more love or favoritism than another. Even if it makes me feel like Old Mother Hubbard sometimes.

But during next few weeks, you can be assured that I'll have reports of teams across the Big 12.


Dane from Dallas writes: What is a guy do until September 5th? Your blogs alone are enough to satiate me enough to prevent withdrawals and I am going crazy here! How do you feel about OU opening up Jerry's world against BYU?

Tim Griffin: First, let me suggest ESPN Classic. They often play great games of the past that will help feed your "Football Jones" when no live games are available.

As for the Sooners, I think their game against BYU will be one of the most intriguing nonconference games of the season. Both teams have got a lot of offensive firepower. The Cougars have never lost to a Big 12 team, beating two teams from the conference since the Big 12 started play in 1996.

It should make for an intriguing first college game at the Dallas Cowboys' Stadium in Arlington, Texas, shouldn't it? First team to 50 points will win.


Rene from Valencia, Calif., writes: Hey Tim, I just have two simple questions. I'm a Longhorn fan, and I was wondering if the Rose Bowl 2006 has been the only time that USC has played Texas? How many times has Texas played USC in school history? And in your opinion, what makes one team better than another? History, accomplishments such as national championships, Heisman Trophies. or head-to-head records?

Tim Griffin: The Longhorns and Trojans have played five times in the history of both programs. USC won the four previous games in the series: 19-7 in Los Angeles in 1955, 44-20 in Austin in 1956, 10-6 in Austin in 1966 and 17-13 in Los Angeles in 1967. Some my more experienced friends in Austin still see former USC football player John Wayne attending the game in Austin back in 1966.

But the way that the 2006 Rose Bowl played out convinced me that these two programs should be occasionally playing each other. It would be a heck of an intersectional matchup.

And as far as the most important factor I use to gauge the strength of programs is consistency: If a team has been great for a long time, I think that speaks volumes about it. And it's why I think that ESPN.com's ranking of Oklahoma as the nation's most prestigious program was completely warranted.


John from Austin writes: In your coverage of the Nebraska quarterback battle, you haven't really mentioned Taylor Martinez. I realize that he was brought in to be a safety, but his high school quarterback numbers and apparent competitiveness warrant SOME mention, I think. I have an issue with prototypical quarterbacks like Sam Keller, Harrison Beck and Josh Freeman and how it seems like they never really live up to their hype - but maybe that's just been because we've been spoiled with a player like Joe Ganz!

Wasn't there talk about Martinez getting a chance to compete for the job? Where has that talk gone, if it ever existed?

Tim Griffin: I think the talk was the heaviest right around national signing day when Bo Pelini was trying to convince Martinez to attend Nebraska. I do
know that Martinez will fall far behind Cody Green, Kody Spano and Zac Lee because those players will receive chances to take many snaps during spring practice. It would be hard to imagine Martinez being able to catch up against that trio when he arrives later this summer, but I know he desperately wants to play quarterback.

Eventually, Martinez might become a factor, but it might be too early to think he will become one in 2009.

The Cornhuskers will have little depth at the position. I'm predicting Lee to have the starting job going into the summer with Green close behind. I could see Pelini using Green like Ohio State coach Jim Tressel used Terrelle Pryor last season by getting his feet wet with a few snaps early in the season before more extensive use later in the season. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

That's all the time I have for today. Check back for my live chat on Big 12 football on Monday and keep the e-mails coming. I appreciate all of them.