Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Big 12 weekend roundup
By ESPN.com staff ESPN.com
Lots to talk about after the long weekend. Let's get to it.
More turnover for the Longhorns
Just when Mack Brown thought he was almost done filling his staff, he ended up with a bit more work to do. Defensive backs coach Duane Akina resigned to take the same position at Arizona.
His departure after an impressive tenure at Texas to take what was a lateral move at best raised all kinds of red flags, but a quick hire from Brown helped lower them a bit. The Longhorns went with Manny Diaz at defensive coordinator over Seattle Seahawks defensive backs coach Jerry Gray, but Brown convinced Gray to make a move of his own to fill Akina's void.
That's a great move for Texas, who could have inspired some panic with Akina's departure. He was arguably Texas' best position coach, and you don't need to look much further than the staggering list of DBs he's sent to the NFL as proof. He's also coached a pair of Thorpe Award winners at Texas in Michael Huff and Aaron Ross.
Now, he's headed back to Arizona, where he coached from 1992-2002.
"We've been talking about getting back there over the years, but it never seemed to be the right time. When this opportunity came up, I felt like the window was there and that it was the right fit," Akina said in a release. "...going back to Arizona was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. It allows me to get closer to a lot of friends and family, and to hopefully help a program that has been such a big part of my life in any little way I can."
Well, that sounds nice and all, but you have to wonder if he didn't fully mesh with Diaz, either personally or philosophically, contributing to the move. Gray's arrival helps silence similar talk, but the Longhorns will be fascinating next seaon.
Six coaches are gone from last season's staff. Just four remain. That's a heck of a lot of turnover for one season.
Fuller sticks around for his senior year
Texas A&M received good news when receiver Jeff Fuller opted to return for another season rather than enter the NFL draft.
We'll have more on the trend later today, but Texas A&M receiver Jeff Fuller announced he would return to College Station for his senior year, which is fantastic news for the Aggies. Texas A&M has a great receiving corps, but it doesn't have anyone capable of replacing Fuller's size and production. He just finished the first 1,000-yard season in the history of Texas A&M football, and there's no reason to think he won't kick off the second next September.
Simply put, there aren't many receivers with Fuller's size, and he'll be a much better route runner and probably a little bit faster this time next year. His draft projection from the NFL advisory committee was outside the first two rounds, and a year ago, teammate and linebacker Von Miller received a similar report.
Miller now looks like a mid-to-late first rounder, and Fuller admitted Miller's experience had an influence on him.
"I'm excited about our team and the guys I came into school with. There are a lot of areas I need to work on, and another year will put me closer to earning my degree and that is important to my family," Fuller said in a release. "I had a great example in Von. He decided to come back and he really helped our team improve and I believe he improved his position in the upcoming draft, and he is only a few hours short of his degree."
Thanks to Fuller, A&M is losing just one offensive starter -- center Matt Allen -- and three defensive starters.
Sooners fill out staff
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops announced his promotion of Bruce Kittle from on-campus recruiting coordinator to tight ends and tackles coach, replacing the void left by offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. Wilson left Oklahoma to take the head coaching job at Indiana.
Kittle will finally get a chance to prove himself, after a short coaching career and a long relationship with Stoops. The two played at Iowa together, and Kittle is also an ordained minister and lawyer.
That won't satisfy the contingent of Sooners fans who wanted to see Stoops hire a special teams coordinator, but if Oklahoma can get some consistency out of its placekickers and stop giving up long kick returns, those complaints will go away. Certainly, it might be easier to do those things with a special teams coordinator, but Oklahoma, with its eight BCS bowls under Stoops, seems to have done OK for itself without a special teams coordinator thus far.