Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Big 12 mailbag: Should KU be worried about offensive line slump?
By David Ubben
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here's an early dose of letters from readers across the blogosphere.
Steve Josephson from Lenexa, Kan., writes: Tim, I hope you got a chance to watch Kansas play the last couple of weeks. I’m a little afraid watching the pressure that Todd Reesing has faced in those games, particularly against Southern Mississippi.
Should I be concerned about the struggles that we saw early in the game against the Golden Eagles? Or should I be happier the defense got it together in the end and we finally won the game in the end?
Tim Griffin: Steve, a win is a win, so you can never discount getting a victory no matter how ugly it might appear.
I was most impressed with the way Kansas earned the victory last week after some early struggles against the Southern Mississippi offense. The fact they held them scoreless over their final four drives ultimately paved the way for the victory.
But I was also concerned by Reesing's susceptibility for sacks. The Jayhawks gave up five to Southern Mississippi and have yielded seven in their first four games, which ranks ahead of only Colorado and Kansas State in the Big 12.
I think some of that is due to not having Jake Sharp in the lineup, who is more familiar with blitz pickups than his replacement Toben Opurum.
But if Kansas is having trouble with defenses like Southern Mississippi and Duke, it probably doesn’t bode well when they start facing teams like Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska once Big 12 play begins.
Ken Smith from Houston writes: Tim, I have a couple of questions to ask. It’s plain to me that Carson Coffman can’t lead Kansas State. Why don’t you think that Bill Snyder doesn’t start Grant Gregory at quarterback? I know Snyder is a great coach, but it doesn’t seem like he makes good decisions. What is your prediction for the rest of the year? And also how will Brandon Banks finish out?
Tim Griffin: It’s obvious that Bill Snyder is in for a challenging rebuilding job at Kansas State after the first four games of the season. Let's be fair to Snyder, who didn’t recruit most of the players on this roster. And I think his place in the College Football Hall of Fame remains secure even after the first four games of his comeback.
Snyder did recruit Gregory from South Florida, but it’s also pretty obvious that Snyder feels more comfortable with Coffman as his starting quarterback. Coffman had a solid game against Tennessee Tech, completing 8-of-9 passes for 131 yards. Of course, that was against Tennessee Tech.
It will be interesting to see how the Wildcats approach the rest of the season. Their special-teams woes have been their biggest early concern. But I still expect the Wildcats to be able to win two or three games during the rest of the season. The “Farmageddon” game against Iowa State is a must if the Wildcats harbor any bowl hopes. They already have to effectively get to seven victories to qualify for a bowl game because they have two FCS opponents and can only count one of their wins for bowl purposes.
I’m still thinking that Snyder surprises a team in an upset. And Banks will be a big part of that. His plays in the kicking game were huge last week, but his three receptions for 90 yards arguably were just as important to rebuild his flagging confidence. He needs to be an active part of the Wildcats’ offense.
David Parker (Ogden, Utah) writes: Hey, Tim, do you add that Texas A&M's 38-30 win at home to a bottom dweller in the WAC (Utah St.) apart from "devouring" those two wins so far in this young season?
Tim Griffin: David, I’m not going to defend Texas A&M’s schedule because I really can’t. But the fact is that if they win the game this week against Arkansas along with earlier victories against Utah State, UAB and New Mexico, the Aggies will match their 2008 win total before conference play even begins. And with the injury to Robert Griffin, I think the Aggies have a solid shot to make a bowl game this season.
Most fans didn’t think they would get there this season. After their first three games -- no matter who they were playing -- it’s a promising start when compared to last season.
Want to know the clearest indicator of how things have changed around Aggieland? My friends who run the outstanding college football website coacheshotseat.com had A&M coach Mike Sherman ranked among their top two or three favorites to be fired all summer. But after the Aggies’ three season-opening wins have dropped him to No. 13 this week.
Willie from Windsor, Colo., writes: If Colorado has another lackluster performance on Thursday Night in primetime to the whole nation, will Dan Hawkins survive the season and can the Kevin Sumlin era at CU begin?
Tim Griffin: Willie, my sources at Colorado are telling me it will be very hard for Hawkins to get fired this season because of Colorado’s cash-strapped condition in the athletic department. After paying off Gary Barnett’s big contract, they find it would be hard for the university’s heavy hitters to justify another big buyout to Hawkins. And that’s on top of the cost of hiring a new coach.
So I’m hearing that Hawkins is safe, unless things really bottom out during the rest of the season. Sumlin is a very attractive candidate and I would imagine he’ll have the pick of several attractive jobs that might come open at the end of the year. I’m curious if he would leave Houston after two years, or wait around for another year or two to claim what he would perceive to be a select job.
Robert Detwing from Bellevue, Wash., writes: Tim, now that the reality of Robert Griffin’s injury has set in, please give me, and the rest of the Baylor faithful, some reasons as to why we will still make a bowl this season.
Tim Griffin: Robert, I wish I could paint a rosier picture, but it’s going to be tough. Griffin’s injury will mean that Blake Szymanski inherits the starting job at quarterback. He still holds the school record in passing yards and hasn’t ever had the benefit of extensive playing in Art Briles’ system. He has the best offensive weapons in terms of receivers that Baylor has had in a long time. The Baylor defense is going to be salty with players like Joe Pawelek, Phil Taylor and Jordan Lake in place. But it’s still going to be a huge challenge in the Big 12 South.
I would have liked their chances better if they were sitting at 3-0 with a victory over Connecticut. Because without Griffin, I don’t know if I can see three conference bowl victories, along with a triumph over Kent State this week to get to six wins.
That’s all until Friday afternoon. Thanks for all of the great letters. We will catch up again later in the week.