Big 12: Angus Quigley
Strongest position: Running back
Key returnees: James Sims, Deshaun Sands
Key losses: Angus Quigley
Analysis: It's a little hard to believe considering Kansas' top running back in 2009, Toben Opurum, plays defensive end now, but the position was a strength in Turner Gill's first year. It should be again in Year 2, only slightly more so than linebacker. To be frank, Kansas wasn't very good at much in 2010, and its 3-9 record showed it. However, the Jayhawks should have great, great depth at the position and a possible 1,000-yard rusher in Sims leading the way. Sims (never forget, Big 12's best headshot) took over as the primary ballcarrier after rushing for 101 yards against Georgia Tech in the Jayhawks' signature win of 2010. He topped 100 yards two more times last season and scored four touchdowns in Kansas' lone conference win of the season, a 52-45 victory against Colorado that featured 35 consecutive Kansas points in the fourth quarter. His 10 scores led the team, and there are several running backs with potential behind him. Sands could get some carries, but two of the Jayhawks' best recruits of the past two classes have been running backs. Brandon Bourbon and Darrian Miller should compete for playing time as well. Dreamius Smith could be a factor, and as the bruiser of the group, Sims could be complemented well in the Kansas running game with a speedier, shifty change-of-pace back.
Weakest position: Quarterback
Key returnees: Jordan Webb, Quinn Mecham
Key losses: None
Analysis: The Jayhawks had a glaring weakness at quarterback in 2010, and it's the biggest area that must improve if Kansas is going to get back to a) being competitive and/or b) winning games consistently in the Big 12.
Consider this: Despite suffering eight of its nine losses by double digits last season, the Jayhawks threw the ball just 353 times. Only Nebraska, with its impressive running trio, threw it fewer times last season. That says plenty about the confidence the Jayhawks have in their passers. It's not surprising that Kansas threw the second-fewest touchdown passes (Texas), had the second lowest completion percentage (Iowa State), threw for the fewest yards and yet threw the third-most interceptions (14) in the league. Not a good combination.
Webb and Mecham don't have many great receiving options, but Daymond Patterson, Chris Omigie and tight end Tim Biere will have to become more consistent targets for the Jayhawks next season. They were shuffled in and out last season. This spring, hopes were high for incoming freshman Brock Berglund, the top player in Colorado, who enrolled early and planned to take part in spring practice, which begins on Friday in Lawrence. Citing personal reasons, however, Berglund went back to Colorado shortly after enrolling and plans to re-enter the university in the fall. That puts a damper on the hopes of Jayhawks fans hoping to see him start the season opener in the fall, but considering Mecham and Webb's struggles last season, it's likely that Berglund will, at the very least, get an opportunity to prove himself in a game next season.
More spring superlatives:
- Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman says Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III reminds her of former Texas star Vince Young.
- Nebraska's other quarterback, Cody Green, isn't fretting about getting limited time behind Zac Lee, reports Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal Star.
- Oklahoma safety Quinton Carter says the crackdown on helmet-to-helmet hits and his own neck injury have led to a change in his tackling style, writes Mike Baldwin of The Oklahoman.
- The Des Moines Register has a selection of fans' favorite memories of the Nebraska-Iowa State rivalry.
- Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy talks curfews with Brandon Chatmon of The Oklahoman.
- Kansas running back Angus Quigley says Kansas' failures are on the players, not coach Turner Gill, reports Tully Corcoran of the Topeka Capital-Journal.
- Playing through pain is nothing new for Missouri linebacker Will Ebner, writes Mike DeArmond of the Kansas City Star.
- If college football coaches wanted to sling some mud like politicians, they'd have plenty of ammo, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman.
- Texas Tech defensive lineman Pearlie Graves, in addition to being unfairly snubbed from my preseason all-name team, is excited about this weekend's game for one big reason, writes Mike Graham of the Dallas Morning News.
- Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill's early success is no fluke, writes Jimmy Burch of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
- Kansas State is trying to avoid what happened the last time it faced an elite defense, writes Austin Meek of the Topeka Capital-Journal.
- For once, Texas might be glad to get away from home, writes Alan Trubow of the Austin American-Statesman.
- If he had to do it over again, Colorado quarterback Tyler Hansen might do a few things differently, or he might not, writes Kyle Ringo of the Boulder Daily Camera.
Webb and Sims' performances allowed Gill to claim that Kansas was improving.
"I think our guys played with a tremendous purpose and they played with outstanding passion," Gill said in a news conference Tuesday. "That’s what we’ve got to have week after week. Hopefully our players and coaching staff have that tremendous energy and tremendous passion. The challenge is to do that week after week. The last positive; we executed better. In every phase of the game whether it be offense, defense, special teams, I thought we drastically improved."
At the top of the list, Kale Pick has officially beaten out redshirt freshman Jordan Webb and juco transfer Quinn Mecham to be the team's starting quarterback. That's expected, but it's further proof of how important experience is, even if it's limited experience like Pick got as a freshman last year as a running complement to Todd Reesing.
"He probably separated himself from the aspect of ball security which was huge. He didn’t really turn the ball over there," Gill said. "I love the way that his demeanor has been, not to say that Jordan Webb has not had a good demeanor but Kale Pick’s has just been a little bit better as far as the intangibles and his demeanor in the huddle, outside the huddle and when plays are going well and when plays aren’t going well, just how he’s handled himself."
Pick noted that Webb wasn't happy about the decision, of course, but there's a silver lining for him: He's only a freshman and Pick, a sophomore, has a ways to go before he proves he's a franchise quarterback. This isn't Texas Tech, where two very talented, experienced seniors are fighting it out, and injury, almost certainly, is the only thing that would cause them both to play.
“I definitely had a smile when I received the news. I’m excited and I think we’re going to have a good season this year," Pick said.
I'm no history buff, and things like this are tough to look up, but can anyone else recall -- in the history of the Big 12 -- another team's leading rusher beginning the following season as a linebacker? Fans, feel free to let me know if that's happened to your team before.
If not, Toben Opurum is a trailblazer.
Gill has sounded unimpressed with Opurum since he got to Lawrence, but plenty of people -- myself included -- chalked that up to Opurum being hobbled by injury in the spring. Not the case. Opurum has officially moved to linebacker, but is still 0-for-3 on depth chart appearances under Gill. Judging from his quote to the Topeka Capital-Journal last week, my guess is he isn't thrilled about the decision.
"I expect to see my name at the top of any depth chart. I have to use that to drive myself," he told the paper.
Sixth-year senior Angus Quigley -- who, in light of Opurum's new position, ironically played linebacker last season -- held on to the starting job and should lead what sounds like a running back by committee situation. That's a good move with a lot of talent behind Quigley, like freshmen DeShaun Sands and Brandon Bourbon, as well as Rell Lewis, who was listed as the co-No. 2 back with Sands.
"We’re going to probably rotate some guys, again we’re still evaluating some of the guys so things can change but there are still some things happening at running back and we just have to get some guys some more reps," Gill said. "We have to dwindle that down because you can’t get four, five or six running backs reps and you can’t see them improve and so that is why we aren’t able to make that decision at this time."
Elsewhere for the Jayhawks, Jeremiah Hatch, a two-year starter at center, has been benched in favor of Sal Capra, who was listed as the starting left guard after the spring. Reports that Duane Zlatnik was rising proved correct, as Zlatnick moved into a starting spot at left guard after being listed as the position's No. 2 afer spring.
Austin in Houston asks: Unlike last year, Kansas is lacking in the star power this season. With the departures of Reesing, Meier, Briscoe and Stuckey, who has the potential to be a household name by the end of the season?
DU: Keep an eye out for cornerback Chris Harris or tight end Tim Biere. The talent level at the tight end position across the Big 12 is pretty weak, but Biere is going to get a lot of looks with a young quarteback. If he takes advantage of them, he could become one of the league's best by season's end.
Marcus in Topeka, Kan., asks: Since you are not so high on the Jayhawks this year, but Mangino left a good foundation, how long will it take for Coach Gill to have the Hawks competitive in conference?
DU: It's tough to say one certain year, but it's all going to depend on recruiting and development. We have no idea how good Gill will be at those things just yet. This isn't basketball, where one transcendent player can carry you to the Sweet 16 for a year. They've got some nice building blocks in Toben Opurum and offensive tackle Tanner Hawkinson. Huldon Tharp looked like another before the injury that will cost him the 2010 season. But starting next season, it's going to depend on who they surround them with.
Kansas has 15 commitments for its 2011 class, which is a nice number, but none of those guys look like game changers. They're going to need at least a few to be a major threat in the Big 12 by 2012 or 2013.
Gill did a great job rebuilding the Buffalo program, so he's faced steeper odds than he faces now, bringing up a program that won the Orange Bowl after the 2007 season. But it's not going to be easy, especially with a tougher, nine-game round-robin schedule that's probably going to kick in before the 2011 season.
Shawn in Muskogee, Okla., asks: What do you think of the Jayhawks running game, and do you think Rell Lewis will get an chance to produce this season?
DU: It sounds like a mess. When your top runner is a sixth-year senior who played linebacker last year, that's not a good sign. Not to discount Angus Quigley, but they've got to figure out who they can count on during camp. Surely, Lewis will get his chances, but so will last year's leading rusher, Opurum, and incoming freshman Brandon Bourbon. The same goes for redshirt freshman DeShaun Sands. Kansas has some guys -- the ones I just listed -- who look like they might have some talent, but one or more of them has to produce for me to really feel good about the Jayhawks moving into conference play.
Brennan in GC, Kan., asks: Now with Huldon Tharp injured and out for the season who do you see stepping in and filling his role?
DU: Good question, and I'm not sure it has an answer just yet. Freshman Josh Richardson was listed behind Tharp on the depth chart, but it's probably more likely that Drew Dudley retakes his spot in the middle, and the Jayhawks move senior Justin Springer to the weak side, opposite junior Steven Johnson. That's really just a hunch, and practice will decide exactly what they do, but they've got too much depth at the other linebacking spots not to move guys around.
Buddha in OP, Kan., asks: Would the Jayhawks look better in the Big East if things deteriorate with the B12?
DU: Well, it'd be easier for them. That obviously won't happen for awhile, but the Big East was discussing bringing in the four North teams that would have been left behind had a 16-team Pac-10 become a reality. There would definitely be an upside to replacing Texas and Oklahoma with Pitt and Cincinnati. The biggest beneficiary would probably be Turner Gill's career record. But for now, they're in the soon-to-be-10-team Big 12, so they better figure out a way to beat Texas, OU and all the other teams they've got to go up against every year.
Schedule: Practice starts Wednesday
What’s new: Everything, for starters. The Jayhawks will be led by first-year coach Turner Gill, who preached relationships, communication and togetherness at last week's media days in the wake of former coach Mark Mangino's exit amid allegations of player abuse and mistreatment.
Key battle: Kale Pick and Jordan Webb will be fighting for starting quarterback duties to start camp, which could decide the Jayhawks starter for the next three seasons.
New on the scene: Incoming freshman Brandon Bourbon will join a muddled situation at running back for the Jayhawks. Senior Angus Quigley finished the spring as the starter, and last year's leading rusher, sophomore Toben Opurum, was nowhere to be found on the depth chart after fighting injuries all spring.
Breaking out: Sophomore linebacker Huldon Tharp ranked fifth on the team with 59 tackles, and should be a strong candidate to lead the team in stops as a full-time starter. He earned a career high 13 tackles against Nebraska and could have a few games that top that in 2010.
Don’t forget about: The Jayhawks offensive line. Kansas brings back four starters and if it's going to exceed the moderate expectations placed upon it to begin the season, those five will have to all improve. They'll do it without the man who was supposed to be their fifth starter, tackle Jeff Spikes. His season ended before camp began with an Achilles tendon injury.
All eyes on: Coach Turner Gill. The former Nebraska quarterback is taking the reins of his first major college program after four seasons in the MAC at Buffalo.
Quoting: "I'm a firm believer, which I think probably most coaches are, in building relationships. That was the first thing I wanted our football program, our football team to do. Building relationships from players to coaches, coaches to players, coaches to coaches, and players to players." -- Kansas coach Turner Gill
Miller, a member of the 2011 ESPNU 150 Watch List and a Blue Springs, Mo., native, decommitted from Turner Gill and the Jayhawks and reopened his recruitment. Based on his comments to TheShiver.com, an ESPN-affiliate Kansas site, it doesn't sound like he'll make up his mind for quite some time.
“There’s a good chance that I still go to there,” said Miller. “I just want to make sure it’s the place for me.”
Miller said that his conversation went well on Tuesday. In fact, according to Miller, Coach Gill understood what Miller is going through.
“He understood,” Miller said of Coach Gill. “Maybe KU is the place for me. I just want to take this year and see how they do. Their tendencies on offense and style of offense. Coach Gill said that was good for me to do.”
Who knows why he didn't feel the need to watch Gill's new offense develop when he committed the first time around? Gripe about the fickle nature of teenagers all you want, but this is nothing new. Commitments are non-binding and Miller isn't the first -- or last -- recruit to take advantage of that, if only because his thought process has changed.
Miller, the Gatorade Player of the Year in Missouri, has only one offer from another Big 12 team (Kansas State), but is also considering Minnesota and Iowa, among others. The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder rushed for 2,798 yards and scored 37 touchdowns as a junior at Blue Springs last season.
If Miller doesn't re-commit to the Jayhawks, they won't be too worried. Last year's leading rusher, sophomore Toben Opurum, didn't make the post-spring depth chart, and incoming, spectacularly named running back Brandon Bourbon could compete for early playing time, too. But the backs on top of the depth chart, senior Angus Quigley and freshman DeShaun Sands, proved there's plenty of depth in Kansas' backfield, even if they struggled to run the ball last season.
Kansas now has two commitments for 2011, including another well-named running back, Dreamius Smith.
- Kale Pick threw a late 37-yard touchdown pass to lead the Blue team to a 14-10 victory over the White. (Worth noting: he also threw a touchdown pass for the White team. Spring game rules: Love them. Colons as well, apparently.)
- 12,500 fans showed up.
- As noted this morning, Kale Pick made himself the clear favorite with the game-winning score to Christian Matthews. But he also threw a pretty deep ball down the right side for a 72-yard score to Chris Omigie. Pick was frustrated that most people thought of him as just a runner when spring began. Consider that idea officially dead. Except Pick still gets to keep his 4.5 40 time. Of course, the contest is hardly over, but he's planning on asserting himself this summer with his receivers. "We don’t have great timing yet, but it will come this summer," he said.
- Jordan Webb threw the other touchdown pass, a nice throw to tight end Tim Biere into a tight window while he was under pressure. Webb emerged as the other candidate this spring, and had a decent day throwing the ball (8-of-13, 46 yards), but also threw an interception.
- Applying that pressure? Kansas defensive ends, who had a field day on the quarterbacks without actually planting any of them into the Kivisto Field turf, of course. Spring means no contact for the quarterbacks, but Kansas quarterbacks were sacked nine times in the game, including two by Quinton Woods and Kevin Young.
- But what does that mean for the offensive line? They bring back all five starters, but give up nine sacks to a relatively unheralded defense? Probably not a great sign, but again, it's spring. Kansas was 11th in the conference in rushing last season, and gave up 25 sacks, second-most in the conference. Sometimes improvement is assumed, but it doesn't always happen. (See: Kansas 2009 season.) The offensive line will have to show some improvement before it gets penciled in as the strength some see it in Gill's first year.
- On a related note, nice days for running backs Angus Quigley and DeShaun Sands, who both carried the ball seven times for over 30 yards, surpassing four yards per carry. Disappointing day for sophomore Toben Opurum, who ran for just 16 yards on the same number of carries. "There is no clear-cut guy," Gill said of his running backs. "We’re going to keep this thing competitive. We do have some competitiveness at the running back spot and a lot of different areas."
“It was pretty simple. We were just running our base plays. We didn’t get too exotic. We wanted to see execution.” -- Kansas coach Turner Gill on his offense, which ran only 30-40 percent of the playbook.
"I think it’s part of a clean slate, and we’re disappointed by last year. Nobody’s happy about that. We’re doing whatever we can to not let that happen again ... It’s been a big factor. I was sick watching those bowl games over the break. I couldn’t watch all of them. I watched a couple, but I was just sick after we didn’t make it." -- Senior receiver Johnathan Wilson, on last season's failures as a motivator for the spring.
"We just got a lot of new terminology. People at new positions and just different faces that weren’t there last season. But I think things are going along nicely." -- Sophomore running back Toben Opurum, on the changes with the new coaching staff
The Kansas running back was granted a sixth season by the NCAA, the university announced Thursday. Quigley started his career at Kansas in 2005, but missed the ’05 and ’06 seasons with injuries.
“I wasn’t planning on coming back, but I love KU and I love playing football,” Quigley said in a statement. “I heard about the new coaching staff and the way they were going to coach and the values they were going to instill and it interested me. I went to the first team meeting with him (new Kansas coach Turner Gill). He is a players’ coach and is respectful.”
Quigley moved to linebacker in 2009 and played sparingly on special teams. In 2008, he played in 11 games at running back and rushed for 309 yards on 59 carries. Gill said he assured Quigley that he’d get a shot in the backfield.
Quigley will compete for carries with sophomore Toben Opurum, junior Rell Lewis, freshman Brandon Bourbon and redshirt freshman Deshaun Sands in what will likely be an offense that highlights the running game.
First-year Kansas coach Turned Gill said last week that he wanted to make the offense more multiple and alluded that he plans to step back from the spread style Kansas had run with Todd Reesing at quarterback.
At Buffalo, Gill’s previous head coaching stint, the Bulls relied on a pair of running backs in their offensive system. The two running backs had different styles, which gave the Bulls the diversity it needed to win the Mid-American Conference in 2008.
A deep running game also will help the Jayhawks break in a new quarterback.
“The new offense works out in my favor and will be my type of style,” Quigley said. “It has been fun being around the coaching staff already. There is more urgency to do things and people are having fun.”
Kansas begins spring practice on March 27.
Running back/linebacker Angus Quigley, linebacker Vernon Brooks and heralded running back Jocques Crawford maintain they would like to return to the Jayhawks' team.
Quigley is eligible for a sixth college season. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that Quigley had no interest in returning before learning of Gill's hiring.
Brooks, a former junior college All-American, had little playing time with the Jayhawks in 2009 and left the team late in the season. But he also is interested in returning.
The biggest potential return could be Crawford, who was suspended by former coach Mark Mangino during spring practice and left the Kansas program prior to the season. He spent the 2009 season as a walk-on at Tennessee Tech where he hoped to earn a scholarship in his second semester with the Golden Eagles.
The potential return of all three players would be a significant talent infusion for Gill in his first season.
The return of Crawford could be huge if he ever fulfills the promise he showed at Cisco Junior College, where he was named the national junior-college offensive player of the year after rushing for 1,935 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2007.
Gill said earlier this week he would like to feature a spread offensive attack that would include some two-back elements at times. Sophomore-to-be Toben Opurum figures to be the Jayhawks' top returning rushing threat after rushing for 554 yards and nine touchdowns last season.
Crawford would be an ideal addition to provide depth to the Jayhawks' running game that ranked 102nd nationally and failed to produce 100 yards in any of the team's last seven games.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
If it's a Friday, it must be time to open some e-mails from my mailbag.Shane Riley from Arapahoe, Neb., writes: I know the Big 12 hasn't jumped on the bandwagon yet, but what is up with college teams wanting to play games in major league baseball stadiums? Why does Army want to play at Yankee Stadium so bad and why are Illinois and Northwestern looking to play at Wrigley Field? And if the Big `12 did jump on the bandwagon what teams would want to play at a Big 12 area baseball venue?
Tim Griffin: Shane, that has been an interesting trend in recent weeks. I've heard through the grapevine that Dodger Stadium would be interested in staging some college games there. Those baseball stadiums are looking for new revenue sources and they are trying to attract college games as another way to fill seats and sell more concessions.
I'm a football traditionalist and the idea of football returning to Yankee Stadium would be cool. I've heard all of the great stories about games there in the 1940s and 1950s. The New York Giants really got their fans turned on when they started playing there.
But even with the "wow factor," I would doubt if any Big 12 teams really would seriously consider any upcoming games in baseball stadiums. And the reason is because in every city with a major league franchise in the Big 12's geographic footprint, there is also a new football stadium with all of the bells and whistles that is significantly bigger than the baseball stadium in the city.
For example, I don't think that any college team would give up the chance for 25,000 extra seats by moving a game from Reliant Stadium in Houston to Minute Maid Park. I certainly don't think that will be the case in Arlington, Texas, where the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium has every accoutrement known to mankind and is much bigger than the nearby baseball stadium. And I don't see it happening in St. Louis, Denver or Kansas City, either.
The football stadiums are simply too big and it would hard to visualize any college giving up a shot for extra tickets to play in a baseball stadium that wasn't constructed to allow football in the first place.
It would be neat to see the new Busch Stadium in St. Louis lined up for a football game, but I'm not expecting it. The chance to play at the Edward Jones Dome at America's Center just provides too many more seats in a climate-controlled setting to boot.
Willis from Raleigh, N.C., writes: OK, I'm a traditionalist and love the old rivalries that college football has every year. When most conferences started to expand (SEC, Big 8 to Big 12, ACC), they kept the traditional games playing every year (Georgia-Auburn, Tennessee-Alabama, OU-Texas, Florida State-Miami, etc) and other conferences kept their "big" games (Michigan-Ohio State, USC-UCLA, etc). I mean, what is college football without Ohio State playing Michigan every year? That said, what was the Big 12 thinking when it got rid of the Nebraska-Oklahoma game every year? I grew up watching that game in the 70's, 80's, and 90's and it was one of the greatest rivalries in college football. It's a shame that they play each other every four or five years like Bonow.
Tim Griffin: I've heard that the lack of a yearly Oklahoma-Nebraska game bemoaned since the first conference schedules were generated for the Big 12.
The rivalry was a great one, although truth be told, it had slipped a lot in the 1990s in the Big Eight as Nebraska turned the conference into a cakewalk shortly before the Big 12 started.
One way around it could be making that game a designated rivalry game each season, although it would put those Nebraska and Oklahoma at a competitive disadvantage with the rest of the teams in their divisions because they would be facing one of the powers of the other division every season.
I'm betting that Bo Pelini and Bob Stoops wouldn't like that idea nearly as much as some of the traditionalists.
And actually, the gap between games isn't as bad as you wrote. With the Big 12's sliding schedule, the two old rivals meet twice every four seasons.
I know it's not like the days when Barry Switzer and Tom Osborne were roaming the sidelines, but it's the best we can do for now.
Jim Perry from Albuquerque, N.M., writes: About Bill Callahan, I liked a lot of things about his offense. It was one of the few that sent Michigan wondering what happened. Callahan had a lot of answers but still needed a hard-nosed defense. I liked that he had class when it came to dealing with unruly players. I still think Callahan could still do it at the collegiate level and I wish him the best.
Tim Griffin: I also wonder about some of the contentiousness that some hard-core Nebraska fans hold for the Callahan era. Sure, he tried to dismantle a lot of the tradition on which that storied program is steeped. But at the same time, he helped the Cornhuskers win a Big 12 North title as recently as 2006.
If Callahan had played more to the Nebraska tradition, it definitely would have helped him out -- along with maybe a choice of a different defensive coordinator than Kevin Cosgrove. If Callahan had embraced the image of Nebraska and played to it like Mack Brown did at Texas or Bob Stoops at Oklahoma, it might have helped him weather some of the storms that he eventually faced. Not all of them, but it might have bought him an extra season or two.
I think the majority of Cornhusker fans are more excited about the future now than they've been since early in the Frank Solich era. And it should only get brighter as Pelini starts getting better players.
Charles Seibert of Albuquerque, N.M. writes: A couple of weeks ago you had an e-mail in the mailbag basically saying "Mack Brown only has one conference championship? What do Longhorns fans see in him?" Your answer focused on Stoops' domination in that department. Here's the rest of the answer.
The Longhorn fans would love to have more Big 12 crowns, but we judge UT's football program on many criteria. The 'Horns under Mack have a national championship, a stellar win-loss record (having passed Nebraska, Ohio State and Notre Dame among others on the all-time lists), regular finishes in the top five and top 10 (and ahead of the hated Sooners), near-automatic bowl wins (including 3-0 in BCS bowls) and solid records against their traditional rivals. With all of that, who wouldn't be proud to have Mack Brown coaching their team?
Tim Griffin: Charles, I agree with you. Mack Brown has the Texas program going as well as any in the country. And like you listed, he has many accomplishments and has his program pointed to claim a few more before he hangs up his whistle.
But with all of those facts in place, Stoops still has claimed six Big 12 titles and Brown has one. I hear from Texas fans all the time about their three victories in the last four seasons over the Sooners, but they also privately grumble they are disappointed that the Longhorns still have made only one trip to the Big 12 title game during that span compared to three for the Sooners.
That shows the strength of the South Division and the struggles that winning a division championship provides in each season. And for all of the accomplishments you listed, I still bet Mack Brown wishes he had more than one Big 12 title to show for it.
Steve Rodriguez of Sisson, Texas, writes: Tim, in reading your blog on a daily basis, I love your numbers and charts you come up with. I know of no other place I can find to get that kind of information with your spin on it. I wish you would share a weekly stat or tidbit in your mailbag or perhaps as a regular post that delv
es deeply into the numbers in the conference.
Tim Griffin: Steve, sounds like a great idea. And here's my tidbit for today. Or maybe I can "borrow" a term from the Tim Horton doughnut shops in Canada - thanks to my old CFL coverage I know about them - and provide a weekly "Timbit."
How about this one? During the course of the 13-season history of the Big 12 Conference, Bob Stoops has claimed six championship game victories. The most amazing fact is that no other coach has claimed more than one Big 12 title during that span.
Here's a list of coaches and their titles
Bob Stoops -- 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008
John Mackovic -- 1996
Tom Osborne -- 1997
R.C. Slocum -- 1998
Frank Solich -- 1999
Gary Barnett -- 2001
Bill Snyder -- 2003
Mack Brown -- 2005
That list speaks about as well to Stoops' domination of the Big 12 as any I could find.
Wally Gonzales of San Antonio writes: Hey Tim, I was wondering if you had any information on the new linebacker group at KU. I am interested in Justin Springer, who is from my hometown of Los Fresnos, Texas. Also when Kansas plays UTEP, it will be the first time that Springer will play against his twin brother, Jeremy. It also gets even more interesting when Justin goes up against his best friend Eloy Atkinson who is also from Los Fresnos and is the center for UTEP. I'd love to hear some inside information about this game.
Tim Griffin: Wally, Justin Springer has a chance to step up at linebacker, which appears to be the biggest weakness for the Jayhawks coming into the season. But Springer was hobbled by a knee injury that he sustained last season against Kansas State that caused him to miss the Jayhawks' final four games last season.
Springer has prototypical size for football of the 1990s when you consider he's 6-foot-4 and 242 pounds. But Coach Mark Mangino has placed a premium on speed with his defense and will want his linebackers to move well in space. That has to be a concern for Springer, considering he's coming off knee surgery.
Mangino also has hinted he plans to go to a 4-2-5 defense this season as his base. And he mentioned earlier this week that Arist Wright and Angus Quigley have really looked good so far in spring practices.
Springer wasn't able to practice during the spring, but Mangino has said he expects him to be ready for preseason camp. His recovery will be one of the interesting stories to follow next month for the Jayhawks.
And I think the UTEP game might be more difficult for the Jayhawks then some might expect. If they can't get much pass rush against underrated UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe, it might be a long evening in the Sun Bowl for the Jayhawks. Along with the potential matchup between the Springer brothers from Los Fresnos.
Chris Leonard from Minneapolis, Minn., writes: Tim, I read your summary of the Sporting News' all-time top coaches list. I was glad to see Tom Osborne on there, but 34th? And ninth among the college football coaches mentioned? I couldn't believe it.
Some writers have said that he didn't belong among the top 10 college head coaches and others have written that he wasn't a sexy enough coach to put on a top-10 list because of his perceived lack of flamboyance and personality.
What's with all the disrespect for the guy with the second-highest winning percentage in the modern era of college football? No one's ever reached 250 wins faster!
Tim Griffin: I agree with you that Tom Osborne was one of the greatest coaches in football history. He might not have been as verbose as Bobby Bowden or have the longevity of Joe Paterno, but his teams were always ready and he did a great job at making Nebraska a consistent national power.
I think the most significant facts about Osborne are that he won a share of the national championship three times in his final four seasons of coaching and nearly had another one in the previous season. And he finished the final five seasons of his career with a 60-3 record. Those are flashy numbers, in anybody's book.
Thanks for all of the good questions and I'll be checking in again next week.
Have a good weekend.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Kansas apparently has shored up its biggest weakness heading into preseason camp.
The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Vernon Brooks, a junior-college All-American linebacker from Blinn College in Brenham, Texas, has decided to play for the Jayhawks. He would be available to join the Jayhawks immediately.
Brooks, a 6-foot, 228-pounder, will fill a hole where the Jayhawks lost three starters from last season. The departure of James Holt, Mike Rivera and Joe Mortensen from last season's team has had coach Mark Mangino scrambling for answers for the last several months.
Mangino has been considering a 4-2-5 defense as his base as one way around the problem. And he's also moved former running back Angus Quigley to the position to bolster talent there.
But Brooks would provide an immediate upgrade in talent at the position. The Journal-World reported he visited Kansas last weekend and picked them over offers from Oklahoma, Tennessee, Auburn and Tulsa.
The Jayhawks will be hoping for better production from Brooks than from another junior-college All-American they recently attracted. Running back Jocques Crawford led the nation's junior college rushers in 2007 at Cisco (Texas) Junior College. After predicting before last season he would rush for 2,000 yards, Crawford struggled finding a niche and produced only 262 yards rushing for the Jayhawks.
Earlier this spring, Crawford was suspended from the team for an undisclosed violation of team rules. His future remains uncertain in the Kansas program.
Blinn College is noted for producing strong athletes like former Kansas State quarterback Michael Bishop, former Texas running back Shon Mitchell and former Kansas State wide receiver Quincy Morgan. Brooks was coached there by Brad Franchione, son of former Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione.
Brooks' arrival could be a critical personnel addition for the Jayhawks, who have higher expectations heading into the season than at any time in Big 12 history. Mangino has taken the Jayhawks to back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time in school history. The Jayhawks are a fashionable pick to contend in the Big 12 North Division.
And adding a junior-college All-American -- even long after spring practice is over -- shouldn't hurt those hopes.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The Big 12 has set the order of media days that will occur July 27 to July 29 at the Westin Hotel in Irving, Texas. It serves as an unofficial kickoff to media hype for the upcoming season. The head coach and three or four players from each team will attend.
I believe that all coaches will attend this season. We've only had a couple of coaches miss the proceedings over the years. I think that Tom Osborne skipped things the first year or so. And we had that bizarre tape of Gary Barnett a few years back where he answered questions from esteemed Colorado sports information director David Plati in an interview filmed back in Boulder. It wasn't quite the same as if he had graced us with his presence.
Each day is split with four teams and there should be good storylines on each day. Here's how they break out.
Unlike many conferences, the Big 12 did not release the attendees who will be coming to the festivities. Those names usually aren't released until the week before the meetings.
And I know that coaches don't ask the media who should be coming, but this would be my choice for each school if they inquired about my picks.
Baylor: QB Robert Griffin, C J.D. Walton, LB Joe Pawelek, S Jordan Lake.
Colorado: QB Cody Hawkins, RB Darrell Scott, LB Shaun Mohler, CB Cha'pelle Brown.
Notice a recurring trend in my choices? If I were the Big 12 commissioner, there would be a rule that each team had to bring their starting quarterback among their attendees. No excuses.
Do I think that rule will ever be proposed?
Not on your life.
But here's a guess on the most likely and least likely to attend, for obvious reasons.
I bet there's probably a good possibility that Bradford and McCoy will be attending. Most Heisman Trophy candidates attend these affairs.
But I'm just as sure that Briscoe and Potts won't be there, either.
These are my choices. Hopefully they all will attend, or most of them, anyway.
Anybody else have other players they would like to attend, and why?
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The dedication and zeal of Nebraska fans rank among the strongest in all of college football.
Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal-Star has a great story this morning about the Cornhuskers' support from fans scattered around the world.
My favorite part was an anecdote from Nebraska graduate Tim Pendrell, who shared the story of watching the 2006 Nebraska-Texas game with friends at the Shao Yuan dorms at Peking University as he took part in a Nebraska-sponsored study-abroad program.
While watching that tight game, Pendrell's new friends were shouting, "Husker jia you, Husker jia you, Husker jia you," which is Chinese for "go team."
Hopefully, Pendrell's friends got a good appreciation for Big 12 football while watching that game. And if so, do I have some links for them today.
- The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel doubts we will ever see a college coach's affairs turned into a reality television show.
- New Kansas State quarterback Chris Harper tells the Manhattan Mercury's Joshua Kinder that sitting out the upcoming season won't be an imposition for him.
- Big 12 schools are paying increased attention to Sequoyah Indian schools for potential players, Jim Trickett of the Cherokee Phoenix writes.
- Texas A&M coaches are targeting Northern Louisiana as a fertile potential recruiting area, Jason Pugh of the Shreveport Times reports.
- Kansas running back-turned-linebacker Angus Quigley credits his mother for helping him persevere in his football career, the Lawrence Journal-World's Dugan Arnett reports.
- The Lawrence Journal-World's Eric Sorrentino isn't buying concerns about Oklahoma's revamped offensive line.
- Patrick Ridgell of the Longmont Times-Call writes about the divergence of opinions about Colorado in preseason magazines this summer.
- Oklahoma State-Georgia, Oklahoma-BYU, Oklahoma-Miami, Missouri-Illinois and Nebraska-Virginia Tech are among the top national nonconference games this season mentioned in a panel discussion by the writers at College Football News.com.
- I Am the 12th Man opines that an unconventional offensive or defensive scheme might help Texas A&M transform its program that much faster.
- The Oklahoman's Jake Trotter predicts how Oklahoma's receiving statistics will break down this season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Kansas checks in at No. 22 in the preseason rankings compiled by my colleague Mark Schlabach.
The biggest concern about the Jayhawks has been their defense and specifically the loss of starting linebackers James Holt, Mike Rivera and Joe Mortensen from last season.
Any time you have to replace consistent producers like them, it's a big worry. But it might not necessarily be as troublesome for Kansas as you might expect.
First, Coach Mark Mangino is tinkering with a 4-2-5 defense that he expects he will use in most base situations. It's a good idea because of the heavy aerial attacks in the Big 12, but also because the four players he started in the final six games of the season all return. That group is keyed by a potential big-time producer in strong safety Darrell Stuckey, free safety Phillip Strozier and starting cornerbacks Justin Thornton and Daymond Patterson.
But the biggest reason I expect the Jayhawks to improve will be their depth up front along the defensive line. I really like Jake Laptad at defensive end who is one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the league. And I expect junior college transfer Quinton Woods to be an immediate force on the other side.
The Jayhawks also have a nice set of experienced tackles returning in Jamal Greene and Caleb Blakesley. Their experience will help them immeasurably in their second season together as starters.
It will be interesting to see how much the Jayhawks' statistics are altered with the losses at linebacker. Needless to say there's a lot of pressure on returnees like Dakota Lewis and Arist Wright. And I'm intrigued how much playing time that converted running back Angus Quigley will receive.
Another factor that will be interesting in the team's development will be what the addition of veteran co-defensive coordinator Bill Miller means to the group. Bill Young had all kinds of success with the defense and got much of the acclaim for the team that won the Orange Bowl two seasons ago.
When Young left, it was left to first-year coordinator Clint Bowen to start his program. There were some rocky parts along the way, considering they allowed at least 33 points in seven of their final 11 games.
Development in the defense will be the biggest key in the Jayhawks fulfilling their high preseason ranking and determining whether they will be able to contend for their first berth in the Big 12 championship game.
It won't necessarily be a surprise because Kansas' defense might not be as depleted as some might presume.