Big 12: Bill Miller
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Gather round for some lunchtime tidbits from around the conference.
- The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal’s Adam Zuvanich writes about Texas Tech's challenge in containing Nebraska’s Lombardi Award semifinalist Ndamukong Suh.
- The Norman Transcript’s Clay Horning wonders why not Saturday for Oklahoma.
- Nebraska’s offense is still keeping opponents guessing, the Omaha World-Herald’s Jon Nyatawa reports.
- The Waco Tribune-Herald’s Brice Cherry reports that Baylor will be gunning for only its third Big 12 road victory since the conference was formed when it visits Iowa State.
- Kansas State coach Bill Snyder tells the Kansas City Star’s Kellis Robinette that his starting quarterback decision remains a week-to-week decision.
- Colorado's secondary is preparing to face Kansas’ sizzling passing attack, Kyle Ringo of the Boulder Camera reports.
- The Austin American-Statesman’s Randy Riggs reports that Texas A&M’s Jamie McCoy has added fullback to his resume of different positions for the Aggies.
- Kansas defensive coordinator Bill Miller tells the Kansas City Star’s Brady McCollough that he’s determined to shore up his unit’s struggles against spread offenses.
- Herbert Anyiam is blossoming as Oklahoma State’s top receiver in the absence of Dez Bryant, Brandon Chatmon of the Oklahoman reports.
- Texas’ young secondary overcame some tense early moments against Oklahoma last season, the Austin American-Statesman’s Suzanne Halliburton writes.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
- Texas A&M's defense is improved, but still untested. It would be hard to imagine a more valuable player for them than hybrid linebacker/defensive end Von Miller, who has produced a nation-leading eight sacks after three games. The Aggies lead the nation with 14 sacks after producing 16 in 12 games last season. Despite that strong early start, the A&M defense will get a heavy dose of reality Saturday when they face Ryan Mallett and Arkansas in Arlington, Texas, their toughest challenge to date.
- Mike Leach's inexplicable gamble. It was obvious that the hot, humid conditions at Robertson Stadium contributed greatly to the problem with cramping for both Houston and Texas Tech Saturday night. But those sticky conditions still can’t explain the brain cramp that Leach suffered when he passed on a field goal that would have given his team an eight-point lead midway through the fourth quarter. That decision went against all conventional wisdom because it would have forced the Cougars to score a touchdown and a two-point conversion to merely tie the game. Leach’s red-zone hubris ended up costing the Red Raiders the game.
- Oklahoma State has the Big 12's deepest collection of backs. The development of Oklahoma State freshman running back Jeremy Smith underscores that Cowboys might have the best collection of productive players at that position in the conference. With 2008 leading rusher Kendall Hunter hobbling, Keith Toston rushed for 84 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. And then Smith produced a school freshman record total of 160 rushing yards in the second half. Throw in Beau Johnson and you have a collection of talent that most other schools will be challenged to match once Hunter is healthy.
- Kansas' defense made a statement with its late stand: For all of the talk about Kansas’ explosive offense, the Jayhawks needed a big defensive effort against Southern Mississippi. And despite some early struggles, the Jayhawks' defense came up big as it turned the Golden Eagles away without scoring on four-straight possessions to salt away the victory. Southern Mississippi was limited to 32 yards on 22 offensive plays in the fourth quarter as the Jayhawks produced three-and-outs in two of the final three drives and allowed one first down on the other drive. The late stand is something for co-coordinators Clint Bowen and Bill Miller to build confidence as they head into conference play.
- "The Sea of Red" remains constant. How about a shout-out to the Nebraska fans, who packed Memorial Stadium for their 300th consecutive sellout Saturday night? The streak has stretched from Kennedy to Obama, withstanding recessions and even the Steve Pederson/Bill Callahan era. The record crowd that jammed the old stadium Saturday night witnessed a vintage performance by the Blackshirts in a 55-0 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette. If the Cornhuskers can keep playing like that, the legions of Nebraska fans could be treated to their second championship-game trip of this decade after making three visits in the first four seasons of the Big 12. And that kind of throwback would be a lot more enjoyable to them than any 1960s vintage uniform the Nebraska athletic department might be selling.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Teams are reporting back for summer workouts across the Big 12 this week.
Me, I'm conditioning myself to find as many good links as possible during the supposed quiet time before the season.
There was a good haul today. Enjoy them.
- Boulder Daily Camera beat writer Kyle Ringo gives his spin on the chances of Josh Smith transferring to USC and his rationale behind his 8-4 season prediction for Colorado.
- The Tulsa World's "The Picker" sports blog wonders if Bob Stoops peaked as a coach, or is he still peaking?
- Bryan Eagle columnist Robert Cessna writes that the $16 million line of credit issued to the Texas A&M athletic department by former school president Robert Gates is proving unpalatable to many fans because of the Aggies' recent struggles in football.
- Kansas coach Mark Mangino told Kansas supporters that all of his team reported Monday to begin their summer workouts, the Topeka Capital-Journal reports. Lawrence Journal-World reporter Dugan Arnett writes that Kansas' upcoming seven-week boot camp is designed to build discipline and prepare the Jayhawks for the rigors of the upcoming season.
- The Kansas City Star's Blair Kerkhoff ranks his readership area's top 10 Big 12 stories during the most recent school year.
- If starting an NFL team, the College Football News' Richard Cirminiello and Jon Miller of Hawkeye Nation agree they would both select Colt McCoy as their first offensive player.
- Venerable Colorado announcer Larry Zimmer has broadcast the exploits of 34 starting Colorado quarterbacks, seven head coaches and been there for five different "Raphie" mascots for the Buffaloes, the Denver Post's Dusty Saunders reports.
- Matt Hinton of the blog Dr. Saturday wonders if Missouri can reload after its run of recent North Division success.
- Dave Matter explains why he doesn't get excited about football camps, provide a rare Gary Pinkel summer interview and ranks the current Kansas wide receiving group among the best in Big 12 history in his weekly "Case of the Mondays."
- New Northern Colorado coach Scott Downing tells the Lincoln Journal Star's Steve Sipple that his biggest concern as he prepares for season-opening opponent Kansas is the Jayhawks' new co-defensive coordinator, Bill Miller.
- The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel was reminded over the weekend of the depth and passion of Oklahoma's fan base.
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.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
LAWRENCE, Kan. -- The best example of how things have changed around the Kansas program could have been found a couple of nights ago.
Later that evening, Kansas would square off with Michigan State in the Jayhawks' biggest men's basketball game of the year in the Elite Eight.
But before then, about 10 media members were awaiting Mark Mangino and his briefing on the Kansas football team.
While it might not match the media horde around Urban Meyer or Bo Pelini, it still indicates that interest is higher for the Jayhawks than ever before.
And that's understandable considering their back-to-back bowl bids -- a first in the history of the school's 119-year football program. It could be even bigger considering the expectations around the Kansas program heading into the upcoming season.
We sat down with Mangino for a few minutes to talk about how pereceptions of his program have changed, his team's defensive changes and whether the Jayhawks are any closer to being competitive with the South Division's top powers.
The culture appears to have changed around your program after the back-to-back bowl berths. How much of a difference have you been able to gauge in the last few months?
Mark Mangino: There's no question the culture has changed. Whether inside or outside the state, coaches are very complimentary and like to ask our guys a bunch of questions and me, too. But we're not doing anything novel. We have a system in place we believe in and our players believe in. We've tried to recruit kids who are willing to learn and have good values for hard work.
I've just tried to get as many good people and players together. And when everybody is on the same page, it's a good formula for success.
But we're still a work in progress. Just by the nature of the conference we play in, we're still under construction.
Have you ever thought how far your program has come since you arrived?
MM: Not very often, but on an occasion or two, we'll laugh or joke about some of the situations we were in during our early years. My philosophy for my program is that I always say the present is what matters and you are mindful of the future. I guess someday we might look back and say that we've come a long way. But we still have a long way to go.
There has been a lot of talk about your defense coming into the spring. How have they looked?
MM: We need all 15 practices. So far, I like what we're doing and how we're doing it. We've tweaked some things here and there. But we haven't made a wholesale change.
The kids are starting to learn it, starting to pick it up. You see they are getting a little more confident every time we practice. I like what I see.
We're going to have new linebackers so we have to get that area, get a strong two-deep in place. We've got to improve our inside guys, our defensive tackles. I don't think that we were as good as we need to be in that position last year. This spring we have to make some leaps in that area to be a good defensive unit.
There has been some talk that you guys might be going to a 4-2 as your base defense. Is that going to be the case?
MM: If you watched us last year, most of the time we were in that situation with a 4-2. We're still going to use a 4-3 as our base, but not nearly as much as we've had in the past.
It's still part of our package and it's what we call our base. It's our foundation and we build off that.
We've done some restructuring in our nickel package. Rather than just say, "OK, we're going to have that personnel in place," we've have a change in some of the responsibility of the personnel who is in the nickel.
Your offensive line will be transformed by several notable changes. Could you talk about some of your plans there?
MM: I feel much better about our offensive line right now than I did at the end of the season. I'm excited about moving Jeremiah Hatch to his natural position of center. That's what he does best. I'm excited about Tanner Hawkinson being at left tackle. We have a guy like Sal Capra who has played a lot of snaps for us now at a guard position and have a talented redshirt freshman named John Williams who will win a job unless something unforeseen comes up.
Some young guys who have been in the program for a couple of years are maturing. But I know we'll be better on the offense than we were last season.
What were your thoughts about bringing Bill Miller into the program as your new co-defensive coordinator.
MM: I kind of liked the setup we had with defensive coordinator and then a co-defensive coordinator who was the No. 2 guy who supported him and bounced ideas off of him. We didn't have that kind of role with anybody last year. But now the fact we have Billy in that role will be a big boost for us. Billy brings a lot of experience. He's been around and knows the game inside-out.
He's a good teacher and technician. And it will help us and our defense because I believe in that type of model, of having a coordinator and a No. 2 guy who plays a strong role in the defense and running our system.
Some people are discounting your team's chances of claiming Kansas' first North title mainly because of your cross-division schedule of South opponents. Do you think the team is better situated to be competitive against Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech?
MM: Hey, lets face it. We have won some games against South Division teams, but we've got to do better. We've got to beat some more South Division teams.
But until we do that, that kind of talk will persist. It's true and it's a fact of life. I don't hide from it, our program doesn't hide from it. The fact of the matter is until you start beating some of those South Division teams, you'll have that kind of talk.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
LAWRENCE, Kan. -- A blizzard that's supposed to dump up to 8 inches of snow in eastern Kansas hasn't hit -- yet.
But Kansas coach Mark Mangino is taking no chances as he's already canceled the team's scheduled practice for Saturday.
This is the first time that Mangino has ever postponed spring practice because of snow.
"I've moved inside a lot because of cold weather," Mangino said. "But we've been in contact with the Kansas City television stations and the weather service. They've told us this is the real deal."
The snow hasn't started yet, but it did force the Jayhawks inside for a practice that was supposed to be open to the general public. Several reporters did watch the proceedings. Here are some of my observations.
- Mangino has said that he wants to play Kerry Meier full time at wide receiver, but still can't wean him from a few snaps at quarterback at each practice. Meier's move to receiver will depend on the development of redshirt freshman quarterback Kale Pick, who got a few snaps at Friday's practice. Mangino hopes to get Pick more work as the spring progresses.
- The Jayhawks' defense should get a shot of enthusiasm from veteran linebackers coach/co-defensive coordinator Bill Miller, who made him presence known during some tackling drills that were a little too sloppy for his tastes.
- One standout in the practice appears to be converted running back Angus Quigley, who showed promise with his raw athleticism.
- Mangino has been intrigued by the quick start of redshirt freshman offensive tackle Tanner Hawkinson, who has been inserted at left tackle with Jeremiah Hatch moving to his natural position of center.
- Starting quarterback Todd Reesing and Meier looked like they were in midseason form after connecting on several strikes.
- I officially feel like an old man. Among the players getting work were freshman running back Deshaun Sands. I remember watching his father, Tony Sands, when he was breaking records for the Jayhawks not too many years ago.
- Mangino singled out massive 338-pound freshman offensive lineman John Williams for his strong early play. "He's a powerful guy who is really quick," Mangino said. "He'll be a starter if he keeps up at this pace."
- Roderick Harris Jr., a junior wide receiver, appeared to sprain his left ankle midway through practice. He hobbled to the sidelines and did not return.
- As leading receiver Dezmon Briscoe's suspension continues, Johnathan Wilson had a strong practice. Wilson made several circus catches which prompted the biggest reaction of the day by his teammates.
If the blizzard lets me, I'll be off to Nebraska very early tomorrow morning to catch the Cornhuskers' workout. More reports will be coming then and maybe even my first Runza sandwich of my North Division swing.