Big 12: Boston College Eagles

Position U: Linebacker

June, 18, 2014
Jun 18
9:30
AM ET

Who really deserves to claim the title of “Linebacker U” for the 2000s?


1. Ohio State (222 points)


Move over Penn State. Ohio State is the new “Linebacker U” -- and the Buckeyes claimed the title in a blowout. In many of these positional rankings, only a handful of points separate first and second place. At linebacker, the Buckeyes finished nearly 50 points ahead of second-place Alabama. But when your players stockpile national awards and All-America honors and then many more go on to become NFL draft picks, you put your program in position to rank at the top of this list. Players such as A.J. Hawk, James Laurinaitis and most recently Ryan Shazier have done that in Columbus.

Award winners: A.J. Hawk, Lombardi (2005); James Laurinaitis, Butkus (2007), Nagurski (2008), Lott (2008).
Consensus All-Americans: Matt Wilhelm (2002), A.J. Hawk (2004, 2005), James Laurinaitis (2006, 2007, 2008).
First-team all-conference: Joe Cooper (2000), Matt Wilhelm (2002), A.J. Hawk (2003, 2004, 2005), James Laurinaitis (2006, 2007, 2008), Ross Homan (2010), Brian Rolle (2010), Ryan Shazier (2012, 2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: A.J. Hawk (2006), Bobby Carpenter (2006), Ryan Shazier (2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Cie Grant (Round 3, 2003), Matt Wilhelm (Round 4, 2003), Anthony Schlegel (Round 3, 2006), James Laurinaitis (Round 2, 2009), Thaddeus Gibson (Round 4, 2010), John Simon (Round 4, 2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Courtland Bullard (Round 5, 2002), Rob Reynolds (Round 5, 2004), Larry Grant (Round 7, 2008), Marcus Freeman (Round 5, 2009), Austin Spitler (Round 7, 2010), Brian Rolle (Round 6, 2011), Ross Homan (Round 6, 2011).


T-2. Alabama (174)


The Crimson Tide has claimed two Butkus Awards and has had four consensus All-Americans at linebacker since 2009, when Alabama won the first of its three BCS titles under Nick Saban. Alabama also has had three linebackers picked in the first round (Rolando McClain, Dont’a Hightower and C.J. Mosley) and five linebackers overall drafted during that run of dominance.

Award winners: DeMeco Ryans, Lott (2005); Rolando McClain, Butkus (2009); C.J. Mosley, Butkus (2013).
Consensus All-Americans: DeMeco Ryans (2005), Rolando McClain (2009), Dont’a Hightower (2011), C.J. Mosley (2012, 2013).
First-team all-conference: Saleem Rasheed (2001), Derrick Pope (2003), Cornelius Wortham (2004), DeMeco Ryans (2005), Rolando McClain (2008, 2009), Dont’a Hightower (2011), Courtney Upshaw (2011), C.J. Mosley (2012, 2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Rolando McClain (2010), Dont’a Hightower (2012), C.J. Mosley (2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Saleem Rasheed (Round 3, 2002), DeMeco Ryans (Round 2, 2006), Courtney Upshaw (Round 2, 2012), Nico Johnson (Round 4, 2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Derrick Pope (Round 7, 2004), Cornelius Wortham (Round 7, 2005).


T-2. Oklahoma (174)


Hey, what do you know? Oklahoma is near the top of the rankings at another position. At linebacker, the Sooners’ position is largely because of the early-2000s run when Rocky Calmus and Teddy Lehman cleaned up on the awards and All-America circuit. It also helps that Oklahoma has had 12 linebackers drafted since 2001.

Award winners: Rocky Calmus, Butkus (2001); Teddy Lehman, Bednarik (2003), Butkus (2003).
Consensus All-Americans: Rocky Calmus (2000, 2001), Teddy Lehman (2002, 2003), Curtis Lofton (2007).
First-team all-conference: Rocky Calmus (2000, 2001), Jimmy Wilkerson (2001), Teddy Lehman (2002, 2003), Dan Cody (2003), Lance Mitchell (2004), Rufus Alexander (2005, 2006), Curtis Lofton (2007), Travis Lewis (2009).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Torrance Marshall (Round 3, 2001), Rocky Calmus (Round 3, 2002), Teddy Lehman (Round 2, 2004), Dan Cody (Round 2, 2005), Clint Ingram (Round 3, 2006), Curtis Lofton (Round 2, 2008), Keenan Clayton (Round 4, 2010).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Lance Mitchell (Round 5, 2005), Rufus Alexander (Round 6, 2007), Nic Harris (Round 5, 2009), Travis Lewis (Round 7, 2012), Corey Nelson (Round 7, 2014).


T-4. USC (140)


It should come as no surprise that the greater portion of USC’s linebacker point total came during its mid-2000s run, when it was an annual BCS title contender. Standout linebackers such as Rey Maualuga -- the 2008 Bednarik Award winner, consensus All-American and three-time All-Pac-10 selection -- Keith Rivers, Matt Grootegoed and Brian Cushing helped the Trojans become the nation’s most dominant program during that period.

Award winners: Rey Maualuga, Bednarik (2008).
Consensus All-Americans: Matt Grootegoed (2004), Rey Maualuga (2008).
First-team all-conference: Matt Grootegoed (2002, 2004), Lofa Tatupu (2004), Rey Maualuga (2006, 2007, 2008), Keith Rivers (2006, 2007), Brian Cushing (2008).
NFL first-round draft picks: Keith Rivers (2008), Brian Cushing (2009), Clay Matthews (2009), Nick Perry (2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Markus Steele (Round 4, 2001), Lofa Tatupu (Round 2, 2005), Kaluka Maiava (Round 4, 2009), Rey Maualuga (Round 2, 2009).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Zeke Moreno (Round 5, 2001), Oscar Lua (Round 7, 2007), Dallas Sartz (Round 5, 2007), Thomas Williams (Round 5, 2008), Malcolm Smith (Round 7, 2011), Devon Kennard (Round 5, 2014).


T-4. Miami (140)


When your program has 12 players from one position drafted and four of them go in the first round, chances are you’ll rank toward the top of the board. That’s the case with Miami, which had Dan Morgan (who won three national awards and was a consensus All-American in 2000), Jonathan Vilma, D.J. Williams and Jon Beason all become first-round picks after standout careers in Coral Gables.

Award winners: Dan Morgan, Bednarik (2000), Nagurski (2000), Butkus (2000).
Consensus All-Americans: Dan Morgan (2000).
First-team all-conference: Dan Morgan (2000), Jonathan Vilma (2001, 2002, 2003), D.J. Williams (2003), Sean Spence (2011), Denzel Perryman (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Dan Morgan (2001), Jonathan Vilma (2004), D.J. Williams (2004), Jon Beason (2007).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Rocky McIntosh (Round 2, 2006), Leon Williams (Round 4, 2006), Tavares Gooden (Round 3, 2008), Darryl Sharpton (Round 4, 2010), Colin McCarthy (Round 4, 2011), Sean Spence (Round 3, 2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Darrell McClover (Round 7, 2004), Spencer Adkins (Round 6, 2009).


6. Penn State (134)


The old “Linebacker U” still makes our top 10. In fact, Penn State still has plenty to brag about at the position where it has long been known for producing stars. The Nittany Lions earned four national awards and three All-America designations between Paul Posluszny and Dan Connor, plus they had nine players drafted since 2001.

Award winners: Paul Posluszny, Butkus (2005), Bednarik (2005, 2006); Dan Connor, Bednarik (2007).
Consensus All-Americans: Paul Posluszny (2005, 2006), Dan Connor (2007).
First-team all-conference: Paul Posluszny (2005, 2006), Dan Connor (2007), NaVorro Bowman (2008, 2009), Gerald Hodges (2011), Michael Mauti (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Paul Posluszny (Round 2, 2007), Dan Connor (Round 3, 2008), Sean Lee (Round 2, 2010), NaVorro Bowman (Round 3, 2010), Gerald Hodges (Round 4, 2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Tim Shaw (Round 5, 2007), Josh Hull (Round 7, 2010), Nathan Stupar (Round 7, 2012), Michael Mauti (Round 7, 2013).


7. Georgia (110)


Two-time All-American Jarvis Jones and fellow 2013 first-round pick Alec Ogletree might get most of the glory, but this group is chock full of talent. Justin Houston is making his mark as a pass-rusher in the NFL and there are a bunch of old war horses such as Will Witherspoon, Kendrell Bell and Tony Gilbert who hung around the league for several years.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Jarvis Jones (2011, 2012).
First-team all-conference: Boss Bailey (2002), Odell Thurman (2003, 2004), Rennie Curran (2008, 2009), Jarvis Jones (2011, 2012), Ramik Wilson (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Jarvis Jones (2013), Alec Ogletree (2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Kendrell Bell (Round 2, 2001), Will Witherspoon (Round 3, 2002), Boss Bailey (Round 2, 2003), Odell Thurman (Round 2, 2005), Rennie Curran (Round 3, 2010), Justin Houston (Round 3, 2011), Akeem Dent (Round 3, 2011).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Tony Gilbert (Round 6, 2003).


8. Texas (108)


Texas snuck into the top 10 on the back of Derrick Johnson, who won both the Nagurski and Butkus awards in 2004 and was a consensus All-American in 2003 and 2004 before becoming a 2005 first-round draft pick. The current Kansas City Chiefs Pro Bowl linebacker accounted for 62 of the Longhorns’ 108 points in the linebacker rankings.

Award winners: Derrick Johnson, Nagurski (2004), Butkus (2004).
Consensus All-Americans: Derrick Johnson (2003, 2004).
First-team all-conference: Cory Redding (2001), Derrick Johnson (2002, 2003, 2004), Aaron Harris (2005), Sergio Kindle (2008), Emmanuel Acho (2011).
NFL first-round draft picks: Derrick Johnson (2005).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Roddrick Muckelroy (Round 4, 2010), Sergio Kindle (Round 2, 2010), Sam Acho (Round 4, 2011), Keenan Robinson (Round 4, 2012), Alex Okafor (Round 4, 2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Emmanuel Acho (Round 6, 2012).


9. Boston College (104): Luke Kuechly is responsible for most of the points here. The four-time award winner in 2011, was twice named a consensus All-American, earned all-conference honors three times and became a first-round draft pick. That's a grand total of 84 points for the Carolina Panthers star. The Eagles also have an active string of first-team all-conference linebackers that started with Mark Herzlich in 2008.

Award winners: Luke Kuechly, Nagurski (2011), Lombardi (2011), Lott (2011), Butkus (2011).
Consensus All-Americans: Luke Kuechly (2010, 2011).
First-team all-conference: Mark Herzlich (2008), Luke Kuechly (2009, 2010, 2011), Nick Clancy (2012), Kevin Pierre-Louis (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Luke Kuechly (2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Kevin Pierre-Louis (Round 4, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: None.


T-10. Maryland (100)

E.J. Henderson accounts for more than half of Maryland’s points thanks in large part to his two national awards and two consensus All-America designations. Henderson is among three Terrapins linebackers who made the All-ACC first team twice (along with D’Qwell Jackson and Alex Wujciak), while Shawne Merriman is the only Terp during the 2000s to be selected in the first round of the draft.

Award winners: E.J. Henderson, Bednarik (2002), Butkus (2002).
Consensus All-Americans: E.J. Henderson (2001, 2002).
First-team all-conference: E.J. Henderson (2001, 2002), D’Qwell Jackson (2004, 2005), Erin Henderson (2007), Alex Wujciak (2009, 2010).
NFL first-round draft picks: Shawne Merriman (Round 1, 2005).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: E.J. Henderson (Round 2, 2003), Leon Joe (Round 4, 2004), D’Qwell Jackson (Round 2, 2006)
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Moise Fokou (Round 7, 2009).


T-10. Notre Dame (100)


There are times when a single player’s excellence is the difference between a school's spot falling near the top of the rankings and its sitting further down the list. Such is the case with Manti Te’o, who accounted for 82 points in his incredible 2012 season alone (seven national awards, a consensus All-America selection and then becoming a second-round NFL pick). Notre Dame is penalized in these team rankings by not earning points for all-conference honorees, so its spot in this top 10 speaks to how impressive Te’o’s 2012 season truly was.

Award winners: Manti Te’o, Maxwell (2012), Camp (2012), Nagurski (2021), Lombardi (2012), Bednarik (2012), Lott (2012), Butkus (2012).
Consensus All-Americans: Manti Te’o (2012).
First-team all-conference: Not applicable.
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Rocky Boiman (Round 4, 2002), Courtney Watson (Round 2, 2004), Manti Te’o (Round 2, 2013), Prince Shembo (Round 4, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Anthony Denman (Round 7, 2001), Tyreo Harrison (Round 6, 2002), Darius Fleming (Round 5, 2012).

REST OF “LINEBACKER U” RANKINGS
98 – Florida State; 92 – UCLA; 72 – Florida, Stanford; 66 – Iowa, TCU, Wisconsin; 64 – Nebraska; 62 – Michigan State, Oregon State, Tennessee; 60 – LSU, Pittsburgh; 58 – Virginia Tech; 56 – West Virginia; 48 – NC State; 46 – Michigan, Ole Miss, Purdue; 44 – BYU, California, Kansas State; 42 – North Carolina; 40 – Illinois; 38 – Clemson, Iowa State, Texas A&M; 36 – Arizona, Auburn, Syracuse; 34 – Arizona State, Utah, Wake Forest; 32 – Missouri, South Carolina, Virginia; 30 – Arkansas, Georgia Tech; 28 – Kentucky; 26 – Northwestern, Vanderbilt; 24 – Colorado, Oregon; 20 – Washington; 18 – Oklahoma State, Rutgers; 16 – Mississippi State; 14 – Kansas, Louisville; 12 – Baylor; 10 – Washington State; 6 – Duke; 4 – Texas Tech; 2 – Minnesota; 0 – Indiana

Recruiting tidbits from across the Big 12

August, 4, 2009
8/04/09
7:51
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Recruiting analyst Bill Kurelic provided some information about a couple of players with interest in Big 12 schools in his most recent notepad.

Oklahoma is still in the hunt for Under Armour All-American defensive back Joshua Shaw of Palmdale, Calif., although he is strongly considering three Big Ten schools.

"I'm a fan of Big Ten football," Shaw told Kurelic, a regular contributor to ESPN.com's Midwest Recruiting Blog. "I like the three power house teams, Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State."

Shaw has scholarship offers from at least two dozen schools. He has narrowed his list down to the three Big Ten schools as well as USC, UCLA, Washington, LSU, Tennessee, Notre Dame and the Sooners. All but the Nittany Lions have offered and Shaw feels that offer will soon be on the way.

Oklahoma hasn't made Shaw's list of visits yet. He is set to visit Ohio State, LSU and Notre Dame during the football season. Shaw, a 6-foot-2, 180-pounder made 40 solo tackles and intercepted four passes during his junior season last year.

"All the schools are even. If I had to make a decision today it would be like picking out of a hat," Shaw said.

And safety/wide receiver Jimmy Hall of Southview High School in Sylvania, Ohio, has included Colorado and Kansas in a field of 16 suitors that also includes schools like West Virginia, Boston College, Northwestern, Indiana, Maryland, Syracuse, Vanderbilt and several Mid-American Conference schools.

"Right now I'm in the process of trying to get it down to a top five," Hall told Kurelic. "I'd like to get it down by the end of the summer. I've visited all the schools that have offered except Colorado, Kansas, Maryland and Vanderbilt."

The 6-foot-2, 192-pound Hall produced 85 tackles and intercepted five passes during his junior season. He also snagged 45 receptions for close to 1,000 yards.

He has made has no timetable in regards to selecting a college, and is leaving open the possibility of taking official visits.

"I'm trying to get a top five, then if I really like a school I could commit," he said. "I'm not sure about [official] visits right now."

Both players could help the Big 12 schools they have targeted, although it sounds like the schools in the conference aren't as highly rated as others from across the country for these prospects.  

The numbers say UT could win the BCS title and OU won't

July, 7, 2009
7/07/09
11:31
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The number crunchers at Docsports.com have come up with the common statistical traits that the BCS national championship winners have shared.

1. Be a member of a "Big Six" conference or Notre Dame:

Teams still fitting the profile: 67.

2. Have at least eight wins in the previous season. Of the 11 BCS title winners nine teams (and the past six consecutive) have had at least eight wins the season prior to winning the championship. All have had at least seven.

Teams still fitting the profile: 37

3. Have a winning regular-season record in November-December games in the previous season. Winning games late in the season usually ensures a strong finish. Only LSU in 2002 -- with a 2-2 record in November and December -- claimed a BCS national championship without a winning record in those two months in the year before.

Teams still fitting the profile: 25.

Among those still standing are: Alabama (4-0), Boston College (4-1), California (3-2), Cincinnati (5-0), Florida (5-0), Georgia Tech (3-1), Iowa (3-1), Michigan State (3-1), Mississippi (4-0), Missouri (3-1), Nebraska (3-1), Northwestern (3-1), Ohio State (3-0), Oklahoma (4-0), Oregon (3-1), Oregon State (4-1), Penn State (3-1), Pittsburgh (4-1), Rutgers (4-0), Texas (3-1), Texas Tech (3-1), USC (5-0), Wake Forest (3-2), West Virginia (3-2) and Virginia Tech (3-1).

4. Have a junior or senior quarterback with some playing experience. All 11 teams that have won BCS national titles have had a junior or senior playing. All but Tee Martin of Tennessee had starting experience entering the season.

Teams still fitting the profile: 17.

Among those still alive are: California (Kevin Riley), Cincinnati (Tony Pike), Florida (Tim Tebow), Georgia Tech (Josh Nesbitt), Iowa (Richard Stanzi), Mississippi (Jevan Snead), Northwestern (Mike Kafka), Oklahoma (Sam Bradford), Oregon (Jeremiah Masoli), Oregon State (Lyle Moevao), Penn State (Daryll Clark), Pittsburgh (Bill Stull), Texas (Colt McCoy), USC (Mitch Mustain), Wake Forest (Riley Skinner), West Virginia (Jarrett Brown) and Virginia Tech (Tyrod Taylor).

5. Have six returning defensive starters from a unit that ranked in the top 20 in scoring defense in the previous season. Eight of the past nine teams to have won the BCS title have had a defense in the nation's top 20 in scoring defense the previous season (Florida was 46th in 2007) and all but one team (1998 Tennessee) returned at least six starters from their previous season's defense.

Teams still fitting the profile: 6.

Those teams that are eligible include Florida (fourth in scoring defense, 11 returning starters), Iowa (fifth in scoring defense, eight returning starters), Mississippi (20th in scoring defense, eight starters), Texas (18th in scoring defense, seven starters), West Virginia (11th in scoring defense, eight starters) and Virginia Tech (ninth in scoring defense, seven starters).

The formula has been accurate over the years. Of the seven teams that fit the profile coming into last season -- Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Rutgers, USC, and Wake Forest -- all won at least eight games and Florida won the national championship. The team the Gators beat for the national title, Oklahoma, was not included among those on the list.

So keep these trends in mind this season. It might be the reason why we end up seeing Texas and Florida playing for the national championship, if not Iowa, Mississippi, West Virginia or Virginia Tech at the Rose Bowl.

Blog ranks Christensen's hiring by Wyoming as best in nation

April, 30, 2009
4/30/09
6:59
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The Web site Coacheshotseat.com is one of my must reads every day. They always have an interesting spin on various college football topics and a lot of original content.

One post this afternoon was particularly interesting. The Web site ranks the 22 hirings of new FBS head coaches since the end of last season.

Here's a list of hirings of all new Division I head coaches. The ones that are highlighted have Big 12 connections. 

1. Dave Christensen, Wyoming

2. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State

3. Rich Ellerson, Army

4. Dabo Swinney, Clemson

5. Brady Hoke, San Diego State

6. Steve Sarkisian, Washington

7. Doug Marrone, Syracuse

8. Danny Hope, Purdue

9. Mike Locksley, New Mexico

10. Ron English, Eastern Michigan

11. Mike Haywood, Miami (OH)

12. DeWayne Walker, New Mexico State

13. Chip Kelly, Oregon

14. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State

15. Gene Chizik, Auburn

16. Gary Anderson, Utah State

17. Frank Spaziani, Boston College

18. Tim Beckman, Toledo

19. Stan Parrish, Ball State

20. Dave Clawson, Bowling Green

21. Bill Snyder, Kansas State

22. Lane Kiffin, Tennessee

It's particularly interesting to look at the difference between former Missouri coordinator Dave Christensen and former Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Tim Beckman.

They believe that Christensen's success bringing his version of the spread to Wyoming will pump new life into the Mountain West Conference. And they compare that to the largely unknown Beckman, who will be challenged to succeed in the balanced Mid-American Conference.

The switch from Gene Chizik to Paul Rhoads appears to be a wash, as Rhoads' hiring is ranked No. 14 while Chizik checks in at No. 15.  

But the most interesting comments to me were how the Web site viewed Bill Snyder replacing Ron Prince at Kansas State.

21. Bill Snyder for Ron Prince at Kansas State

"We could have gone either way on the firing of Ron Prince, but bringing Bill Snyder back to Kansas State? No, we cannot understand that move by KSU. OK...Bill Snyder was a great football coach, but that was in another time and another place. Snyder put up some great seasons at K-State, but in his last two years, which happened to correspond to the rise of Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Missouri in the Big 12, Snyder went 4-7 in 2004 and 5-6 in 2005. There is a reason that Bill Snyder was fired after the 2005 season and that reason has not changed and we believe K-State will regret hiring Snyder because he will not move the football program forward in what has become a much tougher Big 12. Instead of Bill Snyder, we would have hired Buffalo's Turner Gill, Oklahoma's Brent Venables, Illinois Mike Locksley, Missouri's Dave Christensen or even Dennis Franchione over bringing back Bill Snyder and we believe Kansas State will regret this coaching move."

I would criticique Coacheshotseat.com for saying that Snyder was fired after the 2005 season. He actually resigned. But I'm still intrigued by their comments.

It will be interesting to see how Snyder's return to KSU plays out. Either it will be a home run or a colossal flop.

I'm betting that Snyder's work ethic and his return of a veteran group of coaches familiar with the KSU program will work and work to ensure the program's success.

But even that might not be enough, considering the Big 12's strength.

Weatherspoon among seven Big 12 players on Lott watch list

April, 9, 2009
4/09/09
11:23
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Missouri senior linebacker Sean Weatherspoon is among nine 2009 quarterfinalists for the Lott Award.

Weatherspoon, a key producer on Missouri's back-to-back teams that made Big 12 championship games, was the only Big 12 quarterfinalist on the Lott Award's first watch list.

Other Big 12 players included were Texas Tech linebacker Brian Duncan, Texas linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy, Baylor linebacker Joe Pawelek, Kansas safety Darrell Stuckey, Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.

Thirty-eight different schools are represented on the Watch List. Alabama, BYU, Georgia and UCLA each have two players nominated.

Named after Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, The Lott Trophy is awarded to college football's Defensive IMPACT Player of the Year. Now in its sixth year, The Lott Trophy is the only college football award to equally recognize athletic performance and the personal character attributes of the winning player.

Other quarterfinalists who joined Weatherspoon on the list include Northwestern defensive end Corey Wooton, Tennessee defensive back Eric Berry, Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich, South Carolina defensive end Eric Norwood, Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes, Kentucky defensive end Jeremy Jarmon, BYU defensive end Jan Jorgensen and South Florida defensive end George Selvie.

It's good to see some Big 12 defensive players receive some national notoriety. Because once the season begins and the offenses start clicking across the conference, it likely again will be hard for most defenders across the conference to get much positive publicity.

Tim's mailbag: Why doesn't Notre Dame play Big 12 teams?

February, 20, 2009
2/20/09
6:43
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Mike from Livonia, Mich., writes: Hey Tim, I'm a diehard follower of the blog here. I was looking at Notre Dame's 2009 schedule and notice that four of the six major BCS conferences are represented - but not the Big 12. That led me to remember any past games the Irish had against Big 12 foes. Wasn't the last one when Nebraska and Eric Crouch played them?

My question is how come Big 12 teams don't play Notre Dame more often. They are playing Washington State in San Antonio this season and have plans to play Arizona State in the Cowboys' new stadium. Why not Nebraska or Texas A&M or Colorado, who they have had a rich bowl history with?

Tim Griffin: Interesting question Mike and there's a reason why Notre Dame has rarely hooked up with Big 12 teams. And also why the Irish are opting to bring some unconventional opponents for their upcoming "home" games at Texas stadiums.

The Big 12's two major television partners, ABC/ESPN and Fox Sports Network, have exclusivity for all games played in their seven-state geographical footprint.

That has kept any Big 12 team from playing neutral-site games during the Irish's recent run of "barnstorming" games where they have become the designated home team for games played outside of South Bend.

Those games, like all of Notre Dame's games, are the exclusive broadcasting property of NBC. And because of the Big 12's deals, it keeps a Big 12 team from playing a game inside its footprint that isn't carried by a Big 12 television partner.

For example, Baylor and Notre Dame originally wanted to play at the Cowboys' stadium in 2012. But Baylor couldn't be involved because of the conference's exclusivity, leading Arizona State to replace them in the game in Arlington in 2013. Notre Dame instead took its 2012 "home" game with Baylor in New Orleans.

So the only way imaginable for Big 12 teams to play Notre Dame would be in a home-and-home series. And the Irish do have a home-and-home series against Oklahoma, with games in Norman (broadcast on the Big 12 television partners) in 2012 and in South Bend (broadcast by NBC) in 2013.

The last time that Notre Dame played a Big 12 opponent was in 2001, when Nebraska beat the Irish, 27-10, in Lincoln, Neb.


Michael from Huntsville, Ala., writes: Here's something from your recent article about Mike Leach in regards to their victory over Texas last season. You described it as what "might have been the biggest play in Big 12 history." Way to sensationalize the story. Did you exaggerate much?

Tim Griffin: Actually, I don't think that's overstating the importance of that game. It kept Texas from playing for the national championship -- the Longhorns' only loss of the season settled on a play with one second left.

The only other plays I would rank with that one was the tipped ball by Nebraska's Matt Davison in the 1997 Missouri game and Vince Young's game-winning TD run against USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl. But both of those plays had plays after them, lessening the sense of finality in setting those plays as the ultimate winning play. So I'll stick with the Crabtree catch, which I still think is the biggest, most exciting play in Big 12 history.

As Tech chancellor Kent Hance said yesterday, he's already seen that play more than any he can remember in highlights, rivaling only Doug Flutie's "Hail Mary" pass in 1984. I bet the Crabtree catch will have that kind of staying power, too.


Michael Byrd writes: In your Baylor outlook, did you know that Baylor has Phil Taylor to play defensive tackle next season? He was one of the top recruits two years ago for Penn State before he transferred to Penn State. The Baylor coaches have been quoted in the Waco newspaper as saying that Taylor was a monster during his redshirt season in practice. Heard of him?

Tim Griffin: Yes I have and I think he'll be a big contributor. But I'll wait until he plays in a college game before I rush too quickly to praise him. It will be interesting to see if he lives up to the advance billing that has preceded him.


Nathan from Kansas City, Mo.: Tim, you might want to do your homework a little better. Missouri beat Kansas State in Manhattan in 2007 by a score of 49-32, so they haven't won in Manhattan since 2007 and not 1989 as you wrote.

Tim Griffin: To the Missouri fans, I apologize for the gaffe. I need to watch Truman on You Tube as punishment for absolution.


Carroll from Ames, Iowa, writes: What do you think of new Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads' coordinator hires - Rice's Tom Herman and South Florida's Wally Burnham?

Tim Griffin: I'm really impressed. Herman did a fine job at Rice, directing a controlling passing attack that included players like Chase Clement, Jarett Dillard and James Casey and ranked in the top-10 nationally in passing, scoring and total yards last season. I think his arrival will help Austen Arnaud's development greatly. And the veteran Burnham is the addition for Rhoads' defense.

Rhoads was a little deliberate on his choices, but now I can see why. He made two very good hires for those positions.


Little Stevie from Lenexa, Kan., writes: Tim, how in God's green earth can you have Kansas State ranked over Missouri and Kansas. Remember, Kansas State fired their coach last season.

Tim Griffin: Stevie, maybe I'm buying too much into Bill Snyder's arrival, but I think he should be good for a couple of extra wins. And considering their schedule to Kansas and Missouri, I think they will be very competitive. I think the North will be wide open.

Remember that Kansas loses all three starting linebackers and still plays that same South Division gauntlet in Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. And besides losing Chase Coffman, Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin, Ziggy Hood, William Moore, Stryker Sulak, Tommy Chavis and others, Missouri also will likely have new offensive and defensive coordinators. And that's after having no staffing changes in eight seasons. I think it might be a little tougher for the Tigers than some Tiger fans might be expecting.


David Lasseter writes: Hey, Tim. You need to put down the crack pipe. You must be on something to predict a 5-7 record for Baylor. I will give you eight wins. They will go 4-0 by beating all their non-conference games. And they will go 4-4 in conference play. No way Nebraska beats them breaking in a new starter or Texas Tech breaking in a new quarterback with a suspect defense. Also, we're beating Iowa State and Texas A&M on the road. And we might get Oklahoma State and Missouri, too. I bet you dinner they go 8-4 and I will pay you if you lose.

Tim Griffin: David, I'm not supposed to bet my readers. But remember that Baylor does play in the South Division. All I can say is let's catch up before the start of the season. I'd be curious to hear your thoughts then.


Jim from Grand Junction, Colo., writes: Tim, I'm wondering about the wisdom of Coach Dan Hawkins' remarks. The 10-2 prediction, was it necessary? Was it wise? What happens if he does/doesn't achieve the goal?

Tim Griffin: Hawkins has definitely told the world he thinks his team will be a lot better in 2009 than 2008. A lot better.

I don't know if I would have made the comments in a public setting like Hawkins did. But he obviously is very confident his team will be much better. Hence, his pronouncement.

But he has put a lot of pressure squarely on him and his team.


Cecil Wilson writes: Hey Tim, how come no lunchtime links a couple of days earlier this week. I need my daily fix of Big 12 football. Still 7 1/2 months till kick off.

Tim Griffin: Sorry, Cecil. For a couple of days earlier this week my family and I went on a short vacation to New Mexico. I had to introduce my 4-year-old son to snow. He didn't like it.

But I can assure you the lunchtime links are back to stay. Thanks for planning your day around them -- and please keep reading them.


David from New York City writes: You are spot on about the Texas Longhorns having a chip on their shoulders about last season. I believe they are as talented as Oklahoma, but are so hungry and angry about the way OU got to the title game last season, they're taking it to the title game. What do you think?

Tim Griffin: I've got Texas as my favorite over the Sooners at this point heading into spring ball. My major reasons are Oklahoma's rebuilding offensive line and new safeties and Texas' hunger after how last season played out. I think these are the major contributing factors that make me rank them a little ahead of the Sooners.

Readers, as always thanks for all of the questions this week. I'll check back with you again next week.

Dimel returns to KSU to join Snyder's staff

February, 10, 2009
2/10/09
5:53
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder wasted little time in hiring former Wildcats assistant coach and player Dana Dimel on Tuesday.

Several Kansas and Arizona newspapers reported that Dimel, who was Arizona's tight end and running backs coach for the past three seasons, would replace Dave Brock on Snyder's staff. 

Dimel, who has served on three previous coaching staffs at Kansas State, told the Arizona Daily Star it was difficult to leave Mike Stoops' staff.

"It's a really sad day for me, to tell you the truth," Dimel told the Star. "I'm having the hardest time leaving my guys. That's the part that makes it very difficult."

He will be reunited with Snyder, on whose staff he was a member from 1989-96. He later served as a graduate assistant on Snyder's staff in 2005 after he had been fired as Houston's head coach in 2002.

"Being back there with Bill Snyder is a big thing," Dimel said. "He made a big gesture by stepping up to try to resuscitate Kansas State. I feel like I have a lot vested there. A lot of us do."

Brock, who was Kansas State's offensive coordinator for former coach Ron Prince, was kept on Snyder's staff but moved on to Boston College.

Big 12 lunchtime links: Another McCoy going to UT

February, 10, 2009
2/10/09
12:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Apparently one McCoy isn't enough for Texas. The Longhorns will add another member of the family after Colt McCoy's younger brother Case arrives in Austin after the older brother finishes his senior season.

Alan Trubow of the Austin American-Statesman reports that senior-to-be Case McCoy will be the next McCoy to arrive in Austin, arriving after he finishes his career at Graham, Texas.

In a way, it's surprising that the younger McCoy chose the Longhorns, considering the presence of heralded quarterback Garrett Gilbert in the recruiting class of 2009. The younger McCoy also was considering Florida, Texas A&M and Oklahoma.

But he decided the chance to play at Texas for two years after Gilbert leaves was worth it.

So it wouldn't be surprising to see two McCoys end up starting for the Longhorns. It will be interesting to see how the younger brother develops and if he's as good a player and leader as his older brother.

Here are some other stories from across the Big 12 Tuesday:

  • Top remaining national running back recruit Bryce Brown is still considering at least two Big 12 schools, according to the Web site potentialplayers.com. The Web site reports that Brown is expected to make his announcement on March 12. He's already visited Missouri and still may take a trip to Kansas State among others potential suitors.
  • In order to get more playmakers on the field, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops plans to use Mossis Madu as a slot receiver during the spring, Jake Trotter of the Oklahoman reports.
  • Agents representing Mike Leach dispute charges that the Texas Tech coach has repeatedly shopped himself to other schools for jobs. The Dallas Morning News' Brandon George writes that representatives from International Marketing Group indicate that Leach has interviewed for only one other job in the last nine seasons.
  • For agreeing to move their Nebraska game to the night of Thursday, Oct. 8, Missouri has been promised two other games will be televised this season, the Kansas City Star's Mike DeArmond reports.
  • Kansas State assistant coach Dave Brock has accepted a new job as an assistant at Boston College, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal. Brock had been offensive coordinator at Kansas State last season under Ron Prince, but was demoted to a new role on Bill Snyder's staff.
  • Robert Cessna of the Bryan Eagle analyzes the Texas A&M roster and sees that more than half of the Aggies' 2009 roster will be freshmen or sophomores.

Tough practices prepare Texas for OSU test

December, 18, 2008
12/18/08
6:28
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

AUSTIN, Texas -- The bruises and blood-stained uniforms after the first few days of bowl practice have become almost a tradition for Texas as it prepares for its bowl games.

They were on display the last several days as the Longhorns prepare for their Jan. 5 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl matchup with Ohio State.

So much for any feeling of wallowing in self-pity after the Longhorns were snubbed for the Big 12 title game on a controversial tiebreaker. What better way to hammer those feelings away than with a few more extra "Longhorn Drills"?

That practice activity is a staple for developing toughness. It's a three-on-three conditioning drill featuring a back running behind three linemen against three defensive linemen. The claustrophobic nature is emphasized in a tightly contained area set apart by tackling dummies.

"We've been as physical as we've ever been in practice to prepare for this game," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "But at the same time, we've gone one (offensive starter) against one (defensive starter) every day, because we want to match the speed and the physical part of the game. We've lined up and have just been after each other. The impact of the offensive and defensive line working against each other has been incredible."

After a demoralizing loss to Texas A&M last season, Brown ratcheted up intensity in his Holiday Bowl practices by putting his team through an excruciating run of workouts. The hard work paid off with an impressive 52-34 victory over Arizona State punctuated by four sacks and eight tackles for loss.

This season, the Longhorns are nursing a deeper wound after failing to make the Big 12 championship game -- and ultimately a potential shot at the national championship -- only after a controversial three-way tie for the South Division championship was settled by the BCS standings. Oklahoma claimed the Big 12 South title despite Texas' 45-35 victory over the Sooners on Oct. 11.

Those feelings lingered for a couple of days as the Longhorns moped about their near-miss. But after returning to practice, the return to intense practices has quickly caught their attention.

"I think we've got our mojo back," Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo said. "Everybody is upbeat and very excited about this bowl game. We haven't been in a BCS bowl for a while, so it's a true accomplishment for this season."

The return to physical practices is particularly important against Ohio State, who Brown believes will provide a challenge to the Longhorns in the trenches. Ohio State ranks 28th nationally in rush offense and features a punishing ground attack keyed by a huge offensive line and 237-pound tailback Chris "Beanie" Wells.

"They are huge. Their offensive line is about 300 pounds a man," Brown said. "Beanie Wells is by far the best back that we'll see this year. It's not even close for anybody else or in the same ballpark.

"And then you take (Ohio State quarterback) Terrelle Pryor. We all know how good he is. We recruited him. He's Vince Young, except may be thicker. He can run and throw. They are a physical football team."

On defense, the Buckeyes have standouts like linebacker James Laurinaitis and cornerback Malcolm Jenkins who both remember coming into Austin and snapping the Longhorns' 21-game winning streak early in the 2006 season.

"Coach Brown has really emphasized being physical and hitting each other a lot this year," guard Cedric Dockery said. "He wants that carryover to be in the bowl game. He wants us to be ready for what we're going to see with Ohio State."

And considering Texas' recent success in bowl games, it's hard to argue with the results. Texas, along with Boston College and Utah, are the only teams to have won consecutive bowl games in each of the last four seasons.

So the Longhorns are expecting more of the same intense hitting until they break for Christmas on Tuesday.

"He does that for us to get ready to play in the bowl games," Dockery said. "It's been good for him before, so I don't think he'll turn away from it this year."

Brown surprised to be sitting atop both national polls

October, 13, 2008
10/13/08
3:31
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Texas coach Mack Brown said Associated Press and USA Today pollsters got it wrong when his team was selected as the No. 1 team in both polls this week after its 45-35 upset victory over Oklahoma.

The Longhorns, ranked No. 5 in last week's poll, jumped past Alabama after No. 3 Missouri and No. 4 LSU lost along with the formerly top-ranked Sooners. The Crimson Tide were idle on Saturday.

"Alabama should have stayed No. 1 because they didn't play this weekend and, to me, didn't do anything to lose it," Brown said. "If they were No. 1 going into the weekend, we should not have jumped from No. 5 to No. 1."

The No. 1 ranking has been a difficult burden to defend this season. Three different teams -- Oklahoma, USC and Georgia -- have been ranked this season as the No. 1 team.

It marks the first time the Longhorns have been ranked No. 1 during the regular season since a two-week stint early in the 1984 season.

Texas players aren't caught up with the significance of the Longhorns' return to the top.

"I heard about it, but it means nothing to me," Texas defensive tackle Roy Miller said. "Like coach Brown has been telling us, nobody remembers who was No. 1 at this time last year. You've got to keep playing and we just want to win."

Interestingly, Ohio State was No. 1 at this point last season, followed by South Florida and Boston College. Only the Buckeyes made a BCS bowl.

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