Big 12: Chris Hall

Q&A with Texas OC Greg Davis

February, 23, 2010
Defending Big 12 champion Texas opens spring practice on Friday.

Among the Longhorns’ biggest chores during spring practice: replacing record-setting quarterback Colt McCoy and star receiver Jordan Shipley.

Texas fans got a sneak peak at new quarterback Garrett Gilbert during the Longhorns’ 37-21 loss to Alabama in the Citi BCS National Championship Game. After McCoy injured his throwing shoulder early in the first quarter, Gilbert was thrust into the game against one of the country’s most ferocious defenses. The freshman responded by throwing for 186 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions on 15-for-40 passing. After struggling mightily during the first half, Gilbert nearly rallied the Longhorns back from a 24-6 deficit in the second half.

Texas also will have to replace three starting offensive linemen: center Chris Hall, left guard Charlie Tanner and left tackle Adam Ulatoski.

I talked with Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis on Monday about replacing his offense’s departed stars:

Chris Williams/Icon SMITexas offensive coordinator Greg Davis is breaking in starters at many key positions this offseason.
How does your team replace Colt McCoy?

Greg Davis: Four years ago, everybody asked me, “What are you going to do when Vince Young leaves?” Now everybody wants to know what we’re going to do after Colt left. We’re going to regroup and plan on winning. I have to find exactly what Garrett’s strengths are and find his comfort area. We’ve got to find the things we’re going to do to utilize his talents. I’m very confident that he will be an outstanding player.

What are you looking to accomplish with Gilbert this spring?

GD: What I want from him this spring is just to relax and to be himself and not try to be Colt. I’m talking to him this offseason the same way I talked to Colt four years ago. I told Colt: “Hey, you’re not going to rush for 1,000 yards like Vince Young. Just be Colt McCoy.” That’s what I’m talking to Garrett about. I told him: “You just need to go out and be yourself and lead the way you’ve always led.” We expect to win games with him.

What did you learn about Gilbert after he was thrown into the BCS National Championship Game after McCoy injured his shoulder?

GD: I learned that a lot of the things we thought we knew about him were true. We thought he had a lot of poise. To start the way he did in the first half, and to have him come back and play the way he did in the second half, I think he showed a lot of poise and maturity. I thought he grew up a lot as the game went on. To play in that venue and play against that defense, and to have to adjust to the things they were throwing at him and to have to change protections, move around and know where his hot reads were, I was really encouraged by what I saw from him in that ballgame. I thought that was what I would see, but you never know until he gets thrown in there. I was pleased overall with the way he performed in that game.

Gilbert is a bigger quarterback than McCoy. What do you anticipate his playing weight to be?

GD: He’s gained about seven pounds and weighs about 214. I would guess that he’ll be in the neighborhood of around 220 pounds in August. He’ll be a good-sized kid.

Your offense loses Shipley, who caught 116 passes and 13 touchdowns last season. You have a veteran group of receivers coming back and add one of the best recruiting classes in the country. How will you replace Shipley’s production?

GD: It’s going to have to be spread around. We went into last season knowing that Jordan would have over 100 catches and over 1,000 yards receiving. We went into the season expecting him to do that. We’re going into the spring expecting those numbers to be spread out. We’re expecting those numbers to be spread among guys like James Kirkendoll, Malcolm Williams, John Chiles, Marquise Goodwin and Greg Timmons, a young guy we redshirted last season. We’re not going into the spring with the idea that one of them is going to have 100 catches and 1,000 yards receiving next season. We’re going into the spring with the idea that we’re going to spread the ball around. The group is going to have to pick up the slack.

How much progress did you think your offense made running the ball year?

GD: I thought there were times where we made progress, but when we sat down and looked at the season as a whole, we feel like it’s still an area where we have to be more productive. The last two seasons, we kind of put a bunch of eggs in Colt’s basket as far as running the ball. We kind of said, “If the defense outnumbers the run, that’s fine and we don’t care.” But we’ve got to be better in the run game this season than we were the last two years. We’re going to do some things this spring to try and help that.

Do you plan to make any changes schematically to your offense?

GD: We’re going to go back under center with the quarterback some more. We played the last two years almost exclusively out of the shotgun. We will continue to play a lot of the game from the shotgun, but we’re going to go back under center to try and help the backs run more downhill. With the zone read dropping off the radar, we’re going to play with the running backs’ alignment in the gun. When we are running the ball out of the gun, they can run more downhill. We can be tighter on our zones with the offensive line because of the landmarks with the backs. I think that is a big emphasis this spring -- to try and take the pressure off the quarterback and run the ball better.

How much more important is it to be able to run the ball more effectively this coming season to take the pressure off a young quarterback?

GD: We did the same thing when Colt took over. Even though we thought Colt was going to turn out to be a much better quarterback than anybody anticipated, we wanted to make sure we took some pressure off of him by being able to run the ball. We had a 1,500-yard rusher in Jamaal Charles [in 2007]. I think it’s an important aspect of spring training to be more productive in the running game. We have the same kind of confidence in Garrett Gilbert, but we have to be able to run the ball to help him.

All-Big 12 teams show recruiting hits and misses

February, 2, 2010
As we all pore over the recruiting ratings of each school for the next few days, it's wise to take all of these rankings and ratings with a healthy grain of salt.

Recruiting is, always has been and always will be an inexact science. For every can't miss product, there are others who emerge out of nowhere to become standout players.

This trend was shown after I analyzed the first- and second-team All-Big 12 teams from the 2009 season and went back to check their original ESPNU grades. On some, the service hit. But on many others, it missed like Sean Weatherspoon and Danario Alexander.

Both had scores of 40 when they came out in their recruiting class. Weatherspoon weighed 195 pounds. Alexander was projected as a safety. And both put aside their dubious recruiting marks to develop into two of the best players in the country at their position over the course of their college career. I thought it was interesting to go back and look at the best players in the conference and see where they were ranked coming into college.

The ESPNU ratings database goes back only to 2006. That does not allow us to get ratings for players who took a redshirt year during their college careers. But it gives a pretty accurate picture about the crap shoot that college recruiting really is.

Here's a look at the Big 12's coaches' first and second teams for 2009. The positional rankings, typically listed second for most players, are national rankings.


QB: Colt McCoy, Texas: Class of 2005, no information available.

RB: Daniel Thomas, Kansas State: Junior college class of 2009.

RB: Keith Toston, Oklahoma State: 77 rating; ranked 44th among all safeties; ranked 73rd in state.

FB: Bryant Ward, Oklahoma State: Walk-on.

WR: Jordan Shipley, Texas: Class of 2004, no information available.

WR: Danario Alexander, Missouri: 40 rating (as safety), ranked 229th in state.

WR: Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas: 40 rating, ranked 363rd in state.

TE: Jeron Mastrud, Kansas State: 40 rating, ranked 13th in state.

OL: Russell Okung, Oklahoma State: 73 rating, ranked 61st among all tackles, 138th in state.

OL: Trent Williams, Oklahoma: 76 rating, ranked 22nd among all guards, 78th in state.

OL: Nick Stringer, Kansas State: Class of 2005, no information available.

OL: Brandon Carter, Texas Tech: Class of 2005, no information available.

OL: Nate Solder, Colorado: 40 rating (as tight end), ranked 48th in state.

PK: Grant Ressel, Missouri: Walk-on.

KR/PR: Brandon Banks, Kansas State: Junior college class of 2008.


DL: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska: Class of 2005, no information available.

DL: Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma: 89 rating, ranked 2nd among all defensive tackle, ranked first in state, ranked 21st in nation.

DL:Von Miller, Texas A&M: 77 rating, ranked 37th among all defensive ends, ranked 52nd in state.

DL: Brandon Sharpe, Texas Tech: Junior-college class of 2007.

DL: Jared Crick, Nebraska: 73 rating, ranked 86th among all defensive ends, ranked seventh in state.

LB: Jesse Smith, Iowa State: Class of 2005, no information available.

LB: Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri: 40 rating, ranked 294th in state.

LB: Travis Lewis, Oklahoma: 75 rating, ranked 86th among all running backs, ranked 96th in state.

DB: Earl Thomas, Texas: 71 rating, ranked 75th among all cornerbacks, ranked 170th in state.

DB: Perrish Cox, Oklahoma State: 77 rating, ranked 25th among all cornerbacks, ranked 57th in state.

DB: Dominique Franks, Oklahoma: 74 rating, ranked 53rd among all cornerbacks, ranked 15th in state.

DB: Prince Amukamara, Nebraska: 78 rating, ranked 31st among all running backs, ranked fifth in state.

DB: Larry Asante, Nebraska: Junior college class of 2007.

P: Derek Epperson, Baylor: 76 rating, ranked 15th among all kickers, ranked 87th in state.


QB: Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M: 79 rating, ranked first among all athletes, ranked 29th in state.

RB Roy Helu Jr., Nebraska: 73 rating, ranked 113th among all running backs, ranked 97th in state.

RB: DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma: 92 rating, ranked first among all running backs, ranked first in state, ranked sixth in nation.

FB: Jamie McCoy, Texas A&M: Class of 2005, no information available.

WR: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma: 77 rating, ranked 58th among all wide receivers, ranked fourth in state.

WR: Kerry Meier, Kansas: Class of 2005 , no information available.

WR: Brandon Banks, Kansas State: Junior college class of 2008.

TE: Riar Geer, Colorado: Class of 2005, no information available.

OL: J.D. Walton, Baylor: Class of 2005, no information available (transfer from Arizona State).

OL: Chris Hall, Texas: Class of 2005, no information available.

OL: Kurtis Gregory, Missouri: Class of 2005, no information available.

OL: Adam Ulatoski, Texas: Class of 2005, no information available.

OL: Brody Eldridge, Oklahoma: Class of 2005, no information available.

OL: Lee Grimes, Texas A&M: Class of 2005, no information available.

PK: Alex Henery, Nebraska: Walk-on.

KR/PR: Perrish Cox, Oklahoma State: 77 rating, ranked 25th among all cornerbacks, ranked 57th in state.


DL: Sergio Kindle, Texas: 92 rating, ranked first among all outside linebackers, ranked second in state, ranked seventh in nation.

DL: Lamarr Houston, Texas: 78 rating, ranked seventh among all fullbacks, ranked fourth in state.

DL: Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma: 80 rating, ranked 11th among all defensive ends, ranked 17th in state, ranked 137th nationally.

DL: Jaron Baston, Missouri: Class of 2005, no information available.

DL: Daniel Howard, Texas Tech: Junior college class of 2007

LB: Joe Pawelek, Baylor: Class of 2005, no information available.

LB: Roddrick Muckelroy, Texas: Class of 2005, no information available.

LB: Phillip Dillard, Nebraska: Class of 2005, no information available.

DB: Jamar Wall, Texas Tech: 72 rating, ranked 79th among all safeties, ranked 142nd in state.

DB: Quinton Carter, Oklahoma: 77 rating, ranked 39th among all safeties, ranked third in state.

DB: Brian Jackson, Oklahoma: Class of 2005, no information available.

DB: Jordan Lake, Baylor: Class of 2005, no information available.

DB: Cha’pelle Brown, Colorado: 40 rating, ranked 287th in state.

DB: Trent Hunter, Texas A&M: 68 rating, ranked 90th among all cornerbacks, ranked 250th in state.

P: Tress Way, Oklahoma: 78 rating, ranked sixth among all kickers, ranked sixth in state.

It's interesting to note that only four members of the two teams were ESPNU top 150 selections: Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy, DeMarco Murray and Jeremy Beal and Texas' Sergio Kindle.

McCoy wins DCTF honors

January, 22, 2010
Dave Campbell Texas Football's winter edition will hit the newsstands in the next several days.

One of the interesting things about the magazine's winter edition is their annual All-Texas team for players from colleges across the Lone Star State.

Texas quarterback Colt McCoy and TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes were named as the offensive and defensive players of the year.

Here's a look at the other selections for the magazine.

All-Texas first-team offense

QB: Colt McCoy, Texas

RB: Donald Buckram, UTEP

RB: Charles Sims, Houston

WR: Jordan Shipley, Texas

WR: Emmanuel Sanders, SMU

WR: James Cleveland, Houston

TE: Dan Buckner, Texas

OL: Brandon Carter, Texas Tech

OL: J.D. Walton, Baylor

OL: Chris Hall, Texas

OL: Marshall Newhouse, TCU

OL: Marcus Cannon, TCU

K: Hunter Lawrence, Texas

All-Texas first-team defense

DL: Von Miller, Texas A&M

DL: Brandon Sharpe, Texas Tech

DL: Lamarr Houston, Texas

DL: Jerry Hughes, TCU

LB: Daryl Washington, TCU

LB: Sergio Kindle, Texas

LB: Joe Pawelek, Baylor

DB: Earl Thomas, Texas

DB: Rafael Priest, TCU

DB: Jordan Lake, Baylor

DB: Jamar Wall, Texas Tech

P: Chase Turner, Houston

Ret: Jeremy Kerley, TCU

The magazine all selected other awards for specific positional groups.

Best passer: Case Keenum, Houston

Best runner: Donald Buckram, UTEP

Best offensive lineman: Marshall Newhouse, TCU

Best receiver: Jordan Shipley, Texas

Best defensive lineman: Jerry Hughes, TCU

Best linebacker, Daryl Washington, TCU

Best defensive back: Earl Thomas, Texas

Most versatile: Von Miller, Texas A&M

DCTF also picked an all-Texas second team as well

All-Texas second-team offense

QB: Andy Dalton, TCU

RB: Lance Dunbar, North Texas

RB: Shawnbrey McNeal, SMU

WR: Jeff Moturi, SMU

WR: Tyron Carrier, Houston

WR: Kendall Wright, Baylor

TE: Justin Akers, Baylor

OL: Adam Ulatoski, Texas

OL: Jarve Dean, Houston

OL: Mike Aguayo, UTEP

OL: Lee Grimes, Texas A&M

OL: Charlie Tanner, Texas

K: Ross Evans, TCU

All-Texas second-team defense

DL: Scott Solomon, Rice

DL: Tyrell Graham, Houston

DL: Daniel Howard, Texas Tech

DL: Sam Acho, Texas

LB: Tank Carder, TCU

LB: Marcus McGraw, Houston

LB: Craig Robertson, North Texas

DB: Nick Sanders, TCU

DB: Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith, UTEP

DB: Blake Gideon, Texas

DB: Brandon Brinkley, Houston

Ret: Tyron Carrier, Houston

P: Derek Epperson, Baylor

Note: All Big 12 players are listed in bold facing.

Big 12 South recruiting needs

January, 21, 2010
Here's a look at what each of the South Division teams need to address in terms of recruiting with signing day fast approaching.


Defensive line: After losing starters Jason Lamb and Trey Bryant and having Phil Taylor and Earl Patin entering their senior seasons, the Bears need to add immediate depth. Xavier Ruben and Anthony Gonzales will help shore up the deficiencies and the Bears still are in the hunt for top prospects like Carlos Thompson and Byran Jones.

Secondary: Starters Jordan Lake and Jeremy Williams have graduated and four juniors in the two-deep roster will start their senior seasons. Coach Art Briles has already lured surprising strength in the defensive backfield with Ahmad Dixon, Tyler Stephenson and Prince Kent. That trio makes it one of the finest positional groupings for Baylor in recent history.

Robert Griffin’s redshirt season has lessened the immediate need at quarterback: With Griffin now having three years of eligibility remaining, recruits now see only a two-season window to play. But another Robert Griffin should help the Bears as well. Baylor coaches see the other Griffin, a junior college transfer from Coriscana Junior College, being able to contend for the starting position at right tackle from his first day in the program.


Running back: With Chris Brown graduating and DeMarco Murray entering his senior season, the Sooners need some producers at the position. Bob Stoops has never hesitated to playing top freshman players in the past if they can help. Don’t be surprised if top recruits like Brennan Clay and Roy Finch get an early chance in 2010 with the Sooners.

Receiver: Ryan Broyles is entrenched in the slot, but the Sooners are looking all over for pass catchers who can challenge existing players. Recruits Kenny Stills, Joe Powell, Julian Wilson and Sheldon McClain all should challenge this summer to battle their way into the rotation.

Defensive tackle: Injuries and NFL declarations have riddled the Sooners’ depth at the postion. Gerald McCoy will leave early for the NFL draft with JaMarkus McFarland ready to take over. Adrian Taylor was set at the other position, but his nasty ankle injury sustained in the Sun Bowl has depleted the Sooners’ depth. Redshirt sophomore Casey Walker and four incoming freshmen are all that is in place as far as depth at the critical position.

Oklahoma State

Offensive line: The Cowboys lose four senior starting offensive linemen from the Cotton Bowl team, including the left side of their offensive line in tackle Russell Okung, guard Noah Franklin and center Andrew Lewis, as well as right tackle Brady Bond. Mike Gundy needs some immediate help at the position, both from existing players and incoming ones.

Defensive tackle: Starters Swanson Miller and Derek Burton both will graduate and top backups Shane Jarka and Chris Donaldson both will be senior this season. Defensive coordinator Bill Young needs to find some defensive linemen who can challenge for playing next season.

Linebackers: Young also will have to rebuild this group after the underrated group of Andre Sexton, Donald Booker and Patrick Lavine helped sparked the Cowboys’ surprising defensive growth last season. All will be gone this season, putting pressure to add some more contributors to add to the returning mix of players including James Thomas, Tolu Moala and Justin Gent.


Defensive end: With Sergio Kindle graduating and Sam Acho and Eddie Jones both entering their senior season, the Longhorns need a talent boost here. It also just happens to be the position where top target Jackson Jeffcoat would immediately fill the rather sizable hole.

The left side of the offensive line: Tackle Adam Ulatoski, guard Charlie Tanner and center Chris Hall combined for 114 starts during their careers.The Longhorns has some strong arriving talent, but they’ll still miss the leadership and savvy that this trio provided over the years.

Quarterback: Even with Garrett Gilbert seemingly entrenched as the Longhorns’ quarterback of the future, the Longhorns added depth with the commitments of Connor Wood and Colt’s little brother Case McCoy. It will make for some interesting competition this spring and fall as the rotation sorts itself out.

Texas A&M

Defensive end: The Aggies received a huge boost when Von Miller announced he would return for his senior season, but A&M needs to prepare for his departure -- particularly after losing starting defensive end Matt Moss and Miller’s backup Matt Featherston as departing seniors from 2009.

Tight end: Starter Jamie McCoy graduated and top replacements Kenny Brown and Craig Raschke both will be seniors next season. Adding at least one player would be beneficial as the Aggie coaches hope they can find a combination blocker/receiving threat at the position like McCoy was.

Offensive tackle: The Aggies lose bookend senior starters Michael Shumard and Lee Grimes. They do have Stephen Barrera and Danny Baker in the depth chart but would like more depth to help the line develop.

Texas Tech

Defensive line: The Red Raiders’ biggest need is at defensive end where all three players in the two-deep roster -- Brandon Sharpe, Ra’Jon Henley and Daniel Howard were seniors. At defensive tackle, Richard Jones departs as a senior and Colby Whitlock will be a senior next season. New coordinator James Willis needs to find some productive players in the trenches quickly.

Linebackers: Starters Bront Bird and Brian Duncan will be back as seniors next season, but Tech loses departing starter Marlon Williams on the other side. They need some depth to help build for the future at the position.

Quarterback: Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield will wage one of the closest-watched battles for playing time in the nation during the spring and summer. But both will be seniors, meaning the Red Raiders need to prepare for their departure by grooming some young talent like Scotty Young, a recent commitment at the position.

Thirty-two invited to combine from Big 12

January, 12, 2010
The Big 12 will be well represented when the NFL holds its scouting combine in Indianapolis.

The official list has not been released, although has accounted for most of the early players. The list does not include juniors and other players who might be invited late to the festivities, which will begin Feb. 24 in Indianapolis.

I would think Baylor linebacker Joe Pawelek, Baylor safety Jordan Lake and Texas center Chris Hall all will be invited later.

And I would expect eligible juniors such as Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford and Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant to get their opportunity at the combine.

Baylor: WR David Gettis, C J.D. Walton.

Colorado: TE Riar Geer.

Iowa State: None.

Kansas: WR Kerry Meier, S Darrell Stuckey.

Kansas State: WR Brandon Banks, TE Jeron Mastrud.

Missouri: WR Danario Alexander, G Kurtis Gregory, WR Jared Perry, LB Sean Weatherspoon.

Nebraska: S Larry Asante, LB Phillip Dillard, C Jacob Hickman, DT Ndamukong Suh.

Oklahoma: RB Chris Brown, TE Brody Eldridge, TE Jermaine Gresham, CB Brian Jackson, T Trent Williams.

Oklahoma State: CB Perrish Cox, T Russell Okung, QB Zac Robinson, RB Keith Toston.

Texas: DT Lamarr Houston, DE Sergio Kindle, QB Colt McCoy, LB Roddrick Muckelroy, WR Jordan Shipley, OT Adam Ulatoski.

Texas A&M: None.

Texas Tech: G Brandon Carter, DB Jamar Wall.

First-half analysis: Alabama 24, Texas 6

January, 7, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- Here's a look at why Alabama has cruised to a commanding 24-6 halftime lead.

Turning point: The game turned on Texas’ fifth play from scrimmage when quarterback Colt McCoy went down with an injury to his right shoulder. McCoy appeared to have been pinned between center Chris Hall and defensive end Marcell Dareus when he went down. He was treated for the injury for several plays before he was taken for further evaluation in the Longhorns’ dressing room. He did not appear for the rest of the first half.

His injury forced freshman quarterback Garrett Gilbert into the game for his first action. Gilbert struggled against the tough Alabama offense, directing four straight three-and-out possessions with no offensive gains of more than 6 yards on any offensive play during that span.

Stat of the half: Texas produced 26 yards in five plays with McCoy in charge of the offense, an average of 5.2 yards per snap. After his injury, the Longhorns amassed 65 yards on 35 plays, an average of 1.9 yards per snap.

Best player of the half: Alabama defensive end Marcell Dareus has been a one-man wrecking crew for the Crimson Tide. Not only did he knock out Colt McCoy early in the first quarter, but he also provided a huge 28-yard interception return on a botched shovel pass with 3 seconds left to give Alabama a comfortable 24-6 lead at the break.

Best call: Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy took advantage of Texas blitzing on the edge early in the second quarter. Freshman running back Trent Richardson took advantage of the huge seam to run untouched through the middle of the Longhorn defense for a 48-yard touchdown run.

What Texas needs to do: Apparently without McCoy, Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis needs to open his offense up. The Longhorns aren’t going to be able to beat Alabama trying to run the ball between the tackles. They might be able to have more success with misdirection plays that might neutralize Alabama’s defensive speed. But it’s going to be tough. The Alabama defense is in a feeding frenzy after knocking McCoy out and almost knocking out Gilbert.

What Alabama needs to do: The Crimson Tide have the Longhorns on their heels -- especially if McCoy can’t come back in the second half. Constant defensive pressure on Gilbert will likely come in waves, keeping him from getting comfortable in the pocket. It’s not an easy situation for any quarterback, but particularly a freshman with as little experience as Gilbert has.

McCoy sidelined after solid hit

January, 7, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- Colt McCoy was sidelined barely four minutes into action with what appears to be a shoulder injury.

McCoy was sandwiched into center Chris Hall when he was crushed by Alabama defensive end Marcell Darius.

The play knocked McCoy out for the rest of the drive.

It was capped by an 18-yard field goal by Hunter Lawrence that gave Texas a 3-0 lead.

The Longhorns take an early lead, but may have suffered a greater loss without McCoy. It's hard to believe the Longhorns can win without their leader.


Three keys for Texas: Citi BCS National Championship

January, 7, 2010
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- Here are three keys for Texas if it hopes to pull its second upset at the Rose Bowl in four seasons and earn another Bowl Championship Series national title.

1. Producing yards on first down: The Longhorns have a better chance of achieving offensive success if they produce early in a series. Second-and-long and third-and-long will make the Crimson Tide’s defense much more difficult to crack. If Colt McCoy can make things happen on first down – particularly early in the game – it should boost the Longhorns' confidence and their chances at an unexpected victory.

2. Dominate special teams: The Longhorns had one of the nation’s most proficient special teams units all season. Alabama has struggled in kick coverages, ranking 116th nationally with an average of 25.7 yards per kick return, and have been blistered with two returns for touchdowns. With the likely return of D.J. Monroe to the kick return rotation, the Longhorns will add the No. 2 kick returner in the nation. Marquise Goodwin was strong while Monroe was suspended, and Jordan Shipley is a threat to score a touchdown every time he returns a punt. The Longhorns need to make several big plays in this phase of the game.

3. Protect Colt McCoy: The Longhorns have allowed 30 sacks this season, and nearly half came in tight victories over Oklahoma (four) and Nebraska (nine). If the Longhorns have hopes of claiming the national title, they must give McCoy enough time to pass and keep fearsome Alabama pass rushers like Marcell Dareus, Eryk Anders, Javier Arenas and Rolando McClain away from their senior quarterback. And it would be a good time for the center of Texas’ offense – guards Michael Huey and Charlie Tanner and center Chris Hall -- to keep massive defensive tackle Terrence Cody away from McCoy.

Will Cody terrorize Texas like Suh did?

January, 4, 2010
The Texas offense struggled through a miserable Big 12 championship game, when the Longhorns permitted nine sacks and were fortunate to escape with a 13-12 victory over Nebraska.

In the game, Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh waged a one-man assault against Colt McCoy, posting 12 tackles and a Big 12 championship game record 4.5 sacks against the beleaguered Texas front.

If the Longhorns struggled with the 6-foot-4, 305-pound Suh, many observers are predicting more bad moments in Thursday's Citi Bowl Championship Series title game against Alabama and mammoth 6-foot-5, 365-pound defensive tackle Terrence "Mount" Cody.

Cody isn't nearly as active or as fit as Suh. He often sits out third-down plays for more mobile defensive linemen. He's not as much of a producer as Suh, either. Cody has notched 25 tackles and no sacks this season. But he's caught the attention of Texas offensive linemen who struggled against Suh.

"He is what he is," Texas center Chris Hall said of the largest player the Longhorns will face this season.

There's actually less of him now than earlier in his career. Cody weighed 410 pounds while playing high-school football in Fort Meyers, Fla. College recruiters still tell the story of when Cody tackled current West Virginia running back Noel Devine in a high-school game, causing Devine to vomit when Cody landed on top of him.

Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis sees the opportunity for similar catastrophic-producing moments Thursday night unless the Longhorns do a better job protecting McCoy from the middle of the Alabama defense.

And it's led Davis to see at least one similarity between Suh and Cody.

"They're like two monsters fighting in those old sci-fi movies," Davis told the Austin American-Statesman. "You see 'em covered up, then the offensive lineman gets discarded, and the monster eats your back up."

It won't be a good night Thursday for Hall and his mates along Texas' offensive line unless they account for Cody on every play.

Twelve players on the spot during the bowls

December, 23, 2009
The Big 12’s bowl games will start on Monday when Texas A&M and Georgia square off in the Advocare V100 Independence Bowl.

But as we get ready for those eight games, it's clear that several key players need to step up with big games in order to help their team's winning hopes.

Here's my list of 12 players or groups who need to have big games to bolster their team's bowl hopes.
  • Texas quarterback Colt McCoy: His Heisman hopes sank after his nine-sack, three-interception performance in the Big 12 title game. But he has bigger aspirations if he can finish his career by leading his team to the national championship against Alabama in the Citi BCS National Championship Game.
  • Oklahoma tackle Trent Williams: He could become the fourth starter at center for Oklahoma this season if Brian Lepak doesn't respond to treatment before the Sooners' Brut Sun Bowl game against Stanford. Williams has become one of college football's best offensive linemen at tackle and looked good in practice earlier this season at center. He'll face a big test against massive 315-pound Stanford nose tackle Ekom Udofi if he plays at center in the bowl game.
  • Oklahoma State running back Kendall Hunter: After struggling with a nagging foot injury most of the season, Hunter has been diagnosed at "close to 100 percent" by Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy. The Cowboys had a strong running game and led the conference in rushing but still missed a true breakaway threat without Hunter in the lineup. His return will provide an infusion of speed that could be important for their hopes against Mississippi in the AT&T Cotton Bowl.
  • Texas guards Michael Huey and Charlie Tanner and center Chris Hall: After their struggles against Ndamukong Suh in the Big 12 championship game, this trio will really be under the gun against Alabama All-American tackle Terrence Cody and All-American middle linebacker Rolando McClain. They must play better than they did against Nebraska if they have any hopes of bringing the national title home to Austin.
  • Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson: After gamely trying to play against Oklahoma on a sprained ankle, Robinson says that he's healthy for Mississippi in the AT&T Cotton Bowl. Robinson's injury and a sputtering attack helped explain the Cowboys' difficulties in a 27-0 loss that ultimately cost them a shot at a BCS at-large berth. Robinson must run the offense better against a similarly strong Mississippi defensive front if the Cowboys are to pull off an upset victory.
  • Texas Tech running back Baron Batch: Batch is one of the Red Raiders' most consistent receivers and top rushing threats. He'll be critically important in the Valero Alamo Bowl as he goes up against Michigan State All-Big Ten linebacker Greg Jones. Michigan State is being universally dismissed because of their suspension-wracked roster. All of that will make Jones and the defense eager to become involved early. Batch will be tested to keep Jones and the Spartans away from starting quarterback Taylor Potts.
  • Missouri's defensive front: The grouping of defensive ends Aldon Smith and Brian Coulter, tackle Dominique Hamilton and nose tackle Jaron Baston played very well down the stretch as they allowed only 52.4 yards rushing per game during a strong 4-1 finish. But the Tigers' defensive front will be facing a huge challenge in stopping Navy's unique run-based offense in the Texas Bowl. The Midshipmen rank fourth nationally in rushing and are keyed by quarterback Ricky Dobbs, who averages 85.5 rushing yards per game and ranks second nationally with 24 rushing touchdowns. Keeping Navy in check will be a big challenge for the Tigers, particularly the defensive front.
  • Iowa State cornerback Ter'ran Benton: The suspension of Kennard Banks will thrust Benton into the starting lineup for the Cyclones in the Insight Bowl against Minnesota. Benton is recovering after breaking his left leg Oct. 24 against Nebraska and missing the final four games of the season. Top Minnesota receiver Eric Decker is injured and will miss the bowl game, but Troy Stoudermire and Brandon Green will no doubt test Banks early and often in the Dec. 31 game.
  • Iowa State running back Alexander Robinson: When Robinson is an effective ball-carrying threat, the Cyclones have a much better chance at winning. That's why it will be important to get him going early against a Minnesota defense that tends to wear down if it plays too much. Robinson's running will be an important part in trying to do just that.
  • Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones: When he was on, Jones was one of the most effective passers in the Big 12, torching Tulsa for six touchdown passes, Texas A&M for five touchdown passes and Kansas State for four. But he also struggled with five interceptions against Nebraska. He'll need a big game against a similarly streaky Stanford team that ranked 95th in pass efficiency defense, 105th in pass defense and allowed 15 touchdowns in its last five games.
  • Texas A&M safety Jordan Pugh: He'll be important in coordinating work in a secondary that features two sophomores and a freshman in the starting lineup. After A&M's struggles in a 49-39 loss to Texas in the regular-season finale, the group will be facing a similarly high-powered offensive threat from Georgia. Joe Cox and A.J. Green no doubt saw the Aggies' struggles against Texas and will be intent on duplicating them in the Independence Bowl. It will be important for Pugh to keep his young teammates focused -- particularly if they struggle early.
  • Nebraska quarterback Zac Lee: His struggles running the Nebraska offense were apparent in the Cornhuskers' loss to Texas where they produced only five first downs and amassed only 105 yards in the game. The offense must perk up against Arizona in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl and Lee will be most under the gun to make it happen. He showed flashes of a passing touch earlier in the season, but the Cornhuskers relied on a run-heavy game down the stretch to win the North Division. A couple of well-timed passes from Lee early in the game against the Wildcats could open up the Nebraska offense for the rest of the game.

Longhorns intrigued by unusual underdog role against Alabama

December, 21, 2009
AUSTIN, Texas -- The struggles of Texas' offensive line against Nebraska's dominant front is one of the biggest reasons why the Longhorns are an early underdog to the Crimson Tide.

The Longhorns offensive front struggled to keep Ndamukong Suh out of their backfield as the Cornhuskers racked up nine sacks, including 4.5 by the Cornhuskers' All-American defensive tackle.

Those problems likely don't bode well against Alabama, whose defensive front is keyed by massive 6-foot-5, 354-pound defensive tackle Terrence Cody.

"We're happy to be in this game," Texas senior tackle Adam Ulatoski said. "It's really exciting to be there. That's what we're focusing on."

Texas coach Mack Brown has thrown open competition at all positions heading into bowl practice, which he said could lead to some positional turnover for the bowl game. That was the main reason that he declined to release a depth chart, saying one would be ready after the remainder of the Longhorns' bowl practices in Austin.

"We didn't play as well on defense as we would have liked against Texas A&M and we didn't play as well offensively against Nebraska," Brown said. "We didn't finish as strongly as we would have liked. We're being hard on the guys and having tough physical drills. We're changing the depth chart daily and we'll present it when we got out there."

Despite the line's struggles against Nebraska, Longhorns players have put those struggles behind hem.

"We've moved on and we're working on this game," Ulatoski said. "We're worried about ourselves so we continue to get better. But we don't have to have a lot of motivation when you are playing for a national championship. Our goal is to go out there and play our best and win the game."

Texas center Chris Hall said he embraces the role of being an underdog against the No. 1 Crimson Tide.

"That's OK," Hall said. "That's not a problem. And if we were favored, it wouldn't be a problem either. It's two great football teams for sure. We'll have our hands full and it will be a fun one to play in."

But Texas defensive end Sergio Kindle said that placing any labels on his team would be overstated before the game began.

"It really doesn't matter," Kindle said. "Underdog, overdog, we just come to play."

Big 12 lunch links: Freezing Cowboys prep for bowl

December, 18, 2009
Good afternoon.

Here are some late lunchtime links to catapult us into a busy weekend.

18 Big 12 players selected on AP All-America's three teams

December, 15, 2009
The Big 12 was well represented with 18 players who were honored by the Associated Press on its three All-America teams for the 2009 season.

The conference had seven first-team selections, five second-team selections and six third-team selections.

Here's a look at the AP's Big 12 honorees.

First team: QB Colt McCoy, Texas; T Russell Okung, Oklahoma State; T Trent Williams, Oklahoma; C J.D. Walton, Baylor; WR Jordan Shipley, Texas; DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska; S Earl Thomas, Texas.

Second team: WR Danario Alexander, Missouri; DE Von Miller, Texas A&M; DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma; LB Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri; CB Perrish Cox, Oklahoma State.

Third team: G Brandon Carter, Texas Tech; C Chris Hall, Texas; K Hunter Lawrence, Texas; DE Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma; DE Brandon Sharpe, Texas Tech; LB Sergio Kindle, Texas.

Here's a link to the entire All-America team picked by AP pollsters.

Nebraska's Suh plays game of his life

December, 6, 2009
ARLINGTON, Texas – Colt McCoy could joke after the game about how much he saw of Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

“Yeah, we’re best friends,” McCoy said.

Suh had one of the great games in Big 12 championship game history, producing a career-best 4.5 sacks among his team-high 12 tackles -- seven of which were for a loss.

But it wasn’t enough as the Longhorns escaped with a wild 13-12 victory that cost the Cornhuskers their first chance to win a Big 12 title since 1999.
[+] EnlargeNdamukong Suh & Colt McCoy
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesNebraska's Ndumakong Suh took Texas quarterback Colt McCoy down for 4.5 sacks.

The massive 300-pound senior defensive tackle was a consistent force throughout the game. He slung McCoy around like a rag doll and dominated the interior of the Texas offensive line from the opening snap.

“He’s the staple of our defense,” Nebraska safety Matt O’Hanlon said. “He makes plays that not a lot of other guys could. So for us to have him in the trenches, you know, he just plays his butt off. He makes a lot of plays that no one else makes. So he definitely kept our defense in it.”

If a defensive player ever could have made a statement to win a Heisman Trophy, Suh’s game Saturday night looked like one. Texas guards Michael Huey and Charlie Tanner and center Chris Hall found it impossible keeping him out of the backfield all night long.

“I think he’s the best defensive player at his position in the country,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. “If that means the Heisman Trophy, so be it.”

The finish left Suh subdued and disappointed.

“My initial emotion is that it was very unfortunate how things played out,” Suh said. “But I mean, this team played very, very hard and that’s what we all really do. Like our coach said, the chips fall where they may. Just go out and play as hard as you can.

“They’re going to handle the score, they’re going to do everything to put us in the right position as they did. And all we have to do is go out and play.”

Unfortunately for the Cornhuskers, one play remained at the end of the game. After the controversy on the next-to-last play, Suh was convinced the Cornhuskers had won and that the clock had expired.

“As far as I’m concerned, I thought the game was over, but obviously, it wasn’t,” Suh said.

Longhorn players and coaches were raving about Suh’s performance after the game.

“He’s the best defensive player we’ve played all year,” Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis said. “He and (Nebraska defensive tackle Jared) Crick are as good a pair as we’ve faced all year. They are so tough to handle because they really get after you.”

Suh came back for his senior season for an opportunity to play in conference championship games and improve his draft stock.

He obviously did both this season, finishing with 82 total tackles and 12 sacks. That total is the third most in Nebraska history and the most since linebacker Trev Alberts notched 15 in 1993.

It’s hard to believe many NFL teams could find a better player on the film than him tonight.

Six in Big 12 named AFCA All-Americans

December, 3, 2009
Six Big 12 players were selected Thursday as members of the American Football Coaches Association's All-America team.

The only other conference that had more players picked was the SEC, with seven. The Pac-10 had three players chosen and no other conference had more than two selections.

Three players were selected from Texas and Alabama to head the team.

The Big 12 representatives are Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, Texas center Chris Hall, Texas safety Earl Thomas, Oklahoma tackle Trent Williams, Oklahoma State tackle Russell Okung and Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

The strong showing enables the Big 12 to maintain its leading position in All-America selections on the AFCA team over the years. A total of 250 Big 12 players have been selected, followed by the Big Ten at 241 and the SEC at 231.

Williams' selection on the team enables Oklahoma to keep its lead. The Sooners have been represented 60 times by 52 players on the AFCA team. They are followed by Ohio State (56 times/42 players), Notre Dame (56 times/49 players), Michigan (54 times/48 players), Southern California (54 times/47 players), Nebraska (49 times/44 players) and Texas (45 times/39 players).

Here's a link to the entire team on AFCA's Web site.