Big 12: Chris Williams
Linebacker Chris Williams was named the Texas Class 5A Defensive Player of the Year while at Abilene High School, making him he most heralded defensive recruit for coach Bo Pelini in his tenure at Nebraska.
The 6-foot, 220-pound linebacker sat out this season for the Cornhuskers as a redshirt. He had struggled in recovery from a knee injury that was sustained in the 10th game of his senior season.
The injury kept him from being included on the Cornhuskers' 105-man roster this fall as he rehabilitated during his redshirt season.
The Huskers beat out Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and LSU when they first recruited Williams.
If he's healthy, he would be an attractive recruit for all of those Big 12 programs and many others across the country.
It's a big loss for the Cornhuskers' program that will need some depth at linebacker with the loss of senior weakside starting linebacker Phillip Dillard and senior backup middle linebacker Colton Koehler after the Holiday Bowl.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
If it's Friday, it must mean it's time to crack open the mailbag.
Here are some of the better questions I received this past week.
Ryan Lund of Minneapolis, Minn., writes: Hi Tim. I love your blog, especially as a Cyclone and Big 12 fan who lives in Big Ten country. You wrote recently that Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe is considering the creation of a Big 12 network. Do you see this eventually becoming a reality? And if so, when?
Tim Griffin: I would imagine that discussions are taking place in a broad sense between the conference and some of its partners about a potential television network. But before these plans would go forward, a determination has to be made on which way the conference's schools really want to go.
Mainly, would those Big 12 schools be willing to start their own television network -- with all the inherent chances for riches but with a greater gamble. Or would they prefer to take the model of the Southeastern Conference and employ a model where a television partner offered extensively wider distribution to the conference in exchange for them not creating their network. In essence, let somebody else do the work for them.
Both models seem to have worked.
I think the Big 12 is also hamstrung when compared to the Big Ten in a couple of ways. The Big 12 doesn't have as many attractive big-city markets or populous states as the Big Ten, lessening its chances for more money through wider distribution in their immediate areas.
More importantly, the Big Ten has always been more conducive to sharing revenues. It makes a smaller school like Northwestern feel like an equal partner to Ohio State or Michigan.
In the Big 12, the teams that have the most nationally televised games or make the most tournament trips receive more money.
That's been an ingrained idea that has been in place throughout the history of the conference and would be difficult to change, despite the wailing of some of the little brothers at the table clamoring for a bigger piece of the conference's pie.
I think for the idea of a conference television network to fly, it would be practical for all partners to be on an equal footing to help get it off the ground. And frankly, I don't know if the strongest schools in the Big 12 would be willing to share that much.
James from Swede Home, Neb., writes: Tim, remember you heard it here first. Evidence points to 2010 being the Year of the Cornhuskers. Exhibit A: A cupcake non-conference schedule with home games against Western Kentucky, South Dakota State, Idaho and Washington. Exhibit B: A friendly conference schedule favors the Cornhuskers with games against more difficult foes like Texas, Missouri, Kansas and Colorado at home. On the road, they will meet Kansas State, Iowa State, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. This is the kind of schedule that would win championships.
Tim Griffin: And that's besides the fact that Zac Lee, Roy Helu Jr., Quentin Castille, Mike McNeill, Mike Smith, Keith Williams, Pierre Allen, Blake Lawrence, Anthony West and Prince Amukamara all should return for their senior seasons, as well. Add that younger players like Cody Green, Rex Burkhead and Chris Williams will have another year of experience. I expect the Cornhuskers to be pretty good in 2009 and even better in 2010.
James Coulter from Corpus Christi, Texas, writes: Tim, I completely agree with you on your assessment of the rushing statistic in college football and how it compares to how the stat is kept in the pros.
Do you think, however, that college football keeps its rushing game because of the larger role that quarterbacks play in the running game versus how much quarterbacks run in the NFL?
Tim Griffin: James, I got a lot of good feedback on that post. I just think that it diminishes the ability of running quarterbacks who are forced to include their sacks with their rushing total.
Actually, I think the NCAA does their statistics as a throwback to the older days when teams were more run-heavy than they are today. Sacks were fewer in those earlier days because teams didn't pass the ball as often.
But today, a quarterback is susceptible to a sack on many more passing attempts than in earlier eras of football. Those numbers eventually add up to diminish their rushing totals.
I just believe we would have a clearer, more consistent view of the rushing productivity of an offense or a defense -- those sack yards shouldn't be subtracted from the rushing totals. Instead, they should be kept in a separate category like in the NFL.
And yes, it does grieve me to say they do something better in the NFL than college football.
Dan Swanson writes: The story you wrote about Oklahoma giving $3 million back to the school was nice, but hardly merited the front-page coverage it received on your college-football link.
Why is it so special that Oklahoma's athletic department contributed $3 million back to the school?
That sum is pocket change from an athletic department of this size, particularly when you consider individual donors sometimes give $50 million to $100 million.
Tim Griffin: Dan, I respectfully disagree with your comments. I thought the Oklahoma gift to the general academic department at the school was significant for a couple of reasons.
First, it's one of the largest gifts that an athletic department has made back to its school this year. Secondly, the Sooners' athletic department made this gift without the benefit of new megabuck television deals like those garnered by some of the schools in the Southeastern Conference and Big Ten.
But the main reason I think the story was newsworthy was what Oklahoma president David Boren said when the gift was announced. The gifts, he said, helped the school avoid tuition increases or faculty layoffs.
In these challenging economic times, to hold the line on those costs is commendable. And if Boren credited the athletic department for helping to bring that about, it was noteworthy.
Jack Branch from Oklahoma City writes: Hey, Tim. You've got the ball on your own 20-yard line with 2 minutes left in a game needing a touchdown to win.
Which Big 12 quarterback do you want running your offense?
Tim Griffin: Jack, great question. Maybe it's because I just watched the tape of the 2009 Fiesta Bowl a couple of nights ago, but I would go with Texas' Colt McCoy. He might not have the deep arm of other quarterbacks in the league, but he has a knack for improvising big plays when he needs them.
Here's a statistic that best shows McCoy's clutch value, in my opinion. In games that he has started and finished that have been decided by seven points or less, Texas is 8-2.
Andrew Gaskill of Aledo, Texas, writes: Tim, I read your answer to a question about Chris Brown where you stated that you believe the combination of Brown and DeMarco Murray are the best combination in the Big 12. Wouldn't Oklahoma State's combination of Kendall Hunter and Keith Toston, which led the conference in rushing last season, be your top combination?
Tim Griffin: Andrew, I think the Oklahoma group is just a shade better because both of the backs rushed for 1,000 yards last season. Hunter led the conference in rushing last season, but the combination of Oklahoma's two primary backs makes them collectively just a little bit better, in my opinion.
And I also think an argument could be made that Nebraska's Helu and Castille are the second-best pair of running backs along with the Oklahoma State duo you mentioned.
Joe Costas from Memphis, Tenn., writes: As a Southeastern Conference fan, I'm enjoying your mythical matchups with the Big 12. But one question. What's with posting the midpoint between the two locations?
Tim Griffin: Joe, I just thought that might be a neat little trinket that would show the distances between the two teams. And the fact that it's often a small town only adds to its appeal, in my opinion.
The matchups will continue for the next couple of weeks. I'm taking a critical look at both teams before I make my pick, which is why the Big 12 hasn't fared so well, so far.
But you never know -- things could change in the mythical matchups. Keep reading them.
Thanks again for all of the great questions this week. Keep them coming and enjoy your weekend.
And let's agree to meet here again next week, OK?
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
There's nothing like compiling these links to the accompaniment of some early afternoon major-league baseball games.
Wednesdays are starting to become one of my favorite days of the work week because of that.
Here are some of the stories people are talking about this afternoon from around the Big 12.
- Colorado fans are bitterly complaining about a new parking plan around Folsom Field which is removing some from favored tailgating spots of many seasons, the Boulder Daily Camera's Kyle Ringo reports.
- Des Moines Register columnist Sean Keeler predicts Iowa State will finish 5-7 this season with the Cyclones playing for a potential bowl appearance in their season finale.
- The Columbia Daily Tribune's Dave Matter examines the Hall of Fame prospects of several Missouri football legends, among other delectable tidbits, in his entertaining "Case of the Mondays on Tuesday" sports blog.
- The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that former Kansas State football player Leon Patton was arrested earlier this week in connection with a battery in Manhattan.
- The blog Burnt Orange Nation predicts that tight end-fullback Barrett Matthews could wind up as one of the most important incoming recruits for Texas because of his versatility.
- Incoming Nebraska linebacker Chris Williams' rehab from knee surgery is coming along well. His high school coach told the Omaha World-Herald's Rich Kaipust that he saw him two-stepping at a school dance recently.
- Pete Fiutak of College Football News previews the 2009 Kansas State season.
- The Oklahoman's Jake Trotter reports that Oklahoma picked up two commitments from Texas players in the recruiting class of 2010. Guard Adam Shead of Cedar Hill picked the Sooners over Texas Tech and wide receiver Sheldon McClain of Cibolo chose the Sooners over Utah, SMU and Texas A&M.
- The Austin American-Statesman's Suzanne Halliburton gets to the bottom of why former Texas player Austin Sendlein's 2004 Rose Bowl ring ended up on eBay.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Breakdown: 19 high school, two junior college.
Positions: 4 OL, 4 DB, 3 RB, 3 DL, 2 WR, 2 LB, 1 QB, 1 TE, 1 ATH.
Where they came from: Texas 8, California 6, Nebraska 2, Colorado 1, Florida 1, Maryland 1, Missouri 1, North Dakota 1.
The stud: QB Cody Green, Dayton, Texas. The Cornhuskers have an uncertain situation at quarterback and it wouldn't be out of the question for Green to challenge for the starting position immediately. He needs to work on his throwing motion and footwork, but he appears to have the physicality and the presence to play the position. Don't be surprised if he's playing regularly by the end of his freshman season.
Recruiting-class sleeper: DT Cole Pensick, Lincoln (Northeast). Nebraska coaches like his squat 6-foot-2, 260-pound build. That means he will be playing in the trenches -- center or nose tackle. He unique for his position and could develop into a player by the time he leaves college. That speed has already caught the attention of Nebraska coaches.
The one who got away: DE Kevin Young, Olathe, Kan. (North) -- Young is a long, lean pass rusher who could have helped Nebraska's defensive line. He originally committed to Kansas before switching to Nebraska. He didn't make many Cornhuskers' fans happy when he committed back to the Jayhawks before national signing day.
Needs addressed: Running back, quarterback, defensive back.
Still lacking: Wide receiver.
Scouts Inc. grade: C (seventh in the Big 12, second in North Division).
My take: The Cornhuskers attracted a workmanlike class that filled many of their needs. Of particular note are key playmakers they picked up from Texas like Green, running back Rex Burkhead and linebacker Chris Williams. There weren't many blue-chippers outside of those players in the group, but Bo Pelini likes his class. It will be interesting to see how they develop in his system.