Big 12: Darren McFadden

Big 12 has had four Heisman winners

December, 11, 2009
12/11/09
11:48
AM ET
Colt McCoy and Ndamukong Suh are en route to New York City this morning. Both will be part of the Heisman Trophy activities Saturday night.

The Big 12 has featured four winners during its brief history: Ricky Williams of Texas (1998), Eric Crouch of Nebraska (2001), Jason White of Oklahoma (2003) and Sam Bradford of Oklahoma (2008).

The conference also has been involved in two of the three one-two finishes by a conference during that period.

Williams and Kansas State's Michael Bishop in 1998 and Bradford and McCoy account for two of the three instances that a specific conference had the first- and second-place finishers. The only other time it happened during that period was Tim Tebow of Florida and Darren McFadden of Arkansas in 2007.

Here's a look at how Big 12 players have placed since the conference was formed.

1996: Winner, Florida QB Danny Wuerffel; Iowa State RB Troy Davis, second; Texas Tech RB Byron Hanspard, sixth.

1997: Winner, Michigan DB/WR/KR Charles Woodson; Texas RB Ricky Williams, fifth.

1998: Winner, Texas RB Ricky Williams; Kansas State QB Michael Bishop, second.

1999: Winner, Wisconsin RB Ron Dayne; no Big 12 players among top 10 finishers.

2000: Winner, Florida State QB Chris Weinke; Oklahoma QB Josh Heupel, second.

2001: Winner, Nebraska QB Eric Crouch; Oklahoma S Roy Williams, seventh.

2002: Winner, USC QB Carson Palmer; Colorado RB Chris Brown, eighth; Texas Tech QB Kliff Kingsbury, ninth; Oklahoma RB Quentin Griffin, 10th.

2003: Winner, Oklahoma QB Jason White; Kansas State RB Darren Sproles, fifth; Texas Tech QB B.J. Symons, 10th.

2004: Winner, USC QB Matt Leinart; Oklahoma RB Adrian Peterson, second; Oklahoma QB Jason White, third; Texas RB Cedric Benson, sixth.

2005: Winner, USC RB Reggie Bush; Texas QB Vince Young, second.

2006: Winner, Ohio State QB Troy Smith; no Big 12 players among top 10 finishers.

2007: Winner, Florida QB Tim Tebow; Missouri QB Chase Daniel, fourth.

2008: Winner, Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford; Texas QB Colt McCoy, second; Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell, fourth; Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree, fifth.

Who knows? Maybe McCoy or Suh will become the fifth Big 12 Heisman winner.

Tim's mailbag: 2008 Border War better than 2007

June, 19, 2009
6/19/09
2:49
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

If it's Friday afternoon, it must be time for opening my mailbag.

We received some interesting questions and comments this week. Here are some of the best.

Bob Jackson from Sioux Falls, S.D., writes: Tim, I'm really enjoying your countdown on the top 25 moments in Big 12 history. But one question. Why did you pick the Missouri-Kansas game last year over the one in 2007 that had so much hype involved with it? I'm curious how you determined one from another.

Tim Griffin: Bob, hopefully all of my readers are enjoying the countdown of moments as much as I enjoyed developing the list.

My rationale for picking specific moments over others deals with the "wow factor" of the game. I wanted my top events to be moments that made people gasp with excitement when they were watching them live. It has no correlation to the importance of the game, although big plays in huge games tend to make those more memorable than others.

But I picked the 2008 game over the 2007 one because of those "wow" moments. The 2007 game had much more hype than any Missouri-Kansas game in history, but had trouble living up to that billing. Missouri jumped ahead early and really had to scramble only at the end of the game when a late sack and safety by Lorenzo Williams wrapped up the game.

The game last season had lessened stakes than that one. But it was hard to tell it by watching the game. There were four lead changes in the fourth quarter, including the dramatic game-winning score from Todd Reesing to Kerry Meier. The fact that both players were injured earlier in the season and battled back to play in the game heightened its drama, in my opinion. And the fact that Missouri had a chance to tie the game on the final play before a blocked kick only added to the excitement.

Both games were good, but the 2008 game was slightly more memorable to me than the one in 2007 because of those memorable plays. And that's why I ranked them in that order.


Bill Barkley from Waco, Texas, writes: Tim, Just a comment about Art Briles and Baylor. I think Briles is not only one of the best coaches in the Big 12 but he is one of the best coaches in the nation. NOBODY [Mike Singletary included] could be doing as good a job as he has done at Baylor. Robert Griffin is here as you know because of Briles. Put Mack Brown in Waco without Will Muschamp and Major Applewhite and see how many games he wins. Put Art Briles in Austin or College Station and we could be talking a top-5 team in the nation every year. This guy has it as a coach.

Tim Griffin: Bill, I agree with you on Briles' coaching acumen. Look at the job he did dominating Texas high school football before even coming to college. But one concern I might have if I was a Baylor backer and the Bears play as well as some of those rosy preseason predictions. Then, I'm wondering if other more attractive schools might come looking at him as a coach.

Obviously, making a bowl game is his most immediate goal. But if that happens and a football power school wants to hire him, it will then be interesting to see if Briles stays in Waco.


David Clouse from Pacola, Okla., writes: What are you expecting this season out of Oklahoma running back Chris Brown? He could be the most valuable RB in the conference, yet DeMarco Murray receives most of the attention. Brown will be a huge key for OU on third downs this year.

Tim Griffin: Actually, I think that Brown will also be effective on first, second and fourth  downs, too.

I think that together, Brown and Murray are the best combination in the Big 12 (Sorry, Nebraska fans). And working together only heightens their value. Both don't face the constant pounding that would be in place if they were both every-down backs. It's not to say that either couldn't fill that role, but just that they are each more effective with the other as a part of the team.

For example, I still think that Murray's presence in the BCS title game might have helped lead to a different result for the Sooners. It would have been interesting to see his explosive running and Brown's bullish between-the-tackles thrusts against Florida.

If both stay healthy, it wouldn't surprise me to again see Brown and Murray both rush for more than 1,000 yards. Neither will likely be in the mix for All-American honors, but their abilities together help make the Sooners one of the nation's top teams.


Ted Padberg of Independence, Mo., writes: I have news for you, Tim. Blaine Gabbert may just supplant Chase Daniel in the Mizzou record books and in the hearts of Tiger fans. He has that much potential.

Tim Griffin: Ted, I'm not arguing with you. Gabbert is coming into the Missouri lineup as likely the most hyped recruit in Gary Pinkel's tenure. He has better size and likely a better arm than Daniel did. He won't have the surrounding weapons - at least this season - so it will be interesting to see how patient Missouri fans will be after the Tigers' back-to-back championship game appearances in the last two seasons.

So there are huge expectations that he will be facing. He might someday do more than Daniel, but he arrives having to replace the most statistically successful quarterback in school history. And no matter how you consider it, those are some huge shoes to fill.


Matt from Lincoln, Neb., writes: Great blog Tim! I was just wondering how long you think it will take Bo Pelini to get Nebraska in a BCS game or national championship game. Will it be within four seasons?

Tim Griffin: Obviously, the quick turnarounds and early success that coaches like Bob Stoops, Pete Carroll and Jim Tressel have enjoyed have proven that tradition-rich programs can turn around quickly. And Pelini is in exactly that kind of position.

But in order to get into that BCS discussion, he's going to have to significantly improve the Cornhuskers' recruiting. He needs to start attracting a bunch of athletic difference makers that will be needed to enable the Cornhuskers to compete with Texas and Oklahoma for the Big 12 title. They'll need to be in that ballpark to get into the BCS mix.

Can that happen in four seasons? No doubt. But Pelini will have to build on his first season of success and ratchet up the Cornhuskers' program another couple of rungs to get them on that level.

And there still is a lot of work remaining to get there.


Joe Bonds of Dallas writes: Tim, I will agree that Texas' non-conference schedule is extremely weak this year, but could someone please point out that it was not intentionally scheduled this way. Utah backed out, Arkansas backed out and UT tried to negotiate a game with Wisconsin this year. Texas does have some big-name programs on the schedule in the future. Why does no one point that out?

Tim Griffin: Joe, you are exactly right. But the BCS computers or pollsters aren't going to factor in that the Longhorns almost played Utah or that Arkansas didn't want to play them or that Wisconsin couldn't have been arranged.

We can point out who the Longhorns almost played, but it still won't take away the fact that their non-conference schedule includes games against Louisiana-Monroe, UCF, UTEP and Wyoming. Those will be the four games that Texas will be judged against.

And I still think that lack of competition, especially compared to some of the non-conference games that other potential national contenders are playing, could come back to haunt the Longhorns.

The road to a national championship is paved with good intentions. But that weak non-conference schedule remains something that Mack Brown and the Longhorns can't diminis
h. Because it's there.


Kenneth Smith of Houston writes: How will Brandon Banks will play this year? Considering teams know who he is now, will that change how he produces for Kansas State. Also how high will he go into the draft?

Tim Griffin: I've gone on record as thinking that Brandon Banks might be the most underrated player in the Big 12. And even though teams know about him a little more this season, they still have to stop him. And that's more easily said than done.

I've heard rumblings that Banks will have a new role with Del Miller as the offensive coordinator. It wouldn't surprise me to see him used in a modified role of a "Wildcat" where he would take direct snaps from center and perhaps and run and throw the ball a little like Darren McFadden originally did for Arkansas.

If he does that and is successful, it will only boost his national stature.

Banks is one of the fastest players in the country with reputed 4.28 speed in the 40-yard dash. But his professional chances are hampered by his size at 5-foot-7 and 150 pounds. Because of that size, I think it's a long shot he'll be drafted until he really tears things up this fall.

Thanks for all of the good questions. We'll check in again next week.  

Tim's mailbag: Has A&M's talent really diminished that much?

January, 23, 2009
1/23/09
5:13
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

I received a bunch of good letters this week, telling me that Big 12 fans are observant about their football even when the season is over. Here are some of the more notable ones.

Ryan from Austin writes: Tim, Did I read that right? Only one, repeat one Texas A&M player made Dave Campbell's Texas Football's All-Texas list for 2008? Not a knock on Justin Brantly, but has A&M's program really fallen that far, or is it a reflection of the massive amount of talent in the state?

I would also like to point out how many Texas Tech players made the list, and it was especially exciting to see Texas Tech running back Baron Batch on the first team. I think he will (if Leach gives him the touches) take a huge load off of a new QB next season. If Batch touches the ball 20-25 times a game, I could see Tech having 9 or 10 wins. Think Westbrook in Red and Black.

Tim Griffin: Ryan, it does speak to how far the talent level has dropped at Texas A&M when you saw no players other than Brantly on the Dave Campbell team. I do think that coach Mike Sherman got some production from players like Jerrod Johnson, Ryan Tannehill and Jeff Fuller. The line struggled and there wasn't a single player who emerged as a top defensive player, other than maybe Michael Bennett. Considering A&M's 4-8 record, it wasn't a surprise the All-Texas team wasn't stocked with many Aggies.

Batch was a big producer for Texas Tech after missing last season with an injury. But he did have Shannon Woods who spelled him in a tailback-by-committee rotation. It will be interesting to see what Batch does as a truly featured back next season. Is he durable enough to thrive in that role? We'll see.


Chuck from Omaha writes: Could you please share any knowledge as to why Iowa State is taking so long to hire a defensive coordinator? Is Coach Paul Rhoads filling that role and I missed it, or does no one want the job? No one in the Ames area is reporting anything. Thanks.

Tim Griffin: As of the time I write this, Iowa State hasn't hired a defensive coordinator yet. I don't know why it's taking so long. Maybe it's because somebody has given Rhoads a qualified answer and might be waiting on another job. Maybe it's because Rhoads is putting more attention on building relationship with meeting with his new players and recruiting. Maybe he has a line on somebody who is still coaching in the NFL and will make an announcement after the Super Bowl.

But it is curious that it's taken so long to fill this position. I'll be interested to see who he chooses and his explanation for why it took so long to fill the position.


Eric from Denver writes: I don't think Colorado's recruiting class this year will have much - if any - effect on if they win 10 games in 2009. They may land one or two junior-college players who can help but the majority of these kids will be freshman and won't be counted on to contribute immediately. The only exception to that is defensive end Nick Kasa, but as Darrell Scott showed us, counting on a true freshman is a risky proposition.

Tim Griffin: You are right, but a truly special freshman player -- like Scott was supposed to be and Kasa apparently is as well -- can lift the play of an entire team because of his athleticism. And Colorado desperately needs that kind of boost if they are going to come close to fulfilling Dan Hawkins' 10-2 prediction for next season.


Kiko Thomas from Los Angeles writes: Ever since Ricky Williams and even before him, Texas has not had a prolific runner. Save for maybe Jamaal Charles. I wonder of your opinion on Chris Whaley who some compare to Darren McFadden from Arkansas. I see he has had many 400 yard-rushing games. No ways to tell how good he will be in college, but the remaining running backs that Texas has now are O.K. at best. Your thoughts on if he could get some time or really make an impact.

Tim Griffin: Kiko, first of all Texas has had some backs like Earl Campbell, Chris Gilbert and Hodges Mitchell who were pretty productive when they had their chances. I think that Campbell even won a Heisman.

But you are right about the needs for a running back at Texas. It was noticeable all season considering that Colt McCoy was the Longhorns' top rushing threat in 2008.

They certainly need more balance in the future. It's tough to project high-school backs into college players. But I would expect Whaley to receive every opportunity to emerge as a featured back once he arrives at Texas. I don't know if it will happen right away. But I expect he'll have that opportunity during his college career.


Korey from Midland, Texas, writes: Tim, Oklahoma plays Sept. 5 and the Big 12 Championship will be held in the billion-dollar new Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. How long until the OU-Texas game gets moved to the new stadium?

Tim Griffin: I think that as long as DeLoss Dodds and Joe Castiglione are calling the shots at Texas and Oklahoma, there's a good chance that the game remains at the Cotton Bowl. I think both realize how special the game currently is in its current location. Obviously, Dallas owner Jerry Jones can offer them more seats in his stadium. And it certainly will be a palace, from everything I'm hearing. But by keeping the number of seats at their current levels, both schools can drive interest in priority seating because there is more demand than tickets.

Maybe, some day the game gets moved. But to be honest with you, I think a more likely scenario might be that the game would be moved to campus locations in the future. Alabama-Auburn played at Legion Field forever before moving to campus sites for good in 1998. I could see the same thing happening to Texas-Oklahoma one day -- but likely after Dodds and Castiglione are gone.


Chris Watkins from Lawrence, Kan., writes: Tim, I know ESPN selects a team each spring to broadcast their spring game. Two years ago it was Oklahoma, this past spring it was Florida. Is there enough buzz around the ESPN networks or the nation about Bill Snyder's comeback that they would consider broadcasting the Kansas State spring game? If it's still in the brainstorming process, it might be something you might want to suggest for the spring of 2009. I think it would be a fabulous idea, and if they did, I would bet a large crowd would turn out.

Tim Griffin: Bad news, Chris. Apparently the network has chosen to go to Georgia. The information is related in this story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other Georgia papers this morning.

I agree that the trip to Manhattan would have been interesting. But I also think that Kansas State's 5-7 record wouldn't qualify them with some powers that might be a little closer to challenging for a national title. I think that was a major determiner in who got the ex
posure for their spring game.


Adam from Broken Arrow, Okla., writes: I enjoyed your list of 2008 moments and realize this might be a little late now. But how could you forget Artrell Woods of Oklahoma State making his first reception in a game against Iowa State after a spinal injury that nearly caused paralysis and sidelined him for more than a year. Boone Pickens Stadium gave him a standing ovation afterwards. It was a big moment for Oklahoma State football.

Tim Griffin: Adam, forgive my oversight on leaving Woods out. I saw an ESPN story on it and it absolutely brought chills to me when I saw how hard he worked to get back from injury and back into the lineup. I should have mentioned it.


Derek from Salina, Kan., writes: I enjoy reading your Big 12 coverage. I usually agree with or at least understand the things you post. Then I came across your prediction that Nebraska will win the North in '09, and more importantly that you don't think Kansas will win in Lubbock. Are you serious, and if so, why?

Tim Griffin: Derek, again I choose to respectfully disagree with your assessment of the Jayhawks. I think if Nebraska can find a serviceable quarterback from one of their potential starters, the Cornhuskers should be in good shape. Quentin Castille and Roy Helu Jr. give them a nice running attack. They'll be running behind a veteran offensive front. And the return of Ndamukong Suh might be the biggest factor in the reason why I think the Cornhuskers' defense should be stout.

And the reason I think Texas Tech will beat Kansas can be found in past history. I know Michael Crabtree and Graham Harrell won't be back next year. But Texas Tech has beaten Kansas 10 out of 11 times in the previous games of the series. The Red Raiders did hang 63 points on Kansas in Lawrence in 2008, didn't they? And Mike Leach's offense has averaged 40 points a game in the last five contests against the Jayhawks.

I think the Jayhawks will struggle in Lubbock, although I think that will be the crossover game they should have the best chance to win. I think Oklahoma will beat Kansas in Lawrence and Texas will be the Jayhawks in Austin.

Again, thanks for all of the great questions this week and keep them coming. I'll check back with more from my mailbag next week.

'The Joker' runs wild in Nebraska

October, 21, 2008
10/21/08
5:40
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

To most observers, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini appears to be engrossed in the play of his defense with little interest in his offense.

That might be true to a degree because of the presence of Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, one of the fine young minds in his profession. But Pelini still chimes in with some prescient comments when asked.

Such was the case when the Cornhuskers debuted their "Joker" formation in their game against Iowa State last week. The play features a direct snap to I-back Marlon Lucky who rushed for 10 yards on two plays when the formation was unveiled against the Cyclones.

The formation is similar to the "Wild Hog" formation that Arkansas employed with Darren McFadden while Pelini was at LSU last season.

Pelini provided some input to Nebraska offensive coaches before the play was called.

"You draw from his experience as a defensive coach," Nebraska running backs coach Tim Beck told the Lincoln Journal-Star. "Anytime you come up with some ideas and you got a mind like Bo, you kind of go, 'Hey, Bo, what do you think of this? How would you stop this? Do you think this would be something good?'

"And he may even tweak it. 'Hey, why don't you send this guy in motion or do this?' And we just build off of it from there. It's always good to get a defensive perspective on it."

Missouri using View Masters for Daniel's Heisman gimmick

September, 8, 2008
9/08/08
7:35
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Missouri soon will begin its promotional blitz for Chase Daniel's Heisman bid. Several newspapers have detailed how the school plans to send out 2,500 View-Masters to voters and other media members. Cost of the promotion will be about $25,000.

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said Daniel's best selling tool will be continued on-field success.

"Everybody is aware of it and he more than anybody understands his play at a high level is what we need to win," Pinkel said. "And that (the Heisman) will not happen unless we win at a high level, too."

Daniel finished fourth last season in the Heisman balloting behind eventual winner Tim Tebow of Florida, Darren McFadden of Arkansas and Colt Brennan of Hawaii. Daniel's bid has helped galvanize his team into helping him winning college football's top individual award, Pinkel said.

"We don't talk about it at all," Pinkel said. "But they (his teammates) think it's pretty cool that we have a player thought of highly enough that he's in the race."

Here are some other tidbits:

  • Missouri S William Moore will return to practice Tuesday after missing the Tigers' victory over Southeast Missouri State with a sprained right foot. Pinkel said that Moore's return to the lineup in the Tigers' game Saturday against Nevada is "very probable." "We think he's going to play. He's feeling a lot better," Pinkel said. "All the swelling's completely gone off his foot. We'll get him out in a red pullover tomorrow and hopefully he's going to be 100 percent. ... We'll know a little bit more after tomorrow's practice."
  • Two botched fourth-down plays were still a topic of conversation for Texas Tech coach Mike Leach after his team's victory over Nevada. The Red Raiders tried twice on fourth-and-short situations inside their own 30, leading to two Wolf Pack field goals. "I thought we would make it," said Leach, who described the two calls as "not smart decisions." said. "You hate to punt. We like our punter, but we'd like to keep him out of business as best we can."
  • Tech QB Graham Harrell marked his career low for completions in a game as a starter against Nevada, hitting 19-of-46 passes for 297 yards. It marked his fewest yards since passing for 250 yards in a loss to Oklahoma on Nov. 11, 2006. "I think he had an off night, but our defense really played tough," Leach said. "And he was really patient and composed and worked his way through it. It was a good learning experience."
  • Baylor coach Art Briles wasn't surprised by the smooth performance by freshman quarterback Robert Griffin in his first career college start. Griffin passed for 294 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 42 yards and another score to spark the Bears' victory over Northwestern State. "I think he handled it really well," Briles said. "He's really poised for his age but he's been situations before, going to the state championship twice and being here since the spring. He wasn't wide-eyed and we tried to give him some comfort early."
  • Iowa State leads the nation with 10 takeaways and is tied for second nationally with a plus-3 turnover ratio per game. The Cyclones' success is inexplicable to Coach Gene Chizik. "They are kind of an enigma to me," Chizik said about the turnover binge. "They come in bunches. Sometimes there's a bunch of them and sometimes not too many. I think it's a product of couple of things. We've been opportunistic at the right times and we've taken advantage when (opposing) quarterbacks, running backs and punt returns are swinging the ball outside."
  • Most Texas coaches didn't sleep on Sunday after the Longhorns returned back to Austin at about 5:30 a.m. after their late-evening game at UTEP. "Because they were already here (at the Texas football office) when we got back, most of our coaches didn't go to bed," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "It makes it a short week for us this week. And it's something we have to look to see if we're doing what's best for the kids."
  • Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said that Barry Turner's likely season-ending injury with a broken leg not only moves Pierre Allen into the starting lineup but will likely pull a new player into the rotation along with starter Zach Potter and backup Clayton Sievers. Likely players involved could include Nick Covey, David Harvey, Will Yancy and freshmen Cameron Meredith and Josh Williams.
  • How engrossed was Pelini in coaching the defense at LSU last season? When asked if Nebraska's three-pronged I-back rotation of Roy Helu Jr., Marlon Lucky and Quentin Castille reminded him of the Tigers, Pelini had an honest answer. "I don't know what they used at LSU," Pelini said. "I really can't think back to how they rotated their backs. I didn't pay attention to it."
  • Pelini said he's aiming to keep all three of his I-backs refreshed and involved in the game. "We're starting to get a little more consistency in when we're subbing them and how often. They're all similar talents and all make plays," Pelini said. "You want to make sure all three of them get a chance to make touches and make sure all three are fresh when they do get those touches."

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