Big 12: Dez Bryant

Big 12 lunch links

June, 10, 2014
Jun 10
12:00
PM ET
This dunk is NICE.
ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper has two Big 12 players -- Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson and Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro -- potentially going in the first round of this year’s NFL draft.

Fellow expert Todd McShay has the same two as Kiper and also is optimistic about the chances of West Virginia’s Geno Smith and Tavon Austin.

So let’s split the difference and label the potential Big 12 first-round picks as an optimistic three, with Johnson being the only absolute first-round lock.

Those three would represent the fewest Big 12 players taken in the first round of the NFL draft since 2008. Even if four went, the Big 12 still would have the fewest since 2008.

That year, only Kansas -- yep, the Jayhawks -- managed a first-rounder, Aqib Talib to Tampa Bay with the 20th pick. In the four drafts that followed, the Big 12 has always put at least five players into the first round, including the first four overall picks in 2010.

How well this year’s group of first-round picks will fare might not be known for years. What is known, though, is how well Big 12 players have done when they are selected in the first round. With that in mind, here is a ranking -- from worst to best -- of the Big 12’s best first-round draft classes over the past 10 years.

2008: It’s all about quantity, and a little bit of quality. In 2008, the Big 12 only produced one first-round pick, Talib. He has not produced dramatic returns in the NFL. In the past two years, he has only started nine games. He was somewhat productive for Tampa Bay in the previous three seasons, starting 41 games and playing in 53. But, again, he was the only Big 12 player taken in the first round in 2008.

2006: Vince Young is working out at Texas’ pro day at the end of March. Enough said. Davin Joseph and Michael Huff have been solid producers. But when the No. 3 overall pick is out of the league and having to work out at his alma mater's pro day, it means it was a bad year for the Big 12 in the first round of the NFL draft.

2004: Tommie Harris and Marcus Tubbs, the two defensive tackles taken in the first round, were productive for a few years, with Harris selected to Pro Bowls in 2005, '06 and ’07 before he was beset by injuries. Tubbs lasted four seasons in the NFL. Roy Williams had 5,715 receiving yards but never lived up to the hype he generated coming out of Texas. Rashaun Woods played only two years and had seven career catches.

2005: The lack of numbers might be what hurts this group the most. Cedric Benson, Jammal Brown, Derrick Johnson, Mark Clayton and Fabian Washington all proved they could play at the NFL level. Benson has had three 1,000-yard-plus seasons. Johnson is one of the top linebackers in the game. Brown remains a solid option on the offensive line. Clayton played seven NFL seasons; Washington played six. But there were only five guys selected and that isn't enough to push 2005 to the top of the list.

[+] EnlargeAdrian Peterson
Andy Clayton King/Getty ImagesThe Big 12's 2007 draft class wasn't huge, but did feature 2012 NFL MVP Adrian Peterson.
2009: Every Big 12 player selected in the first round in 2009 has produced and appears to be poised to continue to do so. Only Jason Smith didn’t have a start last year. But the offensive lineman still played in all 16 games for the New York Jets. Michael Crabtree, Brian Orakpo, Josh Freeman, Jeremy Maclin, Brandon Pettigrew and Ziggy Hood are all starters for their respective teams.

2007: It wasn’t the biggest group, but it did include Adrian Peterson, so there could be some quibbling that maybe 2007 should be higher in the rankings. Throw in Aaron Ross and Michael Griffin and the debate could get even more heated. Adam Carriker was also taken this year. He started his career strong but suffered an injury and only played in two games last season.

2003: Kevin Williams has been the standout of this group. The defensive tackle has started every game but four in his 10-year career. Terence Newman has been effective as a defensive back, first in Dallas and last season in Cincinnati. Tyler Brayton played at least 15 games on the defensive line in a nine-year career. Ty Warren played eight solid seasons for New England but tailed off last season with Denver. Andre Woolfolk lasted four seasons, mostly as a reserve.

2011: Von Miller, who was the highest pick among Big 12 players this year, has proved to be the top player so far. Aldon Smith is not far behind. Add in Prince Amukamara, Phillip Taylor, who when healthy is a starter at defensive tackle, a somewhat productive Blaine Gabbert and Nate Solder as well as reliable backups Danny Watkins and Jimmy Smith and this proved to be a successful year for Big 12 first-round selections.

2012: Three quarterbacks, and all were not only starters as rookies but also made huge differences for their respective squads. Clearly, Robert Griffin III made the most dramatic impact, but Ryan Tannehill, with the Dolphins, and Brandon Weeden, with Cleveland, were both solid. Kendall Wright and Justin Blackmon each had 64 catches, for Tennessee and Jacksonville, respectively. Blackmon was targeted more (133 to 104) and had 200 more receiving yards.

2010: This list maybe doesn’t have the star power and is not littered with offensive playmakers, but six of the nine players picked were selected for the 2013 NFL Pro Bowl: Gerald McCoy, Trent Williams, Ndamukong Suh, Earl Thomas, Russell Okung and Jermaine Gresham. And the other three players -- Dez Bryant, Sam Bradford and Sean Weatherspoon -- were vital pieces for their respective teams.
Oklahoma State nabbed three prospects in the ESPN 300, and all three have officially signed their letters of intent.

The Cowboys have a pair of receivers in the fold in Ra'Shaad Samples, the nation's No. 166 player, and Marcell Ateman, the nation's No. 245 player. The duo ranks No. 19 and No. 37 at the position, respectively. Samples is a 5-foot-11, 170-pound target from power program Skyline in Dallas, and Ateman is a 6-foot-5, 200-pound prospect from Wylie, Texas. Those are two very different receivers, but they'll get a chance to start their career in an Oklahoma State offense with lots of receptions to go around.

Oklahoma State missed out on the nation's top receiver, Laquon Treadwell, who signed with Ole Miss earlier today, and longtime commit Fred Ross (No. 22 WR) flipped to Mississippi State on Tuesday. But it's still a solid pair of pickups for Oklahoma State, which has established a stellar receiver tradition with Dez Bryant and two-time Biletnikoff Award winner Justin Blackmon, as well as 2012 breakout star Josh Stewart. There's no doubt those guys influenced Samples' and Ateman's decisions.

The Cowboys' third ESPN 300 signee, defensive tackle Vincent Taylor, made it official this morning, too. He's a 6-foot-2, 267-pound defensive tackle from San Antonio, Texas, and ranks as the nation's No. 24 defensive tackle.

Lunch links: How to get a No. 100 jersey

December, 20, 2012
12/20/12
12:00
PM ET
I own a Fuddrucker's with Scottie Pippen.

Mailbag: TCU loss, All-Big 12 NFL gripes

June, 1, 2012
6/01/12
4:00
PM ET
Thanks for all your e-mails this week. Here's where you can reach me. Let's get to it.

Dan in Fort Worth, Texas, writes: Hey David, I know losing Ed Wesley and Deryck Gildon were big for the Frogs, but I think Tucker and James and our various players at LB can pick up the slack there. My biggest concern is the losses on the O-line. By my count we've lost three this offseason for various, non-graduation-related reasons. We could be fairly shallow at that position. I know Casey will have a good season but how limited will he be by an inexperienced offensive line? And if you had to take the over or under on 9 wins for the Frogs now, which way would you go?

David Ubben: Yeah, depth will be an issue on the offensive line, but I like TCU's chances to have a really solid starting five alongside James Fry and Blaine Foltz, the two returning starters. It's definitely a question mark, but I tend to lean toward the positive side of things when that question comes up. Running back will be fine, and even without Ed Wesley, Waymon James and Matthew Tucker will be capable of producing even if the line isn't great.

I totally disagree with you on the linebackers, though. That's huge. I've really got no faith now in TCU at that position. Tanner Brock was a stud. Deryck Gildon could have become one. That's plenty to build around. Now?

The Big 12 is known as a passing league, but teams are more than willing to take advantage of defenses that can't stop the run. Just ask Texas Tech from last season. Its linebackers were awful, and the Red Raiders finished dead last in rush defense. If TCU doesn't have it shored up, it can't count on having a great secondary to get by. Texas Tech's safeties were pretty good, and the defense was still awful.

I've got no real questions about TCU's offense, even without Wesley. However, if the Horned Frogs are indeed falling away from title-contender status, it's because of all the offseason attrition on defense for various reasons. Very troublesome.


Jon in Davis, Calif., writes: Really, the drug scandals are what mars the season? What about Penn State?

DU: Clearly, Penn State was the most tragic incident of the past year, but it's been a rough year everywhere for college football. I was just focusing on the drug issues. The coaching scandals (Tressel, Petrino), a stinker of a national title game and the Penn State issues all marred the season, but our series in the past week tried to look at a different facet on each day.


Luke in Oskaloosa, Kansas, writes: I can somewhat understand why you put Bradford ahead of Freeman (although I think most would disagree) on the All-Big 12 Offensive Team. But in no way can you convince me, or anybody else for that matter, that Jordy Nelson does not beat out Dez Bryant. Are you serious? Honestly, what has Dez done that is in any way impressive? What has he accomplished that make you go, "Wow"? Jordy was one amazing, diving touchdown catch away from becoming a Super Bowl MVP two years ago (which would have totaled 3 for the game). He also has to compete with a way more talented receiving core than Bryant. 1,263 receiving yards and was the second in touchdowns for recievers in 2011 with 15 (only behind "Megatron"). Poor Jordy gets nowhere near the credit he deserves! Please, do your worst, and convince me.

DU: Numbers-wise, I'd probably agree with you. Nelson has been more productive. But really, if you're picking between those two receivers, you're taking Nelson. ... Really? No way. He's a great receiver, but consider who's throwing him the ball. Aaron Rodgers is the game's best quarterback. Also, consider that Nelson is probably his team's second or possibly third-best receiver. The Super Bowl MVP doesn't really mean anything. It's one game.

Bryant was his team's best receiver, and had to play without Miles Austin for much of the year. How often is Nelson seeing double coverage? That's Greg Jennings' job. Meanwhile, Bryant's got to fight for everything he gets, and has a less-talented quarterback throwing him the ball. The numbers aren't the only factor.

If you went around and asked NFL coaches who they'd rather have, you're crazy if you think they'd say Nelson. Productive, yes. Talented, yes. Better than Dez Bryant?

Uh, no.


Kevin Nowicki in Columbus, Ohio, writes: Don't mean to be disrespectful, but your article was useless. No one cares about marijuana use in NCAA football. Clearly you can smoke weed and still be good at your respective sport. You can even be pretty well conditioned and smoke weed. I know plenty of players have come through Ohio State and are able to have success on and off the field and be a marijuana smoker. Marijuana being a "bad" drug is a joke. All the negatives that can be said come from short term effects. This is sports. No more no less. This isn't the professional world where you have to manage way more things and don't have time to smoke. They make mad money. They are mad talented and can get away with it. Santonio Holmes was high while he caught the game winning Super Bowl catch. I guess lady mary jane really affected his motor skills on that play... not. Marijuana is harmless. Removing all the local bars around campuses would have more of a positive effect on the universities rather than cutting down on the most harmless drug of all time.

DU: On this issue, I don't think anyone's making the argument that marijuana affects your talent level to a noticeable degree. The NBA has been proving that for awhile.

But that's not the issue here. Above all else, it's illegal. You can't have players in your program using (or in TCU's case, selling) illegal substances. Have a problem with marijuana being illegal? This isn't the place to debate that. It's illegal. Players are getting caught using and dealing. A lot of people don't have a huge problem with kids drinking before they're 21. That doesn't make it legal.

That's breaking laws, and in the case of TCU, enough to bring about felony charges. And that's not an issue worth writing about?


Shawn in Claremore, Okla., writes: Hey Mr. Ubben I'm not sure if anyone has asked these questions but with the recent suspensions of the three Oklahoma Sooners wide receivers how do you think Landry Jones is gonna perform during this next season considering one of them was one of his top returning targets in Jaz Reynolds? Do you think it will hurt the offense enough to keep them away from a conference or national title?

DU: For OU, it's pretty simple. How ready are all these young receivers? I'm completely sold on Trey Metoyer. He's going to be a factor, and more likely a stud. But what about Sterling Shepard? Durron Neal? Juco transfer Courtney Gardner? What can those guys bring? How long will these guys be suspended? That's still not official.

The offense is going to take a hit early, but those freshmen receivers have a lot of potential. They're also needed immediately. It's going to be difficult. It's possible, but I'm not really buying OU as a national title contender. Big 12 title contender? It'll be a fistfight at the top (look for the Big 12 champ to have two losses), but OU's definitely the favorite in my book, even with the losses at receiver.


Josh in Manhattan, Kansas, writes: Would it ever be worth the time for the B12 to invite Arkansas? I know they have old ties with Texas schools and such and money wouldn't be much different. What are your thoughts?

DU: I've always thought Arkansas was a better fit in the Big 12, but it's never going to happen. As someone who grew up in Northwest Arkansas, the fans love the SEC and would revolt if the administration ever considered leaving. The Hogs would have a lot more geographic rivals (well, one less now that Mizzou is in the SEC), but it's hardly worth even thinking about. Arkansas fans still hate Texas more than any other program, but the school has moved on. It's hardly even worth discussing.
We took a look at the All-Big 12 crossover team earlier this week, but colleague Ted Miller took a look at the All-Pac-12/NFL team over at the Pac-12 blog on Tuesday.

So, what about the Big 12? I'm glad you asked.

I love the NFL, and it's time to take a look at the Big 12's top players at the next level. This isn't about what you did in college. This is about what you've done at the next level. Sorry, Vince Young.

You must be active, and I'm judging this team based on how good players are right now. However, I included players from teams in the Big 12 during the 2011 season.

Let's start with the offense:

QB: Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams (Oklahoma)

Bradford edges out Kansas State's Josh Freeman for this award. Bradford won Rookie of the Year honors after winning the Heisman at OU, but had a rough sophomore season. Either way, it's Bradford's spot here.

RB: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings (Oklahoma)

Peterson's recovering from a serious knee injury, but he's got a case as the game's best running back.

RB: Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs (Texas)

Charles is coming back from a torn ACL, but he rushed for 1,467 yards in 2010, his second consecutive 1,000-yard season.

WR: Wes Welker, New England Patriots (Texas Tech)

I hated to leave Michael Crabtree off this list, but there's no doubt Welker belongs. His 1,569 receiving yards in 2011 were a career high, and his fourth 1,000-yard season.

WR: Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles (Missouri)

Maclin is a deep threat for Michael Vick and dangerous as a runner, too. Anybody who saw him at Mizzou isn't surprised. He dealt with a cancer scare in 2011, but should get back to his form in 2012 like he was in 2010, catching 70 passes for 964 yards and 10 scores.

WR: Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys (Oklahoma State)

Bryant's a rising star, but health issues have slowed him a bit. He nearly doubled his production in 2011, his second season, with 928 yards and nine touchdowns.

TE: Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers (Texas)

Finley's been a big target for MVP Aaron Rodgers, and caught eight touchdown passes on 55 catches for 767 yards.

OL: Jammal Brown, Washington Redskins (Oklahoma)

Brown is a two-time Pro Bowler and a one-time All-Pro who left OU as an Outland Trophy winner in 2004. Most impressive? He's started 84 of a career 85 games.

OL: Davin Joseph, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Oklahoma)

Joseph made two Pro Bowls (2008, 2011) and helped pave the way for LeGarrette Blount and a powerful Bucs rushing offense. He only took a season as a part-time starter before earning full-time honors in his second year in Tampa.

OL: Jeromey Clary, San Diego Chargers (Kansas State)

Clary started 60 games since being drafted in the sixth round in 2006.

OL: Phil Loadholt, Minnesota Vikings (Oklahoma)

Loadholt was a juco transfer who made a big impact on one of the best O-lines in Big 12 history for the 2008 Sooners. He's started every game of the first three years of his career for the Vikings helping pave the way for Adrian Peterson.

OL: Louis Vasquez, San Diego Chargers (Texas Tech)

Vasquez was the only rookie starter for the Chargers in 2009, and he's started all 34 games of his career. He already established himself as one of his division's top linemen.

Come back later this week when we tackle the defense.

Who would you have on the team?
STILLWATER, Okla. -- The similarities? Well, they're almost too uncanny.

A record-setting quarterback? Gone.

The best receiver in school history? Gone.

And that was in the spring of 2010.

Dez Bryant took a trek south after being drafted in the first round by the Dallas Cowboys. Zac Robinson took his ball and left for the NFL, too.

In the fall, Mike Gundy's Oklahoma State squad was picked to finish fifth out of six teams in something called the Big 12 South.

Instead, the Cowboys won 11 games for the first time, coming a defensive stop or two away from knocking off Oklahoma and playing for the Big 12 title, which also would have been unprecedented for the program.

There are more new faces in the spring of 2012. Could Oklahoma State overachieve again?

"I feel like it’s kind of the same. Gundy said that spring we were so good because we were scared," said sixth-year offensive lineman Jonathan Rush. "I wouldn’t exactly agree that we were scared, but I feel that urgency."

[+] EnlargeMike Gundy
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiMike Gundy's 2012 team has plenty of parallels to the 2010 unit that won a surprising 11 games.
How could he not? Two-time All-Big 12 first-team quarterback Brandon Weeden is headed to the NFL. Two-time Biletnikoff Award winner Justin Blackmon is likely to hear his name called in the top 10 of tonight's first round of the NFL draft.

Oklahoma State's 23 victories in the past two years were the highest total of any two-year period in school history, and Weeden and Blackmon were the two biggest pieces of a team that captured the Cowboy's first Big 12 title.

"It’s real similar, except Weeden was an older guy. Weeden was 26 years old or however old he was back then," Gundy said.

Now, Oklahoma State is left to rely on three inexperienced quarterbacks without the minor league baseball experience that helped shape Weeden's even-tempered demeanor.

The similarities don't end at what's gone, either.

"We’ve got good running backs, good receivers and we’ll be as good on the offensive line as we’ve been," Gundy said.

All-American Kendall Hunter helped carry the 2010 team with a 1,500-yard season, the second of his career. In 2012, Joseph Randle is ready to carry the offense after rushing for 1,200 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2011. Jeremy Smith and Herschel Sims fill out the rest of the Pokes' deepest unit, which also features a fourth underrated, powerful runner in Desmond Roland.

"We’re further along on defense, because we recruited well the '09, '10, '11 and '12 seasons, so we’re further along athletically," Gundy said. "But offensively, it’s about the same."

Gundy is entering his eighth season in Stillwater this fall. In 2010, he credited a system that had been drilled into players for the surprising success. Knowing what was expected helped to soothe some of the growing pains new players would experience in a new system.

That's been drilled only deeper into this year's squad.

"They realize what they have to do personally. How to practice. They realize those things that are essential to be a good team. You have to work hard, show up on time. It’s not even so much a big thing," Rush said of the team's younger players. "They realize how essential little things are. Working hard, not quitting. Finishing."

Said receiver Isaiah Anderson: "I feel like we have a lot more leaders now than people know. It’s not just up to the seniors to lead. The young guys can step in and lead if they need to."

The biggest talents are gone. This year, OSU won't be picked near the bottom of the Big 12. Instead, it will be near the bottom of the top 25.

With the spotlight on teams above OSU, will 2012 be yet another Stillwater surprise for the Big 12?

"Be on the lookout, but they know we’re coming now," Anderson said. "We all know what it takes to get there and willing to do what it takes to get there again."
Nick FlorenceRonald Martinez/Getty ImagesNick Florence had three TDs in last season's win over Texas Tech -- but lost his redshirt in the process.


WACO, Texas -- Nick Florence didn't have to come to Baylor. He didn't have to stay.

If football has been his only reason for coming to Waco, it'd be easy to see why he might've gone elsewhere.

But Florence did.

He stepped in as a freshman when future Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III tore his ACL, then stepped off the stage for the next two seasons while Griffin wrote his legacy.

Plenty of quarterbacks would have waved goodbye.

Florence didn't.

Here's why.

--

Florence didn't lose a game as a freshman at South Garland (Texas) High School. A year later, he took over the varsity squad in midseason and carried the team to a third-round loss in the state playoffs to Lufkin, led by Dez Bryant, now a receiver for the Dallas Cowboys.

"The QB that started the year as the starter, every opportunity Nick had, he would encourage him," said Mickey Moss, Florence's high school coach who now heads up a program in Rockwall, Texas. Throughout his career, Moss has put about 50 players into Division I programs like Nebraska, Oklahoma and Missouri.

"When Nick took over, he'd lead the senior linemen and just encourage them and give them confidence and praise. I was like, 'I’ve never seen a kid like this who had such confidence and maturity.'"

Florence earned a reputation on and off the field. Before school began, he and teammates would walk through the school's hallways while praying for classmates who would congregate there during the school year, which began in a few weeks. When school began, he'd join his twin brother, Luke, and others to often pray for classmates before class during the week.

"That’s just who he was and he believed in making a difference in the lives of other people," Moss said. "His leadership? He’s just got it."

His youth pastor at Lake Highlands Church in Dallas eventually took a job at Antioch Community Church in Waco, and Florence wanted to join him.

Florence pestered Moss to make a few calls down to Baylor. Moss did so and asked coaches if they'd seen Florence on film.

Minutes later, he got a call back.

Baylor offered Florence his first major scholarship offer, and Florence made it his only one.

"Nick just felt like this was where God wanted him to be, and that’s Nick," Moss said. "He does so much based on faith."

The problem? The coach who called back with that offer was Guy Morriss, who was fired after the 2007 season. Enter Art Briles and a kid from Copperas Cove whom nobody thought could play quarterback.

Briles, then at Houston, brought Cougars commit Robert Griffin III to Baylor with him, the two having faith of their own that they could win in Waco, which hadn't seen a winning football season since 1995.

Briles had his man, but honored Morriss' offer to Florence, whose playing time looked like it would be sparse.

"If God wanted you to be here and that’s what you believe, he doesn’t change his mind," Moss says he remembers telling Florence. "Knowing Robert Griffin was going to be the quarterback didn’t faze him."

Along the way, Florence kept working. He earned the respect of teammates. In the meantime, he got his business degree, worked closely with his church and married his wife, Rachel, last May. The two plan to enter the ministry whenever Florence's football career is over.

"His pastor told me, in all the locker rooms he’s been in, he’s never let his eyes view another naked woman in his life in print on TV or anywhere else until his wedding day. That says a lot about who he is, but also how others respect him," Moss said. "He doesn’t throw his faith in your face. Not at all. He has a genuine care, concern and love for people, and he’s always looking to make a difference. ... He’s going to compete, but the biggest thing I always believed he was going to do was make an impact in the locker room with his character and integrity."

Florence had been on campus a couple of years but RG3 was proving his mettle as the man at Baylor. Briles met with Moss and gushed about his backup.

"That kid is a winner," Moss recalls Briles saying.

He's done it since he was a freshman in high school, and now that the starting job at Baylor is nearly Florence's officially, he doesn't plan on that changing.

[+] EnlargeNick Florence
Jerome Miron/US PresswireNick Florence is now tasked with replacing Heisman winner Robert Griffin III, right, at Baylor.
"You watch him play and it’s like, what’s special about him?" Moss said. "He wins. He leads. He makes plays. His throwing motion wasn’t the greatest. His speed wasn’t the greatest. His strength wasn’t the greatest. But the kid won, and then he influenced everyone around him."

When Griffin's knee injury meant Florence had to step in as a wide-eyed freshman, it also meant winning wasn't going to happen. It didn't. Baylor fell to 4-8 and won just one conference game, at Missouri when Florence set the school record for passing yards.

"He’s a different guy, just like I am since 2009 and like everybody. As you grow you mature, you learn to get better in everything you see act or do," Briles said. "He’s a guy that was thrown into a fire as a true freshman. Now, he’s had a chance to sit back and learn the system, understand what his strengths are, how to use them and what he needs to do to help this team grow."

Said Florence: "I'm not that 180-pound freshman anymore."

Baylor got a preview of its 205-pound senior in November when a concussion sidelined Griffin at Cowboys Stadium, near Florence's hometown.

Florence hopped off the bench just before halftime and completed 9 of 12 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns to help Baylor keep its winning streak alive with a 66-42 victory over Texas Tech. That streak reached six games by season's end, the longest current string among AQ schools in college football.

Florence logged a memorable moment, but he also logged enough playing time to burn his redshirt and leave him with just one year of eligibility remaining entering 2012.

"He’s a guy who’ll do whatever and whatever happens in life, he’ll deal with it. If that means he has one year left to play, that means that’s what God’s will is. He’s obedient," Moss said. "If the team needed him to come in there and help win that game and burn his redshirt and then not play again the rest of the year, that’s OK with him."

Baylor needed Florence to come in and win that game. He did it. Now it's time to take over the full-time job of being the man who follows the man who did the unthinkable: winning a Heisman Trophy at Baylor.

"We don’t talk in terms of replacing. It’s just, what do we need to do now to do what we need to do at the end of July?" Briles said. "That’s the most important thing. We may not be able to do some of the same things we were able to do prior, so we’ve got to figure out different ways to do things and still have success."

Florence is no hurdler. He can't run 40 yards in 4.4 seconds and doesn't have an arm that will have NFL scouts drooling. For the time being, though, he does have the keys to Baylor's offense.

"It’s a great opportunity not everybody gets. I want to make the most of it and take advantage," Florence said.

That offense is going to look a little different now. Briles says time will show just how different it'll be.

"That’s the exciting part about it," Briles said. "We’ve got to expand and become better in all other areas scheme-wise, coaching-wise, player/individual technique-wise, and so that to me is the very exciting part, because we have to become a better football team."

Florence wants his chance to show he's the man to make Baylor a better team. Florence has proved his intangibles since high school, and as he's gotten older, they've only become more ingrained. Now is his chance to show them off to everyone outside of Baylor's practice field.

"When guys come in the huddle they have great confidence and respect in him. They know who he is. They know there’s not a selfish bone in his body, but at the same time, they know he’s a heck of a competitor," Moss said. "I’ve never been around a kid like Nick Florence, and I imagine I never will again."

Get used to Mike Gundy as an elite coach

January, 9, 2012
1/09/12
9:00
AM ET
Finally, these two lovebirds made it official.

Really, though, it was a matter of time. Flirtations with A&M? An eventual breakup?

Please.

Mike Gundy loves Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State loves Mike Gundy.

They'll be together for eight years and Gundy will be paid among college football's top 10 coaches after agreeing to a contract extension and a big raise. As it should be.

That's what happens when one pays for the other's education and hires him as a 23-year-old assistant coach and 27-year-old offensive coordinator.

And that's what happens when a 44-year-old head coach (yes, he's a man) guides his alma mater to the two best seasons in school history in consecutive years.

These two belong together. Gundy, who hired agent Jimmy Sexton, grew uncomfortable as the process dragged on during his team's preparations for its Fiesta Bowl date with Stanford.

The Cowboys won to cap the first 12-win season in school history, which coincided with the school's first BCS appearance ever.

Uncomfortable or not, it shouldn't have come to this. "This," though is in the past and Gundy's gotten what's coming to him.

How many coaches have held the same job for seven years and had an equal or better record every season?

Not many, and Gundy's being paid like one. His deal reportedly averages out to about $3.75 million per year, up from $2.1 million this past season.

Kansas' Turner Gill and Texas A&M's Mike Sherman were paid more in 2011. They were both fired after the season. Now, only Texas' Mack Brown and Oklahoma's Bob Stoops are paid more in the Big 12.

Gundy was the 29th-highest paid coach nationally this season, according to USA Today's coaching salary study. His new raise puts him at sixth, ahead of guys like Bobby Petrino at Arkansas, Chip Kelly at Oregon and Bret Bielema at Wisconsin.

Gundy kicked off his career with a four-win season and two seven-win seasons. For some who saw those years, its hard to see Gundy, who first burst on the scene with his polarizing rant, as a coach who has ascended to the coaching elite.

But consider also: Gundy has as many BCS wins now as Petrino and Kelly, who both have earned reputations as offensive virtuosos. He has one more than Bielema, who is 0-2 in two Rose Bowl appearances.

He's developed offensive talent with the best of anyone in the country, sending stars like Dez Bryant, Kendall Hunter, Zac Robinson, Russell Okung and soon to be Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon to the NFL. On the way, he collected bushels-full of wins that Oklahoma State has never seen before.

This has been the best four-year period in the history of Oklahoma State football. Gundy is the biggest reason why.

This took too long. Why Oklahoma State wouldn't want to pay up for as long as possible, especially with more Big 12 money on the way, I have no idea.

But it's done now.

Oklahoma State paid up. Gundy is paid like one of college football's best coaches.

With a résumé like he's put together, with 41 wins, a Big 12 title, a BCS bowl win and a share of the Big 12 South all in the past four years, how else should he be paid?

Lunch links: Placing RG3 into context

December, 8, 2011
12/08/11
12:00
PM ET
I stopped reading after she talked about suing her book club.
STILLWATER, Okla. -- Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy built his program, now in its seventh year, on four principles.

Character, accountability, structure and discipline. Every year since he took over for Les Miles in 2005, the Cowboys' record has improved on or equaled the previous year's win total.

"You’ve got to show up, you’ve got to do the right thing, you’ve got to go to class," Gundy said. "I bit my lip and we held our breath a lot of times when we suspended players."

The stat Gundy might have been most proud of after Saturday's 52-45 win over Kansas State? The team had just one missed class reported all week.

Maybe Gundy's four building blocks are only a fourth of Bill Snyder's 16 Goals for Success, but it's paying off in Stillwater.

And those blocks aside, there's no doubting the factor that's aided the Cowboys along the way, too.

"We got a little bit lucky," Gundy said, later adding, "Anybody that says you don’t have to have a little luck? They’re crazy."

Recruiting these days is "easy to do," Gundy says, and the program's growing credibility is a huge reason why.

"We hit on a Dez Bryant, we hit on a Kendall Hunter, we hit on a Brandon Weeden. We hit on a Blackmon," Gundy said. "Nobody recruited [Justin] Blackmon.

"Weeden walked on,” Gundy said with a laugh. “So, we had a little luck.”

Blackmon blossomed from a modest recruit into the nation's best receiver and an early first-round draft pick.

What if Weeden had come to Oklahoma State instead of playing baseball? What if baseball had worked out? What if Weeden had come to Oklahoma State a year earlier? What if he'd come a year later?

"My Dad was just telling me the other day, 'Man, what a perfect time for you to decide to come back.'" Weeden said. "And it is, because I mean, who would have thought this in 2007 when we won seven games and we were excited to go to a bowl game? I’m telling you, the players get better every year and it gets more and more fun to come to the field and especially when you win big ones like this."

Oklahoma State's team will lose Weeden and almost certainly will lose Blackmon after this season, as well as most of its offensive line. Sound familiar? The Cowboys lost first-round pick Dez Bryant and one of the program's best quarterbacks ever, Zac Robinson, after the 2009 season.

They won 11 games the next season.

Is Oklahoma State building into a perennial power?

"We’ve got a lot of great guys in this program that are really young. We haven’t ever had kids like this around here," Gundy said. "I see a lot of things changing. It’s just different than it ever has been."

They're here and they know what's required of them. Gundy pounds it into them from Day 1. Run astray, and you don't play.

So sure, luck's played a big role in Oklahoma State's rise to the elite. But if it stays there, point to Gundy's building blocks as the biggest reason.

"The core values of this system are in place and the players know them," Gundy said. "That’s just the way it is. It’s the only way, because when you go to bed at night, if you don’t have that, you can’t sleep."

After wins like Oklahoma State enjoyed Saturday night, here's guessing Gundy slept pretty well.
For so long, it was so cruel. This "rivalry," if you could even call it that.

Colt McCoy and Vince Young tormented Oklahoma State, rescuing Texas from 28, 19 and 21-point deficits in a span of just four years.

OSU had beaten Texas just once in Big 12 history, back in 1997 in a harmless game in Stillwater between two teams that would combine for 12 wins that year, the last time Texas (4-8) saw a losing season.

The Cowboys program rose, winning as many or more games than the previous year in each season under Gundy. But no wins over Texas as Zac Robinson, Kendall Hunter and Dez Bryant tried to help OSU climb among the nation's elite.

[+] EnlargeJustin Blackmon and Oklahoma State
Brendan Maloney/US PresswireTexas hopes the scene will be different after this year's game against Oklahoma State as the Longhorns look to avoid another loss to the Cowboys
Until last season, when OSU took its biggest leap into national relevance with 11 wins and Texas plummeted to its first losing season under Mack Brown.

Oklahoma State was the better team, by far. The Cowboys won easily, racing to an early 33-3 lead and beating Texas in Austin for the first time since 1944.

"When you have played at a high level like we had over the last few years, having so many close games and not being able to get over the hump. It made it a good win for our team and the university," Gundy told reporters this week. "For everyone involved it was very positive. I am sure it had some effects on our recruiting. It also changed the way we were perceived across the country. The win was another step in our goal, to hopefully win a championship."

A kink in switching 12-team Big 12 schedules to 10-team schedules means Oklahoma State travels to Texas again and hosts Oklahoma to close the season.

Once again, Oklahoma State is the better team.

This time, Oklahoma State stands in the way of Texas' attempts to re-join the nation's best. The Longhorns were embarrassed a week ago by No. 3 Oklahoma.

"Things are always better when you watch the video. It’s hard to make a 55-17 loss to a good team where you played poorly good, but what you do as a coaching staff is you go back and find the things that are good," Brown said. "They did try hard. They did a lot of things good, but we made so many mistakes, we never had a chance in the game. You can’t lose five turnovers to a great team."

That's the first goal. With an opponent like Oklahoma State -- the Cowboys are ranked No. 2 in total offense, even higher than Oklahoma -- the Longhorns will need more from their offense than a late touchdown if 45 points are separating the teams.

"You use caution when talking about Texas football and needing to get better. I think Oklahoma played very well. Once the game got rolling, the momentum changed," Gundy said. "I cannot speak for Texas, or their staff. I do know that there is some youth in key positions. That can factor in situations when things do not go well."

Texas' secondary will have to grow up fast.

So will quarterbacks Case McCoy and David Ash.

If not, another beating like last week is waiting, and a chance to country's top squads may prove to be another season away.

The Big 12's annual tease teams

August, 12, 2011
8/12/11
9:00
AM ET
Today, we're taking a look at the tease teams across the Big 12, and the past three seasons, we've seen a good number of cases in the Big 12.

These three programs find themselves in the top 10 again this year, but here's what's happened lately. Is one of these squads simply a tease in 2011?

2010: Texas A&M

The Aggies, coming off a 6-7 season in 2009, weren't convincing enough to earn preseason top 25 honors, but the potential for a big year was there, and anyone paying attention knew it. The offense was loaded, led by the league's preseason offensive player of the year, Jerrod Johnson. Johnson, however, struggled early, throwing four interceptions in consecutive games against Florida International and Oklahoma State, turning the ball over five times in a loss to the Cowboys. The Aggies were embarrassed on their home field by Missouri to fall to 3-3, and despite a late-season rally, couldn't qualify for the Big 12 championship game.

2009: Oklahoma State

The offseason crescendo built to a pressure-packed season opener against SEC foe Georgia, but Dez Bryant and the Cowboys knocked off the Bulldogs to land in the top 5 and on the cover of Sports Illustrated. A week later, however, Case Keenum (and Dana Holgorsen, by the way) waltzed into Stillwater and gave the Cowboys a nasty buzzkill in the form of a 45-35 upset, officially derailing a championship season. OSU also suffered a pair of embarrassing 27-point losses to Big 12 South rivals Oklahoma and Texas, including a 27-0 shutout loss to Oklahoma. Kendall Hunter (ankle), Zac Robinson (shoulder) and Dez Bryant (NCAA suspension) were all forced off the field at times, but there's no doubt: That team was a tease.

2008: Missouri

The Tigers reached No. 1 heading into the Big 12 championship game in 2007, but a loss sent them to the Cotton Bowl and hoping for better luck next year. Chase Daniel and Co. opened the season at No. 6 and ran off a 5-0 start, including a 52-17 obliteration of Nebraska in Lincoln, the first win for the Tigers there since 1978. A week later, though? A program-defining win for Oklahoma State on Missouri's field, followed by an absolute undressing by Colt McCoy and Texas in Austin a week later, featuring a 35-3 halftime deficit. The Tigers were upset by Kansas before being rolled over 62-21 by Oklahoma and settling for an appearance in the Alamo Bowl. Quite the tease, Tigers.

So, which of the Big 12 teams ranked this year looks like a tease?

OSU's Hubert Anyiam back on track

August, 2, 2011
8/02/11
11:00
AM ET
Justin Blackmon exploded to become Oklahoma State's No. 1 receiver from the season opener, when he caught three touchdown passes, more than he'd previously had in his entire career.

As the season progressed, Josh Cooper became the team's obvious second option, finishing with 68 catches for 736 yards and five touchdowns.

But one receiver's absence was rendered more inconspicuous by the offense's rise to one of the best in college football: Hubert Anyiam.

Could the OSU offense be even better in 2011 with Anyiam as an addition, perhaps overtaking Cooper as the team's No. 2 receiver? After finally recovering from a nagging ankle injury, that might be the case.

"I hope so," Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said. "Hubert, I think he's healthy for the first time in 12-15 months. Two years ago, he carried the load for us."

NFL first-round pick Dez Bryant was suspended by the NCAA for the final 10 games of the 2009 season, and Anyiam stepped into the role as the team's go-to receiver. No other Cowboys receiver had more than 25 catches, compared to Anyiam's 42 for 515 yards and three touchdowns. All three of those scores, and 31 of his receptions came in a five-game stretch in conference play that featured wins over Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Missouri. A lone loss to national runner-up Texas sent the Cowboys to a 4-1 finish during the stretch.

"When we lost Dez, he made a ton of plays for us. We beat A&M on the road and he makes two big catches. We beat Missouri on the road and he catches a fourth-down pass right before halftime," Gundy said.

Anyiam caught 10 passes for 119 yards against the Tigers, both career highs. Gundy would love to see both of those numbers cease to be career highs this season.

"I think he's kind of back into the groove of being ready to play, both mentally and physically," Gundy said.
The best players in football play with something to prove. But some have more to prove than others.

Tevin Elliot, DE, Baylor

Elliot is raw, but the versatile 6-foot-2, 245-pounder led the Bears in sacks as a freshman, with five. Baylor's defense held the team back from achieving much more than a bowl appearance last year, but Elliot could be a big piece of a defensive resurgence under Phil Bennett in 2011. A disruptive pass rush would be a huge help to a pass defense that struggled last season, and one player can make that happen. Can Elliot prove he's the guy to do it and help push the team further than the seven wins it reached in 2010?

Huldon Tharp, LB, Kansas

Tharp showed tons of promise as a freshman, making 59 tackles and landing on a freshman All-America team. He looked like he'd be one of the leaders on Turner Gill's first defense at Kansas, but his season cruelly ended in fall camp with a leg injury. Can he prove in 2011 that he's that leader, and that there's still reason to believe the potential he showed in 2009 is there?

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireThe Tigers need James Franklin to fill the void left at quarterback by Blaine Gabbert's departure.
James Franklin, QB, Missouri

The pressure is on for Franklin to continue Missouri's quarterback lineage after Tyler Gabbert transferred following the spring semester. Brad Smith started it, Chase Daniel took the Tigers to new heights and Blaine Gabbert looks like he'll make the biggest impact of the three in the NFL. Where is Franklin's place? This could be his team for the next three years, but he'll step into his new role with one of the Big 12's most complete teams surrounding him. He has sure-handed receivers, a solid running game, an experienced offensive line and one of the league's best defenses. Can he fill the void and help Missouri contend for a Big 12 title, proving that the bloodline will continue?

Hubert Anyiam, WR, Oklahoma State

Anyiam might be the guy who truly makes Oklahoma State's offense unstoppable. He led Oklahoma State in receptions during Dez Bryant's abbreviated 2009 season, catching 42 passes for 513 yards and three scores as a sophomore. Last year, though, he never got started and finished with 11 catches for 135 yards, thanks to an ankle injury similar to the one that ruined Kendall Hunter's 2009 season. The 6-foot, 198-pounder has the potential to be a second game-changing receiver in the Cowboys offense, but can he return to 2009 form and prove he's a dangerous complement to Biletnikoff Award winner Justin Blackmon?

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M

Tannehill was a big reason for the Aggies' six-game winning streak to close the regular season, but so was Cyrus Gray's emergence, a rapidly maturing offensive line and a defense that played its best football in the second half of the season. All the pieces are there for Tannehill to lead the Aggies to the BCS, but last year it was obvious: without good quarterback play, the Aggies were not a great team. Tannehill has been on the field for three seasons, but he still has just six career starts at quarterback. And there's that nagging Texas A&M senior quarterback curse that he'll surely be asked about at least a few times next season. Can he prove that his play late last season will continue into 2011, all the way to a possible Big 12 title?

We'll tab a few more later today.

SPONSORED HEADLINES