Big 12: Doug Meacham

Big 12 morning links

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
8:00
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There were some fireworks out of Nebraska on Wednesday, and they didn't even involve @FauxPelini.
  • West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck, who also serves on the College Football Playoff selection committee, is leaving his post with the Mountaineers and joining the NCAA. Luck will move into a position that will basically make him the No. 2 in command behind NCAA president Mark Emmert. The move makes sense for the NCAA. Luck's background as an athletic director and father of a former star college player will help the NCAA repair some of the disconnect with its member schools. The move also makes sense for Luck, who will be in Indianapolis, the same city where his son Andrew quarterbacks the Colts. This leaves West Virginia in search of an athletic director, and the Big 12 looking for a replacement to represent the conference on the playoff committee. More on that on the blog later this morning.
  • The bond between TCU and football coach Gary Patterson is as peachy as ever, writes Gil LeBreton of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Patterson, who was virtually everyone's national coach of the year this season, agreed to an extension this week with TCU through the end of the decade. LeBreton poses the question whether Patterson would ever leave TCU? There's no doubt Patterson would and will have options. But as LeBreton notes, Patterson and TCU have forged a special bond that will be hard to break. And with QB Trevone Boykin and nine other offensive starters back, TCU is going to be in the playoff picture again in 2015. The reasons are many for Patterson to stay.
  • The Lawrence Journal-World's Tom Keegan thinks new Kansas coach David Beaty should target Sonny Cumbie as his offensive coordinator. I couldn't agree more. Cumbie would be a tremendous hire for Beaty. Thanks in part to Cumbie's tutelage, Trevone Boykin went from part-time receiver to Heisman contending quarterback. The question is, would Cumbie take the job? Doug Meacham is the primary play-caller at TCU. But as an assistant on a team that is going to be loaded again next year, Cumbie can afford to be patient. One thing is certain: the Jayhawks will have to fork over the dough to get Cumbie to think about leaving Fort Worth.
  • There were several interesting tidbits to come out of Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops' pre-bowl news conference Wednesday. Trevor Knight will definitely be the starter at quarterback, and it's still up in the air whether wideout Dorial Green-Beckham will be with the team in 2015 or declare for the NFL draft. Stoops added that he expects linebacker Frank Shannon to rejoin the team in 2015, but he wasn't as committal on whether running back Joe Mixon will be. Shannon and Mixon were both suspended for the 2014 season for alleged misconduct against women.
  • Wide receiver Tyler Lockett has become the first four-time All-American in Kansas State history. Lockett was a Football Writers and Coaches first-teamer and an AP and Walter Camp second-teamer, making him a consensus All-American. Lockett was also a first-team ESPN All-American. Not sure there's anything more we can write about Lockett here. He'll go down as one of the finest and most respected players in Big 12 history. Too bad we all only get more one opportunity to watch him in a K-State uniform.
Around this time last year, TCU was near the bottom of the Big 12 barrel. The Horned Frogs were fresh off an overtime loss to West Virginia, which ultimately meant being in the middle of losing five of their last six games.

In short, the Horned Frogs weren’t taken seriously. Not by opponents. Not by analysts. Not by many of their fans.

And especially, not by star recruits.
Dana Holgorsen goes way back with Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham.

The West Virginia coach worked with Meacham when they were offensive assistants at Oklahoma State. Holgorsen was an assistant at Texas Tech when Cumbie was a quarterback for the Red Raiders.

So Holgorsen is not surprised the way Cumbie and Meacham have transformed the TCU offense from pedestrian to powerhouse.

“I'm really proud of Doug and Sonny for getting that thing turned around,” Holgorsen said. “Those guys are doing a great job.”

On Saturday in a Big 12 showdown that will carry major Big 12 title implications, Holgorsen will be reunited with his two understudies, who have employed their interpretation of the “Air Raid” offense to smashing success at TCU.

[+] EnlargeTony Gibson
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsWest Virginia's defense is dramatically improved in 2014 under new coordinator Tony Gibson.
Behind Meacham and Cumbie, the Horned Frogs have the No. 1 scoring offense in the country, after finishing 88th nationally in points last year. Last weekend, TCU set a Big 12 conference game record with 82 points in its pasting of Texas Tech.

“I'm pretty familiar with the style of their ball is, and what plays they're calling and what their personnel is,” Holgorsen said. “It's working out pretty well for them and it's our job to slow them down.”

Fortunately for Holgorsen, he, like TCU head coach Gary Patterson, made a pair of home run hires during the offseason on the other side of the ball.

In its first year in the Big 12, West Virginia had the league’s worst scoring defense, and last season the Mountaineers finished ninth. As a result, West Virginia went just 6-12 in conference games, capped by embarrassing defeats to Kansas and Iowa State to end last season, when the Mountaineers surrendered a combined 82 points to the conference’s two lowest-scoring offenses.

Those struggles also brought turmoil on the coaching staff. Holgorsen demoted Joe DeForest after 2012 and replaced him with Keith Patterson. After Patterson bolted for Arizona State in the offseason, Holgorsen was looking for the program’s fourth defensive coordinator in as many years.

But the vacancy gave Holgorsen the opportunity to get it right. And did he ever.

He promoted the energetic and popular Tony Gibson from safeties coach to coordinator. Then, to add experience to the defensive staff, Holgorsen brought in longtime Penn State assistant Tom Bradley.

Together, Gibson and Bradley have infused the West Virginia defense with an aggressive attitude and cool confidence.

“Those guys brought the mindset we needed,” said linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, who leads the Mountaineers in tackles. “They stress being relentless, no matter what happens. The mentality has been the biggest difference.”

In addition to transforming the mentality, Gibson has tweaked West Virginia’s 3-3-5 scheme to be more proactive in putting speed on the field and getting to the passer. Two weeks ago, the Mountaineers sacked Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty four times, shutting down the nation’s highest-scoring offense in a 41-27 landmark victory for the program.

“They’ve done a great job,” Patterson said of Gibson and Bradley. “Just watching them, just watching how they defended Baylor, it’s made a difference. You have to have a defense that can slow people down, and they have that now, and it started in that first game with Alabama.”

West Virginia lost to No. 6 Alabama in the opener despite a valiant defensive effort. Since then, the defense has improved every week. Last Saturday, the Mountaineers gave up just one offensive touchdown in a suffocating 34-10 victory at Oklahoma State.

[+] EnlargeTrevone Boykin
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezTCU's new offensive coordinators have helped convert Trevone Boykin into one of the country's top quarterbacks.
“We’re a pretty confident bunch defensively right now,” Holgorsen said. “I can’t express what coach Gibson has been able to do with the guys. It’s been fun to watch. It’s been awesome.”

But as awesome as the West Virginia defense has been, the TCU offense has been even better. The Horned Frogs are averaging 55 points a game in Big 12 play; Baylor is the only other team averaging more than 35.

Under Cumbie’s tutelage, Trevone Boykin, who finished last year as a wide receiver, has emerged as a Heisman Trophy contender at quarterback. And the Horned Frogs, who languished for a go-to receiver last year, have three this season in Josh Doctson, Kolby Listenbee and Deante’ Gray, who rank sixth, 10th and 12th in the league in receiving.

“We trust them and they trust us,” Gray said of the TCU co-coordinators. “They're the smart ones that know what plays to call. We just go out, trust the play and play hard.”

The TCU offense, however, will have one tough test in Morgantown, West Virginia, because of Gibson and Bradley, who have earned the trust of their players, too.

“It’s been fun for both [programs],” Patterson said. “We both have shown that we have the ability to compete.”

Thanks to Cumbie and Meacham. And Gibson and Bradley. In one year, they have helped turn two struggling programs into conference title contenders.
TCU's new offense is a receiver’s dream.

"This is the type of offense a receiver wants to be in," Horned Frogs receiver David Porter said. "You get to spread the defense out and get the ball in open spaces."

Bragging rights among TCU’s skill guys are up for grabs and on the minds of playmakers like Porter and running back B.J. Catalon.

[+] EnlargeDavid Porter
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsReceiver David Porter is excited about the potential for big plays in TCU's up-tempo offense.
"We talk about that every day," said Porter who rooms with Catalon. "Who is going to have the most catches? Who is going to make the most plays. We’re always talking about this offense."

Yet the Horned Frogs’ new up-tempo attack won’t mean TCU will be abandoning the running game. When Mike Leach’s "Air Raid" style attack is at the root of an offense, the assumption tends to be made that moving the ball on the ground is a thing of the past. That belief is well-earned, evidenced by Leach’s Washington State squad ranking last among FBS teams at 18.7 rush attempts per game in 2013.

Yet new offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie aren’t expected to put TCU’s talented running backs on the cupboard shelf. As the Leach offense has grown and expanded, with several different guys putting their spin on it, the running game has become a integral part of its success at several different places, including Oklahoma State, where Meacham helped the Cowboys rank in the top five nationally in total offense from 2010-12 before his lone season at Houston.

In 2013, Houston averaged 33.5 rush attempts per game with Meacham at the helm and Texas Tech, Cumbie’s former team, averaged 32.7 rush attempts per game. Those rush attempt per game numbers are music to the ears of TCU center Joey Hunt.

"I came from an offense in high school where we ran the ball all the time," Hunt said. "I want to continue to run the ball, too, [so we] have big plays running and passing.”

Up-tempo spread offenses at OSU, Texas Tech, West Virginia and Baylor are known for their high-flying passing games, yet OSU and Baylor averaged more rush attempts than pass attempts a year ago. Not surprisingly, those two squads found themselves in the thick of the Big 12 title race in November.

Balance is key.

"You have to run the ball," Hunt said. "We want to have a balanced offense. Be able to run the ball when we need to and pass the ball when we need to."

Having that ability is arguably the thing that separated Baylor’s offense from the rest last season. The Bears could throw when they wanted to throw or run when they wanted to run, and both aspects of the offense set up the other.

With Meacham and Cumbie in charge, TCU hopes to do the same. The tempo has increased, with Porter calling it "crazy" and Hunt admitting "it’s different" and noting that he has taken on a centerpiece role in the tempo change as the guy who gets on the ball and sets the rhythm for the entire offense.

It is creating excitement and anticipation for TCU’s offense to debut on Aug. 30 against Samford, because it’s not just a new offensive system the Horned Frogs' OC duo has brought to Fort Worth, Texas.

"They have swagger and confidence," Hunt said. "And that’s what our offense needs."

Big 12 lunchtime links

July, 21, 2014
Jul 21
12:00
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Shouldn't NCAA 15 be out by now? Oh, wait...
It's Take Two Tuesday time, when we give diverging opinions on a topic related to the Big 12.

Today's Take Two topic: which previously beleaguered unit will be more improved due to offseason coaching changes -- the TCU offense or the West Virginia defense?

Take 1: Max Olson -- TCU offense

When Gary Patterson set out to completely reshape how his Horned Frogs move the football, he found two guys who checked all the boxes in Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie.

They’re the protégés of two of the Big 12’s most successful Air Raid coaches (Mike Leach and Mike Gundy), they aren’t first-time OCs, they know the conference well, and they know how to recruit the state of Texas.

Meacham, the play caller, should probably be Oklahoma State’s OC today but instead put in a year at Houston where he coached up freshman QB John O'Korn to conference rookie of the year honors. Cumbie gets a chance to coach quarterbacks and brings plenty of knowledge about this scheme -- both coaching it and playing in it -- after working under Leach and Kliff Kingsbury.

Will TCU instantly become a 40-points-per-game offense because of the two new guys in the room? No. This is a complete offensive transition and that’s never easy, especially when you’re trying to mesh those philosophies with Patterson’s preferences in the TCU run game. Plus, you know, the fact the likely starting QB (Matt Joeckel) didn’t get on campus until June.

But this is a long-term commitment, and it’s going to put the Frogs in position to develop into a true annual contender in the conference.

Scrapping the statistically unpleasant offense of 2013 for this new look not only improves TCU’s chances of inking big-time skill players from the DFW area. This change can also help make TCU’s defense quicker and better adjusted in practice. It’s a win-win all the way around.

Take 2: Jake Trotter -- West Virginia defense

I love the moves Patterson made to boost the TCU offense. Cumbie and Meacham both have impressive offensive coaching resumes in the league and should instantly impact the Horned Frogs’ previous dilemma of scoring points.

But I believe the West Virginia defense will show more improvement this season given the moves the Mountaineers delivered in the offseason. But, even more crucial, given the players West Virginia has coming back.

TCU has a couple of nice pieces offensively, and possibly a big one that has enrolled this summer. Trevone Boykin is a valuable weapon, whether a situational quarterback or receiver. B.J. Catalon is one of the better backs in the league. Jordan Moore was one of the Horned Frogs’ best playmakers in the spring after swinging over to receiver from running back. TCU could also be primed for a major boost from Joeckel, who has more experience operating the Meacham/Cumbie offense than anyone else on the Horned Frogs roster. But the offense also has many holes to fill. The line was dreadful in 2013, and the offense is devoid of any all-conference-caliber receivers, at least on paper.

Meanwhile, the Mountaineers have fewer holes on their defense. They also made a hire in Tom Bradley that was as impressive as any made elsewhere in the league. Bradley coached alongside Joe Paterno at Penn State for more than three decades. As defensive coordinator from 2004-09, Bradley coached the Nittany Lions to six straight top 15 national finishes in total and scoring defense. He was also part of two national title teams and has coached in 26 bowl games.

Bradley brings a ton of experience to the Mountaineers defense. He has a great professional and personal relationship with new coordinator Tony Gibson. Athletic director Oliver Luck also noted that Bradley instantly brought a calming confidence to the team over the spring.

Gibson and Bradley will have some pieces to work with, too. All four linebackers come back to anchor the Mountaineers’ 3-4 attack, which is expected to put more emphasis on rushing the quarterback than previous West Virginia defenses under Keith Patterson and Joe DeForest.

The Mountaineers also return plenty of experience in the secondary, notably safety Karl Joseph and cornerback Daryl Worley, who both have All-Big 12 potential. The defensive line is the biggest question mark. But West Virginia partly addressed that by adding Gardner-Webb transfer Shaquille Riddick, who was an FCS All-American defensive end in 2013.

West Virginia has not finished better than eighth in the Big 12 in total defense since joining the league -- though injuries played a part in the disappointing finish in 2013. But under the new Gibson/Bradley regime, with more depth and an experienced core of players, the Mountaineers should be much improved defensively in 2013.
Coaches and players alike can make a name for themselves on third down. Receivers earn reputations for their ability to move the chains, signal-callers separate themselves as clutch performers and coaches’ creative play calling rises to the forefront during those key moments.

A closer look at the production of Big 12 offenses and defenses on third down can provide a glimpse at how champions are made and reveal areas of improvement heading into the 2014 season.

The stats, courtesy of ESPN Stats and Information, are from conference games only during the past two seasons in an effort to provide a fair baseline for every team. The teams are listed alphabetically with third-down conversion rate, opponent third-down conversion rate, yards per play on 3rd-and-6 or more and yards per play allowed on 3rd-and-6 or more serving as the four key categories to show production on third down, or lack thereof.

Some thoughts and notes:

  • Kansas State leads the Big 12 in third-down conversion percentage in the past two seasons, and it’s no major surprise to see the Wildcats sitting atop the conference, as Bill Snyder’s Wildcats are efficient and productive. Playing three different quarterbacks -- Collin Klein, Jake Waters and Daniel Sams -- during this stretch, K-State has the Big 12’s top raw QBR on third down (85) in this span. However, Waters’ 57 raw QBR on third down was the lowest of the trio. He’s expected to be KSU’s starter this fall and will need to play better on third down if the Wildcats hope to make a Big 12 title run.
  • Baylor, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech, the only other teams joining KSU with better than 40 percent conversions on third down, combined with the Wildcats to win 92 games during the past two seasons. Third-down success on offense and overall success seem to go hand in hand.
  • [+] EnlargeBill Snyder
    AP Photo/Matt YorkBill Snyder's Kansas State teams have excelled on third down, a big reason for the Wildcats' recent success.
    Iowa State, TCU and Kansas, the bottom three teams in third-down conversion percentage, will enter 2014 with new offensive coordinators, underscoring the importance of third-down success.
  • TCU’s defense was exceptional on third down, leading the conference with a 31.9 percent opponent third-down conversion percentage. If the Horned Frogs continue that production, and the offense improves its 31.3 third-down conversion rate, TCU could return to a bowl in 2014. New coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham are tasked with jump-starting the Horned Frogs offense.
  • Oklahoma State allowed just 34.7 percent opponent third-down conversion rate, joining TCU as the lone Big 12 schools under 35 percent in that category. An underrated defense is one reason Mike Gundy's squad won 18 games while playing musical chairs at the quarterback position during the past two seasons.
  • Baylor and Kansas State are in the bottom half of the Big 12 in opponent third-down conversion rate over the past two seasons, a sign that stellar defense on third down is not a requirement to win the Big 12 title. KSU was sixth at 40.5 percent, Baylor was ninth at 44.2 percent. The Wildcats won the conference title in 2012, Baylor won in 2013.
  • West Virginia, Iowa State and Kansas are the teams in the bottom half of the conference in third-down conversion rate and opponent third-down conversion rate. Those three teams combined to win 12 conference games in the past two seasons.
  • Baylor led the Big 12 in yards per play on 3rd-and-6 or more with a 6.97 ypp average. The Bears' explosive offense was joined by Oklahoma (6.96), Texas (6.89) and West Virginia (6.43) as the lone teams to average at least six yards per play in that scenario.
  • Texas Tech, at 4.68 yards per play, is surprisingly low in this scenario, rating ninth in the conference . The Red Raiders’ offense is consistently among the Big 12’s best but this is a clear area of improvement for Kliff Kingsbury’s squad.
  • OSU sits atop the conference at 3.98 yards per play allowed on 3rd-and-6 or more, another sign of how underrated its defense has been over the past two seasons.
  • KSU is the only other team that allowed less than five yards (4.23) in that scenario and is the only team in the top half of the Big 12 in yards per play and yards per play allowed in that scenario. Third-down success, on both sides of the ball, was a big part of KSU’s ability to consistently win (and surprise) during the past two seasons.
Since last week, we’ve been examining the strongest and weakest positions for each team in the Big 12 going into the fall.

On Tuesday, we continue the series with TCU.

Strongest position: Safety

The Horned Frogs are in terrific shape at the safety position with Chris Hackett, Sam Carter and Derrick Kindred returning after contributing for the Horned Frogs in 2013.

Add spring star Kenny Iloka and TCU could field the best group of safeties in the Big 12 this fall.

Hackett is one of the Big 12’s best safeties. He averaged 7.3 tackles per game while adding three forced fumbles and three interceptions as a sophomore. The Tyler, Texas, native is active and aggressive for Gary Patterson’s defense.

Carter joined Hackett as a second-team All-Big 12 performer in 2013 after recording a team-high five interceptions and adding four sacks. He brings 26 games of starting experience to TCU’s secondary as a senior.

Kindred worked his way into the lineup late last season, starting TCU’s final three games. He had 48 tackles, including 19 total stops in the three games he started.

Iloka joined the program in January and made an immediate impression during spring football. Even though the Horned Frogs return plenty of experience in the secondary, Iloka appears like he will carve himself a role in the defense during his first season in Fort Worth.

TCU’s combination of star power, quality depth and experience at safety is unmatched in the Big 12.

Weakest position: Offensive line

Getting its offensive line in order is one of the keys to TCU’s hopes of an offensive turnaround under new coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie.

Junior tackle Aviante Collins and center Joey Hunt provide a solid foundation, having started a combined 35 games at TCU. Collins has the ability to play right or left tackle but has plenty of room to improve and become more consistent. Hunt is on the Remington Award watch list after starting 11 games at center in 2013 and is likely the lone certain starter among the front five.

The overall depth and quality of TCU’s offensive line is on the rise particularly with the addition of February signees including junior college guard Frank Kee who could end up starting in the interior for the Horned Frogs. Additionally, tackle Tayo Fabuluje, tackle Joseph Noteboom, guard Bobby Thompson and tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai are battling for playing time and should help boost the overall depth and competitiveness among the offensive line.

TCU's offensive line isn't struggling to find talent, but the group as a whole needs to be much more productive and deeper than last year's group if the Horned Frogs hope to return to a bowl game.

TCU spring wrap

May, 1, 2014
May 1
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A recap of what we learned about TCU this spring as the Horned Frogs work to rebound from a 4-8 season.

Three things we learned in the spring:

1. Devonte Fields is back. The former Big 12 AP Defensive Player of the Year missed most of 2013 due to a foot injury and played like the guy who was a freshman phenom this spring, particularly in the final weeks of practice. If he stays healthy, he can be one of the nation’s top defensive ends once again.

2. The QB battle begins. Weeks after wrapping up spring practice, TCU got good news for its quarterback conundrum when Texas A&M transfer Matt Joeckel announced that he’s heading to Fort Worth. The senior will challenge Trevone Boykin and incoming freshmen Foster Sawyer and Grayson Muehlstein in what should be a competitive summer battle.

3. Spring ball is essential for getting a better grasp of what you’ve got in the fall, and coach Gary Patterson got some questions answered on that front. He liked how TCU’s offensive line came together, and successors in the secondary began to emerge. TCU’s overall depth seems to be steadily improving entering Year 3 in the Big 12.

Three questions for the fall:

1. Offensive mastery is a big one. Patterson brought in two quality up-tempo spread coaches in Doug Meacham (Houston) and Sonny Cumbie (Texas Tech) to install a new scheme. Learning how to execute that attack with consistent success takes times and lots and lots of reps, plus a steady QB. If you don’t get it down, you’re left with an offense that gets off the field quickly.

2. Must get the running back stable healthy. TCU was left with only one healthy scholarship rusher for the spring-ending scrimmage due to a variety of injuries. The run game is essential to how Patterson sees this offense operating, and there’s talent with B.J. Catalon, Kyle Hicks, Aaron Green, Trevorris Johnson and incoming frosh Shaun Nixon.

3. There really is no replacing Jason Verrett, so no point in phrasing it that way. What’s obvious is TCU needs several cornerbacks to step up if it hopes to replicate the impact of the future first-round pick. Ranthony Texada, a redshirt freshman, is the guy to watch, with senior Kevin White expected to hold down the other side.

One way-too-early prediction:

Expect TCU to still be one of the surprises of the Big 12 this fall. Yes, the schedule provides challenges early and often, with Minnesota on the nonconference slate and the Frogs opening Big 12 play against conference favorites Oklahoma (at home) and Baylor (in Waco), but don’t be shocked if the Horned Frogs are already sitting on six wins by the first week of November.
FORT WORTH, Texas -- For years, TCU stuck to an offensive philosophy built around trying to out-physical foes and trick them with play action. That style won the Horned Frogs five conference titles while in the Mountain West and Conference USA. They have not won many Big 12 games.

After two years in his new league and a 6-12 record in Big 12 play, TCU coach Gary Patterson knew it was time for a new approach.

[+] EnlargeGary Patterson
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsTCU coach Gary Patterson brought in new coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie to change the team's offense.
“We’re going to a style of offense that I thought evened the playing field,” Patterson said.

He went out and landed a pair of offensive coordinators who know Big 12 ball to design a hybrid Oklahoma State-Texas Tech scheme that Patterson says will still have “some of the old TCU” in the run game.

But this is the new TCU. No playbook, no huddle, no looking back.

The struggles of 2013 weren’t the lone motivator for Patterson’s change of plans, but the evidence was hard to ignore. Last season, TCU’s offense hit 10-year lows in points per game (25.1) and yards per play (5.03) and 10-year highs in turnovers (30) and three-and-outs (49).

The Horned Frogs had an offense that averaged 8.8 points in the first half of games, behind an offensive line that Patterson admits got “pushed around” at times due to injuries and departures. You can’t keep up with high-speed Big 12 offenses that way.

Another motivator? Patterson’s belief that a seemingly unexciting Horned Frogs offense wasn’t helping his cause in recruiting.

“I had watched too many skill players leave the city. Right now, they don’t know what this offense is about,” Patterson said. “Right now, they think TCU has a defensive coach. But to be honest with you, I have no problem winning 45-31.”

He’s putting his full trust in Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie to build up the new-look offense, so much so that Patterson says he’s taken a hands-off approach to the transition. He just tried to defend it in spring practice, and that wasn’t fun.

Meacham spent eight years learning and teaching one of the nation’s finest spread offenses at Oklahoma State, then left to run his own at Houston in 2013. TCU’s new playcaller has already served as an OC at five other schools in his career.

He’ll collaborate with Cumbie, a Mike Leach disciple who coached the past four years at Texas Tech and will oversee the TCU quarterbacks.

As Tech’s quarterback in 2004, Cumbie put up 70 points on the Frogs -- two touchdowns more than a Patterson-led TCU team has ever given up. And yes, that came up in the job interview.

Both are respected offensive minds and recruiters in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, and previous coordinators Rusty Burns and Jarrett Anderson are still on staff and have a say in game plans.

“Their relationship is awesome,” Patterson said. “I think the whole group has meshed real well. They’ve brought a lot of energy and new ideas.”

[+] EnlargeTy Slanina
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsHorned Frogs receiver Ty Slanina caught 19 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown as a freshman last season.
Installing the new attack meant coming up with new terminology, since at least three other Big 12 programs run similar sets, and new answers to how to outsmart opponents.

“It’s not so much you don’t know what’s coming, but can you out-execute it?” Patterson said. “It’ll be very important for us to be able to run the football, because I think going in that’s where our strengths are -- our offensive line and our running backs and our quarterback can run, especially Trevone [Boykin].”

The offensive line should be better and much, much bigger. Six of TCU’s best exiting spring ball -- Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Tayo Fabuluje, Frank Kee, Matt Pryor, Joseph Noteboom and Aviante Collins -- average 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds.

TCU’s top running backs all got hurt in spring ball -- literally -- but there are options there with B.J. Catalon, Aaron Green, Kyle Hicks, incoming freshman Shaun Nixon and a few others.

At receiver, Patterson says TCU has the guys needed to stretch a defense. Whether or not Brandon Carter returns, the staff is excited about speedsters like Deante' Gray and Kolby Listenbee and incoming freshmen Emanuel Porter and Corey McBride to go along with David Porter, Josh Doctson, Cameron Echols-Luper, Ty Slanina and Jordan Moore.

“I think we’ll have enough weapons to be able to move the football,” Patterson said.

Quarterback is still the question mark, especially if the versatile Boykin isn’t the choice. No matter who runs the show, the initial goal will be simple: first downs, points and a tempo that causes trouble.

“They’ve been awfully fast this spring,” Patterson said. “The biggest thing is to go fast enough to make people uncomfortable.”

That, after all, is the goal here: An offense that can prove as challenging as Patterson’s stingy defenses. The Horned Frogs’ mission for transformation isn’t guided by some sort of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” sentiment.

No, this is adaptation, and it’s necessary. After its first two Big 12 seasons ended in frustration, TCU is working on a new way to beat ‘em.
On Saturday, Baylor will hold its spring game, Oklahoma State will hold its “Orange Blitz” and TCU will hold its final practice of the spring -- all three of which are open to the public.

Here’s a closer look at all three events:

BAYLOR

When: 11 a.m.

Where: Highers Complex practice fields

What to watch for:
  • Young receivers: Wideout Tevin Reese is gone, but the Bears have a stable of dynamic, young options primed to take his place. Corey Coleman and Robbie Rhodes were both highly recruited players and should have expanded roles in 2014.
  • Defensive line: In Andrew Billings, Beau Blackshear and Shawn Oakman, the Bears believe this will be the best defensive line they’ve had in the Art Briles era. If the defense is to have any chance of slowing down their offensive teammates on Saturday, the D-line has to dominate, especially with left tackle Spencer Drango still recovering from a back injury.
  • RB Johnny Jefferson: Jefferson is one of the most intriguing players in the league who redshirted last year. The Bears didn’t need Jefferson in 2013 because they had Lache Seastrun, Glasco Martin and Shock Linwood. But Jefferson, who had offers from the likes of Ohio State and Notre Dame coming out of high school, has the talent to play a major role in the Baylor offensive machine alongside Linwood and Devin Chafin next season.
OKLAHOMA STATE

When: 1:30 p.m.

Where: Boone Pickens Stadium

What to watch for:
  • Quarterback battle: For the third straight spring, the Cowboys have a quarterback derby, this time featuring veteran J.W. Walsh, walk-on Daxx Garman and true freshman Mason Rudolph. Walsh still appears to have the edge, but Garman, who possesses a cannon for an arm, has been creating some buzz this spring. He’ll have a chance to create more Saturday.
  • RB/WR Tyreek Hill: Speaking of buzz, no player in the Big 12 has created more than Hill, who might be the fastest player in college football next season. Hill has been devoting some of his spring to a phenomenal track season. But when he has had the football in his hands, he is phenomenal, too. Hill appears to be the real deal.
  • New defensive faces: With seven starters and six all-conference performers gone, Oklahoma State is in rebuild mode defensively. Cowboys fans who show up on Saturday will get a chance to examine the bevy of Oklahoma State newcomers to the two-deep defense, including safeties Jordan Sterns and Deric Robertson, linebackers Devante Averette and Seth Jacobs and defensive linemen Ben Hughes, Vincent Taylor and Vili Leveni.
TCU

When: 11 a.m.

Where: Amon G. Carter Stadium

What to watch for:
  • New offense: Gary Patterson completely revamped his offense this offseason by bringing in spread gurus Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie. How far along are the Horned Frogs with this new hurry-up, no-huddle approach? Saturday will provide the answer.
  • DE Devonte Fields: After earning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year recognition as a freshman, Fields flopped as a sophomore because of suspension, shape and injury. Patterson said earlier this spring that Fields is back to playing the way he did as a freshman, which would be a huge boost for a program also looking for a bounce-back year.
  • QB Trevone Boykin: Boykin has been only a part-time quarterback the last two seasons, but he has practiced the position full time this spring while learning the new spread offense. Boykin has distanced himself from the other quarterbacks on campus this spring, but is he the long-term answer or just the short-term placeholder for one of the two incoming freshman quarterbacks?
Every coach wants to be in a similar position. Yet, at the same time, it creates a problem that can be difficult to overcome.

Mike Gundy’s success at Oklahoma State has made his job harder.

Since 2009, the Cowboys have won 50 games, recording a 76.9 winning percentage and winning one Big 12 championship. During the same span, nine assistant coaches have left the program including West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen and Southern Mississippi head coach Todd Monken. Only Gundy and defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer remain from the 2009 staff, which coached a squad which finished 9-4 and earned a Cotton Bowl berth.

Time and time again Gundy has watched as guys who helped build the program into a Big 12 championship contender have walked out of the football offices at Boone Pickens Stadium, never to return. Former coaches like West Virginia’s Joe DeForest and Texas’ Joe Wickline were core contributors as OSU created the foundation in Stillwater, Okla.

“[You build a program] then you win and you lose them all, people come in and take them,” Gundy said. “It’s kind of double-edged sword, if you don’t win, you’re not going to be here anyway, if you do win, then people are going to take your coaches. So, hopefully you can find quality people to come in here and take over. That’s what we’ve had to do.”

[+] EnlargeMike Gundy
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesMike Gundy has become used to rebuilding his coaching staff.
The offensive coaching staff has taken the biggest hits with Holgorsen and Monken leaving for head coaching jobs after record-setting seasons in Stillwater. Wickline had been the lone constant throughout Gundy’s tenure before leaving to join Charlie Strong’s Texas staff after nine seasons at OSU.

Fans have watched as historic rivalries have disappeared during conference realignment as schools searched to expand their budgets. Gundy believes the infusion of money into college football has played a major role in the instability of his staff, or any staff that has enjoyed similar success.

“Money has changed the way that staffs are [maintained] in our game,” he said. “Money has changed everything. Guys can stay at one place for a year or two then double their money, just like that, so they move. What I’ve learned to do over a number of years is to learn to not take it personal.”

For the most part, Gundy and the Cowboys have weathered the storm. OSU has had at least one coach leave the program after every season for the past five years. They’ve won double-digit games the following season three times during that period as Gundy has brought in new blood like running backs coach Jemal Singleton and cornerbacks coach Van Malone.

Yet it can’t help but feel like the lack of continuity will catch up with the program at some point.

“We always worry about the continuity of the staff,” Gundy said. “A guy has an opportunity to better his career, his family and move on. We’ve had guys leave, Doug Meacham left, now he’s a coordinator in the Big 12.”

Which brings up yet another problem facing the Pokes. Gundy has watched several of the branches from his coaching tree land in his own backyard.

In the fall of 2010, Holgorsen, Wickline and Meacham sat in the same meeting room as offensive coaches for the Cowboys. This fall, all three coaches will be at other Big 12 schools, with Meacham as the offensive coordinator at TCU, Wickline as offensive coordinator at Texas and Holgorsen running the offense at WVU. And all three will be looking to expose the Cowboys’ young defense in 2014 with a measure of familiarity with OSU’s offense that will be uncommon for a conference rival.

“That’s a bit of an issue in itself,” Gundy said.

Nonetheless, the Cowboys just keep trucking forward.

With Wickline as the latest departure, Gundy has been happy with his decision to hire Bob Connelly to replace him as OSU’s offensive line coach. Connelly is an 18-year veteran with coaching stops at Alabama, UCLA and Arizona State.

“I like his demeanor,” Gundy said. “I like his ability to teach and coach, he’s very experienced. Believe it or not, when you hire a coach you never know what you’re getting until you get him. We do the best we can to try to get people who fit into our style and mix with the personality of our coaching staff. I’m interested in bringing in coaches who want to teach and coach the game, not want to scream and yell. I think he’s done a nice job mixing in with our staff.”

With OSU’s sustained success, replacing assistant coaches has become an annual post-signing day tradition in Stillwater. Gundy fully expects that tradition to continue.

“I don’t think it’s ever going to change with the direction our profession is going,” Gundy said. “The dollar changed everything and people can move in a heartbeat.”
The Dallas Cowboys of the 1990s captured three Super Bowls on the backs of their triplets. Running back Emmitt Smith churned out yardage between the tackles. Wide receiver Michael Irvin hauled in receptions downfield. And quarterback Troy Aikman captained the unstoppable attack.

Like with the Cowboys, big-time triplets usually translate to big-time offense. And the Big 12 over the years has showcased several notable ones. Oklahoma’s Jason White, Adrian Peterson and Mark Clayton in 2004. Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden, Joseph Randle and Justin Blackmon in 2011. West Virginia’s Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey in 2012. Even last season, Baylor boasted one of the best triplets in the country in Bryce Petty, Lache Seastrunk and Antwan Goodley.

So which Big 12 teams will feature the most prolific offensive triplets in 2014? We rank them below:

1. Baylor

QB Bryce Petty, RB Shock Linwood, WR Antwan Goodley

The Bears remain atop this list, even with Seastrunk bolting early for the NFL draft. Despite being Baylor’s third-string running back last season, Linwood still finished sixth in the Big 12 in rushing and shined as the featured back while Seastrunk and Glasco Martin were injured. After totaling 46 touchdowns throwing and rushing, Petty should be even better in his second season as a starter. Goodley is an All-American-caliber wideout.

2. Oklahoma

QB Trevor Knight, RB Keith Ford, WR Sterling Shepard

Knight finally live up to his preseason billing with a sparkling Sugar Bowl performance against Alabama. Knight has the talent and potential to be one of the best dual-threat QBs in the country. Ford was one of the top running back recruits in 2013, and would have played more as a freshman had the Sooners not also had four senior running backs on the roster. Shepard has been a dependable starter the last two seasons, and he already has 96 career receptions going into his junior season. He seems ready to take over for Jalen Saunders as the go-to receiver.

3. Texas Tech

QB Davis Webb, RB Kenny Williams, WR Jakeem Grant

Webb broke out with a tremendous performance in the National University Holiday Bowl, throwing for 403 yards and four touchdowns in an upset of Arizona State. He had his moments during the regular season, too, and could be in for a monster sophomore campaign in Kliff Kingsbury’s air-it-out offense. Williams is a solid pass-catching running back out of the backfield, and he led the Red Raiders with 497 rushing yards and eight touchdowns last season. Williams has been taking first-team snaps at outside linebacker this spring, so he could wind up deferring carries to DeAndre Washington, who has been a capable backup. Grant is electric with the ball, burning Arizona State with a pair of touchdown catches. Grant was sixth in the Big 12 last season in receiving, and with Jace Amaro and Eric Ward gone, should take on an expanded role offensively.

4. Texas

QB David Ash, RB Malcolm Brown, WR Jaxon Shipley

The possibilities of this threesome hinges heavily on the health of Ash, who missed virtually all of the 2013 season with concussion issues. Ash is back with the team this spring, and he has had moments before of performing at a high level. After Johnathan Gray’s Achilles injury, Brown took over as the starting running back and performed admirably, rushing for more than 100 yards in each of Texas’ final three games. Shipley has sure hands, is a precise route runner and is capable of catching 70-plus passes in the right quarterback situation.

5. Kansas State

QB Jake Waters, RB DeMarcus Robinson, WR Tyler Lockett

The Wildcats would be ranked second here if John Hubert had another season of eligibility. But running back is a major question, with no back on the roster holding much experience. Robinson might be the favorite to win the job, but he’ll have to fend off Jarvis Leverett and incoming freshman Dalvin Warmack. Lockett is the best receiver in the Big 12 and one of the best in the country. Waters improved dramatically in his first season as the starter in 2013. If a running back emerges, the Wildcats could surge up this list.

6. Iowa State

QB Grant Rohach, RB Aaron Wimberly, WR Quenton Bundrage

Rohach first must win the starting quarterback derby this spring over Sam B. Richardson. But he played well down the stretch while leading Iowa State to a pair of wins to finish last year. Wimberly was banged up for much of last season, but he can be dynamic when healthy. Bundrage was third in the Big 12 in receiving touchdowns in 2013, and with a little more consistency, could be an all-league receiver. This could be the best triplet combination coach Paul Rhoads has enjoyed in Ames.

7. Oklahoma State

QB J.W. Walsh, RB Desmond Roland, WR Jhajuan Seales

Walsh was fifth in college football in Adjusted Total QBR as a redshirt freshman, but he took a step back as a sophomore and eventually lost the starting gig back to Clint Chelf. If he plays like he did as a freshman, Walsh could be one of the five-best QBs in the league. If he performs like his sophomore season, he could lose the job again. Roland is a touchdown machine and is as good as any back in the league in short-yardage situations. Seales could be on the verge of breaking out in a big way after starting as a freshman.

8. West Virginia

QB Clint Trickett, RB Dreamius Smith, WR Kevin White

The Mountaineers have plenty of weapons, but they will only score more points with more consistent QB play. Trickett tops the projected depth chart for now, but he’ll have to outperform Paul Millard, Skyler Howard and William Crest to stick there. Smith was very impressive at times last season backing up Charles Sims. He’ll get the first crack at starting, but Pittsburgh transfer Rushel Shell will be looming if Smith sputters. White gets the nod as the No. 1 wideout, but Daikiel Shorts and Mario Alford are not far behind as part of a deep and balanced wide receiving corps.

9. TCU

QB Trevone Boykin, RB B.J. Catalon, WR Josh Doctson

Boykin is back at quarterback again after splitting time at receiver the last two seasons. Boykin struggled as the starting QB last season but got little help from his offensive line or receivers. Reports are that he has been sharp this spring in the new Doug Meacham/Sonny Cumbie offense. Catalon is a solid cog at running back, and he averaged 5.3 yards per carry despite playing in an anemic attack last year. Brandon Carter was supposed to be the No. 1 receiver last season -- and still could be in 2014 -- but he wasn’t reliable on or off the field. In Carter’s stead, Doctson surfaced after transferring in from Wyoming, and led the Horned Frogs with 36 receptions and 440 receiving yards.

10. Kansas

QB Jake Heaps, RB Brandon Bourbon, WR Nick Harwell

Harwell should give Kansas what it hasn’t had in a long time -- a go-to receiver. Harwell was the nation’s second-leading receiver in 2011 at Miami (Ohio), and he should give the Kansas offense a much needed shot in the arm. Heaps lost time to freshman Montell Cozart last fall, but he has reasserted himself this spring amid a three-way competition with Cozart and UCLA transfer T.J. Millweard. Bourbon is battling Taylor Cox and Darrian Miller to see who replaces All-Big 12 running back James Sims.

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With spring practice off and rolling, plenty of questions surround the league’s programs. And while many of those won’t be fully answered until the season begins in the fall, here are some of the biggest ones Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech and West Virginia will face this spring:

Can freshman impact OSU's QB race?

Junior quarterback J.W. Walsh has made eight starts for the Cowboys over the last two seasons. But even with Clint Chelf now gone, Walsh still will have to fight for a job with freshman Mason Rudolph already on campus. Rudolph, who enrolled early to participate in spring ball, threw for more than 4,300 yards and 64 touchdowns his final year of high school and is one of the most highly-touted quarterback recruits ever to sign with the Cowboys. In high school, Rudolph played in an offensive scheme similar to Oklahoma State’s, which is what first interested him in the Cowboys. That should ease his transition to the college level. Of course for now, the job is Walsh’s to lose. But Rudolph has the talent and the skill set to begin applying pressure on Walsh as soon as this spring.

How will TCU adapt to the offensive overhaul?

TCU conducted its first spring practice over the weekend, and the exit polls suggested the Horned Frogs went through offensive drills fast. Like really fast. Tired of ranking near the bottom of the Big 12 in offense, Gary Patterson shook up his coaching staff and brought in Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham to install an up-tempo offensive system that resembled those of Texas Tech (Cumbie) and Oklahoma State (Meacham). As Patterson admitted after the first practice, there will be a learning curve for his players to picking up this new offensive style. But the quicker quarterback Trevone Boykin can adapt, the better off TCU will be going into 2014.

How will Texas look different under Strong?

The last time Texas had a coach other than Mack Brown running a spring practice, Bill Clinton was still president. The Charlie Strong era will begin in earnest with the start of spring practice in Austin. How will the players adjust to the new schemes of assistants Shawn Watson, Joe Wickline and Vance Bedford? How will the veterans react to their new position coaches? Who will thrive with the new staff? Who will falter? Those pivotal questions will begin to be answered this spring.

Can Texas Tech get by with only one scholarship QB?

With starting right tackle Rashad Fortenberry getting an extra year of eligibility over the weekend, the Red Raiders seem to be in good shape across the board offensively. Of course, that could change real quick should QB Davis Webb incur any kind of injury this spring. With Baker Mayfield at Oklahoma and Michael Brewer headed to Virginia Tech, the Red Raiders will be down to just one scholarship quarterback until Patrick Mahomes arrives in the summer. Though coach Kliff Kingsbury has said that Tech has a couple of capable walk-ons, an injury to Webb would hamper the spring development of an offense that will have big goals in the fall. Coming off a breakout performance in the bowl game, Webb also needs to continue developing this spring. But he also needs to remain healthy for the betterment of himself and the team.

Who will get carries for West Virginia?

Even with Charles Sims gone, the Mountaineers still enjoy a stable of capable of running backs. But where will Sims’ carries go? After rushing for 494 yards last season, Dreamius Smith is starting out the spring atop the depth chart. But he’ll have to fend off several comers to remain there. Wendell Smallwood came on strong late during his freshman season and finished the year averaging 5.7 yards per carry. Rushel Shell also joins the fray this spring after transferring over from Pittsburgh. Shell, who set a Pennsylvania high school rushing record, was formerly the No. 26 overall recruit in the 2012 recruiting class. There are still others. Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie are still around after leading the Mountaineers’ in rushing in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Oh yeah, West Virginia will also add four-star signee Donte Thomas-Williams in the summer. Good luck to the running back who dares to take a play off in this crammed competition.

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