Big 12: Duane Akina

Best Big 12 recruiters 

October, 15, 2013

Editor's note: For a look at the national recruiter power rankings based only on Class of 2014 success, click here.

The best college football coaches will tell you that when it comes to recruiting, their business is an art. It’s a craft you must perfect if you want to have the best players commit and ultimately sign. Recruiting isn’t for everybody, but those who are good at it -- particularly for building the 2014 class -- should be recognized, as the business is extremely competitive.

Here are 10 of the top recruiters from the Big 12.

AUSTIN, Texas -- The talent on Texas’ roster is supposed to be on par with Alabama.


[+] EnlargeMack Brown
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesTexas coach Mack Brown and his staff have some things to prove this fall.
Both schools have a total of 57 players on their 2013 rosters who earned four-star ratings from ESPN as recruits.

Thanks in large part to its recent No. 1-ranked class, Alabama has 40 players who received ESPN 150 honors in high school. Texas has 35.

Perhaps that gives some perspective on just what the Longhorns' coaching staff is working with entering this season. The cupboard is indeed stocked full.

The depth chart Texas is expected to release on Monday morning will be stuffed with experienced talent, most of whom were big-name recruits.

The coaching staff Mack Brown revamped after 2010 is entering its third season together. This group is responsible for recruiting more than 70 percent of the current 85-man roster, if we include the 2011 class those new coaches kept intact after arriving in Austin.

Make no mistake: These are the kids Brown and his staff wanted, the kids who were brought in to turn this program around.

They’ve brought together all the ingredients, but the recipe keeps changing. What exactly are Brown and his coaches cooking up for 2013?

We’ll find out soon, but having that talent base in place has Texas fans dreaming of a Big 12 championship and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl -- or better. Brown has said all summer that this program is about to be real good again and go on a championship run. Now, it’s on his staff to deliver.

Their coaching could mean the difference between that conference title and another 9-win season. They’re working with essentially the same talent they had last season, losing only four major contributors from 2012. How much more can they get out of this group?

After two seasons of ups and downs, each of Brown’s assistants has something to prove. Major Applewhite is entering his first season as play-caller. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz wouldn’t be back if many UT fans had their druthers. Even the revered Duane Akina has problems to solve with his safeties.

But this is the staff Brown hand-picked, and he’s praised the fact that, with the exception of Bryan Harsin’s departure, there is strong continuity in having nine of the same coaches working together for a third year.

“I think the coaches that came in two years ago understand Texas better now than they did two years ago,” Brown said at the start of fall camp. “It's a different place. It's a unique place.”

The expectations they must navigate through are high, sometimes unfairly so. If Texas, with its 19 returning starters and its best depth in years, isn’t great, the finger-pointing will start with the coaches. Especially if, for the third year in a row, they’re badly outcoached by Bob Stoops and Oklahoma.

That’s the burden of the job, especially in a season when Texas’ roster looks so good on paper and the rest of the Big 12 isn’t looking all that scary.

That Texas was voted the preseason No. 4 team by conference media says plenty about what the rest of the league thinks of the Longhorns. Yeah, sure, UT a loaded roster. So what? They always have that. What are they going to do with it?

That ranking doesn’t mean a thing one week from now, but still, the implicit message was clear. Texas isn’t the preseason league favorite because too many folks don’t believe it will be better coached than Oklahoma State, Oklahoma or TCU -- no matter how many games those teams combined to lose (14) in 2012 or how much talent Brown has on campus.

Five days from now, Brown, his coaches and all his once-touted players begin a season that could drastically change those perceptions.

“As I've said before,” Brown said, “we have to shut up and play, shut up and coach.”
AUSTIN, Texas -- One year ago, Adrian Phillips had a bum shoulder. Now he has a chip on his shoulder.

Much was expected of the Texas free safety as a junior, and in hindsight that might’ve been unfair. Now that he’s a senior, he has only one chance to make up for a season that was a disappointment.

“I really had to go deep inside myself,” Phillips said, “and say, ‘Look, forget everything that has happened. Only look ahead.’”

[+] EnlargeAdrian Phillips
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesDespite struggling with a shoulder injury from the outset, Texas safety Adrian Phillips still finished third on the team in tackles.
Look back, though, and it’s easy to see this wasn’t entirely his fault. Phillips missed spring practices and fall camp last year while recovering from shoulder surgery that was supposed to sideline him up to six months. So yes, when he was thrust right back into the starting lineup for Texas’ opener against Wyoming, he was playing hurt.

He downplayed the pain early last season, perhaps because Phillips had exceedingly high expectations for himself. This was the year he planned to make a name for himself, to win awards and make All-Big 12 teams and prove he’s one of the next great members of “DBU.”

There was only one problem, and a rather glaring one: Tackling. Missing the hard-hitting days of fall practice proved more problematic than he’d anticipated.

Phillips unwittingly became somewhat of a whipping boy for a Texas secondary that struggled far too often to make stops in the open field. And he couldn’t fathom why.

“You can watch film from my freshman year of me hitting bigger guys than I’ve ever hit before and taking them to the ground. That’s why it was hard for me to understand,” Phillips said. “Everybody knew I wasn’t that player. The fact I was playing that way, they couldn’t figure out what was wrong.

“I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. If I knew, I would’ve fixed it.”

Texas secondary coach Duane Akina searched for solutions and tried starting Josh Turner and Mykkele Thompson at free safety, but Akins didn’t give up on Phillips either.

The dissatisfying season did end on a good note, with interceptions in Texas’ final two regular season games. Phillips still finished third on the team in tackles with 72.

“What turned it around for me was, I just went back to the basics,” he said. “Make contact, run your feet, wrap up. Don’t worry about trying to do too much or trying to get on a highlight tape. Just make contact, run your feet, wrap up.”

He did his best to not let the criticism from Longhorns fans get to him, but there’s no doubt the trials shook his confidence at times. When you’ve come this far yet have no answer for what’s wrong with your game, that’s only natural.

“If you doubt yourself, that’s when problems happen,” Phillips said. “Of course, when you hear that criticism it’ll make you mad, but you never want to use that as doubt. Once you do that, you’re going to lose from the start. You remember what happened and make it better for the next year.”

Akina didn’t need to tell the members of his secondary that their play wasn’t up to the “DBU” standard. The ups and downs of 2012 were motivation enough.

“No matter if you’re coming off a great season or a horrible season, it’s never going to be good enough,” Phillips said. “Coach Akina always wants to raise the bar. That’s why he’s the best coach in America right now.”

Phillips is raising his own expectations too. He says he’s now 100 percent healthy for the first time in a long time, and a full workload in spring practices and summer lifting undoubtedly helped.

He’s grateful his teammates had his back last season when he struggled, and he’s especially appreciative that Akina still believes he can emerge as a top-flight safety. He’s ready to reward his coach’s faith.

“He stayed on our side,” Philips said. “A lot of credit goes to him, because he helped us in our time of need. We are going to get that changed this year."
AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas has a well-earned reputation as the nation's "DBU," a proverbial factory of NFL defensive backs.

Even so, when three NFL-caliber corners leave a team, like they did at Texas before the 2011 season, doubts will surface.

Can you replace Aaron Williams' versatility? What about Curtis Brown's cover skills and Chykie Brown's knack for being in the right place for the big play at the right time?

[+] EnlargeCarrington Byndom
John Albright/Icon SMICarrington Byndom is part of an experienced Texas backfield.
New defensive coordinator Manny Diaz looked down his depth chart and saw a true freshman, Quandre Diggs, and a little-used sophomore in Carrington Byndom.

By season's end, though, the duo transformed one of the Longhorns' biggest question marks -- and after a 5-7 season in 2010, they had plenty -- into arguably its biggest strength.

"Both of them are both very bright," coach Mack Brown said. "They made an easy transition to the field. Both of them were in very good high school programs."

Diggs showcased his fearlessness early in the spring. He went head-to-head with -- and held his own against -- the team's top and more experienced receivers while he should have been in high school. The contact did not faze the former high school running back.

"Quandre was tough," Brown said. "He got knocked around a lot."

Meanwhile, Brown pointed to Byndom's outstanding athletic ability for his early success. Byndom had the option to play college baseball, but elected to stick to football.

"Carrington has gotten tougher every minute he's been here," Brown said, adding that he was a "very good athlete."

By fall, both were entrenched as starters.

Diggs finished the season with four interceptions, more than all but one freshman in college football (Bryce Callahan of Rice). The league's coaches named him the Big 12's top defensive freshman and Diggs was named a freshman All-American. He landed a spot on the All-Big 12 second team, too.

Byndom, a first-year starter, landed a nod as a first-team All-Big 12 talent and a key cog in a defense that topped the conference in total defense for a fifth consecutive season. He picked off two passes and tied Diggs with a team-high 15, earning the team's defensive player of the week honors on four occasions.

Notes KC Joyner of Football Outsiders:
His 6.2 yards per attempt (YPA) allowed total was better than the YPA marks posted by Alabama Crimson Tide cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (6.6) and LSU Tigers cornerback Morris Claiborne (7.5), two coverage specialists who will likely end up selected in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft.

DBU, indeed.

The Longhorns also were the only team in college football to not allow a touchdown pass for 20 yards or longer before the season finale against Heisman winner Robert Griffin III and receiving champ Kendall Wright.

"They were very responsible," Brown said. "That was one of our biggest question marks sitting there in the spring and in the fall. And I thought you have to give a lot of credit to Manny and to [defensive backs coach] Duane [Akina] for devising a scheme that took pressure off of them as well.

"We didn't play near as much man and didn't put them in as many one-on-one situations, and then because of their confidence you see the play that Carrington made at A&M probably changed that game."

Byndom swung the momentum for the burnt orange in the final chapter of a heated rivalry with the in-state Aggies before they left for the SEC.

Trailing 16-7 at halftime, Byndom stepped in front of a Ryan Tannehill pass early in the third quarter, returning it 58 yards for a touchdown, silencing a rabid Kyle Field crowd and igniting a second-half comeback for the ages.

Brown saw plenty out of both corners in 2011, but they were young and inexperienced. What happens now?

Big 12 receivers, beware.

HornsNation links: DB recruits waiting

March, 14, 2012
HornsNation has more coverage of the Texas Longhorns:

Max Olson writes Insider: Texas coaches are taking their time evaluating defensive back recruits, and have yet to make any offers to in-state products. While the Longhorns do this, they're asking the Texas prospects to have some faith.

Carter Strickland writes: Texas has had a charmed run with clutch kickers. However, Justin Tucker has departed and the Longhorns' kickers are struggling this spring. Now, Texas might be relying on a freshman in the fall.
We'll move on to the cornerbacks today in our position rankings across the Big 12.

Here's what we've covered so far:
This group? Well, it's not very good. And considering the crazy depth in the Big 12 at receiver, it could be a long season for cornerbacks in this league. I love the upside of many of the Big 12 corners -- namely the guys at Missouri and Texas Tech (especially working with Chad Glasgow's 4-2-5 in Lubbock). Texas could also develop fast in its new defense, but outside of Texas A&M and Oklahoma, I don't see any Big 12 teams that should be completely comfortable with their cornerbacks.

Of course, for fans who love points, this could be a welcome development. For secondary coaches and defensive coordinators? Not so much.

[+] EnlargeJamell Fleming
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireJamell Fleming returns as the Big 12's top cornerback.
1. Oklahoma -- Jamell Fleming is the Big 12's top returner at the position and gives the Sooners a huge boost after being reinstated last week. Fleming had withdrawn from the university because of academic problems following the season. Aaron Colvin moved to safety during the offseason, but Fleming will still have to beat out Gabe Lynn in fall camp to start opposite Demontre Hurst. Julian Wilson also adds depth.

2. Texas A&M -- Fleming's return pushed the Sooners over A&M as having the Big 12's best group of corners. But Coryell Judie and Terrence Frederick could both challenge for first team All-Big 12 honors at the position. They are ahead of reserves Dustin Harris and Lionel Smith, who will get plenty of time on the field.

3. Missouri -- Missouri loses starters Carl Gettis and Kevin Rutland, but the coaches consider Kip Edwards a returning starter because of how much he played last season. Edwards could join E.J. Gaines in eventually becoming better than both Gettis and Rutland. Trey Hobson and Robert Steeples will get time in the rotation, too.

4. Oklahoma State -- OSU has to replace the Big 12's interception leader Andrew McGee , but Brodrick Brown's development should continue. He's likely a dark horse to earn first-team All-Big 12 honors after the season. The Cowboys didn't release a post-spring depth chart, but don't be surprised if return specialist Justin Gilbert edges out Devin Hedgepeth for the starting spot before the opener. Andrae May has earned playing time on special teams in both of his first two seasons on campus, but could be counted on for a much bigger role this year as the fourth corner.

5. Texas -- The Longhorns are fairly decimated at corner after losing three to the NFL in one offseason. Curtis and Chykie Brown joined Aaron Williams for one of the most talented sets of corners we've seen in this league, but now, secondary coach Duane Akina will have to replace them. Texas' depth chart is still as in flux as any in college football, but I'd be surprised if Carrington Byndom didn't emerge with a starting spot. True freshman Quandre Diggs might swipe the other, but A.J. White will be on the field, too.

6. Texas Tech -- The Red Raiders are likely to ascend this list by season's end, but for now, find themselves at No. 6. Injuries were costly for the defense last season, but Tre Porter and Derrick Mays should be much better, and Tech fans can be encouraged by the upside in Jarvis Phillips, Jeremy Reynolds and Eugene Neboh.

7. Iowa State -- This group might be a bit underrated, but with Iowa State's defensive problems last season, it's a bit hard to tell. Jeremy Reeves and Leonard Johnson return with loads of experience, and Anthony Young is a great additional piece as the third corner. Matthew Thomas should be in the rotation, too.

8. Baylor -- The Bears return both starters. Chance Casey has 15 career starts to Tyler Stephenson's four, but the Bears secondary struggled last season, especially the corners. Tuswani Copeland should be on the field under new coordinator Phil Bennett, whose work is cut out for him at this spot.

9. Kansas -- Kansas loses Chris Harris from last season's team, but Isiah Barfield is a playmaker at the position. Greg Brown, Tyler Patmon and Anthony Davis fill out the group.

10. Kansas State -- The Wildcats have a huge talent in David Garrett, who led the team in tackles last season and was the nation's leader in tackles for loss, but he's still just one player at a position that needs lots of depth in this league. Also, his coverage leaves a bit to be desired. For now, K-State doesn't look like it has that necessary depth. Terrance Sweeney and Stephen Harrison are gone, but the Wildcats need to find more talents at the position in fall camp. Watch for Thomas Ferguson to emerge as the other starter.

Mailbag: QB change, best D, new rivalries

May, 27, 2011
Good questions this week. Much appreciated on my end. If yours didn't get answered, or you were too lazy to ask it, feel free to send it my way.

Paul in Oklahoma City asked: Ubbs...who do you see taking over at QB at OSU after Weeden leaves? A lot of people think JW Walsh will but is there any chance Clint Chelf or Johnny Deaton take over instead?

David Ubben: It's pretty tough to tell early on, and we haven't had much chance to see these guys. J.W. Walsh's head was still spinning when I visited Stillwater the spring, but when the game slows down for him, we'll get a better feel of how good he could be.

It should be a pretty fun competition, but experience like Chelf got last season and probably will get this season is impossible to duplicate. Too many times people lose sight of the importance of the backup quarterback race and making sure you have a guy that's ready. Landry Jones narrowly beat out Drew Allen in 2009, and like the Sooners learned the hard way, the old adage of "You're only one play away" is a cliche that's far from meaningless.

Kevin Bright in Oklahoma City asked: David, Should the Sooners trade Westbrook? How will the loss of Murry effect the Thunder? You know he scored a bunch of touchdowns to get them to the Western Conference Finals? And speaking of the Finals why did Stoops go small and allow the Mavs all those rebounds. And do you think Scott Brooks would leave for the Ohio State job if Tressel gets handed his gold pants? I am so confused, is it August yet? Any way, no way Alabama is going to beat the Thunder next year! Sooners should be #1. Always have been, always will be. At least to me. And sometimes in the polls. You da man.

DU: Ha. I'm not sure why, but this e-mail made me laugh. I had to share. But seriously ... is it August yet?

Keyser Soze in Houston asked: Big 12 talk is always about the offense. Tell me which teams you think are going to do the most damage on the defensive side of the ball. NU is out so the conference is losing some of the little defensive credibility it had. Texas played pretty well considering they had no offense to give them a breather, but they have to replace the secondary. A&M started off pretty porous but was playing pretty impressive late in the year, unfortunately they have von miller to replace. Missouri could be pretty good and an unconfirmed rumor says tubberville can teach red raiders to spell tackle.

DU: I generally think Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas and Texas A&M will battle it out for the Big 12's best defense. Tech is still a year away on both sides of the ball, but if they can stick around and win 7-8 games this season, the Red Raiders could be in position for a Big 12 title run in 2012.

Those first four defenses are pretty complete, with a few minor problems. Whoever fixes them the best will come out on top. The Aggies have to figure out how to replace Michael Hodges, which I actually think will be harder to do than replacing Miller. Missouri has to make sure its new corners are as good as the coaches think they are.

Texas' secondary, as you mentioned, is really young. But there's no denying Texas' ability to pump out DBs and getting Duane Akina back was huge for the Horns. Oklahoma has some inexperience in the secondary and some questions at defensive tackle, but I doubt those two positions will drop below average at worst.

Lou in USA asked: You seem to post on the comment section more than the other bloggers. What do you think of the new format? I personally like it.

DU: I like it a lot. I think it'll make it easier for people to carry on conversations about linear topics without a lot of distraction. That's what the comments section is all about, and helping accomplish that is a good thing.

Everyone on the Internet generally hates every change at first, but they get used to it over time. I'm sure the comments section will be the same.

Matthew in Rolla asked: Hey David! I read the article about Big 12 rivalries that "should be." How about Missouri vs. Arkansas or Iowa?

DU: Missouri needs one, but it's best nonconference rivalry (Illinois) just ended. Arkansas already plays its old SWC rival, Texas A&M, and with an SEC schedule looming, doesn't need to add Missouri. The same with Iowa, who plays Iowa State every year in nonconference anyway.

In theory, those games would be great, but Iowa and Arkansas are busy with other series to add Missouri. The Tigers have a nice marquee nonconference matchup in probably Pac-12 South favorite Arizona State this year, but finding a geographic rival outside of Illinois would be a nice move in the future.

Larry Scott in Walnut Creek, Calif., asked: David, in my massive marketing deal for the 12-Pack, I used a company called Pac-12 Media Enterprises and that company is a for-profit holding company for the conference. Does creating a FOR-profit company to collect hundreds of millions of dollars for NON-profit educational institutions make you nervous?

DU: I'll just say this: yes.

Matt in Dallas: Should the conference look at each team playing a 4-4-1 "Big 12" schedule? As in 4 home games, 4 away games, and 1 neutral site? If so, which teams should play which and where should they play the games?

DU: Yeah, teams definitely need to look into doing that. It can be tough to fill the seats in games like that (see: Missouri versus Kansas and Iowa State versus Kansas State at Arrowhead last season) but playing five away games in conference seems like a rough deal for coaches.

As the league's strength fluctuates, somebody is going to get completely hammered on a road schedule one of these years, too. Could see some really good teams lose 2-4 games as a result.

Lunch links: Pack of rattlesnakes in Austin

March, 28, 2011
My sources indicate you should think before you Tweet. Especially if one's career is involved. Still working to confirm.

AUSTIN, Texas -- Never mind the seven-year itch. Mack Brown is long past that by now, rolling in wins every year in his first 12 seasons to keep fans from wondering what if someone else held the title of Longhorn Leader.

[+] EnlargeMack Brown
Brett Davis/US PresswireTexas coach Mack Brown is ready to put last season behind him.
"Whether we like it or not, people like new. They like fresh," Brown said. "We won a lot of games and did really well, but 13 years is a long time to be at a place. Sometimes change is good."

Nothing spurs change faster than a five-win season like the Longhorns endured in 2010. Brown replaced three coaches, including offensive coordinator Greg Davis, who had become a lightning rod for fan criticism in recent seasons, never more so than last season. Two more, including defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, left for new jobs.

The process of getting used to all those new faces after three seasons without a staff change is underway at Texas this spring.

"It’s fun to have new ideas because we’ve been doing the same stuff for so long," Brown said. "We haven’t had any -- well, much -- changes on offense in our offensive staff for 15 years, really."

Texas' vision for its new offense is ambitious, but direct. Stacey Searels came from Georgia to coach the offensive line. Darrell Wyatt moved from Kansas to coach the Longhorns' receivers. And they'll work under Bryan Harsin, who called plays for five years at Boise State before accepting an offer from the Longhorns. He turned down several others in the past few offseasons.

Defensively, Manny Diaz went from coordinator at Middle Tennessee State two years ago, to Mississippi State last season, to Texas. He had glowing recommendations from everyone Brown spoke with. Bo Davis moved in from Alabama to add some more SEC flavor to the staff and coach the defensive line.

Diaz's defense, Brown says, isn't much different from what Muschamp established in three seasons at Texas. The Longhorns will aggressively attack offenses.

"Manny is just all over the place. They're not going to read. they're not going to sit," Brown said. "I like that Manny does a great job disguising his secondary. He does a lot of pro stuff. He does stuff like the New York Jets are doing, and I wanted that to be fun for our fans and our kids."

Offensively, though, Texas is working on big changes.

"It’s been fun to watch them all work. It’s like putting pieces of a puzzle together," Brown said. "We don’t want Alabama or Georgia’s offense. We don’t want Boise State’s offense. We want a Texas offense."

To make a step toward getting it, Brown had to say goodbye to his longtime coordinator Davis, squashing criticisms that their close relationship had become a detriment to the program and would prevent Brown from making the change so many fans wanted to see.

"Greg’s a great friend, he’s a tremendous professional. My relationship with him hasn’t changed. People might think it has, but it has not," Brown said. "There were people that thought Greg was in my wedding. Well, I’ve had two of them, and he wasn’t in either one. It wasn’t like we were best of friends off the field. We’ve been good friends for years, but when you’re in the office, it's professional."

Harsin's new offense will feature pre-snap motion unlike anything Texas has seen under Brown. Additionally, it will continue Brown's desire to establish a two-back offense that's also versatile. Harsin's teams in five seasons at Boise State averaged more than 187 yards on the ground, but also had the ability to run four and five-receiver sets in a fast-paced, no-huddle scheme.

Not to mention the trick plays that became a signature of Boise's offense in a pair of Fiesta Bowl wins, including a classic finish against Texas' rival, Oklahoma that featured a hook-and-ladder, a halfback pass and a Statue of Liberty play to win the game.

"I’ve never seen that before and Bryan was about 28 when he made those calls," Brown said. "He’s aggressive and out of the box."

Like another out-of-the-box coach in the Big 12, Mike Leach, Harsin will run many of the same plays out of different formations. The difference is Harsin's offense will more often feature power runs with distracting motion before the snap that are fueled by blocking schemes that don't change.

"What I’ve learned is it’s a very complicated-looking offense with very simple theories. That’s what I really like," Brown said. "Bryan will have five runs, but he’ll run them from so many different -- 26 formations -- that everybody will think they’re different runs, but it’s the same blocking scheme for the linemen and [defenses are] the ones that really have the problem."

In a league that's become known for passing offenses and getting gashed by power running games outside the conference, Brown wants his new offense to be ahead of the trends that have become common in the Big 12.

"That's what we hope. I wanted to be different," he said. "I think it’s time to go back to two backs and be more multiple, and that’s a fun change for me, too, because it’s different than what I’m used to."

Talking coaching changes and A&M's future

February, 15, 2011
Thanks for all the questions again this week. Here's the full chat transcript if you missed it.

And a few highlights:

John in San Antone asked: Ubbs, what do you make of this Duane Akina/Jerry Gray saga? Is there anything between the lines that we're not seeing?

David Ubben: Well, maybe, but nothing to be really worried about. It looks like two coaches doing what's best for them at that point in time. I do think Akina had a change of heart, and there's been some debate about when exactly that change occurred (i.e., before or after Gray was hired), but I don't think it's a big deal. Nobody did anything wrong.

Cash in Tuscaloosa, Ala., asked: Dave, can you settle once and for all the A&M to the SEC thing. Is there, or isn't there a standing invitation? Seems odd to add a 13th school, especially one not named Texas or OU ...

DU: Well, as it stands right now, I would be shocked if there was truly a standing invitation. Could there be one in the future? Possibly, but I believe another conference would have to do something to make that a need. Adding A&M would be a good move for the SEC. It would be a terrible move for A&M, as I've said before. It seems like every commissioner in college sports outside of Larry Scott believes conferences with more than 12 football teams is a bad idea.

Jerry in Austin writes: Why all the love for A&M ? I mean they have talent on their team but they barely beat Texas in 2010 and one of their most talented players from last year, Von Miller, is going to the draft.

DU: Miller is a loss, but Damontre Moore might become the next Von Miller. He certainly looked the part in the nonconference season when Miller was hurt. Look, though, at what the Aggies bring back.
  • Their quarterback
  • Four offensive linemen
  • All their best receivers
  • Two All-Big 12 caliber running backs
  • Nine starters on defense
  • Kicker
  • All from a nine-win team.

What's not to love?

Mike in Iowa writes: Another Iowa State question. Paul Rhoads has been a great fit at ISU, but I've been hearing on sports radio people saying that if Rhoads is able to turn any heads again in his 3rd year by getting some nice upset it'll probably result in him getting some way better offer somewhere else. I know Rhoads is a homer, but money talks. Us fans were already holding our breath when we found out Pitt was looking for a head coach.

DU: It's definitely a concern, but I think Rhoads is a perfect fit for the Cyclones. If it comes down to it, they need to pay him absolutely anything they can to keep him around.

Jayhawks in Lawrence asked: do you have a favorite team in the conference or do you like us all equally like my parents told me and my siblings growing up?

DU: Equal treatment for all! Quips and compliments handed out as deserved.

Andrew in College Station asked: Do you think Sherman and Deruyter are building something permanent in Aggieland that will be able to sustain 9+ wins a year or will there be a significant drop off starting in 2012?

DU: I don't believe the program is at a point where it can count on winning nine games every year, but by now, a bowl game at worst is certainly the expectation. Don't forget, the nine wins last year were only the second time that's happened since 1998.

Steve in Moore, Okla., asked: I know Beebe has said there are no plans to expand but how long would it take to change that if one of the conference teams was left out of a NCG?

DU: It doesn't sound like that's what would do it. And the perception of the Big 12's strength isn't that bad. You're talking about a league that lost one relevant team and may have five in the top 25 and three in the top 10 to open next season. Texas and Oklahoma have beefed up their nonconference schedules. I don't see them getting left out of the title game soon, and the only thing it sounds like would spur expansion is someone else making a move.

Texas announces Duane Akina re-hire

February, 14, 2011
Duane Akina is officially coming back to Texas, according to a release by the school. Akina told officials at Arizona on Monday morning of his plans to leave, but officials at UT had been silent on the issue before Monday evening.

A few quotes from the release:

Akina on his return:

"I know this has been difficult for everyone involved, but when Mack (Brown) and I talked about the opportunity, and considering what a difficult month it has been for me and my family, I thought it was a move I needed to make. I went to Arizona to be closer to my family and some of those circumstances changed. Also, having younger children who grew up here and loved Austin made the move to Arizona difficult. All of those factors played key roles in my decision to return."

Brown on Akina's return:

"We're so excited to have Duane back. Like everyone within our program, he will be starting out with a fresh, new, clean slate. That has been our primary focus in moving forward, and we have a lot of positive energy in the program. Duane and I talked about that, and he is really looking forward to getting back here and being a part of it. You can't imagine the excitement I've already heard from the players to have back one of their favorite coaches since we've been here."

Brown on Jerry Gray's departure over the weekend:

"We're disappointed we lost Jerry, but he left for a great opportunity that he just couldn't pass up. Jerry will remain a great friend of mine and of Texas. He's a great Longhorn and always will be. We're happy for him and his family, but are very fortunate to be replacing a great coach who will have a bunch of success in Tennessee with someone we all know and love so much in Duane."

Jerry Gray statement after leaving Texas

February, 14, 2011
Departed Longhorns defensive backs coach Jerry Gray released a statement on Monday afternoon, two days after announcing his plans to become the Tennessee Titans' defensive coordinator.

Gray took the job in mid-January, but left less than a month later.

Duane Akina, who Gray replaced, plans to return to Texas to replace Gray.

Here's what he had to say, presumably in response to a report over the weekend:
"This was the hardest decision I've ever had to make, and I want to thank Coach Brown, DeLoss Dodds and everyone at Texas for all of their support during the process. There's no way I could have ever imagined that two jobs that mean so much to me would come up at the same time. Working for Coach Brown and Texas, and Mike (Munchak) and the Titans are opportunities of a lifetime. At the end of the day, a defensive coordinator's job with Mike and in the NFL was just too much to pass up.

"That said, there has been some misinformation out there that I do want to clarify. Money had nothing to do with this. I wouldn't have come to Texas if that was an issue, and I wasn't at all concerned about what anyone else was making. I wanted to be at Texas and there's no reason I left other than a great job opportunity, period. I hope the fans and everyone at Texas can understand and appreciate my decision and realize how difficult it was.

"I have a great relationship with Coach Brown and the Texas football program and am excited about their future. I had some really good conversations with Coach Brown before I left and appreciate all of his support. We will remain friends and supporters of one another. I texted every one of the players when I made the decision and encouraged them to keep working hard and continue the great things they're doing to get ready for the season. This is a program with outstanding kids and coaches and they're going to have a lot of success, and that made the decision even tougher. I'll be in Tennessee, but I'll still be pulling for the Longhorns as hard as I ever have."

Duane Akina looks headed back to Texas

February, 14, 2011
The revolving door that is Texas' defensive backs coaching job continues to spin.

Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne announced via his Twitter feed on Monday morning that Wildcats defensive backs coach Duane Akina told Byrne and Arizona coach Mike Stoops that he would be leaving Arizona to return to Texas.

"Although disappointed because of the commitment we had made we respect Coach Akina’s decision based on family," Byrne wrote.

Akina announced his move from Texas to Arizona on January 16.

Texas hired Jerry Gray, a Texas alum, the next day. On Saturday, Gray announced he was leaving Texas to become the defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans.

Now, after a month of transition, the Longhorns are back where they started at defensive backs coach, though a raise for Akina seems likely.

Akina, who coached at Arizona from 1992-2002 before coming to Texas from 2003-10, made $318,509 in 2009. The Longhorns had planned to pay Gray $425,000.

Akina had been one of Texas' best position coaches, helping two Longhorns, Michael Huff and Aaron Ross, win the Thorpe Award as the nation's best defensive back during his tenure.

His apparent hire makes seven total coaching hires for Mack Brown and Texas since its 5-7 season ended in November.

Could Texas be down another assistant?

February, 7, 2011
Mack Brown just finished filling six coaching openings, but could one of them be gone before he even starts?

Jerry Gray, a former Texas player with 14 years of NFL coaching experience, was one of the most well-received hires of Brown's six, but according to Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman, he may have a decision to make in the coming weeks.

The Longhorns' defensive backs coach is being considered as the new defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans, who hired Mike Munchak as their new head coach on Monday.

Moving from being a college position coach to a pro coordinator is obviously a big jump, and it has to be a big concern for Brown, as well as for Longhorns fans.

Gray has already been a defensive coordinator once. He oversaw the Buffalo Bills' defense from 2001-2005, so his decision wouldn't be about career advancement as much as it would be about overall happiness. Gray is new to the recruiting trail, but sounded especially excited to start at his introductory news conference three weeks ago when he was introduced as the replacement for Duane Akina.

One factor could be a big help in keeping Gray at UT, though.
"A big consideration for Gray is the impending NFL lockout; the source said the potential lockout over a new collective bargaining agreement clouds all hirings and could hurt Munchak’s chances of getting Gray."

Signing day has come and gone, so keeping recruits is no longer an issue, and Texas lost just one commitment because of the coaching upheaval after the season.

Now, though, Gray leaving could hurt the Longhorns' preparations for spring practice. Brown kept Texas' early start, choosing to kick off practice on Feb. 24, and scrambling to find a replacement for Gray, should he leave, would be the last thing Brown needs this late in the semester.

Also on Monday, the Lincoln Journal Star learned that Oregon receivers coach Scott Frost, Nebraska's quarterback on its 1997 national title team, would not return to Lincoln to coach.

Pelini and Frost reportedly spoke about the possibility of Frost's return, but Frost wasn't going to leave Oregon without being able to call plays, which Nebraska did not offer.

Signs indicate those duties could go to running backs coach Tim Beck.

Roundup: UT salaries, key recruiting moves

January, 31, 2011
A few notes and nuggets from the offseason weekend that was:

Before Mack Brown began his coaching search that eventually required him to make six offseason hires, he met with the Texas Board of Regents to discuss coaching salaries. It sounds like they were, uh, receptive to what he had to say.

After a shocking and disappointing 5-7 season in 2010, Brown's assistants received hefty raises. Brown is expected to meet with the media in Austin later today for the first time since the season finale, a home loss to Texas A&M. Texas already sat comfortably at the top of the heap in assistant coaches' pay, and these latest raises only accentuate that. No one is making what defensive coordinator Will Muschamp made ($907,000) in 2010, but you definitely won't hear any complaints coming from the football facilities any time soon.

Here's a breakdown of last year and this year's salary among the coaching staff, courtesy of the Austin American-Statesman.

Defensive coordinator
  • 2011: Manny Diaz - $625,000 (made $260,000 at Mississippi State in 2009)
  • 2010: Will Muschamp - $907,000 (took Florida head coach job)
Offensive coordinator
  • 2011: Bryan Harsin (will call plays) - $625,000 (made $259,520 at Boise State in 2009)
  • 2011: Major Applewhite (also coaches running backs) - $500,00 (made 269,509 in 2010)
  • 2010: Greg Davis - $477,084 (resigned after season)
Tight ends
  • 2011: Bruce Chambers - $200,000
  • 2010: Bruce Chambers - $187,039
Defensive ends
  • 2011: Oscar Giles - $200,000
  • 2010: Oscar Giles - $162,451
Defensive backs
  • 2011: Jerry Gray - $425,000 (previous NFL salary unknown)
  • 2010 Duane Akina - $318,509 (left for Arizona)
Offensive line
  • 2011: Stacy Searels - $425,000 (made 301,200 at Georgia in 2010)
  • 2010: Mac McWhorter - $292,759
  • 2011: Darrell Wyatt - $315,000 (made 250,000 at Kansas in 2010)
  • 2010: Bobby Kennedy - 212,519 (took receivers coach job at Colorado)

Life as a Longhorn right now? Well, last season's struggles aside, it's clearly pretty good.

Huskers find a new kicker

Nebraska will need a lot of new faces on special teams, after punter/kicker Alex Henery and kickoff specialist Adi Kunalic both exhausted their eligibility following the 2010 season.

The Huskers had a commit for their 2011 class, Niklas Sade, but he decommitted and pledged to North Carolina State last month.

The solution: Nebraska went after Mauro Bondi, a Boca Raton, Fla. native and (former) Wake Forest commit who has an impressive YouTube highlight reel and sounds ready to replace Henery.

"I definitely followed him, so I have to live up to that and maybe do even better," he told the Lincoln Journal Star.

Bondi gives Nebraska 18 commits for its 2011 class. ranks the Huskers' class No. 14 nationally.

Cowboys' top commit 'solid'

One player who doesn't sound like he's decommitting or recommitting anywhere is ESPNU 150 member and running back Herschel Sims, Oklahoma State's top commit.

The Cowboys' running backs coach, Robert Gillespie, left Oklahoma State to join former offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia. Sims had reportedly been wavering earlier in the recruiting season, but took his official visit to Stillwater in January and his high school coach told the Tulsa World that Sims is solid with the Cowboys and ready to sign on Wednesday, adding that there isn't "any doubt about it."
"During his official visit, he called that Saturday night and said, 'I can’t imagine playing anywhere else,' Sims' coach, Steve Warren, said. "He loved it."

With Sims, Oklahoma State has 27 recruits committed to its 2011 class, which can begin signing letters of intent on Wednesday. ranks Oklahoma State's class No. 20 nationally.