Big 12: Eric Metcalf
If it's Tuesday, the mailbag should be filling up with some letters from earlier in the week.
Here are some of the better missives.
Scott Carleton of San Antonio writes: Tim,Do you think that Steven Sheffield should continue to start for Texas Tech? I do for three reasons:1. Mobility 2. Potts throws off his back foot a lot.3. Potts forces the ball rather than throwing away or scrambling.
Tim Griffin: I might add a fourth big reason is the Red Raiders’ recent surge. Texas Tech has scored 14 touchdowns and a field goal in the last 19 possessions with Sheffield in charge.
Those numbers are hard to argue with. It seems that for whatever reason, the Red Raiders have really gravitated to Sheffield and his leadership when he's in the lineup.
It’s hard to bench Taylor Potts, who ranks second in the nation in average passing yards and is tied for fourth in touchdown passes. That’s why I think Mike Leach will drag the decision out as long as possible before he makes a determination on who starts Saturday against Nebraska.
Another interesting factor in this quarterback controversy is that both are juniors, making it unlikely that either would transfer away for their senior seasons. We could have this battle for playing time continue throughout the next year.
Blake from Abilene, Texas, writes: Is there a bigger game-changer anywhere than Jordan Shipley? He had the kick return against Oklahoma last year that changed the game and led to the Texas win. He had the punt return in the game against Texas Tech last year and this year. He set a receiving record against Colorado on Saturday. It looks as if he will put up the best numbers of any wide receiver by the end of the season. And that doesn’t even include the boost the Longhorns get from his punt returns. And over the last two years his best receiving games have come against Texas' highest-ranked opponents. Sounds like Mr. Clutch to me? Do you see him with chances for individual awards after this season?
Tim Griffin: For whatever it’s worth, I voted Shipley No. 5 on my weekly Heisman poll for ESPN.com this week. He’s doing things that I haven't seen a Texas player do since the days of Eric Metcalf. Texas coach Mack Brown said yesterday that Shipley’s game against Colorado was one of the greatest in the school’s history. And who knows, if he keeps having productive games both as a receiver and returner, he could sneak his way into Heisman consideration. Without a prime Heisman candidate making a major statement, it appears wide-open to me and we could have somebody like Shipley involved. And after the first five games of the season, he definitely deserves to be considered.
Matt from Irvine, Calif., writes: Tim, Iowa State is leading the Big 12 in rushing, and Alexander Robinson is second in rushing yards per game less than two yards per game behind Roy Helu Jr. of Nebraska. And Robinson’s total came despite getting only four carries against Kansas State two weeks ago because he was hurt. Also, our offensive line leads the nation in sacks allowed per game (0.33). When are Robinson and the O-Line going to get some love?
Stop. All of us Cyclone fans know the answer: as soon as Iowa State start winning these close games.But seriously - with his rushing performance and his eight receptions for 139 yards and two TDs this season, name a running back in the conference playing better than Robinson this year.
Tim Griffin: Matt, I can’t, so I won’t. As I said before the start of the season, I thought Alexander Robinson was one of the most underrated players in the conference. And his rushing and receiving skills appear to be an ideal fit with Tom Herman’s spread offense, which is turning to be a little more run-oriented than we might have thought before the season started.
I really like what Robinson does in the offense. And I think the most underrated facet of his game is his pass blocking. If you get a chance, watch him when he does that.
Lane from Oklahoma City writes: Tim, just wondering how you justify writing in your blog that Ndamukong Suh and Shipley should be among the conversation for the Heisman but fail to put them in your top five when you vote?
Tim Griffin: I lived up to that column this week. Lane, you would have been proud of me. I had Suh third behind Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy and Shipley fifth behind Jimmy Clausen. And a big finish from either Suh or Shipley could result in a trip to New York City for the Heisman Trophy presentation. Both are starting to capture the attention of football fans and the media across the country.
Adam Offner of Elmwood, Neb., writes: Tim, I noticed your story on the Texas Tech and Kansas State game. You had mentioned that Texas Tech's kicker Donnie Carona tied for Tech's team lead in tackles with five -- playing merely on the kickoff team. Did I read that right?Is that a new NCAA record? If not what is the record?
Tim Griffin: You did read that right, as Carona tied for the Texas Tech team lead with five tackles against Kansas State. Unfortunately, the NCAA or the Big 12 doesn’t break down its statistics into special teams-only situations. I think if it did, it would highlight Carona’s effort.
As it is, I think Carona's performance is significant for a couple of reasons. First, I think he’s an aggressive player on special teams, which isn’t surprising because he was a linebacker in high school. And secondly, the Red Raiders needed a lot of chances to kick off for him to produce that total. Which they did as he kicked off 11 times in the Red Raiders’ 66-14 triumph.
That’s all the questions I have for now. Check back on Friday andwe'll answer some more.
Thanks again and keep them coming.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Today is a special summer day for football fans across Texas and the Southwest.
Today is the annual release date of Dave Campbell's Texas Football, which is the unquestionable college football magazine of record in these parts every year.
This magazine is special because it's the 50th anniversary edition. The first one was laid out on the kitchen table of former Waco Tribune-Herald sports editor Dave Campbell, who started it in 1960.
It's gotten much bigger than that over the years, being read by three generations of football fans over the years. Today, there's a Texas Football classic every year at the Alamodome and even an official Texas Football song.
I first learned about the magazine in the late 1960s when a friend of mine in fifth grade, Richard Jackson, moved to Memphis from Houston. Along with his neat Houston Astros hat that I always was envious of was his copy of Texas Football Magazine. The story and pictures of the guys from Texas, Baylor and Rice were so different than anything I came across in the Southeastern Conference. I wanted mine, too.
My dad occasionally traveled to Texas with his job and soon learned to look at the 7-Eleven on one of his trips to Dallas to see if he could score a copy of Dave Campbell for me.
Later, my family moved to Texas and I learned the excitement of visiting the newsstand in mid-June to pick up the Dave Campbell magazine, which was there to chronicle the demise of the Southwest Conference and the start of the Big 12.
The new one will officially be released today across the area. And the coverboy is Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, who becomes the first individual player to be pictured since Texas wide receiver Roy Williams in 2003.
I picked up my copy and am already deeply into it. It takes me back to my childhood.
The only problem is that I wonder why I couldn't pick up a Grape Slurpee to drink with it like I used to back in the day.
A list of the cover boys in the magazine's history exhibits a unique history of football in the southwest. Here's a list of the players who have graced the cover of the magazine over the years.
1960: Texas RB Jack Collins
1961: Baylor RB Ronnie Bull
1962: TCU QB Sonny Gibbs
1963: Texas coach Darrell Royal and DT Scott Appleton
1964: Baylor coach John Bridgers and WR Lawrence Elkins
1965: Texas Tech RB Donny Anderson
1966: SMU NG John LaGrone, Baylor DT Greg Pipes, Texas DT Diron Talbert
1967: Texas A&M T Maurice "Mo" Moorman
1968: Texas A&M QB Edd Hargett
1969: Texas QB James Street
1970: Texas RB Steve Worster
1971: Texas Tech QB Charles Napper
1972: Texas A&M LB Brad Dusek
1973: Texas LB Glen Gaspard
1974: Texas coach Darrell Royal
1975: Baylor coach Grant Teaff
1976: Houston coach Bill Yeoman
1977: Texas Tech QB Rodney Allison
1978: Texas A&M K Tony Franklin and Texas K/P Russell Erxleben
1979: Texas DT Steve McMichael
1980: Baylor LB Mike Singletary and Texas A&M QB Mike Mosley
1981: Baylor RB Walter Abercrombie and SMU RB Craig James
1982: Texas A&M QB Gary Kubiak
1983: SMU QB Lance McIlhenny
1984: Texas A&M DE Ray Childress
1985: TCU coach Jim Wacker and TCU RB Kenneth Davis
1986: Texas A&M coach Jackie Sherrill
1987: Texas QB Bret Stafford and Texas coach David McWilliams
1988: Texas RB Eric Metcalf and Texas A&M LB John Roper
1989: Houston coach Jack Pardee and SMU coach Forrest Gregg
1990: Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes
1991: Houston QB David Klingler
1992: Rice RB Trevor Cobb
1993: Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum
1994: Texas QB Shea Morenz
1995: A collage of Southwest Conference historical figures including Texas RB Earl Campbell, Houston coach Bill Yeoman, Baylor LB Mike Singletary, TCU QB Sammy Baugh, Texas coach Fred Akers, Texas coach Darrell Royal and SMU RB Doak Walker.
1996: Baylor coach Chuck Ready, Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes, Texas coach John Mackovic and Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum
1997: Texas QB James Brown and Texas RB Ricky Williams
1998: Texas A&M LB Dat Nguyen, Texas RB Ricky Williams and Texas coach Mack Brown
1999: Texas coach Mack Brown and TCU coach Dennis Franchione. Note: Alternative cover for those magazines sold outside the state featured Dallas Cowboys QB Troy Aikman
2000: Midland Robert E. Lee H.S. RB Cedric Benson
2001: Texas QB Chris Simms, TCU QB Casey Printers, Texas A&M QB Mark Farris and Texas Tech QB Kliff Kingsbury
2002: Texas Tech QB Kliff Kingsbury, Celina H.S. coach G.A. Moore, Dallas Cowboys RB Emmitt Smith and Baytown Lee H.S. QB Drew Tate.
2003: Texas WR Roy Williams
2004: Texas Tech DE Adell Duckett, TCU S Marvin Godbolt, Houston QB Kevin Kolb, North Texas RB Patrick Cobb
2005: Texas QB Vince Young and Texas A&M QB Reggie McNeal
2006: Former Texas RB Earl Campbell, Mansfield Summit H.S. QB John Chiles, Texarkana Texas H.S. QB Ryan Mallett and Gilmer H.S. QB G.J. Kinne
2007: Texas A&M QB Stephen McGee, Texas QB Colt McCoy and TCU DE Tommy Blake
2008: Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell and Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree
2009: Texas QB Colt McCoy
Source: ESPN.com research
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
As anybody who reads this blog on a regular basis understands by now, I see numbers and statistics as a way of explaining a lot of things about sports.
A whole generation of analysts has constructed brand new ideas in baseball because of the work of sabermetricians like former Kansas student Bill James.
Football doesn't quiet have that wealth of study, mainly because there aren't as many numbers available.
But there are a growing segment of analysts out there doing more and more work on football analysis.
My wife got me a book over the weekend which I read while I was down at the beach over Memorial Day. Sean Lahman's "The Pro Football Historical Abstract" used some Jamesian methodology to rank the top pro players in history at their positions, among other things.
And bringing some of Lahman's study into closer focus, I was particularly interested in how players from Big 12 schools ranked among his career lists at various positions.
Here's a position-by-position glance at the top Big 12 players in NFL history, according to Lahman's rankings.
12. Bobby Layne (Texas)
27. Troy Aikman (started at Oklahoma, UCLA)
28. John Hadl (Kansas)
62. Steve Grogan (Kansas State)
63. Kordell Stewart (Colorado)
100. Bernie Masterson (Nebraska)
2. Barry Sanders (Oklahoma State)
5. Thurman Thomas (Oklahoma State)
21. Earl Campbell (Texas)
30. Roger Craig (Nebraska)
32. John Riggins (Kansas)
38. Priest Holmes (Texas)
45. Ahman Green (Nebraska)
54. Larry Brown (Kansas State)
98. Gale Sayers (Kansas)
99. James Wilder (Missouri)
17. Cliff Branch (Colorado)
27. Del Shofner (Baylor)
47. Irving Fryar (Nebraska)
48. Mel Gray (Missouri)
49. Dave Parks (Texas Tech)
6. Kellen Winslow (Missouri)
14. Keith Jackson (Oklahoma)
34. Henry Childs (Kansas State)
49. Paul Coffman (Kansas State)
7. Will Shields (Nebraska)
32. Richmond Webb (Texas A&M)
34. Bob Brown (Nebraska)
39. Bob Young (Started at Howard Payne, Texas, Texas State)
46. John Wooten (Colorado)
18. Ron McDole (Nebraska)
19. Steve McMichael (Texas)
43. Ray Childress (Texas A&M)
2. Mike Singletary (Baylor)
26. Andy Russell (Missouri)
28. Jack Pardee (Texas A&M)
29. Zach Thomas (Texas Tech)
30. Leslie O'Neal (Oklahoma State)
16. Yale Lary (Texas A&M)
21. Pat Fischer (Nebraska)
36. Roger Wehrli (Missouri)
20. Bobby Layne (Texas)
2. Glyn Milburn (Started at Oklahoma, Stanford)
4. Dante Hall (Texas A&M)
7. Tyrone Hughes (Nebraska)
10. Gale Sayers (Kansas)
5. Eric Metcalf (Texas)
12. Glyn Milburn (Oklahoma, Stanford)
Combined kick returners
11. Dante Hall (Texas A&M)
14. Mike Nelms (Started at Baylor, Sam Houston State)
24. Dick Todd (Texas A&M)
TWO-WAY ERA PLAYERS
5. Verne Lewellen (Nebraska)
7. Glenn Presnell (Nebraska)
10. Guy Chamberlin (Started at Nebraska Wesleyan, Nebraska)
1. Link Lyman (Nebraska)
3. Ox Emerson (Texas)
5. Charley Brock (Nebraska)
6. Frank Bausch (Kansas)
4. Tom Landry (Texas)
53. Jack Pardee (Texas A&M)
72. Guy Chamberlin (Nebraska Wesleyan, Nebraska)
I had a chance to see many of these players as my frame of reference for the NFL goes back to about 1964, when I was 5 years old. The only one that really shocked me was how low Gale Sayers was ranked among running backs. I grew up watching the Chicago Bears and saw almost every one of Sayers' pro games. I find it hard to believe there were 97 better running backs in NFL history than him.
One fact that was interesting from this list was the number of running backs and linemen that were Big 12 products, in comparison with quarterbacks and receivers. In the old days, the Big Eight and Southwest conferences always had reputations based on stout running games. I think that will change in the future because of the conference's growing aerial status.
Obviously, there will be other Big 12 players who will be able to make the list in the future. It would be a shock if we don't see Adrian Peterson charging into the best backs in NFL history. It wouldn't surprise me if Michael Crabtree was able to be that kind of player. Maybe Jason Smith, too.
But it's always interesting to me to see the kind of work that Lahman has developed on a grand scale for the NFL and compare it to the Big 12 schools.
I just wish some other researchers would feel as passionate about college football history, too.