Big 12: Harrison Beck
If it's Friday, it's time for a few letters from my mailbag.
Here are some of the best from this week.
Travis Broyles from Austin, Texas, writes: Big fan of your blog Tim. I understand the outcome of this season is still foggy, but I figure it might be a little fun to look ahead from this year. I'm curious to hear about how you think the Big 12 standings would look at the end of NEXT year. Of course, assume players who you feel will enter the draft will get drafted. Do you see a stand-out in Garrett Gilbert lead Texas to a conference championnship game, or the new upcoming of Sam Bradford, or maybe if Colorado or A&M are rising to power? I heard that Oklahoma will lose quite a few of their O-line again this year, and can't imagine their line getting much worse. Not to mention a potentially large void on the D-line and linebackers' position. So how will you rank them?
Tim Griffin: That’s an interesting question. I think Texas and Oklahoma will remain as the two most solid South contenders, although the Longhorns will lose a lot with Colt McCoy, Jordan Shipley, Chris Hall and Roddrick Muckelroy all leaving. The Sooners will have Landry Jones, Ryan Broyles and DeMarco Murray all back, so they should have some firepower. But their linebacking corps will be diminished and Gerald McCoy is a likely defection to the NFL draft. With both Texas Tech starting quarterbacks returning, I think the Red Raiders should be better and could challenge for the division. Texas A&M will be better too after having all those freshmen playing this year. Baylor should have Robert Griffin back, but they lose both Joe Pawelek and Jordan Lake. And the biggest losses are at Oklahoma State, where Mike Gundy might have trouble keeping his team out of the cellar.
In the North, I like Nebraska, although I will be curious to watch how their quarterback plays down the stretch this year before I commit to it. But the return of key skill-position players will Roy Helu Jr. and Mike McNeill will help. Colorado returns most of their key players and should be up for a challenge along with Missouri, which will improve in its second season with Blaine Gabbert in control. I also look for improvement from Iowa State, which has played hard for Paul Rhoads in his first season and will have Austen Arnaud and Alexander Robinson back for 2010. Kansas is a question mark as they will lose Todd Reesing, Kerry Meier and Jake Sharp. The Jayhawks’ defense loses only Darrell Stuckey among its key contributors and should be better with more experience, but it will be a different kind of Kansas team than we’ve seen the last couple of years. Most importantly, they won't have to play Texas and Oklahoma next season. Kansas State will lose Grant Gregory, Brandon Banks and Jeff Fitzgerald among its key players and may be challenged to stay out of the basement.
So I would guess that Texas would be a slight favorite over Texas Tech and Oklahoma in the South. In the North, I’ll take Nebraska, followed closely by Colorado and Missouri.
Dan R. Van Dyke of Holdrege, Neb., writes: What was your point about Harrison Beck? According to the article he transferred from North Carolina State. No mention of being a Nebraska transfer.The kid got what he wanted. Starting quarterback. He did the same thing in high school, transferred until he got the quarterback job.A slow sports news day for you?? What relevance does Harrison Beck have for Nebraska or Nebraska have for Harrison Beck.I think both parties have moved on to the next day month, year. How long ago was Harrison Beck relevant to a Nebraska football program, if he ever was relevant in the first place?
Tim Griffin: The story that mentioned him as the starting quarterback for North Alabama under Terry Bowden was interesting. The fact his team is No. 1 in the nation while the Cornhuskers are sorting through a difficult quarterback situation is intriguing to me. And I’m sure that many Big 12 and Nebraska fans are interested in Beck and where he ended up, especially after all the ballyhoo of his recruitment by Bill Callahan.
John Vail from Denver writes: I have been watching OU football since I was a freshman there in '67 and I don't think your conclusions are too good. Colorado will beat Nebraska and then Oklahoma will lose to the Cornhuskers? Not likely. Keep this e-mail until the end of the season. Oklahoma will win all the rest of its games. Tech will be the only close game for the Sooners.
Tim Griffin: John, we’ve just saved it for posterity. I still think the Sooners could struggle winning all three of their road games against Texas Tech, Kansas and Nebraska without Sam Bradford. We’ll see how they play over the next few weeks. Bob Stoops has thrived in similar situations in the past. Let’s see what he can do this time.
Marty Murray of Dayton, Texas, writes: I saw your prediction of Texas 38, Missouri 24.I have just one question and a comment. I'm not trying to be confrontational or condescending, but how did you come up with that score? I can see UT only scoring 38 because I'm still not convinced they know why they are underperforming on offense, but I'm a little perplexed at the 24 you are giving Mizzou. The most this defense has given up this year is 24 to Tech and 10 of those points came directly off of turnovers giving Tech a very short field, and to be honest, Mizzou's offense is not even in the same zip code as Tech's offense. I'm really curious to know why you think they can score 24 points on UT's defense when OU could only muster 13 and that was primarily because of two big plays. Inquiring minds want to know! I appreciate your comments and your blog.
Tim Griffin: This will be Texas’ most difficult road game to date. I think their defense will be tested a little by Blaine Gabbert and Danario Alexander. And I think the Missouri defense might be energized by playing at home. So I’m expecting a competitive game. Add it together and it wouldn’t surprise me that the Tigers score more points against Texas, although I’m still looking for the Longhorns to score a lot more and keep their winning streak alive tomorrow night.
Bobby Klare from Lubbock, Texas, writes: Assume something crazy happens, and OSU picks up the upset against UT. After that, OSU loses to Texas Tech in a close game. Who do you think would go on to play for the Big 12 championship? It's hard to think that Texas would fall below Tech, but Tech will be coming off two big wins against ranked teams (presumably), and with the way last season turned out, it certainly seems possible. Can they advance past Texas into the championship game?
Tim Griffin: If as you say, the Big 12 South ends up in a three-way tie with all teams with one loss, it’s the same deal as last year where the final BCS standings would be used to determine the divisional participant in the title game as long as their losses among themselves. And with Texas with one season loss and Texas Tech and Oklahoma State both with two (one conference loss and another non-conference loss), I’d like the Longhorns chances to be ahead in the final ranking. Their loss would have conceivably come on Oct. 31, so it would presumably given them the month of November to finish the season strongly and boost their poll numbers after losing as you predict to OSU. I think the fact that Tech still hasn’t cracked the BCS poll makes it unlikely that it could soar past Texas and Oklahoma State in the final standings unless something really strange happens. And OSU would get a nice bounce from beating Texas, but would likely drop back when they would lose to Tech, as you mentioned.
In the end, I think Texas’ lack of a nonconference loss would keep them ahead of the other teams and result in a higher ranking.
Thanks again for all of the great letters. We’ll answer some more next week.
Welcome to a Thursday lunch session.
Here are some tasty links, including one about a name pretty familiar to Nebraska fans everywhere.
- Former Nebraska quarterback Harrison Beck has been among the reasons why Terry Bowden’s North Alabama team is 8-0 and No. 1 in the Division II poll this week, Kevin Scarbinsky of the Birmingham News reports.
- The College Football News’ Pete Fiutak writes about how Sam Bradford lost his “it factor.”
- The Omaha World-Herald’s Lee Barfknecht writes about the increase in penalties in the Big 12 this season.
- It’s time for the struggling Nebraska offensive line to make a statement, Lincoln Journal-Star columnist Steve Sipple opines.
- The Tulsa World’s John Hoover writes that Sam Bradford’s interview plans were put on hold Wednesday -- despite a huge media throng that turned out in the rain to meet with him.
- Baylor’s nagging habit of killing drives with self-inflicted mistakes is examined by the Waco Tribune-Herald’s Brice Cherry.
- The San Antonio Express-News’ Buck Harvey writes why the pressure on Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman might not be as intense as you might think.
- Texas sophomore cornerback Aaron Williams’ recent development is profiled by the Austin American-Statesman’s Alan Trubow.
- Kansas coach Mark Mangino tells the Kansas City Star’s Brady McCollough that freshman cornerback D.J. Beshears will start for the Jayhawks against Oklahoma.
- The Boulder Daily Camera’s Kyle Ringo writes about the development of Colorado tight end Riar Geer, who already has surpassed his previous season highs in receptions and catches after only six games.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It's a little light today as Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State take this week off from spring practice.
But there's still some news around the Big 12. Here are a few links of interest from around the conference.
- After watching Missouri's early practices, Columbia Daily Tribune beat writer Dave Matter has anointed Blaine Gabbert as the Tigers' likely quarterback starter.
- Tom Cudd of Bleacherreport.com details a list of possible spring sleepers as Nebraska approaches the start of spring practice next week.
- Former Nebraska quarterback Harrison Beck is transferring from North Carolina State to finish his college career with Terry Bowden at North Alabama, Jeff McIntyre of the Florence (Ala.) Times Daily reports.
- Kansas State has hired former KSU player and assistant coach Michael Smith as wide receivers coach on Bill Snyder's staff, Austin Meek of the Topeka Capital-Journal reports.
- Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle/San Antonio Express-News writes that Texas A&M's new indoor track stadium could benefit the school's football program, too.
- Former Missouri tight end Chase Coffman isn't expected to be ready to run at Missouri's pro day Thursday as he recovers from a foot injury, the NFLdraftbible.com reports.
- New Kansas defensive line coach Tom Sims is excited about trying to boost his unit's production during spring practice, Dugan Arnett of the Lawrence Journal-World reports.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here's a batch of fresh letters from my readers who wrote me about various Big 12 topics this week.
Steve from Clearwater, Fla., writes: I'm wondering what's the status of Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray and Ryan Reynolds. Will they be ready for spring practice? Thanks again for all of your great coverage of Big 12 ball.
Tim Griffin: Hey, thanks for the kudos. Because of the severity of Murray's partial rupture of his left hamstring tendon and Reynolds torn knee ligaments, neither player will participate in a full spring practice regimen in the next few weeks. But Oklahoma officials say that both are progressing at or ahead of the normal pace of recovery for their injuries. The forecast for both key players participating in the 2009 season is bright, I am told.
Dale from Richmond, Texas, writes: Is John Chiles the next Percy Harvin? His athleticism is unquestionable on film. Moving Chiles to wide receiver is like finding a diamond in the rough! What is your opinion?
Tim Griffin: Like you mentioned, Chiles is an athlete and should be able to make plays in Texas' offense.
I'm wondering, however, if he might be better suited as a running back than a receiver. His speed and pass-catching abilities could be more useful there. I think the Longhorns are much weaker in the backfield with oft-injured Fozzy Whittaker, Tre' Newton and Vondrell McGee as their lone breakaway threats along with the hulking Cody Johnson. Among receivers, Chiles will have to challenge Dan Buckner, Malcolm Williams, Brandon Collins, James Kirkendoll and Jordan Shipley when he recovers from his injury. It will be very hard for him to crack that rotation.
An even more likely role for him will be as a kick returner. Mack Brown said that special emphasis will be placed on improving the Longhorns' kick returns after the Longhorns placed only sixth in the conference last season. I could see Chiles being very useful there.
Kent from Cushing, Iowa, writes: Tim, in your blog about what you don't love about the Big 12 you list human mascots and have my beloved Cyclones listed. Hey, we had a REAL cyclone for one game in Ames. It was against Colorado in 2005, I believe. CU just packed up Ralphie and went home.
Tim Griffin: I remember that game and the unusual weather conditions. But I still like animals rather than those mascots in costumes -- even if the climatic conditions might belong on The Weather Channel.
Kyle Highberg from Omaha writes: Hey, good blog and I greatly appreciate it. But that being sad, can the North Division get some love, too? Each and every day you blog about something going on at Texas. I know you live only an hour away from Austin, but I don't need to hear three updates a day on the same slow news story! Maybe it's just me, or maybe it is only February and I have a big itch for Big 12 football. Seriously, thanks for the blog!
Tim Griffin: The reason that Texas schools have been featured so prominently the last several days is that they are actually practicing. Texas is taking advantage of the warmer weather to start practice as the first team in the conference. Baylor will start its next week, leading to my story earlier today on Robert Griffin.
As I've often said, I consider the 12 schools in the conference as almost my children and I try not to show any one of them any more love or favoritism than another. Even if it makes me feel like Old Mother Hubbard sometimes.
But during next few weeks, you can be assured that I'll have reports of teams across the Big 12.
Dane from Dallas writes: What is a guy do until September 5th? Your blogs alone are enough to satiate me enough to prevent withdrawals and I am going crazy here! How do you feel about OU opening up Jerry's world against BYU?
Tim Griffin: First, let me suggest ESPN Classic. They often play great games of the past that will help feed your "Football Jones" when no live games are available.
As for the Sooners, I think their game against BYU will be one of the most intriguing nonconference games of the season. Both teams have got a lot of offensive firepower. The Cougars have never lost to a Big 12 team, beating two teams from the conference since the Big 12 started play in 1996.
It should make for an intriguing first college game at the Dallas Cowboys' Stadium in Arlington, Texas, shouldn't it? First team to 50 points will win.
Rene from Valencia, Calif., writes: Hey Tim, I just have two simple questions. I'm a Longhorn fan, and I was wondering if the Rose Bowl 2006 has been the only time that USC has played Texas? How many times has Texas played USC in school history? And in your opinion, what makes one team better than another? History, accomplishments such as national championships, Heisman Trophies. or head-to-head records?
Tim Griffin: The Longhorns and Trojans have played five times in the history of both programs. USC won the four previous games in the series: 19-7 in Los Angeles in 1955, 44-20 in Austin in 1956, 10-6 in Austin in 1966 and 17-13 in Los Angeles in 1967. Some my more experienced friends in Austin still see former USC football player John Wayne attending the game in Austin back in 1966.
But the way that the 2006 Rose Bowl played out convinced me that these two programs should be occasionally playing each other. It would be a heck of an intersectional matchup.
And as far as the most important factor I use to gauge the strength of programs is consistency: If a team has been great for a long time, I think that speaks volumes about it. And it's why I think that ESPN.com's ranking of Oklahoma as the nation's most prestigious program was completely warranted.
John from Austin writes: In your coverage of the Nebraska quarterback battle, you haven't really mentioned Taylor Martinez. I realize that he was brought in to be a safety, but his high school quarterback numbers and apparent competitiveness warrant SOME mention, I think. I have an issue with prototypical quarterbacks like Sam Keller, Harrison Beck and Josh Freeman and how it seems like they never really live up to their hype - but maybe that's just been because we've been spoiled with a player like Joe Ganz!
Wasn't there talk about Martinez getting a chance to compete for the job? Where has that talk gone, if it ever existed?
Tim Griffin: I think the talk was the heaviest right around national signing day when Bo Pelini was trying to convince Martinez to attend Nebraska. I do
know that Martinez will fall far behind Cody Green, Kody Spano and Zac Lee because those players will receive chances to take many snaps during spring practice. It would be hard to imagine Martinez being able to catch up against that trio when he arrives later this summer, but I know he desperately wants to play quarterback.
Eventually, Martinez might become a factor, but it might be too early to think he will become one in 2009.
The Cornhuskers will have little depth at the position. I'm predicting Lee to have the starting job going into the summer with Green close behind. I could see Pelini using Green like Ohio State coach Jim Tressel used Terrelle Pryor last season by getting his feet wet with a few snaps early in the season before more extensive use later in the season. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.
That's all the time I have for today. Check back for my live chat on Big 12 football on Monday and keep the e-mails coming. I appreciate all of them.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
While watching the recruiting lists that will be released by Big 12 schools tomorrow, it might be wise to remember some of the players who have thrived without much early recruiting hype. It's also interesting to remember some of the highly touted recruits who struggled once they arrived at college.
Here's a look at some of the more notable hits and misses in the Big 12 the past few seasons which should explain why some of the recruiting hoopla should be taken with a grain of salt.
Hits: The Big 12's two Heisman Trophy finalists in 2008, Sam Bradford of Oklahoma and Texas' Colt McCoy, both were projected as middle-of-the-pack recruits. Oklahoma State's Zac Robinson was presumed to be a step behind them. All three have developed into players who could end up being among the finest quarterbacks in their respective schools' histories.
Misses: Oklahoma's Tommy Grady never materialized as a prospect from the Class of 2003 and ended up transferring to Utah. And Harrison Beck was a highly anticipated prospect at Nebraska before washing out and ending up at North Carolina State.
Hits: Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter was a midrange recruit before blossoming to lead the Big 12 in rushing in 2008. And Shannon Woods was even more lightly regarded before excelling as a multifaceted back in Texas Tech's offense.
Misses: Daniel Davis was a highly ranked junior-college prospect who was expected to blossom once he arrived from at Kansas State. He never fulfilled that promise after several legal run-ins. Webster Patrick was a tough running back who was compared favorably to the Davis brothers who had thrived in Dan McCarney's offense at Iowa State. But Patrick failed to qualify academically for the Cyclones and ended up at Butte College.
Hits: Juaquin Iglesias was barely recruited coming out of Killeen (Texas) High School, where his track exploits were more widely regarded. He accepted a scholarship offer from Oklahoma and blossomed into the second-leading receiver in school history. Dezmon Briscoe had one catch as a junior at Cedar Hill High School in Dallas, but caught the attention of then-Kansas assistant coach Tim Beck. He produced 92 catches for school-record totals of 1,407 yards and 15 touchdowns last season for the Jayhawks.
Misses: Colorado's Tyler Littlehales was a huge recruit for Gary Barnett in the Class of 2002 after playing at the Army All-American Bowl, but never could crack the starting lineup for the Buffaloes. Marquis Johnson was a top national recruit who was counted as a top recruit when he came to Texas from Champaign, Ill., as an All-American high school receiver. He failed to keep his grades up and ended up at Hutchinson Community College, eventually resurfacing at Texas Tech where he caught 21 passes in a two-season career.
Hits: Jermaine Gresham wasn't a top prospect after a knee injury in his junior season of high school stifled recruiting interest. He blossomed in college and is expected to be a first-round pick in the NFL draft this April. Chase Coffman was thought to be a good but not great prospect while playing at Raymore-Peculiar High School in Raymore, Mo. Coffman beefed up from his high school playing weight of 210 pounds and developed into a sure-handed receiver who won the Mackey Award in 2008.
Misses: Josh Barbo appeared to be a prototypical tight end and had the recruiting clippings to match when he arrived at Missouri in the 2003 recruiting class. But Chase Coffman and Martin Rucker took over the position as Barbo moved to defensive line and never got higher than third string on the depth chart before leaving school after the 2006 season. Walter Nickel was presumed to be a key player at Iowa State after arriving from Dixie State Community College, but he struggled with injuries and produced 35 catches in his two seasons with the Cyclones.
Hits: Few could have imagined that Jason Smith would be a key producer when he arrived at Baylor as a 220-pound tackle. But after gaining 85 pounds, he likely will go among the first 10 picks in the upcoming NFL draft. Center Daniel Sanders wasn't offered a scholarship by Colorado until the week before signing day after originally committing to Northern Arizona. He developed into a four-year starter for the Buffaloes.
Misses: Jorrie Adams was touted as the nation's best offensive line prospect when he arrived at Texas A&M in the class of 2003 from Jasper, Texas. But Adams struggled and switched to defense before he was kicked out of school after a drug-related arrest. Kyle Riggs was one of the nation's top line prospects when he arrived at Missouri in 2003, but never developed after suffering from an undetermined stomach condition. He eventually became a student assistant coach.
Hits: Texas Tech coaches discovered Brandon Williams playing in a high school basketball game at South Hills High School at Fort Worth. He eventually developed into the Big 12's leading sacker last season. Stryker Sulak's recruiting was almost as surprising. Sulak was set to attend Houston before Missouri coaches saw him in a recruiting film. He eventually bulked up and became a three-season starter for Missouri and an All-Big 12 selection last season.
Misses: Texas A&M defensive end Chris Smith was one of the nation's top prospects who committed to Aggies before his senior season in high school in 2004. He hurt his knee during his senior season and struggled thereafter, posting 12 tackles and not playing in the 2008 season. Xavier Lawson-Kennedy was one of the most heralded players to arrive at Oklahoma State, announcing his decision on regional television as a key member of the 2003 class. Struggles with injuries and his weight kept him from developing into a starter in his college career.
Hits: Sean Weatherspoon weighed 195 pounds when he left Jasper, Texas, as a marginal recruit who picked Missouri over Houston, Iowa State and TCU. He has developed into the Tigers' key defensive player on back-to-back North Division championship teams. Joe Pawelek also received little interest from FBS football schools, but immediately claimed a starting job as a freshman with Baylor. He was a freshman All-American and an All-Big 12 selection by his junior season when he led the conference in tackles.
Misses: Kelvin Flood was one of the top linebacker prospects of the 2002 class. But after the Dallas Kimball player selected Texas A&M, he never cracked the Aggies' lineup and left sch
ool after two seasons. Mike Reed was a prototypical middle linebacker who was one of the nation's top recruits when he arrived at Oklahoma from California's Yuba College in 2007. But Reed had difficulty juggling college with the finances of raising three young children and eventually left school. Reed resurfaced last season at the University of Central Oklahoma.
Hits: William Moore was a midrange recruit who was thought to be more of a wide receiver than a defensive player. But he's blossomed into a standout at safety and a likely first-round draft pick in April. Jordan Lake was a hard-hitting safety at Houston McAllen Memorial who received scant recruiting notice. Lake picked Baylor over Northwestern, Rice and Houston and has developed into an All-Big 12 player with one more season remaining.
Misses: Edorian McCullough was one of the highest-ranked defensive back prospects in recent Big 12 history. But his career stalled at Texas before transferring to City College of San Francisco and ending up at Oregon State. Jason Frederick was one of the top recruits at Texas A&M in the class of 1999, but transferred out of school after only one season. He struggled to earn playing time after transferring to Sam Houston State.
Hits: Jeff Wolfert arrived at Missouri on a partial diving scholarship and tried out for the football team on a lark. He left school as the most accurate kicker in college football history in combined percentage for field goals and extra points. Matt Williams arrived on Texas Tech's doorstep last season after capturing the attention of coaches while converting a field goal during an in-game promotion. Williams converted all of his 33 extra points after claiming the job midway through last season.
Misses: Williams got his chance only because of the struggles of Donnie Carona, who arrived as the first scholarship kicking recruit at Texas Tech in Mike Leach's tenure. Carona lost his chance to kick after missing four extra points and five of his nine field goal attempts last season. Iowa State kicker Josh Griebahn was the highest-rated kicking recruit ever attracted to Iowa State by McCarney. But Griebahn redshirted as a freshman and had ankle surgery the following season. He never won the Cyclones' kicking job.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here's a quick programming notice for some fans who might not be watching the Papajohn.com Bowl from Birmingham, Ala., between North Carolina State and Rutgers.
Former Nebraska quarterback Harrison Beck, a backup to starter Russell Wilson, has been forced into the game after Wilson sprained a knee late in the first half. Beck transferred to North Carolina State from Nebraska following the 2005 season after an unsuccessful bid for the Cornhuskers' starting job.
Beck struggled in his first two possessions, throwing three incompletions. The Wolfpack are nursing a 17-16 lead.
It will be interesting to see if North Carolina State coach Tom O'Brien turns to Beck again on the next possession after such a shaky start.