Big 12: Houston Cougars


My Heisman Trophy ballot has changed every week for the last couple of months.

I'm not surprised there are more than three players going to the trophy presentation.

Five players were invited to New York for Saturday night's Heisman Trophy presentation -- quarterbacks Andrew Luck of Stanford and Robert Griffin III of Baylor, tailbacks Montee Ball of Wisconsin and Trent Richardson of Alabama and cornerback Tyrann Mathieu of LSU.

It's a shame the Heisman Trust didn't have room for three more quarterbacks because Houston's Case Keenum, USC's Matt Barkley and Boise State's Kellen Moore were just as deserving.

With five finalists going to New York, it figures to be one of the closer votes in recent Heisman Trophy history.

The closest vote in Heisman Trophy history came just two years ago, when Alabama tailback Mark Ingram edged Stanford's Toby Gerhart by only 28 points. Ingram received 227 first-place votes, Gerhart got 222 and Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, the second runner-up, received 203.

Given the number of finalists and their geographical regions, we could have another really close finish on Saturday night.

Luck, the runner-up to Auburn's Cam Newton last season, entered the 2011 season as the Heisman Trophy favorite. His performance didn't slip much this season, as he completed 70 percent of his passes for 3,170 yards with 35 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

I still feel Luck might be the most valuable player on any team in the country. Without him, there's no way the Cardinal is ranked No. 4 in the country and playing No. 3 Oklahoma State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Luck has done more with less, as Stanford lacks the game-changing playmakers that other teams have.

But Luck might still be the second-best quarterback in New York. Griffin, who is widely known as RG3, completed 72.4 percent of his passes for 3,998 yards with 36 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also ran for 644 yards with nine touchdowns.

Without him, the Bears wouldn't have beaten TCU, Oklahoma and Texas. Griffin's one drawback: He had a late interception that sealed the Bears' fate in a 36-35 loss at Kansas State on Oct. 1 and threw two picks in a 59-24 loss at Oklahoma State on Oct. 29. But with everything else RG3 has done this season, it's easy to give him a mulligan for the miscues.

LSU defense
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesRunning back Trent Richardson has been at his best in Alabama's biggest games.
I still believe Richardson is the best player in the country. He looked like the best player on the field in No. 2 Alabama's 9-6 loss in overtime to No. 1 LSU on Nov. 5. He had 89 rushing yards and 80 receiving yards in a game where every yard mattered. He finished the season with 1,583 yards with 20 touchdown runs and three touchdown catches. He's also Mr. Dependable, not losing a fumble in his past 520 touches and only once in 614 career touches.

Ball has been a scoring machine for the No. 10 Badgers this season, running for 1,759 yards with 32 touchdown runs and six touchdown receptions. His 38 total touchdowns are one shy of matching former Oklahoma State running back Barry Sanders' NCAA single-season record of 39 set in 11 games in 1988. Ball's production helped lead the Badgers to a Jan. 2 date against Oregon in the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO.

Mathieu fell off my ballot after he was suspended from playing in the Tigers' 45-10 victory over Auburn on Oct. 22 for smoking synthetic marijuana. But his big plays helped the Tigers overcome deficits in each of their last two victories, over Arkansas and Georgia in the SEC championship game.

Mathieu -- aka the "Honey Badger" -- is the best player on the top-ranked team. He leads the Tigers with 70 tackles and has forced six fumbles and recovered five. He also is the most dynamic punt returner I've seen since Florida State's Deion Sanders. Mathieu has scored four touchdowns -- two on fumble returns and two on punt returns.

To penalize Mathieu for one foolish mistake wouldn't have been right. After all, Newton was briefly ruled ineligible at Auburn last season and 2010 Heisman Trophy finalist LaMichael James of Oregon was suspended from playing in last season's opener.

Second Big 12 team crashing the BCS?

December, 3, 2011
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Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora might be a Big 12 coach a month from now, but he's already done the league a big favor by knocking off Houston in the Conference USA title game.

Southern Miss beat the Cougars 49-28 in Houston, knocking the Cougars out of any contention to play in a BCS bowl. Houston entered Saturday No. 6 in the BCS standings and would have secured a BCS bowl berth with a win.

Could that berth be filled by Kansas State or the loser of Bedlam, which kicks off in about four hours?

There's definitely a chance. Two-loss Kansas State leads, 23-20, in the fourth quarter and still needs to take care of business against Iowa State, which is holding its own in Manhattan, Kan.

The margin of victory between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State certainly matters, and a two-loss Oklahoma State team would probably be more likely to qualify than a three-loss Oklahoma team.

There's no guarantees, and the bowl picture is definitely cloudy, but there's one spot freed up on college football's biggest stage.

As what many consider the game's second-best conference, the Big 12 ought to have an opportunity to fill it.

Hope Houston isn't holding its breath

June, 18, 2010
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Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe made his feelings about any future Big 12 expansion clear on Tuesday. You might even call them "unequivocal."

"We're not looking to expand at all," he said. "And certainly we wouldn't look to expand with any institutions that are in our geographic, five-state area now. We're very comfortable with where we are and there's no interest in having an expansion review at this point, and I don't think it's going to come in the future."

Perhaps he should have said it louder. Two dozen Houston lawmakers sent the Big 12 a letter petitioning the conference to invite the University of Houston.

"Despite UH's local and statewide prominence, the university does not belong to a strong BCS conference such as the Big 12. The Cougars, the city of Houston, and the state of Texas deserve better," it reads.

You can read the full letter on the Houston Chronicle's website.

If we're talking on-field product, there's not going to be any arguments coming from my direction. I suspect that's also the case in Lubbock and Stillwater, whose teams suffered losses to Houston in 2009. Baylor coach Art Briles also came to Waco via Houston. Houston saw its share of big-time football as members of the Southwest Conference up until 1995, when it became a member of Conference USA after the formation of the Big 12.

But if we've learned nothing throughout this realignment saga, it's that the on-field product is far from the most important consideration.

If it was, TCU might already be a member. But neither the Horned Frogs nor Houston, with its 32,000-seat stadium, should count on ever becoming a member.

Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder estimated that a new member would have to bring with it $15 million in value. It's not Houston's fault its probably the second-most popular team in Houston. If the Big 12 South had left for the Pac-10, both TCU and Houston might have ended up in a new Big 12.

That didn't happen, to the detriment of Houston's future in a BCS conference.

"I don't quit," State Rep. Garnet Coleman told the Houston Chronicle. "I don't start something I'm not going to finish. If I didn't think this was a worthy endeavor, I wouldn't have started it. This is the beginning of this effort, not the end."

(On a final note, any discussion of Arkansas in the Big 12 is wasted breath. The only possible scenario in which the Hogs might leave is if someone can convince Jerry Jones or some other crazed moneymaker to guarantee the Hogs make the same amount of cash as the SEC, no matter how much more it makes than the Big 12. Arkansas just cashed a $17.3 million check, and that number will continue to grow. Also, though everyone's currently holding hands, there are stabler leagues than the Big 12. For starters, the SEC. So you'd probably also have to guarantee that if the Big 12 loses another member or breaks up, Arkansas gets automatic entry back into the SEC. So, if you guys know anyone who can set all that up, let me know and we can start talking about the Hogs rejoining their Texan rivals.)

Change arrives as Cowboys begin spring

March, 10, 2010
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STILLWATER, Okla. -- The storm clouds that delayed the opening of Oklahoma State's spring practice on Monday rolled out as Dana Holgorsen's offense rolled in on Tuesday. With it came a new-look Cowboy offensive attack that had everyone in Stillwater trying to adjust.

"It was different. I’m not exactly sure what I did, or what I accomplished out there, but I’m learning," said Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy.

Holgorsen will take over play-calling duties from Gundy, who still has the final say for play calls, but for Gundy, that meant he has time to spend half his practice watching the defense, a luxury he hadn't enjoyed in his first five seasons.

[+] EnlargeHunter
Paul Jasienski/US PresswireKendall Hunter may see a different distribution of his touches this season.
Gundy said one practice wasn't nearly enough to identify more than the most obvious differences between his offense and Holgorsen's.

"It’s fast-paced, very similar to what we have been the past few years here," Gundy said. "There’s some variety to the ways the running backs can touch the football, which I think is good for us."

Gundy said he envisioned running back Kendall Hunter touching the ball 250 times as a senior. As a sophomore, Hunter led the Big 12 with 1,555 yards and 16 touchdowns on 241 carries and added 198 yards on 22 catches. That's a total of 263 touches.

This season, the difference will come in the distribution of those touches.

"He may have 150 or 160 rushes, and maybe it's more catches," Gundy said.

Gundy also added that the system could provide opportunities for young players who couldn't find opportunities in the previous scheme. Among those who could benefit: 5-foor-10, 170-pound sophomore inside receiver Isaiah Anderson and sophomore running back Travis Miller.

The quarterbacks went through adjustments of their own, running through new drills and new exercises in the new offense. Brandon Weeden is the likely starter ahead of a pair of freshmen, Johnny Deaton and Clint Chelf.

"[Deaton's] head was spinning, which most kids, their head is going to spin," Holgorsen said. "Weeden’s head was spinning a little at times, too, as mature as he is. But you could tell that kids had never been put in that situation before; that’s natural. It happens everywhere."

Tuesday was my first opportunity to meet Holgorsen, a branch of the Mike Leach coaching tree who spent the past two seasons at Houston. Holgorsen's laid-back demeanor likely meshed well with Leach during their eight seasons together, and I sense Holgorsen's quirky quotability was only enhanced as a member of Leach's staff. I should note I didn't see any pirate memorabilia during my visit to the Oklahoma State facilities.

Said Holgorsen, who has yet to formally move to Stillwater: "I'm enjoying [my hotel in Stillwater] right now. I got me a nice, big king bedroom suite and they make my bed for me every day, wash the towels on the floor. What more can you ask for?"

How about a season opener that's not akin to "doing surgery with a chainsaw instead of a scalpel," to quote Holgorsen's former boss.

But last year, his Cougar offense averaged 58 more yards per game than college football's second best. Keep that pace, and Holgorsen can keep his license to be as quirky as he wants.

Mailbag: Scott still could help Buffaloes

February, 9, 2010
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If it’s Tuesday, it must be a day for a reader’s mailbag.

Here are some of the better offerings from the last several days.

Victor Romero from Boulder, Colo., writes: Hey Tim, If Darrell Scott were to come back to the Buffs, I think the Boulder community would rejoice and might actually soften its "Fire Dan Hawkins" stance a little bit, as it could be seen as Hawk getting Scott into the program twice.

I still think the kid could be a special back, and if he's eligible next season should get 15-20 carries per game. The fact that he wasn't is the biggest reason he wanted to transfer. I think he sees Demetrius Sumler's transfer as the opportunity to get those carries that Hawkins kept from him. What do you think?

Tim Griffin: Victor, you raise a very interesting point. Obviously Rodney “Speedy” Stewart will be the Buffaloes’ No. 1 back coming into the season. But there are still a lot of carries for another back. Scott averaged 7. 9 carries in 2008 as a freshman and saw those numbers drop to 4.6 carries per game in an injury-riddled 2009 before he quit the team.

I agree that Scott could be a productive back if he’s healthy and used correctly. But I don’t see him as a player who could withstand 25 to 30 carries per game.

It will be interesting to see if he returns to the Colorado program. There has been limited interest from other schools. That might lead me to believe that the best place for him is Colorado -- if he and Hawkins can put their differences behind them.


Brad Williamson of Killeen, Texas, writes: Tim, I claim to not get confused about things, but when I do become confused, I make it a point to do my research to find the answer myself. However, there have been a few blog postings you've put on here that I will freely admit I am at a loss on. You have mentioned how Eric Morris and Graham Harrell have been hired by Houston and (I believe) Oklahoma State as assistant coaches.

However, both of those players played last year and are currently still on the roster for the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL. I bleed Red and Black and like to follow the pro careers of former Tech players, but I was wondering if you know how this works. Are both players still playing for Saskatchewan and on staff with the schools, or have they given up their roster spots? I know most people don't care about the CFL, but I was just curious, and it gives me an opportunity to type Saskatchewan a few times. Thanks for your blog!

Tim Griffin: Both Morris and Harrell have given up their professional football careers to start coaching careers with Oklahoma State and Houston.

Both had a chance to play a little in the CFL, but have decided that starting a coaching career is their best path to future employment. I think it's a wise choice for Morris and Harrell.

And I know all about Saskatchewan and Taylor Field. I was in Regina on a windy day back in 1995 when the Baltimore Stallions became the only American team to win the Grey Cup by beating Doug Flutie and the Calgary Stampeders. It remains one of the most vivid memories of my reporting career.


Jon from Topeka, Kan., writes: Do you see more kids signing up and playing soccer in Nebraska than ever before, because of Ndamukong Suh? And where do you think Neb will finish out next season? Can they be a top 5 team?

Tim Griffin: Maybe those kids have seen the value of playing soccer because of Suh, or maybe the multipurpose kicking talents Alex Henery developed before beginning his football career. Both are role models for what soccer players can later accomplish if they decide to play football.

And as far as Nebraska next season, I think the Cornhuskers will be the team to beat in the Big 12 North, but top five might be a little optimistic. I’ll say they will be a top 12-15 team and finish up with a 10-2 record. That should be good enough to get them back in the Big 12 championship game for a second straight season.


Josh Saunders from Tampa, Fla., writes: Tim, in last week’s mailbag, you stated that "Nebraska desperately needs those big-time receivers to consistently challenge Texas and Oklahoma." Correct me if I'm wrong, but Nebraska beat Oklahoma and had Texas beat until the officials (rightly or wrongly) put one second back on the clock. And they did this with an injury-plagued offense that was the worst statistically at NU in almost 40 years. What gives?

Tim Griffin: I hope you noticed that the key word in my answer is “consistently.” Before last season’s victory in Lincoln, the Sooners had won the last four games in the Nebraska series. Texas’ victory in the 2009 Big 12 championship game is the Longhorns’ fifth straight against Nebraska. During the Big 12 era, Texas has won eight of its last nine games against the Cornhuskers with the only loss coming in the 1999 Big 12 title game.

I still think the Cornhuskers need more offensive firepower to compete against the very best teams in the Big 12 -- which in the last decade has been Texas and Oklahoma. Both those teams have the offensive pop to make big plays on a consistent basis. The Cornhuskers need a couple of playmakers to get closer to both of them. That’s still the biggest deficiency I see in Nebraska as the Cornhuskers prepare for the 2010 season.


Ryan S. Williams of Keller, Texas, writes: Hey Tim, thanks for the updates in this college football downtime. I'm a longtime Kansas fan and I'm hoping you could give your opinion on the KU running game this upcoming season. Do you think Toben Opurum will be the lead back with a few doses of Brandon Bourbon or do you think it will be a legitimate two-back system?

Personally I feel like KU should use a lot more of a ground game this season. Thanks for your input and keep it coming.

Tim Griffin: I look for the Jayhawks to run more of a balanced offense this season, along the lines of the one that Chuck Long ran when he was at Oklahoma and at San Diego State. In both situations, Long tried to run the ball to set up the pass.

I know Jake Sharp will be gone from next season’s team, but the Jayhawks return all five starting offensive linemen and their starting tight end. I think a running game also would relieve some of the pressure on the Kansas quarterback -- whether it’s Kale Pick or Quinn Mecham -- as they try to get acclimated to running Long’s offense.

Look for Opurum to get the first shot at becoming the Jayhawks’ featured back. But it wouldn’t surprise me to see Bourbon get more and more carries as the season progresses.

Thanks again for the consistently good questions. I appreciate them all.

Kingsbury promoted, Morris added to Sumlin's Houston staff

February, 9, 2010
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Former Texas Tech quarterback Kliff Kingsbury was promoted to co-offensive coordinator and quarterback coach and former Tech wide receiver Eric Morris has been added as a quality control assistant on Kevin Sumlin's staff at Houston.

Kingsbury has been a member of Sumlin's staff for the last two seasons. During that time, he has been instrumental in the development of record-breaking Houston quarterback Case Keenum.

"Kliff was a tremendous player as a quarterback and has been in the background with our offensive staff for the past two years," Sumlin said. "This will give him an opportunity to continue the progress and development in the level of quarterback play."

Morris, a four-year letterman at Tech from 2005-08, will be the newest member of Sumlin's offensive group.

The additions will only make the Nov. 27 game in Lubbock against the Red Raiders that much more emotional for both of them.

Tech to finish with non-conference games

February, 1, 2010
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Texas Tech's upcoming season will be a little unsettling, and not just because Tommy Tuberville has replaced Mike Leach as the Red Raiders' coach.

The Red Raiders' 2010 schedule will finish with two non-conference games as the Red Raiders hook up with Weber State and Houston.

A look at Tech's historical schedule indicates this hasn't happened since the Red Raiders joined the Southwest Conference in 1960. It also will be the only time the Red Raiders play back-to-back home games during their upcoming schedule.

Tech last ended the regular season with a non-conference game in 2001 when they beat Stephen F. Austin. That game came about because the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 delayed the matchup between Tech and their original opponent, UTEP. UTEP couldn't make up the postponed game later in the season.

The unusual scheduling can be partially attributed to Tech moving its game against Texas to early in the season. The game was moved to September in 2009, and again will be played early this season on Sept. 18 in Lubbock. It will be the conference opener for both teams.

Moving the Texas game forward forced the Red Raiders to push back a scheduled 2010 game against TCU. The Oct. 9 game against Baylor will be played at the historic Cotton Bowl as part of the State Fair of Texas and it will be a week after the Texas-Oklahoma game set for Oct 2.

Here's how Tuberville's first Tech schedule lays out.
  • Sept. 4 SMU
  • Sept. 11 at New Mexico
  • Sept. 18 Texas
  • Oct. 2 at Iowa State
  • Oct. 9 vs. Baylor (at Cotton Bowl, Dallas)
  • Oct. 16 Oklahoma State
  • Oct. 23 at Colorado
  • Oct. 30 at Texas A&M
  • Nov. 6 Missouri
  • Nov. 13 at Oklahoma
  • Nov. 20 Weber State
  • Nov. 27 Houston

Note: Home games are in bold.

Houston's game against the Red Raiders was one of the most entertaining in the nation during the past season with the Cougars escaping with a wild 29-28 victory. I would expect the 2010 game to be just as exciting as it will be Houston quarterback Case Keenum's final regular-season game for the Cougars.

Tech has talent returning with quarterbacks Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield, and running back Baron Batch among seven offensive starters. The Red Raiders also have six returning defensive starters and two specialists, placing them in the middle of the pack in terms of returning starters.

Tuberville's first Tech schedule will leave him without any direct opportunity to improve his conference standing during those final two weeks of the season, but will give him the opportunity to perhaps improve the Red Raiders' bowl positioning. But it still looks a little strange to me, playing back-to-back non-conference games so late in the season.
Jackson Jeffcoat's decision to attend Texas wasn't surprising.

Texas coach Mack Brown has rarely lost a commitment from an in-state Texas player that he really wanted. And Jeffcoat's announcement Friday morning continued that trend.

Texas' history of nurturing top pass-rushing defensive ends played a big part in Jeffcoat's decision. He only had to look at the work of Brian Orakpo and Sergio Kindle to imagine his possibilities thriving in Will Muschamp's defense.

Orakpo spent one season with Muschamp's defense and developed into a first-round pick for the Washington Redskins. He later became a Pro Bowl selection for the Redskins after his rookie NFL season.

And Kindle also is expected to be a first-round draft pick when the NFL conducts its 2010 draft in April.

At 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, Jeffcoat will report to college with the same lanky frame that both Kindle and Orakpo had when they arrived at college. But it's not a stretch to imagine him filling out to more than 250 pounds like both of his predecessors did before they left college.

By making his decision, Jeffcoat turned his back on family relationships at finalists Oklahoma and Houston. His twin sister Jacqueline will play basketball with the Lady Sooners starting next season. And his father, former Dallas Cowboys defensive end Jim Jeffcoat, is Houston's defensive line coach on the staff of Kevin Sumlin.

Despite those strong ties at the other schools, the decision to attend Texas was what Jeffcoat thought he needed to make.

"This decision took so long because I felt comfortable at all of the schools,” Jeffcoat told the Austin American-Statesman.

In the end, he helped separate the schools by looking at which one had done the best job recently of developing players for the NFL draft at his position.

Jackson Jeffcoat to make college call today

January, 29, 2010
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The nation's top remaining recruiting battle is expected to be settled this morning when defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat of Plano West (Texas) High School makes his college choice.

Jeffcoat has set a press conference for 11 a.m. ET at his school, ESPN's Gerry Hamilton has reported. His list of finalists has been trimmed to Texas, Oklahoma and Houston.

Jeffcoat's decision is spiced by a couple of intriguing details. Texas has been considered the favorite down the stretch. But Oklahoma has already attracted his twin sister, Jacqueline, with a basketball scholarship.

His father, former Dallas Cowboys standout defensive end Jim Jeffcoat, is a member of Kevin Sumlin's staff at Houston. He would serve as his son's position coach if he chose the Cougars.

Jeffcoat's announcement is the nation's top recruiting battle and the only where South Division rivals Texas and Oklahoma are squaring off.

Texas has rarely lost a recruiting battle for a top in-state player in recent years. But the challenge the Longhorns will face from Oklahoma and Houston will be the sternest that Mack Brown has faced -- with several extenuating circumstances.

I won't even hazard a guess on which way Jeffcoat will go later this morning.

Some Big 12 Signing Day predictions

January, 27, 2010
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My colleague Bruce Feldman of ESPN.com tries to wrap his hands around the most difficult predictions when he makes eventual recruiting choices Insider for the top-10 remaining recruits heading into National Signing Day.

Trying to pick these players and where they will end up is like trying to catch rainwater in a spoon. But Feldman does an admirable job in his list, which is part of our Insider content today and can be read by following this link.

Feldman has defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat Insider of Plano, Texas going to Texas over Oklahoma, Arizona State and Houston.

And he projects defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa Insider of Portland, Oregon will head to Nebraska over Oregon State and UCLA.

Texas wasn't quite as fortunate in recruiting outside linebacker Jordan Hicks Insider of West Chester, Ohio. Feldman predicts he'll end up at Ohio State over the Longhorns and Florida.

The entire list of 10 players can be seen by following this link Insider. It's a good read and Feldman spells out some plausible reasons behind his predictions.
After delving into numbers most of the morning, it's always refreshing to get a chance to look at some links.

Enjoy them.

Texas, OU in the hunt for Jeffcoat

January, 25, 2010
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Who said the upcoming weekend was going to be "a dead week" in terms of football excitement?

Standout defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat of Plano West (Texas) High School is reportedly planning to announce his college commitment this weekend.

Jeffcoat is the No. 2 recruit nationally on the ESPNU 150 list. He also is the highest-ranked player on the list who has not announced his commitment.

What makes this so intriguing are the cast of finalists still in the hunt for Jeffcoat, a 6-foot-5, 225-pound speed-rushing defensive end.

Texas and Oklahoma are believed to be the two favorites. Mack Brown spent most of a day at Jeffcoat's school before visiting with Jeffcoat's family that night last week. But he didn't come away with a commitment as Jeffcoat visited Oklahoma over the weekend on his final official visit. Jeffcoat was joined in a group that included top Texas A&M linebacker recruit Corey Nelson of Dallas Skyline.

Some have speculated that the Sooners may have an inside track to attracting Jeffcoat because his twin sister Jacqueline committed to Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale to play basketball for the Lady Sooners in the fall.

Others have said that Jackson might end up at Houston, where his father, former Dallas Cowboys defensive end Jim Jeffcoat, is a member of Kevin Sumlin's coaching staff.

The other finalist is Arizona State, where his father played college football. Jackson Jeffcoat has already dropped USC and Florida from his list of six schools which remained at the start of December.

It's one of those classic recruiting battles between Texas and Oklahoma. The fact that he could join his dad at Houston or go back to Arizona State only makes it more intriguing.

Which way will he go?

We'll apparently will find out next Sunday night.

Big changes expected for Big 12 during upcoming decade

January, 22, 2010
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The Big 12 had an eventful decade in the one that just concluded. Two national championships, seven trips to the BCS national title game and a spectator-friendly offensive attack earned the league much national notoriety.

But you haven’t seen anything yet.

With that in mind, I dusted off my crystal ball and looked ahead to see some of the major events that we could see during the upcoming decade.
  • We’ll see some realignment in the league as Missouri leaves for the Big Ten and TCU is added to fill the Tigers' place. That move will give Big 12 leaders an excuse for realignment that eventually will be selected from a blind draw of plans at Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe’s desk. The Osborne Division will have Nebraska, Colorado, Baylor, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. The Royal Division will give a home to TCU, Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa State, Kansas and Kansas State. After four years of play, that grouping will prove so unpopular that the old divisional format will be adapted with TCU joining the South Division and Oklahoma State moving to the North.
  • Mike Leach eventually will return to the Big 12 – but this time as a television analyst. His quirky conversational style will be panned by the critics but embraced by fans. And he’ll also appear on television in a continuing role of his good friend Donald Trump’s series “The Apprentice.”
  • After being rebuffed by the major television networks, the Big 12 and Pac-10 will strike out on their own with a television network jointly owned by both. It will give us a late game every Thursday night from the Pac-10, along with an early Big 12 game every Saturday at noon. The two conferences will share the prime Saturday afternoon programming window and games on Saturday night, building national awareness for both conferences.
  • The most intriguing part of the Pac-10/Big 12 programming association will be the “Kickoff Classic,” a week-long start of the season where the Big 12 teams will meet their counterparts from the Pac-10 in a series of eight games each year. The series starts off with a bang when USC beats Texas in 2015 at the Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, earning a measure of revenge for losing to the Longhorns in the national championship game in 2006.
  • By that time, Will Muschamp will have taken over at Texas. Mack Brown will remain at Texas through the 2012 season, celebrating as Garrett Gilbert leads the Longhorns to the national championship with a victory over Ohio State in the BCS title game. After that game, Brown announces his resignation, with Muschamp taking over and naming Major Applewhite as his offensive coordinator and Kirby Smart as his defensive coordinator in his first series of personnel moves.
  • Bob Stoops’ association with Oklahoma will end in the middle of the decade when he accepts an offer to become the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. At the time, it will end the longest association of any Big 12 coach with their school. He’ll be replaced at Oklahoma by Houston coach Kevin Sumlin.
  • After Bo Pelini leaves for the vacant LSU job after the 2014 season, former Cornhusker Turner Gill takes over the Nebraska program after developing his Kansas program into a solid bowl contender. His hiring is one of the last acts that Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne orchestrates before his retirement.
  • Much to the chagrin of football fans, the BCS will endure. We’ll see one alteration, however. A “plus-one” model will be added with one game added for the national championship. Texas, Nebraska and Oklahoma all will win national championships during the upcoming decade. With Boone Pickens' influence lessening, Oklahoma State will fall back into a lesser position in the South. And Colorado will go through two head coaches in the decade before hiring Kyle Shanahan in 2018.
  • Thanks to huge seasons from Robert Griffin and national interception leader Ahmad Dixon, Baylor will end its bowl drought with an appearance in the 2011 Texas Bowl. To celebrate, the Dr Pepper bottlers in Waco will release a commemorative bottle that becomes a prized collectors’ item.
  • One change in the BCS will affect the Big 12. The Cotton Bowl eventually will become the fifth bowl in the national title rotation. To fill that hole, the Alamo Bowl will move to New Year’s Day as the destination for the top Big 12 team that doesn’t make the BCS.

Biggest hiring of Sherman's tenure

January, 21, 2010
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The worst-kept secret in Central Texas finally was revealed Thursday afternoon when the Texas A&M Board of Regents approved the hiring of Air Force defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter as the Aggies’ new defensive coordinator.

DeRuyter, 47, is considered one of the rising stars in his profession. His work in turning Air Force’s defense around despite the inherent talent limitations at the school has caught the eye of the football cognoscenti over the past few years.

It’s clearly the biggest hiring in Mike Sherman’s coaching tenure. The Aggies’ struggling defense is considered their biggest liability.

Sherman said he likes what he has seen in DeRuyter’s previous work.

“I like his aggressive, attacking style of defense,” Sherman said. “He has a great history of success and has shown great ability to teach and to lead young men.”

DeRuyter is coming off an impressive coaching performance in his last game. The Falcons limited Houston quarterback Case Keenum to a season-low 222 yards and forced six interceptions in a 47-20 victory over the Cougars in the Armed Forces Bowl.

That effort punctuated a breakout season for the Falcons. Air Force finished 11th nationally in total defense (288.3 yards per game), fifth in pass defense (154.3 yards per game) and 10th in scoring defense (15.7 points per game). DeRuyter’s defense ranked seventh in the country with 20 interceptions, fifth in the nation with 34 total turnovers and led the nation in turnover margin.

The Aggies will have nine defensive starters back from their 2009 team that went 6-7, including national sack leader Von Miller. But DeRuyter must turn around an A&M defense that ranked 114th and 105th nationally in the past two seasons under former coordinator Joe Kines. It allowed opponents to score at least 35 points in seven of its final 10 games last season.

It’s a far cry from the great defenses of the past that were keyed by legendary players like Dat Nguyen.

DeRuyter said those great A&M defenses have been an inspiration to him during his career.

“As a defensive player at Air Force and being a defensive coach, I’ve tried to emulate the “Wrecking Crew” style that R.C. Slocum had in place at (Texas) A&M,” DeRuyter said. “As a defense, we like to dictate to the offense and put them back on their heels.”

DeRuyter was an undersized, overachieving linebacker at Air Force in the mid-1980s, helping Fisher DeBerry’s team to three straight bowl victories. He coached at schools like Air Force, Ohio University, Navy and Nevada. The A&M job will be the first time he’s ever coached at in a conference with an automatic berth into the BCS.

Last August, DeRuyter described his ideal defense to the Colorado Springs Gazette in simplistic terms.

“We want to have guys that are chomping at the bit to go rip someone's head off,” DeRuyter said.

The Falcons responded by limited 11 of their opponents to 20 or fewer points.

But duplicating that success against the offensive firepower in the Big 12 will be a different challenge – particularly with the personnel the Aggies currently have.

Big 12 links: Jeffcoat, McNeill, Leavitt could be on Stoops' radar

January, 19, 2010
1/19/10
12:45
PM ET
In the middle of all of the stuff we're putting together looking back at the past decade, there's still some news across the Big 12.

Here are some of the conference's most notable headlines for your noontime edification.

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Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12