Big 12: Jammal Lord
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The rushing totals of Griffin were diminished significantly last season because of the sacks he endured as a passer.
Griffin rushed for 1,118 yards to rank fifth last season among all NCAA quarterbacks. But a preponderance of sacks cost Griffin 275 yards of that gain, dropping him back to 843 yards.
And because of those losses, he wasn't even the leading rusher of his team after the net yardage was sorted out. Tailback Jay Finley nosed him out with 865 yards.
Griffin is one of college football's transcendent stars. He's one of three returning quarterbacks who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season before those pesky sacks were figured in.
He's a throwback to the glory days when the zone-read play dominated Big 12 offenses and quarterbacks were as much rushers as passers.
Not too many years ago, Missouri's Brad Smith posted three 1,000-yard rushing seasons in his four-season stint as a starter for the Tigers.
Jammal Lord of Nebraska posted a conference rushing record for quarterbacks with 1,412 yards in 2002. Earlier, Scott Frost and Eric Crouch each produced 1,000-yard rushing seasons while quarterbacking for the Cornhuskers.
And Vince Young rushed for back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in leading Texas to back-to-back BCS bowl triumphs in 2004 and 2005.
Young's 2005 season was the last time a Big 12 quarterback topped 1,000 yards rushing.
Griffin appears to have the best shot of joining that group, although it's going to be hard.
As he evolves as a passer, it will be surprising if Griffin runs as much as a sophomore in 2008. Look for Griffin to flash his scintillating rushing skills at times, but not nearly as often.
The Big 12 had three of the nation's top 20 rushing quarterbacks last season. I would expect all of them to see their rushing totals diminish in 2009 as their roles are transformed in their respective offenses.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Ah, what might have been.
Steve Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star had an interesting column this morning about Carl Crawford after the jet-quick Tampa Bay Devil Rays outfielder tied a modern-day major-league record by stealing six bases in a game on Sunday.
Some of us still remember Crawford as a speedy quarterback from his time at Jefferson Davis High School in Houston. He also was a signee for Nebraska before opting to turn pro in baseball, where he was a second-round draft pick for the Devil Rays in the 1999 draft.
Sipple caught up with former Nebraska coach Frank Solich, who remains convinced that Crawford was an outstanding football prospect.
Solich told Sipple that if Crawford had stuck with his commitment to the Cornhuskers, Crawford could have started at quarterback for the Cornhuskers.
That's likely not a reach, considering that Crawford was offered scholarships from schools like USC, Oklahoma and Florida. He also received a basketball scholarship offer to play point guard at UCLA and was an award-winning swimmer for his high school team.
Solich said that that Crawford's arrival would have led to the move of Jammal Lord to strong safety. And Solich adds that if Lord had played that position in college, he likely would still be playing there today in the NFL.
Of course, Crawford would have faced some long odds if he had opted for a college football career. The Cornhuskers had a couple of players in front of him at the position in 1999 -- Eric Crouch and Bobby Newcombe.
But if Crawford had showed the patience and the athleticism he now shows on the baseball diamond, who's to doubt he could have lived up to Solich's claims?
Imagine if Crawford had carried on the tradition of productive multi-faceted Nebraska quarterbacks Crouch, Scott Frost and Tommie Frazier who played before him.
"He was a complete kind of quarterback -- a guy who could throw the ball well but obviously had great running ability," Solich told the Journal-Star. "We thought he could really fit everything we wanted to do. In fact, his kind of ability would've allowed us to do a great number of things."
And would it be a reach to think that maybe Solich might still be coaching the Cornhuskers if Crawford had been as good as advertised at quarterback?
The Cornhuskers were less than two seasons removed from a trip to the BCS title game when Solich was fired late in the 2003 season.
Maybe his dismissal was inevitable, considering the Cornhuskers' slide during that time.
But if Crawford had played to his lofty expectations, he might have been able to have delayed Solich's fall from grace -- if not kept it from happening altogether.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
LINCOLN, Neb. -- When teaching his West Coast offense, Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson tests his players on a rapid-fire basis nearly every day.
Armed with a magic marker and a grease board, Nebraska quarterbacks are expected to be able to draw up an offensive formation and then explain the nuances of the call as soon as Watson barks out a play.
|AP Photo/Dave Weaver|
|Zac Lee appears to have gained the early lead in the race to become Nebraska's starting QB.|
It's taken some time, but Zac Lee is gradually feeling more comfortable with this rote-and-scribble learning method favored by his coach.
"I've spent a bunch of time with him, just drawing up plays," Lee said. "He would yell something out and then I would draw it up. He's helped me a lot."
There's more to becoming a quarterback than squiggly lines and snap counts, but Watson has been pleased with what he's seen in Lee so far this spring in his bid to become Nebraska's starter.
"He's really, really confident right now," Watson told the Lincoln Journal Star. "I think the confidence comes from experience. He's been in the system. He knows the terminology."
Like the other quarterbacks battling for the job, Lee has had little real experience in directing the Cornhuskers' offensive attack. Since transferring into the Nebraska program from City College of San Francisco in January 2007, Lee has thrown two passes in game action.
But Watson likes what he sees so far -- particularly when he measures Lee of today against the skills he exhibited earlier in his Nebraska career.
"You can tell he's a totally different guy right now. When he first came here -- I think he would tell you this -- I don't know if he blew things off, but he didn't quite understand how much you had to work. Then he found out and put forth the work."
Lee and the other potential Nebraska quarterbacks are facing the challenge of Joe Ganz, a seldom-used player early in his career who blossomed over his final 16 games as a starter to become one of Nebraska's most productive passing quarterback in history.
Ganz brought an endearing chutzpah to his role as starter that made him one of the most popular players in recent Nebraska history. His legacy is immense after he threw for a school-record 3,568 passing yards last season in Nebraska's 9-4 record. The Cornhuskers earned a share of the North Division championship and capped the season with a dramatic comeback victory over Clemson in the Gator Bowl.
Coming off the bowl game, the battle for Nebraska's starting job was expected to be a tight one. Patrick Witt was presumed to have a slight advantage after getting playing time in the Gator Bowl victory over Clemson when Ganz was injured for several plays.
And the arrival of heralded incoming freshman Cody Green was expected to make competition that much closer.
But Witt decided to transfer before spring practice started and Green was idled for several critical early practices with a hip injury. Those factors appears to have provided a clear path for Lee into the starting lineup -- at least heading into the Cornhuskers' April 18 spring game.
"I can't look at it like that because it's not good for either me or the team if I think that way," Lee said. "I still have to look at it as competition. There are still three other guys who are out there interested in the starting job. And how it's played out hasn't changed my demeanor at all."
Ganz's development under Watson gave Lee a primer in how to wait his turn for his own playing time.
"Joe just told me to keep my head down and do your work and what people ask of you and they have a way of working out," Lee said. "That's how you have to look at it. You have to try to keep competing and getting better and in the end, hopefully everything will work out the way you want it to."
Achievement runs strongly in Lee's family. His father, Bob, was a 14-year NFL veteran who was a member of three teams that made Super Bowl trips.
Later, his father was an athletic director at the University of Pacific. His son still remembers blowout losses in 1994-95 for his dad's old school at Nebraska when he was growing up. And his sister, Jenna Lee, is an anchor on the Fox Business Network who frequently appears on the Fox News Network. Earlier, she played softball at California-Santa Barbara.
Lee's father hasn't offered him many suggestions over his athletic career, unless he asked.
"He's pretty good at just being a dad and helping me with father-son things," Lee said. "But when I've asked, he's always had some good answers for me because he's been in almost every situation imaginable."
Lee's father was most known for his football moxie and his leadership. He earned the nickname of "General Lee" when he led the Atlanta Falcons to the brink of the playoffs in 1973. And he showed those same skills when he directed Minnesota to a playoff berth four years later after Fran Tarkenton was injured earlier in the season.
"He's an open guy who can interact with a bunch of different people," Lee said about his father. "Hopefully, I have some of those qualities that come in handy in football and they can help me with that."
Observers already are marveling about Lee's athleticism at quarterback, particularly his breakaway speed. Some are saying he's the fastest player at the position for the Cornhuskers since the days of Jammal Lord.
"To tell you the truth, I was kind of surprised how fast he was," Nebraska I-back Quentin Castille said. "I was kind of intimidated and, actually, a little mad. I was like, 'You aren't surprised to be faster than me.' But Zac is pretty fast."
That athleticism could provide a critical element at his position that has been missing for the Cornhuskers in recent seasons. But Lee is more concerned about nailing down the starting job than worrying about how his skills will transform the Nebraska attack.
"I think it will come, but it's yet to be seen in how our offense will be determined," Lee said. "Hopefully, I can just bring something that might make us different in some way."
The lack of a clear starter is considered as the Cornhuskers' major liability heading into the season.
But much like he attacked learning Nebraska's offense in Watson's lessons, Lee is excited about earning his starting opportunity after his team's unexpected success last season.
"It's a good time to be around this program," Lee said. "We had a big bowl victory and I just would like to build on it. Hopefully, we can just keep things going the same way they are going now."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Nebraska has enjoyed much success on previous Nov. 28 games against Colorado. Here's a look at two of the more notable Cornhusker victories on this date.
Nov. 28, 1997 -- No. 2 Nebraska 27, Colorado 24 (Boulder, Colo.): I-back Ahman Green rushed for 202 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns, but the Cornhuskers had to hold on after a late rally by the Buffaloes. Colorado quarterback John Hessler, who finished with 362 yards and three touchdowns, rifled a pair of TD passes during a 39-second fourth-quarter span. But the Buffaloes' upset hopes were denied when an onside kickoff attempt slid through Ben Kelly's hands with 2:30 left.
Nov. 28, 2003 -- No. 25 Nebraska 31, Colorado 22 (Boulder, Colo.): Embattled coach Frank Solich directed the Cornhuskers to the victory in his final game. Jammal Lord ran for one touchdown and passed for another score as the Cornhuskers rallied for the game's final 10 points, denying the Buffaloes a bowl berth. Solich was fired the following day.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Sorry about the late posting tonight. Just chalk it up as one of the most interesting of all travel days.
But here, without fail, are some nuggets that I gleaned while cleaning out the notebook this week. Enjoy them.
- Prior to this season and this month, Texas Tech had played in only three matchups of top-10 teams in its football history. Now the Red Raiders are playing in such a game for the third straight outing (after beating No. 1 Texas and No. 9 Oklahoma State).
- Oklahoma State's victory over Colorado finished off a 15-3 record for the South against the North this season -- tied for the most lopsided in the history of the league. It matched the 2004 season as the most lopsided interdivision record in the conference's 11-year history.
- Iowa State will be attempting to become the first Big 12 Nort Division team since Iowa State in 2003 to go 0-8. The Cyclones have held a lead in only three of their seven Big 12 games.
- Missouri senior William Moore has returned four interceptions for touchdowns in his career, tops among active major-college players. His pick for six last week against Iowa State was his first interception of the season.
- Oklahoma has produced 15 turnovers in its four-game winning streak since Texas game.
- Baylor's 269 rushing yards against Texas A&M last week was the Bears' most in a Big 12 game.
- Michael Crabtree is one game shy of tying Larry Fitzgerald's NCAA record of producing five recepitons and a touchdown grab in 14 straight games.
- Joe Ganz's career-high 95 yards rushing last week against Kansas State were the most by a Nebraska quarterback since Jammal Lord rushed for 109 against Texas A&M in 2003.
- Texas Tech has never beaten Oklahoma and Texas in the same season. "We'd never been 10-0, but we've done that," quarterback Graham Harrell told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
- Texas Tech is looking for its first outright championship since winning the Border Conference in 1955.
- Missouri and Oklahoma State are the only teams in the Big 12 to have their offensive line starters remain intact for this entire season.
- Texas Tech has averaged 16.3 points in four previous games at Owen Field, 23.8 points per game against the Sooners in Lubbock and 38.5 points per game in the other 104 games during Mike Leach's career with the Red Raiders.