Big 12: Jeremiah Masoli
But if you were unaware, the NFL isn't the only pro league in town any more. The United Football League is gearing up for its third season this fall, and had its annual draft on Monday night. The league is made up of five teams and mostly former NFL players. Among the most recognizable names to suit up in the league: Jeff Garcia, Maurice Clarett and Daunte Culpepper.
Because NFL teams weren't able to scoop up the remaining free agents, the talent pool was a bit deeper than usual. We took a look at some of the Big 12's NFL draft snubs on Monday, and a few of them had their names called by UFL teams.
- No. 1: Jerrod Johnson, QB, Texas A&M (Hartford Colonials)
- No. 8: Ugo Chinasa, DE, Oklahoma State (Sacramento Mountain Lions)
- No. 16: Ricky Henry, OL, Nebraska (Hartford)
- No. 20: Brad Thorson, OL, Kansas (Hartford)
- No. 21: Clint Ingram, LB, Oklahoma (Virginia Destroyers)
- No. 23: Mike Smith, OT, Nebraska (Omaha Nighthawks)
- No. 28: D.J. Jones, OL, Nebraska (Omaha)
- No. 32: Greg Smith, TE, Texas (Hartford)
- No. 37: Colby Whitlock, DT, Texas Tech (Hartford)
Great to see Johnson get a shot at the next level. He'll get a chance to prove his shoulder is back to full strength in the UFL and if he can do that, a ticket to the NFL might await. Traditionally, drafted players have a decision to make: Wait on the NFL or bank on the UFL. With no NFL, and the circumstances looking like it'll remain that way for awhile, that's not the case this year. Especially for Johnson, who sounds pretty reared up to go via Twitter.
Hartford,Connecticut it is... excited & blessed for the opportunity, thanx & gig em !! #makedreamsreality
Johnson will play for former NFL coach Jerry Glanville in Hartford.
That's a pretty good haul for Nebraska's offensive line, especially the pair of players headed to nearby Omaha to block for Clarett.
Chinasa is another player, like Johnson, who could parlay this into an NFL gig, but the athletic pass rusher is headed to Sacramento for now. He made one of the most athletic plays of the entire season in the Big 12, and I'd like to see him get a shot at the next level.
Texas Tech's Whitlock, coincidentally, ended up in Hartford, where he'll reunite with his old defensive coordinator. James Willis coached the Red Raiders last year, but after leaving the program, ended up coaching linebackers for the Colonials.
Ingram, a former Sooners linebacker, was actually drafted in the third round of the 2006 draft, but after landing in New Orleans with the Saints last season, was released in October.
A few other notable names to get drafted last night?
Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich, who famously returned to the field this year after receiving cancer treatment and missing the 2009 season, was drafted in the 10th round by Omaha.
Controversial Ole Miss quarterback and former Oregon Duck Jeremiah Masoli went 38th overall to Omaha.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
IRVING, Texas -- Watching the video of the Holiday Bowl isn't a very pleasant for Oklahoma State linebacker Andre Sexton or many of his teammates.
The Cowboys still cringe when they watch Oregon charge through them in the second half to claim a 42-31 comeback victory, ripping though their defense for 307 rushing yards and 7.7 yards per carry as the Ducks charged back from a 10-point halftime deficit.
"It really was embarrasing," Oklahoma State linebacker Andre Sexton said. "It really was embarrasing because that quarterback (Oregon's Jeremiah Masoli) made our players look like they had never made a tackle before. That was pretty sad."
But that disappointment helped spur a tougher attitude for the Cowboys all spring. Sexton said that late collapse has spurred them throughout their workouts.
"You get back to the fundamentals of tackling," Sexton said. "You've got to take away what you can and continue to grow and get motivated for the next season. It's been emphasized every day during spring ball. We've gotten back to smash-mouth football -- the roots of good hard-nosed football."
OSU coach Mike Gundy said that having another team dominate his team late in the game brought a significant attitude change for his team.
"What happened to us against Oregon is they hit harder than we did and were tougher than we were in the fourth quarter," Gundy said. "Up front they beat us on both sides of the ball. As a staff we were very disappointed in ourselves in our preparation. And our players were disappointed they outhit us in the fourth quarter."
That game has sparked a point of emphasis for the Cowboys over the last several months.
"I was a quarterback, but I always played with Pat Jones," Gundy said. "Toughness and discipline and structure and being hard-nosed is important to me. That's not been an issue of us being outhit most times. We've been a tough football team, but we weren't in that football game."
One OSU player who Gundy can't fault in that game was OSU quarterback Zac Robinson, who sustained a separated shoulder early in the third quarter but remained in the game.
"I threw about 50 in the game and probably 20 of them came after the injury," Robinson said. "It hurt every time and I had no arm strength. My arm was done after that. I could throw it 35 yards, but it didn't have much zip on it."
Despite the injury, Robinson was determined to remain in the game and was there until the end as he threw a career-high 50 passes.
"I just kept struggling through it and telling them I was fine," Robinson said, chuckling.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The number crunchers at Docsports.com have come up with the common statistical traits that the BCS national championship winners have shared.
1. Be a member of a "Big Six" conference or Notre Dame:
Teams still fitting the profile: 67.
2. Have at least eight wins in the previous season. Of the 11 BCS title winners nine teams (and the past six consecutive) have had at least eight wins the season prior to winning the championship. All have had at least seven.
Teams still fitting the profile: 37
3. Have a winning regular-season record in November-December games in the previous season. Winning games late in the season usually ensures a strong finish. Only LSU in 2002 -- with a 2-2 record in November and December -- claimed a BCS national championship without a winning record in those two months in the year before.
Teams still fitting the profile: 25.
Among those still standing are: Alabama (4-0), Boston College (4-1), California (3-2), Cincinnati (5-0), Florida (5-0), Georgia Tech (3-1), Iowa (3-1), Michigan State (3-1), Mississippi (4-0), Missouri (3-1), Nebraska (3-1), Northwestern (3-1), Ohio State (3-0), Oklahoma (4-0), Oregon (3-1), Oregon State (4-1), Penn State (3-1), Pittsburgh (4-1), Rutgers (4-0), Texas (3-1), Texas Tech (3-1), USC (5-0), Wake Forest (3-2), West Virginia (3-2) and Virginia Tech (3-1).
4. Have a junior or senior quarterback with some playing experience. All 11 teams that have won BCS national titles have had a junior or senior playing. All but Tee Martin of Tennessee had starting experience entering the season.
Teams still fitting the profile: 17.
Among those still alive are: California (Kevin Riley), Cincinnati (Tony Pike), Florida (Tim Tebow), Georgia Tech (Josh Nesbitt), Iowa (Richard Stanzi), Mississippi (Jevan Snead), Northwestern (Mike Kafka), Oklahoma (Sam Bradford), Oregon (Jeremiah Masoli), Oregon State (Lyle Moevao), Penn State (Daryll Clark), Pittsburgh (Bill Stull), Texas (Colt McCoy), USC (Mitch Mustain), Wake Forest (Riley Skinner), West Virginia (Jarrett Brown) and Virginia Tech (Tyrod Taylor).
5. Have six returning defensive starters from a unit that ranked in the top 20 in scoring defense in the previous season. Eight of the past nine teams to have won the BCS title have had a defense in the nation's top 20 in scoring defense the previous season (Florida was 46th in 2007) and all but one team (1998 Tennessee) returned at least six starters from their previous season's defense.
Teams still fitting the profile: 6.
Those teams that are eligible include Florida (fourth in scoring defense, 11 returning starters), Iowa (fifth in scoring defense, eight returning starters), Mississippi (20th in scoring defense, eight starters), Texas (18th in scoring defense, seven starters), West Virginia (11th in scoring defense, eight starters) and Virginia Tech (ninth in scoring defense, seven starters).
The formula has been accurate over the years. Of the seven teams that fit the profile coming into last season -- Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Rutgers, USC, and Wake Forest -- all won at least eight games and Florida won the national championship. The team the Gators beat for the national title, Oklahoma, was not included among those on the list.
So keep these trends in mind this season. It might be the reason why we end up seeing Texas and Florida playing for the national championship, if not Iowa, Mississippi, West Virginia or Virginia Tech at the Rose Bowl.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
STILLWATER, Okla. -- Mike Gundy saw some improvement in his defense last season, but remained fixated on one element of his team's defensive collapse in games they ended up losing.
The Cowboys struggled all season with tackling in key situations. Gundy has made improving those skills one of his primary aims this spring.
|Donald Miralle/Getty Images|
|Jeremiah Masoli and the Ducks racked up 183 yards in the fourth quarter of the Holiday Bowl.|
Oklahoma State's tackling difficulties were never more apparent than in the Cowboys' Holiday Bowl loss to Oregon. The Ducks blew the game open by producing 183 yards on 21 snaps in the fourth quarter, including five runs of at least 10 yards and two passes of at least 20 yards en route to a 42-31 victory.
"I've referred to the bowl game from a toughness standpoint," Gundy said. "We've always prided ourselves here at Oklahoma State on being tough. But we weren't tough in that ball game."
The Cowboys were pounded at the line of scrimmage, wearing down as the game continued by Oregon's tough inside running.
"In that fourth quarter we weren't tough," Gundy said. "We had a couple of injuries that set us back. And Oregon had some issues, too. But it came down to toughness and we weren't the toughest team in the fourth quarter. And we've used that for motivation during the winter."
Oklahoma State safety Andre Sexton still has memories of the way the Ducks were able to easily carve up his unit down the stretch, particularly the play of burly quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and bruising tailbacks Jeremiah Johnson and LeGarrette Blount.
"We have to go back out, do some hitting and develop our toughness," Sexton said. "They wore us down in that game. Their quarterback was a tough guy who really got after us. It's motivation for us to get better on the little stuff and just become more physical on defense."
Those struggles showed throughout the season in Oklahoma State's losses. The Cowboys were blistered for 189 total yards and 14 points by Texas Tech.
But their most humiliating collapse came with their late struggles against Oklahoma, which lit them up for 24 fourth-quarter points and 166 yards in the fourth quarter of a 61-41 loss. The Sooners scored on their final eight possessions in that game after OSU had stopped them on three of the first four Oklahoma possessions.
"We've got to do a better job of finishing games," OSU defensive tackle Swanson Miller said. "We haven't always done that, particularly last season. But we need to go out and do better in the things we fell short on and be that much better in the future."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Jeremiah Masoli helped power Oregon past Oklahoma State and claim the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl.
|Robert Benson/US Presswire|
|Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson looked lost after top receiver Dez Bryant was injured in the Cowboys' Holiday Bowl loss to Oregon.|
But the Ducks got a big assist Tuesday night from the shoddy turf at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego that helped contribute to their 42-31 victory over the Cowboys. The game changed late in the second half when playmaking OSU wide receiver Dez Bryant slipped on the turf, hurt his left knee and never recovered.
OSU jumped to a 10-0 lead, dominating the game early and rolling up almost 200 yards in the first quarter when Bryant helped key a 99-yard scoring drive to start the game. But after that, the Cowboys were bullied at the point of attack on both sides of the ball as the Ducks steadily won the game in the trenches.
Bryant still set a Holiday Bowl record with 13 receptions for 167 yards. But most of those came before the injury as he struggled to play with one healthy leg.
OSU's offense similarly turned around after Bryant left. The Cowboys were one-dimensional most of the game -- especially as Big 12 rushing leader Kendall Hunter struggled through a season-worst 37 rushing yards.
The Cowboys' defense clearly were hamstrung without defensive coordinator Tim Beckman, who left the program at the end of the season to take the Toledo head coaching job. Coach Mike Gundy tried to use his remaining coaches to fill in for Beckman, but the Cowboys couldn't cope with an Oregon offense that plowed through them for 303 rushing yards and 7.6 yards per rush.
It was amazing that the Cowboys did not choose to assign a player to spy on Masoli on every snap. The result was that the chunky Oregon quarterback gashed them for 99 yards and three rushing TDs while adding 259 passing yards and another score.
The Oregon defense did the rest, contributing 10 stops over OSU's final 12 possessions of the game to wrap up the victory.
OSU quarterback Zac Robinson provided a gutsy performance, but wasn't the same after Bryant left. Robinson withstood several huge hits, but remained in the game to contribute 403 of total offense.
The Cowboys finished the season 9-4, but better days appear to be ahead for them. Robinson, Hunter and Bryant all are expected back next season as OSU could be poised for a run at its first South Division title with more experience and an easier conference schedule.
A key will be to hire an experienced defensive coordinator who can help raise the performance levels of a group that allowed at least 504 yards in four of the last six games of the season.
And hope that won't scare them away.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Ah, bowl time. I feel like I've missed out on a lot of the early fun from a lot of great games already.
The Big 12 finally starts on Monday night when Missouri faces Northwestern in the Valero Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.
We'll have Oklahoma State and Oregon Tuesday in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl in San Diego and Kansas and Minnesota in the Insight Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., on Dec. 31.
- How Missouri handles the stinging disappointment of another Big 12 championship game loss: The Tigers say they are intent on finishing strong, becoming the first team to win 10 games in back-to-back seasons in school history. But they have struggled defensively at the end of the season, allowing 102 points in losses to Kansas and Oklahoma. Northwestern's offense shouldn't prove troublesome, considering the Wildcats scored at least 28 points in a game only once in their final nine games of the season. What Missouri defense will show up in its bowl game?
- The end of an era at Missouri: Chase Daniel and Chase Coffman will end illustrious careers with the Tigers, along with offensive coordinator Dave Christensen, who is off to his new job as head coach at Wyoming. Jeremy Maclin likely could be playing his final college game. This potent offensive mix has been the most productive offense in the school's recent history. Could they have one more huge outburst left in them in their final game together?
- Better health for the Jayhawks: Key players like Kerry Meier, Jake Sharp and Todd Reesing were banged up most of the second half of the season for Kansas. After a month of rest and playing in the warm Arizona climate, will the potent Kansas trio be ready to take advantage of slumping Minnesota? The Gophers arrive with a four-game losing streak, compared to Kansas' excitement after a thrilling upset victory over Missouri in the Jayhawks' season finale.
- Can the Jayhawks protect Reesing?: When Kansas was at its most successful offensively this season, Reesing was afforded protection and Sharp was a consistent runner. But the Jayhawks often struggled to do that against the Big 12's power teams. It will be critical for Kansas redshirt freshman tackle Jeff Hatch to protect Reesing's blind size from Minnesota defensive end Willie VanDeSteeg, who led the Gophers with nine sacks.
- Oklahoma State's defense without Tim Beckman: The Cowboys' former defensive coordinator left immediately for his new job as head coach at Toledo, leaving Mike Gundy without a coordinator for the bowl game against Oregon. First-year defensive line coach Glenn Spencer takes over Beckman's job of coaching linebackers. A game plan has been formulated with his work along with that of cornerbacks coach Jason Jones and safeties coach Joe DeForest. It could provide a big challenge against an Oregon offense that ranks fourth nationally in rushing, seventh in scoring and eighth in total offense.
- A Holiday Bowl of points: Want to see a bowl game where the two teams combine for triple digits in points and into the thousands in yards between them? This could be your game. Oklahoma State features a talented array of offensive weapons like quarterback Zac Robinson, wide receiver Dez Bryant, running back Kendall Hunter and tight end Brandon Pettigrew. Oregon will counter with quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, running backs Jeremiah Johnson and LeGarrette Blount and tight end Ed Dickson. Considering that both teams have scored at least 40 points six times apiece this season, brace for a shootout in San Diego. Who needs a San Diego delicacy like fish tacos when you can gorge yourself on a delicacy like this?