Big 12: Jerry Gray

Three players from Big 12 programs are the newest members of the College Football Hall of Fame.

Texas defensive back Jerry Gray, now the defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans, can add Hall of Famer to his resume after today.

So can the late Rod Shoate, who led Oklahoma in tackles for three seasons from 1972-74 and won the national title in 1974.

Baylor quarterback Don Trull finished his career as the all-time Southwest Conference leader in touchdowns, with 42, and joins Shoate and Gray as Hall of Famers.

Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier also finally joined the Hall of Fame, but Oklahoma linebacker Brian Bosworth didn't get the necessary votes to do the same.

To qualify for the Hall of Fame, a player must have been a first-team All-American, have played within the last 50 years (afterward, he may be nominated by the Veterans Committee) and be retired from professional football.

Breaking down spring practice: Texas

March, 14, 2011
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Schedule: Texas opened spring practice on Feb. 24 and will play its spring game on April 3. ESPN will televise Texas' spring game live at 3 p.m. ET.

What’s new: Uh, what isn't new? Texas coach Mack Brown had to replace five coaches and took six hires to do it. Jerry Gray was hired as secondary coach before leaving to become the defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans. Texas also hired a new strength coach, Benny Wylie, but the headliners are offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin from Boise State and fast-rising, young defensive coordinator Manny Diaz from Mississippi State.

On the mend: Offensive lineman Tray Allen missed all of last season with a broken bone in his foot, but he's back this spring and contending for a starting spot. We won't know if he gets it for awhile, as Texas' depth chart is non-existent for now with so much change in the coaching staff. The offensive line could get interesting, though. Because of injuries, the Longhorns have just eight linemen practicing this spring.

On the move: Alex Okafor moved from defensive end to defensive tackle last year, but he's back on the outside this spring at his natural position.

Key battle: Quarterback. There's no question about it for Texas. Teams with good quarterbacks win in the Big 12. Getting a good quarterback requires having a good supporting cast around him, but Garrett Gilbert didn't have much support in 2010. Texas' quarterback spot is open now, and Gilbert will try to hold off Connor Wood, Case McCoy and freshman David Ash after starting all 12 games last season.

New faces: Ash has garnered some early praise from the coaches, and defensive back Quandre Diggs, one of the best corners in the 2011 class, is also on campus early and practicing with the Longhorns. Defensive back Dakota Haines, tight end M.J. McFarland and linebacker Chet Moss round out the early enrollers.

Breaking out: Linebacker Emmanuel Acho. He was overshadowed a bit by his older brother, defensive end Sam Acho, but the senior will likely be a captain in 2011 following a pair of All-Big 12 seasons. With a new defense, the linebacker could become a household name by midseason next year.

Don’t forget about: Defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. He earned plenty of buzz early last season with big performances against Texas Tech and UCLA, but an ankle injury sidelined him for four games and slowed him late in the season. Once one of the nation's top recruits, Jeffcoat could be in for a big year in 2011 if he stays healthy. He was already one of the team's best pass rushers last season.

All eyes on: Offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin. The pressure isn't just on the quarterbacks. Texas' defense was good enough to be a solid team last year, but the offense was dreadful. Harsin will be responsible for injecting his new philosophies and ideas into the Longhorns offense, which hopes to be able to do everything. That includes lining up with two running backs and running downhill and spreading four and five receivers wide and speeding up to a no-huddle pace.

Big 12 candidates for the FBS Hall of Fame

March, 8, 2011
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The National Football Foundation has released its list of candidates for the FBS Hall of Fame class of 2011.

More than 12,000 members of the foundation will vote on the list of 79 players and nine coaches, and the class will be announced in May with an induction ceremony to take place in December.

"It's an enormous honor to just be on the ballot when you think that more than 4.79 million people have played college football," NFF President & CEO Steven J. Hatchell said in a release. "The Hall's requirement of being a first team All-American creates a much smaller pool of only 1,900 individuals who are even eligible to be on the ballot, so being in today's group of 79 names means an individual is truly among the greatest to ever have played the game, and we are proud to announce their names today."

So, here's who's up for induction from schools currently in the Big 12:
  • Brian Bosworth, LB, Oklahoma, 1984-86
  • Bobby Douglass, QB, Kansas, 1966-68
  • Doug English, DT, Texas, 1972-74
  • Tony Franklin, K, Texas A&M, 1975-78
  • Jerry Gray, DB, Texas, 1981-84
  • Rod Shoate, LB, Oklahoma, 1972-74
  • Don Trull, QB, Baylor, 1961-63
  • R.C. Slocum, coach, Texas A&M, 1989-2002 (first time on ballot)

Want more? Here's the full list.

    Texas announces Duane Akina re-hire

    February, 14, 2011
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    Duane Akina is officially coming back to Texas, according to a release by the school. Akina told officials at Arizona on Monday morning of his plans to leave, but officials at UT had been silent on the issue before Monday evening.

    A few quotes from the release:

    Akina on his return:

    "I know this has been difficult for everyone involved, but when Mack (Brown) and I talked about the opportunity, and considering what a difficult month it has been for me and my family, I thought it was a move I needed to make. I went to Arizona to be closer to my family and some of those circumstances changed. Also, having younger children who grew up here and loved Austin made the move to Arizona difficult. All of those factors played key roles in my decision to return."

    Brown on Akina's return:

    "We're so excited to have Duane back. Like everyone within our program, he will be starting out with a fresh, new, clean slate. That has been our primary focus in moving forward, and we have a lot of positive energy in the program. Duane and I talked about that, and he is really looking forward to getting back here and being a part of it. You can't imagine the excitement I've already heard from the players to have back one of their favorite coaches since we've been here."

    Brown on Jerry Gray's departure over the weekend:

    "We're disappointed we lost Jerry, but he left for a great opportunity that he just couldn't pass up. Jerry will remain a great friend of mine and of Texas. He's a great Longhorn and always will be. We're happy for him and his family, but are very fortunate to be replacing a great coach who will have a bunch of success in Tennessee with someone we all know and love so much in Duane."

    Jerry Gray statement after leaving Texas

    February, 14, 2011
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    Departed Longhorns defensive backs coach Jerry Gray released a statement on Monday afternoon, two days after announcing his plans to become the Tennessee Titans' defensive coordinator.

    Gray took the job in mid-January, but left less than a month later.

    Duane Akina, who Gray replaced, plans to return to Texas to replace Gray.

    Here's what he had to say, presumably in response to a report over the weekend:
    "This was the hardest decision I've ever had to make, and I want to thank Coach Brown, DeLoss Dodds and everyone at Texas for all of their support during the process. There's no way I could have ever imagined that two jobs that mean so much to me would come up at the same time. Working for Coach Brown and Texas, and Mike (Munchak) and the Titans are opportunities of a lifetime. At the end of the day, a defensive coordinator's job with Mike and in the NFL was just too much to pass up.

    "That said, there has been some misinformation out there that I do want to clarify. Money had nothing to do with this. I wouldn't have come to Texas if that was an issue, and I wasn't at all concerned about what anyone else was making. I wanted to be at Texas and there's no reason I left other than a great job opportunity, period. I hope the fans and everyone at Texas can understand and appreciate my decision and realize how difficult it was.

    "I have a great relationship with Coach Brown and the Texas football program and am excited about their future. I had some really good conversations with Coach Brown before I left and appreciate all of his support. We will remain friends and supporters of one another. I texted every one of the players when I made the decision and encouraged them to keep working hard and continue the great things they're doing to get ready for the season. This is a program with outstanding kids and coaches and they're going to have a lot of success, and that made the decision even tougher. I'll be in Tennessee, but I'll still be pulling for the Longhorns as hard as I ever have."

    Lunch links: Why Texas lost another coach

    February, 14, 2011
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    In my dream I was almost there, then they pulled me aside and said you’re going nowhere.


    By the way, maybe you don't quite love the Big 12 blog, but you can like it on Facebook over on the right sidebar underneath that goofy-looking mugshot.

      Duane Akina looks headed back to Texas

      February, 14, 2011
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      The revolving door that is Texas' defensive backs coaching job continues to spin.

      Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne announced via his Twitter feed on Monday morning that Wildcats defensive backs coach Duane Akina told Byrne and Arizona coach Mike Stoops that he would be leaving Arizona to return to Texas.

      "Although disappointed because of the commitment we had made we respect Coach Akina’s decision based on family," Byrne wrote.

      Akina announced his move from Texas to Arizona on January 16.

      Texas hired Jerry Gray, a Texas alum, the next day. On Saturday, Gray announced he was leaving Texas to become the defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans.

      Now, after a month of transition, the Longhorns are back where they started at defensive backs coach, though a raise for Akina seems likely.

      Akina, who coached at Arizona from 1992-2002 before coming to Texas from 2003-10, made $318,509 in 2009. The Longhorns had planned to pay Gray $425,000.

      Akina had been one of Texas' best position coaches, helping two Longhorns, Michael Huff and Aaron Ross, win the Thorpe Award as the nation's best defensive back during his tenure.

      His apparent hire makes seven total coaching hires for Mack Brown and Texas since its 5-7 season ended in November.
      Defensive backs coach Jerry Gray has left the Texas Longhorns after being hired by Mack Brown less than a month ago.

      Gray accepted a position as the defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans, the team announced on Saturday.

      "I also want to thank Coach Brown and University of Texas," Gray said in a release. "I know the timing of this isn’t ideal, but this was something that I couldn’t turn down."

      Gray's vacancy means Brown will launch a search for his seventh coaching hire of the offseason. Gray came to Texas on January 17 after coaching defensive backs for the Seattle Seahawks in 2010.

      "We're obviously disappointed that Jerry's leaving, but at the same time, we're really excited about the wonderful opportunity he had to be the defensive coordinator of the Titans," Brown said in a release. "It is a chance for him to reunite with a lot of friends he went to the Super Bowl with who came up just one yard short of winning. That's the only place he would have left here for, and we want to wish him the best of luck."

      UT assistant to NFL picks up steam

      February, 9, 2011
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      Word came out on Monday that new Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak was interested in new Texas defensive backs coach Jerry Gray as his defensive coordinator, and now, it looks like those talks have progressed.

      According to a report in The Tennessean, Munchak has lined up Gray for an interview.

      All it would take for Gray to make it go away is release a statement of commitment to Texas, but his silence makes it clear that this is an opportunity he has to seriously consider, and the reasons are obvious. A position coach in college, even if it's at your alma mater and a dream job, can't really compete with a coordinator in the NFL.

      Gray, if eventually offered, clearly has a difficult decision to make, and if he chooses to stay at Texas, it'll have to be because he really, really wants to be there.

      Could Texas be down another assistant?

      February, 7, 2011
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      Mack Brown just finished filling six coaching openings, but could one of them be gone before he even starts?

      Jerry Gray, a former Texas player with 14 years of NFL coaching experience, was one of the most well-received hires of Brown's six, but according to Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman, he may have a decision to make in the coming weeks.

      The Longhorns' defensive backs coach is being considered as the new defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans, who hired Mike Munchak as their new head coach on Monday.

      Moving from being a college position coach to a pro coordinator is obviously a big jump, and it has to be a big concern for Brown, as well as for Longhorns fans.

      Gray has already been a defensive coordinator once. He oversaw the Buffalo Bills' defense from 2001-2005, so his decision wouldn't be about career advancement as much as it would be about overall happiness. Gray is new to the recruiting trail, but sounded especially excited to start at his introductory news conference three weeks ago when he was introduced as the replacement for Duane Akina.

      One factor could be a big help in keeping Gray at UT, though.
      "A big consideration for Gray is the impending NFL lockout; the source said the potential lockout over a new collective bargaining agreement clouds all hirings and could hurt Munchak’s chances of getting Gray."

      Signing day has come and gone, so keeping recruits is no longer an issue, and Texas lost just one commitment because of the coaching upheaval after the season.

      Now, though, Gray leaving could hurt the Longhorns' preparations for spring practice. Brown kept Texas' early start, choosing to kick off practice on Feb. 24, and scrambling to find a replacement for Gray, should he leave, would be the last thing Brown needs this late in the semester.


      Also on Monday, the Lincoln Journal Star learned that Oregon receivers coach Scott Frost, Nebraska's quarterback on its 1997 national title team, would not return to Lincoln to coach.

      Pelini and Frost reportedly spoke about the possibility of Frost's return, but Frost wasn't going to leave Oregon without being able to call plays, which Nebraska did not offer.

      Signs indicate those duties could go to running backs coach Tim Beck.

      Roundup: UT salaries, key recruiting moves

      January, 31, 2011
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      A few notes and nuggets from the offseason weekend that was:

      Before Mack Brown began his coaching search that eventually required him to make six offseason hires, he met with the Texas Board of Regents to discuss coaching salaries. It sounds like they were, uh, receptive to what he had to say.

      After a shocking and disappointing 5-7 season in 2010, Brown's assistants received hefty raises. Brown is expected to meet with the media in Austin later today for the first time since the season finale, a home loss to Texas A&M. Texas already sat comfortably at the top of the heap in assistant coaches' pay, and these latest raises only accentuate that. No one is making what defensive coordinator Will Muschamp made ($907,000) in 2010, but you definitely won't hear any complaints coming from the football facilities any time soon.

      Here's a breakdown of last year and this year's salary among the coaching staff, courtesy of the Austin American-Statesman.

      Defensive coordinator
      • 2011: Manny Diaz - $625,000 (made $260,000 at Mississippi State in 2009)
      • 2010: Will Muschamp - $907,000 (took Florida head coach job)
      Offensive coordinator
      • 2011: Bryan Harsin (will call plays) - $625,000 (made $259,520 at Boise State in 2009)
      • 2011: Major Applewhite (also coaches running backs) - $500,00 (made 269,509 in 2010)
      • 2010: Greg Davis - $477,084 (resigned after season)
      Tight ends
      • 2011: Bruce Chambers - $200,000
      • 2010: Bruce Chambers - $187,039
      Defensive ends
      • 2011: Oscar Giles - $200,000
      • 2010: Oscar Giles - $162,451
      Defensive backs
      • 2011: Jerry Gray - $425,000 (previous NFL salary unknown)
      • 2010 Duane Akina - $318,509 (left for Arizona)
      Offensive line
      • 2011: Stacy Searels - $425,000 (made 301,200 at Georgia in 2010)
      • 2010: Mac McWhorter - $292,759
      Receivers
      • 2011: Darrell Wyatt - $315,000 (made 250,000 at Kansas in 2010)
      • 2010: Bobby Kennedy - 212,519 (took receivers coach job at Colorado)

      Life as a Longhorn right now? Well, last season's struggles aside, it's clearly pretty good.


      Huskers find a new kicker

      Nebraska will need a lot of new faces on special teams, after punter/kicker Alex Henery and kickoff specialist Adi Kunalic both exhausted their eligibility following the 2010 season.

      The Huskers had a commit for their 2011 class, Niklas Sade, but he decommitted and pledged to North Carolina State last month.

      The solution: Nebraska went after Mauro Bondi, a Boca Raton, Fla. native and (former) Wake Forest commit who has an impressive YouTube highlight reel and sounds ready to replace Henery.

      "I definitely followed him, so I have to live up to that and maybe do even better," he told the Lincoln Journal Star.

      Bondi gives Nebraska 18 commits for its 2011 class. ESPN.com ranks the Huskers' class No. 14 nationally.


      Cowboys' top commit 'solid'

      One player who doesn't sound like he's decommitting or recommitting anywhere is ESPNU 150 member and running back Herschel Sims, Oklahoma State's top commit.

      The Cowboys' running backs coach, Robert Gillespie, left Oklahoma State to join former offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia. Sims had reportedly been wavering earlier in the recruiting season, but took his official visit to Stillwater in January and his high school coach told the Tulsa World that Sims is solid with the Cowboys and ready to sign on Wednesday, adding that there isn't "any doubt about it."
      "During his official visit, he called that Saturday night and said, 'I can’t imagine playing anywhere else,' Sims' coach, Steve Warren, said. "He loved it."

      With Sims, Oklahoma State has 27 recruits committed to its 2011 class, which can begin signing letters of intent on Wednesday. ESPN.com ranks Oklahoma State's class No. 20 nationally.
      Texas' latest coaching hire, defensive backs coach Jerry Gray, was one of Texas' most exciting. He's a former Longhorn great. He was a candidate for the defensive coordinator job.

      He's also a man who hasn't coached college football since 1996, when he coached defensive backs at SMU. He was the Buffalo Bills' defensive coordinator from 2001-2005 before moving back to coaching defensive backs for the Washington Redskins and spending a year under Pete Carroll with the Seattle Seahawks this past season.

      He says the transition to coaching teenagers instead of millionaires won't be a difficult one, however.

      "Well, [coaching] grown men is more like having to be a psychiatrist," Gray told reporters at his introductory news conference on Wednesday. "Grown men don’t tell you a thing. You’ve got to really pick their brain and have them talk to you. I can remember when I coached at SMU -- you’ve got to be more like a parent to younger guys. They’ll tell you just about everything and that’s the difference."

      And he's looking forward to getting plenty out of his new players.

      "I’m going to invite the guys over when I can within the rules, make sure it’s all legal," Gray said. "I want to get to know their mom and their dad. I didn’t recruit you, but I just recruited you. Even though you’re already here, I want to know that you’re part of me."

      Gray's still figuring out exactly what is and isn't legal, navigating a complex NCAA rulebook. He was scheduled to take his compliance test on Wednesday, but he sounded antsy to hit the recruiting trail once he passed.

      He said Wednesday he planned to tell Texas' incoming recruits to focus all their energy on finishing their senior year before shifting their focus to UT.

      "Recruiting, to me, is easy," Gray said. "What you do is go out and compete against somebody else. Everything you’re doing is always competing, and that’s what I’ve done my whole life. I’ve competed, not just on the football field, but off the football field. To me, now I have to go compete against some of the top programs in the country and lucky enough I’m at one of the top programs in the country."

      Lunch links: Truth about Brandon Weeden

      January, 18, 2011
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      Why don't you just whip up a batch of your fancy tofu sushi bagels and choke on them!

      Big 12 weekend roundup

      January, 18, 2011
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      Lots to talk about after the long weekend. Let's get to it.

      More turnover for the Longhorns

      Just when Mack Brown thought he was almost done filling his staff, he ended up with a bit more work to do. Defensive backs coach Duane Akina resigned to take the same position at Arizona.

      His departure after an impressive tenure at Texas to take what was a lateral move at best raised all kinds of red flags, but a quick hire from Brown helped lower them a bit. The Longhorns went with Manny Diaz at defensive coordinator over Seattle Seahawks defensive backs coach Jerry Gray, but Brown convinced Gray to make a move of his own to fill Akina's void.

      That's a great move for Texas, who could have inspired some panic with Akina's departure. He was arguably Texas' best position coach, and you don't need to look much further than the staggering list of DBs he's sent to the NFL as proof. He's also coached a pair of Thorpe Award winners at Texas in Michael Huff and Aaron Ross.

      Now, he's headed back to Arizona, where he coached from 1992-2002.

      "We've been talking about getting back there over the years, but it never seemed to be the right time. When this opportunity came up, I felt like the window was there and that it was the right fit," Akina said in a release. "...going back to Arizona was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. It allows me to get closer to a lot of friends and family, and to hopefully help a program that has been such a big part of my life in any little way I can."

      Well, that sounds nice and all, but you have to wonder if he didn't fully mesh with Diaz, either personally or philosophically, contributing to the move. Gray's arrival helps silence similar talk, but the Longhorns will be fascinating next seaon.

      Six coaches are gone from last season's staff. Just four remain. That's a heck of a lot of turnover for one season.

      Fuller sticks around for his senior year

      [+] EnlargeJeff Fuller
      AP Photo/Dave EinselTexas A&M received good news when receiver Jeff Fuller opted to return for another season rather than enter the NFL draft.
      We'll have more on the trend later today, but Texas A&M receiver Jeff Fuller announced he would return to College Station for his senior year, which is fantastic news for the Aggies. Texas A&M has a great receiving corps, but it doesn't have anyone capable of replacing Fuller's size and production. He just finished the first 1,000-yard season in the history of Texas A&M football, and there's no reason to think he won't kick off the second next September.

      Simply put, there aren't many receivers with Fuller's size, and he'll be a much better route runner and probably a little bit faster this time next year. His draft projection from the NFL advisory committee was outside the first two rounds, and a year ago, teammate and linebacker Von Miller received a similar report.

      Miller now looks like a mid-to-late first rounder, and Fuller admitted Miller's experience had an influence on him.

      "I'm excited about our team and the guys I came into school with. There are a lot of areas I need to work on, and another year will put me closer to earning my degree and that is important to my family," Fuller said in a release. "I had a great example in Von. He decided to come back and he really helped our team improve and I believe he improved his position in the upcoming draft, and he is only a few hours short of his degree."

      Thanks to Fuller, A&M is losing just one offensive starter -- center Matt Allen -- and three defensive starters.

      Sooners fill out staff

      Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops announced his promotion of Bruce Kittle from on-campus recruiting coordinator to tight ends and tackles coach, replacing the void left by offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. Wilson left Oklahoma to take the head coaching job at Indiana.

      Kittle will finally get a chance to prove himself, after a short coaching career and a long relationship with Stoops. The two played at Iowa together, and Kittle is also an ordained minister and lawyer.

      That won't satisfy the contingent of Sooners fans who wanted to see Stoops hire a special teams coordinator, but if Oklahoma can get some consistency out of its placekickers and stop giving up long kick returns, those complaints will go away. Certainly, it might be easier to do those things with a special teams coordinator, but Oklahoma, with its eight BCS bowls under Stoops, seems to have done OK for itself without a special teams coordinator thus far.

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