Big 12: Joe Kines

The Revolving Door: Texas A&M

May, 3, 2011
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I've done it. You've done it.

"Hey, is that guy still around?"

Even with two fewer teams, it's hard to keep track. Our next series, which we did last year, too, takes a look at two key players for every team in the league that are taking their talents elsewhere, returning to campus, or arriving to try and write a legacy of their own.

So really, this series isn't so much for the fans of the teams in the posts, but more for everyone else. It wouldn't be a bad idea to bookmark this series.

Next up: Texas A&M

Going:

Von Miller, LB

Miller will go down as not only one of the best Aggies of all-time, but one of the most beloved. Throughout the draft process (which concluded with him being drafted No. 2 overall), he gave credit to his coaches and teammates and talked extensively about how much he loved Texas A&M and his time there. He led the Big 12 in sacks the past two seasons, and led the nation in 2009. As the lynchpin of the Aggies' 3-4 scheme in 2010, he spent more time in coverage, but his combination of size (6-foot-4, 255 pounds) and speed (4.4 40-yard dash) is found almost nowhere. No player was more integral in the return of the Wrecking Crew in 2010. And to top it all off, at the end of his introductory news conference with the Denver Broncos, he gave a "Gig 'em."

Michael Hodges, LB

Hodges came to Texas A&M as a walk-on. He didn't play at all in 2008, but coordinator Joe Kines gave him a shot in 2009, and Hodges rewarded him with an All-Big 12 honorable mention season after starting nine games in his first real season on the field. Last year, as a senior, Hodges emerged as one of the defense's leaders and led the team with 115 tackles. Hodges missed most of his last game, the Cotton Bowl, with a knee injury, and the Wrecking Crew suffered in his absence. Hodges wasn't blessed with the measurables of his teammate, Miller, but he made the most of what he had and always seemed to be around the ball. Fans admire that, and like Miller, he'll go down as one of the most beloved Aggies of all-time, too.

Staying:

Jeff Fuller, WR

Fuller took some time after the Aggies bowl game to make his decision, but his decision to stay has further amped up the anticipation in College Station for what could be a special year this fall. The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder is one of the Big 12's best red zone targets, and just finished the first 1,000-yard receiving season in school history, adding 12 touchdowns, too. He'll further etch his name into the record books in 2011, and there's no reason to believe he won't have the second 1,000-yard receiving season in school history. Fuller wants to refine his route running and become a better run-after-catch threat, making himself a more complete receiver, and he should be better than ever next year.

Cyrus Gray, RB

Entering last year, Gray was largely considered the lesser half of the Aggies' stellar running back duo. Not anymore. After Christine Michael went down with a broken leg, Gray uncorked one of the greatest stretches by any running back in Texas A&M history. He rushed for 100 yards in seven consecutive games, the first time any Aggie had done that since Darren Lewis had a 10-game streak in 1988. Gray brings his seven-game streak into 2011, which boasts big games against defenses like LSU, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas.

Coming:

Johnny Manziel, QB

Could Manziel be the next Ryan Tannehill? He enrolled early, impressed coaches and did the same with fans when he completed 8 of 9 passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns. He'll be in a three-man race this fall to back up Tannehill, but Manziel has nice wheels, too. He rushed for 1,674 yards as a senior in high school, and if he doesn't win the backup job, could he find his way on the field as a receiver? We'll find out this fall.

Brandon Alexander, DE

Alexander committed to Texas A&M days before signing day, despite strong interest from Texas and a late visit to Arkansas, and was one of the Aggies' top recruits. The 6-foot-6, 230-pound Brenham, Texas, native was one of the best defensive ends in the country and gives Texas A&M a possible top-flight pass-rusher in a quarterbacks' league that demands teams have them.

Click here for more from The Revolving Door.

Former Aggies DC not forgotten

January, 5, 2011
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IRVING, Texas -- Tim DeRuyter's arrival in College Station may have been the biggest factor in the Aggies' rise from 6-7 a season ago to 9-3 in 2010.

But former defensive coordinator Joe Kines, who retired after the 2009 season, still keeps in touch with at least one of the Aggies' defensive leaders, senior linebacker Michael Hodges.

"I haven't seen him, but I've talked to him several times," Hodges said. "Coach Kines and I have a special relationship. He really gave me the shot that I was asking for and I owe a lot to him for that. All I needed to do was prove myself and he gave me that opportunity."

Hodges came to Texas A&M as a walk-on in the spring of 2008, but didn't play in the 2008 season. In 2009, Hodges tore his ACL on the final day of spring practice, but returned to action by the second game of the Aggies' 2009 season.

"He's really helped me grow as a player, as a person," Hodges said. "I see Coach Kines as a mentor now and a friend. I called him after our first loss and asked him what he thought about it. He's a legend himself and we miss him here."

Hodges started the final nine games of 2009, eventually earning All-Big 12 honorable mention honors.

"He's just been so supportive. I don't know how old he is now, but he somehow finds a way to text message and everything, so he sends me texts after big games and we've been able to keep in touch," Hodges said. "It's definitely a lifelong relationship I'll keep."

Kines, by the way, is 66.

Hodges made second-team All-Big 12 in 2010, leading the Aggies with 111 tackles after finishing fifth on the team with 70 stops in 2009. Kines' defense in 2009 was one of the conference's most-criticized units, giving up a Big 12-worst 33.5 points a game. But Hodges says the lessons learned during that disappointing season "absolutely" laid the foundation for 2010's successes in College Station.

"We learned how to bang with him -- he made us hit quite a bit," Hodges said. "We just learned so much from Coach Kines, and I think once Coach decided we wanted to transition into a 3-4 defense, what he gave us helped us take the next step."
Desperation or improvement?

That's the question Texas A&M football fans have to be asking themselves after Aggies coach Mike Sherman rebuilt his coaching staff after only two seasons. After the Aggies finished 6-7 in 2009, dropping Sherman's record to 10-15 in two seasons in College Station, he completely overhauled his staff. All but one defensive assistant was replaced, and former Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe was hired to coach wide receivers.

There's really no way to sugarcoat it: If Texas A&M's defense and special teams are as bad as they were in each of the past two seasons, Sherman will be the coach looking for a job in 2011.

[+] EnlargeMike Sherman
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesMike Sherman has posted a 10-15 record in two seasons at Texas A&M.
The A&M defense can't possibly be any worse, after it finished 106th among FBS teams in pass defense (254.7 yards per game), 105th in total defense (426.3 yards) and scoring defense (33.5 points per game) and 90th in rushing defense (171.6 yards).

After the Aggies allowed 30 points or more in nine games last season, defensive coordinator Joe Kines retired. Defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt left for Kansas and defensive backs coach Van Malone departed for Tulsa.

Sherman is betting that former Air Force defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter can shore up his defense quickly. DeRuyter runs an aggressive 3-4 scheme, which helped the Falcons lead the country in turnover margin (plus-1.69 turnovers per game) and finish fifth in passing defense (154.3 yards per game), 10th in scoring defense (15.7 points) and 11th in total defense (288.3 yards) in '09.

The good news for DeRuyter? The Aggies will bring back 10 defensive starters, including pass-rushing specialist Von Miller. DeRuyter's chore is to make the Aggies more aggressive and disciplined.

Sherman hired former Texas A&M All-American Dat Nguyen as inside linebackers coach, which is a very smart move. Bringing back one of the school's most-decorated players is always a public relations coup with alumni and fans. The fact that Nguyen worked the past three seasons as an assistant linebackers coach with the Dallas Cowboys shows he's more than just a big name, too.

Sherman lured Purdue defensive line coach Terrell Williams to College Station and hired Nick Toth as his team's outside linebackers coach. Toth worked last season as defensive backs and special teams coach at The Citadel. Toth played and coached under DeRuyter at Ohio and is well-versed in coaching the 3-4 scheme.

Toth also will be asked to help fix Texas A&M's special-teams woes. Last season, the Aggies finished 104th in net punting (32.9 yards), 98th in kickoff return defense (23.1 yards) and 49th in kickoff returns (22.3 yards).

The special-teams miscues were never more evident than during Texas A&M's 44-20 loss to Georgia in the Independence Bowl. The Aggies allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown, had a field goal and punt blocked and snapped the ball over the punter's head.

Kragthorpe, who was fired after compiling a 15-21 record in three seasons at Louisville, replaces former A&M wide receivers coach Nolan Cromwell, who left for the same position with the NFL's St. Louis Rams. Kragthorpe previously worked as offensive coordinator at A&M from 1998-2000, helping lead the Aggies to their lone Big 12 title in 1998.

With Big 12 powers like Oklahoma and Texas having to replace several star players, and programs such as Kansas and Texas Tech undergoing major renovations, the Aggies might be well positioned to move up the league's ladder this coming season.

If they don't, Sherman's job might be on the line.

A&M's Cromwell a candidate for NFL job

February, 8, 2010
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Veteran Texas A&M offensive coordinator Nolan Cromwell is among the candidates for the vacancy at wide receivers coach for the St. Louis Rams.

Cromwell, who has been Mike Sherman's offensive coordinator in each of his first two seasons with the Aggies, has talked with St. Louis coach Steve Spagnuolo, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

Cromwell played 11 seasons with the Rams during his pro football career and also served as an assistant with the team in 1991 with John Robinson's staff in Los Angeles.

He later coached with Green Bay from 1992 through 1998 and in Seattle from 1999 through 2007.

The Aggies already replaced their defensive coordinator when Joe Kines stepped down and was replaced by former Air Force defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter.

Changing offensive coordinators so close to spring practice could present some abrupt changes for quarterback Jerrod Johnson before heading into his senior season. With seven starters returning, the Aggies' offensive unit is expected to be the team's biggest strength heading into the 2010 season.

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.

A&M's all-decade team

January, 21, 2010
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At the start of the decade, Texas A&M was at the top of the Big 12 South Division.

The Aggies claimed the Big 12 championship in 1998 after qualifying for the title game in 1997. A&M capped off an emotion-packed 1999 season by beating eventual Big 12 South champion Texas in the "Bonfire Game" to end the regular season.

But the program regressed as Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Texas' Mack Brown built their programs throughout the aughts. R.C. Slocum was let go after the 2002 season and Dennis Franchione was similarly jettisoned after the 2007 season.

Mike Sherman is in place now. The program faces a huge battle to get itself back to the level where the Aggies were at only 10 seasons ago.

Here's a look at some of the top players and moments of the Aggies' last decade.

OFFENSE

QB: Jerrod Johnson

RB: Courtney Lewis

RB: Jorvorskie Lane

WR: Robert Ferguson

WR: Terrence Murphy

TE: Martellus Bennett

OL: Cody Wallace

OL: Taylor Whitley

OL: Lee Grimes

OL: Kirk Elder

C: Seth McKinney

DEFENSE

DL: Mike Montgomery

DL: Rocky Bernard

DL: Ty Warren

DL: Von Miller

LB: Jason Glenn

LB: Justin Warren

LB: Mark Dodge

DB: Sammy Davis

DB: Melvin Bullitt

DB: Terrence Kiel

DB: Jaxson Appel

P: Justin Brantly

K: Todd Pegram

Ret: Cyrus Gray

Offensive player of the decade: QB Jerrod Johnson. It was a tough choice over quarterbacks like Stephen McGee and Reggie McNeal who played for the Aggies earlier in their careers. But Johnson's abilities to develop the most potent passing offense in A&M history -- setting school records for touchdown passes, total offense and passing yards in 2009 -- make him the choice. And he could be poised for even more in his senior season.

Defensive player of the decade: DE/LB Von Miller. The Aggies' proud reputation for tough defenses became forgotten over the decade as spread passing offenses proliferated across the conference. But Miller was decidedly a throwback in a 2009 season where he led the nation with 17 sacks and became the most dominant A&M defensive player since Dat Nguyen. Miller thrived in the hybrid "Jack" position created by former defensive coordinator Joe Kines. He wisely chose to return to college for his senior season next year where he can continue with a new coordinator in place.

Coach of the decade: R.C. Slocum. It was difficult for A&M fans to see the demise of Slocum, perhaps the most popular coach in school history. The Aggies never had a losing record under Slocum and made bowl trips in two of the three seasons he coached them this decade, including the 2001 Galleryfurniture.com Bowl that remains their most recent bowl victory.

Moment of the decade: Stephen McGee's dramatic game-winning drive in a 2006 victory at Texas. Despite vomiting in the huddle throughout the game-winning drive, McGee directed the Aggies on a 16-play, 88-yard drive capped by his own 8-yard touchdown run en route to a 12-7 victory over the Longhorns in Austin. McGee converted five third-down plays on the drive as A&M snapped a six-game losing streak to their most bitter rivals.

Miller's return should solidify A&M defense

January, 13, 2010
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Mike Sherman got his first bit of good news since the season ended when he learned that Von Miller will return to Texas A&M for his senior season.

[+] EnlargeVon Miller
Dustin Bradford/Icon SMIVon Miller notched 17 sacks this season.
The Aggies' leaky defense, which ranked 105th nationally in total defense and scoring defense and 106th in pass defense, needs every little boost it can get. And the return of the nation's top sacker should provide just that.

Miller thrived in the "Jack" position, a hybrid linebacker/defensive end in the scheme of former A&M defensive coordinator Joe Kines.

Before last season, Kines and other Aggies coaches thought that the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Miller was too strong for most blocking fullbacks and too fast for most offensive linemen. The creation of the new position enabled Miller to rack up 17 sacks as one of the few bright spots for A&M struggling defense.

The Aggies were blistered for at least 45 points five times last season, including three of the final four games.

Miller made his decision not to declare for the NFL draft after consulting with Sherman earlier this week.

“I appreciate coach Sherman for assisting me in gathering information and allowing me and my family a chance to make this decision,” Miller said. “It’s important to me and my family to earn my degree from Texas A&M and this will put me much closer to that goal. I can’t leave A&M right now.”

Miller’s return is pivotal for the continued development of a leaky Aggies defense, which will return nine starters for 2010 including Miller.

“We’ve got most everybody coming back on defense and I think we’ll have some good recruits coming in,” Miller said. “I have confidence in coach Sherman and I know we’ll have a great defensive staff. I am looking forward to having a good year.”

Sherman is scouring the nation for a new defensive coordinator to replace Kines.

Whomever he hires will have a big advantage with Miller's return.

Kines retires as Aggies' defensive coordinator

December, 30, 2009
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Veteran Texas A&M defensive coordinator has retired as the Aggies' defensive coordinator after serving two years in the position.

Kines, 65, joined Mike Sherman's staff in 2008 after Reggie Herring left the position to join the Dallas Cowboys' staff. The decision came after a mutual decision between Kines and Sherman.

"Joe Kines is a class act in every sense of the word," Sherman said. "At the conclusion of my post-season meeting with Joe Tuesday night, we came to an agreement that this was the appropriate time for Joe to retire."

Kines plans to stay with the Aggies' coaching staff until Sherman hires his replacement.

During an illustrious career as a defensive coach, Kines served three different stints as a defensive coordinator at Arkansas, and also was a defensive coordinator at Alabama, Florida and Georgia.

"God has blessed me so much,” Kines said. “I am a man of faith and family and I feel like it is time for me to retire. I came here to help and I hope I have helped a little. I wish we would have had a little more success. I really want to thank the players because they gave me and the staff everything they had and did everything we asked."

Kines' defense struggled this season, ranking 104th nationally in scoring defense, 107th in total defense and 111th nationally in total defense heading into the bowl games. His defense played well for much of the Aggies' 44-24 loss to Georgia in the AdvoCare Independence Monday night before collapsing in the second half because of poor field position caused by struggling special teams play. It marked the fifth time this season the Aggies yielded as many as 44 points in the game.

But the veteran Kines also was responsible for developing a defense scheme that moved Von Miller to a hybrid "Jack" position where he combined elements of a defensive end and a linebacker. Miller thrived at the new position, leading the nation with 17 sacks during the regular season.

It means that Sherman will be looking for his third defensive coordinator in his coaching tenure with the Aggies.

"Transition is part of life and football,” Sherman noted. “Whether it is players graduating or coaches leaving, you have to adjust and move on. I have no doubt we will attract quality candidates for the defensive coordinator position.”

Big 12 lunch links: OU may have QB battle

December, 22, 2009
12/22/09
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Good afternoon.

We're trying our best to get through a pretty serious cold here for my 5-year-old.

So "Dr. Dad" will be dispensing these nourishing lunch links like hot bowls of soup, decongestants and Theraflu.

Hopefully, everybody will be healthy and ready for Christmas.

Here are today's links.

Texas A&M season review

December, 9, 2009
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Texas A&M came into the season expecting to struggle to stay out of the South Division cellar.

The Aggies accomplished much more than that, earning a stunning upset at old nemesis Texas Tech, making Texas sweat in their Thanksgiving night game and earning their first bowl bid since 2007 in the process.

Coach Mike Sherman played 18 freshmen and helped quarterback Jerrod Johnson become the most improved player in the Big 12. The Aggies also have one of the most talented collection of players. The development of proven producers like tailbacks Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray and experienced receivers Ryan Tannehill, Jeff Fuller and Uzoma Nwachukwu should help for next year and beyond. The Aggies fashioned an improved offense that finished the regular season as the nation’s only team to rank in the top 25 in rushing, passing, scoring and total offense.

Playing all of the young players did come at a cost. The Aggies were the most inconsistent team in the country, winning games by 35, 37, 35, 25 and 22 points but also losing games by 28, 48 and 55 points.

The youth was especially noticeable on defense, where the Aggies had 14 freshmen and sophomores on their two-deep roster at the end of the season. That group showed its inexperience as the Aggies ranked 104th nationally in scoring defense, 107th in total defense and 111th in pass defense. They were singed for 640 yards and 65 points against Oklahoma and yielded 597 yards and 49 points against Texas.

But the Aggies kept growing through the season, which gives Sherman hope for the future.

Offensive MVP – QB Jerrod Johnson

The brightest star in the Aggies offense was Johnson, who emerged as the Big 12’s top statistical quarterback this season. Johnson set school records with 3,217 passing yards and 28 touchdowns, completing 267 of 439 passes. He also rushed for 455 yards and eight touchdowns. And he gave 2010 Heisman Trophy voters something to think about after accounting for 439 yards and four touchdowns against Texas.

Defensive MVP – DE/LB Von Miller

Defensive coordinator Joe Kines hoped to boost Miller’s production by playing at a hybrid “Jack” position where he hoped Miller would be too fast for most bulky offensive linemen and too strong from running backs. Miller played to that level and more as he led the nation with 17 sacks to key a Texas A&M defense that ranked eighth nationally in sacks.

Turning point – Oct. 24 at Texas Tech

The Aggies were huge underdogs going into the game at Lubbock after a 62-14 loss to Kansas State the previous week. But Sherman was so confident in his team’s chances he presented them with carabiner clips before the game as a talisman that would signify their victory. Suitably inspired, the Aggies claimed a 52-30 victory that ended up being the triumph that got them into a bowl game.

What’s next?

The Aggies will benefit hugely from the extra bowl practice, which may be almost as important as their Independence Bowl date against Georgia. That game has the makings of an offensive shootout, but a victory would enable A&M to finish the season with a winning record moving into next season. Johnson and most of the skill-position players return on offense and nine starters are expected back on defense, although Miller has been contemplating turning pro. But with all of the returning talent, the Aggies likely will be improved next season and a solid bowl team.

Big 12 mailbag: Don't be surprised if 6-6 Aggies end up in Alamo Bowl

November, 27, 2009
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Happy “Black Friday.” Given the choice, I’ll always dig deep into my mailbag to answer a few of your questions rather than battle the traffic around the malls.

So here goes. Thanks again for keeping me inside and busy today.

Jameson Baker of College Station, Texas, writes: Tim, what do you think about the San Antonio newspaper saying that Texas A&M might be selected for the Alamo Bowl if the Big 12 gets two in the BCS? Is it just wishful thinking or do you think there is a possibility?

Tim Griffin: Heading into Saturday’s games, if Oklahoma State and Texas end up in the BCS, here’s how I would handicap the best chances for the Big 12 and its bowl partners. I’m also assuming that Missouri beats Kansas to deny the Jayhawks a bowl berth.

BCS: Texas and Oklahoma State. Cotton: Nebraska. Holiday: Texas Tech. That would leave the Alamo with the likely choice of Missouri, which would have finished 8-4. But the Tigers have been to San Antonio in each of the past two seasons, after meeting Oklahoma in the 2007 Big 12 title game and playing Northwestern in the 2008 Alamo Bowl. So it’s understandable the Alamo Bowl might be a little leery about inviting them again. The teams that would have qualified for bowl games include Oklahoma, Iowa State and Texas A&M. With the Aggies' traditional appeal, I could see why there might be some interest, despite A&M being blown out by Oklahoma and having a record that would be two games worse than Missouri’s.

The Big 12 doesn’t require its bowl partners to take teams according to their records. So it’s understandable why Texas A&M might be more interesting to the Alamo Bowl rather than Missouri or any of the other possible teams.


Rajesh Solanki from Carrollton, Texas, writes: Tim, I would like to ask one thing. Many people are saying that with Colt McCoy winning over Texas A&M he has solidified his Heisman trophy. But why is it such an accomplishment to win over the Big 12’s last ranked defense?

Tim Griffin: Rajesh, you were correct about A&M’s struggling defense. But McCoy’s numbers -- 304 yards passing and a career-best 175 yards rushing -- were impressive if he was playing a pee-wee team. And considering the struggles of Mark Ingram Friday against Auburn, strong games in November aren’t to be assumed by Heisman candidates anywhere.


Brad Stephenson from Osage, Okla., writes: Tim, what has been your biggest surprise and biggest disappointment in the Big 12 this season?

Tim Griffin: Brad, I think the biggest positive surprises have been the bowl bid for Iowa State under first-year coach Paul Rhoads, Kansas State’s surprise challenge for the Big 12 North title and the way that Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has kept his team together despite the loss of key producers like Dez Bryant, Kendall Hunter, Orie Lemon and Jamal Mosley for much of the season. And the biggest disappointment has been Oklahoma. The injuries to Sam Bradford and Jermaine Gresham have been the major reason the Sooners have limped to a 6-5 record this season -- already the worst regular-season record in Bob Stoops’ 11-season coaching tenure there.


Broc Ward from California writes: As a long time Longhorns fan, I appreciate Texas going with an aggressive no-huddle offense against an equally aggressive and defense that seemed to grow in confidence Aggie defense. It was a smart move for both teams.

Tim Griffin: I agree with you. I thought Texas' use of a no-huddle offense countered the Aggies’ unexpected blitzing. McCoy told me after the game that A&M blitzed only about 30 percent of the time in their studies before the game. McCoy said that the Aggies blitzed on at least half of their plays in Thursday night’s game.

McCoy was able to effectively use the quarterback draws which sparked his big rushing game. But I really enjoyed watching the chess match between Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis and veteran Texas A&M defensive coordinator Joe Kines. It was really interesting to watch.


Josh Newman from Overland Park, Kan., writes: I understand that the Missouri/Kansas "Border War" matchup at Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday doesn't have the excitement it has garnered in the past, but it's worth mentioning that it will display three of the top four wide receivers in the Big 12. Not to mention, it's one of the top rivalries in all of collegiate sports. Couple that with the fact that the KU athletic department is in flux (to say the least). Mark Mangino may very well be coaching his last game as a Jayhawk! All this from a KSU alum who's already focused on basketball!

Tim Griffin: I agree that the Missouri-Nebraska game will be interesting. The collection of Kerry Meier, Dez Bryant and Danario Alexander will provide some of the best receivers in one game in college football this season. Like you mentioned, there’s been a lot of speculation about Mangino’s job security. And the rivalry should be just as heated as usual -- simply because it’s Missouri and Kansas.

I know I can’t wait to watch the game tomorrow -- along with all of the rest. And I think the rest of Big 12 fans are with me on this one.

Thanks again for the questions and we’ll answer a few more next week.

Five Big 12 coaching staffs make over $2M

November, 12, 2009
11/12/09
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Assistant coaching jobs in the Big 12 are among the highest paying in college football.

A survey conducted earlier this week by USA Today indicates the Big 12 has five of the top 11 highest paid assistant coaching staffs in college football and seven schools among the top 21.

Texas leads the Big 12 with a combined assistant coaching salary of $2,948,698. That ranks second in college football, trailing only Tennessee's staff that makes $3,325,000.

And Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, who has already been designated as Mack Brown's designated replacement, is the highest paid assistant coach in the Big 12. Muschamp earns a yearly salary of $900,000, which is the second highest salary in college football for an assistant behind only Monte Kiffin at Tennessee, who makes a total package of $1,200,000.

Here's a look at how the Big 12 coaching staffs rank. Baylor is not included because it is a private school and not subject to open records requests like public institutions.
  1. Texas: $2,948,698: (high $900,000, low $152,942), national ranking, 2.
  2. Oklahoma: $2,464,600: (high, $406,500, low $201,900), national ranking, 6.
  3. Missouri: $2,164,020: (high, $320,200, low $201,800), national ranking, 8.
  4. Oklahoma State: $2,130,000: (high, $335,000, low $125,000), national ranking, 10.
  5. Texas A&M: $2,100,508: (high, $404,633, low, $166,161), national ranking, 11.
  6. Nebraska: $1,934,160: (high, $376,000, low, $151,000), national ranking, 20.
  7. Texas Tech: $1,913,300: (high, $332,500, low, $167,500), national ranking, 21.
  8. Kansas: $1,795,300: (high, $306,100, low, $148,000), national ranking, 29.
  9. Kansas State: $1,735,000: (high, $265,000, low, $120,000), national ranking, 31.
  10. Colorado: $1,515,960: (high, $217,776, low, $100,000), national ranking, 43.
  11. Iowa State: $1,385,000: (high, $275,000, low, $100,000), national ranking, 47.

And here's a look at the 10 highest-paid assistant coaches in the Big 12
  1. Will Muschamp, Texas defensive coordinator: $900,000, national ranking, 2.
  2. Greg Davis, Texas offensive coordinator: $467,075, national ranking, 8.
  3. Brent Venables, Oklahoma defensive coordinator, $406,600, national ranking, 10.
  4. Joe Kines, Texas A&M defensive coordinator, $404,633, national ranking, 12.
  5. Kevin Wilson, Oklahoma offensive coordinator, $395,000, national ranking, 14.
  6. Shawn Watson, Nebraska offensive coordinator, $376,000, national ranking, 18.
  7. Nolan Cromwell, Texas A&M offensive coordinator, $355,729, national ranking, 26.
  8. Joe DeForest, Oklahoma State associate head coach/special teams, $335,000, national ranking,29.
  9. Ruffin McNeill, Texas Tech defensive coordinator, $332,500, national ranking, 31.
  10. Joe Wickline, Oklahoma State co-offensive coordinator/line coach, $325,000, national ranking 37.

Midseason analysis: Texas A&M

October, 20, 2009
10/20/09
6:24
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Texas A&M Aggies

Record: 3-3, 0-2 in Big 12 play

The Aggies sparked some early excitement after a 3-0 start against New Mexico, Utah State and UAB. But it all caught up with them during a recent three-game losing streak to Arkansas, Oklahoma State and Kansas State, when the Aggies have been blistered for averages of 48.3 points and 435.3 total yards per game. The recent collapse has reignited the firestorm about Mike Sherman’s job security -- particularly with a run of tough Big 12 South opponents waiting. Most recently, an Aggie team with 17 freshmen was humiliated in their first true road game by Kansas State, 62-14. Interestingly, the blowout loss came only three days after A&M athletic director Bill Byrne responded to fans about the progress of the team under Sherman. “I’ve heard from many of you that see improvement every week,” Byrne wrote in his weekly column on the school’s Web site. “Thanks, that is true, but now I’d like to win a few.” It will be a big challenge with the current group facing the upcoming schedule to fulfill Byrne’s wishes.

Offensive MVP, QB Jerrod Johnson: During A&M’s 3-0 start, Johnson was the biggest reason, accounting for 13 touchdowns in those games, including a school-record six against UAB. He’s slowed down a little bit during the recent losing streak with 1,893 passing yards and 16 touchdowns for the season. Improved confidence in Nolan Cromwell’s offense had him limiting mistakes until a disastrous game against Kansas State where he was intercepted three times and sacked six times. It was the first time he had been intercepted this season, after setting a Big 12 streak of 225 passes to start a season.

Defensive MVP, DE/LB Von Miller: A&M coaches hoped that Miller’s speed would pay dividends by playing the hybrid “Jack” position which combines the responsibility of a defensive end and linebacker. Miller thrived during the Aggies’ winning streak, producing eight sacks in the Aggies’ first three games. He’s only had two in the last three games, but his total of 10.5 sacks still leads the country. Miller has been the Aggies' most active defender, producing 28.5 tackles and 21 solo stops. How he holds up against South Division teams familiar with Joe Kines' defensive concepts will determine if he can continue his strong start and finish strongly.

Big 12 mailbag: CU's aggresive national-television model explained

September, 11, 2009
9/11/09
6:04
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

If it's a Friday afternoon, it must mean it's time to check the mailbag.

With the season starting, we've got some interesting correspondence this week. Here are some of the more notable missives.

Calvin Kirkpatrick of Kyle, Texas, writes: Hey, Tim. What’s the deal with Colorado sucking up all of the Big 12's television time? Every time it looks like I’ll be tuning in this season they'll be playing somebody on national television.

Tim Griffin: Calvin, I will say one thing for Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn: He’s willing to play on some non-traditional nights to get exposure for his program. Most of the major powers aren’t willing to do that, feeling their games on Saturdays are almost sacrosanct. It hasn’t always been that way. I remember that Oklahoma traveled to Tulsa a few years ago to play on a Friday night. And who can forget Texas’ struggles on that Sunday night in 1994 when the Longhorns and John Mackovic lost to Rice?

But Colorado’s athletic department appears to be the most willing in the Big 12 to take this unconventional approach. It will provide them some additional money from playing in these games. But it also will provide them with the difficulty of playing on five days this week at Toledo. I imagine that Dan Hawkins probably isn’t as enthralled about this idea today as he might have been a few months ago.

But brace yourself for even more. The Buffaloes’ games against West Virginia (Thursday Oct. 1), at Oklahoma State (Thursday Nov. 19) and Nebraska (Friday Nov. 27) all will be played on days other than Saturday.

The game tonight might be the biggest one that Hawkins has coached at Colorado.

And I can’t wait to watch it.




Rusty from Hesston, Kan., writes: Tim, I enjoy your blog and find that I check multiple times each day. I’d thought I’d throw you a curveball in terms of your likes and dislikes. I’d like to know which uniforms you like in the Big 12 and which ones you don’t like.

Tim Griffin: Rusty, I appreciate the kind words. I’ve never been asked about my judgment about fashion, but here goes.

I always have been partial to the traditional, clean look for uniforms. Those worn by Texas and Oklahoma have remained relatively unchanged over the years and are my two favorites in the league. One of my favorite old uniforms was the Texas A&M uniforms from back in the 1970s when they had vertical stripes on the uniforms. I also really liked the Aggies’ helmets back then, as I do any helmet that has the player’s uniform numbers on it. I’m looking forward to seeing Nebraska’s throwback uniforms when they play Louisiana-Lafayette on Sept. 26.

I don’t dislike many uniform combinations. But I wasn’t crazy about Baylor’s all-white look they sported for the Wake Forest game. It made them look like they should have been delivering Cookies and Cream from the "Little Creamery in Brenham" than playing football.


David from Newport, R.I., writes: Tim, in regards to your grading the offenses and defenses. I like the idea and the comments others have made. How about this idea? Instead of using 1 or .5 points for the touchdown and FG, respectively, why not divide total points by 7 so the missed extra points and two point conversions are also included. Also, why not have a comparison between the offensive and defensive production similar to baseball’s run differential to get an idea how each team has compared to their opponents.

Tim Griffin: David, my offensive and defensive rankings prompted a lot of comments from readers. I appreciate them all. Some blasted them because they were so simple, or because they didn’t factor in strength of schedule or special teams.

I didn’t want to do that. I just wanted an easy-to-measure way to judge the effectiveness of an offense. I thought in terms of a batting average in baseball, which is clear and easy to understand. And using that same thought process, I thought I could come up with something like a batting average. And I think my measure does that, giving us a percentage of how well a team operates by judging its percentage of scoring drives. I wasn't interested in doing much more than that, like grading it on the measure of an opponent or anything like that.

That’s why I decided to go the way I did. I do like your mention of the run differential and might try that out to see if can determine the effectiveness of a team.


(Read full post)

Big 12: Keys for the 2009 season

September, 2, 2009
9/02/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


Here's a look at the key factor for each Big 12 team this season:


Baylor:
The Bears need production from a retooled offensive line and particularly new starting tackles Danny Watkins and Phillip Blake. Their work will be critical to keep Robert Griffin protected and continue the strong running game that enabled Baylor to produce 200 or more rushing yards in four of the last five games in 2008.


Colorado:
Somebody needs to step up and claim the starting quarterback job. Continually shuffling between Tyler Hansen and Cody Hawkins will rob the offense of its continuity and make both quarterbacks worry too much about their individual mistakes. Dan Hawkins should settle on one, and the quicker the better.


Iowa State:
The Cyclones’ tackling techniques have been frustrating for an old-school defensive coach like Paul Rhoads. He’s broken them down to the basics to hope that they will learn his way. If they can use these fundamentals to start playing better defense, it’s the start of a massive rebuilding job.


Kansas:
The Jayhawks lost three productive linebackers and will retool their defense by using more nickel coverages, seemingly conducive to shackling Big 12 aerial attacks. Will this new unit still be able be able to support a developing secondary and underrated defensive front?


Kansas State:
The Wildcats’ offense won’t look anything like the explosive units that Bill Snyder was familiar with earlier in his coaching tenure. This group doesn’t have a lot of productivity or depth. A rash of injuries would be a crippler for this team and likely make Snyder wonder why ever re-entered coaching.


Missouri:
Can new quarterback Blaine Gabbert help a rebuilding offense still be productive, despite the loss of several key producers who were the backbone of the Tigers' back-to-back division title teams?


Nebraska:
How well will Zac Lee direct the offense? The Cornhuskers talk about his arm giving them the opportunity for more vertical strikes than when Joe Ganz was playing. Bo Pelini would just be satisfied with the same kind of consistent production that marked Ganz’s season-plus as starter.


Oklahoma:
The offensive line has received some praise from Bob Stoops in the last few days because of its conditioning and versatility. The question remains if the four new starters are accomplished enough to keep the Sooners’ record-breaking offense humming, and more importantly, Sam Bradford safe from harm.


Oklahoma State:
Bill Young has made a career out of cobbling together overachieving defenses. If he can get increased production from this unit that wore out late last season, he’ll cement his own legacy at his alma mater, as well as providing the Cowboys a chance for their first South title.


Texas:
Vondrell McGee will get the first shot, but will somebody emerge as a featured ball carrier to help take some of the pressure from Colt McCoy? It’s asking a lot of McCoy to be his team’s leading rusher in two straight seasons.


Texas A&M:
Whatever happened to the Wrecking Crew? The Aggies can’t afford the struggles that marked their defense last season. Joe Kines' unit must show immediate improvement, particularly in the trenches and in the secondary.


Texas Tech:
How will the pass defense recover from the loss of key pass-rushers McKinner Dixon and Brandon Williams and starting safeties Darcel McBath and Daniel Charbonnet? In the Big 12 South, that rebuilding job in those areas could come with some lethal consequences.

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