Big 12: Kansas State Jayhawks
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here's a representative sample from the group of letters that came this week.
Chris from Lawrence, Kan., writes: Tim, from what I'm hearing, Kansas State actually has a good shot at landing Bryce Brown. What kind of impact would you expect him to make next year if he does suit up for Coach Bill Snyder?
Tim Griffin: Obviously, Brown immediately would immediately become Kansas State's top back if he arrived in Manhattan as well as the most publicized recruit in Snyder's coaching tenure. He would give Snyder's team the kind of rushing threat it had with Darren Sproles when it was most successful in its championship season back in 2003.
But I'm still thinking it might be tough to keep him from linking up with his brother at Miami. It will be interesting to see where the younger Brown ends up, although I'm hearing it won't be until well after National Signing Day when we find out where he will be playing.
Steve from Reston, Va., writes: Is there any chance Oklahoma will be adding another wide receiver in this year's recruiting class? I think the recent addition of the junior college of junior college wide receiver Cameron Kenney will help. What do you think?
Tim Griffin: Obviously, I believe that Bob Stoops could find room for Rueben Randle if the heralded receiver from Bastrop, La., would choose the Sooners over LSU among others. Randle is visiting Gene Chizik and Auburn this weekend. And the Sooners probably will still need to add another receiver or two to help Sam Bradford, considering the loss of key targets like Manuel Johnson, Juaquin Iglesias and Quentin Chaney from this year's team.
There figures to be a lot of passes for somebody to catch for the Sooners next season.
Ryan from Lincoln, Neb., writes: You reported earlier this year that Bo Pelini was one of the lowest-paid head coaches in the Big 12. Have you heard any rumors about when he might get offered a raise after going 9-4?
Tim Griffin: Coaches are like anybody else, with ego driving their salary demands.
But that being said, I think Pelini earned every penny of his $1.1 million salary last season, which now ranks as tied for the lowest in the league along with Paul Rhoads of Iowa State and Bill Snyder of Kansas State, according to the web site coacheshotseat.com. The league's formerly lowest paid coach, Mike Gundy of Oklahoma State, got a big raise back in December.
I'm thinking Pelini would be deserving of a renegotiation, considering the way that salaries are spiraling upwards in college football. But the decision will ultimately be made by Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne.
David Correa from Dallas writes: Tim, Any truth to the rumors that Baylor and Wake Forest are looking to drop each other from the upcoming 2009 schedule?
Tim Griffin: I haven't heard any rumblings from either side about canceling that game. But I know after covering the game in Waco back in August that Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe saying that he wasn't looking forward to the rematch in Winston-Salem in 2009. And that was before Robert Griffin started really showing what he could do as a versatile run-pass option.
And with Baylor looking to qualify for its first bowl game since 1994, I could see why they wouldn't necessarily be looking forward to facing the Demon Deacons on their home field, either.
It will be interesting to see if the game comes together. Because there still is a contract for a return date in place, the last I checked.
Steve Johnson from Wichita, Kan., writes: Tim, how could you forget about the infamous story about how Josh Freeman got out of his Nebraska commitment and left for Kansas State on your list of memorable recruiting stories this morning.
Tim Griffin: Sorry, Steve, that one slipped my mind. It was a good one. Namely, the urban legend is that Freeman informed then-Nebraska coach Bill Callahan he wouldn't be attending Nebraska by a text message.
Understandably, the announcement didn't make Callahan very happy. He responded with the legendary line where he called out Freeman, although he didn't call him by name. Callahan said about Freeman's de-commitment: "If you're a prima donna, if you're a drama queen, there's no room for you at Nebraska. You can go to Kansas State."
Ryan Carrell of Round Rock, Texas, writes: Tim, you said that former Miami quarterback Robert Marve "blistered Texas A&M for 212 passing yards and two touchdowns to orchestrate a 41-23 victory over the Aggies in College Station last season." Would you like to take a mulligan on the word "blistered?" Especially in the context of the A&M squad. Blistered might have been 400+ yards, but a little more than 200 is barely enough to get a rug burn.
Tim Griffin: Except when it concerns Robert Marve. It was his career high, so I think the term "blistered" is used in the right context for him. And Marve could have thrown for many more yards if the game had been closer, but Miami ran the ball for much of the second half in the easy victory.
So putting everything into context, I think that Marve blistered the Aggies. Or at least that's what I remembered A&M defensive coordinator Joe Kines saying after the game.
Tom Krier writes: Tim, I read your comments on Nebraska winning the North if they can find a "serviceable quarterback." You might point out that Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson seems to be a master of doing just that. The success he had at Colorado with backup quarterbacks (Bobby Pesavanto, for example) was impressive.
Tim Griffin: Tom, I agree with you. The work that Watson did with Joel Klatt, Robert Hodge and Craig Ochs wasn't too shabby, either, during his time at Colorado. And I doubt many Nebraska fans could have projected Joe Ganz's record-breaking season last season if you had asked him if those numbers were possible back in August.
It's why I think that Watson is one of the most underrated offensive coordinators in the nation. I expect him to be a head coach somewhere pretty soon. While I'm writing checks for Osborne, I might considering bumping up Watson, too.
That's all for this week. Keep the letters and e-mails coming and I'll check back again next week.
I'm off to the Kansas State-Texas Tech game this afternoon in Manhattan, Kan. With game-day traffic, I'm betting it will be a drive of about three hours.
In a way, I can understand the difficulties that Kansas State coach Ron Prince faces in recruiting every time I make the trip from the Kansas City area to Manhattan. The best route to Kansas State leads me along the Kansas Turnpike and straight through Lawrence, Kan., the location of the Wildcats' biggest rival in the state.
I've driven through Manhattan and been caught trying to get through Lawrence because of the traffic. Fortunately, that won't happen today with the Jayhawks away from home at Iowa State.
But even more telling than the impression that makes on a sportswriter, imagine what it might make on a recruit who is journeying into the area for the first time. No wonder that Kansas State annually leads Big 12 teams in recruiting expenses, paying for the cost of getting potential recruits into the city.
I'll be checking back after arriving at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Enjoy the rest of your morning.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
After three hours on various conference calls this morning, here are some early tidbits from around the Big 12.
- Texas A&M QB Stephen McGee suffered a sprained right shoulder against New Mexico and his condition is listed as day-to-day, A&M coach Mike Sherman said. "We thought there was an outside shot he might have torn his labrum," Sherman said. "But it [the prognosis] was more positive than that."
- Of a more pressing concern to Sherman is the condition of QB-WR Ryan Tannehill, who sustained a sprained ankle later in the game. "It will probably keep him out every day this week," Sherman said. "Then, we'll have to take it day-to-day next week. It wasn't a mild sprain."
- Sherman said that although he didn't get to see Brett Favre's debut Sunday with the New York Jets, he was impressed with his performance. "I text-messaged him and told him he did a great job," Sherman said.
- Kansas coach Mark Mangino said that CB Kendrick Harper is recovering after he was hospitalized for an apparent neck injury sustained in the Jayhawks' victory over Louisiana Tech. "There's nothing new today, other than what I mentioned last night," Mangino said. "He's been released from the hospital and is feeling fine."
- Elusive West Virginia QB Pat White provides a difficult defensive challenge that has already caught Colorado coach Dan Hawkins' attention as he prepares for the Sept. 18 game. "There's just so much running from the quarterback position," Hawkins said. "Pat is explosive and electric."
- Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops has been pleased with the progress of his no-huddle offense that has produced more than 80 plays in both games and scored 109 points in victories over Chattanooga and Cincinnati. "I like the fact we've been productive running and throwing the ball," Stoops said. "I haven't been as concerned about that as much as moving the ball, scoring points and resting the defense. And, fortunately, we've been able to do that."
- Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said WR Artrell Woods sustained a mild sprained knee that caused him to be removed from the Cowboys' victory over Houston. The injury is not related to Woods' neck injury that sidelined him for the entire 2007 season. Gundy said he expects Woods back in the lineup for the Cowboys' game against Missouri State.
- Kansas State coach Ron Prince likes his team's open date this weekend that will carry into their nationally televised game Sept. 17 at Louisville. "I think our situation is very unique because we have so many new players," Prince said. "We have about 28 new players who saw action in our first game. [The bye] comes at a good time for us. This is a very unique, 21-day period and we want to get them ready. It's important not to overwork them."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It was getting obvious that most fans at Darrell K. Royal/Texas Memorial Stadium were getting a little bored.
The appearance of Matthew McConaughey hyping his "Surfer Dude" movie stirred them more than anything Texas QB Colt McCoy had done earlier in the game against Florida Atlantic University's undermanned defense.
That was until late in the fourth quarter, when the biggest response of the second half came after the final score of Arkansas State's 18-14 upset over Texas A&M was flashed on the giant Godzillatron scoreboard. It prompted a celebratory cannonade from the handlers of Smokey the Cannon down on the field and chants of "Poor Aggies" from some fans in the stadium.
That jubilant reaction wasn't shared among Aggie fans or by officials at the Big 12 offices in Dallas, who understand that a loss by one of their member institutions to a non-BCS school isn't good for business.
But that reaction is being shared today in other conference offices around the country. The Aggies aren't alone. Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, Michigan and Mississippi State all know what it feels like to lose to non-BCS schools in their opener.
The Aggies' loss was the only real blemish in the Big 12's 10-2 opening weekend. Baylor was expected to lose to No. 23 Wake Forest, although they might have found their quarterback of the future with a strong debut by Robert Griffin.
The conference's most impressive winners during the first weekend of the season included Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado. The Buffaloes punctuated the weekend with a strong 38-17 debut over Colorado State, as heralded freshman running back Darrell Scott showed flashes of why he was the nation's top running back prospect by some recruiting services. And his uncle, Josh Smith, also wowed the crowd with a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
This weekend will feature few challenges for the Big 12, as only one conference school will face a challenge against an opponent from a BCS conference. Oklahoma will host Cincinnati while the 11 other conference members all will opt for weaker opponents.
Which will mean they will face the challenge of trying to win a game they are supposed to win -- which isn't nearly as easy in college football today than it might have been a few years ago.
Here's a collection of morning links in honor of Labor Day. Enjoy the holiday.
- Dallas Morning News columnist Chuck Carlton writes that Mike Sherman's honeymoon at Texas A&M is over after only one game.
- The San Antonio Express-News' Mike Finger ranks the Big 12's most embarrassing nonconference losses in history. And yes, A&M's 18-14 loss against Arkansas State is included, checking in at No. 4. Finger also writes that Dennis Franchione still is a handy scapegoat for the Aggies' loss.
- Missouri WR Jeremy Maclin is expected to return to practice this week after an MRI Sunday revealed a strained peroneal tendon in his twisted left ankle.
- Colorado notched an impressive victory over cross-state rival Colorado State that was the largest margin in the series since 2001. The victory left CU tackle George Hypolite in a chipper mood when he told the Boulder Camera: "We're 1-0, so obviously we're still in the national championship picture."
- Rocky Mountain News columnist Dave Krieger writes how Colorado QB Cody Hawkins starred in his big performance in the Buffaloes' victory over Colorado State. I really enjoyed it," he said. "I get to look unathletic in front of millions of people."
- The Kansas City Star's Mike DeArmond writes of concern about Missouri's secondary after the Tigers were blistered for 451 yards in their victory over Illinois.
- Omaha World Herald columnist Tom Shatel isn't ready to break out the Blackshirts after Nebraska's less-than-impressive 47-24 victory over Western Michigan.
- Oklahoma State TB Kendall "Spud" Hunter emerged as a prime offensive weapon, rushing for 107 yards in the Cowboys' impressive victory over Washington State,
- The impressive debut by Oklahoma State has Bill Haisten of the Tulsa World writing about the potential for a 5-0 start for the Cowboys.
- Texas Tech players were angry about their struggling opening-game performance in a pedestrian 49-24 triumph over Eastern Washington.
- Texas' balanced offense in its season-opening victory over Florida Atlantic was picked apart by the Austin American Statesman's Suzanne Halliburton.
- Only a thunderstorm that delayed Oklahoma's 57-2 beat-down of Tennessee-Chattanooga could derail the Sooners, the Norman Transcript's John Shinn writes. The Sooners scored on seven straight possessions before the storm hit.
- Kansas struggled running the ball against Florida International, posting only 128 yards on the ground. It marked only the second time in the last 18 regular-season games the Jayhawks failed to rush for at least 160 yards.
- Despite producing five touchdowns in Kansas State's season-opening victory over North Texas, KSU QB Josh Freeman tells the Wichita Eagle/Kansas City Star's Jeffrey Martin that he would grade himself a "B-minus."
- Former Iowa State coach Dan McCarney is fine, thank you, as Florida's defensive line coach.
- The Waco Tribune-Herald's John Werner writes that Robert Griffin is arguably the most gifted athlete that Baylor has ever had at quarterback. And his youth doesn't concern Art Briles with installing him as the team's starting quarterback. "I feel Robert is the quarterback most capable of helping us put points on the board," Briles said. "No matter what his birth certificate says, Robert is that person."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Video may have killed the radio star, according to the old English new wave band the Buggles. But expanding mediums are providing additional opportunities for reporters to share their insights with consumers in the rapidly expanding marketplace.
The Big 12 is no different, stocked with a boatload of good weekly vlogs. And work has started early, even before the season starts, at many newspapers.
The spirited competition between the Lincoln Journal-Star and the Omaha World-Herald in the coverage of all things concerning Nebraska football has spilled over into a video war of sorts.
Omaha World-Herald beat writers Mitch Sherman and Rich Kaipust talk about the need for increasing sacks and turnovers in their most recent video chat. And Lincoln Journal Star columnist Steve Sipple and beat writer Brian Christopherson discuss freshmen who will play for the Cornhuskers this season. It will continue for both papers throughout the season.
But the most effective use of video by a newspaper that I've seen so far is what the Oklahoman has done for its stellar series on Bob Stoops. A group of Oklahoman reporters provide analysis of Stoops' leadership, done with tight videography in a style much like ESPN Classic has used in its Sports Century documentaries. Despite the lack of live action footage, the use of some memorable still pictures of Stoops and Sooners was still very effective.
More newspapers are going to this synergy using different formats. I'll try to include some of the more notable ones in my upcoming posts.
But the written word still remains supreme in my mind. And here are some scrumptuous morsels for a Friday morning links collection.
- Baylor coach Art Briles said that freshman QB Robert Griffin will see action in the Bears' opener against Wake Forest and that TB Jay Finley will average 16 to 21 carries per game this season.
- Denver Post reporter Tom Kensler profiles Colorado long snapper Austin Bisnow, a budding songwriter who has twice won Colorado's on-campus "Idol" competition for his singing abilities.
- Some Kansas players are saying their secondary could be better this season with Chris Harris starting in place of departed All-American CB Aqib Talib.
- Nebraska WR Nate Swift has rebounded from a childhood bout with paralysis brought about after being diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome 12 years ago in a story by the Omaha World-Herald's Rich Kaipust. Swift has a complete recovery and needs 41 catches to become the school's leading career receiver.
- Lawrence Journal-World beat writer Dugan Arnett writes about the joy of finding former Kansas RB Donte Bean in the cereal aisle at the Wal-Mart late one night.
- Lincoln Journal Star columnist Steve Sipple profiles MLB Phillip "Jelly Roll" Dillard, who has lost more than 30 pounds since last season in preparation for Bo Pelini's aggressive new defense.
- Jake Trotter of the Oklahoman writes about how Bob Stoops has made it a priority to involve his coaching staff's families in all aspects of the program.
- Texas Tech coach Mile Leach told fans at the annual Red Raider Club kickoff luncheon on Thursday in Lubbock that he may finally have the team to fulfill lofty preseason expectations. "I think what I've been impressed with about this group is they work together, they listen to coaching and as a result, since they're very committed to doing the best they can, you can coach them hard," Leach said. "You can ask more of them than some of the other groups I've dealt with. As a result, we're looking forward to seeing where it takes us."
- Later in the evening, Leach, defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill, QB Graham Harrell and WR Michael Crabtree were among those who signed autographs for more than four hours at the team's annual Fan Night.
- Freshman TB Bradley Stephens accounted for 190 yards at Texas A&M's final scrimmage of training camp. But the most notable development could be the pass-catching abilities of backup QB Jerrod Johnson, who snagged five receptions for 47 yards playing tight end, including a 15-yard TD reception.
- Austin American-Statesman beat writer Suzanne Halliburton broke down the crowded kicking and punting competition at Texas, where incumbent K Ryan Bailey and P Trevor Gerland are facing serious challenges to keep their jobs.
- Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Mike Jones blogs about the rules that Texas coach Mack Brown will have to consider if he plays quarterbacks Colt McCoy and John Chiles at the same time.
- Heralded recruit Darrell Scott was listed as Colorado's third-string running back and third-string punter in Coach Dan Hawkins' first depth chart released on Thursday.
- Iowa State will receive a guaranteed total of $1.8 million from their two-game series at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City against Kansas State that was announced Thursday. Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard said the school averages $1 million per game in home revenues. And Pollard told the Kansas City Star's Blair Kerkhoff that both schools might seek a sponsor for the game and develop a traveling trophy for the winner of the game.
- No defensive starters saw action in Missouri's final scrimmage of training camp. But LB Sean Weatherspoon said he's excited heading into the Tigers' Aug. 30 opener against Illinois. "I think we're definitely ready," Weatherspoon told the Kansas City Star. "Guys are really excited about this season. The energy level is up. And enthusiasm is free." With backup QB Chase Patton injured, third-stringer Blaine Gabbert saw most of the action at the scrimmage, overcoming early adversity to finish strongly.
- Missouri fans are irate about a $100 seasona
l charge for reserved parking in donor lots at Faurot Field - on top of required season-ticket purchase and a donation to the school's scholarship fund. School officials told the Columbia Tribune that the school was the last in the Big 12 to charge for this.
- A sloppy defensive practice on Thursday resulted in extra running for Oklahoma players and no defensive coaches made available to the media after practice. "We're trying to be national champions, not just win the Big 12 and lose a bowl game," DT Gerald McCoy told the Oklahoman. "We're tired of that reputation."
- Senior Richie Bean and walk-on freshman Randy Bullock are vying for Texas A&M's kicking slot after last year's starter, Matt Szymanski, transferred to SMU.
- Texas QB Colt McCoy likened his first two years starting with the Longhorns to his first two years with a driver's license.
- Old-school Oklahoma State offensive line coach Joe Wickline is impossible to please, according to the Tulsa World's Bill Haisten. "All I see are errors that you can correct," Wickline said. "I'll let someone else tell these guys that they're doing a good job."
- Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman says that Oklahoma State is stuck in a rut of mediocrity.
- John Shinn of the Norman Transcript writes that Oklahoma's current collection of defensive linemen might be the best in Bob Stoops' coaching era.
- Missouri freshmen players Rolandis Woodland and Drew Temple are all but assured of redshirting if they are ever cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center, several Missouri papers reported. Temple is the younger brother of former Missouri leading rusher Tony Temple.
- Veteran Lawrence Journal-World columnist Bill Mayer goes far into his personal "Way Back Machine" to compare Kansas' current football fever to previous seasons.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
College football history is marked by historic coaching battles, some that have been a big part in the history of Big 12 schools.
No rivalry was as intense, or as nationally regarded, as those in the 1970s and 80s between Nebraska and Oklahoma when Tom Osborne and Barry Switzer were prowling the sidelines. Their relationship always was cordial but has deepened after both men left coaching. Switzer campaigned when Osborne was running for governor in Nebraska a few years ago. They've even made television commercials together.
Texas coach Darrell Royal had his own legendary battle with Arkansas' Frank Broyles over the years. The two coaches always were close friends. It was somehow fitting that both left the coaching profession together, facing off in their final games in the 1976 season finale.
The Big 12 now has a similar rivalry that likely will be as fondly remembered in the future. Berry Tramel of the Daily Oklahoman correctly is putting the recent battles between Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Texas' Mack Brown in the same historic category.
The Stoops-Brown matchup is as good as it gets in college football these days. They will meet for the 10th time this season at the Cotton Bowl, with Stoops holding a 6-3 edge.
It's been interesting to watch both coaches have such completely different styles but be able to have sustained success. Both have won national championships. Both have pushed their respective programs among the handful of the most dominant in the country, restoring the order at two of the nation's traditional power schools.
It's rare that two division rivals like Texas and Oklahoma can be so good at the same time for so long. And the way college coaches bounce around to better jobs makes such a sustained rivalry as Stoops-Brown hard to find.
Here are a few other Big 12 links worth checking out this morning.
- Anything less than a Big 12 championship this season would be a step backwards for Missouri, the Norman Transcript's John Shinn writes.
My take: Such are the expectations that come with success. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel always wanted his program judged like that -- and he's about to get it this year.
- Tom Kensler of the Denver Post does a question-and-answer session with Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson, a Denver-area native.
My take: Robinson might be among the most indispensable players in the conference. The Cowboys would crater without him.
- Iowa State coach Gene Chizik wants to name a starting quarterback by at least a week before the Cyclones' Aug. 28 season opener against South Dakota State.
My take: The competition between Austen Arnaud and Phillip Bates for the starting job appears close heading into camp after talking with Chizik this week.
- The Kansas City Star's Jeffrey Flanagan reports that Lawrence, Kan., is the only Big 12 outpost still standing in ESPN's "TitleTown USA" competition.
My take: Which is a pretty good indication of the lack of recent lack of national title success in the conference, except for the Jayhawks, isn't it?
- How close was Colorado from winning big in the Big 12 last season? "We were a skosh from winning 10 games a year ago and also a skosh from (winning only) two, as horrific as that sounds," coach Dan Hawkins told the Iowa State Daily.
My take: The margin of error could be even closer this season. I'm betting the Big 12 will be more competitive from top to bottom than any season in recent memory.
- The blog fanIQ.com writes that new Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman's chance for success is worst among any of the 16 new coaches hired before this season. Nebraska's Bo Pelini is third and Baylor's Art Briles is sixth.
My take: Sherman is facing a tough rebuilding job, but it's not that tough. What about Greg McMackin, who has to follow June Jones at Hawaii?
- Some might think he's lost his sanity, but Baylor coach Art Briles thinks he can be competitive at Baylor.
My take: Most people thought Mark Mangino's job at Kansas once was impossible, too.
- The Bergen Record's Aditi Kinkhabwala uses school-paid marketing agreements paid to Bob Stoops and Mack Brown as rationalization for a $250,000 add-on in Rutgers coach Greg Schiano's contract.
My take: The comparison is a little bit dicey. Both Stoops and Brown have national championships and their programs are awash with money. Rutgers isn't close.
- Rivals.com's Olin Buchanan said a healthy Brian Orakpo will be critical for Texas' defensive improvement.
My take: And also could make Will Muschamp's chances for a head coaching job come that much sooner.
- The Nebraska football blog Double Extra Point isn't buying Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman's self-love about his abilities as a quarterback
My take: Freeman's career totals (24 touchdowns, 26 interceptions) make his claims a little suspicious.
- The firing of Baylor president John Lilley has thrown the school into a tizzy.
My take: Some unexpected football success might be the best thing to settle everybody down in Waco. Or the creation of a high-sugar, high-caffeine version of Dr Pepper.
- Fresno State's Pat Hill and Kansas State's Ron Prince won't be exchanging Christmas cards this season.
My take: But if the Wildcats make a bowl game, all of those bitter thoughts will be forgotten -- at least at the Prince household.
- Want all of your Big 12 previews in one neat place? Try the Paperless Preview Project at the Auburn blog warblogeagle.com, which aims to collect as many free team previews in one site as possible.
My take: Who needs those preseason football magazines with a resource like this?
- Mack Br
own was impressed with his first glimpse of Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, but isn't ready to bestow legendary status on him just yet, writes Austin American Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls in his great blog "Bohl Games."
My take: It's tougher to look good the second time around in the Red River Rivalry. Just ask Colt McCoy.