Big 12: Kendrick Harper

Insight Bowl preview: Kansas (7-5) vs. Minnesota (7-5)

December, 31, 2008

Posted by's Tim Griffin

After making a trip to the Orange Bowl last season as the first BCS appearance in school history, Kansas is back for more in tonight's Insight Bowl against Minnesota. Here's a look at several items to watch in the game.

Who to watch: It's easy to get lost as a quarterback in the Big 12 at times, but Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing quietly broke a slew of his own single-season school records this season with 302 completions, 406 attempts and 3,575 passing yards. When Kansas' young offensive line gives him protection, the diminutive Reesing can carve defenses up. His chances for success Wednesday will be magnified by the return to health of key weapons like wide receiver Kerry Meier and running back Jake Sharp, who both struggled with injuries late in the season. It will be the healthiest that Kansas has been since early in the season, providing the Jayhawks an opportunity against a slumping Minnesota team that lost its last four games after starting 7-1.

What to watch: The play of Kansas' secondary will be critical to the Jayhawks' chances. Starting cornerback Justin Thornton did not make the trip for undisclosed disciplinary reasons. Senior Kendrick Harper will start in his place. That retooled unit will try to contain Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber, who was hot during the Gophers' fast start but averaged only 144.7 yards and threw more interceptions than touchdowns in Minnesota's last three games. Minnesota coach Tim Brewster fired offensive line coach Phil Meyer and replaced him with Tim Davis as the running-game coordinator after the late slump. But the Gophers' ability to pass the ball from the spread offense will determine whether they can sneak out of Sun Devil Stadium with an upset against an erratic Kansas pass defense that ranked 113th nationally and allowed 19 touchdown passes in its last six games.

Why to watch: The Jayhawks already made their mark by making back-to-back bowl trips for the first time in the 119-season history of the program. They can crack another barrier Wednesday by winning, which would give them 20 victories in the last two seasons for the first time as well. A big effort against Minnesota also could set the tone heading into next season when the Jayhawks are positioned to be one of the North's preseason favorites.

Big 12 internal affairs: Kansas secondary readies for big test

November, 5, 2008

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Here are a few tidbits from across the conference heading into this week's games.

1. A transformed Kansas secondary has been readied for the Jayhawks' late push for the North Division title. Kansas coach Mark Mangino has gradually broken in new cornerbacks Daymond Patterson and Justin Thornton and moved up former backup Darrell Stuckey to the starting job at free safety. Those moves have left early-season starting cornerbacks Kendrick Harper and Chris Harris buried in Mangino's playing rotation. The change is being made to boost Kansas' athleticism before huge tests against the horde of playmaking wide receivers the Jayhawks will be facing against Texas and Missouri in upcoming weeks.

2. Oft-injured playmaking Oklahoma defensive end Auston English will be missed during the rest of the regular season, although Sooner coaches privately aren't disappointed that redshirt freshman Frank Alexander will be the player replacing him. Alexander's comeback from an early-season stabbing injury has been strong and he's shown some noticeable instinctive defensive moves. There will be a drop-off from English to Alexander, but not as much as might be expected.

3. One of the major reasons for Texas Tech's recent defensive success has been the simplification of schemes since Ruffin McNeill took over as defensive coordinator midway through last season. Two players who have particularly thrived up front have been defensive ends Brandon Williams and McKinner Dixon, who have combined for 17 sacks this season. And Tech's starting safeties, Darcel McBath and Daniel Charbonnet, merely are playing like the best pair at their position in the conference since the change.

4. Kansas State coach Ron Prince took over the play-calling responsibilities in the second half of the Wildcats' 52-21 loss last week at Kansas, helping spark a late offensive charge after the Wildcats had fallen into an early 31-0 hole at the half. While Prince was careful to say he hasn't lost confidence in offensive coordinator Dave Brock's calls from the press box, he wanted to provide his team immediate feedback from the sideline by taking a more active play-calling role.

5. Missouri tight end Chase Coffman has been listed as questionable for Saturday's game against Kansas State because of a sprained toe. But Coffman has a little extra inspiration to return to the lineup quicker. It's not only his final home game at Missouri, but he'll be playing against the old college team of his father, former NFL tight end Paul Coffman. And his little brother, Carson, is a backup quarterback for the Wildcats. If Chase Coffman can't go, freshman Andrew Jones would get the start, but expect him to at least to try to play early in the game.

McGee's is 'day-to-day' with sprained shoulder

September, 8, 2008

Posted by'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."

Big 12 links: Colorado's Scott adjusts to college life

August, 1, 2008

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Heralded Colorado standout incoming freshman Darrell Scott wants his teammates to know he's just like any other incoming freshman.

Even though some teammates have compared him to Adrian Peterson and Jim Brown before his first practice, Scott is settling into his new surroundings. He bought an air conditioner for his dorm room because he was surprised by the stifling late July heat of Boulder, Colo.

"Man, I'm just a normal human being," Scott told the Boulder Camera.

Scott has already earned some names of distinction as he prepares for the start of practice next week. Some are calling him by his newfound nickname "Freshmeat." And others are referencing him as "Five Star," in reference to his recruiting hype.

As the Big 12's most heralded incoming recruit settles into the rigors of college life, here's hoping his adjustment is an easy one.

Here are a few items for perusal as a couple of more teams start practicing across the conference.

  • Iowa State RB Jason Scales tells Bobby La Gesse of the Ames Tribune he's excited about the challenge of earning the starting job in Gene Chizik's backfield.
  • CB Kendrick Harper has some big shoes to fill heading into the start of Kansas' fall practice on Saturday. All he has to do is replace Kansas All American CB Aqib Talib.
  • Coaches voting in USA Today's preseason poll apparently are sold on the Big 12's overall strength. The Big 12 had five teams among the nation's top 14 teams. No other conference had more than four.
  • Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops tells the Oklahoman's Berry Tramel that he won't kick freshman WR Josh Jarboe off the team for his celebrated You Tube video where he raps about guns and shooting people. "Kick a guy off the team for what he says?" Stoops told Tramel. "We're starting to talk about everything kids say and do. Now we're in people's homes, in their private spaces."
  • Austin American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls hypes an early recruiting signing period as a way to save money.
  • New Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman is showing a different side of his personality than when he was an Aggie assistant under R.C. Slocum earlier in his career, the San Antonio Express-News' Brent Zwerneman writes.
  • Oklahoma State TE Brandon Pettigrew is trying to live down the ramifications of his arrest earlier this year. "It was real embarrassing," Pettigrew told Scott Wright of the Oklahoman. "I'm not a trouble-maker. It was something that just happened. I can't take it back. All I can do is look forward and try to be better about stuff next time."
  • Want to feel like you're in the middle of a post-practice media scrum? Check out the Oklahoman's neat video feature "Mike Gundy Uncut" after Oklahoma State's first practice on Thursday. It's much tamer than he was after some games last year.
  • There's no quarterback controversy at Oklahoma State's camp this summer for the first time in four years.
  • Projected starting CB Anthony Blue likely won't be ready for Nebraska's Aug. 30 opener against Western Michigan, Coach Bo Pelini tells the Lincoln Journal-Star.
  • Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald serves up a mess of notes in my favorite of his columns, his weekly "First Downs and Second Guesses."
  • The Pelini brothers shared a few pearls of wisdom with coaches at a clinic Thursday night in Lincoln. The word "effort" kept coming up - over and over.