Big 12: Kerry Meier

Kale Pick led Kansas in receiving yards and receptions last season, but he'll continue to contribute to Kansas despite graduating after the 2012 season.

He's joining KU's staff as a graduate assistant on offense under Charlie Weis.

He'll work closely with receivers coach Rob Ianello, according to a release.

Pick, a native of Dodge City, Kan., caught 63 passes for 752 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his career, which took a sharp turn in 2010. Pick won the first quarterback competition under Turner Gill, but lost his starting spot after a 6-3 loss to FCS North Dakota State. Late in the 2010 season, he moved to receiver and showed a nice ability to do whatever it took to get on the field.

His career path was certainly reminiscent of former Jayhawk great Kerry Meier, but it's good to see Pick land in a good spot now that his playing days are over.

Lunch links: BYU's '64,000 reasons' to join

August, 31, 2011
8/31/11
12:00
PM ET
You guys should be watching Chopped.

Mailbag: Recruiting, Gabbert, coddling?

May, 11, 2011
5/11/11
4:15
PM ET
Caesar in Limbo asked: Is there an increasing trend with coaches losing the battle against whining players? Leach, Mangino and I'm sure there's got to be more. Does a weak player just have to point their finger if they feel mistreated? Do these kids need therapy or a boot?! Why won't administrators back their coaches anymore? Could a coach from 20 years ago make it in today's "coddle" culture?

David Ubben: I don't know if I buy that. To some level, sure, we're more sensitive as a culture than ever before, but I also think those two situations are very different, and the issues with the players weren't the only reason Mangino and Leach were let go.

Mangino's was obviously a big part of it, but that controversy also hit in the middle of a seven-game losing streak to end the season, despite still having Todd Reesing, Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier. Like I wrote yesterday, Mangino's coaching style, which I'll just call intense, doesn't come off as well if he's not winning games. Winning solves if not everything, something close to it. (This is the point when I glare in Columbus, Ohio's direction.) If Kansas won 10 games in 2009, does anyone think Mark Mangino would not still be the coach?

In Leach's case, it was pretty clear that he badly strained his relationship with his bosses during his contract negotiations prior to the 2009 season. That relationship between a coach and the administration often gets overlooked. Leach's wasn't good, and he gave the higher-ups a reason to fire him.

Bob Stoops has a fantastic relationship with his AD, Joe Castiglione and the university president, David Boren. If the Adam James situation happened to Stoops, would he still be around?

I think we all know the answer to that question.

These situations are a lot more complex than just a couple whiny, entitled kids getting coaches fired.


Mike in Oklahoma City, Okla., asked: Ubbs, do you think Tyler Gabbert leaving MU has anything to do with his brother's "slide" in the recent NFL draft due to the college system he played for? Do you think he will transfer to a pro style team in response to that?

DU: No, and that's not really the reason for his "slide," per se. The way I see his slide is one team saw Jake Locker as a better fit and better talent than Gabbert, which bumped him out of the top 5-7 where he was projected to go, down to No. 10. In the days leading up to the draft, I'd say it was pretty clear that Cam Newton was going to be the first quarterback taken.

Everyone had questions this year. Can Newton be a true NFL passer? Is Locker accurate enough? Can Gabbert be the same kind of passer after a dropback? I really doubt that had anything to do with Tyler Gabbert's decision.

And besides that, from the moment Blaine Gabbert stepped on Missouri's campus, he had NFL written all over him. Guys with big arms that are 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds tend to, at the very least, get drafted. Tyler Gabbert's career is just beginning, but at 6-foot and 190 pounds, he's going to be fighting uphill to get his chance at the NFL level.


Scott in College Station, Texas asked: David, When do the first 2012 ESPN recruit rankings come out? Thanks

DU: We released them last year around late May and early June, so I'd expect them then, but don't get too worried, Scott. I'm sure your Aggies will be well represented in our ESPNU150, unlike last year.

I'd be very, very surprised if Trey Williams wasn't on it. Matt Davis probably has a good shot, too. Maybe Davante Borque. Our recruiting guys handle that.


Preston in Dallas asked: If Texas has another bad year, and Texas A&M and Oklahoma St. continue to take the next step how do think this will effect recruiting in Texas?

DU: It would help a little bit, but it's going to take a lot of losing for Texas to not be back on top of the recruiting game. For one, players want to play for Mack Brown.

But more than anything, you're battling Texas culture. Players grow up wanting to be Longhorns. That's just a fact. Not all of them, of course, but certainly a majority of kids in one of the richest recruiting banks in the country.

How many kids grow up in Texas dreaming of playing for Oklahoma State? Texas A&M?

They'll grow up, and some will realize that in their personal situation, maybe either school is a better fit or Texas doesn't want them, but there's no changing that Texas is the flagship program in the state. That's one recruiting advantage that takes a whole heck of a lot to negate.

Another losing season, or even 2-3 more isn't going to suddenly allow either school to consistently outrecruit Texas.

Kansas spring wrap

May, 6, 2011
5/06/11
9:30
AM ET
KANSAS

2010 overall record: 3-9

2010 conference record: 1-7

Returning starters: Offense (8), Defense (6) P/K (0)

Top returners: RB James Sims, WR Daymond Patterson, QB Jordan Webb, LB Steven Johnson, OL Tanner Hawkinson, DB Isiah Barfield, LB Huldon Tharp

Key losses: CB Chris Harris, LB Justin Springer, DL Jake Laptad, LB Drew Dudley, S Olaitan Oguntodu, WR Johnathan Wilson

2010 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: James Sims* (742 yards)

Passing: Jordan Webb (1,195 yards)

Receiving: Daymond Patterson* (487 yards)

Tackles: Steven Johnson (95)

Sacks: Jake Laptad (4.5)

Interceptions: Tyler Patmon*, Isiah Barfield* (2)

Three spring answers

1. Sudden strength up front. Pat Lewandowski redshirted last season, and former running back Toben Opurum tried to learn the intricacies of the defensive line. This spring though? Both were standouts and could be impact players up front for a Jayhawks defense that needs it badly. Kansas may have a couple solid athletes who underwent position changes at the back of the defense, too. Former receivers Keeston Terry and Bradley McDougald look like the Jayhawks' starting safeties.

2. Lightning to Sims' thunder. Leading rusher Sims returns and figures to log plenty of carries, but freshman Darrian Miller showed a burst that no other Jayhawks running back had previously. He enrolled early and started making plays immediately, which should land him on the field next season.

3. Add another receiver to the mix. Kale Pick is another Jayhawks player who dealt with a position change last year. He had little impact as a receiver after making the switch from quarterback, but he showed great hands all spring and led the team in receptions at the spring game. He looks like he’s got a natural understanding of the position and is following in the footsteps of another Jayhawks great: Kerry Meier.

Three fall questions

1. Can they be competitive? No amount of scrimmaging will give Kansas the answer to this question. The Jayhawks were blown out often last year, losing five games by more than 20 points. Is the program back to being one that can at least flirt with more than three wins in 2011? Kansas must show progress.

2. Who’s the QB? Webb has the edge ahead of Quinn Mecham after the spring, but the wild card shows up to campus this fall. Brock Berglund, the top prospect in Colorado, enrolled early before heading back home before practice began. He plans to be back this fall and could throw a wrench into the quarterback competition if he grasps the offense quickly.

3. Is Tharp back to 100 percent? Linebacker Tharp showed the makings of an All-Big 12 talent as a freshman in 2009. A leg injury kept him off the field in 2010, and he was limited this spring. Once he’s back on the field next fall, can he continue his development and look at least like his old self?

Lunch links: Mountaineers invade Texas?

May, 2, 2011
5/02/11
12:00
PM ET
If I could have it back
All the time that we wasted
I'd only waste it again

What to watch for: Sunflower spring games

April, 29, 2011
4/29/11
1:30
PM ET
By Saturday night, the Big 12's spring will officially be over (look for our spring wraps next week), but here's what to watch for on Saturday when Kansas and Kansas State finish off the Big 12's spring practices with their spring games.

1. Moment of truth for the Brothers Brown. Nobody outside the program has seen them play in quite awhile. That will change on Saturday, when the Big 12's two biggest transfers take the field. Running back Bryce Brown is locked into a battle for the starting running back job, and Arthur Brown sounded like he tore up the scout team last season during his NCAA-mandated year on the sidelines after transferring from Miami. How good can they be? We won't know for sure, but we'll get some idea this weekend.

2. Kansas, you know human cloning is illegal, right? A year ago, Kale Pick was leading the race to start at quarterback. Now, he looks like he'll transition into a solid playmaker for the Jayhawks in the passing game next year -- as a receiver. If that sounds familiar, it should. Kerry Meier was one of the greatest receivers in school history, and he started out as a quarterback, too, before ceding the job to Todd Reesing. Does he have that kind of future ahead of him? Maybe not, but he's shown big-time hands this spring and Kansas is starved for receivers. Plenty of other Jayhawks have built some expectations for themselves this spring like RB Darrian Miller, DL Pat Lewandowski and the team's pair of safeties, Bradley McDougald and Keeston Terry, but Pick emerging as a true target might have the biggest impact of all.

3. How much more speed? It's been an emphasis for the Jayhawks this spring, but Kansas has to get faster on both sides of the ball. After a few months away and with some new talent mixed in, how much faster is Turner Gill's team as a whole? Improving that area will have to come first if Kansas is going to get back to at least being competitive in Big 12 play, something it wasn't in 2010.

4. More quarterback derby at K-State. It's tough to tell much in short spring games, but quarterbacks usually give you a good feel. The pressure (as much pressure as there can be in the spring, anyway) is on, the crowd is there for the first time in some time, and the Wildcats have a big competition. It's obvious he can do a whole lot with his legs, but how much has Collin Klein developed as a passer? Does Justin Tuggle offer anything that Klein can't? And what about Sammuel Lamur? Can he throw a wrench into the discussion? He's already the No. 2 quarterback ahead of Tuggle.

Lunch links: Double-dipping Bears

April, 27, 2011
4/27/11
12:00
PM ET
People say that I smell like copper. And according to recent legend, I have no soul.

Lunch links: Blackmon interviews Broyles

April, 19, 2011
4/19/11
12:00
PM ET
Oh, am I wearing an ascot? I didn't notice.

Opening spring camp: Kansas

April, 1, 2011
4/01/11
1:30
PM ET
Schedule: Kansas opens spring practice today with the first of 15 workouts, concluding with the annual spring game set for April 30.

What’s new: Kansas' staff is mostly intact and ready to start Year 2 of the Turner Gill Era in Lawrence. Receivers coach Darrell Wyatt left to coach the same position at Texas, but the Jayhawks brought back David Beaty as receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator after a year away coaching at Rice. He helped coach former Jayhawks stars Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier.

On the mend: Linebacker Huldon Tharp returns after missing all of last season with a leg injury just before the season. He'll be just a sophomore, but likely one of the leaders for a linebacking corps that should be pretty strong.

On the move: Former receiver Bradley McDougald played some safety last year, but he'll focus on safety alongside Keeston Terry, who did the same. Former running back and former linebacker Toben Opurum looks like he'll stick at defensive end this spring after playing well down the stretch last season for the Jayhawks defense.

New faces: Offensive lineman Dylan Admire and running back Darrian Miller were two of the top recruits in Kansas' 2011 class, and both are on campus early. Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, the No. 1 player most fans wanted to see suit up this spring won't be there. Quarterback Brock Berglund graduated early and enrolled in classes at the beginning of the semester, but returned home to Colorado last month because of what the school called "personal circumstances." He'll be with the team beginning this fall.

Breaking out: Receiver D.J. Beshears. Turner Gill wants more speed on the field, and Beshears offers that. He's one of the best home-run threats the Jayhawks have, and look for Kansas to find ways to get the ball in his hand and let him make plays. He already got some time in the Wildcat last year, and unless the quarterback play improves quickly, he's likely to see some more.

Don’t forget about: Tight end Tim Biere. He caught four of Kansas' 11 touchdown passes last year, and the burly, 6-foot-4, 260-pounder will be looking for a big senior year after finishing with 19 catches for 228 yards last year, tied for the third-most catches on the team.

All eyes on: The new/young guys. Kansas' current crop of players should improve some this year and help the team get competitive, but if the Jayhawks are going to get back to winning games like they did under Mark Mangino, Gill will have to infuse more talent into the program via recruiting. If young players, not even necessarily freshmen, can show some flashes of potential, there will be a lot more optimism within the program after a long 3-9 season last year that featured five losses by at least 20 points.

How explosive is your team's offense?

February, 24, 2011
2/24/11
10:15
AM ET
The kind numbers geniuses over at ESPN Stats & Info compiled some fun numbers for us this week: total number of offensive plays longer than 20 yards over the past three seasons. That's a perhaps underrated number, but how important is it? We'll see. First, here are the numbers, ranked in order with their national rank.

2010 season

10. Oklahoma State -- 75
14. Baylor -- 69
17. Oklahoma -- 68
21. Nebraska -- 66
28. Missouri -- 63
41. Texas Tech -- 59
48. Kansas State -- 57
56. Texas A&M -- 56
72. Texas -- 51
96. Colorado -- 43
112. Iowa State -- 32
112. Kansas -- 32

A few observations:
  • It's no surprise that four of the top five teams in the league all won at least a share of their division. This is also a good indication of how imperative it is for Baylor to improve on defense. New defensive coordinator Phil Bennett put it simply: Briles has got them going really well on offense. They just need a defense to go along with it. Look out for the Bears if that happens.
  • Would anyone else have guessed that Kansas State would have more big plays than Texas A&M? That's the craziest part of that stat. I would describe Texas A&M's offense as very good, but not necessarily explosive. Kansas State? Whatever the opposite of explosive is ... that's how most people, myself included, see their offense. Perhaps that's not quite the case.
  • For all of the talk about Missouri lacking a big-play threat, its number was a lot higher than I would have thought. It still needs someone like Danario Alexander, Jeremy Maclin or Jared Perry to emerge and make defenses truly respect the deep ball, but they won 10 games without such a player. That's pretty good.
  • It's definitely not a coincidence that the bottom four teams in this category finished at the bottom of their divisions. Winning in the Big 12 with offense may be cliche, but it's true. Unless your defense is on par with some of the best in the nation (a la Nebraska in 2009), you're not getting far in the Big 12. It's safe to say neither of those four teams qualify. Offenses with defenses to match are the teams that emerge as elite, but there seems to be a baseline for success (i.e. a bowl game for Kansas State) that comes with being able to move the ball in chunks.
  • The information wasn't available, but it would be interesting to see how many of Nebraska's plays longer than 20 yards came before Taylor Martinez's injury in the win over Missouri, and how many came after. I imagine there was sharp decline.
  • Some of the numbers are going to be skewed a bit from teams like Nebraska or Oklahoma that played 14 games rather than 12 or 13, or teams like Oklahoma that run fast-paced offenses and can run upwards of 100 plays in a game, but I'd say it's still pretty representative.

Now, let's take a look at how the Big 12 stacks up over the past three seasons:

2008-2010 seasons (in chronological order)

Oklahoma -- 95, 55, 69 -- 219
Missouri -- 73, 66, 63 -- 202
Oklahoma State -- 75, 51, 71 -- 197
Texas Tech -- 74, 64, 59 -- 197
Nebraska -- 66, 52, 74 -- 192
Texas -- 70, 54, 51 -- 175
Baylor -- 56, 49, 69 -- 174
Texas A&M -- 49, 61, 56 -- 166
Kansas State -- 52, 45, 57 -- 154
Kansas -- 65, 51, 32 -- 148
Colorado -- 40, 45, 43 -- 128
Iowa State -- 52, 44, 32 -- 128

Finally, a few notes and observations:
  • Oklahoma's 95 plays of 20-plus yards in 2008 were No. 3 nationally that year, the best mark of any team in the conference over that span. You might also remember that offense as the highest-scoring unit in college football history, hanging 718 points on the board in 14 games, capped by a loss in the BCS National Championship.
  • Considering the talent lost by Kansas from its 2008 team to its 2010 team, the drop isn't surprising. But as a fan base, it's easy to see why attendance was lacking this season. It's tough to see guys like Todd Reesing, Dez Briscoe and Kerry Meier playing a refined game of pitch-and-catch in the 2007 and 2008 seasons, and then two years later, watch the Jayhawks put three points on the board in the season opener against North Dakota State. The Jayhawks are getting better, but I feel for their fans. No team saw anywhere near as sharp a drop as them. The 65 plays in 2008 fell to 32 in 2010.
  • I was a little surprised Texas didn't put up better numbers with Colt McCoy, but considering their troubles running the ball, it makes a little more sense. Big plays are tougher when you're running almost exclusively out of the shotgun, defenses don't respect the run and you have just one real threat down the field: Jordan Shipley. A great offense by other measures like points scored, but not an "explosive" offense.

Best/worst case rewind: Kansas

January, 24, 2011
1/24/11
4:30
PM ET
We'll take a look back at what we thought the best- and worst-case scenarios for each team were in August, and how it shook out now that January has arrived.

Next up: Kansas.

Best case: 9-3, with losses to Georgia Tech, Texas A&M, Nebraska. The Jayhawks were aided by a favorable South rotation without Texas and Oklahoma on the schedule.

Worst case: 2-10, with wins over North Dakota State and New Mexico State.

Reality: Kansas was less competitive than even the most pessimistic Jayhawks fans figured their team would be, and the Jayhawks slid to 3-9 with just one conference win. Interestingly enough, the Jayhawks won a game (Georgia Tech) I had as a sure loss in both scenarios, and lost a game (North Dakota State) I had as a sure win in both scenarios. Kansas varied greatly between my best and worst case scenarios, but you're never sure what to expect with a bunch of new players (Hi, Oklahoma State!) and a new coaching staff.

Analysis: Losing the best quarterback in school history (Todd Reesing) and two of its best receivers (Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier) meant Kansas would be rebuilding for sure, especially considering that group managed to go just 5-7 as seniors. The Jayhawks struggled from the beginning, dropping a shocking season opener to North Dakota State at home, 9-6. They rebounded by beating the defending ACC champs, Georgia Tech, but the Yellowjackets, ranked at the time, finished 6-7.

In short, Kansas was who we thought they were. There's no doubt the Jayhawks got better down the stretch, but 55-7 and 59-7 losses to Baylor and Kansas State, two middle-of-the-road teams in the Big 12, were eye-openers. Kansas at the end of the season was about what I expected. I never thought they'd play as poorly as they did early on.

For Kansas, though, the lasting image of its season could be the epic comeback against Colorado. Down 45-17 with 11 minutes to play, the Jayhawks rallied to beat Colorado at home for their lone conference win. It's definitely something to build on. Kansas still has big, big questions at quarterback, but found a reliable option at running back in freshman James Sims. Receivers Daymond Patterson and Chris Omigie showed flashes of potential down the stretch. Linebacker Huldon Tharp missed the entire 2010 season, but he'll be back next year.

Turner Gill has put together a pretty good recruiting class in 2011, and developing that talent will be key to making sure Kansas climbs closer to its best-case scenario in 2011.

The rest of the Big 12's bowl misses

December, 15, 2010
12/15/10
4:00
PM ET
We took a look at how Texas missed a bowl game earlier today, and here's what happened to the Big 12's other three teams home for the holidays:

Colorado

The Buffaloes started hot, finishing their nonconference season at 3-1 with wins over bowl-bound opponents Georgia and Hawaii, but didn't get it done in conference play. The defense held conference opponents under 30 points just three times, and in one of those games, Colorado was shut out. The offense, despite a solid year from Rodney Stewart, just couldn't keep up. Playing the second half of the season without quarterback Tyler Hansen (spleen) didn't help, either. A meltdown at Kansas (blowing a 28-point lead in the game's final 11 minutes) led to coach Dan Hawkins getting fired, and the Buffaloes rallied to win their only two conference games of the year, but to reach a bowl they needed to beat Nebraska in Lincoln with the Huskers playing for a Big 12 North title. That wasn't going to happen.

Iowa State

Iowa State's schedule ended up not being quite as difficult as it seemed in the preseason, thanks to disappointing years from Texas, Texas Tech and Utah, but the Cyclones got a chance to play for a bowl berth against Missouri in their regular season finale. The problem was they had to do it without three-year starter at quarterback Austen Arnaud, and lost 14-0. Iowa State got a lot closer to a bowl game than most thought, and beat Texas for the first time in school history. Nebraska and Iowa State went to overtime in Ames, and when the Cyclones scored what looked like a game-tying touchdown, they faked the extra point. Tight end Collin Franklin was open, but the pass was intercepted, costing the Cyclones a precious sixth win for the second consecutive season.

Kansas

Kansas lost its three best players, receivers Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier and quarterback Todd Reesing, from a 5-7 team in 2009, and 2010 looked like a rebuilding year all along. That's exactly what football fans in Lawrence got. The Jayhawks lost their first three conference games by a combined score of 159-24, but for the most part, they were at least competitive and got a comeback conference win against Colorado. They also found some reliable offensive options in running back James Sims and receiver Daymond Patterson. Expect more uncertainty at quarterback through next season, though.

Mailbag: Best games and scariest players

August, 13, 2010
8/13/10
3:30
PM ET
Big G in Western Nebraska writes: The Expendables comes out Friday. If you had to make a team of elite warriors using Big 12 players, who would you put on it? Not necessarily an All-Star team, but the toughest, baddest dudes in the conference.

David Ubben: First off, no matter what my friends tell me, that movie looks like garbage. But this question is interesting. I'd invite you all to make your own lists, but here's mine.

1) Nate Solder, left tackle, Colorado: First off, at 6-foot-9 and 310 pounds, he's probably the biggest player in the entire league. But he also hang cleans 470 pounds, runs a 4.88 40-yard dash and has a 32-inch vertical leap. He's very high on my list of guys I wouldn't want to face in a jungle death match. And yes, that list exists.

2) Ronnell Lewis, linebacker, Oklahoma: Defensive coordinator Brent Venables has coached some big hitters in his day like Rocky Calmus and Roy Williams. He says Lewis, just a sophomore, hits the hardest. And he hails from tiny Dewar, Oklahoma. Everybody knows you don't mess with country boys.

3) Cody Johnson, running back, Texas: Anybody want to try and tackle him? The Longhorns' 5-foot-11, 250-pound goal-line back is the closest thing to a bowling ball in the Big 12. Steer clear. I know I will.

Who's on your list?


Craig in Wichita, Kan. writes: Two years ago, the Big XII was known for lighting up the scoreboard. Last seasonit was the defenses that took the spotlight. What's going to be the Big XII's signature in 2010?

DU: A conference takes on the identity of its top teams. There's a ton of other great offenses across the Big 12, but look at the top three teams in the league: Nebraska, Texas and Oklahoma. All three should field top-10 defenses in 2010. So even though there are offenses like Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Missouri, the league's going to be known for defense once again. If that's not enough, look around at the Big 12 representatives on any All-American team. Very few offensive players, but lots of defensive guys like Jared Crick at Nebraska, Aaron Williams at Texas or Travis Lewis at Oklahoma.


Cord in College Station, Texas, writes: As a longhorn living in College Station, I've already heard plenty of "noise" from the A&M faithful about this being their year. I know you're an Aggie, too, and I'm just wondering what you're non-biased prediction for the Aggie season is. Hook'em.

DU: I'm afraid you're mistaken. I've never gigged anything or anyone, but nine wins for the Aggies is probably about right. If I had to pick it, they knock off Nebraska at home, but lose to Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. They'll need to spring some upsets to win the South.


Craig in Ames, Iowa, writes: Do you think the recent flooding will help or hurt the Cyclones? Will the team-uniting fight against the adversity help, or will the routine-destroying distraction keep ISU from being ready for the first game against NIU?

DU: I don't think it hurts all that much, but if Paul Rhoads' team isn't already one of the league's closest, this sealed it. Some of the guys on that team have been through three coaching staffs, but finally got to experience some real success last season. Really, Iowa State only missed one practice, and though I'm sure there's some family troubles for a few of the players and some difficulty getting around still, I don't see the floods having much of an effect on the on-field product. But it's definitely a memorable experience that should change the way a lot of those guys see the world.


Tony in Lincoln, Neb., writes: Hey Dave, Just curious. What's the best game you've ever seen/been to?

DU: Of the games I've ever seen, it's pretty close between the Texas-Southern Cal Rose Bowl and the Boise State-Oklahoma Fiesta Bowl. I probably said this about 100 times in the weeks following the game, but the best part of that is the hook-and-ladder never works. Ever. It's a great play in theory, but the execution and timing has such a small margin of error required for success, plus it needs a little luck from the defense's call. That makes it impossible to execute. Except that one time.

I also love the big-time clashes. There was just an unfair amount of talent on the field in that national title game between Texas and USC, two teams who 100 percent earned the right to be there. You don't get that with every national championship.

Matt Leinart, Vince Young, Reggie Bush, Jamaal Charles, Lendale White, Steve Smith, Fred Davis, Selvin Young and Limas Sweed are all factors in the NFL now, most of whom I've started on my fantasy teams at least once. And that's just the offenses. Can't forget Aaron Ross, Michael Griffin and Michael Huff in the Longhorns secondary alone. Brian Orakpo and Roy Miller also played down in front. It just doesn't get much better than two premiere programs and NFL factories going at it in a game of that magnitude that delivered the drama, even if you could see that final drive coming the whole time.

Of the game's I've covered, I'd probably go with the Kansas-Missouri Border Showdown at the end of the 2008 season. Gotta love rivalry games, and Kansas-Missouri has been one of the most dramatic in recent seasons. That game was no exception. A ton of offensive talent on the field during a blizzard at Arrowhead Stadium. It included four go-ahead touchdowns in the final seven minutes, and finished with a Todd Reesing floater over Kerry Meier's shoulder on -- what else -- a broken play. Classic game with a classic finish.

No breaks for Turner Gill

July, 13, 2010
7/13/10
1:45
PM ET
Turner Gill already has a difficult task ahead of him, trying to rebuild a program at Kansas from a team that lost its three best players from a 5-7 team in 2009 in quarterback Todd Reesing and receivers Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier.

Those three, along with coach Mark Mangino, saw one of the highest moments in program history, winning the Orange Bowl to cap a 12-1 2007 season. But it also saw one of its lows, a seven-game losing streak to close 2009, capped by Mangino's contract being bought out by the school.

The road back for Gill wasn't made easier this spring, when his two best defenders, linebacker Drew Dudley and defensive end Jake Laptad, had to be held out of contact because of shoulder injuries.

Now, his job's gotten tougher.

The offensive line brought back all five starters from a season ago and was expected to be one of the positions of strength for the Jayhawks. But they'll have to do it without junior tackle Jeff Spikes, who injured his Achilles tendon and will miss the entire 2010 season, according to the Lawrence-Journal World. Spikes started 23 games over the past two seasons -- 10 last season -- and earned third-team All-American status in the 2009 preseason from pundit Phil Steele.

This comes a week after another offensive line starter, tackle Brad Thorson, suffered a broken foot. He's expected to be back for the start of fall camp on Aug. 3., but we'll see how much contact he'll be able to take part in when preseason camp begins.

The good news for Spikes is he'll likely be granted a medical redshirt, and come back next season with two more years of eligibility remaining.

Gill knows how to rebuild, eventually winning a MAC title over No. 12 Ball State in 2008 at Buffalo in his third season at a school that won six games in four seasons before his arrival.

He'll face another tough rebuilding project at Kansas in a much tougher league. He's got a mild quarterback controversy led by Kale Pick and his 2009 leading rusher, Toben Opurum, didn't show up on the post-spring depth chart after battling injuries throughout the spring.

Spikes injury assures the rebuilding job won't get any easier for Gill.

Kansas spring wrap

May, 6, 2010
5/06/10
10:00
AM ET
2009 overall record: 5-7

2009 conference record: 1-7

Returning starters: Offense (7), Defense (7) P/K (2)

Top returners: RB Toben Opurum, OL Brad Thorson, OL Jeremiah Hatch, LB Drew Dudley, WR Johnathan Wilson, LB Huldon Tharp, DE Jake Laptad

Key losses: WR Dezmon Briscoe, QB Todd Reesing, WR Kerry Meier, S Darrell Stuckey, RB Jake Sharp, S Justin Thornton, Coach Mark Mangino

2009 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Toben Opurum* (554 yards)

Passing: Todd Reesing (3,616 yards)

Receiving: Dezmon Briscoe (1,337 yards)

Tackles: Darrell Stuckey (93)

Sacks: Jake Laptad* (6.5)

Interceptions: Ryan Murphy* (2)

Three spring answers

1. This is how we do things. Coach Turner Gill set the tone for his program early, speaking out about his curse-free zone at practices and other team functions. That goes for coaches and players. Practices are slightly uptempo, and Gill gave each position a fresh start. Everyone wanted to know how Gill would run his program when spring began, and he gave a good look in his first 15 practices.

2. Pick leads the way. Kale Pick was the only one of Kansas’ six quarterbacks with past experience and looked like the front-runner to win the job. He and Jordan Webb emerged as the front-runners in the final week of practice before Pick took a firm hold of the job with his performance in the spring game. He threw a pair of touchdowns, including a game-winner to Christian Matthews—who he also beat out for the job.

3. Linebackers ready to play. Kansas entered the spring with way more questions on defense than offense. The linebackers answered those early on. Defensive coordinator Carl Torbush feels like he has six or seven linebackers ready to see action in the Big 12, led by Drew Dudley, the Jayhawks leading returning tackler.

Three fall questions

1. Can Gill compete in the Big 12? Gill accomplished a remarkable turnaround at Buffalo, but Kansas isn’t looking to rebuild and get back to winning eight games, Gill’s previous career high for wins in a season. Gill hasn’t competed in the Big 12 since coaching Nebraska’s wide receivers in 2004. Kansas likely won’t compete for any serious titles in 2010, but can he take a step toward doing it in the future?

2. Are the wide receivers ready? Pick is replacing record-holding quarterback Todd Reesing, but he won’t have two NFL draft picks, Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier catching his passes. In their place, senior Johnathan Wilson and sophomore Bradley McDougald. McDougald has moved outside, but both will be counted on for major production this season.

3. Can Kansas find a defense? The Jayhawks finished 2009 on a seven-game losing streak, finishing at 1-7 in conference. During that span, they gave up an average of almost 36 points per game. With no major defensive stars taking the field this season, can Kansas find playmakers and make that number shrink? If they don’t, year one of the Turner Gill era won’t be much fun.

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