Big 12: Kevin Wilson

There will be familiar faces around weight rooms and in front of overhead projectors in football complexes this summer: coaches’ faces.

Big deal.

Except it is a big deal, at least to the coaches who can now occupy strength and conditioning sessions and hold film study with their players.

The NCAA partially adopted a rule from the hardwood in October allowing a maximum of eight hours of mandatory workouts for players for eight weeks of the summer. What football coaches really care about, however, is the ability to watch those conditioning sessions and meet with their players for up to two hours each week. Any on-the-field work with footballs is still prohibited.

[+] EnlargeKevin Wilson
AP Photo/Andy ManisIndiana coach Kevin Wilson is one of many coaches that can visit with players in the summer rather than relying on "spies" to get information on offseason workouts.
“You don’t need secret spies anymore,” Indiana coach Kevin Wilson told ESPN.com. “You can just watch your football team now. ... It’s common sense that if I’m in control and if I want to walk in the weight room and watch them lift weights then I can watch them lift weights.”

It is uncharted territories for most coaches, who are used to relying on third-party word of mouth from the program’s strength coach and upperclassmen on how summer workouts are progressing and whether freshmen are adjusting. Some coaches began mapping out how they would use their eight hours when the rule was passed, while others will take the pulse of the team and adjust accordingly. For some, they’ll protect the details of those hour splits as if it were the playbook.

“We have to carve out [player meetings] with our strength coach, time that we can take away from his hours because you’re not adding extra time,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “There is this model that I’m not interested in giving up to anybody, that we think gives us a balance.”

Notre Dame is still debating between Everett Golson and Malik Zaire as its starting quarterback, so Kelly can spend part of the summer mentally preparing both for the upcoming competition. He will institute a “spring ball installation” of the core offensive plays and defensive structure, “something we’ve never been able to do in June.” He’ll also show his quarterbacks all of their mistakes in previous settings in hopes of limiting them once the season begins.

The vast majority, if not all, are in favor of the rule, although to varying degrees. Indiana’s Wilson has walk-on players who could eventually earn a scholarship, so those players feel a need to attend summer workouts. He knows that means some will take out additional loans for summer school.

For the coaches, with summers now filled with prospect camps and recruiting visits, there are fewer hours to break away from the football facility. Wilson will take advantage of the change, but he wonders whether coaches will suffer from the burnout a 365-day coaching calendar lends itself to. The NCAA implemented a two-week summer dead period to combat the evolving recruiting calendar, but Wilson knows some coaches will stick around to watch tape with players.

“It’s a little ironic they added a rule that for two weeks a recruit can’t come in but added a rule so you can spend that time with your players,” first-year Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson told ESPN.com.

Added Wilson: “How do we find the balance? It’s nice we can work with them, but it’s finding a balance where your coaches can find sanity. It’s nice we can talk legally but … I think you can overcoach.

“It will be interesting after year one, whether coaches will say they want to do more or do less.”

No school returns fewer starters in 2014 than Utah State, so coach Matt Wells is tasked with making sure those players who will be asked to step up this fall are physically and mentally able. He is also cognizant that his staff spending too much time with the team this summer could produce undesired results.

[+] EnlargeDave Clawson
Brian Westerholt/Four Seam Images/AP ImagesThe new NCAA rules are a boon to first-year coaches such as Wake Forest's Dave Clawson, who get a chance to get acclimated with their new players.
In the early portion of the summer, Wells will meet with his team more often than he might in July. He will bring the program’s newcomers up to speed with scheme and terminology in meetings, but he also doesn’t want to overload them. With the upperclassmen, he believes it will become counterproductive to have extended and repetitive classroom sessions.

“We’re going to still lean on player-led meetings, voluntary meetings the coaches aren’t in because it builds leadership in your team and in position groups,” Wells told ESPN.com. “We’ve benefitted from that the last three summers from an increased leadership role, and I think it’s important for the players to have a break from the coaches.”

For first-year coaches such as Clawson, the new rule will narrow the learning curve this fall as his players continue to adjust to his offensive and defensive ideologies. Clawson is seemingly like most coaches, though, in that he does not favor using the full two hours for Football 101 seminars. Wake Forest’s new coach is not deviating much from the old summer status quo.

When he and his staff assessed the Demon Deacons following the spring, he felt strength and conditioning was lacking most. So when mandatory summer workouts kicked off, he decided he’d only spend 30 minutes to an hour each week meetings with players.

“It didn’t make sense to take two hours away from that,” he said.

That could change in the coming weeks, though. While some schools already have their entire incoming freshman class on campus, Clawson won’t see all of his until July. He said the previous rule preventing coaches from working with freshmen lacked common sense.

“It used to be awful, the first time a freshman’s ever on campus and you can’t be around them,” Clawson said. “When these guys first get here, you need to have some involvement. Part of recruiting is parents trusting you with their son, and first time they drop them off, to not be allowed around them was very hard.”
Colleague Brad Edwards had an interesting ESPN Insider post looking at the top coaching trees around the nation Insider, and two from the Big 12 made his list of the top five, with plenty more mentioned.

Oklahoma's Bob Stoops grabbed the top spot in the league at No. 2, behind only Ohio State's Urban Meyer.

No arguing that spot, in theory. Stoops has four former assistants who jumped from OU to become head coaches: Kevin Sumlin (Houston, now at Texas A&M), Mike Leach (Texas Tech, now Washington State) and Kevin Wilson (Indiana).

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini spent 2004 as the co-defensive coordinator before eventually getting the Huskers job in 2008 after three years coordinating LSU's defense.

Not bad, and that's without even mentioning other guys from Stoops' tree who have been fired since becoming head coaches. Mark Mangino is out at Kansas now, and brother Mike Stoops is back as defensive coordinator after nearly a decade as the head man at Arizona.

Former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach even gets credit for his own tree. He checked in at No. 4 on the list for spawning Art Briles (Baylor), Sonny Dykes (Louisiana Tech) and West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen.

Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy just missed the list, but may join it soon with former coordinators Larry Fedora (North Carolina), Holgorsen and Tim Beckman (Illinois) in charge of big-time programs.

Texas Tech's Tommy Tuberville and Kansas State's Bill Snyder just missed the list. Snyder's tree begat Stoops and Wisconsin's Brett Bielema, which is impressive enough on its own. Without Snyder, plenty of the guys mentioned in this post wouldn't be the coaches they are today.

What other coaches' trees impress you?

Mailbag: Examining West Virginia's entrance

October, 28, 2011
10/28/11
4:00
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Thanks for all the questions. Here's the link to try and make it in the next mailbag.

Here's my take on the Mountaineers' move into the Big 12.

Brad Waldo in Morgantown, W.V. asked: David,I have been a daily reader of the Big East ESPN blog and now I will start reading yours everyday. What kind of WVU coverage can we expect?

David Ubben: Only the best, Brad. Mostly, I try to offer praise when necessary and criticism when necessary. We've had a lot of both lately in the Big 12. I'm looking forward to getting to know you all, but here's a little bit more about me, back in my first-ever post on the blog.



Scott in Lubbock asked: DUbb Step,With WVU presumably taking Mizzou's schedule, Texas Tech's home schedule looks to have OU, UT, and WVU all coming to the Jones. That has to be one of the most exciting home schedules in the country, no?

DU: Gotta say, that's a new nickname. Not quite a fan. Of the name or the music genre. Anyway, I'd say you're getting ahead of yourself a little bit, Scott. There's no definitive word on scheduling, and there's no telling whether that gets shuffled.

So, on the surface I'd agree with you, but don't get too attached. I'd be surprised if some shuffles aren't on the way.



Kit in Chandler, Ariz. asked: With the decline of the Oklahoma Sooners' defense in the past few years, what are the chances Brent Venables gets the boot and Mike Stoops rejoins the Sooners as their defensive coordinator (he'll likely need a pitstop before getting another head coaching gig)?Also, would Mark Stoops consider moving into that role if it was vacated?Thanks

DU: Oh my. Come on, now. Take a step back, Sooner fans. I heard a similar sentiment this week from quite a few of you, but face the fact on this one: Venables is on the short list of the best coordinators in the country. You're completely nuts if you think the only way he's leaving Oklahoma is if he's getting a head coaching job.

One year, a coordinator does not make. Venables is nothing short of outstanding. I covered Oklahoma during its injury-riddled year back in 2009, and fans wanted to see Kevin Wilson gone, too.

This, a year after he coordinated the highest-scoring offense in the history of college football.

CHILL. OUT.

Fans are much too apt to put blame at the feet of coordinators when anything goes wrong. Oklahoma's problems on defense were mostly just in two games and were small-picture problems in the secondary that Venables is the man to solve. They aren't larger, recurring institutional problems that require a new coordinator. That's insanity.



Gary in Lubbock, Texas asked: What did you mean by the comment about Seth Doege continuing his "awesome march" being quiet?

DU: He's put up huge numbers competitive with any quarterback in the country, and almost nobody on the national stage had heard of him before last week. That was mostly because Tech wasn't ranked and had two losses. The Red Raiders are in the Top 25 now, but I don't know how many people are taking this team seriously as a Big 12 title contender.

Whether that happens or not, Doege's going to continue to be great this year and into 2012.



Andy Poling in Fairmont, W.V. wrote: There is no reason to fly to Pittsburgh to get to Morgantown. All WVU teams fly out of Clarksburg, WV for away games. Clarksburg is a 35 minute drive from Morgantown. Having to fly to Pittsburgh is a red herring.

DU: Good to know, Andy. Thanks for the insight. That helps schools a lot, but I still think it doesn't changes much for fans. Flying into Clarksburg is considerably more expensive. It's going to help make sure athletes aren't exhausted from travel, but West Virginia will be tough to get to for some fans. That said, that's nothing new for most fans.

Manhattan, College Station, Waco, Stillwater and Columbia all required drives of an hour or two after for most fans coming to the game after flying into nearby major cities.



Nucks in Afghanistan: David,I'm a Stillwater native and I bleed nothing but orange. However, I am currently serving in Afghanistan and won't be done with this deployment until spring of 2012. As time has gone by, I have found that the main thing that gets me through every week here (aside from Skype dates with my wife-to-be and family/friends back home) is college football. I read your blog as often as I can and so far, have been lucky enough to catch a few OkState games aired on AFN (American Forces Network). Waking up in the middle of the night or not getting to bed until an hour before sunrise is totally worth getting to watch the Cowboys play. Sometimes I get frustrated that I'm not at home while the Cowboys are doing so well... but at the same time, it definitely boosts morale for all of us Pokes fans while we do what we do over here. Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for all that you do. For the Big 12, for the athletes that play and most of all, for those of us that serve overseas. I know you don't really think about it while you're blogging away or typing up stats... but your words help lift a lot of guys' heads over here, even if just for a day. It's the closest we can get to actually being at the game. So thank you, David. I believe in our nation. I believe in the Big 12. And most importantly... I believe in the Cowboys. Go Pokes.

DU: Always love seeing these e-mails. Don't credit me, though. The guys providing the real entertainment are the players on the field. They're why I love this game, and they're the guys that fuel all the excitement in fall around the country.

Thanks for all you and those abroad do.

The Big 12 Primer: Week 5

September, 28, 2011
9/28/11
4:30
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Here's a look at this week's games. It should be a great set of games. I'll reveal where I'll be this weekend on the blog tomorrow morning, as well as my predictions.

Until then, let's hear yours in the comments.

Off: No. 5 Oklahoma State, Missouri

No. 14 Texas A&M vs No. 18 Arkansas at Cowboys Stadium (Noon, ESPN): Both suffered rough losses last weekend, but this game will be an annual one moving forward. Will it remain at Cowboys Stadium? Expect this game to be a good one, and the SEC presence to be strong.

Texas Tech at Kansas (Noon, Fox Sports Net): Both teams have been unimpressive early, but a win would be a nice statement for both teams, especially a lopsided one for the road Red Raiders. Seth Doege has been as good as advertised, but the Jayhawks are a better team than they were in 2010.

No. 15 Baylor at Kansas State (3:30 p.m., ABC): Baylor and Kansas State earned big-time wins this year, Kansas State at Miami last week and Baylor over TCU in its opener. The conference opener for both teams will give us a great idea of what to expect from both teams throughout the year. The Bears' offense, led by Robert Griffin III, will be the toughest test yet for a much-improved K-State defense.

No. 17 Texas at Iowa State (7 p.m., FX): This is one of two battles between Big 12 undefeateds this week, and the Iowa State fans will be jacked up to take on the Longhorns. The game is sold out, and Iowa State beat Texas for the first time ever last year.

No. 2 Oklahoma vs. Ball State (7 p.m., pay-per-view): How could you not shell out the $39.95 for this classic rivalry? Ball State did knock off former OU offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson's Indiana team, but I'm guessing the Sooners don't meet the same fate. I'd expect Wilson to offer the Sooners a little insight, too.
Life should be good for the Big 12's veteran quarterbacks with little changing around them. But the league's top two passers are facing a lot of change. Here's a look:

Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State.

Weeden is facing the biggest change. The offense will be the same, but the voice on the headset will be different. Inexperienced playcaller Todd Monken replaces Dana Holgorsen for the Cowboys. Monken previously coached wide receivers with Mike Gundy under Les Miles at Oklahoma State and came to the Cowboys after four seasons at LSU and two as the wide receivers coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the NFL. He was promoted to quarterbacks coach before taking the OSU job, where he'll get the keys to what he's described as a "Ferrari." That's Weeden, Biletnikoff-winning receiver Justin Blackmon and the Big 12's best offensive line.

For Weeden, though, he'll have to deal with the loss of two-time 1,500-yard back Kendall Hunter. Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith will try to fill the void, but Hunter was a steadying force last season for the Cowboys' offense, which loses just two receivers: Bo Bowling, who caught 42 passes, and Colton Chelf, who caught 11 passes.

Landry Jones, Oklahoma

Jones, like Weeden, lost his offensive coordinator to a head-coaching job in the offseason. Kevin Wilson left OU to take the job at Indiana, but Jones' new coach is a man he knows well, and a man Oklahoma knows well. Josh Heupel has coached quarterbacks for the past five seasons at Oklahoma (which featured three Big 12 titles under three different quarterbacks), and now takes over as the offensive coordinator under Bob Stoops. Heupel also quarterbacked the Sooners under Stoops to the program's last national title, in 2000.

Heupel shares coordinator duties with receivers coach Jay Norvell, but Heupel will call the plays, and did well in his first try, a 48-20 stomping of Connecticut in the Fiesta Bowl. Norvell, 48, is a more experienced coach, but Heupel, 33, is on the fast track for a head-coaching job.

Jones also must deal with life without DeMarco Murray, who carried the ball 282 times last season and caught 71 passes. That's a lot of touches to replace, but for the Sooners to reach their stated goal of a title, Jones will have to find a way to distribute those receptions elsewhere and support his new stable of running backs.

Mailbag: Changing Os, double standard?

August, 4, 2011
8/04/11
9:00
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Many thanks for all the emails. We'll wrap up the week with another mailbag on Friday, so if your question didn't make the cut, feel free to send me another.

Max in Tulsa asked: Great blog Dave, hoping you could give your opinion on a debate I've been having with a Sooner friend of mine (well, sorta friend.. there are limits). Anyway, why do the Sooners get a free pass when comes to questions about replacing Kevin Wilson? Last I checked, he was THE offensive guru in 2008 before Holgorsen staked claim to that title in '09 and '10. Yet I haven't read a single article about how the Sooners might have trouble breaking in two new co-coordinators who have zero experience in that role or calling plays. Is it just because they served under Wilson? Just seems like significantly more questions are being directed toward Todd Monken than his Gooner counterparts.

David Ubben: I've heard this a lot, but I think it's a combination of two things.

One, Heupel has coached quarterbacks for the Sooners since 2006, five seasons that include two working closely with Landry Jones. He's been right alongside Kevin Wilson upstairs in the coaching booth over that span, when Wilson was cementing his reputation as one of the game's best playcallers. It's hard to believe he didn't learn a ton over that time. Additionally, he's been in the meetings and knows Jones' game well.

Second, don't underestimate the effect of what Heupel did in the Fiesta Bowl. He was getting some of the same questions leading up to the Fiesta Bowl, but with the way Oklahoma's offense looked in that game, he answered a lot of them. Yes, it's UConn, an eight-win team from the Big East. But it's still a big stage, and Heupel helped the offense look pretty flawless. That's prevented a lot of those same questions from rising up.

Monken also had to spend one offseason learning a system that was somewhat unfamiliar to him, while Heupel has been ingrained in Oklahoma's fast-paced offense for the past few seasons.

I think the treatment has been fair. I don't see a lot of people writing off Monken, but the optimism toward him is a lot more cautious than it is toward Heupel, mainly because we just don't know, and haven't seen Monken call plays. He'll obviously have a ton of talent to work with, and whatever he calls will look better behind the Big 12's best offensive line, so I think he'll be fine.

But the bottom line is, we don't know for now.


Alex in Prairie Village, Kan., asked: Hey David. I was wondering why you are just not high on Bryce Brown. As a K-State student I keep tabs on your blog and I just have noticed that you dont have much faith in Bryce Brown to suceed. I just wanted to know why. Thanks

DU: We haven't had much of a chance to see him in action, but you can tell a lot from coaches' comments and from how the depth chart takes shape.

It's pretty obvious that the raw talent is there for both Arthur and Bryce Brown. Arthur, meanwhile, has taken over as one of the likely playmakers for the defense and racked up 14 tackles in the spring game. Snyder has lauded the linebacker and brought him to media days, which is a big deal for a newcomer. You don't see that very often. Brown was the only player at Big 12 Media Days that didn't suit up in the Big 12 last year.

Bryce, meanwhile, didn't exactly get a ringing endorsement from his coach at media days.

"They’re different in that respect,” Snyder told reporters. "I haven’t seen the same thing out of Bryce. It’s just the way it is. They’re two different people. Bryce hasn’t put himself in the same position that Arthur has."

Look at who Bryce Brown is competing with: John Hubert and Robert Rose. Hubert is a 5-foot-7, 185-pound redshirt sophomore who carried the ball five times last year. He had a lot of success as a high schooler in Waco, Texas, but William Powell was the clear backup to Daniel Thomas last year before he was injured.

Rose, meanwhile, is a 5-foot-4, 173-pound walk-on who has almost no experience and no career carries.

It sounds like the job will come down to Hubert and Brown, but if Brown can't separate himself clearly from Hubert, despite being in the program for two springs and a season on the scout team, that doesn't bode well for his potential. We'll see once the lights turn on and we do it for real, but if Brown was going to light up the Big 12 next season, I don't think there would be much question about whether or not he could start over Hubert.

For now, there is. And thus, my doubts that Brown is going to be a big game-changer. I think he'll be a good back, but a guy like Thomas who could run for 1,000 yards easily and handle a huge load of carries? I'm not betting on it.


GTCat in Tonganoxie, Kan., asked: Ubbs,Why so many media folk think OSU is a better shoe-in for runner up this year over aTm? As much as I want to see a new contender face in the Pokes (probably the school I can relate to most as a K-stater), it seems to me their recent history, namely the last two years, have been nothing but let downs when expectations rise. I had the pleasure to get to hear pre game radio call in complaints in 2009 while in OK for a wedding the week after losing to Houston and supposedly that was to be "the year". I personally think aTm's a better runner-up candidate. Am I missing something? Is replacing one of the nation's best offensive coordinators a successful equation for runner up in a competitive league?

DU: Hey now, don't look at me. I picked Texas A&M ahead of Oklahoma State, if for no other reason than the Cowboys' schedule is tougher. I think the difference between those two teams is miniscule, but I'm not real worried about either team choking like Oklahoma State did against Houston in 2009.

The potential is there, with A&M lining up against SMU and Oklahoma State scheduled for games against way underrated Tulsa and Arizona teams, but I really do think the Cowboys, Aggies and Sooners will all reach double-digit wins.

Texas A&M is a more complete team that should be a lot better on defense than OSU, and I feel more confident in their ability to do a wider variance of things on offense, but they don't have the explosiveness that Oklahoma State has on offense.

It's close, but I picked Texas A&M to finish second. Ultimately, I do see the winner of their matchup on Sept. 24 finishing second in the league and going to a BCS bowl .


Matt O. in Wildwood, Mo., asked: I saw that you said Mizzou has no chance of making it to the B12 championship game, and that you would bet your life on it. In my opinion, if OU lost their starting QB and MU won that game. Then I don't understand your logic. Just saying, that one game could push us there. Stoops isn't invincible, just close to it. There is always that chance you forget about when betting your life.

DU: Nah, man. I'll take my chances. Oklahoma could forfeit that game, and I still think Missouri would have the same chances (that is: zero) of playing in the Big 12 championship.

Consider my life still on the line.

Let's make this real, though: If Missouri plays in the Big 12 championship game this year, I will see to it that you, Matt O. from Wildwood, Mo., become the new Big 12 blogger. That is a promise.

Better yet, the same deal stands if Texas or Texas A&M play in the Big 12 title game this year, too.


LASooner28 in Thousand Oaks, Calif. asked: DU...love the blog. Any truth to the rumors that your time off coincided with the NFL lockout talks heating up and finally concluding? No one has ever seen you and DeMaurice Smith in the same room at the same time...

DU: You guys act like there's no reason I don't wear fedoras for my videos on the blog.

Previewing Week 1: Missouri

July, 21, 2011
7/21/11
3:45
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You're counting down the days, I'm sure. We're so close, and yet so far from the season's opening weekend. I can't wait for it, and I'm sure every player in the Big 12 can't either. So, despite being a bit far off, we'll take a look at each team's opener, inspired by our friends over at the Big Ten Blog.

We started this series at the top of the alphabet, and it's time for the Tigers.

Missouri Tigers


Week 1 Opponent: Miami (OH)

Coach: Don Treadwell, first year

2010 record: 10-4 (7-1, MAC)

Returning starters: 17 (8 offense, 9 defense)

About the RedHawks: Miami was no doubt underrated last season when the Tigers rolled them in Columbia, 51-13. The Redhawks were unimpressive in nonconference play, but reeled off six consecutive wins to end the season to win the MAC, a quality league at the FBS level. The RedHawks' turnaround from a 1-11 season in 2009 to a MAC title was one of the best stories in college football, and earned second-year head coach Mike Haywood the job at Pittsburgh, though that already didn't end well.

The RedHawks will lean on new coach Don Treadwell this year, who helped guide Michigan State to a share of a Big Ten title last season as offensive coordinator and interim head coach after coach Mark Dantonio suffered a heart attack following an overtime win against Notre Dame on Sept. 19.

Could Treadwell be the next great Miami name in the program that's earned the moniker of "Cradle of Coaches?" Jim Tressel, Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler and new Indiana coach Kevin Wilson, a former Oklahoma offensive coordinator, have all come through Miami.

On the field, the Redhawks return quarterback Zac Dysert, a junior, and Austin Boucher, a sophomore who played in seven games as a freshman. Dysert suffered a rib injury and Boucher led the team to wins in its final four games, including the conference championship and the GoDaddy.com Bowl, but fall camp opens with a competition between the two. Boucher completed more than 60 percent of his passes and averaged more than 300 yards a game in his final two starts.

Leading rusher Thomas Merriweather (921 yards, 12 TDs) graduated, but rising sophomore Tracy Woods carried the ball 94 times for 376 yards and a touchdown last season.

Leading receiver Armand Robinson (1062 yards, 12 TDs) is gone, too, but the RedHawks return four receivers with at least 25 catches last season.

The defense returns nine starters, including all eight of the team's top tacklers, led by linebacker Jerrell Wedge.

Random factoid: Illinois coach Ron Zook, whose Illini team has opened its past four seasons against Missouri, is a Miami (OH) alum.

Totally unscientific percentage chance Missouri wins: 81 percent. Miami clearly made big improvements late in the year, and the Tigers will be throwing out a first-time starter at quarterback, which comes with all kinds of unknowns. Missouri is better at every position, but if the offense sputters, anything could happen.

More Week 1 previews:
Spring football is in full swing. Three teams from the Big 12 (Texas Tech, Baylor, Texas) are already done, and the last team in the Big 12 to start (Kansas State) kicked off on Wednesday.

That leaves seven teams in the Big 12 on the field, but who's coaching them? We've had plenty of teams shift coordinators this season, so here's a quick refresher if you've been busy following basketball since the season ended and the coaching carousel began spinning.

BAYLOR

Defensive coordinator: Phil Bennett. He replaces Brian Norwood, who moved to associate head coach and secondary coach. Bennett was previously the defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh, where he coordinated the nation's No. 8 defense.

KANSAS

Offensive coordinator: David Beaty. He spent a year at Rice, but returned to Kansas to coach receivers and serve as co-offensive coordinator alongside Chuck Long. He replaces Darrell Wyatt, who left to coach receivers at Texas. Long retained play-calling duties.

OKLAHOMA

Offensive coordinator: Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell. They'll share offensive coordinator duties, with Heupel calling the plays. He did so during the Sooners' 48-20 win over Connecticut in the Fiesta Bowl. They'll replace Kevin Wilson, who left to become the head coach at Indiana. Heupel will continue to coach quarterbacks as he has since 2006. Norvell will continue to coach receivers as he has since 2008.

OKLAHOMA STATE

Offensive coordinator: Todd Monken. He'll replace Dana Holgorsen, who took over as offensive coordinator at West Virginia and is scheduled to replace Bill Stewart as the head coach in 2012. Monken previously coached receivers for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

TEXAS

Offensive coordinator: Bryan Harsin and Major Applewhite. Harsin spent a decade at Boise State and five years as offensive coordinator, and will replace Greg Davis, the longtime coordinator under Mack Brown who resigned after the 2010 season. Applewhite is the co-coordinator after coaching running backs since 2008, but Harsin will call plays.

Defensive coordinator: Manny Diaz. Another young coach, Diaz was at Middle Tennessee State in 2009 and coordinated the defense at Mississippi State under Dan Mullen last season. He replaces Will Muschamp, who left to become head coach at Florida.

TEXAS TECH

Defensive coordinator: Chad Glasgow. Previously the secondary coach at TCU, Glasgow helped the Horned Frogs win the Rose Bowl last year and parlayed his recent excellence into a coordinator gig in Lubbock, where he'll replace James Willis, who left the program in December, before the Red Raiders beat Northwestern in the inaugural TicketCity Bowl.
It was a factor in putting Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden over Landry Jones on list of the Big 12's best players of 2010, and it's been a topic of conversation since Jones took over as the Sooners' starting quarterback last season: Just how valuable are the short throws to Jones and the Sooners' offensive success?

This email nearly made it in last week's Mailbag, but I saved it for its own post and did a little homework.

Matt in Norman wrote: "In the debate between Weeden and Jones, you keep bringing up the fact that jones through lots of swing passes to murray and broyles. But you bring no statistics. We all know he did, but was it really enough to be used in your argument? At least have some statistics to compare the two. You work at ESPN, use your resources."

Well, Matt, ask and you shall receive. (See chart at right). Unfortunately, because they had a pair of untelevised games, the statistics for Oklahoma State were unavailable, but ESPN Stats and Info was able to put together Jones' statistics for throws at or behind the line of scrimmage.

We'll have to keep the Weeden/Jones comparisons set aside for now, but it's pretty obvious how important the short passing game is to the Sooners.

Jones finished with 4,718 yards and 38 touchdowns on 405-of-617 passing, more attempts and more completions than any player in college football.

But like I've said, those numbers are inflated. Screens -- but really, more so swing passes -- are an extension of the run game, more reflective of receivers' blocking skill than Jones' passing skill. That's not to say Jones doesn't make throws that hit his receivers in stride to keep the play flowing, but it is to say his gaudy numbers come with plenty of help from other places.

Of Jones' total production, here's how much came on passes behind the line of scrimmage:

  • Attempts: 27.4 percent
  • Completions: 35.1 percent
  • Yards: 19.1 percent
  • Touchdowns: 13.2 percent
  • Interceptions: 16.7 percent
[+] EnlargeLandry Jones
Scott Rovak/US PresswireMany of the completions by Oklahoma's Landry Jones come on short throws to his playmakers.
It was pretty clear that Oklahoma had two outstanding playmakers in DeMarco Murray and Ryan Broyles who could make a whole lot happen with the ball in their hands. Jones is clearly an excellent passer, but Oklahoma's offense was built around getting them the ball. Broyles is clearly a more viable downfield threat, but both are extremely hard to bring down in the open field.

Here's how their production broke down from passes behind or at the line of scrimmage:

Ryan Broyles

  • Receptions: 39 percent
  • Yardage: 21.3 percent
DeMarco Murray

  • Receptions: 72 percent
  • Yardage: 63 percent

That's a huge chunk, especially from Murray, whose solid rushing totals (1,253 yards) are boosted when you consider how many of his receiving yards (373 of 594) came on catches behind or at the line of scrimmage.

He's gone now, so it'll be interesting to see how Oklahoma proceeds without him. Considering how little we've seen of them, I can't speak to Oklahoma's returning running backs' receiving talents, but it's a safe bet that none of them will be as skilled as Murray.

It'll be fascinating to see this season how Jones develops as a junior without Murray. I'd expect Broyles' touches and targets to go up a bit, but Oklahoma's offense would be well-served to find another running back who can leak out of the backfield to catch those short passes. With Murray gone, the opportunity is there.

Just like last season, Jones' stat line would be the biggest benefactor.

Nebraska secondary coach resigns

February, 3, 2011
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Nebraska coach Bo Pelini declined to answer questions about his staff during his signing day teleconference on Wednesday, but on Thursday, he announced in a release that Marvin Sanders had resigned for "personal and family reasons."

Questions first arose on Wednesday after Indiana coach Kevin Wilson announced that his assistant, Corey Raymond, was leaving to coach the secondary at Nebraska.

Nebraska, however, still employed Sanders at the time. Now, presumably, Raymond might soon be announced as Sanders' replacement.

Pelini declined to answer questions about Sanders' status on Wednesday, but the Lincoln Journal Star reported later in the day that Sanders "may face disciplinary action by the school for a nonfootball issue."

For Nebraska, Sanders might only be the first of a few assistants to leave Pelini's staff after signing 20 recruits on Wednesday.

Sanders, along with offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, receivers coach Ted Gilmore and Pelini, did not make their annual appearance at a recruiting dinner in Omaha on Wednesday night.

It should be a very interesting few weeks before spring practice begins in Lincoln.

Big 12 weekend roundup

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

More turnover for the Longhorns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fuller sticks around for his senior year

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

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

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

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

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

Sooners fill out staff

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

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

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

Sooners' new OC hopes to keep status quo

December, 30, 2010
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Kevin Wilson will take over as Indiana's head coach after Oklahoma finishes its season in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on Saturday. He's coordinated the offense and called plays the past five seasons, but like he's done with the other four coordinator openings during his tenure in Norman, Okla., coach Bob Stoops promoted from within.

Josh Heupel, Oklahoma's quarterbacks coach since 2006, earned Stoops' approval to take over, but the Sooners' matchup against Connecticut will serve as a one-game audition for fans whose favorite pastime is criticizing play calling.

For players, the ideal outcome is Wilson's same message coming from a different voice.

"We're hoping that's the case," said Heupel, who will call plays from the booth upstairs with Wilson sitting next to him. "For our players, there’s some stability and comfort in knowing that a guy that’s been heavily involved in the game plan already is taking over. Not only for this ballgame but for the future as well."

In January of 2001, Heupel held a game ball while being hoisted on teammates' shoulders to celebrate a national championship, one of the enduring images of the Stoops era at Oklahoma. He's back, and that experience does nothing but lend additional credibility to the Sooners' new 32-year-old playcaller.

"It’s great to have somebody like that as your coach, somebody who has won a national championship and been a Heisman finalist and things like that," said quarterback Landry Jones. "He knows how I feel, he knows the pressures of the game. You feel like the whole weight of the game is on your shoulders and things like that, so it’s been a blessing."

Heupel will be dealing with a different kind of pressure, wearing a headset instead of a helmet this time around.

"There’s going to be a lot of challenges, but you’ve got to react to what you’re seeing and not just what you’ve seen on tape," he said. "The game-day challenge for me as a playcaller is being able to strike that balance to reacting to what I’m seeing and counteract to it as quickly as possible."

Heupel has emphasized since he was first named co-coordinator with receivers coach Jay Norvell that Oklahoma's offense wouldn't change. The Sooners' offense has been the biggest reason for their seven Big 12 titles under Stoops and eight trips to BCS bowls in the past 11 seasons.

"We want to have balance in what we’re doing. We’ve got to make plays on the perimeter, we’ve got to be physical, we’ve got to protect the quarterback, gotta be able to run the football," he said. "When we’re successful, we have balance, and then we mix in our [fast-paced] tempo as well."

The means won't change. We should get an idea of what to expect out of the ends after Saturday's game.

The Big 12's highest-paid assistants

December, 22, 2010
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USA Today provided further analysis of its coaching salary information this week, after offering up the information for the Big 12's highest paid head coaches earlier this season. Here's a look at that list.

But what about the assistant? Their salaries are certainly not created equal. Here are the Big 12's highest-paid assistants for the 2010 season. Just as in the head coaching salaries, none of these figures include possible bonuses, which are listed on USA Today's chart. These numbers include just base salaries, both from university and non-university sources.
  • Will Muschamp, defensive coordinator, Texas -- $907,000
  • Greg Davis, offensive coordinator, Texas -- $477,084
  • Brent Venables, defensive coordinator, Oklahoma -- $449,000
  • Kevin Wilson, offensive coordinator, Oklahoma -- $445,000
  • Tim DeRuyter, defensive coordinator, Texas A&M -- $400,000
  • Shawn Watson, offensive coordinator, Nebraska -- $380,000
  • Carl Pelini, defensive coordinator, Nebraska -- $375,000
  • Joe DeForest (special teams/safeties), Bill Young (defense), Dana Holgorsen (offense), Oklahoma State -- $360,000
  • Neal Brown, offensive coordinator, Texas Tech -- $355,400
  • James Willis, defensive coordinator, Texas Tech -- $353,400

Again, you can see the full list here.

A few notes from those numbers:
  • Muschamp was the nation's highest-paid assistant in 2009 by nearly $150,000, right above Alabama offensive coordinator Kirby Smart. No other Big 12 assistant was in the top 13.
  • Interesting to note that three of the top four highest-paid assistants won't be back in 2010. Muschamp (Florida) and Wilson (Indiana) took head coaching jobs, and Davis resigned.
  • That leaves Venables as the league's highest-paid assistant, and it's come with plenty of tenure. Next year will be his 13th season as at least co-defensive coordinator for the Sooners. He's been defensive coordinator since 2004.
  • DeForest is the only non-offensive or defensive coordinator to crack the list, but he's also an associate head coach, and got nibbles from Louisiana-Lafayette, his alma mater, for its head coaching vacancy this offseason.

Additionally, three schools from the Big 12 made the top 10 for highest paid assistant coaching staff. See the full list here.

No. 3: Texas -- $3,032,820

No. 6: Oklahoma -- $2,744,300

No. 9: Oklahoma State -- $2,535,000

Big 12 weekend roundup

December, 20, 2010
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A few thoughts on the weekend's happenings:

Roy Finch has arguably been Oklahoma's most electrifying ballcarrier this season, but they'll be without him in the Fiesta Bowl after the freshman running back suffered a stress fracture in a non-contact drill during practice last week. Finch will be missed most in Oklahoma's "diamond" formation that featured three running backs surrounding quarterback Landry Jones, and he'll finish the year with 398 yards and a pair of touchdowns, just missing my Big 12 All-Freshman team.

Senior Mossis Madu will fill Finch's void, so it's not a pressing concern for the Fiesta Bowl's heavy favorites.You'll remember, he missed the first five games of the season after fracturing his left ankle on the same foot that suffered this most recent injury. The Sooners can take some comfort in the injury taking place in the same foot, and Finch will take 6-7 weeks to heal before returning for spring practice.

But moving forward, one more injury, especially one that's unrelated to the 5-foot-8, 180-pound speedster's left foot, is going to cause some legitimate concerns about Finch's durability. He's unquestionably emerged in 2010 as the future of Oklahoma's running game, beating out guys like Jermie Calhoun, Brennan Clay and Jonathan Miller, but he can't do any good on the sidelines. Moving through spring and fall camps, Oklahoma fans and coaches will be able to sleep a lot better if he can stay healthy through next August.

And consider also: For all the flack that DeMarco Murray gets for being "injury-prone," he got a high volume of carries in all four seasons as a Sooner.

Through just one season, Finch has already missed the same number of games (6) as Murray did throughout his entire career.


New Colorado coach Jon Embree officially finalized his staff, and it's clear what his priorities were. Outside of defensive line coach Mike Tuiasosopo, every hire had ties to Colorado, either the state or program. You definitely foster a very specific attitude in doing so, but we'll see if that results in wins after a move to the Pac-12 next year. He sacrificed experience for ties to the program in a couple of these hires, but no one will care if the wins come with them. If they don't, however, that fact will definitely be brought up as a criticism very quickly.

Here's Embree's latest staff hires, with more on the entire staff here:

Greg Brown - defensive coordinator/defensive backs

J.D. Brookhart - special teams coordinator/offensive passing game coordinator/tight ends

Kanavis McGhee/Mike Tuiasosopo - defensive line

Steve Marshall - offensive line

Former Colorado running back Eric Bieniemy, who also interviewed for the head coaching job and was hired at the same time as Embree, will serve as Embree's offensive coordinator.

The Buffs also retained former interim coach Brian Cabral, who will go back to coaching linebackers.


Nebraska linebackers coach Mike Ekeler is headed to Indiana to take over as the Hoosiers defensive coordinator under new coach Kevin Wilson. Most notably, he'll be the first assistant under Bo Pelini to leave for a different job during Pelini's three seasons in Lincoln.

Wilson worked with Ekeler at Oklahoma when Ekeler was a graduate assistant in 2003-04 and Wilson coached the offensive line. Ekeler must have made an impression on Wilson during those years and again in the Big 12 Championship game. First-year linebacker Lavonte David also leads the Big 12 in tackles, including 17 in the Big 12 title game.

Indiana and Nebraska aren't scheduled to meet in Big Ten play until the 2013 season.


I DVR'd the Texas Class 5A Division II state championship and got my first good, long look at a couple possible future Big 12 stars headed to the conference in 2011.

Texas commit Malcolm Brown, the nation's top running back recruit, and Oklahoma State quarterback and cornerback commits J.W. Walsh and Josh Stewart faced off in Cowboys Stadium. Brown's Cibolo (Steele) team took down Walsh and Stewart's Denton (Guyer) squad, 24-21.

Here's more on the game from the crew at ESPNDallas.com.

It's tough to tell a lot definitively in one look at a pressure-filled game, but all three had their moments. Brown doesn't have a ton of straight-line speed, but he's a smart, powerful runner with a good sense of holes and looked pretty skilled at reading his blocks. The physical talent is obvious, but if he carries that to Austin next fall, my guess is it's something that sets him apart from his competition. He's not one to shy away from contact, and he showed up every time Steele needed a big run. He finished with 107 yards on 28 carries and the game-winning touchdown.

Though Walsh's release is quick and his accuracy is good, he's still got plenty of room for improvement as a decision-maker. That said, he's a dangerous dual-threat guy that, if he ends up becoming the heir apparent to Brandon Weeden, would be pretty fun to watch in Oklahoma State's spread system, a la Zac Robinson.

He finished with 123 yards rushing and 9-of-17 passing for 91 yards with a pair of picks -- including one with the game up for grabs that sealed the game for Steele. He had just four interceptions in Guyer's first 15 games, and averaged more than 200 yards passing.

His one touchdown pass was a 43-yard strike to Stewart, who also plays receiver.
Oklahoma quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel and receivers coach Jay Norvell will be Oklahoma's new co-offensive coordinators, but Heupel will call the plays, beginning with next month's Fiesta Bowl against Connecticut.

Former offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson accepted a head coaching job at Indiana this month, but will remain with the team through the bowl game. Instead of calling plays, he'll be relegated to coaching tight ends and fullbacks, the position he's coached since 2006.

"As has always been the case, our entire offensive staff will work together in game planning, but there needs to be one coach who calls the plays and Josh will have that responsibility," Stoops said in a release. "Josh has a good feel for the game and rhythm that we’ve been able to establish."

Heupel won a national championship at Oklahoma as Stoops' quarterback in 2000, but has never called plays. He's been at Oklahoma since 2003, and he's been the team's quarterbacks coach since 2005.

Norvell has been at Oklahoma since 2008, but previously called plays at UCLA under Karl Dorrell in 2007.

Stoops said he has no timetable in filling the staff vacancy created by Wilson’s departure.

One of Stoops' most impressive benchmarks at Oklahoma is winning seven Big 12 titles with six different quarterbacks. Heupel was the first. Now, it'll be largely up to him to help continue that trend.

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