Big 12: Marcus Lattimore

Our ESPN college football team is talking Heisman all day today, including the debut of our weekly Heisman tracker, the Heisman Watch.

We have 15 voters who turn in a Heisman top 5 each week following the games, including yours truly.

We released our first version today, and two Big 12 quarterbacks are on the list.

West Virginia's Geno Smith is No. 3, and even received a first-place vote. He cashed in two votes for second, third, fourth and fifth. Way to spread the love. He appeared on 11 of 15 ballots.

Oklahoma's Landry Jones is No. 5. He also appeared on 11 of 15 ballots, but had three third-place votes, and four votes in fourth and fifth place.

You can see the full standings here.

I'll be releasing my ballot here on the blog every week, but here's how I voted to start the season:
  1. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
  2. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
  3. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
  4. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
  5. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
This is the time of year when college football hype is in full effect via the release of the 15 preseason award watch lists that include a staggering total of 482 separate players.

As enjoyable as basking in the potential glory of an exciting season can be, for many of those players the level of hype they are receiving isn't entirely warranted.

For KC Joyner's list of nine players who fit this description, including South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore and Oklahoma's Landry Jones, click here Insider.

Is Mack Brown channeling Bear Bryant?

February, 23, 2011
Plenty has been written about Texas' offseason overhaul, and plenty more will be written.

But as the Longhorns prepare to kick off spring practice, Football Outsiders' KC Joyner asks: Is Mack Brown restructuring his program around what Alabama great Bear Bryant once did to begin the 1970s?

He says Brown's offseason moves mirror what Bryant talked about in his autobiography. His moves resulted in three national championships during that decade after winning three in the 60s, sandwiched around a mediocre 28-15-2 record from 1967-70.

It's a fascinating read, but Joyner's argument hinges on three big connections.

1) Install a cutting edge offense
  • Bryant went with the wishbone.
  • Brown hired Bryan Harsin from Boise State.

"[Boise State] lined up in 26 formations against Wyoming and [Texas] lined up in six," co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite said.
Sets and formations don't win games by themselves. But this type of offense could help quarterback juior Garrett Gilbert take the small steps necessary to play at the level of former Longhorns QB Colt McCoy.
2) Alter their recruiting philosophy
  • Bryant moved from smaller linemen to bulkier linemen after being whipped up front by Nebraska in the Orange Bowl
  • Texas has signed just one top-15 running back in their previous five classes. This year, the Longhorns got highly touted running Malcolm Brown, who ESPN has as the nation's No. 2 running back. The Longhorns hope he has a similar impact as Auburn's Michael Dyer and South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore did in their true freshman seasons in 2010.
3) Don't stray far from core principles
  • Bryant won with smashmouth football, and lost trying to throw it. He went back to running it, just running it differently.
  • Brown kept Applewhite as a co-coordinator, presumably to add some Texas influence into Harsin's Boise schemes. Applewhite has been in the program all but three seasons since 1998. First as a player, then as a graduate assistant before returning in 2008 to coach running backs. He knows what's given Brown success in the past, and while change is needed, a complete change isn't.

It's definitely an interesting thought to consider from Joyner. Oversimplified perhaps, considering the five coaching hires in the offseason that were a bit glossed over, but it still applies well. You need Insider to read it all, but you should. He digs a bit deeper into all three aspects of the change.

The moves worked well for Bryant, clearly.

Will it be the same for Texas?

Texas and Big 12's future, A&M weakness

January, 14, 2011
Thanks for all the questions, everybody. Great chat this week. See you again next week. Here's the transcript if you couldn't make it.

And a few highlights:

Travis C. in Lake Highlands asked: What is the best you can imagine Texas doing next year, and what is the most likely win total for the re-tooled Horns?

David Ubben: Well, I could see them winning the Big 12. I wouldn't bet on it, but they definitely have the upside to do it. My guess for them is 8-9 wins next year, though.

Reason in Ubben's head asked: Texas is Texas. There is no way that they can do bad and not win. They are Texas after all. Nevermind that they have no character, they are soft and are replacing their OC and DC and are losing their only running threat (Newton) and best Defender in Williams. But... they're Texas

DU: You're crazy if you think Newton is their best runner. He wasn't any more consistent than Fozzy Whittaker or Cody Johnson, and like Marcus Lattimore and Michael Dyer showed us this year, freshman running backs can have a huge impact on teams. That's a big reason for the excitement surrounding Malcolm Brown. As for no character and being soft, none of that seemed to hurt them over the past decade. How quickly people forget the Longhorns' sustained success under Mack Brown with one awful season. Replacing a guy like Colt McCoy isn't easy, especially when you build your entire offense around him. They're not replacing anyone as indispensable as him this year. Also, Sam Acho was unquestionably their best defender this year, not Aaron Williams. Both are gone, yes, but Texas has a ton of talent behind them with a lot to prove in 2011.

Drew in Las Vegas asked: Hey to defend you against your own "Reason", you answered my question last week saying Texas would not be in any top 25 poll you filled out next season to start.

DU: Very true. I think Texas will get back to moderate success next year, but they have to prove it. No way will I put them on any top 25 ranking until they get something rolling early in the season or just look immaculate in their first few games.

Kevin in Houston, TX asked: Looking at the Aggies next year, what is the biggest weakness you see for them on both sides of the ball? And how much of that is being addressed in the currently class?

DU: Probably linebacker on defense. Losing Michael Hodges and Von Miller will hurt. On offense, definitely at center. Matt Allen was a senior making the calls, and he'll be tough to replace. Replacing people physically won't be the challenge for the Aggies next year, it's replacing guys mental capacity like Hodges and Allen. You can't replace that in recruiting very easily. That's a development issue.

Napoleon in Preston, ID asked: Why doesn't the Big 12 pick up Boise State and BYU to replace Colorado and Nebraska? They are worthy programs and offer new TV markets.

DU: BYU is a possibility, but it sounds like it's pretty bent on giving this independence thing a try. Boise makes no sense. They bring nothing but football competition. Folks aren't exactly clamoring for the Boise TV market. I'll stick to what I've been saying for a few months now: You want to make a big, realistic splash? Go get Arizona and Arizona State.

Steve in West Virginia asked: So why didn't the Big XII go after Arizona and Arizona State?

DU: For now, the league is excited for and satisfied with a 10-team alignment. The same amount of money guaranteed, and passing it out to two fewer teams is obviously attractive. Come 2014, with a new TV contract about to be negotiated, the conversation might change.

Bob in Texas asked: Top 5 Qb's in the Big 12 err... ten or whatever next season?

DU: Quick survey: 1a) Brandon Weeden 1b) Landry Jones 3) Robert Griffin III 4) Ryan Tannehill. After that, I'm not even ranking guys. It gets ugly. Maybe it's the next guy in line at Missouri or Texas Tech. IT could even be Garrett Gilbert. Seriously. Look around. It could get ugly at QB in the Big 12 next year. Wondering why OU, OSU and A&M look like the three biggest favorites next year? Well, there you go.

Kris in Des Moines asked: You mean Landry Jones.......................................then Weeden..right..

DU: Coin flip. Weeden has a stronger arm, in my opinion. Jones takes care of it a little better. Both very accurate. Could make a case either way, really. Seems to me that Jones' mistakes, when he makes them, are bigger back-breakers. For that reason, I tend to lean Weeden.

Mailbag: Bowls redrawn, NFL Draft forecast

December, 10, 2010
Joe in Omaha, NE asks: If you were in charge of matching a team (reguardless of conference) to all the big 12's bowl eligible teams, which matchups would you want to see?

David Ubben: Interesting question. Most of the Big 12 matchups are snoozers, but Texas A&M and LSU and Missouri and Iowa are decent. So is Baylor and Illinois.

As for the rest, let me see these games (all picked within reason, so no Nebraska-Stanford, aka Luck vs. the Blackshirts. Sorry.):

Oklahoma vs. Ohio State: The Buckeyes took home a BCS bowl last year, but both teams could still use a bump in their street cred. Beating Oklahoma, even if it's not an SEC team, could do it for Jim Tressel. Texas and Ohio State played a couple classic games, including a Fiesta Bowl, this decade. Limas Sweed, anyone? What a catch in the 'Shoe. Quan Cosby, too, in that Fiesta Bowl.

I bet this would be a great game. Like OSU, Oklahoma could use the prestige boost. A win over UConn would be nice for the Sooners, but a win over a four-loss team won't completely satisfy the folks who think Bob Stoops has lost his "Big Game Bob" moniker. The Sooners played a better team last year (No. 19 Stanford, also with four losses) in the Sun Bowl. Plus, if the Sooners lose this year, it's an absolute disaster.

Nebraska vs. South Carolina: The Head Ball Coach against the Blackshirts? Yes, please. I'd like to see the good version of Stephen Garcia show up against the best secondary in the country, and we could see some high-quality football. Oklahoma's Landry Jones played as well as anyone against them and put up great numbers, but I'd like to see them take on Garcia, Alshon Jeffery and Marcus Lattimore. That could be a great matchup.

Texas Tech vs. Miami. Because...obviously. Most awkward bowl game ever? Not that he'll leave, but would that be the first time a coach has ever coached against his future team in a bowl game? Might be. If Tuberville actually left, he probably wouldn't coach this game, but remember people, we're operating in an ideal world. And in my ideal world, these things happen.

Joe Guilliams in St. Louis, MO asks: DU,What's happening with Gabbert next year? Is he coming back and if so will he start over James Franklin? Thanks, JG

DU: I'd expect Gabbert to come back this year. I imagine he feels like he left a lot on the table and Missouri should have a pretty good team in 2011, especially if he returns. (And, he won't have to see Nebraska's secondary anymore!)

He could still get a lot better, but it wouldn't surprise me if he made the leap this year. He's obviously a smart, coachable player and with his arm strength at every bit of 6-foot-5, 235 pounds, he'll make a lot of money in the league eventually.

Also, anyone who thinks James Franklin should be playing over Gabbert is out of their mind. He worked really well in the way Missouri used him this year, as a bit of a spot runner a la freshman year Tim Tebow, but nobody on that team is going to be able to run the entire offense as well as Gabbert, no matter how much Franklin improves next year.

Jeff in Memphis,TN asks: No disrespect to the Oklahoma State kicker,but how was the Nebraska kicker not even on the list. I watched the Big 12 title game and was amazed. Please enlighten this confused southerner.

Migu in Columbia, Missouri asks: What happened to the Mackey Award? I thought my man Michael Egnew was the sure bet to get it--I mean, isn't Egnew the top in most statistics for a tight end? Or is the selection process for the award getting ridiculous to the point that statistics doesn't matter anymore?

DU: I figured there would be a lot of questions about this, and there were. I threw these questions in here to refer you back to my thoughts on the issue from earlier today.

Bob Powell in Nazareth, PA asks: I live on East Coast and get no inside scoop anymore. What are the chances Broyles sticks around for Natl Title run?? How high in first round do you think he will go if he comes out?? How fast is he really?? Is he another Mark Clayton - which is pretty damn good. Thanks.

DU: I wouldn't rule out Broyles staying, but I think he'll leave, and it'd probably be a good call. I mentioned it earlier in the week, but he's learned a lot about the game. He's been a contributor for three years in this league. He's seen about everything defenses can throw at him. There's little issue about legacy; he owns eight of the nine major receiving records at Oklahoma. The only one he's missing is the single-game record for touchdowns, but he's had a three-touchdown game and the record is four. He's the best receiver in Oklahoma history, period.

He's fast, but he's quicker than he is fast. For an undersized guy like him, that's a big deal. Also a big deal are his hands. They're some of the best in the game. He had one dropped pass this year, and Landry Jones said in midseason that before that drop, he hadn't dropped a ball since the third game of the year in 2009, against Tulsa.

As a receiver under six-foot, he's not going to be a guy that teams will draft in the early first round, like a Calvin Johnson or Michael Crabtree, but he'll have a solid NFL career. He made a brief appearance on Mel Kiper's Big Board earlier this year, but if he impresses in pre-draft workouts, he could probably be a late first rounder, but I'd be surprised if he dropped out of the second round. Other than his size, all of his measurables should be good, and though he's not 6-foot-3, he can still go up and get a jump ball from time to time.

Kanye West (Phoenix) writes: Yo, Dan Bailey, I'm really happy for you, and I'mma let you finish, but Alex Henery is one of the greatest college kickers of all-time! Of all-time!

DU: A strong, strong candidate for best e-mail of the season. I want to drop a "Yup, these are my readers" so hard right now, you don't even know.