Big 12: Matt Grothe
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It’s been a long, unusual trip to become Kansas State’s starting quarterback for sixth-year senior Grant Gregory.
|Scott Sewell/Icon SMI|
|Grant Gregory was 16-for-23 for 206 yards and two scores against Iowa State.|
Gregory finally got his chance as a starter last week, helping the Wildcats to a 24-23 victory over Iowa State in a game that wasn’t settled until the final minute of play.
Gregory talked about the travails of waiting for his chance, how he almost ended up playing at Eastern Kentucky earlier this season and the passion for football he developed growing up around the Army football program when his father was an assistant coach there.
Can you talk about your playing opportunities at three different colleges before you came to Kansas State?
Grant Gregory: There have been a lot of ups and downs for me. Mostly, they’ve been downs. But I’ve been a part of four bowl teams and I got to be a part of what we developed at South Florida over the years. It’s been a great journey for me. And just because I played on three different teams gave me a chance to experience more than a normal player might have done.
How have the offenses been different at all the colleges you've attended?
GG: Indiana was my first college offense. While I was there we were a basic two-back football team with a tailback and a fullback starting in the lineup. Then, when I got to South Florida, we started out as more of a running team with Andre Hall. Then Matt Grothe emerged and we started running a shotgun offense that was a very balanced offense. We did a lot of things there.
By the time I left South Florida, I felt like I learned a lot about a lot of different offenses. I probably watch as much football as any 23-year-old kid on television -- I watch all kinds of games. So I feel like I could run any offense if I was given the chance.
What led you to come to Kansas State?
GG: When Matt emerged as the starter, I understood he was a good player and I would end up being his backup. But I also knew I was going to apply for a sixth season as a senior, but I wasn’t sure if I would get the transfer year. I looked at mostly FBS schools who I knew had lost senior quarterbacks. I wanted to go where I would have a chance to play.
As such, most FBS schools wouldn’t have been interested in me. I found about 25 schools that fit my criteria that had a senior quarterback they were losing and where I felt I could play if I got a chance. And once I started looking around, I concentrated and finally originally decided on Eastern Kentucky and Towson State. And I was all set to go to Eastern Kentucky until I heard from Kansas State. Once I got a chance there, I decided to commit to them.
What was it like to finally get your chance to play, and more importantly, to lead your team to a victory in that first start last week?
GG: It was only one game, but that game was really something. I’m privileged to be on a team where I was able to contribute. That’s all I wanted to do this year -- and it happened for me.
In your first playing action with KSU, you struggled a little bit against Louisiana-Lafayette. How did you turn things around for your second opportunity last week in your start against the Cyclones?
GG: I knew that if I had a chance to play a whole ballgame, I was capable of making plays. I just didn’t want to screw up early so I would get benched. I knew if I ever had the chance to settle in, I would get in my comfort zone and do fine. And once things started, I got settled in nicely and that helped me.
What was it like to be able to engineer your team to a victory last week in its first conference game?
GG: I was so happy that I finally helped my team win. I’ve been on a lot of teams during my time in college. I always wanted to play team sports to contribute to helping my team win. And that game last week was the first time I’ve been able to really sense that since high school. It was the best feeling of my life.
Your father, Greg Gregory, was a veteran college assistant coach who worked as the offensive coordinator on the USF staff when you were there. Have you been leaning on him for expertise the last few weeks?
GG: He got a chance to watch the ISU game on television and told me right after the game that he was proud of me. But I got a text message a couple of days later at 6:30 a.m. telling me I’ve got to settle down and play smarter out there. When we're getting blitzes and having to check out of plays, he told me not to be idiot and just lead my team.
After your start, you told reporters about the passion you have for playing football. Where did that come from?
GG: Growing up for much of my childhood at West Point, where my dad was a coach at Army, had a huge impact on my life. The passion those guys have for the game is really something. They know they aren’t going to the NFL, but they still play for the sheer love of the game.
I’ve always considered myself a hard worker. But being around them when I was little made me learn that I never wanted to be that guy who didn’t work hard enough to do the most he could with his talents. I wanted to look back at my career and be proud of myself for what I’ve done. And I've tried to do that when I got my chance.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Backup quarterbacks already played a big part in Big 12 play before October arrived.
Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford was idled with a sprained shoulder, paving the way for Landry Jones to take over for the Sooners for the last two games. And a season-ending knee injury for Baylor’s Robert Griffin last week has 2007 Baylor starter Blake Szymanski inserted back in the lineup – if he can overcome his own shoulder injury sustained in the same game in which Griffin went down.
Here’s a look at the backup quarterback situations around the Big 12 heading into this week’s games.
Ready to roll:
Kansas State: Behind starter Carson Coffman, the Wildcats have Grant Gregory, a fifth-year senior transfer from South Florida who has seen action in three games for KSU so far this season, rushing for 92 yards and passing for 21 yards. Gregory battled Matt Grothe for the starting job at South Florida and played in 21 games earlier in his career for the Bulls.
Has the hype:
Kansas: If Todd Reesing were sidelined, Kansas coach Mark Mangino finally feels comfortable enough to turn to redshirt freshman Kale Pick, who was Kansas’ offensive scout team player of the year last season. Pick is an adept runner who rushed for 47 yards against Northern Colorado, 87 yards against UTEP and an 18-yard scamper against Duke already this season. And Mangino could always turn to Kerry Meier, although he’s much more valuable now playing every down as a wide receiver.
Nebraska: Cody Green came into the Nebraska program with hype that he could see sizable playing time this season as a freshman. He graduated from high school early and arrived in the spring, but a hip injury set him back. But finally healthy, he’s shown flashes of brilliance early in his career. Green broke a 49-yard run on his first college carry and a 24-yard touchdown run last week against Louisiana-Lafayette. He’s also showing maturity as a passer after completing 12 of 17 passes in mop-up time in three games for the Cornhuskers.
Texas: Garrett Gilbert was the most heralded quarterback prospect in the nation after he was selected as the Gatorade and Parade national player of the year last season in high school. Mack Brown has wasted little time getting him game action as Gilbert has completed 11 of 14 passes for 110 yards in three games this season. And his confidence in the offense has grown in each game he’s played.
Texas A&M: Ryan Tannehill is listed as Jerrod Johnson’s backup and would likely be installed if Johnson was sidelined for a long period of time. But Tannehill’s first focus in the Aggies’ offense now is as a wide receiver where he’s produced 11 catches for a team-leading 201 receiving yards. But Tannehill aspires to play quarterback and got the first snaps at the position in the blowout victory over UAB last week when Johnson left the game. He waged a closer battle than expected this spring before Johnson claimed the starting job.
Baylor: With Griffin’s injury, Szymanski takes over. He’s more tested than most backups, considering he threw for a school-record 2,844 passing yards during his season as a starter in 2007 and accounted for 27 career touchdown passes in 22 college games. But behind him is freshman Nick Florence, whose experience consists of one college game -- last week against Northwestern State. If Szymanski isn’t ready to go Saturday night against Kent State, Florence would be entrusted with the starting job.
Colorado: Behind starter Cody Hawkins, the Buffaloes currently have rangy freshman Seth Lobato listed as his backup. They might be in better shape if Tyler Hansen chose to be available. But Hansen, who orchestrated a victory over Kansas State last season as a freshman, has stated he wants to redshirt this season unless there’s a season-ending injury for Hawkins.
Iowa State: Austen Arnaud is one of the most durable starters in the league. But behind him, Paul Rhoads has gotten freshman backup Jerome Tiller playing time in the first three 2009 games. Tiller showed flashes in spring practice, but still would be an inexperienced alternative.
Missouri: Blaine Gabbert is entrenched as the starter. Jimmy Costello has assumed the backup position and has played in two games this season with scant action in garbage time. Coaches like his live arm and feel for the Missouri offense, despite his lack of game experience.
Oklahoma: After Bradford’s injury, Jones was immediately thrust into the lineup and he’s played well, including a school-record six touchdown passes against Tulsa. Freshman Drew Allen is the backup behind him, but coach Bob Stoops has avoided playing him yet with hopes of preserving a redshirt season if Bradford can return to the starting lineup quickly.
Oklahoma State: Alex Cate and Brandon Weeden staged a tight battle to back up Zac Robinson throughout preseason practice. Cate, a redshirt junior, won the No. 2 job but struggled in brief early playing time this season. He was outplayed last week by Weeden, a 26-year-old former minor-league baseball pitcher who rifled a pair of garbage-time touchdown passes against Grambling last week. But neither has much actual game experience with Cate playing in six career games and Weeden in two games.
Texas Tech: Behind Taylor Potts, the Red Raiders have junior Steven Sheffield, who passed for 52 yards and threw a touchdown pass against Rice in the only live action for a Tech backup quarterback this season. Sheffield would be an inexperienced alternative if Potts can’t play.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder appears no closer to settling on a starting quarterback for the Wildcats Sept. 5 season opener against Massachusetts than he was 14 practices ago.
Snyder said Tuesday that there is tight, ongoing competition between four contenders for the job. Carson Coffman, Grant Gregory and redshirt freshmen Joseph Kassanavoid and Collin Klein all are hooked up for the starting job.
"No decision has been made and just about every time that I seem to think that someone is starting to pull away, the pack closes the gap on them," Snyder said. "I would say that on any given day they are probably pretty equal at this point in time."
That lack of separation is a trend that Snyder hopes will be ending with six practices remaining.
"The longer it goes it makes it harder and harder because it is human nature to settle into routines and to settle into performance levels," Snyder said. "I am trying to encourage that someone needs to rise above it all and continue to make that kind of improvement. And that doesn't mean that there hasn't been improvement, I'm not saying that, but not enough and not consistently enough for one to firmly establish himself."
Coffman and Gregory were presumed to have a slight edge because of their previous experience. Coffman, a redshirt junior, had 41 passes as Josh Freeman's backup last season. Gregory, a senior, threw 37 passes in the previous two seasons at South Florida as Matt Grothe's backup before transferring to Kansas State this spring.
"They both seem to do some of the same good things," Snyder said. "Carson, having been here in the spring, has had a little more experience. He's had 15 days more experience in this actual system and many more days than that when you encompass the offseason program and all that goes along with it.
"Grant probably has more playing time experience and has been around the game for a few more years with this being his sixth year in college football. Both of them come from football families, are pretty astute, and try to be good students of the game."
Coffman's father, Paul, is a former Kansas State tight end who played 11 years in the NFL. His older brother, Chase, was a record-breaking tight end at Missouri and a third-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Gregory's father Greg, was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at South Florida on coach Jim Leavitt's staff before he was fired earlier this year. He now works as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach on Joey Jones' staff at South Alabama.
Snyder was also pleased with the progress of the two redshirt freshmen, who have both shown flashes of potential.
"Joe and Collin have both done reasonably well," Snyder added. "But, they haven't progressed at quite the same level that the other two have. They continue to make improvement and do good things."
The Wildcats will be on display Saturday at an open practice. It should be interesting to see which one of the quarterbacks takes the majority of the snaps -- or if Snyder chooses to keep them relatively equal as the season approaches.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
A long time ago when I was growing up, I always waited for the Street & Smith baseball yearbook to turn up at the magazine section of my neighborhood drug store.
Back in those pre-internet days, this book was the personal bible for all things about major league baseball for me and my friends.
The book had two must-have items that I waited for every year. One were the neat diagrams of major league parks with the longest home runs in history mapped out.
And the other item I couldn't wait to see were the career lists among baseball players -- both active and retired.
We couldn't find that information at the drop of a keystroke. I think that's what helped developed my interest in numbers and sports.
And it also gave me an extreme appreciation for similar career lists, like the one that the NCAA compiles for active football players.
After the defections of several players, four of the top nine current career players in terms of touchdowns responsibility are among Big 12 quarterbacks who will be back for the 2009 season. No other conference has more than two players among the list of top 10 players on the list.
As you can see, Texas' Colt McCoy ranks third in career touchdowns responsibility with 102, followed by Oklahoma's Sam Bradford in fourth place. Kansas' Todd Reesing is in sixth place and Oklahoma State's Zac Robinson ranks in ninth place.
Here's a look at the current statistics.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Bill Snyder has never been the biggest fan of spring games.
In a perfect world, the veteran Kansas State coach likely would have preferred to use his final spring practice in a more controlled atmosphere than at the spring game.
But his first-string offense and defense showed some flashes as it outscored the backups, 45-0. Snyder actually flipped the score at halftime to make it more spectator-friendly after the starters on the Purple team had jumped to a 17-0 edge at the break. They punctuated the game by scoring four touchdowns in the second half.
"Have you ever seen anything as boring as that?" Snyder joked with reporters after the scrimmage concluded.
Five months have passed since Snyder accepted the rebuilding job after his three-season sabbatical. There were some bright spots in the spring game despite some rocky performances earlier in practice.
The first-string offense directed by quarterback Carson Coffman piled up 483 yards. The first-string defense was even better, limiting the KSU backups to nine first downs and 123 total yards.
"This team just needs to practice, practice, practice," Snyder said.
Here are some things that we learned during the course of the spring:
- Coffman appeared to make some headway late in practice, but the quarterback position still remains open.
Coffman showed flashes by passing for 334 yards and three touchdowns. The four quarterbacks who alternated with the second-stringers were a combined 9-for-26 for 62 yards with two interceptions.
"We're much improved from where we were in the beginning of the spring, but we still have a lot to work on," said Coffman, who appears to have earned the respect of his team after they voted him as an offensive captain.
- Look for South Florida transfer Grant Gregory to challenge as soon as he arrives on campus after battling Matt Grothe for the job earlier in his career with the Bulls.
And heralded junior college transfer Daniel Thomas of Northwest Mississippi Community College will get a shot, too. If Gregory emerges to challenge Coffman, we might see Thomas moved to running back to capitalize on his athletic skills.
- One of the other bright spots of the spring was the play of freshman running back Jarell Childs, who narrowed the gap and is challenging Keithen Valentine for the starting job. Valentine finished with 92 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game and still is considered as the No. 1 contender at the position.
- Attendance for the spring game was 12,850. But the most impressive number might have been 450 -- the number of recruits and parents who attended the game.
- Freshman punter Ryan Doerr looked solid throughout the spring, capping his efforts by averaging 45.4 yards per punt in the spring game while kicking for both teams. Included in his barrage were long kicks of 60 and 58 yards.
That production is important for the Wildcats, particularly because incumbent D.J. Fulhage averaged only 38.1 yards per kick last season -- good for 93rd nationally.
- Some questioned the move of Logan Dold to running back to the secondary. While we didn't get a chance to watch him play in the spring game, his athleticism will help in the secondary.
- New defensive coordinator Vic Koenning's retooled 4-2-5 defense looks like it will be productive, although the big game might be taken with a grain of salt, considering it was against the second-stringers.
The new alignment will employ three safeties and hopefully be more productive than the group last season that was 117th in total defense, 106th in pass defense, 110th in scoring defense and 112th in rush defense.
Former walk-on linebacker Alex Hrbec accounted for a huge game with 19 tackles and Brandon Harold chipped in with nine tackles and three sacks to key the play along the defensive line.
- Harold looks a lot more comfortable as a rush end than a defensive tackle, as was experimented at times last season.
"He was a good player last year, and I think one thing that's happened with Brandon is he's becoming a little bit more physical," Snyder told the Topeka Capital-Journal. "He's gained some weight and I think he's just about to turn the corner in the weight room. He can handle a lot of weight.
"He's gaining, and I say gaining, he's still an awfully good player. But you have to realize he was a true freshman last year, so it's in his normal progression that he should get better if he's really focused on it. He should be an improved player year in and year out. And he is making those strides and he is concerned about it -- he wants to be a good player."
Harold contributed three sacks in the spring game and appeared to be one of the most productive Wildcats.
- Wide receiver Brandon Banks clearly looks like the Wildcats' most productive offensive player - as he was most of last season. Banks produced 141 yards on six receptions, including a 64-yard grab from Coffman for a touchdown.
"I'm pretty comfortable but we're going to get to keep working at it as the season comes along, and keep getting better every day," Banks said. "Grade-wise we are probably a C, but there is room for improvement. I think the second-team offense is improving a little bit, but everyone needs to step up and get better, including me. So we're in pretty good shape right now."
- Snyder made a symbolic gesture during the spring game by wearing the old-school Kansas State uniforms that looked like those worn by the Dallas Cowboys. The Wildcats won't be able to wear those once the season starts because of contract obligations with Nike.
And Snyder had an interesting look himself, wearing a coat and tie as he patrolled the sidelines. His wardrobe, he said, could be attributed to not having time to change after some activities earlier in the morning.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Kansas State quarterback Carson Coffman appears to have emerged among the players currently practicing for the Wildcats, moving past redshirt freshmen Collin Klein and Joseph Kassanavoid during spring practice.
But we shouldn't immediately anoint Coffman as the Wildcats' starter for their Sept. 5 opener against Massachusetts.
The Topeka Capital-Journal reported today that Grant Gregory, a backup quarterback at South Florida, will transfer into the KSU program to attend graduate school. Because of that, he will be able to play immediately.
Gregory was beaten out by Matt Grothe for the Bulls' starting quarterback. But he apparently was encouraged to consider KSU by USF coach Jim Leavitt, a former assistant coach under Bill Snyder during Snyder's earlier coaching tenure with the Wildcats.
"I'm going to K-State," Gregory told the Capital-Journal. "We're just getting everything finalized with my admission into the graduate school ... I'll be out there definitely by June 1 if not earlier."
KSU will be Gregory's third career school after he began his career at Indiana. After redshirting as a freshman after a stress fracture of his back, he opted to transfer after coach Gerry DiNardo was fired after that season.
He then moved to South Florida where his career hopes as a starter were scuttled after he sustained a thumb injury early in his first season of eligibility with the Bulls. Grothe eventually emerged as the Bulls' starter and Gregory was his primary backup the last two seasons. Gregory completed 17 of 30 passes for 280 yards and four touchdowns during that period.
Snyder has repeatedly said he's already expecting competition for Coffman when junior-college transfer Daniel Thomas arrives in June.
"He's very capable and we'll give him every opportunity at quarterback and if not that at running back," Snyder said.
Snyder compared Thomas' opportunity to that received by Michael Bishop in 1997.
"Daniel will be here in the first part of June," Snyder said. "Michael didn't get here until mid-July, but by the first game, he was the No. 1 quarterback and we had a pretty decent quarterback at that time in Jonathan Beasley. Michael developed in that short of a time."
So it should be an interesting and competitive summer for Coffman and the rest of the Wildcat quarterbacks.
And also leads me to believe that whatever performances we see at the Wildcats' Saturday spring game should be taken with a grain of salt.
Because the real competition for the starting job will begin in June.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
I was alerted to a story in the Tampa Tribune this morning that had several Kansas fans claiming they were verbally abused by South Florida fans at last week's game between the two schools at Raymond James Stadium.
Tribune USF beat writer Brett McMurphy quotes USF quarterback Matt Grothe as saying he heard some of the verbal salvos directed at Kansas cheerleaders.
"I didn't appreciate it," Grothe told the Tribune. "Some idiot of ours, every time a KU cheerleader walked by, he yelled a sexual slur over and over to each and every one.
"Yelling at a cheerleader? Those poor girls don't know why they're getting yelled at. It's like me going up to that guy's mom and calling her that. Is he going to like that? They should just be happy with us winning games."
The story also quotes three different Kansas fans saying they felt uncomfortable at Friday night's game, which was won by USF, 37-34.
Pat Porzelt, a 1987 Kansas graduate, was part of a fans who attended the game. She told the newspaper she had been attending games for more than 20 years.
"That," Porzelt told the newspaper, "was the worst experience I've ever had."
These problems likely will mean the end of a budding rivalry between two recent BCS challengers.
Which means that fans everywhere end up losing at the expense of a few instigators in Tampa.