Big 12: Mike Iltis
Here’s a group of questions I received late this week about the Big 12.
Enjoy them and your upcoming football weekend.
From Adam in Lincoln: Tim, how feasible is it for Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh to win the Heisman or at least be considered for it if he keeps up these game changing performances. He is one of the most athletic and versatile players in all of college football. Remember he not only plays nose tackle he has been put in as a full back as well. I can't remember seeing a player at any level that has done more than him in so many facets of the game.
Tim Griffin: Adam, I agree with you about Suh’s accomplishments. He’s been the most dominant defensive player in the Big 12. What I enjoyed watching last night was how quickly he can drop into coverage and make big plays, like his fourth-quarter interception against Missouri's Blaine Gabbert.
It will be interesting to see how much that performance on national television last night propels Suh into the talk for the Heisman or at least awards like the Outland Trophy.
Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini told reporters last night that he had never seen quite a dominating performance in his coaching career.
If Suh keeps making these plays, I think we might see him bringing a lot of hardware back to Lincoln, and maybe even a trip to New York City in mid-December for the Heisman presentation. He's playing well enough that he could be a finalist.
Jack Warner from Sepulveda, Okla., writes: Tim, how much do you think Sam Bradford will help the Sooners tomorrow and the rest of the season if he’s healthy.
Tim Griffin: It’s impossible to discount how much his return will mean to the Sooners. I think if he had been healthy this season, Oklahoma likely would be 4-0 right now.
But with him coming back in the lineup, the Sooners have hopes of challenging Texas for the Big 12 South title. After last week’s game, I don’t think many Sooner fans would have felt that way if they had learned he was staying out for the next several weeks.
David Askew of Findlay, Ohio, writes: Tim, Watching the Nebraska/Missouri game I wonder to myself. why do coaches go for two with 14 minutes left in the game, or sometimes more? The broadcasters say there is no reason to try the PAT. How many times have we seen a team go for two to make it a three-point game, and fail on the conversion? It seems to me they should go for the PAT, and take a two-point lead. If you score another TD, you go up nine after the PAT, making it a two-possession game instead of failing the two-point, getting another TD and only being ahead by eight points.
Tim Griffin: It does seem there’s a new-age, revisionist thinking as far as going for more two-point conversions than in the past. But I think the reason is because scoring has become prevalent that other coaches are coerced into thinking they’ve got to score with a two-pointer because of expectations once the other team gets the ball.
I don’t have much fault with Bo Pelini’s decision of trying to go for two points when his team led 13-12 early in the fourth quarter. The thinking was that if they got two more points, it would force Missouri to kick a field goal to tie the game. And as well as the Cornhuskers' defense was playing, I actually think that was a pretty wise decision.
Steve Robinson of Johnson City, Texas, writes: Hey Tim, really enjoy your blog. Here’s a quick question for you. What’s your favorite rivalry game to cover and why?
Tim Griffin: Steve, as any of my consistent readers know, I don’t complain about watching many games. But my favorite rivalry comes up next week. Something about the State Fair of Texas midway, the corny dogs and the passion on both sides makes Texas-Oklahoma a little more special than any other Big 12 game.
I can’t wait. And it appears with Sam Bradford coming back, the importance of this game in determining the Big 12 South champion will be that much more important.
Rob Nesbitt of Arvada, Colo., writes: Tim, whatever happened to that Colorado running game you were raving about all summer?
It seems like there’s not much “Hawk love” for this team. Are we ever going to win a game with this bunch?
Tim Griffin: I think the struggles of Darrell Scott have been one of the biggest disappointments in the country so far this season. I, like a lot of people, thought that Scott was poised for a breakout season after reports that he was in the best shape of his life. But he’s struggled with health this season, rushing for only 91 yards this season – with 85 yards of that coming in the Toledo game.
Here’s the most interesting stat about Scott, who was the most ballyhooed recruit that Dan Hawkins attracted after he beat out Texas for his scholarship commitment. His durability has been suspect as has had more than 13 carries in only one game in his college career. And he’s never rushed for more than 87 yards in any game.
But Scott isn’t alone in his struggles. The Buffaloes have produced an average of 93.75 yards per game – a struggling total that ranks 109th nationally.
The Buffaloes are averaging only 3.2 yards per carry and have topped 4.0 yards per carry only once in their first four games.
Their woes along the offensive line began in fall camp when Devin Head was lost for the season because of academics. Sione Tau was suspended for the season before the season began. Hawkins hoped that Max Tuioti-Mariner would help provide depth but he’s missed the season with a knee injury. And starting center Mike Iltis missed the West Virginia game with a concussion and might not be ready for Texas. If he can’t go, walk-on Keenan Stevens would get his second-straight start.
It’s fair to say the Buffaloes’ rushing attack ranks as one of Hawkins’ disappointments this season, during a season of many.
And it won't get any easier during the next two weeks when Colorado faces Texas and Kansas. I think it's highly possible the Buffaloes could start the season 1-5 after those two games. With that start it will be very difficult for the Buffaloes to make a bowl trip this season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here's a look at how I rank the Big 12 offenses heading into the season.
1. Oklahoma State – The conference’s most balanced offense also features the best rushing/receiving combination in Kendall Hunter and Dez Bryant and one of the Big 12's best offensive linemen in Russell Okung. Zac Robinson still has meltdown moments, but he’s gotten much better with experience. The big questions will be finding a No. 2 receiver and a tight end to replace Brandon Pettigrew.
2. Oklahoma: The Sooners have the most productive quarterback in school history in Sam Bradford with the conference’s best backfield combination in Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray and college football’s best tight end in Jermaine Gresham. The offensive line, however, isn’t nearly as good as some from the program's past. The line's development will largely determine if the Sooners can claim four-straight Big 12 titles.
3. Texas: Colt McCoy is back for his fourth season as starter and Jordan Shipley seemingly has been around long enough to collect a pension. That’s a great start. Vondrell McGee has emerged as a steady back who might end up earning the majority of carries running behind a deep offensive line. It will be interesting to see if they can find a tight end who will block consistently enough to keep the team from running multiple wide-receiver sets down the stretch. Developing that bruising running game will be the biggest challenge for the Longhorns.
4. Kansas: Todd Reesing might be the nation’s most underrated quarterback and the development of a tandem backfield in Jake Sharp and Toben Opurum will provide balance to the conference’s best receiving corps. It will be interesting to see how much better Kerry Meier can become by concentrating on offense. He adds with top deep threat Dezmon Briscoe, the underrated Jonathan Wilson and freshman addition Bradley McDougald. The Jayhawks’ title hopes will hinge on better pass blocking, particularly from new left tackle Tanner Hawkinson, a converted high school tight end.
5. Texas Tech: There are more questions with the loss of Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree, although Mike Leach seems very happy with Taylor Potts and his current group. The Red Raiders might be deeper at wide receiver with a collection of players than when Crabtree commandeered most of the catches. Baron Batch’s recovery from an elbow injury will be critical, but the Red Raiders have a big nasty offensive front keyed by All-Big 12 candidate Brandon Carter and the underrated Marlon Winn.
6. Baylor: Robert Griffin makes these guys go and he should be even more comfortable in his second season as a starter. Jay Finley might be one of the least-appreciated backs in the league and a deep collection of wide receivers will help boost production. The biggest concern will be the play of tackles Danny Watkins and Phillip Blake, who will be replacing decorated former starters Jason Smith and Dan Gay.
7. Missouri: This offense will be different from the attack in the Chase Daniel era. Look for new coordinator David Yost to utilize a strong running game keyed by Derrick Washington, who is finally healthy after being hurt most of the second half of 2008. New quarterback Blaine Gabbert obviously doesn’t have the experience in the Tigers’ offense as Daniel, but he might have a better deep arm which will give Yost more chances to attack with long passes. It’s a typically deep collection of receivers with Danario Alexander poised for a breakout season if he can stay healthy.
8. Colorado: Other than the fact that Dan Hawkins can’t decide on a starting quarterback, this unit might be a little underrated and ready to blossom. I really like their collection of running backs with Darrell Scott poised to fulfill his recruiting promise. Rodney Stewart and Demetrius Sumler add different running styles behind a nice line keyed by Ryan Miller, Nate Solder and Mike Iltis. The passing game might sputter early as Markques Simas misses the first two games and Andre Simmons plays his way into the rotation after missing most of fall practice. But it might be surprisingly productive by the time conference play rolls around.
9. Nebraska: Lack of an experienced quarterback and tested running backs behind Roy Helu Jr. cause them to drop a little after Quentin Castille’s dismissal. I’m hearing the Cornhuskers will feature more deep passing with Zac Lee, which might allow receivers Menelik Holt and Niles Paul a chance to go deep. The best part of their offense is their five-headed monster at tight end keyed by Mike McNeill and Dreu Young. Ricky Henry’s emergence at right guard has enabled Jacob Hickman to stay at center where he’ll anchor a developing line.
10. Texas A&M: Jerrod Johnson won the starting quarterback job this summer, but I was surprised that Ryan Tannehill will remain behind him as a backup rather than a wide receiver where he was the team’s leading receiver this season. Jeff Fuller might be one of the Big 12’s most underrated wide receivers and Jamie McCoy is a productive, pass-catching tight end. A bigger, stronger Cyrus Gray will get the start at tailback, although heralded freshman Christine Michael will push him for playing time. The biggest question remains an offensive line that struggled with injuries and produced only 89 yards rushing and 39 sacks. If they are healthy, they might be a surprise after last year’s consistent struggles.
11. Iowa State: New coordinator Tom Herman will attempt to retrofit his no-huddle attack that was so successful at Rice for the Cyclones. He has a tough, savvy quarterback in Austen Arnaud and a multi-talented running back in Alexander Robinson. Keep an eye out for Darius Reynolds who has emerged as the team’s slot receiver as Darius Darks overcomes a training-camp injury. The largest offensive line in FBS will be protecting Arnaud, but needs to do a better job of dominating at the point of attack.
12. Kansas State: Carson Coffman and Daniel Thomas were named as starters today by Bill Snyder. Coffman was effective at times last season as Josh Freeman’s backup, but remains a question mark as he takes over the starting job. The position changes of Lamark Brown and Logan Dold opened up the running back job in training camp and the 227-pound Thomas took advantage. Brandon Banks is a strong player who belies his size as a receiver and kick returner. The offensive line remains a question after a season-ending injury to Brock Unruh leaves only Nick Stringer and a cast of unknowns to share playing time.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Colorado came into the spring as the North Division's mystery team.
Sure, coach Dan Hawkins had plenty of bluster and bravado about how good he thinks his team will be this season. We can tell that by his surprising boast at the end of last season that the Buffaloes will finish 2009 with a 10-2 record.
After the Buffaloes' spring practice and spring game, I'm even more befuddled by how good the Buffaloes can be.
The injury and subsequent thumb surgery for Tyler Hansen scrambles the quarterback situation. It makes me think that Hansen's battle with Cody Hawkins for the starting job will play out during most of Colorado preseason camp. And it's interesting that Dan Hawkins has hinted it could be a similar situation as to late last season, when he alternated his son and Hansen depending on game situations.
An even more pressing concern will be the status of offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, who could be headed for Oregon and a place on Chip Kelly's staff. The loss of an offensive coordinator after spring practice could have huge ramifications as Dan Hawkins tries to get his staff ready for the upcoming season.
But the Buffaloes showed some good signs in spring practice and the spring game that might indicate they will be vastly improved from last season's 5-7 team -- even if 10-2 might be a little bit of a stretch.
- The strong running game exhibited in the spring game was the most impressive building block to carry away from the spring. The Buffaloes should be in good shape if they can keep their offensive line healthy. And as Darrell Scott told me last week, the Buffaloes might have the best rotation of running backs this side of Oklahoma. And they proved it in Saturday's spring game as Scott rushed for a game-high 90 yards, while Demetrius Sumler chipped in with 73 yards, Brian Lockridge added 55 and Rodney "Speedy" Stewart produced 52.
- Scott has started living up to his advance billing with a strong camp after missing much of last season with injuries. But he emerged this spring as the most improved player on the team, earning the Fred Casotti Award given each spring for the most improved offensive back. He even contributed a 48-yard punt during the spring game.
Hawkins was pleased with Scott's strong spring production, where he finally started showing flashes of what made him the nation's No. 1 running back recruit in the 2008 recruiting class.
"He's always been such a great kid, and I've been so impressed with how he handled all the hype and the glitz and all the glimmer," Hawkins told reporters Saturday. "And things didn't go exactly like he wanted them necessarily last year. But he never threw in a towel, he continued to show up."
If he continues that growth, it wouldn't surprise me if Scott rushes for 1,000 yards this season and is the most improved player in the Big 12.
- Colorado's offensive line should be one of its most underrated strengths. They helped the backs rush for an average of 6.2 yards per carry in the spring game. Sure it was against a defensive front that was playing a generic defense. But that yardage has to catch Hawkins' attention for what his ground game can produce.
I still think the underrated Colorado group that is keyed by tackles Bryce Givens and Nate Solder, guard Ryan Miller and center Mike Iltis can be the best in the North Division if it stays healthy. And that's not even considering a potential return by Max Tuioti-Mariner, who is recovering from knee surgery and might be ready by fall practice.
- I'm still wondering if the Buffaloes have the kind of quarterbacking to contend for the North Division title. Hawkins and Hansen provide different talents. And while in theory it sounds good to say that you'll play both of them, a team really needs to have one starting quarterback it can count on. What's that old coach's cliche about two starting quarterbacks often end up being two too many?
- Wide receiver remains a liability after the injury to Scotty McKnight earlier in camp. The Buffaloes had one experienced receiver available at the spring game and it showed.
It means that Hawkins has to hope he can convince Michigan transfer Toney Clemons to come to play for the Buffaloes as well as work heralded sophomore Markques Simas into the rotation. And it also will likely result in the immediate need for production from an underrated group of arriving wide receivers including Jarrod Darden, Terdema Ussery and Andre Simmons. There is playing time available if any of those arriving players can step up.
- The defensive line remains a big concern, even as coaches spent must of the scrimmage tinkering with a 3-4 front. But the productions of three starters won't be enough to replace the contributions of key players like George Hypolite & Co. overnight. Experienced players like junior defensive end Marquez Herrod, senior defensive tackle Taj Kaynor and sophomore nose tackle Eugene Goree will be pivotal.
- Linebacker Marcus Burton was the biggest defensive revelation this spring and he showed it in the spring game. After producing eight tackles last season, he notched that many in the spring game along with a pair of sacks. That playmaking will be critical for a Colorado defense that often has missed it. His sideline-to-sideline tackling ability will be huge if Colorado employs the 3-4 defense.
- Even with all of the flux around the Colorado team, the rest of the North Division remains just as unsettled.
For all of the excitement at Nebraska, the Cornhuskers still will be counting on a quarterback who has never started a Division I game, throwing to two new wide receivers. Kansas has the most returning offensive talent but has to rebuild its defensive core after losing three starting linebackers. And the Jayhawks have that pesky South Division crossover schedule that features games against Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech.
Defending two-time title game participant Missouri has two new coordinators and must replace the most productive quarterback, wide receiver and tight end in its history. The Tigers also lose a first-round NFL draft pick at defensive tackle, a second-round NFL draft pick at strong safety who was the glue of their defense and their top pass-rushing defensive end.
And here's one more reason to like Colorado's chances a little bit more. Their games against Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri all will be played in Boulder. That edge playing in the high altitude at Folsom Field might be enough to boost the Buffaloes into North Division title contention for the first time in Hawkins' coaching tenure there -- despite all of the spring questions.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are a few of the letters and e-mails I received over the last few days.
Dennis from Corpus Christi, Texas, writes: Tim, I enjoy your blogs very much even though I ride you a little hard at times. I still think your blogs are very informative. I've noticed that Mike Caputo, a walk-on from Omaha, has emerged as one of the top linemen in training camp for Nebraska this spring. Walk-ons have obviously been an important part of Husker football for a long time. How much better or worst can a walk-on program help by improving the talent level, player attitude and team spirit of a Big 12 team.
Tim Griffin: Obviously, there are some walk-on players that can help a program. It's as much with team chemistry as anything else because these players can help infuse a program with a different attitude. It's very rare when a true playmaker will come into a program as a walk-on, although standouts like Kevin Greene, Wes Hopkins, Daniel Sepulveda and Joel Klatt all started that way.
And no Big 12 program has embraced the concept of walk-ons quite like Nebraska. Bo Pelini sees the value in it and I think it provides the Cornhuskers with some advantages.
But I don't think a team can count on attracting a starter or two a year with walk-on players. I think most coaches count whatever contributions they get from those players as a bonus.
Sean Murphy from Omaha writes: Hey Tim, I absolutely love your blog. One question for you, why do you think Colorado will have the best offensive line in the North next season?
Tim Griffin: Sean, I just believe that the Buffaloes have been wracked by injuries in the last year or so in the trenches. If they can get guys like Ryan Miller and Mike Iltis back in the lineup, it will help them greatly. And players like Evan Eastburn and Bryce Givens should give them a boost in talent, on top of having four starters back from last season.
And it also would help the Colorado offense look good if Darrell Scott and Rodney Stewart got back to health. Both are legitimate threats to rush for 1,000 yards this season if they are healthy. I realize that's a big if, but if they run behind a retooled line, the Buffaloes have a great shot to be a dark-horse contender in the North.
I don't know if they can make 10-2 as Coach Dan Hawkins has predicted, but I do think they are definite threats to go to a bowl game and can contend for the North title if they can catch a few breaks along the way.
Jay from Kansas City writes: Hey Tim! I hate to be the guy that emails you to moan about one of your rankings but I very much think Kerry Meier is far underrated by your blog. The stats speak plenty for Kerry. The fact that he is a playable Division 1 QB as well has to bump him up, in my opinion. Keep up that good work.
Tim Griffin: I labored about where to place Meier in my rankings. He's obviously a valuable player and can becoming that much more of a receiving threat if he was able to concentrate on playing wide receiver all the time. But realistically, Meier is the second most valuable receiver on the team. Dezmon Briscoe can stretch defenses with his deep receiving skills and could become one of the best receivers in college football if he can get back in Mark Mangino's good graces. That's why I placed Meier where I did with Briscoe in front of him. Meier is still a very valuable player, although I don't think he's the most valuable receiving threat on his team.
Shane from Elm Creek, Neb., writes: Hey Tim, any ideas on other possible Heisman hopefuls that are not on the offensive side of the ball, both from the Big 12 and outside the conference? Will the Heisman voters ever change the way they vote? Will they ever stop voting just on the quarterbacks, with a running back in the race here and there. It would be nice if the award went back to its original roots, in my opinion.
Tim Griffin: I don't see a defensive player winning a Heisman Trophy award solely on his defensive merits any time soon. I think most voters think the multitude of awards solely for defensive players already rewards them. Charles Woodson's award in 1997 was as much for his kick returns as his defense. Obviously, I would think that USC safety Taylor Mays, Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes, Tennessee safety Eric Berry and Big 12 defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska or Gerald McCoy of Oklahoma could be considered as Heisman contenders with a monster season. But it will be an unusual circumstance for it to occur.
Big Steve from Floydada, Texas, writes: Tim, how much is Texas Tech going to miss Graham Harrell this season? Can they still make a challenge for the Big 12 South or make a bowl trip with Taylor Potts in charge?
Tim Griffin: There's no doubt that Harrell will be missed around Texas Tech program. His record-setting numbers attest to his abilities and it's unfair to compare Potts or anybody else in the program to his high standards. But I think people are forgetting the turnover that used to follow the Tech program in previous seasons at quarterback. Harrell was one of the few multiseason starters in the program at quarterback along with Kliff Kingsbury. Mike Leach had a repeated run of one-year starters in B.J. Symons, Sonny Cumbie and Cody Hodges over a three-year period from 2003-05. I haven't seen Potts play yet, but from everything I've heard about him, I think he's comparable with any of those previous one-season starters. He's bigger and apparently has a strong arm. So it will be interesting to see what he does when he gets the chance to start.
James Williams from Tulsa writes: I'm curious if you think R.J. Washington will play much for Oklahoma this season? The Sooners have one of the deepest defensive lines in the country, but I think he's just too talented to sit the bench.
Tim Griffin: You might need to convince Bob Stoops because I think he likely believes he can never have too much depth in the trenches. That being said, I think the Sooners could have more talent along their defensive line than any Big 12 team I can remember. And for Washington playinf, he's going to have to beat out Jeremy Beal, David King, Frank Alexander and Auston English.
I think English could really emerge as a breakthrough player -- again. People forget how dominant he was in 2007 before he was hurt late that season and last year. If he is ever healthy, I think he can be one of the best pass-rushing threats in the nation. But I also believe that Brent Venables will rotate his players, giving Washington a chance to get some snaps this season. When he gets them, he needs to make the most out of them.
Adam Bates writes: Hey, Tim, is there any chance that Missouri game is going to be on television on Saturday like it was last season. Or will any of the other Big 12 teams with spring games left this season have their games televised live?
Tim Griffin: Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but no Big 12 team will have their games televised live during the rest of spring practice from what I've heard.
Please keep the e-mails coming. I'll try to answer as many as I can next week.
Thanks again for your contributions. I appreciate them.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Happy Friday afternoon to everybody.
Here are some of the more representative e-mails and letters I received this week.
Drew from San Diego writes: Tim, love your blogs. I'm curious, who will have the best offensive and defensive lines in the North and South this coming season?
Tim Griffin: In the North Division, I would give Colorado a slight edge for having the best offensive line. The Buffaloes return four starters and also will have key players like Ryan Miller and Mike Iltis coming back from injuries that will only boost their talent.
Dan Hawkins has really been recruiting strong Colorado talent and we could see players like Bryce Givens and Evan Eastburn emerge during the spring to challenge for starting jobs. I give them a slight edge over Missouri, Kansas State and Nebraska.
On defense in the North, I really like Nebraska. Ndamukong Suh, who I think is the best defensive player in the division, should be a force at defensive tackle. And the return of Barry Turner at end might give them a player who could contribute 10-12 sacks next season if he's healthy.
In the South, I really like Texas' offensive line. The Longhorns lose only one starter in guard Cedric Dockery and should only be better by playing another season together. I'm looking for a big push from players like Tray Allen, Kyle Hix and Britt Mitchell and mammoth incoming freshman Mason Walters during the summer.
Oklahoma could be poised to have one of the great defensive lines in Big 12 history with the players they have coming back. Not only do they have all four starters back from last season, including All-American candidate Gerald McCoy, but also six of the top eight players in the two-deep roster from last season. And that doesn't even include Auston English, who was merely the pass rusher in the conference in 2007 before struggling with injuries last season.
And if I had to pick the best in the conference, give me Texas' offensive line and Oklahoma's defensive line. Just another reason why the Red River Rivalry shapes up as so interesting this season.
Steve Belch from Tulsa, Okla., writes: Tim, I read your blog often and I enjoy all of your comments and insight about players and coaches. But I also enjoy the little tidbits of information you provide about some of the non-football stuff across the conference.
With that in mind, I'm curious where your favorite stop is in the Big 12 and why do you like it the most? Also, any other particular favorites?
Tim Griffin: Actually, I hate to sound like John Madden, but my favorite stop is Texas for one main reason. I can jump in my car and be at the stadium in about an hour. I can also get back from there and into my own bed that night, which is becoming more and more important with my family the older I get.
My other favorites include Colorado (great scenery, cool backdrop for stadium), Nebraska (big-game feel/comfortable press box), Oklahoma (strong SID department really takes care of your needs) and Texas Tech (very underrated stop because of many friends in Lubbock over the years).
But let me also mention there are no bad stops along the Big 12 that I regularly visit. I can -- and do -- enjoy myself anywhere.
Luke Robertson from Des Moines writes: Hey Tim, I saw where you visited Iowa State earlier this week. What kind of chance do you see for them making a move back into bowl contention under Paul Rhoads?
Tim Griffin: Luke, it likely will be a long road back to a bowl game for the Cyclones. But I really like Rhoads' enthusiasm for the job and what appears to be his realization of all the work that will be needed over the next several years.
I think the hirings of Tom Herman and Wally Burnham arguably were among the most significant in the conference. Austen Arnaud being around for the next couple of years will help. But they've got to get much better quickly on defense, and that will be a huge challenge in the Big 12.
Robert Williams of Lake Charles, La., writes: Tim, Big 12 expatriate here stuck in the SEC's footprint, unfortunately. Thanks so much for your blogs. You give me a heaping dose of information every day.
Just curious if you think any starting quarterbacks from last year face any legitimate chances of being unseated before the start of the season. I'm particularly curious what you might think about Jerrod Johnson at my former school, Texas A&M.
Tim Griffin: Robert, thanks for the kind words. I can really only think of only one place where the incumbent isn't firmly entrenched in the Big 12 and that's at Colorado.
I think that Cody Hawkins will have to win the job again before the start of the season. Tyler Hansen showed flashes last season and Matt Ballenger has the size and the big arm that all offensive coordinators seem to love. I'm not willing to hazard a guess on who will be starting for the Buffaloes in their season opener Sept. 5 against Colorado State.
I know Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman is saying that he's giving Ryan Tannehill a shot to become his starting quarterback this spring. But I still expect Johnson to end up as the starter. I know he struggled down the stretch last season.
But Tannehill developed into a pretty salty wide receiver last season. And I don't think Tannehill will provide that much more of a boost over Johnson at quarterback to convince Sherman to move him away from his new position. In a sense, I can't see him weakening himself at another position unless the personnel boost will be a lot greater at quarterback than I think it will be.
Andy from Akron, Ohio, writes: Tim, give me your pick. Gerald McCoy or Ndamukong Suh? Suh has better stats and McCoy has better talent around him to take away the offenses focusing on him. I know my opinion, what is yours?
Tim Griffin: Andy, great question. I really like both of them for different reasons. As you said, Suh does have better statistics, but also has the ability to get them because of his team's demands for him. McCoy is also a great player who is the linchpin in the conference's best defensive line.
But as far as choice between one of them, check my daily rankings for the best players in the Big 12 over the next several weeks for my answer. Trust me, it was a tough decision.
Jackson Roach from Marfa, Texas, writes: Tim, thanks for all the coverage you provide to us about the Big 12. I couldn't live without it. I trust you are going to the Texas scrimmage on Sunday. Who are some players you are interested in watching and why?
Tim Griffin: Jackson, I wouldn't miss the scrimmage. It should be interesting.
I'm most intrigued to see John Chiles' new role at receiver. I'm hearing he's getting a lot of balls this spring because Jordan Shipley is out of action. He also would be an ideal candidate to replace Quan Cosby on the swing pass
es and jailbreak screens that Colt McCoy really likes. Those passes would really showcase Chiles' athleticism. Just a guess here, but I bet that McCoy throws to Chiles among the first several plays of the scrimmage.
I'm also curious about freshman defensive end Alex Okafor, who I've heard is really lighting it up at practices so far. The Longhorns obviously have a huge need at defensive end. Can Okafor overcome his youth to become a prime producer so quickly in his career? We'll start seeing that on Sunday.
I want to zero in on Ben Alexander at defensive tackle, particularly against the Longhorns' talented offensive front.
And I'm also very interested in watching the secondary. I think the battle for playing time among players in the unit could be as intense as any on the team. Sunday will be an early indicator of how it could play out.
Thanks again for the correspondence and enjoy the Final Four tomorrow. In my mind, it's one of the great days in all of American sports -- at least until football season rolls around!
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The Big 12 should again be loaded in 2009. And the spring will feature several key positional battles and holes to fill that will go a long way in determining whether Oklahoma can make history and claim a fourth-straight championship this season.
Here a look at each team and three major items to watch in spring practice.
Spring practice begins: March 31
Spring game: April 25
What to watch:
- The health of the team: The Buffaloes' players lost a combined total of 121 games to due to illness or injury last season. Some players like tight end Riar Geer, guards Devin Head, Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner and Mike Iltis, linebacker Jon Major and cornerback Jalil Brown will be limited during the spring because of past injuries. But others like tackle Ryan Miller, tailback Rodney Stewart and cornerback Benjamin Burney should be good to go throughout the spring. Coach Dan Hawkins won't push things, but it will be good to have as many regulars as possible practicing again.
- The return of Darrell Scott: The conference's most publicized running back recruit of 2008 never could get untracked, rushing for disappointing totals of 343 yards and 3.9 yards per carry last season. The spring will give him a chance to show why he was one of the nation's top recruits in the Class of 2008.
- Settle the kicking game: After Colorado kickers combined to shank 11 of 17 attempts last season, it might be the last chance for Aric Goodman or Jameson Davis to show what they can do after their struggles last season and the arrival of heralded recruit Zach Grossnickle in the fall.
Iowa State Cyclones
Spring practice begins: March 24
Spring game: April 18
What to watch:
- Paul Rhoads' early assimilation: After his hiring last Dec. 23, Rhoads has concentrated on recruiting and building a coaching staff. Being able to work on the field with his team will likely be a relief for him after such a hectic start.
- Help in the secondary: The Cyclones lose starters Chris Singleton and Brandon Hunley from a unit that ranked in the bottom 10 nationally in pass efficiency defense and pass defense. Rhoads' specialty is defense, but he'll have his work cut out with his new unit.
- Finding another starter at wide receiver: Darius Darks is back after an impressive freshman season, but Rhoads needs to find a replacement for 2008 leading receiver R.J. Sumrall. Look for Sedrick Johnson, Marquis Hamilton and Houston Jones all to have their chances at the starting unit during the spring.
Spring practice begins: March 9
Spring game: April 11
What to watch:
- Finding starters at linebackers: The Jayhawks must completely rebuild their linebacking corps as James Holt, Mike Rivera and Joe Mortensen all are gone from last season. Arist Wright and Dakota Lewis are in the mix because of their experience. A bigger wild card could be converted running back Angus Quigley, who turned heads with his defensive instincts and tackling in work before the Jayhawks' bowl game last season.
- Get a consistent kick returner: The mystifying struggles of Marcus Herford last season resulted in a drop of more than 8 yards per kick return as the Jayhawks fell from seventh in 2007 to 118th nationally last season. Dezmon Briscoe showed flashes of being a productive returner late in the season, but more work from different players will be needed in the spring to shore up the area.
- Rebuild the center of the offensive line: Losing starting guards Chet Hartley and Adrian Mayes along with center Ryan Cantrell will be the biggest offensive concern this spring for the Jayhawks. Carl Wilson and Sal Kapra should get a long look at guard and Brad Thorson will given the first shot at center.
Spring practice begins: April 6
Spring game: May 2
What to watch:
- Bill Snyder's return to coaching: The wily Snyder will be facing the biggest challenge of his professional career after returning after a three-year coaching sabbatical. The Wildcats aren't as bad as they were in 1989 when Snyder originally took over, but the Big 12 is a much tougher than the Big Eight was in those days. And it will test the patience and legendary work ethic of Snyder to get the Wildcats back into Big 12 title contention in the immediate future.
- The quarterback battle: New offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig is one of the conference's most notable hirings after his strong recent work at Utah. Ludwig will be challenged as he looks at Carson Coffman or junior-college transfer Daniel Thomas to replace Josh Freeman as his starting quarterback.
- Looking for a defensive turnaround: The Wildcats were woeful last season, ranking among the bottom 10 teams nationally in rushing defense, scoring defense and total defense and 106th nationally in pass defense. It will likely try the patience of new coordinator Chris Cosh, who will be looking for replacements along the defensive front for Brandon Balkcom and Ian Campbell. One potential playmaker could be Jeff Fitzgerald, who started 13 games for Virginia in 2007.
Spring practice begins: March 10
Spring game: April 18
What to watch:
- The changing of the guard on offense -- and then some: Gone are all-time greats like Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin and Chase Coffman, along with productive receivers Tommy Saunders and Earl Goldsmith. Offensive coordinator Dave Christensen has left for the Wyoming coaching job, meaning that Dave Yost takes over as the coordinator along with Blaine Gabbert at quarterback, Andrew Jones at tight end and Jerrell Jackson as the featured receiver. Collectively, it will be the largest transformation in Gary Pinkel's coaching tenure at Missouri.
- Finding a pass rush: Three starters are gone along the defensive front as productive starters Stryker Sulak, Tommy Chavis and Ziggy Hood all are gone from last year. Look for redshirt defensive end Aldon Smith to get in the fight for playing time immediately, along with holdover Brian Coulter at defensive end if he can recover quickly from labrum surgery. Terrell Resonno and Dominique Hamilton will get a long look at defensive tackle before the arrival of heralded "tight end" Sheldon Richardson in the summer.
- Secondary assistance: The Tigers need help after losing starting safeties Justin Garrett and William Moore and cornerback Tru Vaughns from last year's team. Considering all of the prolific offenses in the Big 12, this will capture much of defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus' attention as newcomers like safety Jarrell Harrison and cornerback Robert Steeples will show what they can do.
Spring practice begins: March 21
Spring game: April 18
What to watch:
- The battle for quarterback: One of the nation's most intriguing quarterback battles will play out during the spring. Incoming freshman Cody Green arrived in college early intent to battle for the starting job and become the first four-year starting quarterback for the Cornhuskers since Eric Crouch. Holdovers Patrick Witt, Zac Lee and redshirt freshman Kody Spanos all are in the hunt to replace Joe Ganz. Witt has more experience, but it's not much more than any other contender. It should be interesting to see how offensive coordinator Shawn Watson handles the competition.
- Find starters at wide receiver: The Cornhuskers lose starters Nate Swift and Todd Peterson who combined for 125 receptions last season as the team's two major receiving threats. Menelik Holt has more experience than any other returner, although coaches are salivating about the chance to work with Antonio Bell, a 2008 recruit who wasn't on the team last season while he got his grades in order.
- Rebuild the right side of the offensive line: Powerful blockers Matt Slauson at guard and tackle Lydon Murtha both are gone from last season, leaving a huge void for offensive line coach Barney Cotton to fill. Marcel Jones and D.J. Jones should get the first crack at the starting jobs during the spring.
Spring practice begins: March 3
Spring game: April 4
What to watch:
- Competition at offensive tackle: The Bears will be looking for two new starting tackles to replace Don Gay and Jason Smith along the offensive line. Sophomore Joe Korbel figures to get a look at one of the positions, but beyond him it's anybody's guess who will replace the talented pair that combined for 73 career starts.
- New starters on the left side of the defensive line: Starting defensive end Leon Freeman and defensive tackle Vincent Rhodes both will be gone after their eligibility expired. The only holes in Baylor's front seven will be found there as Jameon Hardeman and Zac Scotton will challenge at defensive end and Sam Sledge at defensive tackle.
- Better production in their pass defense: The Bears struggled mightily last season and could never seem to produce big plays when they needed them, ranking 103rd in pass defense, 84th in sacks and 109th in tackles for losses. Another spring learning the concepts of defensive coordinator Brian Norwood should benefit them and perhaps serve as a catalyst for a bowl berth with significant improvement.
Spring practice begins: March 3
Spring game: April 11
What to watch:
- Help at wide receiver: After losing Juaquin Iglesias, Quentin Chaney and Manuel Johnson from last season's BCS title-game runner-up, the Sooners desperately need some players to emerge this spring. Ryan Broyles assumes the No. 1 position, although junior college receiver Cameron Kenney will help, along with Brandon Caleb from last season's two-deep roster. It will also be noteworthy to watch the work of running back Mossis Madu, who will receive some work at slot receiver.
- Competition in the offensive line: Trent Williams is the only returning starter from last season for a talented veteran group that will lose four starters who combined for 149 starts during their college career. The Sooners aren't devoid of talent, but it's just untested. It means they need a big lift this spring from players like tackle Cory Brandon, guards Brian Simmons and Alex Williams and center Jason Hannan.
- New look at safety: Nic Harris and Lendy Holmes seemingly had been at Oklahoma since
the days of Brian Bosworth. That's a little bit of an exaggeration, but the Sooner duo combined for 83 starts and provided steady, efficient defense throughout their careers. Quinton Carter and Desmond Jackson appear poised to take over for them, although it will be impossible for the Sooners to match their experience.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Spring practice begins: March 9
Spring game: April 18
What to watch:
- Bill Young's work: Oklahoma State has the offense to challenge for the Big 12 championship. But the success of the season ultimately will be determined by the defense generated by new defensive coordinator Bill Young. The Cowboys return six starters but must improve drastically after last season's late collapse that saw them blistered for 56, 61 and 42 points among their final three games of the season.
- Help at safety and defensive tackle: The Cowboys lose starters Tonga Tea and Jeray Chatham at tackle and starting safeties Quinton Moore and Ricky Price. Those key positions in the heart of Oklahoma State's defense will command much of Young's attention. He's particularly excited about the play of Swanson Miller and Shane Jarka and Johnny Thomas at safety. But other players need to step up when they get their chance.
- Develop depth at wide receiver: Dez Bryant accounted for a larger percentage of completions than any other wide receiver in the Big 12. His absence this spring as he recovers from knee surgery will enable others to have a chance to play and become acclimated with the first-string offense. The Cowboys' depth at the position is aggravated after Bo Bowling was suspended after his arrest earlier this week. It will provide players like Hubert Anyiam, Josh Cooper and DeMarcus Conner an opportunity to work with Zac Robinson while Bryant and Bowling are gone.
Spring practice begins: Feb. 27
Spring game: April 5
What to watch:
- Build consistency in the running game: The Longhorns ranked 41st nationally in rushing last season -- their worst national ranking since 2002 -- and relied on Colt McCoy as their primary running threat. That dangerous strategy has to change this season if the Longhorns have any legitimate national title contenders. Key tasks during the spring will be to build cohesion in an offensive line that loses only starter Cedric Dockery from last season and additional work for Fozzy Whittaker, who struggled with injuries most of his freshman season last year.
- Rebuild the defensive front: The Longhorns had the nation's most productive pass rush, leading the country with an average of 3.62 sacks per game last season. It will be a challenge to replace key players like Brian Orakpo, Roy Miller and Henry Melton. But defensive coordinator Will Muschamp liked what he saw in limited playing time for players like Sam Acho, Russell Carter, Ben Alexander, Michael Wilcoxson, Kheeston Randall and Eddie Jones. Those players, along with possibly Sergio Kindle getting more playing time at defensive end, will be key to Texas' defensive hopes this season. And incoming freshmen Dominique Jones, Alex Okafor and Kyle Kriegel all arrived at college early to challenge for immediate playing time.
- Build confidence with young receivers: Leading receiver Quan Cosby graduated and Jordan Shipley will miss spring work after recovering from shoulder surgery. It will give McCoy a chance to build confidence in some of the younger members of his receiving corps, most notably Brandon Collins, Dan Buckner, Malcolm Williams and James Kirkendoll.
Spring practice begins: March 26
Spring game: April 18
Spring practice ends: April 24
What to watch:
- Additional development of young talent: The Aggies were one of the nation's youngest teams last season as 10 true freshmen combined to see action in 90 games and start in 41 of them. The spring will provide an additional opportunity for those young players and others on the roster to gain much-needed experience.
- Improvement of the pass rush: The biggest hole on defense for the Aggies will be at defensive end where Michael Bennett, Amos Gbunblee and Cyril Obiozor accounted for most of the playing time last season from a group that ranked 11th in the Big 12 and 100th nationally in sacks. Paul Freeney is poised to assume one of the starting positions there. The other side looks like a wide-open battle that will play out throughout the spring and into summer camp.
- Find a running back: Coach Mike Sherman will be looking at Keondra Smith, Cyrus Gray and Bradley Stephens for the role as the Aggies' featured running back -- for a few weeks anyway. Whoever wins that battle may celebrate a kind of pyrrhic victory as heralded running back Christine Michael arrives for fall camp as the Aggies' likely featured back. But Sherman likely will be working on building depth in the spring.
Spring practice begins: March 25
Spring game: April 18
Spring practice ends: April 20
What to watch:
- Any passing game regression?: Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree rewrote the national record book as one of the most prolific pass-and-catch
combinations in NCAA history. But yet, the Red Raiders always have always had a potent passing attack with Mike Leach in charge. It will be interesting to see Taylor Potts' development at quarterback and the growth of wide receivers like Detron Lewis, Lyle Leong, Edward Britton, Rashad Hawk and Tramain Swindall as they try to fill those big shoes for the Red Raiders.
- Find a pass-rushing threat: Defensive end Brandon Williams is turning pro after leading the Big 12 with a school-record 12 sacks last season. McKinner Dixon was a big performer in spot duty last season and could be ready to emerge, as is junior-college transfer Daniel Howard.
- Rebuild the left side of the offensive line: Rylan Reed and Louis Vasquez were the two most decorated linemen in Texas Tech history during their careers. The productive duo will be missed, along with starting center Stephen Hamby. Chris Olson at left tackle and Lonnie Edwards at left guard aren't nearly as big or experienced as Reed and Vasquez. Growth during the spring for the unit will be important as the Red Raiders prepare for a difficult September schedule.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Colorado coach Dan Hawkins is brimming with his confidence about his team for next season.
Despite the Buffaloes' 2008 struggles that resulted in a 5-7 season and four losses in their final five games, Hawkins didn't hesitate to predict his team would win "10 games with no excuses" in the upcoming season at the team's post-season banquet.
To get there, Hawkins will have to make a late recruiting charge much like last season, when he beat Texas for running back Darrell Scott as the most heralded recruit of his tenure.
An increase in finding depth and talent will be important after the Buffaloes suffered 10 season-ending injuries, lost three players to academic ineligibility and fielded the conference's youngest team in 2008. The team's final two-deep roster featured 27 freshmen or sophomores.
Hawkins' most pressing concern will be retooling a defensive front that loses starting defensive end Maurice Lucas, defensive tackle George Hypolite and nose tackle Brandon Nicolas. Behind them are three freshmen and a sophomore in the two-deep roster that is talented but lacks experience.
Starting outside linebacker Brad Jones and free safety Ryan Walters are Colorado's only personnel losses among the starting back seven. But additional depth at the position is needed as projected starting linebackers Jeff Smart and Shaun Mohler, who both will seniors in 2009.
The Buffaloes desperately need depth in their offensive line. Many of their offensive problems last season stemmed from early season-ending injuries that required surgery for tackle Ryan Miller and guards Mike Iltis and Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner. Their losses helped explain why the Buffaloes ranked 86th nationally in rushing, 100th in scoring in 102nd in sacks allowed.
After burning the redshirt of freshman quarterback Tyler Hansen late in the season, the Buffaloes should have healthy competition for the starting job with Cody Hawkins. An offensive is mandatory after Colorado produced just one 200-yard rushing game and was the only Big 12 team without a 300-yard passing game last season.
Considering the other personnel losses across the North Division, the Buffaloes could bounce back into title contention like their coach has predicted if they can find some more players and stay healthy.
But that could be a big if.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman said that he "feels terrible" about the play in which Colorado freshman tailback Rodney "Speedy" Stewart suffered a fractured right fibula last Saturday.
Stewart was injured on a horse-collar tackle by Aggies linebacker Von Miller, who was flagged on the play for a penalty in Texas A&M's 24-17 victory over the Buffaloes.
"I've voted on this in the National Football League, and we really grabbed it (rule prohibiting horse-collar tackles) because players were breaking their legs," said Sherman, who formerly coached the Green Bay Packers. "I feel terrible that young man broke his leg with a horse-collar tackle."
Colorado coach Dan Hawkins said that Stewart will be out for the rest of the regular season with a projected recovery period of four to six weeks. In his first eight games, Stewart was on a pace to break the Colorado freshman rushing record and was fourth in the conference in rushing with an average of 75.4 yards per game.
Stewart becomes the eighth Colorado player to be lost with a season-ending injury this season. Others include cornerback Benjamin Burney (knee), defensive end Drew Hudgins (knee), guard Mike Iltis (knee), linebacker Jon Major (knee), tackle Ryan Miller (broken fibula), guard Maxwell Tuioti-Maxwell (knee) and tight end Luke Walters (leg).
"That's part of football, part of life," Hawkins said. "It's a very sad deal that Speedy got hurt. We've had other guys step up and step in. It's kind of been our lot this year. It's like we're getting our Ph.D. in dealing with adversity."
Stewart's injury will mean that freshman running back Darrell Scott will receive more playing time. Scott told reporters after the Buffaloes' 24-17 loss that he's ready for more work.
Scott turned an ankle in the Texas A&M game, but still showed flashes of the potential that made him one of the most heralded running backs in the nation before coming to college. Scott raced for a 42-yard run against Texas A&M, Colorado's longest play from scrimmage this season.
"I'll just have to tough it out and try to make plays," Scott told the Denver Post. "I'll do what I can."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Oklahoma is going to have one of the interesting teams in the country this season. The Sooners' national reputation has been besmirched over the last couple of years with upset losses to Boise State and West Virginia in the last two Fiesta Bowls.
And while those defeats might have tempered some expectations for this coming team, Oklahoma S Nic Harris had an interesting quote for the Tulsa World's Dave Sittler about how the Sooners are reacting.
"In the face of adversity," Harris told Sittler, "some men break and others break records."
The Sooners will have the opportunity to do both. Another disappointing finish would continue their recent slide. Or they could turn things around and claim their eighth national championship since 1950.
That's why the Sooners will be one of the key stories to follow this season in the Big 12.
There will be a lot of morning links to follow along the way and we'll be right there with them. Here's a start with some of the stories that have got people talking across the Big 12.
- Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops explains in an Oklahoman video clip why he's decided to close off all preseason scrimmages. I think the biggest reason is because he doesn't want those nasty Internet spies to know that QB Sam Bradford's learning of the team's new no-huddle offense is still a work in progress.
- New Texas A&M defensive coordinator Joe Kines has shaken up his secondary, with Jordan Pugh moving to cornerback and Jordan Peterson to safety. The Aggies have five different defensive backs who have combined for 91 career starts. That experience better translate to increased production, or it could be a long season for the Aggies.
- Texas Tech RB Shannon Woods appears to have climbed out of coach Mike Leach's doghouse after missing his final four games last season, including a suspension in the Gator Bowl. "He's worked ridiculously hard in the offseason, then had a good spring," Leach told reporters earlier this week. "My suspicion is he's going to be pretty good, if I were to guess right now, based on the material of several months." Woods' return would make Tech's ridiculously talented offense that much better.
- Birmingham News columnist Kevin Scarbinsky isn't buying that former Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione is suited for a new radio gig, as has been rumored for the last week or so. "With his flat Midwestern accent and nasal whine, Franchione sounds like Ferris Bueller's teacher on helium," Scarbinsky wrote. Ouch!
- Kansas State coach Ron Prince can start honing in on his plans for the opener. North Texas coach Todd Dodge announced Wednesday that sophomore QB Giovanni Vizza will be starting in the Aug. 30 game in Manhattan.
- Houston Chronicle Texas A&M beat writer Terrance Harris had an interesting Q&A with A&M starting QB Stephen McGee. Among other topics, McGee talks about coach Mike Sherman's new offense, his competition with backup QB Jerrod Johnson and his lingering feelings about Franchione's dismissal.
- Peter Bean of Burnt Orange Nation had a detailed report and list of items he noticed at Texas' open practice last night. Of particular note was how the Texas offense looked when backup QBs John Chiles and Sherrod Harris were at controls. Aren't open practices wonderful to provide a glimpse of how players have progressed over the summer? Even if the practices are more vanilla than something that Dreyer's would churn out.
- Tom Dienhart of Rivals.com had an interesting column earlier this week about why Leach deserves a contract extension as Texas Tech struggles to balance its athletic books. Seth Jungmann of Double T Nation retorts, saying that veteran former head basketball coaches Bob Knight and former baseball coach Larry Hays both raise more money for the school than their salaries. Keep an eye on Leach's contract talks. It will be interesting to see if it festers over the upcoming season.
- Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch profiles Missouri TE Chase Coffman, who is ready to emerge as the Tigers' top player at his position after sharing time with Martin Rucker throughout his career. If there was such a thing as a Big 12 fantasy football league, I'd put Coffman among my top receivers. I think he's ready to develop into a 75-reception player this season.
- Want to feel like you're actually at Missouri's practices? Check out Dave Matter of the Columbia Tribune's Behind the Stripes blog. His reports almost make you feel the heat and hear the crash of the pads. Of particular note are his daily podcasts with Missouri coach Gary Pinkel.
- Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins is ahead in Time Magazine's list of Best and Worst Sports Executives of 2008. Signing Mark Mangino and Bill Self to contract extensions apparently have Jayhawk fans repeatedly willing to click their mouses in his support.
- The Waco Tribune-Herald's Brice Cherry didn't have a favorable report on Baylor's experimentation with wearing yellow Day-Glo uniform pants. Cherry said it looks like something Brett Favre wore in another life. Myself, I can't imagine the Bears decked out in anything but their traditional green-and-gold color scheme in anything.
- Colorado's roster is taking a hit in the early days of practice. Senior G Erick Faatagi's college career is over before it started because of academic ineligibility and redshirt freshman G Mike Iltis suffered a knee injury that will keep him idled for eight weeks.
- Colorado coach Dan Hawkins notices everything at practice. The Boulder Camera's Kyle Ringo reports that junior college transfer LB Shaun Mohler walked through the gates to the Buffaloes' practice field with his helmet off. Hawkins made him leave and return by walking through the gate with his helmet on.
- Iowa State coach Gene Chizik has indefinitely suspended freshman WR Wallace Franklin from the team after two earlier arrests this spring. Franklin's loss shouldn't be huge as he produced only two catches last season.
- Kansas City Star Big 12 reporter Blair Kerkhoff is breaking down his top 25 with a different team released each day on the Star's Vlog. Oklahoma State was his No. 25 pick. I love the idea, although I'm getting a "Truman Show" kind of feeling following Kerkhoff around to different places in his house and office as he makes his reports.
- Massive 300-pound Nebraska NT Ndamukong Suh doesn't mind if his team is flying under the radar in most preseason polls.
- Nebraska S Larry Asante tells Omaha World-Herald reporter Rich Kapuist that he's aiming to break the NCAA single-season interception record of 14. And Asante also says the Cornhuskers can deliver 40-plus turnovers this season, after producing a Big 12-low 11 last year. Ah, the confidence of August.
- John Hoover of the Tulsa World delved into Oklahoma DE Auston English's background. He learned that English is the son of Church of Christ missionaries who lived for a time in Ireland and Gainesville, Fla., before settling in tiny Canadian, Texas.