Big 12: Mike Ragone

You saw my all-interview team last week, but considering I'm not on campus every day during the season, I only spend a finite amount of time around players. The local media gets a whole lot more time, and as such, has their own set of top interviews across the league.

I enlisted their help to nominate the players who helped readers like you learn more about the game and players they love. Here's what they had to say:

David Ash, QB, Texas: He doesn't mind mixing it up with reporters in a playful manner and offers short and often very blunt answers that are very telling. Sharp guy. And he's always good for at least one Scripture passage. -- Kirk Bohls, Austin American-Statesman

Lanear Sampson, WR, Baylor: Thoughtful interviewee, really listens to the question. Interested in the media so he’s using interview sessions as a training ground. Very well spoken and always available without being a pest about it. -- John Morris, Baylor

R.J. Washington, DL, Oklahoma: Tells it straight, good storyteller, always funny, always brought it to the interview room, whether things were good or bad. -- Jake Trotter, ESPN SoonerNation

Chris Harper, WR, Kansas State: By far the best quote on the team. He was insightful, confident and never afraid to speak his mind. It will be a shame for everyone on the K-State beat to lose him to the NFL. -- Kellis Robinett, Kansas City Star

Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor: Go-to guy for interviews for most people around here because you can always get good sound bites from him. Playful-type interview subject, always a smile in his voice. -- John Morris, Baylor

Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas: The future high NFL draft pick was far and away the most colorful Longhorn to speak with the media week in and week out. Not so much for his Manny Diaz-like analogies or funny outtakes on different aspects of the team/game. But because of his brutal honesty. No moment speaks more to that than when he angered Texas fans by speaking his mind about the loud (or lack there of) the fan base is during home games. "I like without a doubt playing on the road better than playing at home," Vaccaro said. "It's way louder and gets me way [more excited]. No offense to our fans, but [DKR] is not loud." Quotes like that were few and far between in 2012 for the Longhorns. -- William Wilkerson, ESPN HornsNation

Jeff Woody, RB, Iowa State: Articulate, and can talk about nearly any topic. Funny, but not showy. -- Andrew Logue, Des Moines Register

Gabe Ikard, OL, Oklahoma: Always has a good sense of the pulse of the team. Insightful when discussing his teammates. Pre-med, very bright. -- Jake Trotter, ESPN SoonerNation

Jeremiah George, LB, Iowa State: He is the only player I've ever seen who showed up to an interview with opening remarks like a coach at a press conference. He is honest about his play and that of his team. Also, he is plugged in with his teammates and can tell you exactly why someone is playing better. -- Bobby La Gesse, Ames Tribune

Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor: Youthful enthusiasm shows through in interviews. Never shies away from interview requests. Not completely polished but will get plenty of opportunities over the next couple of years. -- John Morris, Baylor

Shawne Alston, RB, West Virginia: It's a shame his thigh bruise kept him out of action (and out of the interview room) for much of the season, because Alston was always honest and direct in answering questions. He was at his best when describing his injury, the painful rehab process (including multiple hospital visits where he went under general anesthesia to have blood drained from the bruise) and the reaction from fans who questioned his toughness. -- Patrick Southern, Blue and Gold News

Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State: No one had to deal with the media more, but Klein handled the attention of a Heisman campaign exceptionally well. He never turned down an interview, even when others gave him permission to do so, and always provided insight into his life story and K-State's successful season. I mean, is there an anecdote about his life we don't know? -- Kellis Robinett, Kansas City Star

Austin Zouzalik, WR, Texas Tech: The Red Raiders’ receiver-return man isn’t loud or gregarious, but he puts a lot of thought into what he says and doesn’t stick to just the safe answers. With a dry humor, he’ll share funny anecdotes about his roommates who happen to be teammates. He gave some good insight into how things changed when Tommy Tuberville replaced Mike Leach. And he was one of the players brave enough to stick up for former teammate Adam James, a pariah to a lot of Red Raiders fans after Leach was fired. -- Don Williams, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

Travis Tannahill, TE, Kansas State: Whether you wanted to talk about hunting or football, Tannahill was there for the media. He was capable of breaking down every aspect of K-State's offense, and always had a knack for putting wins and losses into perspective. -- Kellis Robinett, Kansas City Star

Mike Ragone, TE, Kansas: He was an automatic request by almost every local media member every week and was routinely the last guy in the media room on player availability day. Colorful character from New Jersey with a classic accent and a sinister laugh, Ragone always filled his interviews with great stories and a clear appreciation for his chance to play football and love of KU. -- Matt Tait, Lawrence Journal-World

Alex Torres, WR, Texas Tech: Because he came late to the Red Raiders after spending time at Air Force Academy Prep School, Torres was a 25-year-old senior in 2012 and his maturity and comfort level show through in interviews. After he caught the winning touchdown pass to beat TCU in triple overtime, Torres gave an interesting chalk-talk explanation for why the play worked. He’d run the same route stem toward the same linebacker all afternoon -- then threw in a wrinkle on the decisive play that got him open. Sharing that sort of thing helps fans and media understand what they didn’t see in real time, no matter how closely they looked. -- Don Williams, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

Terrance Bullitt, LB, Texas Tech: Serious shoulder injuries have limited Bullitt for two years and led to two surgeries. The fact he’s played in 22 games during that time shows how much the game means to him. It also comes through with the media. Bullitt will defend his teammates when he feels criticism is unwarranted or overdone, but takes ownership for shortcomings when he sees them. He was a junior in 2012, but Bullitt's one of those guys who seemed to carry himself like a leader even when he was young. -- Don Williams, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: Open, honest, witty and comfortable in the spotlight. He'll do very well under the NFL media glare at the next level. -- Jimmy Burch, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Austin Stewart, S, Texas Tech: Stewart made headlines last April when he accidentally smacked his scooter into a bus at an intersection on the Tech campus. Luckily, he came away uninjured. The mishap certainly did nothing to impair Stewart’s speech, which is fast and unfiltered. As loquacious a Red Raider as you’ll find, Stewart said the bus accident felt “like I got blindsided by [Brian] Urlacher.” Discussing a two-tiered, two-color hairstyle he sported this fall, Stewart said that “going to California (for JUCO ball) helped.” Too bad he played in only four games in 2012, because he’s a sound bite waiting to happen. -- Don Williams, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

Nick Florence, QB, Baylor: Thoughtful and well-spoken. A solid citizen, all the way around. -- Jimmy Burch, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Best and worst of 2012: Kansas

December, 28, 2012
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Time to continue our series on the best and worst moments of 2012 for each team in the Big 12. Next up: Kansas.

Worst moment: Oh, So Close

There's a ton of candidates here in Charlie Weis' first season. Was it losing to Rice on the last-second field goal in the second game, becoming the first Big 12 team since the league's birth to lose to the Owls? Blowing a double-digit lead in a loss to BCS-bound Northern Illinois? What about rallying from a double-digit deficit to force overtime in Lubbock against Texas Tech, only to lose?

Nope, I'm going with the one conference game KU absolutely should have won: Texas. The Jayhawks hosted the Longhorns and David Ash played one of his worst games of the year, being benched after completing just 8-of-16 passes for 63 yards and a pair of interceptions. Case McCoy stepped in and the Longhorns used the ground game to tie the game at 14, but with 2:28 to play, Nick Prolago kicked what looked like a game-winning field goal. McCoy had other ideas. He hit Mike Davis for a 39-yard bomb and won the game in the final seconds with a one-yard touchdown pass to TE D.J. Grant. Just like he did against A&M in 2011, McCoy rescued the Longhorns on the road, but in the process, provided the most painful moment of KU's season in a year full of them, helping extend the Jayhawks' Big 12 losing streak to 21 games, where it will sit until 2013.

Best moment: Tasting Victory

There's really only one candidate here, even if it's a small one. KU hasn't done a lot of winning lately, but it got to taste victory in its season opener. Running backs Anthony Pierson and Taylor Cox combined for 245 yards and three touchdowns in the 31-17 season-opening win against South Dakota State. Dayne Crist even hit former Notre Dame teammate Mike Ragone for a touchdown. It was a bit of a shaky start for Crist, who completed just 17-of-36 passes for 169 yards, but there was still plenty of hope that he'd pick it up as his chemistry with his receivers grew.

More best and worst of 2012:

Lunch links: Horns' game-winning TD

October, 1, 2012
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I think I've reached a point in my life where I can tell the difference between nougat and cookie.
It's been 356 days since Kansas last won a football game.

Finally, the Jayhawks will experience a happy locker room after beating South Dakota State, 31-17.

KU jumped on top, 24-7, entering the fourth quarter. The Jayhawks gave up 10 points to open the quarter before icing the game with an eight-play, 75-yard drive.

It doesn't matter that you're playing an FCS team. Tonight was about getting back in the win column for Kansas and trying to build from last year's two-win disaster.

Kansas has more new faces on the field than anybody in the Big 12, and tonight was about finding out what those guys can do. Dayne Crist wasn't breaking any records, but he completed 17 of 36 passes for 169 yards, a touchdown and an interception on a jump ball. His lone touchdown? A 2-yarder to another fresh face: his former teammate at Notre Dame, tight end Mike Ragone.

Even through a combined five wins the past two years, Kansas has had strong running backs, and proved it again tonight. Two running backs went over 100 yards, led by starter Tony Pierson's 124 yards and two scores on 20 carries.

As for the defense? You have to be concerned anytime you give up a 99-yard touchdown run like Kansas did tonight. South Dakota State's Zach Zenner (23 carries, 183 yards, TD) is far from a speedster, but he managed to outrun KU's entire defense. That's not pretty.

The Jayhawks did force five turnovers compared to just two of their own. Even if it's South Dakota State, that's a good thing. KU forced just 18 turnovers in 12 games last season. That's pretty good progress.

KU didn't have a 100-yard receiver, but Kale Pick led the unit with 81 yards on five catches.

Plenty still to work on for the Jayhawks, but finally, they can remember what it feels like to win. Tonight could be the first step to experiencing that sensation in conference play later this fall.

Fresh faces: Kansas Jayhawks

August, 20, 2012
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Today we continue our look across the league at few players from each team who had low profiles last year, but you'd better get to know before 2012. They just might be household names by season's end.

More fresh faces:

Next up: Kansas.

Josh Williams, DE: Williams transferred to Kansas from Nebraska this spring and is already making a big impact on the defensive line, where the Jayhawks badly need reinforcements. He started two games for the Huskers last season and made 15 tackles, as well as blocking a kick. The 6-foot-4, 255-pounder has coach Charlie Weis and defensive coordinator Dave Campo raving, and Williams has already earned a starting spot entering the season. He's a fifth-year senior who just may find his way into the NFL with a big year in 2012 after starting over in Lawrence.

Kale Pick, WR: Quarterback Dayne Crist needs weapons in the passing game, and Pick's proving to be one of the best. Coaches pegged Pick as the player who's been most impressive during fall camp, and he could be a big beneficiary of some much more solid play at quarterback with Crist in town. Pick is an instinctive former quarterback who knows both ends of the passing game, and came on strong late last season. He caught six balls against Kansas State, and 15 of his 34 catches came in the final four games. The 6-1, 205-pound senior could make good on much of his promise this fall.

Mike Ragone, TE: Ragone's another player who could be a big beneficiary in the Notre Dame exodus. Weis and Crist got all the headlines this offseason, but Ragone made his way to Lawrence, too, along with Anthony McDonald, who will likely start at middle linebacker. Knee injuries limited Ragone's production in South Bend, but if he can stay healthy this year, there's plenty of room for him to haul in passes in KU's offense. He was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, and chose to transfer to Kansas. Look for the 6-4, 255-pounder to make it count. He's plenty confident, but he says he's grown and learned from having to deal with the knee trouble. He's also got the added advantage of knowing Weis' offense, as Crist does, and knowing what to expect once the season begins.
Charlie Weis' struggles during his five-year tenure at Notre Dame are well-documented. Entering his first season at Kansas with a few familiar faces, Weis is looking to learn from those mistakes and bring a winning edge to a program coming off a two-win campaign in 2011.

The two biggest lessons he learned with the Irish? College kids ain't easy, and building a cohesive coaching staff is essential.

From the Hutchinson News' Lucas Fahrer:
"I learned early on at Notre Dame that an 18-year-old kid is not like a 23-year-old young man," Weis said Thursday during a sit-down before his speaking engagement at Prairie Dunes Country Club. "Somebody coming is not like somebody going out. They're not the same. You have to have a clear understanding of how to deal with a freshman that was a superstar in his high school and how to coach him and psychologically deal with him versus the more mature guy who's already gone through the beatdown for three or four or five years and can handle just about anything you throw at them."

Weis didn't waste time looking for silver linings from a roster that won just two games. Hence, the 10 offseason transfers. But he brought in six new players --including the Notre Dame trio of Dayne Crist, Anthony McDonald and Mike Ragone -- to show the younger guys the right way to handle themselves once they enter the latter stages of their college careers.

As for that other lesson, the coaching chemistry?
"When I went to Notre Dame, I was coming from 15 years in the NFL, and other than two coaches who I knew that were coaching with the (Miami) Dolphins and had been let go ... I didn't know any of the guys I was hiring," Weis said. "I was hiring guys based off (their) reputation not from personal knowledge of the coaching staff. I hired a bunch of really good coaches but the chemistry was always crummy. The only one I have to blame for that is me."

Weis was able to take a much more hands-on approach in forming his new staff, as he wasn't balancing coaching the Patriots' offense to another Super Bowl. In any event, as Fahrer notes, it will take much more than chemistry to solve the issues that plagued Lawrence, Kan., last season. Weis knows that now, and seeing him move away from the end of his Irish tenure should make for an interesting 2012 season at Kansas.

Kansas makes it official: Six FBS transfers

April, 18, 2012
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Kansas added another former Golden Domer to its 2012 squad this week. It officially announced tight end Mike Ragone's plans to transfer to KU and join his former coach, Charlie Weis, at his new home.

Like quarterback and fellow Notre Dame transfer Dayne Crist, Ragone has completed his undergraduate degree at Notre Dame and will be immediately eligible.

Ragone's career has been plagued by knee injuries, but he came to Notre Dame as the nation's No. 2 tight end and the nation's No. 55 overall prospect.

He'll be counted on to produce a solid replacement for Tim Biere, who graduated from KU after last season.

Ragone had 11 catches for 109 yards in 37 games over five seasons at Notre Dame.

The New Jersey native missed the entire 2008 season and 10 games of the 2011 season with knee injuries.

Ragone's move makes it six transfers from FBS schools since Weis took over at Kansas. KU's latest recruiting class features just 11 high school players, with nine juco transfers and the six FBS transfers.

Roundup: TCU drug screen, KU transfer

March, 19, 2012
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Here's what you missed over the weekend if you were busy paying attention to nothing but basketball the past few days.

Patterson offers Horned Frogs a spring break warning

TCU is without four defensive players this spring after the quartet was arrested in a campus drug sting, but the Horned Frogs are off this week for spring break.

Patterson offered a warning for his players as they left campus for their time off.

From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
"We drug-tested last month and we’ll probably drug-test again when they get back," Patterson said. "People do stupid things like playing beach volleyball and turning their ankle, breaking their leg jumping in three-foot pools."

Patterson said many of his players plan on just going home and taking it easy.

"A lot of our kids can’t afford to go to one of those places," he said, referring to the usual spring break destinations like Padre Island or a beach in Florida. "So they’ll go home, get a chance to see their buddies. They need a break. They’ve been going hard since January. We’ve been pushing them pretty hard."

Constant testing is a good move. Making sure his players -- and the public -- know he's doing it is an even better move. TCU's run a squeaky-clean program under Patterson, but the latest incident was a big black eye.

Rebuilding the trust from those outside the program has to happen in baby steps. This qualifies as a good one.

Jayhawks haul in another high-profile transfer

It's about time we start calling Kansas "Notre Dame South," no?

Tight end Mike Ragone will transfer from Notre Dame to Kansas, according to the Sporting News. He's completed his undergraduate work in South Bend and will be eligible to play for KU in 2012, trying to replace departed tight end Tim Biere.

Ragone's missed much of the past two seasons with knee injuries, but came to Notre Dame as the nation's No. 2 tight end and No. 55 overall prospect in the 2007 class.

He had 11 career catches at Notre Dame. If he hauls in any balls this year, he'll almost certainly do it from a familiar face, former Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist, who followed his former coach, Charlie Weis, to KU.

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