Big 12: Mossis Madu
This email nearly made it in last week's Mailbag, but I saved it for its own post and did a little homework.
Matt in Norman wrote: "In the debate between Weeden and Jones, you keep bringing up the fact that jones through lots of swing passes to murray and broyles. But you bring no statistics. We all know he did, but was it really enough to be used in your argument? At least have some statistics to compare the two. You work at ESPN, use your resources."
Well, Matt, ask and you shall receive. (See chart at right). Unfortunately, because they had a pair of untelevised games, the statistics for Oklahoma State were unavailable, but ESPN Stats and Info was able to put together Jones' statistics for throws at or behind the line of scrimmage.
We'll have to keep the Weeden/Jones comparisons set aside for now, but it's pretty obvious how important the short passing game is to the Sooners.
Jones finished with 4,718 yards and 38 touchdowns on 405-of-617 passing, more attempts and more completions than any player in college football.
But like I've said, those numbers are inflated. Screens -- but really, more so swing passes -- are an extension of the run game, more reflective of receivers' blocking skill than Jones' passing skill. That's not to say Jones doesn't make throws that hit his receivers in stride to keep the play flowing, but it is to say his gaudy numbers come with plenty of help from other places.
Of Jones' total production, here's how much came on passes behind the line of scrimmage:
- Attempts: 27.4 percent
- Completions: 35.1 percent
- Yards: 19.1 percent
- Touchdowns: 13.2 percent
- Interceptions: 16.7 percent
Here's how their production broke down from passes behind or at the line of scrimmage:
- Receptions: 39 percent
- Yardage: 21.3 percent
- Receptions: 72 percent
- Yardage: 63 percent
That's a huge chunk, especially from Murray, whose solid rushing totals (1,253 yards) are boosted when you consider how many of his receiving yards (373 of 594) came on catches behind or at the line of scrimmage.
He's gone now, so it'll be interesting to see how Oklahoma proceeds without him. Considering how little we've seen of them, I can't speak to Oklahoma's returning running backs' receiving talents, but it's a safe bet that none of them will be as skilled as Murray.
It'll be fascinating to see this season how Jones develops as a junior without Murray. I'd expect Broyles' touches and targets to go up a bit, but Oklahoma's offense would be well-served to find another running back who can leak out of the backfield to catch those short passes. With Murray gone, the opportunity is there.
Just like last season, Jones' stat line would be the biggest benefactor.
Kansas managed just three points, five first downs and 87 yards against them.
Texas A&M couldn't score a touchdown at home against Nebraska, settling for three field goals.
Colorado trailed 31-3 to the Huskers before adding a pair of second-half touchdowns in a 45-17 loss.
It goes by a handful of names, but "Diamond" is the most common. Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones takes the snap with fullback Trey Millard on one side, a running back on the other and another running back behind him. Expect a combination of DeMarco Murray, Roy Finch and Mossis Madu this week, depending on how much or if Murray can play after injuring his knee against Oklahoma State.
Oklahoma used the formation often against Oklahoma State, including heavy use during an 82-yard touchdown drive that put the Sooners up 7-0 early.
That's a bit ironic, considering the Sooners poached the formation from the Cowboys, and debuted it a week earlier against Baylor. Frankly, despite its late addition to the Sooners' repertoire, they used it much more effectively than their in-state rivals.
Nebraska won't have much to see on film and study up on the formation, but defensive end Jeremy Beal has seen plenty of it during practice.
"It’s difficult at times [to stop], but if you read your keys and play it right, it’s not that difficult," Beal said.
Oklahoma State's defense certainly made it look difficult. The Sooners' collection of misdirections and quick handoffs, as well as power runs, screens and downfield passes out of the formation baffled the Cowboys, who gave up 47 points to the Sooners' offense.
A defense's unfamiliarity with a scheme, especially new ones, can make it look more difficult to stop than it actually is, but the Sooners are likely to test the Huskers' ability to do exactly that with the Big 12 title on the line.
The more teams ran the Wildcat, the less effective it became. The Sooners' Diamond package is still relatively new. Whether or not Nebraska can send it out of style early on Saturday should have a big impact on who leaves as Big 12 champions.
Missouri's last three possessions have resulted in two touchdowns and a field goal.
Add it all up and Missouri looks ready to knock off the No. 1 Sooners with a 36-21 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Oklahoma would be the third No. 1 seed to lose in as many weeks.
The Tigers marched 76 yards in five plays, spearheaded by a fantastic run from De'Vion Moore, who got into the secondary, kept his legs churning and made sure to protect the ball on his 39-yard carry up the middle.
The Tigers then brought in freshman backup quarterback James Franklin who got near the goal line and pushed the pile across the plane to put the Tigers over the top.
Missouri has clearly outplayed Oklahoma, and the Sooners' fourth quarter problems have continued. The Tigers have taken advantage, and the public address warnings to stay off the field may be tested.
Oklahoma's Mossis Madu returned the following kick 77 yards into the red zone, but the Sooners offense has to find a rhythm that's been absent in the second half to take advantage.
Missouri's doing that tonight, forcing a pair of turnovers in the red zone on an Aldon Smith interception and forcing a fumble from Oklahoma running back Mossis Madu.
The Tigers lead, 14-7.
That's nothing new. Missouri's done it all year, with a plus-5 turnover margin.
It's pretty obvious how much more impactful those turnovers become when they come in the red zone.
But it is new for Oklahoma, who leads the league with a plus-9 margin entering tonight's game.
There's a big difference in picking off a downfield pass and returning an interception in the red zone 58 yards into an opponent's territory.
Twice, the Sooners have threatened to score, and on the play before Smith's interception, DeMarco Murray caught the ball in space but fell down before he could compose himself after the reception.
So far, Missouri's taken advantage of everything Oklahoma has given it, and in addition to Smith's pick, made big plays like Gahn McGaffie's kick return to open the game.
Iff you're trying to knock off the No. 1 team in the country, that's how you do it.
A reminder, these are not my picks. My picks were posted this morning.
Texas 49, Iowa State 9. I see the UT offense building off the momentum from the Nebraska game and carving up a team that has trouble putting heat on the passer.
My take: That's about what I had, but I'll believe Texas' offense can score 49 points when I see it. I do feel confident that Texas' defense has figured out how to fix whatever went wrong earlier in the season. According to them, it was a lot of self-inflicted mistakes. It seems like they've fixed them.
Nebraska 31, Oklahoma State 23. The Cowboys' offense has been outstanding, but this is, by far, the best defense they've seen this season. I think Bo Pelini's team bounces back from all of the mental mistakes against Texas and wins at the line of scrimmage, while Taylor Martinez and the Husker skill talent exploit the country's No. 92 D.
My take: Agree completely. Cornerback Prince Amukamara and Martinez change the game in favor of the Huskers. Kendall Hunter gets his, but it's not enough to knock off the Huskers. Brandon Weeden will get hit this week more than he has all year, except for maybe the first half against Texas A&M.
Baylor 38, Kansas State 27. Taylor Martinez had a national coming-out party against K-State and Baylor QB Robert Griffin, another blazer, will have a huge game on them, too. The Cats are just 115th against the run and will struggle in their first trip outside the state.
My take: I actually didn't realize this was the Wildcats first time out of Kansas, but what do the Bears get if they sweep both Kansas teams? An honorary Sunflower?
Oklahoma 35, Missouri 28. Gary Pinkel is 0-6 against OU and it'll be fascinating to see how the Tigers, who really have been off the radar thus far, respond to the national spotlight. Mizzou's D is No. 2 in the country in scoring D, but it hasn't seen anything like the talent it will from OU. The Tigers did do a good job containing some athletic receivers at A&M, but I think Ryan Broyles and OU will be too much for them in the second half. I do expect fiery Mizzou QB Blaine Gabbert to play very well and keep things interesting though.
My take: I'm really interested to see how much the dynamic changes from this Missouri team to the 2008 team vs. Oklahoma. There are actually several Sooners on this year's team (DE Jeremy Beal, RB DeMarco Murray, WR Ryan Broyles, RB Mossis Madu, LB Travis Lewis, DE Frank Alexander, DT Adrian Taylor) who contributed to that 2008 squad. In other words, the vast majority of the team's impact players on both sides of the field, though Murray was hurt very early in the game on a kickoff return. Looking over Missouri's roster, the only guys who had any real impact on that game were offensive linemen Elvis Fisher and Tim Barnes, as well as several defensive backs, namely corners Carl Gettis and Kevin Rutland, as well as safety Kenji Jackson. It's ridiculous to suggest Missouri is "scared" of Oklahoma, but I'm intrigued at how much more confident this group will look out of the gate, having never endured any previous losses to Oklahoma, unlike that 2008 team.
On the first play after Texas' fake punt at midfield, Garrett Gilbert hooked up with James Kirkendoll for a 44-yard gain to get Texas inside the 10-yard line.
Justin Tucker finished the drive with a 22-yard field goal to bring Texas to within 21-10.
It wasn't ideal, and the two-possession game means the Longhorns still need plenty of defensive stops. But Texas finally sustained a drive -- 13 plays for 71 yards. That's steadier than any drive Texas had in the first half, after scoring its only other points on a 60-yard touchdown by D.J. Monroe.
And how did the Longhorns do it? With Gilbert's arm.
Texas called just one run play -- excluding the fake punt -- on the drive and called 10 passes.
Penalties also continue to plague the Longhorns. On third down, they forced and recovered a fumble after sacking Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones, but they let the drive continue after Eddie Jones was flagged for being offside.
Oklahoma running back Mossis Madu converted the first down with a run on the next play.
Oklahoma lost both games.
As a freshman, Murray ran for 128 yards on 17 carries, picking up a big block of yardage on a 65-yard go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter.
Oklahoma won that game.
That looked more likely in the season opener against Utah State, when Murray handled a heavy load of 35 carries and turned them into 208 yards, both career highs.
"DeMarco, he honestly looks like he did as a freshman, now that he's fully healthy," said Oklahoma center Ben Habern.
But Murray's nearly six-yard average per carry in the season opener has dwindled to just 3.2 in his last three games, dipping to a season low of 2.4 on his 28 carries last week against Cincinnati. Texas entered last week as the nation's No. 1 rush defense, but when the Longhorns faced a team in UCLA that intended to run at the center of their defense, they gave up over 300 yards on the ground.
"That's irrelevant," Murray said. "I know they had a little hiccup last week, but I know they'll be fired up to play this game just like we will. They could be 0-5 and we could be 0-5 and we'd both be ready to play our best game of the year this week. It doesn't matter, last week."
Texas has shut down Murray the last two seasons with a handful of would-be NFL draft picks on its defensive line, such as Sergio Kindle, Lamarr Houston, Brian Orakpo, Roy Miller and Henry Melton, along with linebackers such as Roddrick Muckelroy.
"They've definitely had good players, but we've had pretty good guys, too, NFL guys like Trent [Williams], Phil [Loadholt] and Duke [Robinson]," Habern said.
Murray also suffered an ankle injury in last year's game that kept him out of the following week's game against Kansas.
"It hurt really bad, but I had to be a man and step up," Murray said. "That's one game you definitely don't want to miss."
He's not asking for excuses. All he wants is the ball, and Oklahoma feels its struggles running the ball the past few weeks are about to end.
"The last few weeks, we were only a few holes away from breaking DeMarco and Mossis [Madu] free for big runs," said quarterback Landry Jones.
On Saturday, the Sooners will work toward making sure those holes are there. Otherwise, Texas may leave the Cotton Bowl with a fifth Red River victory in six years.
On Oklahoma's next drive, DeMarco Murray took a big step toward coach Bob Stoops' stated finish line of 1,900 yards, busting a 63-yard touchdown run to put Oklahoma in front, 28-17, midway through the third quarter.
Murray's 174 yards so far are a career high, and he's received 23 of Oklahoma's 27 total carries, despite having a handful of talented backs behind him. Mossis Madu (suspension) and Roy Finch (leg) are out for the Sooners, but Murray is proving more than capable of carrying the load -- at least against Utah State.
Elsewhere for the Sooners, Landry Jones has struggled, completing just 11 of 24 passes, after completing less than 60 percent of his passes last season. But Ryan Broyles has been on the receiving end of seven of those completions for 105 yards and two touchdowns.
- Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson isn't completely recovered from offseason shoulder surgery, reports Brent Zwerneman in the Houston Chronicle.
- Tommy Tuberville has a short message for fans upset that Taylor Potts beat out Steven Sheffield in the quarterback competition: Get over it.
- Nebraska coach Bo Pelini is quite obviously tired of quarterback questions, and says the public will know his starter there and everywhere else when they trot on the field for the season opener. Here's video of his comments.
- Oklahoma State cornerback Andrew McGee broke his neck eight months ago. Now he's ready to be one of the Cowboys' top players in the secondary, writes Brandon Chatmon of The Oklahoman.
- Two voters for the AP poll have been replaced, including one that had Nebraska at No. 17 and Missouri ranked, reports Mike DeArmond of the Kansas City Star.
- Turner Gill and Kansas welcomed a famous Jayhawk fan to campus on Tuesday.
- Missouri linebacker Will Ebner was challenging for a starting spot last week, but he dropped to third string on the latest depth chart. He was also arrested for suspicion of DWI over the weekend. Elsewhere, injured receiver Jerrell Jackson could be back in time for the Illinois game, two weeks ahead of schedule.
- Oklahoma's top reserve running back, Mossis Madu, will be suspended for the Sooners' opening game against Utah State following an earlier DUI arrest.
- Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman has a solution to solve Oklahoma's kicking woes: stop kicking it and go for it on fourth down as often as former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach used to do.
- Alan Trubow of the Austin American-Statesman checks in with kicker Justin Tucker, who steps in for Texas' Big 12 title game hero, Hunter Lawrence.
- Iowa State defensive back David Sims, the 2009 Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year, was formally charged with unauthorized use of a credit card, reports Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register. The charge is an aggravated misdemeanor and Sims has been suspended and stripped of his co-captain status.
- Jeff Caplan at ESPN Dallas has a few notes from BCS director Bill Hancock's media session on Tuesday.
- The Omaha World-Herald's Lee Barfknecht is pondering six pretty fiery points from media days that I'll call today's must-read link.
- Early in his tenure at Nebraska, Bo Pelini did something that might get anyone else trampled in Lincoln today. He told Ndamukong Suh, "You stink," reports Mitch Sherman of the Omaha World-Herald. "Thank God he stayed. They might have run me out of town," Pelini told the paper.
- The Internet is reshaping recruiting even more now with a new social media site based around football recruiting, writes Rainer Sabin of the Dallas Morning News.
- Colorado is making changes to its practice access policies, reports Kyle Ringo of the Boulder Daily Camera.
- Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany paid Lincoln a visit this week, reports Curt McKeever of the Lincoln Journal Star.
- For Oklahoma State linebacker Orie Lemon, sitting for games was more painful than standing on his injured knee, writes Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman.
- Oklahoma reserve running back Mossis Madu has been charged with driving under the influence after an arrest on Saturday night.
- Two incoming Colorado recruits have failed to qualify, reports Tom Kensler of the Denver Post.
- Tennessee running back Bryce Brown told Vols coach Derek Dooley in a text message that he won't play for the Volunteers this season. The Wichita native's brother, linebacker Arthur Brown, transferred to Kansas State earlier this year.
Though plenty was made of his comments about Oklahoma as it relates to possible realignment, he also had an interesting comment about running back DeMarco Murray.
In his first season as the team's primary ball-carrier, Murray has set a goal for himself to rush for 1,500 yards, which would be a career high.
OU coach Bob Stoops has even greater expectations.
"I don't think that's enough," Stoops said Tuesday during an OU carvan stop in Tulsa. "I'd sure like to see him at 1,900. Not like we haven't done it. Adrian (Peterson) and Quentin Griffin both were over 1,900. We'll see. Hopefully he can do something like that."
I've talked about Murray plenty on the blog. I think you'd have a tough time finding a more talented running back in the conference. An easier task: finding a more productive back. He's topped 1,000 yards just once in his career, and that was in 2008 when he sat out the Big 12 and national championship games with an injured hamstring. Murray and Chris Brown complemented each other well, but Murray never seemed to get enough touches. Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said he wanted DeMarco to touch the ball 25 times a game last season. There's a lot that goes into that number, but Murray got 25 touches in a game just twice, and eclipsed 20 in just two other games.
If he's going to flirt with 2,000 yards (1,000 more than the number I think he flirts with this season) three things have to happen:
1) He has to stay healthy. He did that, for the most part, last season. He missed just one game (a road win over Kansas) with an ankle injury. That's been the biggest knock on him throughout his career, and if he goes down again, that knock will continue. It's worth noting that the injury criticisms are probably a little unfair. In three seasons, he's missed six games. The problem has been when he's missed games. In 2007, he missed the Bedlam game, the Big 12 championship and the Fiesta Bowl loss to West Virginia. In 2008, like I mentioned earlier, it was the Big 12 and national championships.
2) He needs more carries. With a struggling offensive line in 2009, Oklahoma constantly worked the flats against good defenses with Murray and receiver Ryan Broyles, their two biggest playmakers in space. He can get receptions there whenever he wants them, but Stoops sounds like he wants to pound it with Murray, who isn't lacking for size at 6-foot-1 and 214 pounds.
He only carried the ball 171 times in 2009. He'd have to average 11.1 yards per carry with that number of carries to hit 1,900 yards. Good luck with that.
But he has to prove he's productive enough to warrant those additional carries. Stoops isn't going to give him the ball because he's DeMarco Murray. He'll have to earn them with his play in games and in practice, and if he doesn't, there's plenty of backs behind him such as Jermie Calhoun or Mossis Madu ready to pick up the slack, not to mention incoming freshmen Roy Finch and Brennan Clay.
3) The offensive line has to improve. This is far from a given, especially after losing their three best blockers from last year's team in Trent Williams, Brody Eldridge and Brian Simmons. But Ben Habern and Tyler Evans have to stay healthy and consistent, and they need help from guys like Donald Stephenson, Jarvis Jones and Cory Brandon.
Last spring, he moved to receiver with DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown slated to get the bulk of the carries in the running game. Oklahoma coaches wanted the playmaker to get the ball, and they saw opportunities at receiver for the 6-foot, 200-pounder.
Although he showed progress through fall practices after moving from slot receiver to wideout, Madu never found a place in a Sooners receiving rotation that struggled for much of the 2009 season. Madu caught just seven passes. With Brown gone and Murray being held out of heavy contact this spring, Madu has returned to the backfield and is getting plenty of touches in the spring.
"I could be selfish and say that last year was a lost year,” Madu told The Oklahoman. "But it was one of those things that they asked me to do. They told me beforehand that I had an opportunity to start there. But in the end it was just harder for me to adapt to.”
Madu and fellow senior Murray are the most experienced running backs in Norman, but the Sooners have plenty of young running backs that will be itching for carries of their own when the season arrives.
Sophomore Jermie Calhoun will be in the mix this spring, but Jonathan Miller won't be active this spring after knee surgery. Freshmen Brennan Clay and Roy Finch could redshirt, but they won't arrive at fall camp with plans to sit out their first season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops thinks that Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford has come back noticeably improved for his junior season.
Bradford broke Oklahoma single-season records with 50 touchdown passes and 4,720 passing yards last season, but he appears to have more confidence and a better deep arm after the first week of Oklahoma's practices.
|AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki|
|Sam Bradford has added 10 pounds on his frame since last season.|
"He's strong, he's quicker and the ball comes out that much faster," Stoops said. "With another year of experience out on the field, he'll think much quicker, too."
Bradford appears noticeably bigger after adding 10 pounds of muscle since the end of last year.
"Sam is getting better each and every day," senior wide receiver Adron Tennell said. "Throwing the ball, rolling out of the pocket, he's done it all. You can tell he's better than before."Stoops said there's little separation between his backups who are playing behind Bradford at quarterback.
"Those guys are still splitting their reps," Stoops said. "We keep snapping the ball and giving them experience. They are working well together and doing a nice job."
- Sophomore defensive back Jamell Fleming has been hobbled by a back injury and sophomore defensive back Desmond Jackson "has an issue with academic misconduct" that he's working through, Stoops said.
- Oklahoma's special teams have looked strong in recent practices. Kicker Jimmy Stevens showed improved range at Thursday's open practice with field goals of 50 and 53 yards.
Stevens' length is a big development for the Sooners. His longest kick last season was 42 yards and he shanked five extra points.
Stoops playfully chided about 300 fans who attended the Sooners' open workout Thursday night that they weren't cheering loud enough for Stevens' big kicks.
"They only cheer when there's an offensive play," Stoops said. "When the defense intercepts the ball they are quiet over there or when the kicker gets a nice 53-yard field goal."
- One of the early revelations of fall practice has been wide receiver/punter Cameron Kenney, a transfer from Garden City Community College.
Kenney has jumped into the mix at wide receiver and also is challenging for the punting position against Tress Way. It's a weird combination of a speedy wide receiver who also is a strong punter.
"He's pretty good," Stoops said. "He's shows a lot of signs (as a receiver), but he needs to be more consistent, but he's doing a lot of good things.
"He's punted well, too. It's very rare because you don't see a lot of wide receivers who can punt the ball 40 yards like he can."
Oklahoma receivers coach Jay Norvell said that Kenney reminds him of former Oklahoma wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias because of his combination of size and strength.
"It's because of his quickness, his way of getting in and out of plays and the fact he's very strong to the ball," Norvell said. "Cameron can also run well after the catch. He's a hard worker and the guys who work the hardest get better faster."
- Despite the loss of key playmakers like Iglesias, Manny Johnson and Quentin Chaney from last season, Norvell thinks his current group has the chance to be better than last year's productive group.
"I think we're more athletic and explosive than we were last year," Norvell said. "Whether that will correlate into productiveness, I'm not sure. But we have athletes and in that respect we probably have more deep threats than we did last year."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
If it's a Friday afternoon, it's time to dive into my mailbag.
I received a bunch of good questions this week. Here are some of the best:
Justin from Austin, Texas, writes: I read your recent post about Texas having the most commits thus far from the ESPNU 150. One thing that interests me is the lack of a top running back on that list. I was curious as to your opinion on why Texas is not THE school to go to if you are a top quality running back, especially considering the Longhorns' lack of a true standout player at this position.
It would seem to me that someone with a lot of talent at the position would jump at the opportunity to come to a high profile school and potentially get 3 to 4 years of playing time right off the bat. Is it because Texas isn't perceived as a good running back school anymore, or are we already too stacked with players (though no "great" ones yet) so that recruits feel they won't get the playing time?
Tim Griffin: Justin, you make an interesting point. I, too, noticed that Texas hasn't attracted a blue-chip running back yet. Of course, Lache Seastrunk from Temple, Texas, would fit into that category. But it seems that Texas has missed out on the perceived great running backs and hasn't had a difference maker there since Cedric Benson graduated.
Maybe it's because of the Greg Davis' recent spread offense making top running back recruits shy away from the school as it becomes more heavily pass-oriented. But I think a bigger reason might be because of the development of spread offense as the de facto choice for many Texas high schools anymore. It means that more top athletes across the state are playing either quarterback or wide receiver.
There aren't nearly as many top running back prospects in Texas as there might have been 15-20 years ago. The days of top running backs like Earl Campbell, Adrian Peterson and Eric Dickerson now seems a little dated.
But if the Longhorns were successful in attracting Seastrunk, it wouldn't surprise me that Davis could develop an offense with him as a running back with 20-25 carries per game - even with a spread offense being employed much of the time.
Garon McClure writes: Tim, I am a Sooner fan and read your blog and columns almost daily. I was wondering what you thought about the Sooners trying to use Mossis Madu in the way that Florida used Percy Harvin the last few years. Have you heard any rumors or anything like that? I think it would be an intriguing wrinkle to the offense since they say they are moving him to the slot and he is a good runner too.
Tim Griffin: I think the Sooner coaches are tinkering with a variety of ways to employ Madu. His receiving skills, as well as the logjam at tailback with Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray, led to his move as a slot receiver this spring. It wouldn't surprise me if they still found a chance to let him run the ball, maybe in a limited role like Harvin did for the Gators last year.
I was very impressed with Madu last season for the Sooners. He came up big for them in the Big 12 championship game against Missouri when he rushed for a career-high 114 yards and three touchdowns after Murray was injured. And I look for him to be occasionally featured as a runner at times in 2009.
Dan Kaminski of Des Moines, Iowa, writes: When most teams are blowing out another team, coaches pull their starting quarterback and put in their backups. Texas did this and Florida did this last season with Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow respectively.
How come everyone talks about Sam Bradford's numbers last season but no one talks about the fact that when OU was blowing teams out by 50 points, Bob Stoops rarely (or at the last few minutes of the fourth quarter only) put in his back-up and thus inflated Bradford's stats?
Don't get me wrong, I think Bradford is one of the top quarterbacks, but his stats wouldn't have been anywhere as impressive as McCoy's had McCoy stayed in and played all games until the end.
Tim Griffin: I think that the usage of Bradford and McCoy assuredly speaks to the comfort and confidence that Mack Brown had in his backup quarterback compared to Bob Stoops with his. But I don't think the scoring was as significant for Bradford in blowout games as you might think.
Late in the season, Bradford played into the fourth quarter against Texas Tech and was needed in the fourth quarter against Oklahoma State, considering the Sooners were nursing only a three-point lead midway through the quarter.
It was understandable for him to be in the fourth quarter of the Big 12 championship game, his last opportunity to shine for Heisman voters. Still, Bradford accounted for only seven of his 50 touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, and three of those came in Oklahoma losses or games settled by two touchdowns or less.
Bradford's single-season numbers were the best in Oklahoma history by a quarterback, but I don't necessarily think that playing deep into games was that big a factor in them.
Cecil Wilson from Plano, Texas, writes: Tim, when are you hosting your next online chat? And what does Mack Brown and Co. have to do, besides go undefeated and win the Big XII Championship to get to the National Championship game in Pasadena? Thank you.
Tim Griffin: My next chat will be coming up probably not next week but the week after, likely on the same day as my Big 12 previews appear.
I'll give a couple of days notice when it will be approaching, because I always enjoy receiving all of your questions.
And I don't necessarily think Texas would have to go undefeated to win the national championship. I do think it would be crucial for them to finish quickly and win the Big 12 title game. And they should hope that the other contenders all have a loss or two to help winnow the field and make them stand apart from the rest.
I think if they do that, a Big 12 champion team with zero or one loss is going to have a good shot to make the national championship game. A one-loss team made it last year from the conference with Oklahoma.
Clayton Buehrle from Dallas writes: Tim, concerning the Top 40 teams in the BCS, could you please explain how ESPN expects to "play" the different teams against each other? What teams are playing (Current teams or past teams?)? The whole scenario is fun but seems a bit confusing. My friends and I could use some insight. Thanks.
Tim Griffin: My colleagues took a novel approach of breaking up the 40 teams into four 10-team conferences and then having a playoff. Mark Schlabach's story today spells out how the fantasy would play out.
My favorite part is a yearly relegation that would drop out the bottom feeders every year and replace them with teams from outside the top 40. I know that sounds a little like European soccer, but I think that would really be interesting to see teams jump up a level or drop depending on how they played the previous season.
And that's what makes the whole idea of relegation such a fun topic idea.
Brad Millican of Fort Worth, Texas, writes: How are fall practice schedules set? There seems to be a huge difference in when all the Big XII teams report for camp. Is this regulated by the NCAA?
Tim Griffin: Brad, different coaches have different strategies in how they want to break down the practices as they get ready for the season. Each school has 29 practices from the start of practice to the first game. The first three practices are without pads. But the schedule is
different based on the academic schedule of each school. Some coaches like to have a lot of two-a-days early to immediately challenge their teams. Other coaches like to backload things and test their teams a little closer to the start of the season.
Mark McCabe of Stafford, Va., writes: Tim, growing up a Cornhusker fan and now having lived in several places around the country... I found the recent ESPN poll asking, "What are you most looking forward to in the fall? College or Pro Football (never mind the World Series)." Both the Big 12 (TX and MO the exceptions) and the SEC areas picked college football.
Do you think fan support has a major impact on success or does success lead to fan support?
Tim Griffin: Mark, I noticed the same chart. I've lived in both the South and Midwest for extensive periods and think that the passion for college football is the strongest in those "flyover areas." The lack of competing NFL teams lead to that support. And I do think it has a major impact on success. Recruits know they can pick a school in that area and realize their games will be the biggest sporting events in their states. That's a heady feeling for a recruit and a big reason why places like Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Alabama and Iowa have been able to continue their success over many years.
And it doesn't surprise me that Texas and Missouri aren't as excited about college sports as other Big 12 areas. The heavy influence of professional sports in both states - probably as strong there as any area in the conference - has tempered some of the excitement for college sports in recent years. The fans there still get excited when a team like Texas or Missouri makes a run at a national championship. But the NFL helps cut down some of the day-to-day excitement in college football there.
Kenneth Smith of Houston writes: Who do you think will win the starting QB spot at Kansas State? Also do you think that K-State will be in the mix for the Big 12 North title?
Me personally, I think the Wildcats are going to upset a team this year, maybe Missouri or Kansas. The offense seems to be pretty good with Keithen Valentine in the backfield again and Brandon Banks at wide receiver. The defense last season was OK, but they need to learn just to wrap up to make a tackle. Who do you think will be the two teams competing in the North?
Tim Griffin: I think that Kansas State will be the mystery team in the North this season - even more than Colorado. I've always had huge respect for the coaching acumen that Bill Snyder brings to his program. He'll be facing a huge challenge at Kansas State, but I think his task will be a little easier because so many of his assistant coaches have coached or played for him and are familiar with his demands.
I think Carson Coffman will get the start for the Wildcats' opener Sept. 5 against Massachusetts. But I'm thinking that Grant Gregory and Daniel Thomas likely will have chances to play as well. I think Thomas could be the starting quarterback later this season, as Snyder has always favored quarterbacks who were adept at running and passing like Michael Bishop, Ell Roberson and Jonathan Beasley. Thomas fits that mold.
And as far as the last two teams competing in the Big 12 North, I'll go with Nebraska and Kansas. I think the regular-season finales for both teams - Nebraska at Colorado and Kansas and Missouri at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City - will have much importance in determining the North champion this season.
Thanks for all of your questions this week. We'll check back again next Friday.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
I was brought up in an era of distinctive achievements like 100-yard rushing and receiving games and 300-yard passing performances.
That's why I still look at these kind of efforts as a personal benchmark when I measure the effectiveness of rushers, passers and receivers.
And it sent me scrambling to the NCAA website for some information about Big 12 players.
I was curious about the number of 100-yard rushing and receiving games and 300-yard passing games that returning Big 12 players have compiled over the course of their careers.
Here's a list of the active leaders heading into the upcoming season.
100-yard rushing games No. High game Opponent Year
Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State 11 210 Houston 2008
Chris Brown, Oklahoma 7 169 @Baylor 2006
DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma 7 128 vs. Texas 2007
Jake Sharp, Kansas 6 181 Kansas State 2008
Robert Griffin, Baylor 4 217 Wash. State 2008
Jay Finley, Baylor 3 119 Wash. State 2008
Rodney Stewart, Colorado 3 166 West Virginia 2008
Alexander Robinson, Iowa State 3 149 @Missouri 2007
Derrick Washington, Missouri 3 139 @Nebraska 2008
Roy Helu Jr., Nebraska 3 166 Colorado 2008
Keith Toston, Oklahoma State 3 148 Mo. State 2008
Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State 3 144 @Baylor 2007
Quentin Castille, Nebraska 2 125 Clemson* 2008
Colt McCoy, Texas 2 106 @Okla. State 2007
Lamark Brown, Kansas State 1 137 La.-Lafayette 2008
Logan Dold, Kansas State 1 115 @Texas A&M 2008
Mossis Madu, Oklahoma 1 114 Missouri ** 2008
Cody Johnson, Texas 1 102 Texas A&M 2008
Note: * - 2009 Gator Bowl
** - 2008 Big 12 championship game
300-yard passing games No. High game Opponent Year
Todd Reesing, Kansas 13 412 La. Tech 2008
Sam Bradford, Oklahoma 13 468 Kansas 2008
Colt McCoy, Texas &nb
sp; 10 414 Ohio State*** 2008
Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State 5 430 Texas 2007
Austen Arnaud, Iowa State 3 440 Kansas State 2008
Cody Hawkins, Colorado 2 322 Alabama **** 2007
Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M 2 419 Kansas State 2008
*** - 2009 Fiesta Bowl
**** - 2007 Independence Bowl
100-yard receiving games No. High game Opponent Year
Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State 8 236 Houston 2008
Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas 7 269 @Oklahoma 2008
Kerry Meier, Kansas 5 136 Sam Houston St. 2008
Brandon Banks, Kansas State 4 153 @Louisville 2008
Jordan Shipley, Texas 3 168 Okla. State 2008
Edward Britton, Texas Tech 3 139 Texas 2008
Kendall Wright, Baylor 2 132 Iowa State 2008
Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M 2 210 Kansas State 2008
Scotty McKnight, Colorado 1 106 Colo. State 2007
Darius Darks, Iowa State 1 113 @Okla. State 2008
Jake Sharp, Kansas 1 107 @Iowa State 2008
Johnathan Wilson, Kansas 1 179 @South Florida 2008
Daymond Patterson, Kansas 1 130 Louisiana Tech 2008
Jeron Mastrud, Kansas State 1 103 @Kansas 2006
Aubrey Quarles, Kansas State 1 102 @Texas A&M 2008
Danario Alexander, Missouri &nb
sp; 1 117 vs. Kansas 2007
Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma 1 158 @Okla. State 2008
Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma 1 141 Cincinnati 2008
Brandon Collins, Texas 1 103 Texas A&M 2008
Malcolm Williams, Texas 1 182 @Texas Tech 2008
Jamie McCoy, Texas A&M 1 110 @Iowa State 2008
Detron Lewis, Texas Tech 1 163 East. Wash. 2008
Tramain Swindall, Texas Tech 1 101 @Texas A&M 2008
Source: ESPN.com research