Big 12: Nic Harris

Sooners answer Spikes' 'dirty' charges

August, 19, 2009
8/19/09
3:11
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Oklahoma players didn't waste much time before responding to Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes' charges that the Sooners were a "dirty team."

Understandably, the Sooners weren't too happy about Spikes' words.

"Dirty, like we're dirty players?" Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy told the Oklahoman. "That's just how we play. We play hard. I guess you can consider that dirty, but some people just get intense, get riled up. Every team does."

The best I can remember, the BCS National Championship Game had a lot of chippiness and woofing on both sides.

Spikes charged Oklahoma tackle Trent Williams and then swatted his helmet after a play where Williams had driven Spikes to the ground.

Florida quarterback Tim Tebow drew an unsportsmanlike penalty late in the game after giving a "Gator chomp" in the direction of Oklahoma safety Nic Harris, who he had claimed had been chirping at him throughout the Gators' 24-14 victory.

But McCoy said that the Sooners weren't the only trash-talkers in the game.

"He [Spikes] is a liar if he's saying they don't have trash-talkers," McCoy said. "Every team does. You can't just put it on us."

It's interesting that the most notable sequence of the game has received little mention. That came when Harris twisted the injured ankle of Florida receiver Percy Harvin long after the play ended.

But I also remember that Harvin wasn't that unduly concerned about it after the game.

"He grabbed it, kind of twisting [my ankle] a little bit," Harvin told reporters after the BCS title game. "That comes with the game. I was expecting that a little bit. It's all good."

Harvin put that play behind him a few minutes after the game was over. But Spikes apparently has kept his feelings festering for more than eight months.

Like I said yesterday, if there's any justice, we'll see the Sooners and Gators play again somewhere this season.

New OU safeties thriving in starting roles

August, 12, 2009
8/12/09
11:47
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

NORMAN, Okla. --   The biggest question mark about Oklahoma's defense will be the addition of two new safeties -- the only new starters on the Sooners' defense.

Strong safety Nic Harris and free safety Lendy Holmes provided a certain level of comfort when they combined for 164 tackles, six interceptions and 10 deflected passes. Harris was a first-team All-Big 12 selection and Holmes was a second-team choice.

Both are now gone. But despite that glaring hole, their teammates say that are comfortable about their replacements.

Junior Quinton Carter has been a revelation at strong safety with a physical presence that belies his 6-foot-2, 192-pound stature that is small for his position.

Carter's devastating hit against Missouri's Jeremy Maclin in last season's Big 12 championship already earned him a lot of notoriety around the league. But he's progressing past merely a reputation as a hitter into a heady producer who has the confidence of his teammates.

"We don't consider Q a new guy," Oklahoma cornerback Dominique Franks said. "He's been back there three or four years and knows our system. He's also started for us for a few games and we didn't miss a beat."

Sophomore Sam Proctor has the edge at free safety in the only new starters on the Oklahoma defense. Their experiences have brought a comfort level to the Sooners' defense as they continue preseason practice.

Franks said that he would change his coverage if he didn't trust his help from his safeties. But the progression of Carter and Proctor enable him to play with abandon in the secondary, he says.

"It would make you afraid to jump a lot of routes, but knowing you have a veteran guy like Q or Proctor lets you play a little differently," Franks said. "They've been in the system and we know they can play. A lot of fans might not know if they play, but we know it. We trust them. It gives me or Brian (senior cornerback Brian Jackson) confidence to take a chance and jump a route. Having them makes it a lot easier for our corners."

These Big 12 positions got most help during spring

May, 22, 2009
5/22/09
6:31
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Sometimes the spring provides a chance for personnel holes to be filled. Sometimes it doesn't.

Here are some of the notable positions around the Big 12 that picked up some assistance during the spring.

Baylor: The quick development of defensive tackle Phil Taylor, a heralded transfer from Penn State, should turn a traditional position of weakness for the Bears into a strength. Joining him at the position will be Jason Lamb, who showed some promise after moving over from defensive end before spring practice.

Colorado: The emergence of hulking 260-pound middle linebacker Marcus Burton and B.J. Beatty at outside linebacker have helped transform the Buffaloes' defense. Burton led the team in tackles and was a prime playmaker in the spring game with eight tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery. He had eight tackles in 10 games last season.

Iowa State: Redshirt freshman quarterback Jerome Tiller outplayed starter Austen Arnaud in the spring game, passing for 210 yards and getting free for a 65-yard touchdown run. I'm not sure that Tiller will be starting come September, but he'll make Arnaud work harder to earn his job.

Kansas: The Jayhawks had questions in the defensive line before the spring, even with the return of all-Big 12 honorable mention selections Caleb Blakesley and Jake Laptad and late season starting defensive tackles Richard Johnson and Jamal Greene. The development of tackle Darius Parish and end Max Onyegbule should add to the depth. And that doesn't even account for the arrival of heralded junior college transfer Quintin Woods, who originally signed with Michigan out of high school before heading to Bakersfield (Cal.) Community College to get his grades in order.

Kansas State: The emergence of linebackers like Alex Hrebec, Ulla Pomele and John Houlik has helped turn the position into the strength of the defense, even as the Wildcats are transforming to a 4-2-5 alignment. Hrebec, a former walk-on, contributed 19 tackles in the spring game and Houlik is a huge hitter despite his 5-foot-11, 219-pound size.

Missouri: Redshirt freshman Aldon Smith has only added to the Tigers' depth at defensive end, which already featured Brian Coulter and Jacquies Smith in front of him. Smith was voted as the team's most improved player in the spring. Throw in converted offensive tackle Brad Madison and redshirt freshman Marcus Marlbrough and you'll see why Gary Pinkel considers it his best collection of defensive ends at Missouri.

Nebraska: The Cornhuskers had serious questions at quarterback, particularly after the departure of projected starting challenger Patrick Witt before spring practice and Kody Spano's knee injury. But the strong spring by Zac Lee and the surprising development of converted linebacker LaTravis Washington eased some of offensive coordinator Shawn Watson's concerns. Their strong spring work also should mean that heralded freshman Cody Green likely won't be thrown into action perhaps as quickly as Watson might have feared before the spring.

Oklahoma: After losing starters Nic Harris and Lendy Holmes, safety was the only position without returning starters for the Sooners on defense. Quinton Carter nailed down one starting position and Sam Proctor and Joseph Ibiloye are poised to fight for the other job beside him. Emmanuel Jones and Desmond Jackson also had strong spring efforts to challenge for playing time.

Oklahoma State: Defensive tackle was enough of a question that new coordinator Bill Young moved Derek Burton inside from defensive end to help bolster depth at the position. Burton and Swanson Miller appear to have won starting jobs with redshirt freshman Nigel Nicholas and junior Chris Donaldson providing strong depth. Their strong play helped the Cowboys rack up seven sacks in the spring game - more than half of their 2008 season total of 13.

Texas: The Longhorns were concerned about defensive end after the departure of NFL draft picks Brian Orakpo and Henry Melton from last season. Those fears appear to be assuaged after the seamless transition of Sergio Kindle to the position from linebacker and the quick assimilation by freshman Alex Okafor. Toss in Sam Acho and Russell Carter and the return injured pass-rushing threat Eddie Jones and the Longhorns appear stacked at the position.

Texas A&M: Safety was a question mark before spring camp after the loss of Devin Gregg and Alton Dixon and the move of 2008 starting free safety Jordan Peterson to cornerback. But the strong return to safety by converted cornerback Jordan Pugh and the noticeable development by Trent Hunter helped solidify the position during the spring. And the Aggies' depth at the position was improved after the move of wide receiver Chris Caflisch to the position along with strong play from DeMaurier Thompson.

Texas Tech: The departure of two-time Biletnikoff Award winner Michael Crabtree and underrated Eric Morris was supposed to cripple the Red Raiders' receiving corps. Mike Leach appears to have found several serviceable replacements after Tramain Swindall, Lyle Leong, Detron Lewis and walk-on flanker Adam Torres all emerged during the spring. And that doesn't include Edward Britton, who was in Leach's doghouse much of the spring after falling behind in the classroom but still is perhaps their most athletic force on the field.

Oklahoma spring wrap

May, 14, 2009
5/14/09
9:20
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Oklahoma Sooners
2008 overall record: 12-2

2008 conference record: 7-1

Returning starters

Offense: 5, defense: 9, kicker/punter: 1

Top returners

QB Sam Bradford, RB DeMarco Murray, RB Chris Brown, TE Jermaine Gresham, T Trent Williams, DT Gerald McCoy, LB Travis Lewis, CB Dominique Franks

Key losses

WR Juaquin Iglesias, WR Manny Johnson, T Phil Loadholt, G Duke Robinson, S Nic Harris, S Lendy Holmes

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Chris Brown* (1,220 yards)
Passing: Sam Bradford* (4,720 yards)
Receiving: Juaquin Iglesias (1,150 yards)
Tackles: Travis Lewis* (144)
Sacks: Jeremy Beal* (8 1/2)
Interceptions: Lendy Holmes (5)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5 BYU (at Arlington, Texas)
Sept. 12 Idaho State
Sept. 19 Tulsa
Oct. 3 at Miami
Oct. 10 Baylor
Oct. 17 Texas (at Dallas)
Oct. 24 at Kansas
Oct. 31 Kansas State
Nov. 7 at Nebraska
Nov. 14 Texas A&M
Nov. 21 at Texas Tech
Nov. 28 Oklahoma State

1. Defensive line: All-American candidate Gerald McCoy has talked about the Sooners having the best defense in the nation. And they might be able to live up to McCoy's boasts if they continue their strong spring play, particularly in the trenches. Defensive ends Jeremy Beal and Frank Alexander will be helped out when Auston English returns to practice this summer. And McCoy, Adrian Taylor and DeMarcus Granger will be a fearsome rotation at tackle. That depth doesn't even include redshirt freshman defensive ends David King and R.J. Washington and redshirt defensive tackles Casey Walker and Stacy McGee. No wonder the Sooners' offensive line struggled at times this spring.

2. Dominique Franks: One of the Big 12's most underrated defensive players had another strong spring, capping his efforts with two interceptions in the spring game including a 42-yard return for a touchdown. He'll be one of the leaders in the Sooners' defensive backfield again this season.

3. Adron Tennell: Injuries and a deep collection of talent in front of him has kept Tennell on the bench most of his career at Oklahoma. But the 6-foot-4. 191-pounder appears ready to blossom as one of Sam Bradford's top deep threats as a senior. He's been waiting a long time for this chance.

Fall questions

1. Offensive line: The Sooners lost four starters from last season's offensive juggernaut and return only Trent Williams, who was moved to left tackle to protect Bradford's blind side. The unit was called out before spring practice by coach Bob Stoops because of their lack of diligence in training during the winter. Stephen Good got the start at left guard and Ben Habern flourished at center after highly regard recruit Jason Hannan quit the team. Cory Brandon and LSU transfer Jarvis Jones also showed some development, although the line will have to work on its cohesiveness during the summer.

2. Slot receiver: Tennell and Ryan Broyles served as the primary outside receivers. The lack of depth at the position led to the move of running back Mossis Madu to the position for most of the spring.

3. Safeties: Starters Nic Harris and Lendy Holmes are gone from last season -- the only departing starters from the defense. Quinton Carter likely has nailed down one starting position. And a deep rotation of players will be tried with Sam Proctor or Joseph Ibiloye likely to start beside him. Desmond Jackson and Emmanuel Jones both looked good during the spring, but don't be surprised if the Sooners' coaches might consider a talent boost from a talented freshman class at the position that includes Javon Harris and Kevin Brent. The Sooners will need talent there to combat the pass-heavy offenses in the South Division.

Big 12 could be headed for landmark draft

April, 24, 2009
4/24/09
3:05
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

It's fitting and somewhat understandable that the NFL draft will have a distinctly Big 12 tinge Saturday as the early part of the first round plays out.

Keep an eye for Big 12 players to be very conspicuous in ESPN's broadcast of the draft. Four Big 12 players have been invited to watch the proceedings from the "Green Room" for Saturday's first day of the draft.

Baylor tackle Jason Smith, Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree, Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman and Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo all will be at Radio City Music Hall in New York City for the draft.

Smith, Crabtree and Orakpo all could be taken among the draft's 10 or 15 picks. But Freeman, who could go as high as the middle of the first round or drop to the second round, could provide the most compelling drama of the draft's broadcast. Does anybody remember Brady Quinn or Aaron Rodgers in recent years?

The draft undoubtedly will showcase the Big 12's collection of talent that was continually highlighted last season.

Most mock drafts expect the Big 12 will have five or six first-round draft picks. Likely players to be selected include Orakpo, Smith, Missouri wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew, Freeman and Crabtree.

Look for the Big 12's burgeoning reputation as being on the cutting edge in terms of passing to be showcased this weekend. Most mock drafts have Crabtree and Maclin ranked as the top two receivers available. And Pettigrew is the top tight end on most draft boards.

If six Big 12 players are selected in the first round, it would match the league's previous high of six first-round selections set in 2003.

The most interesting potential selection will be Smith, a lightly-regarded recruit after a high-school career as a tight end. He blossomed after adding nearly 80 pounds of muscle over his college career.

Smith will become the Bears' first first-round draft selection since defensive tackle Daryl Gardener was picked by the Miami Dolphins in 1996.

Most prognosticators expect Smith will be picked among the first three picks in the draft. That would be the earliest a Baylor player has been chosen since quarterback Adrian Burk was the second pick in the draft by Baltimore in 1950.

The exposure for the Baylor program will be immense, according to Baylor coach Art Briles.

"We could get the smartest marketers in Texas and ask them how we could best market Baylor University, and they couldn't come up with a better scenario than what's going to happen Saturday in New York," Briles said. "Jason is a great person, and it's been nothing but positive for Baylor. We just have to take that and continue to climb as a football program."

Freeman is poised to become only the second quarterback in Big 12 history to be selected in the first round. He would join Vince Young, who was picked third by Tennessee in the 2006 draft.

Freeman also would be Kansas State's first first-round pick since Terence Newman was picked fifth in the first round by Dallas in 2003. He will also become the Wildcats' highest-selected quarterback, bettering the previous selection of Lynn Dickey, who was picked with the fourth pick in the third round by Green Bay in 1971.

Freeman's size (6-6, 250 pounds) and his rocket arm are his two biggest attributes, despite his lack of extended success in college. His abilities were clear to Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy and OSU coaches.

"The first time we saw Josh, because of his size, stature, the way he carried himself, and then his arm strength, we knew he had a chance to play," Gundy said. "He's just kind of arrived nationally -- people are just now starting to find out about him -- but we knew in our staff room that we was going to be first-round pick.

"You just don't find guys that are 6-6, 250, that can throw it and are as accurate as he is, and he's seemed to be very durable. We were impressed with him from day one."

Crabtree will become Tech's first first-round draft selection of the Big 12 era and the Red Raiders' first first-round pick since Gabe Rivera was picked with the 21st pick by Pittsburgh in 1983.

He will become the highest-selected Texas Tech wide receiver since Dave Parks was the first pick of the 1964 draft by San Francisco and the first one of Mike Leach's players to be picked on the first day of the draft.

Orakpo is poised to continue Texas' recent development as a factory for first-round selections.

Despite missing out last season, the Longhorns produced eight first-round picks in the previous four seasons and 13 over Mack Brown's coaching tenure.

In the process, Orakpo is hoping to counter-balance the so-called "Texas factor" that several analysts have mentioned this week to explain why some Longhorns have been disappointments once they started their NFL careers.

Brown angrily refuted those charges earlier this week.

"People can be more critical of us because we've had as many, or more, than anybody else in the draft," Brown told the Austin American-Statesman. "I don't really pay attention to (that), and I talk to enough general managers, coaches and scouts to know they don't either."

Maclin will become the first Missouri player selected in the first round since Justin Smith was picked by Cincinnati with the fourth pick of the draft in 2001. And Maclin also is poised to become the first Missouri wide receiver ever taken in the first round.

Here's my unofficial pegging of Big 12 draft status during the weekend draft.

Sure first-round picks: Baylor OT Jason Smith, Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree, Texas DE Brian Orakpo, Missouri WR Jeremy Maclin,

Likely first-round picks: Kansas State QB Josh Freeman

Maybe first-round picks: Missouri DT Evander "Ziggy" Hood, Oklahoma State TE Brandon Pettigrew

Likely second-round picks: Oklahoma G Duke Robinson, Missouri S William Moore.

Likely third-round picks: Oklahoma WR Juaquin Iglesias, Oklahoma T Phil Loadholt, Missouri TE Chase Coffman.

Likely picks inside the first five rounds: Texas A&M QB Stephen McGee, Texas Tech S Darcel McBath, Texas Tech DE Brandon Williams, Texas DT Roy Miller, Texas A&M RB Michael Goodson, Texas A&M DE Mi
chael Bennett
, Oklahoma S-LB Nic Harris, Texas Tech G Louis Vasquez, Nebraska DE Zach Potter, Nebraska T Lydon Murtha.

Tim's mailbag: ISU will be better, but not bowl-ready

March, 20, 2009
3/20/09
5:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

It wouldn't be a Friday without some letters from the readers. Here are some I got this week.

Brandon from Ames, Iowa, writes: Tim, I'll be a Cyclone fan until I die no matter how bad we get, but is there going to be any hope for a good season this year? Rhoads is making us hopeful, but what should we consider a successful season given our current condition?

Tim Griffin: Brandon, I've been impressed during the times I've talked with Paul Rhoads since he's taken the job. He seems very positive and upbeat and realizes how daunting the job will be. I see a lot of similarities between him and his coaching mentor, Dan McCarney, who hired Rhoads at Iowa State earlier in his coaching career.

I was also impressed by his two hires for coordinators. Both Tom Herman and Wally Burnham are both very respected in the business and will help him tremendously.

But the Cyclones' talent is at the bottom of the North Division and it will be a big challenge for them to escape the cellar in Rhoads' first season. I think a more realistic goal would be for them to win a game or two more than last season's 2-10 record that ended with 10 straight losses. Anything more than that, in my opinion, will be extremely difficult to accomplish.


Austin from Houston writes: Tim, I noticed in your March 13 mailbag that you mentioned Oklahoma hasn't lost at home since 2001. Did you forget that they lost to the mighty TCU Horned Frogs 17-10 on September 3, 2005? I know that all of the Sooner fans as well as Bob Stoops remember that day. On a different note, although we are roughly seven months away from the game, who is your "way too early" pick for the Texas/OU game?

Tim Griffin: Austin, thanks for the catch. I meant to say the Sooners hadn't lost a conference game since 2001. I do remember the TCU game -- I was there that day. The Horned Frogs were able to dominate the Sooners at Owen Field. I had never seen that happen before with Bob Stoops coaching. And I haven't seen it since, either.

As far as my Red River Rivalry pick, if you asked me today, I would have to go with the Longhorns, but just barely. I'll reserve the right to make my final pick the week before the game.

Texas obviously will be smarting after failing to make the Big 12 championship game despite beating the Sooners last season in the celebrated three-way tie for the South Division championship. They couldn't ask for more inspiration coming into the game than that whole scenario.

But one thing that struck me when talking with Oklahoma players last week in Norman was the defense's confidence. The Sooners have nine starters back on their defensive unit, missing only safeties Nic Harris and Lendy Holmes. The Sooners seem comfortable that their defense will be much improved from last season. I thought the Sooners had a great defensive effort against Missouri in the Big 12 game and a good one in the loss to Florida in the Bowl Championship Series title game. Oklahoma's defense wasn't to blame for the Sooners losing that game.

So I think the Sooners' defense will be a little better than most people think this season. It should make for a great matchup at the Cotton Bowl.

Can we play tomorrow?


Robert Holmes from Norman, Okla., writes: Tim, if you were starting a Big 12 team of all the players who are coming back for the 2009 season, who would you pick first?

Tim Griffin: Great question and one that bears a more detailed answer. I'm going to start a daily post on Tuesday where I will count down the 40 most valuable players in the Big 12. I'll have a player a day culminating on May 2, which also coincidentally is the day of the Kansas State spring game -- the last one in the conference.

So start watching for that next week.

And I won't give you my final answer, but it would be safe to expect that a South Division quarterback, like maybe Colt McCoy or Sam Bradford. Keep watching to check who I've picked.


Brandon from Poteet, Texas, writes: Tim, I saw where you were at Baylor yesterday. How do you gauge the Bears' mindset coming into the upcoming season? Is a bowl berth a real possibility? And where did you end up eating on your way home? I would have advised George's if I was you.

Tim Griffin: The Bears seem to be a confident bunch. From interviews with new defensive tackle Phil Taylor to safety Jordan Lake and defensive coordinator Brian Norwood and coach Art Briles, to newcomers like offensive tackle Danny Watkins, I could detect a different attitude from previous seasons. Those players and coaches flatly tell you they will be playing in a bowl game. And it appears that it will be a shock for them if they aren't bowling somewhere in December.

That being the case, the Bears will face a typically difficult South Division schedule. They absolutely must win three games in the nonconference schedule. And a key swing game at Texas A&M on Nov. 21 will be huge for them.

Baylor's 41-21 victory over the Aggies last season in Waco was a convincing one. But remember that the Bears have produced 10 losses and a tie in their last 11 trips to Kyle Field. The last time Baylor won in College Station was on Oct. 20, 1984, when Grant Teaff's team claimed a 20-16 triumph. As of today, that's a string of 8,917 days and counting.

That's a huge gap and won't be easily snapped.

And as far as my meal in Waco, I didn't really have much time after spending a couple of hours finishing my work and getting a late start back home. I hopped right in the car and made it back home in time to eat one of my wife's delicious leftover pulled-pork sandwiches while I switched between President Obama's appearance on Jay Leno and the final minutes of the Illinois-Western Kentucky game late last week.

Maybe next time for George's.


Steve Woodson from Garden City, Kan., writes: Hey Tim. Great blog. I wouldn't think of starting my day without reading it. I've got a quick question for you. Which team would you anticipate to be the "surprise team" in the Big 12 this season? And which team do you expect will take the biggest step backwards from last season.

Tim Griffin: Steve, thanks for the compliments. I think that Colorado is nicely situated with some diminished expectations outside the program after last season's struggles.

I know that coach Dan Hawkins predicted his team would go 10-2 this season, which would be a surprise to almost anybody outside the Colorado program. But I do think if the Buffaloes can stay healthy and have a quarterback to emerge that they've got a great shot to make it back to a bowl game and might even be able to climb into North Division title contention with a few breaks along the way.

And as far as the program I expect to take the biggest step back, I would nominate Texas Tech. Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree will be missed, obviously. But so will players like Brandon Williams, Louis Vasquez, Daniel Charbonnet, Darcel McBath, Shannon Woods and Rylan Reed. That's a big chunk of talent that had a huge p
art in the Red Raiders' South Division tri-championship team last season to replace at one time.

I still expect the Red Raiders to contend for a bowl appearance as I would peg them about fourth in the Big 12 South behind Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. But I think seven or eight wins is a more likely victory total for them this season rather than last year's 11-2 mark.


Jackson from Telluride, Colo., writes: Which off-season coaching moves to do you think will prove to be the most important in the Big 12 this season?

Tim Griffin: I'll actually nominate three. Obviously, the hiring of Bill Young as Oklahoma State's new defensive coordinator has huge ramifications. Mike Gundy is counting on him to be able to fashion together enough improvement to push the Cowboys into contention. That will be a tall order for him, even with all of his past success at previous stops.

I'm also very curious how the new staff of Bill Snyder works together at Kansas State. I think the hiring of Vic Koenning was a huge get for Snyder. I'm also intrigued to see how Dana Dimel and Del Miller will work together again as co-offensive coordinators. Both have worked with Snyder before. Are there any changes in their coaching since they lasted coached there? We'll see.

And I'm also very interested to see the work of new Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Yost and defensive coordinator Dave Steckel. Both have been with Gary Pinkel since the beginning at Missouri. But both also represent changes that have come to the program after former offensive coordinator Dave Christensen left for the head coaching job at Wyoming and former defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus left to become the Cleveland Browns' linebackers coach.

Pinkel had never had a change in his coaching staff in the first eight years at Missouri. I'm curious to see how the recent switches will alter the Tigers and Pinkel's schematics, if any.

That's all for this week. Check back next week for more correspondence and keep the questions and answers coming. I appreciate it.

Sooners' pro day features prospective NFL players

March, 10, 2009
3/10/09
7:56
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

NORMAN, Okla. -- Former Oklahoma center Jon Cooper joked that he's been eating like Olympic gold-medal swimmer Michael Phelps the last few weeks as he tries to bulk up for the NFL draft.

Cooper was among 19 former Sooners who showed their stuff for NFL scouts as they gauged their pro potential.

His recent calorie binge is understandable, considering that Cooper was stricken with strep throat late in the season, diminishing his weight to 255 before the Texas A&M game on Nov. 8.

"I had to push the calories quite a bit because the combine was only a few weeks after the Shrine Game," said Cooper, who is now back at his regular playing weight of 290. "I worried about it a little bit, but I ran at that weight for two years. I think I felt pretty good at it."

It helped Cooper to clock a 5.1 and 5.09 in two 40-yard dashes, giving him presentable times for prospective centers.

The fastest Sooner was wide receiver Quentin Chaney, who clocked a 4.59 and a 4.62 in the 40-yard dash times. Defensive back Brett Bowers ran a 4.62 and 4.63. Lendy Holmes ran a pair of 4.65s and former Oklahoma running back Jacob Gutierrez ran a 4.69. No other player who was tested ran faster than a 4.7.

Safety Nic Harris, who was measured at a shade over 6-2 and 232 pounds, was clocked at 4.84 on both of his 40-yard dashes. Those times and his side are making scouts consider him universally as a linebacker after a one-game stint at the position in college.

"I'm always up for a challenge and I'm trying to learn extremely quick," Harris said. "I think I'm doing well."

Harris said he doesn't make much of those who discount him because of his perceived lack of speed for those at his position.

"At the end of a day, I'm a football player," Harris said. "Last I checked I've never seen a guy with a stop watch on Sundays trying to see how fast a guy can get to the ball."

OU's McCoy aims for strong finish

March, 6, 2009
3/06/09
1:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

In the moments after Oklahoma's disappointing BCS title game loss to Florida, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy wasn't sure if any of his draft-eligible teammates would be returning.

 
  Marc Serota/Getty Images
  Gerald McCoy was a consensus All-Big 12 selection last season.
With key players like quarterback Sam Bradford, tight end Jermaine Gresham and tackle Trent Williams all projected to be picked early in the first day of the NFL draft, McCoy expected the worst. He wasn't even sure if he would be coming back to college, much less the rest of his teammates.

But something happened before the draft eligibility paperwork had to be turned in. All of the Sooners' key underclassmen who were considering turning pro decided to come back en masse.

"I don't think I would have believed we all would be coming back together, but it happened," McCoy said. "We know that we are the leaders of the team and everything happens for a reason. We have to come out and lead this team."

McCoy wavered in his own decision whether to come back for his junior season or declare for the draft. The NFL draft evaluation indicated he would have been a likely first-round draft pick. But the second-team All-American felt like he still had some unfinished business in college that made him want to return for another season.

"I went back and forth. One day I wanted to go and the next I didn't," McCoy said. "It almost was like what I felt when I was being recruited. Once I prayed and felt comfortable about my decision, I felt relaxed about what I was doing."

(Read full post)

Tim's mailbag: How much will Kansas miss those linebackers?

March, 3, 2009
3/03/09
6:09
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

We'll be going to a different schedule the next few weeks in which we'll break up the questions. Some will appear on Tuesdays and others will appear on the traditional Friday slot.

Here are some of the best ones I've received over the past several days.

Andrew from Clemson, S.C., writes: Tim, with Kansas getting so much off-season hype to win the Big 12 North, do you think some are underestimating the loss of the members of their offensive line and linebackers from last season? I know here in Clemson after we saw what happens with a young offensive line and linebacker corps.

Tim Griffin: You raise a very good point. That rebuilding is the major reason why I'm a little hesitant to pick the Jayhawks for the North title. Even with Todd Reesing, Dezmon Briscoe, Kerry Meier, Jake Sharp and all the rest, the play of the Kansas defense will be critical.

I'm thinking the Jayhawks will miss Joe Mortensen, James Holt and Mike Rivera. And the loss of guards Chet Hartley and Adrian Mayes and center Ryan Cantrell could be even more of a challenge, considering they anchored of the Jayhawks' line.

I'm also a little leery about the Jayhawks' cross-division opponents. Drawing Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech will mean the Jayhawks will be playing three of the four likely toughest South opponents.

It won't be easy. And that's why I think the North will be an interesting race.


John from Austin writes: Tim, I wrote you a couple of weeks ago how Texas doesn't seem to be in the running for guys who like to make the dramatic "hat" choices on ESPN (to announce where they are committing). But I was thinking about the 19 2010 commitments the school has already attracted. Most of them show up, maybe we are cradle robbers instead of the "hat guys?"

Tim Griffin: Or maybe Mack Brown and his staff feel like they can circumvent the whole "hat process" by picking his recruiting targets early and signing them. It looks like he's done a pretty good job so far -- at least this spring anyway.


Abe Clark from Durham, N.C., writes: I'm curious if you misread a question in your last chat? You ranked the best teams in the Big 12 last year as Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Nebraska. Did you think the ranking was for the upcoming season? Where's the love for one of the best Texas Tech teams in history?

Also, I love your blog and your insights.

Tim Griffin: Sorry about that. I did think the question was for the upcoming season. Some of those questions in our chats are a little like the lightning round from "Password," for some of my more television-savvy readers. We try to crank as many out as we can. I'll try to read them a little more clearly next time.

As far as last season, here would be my final Big 12 rankings: Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Kansas State, Baylor, Texas A&M and Iowa State.

And also I agree that arguably, the last Texas Tech team was the best in the history of the school. The Red Raiders' 10-0 start and No. 2 ranking late last season also made it one of the most memorable seasons as well -- both for Texas Tech fans and Mike Leach's pocketbook with the new contract extension.


Steve from Roanoke, Va., writes: Just wondering what you think about Oklahoma's defense. Will they be much better than last season?

Tim Griffin: I do think the Sooners' defensive unit will be a backbone for the team. The Sooners have nine starters back and some key producers like Gerald McCoy, Travis Lewis, Frank Alexander, Dom Franks, Keenan Clayton, Auston English and Jeremy Beal. The defense will be particularly important in the Big 12 where offenses will again be so predominant. The team with the best defense might end up as the best team, because I think many teams will have big offensive units.

I think the biggest key for the Sooners will be the play of their new safeties after starters Nic Harris and Lendy Holmes both departed. The play of Quinton Carter and Sam Proctor will be critical as the projected starters. And also keep an eye open for a contribution from rangy redshirt freshman Joseph Ibiloye, who has turned heads in winter workouts.


John S. from Williamsport, Pa., writes: Who do you believe assumes power in the North? Missouri loses Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin and all of the guys on defense. With the staff changes in Columbia, it looks like they will be taking a step back. My guess is Nebraska or Kansas. Who do you think?

Tim Griffin: I'm thinking that Nebraska would be my slight favorite over Kansas, mainly because of the Cornhuskers' cross-division schedule compared to Kansas'. But it wouldn't surprise me if Colorado creeps into contention and I still think Missouri and Kansas State will be representative teams that have their moments, too. I give Nebraska a slight edge, but I want to take a close look at their quarterbacks this spring before I anoint the team heading into the summer.


Jason Peters from Oklahoma City writes: Tim, what would you consider are the greatest teams in Big 12 history? And are my Sooners included on the list?

Tim Griffin: Most definitely. They aren't the best team, but are among several of the best. Here's how I would rank them.

1. 2005 Texas
2. 2000 Oklahoma
3. 1997 Nebraska
4. 2004 Oklahoma (Maybe higher if Mike Stoops coached them all season)
5. 1999 Nebraska

Keep the letters and e-mails coming and I'll try to answer a representative sampling of them later this week. Thanks again for writing.

Don't always believe those heights and weights

February, 24, 2009
2/24/09
6:14
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

When I was a little kid, one element among my favorites of going to a football game was collecting a game program. I loved nothing better than to scan rosters and check the heights and weights of players as I looked at them through my father's binoculars.

It led me to collecting many programs that probably still are around my parents' house somewhere. I guess I just wanted to add to the clutter of my bedroom.

If I had known then what I know now, I might not have been so diligent about all of the effort. Little boys don't know those heights and weights for their football heroes aren't always correct.

The best way to analyze the discrepancy is by comparing the heights and weights of some of the Big 12 players who attended the recent NFL combine and compare them with what they were listed at during their college careers.

The before is their listed height and weight during last season. The after is what they were measured over the weekend by the NFL.

(Read full post)

What to watch at Big 12 spring practices

February, 13, 2009
2/13/09
10:00
AM ET

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.

NORTH DIVISION

Colorado Buffaloes

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.

Kansas Jayhawks

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.

Kansas State Wildcats:

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.

Missouri Tigers

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.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

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.

SOUTH DIVISION

Baylor Bears

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.

Oklahoma Sooners

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 AnyiamJosh Cooper and DeMarcus Conner an opportunity to work with Zac Robinson while Bryant and Bowling are gone.

Texas Longhorns

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.

Texas A&M

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.

Texas Tech Red Raiders

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.
Tags:

Quentin Chaney, Houston Jones, Ian Campbell, Sergio Kindle, Lydon Murtha, Jerrell Jackson, Menelik Holt, Cyril Obiozor, Will Muschamp, Brad Thorson, Ziggy Hood, Nate Swift, Rodney Stewart, Mike Iltis, Brandon Balkcom, Lonnie Edwards, Barney Cotton, Brian Norwood, Christine Michael, Justin Garrett, Joe Korbel, Ryan Cantrell, Andy Ludwig, Josh Cooper, Aric Goodman, James Kirkendoll, Trent Williams, Chris Cosh, Quan Cosby, Tru Vaughns, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Jameon Hardeman, Mike Rivera, Sam Sledge, Ryan Broyles, Roy Miller, Cameron Kenney, Bill Snyder, Kyle Kriegel, Eddie Jones, Sedrick Johnson, Baylor Bears, Chase Coffman, Brandon Williams, Ben Alexander, Leon Freeman, Texas Longhorns, Jeff Fitzgerald, Marcus Herford, Vincent Rhodes, Mossis Madu, Malcolm Williams, Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Kody Spanos, Jason Smith, Colt McCoy, William Moore, Stryker Sulak, Brandon Caleb, Johnny Thomas, Ryan Miller, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Michael Bennett, Tommy Saunders, Louis Vasquez, Quinton Moore, Cory Brandon, Adrian Mayes, Missouri Tigers, Darrell Scott, Colorado Buffaloes, R.J. Sumrall, Patrick Witt, Jason Hannan, Shane Jarka, Maxwell Tuiot-Mariner, Matt Slauson, Tommy Chavis, Chase Daniel, Cyrus Gray, McKinner Dixon, Zac Scotton, Chet Hartley, Eric Crouch, Devin Head, Dakota Lewis, Robert Steeples, James Holt, Cody Green, Matt Eberflus, Chris Singleton, Dave Christensen, Oklahoma Sooners, Spring what to watch, Andrew Jones, Michael Wilcoxson, Manuel Johnson, Dan Hawkins, Todd Peterson, Mike Leach, Kansas State Wildcats, Russell Carter, Edward Britton, Dan Buckner, Darius Darks, Alex Williams, Michael Crabtree, Juaquin Iglesias, Angus Quigley, Shawn Watson, Marquis Hamilton, Carl Wilson, Paul Freeney, Paul Rhoads, Bradley Stephens, Kansas Jayhawks, Joe Mortensen, Stephen Hamby, Brian Coulter, Sheldon Richardson, Detron Lewis, Bo Bowling, Lendy Holmes, Bill Young, Zac Robinson, Hubert Anyiam, Blaine Gabbert, Brandon Collins, Jameson Davis, Antonio Bell, Taylor Potts, Daniel Thomas, Iowa State Cyclones, Alex Okafor, Desmond Jackson, Graham Harrell, Benjamin Burney, Keondra Smith, Brian Bosworth, Lyle Leong, Cedric Dockery, Dezmon Briscoe, Earl Goldsmith, Fozzy Whittaker, Nic Harris, Henry Melton, Brian Simmons, Amos Gbunblee, Daniel Howard, Dominique Jones, Jordan Shipley, Chris Olson, Rashad Hawk, Jarrell Harrison, D.J. Jones, Brian Orakpo, Ricky Price, Jeray Chatham, Swanson Miller, Brandon Hunley, Jeremy Maclin, Terrell Resonno, Tremain Swindall, Josh Freeman, Carson Coffman, Gary Pinkel, Zach Grossnickle, DeMarcus Conner, Kheeston Randall, Aldon Smith, Marcel Jones, Dominique Hamilton, Arist Wright, Rylan Reed, Jalil Brown, Quinton Carter, Mike Sherman, Texas A&M Aggies

Forty-one Big 12 players invited to NFL Combine

February, 2, 2009
2/02/09
2:41
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here's the official list of 41 Big 12 players who have been invited to the NFL combine Feb. 18 through Feb. 24 in Indianapolis.

Oklahoma led all Big 12 teams with eight players invited to the combine, followed by Texas, Missouri and Nebraska with six players each and Texas Tech with five players.

All Big 12 schools were represented with the exception of Colorado, Iowa State and Kansas.

All players are expected to attend with the exception of Texas wide receiver Jordan Shipley, who was granted an extra season of eligibility and will remain in college. Shipley recently underwent shoulder surgery and will not be able to participate when spring practice begins for the Longhorns later this week.

NFL officials have calculated that players invited to the NFL combine typically are drafted 64 percent of the time. So these players would appear to have the best chance of being picked among eligible players from the Big 12.

Here's a list of invited players listed by their schools.

Baylor: T Dan Gay, T Jason Smith.

Colorado: None.

Iowa State: None.

Kansas: None.

Kansas State: QB Josh Freeman, DE-LB Ian Campbell.

Missouri: TE Chase Coffman, QB Chase Daniel, DT Ziggy Hood, WR-KR Jeremy Maclin, S William Moore, DE Stryker Sulak.

Nebraska: LB Cody Glenn, RB Marlon Lucky, T Lydon Murtha, DE Zach Potter, G Matt Slauson, WR Nathan Swift.

Oklahoma: C Jon Cooper, S Nic Harris, S Lendy Holmes, WR Juaquan Iglesias, WR Manuel Johnson, T Phil Loadholt, G Duke Robinson, G Brandon Walker.

Oklahoma State: P Matt Fodge, TE Brandon Pettigrew.

Texas: WR Quan Cosby, DT Roy Miller, RB Chris Ogbonnaya, DE Brian Orakpo, CB Ryan Palmer, WR Jordan Shipley.*

Texas A&M: DE Michael Bennett, P Justin Brantly, RB Michael Goodson, QB Stephen McGee.

Texas Tech: WR Michael Crabtree, QB Graham Harrell, S Darcel McBath, G Louis Vasquez, DE Brandon Williams.

*  Note: Shipley has elected to stay for a sixth season of eligibility with Texas. He will be available for the 2010 draft.

Six Sooners invited to the NFL combine

January, 30, 2009
1/30/09
5:42
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Six Oklahoma players have been invited to attend the NFL combine Feb. 18-24 in Indianapolis.

The Sooners are hopeful of improving their draft stock with big performances in the testing and workouts.

Players who have been invited include:

  • Duke Robinson, guard
  • Phil Loadholt, tackle
  • Manuel Johnson, wide receiver
  • Lendy Holmes, cornerback/safety
  • Nic Harris, safety
  • Juaquin Iglesias, wide receiver

Texas-OU rivalry restaged at the Senior Bowl

January, 23, 2009
1/23/09
10:37
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The Senior Bowl usually has the best players of any of the postseason college all-star games. And it's that way again this season with most of the top senior players hoping to show what they can do for a bevy of pro scouts who have spent this week watching them work out.

Saturday's contest will have a little more interest for Big 12 fans for another reason. Texas and Oklahoma players will be pitted on different teams in the game, which begins at 7 p.m. ET from Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. It will be shown on the NFL Network.

I know it's not quite like the Red River Rivalry, but it still might be interesting when Texas wide receiver Quan Cosby of the South runs some routes against Oklahoma linebacker/defensive back Nic Harris of the North team in Saturday's game.

Below is a list of Big 12 players who will be participating with their uniform numbers in parentheses. And here's a link for complete rosters for the North and South teams from the Senior Bowl's Web site.

North: Oklahoma LB-DB Nic Harris (No. 5), Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell (No. 6), Oklahoma WR Juaquin Iglesias (No. 9), Missouri DB William Moore (No. 11), Oklahoma WR Manny Johnson (No. 22), Oklahoma T Phil Loadholt (No. 79), Oklahoma State TE Brandon Pettigrew (No. 87) and Missouri DT Ziggy Hood (No. 94).

South: Texas WR Quan Cosby (No. 6).

Oklahoma recruiting needs

January, 20, 2009
1/20/09
1:09
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Oklahoma has carved out a dynasty in the Big 12 with six championships during the last nine seasons and an unprecedented three-peat of league titles from 2006-08. The backbone of that success has been tenacious recruiting over the years by Bob Stoops and his staff.

The return of quarterback Sam Bradford, tackle Trent Williams, tight end Jermaine Gresham and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy for another season after they considered an early departure for the NFL will give the Sooners a chance to compete for another title in 2009. But the Sooners still have some major holes to fill with additional personnel that can be addressed through this year's recruiting.

Williams is the only starter returning along the offensive line. The need is especially apparent at guard and center, where the Sooners are young and untested at both positions.

The Sooners also need help at wide receiver where Ryan Broyles is the only returning player in Oklahoma's four-man rotation with the loss of Juaquin Iglesias, Manuel Johnson and Quentin Chaney among their leading receivers. And tight ends Gresham and Brody Eldridge both will be seniors in 2009, meaning there's an immediate need for help there, too.

Stoops' defense is largely young with three sophomores and a freshman along the defensive front. The linebackers appear stacked with redshirt freshmen Travis Lewis and Austin Box poised to become defensive staples in upcoming seasons.

Oklahoma's major defensive positional need is is at safety where Nic Harris and Lendy Holmes both were seniors last season. The Sooners have some younger players behind them, but could an upgrade of talent for a secondary that was leaky at times last season.

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