Big 12: Nolan Brewster
You can take a look at those here:
- Big 12 signees in the 2006 ESPNU 150
- Big 12 signees in the 2007 ESPNU 150
- Big 12 signees in the 2008 ESPNU 150
- Big 12 signees in the 2009 ESPNU 150
- Big 12 signees in the 2010 ESPNU 150
- Big 12 signees in the 2011 ESPNU 150
That was before the 2011 season. Now, our recruitniks have taken it upon themselves to provide a new update for the 2008 class.
You'll need ESPN Insider to see the full updates for each player group, but here's how the Big 12 players have done:
Prospects ranked from 1-25
No. 6 Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State (via Miami): Brown committed to Miami (Fla.), where he struggled to see the field in 2008 and 2009. He transferred to Kansas State and was named Big 12 newcomer of the year in 2011 after recording 95 tackles, two sacks and an interception (of Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III).
No. 7: Jermie Calhoun, RB, Oklahoma: Calhoun's career never got off the ground at Oklahoma after he redshirted as a true freshman. He appeared in 16 games and rushed for 242 yards on 56 carries. He tore his ACL early in his sophomore season (2010) and decided to transfer to Football Championship Subdivision program Angelo State University.
No. 11: R.J. Washington, DE, Oklahoma: Washington has appeared in 25 games (no starts) for the Sooners, and has 20 tackles and 3.5 sacks. His 13 tackles, three sacks and five pass breakups in 2011 are all career highs.
No. 13: Josh Jarboe, WR, Oklahoma: Jarboe was arrested for bringing a weapon onto his high school campus before enrolling at Oklahoma. His career with the Sooners didn't last long, as he was kicked off the team after a YouTube video emerged with him rapping about guns and violence. Jarboe resurfaced at Troy but couldn't escape the negative headlines and was dismissed in 2009. After a year at Northeast Mississippi junior college, Jarboe returned to the Football Bowl Subdivision ranks at Arkansas State, and had 54 receptions for 730 yards and two touchdowns this season
No. 16: D.J. Grant, WR, Texas: After redshirting in 2008, Grant suffered season-ending knee injuries in 2009 and 2010. He finally got on the field in 2011 and started six games, finishing the season with 16 receptions for 180 yards and three touchdowns.
No. 17: Dan Buckner, WR, Texas: Buckner had 50 receptions for 526 yards and six touchdowns in two seasons with Texas. He was arrested on charges of criminal trespassing and resisting arrest in January 2010 and decided to transfer to Arizona. Buckner had 42 catches for 606 yards and two touchdowns this season for the Wildcats.
Prospects ranked 26-50
No. 38: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri: It was once thought that Gabbert would be redshirted as a freshman in 2008. Instead, he was the third-string quarterback for the Tigers. He is now a starting NFL quarterback, playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars. During his career at Missouri, Gabbert threw for more than 6,800 yards and 40 touchdowns. He left for the NFL after his junior season.
Prospects ranked 51-75
57. Cyrus Gray, RB, Texas A&M: Gray closed out his junior season with seven consecutive 100-yard rushing performances, and he added two more to that streak to open his senior campaign. He missed the final two games of the Aggies' season, but he closed out his career with 312 yards and five scores in his final two games. He was named to the 2011 All-Big 12 second team, and ran for nearly 3,300 yards and 30 touchdowns in his career.
No. 72: Jameel Owens, WR, Oklahoma: In two years with the Sooners, Owens caught four passes for 44 yards. He then transferred to Tulsa before the 2010 season, receiving a transfer waiver so he did not have to sit out a season. But he lasted only one season for the Hurricanes, as he was granted a leave of absence during spring drills in 2011 and never returned to the team.
Prospects ranked 76-100
No. 79: David Snow, OL, Texas: Snow came right in and played as a true freshman. When it was all said and done, he appeared in 51 games, starting 31 at center and both guard positions. He received a Big 12 honorable mention this past season.
No. 84: Stephen Good, OL, Oklahoma: Good has been an active member of the Sooners' offensive line since he arrived in 2008. He was in the two-deep since day one, playing both guard positions.
No. 91: Derrick Hall, ATH, Texas A&M: Hall never made it to College Station because he failed to qualify academically. He went on to Navarro Junior College, where he rushed for more than 2,200 yards and 29 touchdowns in two seasons. Hall then signed with Tulsa, but the NCAA ruled him ineligible.
No. 92: Daniel Franklin, ILB, Oklahoma: Franklin redshirted his freshman season, and has since been a career backup and special-teams player in Norman.
No. 95: DeSean Hales, WR, Texas: Hales redshirted his freshman season in Austin. Through the next three years, he played in 31 games, catching 13 passes for 87 yards. He has one more season of eligibility.
No. 100: Emmanuel Acho, LB, Texas: Acho started every game this past season for the Longhorns, leading the team in tackles with 131. He also recorded 19 tackles for loss and three sacks. Acho was named first-team All-Big 12 in 2011, and finished his career with 269 tackles, 40 tackles for loss and eight sacks.
Prospects ranked 101-125
No. 106: Jordan Fields, CB, Texas A&M: Fields committed to Texas A&M but never signed with the Aggies. He enrolled at Blinn JC (Texas) following high school and has yet to sign with an FBS school.
No. 114: Nolan Brewster, OLB, Texas: Brewster played in all 13 games as a true freshman, mainly on special teams, and had eight tackles. He had 24 tackles and an interception as a backup safety as a sophomore and then redshirted his junior year after undergoing shoulder surgery. As a senior, Brewster played in Texas' first four games but had to retire from football due to multiple concussions and post-traumatic migraine headaches.
No. 117: Kye Staley, RB, Oklahoma State: Staley redshirted and then suffered a knee injury that wiped out his 2009 season. He quit the football team and didn't play in 2010 but rejoined the team the following year. He played in 13 games this past season, catching 10 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown.
No. 118: Kendall Wright, ATH, Baylor: He made an immediate impact as a true freshman, leading the team in catches, yards and touchdowns. He earned second-team All-Big 12 honors his sophomore year, catching 66 balls for 740 yards and four touchdowns. Wright broke school records his junior season, catching 78 passes for 952 yards and seven touchdowns to again earn second team All-Big 12. As a senior, Wright earned several All-American honors after catching 108 passes for 1,663 yards and 14 touchdowns, all school records. He's rated as a potential first-round draft pick in April's NFL draft.
No. 122: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma: Jones will likely shatter every Sooners passing mark after surprisingly deciding to come back for his senior year. He started 10 games his redshirt freshman season after starter Sam Bradford (St. Louis Rams) suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. He set a school freshman record, throwing for 3,198 yards and 26 touchdowns, including a school-record six in one game. He earned All-American honors as a sophomore after throwing for 4,718 yards and 38 touchdowns and led the Big 12 in total offense. Jones' numbers were down a bit his junior season, but he still threw for 4,463 yards and 29 touchdowns.
No. 125: Justin Johnson, RB, Oklahoma: Johnson's Sooners career was short-lived as he transferred to Abilene Christian following his freshman year. He rushed for 103 yards and had a 100-yard kickoff return for a score as a sophomore but transferred following that season to McMurry, a Division III school. Johnson rushed for 771 yards and eight touchdowns to go with 40 catches for 352 yards and four more scores for the War Hawks as a junior last year.
Prospects ranked 126-150
No. 138: Dravannti Johnson, LB, Texas: Johnson decided to transfer from Texas last month, having already graduated. The junior defensive end saw limited action, playing in only seven games and registering just four tackles, one for a loss. Johnson's most productive season came in 2010, when he started five games and recorded 23 tackles, two tackles for a loss, one sack and six quarterback pressures. He is expected to transfer to a smaller school for more playing time.
No. 143: Rodrick Davis, DT, Texas A&M: After two uneventful seasons at Texas A&M, Davis transferred to Fort Scott (Kansas) Community College before transferring again to New Mexico following the 2011 season. Davis played in eight games last season for Fort Scott and recorded 28 tackles. He redshirted in 2008 so he has one year of eligibility remaining and can play this season.
Here's what we've covered so far:
The group of safeties across the Big 12 isn't fantastic, without any truly elite groups, but it's decent. There aren't any teams that look really hopeless at the position in the immediate future.
I haven't given it real close examination so far on the positions we haven't covered yet, but this is by far the closest gap between 1-10 of any position so far.
Here's how I ranked them. (Remember, I lumped in nickel backs with linebackers, so Ahmad Dixon and Tony Jefferson won't be found anywhere in this post.)
2. Texas -- Blake Gideon takes his share of criticism, a good deal of it fair, but there's a reason he's starting for Texas for a fourth season this fall. He knows what he's doing. Kenny Vaccaro will challenge OSU's Martin, among others, for the title of the Big 12's biggest hitter and Nolan Brewster and Christian Scott are strong reserves at the position. The Longhorns lose a lot at corner, but all the safeties are back from a defense that allowed just over 170 yards a game through the air in conference play last season.
3. Texas A&M -- The Aggies' Steven Terrell and Trent Hunter are solid, and Hunter is a big playmaker who made 62 stops and picked off two passes last year. Toney Hurd Jr. is the backup and was one of the most impressive freshmen in fall camp last year, joined by Steven Campbell in the rotation.
4. Kansas State -- Tysyn Hartman has loads of experience and is one of the Wildcats that Bill Snyder loves to rave about. Ty Zimmerman was one of the Big 12's best freshman last year, and picked off three passes. They should be solid again next year, and for as much criticism as K-State's defense faced last year, they were fifth in the Big 12 in pass defense. Logan Dold should be in the rotation, too.
5. Oklahoma -- Reserve Sam Proctor has starting experience, but Javon Harris and Aaron Colvin enter fall camp as starters. That says plenty about how Bob Stoops and Brent Venables feel about them. In a word: confident. Colvin has the most potential in the group, but the two starters will have to learn on the go. Proctor, a senior, should be able to help. James Haynes will also be in the rotation.
6. Missouri -- Jasper Simmons is gone, but Missouri's safeties might be a bit underrated in this spot. Kenji Jackson has loads of experience and should be solid, and Tavon Bolden and Matt White are a pair of promising sophomores who should compete at free safety. Kenronte Walker should be in the rotation, too.
7. Texas Tech -- Injuries were a problem last year for the Tech secondary, but Cody Davis and D.J. Johnson will hold down the traditional safety spots away from the line of scrimmage in new coordinator Chad Glasgow's 4-2-5. The unit gave up lots of big plays in 2010 (151 over 10 yards, 46 over 20, and 25 over 30, all the most in the Big 12), but I'd expect that number to drop under Glasgow if the secondary stays healthy. Davis is the team's leading returning tackler, with 87 stops. Brett Dewhurst and Giorgio Durham should be in the rotation.
8. Kansas -- Keeston Terry and Bradley McDougald give Kansas a lot of speed and athletic ability at the position, but both of the team's safeties from 2010 graduated and Terry and McDougald are short on experience. Lubbock Smith should add some solid depth to the position.
9. Iowa State -- Iowa State loses their top playmaker at the position, David Sims, but returns starter Ter'Ran Benton. He'll be helped out by some combination of Jacques Washington, Earl Brooks and Deon Broomfield once the season starts. Iowa State's biggest weakness is on the defensive line, so it's hard to get a good read on how good the safeties really are with such a poor pass rush up front.
10. Baylor -- This group might move up the list during the year under Phil Bennett, but the two best raw athletes (Ahmad Dixon, Prince Kent) at the position moved to nickel back and linebacker, respectively. The team's leading tackler, Byron Landor, graduated, and that left Mike Hicks as the other starter. He'll be helped out at safety by Sam Holl, Josh Wilson and K.J. Morton. Last year, the Bears ranked last in the Big 12 in pass defense in conference play, giving up over 300 yards a game. That'll have to change or Baylor won't get past seven wins.
Well, it's the same for the recruits who came to campus with high rankings and high profiles. Going back to 2006, here's how every Big 12 commit from the ESPNU 150 turned out. We'll eventually get to 2010 and the current class, 2011, around signing day, but here's how the 2008 class breaks down. Jermie Calhoun, RB, Oklahoma. Has 242 yards and a touchdown on 56 carries. Missed final two months of sophomore season in 2010 after tearing ACL against Colorado on Oct. 30.
No. 9: Darrell Scott, RB, Colorado. Transferred to South Florida after 2009 season because of lack of playing time. Ran for just 95 yards on 23 carries as a sophomore after running for 343 yards and a touchdown on 87 carries as a freshman in 2008.
No. 11: R.J. Washington, DE, Oklahoma. Has seven tackles and half a tackle for loss in two seasons after redshirting his first year on campus.
No. 16: D.J. Grant, WR, Texas. Redshirted in 2008, missed all of 2009 season with knee injury. Still trying to fully recover from injury, per former offensive coordinator Greg Davis at a November news conference.
No. 17: Dan Buckner, WR, Texas. Caught 50 passes for 526 yards in two seasons, including 45 for 442 as a sophomore in 2009. Transferred to Arizona after the season, less than 24 hours after an arrest in College Station, Texas.
No. 38: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri. Two-year starter who threw for 6,822 yards and 40 touchdowns in his three-year career, which featured two All-Big 12 seasons. Projects as early first-round pick in 2011 draft.
No. 57: Cyrus Gray, RB, Texas A&M. Earned All-Big 12 honors in 2010 with seven consecutive 100-yard games to close the season. Has 2,253 yards and 18 touchdowns for his career. Also caught 72 passes for three touchdowns and more than 500 yards.
No. 66: Jarvis Humphrey, DT, Texas. Forced to withdraw from the University of Texas because of a kidney condition.
No. 72: Jameel Owens, WR, Oklahoma. Caught four passes for 44 yards in 2008 before transferring to Tulsa after the season.
No. 79: David Snow, OG, Texas. Appeared in all 38 career games, including 13 starts at center (11 in 2010) and five at right guard.
No. 84: Stephen Good, OT, Oklahoma. Became a starter in 2009 and was second on the team in knockdowns that season. Part of the Sooners' rotation at guard in 2010.
No. 91: Derrick Hall, ATH, Texas A&M. Did not qualify academically. Enrolled at Navarro College before signing with Tulsa out of junior college.
No. 92: Daniel Franklin, ILB, Oklahoma. Reserve linebacker has seen playing time on special teams.
No. 95: DeSean Hales, WR, Texas. Has 11 career receptions for 77 yards. Appeared in 20 games over three seasons.
No. 98: Jon Major, LB, Colorado. Missed entire freshman season with torn ACL in fall camp. Became a starter in 2010. Has 54 career tackles with three pass break-ups and two tackles for loss.
No. 100: Emmanuel Acho, OLB, Texas. Has 11 career starts and was an All-Big 12 performer in 2009 as a sophomore. Has 135 career tackles, 21 tackles for loss, four sacks, six forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
No. 114: Nolan Brewster, OLB, Texas. Reserve safety has appeared in 27 games, including special teams, over career. Has 32 tackles, one interception and two tackles for loss.
No. 117: Kye Staley, RB, Oklahoma State. Missed all of 2009 with knee injury and left the team before the 2010 season.
No. 118: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor. Two-time All-Big 12 performer has 194 career catches for 2,341 yards and 16 touchdowns.
No. 122: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma. Became starter as redshirt freshman in 2009 after Sam Bradford injured a shoulder in the season opener. Earned All-Big 12 honors in 2010. Has 7,916 career yards with 64 touchdowns and 26 interceptions.
No. 125: Justin Johnson, RB, Oklahoma. Transferred in June 2009 to Abilene Christian after playing sparingly as a freshman in 2008.
No. 138: Dravannti Johnson, LB, Texas. Made 21 tackles in 2010 after redshirting in 2008 and not playing in 2009.
No. 143: Rodrick Davis, DT, Texas A&M. Reserve lineman redshirted in 2008, accumulated no stats in 2010.
No. 150: Lynn Katoa, OLB, Colorado. Transferred in May 2009 after academic issues. Was ineligible for 2008 season.
That hasn't kept Brown from heaping praise on his 2010 defensive backfield.
"We feel like we’re as good at corner right now, potentially, as we’ve ever been," Brown said.
"We’re really fortunate right now," Brown said. "All three are potential NFL guys to me."
That means trouble for Big 12 quarterbacks. Though Texas loses Thomas, a safety and finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's best defensive back, the Big 12's second-best pass defense a season ago plans to challenge for the top spot in 2010. If Brown's senses are correct, they should be able to do it, and improve on their NO. 19 national ranking at defending the pass.
"We’re more comfortable with [defensive coordinator Will] Muschamp’s scheme; I know I am," Williams said. "A lot of guys are returning guys who are coming back and are more knowledgeable about what he wants to do."
Blake Gideon returns at safety, and Kenny Vaccaro and Nolan Brewster will compete for Thomas' freed-up spot.
"We had high expectations last year, but we’re probably going to have more expectations this year," Williams said. "Our goal right now is to be physical, we’re trying to be one of the most physical DB corps in the nation."
In the Texas spring game to close practice on Sunday, Williams and Vaccaro took steps to establishing that identity. Williams broke up a deep pass early by going over the intended receiver to swat the ball away. Vaccaro unleashed the biggest hit of the exhibition on running back Tre Newton, driving through his teammate on a short pass in the flats.
"We don’t want a team to be like 'Okay, well he’s that one physical person.' We want a team to be like 'Whoa, we’ve got that team coming through,'" Williams said. "As a team, we want to be more physical."
But even in praising them, in the same breath, their coach can't help but think like a coach.
"We’re really pleased with those corners, we just have to find the younger ones, because two of those are seniors and they’ll be gone," Brown said.
Not to mention Williams, a junior who enters 2010 with a legitimate case as the Big 12's top defender and whose future could includes an early entry into the 2011 NFL draft. That would leave Brown without any of his three future pro corners. But he's already picked out a few successors, including A.J. White and Eryon Barnett.
"We’ve got to find somebody to step up," Brown said.
“The team trusts him,” coach Mack Brown said after Sunday’s game. “They think he is the guy and at his age and not starting a game before, that’s pretty impressive for him.”
More on Gilbert in a bit.
- Texas held nine players out of Sunday’s game: LB Emmanuel Acho (hip), S Nolan Brewster (shoulder), WR John Chiles (hamstring), TE D.J. Grant (knee), RB Cody Johnson (hamstring), OT Paden Kelley (ankle), RB Vondrell McGee (shoulder), LB Jared Norton (shoulder), and OG Mason Walters (foot).
Brown told me last week he was trying to find a way to use running back Chris Whaley. In Sunday’s game, Whaley showed why. With Johnson sitting out, the 259-pounder played the role of bruiser, answering criticisms of his inability to use that frame.
“We want him to lose about 25 pounds,” Brown said. “If he can get down in the 240s and see if we think he has a chance to be a running back. He has to keep working because he shows spurts of doing some really good things.”
Whaley busted a long run out of the shotgun on his team’s first drive, and unleashed a nasty stiff-arm two carries later. Granted, he fumbled between those two carries, but still. If he can show some consistency, he’ll create his own carries.
He also had a nice run in the fourth quarter with a little under five minutes to play. When he gets in the secondary, he can make big things happen.
He finished with 70 yards on 14 carries, split between the two teams. He did a lot of that against reserves, and right now, the redshirt freshman is basically Johnson with less experience, but he’s definitely a guy to watch in coming years.
Fozzy Whittaker and Tre' Newton had ho-hum days (43 and 13 yards, respectively) on the stat sheet, but Whittaker looked pretty good hitting the hole a couple times and both guys showed a nice ability to lower their shoulder and deliver a hit.
“We can throw it every time with Garrett, but we want to go back and be more balanced,” Brown said. “I do like where we are. I like the progress we’ve made and we’re still not there. We still have to get a lot better to be consistent in the running game. Unlike last year, we’re not going to change it. We’re going to go back and we’re going to be good in the running game.”
- At this point, it’s probably stupid to say Gilbert is “underrated” at anything, but he’s got a really nice play fake. Not a bold prediction: That’s going to come in handy next season.
- DeSean Hales wins the day for the receivers, and it wasn’t close. His big highlight was a 41-yard touchdown on a post that Gilbert delivered beautifully in stride, and Hales turned on the jets, racing for the touchdown. He caught a game-high three passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. His first catch was the 41-yarder, and he also had a pair of 18-yard catches.
As for style, it’s tough to infer very much. Texas ran the ball for the first 11 plays of the scrimmage, but opened up the offense for plenty of the latter part of the game. Final play count: 43 runs, 31 passes for the two teams combined.
They did bust out a couple trick plays, staying true to Brown’s offseason hope of having “more fun.”
James Kirkendoll got the ball on a reverse for eight yards, and the Longhorns also ran an end around to Malcolm Williams for 21 yards, both from under center.
- Sophomore safety Kenny Vaccaro had a nice day for the highlight reel. He flattened Newton in the flats, drawing a very audible “Oooh” from about everyone. He also came closest to intercepting Gilbert. Vaccarro dove in front of a tight end on a rollout play, nearly coming away with possession, but managed the acrobatic pass break-up. That’s as close as Gilbert came to turning the ball over, and against a defense like Texas’, that’s a nice day.
- Lamarr Houston busted out his Nirvana T-shirt on the sidelines on Sunday. Can’t say I would have pegged him for a Kurt Cobain fan.
Lastly, Texas beat Fight, 34-3. So … yeah. Fight’s got a lot of work to do from now until September. Otherwise, they’ll be in for a long season. Texas looked like a juggernaut, scoring 34 consecutive points after falling behind 3-0 to the Fighting Fighters to start the game.
Texas athletic trainer for football Kenny Boyd said that Brewster (right shoulder) and Walters (left foot) will miss work that will begin with their practice in pads. And linebacker Emmanuel Acho, who underwent surgery for a sports hernia repair, will be limited when the Longhorns start.
Two practices will be open to the public on March 2 and March 8 at Texas' Denius Fields. They will begin at 4 p.m.
And the Longhorns also have scheduled their annual Spring Football Jamboree and Orange-White Game for Sunday April 4. More information and the starting time will be released by the school later.
Brewster's injury is significant because he would have had a shot at winning a starting safety slot during spring practice. He was backup to Earl Thomas last season. Christian Scott, Ben Wells and Blake Gideon are the prime returning players at that position.
Walters missed much of last season with the injury. His absence will keep him from immediately challenging in the battle to replace departing starting tackle Adam Ulatoski.
And with Acho missing at linebacker along with the departing Roddrick Muckelroy, players like Ryan Roberson, Dustin Earnest and Tariq Allen a chance for extra work .
It's funny, but the stream of e-mails hasn't abated with the end of the season. If anything, more people are interested in what is going on with their favorite teams and players.
Here's a representative sample of some of the better missives I've received over the last couple of days.
Jason from Fort Worth, Texas, writes: First of all, I enjoy reading your blog everyday. Hopefully next season I will see more posts about Baylor winning games. I'm curious if it has been officially determined that Robert Griffin will get a medical redshirt? And if so, do you see him staying at Baylor all four years?
Tim Griffin: Baylor submitted the paperwork for an injury redshirt for Griffin soon after he got hurt. Heath Nielsen, the intrepid associate athletic director for media affairs at Baylor, tells me the Big 12 approved it in November.
It means Griffin will be classified as a sophomore during the 2010 season. I expect him to rejuvenate the Bears’ offense the minute he steps on the field.
And if he played like he did as a freshman and last season, he’ll immediately inject the Bears with the opportunity to challenge for a bowl trip. But I don’t necessarily know if he’ll stay four years. He might develop into a pro football prospect before his eligibility is over. A more likely possibility might be that he elects to compete for the U.S. Olympic team in track and field in 2012.
Johnathan Morrow of Knoxville, Tenn., writes: I agree that the Texas job is more appealing right now and that Will Muschamp probably made the right decision to stay in Texas. But the assumption that the Texas job is better than the Tennessee job could ever possibly be is just that, an assumption, completely void factual information and riddled with bias and speculation.
I firmly believe in the right to express an educated opinion but making predictions from now to the end of time is nothing more than a shot in the dark. Give us some responsible reporting instead of playing this guessing game.
Tim Griffin: Johnathan, thanks for writing and expressing your opinion. But let’s look at the facts in one particular way. I think Tennessee scrambling for its fifth or sixth choice on the coaching job is a pretty good indication of where it ranks among the relative jobs that are out there. By last count -- and this could change after I make this post -- the Volunteers have been turned down by head coaches from Air Force, Utah and Duke (with a Tennessee connection, to boot) along with Muschamp. I can’t see that happening for a top 10 job, and particularly, I could never see it happening for a school like Texas or Florida.
Maybe back in the day when General Bob Neyland was prowling the sidelines, Tennessee was a great job. But in today’s football culture, as we can see by the string of rejections piling up on Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton’s desk, it’s certainly no longer the case
W. Jones of Dallas writes: OK, Tim. We get it. You hate Tech. First, saying you "can't understand why" Tommy Tuberville took the Tech job, and now saying Tech is not a top 30 job but OSU is. Careful, your bias is showing.
Tim Griffin: Sorry, W., but I have no axe to grind with Texas Tech. They handled the coaching switch a little haphazardly, but I’ve got a lot of good friends up on the High Plains. It’s definitely one of my favorite stops along the Big 12 and I’ve enjoyed going up there for more than 20 years.
But the reason I placed Oklahoma State over Texas Tech was simple. Oklahoma State now has better facilities than Texas Tech. It’s obvious when you visit Stillwater. And with a deep-pocketed money guy like T. Boone Pickens, the Cowboys have the Red Raiders beat in that category. Take those two items away and Tech would be even with the Cowboys. Tech barely misses the top 30, but is still a step behind Oklahoma State.
Hondo from Houston writes: Tim is it fair to say that Texas will have the best secondary in the country next season? Led by Aaron Williams and Chykie Brown, the Longhorns will have two shutdown corners.
Tim Griffin: Hondo, I might have agreed with you before last week, but the loss of Earl Thomas strips the Longhorns of their best returning defensive player. I do like Williams, who I think could emerge to become a potential Thorpe Award contender by the time he leaves school. Brown is a solid player, too. Nolan Brewster and Blake Gideon will have to emerge at safety without Thomas. They also need Christian Scott to emerge as a potential big hitter. But there’s still a little bit of a question mark at safety before I give the Longhorns the No. 1 position nationally among secondaries, although I expect Muschamp and Texas defensive backs coach Duane Akina to have their group productive during 2010.
David Harris from Joplin, Mo., writes: Hey Tim, is Mike Leach a candidate for the Tennesse position? It seems like he would be a good fit for their program and his scheme would definitely be new to the SEC. What would you think of his chances?
Tim Griffin: I think if Leach was coming off his success from last season, he probably would have had the opportunity to interview with Tennessee by now. But the baggage Leach is carrying after his ouster at Texas Tech will give most athletic directors a lot of pause before hiring him. I think he’s going to have to take a job as an NFL assistant or as a college coach at a smaller-scale program to rebuild his luster as a BCS-level coach.
Leach's offense technically isn’t new in the SEC. He worked as an offensive coordinator under Hal Mumme when Kentucky used the “Air Raid” attack in the late 1990s with Tim Couch at quarterback. That association helped make Couch a Heisman finalist in 1998. Leach then started his Big 12 career the following season as he joined Bob Stoops’ first coaching staff in 1999.
Steve Summers from Arvada, Colo., writes: Tim, what is up with Darrell Scott. Do you expect him to play at Colorado again?
Tim Griffin: Steve, I would be very surprised. I can't see Dan Hawkins allowing him back in the program, although the depth at the position is lagging after Demetrius Sumler announced he was leaving the program earlier this week.
I think Scott could be productive in the right situation. I was surprised that UCLA had little interest in him when news surfaced about his transfer from the Colorado program.
Remember, this was still one of the nation's top running back prospects in the nation in the 2008 recruiting class. If he is in the right situation, I still think he can flourish.
The question for Scott is, where exactly is that place where he can blossom?
Thanks again for all of the great questions. Enjoy the weekend and check back again early next week for another mailbag.
If there’s such a thing as “The Natural” among defensive backs, it's Thomas. He isn’t overly big or physical (5-foot-10, 197 pounds) but he has the uncanny instincts to stick with any receiver. His skills definitely will translate well to the next level.
Thomas isn't as physically gifted as either Eric Berry of Tennessee or USC’s Taylor Mays. Both figure to be picked ahead of Thomas unless he has an off-the-charts workout for NFL scouts later this spring.
Thomas was a finalist for the Thorpe Award in 2009 and would have been the favorite for the award if he had remained for his junior season in 2010.
If he had stayed for another season and had another productive year, it’s not out of the question that Thomas could have developed into the greatest defensive back in Texas football history.
As it is, he’ll be in the conversation with players like Tarell Brown, Cedric and Michael Griffin, Michael Huff, Quentin Jammer, Aaron Ross and Nathan Vasher. All left Texas for a career as a starting defensive back in the NFL. Huff and Ross left with Thorpe awards in back-to-back seasons in 2005 and 2006.
With Thomas leaving, sophomore Nolan Brewster could move into the starting job when spring practice begins for the Longhorns late next month.
A more likely scenario might be to move Blake Gideon to the tight safety position to make room for game-breaking defensive back Christian Scott at Gideon’s current position at free safety.
Scott was giving Gideon a serious challenge in fall camp this year before he was academically suspended. His ferocious hits would provide an intimidating presence to the secondary that was missing this year.
But whoever takes over Thomas' spot will be attempting to fill a sizable void that makes Texas’ rebuilding job a little more daunting.
He'll be sitting in a section with the other parents of Texas players. He's trading in his maroon and gold and will be decked out in burnt orange.
For one night, Brewster isn't a major college head coach. He's a dad. And when his son Nolan, a reserve safety who backs up both Longhorns starters, takes the field with his Texas teammates for the BCS national title game, Brewster will feel the same mixture of pride and anxiety as the other parents.
"It's very cool to be at a game and not be so wired into the coaching aspects of it, but just be a dad," Brewster said earlier this week from Philadelphia, where he was recruiting for the Gophers. "That's what I try to be when I go watch Nolan play or any of my other boys. You're a dad, and you're a proud dad.
"To have a son playing for the national championship ... it's as good as it gets."
All three of Brewster's sons -- Eric, Clint and Nolan -- are former or current college football players. Eric played wide receiver at Northern Arizona, Clint started off playing quarterback at Minnesota before transferring to Tennessee Tech. Nolan, a mainstay on special teams, has appeared in every game his first two seasons at Texas, where his father worked as an assistant from 1998 to 2001.
Tim has seen Nolan play twice, last season against Missouri and this year in the Big 12 title game against Nebraska. But the Gophers' coach receives every Texas game tape and reviews it with his son.
"The deal is, Nolan asks me what I think," Brewster said. "That's the way we've always done it. I never forced football on my guys. Nolan was always a competitive young kid. He's always looking to improve [and asks] 'Dad, what did you see here? What did you see there?' And not just on defense, but in the kicking game."
Brewster loves watching Nolan play, but when the ball is kicked off, he locks into the action on the field. He reviews a play and wonders what he would do in the same situation.
A bit of friendly advice: Don't approach him during the game.
"I'm very quiet," Brewster said. "I don't like to be talked to. If I could watch it by myself, I'd watch it by myself. Every play my son's on the field, I play the play with him. I want to help him make the play. That's the way it's always been for me. I'm totally invested."
At least until the game ends.
Brewster will spend Friday recruiting for Minnesota in the Los Angeles area.
"I'll come out of the game," he said, "and I'll make sure I get my Minnesota shirt back on."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The rest of the Big 12 should consider themselves warned. Lamarr Houston is finally feeling comfortable at defensive tackle.
After playing defensive end earlier in his college career, Houston moved inside last season to help fill a hole for Texas. A foot injury and his new surroundings kept him from really ever thriving at the new position last season.
|Brian Bahr/Getty Images|
|Texas' Lamarr Houston should show improvement in his second season at defensive tackle.|
"It's a completely different position from defensive end," Houston said. "The contact coming on you is so much faster and it's on every play. It comes immediately after the ball is snapped. You have to get used to that."
Houston has worked on boxing techniques to get ready for the hand-to-hand combat inside in the trenches. After a year of playing experience, he finally feels ready to blossom in his senior season.
"Obviously, playing defensive tackle is totally different from what I was used to," Houston said. "It was quite an adjustment mentally for me. But I got over it plenty fast and feel like I'm coming along in learning my position."
Houston's on-the-field development, as well as his leadership, will be critical for a Texas defensive line that is judged as one of the team's primary question marks.
The defensive front loses key performers from last season's unit like Roy Miller, Brian Orakpo, Henry Melton and Aaron Lewis. That group that led the nation in sacks and ranked third nationally in rush defense.
"It's always hard to replace those guys like Orakpo, Miller and Melton," Houston said. "But we recruit so that our tradition never really graduates."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
One of our most popular features during the season was our Sunday morning awarding of helmet stickers for strong performances during games of that week.
With the completion of all spring games across the conference, it figured to be a good way to honor some of the best of the Big 12's spring game performances.
Here are my choices:
Baylor QB Robert Griffin: Passed for 310 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 41 yards and another score as the focal point of the Bears' final scrimmage.
Colorado's running backs: Hard to single out one player as Darrell Scott (90 yards), Demetrius Sumler (73 yards), Brian Lockridge (55 yards) and Rodney Stewart (52 yards) all had big days in the Buffs' Black-Gold game.
Iowa State QB Jerome Tiller: The backup Iowa State quarterback outplayed projected starter Austen Arnaud as he led the Cardinal (second-string offense) to a 34-16 victory over the Gold (first-string offense). Tiller passed for 210 yards and two touchdowns and added a 65-yard touchdown run to key the victory.
Texas' secondary: The Longhorns even made Colt McCoy look bad, allowing him to complete only 11 of 24 passes for 95 yards. Earl Thomas and Nolan Brewster contributed interceptions, but the Longhorns showed legitimate two-deep talent at all secondary positions.
Kansas State DE Brandon Harold: Made the most of his switch back outside by contributing nine tackles, including four for losses, and three sacks as a key performer in the Wildcats' Purple-White game.
Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh: Despite limited playing time, produced four tackles, including two for losses, and a sack to key production in Nebraska's Red-White game.
Kansas State QB Carson Coffman: Passed for 334 yards and three touchdowns to contribute most of the offense in the Purple-White game. Coffman's big effort has given him the lead leaving spring practice, but he'll still have to hold off South Florida transfer Grant Gregory and heralded junior-college transfer Daniel Thomas to win the starting job.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Spring football across the Big 12 was a series of mundane drills and routine practices.
It gave coaches a chance to take a long look at their own teams as they prepared for the fall.
During the course of the past few weeks, several events played out that weren't exactly a surprise to me. In fact, they should have been expected.
Here's a list of some of them:
Jeff Fuller explodes as Texas A&M's top wide receiver: Ryan Tannehill's injury opened the opportunity for Fuller to become the featured receiver, and Fuller took it and ran and caught with it. He had a marvelous spring game and should be poised for big things this season. But his big spring performance should be taken with a grain of salt -- he won't be able to play against A&M's leaky secondary once the season starts.
Texas' secondary growth: With all of the heralded recruits among defensive backs, competition was expected to be fierce this spring for the Longhorns. And it was. Earl Thomas and Chykie Brown openly talked about winning Thorpe Awards this season. They might have their chance. But with teammates like safeties Christian Scott, Nolan Brewster and Blake Gideon and corners like Aaron Williams, Curtis Brown and Deon Beasley it could make it hard for any single to player to emerge among the talents of the group. The Longhorns appear to have more ready-to-play defensive backs than at any time in Mack Brown's coaching tenure.
Colorado unsettled quarterback situation: I frankly didn't expect either Cody Hawkins or Tyler Hansen to separate himself during the spring. The situation is scrambled by Hansen's broken thumb, which will take him the next few weeks to recover from. And the departure of former coordinator Mark Helfrich also adds another dynamic as the decision plays out. I'm betting we won't know the Buffaloes' opening-day starter until shortly before their Sept. 5 game against Colorado State.
The development of Nebraska's tight ends: Mike McNeill already was one of the most underrated players in the conference after setting a single-season record for catches by a Nebraska tight end last season. A beefed-up Dreu Young has developed into a terror as a run blocker. Ben Cotton merely showed the talents that made him a top recruit when he came to the Cornhuskers. Kyler Reed and Ryan Hill also were impressive. All that talent should help abate Bo Pelini's concerns about wide receiver a little bit heading into the summer. Look for the Cornhuskers to play a lot of two-tight end sets this season.
Brandon Harold thriving upon his return to defensive end: Harold was forced inside by injuries to Kansas State's defensive tackles late last season as a freshman. But a bulked-up Harold appears to have kept most of his speed after he moved back to the outside this spring. The results were obvious after he produced nine tackles, four tackles for losses, three sacks and forced a fumble in the Wildcats' spring game.
Nebraska leads the conference in spring game attendance: The Cornhuskers always seem to lead in spring attendance, anyway. But interest and excitement is percolating for Pelini's program after the fast finish, capped by the Gator Bowl triumph over Clemson. And it was seen in the attendance of 77,670 for the spring game -- a total more than 16,000 fans ahead of the spring game attendance for the rest of the North Division combined. That is an incredible statistic.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
AUSTIN, Texas -- Longhorns coaches have been adamant about what they've wanted at each practice from an emerging secondary this spring.
"The coaches are on us hard about getting turnovers after last year," Texas cornerback Chykie Brown said. "Every day in practice our goal is to get at least three turnovers. It's turned out pretty good."
|Brian Bahr/Getty Images|
|Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp is pleased with the development of the secondary this spring.|
And while the Texas secondary didn't exactly reach that goal in Sunday's Orange-White scrimmage with two turnovers, they can feel like they have accomplished something this spring as they get ready for the upcoming season.
If Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp has any doubts about his defensive backs, all he has to think about is where they were at the same time last year.
"Comparing then to now is light years," Muschamp said. "It was an adventure every day as far as installation of our defense from day to day. It's a lot of fun the second year teaching and installing and working more on fundamentals rather than teaching schemes all the time."
The Longhorns struggled making big plays last season, producing a Big 12-low six interceptions and ranking 104th nationally and worst in the Big 12 with only 16 forced turnovers.
"If we had made more turnovers last year, the sky would have been the limit for us," Muschamp said. "But it's all on us. Playing hard and playing relentlessly is the most important thing to me and I think we're getting more guys to buy into that."
This spring, the most important number for the Longhorns' secondary might be eight -- as in the quantity of talented defensive players with a chance to start. That depth will provide the Texas defensive coordinator with all kinds of weapons to tinker with as he attempts to counter the pass-happy offenses in the Big 12.
"It's good because it allows competition," Muschamp said about his secondary's depth. "These guys know if they don't perform, they're on the bench the next day. It allows for our guys to go out every day and play consistently well, and that's what makes guys compete and improve as football players. Your best motivator is competition."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
AUSTIN, Texas -- Will Muschamp came into the Orange-White scrimmage wanting a shutout.
The Texas defensive coordinator didn't get that in the Longhorns' spring scrimmage, but he might have gotten the next best thing in an early turnover-producing binge.
After notching only six interceptions in 13 games last season, the Longhorns produced two picks in the first five possessions in Sunday's scrimmage.
"I'm real pleased with making big plays," Muschamp said. "We've got to make more big plays. We've got to make more turnovers and cash in on them when we get the chance. It was big to get a chance to get them when we had the opportunity."
The Orange claimed a 21-7 victory over the White in a game where the two offenses were limited to 188 total yards on 64 snaps.
Safety Nolan Brewster produced the other interception on a 34-yard return on a ball thrown by backup Sherrod Harris.
"I think we won the scrimmage today," cornerback Chykie Brown said. "Look at the turnovers. That says something."
McCoy struggled through an 11-for-24 outing, passing for 95 yards.
Putting those numbers into perspective, McCoy has completed less than half of his passes in only one game in his career -- a 12-for-28 outing against Nebraska as a sophomore in 2007. He set an NCAA record last season by completing 76.7 percent of his passes, breaking Daunte Culpepper's mark of 73.6 percent in 1998.
"You can't say much about today," McCoy said. "The offense and defense both knew what was coming and what we were doing. It makes it a challenge. But working through the wind, the younger receivers, the secondary, I feel great.
"We threw some balls today and had some incompletions. I threw some away today. I'm not worried about that at all."
Texas coach Mack Brown was pleased with the work of watching his first-string offense work against the first-string defense.
"I think to have both sides press some today was good for this football team," Brown said. "We need to know we've got some work to do. The guys really competed with each other. But we also have to know that we can't just roll out the helmets and expect to be really good. We're not going out to understand we're having a cakewalk spring and make things look good for the offseason."