Big 12: Stephen McGee
"I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to play for such a great coach and great man as Mike Sherman," quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. "As a coach and person, he reflected everything that's great about Texas A&M's traditions and values. He helped us become not only better football players but better men. I wish him and his family the very best as they move forward. He will be missed."
"He's a guy that really taught us core values that I will take with me for the rest of my life," Hunter said. "He is a man of integrity, character and honesty. There's not much more that you can ask for in a man than what Coach Sherman brings to the table. His door was always open to us and you could count on him being brutally honest with you no matter what. That's one of the things that I will always respect him for."
On Twitter, more Texas A&M players weighed in, and did so in much more pointed terms.
"What I'm reading better be fake. Not kidding," receiver Uzoma Nwachukwu wrote in a series of tweets as news broke Thursday evening. "Way way wayyyy beyond livid. Furious. Funny how all these decisions are made without thinking of the players. Funny how things work."
Offensive lineman Cedric Ogbuehi was angry, too.
"Everybody in the front office are so fake I swear, come to us smiling all the time n (expletive) then do this," he tweeted. "People told me its all a business they dont care about the players, but damn! (I don't know) what to think anymore."
Former quarterback Stephen McGee, who played under Sherman and is now with the Dallas Cowboys, weighed in, too.
"Disappointed of news that Coach Sherman will be released. Was a great football coach and an even better man! A&M has lost a really good one!" he wrote on Twitter. "I find it extremely difficult to point to Sherman for the seasons' shortcomings.. He put his team in situations to win every game and at some point players have to make plays.. A&M has made some bold long term decisions. All that being said I will always love and support Texas A&M! Special place, great people and an unmatched spirit!"
Linebacker Von Miller was one of the best Aggies of all time, winning the Butkus Award last season and being selected No. 2 overall in last year's NFL draft.
"It's unfortunate to see Coach Sherm go He is like another father to me He helped me become the person I am today I will never forget, never," he tweeted on his verified account. "Integrity, honor, accountability, faith, brotherhood, and my definition of the aggie spirit all came to me playing for Coach Sherman. gig em"
Jared in College Station, Texas asks: What do you make of Texas A&M's "Senior QB Curse?" Reggie McNeil, Stephen McGee, and Jerrod Johnson were all ineffective and benched their senior season. Very odd, no? How can Ryan Tannehill escape the same fate?
David Ubben: Well, I have problems buying into any curse, of course. The bottom line about McNeal and McGee is neither one was as good as Jerrod Johnson or Ryan Tannehill. Johnson, at his best, was better than Tannehill, but the shoulder injury was such a rough deal last season.
This week, coach Mike Sherman opined that Johnson tried too hard to make up for lost time in the spring and worked too hard during the summer. Whatever the cause, it was a shame. Johnson was a guy who did everything right, and despite that, it wasn't meant to pay off for him. That said, it's in the past.
Tannehill didn't take a ton of big hits last season, and with Texas A&M's solid offensive line featuring sophomore bookends loaded with potential, he doesn't figure to take many more in 2011. In the event he does run, though? I'm sure Sherman will be in his ear to make sure he gets down or out of bounds.
Curse or otherwise, you still have to take care of your passer. Last season, the Aggies had a pretty good backup plan for Johnson. This season, they don't. Being extra careful is the prudent approach.
Jamiell Showers and/or Matt Joeckel aren't winning Texas A&M a Big 12 title next season.
Brett in Kansas City asks: Hey David, is there any chance that Bob Stoops, or any other Big 12 coaches for that matter, will be looking at homes in Columbus, Ohio anytime soon?
DU: No, I don't buy that. Urban Meyer is obviously at the top of the list if Jim Tressel leaves, but if Stoops turned down Florida (twice), I'd be surprised if he left for Ohio State. There's some appeal in going "home," yes, but Stoops said himself this spring that Oklahoma is as much his home as anywhere these days. He's got three school-aged kids who have lived in Oklahoma since 1999. That's 12 years.
Besides that, how often do you see a coach of a major program leave to become coach at another major program? It's very, very rare.
I generally think Meyer will eventually end up at Ohio State, but if anything, Bo Pelini is much more likely to leave than Stoops, following a short tenure at Nebraska. I wouldn't bet on it, but Pelini is pretty high on the prospective list.
Michael in Long Beach, Calif. asks: David, if Jamell Fleming enrolls for the fall semester is he good to go, or does he face academic or other types of suspensions? Would he be eligible academically? Thanks.
DU: He should be good to go, as I understand it. It sounds like his status is in limbo, and ultimately, he's the only guy who can decide if he'll be back or not. He'll have to work to show it, though. He could miss out on something special at Oklahoma next year if he's not on the team. You'd think that alone would be enough motivation.
Frederico in Paris asks: David,Who would you pick as the big 12 teams you're most likely to be over-rating and under-rating for the 2011 season at this point in time?
DU: Interesting question. Overrating? We'll see about Oklahoma State. The defense got a lot better toward the end of last season, but will that continue into next season, especially without one of its leaders, Orie Lemon?
And then there's the whole playcalling deal, replacing one of college football's best, Dana Holgorsen, with an inexperienced Todd Monken.
Between the trio of teams at the top of the league, I'd say they're the most likely to have a disappointing season. Not saying it'll happen, but Texas A&M and Oklahoma have a lot fewer questions.
Underrating? Probably the same three teams I pegged as sleepers awhile back. Texas, Missouri and Kansas State. All have big question marks, but perhaps even bigger potential.
Barack Obama in Washington, D.C. asks: I'm sure Tuberville's going on Hannity and bashing me plays well with the fans in west Texas but seems like a fairly stupid move overall. Tubs stated that as coach he represents all of Tech's players but I doubt if many of his African American players feel like those comments represent them. Do you think this could impact recruiting for Tech?
DU: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let's strip this letter of all the fighting words. I'd expect a president to be more diplomatic, no? First off, I'd hardly call what Tuberville said about Obama "bashing." Questioning? Sure. As it ends up, he was wrong, but again, Tuberville is little more than a victim of poor timing when it comes to Obama and his birth certificate. No one would bat an eye at this if Tuberville hadn't gone on the air and commented the night before Obama released the document.
Secondly, painting with a broad brush there a little bit, right? His black players wouldn't feel like those comments represent them? Since when are all of his white players backing the Republicans and all his black players backing the Democrats? Slow your role, Mr. President.
And most importantly, since when does that matter? It doesn't. If you're a player, there's no reason to be overly concerned with your coach's political views. When he says he represents all his players, I'd hardly say that crosses over to political views. I'm surprised this story became an issue, considering how little it has to do with anything.
Brady Kirk in Norman, OK asks: Hey, Dubbs. I've been thinking lately about how the upcoming Sooner offense compares to its counterpart of 2008. First of all, how much of a difference do you see between their offensive lines; second, do you think this year's receiver corps is at the same level as that team's offensive line; and third, how close do you think this offense can come to that one overall?
DU: There's a big difference in the offensive lines. Oklahoma's should be good next season, but the one in 2008 had four NFL players on it. This season's probably has two. The receivers this season are better, but a great receiving corps doesn't mean dominance in the same way that an offensive line does. The Sooners did anything they wanted that season (until they played Florida) and scored more points than any offense in the history of college football.
This year's offense should be great, but I'd be shocked if it came anywhere close to that team.
Tommy B in Stillwater, OK asks: What are the chances OSU is able to get Justin Bieber to Bedlam?
DU: Who knows just yet, but I'd like to see OSU do everything it can to get Bieber to Stillwater.
David Paschall in Austin, Texas asks: I loved watching Texas' Blaine Irby play before his injury in 2008. It seems like he has a ton of potential at TE. Will we finally get to see him play again this year? He suited up for the Orange and White game, but I don't remember seeing him take the field and virtually no one has mentioned him. Will 2011 see his return?
DU: He was out there this spring, but the team took it easy and held him out of the spring game. He's not back to full strength, but he sounds like he'll be back on the field in at least some capacity next season.
He may be the most intriguing receiver prospect in this class because just when you think he doesn't have enough speed or elusiveness to play receiver at the college level, he shows flashes that make you believe he might be able to. In all likelihood though, this fantastic athlete is probably destined for the tight end position and he'd be a darn good one.
Well, I guess you can't get 'em all right.
That's no mix-up. They're talking about the same Jerrod Johnson who earned the top spot on our Top 25 Big 12 players list and was named the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year in the Big 12 on Thursday, as a quarterback.
In their defense, Johnson did play tight end for a couple plays (really) his sophomore season when Stephen McGee was the starter for the Aggies. That was Year 1 of the Mike Sherman Era in College Station. In Year 3, Sherman might incite a riot at Kyle Field if Johnson takes a three-point stance on the edge of the offensive line, rather than crouched behind it.
Former A&M coach Dennis Franchione recruited Johnson and knew he had a quarterback on his hands from day one. "He didn't get to play QB as a junior in high school because they had a good one already in place," says Franchione, who got a verbal from Johnson as a sophomore, largely because Johnson's late father played receiver and defensive back for the Aggies. "Then we had him in our camp over the summer before he was a senior; we were still looking at seven or eight other QBs, but I told our QB coach, 'We've already got the best guy.'"
And Franchione, Sherman and A&M fans aren't the only ones who have noticed Johnson's progression from a one-year starter at quarterback in high school who threw for just 1,800 yards to the A&M school record holder for touchdown passes (51) and 300-yard passing games (seven) with an entire season still to play.
A Longhorns' starter, who asked not to be named, ranked Johnson as "the best player in the Big 12" this season. "When he played us as a sophomore, you could just tell he wasn't comfortable," he says, referring to Johnson being benched after a lackluster start to a 49-9 loss in 2008. "Then, last year, you knew he was ready and you could just tell he was the leader of that team."
You have to be an ESPN Insider to read the entire story, but it's well worth it for more on Jerrod Johnson's NFL future and what scouts have told him he has to do in order to improve his stock. Johnson also comments on where he thinks he belongs in relation to the other top quarterbacks in the 2011 class, like Washington's Jake Locker, Arkansas' Ryan Mallett, Stanford's Andrew Luck and Florida State's Christian Ponder.
The Aggies claimed the Big 12 championship in 1998 after qualifying for the title game in 1997. A&M capped off an emotion-packed 1999 season by beating eventual Big 12 South champion Texas in the "Bonfire Game" to end the regular season.
But the program regressed as Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Texas' Mack Brown built their programs throughout the aughts. R.C. Slocum was let go after the 2002 season and Dennis Franchione was similarly jettisoned after the 2007 season.
Mike Sherman is in place now. The program faces a huge battle to get itself back to the level where the Aggies were at only 10 seasons ago.
Here's a look at some of the top players and moments of the Aggies' last decade.
QB: Jerrod Johnson
RB: Courtney Lewis
RB: Jorvorskie Lane
WR: Robert Ferguson
WR: Terrence Murphy
TE: Martellus Bennett
OL: Cody Wallace
OL: Taylor Whitley
OL: Lee Grimes
OL: Kirk Elder
C: Seth McKinney
DL: Mike Montgomery
DL: Rocky Bernard
DL: Ty Warren
DL: Von Miller
LB: Jason Glenn
LB: Justin Warren
LB: Mark Dodge
DB: Sammy Davis
DB: Melvin Bullitt
DB: Terrence Kiel
DB: Jaxson Appel
P: Justin Brantly
K: Todd Pegram
Ret: Cyrus Gray
Offensive player of the decade: QB Jerrod Johnson. It was a tough choice over quarterbacks like Stephen McGee and Reggie McNeal who played for the Aggies earlier in their careers. But Johnson's abilities to develop the most potent passing offense in A&M history -- setting school records for touchdown passes, total offense and passing yards in 2009 -- make him the choice. And he could be poised for even more in his senior season.
Defensive player of the decade: DE/LB Von Miller. The Aggies' proud reputation for tough defenses became forgotten over the decade as spread passing offenses proliferated across the conference. But Miller was decidedly a throwback in a 2009 season where he led the nation with 17 sacks and became the most dominant A&M defensive player since Dat Nguyen. Miller thrived in the hybrid "Jack" position created by former defensive coordinator Joe Kines. He wisely chose to return to college for his senior season next year where he can continue with a new coordinator in place.
Coach of the decade: R.C. Slocum. It was difficult for A&M fans to see the demise of Slocum, perhaps the most popular coach in school history. The Aggies never had a losing record under Slocum and made bowl trips in two of the three seasons he coached them this decade, including the 2001 Galleryfurniture.com Bowl that remains their most recent bowl victory.
Moment of the decade: Stephen McGee's dramatic game-winning drive in a 2006 victory at Texas. Despite vomiting in the huddle throughout the game-winning drive, McGee directed the Aggies on a 16-play, 88-yard drive capped by his own 8-yard touchdown run en route to a 12-7 victory over the Longhorns in Austin. McGee converted five third-down plays on the drive as A&M snapped a six-game losing streak to their most bitter rivals.
Here's a representative example of some of the other missives I've received over the last few days.
Mike Heuertz of Iowa writes: Tim, even with Ndamukong Suh leaving Nebraska, as well as a couple other key defensive players, do you think the Blackshirts will be better next season? And what do you think Nebraska's record will be?
Tim Griffin: I talked with several Nebraska fans during my swing through the state last week who seemed almost giddy about the Cornhuskers’ chances next season.
That being said, the loss of Suh will be huge. I think he can be considered the arguably greatest defensive player in the history of the program. The Cornhuskers also will lose Barry Turner, Phillip Dillard, Larry Asante and the heart, grit and talent provided by Matt O’Hanlon.
Now I can see players like Prince Amukamara, Will Compton, Sean Fisher and Jared Crick getting a lot better gaining experience playing Bo Pelini’s defense. But it might be a little wishful thinking to hope for much improvement from this season -- considering the Cornhuskers’ big defensive personnel losses.
As far as their record, I would expect them to be one of the powers of the Big 12. They have a tricky game at Washington which will earn them a lot of national notoriety if they can win. Texas will be coming to Lincoln, as will Colorado and Missouri. A road game at Oklahoma State doesn’t look as daunting as it could be with the Cowboys breaking in a new quarterback. But an underrated challenge for the Cornhuskers might wait at Texas A&M with Jerrod Johnson and all of A&M’s strong returning offensive weapons back for next season.
Looking at that schedule, I’ll pick the Cornhuskers to go 10-2 and finish as the Big 12 North champion. Considering their returning talent and their schedule, I think that’s a relatively conservative pick.
But as far as next year's team being better than the 2009 version of the Blackshirts, that might be wishing for a little bit much -- even for the Pelinis.
Chris Henson from Salt Lake City, Utah, writes: Tim, a quick addition to the Texas A&M-Oklahoma State tidbit. The Red, White, and Blue Out in 2001 was organized by a group of students first and foremost as a fundraiser for the victims of 9/11. I appreciate you noting this event as it really shows what Texas A&M is all about.
Tim Griffin: Chris, thanks for the clarification. Like you wrote, it was truly an emotional event. There’s a picture of the stadium that is still hung in the press box at Kyle Field of the stadium bedecked for that game. It still gives me goose bumps when I see it.
Travis from Seattle writes: Tim, the players of the decade category has created quite a stir, with many saying, "...well how could X player be off the list." For the most part I agree with your list if you look at it being, who were great players, AND who did the most to influence their team's success, (thus why Graham Harrell is off, being a plug-and-play quarterback in that system although he did do a fine job).
But I propose a different category. Who were the best ATHLETES of the decade? And how about the best competitors, the ones who did everything to try to win. What are your thoughts?
Tim Griffin: You raise a good point about my list earlier being an all-around grouping of all qualities. As far as the best athletes of the decade in the Big 12 from the last decade, in no specific order I would include Ndamukong Suh, Eric Crouch, Robert Griffin, Chris Brown, Vince Young, Seneca Wallace, Dez Bryant, Dezmon Briscoe, Darren Sproles, Danario Alexander (before and after his injury), Brad Smith, Jeremy Maclin, Adrian Peterson, Brian Orakpo, Michael Huff, Earl Thomas, Reggie McNeal, Robert Ferguson, Sammy Davis and Michael Crabtree.
And among the top competitors I’ve seen include Stephen McGee, Crabtree, Colt McCoy, Roy Miller, Joe Pawelek, Jordan Lake, George Hypolite, Todd Reesing, Chase Daniel, Sean Weatherspoon, Matt O’Hanlon, Suh, Josh Fields, Brian Iwuh, Darrell Stuckey, Steven Sheffield, Wes Welker and Kliff Kingsbury. There are many others, but those are just some of the names that come to me off the top of my head. And the fact that Suh and Crabtree made both of those lists is pretty indicative of how exceptional they really were.
Fred Dodge of Annapolis, Md., writes: Tim, in reference to your top 10 jobs in college football. You have a good list, BUT the one caveat that I think goes with this list or any list is context. Most of these are still the "right-guy-for-the-right-place" jobs -- as are coaches. Being a Husker, I lean toward Bo Pelini and Nebraska as my first examples. Bo would not be a good fit for many of these jobs...I just can't see Bo fitting at USC or Florida for example; but I also can't see Lane Kiffin or Pete Carroll being successful in Lincoln. And in my opinion there are only a few guys who can shape a program around their personality. Nick Saban could coach anywhere, Urban Meyer probably could, and Jim Tressel could in most places. But I have a difficult time seeing Mack Brown outside the southeast or southwest and Bo Pelini outside the midwest. All of these guys could still coach, but I think they would struggle in fan support -- and so they would also in recruiting.
Tim Griffin: You make an interesting point, although I think that Pelini would work in more places than you might suspect. He’s a dyed-in-the-wool football coach and would succeed at most traditional powers, although I think his style best suits him at Nebraska. But I could see him being successful in the Southeastern Conference, in the Big Ten or even at Notre Dame. Anywhere they have a deep appreciation for football, I can see Pelini working out.
I think coaches like Bob Stoops, Saban, Meyer and Tressel would work most places. I also think you might include some underrated coaches out there like Mike Riley of Oregon State, Gary Patterson of TCU, Jeff Tedford of California and Chris Peterson of Boise State would be adaptable at almost any job in the country. But it does seem that the smart coaches are the ones who pick places where they are comfortable and have the best chance for success.
Kyle Zander of Fort Hood, Texas, writes: Will Chris Whaley and Desean Hales get playing time for Texas in 2010? I played against Hales in high school and the kid is the real deal, Texas needs to get him involved as soon as possible. And Whaley could help, too.
Tim Griffin: Texas needs to find some help for its running game. Whaley was hurt when he reported to practice last summer and never regained his form. If he’s willing to rededicate himself, there likely is a chance for him to earn some playing time this spring. He needs to have a big spring to get there.
Sales is in a similar situation. The Longhorns have wide receiving talent in players like senior-to-be John Chiles and James Kirkendoll. Malcolm Williams is a big strong receiver who will emerge in coming seasons and should be the team’s featured receiver in 2010. But there are catches – plenty of them -- available for Hales if he can force himself into the mix.
Brett Stamm from Keller, Texas, writes: Tim, love the blog! Keep up the good work! Has Mike Sherman, or will Mike Sherman, or why will Mike Sherman not, consider Dat Nguyen for defensive coordinator? Talk about a guy who has done an outstanding job in his current position and would bring some instant credibility with players and recruits in a program that has pretty much let a proud defensive tradition die with questionable and mediocre hires. This is a guy who was the face of and exemplified the "Wrecking Crew" tradition for four years! Your thoughts?
Tim Griffin: Brett, Dat Nguyen has been a key member of Wade Phillips’ staff as an assistant linebacker coach and defensive quality control assistant with the Dallas Cowboys. But I would suspect that Sherman probably would like for Nguyen to have a little more seasoning and experience calling defenses before he would give him the responsibility of serving as the Aggies’ defensive coordinator.
In a way, Nguyen reminds me a little of Major Applewhite as they develop in their coaching careers. It won’t surprise me if both become successful coordinators and eventually outstanding head coaches. But they need more experience to get there.
Nguyen seems like a natural to join the A&M coaching staff in the future. But I think it might be a stretch to see him as the Aggies’ defensive coordinator at this stage of his career.
That’s all the time I have for today. Thanks again for all of the good questions and keep the letters and e-mails coming. I’ll check back again on Friday.
The Texas Tech-Texas A&M rivalry is as fierce and passionate as any in college football.
There have been taunts on both sides that have made the competition some of the most bitter in the Big 12 over the years.
But the most recent game might go down in history among many in the rivalry -- at least for what it provided for the Aggies after the game.
|AP Photo/Mike Fuentes|
|Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman smartly motivated his team to a win over Texas Tech.|
And it all might have turned around with a few twisted metal loops.
A&M coach Mike Sherman's Aggies were struggling after a disappointing 62-14 loss to Kansas State the previous week. After that game, few prognosticators gave the Aggies much of a chance playing in Lubbock, where they hadn’t won since 1993.
“Our team was really down after that game,” senior safety Jordan Pugh said. “We needed something to point us back.”
Youth has been blamed for that defeat -- the Aggies’ first true road trip of the season.
“We didn’t play well, that was very evident,” Sherman said. “We were kind of shell shocked by what happened to us early in the game and never really ever recovered. I don’t think we competed.”
Despite the loss, Sherman went back to work with the idea that problems were fixable in a quick manner.
And the fact that the Aggies would be playing Tech only helped their turnaround.
“I know people outside might have been panicking, but I don’t think that’s how you fix things," Sherman said. “You have to fix them by being honest and accountable, and they were.”
It also helped to have a little confidence. And Sherman manifested that by presenting his team with carabiner clips, a talisman usually reserved for his team’s post-game victory celebrations, five days before the Aggies met the Red Raiders in Lubbock on Oct. 24.
Sherman has selected the carabiner, a piece of equipment used by mountain climbers, as a metaphor for the Aggies’ journey back among national football powers. The charms typically are presented after team victories.
“We have these little carabiners we pass out when we win a game,” Sherman said. “I said, ‘I might as well give it to you now. We’re going to go play and we’re going to win this football game.’ And they did.”
The Aggies then lived up to that belief with an impressive 52-30 triumph over Tech, piling up 321 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns as they scored the most points in the 68-game series history with the Red Raiders.
It was only a week removed from an atrocious performance at Kansas State, where the Aggies produced minus-13 yards rushing and allowed six sacks in the thumping at Manhattan.
"I knew we had to get up off the mat or stay down,” A&M defensive end/linebacker Von Miller said. “We fought back and got up after that game.”
That victory has helped turn A&M's season around. The Aggies followed that triumph with an impressive 35-10 mashing of Iowa State last week that left them only one victory from bowl eligibility heading into Saturday’s game at Colorado.
“We’ve always expected we would play well. It just shown up a little lately,” A&M offensive tackle Michael Shumard said. “The hard work has finally paid off.”
It also gave the Aggies a couple of chances to take some not-so-subtle swipes at Tech coach Mike Leach, who has needled the Aggies over the years. Most recently, after the Dallas Cowboys had invested a fourth-round draft pick on A&M quarterback Stephen McGee in the 2009 NFL draft, Leach suggested the pro team showed more faith in him that his college did. That sparked a public exchange of comments between Leach and Sherman.
The Aggies were the instigators at their Monday news conference. Sherman had a not-so-subtle dig at Leach when he was asked about playing at altitude this week at Colorado, suggesting it wasn't that much different from playing earlier this season in Lubbock.
“Lubbock’s got a pretty good altitude up there,” Sherman said. “There’s a lot of hot air up there, too. We had to deal with it.”
Shumard joined the chorus when he talked about the integrity that Sherman showed when he took a knee rather than try to score another touchdown late in the game against ISU last week.
“That shows class,” Shumard said. “I would hate to be a player for a team that would try and score with … 20 seconds left in the game. That would call time out to try and score.”
Aggies everywhere remember when Graham Harrell scored on a 1-yard plunge with 20 seconds left in the Red Raiders’ 43-25 victory over the Aggies in 2008.
They finally got some revenge on Monday, by skewering Leach with stories of how a few twisted pieces of metal helped turn around their season at his expense.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
AUSTIN, Texas -- Jordan Shipley initially didn’t have much go right during his college career.
His first two years at Texas were marked by a horrifying series of setbacks that included a season-ending knee injury as a freshman and a hamstring injury that prematurely ended his sophomore season. It seemed like his career with the Longhorns was cursed before it even started.
|Brian Bahr/Getty Images|
|Jordan Shipley has recorded at least 10 receptions in three of Texas’ five games this season.|
“I didn’t have any idea what would happen,” Shipley said. “But I had faith that if I would work hard and handle myself the right way, that hopefully things would work out the way I wanted them to.”
After an excruciatingly long wait, Shipley is making up for lost time, developing into the Big 12’s most explosive player so far this season.
And he wouldn’t trade any of his travails to get to the point he is at today.
“If I could go back and do it all over, I wouldn’t change anything,” Shipley said. “The injuries just made me stronger.”
Heading into Saturday’s game against Oklahoma, Shipley leads the conference in receptions and receiving yards and ranks second in receiving yards per game. Additionally, he leads the Big 12 with an average of 18.9 yards per punt return and is tied for the national lead with two punt returns for touchdowns.
Combating Shipley already has caught the attention of Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.
"It's always a challenge," Stoops said. “He’s a guy you have to account for on every play.”
Last year’s Oklahoma game represented his coming-out party. Because the Longhorns lacked a true tight end, he was moved inside to a flex end position where he produced 11 catches for 112 yards to spark Texas’ offensive attack. And his dramatic Red River Rivalry record 96-yard kickoff return pulled the Longhorns from an early deficit, helping to spark Texas’ 45-35 comeback victory.
Shipley played that slot position for most of the rest of the season, producing 89 catches for 1,060 yards and 11 touchdowns.
But with the graduation of Quan Cosby, Shipley has moved outside and has flourished this season at the new position.
He produced 11 catches for 147 yards -- his school-record third straight double-digit reception performance -- to spark the Longhorns’ 38-14 victory over Colorado. And for good measure, he also produced a 74-yard punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter that help blow open the closer-than-expected game with the Buffaloes.
“That was one of the greatest games in the history of the school,” Texas coach Mack Brown said.
If Shipley continues at his current pace, he would smash every single-season receiving record in school history.
His multiplicity of talents was first showcased in high school in Burnet, Texas, where he was the prime receiver on a team quarterbacked by former Texas A&M star Stephen McGee. Shipley produced the second-most receiving yards in national high school history (5,424), notched 23 interceptions as a defensive back, returned 18 kicks for touchdowns and was his team’s kicker.
His knack for making big plays was apparent early in his career. As a freshman at Class A Rotan, Shipley produced 459 yards of total offense and scored three touchdowns on punt returns in his first high school game.
That was only a start. He's continued in college, developing into the Longhorns’ prime receiver, punt returner and holder for kicks.
Colt McCoy, who finished second in the Heisman voting last season and is Shipley’s roommate, believes that Shipley deserves a trip to the Heisman presentation.
“Sure,'' McCoy said. "In our offense, Jordan will get the ball. He's playing the position that Quan played last year, and the thing that sets him up is that he can return kicks and punts.”
The move outside has come with some changes in coverage for Shipley. He’s facing more direct man-to-man coverage than when he played in the slot and was mostly matched with slower linebackers and safeties.
The new position and his recent notoriety also are changing how opponents try to combat him. More defenses are relying on press coverage as he tries to get off the line of scrimmage.
That’s a little more difficult for the 6-foot, 190-pound speedster to overcome. But he’s making the most of his opportunities when they come despite the change.
“It’s different being on the outside,” Shipley said. “You’ve got to be really physical to get off the press. I don’t know if it’s harder, but it has a different feel.”
His big season almost didn’t come about. He earned a sixth season of eligibility only after petitioning the NCAA following last season because of the earlier injuries.
Shipley will turn 24 in December, causing his teammates to kid him about his advanced age. When he arrived at Texas in 2004, Cedric Benson and Derrick Johnson were still on the team’s roster, and Vince Young was in his first full season as the Longhorns’ starter.
But Shipley can't imagine being any place but playing for the Longhorns.
“It’s such a rush to be back here,” Shipley said. “I’m just thrilled to be back at Texas for one more year and having fun every week.”
Ryan Tannehill is headed to quarterback for the foreseeable future for Texas A&M as a backup to starter Jerrod Johnson.
That decision tells us a lot where coach Mike Sherman is putting his priorities these days and where he thinks Tannehill will have most value for his team.
Tannehill, who grabbed 55 passes to set a Texas A&M freshman record last season, was the team's most dependable receiver last season. But the emergence of Jeff Fuller in recent months has given the Aggies another strong play-making receiver.
Sherman values having some continuity behind Johnson at quarterback. If he has any questions, he just needs to remember what happened last season when starter Stephen McGee went down with an injury in the second game of the season.
Still, it will be surprising not to see Tannehill catch a few passes this season as well as throw them.
Kansas had a similar situation the past two seasons after Todd Reesing beat out Kerry Meier for the starting job. Meier went to wide receiver and snagged a school-record 97 passes last season, while still being listed as Kansas' No. 2 quarterback.
I don't think we will see Tannehill used that much at wide receiver. Sherman comes to college football from the NFL, where the need for a dependable backup quarterback is sacrosanct.
But Tannehill is too much of a valuable athlete to sit on the bench for very long.
Tannehill helped push Johnson in camp. The Aggies are looking for added production at the position after Johnson's erratic finish last season after a strong early start.
In a season where Texas A&M will need all of the offensive playmakers it can muster as it attempts to climb out of the Big 12 South cellar, Tannehill will be important for them somewhere.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman is taking his time deciding on his starting quarterback.
But Sherman joked Thursday that he still isn't ready to make his decision yet. He'll watch both quarterbacks participate in a scrimmage Saturday morning at Kyle Field as one of the final determining factors.
"We have two good quarterbacks," Sherman said. "Somebody said something about the controversy we have at quarterback. It's not a quarterback controversy to me."
Johnson is presumed to have the inside track after starting the final 10 games last season, passing for 2,435 yards and a school-record 21 touchdowns in 2008 as a sophomore. He received all of the meaningful snaps with the Aggies' first-string offense in Thursday's practice.
"It's competition," Johnson said. "It's what you play the game for. That's one of the things I respect about Coach Sherman -- he always has the competition factor there. He never lets you get complacent in your situation, and that's how it should be.
"The best player should play, and competition only makes your team stronger."
Tannehill led the Aggies in receiving last season after he was pressed into duty there when he couldn't crack the logjam at the top with Johnson and Stephen McGee. He set school freshman records with 55 receptions and 844 receiving yards.
Despite his strong start at the new position, Sherman promised him a chance to compete for a starting quarterback job this season. That effort was supposed to start this spring, but was shelved for several months as Tannehill recovered from a torn labrum.
Finally healthy, he has given his old position a strong shot in preseason camp.
"I came here to be a quarterback," Tannehill told reporters earlier this week.
But the recent emergence of Tommy Dorman as a backup might make it easier for Sherman to move Tannehill back to wide receiver. He would provide Johnson with a strong pair of receivers with him and Jeff Fuller that could boost the productive of the Aggies' offense.
"I definitely want to be on the field," Tannehill said. "It's hard to help the team standing on the sidelines. But right now, my focus is on playing quarterback."
Sherman has been pleased with the work of both Johnson and Tannehill during fall practice.
"It's been a good week for the quarterbacks," Sherman said. "They have competed well and they're both doing an excellent job."
Because of the strong finish by both quarterbacks, Sherman has opted to let the competition steep a little more over the weekend.
And because of that, Sherman will judge the progress of both quarterbacks with a critical eye as he plans for the Aggies' Sept. 5 opener against New Mexico.
"We're very fortunate because a lot of teams would like to have the quality quarterbacks that we have," Sherman said. "I'm happy to have the two we have. We're better because we have those two players. We'll figure this thing out soon enough."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The upcoming season approaches with less preseason hype for Texas A&M than any season in recent memory.
The Aggies are universally expected to finish in the Big 12 cellar, lapped by developing teams like Baylor and Texas Tech. Coach Mike Sherman's second season with A&M is expected to be another difficult one after last season's 4-8 record that featured no victories over South Division opponents for the first time in school history.
Sherman does have some offensive weapons at his disposal in talented junior quarterback Jerrod Johnson, sophomore receiver Jeff Fuller and play-making hybrid defensive end/linebacker Von Miller. But whether it will be enough to stop another oh-fer against the rest of the South Division will be a huge question. The Aggies' divisional foes are unforgiving and the division as a whole might be more competitive today than at any point in the league's history.
Here are three predictions I have for the Aggies this season.
1. Freshman running back Christine Michael will emerge as the Aggies' featured running threat from early in the season. Michael has the kind of talent to help balance A&M's running game. But he won't be able to do much unless a struggling offensive line improves its production after last season's disappointing performance.
2. Ryan Tannehill will be catching passes again by the Arkansas game. After struggling last season without a backup quarterback when Stephen McGee went down, Sherman admittedly is a little gun-shy about the need for two quarterbacks. He'll try to use Tannehill as a backup quarterback and probably even get him some playing time early in the season. But the A&M coaching staff will learn that Tannehill is too valuable of an offensive weapon to keep him benched for too long. Look for him to return as a receiver -- and probably to the starting lineup -- by the time conference play begins.
3. The Aggies' winning streak over Baylor finally will be snapped at Kyle Field this season. Texas A&M has a remarkable 10-0-1 record against the Bears at home and hasn't lost there against the Bears since 1984. But this season, with bowl chances for both teams potentially riding on it, Baylor finally will halt that streak. I don't like the Aggies' chances of stopping Robert Griffin with their current defense.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
IRVING, Texas -- Texas Tech coach Mike Leach has taken a few verbal potshots at Texas A&M over the years, most recently with his pointed criticism of the Aggies' coaching staff after the Dallas Cowboys drafted A&M quarterback Stephen McGee in the fourth round of the NFL draft.
Leach, if you remember, professed his excitement after McGee was drafted into the NFL.
"I'm happy for Stephen McGee," Leach said after the draft. "The Dallas Cowboys like him more than his coaches at A&M did."
A&M coach Mike Sherman didn't want to rehash the incident when he appeared on Monday, telling reporters only that he and Leach had "a good conversation" when they met during the conference's coaches meetings in Phoenix in May.
Leach had little more to say during his appearance at the Big 12 media day.
"I have the utmost respect for Mike Sherman and Texas A&M," Leach said Wednesday. "Some statements needed to be made, but I don't have any problems. I never had a problem."
And Leach also said he had no regrets about his comments.
Whether there was an apology or just conversation about Leach's comments between the two South Division coaches, I guess we'll never know.
But it only adds to one of the nation's most intriguing rivalries when the two bitter foes meet Oct. 24 in Lubbock.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Today is a special summer day for football fans across Texas and the Southwest.
Today is the annual release date of Dave Campbell's Texas Football, which is the unquestionable college football magazine of record in these parts every year.
This magazine is special because it's the 50th anniversary edition. The first one was laid out on the kitchen table of former Waco Tribune-Herald sports editor Dave Campbell, who started it in 1960.
It's gotten much bigger than that over the years, being read by three generations of football fans over the years. Today, there's a Texas Football classic every year at the Alamodome and even an official Texas Football song.
I first learned about the magazine in the late 1960s when a friend of mine in fifth grade, Richard Jackson, moved to Memphis from Houston. Along with his neat Houston Astros hat that I always was envious of was his copy of Texas Football Magazine. The story and pictures of the guys from Texas, Baylor and Rice were so different than anything I came across in the Southeastern Conference. I wanted mine, too.
My dad occasionally traveled to Texas with his job and soon learned to look at the 7-Eleven on one of his trips to Dallas to see if he could score a copy of Dave Campbell for me.
Later, my family moved to Texas and I learned the excitement of visiting the newsstand in mid-June to pick up the Dave Campbell magazine, which was there to chronicle the demise of the Southwest Conference and the start of the Big 12.
The new one will officially be released today across the area. And the coverboy is Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, who becomes the first individual player to be pictured since Texas wide receiver Roy Williams in 2003.
I picked up my copy and am already deeply into it. It takes me back to my childhood.
The only problem is that I wonder why I couldn't pick up a Grape Slurpee to drink with it like I used to back in the day.
A list of the cover boys in the magazine's history exhibits a unique history of football in the southwest. Here's a list of the players who have graced the cover of the magazine over the years.
1960: Texas RB Jack Collins
1961: Baylor RB Ronnie Bull
1962: TCU QB Sonny Gibbs
1963: Texas coach Darrell Royal and DT Scott Appleton
1964: Baylor coach John Bridgers and WR Lawrence Elkins
1965: Texas Tech RB Donny Anderson
1966: SMU NG John LaGrone, Baylor DT Greg Pipes, Texas DT Diron Talbert
1967: Texas A&M T Maurice "Mo" Moorman
1968: Texas A&M QB Edd Hargett
1969: Texas QB James Street
1970: Texas RB Steve Worster
1971: Texas Tech QB Charles Napper
1972: Texas A&M LB Brad Dusek
1973: Texas LB Glen Gaspard
1974: Texas coach Darrell Royal
1975: Baylor coach Grant Teaff
1976: Houston coach Bill Yeoman
1977: Texas Tech QB Rodney Allison
1978: Texas A&M K Tony Franklin and Texas K/P Russell Erxleben
1979: Texas DT Steve McMichael
1980: Baylor LB Mike Singletary and Texas A&M QB Mike Mosley
1981: Baylor RB Walter Abercrombie and SMU RB Craig James
1982: Texas A&M QB Gary Kubiak
1983: SMU QB Lance McIlhenny
1984: Texas A&M DE Ray Childress
1985: TCU coach Jim Wacker and TCU RB Kenneth Davis
1986: Texas A&M coach Jackie Sherrill
1987: Texas QB Bret Stafford and Texas coach David McWilliams
1988: Texas RB Eric Metcalf and Texas A&M LB John Roper
1989: Houston coach Jack Pardee and SMU coach Forrest Gregg
1990: Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes
1991: Houston QB David Klingler
1992: Rice RB Trevor Cobb
1993: Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum
1994: Texas QB Shea Morenz
1995: A collage of Southwest Conference historical figures including Texas RB Earl Campbell, Houston coach Bill Yeoman, Baylor LB Mike Singletary, TCU QB Sammy Baugh, Texas coach Fred Akers, Texas coach Darrell Royal and SMU RB Doak Walker.
1996: Baylor coach Chuck Ready, Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes, Texas coach John Mackovic and Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum
1997: Texas QB James Brown and Texas RB Ricky Williams
1998: Texas A&M LB Dat Nguyen, Texas RB Ricky Williams and Texas coach Mack Brown
1999: Texas coach Mack Brown and TCU coach Dennis Franchione. Note: Alternative cover for those magazines sold outside the state featured Dallas Cowboys QB Troy Aikman
2000: Midland Robert E. Lee H.S. RB Cedric Benson
2001: Texas QB Chris Simms, TCU QB Casey Printers, Texas A&M QB Mark Farris and Texas Tech QB Kliff Kingsbury
2002: Texas Tech QB Kliff Kingsbury, Celina H.S. coach G.A. Moore, Dallas Cowboys RB Emmitt Smith and Baytown Lee H.S. QB Drew Tate.
2003: Texas WR Roy Williams
2004: Texas Tech DE Adell Duckett, TCU S Marvin Godbolt, Houston QB Kevin Kolb, North Texas RB Patrick Cobb
2005: Texas QB Vince Young and Texas A&M QB Reggie McNeal
2006: Former Texas RB Earl Campbell, Mansfield Summit H.S. QB John Chiles, Texarkana Texas H.S. QB Ryan Mallett and Gilmer H.S. QB G.J. Kinne
2007: Texas A&M QB Stephen McGee, Texas QB Colt McCoy and TCU DE Tommy Blake
2008: Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell and Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree
2009: Texas QB Colt McCoy
Source: ESPN.com research
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Texas Tech coach Mike Leach is well-known in the Big 12's area for instigating drama.
Whether he's calling out Stephen McGee, Texas A&M coaches or Big 12 referees or taking Cleveland Browns coach Eric Mangini to task, Leach's controversy-creating skills are legendary well past the borders of the Llano Estacado.
And it received a little national attention when Matt Humphrey of the Orlando Sentinel's College Gridiron 365 blog named him as the No. 7 coach nationally in creating controversy.
Here's what Humphrey had to say about Leach in his ranking:
"This pirate-loving coach gives crazy dating advice and has no trouble mouthing off from his perch in West Texas. One has to wonder if this guy is playing with a full deck."
Texas coach Mack Brown at No. 8 and Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy at No. 9 are the only other Big 12 coaches ranked in the top 10 poll.
Here's what Humphrey had to say about Brown:
"Don't be fooled by the Texas coach's good-natured attitude - he's successfully outmaneuvered other teams for BCS bowl bids, has no shame always pushing his team for national championship game appearances even if they don't deserve it and completely changed the recruiting calendar by locking in all his classes by June."
And about Gundy, Humphrey said this:
"He's a man! He's 40! Or at least he was when he berated Oklahoman columnist Jenni Carlson in 2007. This video never gets old."
Considering the newspaper's circulation area, the list is heavily skewed with SEC coaches. But with the fun that Lane Kiffin has injected in that conference, it might be deserved.
I'm guessing that Bo Pelini is only a couple of big national victories or another sideline eruption away from making a list like this in the near future.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Happy Friday afternoon.
As usual here are some of the best questions I received this week from readers.
D.J. from San Diego, Calif., writes: Hey, Tim. Can you explain to me why Tommie Frazier is not in the College Football Hall of Fame? Do you believe he belongs there and how long does it usually take for a super quarterback like him to get in?
Tim Griffin: D.J., I'm similarly mystified why Frazier hasn't made the Hall. When I see lesser quarterbacks like Don McPherson and Major Harris get into the Hall before him, I wonder what the electors are thinking.
Remember, Frazier came within a missed field goal at the end of the 1994 Orange Bowl of leading his team to three-straight national championships. His play really defined those great Nebraska teams of the mid-1990s. And he was the focal point of the 1995 Nebraska team - which in my opinion is one of the three or four greatest teams in college football history.
Frazier didn't pile up the statistics that a lot of his contemporaries did. But he won games and championships. And I think that should be one of the primary determiners for Hall of Fame inclusion.
It sometimes takes too much time for players to get inducted. Tim Brown just made it this season and he even had the appeal of a Heisman Trophy and the fact he played for Notre Dame working for him.
But there are several players who merit inclusion out there. We can only hope that the Hall's selectors can find some room for Frazier and Pat Tillman in the near future.
Because both definitely deserve inclusion.
James Coulter from Corpus Christi, Texas, writes: I'm surprised after seeing your chart earlier this week that you don't have Baylor finishing in a bowl game. They were only one win away last year, and had three losses that could have gone either way. This year their luck in those games should change, so why don't you think Baylor will be bowl-eligible?
Tim Griffin: Actually, James, the Bears were two games away from bowl eligibility last season with a 4-8 record. But I don't like a couple of factors for the Bears that I think will keep them away from a bowl this season.
First is their non-conference schedule. A building program shouldn't be playing teams like Connecticut and Wake Forest in their formative stages. With all of the challenges that the Bears will face in the Big 12 South, it would be understandable if they cut back on the ambitiousness of their non-conference scheduling a bit.
I think Robert Griffin is one of the top young players in college football, but remember the Bears lost two veteran tackles in NFL No. 2 pick Jason Smith and Dan Gay. I think those personnel losses are going to be huge -- both literally and figuratively -- in pass protection, leadership and in run-blocking.
The Bears also didn't do themselves any favors in their Big 12 scheduling. Their three home games will be against Oklahoma State, Texas and Nebraska. I think it would be an upset if the Bears can win any of those games.
And their other designated Big 12 home game will be the Texas Tech game that will be moved to Arlington, Texas. I would like Baylor's chances of beating the Red Raiders a lot more in Waco than there.
I think an absolutely pivotal game for their bowl hopes will be the road game at Texas A&M. The Aggies appear to be struggling and are picked by most to finish last in the Big 12 South. But Baylor hasn't won at Kyle Field since 1984 and it will be a long streak of bad karma in one place to overcome.
It wouldn't surprise me if the Bears were significantly better than last season, but only have a 5-7 record to show for it.
Bob from Sioux Falls, S.D. writes: Tim, great blog. I enjoy reading it every day. You provide some of the best mainstream coverage of the conference that I can find anywhere.
Quick question for you. Do the NFL scouts have something against the Big 12 quarterbacks? If anybody had seen last season in the Big 12 and determined that the best draft-eligible quarterbacks were Josh Freeman and Stephen McGee, somebody would have laughed them out of their "scouting rooms."
Tim Griffin: I agree with some points that you make. I think NFL scouts and teams get caught up on a "profile" of a quarterback that if he isn't the right size or has the necessary they won't consider them.
But I think the biggest quality that NFL scouts sometimes don't consider is previous production. Guys like Graham Harrell and Chase Daniel aren't the biggest or fastest quarterbacks, but I think it says something that both were wildly productive players in winning programs.
If you had ranked Big 12 quarterback last season, Freeman and McGee both would have been behind Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford, Todd Reesing, Harrell, Daniel and Zac Robinson. I think Robert Griffin's playmaking ability makes him a better college player than Freeman or McGee. And Joe Ganz, despite his NFL detractors, was a capable leader who turned Nebraska into a solid bowl team last season.
It will be interesting to see if the so-called bias against the spread offense will affect the draftability of some of the current Big 12 quarterbacks.
I don't think it will matter with Bradford. I think Griffin's raw athleticism will make him an intriguing NFL quarterback if he can stay healthy. But I will be really curious about McCoy, who has played in a spread offense for much of his college career. Will that hurt his draft status? I guess we'll see next year.
Brad from Denver writes: Tim, Your article about APR ratings in the Big 12 left the door open for people to criticize Colorado. The Buffaloes' rating is in peril primarily because of recent attrition of players that were ineligible because of academics, an area that Colorado is more stringent on than just about any other school. Players don't study, they don't play; they don't play, they leave. All schools are created equally, and it is more difficult to achieve a 2.6 GPA at some schools than others.
Accordingly, I do not find it a coincidence that Baylor and Colorado, arguably the two Big 12 schools with the most rigorous academic standards, are at the bottom of the list.
Tim Griffin: I agree with your point about grades at some schools than others. But to steal a line from Tony Soprano, Colorado's APR score is what it is. It's close to falling below the level where punitive penalties start kicking in. If Coach Dan Hawkins is having trouble keeping players eligible and then they transfer, he might consider attracting players who would be more likely to stay.
The APR is the first piece of academic reform that actually has some teeth in it. The NCAA does a lot of things wrong. But I think this piece of legislation that is good for college athletics.
Ivan Martinez from Waco, Texas, writes: Since you talked about throwback uniforms and helmets, Baylor is actually bringing back the white helmet with the green interlocking BU for the first game against Wake Forest, along with an all white uniform like Oregon. They made some other uniform changes that are more "contemporary," according to athletic director Ian McCaw, which actually discourages me a little bit.
Tim Griffin: Ivan, like I said in my post, I love the idea of throwback uniforms on a limited basis. Texas and Oklahoma both have worn those uniforms for select games in recent seasons. I'd like to see every Big 12 team wear them on a specific weekend that could be designated by the conference office. I think that would be something really cool that would differentiate the conference from all else in college football that weekend.
And they don't have to wear single-bar facemasks, either.
Jason Lewis from Kansas City writes: Tim, I love your blog, but you missed one of the biggest surprises of spring ball in the Big XII. That was Patrick Witt transferring from Nebraska. After all, he was considered the favorite to take over at quarterback for the Huskers. How could you miss that?
Tim Griffin: I didn't consider Witt's transfer because it happened before spring practice started. And I don't know much of an edge that Witt really had over Zac Lee or Latravis Washington or Cody Green or any of Nebraska's quarterbacks after the 2008 season.
Sure, Witt was the player who Bo Pelini turned to when Ganz was dinged in the Gator Bowl. But Witt's struggling performance probably didn't do much to set him apart from the rest. It might have even brought him back to the rest of the other players. And if he was the favorite after the end of last season, it was by a very slight margin.
Rick from Boulder, Colo., writes: It stung a little that you didn't see any Buffs make your top 40 in the Big 12. Would you say a couple might have made the list if it were a top 50 instead? I think Colorado has some talent just about to have a breakout season.
Tim Griffin: I included Darrell Scott on my list of 10 players who nearly made the list. If Markques Simas plays up to his ability, I think he can develop into a solid Big 12 player. Josh Smith is a versatile player who does a lot of things well. Jimmy Smith looks like he might develop into a lockdown cornerback. And I like their offensive line collectively, although one player doesn't stand out for me.
And I think a big performance this season might enable them to have several players on the 2010 list.
Roger Smithson from Wichita, Kan., writes: Tim, who do you think is the best special teams player in the league? By that, if you could have one player to start your special teams, who would it be?
Tim Griffin: I might consider Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant or Perrish Cox or Colorado's Josh Smith. But for my money, the most valuable special-teams player in the conference might be Alex Henery of Nebraska. He was the best long-distance kicker in the conference late last season. He's working as a punter and showed some flashes in the spring of being able to do both. I'm curious to see if he can do both consistently.
Thanks for all of the great questions. I'll check back again next week.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It's never too early to start thinking about the upcoming season and the games that the Big 12 will provide.
During a flight of fancy last night, I sat down and plotted my ultimate dream schedule if I could watch what I now consider the best game every week.
Here's my list, including a running total of the miles I would travel from my San Antonio home:
Week 1: Georgia at Oklahoma State, Sept. 5 -- This might be the best nonconference game of the season for a Big 12 team as Mike Gundy's Cowboys face the Bulldogs. It should be a clash of two top 20 teams in the season opener. We'll get an early opportunity to see whether the Cowboys are as legitimate as their preseason publicity might suggest.
- Other games I considered: Oklahoma vs. Brigham Young (at Arlington), Illinois-Missouri (at St. Louis), Colorado State at Colorado.
- Round-trip mileage from San Antonio to Stillwater: 934 miles