Big 12: Todd Reesing

Big 12 lunchtime links

April, 14, 2014
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It's not like bringing a cat to the spring game but Kliff Kingsbury is still winning ...

Big 12 did you know: Week 7

October, 14, 2011
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Time for another round of fun facts about Saturday's games, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info, as well as various sports information departments around the Big 12.

You make your readers the smartest people at their tailgates. For that, we are thankful.
  • Kansas State (Collin Klein, John Hubert) and Texas A&M (Cyrus Gray, Christine Michael) are two of just five teams with two rushers in the national top 50.
  • Landry Jones' 1,236 first-half passing yards this season are the most in the FBS.
  • Oklahoma and Texas are a combined 25-0 under Mack Brown and Bob Stoops in the week following the Red River Rivalry.
  • In that stretch of 12 games for Oklahoma, the Sooners have beaten Kansas four times. Oklahoma averages a 39-14 victory in the 12 games.
  • In home attendance percentage, five Big 12 teams rank in the national top 15 with percentages over 100. Texas A&M (104.79) leads the group, which also includes Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Iowa State. Kansas State has filled 99.30 percent of its seats this season.
  • Last year, East Carolina gave up 572 points to set the all-time record for scoring defense futility. Kansas is on track to give up 592 points this season.
  • Oklahoma State has never beaten Texas in consecutive meetings.
  • Oklahoma's 10-game winning streak is the second-longest in college football. (Stanford, 13 games)
  • Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles needs four receptions to break Purdue receiver Taylor Stubblefield's NCAA career record of 316 receptions, set in 2004.
  • True freshman Malcolm Brown has led Texas in rushing in every game this year.
  • This year was just the second time (2004) in Big 12 history that every Big 12 team finished nonconference play with a winning record.
  • Three Big 12 teams will earn bowl eligibility with a win on Saturday: Kansas State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
  • Kansas State leads the nation in time of possession (35:57) and has won the stat in each of its five games this season.
  • Baylor had 37 first downs against Iowa State last week, a school record.
  • Kansas State is last in the Big 12 in total offense.
  • Iowa State receiver Darius Reynolds' 178 receiving yards last week were the most by a Cyclone since Todd Blythe had 214 against Texas A&M in 2005.
  • Oklahoma State's seven-game road winning streak is the nation's third-longest and the second-longest in school history.
  • Missouri has won nine consecutive games at home, the third-longest streak in school history.
  • Kansas scored 26 touchdowns last season, but has 24 through five games this year.
  • Kansas State hasn't beaten Texas Tech since 2000.
  • Jordan Webb's 316 yards last week marked the first 300-yard game by a Jayhawks quarterback since Todd Reesing threw for 498 yards against Missouri in 2009.
  • Last week, Oklahoma State set school records with 35 first-quarter points and a 56-point first half. The Cowboys hadn't scored 70 points since beating Southern Illinois 70-7 in 1973.
  • Texas hasn't given up a touchdown in the first quarter this season.
  • This weekend is Missouri's 100th Homecoming game.
  • Last week's victory over Texas was Bob Stoops' 43rd over a ranked team, which matched Barry Switzer's school record.
  • Missouri tight end Michael Egnew only had eight catches this season before catching eight passes in last week's loss to Kansas State.

Links: Does Missouri help or hurt Big 12?

September, 30, 2011
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I guess I'm an SEC blogger for a weekend. My insides feel much heavier, but all my extremities are moving so much faster.
We'll kick off our look today at the position rankings for each team in the Big 12 before looping back around to rank the top 10 at every position in the Big 12.

We'll start at the most obvious position: Quarterback, a position that I'd argue is more important in the Big 12 than in any other conference.

Depth will be a huge factor in these rankings, though at quarterback, it's the toughest to gauge, considering how little we see of backup quarterbacks.

Here's how each Big 12 team ranks at the quarterback position:

[+] EnlargeLandry Jones
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireLandry Jones leads the Big 12's deepest and best group of quarterbacks.
1. Oklahoma

Oklahoma learned the hard way in 2009 about the importance of the backup quarterback, but even in his limited experience, Drew Allen has impressed Bob Stoops after narrowly losing out on the backup job behind Sam Bradford in 2009. Landry Jones is a great one, and with his opportunities, has become a Heisman Trophy favorite. Could Allen have done the same if he had beaten out Jones in 2009? Blake Bell, the nation's No. 3 quarterback in the 2010 class, will likely be Oklahoma's No. 3 in 2011.

2. Oklahoma State

Brandon Weeden's profile spiked when he led the Cowboys to a comeback win over Colorado on a Thursday night game in 2009. He took over as the starter shortly after, but going into that game Weeden was a third-stringer. Alex Cate transferred after it became evident that Weeden would be the starter in 2010, and behind Weeden is Clint Chelf and two solid recruits: Johnny Deaton and J.W. Walsh, who was the nation's No. 10 QB (just outside the ESPNU 150) in 2011 and enrolled early.

3. Texas A&M

Ryan Tannehill is entrenched at the starting spot, with a lot of youth behind him. Matt Joeckel and Jameill Showers will try to hold off incoming freshman Johnny Manziel for the No. 2 spot this fall. Manziel was impressive during the spring, and will contend for the starting job in 2012, but he'll likely redshirt unless he wins the backup job.

4. Texas Tech

Seth Doege looks ready to grab the reins for two seasons, barring injury. Jacob Karam is probably ready to start in the Big 12 right now, he's just not as good as Doege. Behind them are two promising prospects with upside and development to do: Scotty Young and Michael Brewer. The Red Raiders are the last of the Big 12 teams who have truly solid depth at quarterback.

5. Baylor

Robert Griffin III will probably hold every school record for quarterbacks by the time he leaves Waco, but the Bears need to find a true replacement behind him. Nick Florence filled in well in 2009 when Griffin missed the final nine games with a knee injury, but he's a junior like Griffin and their eligibility will expire simultaneously. Redshirt freshman Bryce Petty and 2012 commit Jared Johnson could battle for the spot in 2013.

6. Missouri

The Tigers depth took a hit after Tyler Gabbert's transfer following spring practice, but expectations are high for sophomore James Franklin, who got a bit of experience in 2010 behind Blaine Gabbert. Senior Jimmy Costello quit the team after last season to focus on an impending fall enlistment in the Army, but rejoined after the Gabbert brothers' departures from Columbia. He's likely to be the backup, with Ashton Glaser and walk-on Ryan Howerton filling out the rest of the quarterback spots. Corbin Berkstresser, a 6-foot-3, 218-pound quarterback from Kansas City that ESPN ranked No. 43 at his position, will arrive in the fall, too.

7. Texas

How long until we see a quarterback make the kind of plays Garrett Gilbert made against Alabama in the national championship? Those kinds of long scores were rare last year, but the Longhorns will have a competition this fall that sounds like it's pretty open heading into camp. If Gilbert wins, he'll likely have a much shorter leash in 2011 than he did in 2010, before Case McCoy or Connor Wood gets a crack, and dark horse true freshman David Ash could make things interesting, too.

8. Kansas State

Collin Klein made a nice move toward winning the job with a strong spring game performance. But coach Bill Snyder says he still didn't see a ton of separation between Klein and his backups, Sammuel Lamur and Boston College transfer Justin Tuggle, who spent last year replacing Cam Newton at Blinn College in Texas.

9. Iowa State

James Capello transferred after the spring, but Iowa State's race has likely boiled down to two men: Jerome Tiller and Steele Jantz. Jantz, a juco transfer, is the wild card and Tiller will need to show that his struggles in spot duty last season were temporary. He didn't show the progress you'd expect from a maturing player when he played for an injured Austen Arnaud in a few games early and late in 2010. Jared Barnett is still battling in Ames, but him winning the job would be a huge upset.

10. Kansas

The Jayhawks could use a couple more years of Todd Reesing. The Jayhawks saw a huge drop off at the quarterback position in 2010, as Jordan Webb, Quinn Mecham and Kale Pick all got time under center. Kansas will likely run its offense through a strong group of running backs, but unless newcomer Brock Berglund shows potential and proves he's the best of the group, expect Kansas to remain near the bottom of the Big 12 by the end of 2011.

Mailbag: Recruiting, Gabbert, coddling?

May, 11, 2011
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Caesar in Limbo asked: Is there an increasing trend with coaches losing the battle against whining players? Leach, Mangino and I'm sure there's got to be more. Does a weak player just have to point their finger if they feel mistreated? Do these kids need therapy or a boot?! Why won't administrators back their coaches anymore? Could a coach from 20 years ago make it in today's "coddle" culture?

David Ubben: I don't know if I buy that. To some level, sure, we're more sensitive as a culture than ever before, but I also think those two situations are very different, and the issues with the players weren't the only reason Mangino and Leach were let go.

Mangino's was obviously a big part of it, but that controversy also hit in the middle of a seven-game losing streak to end the season, despite still having Todd Reesing, Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier. Like I wrote yesterday, Mangino's coaching style, which I'll just call intense, doesn't come off as well if he's not winning games. Winning solves if not everything, something close to it. (This is the point when I glare in Columbus, Ohio's direction.) If Kansas won 10 games in 2009, does anyone think Mark Mangino would not still be the coach?

In Leach's case, it was pretty clear that he badly strained his relationship with his bosses during his contract negotiations prior to the 2009 season. That relationship between a coach and the administration often gets overlooked. Leach's wasn't good, and he gave the higher-ups a reason to fire him.

Bob Stoops has a fantastic relationship with his AD, Joe Castiglione and the university president, David Boren. If the Adam James situation happened to Stoops, would he still be around?

I think we all know the answer to that question.

These situations are a lot more complex than just a couple whiny, entitled kids getting coaches fired.


Mike in Oklahoma City, Okla., asked: Ubbs, do you think Tyler Gabbert leaving MU has anything to do with his brother's "slide" in the recent NFL draft due to the college system he played for? Do you think he will transfer to a pro style team in response to that?

DU: No, and that's not really the reason for his "slide," per se. The way I see his slide is one team saw Jake Locker as a better fit and better talent than Gabbert, which bumped him out of the top 5-7 where he was projected to go, down to No. 10. In the days leading up to the draft, I'd say it was pretty clear that Cam Newton was going to be the first quarterback taken.

Everyone had questions this year. Can Newton be a true NFL passer? Is Locker accurate enough? Can Gabbert be the same kind of passer after a dropback? I really doubt that had anything to do with Tyler Gabbert's decision.

And besides that, from the moment Blaine Gabbert stepped on Missouri's campus, he had NFL written all over him. Guys with big arms that are 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds tend to, at the very least, get drafted. Tyler Gabbert's career is just beginning, but at 6-foot and 190 pounds, he's going to be fighting uphill to get his chance at the NFL level.


Scott in College Station, Texas asked: David, When do the first 2012 ESPN recruit rankings come out? Thanks

DU: We released them last year around late May and early June, so I'd expect them then, but don't get too worried, Scott. I'm sure your Aggies will be well represented in our ESPNU150, unlike last year.

I'd be very, very surprised if Trey Williams wasn't on it. Matt Davis probably has a good shot, too. Maybe Davante Borque. Our recruiting guys handle that.


Preston in Dallas asked: If Texas has another bad year, and Texas A&M and Oklahoma St. continue to take the next step how do think this will effect recruiting in Texas?

DU: It would help a little bit, but it's going to take a lot of losing for Texas to not be back on top of the recruiting game. For one, players want to play for Mack Brown.

But more than anything, you're battling Texas culture. Players grow up wanting to be Longhorns. That's just a fact. Not all of them, of course, but certainly a majority of kids in one of the richest recruiting banks in the country.

How many kids grow up in Texas dreaming of playing for Oklahoma State? Texas A&M?

They'll grow up, and some will realize that in their personal situation, maybe either school is a better fit or Texas doesn't want them, but there's no changing that Texas is the flagship program in the state. That's one recruiting advantage that takes a whole heck of a lot to negate.

Another losing season, or even 2-3 more isn't going to suddenly allow either school to consistently outrecruit Texas.
Texas caused a mild ruckus by securing a pair of commitments before its spring game on Sunday. One is defensive lineman Malcom Brown from Brenham, Texas. Brown is one of the nation's top defensive prospects and a player plenty thought was headed to Texas A&M.

That small event illuminated a bigger issue that, for now, will be tough for others across the Big 12 to swallow: Texas' recent swoon, one that I still think will continue slightly through at least one more season, hasn't hurt them on the recruiting trail.

The Longhorns currently have 15 commitments for the 2012 class, and of those, 13 are on the ESPNU 150 Watch List.

ESPN recruiting writer Mitch Sherman took a look at the issue this week. The prestige of signing with Texas is still definitely there when you hear comments from current and former recruits from Sherman's story.
  • Former Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing, an Austin native: "If I had a chance to play there, I would have jumped at it ... You go to games, and it's a childhood dream. Texas dominates everything."
  • DB Bryan Echols of DeSoto Texas, on committing to the Longhorns: "People notice it. They say, 'Oh, you're going to Texas. Yeah, you're big timer.'"
  • Receiver Cayleb Jones: "When I go into a restaurant and my little brother's friends and their families congratulate me, that feels good."
  • Finally, Reesing on what life was like for Garrett Gilbert after committing to Texas (Both attended Lake Austin in Austin, Texas): "He was the king. He was the king of the school. I would imagine it's like that with almost any kid who's going to UT. In that position, you're sitting on top of the world."

Side note: It's pretty easy to see how some players would arrive at Texas with a sense of entitlement when you hear comments like that, no? I don't think it's anything against those players, but if I had people treating me like that as a 16- or 17-year-old kid, I could see myself perhaps not working as hard as I could after making the commitment.

Jarring that sense loose from his recruits is a big part of what Mack Brown has to do.

But back to the issue at hand: Texas is still the flagship university of the state. Even if the program struggles for two or even three more years after this season, I could see young recruits buying into the idea that they could be the ones to help restore a proud program.

I'd encourage you to check out the story from Sherman. It's pretty fascinating, especially the parts about how well Texas is still doing versus rivals like Texas A&M, who clearly outperformed the Longhorns on the field in 2010.

You can't argue with exposure and resources, and Texas has plenty of both. So for now, though the wins aren't there, the highly-touted recruits still are.

Don't expect that to change any time soon.
Baylor, Texas and Texas Tech already have begun spring drills., but I'm kicking off my spring tour around the Big 12 campuses on Wednesday.

Here's a wide-angle look at the Big 12, with the five biggest questions hounding the conference to begin the spring.

[+] EnlargeLandry Jones
Tim Heitman/US PresswireQuarterback Landry Jones is one reason Oklahoma will get plenty of preseason attention. But can the Sooners overcome off-the-field problems?
1. Does it have a national championship contender or not? Oklahoma is by no means uncontested at the top of the Big 12, but it is a clear notch above Texas A&M and Oklahoma State as the favorite to win the conference. Additionally, there's a good chance the Sooners will open 2011 as the No. 1 team in the country. But in the two months before spring drills began, Oklahoma's had plenty of negative headlines off the field. Their best cornerback, Jamell Fleming, won't be with the team in the spring and his future is in doubt. Starting defensive tackle Stacy McGee was cited for misdemeanor marijuana possession. Star freshman Kenny Stills, a receiver, was arrested on a DUI complaint and his close friend, freshman safety Tony Jefferson -- also a California native and the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year, was booked on a complaint for interfering with the official process in the incident with Stills. That's a lot of distractions, but the Sooners will need to end that list now to have the best chance of validating their preseason hype on the field. Oklahoma has no glaring weaknesses as it stands, but if academics or discipline keeps players off the field, that could change. The hype will only grow if the Sooners stay out of the police blotter and book a solid spring camp.

2. Is Texas over its "entitlement?" Is the new staff jelling with players? This should be a fascinating spring in Austin. For the first time in perhaps a decade, the Longhorns have a long, long list of things to prove. They'll try to do it with a youth-infused staff and it all begins this spring. The defense was decent last season, the offense was awful. Both will need to be great if the Longhorns are going to compete for a Big 12 title after a last-place finish in the Big 12 South. Is Texas up to the challenge?

3. Where are the quarterbacks? Think back to 2008. The Big 12 had -- by my count -- eight quarterbacks that could play for about anybody across the country. Sam Bradford won the Heisman. Colt McCoy was one of the best in school history, winning more games than any quarterback in college history and reaching a pair of BCS bowls, including a national championship appearance. Chase Daniel, Graham Harrell, Todd Reesing, Zac Robinson, Robert Griffin III and Josh Freeman were all solid. That's eight out of 10 teams in the current Big 12 with excellence under center. This year? I count four. Griffin is still around. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are set with Landry Jones and Brandon Weeden and Texas A&M should be fine with Ryan Tannehill. Beyond that? It's pretty slim. The potential is there for Garrett Gilbert at Texas, but he's coming off a season in which he threw six touchdowns and 16 picks in conference play. Will we see breakout stars begin to write their legacies at Texas Tech, Missouri or Kansas State? All three have players who could be set for breakout years in Seth Doege, James Franklin and Justin Tuggle, but they'll have to win the job first and try to make a name for themselves if they can pull that off.

4. Are leaky defenses with new coordinators ready to support their teams' high-powered offenses? Texas Tech and Baylor both had offenses good enough to compete for a Big 12 title, but poor defense meant both had to settle for seven-win seasons and lower-tier bowl games. Both are back this spring with new coordinators. Veteran Phil Bennett is in at Baylor, and first-time coordinator Chad Glasgow will try to extrapolate the success he had coaching TCU's secondary into Texas Tech's secondary and defense, which ranked last in the Big 12 last year.

5. Can the Cowboys keep the status quo? Dana Holgorsen was the big story in Oklahoma State's spring camp last year, and he showed why during the season, turning the Cowboys into the Big 12's best offensive team. He's gone, and Todd Monken is taking over. Can the excellence continue? Bringing back all five offensive linemen will make it a lot easier. Skill positions look a lot better when quarterbacks have time and running backs have holes. Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden are back, but can their talents be showcased as two of the Big 12's best in 2011. They better be. If not, the Cowboys can rule out a Big 12 title.

How explosive is your team's offense?

February, 24, 2011
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The kind numbers geniuses over at ESPN Stats & Info compiled some fun numbers for us this week: total number of offensive plays longer than 20 yards over the past three seasons. That's a perhaps underrated number, but how important is it? We'll see. First, here are the numbers, ranked in order with their national rank.

2010 season

10. Oklahoma State -- 75
14. Baylor -- 69
17. Oklahoma -- 68
21. Nebraska -- 66
28. Missouri -- 63
41. Texas Tech -- 59
48. Kansas State -- 57
56. Texas A&M -- 56
72. Texas -- 51
96. Colorado -- 43
112. Iowa State -- 32
112. Kansas -- 32

A few observations:
  • It's no surprise that four of the top five teams in the league all won at least a share of their division. This is also a good indication of how imperative it is for Baylor to improve on defense. New defensive coordinator Phil Bennett put it simply: Briles has got them going really well on offense. They just need a defense to go along with it. Look out for the Bears if that happens.
  • Would anyone else have guessed that Kansas State would have more big plays than Texas A&M? That's the craziest part of that stat. I would describe Texas A&M's offense as very good, but not necessarily explosive. Kansas State? Whatever the opposite of explosive is ... that's how most people, myself included, see their offense. Perhaps that's not quite the case.
  • For all of the talk about Missouri lacking a big-play threat, its number was a lot higher than I would have thought. It still needs someone like Danario Alexander, Jeremy Maclin or Jared Perry to emerge and make defenses truly respect the deep ball, but they won 10 games without such a player. That's pretty good.
  • It's definitely not a coincidence that the bottom four teams in this category finished at the bottom of their divisions. Winning in the Big 12 with offense may be cliche, but it's true. Unless your defense is on par with some of the best in the nation (a la Nebraska in 2009), you're not getting far in the Big 12. It's safe to say neither of those four teams qualify. Offenses with defenses to match are the teams that emerge as elite, but there seems to be a baseline for success (i.e. a bowl game for Kansas State) that comes with being able to move the ball in chunks.
  • The information wasn't available, but it would be interesting to see how many of Nebraska's plays longer than 20 yards came before Taylor Martinez's injury in the win over Missouri, and how many came after. I imagine there was sharp decline.
  • Some of the numbers are going to be skewed a bit from teams like Nebraska or Oklahoma that played 14 games rather than 12 or 13, or teams like Oklahoma that run fast-paced offenses and can run upwards of 100 plays in a game, but I'd say it's still pretty representative.

Now, let's take a look at how the Big 12 stacks up over the past three seasons:

2008-2010 seasons (in chronological order)

Oklahoma -- 95, 55, 69 -- 219
Missouri -- 73, 66, 63 -- 202
Oklahoma State -- 75, 51, 71 -- 197
Texas Tech -- 74, 64, 59 -- 197
Nebraska -- 66, 52, 74 -- 192
Texas -- 70, 54, 51 -- 175
Baylor -- 56, 49, 69 -- 174
Texas A&M -- 49, 61, 56 -- 166
Kansas State -- 52, 45, 57 -- 154
Kansas -- 65, 51, 32 -- 148
Colorado -- 40, 45, 43 -- 128
Iowa State -- 52, 44, 32 -- 128

Finally, a few notes and observations:
  • Oklahoma's 95 plays of 20-plus yards in 2008 were No. 3 nationally that year, the best mark of any team in the conference over that span. You might also remember that offense as the highest-scoring unit in college football history, hanging 718 points on the board in 14 games, capped by a loss in the BCS National Championship.
  • Considering the talent lost by Kansas from its 2008 team to its 2010 team, the drop isn't surprising. But as a fan base, it's easy to see why attendance was lacking this season. It's tough to see guys like Todd Reesing, Dez Briscoe and Kerry Meier playing a refined game of pitch-and-catch in the 2007 and 2008 seasons, and then two years later, watch the Jayhawks put three points on the board in the season opener against North Dakota State. The Jayhawks are getting better, but I feel for their fans. No team saw anywhere near as sharp a drop as them. The 65 plays in 2008 fell to 32 in 2010.
  • I was a little surprised Texas didn't put up better numbers with Colt McCoy, but considering their troubles running the ball, it makes a little more sense. Big plays are tougher when you're running almost exclusively out of the shotgun, defenses don't respect the run and you have just one real threat down the field: Jordan Shipley. A great offense by other measures like points scored, but not an "explosive" offense.

Best/worst case rewind: Kansas

January, 24, 2011
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We'll take a look back at what we thought the best- and worst-case scenarios for each team were in August, and how it shook out now that January has arrived.

Next up: Kansas.

Best case: 9-3, with losses to Georgia Tech, Texas A&M, Nebraska. The Jayhawks were aided by a favorable South rotation without Texas and Oklahoma on the schedule.

Worst case: 2-10, with wins over North Dakota State and New Mexico State.

Reality: Kansas was less competitive than even the most pessimistic Jayhawks fans figured their team would be, and the Jayhawks slid to 3-9 with just one conference win. Interestingly enough, the Jayhawks won a game (Georgia Tech) I had as a sure loss in both scenarios, and lost a game (North Dakota State) I had as a sure win in both scenarios. Kansas varied greatly between my best and worst case scenarios, but you're never sure what to expect with a bunch of new players (Hi, Oklahoma State!) and a new coaching staff.

Analysis: Losing the best quarterback in school history (Todd Reesing) and two of its best receivers (Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier) meant Kansas would be rebuilding for sure, especially considering that group managed to go just 5-7 as seniors. The Jayhawks struggled from the beginning, dropping a shocking season opener to North Dakota State at home, 9-6. They rebounded by beating the defending ACC champs, Georgia Tech, but the Yellowjackets, ranked at the time, finished 6-7.

In short, Kansas was who we thought they were. There's no doubt the Jayhawks got better down the stretch, but 55-7 and 59-7 losses to Baylor and Kansas State, two middle-of-the-road teams in the Big 12, were eye-openers. Kansas at the end of the season was about what I expected. I never thought they'd play as poorly as they did early on.

For Kansas, though, the lasting image of its season could be the epic comeback against Colorado. Down 45-17 with 11 minutes to play, the Jayhawks rallied to beat Colorado at home for their lone conference win. It's definitely something to build on. Kansas still has big, big questions at quarterback, but found a reliable option at running back in freshman James Sims. Receivers Daymond Patterson and Chris Omigie showed flashes of potential down the stretch. Linebacker Huldon Tharp missed the entire 2010 season, but he'll be back next year.

Turner Gill has put together a pretty good recruiting class in 2011, and developing that talent will be key to making sure Kansas climbs closer to its best-case scenario in 2011.
Blaine Gabbert made the right decision by declaring for the NFL draft. ESPN's Scouts, Inc. has Gabbert as the No. 20 overall prospect in April's draft, and Gabbert received a first-round grade from the NFL draft advisory committee after he submitted his paperwork.

For every Jake Locker and Jevan Snead, there's a Sam Bradford: There's nothing wrong with sticking around another year if you're projected as a first-rounder, and the risk of injury is somewhat overrated.

[+] EnlargeBlaine Gabbert
Scott Rovak/US PresswireBlaine Gabbert is leaving Missouri to enter the NFL draft.
Gabbert is a bit different. In Missouri's spread offense, he wouldn't have been much further along as an NFL prospect this time next year, and his size (6-foot-5, 240 pounds) and arm strength (ridiculous) are exactly what NFL teams want in a prospective future starter. His capability to make NFL reads and develop footwork on dropbacks wouldn't have been much further along, and for a guy with a promising future looming like Gabbert, he might as well get a head start. Now was the time.

The lack of an elite receiver like Jeremy Maclin or Danario Alexander kept Gabbert from posting jaw-dropping numbers in 2010, but he played well and notched Missouri's fourth 10-win season in school history. To Gabbert's credit, he didn't force very many plays this year, and did what he needed to do for Missouri to win games. Missouri notched 10 wins because of it.

Gabbert is a competitive guy, and he'd surely like to achieve more than he did -- he never played in a Big 12 Championship or won a bowl game -- but he still had a great career and will go down as one of the best quarterbacks in Tigers history. He'll lack the legacy of Heisman finalist and three-year starter Chase Daniel, but don't be surprised if Gabbert is better in the NFL than in college. He's an Academic All-Big 12 performer and a smart, coachable player who made clear strides for all three of his seasons at Missouri. I'd expect that to continue in the NFL.

For the Tigers, things get a bit complicated.

The knee-jerk reaction for some will write off Missouri as a Big 12 contender in 2011, but that's not necessarily what should happen. It'll be tough for Missouri to win, but they bring back plenty of talent, especially on defense and in a more experienced receiving corps with a stable of young running backs who all got experience this year. Talk about replacing starters all you'd like, but Oklahoma State lost a "franchise" quarterback in Zac Robinson and played a first-year quarterback in Brandon Weeden who had not made a start in nine years. His last start was in high school. That worked out pretty well for them. I'd say 11 wins is a pretty good season.

Replacing Gabbert will be crucial for Missouri not just in 2011, but in retaining its stability as a winner in the Big 12. Tommy Tuberville said it last week at the TicketCity Bowl: In the SEC, you win with running backs and defense. In the Big 12, you win with quarterbacks. That's exactly how Missouri has done it.

In the last four years, Oklahoma is the only team with more Big 12 wins than Missouri.

Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, Chase Daniel, Zac Robinson, Graham Harrell, Todd Reesing -- the bar has been set high in this league, even in just the most recent few years.

And for Missouri, any hope they have of being a legitimate Big 12 contender hinges on the guy who steps in for Gabbert. And unlike Daniel and Gabbert were, choosing the next starting quarterback won't be a formality this spring.

James Franklin played more than any of Missouri's other young quarterbacks, but he was used mostly as a runner. He was a miniature version of Brad Smith, at the risk of Missourian heresy.

He has the arm strength, but his decision making ability is a question mark. His coaches probably have only a bit more information from what they've seen in practices. That's what Missouri has to figure out when spring practice kicks off in a couple months.

The true freshman threw all of 14 passes in 2010. That's not much of a sample size.

I'd expect a fierce competition between Franklin and Gabbert's younger brother, freshman Tyler Gabbert, as well as redshirt freshman Ashton Glaser.

Franklin's experience, however limited, gives him the edge. And the Tigers have a few proven playmakers in receiver T.J. Moe, tight end Michael Egnew and receivers Wes Kemp and Jerrell Jackson.

Franklin's legs produced a valuable change of pace, especially in the red zone. He ran 23 times for 116 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

But those legs won't win him the job in 2011. He has to prove it as a passer. Maybe he's Missouri's most accurate passer. Maybe it's the younger Gabbert or Glaser.

We'll find out soon. It should be an interesting spring in Columbia.

Gill lands big KU recruiting coup, nabs QB

December, 21, 2010
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There's no point in sugar-coating it: Kansas struggled at quarterback in 2010.

Without a talent like Todd Reesing, the transition to Turner Gill in Lawrence has been -- immediately, at least -- a difficult one.

That might change very soon.

Gill and the Jayhawks have swiped the prize commitment from Colorado's 2011 class, the cost of the coaching change from Dan Hawkins to Jon Embree, according to a report in the Denver Post.
[Brock] Berglund originally committed to CU this summer, citing his close relationship with then-offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau. But Kiesau has since been replaced in that role by new Buffs coach Jon Embree, who tabbed former CU running back Eric Bieniemy.

"Some of the changes in scheme and personnel are clearly different from my recruitment, and even though they may be in the best interest of the program, they do not represent the best fit for me personally," Berglund said in a statement.

Kansas, Berglund said, was "a better fit."

There's no underestimating the importance of Gill's recruiting efforts, and make no mistake, this is a big get for the Jayhawks, who won't be able to sign Berglund until signing day in February.

Berglund is the nation's No. 13 quarterback, according to ESPN, and might signify the most important building block for Kansas football moving forward, joining players like linebacker Huldon Tharp and running back James Sims.

Here's what the scouts had to say about the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder.
"Berglund could be one of the bigger sleepers this class has to offer as a dual-threat athlete that has the look of a pocket passer. He has terrific measurables for the position and his athleticism and ability to be utilized as a runner is not something you see much of from a prospect of his stature ... Plays mostly out of the shotgun, but is quick with his drops and sets up well with little wasted motion when working from under center. Shows nice ball handling skills and can freeze defenders with play fakes with his attention to detail. He displays very good pocket presence and has the lateral movement to buy second chances. He is dangerous when out of the pocket because he can make all the throws against his body, yet beat you with his feet."

Two weeks ago, he won a 4A state title in Colorado with 280 yards and three touchdowns on 12-of-16 passing. He also carried the ball 14 times for 122 yards and another score in his team's 38-8 win.

He'll have to beat out Jordan Webb and Quinn Mecham next year, but neither of those two looked like "franchise" quarterbacks ready to lock in their status as the team's starters. Kale Pick, the likely starter entering 2010, was moved to receiver at the end of the year and doesn't look like to return under center. Berglund will also have to beat out fellow 2011 quarterback commit Michael Cummings, but Gill's latest pickup was much-needed after the Jayhawks whiffed on the nation's No. 2 junior college quarterback last week. Zack Stoudt spurned the Jayhawks for Ole Miss.

Of course, it's always extremely difficult to tell how a recruit will transfer to the college game, but Berglund has a great chance to be a good one. Above all else, Berglund sounds like he could develop into a playmaker.

For now, that's exactly what Kansas needs.


The rest of the Big 12's bowl misses

December, 15, 2010
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We took a look at how Texas missed a bowl game earlier today, and here's what happened to the Big 12's other three teams home for the holidays:

Colorado

The Buffaloes started hot, finishing their nonconference season at 3-1 with wins over bowl-bound opponents Georgia and Hawaii, but didn't get it done in conference play. The defense held conference opponents under 30 points just three times, and in one of those games, Colorado was shut out. The offense, despite a solid year from Rodney Stewart, just couldn't keep up. Playing the second half of the season without quarterback Tyler Hansen (spleen) didn't help, either. A meltdown at Kansas (blowing a 28-point lead in the game's final 11 minutes) led to coach Dan Hawkins getting fired, and the Buffaloes rallied to win their only two conference games of the year, but to reach a bowl they needed to beat Nebraska in Lincoln with the Huskers playing for a Big 12 North title. That wasn't going to happen.

Iowa State

Iowa State's schedule ended up not being quite as difficult as it seemed in the preseason, thanks to disappointing years from Texas, Texas Tech and Utah, but the Cyclones got a chance to play for a bowl berth against Missouri in their regular season finale. The problem was they had to do it without three-year starter at quarterback Austen Arnaud, and lost 14-0. Iowa State got a lot closer to a bowl game than most thought, and beat Texas for the first time in school history. Nebraska and Iowa State went to overtime in Ames, and when the Cyclones scored what looked like a game-tying touchdown, they faked the extra point. Tight end Collin Franklin was open, but the pass was intercepted, costing the Cyclones a precious sixth win for the second consecutive season.

Kansas

Kansas lost its three best players, receivers Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier and quarterback Todd Reesing, from a 5-7 team in 2009, and 2010 looked like a rebuilding year all along. That's exactly what football fans in Lawrence got. The Jayhawks lost their first three conference games by a combined score of 159-24, but for the most part, they were at least competitive and got a comeback conference win against Colorado. They also found some reliable offensive options in running back James Sims and receiver Daymond Patterson. Expect more uncertainty at quarterback through next season, though.

Five things to watch in the Big 12

August, 25, 2010
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The season technically begins eight days from today. Here are a few things to keep an eye on.

[+] EnlargeRoy Helu
Bob Donnan/US PresswireRoy Helu Jr. and the exit of Nebraska will be among the top stories to watch this season in the Big 12.
1. Nebraska on the road. Nebraska’s exit tops the list of Big 12 offseason headlines. The fallout from the school’s decision to join the Big Ten should be the top thing to watch in the Huskers' final season in the Big 12. Two of Nebraska’s biggest current rivals, Missouri and Texas, have to make the trek to Lincoln in 2010, but the vaunted Husker hospitality may be tested in the heated matchup with the Longhorns. Nebraska will have to travel to College Station and Manhattan for matchups with Texas A&M and Kansas State.

2. Young drivers at the wheel of big vehicles. Texas and Oklahoma used first-class quarterbacks to rule the Big 12 for the past three seasons. But Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford are gone, and in their place are Garrett Gilbert and Landry Jones. Jones played extensively as a redshirt freshman in relief of the injured Bradford, and Gilbert made his debut on the game’s biggest stage against Alabama. Their development as sophomores will decide if the Red River stranglehold on the Big 12 continues.

3. Who’s No. 3? And it can’t be Nebraska, complicating the question. The Big 12 will look a little slimmer in 2011, and someone must assume the role of contender to a division-less conference without a championship game. Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Missouri look like the three most likely contenders, but each will need to take a step in the right direction while the conference is in its current form. Four teams received votes in the preseason media poll: the three mentioned above and Oklahoma State. A strong 2010 season could be a springboard into assuming the permanent role of the Big 12's third-best program.

4. New blood. The Big 12’s two new coaches are Tommy Tuberville at Texas Tech and Turner Gill at Kansas. Tuberville inherits a more talented, more experienced team that should easily be a bowl team and possibly more. Gill lost his three best players on offense from a team that finished last in the Big 12 North in 2009, and has undertaken another rebuilding effort along the lines of his success at Buffalo.

5. A shift to the ground? For the second consecutive season, the Big 12 will begin after a quarterback exodus, losing three of the top five quarterbacks in the league. The Big 12 still holds a reputation as a passer's league, but that could change. Heisman mainstays McCoy and Bradford have moved on, and the league’s leading passer, Kansas’ Todd Reesing, is also gone. Meanwhile, 13 of the top 15 rushers in the league are back, including four of the top five rushers -- all in the Big 12 North. Quarterbacks should continue to rule the South, and the league's top two teams both have quarterbacks with high hopes, but the best backs in the league are in the North. Kansas State's Daniel Thomas, Iowa State's Alexander Robinson, Nebraska's Roy Helu Jr. and Colorado's Rodney Stewart all have great chances to top 1,000 yards. Thomas, Robinson and Helu all did it in 2009.

KU shakes up depth chart, names QB

August, 20, 2010
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Busy day for the Jayhawks, who released a pretty impactful depth chart late Thursday afternoon.

At the top of the list, Kale Pick has officially beaten out redshirt freshman Jordan Webb and juco transfer Quinn Mecham to be the team's starting quarterback. That's expected, but it's further proof of how important experience is, even if it's limited experience like Pick got as a freshman last year as a running complement to Todd Reesing.

[+] EnlargeKale Pick
John Rieger/US PresswireQuarterback Kale Pick topped the Jayhawks' detph chart released Thursday.
Coach Turner Gill sounded confident in the decision and I don't see anything outside Pick struggling in-season changing that.

"He probably separated himself from the aspect of ball security which was huge. He didn’t really turn the ball over there," Gill said. "I love the way that his demeanor has been, not to say that Jordan Webb has not had a good demeanor but Kale Pick’s has just been a little bit better as far as the intangibles and his demeanor in the huddle, outside the huddle and when plays are going well and when plays aren’t going well, just how he’s handled himself."

Pick noted that Webb wasn't happy about the decision, of course, but there's a silver lining for him: He's only a freshman and Pick, a sophomore, has a ways to go before he proves he's a franchise quarterback. This isn't Texas Tech, where two very talented, experienced seniors are fighting it out, and injury, almost certainly, is the only thing that would cause them both to play.

“I definitely had a smile when I received the news. I’m excited and I think we’re going to have a good season this year," Pick said.

I'm no history buff, and things like this are tough to look up, but can anyone else recall -- in the history of the Big 12 -- another team's leading rusher beginning the following season as a linebacker? Fans, feel free to let me know if that's happened to your team before.

If not, Toben Opurum is a trailblazer.

Gill has sounded unimpressed with Opurum since he got to Lawrence, but plenty of people -- myself included -- chalked that up to Opurum being hobbled by injury in the spring. Not the case. Opurum has officially moved to linebacker, but is still 0-for-3 on depth chart appearances under Gill. Judging from his quote to the Topeka Capital-Journal last week, my guess is he isn't thrilled about the decision.

"I expect to see my name at the top of any depth chart. I have to use that to drive myself," he told the paper.

Sixth-year senior Angus Quigley -- who, in light of Opurum's new position, ironically played linebacker last season -- held on to the starting job and should lead what sounds like a running back by committee situation. That's a good move with a lot of talent behind Quigley, like freshmen DeShaun Sands and Brandon Bourbon, as well as Rell Lewis, who was listed as the co-No. 2 back with Sands.

"We’re going to probably rotate some guys, again we’re still evaluating some of the guys so things can change but there are still some things happening at running back and we just have to get some guys some more reps," Gill said. "We have to dwindle that down because you can’t get four, five or six running backs reps and you can’t see them improve and so that is why we aren’t able to make that decision at this time."

Elsewhere for the Jayhawks, Jeremiah Hatch, a two-year starter at center, has been benched in favor of Sal Capra, who was listed as the starting left guard after the spring. Reports that Duane Zlatnik was rising proved correct, as Zlatnick moved into a starting spot at left guard after being listed as the position's No. 2 afer spring.

Mailbag: Best games and scariest players

August, 13, 2010
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Big G in Western Nebraska writes: The Expendables comes out Friday. If you had to make a team of elite warriors using Big 12 players, who would you put on it? Not necessarily an All-Star team, but the toughest, baddest dudes in the conference.

David Ubben: First off, no matter what my friends tell me, that movie looks like garbage. But this question is interesting. I'd invite you all to make your own lists, but here's mine.

1) Nate Solder, left tackle, Colorado: First off, at 6-foot-9 and 310 pounds, he's probably the biggest player in the entire league. But he also hang cleans 470 pounds, runs a 4.88 40-yard dash and has a 32-inch vertical leap. He's very high on my list of guys I wouldn't want to face in a jungle death match. And yes, that list exists.

2) Ronnell Lewis, linebacker, Oklahoma: Defensive coordinator Brent Venables has coached some big hitters in his day like Rocky Calmus and Roy Williams. He says Lewis, just a sophomore, hits the hardest. And he hails from tiny Dewar, Oklahoma. Everybody knows you don't mess with country boys.

3) Cody Johnson, running back, Texas: Anybody want to try and tackle him? The Longhorns' 5-foot-11, 250-pound goal-line back is the closest thing to a bowling ball in the Big 12. Steer clear. I know I will.

Who's on your list?


Craig in Wichita, Kan. writes: Two years ago, the Big XII was known for lighting up the scoreboard. Last seasonit was the defenses that took the spotlight. What's going to be the Big XII's signature in 2010?

DU: A conference takes on the identity of its top teams. There's a ton of other great offenses across the Big 12, but look at the top three teams in the league: Nebraska, Texas and Oklahoma. All three should field top-10 defenses in 2010. So even though there are offenses like Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Missouri, the league's going to be known for defense once again. If that's not enough, look around at the Big 12 representatives on any All-American team. Very few offensive players, but lots of defensive guys like Jared Crick at Nebraska, Aaron Williams at Texas or Travis Lewis at Oklahoma.


Cord in College Station, Texas, writes: As a longhorn living in College Station, I've already heard plenty of "noise" from the A&M faithful about this being their year. I know you're an Aggie, too, and I'm just wondering what you're non-biased prediction for the Aggie season is. Hook'em.

DU: I'm afraid you're mistaken. I've never gigged anything or anyone, but nine wins for the Aggies is probably about right. If I had to pick it, they knock off Nebraska at home, but lose to Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. They'll need to spring some upsets to win the South.


Craig in Ames, Iowa, writes: Do you think the recent flooding will help or hurt the Cyclones? Will the team-uniting fight against the adversity help, or will the routine-destroying distraction keep ISU from being ready for the first game against NIU?

DU: I don't think it hurts all that much, but if Paul Rhoads' team isn't already one of the league's closest, this sealed it. Some of the guys on that team have been through three coaching staffs, but finally got to experience some real success last season. Really, Iowa State only missed one practice, and though I'm sure there's some family troubles for a few of the players and some difficulty getting around still, I don't see the floods having much of an effect on the on-field product. But it's definitely a memorable experience that should change the way a lot of those guys see the world.


Tony in Lincoln, Neb., writes: Hey Dave, Just curious. What's the best game you've ever seen/been to?

DU: Of the games I've ever seen, it's pretty close between the Texas-Southern Cal Rose Bowl and the Boise State-Oklahoma Fiesta Bowl. I probably said this about 100 times in the weeks following the game, but the best part of that is the hook-and-ladder never works. Ever. It's a great play in theory, but the execution and timing has such a small margin of error required for success, plus it needs a little luck from the defense's call. That makes it impossible to execute. Except that one time.

I also love the big-time clashes. There was just an unfair amount of talent on the field in that national title game between Texas and USC, two teams who 100 percent earned the right to be there. You don't get that with every national championship.

Matt Leinart, Vince Young, Reggie Bush, Jamaal Charles, Lendale White, Steve Smith, Fred Davis, Selvin Young and Limas Sweed are all factors in the NFL now, most of whom I've started on my fantasy teams at least once. And that's just the offenses. Can't forget Aaron Ross, Michael Griffin and Michael Huff in the Longhorns secondary alone. Brian Orakpo and Roy Miller also played down in front. It just doesn't get much better than two premiere programs and NFL factories going at it in a game of that magnitude that delivered the drama, even if you could see that final drive coming the whole time.

Of the game's I've covered, I'd probably go with the Kansas-Missouri Border Showdown at the end of the 2008 season. Gotta love rivalry games, and Kansas-Missouri has been one of the most dramatic in recent seasons. That game was no exception. A ton of offensive talent on the field during a blizzard at Arrowhead Stadium. It included four go-ahead touchdowns in the final seven minutes, and finished with a Todd Reesing floater over Kerry Meier's shoulder on -- what else -- a broken play. Classic game with a classic finish.

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