Big 12: Victor Hunter
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Earlier this week, Texas Tech coach Mike Leach commented that the "rebuilding question" is vastly overrated for his team.
"Sure, we're going to lose [Michael] Crabtree and [Graham] Harrell, but the fact is we've done it about seven times before," Leach said.
Which is true. But the transformation will become a lot harder if Leach carries through with his plans to suspend pass-rushing threat McKinner Dixon for failing to keep up with his academic demands.
Leach is adamant about education and particularly for Dixon, who was given a second chance after flunking out of school after a sterling freshman season in 2005.
Dixon got his grades back up at Cisco Junior College and returned to Tech last season to become the same kind of transcendent defensive threat he had been before he left the first time. In the process, he notched nine sacks and 11 tackles for losses -- both leading totals for Tech returnees this season.
I've got to believe that Leach will try everything he can to get Dixon back into class and his grades up. He's that good of a defensive player and his return would keep the Red Raiders at a level that could enable them to challenge the likes of Oklahoma and Texas in the Big 12 South Division.
The Red Raiders' defensive front with Dixon involved is one of their biggest defensive strengths. And that position is of paramount importance considering players like Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, Todd Reesing and Robert Griffin on the Red Raiders' upcoming schedule.
Even after Brandon Williams declared early for the NFL draft, the return of projected starters Rajon Henley and Brandon Sharpe for Tech led to Dixon and Brandon Sesay cross-training at defensive end and defensive tackle this spring. Dixon likely would have been even more valuable for the Red Raiders by his ability to play two positions than merely one.
The Red Raiders already are solid inside with Colby Whitlock, Chris Perry and Victor Hunter at nose tackle and Richard Jones, Myles Wade and Britton Barbee at defensive tackle.
But Dixon was clearly the best pass-rushing threat they had and along with Whitlock, one of the Red Raiders' top two defenders in the trenches.
Leach told reporters Monday that he didn't see much hope in Dixon being able to come back.
That might have been his spin to try to get him back into class. But something tells me that a clearer indication of the Red Raiders' needs will be seen over their next few practices by Leach.
Even with the needs of doing everything possible to keep a standout pass-rushing threat, I'm guessing that Leach might not be willing to give Dixon much rope considering his earlier educational transgressions. And that might be a tough doghouse for Dixon to extricate himself from, after the allowances that Leach has already made for him earlier in his career.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
JUNCTION CITY, Kan. -- No need for any April's Fool jokes today.
These are just solid Big 12 stories about spring practice taking place almost everywhere around the conference.
Here are some of the most notable ones from this morning.
- Texas Tech defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill has made a couple of unusual position switches early in spring practice. Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal details how Victor Hunter has moved from middle linebacker to nose tackle after adding 20 pounds and Julius Howard has switched from outside linebacker to safety after dropping 20 pounds.
- Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman ranks head football coaching jobs at Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas among his 10 toughest jobs in college sports.
- Colorado defensive line coach Romeo Bandison tells the Boulder Daily Camera's Kyle Ringo that intense competition will mark battles to replace three senior defensive line starters from last season.
- With contract extensions in place for football coach Gary Pinkel and basketball coach Mike Anderson, the Kansas City Star's Jason Whitlock proclaims the "Dark era" finally is over for Missouri.
- Nebraska coach Bo Pelini pocketed an extra $50,000 for sharing the Big 12 North title with Missouri last season and his assistants earned a collective $68,750 for that achievement, Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal Star reports.
- Pete Fiutak of College Football News ranks Texas' Colt McCoy and Oklahoma's Sam Bradford among his top three 2009 Heisman contenders and also lists Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant and Kansas' Todd Reesing as dark-horse candidates for the award.
- Iowa State and Toledo have announced a two-game, home-and-home series in 2013 and 2014, the Toledo Blade reported.
- The Tulsa World's John Hoover profiles Oklahoma linebacker Travis Lewis, who says he is feeling more comfortable with Oklahoma's defense heading into his second season as a starter.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
From Bellevue: Does 6-6 or a lofty 7-5 sound realistic for the re-tooled Cornhuskers?
Tim Griffin: Yes it does and maybe a step better, like 8-4 if Bo Pelini grabs some beginner's luck along the way and stays away from some defensive injuries that might cripple his program.
Pelini's arrival has been like a shot of adrenalin through the Nebraska program. I think it only continues once the season begins. I also expect Nebraska to absolutely mash the ball lot more than most people would think. I was talking to one of the most-respected Nebraska reporters over the weekend. He told me it wouldn't surprise him if the Cornhuskers ranked among the top 10 nationally in rushing. With backs like Lucky, Castille, Helu and Mendoza, it's a possibility.
To go 8-4, the Cornhuskers absolutely have to win their first three nonconference games. I'm thinking they could be ripe for an upset in one of those games and Pelini has to guard against that. But I really like their home schedule from there with games against Virginia Tech, Missouri, Kansas and Colorado. They will likely be underdogs for the first three. It wouldn't surprise me if they can claim at least one of those games and maybe two.
And if the Cornhuskers can finish strongly, they should finish at least 7-5 and maybe better. And a late winning streak might catapult them into a good bowl. Watch what the Gator Bowl does in terms of taking Notre Dame. If the Irish end up in Jacksonville for New Year's Day, don't be shocked to find the Cornhuskers finish up somewhere in Texas -- like San Antonio or El Paso -- for their bowl trip this season.