Big 12: Warren Ruggiero

Big 12 lunch links: All about Josh Freeman's likes and dislikes

January, 27, 2009
1/27/09
1:14
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Good afternoon. Here are some Big 12 links to go with your lunch today.

  • The Sporting News details a few of former Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman's favorite things, including the movie "Braveheart," LeBron James and Jessica Alba.
  • Kyle Ringo of the Boulder Daily Camera reports that former Illinois State coach Denver Johnson and former Army coach Stan Brock are among those who have interviewed for the vacant offensive line coaching position at Colorado.
  • Scott Wright of the Daily Oklahoman speculates that Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy might give up some of his offensive play-calling control to do more work with the Cowboys' defense next season.
  • Former Nebraska quarterback Scott Frost has been hired to coach receivers at Oregon, Rob Moseley of the Eugene Register-Guard reports.
  • Topeka Capital-Journal reporter Austin Meek reports that Kansas State has filed a petition for declaratory relief in a contract dispute against three members of former head coach Ron Prince's staff -- defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar, quarterbacks coach Warren Ruggiero and linebackers coach Cornell Jackson.
  • Robert Cessna of the Bryan-College Station Eagle notes that the biggest standing ovations during Saturday's Texas-Texas A&M basketball game came when the Longhorns' football team and Texas quarterback Colt McCoy were introduced separately to the crowd at the Erwin Center.

Big 12 internal affairs: Kansas, OU look to fix leaky special teams

October, 15, 2008
10/15/08
9:58
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here's a look at some tidbits from around the league that are transpiring as teams get ready for games this week.

1. Both Kansas and Oklahoma have added more playmakers to their special teams after recent struggles for both teams covering and returning kickoffs. Bob Stoops plans to add four new members to his kick coverage team that has been blistered for two TD returns, including a pivotal 96-yard return by Texas' Jordan Shipley last week that turned the game around. And Kansas coach Mark Mangino has talked about placing starters like James Holt and Joe Mortensen on his special teams as the Jayhawks rank last in the nation in kick returns. The Jayhawks are averaging 12.4 yards per kickoff -- almost three yards per return less than the next-lowest team, Kent State at 118th.

2. Iowa State has inserted freshman Jerome Tiller as its backup quarterback after Phillip Bates left school. Coach Gene Chizik hopes that he can still make it through the season using only Austen Arnaud as the quarterback and keeping the redshirts intact for Tiller and fellow freshman Bret Bueker. Early word is that Bates likely won't resurface at another Big 12 school because it would cost him an additional season in the transfer. A more likely location would be a FCS school where he could play immediately or an FBS school like Ohio University, where his family already has a strong association with coach Frank Solich. Bates' father, Phillip Bates Sr., was a running back at Nebraska who played there when Solich was his position coach under Tom Osborne.

3. Texas ditched using a tight end in favor of a four-wide receiver look as its base offensive formation against Oklahoma. And the unit's success -- 438 total yards and 20 combined catches from Quan Cosby and Shipley -- make it likely to be used more during the rest of the season. Starting tight end Blaine Irby's season-ending injury robbed the Longhorns of their top receiving threat at the position. The four-receiver sets have made the Longhorns lethal in terms of big-play capabilities, but a little weaker trying to consistently run the ball.

4. Considering the recent injury to Lamark Brown, it wasn't surprising that quarterback Josh Freeman emerged as a key rushing threat in the Wildcats' victory last week over Texas A&M. Freeman produced career-high totals of 18 carries, 95 yards and four rushing touchdowns against the Aggies. In the philosophy of Kansas State quarterbacks coach Warren Ruggiero and offensive coordinator Dave Brock, the quarterback is used as more of a rushing weapon. Freeman has gained positive rushing yards in each of his six starts this season. Before this season, Freeman had netted positive yards in only eight of his 20 previous career starts.

5. Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman is doing what he can to instill discipline on his team, even if it affects its performance in the short term. Key players Michael Bennett and Mike Goodson weren't in the starting lineup last week against Kansas State after discipline issues, paving the way for the Wildcats to jump to an early 27-3 lead over Sherman's beleaguered team. Sherman is hoping that his struggles bottom out as he tries to make the Aggies know they've got a firm leader running the program.

Freeman living up to his bold preseason claims

September, 16, 2008
9/16/08
2:03
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Before the season started, Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman audaciously made headlines by saying he merited inclusion among the top quarterbacks in the Big 12.

Considering the names among the conference's aerial hierarchy, it was a bold statement.

 
 AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
 Turns out, Kansas State's Josh Freeman IS one of the best quarterbacks in the Big 12.

Funny thing, however. Freeman has lived up to his boast in the first two games of the season, ranking third nationally in pass efficiency -- and only behind Oklahoma's Sam Bradford among Big 12 quarterbacks -- as he's led the Wildcats to a 2-0 start.

"Those guys play within their systems and I play within mine," Freeman said. "It's all about who comes away with victories and gets the job done on the field. I understand that winning is a big part of that and I've been sometimes overlooked as a legitimate quarterback. But I've tried to approach it this season by just getting things done on the field."

His development has been the biggest key in the Wildcats' strong start heading into their nationally-televised game at Louisville on Wednesday night.

Freeman has completed 75.6 percent of his passes, throwing for five touchdowns and no interceptions. He's been responsible for nine touchdowns, running for four other scores as the Wildcats blitzed early opponents North Texas and Montana State by a combined 114-16 margin.

"I've always considered myself a strong Big 12 player," Freeman said. "With all of the hard work that we've put in and the team I think we have, our confidence was high. You'll earn respect by what you play and do during games. And that's what's I've tried to do."

Unlike the other top Big 12 passers, Freeman has worked in a pro-style passing offense during his entire career. He typically doesn't have the opportunities to pull the ball down and scamper on a zone read like many of the others in the conference.

That early experience and Freeman's mammoth 6-foot-6, 250-pound stature has NFL scouts projecting that he likely could become the most accomplished current Big 12 player at the next level. They drool about his size and rocket arm strength that have led to comparisons to Daunte Culpepper.

"I've always seen myself as a pocket passer," Freeman said. "That's what I've tried to polish and make myself best at. And I think I'm a perfect fit for the system here at Kansas State."

Freeman was thrown to the wolves in a matter of speaking, starting eight games as a true freshman. That factor alone makes him different from many quarterbacks who were allowed a more gradual ascent into college football.

But Freeman also had enough early success sprinkled with the struggles that it left him hungry for more. He dramatically won his first start in 2006 with a late TD run against Oklahoma State. He became the first quarterback since Jason White to beat Texas in back-to-back starts. And he finished with a flourish last season, even as the Wildcats cratered around him after a four-game losing streak cost them a bowl berth.

"During my early time in college, I was really using football as my area to take away the stress from being away from home. It was my happy place," Freeman said. "It was a little tough at first and I had to adjust a little bit. But I got more used to things and it's helping me mature."

Last season's late collapse left him more determined for success as a junior. Working with new quarterbacks coach Warren Ruggiero provided him with the tools for that growth.

"There's no doubt that he's our most improved player from last season," KSU coach Ron Prince said. "You can see he's getting more and more confident in what we're asking him to do. And he's becoming a leader for our team."

KSU WR Brandon Banks said that the Wildcats get much of their identity from having Freeman as their quarterback.

"It makes you feel really confident," Banks said. "You have time to run your route and the ability to get open and know the ball is going to get there on time. He can put the ball wherever you need it."

Freeman has thrown a touchdown pass in 13 straight games and hasn't been intercepted in his last 125 attempts. And he's primed for more heading into a game Wednesday that could make his preseason claims more apparent to a wider national audience.

"He's at a place now in his career where he's ready to round out the things he's capable of doing," Prince said. "There still are some things we haven't shown yet, but Josh is where he can contribute in a lot of different ways. And so far this season, he's taken that and done a nice job with it."

Big 12 dots and dashes from Monday teleconference

August, 25, 2008
8/25/08
7:44
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

You sometimes don't miss it until it's gone.

That's what I was thinking when I didn't have wireless access for a couple of hours this afternoon as I waited for a flat tire to be fixed. It kept some of these nuggets from this morning's teleconference from being filed as quickly as I would have liked, but here goes -- late rather than never. And there will be some more filed later this evening, because my car still isn't fixed.

Kansas coach Mark Mangino doesn't expect last season's success to develop any overconfidence in his team. "Last year has no bearing on this year in a lot of ways," Mangino said. "We have a confident team, but we also have smart kids. There are still a lot of areas that we can improve." Converted QB Kerry Meier will return to wide receiver and won't be used as a punter unless Kansas needs him ...Mangino had an interesting description of QB Todd Reesing's strength as a leader. "He's a confident guy, but he's confident because he prepares himself so well. When you prepare yourself well, you have a high level of confidence. The team sees that confidence he has and it helps. It rubs off on everybody."

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops expects new Nebraska coach Bo Pelini to have a big impact at his new job, "Bo will do an excellent job," Stoops said. "He has the background on defense and the knowledge to make a difference where maybe they struggled a year ago." Stoops is pleased with the quick return of DE Auston English, the preseason All-Big 12 selection who missed most of training camp after his appendix was removed. "Auston has looked fantastic," Stoops said. "He hasn't missed a beat since he's come back. He makes such a difference." Stoops also said that NT DeMarcus Granger has looked strong at recent practices. "He had minor spasm with his back early, but he's made a really good improvement and has looked good," Stoops said.

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said raising a family is one of the biggest challenges for football coaches. "I don't know if we are ever really fair to them," Gundy said. Gundy said an old coach gave his some advice about the demands of his profession. "I heard a guy say you spend your career coaching everybody's son but your own," he said. "I've kind of noticed that to be true." Gundy is pleased with the development of his offensive line, considered one of his team's biggest strengths. "Our line is better this year ... we have a third guard and tackle for the first time and feel like we have some guys who can make plays. Those guys give us firepower. We feel pretty good about where we are on offense."

Kansas State coach Ron Prince is pleased with the development of junior-college transfer Keithen Valentine, a product of Mississippi Delta Community College who earned a starting job in training camp. "We could see in the spring that he could run in a way that's pretty fluid and elusive," said Prince, who compared the 5-foot-8, 197-pound Valentine to former Virginia standout Wali Lundy. "I didn't know he was capable of power running and I hadn't seen that like I have in training camp. Keithen ran with toughness and power and extra yards at the end of runs. And because of that, we were very impressed." Prince chuckled about making Playboy's Top 25 ranking, although he's happy for the notoriety of his team's only national ranking. "It's great when people project and want to be on the front end of a trend ... it's very flattering," Prince said. "But at the same time, we have 12 weeks in front of us. We want to be in a poll at the end."

The growth of junior Kansas State QB Josh Freeman under new KSU quarterbacks coach Warren Ruggiero has been noticeable to Prince. "I think Josh is our most improved player on offense. I would attribute it to Warren doing a great job. His knowledge of the scheme and the little small things within those really has given our quarterback a boost of confidence," Prince said. But he also knows that Freeman will be judged by his on-field success after struggling late last season in the Wildcats' dismal 5-7 finish. "We all know it's result oriented," Prince said. "Quarterbacks are judged by how many pelts they bring home. We understand that and look forward to it."

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said LB Van Alexander (knee) is doubtful for Saturday's game against Illinois and WR Danario Alexander (knee) is out. "Van is really close, but we'll see how it goes. He'll travel and dress and prepare like he's playing," Pinkel said. "Other than that, we're in pretty good shape." Pinkel said that sophomore WR/KR Jeremy Maclin provides him with a threat unlike any he's ever seen. "He's certainly an impact player," Pinkel said. "Very rarely do you have a guy who every time he touches the ball can change a game. I haven't had guy like this in 30 years."

Texas Tech's RB rotation for Shannon Woods, Baron Batch and Aaron Crawford should receive relatively equal playing time against Eastern Washington, coach Mike Leach said. "It might break down one-third, one-third, one-third," Leach said. "They all are bringing things to table. We don't lose anything playing one to the next." ... Leach said that the Big 12 might now be the toughest conference in the country. But he judges it in different ways than having five Big 12 teams among the top 14 teams in the Associated Press and USA Today coaches' poll. "One thing that makes a good conference isn't the teams at the top, but those in the middle. That's ultimately what will makes it the toughest." ... Leach has never released injury information and didn't on Monday about CB L.A. Reed, who was seen hobbling with an ankle immobilized in a protective boot last week. "The Red Raiders haven't had any injuries happening," Leach said. "It's been kind of remarkable. To the best of my knowledge, he'll (Reed) play well ... like gangbusters."

Big 12 links: No playmakers in Nebraska's trenches

August, 13, 2008
8/13/08
9:16
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

It wasn't that long ago that the bedrock of the Nebraska football program was its imposing offensive and defensive lines. The Cornhuskers' weight-training program was the foundation of a program that claimed a share of three national championships during a four-season period in the 1990s under former coach Tom Osborne. 

Lincoln Journal Star columnist Steven Sipple had an interesting point today about why the Cornhusker program has atrophied in recent seasons.

The Cornhuskers haven't had an all-conference offensive lineman since Toniu Fonoti in 2001 and an all-league defensive lineman since Steve Warren in 1999.

Bo Pelini has his work cut out as he tries to rebuild the once-proud Cornhusker program. But here's a suggestion for the new Nebraska coach: Be sure your team gets a heaping dose of Big 12 links every morning. Because like Wonder Bread, they help build strong bodies 12 ways.

Here's a little nourishment this morning for the Cornhuskers -- and for everybody else. 

  • Texas LB Sergio Kindle is excited about his role in new coordinator Will Muschamp's defense. "I could scream, but I won't do that. I'm excited," Kindle told the San Antonio Express-News' Natalie England. "I love rushing. The quarterback is going to be my prey. I'm the predator."
  • The Des Moines Register's Andrew Logue answered a variety of Iowa State questions in his weekly Tuesday afternoon chat. Among the notables, Logue gives QB Austin Arnaud a slight edge in the quarterback battle and says finding a kicker will be critical over the next two weeks. 
  • Wyoming transfer Aric Goodman is in line to earn Colorado's starting kicking job. And he's earned the nickname "Money" from his teammates because of his consistency so far in practice.
  • Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder said the construction date of the Cowboys' indoor practice facility likely will be pushed back because a hit in Boone Pickens' hedge fund caused by recent fluctuations in oil prices. Work had been scheduled to begin on Oct. 1.
  • Ah, the days of summer. Colorado players are set for a trip to Water World Wednesday afternoon after cooling down following Tuesday's practice with a water balloon fight.
  • Oklahoma RB DeMarco Murray was back at practice Tuesday after missing two days with a sprained ankle.
  • New Kansas State offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero has helped QB Josh Freeman become perhaps the most improved Kansas State player compared to last year, KSU coach Ron Prince told Jeffrey Martin of the Wichita Eagle. Yes, the same Freeman who set the school record with 3,353 passing yards last season.
  • Missouri TE Chase Coffman is expected back in practice in about a week after undergoing surgery Tuesday to repair a broken right pinky finger.
  • Special air-cooled vests developed by Nike are helping Oklahoma beat the heat at practice this summer.
  • Derrick Washington is poised to emerge as Missouri's top running threat to replace Tony Temple. Washington's value, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune's Dave Matter, is boosted by his pass-catching abilities.
  • Kansas State coach Ron Prince's new contract gives him the ability to walk away to another job without a buyout, according to the Manhattan Mercury. Prince's new deal also substantially raises his potential bonuses and boosts his budget for assistant coaching salaries by $99,000 per year.
  • Heralded Baylor WR David Gettis has never lived up to the recruiting hype. New coach Art Briles is intent on changing that. "God was good to him," Briles told the Waco Tribune-Herald's John Werner. "We need to make God smile."
  • Missouri QB Chase Daniel thinks that EA Sports did a good job in replicating him in "NCAA Football 09."
  • Texas coaches are toying with the use of bullish 255-pound TB Cody Johnson in some speciality situations.
  • Texas Tech has broken a school record for season tickets with 41,173, and has sold at least 43,000 tickets for each of its seven 2008 home games.
  • Texas Tech TB Aaron Crawford provides something a little different from the Red Raiders' glut of other backs. "The thing I like about him is he gets downhill hard," Tech running backs coach Seth Littrell told Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. "He's not going to be a flashy guy, where he's going to make a bunch of jukes and stuff. He runs physical. He runs extremely hard. He makes plays just by being powerful."
  • Baylor coach Art Briles told the Houston Chronicle's Joseph Duarte that he might delay his decision on a starting quarterback until just before pregame warm-ups of the Bears' Aug. 28 opener against Wake Forest. "Seriously, I wish I was kidding," Briles said.

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