Big 12: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
Call it my own version of "Chicken Soup for the Big 12 Fan's Soul."
- The San Diego Union-Tribune’s Brent Schrotenboer reports that the financially strapped San Diego State athletic department will save $350,000 by having former coach Chuck Long work as Kansas’ offensive coordinator.
- Gary Pinkel tells the Kansas City Star’s Mike DeArmond about some fond memories of his late father, who passed away last week at the age of 83 in Columbus, Ohio.
- Lincoln Journal Star pundits Steve Sipple and Brian Christopherson report about Nebraska's emerging quarterback battle in spring practice.
- New Kansas quarterback Quinn Mecham tells the Lawrence Journal-World’s Tom Keegan that he’s not a very vocal leader, preferring to let his actions speak for themselves.
- The Sporting News Daily reports that defensive back Tramone Mickens has signed a letter of intent with Texas A&M as part of the Aggies’ 2010 class.
- Former Kansas co-defensive coordinator Clint Bowen will be introduced today as Western Kentucky’s new defensive coordinator, the Lawrence Journal-World’s Dugan Arnett reports.
- ESPN.com’s Bruce Feldman lists Texas Tech and Texas A&M among his 10 teams being overlooked heading into the 2010 season.
- Turner Gill speaks to Kansas students about integrity, Jenny Terrell of the Daily Kansan reports.
- Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn tells the Denver Post he hasn’t been contacted by the Pac-10 about the Buffaloes joining the conference.
- Mobile Register columnist Paul Finebaum blasts new Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville, claiming his legacy has been “torched” by the strong recruiting job by Auburn coach Gene Chizik.
- Mark B. Evans of the Tucson Citizen lists Colorado among the teams the Pac-10 should consider for future expansion. And Phil Wallace of L.A. Observed mentions that the Pac-10’s expansion plans should begin with the Buffaloes.
- Richard Tijerina’s “Breakfast with Bevo” announces an Austin return by Quan Cosby that will benefit the Haitian relief efforts and David Thomas’ contributions for the world champion New Orleans Saints. And yes, it does seem a little weird for me typing those five words in succession.
- Tuberville tells CBS Sports.com's Dennis Dodd that his “fresh slate” approach stretches to everybody in the program – even Adam James.
Carnes, a product of Manatee High School in Bradenton, Fla., had been committed to Western Kentucky since a weekend recruiting visit.
Emotions were pulling Carnes in different directions. New Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggert had formerly been a quarterback at Manatee High School earlier in his career. But Carnes is a second cousin of legendary Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier.
But Bo Pelini's late push and the Cornhuskers' recent on-the-field improvement were the biggest selling points for Carnes.
"Just the atmosphere," Carnes told the Lincoln Journal Star. "Just the fact this is Nebraska. My goals and dreams are to push for a BCS national championship, try to contend for a Heisman Trophy. I feel I can do that at Nebraska."
Those are some lofty goals, considering that Carnes likely will be battling for playing time with sophomore-to-be Cody Green, among others. But it's still a big get for the Cornhuskers, with several more key recruits announcing their choices later in the day.
But it's not all that is going on across the Big 12.
Check out these links along with your lunchtime respite. You'll thank me for it later.
- ESPN.com’s J.C. Shurburtt has high confidence that Owamagbe Odighizuwa will end up at Nebraska.
- The Denver Post’s Woody Paige wonders where Dan Hawkins has been the last few weeks.
- The Lincoln Journal Star’s Steve Sipple writes about Turner Gill’s diligent job of trying to cobble together his first recruiting class at Kansas.
- U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen blasted the Southeastern and Big 12 conferences for failing to adopt stricter policies on handling player concussions, the Associated Press’ Kristie Rieken reports.
- Baylor wide receiver David Gettis and Texas Tech tackle Marlon Winn struggled through the first day of practices at the Texas vs. the Nation All-Star Game at El Paso, Texas, the Sporting News’ Russ Lande reports.
- The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Bill Coats catches up with Sheldon Richardson to talk about the pressures of recruiting. Richardson, who played at the College of the Sequoias last season, said he remains committed to Missouri for the spring semester next year.
- A Dallas Morning News recruiting day primer predicts that Texas is set to contend for championships for years with this year’s recruiting class. And the Morning News’ Chuck Carlton also provides extensive recruiting previews for Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Baylor.
- The Omaha World-Herald’s Tom Shatel is curious why Nebraska is competing with Western Kentucky for a potential starting quarterback.
- The Boulder Camera’s Kyle Ringo reports that attrition has cost Colorado nearly eight players per year from each recruiting class by the end of its eligibility at the school.
- New defensive tackle commitment Mike Jones tells the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal’s Don Williams he was set to attend Fordham before receiving a late recruiting offer from Texas Tech.
- Kicker-punter Will Russ of Shreveport, La., is Texas’ 25th and final commitment of the recruiting class of 2010, the Austin American-Statesman’s Suzanne Halliburton reports.
- The Oklahoman's Jake Trotter reports that former Georgia defensive coordinator and Stanford assistant Willie Martinez appears headed to Oklahoma as a new defensive coach for the Sooners.
I wouldn’t think of jumping into the weekend without answering some of my better letters from this past week.
So here I go.
Steve Russell of Loveland, Colo., writes: Tim, quick question for you. If you were picking a conference coach of the year including the bowl games, who would you select?
Tim Griffin: After the regular season and conference championship game, I picked Mack Brown because of his 13-0 record. But including the bowl results, I would lean to Bo Pelini, with Brown closely followed by Paul Rhoads of Iowa State.
I think Pelini was able to get a lot out of a team that struggled offensively for much of the season. The Cornhuskers had one of the most imposing defenses in recent Big 12 history with Ndamukong Suh, Jared Crick, Prince Amukamara, Larry Asante, Phillip Dillard and Co. They had a 10-4 record, but the Cornhuskers were very close to a couple of more wins. With a fortunate break or two, the Cornhuskers could have ended up winning the Iowa State and Virginia Tech games during the regular season and the Big 12 championship game. They came legitimately close to a 13-1 record this season. Pelini deserves much of the credit for getting them into the championship game and for their victory over Arizona in the Holiday Bowl.
And as far as Rhoads, I think he did a masterful job with his team. The fact he was able to go to Nebraska and beat the Cornhuskers while starting a backup quarterback and running back while Austen Arnaud and Alexander Robinson were out of the lineup was one of the biggest upsets in the nation this past season. Capping the season with an Insight Bowl victory over Minnesota and finishing with a winning record completed a strong first season for the Cyclones.
Caleb from the Foothills of Colorado writes: Tim, I saw in your last mailbag that you weren't certain Colorado was nailed down as a conference member. Can you please elaborate on where you think they might be going and why? I can't see them in any other conference that makes geographical sense except the Mountain West and while the Buffs have been (sometimes painfully) bad for a few years now I don't think they deserve being relegated to the MWC.
Tim Griffin: Caleb, I was speaking from a gut feeling I have about Colorado in comparison with the rest of the conference. The Buffaloes program is nowhere near its level in football in the 1990s or even in the early stages of the Big 12. They obviously need a shot of enthusiasm. The report of the $50 million donation from boosters might produce that, but they clearly need a boost of some kind to jump into competition with schools like Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska.
I’ve always wondered if Colorado might be a better fit in the Pac-10 if that conference ever chose to expand. New Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott is said to be considering that. Maybe the Buffaloes might be a team he would look at.
And I’ve often thought that if the Mountain West ever got an automatic berth into the BCS if Colorado would be more competitive in that conference. Playing against schools like Colorado State, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and BYU would make geographic sense. But I don’t know if it would be palatable to Colorado fans after playing Big Eight and Big 12 opponents for all of these seasons.
My point was that if the Big 12 becomes serious about making the jump into Utah by adding either BYU or Utah at some point, they need to be sure that Colorado is on board for the duration. The move that direction doesn’t make much sense if the Buffaloes aren't committed.
Roger Stringfellow of Katy, Texas, writes: Tim, I read your post earlier today about Dat Nguyen returning to Texas A&M. What do you are his legitimate chances of returning to Aggieland? And do you think that Mike Sherman is smart enough to make this hire?
Tim Griffin: I think that Dat Nguyen would bring cache to Sherman’s coaching staff unlike many hires he could make. Nguyen legitimately is the most decorated Aggie football player of the last 40 years.
But you have to remember that Sherman is facing huge pressure after going 10-15 in his first two seasons at A&M. Hiring Tim DeRuyter from Air Force was a bold, popular move among most A&M fans. But I’m wondering if DeRuyter and Sherman believe they can gamble on a new coach with little true coaching experience and none in college football by hiring Nguyen.
To me, the hiring is a no-brainer. Getting Nguyen back in the program would be huge for Sherman and his staff. But if they believe they only have a one- or two-season window to turn things around, I can understand why they might opt for a new defensive coach with more experience.
Michael Hengel of Pine Bluff, Ark., writes: Hey, Tim, thank you for the nice column on Freddie Steinmark. Seeing his name in the headline of your piece brought back a flood of memories -- even before reading the feature, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I confess that I had not thought about his great story in years. What an inspiration.
Tim Griffin: Michael, thanks to you and everybody else who wrote to me to comment on my piece on what would have been Steinmark’s 61st birthday earlier this week. He’s still an iconic figure in Texas football history. But his story needs to be shared with more people who might have forgotten about him, or never heard of his inspiring life.
David Macrander of Omaha, Neb., writes: Tim, What do you think the chances are of all three of the major recruits Nebraska is after end up signing with them on signing day? If not all of them, how many (if any) do you think will sign with the Huskers?
Tim Griffin: Out of the three players remaining, I’ll rank the chances of them coming like this. I think the Cornhuskers’ best hopes come with attracting Owamagbe Odighizuwa because of their success with Ndamukong Suh. Odighizuwa saw what Bo Pelini’s staff did with another raw but talented defensive line prospect from Oregon in Suh. I’ve heard that really resonates with him. After that, I think their chances are next best with Corey Cooper, who likely sees that the Cornhuskers need immediate help at safety and likely could use him in the 2010 season if he develops quickly.
Quarterback Brion Carnes obviously has some family history with the Cornhuskers, considering he’s the cousin of legendary Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier. But I’m wondering if Jamal Turner’s announcement last night that he’s coming in the Class of 2011 will have any effect. Also, I know that Carnes is close with Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggert, who is a former quarterback at Manatee High School in Bradenton, Fla., where Carnes played.
So I’d rank Odighizuwa first, Cooper second and Carnes third in terms of their chances at arriving at Nebraska. Getting one player from that group would be a big late surge for Pelini. Two would be huge and a hat trick of all three players might be beyond even his most optimistic hopes. It will be interesting to see how many late recruiting commitments the Cornhuskers will get.
Thanks again for all of the good questions this week. Enjoy the Senior Bowl and I’ll check back with you again next week with another batch.
Anil Rao of West Lafayette, Ind., writes: Tim, I wonder with the strong season and career that Colt McCoy has had at Texas without the benefit of a dominate running game why do many not see him succeeding at the next level? Thanks and keep up the good work on an amazing blog!
Tim Griffin: Anil, thanks for the kind words. I also wonder what McCoy could have done with a more consistent running game. In 2008, there was no doubt that he was Texas’ most consistent running threat. He likely would have been that player last year if the Longhorns’ coaches had used him more in that role.
I think it will be interesting to see what he accomplishes at the next level. After watching him play for four seasons, I’ve seen him come back better each season from the previous one. I also think he will be driven by perceived slights if his draft status doesn’t match what he might think it should be.
The pro scouts that I talk to say the best comparison in his football makeup is Drew Brees, who was similarly doubted coming out of college. McCoy is bigger and stronger than Brees, which I think makes his chances a little better to play well at the next level.
I think McCoy's underrated arm, his leadership and his moxie as a player will help him succeed at the next level. I think somebody picking late in the first day of the draft will be picking up a steal if they pick McCoy.
Curtis from Lincoln, Neb., writes: This is moderately old news, but it was said after the Holiday Bowl that Nebraska quarterback Zac Lee injured his wrist and later his elbow early last season, leading to his sub-par performances and the one-game starting spot for the talented but raw freshman, Cody Green. Lee later rebounded for a respectable showing in the Holiday Bowl, and has had surgery to repair it.
So, with this in mind, who do you think is going to win the quarterback battle at Nebraska? Will it be Lee or Green?
Tim Griffin: Lee’s injury woes kind of put his late-season struggles in some perspective. But I was always waiting for Green to really jump out and impress me when he got a chance to play last season. I didn’t see that late in the season -- in fact, it seemed like he regressed as the season continued and he started playing the tougher defenses in the Big 12.
It will be interesting to see how Lee rebounds after getting a chance to recover from his surgery. I think he’ll go into spring practice as the favorite, but Green will have the opportunity to win the job with a big performance.
But that being said, I look for Lee to win the job and be Nebraska’s opening game starter on Sept. 4 against Western Kentucky. Green will play some next year. And I think the Wildcat that Shawn Watson dusted off during the Holiday Bowl could really be a huge weapon with Rex Burkhead and Green as the tailback in that offense. Look for that plan next season.
Chase Gosselin from Trujillo, Peru, writes: Should Missouri join the Big Ten, would the Big 12 have a shot at convincing BYU or Utah to replace the Tigers? In addition to maintaining conference alignment, either of these universities would bring another quality team to the Big XII, expand the conference's geographical television reach, supply strong fan bases (particularly BYU with LaVell Edwards Stadium), and provide another non-BCS conference team with a chance to earn some serious money.
Tim Griffin: Chase, I agree that both would be good long-term additions if the Big 12 should ever have a vacancy. One thing that would be important would be to nail down Colorado as a significant conference member. It would look unwieldy if either of the Utah schools was added without the Buffaloes remaining in place.
But in terms of facilities, strength in other sports and football tradition, either the Utes or the Cougars would be a nice addition for the Big 12.
Dan Beebe would prefer not to worry about that, however. I think he’d like to keep Missouri in place, if he could.
Davey Jones writes: Is your comment system working today, Tim? You had some interesting blogposts that I and others would like to have been able to comment on. What’s the problem?
Tim Griffin: I was told that our production people have just gotten a solution to this problem only a few minutes ago.
Thanks for your patience in this and come back later to post any comments you think might be relevant to my posts and the ones of the other bloggers. We appreciate the feedback.
Adam Jacquez of Raleigh, N.C., writes: Hey Tim, in regards to your all-decade Big 12 team, I was wondering why you chose Chase Coffman over Jermaine Gresham. In my opinion, Gresham was a much better all-around player. If Gresham had played in 2009, would it have swayed in your choice of Coffman?
Tim Griffin: I based my choices on productivity and longevity. As such, I thought that Coffman was the choice over Gresham. During the 2008 season, Gresham was the more productive player, but I thought over the course of both players’ careers that Coffman was the better player and deserving of my selection.
But to answer your question, if Gresham had played in 2009 and had a similar season as the one he had the previous year, I would have definitely given him more consideration for the all-decade team. The fact he missed 2009 really hurt his chances.
J.L. from Marshall, Va., writes: Hey, Tim wasn't Mike Sherman hired by Texas A&M because he was known as a defensive wizard? If so, how will hiring another defensive wizard help A&M turn around their recent struggles.
Tim Griffin: J.L., Sherman’s background before becoming a head coach was as an offensive coach and particularly an offensive line coach. From 1983-96, he coached the offensive line at a variety of colleges, with a one-season break as the offensive coordinator at Holy Cross in 1988. He was the Green Bay Packers’ tight ends coach in 1997-98 before serving for one season as the Seattle Seahawks’ offensive coordinator.
Sherman then was Green Bay’s head coach from 2000-05 and served as assistant head coach for the Houston Texans in 2006 and as their offensive coordinator the following season before arriving at Texas A&M as the head coach in 2008.
I think the hiring of Tim DeRuyter as A&M’s new offensive coordinator was a wise move by Sherman. DeRuyter had much success coaching at the Air Force. It will be interesting to see if his strategy and techniques will work as he moves up in class and starts calling defenses against the more talented teams he will regularly face in the Big 12.
Christopher Luce from Columbus, Neb., writes: I was wondering if you had a quick list of Big 12 stadiums and their actual seating capacities? Mainly, because I don't want to do the math. Your list doesn’t have one included. Can you help me with the most up-to-date numbers you can find?
Tim Griffin: Christopher, your wish is my command. I went through the last home media notes sheet for every Big 12 team to get the listed seating capacity for their final 2009 home game. Here’s the list I was able to come up with.
Thanks again for all of the good letters and check back again Friday with the next edition of my mailbag.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
If it's Friday, it must mean it's time to crack open the mailbag.
Here are some of the better questions I received this past week.
Ryan Lund of Minneapolis, Minn., writes: Hi Tim. I love your blog, especially as a Cyclone and Big 12 fan who lives in Big Ten country. You wrote recently that Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe is considering the creation of a Big 12 network. Do you see this eventually becoming a reality? And if so, when?
Tim Griffin: I would imagine that discussions are taking place in a broad sense between the conference and some of its partners about a potential television network. But before these plans would go forward, a determination has to be made on which way the conference's schools really want to go.
Mainly, would those Big 12 schools be willing to start their own television network -- with all the inherent chances for riches but with a greater gamble. Or would they prefer to take the model of the Southeastern Conference and employ a model where a television partner offered extensively wider distribution to the conference in exchange for them not creating their network. In essence, let somebody else do the work for them.
Both models seem to have worked.
I think the Big 12 is also hamstrung when compared to the Big Ten in a couple of ways. The Big 12 doesn't have as many attractive big-city markets or populous states as the Big Ten, lessening its chances for more money through wider distribution in their immediate areas.
More importantly, the Big Ten has always been more conducive to sharing revenues. It makes a smaller school like Northwestern feel like an equal partner to Ohio State or Michigan.
In the Big 12, the teams that have the most nationally televised games or make the most tournament trips receive more money.
That's been an ingrained idea that has been in place throughout the history of the conference and would be difficult to change, despite the wailing of some of the little brothers at the table clamoring for a bigger piece of the conference's pie.
I think for the idea of a conference television network to fly, it would be practical for all partners to be on an equal footing to help get it off the ground. And frankly, I don't know if the strongest schools in the Big 12 would be willing to share that much.
James from Swede Home, Neb., writes: Tim, remember you heard it here first. Evidence points to 2010 being the Year of the Cornhuskers. Exhibit A: A cupcake non-conference schedule with home games against Western Kentucky, South Dakota State, Idaho and Washington. Exhibit B: A friendly conference schedule favors the Cornhuskers with games against more difficult foes like Texas, Missouri, Kansas and Colorado at home. On the road, they will meet Kansas State, Iowa State, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. This is the kind of schedule that would win championships.
Tim Griffin: And that's besides the fact that Zac Lee, Roy Helu Jr., Quentin Castille, Mike McNeill, Mike Smith, Keith Williams, Pierre Allen, Blake Lawrence, Anthony West and Prince Amukamara all should return for their senior seasons, as well. Add that younger players like Cody Green, Rex Burkhead and Chris Williams will have another year of experience. I expect the Cornhuskers to be pretty good in 2009 and even better in 2010.
James Coulter from Corpus Christi, Texas, writes: Tim, I completely agree with you on your assessment of the rushing statistic in college football and how it compares to how the stat is kept in the pros.
Do you think, however, that college football keeps its rushing game because of the larger role that quarterbacks play in the running game versus how much quarterbacks run in the NFL?
Tim Griffin: James, I got a lot of good feedback on that post. I just think that it diminishes the ability of running quarterbacks who are forced to include their sacks with their rushing total.
Actually, I think the NCAA does their statistics as a throwback to the older days when teams were more run-heavy than they are today. Sacks were fewer in those earlier days because teams didn't pass the ball as often.
But today, a quarterback is susceptible to a sack on many more passing attempts than in earlier eras of football. Those numbers eventually add up to diminish their rushing totals.
I just believe we would have a clearer, more consistent view of the rushing productivity of an offense or a defense -- those sack yards shouldn't be subtracted from the rushing totals. Instead, they should be kept in a separate category like in the NFL.
And yes, it does grieve me to say they do something better in the NFL than college football.
Dan Swanson writes: The story you wrote about Oklahoma giving $3 million back to the school was nice, but hardly merited the front-page coverage it received on your college-football link.
Why is it so special that Oklahoma's athletic department contributed $3 million back to the school?
That sum is pocket change from an athletic department of this size, particularly when you consider individual donors sometimes give $50 million to $100 million.
Tim Griffin: Dan, I respectfully disagree with your comments. I thought the Oklahoma gift to the general academic department at the school was significant for a couple of reasons.
First, it's one of the largest gifts that an athletic department has made back to its school this year. Secondly, the Sooners' athletic department made this gift without the benefit of new megabuck television deals like those garnered by some of the schools in the Southeastern Conference and Big Ten.
But the main reason I think the story was newsworthy was what Oklahoma president David Boren said when the gift was announced. The gifts, he said, helped the school avoid tuition increases or faculty layoffs.
In these challenging economic times, to hold the line on those costs is commendable. And if Boren credited the athletic department for helping to bring that about, it was noteworthy.
Jack Branch from Oklahoma City writes: Hey, Tim. You've got the ball on your own 20-yard line with 2 minutes left in a game needing a touchdown to win.
Which Big 12 quarterback do you want running your offense?
Tim Griffin: Jack, great question. Maybe it's because I just watched the tape of the 2009 Fiesta Bowl a couple of nights ago, but I would go with Texas' Colt McCoy. He might not have the deep arm of other quarterbacks in the league, but he has a knack for improvising big plays when he needs them.
Here's a statistic that best shows McCoy's clutch value, in my opinion. In games that he has started and finished that have been decided by seven points or less, Texas is 8-2.
Andrew Gaskill of Aledo, Texas, writes: Tim, I read your answer to a question about Chris Brown where you stated that you believe the combination of Brown and DeMarco Murray are the best combination in the Big 12. Wouldn't Oklahoma State's combination of Kendall Hunter and Keith Toston, which led the conference in rushing last season, be your top combination?
Tim Griffin: Andrew, I think the Oklahoma group is just a shade better because both of the backs rushed for 1,000 yards last season. Hunter led the conference in rushing last season, but the combination of Oklahoma's two primary backs makes them collectively just a little bit better, in my opinion.
And I also think an argument could be made that Nebraska's Helu and Castille are the second-best pair of running backs along with the Oklahoma State duo you mentioned.
Joe Costas from Memphis, Tenn., writes: As a Southeastern Conference fan, I'm enjoying your mythical matchups with the Big 12. But one question. What's with posting the midpoint between the two locations?
Tim Griffin: Joe, I just thought that might be a neat little trinket that would show the distances between the two teams. And the fact that it's often a small town only adds to its appeal, in my opinion.
The matchups will continue for the next couple of weeks. I'm taking a critical look at both teams before I make my pick, which is why the Big 12 hasn't fared so well, so far.
But you never know -- things could change in the mythical matchups. Keep reading them.
Thanks again for all of the great questions this week. Keep them coming and enjoy your weekend.
And let's agree to meet here again next week, OK?
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
I feel a little remiss that we didn't celebrate Nebraska coach Bo Pelini's birthday last week in a suitable manner.
Pelini turned 41 on Saturday, a likely day for stoppage of mail and garbage delivery considering his early success with the Cornhuskers.
A rash of recent hirings of younger coaches has dropped Pelini to 13th among the youngest FBS head coaches. And his matchup with Clemson's Dabo Swinney in the Gator Bowl will be only the second time that Pelini has been older than his opposing coach. The only other time that happened was when he beat Ron Prince and Kansas State earlier this season.
And here's another way to place Pelini and Swinney's youth in perspective. Their combined ages at kickoff for the Jan. 1 game in Jacksonville will be 80 years, 1 month and 31 days. That total is far less than Penn State's Joe Paterno, who will be 82 years and 11 days old on that date.
Here's a look at the youngest FBS coaches in the nation. Coaches who have been hired since the end of the season to their new jobs are indicated with an asterisk.