Big 12: Western Michigan Broncos

After early kicking success, Henery can't wait to punt

June, 30, 2009
6/30/09
3:57
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Who needs a quiet summer? Alex Henery is doing his best to stay busy by trying to win another job with Nebraska.

It's why Henery is trying to build on his record-breaking start as a kicker by becoming the Cornhuskers' regular punter.

But whether booming high spiraling punts or drilling balls through the uprights, Henery has confidence he can help the Cornhuskers at both positions.

 
  Josh Wolfe/Icon SMI
  Nebraska kicker Alex Henery is looking to add the punting duties to his plate in 2009.

"It's something that I can do," Henery said. "Some kids are strictly kickers and others are punters. I feel like I can do both. It's a challenge I feel like I can accomplish."

Henery actually came to Nebraska as a punter after averaging more than 41 yards per kick at Burke High School in Omaha in his junior and senior seasons. Those numbers earned him all-state honors as a punter from the Omaha World-Herald and the Lincoln Journal-Star in both seasons.

But when he arrived at Nebraska, his chances at the position were stifled with Dan Titchener and Jake Wesch in front of him on the depth chart. After sitting out a redshirt season, Henery moved to kicker where he has blossomed into one of the nation's most consistent performers once he got his chance.

And he earned Bo Pelini's ultimate compliment when he was described as "a stud" after his record-breaking 57-yard kick that helped beat Colorado last year.

During his college career, Henery has missed only one extra point and one field goal attempt inside of 50 yards. He is the most consistent kicker in Nebraska history to this point.

"I couldn't imagine things turning out much better for me than how they've worked out," Henery said. "I'm happy with how things have gone so far. My career has worked out pretty well."

Even with that early success, Henery hopes to build on that by punting this season after the graduation of Wesch and Titchener.

Few college players have been successful at both jobs. But recent success by Wake Forest standout Sam Swank and West Virginia's Pat McAfee have convinced Henery to give it a shot.

(Read full post)

Four Big 12 players rank among top nine in TD responsibility

May, 27, 2009
5/27/09
7:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

A long time ago when I was growing up, I always waited for the Street & Smith baseball yearbook to turn up at the magazine section of my neighborhood drug store.

Back in those pre-internet days, this book was the personal bible for all things about major league baseball for me and my friends.

The book had two must-have items that I waited for every year. One were the neat diagrams of major league parks with the longest home runs in history mapped out.

And the other item I couldn't wait to see were the career lists among baseball players -- both active and retired.

We couldn't find that information at the drop of a keystroke. I think that's what helped developed my interest in numbers and sports.

And it also gave me an extreme appreciation for similar career lists, like the one that the NCAA compiles for active football players.

After the defections of several players, four of the top nine current career players in terms of touchdowns responsibility are among Big 12 quarterbacks who will be back for the 2009 season. No other conference has more than two players among the list of top 10 players on the list.

As you can see, Texas' Colt McCoy ranks third in career touchdowns responsibility with 102, followed by Oklahoma's Sam Bradford in fourth place. Kansas' Todd Reesing is in sixth place and Oklahoma State's Zac Robinson ranks in ninth place.

Here's a look at the current statistics.

Player Games TDR TDP TTD Plays Plays/TD TD/G
Tim Tebow, Florida 41 43 67 110 1156 10.51 2.68
Dan LeFevour, Central Michigan 39 32 74 106 1795 16.93 2.72
Colt McCoy, Texas 39 17 85 102 1493 14.64 2.62
Sam Bradford, Oklahoma 28 5 86 91 897 9.86 3.25
Tim Hiller, Western Michigan 32 4 76 80 1219 15.24 2.50
Todd Reesing, Kansas 29 9 68 77 1196 15.53 2.66
Case Keenum, Houston 26 16 58 74 665 8.99 2.85
Matt Grothe, South Florida 39 23 47 70 1611 23.01 1.79
Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State 33 18 51 69 1013 14.68 2.09
Max Hall, BYU 26 5 61 66 1090 16.52 2.54

Legend: G, games; TDR, rushing touchdowns; TDP, touchdown passes; TTD, total touchdowns; PLAYS, offensive plays; Plays/TD, plays per touchdown; TD/G, touchdowns per game.

Note: Lewis' total touchdowns include one TD reception. Source: NCAA, ESPN.com research

Two Big 12 products picked for coaching academy

May, 20, 2009
5/20/09
12:53
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Two current college football assistant coaches who played in the Big 12 have been picked to attend the NCAA's Football Coaches Academy.

Former Nebraska player and current Western Michigan wide receivers coach Mike Grant and former Kansas player and current Marshall running backs coach Jared Smith have been chosen among the 26 football coaches invited to attend the academy. The program was developed to boost head-coaching opportunities for minority assistant coaches.  

Both are familiar names. Grant was a quarterback during his player career, worked in the Nebraska public relations office and even served as the executive producer of Tom Osborne's television show after his playing career ended. Grant also worked nine seasons on Dan McCarney's staff before ending up at Western Michigan.

Smith was a starting center for the Jayhawks from 1993-96, including their 1995 team that finished 10-2 and claimed an Aloha Bowl triumph over UCLA. He later served as a quality-control assistant at Ohio State before coming to Marshall in 2005.

The NCAA Diversity and Inclusion department administers the program, which prepares coaches for many of the situations and issues they will experience at the head-coaching level through targeted program sessions and networking opportunities with current head coaches and athletics administrators.

"We're bringing 26 coaches to Indianapolis to reinforce specific areas of expertise that we know athletics directors and head coaches believe are critical when advancing through the coaching ranks," said Charlotte Westerhaus, the NCAA's vice president for Diversity and Inclusion.

"The coaches already have the X's and O's under their belt and they are familiar with many of the skill sets we place emphasis on during the program. We're simply going to enhance their skills by providing them with information and feedback from some of the most successful coaches and athletics administrators from around the nation during the various program sessions."

Both coaches deserve the opportunity they are receiving. Hopefully, the skills they will learn participating in the program will help them earn head-coaching jobs in the future.

Big 12 claims three of top five active leaders in TD passes

April, 8, 2009
4/08/09
2:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Will offenses dominate again in the Big 12 next season as they did in 2008?

Perhaps the best reason I expect to see a similar onslaught of big numbers is by examining the NCAA's touchdown passes leaders for quarterbacks who will be returning in 2009. Three of the top five returnees are from the Big 12.

Here's a list of the top 10 active leaders in career touchdown passes who will be coming back for the 2009 season.

Top-10 active leaders in career TD passes
Name School TD passes Games Attempts TD/game TD%
Sam Bradford Oklahoma 86 28 824 3.07 10.44
Colt McCoy Texas 85 33 1175 2.58 7.23
Tim Hiller Western Michigan 76 32 1093 2.38 6.95
Dan LeFevour Central Michigan 74 39 1307 1.90 5.66
Todd Reesing Kansas 68 29 965 2.34 7.05
Tim Tebow Florida 67 41 681 1.63 9.84
Rusty Smith Florida Atlantic 62 38 1108 1.63 5.60
Max Hall BYU 61 26 973 2.35 6.27
Trevor Vittatoe UTEP 58 24 825 2.42 7.03
Case Keenum Houston 58 26 862 2.23 6.73
Note: Touchdown percentage is determined by touchdown passes per 100 attempts. Source: ESPN.com research

Bradford's blistering start in the first two seasons of his career leaves him only 52 touchdown passes from tying Graham Harrell's career FBS record of 138 touchdown passes. He could come close to breaking that record this season if he remains healthy. But a more likely scenario is that it might take him a little more than one season to break Harrell's career TD pass standard.

Would that be enough to convince him to return for a senior season in 2010? Probably not, although most observers were surprised to see him come back for his junior season.

So coming back for a senior season might not be a stretch for Bradford, either.

Particularly if he realizes his chance to make history.

Herman to be tested in ISU turnaround

March, 24, 2009
3/24/09
11:23
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

I've always wondered about those people who like to trump the fact they are Mensa members.

 
  Icon SMI
  Austen Arnaud is a cornerstone that Tom Herman can build the offense around.

New Iowa State offensive coordinator Tom Herman seemed a little sheepish about his membership in the group when he was interviewed recently by Des Moines Register beat writer Randy Peterson.

"That and a quarter will get you ... no, you better make that a dollar because of the economy ... that and a dollar will get you a cup of coffee," Herman said. "Mensa -- I guess that means mom and dad raised me right."

Peterson found out that a conversation with a key family member steered Herman to the Mensa test.

"My mom thought it would look good on my résumé," he said. "But that's obviously before I decided to go into football coaching."

Herman joked to Peterson that he zips through the USA Today crossword puzzle every morning and regularly beats the contestants on "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?"

But an even bigger test of his intellect begins Tuesday in Ames when he tries to turn around the moribund Iowa State offense as the Cyclones begin spring practice.

The team ranked 67th in rushing, 31st in passing and 59th in scoring offense. All of those figures were improvements on the previous season, but Iowa State still has a long way to go to catch up with the rest of the Big 12's powerful offenses.

Herman's hiring by new Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads represents a start. His offense at Rice, keyed by quarterback Chase Clement, wide receiver Jarett Dillard and tight end James Casey, ranked fifth in passing, 10th in total offense and eighth in scoring offense. It helped lead the Owls to their first bowl victory in 54 seasons with a triumph over Western Michigan in the Texas Bowl.

He arrives with a nice collection of returning talent, keyed by quarterback Austen Arnaud. That's a beginning for Herman to build on.

"The fact that we've got a QB who played every snap last season and still two years of eligibility is a big plus for us," Rhoads said. "Austen is an exciting and talented player who is smart and has a lot of savvy. We want to put him in the situations where he can have comfort and confidence. And for him to be here as we start gives us a pretty good launching spot."

But turning the culture around and making them relevant will be a bigger challenge for Herman than any Mensa test he has ever completed.

Pelini faces first big challenge vs. Hokies

September, 24, 2008
9/24/08
1:51
PM ET
 
 Bruce Thorson/US Presswire
 Bo Pelini's Cornhuskers are 3-0, but they have yet to be truly tested on the football field.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Bo Pelini's aura among Nebraska fans remains smoking hot after three games.

Books and polkas were written and enough T-shirts were printed to stock a small army before the new Nebraska coach's first game. That legend has only grown as the Cornhuskers have started strongly.

Early victories over Western Michigan, San Jose State and New Mexico State have boosted Nebraska to a 3-0 start. But the Cornhuskers still have as many questions as answers heading into Saturday's game against Virginia Tech.

"We're anxious to see how good we actually are, and I know everybody else is around the state, too," Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz said. "I think this is a good time to have the game. We're all wondering how good we can actually be and how we play against elite teams like this."

Ganz might be stretching his definition of an "elite team" just a little, considering the Hokies' less-than-imposing body of work so far. But the game is coming at a good time as the Cornhuskers prepare for a difficult start of Big 12 play that will include games against Missouri and Texas Tech in the first two weeks of conference play.

Pelini is careful not to embrace Saturday's game as a measuring stick for his program.

"Every game is important for us and this is just the next one," he said. "That's our attitude as a football team -- that Virginia Tech is just the next challenge for us."

(Read full post)

What we learned in the Big 12's first week

August, 31, 2008
8/31/08
1:28
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here are five things we learned about Big 12 teams on Saturday.

1. Texas A&M's 18-14 loss to Arkansas State was the worst possible start for new A&M coach Mike Sherman. The debacle was even more galling than merely the program's first home opening-game loss in 21 years -- particularly to a Sun Belt team that finished 5-7 last season and had never beaten a Big 12 team in 15 tries. The Aggies missed two field goals, allowed four sacks, committed four turnovers and the defense was gashed for 280 yards rushing. Even worse, A&M turtle-backed in the second half, squandering a 14-3 lead by failing to score on its final eight possessions.

2. Gary Pinkel is no doubt happy this morning that he played Illinois sooner than later. The thought of playing a tough team without injured WR/PR Jeremy Maclin might have been too much for the Missouri coach to think about. The Tigers have three cakewalks approaching before their Oct. 4 conference opener against Nebraska. Look for Pinkel to show extreme care in how Maclin returns. Their national title hopes could be riding on it.

3. Kansas might miss leading 2007 rusher Brandon McAnderson more than coach Mark Mangino ever thought. The heralded replacement tandem of Jocques Crawford and Jake Sharp managed a mere 61 yards on 20 carries -- an average of barely 3 yards a carry.

4. All the ballyhoo about new Texas Tech coordinator Ruffin McNeill's transformation of the Red Raiders defense over the offseason might have been a tad overstated. After falling into an early hole, the unheralded Football Championship Series-affiliated Eastern Washington Eagles played the Red Raiders closely over the final three quarters in Tech's unappealing 49-24 triumph. Tech allowed 355 passing yards. And the Red Raiders' school-record 18 penalties in the game is clearly a matter of concern as well.

5. Bo Pelini still has his work cut out in fixing Nebraska's defense. The Cornhuskers had their moments early, but late breakdowns allowed Western Michigan two plays of at least 50 yards and three 80-yard drives that will have Pelini hopping when he watches the game film of his team's 47-24 victory. But he will be happier about his defense's big-play production -- especially four sacks and two turnovers that were in such short supply last season.

Big 12 links: Season openers are all about uncertainty

August, 27, 2008
8/27/08
10:54
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Credit Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit for being honest.

Cubit had a unique description for his mindset leading up to the Broncos' season opener Saturday at Nebraska.

"You kind of go in there blind," Cubit said, reflecting on his lack of knowledge about how new Nebraska coach Bo Pelini will operate his program during game situations.

Pelini has been a head coach for one previous game -- a 2003 Alamo Bowl victory over Michigan State as interim coach after Frank Solich was fired. So Cubit doesn't know much about what he'll be facing.

So he's preparing for just about anything.

"We just don't know," Cubit said on the Mid-American Conference's weekly teleconference. "You can talk to people about what coach Pelini did at LSU. But you've got different players and you're always trying to adapt your system to the players you've got, and what their strengths and weaknesses are.

"For us, it's just going to be more fundamentals. The unknown in the first game is always severe, but with the new coaching staff ... With our kids, you can't tell them exactly where people are going to be all the time."

Other coaches are facing similar problems across the country.

And that's why we're here. To provide enlightment about the Big 12 one link at a time.

Here are some of this morning's goodies.

  • Baylor coach Art Briles has decided who his starting quarterback Thursday night will be against Wake Forest. He's just not telling anybody -- yet.
  • Denver Post columnist Woody Paige provides a primer for visiting Democratic National Convention delegates about the upcoming season.
  • The Kansas City Star's Mike DeArmond writes a strong piece about Missouri WR-KR Jeremy Maclin, who approaches the upcoming season knowing he'll likely be a marked man. And don't miss DeArmond's vlog on the same page, where he convinced somebody to put a dartboard on their back for a feeling like Maclin experiences on the football field. I'm just wondering who the brave soul was.
  • New Kansas running back Jocques Crawford has a bold goal of rushing for 2,000 yards this season -- despite the fact he's not even the Jayhawks' starter at the position. J.Brady McCullough also has a vlog about his story.
  • The Lawrence Journal-World's Eric Sorrentino provides an early look at the Big 12's games this weekend.
  • Jeremy Maclin's first encounter with a mechanical bull wasn't too pleasant.
  • Teammates joke that Nebraska T Mike Smith should consider a career as a kicker or a tight end, considering he weighs "only" 285 pounds.
  • The leadership development of Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford has been dramatic, according to John Hoover of the Tulsa World. It's also helped Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops become more relaxed with Bradford in charge of his offense.
  • Oklahoma State QB Zac Robinson decided to come to the Cowboys because of his family's assocation at the school. His mother is an OSU graduate and his father once wore the Pistol Pete suit of the school's mascot.
  • No more boring football at Texas A&M as the Aggies debut a new offensive and defensive look, Dallas Morning News reporter Brandon George writes.
  • The Dallas Morning News' Chuck Carlton has Oklahoma and Missouri among two teams he thinks can win the national title.
  • The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal's Don Williams writes about how Texas Tech coach Mike Leach is using acupuncture to curb his need for smokeless tobacco and help treat his asthma.
  • Kirk Bohls recalls watching the wishbone for the first time 40 years ago and wonders if it will ever return.
  • The Austin American-Statesman's Alan Trubow profiles the passion of Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp.
  • Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said his team will be facing a hostile crowd in what his research shows is the loudest stadium in the NFL when it faces Washington State in Seattle.
  • Tulsa World columnist Dave Sittler calls Oklahoma's opener against Chattanooga its final scrimmage before they break fall camp.
  • Starting Kansas State LB Ollu Hall was attracted to Kansas State after leaving Virginia, where his coaches included current Kansas State coach and former Cavaliers assistant Ron Prince. "It's the same thing," Hall told the Wichita Eagle's Jeffrey Martin. "Everything is done the same way. ... Virginia is the older brother, and K-State is the little brother."
  • Des Moines Register beat writer Andrew Logue wonders if Iowa State fans are nervous about Thursday's opener against South Dakota State.
  • Denver Post beat writer Tom Kensler blogs that his favorite players to typically interview are offensive linemen.
  • Both Austen Arnaud and Phillip Bates expect to see action Thursday night for Iowa State at quarterback against South Dakota State.
  • Colorado TB Demetrius Sumler's career has been marked with patience.
  • The Kansas City Star's Blair Kerkhoff takes his video top 25 for No. 4 Missouri on the road to the parking lot of Arrowhead Stadium, site of the Big 12 championship game. Kerkhoff (nice sunglasses, Blair) says that Missouri S William Moore might have been the best defensive player in the country over the second half of last season.
  • Stop the presses! Wichita Eagle columnist Bob Lutz goes out on a limb and picks Kansas and Kansas State both to win their openers on Saturday.
  • Gary Pinkel is wary about first-game challenges in Missouri's opener Saturday against Illinois in St. Louis.
  • Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel is glad that Bo Pelini is chintzy about awarding blackshirts. And so is Lincoln Journal-Star columnist Steve Sipple, too.
  • The Oklahoman's John Helsey profiles Oklahoma TE Brody Eldridge, who Sooner offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson calls the team's best player.
  • 6-foot-6, 225-pound freshman LB Sean Fisher should get a lot of playing time for Nebraska early in the season. 
  • Missouri redshirt freshman OT Elvis Fisher "isn't all shook up," even if he's protecting QB Chase Daniel's blind side against Illinois. Dave Matter of the Columbia Tribune also "Cuts to the Chase" with Daniel's weekly comments.

SPONSORED HEADLINES