Big 12: Taylor Martinez

STILLWATER, Okla. -- Spent all Wednesday talking to players and coaches around Oklahoma State's program, and came away with plenty of thoughts and several stories you'll see on the blog very soon. First things first, though:

I've officially switched my pick in the Oklahoma State quarterback race. I've tentatively leaned to Clint Chelf since the offseason, but after my visit, I'm going with J.W. Walsh. I'll have a much longer look at the race on the blog soon, but let me briefly explain:

One: This race is really, really close. It probably will be through the spring. Coach Mike Gundy noted after Wednesday's practice that true freshman Wes Lunt was still in the race.

That said, if Chelf, a junior, was going to win this race, he'd have done it, or at least distanced himself to some degree by now. As it stands, all three quarterbacks are still getting equal reps with the first team, but Walsh is sort of in the sweet spot. His major growing pains are over -- his head was spinning when he was in Lunt's shoes last spring -- and he grew up a lot despite getting no reps during the season from August to December. His understanding of the offense is there and expedited by being the son of a coach, with a lot of knowledge in his corner just a phone call away.

[+] EnlargeMike Gundy
Beth Hall/US PresswireOklahoma State coach Mike Gundy could face some tough decisions in replacing Brandon Weeden at QB.
Two: At some point, you have to play the "potential" card if you're OSU. Chelf and Walsh are about even right now. I'd put Lunt just behind them, but like Gundy said, still a factor. But the upside? There's Chelf, a moderately rated recruit entering his fourth overall season in the program. Then there's Walsh, the nation's No. 10 recruit in the 2011 class and a guy who's been in the program just over a calendar year. And those two are even? Recruiting rankings aren't everything, but they're certainly something, and Walsh sounds like he's doing everything to make the most of what potential he does have.

So, if Chelf wins this job at the end of spring, could you believe without a doubt that Walsh wouldn't surpass him by the time preseason camp was at its midpoint? The additional first-team reps would help Chelf, but could it not also be argued that Walsh would be helped more by the same reps?

I spent time Wednesday with Gundy and offensive coordinator Todd Monken, and both emphasized the need for a vocal leader that teammates can believe in -- this above all else when I asked.

That's in Walsh's personality, and much less so in Chelf's.

OSU's coaches have a stated goal of naming a starter by the end of spring, but ultimately the players decide this. If Chelf distances himself in the final seven practices of the spring -- it might happen, it might not -- I think OSU's coaches designate him the starter heading into fall.

But if there's no smoke from the chimney and no announcement made? Advantage Walsh, in my opinion. Monken admitted Wednesday that at some point, you can't keep giving three quarterbacks first-team reps, and somebody has to step aside. For now, though, he's not as confident in his second team -- receivers and offensive line, namely -- to get a good feel for what the quarterbacks can do, so his only real assessments come when they're working with ones.

The easy guess is Lunt is fazed out of the race at some point: Monken explicitly said there's no way Chelf could fall any lower than No. 2 on the depth chart.

Bottom line, OSU will have two really good QBs for next fall.

Finally, a note on Walsh: Yes, his mechanics are still a bit rough. The staff still wants to get a feel for exactly what his legs can do in live 11-on-11 action. The mechanics are wonky, which could mean spotty accuracy at times, but he gets the ball where it needs to go.

Before I say this, important note: It was not a direct comparison. Anything but that, in fact. That said, Gundy said Walsh reminded him a little bit of Colt McCoy. The motion wasn't pretty, but it got there, and he's tough with a mean leadership streak.

Walsh's sidearm throwing motion will remind you a lot more of Nebraska's Taylor Martinez, but his accuracy is somewhere in between Martinez and McCoy. A wide variance, no? Well, we haven't seen him play a game yet. Give me a break. Walsh isn't going to complete 70-some percent of his passes like McCoy did, but he's got big potential to make plays with his feet.

It'll be a fascinating next few months in Stillwater for sure. I'm picking Walsh now for the reasons outlined above, but it's still wide open. Chelf could still win it. It's hard for me to see Lunt doing enough and proving himself enough to really win it this soon, but these three are going to be fun to watch for years. They can all three play, and I see a nice future for all of them.

Mailbag: System QB, A&M doubt, upsets?

November, 18, 2011
Thanks for all the questions this week. As always, send them here if you want to show up here next week.

Matt Walters in Dallas asked: Graham Harrell was labeled a "system quarterback" in 2008. Should players like Brandon Weeden and Case Keenum be given this label since they are in the exact same 'system'?

David Ubben: Here's the deal with the whole "system quarterback" knock: Most of the time, the criticism comes when quarterbacks don't make difficult throws and mostly rely on dink-and-dunk plays blocked downfield for big yardage. Anybody who watches Oklahoma State knows the Cowboys offense is nothing remotely of the sort. OSU throws it downfield plenty, and Weeden can make every throw. He's got a much bigger arm than Harrell or Keenum has, and OSU's offense shows it.

Also, Weeden is relied upon to make a lot of split-second decisions after the snap. OSU runs a number of plays that have the option to be a run or a pass, and he's the guy who has to read the defense and make the apt decision. I don't know if you've taken a look at OSU's offensive numbers lately, but it seems like he's done OK.

John Schultze in College Station, Texas, asked: After watching Von play at the next level, is Timmy D a great defensive mind? Or just a decent coordinator with an absolute freak on his side of the ball?

DU: It can't be both?

I had a chance to sit in on a lecture about the 3-4 that defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter gave to a couple hundred coaches at a coaching convention in January, and trust this: The guy knows his stuff. A&M's defense has fallen apart for a number of reasons, but DeRuyter's not the only one. You forget how bad this defense was in 2009, before DeRuyter arrived. It gave up about five more points a game than any other Big 12 team.

Former Aggies linebacker Von Miller is an unbelievable player who is having exactly as much success in the NFL as most of us thought he would, but DeRuyter's still a solid coordinator, and one of the best in the Big 12.

John in Ames, Iowa, asked: How big of a deal would it be if ISU pulled off the upset against Oklahoma State?

DU: Uh, the term "Poke Choke" comes to mind. Simply put, Iowa State doesn't have the necessary offense to win this game. Uncharacteristic mistakes like drops, turnovers or a weird night for Weeden is the only way Oklahoma State loses this game. Prepare for it, Iowa State fans. If the Cyclones win this, it's going to be about OSU.

John in Olathe, Kan., asked: What will it take for Collin Klein to be considered nationally as a legit QB talent? He is putting up ridiculous numbers in the nation's second best conference. On ESPN's Heisman Expert polling, there is no mention of his name. Do you think they will ignore him next year, too?

DU: It took a while for a couple reasons, most of which is he's not a big-play guy and he doesn't throw a pretty ball, which is sort of a prerequisite as a quarterback. You saw Taylor Martinez and Denard Robinson get Heisman hype last year because they made highlight runs and terrified defenses. Klein pushing the pile for a 3-yard touchdown run isn't exactly the stuff of legend.

Combine that with an underwhelming early-season schedule and it took a lot of folks (myself included) to realize what Klein really could be. Now, with K-State proving itself as a top 15-20 team or better, and Klein putting up some big-time numbers, he's gained attention. He'll definitely be a guy on Heisman watch lists next year.

Lee in Raleigh, N.C., asked: How can you say that the Texas defense is the best that Kansas St will face? The OU defense stiffled Kansas St (in Manhattan). I think the Wildcats will put up a lot more points on Texas, than they did on OU. And they'll do it in Austin.

DU: It might have something to do with that pesky rumor that Texas is giving up 47 fewer yards per game than any team in the Big 12 and more than 85 fewer than the Big 12's No. 3 team. Combine that with a ton of fantastic athletes at all three levels, and, well ... you get the point.

Kansas State might score a few more points on Texas, but that doesn't mean Texas' defense isn't better. The Longhorns D is legit.

Arnav in St. Louis asked: LSU couldn't score off of Alabama's defense, and if Alabama had had any passing attack whatsoever instead of having [Trent] Richardson try to run through 10 defenders, they might have scored a touchdown. Does OK State's passing juggernaut and pretty solid defense find a win there?

DU: I'm not ready to predict a win just yet, but I think it'd be close and a game that nears the 30s, probably something like 23-20 or 28-24. Could probably go either way. OSU's defense is better than I thought it was early in the year, and the offense isn't going to get totally shut down by any defense.

Mark in Corpus Christi, Texas, asked: BCS selection(s) aside. Which Big 12 team would you consider must watch out of the following. Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Baylor, Texas or Kansas State. List them in order of preference. Thanks.

DU: Give me OSU, Baylor, OU, K-State and then Texas. Oklahoma State's offensive athletes are a thing of beauty. The same's true of Baylor and Oklahoma, especially Robert Griffin III. He might be the most fun player to watch in the league. K-State and UT are doing it ugly.

Chris in Manhattan, Kan., asked: Everyone is saying K-State's offense isn't sexy. But Collin Klein is our offense, right? For the most part yes. Collin Klein is rugged, right? Yes. And being rugged is generally considered sexy, right? I think so. Therefore K-states offense is generally sexy when Klein is on the field.

DU: You just blew my mind.
Garrett GilbertAP Photo/Nati HarnikGarret Gilbert's experience may have given him the slight edge among the Texas quarterbacks.
A selection at quarterback often means a selection of style as well.

At Nebraska in 2010, Taylor Martinez's speed chained the more experienced Cody Green and Zac Lee to the Huskers bench. As a result, the Huskers offense looked markedly different, centered around emphasizing Martinez's speed in the zone read game while minimizing his pass attempts as necessary.

Kansas State's Collin Klein didn't win the quarterback job, but coach Bill Snyder gave the sophomore time on the field behind Carson Coffman thanks to his shifty, speedy feet.

Back in 2008, Robert Griffin's athleticism made it near impossible for Art Briles to stick with Miami transfer Kirby Freeman for more than three quarters of the season opener, giving way to a new era built on the legs of the league's best dual-threat quarterback.

At Texas? No such luck.

Offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin took ownership on Monday of Garrett Gilbert's selection, but it was not an easy decision in Austin this offseason.

"They’re all similar," coach Mack Brown told reporters on Monday.

Gilbert, Case McCoy, David Ash and Connor Wood are all over 6-foot-2 and only McCoy, at 200 pounds didn't fall between 219 and 222 pounds.

"They’re big, they’re strong, they’re smart. They’re very accurate passers," Brown said, "and that’s been one of the difficulties of separating them."

Gilbert's experience, however harrowing it may have been, is the only way to differentiate the four, save Ash's slight edge in mobility.

"There was a certain equality for them starting over in a new offense that’s very complicated," Brown said.

But it's likely that the complex offense would have looked almost identical regardless of who won the job. Which as Brown reiterated, complicates matters.

"This whole battle at quarterback has been very difficult because everybody has gotten better, and that's really what you want, and that's what we said from this position is we don't want to have a huge separation," Harsin told reporters on Monday. "We want it to be a difficult decision, and it was. And Garrett did a nice job from spring through summer into fall camp, and he's earned it."

A competition taking place between two wildly contrasting quarterbacks might have added to the intrigue, but though it complicated the selection process, it simplified the quarterbacks' criteria.

"Bryan Harsin has done a tremendous job of making sure that each have had their opportunities with the different levels of competition," Brown said. "Every pass that's been thrown in preseason has been charted. Every meeting has been charted about who missed a question and who got them right. Leadership has been a huge part of this. We've had competition in 3rd down and 4th downs on the practice field, and who did the best in those areas is a huge part of this."

There was no need to skew the scale. Identical quarterbacks means identical grading.

"He's just older. He's done it before, and that probably helped him as much as anything," Brown said of Gilbert, who started all 12 games last season, versus his competition, which has thrown a combined one career pass. It was incomplete, by the way. And thrown by McCoy in last season's opener against Rice, well before the season was lost.

The one thing about the quarterbacks that can't be identical? The results from last year, when Gilbert threw 17 interceptions to 10 touchdowns, more picks than all but one quarterback in the nation, Dwight Dasher at Middle Tennessee State. It has to be different if life in Austin is going to get any different this time around with a new coaching staff, a new offense, but the same quarterback.

"We talked very little about last year. It's something that's still in the back of your mind. ... You've got a bad taste in your mouth. I think each one of us do. But for me, I would say I can use it as motivation," Gilbert told reporters on Monday. "We don't talk about it. We don't think about it much. It's a new year. It's a new season, and so we're very excited about the prospect of moving forward."

What a difference a play makes

July, 27, 2011
DALLAS -- One play could have changed the entire Big 12 landscape in 2010. Iowa State took a Taylor Martinez-less Nebraska team into overtime and scored what looked like a game-tying touchdown … until the Cyclones faked the extra point.

Paul Rhoads
Kevin Jairaj/US PresswirePaul Rhoads and Iowa State were a play away from making noise in 2010.
Reserve punter Daniel Kuehl had a wide-open Collin Franklin, the Cyclones' leading receiver, in the back of the end zone, but short-armed the pass on a wind-swept November day in Ames, allowing Nebraska's Eric Hagg to come down with a game-clinching interception.

"It's a call that I relive and a play I relive every week," Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said. "There's not a week that goes by that I don't think about the play and what it could have created for our football team and our football program."

And not just for the Cyclones, who would have been bowl-eligible with the win. It also would have put Iowa State in the Big 12 North Division drivers' seat and sent Nebraska to the Big Ten without so much as a share of the Big 12 North title. Instead, Missouri would have represented the conference against Oklahoma.

Rhoads, though, has repeatedly emphasized he'd do it all over again.

"And as the game went along, it was a play I studied and certainly was there," he said. "That's the name of the game, when it's a play like that, the final play of a game or the first play of the game, you have to execute to be successful."

Iowa State was playing with a limping quarterback, a limping top receiver and a center in Ben Lamaak who left the game twice with an injury. One play was the best way to decide it.

The Cyclones lost a game on that day, but Rhoads, perhaps the Big 12's most underrated coach, earned a whole new legion of fans with the gutsy call gone wrong.

"The fallout was positive," Rhoads said. "If anything, from players to fans to most people I talked to they thought it was a right call -- gutsy call, but the right call -- and would have given us an opportunity to really springboard our program, I feel."

Mailbag: Aggies/SEC, underrating, new QBs

July, 22, 2011
Thanks for all the emails, everyone. Short day today. Have a good weekend, and we'll see you live Monday morning from Big 12 Media Days. Get excited.

Justin in Forney, Texas, asked: DU, Why are we seeing A&M back in the news with the SEC? While I understand their frustration with the Longhorn Network, I do not see their recruiting increasing by moving to the SEC. Is this going to be a recurring issue each summer?

David Ubben: Yeah, my stance has basically remained the same since A&M's flirtations with the SEC started up more than a year ago. Texas A&M's decision-makers understand the risk in moving to the SEC, as well as the historical repercussions, saying goodbye to long-standing traditions with so many of the other schools in Texas.

Fans see opportunity for the program to grow in the SEC, and it's not impossible, but I feel it's much, much more likely that Texas A&M doesn't win in the SEC at the level it's won in the Big 12, which is already to say, not a ton. I see them on par with what Arkansas is now. Once in awhile, you may see them in the championship game, but if they're going to win a conference title, it's going to be once every 10-20 years. Programs like Alabama, LSU, Florida and rising powers like Auburn, not to mention sleeping powers like Georgia and Tennessee, won't make good new roommates if the Aggies want to win.

The recruiting advantages are overstated. The majority of players growing up in Texas dream of becoming Longhorns and beating the SEC, not going and playing in the SEC. Sure, when they get older, some of them realize schools like OU and Texas A&M are a better fit, but I absolutely, 100 percent disagree that "playing in the SEC" is a big draw for kids in Texas, and something that would help the Aggies recruiting substantially. It might be for a few guys, but it's not a game-changer, and the more difficult schedule would negate, if not overtake those advantages.

So, no. I don't think we'll see this every summer. Once this issue with the Longhorn Network is settled, I think the Big 12 will be back on solid footing. It will be glued together by the billion-dollar deal from Fox that it signed earlier this offseason, and looking forward to making even more money in 2014-15 when it negotiates a new deal for first-tier rights.

Eric in Manhattan, Kan., asked: Why does David Garrett always seem to get the shaft? He is all of 5'8" and under 180 lbs, but he hits like a 230 lb linebacker. I've seen him on multiple occasion level running backs and not be scared to take on a fullback. Then on player and awards lists he's never mentioned, even though last year he had the most tackles for the Cats.

DU: Well, I think the biggest factor was a) Kansas State didn't win enough games to get a lot of attention last season and b) their team wasn't very fun to watch.

Big 12 fans, for better or worse, have come to love the spread game and like watching teams ring up points. Kansas State scored plenty last season (third-most in the Big 12, in fact), but it wasn't a very fun team to watch. More than anything else, I point to those two factors more than any one thing about Garrett himself. It's an exposure issue.

Anyone who saw him play appreciated him, but for as much of a great football player as he is, his coverage does leave a bit to be desired, and for a cornerback, that's a big deal. You'd probably hear guys like Prince Amukamara, Alfonzo Dennard, and Jamell Fleming be appreciated a lot more, because they specialize more in coverage. If Garrett does move around and play some more safety or nickel back, he'd probably get some more notice.

It's unfair, but that's just how it is. You can't really change what people want to see or notice.

Denny Hinds in Waterloo, Iowa, asked: Tiller or Jantz in your opinion? I like jantz.

DU: I can't help but look back and think of Taylor Martinez when I think of Steele Jantz. Did Martinez have his shortcomings as a quarterback? Obviously, yes. But he wasn't significantly worse than Cody Green or Zac Lee as a passer, and his ability to run provided an absolute advantage and a new facet to the offense that no one else on the roster can provide.

For that reason, I think you'll see Jantz win the job. Tiller was very unimpressive when he got chances last season, and it's hard to believe Jantz is a worse passer. But his speed changes what Iowa State can do on offense, and it's worth putting him out there versus Tiller, unless Tiller is a substantially better passer.

For now, I don't believe he is. So, Jantz it is.

Andy in St. Louis asked: Last season, Missouri had a good rushing attack. It was strength and very effective at times, but it was still only solid. Do you think that with all returning running backs, 4 returning o-lineman, and a more run-oriented QB Mizzou's run game can make the jump to elite?

DU: It's got a pretty good chance to do it. Their running backs are great, especially when you add up their production. Any coach would love to have a 1,557-yard rusher with 19 touchdowns. And all four guys averaged more than 5.2 yards per carry! That's crazy. Missouri will benefit from not having to face a team like Nebraska, a speedy defense with instinctive defensive backs and linebackers capable of shutting down the Tigers slow-developing running game that usually starts 5-7 yards in the backfield.

Nebraska really abused Missouri's offense, but the Tigers had a lot of success against just about everyone else. I'd argue Missouri was pretty close to elite in 2010. Even though the style of its running game doesn't exactly strike fear into defenses, you can't argue with the effectiveness with the running backs. Blaine Gabbert actually had 13 more carries than any running back, but only gained 232 yards on his 112 carries, dragging down the team's average into the middle of the Big 12.

Seth Doege in Lubbock, Texas, asked: Should I attempt to do the "Teach Me How To Doege" dance after I score my first TD this year?


John in Broken Arrow, Okla., asked: Ubbs, if Blackmon and Weeden have another year like last year where would you rank them as far as QB-WR tandems in Big XII history?

DU: Interesting question. If Justin Blackmon repeats and wins the Biletnikoff with equal or better numbers than he had in 2010, I think you'd have to put them at least on the level -- probably higher -- than Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree.

They won't have the longevity of the success Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley ever had, but Shipley never had a season like Blackmon had last season. Blackmon put together one of the all-time great seasons in college football history. It's been repeated ad nauseum, but I'm not sure people fully appreciate how difficult it is to account for 100 yards and a touchdown in every single game. No one had ever done that before. We might never see it again.

If nothing else, that might put Blackmon over the top.
We've tackled every other spot, and now we'll wrap up out Big 12 position rankings with the defensive lines across the Big 12.

Here are the rest of the position rankings.
Now that we've finished ranking the complete units, we'll start ranking the top 10 at each position very soon leading into the 2011 season.

This is a decent position for the Big 12 this season, and the top half of the league should feel pretty good about their group. There aren't many studs in this group, but there are a whole lot of solid players.

Brad Madison
AP Photo/Pat SullivanMissouri has one of the Big 12's best pass rushers in Brad Madison.
1. Missouri -- Missouri has the Big 12's best returning pass rusher and a Defensive Player of the Year contender in Brad Madison, but its depth is what lands it on top of the list. Jacquies Smith is solid at the opposite defensive end spot, and Michael Sam and Kony Ealy provide great depth at DE. Dominique Hamilton's absence last season hurt after breaking his ankle against Oklahoma, but he's back, alongside Terrell Resonno. Sheldon Richardson, who may be transferring from junior college, is a wildcard that could be anywhere between a complete game changer, irrelevant or absent.

2. Oklahoma -- Oklahoma's defensive tackles are somewhat suspect, but the defensive end combo of Ronnell Lewis (provided he is eligible come fall camp) and Frank Alexander is on par with the best in the Big 12. Both were preseason All-Big 12 selections, but Jamarkus McFarland needs to make good on his potential. Stacy McGee and Casey Walker should both get time at the other tackle spot.

3. Texas -- Defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat is loaded with potential as the nation's former No. 1 recruit. He had a big impact early last season before being slowed by an ankle injury. Alex Okafor moved outside from defensive tackle just before spring and had five sacks in the spring game. Inside, Kheeston Randall is an All-Big 12 favorite, but Ashton Dorsey had a strong spring and could help out with Reggie Wilson opposite Randall.

4. Texas A&M -- The Aggies have one of the best linemen in the league in Tony Jerod-Eddie, but Jonathan Mathis, Eddie Brown Jr. and Ben Bass have a lot to prove around him after the loss of Lucas Patterson, who was outstanding in 2010.

5. Texas Tech -- Sam Fehoko has moved to defensive end from middle linebacker, and should provide some good speed to the front line. Scott Smith looked on his way to an All-Big 12 campaign last season, but was suspended for the remainder of the season by coach Tommy Tuberville and has yet to be officially reinstated. For now, Dartwan Bush and Aundrey Barr will help out at defensive end, outside of Donald Langley, Kerry Hyder and Pearlie Graves. The Red Raiders did snatch a big pickup from departed UNC signee Delvon Simmons, a defensive tackle that could have an impact immediately.

6. Oklahoma State -- Defensive line is the biggest weak spot for the Cowboys, who have a decent set of ends in Jamie Blatnick and former heralded recruit Richetti Jones, but an even bigger question mark at defensive tackle where Christian Littlehead and Nigel Nicholas enter fall camp as starters.

7. Kansas -- Top rusher turned defensive end Toben Opurum came on strong late last season and should be one of the most exciting Jayhawks to watch in 2011, but the rest of the line leaves a bit to be desired. Keba Agostino has the other starting spot at defensive end ahead of Pat Lewandowski, who had a great spring. Patrick Dorsey and John Williams enter fall camp as starters at defensive tackles.

8. Kansas State -- K-State recruited this position hard in its 2011 class. For now, defensive end Brandon Harold will try to bounce back from a disappointing 2010 after a promising 2009. Lance Dunbar and Taylor Martinez think this group is ranked too high, but Meshak Williams could start opposite Harold, while Ray Kibble and Raphael Guidry should be the tackles inside.

9. Baylor -- Tevin Elliott was limited this spring because of offseason shoulder surgery, and Terrance Lloyd exited spring practice as the starter, but I'd expect Elliott to regain the spot by the time the season arrives. Phil Taylor, a first-round pick, is a big loss, but Gary Mason Jr. will try to fill his spot next to Nicolas Jean-Baptiste.

10. Iowa State -- Having a pair of linebackers combine for 241 tackles is a good and bad thing. They've got outstanding linebackers, but the defensive line was the Big 12's worst last season for a unit that ranked 10th in rush defense and had just 11 sacks. That was the fewest sacks in the Big 12 and more than just three teams in all of college football. The good news is all four starters return, but for now, this is where the Cyclones start. Stephen Ruempolhamer has some promise, but Cleyon Laing, Jake McDonough and ends Patrick Neal and Roosevelt Maggitt have a lot to prove. Jacob Lattimer ran into offseason trouble, but re-appeared atop the depth chart released by the Cyclones on Wednesday.
Last month, Nebraska quarterback Cody Green announced his plans to transfer.

[+] EnlargeCody Green
Brett Davis/US PresswireCody Green is leaving Nebraska and a few Big 12 schools are on his list of possible landing spots.
Now, in an interview with, Green says he could end up staying in the Big 12. Texas A&M, Baylor and Kansas State joined Tulsa and Houston as schools Green is considering.

"Mostly the guys who already I had a previous relationship with through high school. They were all right there the minute I declared I was going to leave," he said. "I made a visit to Kansas State this week and it went well. Coach [Bill] Snyder and those guys are a class act. When you have a legend like coach Snyder, everything feeds off of him. He's like coach [Tom] Osborne in that way."

Green signed with Nebraska in 2009 as the nation's No. 32 athlete. ranked him as the nation's No. 6 dual-threat quarterback. Since coming to Lincoln, he's started four games and appeared in 18 in two seasons on the field.

In 2009, he spent most of his time backing up Zac Lee, and in 2010, freshman Taylor Martinez.

The Dayton, Texas native has completed 66-of-122 passes for 657 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions.

Green told the site he had been considering transferring for a year, and planned to switch to wide receiver or tight end until injuries to Martinez and Lee forced him back into a starting role in a win against Iowa State. He also admitted that he played most of the game after suffering a concussion.

"I don't think I got as many quality chances as I could have had. It was just one of those things where I'd go in and make a mistake and get pulled. It was frustrating," he told the site.

Early last season, with Martinez becoming a star and the Huskers getting commitments from 2011 signees Bubba Starling and Jamal Turner, I heard from a few unhappy Nebraska fans when I suggested Green's future as a Husker might be abbreviated. Now, that's the case.

As for his future home, I could see him staying in the Big 12. If he sits out next season per NCAA rules, he'll have two years of eligibility remaining.

Texas A&M is a bit of a stretch. Johnny Manziel and Jameill Showers are the likely favorites to replace Ryan Tannehill next year, and even with Green's experience, I doubt his ability to unseat either of them.

As for Baylor and Kansas State, those could both be attractive options. He'd have to beat out some competition at Kansas State, but the Wildcats haven't had a quarterback with his experience or credentials on its roster. Unless Collin Klein, Sammuel Lamur or Justin Tuggle gets a firm grasp of the job this season, the job could be open again next spring.

Baylor's Robert Griffin III, a junior in 2011, has indicated to me on a couple of occasions that he plans to stay in Waco for all four seasons. Behind him, the Bears are thin at quarterback beyond Nick Florence, who started nine games for Baylor in 2009 with mixed results during a 4-8 campaign. Florence, however, is a junior like Griffin and will be gone after the 2012 season. Green could add a lot there if he's willing to wait out both. Like Griffin, Green is a mobile quarterback who Art Briles could build his offense around, though Griffin is clearly a much more talented passer.

Green's future is definitely something to keep an eye on, so even though the Huskers are heading to the Big Ten, we could see a former Nebraska quarterback back in the league very soon.
Former Kansas coach Mark Mangino hadn't spoken publicly about his dismissal in the 17 months since it occurred. Finally, he granted a lengthy, wide-ranging interview to the New Castle (PA) News back in his hometown.

On not speaking out:
"Our doorbell kept ringing with people wanting to interview me ... But Mary Jane and I had decided that the right thing to do was to just walk away with our heads held high and not burn any bridges. I learned long ago that you’re never going to win trying to defend yourself."
[+] EnlargeMark Mangino
AP Photo/Orlin WagnerMark Mangino compiled a 50-48 record at Kansas.
He's probably right about that. It was the right approach for Mangino, who was replaced by Turner Gill from Buffalo. Everything snowballed pretty badly on him at the end. The intense approach with players flies much more smoothly when coaches' teams are winning BCS games. When it loses seven games to end a season, people get much less tolerant, and stories like the one from the Kansas parking attendant can do a lot of damage. If that had surfaced during the 2007 season, it wouldn't have been nearly as serious of an issue. I'm not excusing it, but that's how the world works.

On the infamous Raimond Pendleton YouTube video (Which I can't link to for obvious reasons. Google is your friend.)
That should never even have been an issue. The conversation was between me and the player. It is an unwritten rule in college football that video is fair game in the coaches’ box, but audio is absolutely off limits.

An ambitious young TV reporter from Topeka trying to make a name for himself stood in the end zone and put the audio on the coaches’ box, without the knowledge of me or our university. He caught heck from our sports information department, but by then it already was out there.

Mangino's dead on with this one. No one cares about those unwritten rules once it's on YouTube, but people wanted to act like Mangino was the first coach to ever rip into a player with colorful language before. (Pendleton, by the way, deserved at least some scolding. I'll leave it to you to decide if Mangino went too far.)

The situation reminds me a bit of the controversial Tony Jerod-Eddie/Ben Cotton situation in the Nebraska-Texas A&M game last year. It was an ugly incident, yes, but people unfamiliar with the game of football wanted to demonize Jerod-Eddie, as if he was some sort of deviant, the first person to ever do what he did underneath a pile. Why? Because cameras caught it. It's not a perfect example, considering Eddie's incident was on the national TV broadcast, but you get the point. It doesn't make it OK, but people overreacted to both situations.

On Arist Wright's allegation that Mangino poked him in the chest during practice:
"I was pretty much blindsided. I honestly didn’t know what was going on."

Worth noting that while Wright and other players spoke out against Mangino, others inside the program violated Mangino's gag order on the issues to speak out in support of their coach. Some coaches coach the way Mangino does. Some don't. Some players respond to that kind of coaching. Some don't.

But any time a coach touches a player aggressively, public forum or not, it's going to be brought up, though it rarely results in anybody losing a job over it. I seem to remember a high-profile coach poking a high-profile player in a high-profile game this year and after a brief controversy, it pretty much went away.

Mangino's house in Lawrence remains unsold, but he's definitely looking to get back into coaching. Earlier this spring, Mangino was spotted at Oklahoma's spring practice with his former boss, Bob Stoops, but he told the paper he's still focused on finding a head-coaching job, rather than an assistant job.

On where he wants to work in the future:
"I do have some criteria that would need to be met before I would get back into the game. I want to be in a football environment — in other words, I would only go to a place where football has a high level of importance. I don’t want to go someplace where football is an afterthought or a hobby, that just would not work for me.

He's laying it on pretty thick there. Kansas is easily the Big 12's biggest basketball school, and despite the football team's success, it never quite got the attention from the fan base it probably deserved. That has to get frustrating after a while.

Mangino's agreement to leave limits him from commenting on the specifics of the situation.

"When I look back on my time at Kansas, I want to remember the positive, not dwell on the negative," he told the paper. "I’m very proud of my time there."

And he should be. Despite the ugly end, there's no denying that winning a BCS bowl at Kansas is a huge accomplishment, something nobody at Kansas had been able to do for nearly four decades before Mangino.

Mailbag: TV tiers, DeRuyter, UT imbalance

April, 15, 2011
Thanks for all the questions. More good ones this week.

MU Fan in Dayton, Ohio, writes: Ubben, I've heard a lot of talk about the new TV deal and all the cash it's gonna bring in. Call me stupid, but what does this mean for the average Tiger fan stuck in Podunk, OH? I've been forced to go to a sports bar to watch nearly every MU game last couple of years. Does this new deal put more MU games on my TV and my butt on my own couch more Saturdays? My bar tabs are adding up....

David Ubben: In theory, yes. If you're in Ohio and you don't get Fox Sports Network, it won't put a ton more games on your TV, but FX is on most basic cable packages and is in 98 million households nationwide. That's only a million or so fewer than ESPN and ESPN2. If you get ESPN, which, I'd like to think almost everyone has if they have cable TV, you should already have FX. Fox Sports Net, which has local networks that broadcast specific, region-based programming, may require you to purchase an upgraded sports package on most cable networks. If you live in the Big 12 region, you likely get Fox Sports Southwest, where a good portion of Big 12 games are broadcast.

Greg Reid in Tallahassee, Fla., asks: Have I finally learned how to cover or tackle yet? Being able to do either one against the Sooners would be better than what I brought to the table last year.

DU: Ouch. I warned FSU fans last year, and they got mad when I called Reid the poor man's Ryan Broyles, but those complaints mysteriously disappeared following the game. Weird.

The bad news for Reid and the Seminoles next year is Oklahoma's found a handful of other receivers around Broyles, mainly Kenny Stills, so even if Reid plays well, Oklahoma could still have a big day through the air. Should be a great game. Definitely the best Big 12 nonconference game.

Dan Beebe at Big 12 Headquarters writes: Ubben,What did I tell you all along? I'm an F-18 bro! I always take care of business! WINNING!

DU: Obnoxious as this email is, I'd say the Fake Dan Beebes of the world have earned a bit of room to crow, no? Heck of a deal.

DJ in Lisbon, Portugal, writes: Concerning the new TV deal and how it pertains to the School Networks(Sooner and Longhorn). If I read correctly FSN has the rights to each schools home game unless picked up by ESPN. So that takes care of all conference games. OU and UT only have 1 OOC away game. OU has FSU and UT has UCLA. Both of those match-ups are intriguing and are most likely to be picked up by ESPN. That is all of this upcoming seasons games accounted for. So where does that leave the School Networks? It seems like they will have no live football games, the driving force for the networks creation, to show.

DU: Well, no. There's still three nonconference games, and right now, the point is that schools still hold those third-tier rights for games not picked up by FSN or ESPN and can monetize them any way they see fit, whether it be streaming it online, getting a local broadcast or setting up a pay-per-view broadcast. Texas, clearly, would broadcast theirs on the Longhorn Network. Oklahoma's network, if it becomes a reality, won't be up by this football season.

And I would disagree that live football games are the driving force for networks. When you only have one a year, you don't launch a 24-hour network on the basis of one lame nonconference game a year. The driving force is a fan hunger for more from each school, but they'll feed that with a combination of some basketball games, almost all the baseball games, and other Olympic sports, as well as coaches shows and game replays, whether they be recent or historic. You'd be surprised at how many Texas fans would sit down and watch the 2005 Rose Bowl on repeat.

Think of it like "A Clockwork Orange," except the opposite.

Boone Pickens in Stillwater, Okla., and Dallas, Texas, writes: Ubben, I put a lot of money into OK State, are they finally going to give me a return on my investment by winning the big 12 this year? or at least make a BCS bowl?

DU: This year seems like a good chance. Oklahoma is going to make it tough for anyone else to win the Big 12, but if the Cowboys can beat Texas A&M early in the year and make it through the regular season with just one loss or so, even a loss to Oklahoma at the end of the year should be good enough to keep them in the serious hunt for an at-large BCS bid, thanks to a likely preseason top 10 ranking. My guess right now is Oklahoma wins the league, and either A&M or OSU gets an at-large berth in the BCS. They'll be in position.

Also, if any of you have seen season five of "Friday Night Lights," the fake Boone Pickens character is hilarious. He's a big booster for "Oklahoma Tech" whose color is orange. His money is from oil, he has buildings on campus named after him and a special suite in the stadium. He's also unabashedly Texan.


Also, I'm pretty sure they shot that at Texas' stadium, ironically. I could be wrong, but it looked like Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium to me.

The Big 12 has some interesting ties to that show, now one of my favorites on TV. Mack Brown plays a booster in the pilot and Mike Leach makes an appearance as (kind of) himself later on. Their acting jobs were all really good, I thought. Much, much better than the awful coach acting in "The Blind Side."

Alex in Lubbock, Texas, asked: What kind of impact do you see Delvin Simmons having this year for Texas Tech?

DU: It's way, way too early to start talking about that. Clearly, the potential is there with his size (6-foot-4, 295 pounds) and his athleticism, but you never know with players until they actual put pads on and get in practice. Maybe he's a bust. Maybe he's the next Ndamukong Suh. We won't have any idea until he actually starts practicing. It's way too tough to tell this early. It's a huge pickup for Texas Tech, the type of player it just didn't get in its program previously, but let's not shackle the kid with crazy expectations a day after he signs with a school.

Sam in Columbia, Mo., writes: Hey david, love the blog. I was reading Ivan Maisel's three point stance this evening and he's of the opinion that the new deal with Fox is make th Big 12 as imbalanced as ever. Any thoughts?

DU: He's definitely right, but my question is, what are people going to do about it, other than complain and keep hating Texas? The Longhorns made $35 million more than anyone else in the Big 12 in gross income last year, and once the money from the Longhorn Network kicks in, that gap will only grow.

Is that healthy for the league? Definitely not. But Texas is in the Big 12, and they're not going anywhere. It built this program and it's enjoying the fruits of that. The school is fortunate to be the flagship of a huge, productive state with a big recruiting base in every sport and has solid academics. Other than a healthy dose of "Deal With It," I don't see much anyone else in the league can do about it.

Vusani in Swaziland asks: David, could you give us a simplified explanation of 1st, 2nd and 3rd tier rights and how that translates into funding with the new FOX TV contract? I have no idea what that means except that A&M is cranky again.

DU: Tier I rights are basically the huge football games, ones with big national appeal. That's your Red River Rivalry, Bedlam last year, the Lone Star Showdown in other years, basically the elite football games that the casual college football fan would care about. This is, as I understand it, a selection of 18 games. ESPN and ABC have these and they can select them in the week or two leading up to the game, so they get the most attractive matchups.

Tier II is the next set of games. Good games, but games likely only relevant to Big 12 audiences, so mostly conference games like, say, Kansas-Baylor last year or Oklahoma State-Kansas State. Now, there are 40 of these games.

Tier III includes the games that are only relevant to a certain fan base. That's your Northern Iowa-Iowa State matchups, for instance. I'm oversimplifying this to just football, but Tier III also includes Olympic sports like baseball or softball or women's basketball that people might want to watch, but untelevised games previously went unused. The Big 12 is now trying to position itself as a league that allows schools to profit off these events by monetizing them in a Big 12 Network or a school broadcast somehow.

The Big Ten, meanwhile, doesn't allow schools to monetize their third-tier rights and the Pac-12 likely will not allow schools to do that, either. That's a big reason why Texas, which has a market for its own network and stands the most to gain off these third-tier rights, didn't want to go to the Pac-16.

Taylor B in College Station, Texas asked: Hey David, thanks for all the work covering the Big 12. Question about my Ags DC Tim DeRuyter. He supposedly told Sherman than he wouldn't leave for another DC position to another school, that it would have to be a head coaching position. In your mind, what might lure him away. Do you think he would leave for HC position at, say a CUSA school or something on that level, or would it take a school in a BCS conference to lure him away?

DU: It's all about finding the right opportunity. You have to find a school where you can win and not hit a dead-end in your coaching career. Conference isn't as important as the exact school. Mississippi State? Vanderbilt? Sure, you're in the SEC. But say, West Virginia or Tulsa? A much better job, because you can win big there, even if you're in a less prestigious league like the Big East or Conference USA.

Dave R in Houston asks: Do you like Freebirds, Qdoba or Chipotle most?

DU: I'm not a huge Mexican food guy, but give me Chipotle. Qdoba is just OK. Freebirds is vastly overrated.

Jeff in Omaha, Neb., asks: Tell me to stop being excited about the Clones. This happens every year during spring ball. Is 7 or 8 possible with our schedule? What are the chances Jantz pulls a Martinez when when he gets ESPN on an off night v UConn?

DU: It's not impossible. I talked to Paul Rhoads earlier this week (ISU fans, heads up for a few Cyclones stories next week) and it's clear that Jantz is by far the fastest quarterback on the roster. I'm excited to see him in action.

The Big 12's One Shining Moment

April, 5, 2011
The ball is kicked...

That's how it goes, right?

College basketball is over, but brackets live on forever. Or something. Anyway, inspired by our friends over at the SEC blog, we'll try our hand at a little bracketology on the football field.

What if the Big 12 played a single-elimination tournament?

Ten-team brackets are a little unusual and more complex than the NCAA Tournament bracket, so if you're unfamiliar, we'll be working off this bracket.

I seeded the tournament based on my pre-spring power rankings (which, admittedly, have fluctuated already since January) and in true NCAA Tournament fashion, all the games will be played on neutral sites. Additionally, these games will be played riiiiight ... now!

That means no incoming freshmen unless they enrolled early, and no time to settle position battles, get players healthy or improve.

Wrenches being thrown everywhere! The humanity!

So ... here we go.

Play-in games:

No. 7 Texas Tech vs. No. 10 Kansas: Texas Tech may be breaking in a new quarterback, trying to work with new receivers and giving the ball to inexperienced running backs (albeit backs loaded with potential) but the Red Raiders should win this one easily. Kansas doesn't have the skill position talent to exploit the Red Raiders' defensive weaknesses and won't be able to stop them. Seth Doege has shown signs of being far better than competent, but the same can't be said for Kansas' quarterbacks. The Red Raiders should be pretty good up front and slow the Jayhawks' running backs. Texas Tech 34, Kansas 13

No. 8 Kansas State vs. No. 9 Iowa State: Last year's Farmageddon was an underrated game in terms of entertainment, but both teams lost their workhorses. Alexander Robinson and Daniel Thomas won't face off in this one, but Kansas State is the only team in the Big 12 who hasn't started spring practice yet. Undone by unforeseen scheduling! The Wildcats' revolving door of quarterbacks can't find a rhythm against the Cyclones, who use Jerome Tiller like Nebraska used Taylor Martinez last year and zone read the Wildcats with Tiller and Shontrelle Johnson for the upset win. Iowa State 21, Kansas State 17

First round:

No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 9 Iowa State: Last year, Oklahoma beat these guys 52-0 in Norman. It won't be that bad this time, but the Sooners return just about everybody (save the secondary) and Iowa State lost its two best players, Austen Arnaud and Robinson. Sometimes, it's just that simple. Oklahoma 48, Iowa State 13

No. 2 Texas A&M vs. No. 7 Texas Tech: Texas A&M's deep receiving corps has worked together for awhile and can definitely take advantage of Texas Tech's youth in the secondary. The Red Raiders' safeties had a nice spring and did a nice job grasping new defensive coordinator Chad Glasgow's system from TCU, but the Aggies just have too many offensive weapons. Another big day for Tannehill, who won't touch his school-record 449 yards like he did last time against Tech in his first career start, but he clears 300 yards. Texas A&M 31, Texas Tech 21

No. 3 Oklahoma State vs. No. 6 Baylor: Baylor got steamrolled in their first big test once they climbed atop the Big 12 South standings, falling behind 34-0 in Stillwater. Both teams bring back loads of talent, and Baylor's defense should be slightly improved, but still learning. Baylor learns from the big-game failures from last year, but Oklahoma State is still the better, more balanced team. Oklahoma State 38, Baylor 35

No. 4: Missouri vs. No. 5 Texas: The one game this round that didn't happen last year, Texas will have a tough time capitalizing on Missouri's two big question marks: Quarterback and secondary. Missouri goes with Tyler Gabbert for most of the game and mixes in James Franklin for a few series with good results. Texas tests the Tigers' deep with a newly aggressive offense, but none of the quarterbacks even came close to completing a deep ball on Sunday. Kip Edwards grabs a couple picks on balls forced into Mike Davis and the Tigers get enough offense for the win. Missouri 27, Texas 14


No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 4 Missouri: Missouri won't have a raucous crowd or a locker room bent on beating OU for the first time under their current coach this time around. Missouri hangs around early, but the Tigers don't have enough offense. Although Oklahoma is playing without All-Big 12 corner Jamell Fleming, Missouri still doesn't have a deep threat or a quarterback quite comfortable with trying to find one. The Sooners zero in on T.J. Moe and the running game and knock off the Tigers. Oklahoma 31, Missouri 24

No. 2 Texas A&M vs. No. 3 Oklahoma State: These two weren't separated by much last year, and I'd have loved to see them play one more time. Their 38-35 classic last year was one of the league's best games and both teams look loaded up for another big year. A&M still has defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter, but Oklahoma State lost Dana Holgorsen. Bad news? Yes. But the good news for Oklahoma State is Texas A&M is missing three starters from the secondary this spring. Play this thing in July and we might have another classic. But now? Another heartbreak for the Aggies. Oklahoma State 34, Texas A&M 31


No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Oklahoma State: Bedlam may very well decide the Big 12 title next November, and it decides our little bracket party here with a spring tournament. Both offenses are breaking in new offensive coordinators, but Oklahoma's Josh Heupel is much more ingrained in the system than Oklahoma State's Todd Monken, who was being taught the offense by the current Cowboys this spring. Both offenses lost big-name running backs, and both have solid replacements in line with depth. Jeremy Smith and Joseph Randle at Oklahoma State match up well with Oklahoma's Roy Finch, Brandon Williams and Brennan Clay. Both have receiver depth and Oklahoma State should have an advantage against a young OU secondary. The league's co-Defensive Players of the Year, S Tony Jefferson of Oklahoma and LB Shaun Lewis of Oklahoma State, validate the award with big nights. But Oklahoma State has to convince me that it can win a big game with so much (humor me, here) on the line. It played well in last year's Bedlam but came up short. They're even closer this time, but Oklahoma takes home the title in another classic. Oklahoma 41, Oklahoma State 38 (OT)

Luther, take it away!

Mailbag: Non-con, T-Magic, mining Texas

March, 25, 2011
Thanks for the questions, all. Enjoy the second weekend of the tourney.

Adam in Joplin, Mo., writes: With the conference shrinking, making it a round robin format, do you think that recruiting the state of Texas will get easier for the more northern schools? This would guarantee a recruit a certain amount of games played in his home state.

DU: I don't know how much "easier" it will get, per se, but I do like the conference's move of arranging future conference schedules so every team in the Big 12 plays at least one game in Texas every year. In this league, there's no understating the importance of recruiting Texas, which produced 345 FBS signees in the 2011 class, more than any other state in the country. Players that come out of the state are, on average, well-coached and used to taking on talent they'll see at the next level.

According to this report, Florida produced 344 FBS signees out of just over 38,000 high school players in the state. That's an impressive state ratio (1 in 111, the lowest in the nation) compared to 345 out of over 161,000 players (1 in 454) in Texas, but you can't argue with volume.

To win in the Big 12, you have to recruit Texas. I don't know that it will be that much easier for anyone now without Nebraska and Colorado in the league, but the league is making sure they get as much exposure as possible. There's the argument that Nebraska may lose Texas recruits over time with the move to the Big Ten, but really, we're only talking about a handful of guys every year. It's possible that's a game-changer, but I doubt it.

Also, don't forget about the high volume of Big 12 bowl games that take place in Texas, too. Texas kids will have plenty of chances to be exposed to the Kansases, Kansas States, Iowa States and Missouris of the league.

Kyle in CoMo writes: Dubs, love the blog, just wanted to say I was overjoyed to see Taylor Martinez not make your top 25. Good choice.

DU: I was actually surprised he didn't. When I was putting together the list, I figured he'd make it, but when I started piecing together the numbers, it was clear he didn't belong this year. He's got the upside to be a top 5 player in any league, but his slide over the season's second half was too dramatic. I know part of that was the ankle injury, but injuries happen. It's the biggest reason Aldon Smith didn't make the list, too.

Tommy B in Stillwater asks: I can't help but notice all the post about Texas Tech and just wondering why they are getting all the love? Shouldnt you be writing about the Big 12 Champs Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Nebraska, Missouri and I guess the Sooners? After all, we're the ones with the rings....

Jimmy Wallis in Haysville, Kan., asks: Why so much love for Tech? Why not cover each team that much?

DU: Now, now. The blog's most faithful readers know that I'm making my way around the Big 12 this year -- like I did last year -- and after I visit a campus, there's going to be a high volume of stories and videos about that particular school. I was in Lubbock this week to check out the Red Raiders during the last week of their spring practices before Saturday's spring game. I've still got a few more visits to make, but you'll have to wait and see where I go next week.

Sam in West Texas writes: I know this is a football blog but do you have any favorites for the teams left in the NCAA Tourney? Figured I'd throw you a little curveball.

DU: You've got to go with the inside-outside combo teams, of course. I like to pick my spots for upsets and Cinderellas (Marquette: Gotta love it. Gonzaga: You disappoint me) but I don't get cute with my national title game picks, so I've got KU beating Ohio State. Jared Sullinger inside with the shooters outside makes Ohio State tough to beat, of course, but KU is deeper than the Buckeyes. Their sixth man, Thomas Robinson, is an NBA player, and Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar are way, way more athletic than they get credit for, particularly Reed. Tyshawn Taylor is coming on at the right time, too. Also, they apparently took their best player, Marcus Morris, and cloned him to make another starter. I'm not sure where that fits in the NCAA rulebook, but it's served the Jayhawks well enough to make them my title favorite.

SoonerSonics in Seattle writes: Hey David,Great blog and keep up the good work..Is there any legitimacy to the few complaints I've heard regarding the Sooners' non-conference schedule for next season?

DU: I haven't really heard a lot of complaints. I actually think the schedule is easier than it's been in recent years for the Sooners. The Florida State game in Tallahassee is obviously a huge hurdle, but if they lose it, you can't ask for a better loss to stay in the national title hunt. A top five team? On the road? In September? That game isn't as much of a risk as it seems.

Outside of that, the Sooners play Tulsa and Ball State at home. Not exactly a murderer's row. So, I'm not sure what the complaint would be. Too easy? The only tough game is against the Seminoles, whereas in past years, Oklahoma has played Florida State, Air Force and at Cincinnati (2010), BYU in Dallas and at Miami (2009) and Cincinnati and TCU (2008). Those are much more balanced -- and more difficult -- schedules.

Jason G in Bryan, Texas, asks: David,I have followed your blog for a while now, and I have to say it has been far more informative than before you came to ESPN. I was wondering what you think about the way recruiting players at such a young age has changed the game? What is your take on college coaches going after sixteen year olds. It would seem a bit overwhelming if M. Sherman came to me, and asked if I would play for the Aggies after I graduate when I was 16. I would feel a sense of entitlement to him even if I wanted to go somewhere else. This happens on the basketball stage as well. Thanks,Jason

DU: I don't have a problem with it, but I can tell you most coaches hate it. That said, there's nothing they can do about it. If you're not recruiting them that early, others will, and then you're behind in the game. Recruiting is already difficult, but when you're having to issue offers earlier and earlier and guys are committing before they've played a game in their senior year, the number of variables is way, way up. Like you wrote, one of those is a sense of entitlement that can stunt a player's growth. But players change through their high school careers and as seniors, and coaches don't have a choice a lot of times: They can't account for that.

The Big 12's top 10 one-man shows

February, 15, 2011
Each offense across the Big 12 starts 11 players on Saturday and plays 12-14 games. That's a whole lot of performances. Some are better than others.

These are the 10 best individual performances from the entire 2010 season.

If a player's team didn't win the game, he was ineligible, and this list omitted defensive performances. To add a little homogeny to this business, nonconference games were omitted as well.

1. Taylor Martinez vs. Oklahoma State. Nebraska's freshman quarterback went on the road and was unstoppable, bouncing back from one of his worst games of the year against Texas with his best. He threw for 323 yards and five touchdowns on 23-of-35 passing and ran for 112 yards on 19 carries. It earned the Huskers a much-needed 51-41 win in Stillwater.

[+] EnlargeNebraska's Taylor Martinez
Mark D Smith/USPRESSWIRETaylor Martinez threw for 323 yards and five touchdowns to go along with his 112 rushing yards against Oklahoma State.
2. Landry Jones vs. Nebraska. Unimpressed by his numbers? (23-of-41, 342 yards, TD, INT). Consider this: They came in the Big 12 Championship against the No. 3 passing defense in the country, and the Sooners trailed 17-0 early, so the defense knew what was coming. Considering the graveyard of quarterbacks that Nebraska left in its wake, there's no question this was among the best performances of the year.

3. Justin Blackmon vs. Baylor. He just makes it look easy. Blackmon torched the Bears for 173 yards on 13 catches and a touchdown in the Cowboys' 55-28 win. And he dropped another easy score! He touched the ball once in the running game, too. Of course, he ran it in for a 69-yard touchdown.

4. Taylor Martinez vs. K-State. If anyone didn't know who Martinez was before this game, they did after. On a nationally televised Thursday night game, he injected himself into the Heisman race, albeit briefly, with 241 yards rushing and four touchdowns on just 15 carries. He also threw a 79-yard touchdown pass and finished with 128 yards on 5-of-7 passing to help the Huskers roll easily, 48-13.

5. Jay Finley vs. Kansas State. Finley was a workhorse, logging 26 carries for 250 yards, including an 82-yard score in the Bears' 47-42 win. He had a pair of rushing touchdowns, and any day that features nearly 10 yards a carry is impressive.

6. Roy Helu Jr. vs. Missouri. Helu wasn't exactly breaking loads of tackles, but no one else in the Big 12 came within 40 yards of his 307-yard, three-touchdown day that effectively won the Big 12 North for the Huskers. The holes were there, Helu hit them hard, and the Tigers couldn't get back in the game. In the fourth quarter, Helu clinched the game with plenty of tough yards.

7. Ryan Broyles vs. Iowa State. What made this most impressive is Broyles basically put his game together in just over a half of play. The Sooners beat the Cyclones 52-0, but Broyles caught 15 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown.

8. Robert Griffin III vs. Kansas. Griffin got help with a 94-yard catch and run by Josh Gordon, but the Bears gave a good indication of how good they could be in their conference opener by routing Kansas, 55-7. Considering the Bears won just one conference game a year ago, it was certainly a big deal. Griffin threw for 380 yards on 26-of-36 passing, three touchdowns and ran for 64 more yards and another score on eight carries.

9. Cyrus Gray vs. Texas. Gray notched his sixth consecutive game of at least 100 yards rushing in the 24-17 win, and pushed the Aggies over the edge with with a 48-yard score in the third quarter to put them up 24-14. He also opened the scoring for the Aggies with an 84-yard touchdown and finished with 223 yards, the most ever by an Aggie against hated rival, Texas.

10. Ryan Tannehill vs. Texas Tech. Only four players had higher totals in a single game than Tannehill's school-record 449 yards passing against the Red Raiders. He had four touchdowns on 36-of-50 passing, and most impressive? He did it in his first career start.

A sincere apology to a few Big 12 players

February, 14, 2011
We kicked off our top 25 list today, but unfortunately, it's only a top 25 list.

Narrowing it down was incredibly difficult, and there were a ton of talents that didn't quite make the cut.

For that, I'm sorry. I legitimately feel awful about all of them.

Every guy on this list is a top-25 caliber player who just couldn't get inside my list. If somebody else made one, I'd be fine with them being on it. But this time, they didn't make mine. There are a lot of great players in this league, and I could only recognize 25.

But here are the rest who came so, so close, in no particular order.

Rodney Stewart, RB, Colorado: Rushed for 1,316 yards to rank third in the Big 12. My biggest reason for leaving him off? His 4.54 yards per carry ranks 17th in the Big 12. He got it done this year, but he got 290 carries to do it. Other backs were more deserving.

Ricky Henry, OG, Nebraska: Nebraska's running offense was fearsome early this year, and despite some late struggles, still finished No. 1 in the Big 12. Henry was a big reason why, but other linemen slid on the list before him.

Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: His 68 tackles were second on the team, and he broke up four passes, but it was hard to put Smith on the list over the cornerbacks who made it, even though the position is extremely important in the Big 12.

Roy Helu Jr., RB, Nebraska : Helu finished with another 1,000-yard season, but I didn't have very many running backs on the list. Helu had a great year, and I don't mean this as a knock on him, but I was more impressed with his 1,145 yards last year without much help. Defenses spent so much time defending Taylor Martinez, holes for Helu formed that weren't there in 2009.

T.J. Moe, WR, Missouri: Moe has my title as the toughest cover in the Big 12, and his time in the top 25 is coming. Just not yet.

Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor: Wright's production might have been higher had Baylor not found other receivers to give Robert Griffin III some help, but other emerging receivers pushed Wright off the list after he made our preseason list.

Colby Whitlock, DT, Texas Tech: Whitlock had a nice year with 57 stops and two tackles for loss, but it wasn't a great year for defensive tackles in the Big 12.

Cyrus Gray, RB, Texas A&M and Jay Finley, RB, Baylor: Great years, obviously, but like I said, I just didn't put a lot of running backs on the list.

Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska: Never would have believed in October that he wouldn't make this list, but he wasn't a top 25 player in conference play. He works well for Nebraska in its offense, but plenty of other quarterbacks are above the freshman.

Andrew McGee, CB, Oklahoma State: Led the Big 12 in interceptions, with five, but defending the pass is about blanketing receivers, not picking off passes. That's not to say picking them off is a bad thing, but other corners were better at shutting down opposing receivers.

Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State: Racked up plenty of tackles, third in the Big 12 with 130, and he's a great player, but the book on how to beat Iowa State was out early. Running the ball against the Cyclones weak front four was effective, and opponents did it 512 times this year. Only 22 teams in college football faced more rushing attempts, and no Iowa State lineman made more than 40 tackles this year.

Michael Hodges, LB, Texas A&M: Hodges was the heart of Texas A&M's defense, and racked up 115 tackles, but other linebackers slid above him on the list.

Jamell Fleming, CB, Oklahoma: Fleming was all over the place after some early season struggles, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him on the list next year.

So, that's my list of close calls. Again, I felt terrible about not including every single one of those players, and if you want to make your own top 25 list and put them on it, they all definitely deserve it. But I can only fit 25 guys on my list, and putting one of these players on it would only mean another got snubbed.
Valentine's Day isn't all chocolate and kisses and hearts. Plenty of those hearts get broken. The same is true throughout any Big 12 season. Here's who left a few opposing fans in tears in 2010.

1. Landry Jones. Oklahoma State had him backed up deep in his own territory with a two-point lead and a deafening crowd behind him with less than three minutes to play. He'd already teased them with a pick-six earlier in the game. But Jones connected with Cameron Kenney for an 86-yard touchdown to put the Sooners up by nine points. He later hit James Hanna for a 76-yard score to ice the game after the Cowboys returned the ensuing kick for a score. That's cold.

2. Kenji Jackson. It looked like a fairly harmless hit at the time, one that happens countless times in any game. But late in the first half, the Missouri safety came up to the line of scrimmage and laid a solid hit on Taylor Martinez's lower body. Martinez stayed in the game to finish the half, but didn't play in the second half. Nebraska won, but Martinez's sprained ankle changed Nebraska's season, and he was never quite the same player after he hurt the ankle. Jackson's hit was the gift that kept on giving. If it didn't happen, who knows where Nebraska's season would have finished.

3. The Ames wind. I'll give Iowa State backup punter Daniel Kuehl the benefit of the doubt on this one. If the wind at Jack Trice Stadium hadn't been absolutely swirling, he probably could have completed the pass that would have meant the Cyclones beat Nebraska and Texas in the same season and would go to a bowl game. But the pass floated in the wind, and Nebraska's Eric Hagg intercepted the fake extra point to preserve the win. If it had been completed, it would have put the Cyclones in the driver's seat of the Big 12 North, too.

4. Officials in The Bronx. Adrian Hilburn made the catch, made a defender miss and sprinted 30 yards into the end zone to cut Syracuse's eight-point lead to two with less than a minute to play in their bowl game. He shook off a defender after scoring and saluted a group of K-State fans in the stands who made the trip from one Manhattan to the other for the week before the Pinstripe Bowl. "Wrong move, buddy," one official reportedly told Hilburn. He tossed a flag and the Wildcats' lengthy conversion was incomplete. The dagger!

5. Oklahoma State's defense against Texas A&M. What a cruel, cruel win. The defense struggled a bit and let the Aggies jump out to a 21-7 lead at the half. Then a sack and fumble returned for a touchdown put them up 35-21 in the fourth quarter against the Aggies, a stretch of 28 consecutive points. The defense allowed the Aggies to tie the game, but Shaun Lewis intercepted Jerrod Johnson -- his fifth turnover of the night -- and set up a game-winning field goal to beat the Aggies at the gun. If Texas A&M had beaten the Cowboys, it would have won the Big 12 South outright for its first division title since 1998. What a painful way to go down.
Nebraska is officially part of the Big Ten blog, and the welcome wagon hasn't stopped rolling.

To help us learn more about the Huskers, I've reached out to colleague David Ubben from the Big 12 blog. David knows all about Big Red and covered Nebraska during its transition from the Big 12 to the Big Ten. After being nice enough to hand off the Huskers -- actually, I had to pry them from his hands -- Ubben took some time to talk about the Big Ten's newest member.

Let's go back to June 11. What was your initial reaction to Nebraska leaving the Big 12 for the Big Ten?

David Ubben: Ha, well it was certainly an unpopular one among the Nebraska supporters. I thought it was a great move for the university and the football program, but a huge, huge blow to the future stability of the Big 12.

In short, I equated Nebraska leaving to pulling the pin on the Texas Grenade that would blow up the Big 12.

Obviously, that's not what ended up happening, and for a fan base that since June has despised all things Big 12, I was surprised at how much the Huskers didn't want to be blamed for the Big 12's demise. One would think they would relish in it.

At the core, I think there was some fear from fans that their Huskers might be villainized as a program for the self-serving move, but that's not at all what happened to Arkansas, who certainly did much of the same thing to the Southwest Conference when it left for the SEC.

Back to your original question, though, Nebraska leaving definitely meant a weaker Big 12 if it continued to exist moving forward, and anyone who wants to try to argue otherwise is kidding themselves. Nebraska did what it needed to do: secure infinitely more stability and a good amount of cash with a move to the Big Ten, as well as the academic prestige that comes with, to borrow a phrase from deservedly maligned Missouri governor Jay Nixon, aligning themselves with Northwestern and Wisconsin rather than Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.

Yeah, anytime a school wants to upgrade its league, it should remember Mizzou and do exactly the opposite. But back to Nebraska. People know about the national championships, Dr. Tom and the option offense. What should Big Ten fans know about the current Nebraska program and its fan base as the Huskers transition to the conference?

[+] EnlargeMemorial Stadium
Eric Francis/Getty ImagesNebraska's Memorial Stadium has been sold out for every single home game since Nov. 3, 1962.
DU: Nebraska's biggest asset is its fan base. People like to knock Huskers fans for being a bit full of themselves, but they have reason to be. They're going to rival any team in the Big Ten when it comes to traveling for road games. Prepare yourselves for a sea of red in your stadiums when Nebraska comes.

One big reason? It might be tougher to get a ticket to see the Huskers in Lincoln. Every single home game has been sold out since Nov. 3, 1962, a streak of 311 games. That's an NCAA record, of course. The ones who do make it into Memorial Stadium on fall Saturdays enter under permanent signs that read "Through these gates pass the Greatest Fans in College Football."

Is it obnoxious? Yes. Will it turn off a few opposing fans? Most definitely.

But I would argue that it's not inaccurate.

Husker fans are voracious supporters. They love their team. They know their team. They read about and are opinionated about their team. They spend money on their team. Any other fan base should admire at least that much. Because of that devotion, among other things, the program is one of college football's blue bloods and is able to make a big move that will benefit the program tremendously.

Let's talk about the team itself. Bo Pelini is an Ohio guy, and his track record on defense speaks for itself. Nebraska has seemed more up and down on the offensive side. How do you see the Huskers' style translating to the Big Ten?

DU: That's presuming Nebraska has an offensive style. Nebraska was all about the run early in the year, and ran over and around just about everybody in the first half of the season. Since no one could stop it, they didn't have to throw much, and when they did, they were so, so dangerous.

But the offense slowed late in the season, and I thought they relied on Taylor Martinez to simply drop back and pass way too often and didn't run the zone read enough.

The latest word from Nebraska's recruits is they want an offense that most closely resembles Oregon's, likely minus the dizzying tempo. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson would describe his offense as a bit of a hybrid between Oregon's offense and the West Coast passing attack, but he looks like he's on his way out.

I'm a big believer that you have to do what suits your personnel, and with a zone-read whiz like Martinez and quality running backs like Nebraska has, it would seem that's a good fit.

On the whole, though, Martinez has to continue to develop as a passer to really give the best defenses trouble. How much of that happens over the next three years will determine how successful they ultimately are. If he can't do it, there's nothing saying he's guaranteed to be the starter above incoming freshmen Bubba Starling (if he stays with football and doesn't sign an MLB contract) and Jamal Turner. Even Cody Green, who played when Martinez was injured this year, could earn some quality snaps if Martinez struggles as a sophomore.

Wow, sounds like we could soon have a QB controversy. Interesting. What do you think will be the biggest adjustments for Nebraska in transitioning from the Big 12 to the Big Ten?

DU: I'm a big believer in Pelini as a defensive coach, so I think they'll be able to make these adjustments eventually, but they're going to have to change the type of players they recruit defensively. You need so many defensive backs (and good ones) to have success in the Big 12, and winning the line of scrimmage will put you over the top, but teams like Missouri and Texas Tech have had success in the league without doing it on a consistent basis.

The Big Ten is all about the beef up front. The Huskers are big and fast on the defensive line with guys like Jared Crick and Baker Steinkuhler. I don't see many problems there.

Nebraska's best linebacker this year, Lavonte David, made a Big 12-best 152 tackles. He also happens to be 210 pounds. Players like him, while they're incredibly valuable in the Big 12 for their ability to make plays in coverage and provide a speed rush, will be marginalized in Nebraska's future for bigger, run-stopping linebackers.

There will be all kinds of things that will have to change, but the type of defensive personnel will be No. 1 on the list. Specifically, Nebraska will need more, bigger linebackers and fewer defensive backs.

Nebraska always has recruited so well in the state of Texas. How do you think the move to the Big Ten will impact Nebraska's recruiting strategy?

[+] EnlargeJamal Turner
Cliff Welch/Icon SMI Now that it's left the Big 12, Nebraska will have more difficulty luring elite Texas high school players like Jamal Turner.
DU: Oh, what a contentious question. So, so much disagreement on this issue.

I don't think there will be a time when Nebraska just has no one from Texas, but their success in the state will take a considerable hit with the move. I do believe the Huskers should continue to recruit the state, but I also think they need to take some of those efforts and resources previously allocated toward Texas and use them to start scraping the Rust Belt and compete with their new conference mates, rather than their old ones.

Pelini knows the area well, and I think the Huskers will have some success doing it. They had a huge year in 2011 in Texas, getting three top-tier, ESPNU 150 players in ATH/QB Jamal Turner, RB Aaron Green and CB Charles Jackson.

I do believe they can keep getting some talent like that in 2012 and 2013, but as recruits and their families really realize what life is like as a parent of a Texas kid playing in the Big Ten, they'll realize why so few Texas recruits elect to play in the Big Ten. I talked with Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville about this issue last week actually, and he said for most families, it's a huge deal. Watching on TV simply isn't the same thing as going to games, home or away. And the facts are, a lot of families can't afford to fly to a ton of games.

Nebraska traditionally only played one or two games in Texas during a season, three if they made the Big 12 title game and it was in Texas. That doesn't sound like many, but look at it this way, unless you can pay for a flight or make a ridiculously long drive, you're talking about going four or five months without seeing your son versus around two or fewer if they play games in Texas.

So in short, I don't think there will be a time when Nebraska absolutely can't recruit in Texas, but they need to take advantage of their new opportunities in Ohio and Michigan, too, as compensation for the guys who won't want to play up North.

OK, you're on the spot. How do the Huskers fare in Year 1 in the Big Ten, which has already branded them a legendary team in the Legends division?

DU: The Big Ten certainly didn't do them any favors with their first-year schedule, booking them for trips to Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan. Hosting Iowa, Michigan State and Ohio State is going to be tough, and they have to play the Buckeyes in the first game with their five suspended players back. Who knows what happens there?

With a still-maturing passer who won't have a ton of help at receiver, they'll have some struggles offensively, but they should be solid again on the defensive end.

I'll say 9-3 or 8-4. Short of what you might call a Legendary season, but certainly a good one.

Thanks to David for his time, and stay tuned as we'll both have more on Nebraska's move to the Big Ten.