On to the mailbag:
Craig Dias in Dallas writes: You mentioned that Trevor Knight wasn't hurried more than once in the West Virginia game. Do you think hurrying Knight is the key to stopping OU's offense?
Brandon Chatmon: I think it’s the key to stopping any offense, not just OU’s. Creating confusion and chaos in the backfield could be the key to beating the Sooners, but it’s easier said than done. As far as Knight specifically, I think he has the potential to handle added pressure better than most quarterbacks thanks to his athleticism and mobility, but there’s no doubt in my mind he would be more prone to mistakes if he was being constantly harassed in the pocket.
Marty in West Virginia writes: Is Kevin White the best receiver in Big 12?
Chatmon: He sure is playing like it. He has been consistent and dominant with 42 receptions for 633 yards (both Big 12 highs) and three touchdowns. Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett and Baylor’s Antwan Goodley, among others, will still have their say, but White sits atop the list after the Mountaineers’ first four games. He has been exceptional.
Zane Dennis in Waco writes: Hey, Brandon! Love the blog and read every post daily. Even as a Baylor fan/student, I think we can all agree that Oklahoma is the team to beat for now in the Big 12 (and I think they should be No. 1 in the country, as well). As it's looking right now, our whole season will likely end up coming down to that epic Nov. 8 showdown, but as far as the rest of our schedule, which game should we be more worried about: West Virginia or Kansas State? Also, are there any more possible upsets on the Sooners' schedule?
Chatmon: I’ll have a piece that touches on this in detail later this week, but both programs have some potential pitfalls before that massive showdown in Norman. For Baylor, the trip to West Virginia would be the biggest worry between those two games. I think the Mountaineers have proven they are a tall task for any team. And if Baylor is undefeated after 11 games, I have a hard time believing they would let the Wildcats come into McLane Stadium and take their College Football Playoff dreams away. The Sooners still have several tough tests, but the road game at TCU stands out.
Mike Quick writes: I'm looking for a positive note with this question. Baylor’s nonconference schedule is weak, there's no question there. But with Northwestern State beating Louisiana Tech over the weekend does that at least make Baylor’s win over Northwestern State a bit better in the eyes of the selection committee?
Chatmon: It doesn’t hurt. But the Bears' destiny will be decided in Big 12 conference play either way. An undefeated Baylor doesn’t get left on the outside looking in, even with a subpar nonconference slate.
Harry in Kansas City writes: If KSU and Auburn both win out, do the 'Cats make it into the playoffs?
Chatmon: Good question, Harry. I’m going to say yes because I don’t expect four undefeated conference champions. If fact, I only expect one, maybe two, undefeated teams. It’s simply too hard to go a season without a loss in college football these days. So if Auburn is 12-0 and Kansas State is 11-1, I think the Wildcats find their way into the College Football Playoff, particularly with road wins at Oklahoma and Baylor. Quite frankly, if they don’t there’s a problem.
Abimael Downing in Colorado writes: I know that this year will not be the best for Texas and I understand that Charlie Strong needs some time to get his team together, but how long do you think it will take for Texas to become a contender in the Big 12 again?
Chatmon: Next year. I doubt they win it in 2015, but I definitely think they can contend for a Big 12 title in Strong's second season.
David Hess in Glen Dale, West Virginia writes: Is WVU the best two-loss team in college football?
Chatmon: Yes. The Mountaineers will make their mark in Big 12 play. They’re better than I expected, and I’d be surprised if they don’t return to a bowl game with relative ease.
Kelly in Oregon writes: What are Iowa State's chances Saturday night?
Chatmon: It’s going to be a tough task for Paul Rhoads team, but I don’t expect a repeat of what we saw in Waco, Texas a year ago in Baylor’s 71-7 win. The Bears will win but I don’t think they embarrass the Cyclones again. I expect a competitive game with BU pulling away in the second half. I'll give them a 20-percent chance of pulling the upset.
rtXC in Denison, Texas, writes: Gotta love these polls! OU beats Bama in the Sugar Bowl, returns most of that team, then beats WVU on the road in better fashion than Bama did at a neutral site. BUT Bama stays ahead in the rankings. Thoughts?
Jason in Elkview, West Virginia writes: The emphasis on strength of schedule appears to be selective. I watched WVU give two top 5 teams all they wanted, but still lost. After watching WVU play and after watching at least one game from most of the rest of the top 25 ranked teams, I don't think 15 of them could beat WVU. Yet we continue to lose votes in the polls, and others that have played a smorgasbord of nobodies continue to get more votes each week. I realize you have to win, but this being rewarded for playing a tough schedule business is a farce.
Chatmon: Sounds like a pair of really good reasons to ignore the polls. Particularly since they don’t mean anything anyway. If the polls affect the College Football Playoff committee then we, as college football fans, have bigger problems.
If the Longhorns don’t know that, they’re about to find out. Texas enters conference play on Saturday at Kansas with an offense that ranks in the league’s bottom three in most key offensive categories.
In fact, Texas ranks behind the Jayhawks in yards per game, yards per play, yards per rush and pass attempt, rushing offense and a slew of other stats. Texas’ 20.7 points per game, while slightly better than KU’s 20.3, is indicative of an offense in transition that must start finding easier ways to score.
“We know we are going to have to score points and know we are going to have to generate some offense and generate some big plays,” Texas coach Charlie Strong said.
With a new quarterback in Tyrone Swoopes and a piecemeal offensive line, Texas had too much to fix before facing BYU and UCLA teams that are now ranked in the top 20. Perhaps the biggest concern: Can this become a big-play offense?
Texas ranks No. 114 nationally in both rushes of 10-plus yards (nine) and passes of 20-plus yards (five). And nearly half of those explosive plays came against North Texas, with the now-retired David Ash running the show.
“We have a lot of playmakers,” Swoopes said. “I feel like we’ve been watching film, and we see we’re just one block away, one cut away from busting a big one. I feel like we definitely have big-play ability on this team.”
The Longhorns have produced four scoring drives in these past two games. They’re averaging nearly five minutes of possession on those drives. Among Power 5 programs, Texas currently has the No. 7 least-efficient offense in the country, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
Surely, after a bye week and another week to prepare, Texas can start finding easier, faster ways to score, right? Strong is hopeful that, in time, the play-action game will open up more of those chances.
“You would like to see just more explosive plays, where we can get the ball down the field. And it will happen,” Strong said. “It will eventually happen, because the more the quarterback plays, the more confidence he will gain.”
Swoopes enters his third career start optimistic that Texas’ offensive breakthrough is coming soon. In some ways, he can see the Longhorns’ difficult nonconference slate as being potentially beneficial.
“If we would’ve played cupcakes, we would’ve had confidence, but I feel like it would be kind of false confidence because we really didn’t play anybody of significance,” Swoopes said. “I feel like we played some pretty good teams in our nonconference and once we get to those big games in the Big 12, we’ll know what it feels like and it won’t be like a culture shock or anything new to us. We’ll be ready for it.”
Five years ago, Big 12 teams with winning records averaged 27 points per game in conference play. Last season, that average was up a full touchdown to 35.1.
The Case McCoy-led Longhorns put up 30.4 a game in 2013 and reeled off six straight wins to claw their way into Big 12 title contention, all despite a 1-2 start and the loss of Ash. Strong has reminded his players they’ve done this before.
“I don't see why we couldn't do the same thing or more,” Swoopes said. “I feel like we can do it again."
But there needs to be progress (and points) against Kansas. Next week, the nation’s No. 1 offense comes to Austin. It’s going to take a bit more than 20 to beat Baylor.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Junior offensive tackle Kennedy Estelle was dismissed by Texas for violating team rules Tuesday, becoming the ninth player kicked off the team by coach Charlie Strong this season.
Estelle started at left tackle in Texas' season-opening win against North Texas but was suspended for at least three games on Sept. 3 along with fellow starting tackle Desmond Harrison for an undisclosed rules violation.
The 6-foot-7, 290-pound junior started nine games and played in 16 during his career. He took over the right tackle spot last season when Josh Cochran was lost to injury. He was also suspended for the Alamo Bowl last season after being ruled academically ineligible.
Strong said Monday that Estelle, Harrison and receiver/running back Daje Johnson remained suspended for Texas' game at Kansas on Saturday. Johnson has already returned to practice, and Harrison could this week.
Two weeks ago, Strong hinted that Estelle and Harrison were down to their last strike.
"They're not going to break another [team rule]," Strong said Sept. 8. "They won't be here if they break another one."
Estelle is the ninth player dismissed by Strong since March, joining former starters Kendall Sanders and Joe Bergeron and backups Leroy Scott, Chet Moss, Montrel Meander, Jalen Overstreet, Chevoski Collins and Deoundrei Davis.
September has been an interesting month, and it’s only going to get even more intriguing in the land of recruiting. Texas flipped an ESPN 300 player, and Baylor landed another skill-position threat. Additionally, West Virginia made an impact on an ESPN 300 player, and Texas Tech looked west at a couple of big-time prospects.
Here are some of the highlights from the week of Big 12 recruiting.
- Oklahoma's battle to get Baker Mayfield eligible remains ongoing, reports Ryan Aber of The Oklahoman. Bob Stoops alluded to having some new info, but OU is not ready to announce anything, and a TV report that Mayfield has been ruled immediately eligible appears to be premature or incorrect. You get the sense that, in this complicated appeals process, there's probably more that still needs to play out before Stoops can say anything definitive. If Mayfield is cleared -- and that's still a real if -- I'm curious if OU's perceived reluctance to let Trevor Knight run the ball (at least against West Virginia) will be impacted.
- The Iron Skillet game is going to have a different vibe this year. This time, TCU is facing a winless SMU team that recently changed coaches. Gary Patterson isn't too interested in talking about what's going on with his crosstown rival, writes Carlos Mendez of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, saying the Mustangs' shakeup is "no concern to TCU." He's just trying to get to win No. 3. TCU's less-than-stellar 2013 offense put up 48 on SMU. You'd think this year's group should have an even easier time.
- A Kansas team with a winning record is about to face a Texas team with a losing record for the first time in literally forever. Charlie Weis isn't taking the 1-2 Longhorns lightly, writes Matt Tait of the Lawrence Journal-World. The Jayhawks head coach makes what is probably an important observation for both teams: KU isn't going to win a shootout and has to adopt a mindset of surviving slugfests. The same is definitely true of Texas and its offense right now. Texas is a 14-point favorite right now, but could we be in for a game that plays out much closer than expected?
- Kliff Kingsbury discussed two QBs on Monday: one from his past, one from his future. Now that Jarrett Stidham has signed, Kingsbury can publicly laud the Stephenville (Texas) High senior. He and OC Eric Morris got a chance to watch the incoming Texas Tech early enrollee play this weekend and were wowed by his leadership and demeanor. Kingsbury also talked up OSU's Daxx Garman, whom he pursued while at Houston, and isn't surprised by his early success.
- Art Briles and Baylor's sports information staff have another ally in the push to get Bryce Petty in the Heisman race: Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads. On Monday, Rhoads told reporters Petty is the Heisman frontrunner in his book, according to Bobby La Gesse of the Ames Tribune. Rhoads and his players are rightfully in awe of what Petty and the Bears' offense appears capable of this season. I don't think the Cyclones' love is an act, either -- it's respect, especially after Baylor handed ISU a 71-7 loss in Waco last year.
AUSTIN, Texas -- After three difficult weeks of contemplation, David Ash is ready to move on from football and begin the rest of his life.
The former Texas Longhorns quarterback held a 25-minute news conference Monday and offered his first public comments since his concussion symptoms returned after an Aug. 30 win against North Texas.
He explained why, after consulting with Texas coach Charlie Strong and team doctors, he knew he needed to stop playing in the interest of his health and future.
"I'm at peace with that. God has given me a peace," Ash said. "I have a lot of hope and a lot of belief that there's still awesome days ahead for me."
Ash said he experienced headaches for seven or eight days after the 38-7 victory over North Texas, his first game since September 2013. That painful week brought some needed closure.
"At the core of my heart of hearts," Ash said, "I knew I shouldn't be playing."
Ash reported his concussion-related symptoms to Texas trainers in the hours after beating North Texas. He watched film of that game later and could tell he wasn't playing like normal.
"The real deal about the North Texas game is, I really didn't get hit," Ash said. "I didn't get a vicious blow."
Ash still has not disclosed how many concussions he suffered in the past year beyond the first one, which occurred late in a Sept. 6, 2013, loss at BYU. He has not experienced memory loss and is hopeful he's done dealing with those symptoms.
Still, the process of accepting he must retire was difficult. Team doctors told Ash that, if he were their son, they wouldn't let him play.
"It's been hard," he said. "I've met my quota for crying for the next 10 years."
On to the 'bag:
Trotter: The K-State game should make Oklahoma fans a little queasy. The week before meeting the Wildcats on Oct. 18, the Sooners play Texas. The same weekend, the Wildcats will be off. We saw Thursday night how good Bill Snyder is at drawing up a game plan with an extra week to prepare. And this time, his opponent won't have the extra week as well.
@Jake_Trotter what are the chances kansas state beats one of baylor or Oklahoma? Or somehow both of them?— Seth Meadows (@meadows1115) September 19, 2014
Trotter: The good news for Tech is that Oklahoma State's offensive line hasn't exactly dominated, either. But the Cowboys have good backs and they create creases by spreading the field. Though Daxx Garman can't run like J.W. Walsh, he can stretch the field to open up the running game with his arm. That said, if Tech gets steamrolled up front by an Oklahoma State offensive line that even Mike Gundy has termed as "very below average," the Red Raiders might very well get steamrolled by all comers the rest of the way.
@Jake_Trotter If Tech doesn't get it's run defense together, how do you think they'll do against Oklahoma State?— James Alexander (@KingJamesofMars) September 19, 2014
Trotter: You're not going to like this answer, but I think it comes down to recruiting better players more than anything else, especially along the defensive line. There isn't a scheme out there that can account for a team's defensive front getting blown off the ball the way Tech's did against Arkansas. The Red Raiders can be better defensively than they were against the Hogs. But ultimately, you either have the horses or you don't.
@Jake_Trotter exact same question as last week, any solution in sight for Tech's porous defense?— Andy Dobbins (@adobbins29) September 19, 2014
Trotter: Brandon got the plum assignment of covering the stadium unveiling against SMU. At the moment, I'm not sure yet when exactly I'll be assigned to go down to Waco. But when I do, I'm going to see if I can find a spot in the Baylor Armada.
@Jake_Trotter when are you coming down to McLane to join us for some sailgating?— Baylor Bearmada (@BaylorBearmada) September 19, 2014
Trotter: It's a big loss, no doubt. Ford has been OU's best all-around back. But the Sooners are better equipped to deal with the loss of Ford than West Virginia is the loss of standout cornerback Daryl Worley.
@Jake_Trotter what's your prediction for the OU WV game? I think fans are taking this game lightly. Keith Ford bigger loss than we thought?— Ben Luton (@Lutotime) September 19, 2014
Trotter: The fact that Kansas State, Oklahoma State and West Virginia hung tough against Auburn, Florida State and Alabama will do nothing but strengthen the perception of the Big 12 in the eyes of the playoff selection committee. I don't think the committee will get overly focused on scoring differentials. But Oklahoma (or Baylor) beating the Wildcats, Cowboys and Mountaineers would be viewed as quality wins, based on how those three opponents performed in their nonconference schedules.
@Jake_Trotter say Ou beats KSU and WVU by more than Bama and Auburn did. How much will the committee look into scoring differentials?— Travis Guidry (@TGuidry25) September 19, 2014
Trotter: Did you not see the Duke score? I guess anything is possible. But there's reason why Kansas is 1-29 in its last 30 Big 12 games.
@Jake_Trotter what do you think are texas' chances of losing to Kansas before the red river game?— Matt Peacock (@Mpeacock5) September 19, 2014
Trotter: Why would I trade away the league's best basketball program? And why would you want to trade away an automatic win for whatever team you pull for?
@Jake_Trotter if you could trade Kansas for a fellow bottom dweller in a P5 conference, who would it be and why?— Brad Gibson (@BradWGibson) September 19, 2014
Matt H. writes:Is there a chance for Clint Trickett or Kevin White to be mentioned in the Heisman race if they keep performing at the high level they are playing at right now?
Trotter: White has no shot, if only because receivers don't win Heisman Trophies. But if Trickett lights up a really good Oklahoma defense Saturday, he might begin to generate a little buzz as a possible darkhorse contender.
1. K.D. Cannon, WR, Baylor (previous rank: 2): Cannon has been nothing short of spectacular while temporarily taking over the role as Baylor’s No. 1 receiver with Levi Norwood, Clay Fuller, Corey Coleman and Antwan Goodley all out with injuries. In three games, Cannon leads the nation with 471 receiving yards, while averaging 33.6 yards per catch. No other Big 12 receiver is averaging more than 25 yards per catch. This is a future star in the making.
2. Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma (3): Perine has been stout as Oklahoma’s power back, but will only see his role expand after the leg injury to Keith Ford. While splitting carries with Ford and Alex Ross, Perine has still rushed for 177 yards while averaging 5.5 yards a carry. Ross is expected to get the start at West Virginia, but don’t be surprised if Perine gets the most work.
3. Dravon Henry, FS, West Virginia (1): Henry has kept his starting job, though has been rather quiet since shining in West Virginia’s opener against Alabama. He’ll face another huge challenge this weekend against the balanced Sooners.
4. Dimitri Flowers, FB, Oklahoma (5): Flowers continues to be an instrumental part of Oklahoma’s powerful rushing attack. He hasn’t seen the ball much. But he has paved the way with his lead blocks for Ford, Perine and Ross and an Oklahoma ground game that averaging 5.6 yards per rushing attempt.
5. Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State (7): Lazard led the Cyclones in receiving in their 20-17 victory over the Hawkeyes. He also hauled in a key pass on Iowa State’s game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter. With Quenton Bundrage out for the season, Lazard has taken over as Iowa State’s go-to receiver on the outside.
6. Davion Hall, WR, Baylor (4): Like Cannon, Hall has made the most of his opportunities as the rest of the Baylor receiving corps recovers from injuries. He’s currently 10th in the league with 192 receiving yards.
7. Elijah Lee, LB, Kansas State (9): Lee didn't have much of an impact Thursday night against Auburn, but he still ranks fifth in the league with 2.5 sacks. Bill Snyder leans against playing true freshmen, but Lee has earned his trust.
8. Justin Stockton, RB, Texas Tech (10): Along with the rest of the Red Raiders, Stockton struggled against Arkansas with only seven yards rushing on six carries. But the week before against UTEP, he was outstanding with 135 yards rushing, including a 75-yard touchdown dash.
9. Corey Avery, RB, Kansas (8): While the rest of the Kansas offense did little, Avery was the lone bright spot in the loss at Duke. He led the Jayhawks with 87 yards rushing, after rushing for 91 the week before in his debut.
10. Jason Hall, S, Texas (NR): Hall had a sack and a couple of big hits against UCLA after entering the game in the second quarter. His aggression figures to warrant him more playing time after Texas returns from the open weekend.
On the radar: Tevin Madison, CB, Texas Tech; Colin Downing, P, Iowa State; Cameron Batson, PR/WR, Texas Tech; Matthew Boateng, CB, Kansas; Steven Parker II, Oklahoma
Former Texas standout and current Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant, who won the 2013-14 NBA MVP award, took to Twitter to express his appreciation for Ash's contribution to the Longhorns.
Thank you David Ash, you gave your all to the University of Texas. I respect your decision and good luck in the future my brother— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) September 17, 2014
Ash responded with a thank you of his own for his fellow Longhorn.
@KDTrey5 I really appreciate it. We're all thankful for the way you've represented UT your family and your faith. Keep it up— David Ash (@david_ash14) September 18, 2014
AUSTIN, Texas -- A complicated career ended with an easy decision.
David Ash is giving up football, a choice far wiser than he probably appreciates, but one that is no doubt gut-wrenching. Texas' quarterback was right to hang it up after his bout with concussions over the past year. There should be no debate about that.
To let Ash, a 22-year-old with a long life ahead of him, continue to play would've been irresponsible. Texas has known that since Aug. 31, when he revealed to team doctors he was once again dealing with headaches and dizziness.
"There was no way we'd let him back out on the field," Texas coach Charlie Strong said, "because we were going to be concerned about his health."
They knew he was done, so Wednesday's announcement was not unexpected. What we don't know, unfortunately, is something Texas fans have pondered for years.
We'll never know how good Ash could've been. His career seemed forever on the cusp, a few great games away from something bigger. But he gave as much as he could.
When concussions derailed his junior season last year, he wasn't ready to walk away. Last month, Ash was asked about the people who told him to stop playing. He understood why they asked their questions.
No, he needed another chance. One more game, one more season. He'd fought hard for 12 months to get back, and even harder to become the quarterback he knew he could be.
Ash fit the prototype at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds with a strong arm and quick feet. He threw as pretty a ball as any Texas QB since Chris Simms, especially when you watched him practice. He was a deceptive runner, with dashes of 55, 49 and 47 yards on his résumé.
There were a few nights when he put it all together. He did it in Stillwater in 2012, leading Texas on a 75-yard, game-winning drive for a 41-36 win over Oklahoma State. Looking back, that was probably the finest game of his career.
He was exceptional against Texas Tech later that season, one week after being benched at Kansas, and his second-half performance in the Alamo Bowl to beat Oregon State inspired real hope about 2013. He threw, he scrambled, he yelled, he led. He was getting closer.
But there were struggles he couldn't overcome along the way. He never beat Oklahoma in two tries, both embarrassing losses. He was pulled in that near-loss at KU in 2012. He shouldn't have tried to play with broken ribs in a Thanksgiving loss to TCU.
But if the sum total of your evaluation of Ash is, "He stunk against OU,” you missed out on a lot. He went 15-7 as Texas' starter. For some reason, he was judged far more by the seven than by the 15.
But Mack Brown believed in Ash. He believed Texas could be great in 2013 if Ash was great. He thought Texas could win any game on its schedule if his quarterback played at the level he expected.
Ash's rocky career will, in some ways, be forever tied to the end of Brown's. While Robert Griffin III, Johnny Manziel and so many other fine quarterbacks from Texas thrived elsewhere, Ash was the guy Brown hitched his wagon to after the implosion of the Garrett Gilbert era. Had Ash not been lost for the season last year, perhaps Texas might not have a new head coach.
The public expectations, for that reason, were never going to be fair for Ash. Brown and Strong repeatedly asked him just to be a good quarterback, a distributor and manager, and not fret about being great.
His week-to-week demeanor as the leader of the Longhorns' offense, the focal point of this great fishbowl, rarely changed. He was quiet, unassuming country boy from Belton, Texas, early on, but always came off as calm and rather determined. He speaks frequently about his life being grounded in his faith.
"In my mind, I always knew I was going to play again,” Ash said in August. "I feel like this is where God has placed me, this is the talent he has given me, and whenever I work hard and I play hard, it pleases Him and gives Him glory.”
The year off from football humbled him in new ways. He came back from his concussion and foot injury with conviction. He'd never considered quitting, he said, and he wasn't going to look back.
Strong lauded his fall practices as "outstanding.” Ash knew he was still getting closer. When asked about being so close to that breakthrough in 2013 and then having it taken away, having to wait patiently for another season, he offered genuine perspective.
"I think you just be thankful for what you get," Ash said, "and this goes for any person in any situation. You look at situations and say, 'I'm a victim. Why me?' Or you can look at situations and say, 'Wow, I'm so thankful that I even got to do this much.' So attitude is everything in those kinds of situations.
"So right now, wow, I get another opportunity. That's amazing. That's awesome. Thank God for that. I didn't necessarily deserve that, to get another opportunity. Just got to make the most of it.”
Ash got another shot against North Texas on Aug. 30. He played as long as he could. When it was over, when the symptoms came back, he knew he could walk away without regret.
When he sat down with Strong on Wednesday to make his retirement official, he did so voluntarily. Ash is ready to move on, unburdened by expectation, off to find a new way to give glory. Soon enough, he'll realize playing quarterback has nothing to do with how good he can be.