Texas DC Bedford makes plea for sellout

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
9:40
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Three days before Charlie Strong and his staff make their official Texas debut, defensive coordinator Vance Bedford sent a clear message to the fan base: Buy a ticket.

Bedford, the first-year DC who played at Texas from 1977-81, was told during a post-practice interview session Wednesday that about 9,000 tickets are still available for the season opener against North Texas.

He was then asked if he had a message for fans thinking about staying home on Saturday. Here's what he had to say:
Staying at home? What do you mean staying at home? I hear that the state of Texas is all about what? Football. Friday Night Lights. The University of Texas. What do you mean you have 8 or 9,000 tickets left? People out there: Get off your duff and go buy these tickets! It should be standing room only! If not, don't complain, don't say anything. Get in the stands right now and cheer us on to victory. North Texas, when they're on offense, should not hear a thing. They should not be able to check. Why? It's standing room only. There should be 105,000, the fire marshal's outside saying get out. Thank you.
Here's the video of Bedford's impassioned plea, courtesy of UT, in case you're curious about the context. Based on the instant reaction on Twitter, it's safe to say Bedford got Texas' fans attention.

Texas senior defensive tackle Desmond Jackson offered up a similar declaration during his post-practice comments.

"Hey, whoever ain't got their ticket yet, make sure you get your ticket!" Jackson said. "That's all I'm saying. Make sure you get your ticket. It's going to be a nice show out there."
When thinking of Baylor and Oklahoma State, defense is rarely the first thing that comes to mind.

Yet those two teams featured the Big 12’s top defenses in 2013, a main reason they combined for 21 victories and found themselves atop the conference standings heading into the final day of the regular season a year ago.

But neither the Cowboys nor Bears found themselves among the nation’s top 15 defenses in points allowed or yards allowed, and only Oklahoma State's 21.6 points allowed per game, which ranked No. 19 nationally, was among the nation’s top 25 in either category.

[+] EnlargeShawn Oakman
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezShawn Oakman and Baylor's defense give up yards, but measure up well in the most important statistics.
“I think people are getting educated a little bit about what is good defense and what is good defense against spread offenses when having to defend 18, 19 series a game,” Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said. “It’s not yardage, it’s the winning game. Saying you’re the best defense in the nation because you gave up 375 yards per game? That’s ridiculous. That has no bearing on what the best defense in the nation is; that’s the most ridiculous stat ever.”

Recognizing good defense in the Big 12 is a little different.

“How are you going to win the game? How many points per possession?” Spencer asks. “We have a lot more possessions to defend than a lot of teams in the nation.”

So with the new season on the horizon, here are other ways to define good defense in the Big 12.

Yards per play: More important than total yards allowed, yards per play is a better representation for a defense’s success. For example, Oklahoma led the Big 12 in total yards allowed at 305.2, yet the Sooners were sixth in yards per play at 5.38. Why? The Sooners offense played a major role in OU’s strong overall yardage numbers by controlling the clock with its running game. Oklahoma's defense faced 65.1 plays per game, five plays fewer than any other Big 12 team. By comparison, Baylor allowed 4.77 yards per play, which led the conference, while facing 75.8 plays per game. The Bears allowed more yards than the Sooners, but BU’s defense clearly had more success stopping opponents than OU on a play-by-play basis.

Points per possession: Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Kansas State finished 1-2-3 in points allowed in 2013, but only the Cowboys finished in the top three in points per possession. Oklahoma State led the conference with 1.22 points per possession, followed by Baylor (1.38), TCU (1.5) and Oklahoma (1.6). Those four teams combined to win 36 games, including the Horned Frogs' disappointing four-win season. It’s also a meaningful stat nationally, with Florida State leading the nation in the category (0.9) followed by Michigan State (0.99), Louisville (1.05) and Alabama (1.09). Those four teams combined to go 50-4 in 2013.

Third down conversion defense: Getting off the field on third down is critical in any conference. The conference’s three teams that had double-digit wins finished 1-2-3 in third-down conversion defense. Oklahoma State led the Big 12 at 31.4 percent, followed by Oklahoma (33.7) and Baylor (33.9). Excellence on third down is one reason the Sooners still had one of the Big 12’s top defenses a year ago, even though they faced fewer plays. Oklahoma's offense controlling games wasn’t the only reason the Sooners faced fewer plays, as their defense consistently got off the field on key third downs.

“[In the Big 12] you have to defend the whole full of playmakers and you are going to give up some yardage,” Spencer said. “But you have to get off the field.”

Turnovers: Much like third-down excellence, turnovers are critical in any conference. Oklahoma State (33) and Baylor (28) finished 1-2 in turnovers forced, and it’s not a coincidence. Both defensive coaching staffs make creating turnovers a top priority, even more than stopping the opponent. For the Cowboys and Bears, taking the ball away from the opposing offense is the primary goal.

Percentage of possible yards allowed per drive: This is another terrific stat to monitor the overall success of a Big 12 defense against opponents. BU led the conference at 32.4 percent followed by Oklahoma State (34.7), TCU (35.1) and Oklahoma (37.1). Those four teams could easily be considered the Big 12’s top four defenses in 2013.

Three-and-out percentage: The Bears led the Big 12 by forcing a three-and-out on 28.2 percent of opponent’s drives. Oklahoma State (26.8), TCU (26.7) and Texas (25.8) rounded out the top four. One of the reasons Bryce Petty and the Bears’ offense set scoring records was the ability of Baylor's defense to immediately put the ball back in the hands of the offense.

Summer work results in seasoned signees

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
10:00
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At some point this weekend, Dravon Henry will trot onto the field against SEC power Alabama. It will be baptism under fire for West Virginia's true freshman safety.

He's not alone.

More and more, true freshman skill position players are stepping on campus ready to take jobs and play immediately at schools across the Big 12.

Seven of the nine Big 12 schools that play this weekend had released their depth charts by Tuesday afternoon. Twenty-two true freshman find themselves on those depth charts at skill positions around the conference with every school featuring at least one true freshman on its depth chart.

TCU and Oklahoma lead the league with five apiece while ISU receiver Allen Lazard is the lone true freshman skill position player on the Cyclones depth chart. Coaches at Kansas, Oklahoma State and Texas — the other three schools — have already said they have true freshmen are in set to play for them at the skill positions in 2014.

The growth of pass-heavy spread offenses, increased summer and offseason football -- specifically 7-on-7 competitions -- and elite camps like The Opening are at the heart of the increased readiness of true freshman. Henry and Texas Tech cornerback Tevin Madison are the lone true freshman to earn a starting spot heading into the season but that duo is could be joined by other impressive freshmen -- like Lazard, Kansas running back Corey Avery or Kansas State safety Kaleb Prewitt -- in their squad's starting lineup at some point this season.

The additional offseason work's ability to help groom quarterbacks is well-documented but those extra reps are helping receivers, running backs and defensive backs as well.

"All the skill players, receivers, quarterbacks, tight ends, they all grow up throwing the football," Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said. "So they're much more developed at an early age. We're seeing that we can do things with freshman that we could never do before because a lot of them have been doing it in high school."

Recruits step on campus having been seasoned in competitive situations like never before. Their understanding of offensive concepts gained in high school makes transitions to similar systems in college easier than before.

"As much as anything it's the offenses they're growing up in," OU offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. "They're playing in those [offenses] 365 days of the year. You go to certain parts of the country and they're practicing every day. They're growing up in those systems."

The state of Texas is at the forefront of trend with everything from weather and strong high school coaching helping to prepare signees to play from Day 1 at Big 12 schools.

"With the 7-on-7 aspect and the level of high school coaching in the state of Texas helps us," Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "They're throwing the year round, they're catching the ball year round, quarterbacks go through reads year round, so by the time they get to us, they're college ready.

"As far as throwing, catching and seeing defenses, they're more prepared than ever."

The rise of elite national and regional football camps could also be helping to increase the readiness of true freshmen. Players like OU's Michiah Quick, a 2013 participant in The Opening who is listed as a backup slot receiver and punt returner for the Sooners, are stepping on campuses across the country having been tested in ways they had not been a decade ago.

"I think anytime you get to go against competition, you're going to come out more confident if you have a good showing," Kingsbury said. "The kids we have that have attended such camps come out of it knowing they belong and they fit in."

Big 12 morning links

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
7:00
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"Hot feet Hart?"
  • Sad news from Cyclone country as former Iowa State running back Hiawatha Rutland was found dead near Lake Erie on Monday. Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register reports that his death continues a unfortunate trend of former Cyclones losing their lives. ISU's leading rushers from 2000-2006 have all died, a total of three former Cyclones ball carriers (Ennis Haywood, Stevie Hicks).
  • Kansas State released its first depth chart of the season but it doesn't mean much writes Kellis Robinett of the Wichita Eagle. While Tyler Lockett, Jake Waters, Ryan Mueller and the rest of the Wildcats' stars would appear safe, the competition continues at several positions, most notably at running back. Charles Jones sits atop the depth chart but I'm betting DeMarcus Robinson and Jarvis Leverett will have their say before a bell cow is anointed in K-State's backfield. The most interesting part of the running back battle could be an expected redshirt for true freshman Dalvin Warmack. I was hoping to get a look at Warmack this season, particularly with an open competition to replace John Hubert.
  • KUsports.com's Matt Tait gives you a few percentage predictions for the Kansas' win total and seven Jayhawks to keep an eye on this fall. Tait puts KU's chances for four or five wins at 51 percent and while I'd imagine many people scoff at that percentage it made more and more sense the more I thought about it. KU has several experienced upperclassmen and seems to be upgrading the overall talent on the roster under Charlie Weis. I've had my reservations about the Jayhawks but I'm starting to agree with Tait and think Weis' squad could be better than people expect this fall.
  • Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy can't seem to commit to quarterback J.W. Walsh, despite the fact all signs point to the junior being the Cowboys' starting quarterback against Florida State on Saturday writes John Helsley of The Oklahoman. As the season gets closer and closer it becomes clearer that the Pokes could have two different offenses this fall with a run-heavy approach with J.W. Walsh and an approach that leans more toward the pass when Daxx Garman or Mason Rudolph get their chance behind center. It's not unlike what the Pokes did to knock off Mississippi State in last season's opener, when Walsh entered the game for Clint Chelf and the Pokes used the read-option to confuse and exploit the Bulldogs defense. I'm expecting more of the same against the Seminoles on Saturday.
  • Good news for Texas fans as receiver Jaxon Shipley has been deemed "ready to roll" by passing game coordinator Shawn Watson and is expected to play against North Texas, reports Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News. A healthy Shipley could be a critical asset for the Longhorns this season as the senior receiver led the Big 12 with 23 third-down receptions in 2013. He is a quarterback's best friend and proven clutch performer for the Longhorns.

Big 12 morning links

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
8:00
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Congrats to "Breaking Bad" on all of its well-deserved Emmys. So happy to see Landry Clarke finally win the big one. On to the links:
  • Kansas State won't release their depth chart until Tuesday, but Bill Snyder did address his intriguing running back situation Monday. Charles Jones will start, but you'll see DeMarcus Robinson, Jarvis Leverett and Judah Jones get in on the action, too. Touted freshman Dalvin Warmack seems to be behind that group at the moment. Even if Jones is listed No. 1 to start the season, you have to think the Wildcats' first two games will provide a true audition in which anyone can rise up and win the job.
  • Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News got the tour of Charlie Strong's now-decorated office -- complete with photos of Muhammad Ali and Jimmy Buffett -- in this glimpse into how Strong has already changed Texas' program. Pay attention to the ending. Linebacker Jordan Hicks puts into words what everyone else has noticed: When the defense isn't thriving, that's a bad day in Strong's book. That's the mindset he brings to Texas as a defense-first guy, and a reminder why this Texas D's highs and lows should be compelling to watch in 2014.
  • Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal offers a closer look at the critical role junior college transfers will have to play for Texas Tech this season. Rika Levi gets lots of hype, but there are a handful of fellow juco guys who will need to get the hang of big-time football quickly. Keep an eye on receiver Devin Lauderdale, a touted 2013 signee who needed one juco year to qualify. He cracked the two-deep and could play a bunch in the opener against Central Arkansas.
  • Paul Rhoads addressed the 6-foot-5 young elephant in the room Monday: How much is freshman wide receiver Allen Lazard really going to play? He's listed as the backup at 'X' receiver behind Quenton Bundrage on Iowa State's initial depth chart, but Rhoads assured reporters Lazard will be on the field plenty. "I'm sure he'll get the ball tossed in his direction," Rhoads said. No doubt the four-star stud's targets are going to be a popular topic of discussion this season in Ames. Can expectations be any higher for him?
  • Speaking of expectations, you won't find a more hyped-up guy in the Big 12 than Oklahoma State's Tyreek Hill. John Helsley of The Oklahoman wonders just how big of a game-changer the junior college transfer can be. Teammates such as David Glidden say his talent level is indescribable and that, "You’re just going to have to wait and see." He'll put stress on opposing defenses, and he isn't just track-speed fast -- it all translates on the field, per the folks who's seen Hill in action. Oklahoma State OC Mike Yurcich says he's constantly working up new ways to pencil him into a play. Florida State is absolutely going to account for him on every play. If he goes wild against the Seminoles, the legend of "Tyreek The Freek" will surely spread nationally.

Strong's debut will feature fresh faces

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
7:15
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Charlie Strong and his coaches won't be the only new guy running out the tunnel for the Texas Longhorns on Saturday night. There are many more fresh faces Longhorn fans will soon get to know. Get ready for some surprises.

Strong did not release a depth chart Monday -- he'll do so later this week -- but based on what he and his players have said throughout fall camp, it's clear Texas will be relying on some players that even the recruiting junkies don't know much about. A primer on 10 players to watch as Texas opens the Strong era on Saturday against North Texas:

Safety Jason Hall: The freshman safety from South Grand Prairie High in Dallas was a three-star recruit who's exceeded all expectations for both his talent and age. He has ideal size at 6-foot-2 and 207 pounds and has earned rave reviews from Strong and his fellow DBs in recent weeks. "Jason understands the game," linebacker Jordan Hicks said Monday. "You can see his confidence. He's one of those young guys who you can expect to play well in games. He's going to be a great player." Hall is still battling for a starting safety job and Strong wants a decision mid-week on who will start.

Receiver Ty Templin: Not your typical walk-on. "He's always kind of stood out in everybody's mind for a while," quarterback David Ash said. "Every conversation I remember, going back for years, was, 'You know, that Ty Templin kid, he's good somehow.'" Ash says the 6-foot, 180-pound sophomore is a reliable pass-catcher who isn't afraid to go over the middle. With Jaxon Shipley (hamstring) day-to-day and Daje Johnson suspended, Templin has a real chance to break into the starting lineup for the opener.

Safety Dylan Haines: We profiled Haines during fall camp, and the walk-on hasn't lost any momentum after wowing his coaches and teammates with a spring-game interception and a strong showing in summer workouts. "Dylan was probably the biggest shock of the spring," Hicks said. "He came on and he came on strong." While he and Hall will continue to battle, the safe bet is that both will see plenty of action in the opener and beyond.

Receiver Jacorey Warrick: After playing mop-up minutes last season as a true freshman, "Petey" Warrick has consistently been talked up as a receiver on the rise. "He's a little guy, but he's really quick, really fast, nice hands, got stronger," cornerback Quandre Diggs said. "He's made some strides." He's a 5-foot-11 speedster in the slot who should see the field a lot, especially if Shipley is unavailable.

Defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway: The sophomore who Strong calls "The Green Mile" will be Texas' top defensive tackle off the bench and is finally buying in. Defensive end Cedric Reed says the big man put on 50 pounds last year and "all he could do was sleep." Not true this fall. "He looks good, physically. He looks like a monster," Reed said. "He's really taking the game serious, eating right, in the playbook, really dedicated himself to this defense. I think he'll be a breakout player this year."

Offensive tackle Marcus Hutchins: The fourth-year player has yet to achieve much at Texas and has moved around between the offensive and defensive line. But he seems to be getting offensive line coach Joe Wickline's attention as a potential left tackle. The 6-foot-5, 278-pound lineman might get the call Saturday to fill in for Desmond Harrison, who's suspended for at least one game. You could also see redshirt freshman Darius James in this role, too.

Receivers Armanti Foreman, Lorenzo Joe: Of the five members of Texas' true freshman receiver class, these two put themselves in the best position to play immediately. Foreman has the explosiveness and quickness to turn a short pass into a big play. He's a game-breaker if Texas can get him in space. Joe is more of a possession receiver at 6-foot-2, but he provides sneaky athleticism and is surprisingly polished for a guy who played QB in high school last year. They'll get thrown in the mix on Saturday at some point.

Punter William Russ: The big question mark that not enough people talk about. Strong praised the fifth-year senior for having done "an unbelievable job" in fall practice. "He's one of those guys, he has a strong leg now. He may boom one 60 and the next one may go 20," Strong said. "He's got to get a little more consistency." There will be just as much scrutiny on Nick Rose, who gets his first shot at place-kicking duties after being the kickoff specialist for two years.

Ex-Texas OL Hammad transferring to Baylor

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
4:00
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Former Texas offensive guard Rami Hammad is transferring to Baylor after visiting the school on Monday morning.

Hammad, a redshirt freshman who left the Texas program last week, told ESPN.com he will sit out the 2014 season and have three years of eligibility remaining.

The 6-foot-5, 315-pound lineman told ESPN.com he chose Baylor over Alabama and UCLA after receiving interest from more than 40 programs at the FBS and junior college level.

"It was the hardest decision for me to ever make in my life. I want to thank Texas and Mack Brown for giving me a chance to play there," Hammad said. "I wish it would've worked out. The staff changed and the coaches changed and I never knew this would happen. God works in mysterious ways. I wish nothing but the best for them and my teammates were my brothers. I never would've made this move if I didn't think it would work out. It was never about depth chart or playing time. It was simply a clash between me and [offensive coordinator Joe] Wickline and it couldn't be resolved."

During his recruiting process out of Irving (Texas) High School, Hammad initially committed to Oklahoma State and its offensive line coach Joe Wickline, who is now at Texas. He then committed to Baylor in November 2012, but reopened his recruitment two months later and chose Texas before signing day.

Hammad redshirted last season after suffering an injury and was a backup lineman in the Longhorn program during fall camp before he elected to transfer.

“He decided it was in his best interest to go ahead and transfer and we wish him nothing but the best," Texas coach Charlie Strong said last week.

Hammad would've provided depth and perhaps could've pushed left guard Sedrick Flowers for his starting spot during the season, but Texas is in relatively good shape at that position with Flowers on the left side and sophomore Kent Perkins at right guard.

Sooners moving on minus 'limbo' players

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
3:30
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NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma was hoping to have the talented quartet of wideout Dorial Green-Beckham, running back Joe Mixon, linebacker Frank Shannon and quarterback Baker Mayfield on the field this season.

Green-Beckham and Mixon have already been ruled out. Mayfield is still waiting to hear whether the NCAA will grant him an eligibility waiver. And Monday, Shannon wasn’t listed in Oklahoma’s Week 1 depth chart.

[+] EnlargeStoops
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsBob Stoops said his focus is on the Sooners playing in 2014, not the talented ones who are ineligible.
“I’ve got to proceed with players that I know are going to be available to me through the rest of the year,” coach Bob Stoops said during his first weekly news conference. “So at this point the depth chart is as it is.”

As the Sooners prepare for Saturday’s opener against Louisiana Tech, Stoops wanted to talk about the players that will be on the field this year.

But the dominant story line this preseason has been about the players that won’t be on the field. And it popped up again Monday.

Late last week, the NCAA ruled that Green-Beckham would not qualify for immediate eligibility under the run-off exception after transferring from Missouri.

Stoops said it “hasn’t been decided” whether Green-Beckham will be back with the Sooners in 2015, though Stoops added that “it seems like that he wants to do that and is heading that way.”

But this season, Green-Beckham would have supplied quarterback Trevor Knight with a dangerous receiving weapon on the outside. Instead, the Sooners will be relying on several inexperienced pass-catchers to fill the void at receiver alongside three-year starter Sterling Shepard.

“We’ve got 10 other guys or eight other [receivers] or whatever it is that we’re working with on a daily basis,” Stoops said. “So you work with what’s available to you.”

It doesn’t look like Shannon will be available to the Sooners, either. He’s appealed the university’s decision to suspend him for a year for allegedly violating the school’s code of conduct to a district court. But as long as Shannon remains tied up in legal issues, Oklahoma’s leading tackler last year won’t be part of the plans.

“That situation is still unresolved,” Stoops said.

As of Monday, Mayfield’s situation remains unresolved, as well, forcing the Sooners to move forward with making Cody Thomas their backup quarterback. Thomas redshirted last year, and has been dealing with a muscle strain. That has led former quarterback and current starting tight end Blake Bell to take snaps in practice, as a break-the-glass option, in case of an injury to Knight.

“You obviously want the best for those guys and it hurts to see it go on the opposite side of that line,” Knight said. “You want the best for them and whether or not it works out for them this year, you stay positive with them and hope things will work out in the future.”

As for the present, the Sooners will have to roll with the players currently eligible. That’s still enough to keep them the preseason favorite in the Big 12 and a legitimate contender for the inaugural College Football Playoff.

And while this preseason could have gone better, Stoops is still excited about the players that will be in the game.

“Our guys go to practice every day and the guys on the field have competed in a great way,” Stoops said. “I feel we’re in a great position, ready to start the season.”

Instant impact true freshmen: Texas A&M

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
1:00
PM CT
Texas A&M hauled in the nation’s fourth-ranked recruiting class in February. You don’t rank that high in the national recruiting rankings unless you’ve brought in some big-time freshmen, ones who are poised to make an early impact. As the Aggies’ season opener on Thursday approaches, let’s look at five true freshmen expected to contribute early and often:

LB Otaro Alaka: The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Alaka, the 12th-ranked outside linebacker nationally in the 2014 class, isn’t listed as the starter at strongside linebacker, but he’ll definitely see the field. Alaka pushed senior starter Donnie Baggs at the position in camp. When defensive coordinator Mark Snyder wants to get additional speed on the field, look for Alaka to be one of the guys out there.

DE Myles Garrett: The No. 4 overall prospect in last year’s ESPN 300, Garrett has been as advertised through summer workouts and preseason training camp. He arrived in Aggieland with a college-ready body (6-5, 255) and will figure into the rotation immediately at the Aggies’ rush end position. This summer, Kevin Sumlin said "I'll just say this: Our players have a lot of respect for Myles Garrett."

DT Zaycoven Henderson: This late steal from Texas appears to be one of the best finds the Aggies stumbled upon in the class. The East Texas product is strong has good quickness for his 6-1, 315-pound frame and will be a key part of the defensive tackle rotation, an area the Aggies need depth. The four-star prospect enrolled in January thus was able to participate in both spring football and August camp.

WR Speedy Noil: After a good spring and strong training camp, Noil landed a starting job at two positions -- receiver and punt returner [last year’s leading punt returner, De’Vante Harris, is injured]. The five-star prospect and No. 7 player in the ESPN 300 is nicknamed "Speedy" for a reason. He will see the ball in his hands plenty, and the Aggies are expecting him to do big things when that happens.

FS Armani Watts: After a rough 2013 at the safety positions, the Aggies could use an upgrade. Watts hopes to provide that, earning a starting job by showing impressive range, good tackling and earning the trust of Snyder in training camp. Strong safety and returning starter Howard Matthews will help Watts get lined up properly so the ESPN 300 recruit can focus on his job at free safety. Watts is a versatile talent.

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
12:15
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Here's the latest around the Big 12 on the recruiting trail:

BAYLOR
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Bears commitment Chad President appears ready to start his season for Temple (Texas) High School, throwing for four touchdowns in a scrimmage on Friday. President is an ESPN 300 receiver whom the Bears will give a shot to play quarterback when he arrives on campus in January after enrolling early.

IOWA STATE
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Lawton (Oklahoma) athlete Darreyl Patterson will make his official visit to Iowa State this weekend. The three-star prospect has offers from ISU, Kansas State, Washington State and others.

KANSAS
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Junior college players represent the bulk of KU’s class with eight of its 13 current commitments from the juco level. The Jayhawks continue to do a terrific job in North Texas, with four of their five high school commitments from the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

KANSAS STATE
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcats added arguably their top commitment of the class with a verbal from Tucker (Georgia) cornerback Duke Shelley last week. The three-star prospect turned down Clemson, Tennessee, Wisconsin and others to commit to Bill Snyder’s program.

OKLAHOMA
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: The Sooners added more bulk to their recruiting class with a pledge from three-star guard Dru Samia of Danville, California/San Ramon. Samia, who turned down offers from Texas Tech, UCLA, Oregon State, Cal and Washington State, is the fourth offensive lineman on OU’s commit list.

OKLAHOMA STATE
Total commits: 8
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Cowboys will get the chance to impress receiver offer Ryan Newsome of Aledo, Texas, who plans to attend OSU’s season-opening tilt with Florida State on Saturday. Newsome tweeted his plans to join Cowboys commit Ronald Jones at the game. Newsome also has plans to officially visit OU and Texas, with Oregon, Tennessee and UCLA rounding out his official visit list.

TCU
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: One name to keep an eye on for the Horned Frogs could be Euless (Texas) Trinity defensive end Tipa Galeai. He doesn’t have an offer but visited the school last week and could be a long-term, developmental prospect to keep an eye on at 6-foot-6, 206 pounds. The three-star prospect boasts offers from Utah, Utah State and Washington State.

TEXAS
Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 7
The latest: Long Beach (California) Poly cornerback Iman Marshall, the No. 8 player in the ESPN300, started a buzz on Twitter last week by asking fans of OU and UT to help him decide where to go for his fifth official visit. He already plans to visit Florida State, LSU, Notre Dame and Michigan with his other officials.

TEXAS TECH
Total commits: 9
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Red Raiders reportedly offered Class of 2016 prospect Keith Corbin last week. The Beaumont (Texas) West Brook receiver also has an offer from Ole Miss. A big, athletic target at 6-2, 175 pounds, Corbin could see his offer list reach double digits.

WEST VIRGINIA
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: WVU quarterback commitment David Sills had a terrific weekend, accounting for seven touchdowns in his team’s 58-56 overtime win over Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Cowboys' sustainability to be tested

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
9:30
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STILLWATER, Okla. -- In 2007, Oklahoma State opened Mike Gundy’s third season as coach on the road against Georgia.

The Cowboys lost by three touchdowns, but the defeat marked the launch of one of college football’s most successfully sustainable programs since.

Over the past seven seasons, Oklahoma State has more wins than the Bulldogs. More wins than Michigan, Notre Dame, Texas and Florida, too.

And only four wins fewer than the defending national champion Florida State Seminoles, who the Cowboys open with this weekend.

[+] EnlargeMike Gundy
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsOklahoma State coach Mike Gundy enters the season with an inexperienced lineup, but his program has surpassed expectations before.
But Oklahoma State’s program sustainability will be put to the test this season.

No power five conference school has fewer returning starters this season than the Cowboys’ nine. Oklahoma State will be starting a trio of new receivers. The secondary is mostly green. Same with the offensive line. The linebacking corps, too. And though junior quarterback J.W. Walsh has been around, he has never fully been the guy before, either.

With all that to overcome, can the Cowboys avoid a rebuilding season and cement their elite sustainability by simply reloading yet again?

"We’re going to find out," Gundy said. "I think there are some really talented players on this team. They just don’t have any experience. And until you get out there and do it, you don’t know what to expect."

It won’t take long for the Pokes to find out just what kind of team they have.

Florida State returns the bulk of a squad that mowed through the competition on the way to capturing the national championship. Reigning Heisman winner Jameis Winston is back at quarterback for the Seminoles, who could wind up being double-digit favorites against every one of their regular-season opponents.

"We’ve embraced this game," Gundy said. "We’re playing the best team in the country. We’re playing the best player in the country. This will give us a good idea where we’re at -- what a great opportunity."

Seven years ago in Athens, Georgia, the Cowboys discovered they weren’t quite ready to clash with the premier clubs in college football. Oklahoma State hung tough in the first half, but was outclassed in the second, as Georgia's combination of quarterback Matthew Stafford and running back Knowshon Moreno propelled the Bulldogs to a 35-14 win against the Cowboys. Georgia went on to win the Sugar Bowl and finish 11-2.

Gundy cautioned that these Seminoles are at a different level than the 2007 Bulldogs. But after 66 wins, pristine facilities and better recruiting classes, these Cowboys are at a different level than the 2007 Cowboys, too.

"We were a more experienced team back then -- we weren’t in the situation we are now from an inexperienced standpoint," Gundy said. "This is the most difficult year we’ve had when it comes to returning players.

"But the players competing now, two years from now could very well be more talented as a group than what was there (in 2007)."

The Cowboys, however, don’t have two years. They only have a few days. And armed with just a couple dozen players who have actually stepped on a field in a big-time college atmosphere, this is the most monumental retooling effort Gundy’s staff has ever faced in Stillwater.

"This is, by far, the most inexperienced defensive unit I’ve ever taken into a game," said coordinator Glenn Spencer, Gundy’s now longest-tenured assistant. "It’s a different year for us. We have a lot of players that are inexperienced, and they’re learning on the run."

But Oklahoma State has precedent for defying preseason expectations despite inexperience.

Going into 2010, only Bowling Green, East Carolina and Colorado State had fewer returning starters than the Cowboys. Some prognosticators even picked Oklahoma State to finish dead last in the Big 12 South. Nobody had heard of receiver Justin Blackmon. Few knew who quarterback Brandon Weeden was, either.

But behind the most prolific pass-catching duo in school history, the Cowboys reeled off 11 wins to finish in a tie atop the South standings.

"We’re a winning team -- that’s the attitude around here," said linebacker Ryan Simmons. "The new guys that haven’t had a chance, it’s their time now. We’re definitely a young team, but it’s a reloading year. We have the guys to get the job done."

In the past few years, only a handful of programs have proven they have the sustainability to produce winning teams every year, no matter what. Bedlam rival Oklahoma is one of those programs. Oregon, Ohio State, Alabama, LSU and Florida State are a few of the others.

The odds are stacked against the Cowboys becoming a winning team again this season. The odds are even longer that Oklahoma State will be competitive against the vaunted Seminoles.

But since that Georgia opener seven years ago, the Cowboys have proven their program is on solid ground. This season, they have the chance to prove their sustainability is among the elite, too.

Big 12 morning links

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
8:00
AM CT
It's game week...
  • David Ash is focused on quieting critics who thought he should quit. According to Jimmy Burch of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas' QB has used Eric Liddell, whose story is depicted in the 1981 film Chariots of Fire, as inspiration. It's a good thing for the Longhorns that Ash never quit, despite suffering from concussion issues that sidelined him for most of the 2013 season. Texas has no real other options at the moment at quarterback, with Tyrone Swoopes too raw and Jerrod Heard too young. The Longhorns are in good shape at most other positions. But whether Ash can stay healthy and play consistent will go a long way in determining whether Texas will contend for the Big 12 title in Charlie Strong's first season.
  • Both Texas Tech and TCU released their Week 1 depth charts over the weekend. The Horned Frogs' two-deep brought no clarity to the quarterback position, as Trevone Boykin and Matt Joeckel are listed as co-starters. Running backs B.J. Catalon, Kyle Hicks, Aaron Green and Trevorris Johnson are actually listed as co-starters as well. It will be interesting to see whether new coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie actually utilize four running backs in their system. The biggest surprise in TCU's depth chart , however, came at defensive end, where Mike Tuaua and Josh Carraway were listed as starters ahead of Terrell Lathan and James McFarland. Lathan was actually listed ahead of Devonte Fields in the spring. McFarland played in every game last season, while Carraway redshirted. With Fields gone, defensive end is probably the biggest question mark on the defense. But the Horned Frogs seem to have four players they think they can rely on.
  • The most intriguing storyline with Tech's depth chart was at cornerback, where true freshman Tevin Madison won a starting job opposite sophomore Justis Nelson. Madison beat out fellow freshman Jah'Shawn Johnson. With three starting sophomores and Madison, the Red Raiders are going to be extremely young in the secondary this season. But there's talent there -- and more on the way once true freshman Nigel Bethel II serves out his three-game suspension.
  • The Charleston Daily Mail's Mike Casazza wonders whether West Virginia can mimic the Oklahoma team that beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. The Mountaineers are the biggest underdog among Power Five conference teams this weekend. Alabama is almost a four-touchdown favorite. One point Casazza makes is that West Virginia is similar in scheme to the Sooners offensively, which in theory could place the same pressure on the Alabama defense. It wasn't scheme, however, that placed pressure on the Crimson Tide. It was QB Trevor Knight, who had a career night with 348 yards and four touchdowns. For West Virginia to hang with Alabama, QB Clint Trickett is going to have to deliver a career night himself. Sure, the Mountaineers will also have to force the Crimson Tide into mistakes with pressure. And West Virginia's experienced linebacking crew is going to have to hold up against Alabama's physical rushing attack. But the Mountaineers only stand a chance if Trickett takes care of the ball while producing explosive plays, just the way Knight did.
  • Speaking of Oklahoma, the big news over the weekend was the NCAA shooting down the Sooners' request for a waiver that would have made wideout Dorial Green-Beckham eligible to play immediately. Oklahoma was considered to be the Big 12 favorite long before Green-Beckham transferred in from Missouri over the summer. And the primary reasons that made the Sooners a playoff contender previously are still in place. But DGB would have solidified the one question mark on this team: experienced playmaking at the wide receiver position. The Sooners still have three-year starter Sterling Shepard. But he is a slot receiver who operates underneath the coverage. DGB would have complemented Shepard perfectly and given Knight a lethal weapon downfield and in the red zone. Instead, Oklahoma will have to settle for relying on several unproven players at the skill positions.

Unproven receivers a concern for Sooners

August, 22, 2014
Aug 22
10:35
PM CT
video Trevor Knight's job just got harder.

Oklahoma announced Missouri transfer Dorial Green-Beckham will not be eligible to play for the Sooners in 2014 after his waiver request to make the receiver immediately eligible was denied by the NCAA on Friday.

Now Knight, the Sooners starting quarterback, is left with junior Sterling Shepard as his lone proven receiver to target heading into this season. Shepard had 51 receptions for 603 yards and seven touchdowns a year ago. The rest of the receivers on the Sooners' roster combined for 17 receptions for 228 yards in 2013.

The Sooners were hoping Green-Beckham would become eligible to provide a proven playmaker on the outside after the 6-foot-6, 225 pound receiver had 59 receptions for 883 yards and 12 touchdowns for Missouri in 2013 before his dismissal last spring.

[+] EnlargeDorial Green-Beckham
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiThe Sooners will have to be without receiver Dorial Green-Beckham for the season.
Instead, Shepard will enter the season as Knight's No. 1 target and the clear focus of opposing secondaries. It's an unproven but talented group of receivers that will have to step up if the Sooners hope to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff this fall.

Much of the burden is likely to fall upon Durron Neal, the second-leading returning receiver on the roster. Neal was an Army All-American when he arrived on campus but has yet to fulfill those high expectations with 18 career receptions for 251 yards in his first two seasons.

"I think we have some real stability with Shepard and Neal on the perimeter," receivers coach Jay Norvell said earlier this week. "Then we've got some young guys, K.J. Young and Michiah Quick, that are kind of coming on in the slot."

Sophomore Derrick Woods is another receiver the Sooners are counting on to become an impact player on offense for the first time in his career after a redshirt freshman season that featured just two receptions for 29 yards including a clutch third-down reception in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

"We could play with Derrick Woods as a starter," Norvell said. "There's no question and feel confident doing that. He's been in the fire. He made a huge play in the Sugar Bowl and the one thing about that kid, you get him in a competitive situation, he really responds."

A portion of the onus could also fall upon covered tight end Blake Bell, who made the switch from quarterback in January with an eye on becoming an big target for Knight.

Keep an eye on a pair of redshirt freshmen who will get more opportunities with Green-Beckham out of the equation. Jordan Smallwood, who has impressed since he arrived on campus in the summer of 2013 but was forced into a redshirt season by a broken foot in the preseason a year ago, and K.J. Young, who has emerged as an potential impact player in the slot for the Sooners, have both used a redshirt year in 2013 to put themselves in position to make an impact this fall.

"K.J.'s just playing a lot faster," Norvell said. "He really has an understanding of what we want him to do inside. He's playing really fast, roaring off the football. That's a big thing here at Oklahoma. We really stress coming off the ball and playing with speed, and when you watch guys like Kenny Stills and Jalen Saunders, when those guys played, they roared off the football, and K.J.'s starting to get that."

Incoming freshman Michiah Quick is another player who could see his role expand with Shepard's ability to play in the slot or on the outside allowing the Sooners to move Shepard around with a goal of getting their top three or four receivers on the field.

It's clear the Sooners like their talent at receiver but it is largely unproven. OU's season opener against Louisiana Tech on Aug. 30 and second-non conference game against Tulsa on Sept. 6 will be critical for the Sooners offense to figure out which receivers can be counted on heading into their home matchup with Tennessee on Sept. 13.
This week we've highlighted the key position battles for every program in the Big 12. We conclude the series with Oklahoma’s safety battle.

Here's where the battle stands:

Contenders: sophomore Ahmad Thomas, sophomore Hatari Byrd, freshman Steven Parker.

What happened last season: Returning starter Quentin Hayes and departed starter Gabe Lynn were a solid safety duo for the Sooners in 2013. They combined for 133 tackles and six interceptions. Hayes' versatility was an asset during his first season as a starter, and Lynn provided a veteran presence during his first and only season at safety.

Byrd saw limited duty as a true freshman but was solid in his lone extended action against Tulsa after an injury forced Lynn out of that early-season contest.

Thomas got better and better as the season went along. He was a core member of OU’s special teams and worked himself into the defensive rotation late in the season.

Parker arrived on campus this summer as the No. 139 player in the ESPN 300 for the Class of 2014.

Replacing Lynn has been a focus for the Sooners this offseason. Lynn and cornerback Aaron Colvin are the lone starters OU’s defense must replace heading into this season.

What they offer: It’s quite possible the Sooners’ safeties will be even better this fall, as all three contenders for playing time at the position appear to be securing themselves roles in the defense.

Thomas and Byrd have been so good that Hayes has migrated into the nickelback slot vacated by Julian Wilson, who has moved to cornerback to replace Colvin. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Thomas and Byrd alongside each other at safety this season, with Parker battling to earn time with the first team while providing a quality backup option.

Byrd is a fierce hitter with leadership traits that should allow him to develop into an important voice in the secondary. He’s made a clear jump from his freshman to sophomore season.

Thomas appears to be on the road to stardom. He can do it all in the secondary with good range, instincts and playmaking ability from his safety spot.

OU coaches have praised Parker as one of the most prepared freshmen they’ve seen, and he could force his way onto the field with his versatility and coverage skills.

Prediction: The Sooners will not only replace Lynn, they will use three safeties on the field at the same time quite a bit this fall. The emergence of the young safeties have made it easier to replace Colvin with Wilson’s move from nickelback to cornerback and Hayes' move from safety to nickelback. It’s all been done with an effort to get the Sooners' best 11 players on the field. OU’s safeties could be both younger and better in 2014 than they were in 2013.
He has to deal with them every Saturday, so TCU safety Sam Carter would know better than most.

"The Big 12 is a quarterback league," the Horned Frogs senior said. "When the game is on the line, the ball will be in the air."

Yet the Big 12 seemed to lose its way a year ago.

Outside of the exploits of Baylor’s Bryce Petty or Texas Tech’s true freshman duo of Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield, quarterbacking in the conference took a clear step backward.

The Bears and Red Raiders were the only Big 12 teams that finished in the top 25 in the FBS in passing yards or averaged more than 300 passing yards per game. Two seasons ago, in 2012, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia joined Baylor and Tech in the top 10 in that category and averaged at least 330 passing yards per contest.

[+] EnlargeTrevor Knight
Chuck Cook/USA TODAY SportsTrevor Knight is one of several unproven Big 12 quarterbacks who have flashed plenty of potential.
But conference coaches don’t expect the downward trend to continue indefinitely.

"I think time will take care of that," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. "There were so many years with top-notch guys that got drafted. It’s the same schools, recruiting the same kids, being coached by the same guys and playing the same type of ball in the Big 12 for the last decade and a half. Time will tell."

Petty is the unquestioned face of Big 12 quarterbacks heading into 2014, the guy every team in the conference would love to call its own. He’s an ultraproductive, experienced leader who still has room to grow as a senior. Alongside Petty, the league features young talents led by Tech’s Webb and OU’s Trevor Knight. Kansas State’s Jake Waters, Kansas’ Montell Cozart and West Virginia’s Clint Trickett are other Big 12 quarterbacks who entered preseason camp as clear starters at their respective schools and still have room to grow as quarterbacks.

"I just think they have to get older," Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said of the Big 12’s return to prominence at quarterback. "I don’t think it’s anything other than that. You have some stars that are younger guys getting broken in in this league. They’re a year older, year wiser. You had such a good run of three or four years, now it’s these guys’ chance."

That run is well-documented. No league supplied the NFL with more first- or second-round picks in the past five NFL drafts then the Big 12. Six quarterbacks who played in the conference have been drafted in the first two rounds since 2010, including a No. 1 overall pick in Oklahoma's Sam Bradford. The SEC and Pac-12 are tied for second with three apiece during that span.

The trend slowed a bit in recent years, as former West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith is the lone quarterback who played in the Big 12 to be drafted in the first two rounds in the past two drafts. But Petty, who enters the season as Mel Kiper's top-ranked senior quarterback, could hear his name called in Round 1 or 2 of the 2015 NFL draft, while Knight or Webb could find themselves in a similar position if their development continues during the rest of their careers.

Petty's proactive nature has helped cement his reputation as the Big 12's top quarterback, as he has refused to be satisfied with the accolades he earned a year ago. The Midlothian, Texas, native spent some of his offseason with quarterback guru George Whitfield, who has played a key role in Petty’s development. Petty says he would recommend time with Whitfield to any young quarterback looking to excel in the Big 12.

"When we have breaks, I want to work," Petty said. "A lot of times, because of NCAA regulations, I can’t do that with my coach [at Baylor], so Coach Whitfield is kind of my outlet to keep working."

It’s an approach Kansas coach Charlie Weis understands. The veteran coach believes the quarterback position has been in need of better coaching, be it individual quarterbacks coaches or more detailed coaching at their school, for years.

"I think the quarterback position used to be the most undercoached position, of all positions, even though it's the most important," Weis said. "Usually it’s because the title of quarterbacks coach almost always went to the offensive coordinator who has to worry about every single position. I think having a quarterbacks coach helps every offensive coordinator invaluably. It’s easily the most important position on your team."

Improved coaching is just one aspect. Simple game experience is another. The value of playing games in the conference is just as invaluable. At this time a year ago, none of Big 12’s top quarterbacks in 2013 were proven commodities.

"Each and every year, there have been guys emerge that were ‘no name’ guys because of youth or inexperience. Or they just hadn’t matured or developed yet," Holgorsen said. "We have some young guys that will make a name for themselves, probably starting this year."

Petty went from unproven to Heisman Trophy candidate and Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year. Webb was a true freshman fighting for a job, and Knight was about to be named OU’s starting signal-caller. Twelve months later, that trio represents the Big 12’s biggest hope for a return to the forefront of the elite quarterback landscape in college football.

"I think our league has a reputation and commitment to throw the football," OU co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said. "And because of that, we develop quarterbacks in our league, and I think we’ll see a strong group this year."

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