Colleges: Bo Davis
So what separates the two leagues? TCU coach Gary Patterson was asked the question this weekend. He's a Big 12 newcomer, and his answer confirms what you've probably heard before, but from one more source.
"There are a lot of good players every where else. If you look at the NFL per capita, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi they put out more NFL players than anywhere else in the country," Patterson told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "It's the body types in the regions of the United States that make a difference, too. You are going to find the skill players, but what we don't have as much in this state is the size of bodies of offensive and defensive linemen that the southeast part of the United States has. It's the gene pool."
I agree with Patterson. In the high-stakes games we've seen in the past few years, beefy linemen like Nick Fairley at Auburn and Marcell Dareus at Alabama have proved too much for spread offenses like Oregon and Texas.
But for those across the Big 12, Patterson's latter comments should be cause for concern.
Texas brought Bo Davis from Alabama to coach the team's defensive tackles and Stacy Searels to coach the offensive line. This year, both Davis and Searels will have junior-college transfers to coach.
Traditionally, the more mature-bodied talents show up on campus ready to contribute and have been staples of championship SEC defenses.
Texas' Brandon Moore has been described by teammates as "unstoppable" this offseason. Apparently, word has gotten out.
"Alabama is playing with 350-pound guys. Like the guy who just transferred to Texas; he's 6-7, 340. They ain't had 6-7, 340 guy forever that can run like he does," Patterson said. "(The state of Texas) has skill players. It doesn't matter whether it's 1-A or 5-A, they can all run. I'm not knocking what we do here at all. It's just a different body type."
Patterson's right, but could Texas be the first step in a changing game? Moore and offensive lineman Donald Hawkins are just the first.
Will they be the last? If either has a big impact, you better believe there's no way others won't follow suit, and we could see a whole lot of Big 12 teams gunning for those highly recruited jucos in the South.
Another spring camp is opening, and it's time to take a closer look. Today, the Texas Longhorns get started.
Schedule: Practice starts today leading up to the spring game on April 1. Practices are closed to fans and media, though the team will have two open practices, a change from last year, when all 15 practices were closed.
What's new: Not much, as opposed to last year, when the answer was "almost everything." The Longhorns' staff all returned for 2012 after Mack Brown shook up his staff and replaced six assistant coaches after going 5-7 in 2010. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz will have to replace defensive leaders Emmanuel Acho, Blake Gideon and Keenan Robinson, but the offense returns 10 starters, including both quarterbacks, David Ash and Case McCoy.
New faces: Quarterback Connor Brewer joins the fold, but the biggest news may have been a shift in recruiting philosophy with new assistants on staff with SEC ties. The Longhorns took a junior college signee for the first time since 2002. Offensive line coach Stacy Searels came from Georgia last season and will have offensive tackle Donald Hawkins from Mississippi to work with. Meanwhile, defensive tackles coach Bo Davis (Alabama) will work with Brandon Moore from Alabama.
Big shoes to fill: Linebacker Jordan Hicks. The Ohio native and No. 1 linebacker in the 2010 class made 55 tackles last season, but without Robinson and Acho, it's Hicks' time in Austin this year. Look out for a big year, and that starts this spring. He's battled through a broken foot, but if he can stay healthy, the sky is the limit for the 6-foot-2, 235-pounder who has added 20 pounds since leaving high school.
Don't forget about: Receiver Mike Davis. He was the team's top target this time last year, but had a slightly disappointing sophomore season and Jaxon Shipley surpassed him as the Longhorns' top receiver. Davis is very talented, though. He and Shipley could both be stars, but don't rule out Davis surging this spring. He turned the coaching staff's collective head last year.
Breaking out: Quandre Diggs was part of the freshman invasion at Texas last year, and he could have made a case for being the best freshman in the Big 12. He's a shutdown corner ready to become a star. In a league with the type of offensive talent the Big 12 has, his skills are invaluable. Don't rule out the sophomore cracking the All-America team next year.
All eyes on: Texas' quarterback battle. Texas will be best off if Ash asserts himself and boxes out McCoy with a strong spring, but there's no guarantee that happens. Ash's physical attributes (size, speed, arm strength) give him a much higher upside than his counterpart, but for now they amount to just that: upside. The two had comparable numbers in 2011 and neither was solid. Will we see separation this spring?
The Longhorns grabbed one more ESPNU 150 signee in defensive end Torshiro Davis, who had been committed to LSU since Feb. 3, 2011.
Davis (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) is the No. 12 defensive end and No. 77 prospect overall in the ESPNU 150.
From William Wilkerson at HornsNation:
The Longhorns have long been on Davis' radar because of the relationship he has with Texas defensive tackles coach Bo Davis. The two met at an Alabama summer camp the summer going into Torshiro's sophomore year when Bo Davis was the Crimson Tide's defensive ends coach.
The two have maintained a close bond since then, as Torshiro has always appreciated the straightforward approach Bo Davis has given him.
However, this decision comes as a surprise if you consider that Bo Davis called former Woodlawn coach DeCarlos Holmes to cancel a scheduled in-home visit on Jan. 23.
"He's going to LSU," Holmes told HornsNation. "The coach said they're not going to waste any more time and they're going to let him honor his commitment and basically they're not going to keep trying to beat a dead horse."
So much for that.
A huge pickup for yet another huge class for Texas.
Davis became the fourth player since Saturday to switch his non-binding verbal pledge to Texas. Dalton Santos (Van, Texas/Van) switched over from Tennessee. Daje Johnson (Pflugerville, Texas/Hendrickson) flipped from TCU and Bryce Cottrell (Plano, Texas/West) switched over from Oregon.
The Longhorns now have 12 of the nation's top 150 prospects in their class.
Davis had been the defensive line coach at Alabama. He worked under Saban for eight of the last nine years at Alabama, LSU and the Miami Dolphins.
"He is a tremendous young coach who brings energy, enthusiasm and toughness to our program," Texas head coach Mack Brown said.
"He's a guy I've really respected and enjoyed getting to know," Davis said of Brown. "He and Coach Saban are legends in this sport. Just to have the chance to work with coaches like that is something any coach in America would want to experience."
On Sunday, Texas hired Darrell Wyatt as wide receivers coach/co-recruiting coordinator.
Coming off a disappointing 5-7 season, the Longhorns are still in the market for new offensive and defensive coordinators.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Kirk Herbstreit joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss Bob Stoops' recent comments about the SEC and the pending college football playoff, what appears to be an unpredictable Big 12 in 2013, how the Aggies will handle expectations and more.
Play Podcast Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin talks about the improvements being made to Kyle Field, what those improvements will to for the program, the success of last year, Johnny Manziel's offseason and the expectations for the Aggies in 2013.
Play Podcast Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Russillo talk about Texas A&M's decision to expand its stadium and say although the Aggies had a fantastic year, the school must also be careful not to overextend its resources based on a single hot stretch.
Play Podcast Baylor head coach Art Briles joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss what kind of player the Cowboys are getting in Terrance Williams.
Play Podcast Arlington and Texas A&M product Luke Joeckel, the potential No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Richard Durrett to discuss the draft, coaches and advice from his dad.
Play Podcast Florida Gulf Coast athletic director Ken Kavanagh joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss his school's Cinderella story and playing in the Sweet 16 at Cowboys Stadium.
Play Podcast Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby joins Fizsimmons & Durrett to discuss Cowboys Stadium as a venue, the state of Big 12 basketball, the new 2014 college football format, why there's no hurry to have a Big 12 football championship and much more.
Play Podcast Jay Bilas joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the remaining 16 teams in the NCAA tournament, the intrigue surrounding the Northwest Region and the excitement over FGCU, even though a similar story happens every year.