Dallas Colleges: Bob Stoops

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.”

Bob Stoops rides on Sooner Schooner

August, 15, 2014
Aug 15
1:41
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Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione has plans to place food trucks on campus to feed the Sooners' student-athletes. But it's doubtful any of those trucks will be as cool the one the football team ate from Friday.

At the end of practice, coach Bob Stoops rode in on the Sooner Schooner wearing a cowboy hat and wielding a Ruf/Nek shotgun. He also brought with him some frozen treats for the players.

Big 12 weekend takeaways

August, 4, 2014
Aug 4
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Over the weekend, six of the Big 12 schools opened fall camps and opened up their coaches and players to the media.

Here are some of my takeaways from the weekend:

Texas Tech could have its run-stuffer

Due to injuries and a lack of depth, Texas Tech struggled to stop the run all last season and finished ninth in the league in run defense. With defensive interior linemen Dartwan Bush and Kerry Hyder gone from last year’s club, Texas Tech desperately needed to add an impact player up front during the offseason to stabilize its porous run defense.

The Red Raiders, however, might have found such a player in mammoth junior college noseguard Rika Levi, whose size and strength has been generating plenty of buzz in Lubbock this summer. Levi was also the talk of Tech’s media day on Sunday.

“He’s a guy that the strength staff really, really likes,” defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt said. “He’s a voice in the weight room, he’s a voice in the locker room and he’s a voice on the field pushing guys.”

According to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Levi arrived on campus weighing 362, but he has since slimmed down 14 pounds, which could be crucial to keeping him on the field.

“I think in his career, he’s been maybe as high as 390,” Wallerstedt told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. “If we can get him into the low-340 range, you may have a guy that can play not just first and second down, but could help us all three downs.”

One of Tech’s biggest needs going into this season was a three-down run stuffer. The Red Raiders just might have found their man.

Boykin not giving up QB job without a fight

It remains unclear whether Trevone Boykin will be at quarterback or wide receiver this season. But Boykin, who is in the best shape of his life according to coach Gary Patterson, has done everything within his power to prove he should be TCU’s starting quarterback.

“From just working out, eating right, living right, watching film, staying out of trouble, leading guys on and off the field, being in front of the summer workouts -- stuff that quarterbacks are supposed to do, but that not necessarily all of them do,” he said during TCU’s media day on Sunday, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Some people lead by example, and some are more vocal. I’ve tried to become both.”

Co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie said the Horned Frogs would like to settle in on one quarterback. And Texas A&M transfer Matt Joeckel has more experience operating the offense Cumbie and co-coordinator Doug Meacham are installing.

Joeckel, however, has a fight on his hands.

West Virginia’s freshman trio impressing

While they’ve struggled on the field their first two years in the Big 12, the Mountaineers have been rolling on the recruiting trail. In its most recent signing class, West Virginia landed three elite prospects in defensive back Dravon Henry, quarterback William Crest and running back Donte Thomas-Williams who have all impressed since arriving in Morgantown.

Henry figures to push for a starting role at free safety, just like cornerback Daryl Worley did as a true freshman last year.

“He's ahead of the curve for a true freshman, that's for sure,” Dana Holgorsen said during West Virginia’s camp-opening news conference.

The backfield is crowded for Thomas-Williams, but the “sky is the limit” for him, position coach JaJuan Seider noted after getting a glimpse of him in practice.

Crest is still adjusting to the speed of the college game, but the talent is undeniable.

“He's big, he's fast, he's strong, and he's got a good arm,” Holgorsen said. “There's a reason we recruited him for three years.”

All three freshmen have the potential to emerge into cornerstone pieces for the Mountaineers in time.

Oklahoma embracing defensive status

With the return of tackle Jordan Phillips from injury and the addition of promising redshirt freshmen Matt Romar and Charles Walker to the rotation, the Sooners should be deep and athletic up front. The entire linebacking corps returns, headlined by pass-rushing menace Eric Striker. And while the secondary has questions, Zack Sanchez is one of the top returning corners in the league.

Coach Bob Stoops said the returning experience has made a huge difference in how the Sooners have approached this preseason defensively.

"There's no comparison. A year ago on these first three days we were just implementing a basic 3-4 defense,” he said. “Now our guys have had a whole year in it and they understand with each play how we want to play against that particular play. We have our different wrinkles to blitz one way or another to try and screw up blocking schemes. All that together is a big deal. A year ago you're just figuring out all that. We've had a long time to study and work it, and our players now are comfortable with it and we're comfortable with if somebody's doing a certain thing, here are our wrinkles to take care of it and all the kids know how we want to handle it as opposed to a year ago figuring all that out."

"We have a chance to be pretty good, yeah.”

Senior transfer could boost Cowboys

The Oklahoma State defense got a boost last year from senior transfer cornerback Tyler Patmon. The Cowboys are banking on getting another boost from another senior transfer in safety Josh Furman, who arrived in Stillwater by way of Michigan.

“He’s a bigger safety and we’ll play him at our star linebacker position,” defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said Saturday. “We brought him in, that was the goal, to get him ready to play that position.”

The “star” is essentially Oklahoma State’s nickelback spot, where the Cowboys have a giant void due to Shaun Lewis’ graduation.

"He's going to fit in perfectly,” safety Tre Flowers said. “He's going to keep working and he's going to help the team out."

Strong will be relying on freshmen

Texas coach Charlie Strong confirmed on Sunday the dismissal of five players and the suspension of three others. That will leave the Longhorns with 10 fewer scholarship players than the NCAA’s 85-man limit. And will leave Strong reliant on incoming freshmen to replenish some of the depth.

Two spots freshmen will have the opportunity to earn time will be at running back and receiver. Through the dismissals and suspensions, the Longhorns lost five players from those offensive skill spots.

“A freshman can handle the skill positions,” Strong countered. “It’s all about speed and athletic ability. You can get those guys out there and they can get up to speed.”

The Longhorns still have veteran cogs at the offensive skill positions in Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Jaxon Shipley. But it appears the depth at running back and receiver will be supplied by freshmen this season.

Best case, worst case: Oklahoma

June, 20, 2014
Jun 20
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On Monday, we started our series on the best-case and worst-case scenarios for each Big 12 team.

The premise of these fun posts is to take a look at what the season might look like if everything fell into place for each school, the best-case scenario for 2014. Conversely, we'll also show what might happen if everything goes wrong, the worst-case scenario.

We continue the series with Oklahoma.

BEST CASE

The Sugar Bowl never ended.

[+] EnlargeTrevor Knight
Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY SportsTrevor Knight certainly played like a Heisman Trophy contender in the Sugar Bowl.
OK, well, that’s taking things a bit far, but the Sooners open the season as if their 45-31 thrashing of Alabama is destined to end up on the lower end of their list of accomplishments in 2014.

OU begins the 2014 season with three consecutive wins, including a 30-point home blowout of Tennessee, its second win over an SEC team in four games. Bob Stoops’ postgame news conference lasts less than a minute as the Sooners’ veteran coach, tired of being asked about the SEC, says, “Maybe you guys should stop asking me about the SEC and start asking the SEC about me.” He promptly drops the mic and walks out.

Stoops' team rallies behind its CEO, winning three straight games away from home with West Virginia, TCU and Texas each coming up short against the Sooners.

Trevor Knight starts to emerge as one of the Heisman Trophy frontrunners as the season hits the midway point. The sophomore is one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the nation, joining Bryce Petty as the driving force in restoring the Big 12’s reputation for elite quarterbacks.

Wins over Kansas State and Iowa State result in the Sooners entering a early November showdown with Baylor with an undefeated record. The labels for this battle are endless -- “offense vs. defense,” “old school vs. new school” and “tradition vs. up-and-coming” are just a few of the labels being attached to the showdown.

Much like the Sugar Bowl, OU’s defense wins the day against the Bears, with a late-game sack by Eric Striker sealing a Sooners victory. OU narrowly escapes an upset bid by Kliff Kingsbury’s Texas Tech squad then rattles off wins over Kansas and Oklahoma State, earning a CFB playoff berth.

Controversy overshadows OU’s semifinal win over Florida State after it is revealed that Sooners fans had been sending a pound of crab legs to Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston every day since the matchup was announced, and the Seminoles admit it became a distraction during playoff preparations. Sooners fans smile.

Oklahoma meets Auburn in the title game and the Sooners defense stands up to the test again, giving the Sooners their eighth national title. Knight ends the season as a Heisman Trophy finalist and clear frontrunner for 2015.

WORST CASE

After a 2-0 start, Tennessee comes into Oklahoma Memorial Stadium and gives the Sooners’ College Football Playoff hopes a major setback with an upset win. The “S-E-C, S-E-C” chant doesn’t go over well in Norman, and local politicians implement a policy shortly thereafter that outlaws the chant in Norman city limits.

Fans of SEC schools unite and send one fan to Norman every day for a year with the sole purpose of breaking that law. The social media account labeled “Started in the SEC now we here” documents the daily forays into the city and quickly jumps to 850,000 followers by mid-October.

Meanwhile, OU rallies with back-to-back victories over West Virginia and TCU before another Red River blowout at the hands of Charlie Strong’s Texas squad. Strong cements his popularity in Texas afterward by stating, “I thought it was going to be harder than this.”

The Sooners rattle off two more wins before Baylor comes into Norman and leaves with its third victory over OU in four seasons. Kingsbury’s squad hands the Sooners their second straight loss the following week.

OU enters Bedlam with a 7-4 mark and questions about what went wrong. Things get even worse for the Sooners as the Pokes leave Norman with an upset win, leaving the Sooners without bragging rights over the SEC, the Longhorns or Cowboys for the next year.

Sooners fans express their displeasure by purchasing only 5,000 tickets to the Texas Bowl, where OU saves a little face by knocking off Ole Miss in an ugly, turnover-filled game.

Previous posts

June 16: Baylor
June 17: Iowa State
June 18: Kansas
June 19: Kansas State

Big 12 teams as World Cup squads

June, 13, 2014
Jun 13
9:00
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Finally, football is back. Well, fútbol, actually.

The World Cup will consume sports fan across the globe for the next month, taking us right up to the outskirts of the college football season.

Many in Big 12 country know little about the World Cup, or what team to pull for outside the United States. So to give you soccer novices a rooting choice, we’ve come up with the fútbol counterparts for every team in the Big 12 (thanks to soccer aficionados Royce and Russ for their help in putting this list together):

BAYLOR

Belgium: Baylor has been the up-and-coming squad in the Big 12, winning its first conference title last year. The Belgians are the up-and-comers of this World Cup, and a popular sleeper pick to win it all. Both have lethal offensive attacks, but still must prove their staying power this year.

IOWA STATE

South Korea: On its home soil in 2002, South Korea pulled off three of the bigger upsets in World Cup history, knocking off Portugal, Italy and Spain to reach the quarterfinals. The Cyclones under coach Paul Rhoads have also been a giant killer at home, most recently upsetting second-ranked Oklahoma State to bounce the Cowboys from the 2011 national title race. With 21-year-old forward Son Heung-min leading the charge, South Korea boasts a potentially formidable offensive attack. And with nine offensive starters back this year, Iowa State has the chance to feature its best offense in a long time.

KANSAS

Australia: Both had their finest moments around the same time -- the Aussies advancing out of its World Cup group in 2006; the Jayhawks winning the Orange Bowl in 2007 -- but the hearts of both fan bases lie in another sport (basketball for Kansas, rugby for Australia).

KANSAS STATE

Greece: Greece is not flashy. But emulating the Bill Snyder playbook to success, the Greeks grind out victories (and ties) with stout defense, fundamental play and by avoiding mistakes. Like K-State, the Greeks have been defined by their coach (Otto Graham/Fernando Santos) more than any star player. And Greece’s improbable 2004 Euro Cup title run might be the soccer equivalent of K-State’s Manhattan Miracle.

OKLAHOMA

Germany: The Germans have been the epitome of consistent success, advancing to the semifinals in eight of the last 11 World Cups. The Sooners have matched that level of consistency during the Bob Stoops era, with eight conference titles and a dozen double-digit win seasons over the last 14 years.

OKLAHOMA STATE

Portugal: In recent years, both have piled up the wins and have featured plenty of star power. But they have failed to breakthrough when the spotlight has been the brightest. Portugal’s “golden generation” flopped in the 2002 World Cup, losing to the U.S. in the opener before failing to advance out of the group stage. Oklahoma State could have clinched the 2010 and 2013 Big 12 titles, but slipped at home against rival Oklahoma. The Cowboys and the Portuguese have also had to exist in the shadow of two preeminent powers in their sports (Sooners/Spain). Still they have become two clubs nobody wants to play, and have reached enviable levels of year-to-year success.

TCU

Uruguay: Uruguay is a small country surrounded by some of the giants in World Cup soccer. The same goes for TCU, which doesn’t have the enrollments or resources of the likes of Oklahoma or Texas. But just like Uruguay, TCU has carved out success with a hardnosed style of play. Furthermore, Uruguay won the first World Cup ever played in 1930, while both of TCU’s national championships came in the same decade (1935, 1938).

TEXAS

England: All the tradition, history and resources. And yet in recent years, these two have been massive underachievers. In South Africa in 2010, the English surrendered the top seed in its group to the Yanks, then got obliterated 4-1 by Germany in the first game of the knockout round. The Longhorns, meanwhile, have failed to win more than eight regular-season games the last four seasons. Because of these struggles, both squads are flying somewhat under the radar, and the talent is still there for either to ignite a run. But first, someone -- anyone -- has to light the fuse.

TEXAS TECH

Mexico: After an emotional roller-coaster ride through the qualifying stages, Mexico is feeling optimistic following a manageable World Cup draw and cleaner play of late. Texas Tech rode the roller coaster of a five-game losing streak last season, but is feeling confident these days coming off its dominating bowl performance against Arizona State.

WEST VIRGINIA

Ivory Coast: Les Éléphants bring the fireworks with Didier Drogba and Yaya Touré the same way the Mountaineers have through the Pat White and Geno Smith eras. But while West Virginia dominated the Big East the way Ivory Coast has Africa, neither has been able to take that next step against the big boys. In its first two appearances in the World Cup in 2006 and 2010, Ivory Coast failed to advance out of its group. Likewise, the Mountaineers have struggled their first two years in the Big 12. Both have the individual talents of a championship-caliber club, but neither will contend until the depth improves.
It's championship time.

For the past few weeks, we've taken a closer look at the 2014 Big 12 schedule during our Big 12's Ultimate Road Trip series. This week, we'll wrap up the series with the final stretch of the regular season.

To those unfamiliar with this series, we both pick a game featuring a Big 12 team in every week of the season that we’d cover if the travel budget were unlimited and there were no editors telling us where to go.

We’ll be basing our choices on several factors, including the quality of the matchup and the stakes that could be involved. The only restriction is that each of us can pick only one game per week.

Let’s continue with Week 11.

Nov. 8

Iowa State at Kansas
Kansas State at TCU
West Virginia at Texas
Baylor at Oklahoma

Jake Trotter’s pick: Baylor at Oklahoma

Where else would I be this weekend? This showdown could be for all the marbles in the Big 12, and possibly a de facto elimination game for inclusion in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

After the way Baylor whipped the Sooners in Waco last year, Memorial Stadium will be especially -- as Bob Stoops terms it -- “raucous” for what could be Oklahoma's biggest home game since second-ranked Texas Tech came to town in 2008. And the Sooners will be aiming to pay back Baylor the way they paid back Tech in that “jump around” 44-point blowout six years ago that catapulted Oklahoma into the national title game.

Of course, these Bears could be the best squad to waltz into Norman since the Graham Harrell-Michael Crabtree Red Raiders of '08. And with Eric Striker and Oklahoma’s attacking defense squaring up against Bryce Petty and Baylor’s big-play offense, this has all the makings of a Big 12 classic.

I’ll be starting the day at the Greek House on Campus Corner for a pregame gyro before dashing over to what should be one of the games of the year in all of college football.

Brandon Chatmon’s pick: Baylor at Oklahoma

The easiest pick of the year.

My preseason co-favorites square off at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium with the Sooners looking to avenge their 41-12 shellacking at the hands of Art Briles’ team in 2013 and the Bears looking to show everyone their Big 12 title run was no fluke.

NFL talent will be all over the field with Baylor quarterback-receiver duo Bryce Petty and Antwan Goodley going head-to-head with a stout Sooners defense led by Striker along with defensive ends Charles Tapper and Geneo Grissom.

What happens when the Sooners have the ball will likely decide the game, with the Bears' defense and Sooners' offense as the wild cards for each team heading into the fall. Oklahoma sophomore Trevor Knight will try to show he’s the best quarterback on the field despite Petty’s presence, and Baylor's defensive line will aim to affirm Briles’ belief that they’re among the nation’s top units.

Those two teams have split the last four meetings, with both squads winning twice at home. Could Baylor end the trend? I can’t wait to find out.

Big 12 lunchtime links

June, 9, 2014
Jun 9
11:00
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Michael Bradley makes a dream come true.

Big 12's Ultimate Road Trip: Week 3

May, 29, 2014
May 29
1:30
PM CT
The college football offseason is way too long. But we’re here to help with your suffering. With spring ball done and the season still months away, we’re giving you a taste of the 2014 season, with the long-awaited Big 12 Ultimate Road Trip series.

To those unfamiliar with this series, we both pick a game featuring a Big 12 team in every week of the season that we’d cover if the travel budget were unlimited and there were no editors telling us where to go.

We’ll be basing our choices on a number of factors, including the quality of the matchup and the stakes that could be involved. The only restriction is that each of us can pick only one game per week.

Let’s continue with Week 3.

Sept. 12-13

Baylor at Buffalo
West Virginia at Maryland
Kansas at Duke
Texas vs. UCLA (in Arlington, Texas)
UTSA at Oklahoma State
Minnesota at TCU
Iowa State at Iowa
Arkansas at Texas Tech
Tennessee at Oklahoma

Jake Trotter’s pick: Texas vs. UCLA (Arlington, Texas)

In Week 3, I’m headed to Arlington, Texas, to get a glimpse of what the Longhorns will be made of under coach Charlie Strong.

UCLA will likely be in the top 10 in the polls for this game, giving the Stronghorns a tremendous opportunity to earn back national respect.

Of course, such a difficult early-season schedule could also set the stage for another calamitous start for Texas.

With BYU the week before, and Big 12 co-favorites Baylor and Oklahoma looming the first two weeks of October, it’s not unthinkable the Longhorns could get off to a 2-4 start.

But a win over the Bruins could send a loud message that Texas is on the way back.

Brandon Chatmon’s pick: Tennessee at Oklahoma

I strongly considered a trip to Lubbock, Texas, to see the other SEC vs. Big 12 battle in Week 3, Arkansas at Texas Tech.

But the opportunity to see the Vols try to derail OU’s College Football Playoff hopes was too good to ignore.

This will be Trevor Knight's first opportunity on a big stage to prove his Sugar Bowl performance was no fluke but, instead, a sign of things to come. The sophomore played like a Heisman Trophy candidate in the Sugar Bowl win over Alabama but played like a redshirt freshman for much of the rest of his debut season in 2013. This game will show if he’s taking steps toward consistency.

Tennessee will have enough athletes to give the Sooners trouble if OU doesn’t bring its “A” game. And the Vols will be carrying SEC pride on their shoulders because, as a team that finished in the bottom half of the conference last fall, they are exactly the type of SEC squad OU coach Bob Stoops has questioned when wondering about the overall depth of the SEC.

The Vols can send a message or Stoops can say “I told you so.”

And I’ll be on hand to see it all.

Previous weeks:

Week 1: Trotter -- SMU at Baylor; Chatmon -- West Virginia vs Alabama (Atlanta)

Week 2: Trotter -- Kansas State at Iowa State; Chatmon -- Kansas State at Iowa State

Big 12 lunchtime links

May, 19, 2014
May 19
11:00
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"I'll send a nasty email about it." Good idea, those always work.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops' words are a small glimpse into the Sooners’ approach on the recruiting trail, which has helped land them several players who outperformed expectations during his tenure in Norman, Okla.

Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford, top-five NFL draft pick Lane Johnson and FBS all-time receptions leader Ryan Broyles are just a few players who exceeded the production of other highly regarded recruits in their class.

“We’re very aware when we see very good football players, and they may not have all the stars or may not fit any one particular position,” Stoops said during Tuesday’s Big 12 teleconference. “But we love the way they play, they’re smart, they have size, they can play multiple positions.”

OU may have found another one in its 2014 class. Fullback Dimitri Flowers, who enrolled early and participated in spring drills, has already started carving a role in the Sooners’ plans for 2014. Flowers could help fill the void left by Trey Millard, a four-year starter and critical contributor.

“This is the first guy in three years that we felt reminded us of Trey Millard because they aren’t easy to find,” Stoops said. “We get him on campus and he’s everything and more than we thought he would be. We’re elated with all the things he can do and how similar he is to Trey Millard and all the versatility Trey gave to us.”

Flowers spent a lot of time with the first-team offense during OU’s spring game before a injury knocked him out of the scrimmage. The hyper-extended knee is not expected to keep Flowers from participating in summer workouts or preseason camp.

If Flowers is as good as advertised he could team with returning fullback Aaron Ripkowski to give the Sooners a pair of quality blockers as they try to match their 223.9 rushing yards per game average from 2013.

Mayfield stars without regret

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
10:00
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He achieved perfection, all while making his dream come true.

Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield left the Oklahoma Memorial Stadium turf as the clear star of the spring game on Saturday. The former Texas Tech quarterback was 9 of 9 for 125 yards and two touchdowns during his first public appearance as a member of the Sooners. Mayfield was the Big 12 offensive freshman of the year at Texas Tech before electing to transfer to OU in January but is ineligible to play in 2014 due to transfer rules.

[+] EnlargeMayfield
Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY SportsFormer Texas Tech QB Baker Mayfield made a big impression with his performance in the Oklahoma spring game.
“He’s a guy that’s performing extremely well for the 14th day [in the program],” said offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, who also coaches the quarterbacks. “In our meeting room, he’s the most experienced guy. Obviously some of that [experience] wasn’t here but he performed in a great way. The guys in our program love him and we look forward to him being eligible whenever that is.”

Mayfield started seven games for the Red Raiders as a true freshman walk on a year ago, finishing with 2,315 passing yards with 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He grew up as an OU fan, despite living in Austin, Texas, sparking his decision to transfer and play for the Sooners.

“I’m disappointed for him that the rules don’t allow him to play (in 2014), but in the end he has been a great teammate to these guys and the staff,” head coach Bob Stoops said. “We all love him. He has fit in wonderfully here.”

Mayfield’s first spring as a Sooner has re-affirmed his decision. With Blake Bell's move to tight end and Kendal Thompson’s transfer, Mayfield got plenty of chances to show what he can do behind projected starting quarterback Trevor Knight. And he got to put on the crimson and cream jersey he admired as a youth. He capped it all off with his stellar spring game outing after approaching the spring game as his bowl game since he’s not expecting to see the field this fall.

“I was trying to make it like a game time experience for myself so that I’ll have that thought and mentality for the next time I have that experience,” he said. “I felt I did well, but there’s definitely stuff I need to work on. I’m patient enough. I think I’ll be OK. It’ll be rough, but I’ll get through it.”

A full season without games will be tough but it’s likely to pay dividends for the Sooners and Mayfield. He’s slated to run the scout team this fall, providing an unusually experienced signal caller to challenge Mike Stoops’ defense as it prepares for games during the 2014 season. Meanwhile, a superb OU defense will, undoubtedly, force Mayfield to continue to develop as a quarterback.

“I’ll get better and make them better too,” Mayfield said. “They’ll be doing their stuff, throwing blitzes at me, doing all sorts of things. That will only make me better.”

It’s not the ideal situation but Mayfield has no regrets, he’s enthusiastic about being a Sooner.

“I had the plan to come here because I wanted to win a national championship,” said Mayfield, who claimed he would have picked OU even if Bell and Thompson remained in the quarterback competition. “Whether it’s driving the defense on scout team or doing whatever. I grew up an OU fan, so I’m just trying to help out however I can.”

Spring game review: Oklahoma

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
9:00
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The excitement surrounding Oklahoma’s football program is night and day compared to a year ago. The Sooners announced 43,500 fans in attendance for their spring game on Saturday, a school record. Last year’s announced crowd was 29,200. With the Trevor Knight era fully underway, here’s a recap of OU’s spring game.

[+] EnlargeMayfield
Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY SportsFormer Texas Tech quarterback Baker Mayfield was impressive in the spring game.
Best offensive performance: Baker Mayfield stole the show, completing 9 of 9 pass attempts for 125 yards and two touchdowns. The former Texas Tech quarterback, who transferred to OU in January after earning Big 12 offensive freshman of the year honors last season, is ineligible for the 2014 season. Nonetheless, Mayfield outshined Knight, the Sooners’ projected starter this fall, with his flawless outing. Mayfield has Big 12 game experience, and it showed throughout the spring game. He’ll spend this fall giving OU’s defense fits while leading the scout team.

Best defensive performance: Linebacker Eric Striker looked like he was in midseason form with two sacks and one tackle for loss. Striker, who starred in OU’s Allstate Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama, picked up right where he left off. He continually got into the offensive backfield and appeared unblockable at times coming off the edge. He could be poised for a dominant junior season.

Best debut: True freshman Dimitri Flowers looks ready to help the offense immediately. One of the scariest scenes of the spring game was Flowers lying on the ground, clutching his knee. Fortunately for the Sooners, it was just a hyper-extended knee for the fullback/tight end hybrid. Flowers has impressed with his football IQ and receiving skills during his short time on campus as an early enrollee. He tied for the team high with four receptions and finished with 40 receiving yards. He should be a key contributor this fall.

Notable play: Sophomore linebacker Jordan Evans had the hit of the day against K.J. Young on a receiver screen. Evans’ hit popped the ball up in the air, allowing defensive tackle Jordan Wade to secure Knight’s lone interception of the day. It was a key play because Evans played with the No. 1 defense after returning starter Frank Shannon, OU's leading tackler in 2013, missed the game for personal reasons. Shannon's status remains unclear, so the Sooners could turn to Evans to be the man alongside Dominique Alexander this fall if Shannon is unable to return. Evans looked ready for the task on Saturday.

Developing storyline: OU’s defense clearly won the day. The Sooners are young, talented and versatile on that side of the ball, led by Striker and returning All-Big 12 defensive end Charles Tapper. OU’s secondary, a potential concern with the loss of two-time All-Big 12 cornerback Aaron Colvin, had a strong day in coverage, particularly the starting unit. Sophomore Dakota Austin was solid sliding into Colvin’s former spot opposite Zack Sanchez. If this unit continues to develop, it could be one of the best and more versatile defenses in the nation.

Biggest question answered: Few, if any, questions got answered. The defense was dominant, but that wasn't surprising, and nobody separated themselves in the running back derby or backup quarterback race. Keith Ford and Alex Ross will welcome true freshmen Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine into the running back competition this summer. At quarterback, Cody Thomas outperformed Justice Hansen, but didn’t put a stranglehold on the backup quarterback position heading into the summer. The best development of the game was a relatively injury-free outing.

Biggest question emerging: Which Knight will lead the Sooners in 2014? He didn't look like the Allstate Sugar Bowl MVP, going 5-of-14 for 53 yards and one interception. Evans' hit led to his lone pick, but he was inefficient and unproductive. The defense carries a large portion of the blame and the receiving corps, without top target Sterling Shepard and potential starter Durron Neal, also contributed to Knight's underwhelming spring finale. Knight knows he will have to perform much better for OU's national title dreams to approach reality.

Quotable: “I don’t know that you ever get anything answered in 15 practices. What I feel like is there has been improvement. Players that haven’t had a ton of experience have more now. We’ll build on it.” -- OU coach Bob Stoops

Mailbag: Best newcomers, hottest seats

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11
10:30
AM CT
We've been doing something different with Friday's Big 12 mailbag. From now on, we'll be including Twitter questions with the regular mailbag submissions. To submit a mailbag entry via Twitter, simply include the hashtag #big12mailbag. You also still can send in questions the traditional way here, too.

To the 'bag...
Trotter: So far, Oklahoma State running back/receiver Tyreek Hill, TCU safety Kenny Iloka and Kansas receiver Nick Harwell. With his speed, Hill could lead the league in all-purpose yards. Iloka is going to be a key piece in the best secondary in the Big 12. And Harwell should finally give the Jayhawks that go-to receiver they haven’t had since Dezmon Briscoe.

Trotter: The Cyclones get K-State in Ames the second week of the season, which could be a dangerous game for the Wildcats, who might get caught looking ahead to that Thursday night clash with Auburn. Another team that must pay heed is Oklahoma. The Sooners go to Iowa State the week before hosting Baylor in a game that could determine the Big 12 crown. OU can't afford to be looking ahead, either.

Trotter: I'm going to set it at 1 1/2, and I think I would actually bet the over. The Jayhawks are going to be better this season, and quite possibly good enough to steal two conference wins.

Trotter: Right now, the Red Raiders have one on campus, and that's well below the national average. I don't see an issue. The way Davis Webb has improved in the last five months, he's going to be the guy the next three seasons barring something unforeseen. That would still give Jarrett Stidham three seasons of eligibility to be the starter, if he redshirted next year. Patrick Mahomes will get this chances, too. Seems like what TTU is going to do is be really good at quarterback the next six years.

Trotter: I have no inside info here, but if the game is at 11 a.m. again, hit me up in the fall and I'll share with you my shortcut to the Texas State Fair.

Trotter: It was a move that had to be made. Sams is too talented to be standing on the sidelines. He's not going to instantly become an All-Big 12 receiver. But if they can devise ways to get Sams the ball in space, the move could work out well. I see Sams getting a lot of his touches through flares, screens, reverses and maybe a handoff or Wildcat formation here or there. If they can get Sams the ball 10 times a game, that will only help the K-State offense. Think Trevone Boykin in TCU's offense late last year. That's how I see Sams best fitting in.

Trotter: Playing? Yes. Starting? No. I think Williams ultimately favors one side of the ball. The most likely scenario is he still keeps a major role at running back, then gives coordinator Matt Wallerstedt 15-20 plays at outside linebacker, which is more than I would have predicted at the beginning of the spring. Williams can really help the defense, but not at the expense of playing 130 snaps.

Trotter: Bob Stoops, Art Briles, Mike Gundy, Bill Snyder and Gary Patterson have ironclad job security. Paul Rhoads and Kliff Kingsbury have nothing to worry about, either, and Charlie Strong is too new to have to worry (though in Austin, that could change fast). That leaves Charlie Weis and Dana Holgorsen, whose seats are warmest among Big 12 coaches. I think Weis just has to show improvement this season. He can't go 0-12. Holgorsen is the most interesting to watch. Considering the brutal schedule, it's very possible West Virginia is better than last year and still goes 5-7, which might not be enough for Holgorsen to keep his job. But if the Mountaineers go, say, 7-5 against that slate, then I would think Holgorsen would be deserving of another year. West Virginia has been recruiting at an impressive clip, and the schedule will line up more favorably in 2015.


jrodxc07 in Dallas writes: Jake, love the blog, nice work sir. I think you could make a case for incoming Baylor receiver K.D. Cannon as Offensive Newcomer of the Year. Can you explain why you left him off your list?

Trotter: Appreciate it, sir. Cannon was actually on the poll for Offensive Freshman of the Year two weeks ago. The newcomer poll was for transfers, which is why you didn't see him there.


I only care about the Big 12 writes: Please go ahead and give us your way-too early power rankings? That is, if you haven't already...

Trotter: I actually released a power poll in January that went this way: OU, Baylor, K-State, Texas, Oklahoma State, Tech, TCU, Iowa State, West Virginia, Kansas. I'll be updating it, though, after spring ball concludes.
NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma is dreaming of a national title run that would make its Allstate Sugar Bowl destruction of Alabama an afterthought.

If that dream turns into reality, the Sooners will likely have their defensive line to thank. As the defensive line went, so went the Sooners in 2013, as the group sparked the Sugar Bowl win yet faltered in OU’s losses to Baylor and Texas.

[+] EnlargeGeneo Grissom
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesOklahoma's Geneo Grissom is hoping to build off a two-sack performance in the Sugar Bowl win over Alabama.
It’s hard to imagine the defensive line taking a step backward in 2014. In fact, the group could end up becoming one of the best defensive lines of Bob Stoops' tenure after entering the spring of 2013 as one of the biggest question marks on the roster.

“It has a chance to be one of our deeper and better ones,” Stoops said. “Imagine that, in a year's period of time.”

Every significant contributor returns along the defensive line, including All-Big 12 end Charles Tapper, and the group should be boosted even more if tackle Jordan Phillips, who was playing at an all-conference level early last season, returns to full health after a back injury ended his sophomore season early. From top to bottom, it’s one of the deepest units in years.

“Yeah, no question,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said when asked if this would be one of the deepest defensive lines he has coached.

“You get Jordan Phillips back and we can go two deep and not really slide much. Tapper and Geneo [Grissom] are difference-makers, and the other guys will be difference makers as they continue to grow too. Chuka [Ndulue] is the old, reliable horse in there that holds down the fort, he pushes things to the other guys. They all work together extremely well. We have a unique group and they play hard.”

The bowl win over Alabama was a glimpse at just how good OU's defensive line could be. Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron, who was sacked seven times, probably still has nightmares of defenders setting up camp in the backfield. Make no mistake, OU won the game in the trenches and hopes to continue that trend in 2014.

The returnees have proven to be quality Big 12 defensive linemen, yet their playing time is far from secure. The development and growth of several young defensive linemen has spurred Mike Stoops' belief they can go two deep without a drop off. Matt Dimon, Mike Onuoha, Charles Walker and Matt Romar are just a few of the young defensive linemen on the roster who have increased the competition.

“There’s a huge competition,” Ndulue said. “There’s a bunch of great guys out there, and any one of them could be the starting man. There’s just more drive because you want to play, so we just know that your job is on the line each snap so it just makes you play to the best of your ability. As the defensive line, we know that there’s competition every day. It makes our [meeting] room a lot better.”

At the center of it all is defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery, who joined the Sooners in February 2013 to jump start a disappointing defensive front. He has done that and more, proving to be stellar position coach after arriving from Michigan with a reputation as an elite recruiter.

“The defensive line is where the game is played,” Mike Stoops said. “They are very disruptive and that is what you need to have. [Montgomery] is very good with technique and he has a great relationship with the players, and that has all been very positive. They play hard and they play with technique, and that is where it all starts up front. They have been a catalyst for us.”

Few envisioned the Sooners’ defensive line becoming one of the Big 12’s best in 2013. Yet it was.

“It wasn’t supposed to be a very strong group for us a year ago, but they really flipped it and now it is one of the best groups in the country,” Mike Stoops said. “Again, hopefully we can get [Phillips] back and make this group even stronger. It can be a dominating group if we can get him back healthy and playing at the level he was playing at a year ago.”

Now the defensive line is looking to be called the nation’s best, with the goal of being the driving force behind a College Football Playoff berth.

“It all starts with the big guys,” Ndulue said. “If we’re not being dominant, getting driven back into the linebackers, it’s going to be a long day for us. If we’re playing on their side of the line of scrimmage, we can do something great.”

Athlon ranks the Big 12 coaches

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
4:00
PM CT
Athlon Sports has always been big on lists. And this week, Athlon’s Steven Lassan ranked all 128 FBS coaches. He also pulled out the top 10 Big 12 coaches.

As a disclaimer, this is NOT our list. This is Athlon’s. So forward all hate tweets and emails to them. Not me. I already get enough.

[+] Enlarge Art Briles
Ron Jenkins/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT/Getty ImagesArt Briles' status has grown in the eyes of Athlon.
Without further ado:

1. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

2. Art Briles, Baylor

3. Bill Snyder, Kansas State

4. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

5. Gary Patterson, TCU

6. Charlie Strong, Texas

7. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State

8. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech

9. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia

10. Charlie Weis, Kansas

Some observations:

  • Athlon prefers coaches who win conference championships. Briles, Snyder, Gundy and Stoops, the top four on this list, have won the past four Big 12 titles.
  • I went back and checked and noticed some interesting changes. Snyder was No. 1 in 2013, but dropped two spots this year (why, I’m not sure; K-State did win six of seven to close out the season). Mack Brown was No. 6 -- the same slot that Strong opened up here. Kingsbury moved up only one spot after going 8-5 in his first season.
  • In the eyes of Athlon, Patterson’s stock is falling. He was the No. 2 coach going into his first year in the Big 12 and was ranked third going into last season. On the flip side, Briles has made the biggest rise in the last two years, going from sixth to second after winning the Big 12 last season.
  • Athlon actually had Snyder fifth in 2012, which is hard to believe. We’re talking about one of the best coaches of all-time, right?
  • As you can see, I have a bigger beef with the 2012 and 2013 rankings than the 2014 one.
  • Kingsbury has the potential to ascend the most of anyone on this list. I don’t know that the No. 8 spot is completely unfair, considering he’s only been a head coach one season. But if he can turn Texas Tech into a Big 12 contender on a quasi-regular basis, he could jump several spots.
  • This is obviously not an easy list to compile. How do you weigh what Briles has done the last five years against what Snyder has the last 25? It’s all a matter of subjectivity.

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