NCF Nation: Angus Quigley

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Kansas checks in at No. 22 in the preseason rankings compiled by my colleague Mark Schlabach.

The Jayhawks are ranked that high because of a potent offense keyed by quarterback Todd Reesing and a strong cast of offensive weapons around him.

The biggest concern about the Jayhawks has been their defense and specifically the loss of starting linebackers James Holt, Mike Rivera and Joe Mortensen from last season.

Any time you have to replace consistent producers like them, it's a big worry. But it might not necessarily be as troublesome for Kansas as you might expect.

First, Coach Mark Mangino is tinkering with a 4-2-5 defense that he expects he will use in most base situations. It's a good idea because of the heavy aerial attacks in the Big 12, but also because the four players he started in the final six games of the season all return. That group is keyed by a potential big-time producer in strong safety Darrell Stuckey, free safety Phillip Strozier and starting cornerbacks Justin Thornton and Daymond Patterson.

But the biggest reason I expect the Jayhawks to improve will be their depth up front along the defensive line. I really like Jake Laptad at defensive end who is one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the league. And I expect junior college transfer Quinton Woods to be an immediate force on the other side.

The Jayhawks also have a nice set of experienced tackles returning in Jamal Greene and Caleb Blakesley. Their experience will help them immeasurably in their second season together as starters.

It will be interesting to see how much the Jayhawks' statistics are altered with the losses at linebacker. Needless to say there's a lot of pressure on returnees like Dakota Lewis and Arist Wright. And I'm intrigued how much playing time that converted running back Angus Quigley will receive.

Another factor that will be interesting in the team's development will be what the addition of veteran co-defensive coordinator Bill Miller means to the group. Bill Young had all kinds of success with the defense and got much of the acclaim for the team that won the Orange Bowl two seasons ago.

When Young left, it was left to first-year coordinator Clint Bowen to start his program. There were some rocky parts along the way, considering they allowed at least 33 points in seven of their final 11 games.

Development in the defense will be the biggest key in the Jayhawks fulfilling their high preseason ranking and determining whether they will be able to contend for their first berth in the Big 12 championship game.

It won't necessarily be a surprise because Kansas' defense might not be as depleted as some might presume.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

All questions aren't settled during the course of spring practice as teams still have much work to upgrade their weaknesses heading into the season.

Obviously, some will receive a boost from incoming freshmen who will arrive later. But here's how each team's biggest liability shakes out heading into the summer.

Baylor: The Bears are desperately looking for help at offensive tackle after losing No. 2 overall draft pick Jason Smith and Dan Gay as their starters. Former Canadian firefighter Danny Watkins has established himself at Smith's old position protecting Robert Griffin's blind side. And on the right side, junior Chris Griesenbeck and redshirt freshmen Cameron Kaufhold are competing for the starting job with Tyler Junior College's Phillip Blake and Blinn College's Marquis Franklin set the arrive later this summer.

Colorado: Wide receiver has been a question mark for the Buffaloes throughout Dan Hawkins' coaching tenure. The Buffaloes return four scholarship wide receivers and had a chance to work out several new players with Scotty McKnight injured during the spring. Josh Smith and Markques Simas are the top playmakers coming out of the spring. Non-scholarship players like Jason Espinoza and Ryan Maxwell emerged, but the Buffaloes definitely need a big upgrade at the position from their arriving freshman class.

Iowa State: The Cyclones will be facing a big hole at left tackle, where two-year starter Doug Dedrick departs. It could be filled by Matt Hulbert, who started two games last season when Dedrick was hurt. Or it could be massive 354-pound junior Hayworth Hicks or freshman Brayden Burris at the position. Whoever emerges will face a huge challenge in filling Dedrick's experience as he protects the blind side of the Iowa State quarterbacks.

Kansas: Coach Mark Mangino will be facing a few huge rebuilding job at linebacker, where the Jayhawks lose key contributors Joe Mortensen, Mike Rivera and James Holt from last season. Mangino is talking about using a two-linebacker set as his base defense with fifth-year senior Jake Schermer and senior Arist Wright getting the starting jobs leaving spring practice. Sophomore Steven Johnson and converted running back Angus Quigley were competing for playing time during the spring and another boost is expected when junior linebacker Justin Springer, who is recovering from a torn ACL last season, returns in the fall.

Kansas State: Carson Coffman appeared to have claimed the starting job at quarterback -- at least for a few weeks -- after a strong effort during the latter stages of spring practice. But Coffman's late binge has to be tempered considering he is playing against the weak Kansas State secondary. So it's fair to say there are some lingering questions at the position. Coffman apparently has beaten back the challenge of challengers Collin Klein, Joseph Kassanavoid, Trey Scott and Milton McPeek. But the arrival of South Florida transfer Grant Gregory and heralded junior-college transfer Daniel Thomas will mean more competition in the summer.

Missouri: The Tigers will be facing a challenge of replacing NFL first-round draft pick Evander "Ziggy" Hood at defensive tackle to play opposite nose tackle Jaron Baston. Redshirt sophomore Terrell Resonno appeared to have claimed the job out of the spring, with Dominique Hamilton, Chris Earnhardt and converted linebacker George White perhaps earning their way into the rotation.

Nebraska: After the graduation of top receivers Todd Peterson and Nate Swift from last season, the Cornhuskers need to fill both positions. Leading returning receiver Menelik Holt appears to have a hammerlock on one position, but Niles Paul lost a chance to take a big step forward after missing the spring after he was suspended for driving under the influence. Antonio Bell was the biggest surprise, but converted I-back Marcus Mendoza, Chris Brooks, Wes Cammack and Curenski Gilleylen all showed flashes during the spring.

Oklahoma: There was concern before spring practice, considering the Sooners were replacing four-fifths of their starting offensive line with only Trent Williams back from last season's starters. And it got worse when Bob Stoops called out the young replacements because of their lack of diligence in their preseason conditioning. Williams emerged at left tackle with Brian Simmons and Stephen Good at guards, redshirt freshman Ben Habern at center and either LSU transfer Jarvis Jones or Cory Brandon at right tackle. The depth took a hit when center Jason Hannan left early in training camp and sophomore guard Alex Williams chose to leave after spring practice. The group struggled against the Sooners' talented defensive line, allowing Sam Bradford to be touch-sacked twice in three possessions in the spring game and produced only 27 rushing yards in 52 carries.

Oklahoma State: The loss of veteran center David Washington produced a huge hole in the center of the Cowboys' interior line. Andrew Lewis returns to his natural position, leaving Oklahoma State needing two new starters at guard. Noah Franklin and Jonathan Rush have staked claims to the starting positions with Anthony Morgan and Nick Martinez getting repetitions inside. This group needs to improve if it hopes to equal the standards of previous seasons, when the Cowboys led the Big 12 in rushing each of the last three seasons.

Texas: The tight end was rarely used for the Longhorns after Blaine Irby dislocated his kneecap last season against Rice. He still wasn't ready to go during the spring as Greg Smith, Ahmard Howard, Ian Harris and D.J. Grant all got work. None of them emerged. And with Irby's return remaining iffy, it means the Longhorns again could reduce the use of the tight end and utilize four-receiver sets when they want to move the ball. Don't look for the Longhorns to use the tight end much unless this production improves.

Texas A&M: The Ag
gies were wracked with injuries during the spring as projected starters Lee Grimes, Kevin Matthews and Lucas Patterson were sidelined all spring as A&M was down to only nine healthy offensive linemen for some practices. It still doesn't excuse the lack of offensive production for A&M's starting unit, which produced only 9 yards rushing on 24 carries against Texas A&M's first-string defense. Coach Mike Sherman will be counting on immediate production from an impressive group of incoming freshman at fall practice, but it's fair to characterize the Aggies' offensive line as the team's biggest spring concern -- especially after allowing 39 sacks last season and ranking last in the conference in rushing yards per game.

Texas Tech: The loss of productive starters Daniel Charbonnet and Darcel McBath left a gaping hole at safety for the Red Raiders. Junior Franklin Mitchem earned the free safety position leaving spring practice and redshirt freshman Cody Davis emerged at strong safety.Jared Flannel , Brett Dewhurst and converted linebacker Julius Howard also got some snaps at safety. It will still be a challenge to combat the explosive Big 12 defenses with such an inexperienced group at the position.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin:

As much a part of holiday bowl games are the news conferences that take place several weeks before the games.

Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Florida's Urban Meyer met in a casino in Hollywood, Fla., on Wednesday. Missouri's Gary Pinkel and Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald are hooking up at a golf tournament in San Antonio today.

With many of the top Big 12 players in Orlando, Fla., tonight, for the Home Depot/ESPNU College Football Awards Show, here are some links to get you ready for those festivities.

  • Bob Stoops indirectly helped lead Urban Meyer to Florida after Meyer called him four years ago asking about the positives of the Florida job, Kevin Brockway of the Gainesville Sun writes. Stoops was defensive coordinator at Florida from 1996-98.
  • Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln-Journal Star weighs in on the approaching battle next season to replace starting quarterback Joe Ganz. Among the contenders are Cody Green, Kody Spano, Patrick Witt and Zac Lee.
  • U.S. Rep Joe Barton (R-Texas) has no vested interests in the BCS considering he graduated from Texas A&M. And he still wants to do away with the current controversial method of settling college football's champion, according to Anna M. Tinsley of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
  • Former Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione received the VIP treatment as he conducted his second interview with San Diego State officials about their vacant head coaching job, the San Diego Union-Tribune's Brent Schrotenboer writes. San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson declined to reveal whether he had talked about the vacancy to Franchione, his coach at TCU.
  • Martin Manley of the Kansas City Star's fine blog, "Under Further Review," spells out the scenario where Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech could finish 1-2-3 in the final national polls after the bowl games.
  • Kansas coaches are experimenting during bowl practice with switching Angus Quigley, the team's second leading rusher this season, to linebacker, Dugan Arnett of the Lawrence Journal-World reports.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here's a look at my predictions for this week's games across the Big 12.

Kansas 34, Iowa State 17 -- Both teams had last week off, but I'm guessing that the Jayhawks should come back from the break hungrier. This could be a game where Kansas finally gets some confidence in its underperforming ground game, which won't be tested by ISU's struggling rush defense. Look for Angus Quigley and Jocques Crawford both to have productive games as the Jayhawks streak to their fourth-straight victory over the Cyclones.

Texas Tech 49, Kansas State 37 -- This should be the toughest test of the season for the Red Raiders, who have barely been challenged in a 4-0 start. In the past, Tech would struggle in games like this where they are heavily favored over what would appear to be a lesser opponent. I won't be surprised if KSU's deep passing attack, keyed by quarterback Josh Freeman and wide receiver Brandon Banks, burns the Red Raiders for some early success. But Tech will be too physical for the Wildcats, wearing them down in the trenches with an improving ground game that will be difficult for KSU to contain.

Oklahoma 44, Baylor 20 -- The streaks are all in favor of the No. 1 Sooners, who should cruise to their 13th straight victory over the outmanned Bears. OU has won the 12 games in the series against the Bears by an average of 24 points per game. Oklahoma has too many offensive weapons and should be able to dictate the pace of the game. Coach Bob Stoops would like to build some confidence in his ground game heading into next week's game against Texas after struggles last week against TCU. Scintillating freshman quarterback Robert Griffin will have a couple of moments against the Sooners, but not nearly enough. Look for Baylor to lose its 36th game in the last 37 outings against a ranked foe.

Texas 37, Colorado 17 -- Not much is known about Texas, which will face its biggest test of the season to date in their first game against the Buffaloes since the 70-3 blowout in the 2005 Big 12 championship game. It won't be that one-sided, but I expect that Texas will be stronger on both lines of scrimmage. Texas' Colt McCoy is playing as well as any quarterback in the country and should continue his mastery against the Buffaloes. And look for Texas' defensive front to dominate Colorado's injury-ravaged offense line.

Oklahoma State 45, Texas A&M 20 -- The Cowboys are intent on revenge after losing their last four games to A&M, including a pair of one-point defeats in the last two seasons. OSU's nation-leading ground attack should feast on A&M's weak defensive front, which ranks 115th nationally in rush defense. Throw in the iffy condition of Stephen McGee and this one could end up being a blowout.

Missouri 38, Nebraska 27 -- Chase Daniel has the Tigers pointing to their first victory in Lincoln since 1978 -- a triumph that would have far-reaching ramifications in terms of the division's pecking order. The Tigers rank second nationally in scoring and total offense and shouldn't be tested that severely by a Nebraska defense that was gashed for 35 points last week. Nebraska's best hope will be to force turnovers from a Missouri team that usually doesn't make very many. The Cornhuskers will keep this close for about three quarters before Missouri's superior offensive talent pulls away at the end.

My predictions last week: 6-1 (85.7 percent)

My predictions for the season: 44-4 (91.7 percent)

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The remnants and reminders of Hurricane Ike can be found scattered across the Texas A&M campus.

Parking will be at a premium for the Aggies' game Saturday against Miami because many surface lots have been taken over by the arrival of refugees from the storm. Nearby Reed Arena is a government-designated emergency site. About 300 special-needs patients are being treated on the floor of the arena after being transported there from throughout the hurricane-ravaged area.

Aggies officials took down banners, goal posts and wind screens with the approach of the storm. The campus was largely untouched.

Not as fortunate was the nearby campus of Texas A&M at Galveston, which suffered some significant damage. It has led to the relocation of about 1,000 Galveston-campus students to College Station, where they could remain for the rest of the semester.

Hotel rooms, already tough to come by on a football game day, are at even more of a premium this weekend in the Bryan-College Station area because evacuees have been using them since the storm blew through. It's led the 12th Man Foundation at Texas A&M to start anorganized drive of releasing additional rooms in the area that might have been reserved for Saturday's game.

Some might wonder why the game should be played this weekend after the recent catastrophe. But in a way, having a game on Saturday will be good for the Southeast Texas area. It will give everyone a chance to forget about their recent troubles, at least for a few hours.

Here are some links from around the Big 12 this morning.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

 
 Marc Serota/Getty Images
 Kansas QB Todd Reesing is second in the nation in total offense.

During its last trip to Florida, Kansas grabbed a chunk of national credibility with an impressive victory in the Orange Bowl.

Less than nine months later, the Jayhawks are back in the Sunshine State looking for more.

The Jayhawks will be facing South Florida in an early battle of top 20 teams. It will be a litmus test for both programs, but especially for a Kansas team that has received unprecedented publicity earlier this season.

"I think this is a good measuring stick, to some degree," Kansas coach Mark Mangino said. "But I don't think it's a game where, if we win, we feel like we're going to win all the rest, and if we lose, we're going to have a bad season."

This year's game is a huge transformation from the first game of the series in 2006. Kansas eked out a narrow 13-7 victory that featured little pregame acclaim.

"I remember playing them two years ago and it meant nothing to the mass media," Kansas safety Darrell Stuckey said. "I was hearing from fans thinking that we should beat those guys because they hadn't heard much about them. They were a very good team then and they've grown a lot since then. Now, they are a phenomenal team."

After last season, the perception of both programs has been transformed. Both teams were briefly ranked No. 2 in the nation last season. The Jayhawks won their bowl game, beating Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl for the first program's first victory in a BCS bowl game. USF started 6-0 before losing three straight games that knocked them out of the Big East title hunt.

"It's matchup of a couple of similar programs," Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing said. "They popped up on the scene much like we did last year. They got high in the ratings and made a lot of headway with some guys that weren't highly recruited. It's something that's been the same for both of us."

Despite outscoring opponents by a combined margin of 69-10 in its first two games, the Jayhawks will enter Friday's game with several lingering questions. Kansas has struggled running the ball so far, averaging 3.7 yards per carry. It's down more than a yard per carry from last year's average.

Some of the problems have been caused by breaking in new starting tackles Jeff Spikes and Jeremiah Hatch into the lineup after losing All-American Anthony Collins and four-year starter Cesar Rodriguez from last season.

And the Jayhawks have been slow to fill the contribution of running back Brandon McAnderson, who rushed for 1,125 yards last season. The biggest disappointment has been the play of junior-college transfer Jocques Crawford, who brashly predicted before the season that he would like to run for 2,000 yards. After the first two games, Crawford is still 1,951 yards from his stated goal.

Third-stringer Angus Quigley has emerged as the most consistent Kansas running threat, piling up 131 yards. Crawford and Jake Sharp, the most experienced Kansas back, have both been inconsistent as the Jayhawks rank 10th in the Big 12 with an average of 127 rushing yards per game.

Despite the running game struggles, Mangino has been pleased in how Reesing has moved the Jayhawks through the air. He leads the nation in pass completions, is second in total offense, seventh passing yards and is eighth in passing efficiency after the first two games of the season.

"Sure, we haven't run the ball as effectively as I'd like for us to," Mangino said. "But on the other hand, we've been throwing the ball so well. We're facing a situation where it's 'Are we being patient enough for the running game?' And the second question is, 'Do we need to be patient enough for the run game?' As long as the run game can complement the passing game a little bit, we feel good about it."

Some are still questioning the Jayhawks and their national credentials. The South Florida game starts a punishing stretch of their schedule which will also include games with South Division powers Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Kansas played none of those teams during last season's 12-1 campaign.

"This game will be an opportunity for us to establish ourselves in the national mindset," Stuckey said. "This will define us as a team and show that we weren't a one-year wonder. It's an opportunity to show we really deserve to be considered as a strong contender."

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here are some tidbits from around the conference that will shape how teams play their games this week.

1. Kansas: TB Angus Quigley, a third-stringer before the start of the season, has emerged as the team's most consistent rushing threat. Despite big expectations for Jake Sharp and Jocques Crawford before the season, it's been Quigley who's been the best runner. The Jayhawks need some kind of consistency rushing the ball for any kind of success against South Florida on Friday night.

2. Missouri: Coaches are hoping the return of S William Moore and LB Van Alexander will help boost their defense's production. The Tigers allowed 250 yards passing against Southeast Missouri State and surrendered 15- and 11-play drives in the first half of the game. That unit must improve before Big 12 play begins.

3. Iowa State: Look for the team to use Phillip Bates more against Iowa than in his first two games as he's backed up starting ISU QB Austen Arnaud. Bates' athleticism could give the Iowa defense some problems, particularly on option plays and other outside runs. Remember, Bates' 38-yard reception last season against the Hawkeyes was the key play in ISU's game-winning drive.

4. Oklahoma: Don't be surprised if top defensive recruit R.J. Washington gets his redshirt pulled this week. The Sooners' depth at defensive end is lagging as Frank Alexander recovers from a stab wound. And Washington has been routinely wowing coaches with his performance in practice. They believe it's about time for him to be tested in a game.

5. Oklahoma State: Despite Dez Bryant's huge game last week against Houston, look for Oklahoma State to try to develop other receiving threats this week against Missouri State. With Artrell Woods gimpy with a knee injury, players like Jeremy Broadway, Damian Davis, Josh Cooper and DeMarcus Conner need to produce to keep offenses from concentrating on Bryant.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The Big 12's 12-0 record last week made history as the conference's first perfect week. It just didn't get a lot of respect from columnists around the area.

San Antonio Express-News' Mike Finger says the conference remains an enigma after two weeks of the season. The Dallas Morning News' Kate Hariopoulos noted that even the Big Ten was perfect on Saturday. And the Kansas City Star's Blair Kerkhoff tempered the excitement by adding that only one victory in the Big 12's weekend sweep came against a foe from a BCS-affiliated conference.

No matter. It still goes down with no losses. And that's the most impressive statistic of all.  

The only thing better than a perfect week are a stack of Monday morning links.

  • Kansas coach Mark Mangino plans to make utilizing TB Angus Quigley a priority to boost its struggling running game against South Florida. Lawrence Journal-World columnist Tom Keegan reminds us that the Jayhawks played well in their first two games, despite their ground woes.
  • Intrepid Columbia Tribune reporter Dave Matter tracked down the identity of the one Associated Press balloter who's voting Missouri as his No. 1 team in the Associated Press media poll. Even as heralded backup QB Blaine Gabbert gave Tiger fans a look at the future without Chase Daniel.
  • Nebraska coach Bo Pelini braces for a defensive test after losing top pass-rushing threat Barry Turner with a likely season-ending knee injury.
  • In an offense that produced monster numbers against Houston, Oklahoma State WR Dez Bryant is emerging as the Cowboys' biggest weapon. But the defense is another story, especially after losing backup FS Lucien "The Punisher" Antoine with a season-ending knee injury.
  • Texas A&M is pegged between the seventh- and 12th-best team in the conference by Bryan Eagle columnist Robert Cessna. And the season could get worse as QB Stephen McGee will have his injured shoulder examined today, sources told the San Antonio Express-News.
  • Dallas Morning News columnist Chuck Carlton said the numbers aren't adding up at Texas Tech, despite a 2-0 start. Tech's defense is particularly a mystery after being gashed for 488 yards, but allowing only a touchdown and four field goals on 10 possessions inside its own 30-yard line against Nevada.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The quote of the day comes from Scott Wright of the Oklahoman, who caught up with Troy coach Larry Blakeney and asked him about Oklahoma State's aim for revenge after losing at Troy last season. "They might have a bonfire and burn some of T. Boone's money to get ready for the game," Blakeney said, referring to the megabuck Oklahoma State booster.

Meanwhile, new Baylor coach Art Briles has shucked a traditional playbook in favor of his new team learning his philosophies by seeing and doing rather than reading. It's targeted to a younger generation that doesn't have the attention span to sit and learn by reading a book.

"It does require a lot of film study, because you've got to know what to do in live action in case anything happens," junior receiver Ernest Smith told the Waco Tribune-Herald. "If there's a check or an audible, you've got to be able to react fast. I've watched a lot of U of H film ... just getting familiar with it all."

Briles was successful with his new-age strategy, at least if four bowl appearances in the last five seasons at Houston is any indication. We'll see how it works at Baylor this season.

And for those readers out there who are too impatient to wade through 20 newspapers that cover the Big 12, I've take something from Briles' approach. Here's a condensed version of what's happening around the conference in about 20 quick links.

  • Kansas sophomore RB Carmon Boyd-Anderson has opted to transfer from the program for "personal reasons," the Kansas City Star reported.
  • A massive offensive line has prompted a new word around the Colorado team to describe them: "gifreakinnormous."
  • Des Moines Register columnist Sean Keeler has to cover Iowa State and Iowa relatively equally. That's why he listed his top 23 ranking for a combination of the Big Ten and Big 12 conferences on his blog. Hope that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany doesn't see this. He might get an idea for some kind of "gifreakinnormous" super-conference.
  • The Topeka Capital-Journal's Tully Corcoran unearthed an interesting nugget buried deeply in Ron Prince's new contract.
  • Colorado DE Drew Hudgins will miss the season with a knee injury. Hudgins told the Denver Post he plans to petition the NCAA for a sixth season of eligibility.
  • Massive Texas A&M FB Jorvorskie Lane tells the Houston Chronicle's Terrance Harris that he's come to terms with his lessened role in the Aggies' backfield.
  • New Texas director of high school relations and player development Ken Rucker is credited for the Longhorns' lack of off-the-field incidents this summer, according to Austin American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls.
  • Mike Leach's European vacation is fodder for the San Antonio Express-News' Mike Finger's report on Texas Tech. Leach earlier described the trip as something like the Griswolds might have made.

(Read full post)

SPONSORED HEADLINES