NCF Nation: Brandon Sesay
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are 10 players who developed as names to remember during spring practice across the Big 12.
Colorado CB Jimmy Smith: Emerged as the Buffaloes' most talented one-on-one pass defender and the Buffaloes' key player in the secondary.
Iowa State QB Jerome Tiller: Lanky freshman who might still have a chance to compete for playing time with starter Austen Arnaud. Tiller didn't hurt his chances by throwing for 250 yards and two touchdowns and also adding a 65-yard touchdown run in the spring game.
Kansas WR Johnathan Wilson: Took advantage of the departure of top deep threat Dezmon Briscoe to emerge as the Jayhawks' prime deep threat when he was gone. Wilson led all receivers with 133 receiving yards and could be a capable featured receiver if Briscoe or Kerry Meier is injured.
Kansas State DE Brandon Harold: After struggling after being moved inside, Harold flourished with a big spring after moving back to defensive end.
Missouri RB De'Vion Moore: As Derrick Washington recovered from offseason knee surgery, Moore played as the Tigers' No. 1 tailback during most of the spring. Not only did he show tough between-the-tackles running ability but also developed into a strong receiving threat out of the backfield.
Nebraska LB Matthew May: The converted sophomore safety earned a role at weakside linebacker in both the Cornhuskers' nickel and base defenses.
Oklahoma LB Tom Wort: Became an immediate producer for the Sooners as a true freshman. He could be ticketed to immediate play on special teams as he provided immediate depth.
Texas DT Ben Alexander: The 310-pound senior claimed the starting job next to Lamarr Houston as the Longhorns look for a playmaker in the trenches to replace Roy Miller.
Texas Tech DE Brandon Sesay: After losing 21 pounds before spring practice, a slimmer Sesay notched two sacks in the spring game to showcase a strong finish as he challenges for a starting position left open when McKinner Dixon was suspended for academic reasons. .
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
And then there were three.
Teams, that is.
With Texas Tech starting spring practice this afternoon, only Texas A&M, Colorado and Kansas State still haven't started their spring work. And the Aggies kick off spring practice on Thursday.
With camps opening across the Midwest, it means more news.
And thankfully, more potential sources for lunchtime links from across the conference.
Here are today's offerings.
- Texas Tech defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill plans to alternate Ra'Jon Henley and Brandon Sesay at defensive tackle and end this spring, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal beat writer Don Williams reports.
- So much for any lingering bad feelings after he was demoted as Iowa State's defensive coordinator late last year before left the school. Charles Goldberg of the Birmingham News reports that Gene Chizik has hired former ISU assistant Wayne Bolt as Auburn's director of football operations.
- New Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads avoided confusion with his team by having his players tape their names on the front of their helmets to make for easier recognition on the Cyclones' first day of spring practice, Andrew Logue of the Des Moines Register reports. And Rhoads told Chuck Schoffner of the Cedar Rapids Gazette that his first day of practice was "boring."
- Kansas coach Mark Mangino will be honored Sunday when he's inducted into the Pittsburgh chapter of the National Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame, the Topeka Capital-Journal's Tully Corcoran reports.
- Newsday's Mike Rose has Baylor ranked No. 1 among five national programs set to rise in 2009.
- Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal-Star details the higher expectations that Bo Pelini has for his program as he begins his second spring as head coach.
- NCAA heavyweight champion Mark Ellis plans to join Missouri's football team after spring break as a walk-on defensive end, Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star reports.
- Tulsa World beat writer Bill Haisten details how Oklahoma State will rebuild its punting game without Ray Guy Award winner Matt Fodge.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The breathless hype is already starting around Austin. Early Longhorns practices have shown that backup QB John Chiles can pump some excitement into a Texas offense that appeared stale at times last season.
Veteran Austin American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls was salivating at the prospects of what formations with Colt McCoy and Chiles playing at the same time could bring, evoking memories of Tim Tebow's early use in the Florida offense or Arkansas' "Wild Hog" formation with Darren McFadden.
As Bohls correctly states, all of the talk about trick plays doesn't mean much if they are being used against teams like Rice and Florida International where Texas seemingly has a huge competitive advantage. These plays and formations need to be employed against Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Missouri.
Chiles threw a couple of interceptions during a Thursday workout. And he told Bohls that his 1-for-9 passing struggles last season -- similar to some of Tebow's early passing missteps as a freshman with the Gators -- weren't unexpected because of his inexperience.
"It wasn't too embarrassing," Chiles told Bohls. "I might should have redshirted, looking back. Quarterback is a tough position."
The use of two quarterbacks would be a "walk on the wild side" for Texas coach Mack Brown -- and a refreshing one at that.
Much like these Big 12 links this morning. Take a deep breath and enjoy.
- It's hard for Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops not to get excited this summer. He told the Oklahoman's Berry Tramel that he's seeing flashes in DeMarco Murray that makes him think he could develop into his most talented tailback ever. Didn't he coach that guy named Peterson once upon a time?
- Texas Tech DE McKinner Dixon will likely be ineligible for the upcoming season, Tech coach Mike Leach told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. But heralded junior-college transfer DE Brandon Sesay appears to have made his grades and will be able to play.
- Returning Colorado players are noticeably bigger and stronger than previous seasons, the Boulder Daily Camera's Neill Woelk says. One of the most striking transformations was QB Cody Hawkins, who showed up with noticeably bigger biceps and about five pounds heavier, the Denver Post's Tom Kensler says.
- It will take three or four players to replace the contributions of leading Colorado tackler Jordon Dizon, Buffaloes linebackers coach Brian Cabral told B.G. Brooks of the Rocky Mountain News.
- Iowa State returns all four starters in the secondary this season. Despite that experience, the group is bracing for heat as every Big 12 team it will face returns its starting quarterback.
- NFL Hall of Famer Mike McCormack will be the next former Kansas player to be included in the school's Ring of Honor at Memorial Stadium. School officials better save room up there for Todd Reesing one of these days.
- Missouri wide receivers coach Andy Hill has a quaint way of describing how he teaches young players to "drink from the fire hose" in their early preparation. The Columbia Daily Tribune's Dave Matter says that Tigers are learning to open wide, because here comes a big mouthful of football preparations.
- Missouri LB Sean Weatherspoon isn't worried about a Sports Illustrated cover jinx after he, QB Chase Daniel and WR Jeremy Maclin will be pictured on one of the regional covers highlighting the upcoming season. "Nobody else from my hometown (Jasper, Texas) can say they've ever been on the cover of Sports Illustrated," Weatherspoon told Matter. "Even though it's just a regional cover ... it's a great accomplishment. It just shows what type of things are going on at Mizzou."
- Forget about all the talk about the competition between Marlon Lucky and Roy Helu Jr. Slimmer TB Quentin Castille also is in the mix for playing time at Nebraska, Brian Rosenthal of the Lincoln Journal-Star writes.
- Bo Pelini likes his team's progress after its first four days of practice this summer. But then again, I've never heard a coach speak otherwise at this time of year.
- Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy is toying with the idea of giving backup QBs Alex Cate and Brandon Weedon most of the snaps at Saturday's scrimmage. If Gundy is as concerned about finding a backup for Zac Robinson as he has continually maintained, it's a great idea.
- Birthday candles for esteemed Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel, who writes of turning 50 today. I have a lot of admiration for Shatel in more ways than one. He's got me beat in this late dad thing. He's got three little ones and I only have one.
- Sooner practices are closed, but OU coach Bob Stoops told fans at the Sooner Caravan Thursday night that competition has been spirited at his team's early practices. "You can't believe the battles we've had at practice," Stoops said. "That's really fun for me as a coach." But with no chance to watch his team scrimmage, we'll all have to wait until the Aug. 30 opener against Chattanooga. The scrimmages sound more competitive to me.
- The San Antonio Express-News' Brent Zwerneman's "Aggie Insider" highlights Hunter Goodwin, a former Texas A&M lineman who helped roust his school's lethargic performances in other sports with some colorful comments a few years back. Zwerneman also had a couple of other A&M camp nuggets about A&M TB Mike Goodson's slight groin injury and DT Kellen Heard's dramatic weight loss over the offseason.
- The Austin American-Statesman reports that LB Sergio Kimble and DE Brian Orakpo were reversing roles at Thursday's practice. Kimble was experimenting with rush from a three-point stance and Orakpo was being used as a stand-up defender.
- Rocky Balboa in shoulder pads? The Tulsa World's Jimmie Tramel has a great story about Oklahoma junior college transfer LB Mike Balogun, who didn'
t play high school football his last two seasons and became a construction worker after high school to support his family. Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables said Balogun could be in the mix to challenge for a starting job.
- Stoops told the Tulsa World's Dave Sittler that he has dropped out of voting in the USA Today coaches' poll this season. "I have my reasons," Stoops told Sittler. But he was guarded about his rationale as much as his scrimmage plans.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Good morning from the Cornhusker State. New coach Bo Pelini conducts his first news conference later Monday morning before fall practice begins this afternoon. It's a momentous time. Media outlets from across the state are tripping over themselves to try to outdo the next. There will be streaming media shows from a number of sources as Pelini breaks down his thoughts heading into his first fall camp.
I'll be there too, which makes me feel like I'll be witnessing history. Hard to believe the Cornhuskers finished 5-7 last season with their worst defensive team in history.
Most of the Nebraska citizenry think that Pelini will fix that. I'll be interested to hear his thoughts about his task at hand.
Pelini-mania dominates the news as a couple of other teams across the conference have started practice this weekend. Here's a breakdown of some of what people are talking about.
- Pelini's resuscitation plans for Nebraska's defense. along with a sidebar about his reaching back to the roots of the Cornhuskers' walk-on program, are detailed in a big spread written by Steve Wieberg in USA Today. It doesn't get much bigger than that, does it?
- Baylor coach Art Briles is weighing his options as he decides on a starting quarterback. "It might be decided as we jog out on the field for pregame," Briles told Chad Conine of the Waco Tribune-Herald. "Seriously, I wish I was kidding."
- Missouri QB Chase Daniel has a clear goal this season. "I want to play in Florida," Daniel told the Kansas City Star's Mike DeArmond. And he's not talking about the Gator Bowl, either. The BCS title game will be staged in Miami.
- The Columbia Tribune's Dave Matter ratchets up the pressure on Missouri coach Gary Pinkel and the Tigers. He picks them to finish second nationally and play for the national championship against USC. Matter also predicts Oklahoma to face its third-straight BCS buster as the Sooners will draw BYU in the Fiesta Bowl in his preseason predictions.
- Sure, Missouri's offense will score a lot of points. But with 10 starters back from a team that led the Big 12 in total defense in conference play last year, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said the Tigers' defense will determine how far the team goes this season. And he's right.
- Steve Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star said that Pelini isn't intimidated by facing all of the Big 12's potent spread offenses. "We try to have an offensive mentality on defense," Pelini told Sipple. "We want to dictate to the offense as much as it's trying to dictate to us." Easier said in August than when facing Bradford, Daniel, Harrell, etc., later this season.
- The Oklahoman's John Rohde almost was turning cartwheels after Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops purged his roster of WR Josh Jarboe.
- Oklahoma State has been successful starting seasons against Pac-10 teams on the road. The Tulsa World's Jimmie Tramel said that the Cowboys set the tone for bowl seasons with double-digit victories at Arizona State (1984), Washington (1985) and UCLA (2004). The Cowboys travel to Seattle to face Washington State on Aug. 30.
- Although Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford somehow didn't attend last month's Big 12 media days, the San Antonio Express-News' Mike Finger did a nice job of gauging his importance for the Sooners' hopes of claiming their third-straight Big 12 title.
- Texas A&M reported for practice Sunday without two freshmen who signed in February. TE Blake Chavis and DB/WR Derrick Hall didn't meet NCAA eligibility requirements. And several Texas newspapers reported that DE Mike Bennett, who missed the Alamo Bowl last season because of academics, will be eligible for his senior season this year.
- The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal breaks down Texas Tech's roster with a depth chart as the Red Raiders' practices begin Monday. Notable points of interest include Rylan Reed back starting at LT, Stephen Hamby ahead of incumbent Shawn Byrnes at C and Aaron Crawford, Baron Batch and Shannon Woods listed as co-starters at RB. On defense, heralded transfers Brandon Sesay and McKinner Dixon both are listed as third-string at DE.
- The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel says improvements at "The Boone Bowl" will take your breath away. That's a big step forward from the old days when I thought Lewis Field was the worst stadium in the Big 12.
- Hawaii-born LB B.J. Beatty is continuing Colorado's rich tradition of recruiting in the islands. And he's a pretty good football player, too. There's also a great picture of Beatty's flowing red hair on the Boulder Camera's Web site.
- Iowa State coach Gene Chizik is looking for more production from a puny offense that scored a conference-worst 18.2 points per game last season. It may start with reinvigorating a running game that ranked 95th nationally -- a big decline from the Cyclones' salad days under former coach Dan McCarney.
- Forget about losing CB Aqib Talib to the NFL. The Oklahoman's John Helsey says that Kansas' biggest loss from last season will be the departure of wizened coordinator Bill Young to Miami. His protégé, Clint Bowen, tries to fill his shoes. Young was an underrated element of the Jayhawks' 12-1 record and Bowen will be sorely pressed to match that production -- particularly against a much-tougher schedule.
- Jake Trotter of the Oklahoman said Oklahoma is searching south of the Red River for more players than in recent teams coached by Bob Stoops. Oklahoma is slated to start eight Texans this season, compared to six Oklahoma products. Looks like Stoops has been studying the blueprint that Bud Wilkinson and Barry Switzer employed to turn the Oklahoma program into a monolith -- lots of great players from Texas.
- Suzanne Haliburton of the Austin American-Statesman lists a lengthy to-do list
for Texas coach Mack Brown during fall practice. The Longhorns started practice this morning almost as early as a typical ESPN.com conference blogger this morning -- beginning at 6 a.m.