NCF Nation: Brody Eldridge
- The hype machine shows no signs of slowing around incoming receiver Trey Metoyer. Coach Bob Stoops said the incoming freshman "absolutely" could start for the Sooners; co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell, who coaches receivers, laughed when he was asked if Metoyer could start. Look for more on him from SoonerNation soon. Metoyer will be a big piece for the Sooners. The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder is speedy with great hands and jumping ability, a rare combo. Oklahoma needs a big, productive receiver, and Metoyer's proving early on that he could have the same kind of impact as a freshman that Kenny Stills did in 2010, when he broke the school's freshman record for receiving yards, with 786.
- Trey Millard's best known for his work at fullback, but he's earned the nickname "Slash" from Stoops for his work at tight end, H-back and tailback, too. "I don't even know how he remembers it all, but he does," Stoops said. New defensive coaches Mike Stoops and Tim Kish have told stoops on multiple occasions that Millard "may be the best player on the team." His role reminds me a bit of Brody Eldridge's during the injury-plagued 2009 season. Eldridge was mostly a tight end, but played some fullback and about every position on the offensive line -- despite being just 260 pounds -- for the Sooners. You heard similar praise thrown his way.
- Dominique Whaley was the team's top rusher a year ago before his season ended with a fractured ankle. Stoops called Whaley's progress to this point "very encouraging," adding he didn't know how exactly to quantify the senior-to-be's healing process from the injury.
- What does Norvell think about younger receivers having to compete with a possible impact player in Metoyer? "That's Oklahoma," he said. Despite having four inches on the elder receiver Trey Franks, it's Metoyer who's earned the nickname "Little Trey." Such is life as a young gun. "That's how it goes," laughed fellow receiver Stills.
- Stills also opened up about life after losing team leader Ryan Broyles, the FBS career leader in receptions. Stills' production slowed and the whole receiving corps suddenly started dropping passes as the Sooners lost two of their final three regular-season games. "Everything without Ryan was hard. I feel like everybody saw that," Stills said. "I hope that I can go in and step up and make the plays Ryan did."
- Coverage wasn't different on Stills, but he was playing an unfamiliar slot position and struggled to maintain his production, much less fill the void Broyles left behind. "I was in a position I'd never played and then it was like, 'Kenny didn't step up,' which was true," he said. "I've got to make the plays when the ball comes to me."
Here are some trends I'll be watching across the Big 12 in Saturday's games:
1. Bowl eligibility beckons: Six Big 12 teams can earn bowl eligibility by winning on Saturday. Kansas State needs a victory to get to seven wins because the Wildcats played two FCS schools in nonconference play. They can get there by beating Missouri, which also become bowl eligible with a win. Iowa State and Kansas can similarly earn their sixth wins of the season. And the winner of the Oklahoma-Texas A&M game will get their sixth win and a likely chance to go bowling. It would be the latest point of the season that Bob Stoops has ever earned his way into bowl eligibility and the first time for Mike Sherman.
2. Can Baylor’s surprising recent passing surge continue against Texas’ strong secondary? Baylor quarterback Nick Florence set a school record by passing for 427 yards last week and blistering Missouri for three touchdown passes -- more than the two TD passes he had thrown in his previous 147 pass attempts of his career. Can his burgeoning confidence continue against an emerging Texas pass defense that has limited opponents to an average of 106 passing yards in the last three weeks, including two touchdown passes and six interceptions?
3. Can Cody Johnson emerge in his first start at running back for Texas? All signs point to the bullish 240-pound sophomore getting his first starting opportunity against the Bears. He’s already emerged as the Longhorns’ most consistent running threat among those in their struggling backfield. Will that carry over from the start of the game against a Baylor unit that ranks 82nd nationally in rush defense but is coming off a season-best performance after limiting Missouri to 10 yards rushing last week?
4. Kansas redshirt freshman starting guard Trevor Marrongelli: He’ll get his second career start against Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. It will be a tall order against Suh, who had 12 tackles, three tackles for losses and 2.5 sacks last season against a blocker with far more experience for Kansas. Suh even added a rushing touchdown late in the game last year to punctuate his breakout game. His candidacy for the Outland Trophy, other individual awards and maybe even the Heisman Trophy might hit overdrive Saturday competing against such a novice opponent.
5. Which Nebraska quarterback emerges against Kansas? Cody Green struggled in five three-and-out possessions against Oklahoma before he was pulled by Bo Pelini. Zac Lee wasn’t much better, but the Cornhuskers moved the ball well enough to score 10 points with him in control to claim the gritty victory. Will Pelini go back to Lee after starting Green for the last two games? Or will he continue to start the more athletic Green, who should be able to run better against the less-imposing Kansas defense than against the Sooners. Whoever starts will be vital as the Cornhuskers attempt to claim their fourth straight conference road game for the first time since 1999-2000 and take another step to their first Big 12 North title since 2006.
6. How much has Oklahoma State’s pass defense improved since last season? The Cowboys were singed for 516 passing yards and seven touchdown passes by Graham Harrell and Taylor Potts last season in Texas Tech’s 56-20 victory in Lubbock. But Harrell is gone and the Cowboys are much improved with an 11-to-11 touchdown pass to interception ratio and the nation’s 33rd ranked team in pass efficiency defense. Mike Leach isn’t saying who his starter will be, but whoever emerges will have a more difficult time against Bill Young’s retooled defense than last season.
7. Who will start and play for Texas Tech at quarterback? Leach has thrown out some not-so-subtle hints that Steven Sheffield might be ready to return to action after recovering from a broken foot in the Red Raiders’ Oct. 17 victory at Nebraska that originally was expected to sideline him for up to six weeks. Potts has received the majority of snaps this week at quarterback, making him appear to be the likely starter. But would Leach have a quick hook to replace him with Sheffield or Seth Doege if the Red Raiders sputter offensively?
8. Can Iowa State get its running game back against Colorado? The Cyclones were leading the league in rushing before producing a season-low 54 yards against Oklahoma State last week. They shouldn’t be as challenged against a Colorado defense that ranks 72nd nationally and ninth in the conference against the run. The Cyclones desperately need to get Alexander Robinson involved early to help boost a struggling offense that has produced only three touchdowns in its last 13 quarters. Bowl hopes might be riding on it.
9. How will Missouri contain Brandon Banks on kickoffs? The Tigers have struggled all season covering kickoffs, allowing 24.33 yards per return to rank 104th nationally. They will be supremely challenged against Kansas State’s Banks, who ranks sixth nationally with a 31.4 yard-per-return average and has already returned a Big 12-record four kicks for touchdowns this season. Banks is within one kick return for a touchdown of tying the NCAA single-season record of five, set by Tulsa’s Ashlan Davis in 2004. He also needs one more kick return for a TD to tie the national career record of six set by USC’s Anthony Davis from 1972-74 and Davis in 2004-05. Missouri has to do a better job against Banks, or it could be a long day for the Tigers -- especially as KSU coach Bill Snyder will be gunning for his 14th straight victory over the Tigers.
10. How will the makeshift Oklahoma offensive line play against Texas A&M? The loss of Brody Eldridge and Jarvis Jones to season-ending injuries further exacerbated the Sooners’ lack of depth along the offensive front. Oklahoma will likely have a rotation of only eight offensive linemen against the Aggies, who notched eight sacks against Colorado last week, are tied for third nationally in sacks and feature the nation’s sack leader in Von Miller. The Sooners’ line must do a better job of protecting Landry Jones, as well as staying away from the sloppy penalties that marked their loss to Nebraska last week.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Landry Jones’ mustache seems to have taken on a life of its own among Oklahoma fans.
The redshirt freshman quarterback has earned the nickname of “Doc Holliday” from Oklahoma tight end Brody Eldridge because of his facial adornment.
The Oklahoman reports that fans sported fake mustaches and T-shirts that read “Fear the Stache” appeared at Jones’ first career start last week against Idaho State.
Oklahoma football operations coordinator Matt McMillen and video director Brian Martin have begun growing their own version of a mustache to show solidarity for the Sooners’ interim quarterback.
The American Mustache Institute, a 44-year-old advocacy group, said they are pleased with Jones and the booming notoriety of his “Chevron” style of mustache.
"We’ve been paying attention to Landry,” Aaron Perlut, chairman of the institute told the Oklahoman. "We love it. Unfortunately, when he first entered the game, there was a lot of criticism the following week about his mustache. We find that very disappointing.
"That’s the life of downtrodden, mustache-wearing Americans.”
Even Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops had a comment about Jones’ facial adornment.
“That’s probably been a decent distraction for everybody,” Stoops said.
The Oklahoma coach may support Jones’ mustache, but he is determined about one fact.
“No, I’m not growing one,” Stoops said.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Losses by Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas State and Oklahoma State and a near defeat by Missouri stamped this as a disappointing weekend for the Big 12.
Despite those unseemingly blemishes in the national spotlight, here are some items that we can take away from the games we just witnessed.
1. The Big 12 could arguably be considered the nation’s most overrated conference after the first two weeks of the season -- at least at the supposed strength at the top. Texas slumbered through the first half of game against Wyoming, a team predicted to finish last in the Mountain West Conference. Oklahoma lost last week to Mountain West Conference team BYU. Oklahoma State lost to the Conference USA’s Houston. You can argue all you want, but the conference’s expected three power teams should have played better to live up to the conference’s immense preseason hype.
2. The best example of the importance of returning Oklahoma’s Brody Eldridge to tight end could be seen with the re-emergence of DeMarco Murray against Idaho State. Murray had trouble getting free outside last week against BYU. But with Eldridge leading the blocking on the flanks, the Sooners’ outside running game was rejuvenated Saturday night against Idaho State.
3. For all of the excitement about Taylor Potts’ eight touchdown passes, I was even more impressed by the effort by Texas Tech’s defense in the Red Raiders’ blowout victory over Rice. The Red Raiders forced their first two turnovers of the season and racked up six sacks -- from six different players -- and notched eight other tackles for losses. Tech will be stepping up in class next week against Texas, but the Red Raiders’ defense should be brimming with confidence as it prepares to face the Longhorns.
4. Something seems to be amiss with Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson after two games. Both coach Mike Gundy and Robinson termed his performance in the loss against Houston as “average.” The Cowboys aren’t going to be able to compete against the South Division powers elite unless their senior quarterback plays much better than that.
5. Nebraska’s defense has allowed only 12 points in the first two games of the season. But one statistic that has to be worrisome for Bo Pelini was that the Blackshirts surrendered 18 plays of 8 yards or more in their victory over Arkansas State. The thought here is that if the Cornhuskers are allowing those plays to Sun Belt Conference offenses, it won’t be a good sign when the Cornhuskers starting playing teams like Virginia Tech next week. And for those of you who may have missed it, a Virginia Tech running game that was expected to wither away after the preseason loss of Darren Evans produced 444 rushing yards in the Hokies’ victory Saturday against Marshall.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
No truth to the rumor that a black cloud has been hovering over Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops for the last 10 days or so.
Stoops got more bad news earlier this week when he learned that versatile center-tight end Brody Eldridge sustained a broken pinky finger in his right hand in the Sooners' loss to BYU last week.
Eldridge plans to play Saturday against Iowa State despite the injury as he returns to tight end.
"He went through a full practice," Stoops told reporters. "He caught the ball, snapped the ball. He went through the entire deal. It's not a big deal. You tape a couple fingers together and just keep rolling."
An inflamed back for projected starter Ben Habern forced Eldridge to start at center for the Sooners in the BYU game. Eldridge was one of the few bright spots for an Oklahoma line that struggled with all aspects of the game against the Cougars.
The loss of tight end Jermaine Gresham with a season-ending knee injury will mean that Eldridge will move to tight end. It won't help his pass-catching abilities, but he was never expected to be a key receiving threat for the Sooners after snagging 11 catches in 39 career games.
Eldridge's injury seems minor considering Greshman's knee or the sprained shoulder joint sustained by quarterback Sam Bradford.
But it probably seems as anything but that to Eldridge as he tries to play through the injury.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach
It's finally here, and here are 10 things I can't wait to see on the opening Saturday of the 2009 college football season:
1. Can Alabama's rebuilt offensive line protect quarterback Greg McElroy and open enough holes for the running game? The Crimson Tide looked pretty bad without left tackle Andre Smith against Utah in the Sugar Bowl, and now the All-American is gone for good. Guard Mike Johnson tells me James Carpenter, a JUCO transfer from Augusta, Ga., is going to be pretty good at left tackle. Replacing center Antoine Caldwell is equally important.
2. Can Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor throw it better than last year? If the Hokies are going to live up to their lofty preseason billing -- and win me a 12-pack of adult beverages from ESPN.com ACC blogger Heather Dinich -- than Taylor has to become a more complete quarterback. It will be tough against Bama's stout defense.
3. Will Georgia's defense handle Oklahoma State's three-headed monster? Bulldogs defensive coordinator Willie Martinez told me yesterday that he feels pretty good about his defense. Defensive end Demarcus Dobbs and Roderick Battle had good preseason camps, according to Martinez, and they'll have to get pressure on OSU quarterback Zac Robinson. But Martinez believes the key to stopping OSU's high-octane attack is containing Kendall Hunter to take away the play-action pass.
4. How will Joe Cox play against OSU? The senior waited three seasons for Matthew Stafford to leave and his time is finally here. Cox has been battling flu-like symptoms for a few days, and didn't fly with his teammates to Stillwater, Okla. He arrived at OSU late Friday night and is said to be feeling much better.
5. Will Michigan be any better? Surely, the Wolverines won't be any worse after going 3-9 in coach Rich Rodriguez's first season in Ann Arbor. Western Michigan is going to be a tough opener -- maybe a lot tougher than most people believe -- and the Wolverines have to find some confidence early in the season. Rodriguez will play three quarterbacks -- Tate Forcier, Nick Sheridan and freshman Denard Robinson.
6. Is Notre Dame a legitimate BCS contender? Believe it or not, we'll find out a lot about the Fighting Irish in today's opener against Nevada. Wolf Pack quarterback Colin Kaepernick is very, very good and his ability to scramble and run will present challenges to Notre Dame's defense. I really want to see if the Fighting Irish can run the ball better than they have the last couple of seasons.
7. How good are the new quarterbacks? Matt Barkley, the first freshman to start at quarterback for USC, should have his way against San Jose State. Will Blaine Gabbert fill Chase Daniel's enormous shoes at Missouri? The Tigers' new quarterback faces a stiff test today against Illinois. Cox and Alabama's McElroy won't be the only new quarterbacks in the spotlight.
8. Will there be any upsets in Week 1? How about Western Michigan over Michigan? Central Michigan over Arizona? Ohio over Connecticut? Louisiana Tech over Auburn? I'm sure there will be a couple of surprising results.
9. How good will Oklahoma's offensive line be against BYU? The Sooners have to replace four starters on the line, including All-America guard Duke Robinson. Protecting reigning Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford might not be as easy without them. Converted tight end Brody Eldridge moves to center, and LSU transfer Jarvis Jones takes over at guard. Bradford will need some new targets, too, with Manny Johnson and Juaquin Iglesias moving on. He'll miss tight end Jermaine Gresham, who is out for at least a week with a knee injury.
10. How will Auburn and Tennessee look under new leaders? The Tigers might get a stiff test from Louisiana Tech, so they'll need a good game from quarterback Chris Todd, who was a surprising choice to run Gus Mahlzahn's offense. The Volunteers will probably be pretty vanilla against overmatched Western Kentucky, but they need to get better quickly. The Vols play at defending BCS national champion Florida in two weeks.
Enjoy the games.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are a few last-minute tidbits before tonight's Texas Tech-Oklahoma game.
WHAT'S AT STAKE: Something has to give tonight. The Sooners have a nation-best 23 game winning streak. But Texas Tech is 10-0 for the first time since 1938 and will carry a 12-game winning streak that is the longest in the country to start the day.
A Texas Tech victory would give the Red Raiders their first birth in the Big 12 championship game against Missouri on Dec. 6.
An Oklahoma victory would throw the South Division into a three-way tie for the lead. Next week, Oklahoma travels to Oklahoma State, Texas hosts Texas A&M on Thanksgiving night and Baylor will visit Texas Tech. If there's a three-way tie at the end of that day, the Bowl Championship Series standings will be used to determine which team will advance to the championship game.
INJURIES: Oklahoma's banged-up defense will have some replacements. Starting defensive ends Auston English and Alan Davis both are out with sprained knees. That will mean that redshirt freshman Frank Alexander and Jeremy Beal will get the starts, with converted linebacker J.R. Bryant and Pryce Macon thrust into key reserve roles. Steady middle linebacker Ryan Reynolds has been out since the Texas game with a torn ACL. Redshirt freshman Austin Box will get the start in his place. Tight end Brody Eldridge (ankle) and wide receiver Manny Johnson (dislocated elbow) both are expected to play.
Texas Tech is in pretty good shape in terms of injuries. The extra week gave Michael Crabtree time to rest and he told reporters earlier this week he's ready to play at 100 percent.
WEATHER CONDITIONS: It's an almost ideal football night at Owen Field, with one exception. A gusting south wind of up to 20 mph could play havoc with teams' passing strategies and the kicking game. But other than that, you couldn't ask for a better night in mid-November. Temperatures will start at kickoff in the mid-40s and should slide into the high-30s by the time the game finishes up.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Credit Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit for being honest.
Cubit had a unique description for his mindset leading up to the Broncos' season opener Saturday at Nebraska.
"You kind of go in there blind," Cubit said, reflecting on his lack of knowledge about how new Nebraska coach Bo Pelini will operate his program during game situations.
Pelini has been a head coach for one previous game -- a 2003 Alamo Bowl victory over Michigan State as interim coach after Frank Solich was fired. So Cubit doesn't know much about what he'll be facing.
So he's preparing for just about anything.
"We just don't know," Cubit said on the Mid-American Conference's weekly teleconference. "You can talk to people about what coach Pelini did at LSU. But you've got different players and you're always trying to adapt your system to the players you've got, and what their strengths and weaknesses are.
"For us, it's just going to be more fundamentals. The unknown in the first game is always severe, but with the new coaching staff ... With our kids, you can't tell them exactly where people are going to be all the time."
Other coaches are facing similar problems across the country.
And that's why we're here. To provide enlightment about the Big 12 one link at a time.
Here are some of this morning's goodies.
- Baylor coach Art Briles has decided who his starting quarterback Thursday night will be against Wake Forest. He's just not telling anybody -- yet.
- Denver Post columnist Woody Paige provides a primer for visiting Democratic National Convention delegates about the upcoming season.
- The Kansas City Star's Mike DeArmond writes a strong piece about Missouri WR-KR Jeremy Maclin, who approaches the upcoming season knowing he'll likely be a marked man. And don't miss DeArmond's vlog on the same page, where he convinced somebody to put a dartboard on their back for a feeling like Maclin experiences on the football field. I'm just wondering who the brave soul was.
- New Kansas running back Jocques Crawford has a bold goal of rushing for 2,000 yards this season -- despite the fact he's not even the Jayhawks' starter at the position. J.Brady McCullough also has a vlog about his story.
- The Lawrence Journal-World's Eric Sorrentino provides an early look at the Big 12's games this weekend.
- Jeremy Maclin's first encounter with a mechanical bull wasn't too pleasant.
- Teammates joke that Nebraska T Mike Smith should consider a career as a kicker or a tight end, considering he weighs "only" 285 pounds.
- The leadership development of Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford has been dramatic, according to John Hoover of the Tulsa World. It's also helped Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops become more relaxed with Bradford in charge of his offense.
- Oklahoma State QB Zac Robinson decided to come to the Cowboys because of his family's assocation at the school. His mother is an OSU graduate and his father once wore the Pistol Pete suit of the school's mascot.
- No more boring football at Texas A&M as the Aggies debut a new offensive and defensive look, Dallas Morning News reporter Brandon George writes.
- The Dallas Morning News' Chuck Carlton has Oklahoma and Missouri among two teams he thinks can win the national title.
- The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal's Don Williams writes about how Texas Tech coach Mike Leach is using acupuncture to curb his need for smokeless tobacco and help treat his asthma.
- Kirk Bohls recalls watching the wishbone for the first time 40 years ago and wonders if it will ever return.
- The Austin American-Statesman's Alan Trubow profiles the passion of Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp.
- Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said his team will be facing a hostile crowd in what his research shows is the loudest stadium in the NFL when it faces Washington State in Seattle.
- Tulsa World columnist Dave Sittler calls Oklahoma's opener against Chattanooga its final scrimmage before they break fall camp.
- Starting Kansas State LB Ollu Hall was attracted to Kansas State after leaving Virginia, where his coaches included current Kansas State coach and former Cavaliers assistant Ron Prince. "It's the same thing," Hall told the Wichita Eagle's Jeffrey Martin. "Everything is done the same way. ... Virginia is the older brother, and K-State is the little brother."
- Des Moines Register beat writer Andrew Logue wonders if Iowa State fans are nervous about Thursday's opener against South Dakota State.
- Denver Post beat writer Tom Kensler blogs that his favorite players to typically interview are offensive linemen.
- Both Austen Arnaud and Phillip Bates expect to see action Thursday night for Iowa State at quarterback against South Dakota State.
- Colorado TB Demetrius Sumler's career has been marked with patience.
- The Kansas City Star's Blair Kerkhoff takes his video top 25 for No. 4 Missouri on the road to the parking lot of Arrowhead Stadium, site of the Big 12 championship game. Kerkhoff (nice sunglasses, Blair) says that Missouri S William Moore might have been the best defensive player in the country over the second half of last season.
- Stop the presses! Wichita Eagle columnist Bob Lutz goes out on a limb and picks Kansas and Kansas State both to win their openers on Saturday.
- Gary Pinkel is wary about first-game challenges in Missouri's opener Saturday against Illinois in St. Louis.
- Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel is glad that Bo Pelini is chintzy about awarding blackshirts. And so is Lincoln Journal-Star columnist Steve Sipple, too.
- The Oklahoman's John Helsey profiles Oklahoma TE Brody Eldridge, who Sooner offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson calls the team's best player.
- 6-foot-6, 225-pound freshman LB Sean Fisher should get a lot of playing time for Nebraska early in the season.
- Missouri redshirt freshman OT Elvis Fisher "isn't all shook up," even if he's protecting QB Chase Daniel's blind side against Illinois. Dave Matter of the Columbia Tribune also "Cuts to the Chase" with Daniel's weekly comments.