NCF Nation: Carl Torbush
Just coincidence, said committee chair Britton Banowsky, the Conference USA commissioner, that the report came out the day after North Carolina became a No. 1 seed in the NCAA men's basketball tournament for a national-record 14th time. But the timing provided a reminder of what the university hired Davis to achieve and how spectacularly he failed to do so.
Over the course of the 1990s, Mack Brown had built the Tar Heels into a national power. He commandeered the resources to build one of the first Taj Mahals in the sport -- a $50 million palace of offices and facilities that announced to recruits and rivals that North Carolina took football seriously.
As much as Brown achieved, he couldn't lift the Tar Heels into the BCS hierarchy where the Florida States played. Though Brown left for Texas after the 1997 season, he had planted the seed. Nine years of mediocrity under Carl Torbush and John Bunting failed to dim the potential that Brown had kindled in the program.
Davis rebuilt a Miami team struck down by NCAA penalties and took them to the precipice of a national championship. When Davis left after the 2000 season for the Cleveland Browns, Larry Coker, his top assistant, took over and won the next 23 games. With the foundation assembled by Davis, Coker coached the Hurricanes within a double overtime of two consecutive crystal footballs.
That builder is who the Tar Heels assumed they hired. And Davis, a coaching lifer who traveled from Oklahoma high schools to the NFL, wanted to create a football empire on Tobacco Road.
For Ivan Maisel's full column, click here.
But Opurum took what some might interpret as an insult and impressed Jayhawks coach Turner Gill at his new position.
"I've seen that he has been aggressive, that he's a physical player," Gill said of the 6-foot-1, 240-pound linebacker, who came to Kansas because coach Mark Mangino said he could play running back when others wanted him as a fullback. "There still are some things that over the next two to three weeks he needs to do, getting fine-tuned in getting lined up and the looks he'll have to see ... He will help our football team definitely at the linebacker spot."
Gill backed that up on Tuesday, including Opurum on Kansas' depth chart as its No. 2 strongside linebacker, and defensive coordinator Carl Torbush told the Kansas City Star he expects Opurum to play 10-20 snaps in the season opener against North Dakota State.
The move was much needed for the Jayhawks, who lost returning starter Huldon Tharp for the season with a foot injury and Jacoby Thomas for the season because of academics.
Starters Justin Springer, Steven Johnson and Drew Dudley should be solid and among the Big 12's best, but Opurum gives the unit additional depth after the losses of Tharp and Thomas.
"I can't sit here and say how many reps we are going to play him. He is going to play at our strong side linebacker, and give him some reps and go from there," Gill said. I know he probably isn't going to play the majority of the game, but yes, he is planning on playing and we will go from there."
For Opurum, that has to be nice to hear.
1. Texas (14 starters back: 6 offensive, 7 defensive, 1 special teams). Garrett Gilbert got a head start on replacing Colt McCoy with his considerable playing time in the national title game, an invaluable learning experience for a young player. The Longhorns return most of the defense that improved in its second season under Will Muschamp. The biggest chores will be for offensive coordinator Greg Davis, who has to boost running game production and find a replacement for record-breaking wide receiver Jordan Shipley.
2. Nebraska (18 starters back: 8 offensive, 8 defensive, 2 special teams). Bo Pelini has the Cornhuskers positioned for a potential top-10 preseason ranking. Most of the offensive weapons will be back from a unit that sputtered down the stretch before breaking out in the Holiday Bowl victory. Quarterback Zac Lee will miss some of spring practice as he recovers from postseason surgery. Cody Green and Kody Spano will get most of the work until Lee returns. Nebraska coaches think the defense can be better this season, even without the up-the-middle strength of Ndamukong Suh, Phillip Dillard, Larry Asante and Matt O’Hanlon.
3. Oklahoma (15 starters back: 9 offensive, 4 defensive, 2 special teams). The Sooners overcame a debilitating run of injuries last season to finish with a flourish, knocking Oklahoma State out of a BCS game and winning the Sun Bowl in their final two games. Landry Jones will be infinitely better in his second season as a starter and Ryan Broyles and DeMarco Murray may be the best one-two receiving/running back combination in the conference. Bob Stoops will be facing a big renovation on defense where key players like Gerald McCoy and Dominique Franks left early for the NFL draft. Look for Travis Lewis to be the key to a defense that will need to improve by the time Big 12 play begins if the Sooners are to have any hope of claiming a seventh Big 12 title this season.
4. Missouri (19 starters back: 9 offensive, 9 defensive, 1 special teams). The Tigers will miss Danario Alexander and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who were arguably the best players at their positions in the conference last season. But Blaine Gabbert is back for a second season as starting quarterback and some talented recruits are expected to emerge on defense. A key for the Tigers’ success will be a more productive running game and consistency from the offensive line. Improvement on both will be critical for coordinator David Yost during the spring.
5. Texas Tech (15 starters back: 7 offensive, 6 defensive, 2 special teams). New coach Tommy Tuberville immediately will have to sort through a potentially difficult decision at quarterback between Taylor Potts and fan favorite Steven Sheffield. New coordinator James Willis hopes to install a 3-4 defense that should be a haven for athletic linebackers. But the group’s success will hinge on replacing Jamar Wall at cornerback and finding some pass-rushing threats to replace Brandon Sharpe, Richard Jones and Daniel Howard along the front.
6. Texas A&M (19 starters back: 8 offensive, 9 defensive, 2 special teams). With Jerrod Johnson, Jeff Fuller, Uzoma Nwachukwu and Christine Michael back, the Aggies shouldn’t have trouble scoring points, although the line needs to do a better job of protecting Johnson. But the Aggies’ success will depend on the returning starters quickly taking to new coordinator Tim DeRuyter’s teachings. The group was blistered for at least 35 points in seven games last season and allowed at least 30 points in two other games. So needless to say that even with nine starters back, DeRuyter has his work cut out.
7. Kansas (16 starters back: 7 offensive, 7 defensive, 2 special teams). New coach Turner Gill inherits an uncertain quarterback situation, but has the framework for a strong running attack with all of his starting linemen back, along with Toben Opurum and heralded back Brandon Bourbon as running threats. The Jayhawks will need to fill in for the loss of Darrell Stuckey in the secondary, but new coordinator Carl Torbush should find the elements for a blitzing, attacking defense among the returnees. But the biggest reason the Jayhawks might be bound for a bowl game in Gill’s first season is swapping Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma for Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Baylor in their cross-divisional schedule.
8. Iowa State (13 starters back: 8 offensive, 4 defensive, 1 special teams). Paul Rhoads returns most of the offensive weapons that led the Cyclones to the Insight Bowl, most notably quarterback Austen Arnaud and running back Alexander Robinson. But the team loses all of its starting linebackers; veteran coordinator Wally Burnham will be challenged to cobble together a serviceable unit. The Cyclones could actually be a better team in 2010 but post a worse record. A tougher schedule featuring nonconference games against Utah, Iowa and Northern Illinois and the addition of South Division powers Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech will make last season’s bowl trip much tougher to duplicate.
9. Oklahoma State (10 starters back: 4 offensive, 4 defensive, 2 special teams). The Cowboys must find replacements for key players like Zac Robinson, Keith Tosten, four offensive linemen (including Outland finalist Russell Okung) and six of their back seven on defense. New offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen finds an uncertain quarterback situation but will lean heavily on a healthy Kendall Hunter. A manageable nonconference schedule should have them in bowl contention, but this should be a step back from Mike Gundy’s last two teams.
10. Kansas State (15 starters back: 7 offensive, 6 defensive, 2 special teams). The Wildcats missed out on a bowl trip last season only because they scheduled two FCS teams, but they surprisingly challenged for the Big 12 North title up to their last game of the season. It might be tougher to do that this season, although Daniel Thomas will provide the foundation on offense. Carson Coffman has the inside track at quarterback, but keep an eye out for Oregon transfer Chris Harper at either that position or wide receiver. Players like Jeffrey Fitzgerald and John Houlik will be missed on defense, but all four starters are back in the secondary.
11. Colorado (16 starters back: 8 offensive, 7 defensive, 1 special teams). Dan Hawkins’ seat is the hottest in the Big 12 and arguably in college football after missing a bowl for a second straight season last year. Tyler Hansen returns as the starting quarterback, but the Buffaloes need to find some help in the backfield with only three scholarship backs in spring practice. The defense was young last season and should be improved, but will miss the leadership provided by Jeff Smart and Cha’pelle Brown. A bowl trip likely will be necessary to save Hawkins’ job and a tough nonconference schedule featuring games at California and against Hawaii and Georgia will prove troublesome even before Big 12 play begins.
12. Baylor (14 starters back: 6 offensive, 6 defensive, 2 special teams). The Bears’ hopes of stopping the conference’s longest bowl drought will hinge largely on the health of Robert Griffin, who is recovering from knee surgery that forced him to miss the final nine games of the 2009 season. New offensive lineman “Big” Robert Griffin will have to protect his quarterback if coach Art Briles has any hope of making a bowl trip. Jay Finley and Kendall Wright are underrated offensive threats, but the Bears will miss key defensive leaders like Joe Pawelek and Jordan Lake who were stalwarts for several years.
1. Texas: Longhorn fans will always remember Colt McCoy’s injury in the national championship game and what could have been. Texas overcame every challenge during the regular season, but came up lacking without its leader in the biggest game of the year. The way the Alabama game played out will always haunt Texas fans. If they could have ever grabbed a touchdown lead or more over Alabama, was there any real indication that Alabama could have won with Greg McElroy and the Crimson Tide’s leaky offensive line? But it went the other way and the Longhorns were ground into submission by Alabama’s potent rushing attack to put a disappointing capper on an otherwise memorable season.
2. Nebraska: The Cornhuskers finished 10-4 and were only five or six plays removed from winning three of those games -- losses to Texas, Iowa State and Virginia Tech. If that had happened, it’s not out of the realm of possibility the Cornhuskers could have finished in the top five or six teams nationally. But the convincing victory over Arizona, especially with the unexpected offensive firepower, should build confidence and embolden Bo Pelini and his team for bigger and better things next season.
3. Texas Tech: A roller-coaster season finished with Mike Leach and Ruffin McNeill looking for work despite an impressive 9-4 record where the Red Raiders overachieved to a Top 25 finish. Tommy Tuberville’s arrival will bring changes, but Tech returns with a strong nucleus starting of quarterbacks Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield and running back Baron Batch. If Tuberville can get the Red Raiders up and running quickly, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that his new team could challenge Texas and Oklahoma next season. But it will be tough as he tries to change the culture of the most memorable era of Tech football.
4. Oklahoma: A fast finish took some of the sting out of Bob Stoops’ most disappointing recent season. The Sooners’ hopes of a Big 12 four-peat were doomed as soon as Sam Bradford was lost for the season. And Jermaine Gresham’s injury before the season changed the way Kevin Wilson’s offense could operate. But at the end of the season, Landry Jones showed enough promise to give him a foothold for the starting position next season. The defense developed some young playmakers like David King and Demontre Hurst who showed promise in the bowl game for future growth. The Sooners will be back challenging for the Big 12 title next season if those players build on their late-season efforts.
5. Oklahoma State: All of the promise at the start of the season unraveled with a disappointing string of injuries and suspensions. And even with all of those struggles, the Cowboys still had a chance to play in a Bowl Championship Series game if they had beaten Oklahoma. Losses in the last two games of the season left a bad taste for what could have been Mike Gundy’s breakout season. The defense played much better than expected under new coordinator Bill Young, but the offense didn’t live up to the promise -- especially when Zac Robinson was hurt and his offensive weapons were stripped away. All things considered, a 9-4 record with everything the Cowboys overcame this season was better than could be expected.
6. Missouri: As well as the Tigers played at times during the season, their season was marked by their fourth-quarter home collapse against Nebraska and their confounding Texas Bowl upset loss to Navy. Truthfully, it was expected to be a rebuilding year after losing Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin and Co., but some of that was lost after a four-game winning streak to start the season. Blaine Gabbert surpassed expectations and is in line to become the conference’s best quarterback over the next couple of years. And Danario Alexander was the best receiver in the nation over the second half of the season. Defensive woes hurt them, but Gabbert’s return and some young defensive talent should have the Tigers pointed to improvement next season and maybe a challenge at the North title.
7. Iowa State: Was there a better moment in the 2009 Big 12 season than Paul Rhoads’ emotional response to his team’s upset victory over Nebraska which became a YouTube staple? Rhoads’ first season far surpassed expectations with a 7-6 record, the Insight Bowl victory over Minnesota and all of the other surprising accomplishments. Alexander Robinson was the most underrated player in the Big 12 and the gritty Iowa State defense played just like you would expect from a Rhoads-coached team. It won’t be easy for them to duplicate next year as they switch to the Texas-Texas Tech-Oklahoma gauntlet of South Division opponents. But it was a nice first step for Rhoads in building his program.
8. Kansas State: The Wildcats missed out on a bowl trip because of playing too many creampuffs during the nonconference season, but Bill Snyder’s first season was better than expected. The Wildcats received huge contributions from Grant Gregory and Daniel Thomas, who both arrived before summer practice with no real expectations coming into the season. Thomas developed into one of the conference’s best backs and should return for more next season. If Oregon transfer Chris Harper can develop into a playmaker at either quarterback or wide receiver and the defense comes together, the Wildcats might be a threat to make a bowl appearance in 2010.
9. Texas A&M: For all of their offensive weapons, the Aggies’ defense and special teams were the primary culprits in a 6-7 season capped by a disappointing Independence Bowl loss to Georgia. Jerrod Johnson posted the top statistical numbers ever produced by an A&M quarterback and he’s surrounded by a bevy of strong offensive weapons. But Mike Sherman’s new coordinator is going to need to produce more improvement from a young defense if the Aggies have any hopes of contending in the South Division next season and beyond.
10. Kansas: The Jayhawks’ leaky defense did it with mirrors against a weak early schedule, but it all caught up with them during a seven-game losing streak to close the season that precipitated Mark Mangino’s resignation. Todd Reesing, Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe all finished careers that will go down among the top players in Kansas history. But the challenge for new coach Turner Gill and defensive coordinator Carl Torbush will be to rebuild a defense that allowed at least 31 points in seven of eight conference games.
11. Colorado: Dan Hawkins popped off about challenging for a Big 12 North title at the end of last season. Instead, his team’s struggling performance ended his hopes of “10 wins and no excuses” before conference play even began. The season started off badly with embarrassing nationally televised losses to Colorado State, Toledo and West Virginia and didn’t get much better once conference play began. The Buffaloes did start Kansas’ losing streak and beat Texas A&M, but sputtered offensively as they ranked in the bottom 10 teams in rushing, passing efficiency and sacks allowed and in the bottom 20 teams in total offense. Tyler Hansen emerged as the quarterback of the future. His development will be critical in Hawkins’ hopes at a contract extension.
12. Baylor: The Bears started the season with a confidence-building upset at Wake Forest, but their season for all intents and purposes ended as soon as Robert Griffin sustained a season-ending injury in the third game. Griffin should be back next season but key defensive players like Joe Pawelek and Jordan Lake won’t be. The quarterback's return will be critical in rebuilding offensive confidence that was booming heading into the season. The Bears might have the opportunity to snap the conference's longest bowl drought next season in a more balanced Big 12 South, but the key for the season will be developing a defense that can better challenge the South Division’s powers.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
No matter how you slice it, a pretty wild weekend in the SEC. Let’s hand out some helmet stickers:
Georgia quarterback Joe Cox: Boy, were they down on Cox in the Peach State after that season-opening loss at Oklahoma State. Then it really got crazy that next week with all kinds of rumors swirling. All he’s done since then is lead the Bulldogs to 40 or more points and a pair of wins the last two games. He tied the Georgia school record with five touchdown passes Saturday night in a 52-41 win over Arkansas. His arm strength looks fine to me.
Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin: We rarely give out helmet stickers to somebody on the losing end. But Kiffin had his Vols ready to play in some of the toughest circumstances imaginable at the Swamp, and they outplayed Florida for much of the game. If the Vols play with that kind of pride and that kind of toughness the rest of the way, they will win a lot of games this season.
Mississippi State’s defense: A week after being shredded for 589 yards of total offense by Auburn in a 49-24 loss, Mississippi State’s defense came back swinging against Vanderbilt and held the Commodores to one field goal and 157 total yards. In the first half, Vanderbilt managed just one first down against Carl Torbush’s bunch.
Kentucky receiver Randall Cobb: It’s hard to find a more versatile playmaker anywhere in the country. Cobb made a couple of unbelievable plays Saturday that saved Kentucky in its 31-27 win over Louisville. His leaping 12-yard touchdown catch was the game-winner for the Wildcats. But his catch and run on a 28-yard gain on a third-and-10 play earlier in the quarter may have been the play of the game. It was an outside screen, and Cobb was swarmed by Louisville defenders. Somehow, he broke out and kept alive a key touchdown drive for the Wildcats.
Auburn quarterback Chris Todd: He looks so much better throwing the ball than he did this time a year ago that it’s hard to believe he's the same player. Todd’s offseason shoulder surgery has given him a new lease on his football life, and he’s been a big part of the Tigers’ hot start. He passed for career highs of 284 yards and four touchdowns in the 41-30 win over West Virginia. In his first three games, Todd has six touchdown passes and just one interception. But what was so important about Saturday was that the Mountaineers dared him to beat them throwing the football, and he made them pay.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
While Colorado strength coach Jeff Pittman's comments weren't nearly as widely reported as Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin's blast at Florida, I imagine that his recent remarks for Colorado fans probably caught some notice around other Big 12 teams.
Pittman appeared at a post-signing day recruiting wrapup for Colorado fans and was excited about his team's recent progress at conditioning. And like Kiffin, he played to his crowd.
But in the process, Pittman probably raised the hackles of a few Big 12 foes.
"The last two weeks have been the best two weeks I've had here by far," Pitman told the group in a story reported by the Boulder Camera's Kyle Ringo. "I'm definitely excited. I think we're going to road-grade some people next year."
Here are some other stories from around the Big 12 today.
- The San Antonio Express-News' Mike Finger writes that Mack Brown is always going to hear about Texas-based recruits who were snubbed in recruiting by the Longhorns.
- Alabama recruit Dre Kirkpatrick explains to the New York Times' Thayer Evans that a woman at a gas station helped convince him to attend Alabama over Texas.
- Tulsa World columnist John Klein catches up with former Oklahoma coach John Blake, now the top recruiter at North Carolina on Butch Davis' staff.
- Texas will be charging $95 for a single-game ticket against Texas Tech in 2009 -- the highest ticket price the school has ever charged for one game, John Maher of the Austin American-Statesman reports.
- DeMarco Cobbs, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound wide receiver from Tulsa Central High School and a prime Oklahoma target, is ranked as the No. 1 prospect of the 2010 recruiting class by the Sporting News' Brian McLaughlin.
- Former Texas A&M offensive coordinator Les Koenning and defensive coordinator Carl Torbush have resurfaced in the same roles on Dan Mullen's new staff at Mississippi State, Kyle Veazey of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Once you get in this family, there's no getting out.
I keep thinking about that famous line from "The Sopranos" as I watch the assistants in the SEC change addresses within the conference at a dizzying pace.
That's not to mention the former SEC assistants, head coaches and players who have flocked back to the league this year and found their way onto different staffs.
I can't ever remember a year quite like this where jumping from one SEC port to another was this prevalent. In some cases, coaches were just looking for work. In others, coaches simply got better deals, while some jumped at the chance to reunite with guys they'd worked with in the past.
- Lance Thompson, after two years at Alabama under Nick Saban, joins Lane Kiffin's staff at Tennessee.
- Former Auburn coach and linebacker James Willis leaves his alma mater for bitter rival Alabama to replace Thompson.
- John Chavis ends up at LSU after 14 seasons as Tennessee's defensive coordinator.
- Former Alabama defensive back Lorenzo Ward, after one year at Arkansas, leaves for South Carolina to reunite with Ellis Johnson, who left Arkansas a year earlier after spending 28 days on the Hogs' staff.
- Trooper Taylor is back in the SEC at Auburn after spending last season at Oklahoma State and the previous four at Tennessee.
- David Reaves leaves South Carolina for Tennessee to work under Kiffin, who is Reaves' brother-in-law.
- Tracy Rocker leaves Ole Miss for Auburn, where he became the first SEC player in history to win the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award in 1988.
- Former Auburn defensive ends coach Terry Price replaces Rocker at Ole Miss.
- Ron Cooper, after five years at South Carolina, leaves for LSU.
- Former Ole Miss head coach Ed Orgeron is the recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach at Tennessee after spending last year with the New Orleans Saints.
- Former Tennessee running back Jay Graham, who also worked as a graduate assistant for the Vols, is now the running backs coach at South Carolina.
- Former Ole Miss assistant Frank Wilson has a cup of coffee at Mississippi State earlier this month before bolting for Tennessee.
- Tony Hughes, after a year at Southern Miss, replaces Wilson at Mississippi State. Hughes worked under Orgeron all three years at Ole Miss.
- Former Auburn assistant Eddie Gran lands at Tennessee.
- Former Arkansas offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn is back in the SEC at Auburn after spending the last two years at Tulsa.
- Carl Torbush, who last worked in the SEC as Alabama's defensive coordinator in 2002, is back in the league as Mississippi State's defensive coordinator.
TOP 25 SCOREBOARD
9:34 4th Qtr Buffalo 17 San Diego State 42 9:00 PM ET Tulane Louisiana-Lafayette Final Washington State 45 Colorado State 48 Final 20 Fresno State 20 25 USC 45
6:00 PM ET Pittsburgh Bowling Green 9:30 PM ET Utah State 23 Northern Illinois
2:30 PM ET Marshall Maryland 6:00 PM ET Syracuse Minnesota 9:30 PM ET Brigham Young Washington
12:00 PM ET Rutgers Notre Dame 3:20 PM ET Cincinnati North Carolina 6:45 PM ET Miami (FL) 18 Louisville 10:15 PM ET Michigan Kansas State
11:45 AM ET Middle Tennessee Navy 3:15 PM ET Ole Miss Georgia Tech 6:45 PM ET 10 Oregon Texas 10:15 PM ET 14 Arizona State Texas Tech
12:30 PM ET Arizona Boston College 2:00 PM ET Virginia Tech 17 UCLA 4:00 PM ET Rice Mississippi State 8:00 PM ET 24 Duke 21 Texas A&M
12:00 PM ET Nebraska 22 Georgia 12:00 PM ET UNLV North Texas 1:00 PM ET Iowa 16 LSU 1:00 PM ET 19 Wisconsin 9 South Carolina 5:00 PM ET 5 Stanford 4 Michigan State 8:30 PM ET 15 UCF 6 Baylor
7:30 PM ET 13 Oklahoma State 8 Missouri 8:30 PM ET 12 Clemson 7 Ohio State