NCF Nation: Joe Kines

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Here's a look at the key factor for each Big 12 team this season:

The Bears need production from a retooled offensive line and particularly new starting tackles Danny Watkins and Phillip Blake. Their work will be critical to keep Robert Griffin protected and continue the strong running game that enabled Baylor to produce 200 or more rushing yards in four of the last five games in 2008.

Somebody needs to step up and claim the starting quarterback job. Continually shuffling between Tyler Hansen and Cody Hawkins will rob the offense of its continuity and make both quarterbacks worry too much about their individual mistakes. Dan Hawkins should settle on one, and the quicker the better.

Iowa State:
The Cyclones’ tackling techniques have been frustrating for an old-school defensive coach like Paul Rhoads. He’s broken them down to the basics to hope that they will learn his way. If they can use these fundamentals to start playing better defense, it’s the start of a massive rebuilding job.

The Jayhawks lost three productive linebackers and will retool their defense by using more nickel coverages, seemingly conducive to shackling Big 12 aerial attacks. Will this new unit still be able be able to support a developing secondary and underrated defensive front?

Kansas State:
The Wildcats’ offense won’t look anything like the explosive units that Bill Snyder was familiar with earlier in his coaching tenure. This group doesn’t have a lot of productivity or depth. A rash of injuries would be a crippler for this team and likely make Snyder wonder why ever re-entered coaching.

Can new quarterback Blaine Gabbert help a rebuilding offense still be productive, despite the loss of several key producers who were the backbone of the Tigers' back-to-back division title teams?

How well will Zac Lee direct the offense? The Cornhuskers talk about his arm giving them the opportunity for more vertical strikes than when Joe Ganz was playing. Bo Pelini would just be satisfied with the same kind of consistent production that marked Ganz’s season-plus as starter.

The offensive line has received some praise from Bob Stoops in the last few days because of its conditioning and versatility. The question remains if the four new starters are accomplished enough to keep the Sooners’ record-breaking offense humming, and more importantly, Sam Bradford safe from harm.

Oklahoma State:
Bill Young has made a career out of cobbling together overachieving defenses. If he can get increased production from this unit that wore out late last season, he’ll cement his own legacy at his alma mater, as well as providing the Cowboys a chance for their first South title.

Vondrell McGee will get the first shot, but will somebody emerge as a featured ball carrier to help take some of the pressure from Colt McCoy? It’s asking a lot of McCoy to be his team’s leading rusher in two straight seasons.

Texas A&M:
Whatever happened to the Wrecking Crew? The Aggies can’t afford the struggles that marked their defense last season. Joe Kines' unit must show immediate improvement, particularly in the trenches and in the secondary.

Texas Tech:
How will the pass defense recover from the loss of key pass-rushers McKinner Dixon and Brandon Williams and starting safeties Darcel McBath and Daniel Charbonnet? In the Big 12 South, that rebuilding job in those areas could come with some lethal consequences.

Posted by's Tim Griffin

It's been a long time between bowl trips for Baylor.

The Bears' last bowl trip came in 1994 when they were defeated by Washington State in the Alamo Bowl. Current Baylor starting quarterback Robert Griffin was 4 years old when that game was played.

But excitement is rampant along the Brazos River and the Bears are ready to snap a bowl drought that is tied with Duke for the longest in schools in BCS-affiliated conferences.

Considering that Grant Teaff was coaching Baylor then and Steve Spurrier was directing the Blue Devils, it has been an extensive drought for both schools.

The Bears have their best hope this season and I'm thinking they squeak in. It will be critical for them to win at least one of their first two games against Wake Forest and Connecticut. They also need victories over Northwestern State and Kent State to enter Big 12 play at 3-1.

If Baylor does make that remarkable step, it will likely mean the Big 12 will be able to fill its full complement of bowls. It was unable to fill two bowls at the bottom of its list of partners. But that likely won't be the case this season if the Bears live up to their preseason hype.

Here's a look at how I predict the Big 12's bowl slots will be filled this season with a record nine teams making trips. The last two or three might be 6-6 teams, but there won't be much complaining from any of them.

Baylor Bears

Bowl bid: Possibly.

Best case: Robert Griffin electrifies the nation with stunning victories over Wake Forest and Connecticut to start the season and the Bears are already at six victories by mid-October. It makes them the feel-good story of the conference, places Art Briles in prime consideration for a couple of top jobs and pushes the Bears into the Alamo Bowl where they last went bowling in 1994.

Worst case: Offensive tackle Danny Watkins can't protect Griffin's blind side and the Bears stumble early with two-straight losses. Those pass-protection problems fester all season as the Bears revert to their losing ways and miss a bowl for another season.

Prediction: Texas Bowl.

Colorado Buffaloes

Bowl bid: Possibly.

Best case: In a nod to soothsayers everywhere, the Buffaloes indeed live up to Dan Hawkins' preseason "prediction" and win 10 games, claiming a surprise Big 12 title game and ending up in the Holiday Bowl.

Worst case: The Buffaloes don't settle on either quarterback and tumble out of bowl contention for the third time in the last four seasons under Hawkins, making his seat extremely toasty this winter.

Prediction: Independence Bowl.

Iowa State Cyclones:

Best case: The Cyclones become the surprise story of the conference as Austen Arnaud immediately blossoms in Tom Herman's new offense. The defense shows steady improvement under Wally Burnham, providing a surprise trip to the casinos and crawfish boils at the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.

Worst case: Paul Rhoads is a willing worker, but his new team just never jells with his philosophy. More road woes continue against Kent State as the Cyclones see their nation-worst road losing streak stretch to 22 games as they stay home from a bowl for a fourth-straight season.

Prediction: Home for the holidays.

Kansas Jayhawks

Bowl bound: Count on it.

Best case: The Jayhawks find a couple of defensive reincarnations of Aqib Talib to help them spring a couple of upsets over South Division powers. Confidence gleaned from those games helps them surprise the South Divison champion in the Big 12 title game and send Mark Mangino and his team skipping into their second BCS bowl in three seasons -- this time to the Fiesta Bowl.

Worst case: Todd Reesing struggles behind a retooled offensive line and the Jayhawks' offense isn't nearly as potent as expected. Without a high-powered scoring team, the Kansas defense is exposed as posers, falling to the Bowl for the second-straight season.

Prediction: Sun Bowl.

Kansas State Wildcats

Best case: Bill Snyder brings the magic back to Manhattan, picking up a couple of upset victories to restore some pride in the Kansas State program from early in the season. The Wildcats ride that momentum for a surprise trip to the Bowl.

Worst case: A quarterback never emerges and a struggling pass defense regresses into a horrific unit against the Big 12's high-powered aerial attacks. Those defeats make Snyder wonder why he ever left retirement as the Wildcats finish out of a bowl trip for the fifth time in six seasons.

Prediction: Home for the holidays.

Missouri Tigers

Bowl bid: Possibly.

Best case: Blaine Gabbert provides steady leadership as Derrick Washington becomes the most versatile back in the Big 12. The retooled defense emerges as the Tigers claim a surprise Big 12 North title and end up at the Cotton Bowl.

Worst case: The loss of Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin, Chase Coffman and both coordinators cause the wheels to fall off the Missouri program and they miss a bowl trip for the first time since 2004.

Prediction: Bowl

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Bowl bound: Count on it.

Best case: Zac Lee is a revelation at quarterback and the defense emerges in Bo Pelini's second season to push the Cornhuskers to a upset victory in the Big 12 title game and into the Fiesta Bowl.

Worst case: The hype for Lee is just that. The new quarterback struggles and the Cornhuskers' defense backslides all the way t
o the Texas Bowl.

Prediction: Holiday Bowl.

Oklahoma Sooners

Bowl bound: Count on it.

Best case: The young offensive line jells and the defense plays better than expected as the Sooners earn another chance to play in the BCS title game -- restoring order in the Cotton Bowl on Oct. 17 along the way.

Worst case: The offensive front struggles to protect Sam Bradford and the defense isn't as good as expected, dropping the Sooners to their first visit to the Alamo Bowl.

Prediction: Fiesta Bowl.

Oklahoma State Cowboys

Bowl bound: Count on it.

Best case: The offensive triplets exceed expectations as Bill Young cobbles together enough defense to enable the Cowboys to outduel Texas and Oklahoma for their first Big 12 championship and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl.

Worst case: The defense still can't match up with Oklahoma and Texas -- and some of the other teams in the South Division either. Those struggles send the Cowboys skidding all the way to the Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., where they play second-fiddle to the Sooners who are playing up the road in the Fiesta Bowl.

Prediction: Cotton Bowl.

Texas Longhorns

Bowl bound: Count on it

Best case: The Longhorns find a featured running back and enough push from the defensive front to make all of the BCS rankings meaningless en route back to another shot at the national title in Pasadena.

Worst case: Colt McCoy gets hurt, the running game struggles and the Longhorns keep playing dropsy with key turnovers chances for another season. Instead, Texas players fumble their way to the Holiday Bowl in San Diego where they munch fish tacos and feed the whales at Sea World for the fourth time in the last 10 years.

Prediction: BCS National Championship Game.

Texas A&M Aggies

Bowl bid: Possibly.

Best case: Jerrod Johnson plays so well at quarterback that Ryan Tannehill moves back to wide receiver full time. The Aggies respond to defensive coordinator Joe Kines' defense with vast improvement through the season, stunning Texas in the regular-season finale to push them into the Alamo Bowl.

Worst case: A leaky offensive line can't open holes or pass block and the Aggies' defense struggles against all Big 12 quarterbacks in another season that finishes without a bowl.

Prediction: Home for the holidays.

Texas Tech Red Raiders

Bowl bid: Count on it.

Best case: Taylor Potts exceeds all expectations and the Red Raiders defense plays so well that some start accusing the school of being a "defense-first" program. The Red Raiders don't win the Big 12 South, but they revisit the location of Mike Leach's biggest bowl victory at the Holiday Bowl.

Worst case: The Red Raiders miss Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree more than expected and skid out of bowl contention for the first time under Leach.

Prediction: Alamo Bowl.

Posted by's Tim Griffin

It might be a little quieter at Memorial Stadium this season, at least if a directive from the Nebraska athletic department is enforced.

Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald reports that skybox holders at Memorial Stadium have received word that there will be stricter enforcement of the campus law that forbids alcohol possession on campus.

No beer or whiskey in those prime seats might lead to a more sedate crowd -- at least in what some Nebraska insiders refer to as "Lexus Lane."

But something tells me that if Bo Pelini's team is as good as expected, the rest of the stadium might drown them out.

We won't know about that until early September at the Cornhuskers' first game. Until then, here are some notable stories from across the conference.  

  • Mark Hasty of wonders if the Big 12 can rebound after last season's disappointing bowl performance
  • Randy Riggs of the Austin American-Statesman writes about how Texas A&M defensive coordinator Joe Kines has simplified his defensive scheme in hopes of improving the defense's production.
  • Colorado is intent on improving its ability to block kicks this spring, the Boulder Daily Camera's Kyle Ringo reports.
  • Robert Cessna of the Bryan Eagle is sticking to his 6-6 prediction for Texas A&M next season.
  • Backup Oklahoma offensive tackle Donald Stephenson turned himself into Norman police after a municipal warrant was issued for his failure to pay a previous speeding ticket, the Oklahoman's Jake Trotter reports.
  • Backup Texas Tech quarterback Steven "Sticks" Sheffield is intent on earning a scholarship to get his parents off the hook for tuition, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal's Don Williams writes.
  • Michael Crabtree and Brian Orakpo are among players who will serve as cover athletes for different platforms of EA Sports' NCAA Football, the Business Wire reports.
  • Former Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman tells Joshua Kinder of the Manhattan Mercury he isn't looking back at his decision to declare for the NFL draft.
  • John Whisler of the San Antonio Express-News profiles backup Iowa State quarterback Jerome Tiller, who has emerged as one of the Cyclones' biggest spring surprises.
  • Lydon Murtha and Matt Slauson hope to renew the reputation of Nebraska's offensive line as a pipeline to the NFL, the Omaha World-Herald's Rich Kaipust reports.

Posted by's Tim Griffin

I'm back home with a cornucopia of Big 12 links for your lunchtime delight as spring practice continues across the conference.

Enjoy them.   

  • Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne defended Bo Pelini's new megabuck salary by saying the school is one of 10-12 in the country where the athletic program is self-supporting, David Ledbetter of NewsnetNebraska reports.
  • Pete Fiutak of makes his early BCS predictions, soothsaying that Texas will meet Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl and Oklahoma will hook up with Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.
  • Citing a dwindling budget, Kansas has decided to do away with the 20 percent discount for faculty and staff for athletic events, Chad Lawhorn of the Lawrence Journal-World reports.
  • Robert Griffin's second spring at quarterback has been much smoother after establishing himself as the leader of Baylor's offense, John Werner of the Waco Tribune-Herald reports.
  • Record-setting Nebraska kicker Alex Henery is in a tight battle for the team's punting job this spring, the Lincoln Journal-Star's Brian Christopherson reports.
  • Kansas defensive lineman Jamal Greene returned to practice Wednesday, although wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe still remains suspended, Dugan Arnett of the Lawrence Journal-World reports.
  • Missouri tailback Derrick Washington has a new look to match his determined attitude, Dave Matter of the Columbia Daily Tribune reports.
  • Missing last season's Holiday Bowl because of academic struggles helped Oklahoma State cornerback Terrance Anderson's commitment, Oklahoman beat writer Scott Wright reports.
  • Texas A&M defensive coordinator Joe Kines' decision to make a four-linebacker alignment prominent is bringing back memories of the school's vaunted "Wrecking Crew" defenses of the past, reports Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle/San Antonio Express-News.

Posted by's Tim Griffin 

 Brett Davis-US Presswire
 The Aggies hope that Joe Kines' enthusiasm is contagious.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- The wizened old coach doesn't look like he'd be a fountain of energy.

But first glances can sometimes be deceiving, particularly after 64-year-old Texas A&M defensive coordinator Joe Kines has charged onto a steamy practice field for the umpteenth time in his storied career.

Texas A&M defensive players said Kines, a 40-year veteran of coaching, has pumped life in the Aggies' defensive philosophy with an aggressive blitzing defense and an even louder voice exhorting them on the field.

"He's a fiery, fiery guy and you just love what he brings us," A&M cornerback Jordan Pugh said. "You have to come with energy when you play for him because that's how playing defense is. It's a perfect match."

Rather than the read-and-react strategies employed by former coordinator Gary Darnell, Kines' Aggies will be flying at quarterbacks with hopes of making big plays. The high-risk, high-reward philosophy has charged returning members with excitement that has been missing in recent seasons.

"He's making us play faster," A&M defensive end Michael Bennett said. "He asks us if we want to be a shiny car or a bumped-up one. And I consider myself to be a Mercedes."

The Aggies struggled defensively last season, ranking 83rd nationally in total defense, 91st in pass efficiency defense and 92nd in pass defense.

Kines' most immediate task is pumping some life into a pass rush that notched only 18 sacks in 13 games last season to rank 104th nationally.

Despite losing five starters from that unit, Kines is trying to transform his current team with his coaching mantra. Namely, he wants offense to adjust to what his defense is doing, instead of the defense adjusting to the whims of the offense.

"He's changed our mentality and the way we go about things," A&M defensive end Cyril Obiozor said. "We're a lot more aggressive in getting the passer. We've got to hit the quarterback a lot more, and I think we will."

That strategy is easier said than done, particularly considering the Aggies will face a slew of explosive passing offenses throughout the season.

"In the throwing game in this conference, the first thing everybody thinks about is a blitz, but what you're talking about is just getting consistent pressure on the passer. You've got to find a way to get the pressure.

"You might bring them all sometimes, but if you can get pressure out of your base defense, you're way down the road from anybody else. And that's what we hope to do."

Key for that strategy will be increased production from starting defensive ends Bennett and Obiozor.

"I love this defense because it's either eat or be eaten," Obiozor said. "And we're all very hungry."

Rebuilding the Aggies' defensive mentality will be the biggest immediate challenge for Kines, particularly considering how stacked the Big 12 is with strong passing attacks.

"We have great offenses, great offensive coordinators and a boatload of great quarterbacks," Kines said. "It's like being a cat in a room full of rockers. You have to be careful where you put your tail."

Kines was out of coaching last season at Alabama, entertaining clients for the Crimson Tide athletic department at game-day parties in a suite at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

But he left little doubt he preferred being back coaching and spinning his witticisms after his one-season sabbatical -- even with the immense test of rebuilding A&M's moribund defense facing him.

"I'm just energized because I woke up this morning. And at my age, a good warm cup of coffee and a hot shower is about all they are," Kines said, laughing. "But getting to go to practice is a heck of a deal. And if you can't get excited about this kind of challenge you don't have red blood flowing through your veins."

Posted by's Tim Griffin

New Nebraska coach Bo Pelini's attitude is all about swagger. But it's hard to build that kind of confidence playing some of the weak sisters that will dot his future nonconference schedules.

It seems that Pelini isn't exactly excited about the schedule he inherited from former athletic director Steve Pederson and former coach Bill Callahan.

Nebraska assistant athletic director for football Jeff Jamrog told the Omaha World-Herald that he's actively seeking upcoming games -- and only against Division I opponents.

The Cornhuskers will be playing Florida Atlantic, Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State next season, and Western Kentucky, Idaho and Football Championship Subdivision power South Dakota State in 2010.

"It looks like they wanted to schedule a bunch of wins," Jamrog said. "We can't do anything about it. We can't do anything about the guarantees that were set, unless you want to cancel the contracts. But we aren't interested in doing that."

Pelini is in favor of taking on all comers in the future.

"That's what the fans want to see," Pelini said. "That's the shame of the BCS. Fans aren't seeing the games they used to see in September. We want to play those games. I don't want to shy away from anyone."

Assuredly, this is very refreshing attitude for a new football coaching staff to have. But something tells me that Pelini will prefer his schedule of Western Michigan, New Mexico State and San Jose State this season before facing Virginia Tech than if he had switched to a tougher one.

Hope that Pelini is up to the challenge of tackling a few morning links, too.

  • Versatile WR Quan Cosby has had to argue to convince Texas coach Mack Brown to use him as a punt returner in the past. But his role looks assured heading into this season.
  • Converted QB Jeremy Sanders has thrived at his new position at RB, Waco Tribune-Herald reporter John Werner writes.
  • Colorado LB Jon Major, one of the top two in-state recruits for Colorado last season, has been lost for the season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament.
  • One of the real treats of covering the Big 12 each week is Kansas City Star beat writer Mike DeArmond's priceless Vlog from Missouri's camp. But how come I always think of "Sex, Lies and Videotape" when I watch his sometimes brutal weekly assessments of the Tigers?
  • Kansas State DE Ian Campbell is back at his original position after an abortive stab at linebacker last season. I wonder what took KSU coaches so long to move him back, comparing his performance last season to the previous one.
  • Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell showed quick dexterity with the new clock rules, running a no-huddle offense during all of his snaps in the Red Raiders' first scrimmage. Harrell needed only 14 plays to produce three 60-yard scoring drives, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported.
  • Converted RB Cody Glenn is getting a few extra tips in his conversion to linebacker from a long-lost relative, legendary former Nebraska LB Broderick "The Sandman" Thomas.
  • Joe Kines, a 64-year-old coaching veteran with 40 years of experience, is facing an ultimate challenge of trying to resuscitate Texas A&M's "Wrecking Crew" defense, Brent Zwerneman of the San Antonio Express-News reports. 
  • It seems Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is a big fan of the Olympics. "All of them, I like watching all of it," Stoops told the Oklahoman.  "What's so neat about it is you get that one moment to be at your best. That's what I love about boxing as well. You get that one shot. And if you happen to have over-trained, or you don't hit it just right..." Sounds a bit like playing in a bowl game, doesn't it?
  • Oklahoma State WR Jeremy Broadway appears to be making the most of his last chance with the Cowboys after his suspension last November.
  • Tulsa World reporter John Hoover wonders if Oklahoma WR Juaquin Iglesias is the most underappreciated player in the Sooners' football history. Hoover's statistics make a good case.
  • Veteran Nebraska offensive line coach Barney Cotton told Lincoln Journal-Star that his current group might be the deepest in talent he's ever coached.
  • Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News profiles Oklahoma's defense. Buried deep in the story is the quote of the day from Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who isn't exactly enthusiastic about the development of his young linebacking corps. I'm not ready to puke yet," Venables said.
  • Tulsa World columnist Dave Sittler said Kansas' rapid ascension last year is providing hope to Oklahoma State players. "After what Kansas did last year, everybody realizes just how close the Big 12 [race] is and no games are given to you anymore," Oklahoma LB/S Andre Sexton said. "We're pretty much in the same situation now as they [the Jayhawks] were in last season."
  • Construction-worker-turned OLB Mike Balogun has been thrust into the mix as Oklahoma scrambles for a replacement for injured Austin Box.
  • If new Troy WR Josh Jarboe is declared immediately eligible at Troy, he still might play in the state of Oklahoma this season. The Trojans will face Oklahoma State Sept. 27 in Stillwater.
  • Tom Timmerman of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch breaks down the battle to replace Tony Temple in the Missouri backfield. Sophomore Derrick Washington from the strangely-named hometown of Peculiar, Mo., appears to have nailed down the starting job -- mainly because of his receiving skills. "
  • 5-foot-6 freshman RB Rodney Stewart is t
    urning heads
    at Colorado's practice -- despite his diminutive size and the presence of heralded RB Darrell Scott in the Buffaloes' camp. And along with fellow freshman Ray Polk, all apparently will receive playing time this season.

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Oklahoma is going to have one of the interesting teams in the country this season. The Sooners' national reputation has been besmirched over the last couple of years with upset losses to Boise State and West Virginia in the last two Fiesta Bowls.

And while those defeats might have tempered some expectations for this coming team, Oklahoma S Nic Harris had an interesting quote for the Tulsa World's Dave Sittler about how the Sooners are reacting.

"In the face of adversity," Harris told Sittler, "some men break and others break records."

The Sooners will have the opportunity to do both. Another disappointing finish would continue their recent slide. Or they could turn things around and claim their eighth national championship since 1950.

That's why the Sooners will be one of the key stories to follow this season in the Big 12.

There will be a lot of morning links to follow along the way and we'll be right there with them. Here's a start with some of the stories that have got people talking across the Big 12.

  • Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops explains in an Oklahoman video clip why he's decided to close off all preseason scrimmages. I think the biggest reason is because he doesn't want those nasty Internet spies to know that QB Sam Bradford's learning of the team's new no-huddle offense is still a work in progress.
  • New Texas A&M defensive coordinator Joe Kines has shaken up his secondary, with Jordan Pugh moving to cornerback and Jordan Peterson to safety. The Aggies have five different defensive backs who have combined for 91 career starts. That experience better translate to increased production, or it could be a long season for the Aggies.
  • Texas Tech RB Shannon Woods appears to have climbed out of coach Mike Leach's doghouse after missing his final four games last season, including a suspension in the Gator Bowl. "He's worked ridiculously hard in the offseason, then had a good spring," Leach told reporters earlier this week. "My suspicion is he's going to be pretty good, if I were to guess right now, based on the material of several months." Woods' return would make Tech's ridiculously talented offense that much better.
  • Birmingham News columnist Kevin Scarbinsky isn't buying that former Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione is suited for a new radio gig, as has been rumored for the last week or so. "With his flat Midwestern accent and nasal whine, Franchione sounds like Ferris Bueller's teacher on helium," Scarbinsky wrote. Ouch!
  • Kansas State coach Ron Prince can start honing in on his plans for the opener. North Texas coach Todd Dodge announced Wednesday that sophomore QB Giovanni Vizza will be starting in the Aug. 30 game in Manhattan.
  • Houston Chronicle Texas A&M beat writer Terrance Harris had an interesting Q&A with A&M starting QB Stephen McGee. Among other topics, McGee talks about coach Mike Sherman's new offense, his competition with backup QB Jerrod Johnson and his lingering feelings about Franchione's dismissal.
  • Peter Bean of Burnt Orange Nation had a detailed report and list of items he noticed at Texas' open practice last night. Of particular note was how the Texas offense looked when backup QBs John Chiles and Sherrod Harris were at controls. Aren't open practices wonderful to provide a glimpse of how players have progressed over the summer? Even if the practices are more vanilla than something that Dreyer's would churn out.
  • Tom Dienhart of had an interesting column earlier this week about why Leach deserves a contract extension as Texas Tech struggles to balance its athletic books. Seth Jungmann of Double T Nation retorts, saying that veteran former head basketball coaches Bob Knight and former baseball coach Larry Hays both raise more money for the school than their salaries. Keep an eye on Leach's contract talks. It will be interesting to see if it festers over the upcoming season.
  • Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch profiles Missouri TE Chase Coffman, who is ready to emerge as the Tigers' top player at his position after sharing time with Martin Rucker throughout his career. If there was such a thing as a Big 12 fantasy football league, I'd put Coffman among my top receivers. I think he's ready to develop into a 75-reception player this season.
  • Want to feel like you're actually at Missouri's practices? Check out Dave Matter of the Columbia Tribune's Behind the Stripes blog. His reports almost make you feel the heat and hear the crash of the pads. Of particular note are his daily podcasts with Missouri coach Gary Pinkel.
  • Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins is ahead in Time Magazine's list of Best and Worst Sports Executives of 2008. Signing Mark Mangino and Bill Self to contract extensions apparently have Jayhawk fans repeatedly willing to click their mouses in his support.
  • The Waco Tribune-Herald's Brice Cherry didn't have a favorable report on Baylor's experimentation with wearing yellow Day-Glo uniform pants. Cherry said it looks like something Brett Favre wore in another life. Myself, I can't imagine the Bears decked out in anything but their traditional green-and-gold color scheme in anything.
  • Colorado's roster is taking a hit in the early days of practice. Senior G Erick Faatagi's college career is over before it started because of academic ineligibility and redshirt freshman G Mike Iltis suffered a knee injury that will keep him idled for eight weeks.
  • Colorado coach Dan Hawkins notices everything at practice. The Boulder Camera's Kyle Ringo reports that junior college transfer LB Shaun Mohler walked through the gates to the Buffaloes' practice field with his helmet off. Hawkins made him leave and return by walking through the gate with his helmet on.
  • Iowa State coach Gene Chizik has indefinitely suspended freshman WR Wallace Franklin from the team after two earlier arrests this spring. Franklin's loss shouldn't be huge as he produced only two catches last season.
  • Kansas City Star Big 12 reporter Blair Kerkhoff is breaking down his top 25 with a different team released each day on the Star's Vlog. Oklahoma State was his No. 25 pick. I love the idea, although I'm getting a "Truman Show" kind of feeling following Kerkhoff around to different places in his house and office as he makes his reports.
  • Massive 300-pound Nebraska NT Ndamukong Suh doesn't mind if his team is flying under the radar in most preseason polls.
  • Nebraska S Larry Asante tells Omaha World-Herald reporter Rich Kapuist that he's aiming to break the NCAA single-season interception record of 14. And Asante also says the Cornhuskers can deliver 40-plus turnovers this season, after producing a Big 12-low 11 last year. Ah, the confidence of August.
  • John Hoover of the Tulsa World delved into Oklahoma DE Auston English's background. He learned that English is the son of Church of Christ missionaries who lived for a time in Ireland and Gainesville, Fla., before settling in tiny Canadian, Texas.