NCF Nation: Joe Wickline
Here’s a look at the Big 12’s top five Heisman candidates heading into 2014.
Petty’s 85.5 adjusted QBR was fifth nationally this season, and he should be even better with a full season under his belt. Top target Antwan Goodley returns as well, so the Big 12’s top quarterback-receiver duo remains intact, and there’s no reason to think Big 12 teams will have any answers for the Bears’ pair in 2014. If Baylor has another impressive run to the top of the conference standings, Petty could find himself making a similar run toward the top of Heisman ballots.
2. Receiver Tyler Lockett, Kansas State: Simply put, Lockett is K-State’s passing offense. He accounted for 43.2 percent of the Wildcats’ receiving yards and 50 percent of their receiving touchdowns while finishing with 81 receptions for 1,262 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2013.
Lockett could easily be considered the Big 12’s most valuable offensive player, as his quickness, route running and consistency make him tough to contain. His progression from accomplished return threat to polished receiver has been remarkable. If he continues that progression, and the Wildcats win a bunch of games, he could insert himself into the Heisman conversation.
3. Receiver Antwan Goodley, Baylor: At Oklahoma State in 2011, Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon's combined brilliance tended to dull the shine on their individual accomplishments as the natural question emerged: Would they be as productive without each other? We could see a similar situation developing at Baylor with Petty and Goodley.
Goodley is the Big 12’s toughest cover, as his size, speed and strength combine to manhandle even the best defensive backs. Goodley had 71 receptions for 1,339 yards and 13 touchdowns, with 100-yard games in eight of 13 contests. If Baylor makes a run at its second straight Big 12 title, Goodley could be in the middle of it. And if he has a Heisman moment or two in the Bears’ biggest games, he could earn some Heisman love.
4. Running back Johnathan Gray, Texas: If the Longhorns’ best running back returns to good health, he could become the breakout star in the Big 12 during Charlie Strong’s first season. Strong keeps speaking of toughness as a priority for his program, which means running the football will be a focus, particularly with Joe Wickline calling plays. And Gray could be the beneficiary of that focus with his quick feet and playmaking skills.
If Gray has a setback during his recovery from his Achilles injury, Malcolm Brown could find himself in the Heisman mix as Gray’s replacement since he’s very talented in his own right and someone will have to tote the rock for Wickline’s offense.
5. Quarterback Davis Webb, Texas Texas: When you actually step back and take a closer look at Webb’s numbers, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Red Raiders quarterback meeting room has resembled a Baltimore corner when someone yells, "Omar comin'" during an episode of HBO’s “The Wire.”
Webb ranked No. 12 nationally with a 82.6 adjusted QBR this season, ahead of Braxton Miller, Teddy Bridgewater and Tajh Boyd, among others. And he did it as a true freshman. Now, with the departures of Baker Mayfield and Michael Brewer, Webb is poised to be the main man throwing darts in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense, which should be among the Big 12’s top passing units again after ending the 2013 season second among FBS teams (392.89 passing yards per game). The clear dark horse on this list, it wouldn't be shocking to watch Webb rise to the top if the Red Raiders end up in the middle of the Big 12 title race.
The staff Strong unveiled on Wednesday appears to have a good helping of both.
Ten days into the job, his staff is finally assembled, and he will hit the road on Thursday to begin selling a school the staff has barely had time to visit.
Strong had to stifle a laugh when asked if he was starting to settle in at Texas. It hasn't been easy. Not after all the work he had to put into interviewing coaches and piecing together a staff that met his standards.
He believes he’s found a group that can get Texas back to its championship standard, and more importantly, he thinks these are the guys UT needs off the field.
“This is a staff that we know what it is all about,” Strong said. “We are teachers, we're role models, we're going to motivate and lead. Just a staff that are family men, and you want that with the players.
“Because you want the players to look at a coach and say how, someday, if they don't end up being an engineer or a doctor but could go and be a coach, [they would] emulate the man standing right there in front of me. I am just so happy that we are aboard and finally completed it.”
It’s a group that touts a combined 232 years of coaching experience and, at least on paper, has a good deal of familiarity both with each other and with this state.
Strong hired four coaches he’d worked with in offensive coordinator Joe Wickline, defensive coordinator Vance Bedford, quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson and linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary.
He hired four assistants who have coached college football in this state: Bedford, receivers coach Les Koenning, running backs coach Tommie Robinson and retained tight ends coach Bruce Chambers.
And he hired guys he’d recruited against in the past, coaches whose passion he respected in defensive line coach Chris Rumph and defensive backs coach Chris Vaughn.
And don’t forget the 10th man, the one he considers just as valuable -- if not more so -- than the rest: Strength and conditioning coach Pat Moorer, who followed him from Louisville and is already putting his new players to the test with workouts this week.
All in all, it’s a haul that has industry experts impressed. Is this the blank-check dream team that Texas fans envisioned when Strong took the job? No, maybe not. But he’s found puzzle pieces that, thanks to all the familiarity, ought to fit together well and do so quickly.
Those fans fantasized about reeling in a big fish for an offensive coordinator, no doubt Strong’s most important hire of the nine. They wanted Strong to swing for the fences with someone like Clemson's Chad Morris or Ohio State's Tom Herman.
They might not realize what they’ve got in Wickline, one of the nation’s top offensive line coaches at Oklahoma State. He and Strong were grad assistants together at Florida in 1983 and met again in Gainesville from 2002 to 2004. He knew he was handing the keys to his offense to an underappreciated gem.
“Guys pay their dues, and guys have been around great systems, and if you look at the system he has been around at Oklahoma State for nine years, they have moved the ball very well on offense,” Strong said. “When the guys have put in their time, it's like me: I have put in my time and want to be rewarded. So he has put in his time, and he is being rewarded.”
What sold him on Wickline, and so many other members of the new staff, was a mandatory trait: Toughness. His offenses and players played. Strong is surrounding himself with hard-nosed leaders because that’s what Texas needs right now.
Just as this group comes together, it’s time to split up again. The new Longhorns coaches begin their recruiting quest on Thursday, and they’ve got plenty of catching up to do on that front.
Over the next few weeks, Strong will find out just what kind of recruiters he’s hired. And then the real job -- putting the pieces back together at Texas -- will begin.
It’s a familiar challenge for Strong. To pull this off, he’s surrounded himself with familiar allies.
“I told them right from the start that this is going to be a coaching staff with no egos,” Strong said. “We are here to work together, and it is all about success. We are here to win and whatever we have to do to go win a football game, that is what we have to do.”
Who landed the honor in the Big 12?
Bo Davis of Texas.
Writes Recruiting Nation:
Bo Davis settled right in for the Longhorns and did very well in his first season as a recruiter for Mack Brown and Texas. His impact was immediate as ESPNU 150 defensive end Torshiro Davis (Shreveport, La./Woodlawn) signed with Texas on signing day instead of LSU, where he had been a longtime commit. These are battles LSU doesn't normally lose to Texas. Davis was also responsible for landing junior college standout Brandon Moore (Scooba, Miss./East Mississippi C.C.), who originally signed with Alabama out of high school two years ago. Davis also had a key hand in the Longhorns getting defensive end Caleb Bluiett (Beaumont, Texas/West Brook) and defensive tackle Paul Boyette Jr. (Humble, Texas/Humble) on signing day. Davis, who is from Louisiana, is a big reason Texas, which normally isn't very active late in the process, made some big, late moves.
Honorable mention: Stacy Searels, Texas; Joe Wickline, Oklahoma State; Terrell Williams, Texas A&M; David Yost, Missouri.
No doubt an impressive haul for a Texas team bringing in lots of talent once again. We'll see how well each develops.
You might even see Justin Blackmon jump over somebody.
You probably won't see Oklahoma State's offensive line dominating, but that's because nobody watches what's been arguably the most impressive Cowboys unit over the past two seasons.
Maybe they should start watching.
Last year, the Cowboys were the Big 12's best line, and returned all five starters. In 2011, they've been just as good as expected, if not better, blocking for an offense that's tops in the league and No. 2 in the nation.
"We didn’t have to worry about coming into a new offense or anything like that," said tackle Levy Adcock, whose mullet you'll see poking out the back of his helmet before he cuts it next week and heads to the NFL. "All we had to do was mature on what we had, and in the spring we did that really well. In the summer, we worked together every day. We just kept getting better and communicating better and grew as a group."
Why the success? Every Cowboys offensive lineman pointed in the same direction: at offensive line coach Joe Wickline.
"We’ve got a really, really good coach. I think he’s incredible and he gets us on the right track," center Grant Garner, a first-team All-Big 12 selection, said of Wickline.
"If there was any kind of a glitch or a kink in our offensive line, he works it out, no matter what," Adcock said. "He’s just an old-school coach, and it’s never good enough, no matter how good it is."
For Oklahoma State, it's been pretty good, too. It's only gotten better since breaking in a brand-new offensive line at the beginning of the 2010 season, the first of consecutive 11-win seasons.
Why didn't they struggle longer than a few early games?
"You can give that to our coach, Joe Wickline," said left tackle Nick Martinez. "He's one of the best in the country. He's all about trying to make us one of the best offensive lines in the country."
Even after losing a top-10 pick in Russell Okung at tackle after the 2009 season, Wickline succeeded. When Oklahoma State loses three linemen who have started this season after the Fiesta Bowl, he'll try to do it again.
"Everybody was freaking out last year when we had to replace five starters, but this year, they really only have to replace two or three, and Wick is harder on the twos than he is on the ones, so I think it’ll be a seamless transition next year," Garner said. "As long as he’s here, that’s going to be the case."
That was back in August 2010, 16 months ago.
Since then, Oklahoma State won a share of the Big 12 South with a whole lot of guys nobody outside Stillwater had ever heard of.
That means this year, OSU won the Big 12 with a whole bunch of stars, including receiver Justin Blackmon, quarterback Brandon Weeden and one of the nation's best position coaches, OSU offensive line coach Joe Wickline.
Before the season, OSU coach Mike Gundy reflected on that dream, 11-win season that served as a precursor to 2011, an even dreamier season capped by a win over Oklahoma, the first since 2002.
It happened, Gundy says, because of his system that had been in place for five years, with improvement each year serving as the proof that persuaded players to buy in.
"It allows us to perform better than we should when maybe we’re not as talented or we’re not as experienced," he said before beginning a year that ended with the school's first Big 12 title. "We didn’t have hardly any experience coming back last year, and we stuck with what we believed in, and I am somewhat convinced that that’s the reason we were able to start playing pretty good and have a productive year in somewhat of a rebuilding phase."
Well, guess what?
It's time to test that theory once again.
We know how 2011 will end: With 11 or 12 wins and a Fiesta Bowl win or loss. The Cowboys finish their season against Stanford on Monday night.
The bigger unknown?
... What will happen next year?
Weeden will be gone. Blackmon will be, too. The Cowboys' No. 2 target, Josh Cooper, will relinquish his title as one of the Big 12's most underrated players upon graduating. Three offensive linemen will end their college careers, too.
The defense will lose both defensive ends and its leader, safety Markelle Martin.
That system of Gundy's? It's time for another big test.
In his seventh season in Stillwater, Gundy has the rare distinction of equaling or improving on the previous year's win total in every single year.
Next season undoubtedly will be a rebuilding year, but so was 2010. What will it mean on the field?
The Cowboys will host a quarterback competition for the right to throw to a group of talented receivers nobody outside Stillwater, as in 2010, has ever heard of.
Recruiting has improved every year under Gundy, and we'll see how those new faces have fit into his burgeoning program.
This time next year, will Clint Chelf, J.W. Walsh or newcomer Wes Lunt be a household name and an All-Big 12 quarterback?
Will Michael Harrison, Isaiah Anderson, Tracy Moore or Josh Stewart be on the short list for the Biletnikoff?
As in 2010, the Cowboys will have a solid running game to depend on. Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith have combined for more than 1,800 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns with a game still left to play. They'll both be back, as Kendall Hunter, a 2008 All-American, was in 2010.
This year, Oklahoma State proved it can get over the hump.
Next year, we'll find out whether the Cowboys are capable of staying on top.
Oklahoma State's offensive line: Joe Wickline, take a bow. The Cowboys offensive line coach has the Big 12's best unit, and it put together a grand performance against a very good Oklahoma defensive line. The Cowboys didn't give up a single sack, Brandon Weeden had all day to throw, and the Cowboys ran for 278 yards and four touchdowns on 33 carries. As a result, the Cowboys won the Big 12 title 44-10 over Oklahoma.
Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor: Griffin needed a big day to snatch the Heisman, and he got one. Now, it's up to voters. Griffin lit up Texas' defense for 320 yards on 15-of-22 passing, including touchdown passes of 59 and 39 yards against the only defense in the country that hadn't given up a TD pass longer than 20 yards. He also ran for two more touchdowns in the 48-24 victory.
Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State: Another day, another bucketful of carries. Klein toted it 26 times for 86 yards and a touchdown, completing 7 of 15 passes for 158 yards and another score, without a turnover in a 30-23 win over Iowa State to clinch a 10-win season and keep K-State's BCS bowl hopes alive.
Added quarterback Brandon Weeden: "[Offensive line] coach [Joe] Wickline, as good as he is, I expected the best, but that was kind of the unknown. Myself, I was kind of like, 'will they be able to get it done?'"
Wickline rotated a few players in and out of the starting group early in spring. Finally, in hopes of chemistry creating a "whole greater than the sum of its parts" type of situation, he decided to stick with five players.
Taylor, a sophomore and the lone returning starter, was slotted at right guard. Levy Adcock and Nick Martinez slid into the role of right and left tackle, respectively. Jonathan Rush took over at left guard. Grant Garner assumed the role of center, making up a group of four juniors and a sophomore.
"We hoped that [running back] Kendall [Hunter] and some of the wideouts we had could make plays for us and we’d overcome some deficiencies in the offensive line," Gundy said. "Later, we found out they were pretty talented and they were able to work well as a group and make some plays."
What looked like a patchwork offensive line eventually developed into one of the Big 12's best, helping pave the way for Hunter and give Weeden time to quarterback the nation's No. 3 offense.
"They were just some blue-collar guys that worked well together," Gundy said. "I think they had great leadership from their quarterback and it didn’t hurt that we had a Doak Walker candidate at running back and a Biletnikoff winner at receiver, which takes a lot of pressure off those guys."
The best news now, though? All five are back. Four starters are seniors and Taylor will enter his third season in the starting lineup as a junior.
"Experience is very important in this game at any level and at any position, and when you have experienced guys up front, it gives your quarterback a little sense of security," Gundy said, "and they feel better about themselves and he feels better about his ability to be protected and make some plays."
The line saw progress in spring. It continued into the fall.
"By the end of the year, they were rolling pretty good," Gundy said. "They didn’t just dominate people, but they were really good, sound and didn’t make a lot of mistakes. Because of that, eliminating the errors, made them a good offensive line."
The offense will have to adjust to a new play-caller and a new running back next season, but with the play of the big men up front, their tasks look significantly easier.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
This is the getaway-day version of lunchtime links as I'm headed north to cover some Oklahoma/Oklahoma State football stories and the upcoming Big 12 tournament.
But I would never think of shirking nourishment, particularly with March Madness approaching. There's always room for some football stories from across the conference at our lunchtime table.
- Kansas will moderate its basic defensive philosophy by playing two linebackers and a hybrid safety/linebacker in its starting lineup, Dugan Arnett of the Lawrence Journal-World reports.
- The Austin American-Statesman's Kirk Bohls has the uplifting story of how former Texas fullback Steve Worster has persevered, despite losing most of his worldly possessions to Hurricane Ike.
- New Oklahoma State co-offensive coordinator Joe Wickline will pocket a $72,000 yearly salary increase with his job promotion, Bill Haisten of the Tulsa World reports.
- The St. Louis Post-Dispatch analyzes what to watch for across the Big 12 this spring.
- John Hillman of realfootball365.com breaks down the quarterback competition at Texas A&M this spring.
- Matt Ballenger needs to become more assertive if he wants to become a factor in Colorado's battle for the starting quarterback position, Kyle Ringo of the Boulder Camera writes.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Sad news this morning as Oklahoma wide receiver Corey Wilson fights for his life in an Oklahoma City hospital.
John Hoover of the Tulsa World reports that Oklahoma players received an e-mail earlier this week from coaches telling them that Wilson is paralyzed from the waist down after he was involved in an automobile accident last week.
That sobering information puts everything into perspective as three schools continue spring work across the Big 12 and others are getting ready for the start of practice next week.
Hopefully, there's will be better news for Wilson in the future. We all are praying for his recovery.
Here's some other news from across the conference this morning.
- Boulder Daily Camera columnist Neill Woelk thinks it's "borderline delusional" to consider that Colorado can fill Folsom Field for its spring game.
- Nebraska senior defensive end Barry Turner will be arraigned Thursday on suspicion of assaulting a 20-year-old woman in Lincoln last week, the Lincoln Journal-Star reports.
- Austin American-Statesman columnist Cedric Golden writes that Texas cornerback Chykie Brown appears recovered from an ankle injury that hampered him late last season, although he's still hooked up in a tight battle for a starting job.
- The Lawrence City Commission is mulling an idea of naming Missouri Street for two blocks in honor of former Kansas coach Don Fambrough, Chad Lawhorn and Janet Reid of the Lawrence Journal-World report.
- Oklahoma State offensive line coach Joe Wickline received a promotion to co-offensive coordinator, the Oklahoman's Scott Wright reports.
- Kevin Haskin of the Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the formation of a search committee to name Kansas State's athletic director is a sure sign that things are changing around the school.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Video may have killed the radio star, according to the old English new wave band the Buggles. But expanding mediums are providing additional opportunities for reporters to share their insights with consumers in the rapidly expanding marketplace.
The Big 12 is no different, stocked with a boatload of good weekly vlogs. And work has started early, even before the season starts, at many newspapers.
The spirited competition between the Lincoln Journal-Star and the Omaha World-Herald in the coverage of all things concerning Nebraska football has spilled over into a video war of sorts.
Omaha World-Herald beat writers Mitch Sherman and Rich Kaipust talk about the need for increasing sacks and turnovers in their most recent video chat. And Lincoln Journal Star columnist Steve Sipple and beat writer Brian Christopherson discuss freshmen who will play for the Cornhuskers this season. It will continue for both papers throughout the season.
But the most effective use of video by a newspaper that I've seen so far is what the Oklahoman has done for its stellar series on Bob Stoops. A group of Oklahoman reporters provide analysis of Stoops' leadership, done with tight videography in a style much like ESPN Classic has used in its Sports Century documentaries. Despite the lack of live action footage, the use of some memorable still pictures of Stoops and Sooners was still very effective.
More newspapers are going to this synergy using different formats. I'll try to include some of the more notable ones in my upcoming posts.
But the written word still remains supreme in my mind. And here are some scrumptuous morsels for a Friday morning links collection.
- Baylor coach Art Briles said that freshman QB Robert Griffin will see action in the Bears' opener against Wake Forest and that TB Jay Finley will average 16 to 21 carries per game this season.
- Denver Post reporter Tom Kensler profiles Colorado long snapper Austin Bisnow, a budding songwriter who has twice won Colorado's on-campus "Idol" competition for his singing abilities.
- Some Kansas players are saying their secondary could be better this season with Chris Harris starting in place of departed All-American CB Aqib Talib.
- Nebraska WR Nate Swift has rebounded from a childhood bout with paralysis brought about after being diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome 12 years ago in a story by the Omaha World-Herald's Rich Kaipust. Swift has a complete recovery and needs 41 catches to become the school's leading career receiver.
- Lawrence Journal-World beat writer Dugan Arnett writes about the joy of finding former Kansas RB Donte Bean in the cereal aisle at the Wal-Mart late one night.
- Lincoln Journal Star columnist Steve Sipple profiles MLB Phillip "Jelly Roll" Dillard, who has lost more than 30 pounds since last season in preparation for Bo Pelini's aggressive new defense.
- Jake Trotter of the Oklahoman writes about how Bob Stoops has made it a priority to involve his coaching staff's families in all aspects of the program.
- Texas Tech coach Mile Leach told fans at the annual Red Raider Club kickoff luncheon on Thursday in Lubbock that he may finally have the team to fulfill lofty preseason expectations. "I think what I've been impressed with about this group is they work together, they listen to coaching and as a result, since they're very committed to doing the best they can, you can coach them hard," Leach said. "You can ask more of them than some of the other groups I've dealt with. As a result, we're looking forward to seeing where it takes us."
- Later in the evening, Leach, defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill, QB Graham Harrell and WR Michael Crabtree were among those who signed autographs for more than four hours at the team's annual Fan Night.
- Freshman TB Bradley Stephens accounted for 190 yards at Texas A&M's final scrimmage of training camp. But the most notable development could be the pass-catching abilities of backup QB Jerrod Johnson, who snagged five receptions for 47 yards playing tight end, including a 15-yard TD reception.
- Austin American-Statesman beat writer Suzanne Halliburton broke down the crowded kicking and punting competition at Texas, where incumbent K Ryan Bailey and P Trevor Gerland are facing serious challenges to keep their jobs.
- Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Mike Jones blogs about the rules that Texas coach Mack Brown will have to consider if he plays quarterbacks Colt McCoy and John Chiles at the same time.
- Heralded recruit Darrell Scott was listed as Colorado's third-string running back and third-string punter in Coach Dan Hawkins' first depth chart released on Thursday.
- Iowa State will receive a guaranteed total of $1.8 million from their two-game series at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City against Kansas State that was announced Thursday. Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard said the school averages $1 million per game in home revenues. And Pollard told the Kansas City Star's Blair Kerkhoff that both schools might seek a sponsor for the game and develop a traveling trophy for the winner of the game.
- No defensive starters saw action in Missouri's final scrimmage of training camp. But LB Sean Weatherspoon said he's excited heading into the Tigers' Aug. 30 opener against Illinois. "I think we're definitely ready," Weatherspoon told the Kansas City Star. "Guys are really excited about this season. The energy level is up. And enthusiasm is free." With backup QB Chase Patton injured, third-stringer Blaine Gabbert saw most of the action at the scrimmage, overcoming early adversity to finish strongly.
- Missouri fans are irate about a $100 seasona
l charge for reserved parking in donor lots at Faurot Field - on top of required season-ticket purchase and a donation to the school's scholarship fund. School officials told the Columbia Tribune that the school was the last in the Big 12 to charge for this.
- A sloppy defensive practice on Thursday resulted in extra running for Oklahoma players and no defensive coaches made available to the media after practice. "We're trying to be national champions, not just win the Big 12 and lose a bowl game," DT Gerald McCoy told the Oklahoman. "We're tired of that reputation."
- Senior Richie Bean and walk-on freshman Randy Bullock are vying for Texas A&M's kicking slot after last year's starter, Matt Szymanski, transferred to SMU.
- Texas QB Colt McCoy likened his first two years starting with the Longhorns to his first two years with a driver's license.
- Old-school Oklahoma State offensive line coach Joe Wickline is impossible to please, according to the Tulsa World's Bill Haisten. "All I see are errors that you can correct," Wickline said. "I'll let someone else tell these guys that they're doing a good job."
- Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman says that Oklahoma State is stuck in a rut of mediocrity.
- John Shinn of the Norman Transcript writes that Oklahoma's current collection of defensive linemen might be the best in Bob Stoops' coaching era.
- Missouri freshmen players Rolandis Woodland and Drew Temple are all but assured of redshirting if they are ever cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center, several Missouri papers reported. Temple is the younger brother of former Missouri leading rusher Tony Temple.
- Veteran Lawrence Journal-World columnist Bill Mayer goes far into his personal "Way Back Machine" to compare Kansas' current football fever to previous seasons.