NCF Nation: Joey Halzle

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Several years ago, the prospect of Keith Nichol and Kirk Cousins competing for a starting job on the same team seemed slim at best.

You could make a case the two quarterbacks were intentionally trying to avoid each other.

 Matthew Emmons/US PRESSWIRE
Kirk Cousins could have the advantage in the QB duel after serving as Brian Hoyer's backup last fall.

Nichol committed to Michigan State in the summer of 2005, pegged as the successor to Drew Stanton. At the time, Cousins was a relatively unknown player entering his junior year at a high school that had only started competing in football two years earlier.

But shortly after Michigan State fired head coach John L. Smith in 2006, Nichol decommitted and switched his pledge to Oklahoma. Cousins, meanwhile, had followed several strong performances at junior camps with an excellent senior season.

Scholarship offers started to trickle in. After Nichol bolted, Michigan State assistant Dan Enos came calling and Cousins committed in January 2007.

"If I had to pick from any of the other schools that had offered, I'm not sure where I would have gone," said Cousins, who also received an offer from Colorado. "I'm glad that Michigan State came through."

Their paths seemed set. Two quarterbacks who grew up 50 miles apart in western Michigan would be separated by a time zone in college.

But after Nichol found himself behind future Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford and Joey Halzle on Oklahoma's depth chart, he decided to transfer and ended up where he nearly started, Michigan State.

As the Spartans' quarterback competition kicks off this spring, Cousins and Nichol find themselves together on center stage.

"It's funny how things work out," Nichol said. "I don't think he really knew where he was going to go, and then I go to Oklahoma, he decides to come here and now I'm back.

"Competing with him has made me a better football player, it's made me grow physically and mentally. It's been a blessing, actually."

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

And people thought it was known just for its jazz history and barbecue.  

Kansas City is undoubtedly the northern hub of the Big 12. It was always the center for the old Big Eight Conference and some of the locals still haven't forgotten the interlopers from Texas who pushed the Big 12's offices to Dallas when the conference opened.

But "The City of Fountains" is bigger than just a few fax machines and file cabinets. And it will be proved again today when Iowa State and Kansas State announce they are coming soon.

Multiple newspapers reported this morning that the Cyclones and Wildcats will move 2009 and 2010 games to Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. Sources told the Topeka Capital-Journal the two teamswill receive payments of at least $1.8 million per game. KSU nets about $1 million from a normal game in Manhattan, according to the Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle.

Kansas City is on a roll attracting Big 12 events. Arrowhead Stadium will be the site for the Big 12 championship game on Dec. 6. The breathtaking new Sprint Center was the host for the Big 12's men's basketball championships in March and will be solidly in the rotation for future tournament events. And the venerable Municipal Auditorium, with its stately art-deco ambience, is the best arena around for the women's title.

It's surprising that more regular-season Big 12 games don't end up in facilities like Arrowhead Stadium. The Missouri-Kansas game last season was one of the most ballyhooed sports events I've ever seen and the atmosphere lived up to the hype.

That game was bigger than any Texas-Oklahoma game I had ever attended because it had significant championship ramifications penned solely on that game. Now if we could get those Kansas City engineers to figure out how to get traffic moving a little faster, the next time might be easier.

The Kansas City Chiefs' organization appears more than willing to shell out big guarantees for games that it feels will be successful. I'm surprised that Nebraska hasn't convinced an opponent to move a home game to Arrowhead for those kind of windfall profits after a successful game there in 1998 against Oklahoma State.

So don't be surprised to see more Big 12 events end up at "The Paris of the Plains" in the future.  

Just save a few extra cinnamon rolls for me at the legendary Stroud's Restaurant when you get there.

Until then, here are some tasty Big 12 links. They are almost as habit-forming and not nearly as gooey on your fingers.

  • Club Med in cleats? Colorado prepared for its opener against Colorado State earlier this week by playing dodge ball, having a diving/belly flop contest, a 3-point basketball shooting competition and playing video games at a Boulder-area restaurant. "I just really believe there is so much magic in the world and so much magic in people, and sometimes we let life trample that down," Colorado coach Dan Hawkins told the Boulder Daily Camera.
  • Missouri TE Chase Coffman was back catching passes for the first time Wednesday as he recovers from a broken right pinkie finger. Coffman scored touchdowns on consecutive red-zone plays.
  • After watching Usain Bolt perform in the Olympics, Texas Tech coach Mike Leach believes that Jamaica could be a recruiting and vacation paradise. (Tip to the Dallas Morning News)
  • Heralded Nebraska WR prospect Khiry Cooper talks about his early practices in a video interview with huskers.com.
  • The Oklahoman's Jake Trotter details how important Bob Stoops has been in turning the Oklahoma program solidly in the black financially. "We can tie everything back to Bob Stoops," Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione told the newspaper. "The success of our football program has been like the high tide in the harbor that has raised all of the boats." 
  • Billionaire financier T. Boone Pickens is pumping up support for Oklahoma State across Nebraska.
  • The Tulsa World's Guerin Emig writes about Oklahoma backup QB Joey Halzle, who earned his teammates' respect with a strong relief performance last season against Texas Tech.
  • The dog days of training camp brought a water balloon fight to Texas A&M on Wednesday. "Humor is one of the greatest components of having great chemistry when you can laugh at things together," A&M coach Mike Sherman told the Bryan-College Station Eagle.
  • Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger expanded on his comments about his team's opener with Texas with the San Antonio Express-News' Natalie England. "I was trying to explain to the kids on campus here that the University of Texas has a long tradition of winning," Schnellenberger said. "They have such great players. There's no way we're going to match up with as good as players as they have, but we're coming down there to try and win the game."
  • Massive 305-pound T Rylan Reed is back healthy for Texas Tech after suffering a serious ankle injury in last year's Gator Bowl.
  • Quan Cosby and Jordan Shipley are set as Texas' top receivers. But after that the Longhorns' receiving rotation is a jumble, Austin American-Statesman's Alan Trubow reports.
  • Colorado and Colorado State appear to have different ideas where they want future games in the series to be played, according to B.G. Brooks of the Rocky Mountain News. The Buffaloes want games played at Boulder to provide a six-game home package of games, starting next season. The Rams are interested in continuing the series in Denver.
  • WR Howard Morrow's return from an injury could settle one of Texas A&M's biggest questions, San Antonio Express-News reporter Brent Zwerneman writes.
  • Brent Nickerson and LaRon Moore are emerging as likely replacements for injured starting Texas Tech CB L.A. Reed, whose condition remains undetermined.
  • Nebraska offensive line coach Barney Cotton told the Lincoln Journal-Star he's energized after spending last season as a volunteer assistant coach at Ames (Iowa) High School. "As hard as it was getting fired," said Cotton, who previously was an offensive coordinator three years at Iowa State, "it was also a blessing in disguise, because it kind of gave me a chance to re-energize myself and refocus on why I was a coach."
  • Nebraska QB Joe Ganz tells the Omaha World-Herald's Tom Shatel that he grew up in suburban Chicago wanting to be Tommie Frazier.
  • NFL scouts are telling Kansas State coach Ron Prince that QB Josh Freeman could be the No. 1 pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. "That's what NFL people tell me," Prince told the Manhattan Mercury.
  • Iowa State freshman DE Cleyon Laing, a Canadian native,  is adjusting to American football before the new culture. "I haven't really had time to get culture shock yet," Laing told the Ames Daily Tribune. "It's just practice, sleep, meetings, sleep, and repeat. It's football 24/7."
  • Baylor coach Art Briles is intent on boosting production from a running game that ranked 113th nationally last season and last in the nation in 2006.
  • Heralded freshman TB back Darrell Scott sprained his left thumb at Colorado's morning practice, but returned for the Buffaloes' afternoon work.
  • Lawrence Journal-World columnist Tom Keegan predicts that Kansas still will have a productive running game this season, despite the loss of two starting offensive tackles and leading rusher Brandon McAnderson.
  • Missouri coach Gary Pinkel expects his younger players will receive most of the snaps Thursday at his team's final training-camp scrimmage.

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