NCF Nation: Lendy Holmes

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Sometimes the spring provides a chance for personnel holes to be filled. Sometimes it doesn't.

Here are some of the notable positions around the Big 12 that picked up some assistance during the spring.

Baylor: The quick development of defensive tackle Phil Taylor, a heralded transfer from Penn State, should turn a traditional position of weakness for the Bears into a strength. Joining him at the position will be Jason Lamb, who showed some promise after moving over from defensive end before spring practice.

Colorado: The emergence of hulking 260-pound middle linebacker Marcus Burton and B.J. Beatty at outside linebacker have helped transform the Buffaloes' defense. Burton led the team in tackles and was a prime playmaker in the spring game with eight tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery. He had eight tackles in 10 games last season.

Iowa State: Redshirt freshman quarterback Jerome Tiller outplayed starter Austen Arnaud in the spring game, passing for 210 yards and getting free for a 65-yard touchdown run. I'm not sure that Tiller will be starting come September, but he'll make Arnaud work harder to earn his job.

Kansas: The Jayhawks had questions in the defensive line before the spring, even with the return of all-Big 12 honorable mention selections Caleb Blakesley and Jake Laptad and late season starting defensive tackles Richard Johnson and Jamal Greene. The development of tackle Darius Parish and end Max Onyegbule should add to the depth. And that doesn't even account for the arrival of heralded junior college transfer Quintin Woods, who originally signed with Michigan out of high school before heading to Bakersfield (Cal.) Community College to get his grades in order.

Kansas State: The emergence of linebackers like Alex Hrebec, Ulla Pomele and John Houlik has helped turn the position into the strength of the defense, even as the Wildcats are transforming to a 4-2-5 alignment. Hrebec, a former walk-on, contributed 19 tackles in the spring game and Houlik is a huge hitter despite his 5-foot-11, 219-pound size.

Missouri: Redshirt freshman Aldon Smith has only added to the Tigers' depth at defensive end, which already featured Brian Coulter and Jacquies Smith in front of him. Smith was voted as the team's most improved player in the spring. Throw in converted offensive tackle Brad Madison and redshirt freshman Marcus Marlbrough and you'll see why Gary Pinkel considers it his best collection of defensive ends at Missouri.

Nebraska: The Cornhuskers had serious questions at quarterback, particularly after the departure of projected starting challenger Patrick Witt before spring practice and Kody Spano's knee injury. But the strong spring by Zac Lee and the surprising development of converted linebacker LaTravis Washington eased some of offensive coordinator Shawn Watson's concerns. Their strong spring work also should mean that heralded freshman Cody Green likely won't be thrown into action perhaps as quickly as Watson might have feared before the spring.

Oklahoma: After losing starters Nic Harris and Lendy Holmes, safety was the only position without returning starters for the Sooners on defense. Quinton Carter nailed down one starting position and Sam Proctor and Joseph Ibiloye are poised to fight for the other job beside him. Emmanuel Jones and Desmond Jackson also had strong spring efforts to challenge for playing time.

Oklahoma State: Defensive tackle was enough of a question that new coordinator Bill Young moved Derek Burton inside from defensive end to help bolster depth at the position. Burton and Swanson Miller appear to have won starting jobs with redshirt freshman Nigel Nicholas and junior Chris Donaldson providing strong depth. Their strong play helped the Cowboys rack up seven sacks in the spring game - more than half of their 2008 season total of 13.

Texas: The Longhorns were concerned about defensive end after the departure of NFL draft picks Brian Orakpo and Henry Melton from last season. Those fears appear to be assuaged after the seamless transition of Sergio Kindle to the position from linebacker and the quick assimilation by freshman Alex Okafor. Toss in Sam Acho and Russell Carter and the return injured pass-rushing threat Eddie Jones and the Longhorns appear stacked at the position.

Texas A&M: Safety was a question mark before spring camp after the loss of Devin Gregg and Alton Dixon and the move of 2008 starting free safety Jordan Peterson to cornerback. But the strong return to safety by converted cornerback Jordan Pugh and the noticeable development by Trent Hunter helped solidify the position during the spring. And the Aggies' depth at the position was improved after the move of wide receiver Chris Caflisch to the position along with strong play from DeMaurier Thompson.

Texas Tech: The departure of two-time Biletnikoff Award winner Michael Crabtree and underrated Eric Morris was supposed to cripple the Red Raiders' receiving corps. Mike Leach appears to have found several serviceable replacements after Tramain Swindall, Lyle Leong, Detron Lewis and walk-on flanker Adam Torres all emerged during the spring. And that doesn't include Edward Britton, who was in Leach's doghouse much of the spring after falling behind in the classroom but still is perhaps their most athletic force on the field.

Posted by's Tim Griffin

In the moments after Oklahoma's disappointing BCS title game loss to Florida, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy wasn't sure if any of his draft-eligible teammates would be returning.

  Marc Serota/Getty Images
  Gerald McCoy was a consensus All-Big 12 selection last season.
With key players like quarterback Sam Bradford, tight end Jermaine Gresham and tackle Trent Williams all projected to be picked early in the first day of the NFL draft, McCoy expected the worst. He wasn't even sure if he would be coming back to college, much less the rest of his teammates.

But something happened before the draft eligibility paperwork had to be turned in. All of the Sooners' key underclassmen who were considering turning pro decided to come back en masse.

"I don't think I would have believed we all would be coming back together, but it happened," McCoy said. "We know that we are the leaders of the team and everything happens for a reason. We have to come out and lead this team."

McCoy wavered in his own decision whether to come back for his junior season or declare for the draft. The NFL draft evaluation indicated he would have been a likely first-round draft pick. But the second-team All-American felt like he still had some unfinished business in college that made him want to return for another season.

"I went back and forth. One day I wanted to go and the next I didn't," McCoy said. "It almost was like what I felt when I was being recruited. Once I prayed and felt comfortable about my decision, I felt relaxed about what I was doing."

(Read full post)

Posted by's Tim Griffin

MIAMI -- Coming into the game, Oklahoma's defensive prowess was disparaged as just another bad Big 12 defense.

But something happened between those taunts and the way the Sooners played in Thursday night's FedEx BCS National Championship Game.

  AP Photo/Chris O'Meara
  Nic Harris and the Oklahoma defense kept the Sooners in the game Thursday night.

The Sooners dropped their fifth straight BCS bowl and third national title game in a row as Florida gradually wore them down 24-14. But it wasn't the fault of the defense, which limited the Gators to their lowest scoring total of the season and had Oklahoma in position to win heading into the fourth quarter.

"People can still disrespect us, but they felt us out there every play," Oklahoma safety Lendy Holmes said. "They can call us a joke, but we took the smack and showed them out there with our play. We proved something to people -- we left it all out there."

The Sooners rattled Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, who had been intercepted only twice in 268 attempts this season coming into the game. Tebow was picked off twice in his first 16 throws on Thursday night.

Lack of offensive production ultimately did the Sooners in as they were unable to produce any points resulting from the two early turnovers.

"We did show them something," said Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who contributed one of the Sooners' two interceptions. "Tebow hadn't thrown a pick in the first half all season and we got two. We had them rattled, but with a guy like that, you just have to stay on him. We gave him some light and he capitalized and made plays."

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Posted by's Tim Griffin

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- There's been a disconnect all season long in Oklahoma's kickoff coverage.

The Sooners seemingly have the same kind of athletic ability and speed that has always marked coach Bob Stoops' teams.

 Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
 Lendy Holmes and the Sooners know they have to be wary of Florida's return game.

But they haven't tackled very well in space, providing opposing teams with good field position all season long on their kickoff returns. It's made Oklahoma's kickoff coverage unit perhaps its most vulnerable weakness heading into Thursday's FedEx BCS National Championship Game against Florida.

"We just haven't been disciplined all the time," Oklahoma safety Lendy Holmes said. "It seems like we couldn't get off our blocks or just run the wrong gap. It's been a problem, but hopefully it'll get better in this game. It better be."

Oklahoma has struggled with poor coverage all season, allowing opponents to average 24.1 yards per kickoff return to rank 105th nationally. It's their third-worst performance in covering kickoffs since the program began compiling statistics, topped only by two seasons in the Sooners' John Blake era in 1996 and 1998.

Oklahoma has allowed four kickoff returns for touchdowns this season to lead the nation. And on several other opportunities, it has been blistered on plays that nearly went all the way.

And the weirdest part of the equation is that Florida offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, who handles the Gators' kickoff return unit among his many duties, has a solid scouting report for the Sooners after studying his opponents.

"I think they've got a good kickoff team," Addazio said. "That's from what I've seen on tape. They've got a lot of speed and it's as fast of a coverage as I've seen."

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Posted by's Tim Griffin

Here are the choices for my All-Big 12 team for the 2008 season.

QB - Colt McCoy, Texas
RB - Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State
RB - DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma
WR - Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
WR - Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State
TE - Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma
OL - Duke Robinson, Oklahoma
OL - Jason Smith, Baylor
OL - Rylan Reed, Texas Tech
OL - Russell Okung, Oklahoma State
C - Jon Cooper, Oklahoma

DL - Brian Orkapo, Texas
DL - Brandon Williams, Texas Tech
DL - Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska
DL - Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma
LB - Joe Pawelek, Baylor
LB - Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri
LB - Travis Lewis, Oklahoma
DB - Darcel McBath, Texas Tech
DB - Darrell Stuckey, Kansas
DB - Lendy Holmes, Oklahoma
DB - Daniel Charbonnet, Texas Tech

AP - Jeremy Maclin, Missouri

KR - Perrish Cox, Oklahoma State
PR - Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State
K- Jeff Wolfert, Missouri
P- Justin Brantley, Texas A&M

Posted by's Tim Griffin

NORMAN, Okla. -- So much for any post-Texas hangover for Oklahoma's offense.

The Sooners' defense has lived up to the new order in this season's Big 12. Namely, it doesn't matter how many yards a defense may allow as long as it can deliver a timely big play.

The Sooners produced two -- a pair of interceptions by Lendy Holmes -- that ultimately was the difference in Oklahoma's 24-17 halftime lead over Kansas.

The Sooners' balanced attack erupted for 419 yards, but look like they will need a lot more to put away the pesky Jayhawks.

But as effective as Oklahoma played, Kansas coach Mark Mangino probably left feeling fortunate. The Jayhawks have withstood a huge offensive haymaker and are still down by only seven points at the break.

Sam Bradford's strong passing is a given for Oklahoma as he's already completed 26 of 36 passes for 313 yards. But the Sooners' running game appears to be back after piling up 106 rushing yards after producing less than 50 in two of OU's last three game.

Particularly noteworthy was the hard inside running of DeMarco Murray, who piled up 61 yards after struggling most of the season.

The Sooners torched Kansas on short, quick passes as they took advantage of their receivers' speed against Kansas' slower secondary. And they were able to beat them inside by blasting them off the line of scrimmage between the tackles. Outside plays, however, were a different story.

It helped Oklahoma wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias to set school records for a half with 10 catches for 178 receiving yards. Bradford's big half spurred the Sooners to five possessions of at least 64 yards during the half. Dezmon Briscoe set a Kansas record for one half with 193 yards on nine receptions.

Reesing was nearly as effective, passing for 220 yards. The two teams combined for 701 yards of total offense, 548 passing yards and 37 first downs.

One other notable highlight came after Oklahoma inserted more starters on the kickoff team and kickoff team coverage. The strategy backfired late in the first half when linebacker Travis Lewis was shaken in a collision with Kansas running back Jocques Crawford. Both players needed assistance to leave the field and Lewis' availability in the second half is questionable.

Big 12 Week 5 helmet stickers

September, 28, 2008

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Another tough week selecting the best of the Big 12's best. But their efforts on Saturday set them apart.

Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford and WR Manny Johnson: Bradford passed for a career-best 411 yards on 19-of-34 passing with four TD passes to spark the Sooners' 35-10 victory over TCU. Johnson was the main recipient with five catches for a school-record 206 receiving yards and three TDs.

Texas QB Colt McCoy: Accounted for five TDs in the Longhorns' 52-10 victory over Arkansas. McCoy was 17-of-19 passing for 185 yards and three TDs and ran for two more scores on a game-high 84 yards rushing.

Kansas State QB Josh Freeman: Contributed five TDs in the Wildcats' 45-37 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette. Freeman ran for two touchdowns and passed for 272 yards and three TDs, becoming KSU's career passing yardage leader.

Oklahoma S Lendy Holmes: Produced seven tackles (six solo), recovered two fumbles and made a touchdown-saving tackle on a kickoff to spark the Sooners' defensive effort against TCU.

Oklahoma State's offense: A collective sticker for a unit that rolled up 612 yards and reached 50 points for the third straight game in a 55-24 victory over Troy -- a defensive unit that came into the game ranked 11th nationally in total defense. Zac Robinson passed for 254 yards and three TDs, Dez Bryant added three TD grabs and Kendall Hunter and Keith Toston both topped 100 yards rushing.

Posted by's Tim Griffin

NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma is making a forceful early claim for its place as the nation's top team after the first half.

The Sooners scored on three of their first four possessions and took advantage of an opportunistic defense to jump to a 28-3 halftime lead over TCU.

It's been a complete team effort for the Sooners that started from the opening kickoff. Quarterback Sam Bradford has baffled TCU with an array of hard counts and three touchdown passes as the Sooners have averaged 7.8 yards per snap and piled up 320 yards en route to the lead.

This is a marked contrast from TCU's usual success at Owen Field. The Horned Frogs had won four of their last five games in Norman.

After Oklahoma's offense bogged down during a string of three-and-outs in the second quarter, the defense repeatedly kept making big plays. Defensive back Lendy Holmes came up with a pair of fumble recoveries and a touchdown-saving tackle after Aaron Brown's 75-yard kickoff return. Cornerback Brian Jackson made a scintillating one-handed interception deep in Oklahoma territory to kill another TCU drive.

Bradford couldn't have asked for a better start, repeatedly confusing TCU due to his no-huddle offense and his snap count. It helped provide for three TCU offside penalties and two other times when they had 12 players on the field in the first quarter. The Horned Frogs were penalized eight times for 41 yards in the first quarter.

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Posted by's Tim Griffin

Considering the spread passing offenses in the Big 12, the conference's defensive backs should receive an extensive workout this season. The Big 12 has some productive players. Here is my choice for the 10 best.

  1. William Moore, Missouri: Unquestioned heart and soul of Tigers' defense after leading conference with eight interceptions last season.
  2. Nic Harris, Oklahoma: Physical safety has knack for making big plays and delivering shivering hits.
  3. Jamar Wall, Texas Tech: Closest thing that the Big 12 has to a lockdown cornerback.
  4. Jordan Lake, Baylor: Counted on for too many tackles in Baylor's sieve-like defense, produced 120 stops last season -- 30 more than any Big 12 secondary players.
  5. Darrell Stuckey, Kansas: Hard-hitting strong safety who led Kansas secondary in tackles; broke up six passes last season.
  6. Chris Harris, Kansas: Big 12 newcomer of the year last season after producing 65 tackles, two interceptions in 2007.
  7. Devin Gregg, Texas A&M: Workmanlike player who has started 32 straight games for the Aggies.
  8. Larry Asante, Nebraska: Once a special-teams tackling machine, he now is a disciplined pass defender after working with Bo Pelini.
  9. Chris Carney, Kansas State: Produced 64 tackles and four interceptions last season and should be even better with infusion of junior college talent around him.
  10. Lendy Holmes, Oklahoma: Can be torched deep occasionally, but Sooners have opted to move him around the secondary to help plug holes.

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Nicknames used to dot the college football landscape, giving a splash of additional color to an already colorful game.

There was "The Galloping Ghost," "The Kansas Comet," "Earthquake," "The Mad Stork" and "The Italian Stallion." For you old-schoolers out there like me, you'll immediately remember Red Grange, Gale Sayers, Bill Enyart, Ted Hendricks and Johnny Musso.

It was good stuff.

But in today's changing times, nicknames don't seem to be given as readily as in the past. That's why a couple of recent stories delighted me so much when I read them this morning.

Oklahoma State running back Kendall Hunter is in a tight battle to replace Dantrell Savage as the Cowboys' featured back.

More notable to me than Hunter's 696 yards last season was an anecdote from last season. The 5-foot-8 Hunter was in a team meeting when Oklahoma State running backs coach Curtis Luper inexplicably started referring to him as "Spud."

"I have no idea why that was," Hunter told the Tulsa World. "On the practice field that day, all I was hearing was Spud. Everywhere I went, it was Spud. Not Kendall, but Spud. I can't shake it."

And at Missouri, redshirt freshman wide receiver Jerrell Jackson has also picked up a similarly colorful moniker. Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon has taken to calling him "Young Grasshopper" because of his pass-catching abilities. It sounds to me like something straight out of the old "Kung Fu" show that I used to love when I was a teenager back in the 1970s, but Jackson says Weatherspoon's descriptive nickname is a badge of honor.

"When I first got here, I caught a ball out of the air from one of the defensive backs, and he started calling me that." Jackson told the Columbia Daily Tribune.

Both nicknames seem to fit the players and are a throwback to the good ol' days of college football. I like them.

I'd be interested if any readers know about nicknames for other Big 12 players, or have suggestions for nicknames. If anybody has some, I'll share them in an upcoming post.

And after a problem with a crashed computer, which I called several nicknames I know weren't suitable for a family Web site, here are some mid-morning links.

Better late than never, I guess. Hope you enjoy.

  • Former Penn State DT Phil Taylor is planning to transfer to Baylor. Former Penn State assistant coach Brian Norwood is Baylor's new defensive coordinator. 
  • Vince Young's jersey will be retired by Texas at the Longhorns' Aug. 30 opener against Florida International.  
  • Houston Chronicle beat writer Joseph Duarte has an interesting video interview with Texas QB Colt McCoy about his plans to rebound from a disappointing 2007 season.
  • Nebraska coach Bo Pelini is confident that WR Khiry Cooper will remain with the team. Friday is the deadline for Cooper, a fifth-round choice of the Los Angeles Angels, to accept his baseball contract.
  • The Oklahoma secondary's personnel has been shaken up after Lendy Holmes was moved to free safety and Dominique Franks earned first-team status at cornerback.
  • Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger claims he was misquoted by a student newspaper when he called Texas' defense soft. University Press sports editor Jay Warman, who originally posted Schnellenberger's quote on his blog earlier this week, said the quotes are accurate.
  • Iowa State coach Gene Chizik is bullish about his team's development halfway through summer training camp.
  • Despite his team suffering three season-ending knee injuries in a nine-day period, Colorado coach Dan Hawkins isn't changing his practice methods."It's kind of a freak deal," Hawkins told the Rocky Mountain News, adding that the only preventive measure would be to "stop running because, basically, that's when they happened. It's not because guys are hitting you, or cutting. I mean, they're all noncontact."
  • Walk-on Kansas State RB Keithen Valentine has emerged as the team's likely starter.
  • Fort Worth Star-Telegram national college football writer Trae Thompson lists Missouri WR Jeremy Maclin among his 10 "can't miss" players for 2008.