NCF Nation: Matt Eberflus

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Missouri will start spring practice today in Columbia with no official announcement of who will be the Tigers' defensive coordinator.

It would be a shock if anybody but former Missouri linebackers coach Dave Steckel is serving as the group's coordinator when the Tigers start. The vacancy was created when Matt Eberflus was hired as the linebackers coach for the Cleveland Browns.

But we'll see who is calling the defenses when the Tigers work today.

Here are some other stories from around the conference.

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Maybe there really is something about the Dawg Pound and hating Pittsburgh. The devotion of a Cleveland Browns fan really has no bounds.

Former Missouri defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus told the Columbia Daily Tribune's Dave Matter that the chance to join the Browns as their linebackers coach helps fulfill a childhood fantasy. Eberflus remembers watching two or three Browns games per season at old Municipal Stadium during his childhood in nearby Akron.

So when Eric Mangini offered Eberflus a chance to join his organization, it really was a no-brainer -- even after eight years on Gary Pinkel's staff at Missouri and 17 years working with Pinkel at other jobs.

Such a childhood connection is a tough one to overcome.

Hopefully these lunchtime links are earning that kind of attachment, too.

  • Lincoln Journal Star columnist Steve Sipple reports that the main reason disgruntled quarterback Patrick Witt has decided to leave the Nebraska program is that Cornhusker coaches were unwilling to name their starting quarterback for the upcoming season at the end of spring practice. Instead, Sipple writes that Nebraska coach Bo Pelini plans to continue the competition through the start of the season.
  • Kansas State will feature two nonconference road games this season for the first time of Bill Snyder's coaching tenure at the school. Mark Janssen reports that Snyder's team has played 10 true nonconference road games in his previous 17 seasons coaching at the school.
  • Dugan Arnett of the Lawrence Journal-World catches up with 8-month-old Bode Lubbers of Wichita, Kan., famous in internet lore as" Baby Mangino."
  • Recent suspensions and dismissals have turned Oklahoma State's wide receiving corps into a major question mark this spring, Bill Haisten of the Tulsa World reports.
  • After a sparse turnout for a "town meeting" with Colorado students to discuss the school's athletic department, Colorado coach Dan Hawkins had a quick remedy for better attendance, according to Doug Bonham of the Colorado Daily. Just bring free food.
  • Don't be surprised if Texas punter Justin Tucker continues his rugby-style punting with both his left and right foot, depending on game situations, Austin American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls reports.

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Oklahoma 52, Missouri 31 -- The first rematch in Big 12 title game history from the previous season will take place at Arrowhead Stadium. And the streaking Sooners appear to be ready.

Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford has the offense humming as the Sooners have scored at least 61 points in each of their last four games. They have the balanced kind of attack that will pose problems to a Missouri defense that has struggled this season despite returning 10 starters from last season. The Sooners' offensive balance will prove difficult for Missouri defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus to contain.

Bradford has a torn ligament in his non-throwing hand that will be braced for Saturday's game. That injury could affect the Sooners' rushing game as he could be forced to take the majority of his snaps from shotgun formations like he did last week against Oklahoma State after the injury. But Bradford should be effective against a banged-up Missouri secondary that will be missing its best cornerback after Castine Bridges went down with a season-ending knee injury last week.

Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel has struggled recently with interceptions, throwing at least two in three of his last four games. He can't afford that in Saturday's game as he must be more patient and avoid throwing the ball into tight Oklahoma coverage. The Tigers are going to have to do a good job of keeping Daniel from being pressured against an Oklahoma defense that should be getting top pass-rushing threat Auston English back from injury for spot duty.

The Tigers needs to exploit their advantage in the special teams and will need some big plays for Jeremy Maclin to nab the upset. And they also have an advantage at kicker, where Jeff Wolfert is more consistent and has better range than Jimmy Stevens.

But when everything is considered, the Sooners have too many weapons. And the controversy about their legitimacy of playing in Saturday's game should spur them to a strong performance. A victory will provide them with a shot at a history-making third straight conference title and a likely berth in the BCS Championship Game next month.

My record for last week: 4-1 (80 percent)
My record for the season: 83-13 (86.5 percent)

Final: Kansas 40, Missouri 37

November, 29, 2008

Posted by's Tim Griffin

The drive from Oklahoma City was a long one, but was made more tolerable by the radio station I was able to pick up from Bartlesville, Okla., so that I could listen to Kansas' dramatic 40-37 victory over Missouri.

And yes, that hissing sound is the background is the excitement seeping out of the Big 12 championship game next week.

Todd Reesing came up with a masterful performance, directing Kansas' dramatic victory over the North Division champions. Reesing completed the game-winning touchdown pass to Kerry Meier with 27 seconds left. And then the Jayhawks held on as Jeff Wolfert's 54-yard field goal at the buzzer was partially blocked.

The victory is a testament to the pluck of the gritty Jayhawks. After the game, Kansas coach Mark Mangino said that 10 of his starting players couldn't practice earlier in the week. All of them played Saturday, leading them to victory.

Kansas' upset sucks a lot of the excitement out of next week's Big 12 Championship Game in Kansas City. Missouri defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus has a lot of work between now and next week to prepare for whichever one of the potent Big 12 South offenses his team will be facing.

And Kansas' victory gives the team a boost as they likely head to the Insight Bowl.

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Here are a few tidbits from around the Big 12 heading into this week's games.

1. The Big 12's most stable coaching staff might be set for a shakeup after the season. Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Christensen is in the mix for openings at New Mexico and Wyoming, and defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus is being considered for the vacant head job at Toledo. If either leave, they could become the first assistants from Gary Pinkel's staff to leave for another job. That stability has been an underrated facet in the Tigers' development into the North's strongest current program -- particularly in terms of recruiting two-star and three-star recruits in Texas who have blossomed into key contributors once they arrived in Columbia. A staff change would put Pinkel in the unfamiliar position of having to hire a new assistant for the first time since he arrived at Missouri in 2001.

2. Despite struggles in a disappointing 2-10 season, Iowa State coach Gene Chizik doesn't expect to go through heavy use of junior-college players to restock his program. Chizik said that "a couple" of junior-college players could be brought in to help the Cyclones at specific areas of need, but he doubted he would make a heavy push because those players would be around the program for only two seasons. Chizik still remains committed to using arriving high school talent as the backbone in his rebuilding job with the Cyclones.

3. Expect Oklahoma State to try to emphasize a more balanced approach in Saturday's game against Oklahoma than last season. The Cowboys have been working on play-action passing after throwing for only 104 yards last year against the Sooners -- the lowest in a Big 12 game in Mike Gundy's coaching tenure. The Cowboys hope to get tight end Brandon Pettigrew more involved Saturday after he was held without a catch last season by the Sooners. And the passing game should clearly benefit from the return of running back Kendall Hunter, who should be ready to go after nursing a quadriceps injury that occurred in the Cowboys' last game against Colorado.

4. Colorado's banged-up secondary will be at a big disadvantage Friday against Nebraska with senior starting strong safety D.J. Dykes out and starting free safety Ryan Walters' status still uncertain. It could mean a pair of freshmen will be starting against the high-powered Nebraska passing attack -- Anthony Perkins at strong safety and Patrick Mahnke at free safety. Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz has to be salivating, considering he blistered the Buffaloes for 484 passing yards, 521 yards of total offense and four touchdown passes last season when the Buffaloes' secondary was a lot healthier.

5. Texas coaches have been disappointed in the last two seasons because their team wasn't as physical as A&M, losing the game in the trenches both seasons. It's led to a change in Texas' practices leading up to the Texas A&M game for the Longhorns. The Longhorns still should have the edge, considering that Texas A&M's offense isn't nearly as ground-oriented with Jerrod Johnson playing quarterback and with a young offensive line developing as it grows.

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Here are a few tidbits from across the conference heading into the games on Saturday.

  1. The best sign for Texas in strong defensive performances has been the direct pressure the Longhorns have been producing without many blitzes. It's been a good sign for Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp that he hasn't had to gamble much in recent victories against Oklahoma and Missouri.
  2. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel ripped into his team after his team's blowout loss at Texas and then continued the salvo the following day after it got back to Columbia. Of particular concern is the production for his defense that returned 10 starters and still dropped 41 places to 100th nationally after ranking 59th last season. Don't be surprised if defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus dials back on the number of blitzes and exotic stunts for a more conventional approach the rest of the season.
  3. Texas A&M coaches say that quarterback Stephen McGee was about 80 percent recovered from his earlier shoulder injury when he was inserted into the Texas Tech game last week and couldn't have run with his typical abandon on option plays if it had been called for. They are hopeful that McGee will be close to 100 percent Saturday against Iowa State as Jerrod Johnson's backup.
  4. Oklahoma's move of strong safety Nic Harris to middle linebacker was done merely to combat Kansas' aerial tendencies. Against more run-heavy remaining opponents like Oklahoma State and Texas A&M, don't be surprised if the Sooners use a more conventional approach that would include linebackers Mike Balogun and Austin Box in the middle.
  5. Iowa State freshman cornerback Ter'ran Benton is expected to start with fellow freshman Leonard Johnson at cornerback against Texas A&M. Iowa State defensive coordinator Wayne Bolt told the Des Moines Register it's just the second time in his 30-season coaching career he's had a pair of freshman cornerbacks start for him.