NCF Nation: Olu Hall

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Nebraska's punishing ground attack historically has been as big a part of the Cornhuskers' storied program as Herbie Husker, sellout crowds at Memorial Stadium and Academic All-Americans.

Consider that between 1977 and 2003, Nebraska ranked at least seventh or higher every season in the national rushing rankings. That's right: seventh or better. And in 13 of those seasons the Cornhuskers led the nation in rushing.

That's why the rankings during the four seasons of Bill Callahan's tenure -- 34th, 107th, 23rd and 66th -- were so disappointing. Two of the four teams even threw the ball more than it ran. How un-Nebraskalike, even in this age of spread passing offenses.

Most observers are expecting Nebraska to more effectively run the ball this season. Some are even predicting a smash-mouth running attack keyed by an experienced offensive line and four strong I-backs led by Big 12 returning rushing leader Marlon Lucky.

Running the ball would also provide a way for new coach Bo Pelini to keep his defense off the field, dominating time of possession and lessening the time his defensive unit will have to make plays.

Senior Nebraska offensive guard Matt Slauson told the Omaha World-Herald it would be noticeable compared to his previous seasons.

"We're going to line up and smash guys, and if it works, we're going to keep doing it," Slauson told the newspaper.

Which tells me one thing. Simple dives and off-tackle smashes won't be nearly as unpopular among Nebraska fans as they might be at other places across the Big 12 this season.

And speaking of traditional, hearty fare, how about this lip-smacking collection of links this morning? It's good for what ails you.

  • Former Penn State DT Phil Taylor has enrolled at Baylor and begun practicing with the team. Taylor was dismissed from the Nittany Lions after his involvement in an on-campus fight last season. Freshman K Ben Parks has won the starting job for the Bears' opener Thursday night against Wake Forest.
  • Boulder Daily Camera coulumnist Neill Woelk said Colorado fans are providing a form of corporate welfare to Colorado State, buying tickets this week that weren't scarfed up by the Rams' fans.
  • Colorado TE Riar Geer avoided jail Monday after his friends and family members pleaded to a judge that his role in an off-campus fight was out of character. But he'll miss the first two games of the season as he recovers from knee surgery.
  • Heralded Colorado freshman TB Darrell Scott is trying to keep up with the other demands than just playing.
  • Iowa State will have 27 freshmen in its two-deep roster Thursday night against South Dakota State. But Des Moines Register columnist Sean Keeler writes that Iowa State coach Gene Chizik needs to choose a starting quarterback soon and stick with him. 
  • Kansas State list four newcomers on its starting lineup for Saturday's game against North Texas. Three are from junior colleges -- RB Keithen Valentine, CB Blair Irvin and LB Ulla Pomele - and LB Olu Hall is arrives from Virginia.
  • Jeff Martin of the Kansas City Star/Wichita Eagle provides a few nuggets from Kansas State's press conference, including Coach Ron Prince uttering the word "confirmed" 14 times during a 30-minute stint at the podium.
  • Kansas State officials learned that top returning receiver and punt returner Deon Murphy has an extra year of eligibility. He will be considered a junior in the upcoming season.
  • Kansas has 10 freshmen and 15 sophomores in its two-deep roster, including PR Daymond Patterson as a starter.
  • The Lawrence Journal-World's Matt Tait writes about Kansas rebuilding its secondary without All-American CB Aqib Talib.
  • Dugan Arnett of the Lawrence Journal World wonders who would be the bigger chick magnet in downtown Lawrence -- Michael Phelps or Todd Reesing?
  • Manhattan Mercury beat writer Mark Janssen breaks down the ABC's of Kansas State football.
  • Dave Matter of the Columbia Tribune's Big 12 notebook leads with Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger's comments about Texas.
  • Kansas City Star college columnist Blair Kerkhoff has Oklahoma ranked No. 5 in his top 25 countdown. Kerkhoff also expects faster play and shorter games with the new clock rules.
  • Missouri WR Jared Perry gave Dave Matter the quote of the day about how he hopes to impress the Illinois defense after struggling with injuries. "It's a big motivation," Perry said, "because people are just sleeping on me. So, I have to wake them up."
  • Nebraska coach Bo Pelini says he's not any more excited about Saturday's game against Western Michigan than any other. "My level of excitement really isn't any different than it was last year," said Pelini, who spent the last three seasons as defensive coordinator at Louisiana State. "I treat them all the same. I think we'll be prepared come Saturday and let it all hang out. It'll be a fun time, but at the same time I've got to keep my emotions in check, as does the team."
  • Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald says that Kansas State QB Josh Freeman has provided the best quotes of the preseason -- particularly those that threw Kansas State's seniors last seasons under the bus for their lack of leadership. Barfknecht also gives his preseason Big 12 rankings.
  • Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel wonders if ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit really likes Nebraska as much as he's saying - or if he's only try to throw a bone to his old Ohio State teammate and current Nebraska coach Bo Pelini.
  • The Lincoln Journal-Star's Curt McKeever doesn't expect any suprise teams from the Big 12 because of the conference's depth at the top.
  • Pelini met with the media for about two minutes Monday after an intense practice on the first day of classes. Former Nebraska coach Bill Callahan never practiced his team on the first day of classes.
  • Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy will be back calling plays for the Cowboys this season after delegating that job to assistants in recent years.
  • Oklahoman columnist John Rohde is expecting Saturday's Oklahoma State-Washington State game to be fun on Saturday.
  • Jake Trotter of the Oklahoman writes that Oklahoma's non-conference schedule shouldn't be a liability to their national title hopes - even as the Sooners start the season Saturday against Chattanooga, a 2-9 team last season.
  • Oklahoma State WR Damian Davis has been suspended for the Cowboys' opener against Washington State for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
  • Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter has set a goal of rushing for 1,000 yards this season according to Bill Haisten of the Tulsa World.
  • Tulsa World columnist John Klein said that Mike Gundy should have more talent at his disposal this season than any previous season when he was Oklahoma State's head coach.
  • Jimmie Tramel of the Tulsa World writes about Texas A&M's water balloon fight in his weekly Big 12 notepad, also providing a quotepad and his rankings.
  • Eleven positions remain up for grabs on Texas' depth chart, heading into Saturday's game against Florida Atlantic.
  • Kirk Bohls of the Austin American Statesman writes of Texas' new slogan worn on their orange wristbands: "Consistently good to be great."
  • Depth at tailback could produce Texas A&M's first 1,000-yard rusher since 2003, according to Randy Riggs of the Austin American-Statesman.
  • Freshman WR Jeff Fuller is listed as a starter for Texas A&M's opener. And QB Stephen McGee told the San Antonio Express-News that backup QBs Jerrod Johnson and Ryan Tannehill are "two of our four top guys" at receiver.
  • Texas Tech CB Darcel McBath is determined that Eastern Washington won't sneak up on his team on Saturday night - particularly as Coach Mike Leach has repeatedly talked about Michigan's upset losos to Appalachian State last season. "I definitely don't want to make Sports Center for that," McBath told the Lubbock Avalanche-ournal. "We can't let that happen."

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

How good will be the Big 12 be this season?

With an armada of strong quarterbacks and concentrated power at the top of both divisions, the conference could produce something really special this season. The Associated Press' preseason poll is stacked with five Big 12 teams among its top 14 teams. That respect is coming after four Big 12 teams finished in the top 10 last season and a Big 12-record eight consensus All-Americans were selected last season.

Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star speculates today that the Big 12 finally can come close  to matching the SEC this season. Keys, he mentions, will be the performance of the Big 12 in tough nonconference games like Missouri-Illinois, Kansas at South Florida, Kansas State at Louisville and Virginia Tech at Nebraska. The Big 12 should win its only matchup this season against the SEC when Arkansas visits Texas.

The conference's true reputation will be built in bowl games. After struggles early in its history in bowls, the Big 12's 5-3 bowl record last season was its fifth above .500 in history and third in four seasons.

That trend will have to continue to help the conference's burgeoning reputation to keep growing. And it probably wouldn't hurt for Oklahoma to win a bowl game, too.

But those games are more than four months away. The season is approaching in a mere three days.

To whet your appetite for that start, here's a power-packed stack of morning links. Enjoy them.

  • Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com breaks down the 10 best decisions of Mack Brown's coaching tenure at Texas.
  • Boulder Daily Camera columnist Neill Woelk can't believe that Mark Mangino is making $2.3 million per season -- considering he's had two winning seasons in his six-year tenure as a head coach at Kansas.
  • Baylor's three quarterbacks discuss battling for their starting job as coach Art Briles' decision appears no clearer.
  • Four newcomers dot Kansas State's depth chart. RB Keithen Valentine, CB Blair Irvin, OLB Olu Hall and ILB Ulla Pomele all will be in the starting lineup Saturday against North Texas.
  • Missouri sports information director Chad Moller has "something big" planned in his pitch for Chase Daniel's Heisman hopes, according to the Kansas City Star's Mike DeArmond. Moller says cost of his surprise will be about $50,000.
  • The Omaha World-Herald has virtually everything you'd ever want to know about the Cornhuskers in its preview edition. Among the highlights include World-Herald beat writer Jon Nyatawa's story on Bo Pelini's building plan, Tom Shatel's column on football motivation, a Husker inkblot test that shows how the Cornhuskers can finish 8-4 and  Shatel's 14 predictions for the coming season.
  • Not to be outdone, the Lincoln Journal-Star had a preview section with Bo Pelini as a superhero with "Bo Wonder. Villains, Beware!" shouting from the cover. Columnist Steve Sipple explains his rationale for the cover. Beat writer Brian Christopherson details the Cornhuskers' 1-2 offensive punch in QB Joe Ganz and I-back Marlon Lucky, and Curt McKeever's list of Husker villains for the 2008 season.
  • The Big 12 is heavily represented on John Walter's 50 most intriguing people in college football. Included on the MSNBC.com list are Baylor QB Robert Griffin, Missouri WR/KR Jeremy Maclin, Missouri K Jeff Wolfert, Nebraska I-back Marlon Lucky, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State WR Artrell Woods and Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell and WR Michael Crabtree .
  • Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel speculates on the chances that Bob Stoops will remain at Oklahoma for 10 more years.
  • Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy still hasn't announced who'll be calling plays for the Cowboys in their season opener Saturday against Washington State.
  • Des Moines Register beat writer Andrew Logue interviews Iowa State quarterbacks Austen Arnaud and Phillip Bates.
  • Wichita Eagle columnist Bob Lutz writes that Ron Prince's junior-college laden recruiting class is nothing like Bill Snyder's recruiting strategy.
  • Jake Trotter of the Oklahoman breaks down Sam Bradford's Heisman hopes.
  • Tulsa World columnist Dave Sittler predicts a 12-0 regular season for Oklahoma, capped by a loss to Missouri in the Big 12 championship.
  • Terrance Harris of the Houston Chronicle has an extended sit-down with new Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman.
  • Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman considers how the Texas roster would be broken down after a 44-man NFL-style draft.
  • Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News produces an interesting comparison between Dallas-area natives Chase Daniel of Missouri and Matthew Stafford of Georgia.
  • Kansas QB Todd Reesing tells the Fort Worth Star
    -Telegram's Mike Jones about his interest in dancing and life in the fishbowl in Lawrence, Kan.
  • Texas Tech athletic director Gerald Myers told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal "there's a good possibility" the Red Raiders will face Oklahoma State in Dallas in 2009.
  • Texas Tech coaches still haven't decided on starters at running back and center heading into Saturday's opener against Eastern Washington. Daniel Charbonnet has won the starting job at free safety, with the right corner and kicker jobs still open.
  • The Tulsa World's Guerin Emig profiles TB DeMarco Murray, a key offensive weapon for Oklahoma's success this season.
  • J. Brady McCullough of the Kansas City Star details the changing expectations around the Jayhawks' program.
  • Heralded Colorado running back Darrell Scott has lost 17 pounds since arriving at college. He's now down to a trim 210 pounds and hopes to play close at close to 205 once the season begins.
  • New Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman is emphasizing speed in his rebuilding process, Randy Riggs of the Austin American-Statesman writes.
  • Colorado is preparing for uncertainty in its season opener against Colorado State. The Buffaloes will be facing an opponent featuring a new coach, new offensive coordinator and new starting quarterback.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The quote of the day comes from Scott Wright of the Oklahoman, who caught up with Troy coach Larry Blakeney and asked him about Oklahoma State's aim for revenge after losing at Troy last season. "They might have a bonfire and burn some of T. Boone's money to get ready for the game," Blakeney said, referring to the megabuck Oklahoma State booster.

Meanwhile, new Baylor coach Art Briles has shucked a traditional playbook in favor of his new team learning his philosophies by seeing and doing rather than reading. It's targeted to a younger generation that doesn't have the attention span to sit and learn by reading a book.

"It does require a lot of film study, because you've got to know what to do in live action in case anything happens," junior receiver Ernest Smith told the Waco Tribune-Herald. "If there's a check or an audible, you've got to be able to react fast. I've watched a lot of U of H film ... just getting familiar with it all."

Briles was successful with his new-age strategy, at least if four bowl appearances in the last five seasons at Houston is any indication. We'll see how it works at Baylor this season.

And for those readers out there who are too impatient to wade through 20 newspapers that cover the Big 12, I've take something from Briles' approach. Here's a condensed version of what's happening around the conference in about 20 quick links.

  • Kansas sophomore RB Carmon Boyd-Anderson has opted to transfer from the program for "personal reasons," the Kansas City Star reported.
  • A massive offensive line has prompted a new word around the Colorado team to describe them: "gifreakinnormous."
  • Des Moines Register columnist Sean Keeler has to cover Iowa State and Iowa relatively equally. That's why he listed his top 23 ranking for a combination of the Big Ten and Big 12 conferences on his blog. Hope that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany doesn't see this. He might get an idea for some kind of "gifreakinnormous" super-conference.
  • The Topeka Capital-Journal's Tully Corcoran unearthed an interesting nugget buried deeply in Ron Prince's new contract.
  • Colorado DE Drew Hudgins will miss the season with a knee injury. Hudgins told the Denver Post he plans to petition the NCAA for a sixth season of eligibility.
  • Massive Texas A&M FB Jorvorskie Lane tells the Houston Chronicle's Terrance Harris that he's come to terms with his lessened role in the Aggies' backfield.
  • New Texas director of high school relations and player development Ken Rucker is credited for the Longhorns' lack of off-the-field incidents this summer, according to Austin American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls.
  • Mike Leach's European vacation is fodder for the San Antonio Express-News' Mike Finger's report on Texas Tech. Leach earlier described the trip as something like the Griswolds might have made.

(Read full post)

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