NCF Nation: Shawn Byrnes


Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


So much for freedom of expression around Texas Tech.

Texas Tech coach Mike Leach has banned his players from using Twitter after several unflattering things about him and his program seeped out from players’ comments after the Red Raiders’ 29-28 loss to Houston Saturday night.

The self-styled “Pirate of the High Plains” might be facing a mutiny unless he can right his ship very quickly. Squelching their comments on social networks appears to be his first step.

The most surprising move came Sunday when senior offensive guard, Brandon Carter, a team captain and frequent team spokesman, was indefinitely suspended for an undisclosed violation of team rules.

Leach left the door open -- barely -- for the return of Carter, a preseason All-America selection who didn’t allow a sack last season. Carter’s attitude was infectious with his tough playing disposition, tattoos, and spiked hair.

“Anything he needs to do to get back is pretty much between him and me,” Leach said.

The discord continued after the Red Raiders returned to Lubbock and Leach apparently was late for a meeting with his team Sunday afternoon. Senior linebacker Marlon Williams was especially vociferous about Leach's leadership on his Twitter account.

"Wondering why I'm still in this meeting room when the head coach can't even be on time to his on [sic] meeting," Williams wrote on his "Kos 39" Twitter account. The tweet has been taken down as silence has spread over the Red Raiders’ program.

Leach fired back at the disgruntled players Monday on the Big 12’s weekly coaches’ teleconference.

“Anyone who is a malcontent doesn’t stay around here long,” Leach said. “We’ve got a full group of players who are ready to take (his) place. And interestingly enough, he doesn’t have a Twitter page anymore.”

The sniping across Cyberspace is the last thing the Red Raiders needed after the disappointing losses to Texas and Houston -- their first back-to-back losses since midway through the 2007 season.

“That game left a bad taste in everybody’s mouth,” senior cornerback Jamar Wall said. “We’ve got to come back ready to go.”

The turnaround and the late loss came after Tech appeared to have dominated the early parts of the game. The Red Raiders’ seldom used rushing game kicked in and gave them a chance to mash the Cougars at the point of attack as they claimed an early 21-10 lead.

But the Red Raiders struggled moving the ball later in the game and were turned away on downs inside the Houston 5 early in the fourth quarter, including a pivotal fourth-down stop of quarterback Taylor Potts from inside the Houston 1.

“That series was extremely disappointing,” Tech center Shawn Byrnes said. “We had the ball four times inside their 5. We wanted to put on our shoulders and punch it in. And the fact we weren’t able to do was frustrating.”

Leach said Monday he probably would have elected to have kicked a field goal that would have given his team an eight-point lead if he had it to do over again.

“We only needed half a yard and we had been moving them around pretty good down there,” Leach said. “If I had to do it over again, I probably would do it different.”

It makes the Red Raiders 3-4 since a 10-0 start to start last season that pushed them to No. 3 in the country after victories over Texas and Oklahoma State late last season. Their victories during that period came over North Dakota, Rice and Baylor last season.

Their challenge to turn the season around will be daunting in a South Division that appears more competitive than ever this season. Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State all are among the nation’s top 14 teams nationally in the most recent Associated Press poll. Texas A&M appears to have a recharged offense and defense. Baylor has its strongest recent collection of talent, although the loss of Robert Griffin will be a tough one to overcome.

And any comments from the Red Raiders’ BlackBerries have been suppressed, Wall said his team has vowed to put aside the recent controversy as it tries to complete with their upcoming scheduling gauntlet.

“We need to forget about it, let it go,” he said. “What happened Saturday and yesterday, we’ve got to put it aside. We’ve got to pull tighter. We just need to put it behind us, play the next team and keep going from there.”

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Good morning from the Cornhusker State. New coach Bo Pelini conducts his first news conference later Monday morning before fall practice begins this afternoon. It's a momentous time. Media outlets from across the state are tripping over themselves to try to outdo the next. There will be streaming media shows from a number of sources as Pelini breaks down his thoughts heading into his first fall camp.

I'll be there too, which makes me feel like I'll be witnessing history. Hard to believe the Cornhuskers finished 5-7 last season with their worst defensive team in history.

Most of the Nebraska citizenry think that Pelini will fix that. I'll be interested to hear his thoughts about his task at hand.

Pelini-mania dominates the news as a couple of other teams across the conference have started practice this weekend. Here's a breakdown of some of what people are talking about.

  • Pelini's resuscitation plans for Nebraska's defense.  along with a sidebar about his reaching back to the roots of the Cornhuskers' walk-on program, are detailed in a big spread written by Steve Wieberg in USA Today. It doesn't get much bigger than that, does it?
  • Baylor coach Art Briles is weighing his options as he decides on a starting quarterback. "It might be decided as we jog out on the field for pregame," Briles told Chad Conine of the Waco Tribune-Herald. "Seriously, I wish I was kidding."
  • Missouri QB Chase Daniel has a clear goal this season. "I want to play in Florida," Daniel told the Kansas City Star's Mike DeArmond. And he's not talking about the Gator Bowl, either. The BCS title game will be staged in Miami. 
  • The Columbia Tribune's Dave Matter ratchets up the pressure on Missouri coach Gary Pinkel and the Tigers. He picks them to finish second nationally and play for the national championship against USC. Matter also predicts Oklahoma to face its third-straight BCS buster as the Sooners will draw BYU in the Fiesta Bowl in his preseason predictions.
  • Sure, Missouri's offense will score a lot of points. But with 10 starters back from a team that led the Big 12 in total defense in conference play last year, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said the Tigers' defense will determine how far the team goes this season. And he's right.
  • Steve Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star said that Pelini isn't intimidated by facing all of the Big 12's potent spread offenses. "We try to have an offensive mentality on defense," Pelini told Sipple. "We want to dictate to the offense as much as it's trying to dictate to us." Easier said in August than when facing Bradford, Daniel, Harrell, etc., later this season.
  • The Oklahoman's John Rohde almost was turning cartwheels after Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops purged his roster of WR Josh Jarboe.
  • Oklahoma State has been successful starting seasons against Pac-10 teams on the road. The Tulsa World's Jimmie Tramel said that the Cowboys set the tone for bowl seasons with double-digit victories at Arizona State (1984), Washington (1985) and UCLA (2004). The Cowboys travel to Seattle to face Washington State on Aug. 30.
  • Although Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford somehow didn't attend last month's Big 12 media days, the San Antonio Express-News' Mike Finger did a nice job of gauging his importance for the Sooners' hopes of claiming their third-straight Big 12 title.
  • Texas A&M reported for practice Sunday without two freshmen who signed in February. TE Blake Chavis and DB/WR Derrick Hall didn't meet NCAA eligibility requirements. And several Texas newspapers reported that DE Mike Bennett, who missed the Alamo Bowl last season because of academics, will be eligible for his senior season this year.
  • The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal breaks down Texas Tech's roster with a depth chart as the Red Raiders' practices begin Monday. Notable points of interest include Rylan Reed back starting at LT, Stephen Hamby ahead of incumbent Shawn Byrnes at C and Aaron Crawford, Baron Batch and Shannon Woods listed as co-starters at RB. On defense, heralded transfers Brandon Sesay and McKinner Dixon both are listed as third-string at DE.
  • The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel says improvements at "The Boone Bowl" will take your breath away. That's a big step forward from the old days when I thought Lewis Field was the worst stadium in the Big 12.
  • Hawaii-born LB B.J. Beatty is continuing Colorado's rich tradition of recruiting in the islands. And he's a pretty good football player, too. There's also a great picture of Beatty's flowing red hair on the Boulder Camera's Web site.
  • Iowa State coach Gene Chizik is looking for more production from a puny offense that scored a conference-worst 18.2 points per game last season. It may start with reinvigorating a running game that ranked 95th nationally -- a big decline from the Cyclones' salad days under former coach Dan McCarney.
  • Forget about losing CB Aqib Talib to the NFL. The Oklahoman's John Helsey says that Kansas' biggest loss from last season will be the departure of wizened coordinator Bill Young to Miami. His protégé, Clint Bowen, tries to fill his shoes. Young was an underrated element of the Jayhawks' 12-1 record and Bowen will be sorely pressed to match that production -- particularly against a much-tougher schedule.
  • Jake Trotter of the Oklahoman said Oklahoma is searching south of the Red River for more players than in recent teams coached by Bob Stoops. Oklahoma is slated to start eight Texans this season, compared to six Oklahoma products. Looks like Stoops has been studying the blueprint that Bud Wilkinson and Barry Switzer employed to turn the Oklahoma program into a monolith -- lots of great players from Texas.
  • Suzanne Haliburton of the Austin American-Statesman lists a lengthy to-do list
    for Texas coach Mack Brown during fall practice. The Longhorns started practice this morning almost as early as a typical ESPN.com conference blogger this morning --  beginning at 6 a.m.

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