Top 2 Kansas RBs out for season

August, 19, 2014
Aug 19
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LAWRENCE, Kan. -- The top two running backs on the Kansas depth chart will each miss their senior season after Brandon Bourbon tore his ACL and Taylor Cox tore his Achilles tendon in separate incidents.

Jayhawks coach Charlie Weis announced the injuries in a statement Tuesday. He said that both of the players will remain in school and explore petitioning for a sixth year of eligibility.

To continue reading this story, click here.

Position battle update: Texas WR

August, 19, 2014
Aug 19
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Texas' wide receiving corps lost three players to discipline and one starter to an injury. Who's left? Who's going to make an impact in the Longhorns' opener against North Texas? Here's a closer look.

Contenders: Junior Marcus Johnson, sophomore Jacorey Warrick, redshirt freshman Jake Oliver, freshmen Armanti Foreman, Dorian Leonard, Lorenzo Joe, Roderick Bernard, Garrett Gray, sophomore Ty Templin, senior John Harris

Not contenders: Jaxon Shipley is sidelined indefinitely with a hamstring injury. Daje Johnson is suspended for at least one game. Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander were dismissed from the program before fall camp.

What they replace: Not only do the Longhorns need a possession receiver as reliable as Shipley while he's recovering, they also must replace top deep threat Mike Davis. There's still no word on how quickly Shipley will be back on the field. Davis, who's now in Oakland Raiders camp, finished with 2,753 career receiving yards and 18 TDs. Sanders was supposed to be a major contributor for this group after catching 37 passes for 361 yards and a TD as a sophomore last year.

What they offer: The only proven commodity in the group is Johnson. He offers serious speed; he was productive last season, including in big games, and he can play inside or outside. With Shipley sidelined, you'd have to think Johnson will be the go-to target for David Ash to start the season.

But who knows what to expect from the rest. Warrick, known by his peers as "Petey," has earned consistent praise from Charlie Strong and his coaches and saw a little mop-up duty last season.

Oliver redshirted last season and could be a nice target on the outside with his 6-foot-3 frame. Harris is a guy who made a few big plays in 2013, but has still yet to really break through and earn consistent playing time.

What remains to be seen is just how far these five true freshmen have come in the past few weeks. The coaching staff has repeatedly said publicly that all five are doing well and haven't singled out one or two as standing out above the rest. But Strong has acknowledged he likes Foreman's explosiveness and playmaking ability. Joe and Leonard seem to have a real shot at playing as well.

And then the surprise of the group has been Templin, a 6-foot, 195-pound sophomore walk-on whose efforts in fall camp have been called "unbelievable" by Strong. He played on the scout team last year but was getting first-team reps in Texas' only fall practice open to the media.

Prediction: Shipley will fight hard to try to get back for BYU and UCLA, and he just might pull that off. But in the meantime, Texas goes with a starting four of Marcus Johnson, Warrick, Harris and, yes, Templin. Foreman quickly works his way up to the No. 1 offense with a few nice plays against North Texas. And then the pressure is on for Daje Johnson, who needs to get back in good standing before the Longhorns get their rematch with the Cougars.

Big 12 mailbag

August, 19, 2014
Aug 19
2:30
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First of all, thanks for all of your questions. In today’s mailbag we talk Oklahoma’s suspension of Joe Mixon, K-State’s chances against Auburn and some Big 12 quarterbacks.

Let’s jump right in:

David B from Dallas writes: Did David Boren and Oklahoma step way over the line by suspending Joe Mixon from all team activities for the entire year? And do you think this affects recruiting for Oklahoma going forward?

Brandon Chatmon: I don’t think so. The Sooners made the right move with their decision on Mixon. OU clearly wanted to send a message here and they did. I don’t think it will have a major impact on the Sooners' recruiting. Will it be a conversation piece and a question that will be asked? Yes. But once OU explains its reasoning to recruits and parents, it should be fine. I have a hard time believing recruits will leave OU off their list based on Mixon’s suspension.


Cole from Oklahoma City writes: With the Mixon thing finally finished for now, how much more of an impact can Perine have now? I feel like he'll be a 3rd and 1 guy and goal line guy just because he can truck anything in front of him. How many carries and yards do you think he'll have?

Chatmon: Samaje Perine’s chances to make a bigger impact definitely increased with Mixon’s suspension. That’s not to say he wasn’t going to have an impact before but Mixon’s absence means one less competitor for carries and Perine is a guy who looks like he will get some opportunities this fall. I could definitely see him becoming a key asset in short-yardage situations. I think he will finish with between 50-100 carries and 350-450 yards this season.


Mark from Snyderville USA writes: What percentage would you put on K-State's chances to upset Auburn in Snyderville? I give em a 83% chance based on a few stats. 1) KR yards. Auburn gave up an average of 25 YPKR (The only teams in the B12 to allow that many YPKR was TCU and Texas). K-State averages 24 YPKR. 2.) Rushing yards per attempt. Auburn gave up nearly 4.6 yards per Rush attempt. K-state averaged 4.5 yards per rush attempt. What does it all mean, you ask? It means Auburn allows teams to do the things that make K-State successful. Good starting field position and extending drives, eating up the time of possession.

Chatmon: I think 83 percent is pretty high but I’d put it at around 50-60 percent based off the fact it is a night game at Bill Snyder Family Stadium and the Wildcats’ duo of Tyler Lockett and Jake Waters is tough for anyone to handle. I could see KSU’s kick-return prowess coming into play but their yards per rush attempt advantage assumes the Wildcats find a playmaker at running back during the first two games. I’m not so sure the running game will be clicking enough to put that in the “pro” column quite yet. Nonetheless, I’m going with K-State in a close home win.


Joshua Parsons from Lubbock writes: What are the expectations for Texas Tech's Davis Webb in his sophomore season?

Chatmon: They should be high. He’s the second-best returning quarterback in the league behind Baylor's Bryce Petty. Webb was good as a freshman so I’m expecting him to be very good to great as a sophomore with a year under his belt. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Webb alongside Petty at the top of most passing categories in 2014.


Steve from Fresno writes: Who do you think Oklahoma State's starting QB should be?

Chatmon: J.W. Walsh should start against Florida State but I think Daxx Garman will get a shot at some point this season.


Winn Walker from Fort Worth writes: Do you consider TCU as a dark horse team to contend for the Big 12 championship this year? Or are they one year away from really competing for a conference title?

Chatmon: I do, mainly because the Horned Frogs play good defense which always gives you a chance. However, if they don’t get good, efficient quarterback play, their dark-horse status goes out the window for me. I can’t wait to see how TCU’s offense looks in the first couple of games.


Scott from Royce City writes: What is your feeling on OU/Mayfield appealing Tech's block of the transfer? Would it set a troubling precedence if they allow him to transfer (in conference) and not have to sit?

Chatmon: As a walk-on at Texas Tech, Baker Mayfield’s situation is a little different for me. I can see Tech’s side of the argument and I can see Mayfield’s side of things. I’d probably lean toward allowing Mayfield to play, only because he was a walk on at Tech, but I have my doubts it will happen and I don’t view it as a major injustice if he has to sit out this season.
It's Take Two Tuesday time, when we give diverging opinions on a topic related to the Big 12.

Today's Take Two topic: What has been the biggest surprise so far this preseason?

Take 1: Brandon Chatmon – Sam Richardson

Sam Richardson’s return to the top of the Iowa State Cyclones’ depth chart as QB1 has been a surprise.

Richardson looked the part as a redshirt freshman, when he burst upon the scene with eight touchdowns and just one interceptions in four games played during his debut season in 2012. He looked like the guy who would be the Cyclones’ main man under center for the next three seasons.

Then he took a step backward in 2013.

True enough the injury bug played a role in Richardson’s regression as a sophomore but that didn’t make his performance any less disappointing. His completion percentage decreased from 58.2 percent to 55.3 percent, his sack percentage increased from 3.7 percent to 9.1 percent and interception percentage increased from 1.3 percent to 2.7 percent.

And Grant Rohach’s strong performance to end the 2013 season made it difficult to imagine Richardson returning to the top of the Cyclones’ depth chart to begin 2014. Rohach won two of the four games he started as Richardson’s replacement and appeared to be a solid bet to open 2014 under center for the season opener in Ames, Iowa.

But Mark Mangino’s arrival, a return to good health and his improved performance have helped Richardson regain his starting spot and made him the Big 12’s surprise of the preseason.

Take 1: Jake Trotter – Oklahoma State QBs

This has been one newsy preseason for the Big 12. The arrest of Devonte Fields. The dismissals at Texas. The limbo players at Oklahoma. And, yes, I too was mildly surprised that Richardson ultimately beat out Rohach for the starting job at Iowa State, considering how well Rohach played at the end of last season.

But the biggest surprise at the moment is the news that hasn’t happened. More specifically, that J.W. Walsh hasn’t won the starting job yet at Oklahoma State.

Sure, coach Mike Gundy might be producing a smokescreen for Florida State by holding back on naming a starter. But his comments and other reports out of Stillwater suggest the Cowboys could be serious about playing former walk-on Daxx Garman, and, who knows, possibly even true freshman Mason Rudolph.

Coming into the preseason, Walsh was the overwhelming favorite to win the job. Even Gundy admitted after Oklahoma State’s final spring scrimmage that Walsh was way ahead of the other quarterbacks. Walsh’s teammates talked glowingly of his leadership and the way he commanded the offense behind the scenes. His passing accuracy also seemed to have improved.

But all of that hasn’t quite carried over into August.

Two years ago, Walsh shined in relief as a redshirt freshman. But last year, some of his physical limitations with arm strength caused the Oklahoma State offense to bog down. The Cowboys have recruited to feature a wide-open spread offense full of capable wide receivers and contingent on a quarterback being able to pepper the ball around downfield. That, however, isn’t Walsh’s forte. He’s a dual-threat quarterback who relies on his wheels as much as his arm to make plays. When defenses discovered that Walsh wasn’t going to beat them downfield with the pass, they crept up to the line of scrimmage to take away the run. And as result, the offense sputtered until the Cowboys reinserted Clint Chelf back into the lineup.

Will Oklahoma State also play Garman this year? Will Rudolph get a shot, too? That remains to be seen. But coming out of the spring, it looked like a lock that Walsh would start out as the guy. So far, it doesn’t look like that’s necessarily going to be the case.
This week we'll be highlighting the key position battles for every program in the Big 12. We continue the series with Oklahoma State’s quarterback derby.

Here's where the battle stands:

Contenders: junior J.W. Walsh, junior Daxx Garman, freshman Mason Rudolph

What happened last season: Departed quarterback Clint Chelf ignited OSU’s offense when he took over as the starter midway through the 2013 season. He played as well as any quarterback in the conference during OSU’s final seven games, playing a major role in the Cowboys' late-season surge. Chelf finished second in the Big 12 with an 82.9 adjusted QBR.

Walsh started five games and played the majority of OSU’s season-opening win over Mississippi State while helping the Cowboys to a 10-3 record. His 74.5 adjusted QBR was fourth in the Big 12, and he rushed for 294 yards and passed for 1,333 yards in 2013. Nonetheless, Walsh hasn’t run away with OSU’s starting quarterback job heading into the 2014 season.

While Chelf and Walsh were running the Pokes' offense each Saturday, walk-on quarterback Garman was beginning to create some buzz in practice while sitting out due to transfer rules after transferring from Arizona.

What they offer: Walsh offers an unquestioned leader who has a proven ability to win Big 12 games. He enters his junior season with 2,897 passing yards, 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions along with 584 rushing yards and 10 scores in 18 games played. Walsh struggled at times during the 2013 season and needs to greatly improve as a passer, but nobody on the roster can match his experience or college production.

Garman’s ability to throw the ball started garnering attention last fall. His passing ability remains one of his top assets, with offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich repeatedly praising his throwing skills. Garman’s play is the main reason Walsh, despite his experience, has not been named the starter, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the former walk-on taking snaps in the season opener against Florida State.

Rudolph appears to be the Cowboys' quarterback of the future. The question is, could the future begin this fall? With OSU featuring two quality options ahead of him, Rudolph faces a long road to earning playing time this fall. And if he does, that’s a terrific sign for the future.

They said it: “As a group, the three of them had as good of a scrimmage at the quarterback position in a number of years.” -- OSU coach Mike Gundy after the Cowboys’ scrimmage on Saturday.

Prediction: The Cowboys’ quarterback battle will wage deep into the season. It would be a surprise if Walsh didn’t start against Florida State, particularly since his running ability could come in handy against an active Seminoles defensive front. But, much like last season, Walsh will have to hold off another quality quarterback behind him in Garman. There will probably be times when Garman is the best option instead of Walsh, and Rudolph’s physical gifts are impressive. In fact, it wouldn’t be a surprise if all three quarterbacks take snaps for the Cowboys in 2014.
Two trademark wins. Two drastically different game plans.

Oklahoma defeated Oklahoma State and Alabama in its final two games of the 2013 season, a pair of wins that stand as the driving force behind OU's preseason accolades heading into this season.

And the Sooners looked like two different offenses in each triumph, leaning on their running game and physical nature to overwhelm the Cowboys in a 33-24 win in early December before using an up-tempo passing attack to confuse and disorient Alabama's defense in the 45-31 Allstate Sugar Bowl win in early January.

[+] EnlargeTrevor Knight
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesTrevor Knight's versatility is one of the reasons why Oklahoma has a diverse offense.
Against OSU, the Sooners opened the game with a three-receiver, one-tight end, one-running back pistol formation and began the game with back-to-back zone read plays. OU's second offensive snap of the game came with 14 seconds on the play clock. Against Alabama, OU began the game with the same personnel grouping but opened with a completed pass followed by an no-huddle, uptempo approach that resulted in the Sooners second snap with 30 seconds left on the play clock.

In addition, the Sooners ran 18 plays (out of 73 total plays) with two tight ends on the field against OSU. Against Alabama, OU ran three plays (out of 74 total plays) with two tight ends on the field.

That type of versatility is one of the foundations of the Sooners offense and serves as one key reason why OU could find itself right in the thick of the College Football Playoff race in November.

"Our best teams have been versatile," co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said. "That's what we've built this offense on. We look at the talents of our players and then we try to move the pieces of the puzzle around to take advantage of it."

Those two games could be a glimpse at the versatility at the disposal of Norvell, offensive coordinator Josh Heupel and the rest of the Sooners' offensive coaches in 2014. Quarterback Trevor Knight started both of those games, although he left the OSU game due to injury, and returns this fall to allow his versatility as a passer and runner to open up options for the Sooners offense.

Knight is the poster boy for OU's offensive explosion against the Crimson Tide but the Sooners' game plan and high tempo approach had just as much of an impact. Alabama looked ill-prepared for the Sooners' tempo, resulting in its defense playing much of the game on its heels as OU created chaos and confusion with the high-tempo game plan. It was a far cry from the Sooners' offense that averaged 38.7 plays per game with one or two tight ends on the field in the final six games of the regular season before running 21 plays with one or two tight ends against Alabama.

"When we have a quarterback that can handle it and our skill position players can handle it as well, our versatility helps our tempo package out tremendously," Heupel said. "I think that's where we are a little different than some tempo teams."

The change in approach gave OU an immediate advantage. And the Sooners are aiming to do more of the same in 2014.

"I think we're starting to see that with some of the kids we have the in the program now," Norvell said. "We're using that flexibility to be in tight formations and be spread out, use them as blockers, use them as receivers. We're trying to utilize those strengths the best we can. We've learned a lot about our new players in the last few weeks."

Knight is a terrific piece to build around, particularly if his passing skills continue to develop, but having a veteran offensive line could be the biggest piece of the puzzle. OU has eight different offensive linemen who have started a game in crimson and cream and feature a Big 12-best 107 career starts among those offensive linemen. That experience could pay dividends this season.

"It's huge," Heupel said of the impact of an experienced offensive line on the ability to play with tempo. "We're playing multiple formations so their ability to recognize things up front is critical. There's a lot on their plate so that experience is huge."

With Knight and an experienced offensive line to build around, OU is spending preseason camp identifying the players who can enhance the overall versatility of the offense while also fulfilling conventional roles with championship-level precision. Relatively unproven players like senior tight end Blake Bell, freshman fullback Dimitri Flowers and others will need to emerge for OU's offense to mimic the versatility it showed at the end of 2013.

"At the end of the day we have to play the guys who can go out and help compete for a championship," Heupel said. "That's what fall camp has been about."
Boston College coach Steve Addazio remembers an era when players wanted to redshirt as true freshmen to better prepare them for the final four years of their college career.

"Now it's 'I want to play,' " Addazio, 55, said. "If you're talking about not playing them early, the majority are like 'What do you mean?'"

So, the ability to play or possibly even start as a true freshman has become a regular sales pitch for coaches from the Power Five to the Group of Five. It's certainly a tool in the belt for Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher. Last week, Fisher alluded to the number of freshmen All-Americans he's coached the last four seasons. Twenty-four hours later, it was on the program's official recruiting Twitter page.

"The last [four] years we've had 14 freshmen All-Americans," said Fisher, condensing multiple outlets' freshmen award teams into one, concise Florida State propaganda poster. "If you come in ready to play, we're willing to put you on the field. It's critical for guys to come in saying 'When I'm the best, I'll play.'"

Fisher has the goods to back up his claims, even if the numbers are obviously skewed to best represent his program. But how does his résumé compare to those coaching some of the country's other top programs?

I tried to come up with a way to accurately discern which schools play the most freshmen and decided true freshmen letterwinners was the simplest and most effective way to crunch the numbers. To earn a letter, a player has to actually play consistently through the season. The disclaimer is each program can use different benchmarks when awarding letters, but there is never going to be a perfect way.

I began with Florida State's, looking back at the 2011-2013 classes. To properly quantify the data from Florida State, I decided I'd look at the five schools ranked highest in the preseason polls that have had its coach in place at least five seasons. Oregon's Mark Helfrich was offered an exemption because he was promoted from within and is in his sixth season with the Ducks. Coaches in place at least five years was the stipulation since an incoming coach might be susceptible to playing the prospects he recruited or having a number of transfers that could open up starting or rotational spots.

The criteria: Each class was looked at and the total number of signees was pared down to just those who enrolled as members of the football team in the fall. Junior college signees were excluded, as were any recruits who were academically or medically disqualified before playing a game. That explains why the total number of freshmen for our purposes might look different than what might be seen on RecruitingNation. Any true freshmen who spent a year at a post-graduate or prep school was also excluded. Redshirt freshmen were disqualified, too.

Bottom line is if the player was not a part of the football team the fall following his high school graduation, he was excluded.

Nearly all of the data was collected after poring through media guides and archives, although the communications departments at some of the schools were also helpful providing numbers and deserve recognition.

So, here is the actual data:

 

It is hardly a coincidence that Fisher and Alabama's Nick Saban, who mentored Fisher at LSU, have identical percentages of true freshmen earning a letter. Fisher and Saban arguably have been the two best recruiters over the last few cycles, and, the data shows those two are not going to keep young talent off the field simply because of age. Nearly half of the true freshmen at Alabama and Florida State lettered over the last three seasons.

Mark Dantonio has built Michigan State into a national title contender in a different manor, relying on experience. Only 12 percent of true freshmen lettered over the last three seasons. Recruiting to Michigan State is not the easy task it is at some other top-10 programs, and the Spartans are not recruiting as many ESPN 300-level players as the likes of Alabama and Florida State.

It should be noted Michigan State, Oklahoma and Oregon don't have quite the recruiting base Alabama and Florida State do.

Inquiring minds want to see how that 45 percent stacks up to some of the other top programs in the country, so even though they did not fit the criteria I looked at a few other schools with coaches in place at least five seasons and lately in the top half of the rankings. LSU was worth a look considering it's Les Miles' 10th season in Baton Rouge and, like Fisher and Saban, has recruited exceptionally well for a long period of time. Mark Richt is in his 14th season at Georgia and, like Miles, usually has a highly-regarded recruiting class. Steve Spurrier is in his 10th season at South Carolina and has steadily improved the Gamecocks' class to the point that the 2015 class is No. 5 nationally. Dabo Swinney has turned Clemson from a perennial disappointment into a two-time BCS bowl participant. And Ohio State and Texas A&M, mainly because it's worth seeing how third-year Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer fares considering he frequently voices his preference to avoid redshirting. Kevin Sumlin is also in the process of trying to build an SEC power that can compete with Alabama and LSU in the SEC West.

 

For the Buckeyes, out of the 69 true freshmen to land in Columbus, Ohio, from 2011-2013, 31 lettered -- the same 45 percent. Looking at just Meyer's two seasons, however, he is decimals ahead of Fisher and Saban at 46 percent (21 out of 46), thanks in large part to 14 freshmen letterwinners in his first season.

Georgia's Mark Richt has a percentage of nearly 50 percent, but the Bulldogs' numbers might be the most skewed. Along with South Carolina, the Bulldogs had several recruits that either did not qualify or spent time at a prep school or junior college. Also, Georgia's long list of dismissals and transfers is well documented, and all of the departures has opened up spots for freshmen to earn immediate playing time.

It is Miles, though, who plays a higher percentage of freshmen than all of the others. Twelve true freshmen lettered for LSU in both 2012 and 2013, and another nine earned a letter in 2011. There were a total of 65 applicable freshmen to enter LSU during that span and 33 of them lettered. That's a percentage of 51 percent.

Certainly the numbers will fluctuate year to year, and coaches at every single program are playing freshmen more frequently than ever before. When taking into account the timeline is over three years, LSU averages just one more freshman letterwinner per season than Alabama and Florida State. For our intents and purposes, though, the data shows which top programs consistently play the most freshmen in this new era of freshmen phenoms.

And, uh, FYI, Alabama has 19 ESPN 300 players prepping for their freshmen season this fall. LSU has 16, and Florida State isn't far off with 13 of their own.

Big 12 morning links

August, 19, 2014
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A lot of good tweets out there about Johnny Manziel's gesture to the Washington Redskins on "Monday Night Football," but my favorite? The excuse his agent came up with. Good times. On to the links:
  • The final verdict on Joe Mixon's discipline Monday -- a one-season suspension and removal from the roster -- evoked an excellent column from Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman, who writes that no matter what a courtroom decides, Mixon will always been the guy who hit the girl. Powerful stuff, and Tramel is dead-on. Mixon is now stuck with a reputation that will endure well beyond one football season. He's right, too, that if the video gets released this might get worse for the freshman running back. John E. Hoover of the Tulsa World mentions an OU precedent Mixon might want to follow: Dusty Dvoracek, who rejoined the Sooners a year after a similar incident and still had a productive career.
  • Gary Patterson made his quarterback decision Monday night: There is no decision. Trevone Boykin and Matt Joeckel will both play in the season opener against Samford on Aug. 30. As Carlos Mendez of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports, it's as much a strategy move as an indicator of indecision. He took the same approach to prep for LSU last season, all the way down to putting both Boykin and Casey Pachall on the field for TCU's first offensive snap. Realistically, Patterson wants to see what both do against Samford so he can reassess during the bye week before hosting Minnesota. Gotta have a more clear-cut plan by then, right?
  • Meanwhile, at Iowa State, a definitive call: Sam B. Richardson will start at quarterback. Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register writes that Richardson's push to win the job was an inspiring one. He was the No. 3 quarterback to play in the spring game, and now he's back on top thanks to a determined rally this summer. He deserves major props for that comeback, and Paul Rhoads believe Richardson has been excellent in fall practice. Bobby La Gesse of the Ames Tribune points out that what ISU really needs is the Richardson who nearly upset Texas a year ago.
  • Baylor's McLane Stadium opens in two weeks and is 99 percent complete. The Waco Tribune had a thorough recap of the tour reporters were given of stadium on Monday as the final touches come together. Baylor also unveiled an iPhone app that lets you watch replays right from your seat. If you want a closer look, the Dallas Morning News has a great gallery. I went on that tour and, I have to say, that place is a gem. The locker room, recruiting room and suites definitely stood out, as did (selfishly) the greatly expanded press box. We'll see how it handles a crowd of 45,000, but so far McLane Stadium is living up to the hype.
  • Two teams facing tough questions at cornerback right now: Texas Tech and West Virginia. In Lubbock, true freshmen Jah'Shawn Johnson and Tevin Madison have both impressed and are poised to make the two-deep, if not become starters. At WVU, MetroNews is reporting Ishmael Banks, a 12-game starter last year, could be academically ineligible this season. Both programs feel they have a good No. 1 corner in Justis Nelson and Daryl Worley, respectively, but these No. 2 cornerback spots are critical position battles that will have a real effect on how these inconsistent defenses bounce back in 2014.

Position battle update: TCU QB

August, 18, 2014
Aug 18
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TCU will soon have an answer to its offseason-long question of who will replace Casey Pachall. Here's what we know:

Contenders: Senior Matt Joeckel, junior Trevone Boykin

Not contenders: Freshmen Foster Sawyer and Grayson Muehlstein are both expected to redshirt this fall, according to TCU coach Gary Patterson.

What they replace: While Pachall's final two seasons at TCU might best be described as rocky, he did leave Fort Worth as one of the school's top three all-time passers in completions, passing yards and passing TDs while ranking first in completion percentage. Between his suspension in 2012 and his injuries in 2013, Pachall was at times unreliable for this Horned Frog offense. Still, he started 23 career games and isn't easy to replace.

What they offer: Now that's what makes this competition so interesting, because each one brings a different kind of experience to the table.

Joeckel has the experience of operating an Air Raid offense with confidence, and that's crucial as TCU makes its transition to an offense that should resemble what we've seen from Oklahoma State and Texas Tech in recent years. He's had great mentors in Kevin Sumlin, Jake Spavital and Kliff Kingsbury. He has prototypical size and, after four years on the bench in College Station, he's hungry.

The downside is Joeckel showed up in June. He had a ton of catching up to do and he's done an admirable job so far, but not enough to lock down the job from Day 1.

Boykin brings a different kind of experience: He knows this team. The players know him. He's won a few games with them. He dropped 15 pounds this offseason and is in the best shape of his life. The OCs are new to him, but otherwise, this is Boykin's fourth year in the program. He says working with Sonny Cumbie has raised his game. And he happens to be one of the best athletes on the team.

The only problem with that is, if this race is dead even, is TCU better off going with Joeckel knowing that Boykin can still be a dynamic receiver? Wouldn't you prefer to have both on the field? Boykin is playing QB throughout camp with every intention of winning that job, but no doubt that idea was crossed Patterson's mind.

Prediction: We all expected Joeckel to win this in the end, but I'm betting on Boykin. There seems to be real enthusiasm about how he responded to competition this summer. Realistically, though, TCU's best course of action might be to use both QBs in their opener against Samford and then re-evaluate during the two weeks they have to prep for Minnesota.
AUSTIN, Texas – When Texas linebacker Dalton Santos ran onto the field for practice last Sunday wearing a pro wrestling-style title belt, naturally, there were going to be questions.

While the belt and its origins remain shrouded in mystery, some key details have emerged.

The Texas Takeaways belt was introduced this fall as a method for inspiring the Longhorns' defense to take more pride in forcing turnovers, something it didn’t do too much of in 2013.

[+] EnlargeTexas championship belt
btp_longhorn/InstagramPeter Jinkens sports the takeaways belt, which goes to the unit that racks up the most points toward forcing turnovers
Every day, Charlie Strong’s defenders are graded by a point system for every interception, fumble, strip, rip and poke. There might be more criteria, but even Texas’ veterans are hesitant to reveal the criteria and point values.

“It’s just a fun thing we’ve got going on so everyone competes on defense,” defensive end Cedric Reed said.

The points reset every day, and it’s not just about which unit -- defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs -- scored the most in a given practice. If your unit won the day but didn’t meet the coaches’ required number of points, Reed said, no belt for you.

“Whoever wins the most days at the end of the week -- which will be the DBs this week -- will get that belt,” cornerback Quandre Diggs said.

The belt has a Longhorn logo and the word “WARRIOR” printed in the middle of its silver plate. Players say they don’t know where it came from. Cornerback Duke Thomas claimed defensive backs coach Chris Vaughn brought it in to work one day. Texas’ defense has been battling ever since.

Last season, Texas finished with 10 interceptions, 12 forced fumbles and 16 fumble recoveries. Its 26 takeaways tied for 26th-best nationally, but the turnover margin was a mere plus-four. Only three FBS schools recovered more fumbles, so that’s a positive, but Texas’ interception total ranked eighth in the Big 12 and 82nd nationally, and the 12 forced fumbles tied for fewest in a single season in school history.

Strong’s defense at Louisville put up relatively similar numbers last year, but did have 16 interceptions and the No. 2 turnover margin in the nation at plus-17.

“Whatever you emphasize and whatever you put in, you get out,” said Thomas, whose three interceptions led the Longhorns last year. “That’s what we’re trying to do right now.”

The linebackers evidently won the belt for the first week of fall camp. Three days after Santos ran onto the field to show it off, Texas’ defensive backs earned it back.

And yet, as is the case with most wrestling and boxing belts, this one comes with dispute.

“Just to let y’all know, the D-line is winning it,” Reed said. “We run out there with it pretty much every time.”

Diggs frowned in disgust when told Reed had claimed domination of the belt.

“Look at my face. Ced has told y’all a big, flat-out lie,” Diggs said.

Added an outraged Thomas: “The DBs are going to have the belt regardless. Aww, man, we had like 35 points [on Friday]. Ced doesn’t know what he’s talking about. They didn’t get no points out there.”

After Texas’ first scrimmage on Saturday, the defending champ entering the weekend was holding on tight to his prize. He was confident the DBs were ahead in the points race.

“It’s meant a lot,” Diggs said. “If you go in the locker room right now, it’s in my locker. So that can tell you who’s winning that belt.”

On Monday morning, Reed fired back the best way he could: with a photo of the belt's new true owners.

Iowa State on Monday named Sam Richardson its starting quarterback for the season opener.

“He’s a guy that’s in command and throwing accurate passes for us,” ISU coach Paul Rhoads said.

[+] EnlargeSam B. Richardson
Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY SportsSam Richardson threw for 1,397 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.
Richardson beat out sophomore Grant Rohach, who started the final four games in 2013, and redshirt freshman Joel Lanning to earn the start against FCS power North Dakota State on Aug. 30. The junior signal-caller has started 10 of 14 games during his Cyclones career and enters his third season with a 57.3 Adjusted QBR, 1,938 career passing yards, 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

New offensive coordinator Mark Mangino’s arrival came at a terrific time for Richardson as the slate was wiped clean and all three quarterbacks began anew. Richardson’s accuracy won him the job and his ability to run could be a key piece of the puzzle in Mangino's offense. As the most experienced quarterback on the roster, Richardson probably gives the Cyclones their best chance to win.

During his 14 games in a Cyclones uniform, Richardson has completed more than 60 percent of his passes on four different occasions. The Cyclones went 2-2 in those games with wins over Kansas in 2012 and Tulsa in 2013. Rhoads told reporters that Richardson completed 70 percent of his passes during ISU’s last two scrimmages, a sign that Mangino’s arrival has had a positive impact.

Even with his apparent improvement, Richardson may not have a stranglehold on the starting spot. He enters the season averaging 138.4 passing yards per game and converting just 30.5 percent of his third-down passes into first downs. He will need to improve in both categories to keep his starting spot. To top it off, Richardson has won just one of his 10 starts while Rohach won two of his four starts a year ago.

Rhoads told reporters ISU will be patient with Richardson and he’s “not on a short leash” but, nonetheless, the Cyclones are unlikely to go down with the ship on the shoulders of any quarterback this fall with other quality options on the roster.

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

August, 18, 2014
Aug 18
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We're less than two weeks away from the season and only 170 days away from national signing day. Here's your weekly update on where each Big 12 program stands on the recruiting front:

BAYLOR
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: ESPN 300 WR Chad President made it official: He's now a Baylor Bear. President, who's been committed since last summer, inked financial aid papers with the Bears this week. Coach Art Briles appears intent to let the 6-foot-3, 195-pound standout from nearby Temple, Texas, play quarterback when he enrolls early.

IOWA STATE
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: ISU will soon get a visit from one of their top targets, junior college CB Antoine Albert of Diablo Valley College in California. The 6-foot-2 defender has seen his offer list grow considerably -- now including Tennessee and Arizona -- but Iowa State got in the mix early and has to like its chances.

KANSAS
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Jayhawks are having a hard time winning recruiting battles within their own state. That'll make the guys KU can get even more important. Keep an eye on safety Darreon Jackson from Derby, Kansas. He's a move-in who came from a big-time Texas program, Mesquite Horn, where he earned all-district honors at linebacker. Charlie Weis' staff should like its chances with him.

KANSAS STATE
Total commits: 9
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcats continue to do an impressive job of locking down their backyard. Their latest pledge came from three-star OT Evan Applegate, who's listed at 6-foot-7 and 280 pounds. Applegate turned down offers from Arkansas, Oklahoma State and Nebraska to join a KSU class that's off to a nice start.

OKLAHOMA
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: The Sooners have missed on a bunch of big-time offensive line targets, but they got a good one last week in Cody Ford. OU coaches convinced the three-star offensive guard from Pineville, Louisiana, to back out of his six-month pledge to TCU and join fellow linemen Bobby Evans and Dominique Hearne in their class.

OKLAHOMA STATE
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: OSU beefed up its offensive line class last week with the addition of three-star tackle Joshua Jones and junior college tackle Brandon Pertile. Jones, one of the top linemen in the Houston area, chose the Pokes over Texas Tech and TCU. Pertile spent one year at Georgia State before enrolling at Mesa Community College in Arizona.

TCU
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: TCU has joined what should end up being a long list of suitors for 2016 DE Erick Fowler. The ESPN Junior 300 defender from Manor, Texas, went up to Fort Worth last week to watch a fall practice and went home with an offer. He now has at least six, and that list will continue to grow.

TEXAS
Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 7
The latest: The Longhorns are among the top contenders for Mesquite (Texas) Poteet teammates LB Malik Jefferson and ATH DeAndre McNeal, and both have decided to announce their decisions in late December. McNeal might project out best as a linebacker in college, but he now says he wants to play offense. They'll take their official visit to out-of-state schools, and one lucky program could snag both for Christmas.

TEXAS TECH
Total commits: 9
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The leaders of Tech's class, ESPN 300 recruits Jarrett Stidham and Breiden Fehoko, are both set to enroll early and have now signed financial aid papers with the school. The ability to unofficially sign in August is a beneficial deal for all involved, because Tech coaches are now permitted unlimited calls and visits (and even public tweets) with their top two committed guys.

WEST VIRGINIA
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: The Mountaineers already have two QBs committed for their 2015 class, but they could be chasing another in Lamar Jackson. The three-star dual-threat passer from Boynton Beach, Florida, reportedly intends to take an official visit to Morgantown this fall and will also check out Nebraska. With David Sills and Chris Chugunov already on board, it'll be interesting to see how seriously WVU pursues him.
This week we'll be highlighting the key position battles for every program in the Big 12. We begin this series with Iowa State, which appears to be on the verge of naming a starting quarterback for the opener against North Dakota State.

Here's where the battle stands:

Contenders: junior Sam B. Richardson, sophomore Grant Rohach, redshirt freshman Joel Lanning

Non-contenders: freshman Darius Lee-Campbell

What happened last season: Richardson opened the season as the starter after a promising finish to his freshman year. But the season quickly turned into a nightmare for him, as he suffered an array of nagging injuries, including a sprained ankle that hobbled him for most of the season. Richardson wound up completing only 55.3 percent of his passes and averaged only 3.5 yards per carry, a year after he averaged 5.7. With Richardson ailing, the Cyclones turned to Rohach, who struggled through a six-game losing streak, but played well in Iowa State's final two games. In those two wins against Kansas and West Virginia, Rohach completed 68 percent of his passes for 631 yards and six touchdowns to just two interceptions.

Lanning, who signed with Iowa State over an offer from Nebraska, redshirted.

What they offer: Rohach's finish to the season made him the front-runner in the competition going into the offseason. But Richardson's ability to make plays with his feet has allowed him to separate in the battle this month. Due to the bum ankle, Richardson's effectiveness plummeted last season, as he was unable to escape the pocket or make plays on the run. Now healthy again, that mobility has returned this preseason. According to coach Paul Rhoads, Richardson also put in the work this offseason to improve his arm strength.

While Rohach's passing is his strength, he doesn't have Richardson's mobility, which limits Mark Mangino's playbook while he's on the field. Mangino had success at Kansas with Todd Reesing at quarterback, in part because of Reesing's versatility and athleticism.

Lanning has a big arm, but is clearly behind the other two while learning a second offense in as many years.

Prediction: After a banner performance in the spring game, Rohach appeared to be on track to keeping the starting job. But since Richardson has reclaimed the form that made him the apparent quarterback of the future at the end of the 2012 season, all signs out of Ames point toward Iowa State naming Richardson the starter -- possibly by the end of the day -- and banking that finally healthy again he can provide the quality stability at quarterback the Cyclones have long sought.
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. -- Growing up, Tom Bradley's father took him to Penn State games. But he also drove him down to watch West Virginia play, too. And at an early age, Bradley realized the importance of West Virginia football.

This season, Bradley will be coaching at a place other than Penn State for the first time in his 34-year career. But it's also a place he feels he knows well.

[+] EnlargeTom Bradley
Ray Carlin/Icon SMITom Bradley, a former Penn State coach, knows all about WVU, and the Mountaineers will be counting on that knowledge to assist them this season.
"I've played against them, I've recruited against them all those years," Bradley said. "I know all the great players they've gotten and we missed on. I know the great defenses they've had.

"I get it. I've followed them. I know it. I understand the pride that West Virginia takes in their football team. They get after it. These people are die-hard fans. And they live and breathe with the Mountaineers."

It wasn't long ago that the man known as "Scrap" lived and breathed Penn State. After playing there, Bradley joined Joe Paterno's staff in 1979, and would remain there for 33 seasons. He started as a graduate assistant and finished as the interim head coach in 2011. No person alive has coached in more Penn State games than Bradley, who was part of two national championships and 26 bowl teams there.

But when Penn State hired Bill O'Brien to be its head coach following the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Bradley resigned and became a broadcast analyst, notably covering Army football games.

Other opportunities to coach elsewhere came along over the past three years. Bradley, however, was waiting for the right one.

And when West Virginia asked him to be its senior associate head coach, Bradley finally pounced.

"It was just a great opportunity," he said. "It's very close to where I live (in Pittsburgh). I understand it. I'm not going to a totally different environment that I don't get. Coach (Dana) Holgorsen and (athletic director) Oliver Luck, when they talked to me about this opportunity, it was just something I couldn't pass up.

"This was the right fit."

Bradley just might be the right fit for the Mountaineers, too.

West Virginia has struggled in the Big 12, especially on the defensive side. Through two different coordinators, the Mountaineers have ranked ninth and eighth in total defense, which is a major reason why they've gone 6-12 in two seasons in the league.

After Keith Patterson bolted for Arizona State, Holgorsen promoted safeties coach Tony Gibson to become West Virginia's fourth defensive coordinator in as many years. Gibson and Bradley have known each other for years, developing a friendship while squaring off in Pennsylvania for the state's top recruits. Gibson's promotion is another reason why Bradley felt West Virginia was the place he needed to be. And the combination of the two could form the coaching chemistry that finally turns the Mountaineers' defense around.

"Tony is a first-year defensive coordinator and has a plan with what he wants to do and we're very comfortable with his plan," Holgorsen said. "But having a confident, well-respected coach like Tom Bradley that understands the game, what makes kids tick, gives you a backup defensive coordinator in the room. Coach Bradley being able to game plan each week, helping Tony with that, kind of figure out what offenses are trying to get accomplished. ...I think it will pay dividends."

Bradley admits there's been an adjustment. He knew the entire Penn State defensive scheme by heart, but has had to consult the West Virginia playbook occasionally this fall. But Bradley has instantly impressed the players this preseason with his energy, knowledge and confidence.

"He's just a natural leader," veteran defensive lineman Kyle Rose recently said to reporters. "He's doesn't get mad at you too much, but you can tell when he does get mad that he means business. He's a once-in-a-lifetime coach, after coaching that many guys in the NFL and having years of coaching experience.

"A great addition to us."

Bradley coached many great players and won many big games at Penn State over the years. He's hoping he can bring the same to his second football home.

"I'm here to help this team win," he said. "To help honest to goodness anyway I can. No task is too small. Whatever they need, I'm going to do it.

"The bottom line is to try and win some games."

Big 12 morning links

August, 18, 2014
Aug 18
8:00
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Big 12 coaches over the weekend partook in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, including Kliff Kingsbury, Charlie Weis, Charlie Strong and Gary Patterson.
  • The Iowa State quarterback derby appears to be nearing a conclusion, and the Des Moines Register's Randy Peterson writes that Sam B. Richardson will be named the starter. Grant Rohach, who finished off last season as the starter, seemed to be the front-runner to hold on to the job going into the offseason. Rohach also outplayed Richardson and Joel Lanning in Iowa State's spring game. But Richardson, who opened last year as the starter, has re-emerged this preseason. He also gives coordinator Mark Mangino the threat of a running quarterback, which Mangino successfully utilized with Todd Reesing at Kansas. The Cyclones have long been searching for a long-term answer at quarterback. Perhaps Richardson will finally be that answer.
  • While Iowa State is close to settling on one quarterback, Oklahoma State seems to be heading the other direction. The Oklahoman's Kyle Fredrickson reports that the signs are pointing toward the Cowboys playing more than one quarterback this season. If that's indeed the case, it doesn't bode well for J.W. Walsh. He entered the year as the unequivocal leader of the offense and the overwhelming favorite to win the job. But Walsh's lack of arm strength led the Cowboys' wideout-heavy offense to bog down last year. If Mike Gundy is seriously considering giving Daxx Garman or even true freshman Mason Rudolph snaps, that's a signal the offense is still sputtering with Walsh behind center.
  • Oklahoma’s fight to keep starting linebacker Frank Shannon off the field this season will go before the Oklahoma Supreme Court this Wednesday, according to The Oklahoman's Jason Kersey. The Shannon saga has created the most awkward of situations for Shannon and the school. As the university seeks to suspend him after concluding he violated the university’s sexual misconduct policy, the Sooners continue to give their returning leading tackler first-team reps in practice. The situation will get even more awkward if it lingers into the season, which is why the school appealed the case to the state Supreme Court.
  • The West Virginia defense has been showing improvement, in the opinion of the Charleston Gazette's Dave Hickman. It's difficult to remember now, but the Mountaineers played good defense early last season before injuries ravaged the roster. West Virginia has quality players on that side of the ball, notably cornerback Daryl Worley and safety Karl Joseph. Under new coordinator Tony Gibson and assistant Tom Bradley, this has a chance to be one of the more improved units in the league.
  • Lastly, this piece by the San Antonio Express-News' Mike Finger on Texas coach Charlie Strong is outstanding. Read it.

 

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