Big 12: Kansas Jayhawks

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
Not many new commitments to break down this time around in our weekly check-in on Big 12 recruiting, but that doesn't mean these coaching staffs haven't been busy. Here's the latest on who's taking visits and who's impressing so far in their senior seasons:

Total commits:
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Blake Lynch is making the Bears look awfully smart for accepting his early commitment in 2013. The Gilmer, Texas, four-star athlete wowed this weekend against Tatum with 93 rushing yards, 115 receiving yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winning score. He played quarterback as a junior but has transitioned into a true offensive weapon since transferring to Gilmer.

Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: No commitments came in this weekend, but it'll be interesting to see how Iowa State's last-second win over Iowa impacts their in-state recruiting battles going forward. For example, could that win and some positive momentum help ISU's chances with 2016 linemen John Raridon and Jake Heinrich? No doubt Paul Rhoads and his coaches will be talking about that game for the next year while recruiting.

Total commits:
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: KU has not landed a new commitment in almost a month and a half, and a blowout loss to Duke isn't going to help its efforts on the trail much either. One commit whose season is off to a nice start: three-star RB Taylor Martin has racked up 323 rushing yards and seven TDs this year at Fort Worth (Texas) Dunbar.

Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: A Thursday night game, no matter how gigantic the opponent, isn't necessarily ideal for bringing in a bunch of official visitors. K-State is reportedly expecting to have three-star RB Alex Barnes and junior college DT Deonte Reynolds in the house when Auburn comes to the The Little Apple. Both are taking midweek official visits, and they're critical targets for the Wildcats on what should be a pressure-packed week.

Total commits:
ESPN 300 commits: 6
The latest: The Sooners hosted their biggest official visit weekend of the season and secured two pledges Saturday, from ESPN 300 safety Will Sunderland Jr. and junior college lineman Jamal Danley. The long-awaited pregame commitment from Sunderland was huge, but so was getting ESPN 300 studs Keisean Lucier-South, Kendall Sheffield, Ricky DeBerry and Neville Gallimore and four-stars Kahlil Haughton and Anthony McKee on campus.

Total commits: 12
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Pokes added to a promising offensive line class last week with 6-foot-7 offensive tackle Deya Mhiesen, a junior college lineman who can enroll in January. Mhiesen took an official visit to Baylor's season opener, then attended OSU's 40-23 win over Missouri State and decided to pull the trigger. He'll have three years of eligibility at OSU.

Total commits:
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Horned Frogs had several commits in the stands Saturday for their 30-7 beatdown of Minnesota, including WR Jarrison Stewart and DT Joseph Broadnax, along with Baylor commit CB Ke'Shawn Somerville, DE Andrew Fitzgerald and several more intriguing recruits in the 2016 class.

Total commits: 15
ESPN 300 commits: 7
The latest: Texas hosted some big-time recruits at AT&T Stadium for its 20-17 loss to UCLA, including top ESPN 300 targets Malik Jefferson and Ryan Newsome, ESPN Junior 300 WR Reggie Hemphill and commits DeShon Elliott, Charles Omenihu and Connor Williams. Two attendees who could end up in this class: three-star center Tyler Moore and Purdue three-star cornerback commit Isaac Warren.

Total commits: 9
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Red Raiders were not able to get Tyron Johnson, the nation's No. 2 receiver prospect, in town this weekend for his official visit due to a scheduling conflict, but he's expected to make it out to Lubbock on Oct. 11 when Tech hosts West Virginia. Tech did have ESPN 300 QB signee Jarrett Stidham, four-star commit OG Conner Dyer and three-star DE Jalen Bates in attendance.

Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: With Oklahoma coming to town this weekend, expect a lot of talent on the West Virginia sideline before Saturday's big game. Among those reportedly expected to attend on official visits are ESPN 300 CB Jordan Whitehead and four-star ATH Tim Irvin.

Big 12 nonconference rewind

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
The majority of the Big 12 enters a bye week with conference play right around the corner.

We're only three weeks into the season but plenty of things have changed. Preseason expectations are out the window and some dreams of breakout seasons have been shattered while other preconceived notions have been re-affirmed.

Here's a review of nonconference play in the Big 12:

[+] EnlargeTrevor Knight
J.P. Wilson/Icon SportswireQuarterback Trevor Knight and a stubborn defense have teamed to make Oklahoma the Big 12's best.
Best team: Oklahoma. The Sooners have done nothing to lose their status as the Big 12 preseason favorite. Bob Stoops' squad has been dominant while reeling off three wins over Louisiana Tech (2-1), Tulsa (1-2) and Tennessee (2-1). Quarterback Trevor Knight has taken a clear step forward from his freshman production and the defense could end up among the best of the Stoops era. Baylor has been just as impressive but against lesser competition with its three opponents holding one FBS win (1-5) combined this season.

Biggest disappointment: Texas Tech. Wait, where are the Longhorns? Did you really expect more from Texas? More players have been kicked off the team (eight) than offensive touchdowns scored by Charlie Strong's team (seven). The Red Raiders are another story, however. Tech has never really looked outstanding at any point this season as penalties, turnovers and defensive struggles turning the Red Raiders' Big 12 title dreams into an early nightmare. Saturday's loss to Arkansas -- which included 438 rushing yards by the Razorbacks -- has Kliff Kingsbury looking for answers. Before the season Tech looked like a team that could catapult itself into the top 3 in the Big 12. Now it looks like a squad facing a fight to go bowling.

Big (offensive) man on campus: West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett. Raise your hand if you had Trickett as the first Big 12 quarterback to eclipse 1,000 yards in 2014. He's been outstanding for the Mountaineers while leading the Big 12 in passing yards (1,224) and completion percentage (75.4). He's in the top 3 among FBS quarterbacks in both categories. He's the main reason WVU is emerging as the Big 12's surprise team after three games.

[+] EnlargeMalcom Brown
John Albright/Icon SMIYou can't pin Texas' struggles on defensive tackle Malcom Brown, the Big 12's co-leader in sacks.
Big (defensive) man on campus: Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown. The junior defensive tackle is one of the few blameless Longhorns on the roster. He's been dominant as the Big 12's leader in sacks (3.5, tied with Iowa State's Cory Morrissey) and tackles for loss (seven). He has added 16 tackles and has forced a fumble for Strong's defense. In a league overflowing with defensive talent -- like OU's Eric Striker and Baylor's Shawn Oakman -- Brown is second to none.

Fab freshman: Baylor receiver KD Cannon. The ESPN 300 receiver has no idea what it feels like to go into the halftime locker room without a touchdown catch. Cannon has made an amazing impact with an FBS-high 471 receiving yards in his first three games as a college receiver. The true freshman has 14 receptions, an average of 33.6 yards per catch, and five touchdowns. All-Big 12 receiver Antwan Goodley's biggest competition for the conference's most explosive receiver could be sitting alongside him in the receivers' room.

Newcomer to know: Oklahoma State athlete Tyreek Hill. The junior college transfer burst upon the scene with 278 all-purpose yards against Florida State as he buzzed around the turf in Arlington, Texas, while giving Seminoles defenders fits throughout the loss. His production has dropped significantly in OSU's last two games (24 touches for 154 yards) but it's clear the Cowboys are trying to save their top playmaker for their toughest games.

Best performance: It was the only Big 12 Conference game in the first three weeks but Kansas State doesn't escape Iowa State's upset bid without quarterback Jake Waters. Trailing 28-26 with 3:01 left, the senior led the Wildcats on a seven-play, 80-yard march to win the game. Waters accounted for 74 of KSU's 80 yards on the drive including an 8-yard touchdown run. KSU won 32-28.

Worst performance: Kansas laid an egg in its 41-3 loss to Duke last weekend. The Jayhawks opened the season with plenty of hope for a new and improved offense but, after gaining 457 yards in their season opener, KU took a clear step backward with 297 yards including 97 through the air against Duke. To make matters worse, the Jayhawks allowed Blue Devil freshman running back Shaun Wilson to rush for 245 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries. Back to the drawing board.

Dream dashed: It was disappointing to see Iowa State receiver Quenton Bundrage lost for the season with an ACL injury just minutes into the Cyclones' first game. The junior spent the offseason working on becoming more consistent and had the talent to be one of the Big 12's top receivers in 2014. Now he has to wait until next season with an eye on becoming the Big 12 comeback player of the year when he returns to the field in 2015.

Best stat: TCU has held opponents without a first down or touchdown on 60 percent of its drives. In two games, the Horned Frogs have defended 30 total drives and 18 of those drives have ended without a first down including seven of Minnesota's 15 drives last weekend. Gary Patterson's defense is one reason the Horned Frogs cannot be overlooked when Big 12 play reaches high gear next month.

Best quote: "I haven't talked to [kicker] Josh Lambert since he got on campus, and we are going to keep it that way. I know his name and who he is but other than that I'm doing the hands-off approach." -- West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen after Lambert's game-winning kick to beat Maryland 40-37 last weekend.

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 3

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14

Big 12 viewer's guide: Week 3

September, 13, 2014
Sep 13
In Week 3 of Big 12 action, Oklahoma and Texas Tech will take on the SEC; West Virginia, TCU and Iowa State will challenge the Big Ten; Kansas will go on the road in the ACC; and Texas will attempt to bounce back against the Pac-12.

How the league fares in those seven games against Power 5 conference opponents will be the major storyline today in the Big 12:

West Virginia at Maryland, noon ET (Big Ten Network): The Terrapins slaughtered West Virginia 37-0 last season. The Mountaineers, however, didn’t have quarterback Clint Trickett in that game. Trickett ranks fourth nationally with a 75.3 completion percentage, and his favorite target, Kevin White, is tied for fourth in the country with 19 receptions.

Arkansas at Texas Tech, 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC): After starting fast last year, the Red Raiders are off to a sluggish beginning in Kliff Kingsbury’s second season. Only Oregon State has committed more penalties than the Red Raiders, who have 25 through two games. These two old Southwest Conference foes have met 35 times, but haven’t played since 1991.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Collins (55), Brandon Scheriff (68) and Dominic Alvis
Reese Strickland/USA Today SportsIowa State has a chance to get its season on track and win back the Cy-Hawk Trophy on Saturday.
Iowa State at Iowa, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN): Iowa All-American left tackle Brandon Scherff is out for the Cy-Hawk series with an undisclosed knee injury. The Hawkeyes had struggled to move the ball with Scherff in narrow wins over Northern Iowa and Ball State.

Kansas at Duke, 3:30 p.m. ET (ACC Regional Sports Network): Kansas hasn’t won a road game since beating UTEP in El Paso the second week of the 2009 season. The Jayhawks’ 34 points last week, however, tied the highest scoring total of the Charlie Weis era, and their 6.3 yards per play against Southeast Missouri State was the program’s best game average in three years.

Minnesota at TCU, 4 p.m. ET (FS1): The Gophers are one of the only Big Ten teams off to a positive start, but injuries have piled up. Minnesota is hopeful quarterback Mitch Leidner will be able to go after injuring his knee against Middle Tennessee last weekend.

UTSA at Oklahoma State, 7 p.m. ET (Fox Sports Regional): Quarterback Daxx Garman is expected to make his first career start after taking his first competitive snap in five years during last week’s win over Missouri State. The Roadrunners are still looking for the program’s first win over a Power 5 conference opponent.

Texas vs. No. 12 UCLA (Arlington, Texas), 8 p.m. ET (FOX): The Longhorns were woeful on both sides of the ball in a 41-7 loss to BYU last weekend, and this doesn’t have the look of a favorable matchup. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Texas has allowed the fourth-most rushing yards (777) in the FBS to opposing QBs since the start of last season. Excluding sacks, UCLA’s Brett Hundley has run for the sixth-most yards by a quarterback (1,057) during the same span.

Tennessee at No. 4 Oklahoma, 8 p.m. ET (ABC): This is the first regular-season matchup between these teams, which are in the top 10 in the FBS in all-time wins. Recent history, however, favors the Sooners. Bob Stoops is 88-5 at home with Oklahoma, while Tennessee hasn’t won three games to begin a season since 2004.
Although we're just two weeks into the 2014 season, go-to targets are starting to emerge across the Big 12. West Virginia's Kevin White looks like he could fill a playmaking void and Texas Tech's Bradley Marquez has stepped his play up in his final season.

Here's a closer look at the Big 12's leading receivers in several key stats, with the help of ESPN Stats and Information.

[+] EnlargeKevin White, Bradley Sylve
John David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsWest Virginia's Kevin White has been targeted more than any other Big 12 receiver.
Total targets

  1. Kevin White, West Virginia, 26
  2. Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech, 21
  3. John Harris, Texas, 20
  4. Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma, 19
  5. (Bradley Marquez, Texas Tech, 18

It’s clear White has developed a high level of trust with quarterback Clint Trickett and the Mountaineers are trying to get the ball in the hands of the 6-foot-3, 210-pound senior. … Texas’ John Harris is the surprise name on the list as he has emerged as a go-to target in a struggling Longhorns attack. … As Iowa State searches for someone to replace Quenton Bundrage, no Cyclone has double-digit targets through two games.

Yards per target

  1. Kolby Listenbee, TCU, 32.6
  2. Jhajuan Seales, Oklahoma State, 20.8
  3. Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma, 16.7
  4. KD Cannon, Baylor, 15.4
  5. Nick Harwell, Kansas, 14.9

TCU has only played one game, but it would be a surprise if Listenbee is not a major part of the offense. He proved to be a legitimate deep threat in the Horned Frogs' season opener two weeks ago, and that skill will make quarterback Trevone Boykin and his dynamic running ability even more lethal. … Shepard’s appearance on this list shows the Sooners plan to use him to keep defenses honest while they attempt to establish a physical running game.

Yards after catch

  1. Kevin White, West Virginia, 147
  2. Bradley Marquez, Texas Tech, 103
  3. Brandon Sheperd, Oklahoma State, 98
  4. Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma, 92
  5. Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech, 87

White is starting to fulfill the hype that accompanied him when he arrived as a junior college transfer before the 2013 season. He combines terrific size with run-after-catch ability. He’ll be in the mix for All-Big 12 honors if he remains consistent. … Seeing Marquez, not Grant, lead the Red Raiders in yards after the catch is a surprise, but it shows his versatility and overall importance to Tech’s passing game.

Third-down receptions

  1. Davion Hall, Baylor, 6
  2. Kevin White, West Virginia, 4
  3. John Harris, Texas, 4
  4. Bradley Marquez, Texas Tech, 4
  5. Five receivers tied with 3

Hall has a high third-down reception rate but only three of his six receptions have resulted in first down conversions. The Bears have made a point to get him the ball in space, with 7 of his 11 receptions coming within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. … It’s early, but Harris, White and Marquez appear to have separated themselves as go-to receivers in their offenses.

Percentage of receptions for a first down or touchdown

  1. Nick Harwell, Kansas, 100 percent
  2. Kolby Listenbee, TCU, 100 percent
  3. Ja'Juan Story, TCU, 100 percent
  4. KD Cannon, Baylor, 87.5 percent
  5. Tyler Lockett, Kansas State, 85.7 percent

Harwell was solid in his first game as a Jayhawk with four receptions for 46 yards and two touchdowns. He’ll be a major part of KU’s offense. … Listenbee and Story have five receptions combined so it remains to be seen if their ability to make key plays continues throughout the season. … Lockett should be a staple on this list with his ability to change games each time he touches the ball.

Big 12 morning links

September, 12, 2014
Sep 12
Where can I get one of these?
  • The game between Texas Tech and Arkansas is a great contrast in styles, writes Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News. The Red Raiders love up n tempo offense and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema does not. With all the talk about how the offenses match up with the defenses, I have a feeling this game is going to be decided by a big special teams play or turnover.
  • West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen insists he has a different team with more experience and a higher confidence level heading into its rematch with Maryland, reports Mike Casazza of the Charleston Daily Mail. WVU is averaging 38.5 points, 499.5 yards, and 6.1 yards per play after two games in 2014. In 2013, WVU averaged 15.5 points, 398 yards, and 5.9 yards per play after two games.
  • Iowa State is turning up the pressure on defense, writes Bobby La Gesse of the Ames Tribune. Cyclones defensive coordinator Wally Burnham recognized the need for change after ISU's season-opening loss and it paid off with a much better performance against Kansas State last weekend. It will be interesting to see if ISU is able to continue making the blitz a staple in its defensive game plan. With some of the explosive offenses in the Big 12, it might be easy to return to a safe approach if the Cyclones get burned later on this season.
  • Here's a interesting story from Rustin Dodd of the Wichita Eagle. If you ever meet JaCorey Shepherd ask him how Tank is doing It's always good to see positive stories about college football players going out of their way to make a positive impact on the world. All of us, young or old, can learn from guys like Shepherd.
  • I'd be lying if I said I don't expect Baylor to cruise to a comfortable win over Buffalo tonight. But the Bulls have taken an interesting approach to preparing for the Bears' offense including having receivers begin plays with a running start, according to this story from Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News.
This weekend figures to be one of the biggest in Big 12 history, as the league will face an unprecedented seven nonconference opponents from Power 5 conferences.


What will the Big 12's record be in its seven games against Power 5 conference opponents this weekend?


Discuss (Total votes: 8,570)

 Coming off its Sugar Bowl win over Alabama, Oklahoma will try to strike another blow for the Big 12 against the SEC when it welcomes Tennessee to Norman. Texas Tech will play host to another Big 12-SEC matchup in a meeting with old Southwest Conference rival Arkansas.

The Big 12 will also be pitted against the Big Ten in three separate games. West Virginia travels to new Big Ten member Maryland, Iowa State goes to instate rival Iowa, and TCU will play Minnesota in just the second ever meeting between the two programs.

Kansas will test its revamped offense at defending ACC Coastal Division champion Duke. And Texas will take on one of the preseason favorites to win the Pac-12 in UCLA.

With so many losable games, Saturday could be a disaster for the Big 12, as it was for the Big Ten last weekend, when Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan all fell in marquee matchups.

On the other hand, Saturday is an opportunity for the Big 12 to deliver another statement about its legitimacy in the playoff era.

But how will the league fare? We put the question to you in our weekly Big 12 poll.

Big 12 Week 3 predictions

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11

Why Oklahoma will win: The Sooners have a decisive advantage in the trenches, highlighted by a powerful running game and a swarming defensive front seven. Bob Stoops is also 88-5 at home and will be looking to send another message to his friends in the SEC. Oklahoma 44, Tennessee 16 – Jake Trotter

Why Tennessee will keep it close: The Vols appear to be on the upswing under Butch Jones' better recruiting. UT has several receivers with size (four receivers 6-foot-3 or taller) and could try to test the coverage ability of OU's secondary. If the Vols are able to force mental mistakes from Trevor Knight, all bets are off. Oklahoma 35, Tennessee 21
Brandon Chatmon


Why UCLA will win: Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes actually played alright in his first career start last week -- and Texas still couldn't score. With the offensive line and receiving corps completely decimated, the Longhorns have what amounts to a popgun offense. UCLA counters with quarterback Brett Hundley, who entered the season on the short list of Heisman contenders. UCLA 28, Texas 9 – Trotter

Why Texas will keep it close: Defense. Until Swoopes and a patchwork offensive line get some momentum, Texas' defense will have to win the day. They'll get pressure on Hundley, but they'll need turnovers. The Longhorns played three quarters of solid defense against BYU. If they can wreak havoc for four, this game could be close late. UCLA 27, Texas 17
-Max Olson


Upset special: The Cyclones showed it is too early to write them off during a close loss to Kansas State. Meanwhile, Iowa hasn't looked like an elite team during its first two games. There were times the Cyclones were dominating K-State, and ISU could carry that momentum into a win over its rival. Iowa State 31, Iowa 27 Chatmon


Baylor over Buffalo 56-20: Buffalo is going to black out its stadium, but the Bears will light it up in Bryce Petty's return. — Chatmon

West Virginia over Maryland 28-26: The Terrapins hammered the Mountaineers 37-0 last season, but this is a completely different West Virginia team manned by a completely different quarterback in Clint Trickett, who is completing 75 percent of his passes. – Trotter

Texas Tech over Arkansas 38-24: Tech cleans up its penalty problems, and Davis Webb picks apart a D that gave up nearly 600 yards against Auburn. – Olson

Duke over Kansas 38-24: Kansas looked good in the first 45 minutes of its win over Southeast Missouri, but Duke quarterback Anthony Boone will prove simply too much for the Jayhawks. — Chatmon

TCU over Minnesota 17-13: A close game finally goes the Horned Frogs' way. Minnesota's uncertain QB situation is the difference-maker, and TCU's underappreciated defense steps up. – Olson

Oklahoma State over UTSA 42-24: Having a full week to tailor the offense around the arm of quarterback Daxx Garman should do wonders for the Oklahoma State offense. – Trotter

Ground game boosts Baylor, OU

September, 10, 2014
Sep 10
The season remains in its infancy yet there are early signs that some Big 12 teams will feature running games that can carry them to a conference title.

With the help of ESPN Stats & Information, here’s a closer look at Big 12 rushing leaders in several categories and what it means for the future.

Rushing yards

1. Baylor 526
2. Kansas State 472
3. Oklahoma 444

For the second straight season, Baylor sits atop the league in rushing yards. The Bears haven’t been tested in easy wins over SMU and Northwestern (La.) State but their unyielding commitment to the running game doesn’t look like it is going to change anytime soon. Expect all three teams to remain among the Big 12 rushing leaders as the season progresses. Notable: Texas Tech is fourth at 410 rushing yards per game.

Yards per carry

1. Texas Tech 6.4
2. Oklahoma 6.3
3. Kansas 5.3

It’s a bit of a surprise to see the Red Raiders atop the conference in yards per carry which was boosted by Tech's 28 rushes for 226 yards against UTEP last weekend. True freshman Justin Stockton is at the core of his team’s success with 14 carries for 173 yards (12.4 ypc) and two touchdowns. OU has a trio of running backs (Keith Ford, Alex Ross and Samaje Perine) to thank for its strong yards per carry numbers. Notable: West Virginia is averaging 3.67 yards per carry despite having a bevy of talented running backs.

Rushing yards before contact

1. Baylor 348
2. Texas Tech 304
3. Kansas State 286

It seems like BU has done a solid job replacing All-Big 12 guard Cyril Richardson along its offensive front with the Bears running backs gaining over half their yardage before contact. Center Kyle Fuller and guard Blake Muir have slid into the starting offensive line with relative ease but it remains to be seen how well they can hold up as the level of competition increases. A combination of scheme and solid line play means plenty of open space for BU running backs. Notable: Despite playing two games, Iowa State (59) is the only Big 12 team that hasn’t gained at least 100 rushing yards before contact. TCU (101) and Kansas (155) each eclipsed that mark in their lone game thus far.

Rushing yards after contact

1. Oklahoma 231
2. Oklahoma State 190
3. Kansas State 186

Bob Stoops and OU’s coaching staff have praised the physical running style of Ford, Ross and Perine so it’s no surprise to see the Sooners atop the conference in yards after contact. OU entered the season with uncertainty at running back but all three backs appear to be quality options. Notable: Tech leads the Big 12 with 6.4 yards per carry but is recording just 1.8 yards after contact per carry (116 total yards after contact).

Percentage of runs for negative or zero yards

1. Baylor 11 percent
2. Oklahoma 11.3 percent
3. TCU 15.2 percent

The Bears were second in the Big 12 in this category at 19.3 percent in 2013. Limiting negative yards is an overlooked key to great offense. Seeing BU and OU atop the conference is no surprise but TCU at No. 3 is a surprise. The Horned Frogs have played one game with their new offense so it will be something to keep an eye on in the future. Notable: Texas has seen 29.3 percent of its rushes result in zero or negative yardage in its first two games. That speaks volumes about the slow start of the Charlie Strong era in Austin, Texas.

Ties run deep between Cutcliffe, Weis

September, 10, 2014
Sep 10
David Cutcliffe can't help but think sometimes at how he ended up where he is now. Duke's head coach -- the reigning winner of numerous national coach of the year awards -- had been hired by Charlie Weis at Notre Dame just nine short years ago, but never got to coach a down with the Fighting Irish.

He suffered chest pains. He underwent open-heart surgery. He had numerous other complications, and he eventually had to walk away from a potential dream opportunity.

[+] EnlargeDavid Cutcliffe
Peter Casey/USA TODAY SportsDavid Cutcliffe agreed to join Charlie Weis' staff at Notre Dame before health problems prevented that.
"It was an emotional time for me and I knew that at that point, and I told Charlie Weis, 'I can’t earn my paycheck there,' " Cutcliffe said. "No way that I can get myself back and ready to benefit Notre Dame’s football program. I was very appreciative of the opportunity he had given me there."

Cutcliffe and Weis will meet again Saturday when Duke hosts Kansas, and it's hard not to look at how each's career has played out since initially agreeing to hook up in South Bend. Adding to the layer is the fact that Cutcliffe's current boss, Blue Devils athletic director Kevin White, was in charge of Weis back when both were with the Irish.

Weis couldn't overlook the connections this week, opening his Tuesday press conference by thanking White for the opportunity that the AD allowed the first-time head coach less than a decade ago.

"Probably one of the finest men that I've ever met in my entire life," Weis said of White. "He taught me a lot about college football. He taught me patience."

The parallels between Weis and Cutcliffe run a little bit deeper. Weis had initially hired the ex-Ole Miss head coach because of his reputation working with quarterbacks and calling plays. With eventual Heisman Trophy finalist Brady Quinn waiting in the wings, the pairing seemed perfect.

There are also the ties that linger in the NFL -- Cutcliffe from his well-publicized work with the Manning brothers, Weis with his three Super Bowl rings as Tom Brady's offensive coordinator. Weis said this week that he's never debated with Cutcliffe whose pro pupils are better, joking that he's too biased about Brady to even bother with an argument.

"I’m telling you, he’s the most knowledgeable, smartest football coach I’ve been around," Cutcliffe said of Weis. "He was like a machine, just the system. It was pretty amazing to watch him work and watch how his mind worked, and not only his football knowledge, but his motivational skills and his energy."

The little time Cutcliffe and Weis did spend together came on the heels of what Cutcliffe said was an unusual time in his life. He was unceremoniously fired from Ole Miss after his only losing season. Upon Weis hiring him, Cutcliffe lived with then-Irish and current Duke offensive line coach John Latina in South Bend before the health scare forced him out of coaching for a year.

Weis, meanwhile, made consecutive BCS bowls in his first two years at Notre Dame before getting fired after going 16-21 during his final three years. Assistant stops with the Kansas City Chiefs and Florida gave way to his hiring as the Jayhawks' head coach, where he's now 5-20 in his third season. During that time, Cutcliffe moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, where his two sons attended college. He eventually became Tennessee's offensive coordinator from 2006-07 before landing the head job at Duke, where his work in getting the Blue Devils to the ACC title game in six years has further cemented his respect within the profession.

"What he's done there is what I would expect him to do anywhere," Weis said. "Just about anywhere he's gone in an ample amount of time he gets things going the right way, especially offensively. He's a very, very good coach."

How would things look today had the two quarterback gurus gotten the chance to collaborate with the Irish? That's for others to debate. Cutcliffe, for one, is content with how things turned out, as strange as the path that led him there might have been.

"I’d never been without a job in my life," Cutcliffe said. "We lived (in Knoxville) that spring, summer and fall. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I didn’t know if I’d coach again, but I always think there’s purpose to things that happen if we do what we should do with them. I believe the couple years I spent back at Tennessee were rewarding, but I think I found my right place here.

"Not to be eerie and now to be, 'Oh this is all destiny.' I’m not saying that. I was able to find my right place, and that’s Duke University."

Big 12 morning links

September, 10, 2014
Sep 10
I'd have to agree. No. 10 is the problem.
  • Pump the brakes on calling Daxx Garman the answer at quarterback for Oklahoma State, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. It's clear Garman has the ability to help the Cowboys offense. Head coach Mike Gundy and offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich have praised Garman's arm since the spring and the fact they didn't just hand the job to J.W. Walsh makes it obvious they believe Garman brings something unique to the table. Yet, all that said, I agree with Tramel. It's too early to call Garman the answer behind center in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
  • An interesting nugget in this West Virginia notebook from Mike Casazza of the Charleston Daily Mail. Running back Dreamius Smith has tumbled down the depth chart in Morgantown, West Virginia, largely due to his lack of finishing runs. It's a surprise but not a shock to see Smith struggle to find the field for WVU. Dana Holgorsen has a roster full of talented running backs and it appears Smith, the Mountaineers leading returning rusher, hasn't responded to the competition.
  • Saturday's road game at Duke will be a homecoming of sorts for Kansas safety Isaiah Johnson, who played high school football in North Carolina. The Kansas City Star's Rustin Dodd details the specifics of Johnson's journey to Lawrence, Kansas. The story also compares the Jayhawks secondary to its 2007 version which included three future NFL players (Aqib Talib, Chris Harris, Darrell Stuckey). Initially it sounds crazy but KU has the Big 12's most underrated secondary. Cornerbacks Dexter McDonald and JaCorey Shepherd are a strong duo and Johnson pairs with Cassius Sendish as a solid safety duo. They aren't on the level of 2007 now but could be by November.
  • Kansas State has a bye on Saturday, yet Bill Snyder is approaching this week like a game week, reports Kellis Robinett of the Kansas City Star. Auburn is the next team on K-State's schedule and the extra time could be critical as the Wildcats prepare for the BCS runnerup to visit Manhattan, Kansas, on Sept. 18. Seems like a savvy move by the veteran coach. The early season bye means there's no major concern for the Wildcats being too beat up and requiring rest and the game week approach will underscore the importance of the Thursday night battle with Auburn.
  • Gary Patterson continues to list quarterback Matt Joeckel as a co-starter alongside Trevone Boykin for TCU, reports Carlos Mendez of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Patterson believes Joeckel has earned a spot alongside Boykin on the depth chart and is preparing him to play. Sounds like as well as Boykin played to start the season, the quarterback derby in Fort Worth is not over.

Big 12 has prime chance to impress

September, 9, 2014
Sep 9

The Big 12 has proven it can hang with the best.

Now, the league has a chance to show it can beat the rest.

With seven games against the four other power conferences, this weekend offers the Big 12 another opportunity to establish credibility in the College Football Playoff era.

Oklahoma jump started the Big 12 momentum by toppling Alabama last bowl season. Oklahoma State and West Virginia kept the wave going by taking Florida State and Alabama to the wire in their openers. This Saturday, the Big 12 can begin to carve out a place at the playoff table.

"Everyone is paying attention to your strength of schedule and things like that,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “So sure, it's always important that your league plays well.”

[+] EnlargeJordan Phillips
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsOklahoma is off to a 2-0 start but will have a chance to make an impression against a Power 5 nonconference opponent when 2-0 Tennessee visits on Saturday.
The playoff committee will surely be paying attention to how Big 12 performs against teams from the SEC, ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 who are a combined 13-1 two weeks into the season.

Stoops, who has been waving the Big 12 banner over the last year and a half, will attempt to move to 14-4 against Power 5 nonconference opponents in his Oklahoma career when undefeated Tennessee visits the fourth-ranked Sooners.

“We recognize it as another big challenge, an exciting challenge,” Stoops said. “I know they’ve recruited really strong in the last couple of years. When you watch them on tape, you see a lot of speed running around, you see a lot of big guys. They’ve really got a great-looking team.”

Oklahoma, however, isn’t the only Big 12 team with an SEC challenge. Texas Tech takes on old Southwest Conference rival Arkansas in a matchup that could be a potential springboard for the Red Raiders, who have gotten off to a sluggish start despite defeating Central Arkansas and UTEP.

“I think for us and our university, it's a great matchup between two teams that used to be in the same conference,” Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “I think that's where all the excitement comes from. It's the most talented opponent we've played so far, and our kids will be fired up for it.”

While the Red Raiders and Sooners will be squaring off against the SEC, TCU and Iowa State will have the chance to deliver more blows to the Big Ten, which could be the one conference on the outside looking in for a playoff spot after suffering several disastrous losses last weekend.

The Horned Frogs play Minnesota, one of the few Big Ten teams that has been sharp so far this season. Iowa State has a prime opportunity to get its season back on track at instate rival Iowa, which barely survived Northern Iowa and Ball State in its first two games.

“The nation’s eyes will be on these games,” Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said.

The Cyclones, who fell to the Hawkeyes at home last season, won’t be the only team out for revenge this weekend.

West Virginia will be looking for payback against Maryland after getting destroyed by the Terrapins 37-0 last season. The Mountaineers, however, have been a different team so far this year. They made Alabama sweat, then last weekend demolished Towson, which played for the FCS national championship in 2013. A win at Maryland, which returned 17 starters from last year’s team, would be a tone-setter for the Big 12 and for the rest of West Virginia’s season.

“The majority of the people on our team right now played in that game last year and wasn't too happy with the outcome and was embarrassed with the outcome,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “We've got a pretty motivated bunch to be able to get over there and try to obviously put a little bit of a better effort out there on the field.”

After a promising performance in its first game against Southeast Missouri State, Kansas will see how its revamped offense measures up at reigning ACC Coastal Division champion Duke. And Texas will round out the marquee weekend by attempting to bounce back against No. 12 UCLA after a disastrous 41-7 loss to BYU.

"Can we get this team and bounce them back from a humiliating, disappointing loss and get them to prevail and go play?" Longhorns coach Charlie Strong said. "It's going to be a challenge.”

Saturday will be a challenge for the entire Big 12, which will have only one more chance to make a national impression -- when Kansas State faces defending SEC champ Auburn in Manhattan next Thursday -- before conference play begins.

And the playoff committee, among others, will be watching.

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

September, 8, 2014
Sep 8
After a one-week hiatus, the Big 12 recruiting scorecard returns to keep you up-to-date with what’s happening on the recruiting trail for your favorite Big 12 squad. Here is the latest around the Big 12 on the recruiting trail during the past two weeks:

Total commits: 12
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Baylor landed another player likely to end up among its scoring leaders with a verbal from kicker Drew Galitz (Rowlett, Texas/Rowlett). The three-star prospect is the nation’s No. 3 kicker and picked the Bears over an offer from Miami (Fla.).

Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Cyclones had several unofficial visitors over the weekend including Urbandale (Iowa) offensive guard Caleb Bright, a Class of 2016 prospect.

Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Three-star quarterback Ryan Willis of Shawnee Mission, Kansas/Bishop Miege remains the lynchpin of this class after picking the Jayhawks over Illinois and Kansas State.

Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Quarterback Alex Delton has officially signed with the Wildcats, inking his financial aid agreement in late August. The three-star prospect from Hays, Kansas is the lone quarterback in Bill Snyder’s class of 2015.

Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: The Sooners are looking at arguably their biggest recruiting weekend when Tennessee visits on Saturday. Current commits P.J. Mbanasor and John Humphreys along with linebacker target Cassius Peat are among the list of prospects expected to visit for the primetime matchup.

Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Cowboys have been on a roll in recent days with Covington (Louisiana) St. Pauls receiver Jalen McCleskey picking the Pokes over offers from Air Force, South Florida, Southern Mississippi and others.

Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Manvel (Texas) quarterback D’Eriq King reported a TCU offer last week. The No. 196 player in the ESPNJr300 has offers from Texas Tech, Clemson, Michigan State, UCLA and others.

Total commits: 15
ESPN 300 commits: 7
The latest: The Longhorns added a commitment from Coppell (Texas) offensive tackle Connor Williams. The three-star prospect picked UT over OU, Kansas State, TCU, Texas Tech, Ohio State, UCLA and others.

Total commits: 9
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Red Raiders began their serious pursuit of Clemson commit J.C. Clark, a Class of 2016 prospect from Argyle, Texas. The three-star tight end also boasts offers from Arizona State, Duke and Colorado State.

Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: Mountaineers’ commitment Kevin Williams (Pompano Beach, Florida/Blanche Ely) made his official visit to Morgantown, West Virginia over the weekend. The three-star safety prospect picked WVU over Florida and Syracuse.

Big 12 morning links

September, 8, 2014
Sep 8
Hope everyone enjoyed their NFL Sundays:

Texas coach Charlie Strong said he was embarrassed for his football program and that he knew during warm-ups his team wasn't ready to play against BYU. Though his players contended that assertion to the Austin American-Statesman's Brian Davis, it's beyond unfathomable that the Longhorns wouldn't have been ready to play against BYU. Didn't they have the whole year to get ready for this game after getting completely humiliated in Provo last year? Honestly, I have to disagree with Strong. Coming out ready to play wasn't the Longhorns' issue. After all, Texas only trailed 6-0 at halftime. The primary issue is that the Longhorns just aren't very good. Without David Ash (not that he would have saved them) and the missing linemen, the offense isn't any good. And the Texas defense isn't good enough to overcome the team's problems offensively. On deck the Longhorns have to play three top 12 teams in their next four games. It's probably going to get worse before it gets any better for Strong.

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy hasn't revealed how long quarterback J.W. Walsh will be out with an apparent foot injury, but it could be several weeks. The silver lining for the Cowboys is that backup Daxx Garman shined in relief of Walsh in Saturday's 40-23 win against Missouri State. Especially considering Garman hadn't played in an actual competitive game since 2009. Garman still has rust to shake off. And tougher competition than Missouri State awaits. But Garman has a big-time arm. And in the short and long term, he might actually be a better fit for the Oklahoma State offense, which is loaded with talented receivers, than the dual-threat Walsh, who often has struggled to get them the ball downfield because of his limited arm strength. If Walsh is in fact out for weeks, the Cowboys will have time to adjust with Garman. Oklahoma State plays host to UTSA this weekend, then is off before welcoming Texas Tech for a Thursday night game Sept. 25.

The Big 12 suspended a replay official and replay communicator after a questionable play wasn't reviewed in Kansas State's 32-28 victory at Iowa State. The play in question came just before halftime, when K-State's Tyler Lockett hauled in pass. He appeared to be in contact with a pylon, which is considered out of bounds, but on-field officials ruled it a completion at the 1. Iowa State was unable to challenge because it was out of timeouts, and the Wildcats quickly snapped the ball and scored a touchdown. The Cyclones have had some poor luck the past two seasons with Big 12 officiating. If anyone deserves to have a call break their way in the coming weeks, it's them.

True freshman running back Justin Stockton was the difference-maker in Texas Tech's 30-26 win at UTEP over the weekend, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal's Nick Talbot. Stockton got only eight carries, but gained 135 yards. He scored a 75-yard touchdown in the second quarter, and later on the Red Raiders’ game-winning drive broke off runs of 20 and 24 yards on back-to-back plays. Stockton, however, was about the only positive coach Kliff Kingsbury could take out of his team's performance in El Paso. The Red Raiders endured another horrible night with penalties and also gave up 277 yards on the ground. Penalties and run defense plagued Texas Tech during its five-game losing streak last season. The Red Raiders don't have much time for improvement with a three-game stretch of Arkansas, at Oklahoma State and at Kansas State coming up. To win any of those games, Tech will have to play much better than it has these first two games of the season.

Running backs De'Andre Mann and Corey Avery give Kansas hope for this season, in the opinion of the Lawrence Journal-World's Tom Keegan. The duo rushed for a combined 212 yards in their Kansas debuts in a 34-28 win against Southeast Missouri State (the Jayhawks led 34-7 in the fourth quarter). The running backs aren't the only reasons for hope, though. Wideout Nick Harwell caught two touchdowns in Kansas' 24-point first quarter, which was the highest output the Jayhawks had produced in one quarter since Nov. 6, 2010, when they scored 35 against Colorado. It's hardly time to pencil Kansas into a bowl game just because it beat Southeast Missouri State. But it was an encouraging performance from an offense that has pretty much been lifeless since quarterback Todd Reesing's departure.

Best of the visits: Big 12

September, 7, 2014
Sep 7
The Big 12 saw Texas take one of its worst home losses in nearly 20 years, Kansas State struggle with Iowa State, Texas Tech narrowly pull off a win against UTEP and Kansas hold off Southeast Missouri State.


Fortunately for the Big 12 conference, Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia all cruised to easy wins. When the smoke clears after all of the close calls, seven of the nine schools competing Saturday will have victories, and several recruits were on hand to check out the various campus environments.

Oklahoma State, which beat Missouri State, 40-23, had ESPN 300 OL Joshua Wariboko in attendance, along with his brother, 2016 CB Max Wariboko. They were with 2015 teammate, DB Gary Woods II, and 2015 CB Robert Charlton.

West Virginia rolled in a 54-0 win over Towson, and several athletes were in attendance. Among those were 2016 DE/OLB commit Logan Thimons and 2016 QB Elijah Cunningham, who took in the game with Springboro, Ohio, teammates.

Saturday was a chance for Texas to make a major statement, but BYU had other plans. ESPN 300 TE Will Gragg was scheduled to be in Austin, but he changed his official visit plans to visit Texas in October. He didn't get to see BYU's 41-7 win against the Longhorns. DT commit Du'Vonta Lampkin, however, was in Austin for the game. While he wasn't pleased with the result, he showed on social media that one loss wouldn't allow him to waver.