Texas Longhorns: Mississippi State Bulldogs

Florida has Florida State. Georgia has Georgia Tech. Kentucky has Louisville. And, of course, South Carolina has Clemson.

When it comes to the new SEC scheduling format starting in 2016, those four schools are already on board. Their annual rivalry games fulfill the league’s forthcoming requirement for a yearly nonconference game against an ACC, Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-12 school.

But for the rest of the teams around the league, there’s a void.

Sure, they can go year to year and rotate in nonconference opponents. But where’s the fun in that? Let’s create some new rivalries, and in the case of some programs, reignite old ones.

[+] EnlargeBob Stoops and Nick Saban
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertThe spectacular salaries of college football coaches such as Bob Stoops, left, and Nick Saban are generated mostly by the labor of unpaid workers.
Alabama-Oklahoma: If FSU wasn’t already taken, the Noles would have been a perfect fit. The physical and philosophical proximity between programs is obvious. But looking elsewhere, Oklahoma might be a fun matchup. The Sugar Bowl has already created tons of tension on both sides with Sooners coaches delighting in calling out Nick Saban and the SEC.

Arkansas-Baylor: Call it a throwback to the old Southwest Conference. Arkansas, which didn’t join the SEC until 1992, has played more games against Baylor (69) than any school in its current conference. On top of that, the differences between Bret Bielema’s physical style and Art Briles’ free-flowing offensive scheme would be a joy to watch.

Auburn-Oregon: Recent history and playing styles dictates this matchup. Not only do we get a rematch of the 2010 BCS National Championship Game, but it pits offenses that live to go fast. Maybe it could be a two-hand touch game in which whoever reaches 100 points first wins.

LSU-Notre Dame: We couldn’t make a list of nonconference matchups and leave Notre Dame off, could we? Pitting the Golden Domers against an SEC program would be appointment viewing. Make that program LSU and the opposing coach Les Miles, and television networks will scratch each other's eyes out to get the game.

Mississippi State-Texas Tech: The Bulldogs have shied away from high profile nonconference games in the past, loading up on the likes of Memphis, UAB and South Alabama. Well, it’s time to infuse a little spice into the schedule. Kliff Kingsbury is too cool to keep out of the SEC. His Red Raiders would be a good matchup with Mississippi State, which faced Texas Tech seven times from 1953-70.

Missouri-Kansas: Does this one really need to be explained? The Border War should have never gone away in the first place. Now is the perfect opportunity to save face and bring back a rivalry that goes all the way back to 1891.

Ole Miss-Miami: We’ve got to get ‘The U’ involved. Miami and Ole Miss have already played a few times in their history, with the Rebs holding a 2-1 series lead. But bigger than that, it would get the SEC back into South Florida on a permanent basis because Miami and Florida don’t have the common sense to do that already.

Tennessee-North Carolina: Even if most people don’t remember it, there’s history there. Tennessee and UNC have played 29 times, with the Vols holding a 20-8-1 advantage. Plus, even if your memory is short, you should recall the double overtime Music City Bowl from 2010 between the schools. If they can re-create that just once, it would make the rivalry worth it.

Texas A&M-Texas: See Missouri-Kansas. Don’t let conference affiliations ruin great rivalries. Texas A&M-Texas should have never been shelved in the first place. And while the UT administration might not see a reason to bring it back -- nor Texas A&M's leadership, for that matter -- surely both fan bases do.

Vanderbilt-Duke:Call it a private school showdown. The proximity is reasonable, the fan bases similar, and the rivalry could easily extend to the hard court. Plus, have you seen Derek Mason’s nonconference schedule this year? It needs help.

Altanta Elite 11 regional camp notebook 

March, 21, 2014
SUGAR HILL, Ga. -- Several talented quarterbacks took the field at the Atlanta Elite 11 regional camp on Friday. Though no official invites for the Elite 11 finals, held in Beaverton, Ore. in July, were extended, there were five finalists with potential to eventually earn an invite. The finalists included Anthony Ratliff, Austin King, Kendall Hinton, Ross Trail and Alex Malzone. Four of the five finalists were from out-of-state. King is from Alpharetta, Ga.

AUSTIN, Texas -- Charlie Strong has completed his new coaching staff at Texas with the hiring of Les Koenning.

The Mississippi State offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach is leaving to become the wide receivers coach at Texas, multiple sources have confirmed.

Koenning, who had been an assistant under MSU coach Dan Mullen for five seasons, arrived in Austin on Tuesday. Texas has yet to officially announce the hiring of Koenning or any other member of Strong's staff.

A former Texas wide receiver and Houston native, Koenning began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Texas in 1981 and has significant experience coaching and recruiting in the state, including stints at Texas A&M, TCU, Houston and Rice.

He's worked as an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach since 1998, with stops at Duke, Houston, TCU, Alabama, Texas A&M and South Alabama before joining Mullen's first staff at Mississippi State.

The Bulldogs set schools records for total yards, passing yards and completion percentage in 2013 and set a new single-season school scoring record last season. Koenning will replace Darrell Wyatt, who coached Texas receivers for three seasons but was not retained.

Lessons learned: Texas State 7-on-7 

July, 13, 2013
LEANDER, Texas -- The 2013 Texas State 7-on-7 Tournament saw a number of college football targets put on a show. It also saw some of the lesser-known players make a case for more publicity.

Graham (Texas) High School won the Division II (small-school) competition, while Southlake (Texas) Carroll claimed the Division I (large-school) prize. Carroll won the first 7-on-7 state tile 15 years ago in College Station, Texas.

Here are five things we learned from the state tournament:

2015 has one over former Carroll QBs

[+] EnlargeRyan Agnew
Damon Sayles/ESPN.comClass of 2015 QB Ryan Agnew showed poise in leading Southlake Carroll's aggressive passing attack to the Division I title.
Southlake Carroll has a tradition of producing quality quarterbacks. Chase Daniel, Greg McElroy and Kyle Padron all have NFL experience, and Daniel, McElroy, Chase Wasson, Riley Dodge and incoming Texas A&M freshman Kenny Hill have won state championships. Ryan Agnew hopes to follow those footsteps.

The 2015 quarterback did something that the others hadn’t, and that’s lead Carroll to the state 7-on-7 title. Agnew connected with receivers such as Luke Timian and Keaton Duhon en route to an undefeated run in the tournament.

Agnew, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound quarterback, has early looks from Northwestern, Iowa State, Texas Tech and Ole Miss.

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Lessons learned: ETSN Combine 

May, 19, 2013
TYLER, Texas -- East Texas often is considered one of the nation’s most underrated areas in finding elite talent when it comes to college football recruiting. Sunday featured the inaugural East Texas Sports Network combine, which showcased more than 100 players from East Texas.

The event took place at the Accelerate Performance Enhancement Center (APEC) training facility, which has trained professionals such as quarterback Graham Harrell, running back Kendall Hunter and pro baseball pitchers Phillip Humber and Josh Tomlin.

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#BlueChipBattles: ESPN 150 release edition

April, 19, 2013
Speedy Noil, Adoree Jackson, Da'Shawn HandStudent Sports, ESPN, ESPNSpeedy Noil, Adoree Jackson and Da'Shawn Hand are three of the most coveted recruits in the Class of 2014.
#BlueChipBattles Insider: RecruitingNation summoned its writers from around the country to outline the recruiting battles for the ESPN 150's top 10 prospects.

Plus, rank the battles in SportsNation.

#TopFBMixtapes: Athlete mixtapes are all the rage in this highlight-crazed era of sports. We reached out to our Twitter followers to find out which 2014 football stars had the best highlight reels on YouTube, then had our staff rank and comment on the top submissions.

Tom Luginbill writes Insider: After talking to many coaches across the country and hearing their frustrations, here are their five biggest complaints about homemade highlight videos.
Nonconference schedules can reveal many things. They can be the difference between a BCS championship berth or being left behind, and they can provide a glimpse of future success or future disappointments. Here's a look at the Big 12's 2013 nonconference schedules ranked from toughest to easiest.

1. Oklahoma: Louisiana-Monroe, Tulsa, at Notre Dame

All three of OU’s nonconference opponents won at least eight games in 2012, making the Sooners’ nonconference schedule a solid test as they look to break in a new quarterback. And their visit to South Bend, Ind., could be one of college football’s top matchups in 2013.

2. TCU: LSU (at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas), Southeastern Louisiana, SMU

The opener against the Tigers will be one of the highlight games of opening weekend and raises the overall ranking of TCU's nonconference schedule. It’s an opportunity for TCU to prove itself and send a message for the Big 12. And TCU's home contest against SMU should be a solid test, as well.

3. Texas: New Mexico, at BYU, Ole Miss

After a fairly easy season opener, the Longhorns travel to Provo, Utah, to face BYU in a game that could be tougher than most people expect. Then UT hosts Ole Miss, giving the Rebels a chance to avenge their home loss to the Longhorns in 2012. Facing the Cougars and Rebels in back-to-back weeks will be a tough test for Mack Brown's squad.

4. Iowa State: Northern Iowa, Iowa, at Tulsa

The Cyclones' road test at Tulsa won’t be easy as ISU looks to avenge its Liberty Bowl loss to the Golden Hurricane. This game could be considered a conference matchup in some ways as it will be the third meeting between the two teams in two years. Add rival Iowa to the mix and suddenly ISU has one of the conference’s tougher nonconference slates.

5. Oklahoma State: Mississippi State (at Reliant Stadium in Houston), at Texas-San Antonio, Lamar

The Cowboys' season opener is the lone saving grace in this nonconference lineup. The Bulldogs should be a solid early test for OSU, but neither UTSA nor Lamar should prove to be major hurdles.

6. Kansas: South Dakota, at Rice, Louisiana Tech

Rice, which defeated KU in Manhattan, Kan., last season, and Louisiana Tech will be tough tests for the Jayhawks. Both games should give a glimpse of how much KU has improved in Charlie Weis’ second season at the helm.

7. Texas Tech: at SMU, Stephen F. Austin, Texas State

The Red Raiders' toughest matchup should be its opener at SMU. In Kliff Kingsbury’s first season, Texas Tech will have the chance to get its feet wet in nonconference play even though a Big 12 battle with TCU is sandwiched between its matchups with SFA and Texas State.

8. West Virginia: William & Mary, Georgia State, vs. Maryland (at Ravens Stadium in Baltimore)

Not much of a nonconference slate for WVU, with the Terps as the lone BCS team on the schedule. Things set up well for Dana Holgorsen’s offense as the Mountaineers try to replace quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.

9. Kansas State: North Dakota State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Massachusetts

Louisiana-Lafayette could provide the sternest test for the Wildcats, but there’s no reason why KSU can’t enter Big 12 play undefeated. Their nonconference schedule sets up well for a team looking to replace standout quarterback Collin Klein.

10. Baylor: Wofford, Buffalo, Louisiana-Monroe

It’s unlikely Baylor will get tested before its first conference game. The Bears were recently forced to add FCS opponent Wofford after their game with SMU was cancelled, so Louisiana-Monroe could be their toughest nonconference test. They should pile up the victories but might not know much about their team before conference play.

Andrew Billings set for Texas visit 

December, 7, 2012
The father of ESPN 300 lineman Andrew Billings (Waco, Texas/Waco) said a trip to Austin, Texas, will be on deck this weekend.

Anthony Billings said his son will visit Texas and take in the Longhorns’ end-of-season banquet weekend. Texas is one of three schools Billings has on his list. Baylor and TCU are the other schools atop the list, and Mississippi State and SMU are on the outside looking in for the 6-foot-2, 308-pound offensive guard/defensive tackle.

“The schools have not changed,” Anthony Billings said, referring to reports that new schools have entered the mix for his son’s services.

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Playoffs over recruiting for DT Billings 

October, 17, 2012
Specific fan bases are worried about whether or not four-star lineman Andrew Billings (Waco, Texas/Waco) will choose their respective schools.

Billings currently has one worry -- making the playoffs.

Anthony Billings, Andrew’s father, said recruiting has taken a back seat for the time being, as Waco continues district play fighting for a playoff spot. Waco currently is in fifth place in its district, and the top four teams advance to postseason competition.

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Decision on hold for Andrew Billings 

August, 30, 2012
The father of four-star offensive lineman/defensive lineman Andrew Billings (Waco, Texas) has said the proposed Sept. 1 deadline for his son to commit will be moved back in an effort to further analyze his top five schools.

Anthony Billings said his son is still weighing offers from Texas, Baylor, TCU, SMU and Mississippi State, and no school has emerged as a front-runner. Currently, Andrew Billings, a 6-foot-1, 312-pound two-way prospect, is preparing for Waco’s season opener Saturday against Manor, Texas.

“He wants to focus on getting ready for the upcoming games,” the elder Billings said, referring to Waco’s forthcoming opponents Manor and Copperas Cove, Texas. “He has also decided to attend some college games.”

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Perhaps no prospect did more to improve his stock at The Opening than ESPN 150 wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr. (Prosper, Texas/Prosper).

The son of Los Angeles Angels outfielder Torii Hunter dazzled in front of a plethora of recruiting analysts and NFL representatives in Beaverton, Ore., and on ESPNU during the 7-on-7 championships with one highlight-reel play after another.

He was so impressive that, when the latest version of the ESPN 150 was released the following week, Hunter's overall ranking improved from No. 137 to No. 51.

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Texas has a new contender for an offer as it continues to address its secondary needs for the 2013 recruiting class.

[+] EnlargeNoel Ellis
Miller Safrit/ESPN.comNoel Ellis will attend Texas' June 3rd camp.
Four-star cornerback Noel Ellis (New Orleans/Edna Karr) received a visit from Texas assistants Bo Davis and Darrell Wyatt on Wednesday and plans to attend the Longhorns’ camp on June 3.

“Texas is an excellent program on a big stage,” his father, Noel Ellis Sr. said. “We’ve got our sights set on being on the big stage. Texas is definitely a school we’ll consider, especially if they show mutual interest. If Texas was to offer, that would definitely propel them into the top three.”

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The days of the Rose Bowl being the bowl of bowls could soon be coming to an end now that the SEC and the Big 12 have agreed on a five-year bowl partnership.

The new deal, announced Friday, will have the champions of the Big 12 and SEC meet in a New Year's Day bowl game annually beginning with the 2014 season. So while it won’t have the tradition of the Rose Bowl, it’ll have the viewers and it’ll have the popularity.

We’re seeing more and more how power is truly the most important component in college football, and this is a great example. Soon, we’ll have the two best BCS conferences going at it in their own special bowl competing with the beloved Rose Bowl.

We’re joined on the SEC blog by Big 12 blogger David Ubben to get his thoughts on what this means for the Big 12. We’re gentlemen down here in SEC country, so we’ll let him go first:

David Ubben: Rose Bowl, we love you. Not as much as Jim Delany does, but I'm not sure anyone can stake that claim. Anyway, it's time to face an unfortunate truth: You've been one-upped. The unnamed, unplaced bowl partnership between the Big 12 and SEC won't have the same level of tradition, but it will feature better teams. That's a powerful draw.
The BCS has played 14 national title games since its birth. The Big 12 or SEC have participated in 12 of them. Teams from the league have met in the game twice.

Now, they'll have another big stage to showcase their top teams. If a Big 12 or SEC champion is in the four-team playoff that will likely begin in the 2014 season, the next-best team will fill their place in the annual game. Deciding who plays in that game is up to each conference. The nation's two best conferences will get a much-needed opportunity to face one another on the field and test the hotly debated offense vs. defense theories on the field annually. The nation's college football fans were robbed of that when Oklahoma State was squeezed out of the national title game for SEC West second-place finisher Alabama. This year, the SEC and Big 12 only play once, when eight-win Texas travels to face two-win Ole Miss in September. Not exactly must-see TV.

This will be.

It assures the Big 12 a place at the adults' table of college football, further extending the distance between college football's top four leagues -- the SEC, Big 12, Pac-12 and Big Ten, in that order -- and the ACC and Big East. The ACC and Big East have the Orange Bowl, but any game like the SEC and Big 12 put together will pale in comparison when it comes to TV ratings and more importantly, TV money.

Only a few months ago, the Big 12 had eight teams, with half the league considering a move to the Pac-12 and the conference on life support. Things are looking very different now. It's about to sign a giant television deal, likely extending the grant of rights into the next decade and assuring stability at least through then, and probably beyond.

Tired of getting stuck playing Boise State and UConn in everything to lose, nothing to gain BCS bowl matchups? Seven-time Big 12 champion Oklahoma won't have to worry about that anymore, and even if the Sooners are in the forthcoming national championship playoff, the next-best Big 12 team will have a quality opponent to prove itself against.

Another plus for the Big 12? The Cotton Bowl's odds of getting into the BCS as it stood were minimal. Now? It's still in flux, but does anyone want to bet against Jerry Jones and his wallet to get this game in his Dallas palace at some point? That's a big game in the Big 12 footprint, something that's never happened on the BCS bowl stage.

How will this affect Florida State, too? News has surely reached Tallahassee by now, and the Florida State spear-toting brass have to be wondering how much this factors into their wandering eye toward the Big 12. Is the ACC the place to be?

We'll find out soon, but on Jan. 1, 2015, there will be only one place to be.

This game.

Edward Aschoff: I couldn’t agree more with pretty much everything you said. There’s no question that both of these leagues have dominated the BCS since its first year in 1998. The conferences have been left out of the national championship just twice in the last 14 years and the SEC has participated in -- and won -- eight. The Big 12 has won two of its seven appearances.

SEC commissioner Mike Slive has just about everything he wants in his conference, but he hasn’t had the Rose Bowl. Sure, all those national championship trophies are nice, but an annual game like the Rose Bowl commands respect. The game that the Big Ten and Pac-12 covet so much, and is watched by millions annually, will now get a major run for its money. While they’ll be played in different time slots, there’s no question that this will turn into the ultimate popularity contest. If you could sense that Big Ten-SEC tension before, just wait. Now, the SEC will be looking down on the Big Ten and picking at the game it holds so dear. Don’t think that didn’t cross the commissioner’s mind when he was thinking about this deal.

The SEC has truly been front and center in the college football world for the past six years with its 6-0 record in BCS championships, and now it will pursue a game it thinks can have the gusto of the Rose. This is a great opportunity for the SEC to build another fine tradition for the country’s top college football conference. And fans/the media want to see more of these matchups. For the most part, we're all deprived of them during the regular season, so here's a chance for us to win something as well. These two conferences need to play more. The best should always play the best, and as David said, we can finally settle the whole offense-defense debate.

This also means that more SEC teams have the chance to play in a primetime, marquee matchup in January. If this had been in place last season, Arkansas, which certainly had a BCS-caliber team, would have played in a BCS-like bowl, since Alabama and LSU met in the title game. The Cotton Bowl got the matchup this game would have received, but it would have been on a much grander scale and much more attention would have been paid to it. Oh, and much more money would have come out of it.

It would likely help the SEC this year too, as there could be as many as five teams jockeying for BCS position. Imagine if the four-team playoff took place this season? You might have two more SEC teams fighting for a chance at a national championship, meaning this game would give No. 3 a chance strut its stuff in front of its own grand audience.

There’s no question that with a four-team playoff, the SEC will have more opportunities to put teams in the national championship, continuing its dominance. Now, Slive has helped to ensure that a high-caliber team left out of the championship hunt will still play in a game that will command the type of attention that comes with a BCS bowl.
Shreveport (La.) Woodlawn defensive tackle Chris Robinson has not heard from Texas since his plans to attend the Longhorns’ junior day on Saturday fell through.

Robinson, a teammate of 2012 Texas’ commitment Torshiro Davis, was unable to make it to Austin because of car trouble. He did say he would try and make it down to Austin for a Texas summer camp.

The Longhorns currently have one defensive tackle commitment in A'Shawn Robinson (Fort Worth, Texas/Arlington Heights), and will likely only take one more. Texas already has an offer out to Justin Manning (Dallas/Kimball) and is further evaluating players like Vincent Taylor (San Antonio Texas/Madison) and former commitment Quincy Russell (San Antonio, Texas/Sam Houston/Trinity Valley Junior College).

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Shreveport (La.) Evangel offensive tackle Josh Thomas has Texas at the top of his list, and let Longhorns coaches know that during his time at their junior day on Saturday.

He didn’t get an offer on Saturday, but, to his understanding, that was the case for most everyone else as well.

“[The coaches] are going to meet tomorrow morning sometime and pick whose who and go from there.” said Thomas, who stands 6-foot-7 and 335 pounds. "They are going to see if people really want to go there or not, and narrow down the list.”

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Texas Longhorns Show Out On Pro Day
The Texas Longhorns produced several eligible NFL Draft athletes who participated in Pro Day Tuesday afternoon in Austin, Texas.