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ESPN's College Football Top 25: No. 24 Texas Longhorns
AUSTIN, Texas -- If you'd told Alan Haire years ago this is how it would play out, he would've chuckled.

[+] EnlargeDylan Haines
Max Olson/ESPN.comTexas walk-on Dylan Haines has a legitimate chance of beginning the season as a starting safety.
Dylan Haines, a walk-on legacy from little Lago Vista High, pushing for a starting job on Texas' defense?

"I would've said, 'Aw, come on now ... that's going to be a stretch,'" Haire said.

The Lago Vista head coach couldn't help but marvel Thursday at the fact Haines even got this far. But indeed, this is getting real. When the Longhorns took the field Monday for their first fall practice, Haines was a member of the No. 1 defense.

The sophomore, once a do-everything talent at the Class 2A school, is trying to do just enough to prove Charlie Strong should trust him with a job. He stepped out of the shadows in Texas' spring game and hasn't looked back since.

"He's made plays," Texas senior safety Mykkele Thompson said. "That's the name of the game. You make plays."

Haines was the surprise name of the Orange-White game in April, when he picked off Tyrone Swoopes' first pass attempt of the day and picked up 23 yards on the return. That eye-opener earned Haines first-team reps in the scrimmage.

When you're a third-year walk-on, and the window of opportunity cracks open ever so slightly, you better jump through it. Haines did just that. Then Strong blew the window wide open with his recent suspension of senior safety Josh Turner and dismissal of redshirt freshman Chevoski Collins.

Turner's suspension of at least one game means that, when Texas opens the season Aug. 30 against North Texas, it's entirely possible Haines could get the call to start.

"He has the chance of a lifetime there," Haire said.

In Lago Vista, a town of 6,000 located 35 miles northwest of Austin, Haines was known as a good four-sport athlete who played a little bit of everything -- corner, safety, receiver, running back, left-footed kicker. But he was better known as Dakota Haines' little brother.

"You know how big brothers are. He was in the shadows," Haire said. "Once Dakota graduated and Dylan became a senior, it became evident that, hey, Dylan might be just as good an athlete or better."

The brothers were raised by a pair of Longhorns. John Haines was an All-Southwest Conference defensive tackle at Texas in the 1980s who played four years in the NFL. Their mother, Sandra, was on the Texas track and field team from 1976-78. Her father and uncle both ran at UT, too.

After Dakota followed in their footsteps, enrolling at Texas in 2011 as a walk-on receiver, Dylan took over. His finest game came against San Saba, when he scored on receiving, rushing and interception-return touchdowns in one night.

"He took games over," Haire said. "He's the type of kid who took it over. He's what they call a baller now. If it's up in the air, he's going to go make a play."

And yet, the only other college that showed interest was Lamar, an FCS school in Beaumont, Texas. But Haire knew Haines could play. The level of weekly preparation he learned from his father and brother set him apart.

"He's the type of kid who would come in on Tuesday and tell you the other team's favorite routes and, with the kid he was covering, what his routes were depending on splits and alignment," Haire said. "He was a student of the game. I think he's a late bloomer if you ask me. He didn't reach his full potential until college. To me, he's still developing."

Surely his head coach can appreciate that. After all, Strong was a walk-on defensive back in his days at Central Arkansas. Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford tells his players he couldn't care less if they were five-stars or two-stars.

"Coach Bedford made that clear when he came here -- there were no starting spots," defensive end Cedric Reed said. "Everybody had to work for it. Dylan was one of those guys who went in there, went to the weight room, watched film, did everything he could to get on the field and it's working out for him."

Haines was back in Lago Vista a few weeks ago for extra workouts before the start of fall ball. He looked bigger to his old head coach, at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, and he sounded confident. He told Haire he's going to get a chance.

Strong cautioned Wednesday it's "just so early right now" to predict whether Haines can become a starting safety. But even if his chance is just one game, one shot to prove he belongs, the walk-on will take it.

"I think it's one of those feel-good stories," Haire said. "You'd have to have a smile on your face."
This week, we’ve been focusing the players who delivered the best individual seasons in college football history.

Today, Vince Young and Barry Sanders are squaring off in the finals of our greatest season bracket. (You can vote for either by clicking here).

 While some old-school stars like TCU QB Davey O’Brien made the list, the majority of players highlighted for delivering the best season at their school in ESPN.com’s The Season played after 1960.

But there were some big-time seasons that came before 1960. Here are a few of the best that came from Big 12 schools:

Bobby Layne, QB, Texas (1947): Layne notoriously liked to have a good time off the field, but he was lethal on it. He finished sixth in the Heisman voting in 1947 and was a consensus All-American after leading the Longhorns to a 10-1 record, including a win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

Tommy McDonald, HB, Oklahoma (1956): McDonald led the ’56 Sooners in passing, rushing and receiving and might have won the Heisman had teammate Jerry Tubbs not split the vote with him. With McDonald leading the way, the Sooners won the national championship as part of their famed 47-game winning streak.

Sammy Baugh, QB, TCU (1936): Baugh finished fourth in the Heisman voting after completing 50 percent of his passes and throwing 12 touchdowns. He would go on to have one of the most decorated careers in NFL history with the Washington Redskins.

Jerry Tubbs, C/LB, Oklahoma (1956): Tubbs became the first Sooner to win the prestigious Walter Camp Award. Despite playing center and linebacker, he also finished fourth in the Heisman voting.

Bob Fenimore, RB, Oklahoma A&M (1945): Before Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas, there was Bob Fenimore. The “Blonde Bomber” led the nation in rushing in 194, and finished third in the Heisman voting behind only Army’s “Mr. Inside” (Doc Blanchard) and “Mr. Outside” (Glenn Davis).

Billy Vessels, RB, Oklahoma (1952): Vessels became the first Sooner to capture the Heisman Trophy. He scored 18 touchdowns and rushed for 1,000 yards at the advent of Bud Wilkinson’s Oklahoma dynasty.

Ray Evans, HB, Kansas (1942): Evans led the nation in passing in 1942 and once owned the NCAA record of 60 passes attempted without an interception. After the war, he came back to Kansas to star for the Jayhawks again in football and basketball.

Jack Crain, RB/DB, Texas (1940): Crain helped resurrect the Texas program under coach Dana X. Bible. The “Nocona Nugget” was the first Longhorn to show up in the top 10 of the Heisman voting.

Larry Isbell, QB, Baylor (1951): Isbell was an All-American in football and in baseball. He led the Bears to the Orange Bowl and placed seventh in the Heisman voting.

Dwight Nichols, QB, Iowa State (1959): Nichols became the first Cyclone to place in the top 10 of the Heisman voting. He finished his career as the all-time Big Seven leading rusher.
 The nation believes a pair of players from Big 12 programs delivered the best seasons in college football history.

Now it's time to decide who was the best. Oklahoma State running back Barry Sanders in 1988? Or Texas quarterback Vince Young in 2005?

Sanders broke 34 NCAA records on his way to rushing for 2,850 yards and 44 touchdowns. Young quarterbacked the Longhorns to their first national title in 35 years, dashing for the game-winning touchdown on fourth down in the national championship game.

But who had the best season?

Vote here in the final matchup of The Season to decide.

Big 12 lunchtime links

August, 7, 2014
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Fred Hoiberg would have my vote, no doubt about that.
Wednesday night, the Big 12 officially lost its preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, as defensive end Devonte Fields announced via Twitter that he would be leaving TCU for Stephen F. Austin. Fields had been “separated” from the university after being charged with assaulting his ex-girlfriend. Fields could have hung around and appealed the separation. But the writing appeared to be on the wall. His days at TCU were numbered.

SportsNation

With Devonte Fields leaving TCU, who should take over his title as Big 12 preseason Defensive Player of the Year?

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Even though he missed most of the 2013 season with a suspension and foot injury, Fields was still picked to be the Big 12’s top defender in July. He was dominant as a freshman two years ago, and was named the Associated Press’ Big 12 Defensive Player of the year.

The Big 12 won’t hold a vote to select a new preseason Defensive Player of the Year. But we can have one right here.

Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker received several votes for the award. After a breakout sophomore regular season, Striker dominated Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl with three sacks, and the game-clinching forced fumble.

Sooners defensive end Charles Tapper is another option. Tapper was the only defensive underclassman to earn first-team All-Big 12 honors last season. He and Striker lead an Oklahoma defense that returns nine starters.

Two of the Big 12’s most lethal pass-rushers from last season are also back.

Kansas State defensive end Ryan Mueller (11.5) and Texas defensive end Cedric Reed (10) combined for 21.5 sacks. Mueller was also second in the league with 18.5 tackles for loss. Reed was right behind him with 16.5. Only Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Jackson Jeffcoat (13) had more sacks in the league than Mueller and Reed.

Mueller and Reed also combined for nine forced fumbles, and figure to be the anchors of their respective defenses.

The fifth and final spot in our poll could go to a number of players. Linebacker Ben Heeney is arguably the league’s top returning tackler, but it’s difficult to see a player from Kansas contending for a player of the year award as long as the Jayhawks continue to dwell in the cellar. Baylor linebacker Bryce Hager, TCU safety Sam Carter, TCU defensive tackle Chucky Hunter, Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown and Texas cornerback Quandre Diggs should all be contenders, as well.

But we will give to the final poll slot to Shawn Oakman because of his enormous upside. The 6-foot-9, 275-pound Baylor defensive end was "unblockable" during the spring, according to Bears coach Art Briles. Oakman has the skills to become the most dominating defensive player in the league.

Now we put it to you in our weekly Big 12 poll. Who should be the Big 12’s new preseason Defensive Player of the Year?
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Many of the Power Five conference coaches in college football told ESPN that they favor a schedule consisting of only Power Five opponents.

Of the 65 Power Five coaches from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC and Notre Dame, 46 percent (30 coaches) favored playing exclusively Power Five opponents while 35 percent (23 coaches) were opposed. About 18.5 percent (12 coaches) were undecided.

The coaches, who were in Bristol, Connecticut, last month, were asked whether they would favor all Power Five conferences playing their respective conference schedules and then scheduling all nonconference games against other Power Five teams. Because of the tougher schedules under this hypothetical scenario, teams would not be required to reach six wins to play in a bowl.

The Pac-12, Big 12 and SEC coaches favored playing all Power Five opponents, while the ACC coaches were against it by a 6-4 margin with four coaches undecided. Big Ten coaches were divided: Six each were for and against it, with two undecided.

Alabama coach Nick Saban said "fans want" Power Five teams playing exclusively Power Five opponents.

"We need to be more concerned about the people who support the programs and the university and come and see the games," Saban said. "Those are the most important. But we never think about that."

Coaches from the Pac-12, whose schools already play nine league games, were the biggest proponents of a Power Five-exclusive schedule: seven in favor, one against and four undecided.

The Pac-12 coaches, such as Stanford's David Shaw, prefer the Power Five-only schedule model because they want each conference to play the same type of schedule. The Pac-12 is the only league that plays nine conference games and has a league title game.

Arizona's Rich Rodriguez, the lone dissenting Pac-12 coach, said "some of those [Group of Five teams] are better than the so-called 'haves' [Power Five teams]."


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NEW YORK -- Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and West Virginia athletics director Oliver Luck said Wednesday they are generally supportive of allowing student-athletes to be paid for the use of their name, image and likeness.

"I think that the collegiate community has learned a lesson about taking a broad latitude with name, image and likeness," Bowlsby said.

Added Luck: "I think they should be compensated for use of that name, image and likeness."

Bowlsby and Luck made the comments as part of a wide-ranging forum on the state of college athletics hosted by the Big 12. The pair warned that there are complex possible complications from allowing such an arrangement, including the possibility that donors exploit loopholes.

Luck said that, for example, he would not have taken issue with former West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith profiting from an advertisement for Nike, Coca-Cola or a West Virginia hospital while he was in school.

Texas athletics director Steve Patterson, who also participated in the forum, said he was concerned agents could attempt to create a market for the athlete to advertise with an apparel company that competes with the university's. Patterson disagreed with allowing players to collect, for example, on advertising, video games or jersey sales, adding, "The presumption that they are getting nothing for these things is a fallacy."

Patterson added that the value of a Texas scholarship could be enough to place a student-athlete in the top third of household income among Americans.

This issue will likely be settled by at least one of the several current lawsuits involving the NCAA.


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AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas offense has taken another hit early on in fall camp with the loss of Jaxon Shipley.

The senior wide receiver suffered a hamstring injury during practice Monday, the school confirmed, and there is no timetable for his return.

"Shipley has a hamstring pull, don't know the timetable on that," Texas coach Charlie Strong said Wednesday. "I don't think it's very severe. We'll try to get him back as quickly as possible."

Shipley has 159 career receptions for 1,933 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in 36 games. He played through a groin issue last season after having preseason surgery and finished with 589 yards and one TD on 56 receptions.

The Longhorn offense is already missing four dismissed players and two more who were suspended. Wide receivers Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander and running backs Joe Bergeron and Jalen Overstreet were kicked off the team last week.

Another Texas wideout, Marcus Johnson, was sidelined while recovering from minor nasal surgery but returned to practice Wednesday.

He's one of only three practicing scholarship receivers who have playing experience along with senior John Harris and sophomore Jacorey Warrick.

"Warrick is getting a lot of work and Harris is getting a lot of work," Strong said. "With five freshmen, it gives us a chance to look at them too."


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Offensive players dominated the list of top individual seasons at Big 12 schools in ESPN.com’s The Season, with Texas’ Vince Young and Oklahoma State’s Barry Sanders advancing to Wednesday's semifinal round.

Kansas cornerback Aqib Talib is the lone Big 12-era defender who landed on the list as an honorable mention for the Jayhawks. Talib earned consensus All-American honors while helping the Jayhawks go 11-1, including a 24-21 win over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl in 2007.

Several Big 12 defenders have had stellar seasons since the conference was born in 1996. Here’s a look at other exceptional individual seasons for defenders during the Big 12 era.

[+] EnlargeVon Miller
Patrick Green/Icon SMIVon Miller was too much to handle in 2009, posting 17 sacks.
Lawrence Flugence, Texas Tech linebacker, 2002: The sheer numbers land Flugence a spot on this list. He had 193 total tackles, including 124 solo stops in 14 games during the 2002 season. The Mike Leach-led Red Raiders finished 9-5 with Flugence anchoring the defense and Kliff Kingsbury triggering the offense.

Derrick Johnson, Texas linebacker, 2004: The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and Butkus Award winner, Johnson made plays from sideline to sideline for the Longhorns during the 2004 season. He finished with 130 tackles (70 solo stops), including 19 tackles for loss, eight pass breakups, nine forced fumbles and two sacks.

Curtis Lofton, Oklahoma linebacker, 2007: Lofton was exceptional during the 2007 season, earning All-American and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors. He had 157 tackles including 10.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and three interceptions in 14 games for the Sooners. He was the anchor of a defense that allowed 20.3 points per game and 4.98 yards per play as OU finished 11-2 with a Big 12 championship.

Von Miller, Texas A&M defensive end, 2009: The future NFL Pro Bowler was relentless and dominant during the 2007 season. He finished with 17 sacks, 21.5 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles in 13 games. He accounted for 47.2 percent of the Aggies’ sack total (36) during a 6-7 season. His 17 sacks remain the highest single season total in the Big 12 era.

Terence Newman, Kansas State cornerback, 2002: Newman was a nightmare for opponents during the 2002 season, locking down receivers on defense and putting fear into the hearts of defenders on special teams and offense. He won the Thorpe Award and was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. Even as offenses avoided him, Newman finished with 44 tackles, 14 pass breakups and five interceptions.

Shaun Rogers, Texas defensive tackle, 1999: The junior was a disruptive force in the middle for the Longhorns, finishing with 27 tackles for loss, the highest total from any Big 12 defender since the conference was born in 1996. He joined teammate Casey Hampton to give UT the Big 12’s top defensive tackle duo that season.

Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska defensive tackle, 2009: The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Suh’s 2009 season was second to none during the Big 12 era. Offenses focused on keeping Suh from dominating games yet he still dominated on his way to becoming a Heisman Trophy finalist, Lombardi Award and a lengthy list of individual accolades. He finished with 85 tackles including 24 for loss and 12 sacks.

Earl Thomas, Texas safety, 2009: Thomas proved he was NFL ready with a incredible redshirt sophomore campaign. He was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award while earning all-american honors with 77 tackles, five tackles for loss, 16 pass breakups and eight interceptions. He helped UT finish No. 1 nationally in interceptions (35) and forced turnovers (37).

Roy Williams, Oklahoma defensive back, 2001: The Jim Thorpe Award winner, Williams left a lasting legacy with his “Superman” play against Texas in the Red River Rivalry, forcing a Chris Simms’ fumble that sealed an OU win. He finished with 107 tackles including 14 tackles for loss, 22 pass breakups and five interceptions.

Grant Wistrom, Nebraska defensive end, 1997: He had a stellar 1996 season but his 1997 campaign should be considered even better. As the returning Big 12 defensive player of the year, Wistrom had 8.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss and 25 quarterback hurries on his way to Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors for the second straight season. He also earned the Lombardi Trophy in 1997.

Big 12 lunchtime links

August, 6, 2014
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Two Big 12 players made the Final Four for The Season. Vote now!
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Texas starting QB David Ash discusses his new head coach Charlie Strong.
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Texas athletic director Steve Patterson joins College Football Live to break down the hire of Charlie Strong, Big 12 expansion and the cost of attendance for student-athletes.
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Johnathan Gray is back after suffering a season-ending achilles tear last year.

The Season: Who's No. 1 at Texas?

August, 5, 2014
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Determining the greatest individual performances for ESPN.com's new series The Season was, in all honestly, not too difficult for many FBS schools.

SportsNation

Who should have represented Texas in The Season?

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Discuss (Total votes: 4,808)

 Picking Oklahoma State's best, for example, could not have been easier. Same with Baylor and Texas Tech. But Texas presented a bit of a challenge.

After much research and debate, Vince Young's 2005 campaign was ultimately selected to represent the Longhorns. In fact, Young's national championship year earned the No. 6 spot in the 16-man bracket to determine the very best of The Season.

But there were a handful of other Texas players legitimately worthy of consideration. Was VY the right choice? Be sure to vote in this poll, especially if you disagree.

A rundown of the résumés for a few more Longhorns we debated for The Season:

RB Earl Campbell, 1977: Won the Heisman Trophy after rushing for 1,744 yards (breaking UT and Southwest Conference records) and 18 touchdowns. Campbell led the Longhorns to a perfect 11-0 regular season and was All-America in every sense, leading the NCAA in rushing, scoring and all-purpose yards. He eclipsed 100 rushing yards in 10 games and put up 222 yards and three scores in the regular-season finale against Texas A&M. The Tyler Rose had the superior career, but was this season by itself better than Young's best?

RB Ricky Williams, 1998: Won the Heisman Trophy and set 21 NCAA records by dashing for 2,124 yards and 27 TDs. Williams led the nation in rushing for a second straight season, broke Tony Dorsett's 22-year-old NCAA all-time rushing record with 6,279 career yards and became the first two-time winner of the Doak Walker Award -- all in Mack Brown's first season at Texas. He snapped Nebraska's 47-game home win streak with a 150-yard performance and became the first to surpass 300 rushing yards twice in one season.

 QB Colt McCoy, 2008: He guided Texas to the BCS title game in 2009, but McCoy's 2008 campaign was more impressive, especially statistically. The Heisman Trophy runner-up threw for 3,859 yards and 34 TDs with just eight INTs and completed an NCAA-record 76.7 percent of his passes. He also led the Longhorns in rushing (561 yards, 11 TDs) and broke Young's single-season record for total yardage along with school records for passing yards, TDs and passer rating. Texas went 12-1 and capped McCoy's junior year with a win over Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.

QB James Street, 1969: The numbers would not wow today's audience, but Street was a big-time playmaker who led Texas to a perfect season and a national championship. He finished with 699 passing yards and three TDs plus 412 yards and five rushing TDs, but he won't be remembered for those stats. He'll go down in Longhorn lore for his fourth-down pass completion to seal No. 1 Texas' comeback victory over No. 2 Arkansas in the Game of the Century. He went on to beat No. 9 Notre Dame for the title and went 20-0 as Texas' starting quarterback.

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