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Insider

Observations from Big 12 media days

7/26/2012

After talking to new Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, it seems like the conference is in really good hands going forward. The former Stanford athletics director is all things you want in a person that will lead your conference through television contract negotiations, possible conference expansion and positioning the conference on the national landscape of collegiate sports.

As for the conference members, the hype surrounds newcomers West Virginia and TCU as well as the usual suspects: Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas State and Oklahoma State.

Each team has question marks and issues and anyone who thinks they have a clear-cut conference winner is off their rocker.

Here are a few observations on each team:

Oklahoma

Bob Stoops is happy to have his brother Mike Stoops, the former head coach at Arizona, back on his staff and managing the defense.

“On the competitive side, when we have played together and coached together at Kansas State and OU, we’ve had a lot of really good success. I have great faith in his judgment in what he wants to do and how he analyzes offense.”

The whole Oklahoma program showed up with a little chip on its shoulder and tired of hearing about unmet expectations. The Sooners were brimming with confidence. That confidence might be tempered a bit because they have several issues to fix, especially on defense.

Iowa State

Paul Rhoads is a really good football coach. He is emotional, even saying that he is a crier.

He ruffled the feathers of the Cyclones faithful when he was asked if he would end his career at Iowa State and answered that he had doubts. He later referenced that the Mack Browns and Frank Beamers of the world are just not happening anymore and he has to be realistic.

Iowa State, realistically, has one of the best football coaches that they have ever had. Because recruiting kids to Ames is so tough, Rhoads will get the best from what he has.



With that said, he better make a choice at quarterback. If he has two, he doesn’t have one, and while he might have a couple of good linebackers, he does not have the whole defense to allow the quarterback race to become a game.

Kansas State

Talking about doing more with less, Bill Snyder is the king. He finished last season with 10 wins and in the top 15 in the country and one player drafted in the late rounds.

His offense is talented but will rise and fall with the play of quarterback Collin Klein. I always knew that he was a large man but seeing him in person and you don’t have to wonder why he not only can take the pounding that he takes but deliver the blows to the opposing defenses.

On the other side of the ball, it is all about linebacker Arthur Brown. He showed up at media days with a stocking cap over his cornrows but was reminded to take it off before he got in front of the group. Other than that side note, he was all business and he is as good of a linebacker as there is in the conference.

They do not have talent like Klein and Brown everywhere so those two will have to lead and help the other players play above their individual effort and play well as a team. That is the Kansas State way of playing football and it works.

Texas Tech

Tommy Tuberville is trying to manage expectations but quietly feels like he is going to shock some members of the conference. When asked if he was on the hot seat he answered, “I’d like to coach some of my recruits that I’ve brought to Tech.”

His problem has been defense and he is on his third defensive coordinator in three years. His previous two were first year coordinators and struggled to communicate their defensive desires to the players. New defensive coordinator Art Kaufman knows Tuberville and understand what he expects. That relationship should raise the level of play on the defensive side of the ball.

TCU

I don’t know that any mascots look good but TCU’s ‘Superfrog’ looks especially bad. They need to head back to the drawing board with that.

TCU’s best news took place after its contingent left the Westin Galleria and it came out that former Miami head coach Randy Shannon was hired as the Horned Frogs’ LB coach. He will be a great voice in game planning sessions and should prove to be a great asset on the recruiting trails. I would put him in Dallas or Houston right now and give him free reign in Florida.

Gary Patterson’s attitude is infectious and that is how he gets his teams to buy in. He never counts himself out and even remarked that when TCU joined the Mountain West in 2005, it was projected to finish sixth and then won the league. He talked openly yesterday about the fact that TCU has not arrived and that his team has to go win. He said, “Now the real work starts.”

Texas

Mack Brown said, “We are still a pretty young team with two senior starters projected on defense and two senior starters projected on offense.”

While youth is a conversation piece, stories 1-10 are about the offense and the quarterback position. While the coaching staff still talks of a competition at quarterback, I still believe the job is David Ash’s to lose. The more we hear from the coaching staff, it seems that they will name a quarterback soon after the start of camp, but could be waiting on Ash to actually win over his players and take the position as opposed to the coaching staff just naming him starter.

Mack Brown owns his comments from last season that the program is pointing toward a national championship in the next couple of years. When he was asked about it, he said, “Because I believe it to be true.”

Oklahoma State

The question around Oklahoma State is how the offense will replace first rounders in receiver Justin Blackmon and quarterback Brandon Weeden.

Mike Gundy wasted no time in naming true freshmen Wes Lunt the started quarterback.

“We had the quarterback race with Bobby Reid and Zac Robinson that went through spring and through fall camp,” Gundy said. “I wasn’t comfortable with the way that worked. At that time I said that if we ever got in that situation again, I wanted to name a quarterback so our team knew who would take the first snap in September.”

Kevin Jairaj/US Presswire

Dana Holgorsen and the West Virginia contingent seemed to embrace their new conference.

The Cowboy defense last year was opportunistic, if not good, but with eight starters back, this group could be surprisingly good in 2012.

Kansas

Charlie Weis seems to have a slightly different attitude than he did at Notre Dame. He has the blessing of familiarity with Dayne Crist who transferred from Notre Dame for his senior year.

This team is going to struggle. They have some fairly good pieces on both sides of the ball but not enough pieces or enough depth to make a move in the Big 12.

“This team is better than the 2 and 10 mark we put up last year,” Crist said.

They should be better, but maybe not better than 3-9.

Toben Opurum is a great story for the Jayhawks. He was a running back in high school in Dallas, but is now looking forward to the NFL as a linebacker. He is on his fourth coordinator in four years, but is the clear leader and best player on this Kansas defense.

Baylor

It is all about confidence with the Bears. They are another group that has a chip on their shoulder about everyone thinking they were all Robert Griffin III.

Talking with Art Briles makes you want to put a helmet on and be all you can be. He talked about the prospects of their new proposed football stadium. He also talked of increased avenues to recruit after RGIII’s Heisman season.

“I used to call kids and say this is Art Briles from Baylor University and they would answer saying Baylor with a question mark,” Briles said. “Now I call and they say Baylor with an exclamation point.”

This program has a thirst to make noise, and while there offense might take a small step back, they believe the defense will be much better.

West Virginia

There mascot wears a full leather outfit, and while I shudder to think about what he has on under there, he needs to have a backup plan for WVU’s game at Texas.

The Mountaineers are proud to be in the conference and even the radio stations on radio row had on blue and gold Big 12 T-shirts.

Head coach Dana Holgorsen said West Virginia will recruit Texas but still focus on their surrounding area, and Florida where Holgosen grabbed 13 prospect in 2012. WVU has always done well in Florida, and with several former Mountaineers coaching there, the staff has some serious inroads.