17 days until the Louisiana-Monroe game
They insist they're friends, first and foremost, but few buddy-buddy relationships are subject to this kind of minute-by-minute change.
Vondrell McGee, Fozzy Whittaker, Cody Johnson and Chris Whaley are together for hours each day, laughing, joking and encouraging each other just like pals do. But above them is a video camera in a tower. A few yards away is a man with a camera, ready to document every slip-up. And seemingly everywhere are the eyes of Texas Longhorns coaches, constantly looking for reasons to promote one friend over the other.
Greg Smith has played several positions for the Horns but now seems to be settled in.
After losing close to 35 pounds this off-season, junior Greg Smith is geared up for another season of Texas football. Except this year, he’ll start the season at a different position -- again.
Smith, a fourth-year player from Montgomery, Texas, came out of high school as a tight end. Since then, he has played center, offensive tackle, and also snapped place kicks for the Longhorns. All the while, he adapted himself for whatever role best suited the team.
"I came in originally to college around 220 to 225 and played tight end," Smith said. "Then they asked me to gain weight and help out on the offensive line, so I went from about 240 at the time to 305, my heaviest. I played the season at center, tackle, wherever they needed me. Then, I was asked to move back to tight end, so I’ve lost 30 to 35 pounds."
The Tar Heels still miss Mack Brown.
Texas Sports now has Longhorn Links, an email report Monday through Friday.
Meet the Cowboys' head coach, Dave Christensen.
Christensen, 48, took over a Wyoming program that hasn't been very competitive on the field in recent years. In the last nine seasons, the Cowboys have compiled a 35-70 record and played in just one bowl game — the Las Vegas Bowl in 2004, when they received an invitation with a 6-5 record and beat UCLA 24-21.
And with Texas, Colorado, Texas Christian, Utah and Brigham Young on Wyoming's 2009 schedule, Christensen's first head coaching stint will not lack for competition.
Christensen came to Wyoming after a long association with Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel. Christensen most recently served as Pinkel's offensive coordinator and helped devise Missouri's high-scoring no-huddle, spread offensive scheme.
Wyoming fans are hoping Christensen's offensive prowess will bring some punch to a Cowboys offense that ranked last out of 119 major-college teams in scoring in 2008 at just 12.7 points per game.
A&M is a tough creditor. The athletic department must start paying back that 16 million dollar loan this September.
We just fell in love with him watching him in the (high school) playoffs, with the effort and toughness that he displays," Sherman said after the Aggies’ scrimmage at Kyle Field on Sunday. "He also has great genes. His dad (Ed Nealy) played in the NBA, so we have an idea of what kind of growth spurt he’s going to have.
"He’s going to play for us this year, I have no doubt about that."
Freshman David Paulsen was a lifelong Georgia fan, but turned down an offer to play for the Bulldogs to go to Oklahoma State.
In January 2007, donor Sherman Smith gave $20 million for an indoor facility. That $20 million ballooned, then disappeared, in Pickens’ hedge fund, and now OSU waits for better financial days to build what most schools consider a necessity, not a luxury.
"No question we need an indoor facility," said football coach Mike Gundy. "We lose practices."
Wnich players are destined for a breakout season?
So it’s a handy question and one Stoops seems to give a lot of thought.
This time, Stoops didn’t answer it straight. He steered the question in another direction, but just as interesting. He talked about players who are much better than perhaps given credit.
Chris Brown: Hard for a 1,000-yard rusher to be underrated, but I think Stoops is right.
Coming into the fall, one of the biggest questions was replacing starters Juaquin Iglesias and Manny Johnson at wide receiver. Thanks in part to the showing so far of Kenney, receiver seems to be less of a concern.
During OU’s open practice last Thursday, the junior-college transfer lined up with the first-team unit at receiver along with Ryan Broyles and Adron Tennell. And on the second play, Kenney got open on a curl pattern, caught the ball and turned upfield. By all accounts, Kenney has been making play after play like that in practice after practice.
There is no good news coming out of Utah. Things seem to be going wrong for the Cougars. They open their season in Dallas against OU.
OU and Ohio State have some things in common.
Oklahoma and Ohio State have much in common: storied college football programs, each boasting seven national titles. Ohio-bred coaches who have resurrected dominance at both schools this decade, bringing home national championships in just their second seasons on the job.
But lately, fans of OU and Ohio State are joined by another, more infamous commonality: being No. 2.
When the Sentinel asked Spikes about the dirtiest players on his own team, Spikes instead mentioned his experiences with the Gators' opponent in the BCS national title game.
"Compared to Oklahoma, you won't find anyone [as dirty]," Spikes told the Sentinel.
Sports Illustrated picked Texas to win the Big 12 and put OSU on the cover. Crimson and Cream Machine did not like that one bit.
As posted last week, I had sent an email to Sports Illustrated about their college football preview issue in which
made the cover and Oklahoma State is picked ahead of OU in the Big 12 South. In response to that I received an offer to put my email in a Q&A format and send it to one of the writers. Senior writer and Big 12 correspondent Phil Taylor is the person it landed with and he was gracious enough to take the time to shed a little insight on the Big 12 selections for us. Texas
SI predicts the final standing in the Big 12.
In an effort to keep ESPN readers entertained until the season starts, the conference blogs have come up with a villain theme. Tim Griffin has a list of the Big 12 teams and the player, coach or school that "done them wrong" at some point. He also put out his personal villain list.
What college football games make it all worthwhile in September? Two Big 12 teams have strong competitors.
BYU vs. Oklahoma (Arlington, Texas)
The Buzz: What’s the over/under on passing yards?
Georgia at Oklahoma State
The Buzz: Two teams flirting with top-10 stature.
"Shhhhhh. People don't know," Conrad Obi answers. "But we're coming."
Obi and Lagrone Shields -- after settling for backup roles last season as redshirt freshmen -- believe their third fall camp at CU will be the charm. They are battling for the starting spot at right defensive end opposite junior Marquez Herrod, who had four sacks in 2008.
"Last year I thought I had it together, but there were some plays I didn't understand," Obi, who only played two seasons of high school football, admits. "You have to know the plays, you have to be in shape, you have to make plays. You can't just come out here in practice and make plays, that's not enough. You have to be mentally ready for every game and every practice."
The good news for the Buffs? Players aren't being carted off the field because of injuries. (Story linked 10:14 A.M., August 17.)
While some Colorado players have sniffled through summer viruses, the worst bug, the dreaded injury bug, has been largely avoided.
Perhaps keeping fingers crossed, CU coach Dan Hawkins said the best part about Thursday's scrimmage was that nobody had to be carried off the field.
By this juncture of August camp last year, the Buffaloes had already lost three players (defensive end Drew Hudgins, offensive lineman Mike Iltis and linebacker Jon Major) for the season to knee injuries, each with a torn ACL.
Well, never mind. Update as of 9:23 P.M. on August 17: Colorado freshman defensive end Nick Kasa is out with a knee injury.
Bo Pelini likes his players work ethic, but he feels they have a long way to go as a team.
He likes the work ethic one-third of the way through preseason camp, though more effort is always encouraged. He can see improvement, but no player's first-week performance is suitable to be characterized as game-ready.
The Cornhuskers need attitude, an edge.
"A lot of it is about attitude and how you approach your job," he said. "The competition we have in practice hopefully has stepped up to the point where you better have a hard edge every time you go out there, or you’re going to get passed by.
"You can’t be lighthearted. It’s time to go to work."
Nebraska’s not exactly Southern Cal or Texas in the talent department, but Big Red has some impressive talent in camp, and much of it is young — freshmen and sophomores — particularly at wideout, tight end, linebacker and even in the secondary. Lots of players vying for playing time tends to turn up the intensity.
Pelini has the Huskers on the right track.
Is Nebraska back? No, not yet. Yeah, Pelini and the Huskers managed nine wins last season, which was a nice debut. Maybe they're good enough to win the Big 12 North this season. But you might recall Solich got the boot after a nine-win season. At Nebraska, the standard is higher.
"People are excited, but we've got a long way to go," Pelini says. "How close we are, I don't know."
Nobody knows, really. Elite status is a few years off, if it comes. But Alberts, for one, has been watching closely -- and he likes what he sees.
"They go 9-4 (in '08), and it's a remarkable year," he said. "But all the talk is they're not back yet and they have a long way to go. That says they get it. There's a culture of excellence around the state, second to none.
"Bo has embraced that."
Big 12: Kerry Meier, Kansas
Just think if he was really a wide receiver and not a quarterback posing as a wideout. The Jayhawks' former starting QB had 97 receptions for 1,045 yards last year, including this classic game-winner against rival Missouri.
Make no mistake: Patterson knows plenty about former Jayhawks Charles Gordon and Aqib Talib, who thrived under Mangino in the secondary before getting a chance to contribute as part-time receivers.
"That got me really excited, just to see where they ended up and then just trying to do a little bit of the same thing," Patterson said. "Maybe there’s a little hope that I can get back over there."
In his first preseason scrimmage as the Tigers’ No. 1 triggerman, Gabbert gave a glimpse of his powerful and increasingly accurate arm but was especially potent picking up and putting down his own feet. The sophomore gashed the defense for a team-high 52 rushing yards on just five carries, lending some credibility to the 4.5-second time he clocked electronically in the 40-yard dash this summer.
"He’s going to give defenses something else to worry about," said Moore, who punched in two short touchdown runs as the offense scored a 54-31 victory. "We’ve got a quarterback out here who can throw the ball and run."
The rest of Gabbert's offense:
Here's how the receiver positions appear based on the team's stretch lines:
X: Perry, Rolandis Woodland, Jaleel Clark, Kerwin Stricker
H: Alexander, Jackson, Beau Brinkley, Forrest Shock, T.J. Moe
Z: Wes Kemp, Brandon Gerau, L'Damian Washington, Gahn McGaffie
Status quo along the offensive line, except that freshman Jack Meiners is working No. 2 at right tackle. "It's really exciting," Meiners said. "Coach told me yesterday after watching the scrimmage film, and I guess they liked what they saw as far as me getting better."
Waco is really excited about Baylor football.
When Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin saw more than 1,000 fans packing the sidelines on Meet the Bears day, he couldn’t help but grin.
He could sense the excitement surrounding the start of football season. People watched the Bears anywhere they could find room at the Highers Athletics Complex, whether they were standing, sitting in the hot metal stands or sprawled on the ground.
Nobody seemed to mind that it was a steamy 98 degrees at the Saturday afternoon intrasquad scrimmage.
"When you see so many people squeezed around the field, it definitely picks you up," Griffin said. "There were a lot of people out there today, and I’m glad so many are interested."
More on that villain theme. Pat Forde has the 40 foulest villains of them all. Vince Young made the list.
40. Vince Young -- Texas quarterback, 2003-05
Hated by: USC
Claim to Infamy: Almost single-handedly stopped favored Trojans' bid for national title three-peat in 2006 Rose Bowl. Ran through USC defense for 200 yards and three touchdowns, the last coming with 19 seconds to play, to give the Longhorns the 41-38 victory and their first national championship since 1970. Lack of carryover to successful professional career further galls Trojans, who could feel better if they'd been destroyed by the next great NFL quarterback.