11 days until the Louisiana-Monroe game
Hopefully, this is John Chiles' year.
Ever since he was a high school All-American in the Dallas area, Texas fans have heard about Chiles' size, speed and finesse running the ball. He was big and strong, and some dreamed he could mimic Vince Young leaving defenders flailing in his wake.
Instead, Chiles spent most of his first two seasons tossing barely two dozen passes in mop-up duty.
How does this year's team measure up against past national champions?
To absolutely no one's surprise, Florida and Texas were pegged as the top two college football teams in the nation by Associated Press pollsters.
To the surprise of some, it says here that those teams that are ranked 12th or lower might as well concede the national title.
Take heart, Longhorn fans. You, too, Tebow-lovers.
Of the last five national champions, three were ranked first or second in the preseason AP poll. Six of the 10 teams to play in the title game were among the original top two teams. Nice precedent.
All the contenders have a fatal flaw.
Biggest Strengths: Offensive line, passing game
Potential Fatal Flaw: Rebuilt defensive line
Buzz: Quarterback Colt McCoy and the offense are going to be highly productive, even if the Longhorns once again can't find a feature back. Thing is, if three new starters on the defensive line struggle, that offense had better be highly productive because the Longhorns will be involved in some shootouts. Sergio Kindle will play end full time after also playing some linebacker last season. Kindle is a pass-rusher deluxe, but he has to prove he consistently can hold up against the run. He also needs someone opposite him to come through. If that doesn't happen, Kindle will see a lot of double-teams plus have to deal with running backs chipping him on their way out of the backfield. Tackle Lamarr Houston is the only returning starter up front, but he will be without running mate Roy Miller, who by far was Texas' best interior lineman last season. If the new guy next to Houston doesn't play well, a solid linebacker corps is going to find it more difficult to make plays. And if the pass rush suffers without departed end Brian Orakpo, a secondary expected to be a team strength will be under siege.
Here's a postion break down for the defensive personnel from the UTEP site:
Life is good. J'Covan Brown was cleared by the NCAA clearinghouse on Monday to play basketball for the Longhorns.
Michael Shumardis spent last season as a tackle but is much more comfortable as a guard.
"I think Shumard is more of a natural guard in his ability to pull and be light on his feet," said Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman, who was an offensive line coach for several years.
The 6-foot-5, 301-pound Shumard didn’t have too many good experiences at tackle.
"You have to be so athletic," Shumard said. "And you are always by yourself. You don’t have help."
The Aggies have a back up.
Now comes another season with prospects just as dire. Facing the possibilities of finishing last in the Big 12 South, a coach needs all the help he can get, wherever he can get it.
Unfortunately, the Aggies' best receiver last year won't be back. Not at receiver, anyway.
Sherman announced Monday that Tannehill will be a quarterback. Only he'll be on the sideline again, this time behind Jerrod Johnson.
The Cowboys don't want to go to just any bowl game, they want a BCS bowl.
"We don't just want to be at any bowl game. We want to be in a BCS bowl game," Dez Bryant said. "So, we feel like we're still fighting to get to that point."
Bryant bought in long ago to the Cowboys' potential. When his dreams of going to LSU were dashed, he settled on a comfortable consolation prize in Stillwater — but not until after he'd asked Brewer an important question.
Sitting at his east Texas home, Bryant asked point-blank: "Can we win a national championship?" And Brewer, at the time the Cowboys' receivers coach, said yes, if he could get enough of the right kind of players.
So why did Mike Gundy lock out the media?
Perhaps he feels the weight of unprecedented expectations, and that is understandable. But Gundy wanted a big-time program. With that comes greater media attention.
It certainly beats the alternative – no media attention.
Speculation on the O-line chemistry?
In the opener against Georgia, OSU will start two new guards (likely Noah Franklin on the right side and Jonathan Rush or Anthony Morgan on the left). That's a very difficult assignment for a first-time starter. The Cowboys' signature offensive balance cannot be achieved if there are breakdowns in pass protection or run blocking. Line coach Joe Wickline has two more weeks to work on chemistry.
"I love to catch balls out there, doing a lot of receiving, catch a couple deep balls," Murray said. "Just whatever coaches have planned for me, hopefully I’ll see a little bit more than what I’ve had the past couple of years."
Sooner Sports has put out their own preview of the O-line.
There is no disputing the quality and experience that the Sooners lost on the offensive line. Those players were part of two, and in some cases, three Big 12 Championships. The mitigating factor is the quality of what remains to step forward. The coaching staff likes the current cast and the opportunity for another bumper season.
West said he is still adjusting to the quicker pace of college ball. But he's doing quite well. Coach Dan Hawkins said West reminds him of Abraham Wright (2004-06), the Buffs' last great pass rusher from off the edge.
"Forrest has a lot of speed, a lot of explosion," Hawkins said. "And he's a smart guy, so when you get into some adjustments he's able to handle it."
The Jayhawk program has certainly changed, but the coach hasn't.
"A good coach doesn’t change," senior running back Jake Sharp said. "You know where you stand with coach, day-in and day-out. There are expectations set, and that’s the way it is. It’s clear-cut. When you do good, there’s praise, and when you do bad, there are consequences."
Mark Mangino can't say one way or another if the team is good or just pretty good.
There is not, according to Mangino, anything noticeably common among great teams in the preseason.
"Not really," Mangino said. "Two years ago I wouldn't have stood up here on media day and said that we were going to win 12 games."
Mangino, of course, has been a part of some outstanding seasons, but none in which he knew in August his team was bound for greatness. He won a national championship at Oklahoma, experienced a handful of great seasons at Kansas State and unexpectedly took Kansas to the Orange Bowl in 2007.
He knows a good team when he sees one, but that's about as far as he can tell it.
Can a true freshman, Rex Burkhead, pick up Castille’s slack?
Suddenly, Nebraska’s backfield looks less intimidating, at least from a size and experience standpoint. The lineup consists of Helu, five guys who have never carried the pigskin in a college game, plus 5-10, 190-pound sophomore Marcus Mendoza, who until Friday spent preseason camp practicing with the wideouts.
What school could be considered Quarterback U? Texas and Oklahoma do not qualify.
Oklahoma, for instance, has had two Heisman Trophy winners (Jason White, Sam Bradford), and the Sooners have won four national titles since 1966. But here's a fascinating tidbit: Oklahoma has not had an alum start a game at quarterback in the NFL since Jack Jacobs way back in 1949.
Furthermore, Texas has produced only two NFL starting quarterbacks during the Super Bowl era (Vince Young, Chris Simms). To put that in perspective, Division II Texas A&M-Commerce has turned out three NFL starters (Wade Wilson, Kyle Mackey, Will Cureton), which is more than Oklahoma and Texas combined.