27 days until the Louisiana-Monroe game
Texas quarterback Colt McCoy talks about why he returned for his senior year and his expectations for the Longhorns in 2009. From ESPN.
Think Oklahoma-Texas is a heated rivalry? Wait until October. Texas' players may have forgotten about losing the South Division to OU on last year's tiebreaker, but I don't think Texas coach Mack Brown has. Neither has OU's Bob Stoops. "You want to throw out our win over Tech?" he said. "Fine. Then throw out Texas' win over us."
Video and interviews from practice.
Can the defense play to a level that would make Colt McCoy proud? Will Muschamp be twice as good, now that the head coach-designate more than doubled his salary to $900,000 a year? Will a defensive back intercept a ball or two? Can the defense stay multiple, get the most speed on the field and maintain a physical toughness?
Texas won 12 games a year ago, but its defense overshadowed its offense probably only four times, if you consider great performances against Colorado, Oklahoma State, Kansas and Ohio State in the bowl game.
What was Mack Brown's advice to the Longhorns as they start practice for the season?
"I told our kids in the spring and I told them again tonight to forget the system ... forget any of it," Brown said. "They need to be the best team they can be. Let's enjoy being Texas and not sit around and answer questions and worry about the system all the time."
"The Big 12's tiebreaker won't change, short term for sure, and the BCS won't change for at least a year," Brown said. "You've got what you've got so quit worrying about. You play the best you can play and we'll go wherever they tell us."
The Horns are not planning too far ahead.
Texas fans always demand a lot from Brown and the Longhorns, but there hasn’t been this kind of buzz around Austin since 2005, when Vince Young and the Longhorns won the school’s first undisputed national title since 1969.
"You walk in the locker room, nobody’s talking ‘Let’s win the national championship,"’ McCoy said. "All (the players) are talking about is winning the first game."
And if the Longhorns win all their games, they know they’ll get their shot, just as they did in 2005.
Does it matter where you start in the poll?
But see Florida, Texas and Oklahoma sitting 1-2-3 in the USA TODAY coaches' preseason poll released Friday — and Boise State, TCU and Utah ranked a more modest 16-17-18 — and take it seriously. In a sport that settles its national championship, in part, by popular vote and not by a playoff, early positioning matters.
All too much, some coaches say.
"We've been ranked among the Top Five in the coaches preseason poll several times recently and that's rewarding because it shows respect for our program from coaches around the country," head coach Mack Brown said. "It also is a tribute to how strong we’ve finished in winning our last five bowl games. But, at this point, no one has earned the right to be in the upper part of the polls. I’ve always said I think we should start the polls in October like they do with the BCS Standings. That’s a much truer evaluation of a team because at that point you’ve proven it on the field.
"All of that said, Coach Royal told me a long time ago that preseason polls are like beauty contests, and if they're going to enter you, you want to be near the top. We’re proud of everything we've built and the hard work our guys are putting in, but also realize that the preseason ranking means nothing. We need to be sure the guys understand that where you finish at the end of the year is important; where you rank at the first of the year is simply respect."
The top three teams have the top three quarterbacks in the country.
This fall could be exceptional for several reasons — three, in fact. "It's a wonderful thing for those three to be the face of college football," Texas coach Mack Brown says.
"They're all three high-character guys," Florida coach Urban Meyer says. "College football needs that."
McCoy doesn't mind being the leading rusher... again.
"I don't mind running the football," said McCoy, who was the only Big 12 quarterback to lead his team in rushing. "I would love it if we had a back who stepped up and said they wanted the ball and said to feed me the ball. The guys back there are motivated and are really trying to be effective in our offense."
What's our biggest need this season? Besides the whole running game issue? Tight end.
Coach Mack Brown said one of his primary goals is to find "two or three" tight ends who can be viable receiving options and allow the offense more flexibility than last season, when the Longhorns leaned heavily on four-receiver sets (with no tight end) after Irby was injured in a Sept. 20 victory over Rice. The ground game, Brown said, became more inconsistent without a tight end in the mix.
"Trying to run the ball with four receivers is a lot different than having a 250-pound tight end who can pound on people," Brown said.
There are no "wildcat" formations in our future.
Despite plays from the single wing becoming the rage in college football and in the NFL during the last several years, Mack Brown does not expect the Longhorns to experiment with the "Wildcat" formation.
Brown also pronounced that the Longhorns' ballyhooed "Q package" as dead. That formation featured Colt McCoy and John Chiles in the lineup at the same time with Chiles occasionally receiving snaps from center and McCoy at wide receiver.
"We got into it some last year," Brown said. "It was not productive for us. We want the ball in Colt's hands."
Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley have been named to the 2009 Walter Camp Football Foundation Player of the Year award watch list.
Sergio KIndle's leadership was apparent at Woodrow Wilson HIgh Schhol in Dallas. His leadership and play could determine the Horns' defensive success this season. KIndle has also been named to the 2009 Ted Hendricks Award watch list.
"Sergio emerged as a strong, forceful leader," Woodrow Wilson coach Bobby Estes said. "I notice that same maturity this year at Texas. Before, there was Brian Orakpo and the other guys in front of him. In talking to [Kindle] and watching him go through drills this spring, he's returned to, 'This is my year. This is my time.' "
Texas can only hope Kindle's college career tracks the same as his prep career.
How Kindle plays and how he leads could partly determine whether Texas' BCS hopes were merely deferred by the Big 12 tiebreaker of a season ago. One tick of a clock in Lubbock separated Texas from the conference title game and a probable date against Florida for the national championship.
The Los Angeles Times believes that the Horns are the most motivated team to win the title this year.
Which team is most motivated to win the national title this year?
That's easy. Texas. Imagine what it was like for the Longhorns to watch Oklahoma, a team they beat in Dallas, play Florida for the BCS title. And all because of a Big 12 tiebreaker rule that broke a three-way tie among Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech in Oklahoma's favor. That's why the 2008 Big 12 title team from Norman will always be remembered in Austin as the Oklahoma Asterisks.
Mack Brown will not be voting in the USA Today coaches' poll this season.
"They selected six coaches from the Big 12 at random, and I wasn't one of the ones selected," Brown said. "I'm OK with it."
In 2008, the Big 12 had seven coaches voting in the poll, which counts as one-third of the BCS standings.
And, for the record, Oklahoma's Bob Stoops is voting this season. Stoops did not vote in 2008.
Did Sporting News forgot someone in their 50 greatest head coaches of all time?
You may not recognize some of the players this August. Some of the team decided that they wouldn't shave during camp.
The Aggies averaged just 2.9 yards a carry last season thanks mostly to an offensive line ravaged by injuries. Texas A&M boasts a pair of quality backs in Cyrus Gray and Bradley Stephens, but the 5-11, 200-pound Michael possesses the strength to break tackles and the speed to break away for scores. Expect him to get a chance to earn carries in camp.
Texas A&M's flap with the Seattle Seahawks over the "12th Man" trademark keeps paying dividends for the Aggies.
Three years ago following a lawsuit filed by A&M, the Seahawks agreed to pay the Aggies a licensing fee to continue using the term, which A&M had trademarked.
Now, it appears the commotion helped land the Aggies their potential starting punter. Sophomore Ken Wood, a Washington state native who punted for the University of Montana last season, first became aware of A&M through the 12th Man ruckus.
Wood describes himself as a big Seahawks fan — and he became a fan of A&M after learning more about the school and its 12th Man tradition through its Web site, aggieathletics.com.
"I was constantly visiting their Web site," Wood said Thursday. "It looked like an awesome place — even just on the computer screen."
So, what happens if A&M is successful this season?
Defensive lineman Paul Freeney and tight end Ben Bass are no longer on the Aggie football team.
Dez Bryant's importance to the Cowboys was best illustrated in their 42-31 Holiday Bowl loss to Oregon as he produced seven receptions in the first quarter and nine in the first half to help spark an early Cowboys lead.
But after Bryant sustained a knee injury, the Cowboys' offense sputtered. Oregon outscored OSU 35-14 in the second half en route to the comeback victory.
It's made finding a second wide receiver one of coach Mike Gundy's critical tasks during fall camp.
Gundy wants his receivers to stop thinking.
The Oklahoma State receiving corps has been dropping the ball more than head coach Mike Gundy would like to see in the first few days of fall practice. But Gundy isn’t worried, because he knows it’s an issue caused by too much thinking, not a lack of ability.
"It looks like it always has this time of year," Gundy said of his receivers’ early drops in practice. "There’s a lot of thought and thinking going on. They’ll start playing better in 10 or 15 days. We never encourage the ball being on the ground, but the reason it is is because they’re thinking so much."
The Sooners are back in Norman. Bob Stoops is very optimistic.
"Hopefully we can be a game or two better (than last season)," said Stoops, whose club made it all the way to the national title game in 2008. "You have to go earn all of that, you have to get back with your team, get back out on the field and start competing and working to see truly where you are.
"We have a chance to be every bit as good or hopefully maybe a little better."
Did you know Stoops has a sense of humor?
Jermaine Gresham came back for one reason and one reason only:
"Anything less than a national championship would be (a disappointment)," Gresham said. "That's what we work for and play for. Nobody on this team plays for individual awards — nobody. We play as one and the ultimate goal is to win every game."
But one of the many bright spots was the return to the field of senior linebacker Ryan Reynolds, who wore only a brace in his first practice back since suffering a third major knee injury midway through last season.
And Ryan Reynolds felt he needed some luck so he changed his number from 11 to 4.
Austin Box drew praise from Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops during the Sooners’ Media Day Friday.
The redshirt sophomore linebacker is coming back from an elbow injury which kept him out of spring practice.
"He looked great,’’ said Stoops of Box’s effort in OU’s first practice Thursday. "He was running well and his conditioning was good.’’
Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson is a little fed up with all those pesky questions about the offensive line.
It was apparent that Wilson has about had it up to his chinstrap with those critics who have zeroed in on OU's inexperienced offensive line as being the only glaring weakness on a team ranked No. 3 in the first USA Today Coaches Poll.
"It's documented that everybody is concerned about our line," Wilson said. "I'm not ... at all."
ESPN analyst Andre Ware isn't sold on Bardford's front line just yet.
During Thursday's edition of College Football Live, ESPN analyst and former Heisman winner Andre Ware made a bold, if not bizarre, prediction.
The Oklahoma Sooners, ranked No. 3 in the preseason and returning the Heisman winner at quarterback, would lose four games this season, including the opener to Brigham Young.
OU's inexperienced and unproven offensive line.
Need an introduction to the Sooner o-line? Notice how many Texans there are?
Bradford, meanwhile, sat for two hours in a chair under a shade tent, wearing his crimson No. 14 jersey and flip-flops, signing autographs, posing for snapshot and just saying hi.
One young fan across the ropes in line for the tight ends got near Gresham, then shouted, "Hey, Sam Bradford!" Bradford looked up from signing a football, peered between shoulders and made eye contact. The boy smiled and waved. Bradford waved back and smiled. The boy jerked his little brother into a better perspective through forest of bodies and said, "See? See? He waved at me!"
Guess who else was left off Sporting News' list of the 50 all-time best coaches?
Sooner Sports has an update on Corey Wilson.
Four Big 12 teams make the USA Today Preseason Coaches' Poll.
Texas was ranked No. 2 by the coaches and defending Big 12 champion Oklahoma was third. Oklahoma State was ranked No. 11 and preseason North Division media favorite Nebraska was picked by the coaches at No. 22.
Kansas was just on the outside at No. 26, 27 points behind No. 25 Oregon State.
Everyone still seems to think the conference is lopsided, definitely heavier in the South.
"I think what we have is two top programs who are playing at a high level year in and year out," said Kansas coach Mark Mangino. "And there are people like us at Kansas who aspire to be in their shoes."
And that can only make everyone better, the coaches will tell you.
You can never tell what a bear will do.
Those Bears are confident. Safety Jeremy Williams has some ideas about the season: Baylor will play in a bowl game this season.
Baylor strong safety Jeremy Williams isn’t in the prediction business. Then again, maybe he is.
Asked if he felt comfortable guaranteeing a specific number of wins for the Bears this season, Williams at first was hesitant. Then, he blurted out:
"I’m not going to give you any guarantees or any predictions. I just know we’re going to play hard every week and we’re going to win more games than we did last year and we will go bowling this year."
Good news, everyone. Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin is just as fast, plus he is bigger and stronger than ever before. And, no, he is not the least bit concerned about his offensive line.
"I trust those guys," Griffin said. "I know if they make a mistake in one game or one play, they'll recover and make up for it on the next. It's not a problem like I'll be looking over my shoulder on every play to check and see somebody is coming."
The two new tackles will be the Bears' biggest offensive question marks and perhaps the biggest determining factor in whether Baylor can break a 15-season bowl drought that ranks as the longest in the conference.
You can't miss the Bear o-line. They have mohawks.
He’ll remember the love and support she gave him as he became a star running back at DeKalb, a small town near Texarkana. He’ll live out the lessons Charlor taught him, especially the ones dealing with hard work and sacrifice.
When she died last summer after a battle with kidney cancer, it floored him.
But after taking a year off from football, Ganaway wants to honor his mother.
"I know that if it wasn’t for my mother, I wouldn’t be at Baylor right now," Ganaway said. "She is what keeps me motivated. She was the backbone of our family. I looked to her for guidance and wisdom and my spiritual needs. She was a great woman."
The Red Raiders are determined to have another successful season.
“We do have a lot to prove,’’ new quarterback Taylor Potts acknowledged. “A lot of people are saying that we’re not going to be very good; we lost too many good players; we lost certain key players that we can’t replace.
“But I don’t think that’s the case, and I don’t think anybody else out here thinks that’s the case. Everybody has a sense of urgency, and everybody’s really positive and thinks we can do this thing.’’
Another product of the system? Mike Leach really likes freshman quarterback Jacob Karam.
Of all the quarterbacks who have ever got in line to play quarterback for Leach, Karam might have the most kid-in-a-candy-store demeanor, the most high-strung personality. He channels it well, well enough last year to lead his Class 4A Friendswood High School team to the state semifinals. Austin-based recruiting analyst Randy Rodgers, a former Division I coach, said Karam was one of the best at leading a two-minute drill in crunch time.
At 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, Karam might be a little short for an ideal quarterback, but what the heck. He figures he can make up for it by acting tall to the guys in his huddle.
Ryan Erxleben, son of former Longhorn Russell Erxleben, is a walk-on kicker for Tech.
Bo Pelini is popular in Nebraska.
But progress is important, and Nebraska showed enough of that in Pelini's first season to keep the enterprising T-shirt folks in business:
"Bo knows Nebraska," "reBOrn," and presumably for the women, "Bo-licious."
Just call Cornhusker workouts Camp Confident.
"They're excited and ready to go," second-year coach Bo Pelini said after the season's first workout. "I sense that they feel like they have something to prove. I think we do have something to prove."
Tight end Mike McNeill described the Huskers as a confident team.
"We're just a little more sure of ourselves," he said. "Last year, I think we had a little bit of doubt."
But the Cornhuskers are trying to keep the expectations in check.
Players, feeling stronger and refreshed after a summer's worth of weight exercises and pad-less drills, are showering in optimism — because all teams, no matter last year's outcomes, are undefeated in August.
It's the coach's job to provide the reality check, to keep the upbeat players from developing a sense of complacency as they absorb all the offseason's positive vibes.
Bo Pelini's been doing that since the Gator Bowl, as the program's expectation levels have heightened along the way.
There is a new era in Missouri football: The Blaine Gabbert era.
But when it comes to the sophomore, Yost and others are ready for comparisons to the program's all-time leading passer to be set aside.
"He's not going to be the next Chase Daniel," Yost said. "He's going to be the first Blaine Gabbert."
Coming off a 2-10 season, Iowa State needs improvement from both the defense and the offense. But the offense is key to the win.
"We're going to control and dictate the tempo, and you're certainly going to see us go fast at times," Herman said of his version of the spread offense that doesn't include a huddle. "When we feel like we've got our foot on (the opponent's) throat, we're going to go for the kill.
"The advantages are, obviously, the fact that defenses can't substitute (against the no-huddle). We want to wear those defensive players down as much as we can, so in the third and fourth quarter when we're in better condition and those big 310-pound defensive tackles are sucking wind and trying to tap out and get off the field, we're on the ball and ready to play."
Herman promises you'll see four-wide formations, and quarterback Austen Arnaud - tabbed the starter heading into fall workouts - will spend his Saturday afternoons in the shotgun, something the junior from Ames says he relishes. But Arnaud also knows much of the burden will fall on his shoulders.
The Cyclones are starting with the basics during practice this year: tackling.
ESPN"s Tim Griffin expects some good things from Kansas State this year.
Snyder's coaching acumen will enable KSU to claim a victory or two that some might not expect this season. The Wildcats are expected by most to struggle to stay out of the North Division basement. I think they'll be better than that, coming close to qualifying for a bowl berth and sneaking in an upset from one of three late-season home games -- against Missouri, Colorado or Kansas. If they can win two of those games, the Wildcats might go bowling this season.
Kansas State may a duel passing/running threat in Daniel Thomas.
Coach Bill Snyder calls Thomas, a junior transfer who wears No. 8, a running back. Thomas, 6 feet 2 and 227 pounds, played quarterback at Northwest Mississippi Community College. He can run and throw well enough to present a threat for the Wildcats as a surprise weapon.
"He can do a lot of damage with that," receiver Lamark Brown said. "He has the running-back style, and he’s a quarterback. Either way, it gives us a chance to do some special things."
The Jayhawk's defense had issues last season. This year should be different.
As tacklers go in the Big 12, the Jayhawks were middle-of-the-road last season. Which is to say they got flattened way too often.
Any opportunity for the Jayhawks to contend in the North is based on the return of primary playmakers within each skill group of the offense. But to cash in on a title run, the defense must stiffen.
"I think we'll have a chance to have a pretty good offense, no question about that," said KU coach Mark Mangino, who enters his eighth season coming off back-to-back bowl victories. "But I think our defense will be better than a lot of folks outside of our program think."
There's a Buff camaraderie that just hasn't been there before.
The SEC may be buying into the spread offense.
The marketplace, needless to say, has changed. Florida has won two national championships in the past three seasons and it led the SEC in scoring and total offense last season. Pages on the spread offense are now incorporated into playbooks all around the conference.Spread offense hysteria has not completely replaced the rugged culture of the SEC, as it has in the Big 12. Most SEC teams still use a tight end, a fullback and massive tackles to open holes for a 215-pound running back. But there have been adjustments, including fewer tight ends and fullbacks on rosters, and smaller, quicker defensive backs who can stick with receivers better in the open field.