Oklahoma State the favorite
When the media picked the Big 12 preseason poll, its indecision about the league's top teams showed. There was a bigger gap between teams No. 4 and 5 than there was between No. 1 and No. 4. But at No. 1 was Oklahoma State, for the first time in Mike Gundy's tenure in Stillwater.
"I think there's been some growth in the program at Oklahoma State," Gundy said. "I think it's a tribute to the players that have been before this group, the young men that are on our team now, and the ones in the future. They've got a lot to look forward to.
"I know that it won't have any effect on our season, but I do think it means a lot to Oklahoma State that people feel comfortable in saying that we're good enough to have the opportunity to win a conference championship," Gundy said.
Another interesting point made by Gundy was the fact that the Cowboys have continued to roll on offensively despite multiple changes in offensive coordinators over the years. And Gundy said in those situations, he's gone after coordinators who would come in and coach the Cowboy offensive system, rather than change systems with each coaching change.
From a numbers standpoint, it makes sense, Gundy said. Each season, 35-45 players work within the constraints of the current offense. And so it makes sense to have one person, the coordinator, come in and learn a new system than it does to have those 35-45 players have to learn a new system.
The other interesting number from Gundy was a much smaller one: 2. That's how many quarterbacks the Cowboys still have in the race for starter in Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh. And with the Cowboys opening up against a quality opponent in Mississippi State, Gundy said it made sense to keep the competition quiet until after that first contest.
No Starter at TCU, either
TCU coach Gary Patterson talked about his decision not to bring preseason All-Big 12 quarterback Casey Pachall to media days, explaining that the Horned Frogs were still having a competition at the position with Pachall battling Trevone Boykin, who started last year in Pachall's absence. There could be a place for both, he said, not in a 50-50 split, but with Pachall being the better thrower and Boykin being the better runner, there are different sub packages so that the loser of the competition could still find his way onto the field in meaningful situations.
Patterson also said that Pachall had asked "coach, can I just be a student, or can I be a football player?" Pachall's much-publicized battle with substance abuse and trip into rehab has created a tough situation for him, Patterson said, and he was only too happy to keep the pressure of Pachall as much as he can.
Patterson also talked about his decision to bring Pachall back onto the team. He said that the two extremes in the situation were to suspend him for a couple games or to boot him off the team entirely. The first wouldn't have solved the problem, Patterson said. And the second would have been flying in the face of what Patterson told he and his family during recruiting, that they cared about him and wanted him to succeed and gaduate.
"We needed to give him hope," Patterson said.
Kingsbury also searching for QB
New Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury is also looking for his No. 1 guy.
"We were really pleased with Michael Brewer and Davis Webb's progress in the spring," Kingsbury said. "Those guys kind of separated themselves from the rest of the pack.
"We'll get them to fall camp and probably go about two weeks, it varies, before we name a starter and try to get the scrimmage in," Kingsbury said. "See how the 7-on-7 is going this summer, see how the film is, and just who separates themselves.
"We did that last year at Texas A&M and worked out a little bit for us," he added. "Hopefully, we have that same success."
That same success that he alluded to is unlikely to occur, if for no other reason than the result of last year's quarterback competition for the Aggies produced last season's Heisman Trophy winner in Johnny Manziel.
This time, Kingsbury is doing the coaching from the head spot, and he's doing it at his alma mater, where he said he hopes his youthful energy — he's only 33 — will allow him to relate to players and recruits alike.
As for the biggest change between being a coordinator and being the guy, Kingsbury said it came in recruiting.
"I had no idea so much travel was involved," Kingsbury said.
I would have picked us 99th
Has any team proven how worthless preseason polls are more often than Kansas State? The Wildcats were picked eighth two years ago and finished second. Last year, the media bumped Kansas State up to sixth, and the Wildcats won the league. This year, the media again picked Kansas State sixth following the loss of Heisman Trophy candidate Collin Klein and a number of starters on defense.
"I think I said last year that, if I were given the opportunity, I would have picked us 99th," said Wildcat coach Bill Snyder. "As I look at it this year right now where we stand, I'd probably echo the same thought. It's precarious trying to make those kinds of decisions as the season gets started. Our program is no different than any other in that the dynamics of the program change year in and year out regardless of how many you do or do not have returning. It's just a different environment, and I would suggest that it's just a difficult task."
Almost as difficult as keeping up with the league's breakneck offensive pace, something that the Wildcats have deliberately tried to avoid."By and large, it's by design," Snyder said. You can say you take up more time, and therefore the defense is not on the field as long. Well, that might be true in terms of 30 minutes per ball game for offense or defense. I think we held the ball 32 minutes or something like that last year. That means that the opponent's offense is on the field for 28 minutes plus. "But it's how fast they go during that period of time," Snyder said. "Now, if somebody is going so fast and they're getting in 90 plays a ball game, then your defense is going to have some -- obviously has some issues, and that's -- that can happen. We've been fortunate, and we were fortunate last year, that we didn't have any that had, I think, 90 snaps, but got awful close. And when they did, we struggled a little bit on offense -- or on defense."
Not high on Texas
Kansas State has a winning string running against Texas, and some have argued that the Wildcats succeed because they're tougher. Wildcat linebacker Tre Walker said that the Longhorns had a reputation for not being the most physical team.
"I'd be willing to say, that definitely," Walker said. "They're probably not. But that has nothing to do with how they'll do this year."
"They kind of lay down a little bit," Walker said. "That's nothing to say against their character … it's just what they do."
Walker wasn't the only state of Kansas linebacker to feel that way. When told about Walker's comments, Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney responded with: "Yes. I agree. I agree with that 100 percent."
Heeney said that played out in the Jayhawks' close loss to the Longhorns in 2012."Yeah, we never really worried about who we were playing," Heeney said. "They were just like anybody else. We contended with a lot of teams, and some games, we just lost. They were just bad losses, that we shouldn't have lost, but we did. That was one of them."
Pile of crap
Yes, Kansas coach Charlie Weis compared his team to a "pile of crap." And yes, it was a comment taken a bit out of context.
During the press conference portion of the first Big 12 Media Day, a reporter remarked that Weis's recruiting hadn't slipped despite the Jayhawks' 1-11 record, and Weis was asked what his pitch to potential recruits was.
Weis's answer started off the way many other coaches likely would have. He listed off each of Kansas's virtues, including the Jayhawks' great facilities. The one thing that needed to be improved, he said, was the stadium, and he noted the planned renovations on that end.
But then Weis went off the beaten path, stating that his pitch also included the playing time angle.
"Everyone wants to play," Weis said. "There's no one that wants to not play. I said, ‘have you looked at that pile of crap out there? Have you taken a look at that? So if you don't think you can play here, where do you think you can play?' It's a pretty simple approach. And that's not a sales pitch. That's practical. You've seen it, right? Unfortunately, so have I."
The Jayhawks haven't won a Big 12 game since Turner Gill's Kansas team made a huge fourth quarter comeback to knock off Colorado in 2010. The 'Hawks haven't beaten a team currently in the Big 12 since the first conference game of the 2009 season, when a Mark Mangino-led Kansas team beat Iowa State.