Brandon in Austin, Texas asks: If you were a Big 12 Head Coach and you were able to pick any quarterback out of the Big 12 who would you take and why?
David Ubben: If we’re talking about from now on, I’ll take Garrett Gilbert. He might not be in the conference’s top three quarterbacks right now, but he will be very soon, and he might already be in the top five. Obviously, with his pedigree, his upside is enormous.
If we’re talking about just this season, I’d probably go with Jerrod Johnson, but Blaine Gabbert and Robert Griffin are right there, too. Gabbert’s a little more accurate than Johnson, and Griffin is definitely a better runner, but Johnson is a nice balance of both. He’s got a solid deep ball, and with his size, he’s not going to get knocked around much.
Scott Anderson in Manhattan, Kansas asks: David, i was wondering what your thoughts were about the chances that Daniel Thomas could potentially be thrown into the Heisman contention talk.
David Ubben: Interesting question, Scott. I don’t think so, but here’s how he might do it:
He has to have a big start. Go for over 100 yards and beat UCLA, and then maybe hit 200 against Missouri State and UCF. Break 100 and beat Iowa State in the middle of that stretch. If he can have a big number in the bank and be in the top five nationally when Nebraska comes to town, he’ll get a lot of attention as being the reason for the Huskers’ first big test. For him, that means name recognition, something he doesn’t have very much of on the national stage. Part of that is because he’s a juco transfer, which also works against him in the Heisman discussion. Outside of O.J. Simpson, I can’t think of another juco transfer to win the Heisman.
That means his numbers are going to have to be literally outstanding, probably 1,700 or above, and he’ll have to at least be in the top three nationally in rushing, preferably leading. That’s going to take going over 100 yards the majority of his games, and not getting held to under 50 or so in games against Texas and Nebraska. When he can, he’ll have to go off for 175-200+. If that sounds like a tall order, it’s because it is.
For him, the most important stat is wins. Knocking off one of those teams would certainly help his case. K-State has to be good and he has to be best. If the Wildcats aren’t at least in the North conversation in the final few weeks of the season, he has no shot.
Now, if the Heisman was given to the Big 12’s best running back, he’d be my frontrunner.
EDIT: Nebraska's Mike Rozier played a season at Coffeyville (Kan.) Junior College, but had played two full seasons of Division I before winning the Heisman as a senior.
Chris Jackson in houston, texas asks: Is it fair to say the Longhorns remind me off the group from 2008, except maybe this time they don't win 10 games this season?
David Ubben: Chris, your question caught my eye because Mack Brown told me exactly that. Here’s what he said when I spoke with him in Austin:
“This team will be very similar to the ’08 team in that the expectations will be lower. A lot of question marks, a lot of young guys that have to come through. In ’08 they did, so we’ll just have to see how these guys respond.”
That’s really all it boils down to. Texas has a lot of guys with that lovely spring buzzword, “potential.” None of them have delivered on it just yet -- if only because they can’t until the season begins.
If they do, a BCS bowl is easily within reach for the Longhorns. If they don’t, so is third place in the South, behind the Sooners and Aggies.
Pete in Omaha asks: Whose got the best running back duo in the Big XII in 2010
David Ubben: I know who you want me to say, but it’s not the Huskers, Pete. If you want to see the Big 12’s best running back duo, take a trip down to College Station. The Aggies were the only team to have two backs among the top 10 rushers in the conference, and they bring them both back. Rex Burkhead and Roy Helu Jr. are in the discussion at No. 2, but No. 1 is locked up by Texas A&M.
Zeke in Lawrence, KS says: Is anyone else noticing the potential at QB this league has again? Jerrod Johnson can be nasty good, Landry Jones did great in my opinion considering the stuff he went through, Blaine Gabbert was pretty darn good before he tweaked his ankle I thought. Garret Gilbert showed some real promise in the 2nd half of the NC game. Looks like to me our conference will be loaded at QB again.
David Ubben: It should be another great year at quarterback, but it’s a little jarring when you look at where all those quarterbacks are coming from. Five of the six schools in the South have one guy who should be a solid starter for their team, and Texas Tech is deciding between two experienced seniors. Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden is somewhat of a question mark with his limited experience, but he’ll be the almost-unquestioned starter entering the season.
Now, look up North. It’s Blaine Gabbert… and some guys. Austen Arnaud is likely a lock at starter for the Cyclones, but he was wildly inconsistent last year, and is more effective as a runner than a passer.
The other four teams have huge question marks at quarterback. Nebraska’s deciding between two guys with experience and a dark horse in Taylor Martinez. Kansas State has a three-way battle led by Collin Klein and Carson Coffman. Kansas is deciding between about three guys, none with extended experience, with three more trying to find their way into the discussion. And Colorado’s Cody Hawkins, far from a fan favorite, is working to get back the job he lost last year, with presumptive starter Tyler Hansen finishing the spring atop the depth chart.
The North is superior when it comes to running backs, but the Big 12 won’t be a quarterbacks’ league as much as just the Big 12 South.
Benjamin in St. Louis asks: I keep hearing people talk about how Nebraska is a possible national title contender now, or could take the Big 12 title this next year. I don't get it. They lost a freakishly good player this year, a player that doesn't come around very often. Without Suh injuring Gabbert in the Mizzou game, the Tigers would have beaten Nebraska. Now Gabbert, from what I have read, is blowing his 2009 performance out so far in spring practices. My question is WHY is Nebraska getting all these shoe ins from people and not Mizzou?
David Ubben: Nebraska is hardly a shoe-in, but if I had to put a percentage on it, I’d give the Huskers about a 55 percent chance of winning the North, and Missouri 30. If Nebraska had to play at Missouri again, I might put it a little closer to 40/40. Nebraska’s big fourth quarter last year makes it easy to forget, but they were losing 12-0 in the fourth before ripping off 27 points.
They did lose Ndamukong Suh, and the Husker defense has to replace a pair of safeties and Phillip Dillard, too. Bo Pelini has talked up the Huskers’ defense once again, and while I have my doubts that it will be better, it should be, at the very least, close to what it was a year ago. I’d be surprised if they weren’t hovering around the top 15 in the major defensive categories.
As for the offense, it showed signs of life late in the year, and there’s almost no way it could be worse than it was in the middle of last season. Two good running backs and a quarterback (whoever it is) with more experience under its belt should assure that.
Missouri’s 18 returning starters should have a great shot to get back to the title game, but even going 6-2 might not win the North this season, especially if they lose the tiebreak in Lincoln.