Big 12 links: Whatever happened to nicknames?

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Nicknames used to dot the college football landscape, giving a splash of additional color to an already colorful game.

There was "The Galloping Ghost," "The Kansas Comet," "Earthquake," "The Mad Stork" and "The Italian Stallion." For you old-schoolers out there like me, you'll immediately remember Red Grange, Gale Sayers, Bill Enyart, Ted Hendricks and Johnny Musso.

It was good stuff.

But in today's changing times, nicknames don't seem to be given as readily as in the past. That's why a couple of recent stories delighted me so much when I read them this morning.

Oklahoma State running back Kendall Hunter is in a tight battle to replace Dantrell Savage as the Cowboys' featured back.

More notable to me than Hunter's 696 yards last season was an anecdote from last season. The 5-foot-8 Hunter was in a team meeting when Oklahoma State running backs coach Curtis Luper inexplicably started referring to him as "Spud."

"I have no idea why that was," Hunter told the Tulsa World. "On the practice field that day, all I was hearing was Spud. Everywhere I went, it was Spud. Not Kendall, but Spud. I can't shake it."

And at Missouri, redshirt freshman wide receiver Jerrell Jackson has also picked up a similarly colorful moniker. Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon has taken to calling him "Young Grasshopper" because of his pass-catching abilities. It sounds to me like something straight out of the old "Kung Fu" show that I used to love when I was a teenager back in the 1970s, but Jackson says Weatherspoon's descriptive nickname is a badge of honor.

"When I first got here, I caught a ball out of the air from one of the defensive backs, and he started calling me that." Jackson told the Columbia Daily Tribune.

Both nicknames seem to fit the players and are a throwback to the good ol' days of college football. I like them.

I'd be interested if any readers know about nicknames for other Big 12 players, or have suggestions for nicknames. If anybody has some, I'll share them in an upcoming post.

And after a problem with a crashed computer, which I called several nicknames I know weren't suitable for a family Web site, here are some mid-morning links.

Better late than never, I guess. Hope you enjoy.

  • Former Penn State DT Phil Taylor is planning to transfer to Baylor. Former Penn State assistant coach Brian Norwood is Baylor's new defensive coordinator.

  • Vince Young's jersey will be retired by Texas at the Longhorns' Aug. 30 opener against Florida International.

  • Houston Chronicle beat writer Joseph Duarte has an interesting video interview with Texas QB Colt McCoy about his plans to rebound from a disappointing 2007 season.

  • Nebraska coach Bo Pelini is confident that WR Khiry Cooper will remain with the team. Friday is the deadline for Cooper, a fifth-round choice of the Los Angeles Angels, to accept his baseball contract.

  • The Oklahoma secondary's personnel has been shaken up after Lendy Holmes was moved to free safety and Dominique Franks earned first-team status at cornerback.

  • Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger claims he was misquoted by a student newspaper when he called Texas' defense soft. University Press sports editor Jay Warman, who originally posted Schnellenberger's quote on his blog earlier this week, said the quotes are accurate.

  • Iowa State coach Gene Chizik is bullish about his team's development halfway through summer training camp.

  • Despite his team suffering three season-ending knee injuries in a nine-day period, Colorado coach Dan Hawkins isn't changing his practice methods."It's kind of a freak deal," Hawkins told the Rocky Mountain News, adding that the only preventive measure would be to "stop running because, basically, that's when they happened. It's not because guys are hitting you, or cutting. I mean, they're all noncontact."

  • Walk-on Kansas State RB Keithen Valentine has emerged as the team's likely starter.

  • Fort Worth Star-Telegram national college football writer Trae Thompson lists Missouri WR Jeremy Maclin among his 10 "can't miss" players for 2008.