It was an action-packed day as Big 12 media days opened in Dallas, Texas. Baylor carried itself with the look and confidence of the defending Big 12 champion, while Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby made it clear that change is on the horizon for college athletics. ESPN.com Big 12 reporters Jake Trotter, Max Olson and Brandon Chatmon answered four questions in our roundtable to conclude the first session, which was comprised of Baylor, Kansas, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech.
What stuck out to you most?
Trotter: The confidence Baylor carried throughout the day. The Bears are the defending Big 12 champs, and they walked and talked like it Monday. Defensive end Shawn Oakman even took issue with Oklahoma getting voted as the preseason favorite, saying Baylor's 41-12 win over OU last season showed that the Sooners' "product was nowhere near as good as the product that Baylor was putting on the field." Bears coach Art Briles said the preseason seeding was fair because OU beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, while Baylor fell to UCF in the Fiesta. But there’s little doubt the Bears will go into this season with the swagger of the league's best team.
Olson: Other than Bowlsby's scorched-earth, "Winter is Coming" assessment of today's NCAA, I enjoyed Briles' presence at this event, as always. He had his usual great lines -- when Baylor was called a heavyweight, he said "I try to eat as healthy as possible" -- and Texas charm, but unlike last year he's not out to play hype man for his program. He was resolute in saying he's aiming for the College Football Playoff and that OU deserves to be the Big 12 favorite considering how last season ended. He also seems to have taken it personally that QB Bryce Petty wasn't a Heisman finalist last year. With former Texas coach Mack Brown now out of the picture, it appears Briles is the guy reporters love to gravitate toward. He seems as confident and relaxed as ever when it comes to his team's chances in 2014.
Chatmon: Bowlsby didn’t mince words at all Monday. He kicked off Big 12 media days with a bang, talking about the need for restructuring in the NCAA, the possibly bleak future of some Olympic sports, and the potential for cheating in college football nationwide. The cheating discussion was easily the part that stood out to me, as Bowlsby’s candor was unexpected. “The infractions committee hasn't had a hearing in almost a year, and I think it's not an understatement to say that cheating pays presently,” he said. He went on to say he didn’t think it was rampant and didn’t have any concerns “on a local basis” when asked specifically about the Big 12.
What's something new you learned?
Trotter: TCU added Texas A&M transfer quarterback Matt Joeckel in the spring. But Trevone Boykin is not going to relinquish the job and slide to receiver without a fight. “He wants to be the guy,” coach Gary Patterson said. Whether at receiver or quarterback, Boykin is going to help the Horned Frogs offensively. But he’s going to try to help them at quarterback first.
Olson: I was hardly surprised, but Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy loves Tyreek Hill. OSU will play Hill at running back and receiver, and Gundy said his goal is to get the speedster the ball 15 to 20 times a game. Hill was voted Big 12 Preseason Newcomer of the Year, and Gundy admitted that the blueprint for how to maximize Hill's talent hasn't completely come together yet. But the guy has a chance to be a Tavon Austin-type playmaker all over the field. Gundy would be wise to put the keys to the offense in Hill's hands, and it's good to see that the coach gets that.
Chatmon: Sam Eguavoen is a confident guy … who doesn’t like spiders. The Texas Tech linebacker has a lot of confidence in the Red Raiders’ potential this season, pointing to Tech’s narrow road setback to Oklahoma as a key moment in 2013: “If it wasn’t for the out route to a slot receiver, we had that game. The bowl game showed what we’re capable of. That’s the expectation for this season.” Eguavoen went on to say he’d pick Tyrese Gibson, Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant to kick it with if he could hang with celebrities. He was then asked about Tech cheerleader Kendall Jones, who gained national attention for posting photos of her hunting exploits in Africa this summer, and responded with this gem: “I’ve killed a couple of roaches before, but she’s out here killing bears and tigers, and I’m scared of spiders. I respect her. If I ever see a lizard in my backyard, I’ll have to hit her up.”
Your favorite exchange of the day?
Trotter: Briles was in fine form Monday. Besides verbally tussling with Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher about the Big 12 not playing a conference title game, Briles explained why QB Bryce Petty has a better chance to win the Heisman this season. “Go to Salem, Oregon ... and talk to the guys at the Dairy Queen that follow college football and say, ‘Bryce Petty.’ And they’ll say, ‘Oh yeah, that’s that quarterback from Baylor.’ That’s why. Because he’s got name recognition.” Petty certainly has more name recognition, though maybe not so much in Salem. A Portland radio station called all six Dairy Queens in Salem to see if anyone had ever heard of Petty. The results for Petty weren’t good.
Olson: Patterson elicited a lot of confused frowns when he said, regarding his changes on offense, "I like Gatorade. When you have to beat people 17-13 just drinking water, you'd like to be able to go back and find out what the different Gatorades are and do everything, you know, for a few years, Rose Bowl year and all that when you score a lot of points." Makes no sense, right? What Patterson was getting at is that, when you're coasting at the end of a blowout win, there's plenty of time for sports drink taste-testing on the sideline. That's a luxury the Frogs rarely enjoyed last year. So, uh, his new offense wants more points and more blowouts. At least, I think that's what he meant ...
Chatmon: Anything Oakman-related was gold. As the hashtag #OakmanisSoBig began to make waves during media days, the Baylor defensive end said his favorite was “#OakmanisSoBig his cereal bowl has a lifeguard." The Bears’ beast of a defender went on to question Oklahoma’s win over Alabama and its preseason favorite status in the Big 12. “It’s kind of disrespectful. You have your starting QB back, most of the front line back, and you’re still ranked No. 2. That doesn’t make sense to me. We beat OU,” he said.
On Tuesday, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia will take over the stage in Dallas. What are you looking forward to Tuesday?
Trotter: The newcomer to the league, Texas coach Charlie Strong, will be in the house. Mack Brown was always great in the media days setting. How will Strong acquit himself in his Big 12 media days debut? A good first impression can go a long way.
Olson: Gee, I wonder if Strong is going to face any scrutiny? He's the Big 12's only first-year head coach and he's hoping to change the perception that he's not a savvy public speaker. Plus, Mack was kind of the king of soapbox speeches and offering his take on college football issues at media days. So I'm guessing the many reporters who crowd around Strong will be practically waiting for him to slip up. He's always said he's OK with the media responsibilities of being Texas' head coach, and his performance Tuesday is truly inconsequential to the big picture, if you ask me. But can Strong make a good impression and inspire some believers on Tuesday?
Chatmon: I’m looking forward to what West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen will say as a huge year looms for the Mountaineers. The veteran coach is hitching his future, to begin the season at least, on the shoulders of senior quarterback Clint Trickett. The Mountaineers have plenty of skill-position talent and could have an explosive offense with good quarterback play, but people tend to forget WVU had superb quarterback play with Geno Smith in Year 1 in the conference and still finished 7-6 in 2012. So I’m interested to hear what Holgorsen has to say about his defense and the changes on that side of the ball, as well.