Changes Abound, Just Not At Texas
IRVING, Texas -- Change has swirled around Texas throughout this offseason: new quarterback for the first time since 2006, nearly a new conference, conceivably a new date for the rivalry game with Oklahoma, and continued speculation about when the Longhorns will have a new coach.
Mack Brown commented on all the above here. And it turns out not much has changed (or will change) anytime soon.
Start with the man in charge. Texas named defensive coordinator Will Muschamp its head coach-in-waiting a couple of years ago -- and the emphasis remains on the waiting part of that title. There is no planned succession date -- not even in Brown's head.
"I think I'll pull a Bobby Johnson," Brown said, referring to the sudden retirement of Vanderbilt's coach a couple of weeks ago. "I'll coach until I wake up and don't feel like I'm having any fun. I'll go in and tell [Texas AD] DeLoss [Dodds], [school president] Bill Powers and Will on the same day.
"I'm not near that close [to retiring]. I'm happy, and things are working. When it's not going well, you want to fix it. When it is going well, you don't want it to end."
Brown did say that Texas has learned a little about what not to do in a succession situation from Florida State. The Seminoles struggled to adequately resolve the end of the Bobby Bowden era and the promotion of Jimbo Fisher.
There is no contract clause penalizing Muschamp for taking another job. And there is no staff split -- the chain of command that Brown constructed remains intact.
"Nothing changes at our place until I decide to quit," Brown said.
As for the Red River Rivalry game with Oklahoma, there was plenty of speculation that, lacking a championship game, the Big 12 would move that game from its traditional October date during the Texas State Fair to early December. But Brown pointed out that contracts are signed to keep the game at its current time and place (the Cotton Bowl) through 2015.
With that game locked in, Brown said there has been talk about possibly having a rivalry doubleheader in that December slot: Texas-Texas A&M and Oklahoma-Oklahoma State. But there also could be resistance to moving Longhorns-Aggies off its traditional Thanksgiving weekend spot. So it could be that Texas winds up playing Texas Tech in December 2011, since that game has no traditional anchor date.
Texas, of course, was in the middle of the conference realignment storm. And until the 11th hour, Brown thought the Big 12 might be blowing up.
"I didn't know until 5 o'clock Sunday [June 13] that we were going to stay," he said. "It was iffy. It was down to the nub."
One of the deciding factors in Texas' decision to stay with the Big 12 was the Pac-10's resistance to allowing the Longhorns to create their own TV network. Brown said the network will be a go.
"They're getting closer," he said, adding that the plan calls for a statewide channel that also gets national cable syndication.
And finally, Brown is optimistic about the transition from four years of Colt McCoy to Garrett Gilbert. The coach said he would much rather have had McCoy for four quarters in the BCS title game and beaten Alabama, but the end result of getting Gilbert some sudden experience should be a benefit in 2010.
"I asked him after the game, 'You OK?'" Brown recalled. "He said, 'Yeah. But I turned the ball over.' That's what you want him to say."
Sooners Count Blessings After Cursed 2009
IRVING, Texas -- Bob Stoops boasted that his team never whined about the injuries that turned a national championship contender in September into a Sun Bowl champion in December.
Tight end Jermaine Gresham never played a snap in 2009 and was drafted in the first round of April's NFL draft. Reigning Heisman winner Sam Bradford didn't make it to halftime of the season opener before an injury to his throwing shoulder eventually required surgery. A rash of other injuries on both lines turned hopes of 14-0 before the season began into a frustrating reality of 8-5 at season's end.
"It happened," Stoops said. "You move on."
And now, the payoff. He has a quarterback in sophomore Landry Jones with 10 career starts when he should have none. He has an offensive line that should be strapped for experience but instead is full of part- and full-time players a year ago who are eager for a second run through a Big 12 schedule. His team is good enough for the media covering the conference to pick the Sooners to win the Big 12 South.
Those injuries, at least in part, are to thank.
"We didn't like it as it was happening, but they're definitely -- I believe -- will obviously be more experienced and better players having done it a year ago," he said.
No one benefited from the injuries more than Jones, who threw for 3,198 yards and 26 touchdowns in his freshman season, often splitting practice snaps with Bradford and being forced into games against BYU and Texas after working during preseason camp and the week before the Red River Rivalry as a backup. After Bradford's season-ending surgery in October, the starting job was his, and that status was evident in a more ingrained team leader through spring camp.
"You can tell he's in command. You can tell how confident he is and sure of what he's doing. He's a totally different guy had Sam not gotten hurt coming into this year. It's obvious to everyone," Stoops said. "He's very similar to the guys we've had that have had success. Very grounded guy, confident, great worker, similar abilities in how he throws the ball, his process. He's got the same kind of size . We've won championships, six of them, with five different quarterbacks. That says a lot. And he's in the mold of all those guys."
Old-School Is Back In At Texas
IRVING, Texas -- Quarterbacks under center have been a rare sight in recent years at Texas, but old-school offense is making a comeback in Austin.
In an effort to bolster a running game that dipped to fewer than 170 yards per game in three of the last four seasons -- bottoming out at 148 per game last year -- the Longhorns are making changes. Garrett Gilbert will be under center for significant stretches, giving running backs more opportunity to "run downhill," in football parlance.
"I think we'll be pretty effective at it," said offensive tackle Kyle Hix. "I think it fits our personnel pretty well."
It's been an education for Gilbert, who like most quarterbacks from the state of Texas grew up playing in a spread offense and taking shotgun snaps. This year, Gilbert said he could be under center as much as 50 percent of the time. Toward that end he's had to sharpen his footwork, getting away from the line of scrimmage quickly without linemen stepping on his feet.
He said the last time he was under center was Pop Warner ball.
"We're still going to sling the ball around," Gilbert said. "But this will help us be more successful as an offense."
Hawkins Enters Pivotal Season With Smile
IRVING, Texas -- I've known Dan Hawkins since his days at Boise State, and in those days he always seemed to be having more fun than his colleagues.
Now, heading into a make-or-break fifth season at Colorado, it seemed time to ask him if he's still having fun.
"Totally," he said, with characteristic enthusiasm. "It's all about the challenge. It's all about being with these guys. I love the competition, love the strategy."
Hawkins said he spent part of Tuesday night in the Texas Rangers clubhouse, grilling some of the team's coaches and staff about evaluating personnel and weighing intangibles.
"All that stuff, I love," he said.
What he hasn't loved is going 16-33 in Boulder, a drastic change from a 53-11 run at Boise. But Hawkins insists that he feels no buyer's remorse, despite watching Boise ratchet up its success even higher since he left.
"I'm not about looking back," he said.
What Hawkins must look forward to now is a difficult quarterback decision. Last year Tyler Hansen was narrowly more effective than Hawkins' son, Cody. He said the competition remains very close between the two, and he doesn't anticipate naming a starter until about two weeks before Colorado's opener against rival Colorado State.
Jayhawks Turn The Page With Gill
IRVING, Texas -- Kansas coach Turner Gill has always fashioned himself as a molder of men. Specifically those of the 18- to 22-year-old variety, he said Wednesday morning at Big 12 media days. So no one should be surprised that the coach had his players fill out a survey filled with nonfootball questions.
If his players knew much about him, they shouldn't have been surprised when he had them stand in front of their teammates and read their answers to questions such as who influenced them most in their lives.
"Everybody has a story, and that was the point of doing it all," Gill said. "To understand that everybody has a story and we're a lot closer than you think. Even though I might be from 'XYZ town' or 'XYZ state' or I may be white or I may be black or I'm this position or that position; but we really have a lot more in common."
Gill is about winning, and he did it at Buffalo when many of his contemporaries and friends cautioned him not to take the job. But he's also about relationships, and makes it clear that each influences the other.
"I really believe that as men -- and particularly young men -- we've got to know how to communicate. We've got to know how to talk," he said. "I believe in getting our players and coaches to talk to each other in deeper details more than just the X's and O's of football."
Texas: Sam Acho
One Good Thing
Colorado: Tyler Hansen took control of Colorado's starting quarterback job for the second half of last season, and receiver Scotty McKnight said on Wednesday that Hansen has been working with the starters in voluntary team drills over the summer, but Buffaloes coach Dan Hawkins insists that fall camp will feature a competition between Hansen and his starter to begin last season, Cody Hawkins.
"I think we'll probably get through a couple scrimmages there and give everybody really a chance to kind of compete and get going," Hawkins said. "Coming to practice, we're not one of those outfits that ever give all the reps to the [No. 1] anyway. We're always trying to build some people underneath that. So either way, the other guy will get some reps as well as the rest of the roster."
Kansas: Turner Gill never complained about distractions during the spring, but for fall camp, he's got one less to worry about. Gill and his family have officially made the move from Buffalo to Lawrence in preparation for Gill's tenure as Jayhawks coach.
Gill was in good spirits as the lead-off man on the final day of Big 12 media days, greeting the media with perhaps the biggest smile of any coach during the week -- even at 9 a.m. local time.
"Everybody got smiles on or not?" he said. "I don't know, I got a good smile on. It's great to be here It's been a great summer for me as far as getting my family situated."
Oklahoma: Bob Stoops isn't taking a conservative approach in addressing questions about the upcoming season for his running back, senior DeMarco Murray. Earlier this summer, he said he'd like to see Murray reach 1,900 yards and Wednesday, he heaped on another flattering comment.
"We're hoping in the line similar to a guy like Adrian Peterson," Stoops said, when asked about the workload he planned on giving his running back. "He needs support, but I really believe our offensive line has a chance to be better than what people think. If that happens, DeMarco has a chance to have a really good year, and I believe he will."
In 2004, Peterson carried the ball 339 times before injuries limited his production to 220 and 188 carries in his final two seasons, topping out at more than 1,900 yards as a freshman. Despite the injuries, Peterson ran for more than 1,000 yards in each season. Murray, too, has missed time with injuries, but he's split carries for his entire career and never had more than 179 in a season. He's surpassed the 1,000-yard mark only once, with 1,002 yards in 2008.
"He's had some unfortunate luck with some odd, different injuries," Stoops said. "I really believe coming into this year, with his experience, his ability to not only run but to catch the ball out of the backfield, we really anticipate him having a really big year for us."
Texas: Texas left the summer in a trimmed-down, 10-team Big 12, and with it, a reputation around the league as somewhat of a bully capable of getting whatever it wants. Longhorns coach Mack Brown could only put his hands up and shrug at that idea.
"I don't have any idea what they're talking about, really. I think it's unfair," Brown said. "We feel like sometimes we get the bad end of things, very honestly. So when I heard it, I kind of snickered. Probably some of it was over the discussion of the way the revenue was shared -- or not shared throughout the league, but we have a 101,000-seat stadium, make a lot of money and we're on TV a lot. But that was done before I ever even came in the league."
Colorado: Scotty McKnight
Best Of Day 3
Subtlest knock on wood: Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops on the podium, after uttering the following sentence about the team's injury troubles:
"You've got to believe that could never happen again."
Best cordial gesture: Dan Beebe, Big 12 commissioner.
With Texas coach Mack Brown stuck at the podium for an informal Q&A with reporters for more than 15 minutes, Beebe poked his head over the huddle of scribes: "Coach, you need an offensive lineman to follow out of this thing? Even if it's an old offensive lineman? I can block my way out of here," he said.
Brown replied, "I gotcha. I may need it in a minute."
Fewest offseason slot machine pulls: Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, after being hit with a rash of injuries in 2009
"I didn't go to Vegas last year after the season, I know that."
Most influential former coach: Tom Osborne, Nebraska
Both Texas coach Mack Brown and Kansas coach Turner Gill tabbed the Nebraska AD as someone they looked up to.
Said Gill: "Tom Osborne was great in relating with people, a lot of ideals and things that he did with the football program that I really believed in."
Said Brown: "As a young coach growing up in a coaching family, I looked at coaches across the country that I admired and wanted to be like, and Coach Osborne is one of those guys. I've enjoyed him. I've gone to visit there. I've watched Nebraska practice. He helps me in so many ways. A lot of what we do was modeled after him when he was in the Big 8 at Iowa State and at Oklahoma."
Best correction: Mack Brown, in response to a question about this year's "OU-Texas" game
"You mean the Texas-OU game?" he interrupted.
Best fulfilled promise: Oklahoma linebacker Travis LewisLewis mentioned this spring he planned on growing a mohawk, and it was on full display on Wednesday, gelled and styled.
Texas: Garrett Gilbert
Tracking Big 12 Media Days