Big 12 Media Days kicked off in Dallas on Monday, with coaches and players from Baylor, Kansas, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech facing members of the media. Here are some notes from Monday’s action.
-Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby announced the Big 12 would host a forum in NYC on August 6 to discuss the issues facing college football. The forum is to be a more “thorough and robust” vetting of those issues, as Bowlsby said there hasn’t been a complete explanation and vetting of all the issues and lawsuits and NCAA governance restructure yet.
-The conference played three different PSAs that will be played on Big 12 broadcasts throughout this football season. One had coaches morphing into one another and was interesting, to say the least. Kliff Kingsbury morphing into Charlie Weis was just weird and frightening.
-Bowlsby said the first female official working a non-conference game in Big 12 history will be Cat Conti. She’ll work the Southeast Missouri at Kansas game on Sept. 6.
-In his harsh critique of the NCAA, Bowlsby said, “Cheating pays,” and noted the infractions committee hasn’t met in over a year. “Enforcement is broken,” he said. Of course, Bowlsby said he didn’t think cheating was rampant in the Big 12.
-Baylor coach Art Briles didn’t walk up on stage wearing this heavyweight championship belt. Big-time bummer for sure.
-Briles was very upset Petty wasn’t in New York last year as a Heisman Trophy finalist and obviously hasn’t completely gotten over the snub. “I mean, your first-year starter wins you 11 football games, win the Big 12 championship for the first time in school history, throw for 4,200 yards, 33 touchdowns and three interceptions and you sit at home in December?”
-Baylor has one of the easiest non-conference schedules in the country this season and the future opponents aren’t any more difficult, as the Bears are scheduled to play teams like Rice, UTSA, Northwestern State and Incarnate Word. Despite an emphasis of the new playoff system being strength of schedule, Briles basically said the Bears weren’t changing anything. “The way I’ve looked at it is, you want to get in the Final Four and win the Big 12 and go unscathed. You do that, you go 9-0 in the Big 12, you’re going to be in the Final Four.”
-The Bears’ rise to national prominence has been one of the more impressive rises in college football and a unique experience for the players who have helped it achieve notoriety. “It’s fun because when I first came, we didn’t get any attention at all,” Baylor receiver Antwan Goodley said. “Seeing how this program has turned around, we have people riding with us now. It feels good to be wearing Baylor on my chest.”
-The crown jewel of Baylor football is nearing completion along the banks of the Brazos River. The Bears’ new football stadium will be ready for opening kickoff on August 31 and the players are more than ready to open it up. “We can’t wait,” quarterback Bryce Petty said. “Everyone is so excited. It’s just huge for us, it’s huge for the campus with it being on campus, and then just for the city of Waco. To walk into that thing is unbelievable.”
-Kansas coach Charlie Weis has as impressive a quarterback protégé list as anyone in the country, but has been unable to find a suitable guy for the job in his two years in Lawrence. Weis said the offense the Jayhawks have run the past two years exposed the quarterbacks Kansas put on the field. “I think that the only position arguably you could say have been in Big 12 caliber for the last two years has been the running back position,” Weis said. “And I think our running back position will be a position of strength once again even though James is gone. But I think when you have a true dropback quarterback, when you're playing with marginal offensive line, playing with marginal wide receivers, when you're playing marginal every position except for running back, you get exposed.”
-Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney is one of the more underrated talents, not only in the Big 12, but also in the country. Heeney said on Monday he and the Jayhawks are excited they were picked last in the conference. “I feel like our team is underrated, not just myself. That’s expected when you play on a team that hasn’t had much success on the field recently. We’re going to come and take a lot of people by surprise. It’s just the fact that there’s a bigger chip on our shoulder because we can kind of be the silent killer.”
-Heeney said Weis has done a lot for the Kansas program, even though the results may not be discernable on the field. One of the biggest tasks was purging the program of players Henney said, “weren’t necessarily the right guys for our team. It’s a rebuilding process and it’s something that can’t be done in one or two years. Now we definitely have the talent and the depth to shock a lot of people.”
-The Horned Frogs are looking for a quarterback once again, but Trevone Boykin is considered the leader in the clubhouse to win the starting job. TCU coach Gary Patterson said Boykin has lost weight and gotten faster and has the desire to be the man in Fort Worth, but wouldn’t say he’s the man to beat. “I think the key is to find the guy that has the swagger, that allows us to move the football, score the points and the guy that’s not going to turn the ball over.”
-TCU lost six games last season by 10 points or less and Patterson said the Horned Frogs have to do the little things to turn those losses into wins. “For us, it’s finding those four or five plays,” Patterson said. “You’ve got to be a smarter football team. In this league, the margin of error is different.”
-This will be TCU’s third year in the Big 12. The move hasn’t brought the Horned Frogs a lot of success on the field, but the benefits of the conference have been very apparent. “When people ask me are you glad you changed, yes, because TCU is in a far better place than it ever had been if we hadn't changed conferences get a chance to have a true champion, financially, media-wise, nationally everything that goes along with it. As a coach you wouldn't want it any different.”
-There were several questions about the quarterback position for coach Mike Gundy on Monday. Gundy said JW Walsh took most of the snaps with first team in the spring and said there was a little bit of flexibility with the QB position, but didn’t commit to Walsh’s status as the starter against Florida State in the season opener. “Well, we have three quarterbacks that are playing,” Gundy said. “And I've said earlier that J.W. is the guy that's been out there most of the time. But each quarterback brings something different to the table, and that gives us a little bit of flexibility on offense and what we want to try or how we want to try to attack a team each week.”
-Gundy said the loss of one practice a week this season due to low APR scores wasn’t going to affect his team much. The Cowboys haven’t used the 20 hours/week allotment in a number of years. Figure things out for when school starts. Challenged players to take up responsibility to make up for lost time. “I've challenged the players with accepting responsibility to make up for that time during the week, and I have a lot of faith in the leadership in our team and that they'll be able to execute and come up with a way to manage the amount of time that we're not available to use during the week.”
-Devon Thomas, a recruit from Broken Arrow High School is not on the team and won’t be with the team this season.
-The Big 12 media named Tyreek Hill preseason newcomer of the year. Gundy said OSU needs him to touch the ball 15-20 times at least per game.
-Despite being grouchy about playing Mississippi State in the Cowboys’ opener a year ago, Gundy expressed no such reservations about playing defending national champion Florida State at AT&T Stadium in Arlington to begin the 2014 season. “It's going to be a big challenge for our team, but they're very excited,” Gundy said. “One advantage to an opener against a very good football team, much less the national champion and returning Heisman Trophy winner, is motivation is there.”
-Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said the reason for blocking Baker Mayfield’s transfer to Oklahoma was “team policy.” Nice dodge.
-Kingsbury also said that any other discipline of Nigel Bethel, who punched a Tech women’s basketball player in the face, would be handled internally. Bethel is currently suspended for the first three games of the season.
-For as prolific as the Red Raiders have been at throwing the football over the years, Texas Tech has just two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster. Last year’s starting quarterback Davis Webb is joined by incoming freshman Patrick Mahomes, who is still learning the ins and outs of the quarterback position. Tech’s offensive coaches are going to be on pins and needles all season with that extreme lack of depth.
-Kingsbury said he learned a lot in his first year as a head coach and was especially proud of what his team learned along the way as well. “I think our team learned how to handle adversity,” Kingsbury said. “If you continue to work, continue to stress doing things the right way, then in the end you’re going to have success.”
-Kenny Williams was a running back last season for Texas Tech, but this year, he’ll be suiting up at linebacker, a move we certainly don’t see everyday. Kingsbury said he would still have a role with the offense, and praised him for his sacrifice. “Kenny asked if he could do it,” Kingsbury said. “He saw there was a need. He’s a very selfless player, team player, and wanted to do it. He’s one of our best football players and we wanted to find a way to get him on the field as much as possible.”