Big 12 coaches show optimism for conference future
- Jul. 25, 2012
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With the Big 12 receiving a new facelift this offseason, football fans can expect some competition in the adjusted conference.
New Big 12 commissioner, Bob Bowlsby, kicked off Big 12 Media Day Monday morning and expressed his excitement for the Big 12. Along with his arrival to the Big 12, Texas Christian University and West Virginia also made the jump to the conference.
Bowlsby is confident that the Big 12 will catch a lot of attention from the national media, stating that TCU and West Virginia will “blend exceedingly well” in the Big 12. He noted that Oklahoma State, TCU and West Virginia are all reigning conference champions.
“I don’t know that that’s ever happened in the history of college football that three conference champions have all commenced the season having won the previous year,” Bowlsby said.
Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops spoke very highly of TCU head coach, Gary Patterson as he is looking forward to the competition that they could bring to the Big 12.
“They always play well,” Stoops said of TCU. “They are used to winning championships. Gary [Patterson] does a great job coaching along with his staff. It will be a challenge playing them.”
Stoops didn’t forget to mention West Virginia and its quarterback, Geno Smith, crediting them for their successful 2011 season.
“The team finished the year in a great way with a huge win,” he said about West Virginia. “Smith, an excellent quarterback, not only throws, can run it.”
The returning Big 12 coaches are not hiding from the fact that they could be facing a lot of competition in the conference, forcing teams to earn their right as champions. Iowa State head coach, Paul Rhodes, holds West Virginia to high standards.
“They will come in and compete immediately,” Rhodes said. “I expect them to compete for a conference championship. They have a high quality of players and great coaching. I would expect big things out of West Virginia in 2012 and beyond.”
Ever since the serious discussions of conference realignment got underway, fans were concerned whether or not the Big 12 would be in good shape. The conference lost Nebraska and Colorado, and recently dealt with the departures of Missouri and Texas A&M. But Kansas State head coach, Bill Snyder, believes that the new Big 12 will successfully move forward.
“I think it’s a stable conference right now,” Snyder said. “We lost two fine universities but we gained two extremely talented football programs.”
Like Snyder, TCU head coach Gary Patterson is also optimistic in the fact that the Big 12 will be fine.
“I never felt that the Big 12 was ever not secure before TCU came in,” he said. “I’m glad they invited us.”
Patterson also welcomed the new and exciting opportunities that his team faces. Despite the fact that Kansas is ranked 10th in the Big 12 preseason polls, he believes that new head coach, Charlie Weis, will lead the Jayhawks to a 2-0 record going into Week 3, when TCU and Kansas meet in Lawrence.
“I think starting even with Kansas,” Patterson said. “I think all the way through it, each one of those games poses a problem and we should approach it like that.”
Stoops gave his blessing to Bowlsby on Monday in front of the media, believing that the conference is in good hands under his supervision.
“I think it’s pretty obvious that it’s a great league and Bowlsby has a great track record with leadership and success,” Stoops said.
While the Big 12 gained strong programs it still has a ways to go to make up for the talent it lost when 25 players from Big 12 schools were drafted to the NFL.
That list includes 2011 Heisman winner Robert Griffin III, Brandon Weeden, Kendall Wright, Justin Blackmon and Ryan Broyles — names that won’t be easy to replace.
“How do you adjust to not having the best football player in the United States of America last year?” Baylor coach Art Briles said on Tuesday. “That’s inspiration, that’s what makes our guys come together and work to prove themselves.”
As much as inspiration helps, Briles alluded to his upperclassman running backs Jarred Salubi and Glasco Martin to power the Bears offense.
Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy wouldn’t say that he has a first-round worthy wide receiver to follow up Justin Blackmon and Dez Bryant. Instead, Gundy also referred back to his run game — specifically Wichita native Joseph Randle.
Randle rushed for more than 1200 yards last season en route to 24 touchdowns. The Cowboys might not have the air strikes they’ve gotten used to, but they have a back that can move the ball just as well.
While the Cowboys and Bears on paper are more than set with their offensive weapons, the Longhorns aren’t as fortunate.
Texas will head into the season with the same quarterback battle that plagued last season. David Ash and Case McCoy will compete for reigns to the offense, while coach Mack Brown will do everything he can to take the pressure off them.
“A key to us being better means we have to play better a quarterback.” Brown said. “We need more explosive plays from that position.”
For that to happen, Brown needs his quarterback controversy to settle itself quickly — and has every bit of confidence it will.
Recruiting Nittany Lions
Not surprisingly, the pervading topic of the two days was the heavy sanctions Penn State University faces from the NCAA for the Jerry Sandusky trial.
But the coaches did their best to field the questions quickly and move on.
West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen took the Mountaineers out of the equation when confronted with recruiting transfers from nearby State College, Penn.
“We don’t take a whole lot of transfers.” Holgorsen said. “You take transfers if you need immediate help. That’s what transfers are all about.”
When Weis was asked about whether or not Kansas will target Penn State transfer players — who are now eligible to play right away due to NCAA exceptions to the traditional transfer rule — Weis didn’t hesitate.
“Yes.” Weis said, alluding that he already scouted Penn State’s potential. “Any program that didn’t do homework prior to the decision coming out is behind.”
Weis has been banking on transfer students since taking over the program last December. He recruited Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist to play out his final year of eligibility as a Jayhawk along and also gained BYU quarterback Jake Heaps — expected to start in 2013 — giving Weis players to build around for the next two years.
But what Kansas needs — and what Penn State is famous for — is defense. Weis noted that he would let defensive coordinator Dave Campo have complete control over the defense, and that Campo was the perfect fit for the job.
“He is a great teacher and is well respected by the players and that always gives you a chance.” Weis said.