Big 12 football media days: Tuesday recap
1:45 p.m. Update — By Benton Smith
TEXAS COACH CHARLIE STRONG
Charlie Strong’s first season in charge of the heralded Texas football program didn’t live up to his — or any of the Longhorns’ — expectations. UT did win enough games to gain bowl eligibility, but Texas finished 2014 with a 6-7 mark, and a 31-7 loss to Arkansas in the Texas Bowl.
The Longhorns also got blown out in their regular-season finale, versus TCU, so Strong felt just plain angry about the way his first year in Austin turned out.
Strong said every person involved in the program enters 2015 as fired up about getting Texas back to its glory days as he is. The UT coach shared he spoke with the team’s seniors and it came up that they have yet to experience a double-digit win season.
“So it's more about them,” Strong said. “They want to show that what it's all about and what the university is all about and just how they want to go out and compete.”
From the head coach’s discussions with strength coach Pat Moorer this summer, he thinks numerous Longhorns are taking it upon themselves to step up and get UT headed in the right direction.
“But you know what, when you're at a place like here, it should be like that,” the second-year Texas coach said. “We shouldn't even have to have this conversation. It should get where each and every year we talk about competing.”
12:10 p.m. Update — By Benton Smith
OKLAHOMA STATE COACH MIKE GUNDY
In 2014, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy decided to pull the trigger and insert a true freshman at quarterback late in the season. While he, of course, wishes the three games Mason Rudolph played hadn’t cost him a year of eligibility, Gundy still thinks it was the right move for the program then and now, and the Cowboys are seeing dividends from the move.
OSU went 7-6 overall last fall and 4-5 in the Big 12, but it won two of its last three games — including a win over Washington in the TicketCity Cactus Bowl — with first-year QB Rudolph on the field. The team’s sudden late-season starter threw for 853 yards and six touchdowns (four interceptions) in those three games.
The way the Cowboys ended the season, Gundy said, led the staff to go ahead and name Rudolph the starter for 2015 long ago, even though there are other options on the roster, including J.W. Walsh. OSU’s head coach said the player who would have been a red-shirt freshman this season looks much different in his second summer in the program, and Rudolph is working hard and showing signs of toughness.
11:47 a.m. Update — By Matt Tait
More leftover KU nuggets from Monday Fun Day in Big D...
• KU coach David Beaty said that senior Ben Goodman was “by far” the best leader the Jayhawks have on the roster, but that does not mean Goodman is the only leader. Late in the breakout sessions, I caught up with sophomore tight end Ben Johnson and asked him to rattle off the names of a few players who had emerged as leaders throughout the spring and offseason. After tipping his head toward Goodman as a somewhat obvious answer, Johnson listed senior wide receiver Tre' Parmalee, juco running back transfer Ke'aun Kinner, junior linebacker Courtney Arnick and junior quarterback Montell Cozart as some of the team's best leaders. Johnson also said he had done his best to fill the role vacated by Jimmay Mundine in terms of leading the tight ends and leading by example whenever possible.
• One other interesting note about leaders, Beaty said Michael Cummings has maintained a role as one of the team's best leaders, even while recovering from ACL surgery. “The day after he had surgery (in mid-June), he hobbled up to my office to talk about how he could help the team,” Beaty recalled. “We didn't have to talk about it because he already knew and had it in his mind, but I told him that day that the key now is for him to find a way to still help this team. And he has. He always has his arm around one of the younger guys out there and is trying to make this team better.”
• In the name-flying-under-the-radar category, it might be time to start looking a little more closely at red-shirt freshman defensive tackle Daniel Wise. There's a serious opportunity for some unproven guys to step up on the interior of the defensive line for the Jayhawks this fall and Goodman said he thought Wise, 6-foot-3, 271 pounds, was a guy who could definitely make some noise and hold his own in there. Another guy Goodman mentioned was senior Kapil Fletcher (6-3, 271), who played seven games a season ago after transferring to KU from Hartnell College.
• Speaking of D-Tackles, Goodman said he was not worried at all about those guys (and others) being able to handle the middle of the trenches for the KU defense this fall. “I played in there last year, out of position, at 250 pounds and I at least was able to hold my own. So I know those guys, who are around 280 or so, will be fine in there.” Time will tell, but Goodman brings up an interesting point.
• Every Jayhawk in attendance on Monday was asked to give their realistic expectations for the 2015 season. Although none of them gave a specific win total — and why would they? — you could tell that these guys believe they'll be better than people think. And why wouldn't they? From the sound of things, they've definitely been putting in the work it takes to be a successful team, it's just going to come down to the answers to these questions — Do they have enough talent to compete? Will a few guys step up from out of nowhere and make a big impact? And will they have enough depth to handle injuries and fatigue? At least as of now, the answers to those questions all look less than positive, but you can't blame the players themselves for being confident and believing that they can go out there and get the job done. That's an important part of it. How much it matters remains to be seen.
11:35 a.m. Update — By Benton Smith
IOWA STATE COACH PAUL RHOADS
Like Kansas, Iowa State experienced a rough 2014 season. The Cyclones — the only Big 12 team to lose to the Jayhawks last fall — went 2-10.
Seventh-year ISU coach Paul Rhoads had plenty of issues to address in the offseason, and after surrendering 38.8 points a game to its opponents, defensive strides have been one area of focus.
“We’ve been porous, as far as stopping the run,” Rhoads said.
The coach thinks the defensive line will have depth and talent in 2015, though, and Rhoads said the Cyclones have six players returning with starting experience on defense and 10 more who played significant snaps. So he thinks continuity and seasoning will help the progress on that side of the ball.
On offense, the coach pointed out, ISU has 11 players who have previously started. It also will help to have offensive coordinator Mark Mangino, the former KU head coach, back.
“I think Mark has a much better understanding of where the league is at,” Rhoads said, “going into his second season as offensive coordinator.”
11:08 a.m. Update — By Benton Smith
OKLAHOMA COACH BOB STOOPS
Not many football coaches would consider an 8-5 season disappointing. Then again, not many football coaches work at programs such as Oklahoma.
Bob Stoops’ Sooners finished 2014 with fewer than 10 wins for just the second time in the past nine seasons.
“It’s not up to our standards and our expectations as a a program, for sure,” Stoops said of a down year that ended with a 40-6 loss to Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
OU averaged 36.4 points a game in 2014 and 464.7 yards, but Stoops hopes to put up even larger numbers this year, with new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley (formerly O.C. at ECU) in place. Stoops said the Sooners need to move the ball more consistently and simply show a better ability to put points on the scoreboard.
A reporter asked Stoops if the program is where he wants it to be at right now, and he gave his numerous reasons for feeling optimistic. For starters, he has been at Oklahoma for 17 seasons (and won 168 games), and the Sooners are just a year removed going 11-2 and winning the Sugar Bowl.
“I look around the country, we’re probably not the only team who was 8-5 or 7-6,” Stoops said.
In his time at Oklahoma, the team has finished with 10 or more victories 13 times.
11:03 a.m. Update — By Matt Tait
A few leftover notes from KU's turn at Big 12 media days on Monday...
• Asked what surprised him the most so far about the job and taking over the KU program, KU coach David Beaty said the support and acceptance from the KU fan base had been the most surprising. He's well aware of how rough things have been the past few seasons and he does not blame anyone for being down on the program or taking a wait-and-see approach to being a fan. But he's been incredibly pleased by how welcoming everyone has been and how much so many fans have expressed to him how badly they want KU to have good football again.
• Beaty was asked about whether he thought the Big 12 should expand from 10 teams to 12 and he quickly passed through the topic. He did say that he thought finding schools that were the right fit was the most important factor if the conference were to expand and said he would rather see the conference stay at 10 schools than add just for the sake of adding and getting to some magic number. Asked if he had any schools in mind that he'd like to see the conference go after, he simply said, “No.”
• Asked how he came up with the three players who would represent KU at Big 12 media days this year, Beaty spoke to a team mantra that has become pretty popular in Lawrence and on Twitter this offseason: “They earned it,” he said of Jayhawk representatives Ben Goodman, Ben Johnson and Jordan Shelley-Smith. “If we're gonna talk and say that we're gonna base everything we do on earning it and hard work then we're gonna do it with everything we do. Because if we don't, it's gonna lose it's punch.”
• History and tradition clearly mean so much to Beaty and he's done a lot already to make sure his team understands what came before them and what legacies they're trying to represent and honor. That's why he has made such strong efforts to get so many former players in front of the Jayhawks at practice and things like that and also why he has so regularly emphasized that everything these guys have today — the football complex, the TV exposure, the gear, etc. — has come about because of the blood, sweat and tears of former players who did not have it so good. That even extends to the 2008 Orange Bowl team, which Beaty said was sort of irrelevant to this group initially but no longer is because of the big deal they've made about how special that team was. “We're standing on the shoulders of giants,” Beaty said. “They were in the dungeon and we're in the Taj Mahal. It's important that we honor and appreciate that.”
10:35 a.m. Update — By Benton Smith
BAYLOR COACH ART BRILES
A year ago Baylor football coach Art Briles had an arm he could trust in the Bears’ high-octane offense. But Bryce Petty’s days in a BU uniform are through.
That makes junior Seth Russell the quarterback for what is expected to be one of the nation’s top teams. At this point of Russell’s career, Briles said he doesn’t quite know what he has in the new No. 1 QB, compared to what he knew of Petty at the same stage of his career.
Briles and the Baylor coaches are still trying to figure out how Russell functions as an athlete, how he competes and how he processes it all. As he gets adjusted to his new role in the spotlight, Briles said he wants to make sure Russell doesn’t feel too much pressure.
“You just have to be good,” Briles said. “You don’t have to be great.”
10:00 a.m. Original post — By Benton Smith
We’re back in Dallas for another day of Big 12 football news conferences.
First-year Kansas football coach David Beaty and the Jayhawks went through their media sessions yesterday and have completed their responsibilities, so we’ll share some notes and thoughts that haven’t been addressed yet, as well as the comments of the Big 12 coaches in attendance.
In the meantime, catch up on some of Monday's highlights: