One of the top defensive backs in the NFL, former Kansas football star Aqib Talib has once again made headlines for the wrong reasons this week.
The ninth-year corner, who already has three interceptions and a touchdown return through five games this season for defending Super Bowl champion Denver, reportedly shot himself in the right leg this summer.
On Tuesday, the 30-year-old Talib told Denver’s 9News Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump “may fit in” in the Broncos’ locker room. Talib’s comments came days after an old recording emerged of Trump using vulgar language while denigrating women.
Talib played at Kansas from 2005 to 2007 and ranks second all-time in program history, with 13 career interceptions (Ray Evans, who played in the 1940s, is first, with 17).
Watch the Talib clip below.
It’s only been one year since the Memphis football team traveled to Lawrence for last season’s matchup against Kansas, but the Tigers will feature a much different look Saturday.
Exit former coach Justin Fuente (Virginia Tech) and quarterback Paxton Lynch (Denver Broncos). Enter Mike Norvell and Riley Ferguson.
Norvell, the youngest FBS head coach at 34, was Arizona State’s offensive coordinator and quarterback coach from 2012-15. The Sun Devils ranked 23rd in the nation last year in total offense.
In Week One — the Tigers had a bye last week — Norvell became the first Memphis head coach to win his debut since 1984 with a 35-17 victory over Southeast Missouri. Both Norvell and KU coach David Beaty belong to the same coaching tree under current ASU coach Todd Graham.
When Graham was the head coach at Rice, he hired Beaty as a receivers coach in 2006 — his first full-time college assistant role. Three years later, at Tulsa, Graham hired Norvell in the same role.
“I know Mike really, really well. One of the finest young minds in all of college football,” Beaty said of Norvell. “Very sought after, he could’ve went a lot of different places. A really good football coach.”
Graham told the Commercial Appeal: “Very similar coaches. Guys that are very passionate, guys that are very smart. Great motivators of their players. And obviously great offensive minds. … (I'm) really proud of them.”
During Memphis season-opening win, junior transfer QB Ferguson threw for 295 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in his debut. He played for Coffeyville Community College in Kansas last year after starting his collegiate career at Tennessee.
The Tigers had no problem in their passing game against SEMO, completing 65 percent of their passes. But in the run game, they only had 110 yards on 33 attempts (3.3 yards per carry). Patrick Taylor led with 86 yards on seven carries, which included a 51-yard run.
The Tigers might be without senior running back Sam Craft, who missed two weeks of practice because of a hamstring injury. He ran for 333 yards and five touchdowns last year, along with 114 receiving yards and two scores. According to Tom Schad of the Commercial Appeal, Craft was a limited participant at practice Wednesday and only did a portion of the 7-on-7 drills.
One player who won’t step on the field is senior defensive lineman Latarius Brady, who made two starts and had 13 tackles last year. He is recovering from a torn ACL in spring practices, but isn’t expected to return until next month.
The Jayhawks will try to keep pace offensively with Memphis, especially after last year. The Tigers recorded 651 yards of offense in last year’s matchup, the third-highest single-game total in school history. That included 281 rushing yards for five touchdowns.
Interesting note: The Jayhawks have played in Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium twice, but never against Memphis. In 1973, KU lost to Tennessee in a neutral-site game, and later in the season, lost to N.C. State in the Liberty Bowl game.
FIVE TIGERS TO WATCH
No. 4: QB Riley Ferguson | 6-4, 210, jr.
In his Memphis debut, Ferguson completed 26 of 40 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns against SEMO.
Connected with 10 different pass-catchers in Week One, replacing first-round draft pick Paxton Lynch under center.
He redshirted in 2013 at Tennessee after suffering a leg injury. In 2015, he was quarterback at Coffeyville CC and was 225 of 332 for 2,942 yards and 35 touchdowns, earning first-team all-KJCCC honors.
No. 3: WR Anthony Miller | 5-11, 190, jr.
Miller was dominant in the season opener with nine receptions for 103 yards. It was his fifth-career 100-yard receiving game and he was one catch shy of tying his career high.
The redshirt junior made four starts last season, finishing third on the team with 47 receptions and ranking second with 694 yards. He added nine carries for 54 yards and a score.
Along with his talent at receiver, Miller is the top option as a punt returner. He returned three punts against SEMO for 33 yards.
No. 54: C Drew Kyser | 6-5, 300, soph.
Last year, he played in all 13 games as a true freshman with 12 starts. He was instrumental in an offense that finished 19th in the nation in total offense (486.9 yards per game).
Named to the Remington Trophy fall watch list, awarded to the top center in the country.
No. 8: CB Arthur Maulet | 5-11, 190, sr.
Don’t let the 0 receptions vs. Missouri State fool you. Cross earned first-team all-AAC honors in 2014 for a reason.
The tight end caught three passes for 69 yards and a TD in the Tigers’ bowl win over BYU to close 2014.
On the John Mackey Award watch list for the nation’s top tight end.
No. 46 : PK Jake Elliott | 5-10, 165, sr.
One of the top place kickers in the nation, earning preseason All-America honors from USA Today. He earned second-team honors from Sports Illustrated and third team from Athlon Sports.
In 2015, Elliott tied a school record by making 23 of 28 field goals. He drilled two field goals in the season opener, both longer than 40 yards.
The kicker set a new school record by hitting 63 extra points, going perfect in the process. He’s made his last 147 PAT attempts.
Four of Elliott’s seven kickoffs went for touchbacks in the season opener.
The two-time AAC Special Teams Player of the Year ranks third on the school’s all-time scoring list with 333 points. Elliott only trails New England Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski (369) and Pittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams (362).
Under former Nebraska coach Frank Solich, Ohio’s football program finished with a winning record for the past seven seasons, including five years with at least eight wins.
The Bobcats have similar expectations this season, voted to finish second in the MAC East preseason poll, but they were upset by Texas State last week, losing 56-54 in triple overtime as a three-touchdown favorite.
In their season opener, the Bobcats struggled with their inexperienced secondary, surrendering 440 yards through the air and watching the opposing quarterback complete 72.7 percent of his passes. Then there were penalties — lots and lots of penalties. They were flagged 13 times for 141 yards.
But the biggest challenge for the Jayhawks will be slowing down Ohio’s offense and controlling the line of scrimmage. Ohio has an experienced front seven on defense, limiting Texas State to only 2.5 yards per rushing attempt (106 yards on 42 carries).
With redshirt senior quarterback Greg Windham under center, in his first career start, Ohio posted 546 yards of offense, including 393 yards in the air. Windham also ran for 37 yards on eight attempts. He found receivers Jordan Reid (5 catches, 93 yards, 2 TD) and Elijah Ball (4 catches, 50 yards, TD) with some consistency, but also found his running backs out of the backfield.
Running backs Papi White (6 catches, 128 yards, TD) and Maleek Irons (5 catches, 54 yards) proved to be capable targets.
In the backfield, Ohio went with a running back by committee approach. Irons had 62 rushing yards and a touchdown on 14 attempts, while Dorian Brown had 64 rushing yards and Papi White added 29 rushing yards and a score.
The Bobcats will likely be without injured running back A.J. Ouellette, Ohio’s leading rusher for the past two years. He left with a foot injury in the first quarter against Texas State and Solich told the media he would be out indefinitely.
Senior receiver Sebastian Smith could also miss the game, according to the Athens Messenger. Smith, the school’s leading receiver last year, injured his groin during fall camp and was unable to finish the second half last week.
It will be the first matchup between the Jayhawks and Ohio since 1967. Ohio won, 30-15.
Interesting note: One of Ohio’s biggest strengths is its continuity. It’s the only school in the country to have the same head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator over the last 12 years.
FIVE BOBCATS TO WATCH
No. 14: QB Greg Windham | 6-1, 215, R-sr.
Made the first start of his career against Texas State and showed off his dual-threat ability, throwing for 393 yards and four touchdowns and running for 37 yards on eight attempts. He completed 28 of his 46 passes.
Last season, Windham appeared in 11 games and completed 19 of his 40 passes for 298 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions. He had 27 carries for 116 yards, averaging 4.3 yards per rush.
Windham was named the starter on the final day of fall camp after former teammate JD Sprague left the team because of a rib injury.
No. 23: FS Kylan Nelson | 5-10, 202, soph.
After missing all of last season because of a hip injury, Nelson marked his return in Ohio’s inexperienced secondary with two interceptions and two tackles.
Nelson played as a true freshman, making an appearance in 10 games. He had 16 tackles (11 solo), recovered a fumble and made an 84-yard kick return touchdown. He didn’t return any kicks last week.
In the 56-54 triple overtime loss last week, Nelson admitted to The Post that the defense wore down by the end of the game, “I hate to say it, but I think we just got a little tired. I really hate to say it. I thought we were in pretty good condition. We went quite a while. I thought we executed pretty well for the most part.”
No. 24: SS Toran Davis | 6-0, 206, R-sr.
Was everywhere on the field last week, recording a career-high 17 tackles (team-best six solo). It was the ninth-highest single-game total in program history and the most by a player since 2009.
The redshirt senior was fourth on the team in tackles last season (59), deflecting two passes and forcing a fumble.
At strong safety, Davis only has one interception in his career.
No. 93: DE Tarell Basham | 6-5, 254, sr.
One of the best pass rushers in school history, he only needs one-half sack to take sole possession of first place on the all-time career sacks list. He had one sack last week and has 19 in his career.
In 2015, Basham made 11 starts at defensive end and led the Bobcats with 5.5 sacks and 11 quarterback hurries.
The senior from Rocky Mount, Va., recorded 7.5 sacks in his freshman season — fifth highest in a single season in Ohio history — on his way to All-American honors.
Named to the Ted Hendricks Award watch list, which is awarded to the top defensive end. He was just one of two MAC players to be named to the watch list.
No. 48: K Louie Zervos | 5-9, 152, R-fr.
Playing in his first game last week, Zervos set a stadium record with four made field goals, going 4-for-5 with four extra points.
The redshirt freshman from Tarpon Spring, Fla., was named the MAC East Special Teams Player of the Week.
Zervos made three of his field goals in the range of 35-45 yards. He missed an attempt from 41 yards.
Former Kansas football star and Super Bowl champion Chris Harris of the Denver Broncos didn’t hold back Thursday in an appearance on ESPN’s Highly Questionable.
In the midst of an interview with co-hosts Dan Le Batard and Bomani Jones, Harris offered his recollection of an infamous on-campus altercation between members of the KU basketball and football teams, back in 2009.
“Were you on the Kansas football team that lost the fight to the basketball Morris twins?” Le Batard asked.
Smiling, Harris responded: “We definitely won that fight.”
Jones followed up: “We hear the other way.”
As reported by the Lawrence Journal-World at the time, the brawl left KU guard Tyshawn Taylor with a dislocated left thumb weeks before the start of the 2009-10 basketball season.
According to LeBetard, Marcus and Markieff Morris’ account of the incident includes them back-to-back, taking on football players “over someone who was on the track team.”
Harris remembers the fracas differently.
“Nah, man. I mean that story right there, I think it was over one of the little track girls, but, I mean, we had 300-pound dudes fighting these basketball guys, so they definitely didn’t win,” Harris said. “I definitely watched it and seen it with my own eyes. We definitely won that for sure. I love the Morris twins, though. Those my boys, though.”
Furthermore, Harris claimed there wasn’t really a football versus basketball dynamic at KU.
“We (the football team, coming off back-to-back bowl-win seasons) were actually pretty good at that time,” Harris said. “I guess you could say they were running the campus. We were, too.”
Reiterating his love for the Morris twins, Harris said he had to have his football teammates’ backs during the heated disagreement, before again laughing at the idea of a humongous defensive tackles in a melee against slighter basketball players.
“It’s not fair to fight a 6-foot point guard or 6-7, 6-9 power forward. I think we had a little advantage,” Harris recalled, wearing a grin.
Harris, who played with volatile cornerback Aqib Talib at Kansas and is teamed up with him again in Denver, also shared on ESPN one of his favorite Talib stories from back in the day.
“I was a true freshman, and I was starting opposite of Talib, who was an All-American. We were playing Missouri. They had their whole team on the 50-yard line, and Talib just like ran through their whole team,” Harris said. “And they were warming up, running plays, and he like, they had to get the cops to come drag him off there, off their side of the field for warmups, back in the tunnel. So I was like, ‘Man.’ That was one of the craziest times I’ve seen Talib right there.”
Watch the entire entertaining segment with Harris below:
Beginning at 2 p.m., Kansas football coach David Beaty will meet with members of the media to discuss National Signing Day and the newest additions to the KU program.
Watch the press conference live right here, or come back and check it out later in the day.
Denver Broncos fan favorite Chris Harris Jr., a Pro-Bowl cornerback, has been proving his doubters wrong from the minute he arrived in The Mile High City.
Undrafted after starring at Kansas for four seasons, Harris had no choice but to take on a me-against-the-world mentality, because the NFL culture didn’t accept him. The 5-foot-10, 199-pound corner wrote about that battle extensively for The Players’ Tribune on Thursday, in a piece titled: Don’t Call Me Underrated.
His account kicks off with a reminder about his KU career — Harris started for four seasons, even as a freshman on a team that would win the Orange Bowl. But all 32 NFL teams passed on the experienced corner in the 2011 draft.
Upon joining the Broncos, Harris found out breaking through as an undrafted rookie would be even harder than he expected.
“There’s a huge stigma to going undrafted,” Harris wrote at ThePlayersTribune.com. “Not a lot of people talk about it, but there is. For a guy who’s drafted, and in particular drafted high, you’re allowed to make so many more mistakes. People want you to succeed, and any shortcomings you have are viewed as temporary. An ‘adjustment phase.’
“When you’re undrafted, you just don’t have that same margin for error. You have to go above and beyond — and then above and beyond that.”
Harris goes on to explain how other team’s coaches, players and some media members hope to see undrafted players fall flat and make a mistake.
“Because if you do make one, they can think to themselves, ‘Oh. That’s why he went undrafted. Okay. We’re fine. We did our jobs.’”
Harris provides an interesting perspective on the subject — one he would know far more about than those of us watching on Sundays do. He paints the NFL as quite a cliquish environment.
Along those lines, consider another point brought up by Harris. Pro Football Focus rated him the No. 4 overall player in the NFL for 2014. The guys ahead of him? J.J. Watt, Aaron Rodgers and Justin Houston.
Later, the NFL Network released a top-100 list. Somehow Harris didn’t even make the cut.
That makes almost as much sense as the Broncos’ official online store not selling Harris T-shirts (which it doesn’t).
Appropriately, Harris closes his story by pointing out the sure-fire way to get people to remember him: “Win the Super Bowl.”
You can watch Harris — with fellow KU product Aqib Talib — in prime time tonight, when his Broncos (1-0) play at Kansas City (1-0) on Thursday Night Football (CBS and NFL Network).
With the start of yet another KU football season set to kickoff tomorrow, that means it's time for the staff at KUsports.com to start dusting off the cobwebs and trying to remember what life on game days is like.
Good news there: Things are going to be new and improved this season — at least for us.
Beginning with the KU football opener against South Dakota State — 11 a.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium — we will be unveiling our new format for live game coverage, which promises to bring our readers a much more comprehensive look at what's happening with the 'Hawks on game days.
For the most part, things will be the same as they ever were in terms of the user experience. You'll still go to KUsports.com to follow our coverage team from well before kickoff until well after the game ends. And, as was the case before, this will be your community, a user-driven environment for Jayhawk fans to come together and track the good and the bad of what's going on with their team on the field and court.
But from this point on, the environment will have a fresh, new look and we will be able to more quickly and more easily incorporate all kinds of content from around the Internet, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and various other social media sites.
In addition, we'll also be able to integrate live polls, threaded comments, automated Twitter feeds, video and photo slide shows and much, much more, all within the framework of a more functional and aesthetically pleasing home base. There will also be a Big 12 scoreboard pinned to the top of the stream so that everyone can follow the scores of all the day's games.
As always, Tom Keegan, Matt Tait and Benton Smith will be providing live coverage and analysis of what's happening in front of them and also will continue to interact with our readers throughout the games. The extra content is merely that: Bonus nuggets from others who are closely following their favorite team elsewhere.
We have been working diligently over the summer months to improve our live coverage gameday blog and make it more all-inclusive and an aggregation of more of the things going on during each game, both live from the event AND elsewhere on the web.
Some of the changes we added last year, which included placing a stream of the #kufball and #kubball Tweets and the giving you the ability to Tweet your posts from our gameday blog to Twitter, have been expanded upon this year. And one of the biggest improvements is that our live coverage will now work on your smartphone!
A great deal of the enhancements in technology are actually on the back end and make it more efficient and functional for Benton, Matt, Tom and others to be able to participate with more of their content appearing in the live stream without taking away from all the other things they have to do during the actual game.
In addition, the improvements/enhancements that we made over the summer months for all of you should allow the stream to function much more quickly and consistently no matter how many Jayhawk fans join in the fun.
We are super excited about these changes and improvements and continuing to evolve our stream of posts and comments even further as the season(s) go on, so please do not hesitate to give us your feedback and suggestions about the new set up.
See you tomorrow at the game. As always, we'll get things fired up an hour or two before kickoff.
The Kansas football team and first-year head coach David Beaty are less than two weeks away from the start of a new season and a new era. But when one considers the long road ahead for the first-time head coach and the program in general, it’s hard to forget KU got to this point with the help of former head coach Charlie Weis.
ESPN’s Jake Trotter made that abundantly clear in a piece examining the state of KU football, referring to Weis’s two-plus seasons at KU — when the Jayhawks went 6-22 — as “utterly ruinous.”
Trotter points out KU would have been much better off hiring Gus Malzahn, then offensive coordinator at Auburn, instead of Weis.
“For Kansas, the Malzahn match made too much sense,” Trotter writes. “But in a defining decision, the Jayhawks changed course in the final moments and opted to go with the biggest name they could get.”
Malzahn, of course, went on to coach at Arkansas State for one season before returning to Auburn as head coach. The Tigers went 12-2 his first year and 8-5 in 2014. Who knows how he would have fared in Lawrence. But you get the feeling the guy could (eventually) win anywhere.
Maybe in a few years, once Beaty and his staff have time to recruit and train multiple batches of recruiting classes, he can win at Kansas, too — just like his former boss, Mark Mangino.
For the time being, the upbeat Beaty and his energy-filled assistants will have to begin a slow, steady rebuilding project this fall. A one- or two-win season seems likely to be in play at KU. As ESPN points out, since 2000, 20 major-conference teams have finished with one victory or fewer — including Weis’s 2012 Jayhawks. Trotter says Beaty has a “herculean task to keep the 2015 Jayhawks from joining that ignominious club.”
As you know by now, the lack of marquee returning starters and a deficiency in scholarship players are what make KU’s current situation so daunting.
And those are the reason’s Weis’s name will continue to come up as Beaty’s Jayhawks compete this season.
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:
5:05 p.m. Update — By Benton Smith
There aren’t a lot of expectations for Kansas football this season. So Ben Goodman, Jordan Shelley-Smith and Ben Johnson didn’t anticipate hearing a lot of questions about wins or bowl games at Big 12 Media Days.
Goodman said while they respect people’s opinions, given KU’s recent struggles, they also easily keep themselves from feeling negative about outside perceptions.
“We just look at it as motivation, man,” Goodman said.
The Jayhawks know few in the college football world think they are capable of becoming relevant.
“We have to earn it, which is our slogan, but we have to earn people’s respect, too,” Goodman said. “Stay tuned in in Lawrence, and I hope we earn y’all’s respect.”
Since Goodman brought up “earn it,” I asked him how often David Beaty uses the two words.
“He says it a lot,” the senior defensive lineman said, before giving his impression of Beaty, which wasn’t quite as polished as Shelley-Smith’s. “‘Hey, man. Earn it. Earn it, earn it, earn it. Love you guys.’”
Beaty doesn’t mind those type of light-hearted moments, because he wants players enjoying themselves while they work toward restoring the program’s public image.
4:15 p.m. Update — By Benton Smith
The interview portion of the afternoon just wrapped in Dallas, and Jayhawks Ben Goodman, Ben Johnson and Jordan Shelley-Smith, as well as first-year coach David Beaty, spent over an hour and a half answering questions.
One of the highlights of the session had to be junior offensive lineman Shelley-Smith giving his Beaty impression, which of course included the team slogan, "earn it."
12:37 p.m. Update — By Benton Smith
TEXAS TECH COACH KLIFF KINGSBURY
A former quarterback himself, Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury has two quarterbacks competing to become the Red Raiders’ starter this fall.
Junior Davis Webb and sophomore Patrick Mahomes both have had individual success at times in their careers. Kingsbury said both will need to eliminate negative plays at the QB position for Texas Tech to win more games.
Both showed progress in the spring with ball security, but Kingsbury knows that has to carry over to actual games to mean anything. Whomever is named the starter, he added, won’t see a quick hook when mistakes come.
Kingsbury plans to name a starter “fairly early” in preseason camp, but if an injury takes place after one guy wins the job, he won’t be worried, because he thinks Tech has two players capable of winning games.
12:18 p.m. Update — By Benton Smith
KANSAS STATE COACH BILL SNYDER
After leading his Kansas State football team to a 9-4 record in 2014, coaching legend Bill Snyder heads into preseason camp with significant uncertainty at the most marquee position.
Snyder, who has seven quarterbacks on his K-State roster, said the Wildcats will open practices in a few weeks with four players sharing opportunities to become the starter. Ideally, one will emerge as the clear starter before the season begins.
“I don’t know how fast that will be,” Snyder said. “Right now, they’re all on equal footing.”
When questioned on the possibility of implementing a platoon, or two-quarterback system, Snyder said that won’t be the intent. He doesn’t favor that approach, but he hasn’t ruled it out, either.
One of the four leaders at this juncture is transfer Jonathan Banks, a sophomore from Contra Costa College. But because he joined K-State in the summer, so they haven’t seen him in practices yet.
Freshman QB Zach Davidson red-shirted in 2014. Sophomore Jesse Ertz played in mop-up duty last season. Junior Joe Hubener played in seven games a year ago.
“They’re all good young guys,” Snyder said. “They all care, they’re all good teammates.”
11:33 a.m. Update — By Benton Smith
WEST VIRGINIA COACH DANA HOLGORSEN
Headed into his fourth year coaching in the Big 12, West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen feels pretty confident and comfortable with his team.
Part of those positive vibes come from having more than 50 players who have been on the field in Big 12 football games. And some of the optimism originates from how competitive the Mountaineers were in 2014, when they went 7-6, despite having major issues with giving the ball away.
WVU was 120th in the nation in turnover margin last season, and four of its losses came by 10 or fewer points.
“We know we would’ve put ourselves in a position to win the conference,” Holgorsen said, if the Mountaineers had taken care of the ball.
Holgorsen has been known in his coaching career for his involvement in Air-Raid offenses, and he thinks his West Virginia version will only be as good as its quarterback.
Success with the Air-Raid, the fifth-year WVU coach said, comes down to taking care of the football. The Big 12 has had “tremendous” quarterback play through the years and many instances of pass-heavy offenses.
“The main thing when it comes to winning a championship,” Holgorsen said, “is guys that take care of the football.”
11:05 a.m. Update — By Benton Smith
KU COACH DAVID BEATY
First-year Kansas football coach David Beaty opened his morning press conference at Big 12 media days talking about how excited he is to be back in his hometown of Dallas, Texas, one of the nation’s hotbeds of high school recruiting.
• Beaty said getting KU’s football program back on track will be a process, not an event. The new KU coach said he and his staff have high standards, and they have simple ways to reach lofty goals: work hard and earn everything.
• Beaty wants KU football to have a brand that is tough, competitive and fun for players to play in.
• On freshmen/first-year players: In college football these days, it’s hard to tell a player he will for sure red-shirt. Injuries are a part of the game, so depth usually becomes a factor. High school players are coming in more prepared than ever. But incoming freshmen will have to earn playing time.
• Beaty referenced his time at KU as an assistant under Mark Mangino. Some of the things Mangino created, in terms of good habits, are still there, according to Beaty.
• Senior QB Michael Cummings is a better kid than he is a player, Beaty said. His knee injury in the spring game broke Beaty’s heart. Cummings had surgery in June, and Bowen looked out his office window the other day and saw Cummings down on the field throwing the ball. If anybody can make it back this season, it’s Cummings.
• It was a no-brainer decision to keep Clint Bowen on his staff as assistant head coach. Beaty and Bowen, and their families, vacationed together this summer. Beaty likes the kind of person Bowen is, but also how much Bowen cares about the KU program.
• New offensive lineman Jordan Shelley-Smith has been a consummate pro. That’s probably the most impressive thing about him. Shelley-Smith has put on 65 pounds since converting from tight end and it should pay dividends for him.
• With two days of contact now the standard for practicing in the Big 12, it won’t change the way KU does business. The program will adjust to this and other changes that come in the college football landscape.
• Strength coach Je’Ney Jackson used to be at KU as an assistant coach and worked with Aqib Talib and Chris Harris. Beaty hired Jackson because of how talented he is. He likes the standards and expectations Jackson sets for the players.
• You need to have some depth at running back in college football, and Beaty thinks the Jayhawks have that. He pointed to Taylor Cox, Ke’aun Kinner, De’Andre Mann and Taylor Martin as the players KU will lean on at the RB position.
• High school coaches in Texas know Beaty and co-defensive coordinator Kenny Perry well, and they know when their kids go to KU they’ll be taken care of, and nothing will be given.
10:35 a.m. Update — By Benton Smith
Some on social media wondered if Kansas football was going with "KU" on its helmets, without a Jayhawk logo.
But, as we saw last season, Kansas actually has a number of helmet options, and some of them that KU brought to Dallas have "KU" on one side and a Jayhawk on the other.
10:25 a.m. Update — By Benton Smith
TCU COACH GARY PATTERSON
This summer’s trip to Big 12 Media Days feels a lot different than the 2014 venture for TCU coach Gary Patterson. Twelve months ago, the Horned Frogs were coming off a 4-8 season in 2013, with few expecting much out of them.
“A year ago, you had to prove people wrong. Now you’ve gotta prove people right,” said Patterson, whose team went 12-1 last season after installing a new offense, and now is expected to battle Baylor for the 2015 league crown.
Patterson said entering this season as a Big 12 favorite only means so much.
“It’s a nice feeling, but I’ve been in this business too long to get caught up in it,” the TCU coach said.
Patterson has to stay even keeled, he continued, because then his team will do the same.
His best player, senior quarterback Trevone Boykin, has kept his cool this summer, as hype builds around the Heisman Trophy front-runner.
Patterson said Boykin spent all summer doing seven-on-seven work with his offensive teammates, instead of leaving town to work with some “quarterback gurus.”
10:21 a.m. Update — By Matt Tait
Just caught my first glimpse of KU coach David Beaty and the three KU player reps here in Dallas. Beaty and Ben Johnson elected to go with the light gray suit look while Jordan Shelley-Smith went dark blue and Ben Goodman went with the dark gray. All of them look sharp and they're all rocking the Jayhawk pin on their jackets.
A lot of teams just wear slacks and team polos to this event but the KU players always have tried to make sure they look as sharp as they can.
I think part of it is that they want to make sure they look like a top-level team so that people will treat them like one in spite of their record during recent seasons.
Beaty will hit the podium at 10:40 for his first official Big 12 Q&A.
Original Post: 9:25 a.m. — By Matt Tait
Like it or not, Big 12 football media days in Dallas always sort of represents the unofficial end of summer and the infant beginning of another college football season.
And it has arrived.
Four representatives of the Kansas University football team, along with players and coaches from the other nine Big 12 schools have invaded the Omni Hotel in Dallas to talk about the upcoming season, the challenges facing college football today and any and every other quirky and comedic thing they can think of to represent their schools and teams and kick off the 2015 season in style.
KU will be represented by first-year coach David Beaty, who should flourish in this setting, as well as players Ben Goodman (senior defensive end), Ben Johnson (sophomore tight end) and Jordan Shelley-Smith (junior offensive lineman).
Those three players, though not widely known throughout the conference will be in charge of answering all of those tough questions the Jayhawks normally get down here — Why is it so hard to win at Kansas? What's it like to lose so often? Will this year be any different than the previous five? And so many others like that.
I saw the KU contingent in the lobby when we checked in last night and they don't appear to be concerned with those types of things. Instead, they're excited to be here, ready to represent KU well and looking forward to showing people that there's more to football and the teams in the Big 12 than the results on the field.
I wouldn't expect to hear any outlandish comments from any of these guys. They're respectful young men who understand that the best way to talk the talk is to walk the walk. But I'm sure they'll be happy to share with us how hard they've been working this offseason and why they're optimistic about what's ahead.
As for Beaty, you can bet he'll give some colorful quotes, simply because he uses such interesting and entertaining language. But you can also bet that you'll hear him speak the words “earn it” about a million times and also will NOT hear him call his team or anyone else “a pile of crap.”
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby is speaking to the media to kick things off and the coaches press conferences get rolling at 10:05 with TCU coach Gary Patterson. Beaty is set to speak for the first time at 10:40.
Keep it right here for all of your coverage from Day 1 of Big 12 media days from myself and your guy Benton Smith.