Posts Tagged ‘Missouri’

Ten Underrated Players in the Big 12

July 2nd, 2010

As good as some of these players are, they’ve still managed to zoom under the radar of some Big 12 fans. Here’s my list of 10 underrated players in the league.


Baron Batch: Texas Tech, Running Back

Why he’s on the list: He compiled 1,279 total yards and 15 touchdowns rushing and receiving, yet is considered more of a “product” of the Red Raiders’ offense than an effective weapon. Batch, however, is the real deal—a dependable, quicker-than-you-think scatback who could enjoy a nice future in the NFL.


Dejon Gomes: Nebraska, Cornerback

Why he’s on the list: As Nebraska's Swiss Army knife of sorts, Gomes does a little bit of everything. He can cover, he can play the run, and he can blitz. With 46 tackles, five pass breakups, and four interceptions in what amounted to just two-thirds of a season—as the team’s third cornerback—the guy clearly knows how to make plays. Gomes isn’t much of a talker on or off the field. His play does that well enough.


Brandon Harold: Kansas State, Defensive End

Why he’s on the list: He spent 2009 on the injury shelf after notching 45 tackles as a freshman. Harold, at 6'5", 265 pounds, occasionally needs to get his motor going, but he’s still the most physically gifted defender the Wildcats have. Nebraska will get reacquainted in early October, I'm sure.


Ricky Henry: Nebraska, Guard

Why he’s on the list: Henry quietly put together a solid season as a junior, starting to dominate toward the end of the year. As NU moves to a downhill running game in 2010 that relies more on power blocking and slightly less on finesse zone work, look for Henry to flourish. He’s a late bloomer at the position—and better than you might think.


Wes Kemp: Missouri, Wide Receiver

Why he’s on the list: Kemp, at 6'4", 225, should become a favorite downfield target for Blaine Gabbert, considering he averaged 18.2 yards per catch last year and Danario Alexander served in that role in 2009. Look for Kemp to at least triple his number of catches from 23 to 69 and potentially double his yardage total from 418 to 836.


Orie Lemon: Oklahoma State, Linebacker

Why he’s on the list: Lemon tore his ACL last year, but he’ll return in 2010 after notching 90 tackles in 2008. He’ll be part of what looks like a pretty awful defense, mind you, but Lemon should get his numbers and Big 12 recognition for it.


Toben Opurum: Kansas, Running Back

Why he’s on the list: At 6'1", 240, Opurum is a hoss who gained 554 yards as a true freshman in 2009. In Turner Gill/Chuck Long’s revamped pro-style offense, look for the big dude to go over 1,000 yards so long as he stays healthy. There’s no subtlety in Opurum’s running style. Everyone likes that.


David Sims: Iowa State, Safety

Why he’s on the list: With 88 tackles and five interceptions, Sims was a key reason why ISU grabbed a surprise bowl berth in 2009. The schedule likely prevents a similar journey in 2010, but this undersized (5'9", 205) JUCO gem plays the game with instincts and toughness. He’s better, in my book, than the more highly-touted Blake Gideon at Texas.


Steven Sheffield: Texas Tech, Quarterback

Why he’s on the list: He didn’t throw enough passes to make it on any Big 12 efficiency lists last year, but Sheffield was brilliant in his limited action, completing 74 percent of his passes for 1,219 yards and 14 touchdowns.

He’ll battle Taylor Potts this fall for the starting job—and I think the former walk-on will win it. He’s more mobile than Potts, and he was the only Big 12 quarterback to stand toe-to-toe with Nebraska’s defense and be successful.


Jimmy Smith: Colorado, Cornerback

Why he’s on the list: With big-time size at 6'2", 210, Smith is a decent coverage guy and a strong tackler. His numbers—70 tackles and 10 pass breakups—prove it. CU’s defense was constantly put in dire straits by the Buffs’ stalling offense, so if Colorado QB Tyler Hansen can figure it out in 2010, look for Smith to have another big season as a senior.

Tommy Tuberville Calls Out Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe

July 2nd, 2010

Tommy Tuberville, incoming coach for the Texas Tech Red Raiders, was not reserved in attacking the politics that he feels weakens the structure of the Big 12 Conference. Specifically, he implicated Dan Beebe, the current Big 12 Commissioner, indirectly taking him to task for keeping the culture of disparate profit-sharing intact.

On Tuesday, June 29th, Tuberville compared the Big 12 situation to his experience at Auburn in the SEC. "Being here for six months, I've just kind of noticed there's just not a lot of camaraderie in this league like you have in the SEC...It starts with the commissioner.

"And I think [SEC commissioner] Mike Slive has done a good job. [Former SEC commissioner] Roy Kramer did a good job of building a base where everybody was on the same page. And that just has not happened here in the Big 12. It's just a matter of time, to be honest with you, unless they get everybody on the same page."

While not directly referencing Dan Beebe, it is clear that he believes a fair measure of blame rests with the Big 12 Commissioner. Tuberville's rhetoric was certainly direct for a Big 12 newcomer. It's an airing of discontent that many other institutions in the league, by comparison, have not been too willing to air publicly.

Tuberville cites the money distribution in the Big 12 as the reason why the conference's days are numbered.

Coach Tuberville forecasts, "I just don't think this conference will last long because there's just too much disparity between all the teams here. I've just noticed that in the SEC, for instance, Vanderbilt makes as much money in the TV contract as Florida. Everyone is good with it, everybody's on the same page, gets the same amount of votes."

Reading between the lines, Tuberville is shedding light that the Big 12 members are not really as unified as they have projected post expansion losses of Nebraska and Colorado.

The power behind the Big 12 culture, for instance, has made Missouri into the league pariah after what was perceived as prior soft campaigning to be included in the Big 10 expansion plans. 

Most outside the league, however, see Missouri's position as par for the course given the politics within the Big 12. Inside the league, however, strife has been sown and the Tigers were cast at one point as a turncoat of the league.

Says Tuberville regarding the money distribution issues in the Big 12, "When that happens, you're going to have teams looking for better avenues to leave and reasons to leave. And so we have a 10-team league now, but I just don't know how long that's going to last, to be honest with you."

Coach Tuberville apparently has a good deal of appreciation and insight into why teams like Missouri would like a more stable situation unlike the disparity found in the Big 12 with Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M receiving distinctly more TV revenues than the remainder of their conference members.

Adding to the instability of the Big 12 structure is the knowledge that the money promised to the 10-team Big 12 is not, to date, inked in a contract. Commissioner Beebe's figures are future projections and the league is hanging by that thread of optimism apparently offered by ESPN and Fox Sports. Notably, the contracts for ESPN and Fox still have five years and two years to go, respectively, before renegotiation is even possible.

Makes many of us wonder what will happen to the Big 12 in that two-to-five year interim.

The real question here is whether Tuberville's comments reflect animosities and resentments among the other schools in the Big 12 not named Texas, OU, and A&M that are powerful enough eventually to undo all the recent positive spin projected by the conference after surviving the Pac-10 bid for the Big 12 South.

Is the writing really on the wall for the 10-team Big 12?

Why Is Nobody Talking About Texas Tech?

June 30th, 2010

It's been seven months since Mike Leach was fired, enough time for the dust to settle and allow people to see what hasn't changed: Texas Tech is a very good football team.

The Mad Man of West Texas is gone, but his creation is still thriving.

People talk about teams "never rebuilding, just reloading" often enough. If that phrase were to perfectly describe anybody, it would be the Red Raider offense.

Upon the departure of Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree, Tech slid back down the totem pole in the minds of critics and fans. The year 2009 was sure to be a rebuilding one for the Red Raiders.

And it was...kind of.

Texas Tech finished the season ranked fourth in the country with 470 yards per game, which was also the highest in the Big 12.

Not impressed by yards?

They finished ranking seventh in the country in points per game, averaging 37, second only to Texas.

This all happened without Michael Crabtree, without Graham Harrell, and while shuffling between injured quarterbacks. This offense is, and always will be great. It's not going anywhere.

I'm not surprised that Tech wasn't the most talked about prior to last season, especially with the amount of talent returning elsewhere in the conference. I do, however, find it surprising that Tech isn't mentioned as a legitimate contender in the Big 12 South.

I do understand the uncertainty.

The coaching change might slow down Texas Tech this season, but I doubt it.

I doubt it because I watched a Leach-less Texas Tech team put up 41 points and amass 579 total yards against a respected Michigan State defense. To know how impressive that is, consider the fact that for the past 10 years, Tech didn't have an offensive coordinator.

Mike Leach called every single offensive play from 1999 to 2009. Former wide receivers coach Lincoln Riley, who was recently hired as the offensive coordinator for East Carolina, was forced to step in and call the shots. Prior to the game, Riley had never even seen a game from the sidelines.

Yet, the offense exceeded both its total yards and points average, amidst all the drama and heartbreak going on at the time.

Tommy Tuberville, along with new offensive coordinator Neal Brown, has had six months to get this Tech team in gear. Lincoln Riley had one week. Unless the offense is undergoing a complete transformation, Tech's offense will still score. A lot.

What's even more encouraging for Tech fans is the amount of talent returning, especially on the offensive side. With a total of 15 starters returning, the Red Raiders won't be short on talent, especially at skill positions.

Every wide out that made a catch in 2009 is back, including Detron Lewis, who will be among the elite receivers of the Big 12. In addition, an entire core of running backs, led by dependable two-year starter Baron Batch, will be back for Tuberville to work with. Among these is the electric Eric Stephens, whom Tuberville has labeled as "the best-kept secret in the country."

As usual, the Red Raiders will have plenty of playmakers. As usual, they will score plenty of points.

As for the defense, most Raider fans should have faith in the SEC-style of defensive play Tuberville and former Alabama linebackers coach James Willis will bring.

Given all this, this Red Raider football team can and will win some big games this seasons.

An upset win over Texas in Lubbock is entirely feasible. Big wins may also come against Missouri and Oklahoma State in Lubbock, and against Texas A&M in College Station. The real test for Tech will come on Nov. 13, when they enter the black hole known as Norman, OK.

Given all that has been said, Texas Tech returns the talent and personnel necessary to be a threat in the Big 12 South.

They haven't gone anywhere, they aren't rebuilding, and they will surprise opposing teams and usual.


The Reach of Oregon Recruiting Over The Past Decade

June 30th, 2010

Yesterday, I wrote a column in regards to the recent emphasis on pursuing recruits from all over the country.  The modern Oregon program stands as a case in point, with a foundation of Californian athletes as well as players from the northwest, the south, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Hawaii, and Idaho.

The article sparked a one-sided response from readers that Oregon needs to continue recruiting nationally.  I can’t disagree; I find the ability of a once disrespected program to attract five-star recruits to little Eugene an exciting reality.

With over five hundred votes yesterday, 90% of Oregon fans are very pleased to see Chip Kelly and friends attempting to bring players to Eugene  (you can refresh and read the article here ). Below is a list of players who've come from far away destinations during the past decade (2000-2010) to play for the Ducks.

Alabama (2)

Tucker Callahan. Brian Jackson . A member of the 2005 class, Callahan left Eugene and was later spotted on the Alabama team roster in 2007.  A defensive back, Jackson is currently on the roster and a member of the 2009 Oregon class.

Georgia (6)

Brian Truelove, Justin Roper, Wesley Mallard, Braxton Lane, Tyrece Gaines, Garrett Embry .  Both Truelove (Portland State), and Roper (Montana) would soon transfer, while Braxton Lane decided to play baseball before arriving on campus.  Gaines, a Kansas junior college receiver, was declared academically ineligible, and Embry left the team in 2010. Mallard became a very successful linebacker and fan favorite during his Oregon career.

Florida (5)

Ryan Gilliam, LaGarrette Blount, Darrell Wright, Eric Dungy, Isaac Dixon . After one season in Oregon, Gilliam transferred to South Florida.  Blount transferred to Eugene after a season at a Mississippi junior college to provide a productive junior year.  Wright was a steady defensive end for two years. The jury remains out on both Dixon and Dungy.

Indiana (1)

Lavasier Tuinei . A junior college transfer from California and originally from Indiana, Tuinei became a consistent target during the 2009 season.

Illinois (3)

Chris Sima, Kwame Agyeman, Brandon Williams.   As an undersized linebacker, Agyeman played a marginal role during his time as a Duck. Sima was a rarely used long snapper. Williams will begin his Oregon career in 2010.

Kansas (2)

Chris Harper, Zac Clark . Clark recorded thirteen tackles in 2009, and will be looked to play a bigger role in 2010.  Harper transferred to Kansas State after one season in Eugene.

Louisiana (1)

Blair Phillips . The Mississippi junior college transfer led the Ducks in tackles his senior year and made a brief push to play in the NFL upon graduation.

Michigan (1)

Dior Mathis . A 2009 U.S. Army All-American, Mathis was a highly touted commit of the 2010 recruiting class.

Missouri  (2)

Jairus Byrd, Courtney Miller . The current Buffalo Bill (Byrd) had the more successful career. Miller played sparingly as a defensive back during the middle of the decade.

North Carolina (2)

Remene Alston Jr, James Scales . Alston is entering his senior year in 2010, and has never been given the opportunity to be an every down tailback.  Scales was signed as part of the 2010 recruiting class.

Oklahoma (1)

Jeremy Gibbs . Currently playing in the CFL, the Oklahoma native was a key member of the defensive line during his time at Oregon.

Pennsylvania (1)

Chris Vincent . After transferring from LSU, Vincent began his Oregon career at running back before transitioning into a steady linebacker.

South Carolina (2)

Maurice Morris, Sam Hughes . Both Morris, and Hughes hailed from Chester, South Carolina.  Hughes played a limited role at cornerback. Morris is currently in the NFL.

Tennessee (1)

Terrence Scott . Born in Georgia, Scott attended high school in Tennessee and played junior college football in California.  Scott caught over fifty receptions in the 2008 season.

Texas (9)

Micah Howeth, Antwaun Harris, LaMichael James, Zach Taylor, Blake Cantu, Josh Huff, Lache Seastrunk, Dontae Williams, Darron Thomas . Clearly, James has been the class of these Texas players, with the jury still out on Seastrunk, Cantu, Thomas, Williams, and Huff.

Wisconsin (2)

Sean Cullen, Kurtis Doerr . An offensive tackle, Cullen was a respected reserve at Oregon. Doerr handled the punting duties for the Ducks.

Welcome Back, Huskers: Bo Pelini and the Future of Nebraska Football

June 29th, 2010

Even in the world of college football, the universe has its own way of making things right.

Leagues come and go, but tradition finds a way to survive the storm. After the recent realignment fiasco, many anticipate further instability in the Big 12.

They wonder how, without Nebraska to counter the dominance of Texas and Oklahoma, can this conference survive? It's funny how much bigger and more frightening Texas looks without Nebraska in the picture.

But Nebraska doesn't concern itself with that anymore. They're on the fast track back to dominance. Even in the Big 10.

Many of the young people who grew up watching Texas and Oklahoma rule the decade have failed to witness just how legitimate Nebraska football is. They were just a little late to the party.

They probably aren't aware that Nebraska has won more national championships than Texas. They probably aren't aware that Nebraska ranks third all-time in wins.

Why is that?


If you ask a bleeding-red Cornhusker, they might blame the Big 12.

Nebraska never did seem to fit in, especially throughout the 2000s. This was evident from the early days of the conference, when four members of the Southwest Conference, including Texas, merged with the Big 8 to form the Big 12.

In 1994, head coach and current athletic director Tom Osborne foresaw an ugly marriage with larger-than-life programs Texas and Texas A&M.

In the past decade, Texas and Oklahoma have emerged as the Kings of the conference, leaving Nebraska in a cloud of smoke with the likes of Missouri and Kansas.

This has been most prevalent in the recent past, as evidenced by the conference-wide decision to finalize the relocation of the Big 12 Championship to Cowboys Stadium. It was an 11-1 decision.

Tom Osborne was the lone opposing vote.

Nebraska has been the one program with too much pride to play under Texas rules. Given their rich, Heisman-littered history, they've felt disrespected and mistreated by the big dogs down south.

With five national championships, three Heisman Trophy winners, and ranking third all-time in wins, Nebraska is among the elite of the elite. And Tom Osborne wants to be treated accordingly.

There are Davids and Goliaths everywhere around the country. Since joining the Big 12, Nebraska has simply refused to be David.


What does the future hold for Nebraska?

In the very least, revitalization. At the very most, domination.

The gritty, defensive style of play that the Huskers have long embodied has become peculiar in recent years.

With the spread offense taking the conference by storm, Nebraska's love for the physical ground game seemed like an odd fit. They weren't flashy, nor did they want to be.

In fact, we all saw what happened when they took that route. The hiring of Bill Callahan in 2004 brought forth a complete overhaul of their ideology and personality.

His implementation of the West Coast offense didn't exactly help maintain Nebraska's dominance. Under Callahan, the Huskers suffered their first losing season in 41 years.

The hiring of native Cornhusker Bo Pelini looks like the centerpiece in Nebraska's plan to become what it once was.

He's a no-nonsense, defensive-oriented tough guy who has a love for a solid ground game. Sounds like a Husker to me.

We saw just how far Pelini has brought this team during last year's Championship against the almighty Texas.

With their old ways of doing things, along with an extra $15 million in their pocket, Nebraska will return in all its glory as a member of the Big 10.

However, Nebraska still has one final thing they want to do before they leave officially.

Destroy Texas on Oct. 16, 2010.

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