I went searching (I did not need to go very far) to find one representative from each Big 12 school, asking them to give me a couple sentences on their impressions from Big 12 media days, as it relates to the team they cover. Many are guys you have heard from as guests on our podcasts or are often linked to in our “Morning Headlines.” Due to the time sensitivity of it, I filled in the blanks for guys with ties to teams I did not hear from in due time.
Here we go!
Baylor –Shehan Jeyarajah, City Editor, Baylor Lariat: Baylor football won its second consecutive Big 12 title last season, but still finds itself as an underdog in this year’s conference title race. Despite finishing No. 2 in the preseason poll to TCU, players did not seem bothered. Keep in mind that last season, Baylor was projected to finish second because it had to travel to an opponent coming off of an impressive bowl victory with a Heisman-hopeful quarterback. In that game, Baylor handed Oklahoma a lopsided 48-14 beatdown, the worst home loss under Bob Stoops. It should be interesting to see Baylor play TCU in a very similar situation.
Iowa State – Pete Mundo (me): Paul Rhoads seemed awfully confident and optimistic for a head coach coming off an 0-9 season in conference play. Then again, I suppose that’s his job. Rhoads seems to have confidence in his offense behind QB Sam Richardson and a group of quality wide receivers. The question remains: can this team stop anyone?
Kansas – Matt Tait, KUSports.com: Back in his home state for the first time as a college head coach, first-year Kansas coach David Beaty displayed the energy and enthusiasm he has for the huge rebuilding project at Kansas and impressed the hundreds of Big 12 media members in Dallas last week. Beaty, a native of Garland, Texas, was equal parts excited and realistic in explaining not only the challenges he faces as the leader of the Jayhawks but also his vision for where the program could head and how it could get there. With team leaders Ben Goodman (DE), Ben Johnson (TE) and Jordan Shelley-Smith also there to represent the the program, Beaty explained that this first season would not necessarily be as much about wins and losses as it would be about laying the groundwork for what he hopes will become a staple of the program — earning everything you get and doing everything in your power to improve and develop each day while outworking the competition. KU faces a nightmare schedule during Beaty’s first season, with 2014 bowl teams Memphis and Rutgers on the non-conference schedule to go along with the regular nightmare that is the nine-game Big 12 schedule. The challenge is stiff, but Beaty, his staff and his players do not seem overwhelmed by it and, instead, are rolling up their sleeves and thinking long term.
Kansas State – Pete Mundo (me): Bill Snyder and his Wildcats have the doubters and media right where they want ’em. After losing Jake Waters, Tyler Lockett and others, the ‘Cats are picked to finish 7th in the Big 12. Snyder has seen this flick one too many times and once again was a cool, collected customer, and the elder statesman at Big 12 media days. No matter how good his team is going to be, it was clear in Dallas, when Bill Snyder speaks, the entire room listens.
Oklahoma – Ryan Aber, The Daily Oklahoman: OU’s contingent—Bob Stoops, linebacker Eric Striker, center Ty Darlington, wide receiver Sterling Shepard and quarterback Trevor Knight—were surprisingly upbeat given last year’s disaster of a season. Knight’s presence alone was surprising given that he’s in a quarterback battle with Baker Mayfield and Cody Thomas to retain his job. The star of the show, though, was Striker. His out-sized personality and role as a team spokesman in the aftermath of the SAE video scandal last spring made him a go-to source for media from around the conference and he didn’t disappoint. Stoops and the players were asked quite a bit about violence against women given Joe Mixon and Frank Shannon’s return to the team and the recent national focus on the subject. All handled the questions well, especially Stoops, whose questioning on the subject continued the next day when he made the rounds at ESPN’s “Car Wash.”
Oklahoma State – Kyle Porter, PistolsFiringBlog.com: I thought the most interesting thing was the formula Gundy posited for winning the Big 12. He noted that creating turnovers + not turning it over + good QB play equals conference championships. That tells me he thinks his running backs and receivers are somewhat interchangeable and that he trusts the offensive line more than I probably do right now.
TCU – Carlos Mendez, Fort Worth Star-Telegram: What jumped out at me was the 32 first-place votes TCU received to Baylor’s 10 in the media poll. I expected almost an even split. But I think that’s a testament to TCU’s returning experience and ability at quarterback and Gary patterson’s reputation for rebuilding a defense, which he has to do.
Texas – Brian Davis, Austin American-Statesman: Texas coach Charlie Strong seemed relaxed and much more at ease in his second appearance at Big 12 media days. Unfortunately, he still doesn’t have too much to talk about. The Horns have questions at quarterback, receiver and in the secondary.
Texas Tech – Brian Hanni, TTU Men’s Basketball PxP voice/Host, Double-T 104.3: “There’s no doubt Coach Kingsbury has a sense that this is a team capable jumping into the top half of the league. The preseason prediction of an 8th place finish motivates them. With a veteran offensive line, an improved defensive line, and confidence in two quarterbacks, Kingsbury feels this is going to be a season that they will make a big jump. The work ethic Kingsbury has applied this offseason has been infectious among his players and they are ready to put 2014 in the rear mirror.”
West Virginia – Bob Hertzel, TimesWV.com: West Virginia is poised to be this year’s TCU, if it’s quarterback, Skyler Howard, can perform at a top Big 12 level. He’s the unknown factor, being a JC transfer who played three games late in the year after Clint Trickett was injured.
The Mountaineers are basing their success on an experienced, talented, hard-hitting defense led by safety Karl Joseph, but it really is going to have to show improvement against the run and in forcing turnovers. WVU ranked 120th in turnover margin last year.
Finally, Dana Holgorsen still has to prove himself as a head coach. He seems to be growing as he adjusts his offense, for which he was known, leaning more toward a balanced attack.
As for the conference, I don’t think anyone wants to play either Baylor or TCU this year and think Oklahoma, looking down the barrel of a gun, could be poised to make a run at the top.
** If you want a chance to win FREE Big 12 gear from your favorite team, be sure to sign up for our weekly newsletter! **