A look around the Big 12
Can Joe Daily handle the pressure of leading Nebraska's new West Coast Offense? Is Texas Tech's basketball-on-grass offense in danger of slowing down? Can Texas replace WR Roy Williams? Our Big 12 notebook addresses those questions, along with looks at Texas A&M's Terrence Murphy, the OU defense and much, much more.
Baylor coach Guy Morriss is disgusted that neither Shawn Bell nor Dane King stepped forward and won the quarterback job. Morriss absolutely didn't want to have to give the job to one of them by default. But that's what happened when he named King, one of the nation's top junior college passers last season at Blinn College, the starter for Saturday's opener against UAB.
Dan McCarney said sophomore defensive end Jason Berryman, who was charged with two counts of second-degree robbery and one count of first-degree theft stemming from an incident on Aug. 3, will not be a part of the Cyclones' program this season. Berryman was team MVP and Big 12 defensive newcomer of the year last season. His absence has caused McCarney to shuffle his defense and move weakside linebacker Tyson Smith to end. Not the kind of stuff you need after a 2-10 season last year.
Kansas coaches feel like sophomore quarterback Adam Barmann (6-4, 220) has all the physical tools to pick up where the departed Bill Whittemore left off. But they're concerned about Barmann pressing for big plays when he should just take what's there. If Barmann doesn't learn this lesson right away, he may have a short leash and get pulled for either Brian Luke or junior college transfer Jason Swanson.
Coach Bill Snyder said it came down to experience and execution when he selected sophomore Dylan Meier over sophomore transfer Allen Webb to start at quarterback. The battle wasn't decided until the tail end of fall camp, indicating that Snyder may well give Webb a shot if Meier doesn't get off to a roaring start.
Freshman wide receiver Will Franklin (6-2, 185) has impressed coaches enough that he will play Saturday against Arkansas State. Franklin is listed as the backup to sophomore receiver Brad Ekwerekwu. In a sign that Missouri football is improving, coach Gary Pinkel will have the luxury of redshirting most of his true freshmen. Last year, only two true freshmen played.
Oklahoma is 0-2 since Mike Stoops left his post as co-defensive coordinator and took the head coaching job at Arizona. For the first time since the Sooners won the national title in 2000, OU's swagger is being questioned. With Bowling Green and Houston to open the season, OU's defense won't be tested until the Sooners face Oregon Sept. 18 and Texas Tech Oct. 2.
The Cowboys got good news last week when the NCAA clearinghouse declared 6-5, 350-pound freshman defensive tackle Walter Thomas eligible to play at UCLA on Saturday. Thomas is one of the top recruits of the Les Miles era. But 350-pound freshmen are typically gasping for air and not moving their feet after two or three plays in a row. If Thomas can carry the weight and give OSU more than 10 snaps a game, especially in the early-season heat, OSU's run defense could be formidable.
The Longhorns had three receivers last year who could get deep and demand safety attention, freeing up lots of room in the running game for quarterback Vince Young and running back Cedric Benson. UT coaches have no idea if they have such a receiver this season. Look for 6-5 Limas Sweed and junior Brian Carter to be the early favorites to stretch defenses.
Senior receiver Terrence Murphy hopes to have a year in which he can help the Aggies while also impressing NFL scouts. But with no proven experience at receiver around him, Murphy will draw double coverage all season. If he puts up big numbers this season, the NFL will know he earned it.
It's hard to tell if coach Mike Leach's decision to redshirt quarterback Robert Johnson, one of the nation's top junior college quarterbacks last season, was because of Johnson's need to grow in the offense or grow up. Either way, if Johnson does both and senior Sonny Cumbie picks up on Leach's offense the way Kliff Kingsbury and B.J. Symons did, Tech's basketball-on-grass offense will be in good hands for the next few years.
Chip Brown covers the Big 12 for The Dallas Morning News.