Being a quarterback and playing for a team in top-level conference like the Big 12 was the goal and the dream for Jerome Tiller and Justin Tuggle. The dream was unrealized and the goal has changed but credit to both players that they have switched gears and positions to help their teams win.
Tiller is from San Antonio and a state where quarterbacks are produced at a high rate. In 2009 as a redshirt freshman, Tiller made the first start of his career at Nebraska and led the Cyclones to a stunning 9-7 victory. The following season he saw action in seven games and started the season finale.
Last season he dropped out of the competition to be the team's starter and wound up sitting out the season academically ineligible.
ISU coach Paul Rhoads has been pleased with Tiller's maturity and his production, saying that "accountability" is the main reason for his growth.
"He's shown us he can be accountable at the position," Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said of Tiller. "He probably was looked upon coming out of spring ball as role guy a guy that as a tall receiver could run the fade and things like that," Rhoads said. "He came into camp and showed guys that 'I'm more than that. I can do everything more than that and be effective.'
"He's delivered. I'm really pleased and noticeably proud of what he's done going from quarterback to wide receiver and helping this football team win."
Kansas State is winning thanks in part to Tuggle's position switch and contributions. The Wildcats have Saturday off but are at 4-0 and 1-0 in Big 12 play thanks to a 24-19 victory at Oklahoma that was sparked by two plays made by Tuggle.
In the second quarter, he sacked OU quarterback Landry Jones and forced a fumble that Kansas State recovered in the end zone for its first touchdown. In the fourth quarter, after the Sooners scored to pull within five points, Tuggle batted down Jones' two-point conversion pass to freeze the final score.
Tuggle is the son of Jessie Tuggle, a 14-year NFL veteran who played at Valdosta State and is member of the College Football Hall of Fame. Justin started three games at Boston College in 2009 before transferring to Blinn (Texas) Junior College where he replaced a guy named Cam Newton at quarterback.
Tuggle transferred to K-State and hoped to win the quarterback job last season but spent 2011 watching Collin Klein lead the Wildcats to a 10-win season and second-place finish in the Big 12. Before playing in the Cotton Bowl, the 6-3, 237-pound Tuggle asked to be switched to defense and started working out at linebacker.
"I just wanted to get on the field," Tuggle said. "I knew Collin had a good season last year, so I didn't really want to be the guy to back him up for the whole year this year. I wanted to go out there and actually do something my last year of playing, so I made the switch."
In Marquez They Trust
Sophomore Bradley Marquez is another Big 12 athlete adjusting to a position change. Marquez is in his first season as a receiver for Texas Tech but he's making a big impact even though he is still working on improving his route running.
"I've got a lot of trust in him and I think our quarterbacks do, too," Texas Tech offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. "On and off the field, he's a trustworthy guy. On his routes, he's where he's supposed to be and he's got a knack for making plays.
"He's got a lot of room to grow as far as a route runner. He's still raw in that regard, just because this is only the second year he's ever done it. But he makes a lot of plays."
Texas Tech is 3-0 going into Saturday's Big 12 opener at Iowa State. Marquez leads the Red Raiders' deep corps of receivers with 12 catches and is second in receiving yards with 135. The trust that Brown mentioned is evident in that five of his receptions have converted third downs for Texas Tech.
"I really trust Bradley because he plays so hard," quarterback Seth Doege said. "He's kind of like a center fielder, even in football. Anywhere you throw it, he's going to get to it."
Debut Is A Big Deal
TCU will host its first Big 12 game on Oct. 6 when Iowa State plays. The Horned Frogs made their Big 12 debut at Kansas on Sept. 15. West Virginia, like TCU playing its inaugural season in the Conference, combines its Big 12 debut with a home game.
The No. 7 Mountaineers will welcome No. 24 Baylor to Morgantown Saturday. A number of national writers will be on hand and FX will televise the game. The Bears are averaging 51 points a game and a high-scoring contest is anticipated.
That would be enough excitement and pageantry for most but there's more. It's homecoming. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has been asked to serve as grand marshal of Friday's parade (Baylor graciously approved, making sure there would be no hard feelings of playing favorites). Bowlsby will present commemorative game balls to WVU administrators and will participate in the coin toss. Country music singer Trace Adkins will sing the national anthem.
Plus, West Virginia fans are being asked to "stripe the stadium." Those in even-numbered sections and in the upper level student sections will wear gold. Those in the odd-numbered sections and lower level student sections will wear blue.
"We're looking forward to a very fun, festive atmosphere this Saturday,'' West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen told the Charleston Gazette. "Obviously there's been a lot of excitement over joining the Big 12 since it happened a year ago and it's finally here. "There's a lot of anticipation not only within the state of West Virginia, but across the country with having West Virginia as part of the Big 12, as well."
TCU closes out its non-conference schedule Saturday against an old rival. The 14th-ranked Horned Frogs will make a short road trip east to Dallas to face SMU. The schools have met 91 times, most as members of the defunct Southwest Conference. TCU will stay in the same hotel in Arlington, Texas, it stays at the night before home games in Fort Worth. The trip to SMU's Ford Stadium will cover 21.4 miles. The distance TCU travels from its hotel to home games at Amon Carter Stadium is 19.8 miles.
Texas senior fullback Ryan Roberson has played in 42 games and his primary role is as a blocker. He has just eight carries and three receptions in four seasons. Those 11 touches have produced three touchdowns. He has rushed for two TDs and in the Longhorns' last game he caught his first touchdown pass, a 1-yarder from David Ash.
Turnovers were a big reason Iowa State quarterback Steele Jantz was benched during Big 12 play last season. He threw 11 interceptions last season and thus far has four picks and one lost fumble in three games. "A lot of time turnovers happen when you are letting the game move too fast," Jantz said. "You weren't really understanding, if you understand everything slows down and then the ball security comes and you are calmer. ... (and) it's preparation. Just being so prepared where no matter what happens you are still confident."
In victories over Texas Tech the last two seasons, Iowa State has rushed for 251 and 368 yards. Those rushing totals have included runs of 61, 65 and 71 yards. The Red Raiders enter Saturday's game in Ames No. 1 in total defense and No. 12 in rushing defense, allowing an average of 75 yards per game. In three games, the longest run Texas Tech has allowed is 16 yards and it has given up just one rushing TD.
No. 24 Baylor faces No. 7 West Virginia Saturday as the Mountaineers celebrate and commemorate their first Big 12 Conference game. The Bears are 13-87-2 against teams ranked in the top 10 of The Associated Press rankings. Six of those 13 upsets came with Baylor as the visiting team and three of those victories came when the Bears were ranked.
Here's an interesting statistical tidbit. After Saturday's games there will be five Big 12 teams at 1-0 and five teams at 0-1.
Iowa State senior nose guard Jake McDonough on the aspirations of the Cyclones, who could start the season 4-0 overall and 1-0 in Big 12 play with a victory over visiting Texas Tech:
"That's kind of what we started to embrace a lot this year, is, why not go for big? We know we can hang with the big guys in our league, and we've shown it before. Once we bought into it ourselves, we start to bring a lot more people along for the ride."
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, who was an assistant coach at Texas Tech along with Art Briles, on the job Briles has done as Baylor's coach:
"Art has been there for five years, and I hope four years from now, I can say the same thing about West Virginia from a program standpoint. He has made his mark on the program. That wasn't the easiest job that he took over. They are winning; they are ranked; they are being talked about on a national standpoint; and they are building facilities that are fantastic. What he has done with that program over the last five years is impressive."
Texas coach Mack Brown on the close quarters with the fans at Oklahoma State's Boone Pickens Stadium, where his team will face the Cowboys Saturday night:
"It's loud. We always laugh that the crowd is right behind our bench. You (make) some really good friends in three-and-a-half to four hours. Usually, they know everybody's name. They go back to mommas. They got it down pretty good. It's a fun environment."