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Wendell Barnhouse is a nationally-known and respected columnist who has spent over 20 years covering collegiate athletics. He has reported from 23 Final Fours and more than three dozen bowl games and has written about the Big 12 and its schools since the conference's beginning. Barnhouse will be updating the Big 12 Insider on happenings and behind-the-scenes information about the conference. 

August 2010

Tuesday, Aug. 31

Athletic directors in the Big 12
Texas Tech's Gerald Myers last week became the second Big 12 athletic director to announce this would be his final season on the job; Kansas Lew Perkins made a similar announcement over the summer. Myers is second only to Texas' DeLoss Dodds in tenure at his current job. Here's a look at the Big 12's ADs and when they were hired.

Athletic director, school Hired
Ian McCaw, Baylor September 2003
Mike Bohn, Colorado April 2005
Jamie Pollard, Iowa State October 2005
Lew Perkins, Kansas June 2003
John Currie, Kansas State May 2009
Mike Alden, Missouri July 1998
Tom Osborne, Nebraska October 2007
Joe Castiglione, Oklahoma April 1998
Mike Holder, Oklahoma State September 2005
DeLoss Dodds, Texas August 1981
Bill Byrne, Texas A&M December 2002
Gerald Myers, Texas Tech June 1996*
* - Myers was named interim athletic director and then was officially hired in February of 1997.

Just for fun
* Credit Randy Riggs of the Austin American-Statesman for this classic Tweet that commemorated Mack Brown's birthday last week: "59 years ago today, Mack Brown entered this world and immediately got a commitment from a blue-chip defensive end."

* Riggs' co-worker Kirk Bohls knows his UT football. He wrote this in his Sunday column: "Put me down as one of those who think Cody Johnson may get the starting nod at Texas tailback for the season-opener against Rice this Saturday. The Longhorns coaching staff can't stop bragging on him. Another reason I'd start him: it sends a clear message to the entire team that if you work hard and prove yourself, you'll be rewarded." Monday Johnson was named the starting tailback.

* Oklahoma State senior linebacker Orie Lemon is back on the field after missing last season with a torn ACL. When he makes tackles this season, Your Humble Correspondent suggests they be called Lemon Drops. Thanks, thanks you're too kind.  Tip your wait staff and try the veal.

* Missouri assistant basketball coach T.J. Cleveland is one of six Columbia celebrities participating in the Great American Burger Challenge. The winner will donate proceeds to the charity of his choice. Cleveland's creation, called "The Flying Tiger," is a burger topped with pineapple, ham and teriyaki sauce. YHC might have to get one of those shipped overnight to Big 12 headquarters.

Crystal bowl gazing
Stewart Mandel of SI.com has made his annual preseason bowl projections. (Clip and save; I will supply Mr. Mandel's mailing information later for those who want it.) Here's where he sees the Big 12 teams playing:

Fiesta: Oklahoma vs. Connecticut
Sugar: Georgia vs. Texas
Insight: Michigan vs. Missouri
Texas: Kansas State vs. Northwestern
Alamo: Oregon State vs. Texas A&M
Pinstripe: Pittsburgh vs. Iowa State
Holiday: Washington vs. Texas Tech
Cotton: Nebraska vs. Arkansas

Linkage
Texas A&M football coach Mike Sherman has embraced traditions that former Aggies coach Dennis Franchione ignored.

David Ubben, Big 12 blogger for ESPN.com, makes 10 fearless predictions on the upcoming season.

In its Summer Shootaround series, ESPN.com takes a look at Big 12 men's basketball including Fran Fraschilla's predicted order of finish, top freshmen to watch plus team-by-team updates.

Monday, Aug. 30

Pinkel "embarrassed" by incidents
The last month has not been a good one for Missouri in terms of off-field issues capped by the suspension of co-captain and senior running back Derrick Washington after he was charged in a sexual assault.

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said Monday that he is "kind of embarrassed" for the string of incidents that has included three DWIs (an assistant coach and two players).

"We've worked real hard to develop and build a program I think that has a very good reputation of being first class and disciplined," he said. "And we've taken a few hits. The only way you're going to that back is to earn it back. That's what we intend to do."

Depth chart updates
* Kansas State has named senior Carson Coffman as the starting quarterback. Coffman, who started the first four games last season before losing the job, beat out Colin Klein and Sammuel Lamur. "Carson is a very competitive young man who wants to do whatever he can to help the team win."

* Nebraska coach Bo Pelini hasn't named a starter at quarterback for Saturday's opener against Western Kentucky. "I have an idea who it's going to be but nothing's decided yet," Pelini said. "It's just kind of our approach is a day-in, day-out competition. When the time's right, then that's when I'll address that. That's kind of how we handle it across the board in our program. Our guys focus on practice and how we prepare and all those sorts of things. Our guys are used to it. We really approach it that way at every position."

* Texas wants to run the ball more effectively this season. That desire is evident in the fact that Cody Johnson will start at running back in Saturday's opener against Rice. Fozzy Whitaker and Tre' Newton are the backups. Johnson is 5-11, 250 pounds and he has lost five percent of his body fat. "We like the power that Cody brings, he's a load when he's running straight ahead," Longhorns coach Mack Brown said. "He can pass protect, run routes and catch the ball."

* Freshman Case McCoy, Colt's younger brother, is listed as the backup quarterback at Texas behind sophomore Garrett Gilbert. Case McCoy, for now, has beat out fellow freshman Connor Wood for the backup job. When Colt McCoy won the starting job over Jevan Snead in 2006, Snead transferred to Ole Miss. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis told Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman that he doesn't expect a repeat. "Different situation," Davis said.

Quick slants
* There has been talk that Texas A&M senior quarterback Jerrod Johnson's throwing arm hasn't been up to snuff. He had offseason shoulder surgery and reportedly has been tweaking his throwing motion during preseason practices. Aggies coach Mike Sherman isn't worried. "I think he's in good shape," Sherman said. "Usually at this point in camp, a quarterback's arm will be tired. And we're always 'tweaking' our quarterbacks' throwing motion. Jerrod has a tendency to drop down. We're just stressing to keep the ball high and a quick release."

* Oklahoma State, which opens at home Saturday against Washington State, will play as many as 10 freshmen. "I think you find out where you're at with a number of guys that haven't played much at this level," Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said. "We use quite a few players that are young and just don't have a lot of experience, so the first few games you kind of learn what you're dealing with with the young men and how they handle being in a game situation and how tough they are."

* Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops has high praise for this year's freshman class, saying it be the best he's ever had. With more freshmen earning playing time, Stoops says he doesn't have to worry about how the upperclassmen feel about being pushed aside. "There's no messaging that needs to takes place," he said. "It's always been that way here and always will be. The players that play the best and show it consistently in practice are the ones that earn the time on the field. But you also have to keep earning it in practice and games. Yeah, there probably are some guys that have had their eyes opened a little bit and realize it's competitive. We're always going to recruit good players. You have to do what's necessary to stay on the field."

* Redshirt freshman Paden Kelley, who was in Texas' two-deep rotation at offensive tackle, has been suspended for the season opener against Rice because of an unspecified violation of team rules. Running back Vondrell McGee will serve a one-game suspension because of his April arrest for DWI.

A list of links to start your week
Barry Horn of the Dallas Morning News writes that the conference realignment crisis in June brought out the best in Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe.

In transferring from Michigan State, Chris Allen hopes to start over at Iowa State under new coach Fred Hoiberg.

Here's a great read from John Werner of the Waco Tribune-Herald on the 30th anniversary of Baylor's Southwest Conference championship.

Lauren Cook, daughter of Nebraska volleyball coach John Cook, is eligible for the Huskers this season after sitting out last season following her transfer from UCLA. She was named the national freshman of the year in her one season playing for the Bruins.

In his preview of Missouri's season, Dave Matter of the Columbia Daily Tribune notes that the last month has been more turbulent than usual.

It was about a year ago, in a practice before Oklahoma State's season opener against Georgia, that Cowboys linebacker Orie Lemon tore his ACL and wound up sitting out the 2009 season. He's back and OSU's defense is better for it.

John Shinn of the Norman Transcript wonders if Oklahoma's nonconference scheduling philosophy should be altered.

The response to Baylor's "Rise Up" promotional campaign has been positive, says athletic director Ian McCaw.
Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald gazes into his crystal ball and takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the 2010 season.

This special report in the Oklahoman delves into the growing trend - more college football programs are avoiding redshirting freshmen but instead are playing them.

Former Oklahoma wide receiver Corey Wilson, paralyzed in a car accident in February of 2009, continues his courageous battle to walk again.

Friday, Aug. 27

Gerald Myers: A Texas Tech icon
A long, long time ago, Your Humble Correspondent was writing about Southwest Conference basketball and made a trip to Lubbock. Texas Tech, then coached by Gerald Myers, was practicing in The Bubble - the multi-purpose building next to the football stadium.

YHC watched Myers put the Red Raiders through defensive drills. As the players worked on a full-court press, Myers instructed them to defensive-shuffle back at an angle with arms spread and "guns up" - thumbs up, index fingers extended. That, for the uninformed, is the hand signal for Texas Tech like "Hook 'em" is the hand signal for Texas.

Watching the players, YHC wondered if they were thinking the same as YHC was thinking. "What the heck is this guy talkin' about? 'Guns up?' Really? Part of a defensive drill?"

Gerald Myers was and is old school. Actually, older than old. When it comes to Texas Tech, Myers practically is the school. He started playing basketball for the Red Raiders in 1955 - a year after YHC was born. So, if he wanted his players displaying "guns up" in a defensive drill, then dad gum it, they should do it.

As a player, he was the Tech's first all-SWC performer in any sport. He earned his bachelor's degree and master's degree at the school. After a year as an assistant coach, he became the basketball coach in 1971. Myers is the school's winningest hoops coach, compiling a 326-261 record.

In 1996 he became the school's athletic director and helped shepherd that athletic department into the Big 12 Conference. He hired Bob Knight to coach basketball and Mike Leach to coach football. Both coaches, for better or worst, helped put Texas Tech on the national map.

This will be Myers' final year as athletic director; he'll retire, effective May 31 of next year. Kevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News does a wonderful job of summing up Myers' long run at Texas Tech.

For YHC, it will be difficult thinking of Texas Tech and not think of Gerald Myers and to think of Gerald Myers and not think of Texas Tech. Now, YHC understands that long-ago practice drill. Guns up, coach.

OU's Kenny Stills considered a freshman flash
Andy Staples of SI.com Oklahoma's Kenny Stills as one of 10 freshmen who can make an impact this season. Here's what Staples wrote about the wide receiver: "The San Diego native was the breakout star of Oklahoma's spring game, and he already is listed as a starter on the Sooners' depth chart. While Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is expecting a big year from senior tailback DeMarco Murray, that doesn't mean quarterback Landry Jones will stop flinging the ball around. Stills gives Jones another target if veteran Ryan Broyles draws too much of the defense's attention."

Talkin' 'bout watch lists
As if there's not enough going on in college football to cause Twitter to chirp like a cage full of canaries ...

Thursday's Internet outrage was provoked by the Doak Walker Award watch list. (Cue Allen Iverson's "we're talkin' 'bout practice" news conference classic).

Watch lists. We're talkin' 'bout watch lists.

Folks on the Left Coast were dismayed when the Walker Award watch list had just one Pacific-10 Conference running back - Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers - on the 49-player list. Oregon sophomore LaMichael James (who gained 1,546 yards last season), Washington's Chris Polk, California's Shane Vereen and Arizona's Nic Grigsby all were deserving of making the watch list.

What, exactly, is a watch list? A watch list is a way for one of the two dozen college football awards to escape the shadow of the Heisman Trophy (which does not nor never has sent out a watch list.)

It works this way: An award asks its voters to compile a list of preseason candidates. That list is then distributed. Sports information directors can then mention their players in their game notes. Jimmy Bob Mountain, a 6-8, 390-pound senior guard, is on the preseason watch list for the ...

It's mutually beneficial. The award gets some sunshine and the sports information director has a positive nugget to place in his release.

And when it comes time to vote for the various awards in late November, the watch lists are totally ... irrelevant, meaningless, worthless. College football players who win awards do so with their game performances, not by appearing on a watch list in August.

If LaMichael James runs for 1,800 yards and Oregon wins the Pac-10 title, at worst he'll be a finalist for the Doak Walker. And it won't matter if his name wasn't on a watch list.

End of rant. Your Humble Correspondent instructs you to return to your regularly scheduled visit to Big12Sports.com.

End-of-the-work-week links
Samuel McKewon of the Nebraska State Paper with an excellent read on Nebraska's defensive success.

Bill Haisten of the Tulsa World evaluates Mike Gundy's five seasons as Oklahoma State's coach.

Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville wants the Red Raiders' defense to "bring the pain."

Nebraska running back Roy Helu is an I-back in the Huskers' offense, but he's not an "I" back.

In their second season under Bill Snyder, Kansas State players are grasping the concept that their coach is a demanding perfectionist.
 

Thursday, Aug. 26

ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel on Baylor
Watch the return of Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III from the torn ACL he suffered last season. When the season begins, Griffin may not have the same speed and moves he had as a runner before the injury. But as David Ubben blogged Monday, Griffin has completed 75 percent of his passes in two scrimmages. If Griffin develops into a dangerous passer in coach Art Briles' spread offense, and continues to recover his running ability, he'll be a Heisman contender in 2011.

One man's "guess" on Nebraska's quarterbacks
Here's what Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald thinks will happen with the Nebraska quarterback situation:

Zac Lee will be the starter. It's almost impossible to win a starting quarterback job in three weeks of fall camp, especially for a newbie such as Taylor Martinez. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson will lean on the experience of Lee, who also is throwing well, looks confident and acts like a leader. But Martinez will play, and he has looked good enough that he'll be nipping at Lee's heels and keep the senior inspired to stay sharp - if necessary. The big game for Lee will be Sept. 18 at Washington. That will be sort of a hump game for Lee. Any slippage, and there will be enough time to get someone else ready by Oct. 7 at Kansas State.

Links worth the click
Former LSU point guard Bo Spencer has transferred to Nebraska; he'll have to sit out the upcoming season and will have one year of eligibility remaining in 2011-12.

Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn points to a number of positives in the Buffs' athletic program.

Following a rough 2009 season, Oklahoma's offensive line starts 2010 healthier, more experienced and focused on being consistent.

To satisfy the demands of Nebraska fans who plan to travel to Seattle for the Huskers' game at Washington, a travel agent in Lincoln bought 150 season tickets from the Pac-10 school.

Pat Forde of ESPN.com writes out quarterbacks Landry Jones at Oklahoma and Garrett Gilbert at Texas have emerged from the shadows of their predecessors.

Oklahoma State defensive back Andrew McGee is back playing for the Cowboys after suffering a broken neck in last year's Oklahoma game.

Monday, Aug. 23

Start your week with links
Penn State president Graham Spanier, who was Nebraska's chancellor from 1991 to 1995, believes the Nittany Lions and the Huskers would be well-matched in Big Ten Conference divisions. Spanier's experience also played a key role in Nebraska's invitation.

Oklahoma senior running back DeMarco Murray has numbers that rank him as one of the top running backs in Sooners history.

With his decisions and position moves, new Kansas football coach Turner Gill has emphasized his desire to field a fast team.

With an outstanding recruiting class plus several key returning players, Missouri is primed for an outstanding men's basketball season. Tigers coach Mike Anderson discusses that plus other topics in this Q and A with the Columbia Daily Tribune.

Consecutive trips to the Women's College Softball World Series has opened new recruiting opportunities for Missouri.

Sunday, Aug. 22

Links for Sunday reading
Missouri freshman quarterback Tyler Gabbert is fine with the comparisons people make between him and older brother Blaine, the Tigers' starter.

Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson wants the Sooners' offense to be diverse.

Nebraska held a scrimmage Saturday that ended a week that saw three more players added to a growing injury list.

Neill Woelk of the Boulder Daily Camera writes that junior Tyler Hansen did the necessary work to earn the starting quarterback job at Colorado.

Following Saturday's scrimmage, Texas Tech's Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield await the decision on who will be named the Red Raiders' starting quarterback.

With temperatures in Central Texas reaching 100 degrees every day, Baylor is making use of plenty of fluids and its indoor practice facility to keep players safe and fresh during practices.

Because he's similar in size to former wide receiver Brandon Banks, Kansas State redshirt freshman Tramaine Thompson understands why people are making comparisons.

Friday, Aug. 20

Skywriters Tour, Version 3.0: Colorado
The third year of the Skywriters Tour wrapped up Friday with a visit to Boulder. Freshmen were being welcomed at Global Jam, where food from around the world is served by student-athletes.

Your Humble Correspondent is flying solo on this trip. Former internet services intern Sam Neumann is now humbly employed by Buff Video and he's serving as the Tour's cameraman. Current video services intern Brian Mortensen is in the home office, furiously editing the dozens of hours of interviews captured over the last two weeks.

* Colorado held a three-hour, game-type scrimmage Thursday at Folsom Field. No statistics were released but coaches and players agreed that the running game dominated. "The holes were crazy," junior running back Rodney Stewart told the Denver Post. "Even against the No. 1 defense, there were some good holes." Junior Tyler Hansen and senior Cody Hawkins continued their battle to be the starting quarterback. Hansen got most of the reps with the first-team offense.

* Cody Hawkins, the son of Colorado coach Dan Hawkins, said that he's more concerned with the Buffs winning than he is with being the starter. "It would be big (to start), but more than anything, I want to win games,"he said. "I've started for three years and nobody's been where they want to be, including myself and the guys on the team. As a team, we've got to be more cohesive and get things done. ... Starting would be great, but I'm trying to get everybody to a bowl game."

* The Buffs have lacked a play-making wide receiver the last few years but they may have one in Toney Clemons. The junior, who sat out last season after transferring from Michigan, was named the preseason Big 12 Newcomer Of The Year. In the scrimmage, he turned a simple sideline catch into a 49-yard touchdown with an effective fake on would-be tackler Ray Polk. "Toney made (Polk) look silly," Cody Hawkins said. "But he does that on a lot of people."

* Colorado's defense has a solid secondary with Anthony Perkins and Ray Polk at safety plus fifth-year seniors Jalil Brown and Jimmy Smith at cornerback. However, defensive coordinator Ron Collins has praised redshirt freshman Parker Orms (who'll probably be the nickel back) and freshmen Terrel Smith, Josh Moten and Jered Bell.

* The Buffs are wearing plain gold helmets in practice. Coach Dan Hawkins removed the Buffs' logo decals at the start of preseason camp. Hawkins told the players they needed to earn the decals but they'll probably remain off until the end of the month. At the least, they'll return for games.

* At the end of Friday's practice, Dan Hawkins asked senior wide receiver Scotty McKnight if this is the deepest group of receivers the Buffs have had during his four years on campus. "Absolutely," McKnight said in an interview later. "In the past, we had guys who might have played in games because we really didn't have anyone else. And we didn't have enough guys to push each other in practice. That's not the case." McKnight started as a freshman but Dan Hawkins said he doubts that if McKnight was a rookie he'd be able to crack the top two levels of the depth chart.

Reminder: The preseason preview series that will feature each Big 12 teams in count down fashion starts Saturday.

Lots o' links for a Friday
Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn addresses a number of issues in this Q and A with Boulder Weekly.

Steven M. Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star and Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald weigh in on Nebraska coach Bo Pelini's concerns over how injuries to two of his players were reported this week.

On the subject of closed/open practices, Austin Meek of the Topeka Capital-Journal writes that Kansas State could benefit from a more visible profile.

Texas Tech players don't miss the sand pit that former coach Mike Leach installed in 2005 near the team's practice field.

Texas senior offensive lineman Michael Huey hopes to help the Longhorns running game start cooking.

Wonderful story about Missouri redshirt freshman wide receiver L'Damian Washington written by Mike DeArmond of the Kansas City Star.

Several Kansas State offensive linemen bonded over the summer by taking camping and fishing trips together.

Iowa State offensive lineman Jake McDonough was having health issues in the spring of 2009 and then he found out he was allergic to milk.

Thursday, Aug. 19

Kansas names sophomore Pick as starting QB
Sophomore Kale Pick, who was the backup for Todd Reesing last season, has been named the Jayhawks' starting quarterback. Pick was battling redshirt freshman Jordan Webb for the starting job.

"Kale Pick is definitely the guy who has earned the position," first-year coach Turner Gill told the Lawrence Journal-World. "And all along I've said once we felt that a guy has earned it, then it's time."

Gill also announced Thursday that senior Angus Quigley will be the starting running back and that Toben Opurum will move to linebacker. Last season as a freshman, Opurum led the Jayhawks in rushing with 554 yards.

Baylor freshman Ahmad Dixon cleared to play
Baylor's defensive secondary received a boost when freshman secondary Ahmad Dixon was cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse Wednesday. Dixon was one of the highest-rated players in the Bears' 2010 recruiting class.

"We're excited about it, but we were confident that it was going to happen," Baylor coach Art Briles told the Waco Tribune-Herald. "We're just proud Ahmad had the discipline and maturity to take care of his business. Ahmad has done real well since the start of camp. He's improved every day and has gotten a better grasp of the defense. He's also helped on special teams."

Soccer links
After winning the Big 12 regular-season title in 2008 and the tournament title in 2009, Oklahoma State is aiming for a three peat.

The return to health of three midfielders has helped boost Texas A&M's depth.

New football coach Tommy Tuberville will help Texas Tech start its season when the Red Raiders host TCU Friday.

Baylor opens the 2010 season convinced that its days of being at the bottom of the Big 12 soccer standings are over.

Getting linked up
Missouri's football team has come up with a rallying cry for big plays this season.

Here's an update from Iowa State on the flood recovery efforts.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops had dinner in Oklahoma City with ESPN College GameDay analyst Lee Corso.

Andy Katz of ESPN.com that former Iowa State basketball coach Larry Eustachy understands the kind of fan reaction Louisville coach Rick Pitino is likely to face on the road this season.

Kansas redshirt freshman defensive end Kevin Young studies the NFL's top pass rushers and his quick improvement could earn him a starting spot for the Jayhawks.

Based on last year's statistics, Missouri's secondary needs to show improvement.

Richard Deitsch of SI.com has this Q and A with former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach after it was announced he'll be a college football game analyst for CBS College Sports Network.

Nebraska has launched "Red Out Around the World," a website designed to bring together Huskers fans no matter where they live.

Wednesday, Aug. 18

Hello, Mr. President
Three Big 12 national championship teams will benefit from a tradition started by President George W. Bush and continued by President Barack Obama.

Oklahoma State's men's cross country team, Texas' men's swimming and diving team and Texas A&M's men's and women's outdoor track and field teams will be honored with a reception at the White House on Sept. 13. The President will welcome student-athletes from the three Big 12 national championship teams plus those from 29 other NCAA  national champions.

Aches and pains
Lots of injury news from around the Big 12.

* Nebraska sophomore linebacker Sean Fisher, who started six games last season, suffered a leg injury in Tuesday's practice. The extent of the injury is not known. About an hour after the practice ended, news of Fisher's injury was posted on a Huskers fans message board. Coach Bo Pelini, who is the source for injury information, has shut down media access until Saturday. Pelini confirmed to the Associated Press Wednesday night that Fisher broke his leg and is out for the season. He also said backup cornerback Anthony Blue tore his anterior cruciate ligament and is out for the season.

* Bailey Webster, a sophomore outside hitter for Texas' volleyball team will miss the season after suffering a right knee injury. She is scheduled to undergo surgery Aug. 27. The 6-3 Webster was the nation's top-ranked recruit in 2009 and was named to the Big 12 All-Freshman team last season. With the departure of Destiny Hooker, Webster had the chance to become one of the Longhorns' top front court players.

* Oklahoma junior linebacker Austin Box, who has had injury problems in the past, will be out up to six weeks with a "disc issue" in his back. Box has been battling with redshirt freshman Tom Wort for the starting middle linebacker spot. Wort missed last season when he suffered a torn ACL during preseason practice.

* Oklahoma sophomore Whitney Hand, the Big 12 Freshman of the Year in 2009, will miss the next five months after undergoing microfracture surgery Tuesday to repair cartilage damage in her right knee. The surgery was part of her recovery from a torn ACL in the same knee. She suffered that injury last season. If Hand can recover from the latest surgery, she could return to action in February. She received a medical hardship waiver last season so she still has a redshirt season available.

Iowa State volleyball has new temporary home
Because of flood damage to Hilton Coliseum, Iowa State's nationally ranked volleyball team will play its 2010 home schedule at Ames High School. The Cyclones will continue to practice at the West Towne Courts. The volleyball coaching staff has moved into temporary offices in the Sukup Basketball Complex.

"There are so many people that have offered us assistance over the last week and we are very grateful to each of them," said Iowa State volleyball coach Christy Johnson-Lynch, whose team opens its home schedule Sept. 3 against Wisconsin-Milwaukee. "The generosity of the women's basketball staff, Dickson Jensen, who owns West Towne Courts, and Judge Johnston and the people at Ames High School is something we will never forget."

Iowa State averaged over 2,700 fans per match last season, ninth-best in the NCAA. The school announced Wednesday that it has sold a record 706 season tickets.

Skywriters Tour, Version 3.0: Texas A&M
Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne is a frequent visitor to football practice. The man who hired Mike Sherman likes what he sees. Byrne says the team has shown improvement and there's great chemistry between the players and the coaching staff.

* Sherman on senior quarterback Jerrod Johnson: "Jerrod made good decisions last year. I'm always about decision making. Sometimes in practice he has a tendency to be too aggressive. One of our challenges is to not clutter him up. He's a senior and he's smart so there's a tendency to put more on him. Sometimes that can immobilize a quarterback. He's willing to do whatever we ask but we need to make sure we don't over burden him."

* A player few know about could make quite an impact on defense. Ben Bass, a 6-5, 280-pound defensive end, has returned to the team after taking care of his academic business. "He's been a big shot in the arm for us," new defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter said. "He's long and athletic. He's got a little ways to go obviously, because he hasn't played football in a year, but he's got a chance to be a good football player."

* With the switch to a 3-4 alignment under new coordinator Tim DeRuyter, the two inside linebackers are the heart of the defense. Starters Michael Hodges and Garrick Williams are working with an assistant coach who won the Lombardi Award playing inside linebacker in a 3-4 - former Aggie Dat Nguyen. "Coach Nguyen just knows so much about what to see on the field," Hodges told the San Antonio Express-News. "When we're watching film, he points out things I've never seen before."

* Utility players are more associated with baseball but Ryan Tannehill is the Aggies' utility man. He's the No. 2 quarterback behind senior Jerrod Johnson ... and the last two seasons Tannehill has been A&M's leading receiver even though he spends little time practicing at that position. Tannehill played defensive back in high school and Sherman says he has considered using Tannehill at safety to defend an opponent's Hail Mary pass.

* All-American linebacker/defensive end Von Miller, whose 17 sacks were the most in Division I-A last season, returned kickoffs in high school. He asked the coaching staff to let him return kicks this season and he was given the chance during Tuesday's practice. What about during a game? "Practice is one thing," Sherman said. "Games are something else."

* Tuesday's two-hour-and-25-minute practice, No. 11 of the preseason, was a little sluggish according to Sherman. The explanation for that could have been the summer heat plus the fact the Aggies still have some depth issues. However, Sherman noted that the team had a string of good practices before Tuesday. After Wednesday morning's practice, Sherman was pleased with the effort. As junior Jeff Fuller said, "We're trying to stack good practices. That's how you get better."

* John David Crow, the Aggies' only Heisman Trophy winner (1957) who played 11 seasons in the NFL, chatted with Sherman about the differences in preseason workouts. Crow recalled that in his days as a pro there were two-a-day practices every day with five preseason games. "And we got paid $50 a day ... actually it was $48.20," Crow said.

Next (and final) stop: Colorado.

Tuesday, Aug. 17

Skywriters Tour, Version 3.0: Texas
There is no doubt where Texas has its focus. Forget about playing at Texas Tech, the Red River Rivalry against Oklahoma, the game at Nebraska. In the team's indoor practice facility, there's a sign that counts down the number of days until the season opener. Tuesday, it read "18 days until Rice." The Longhorns open the 2010 season against the Owls in Houston at Reliant Stadium on Sept. 4.

* Sophomore quarterback Garrett Gilbert will make his first collegiate start against Rice. The Longhorns' quarterback depth chart is greener than unripe bananas. Gilbert's backups will either be Connor Wood or Case McCoy (Colt's younger brother). Both are freshmen.

* In Mack Brown's 12 seasons in Austin, the Longhorns have played young quarterbacks for various reasons. Freshman Major Appelwhite took over in Brown's first season. Vince Young became a starter midway through his redshirt freshman season. McCoy followed Young, starting as a redshirt freshman in 2006. "We've had this type of situation before and we think we've got an understanding of how to make it work," Brown said.

* Gilbert says that his biggest challenge thus far has been handling the media mobs. This drew a laugh from the 15 or so reporters surrounding the UT quarterback.

* Perhaps Texas should consider changing what it calls its tight ends. That's because the position has been jinxed by injuries the past few seasons. Redshirt freshman tight end Trey Graham was lost for the season when he suffered a right knee injury during Monday's practice. Tight ends Blaine Irby (2008), Ian Harris (2009) and D.J. Grant (2009) have been lost to injuries the last two seasons.

* When an athlete faces the media on a regular basis, he/she often relies on a buzz word that pops up in each answer. For Gilbert, that word is "absolutely." That's far better than the ubiquitous "you know."

* In addition to being an outstanding receiver and punt returner, Jordan Shipley was the holder on extra points and field goals. The Longhorns are auditioning a replacement for Shipley. Wide receiver James Kirkendoll, who has never been a holder, is one of those trying out. "It's challenging," he said. "It's not as easy as it looks."

* Texas wants to emphasize the running game. That means Gilbert will line up more under center than in the shotgun. And so far the Longhorns' quarterback likes what he sees. "The offensive linemen have taken it upon themselves to have an attitude and the running backs have done a good job of trying to get down hill," he said. "I feel very confident in our running game. I think it's something we can rely on every game."

* There has been a lot of talk about the talent in the Texas secondary and how hard it hits. Junior safety Christian Scott (6-1, 215 pounds), in particular, has been drawing attention for how he lights up receivers. His hit on Greg Smith, a 250-pound senior tight end, has become the talk of preseason camp. "When I saw that, I almost cried," junior wide receiver Malcolm Williams said. Why? "Because it could have been me."

Skywriters Tour, Version 3.0: Baylor
Your Humble Correspondent has asked his share of dumb questions during interviews. Some questions are dumb and necessary. Case in point: Baylor sophomore quarterback Robert Griffin enters this season after suffering an ACL injury and undergoing knee surgery. The obvious question for Griffin is to ask him about the knee.

* YHC tried for a different approach when interviewing Griffin. "Complete this sentence - if you complete as many passes this season as you've been asked questions about your knee ..." (OK, so it wasn't really a question.) Griffin's answer: "We'll win a national championship."

* As a freshman in 2008, Griffin was more of a lean track athlete than a football player. In the process of rehabbing his knee, Griffin bulked up. He's listed at 6-2, 220 pounds. The extra weight has helped increase his arm strength so now he's throwing lasers instead of bullets. And the world-class hurdler speed is still there.

* There's another Robert Griffin who should contribute on offense. Robert T. Griffin is an offensive tackle who transferred from Navarro College. The 6-6, 330 pounder has been working at right guard. After participating in three weeks of spring practice, he underwent shoulder surgery.

* Baylor coach Art Briles said that senior running back Jay Finley and senior offensive tackle Danny Watkins are being limited in practice. "We know what both of those guys can do," Briles said. Watkins has a sore ankle while Finley is still recovering from off-season ankle surgery. Briles said that Finley is ready for game action but that the staff is being judicious as to how much he practices.

* Baylor must replace two leaders and play makers on defense - linebacker Joe Pawelek and free safety Jordan Lake. Senior Tim Atchison, who is moving from corner to free safety, thinks he knows where some of the defensive leadership will come from. "I hope it will be me," he said. "I'm trying to be more vocal. In the past, I've led by example." Atchison also said his position switch has been easier because he originally played safety.

* To battle the 100-degree heat, Baylor has been splitting its practice times between its outdoor grass fields and its neighboring indoor practice facility. "That's really been saving us," Briles said.

* The offensive line must replace All-American center J.D. Walton. But senior Phillip Blake has been impressive at center. Last season, he started all 12 games at right tackle and consistently received high grades for his blocking. "I know I've got big shoes to fill," Blake, a 25-year-old Canadian, told the Waco Tribune-Herald. "There's a little pressure on me, but that's OK. J.D.'s already given me some pointers, and has told me some things I can correct."

* To boost football attendance, Baylor has started a promotional campaign called "Rise Up." Billboards featuring quarterback Robert Griffin, offensive lineman Danny Watkins and linebacker Antonio Johnson are featured along Interstate 35. A series of television commercials featuring coach Art Briles and players will start airing soon. "It's really an all-out effort to make Baylor what it needs to be," Briles said. "But playing well seems to solve everything."

Next stop: Texas A&M.

Monday, Aug. 16

Skywriters Tour, Version 3.0: Texas Tech
The Tour's Southwest flight pump faked the landing at Lubbock International. Because of traffic on the runway (?!?!?), the pilot aborted his approach, pulled up and came around. The second try led to a smooth landing.

* The Red Raiders held their Monday morning practice at Jones AT&T Stadium. Hard to believe, but the temperature was in the mid 70s with cloudy skies - they even turned on the stadium lights. There was even some kind of moisture in the air. Your Humble Correspondent believes that it's something known as "rain."

* Taylor Potts appears to have an edge on Steven Sheffield as the two seniors battle to become the starting quarterback. Potts outplayed Sheffield in Saturday's scrimmage. Coach Tommy Tuberville hopes to have a starter in place soon after the second scrimmage, scheduled for this Saturday.

* Sheffield was blunt in analyzing how he played and how Potts played in the recent scrimmage: "If you take this scrimmage and look at it from an outsider looking in, there's no way you can say I did better than Potts. Of course I hurt my chances ... I didn't do many good things. More than anything, I just didn't do what I'd practiced all week, and implement the stuff that we put in all week. I just made a bunch of dumb decisions."

* Defensive coordinator James Willis coached with Tuberville for five seasons and last season was an assistant coach on Alabama's national championship team. Willis is emphasizing speed and aggressive play. One of his favorite sayings is "urgency not emergency." Translation: "You can't go crazy out there, you've got to stay focused," junior safety Cody Davis said.

* The coaching staff has a team-wide motto: Finish. There have been some practices in 90-degree temperatures where the team has struggled in the final hour. "We're working mentally right now on trying to make it through a practice,"Tuberville said. "We make it about halfway through, and then we start losing our concentration. We've got too many guys that, when they get tired, they don't know how to finish. ... You've got to earn the right to play - play in the Big 12 and lay it on the line for four quarters - and right now we'd probably make it through a half if we're lucky. It's not everybody. A few guys, they're ready to go, but the intensity has to continue for four quarters and an entire practice."

* Senior Brian Duncan played middle linebacker last season but has been moved to a hybrid position known as "buck." Duncan will lineup as a linebacker and as a defensive end and will be turned loose to hassle opposing ball carriers and quarterbacks.

* Before interviewing Duncan on camera, he told YHC, "Good to meet you, I see you on television all the time." Mr. Duncan becomes the third member of the YHC Fan Club, joining Mrs. YHC and YHC's Teenage Son.

Next stop: Baylor.

Skywriters Tour tidbits
Here's the recap of last week's Lollapalooza Tour (six campuses in five days):

Elapsed time: 121 hours (departed 11 a.m. Sunday, returned noon Friday).

Hotels: 5.

Interviews: 31 (not counting three coaches' press conferences).

Natural disasters: 1. Flood waters in Ames prevented the Skywriters Tour from making it to Iowa State.

Miles driven: 1,873.

Musical hints: Thanks to Sirius/XM in the rent car, the "tuneage" was outstanding. But why did AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" come out of the speakers twice? On the final leg of the trip, Supertramp's "Take the Long Way Home" aired. And Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" had the appropriate summation: "Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?"

Sunday, Aug. 15

Saturday scrimmage reports
Several Big 12 teams held scrimmages Saturday. Here are links to stories from around the Conference:

Texas Tech senior quarterback Steven Sheffield was unhappy with his performance plus notes from the Red Raiders' scrimmage.

Missouri's running game, led by slimmed-down senior running back Derrick Washington, was impressive. The defense also managed to make some big plays.

Oklahoma State's first scrimmage was balanced between success for the offense and the defense. Coach Mike Gundy was pleased with the progress of the offense.

Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin appears to have recovered from his ACL injury as he exhibited mobility and a strong arm during Saturday's "Meet The Bears" scrimmage.

Defense and running backs were the highlights of Iowa State's first scrimmage.  A rebuilding defense, in particular, was impressive as it worked against a veteran offense.

Nebraska held a one-hour scrimmage during Saturday's practice and coach Bo Pelini praised the effort but noted some sloppiness.

Texas A&M put on the pads for a two-and-a-half hour workout that ended with the offense and defense all even.

More links
Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star writes that picking Kansas to finish ahead of North Division rivals Iowa State, Colorado and Kansas State requires more faith than logic.

Nebraska's volleyball team could have a unique look this season - two 6-foot-5 left-handed hitters that coach John Cook says "could make us very difficult to stop."

Kansas kicker Jacob Branstetter and punter Alonso Rojas share a special bond and have become best friends off the field.

Texas basketball coach Rick Barnes supports former Oklahoma State coach Sean Sutton, who was sentenced to three years probation after pleading guilty to four felony drug charges.

Junior Tyler Hansen appears to have the upper hand as he battles to become Colorado's starting quarterback.

When Kansas starts its search for a new athletic director, the list of candidates probably will be long.

Sympathetic thoughts
Prayers and condolences go out to the family of Colorado skier Spencer Nelson, who died in a hiking accident Saturday near Aspen. He was 20 years old and a sophomore.

Friday, Aug. 13

Lucky links for a Friday the 13th
ESPN.com's college basketball Summer Buzz tour checks in with Kansas State.

New Texas A&M assistant coach Troy Walters gives the Aggies' wide receivers a role model.

Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman writes that a commitment to the running game would only help a deep and talented Texas defense.

Nebraska running back Roy Helu is poised to close out his college career in a big way.

There's a buzz around the Nebraska volleyball team, which is picked to win the Big 12.

Thursday, Aug. 12

Iowa State flood update from Cyclones.com
AMES, Iowa - Crews spent Thursday pumping water out of Hilton Coliseum as clean-up work began at the Iowa State Center and other areas affected by the floods which ravaged Ames Wednesday.  

Water from Squaw Creek and the Skunk River have been slowly but steadily receding since reaching a high mark around noon Wednesday. Officials said until the water recedes fully it is impossible to make any full damage estimates.

"We are pumping water out of Hilton and we don't know how long it will take to do that completely," Iowa State assistant athletics director for operations Nick Britton said. "There is no power in (Hilton) right now but we will be working around the clock."

Without power Hilton Coliseum remains in the dark but for light shining through open doors and reporters' cameras. The volleyball court continues to float aimlessly in the vast pit of water, which reached the second row of the parquet section Wednesday.

All three Cyclone sports teams are making adjustments because of flooding. The volleyball team is practicing at a facility in west Ames.  The soccer squad worked out in the Bergstrom Indoor Facility Thursday morning but will probably be moving to another Central Iowa practice ground.  The football team had its jerseys and pants washed in Boone (5 miles east of Ames) Wednesday while the team took showers in Huxley (10 miles south) and Gilbert (2 miles north).

The football practice fields still retain water so the team worked out on the Johnny Majors Complex practice field just south of the Bergstrom indoor facility. Thursday afternoon marked the first outdoor football practice for the team since Sunday afternoon, before the three straight days of rain brought flooding that in places exceeded the dubiously memorable floods of 1993.

Water is still in the Lied Recreation Center, home to many Cyclone Olympic sport locker rooms and the school's indoor track.

Texas Tech to debut The Ride
An all-access, behind-the-scenes reality show about Texas Tech athletics will debut Sept. 4. The Ride will give Red Raiders fans a day-to-day look at the ups and downs experienced by Texas Tech student-athletes and coaches each week.

The first of 38 episodes is scheduled to debut on Sept. 4 with the last episode airing on May 22. The weekly show It will air in Lubbock on KAMC-TV and across state and nation on: Fox Sports Southwest, Fox College Sports, Fox Sports Plus and Time Warner Cable.

"With the popularity of reality shows on television, we thought this would be perfect way to showcase not only our football program but other sports at Texas Tech as well," said head football coach Tommy Tuberville. "The photographers and staff of this show have complete and total access to all of our sports and they will be giving viewers a unique inside look into college athletics.

"Texas Tech is going to be on the forefront of this and I know our fans are really going to love it."

Battling adversity
Football coaches guard their practice time like they guard their cell phone numbers. In August, with the start of the season looming, every minute of practice time is crucial.

At Iowa State, the clock is ticking faster because the Cyclones open the season on Sept. 2, two days before the other Big 12 teams. Also, coach Paul Rhoads team is facing the toughest schedule in the country.

When floodwaters inundated campus Wednesday morning, the football players stacked sand bags instead of a weight lifting session. True enough, the Cyclones practiced in the afternoon. But the priority of helping others outweighed pushing iron.

As Pat Forde of ESPN.com Tweeted, Rhoads is a coach who "gets it."

After Wednesday's practice, with water service in Ames disrupted, the Iowa State players had to travel 10 miles to a nearby town to shower. Not a scripted team building session but overcoming and dealing with those types of road blocks can create unity. Here's hoping that happens for Rhoads' Cyclones.

Skywriters Tour, Version 3.0: Missouri
Gary Pinkel runs high energy practices. Your Humble Correspondent knows this because the Missouri coach allows the media to watch practice. YHC can't diagram a zone blitz or recognize zone blocking but he can tell when a team "gets after it." Thursday morning, the Tigers were getting after it.

* "We've got some guys who are banged up a little bit, but that's two-a-days," Pinkel said after the morning's practice when asked about a number of players being banged up. "Also, it sends a message to everybody how important getting depth at every position is. ...I don't really care who gets hurt. We have no excuses for anything. Bottom line, people move up and whoever's playing game day against Illinois, plays. We don't ever talk about, 'Woe is me,' and 'This is awful that this happened to us,' we don't do that around here. ... Bottom line, if a guy gets hurt, we have to coach better, and we've got to have people step up and play at a better level, and that's what we're going to do."

* Missouri junior wide receiver Jerrell Jackson suffered a fractured bone in his left wrist Wednesday. His wrist has been placed in a cast and he could be out up to four weeks. That means he could miss the Tigers' season opener against Illinois on Sept. 4. Jackson is Missouri's top returning receiver. He caught 37 passes for 458 yards and two touchdowns in 2009.

* More injury news: Sophomore defensive end Aldon Smith missed Thursday's practice with a hip pointer. Wide receiver L'Damian Washington (thigh bruise) and linebacker Will Ebner (hamstring) also sat out practice.

* YHC believes that Dave Matter, who covers the Tigers for the Columbia Daily Tribune, is an outstanding beat man. He attends practice, he takes notes then reports accurately and honestly. So it matters to YHC when Matter says that sophomore T.J. Moe will lead Missouri in receptions. That's a bold statement considering that Moe, a high school quarterback, caught two passes last season. Matter thinks that Moe, as an inside receiver in the Missouri offense, is a perfect fit.

* Defense is always a question with Missouri. The unit is in its second season under defensive coordinator Dave Steckel. Senior linebacker Andrew Gachkar said he and his defensive teammates have adjusted. "Last year, I was thinking everything through before I did it. Now I can just react and be at the right place at the right time. And last year we had a lot of young guys stepping into roles. We've got a lot of guys who have developed and I think that's why we'll be better. Another thing that hurt us last year was a lack of communication. That's also improved with more guys have experience."

* Senior tailback Derrick Washington had a 31-yard scoring run in Wednesday's practice. His body fat is down to 14.6 percent and his weight is down to 212 from 220 last year. Washington has stopped eating fast food, fried foods and chowing down after 10 p.m. "This year, I've got another gear when I'm running, I can turn it up and go," Washington said. "I had that gear as a sophomore. I didn't have it last year."

* Missouri coaches wear t-shirts during practices that feature "phrases of the day." Thursday morning, the message was "Think Right" on the front and "Think Positive Be Confident" on the back.

Next stop: Texas Tech (Monday).

Skywriters Tour tidbits
* The Official Skywriters Tour Vehicle flipped over mile 1,000 on this journey at 10:41 a.m. Wednesday north of Des Moines. Your Humble Correspondent and Internet Services Assistant/co-pilot/traveling buddy Brian Mortensen drove toward Ames even though we knew flooding had closed the Interstate. Guess we just wanted to see what we could see before doing a 180 and heading to Columbia.

* Ironically, the exit off I-35 the Tour Vehicle was forced to take led to Big Creek State Park.

* After gathering interviews at Missouri Thursday, the Tour was ready to hit the road back to Dallas. Before departing CoMo, it was lunch at Booches. A glorified pool hall, Booches is famous for its burgers. Former basketball coach Norm Stewart holds court at Booches whenever he's in town. A sign near the back says: Booches - Feasting, Imbibing, Debauchery. YHC and Mr. Mortensen only feasted. Scout's honor.

Linked up
Sean Keeler of the Des Moines Register has a great story about how Iowa State is coping with flooding.

Cedric Golden of the Austin American-Statesman writes that senior Sam Acho, a defensive end, is willing to shift to tackle if it will help the Texas defensive line.

Oklahoma is counting on the potential of junior Donald Stephenson to be the offensive left tackle who protects quarterback Landry Jones' blind side.

Once he was competing for playing time, then he proved himself. Now, there's no doubt that Rodney Stewart is Colorado's No. 1 running back.

Wednesday, Aug. 11

Skywriters Tour, Version 3.0: Iowa State
If you've been following the travels (and if you haven't been ... get with the program) of Your Humble Correspondent and Internet Services Assistant/co-pilot/traveling buddy Brian Mortensen, you have read that the summer heat has been a recurring theme.

Turns out the weather/Mother Nature called a misdirection play that drew the Skywriters Tour offside.

Iowa State sports information director Tom Kroeschell called YHC Wednesday morning and left the following voice mail: "Call me."

When YHC returned the call, Kroeschell had a two-word message: "Forget it."

That meant no 30-minute drive from Des Moines to Ames for the sixth stop in the Skywriters Tour in Ames. Most everyone that was on the interview list was busy sandbagging around Jack Trice Stadium and Hilton Coliseum. For veterans of the Cyclones staff, it recalled The Great Flood of 1993. Sadly, the floodwaters could surpass the record levels set in '93.

Take some time today to think good thoughts and say some prayers for the good people of Iowa as they cope with the floodwaters. Ames received five inches of rain Tuesday night. Rains to the north were heavier. The state received record rain falls in June and July, which accounts for the lovely green landscape visible along Interstate 80. Monsoon-like rainfall this month, though, made flooding a threat.

And on a considerably more trivial level, Big 12 Sports.com - with the help of folks in the Iowa State video department - will put together as many interviews as possible to provide coverage of the Cyclones that was originally planned for the Skywriters Tour stop.

Next stop: Missouri (assuming the roads between Des Moines and Columbia aren't flooded.

Big 12 matchups for early season basketball tourneys
The first-round matchups have been announced for early season college basketball tournaments that are owned by ESPN or are conducted in partnership with the sports cable network. Here's the run down for Big 12 teams.

* Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic: Baylor vs. San Diego. Other teams: Butler, Florida State, Mississippi State, San Diego, Utah, Washington State and Hawai'i.

* 10th Annual IBN Sports Las Vegas Classic (Championship Rounds): Colorado vs. New Mexico. Other teams: Indiana, Northern Iowa.

* Global Sports Invitational: Iowa State vs. Creighton.

* Jimmy V Men's Basketball Classic: Kansas vs. Memphis. Other teams: Michigan State, Syracuse.

* O'Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic (Championship Rounds): Kansas State vs. Gonzaga. Other teams: Duke, Marquette.

* Puerto Rico Tip-Off: Nebraska vs. Vanderbilt. Other Teams: Davidson, Hofstra, Minnesota, North Carolina, West Virginia, Western Kentucky.

* Maui Invitational: Oklahoma vs. Kentucky.  Other teams: Chaminade, Connecticut, Michigan State, Virginia, Washington, Wichita State.

* Fourth Annual 76 Classic: Oklahoma State vs. DePaul. Other teams: Cal State Northridge, Murray State, Stanford, Tulsa, UNLV, Virginia Tech.

* 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer (Championship Rounds): Texas vs. Illinois. Other teams: Pittsburgh, Maryland.

* Old Spice Classic: Texas A&M vs. Boston College. Other teams: California, Georgia, Manhattan, Notre Dame, Temple, Wisconsin.

* South Padre Island Invitational: Texas Tech vs. Saint Mary's. Other teams: BYU, Chicago State, Georgia Southern, Liberty, Mississippi Valley State, South Florida.

Hot links, served fresh
If you're into rankings, here's how ESPN.com blogger David Ubben ranks the Big 12 in the preseason.

Olin Buchanan of Rivals.com breaks down and previews the upcoming Big 12 football season.
Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne is fine being a "lightning rod" on all topics regarding Aggies athletics.

Four years ago, Baylor offensive tackle Danny Watkins thought he would have a career as a firefighter. Next year, he might be in the NFL.

Kansas' Reggie Mitchell, who has been ranked as one of college football's top recruiters each of the last six years, says selling recruits on KU is easy because of new coach Turner Gill.

Colorado redshirt freshman offensive tackle David Bakhtiari could be a surprise starter when the Buffs open the season against Colorado State.

Tuesday, Aug. 10

Skywriters Tour, Version 3.0: Nebraska
Just as the Official Skywriters Tour Vehicle crossed from Kansas to Nebraska, Your Humble Correspondent noticed a road-side mail box painted red and white with the name "Huskers" on the side. YHC doubts the name of the family living there is named "Huskers" but sighting underlines the passion citizens of the state have for their Big Red football team.

* Coach Bo Pelini goes into his third season with a team that is primed and poised to make noise in the Big 12 and the national scene. Some news and notes from the Skywriters Tour visit.

* Three players - senior Zac Lee, sophomore Cody Green and redshirt freshman Taylor Martinez - are battling to become the starting quarterback. Lee, who had offseason surgery on his throwing elbow, appears to have a slight edge so far.

* Senior wide receiver Niles Paul has no worries about the quarterback position. "We've got three guys who are all talented and competing hard," he said. "No matter who winds up the starter, he's gonna be a good player and a good quarterback.

* Nebraska averaged 147.1 yards per game and 4.0 yards per carry last season, with 20 touchdowns. All three numbers were down from the year before. In three of the four losses last season, the running game was sub-par. The Huskers had 67 yards rushing against Texas, 70 against Texas Tech and 114 against Iowa State.

* Consistent quarterback play and a reliable running game would help an offense that too often short circuited. Pelini is a fan of a strong running game and he sounds confident. "I think we're set up to do that (run the ball) better than we have been since I've been here," Pelini said.

"I really like what we're doing scheme-wise, what we did in the spring, and we've made some adjustments. We're moving forward."

* Senior kicker Adi Kunalic has a powerful leg and is one of the top kickoff specialists in the country. Senior kicker Alex Henery is one of the nation's top kick scorers. Kunalic has a redshirt season remaining and was considering using it so that he could be Nebraska's kicker last season. That idea has been shelved, though and Kunalic is expected to be booming kickoffs again this season.

* As a concession to the 100-degree heat, Nebraska moved its two-and-a-half hour practice indoors Tuesday. The Huskers worked out in helmets and shoulder pads for the second consecutive day. "When you go outside, and it's that hot, it's just hard," offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said.  "After a while, the human body just wears down. We want practices that are high intensity practices where we're able to execute for the duration of practice. We came in because we wanted to get our practices more crisp."

* Pelini likes the depth and the talent on the offensive line. Last year's unit was decimated by injuries. That not only limited cohesion in games but it restricted the competition at practice. With all hands on deck this season, the Huskers appear to have 10 offensive linemen who are capable of playing.

* In the Big 12 Championship game and the Holiday Bowl, the Huskers primarily played their "Peso" defense that features four linemen, two linebackers and five defensive backs (although one of those DBs is a hybrid linebacker/defensive back). Nebraska installed the Peso as its base defense in spring practice.

Next stop: Iowa State.

Skywriters Tour, Version 3.0: Kansas State
As Mr. Cub Ernie Banks liked to say, it's a great day to play two. Big 12 Sports.com's Skywriters Tour is pulling double duty Tuesday (Your Humble Correspondent had to check the calendar to make sure what day it is). First stop is Manhattan to check in on Kansas State. Later today, the tour will stop in Lincoln to report on all things Big Red.

 

* Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, 70,  looked fresh and was in CEO mode in a suit while being interviewed in the Vanier Football Complex. When asked if that's his practice attire, Snyder jokingly said yes.

* The Wildcats must replace defensive linemen Jeffrey Fitzgerald and Daniel Calvin. They combined for 71 tackles, 15 behind the line of scrimmage, and nine sacks. Defensive end Brandon Harold, a 2008 freshman All-American, is back after missing last season with an injury. However, top recruit Adam Davis, a junior-college transfer and defensive end, will miss the season with a back injury.

* The quarterback situation continues to be in flux. Senior Carson Coffman started four games last season. Sophomore Collin Klein was moved to wide receiver last season, playing in 12 games and catching six passes for 38 yards and a touchdown. He returned to the QB position in the spring. Junior-college transfer Sammuel Lamur, whose older brother Emmanuel is a starting safety for the Wildcats, has come on strong to make it a three-player race. "When we take the reps, Carson takes the first, Collin takes the second and Sammuel takes the third," Snyder said. "We're not going to invest that kind of repetition unless there's a belief that they're on an equal stage and will remain competitive."

* Snyder on deciding who starts at quarterback in the opener against UCLA: "We'll make the decision as rapidly as we can. Since they're competitive and vey close we want to give them the opportunity for someone to emerge. I think the gap is closing right now," Snyder said. "The opportunity for Sammuel to be a part of that has remained open. He's proven to us that he can be a part of that mix."

* Sammuel Lamur, 6-4 and 220 pounds, has a big arm and speed but he has had to work hard to master the Wildcats' offense. "The playbook is crazy," he said. "I treat it like a second bible. That's how it's supposed to be. As a quarterback you can't just sit back and relax and think you're going to know the plays."

* Senior Daniel Thomas led the Big 12 in rushing last season. His return plus the presence of fullback Braden Wilson and four offensive linemen should mean the Wildcats' offense will again be run-oriented. However, Snyder wants and needs a quarterback who can provide a passing threat. "We will definitely have balance and variety in our offense," Snyder said. "We can't rely on just a running game."

* Last season, Kansas State finished with a 33:48 to 26:12 edge in time of possession. That statistic speaks to the fact that the Wildcats' were a patient, run-oriented offense that specialized in time-consuming drives. That also was a boon to the defense. "That's definitely something that helped us on defense last season," junior safety Tysyn Hartman said. "I remember one game, we started on defense, got a three and out. Our offense kept the ball almost the entire first quarter. We didn't get out on the field again until the last few plays. That sort of thing helped keep us fresh."

Next stop: Nebraska.

Skywriters Tour 3.0 tidbit
Before his on-camera interview for Big 12 Sports.com's preseason preview, Kansas State coach Bill Snyder was chatting with Your Humble Correspondent. YHC mentioned that during the Skywriters Tour stop at Kansas offensive coordinator Chuck Long was an interview subject.

When Long was Iowa's quarterback (and runner up in the 1985 Heisman Trophy race), Snyder was the Hawkeyes' offensive coordinator.

"You know, Chuck was the first college quarterback to throw for 10,000 yards in his career," Snyder recalled. "He's also the only player - or at least one of the few players - to play in five bowl games. He played some in a bowl game his freshman year, but then we were able to redshirt him for that season. The rules for redshirting freshmen were different back then."

Monday, Aug. 9

Skywriters Tour, Version 3.0: Kansas
Breaking news: It's hot. OK, it's not news that the thermometer is in triple digits no matter where the Skywriters Tour travels. Monday's stop was Lawrence, Kans., and it was more of the same ol' same ol'.

The heat was a hot topic as the Jayhawks players and coaches were interviewed during the team's media day. When the team scrimmaged Sunday, the temperature on the field turf at Memorial Stadium registered at 128 degrees. Ouch. Wow.

* First-year coach Turner Gill, who was raised in Fort Worth, Texas, so he's accustomed to summer heat. Asked about his team practicing in the afternoon when the temperature was at its highest, Gill had this explanation: "It's gonna be hot on game day," he said, pointing out that Kansas opens the season at 6 p.m. against North Dakota State on Sept 4 when the temperature is unlikely to be autumnal.

* Gill announced some bad news. Linebacker Huldon Tharp, who missed spring practice with a foot injury, will be out for the season. Gill said it wasn't the same injury Tharp suffered during the spring but that it was a foot injury that would sideline the sophomore, who was expected to be a major factor for the Jayhawks' defense. Tharp started seven games last season. Gill said the team would look into Tharp redshirting this season.

* The three-way battle to be the starting quarterback continues. Sophomore Kale Pick, redshirt freshman Jordan Webb and junior Quinn Mecham are all in the running. Gill said that all have improved since spring practices and summer conditioning. "It might be two weeks before we make a decision," Gill said. "I'll be looking for poise, body language, how the communicate plays in the huddle. Your quarterback has to be able to instill confidence in the other 10 guys and really the entire team."

* Gill, who coached four seasons at Buffalo before taking the Kansas job, said it might be a year before he fully knows his team. "We have to go play 12 games this season," he said. "I have to see how the players respond to prosperty and adversity." Gill's bachelor's degree is in behavioral analysis. He said that make him more attuned to goals like player behavior and achievement instead of wins and losses.

* Gill said the toughest part of his coaching transition has been living away from his wife (Gayle) and youngest daughter (Margaux) for the last seven months. They joined him in Lawrence a few weeks ago.

* Senior wide receiver Tertavian Ingram also has a foot injury that would keep him out three to four weeks, and junior running back Rell Lewis has a knee injury that will keep him out two to three weeks.

* Christian Matthews, a former quarterback who has moved to wide receiver, might get some snaps in a "Wildcat" package. Offensive coordinator Chuck Long favors a thick playbook and having that kind of wrinkle is a perfect fit.

* Defensive coordinator Carl Torbush pledges that his unit will pressure the quarterback - no matter what. He would prefer to accomplish that with the front four. Senior defensive end Jake Laptad and redshirt freshman defensive end Kevin Young could be keys to that goal. If not, the Jayhawks will resort to blitz packages.

* "Ideally, we want a faster defense," Gill said of his recruiting strategy. "We want more speed at all positions. On defense I'd like to have 14 to 15 guys who can run."

* Movie time: Wide receiver Daymond Patterson told Tully Corcoran of the Topeka Capital-Journal that he believed the spinning top was going to fall in the closing scene of Inception. Patterson said he liked the movie but he didn't like the ending. (Your Humble Correspondent dreamed that he saw the movie.)

Next stop: Kansas State

Sunday, Aug. 8

Skywriters Tour, Version 3.0: Oklahoma State
When the Official Skywriters Vehicle pulled into Stillwater Sunday afternoon, the temperature gauge on the control panel read 106 degrees. So it's no wonder that Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has changed up his preseason practice schedule. In the past, the Cowboys usually practiced late in the afternoon.

"If you look at the (forecast), it's going to be extremely hot for a long time," said Gundy, who is going into his sixth season as the team's coach. "Our medical people and trainers, they've brought this topic up every year. Studies have shown that the more days in the heat, exerting yourselves and losing fluids, your production is going to drop dramatically.

"Football is a tough game. How much can they take?"

How much can Your Humble Correspondent and Internet Services Assistant Brian Mortensen take? Oklahoma State as the first stop in a six-day marathon covering six schools in six days. Here are some more notes, quotes and anecdotes from the Cowboys' media day.

* Junior wide receiver Hubert Anyiam, who led the team in receptions (42 for 515 yards) will be limited during the first two weeks of practice. He suffered a foot injury during spring practice that required surgery. A pin was inserted to stabilize and help heal the break. In initial practices, Anyiam is going at three-quarters speed. "Hubert's further ahead than we think," Gundy said. "(He's) mentally tougher; he's played a year. So, he understands (what he has to do)."

* Junior quarterback Brandon Weeden, a 26-year-old former minor-league baseball player, will be a starter for the first time and his backups are similarly inexperienced. Freshmen Johnny Deaton and Nate Sorenson are battling to become Weeden's backup. Gundy says the new offense installed by first-year coordinator Dana Holgorsen is so fast-paced that the rookie QBs will get more snaps than they normally would. Deaton was present for spring practice and the extra work helped him earn the No. 2 listing on the depth chart heading into preseason practice.

* With Holgorsen a former Mike Leach assistant and a proponent of formations that use four wide receivers (no tight end, no fullback), there are concerns about how much Oklahoma State will run the ball. The Cowboys have led the Big 12 in rushing the last four seasons. Gundy pointed out that Houston, which led the nation in total offense last year with Holgorsen as offensive coordinator, ran the ball 38 percent of the time. Senior running back Kendall Hunter also said he had no worries about getting enough carries.

* There are 26 first-year freshmen on the Cowboys' roster and Gundy expects at least eight to start the season in the two-deep roster and/or playing on special teams. Cornerback Justin Gilbert, wide receivers Kevin Johnson and Chris Dinkins, running back Joseph Randle, safety Zachary Craig and outside linebacker Shaun Lewis are some of the first-year players who have impressed during summer workouts.

* Sunday morning the Cowboys had their first practice in pads. Gundy said that sophomore running back Kye Staley tweaked his knee and had to sit out after the first few minutes of practice. Staley suffered a season-ending knee injury a year ago and missed the 2009 season. Gundy praised his rehab efforts and his recovery.

* Senior defensive end Ugo Chinasa was asked about senior linebacker Orie Lemon, who missed last season with a knee injury. "He cried when he got hurt last season," Chinasa said. "He's ready to hit somebody. He nailed someone at practice (Sunday) morning." Asked about the hit, Lemon smiled and nodded. "And it will be better when I hit somebody on another team ... because that will be a harder hit."

Next stop: Kansas.

Fore! Or, two wins for ex-Big12 golfers
Sunday was a good day for two former Big 12 golfers. Former Oklahoma State golfer Hunter Mahan had a final round 6-under 64 to win the Bridgestone Invitational. And former Texas golfer Jhonattan Vegas finished 20 under part to win the Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open.

The 28-year-old Mahan earned $1.4 million with his victory, moved to No. 12 in the world rankings and locked up a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup Team. He also finished 30 shots ahead of some guy named Tiger Woods.

Vegas, a 25-year-old from Venezuela, shot a closing 64 Sunday, his fourth round in the 60s. He followed an opening round 65 with rounds of 68 and 67.

Links worth your time
Colorado players have a chip on their shoulder (from losing) and a swagger in their step (from confidence they can win this season).

John Henderson of the Denver Post explains how and why Texas' athletic program has become so successful.

With Nebraska's No. 9 ranking in the coaches' preseason poll, Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald writes that coach Bo Pelini has the program back where it belongs.

Saturday, Aug. 7

Good news at Baylor
The first day of preseason practice for a college football team generates a lot of interest and enthusiasm. The coaches are optimistic, the players are rested and ready. Other than that, little can be discerned from Day One of the month-long process required to prepare a team for a season.

At Baylor, though, the first day of workouts Friday provided an extra boost in optimism. Sophomore quarterback Robert Griffin III, who missed most of last season after tearing his right ACL, looked sharp. He was held out of most of spring practice as he continued to recover from surgery.

"I've just got to go back out there and practice and do it in an uncontrolled environment," Griffin said. "Football's football, you're going to get hit. I never want to shy away from getting hit. Just like I did my freshman year, I'm going to go out there and play fearless like I always have."

Griffin is up to 220 pounds and reports are that he has not lost any of the speed that made him world-class hurdler. His extra bulk has helped him increase his arm strength.

"He's worked hard to get back to this stage," coach Art Briles said. "He looked good, looked fresh and did exceptionally well."

After passing all the other tests on his knee, Griffin said the only thing left to see is "how my knee's going to hold up to the quick movements that I usually make. Other than that, I trust my knee."

The return of the 'stache'
When Landry Jones was thrust into the job as Oklahoma's quarterback last season, he went from unknown backup to a familiar face. And that face was adorned with a moustache that ... well, Your Humble Correspondent wants to be kind ... was, um, a bit ... sparse.

Sooners fans, though, embraced Jones and the wispy whiskers on his upper lip. T-shirts proclaiming "Fear The Stache" became a have-to-have fashion statement.

When Jones, entrenched as the OU starter this season, appeared at media day Friday in Norman, his facial hair had been reduced to stubble.

 "I had a full beard yesterday," Jones said. "I shaved for Media Day for my mom. She wanted me to look good in the pictures. My girlfriend (OU women's basketball star Whitney Hand) also likes me clean shaven. But I have to grow it back. Sooner nation needs the stache."

Kansas State sets record for contributions
Credit the return of Bill Snyder as football coach, the dogged determination of athletic director John Currie and the renewed support of the fan base with helping Kansas State accomplish a remarkable turnaround.

A year ago, a number of big donors were disillusioned. The messy dismissal of football coach Ron Prince that involved a secret payment agreement with former athletic director Bob Krause had caused supporters to wonder how their money was being spent.

But Snyder's return, a 6-6 record in his first year back along with Currie's campaigning all helped contribute to a record for contributions. For 2009-10, the athletic department received $14.47 million in donations, besting the previous record by more than $4 million.

"That's why I'm sitting at this table today," Snyder said Friday at Kansas State's annual media day. "If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be here. It's been about people. What makes them so special? I'm not sure I can answer the question. ... I think there's a genuine, sincere, caring loyalty they possess."

Softer approach
Colorado running backs coach Darian Hagan told the Boulder Daily Camera that he's changing his tough-guy, old-school approach when it comes to coaching the Buffs' ball carriers (four of them are freshmen).

"I'm going to teach them like coach (Gary) Barnett taught me, and that was with kid gloves," Hagan said. "You don't always need to scream and holler when they mess up. You love 'em up, coach 'em up and never assume they know it all. Eventually the light switch will go on and those guys will be ready to perform."

Click and read
After a season crippled by injuries, Mike Jones of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes that Oklahoma is ready to get back to "being Oklahoma."

Tully Corcoran of the Topeka Capital-Journal writes that new Kansas coach Turner Gill's ability to win could boil down to his ability to keep top assistant coaches.

Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman writes about Oklahoma senior defensive tackle Adrian Taylor's recovery from a gruesome leg injury suffered in the Sun Bowl.

Kansas State sophomore Braden Wilson is playing and excelling at a position - fullback - that is disappearing in college football.

Friday, Aug. 6

Sherrod Harris decides to leave Texas team
Here's the quarterback depth chart at Texas: Garrett Gilbert, sophomore, no career starts. Connor Wood and Case McCoy, freshmen.

Friday's surprise announcement by senior Sherrod Harris left the Longhorns with three inexperienced QBs. Harris, a fifth-year senior who had played in only five games in his career, released a statement through the school that he was leaving the team to concentrate on academics. He wants to graduate in December with a degree in corporate communications.

"I've had a couple of tough semesters in school and I really need to get back on track academically so I've decided to focus most of my effort on academics for what is possibly my last semester in school," Harris said in the statement. "This was a very tough decision because I've enjoyed every minute of my time on the football field, running out of the tunnel on game day and being a part of the team."

Gilbert, who played well in relief of an injured Colt McCoy in the national championship game, is set as the Longhorns starter. Wood and McCoy, Colt's younger brother, will battle to be the backup with the loser probably sitting out this season as a redshirt. If Harris had remained on the team, Texas planned to redshirt both freshmen.

"I know it was a tough decision for Sherrod, but I'm proud of him because he's taking responsibility and wants to do everything in his power to get his degree and his T-Ring in December," Longhorns coach Mack Brown said. "He'll spend all of the time he needs on his schoolwork and we'll look forward to having him out there helping us out whenever he can."

Skywriters Tour, Version 3.0: Day One, Oklahoma
Big 12 Sports.com has embarked on its third Skywriters Tour. The plan, as always, is to visit all 12 Big 12 campuses to preview the upcoming football season. Your Humble Correspondent and Internet Services Assistant (aka Captain Video) Brian Mortensen drove to Norman, Okla., Thursday night and were on the scene Friday morning for the Sooners' media day.

Here are bits and pieces from our two hours of interviewing.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops summed up everyone's feelings with his opening comments from a podium in a mini-theater meeting room at Gaylord Family/Memorial Stadium. "Here we go again, huh? Seems like we do this every day." In fact, it was just nine days ago that Stoops was attending Big 12 Football Media Days at a hotel near DFW Airport.

* Stoops said that all 29 incoming freshmen were eligible to play. He also was impressed with the physical ability of the incoming class. "They've got a lot of great speed," he said. "This could be one of our best recruiting classes ever based on their ability and the number of players."

* Don't expect any of the freshmen to redshirt. Stoops wants them to play and play now. "If they're quality players, they won't be here for their fifth year," he said, alluding to early entry to the NFL Draft. "I would rather they play just a little bit as freshmen because that makes them a better player the next year."

There is no clear-cut backup to senior running back DeMarco Murray. Freshman Roy Finch, though, has caught the eye of the coaching staff. Stoops said Finch is "very impressive. He has a chance to make an impact."

* The Sooners went through physical conditioning tests Thursday. Stoops was asked about the team's top times in the 40-yard dash. He hesitated before trying to come up with some names. "Yeah, you can tell how important that is to me," he said. "Ask me who scores the most."

* Stoops and defensive coordinator Brett Venables each tapped on the podium, knocking on wood for good luck, when the subject of injuries came up. Considering how unfortunate the Sooners were last season, the prudent thing to do is anything that might reverse the evil mojo that sidetracked the 2009 season.

* Sophomore linebacker Ronnell Lewis has several nicknames bestowed by OU fans. The most fitting is "Hammer." The 6-2, 240-pounder played in all 13 games last season and he might be unleashed as a full-time starter this season. Stoops compared Lewis to Adrian Peterson when it comes to love of the game. Venables described Lewis as "country strong."

* Oklahoma held its Fan Appreciation Day from 10 a.m. to noon Friday at the school's rugby practice field. It was noted the line for quarterback autographs was shorter this year than last with Landry Jones taking over for Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford. "Yeah," Stoops said, "and the lines were shorter when Sam was a redshirt freshman and Jason (White) wasn't here."

* A number of fans were lined up early - as in middle of the (Thursday) night - to get in position for Fan Appreciation Day. The early risers received a treat when Stoops brought donuts - plus quarterback Landry Jones, defensive end Jeremy Beal, running back Demarco Murray, wide receiver Ryan Broyles and linebacker Travis Lewis - to sign autographs before the media questions started at 8 a.m.

Next stop: Oklahoma State.

Thursday, Aug. 5

Take the time, click the link
The video linked here takes about two minutes and 30 seconds to view. It's well worth the time. If you've ever wondered about those feel-good stories about college student-athletes visiting children in the hospital, this explains why it matters. Iowa State basketball coach Fred Hoiberg visited a two-year-old cancer patient in 1994. At a Coaches vs. Cancer golf tournament this week, he was reunited with a healthy 18-year-old former cancer patient.

Be a-Ware of this prediction
A year ago, ESPN college football analyst Andre Ware made a bold prediction. He said that Oklahoma, coming off a loss in the Bowl Championship Series title game but expected to make another run at the crystal football, would loss to BYU in the opener and finish with an 8-4 record.

Last August, Your Humble Correspondent remembers asking a few of the Sooners about Ware's prediction. They thought the former University of Houston quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner was, shall we say, crazy.

The Sooners lost their opener to BYU. Ware got that right. OU's regular-season record was 7-5. Ware got that wrong.

So what does Ware think about this year's Oklahoma team? In a teleconference Wednesday to preview the upcoming season, Ware again didn't shy away from crystal ball gazing.

"I like them a lot," he said. "I like this team. I didn't like them last year, because they were replacing four starters on the offensive line. They lost a lot of good players to the draft. But this year, I think they're a better team. They've got four of five starters back on the offensive line, an experienced quarterback in Landry Jones, arguably the best set of receivers in the country. They lost some guys on defense, but you can build a defense back a lot quicker than an offense.

"They may be a 10-win team. Only a couple games I can see them losing. I wonder about their game against an improved Texas A&M team. You have the Texas game, but this year, I think they're a much better team on paper than Texas.

"A bounce here and there, and I can see them winning 11 games, even going 12-0."

Ware also says that Oklahoma sophomore quarterback Landry Jones, who started 10 games last season in place of injured Heisman winner Sam Bradford, can work his way into Heisman consideration.

 "Look at it, they have Utah State, Florida State, Air Force, some games early where they're going to grab some attention," Ware said. "I think Landry gets into the Heisman conversation at some point. I don't want to put pressure on him, but I think he may be a name that comes up."

More opinions from a quarterback
Texas Tech senior quarterback Steven Sheffield made it clear at last week's Big 12 Football Media Days that he's not going to miss playing for former coach Mike Leach.

According to a story by Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald, Sheffield said that Leach caused dissension with his single-minded, offense-only coaching style and by acting like the NFL doesn't exist.

"This sounds bad, but (the defense was) treated like the step-child," Sheffield said. "They were off on their own and did about whatever they wanted."

Sheffield said that Leach's offensive philosophy was to throw to an open receiver. That produced a lot of yards but it's not the kind of training that prepares quarterbacks for the NFL.

"And our steps must be precise," Sheffield said. "Stats are kept on those things, and they are shown to players every day. NFL scouts look at that stuff. They look at your first step being straight back and not false-stepping. That's stuff we were never coached up on."

News and notes
* Iowa State senior safety David Sims, the Big 12's defensive newcomer of the year last season, is suspended for the Cyclones' season opener with Northern Illinois on Sept. 2. Sims was charged with unauthorized use of a credit card after charging more than $600 to the credit card of a Des Moines woman. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to deferred judgment and 18 months of probation on Monday.

* Colorado fifth-year senior offensive lineman Nate Solder says the Buffs are tired of losing: "Speaking about the offense, there's a lot more determined feel about the team," he said. "It's experience.  It's a certain drive from getting knocked down so many times. It's a feeling of enough's enough."

* Baylor was short one of its scholarship football players when preseason practice started Thursday. Tyrell Jenkins of Henderson (Texas) High School, who signed with the Bears as a quarterback, has decided to sign a professional baseball contract. He was selected as a pitcher by the St. Louis Cardinals with the 50th pick in the pro baseball draft in June.

* Interesting note from Iowa State's men's basketball schedule: The Cyclones will play Dartmouth on Dec. 19 I the first meeting between the schools in basketball. However, they have a hoops connection - in 1944, each made their only Final Four appearance.

Linked up
ESPN.com has been running a daily series this week that counts down the 50 most painful losses in college football history. Big 12 blogger David Ubben breaks down the most painful losses for each Big 12 team. (Tissues recommended for die-hard fans.)

As preseason camp opens in Columbia, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel enters his 10th season as coach intent on taking the Tigers to the next level of success.

Kansas started practice Wednesday and that means the battle to become the Jayhawks starting quarterback has begun.

Kansas State opened practice Thursday with one sure thing (running back Daniel Thomas) and a lot of questions.

Dave Sittler of the Tulsa World writes that the four Oklahoma players selected in the first round of the NFL Draft have hundreds of millions of reasons why it was good for them to spend one more year playing for the Sooners.

This is a crucial season for the Colorado football program, says Neill Woelk of the Boulder Daily Camera.

Wednesday, Aug. 4

Gentlemen, start your practices
Kansas was the first team to start poppin' pads; the Jayhawks and new coach Turner Gill started preseason practice Wednesday. Here's the team-by-team list of start dates for the other Big 12 football teams. All will start practices during the next five days.
Baylor: Thursday.
Colorado: Thursday.
Iowa State: Thursday.
Kansas State: Thursday.
Missouri: Thursday.
Oklahoma: Thursday.
Oklahoma State: Friday.
Nebraska: Saturday.
Texas Tech:
Saturday.
Texas: Sunday.
Texas A&M: Monday.

Filling big shoes
Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times, in a series of stories previewing the upcoming college football season, wrote about the quarterbacks who have big shoes to fill. Two of the three schools he focused on were Oklahoma (Landry Jones taking over for Sam Bradford) and Texas (Garrett Gilbert for Colt McCoy). Here's what he had to say about each.

* Bradford posted incredible numbers in Norman, won the Heisman Trophy and left as the No.1 pick in the NFL draft. The good news for Jones is that he got a head start in legacy replacement last year during Bradford's injury-marred season. Jones was shaky at times but ended with a 418-yard performance in the Sun Bowl. He inherits a Sooners team that had a bitterly disappointing 8-5 season, but there's good reason to believe he can be the leader of the bounce-back year.

* We'll never know what might have happened in last season's championship game against Alabama had McCoy not been injured in the opening minutes, but the saving grace for Longhorns fans was watching Texas' next quarterback grow up on national television. Gilbert, a freshman, went from tripping over his shoelaces to almost leading Texas to one of the most improbable comebacks in college football history. With the 6-foot-4 Gilbert more of a true pocket passer, Texas has junked the spread offense it ran with Vince Young and McCoy for a more conventional attack.

This and that
* If the Big Ten Conference goes to a nine-game conference schedule in football, Iowa State's in-state rivalry series with Iowa. Gary Barta, Iowa's athletic director, said this week that the Hawkeyes want to play seven home games each season. "It's going to depend on both of our conferences," Barta said. "If we both go to nine games and if we both get into a situation where one of us would lose out on seven home games, that would probably trigger a tough discussion." The Iowa-Iowa State series contract runs through 2017 but a clause allows cancellation if the schools' conferences add extra league games.

* Colorado's football team has a challenging nonconference game on Oct. 2 when Georgia visits Boulder. New Buffs basketball coach Tad Boyle will face the Bulldogs in his first road game as a college coach when Colorado travels to Athens on Nov. 16. Another highlight on Colorado's schedule that was released Tuesday will be the Texas A&M game on Feb. 9 in Boulder. Boyle and Aggies coach Mark Turgeon were teammates at Kansas and Boyle has been an assistant coach for Turgeon at Jacksonville State (Ala.) and Wichita State.

* Effective Wednesday, Texas Tech has renamed the department that deals with the media. The school's Athletics Media Relations office is now the Texas Tech Athletics Communications office will serve as the central access point for all communications efforts (internet, social media, print and electronic media) within the Texas Tech Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. The department will also take on a greater role in providing customer service and assistance for Red Raider fans. Texas Tech also announced the additions of associate director/communications Scott Lacefile and assistant director/communications Matt Dowdy.

Links worth the click
In a series of stories on CBSSports.com that rank the nation's top schools in terms of successful football and basketball programs, a Big 12 school checked in at No. 2. 

Andy Katz of ESPN.com writes that Kansas State coach Frank Martin has raised the bar for the Wildcats basketball program.

Bill Haisten of the Tulsa World points out that Oklahoma and coach Bob Stoops are starting a new and possible program-defining decade.

Colorado starts preseason practice with optimism as the Buffs and coach Dan Hawkins believe the pieces are in place for a turnaround season.

There has been a lot of talk recently that the spread offense is a fad that has come and gone. Missouri, though, says its spread attack is alive and well.

First-year coach Turner Gill and his Kansas team opened preseason practice Wednesday with the main question - who will play quarterback? - far from answered.

New Iowa State basketball coach Fred Hoiberg talks about the changes in AAU/summer basketball compared to when he was a player.

Tuesday, Aug. 3

He was joking, OK?
Your Humble Correspondent's former colleagues in the Journalism World (aka Bizarro World) sometimes lack the basics - grooming, social graces, proper diet, a sense of humor. The lack of humor became evident at Monday's Big Ten Conference media days.

Commissioner Jim Delany (writers misspell his name as often as they Tweet) was asked if Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe had really called Delany to discuss a name swap. As has been pointed out more often than a lame knock-knock joke, the Big Ten will grow to 12 schools while the Big 12 will have 10 schools. At last week's Big 12 media days, Beebe kidded that he had called Delany about trading names.

The Big Ten becoming the Big 12 and the Big 12 becoming the Big Ten would be a disaster of BP proportions. Delany's answer to the question was all seriousness: "I think the Big Ten is the Big Ten regardless of the number. By the way, Beebe did not call me on that one."

More Delany and Beebe
Here's some "inside baseball" info on the relationship between Big 12 commissioner Dan  Beebe and Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany.

Before moving to the Big Ten, Delany was commissioner of the Ohio Valley for 10 years. When he left, he recommended Beebe for the job, which Beebe held for 13 years before becoming the Big 12's No. 2 in command. Delany recommended Beebe for the Big 12 gig.

The events of early June that saw Nebraska announce its move to the Big Ten and nearly led to the Big 12's demise made Delany think of his friend.

"So, you know, that's why the things, the expansion, tensions are hard on fans and schools and the college community in general," Delany said Monday at the Big Ten's football media days. "But they're also hard on people who are friends.

"I'm very proud of how he represented his conference and how he fought for their survival. And I told him that. ... I have a tremendous amount of respect on how he represented his institutions. And at the beginning of the process we tried to create a process that would allow us to communicate with each other and maintain respect for each other."

Monday, Aug. 2

Hot links to match the hot weather
Nebraska defensive tackle Jared Crick, the Big 12's preseason co-defensive player of the year, hasn't forgotten his roots in his hometown of Cozad, Neb.

Great read about someone you've never heard of: Brian Miller, a graduate offensive assistant football coach at Kansas.

Jake Trotter and Brandon Chatmon of the Oklahoman offer up their "bests" of the Big 12 - appropriately, in groups of 12.

Jenni Carlson of the Oklahoman writes that Big 12 players at media days last week agreed they need thick skin in order to play college football.

During last week's media days, several Big 12 coaches and players discussed the off-field issue of agents.

Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman writes that new Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville is the "anti-Leach."

Missouri is ready to bounce back from an eight-win season that followed two Big 12 North Division titles.

Bob Fenimore, the former Oklahoma State All-American who died last week, excelled on offense, defense and special teams when the school nickname was "Aggies" and the school was known as Oklahoma A&M.

 

 

Skywriters Tour, Version 3.0: Nebraska
Just as the Official Skywriters Tour Vehicle crossed from Kansas to Nebraska, Your Humble Correspondent noticed a road-side mail box painted red and white with the name "Huskers" on the side. YHC doubts the name of the family living there is named "Huskers" but sighting underlines the passion citizens of the state have for their Big Red football team.

* Coach Bo Pelini goes into his third season with a team that is primed and poised to make noise in the Big 12 and the national scene. Some news and notes from the Skywriters Tour visit.

* Three players - senior Zac Lee, sophomore Cody Green and redshirt freshman Taylor Martinez - are battling to become the starting quarterback. Lee, who had offseason surgery on his throwing elbow, appears to have a slight edge so far.

* Senior wide receiver Niles Paul has no worries about the quarterback position. "We've got three guys who are all talented and competing hard," he said. "No matter who winds up the starter, he's gonna be a good player and a good quarterback.

* Nebraska averaged 147.1 yards per game and 4.0 yards per carry last season, with 20 touchdowns. All three numbers were down from the year before. In three of the four losses last season, the running game was sub-par. The Huskers had 67 yards rushing against Texas, 70 against Texas Tech and 114 against Iowa State.

* Consistent quarterback play and a reliable running game would help an offense that too often short circuited. Pelini is a fan of a strong running game and he sounds confident. "I think we're set up to do that (run the ball) better than we have been since I've been here," Pelini said. "I really like what we're doing scheme-wise, what we did in the spring, and we've made some adjustments. We're moving forward."

* Senior kicker Adi Kunalic has a powerful leg and is one of the top kickoff specialists in the country. Senior kicker Alex Henery is one of the nation's top kick scorers. Kunalic has a redshirt season remaining and was considering using it so that he could be Nebraska's kicker last season. That idea has been shelved, though and Kunalic is expected to be booming kickoffs again this season.

* As a concession to the 100-degree heat, Nebraska moved its two-and-a-half hour practice indoors Tuesday. The Huskers worked out in helmets and shoulder pads for the second consecutive day. "When you go outside, and it's that hot, it's just hard," offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said.  "After a while, the human body just wears down. We want practices that are high intensity practices where we're able to execute for the duration of practice. We came in because we wanted to get our practices more crisp."

* Pelini likes the depth and the talent on the offensive line. Last year's unit was decimated by injuries. That not only limited cohesion in games but it restricted the competition at practice. With all hands on deck this season, the Huskers appear to have 10 offensive linemen who are capable of playing.

* In the Big 12 Championship game and the Holiday Bowl, the Huskers primarily played their "Peso" defense that features four linemen, two linebackers and five defensive backs (although one of those DBs is a hybrid linebacker/defensive back). Nebraska installed the Peso as its base defense in spring practice.

Next stop: Iowa State.

 

Pinkel "embarrassed" by incidents
The last month has not been a good one for Missouri in terms of off-field issues capped by the suspension of co-captain and senior running back Derrick Washington after he was charged in a sexual assault.

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said Monday that he is "kind of embarrassed" for the string of incidents that has included three DWIs (an assistant coach and two players).

"We've worked real hard to develop and build a program I think that has a very good reputation of being first class and disciplined," he said. "And we've taken a few hits. The only way you're going to that back is to earn it back. That's what we intend to do."

Depth chart updates

* Kansas State has named senior Carson Coffman as the starting quarterback. Coffman, who started the first four games last season before losing the job, beat out Colin Klein and Sammuel Lamur. "Carson is a very competitive young man who wants to do whatever he can to help the team win."

* Nebraska coach Bo Pelini hasn't named a starter at quarterback for Saturday's opener against Western Kentucky. "I have an idea who it's going to be but nothing's decided yet," Pelini said. "It's just kind of our approach is a day-in, day-out competition. When the time's right, then that's when I'll address that. That's kind of how we handle it across the board in our program. Our guys focus on practice and how we prepare and all those sorts of things. Our guys are used to it. We really approach it that way at every position."

* Texas wants to run the ball more effectively this season. That desire is evident in the fact that Cody Johnson will start at running back in Saturday's opener against Rice. Fozzy Whitaker and Tre' Newton are the backups. Johnson is 5-11, 250 pounds and he has lost five percent of his body fat. "We like the power that Cody brings, he's a load when he's running straight ahead," Longhorns coach Mack Brown said. "He can pass protect, run routes and catch the ball."

* Freshman Case McCoy, Colt's younger brother, is listed as the backup quarterback at Texas behind sophomore Garrett Gilbert. Case McCoy, for now, has beat out fellow freshman Connor Wood for the backup job. When Colt McCoy won the starting job over Jevan Snead in 2006, Snead transferred to Ole Miss. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis told Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman that he doesn't expect a repeat. "Different situation," Davis said.

Quick slants
* There has been talk that Texas A&M senior quarterback Jerrod Johnson's throwing arm hasn't been up to snuff. He had offseason shoulder surgery and reportedly has been tweaking his throwing motion during preseason practices. Aggies coach Mike Sherman isn't worried. "I think he's in good shape," Sherman said. "Usually at this point in camp, a quarterback's arm will be tired. And we're always 'tweaking' our quarterbacks' throwing motion. Jerrod has a tendency to drop down. We're just stressing to keep the ball high and a quick release."

* Oklahoma State, which opens at home Saturday against Washington State, will play as many as 10 freshmen. "I think you find out where you're at with a number of guys that haven't played much at this level," Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said. "We use quite a few players that are young and just don't have a lot of experience, so the first few games you kind of learn what you're dealing with with the young men and how they handle being in a game situation and how tough they are."

* Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops has high praise for this year's freshman class, saying it be the best he's ever had. With more freshmen earning playing time, Stoops says he doesn't have to worry about how the upperclassmen feel about being pushed aside. "There's no messaging that needs to takes place," he said. "It's always been that way here and always will be. The players that play the best and show it consistently in practice are the ones that earn the time on the field. But you also have to keep earning it in practice and games. Yeah, there probably are some guys that have had their eyes opened a little bit and realize it's competitive. We're always going to recruit good players. You have to do what's necessary to stay on the field."

* Redshirt freshman Paden Kelley, who was in Texas' two-deep rotation at offensive tackle, has been suspended for the season opener against Rice because of an unspecified violation of team rules. Running back Vondrell McGee will serve a one-game suspension because of his April arrest for DWI.

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