Keith Whitmire is a former Big 12 beat writer and columnist for The Dallas Morning News. In more than 20 years as a sports writer, he has covered multiple Final Fours, BCS bowl games and Big 12 championships. He has covered games on every Big 12 campus and has been an eyewitness to many of the conference's greatest moments.

Wednesday, July 28

Texas looking to beef up non-conference schedule

The prevailing wisdom is the new 10-team Big 12 will not have a conference championship game. For teams like Texas and Oklahoma that have made mulitple appearances in the BCS national championship game, that's good and bad.

It's good because no conference championship game means one less hurdle to an undefeated season. But it's bad when there are multiple undefeated teams in contention for a spot in the national title game. The winner of the Big 12 title game usually gets a bump in the BCS computer rankings.

"If you played in that game, it was against another great team and that helped your strength of schedule," Texas coach Mack Brown said.

To counter the loss of a Big 12 title game, Brown said UT officials are looking into "getting that, quote, Ohio State type matchup" in non-conference play.

If the Big 12 is no longer a participant in "championship Saturday" along with the SEC and ACC, one idea gaining some momentum is to move the Texas-Oklahoma game to December and play it at Cowboys Stadium.

Brown wouldn't peer that far into the crystal ball. There are contracts keeping the Red River Rivalry in place for now, and Brown said coaches have been urged not to voice opinions about the Big 12's future, at least for the time being.

"All of those are issues that our athletic directors and presidents will start looking at immediately, I'm sure," Brown said.


Buffs CB not worried about road reception

Count Colorado cornerback Jalil Brown among those not worried about being the target of Big 12 fans' wrath because the Buffs are leaving for the Pac-10.

"You're heckled and trash-talked all the time, anyway," Brown said. "Instead of hearing 'You [stink]!' it's going to be 'You guys are running away! You're afraid of the Big 12!' It doesn't really matter what they say."

Sooners linebacker expects little dropoff without McCoy

Oklahoma goes into this season's showdown with Texas with the advantage of having an experienced quarterback in Landry Jones. Texas will have a new starting quarterback in Garrett Gilbert, but Sooners linebacker Travis Lewis doesn't think that puts the Horns at much of a disadvantage.

"No, because when they changed from Vince [Young] we got happy, then we got Colt [McCoy]," Lewis said. "You're expecting them to replace Colt with a great player. They're always going to replace great players because they've got a great program."


Mack Brown views Nebraska's "Red Out" video as a compliment

For all the buzz about the Nebraska marketing department's online video that ended with a "Beat Texas" banner, Longhorns coach Mack Breen sees it as a positive.

"A lot has been said about the video and the game and the matchup, and last year's conference championship game," Brown said. "I think that's a compliment to us for a program like Nebraska to be talking about us at this time of year."

Of course, what Brown tells his team behind closed doors may have a slightly different spin, especially the week leading up to the game. But for now Brown said his only disappointment about Nebraska is that the series won't continue once the Huskers leave for the Big Ten.

Brown said the 1998 UT-Nebraska game was "the highlight of my life in sportsmanship" when Nebraska fans gave Longhorns running back Ricky Williams an ovation following the game. He said former Texas coach Darrell Royal said he wished they could get Longhorns fans to cheer the opponents after games like that.

"I can't talk to them about not booing the other team," Brown said he told Royal. "I've got to work on them not booing me first."


Defensive line depth a concern for UT

When Mack Brown says of a particular position "It's our true key on defense" you know it's a major concern.

The area Brown is talking about is depth along the defensive line, particularly at tackle.

"We've got numbers at that position, but we do not have quality experience," Brown said.

If the Longhorns can't get what they need at defensive tackle, options include changing the base alignment or moving standout defensive end Sam Acho inside. The latter option seemed to be one Brown wants to avoid.

"That's one of the keys for us to determin in preseason," he said.

Longhorns' Gilbert more prepared to lead

Texas coach Mack Brown said he knew backup quarterback Garrett Gilbert didn't think he would play in last season's national championship game because he ate his entire steak at the pregame meal.

"You can always tell," Brown said. "The guys who say, 'Can I have some of your steak?' don't think they're going to play."

Gilbert never counted on starter Colt McCoy going down early in the loss to Alabama.

"I said 'Garrett, get your helmet' and his eyes were as big as silver dollars," Brown said. "He was like, 'You've got to be kidding me.' And then he couldn't find his helmet."

Brown said there were times last season when he would chastise Gilbert for not being vocal enough. Gilbert's response was that it was McCoy's team, he would lead when McCoy left. Now, things are much different.

"It's still the seniors' team, but I'm able to step up and be a little more vocal," Gilbert said.

 

Medical mission trip leaves impression on Acho

Texas defensive end Sam Acho, punter John Gold and their families took a medical mission trip to Nigeria in June. Acho has been on several such trips to Nigeria, but says he leaves amazed every time.

"It definitely gives you perspective on your life in general," Acho said. "Our cares and concerns would be blessings over there."


It's all in the wrist

Players from all the Big 12 teams were wearing different kinds of motivational wrist bands. The Texas players were wearing green bands with the Longhorn logo and the word FORWARD, i.e. the color green means go, therefore "Go Forward."

Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert was sporting the green band on his left wrist, but on his right wrist were several Silly Bandz - the rubber wrist bands that are the latest kids' craze. The bands snap back into all different shapes when removed: birds, dinosaurs, stars, etc.

Colorado receiver Scotty McKnight, for instance, wore a silly band that transformed into a cross.

Gilbert's Silly Bandz weren't quite so serious.

"They're pirate shapes," Gilbert said. "I just got a pack of them. One of them turns into a skull and crossbones. Another one's a sword."

Former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach would love it.

 

Movie time for the Longhorns

While CU's players were at a baseball game, Texas' players took in a movie Tuesday night. They saw "Salt" - the new Angelina Jolie action flick. (It's Rated PG-13, in case anyone's concerned).

"It was definitely 'Thumbs Up,'" defensive tackle Kheeston Randall said. "Full of action."

 

Buffs taken out to the ballgame

Colorado's travel party was treated to the Texas Rangers-Oakland A's game on Tuesday night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The players got to go on the field before the game and meet some of the Rangers.

Cornerback Jalil Brown said the Rangers all talked about paying attention to details, which showed up when one of the Texas players forgot to cover second base on a steal, which led to an Oakland run. Of course, Buffs coach Dan Hawkins is never one to pass up a teaching moment.

"Their coaches and staff would talk about things and our players would look at me and say, 'That's what he's been saying!,'" Hawkins said.


Colorado: It's all about the Rams

Don't even bother asking Colorado coach Dan Hawkins about leaving the Big 12, moving to the Pac-10 and how the schedule and other things will change with the switch to a new conference. For him and the rest of the Buffs, everything is about the immeditate future, the Sept. 4 season opener with Colorado State. 

"We're very focused on the Big 12 and really, more important, we're focused on Colorado State," Hawkins said. "We haven't been thinking about the what-ifs. It's more the concrete things and getting ready for the Rams."

His players echoed that sentiment.

"All we talk about is Colorado State," receiver Scotty McKnight said. "It's all day, every day."

McKnight did entertain a question about being able to go surfing on Pac-10 road trips, but McKnight is from California and gets to do that anyway.

"I can surf. I'm not that good, though. I'm not going to lie," McKnight said. "I used to snowboard a lot when I was in California. Since I got here [Colorado] I've gone once. I just don't want to get hurt."


Sooners vow to be better in 2010

Oklahoma is normally in the middle of conference and national championship conversations at the end of each season. That didn't happen last year when the Sooners finished 8-5. That has to be major motivation for this year's team.

"We went 8-5 and we're not used to going 8-5," defensive end Jeremy Beal said. "It changed our mentality. We worked twice as hard as we did before."

A disproportionate amount of injuries were at the root of OU's troubles last year. Not only are the Sooners working twice as hard, they're banking on lightning not striking twice.

"I didn't go to Vegas after the season, I know that," coach Bob Stoops joked. "It's never happened to the number of players it did last season. But you get through it. No crying over spilled milk."

 

Stoops: Landry Jones a new man

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said quarterback Landry Jones is a much different player now than when he was forced into action after Sam Bradford's injuries last season.

"It's like night and day," Stoops said. "Coming into this season and walking into spring ball, it's like he's in command. He's a totally different guy than had some not gotten hurt. "

Receiver Ryan Broyles has also noticed a different Jones.

"He's definitely a lot more confident," Broyles said. "He's reading the defense better and that makes the ball come out quicker."

Stoops even went so far as to compare Jones to OU's long line of quarterback greats.

"He's very similar to the guys we've had that have had success," Stoops said. "He's very grounded, a great worker, with a similar ability to throw the ball. He's in the mold of all those guys."


Kansas under Gill: Less cussin', more discussin'

Cornerback Chris Harris downplayed reports of a "No Cussing" rule under new goach Turner Gill. But he did note a difference in coaching style between Gill and predecessor Mark Mangino.

"He [Gill] is more of a teacher type of person," Harris said. "Coach Mangino was more of a 'I'll tell you once, and you've got to figure it out.' He [Gill] is more of a walk-you-through-it type."

 

Schedule turns friendlier for Kansas

Last season Kansas surfed to a 5-0 start, then wiped out with seven straight losses.

"It felt like we were so close to winning so many of those games," cornerback Chris Harris said. "It would have been different if we were just getting blown out every game. It made it harder because we were so close."

This season's schedule features eight home games, counting the Nov. 27 rivalry game with Missouri in Kansas City.

"Eight games at home, that's very big for us," Harris said. "That's something we're looking forward to, to win all our games at home."

No looking back for Turner Gill

The new Kansas coach was energetic and enthusiastic - much moreso than most of the scribes who are entering Day Three of Big 12 Media Day. He was giddy about having just moved his family from Buffalo to Lawrence.

But you won't catch Gill reminiscing about his days quarterbacking Nebraska, even when the Jayhawks and Huskers get together Nov. 13 in Lincoln.

Gill said he might take some time for reflection the day before the game. You know, once the game plan has been installed and all that.Otherwise, he said his complete focus will be on preparing to play the Huskers, not relive the glory days with them.

"Once the day of the game happens, it's going to be so focused on trying to win the football game," Gill said. "It's really not going to be about me."

By the way, this is home for Gill, who grew up in nearby Fort Worth and played at Arlington Heights High School.


Day Three about to commence

Just waiting to get going here in Irving. First off the bat is former Cleveland Indians farmhand Turner Gill, who's now got a new gig coaching football in Lawrence, Kansas.

Just saw Mack Brown's entourage enter the foyer. I know Bob Stoops is here somewhere because there are a lot of people milling around wearing crimson polo shirts. And if Dave Plati and B.G. Brooks are here, you know Dan Hawkins must be in the vicinity.

How do you know Oklahoma and Texas are here today? The hotel parking lot is the fullest it's been all week.

 

Tuesday, July 27

Commissioner addresses concerns

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe didn't have answers to many of the questions posed during his media session - including what to call the conference when it slims down to 10 schools. Many of the issues regarding the Big 12's new course have yet to be ironed out. But he did emphasize a positive outlook for the league.

"There's a great deal of excitement about the future of the Big 12," Beebe said. "There's a renewed sense of commitment, a renewed sense of belonging and a greater appreciation for each other."

One of the issues Beebe said he is fighting is a cynical view of the members' commitment to each other that keeps popping up in the media. Other than having the Big 12 presidents sing "Kum Ba Ya" together, Beebe realizes it's hard to change opinions considering the recent turmoil.

"I can say this over and over again [but] you're going to have to see it happen over time," Beebe said. "I don't think in the course of human affairs that you go through this careful exploration of your future and decide you're going to be together - and then do it again in 24 months ... These decisions were made for the long term."


Quick Hits

Some post-lunch notes from Big 12 Media Days:

BCS executive director Bill Hancock made a presention to the media. It was mostly to dispel myths and negative connotations about the BCS while pointing out the positives of the current system. One tidbit: Hancock said that should USC lose its appeal to the NCAA, the BCS will vacate the 2004 championship game. The Trojans beat Oklahoma, 55-19, in the Orange Bowl that season, but Oklahoma would not be awarded the BCS title as the runner-up. Nor would Auburn, which finished undefeated and won the Sugar Bowl. It would simply be as if the BCS title game never happened and no champion declared.

Texas Tech's players had an SEC look about them, no doubt a reflection of their new coach. Rather than the team polo shirts many players sport to media days, Tech's Steven Sheffield and Colby Whitlock wore blazers with red-and-black striped ties. Taylor Potts wore a dark suit with a red tie.

Speaking of appearances, Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert was looking a little shaggy. "I'll shave my head during two-a-days," Gabbert said, almost sheepishly. "I haven't cut it all summer."


Texas Tech quarterbacks are competing during Media Days, too

Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield are locked in a battle to be Texas Tech's starting quarterback. The competition is not limited to the practice field, as coach Tommy Tuberville explained his reason from bringing both signal-callers to Media Days.

"I wanted to see how they handled themselves in front of you [print reporters] and the TV cameras," Tuberville said. "They have to be leaders on and off the field. This is part of their growing process."


New offense taking hold at OSU

Oklahoma State's new offensive coordinator, Dana Holgorsen, is installing the old Texas Tech spread offense he learned under Mike Leach. So, head coach Mike Gundy said, the transition hasn't been bumpy.

"It's gone much smoother than I would have thought," Gundy said. "I'm looking forward to practice starting and seeing how it goes in the first week."

One reason Gundy opted to go with a spread offense is it matches what high schools are doing in Texas and Oklahoma.

"I felt like the number of players we can recruit to this system is greater than the system we had before," Gundy said.
"There's not as many tight ends, not as many fullbacks to recruit. The success of college football is all about the players you bring in."

 

Tuberville gets to the point at Tech

What's one major difference at Texas Tech under new coach Tommy Tuberville?

"Less stories, more football talk," quarterback Steven Sheffield said.

While former coach Mike Leach entertained with rambling stories about pirates and everything else under the sun, even the players got a little tired at times of hearing them when there was work to be done.

Under Tuberville, there's no chance for players' minds to wander during team meetings.

"He's an extremely smart guy," defensive lineman Colby Whitlock said about Tuberville. "He knows what he wants to get done."

Another difference: It's OK to talk about winning championships, not just the next game. And the Tuberville staff openly talks about the NFL, which was a no-no under Leach.

"He would get mad if you talked about the NFL, because that was just a distraction in his eyes," Sheffield said.


Snyder not a fan of Thursday night games

Kansas State has two Thursday night games this season: Nebraska on Oct. 7 and at Kansas on Oct. 14. For Wildcats coach Bill Snyder, it's a necessary inconvenience.

"It's part of the TV-driven direction that college football has gone," Snyder said. "I think it's great for the viewing audience, I can appreciate it in that respect. For Kansas State, considering where we're located and the distance people have to come, it's not my preference to play on Thursday."

 

Kendall not concerned about K-State's future

Put Kansas State offensive lineman Zach Kendall among those who were not panicking about the Wildcats' conference home when expansion rumors were flying over the summer.

"Not really," Kendall said. "We've got a lot of history behind us, and with Coach [Bill] Snyder being a Hall of Fame coach. Our basketball program did really well this year. We've got a lot of assets that would make people want to keep us around. I wasn't too worried about it."


Mizzou's Washington glad to get back to football

At one point during the spring it looked like Missouri would move to the Big Ten. Then it looked like Missouri might not have a viable conference when realignment rumors heated up over the summer.

Missouri running back Derrick Washington said the players were the last to know what was going on, but were affected by the turmoil.

"It was crazy," Washington said. "Everbody in Columbus was asking, 'What's going on with the Big Ten?' I'm glad it's over now and we're focusing on what we need to do."


Pinkel expecting even more from Gabbert

As debut years go, Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert was well above average in 2009. But Tigers coach Gary Pinkel is looking for even more from Gabbert in 2010.

"I think he did a tremendous job last year," Pinkel said. "We all know he had an injury. He battled through that and that said an awful lot about him...I expect him to up his game with the experience factor."

Gabbert said he welcomes added pressure and responsibility as a returning starter.

"I'm not here to hand off 40 times and try not to lose the game," Gabbert said. "I'm here to throw the football, put up points and try to win games."

 

Old Man at Oklahoma State: QB Brandon Weeden

At first glance, it looked like one of the Oklahoma State coaches was holding court in the player breakout room. Instead, it was 26-year-old Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden.

Weeden, who will turn 27 in October, returned to football after first taking a shot at a professional baseball career. Cowboys coach Mike Gundy is banking on Weeden's maturity being an advantage in taking over for the departed Zac Robinson.

"I think there's an advantage to being older. We all know we're different at 26 than we were at 18," Gundy said.
"He's had a taste of what it's like to be out there and deal with the media and the public [in minor league baseball]. He's had success and been able to deal with the tough days."

Weeden also looks upon his baseball experience as a positive - in many ways. He wonders how things would have turned out if he had worked more on his pitching, throwing on the side more, studied more video, etc. weeden's experience could also benefit his OSU teammates.

"I don't take things for granted. I never want to look back and say, 'What if?'" Weeden said. "I tell these guys, four years can fly by.

"I felt like I had a good enough arm to pitch in the big leagues. I just didn't work hard enough. I don't want them to have that feeling."


Tigers stuck in traffic?

As Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast, my friend." We are not ready to get going here at Media Days. Missouri has yet to enter the building.

Through the miracle of Twitter, we understand that the Tigers' flight landed a little late. This isn't the first time something like this has happened at a Big 12 Media Days, but it has already prompted a few wisecracks from the media with regard to Missouri's flirtation with the Big Ten.

Wait - breaking news! Gary Pinkel has just entered the room.

 

Revving up

We're about 30 minutes to kickoff here. The place is already buzzing because radio interviews start before print, so you might trip over a coach while wading through radio row to get to the print interview room.

In addition to hearing representatives from Mizzou, OSU, K-State and Tech, the afternoon is chock full of presentations. We will hear from BCS executive director Bill Hancock, Big 12 officials honcho Walt Anderson (I'm sure he's ready to recite the clock rules again) and finally the big guy: Big 12 commish Dan Beebe.

But all those presentations come after lunch, so we will have to do a head count of reporters who sneaked out to take a nap.

 

Monday, July 26

Day 1 is in the books
That's it for the first of three days of Big 12 Media Days. Tuesday's teams will be Missouri, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Texas Tech.

No doubt Missouri coach Gary Pinkel will be hit with a few questions about his school's flirtation with the Big Ten that ultimately indeed in a re-commitment to the Big 12. Pinkel will also bring quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who is expected to do big things in his second season as the starter.

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy will have his new quarterback, Brandon Weeden, in tow. Weeden has the task of replacing Zac Robinson, who was one of the league's better signal callers.

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder will bring his dry humor, along with standout running back Daniel Thomas.

New Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville will top everyone by bringing two quarterbacks: Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield. The days of former coach Mike Leach bringing the deep snapper instead of his Heisman candidate quarterback are over, although Leach's rambling press conference monologues will be missed.

Quick hits
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini on whether the Huskers' offensive line situation is the best since he's been in Lincoln: "Absolutely. Not even close."

Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman on expectations for the Aggies' return to prominence: "I think the Big 12 needs A&M to step up to the plate and be that type of team. We're ready to accept that challenge."

Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller said it made an impression on him when NFL great Ed Reed said 75 percent of his plays were made because of watching film of opponents. "I probably spend more time watching film than I do practicing," Miller said.

Nebraska senior receiver Niles Paul on the Huskers playing a lame duck season before heading to the Big Ten: "I'm curious to see how it plays out, but I'm in the Big 12 as fars as I'm concerned. This is my last year."

Robert Griffin update
Although Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III's absence has created a lot of buzz at Big 12 Media Days, Bears coach Art Briles said Griffin is progressing nicely from the knee injury that wrecked his and Baylor's season in 2009.

"Where his rehab is at, he's really done exactly what we thought he would do," Briles said, meaning that rather than pout, Griffin has attacked his rehab with the same competitive intensity he brings to the field.

"He was 217 pounds this morning, thats up about nine pounds from where he was a year ago," Briles said. "I like that."

Of course, putting on muscle and being dedicated to a rehab program isn't the same thing as dodging Big 12 tacklers.

"Everything he's done since his injury has been in a structured atmosphere," Briles said. "What we've got to see is when we get him on the field Sept. 4 (the season opener against Sam Houston State) and see how he responds instinctively."

A&M's Johnson believes he's the best
Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson didn't flinch when one of the first questions fired at him was whether he believes he's the best quarterback in the country.

"I feel like I'm the best quarterback in the country," Johnson said. "But the best quarterback is who wins the most games."

You've got to like Johnson's confidence. He may indeed be the best returning starter in the Big 12, in what projects to be a down year for quarterbacks. But first he will have to prove he's the best quarterback in Texas, where Houston's Case Keenum and TCU's Andy Dalton are coming back from stellar seasons.

However, Johnson will get to prove himself against one of the Heisman frontrunners, Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, when the Aggies and Hogs meet Oct. 9 at Cowboys Stadium.

Life without Suh
Nebraska defensive lineman Jared Crick sat in the exact same interview spot former teammate Ndamukong Suh sat in a year ago at Big 12 Media Days. That doesn't mean he will end up the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft like Suh, but it does mean Crick and the Huskers are entering new territory without dominant Suh at tackle.

"It's going to be a little different knowing the big guy is not going to be there," Crick said. "But we play team defense. I can't say it's going to make a huge difference because of one guy, even if it is a guy of that caliber."

Crick was a standout in his own right last season with 9.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss. How many of those tackles were influenced by Suh's presence is an unknown, but Crick is preparing to see the double-teams Suh saw last year.

"As long as I do my job and everybody does their job, whether Suh is there or not, we'll be fine," Crick said.

A&M's Sherman expects more from Jerrod Johnson
Maybe the Texas A&M coaching staff should call itself The Ghostbusters after what head coach Mike Sherman had to say about quarterback Jerrod Johnson.

"He's so dang smart, there's a tendency to put a lot on him," Sherman said. "I think we as coaches have to be careful that he doesn't see ghosts out there, that he doesn't anticipate things that aren't happening."

Sherman said the key is to remove the "clutter" from Johnson's mind. Johnson is so dedicated at studying film and preparing for games, Sherman said, that he can sometimes overprepare.

There's another area Sherman would like to see less clutter, and that's Johnson's completion percentage.

"I would like to see him be a more consistent passer," Sherman said. "I think he was at 60, 61 percent last year (actually 59.6 percent) and I'd like to see him be in the 70s."

Baylor's Watkins puts a spark in Media Days
There's no Sam Bradford or Colt McCoy at this year's Media Days, but there is someone almost as popular with the assembled media: Baylor offensive lineman Danny Watkins.

Watkins is a great story. He was en route to becoming a firefighter in his homeland of British Columbia when his fire captain said some advanced schooling would help his career.

"I thought that's what I was going to be doing the rest of my life," Watkins said.

He found his way to Butte College, a two-year school in Oroville, California and was talked into trying out for football.

"They put me at left tackle my first practice. I had no idea what I was doing," said Watkins, who played only hockey and rugby growing up.

"I remember the first game I played, I probably gave up three sacks. It was all technique because I was going after the wrong guy. I felt bad for the quarterback."

Watkins quickly picked up his new sport and was soon inundated with scholarship offers. He visited Hawaii, Cal and Arkansas. Baylor was the last place he visited and he said he felt at home with the staff in Waco.

Watkins was recently made the No. 4 overall selection of the Canadian Football League, but he has his sights set a little higher. The former fireman hopes to blaze a path to the NFL.

"It wasn't a question in my mind I was coming back," Watkins said of the CFL opportunity.

Experience paying off for ISU's Arnaud
Iowa State quarterback Austen Arnaud said he feels more confident running the offense as he enters his senior season. That sentiment was echoed by teammate and running back Alexander Robinson.

"Definitely," Robinson said. "He was more consistent this spring. He was quicker with his decisions. He was definitely more comfortable with our system in the spring."

Bowl game was a boost for Cyclones
Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said you can't underestimate the impact of the Cyclones' 14-13 win over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl, which was played Dec. 31.

"Being 6-6 and as improved as we were, with people excited, had we lost that game against Minnesota I think it all would have gone 'poof' as we went into January," Rhoads said. "Instead, I think we launched ourselves into January. I think the bowl win was very much a part of where we've gone in the last seven months." 

Nebraska's Zac Lee looking good in workouts
Huskers quarterback Zac Lee had surgery in the off-season to fix the arm injury that bothered him most of last season. At least one interested observer, receiver Niles Paul, said Lee has come out of surgery stronger than before.

"I threw with him Saturday and his arm is very strong," Paul said. "In fact, it kind of caught me off guard."

Where's Robert Griffin III?
Conspicuously absent from the group of players appearing at Media Days is Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. Baylor coach Art Briles has already been pelted with questions about why his star signal caller isn't here.

"I talked to Robert about coming today," Briles said. "Of course, he was here last year. There's a lot of really good football players at Baylor University. Everybody knows about Robert Griffin. From that standpoint, that's why he's not here today."

Baylor will still have one of the more anticipated interviewees in offensive tackle Danny Watkins, who was a fireman in his native Canada before taking up football.

Right out of the gate
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini made it clear at the start of his Q&A session that he would not entertain any questions about the Big Ten.

So immediately he was asked a bunch of questions about leaving the Big 12.

"Business as usual," was Pelini's response to the first question about bracing for a final tour as a lame duck team. "In our program we talk to the guys about focusing on the process and what they have to do day-to-day. That hasn't changed."

Pelini was asked what the reaction has been from Texas high school coaches. Expectations are that Nebraska's recruiting presence in talent-rich Texas will decline once the Huskers leave the Big 12.

"Like I said, it's been business as usual," Pelini said. "It hasn't had any impact on us."

Pelini was also asked if he expects a hostile reception on the road this season.

"I don't anticipate any problems," he said. "Number one, the leadership of the Big 12 with Dan Beebe and his staff is exceptional. You go around the Big 12 and it's all highly respected institutions with classy fans, so I don't anticipate any problems."

Getting started soon
Big 12 media days will commence at 1 p.m. central when Nebraska coach Bo Pelini steps before the media. I've heard his session will actually start at 1 p.m. and one second, since that's the way we do things in Texas (rim shot!)

Until then, the media will be treated to a lunch buffet here at the Westin in Irving. Good move by the league - sportswriters with full stomachs tend not to be as grouchy.

Obviously the overriding topic for the next three days will be the impending changes to the Big 12. But the conference has maintained one tradition since its inception: freezing cold ballrooms for the media days interview sessions. I suppose the arctic air helps keep the writers awake after getting filled up at the buffet.

One difference has already been noticed. There's no longer a colossal landmark just down the road from the hotel where you would turn onto Highway 114. That big place with the hole in the roof, Texas Stadium, is now just mounds of dirt and gravel. Kinda spooky.

Unless I get caught up trying to locate a sweater or jacket, I'll be back after lunch, ready to blog away.