Saturday, July 30, 2016

Can Tech improve on defense in year 2 with Gibbs?

The common perception on Tech, especially by opposing fans eager to dismiss the return of Pat Mahomes, is that they are going to fantastically suck on defense in 2016.

After all, they're losing all four starters on the D-line, inside-backer and leading tackler Micah Awe, and up and coming backer Dakota Allen from a defensive front that was next to useless in 2015. However, they return five experienced components from a secondary that took well to Gibbs' philosophy of forcing turnovers, are promoting young trench warriors Breiden Fehoko and D'Vonta Hinton, and are now in year two of a somewhat complicated scheme.

Head over to Football Study Hall to read about why Tech might make enough of a leap on defense to make the most of an already formidable offense.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Previewing Houston vs Oklahoma

The Cougs and Sooners' opening match-up is a big one, probably a much more challenging game than the Sooners bargained for when they scheduled it to take place in the same non-conference schedule that included a visit from the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Both of those programs are smashmouth spreads of the sort that gave Oklahoma trouble in 2015, it'll be very interesting to see how their approach to handling them has changed for this coming year. Especially with the 3-4 no longer the best option for getting their best 11 defenders on the field.

Read about this battle at SB Nation here.

The best options for Big 12 expansion

There are several confounding factors facing the Big 12 as it seeks to expand and match the other Power 5 conferences with their TV networks and big money deals. There's the lack of great expansion options, the geographic limitations, the Longhorn network, and then basic politics.

I've decided to put together here what I think makes the most sense for the league and gives it the best chance of surviving in anything close to its current form.

First, you add Cincinnati and then Tulane (or Houston if you must) as full-time members of the conference. 

Why Cincinnati? Because Cincinnati has a chance to expand and grow in a big time football region (Ohio) which could significantly help Big 12 north schools like Iowa State and the Kansas schools who rely on out of state recruiting. As you'll see from some of the divisional options, adding more recruiting turf is important. The Bearcats aren't a great option but there's a chance they could become something if the Big 12 brand raised the stakes of their games and increased the interest of the local community and the alumni.

Remember, college football is all about serving as a vanity project for alumni and a local community, which leads to investment and sales and then easily exploited labor (football players) to fund the University system.

Why Tulane? Because they already have some investment in their football program, they are focused near New Orleans which has a lot of football fans and some of the most talent in the country (the southern Big 12 schools already regularly mine Louisiana for talent when they can), and they are a school of great academic standing.

Adding both Tulane and Cincinnati would also serve to troll LSU and tOSU which both are designed to benefit from being the only real football powers in football-obsessed states.

Houston could replace Tulane if absolutely necessary.

Next you add Boise State as a football-only school because you really want BYU and if you add both it adds up to 14 and creates cleaner conference alignment options. 

BYU has a semi-national audience, they have a recruiting base that will follow them to the Big 12 (Utah kids, Mormons, and Islanders) although it won't do much for the rest of the league, they have established tradition and communal/alumni buy-in, and they raise the quality of the football.

Boise State is a sheer "improves the football product" addition. They don't bring in strong TV markets (200k people in Boise, 1.5 mill in Idaho), they don't bring in any recruiting turf (if anything this will lead to them leeching more Texans), all they do is add an additional program that produces good football teams.

That's not really a strong addition for the purpose of creating good TV deals, because people watch college football out of regional/communal interest more than they do for the sheer product. That said, this makes the Big 12's expansion more interesting and more compelling in the short term and probably leads to stronger divisions and more compelling conference games and championship bouts for years to come. Boise State and BYU are strong bets to be consistently strong football teams. If you're going to subsidize programs from areas with weak demographics they might as well be teams that know how to play football and can pull their own weight in making a better product.

Now the tricky part about adding those four programs, you have the following division options:

This is a pretty strong option for the fact that you can keep all the rivals together (and likely create a new one between Boise State and BYU) and the northern champion in this instance is now much more likely to be strong team (albeit something of a spoiler) because you have BYU and Boise in there.

The problems include the fact that none of the northern teams will get to play in Texas much, which sucks for recruiting purposes. They may not play in Louisiana virtually ever (assuming the addition of Tulane rather than Houston) which also sucks. You're basically creating a particularly strong mid-major division to pit against the OU/TX-driven Big 12 south.

That's not quite the same as the original Big 12 north which included Colorado and Nebraska. It's something though. I doubt the Kansas schools are excited about this but then again, everyone knows y'all are basically freeloaders in this deal anyhow.

The final problem is just the time zone issues. This makes a great deal of sense for those Big 12 south teams but it sucks for the Big 12 north where schools are flying all over the country every weekend to play each other.

Here's another option, the "you wanted expansion Oklahoma so here you go" East/West plan:
There are a few benefits to this option. One is that you divide the two powers that drive the conference, Oklahoma and Texas, and you are much more sensitive to the time zone issues with this alignment.

I'd be curious to know what Oklahoma fans would think of this option. Positives include the fact that you can reasonably expect to rule this division with an iron fist as most of these programs simply aren't that strong. You'll still play Texas every year, which means you'll cycle through the rest of the Big 12 West very slowly, which has pros and cons.

Negatives include the fat that you are now only playing only one game in Texas every year (unless they establish more neutral site games like the Baylor-Tech deal in Dallas) and Texas is the lifeblood of your recruiting and TV market share. Oklahoma has survived not playing tons of Texas schools in the past and this would basically be a shoddy recreation of the Big 8 conference from back in the day.

Do they want to return to those times? Possibly, let me know Sooner folk.

This set up is fantastic for Boise State and BYU who now play in Texas regularly and don't have to journey to either the northern flyover locales or eastern time zone West Virginia very often. It doesn't make a ton of sense to reward those schools anymore than letting them in on the TV deals so it's hard to see that happening.

It's horrible for the schools in the northern division who would exist almost solely as patsies for Oklahoma to beat up and might struggle to recruit Texas in this new set-up.

Here's the other option, where you relegate the newcomers to the Eastern division rather than the Oklahoma schools:
Now you're asking the schools that claimed to deliver Texas TV markets (TCU and Houston) to do so without regularly playing against the more traditional Texas regional powers. This Big 12 Eastern division isn't really better than the conferences that these schools all left in order to join the Big 12.

That aside, I think the other Eastern programs might like this set up more than the one where they face OU as they'd play in Texas more and they'll win the division more than if they were matched up against Oklahoma. Bill Snyder would approve of this option.

The Western division in this scenario is a real powerhouse. I wouldn't rule out the possibility of BYU or Boise having Baylor-esque runs where they compete for the division crown for a few years here and there and then you still have OSU, Tech, and Baylor programs with some real tradition and investment. Of course, you also have King Kong and Godzilla still paired together. I think this division would be one of the toughest in all of college football, probably second only to the SEC West. Perhaps Texas and Oklahoma wouldn't be terribly excited about subsidizing such stiff competition.

So those are some options, and for the most part I think they are better than the options presented by going to a championship game with only 10 teams or trying to create divisions with only 10 teams. My preference is for the North/South division option but there are trade-offs to each.

As a writer that focuses heavily on the Big 12, having those four schools join the picture would make the league pretty interesting to observe and seeing Boise and BYU regularly compete with a Power 5 schedule would be fascinating.

Which option would you prefer?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Feldman's freaks in 2016

It's time for one of my favorite annual traditions...
Here it is> The 2016 College Football Freaks list on some of the most amazing athletes in the sport:
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) July 27, 2016

Feldman typically lists workout warriors who, in addition to dominating on the gridiron, put up insane numbers in the weight room or on the track field.

Now this isn't actually an exhaustive list of every freakish athlete in college football, there's no Dalvin Cook for instance, but it's still fun to note who's represented in terms of conferences and positions.

Chuck Klosterman has noted the irony that football tends to put many of its best athletes at running back yet the nature of the sport chews up the position such that the stars who play there often can't play for very long.

But that's not really a problem in college football as most elite running backs move on the NFL before their bodies wear down. The lack of quarterbacks on this list is somewhat interesting, but I remember Bryce Petty getting mentioned here back in the day with some truly bogus program numbers so perhaps it's for the best. The trend of teams looking for great athletes at quarterback isn't going away, I can assure you of that.

A quick aside, you can be reasonably confident that some of the 40 times mentioned by Feldman in the article won't hold up to the combine's electric timing next spring. Track times though, those should always catch your eye.

Where are the freaks in the Big 10/12?

You can't help but notice the glaring absence of B1G or B12 athletes on this list, although some of this is explained by Feldman looking to avoid repeats from previous lists.

Texas probably has some freak contestants on the roster now in the underclassman ranks, some of which were added late from the Baylor recruiting class that disintegrated in the wake of the dismissal of Art Briles.

It's less clear why the Big 10 is largely left out but it may be a fluke. At any rate, I struggle to believe that the Big 10 lacks extra strong linemen or explosive ends and backers.

Derrick Willies and Patrick Morris in the Big 12

Morris' freakish strength is one more reason it's hard to be too worried about the Frogs' ability to replace Trevone Boykin, Aaron Green, Josh Doctson, and their departing O-linemen. They're plugging in Morris opposite 6'7", 350 pound guard Matt Pryor for what will undoubtedly be a line that's hard to get around or get through.

I think you can expect to see RBs Kyle Hicks and Derrick Green pounding the ball between the tackles pretty regularly while the new Frog QB looks to replace Boykin's explosiveness on the perimeter by flipping the ball out to Turpin, Deante Gray, and the rest of the talented and speedy TCU receivers.

Again, this offense is going to be fine, it won't be hard for Meacham and Cumbie to put something together that works.

Meanwhile, Derrick Willies is going to join forces with Pat Mahomes to make Texas Tech a pretty interesting team in 2016. Last year Mahomes was deadly when on the move, finding targets in the middle of the field that he could hit with side-arm, off-balance throws he probably learned from playing baseball. You can expect to see more of that but perhaps also some comebacks on the sideline to this big new target and more curl/dig routes within their normal Air Raid playbook.

I've seen Kingsbury weaponize a lot of very different types of receivers ranging from little Jakeem Grant to big Jace Amaro so I've no doubt he'll find some ways to make use of Willies. Hopefully he won't be able to destroy Big 12 blitzes with fade routes like Mike Evans did at Texas A&M back in 2013 or Tech won't be much fun to defend at all next year.

Quotes and Notes on Texas from Big 12 Media Days

Some notes I gathered at Big 12 media days on the Longhorns, read it for free here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Minnesota and ball-control offense

I'm simply not a huge fan of ball control offense at the college level unless the teams utilizing it are packaging their different pass and run game concepts as constraints for one another. Teams that want to work their way down the field with the drop-back passing game AND a sturdy run game are up against it in terms of teaching their players to do both well enough to be efficient.

The Minnesota Gophers have been trying to do this and without the requisite explosiveness at the skill positions to give them much margin for error. Todd McShay is evidently impressed watching their QB Mitch Leidner struggle down the field but the Gophers needed to mix things up a bit for 2016.

They hired a Pistol guy in Jay Johnson so we'll see if that does the trick, read about my concerns with their old ball-control approach and how they could make it work for them next year here.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Previewing USC vs Alabama

At the same time that Alabama has slowly been adopting their personnel to be better suited to handling spread attacks in addition to "ground and pound" approaches from big SEC squads, they get to open their season against another school undergoing a similar transition in USC.

The Trojans are still emphasizing a downhill running game, but like Alabama they are adding RPO constraints to their offensive system while also updating their defense to handle spread attacks. No doubt Saban and the Tide are further along in this transition towards modern "best practices" for bluechip programs but that doesn't mean USC isn't a formiddable challenge.

Read about their fun season opener at SB Nation.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The greatest Lake Travis team in history?

At Big 12 media days yesterday I asked Baker Mayfield whether the Lake Travis team he played on could have beat the one that just competed for the 6A state title. The program is larger now then it was back then and is returning an absolutely loaded squad with a great shot to finally break through and win a 6A title after formerly dominating the 4A level back in Mayfield's day.

His response,
"Oh yeah, absolutely, there's not a question in my mind. If they'd have won state there might have been a competition but no, they didn't win state. There were talks about my junior year, the team we had being one of the best to ever play Texas football."
This was perhaps not the most fair comparison, since the 2015 Lake Travis team fell short as a result of running into another legendary buzzsaw in the Katy Tigers. That team had an absurdly good defense highlighted by a pair of disciplined safeties, some D1 prospects up front, and Tyrann Mathieu-approximate Jovanni Stewart.

I thought it'd be fun to go back and look at the 2011 Lake Travis Cavaliers and investigate Mayfield's claim to that enormous distinction.

An absurdly loaded spread offense

When head coach Hank Carter took over for Chad Morris at Lake Travis his plan was to carry on the legacy of having a brilliant spread attack but to also mix in a strong, 4-2-5 defense that would come to have the same kind of reputation.

There's no doubt that they were able to maintain the former and the 2011 Cavalier cast was loaded.

Obviously Mayfield led the way, and he unexpectedly took the starting job after uber-athlete Colin Lagasse hurt his shoulder in the first game of the year. Mayfield threw 378 passes for 3788 yards at 10 yards per pass with 45 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He also ran the ball 139 times for 754 yards at 5.4 yards per carry with another 10 touchdowns. It was a brilliant season that everyone around the country somehow missed.

Lagasse was still able to serve as a RB/WR hybrid with 146 touches for 1312 yards at 8.98 yards per touch and 20 touchdowns.

The Cavs also had two leading receivers in Griffin Gilbert (53 catches, 1019 yards, 18 TDs) and Zach Austin (72 catches, 1340 yards, 16 TDs). Varshaun Nixon was the main back and though only a sophomore in a system with a ton of weapons, he still added 141 carries for 1250 yards at 8.87 yards per carry and another 15 TDs.

The mix of a shifty WR (Austin) and a tall guy that could be a target for sideline fades and end zone jump balls (Gilbert) has been a re-occuring theme in Cavalier football as we'll see later. They don't tend to have D1 deep threats on the roster but they can always find tall guys that can still take the top off and other players that are dangerous in the seams or quick game.

You can still find some of this 2011 skill talent around the state with Austin currently on the Texas Tech depth chart, Varshaun Nixon sitting this year out at TCU with an injury, and both Lagasse and Gilbert moved on from football after short stints with SMU and TCU respectively.

A perusal of their schedule sees them averaging 45.3 points per game and only dipping below 30 three times; once in the title game against Waco Midway and twice against district rivals Cedar Park.

A typical Hank Carter 4-2-5

Carter's 4-2-5 is somewhere in the realm of the Bob Shoop/Manny Diaz school of defense with "attack-backers" inside who can be regularly inserted into the front via the blitz combined with defensive linemen that can stunt and drop as needed.

Go find yourself some Lake Travis highlights from 2011, or any other year for that matter, and you'll see them bring all manner of blitzes from their base 4-2 Over-quarters defense. Their entire defense is marked by speed and versatility and they essentially have really well-rounded "jack of all trades" types at most positions.

They usually have at least one big, sturdy 3-technique defensive tackle to build around but the rest of the players are generally guys that may fit at one position but are capable of playing in multiple spots. They play hard and swarm to the football with abandon in a way that tells you the football culture in Lake Travis is strong (how many college Air Raid teams struggle to field defenses that play this hard?).

This style of defense is interesting and I wonder if we may began to see more of it in the college ranks as an alternative option for handling the spread to attempting to flood the field with top shelf athletes pidgeon-holed into limited roles so that they can play as fast as possible.

If you can't get good enough athletes to allow you to beat opponents by playing things simple and relying on execution, doesn't it make sense to go the other route and instead stock up on smart, versatile kids and out-scheming opponents?

The 2011 defense gave up 14.5 points per game so their average margin of victory was 30.8 points per game. In reality, only Cedar Park was able to even play them close and Johnathan Gray-led Aledo was the only team to break 30 points against them thanks to his 29 carry, 269 yard (9.28 ypc), four touchdown performance.

The 2016 Lake Travis squad

The 2016 Cavs are returning errbody from their 2015 runner-up season and have a lot of pieces in place similar to the 2011 squad. Instead of Mayfield they have another Brewer (Charlie) at QB and though he lacks Baker's wheels or arm strength he's no slouch.

His brother Cade is their Griffin Gilbert, big target in the passing game, Maleek Barkley is the Colin Lagasse, and receivers Cade Green and Mac Humble are competing to be this year's version of Zach Austin.

On defense they have their typical, building block 3-tech in 6'2", 270-pound Sam Ochoa and six other returning starters including big safety Austin Hiller who's committed to Northwestern.

They'll be loaded with guys that competed for last year's team and fell just short and they'll be hungry to silence comparisons such as Baker's and finally win Lake Travis' first 6A State title. They'll just have to beat out Sam Ehlinger's Westlake and whatever other super-teams are awaiting in the 6A playoffs...

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Texas' All-underrateds of the 2010's

This hasn't been a good decade for Longhorn football, but as a result there are a lot of players who put forth some nice seasons that were largely overlooked.

I put together an "all-underrated" team of Texas offensive and defensive players from the 2010s you can find here for free.

What about the Vols?

I lost interest in the Vols pretty quickly in 2015 when Butch Jones blew their game against Oklahoma and then later blew another close contest against an SEC opponent I can't recall.

Then they hired one of my favorite DCs, Bob Shoop, to take charge of what was already a really strong defense. Now they are pretty intriguing as an SEC East contender and a preseason constant that should be useful for gauging some interesting 2016 variables in Appalachian State and Virginia Tech.

Personally I like how Shoop blends cover 6 and fire zones on standard downs, a formula that worked remarkably well for Texas back in 2011 before they went in a different direction (over a cliff, to be precise).

Read about how Shoop will deploy the Tennessee defense in 2016 here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

My preseason All-B12 ballot

Late last week I submitted my preseason All-Big 12 ballot, the results of which I believe are released during Big 12 media days early next week. I didn't spend quite as much time on it as I usually do but let's be real, the preseason ballot doesn't matter too much and even I don't take my own preseason ballot too seriously when I draft my postseason All-Big 12 teams.

What's more, I don't get a ballot for the real All-B12 team later in the year, this is all just discussion fodder. Let's have at it.

Preseason rankings

Honestly, I think much of the Big 12 looks fairly interchangeable and who finishes where from 3-9 or so is going to depend more on scheduling and injuries than anything else. That said, here's how I have the teams for now. I look forward to Philly Frog's shock...

1. TCU
2. Oklahoma
3. Texas
4. Kansas State
5. Texas Tech
6. Oklahoma State
7. Baylor
8. Iowa State
9. West Virginia
10. Kansas

Let's get the big one out of the way first, I like TCU's chances of putting together a top offense and defense more than I like Oklahoma's. During the 2015 season I really didn't appreciate how well Charles Tapper played (very well) and when you add that loss to the departure of Eric Striker and Devante Bond you have a huge hole in the Oklahoma defense.

Maybe they can replace Zach Sanchez with another sticky-fingered corner but I still have trust issues with Mike Stoops and have my doubts about his ability to consistently fashion defenses where all of the skill sets come together to form a dominant team concept. They'll probably be good, there's too much talent to be bad, but I don't know about great.

Meanwhile TCU is doing a standard "plug and play" reload on offense and look to have more than enough options to build a unit that can over stress defenses and get points on the board. Their defense should be back atop the league again.

Texas could finish in a variety of places but they'll probably have a dominant run game and, at least at times, a passing game with absurd and explosive talent. Defense will be better as well. This is the most talented team in the league, the best players are just too young to put it together for 2016.

Kansas State needs to find another corner and I'm going to be made to look stupid if they actually have to roll with Johnny D of Aledo opposite Duke Shelley. That kid needs to be hitting the weights and sitting in the safeties' meeting room, I'm not buying him at corner in the Big 12 and nickel is iffy as well given what the Wildcats ask their nickel to do.

If OSU can run the ball or rush the passer they'll be WAY better than this ranking.

Texas Tech is going to surprise people next year by not being atrocious on defense (though they still won't be too good) and the offense will be great again with Pat Mahomes at the helm. You gotta wonder if they'll snag Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham and end up with an amazing succession plan for his departure.

I'm expecting a free fall for Baylor with all of the chaos, Stidham and Cannon out, the D-line getting gutted by graduation/departures/suspensions, and Seth Russell playing on a previously broken neck. They could end up with another explosive offense and Seth Russell having a brilliant season but I'm betting on all these distractions winning out over a team of young men.

West Virginia should be good on offense and atrocious on defense, Iowa State could surprise, and Kansas will be Kansas.

All-Big 12 Defense

DL: Jordan Willis, Kansas State
DL: Will Geary, Kansas State
DL: Charles Walker, Oklahoma
DL: Josh Carraway, TCU
DL: Noble Nwachukwu, West Virginia
LB: Malik Jefferson, Texas
LB: Taylor Young, Baylor
LB: Elijah Lee, Kansas State
DB: Jordan Thomas, Oklahoma
DB: Davante Davis, Texas
DB: Dante Barnett, Kansas State

DB: Denzel Johnson, TCU
DB: Steven Parker, Oklahoma
P: Zach Sinor, Oklahoma State

Kansas State has good players at positions where most other teams have question marks but TCU had the following tough omissions: Ranthony Texada (CB), Travin Howard (MLB), Nick Orr (WS or FS?), Aaron Curry (DT). So hopefully you can probably understand why I think TCU will be the top defense even though from this list you'd think I was all in on K-State. The Frogs personnel should fit together than any other team in the league and they'll be at least "good" at every position.

Taylor Young is a great player and I expect he'll still have a good year but it'll be interesting to see how he does without Andrew Billings protecting him. Oklahoma's Jordan Evans may make me look silly for leaving him off. If Oklahoma State had any of the following Texas CBs (Davante Davis, Holton Hill, Kris Boyd, Sheroid Evans if I knew he'd be healthy) I'd have them at least fourth in the league. Davis should be the best in 2016. Jordan Thomas' offseason troubles give me pause but he was just too good last year to leave off.

Steven Parker over Nick Orr was a difficult choice in rewarding the league's rangiest cover safety and West Virginia's Dravon Askew-Henry is also worth mentioning here. D'Vonta Hinton is going to have a good year (I'm betting on >100 tackles) and surprise people and some of the Cyclone defenders probably will as well. DT Demond Tucker is disruptive in spurts and FS Kamari Cotton-Moya might be one of the better +1 defenders in the league.

My money is on Noble Nwachukwu for "most likely to make me regret listing him."

Before Oklahoma fans just throw their laptops in a fury, I think the OU nose tackle rotation is quite good and a team strength but neither Matt Romar nor Jordan Wade impress me quite as much as Will Geary. The Sooner defensive backfield will probably be one of the top three in the league, again I'm just worried about getting enough disruption up front to run roughshod over the league.

Defensive Player of the Year: Malik Jefferson, Texas

Read up on him here, he's a hybrid freak who should go wild this year as a true sophomore surrounded by a better, more experienced supporting cast.

All-Big 12 Offense

QB: Pat Mahomes, Texas Tech
RB: Samaje Perine, Oklahoma
RB: Mike Warren, Iowa State
FB: Winston Dimel, Kansas State
WR: Kavontae Turpin, TCU
WR: James Washington, Oklahoma State
WR: Allen Lazard, Iowa State
TE: Mark Andrews, Oklahoma
OL: Connor Williams, Texas
OL: Adam Pankey, West Virginia
OL: Dalton Risner, Kansas State
OL: Kent Perkins, Texas
OL: Orlando Brown, Oklahoma
PK: Ben Grogan, Oklahoma State
KR/PR: Byron Pringle, Kansas State

I think Baker Mayfield may be the second best offensive player in the Big 12 but I'm rolling with Mahomes who has a tad more natural talent and dedicated his full energies this offseason to football rather than baseball for the first time.

Warren over Joe Mixon was a bit tough as I think a lot of the Sooner back and I also think Texas' Forewarrened combo (Chris Warren, D'Onta Foreman) will be dominant this year but splitting carries may keep them off the end of year lists.

Being required to list a fullback rather than a fourth WR is frankly ridiculous at this point in the league's history but Winston Dimel will probably actually have a fairly big impact on the 2016 season. Texas TE/H-back Caleb Bluiett is another mobile blocking surface that should have a good year.

I was tempted to list RB/WR Kavontae Turpin as the TE since he serves in a similar role for TCU in helping them attack the extra man in the box but I think enough of Mark Andrew to give him the nod instead. Anyways, I still have Turpin on the list. It's very possible that Turpin will be a turbo-charger to the TCU attack rather than the main engine and thus not quite put up big enough numbers to make the end of year list but I think he's the difference in them having another strong offense rather than just an okay one as they recover from losing Doctson, Boykin, Green, and all those OL.

It feels wrong not to have a Red Raider or Bear WR on this list but it's hard to say who exactly they would be. KD Cannon would have been a shoo in but there are too many rumors swirling about him transferring and he just had knee surgery. If he's healthy and on he'll probably be on this list at the end of the year. Dylan Cantrell would be a fun choice for Tech but I'm just not sure who they plan on featuring up in Lubbock.

If Texas really gets their passing game going then John Burt will end up on this list at the end of the year, he's one of the more talented WRs in the conference the average fan just doesn't know it yet because the Longhorns couldn't throw the ball last year.

I think Lazard and Warren are both really good players who will get a ton of touches this year.

On the O-line I overcame the temptation to make the typical cop out and list all tackles and a single center and actually fielded a real OL with two tackles, two guards, and one center (unless Perkins stays at RT for Texas). I did put two left tackles on here but whatever, I'm not a saint.

Offensive Player of the Year: Pat Mahomes, Texas Tech

Strong runner, phenomenal improviser, and fully in command of Kingsbury's explosive offense heading into year three in the program and year two as "the guy."

Newcomer of the Year: Byron Pringle, Kansas State

Definitely the most likely guy I'm aware of to have a big inaugural season. The K-State passing game will be miles better this year, whether Ertz takes over or Hubener stays at the helm, and Pringle is the best WR on the Wildcats' roster. He also handled returns in their spring game and you know the Wildcat return men are always set up for big success.

Alright, let the outrage begin! (Glances over at the Sooner fan corner)

Monday, July 11, 2016

The specialist approach to choosing LBs

Part 2 in my 3 part series on how teams choose the players that form the heart of the defense. This approach is common in the Big 12, where everyone can't load up on versatile hybrids every year. Read about it at Football Study Hall.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Some offseason questions for Texas

Over at Inside Texas I broke down how Texas will try to protect their freshman center, the succession plan at nickel, and the coverage alignment that most of the Big 12 will use to try and handle Gilbert's offense.

Read about it here.

Can Brandon Harris lead LSU back to the title game?

At some point LSU should just focus on snatching up 3-star QBs with good football IQ and strong arms and just stock pile them so that they can always roll out a developed, system guy in his third, fourth, or fifth year to lead the charge every year.

That's what I'd consider doing, were I Les Miles.

In the meantime, maybe their current athletic freak who struggles to execute a pro-style offense will actually put things together. If Brandon Harris does so, obviously LSU is going to be very good in 2016.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The pseudo-dime approach to fielding an anti-spread LB corps

Over at Football Study Hall I'm breaking down the three main ways teams choose their linebackers to balance the stresses of controlling the box and holding up against spread passing attacks.

The first way we're talking about is the "pseudo-dime" where teams basically play six guys with DB characteristics all the time.