It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak during the year. In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2012, Athlon asked coaches in the Big 12 to talk anonymously about their opponents.
Opposing coaches size up the Bears:
“Of course the main focal point will be on having to replace Robert Griffin III, as it should be, but the Bears also lost a lot of other key players such as wide receiver Kendall Wright and running back Terrance Ganaway. Those guys were big-time threats on that offense.
Senior Nick Florence has the difficult task of having to replace Griffin. He’ll still have a few viable targets like Lanear Sampson, Tevin Reese and Terrance Williams.
They do such a great job at spreading out that offense and taking advantage of mismatches. Art Briles deserves a lot of credit for getting that thing going. While losing Griffin will be difficult to overcome, and it’s doubtful the offense can match last year’s numbers, the defense has eight returning starters and should be much better. They surrendered a lot of points and yards last season, but it didn’t matter because they could usually just outscore everyone.
Baylor should have plenty of time getting adjusted to having Florence at quarterback since their first three games are against SMU, Sam Houston State and Louisiana-Monroe.”
Opposing coaches size up the Cyclones:
“I love Paul Rhoads. He gets the absolute best out of every player and gives Iowa State the chance to win more games than they have any business winning. They got back to a bowl game last year, and this year I think they’ll be even better. First, they have to settle on a starting quarterback between senior Steele Jantz and sophomore Jared Barnett. Both bring different intangibles. I really think they can be effective with either one. Also, running back James White is part of a large group of returning starters on offense. They’ll work with new offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham.
The defense features two of the best linebackers in the country in A.J. Klein and Jake Knott. Those guys should have monster seasons playing under Wally Burnham, who I think is one of the nation’s most underrated defensive coordinators.
With enough returning talent and seven home games, I think the Cyclones will have no problem getting back to a bowl game and believe they’ll be a surprise team in the Big 12.”
Opposing coaches size up the Jayhawks:
“There were a lot of interesting head coaching hires in the offseason. This one, though, had to rate near the top. I am dying to see if Charlie Weis can win at Kansas after not being able to win consistently with much better resources and tradition at Notre Dame. Whatever does happen it can’t be near the train wreck that they had with Turner Gill. They were at best a very, very average team talent-wise under Gill, yet they ran a spread offense. They just didn’t have the personnel to do that.
By bringing Weis on board and subsequently Notre Dame transfer Dayne Crist, the Jayhawks will have an immediate upgrade at quarterback. Is there enough talent around Crist to give him a chance to do any damage? That’s doubtful and it certainly doesn’t help that running back James Sims was suspended for the first three games against South Dakota State, Rice and TCU.
Crist’s exploits on offense likely won’t matter much if the Jayhawks can’t shore up a porous defense. Last year, they were torched for at least 40 points in eight of 12 games. That is not easy to do.
It will be a surprise if Kansas does not finish in last place in the league. They need more talent. It’s that simple.”
Opposing coaches size up the Wildcats:
“Here’s the bottom line: Bill Snyder’s teams will excel on special teams, be physical, won’t make mistakes and run some sort of option attack. The toughest thing about defending against them is they keep you honest at all times. That’s a compliment to the job offensive coordinator Dana Dimel does. As the talent continues to get better, Kansas State will continue to improve.
One of the most impressive things about them is all their players buy in to Snyder’s way. He’s a no-nonsense guy, and quite frankly that’s not a quality that a lot of recruits are looking for. But he’s got guys that want to play for him, will run his system to perfection and they win because of it. Collin Klein is a perfect example. He is probably the most valuable, most underrated quarterback in the country. The guy just wins and he’s tough as nails. Got hit a lot last year, but just got up and kept playing.
Winning 10 games last year was an overachievement. I think they’ve got the pieces in place to match that again this season.
Collin Klein was terrific last year. They were looking at moving the kid to wide receiver and he ends up being one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Isn’t a great thrower, but he really can hurt you with his legs. Tough kid, too. He took a pounding last year. They have to keep him healthy.”
Opposing coaches size up the Sooners:
“Landry Jones decided to return for his senior year, and Mike Stoops is back in Norman. Good times indeed. Last year I thought Jones was the league’s best quarterback. (Oklahoma State’s) Brandon Weeden proved me wrong. I think Jones decision to come back will pay huge dividends for the Sooners.
Last year was a major disappointment in Norman. I know that. Everyone knows that. The preseason No. 1 team ending up in the Insight Bowl is not good. Ryan Broyles won’t be back, but Jones will be just fine. The Sooners offense will continue clicking. They’ve got some really good young receivers that will be a big part of the offense.
The biggest question marks are on the defense, but that’s where Mike Stoops comes into play. The Sooners lost some studs on that side of the ball. Guys like Travis Lewis, Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis. I still think Oklahoma is the most skilled team and most physical team in our conference. And I have a strong feeling after the bad taste in their mouth from last year, they’re going to prove it this year.
It will be interesting to see what happens with this team this year. They should be very, very hungry after what happened late last year. Their performance against Oklahoma State was not good. In a rivalry game? That surprised me.”
Opposing coaches size up the Cowboys:
“Hats off — make that Cowboy hats off — to the job done by Mike Gundy. What he accomplished last year was remarkable. Just look at Oklahoma State’s history. You simply do not win like he did last year, winning the league title and nearly getting a shot at the national title. Obviously the money Boone Pickens has poured into facilities has made Gundy’s job a little easier, but still you can’t minimize the job Gundy has done in building a program.
Now the fun starts for Gundy: How can he follow up last year’s record-breaking season without the duo of Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon? One thing is for sure, you don’t have to worry about how Todd Monken will be as the offensive coordinator after replacing Dana Holgorsen. So who replaces Weeden? I don’t think it matters: Clint Chelf, Wes Lunt or J.W. Walsh. They won’t measure up to Weeden, but the offense will still scare you. They still have running back Joseph Randle. He’s big time. Will have a very good year for them.
The defense sometimes is hit or miss, but it didn’t miss much last season. Bill Young’s group takes a lot of chances, but they pay off big-time. They also have eight starters back.
I think most people expect a huge drop-off for Oklahoma State. I don’t think it will be that drastic.”
Opposing coaches size up the Horned Frogs:
“I think everybody is interested to see how they do in the Big 12 this season. I think they will be fine, but you never know. It’s a lot different when you’ve got to play three or four tough games in a row. They’ve beaten some good teams over the years, but they have not played a schedule like the one they will be playing this season.
It was shocking to see their defense early last season. That Baylor game (TCU gave up 564 total yards) was very interesting. We all just assumed they could plug guys in. Didn’t happen. They got better late in the year, but that was clearly not what we were used to seeing from a Gary Patterson defense.
They’ve got really good talent at the skill positions. They are loaded at running back. I like (Matthew) Tucker a lot. Their wide receivers aren’t as well known, but they have some guys who can play. We will find out this year.
I thought (Casey) Pachall was pretty good last year. Taking over for Andy Dalton was not going to be easy, but the kid did a nice job. He will be even better this season.
Losing Tanner Brock (in the drug scandal) is big. That kid was good. And he was going to have a big season for them. … They’ve got some good players coming in. (Devonte) Fields, the defensive end, can really play. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him get on the field early. The quarterback, Tyler Matthews, is a good get, as well.”
Opposing coaches size up the Longhorns:
“You see all that talent, all those resources, all that money and wonder why in the hell they aren’t winning big every year? The past two years Texas has been basically a .500 team. They haven’t been that physical, which surprises you, and they have some issues trying to find a quarterback.
Last year (Mack) Brown figured he had to shake things up, bringing in Bryan Harsin and Manny Diaz as his new coordinators. Texas was a little bit improved last year with those guys, but I don’t think the natives are going to settle for 7–5 regular seasons for any extended amount of time. While they had so much talent, a lot of it has been green.
I think they could make a big jump this season if a quarterback can take control and command of the team. David Ash and Case McCoy will battle it out. They both have their bright spots and limitations. … Running back Malcolm Brown is going to be a good one. He’s scary. He had a super freshman season.
For the most part the defense played well last year. They were fairly consistent, but were on the field a lot because of the inconsistency of the offense.”
Opposing coaches size up the Red Raiders:
“Tommy Tuberville really needs a big year this year. He managed eight wins and they won a bowl after replacing Mike Leach two years ago. Last year was a disaster. Five wins after they started out 4–0. Then they upset Oklahoma, I still don’t know how that happened. They got to 5–2, and only needed one more win to get to a bowl game only to lose their last five games; four of those they were run off the field.
This is a huge year for Tubs. He has a bunch of personnel back, so he needs to show some drastic improvement. What’s ironic is when he came on board, he stressed how much he wanted to run the ball and all they do is fling it around all the time.
Quarterback Seth Doege is certainly a strength of the team. He can throw for a lot of yards and does a very good job spreading it around. The offense isn’t what’s been the problem in West Texas. It’s been the defense. Tuberville changes defensive coordinators more than he changes his socks. He’s got Art Kaufman as this year’s defensive coordinator, replacing Chad Glasgow, who replaced James Willis. They’ll also put in a new alignment, changing to the 4-3.
I like Tuberville. Hopefully this new defensive system works better than the last one.”
Opposing coaches size up the Mountaineers:
“Well, I guess that head coach-in-waiting arrangement worked out after all for (Dana) Holgorsen. He was thrown into the head coaching position a year early after West Virginia fired Bill Stewart. For a guy who had never been a head coach and didn’t have the year-long transition that he expected, I thought he did an exceptional job. Everyone knows he can run an offense, but taking control of an entire team is another matter.
Bad news for Big 12 defensive coordinators is that the Mountaineers return plenty of talent from last season in quarterback Geno Smith and wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. They’ve also had a year to experience Holgorsen’s system so they’re only going to be that much more efficient.
The biggest thing I’m interested to see is how the Mountaineers adjust to life in the Big 12 instead of the Big East. It will be a big difference facing teams like Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas each week as opposed to the Big East teams. I think what will help Holgorsen is his time in the league as Oklahoma State’s offensive coordinator. That will help with his familiarity with the league, but it’s still going to be a big adjustment making the upgrade in leagues and playing a much more difficult schedule. It will be a matter of will the Big 12 adjust to West Virginia or will West Virginia have to adjust to the Big 12.”
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