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Big 12 Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2016

Oklahoma Sooners

Oklahoma Sooners

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 or overused cliches used during the year.

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In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2016, Athlon asked coaches in the Big 12 to talk anonymously about their opponents.

Related: Big 12 2016 Predictions

Note: These scouting reports come directly from coaching staffs and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.

Big 12 Coaches Anonymously Scout Conference Foes

Baylor

“If I had to pick the team I think will be the most formidable, it’s Baylor just because they’ve proven it offensively, and having Seth Russell come back off the injury at quarterback will be big. They were rolling until he got hurt. If they could get a quarterback to finish the season healthy they might win the whole thing one of these years.”

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“They’ve got a lot of team speed, and they’re always pretty decent on defense. I know they lose the one great receiver in [Corey] Coleman, but they’ll be fine. I don’t see them taking any steps back.”

“It was crazy to watch their bowl game when they ran that Wildcat and rushed for [645] yards, and it was like it almost set football back 50 years. All they did was run different running backs and receivers — to produce like that shows you how good their coaching staff is offensively. Obviously they won’t play that way this year, but it goes without saying they’re going to be good on offense.”

“They’re never going to lead the nation in scoring defense, but they’re better than people give them credit for. Not great defensively, but not bad.”  

“When you looked at them last year, Shawn Oakman got all the media attention and was a pretty good player, but losing Andrew Billings is going to be bigger for their defense because he was a great player and made a big difference inside with the run game. In the secondary they lose Xavien Howard, who was a good defensive back, but again, they’ll be solid and really, really good on offense.”

Iowa State

“The new guy [Matt Campbell] did a great job at Toledo. I went back and watched some of the stuff they did there just to get an idea of what to expect, and I was impressed. He’ll do a good job there in time, but they’re just pretty far down right now talent-wise and down in a whole lot of spots.”

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“Last year, they weren’t a good defense with their skillset at all, and they didn’t have a lot of good players up front, so they tried to piecemeal it with an exotic scheme to maybe hide some deficiencies.”

“I don’t see anyone coming back who strikes fear into you except for the safety, No. 5 [Kamari Cotton-Moya]. He’s their best player, but their overall lack of speed on defense is probably what the new staff is worried about right now because you just have to have some fast guys to match up with the skill in this league.”

“Offensively, my guess is they’ll build around Joel Lanning at quarterback. He played some at the end of last year and he’s real athletic. He has a chance to be decent.”

“They’ve got some guys they can work with at receiver. It’s a big, physical group of guys. They don’t have a lot of speed, but they’re solid.”

“They were pretty senior-laden on the offensive line last year, so I wonder how they’ll be up front.”

“The running back [Mike Warren] ran for over 1,000 yards last year as a freshman, and he’s legitimately good, but they need to get something out of their offensive line to help him out.”

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Kansas

“There’s not much to evaluate; they’re just going to go through another year and try to survive.”

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“I think they’re still two or three years away from being competitive, but David [Beaty] has some time before anyone is going to expect him to start winning games. He has to just rebuild and recruit and get it going the right direction. It was so bad when he took over — there was no way to get it turned around overnight. When your scholarship numbers are low and the ones you’ve got aren’t very good, you really just have no chance.”

“The concern I have for them is he’s also had to rebuild his staff this year because they lost some assistants, and that could be an issue.”

“I actually thought the freshman quarterback [Ryan Willis] played pretty well for them, but his biggest problem is if you don’t have much talent around you it’s tough to build the confidence of a young quarterback. He doesn’t have a lot to help him, and they’re just not very good up front on either side of the ball.”  

“They had one transfer linebacker [Marcquis Roberts] last year coming in from South Carolina who played pretty well for their defense, but they don’t have many Big 12-level guys.”

“Even though the secondary was really young, nobody caught my eye as a potentially good player in the future.”

“It’s just a tough situation. Signing Day is bigger for them than any Saturday right now because they have to get faster and more skilled.”

Kansas State

“It was pretty much a nightmare for them with the injuries, but if Jesse Ertz comes back healthy at quarterback that’ll change the whole dynamic of their team. Obviously we didn’t see much of him, but it spoke volumes that they started him right off the bat as a young guy in their program. I know they felt like he had a chance to be good, like a Collin Klein-type guy for them.”

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“They lacked a lot of playmaking and depth last year, but on the other hand they just got buried by injuries and their running back wasn’t good enough to carry the offense. In the past you’d think about Kansas State having one elite receiver like Tyler Lockett who could create issues with their speed, but they didn’t have it last year and it really compounded the quarterback problem. If they find that guy, they can get back to looking like the typical Kansas State.”

“I thought they did pretty well to score as many points as they did playing a second-string quarterback and a guy they converted from receiver after their backup got hurt.”

“Offensive line is probably their big question mark having to replace four of the five starters.”

“Defensively, they gave up way too many big plays and didn’t create turnovers, which is pretty unusual for a Bill Snyder team.”

“I think the best part of their defense is linebacker depth, and the safety [Dante Barnett] is probably an all-league guy if he didn’t get hurt last year in the opener.”

“If they stay healthy, they could be sneaky good.”

Oklahoma

“It’s weird to say about Oklahoma, but they sort of snuck up on people last year and that won’t happen again. People weren’t expecting as much out of them offensively, but they got on a roll in the second half of the season and had a lot of momentum going into the Playoff.”

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“I think they were good, but they weren’t really good like some of the Oklahoma teams Bob Stoops has had before. Not to take anything away, but they hit everybody that would have been a challenge for them at a perfect time: They played Baylor when the quarterback was out; they got TCU after they lost [Trevone] Boykin. It’ll be interesting to see how they end up when people target them again.”

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“They’re going to take a step back defensively for sure losing Eric Striker and Charles Tapper up front. Jordan Evans is a good athlete at linebacker and has gotten a lot better, but he’s not a great player.”

“Their secondary is going to be good with four of the five guys coming back. In our opinion Steven Parker is the best of that group; we really respect him.”

“They didn’t lose a lot offensively, and they were real young up front last year so they should be good there.”

“When they finally figured out how to run the ball, they were pretty potent with those two talented guys. Everyone talks about the Air Raid and the quarterback, but to me the key to that offense is their ability to run the ball.”

“Sterling Shepard is the one guy they lose on offense, and that’s going to hurt them for sure.”

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Oklahoma State

“They won a bunch of games last year, but when you really sat back and looked at their talent, they’re just not at the same level as they were a few years ago. They were a little bit like some of the Kansas State teams from a few years ago where they really got more out of their roster than they should have. They won some games on the last few plays, and it was like one of those perfect storms for them. I think they’re probably going to need to do the same thing again.”

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“Offensively they just seem to find ways to win games, and their staff did a really, really good job of circumventing their lack of talent because they weren’t good at all up front. They were very, very average on the offensive line.”

“I think Mason Rudolph is a good, solid playmaker at quarterback and has developed nicely in that system, but they’re just average at running back and kind of average at receiver. I wouldn’t be surprised if they struggle a little more this year.”

“Defensively I think they’ll be solid, probably about the same as they have been. Their two inside guys coming back are decent up front, but it’ll hurt to lose the two defensive ends who had really been there for them. Emmanuel Ogbah was just a freakish talent.”

“I think in their secondary, the two inside safeties were young players that got better last year. They’re losing some good corners; the Kevin Peterson kid was really good.”

TCU

“They’re not going to be the same team. They have question marks on offense pretty much everywhere, and even though their defense was young and improved as the season went on, they won’t be as talented.  You can’t ever count them out because of Gary Patterson, but they’re going to look a lot different.”

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“I think offensively they’re going to have to find a new identity because they really, really leaned on Trevone Boykin and Josh Doctson. And then when everything was hitting the fan with injuries last year, Aaron Green showed he was a pretty good player too. So those guys are just key, key losses and they lose four of the five starters on the offensive line.”

“I haven’t seen much of Kenny Hill but obviously he showed some flashes at Texas A&M in a similar system, so maybe he’s going to be the next guy at quarterback. I just don’t think you can replace the intangibles and situational experience they had with Boykin.”

“I think defensively Gary will find a way to be pretty solid — I just don’t know if they have some of studs they had a couple years ago. All the injuries last year did force them to play a lot of young guys, and I think the two inside tackles and young linebackers looked pretty good. They got better and better as the year went on.”

“They’ll miss Derrick Kindred at safety, who we really liked and ran really well at the Combine. Obviously it was unusual for them to give up a lot of big plays in the secondary last year, but again, they were really young.”

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Texas

“In my opinion, they won’t be very good.”

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“They’ve got some nice young players, and they’re talented on defense, but they’re really up and down.”

“They’re trying to put in a new offense and it’s going to be a big learning curve with that system and making it match the personnel. It worked for [Bob] Stoops with Lincoln Riley, so now Texas is trying to mimic it with a real young offensive coordinator to save the whole thing for Charlie [Strong], but Texas just doesn’t have the same talent level as Oklahoma.”

“Who’s the quarterback? I’m not super impressed with No. 13 [Jerrod Heard]. He has to be able to run that Baylor offense. I don’t know if he’s that guy to run that system and run it fast. They might have to go with one of their other young guys.”

“I think they’re going to be pretty good up front, but they don’t have anybody who stands out as a big playmaker at receiver and so much of what they want to do is about the quarterback. They’ve just been so scattered trying to find an identity, it’s hard to tell who can really play.”

“Defensively, when you go back and watch the tape, the young guys just didn’t play hard. Their young linebackers were highly touted, but you could tell they took too many plays off and it cost them a lot of big plays.”

“In the secondary they were a pretty typical Texas team.”

“I just don’t think it’s a great defense. It’ll be an interesting year because the pressure is starting to build.”

Texas Tech

“What stood out to me is they were horrid on defense last year. Just really, really poor, but they were great on offense. They’ve always had good numbers if you just look at yards, but they were never very efficient since Kliff [Kingsbury] has been there. Last year they were really efficient. If you didn’t score every time you had the ball, you had absolutely no chance in Lubbock, and they were competitive on the road offensively.”

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“Obviously the quarterback [Patrick Mahomes] was the difference for them, and having him back is going to help. They lost some good O-linemen, so they may take a little step backwards, but if Mahomes plays like he did, they’ll be OK with their skill.”

“Kliff did a good job scheming people, and I think it all comes down to how far their offense can carry them because I just have a lot of questions about their defense. I don’t think they play very hard; they don’t get off blocks very well; and they lost most of their guys from last year. They could struggle. On the other hand, they were already really bad so maybe the new guys will be better. I just don’t know who any of the new guys are. I guess they can’t be any worse.”

“If their offense is as good as last year, maybe they can just outscore people.”

“Kliff may start to feel some heat there if they don’t start beating some of the better teams in the league. He’s still a young head coach, but he’s already a really good offensive coach.”

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West Virginia

“It’s going to be an interesting year for them. The heat is on Dana [Holgorsen], unfortunately, because he’s one of my favorite guys, but they really need to grow up fast on defense. Because of guys leaving early, they only have very few defensive starters coming back, and defense has really been the strength of their team the last couple years. Heck, they had three defensive backs at the Combine, so they obviously lost some good players. I thought all three of their linebackers in that 3-3-5 were the catalyst of their defense as far as being in the right spot and playing hard, and they’re all gone too. They even lost some two-deep guys at certain spots. I just think they have to take a big step back defensively, but I will say that Tony Gibson is the best defensive coordinator in the Big 12. He does an outstanding, outstanding job.”

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“The best thing I can say about their offense is they’re just very, very average. We seem to do pretty well against them and we’re not great on defense.”

“[Skyler] Howard is pretty athletic at quarterback, but he’s a little bit sporadic. They lost a couple offensive linemen and they’ve been pretty decent up front, so I’m not sure what to expect there.”

“The thing that stood out for me is they just weren’t as good at receiver last year as they have been in the past. They didn’t have that one guy like they usually do who scares you deep or the slot guy you can’t stop from getting to the perimeter on those jet sweep actions.”