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Big 12 Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2017

Texas Longhorns Football

Texas Longhorns Football

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 2017, Athlon asked coaches in the Big 12 to talk anonymously about their opponents.

Related: Big 12 2017 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


“I was very surprised they didn’t hire a guy with Texas ties, but I’m not sure that’s a bad thing."

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"They just hired a good football coach plain and simple. It will be different for the fans, but probably the best thing in the long run. The culture there just was all about offense and scoring as fast as you can, and Art (Briles) didn’t care much about defense as long as it wasn’t horrible. They were good enough to win games because Phil Bennett built a system and they were very good up front. Now they’ll try to win a different way and they’ll have to win a different way, being real fundamentally sound and trying to control the ball and play good defense."

"Their defensive coordinator (Phil Snow) is really well respected, and I’ve heard good things. He’s pretty basic but very structurally sound, and I think that will be good for them."

"Quarterback, I’m not sure what they’re going to do. The kid that came in last year (Zach Smith), they never really gave him a chance to do much. He didn’t perform well in his first start, and after that I thought they really held the reins back on him and didn’t give him much chance to do things, but they were in some heavy disarray. The transfer from Arizona (Anu Solomon) will probably get every chance to play; he’s solid if he’s healthy."

"Their talent level as you look at their roster has really decreased."

"Defensively they don’t have those dominating guys up front, and their offensive line isn’t as strong. I think it’s going to take them some time to build a new style of play and a roster to fit what they want to do.”

Related: Ranking the Big 12 RB Tandems for 2017

Iowa State

“I saw some good creativity on offense, a system and style that they were trying to stay true to, and then on defense I saw a solid structure trying to play the even front stuff and play Cover 4 and just be sound and not allow a lot of big plays."

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"(Matt Campbell’s) biggest thing is how well he can recruit to Iowa State. I think he can do a decent job there — it’s just going to take some time. The thing about the fans there is they’re super patient, probably the most patient group in the Big 12 because they come every Saturday, the place is always full. I know everybody’s so hard on coaches these days, but there’s probably a lot less pressure there than anywhere in the league. I think he’s got a good plan for improving their program. He’s a really sharp guy and I can see them getting competitive and having some good things come their way in a couple years. You can get some kids out of the central states from the heartland, good kids, and build a solid culture there. But you have to evaluate kids correctly like Dan McCarney did."

"They’re not talented at all on defense. Where they’ve struggled recently is to get those big guys up front. They used to have those 270-, 290-pound guys to play the two inside tackles, and they were hard to move around. Then they’d hit you with a couple guys coming off the edge. They just don’t have that right now — none of it, and you look at them in warmups and they don’t look like a Big 12 team. He has to change that, but he coached them as well as he could.”

Related: College Football's Top 25 Breakout QBs for 2017


“They’re really not bad defensively because the end, (Dorance) Armstrong, and (Daniel) Wise at tackle are good players. The safety, Mike Lee, is very solid. So they’ve got three good players in the middle front of their defense who could play for just about anyone in the conference."

College Football Rankings: Kansas

"I think David (Beaty) is doing a really good job there of taking a terrible situation and making it better incrementally. There aren’t any quick fixes, but I think there will be some improvement again this year. If they can win some non-conference games, get their confidence going, maybe they could take a step up to four or five wins and beat a couple teams in the league. Their talent level is getting better, they’re recruiting well for what they have to work with reputation-wise. They have a good location and good facilities, and he’s done a nice job kind of building a mentality there that they can get it done. That wasn’t a fluke when they beat Texas. You can’t just show up anymore and think you’re going to win." 

"If there’s one negative, he’s had too much turnover on his staff, which is hard when you’re trying to turn it around. Maybe some guys left because he wanted them to leave. (Offensive coordinator Doug) Meacham is a great fit there. He’ll definitely be a good addition. He’ll have some ideas and do some neat things creatively and do the best he can do with his talent level."

"I don’t think they have a great QB situation right now. (Carter) Stanley played late last year and was scrappy and competitive and tough, but he was not a great quarterback.”

Related: Big 12 2017 All-Conference Team

Kansas State

“They just keep chugging along being a pain in the ass."

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"They do just enough to reinvent themselves every year based on their personnel to get the most out of what they have. They were a totally different team in the second half of the season and that momentum should carry over for this year."

"They’ve got everybody coming back on offense, so they’ll be pretty salty."

"Typically they’re not a team with a lot of depth and when they lose a guy or two up front that can really hurt them, but if they stay relatively healthy they’re a problem because of how well-structured and disciplined they are in the running game."

"I think their receivers got better as the year went on, and they found some solid backs, but I was surprised how well (Jesse) Ertz played by the end of the season. He’s not going to beat you throwing downfield very often, but he’s much better as a passer and the way they involve him in the running game is difficult to defend."

"I think they’ll have some issues on defense because of how many guys they lost. Jordan Willis is a big loss up front, he was a really disruptive guy that you always felt like you had to give your tackle some help, and I don’t think they have anyone with that kind of ability behind him."

"It’s an interesting situation because Coach Snyder had health problems this year and people are going to think they may fall off because of the long-term uncertainty, but his coordinators do most of the actual coaching, and they’ve got a quality staff. I don’t see that really being an issue.”

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Head Coaches for 2017


“I don’t see a whole lot of changes with that group."

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Oklahoma

"Obviously they’re a team that has a chance to get into the Playoff if they win the games they’re supposed to win. They’ve got a big game at Ohio State early, so we’ll see how they come out of that. Even if they don’t win, it makes them better for the conference run."

"I think they’re definitely the team to beat. They have most of their O-line coming back plus even one of the guys who got hurt last year, so they’ll be good up front, and the quarterback is a known commodity. (Baker Mayfield) just makes plays."

"Receiver is probably going to be their biggest issue, and of course replacing the two running backs will be a problem. It will be interesting to see who steps up there, but they have a pretty good track record of finding guys who can produce."  

"I see them being much better on defense — much, much better. They got better as they went along last year, and I’ve heard Mike (Stoops) is thinking about switching back to an even front from the odd system. We’ve heard that through the grapevine and are preparing for that. Mike has a way better understanding of the even stuff because that’s what they’ve always done. They switched over to the 3-4 when they had (defensive line coach) Jerry Montgomery, who was really good at coaching the odd stuff up front, and when he left to go to the NFL they really fell off. That’ll be the big change, and I think it will help them."

"Their biggest issue is replacing their linebackers and just getting their secondary to play the way they want, especially at corner. That’s been a huge issue.”

Related: The Big 12's Top 10 Non-Conference Games for 2017

Oklahoma State

“They’re the second-best team on paper."

College Football Top 25: Oklahoma State

"They showed me a lot of moxie last year in the teams they beat and how they won games. There have been a number of years where they’ve been good, but you just didn’t feel like they had the character to go on the road and win a tough game against a team that was playing well. They showed me more gumption than what they normally have coming back from losing to Central Michigan in that fashion to finish the way they did."

"Winning 10 is a huge statement about where that program is and with what they’ve got coming back offensively and playing Oklahoma at home this year, it lines up for them to maybe sneak in there."

"Their biggest thing is the QB. Very talented kid, fits well with what they do on offense, and I’m impressed with how he leads their team."

"They’ve gotten so much better up front. They used to be really bad on the offensive line, but they’d still be good because they were creative and they’d find ways to circumvent it. Now they’re real solid up front, and that makes them a much more formidable football team."

"Defensively, they lost quite a few guys. I’d guess that personnel-wise they’re not as good as what they have been. When you go man-to-man and look at their D, there’s not enough impact-type players, so they’ve dropped off a little bit there."

"They don’t do too much defensively but enough to make them difficult to prepare for.

"It’s a salty team and the strengths are the quarterback and offensive line. The weaknesses are the defensive line and getting a couple new guys in the secondary.”

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Teams for 2017


“Gary (Patterson) wasn’t happy with their defense or their offense last year, so I think you’ll see some changes, but you’re limited by your personnel. And I just don’t see them being back in the top half of the conference."

College Football Top 25 Rankings: TCU

"They’ve always been so strong on defense, so it was real surprising to see what happened last year. I think they just lost some guys that were good players for them, and just weren’t as talented as what they have been up front."

"They always had so many good defensive linemen, especially the interior of their defense. A couple years ago, their linebackers were awesome. They just don’t have that kind of linebacker play anymore, that disruptive type of player they’re used to having, and because of that I just don’t think they’re as formidable."

"They’re good in the secondary but not great, so they’re just a step down personnel-wise overall on defense, and when you’re struggling on offense that’s not a great combination."

"They’re struggling to find a quarterback to re-create what they had with (Trevone) Boykin. With Kenny Hill it just hasn’t clicked yet, and I’m not sure it will. His supporting cast isn’t what it should be, and he’s struggling because of it and he’s losing confidence because he’s struggling."

"They don’t have those dynamic receivers who could really help him."

"It will be interesting to watch their running back (Kyle Hicks). He’s a talented kid.”

Related: College Football 2017 All-America Team


“It will be totally different offensively and defensively."

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Texas

"The talent level there is always great, and it’s just about getting a coach that can get them to play to the level they need to play to."

"On defense, there’s no doubt in my mind they had more good players than they showed, but you’ve got to get them in the right system."

"Based on what they did at Houston, I think the coordinator (Todd Orlando) that (Tom) Herman brought with him is going to be a little more like they were at Texas back five, six years ago when they were doing more schematic stuff to try to create issues for people. Personally, I don’t know if you need that at Texas. My concern would be with all the stuff he does schematically, they might get themselves in the wrong gaps, run themselves out of position. That was the issue when Texas was trying to do the fancy stuff and then finally you see the coaches go, ‘Oh, we just need to play base defense,’ and it’s happened with the last two head coaches. Mack (Brown) did that and then Charlie (Strong) did it with his guys there too, and at the end he just tried to take over and play base stuff, but the culture wasn’t good by that point. To me, I don’t know if that’s the perfect fit for what they need defensively, but his schemes are pretty good, and they’ve got guys like (Malik) Jefferson and some guys up front like (Poona) Ford and the big end (Charles Omenihu) who you look and go, ‘Gosh, they should be better,’ so maybe they’ll figure it out. You just have to be careful at Texas and let them play the game.”

Related: College Football's Top 30 Coordinator Hires for 2017

Texas Tech

“(Kliff) Kingsbury is a hard worker and super talented, but he wasn’t prepared to be a head coach when he got the job and just hasn’t put it all together at this point. He tries to do so much on offense."  

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"There’s really no culture on their defense so they don’t get the results they want."

"They’ve been great on offense and still not been a good football team the last couple years. That’s ridiculous."

"The biggest issue is they just can’t tackle. Eventually (defensive coordinator David) Gibbs started playing Cover 1 or Cover 0 so he could line up guys in particular gaps, but if you cant tackle, it doesn’t matter because there’s no one at the third level to make a play if you miss. It’s not on Gibbs. I think a lot of it is because he doesn’t get enough time in practice or enough looks to practice against because they’re so gimmicky on offense. I’m not being critical because it’s a fantastic system, but they never get to see the split zones and isos and those things so as a defensive coach, your players don’t know how to get off blocks or fit runs. People just run it down their throat."

"If they go up against a solid defense they really struggle because they just can’t outscore you. If you get a couple stops, they’re done. The mentality just isn’t there, and it’s been that way a long time. They’re not great personnel-wise, but I really don’t think it’s the players — it’s just the culture and the lack of emphasis on getting better defensively."

"On offense, I give them a ton of credit. You just watch what they do schematically and you’re like, ‘Wow that’s sharp. That’s neat.’ So he does good stuff. He’s a sharp guy, and he’s probably the most creative guy in the Air Raid that I’ve seen with that system.”

Related: Big 12 Football Predictions for 2017

West Virginia

“I think there’s going to be a good synergy with (Jake) Spavital coming back (as offensive coordinator) to work with Dana (Holgorsen) on the offense. Dana does a great job with those kids and got a lot out of their offense last year without having a great quarterback. They’ll slide the kid from Florida (Will Grier) in there, and we’ll see how he adapts to a completely different kind of system. I haven’t watched much tape on him, but I assume he’s going to be an upgrade over the last guy."

College Football Top 25 Rankings: WVU

"I think their defensive coaches do a super job. Tony Gibson is the best defensive coordinator in the conference, and I’m not the only one who thinks that. Their 3-3 package is flat-out difficult to prepare for. You just don’t face that defense all the time. No one else plays it, really, so it just gives you different angles you’re not used to seeing. You can try to flatten it out through formations and get it to be a 3-4, but if you line up in the conventional sets and don’t use two tight ends, you’re facing a type of front your offensive line isn’t used to targeting, and it’s a different look for the quarterback as he comes out of the huddle and sees things. It just has an odd skew to it, and you’re asking kids to make major adjustments with a week to prepare."

"From a personnel standpoint, they’ve got some question marks. They have lost a lot of good players. That probably catches up to you a little bit. They’re just not going to be what they have been defensively, and I don’t see a whole lot there to replace that talent.”