Coaches dish on all 10 Big 12 teams
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 bulletin board material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used during the year.
In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2019, Athlon asked coaches in the Big 12 to talk anonymously about their opponents.
Note: These scouting reports come directly from coaching staffs and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.
Big 12 Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2019
"No one thought they'd be as physical this early with what Matt Rhule and those guys started with. They've carved out a reputation down here for hitting you in the mouth. That was always Matt's M.O. at Temple, all the blue-collar stuff, but it translated really well to what he has run down here. I think they very smartly realized, ‘Hey, we've got all these receivers and skill guys so we have to keep them happy and be able to recruit Texas, so we aren't gonna line up and smash it out of a pro set.'"
"The quarterback (Charlie Brewer) is a better player than anyone realizes. He's a freakin' winner. They put him out there way too early because they had to. Now he's really developed into a hell of a gamer."
"They're still recruiting great skill guys. When their receivers line up it looks like Oklahoma or Texas. Denzel Mims can break out this season."
"Defense still isn't quite there; they're really gonna miss the defensive ends who left. I don't think they've adjusted to life in the Big 12 as much on defense. You can run out of pass looks and really hurt them. They haven't really been consistent creating pressure."
"Offensively they can score more points this season than they did. It hasn't really clicked yet, but you can see it coming."
"They have to recruit better for defense."
"If they jump out and win 8 or even 9 games, that would be remarkable considering what Matt started with. It’s still only Year 3."
"An extremely well-coached team that has a clear identity on both sides of the ball. The issue here is how much talent they can put in the system and be able to compete with the top programs in the Big 12."
"They like to show attitude on defense; they're really mean, blue-collar guys who play very downhill, very aggressive. They match up very well against the run. It's a little bit of a different scheme, a 3-3 with an overlapped safety. You have to really prepare for it because they can knock you out on the line. JaQuan Bailey would start for anybody in the league; he's a hell of an end."
"Really what they have to figure out this year is the offense. It really hurts losing David Montgomery early to the NFL Draft. Montgomery and Hakeem Butler were the two best players on the entire roster, and they're both gone. And at Iowa State you don't get that ‘Oklahoma next man' up luxury. You don't replace those guys, and they're responsible for a lot of those wins on the schedule last year."
"The line needs to be better, and they need to develop some guys on the outside, but it's really a quarterback development story here. A lot of coaches in the league really like Brock Purdy. That kid has attitude and he fights. He's a maverick, Wild West-type personality and really fired them up. But now you have to clear up all the freshman mistakes."
"Matt Campbell is going to be a star at his next job. This is just a really hard place to build a consistent winner. The best thing they’ve got going is that they’ve changed that culture totally. Those kids know the process of winning now, so they can easily upset the best teams in our league."
"Where do you start? David Beaty had them looking better than they have in years, and he still got fired. I don't know what they expect Les Miles to do. It's about the scholarships, not the coaching. They're still screwed up from the Charlie Weis juco mess, and then Beaty tried to fix it doing the same thing because he knew he'd get fired."
"They have the one running back out of New Orleans, Pooka Williams Jr. He stands out, but I'm not sure what else they can put around him."
"I think Chip Lindsey leaving for the Troy job was smart for everyone involved; it's a lot likelier that Les will let Les Koenning call his offense. Lindsey would've opened it up more than any Les Miles program in history. It will be interesting to see how Les responds to the pace of scoring in this league."
"Defensively they've lost their best guys, Daniel Wise and the kid who led the league in tackles (Joe Dineen Jr.). They don't have any experience at defensive line or linebacker. Not sure what they'll try to do scheme-wise."
"The question right now is not who you're gonna beat on the field, because that's not happening, it's where are you going to win in recruiting? You can't go juco. Les can't live in Louisiana on guys."
"Right now this is the hardest job in the country, certainly in the Power 5."
"One of the biggest unknowns heading into the season. We don't know much about what they want to do."
"Bill Snyder was always so consistent in his philosophy: He wanted to shorten the game down and limit your possessions, run as much as they could and set the tone physically and then play really hard and aggressively on defense, but in a base package. Nothing fancy. That's the K-State we've all coached against. I think the new staff has to adapt and utilize what's there."
"The quarterback (Skylar Thompson) could really be good; he just hasn't a lot of time. He could fit well into what they did at NDSU, running the quarterback. The difference there is that you're getting five-star linemen and linebackers beating on your guy every time you run an option."
"They need to replace Alex Barnes at running back, but they also probably need to spread out their carries a bit more than what happened last year."
"They have a great offensive line. They always have really, really strong line play."
"Defensively they return their front, but they weren't really impressive last year. They need to rework their secondary a little bit. That's the side of the ball they won't change too much on; part of the Snyder magic was finding reliable starters and depth out of odds and ends, and the scheme really helped that happen."
"The standard for our conference. The team to beat every year."
"You're just blown away by their tape on offense. They have tremendous skill on that side of the ball. They're losing guys on the line this year and I'd bet they're still the best offensive line in the Big 12. Nasty, athletic, NFL guys. For the most part they were able to scheme and block Georgia and Alabama, so that tells you they're pretty dang amazing."
"Jalen (Hurts) is a winner — now we'll see if that's a system deal at Bama or if he has that kind of intangible. They're going to specialize what they'll call for him, but he'll be in space more than he would at Bama."
"Defensively is where you start asking questions. (Defensive coordinator) Alex Grinch has a great reputation, and obviously they've got work to do here. They need to work on pass rush, and they need to blow up that secondary and start over. They don't really lose a lot of guys, but I think they're going to shuffle a bunch of starters around and get a fresh start."
"Probably the most comfortable team I've ever seen in a shootout. They don't get tense."
"Certainly a favorite to win the conference if Jalen clicks with what they want, but they're a ways off on defense. You'd like to see them get as good at landing some talent for that back end as they are at skill position offensive guys."
Related: Big 12 Football Predictions for 2019
"Probably the best thing you can say about a program is that they're not afraid of changing what they do best. This year they're losing their offensive coordinator and line coach, and they won't really miss a beat. Mike Gundy has reinvented that offense enough times that you know they'll be ready."
"The OC hire (Sean Gleeson) was a good one — they did some innovative stuff at Princeton."
"It's hard to tell what (defensive coordinator) Jim Knowles was doing last year. That defense was all over the map. Game to game they looked totally different, sometimes even in their base. Something went wrong early; either he didn't understand the personnel or he asked them to do something they couldn't."
"At their best they're a poor man's Oklahoma. They can get comfortable going touchdown for touchdown with you. Then at their worst they're a rich man's Texas Tech, where you can knock ‘em off schedule a little bit and they can't catch up and can't create stops."
"They've got to find a solution on defense. That's what's held them back from a conference title these last few years. They're really close. They develop offensive guys as well as anyone in the country, but they're the program that really defines the negative take on Big 12 football. They can shoot the lights out but can't stop a sneeze."
"No one knew who Taylor Cornelius was a year ago. At all. He was just a good system guy who waited his turn and then he played really well. And they’re in the same situation right now trying to find the guy, but that’s the position I’d worry the least about with Gundy."
"Their offensive line seems to be better than you’d expect every single season, especially in the pass game."
"It could be a really interesting year in Fort Worth. Which team are they going to be? The one who got together down the stretch or the one who put them in the hole?"
"The quarterback play hasn't been strong enough the last couple years. Really that's been the difference. They obviously went how their QB did last year. Shawn Robinson probably had the most upside, but he's gone. It's a wide-open race, we think."
"They had to get rid of KaVontae Turpin, and they cut him knowing how bad it would hurt their passing game. They need a new outside playmaker type that can guide along the quarterback."
"They have a really nice backfield. Darius Anderson can be really great; he's an explosive open-field guy. The question there is how healthy will he be and how often will they use him."
"Defensively they're always consistent. It's a brand that Gary (Patterson) has created. Hard, athletic — they do a fantastic job, like NFL good, at evaluating guys who they can get who fit their system."
"Right now they could go either way. It's not the most experienced defense Gary's had, but you tend to feel good about that side of the ball. It's really going to come down to quarterback play. They've been a system now for a long time; they've refined their recruiting and development to an art. They just have to get more explosive on offense to keep up."
"Sam Ehlinger is primed to have a breakout year. He's a dude. Pure football player. Plays hurt, plays hard, has that Tim Tebow intangible in him. Wants to be a great player. If they keep him healthy, they could break through and win the conference."
"One thing they need to do better is stretch teams out. They didn't threaten you with big explosive plays. It was a lot of 15-, 16-, 17-play drives. You have to maintain a quick scoring threat in this league because eventually everyone's defense breaks down."
"They need to bring along their running backs more if they're going to run Ehlinger and not kill him. Keaontay Ingram could be an All-American if they choose to isolate him more. If Ingram steps up they could win this conference on the ground. Tom (Herman) is not afraid of running the ball. He's shown that. He'll call 50 runs if it beats you."
"They don't have another wideout as good as Lil'Jordan Humphrey. Him leaving early hurt their plans."
"That defense runs a lot of stuff through their secondary. They play a lot of nickel, but their corners and safeties haven't really been great. Replacing their secondary and their defensive line will be interesting. This is the year for Tom where you test your depth and your development. He can recruit, but Charlie Strong could too."
"This team can win the conference."
"One of the things we’ve seen is how much more physical they are on both sides."
"Ehlinger could have a Heisman year."
"They’ve already shown they can rough up on Oklahoma. Can they do that and stay consistent in November? They’re really close.
"Of the four schools in the conference changing staffs, this is definitely the best situation to step into. There's talent on the roster, and they were close last year. I think the message and the relationship with the team Kliff (Kingsbury) had faded out a little bit. If Alan Bowman stays healthy he can be a pretty good quarterback, although he may not fit exactly what (Matt) Wells and (offensive coordinator David) Yost are looking for at the position."
"They're going to score just as many points after a while, but you'll see them do a lot more with the run game. More creative stuff, but that will take a while. Matt's smart, he's not going to force his scheme."
"They're going to be fine on defense this year, believe it or not. Statistically they beat up on (former DC) David Gibbs and those guys, but there's not much you can do when you're seeing that many possessions. They're going to coach offense in a friendlier way for that defense, but that defense wasn't awful. They have two really good linebackers, Jordyn Brooks and Riko Jeffers, and a good returning line."
"I think they can be successful this year if they can find a way to balance out their offense closer to what Matt did at Utah State. That's gonna be hard for a team that liked to hit around 100 rushing a game for years, so they're gonna need to get creative until they can reshape their recruiting."
"Honestly this program is defined by offense but they never really recruited to that standard. They could hit on one or two superstars during Kliff’s time but they didn’t fill out the roster. They really don’t have the depth on offense you think. It was more than just games won and lost that got him fired."
"I think they can be successful this year if they can find a way to balance out their offense closer to what Matt did at Utah State. That’s gonna be hard for a team that liked to hit around 100 rushing a game for years, so they’re gonna need to get creative until they can reshape their recruiting."
"Neal (Brown) obviously did a great job at Troy, but this is a completely different kind of challenge. It's also a roster in transition, and they have a brutal schedule for a while because of the non-conference opponents they're lining up. The immediate challenge is that Will Grier and David Sills are gone. That's a lot of playmaking you have to replace."
"One thing that will really fit with Neal and West Virginia is that Dana was big into physical practices, into playing mean. They played with more aggression and contact than any of the spread teams. Neal is a great motivator, he can bend that a little bit and make it his own. He’s great at team identity."
"One thing that you might see this year is them running the ball a lot. Neal did that at Troy and got away from the Air Raid when they had to. Dana Holgorsen's teams ran the ball really well. This is a big, athletic offensive line."
"Same deal on defense with their star guys. David Long was a Defensive Player of the Year-level talent. It felt like he was making every other tackle out there. They don't have anyone of that caliber to replace him."
"What kind of defensive scheme will they run this season? You've got a roster built for a 3-3 stack, so (defensive coordinator) Vic (Koenning) will have to adjust and adapt what they can actually run this year."
"They’ll get beat up a lot this year because it’s a new system with all the star guys out. They’re building for the future."
"They've always recruited well for what they want to do. They shouldn't be as good as they've been at the skill positions. The biggest thing the new staff needs to do is get out and find really good receivers and running backs right away, and it won't be locally. You gotta go win Florida and Texas to keep West Virginia relevant."