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 2020, 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 2020
"So many questions here with Dave (Aranda) coming in."
"Last year, this was the best defensive team in our league, so having a guy with Dave's pedigree makes a lot of sense. They were hell to deal with last year. Phil Snow did an unbelievable job coaching them up. Third down and red zone, you knew they were getting after you. Tons of disruption on the edge, but they're gone; the ends, the nose, all gone. Dave has to put his mark on the defense right away, but no matter what, you can't replace all that in an offseason, not as a first-year staff at Baylor."
"Bringing Larry Fedora in as OC is a really smart move. He knows the league being at Texas, and he's a great situational play-caller. Expect some weird gadget plays and tricks. He will get a chance to be really creative here, and they've got enough talent to work with."
"His first job is to keep that quarterback healthier. If there's a criticism on the previous guys, it's that they banged up (Charlie) Brewer a lot. You always have a chance in the Big 12 with an experienced arm, and he's got it."
"There are a lot of questions about Dave as a head coach. He's an exceptional defensive mind, but in many ways he's the polar opposite of (Matt) Rhule in demeanor and attitude."
"Dave is going to have to delegate, and that's the toughest lesson for a first-year head coach."
"The 2019 record is very deceiving on these guys. They played a ton of close games and lost most (2-4 in one-score games). That, and they had enough injuries where you can throw out the win/loss when you're evaluating what Matt (Campbell) did."
"Defensively they've been fantastic, especially when you consider their depth and the natural problem of playing in this conference. It's tremendous, really. Their linebackers pop, the three-man front has worked really well for them. It's great coaching. Greg Eisworth makes them totally different. He's the guy who makes them go, and when he was hurt they were at a huge disadvantage in terms of scheme. If he comes back the way he was in '18, they could be a force."
"(Brock) Purdy is a lot like (Sam) Ehlinger at Texas — tough, finds contact, great leader. He's got enough gambler in him to take chances, but they're the right chances. They extend plays on you; a lot of that is because they do as well with tight ends as anyone in the nation."
"You can really tell Matt has established a new identity. They have new traditions, a new mindset that's different than anything we've seen from Iowa State before."
"If this team stays healthy, they could make a run and surprise a lot of people outside the Big 12."
Related: Big 12 Predictions for 2020
"The good news is that they're advancing on offense. The biggest change for them in 2020 is that they changed OCs on the bye last year, and now you're seeing something that can win games in this league."
"There were some serious questions about how Les (Miles) would tamper with the offense. So far I'd say he isn't holding them back. That adjustment worked. Ask Texas."
"(Offensive coordinator) Brent Dearmon spent time with Gus Malzahn, he knows how to play-call. You saw them start to go up-tempo more and more throughout the season. They'll probably do more of that going in this year."
"Straight up, Pooka (Williams) is a dude. He's an issue for any defense. That guy jumps off the film and starts for almost every other team in the country."
"You can see the defense getting better slowly, but it's still about recruiting. They're maybe two classes away from lining up a front seven you could compete against these offenses with."
"Losing (assistant coach) Clint Bowen was really strange to me. He's been a constant in that program for so long. He was their identity for a long time. I wouldn't be surprised if they're aggressive with the portal and find grad transfers to plug in."
"Right now they're heading in a positive direction. There was a little bit of that with (David) Beaty's last year right before they fired him, but this could be bigger."
"You have to hand it to Chris Klieman. I'm not sure a lot of us knew what to expect going in with those guys, and now that seems kind of stupid. He's a championship coach from NDSU, and he carried that in."
"Championship football means assignment-sound. They're very smart and play very hard. That's the idea: Don't beat yourself, be patient, be aggressive, wear them down and find your spots."
"They can build with Skylar Thompson. He made a lot of third-down plays with his legs, and they need that versatility. He just has to do more."
"They really want the kids to embrace that NDSU thing. Get physical up front, be blue collar, let that compensate."
"The defense is sort of tricky. You turn on the film, and you think they're good but not exceptional at any one thing, but they were the best third-down defense in the league last year."
"They're changing coordinators and getting most of their starters back (on defense). They could make a jump this year."
"The defensive end (Wyatt Hubert) is one to watch. He's an explosive pass rusher, maybe the best in the league right now."
It's Chris' team now, but yeah, there's some Bill Snyder in their DNA. I think that's the smart thing to do at K State. Snyder's blueprint is great. The encouraging thing for K-State is that we didn't see them change anything unnecessarily."
"Their performance in the playoff game was a total aberration. I think any coach in this league would tell you that. Nothing about that game really matched up with the improvement they'd shown last year."
"I think the personnel killed them. Too many injuries and too many suspensions. (Defensive coordinator Alex) Grinch did a phenomenal job with them last year up until that point. Don't judge them on that game."
"It's all about (Spencer) Rattler this year, and he could be great. He's the first guy they've had in a few years who has program and system experience going into that first start. They have so many tremendous skill position players to help him, I think he's going to be just fine."
"CeeDee Lamb leaving is certainly a setback, but that's maybe the one position where you can afford to lose an NFL guy, if there's such a thing."
"They're always developing running backs. We just assume we're going to see high-level guys at that position before we know their names."
"If you assume that Lincoln (Riley) is automatic at finding ways to score points, you measure Oklahoma's quality by how long it will take Grinch to get them up to speed on defense."
"You have to consider them a conference title contender every single season. Lincoln has shown he's the real deal."
Related: Big 12 Football Predictions for 2020
"By far they have the most experience on offense."
"Spencer (Sanders) is dangerous. He's a really athletic kid who can run and throw. He's a baseball player, too, and it shows. He can sling the thing. I think it really took their whole team out of it when he got hurt."
"Chuba (Hubbard) is the real deal, a dude. He's as good a running back as there is in college football. Last year I don't think there was a team more valuable to his team than Chuba."
"The offensive line is good at what they do, what they want to do. They carried over a lot of the K-State attitude, old school, physical, mean, all that good stuff."
"The receivers are always standouts. (Tylan) Wallace could be the best receiver in the league at the end of the year. There's a lot of talent in the Big 12 at that position, too."
"Defensively, it's the same story. No one really jumps out at you on tape. The story is the other side of the ball."
"A lot of people will make something out of the OC change, but at this point it's about Mike (Gundy). Mike is the guiding principle for that offense. The flavor doesn't change all that much."
"The Oklahoma thing, I don't know what you can say. It's psychological at this point. From a distance it always looks like they are a different team before and after."
"They're a perplexing team."
"They always play really good defense, they were in a number of close games last season, and this year you turn on the TV and they have one of the higher number of players repped at the combine. But there's definitely been something missing the last couple seasons."
"Obviously defensively they have a great system, and that's Gary (Patterson). He always has them ready, he runs that show and gives them such a signature style. They're always ready, they always present you with problems, and they're exceptional at recruiting to fit it."
"They have a young quarterback (Max Duggan) who I thought was a really good player and capable of playing at a high level, but he can be inconsistent."
"They've had quarterback issues for the last few years, and that's what's held them back. Duggan is the right kind of QB for this league, keeps plays alive with his feet, gets dangerous at the right times. The thing that could really give them a chance this year is that Duggan can run the football, and he's tough as nails doing it. Maybe more than (Sam) Ehlinger. He has to spark that offense back to the way it was."
"I think the losses on the offensive line might be a bigger issue there. If that unit doesn't work, I don't see the offense getting up to speed."
"This was a really young team with expectations they couldn't meet. I thought they finished the season playing really well down the stretch, which speaks to the leadership of Tom (Herman) and his staff."
"Chris Ash taking over the defense is going to calm them down a bit. Last year they were young and injured. It wasn't anything more than that. We expect Ash to bring in some consistency. Get guys healthy, get young guys calm, do more with less schematically."
"Because of the injuries, they couldn't stop anyone on the back end last year. We all knew it."
"There's a solid defensive line up front; the nose (Keondre Coburn) is a monster. I think they're going to more of a four down front, so the hybrid guy (Joseph Ossai) will be more of an edge pass rusher. He's a real talent."
"Sam Ehlinger is a real dude. If this was the league, he'd be considered the pro's pro, the guy you use as an example off the field."
"The running backs (Keaontay) Ingram and (Roschon) Johnson are already solid, and they've signed another great one (Bijan Robinson). They need to be more creative to get Sam better looks."
"They should benefit in 2020 from being considered a bust last year before they were ready. There's less hype on them right now, which is good."
"It's gonna take some time there. You know you'll have depth at the skill positions on offense. You know that you'll have to account for a solid receiving corps every year. That was the makeup of the team for so long. So if they're going to start rolling in new stuff, it's a gradual process. Your personnel dictates your creativity."
The linebacker they lost (Jordyn Brooks), we're all really glad he's gone. He was the real deal, NFL stuff. You don't replace him."
"The DC (Keith Patterson) does a really nice job; they were a tough team in the red zone. I think they'll be more and more aggressive, because from what we saw they weren't afraid to roll the dice on calls. That's great until it isn't, and you'll pay the price."
"The running back (SaRodorick Thompson) can really be special if he stays healthy. They have one of the more experienced offensive lines in the league."
"It's really about (Alan) Bowman. He has a history of injuries, but he plays really well when he's healthy. Can he stay together? If so, they're going to be something interesting on offense, because he's a top-level talent."
"I think this is another transition year, but there's a really high upside if the offense clicks and Bowman is healthy. If that happens, they can outscore some teams and scare some others, and Matt Wells and his guys are pretty creative."
"Neal (Brown) did a really, really underrated job of getting buy-in from the roster. He's young, but he has a lot of experience as a head coach at Troy, and that really showed. They didn't reject change; they rallied."
"They were in a lot of close games, and they finished with two road wins. Coaches love to build on stuff like that, so I know they're excited. They think they're headed in the right direction."
"Who is the quarterback? Neither guy really owned that position last year, and with injuries it was hard to really evaluate."
"They've got a bunch of running backs but no real home-run hitters. They really need to improve at that position, but that's also on the offensive line."
They're replacing a lot in the secondary, but overall they're a disciplined, mean group. They did a great job last year putting pieces together and creating an identity. They could really carry the team next year if they can continue to improve."
"There are holes everywhere; this was a really, really thin roster. That makes what Neal's done so far really impressive. They want to be blue collar, they want to be disciplined. That's their plan to close the gaps for now."
"They need a few years of recruiting, but this coaching staff really understands how to work the unique problems that come with this job."