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Big 12 Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2021

Big 12 Football: 10 Most Intriguing Non-Conference Games of 2021

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 2021, 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 2021


"Matt Rhule picked a really good time to get out of Waco. He had a very senior-laden team that was really, really frickin’ good. They really represented what he wanted to do and played lights-out defense, but they’re all gone now. It’s really hard to figure out a first-year, first-time head coach in 2020 of all years."

"The quarterback (Charlie Brewer) leaving is a big blow. He was a worker and kept them in a lot of games. They had offensive skill last season, but their line was pretty weak. (Brewer) got roughed up a lot."

"Defensively they didn’t scare you at all like they had. Matt [Rhule] had it where Baylor was war daddies up front and NFL-level back end guys, especially at safety, and all that was gone last year. Dave [Aranda] is a really good defensive coach, maybe one of the smartest in our game, and that wasn’t his defense last year. It’s not fair to evaluate them yet. They basically had a month off in the middle of the season."

"[New offensive coordinator] Jeff Grimes is an interesting pick, not their first choice."

"They’ve got to find a quarterback, getting [Trestan] Ebner back is good for them. It’s going to come to down to the line play as to how good they can be right now. Going from what they had and what [former OC] Larry [Fedora] was running, there’s a pretty big transition to the wide-zone concepts." 

"They’ll be better on defense because Dave is there, but without Brewer and in a new scheme I think they’ll struggle for a while."

Iowa State 

"They’re the team in this league with the best identity."

"They play excellent, complementary football. This is a team that knows exactly who they are and how they want to attack. Defensively they want to keep everything inside and in front of them. They’re not a blitz-of-the-week type of defense. They’re less about just throwing out a lot of pressures and more about strategy. They want to make you drive the field to score and prevent giving up the big chunk play. They’re very comfortable with staying out there and making you work for it."

"What they do on offense is the same thing. On film, the RB (Breece Hall) and QB (Brock Purdy) are talented but not amazing and the rest of the skill positions are just guys. But they’re patient and methodical. They get big on you with their personnel, lots of tight ends and they create broad blocking surfaces. They bother you because no one plays like they do anymore. You’re dealing with unbalanced sets you haven’t seen all season in a spread league."

"They love beating you three yards at a time. If they can hit explosive plays, great, but they’re actually more comfortable playing you three yards at a time."

"They’re the only team in this league that can play you into a 17-13 game and stay calm. They don’t mind the small margins. You don’t see that anymore in this game. It’s really impressive."

"Matt’s (Campbell) as much an NFL candidate as he is for a big college football job. He embodies that NFL mindset where you live and die on three-point games, where your team is conditioned for end of game strategies."

"They’re the best-coached team in the league."

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"What can you say? This is the worst program in the Power 5."

"They were poor talent-wise. Defensively they couldn’t run and had no team speed. Put them in space or get one on one and you’d win the matchup. The linebackers were flat-out bad. Their team was basically two good running backs."

"Pooka [Williams] was the only dude you had to account for. I guess you could say they didn’t do much with him, but the talent was so bad I don’t know how you scheme your way through that."

"There are no quick fixes. You can’t corners and that’s what they’ve been doing forever. That’s the problem."

"When you look at how Kansas State has built itself and rebranded after [Bill] Snyder moved on, when you look at how a good coach can transform Iowa State, you really have to wonder how Kansas ended up this bad. If those schools can find ways to be successful, recruit and develop and win games in this league, why is it impossible with this program? They ran out the one coach (David Beaty) who was trying to build it back the right way, and everything else has been about the quick fix. The next guy in here needs six years, no questions asked.

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Kansas State 

"It looks like they really struggled with the inconsistencies of COVID-19. They never looked like the same team week to week and they got worse down the stretch."

"They were at their best against Oklahoma, certainly, but that wasn’t the same group that got smoked by Iowa State and Texas. They really fell apart."

"The little running back (Deuce Vaughn) is a straight-up player. Really pops on film, you can tell he’s a worker."

"There’s a crew of those defensive guys going out to the NFL draft, but they’ll really miss [Wyatt] Huber, he was their effort guy on the edge and was a tone-setter. He was that kind of K-State blue-collar guy they wanted to model their defensive identity after."

"Defensively they’re still very similar to what [Bill] Snyder ran. They’re a four-down quarters team, pretty standard. You know what you’re getting there."

"What hurt them the most last year was the quarterback play. The freshman (Will Howard) just wasn’t really good when they needed him to be, especially later on. With [Skylar] Thompson coming back they should be a lot better if he can stay healthy, and you let the other kid sit for another year."

"They relied too much on their run game. That doesn’t mean they’re bad at it, but when you’re that worried about what you can do passing, you end up predictable."

"If Thompson is healthy they’ll be on the right side of those close games because he’s got that it factor you want, but that defense has to change some things up."


"They’re the most talented team in the league, by far."

"The QB (Spencer Rattler) made his mistakes early on, you could rattle him early on in the season and he wasn’t completely comfortable in that system. He got better down the stretch with his decision-making and looked a lot calmer. The thing is, their offensive skill is at such a level where they can bail him out. They have legit scoring threats across the field on every play."

"The line is really well-coached. Everything that offense does is built on the counter-trey, GT-counter, whatever you want to call it.

"It’s a system where everyone is in sync and they’ve got lethal dudes who can make plays."

"One of the biggest changes in this league has been the evolution of their defense under Lincoln [Riley]. Alex [Grinch] does a lot of stuff up front, stunts, twists and movement that cause you issues. They give you a lot of looks."

"The [Perrion] Winfrey kid, the inside DL, he was an absolute monster to handle. Their ends are great. When [Ronnie] Perkins came back it really brought them up to another level.

"They were OK at safety and corner. If there’s an area to exploit it was probably there. But on the whole, this defense has really improved while keeping everything rolling on offense."

"I think you pencil them in as a national contender if they can bring along the QB this year."

"This is the most complete program in the Big 12." 

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Oklahoma State 

"It’ll be interesting to see how they do without the wideout (Tylan Wallace)."

"The back (Chuba Hubbard) who left didn’t have as good a year as the year before, I’m not sure what the deal was there, that surprised us."

"The QB (Spencer Sanders) is really athletic and hasn’t really hit his peak, but I don’t think he’s very durable. You could also say he’s not durable because that offensive line looked lost."

"Their defense was led by their secondary. The front was better than average, but those guys in the back end were really talented."

"Trace Ford, that guy really jumped out when you studied them. They mix him in as a DE/LB and he’s really good."

"They did a great job of changing up their fronts and give you a lot of funky stuff when you first come out. You deal with more exotic looks in this league because we’re all trying to answer the offenses and they do it a bunch. They’ve really tapped into that idea. You can’t be vanilla, four-down, quarters like the old K-State defenses anymore. The passing game is just too good. OSU has really figured out they can’t ever be a dominant defense based on personnel. I think they’ve done a good job adjusting to that reality and getting creative."

"Watch for how well they protect Sanders. If he’s starting every game and staying healthy they could make a run."

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"Their QB (Max Duggan) will be one of the better ones in the league this year."

"The (offensive) line was OK, nothing special."

"Defensively they’re Gary’s [Patterson] team, obviously. They’re always a challenge, they’re always unique in their scheme. They’re probably the best tackling defense in our league every year. One thing Gary does so well is he’ll throw a lot of intricate-looking stuff at you but it doesn’t keep his guys from attacking. They’re really physical and they’re doing a lot mentally. That’s good coaching."

"I don’t think their wide receiver play has been as good the last couple years. They don’t have anyone who scares you on the perimeter. The QB gives them a chance because he can make the runs and the throws, but if there’s something missing right now it’s skill position talent."

"They’re as consistent a program as we have in the league outside of Oklahoma, but they’re not capable of making you deal with a lot of problems on offense. They lost a lot of receivers to the portal and the tight end went out early."

"Sonny’s [Cumbie] gone, so are they going to run out of the spread more? Doug [Meacham] called most of the plays anyway, so I don’t think you should expect a massive change."

"We know they’ll be solid on defense, but can they go score for score in those big games?


A very strange year for those guys, and now it’s hard to tell how they’re going to look right away under Steve [Sarkisian]."

"The RB (Bijan Robinson) is legit, the fact that kid even got up after that fall when he hurdled the guy at (Texas) Tech is really amazing."

"Their line improved steadily under Tom [Herman] and Herb Hand. Very talented guys coming back, something they can build with there."

"Obviously they’re going to have to find a new QB and built the identity out there. Casey [Thompson] looked good in the bowl game; I’m not sure if that helps him with the new staff. Sam [Ehlinger] never really got the kind of respect I thought he deserved. He really willed things to happen in that offense and worked his ass off."

"[Joshua] Moore is the one receiver that could really stand out in Sark’s system, watch out for him."

"Defensively, [Alfred] Collins can be as good as any DT in the country. He’s really promising. They can build their new stuff off the interior DL guys, they’re really solid."

"Their linebackers aren’t great, nothing jumps off at you."

"There are a ton of questions here long term. Why make this move? It doesn’t seem like you’re doing anything fundamentally different."

"Texas’ problems are all off the field and inside their culture, and I’m not sure this is the coach who can fix issues that only Mack Brown seemed to know how to handle."

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Texas Tech 

"They’re talented, they play hard, and they’re more talented on defense under Matt [Wells], but they’re still lacking a cohesive identity on that side of the ball.

"I know that they were inconsistent on offense and made the change there, but it’s the defense that’s holding them back. So you could say in broad strokes that it’s the same situation they had with [Kliff] Kingsbury. I think you can see the stress it put on their offensive play-calling, that they know they’ve got to keep scoring to stay alive no matter what the situation is."

"The safe bet is that they’re going to start the Oregon transfer (Tyler Shough). He’s the best chance they have to win right away, and they’re probably on the hot seat now."

"We’re curious how much of that offense will be Sonny [Cumbie] and how much will be Matt. They’re going to keep the backs involved, it won’t be the old Tech [Mike] Leach air raid, I really doubt that."

"This is a huge, huge offseason for them. They went into the portal pretty hard to try to fix things and there’s pressure to win now. That usually means as a coach, when you haven’t won somewhere and don’t have that to point to, you can end up getting outside of your system, outside of your culture. It’s really tricky."

"I really feel like if they show defensive improvement, meaning if they’re able to start holding some conference teams in the 20s, that’s enough to keep Matt, because they’ve never had a consistent defense at that place."

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West Virginia 

"Neal [Brown] has done a great job so far with the rebuild. It’s not fair to call it a rebuild, but they had a complete culture change because of the personality of the two coaches and Dana [Holgorsen] left after his best roster, maybe the most talented one they’d ever seen."

"Defensively, last year their line was outstanding. They do a lot of funky stuff up front movement-wise to take advantage of their personnel. They’re starting to show more raw talent and athleticism in the front and they play hard and get after you."

"The quarterback (Jarret Doege) had a string where he was at 300 yards a game, which was really solid and the result of some creative work, because we didn’t think the offensive line was particularly good up front. It’s just a talent issue more than anything else. That’s probably their weakest unit."

"Neal is establishing an identity of who they want to be, they know what they want and what they’re looking for in recruiting, they’re an “our kinda guy” program."

"They’re going to miss[Darius[ Stills, he was really good."

"Are they ready to be a conference contenders? No. Are they as good as Dana’s last year? No, but that was a real outlier for that program. But what you keep seeing on film is that they’re playing hard, they’re detail oriented, and if you saw those Troy teams, he just kept them steady, steady, and then boom, they’re a complete team. It’s coming slowly."

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