Media Day No, 2. I am a veteran now.
Couldn’t be more excited for today’s events as the big show rolls in town in the form of Matt Campbell and Tom Herman. The two most intriguing teams in the Big 12 are Texas and Iowa State, the preseason second and third place teams.
The proverbial, “is Texas back” inquiry, I believe was answered in the bowl season last year. Regardless of the personnel losses, Texas returns top of the league talent at key positions and more importantly, they return an entrenched understanding of what is expected of them in the Tom Herman led program. They are poised to make a big move and perhaps there will be some insight today.
Iowa State is a newcomer who is gaining national recognition for the exploits of coach and a deeper look at its players reveals depth and talent across the roster. We love newcomers to the upper tier of college football and the most intriguing of those resides in Ames, Iowa.
So, assuming there is no “Les Miles” in the lineup today, these should be pedestrian coach speak, but, this dung beetle may be able to roll a ball up from implications between the lines.
COORDINATOR OF OFFICIALS
He reaffirmed that Iowa State will continue to get bad calls every week.
The new blindside block rule is interesting. Based on the film example that was given to us, it is targeting the punt return blow up as the player turns the corner, however, it must be considered in blocking schemes for plays to the outside edge. It seems that it could be a slippery slope rule that could penalize an effective trap block on the interior of the line. Its application and the coaching adjustments will be interesting to see develop this season.
The “Horns Down” will be a penalty if done in a self centered or taunting manner. I am assuming any other hand sign bastardization will be a penalty. Otherwise, we can call this the “Texas Sensitivity” rule.
IOWA STATE, Matt Campbell
Coach Campbell’s comments will be covered extensively by my capable cohort. There wasn’t much substantive football information.
However, I was intrigued by the nature of the questions. They seemed to have an underlying theme of admiration for culture change at Iowa State. Campbell discussed moving from questions about uniforms to substantive football questions as a result of the transformation of Iowa State football. That shift and the atmosphere surrounding Iowa State here at Media Days is remarkable, more so than what we as fans are often capable of appreciating it.
The most interesting portion of his comments was in response to an inquiry about what advice he would give the new coaches in the league. Coach Campbell acknowledged knowing three of the new coaches well and touted their situations as being very similar to the one he inherited. He emphasized the fact that each (Neal Brown – West Virginia, Matt Wells – Texas Tech, Chris Klieman – Kansas State) have a proven track record of building sustainable success in their programs. He used the phrase, “built to last.”
In so doing, Coach Campbell revealed the great service he has done Iowa State in his short tenure. I have mentioned it before when panic about him leaving sets in. What has occurred is that he has built a foundation on which Jamie Pollard can build. Regardless of the ultimate tenure of Coach Campbell, what has been put in place from a cultural standpoint, both on and off the field, is sustainable, scalable, and subject to repetition. Iowa State is in a good to great position thanks to the vision and efforts of Coach Campbell.
WEST VIRGINIA, Neal Brown
A new face to the Big 12 (as a head coach), the former coach at Troy and play caller for Texas Tech was an impressive presence on the podium. He is widely respected and I believe the best hire of the new regimes.
On a football note, he acknowledged that they are seeking to build with blue collar players as a reflection of the university and state culture. That is significant and similar to how Matt Campbell has embraced Iowa State. West Virginia is not Texas A&M, which requires adherence to its cultural strictures, but it is not far removed in the sense that its fan base, the state, and geographic nature are very proud and seek a reflection of who they are in their sports programs (see Bob Huggins). These comments are a good sign for what he will bring to West Virginia.
In addition, he acknowledged that the use of an F back and a power spread approach is very much a building block for his offensive production. That should sound familiar, but is also a departure from the Holgorsen era. He mentioned running the ball when you need to and when everyone knows it is coming as a hallmark of success in the conference. I believe he is right about that and it will just be a matter of time before he raises the bar in Morgantown.
BAYLOR, Matt Rhule
Baylor touted its academic credentials. They spoke about their youth and inconsistency that is now starting to turn the corner in to a more experienced, mistake free team.
Baylor is emphasizing creating turnovers to improve the defense and that the offensive line is improving in depth and size. The quarterback is improving in decision making and Baylor mentioned the back-up quarterback who is an outstanding player, one I expect to see this year.
They are not as optimistic about their prospects as many in the media are, but the coach expects to take a step to the next level in 2019.
KANSAS STATE, Chris Klieman
Another new face in the Big 12, but one that FCS fans know well. Former North Dakota State dominator, Chris Klieman, acknowledged that he is still trying to learn his team. His opening statement was honest, true, and refreshing. Authenticity and honesty with the media generally indicates a higher measure of those character points within the program. That is again a sign of a good hire and a competitive uptick in the future of the Big 12.
The new coaches are 4 for 4 in emphasizing that their offenses must run the ball. Three of the four are more than competent leaders of the passing game, but their underlying philosophy places a different emphasis and utilization model on the field.
The emphasis on the running game is nothing new at Kansas State, but it is interesting that the league, really as a whole, is wheeling around to varying styles of play deployed successfully in Manhattan for three decades.
The strength of the Kansas State team is in its offensive and defensive lines, according to Coach Klieman. Again, that is no surprise, but to the extent Kansas State has a chance to maintain its position and not lose ground, it will be based on Coach Klieman’s ability to maintain some semblance of continuity in the program. I heard nothing to dissuade me from the notion that he will be able to do that.
TEXAS, Tom Herman
Coach Herman was questioned extensively, as one would expect with the marquee program in its home state. However, two things stuck out to me, maybe two and a half.
First, Coach Herman noted that the “buy-in” remained high in the program. It is my opinion that the “buy-in” occurred around the West Virginia game last season and carried over to the bowl game. That “buy-in” involves the physical type of play that Herman espouses and that will be difficult to defeat in both the Big 12 and on a national stage. A committed and unified Texas program is a national title contender.
Second, Coach Herman described his schematic program as one that utilizes NFL concepts from a collegiate formation base. That is dead on accurate (as it should be) and stands apart from much of the league play we have seen in the past. It is that mentality and scheme concept that gives Texas an edge beyond simply the ability to recruit superior athletes.
The half portion revolves around his comments regarding his running backs. He touted Keontay Ingram and is excited about the prospects for Jordan Whittington. I have hinted that I believe Texas has the tools to craft a dynamic running game outside of Ehlinger’s prowess. I interpret these comments as the Texas staff’s belief in the same thing.
There ends my nuggets of observation from Media Day 2019. Oklahoma State and TCU are the most intriguing teams with the widest variance and established veteran coaches. Each of the new coaches have successful pedigrees and all acknowledge there is a hill to climb in year 1 for their programs. Oklahoma and Texas exhibited the confidence of a front-runner. Finally, Iowa State portrayed a stable lurker that has both the league and the media on their toes.
It is a good time to be a Cyclone and an excellent time to be a fan of Big 12 football. Now, is it August yet????