Football

WILLIAMS: 10 thoughts on day two of Big 12 media days

ARLINGTON — Day two in Dallas was a bit “meh” compared to Wednesday. But it’s still football so I’ll take it.

The day opposite of the Cyclones being in town is always less eventful for us, obviously. Still, I have a handful of Big 12 football thoughts for you all that are listed below. 

Stay tuned in the next 24 hours for a massive Iowa State football notebook dump and a column about Breece Hall’s development heading into year three.

Until then …

1 — The most Kansas thing ever happened on Thursday. 

Something went wrong with Kansas’ air travel and the Jayhawks never left Lawrence. They no-showed the media!

It wasn’t a big deal. KU ended up doing its press conference via Zoom, which even in 2021 was quite odd. 

I’m glad it worked out though because I am a big Lance Leipold fan. I watched his teams a lot at Buffalo and am convinced that he was a “plan B” type of option had Jamie Pollard not landed Matt Campbell following the Paul Rhoads era. 

It’s been kind of wild to see how much the national media thinks about this guy. I have seen numerous “top coaches” lists that have him ranked in the top 10 to 15 nationally in terms of head coaches. 

That is absolutely insane but again, it shows how much respect this guy has around the country. 

2 – Big 12 coaches are tired of hearing about bad defense. 

Rightfully so. And if any of your obnoxious buddies make comments like this leading up to the season, tell them the Cyclone-blogger-dude Chris thinks they are lazy with bad takes.

I’ll single out Baylor’s second-year coach Dave Aranda from Thursday. For a long time, he was thought to be one of the top defensive coordinators in the sport at LSU and is still greatly respected on that side of the football. 

My friend Pete Mundo from Heartland College Sports asked Aranda a fantastic question about this, and I thought posting his entire response was appropriate here. 

Q. You spend time, of course, in the Big Ten, the SEC, now the Big 12. The perception around the Big 12 not playing defense, a lot of that went out the window last year in traditional and also advanced metrics. What do you think about the defense in this league, where it’s been and where it can go, not just on the field but also recruiting some of the guys you’ve got to play in the SEC now bringing them to this conference?

“It’s a great question. I see this being a defensive conference. And I look at Coach (Gary) Patterson and what he’s done. He’s been playing defense in this conference for quite a long time. I look at OU and their success on defense and their commitment to defense.

“I look at Iowa State and the work that they did and the courage that they had to be different and to do what fits the league. But I think the league offensively is changing. It’s coming from a 10-personnel spread look to more of a 12-personnel, one-back, two-tight end look. There’s going to be more one-back, three tight ends. The league is looking more like the Big Ten than the 10-personnel spread sets it used to be.

“My friend, Matt, is here today, and I know their offense is probably one of the few that’s spread like that.

“And so I think the ability for the defense to set edges, to be disruptive in the interior — if you get a tackle for loss, if you get a sack, if you get any form of a negative play if you’re stemming and the offense jumps and any way that the offense has to move back, that percentage or that percentage that that offense has the chance to score goes way down. And so creating negative plays is really where it’s at on defense. And I think there’s a fair amount of people now that are really interested in getting in the backfield.

“I think the answer to that on offense is going to be more, like we talked about, 12-personnel, 13-personnel looks, where you’re trying to absorb all of the interior blitzes and stunts and everything, as opposed to doubling certain people and someone is singled. And, nope, he just whiffed on the guy and now it’s second-and-15.

“So getting it to where it’s more wide zone and you’re picking stuff up and knocking them off — and the same with play-action pass. The more you can run the ball, the more you can get play-action pass off of it and hold people accountable as opposed to being spread sets where now there’s pressures and stunts coming from different areas.

“It’s a good question. I think the league has changed. I think it’s going to change even more.”

3 – The above quote is one of the reasons why I love college football so much. 

It is always evolving. Week-to-week, we see different styles of ball match up against one another. Different areas of the country represent different cultures. Non-conference schedules are fascinating to watch. Bowl games are even better. 

It is the best sport in the world. 

4 – A little bit of Iowa State info from our friend Chris Hassel at CBS …

That’s cool. HOWEVER, this is also the first time in the history of the league that “super seniors” have been a thing. 

Just thought that was some context that needed to be pointed out. 

5 – More on Big 12 defenses from Texas Tech head coach Matt Wells … 

“One thing that doesn’t get talked about quite a bit, and it needs to, is the defenses in this league. There’s really good defensive coordinators and defensive-minded head coaches in Coach (Dave) Aranda and Coach (Gary) Patterson and coordinators in this league that are very good.And I think the reality is that you can point to the defensive line play. That’s probably what I didn’t know. You look at Baylor, 2018, 2019, with Matt (Rhule), I mean that was the D-line for Baylor. And that was the big reason why they were really good. Look at Oklahoma’s D-line and what West Virginia has done — Iowa State had a draft pick; they’re going to have another draft pick. Oklahoma State has guys that can rush the passer — TCU does. I think that’s what probably doesn’t get written about. But we as coaches know and the players know and that’s probably the biggest thing that I didn’t know coming into the league.”

6 – Speaking of Matt Wells, Texas Tech landed a big-time quarterback transfer in the offseason. 

And he is a familiar face in former Oregon quarterback Tyler Shough. We just saw him last January in the Fiesta Bowl, where he was benched in the first half.

“I think it’s obvious, we need to play better in that room,” Wells said. “And I think top to bottom that room is better than it’s ever been in the three years I’ve been at Texas Tech, going into our third season. Tyler got to Tech, practiced three in spring ball. And I think the things he brings, things that are hard to measure. He’s in early, stays late. He’s a football junkie. He’s been a really good leader, and fit(s) in with our players almost immediately.”

We will see how it goes. Shough was a big-time prospect out of high school. He’s believed by many to have NFL talent and was not terrible last year in Oregon, completing 63.5 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns to six interceptions.

If things work out, Shough could be the guy who saves Matt Wells’ job in Lubbock.

7 – Let’s stay on the topic of quarterbacks and move onto Oklahoma State and Spencer Sanders. 

In my humble opinion, Sanders might be the single most important player to any Big 12 team heading into the 2021 season. 

If – and that’s a big if – he turns into the guy Oklahoma State thought when they landed him, the Cowboys could very well be back here at AT&T Stadium in December. 

If he does not progress to that level, the Cowboys could be a middle of the pack type of Big 12 team as well. 

For years now, we have heard about his upside but have still yet to really see it consistently. So far, so good in 2021 according to Mike Gundy. 

“We’ve been very impressed and excited about Spencer’s development,” Gundy said. “My personal opinion is last year the spring ball that he missed and summer conditioning because of COVID set him back. And I feel like in the two months that we watched him over spring ball, he’s developed more than he has in two years

8 – Why did Mike Gundy cut his mullet?

(A real question at media day, and sports writers wonder why people hate us. We do this to ourselves.)

I guess I will give you guys his answer because hell, I was actually curious as to what he would say.

“Honestly, when I went in to Kathy — Kathy, she’s cut my hair for 20 years now — and I love her company, but I said I’ve got a lot of things going on, so let’s try and cut my hair to where I don’t have to cut it until the season’s over. And she finally agreed to do it. And so we did it.

I didn’t really think it would be a big deal anymore. But I do get a lot of questions about it. But we’ve had a lot of fun with it. And I’m hoping that it will still grow really fast and get back by the end of the season.”

Jul 15, 2021; Arlington, TX, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy speaks to the media during Big 12 media days at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

9 – This is so stupid. 

10 – And last but not least, Texas…

Under new head coach Steve Sarkisian, Texas is the most interesting team in the conference heading into 2021 in my mind.

Just being honest: I learned next to nothing about the Longhorns on Thursday. I feel like I don’t know a single thing more about them than I did prior to my flight to Dallas on Tuesday, and what was likely by design.

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