Bob Stoops

Playing ‘Five Questions’ ahead of Big 12 Media Days


Following in the 2014 footsteps of its Power-Five brethren in the SEC and ACC, the Big 12 will take its conference show on the road for its annual soirée in front of various media entities that cover the league on a daily — or sometime — basis.

And, as was the case with the other two conferences that have already undergone the media car wash, questions abound as college football gets set to enter its first season with a playoff that will determine its champion.

Below are but five of the most pressing questions facing the conference and its members entering the annual Big 12 Media Days in Dallas, in no particular order.

At least as far as the media is concerned, Oklahoma is the overwhelming favorite to stake its claim to the 2014 conference championship.  A sizable portion of that preseason confidence is based on the Sooners rolling the Tide following the 2013 regular season.  To close out last year, the Sooners dropped Kansas State by 10 on the road in Manhattan; scored 16 fourth-quarter points to rally past hated in-state rival Oklahoma State in Stillwater; and then stunned heavy-favorite Alabama by two touchdowns in the Sugar Bowl.  Conversely, OU lost to 2013 Big 12 champion Baylor by 29 points, and was dispatched by eight-win Texas to the tune of 36-20 earlier that season.  Which OU team shows up Sooner or later this coming season?  That remains to be seen, and could determine if the Big 12 has a seat at the four-team College Football Playoff table.

This one’s easy: Baylor.  Much like Duke in the ACC, and for whatever reason, the Bears are getting little to no respect after what was a historic campaign for its football program.  The media hasn’t exactly forgotten BU as nine media members picked them to repeat — a whopping 47 picked OU to dethrone them — but the fact that the defending champs are mere afterthoughts to a team that got waxed by 29 by those very champs is perplexing to say the least.  Sleep on Art Briles and his Bears at your own peril.  I can guarantee one thing: the coaches in the Big 12 won’t be.

There were quite a few individuals, myself included, who felt that Charlie Strong was a slam-dunk, home-run hire for Texas as Mack Brown‘s replacement.  There was also a sizable contingent, however, who felt that Strong would be in over his head as it pertains to the intense media microscope UT’s head football coach invariably finds himself under as well as dealing with the back-room politics of Longhorn football (guilty too).  While the latter will play out in one fashion or form over the coming months and years, Strong will get his second chance to address a media throng as the head coach at Texas — and do so with his eye-opening-but-honest comments regarding UT’s immediate title hopes fresh on some minds.  As long as he wins on the field, he doesn’t have to worry about winning press conferences.  Absent any type of UT track record, though, a “winning” press conference during media days could go a long way to softening his transition into what’s one of the most scrutinized and high-pressured jobs in college football.

Once the conference of quarterbacks as far as the eye can see, the Big 12 has seen the most important position on the football field hit a significant lull.  Baylor, though, is exempt from said lull.  After watching Robert Griffin III win the first Heisman Trophy in the football program’s history a couple of years ago, the Bears simply reloaded with RGIII’s second understudy.  Coming off a prolific 2013 season — 4,200 yards, 32 touchdowns, three interceptions — in his first season as the starter, and even with the loss of a couple of premium skill players, Bryce Petty is widely viewed as a preseason Heisman favorite.  At media days, Petty will have a chance to speak to many a media member, many of whom are Heisman voters.  It’ll be Petty’s opportunity to talk to a handful of national scribes, laying the groundwork for what is, for now, an unofficial Heisman campaign.  Look, though, for that “unofficial” to turn “official” within the first month or so of the start of the upcoming season.

Heading into the 2014 season, there’s little doubt that Florida’s Will Muschamp resides on the most scorching seat in America.  Not far behind, though, are a pair of Big 12 coaches whose coaching asses are firmly planted on the proverbial hot seat.  Were it not for a rather sizable buyout, there was a fairly good chance that Dana Holgorsen wouldn’t have seen a third season at West Virginia.  Armed with an unacceptable (a sanitized version of my God’s Country friends’ description of his time at WVU) 21-17 overall record and 11-14 mark in conference play, the onus is on Holgorsen to improve the Mountaineers immediately — at least nine wins, bowl win — or find himself on the first postseason train out of Morgantown.  Kansas’ Charlie Weis, on the other hand, could only pray for Holgorsen’s WVU level of “success.”  In his two seasons in Lawrence, Weis has posted a 4-20/1-17 record as the Jayhawks head coach.  If that abysmal trend continues, you can expect plenty of “Sorry, Charlie” headlines at or near the end of the upcoming season.

LSU LB Corey Thompson looking for a sixth season from NCAA

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 07:  Kenyan Drake #17 of the Alabama Crimson Tide rushes away from Corey Thompson #23 of the LSU Tigers during the third quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 7, 2015 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Corey Thompson is hoping this season isn’t his last at LSU.

The linebacker sustained an unspecified lower-leg injury during the first few days of summer camp in August.  It was originally thought that Thompson would be back in 6-8 weeks, but interim head coach Ed Orgeron confirmed Tuesday that the fifth-year senior will likely be sidelined for all of 2016.

“I think he’s going to redshirt,” Orgeron said according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “I think he’s going to redshirt and that decision has been made, just final the other day. I don’t think I’m talking out of hand, but I think that’s what’s going to happen.”

Thompson has what’s seemingly a slam-dunk case for a sixth season of eligibility that would allow him to play in 2017.  In addition to all of 2016, Thompson sat out the entire 2014 season because of injury.

According to Orgeron, Thompson will seek a waiver from the NCAA.

In 2013 and 2015, Thompson started eight of the 19 games in which he played at safety.  He moved to linebacker after the 2015 season, and was penciled in as a starter prior to the injury.

Memphis WR’s car shot up after physical altercation with teammate

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An odd and somewhat disturbing situation is ongoing in Memphis involving two Tiger football players.

According to a police report obtained by the Memphis Commercial Appeal, several gunshots were fired at the vehicle of Tigers wide receiver Jae’Lon Oglesby, who wasn’t in the vehicle at te time but heard the shots from inside his apartment.  The Commercial Appeal writes that Oglesby “noticed bullet holes in two windows and both of the passenger-side doors of his Nissan Altima, as well as bullet damage to the roof of the car.”

Oglesby told police he did not see who fired the shots, but did indicate that he had been involved in what was described as a physical altercation with a teammate, cornerback Kam Prewitt, earlier in the day.

Police are currently investigating the incident, and the university is aware of the situation.

“We are aware of the incident involving two student-athletes on the University of Memphis campus yesterday and are cooperating fully with the investigation,” athletic director Tom Bowen said in a statement. “All student-athletes are subject to the University of Memphis Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities, as well as University and athletic department policies.

“In addition, we are monitoring a second situation involving shots fired at a student-athlete’s parked vehicle at an off-campus location. We have offered our full support to the local authorities investigating that incident.”

Following Wednesday’s practice, head coach Mike Norvell stated that “[w]e’re in the evaluation stage of everything that has happened.” Neither Oglesby nor Prewitt were at that practice.

The past two seasons, Oglesby, a sophomore, has caught 25 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown.  Five of those catches and 46 of the yards have come in 2016.  He also has carried the ball eight times for 64 yards.

A redshirt freshman, Prewitt has yet to play a down for the Tigers.  According to the Commercial Appeal he was suspended during summer camp for undisclosed reasons.

WKU’s leading rusher suspended for first half for role in Week 8 brawl

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 21: Anthony Wales #20 of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers rushes during the 2015 Miami Beach Bowl against the South Florida Bulls at Marlins Park on December 21, 2015 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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The fallout from a “complete melee” in Week 8 will bleed into Week 9 for Western Kentucky.

Conference USA announced Tuesday that running back Anthony Wales has been suspended for the first half of WKU’s game this weekend against FAU. Wales was one of myriad players involved in an in-game, on-field brawl last Saturday against Old Dominion.

Every player on each team was given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty from the officiating crew. Additionally, Monarch defensive back Jamshyer McUmber was ejected from the game.

“Conference USA takes sportsmanship and player safety very seriously,” a statement from the league began, “and the conference appreciates the efforts of both coaching staffs and the game officials to restore order following the incident and play the remainder of the game without any additional issues.”

“The league informed us of their decision,” WKU athletic director Todd Stewart said in his statement. “Coach [Jeff] Brohm addressed the situation from our perspective on Saturday and again today. Our focus is on this week’s game at FAU and our goal of winning another conference championship.”

In addition to Wales, ODU safety Christian Bynum has been suspended for the first half of this week’s game against UTEP.  WKU wide receivers Nicholas Norris and Kylen Towner and wide receiver Kesean Strong and defensive back Rob Thompson of ODU were issued public reprimands but were not suspended.

Wales is far and away the Hilltoppers leading rusher, topping the team in rushing yards (739), rushing touchdowns (11) and yards per carry (6.5). The rushing touchdowns are tied for fifth nationally.

Quinton Baker, second on the team with 310 yards, will get the start in place of Wales.

Gus Malzahn says ‘no doubt’ Kerryon Johnson will play vs. Ole Miss

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 10: Running back Kerryon Johnson #21 of the Auburn Tigers dives into the end zone for a touchdown during their game against the Arkansas State Red Wolves at Jordan Hare Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
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Kerryon Johnson‘s absence from the field will apparently be a brief one.

The running back sustained a sprained ankle in Auburn’s Week 6 win over Mississippi State, and, coming off a bye, the football program was initially optimistic he’d be available for the Week 8 game against Arkansas.  Instead, he was a game-day decision for the Razorbacks.

While Johnson missed that game, that won’t be the case this Saturday as Gus Malzahn declared his starting back ready to go against Ole Miss.

“He practiced yesterday. He will play, there’s no doubt about that,” the head coach Gus Malzahn said during the weekly SEC teleconference Wednesday. “We’re trying to be smart about it.”

At the time of his injury, Johnson’s 538 yards rushing and six touchdowns were tops among all Tiger backs.  Kamryn Pettway ran for a career-high 192 yards against te Razorbacks, and now leads the team with 697 yards.  Both Johnson and Pettway are part of an offense that ranks third nationally in rushing yards per game (302.9).