Kenny Stills

Texas hires former Oklahoma WRs coach Jay Norvell

4 Comments

Well, here’s something you see every day. Former Oklahoma wide receivers coach Jay Norvell is headed across the Red River and down to Austin as Texas’ wide receivers coach. Norvell spent seven seasons coaching the Sooners’ wideouts, and the last five as co-offensive coordinator.

An Iowa graduate, Norvell was also in the mix for Wisconsin’s open wide receivers job.

There are two ways to think about this if you’re a Texas fan. On one hand, Bob Stoops identified Norvell as part of the program with Oklahoma’s offense. And if that’s the case, how can he be part of the solution at Texas? On the other, Norvell was a major cog in the best passing offenses in Oklahoma history – he coached three of the top four pass-catchers in OU history – and had a hand in a number of Big 12 championships and, yes, wins over Texas.

Strong could have done a lot worse than a known commodity with skins on the wall in terms of player development and recruiting.

Norvell will have his work cut out for him this spring and fall. Texas boasted FBS’s 90th-most productive passing offense this fall and loses its top two pass-catchers (John Harris and Jaxon Shipley) to graduation. Rising senior Marcus Johnson is the Horns’ top returning wideout with all of 27 catches for 313 yards and one touchdown. No other returning wide receiver caught more than 10 passes last season.

Texas is also locked in recruiting battles for Tallahassee, Fla., wide receiver John Burt (vs. Auburn) and Aledo, Texas wideout Ryan Newsome (vs. UCLA and Tennessee).

If nothing else, Norvell has some pretty elite company. He’s now the third Texas coach to have worn crimson in another life. The other two? Darrell Royal and Mack Brown.

CFT Predicts: the Big 12

10 Comments

As the 2013 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we examine the Big 12. 

While we’re at it, be sure to check out our other conference predictions: SECBig TenPac-12

1. TCU (Last year: 7-6; lost to Michigan State in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl) 
What happened last season?
Thanks to injuries, dismissals and attrition of various varieties, the Horned Frogs tossed a lot of young players into their first Big 12 fire and still managed to win seven games. Included in the list of new faces was quarterback Trevone Boykin, who played out the final two months of the season while Casey Pachall dealt with substance abuse issues. Of all the success Gary Patterson‘s had in Fort Worth, 2012 may have been was his best coaching job, and a young defense buckled down in the final month of the season.

So why are they picked here?
Most of them youngins mentioned above are back. The offense should be fine no matter which quarterback, Pachall or Boykin, takes the field. And they’ll have options at their disposal too. Running back Waymon James averaged nearly 10 yards per carry in two games before going down with a season-ending knee injury. In that vein, TCU’s backfield had its fair share of injuries, but when healthy, it should flourish alongside a solid receiving unit.

And that defense? It should be the best in the conference with just about everybody coming back (minus linebacker and second-leading tackler Joel Hasley).

Anything else?
Some departures just before, and around the start of, preseason camp have put a dent in the offensive line and linebacker units. Defensive end Devonte Fields will miss some early-season action as well. But Patterson is well-respected around these parts and he’s shown as recently as a year ago that he can coach around injuries. Also, the Horned Frogs have some intriguing road games at Oklahoma (Oct. 5), Oklahoma State (Oct. 19) and Kansas State (Nov. 16) that should provide tough tests. Going to Lubbock in the early portion of the season (Sept. 12) and Ames in November (Nov. 9) aren’t always picnics, either.

2. Texas (last year: 9-4; beat Oregon State in Alamo Bowl)
What happened last season?
Texas experienced about as many ups and downs as a nine-win team could possibly go through in one season. The Longhorns got taken to the woodshed (again) by Oklahoma and still couldn’t find a way to beat Kansas State, but a come-from-behind win against Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl cleansed the football palate just enough to make the offseason bearable. The offense, led by quarterback David Ash, was inconsistent and the defense exhibited too many breakdowns in fundamentals and tackling. 

So why are they picked here?
That’s a handsome question considering there wasn’t a lot praise being doled out in the 2012 recap. But the simple answer is Texas brings back among the most experienced group of starters not just in the Big 12, but in the country. There’s no denying the skill position talent on offense, where receivers Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley should be complemented by the deepest backfield in the conference. If the defense can improve even a little — getting Jordan Hicks back should help — this team has the potential to be dangerous.

Anything else?
Yeah, about that Mack Brown. Two BCS championship appearances (and winning one) would normally eliminate Brown from being mentioned as a concern, but media members in Big 12 country didn’t seem to have a lot of confidence in him when they picked Texas to finish fourth in the conference this year. I’m a little more convinced Texas will ascend to the top, or near the top, of the Big 12, which should be wide open this year. But if Brown can’t make it happen this year, it’s hard to see him hanging around much longer.

(more…)

For whom the Bell tolls: finding replacements the focus of OU’s spring game

2 Comments

Coming off a 10-3 season with a share of the Big 12 title, Oklahoma enters 2013 looking to replace key contributors on both sides of the ball.

The loss of quarterback Landry Jones comes to mind first. Though Jones got a bit of a bad rep  (in my mind) for being the guy after Sam Bradford, he still departs OU with more wins than any other quarterback. Jones’ 2012 understudy, Blake Bell, has unofficially been tabbed to succeed Jones. After the Sooners’ spring game on Saturday, there is more legitimate reason to believe that will be the case.

It wasn’t just that Bell had a solid day  completing 14-of-23 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns, it was his command of the offense and poise in the pocket that separated him from Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson. Both Knight and Thompson had flashy moments, but not like Bell. Of the two, Thompson looks like he could readily be the No. 2 guy with his ability to extend plays and take off running.

Also departed is wide receiver Kenny Stills. Fresno State transfer Jalen Saunders returns after a strong debut for the Sooners last year with 829 yards receiving and three touchdowns and figures to be an important role player this year. But OU’s deep threat could come from sophomore Trey Metoyer, who led all receivers with 122 yards. Metoyer had a lot of hype in 2012, but ended up getting buried in a deep group of receivers. As talented as he is, Metoyer needs to have a breakout year in 2013.

On the other side of the ball, defensive line and the secondary were two areas where new names could emerge. Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops commented before OU’s spring game on Fox Sports Southwest that, overall, experience was lacking. After the game, head coach Bob Stoops pointed out a few individual names who did well in the secondary.

“Ahmad (Thomas) and Quentin (Hayes) have really fit in nicely at the safety position. Cortez (Johnson) has showed signs that he can be a quality player in this league,” Stoops said.

While there was no rush from the defensive front, Stoops said he was pleased with what he saw.

“We’re starting to show signs of consistency and that’s what we need,” Stoops said. “We need to continue to develop playmakers in our defensive front — that’s going to be a premium moving forward.”

There’s a lot to replace for OU, and even more names could get into the mix once this year’s recruiting class, which features six defensive linemen, gets onto campus. But the Sooners don’t want that to translate into a “rebuilding” year.

Record number of underclassmen enter NFL draft

15 Comments

We’ve been keeping track of underclassmen who have declared for this year’s NFL draft. This morning, the NFL released its list of 73 underclassmen who have been granted “special eligibility” for the draft by being at least three years removed from high school before declaring.

That number is a new record, breaking the one held in 2012 with 65 underclassmen declaring. In 2011, 56 players left early and 53 took off in 2010. In fact, the 73 who declared this year is 30 more than in 2004.

Of the 73 players, 33 come from SEC schools, or began their careers at SEC schools. That’s far and away the most of any conference. LSU has 11 underclassmen with ties to the program represented.

You can view the NFL’s release HEREbut here’s the alphabetized list.

Keenan Allen WR, California
David Amerson DB, North Carolina State
Alvin Bailey G, Arkansas
Stedman Bailey WR, West Virginia
David Bakhtiari T, Colorado
Dwayne Beckford LB, Purdue
Le’Veon Bell RB, Michigan State
Giovani Bernard RB, North Carolina
Tyler Bray QB,Tennessee
Terrence Brown DB, Stanford
Duron Carter WR, Ohio State
Knile Davis RB, Arkansas
Mike Edwards DB, Hawaii
Matt Elam DB, Florida
Zach Ertz TE, Stanford
Gavin Escobar TE, San Diego State
Chris Faulk T, Louisiana State
Sharrif Floyd DT, Florida
Michael Ford RB, Louisiana State
Travis Frederick C, Wisconsin
Kwame Geathers NT, Georgia
William Gholston DE, Michigan State
Johnathan Hankins DT, Ohio State
Jajuan Harley DB, Middle Tennessee
DeAndre HopkinsWR, Clemson
Justin Hunter WR, Tennessee
Jawan Jamison RB, Rutgers
Stefphon Jefferson RB, Nevada
Tony Jefferson DB, Oklahoma
Jelani Jenkins LB, Florida
Luke Joeckel T, Texas A&M
Jarvis Jones LB, Georgia
Jose Jose DT, Central Florida
Joe Kruger DE, Utah
Eddie Lacy RB, Alabama
Marcus Lattimore RB, South Carolina
Corey Lemonier DE, Auburn
Bennie Logan DT, Louisiana State
Stansly Maponga DE, Texas Christian
Tyrann Mathieu DB, Louisiana State
Dee Milliner DB, Alabama
Barkevious Mingo DE, Louisiana State
Kevin Minter LB, Louisiana State
Sam Montgomery DE, Louisiana State
Brandon Moore DT, Texas
Damontre Moore DE, Texas A&M
Alec Ogletree LB, Georgia
Cordarrelle Patterson WR, Tennessee
Bradley Randle RB, Nevada-Las Vegas
Joseph Randle RB, Oklahoma State
Jordan Reed TE, Florida
Eric Reid DB, Louisiana State
Greg Reid DB, Florida State
Xavier Rhodes DB, Florida State
Sheldon Richardson DT, Missouri
Nickell Robey DB, Southern California
Logan Ryan DB, Rutgers
Ace Sanders WR, South Carolina
Darrington Sentimore DT, Tennessee
Tharold Simon DB, Louisiana State
Dion Sims TE, Michigan State
Akeem Spence DT, Illinois
Kenny Stills WR, Oklahoma
Levine Toilolo TE, Stanford
Spencer Ware RB, Louisiana State
Menelik Watson T, Florida State
Bjoern Werner DE, Florida State
Steve Williams DB, California
Marquess Wilson WR, Washington State
Brad Wing P, Louisiana State
Cierre Wood RB, Notre Dame
Robert Woods WR, Southern California
Tom Wort LB, Oklahoma

Tom Wort leaving Sooners for the NFL

4 Comments

In a somewhat surprising, slightly head-scratching move, Oklahoma has lost another defensive player to the professional ranks.

Oklahoma Wednesday night confirmed reports that surfaced earlier in the day that linebacker Tom Wort is leaving the Sooners and making himself available for the April draft.  Wort has already graduated from OU.

“We wish Tom the very best as he concludes his time at the University of Oklahoma,” head coach Bob Stoops said in a brief statement. “Tom has earned his degree and has informed me that he plans to declare for the NFL Draft.”

Speculation was that Wort was looking to transfer from the Sooners and, when that didn’t work out, decided to head to the NFL.

Wort started 33 of the 37 games in which he played the past three seasons.  He was third on the team this season with 5.5 tackles for loss.

Wort becomes the third Sooner to declare early, joining defensive back Tony Jefferson and wide receiver Kenny Stills.