July 29, 2009

Big 12 Notes: Texas ready to bounce back

IRVING, Texas - Last season was one of what could have been for Texas.

After knocking off rival Oklahoma, the Longhorns controlled their own national title destiny. But after Texas Tech pulled off the miraculous upset in Lubbock, Texas was suddenly at the mercy of voters and outcome of games they weren't even playing in.

Oklahoma ended up winning out, including a huge win over the Red Raiders, and the Longhorns were stuck watch the national championship on television like everyone else.

It was a disappointment like no other for Texas, but after a win over Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, the Longhorns aren't dwelling on last year any longer. In fact, they're using it as motivation.

"Obviously we can say if we beat Tech things might have been different, but if you look back at last year and ask what was disappointing, it wasn't disappointing that OU was playing for the championship," senior quarterback Colt McCoy said. "They deserved it. They got to that spot, and that's why they were there… We were disappointed because we worked so hard, we had our goals, we spent so much time together preparing.

"That was a hard pill to swallow. But you can't change it. It's happened. You can go on and on about it, but it's not going to change anything. You've got to move on."

A perfect example of how Texas has moved on was head coach Mack Brown's answer when asked his reaction when the Big 12 announced it wouldn't change the tie-breaker formula that kept his team out of the conference championship game.

"What I told the kids is let's play to the best of our ability," Brown said. "Even with the Big 12 tie-breaker like it was last year, if we had played better at Tech and won the game, we'd have been better in the conference championship game. A lot of that comes from us. We need to learn from that and move on, quit talking about the system and just go play."

Though it appears the Longhorns have taken the right attitude about how the end of last season transpired, that doesn't mean it didn't take some time for the wounds to heal initially.

"That last play is kind of on my mind all the time from time to time," linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy said. "It's a game that you reflect on. You always reflect on a loss. You always think about what you could've done here or there that could've made a difference in the game. I was little mad for a while, but we're trying to put that one behind us now."

Other Texas notes

***Brown certainly hasn't worried about keeping expectations for his team in perspective this season. In fact, he's already comparing the Longhorns to the 2005 national championship team.

"This year's team is in a position in preseason more like the 2005 team," Brown said. "It's more of a dangerous position, but, at the same time, you feel like that because the expectations are much higher, the 2005 team lived up to those expectations. They stepped up. They played well. They played well throughout the season.

"So we feel like that if this team will play up to their ability, they do have a chance to be really good. That's obviously our goal.

***Despite the way things ended up with Oklahoma earning the tie-breaker over Texas for the Big 12 Championship, Texas at least put a good front of saying this year's rematch with the Sooners won't carry any more weight than usual.

"There have been probably 100 of these games in the past, and I'm sure all of them were big games," linebacker Roddick Muckelroy said. "It's always a big game when we play them, and it's going to be the same way this year."

***So how does a Heisman Trophy candidate and the most accurate passer in college football history spend his offseason? If you're McCoy, you do grueling manual farm labor in the intense Texas heat.

Since as long as he could remember McCoy has helped his grandpa bail and hay every summer, and this year was no different. He said altogether he bailed about 450 bails of hay, and even helped put up a new fence.

- Robin Washut

KANSAS STATE: Snyder getting back to the grind

Things seem to be coming back to Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder more and more as he settles back into the job he held for 17 seasons before retiring in 2005.

When he took the podium Wednesday to open the final day of Big 12 Media Days, Snyder noted how good it was to see some of familiar media faces he'd worked with for years, though he made sure to note there were a little more wrinkles and gray hair than he remembered.

Snyder has been in the process of getting back into the swing of things since announcing his return to coach the Wildcats back in November. Since his announcement, he's been getting re-accustomed to life on the field as well.

Known for his tireless work ethic and countless of hours of preparation, Snyder said he's adjusted his coaching style a bit since coming back. That doesn't mean he's coming in looking to do things the easy way, however.

"I wouldn't ask anybody in our program to do anything that I wouldn't be able to do, and I didn't do it then," Snyder said.

"Again, I'm a little slower than most. I don't quite - it takes me a little longer to get things done… It's a demanding job. When I say that, I'm not talking about just the head football coach - I'm talking about everybody in the program. You've got to work hard and work some long hours."

Snyder's return has obviously reinvigorated the KSU faithful with the hopes of returning the program to the national title contender it was during his heyday in the late-90s. For the players - some of which were only children back then - Snyder's reputation and legacy in Manhattan still carries heavy weight.

"At first I was a little taken aback, but then looked at it as a new challenge to play for such a honored coach with such a history at this school," senior tight end Jeron Mastrud said. "Now we want to go get some wins for him."

Other Kansas State notes

***Snyder said that while juco quarterback recruit Daniel Thomas currently is not enrolled on Kansas State, the 6-foot-2, 227-pound Thomas is on the official roster, has completed his summer classes and should be enrolling at KSU soon.

***Though senior Carson Coffman ended the spring and will enter fall camp as the No. 1 quarterback, Snyder said the position is still up for competition heading into the season. He said the Wildcats have as many as four QBs who will continue to compete for the starting job.

***At the ripe age of 69, Snyder was asked if he had any health concerns about handling the grind that comes with being a head coach in the Big 12.

"I don't think there's a great deal of danger," Snyder said. "My doctor says things are on go, says I'm doing OK."

***Snyder said the biggest difference between college football now from how it was when he first retired was the immediacy and wide scope of recruiting.

"We've got 15 to 17 commitments at this particular point in time," he said. "I've never been in that position in my life. It's a little frightening in that respect. Here are young guys that haven't played as a senior yet, and they're in your program already, and you've extended all those offers.

"You know, I get up every morning early in the morning, and you get this BlackBerry thing out, and it's got all the recruiting services, and they each have a long story on every youngster that is above the age of four in the nation. (It) tells you what he had for breakfast and what position he plays and who's recruiting him and so on. So, I mean, it's so much -- it's so very, very visible and so national right now."

- Robin Washut

COLORADO: Hawkins stands by CU's 10-win goal

The reporters were ready to pounce on Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins for his bold "10 wins and no excuses" statement, and he didn't back off.
 Though he told them he didn't guarantee or promise anything, he fully expects his team to accomplish that goal and reach the Big 12 title game.

"I'm never going to sell our guys short, and I think I'm a big believer in what your expectations and your vision and what your standard is," Hawkins said. 

He cited last year's Arizona Cardinals and the Minnesota-Duluth football team that went 15-0 and won the D-II championship in 2008 following a 4-6 season as reasons to believe CU is capable of fulfilling his lofty goals.

"If you don't have the expectation that you're going to the national championship, how do you do it?" Hawkins said. "I think our goal is always excellence. The bar is always high."

But is Hawkins setting the bar too high? Tight end Riar Geer doesn't think so.

"If you can't see the goal of winning ten games, you're not going to do it," Geer said. "We really believe we can do it, and his confidence rubs off on us."

After going 5-7 last fall, Hawkins believes CU is ready to make big leap in his fourth year as head coach. Though some pundits consider Hawkins a coach on the hot seat this fall, Geer thinks that couldn't be farther from the truth.

"He isn't at all," Geer said. "He's done great things for our program, our whole school and Boulder. He's been a great asset for all of us. We're going to win games. He's such a great coach, I don't know how we couldn't."

Other Colorado notes

*** Sophomore running back Darrell Scott joined the CU program with astronomical expectations as the nation's top running back recruit in the 2008 class. His freshman campaign was a disappointment by any standard with only 343 rushing yards and one touchdown, but that was due in large part to groin, knee and ankle injuries.

"I expect him to be significantly better in many ways," Hawkins said. "We've got four really good running backs, and I like them a lot."

*** Geer said he's "pretty sure" he knows who's going to be named the starter in the quarterback battle between junior Cody Hawkins and sophomore Tyler Hansen.

"I have so much confidence in Cody, and he's been my quarterback for the past three years," he said. "He's a great leader now, and I'll follow him anywhere."

*** Hawkins declined to directly acknowledge the impact of losing receiver Josh Smith, but the newly self-appointed receivers coach said the team would be fine without Smith. 

"At the end of the day, the big thing is having everybody on the same page," Hawkins said. "We're looking for our guys to make big plays, and he young guys will have a chance to make some for us."

- Max Olson

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