Senior LB Keenan Robinson wins all three of his events and is the top performer in the competition.
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Robinson stars in 2012 All-Star Football Challenge
National signing day has come and gone, and as with any game week, we’ll provide a proper wrap-up of the events of the week. Time to hand out a few superlatives. Top class: Texas The Longhorns did what the Longhorns do once again: Dominate a state with a talent pool as rich as any in America. The flagship school in the state of Texas reeled in 12 ESPNU 150 signees, seven more than any school in the Big 12, and finished the day at No. 3 in ESPN Recruiting’s class rankings, the only Big 12 team in the top five.
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Wrapping up signing day in the Big 12
Hazboy posted a photo: Yesterday I was in both Dallas and Fort Worth, and this morning I was in Austin. Now it was time to go up Interstate 35 North to Waco, home of Baylor University. Waco is pretty much known for two things. One is the home to the main campus of Baylor University, and the other is for the events that surrrounded cult leader David Koresh. On February 28, 1993, there was a shoot out in which six cult members of the Branch Davidians and four agents of the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) died. After 51 days on April 19, 1993 a standoff between FBI agents and Branch Davidians ended in a fire that destroyed their compound located in Mt. Carmel, near Waco. Seventy-four people, including leader David Koresh, died in the blaze.
Next stop on my trip is…..Waco.
Let us all hope West Virginia is the last school to ever employ a coach-in-waiting. The Mountaineers are just the latest team to see the situation fail miserably. About the only people who thought it was a good idea to hire Dana Holgorsen to learn under Bill Stewart for a year were Oliver Luck and the West Virginia administration. But after the events of the past few weeks, Luck has been second-guessed to death. He probably is going to second-guess himself, too, after his quote at the late Friday news conference announcing Stewart was out and Holgorsen was in, a year earlier than planned. “At the time I thought it made a lot of sense and was a good management practice. With hindsight, folks could certainly disagree. I will take some time to think about it myself and decide if I made mistakes and, if I did, I will be the first one to acknowledge that I did. At the time I thought it made some sense. I had an agreement from both coaches that they liked the idea and were willing to work with us on the concept, but hindsight is always 20/20 as we know.” When has a coach-in-waiting worked? When the departing coach has picked his successor or has his own time line for when he wants to step down. There were easy transitions at Wisconsin, Oregon, Kentucky and Purdue. The Boilermakers are the only team of that group that has yet to make a bowl game under their new head coach. But the situation turned ugly at Maryland, Florida State and now West Virginia. Even Will Muschamp realized he had no idea when Mack Brown would step down at Texas; so he bolted from his coach-in-waiting designation to take the head job at Florida last December. What happened at Florida State is reminiscent of what happened at West Virginia. You have a coach who’s not quite ready to go, a large part of the fan base eager to see him retire, his replacement standing next to him as offensive coordinator and tensions flaring on the coaching staff. At FSU, there were Bowden loyalists on staff and Jimbo Fisher loyalists on staff, and rumors swirled about infighting and no sense of direction in the final few seasons when it seemed the situation was untenable. After what happened at Florida State in 2009, it seemed obvious the coach-in-waiting idea was a bad one. But that did not stop Luck, who believed it would help Holgorsen ease into the job if he learned from a veteran coach. The idea is a sound one if it existed in a vacuum. But there are egos and feelings involved in any personnel decision. Luck said there was nothing concrete that pointed to Stewart being the source of allegations that smeared Holgorsen in recent weeks, but it was obvious the situation was untenable. Players admitted as much this weekend. Offensive tackle Jeff Braun said, “Coach Stewart said himself that these past six months were tough and it would be tough for anybody to have a dream job in your hometown basically and to know that in the back of your mind this is going to be it for you. It’s tough. I think everything fell into place the way it should have at this point. We got rid of any problems and I think for the program itself, it’s going to help us move forward.” Cornerback Keith Tandy said, ” It relieves the tension a little bit , I guess. With Coach Stew and Coach Holgorsen both around, it was hard to figure out who to listen to and who was in charge. Now it’s more clear-cut and we can get back to work.” We can all say that West Virginia should have never made the decision to designate a coach-in-waiting. But what is important now is that the situation has been resolved before marring the actual football season. Hopefully the rest of the college football world has made a note: “Never again.”
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So long, coach-in-waiting
It’s a different year this time around. Most of the guys on this list would already be signed to a team — albeit with brief contracts — and ready to work toward a future in the NFL. But this year, if you’re not already aware, NFL teams had to turn out the lights after the draft reached its completion on Saturday evening. Players drafted can’t have contact with their new teams, and teams aren’t allowed to make offseason moves. That means no signing of undrafted rookies, creating uncertain futures for these guys. Undrafted guys have plenty of value — for example, last year’s leading rusher among rookies, LeGarrette Blount of Oregon, went undrafted — and here are a few guys looking for their shot in the future once the lockout ends. (It’ll end eventually, right?) Here are the Big 12 players that were productive in college and would be in camps, but thanks to the lockout, now have their futures on hold. Tim Barnes , C, Missouri Barnes was the first-team All-Big 12 center in 2010, but extended a streak of four consecutive Missouri centers to earn that honor and go undrafted. Barnes had more athleticism than his predecessors, but it wasn’t enough to get drafted. You won’t find a much more knowledgeable center, but a lot of that knowledge might not transfer well to the next level. Kevin Rutland , CB, Missouri Rutland was one of the Tigers’ team captains last season, but his overall position skills weren’t on the level of the cornerbacks drafted ahead of him. David Sims , S, Iowa State Sims has great speed at 204 pounds, but his 5-foot-9 frame isn’t ideal for a safety. His past didn’t help him, either. He enrolled at Oklahoma originally, but didn’t qualify and went to junior college. After winning Big 12 Newcomer of the Year in 2009, he was suspended for the season opener in 2010 and stripped of team captain status after racking up charges on a Des Moines woman’s debit card. Orie Lemon , LB, Oklahoma State Lemon was what you’d want in a linebacker mentally and physically when he was healthy, but his torn ACL last season hurt his draft stock. He’s a big hitter, too, but at 242 pounds, NFL teams didn’t love his speed. Dan Bailey, K, Oklahoma State Simply put, kickers don’t get drafted too often. Bailey, who won the Lou Groza Award last season as the nation’s best kicker, should get his shot at some point. Colby Whitlock , DT, Texas Tech Whitlock has great size at more than 300 pounds, but his lack of speed concerned NFL teams, who also weren’t in love with his pass-rushing ability or overall athletic ability. I’ve been a fan of Whitlock’s technique during his time in Lubbock, but measurables are more apt to get you selected. Jerrod Johnson , QB, Texas A&M Not a snub, per se, as it was pretty obvious that Johnson struggled in the events leading up to the draft, especially at the Senior Bowl. But Johnson likely would find a shot somewhere, and it’s still shocking to see a player with Johnson’s resume go undrafted. Coach Mike Sherman knows the kind of football mind Johnson has, though, and can sell his NFL connections on it. There’s no question he’ll end up in a camp once the option is available.
Lots of Big 12 talent among NFL draft snubs
Since many of you have asked, I won’t be attending any spring games this weekend (or next, for that matter). It’s a little tough to explain to non-media folks, but I get a lot more out of visiting campuses midweek than for spring games, when things are chaotic. The good news: I’ll recap every spring game Monday. Now it’s time to preview the six Big Ten spring games on tap Saturday (in reverse alphabetical order) … PENN STATE The vitals: Blue-White Game presented by AAA kicks off at 2 p.m. ET Saturday at Beaver Stadium; admission and parking are free More details: Penn State has a pregame autograph session and a ton of events planned for the weekend. All the information can be found here . Three things to watch 1. The quarterbacks: The race for the starting job has been the top story at Penn State this spring, and all four candidates will be on the field Saturday. Most eyes will be on sophomore Rob Bolden and junior Matt McGloin, who split the starts in 2010 and have paced one another throughout the spring. Both players have impressed the coaches , who likely won’t name a starter until the summer. Saturday marks the final chance for Bolden and McGloin to showcase their abilities for the coaches and fans before spring ball concludes. 2. Line play: Penn State has to upgrade both lines if it wants to contend in the Leaders division this season. The Lions have very little depth at defensive end because of injuries, but fans should keep an eye on defensive tackles Devon Still, Jordan Hill and Brandon Ware, all of whom have drawn praise from the coaches this spring. Penn State needs a big year from its interior linemen. The offensive line boasts four seniors and should be solid at the tackle spots, but it’ll be interesting to see how the guards and centers perform as Penn State must replace standout Stefen Wisniewski. 3. Running backs: Injuries will keep several Penn State playmakers on the sideline Saturday, but fans should get a clear read on the running backs. There’s a lot of hype for Silas Redd after a solid freshman season, but he’s being pushed by Stephfon Green and Brandon Beachum , who has stood out this spring after missing all of last season with a torn ACL. Green and Redd both have breakaway ability, while Beachum could be the power back Penn State has missed in recent years. NORTHWESTERN The vitals: The spring football “exhibition,” which will be more of a situational scrimmage, kicks off at noon CT (1 p.m. ET) at Ryan Field; admission and parking are free but fans are encouraged to bring nonperishable canned-food items for a food drive. More details: Northwestern is holding a youth football clinic and several other events. All the info can be found here . Three things to watch 1. The race for backup QB: All-Big Ten selection Dan Persa is on track to return by late May or early June, but he won’t be taking any snaps Saturday. Northwestern will divide the reps evenly between three signal-callers — sophomore Kain Colter , junior Evan Watkins and redshirt freshman Trevor Siemian — vying to play behind Persa this season. Colter is the most intriguing candidate after a breakout performance against Texas Tech in the TicketCity Bowl, but all three players have endured some ups and downs this spring. 2. New faces on defense: The coaches feel they’ve upgraded the athleticism on defense with recent recruiting, especially at spots like linebacker and defensive back. Northwestern’s defense looked slow and overmatched at times last season, and quite a few jobs are open this spring. Keep an eye on players such as linebackers David Nwabuisi and Damian Proby and redshirt freshman safety Ibraheim Campbell, a player coach Pat Fitzgerald has praised multiple times this spring. 3. The running backs: Persa carried the run game in 2010 but admits he took too many shots and will try to limit the damage this fall. He could use more help from a run game that has suffered since Tyrell Sutton graduated. Mike Trumpy provided a spark late last year and has had a good spring, and Adonis Smith has a year under his belt. Keep an eye on Tyris Jones , a physical runner who has stepped up this spring as a running back/H-back. ( Read full post )
BT spring game previews: Six-pack on tap
After the Big Ten’s spring meetings last month in Chicago, it became clear that the league wouldn’t operate on anyone else’s expansion timetable but its own. Commissioner Jim Delany said no votes were imminent, and league sources said back then and again last week the process likely would go through the fall before a resolution. Have the events of recent days changed things? First, we saw the e-mails between Delany and Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee about “fast-tracking it” and “agility and swiftness of foot is our friend.” And then Saturday night, the Austin American-Statesman reported that Big 12 presidents are giving Nebraska and Missouri a deadline of Friday to say whether they’ll remain in the league or leave for the Big Ten. “Nebraska has until 5 p.m. on Friday to tell us what they’re going to do,” one school official said, according to the American-Statesman . “The same deal for Missouri. They have to tell us they’re not going to the Big Ten.” If they don’t meet the deadline, at least six Big 12 schools, including Texas and Oklahoma, likely would bolt for the Pac-10, creating potential Armageddon in college sports. Now the Big Ten hasn’t extended any formal invitations to anyone and continues to work toward landing a major program, such as Texas or Notre Dame. Texas is obviously on the table for every league exploring expansion, and I’m told Notre Dame remains in the mix for the Big Ten and doesn’t know what it wants to do. While Nebraska and Missouri certainly are strong candidates, I’ve been told no formal meetings have taken place to discuss them. Are those schools confident enough they’re part of the Big Ten’s expansion plan? Will they demand an answer from Delany in the next week? The Big Ten wants to take its time with this process, but Delany and his crew might need to pick up the pace. Then again, Delany isn’t the type to cater to anyone else’s ultimatums. It will be very interesting to hear from the commissioner today at the meeting of Big Ten presidents and chancellors at league headquarters in Park Ridge, Ill. The agenda isn’t public because the meetings are held in executive session, but you can bet expansion is the No. 1 topic being discussed. It just has to be. Media aren’t allowed in the building, but apparently Delany wasn’t kidding when he mentioned all of us enjoying some beer and brats today. Yum. Delany and Michigan State president Lou Anna K. Simon, the chair of the Big Ten’s council of presidents/chancellors, will address reporters around 4 p.m. ET. My pal Teddy Greenstein has a good preview of the meetings . I’m definitely planning to ask about the Big 12/Pac-10 buzz and how that affects the Big Ten’s plans. Check back this afternoon, as I’ll have a recap on the blog.
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Big Ten brass meets as Big 12 buzz swirls