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July 23, 2008

Big 12 Notebook: Bates making run at starting job

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Iowa State head coach Gene Chizik made it pretty clear on Wednesday that he doesn't plan on making any bold predictions on potential scenarios with his quarterback situation.

Currently sophomores Phillip Bates and Austen Arnaud are in a neck and neck battle heading into fall camp. When you break down the current race, most people close to the Cyclone program expected Arnaud to win the job, but it was Bates' strong play at the conclusion of the spring that ended up being the big story.

"I don't want to use the word 'surprise' about (Bates') play this spring because it makes sound like I didn't think he could do it," Chizik said. "I will say he really showed some great improvement and he is in my opinion thrown his hat in the ring to really have a chance at the starting job. His progress from week three and four of spring compared to week one and two of spring was night and day."

Ideally, Chizik said he'd like to announce a starting quarterback by game week, but at this point he's keeping all options open. In 2007, Bates saw time as a wide receiver for ISU, but Chizik said as of right now their plan is to keep him at quarterback even if he doesn't win the job in August.

"I think it's an opportunity, because there's not going to be any controversy," Chizik said of the race. "That's just not going to happen."

Extra points

***Chizik said the status of running back Jamicah Bass is still unknown for the 2008 season. Bass was suspended indefinitely over the off-season by Chizik for unknown reasons.

"J.J. has a lot of work to do," Chizik said. "He's really had a good summer. We're still in the evaluation process with where he's at. We won't know anything about him for a little while. He's really tried to rise to the occasion and tried to do what we are asking him to do. In that regard, we won't know the final result for a little while, but he's trying."

***There are high expectations this fall for freshman wide receiver Sedrick Johnson. Chizik said he's excited to see what the 6-foot-4 four-star wide-out can do in camp this August.

"He's got a lot of publicity because he was a supposed four-star guy," Chizik said. "I really don't put a lot of stock in that because he's 18 years old. I've seen guys come in with a lot of expectations and not be ready to play for three years, and I've seen the opposite too. We hope he can come in and help our football team, but again, that remains to be seen."

***Kicker remains a major question for Iowa State heading into this fall. Chizik will rely on true freshmen Zach Guyer and Grant Mahoney to handle the duties this fall.

"This situation makes me a little nervous," Chizik joked. "How would it make you feel?"

TEXAS: Muschamp not messing around

As Texas head coach Mack Brown was getting ready to introduce newly named defensive coordinator Will Muschamp to his football team this past January, a cell phone rang on the defensive side of the room.

After Brown's brief introduction of Muschamp, the team split up into offensive and defensive meetings, and let's just say the first-year Longhorn defensive coordinator didn't waste any time playing any icebreaker name games.

"The first thing he said even before mentioning his name was 'make sure you never have your phone on when the head man is talking'," defensive end Brian Orakpo said. "The phone went off on the defensive side of the room, so he knew it was one of us. That was the first tone he set with us and everybody was like 'whoa,' where's this coming from, because he didn't even introduce his name yet."

Orakpo said Muschamp brings that type of fire and emotion each day to the practice field-a no-nonsense attitude that has made him a successful defensive coordinator at both the college and professional level.

"He has so much knowledge for the game," Orakpo said. "This is a coach that could coach any position he wanted to on the defensive side of the ball. He has a lot of knowledge for the game, and I feel like his intensity and emotion for the game really helps us and we feed off of that. His confidence he brings to the table is really going to help us this year."

There was one story from the spring that really stands out to Orakpo about the emotion Muschamp brings to the practice field each day.

Orakpo said linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy made an interception during a scrimmage and Muschamp was running stride for stride with him down the sidelines.

"Muschamp was running right beside (Muckelroy) in practice trying to hug him up," Orakpo said. "Then the whole rest of the defense came and he was in the middle of it getting 'crunk' with us. He loves this game and he has a great passion for this game, and we feed off of that."

Oh, and in case you are wondering, the guilty party has yet to come forward and admit it was their phone ringing during that January meeting.

"We don't know whose phone it was yet," Orakpo said laughing. "Somebody still has not fessed up to it. We think it was Chykie Brown, but we still don't know."

Extra points

***The 2008 Texas football team faces an unfamiliar underdog role this season, but Orakpo said it's something and the rest of his teammates welcome.

"I don't think much of it man," Orakpo said when asked about the underdog role Texas is playing in 2008. "You guys are the one saying that."

***As Orakpo was doing interviews on Wednesday, there were very few media members around him, because they were all circled around junior quarterback Colt McCoy. Orakpo joked and said the defense never gets the love.

"Jason Taylor is the one dancing and stuff, so I feel like he can be the one that could turn it around for us defensive guys," Orakpo said.

***Despite being injured during the 2007 season, Orakpo has still received more than his fair share of pre-season honors, including a spot on the prestigious Playboy preseason All-American team. However, Orakpo was disappointed that the honor didn't include a trip to the world famous Playboy Mansion.

"We didn't go to the mansion, but I wanted to man," Orakpo said. "I thought I was going to get to see Hugh Hefner and the bunnies and stuff. We went to a little resort off in Phoenix for that. It was still nice, but I was a little disappointed I didn't get to see the girls."

-Sean Callahan

OKLAHOMA: The Stoops Big 12 coaching tree

Already in his 10th year as head coach at Oklahoma, Bob Stoops has certainly made his mark on the Big 12. In fact, he's even helped change the faces of several Big 12 teams.

With three former assistants - Mark Mangino (Kansas), Bo Pelini (Nebraska) and Mike Leach (Texas Tech) - holding head coaching jobs in the conference, Stoops has opened the door for a new wave of both offensive and defensive philosophies that have shaped the Big 12 into what it is today.

Even more, first-year Baylor head coach Art Briles was a former assistant under Leach at Texas Tech, making the Stoops legacy extend into a second generation.

When asked if having so many former understudies now competing against him as head coaches makes him feel old, Stoops couldn't deny that it showed his age just a tad.

"It really does," Stoops said. "It's exciting, though. Those guys are all good friends. As everyone knows, I've been one of those head coaches where I'm probably closer to my assistants maybe than some. I pull for them and I'm happy for them and they're doing a great job. And it's exciting to see guys go on and have those kinds of opportunities.

"It's a challenge because they're all good coaches, but I'm excited for them."

Policing Internet rumors

Stoops was understandably displeased Wednesday with the recent fake article reporting two Oklahoma players had been arrested on cocaine distribution charges.

The story was written by James W. Conradt, a Nebraska fan from Austin, Texas, on an independent Web site using the template of the Daily Oklahoman's website and the byline of an actual Oklahoman reporter.

Through the powers of college football message boards, the story made it around the Internet before finally being revealed as a hoax. As a result, Stoops and the Sooners have been left stressing the innocence of the players mentioned in the story and the program as a whole.

"It's sad," Stoops said. "I read the guy's comment, how he 'didn't mean to hurt anybody.' Well, what did you think would happen? You sit there, and that's two young guys that are as good of young men as you'll ever find. Virtually straight-A students and do everything you ask of them, and then someone just puts that out there.

"It's amazing to me, to be honest with you. And I find it just as humorous, though, that people actually read it and believe it."

Stoops was then asked if there were any ways to police the rumors.

"I'd imagine you'd have to start making people hold them to it," he said. "I don't know what the situation will happen with our young guys, but I don't know how you would (police it), to be honest with you. I think the way to police it is people don't read it or give it any validity unless it's one of you guys (the media) and you've got your name on it and you can stand by your story."

-Robin Washut

Baylor: Who's starting at QB?

It's a good problem to have and that's how new head coach Art Briles is looking at the quarterback race at Baylor heading into his first fall camp in Waco.

Briles comes in with several options at the position. Coming back is 2007 starter Blake Szymanski who will be joined now by two newcomers. Those are Miami transfer Kirby Freeman and true freshman Robert Griffin. The list also includes junior college transfer Jeremy Sanders in the battle.

Briles, who has been extremely successful with quarterbacks in the past, says that he's looking at it as which player will give them the best chance to win right now.

"There is a bunch of different ways to look at it and the only way we're looking at it is we're just going to go with the guy that gives us the best opportunity to win," Briles said. "To me, they're all freshmen because we all started on the same page in January. It's an injustice to our senior players to say we're going to build for the future.

"Our future is now and that's what we're going to prepare for."

The new head coach didn't rule out the possibility of getting two of those quarterbacks on the field at the same time - for instance utilizing one's abilities at different positions. The one thing that Briles won't do is try to put a timetable on when a decision will be made.

Briles also said that he's familiar with using two quarterbacks in running a successful offense.

"I'm not sure there is a set answer to that," Briles said. "I did deal with it last year. We used two last year to finish fourth in the nation in total offense - both guys [were] young."

Briles: The creator of the spread?

Baylor's new head coach won't tell you that he was the "innovator of the spread offense", but it's safe to say that as a new head coach, at small high school in Texas in the mid-1980's, he was one of the first.

That first head coaching job was at Hamlin (Texas) High School and that's where Briles first started opening things up with his scheme.

"We went to that shotgun because the year before I had run the split back veer and got beat in the quarterfinals on penetrations," Briles said. "We just figured out if we were ever going to probably have a chance to really win a state championship, we probably need to be a little more diverse offensively.

"From there, it really kind of escalated into you know, just getting on the board and figuring out things that fit our personnel which is basically what we're doing now. We're taking our philosophies and matching them to our personnel at Baylor."

The rest is history.

Briles took his version of the spread offense to Georgetown and Stephenville High Schools until 1999, before leaving for the Division I-A ranks as an assistant. He developed six Division I quarterbacks at the high school level. His Stephenville Yellowjacket teams won four state championships, including back-to-back titles in 1998 and 1999. After a stop at Texas Tech, he then went on to Houston where he set school records and is today in charge of putting his mark on the Big 12 at Baylor.

Stepping into a Big 12 conference that is well known for high-octane offense, Briles said a big reason for its prevalence is matching up with quicker, more athletic defenses.

"I think the reason its caught hold is because of the athletic people that are available," Briles said. "The defense has gone to such an athletic style of play that you have to match that on the offensive side."

-John Talman


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