In fact, Strong was a drawing card throughout the afternoon breakout session with crowds of reporters five deep all around his little podium. As for me, I was looking for my second day answers to the questions I came to Dallas to get answers on from all the Big 12 teams.
What are the Sooners going to do at running back? Will Zach Sanchez live up to his press clippings or is he still going to be a Jeckyl-Hyde at corner? Bob Stoops' outward attitude is a great window into how good the Sooners truly are. When he is really cocky, they may not be so good. When Stoops is overly friendly and looks like he is enjoying himself with the media then watch out.
Answers: Stoops seems encouraged with his running backs but they don't seem to be in the speed demon mold as he threw out the names Keith Ford, Alex Ross, and David Smith. He said they all range from 6-0 to 6-2 and between 215 and 220 pounds. He also mentioned freshmen Joe Mixon (6-2, 220) and Samaje Perine (240 pounds). Mixon is a big time recruit from the San Francisco area and we have seen Ford and Ross who did not break into much playing time as freshmen. Lots of candidates. No word on Sanchez. Stoops demeanor was very gregarious and friendly with the media. Look out. Stoops comes off as if he is extremely confident in his team going into preseason camp.
What does Paul Rhoads think of the Mark Mangino show that he brought to town and is this the ultimate scenario of good coach-bad coach as in good cop-bad cop? Who gets to quarterback the Mangino offense?
Answers: Rhoads said he had only met Mangino once before when they shook hands before the game between Iowa State and Kansas in 2009, Rhoads' first year as a head coach at Iowa State. They talked and Rhoads said they found they had a lot in common from the way they like to coach to the offense they like to see run and it was a natural fit. Rhoads said he is enjoying having Mangino on his staff. Rhoads likes what is going on with the offense and so do the players. Tom Farniok is a senior center and leader and tight end E.J. Bibbs is an All-Big 12 caliber player and their endorsements of Mangino rang sincere to me. As for the quarterback, the players were all mum and Rhoads wasn't committing. I'm going with Grant Rohach as he started the last four games and he brings the better passing arm to blend with a stable of running backs and the spread system. Sam B. Richardson could provide a change of pace to all of it.
How hot is the seat that Holgorsen is sitting on? What is truly the biggest hardship for West Virginia in trying to compete in the Big 12, is it recruiting and geography?
Answers: Maybe not as hot as you think. I've been told by an insider that Holgorsen might have two years regardless of the results this season. Dana told me he bought a house and he wants to continue to live in it and the beautiful Morgantown area. Hey, it is pretty. The biggest hardship for West Virginia is geography but it is a combination of a lot of things involving geography. Recruiting is part of it as southern corridor players in Texas and Oklahoma do have more days to be involved outside in football and it pays off. The travel during the season that West Virginia has to do on a regular basis is more taxing. Holgorsen said he isn't in the business of making any excuses.
Who will play running back? It's an even bigger question in Manhattan as Bill Snyder's offenses need a solid back or better. If they end up with one then Kansas State has a chance to compete with the top two in OU and Baylor.
Answers: The answer is two-fold depending if you want to go with a veteran or a newcomer. The veteran is interesting 5-7, 209-pound DeMarcus Robinson. He's a bowling ball-Robert Newhouse type. Dalvin Warmack is standout from Missouri state champion Blue Valley that Oklahoma State recruited heavily. The true freshman is a heckuva player but don't know if he is ready to run in the Big 12. Center B.J. Finney says put anyone back there because if they are average they will at least get the dirty four, thanks to offensive line blocking and if they are good they will get a lot more behind that strong Wildcat front on offense. Yes, a good back and Kansas State could jump into the mix with the top two, but they do play both on the road, at OU on Oct. 18, and at Baylor on Dec. 6.
I'd ask but I think we know who will play quarterback. Who will call the plays? Yes, I'm going to ask? On defense, other than Diggs and Reed, who will be the big playmaker and what kind of summer have Jordan Hicks and Steven Edmond had and can they be healthy all season long? Are the players happy about Charlie Strong or are they missing Mack Brown?
Answers: The plays will be called by Shawn Watson, who is the assistant coach in charge of offense, but he will be assisted in formulating the game plan by offensive coordinator Joe Wickline. By the way, Wickline hasn't changed as center Dominic Espinosa told me he is detailed oriented. Yes he is, always has been. Espinosa said he is amazingly detailed and he grades every practice and yes, some linemen have seen comments, "soft as butter" and "soft as margarine."
Strong said he is really happy with the other Malcolm Brown at defensive tackle and defensive end Shiro Davis as playmakers with Reed. At linebacker he commented on Steve Edmond and Dalton Santos. In the secondary, he likes Duke Thomas at corner and safeties Mykkele Thompson and Millwood product Josh Turner, so he included everybody. Can you say coach-speak? I'm going with defensive end Cedric Reed on the last one as he said it was time for a change and he was not sad about it. He wants to win and he said that was what Charlie Strong was brought into do. However it gets done, Reed is all for it.