We have started our weekly Big 12 Camp Report, which I think has been good information coming out of the Big 12 schools. How about the nonconference opponents as the Cowboys lead off with three games at home, Southeastern Louisiana on Sept. 3 at 2:30 p.m., Central Michigan on Sept. 10 at 11 a.m., and then a huge game hosting Pitt on Sept. 17 at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN?
Southeastern Louisiana finished last season at 4-7 but have been bolstered by a number of Division I transfers including a pair of starting corners in Torrance Mosley (5-10, 165) from TCU and Will Hines (6-1, 190) from Arkansas. They also added linebacker Sione Teuhema (6-4, 260) from LSU. On offense they have offensive tackle Taylor Gadbois (6-6, 300) from Miami, Fla.
In a 100-play scrimmage last Saturday the defense dominated most of the affair as they had several sacks and forced a turnover inside the 5-yard line when the offense was working in coming off the goal-line.
The offense did score on the fourth series as running back Eugene Bethea had a 17-yard carry to get in the red zone and then Bethea finished the drive with an 13-yard touchdown run. Quarterback D'Shaie Landor, who started his career at Louisiana-Lafayette, connected with wide receiver DeQuan Smith (6-1, 200) on a 10-yard touchdown pass. Later Landor connected with Mississippi Delta C.C. transfer receiver Juwan Dickey (6-2, 180) and that set up a one-yard touchdown run from SMU transfer running back Darius Duvall (5-9, 184).
Central Michigan play-by-play radio voice Don Chiodo said this preseason for the Chippewas has been night and day from last season when head coach John Bonamego was fighting cancer. The cancer is in remission and Bonamego has put weight back on and looks and feels good. He should as he returns an NFL quarterback prospect in Cooper Rush and seven other offensive starters including all of the receiver corps. That includes ultra dependable target in Jesse Kroll.
There are eight starters back on defense as well including safety Tony Annese, a former quarterback and a hard hitter who has a chance to play at the next level. His fellow safety from a season ago in Kavon Frazier is playing a lot for the Dallas Cowboys.
Central Michigan finished 7-6 last season with a 24-13 loss to Oklahoma State in the opener, a 30-27 loss at Syracuse in overtime, a 30-10 loss on the road at then second-ranked Michigan State, a 41-39 loss at Western Michigan; and a 28-23 loss to Toledo. They also lost their bowl game 21-14 to Minnesota. They have proven to be competitive with power five conference teams and are not intimidated or overwhelmed.
The Chippewas will come into Boone Pickens at 1-0 after a Thursday home season opener vs. Presbyterian.
This will be one of the best home nonconference games in awhile, maybe since the Georgia game in 2009. Defensive guru Pat Narduzzi is in his second season at head coach since leaving Michigan State as defensive coordinator. He returns eight starters on defense including book ends in Dewayne Hendrix (6-4, 270) and Ejuan Price (6-0, 250). Safeties Terrish Webb and Jordan Whitehead are also instrumental as Whitehead had 109 tackles last season.
Pitt returns the inspirational James Connor, who was the ACC Offensive Player of the Year in 2013 when he broke former Pitt and Dallas Cowboys star Tony Dorsett's bowl rushing record with 229 yards against Bowling Green. He is back after a fight against cancer that received national attention. Connor even appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show.
Last season Qadree Ollison replaced Connor and was the ACC Offensive Newcomer of the Year as he rushed for 1,121 yards. Pitt has plenty of running backs. Quarterback Nathan Peterman is back as are four of the five starters on the offensive line that averages over 6-5 and 309 pounds.
Pitt will be a real test for the Cowboys as the Panthers were 8-5 last season and lost at least two games they had a legitimate chance to win. They open the season with Villanova (FCS) and then play Penn State at home before traveling to Stillwater in week three.