HD Q&A: Big 12 Media Days

DALLAS, Texas - - The HD staff answers several questions after spending two days at the Big 12 Media Days.


Question: Did anything you hear at Big 12 Media Days change your perception about any aspect of Texas?

Annabel Stephan:

I don't know if anything changed my perception, but it was pretty interesting to hear Quandre Diggs, who is definitely a team leader, discuss the problem of complacency in seasons past. Diggs has 100% bought in to what Charlie Strong is preaching and it sounds like most of the team has, as well. I asked Diggs about Strong telling players not to do the hook 'em sign until they earned the right, and he was quick to say that Strong does everything to prove a point, not to "be mean." These players are definitely in Strong's corner, and it's good to hear them vocalize their respect for him.

Chip Brown:

I asked Charlie Strong if he was still in the process of breaking down his team, then when does he know to start building them back up?

And he said the first part of camp will definitely include more breaking down because "there is work to do.

"But then you start building them back up."

But it sounded like he was already starting to build upon some areas - quarterback and linebacker - while still breaking the team down in other areas - receiver.

Strong had more praise for David Ash than I'd ever heard from Strong, mostly about needing a QB who has invaluable big-game experience.

Strong also paid the same compliment to MLB Steve Edmond.

"Steve has played a lot of games for us," Strong said. "He understands what we're trying to do."

But when it came to receiver, Strong said more than once he needed someone who could catch a short pass, make someone miss or break a tackle and take it the distance.

"We haven't seen it yet. We didn't see it in the spring," Strong said. "Our receivers need to make plays for our quarterback."

It seemed like a call out to Daje Johnson, Jaxon Shipley, Kendall Sanders and Marcus Johnson - the most likely top four WRs on the team.

Don't have a problem with that at all (and Strong said he's had no issues with Daje Johnson).

The ultimate riddle was trying to get Strong to say whether he thinks he has the makings of a defense capable of diffusing the explosive offenses on UT's schedule.

"Your defense has to complement your offense and vice versa," he said. "It's not just the defense or just the offense. Both have to put the other in good positions as well as special teams."

But when I said Quandre Diggs may be the only proven playmaker in the back seven of the defense, Strong began ticking off the games started by the likes of Peter Jinkens, Mykkele Thompson, Duke Thomas and Jordan Hicks.

"That's too much experience not to be productive," Strong said.

So Strong is laying in the weeds about what is perceived to be the strength of his team. Again, no problem with that.

When asked to define a successful season, Strong said, "I just want to see a team that plays hard and plays smart. You do that everything takes care of itself."

So my perception of Charlie Strong is that he knows exactly what kind of team he has, but he'll let everyone see for themselves on Aug. 30. No hints until then.

William Wilkerson:

Just the feeling that this program has completely moved on from Mack Brown and totally bought in to what this staff is preaching.

I realize that this feeling stems from what the best of Texas’ representation were saying on Tuesday, but I truly do believe that the accountability Charlie Strong and his staff have put in place is making that big a difference and there are players on the roster ready to help the staff weed out those that don’t want to abide by the new way of doing things.





Question: After hearing from all the coaches and some players, what is your predicted order of finish in the Big 12?

Annabel Stephan:

Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Texas Tech, West Virginia, TCU, Iowa State, Kansas...and this is probably all wrong because it's July.

Chip Brown:

I said before B12 Media Days I thought it would be:

Baylor

OU

Texas

TCU

Kansas State

Texas Tech

Oklahoma State

Iowa State

West Virginia

Kansas

With TCU DE Devonte Fields possibly in more legal trouble (for an alleged altercation with his girlfriend), I might move TCU below K-State.

William Wilkerson:

Baylor, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Texas Tech, Iowa State, West Virginia, Kansas.




Question: What is the biggest truth and the biggest misperception about Charlie Strong?

Annabel Stephan:

The biggest truth I learned this week is that Charlie Strong is direct and doesn't fuss around with words. He says what he means and he's not apologetic for it. He even said that he really doesn't care what people think of him. By the same token, the biggest misconception is that he's not good in media-related situations. I think it's a breath of fresh air to hear from a coach who doesn't sugar coat the truth, and Strong most certainly is that coach.

Chip Brown:

Charlie Strong is not bad with the media.

William Wilkerson:

Yup, Chip said it: Strong isn’t bad with the media. He’s not Mack Brown but that’s just fine.





Question: What is the biggest truth and biggest misperception about the Big 12?

Annabel Stephan:

The biggest truth is that it's a weak year for quarterbacks in the Big 12. With only three in attendance this week and a few teams still not naming a starter (Iowa State, TCU, Oklahoma State), the issue of quarterbacks is still a BIG question mark. But that leads me to what I perceive as the biggest misconception: that there isn't as much talent in the Big 12 as there is in another conferences. Heisman contender Bryce Petty aside, other standouts in attendance this week include Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney, Kansas State receiver Tyler Lockett, TCU safety Sam Carter, Baylor receiver Antwan Goodley, and of course, Texas defensive lineman Cedric Reed and running back Malcolm Brown.

That's a handful of award contenders. So yes, the Big 12 has talent.

Chip Brown:

The biggest truth is that the Big 12 has to overcome the perception that it's a down conference.

The Big 12 is getting picked at for everything from Baylor's non-conference schedule (only B12 team not facing a Power 5 opponent in non-conference play - and in no hurry to play one any time before 2020) to the jabs from other leagues about the Big 12 not having a league title game (as an unfair advantage en route to the CFP).

Play on the field, as always, will answer any criticism.

But it may take time for the country to realize Baylor is legit after seeing the Bears get raked by Oklahoma State and UCF in highly visible games last year.

The same goes for Bryce Petty, whose 32 TDs and 3 INTs for a conference champ last season were stunning. But Petty had clunkers in those same games vs Oklahoma State (remember when he tripped running all alone, short of the goal line?) and vs UCF.

William Wilkerson:

The biggest truth: Baylor is comfortable in the spotlight and will be just fine playing the roll of the hunted this season.

Biggest misconception: The Wildcats will continue to ride the wave of momentum from the end of last season, which saw them win six of their last seven games.

Yes, KSU still has one of the best coaches in the nation and Tyler Lockett, but I think it will struggle more than most think without RB John Hubert. The Wildcats also lost both OTs as well as two LBs and stud safety Ty Zimmerman.





Question: A Big 12 team will make or miss the first four-team playoff if what happens?

Annabel Stephan:

If Oklahoma can beat Tennessee in September and keep up the momentum throughout conference play, I believe they could be one of the four teams to make it to the playoffs.

Chip Brown:

The Big 12 will make the four-team playoff if it has an undefeated champion.

A one-loss champ becomes iffy depending on the loss and the team's strength of schedule. (You listening Baylor?)

I think the Pac-12 could be the strongest league this year from a depth standpoint if UCLA, Oregon and Stanford live up to the hype with Arizona State and USC as dark horses. The SEC is replacing 8 QBs but will be seen as Goliath once again. The Big Ten has Ohio State and Michigan State. And of course the ACC has the defending national champ, which is stacked again.

Right now, the Big 12 has a champ (Baylor) the country probably still sees as an anomaly and OU, which smacked a disinterested Bama in the Sugar and is seen as legit thanks to bowl king QB Trevor Knight, 9 starters back on D and Bob Stoops' national title and 8 league championships.

I do think the Big 12 and league rep Oliver Luck could be fighting for their lives on the CFP selection committee if Baylor repeats as champs.

Luck will be up against some of the biggest and most persuasive egos in college football on that committee in Barry Alvarez and Tom Osborne (and Osborne certainly couldn't wait to bolt the Big 12).

And when the committee gets down to selecting the postseason teams, Luck could be an athletic director in the process of firing his coach and representing part of the perception problem with the Big 12:

That West Virginia - one of the league's alleged name-brand programs - continues to be in the dumps with a coach Luck muscled into place.

William Wilkerson:

A Big 12 team will miss the College Football Playoff if the Longhorns go 1-1 against Baylor and Oklahoma.

I don’t believe the conference will get a team in unless it’s undefeated, and I believe that the Bears and Sooners have the best chance at running the table. Texas can eliminate one of those teams in October when it will face Baylor (10/4) and OU (10/11) in back-to-back weeks.

Should the Longhorns defeat one of them – I think they’ll find a way to beat OU in Dallas – then the Sooners will have a chance to beat Baylor in Norman in Nov., which I think it will do, thus ending anyone’s chances of going undefeated in the conference.




Question: When does Texas start to contend for the College Football Playoff?

Annabel Stephan:

Texas will be back and ready to contend for the playoff when Jerrod Heard is physically ready and confident to lead this team. Mark it down.

Chip Brown:

Depending on the development at the QB, OL, RB, DT, LB, CB and S positions it could be next year. (Is that a long list?)

In other words, most likely in Year 3 of the Charlie Strong Era - 2016.

William Wilkerson:

Texas needs to continue to weed out the players that don’t want to buy into what Charlie Strong and his staff are selling. That will take some time. But I don’t think it’s a reach at all to say that in three years the Longhorns will be fully entrenched in this new way of thought, contending for the CFP. Jerrod Heard will get UT to at least one.





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