The KOD Awards, Green Mile, UT-Kentucky hoops

This week, the Kiss of Death hands out the KOD Football Awards to the Longhorns ... (Spoiler Alert: "Green Mile" does battle with "N-C-A-A" and "Worm") ... 10 things you need to know about Kentucky's monster hoops team and the KOD's Go The Other Way Picks.


When I think of the reclamation projects on this year’s Texas football team, I think of my

“Don’t ask me for another game until I see you playing with the last one,” I always say.

And that reminded me of Charlie Strong and his approach to the Texas roster this season.

It would have been easy to throw some players away – for whatever reason. Maybe they hadn’t played previously. Maybe they were walk-ons. Maybe they measurables but lacked confidence.

The key was Strong and Co. paying close attention to who loved the game – and showed it in the way they played in practice - before deciding how to construct the two-deep.

“Give me someone who loves the game, and you’ve given me a football player,” said defensive coordinator Vance Bedford, when discussing UT’s philosophy in recruiting.


With that said, here’s a look at the TOP FIVE RECLAMATION PROJECTS OF 2014 by the Texas coaching staff:


#1 … John Harris, WR, fifth-year senior

Given up for dead by Mack Brown’s staff and ready to use a graduate transfer to Texas Tech, Harris became just the sixth player in Texas football history to post 1,000 yards receiving (64 catches, 1,015 yards, 7 TDs) and the first to do it since Jordan Shipley (1,485 yards) in 2009.

“After spring football Coach (Les) Koenning told me to lose some weight and to come back to fall camp ready to contribute,” Harris said. “That was a shock. That kept me here.”

Harris, who is 6-3, dropped his weight from 230 pounds to 223 for fall camp to 218 for the season. He had never worked harder in workouts than under strength coach Pat Moorer. But Harris said that was part of the buying in process.

“I knew things were going to be different just the way the coaches talked to us, the way we went through two-a-days,” Harris said. “I’ve been through more with Coach Strong than I had all the previous years here combined.

“We got up at 6:30 am during two-a-days and didn’t go back to our rooms until 10 pm at night. But as time went on, we saw there was a method to everything.”

Strong said it was hard not to notice Harris in the team’s first workouts.

“He’s just got such good hands and he’s a big, physical guy who uses his body well to box out defenders,” Strong said. “It’s just been so fun to watch him grow into the season he had.”

After the bowl game, Harris will try to live his dream of playing in the NFL. Some of the NFL scouts I talked to said even if Harris is not drafted, he’ll go to camp with a team and have a chance.

“I made mistakes along the way,” Harris said. “I could have worked harder. I broke my foot and put on weight (reaching a high of 240). That’s when they talked about moving me to tight end, and all the young receivers on the team passed me by.

“But Coach Strong gave me and a bunch of guys new life by truly giving everyone a fresh start.”


#2 … Steve Edmond, MLB, senior

Manny Diaz’s description of Edmond in the summer of 2012 as the guy in the room, who when he stands up to talk, everyone gets quiet for fear of something bad about to happen filled us all with big, sinister expectations for Edmond from Day 1 as a starter.

It didn’t work out that way. It seemed when Jordan Hicks went down with a groin injury in Game 3 of the 2012 season, Edmond lost his life line.

For much of the next two seasons (both predominantly without Hicks), Edmond did anything but play downhill. He racked up tackles but usually 5 and 6 yards downfield.  

In fact, some of his best plays happened back-pedaling, breaking up a big third-down pass in a victory at Texas Tech in 2012 and producing the game-winning interception in the end zone in overtime, ending a 47-40 thriller at West Virginia last season.

After two years as a starter, Edmond had 176 tackles, 8 TFLs and 2 sacks on two of the worst statistical defenses in school history. Those defenses gave up 183 yards rushing per game (2013) and 192 yards per game on the ground in 2012 – embarrassing numbers for a middle linebacker to preside over.

This season alone, Edmond posted 122 tackles with 12 TFLs, 4.5 sacks and 1 forced fumble (with a career-high 17 tackles against Baylor, a team he ripped publicly in the spring, earning a reprimand from the Big 12).

“No offense to Mack Brown, but I wish I could have played under Coach Strong all four years,” Edmond said. “I’ve gotten so much better in one season. No telling how good I could have gotten with four years.”


#3 … Dylan Haines, S, sophomore

The son of former Texas sack artist John Haines from the Longhorns’ famed 1983 defense languished as  a scout-team walk-on his first two seasons at UT.

It took just a few workouts in the spring for that to change under Charlie Strong.

“My man Haines just kept making plays,” Strong said. “He was always around the ball.”

That certainly continued throughout the 2014 season as Haines has started 10 games and leads Texas in interceptions (4) and is third on the team in tackles (79). Along the way, he was awarded a scholarship by Strong, a former walk-on safety himself at Central Arkansas.

“I’m just appreciative of the chance I’ve gotten under Coach Strong,” Haines said. “I love the game, and I love being here at Texas.”

Haines’ highlights include a 74-yard INT return for a TD in a 48-45, white-knuckle escape over Iowa State; a season-high 14 tackles with a forced fumble in a victory against West Virginia; and an INT, recovered fumble, pass breakup and 5 tackles in a bowl-berth-clinching win at Oklahoma State.


#4 … Mykkele Thompson, S, senior 

Formerly the poster child for missed tackles on defense in 2012 and 2013, Thompson completely changed his reputation as an ankle diver (and sometimes hurdle for opposing players).

In 2014, Thompson transformed from the wiry, 6-2, 190-pound safety who played defense like the former high school QB he was, into a deliveryman for highlight-worthy killshots against West Virginia and Oklahoma State.

Thompson even recorded his second career interception on a toe-tapping sideline grab at Texas Tech.

His close friend and teammate Quandre Diggs accused Thompson of having egregious hands if it took three years and 47 games as a safety at UT to claim just his second career INT.

Charlie Strong had a different explanation – Strong’s well-documented effort to get Thompson to replace his glasses off the field with contact lenses on the field.

Strong said those contacts probably also helped him start squaring up offensive players, wrapping them up and driving his feet through them.

Diggs had a different explanation for the big hits.

“Quandre said those hits happened because he’s finally rubbing off on me,” Thompson said.


#5 … THE OFFENSIVE LINE: … Marcus Hutchins, LT, junior … SED FLOWERS, LG, junior … Taylor Doyle, C, junior … Kent Perkins, RG, sophomore … and Camrhon Hughes, RT, sophomore

No one is going to confuse these guys with a group of award winners. In fact, they made up the most inexperienced offensive line in all of FBS.

Before this season, Hutchins had seen action in two games in three seasons – one of those games as a defensive tackle.

Doyle came into the season having played some garbage time in a rout of Kansas and on special teams vs West Virginia – both last year.

Hughes had never played in a game before this season. Neither had Darius James, a redshirt freshman who started two games at RT vs OU and Baylor in October before being replaced by Hughes.

Only Flowers, with one career start, had any meaningful game action.

But considering where the Texas offensive line was after the suspensions of starting OTs Kennedy Estelle (ultimately dismissed) and Desmond Harrison followed by the season-ending injury to C Dom Espinosa (broken tibia), O-line coach Joe Wickline might deserve a medal from UT (or maybe a lawsuit settlement with Oklahoma State).

With that group on the line, all you wanted to see was improvement. Especially after a horrifyingly bad start in a 41-7 loss at home to BYU (35 carries for 82 yards, 2.3 ypc).

Improvement happened.

In the first six games of the season, Texas ran it 221 times for 820 yards (3.7 ypc) and 6 TDs.

In the last six games, Texas ran it 234 times for 964 yards (4.1 ypc) and 11 TDs.

During UT’s critical, three-game winning streak to become bowl eligible – at Texas Tech … home vs West Virginia … and …  at Oklahoma State – Texas ran it 132 times for 593 yards (4.5 ypc) and 7 TDs.

The Longhorns posted season-high rushing totals at Tech (51 carries, 241 yards, 4.7 ypc, 3 TDs) and against West Virginia (38 carries, 227 yards, 6.0 ypc, 3 TDs).

Again, these numbers aren’t going to make anyone forget the eras of Roosevelt Leaks, Earl, Ricky or Jamaal Charles. And the line has given up 25 sacks this season, the most since 2011 (28), including a season-high 4 vs TCU.

But there needed to be steady improvement, and, with the exception of UT’s 6-turnover performance vs TCU, there was steady improvement – with the most inexperienced O-line in all of FBS.






Hicks is undoubtedly tired of all the wink-wink, nudge-nudge questions about if he was recruited to Texas by Fred Akers?

But after all the medical redshirt jokes, Hicks proved to himself and everyone else that after season-ending injuries in 2012 (groin) and 2013 (Achilles) he is still every bit the 5-star talent out of high school in Ohio (and, for the record, he was recruited by Will Muschamp).

Hicks has piled up 140 tackles, 13 TFLs, 3.5 sacks and 2 INTs while playing a key leadership role on the field, lining up his teammates as the QB of the D.

On Monday, Hicks and Quandre Diggs accepted invitations to the Senior Bowl.

Everyone can forget Hicks making use of that sixth-year medical redshirt season in 2015. After everything he’s been through, Hicks is gone after the bowl game.



Hassan Ridgeway, DT, sophomore

Forget that Strong’s nickname for Ridgeway, Green Mile, refers to the character John Coffey in the movie “Green Mile” who is a giant black man, soft-spoken and shy who is on Death Row for committing some heinous crimes and is ultimately executed.

The point to Strong’s nickname as it pertains to Ridgeway is that Ridgeway is a giant, mild-mannered, soft-spoken sophomore who may not know his own strength, playing one of the most violent positions on defense.

Texas DC Vance Bedford said in September, Ridgeway “is one of the nicest young people I’ve ever been around.”

“If he ever gets mad,” Bedford continued, “I’m going to be the first person to leave the room because he will hurt somebody. My man could be a beast.”

Maybe it was the embarrassing nickname or just great coaching, but Ridgeway is well on his way to beast mode status with 10 TFLs for a team-leading, minus-55 yards, and 6 sacks for a team-leading, minus-48 yards, among his 44 tackles.

Honorable Mention: “N-C-A-A” (stands for “No Contact At All”) given to RT Camrhon Hughes – “I mean my man doesn’t block nobody in practice.”) … and … “Worm” given to S Mykkele Thompson.

(We’re still not sure if it’s “Worm” for bookworm because Thompson wears glasses … or because worms are blind … or because as a worm, Thompson, in the past, went low to tackle players and sometimes got hurdled. We’ll let you know when we figure it out.)




Foreman, a true freshman who has the speed to take the top off the defense, leads the team in yards per catch (18.8 ypc) and has scored TDs in each of the past two games.

Johnson, a junior who leads the team in suspended games per year (2.0 sgpy), also leads the team with a 12.6 yards per carry average.

In honor of D.J. Monroe, easily the most underutilized speed merchant in recent Texas football history, get Foreman and Johnson the damn ball!!!!!!!!!




When most college students think of blocking, they think of jealous roommates trying to make sure they don’t get any alone time with the stacked, green-eyed, hot blond who found her way to your apartment a little too easily.

When the KOD thinks of ALL the blocking done by Geoff Swaim, the KOD thinks of all those poor bastard defenders for UCLA, Texas Tech, West Virginia and Oklahoma State who were buried by No. 82 so RBs Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray could get all the glory.

But, by God, we hope Swaim’s girlfriend took good care of him the night he caught his lone TD pass in UT’s critical victory over West Virginia. Just sayin.



QB Tyrone Swoopes, sophomore

Pretty sure that’s enough said.




Some days, the me-against-the-media; me-against-the-haters; I’m-not-soft-so-don’t-ask-me-if-UT-is-soft; me-against-6-foot-4-190-pound-TCU-WR-Josh Doctson stuff got a little weary.

Just a little.

But Diggs, for the most part, played the crabby cornerback on media day Mondays to entertaining perfection – like Cartman on South Park.

Until the TCU game, Diggs always seemed to deliver on the field – none better this year than the knockout blow he administered to Texas Tech backup QB Patrick Mahomes. That blow helped turn around Texas’ season from 3-5 to bowl eligibility.




What can the KOD say? Texas special teams have been a disaster in 2014. And there has been consistency in that special teams have been bad from Game 1 to Game 12.

Texas is dead last – No. 125 of 125 – in kick return defense, giving up 30.1 yards per kick return.

Really? It’s now acceptable for THE University of Texas to be last nationally in ANY statistical category?

Come on Charlie! Who’s coaching this mess?

Texas was 95th in punt return defense, allowing 9.7 yards per return. And the Longhorns had an ineffective return game, finishing 113th in kick returns (18.7 ypr) and 59th in punt returns (8.24 ypr).

Simple math tells us any time you’re giving up more yards in returns than you are gaining, you’re getting killed in field position because of special teams.

Strong allowed his most inexperienced coach – secondary coach Chris Vaughn – to head up special teams, and it was a train wreck. Time to audible.

It’s hard to be as bad as Texas was on special teams.



TEXAS (6-6) vs ARKANSAS (6-6), Advocare Texas Bowl, Dec. 29, 8 pm CT, ESPN, NRG Stadium in Houston

Everything I’m hearing still points to Texas in the AdvoCare Texas Bowl, with the SEC offering up Arkansas.

I’m told Texas Bowl officials won’t let Texas fall past them. So, with the Alamo and Russell Athletic Bowls likely to select either Oklahoma or Kansas State, Texas is a good bet to play in the Texas Bowl.




#1 … ESPN’s College GameDay will be in Waco this weekend leading up to Saturday night’s kickoff between No. 9 Kansas State and No. 5 Baylor at McLane Stadium at 6:45 pm CT.

No. 4 TCU finishes up the season at home vs Iowa State.

Who gives K-State a shot to take down the Bears?


#2 … Speaking of the Bears, you can’t let it be revealed that you’ve hired a PR firm to help you politic you’re way into the College Football Playoff.

You don’t need a PR firm. Just repeat after me: We have the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Repeat enough times that you’ve beaten TCU and you have the highest-ranked win of any team in the final 6 (Baylor’s 61-58 victory over No. 4 TCU) and then take down K-State and take two Advil in the morning and everything should be fine.


#3 … The Big 12 approved some major policy initiatives that will be presented to the NCAA membership in January along with the other Power Five conferences.

(1) Full cost of attendance scholarships for all student-athletes at Texas, which should result in an increase of aid by roughly $5,000 per student-athlete.

Some have asked me if the full cost-of-attendance includes extra money for student-athletes who live across the country from UT or even live internationally.

Here’s what I was told by the Big 12 office: “The federal formula averages distance from home to campus based on the geographical makeup of an institution’s population.”

So the formula used already accounts for the travel distance from home-to-campus for student-athletes.

Everyone got that?

(2)  Four-year scholarships instead of 1-year schollies.


(3)  Student-athletes who depart the institution prior to graduating the opportunity to return on athletics aid to complete degree requirements.





#1 … The Wildcats are as suffocating on defense as the Longhorns. While Texas has not yet allowed an opponent to hit 60 points, UK is limiting opponents to 44.6 ppg on 27.9 percent shooting.

#2 … Kentucky is shooting, gulp, 47.7 percent from the field through 7 games.

#3 … Devin Booker, a 6-6, 206-pound freshman, is the Wildcats’ best 3-point shooter, averaging 46.7 percent (14 of 30) from beyond the arc.

#4 … Karl Anthony-Towns, a 6-11, 250-pound freshman, is averaging a team-best 3 blocks per game.

#5 … Anthony-Towns is also leading the team in rebounds (7.4 rpg).

#6 … Kentucky’s best win so far is a 72-40 victory over then-No. 11 Kansas on Nov. 18.

#7 … UK has beaten its first seven opponents (Kansas among them) by an average of 35.9 points per game.

#8 … Kentucky’s largest margin of victory was a 58-point win over Montana State (86-28).

#9 … The Wildcats have 10 players averaging at least 10 minutes per game.

#10 … The average minutes per game by UK’s super freshman are: Tyler Ulis (18.7 mpg) … Devin Booker (18.0 mpg) … Karl Anthony-Townes (18.6 mpg) and Trey Lyles (17.9 mpg).






#1 … Alabama

Tide’s great shootout win over Auburn (and giving up 44) means little patience before Mizzou gets similar treatment.

#2 … Florida State

Can Jameis Winston throws FOUR picks in win over Florida and 13 of his 17 picks have come in the first half. The Georgia Tech defense hoping for more of the same.

#3 … Oregon

The Heisman Trophy appears to be Marcus Mariota’s to win.

#4 … Baylor

The Bears didn’t need to hire a PR firm to bolster their argument (not to mention the potentially bad karma).




Arizona vs OREGON (-13)
…  P12 title game, Friday 8 pm CT, at San Francisco (Levi/49ers Stadium)


The Wildcats have beaten the Ducks two straight years. Anyone think they can make it three?


KOD PREDICTION:  Oregon 37, Arizona 34




MIZZOU vs BAMA (-14.5) … SEC title game, Saturday 3 pm CT,  Atlanta (Georgia Dome) 


The Tigers will release their back-to-back SEC East championship titles on the Tide, and it still won't mean diddly doo.


KOD PREDICTION: Alabama 27, Missouri 20



GA TECH vs FSU (-3.5) … ACC title game, Saturday 7 pm CT, Charlotte (BOA Stadium)


Just what FSU needed – after surviving the regular season undefeated, the Noles get the sudoku puzzle of the ACC - Georgia Tech's triple option.





Ohio State vs Wisconsin (-4.5) … B10 Title Game, Saturday, 7:15 pm CT, Indy (Lucas Oil Can)


Jamaal Charles starter kit - Melvin Gordon - will make the Buckeyes miss J.T. Barrett.


KOD PREDICTION: Wisconsin 24, Ohio State 13



IOWA STATE at TCU (-34) … 11 am CT, Saturday


Trevone Boykin makes one last case for a trip to New York next weekend.





OKLAHOMA STATE at OKLAHOMA (-19) … 2:30 pm CT, Saturday

Samaje Perine will start running Saturday and may not stop until he gets back to Pflugerville.





KANSAS STATE at BAYLOR (NL) … 6:45 pm CT, Saturday


The Bears have everything: Bryce Petty, College GameDay and a PR firm. Now, BU just has to beat the Wildcats.


KOD PREDICTION: Baylor 31, K-State 27

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