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Texas Longhorns Football: Top Football Headlines Around The Big 12

Here is your weekly Big 12 football report from the publishers and editors of Scout.com Big 12 sites.

Baylor

The Good: The Bears had their final scrimmage of the 2016 Fall Camp, with Seth Russell and company impressing in their drives.  The Baylor senior quarterback finished 6-of-8 for 109 yards and a touchdown in his two drives, both resulting in touchdowns.  

The Bad: Baylor nickel back Travon Blanchard underwent surgery on his knee this past week, and will miss the opener Friday night.  More than likely, Blanchard will miss multiple games, with the most likely timeline having him back by Oklahoma State.  A junior, Blanchard is one of the Bears best defenders and big play makers on that side of the ball. 

Something to Keep an Eye On: Baylor welcomed back Sean Muir and welcomed Tyrae Simmons to the offensive line rotation this week.  Simmons has been getting time at guard primarily, but could slide down to center eventually.  Muir has been out most of the fall camp due to a concussion, but brings much needed depth to the line.

Iowa State

The Good: Wide receiver Allen Lazard should be the beneficiary of new head coach Matt Campbell’s offense, which depends on establishing the run, then getting the play action game going. Lazard is a big target who can get downfield, and at six feet, five inches, he’s a very tough cover for a corner – and sometimes for both a corner and a safety. Named a team captain at the completion of camp (just as his father was in 1993), Lazard is a preseason all-league pick who had 56 catches for 808 yards and six scores in 2015. While a switch to a more run-heavy attack might not appear to be of benefit to a pass catcher, Lazard could find more room to roam if defenses are forced to load up to stop the ground attack.

The Bad: The near total clampdown on media access to fall camp isn’t anything new in the college landscape, but has it killed some of the buzz around the new coaching staff and new era in Ames? Coming off a 3-9 season, any attention should be welcomed, but availability hasn’t been great, especially as camp wound up and the season approached. If the Cyclones get off to a tough start, will that combine to affect interest and further coverage?

Something to Keep an Eye On: Running back Mike Warren is good. Really good. No, make that great. But will he have enough help up front to approach his rushing totals of 2015, when he topped Big 12 freshmen with 1,339 yards? The Iowa State line received a major hit with the loss of Jake Campos, who will be out for at least several weeks, and will have a number of players elevating from backups to starting roles. Redshirt freshmen and those who didn’t play a year ago will also be counted on, as well as players with a history of injuries. With every opponent keying on Warren, the line will be in the spotlight – and perhaps even more so than a year ago with the dependence on the ground game described above. If the blocking is solid, Warren can back up his numbers. But a slip, more injuries or failure to mesh, and the sophomore will be seeing masses of opposing jersey colors on Saturdays.

Kansas

The Good: KU football fans were taken down memory lane with an heroic moment in the their head coach’s past. In 2013 then Texas A&M assistant coach David Beatty was with his family at a Houston-area indoor trampoline park when another youngster Max Menchaca fell through a trampoline and was suffering from a grand mal seizure. Beaty rushed over and comforted the youngster and his mother recently wrote on Facebook that, “I believe he saved Max’s life,” Trace Menchaca wrote in her Facebook post. “In court, he said he took care of Max because Max was someone’s ‘family treasure’ … he also talked to Max about sports and specifically football. The man in the blue shirt is our hero. He also happens to be the head football coach at Kansas.”

The rest of the story includes a court settlement where the Menchaca’s received an $11.5 million award from the company that owns the trampoline park. Menchaca suffered a skull fracture, bleeding on the brain, and significant memory loss and seizures. The Menchaca family, who say they are Oklahoma State fans, will be in Lawrence for the Kansas game with OSU this Oct. 22, but say they will be rooting for Beaty and the Jayhawks.

Good for either quarterback that wins the job either Ryan Willis or Montell Cozart is that former Texas A&M receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez is now eligible and 6-4 big receiver target Chase Harrell is playing well as a red-shirt freshman. “If you can cover Gonzalez in the slot, then you can cover anybody,” Jayhawks secondary coach Kenny Perry said after a recent practice.  

The Bad: For Kansas thank goodness former deep snapper Jordan Goldberg Jr. is gone. The deep snapper in the first seven games of 2015 is accused by two separate former Kansas crew athletes, Daisy Tackett and Sarah McClure of sexual assault. Goldberg followed former KU special teams coach Gary Hyman to Indiana State, but has been removed from the roster at that program. The two women have filed lawsuits against the University of Kansas. Jim McClure, Sarah’s father, said Friday when contacted at his home in Illinois told the Kansas City Star newspaper, “It’s horrific, the fact that my daughter continues to struggle with this while this young man transfers to another school, puts on a jersey and continues to play football.”

Something to Keep an Eye On: As the opener with Rhode Island nears there still is no announcement on who will start at quarterback, either Willis or Cozart. The quarterback position will be huge for KU in the David Beaty spread attack offense. 

Kansas State

The Good: Kansas State will be well represented in the opener at Stanford as the K-State athletic department announced this week that they have sold out their 4,000-ticket allotment for the opening game on “the Farm” in Palo Alto, Calf. It is really no surprise to anybody in the Big 12 as Kansas State fans are known for traveling well. The big winner here is the travel agency that has the most business and the best package for this game as that is a lot of folks to send packing to California for the game with Stanford.

There is more good when the Wildcats come home for their opener in Bill Snyder Family Stadium against Florida Atlantic on Sept. 17. The completed $185-million work on improvements and enhancements for the stadium are complete. The team has been enjoying the comforts of the massive north training complex that includes new offices, meeting rooms, locker room, weight and strength and conditioning area, and lounges for the athletes. For the fans there is another large video board, making it three inside the stadium. There is also new seating including a new northeast seating area for the Wildcat Band. The most noticeable addition is the huge press box and suites building that is completely finished. 

The Bad: This goes down as the most difficult opener for Kansas State as the Wildcats are a 10-point underdog to the 8th-ranked Cardinal. In 2007, Kansas State opened on the road at 14th-ranked Auburn and lost 23-13. Nothing else shows up as close to facing a top 10 team on the road as this Stanford game. 

Something to Keep an Eye On: No announcement on quarterback but we are pretty solid it is going to be Jesse Ertz. If you listen to head coach Bill Snyder in the Kansas State Preseason Preview Special, he sounds pretty solid on Ertz as well. 

“He has worked diligently to get himself back on the field and playing at the level he was performing before the injury,” Snyder said of Ertz, who was the starter going into the 2015 season only to be injured and out for the season on the first series against South Dakota. “He came back in the spring to prove himself and while he doesn’t have the same game experience as Joe (Hubener), he has a lot of experience in our program. I really liked the way he’s worked at it in the summer and in practice. He has been very productive.”

Oklahoma

The Good: Even though Oklahoma has always had pretty solid production at wide receiver, the Sooners haven’t seen this type of speed they have with SoonerSquad17. Waxahachie (Texas) High receiver Jalen Reagor and Richmond (Texas) Foster receiver CeeDee Lamb each had touchdowns of more than 90 yards to start their senior season. Lamb had three catches for 101 yards with a 91-yard touchdown. He added a 75-yard punt return for a score. Reagor had seven catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns, including a 93-yard score. Both Reagor and Lamb are in the Scout 300 and both were victorious Friday.

The Bad: Mesquite (Texas) Horn quarterback Chris Robison is among the best in the country, but the OU commit is going to have to show he can stay healthy. Robison, ranked No. 88 in the Scout 300, suffered a slightly separated shoulder in Thursday’s win against McKinney (Texas) Boyd. Robison went through ankle and foot injuries as a junior and will need to show he is durable in the future. He’s questionable for next week but it would seem more likely he’ll return in two weeks.

Something to Keep an Eye On: Just how healthy OU is headed into Saturday’s showdown at Houston. Bob Stoops said the only players expected to miss are Rodney Anderson and Curtis Bolton. But a number of guys were in yellow jerseys this week, meaning no contact. And one of those, starting defensive tackle Matthew Romar, has been going through concussion protocol the last couple of weeks. Houston’s offense is good enough on its own so Sooners need all available players to be good and ready.

Oklahoma State

The Good: Some may see it as bad, but Oklahoma State fans aren’t really concerned where the production comes from as long as the Cowboys rushing offense produces more than it did last season. Head coach Mike Gundy threw out last week a pretty paltry expectation of 125-yards a game. He said, if they had run at that level last season it would have been like a Christmas gift. I really believe he was talking about pure running back production. Okay, so the good news? Two new faces look like they will be a big part of a five-man depth chart at running back with true freshman Justice Hill from famed Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa possibly on top. "He's done very well in camp and were trying to make some adjustments in the running game,” Gundy said. “We think that the group that we have now, the three or four, is better than what we were using last year with really two to three. So he's part of that group that we think makes us better." The other new face is Barry J. Sanders, who it appears will join Hill as the two deep men on the kickoff return unit. 

The Bad: Part of the result of the July injury to starting senior wide receiver Marcell Ateman is that three true freshmen will be on the two-deep at wide receiver for the Cowboys. At Atemna’s position Chris Lacy will start, but walk-on freshman Obi Obialo is listed second team. The 6-2, 200 pound Obialo is out of Coppell, Texas where he was outstanding until a foot injury sidelined him early in his senior season. A lot of schools missed on not picking him up. The other freshmen back-ups are 2015 Oklahoma High School Player of the Year out of four-time back-to-back Class 6A State Champion Jenks in Dillon Stoner and Lancaster, Texas standout Tyrell Alexander backs up All-Big 12 performer James Washington.

Something to Keep an Eye On: The first head coach app available for iPhone and Android devices is the Coach Gundy app. Gundy announced it on Thursday at his first weekly news conference and made a point of saying, “I think we beat Coach (Jim) Harbaugh on this one.” In the first 24-hours of availability the app had 5000 downloads. The app has news releases, roster, depth chart, coaches and players’ bios, lots of pictures and video. “Basically everything we’re doing around here in on there,” Gundy said.

Texas

The Good: All of Texas' running backs - perhaps the strongest position on the team - are all back at practice after missing time with injuries. D'Onta Foreman, last year's leading rusher (681 yards, 7.2 ypc)  missed time early in camp with an ankle injury.  Chris Warren III, UT's second-leading rusher in 2015 (556 yards, 6.6 ypc) missed time with a hamstring injury. And Kirk Johnson, the sophomore older brother of 6-6, 212-pound freshman WR Collin Johnson, has missed time with ankle and knee injuries. Johnson was the last of the three to get injured but returned this past week. 

Meanwhile, the injuries have allowed true freshman Kyle Porter of Katy to get a ton of practice reps this camp and probably ensured Porter will receive a bunch of carries in a change of pace role this season. Coaches are very high on the work ethic and potential production from the running back group, including Porter.

On defense, it looks like 6-foot-6 sophomore Charles Omenihu has locked down the starting the strong side DE position after growing from 232 pounds as a freshman to 262 pounds this year. Also look for sophomore Breckyn Hager, son of Texas' all-time leading tackler Britt Hager, and freshman Malcolm Roach to push starting Fox End Naashon Hughes. Coaches are very happy with Hager's move from linebacker to end and with the maturity and athleticism of Roach.

The Bad: Another week, another ankle injury to a starting offensive lineman. First it was freshman starting center Zach Shackelford, who has a high ankle sprain and has missed most of camp. Then, it was RT Tristan Nickelson and on Thursday it was preseason first-team All-Big 12 selection LG Patrick Vahe who got rolled up. Vahe's injury is not considered serious and there's hope he'll be ready to go for Texas' season opener at home Sunday against Notre Dame in the biggest, home non-conference game since Ohio State in 2006.

Something to Keep an Eye On: Charlie Strong has said he's not going to name a starting quarterback between senior Tyrone Swoopes and freshman Shane Buechele, because "we don't want Notre Dame to know." But in HD's latest report from Texas' closed practices, we were told both QBs' worst practices of camp came on Friday and Saturday. It could have been the defense was that good against a patchwork offensive line. But some fear the players are mentally and physically exhausted after having only one day off (last Sunday) the last 13 days. RB D'Onta Foreman was asked if the team had its legs and he said, "No. We still gotta get our legs back." Omenihu tweeted on Saturday, "My mind and body is so worn out." Texas doesn't play until Sunday night, so Strong could give the players off Monday and Tuesday to get their legs back. Something to keep an eye on heading into game week.

TCU

The Good: TCU has their quarterback to start the 2016 season. After a competition in fall camp, former Texas A&M signal-caller Kenny Hill has won the job, beating out sophomore Foster Sawyer. 

“Both of them threw the ball well, but (it is about) getting himself out problems and some of the things he could do in the running game,” said TCU head coach Gary Patterson. “Kenny has a lot to prove, but like I told him, our job is to just win. It is not to put up big numbers. Just put the ball where it is supposed to be.”

The Bad: TCU was hoping to get sophomore kicker Jonathan Song back before the opener against South Dakota State, but Patterson indicated he now could miss multiple games. The Frogs will likely be able to survive without Song against SDSU, but in week two a matchup with Arkansas awaits. 

Something to Keep An Eye On: Junior college transfer Taj Williams put on nearly 20 pounds this offseason, after enrolling before spring football. The former Iowa Western standout had 1,593 yards in two seasons, finding the end zone 20 times. When the depth chart came out, Williams found himself as the starting X receiver.

Texas Tech

The Good: The Red Raiders wrapped up what was by all accounts a very successful training camp, easily the best under Kliff Kingsbury. There have been few injuries, and no significant injuries to anyone projected in the two-deep. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes has looked especially sharp in open practices dropping bombs to multiple targets despite tight coverage. Kingsbury noted how well the players have performed and how excited everyone is to get the season started.

"I think it's a very selfless team, with guys pushing each other, guys holding each other accountable. " Kingsbury said. "They're cheering for each other, not cheering for them to fail so they can move up in their position group. They are definitely ready to play. I felt like they were ready to play last week."

The Bad: The offensive line has been shuffled and moved around all camp, and it looks like the center position is the last one on the whole team to be finalized as Kingsbury said the depth chart is otherwise set for the season opener against Stephen F. Austin. Despite the uncertainty, Kingsbury said he feels they actually have more depth at center now and feels comfortable playing either Tony Morales or Paul Starwarz at the position. 

Something to Keep an Eye On: Wide receiver Derrick Willies missed a lot of time during camp with a wrist/hand injury and has been up and down in practices. He may be a little rusty in the opener Saturday. 

West Virginia

The Good: West Virginia finished up its camp with no more major injuries, and head coach Dana Holgorsen termed the team’s health, other than those season-enders to Dravon Askew-Henry and Brendan Ferns, as very good. He credited strength and conditioning coach Mike Joseph for some of that, and noted that the team had even brought in a sleep specialist to monitor the team’s rest and make sure it had adequate time for recovery. 

Like many other squads, the Mountaineers held a simulated game weekend on Friday and Saturday, including staying off campus at its normal Friday night hotel before going through the entire routine of a Saturday home game. WVU will probably have 20-25 players who have never dressed or gone through travel for a game, and to acclimate them Holgorsen and his staff conducted this run-through, as they have throughout his tenure at West Virginia.

The Bad: Starting left guard Adam Pankey was arrested for DUI after camp ended, and has been suspended for at least the first game. Tony Matteo, who was engaged in a battle for the starting slot in the right side, will flip over to Pankey’s position while he is out. Matteo has had a good camp, and earned praise from the offensive line staff for his work, but changing sides means he will also be reversing his stance and the hand he has on the ground – something that might not be 100% natural. He has had work on the left side at times, though, so the hope is that he will be able to fill the spot without a great deal of adjustment. Still, it is a lessening of one of the strengths of the WVU offense, and could have an impact when facing off against Missouri’s excellent defensive line.

Something to Keep an Eye On: West Virginia’s apparent depth at running back and wide receiver will have an effect on playing time and rotations at those positions – with results on the field at one spot impacting another. With three running backs slated to get carries, WVU could run more of the diamond formation that it used in 2014, with three backs in the backfield. It that’s successful, expect the Mountaineers to ride that hard – with a resulting lessening of snaps for five wide receivers who are solidly in the rotation. Of course, the reverse could also be true. Passing game production could yield more three- and four-wide sets, and keep one of the runners on the bench more than expected. It’s not a bad problem to have, but one that will mean adjustments in playing time for someone.

 


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