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July 27, 2011

Big 12 Media Days recap



A BURNT ORANGE THOUGHT: The players on defense believe they've got something going on with Manny Diaz, and that's great news for Mack Brown because the D may have to hold things down until the Texas offense gets its footing.

And considering Texas opens with Rice (9 starters back on offense), BYU (10 starters back on offense) and UCLA (9 starters back on offense), the defense is going to need to be locked in.

The exciting news on defense is the veteran players I talked to Monday - Keenan Robinson, Emmanuel Acho and Blake Gideon - feel really good about the progress being made at corner by buys like Adrian Phillips, Carrington Byndom and Quandre Diggs.

They also feel like Kenny Vaccaro can help out at corner if needed because of the depth UT has at safety with Gideon, Christian Scott and Nolan Brewster.

"Kenny may be the best pure cover guy we have," Gideon said.
The players were singing the praises of LB Jordan Hicks, whose speed has come back after a foot injury knocked him out of the spring, and also LB Demarco Cobbs.

"Demarco ran a 10.6 100 in high school and can cover receivers in the slot on a post route and go stride for stride," Keenan Robinson said. "That kind of speed at linebacker is a real weapon that you just don't see very often."

Emmanuel Acho had good things to say about Aaron Benson, who redshirted last season.

"Aaron has gotten stronger and can even rush off the edge," Acho said. "He's coming on."

Even though Steve Edmond has only been on campus for a month or so, he has impressed the veterans with his size and work ethic.

And when you look at the defensive line, there's reason to be excited after hearing what Keenan Robinson said about wanting to use the athletic ability of the DEs to drop into pass coverage on zone blitzes.

The news of Desmond Jackson bench pressing 455 pounds and putting up some big numbers in the weight room and his work ethic in the summer is significant. Mack Brown and Manny Diaz need competition and depth at DT.

The team's most developed leadership is on defense thanks to Keenan Robinson, Acho, Gideon and Kheeston Randall, so you'd think that side of the ball will be equipped to handle some adversity early in the season should it arise.


WHISKEY, TANGO, FOXTROT: Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said he had 27-year-old QB Brandon Weeden teach the terminology of Dana Holgersen's offense to new offensive coordinator Todd Monken, so the Cowboys could keep continuity on that side of the ball.

Monken is even using the same signals the players used last year under Holgorsen.

"We just wanted to keep the continuity going so the players wouldn't be learning an entirely new offense in terms of the terminology and everything," Gundy said. "Todd is such a pro that he agreed. So our quarterback was basically teaching the coordinator the offense, which doesn't happen very often."


I WAS IMPRESSED: Five headlines that I think bode really well for Texas from Big 12 Media Days:

1. The confidence of the defense in Manny Diaz
2. The progress of CB Quandre Diggs
3. The weight room work of Desmond Jackson and progress of Ashton Dorsey and Calvin Howell
4. The defense's glowing review of Jaxon Shipley and Malcolm Brown
5. The progress of OT Luke Poehlmann


THINK AGAIN: Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville does not hold back when expressing his opinion.

Tuberville said he canceled a game with TCU this season (when Tech had to prune its non-conference sked from 4 to 3 games), in part, because TCU would be a tough game for Tech to win because of the Red Raiders' youth (7 new starters on defense and a new QB, RB and WRs).

"But I think that's a game we need to play every year," Tuberville said. "Gary (Patterson) has done a great job at TCU, and we should be playing them home-and-home every year."

We'll see how Patterson feels about that after being whacked from Tech's schedule.

Now, Tech has a bye in Week 2, which Tuberville said doesn't help his team at all.

"We'll have to play 11 straight weeks, and that will make for a long season," Tuberville said. "But that's what we have, and we'll be ready."


WHISPERS: Kansas State players say they never see coach Bill Snyder eat. He's never in team meals before games. Some even wondered aloud (we hope jokingly) if he had an eating disorder.

But Snyder told me he loves Taco Bell and goes through the drive-thru and orders from TB's 89-cent menu most every day.

"I really do love Taco Bell," Snyder said.

His players will be relieved to hear that.


ONE FOR THE ROAD: The Longhorns' early schedule is a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing in that if Texas beats BYU and wins on the road at UCLA, the confidence of the team will soar.

If the Longhorns run into trouble in those games and the confidence level dips, things could get ugly because two of UT's first three games in Big 12 play come against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, who are favorites in the league this year.

I'll have my season prediction story - looking at the outcome of each game in 2011 - later in the week.


NOTE: Tailgate Air is a private charter that will be flying Orangebloods to the Iowa State and Missouri games this season.

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Tailgate Air makes sure you enjoy the best parts of game day on the road. For more information, check out Tailgate Air's page on the OB Connection or call 877-359-3243.


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