DALLAS — All the usual adornments — conference logos, cheerleaders and mascots — fill the Omni Dallas Hotel this week for Big 12 Media Days.
Well, all but one, and that group's noticeable absence makes the preseason gathering highly unusual for a league with four Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks in the last 12 years.
By the time Big 12 Media Days wrap up Tuesday afternoon, only two quarterbacks will have spoken on behalf of their football squads.
Kansas junior Jake Heaps, a transfer from BYU who has yet to play a down as a Jayhawk, addressed reporters Monday, and Texas junior David Ash will do the same Tuesday.
At least six quarterbacks appeared at Big 12 Media Days each year between 2008 and 2012, but many of the conference's 10 teams are replacing field generals this season, creating an odd air of uncertainty for Big 12 offenses in 2013.
“I think that makes it exciting,” said first-year Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, himself a former standout Big 12 quarterback. “There's gonna be stars emerge early on — as far as these teams go that have new starters — because of the offenses they run and the coaching they receive. There are some great offensive minds. There will be some breakout stars come from these teams, and I think it makes it fun for the fans to watch that happen and evolve.”
Oklahoma four-year starter Landry Jones, West Virginia's Geno Smith, Texas Tech's Seth Doege, Baylor's Nick Florence and Kansas State's Collin Klein, who finished third in the 2012 Heisman voting, all scored at least 30 touchdowns as seniors last season. Only one of those squads — Baylor — has named a firm starter for 2013.
But as Kingsbury knows from recent experience, there's nothing that says a first-year starter can't reach that level of success.
He was Texas A&M's offensive coordinator in 2012, when redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel came from seemingly nowhere and ran away with the Heisman.
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, who is choosing between sophomore Daniel Sams and junior Jake Waters as Klein's replacement, used that example when discussing the league's lack of returning quarterbacks.
“Young guys have come into our program and come into other programs and been their first year and done extremely well,” Snyder said. “Some do, some don't. I've got a young guy down here in College Station that came on the scene, and nobody had a clue that he was going to get himself on the field, and ended up winning a Heisman. You just never really know.”
Heaps sat out last season after transferring from BYU, but the former four-star recruit played lots in two seasons with the Cougars. He started 16 games and set BYU freshman records for passing yards, touchdowns and wins in 2010.
“I think it's an opportunity for a lot of unproven guys to go out there and show what they're capable of,” Heaps said. “At the end of the season, you guys will be able to see that there's not a drop off in talent.
“It makes for a very exciting season because you don't know who's gonna come out on top. It's really a wide-open season and that's great for us.”