HOLGORSEN FINE WITH LESS ATTENTION
West Virginia was a popular pick to win the Big 12 in its debut season, with the Mountaineers coming off a blowout victory in the Orange Bowl and sporting plenty of offensive firepower in quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.
But after a disappointing 7-6 record in 2012 — plus those three offensive stars moving on to the NFL — the Mountaineers have far lower expectations and far less attention coming out of spring practice this year.
Coach Dana Holgorsen doesn't mind that. In fact, he said this situation has been much easier for the coaching staff to handle.
But he does trust the program learned from its struggles during its first season in the Big 12.
“From a players' standpoint and an administrative standpoint (and a) fan base standpoint, it was something we had to go through in order to truly understand it,” Holgorsen said. “I'm sure they miss the pats on the back (they got last year).
“But with that said, I think we've got a bunch of guys that like to play football, a bunch of guys that are motivated to get better that are excited about where we're at from a conference standpoint. So we kind of got their attention.”
KINGSBURY STILL ADJUSTING
First-year Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said he's still adapting to leading an entire program.
“I guess fitting in all the responsibilities as well as scheming for spring practices, and doing the scripts and installs, things of that nature,” Kingsbury said when asked what the biggest challenge has been. “Really just time management.”
Kingsbury was a record setting quarterback at Texas Tech from 1998-2002 under then-coach Mike Leach. He spent last season as Texas A&M's offensive coordinator, helping mold 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.
Asked what he's learned about his new team, Kingsbury said, “That we have a long way to go. We have our systems installed, and I think the kids know how we want to practice, the tempo of practice, and the effort that we need to give in practice, but we've just got the base stuff in, so we've definitely got a long way to go.”
BRILES: BAYLOR ‘TRADITION' A STRENGTH
Baylor is coming off three consecutive bowl appearances and back-to-back seasons with one of the nation's most potent offenses.
Those accomplishments, coach Art Briles said, means the program can now boast “tradition” and “believability” as two of its biggest strengths.
“It's a good thing to finally be able to say,” Briles said. “…We can live kind of on what we've done and give us an opportunity to do more.”
Next to step in at quarterback will be junior Bryce Petty, who will aim to follow the massive success of Robert Griffin III, who won the Heisman in 2011, and Nick Florence, who ranked second in the nation in total offense last season.
“He benefitted a lot,” Briles said of Petty's experience learning behind Griffin and Florence. “If he hadn't, that's his fault. You can buy a lot of things, but experience isn't one of them. That's something that you've got to live.
“He had the experience of sitting in the meeting rooms, of watching stuff from the sideline, watching everything (transpire) as far as player-coach development.”
KU HOPES JUCO TRANSFERS PROVIDE IMMEDIATE BOOST
One of Snyder's most famous tactics in building a program is consistently plugging holes with junior college transfers.
Down the road in Lawrence, Charlie Weis and Co. used a similar strategy with Kansas' 2013 recruiting class. Of the 25 players inked, 17 were junior college transfers.
Assistant head coach Dave Campo, who filled in for Weis on the conference call, said that makes him optimistic the Jayhawks can be more competitive in the Big 12 after going winless in conference play for the second consecutive season in 2012.
“I think we're going to be much more representative of a Big 12 football team,” he said. “I didn't feel like that was the case a year ago. I felt that we were playing with a bad hand … I thought we made progress in the attitude of the football team and the way our guys went about their business, but we weren't talented enough as a football team to compete.
“We're still going to be scrapping and fighting, because there's good football teams in this league and very talented football teams. But more than I did a year ago, I feel excited about going on the field.”
IOWA STATE REPLACING STAR LINEBACKERS
Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said he misses former linebackers A.J. Klein and Jake Knott “every day,” and that their departures have created a depth issue at the position.
Klein and Knott made up the conference's best linebacking duo the past two seasons. Klein — a 2011 Big 12 co-Defensive Player of the Year — recorded 117 tackles last season, and Knott made 79 despite missing the last several games of 2012 with a shoulder injury.
“The most noticable thing about the loss of those two linebackers is the depth that we don't have right now,” Rhoads said, add that he's not worried about his first-team linebackers. “It's the guys behind them that you've gotta make sure progress and develop and are in position where if you've gotta put them out there on the field, they can do their job. We're certainly not there yet with that group.”