I guess technically the various Big 12 teams are about to be gunning for their bowl opponents, at least those teams that are playing in bowl games. Oklahoma has real stakes to their postseason since they are in the playoffs again and Texas probably has some interest in showing well against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
But even those teams are multi-tasking now that everything slows down. Bowl practices are always an important part of the development process for younger players who get extra reps, the whole period includes fast paced recruiting for NSD1 and then fast paced evaluations for NSD2.
Then there’s the grad transfer waiver wire that everyone is increasingly tapping for immediate help. Here’s what everyone is looking at right now:
What’s the story with Pooka Williams? The freshman came and lit the world on fire for the Jayhawks despite playing on a bad team and now he’s suspended on suspicion of domestic battery. Yikes. Shades of Tyreek Hill…and Kavontae Turpin…and Dede Westbrook…why do the water bugs seem to disproportionately draw these charges?
I’m sure he’ll be well represented in court but the Jayhawks need to get a good, honest sense of whether they’re going to have their war pony to build around for new OC Chip Lindsey.
The OSU bowl practices are going to be the start of the QB battle between Dru Brown and Spencer Sanders for the future of the position. Perhaps they’ll even get some action in the bowl game although I imagine CornDog will be allowed his chance to start.
The big questions for OSU next year center mostly around a defense that sucked against the run this year and now loses some of their main attacking pieces up front. I think everyone assumes that the offense will be great again given the return of RB Chuba Hubbard and WR Tylan Wallace but who mans the helm is obviously really important and something they need to nail down sooner than later to ensure that the offense is clicking if the defense needs more time.
The league will be tough again next year and OSU isn’t guaranteed to finish back amongst the top if they don’t make huge strides.
I wrote recently that Matt Wells’ offense relies pretty heavily on having a TE. That’s how OC David Yost likes to create a run game and clear up the picture for the QB.
You can generally get a feel for a team’s identity/strategy on offense by what kinds of players they utilize in the inside receiver positions H & Y. Yost likes to have a water bug hybrid at one and then a TE who can run routes but is a good blocker at the other. The latter creates space for the former.
Kingsbury left behind a lot of options at WR and QB and a solid situation at OL as well but the new Red Raider staff needs to find TEs ASAP. They already got a verbal commit from a freshman but I’d expect them to scour the JUCOs and grad transfer waiver wire for 1-2 more.
The lack of RB recruiting from Bill Snyder over the last two years seemed innocent enough when they were stockpiling running QBs that were obviously going to carry the main load anyways. But now Snyder is gone and the new HC has preferred a run-centric approach in which the RBs carry the load and the QB is an auxiliary in the rushing attack.
The most important recruitment for Chris Klieman and his new staff is Alex Barnes, they need to make sure he’s sticking around for his senior year to run behind three returning starters on the OL and returning players at TE and FB. Most of the pieces are there for Klieman to build a power run game but if Barnes isn’t there to be the beneficiary then things could get dire. After Barnes there’s Mike McCoy, a promising player who has had injuries that may end his career and kept him out all year, and then Louisville/KS JUCO Harry Trotter who had to sit this season out and was added out of desperation as a true transfer last year.
They’ve already signed a freshman from South Carolina but they need to add so much more to the RB room and ideally with more transfers to fill out the depth chart across multiple seasons and with talent that is worth featuring.
This is the year where we find out how Baylor’s S&C program has been doing the last few years with all of the athletic but lighter athletes that Rhule pulled in 2017 and 2018. Particularly along the OL which has yet to be good and is the cornerstone of a good “bash bro” program of the sort that Baylor has aspired to under the new #RhuleofLaw.
Rhule has slowly been finding some key pieces, like DL James Lynch or LB Clay Johnston, QB Charlie Brewer, etc. But this thing all comes together when they can win the line of scrimmage on offense and they have a collection of DBs that can play on a string together. So these bowl practices and then the subsequent spring session are going to be more about development of the existing roster than lots of additions.
The assumption with Shawn Robinson moving on is that TCU is now the Justin Rogers team. Personally I think losing Robinson was a big blow to the Frogs and that TCU fans always overreacted to his turnovers and year one struggles.
Dude was a running QB in HS with a big arm that needed time and development as a passer to translate to the Air Raid and a reliable run game to lean on that he was capable of really boosting. The OL wasn’t ready though to replace all of the lost starts though and then he took a shoulder injury that sapped some of his run game potential and exacerbated his passing game woes.
Now the Frogs have to potentially start over AGAIN at QB, unless they roll with Michael Collins. At any rate, they need to figure that out. I’ll throw another one out there though, this team really needs some pass-rush. Ben Banogu is moving on, as is L.J. Collier and Ty Summers, and none of the back-up DEs have done much of anything yet in purple and black.
While most eyes are on Sonny Cumbie’s efforts to get one of his QBs up to speed behind what will probably be a pretty good OL and surrounded by some really legit weapons such as Jalen Reagor, I’d look for Gary Patterson to try and hit up the JUCOs or grad transfer ranks for another Banogu. Unless one of these younger guys is flashing like wild in practice or they have some sort of Jerry Hughes-type position change in mind. I’m not saying Gary Patterson won’t solve for this issue, just noting that his solutions will probably be the big story to watch.
It’s been interesting to see that West Virginia fans are FURIOUS about Will Grier skipping the bowl game. I tend to come down mostly on the fan side of things in the “is this a problem that players are prioritizing their NFL futures over their own teams?” We can talk about how the players should get better compensation for the risks they take balanced with the revenue they bring, that’s great, but if you’re going to make a commitment to a program than honor the commitment.
That said, I don’t care about the bowl games and I don’t blame the guys that want to skip out on bowl games after their teams’ real goals are already over and done. To me that seems a good place to draw the line. Ed Oliver skipping out in the regular season? Lame. Will Grier giving way in the bowl game? Fine, especially now that we have the 4-game redshirt rule.
Anyways, this gives West Virginia a useful head start on the Jack Allison era. West Virginia has a few things going for them next year currently obscured by the “OMG they lose Grier to Sills!” note. For instance, returning some of their best defenders and the coverage guys in the secondary. It’s really just a question of getting Allison up to speed in the new system and finding him weapons and concepts, now they get a head start. Win-win-win.
With Ohio State pulling some interesting moves to lock down Ryan Day and usher out Urban Meyer at the immediate end of a season that began with scandal in one of the most suspicious transitions in college football history…Matt Campbell remains at Iowa State. If it’s true that he’d prefer to hang tight for a top Midwestern job rather than leaving for another opportunity than if I were him I’d absolutely stick around for another chance with pump fake Purdy and this defense while my agent keeps an eye on whether Brian Kelly or Jim Harbaugh ditch town or if James Franklin continues to flounder without Joe Moorhead and now without Trace McSorley.
Anyways, the big question for Iowa State is the decision-making of their two war horses on offense, David Montgomery and Hakeem Butler. Montgomery’s style adds up wear and tear so a favorable grade means he should go, but an unfavorable grade should have him back for a chance to finally run behind some good blocking. Butler…surely he gone.
Interestingly, Iowa State’s 2017 class didn’t include a ton of weapons and 2018 looked similar with a bigger emphasis on smaller speed guys than more dudes like Butler or Allen Lazard. Presumably this will be the first year that Iowa State looks like a “downhill runs and then play-action to speed” sort of team. If both those guys leave we could be looking at a different sort of team in 2019.
The story here is similar to the one in Ames. Texas needs to wait and see what WRs Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Collin Johnson decide as well as SS Brandon Jones. It’s starting to look as though Texas may go two for three and get back Jones and Humphrey but not Johnson but don’t quote me on that, I’m just gauging off the grades these guys seem to be drawing.
The big one is Humphrey. Texas without Humphrey in 2019 is looking to piece together a new formula on offense while totally rebuilding their defense all in hopes of putting together a Big 12 title effort. Texas WITH Humphrey in 2019 is your Big 12 frontrunner and hoping to piece together a national championship run.
The story around Norman for a while has been the “could Kyler Murray stick with football?” The way he eviscerated the Big 12 and Oklahoma non-conference slate tells a story of a dude that might try for a dual-sport exercise. Of course trying to play professional baseball and be an NFL QB is a fool’s errand and completely preposterous, but some of the Oklahoma people pushing that story know that having Murray around Oklahoma in 2019 is a gamechanger. It’s all about building a sturdy bridge to Spencer Rattler.
Alabama looms with their pro-style defense that is considerably better than any of the units that Murray has taken apart this year and this will be the true test of Murray’s NFL potential as a signal-caller. How well does he prepare for being a target of Nick Saban and his blue chip defense? How will he hold up against Alabama’s pressure and disguises? If it goes poorly, he’ll probably just go the baseball route. If he tears them apart en route to a national championship maybe he’ll really start thinking carefully about the dual-sport path or even sticking with football if he prefers it over baseball. Smart money is on the guaranteed money though.
There’s also the OL, which I’m guessing will lose the guards (duh, they’re seniors) and then Cody Ford but maybe not Bobby Evans. Ford is getting a ton of draft buzz and probably goes early even if teams just want him to move inside to guard, Evans is a really good college player but I don’t know if he’ll get a high enough grade to draw him out.
But for all that, the big question is how the staff reorganizes this offseason. Obviously the big rumor is that they’re going to clean house on defense and bring in Bama’s Pete Golding after a one-year internship with Saban and now filled with fresh insights on how to defend the Riley offense. There’s also the fact that the NFL will have a ton of vacancies to entice Riley into leaving the college game. All the talk about Murray is probably much less likely than whether or not OU’s staff is completely overhauled.
An offseason in which Oklahoma follows up their playoff run with losing both Kyler Murray and Lincoln Riley while that former oil baron, loudmouthed president is charged with replacing could make for some real theater.