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Quarterbacks dominate offensive powered Big 12 Conference

Saturday, August 16, 2008 | 11:39 p.m. CDT
Missouri's Chase Daniel was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy after the Tigers' 2007 season.

AUSTIN, Texas — They are like gunfighters out of the old West.
The quarterbacks of the Big 12 Conference walk with the swagger of John Wayne and notch touchdowns and passing records in their belts by the dozens.
And in this league, the confidence, even cockiness, is surpassed only by the gaudy statistics to back it up.
From Missouri’s Chase Daniel to Graham Harrell at Texas Tech, where the team slogan is “Guns Up!” no less, the conference has the best crop of talent in the country under center. Ten teams last year passed for more than 3,000 yards, setting up a league-wide shootout in 2008 with footballs flying all over the place.
“It’s like going to a Mercedes-Benz dealer and deciding which color you want,” said Kansas coach Mark Mangino. “They all run the same.”
Here’s a look at what this group has done to deserve such a fearsome reputation.
*  Daniel: This feisty leader was a finalist for last season’s Heisman Trophy and was the heart and soul of a 12-2 team that spent a week ranked No. 1 and won the North division. He passed for 4,306 yards and 38 touchdowns.
* Harrell: All Tech quarterbacks put up big numbers, but who can argue with 5,705 yards and 48 touchdowns? His favorite target is Michael Crabtree, the best receiver in the country.
* Sam Bradford, Oklahoma: Led the Sooners to yet another Big 12 title and threw an NCAA freshman record 36 TD passes. He also led the county in pass efficiency with a rating of 176.5.
* Todd Reesing, Kansas: The 5-foot-11 mighty mite wasn’t even recruited by his hometown Texas Longhorns. So he goes to Kansas and leads the Jayhawks to an Orange Bowl win in their best season ever, with 3,486 yards and 33 TDs.
n Colt McCoy, Texas: He’s got the gunfighter name, even if his game was off a bit last year. Until Bradford came along, McCoy shared the freshman TD passes record with 29 set in 2006. He passed for 3,303 yards last season and ran for another 472, but also threw 18 interceptions.
* Oklahoma State’s Zac Robinson: Perhaps the most underrated player in the bunch. He threw for 2,824 yards and ranked 11th in the league in rushing with 847 yards and nine TDs. He averaged 6.1 yards per carry.
* Kansas State’s Josh Freeman: Even a QB on a losing team deserves a mention when he’s 6-foot-6, 250 pounds and throws for 3,353 yards. He might have the most pro potential in the lot.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. The talent in this conference is amazing,” said second-year Iowa State coach Gene Chizik, who once had a 29-game winning streak as defensive coordinator at Auburn and Texas.
So who’s the best? Well, just like those gunfighters of the old West, none lack for confidence.
“Of course I am, but that’s a hard question to answer without sounding cocky,” Daniel told reporters at Big 12 media day last month.
Daniel even spoke about himself in the third person and referred to his “legend” at Mizzou.
“If you look at the legend of Chase Daniel three or four years from now, it’s not going to be based on my yards or my touchdowns or my interceptions. It’s going to be based on wins,” Daniel said.
Daniel did say his friend McCoy is second-best.
Freeman doesn’t have Daniel’s wins, but he does have the bravado.
“I’d say I’m the best,” Freeman said. “These other guys are good quarterbacks, but I have supreme confidence in my abilities as a leader and playmaker.”
So let’s ask the coaches, who seldom look past their own backyard.
It’s hard to imagine Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops would call anyone better than Bradford. And Tech’s Mike Leach, whose pioneering offensive system churns out passing yards in blustery West Texas like Rumpelstiltskin spun gold out of straw, says Harrell is the best.
“I always go with the guy that led the nation in passing,” Leach said.
Colorado coach Dan Hawkins’ son Cody is the Buffaloes’ starting QB. All he did was pass for 3,015 yards and 22 TDs but still got bumped to the bottom of the league by his dad.
“Cody might be the 12th best quarterback in the conference,” Hawkins said, adding he thinks his kid is still among the best in the country.
All this QB talent has helped the league evolve from one dominated by defenses and strong running games to one rivaling the high-flying Pac-10, a conference with a reputation for point-a-minute offenses.
The Big 12 had six of the top 13 offenses in the country last season and eight teams that averaged 30 or more points a game.
For first-year Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, a defensive specialist, those numbers are a nightmare. Pelini returned to the Big 12 after three years as defensive coordinator at LSU, and what he’s seen so far is a shock to the system.
“I was really taken aback when I got to Nebraska and saw the numbers,” Pelini said. “For a defensive guy, it woke me up a bit.”


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