COLUMBIA — Reunion Week might be a good title for a couple of football games in the Big 12 Conference this week.
In one game, former Oklahoma assistants Mark Mangino and Mike Leach are set to face each other. Mangino as the coach of Kansas and Leach as the coach of Texas Tech. Another game brings Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops back to Kansas State, where he helped former coach Bill Snyder turn the Wildcats into a contender before reviving Oklahoma.
But none of the coaches claim to have an advantage because of their past. Mangino said in Monday's Big 12 teleconference he wishes he did have an advantage, but he doesn't think the Jayhawks do.
"We're talking almost 10 years ago now, and he (Leach) has evolved," Mangino said. "I don't see any advantages to having worked with him at all. I think there's some basic similarities, but Mike's really developed that offense. He does a good job of changing things up."
Leach said that he occasionally sees some of his offense in what the Jayhawks run, but in his opinion, whether he does has more to do with who is on Mangino's staff, than what Mangino learned from Leach.
"It depends who his coordinator is," Leach said. "He's had a couple coordinators, so it depends who he's got running it."
For Stoops, who has been back to Kansas State twice before, there's nothing to gain from his past because Kansas State's staff is now completely different. Snyder retired in 2005, and Ron Prince now coaches the Wildcats.
With this being just his third year in the conference, Prince said he's still trying to learn the Big 12 South teams. As of now, Oklahoma is the only team Prince has not faced since taking over in Manhattan, Kan.
"When we arrived here, we played Oklahoma State, Texas and Baylor for two years," he said. "I've had the opportunity to coach against Texas Tech and A&M, and we're going to face one of the best teams in the country this weekend."
Prince added that he thinks familiarity gives experienced coaches an advantage, and it's something he would like to reach.
"Until you play against them yourself, you can't have an honest and full evaluation," Prince said.
WE-FENSE?: On most football teams, the three units are offense, defense and special teams. But at Kansas State, the special teams is Prince's "we-fense".
"In 2006, Rahim Morris was our defensive coordinator," Prince said. "One of the things he had brought was this idea that when you play in the kicking game, you have offense, you have defense, but this is the one time when everybody on the team gets to play together."
Prince said that part of the reason "we-fense" stuck was because the Wildcats emphasize special teams, using Virginia Tech's famed Beamer Ball as a model.
GROWTH COMES OVER TIME: Offense had never been a problem for Oklahoma State under coach Mike Gundy. But the Cowboys' improved defense has been the biggest reason for their No. 6 ranking, the highest they've under Gundy.
"It's been gradual," Gundy said. "I think the Missouri game was a big lift for them mentally because they went on the road and played an offense that's had a lot of success. But I believe it actually started in the bowl game last year (against Indiana) and since then, they've got better."
TIME, TIME, TIME: Iowa State coach Gene Chizik says a program needs four or five years before it is built the way a new coach envisions it when he comes in.
"I think there's circumstances that you can't ignore," he said. "A lot depends on where you're at, it's more difficult for us to get players at Iowa State than you would at Oklahoma or Texas."
Chizik isn't sure the improvements will necessarily show while he is building the program because of the Big 12's newfound depth.
"This league has gotten so good that even the improvements we feel we've made to this point somewhat get negated," he said. "Every time you turn around, there's more powerhouses besides Oklahoma and Texas. I think it's changed a lot."
KICKING TRYOUTS: Leach's Red Raiders have struggled with their placekicking this season, and though he said that's what his team's working on, the Texas Tech coach doesn't care where a solution comes from.
"We might get another (kicker) out of the stands or something," Leach joked.