In the last decade, Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy has changed football in Stillwater and has developed the Cowboys into a perennial powerhouse in the Big 12.
The Cowboys’ season will be defined right out of the gates when they take on last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston, and the defending national champion Florida State Seminoles on Aug. 30 at AT&T Stadium.
“Our players are excited to get started. We’ve had a good summer and there are a lot of young players that have developed leadership,” Gundy said. “It’s a big challenge for the team, but as coaches and players, we need to come up with plans then execute those plans. They have a very good quarterback and a great team, but we’ll be ready to play.”
The game may have been a big storyline during the summer, but the Cowboys made bigger news when they had to forfeit practice time because of a low Academic Progress Rate. Gundy believes his players will remain in good shape.
“We’ll do a few new things prior to school, but I’m challenging the players with responsibilities toward managing enough time that they don’t use during the week,” Gundy said.
Aside from the distraction, Gundy likes the idea of quarterback J.W. Walsh starting the season, but does have other players that all bring something different to the table.
“Walsh took the majority of first-team reps in the spring and has looked good this summer,” Gundy said. “We have some young players after him and they all bring their own style of play. It keeps us flexible at the position week after week.”
For the second time since 1998, TCU didn’t go to a bowl game. Things will be different this year, coach Gary Patterson said.
“Really excited about getting that taste out of our mouth,” Patterson said.
Part of getting past the 2013 season is a change of offense.
“Our whole thing is how do you come back and how do you win ball games and find a way to win the close ball games and that means you’ve got to be more mature and you have to be smarter,” Patterson said.
This season, TCU will have five home conference games and will play 10 of its 12 games in Texas. The team’s record at home is something Patterson wants to improve. He wants to be in contention for the conference title every year.
“When we walk on our own field whether it’s a scrimmage or anything else, you have to play at a high level,” Patterson said.
For Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, his first year on the job was something he can learn from and build off of. After starting 7-0, the Raiders lost the next five to close out the regular season.
“I think consistency as a program and particularly for myself, each and every day making sure you're bringing the same energy, the same positive message, and you gotta provide the stability especially when things aren't going well,” Kingsbury said.
The Holiday Bowl win over Arizona State was big for the team, Kingsbury said.
“It proved to our team and our players that if you keep working hard and you keep focusing on your job and your responsibility, good things will happen,” Kingsbury said.
Charlie Weis has struggled to produce wins during his time at Kansas, but is installing a spread offense and a mobile quarterback that hopefully changes the tide for the Jayhawks.
He has a lot of expectations from numerous players who should help his team this year starting with quarterback Montell Cozart and tight end Jimmay Mundine.
“I’m glad I played Montell last season. There were some high and low points, but with his athleticism, he gives us a better chance to score more points,” Weis said. “For Jimmay, he’s going to spread our offense and become more involved in it.”
Weis also knows that the team will need to get better during first and second down, but won’t be a big part of the offense during game days.
“Anytime you have a mobile quarterback, it puts more stress on the defense,” Weis said. “My involvement with the offense will take place during the week, I’ll be more of an adviser and a good person for resource during games.”
Kansas starts its season on Sept. 6 against SE Missouri State with the first female official for the conference on the field. Weis believes in the old-fashioned way and will watch his language.
“It’s great that a woman is put in position of equal footing with the men, but it won’t bother me,” Weis said.
Baylor coach Art Briles came out in the leadoff spot Monday at Big 12 media days. But the team isn’t looking to get a bunt or a single but a home run, he said.
The Bears came off of their first Big 12 championship in 2013 but Briles isn’t looking at defending anything, saying “2013’s gone.”
“That title’s ours forever.”
The team is still fighting for a national image even with its recent success. The team has come a long way, but it’s still a hunter, he said.
“We see ourselves as the guys fighting hard, scratching hard, trying to get some recognition, some respect,” Briles said.
Briles said he was disappointed that quarterback Bryce Petty was left off the Heisman Trophy invitation to New York. He expects him to be in New York this year if he duplicates his sucess from a year ago.
• Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby announced that Catherine Conti will be the conference’s first female official when she works the Southeast Missouri at Kansas game on Sept. 6.