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July 23, 2008

Big 12 Notes: Stoops sees no humor in prank

MORE BIG 12 MEDIA DAYS: Healthy Orakpo should help Texas | Day Three Photo Gallery

KANSAS CITY Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is a direct, no-nonsense guy.

He has a direct opinion on the "prank" by a Nebraska fan, who posted on the Internet a bogus article in a template from the Daily Oklahoman newspaper that said quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Landry Jones had been arrested on drug charges.

"I read the guy's comments that he didn't mean to hurt anybody. Well, what did you think would happen?" Stoops said Wednesday at Big 12 Conference Media Days. "That's two young guys that are as good of young men as you'll ever find. (They) virtually are straight 'A' students and do everything you ask of them, and someone just puts that out there.

"I don't know what to say about it. It just surprises me that it gets that much attention or that somebody would actually then go ahead and report it was true without researching it."

The story was reported by radio stations in Dallas and Austin.

Jones' father has indicated he plans to sue the fan, James W. Conradt. The Daily Oklahoman also has announced its intentions to sue.

"I'm really glad The Oklahoman (is suing)," Stoops said. "You have to be accountable."

Retirement plans?

Texas coach Mack Brown is entering his 25th year as a head coach. He's financially set for life, has won a national title and turns 57 next month.

That raises the question of whether he's making retirement plans.

The answer is no.

"I think I would stay in coaching as long as I'm healthy and as long as we're doing the job that's best for the University of Texas," Brown said. "If we're not doing our job and Texas could be doing better, then we would not be one of those that would want to stand in the way."

Texas has posted at least 10 victories in each of the past seven seasons.

Can you believe it?

Baylor hasn't had a winning record since 1995. The Bears' past three coaches Dave Roberts, Kevin Steele and Guy Morriss were a combined 31-94 in 11 seasons. So why would Art Briles take the job after making four bowl appearances in five seasons at Houston?

Even his family wanted to know.

"My oldest daughter told me not to take (the job)," he said. "She wouldn't want me saying that, but she's just saying, "Why would you want to do that, daddy?'

"I said, "Why not?' "

Speaking in a dialect that seemed straight out of a Western movie, Briles was funny, charming and energetic, which is probably what that program desperately needs. He said it also needs players who believe they can succeed.

"The biggest challenge, without a doubt, is I feel like when people haven't had a lot of success, a lot of times they're scared of success," he said. "And so we can't be a university that's scared to be successful. You always view it as somebody else being able to do something you can't do. That's not the case.

"So the biggest challenge is making sure the mind-set equals the physical preparation, which is what we're in the middle of right now. We've got to make sure our minds equal where our bodies are."

Senior defensive tackle Vincent Rhodes said he and his teammates do believe.

"They either believe it or are good hiding it," he said. "I came here knowing what was going on here and I have lived it the last four years. I always believe, but it takes everybody believing it at once."

The great unknown

There's a quarterback competition at Iowa State, where sophomores Austen Arnaud and Phillip Bates are vying to succeed Bret Meyer. Cyclones coach Gene Chizik said he's unsure who will emerge as the starter, or even if he will decide on just one.

"Certainly both of the guys in the spring made strides," Chizik said. "Both of them understand the position hadn't been won yet. But to say that we would play with two different quarterbacks, I'm not throwing that out yet.

"I'll never back myself in the corner and say never. But we're looking for a starter. And then once we decide who that would be, then we'll decide if alternating two quarterbacks or whatever would be an option. We're not even up to that road yet. We're trying to find one guy."

Murray on the way back

Oklahoma tailback DeMarco Murray showed tremendous big-play ability as a redshirt freshman last season. He averaged 6.0 yards per carry en route to rushing for 764 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns.

But Murray dislocated a knee on an onside kick attempt against Texas Tech and missed the remainder of the season. Stoops said Murray has come back strong and should be just as explosive this season.

"We have to get him the ball," Stoops said. "We're expecting great things from him."

When it comes to pass

There is an unusual problem at Baylor: The Bears have a glut of quarterbacks.

Returning starter Blake Szymanski, Miami transfer Kirby Freeman, junior college transfer Jeremy Sanders and touted freshman Robert Griffin are vying for the starting job. Briles said he doesn't know when he will decide on the starter.

"We've got some guys that can play," Briles said. "To me, that's a benefit. What we have to do is find the person or the people that mesh the best with our other players. To me, the quarterback is like maybe the point guard in basketball make everyone around you look better. We've got to find the guy that makes you look better.

"As far as distance into camp when we decide, I'm not going to put a timetable on it because if I do that, then I have to live by it, stick to it. So we'll play it out and see what happens."

More motivation

Many observers feel Texas will finish behind Oklahoma and Texas Tech in the Big 12 South. In fact, many feel the Longhorns' streak of seven consecutive 10-win seasons will come to an end.

"It sounds like some people don't think we're going to win the conference," Brown said. "Some people don't think we're going to be a top-10 team."

That's because Texas has significant offensive losses and faces a difficult schedule that includes Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and a trip to Texas Tech all potential top-10 teams.

"As you look at the schedule, it looks like a very, very difficult task for us," Brown said. "I think there's a little buzz within our team and our coaches about the fact that some don't think we're ready for that."

Senior defensive end Brian Orakpo is among those buzzing.

"People are telling us we're going to lose," he said. "That makes us drive harder."

Speaking of expectations

Oklahoma has had enormous success under Stoops, with 97 victories in nine seasons. Yet, the Sooners have lost four of their past five bowl games, with each loss coming in a BCS game, which has sparked some discontent.

Stoops said after last season's Fiesta Bowl loss to West Virginia that he might consider taking a different approach to bowl games. But he indicated that perhaps there isn't a quick fix.

"It's a situation that there isn't one answer to it," Stoops said. "I think we played pretty well at the end of the year when we played the No. 1 team in the country (Missouri) for the Big 12 championship and played pretty well, winning in a strong way.

"Everyone is complimenting you for three or four weeks leading up to the game, and there are factors you can't control."

Those factors included West Virginia being a talented team that was looking for redemption after blowing a chance at the national championship because of a loss to Pittsburgh. And Oklahoma was without five starters Murray, wide receiver Malcolm Kelly, defensive tackle DeMarcus Granger and defensive backs Lendy Holmes and Reggie Smith for most or all of the game.

"In the end, I think it's obvious you're playing another championship team, and if you're not at your best, you're not going to fare too well," Stoops said.

But that's the only time OU hasn't been faring well of late.

"We've been in six Big 12 championships (games) and we've won five of them," Stoops said. "We are doing something right."

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.

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