KANSAS CITY, Mo. — He has yet to play a down of football at the Division I level, but top 2008 Colorado running back recruit Darrell Scott was tabbed as the Big 12 preseason Newcomer of the Year.
On Tuesday at Big 12 Media Days, Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins said that his highly-touted freshman is staying humble about the honor and expectations. He's also multi-talented, even more so than most people think.
Hawkins said when he asked Scott about receiving the accolade, his response was pretty simple.
"His first comment was, 'I haven't even put on any pads,'" Hawkins said. "He is a very humble kid. I'm more concerned with all those other intangible things. I know physically he's going to be a good player down the road, but just like any kid, it's about providing a good environment where he's going to survive."
Seeing Scott in the backfield early in his career has yet to be determined with fall camp still around the corner. Hawkins said there is another skill the freshman possesses on special teams.
"He's a great punter," Hawkins said. "Now imagine having a guy like that, that can run like that, that's punting…Now are you going to rush the punter or play defense? We've got Matt DiLallo who's a very good punter as well - I'm just saying, I know myself. If I see their tailback playing punter, I'm thinking, I might be looking at this a little differently."
Defensive tackle George Hypolite joked about what he would do if he saw a running back with Scott's ability back there handling punting duties.
"I'd try to go hit him as hard as I could," Hypolite said. "Hopefully he'd be out of the game for everything else."
Millard North's Behrens getting noticed at CU
Former Millard (Neb.) North and current Colorado fullback Jake Behrens drew praise from Hawkins for his hard work on and off the field on Tuesday.
"He had some really good moments for us last year," Hawkins said. "You know coming out of high school, he was more of a runner than a blocker. We've tried to put him in a position to do some of those things.
"He has a really outstanding opportunity through our business school. He's doing an internship in London for the better part of the summer. I thought that was a tremendous opportunity for him. He's a very good student as well. He's one of those guys that's a great role player and will do whatever – we just keep looking for ways to accentuate what he does well."
- John Talman
TEXAS TECH: Why no Harrell or Crabtree?
The biggest question of the day for the Red Raiders was undoubtedly the absence of Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Graham Harrell and preseason All-American receiver Michael Crabtree.
Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach defended his decision to leave the team's two biggest names by saying he wanted to give other players a chance to be in the spotlight. Leach opted to bring cornerback Jamar Wall, safety Daniel Charbonnet and receiver Eric Morris instead.
"Harrell and Crabtree get a lot of attention, deserve a lot of attention and will continue to get a lot of attention and the important thing to us and our team is the fact that football is the ultimate team game," Leach said. "And our effort this year, really any team, is going to be how every member does as far as fulfilling their role and that being the case I've got three guys that I think are team leaders that are emerging. So I wanted to have the three I brought go to the forefront."
How far can Harrell go?
For the first time under Leach, a Texas Tech quarterback is getting legitimate Heisman consideration heading into a season. With Harrell likely on pace to push former Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan for several all-time passing marks, the senior is entering the year with higher expectations than his predecessors ever did.
What is Leach expecting out of Harrell this season?
"Well, he led the nation in passing (last year)," Leach said. "He led the nation in offense, because I think he's a great player and he does a lot of great things as far as utilizing the other players around him, which is the biggest compliment in my mind a quarterback can have. How good of a quarterback is he? Well, how good is the guy making the players around him better. I think Graham is really good at that.
"And I think just his ability to improve overall. I think one of his strengths is he really doesn't have any weaknesses but just overall steady improvement. He's one of those guys, well, initially you go down to the hall and you'd have to kick him out of the office because the building was going to close. Now that we trust him and know him pretty well, we just leave him there. For all I know he lives there."
- Robin Washut
MISSOURI: Hunted now the hunter
Heading into the 2008 season, Missouri finds itself as one of the conference's favorites. The Tigers were unanimously selected by the Big 12 media to win the North and one of the favorites to push the likes of Oklahoma for the conference title.
They have a Heisman Trophy finalist at quarterback in Chase Daniel and a first-team All-American receiver in Jeremy Maclin, as well as a defense that ranked in the top 25 nationally in turnovers (8th), turnover margin (11th) and rushing defense (25th).
While the Tigers obviously have the pieces in place, the question is how they'll respond to losing their role as underdogs.
"I think that's always a concern," Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said. "I think responsibly that's what I have to do. I kind of filter that down with our seniors. As I look at that I look at our seniors from a leadership standpoint, they're kind of – they kind of help me watchdog over our team.
"But right now I think we're doing the right things and hopefully the experience of last year of playing at a higher level, playing in a lot of pressure situations, hopefully we can play at a high level again."
Replacing Tony Temple
Though Missouri returns a ton in Daniel and Maclin, the Tigers suffered a big loss with the graduation of running back Tony Temple. A 1,000-yard rusher the past two seasons, Temple was able to keep defenses honest by providing a strong rushing attack and opened up space for Daniel and MU's receivers to make big plays.
The potential replacements are sophomore Derrick Washington and fifth-year senior Jimmy Jackson. Jackson was third on the team in rushing last year (331 yards, seven touchdowns), while Washington played in the final 12 games as a true freshman.
However, both will likely share carries with Maclin, who was second on the team in rushing last year with 375 yards and four touchdowns.
"Jeremy Maclin is so good with a football in his hands, we hand the football to him like a running back, seven, eight, nine times a game," Pinkel said. "We'll have a challenge.
We'll play running backs as most people following us know, and that's going to be important."
- Robin Washut
TEXAS A&M: Introducing the Sherman Era
With the introduction of former NFL head coach Mike Sherman to College Station, the Aggies will take on a whole new look both in schemes and personnel.
One of the first moves Sherman made upon his arrival was moving senior Jorvorskie Lane from running back to fullback. He said Lane wasn't exactly thrilled about the move, but has adjusted to his new role fairly well.
The other big change could come at quarterback, as Sherman has opened up competition for the starting job despite the return of senior two-year starter Stephen McGee. McGee thrived in former A&M coach Dennis Franchione's option-style offense, but could suffer with the change to Sherman's more West Coast-style scheme.
Sophomore Jerrod Johnson is the leading contender to take over McGee's starting job, and freshmen Tommy Dorman and Ryan Tannehill could also make a push.
"I spend more time looking at our spring tapes and evaluating players and even game tapes," Sherman said. "I've watched the game tapes. And I just want to see how our quarterbacks work in what we're asking them to do. I don't think you have a controversy when you feel like you have good talent at that position. And if we didn't have talent at that position, yeah, there would be a controversy. And if you don't have a quarterback in this offense, well, you're going to struggle.
"I have confidence that we're going to have a very good quarterback when we start the season. I think he'll play at a higher level because of the competition. I think it would be unfair to me to just walk in and hand Stephen the job."
- Robin Washut
KANSAS STATE: Freeman coming into his own
Heading into his third season as a starter, junior quarterback Josh Freeman has gone through more than his share of ups and downs at Kansas State.
It's been a steady learning process for Freeman, but KSU head coach Ron Prince said he's been pleased with his quarterback's progress over the years. Last season, Freeman improved vastly in every major passing statistic from his freshman year, especially in completion percentage (51.9 to 63.3), passing yards (1,780 to 3,353), touchdowns (six to 18) and interceptions (15 to 11).
"This is one of the very few quarterbacks in the country that's never red shirted. This is one of the few quarterbacks in the country that came in from high school right into our program, was expected to play and win," Prince said. "I think now it's a matter of all the small things: progression, reads, footwork, all that kind of stuff. The future is in front of him. The sky's the limit. I would not trade our quarterback for any quarterback in the country."
Calling all running backs…"
The Wildcats have been hit with terrible luck this off-season as far as getting their running backs' eligibility is concerned. KSU lost presumed starter Leon Patton and Daniel Davis to suspensions earlier this year, and is now left looking to five freshmen to fill their voids.
Prince said he was hopeful that true freshmen Kwamaine Brown, Logan Dold and Jarell Childs could step in an make immediate impacts, as well as redshirt freshmen Justin Woods and Dee Bell.
"I think we've made significant moves to answer the running back position clearly," Prince said. "Clearly Leon Patton was our starter in the year. That situation will go unresolved for a period of time. Losing (former starter) James Johnson, obviously you can have a very doubtful approach to that. We didn't have that approach at all. The truth is that we feel like we've done enough in the last couple of years in this class to try to answer them."
- Robin Washut
OKLAHOMA STATE: Gundy's still a man, and he's still 40
Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy didn't waste any time in getting the 3 minute, 20 second rant that made him a YouTube sensation last year out of the way during Tuesday's Big 12 press conference.
For those not included in the million or so people who watched the clip, Gundy called out a Oklahoma newspaper for running a story essentially belittling former quarterback Bobby Reid. Some saw it as a coach defending his player, while others found hilarity in Gundy's way of doing so.
Either way, it was certainly topic No. 1 in Kansas City.
"I've been a popular guy over the last year," Gundy said seconds into his opening statement. "I don't know how many opening comments I need to make. I do know that."
Now back to football…
After further expanding on last season's tirade, Gundy went on to praise the play of junior quarterback Zac Robinson.
Robinson took replaced Reid as the starter midway through last season and hit the ground running, completing 60 percent of his passes for more than 2,800 yards and 23 touchdowns. He also rushed for 847 yards and tied for the team lead with nine rushing touchdowns.
"There were only three players (nationally) from what I understand that rushed for over 800 yards and threw for over 2,800, and the other one won the Heisman Trophy," Gundy said. "I think that sums up the season he had statistically. Zac is a good person. He's a good leader. He's been a tremendous player for us on and off the field. He's not concerned with individual statistics. He's more concerned with us winning football games."
- Robin Washut
KANSAS: Mangino's YouTube outburst
Outbursts by Big 12 coaches seemed to be a popular subject at Tuesday's Big 12 Media Days. Between Kansas head coach Mark Mangino, Hawkins and Gundy, they all have had an outburst captured on YouTube in the last year.
Mangino's YouTube blow-up happened last year after a 77 yard punt return for a touchdown by Raimond Pendleton. On his way to the end zone, Pendleton dove over the goal line and was given a 15 yard personal foul penalty for his excessive celebration. After the play was over, let's just say Mangino gave Pendleton more than an earful.
When KU starting quarterback Todd Reesing was asked if he saw the YouTube clip, he laughed and said "I saw it live."
"I have to say it might have been a little bit funny, but I think the general point he was trying to get across was it was a great run and a great punt return, but there were 10 guys that blocked for him to make it happen," Reesing said. "For him to take the spotlight like that defeats the purpose of 11 guys playing as one. You have to have 10 guys to block for one guy to score like that."
And yes, in case you are wondering, Reesing has taken his fair share of butt chewing's from Mangino over the last couple of years.
"Everyone takes their rap at some point," Reesing said. "I don't think I've gotten it that bad, but behind closed doors when I first got here, I definitely took my share."
- Sean Callahan