The long, grueling offseason is in full swing. I'll do my best to make it go by quicker through the healing power of Q&A. We'll be doing this every Friday, so if you have a question about Big 12 football, tweet me @BenKercheval or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let's get to it.
As some of you may have read, West Virginia defensive coordinator Keith Patterson left the program on Thursday (per Allan Taylor of West Virginia Metro News) to take a similar position with Arizona State. Patterson's departure marks the ninth assistant to leave or be let go from head coach Dana Holgorsen's staff in two years.
Timing is rarely opportune with this sort of thing, but Patterson's departure is especially tough as Holgorsen will be on his fourth DC in as many seasons.
You mention safeties coach Tony Gibson as a possible replacement. He would love the opportunity to lead the Mountaineers defense. He's a West Virginia guy who played under head coach Rich Rodriguez at Glenville State and later coached under Rodriguez at WVU from 2001-07. In fact, Gibson returned to Morgantown this past offseason after a one-year stint under Rodriguez at Arizona.
He's definitely well-liked within the program.
That said, the assessment that Gibson would be a risky hire is accurate. The last time Gibson called a defense was at West Virginia Tech in 2000.
Of course, when you're 99th and 117th in scoring defense like West Virginia has been the past two seasons, things can't get much worse. The problem is Holgorsen can ill-afford to use the upcoming season as a trial to test Gibson's chops as a play-caller.
Hiring from outside the program seems more logical, but there could be a shortage of viable candidates. It's too early to tell if 2014 is a make-or-break year for Holgorsen, but if a DC has a good job elsewhere, leaving for potentially a one-year gig doesn't make a lot of sense.
It's a tough situation for sure.
2013 was the year of the running back in the Big 12—mostly because it was most certainly not the year of the quarterback. With guys like Brennan Clay (Oklahoma), Lache Seastrunk (Baylor), Charles Sims (WVU) and James Sims (Kansas), there were some awfully good ones too, all of whom are now headed to the NFL draft.
Running back should be a strength in the Big 12 once again next season. Texas and West Virginia should be especially deep at the position. Other teams will likely be breaking in new stars. Sooners fans, for example, have to be stoked about the arrival of 5-star all-purpose back Joe Mixon, who should see playing time as a freshman.
One running back who made a huge impact as a freshman was Baylor's Shock Linwood, who finished second on the team with 881 rushing yards. With Seastrunk and Glasco Martin moving on, Linwood is going to be the bell-cow back for the Bears offense.
I see him as the most likely candidate to lead the conference in rushing next season.
Listed at 5'8" and 200 pounds, Linwood isn't as big as Seastrunk or Martin, but he's shown a willingness to get the tough yards in addition to wowing with his speed. When Seastrunk and Martin were injured last November, Linwood had 52 carries in two games. Clearly, head coach Art Briles had confidence in him.
Baylor likes to spread it out, so the common assumption is that the Bears are a passing team. That wasn't the case last year when they averaged 260 yards a game on the ground. I see Briles continuing to run the ball often.
Linwood's numbers will benefit because of it.
Interesting battle here. Royal provides some much-needed help. That much is clear.
Still, I like Strong. As you can see in the photo below, Strong's body fat percentage is somewhere between zero and LOLNOPE. His biceps are as big as my head.