Big 12 Media Days 2014: Noteworthy Quotes and Reactions from Day 1
Big 12 media days didn't get off to an optimistic start.
"The answers are sketchy," commissioner Bob Bowlsby said about the questions surrounding major college football.
Bowlsby's state of the union address was one of many headlines made during the first Big 12 media day. Bowlsby lamented the direction of major college athletics, as well as the cheating that pops up all over the country. The conference also touted its "One True Champion" motto highlighting its round-robin schedule, a departure from other power conferences.
Baylor head coach Art Briles said the Bears are the reigning conference champs but still have to act like they're on the attack. From quarterback battles to incoming players, Big 12 media days provided many questions and some, but not many, answers.
That's what the season is for.
In the meantime, here were five things that stood out from the first Big 12 media day.
Baylor Head Coach Art Briles
It wouldn't be a media event if Baylor head coach Art Briles didn't deliver a folksy one-liner.
When asked what it felt like to be the conference heavyweights, Briles replied, "I try to eat as healthy as possible."
Jokes aside, Briles knows that the Bears are no longer hunting—they're the hunted. He also knows his program can't afford to act like a traditional blue blood. For Briles, it's about maintaining an edge.
"I appreciate that perception. And that's something that we're working on, because we certainly don't perceive ourselves that way," Briles said. "We still see ourselves—me, personally, our team—we see ourselves as the guy fighting hard, scratching hard to try to get some recognition and some respect."
That respect is beginning to roll in. Baylor was picked to finish second in the conference this year and received nine first-place votes. Had Oklahoma not upset Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, it wouldn't be far-fetched to think the Bears would be preseason favorites to win the Big 12.
Perception is everything. Coming off an 11-2 season and a conference title, big things are expected of Baylor again. But this time, the national attention is more closely mirroring internal expectations.
That's the main difference between 2013 and '14 for the defending Big 12 champs. The formula for winning, however, remains the same.
Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby
The one common theme about media days is that everyone is undefeated. That tends to set a jovial mood. However, the opening message from Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby would have you believe that everyone in college athletics has already lost.
Bowlsby was blunt and noticeably somber about the state of major college athletics, the NCAA and the future of both.
"I expect to be in court for most of the rest of my career," Bowlsby said, alluding to the numerous lawsuits facing the NCAA.
Although Bowlsby said "there's much more right than there is wrong" with the collegiate model, he also added that autonomy among power conferences had a long way to go. Multiyear scholarships are being examined, but the Big 12 isn't prepared to make those standard. There's also the issue of providing athletes with the full cost of attendance, a problem that Bowlsby said will complicate budgets.
Of course, Bowlsby also noted that items such as coaching salaries aren't going down, either.
Reconfiguring budgets is undoubtedly complex, but it's a result of allowing the so-called collegiate model to remain while major college football morphed into a multi-billion dollar enterprise. Now, the consequences could be real. Title IX is a concern, as is cutting certain non-revenue sports.
Furthermore, Bowlsby admitted that the NCAA's enforcement is bad enough that cheating "pays" for programs.
It was a pessimistic start to what is usually an optimistic couple of days.
"If you like the way college athletics works now, you're going to be disappointed when the changes come soon," Bowlsby said.
TCU Head Coach Gary Patterson
There aren't many quarterback questions in the Big 12 this season, a stark contrast from a year ago. However, one of the teams yet to figure out who will take the field first is TCU.
There's the incumbent, Trevone Boykin, who seems better suited at wide receiver. There's also Texas A&M transfer Matt Joeckel, plus a pair of incoming freshmen and redshirt freshman Zach Allen. All are in the mix to grab the Horned Frogs' starting quarterback job.
"The key is to find the guy that has the swagger, that allows us to move the football, score the points and the guy that's not going to turn the ball over," head coach Gary Patterson said. "[It] felt like last year, if we just would have done that, we would have had an opportunity to win a couple more ball games.
"So really that's what we're trying. But we don't really have a timetable or anything else. It's just finding that guy that makes the offense go, and when you put all the pieces of the puzzle together, what makes us the best football team we can possibly be."
TCU is introducing a new hurry-up, no-huddle offense that more closely resembles A&M and Texas Tech. It's no surprise, then, that the team's new co-offensive coordinators, Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham, have Air Raid backgrounds.
Frogs center Joey Hunt added that Joeckel has already shown a confidence that one might not expect from a longtime backup. Of course, Joeckel already has experience in an Air Raid offense, so his learning curve is a little less steep.
Ultimately, it would be surprising if Joeckel didn't see the field this year, whether earlier or later.
Baylor Defensive End Shawn Oakman
Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight has more hype than any other offensive player in the Big 12. Similarly, Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman has more hype than any other defensive player in the Big 12.
It's easy to see why—really, Oakman is easy to see. Standing at 6'9" and weighing in at 275 pounds, Oakman easily stood out as the largest player in attendance on Day 1. And he has a big personality to go along with his big frame.
When asked why, at his size, he doesn't play basketball, Oakman replied, "I like to hit."
Oakman added he isn't out to scare anyone, but the possibilities with the junior are terrifying for opposing coaches. As a sophomore, Oakman had 33 tackles, 12.5 of which went for a loss. He'll be a part of what should be a strong defensive line for the Bears, which is perhaps its best unit on defense.
"We're going to be the best defense in the country because we play against the best offense in the country," Oakman said.
Oakman, a former Penn State player who was dismissed from the team following his freshman year for attempting to steal a sandwich, is thankful for his second chance and more than happy to share his story.
He's also not afraid to speak his mind, which is helpful for events like media days.
"That game from OU last year, that should have showed you that that product was nowhere near as good as the product that Baylor was putting on the field," Oakman told Guerin Emig of the Tulsa World. "The execution, the players from each and every position... You could tell we were on a different level from OU. Just straight out."
Others outside of Waco, Texas, are finding out what a great quote Oakman is. Without a doubt, he'll be among the most followed players in the conference.
Oklahoma State Head Coach Mike Gundy on Tyreek Hill
Mike Gundy has always done an outstanding job of saying a lot without really saying anything. But he did provide a clear answer regarding JUCO transfer Tyreek Hill.
Hill, the Big 12 Preseason Newcomer of the Year, has been making noise as a track and field star for the Cowboys. Soon, however, he'll suit up for the Pokes as a running back, wide receiver and return specialist.
"We want to get him the ball about 15-20 times a game," Gundy said.
While Gundy wouldn't disclose exactly how he'll use Hill, he did admit the blueprint was there. The closest comparisons? Think Tavon Austin, formerly of West Virginia. That's a scary thought for opposing defenses.
"When you have someone who you can create multiple packages for, it's hard to defend," added Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury.
Gundy is as creative as any offensive mind in the game. He'll find a number of ways to get Hill the ball. It should be fun to watch.
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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