Let’s see, where do I begin. Texas coach Mack Brown wants to pay the players who contribute to his $5.63 million a year salary and new Kansas coach Charlie Weis calls his players a “pile of crap.”
It doesn’t get any better than this. Texas Tech’s native son, Kliff Kingsbury is back in Lubbock to try and return the Red Raiders to past glory fresh off of coaching Heisman winner Johnny Manziel at A&M. Brownwood’s own Casey Pachall is back to lead the TCU Horned Frogs in his senior season and Baylor is looking for a return to prominence. Mack Brown is desperately attempting to return the Longhorn program to relevance.
Texas Longhorns coach Mack Brown fielded questions about his starting quarterback.
After Colt McCoy led Texas to the BCS national championship game in 2009, Garrett Gilbert struggled the following season when the Longhorns had their only losing season under Brown. So in 2011, the question was whether Gilbert would be able to keep his job over then-freshmen David Ash or Case McCoy, the two the coach was choosing between a year ago.
In a game he wasn’t even sure he would start, Ash capped his sophomore season last December by helping lead the Longhorns to a 31-27 comeback victory over Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl. Ash threw for 188 yards and two touchdowns after halftime, including a 36-yard TD pass with less than 2 1/2 minutes left after Texas converted fourth-and-1.
“I thought his comeback in the Alamo Bowl really, really helped him with our team, with his confidence,” Brown said. “And I think it helps him nationally, and I think he’ll have a big year.”
With co-offensive coordinator and former quarterback Major Applewhite now coaching quarterbacks, and Ash described by Brown as “in command” after throwing for 2,699 yards with 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions last season, the Longhorns are planning to go with a faster tempo on offense.
Brown believes that change will be more beneficial to the defense, which will now see each week in practice what it will face in most Big 12 games.
After going to three consecutive bowl games for the first time in school history, Baylor will be breaking in a new starter after the graduation of Nick Florence, who led the Big 12 in total offense last season after Robert Griffin III won the Heisman for the Bears the previous year. Playing behind those two, junior Bryce Petty has played only 11 games and completed 10 of 14 passes.
Kingsbury was fawned over during media days by the coaches who had past experience with the youngest coach in the Big 12.
Baylor’s Art Briles, West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen and Kansas’ Charlie Weis all have working experience with Texas Tech’s brand new coach. They’re all optimistic he’s the answer Red Raider fans are looking for.
Briles and Holgorsen coached Kingsbury, a former quarterback, from 2000 through his graduation in 2002. Weis then lobbied for the New England Patriots to draft Kingsbury in the sixth round of the 2003 NFL Draft as the Pats’ offensive coordinator
“Kliff was a pleasure to be around,” Weis said. “He obviously had some guys ahead of him that are Hall of Fame-type people that he was behind, but I can tell you that he was a pleasure to be around. He was a sponge and him having early success in his coaching career has come as no great surprise to me.”
Briles left his position as running backs coach to become the head coach at Houston after the 2002 season. Holgorsen stayed on as the Red Raiders’ receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator through the 2007 season.
When Briles left to become the head coach at Baylor in 2008, new Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin hired Holgorsen to be his offensive coordinator.
Kingsbury’s professional career ended in 2007 and Holgorsen helped his former quarterback land an offensive quality control position with the Cougars where Kingsbury rose to become an assistant coach.
“He was always good from day one at Houston, but he soaked everything up and never tried to talk about something he didn’t know,” Holgorsen said. “What he knew, he applied. He learned. And once he learned he applied it as well.”
Holgorsen left Houston after the 2009 season to become the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State — where he was subsequently hired as head coach in waiting before the Bill Stewart controversy at West Virginia.
Kingsbury was promoted to co-offensive coordinator with fellow assistant Jason Phillips before Kingsbury gained all of Sumlin’s trust and got to call all the plays.
Sumlin took Kingsbury to Texas A&M as his standalone offensive coordinator and they replicated success with Johnny Manziel.
How did Kingsbury climb the coaching ladder so fast?
“It doesn’t surprise me that he’s having success,” Holgorsen said. “Everybody says he’s a young kid with no experience, but he’s been around football for 33 years. He grew up as a coach’s kid and then had a successful college career. Then he was in the NFL and around professional football for five years before coaching.”
Briles remembers the new Red Raider coach fondly and hopes Texas Tech can help the Bears get separation from other opponents in the Big 12 standings.
“I’m going to like him a whole lot for 11 games like I do right now,” Briles said, laughing. “I’m really happy and proud for Kliff because Kliff is a guy who is really passionate about football. He loves the game and appreciates the game. So he’s a good person to be in our game. It’s a wonderful spot for him.”