• Baylor RB Lache Seastrunk sets lofty goals, doesn't back away from Heisman comments

    DALLAS -- Lache Seastrunk ran into one of his boyhood heroes at Big 12 Media Days on Tuesday when Eddie George introduced himself to the Baylor running back.

    “I’m not going to lie. I was [star]struck,” Seastrunk admitted. “I was stoked to meet Eddie George. I played with Eddie George on Madden 02 because his face was on there.”

    Like George did in 1995, Seastrunk is aiming to win be the second Baylor player to win a Heisman Trophy in the last three seasons. Seastrunk exploded in the second half of last year for the Bears, running for 1,012 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging 7.7 yards per carry in 2012.

    He has since guaranteed that he will win the Heisman in 2013 during an interview with Sporting News last December and confirmed that goal this week in Dallas.

    “Why not?” Seastrunk said. “I feel like I’m the best player in the country, the fastest player in the country because I apply myself. I work hard. I just want to be great. Why not? Why be good when you can be great?”

    George asked Seastrunk in the Omni Hotel hallway if he was shooting to run for 2,000 yards this season. Seastrunk expressed his confidence in his ability to reach that mark as well.

    “I want to get close to Barry Sanders’ record,” Seastrunk said, referring to the former Oklahoma State running back’s single-season record of 2,628 rushing yards in 1988. “For my size, I’m probably supposed to be able to squat 500 pounds. I squat 720 pounds. Not a lot of running backs can do that and still be blazing fast and do everything they’re supposed to do. When I set goals, I achieve my goals.”

    Along with Kansas State’s John Hubert, Seastrunk was named to the preseason All-Big 12 team. But he has his sights set on winning a Heisman Trophy, a feat once thought impossibly by a Baylor player. That was before Robert Griffin III amassed nearly 5,000 total yards while completing more than 70 percent of his passes and boasting a 37-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio en route to capturing the coveted stiff-armed trophy.

    “You have to do phenomenal things in phenomenal moments and that’s what [Griffin] did,” Baylor head coach Art Briles said. “Lache has some qualities that give him an opportunity. He’s a dynamic football player that’s very engaging, and those are good qualitites to have. They help you with the voters. I’d much rather have players wanting to win the Heisman than clap for the one that does.”

  • Texas being picked fourth in Big 12 preseason poll indicative of conference's parity

    DALLAS – Prominent preseason prognosticator Phil Steele, who claims to have the most accurate preseason magazine in the country over the last 15 years, picked Texas No. 4 in his rankings this year.

    This is the same Longhorns team that was picked to finish fourth – in the Big 12 – in the conference’s preseason poll.

    “I really like the first guy better,” head coach Mack Brown joked. “When you look at us being voted fourth, I thought what we saw is the numbers are really, really close, and people are confused on who they think may win this conference championship, and that’s a compliment to our league.”

    Oklahoma State, who won its first Big 12 title two seasons ago, was picked to win the conference for the first time in school history. Kansas State won the Big 12 last season and was picked sixth for the second straight year. Oklahoma has captured a league-best seven conference championships and was picked second, followed by TCU at No. 3 while Baylor rounded out the top five.

    “I think we have the most balanced league in the country right now, top to bottom,” Brown said. “You saw in the SEC the top seven beat the bottom seven 30-0, and that’s not happening in our league. Our league is very challenging. At one point, there were two or three teams that were better than everybody else, and that’s not the case anymore.”

    Not many are making the argument that the Big 12 is a better conference than the SEC, which has won each of the last seven national titles. But SEC supremacy is not a unanimous view.

    “I’m a Big 12 guy. I think it’s the best league in America without question,” Baylor head coach Art Briles said. “It’s just a tough league to go unscathed in. I think defenses are very talented, very good in our league. I think offenses are very talented. I think the style of play dictates a lot of times how one side of the ball is predicted. In the Big 12, there’s guys on offense trying to score every snap.”

    Unlike the 14-team SEC, the Big 12 uses a round-robin conference schedule with each team playing the other nine squads in the conference. The parity in the Big 12 has served it well, although played a part in keeping it from being represented in the last two national championship games.

    In 2011, Oklahoma State was upset in Ames by Iowa State on a late November night, squelching their national title hopes. Last season, Kansas State was on its way to playing for a national championship before also falling in late November as the Wildcats were blown out on the road by Baylor.

    “I think our conference has maintained a good balance over the years,” Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder said. “I think maybe there are some years where there might be a little more balance or more teams that are prominent than other years. But, by and large, I think year in and year out it’s a very consistent conference.”

  • Texas ready to run up-tempo offense, Mack Brown wants 80-plus plays per game in 2013

    DALLAS – The Longhorns are a little late to the party but they will be among the many Big 12 teams using an up-tempo offense this season.

    With a new playcaller in Major Applewhite comes a new offensive approach, meaning less time in between snaps and more touches to go around. This bodes well for a Texas team featuring five returning starters on the offensive line, a seasoned quarterback in junior David Ash and plenty of skill position players coming back.

    “David is ready to go up tempo now with the offense. He’s in command. He’s very confident. He knows what we want,” head coach Mack Brown said. “We didn’t change the names of the plays. We didn’t change the plays as much when Major took over.”

    The Longhorns began implementing the up-tempo offense this spring and Brown said he hopes to have the offense running at an even faster pace by the time they open the season against New Mexico State Aug. 31.

    After averaging 68.5 offensive plays per game last season – the fewest in the Big 12 – Brown wants to be running at least 80 plays per game this year. Most teams in the conference, including Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, have been using up-tempo offenses for a while now.

    “When you’re happy to win a game 56-50, things have changed,” Brown said, referring to Texas’ victory over Baylor last year. “Do you walk oiut made at your defense or happy with your offense? You walk out happy you won and that’s it.”

    Now that Texas has joined the club, the Longhorns defense will see an up-tempo offense every day in practice, instead of just on Saturdays this fall. Brown recalled a moment from Texas’ 45-35 win over Oklahoma in 2008 when he and defensive coordinator Will Muschamp were caught not being able to get playcalls relayed to players in time.

    “The ball was being snapped and they’re running 20 yards, and they’re still looking at the wristbands,” Brown said. “Will and I decided to throw out all the calls, play base defense and let’s play because we’re standing around looking.”

    The rise of up-tempo offenses in college football has drawn criticism, most notably from Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema and Alabama head coach Nick Saban, who are concerned defensive players are at a higher risk of injury. Several Big 12 coaches disagree with their SEC colleagues.

    “I’d tell them to get over it because it’s not going to change,” West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “There’s a lot of teams doing that for a reason… It’s going to the NFL, for crying out loud. Don’t see it changing any time soon. So you’d better learn to adapt to it.”

    “It would be a huge mistake for somebody to be convinced that would have in any form or fashion or reason to cause any injury,” Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy said. “There’s not as many collisions compared to putting everybody together tight and ramming everybody up in there and being a pile. So I certainly don’t agree with that. I think it’s great for college football.”

  • Jake Heaps ready, eager to take over under center for Jayhawks

    DALLAS – Unlike most of the other teams in the Big 12, Kansas did not have a potent passing attack last season. The Jayhaws were one of three FBS teams to complete fewer than half of their throws in 2012, the others being Southern Miss and Army.

    First-year head coach Charlie Weis brought in Dayne Crist, who transferred from Notre Dame, where Weis originally recruited him as the Jayhawks limped to a 1-11 record. They beat FCS squad South Dakota State in the season opener and lost their final 11 games, following up their lone win by falling victim to a game-winning field goal in a loss to Rice the next week.

    Crist and backup Michael Cummings combined to throw seven touchdowns and 13 interceptions. An effective running game spearheaded by James Sims and Tony Pierson wasn’t enough.

    “Last year, every team we played knew we were going to run the ball,” linebacker Ben Heeney said. “They knew that’s what we were going to do because we couldn’t pass it last year.”

    All Jake Heaps could do was watch.

    “It was excruciating,” Heaps, who transferred to Kansas from BYU in 2011, said. “It was really hard to not be able to help my teammates out and battle with them. As a competitor and a guy that loves the game of football, it was hard for me… It was the best and worst thing for me. It was the best thing to happen for me but the worst thing in the moment.

    While sitting out in 2012, Heaps couldn’t contribute on Saturdays but helped Kansas prepare for opponents by torching the first-team defense as the scout-team quarterback. Now the Jayhawks are hoping Heaps will have similar success against opponents this upcoming season.

    “He was tearing us up sometimes,” Heeney admitted. “He would make a walk-on freshman receiver look like a Heisman Trophy candidate. He would just put the ball right on the money. Guys would catch the ball. Jake last year would tear our defense apart, using scout team receivers. I’m just excited to see what he’ll do in real games now.”

    Heaps was the top quarterback coming out of high school in 2010, according to rivals.com, He passed for 3,768 yards and 24 touchdowns while completing 57 percent of his passes in two seasons with BYU before being replaced as the team’s starting quarterback and deciding to transfer to Kansas. He was forced to sit out in 2012, per NCAA transfer rules.

    “You can either take it easy because you know you’re not going to play that year or you can get better. That’s what I chose to do,” Heaps said. “The moment I set foot on campus I just approached myself like I was the starting quarterback.”

    One of two quarterbacks representing their teams at Big 12 Media Days, the other being  Texas’ David Ash, Heaps will finally get that chance to be a starting quarterback again. 

  • Players voice opinion on O'Bannon lawsuit against NCAA

    DALLAS – Count Kansas State linebacker Tre Walker among those strongly in support of the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit against the NCAA, which challenges whether EA should be allowed to use college athletes’ likenesses in video games without compensating them.

    The NCAA ended its contract with EA, possibly marking the end of the popular NCAA Football franchise. NCAA Football 13 sold nearly 2 million copies last year.

    “What goes around comes around and I’m so happy someone decided to sue the NCAA,” Walker said. “They think just because they give us a full ride scholarship that we should be thankful for them taking money from us that we earn every day. Without us, the NCAA wouldn’t have a job.”

    “We play in the game that causes revenue,” Walker continued. “The NCAA makes millions and millions of dollars for that. We go to bowl games. The players don’t get paid for that. The school gets paid for that. They think just because we get new suits and new cleats and all that stuff that we should be satisfied but it’s blood, sweat and tears – we go back to our hometowns and college towns and work our behinds off to play 12 games a season.”

    When playing NCAA Football 14, there is a “QB #14” on Texas’ roster that most would perceive to be Longhorns quarterback David Ash. “LB #50” on Kansas State’s roster is seemingly meant to be Walker.

    “It’s not about disrespecting anybody but it’s about telling the truth,” Walker said. “They can’t sit there and say nobody knows it’s us. What if we got in trouble or something and we got nothing but the jersey and the number, then, in the court of law, and try to say that’s not you. At the end of it, you can’t sit there and use that against us and say they’re not making money off us when they really are.”

    Fellow linebacker Ben Heeney plays for the rival Jayhawks but agrees with Walker. The O’Bannon lawsuit is seeking class action status and, if it does, it could dramatically affect the economic landscape in college athletics.

    “They’re using us,” Heeney said. “The NFL gets paid for being on there so we should be the same… We basically have a full-time job being a student-athlete. It’s 40 hours a week working out, lifting, everything. We don’t really have the luxury of other stduents getting a job and maintaining that job… You’re getting paid to do this. This is the prime of your career. Why can’t I get paid for being in the prime of mine?”

    Others, like TCU safety Sam Carter, could care less about the legislation facing the NCAA regarding likenesses in video games. Although Carter does admit to boosting up the rating of TCU’s “S #17” to 99 overall, the game’s highest rating, when he plays NCAA Football 14.

    “I’m 99 in my heart,” Carter joked. “I don’t really have anything to say about [the lawsuit] because it’s not affecting me in any way. I’m excited that I’m getting to play the sport and I’m enjoying every bit of it. They’ve been doing it for years so I’m not going to be the one trying to change that.”

    Walker, when asked about a $2,000 stipend for student-athletes, an initiative supported by some administrators and coaches, including Texas head coach Mack Brown, was more outspoken. 

    “I would love to see that,” Walker said. “I think it’s nothing but fair. If you think about how much money we get paid to live where we live, some of our rents is $600 a month. When you take a $740 check plus rent, even with a $500 rent, after utilities, you have nothing to show for it. No money. Without some of these food plans with the school, we’d have nothing. We’d be starving. That’s terrible. I’m tired of it.”

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