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Big 12 QB play to remain strong in 2012

DALLAS - The Big 12 Conference has long been known for quarterback play and that's not going to change in 2012.

Five starters are on the Davey O'Brien Award preseason watch list and only two league teams will begin preseason practice next week with quarterback controversies.

Texas Coach Mack Brown used three QBs last year and will decide between sophomore David Ash and junior Case McCoy, the younger brother of former Longhorns star Colt McCoy. Who it will be or when it will happen is unknown.

"I've got 37 years coaching that says it will probably happen, one way or the other," Brown said. "Usually the players will choose them for you if not. You bring in key players and ask what they think.

"But usually somebody will tweak an ankle or somebody will have a sore shoulder, and it may not just be by performance that it separates. If it doesn't separate, you choose one to start the game. If he doesn't play well, you put the other one in."

Iowa State used two quarterbacks last season and each - Steele Jantz and Jared Barnett - played in nine games. Jantz, a senior, started seven while Barnett, a sophomore who helped the Cyclones beat Oklahoma State, started six.

"We most definitely need better play from the quarterback position if we're going to become a better football team, and namely in the area of accuracy," Coach Paul Rhoads said. "Our quarterbacks completed, I think, 51 percent of their passes all last year. We threw too many to the wrong-colored jersey.

"If we're going to be a better offensive football team, which is very important in this league to be a better football team, it's going to take better quarterback play."

Half of the league is set at the position, while others still are in pretty good shape. West Virginia's Geno Smith, Oklahoma's Landry Jones, Kansas State's Collin Klein, Texas Tech's Seth Doege and TCU's Casey Pachall are on the O'Brien list.

Kansas has Notre Dame transfer Dayne Crist, a fifth-year senior who is a captain in his first season with the Jayhawks. Oklahoma State anointed true freshman Wes Lundt as its starter in the spring. Baylor will begin with Nick Florence as it seeks to replace Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III.

Or as Coach Art Briles put it, "How do you adjust not having the best player football in the United States of America last year at the collegiate level?

"What we have to do is figure out ways to fill in the gaps, because Robert created a bunch of gaps," Briles said. "His ability from somebody else's is a big gap. We have to fill that in with a variety of different methods, schematically, personnel-wise and motivational-wise and inspiration-wise that will give us an opportunity to stay at the level we finished at last year."

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OPINIONS ON transfers differ throughout the conference. WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen will only address a need, as he did last year when fifth-year senior Devon Brown came to WVU as an inside receiver after graduating from Wake Forest. Oklahoma State Coach Mike Gundy doesn't take many transfers because his teams "have not had a lot of success with players that have transferred."

Kansas has two dozen transfers, including three from Notre Dame, where Coach Charlie Weis was when Crist, linebacker Anthony McDonald and tight end Mike Ragone were freshmen.

"They're not doing it because they want to go to another school all of a sudden," Weis said. "They want to go somewhere that gives them an opportunity to enhance their value on Sunday."

Baylor has had success with Division I transfers through its four years with Briles. He said the Bears will look at a player if the talent is good enough, but that he wants more than skill.

"I like getting guys that are mature," he said. "Not that 18-year-olds are not, but when you take a guy that's been through a few trials and tribulations and understands what's important, what's not, and has experience - there's one thing money can't buy, and that's experience. You've got to live it, you've got to taste it, you've got to feel it. Then we know what we're getting to."

Briles has one of the most appealing transfers in the country this season in running back Lache Seastrunk. A five-star recruit and the No. 1 running back in the recruiting class of 2010, Seastrunk initially picked Oregon. He transferred closer to his home in Temple, Texas, and sat out last season.

"He is a very dynamic player that has three years left and we're anxious to see what he can do when there's people in the stands hollering, because he's got ability," Briles said. "Ability is certainly something that's hard to hide and we're going to have him open up the jacket and let it show."

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WEIS IS THE only first-year coach in the Big 12 and he and Holgorsen are the only ones not entering at least their third season at their school.

Weis, though, spent five years in charge at Notre Dame and then spent 2010 with the Kansas City Chiefs and this past season at the University of Florida, both as the offensive coordinator. His move to Kansas, which was 5-19 overall and 1-16 the previous two seasons under former Coach Turner Gill, made headlines across professional and college football.

"I was offered other jobs for a lot more money, just so you know that," Weis said, declining to elaborate.

"What's important is, why did I take this job? And let's look at it from my perspective. You're coming into a team that was 3-9 two years ago and 2-10 last year. Not so long ago, it's 2007 and 2008, and they're playing in the Orange Bowl and the Insight Bowl and winning. It wasn't like it was 20 years ago now."

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WVU'S ROAD game against Iowa State has been moved up a day and will be played Nov. 23 - a Friday. The switch likely will get the Mountaineers and Cyclones on national television.

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.

 


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