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July 23, 2007

QB talk dominates day one at Big 12 Media Days

Day one of the 2007 Big 12 Football Media Days is in the books, and the hot topic on the first day was the uncertainty at the quarterback position for three of the four programs that took their turn on Monday.

The coaches from Oklahoma, Nebraska and Baylor all said they're undecided on who will run their offenses in 2007, with Bob Stoops saying it could be a while before OU decides and Bill Callahan stating that Nebraska could look at as many as five prospects.

"The big issues I'll address right off the bat is everyone wants to talk about the quarterback situation and everyone wants to know who the guy is. We don't have a timetable," Stoops said. "That position, as I keep saying, needs to be earned."

Stoops declined to comment whether Sam Bradford, Joey Halzle or Keith Nichol has gained a leg up, and pass catchers Malcolm Kelly and Joe Jon Finley both said none of the three candidates has separated during off-season 7-on-7 workouts.

As for Nebraska, the speculation is that former Arizona State standout Sam Keller is the runaway leader for their quarterback job, but Bill Callahan said it's not that simple.

"We have a number of quarterbacks who are going to be competing for the starting role," said Callahan before listing Keller, Joe Ganz, Zac Lee, Patrick Witt and Beau Davis as candidates for the top spot on the depth chart. "We feel we're pretty well stocked at that position."

Guy Morriss and the Baylor staff are still weighing their options as well, with Michael Machen and John David Weed battling it out.

"I think that the quarterback situation is kind of clouded rather than cleared," Morriss said.

TEXAS FEEL DURING DAY ONE

Nine of the 12 players that were brought to the conference played their high school ball in Texas.

All three of Oklahoma's representatives hail from the Lone Star State (Marcus Walker, Joe Jon Finley and Malcolm Kelly) as do all of Baylor’s representatives (Dwain Crawford, Joe Pawelek and Jason Smith. Nebraska brought two kids back to the state in Terrence Nunn and J.B. Phillips and Kansas one (Aqib Talib).

SOONER PLAYERS LOOKING TO INSTILL CONFIDENCE IN QUARTERBACKS

One of the big struggles for any quarterback is conquering the cerebral side of the game and developing a mental toughness that's necessary for the position, and wide receiver Malcolm Kelly said he and some of the more experienced players are doing their part this summer to build up the team's quarterback prospects.

"The main thing is, sometimes they throw one bad pass and they want to get down on themselves. As the summer went on, we just told them don't worry about it," said Kelly. "They now they don't have to hang their head if they make a bad play because we've got their back just like they've got ours."

RED RIVER RIVALRY ALREADY ON THEIR MINDS

The annual Texas-OU grudge match is more than two months away, but the Sooner players admitted that they're already thinking about the game and they know it could very well determine which team plays for the Big 12 title.

Texas players traditionally downplay the significance of thinking about the game before the week of the clash, but both Malcolm Williams and Joe Jon Finley said they're ready to see how they measure up.

"I can't wait to play it. It's a one of a kind game, one of the biggest rivalries in the country. We always look forward to it even though we try not to," said Finley. "You always have that one in the back of your head."

NO PETERSON, NO PROBLEM?

Oklahoma will be faced with the unenviable task of having to play without running back Adrian Peterson in 2007, but Stoops said he sees no reason why the Sooners should have a drop-off in their run production. In fact, by rotating in several runners, Stoops is hoping that his team can have fresh legs down the stretch of games, something it has struggled with in the past.

"I don't feel any of those guys have the physical, maybe, prowess that Adrian Peterson had. The stamina and the strength that he had is very unusual. Adrian could play 60 snaps or more," said Stoops. "In the end we look to use each of them 20, 25 snaps in that kind of way. Allen Patrick, Chris Brown, had the bulk of the load last year when Adrian went down and did a great job for us. And I expect them to be every bit that good or better with another year. And DeMarco Murray showed great excitement and promise through the spring.

"So we'll use them to complement one another. I think in the end it will be better because we'll be able to keep them fresh. A fresh set of legs hitting the defense in a different series I think helps."

STOOPS READY TO MOVE PAST NCAA SANCTIONS

You knew it would come up. It didn't take long into the press conference for a reporter to ask Bob Stoops about the troubles his program had with the NCAA last year. The third question of the day asked Stoops about worries looking forward, and Stoops was quick to shoot down any concerns. In fact, when the reporter asked a follow-up about the possibility of Oklahoma's appeal of the NCAA ruling bringing extra sanctions, Stoops politely cut him off in mid-question.

"Appeals don't do that. The sanctions are already set," Stoops said after the initial question. "So, no, there won't be other sanctions. It will either be what it said or we will maybe -- what we've appealed maybe get some wins back."

Stoops appeared unfazed by the off-field questions during the session with the print media, but he reportedly bristled when a radio reporter readdressed the issue later in the day.

Tough schedule doesn't worry Nebraska

Nebraska will face one of the Big 12's toughest schedules in 2007, but Bill Callahan and the Husker players said they're ready to see how they measure up.

Nebraska opens at home against Nevada before traveling to face 2006 ACC champion Wake Forest. In week three, the Huskers will host USC and the Big Red will play Texas A&M, Texas and Oklahoma State along with the Big 12 North.

"You want to play great teams. You want to have a tough schedule," said tight end J.B. Phillips. "Every game is fun, but you play at Nebraska for those match-ups. Those are the ones 10 years down the road that you can look back and remember those games. You also want to go against the best players in the nation and test yourself. We get to do that this year. We get to play a lot of great teams."


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