2008 Big 12 Insider Spring Q & A
Texas DT Roy Miller
Texas DT Roy Miller
Posted Mar 1, 2008

With spring ball kicking in, here are some of the Big 12's key questions answered by the inside sources, the Scout publishers.

2008 Spring Preview

Key Big 12 Questions Answered

- 2008 Big 12 Spring Analysis

Yeah, Bill Callahan was bashed, but his Nebraska offense was putting up numbers. Bo Pelini will quickly change the defense, but will the offense be more efficient? (Subquestion: really, how far is Nebraska away from being back to a national title level?)

From Steve Ryan, Big Red Report

Retaining Shawn Watson was big for the Husker offense, because he was a co-coordinator with Bill Callahan, and he actually cut his teeth with Callahan back in the Big Ten. Ted Gilmore returns as wide receivers coach, but he'll be absent perhaps the best player they had coming out of the slot in Terrence Nunn, and easily their go-to receiver, Maurice Purify. There are a host of players coming back at the position, including Nate Swift, who could end up breaking all of the wide receiver records at Nebraska before he's done, but someone has to take over where Purify left off.

As for defense, this is about as close as you are going to get to rebuilding a unit. Four starters gone from the secondary and every starting linebacker, plus one, gone, replaced by only one player who started double-digit games last season. What's worse, senior safety Larry Asante will move to the linebacking corps, leaving the secondary with Armando Murillo along with sophomore cornerback Anthony Blue, who has started a grand total of one game.

Most are concerned with the defensive line, though, because while they return all of the starters from last year, this group was key in Nebraska's defense ranking as one of the bottom ten defenses in the country. Now this unit is expected to carry the load, and one of the biggest early challenges for spring will be to slim the overall profile a bit. The line had several players weighing close to 300 pounds on the ends, and they'll now be replaced with guys who are expected to range anywhere from 250 pounds to 270 pounds, tops.

Incumbent quarterback, senior Joe Ganz, is the odds-on favorite for the job as signal caller. In the final four games of the season, Ganz took an already explosive offense and made it darn near unstoppable, only to watch Nebraska still lose in embarrassing fashion because the defense couldn't stop anyone.

It's been said, both by those on the team and those viewing from afar, all this team needs, especially on defense, is a change of attitude. With new head coach Bo Pelini, they have already seen that, and most realize that Pelini's taskmaster-style will cause groans during practice, but may bring a lot more grins during games. His no-nonsense-players-first approach has proven to be positive in his stints as defensive coordinator at Nebraska, Oklahoma and LSU. The question now is, can he do that for an entire team?

The offense will be breaking in a new center. The favorite for the position right now is senior Andy Christensen. Junior Jacob Hickman will also probably get some reps at the position. With the high demand for communication from the center to the rest of the line, this isn't a good place to fill a void with no starting experience, but Nebraska will have to do just that.
The defense struggled mightily last year, obviously, but despite the addition of the defensive-minded Pelini, those struggles might continue as out of the top seven tacklers on the team from last year, only two (Armando Murillo, Larry Asante) return for the 2008 campaign.

What’s being done to improve a Texas pass defense that’s had major problems over the last two years? Also, is the O line going to be better?

From Ross Lucksinger, Editor, Inside Texas

Major changes occurred on the Texas coaching staff because of the problems on defense. Defensive coordinator Duane Akina was demoted to just defensive backs coach, a position he's held for the last seven seasons, and co-defensive coordinator Larry Mac Duff departed on what was publicly his own accord, but the writing was on the wall.

Texas hired Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp to take over as sole defensive coordinator, and he should bring a new fire to the D. Another very high-profile hire for Texas is Alabama co-offensive coordinator and former Longhorn quarterback Major Applewhite, who will coach running backs, replacing Ken Rucker, who will take over a newly created "Director of High School Relations" position on the staff.

The offensive line should be greatly improved next season. Texas returns all five players who started in the Holiday Bowl and should finally have a more experienced, settled offensive line. One of the greatest problems last season was all the switching that was occurring on the line due to injuries. Chris Hall literally played all five positions on the offensive line during the season (RT, RG, C, LG, LT) as players fell due to injury. TMack Brown almost always redshirts offensive linemen, but was forced to play three true freshmen last season due to problems and injuries on the line. Expect a far more solid and experienced unit.