In the Big 12 Conference there’s a fine line between controversy and a calculated chess move when it comes to selecting players to represent one’s school in front of the media.
Bringing a quarterback may seem like a no-brainer for some schools, but for others it’s a tactical decision based more on preserving confidence in certain players while still withholding certain aspects of the offseason from the media.
In the case of Big 12 Media Days, only three teams (Texas, Oklahoma State and Iowa State) have decided against bringing a quarterback to field questions and mingle among the hordes of media affiliates before the fall season starts.
Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy has a policy against bringing first-year players to events such as Media Days, which explains why newly-appointed freshman quarterback Wes Lunt will have to watch this year’s festivities from home.
Paul Rhoads, head coach at Iowa State, still isn’t certain if former junior college transfer Steele Jantz will be his starting quarterback come fall, so he chose instead to bring two linebackers (Jake Knott and A.J. Klein) and a running back (James White).
What may seem an easy way out of questions pertaining to who will run a given team’s offense can also be viewed as a smart move to shift the focus away from a particular player and instead have the team become the main focal point. Sure, questions will be asked about the quarterbacks not in attendance, but just like politicians on the campaign trail, coaches will defer and work around any uncomfortable or potentially sticky scenarios.
The Longhorns, or Mack Brown if you’re into details, decided to leave last year’s starting quarterback David Ash at home for a second straight year but will bring a solid group of players to Dallas. Rising juniors Carrington Byndom and Jordan Hicks, along with redshirt junior Mason Walters, will instead accompany Brown. A safe group of guys, yes, but that’s something we’ve come to expect from Brown at this stage in his coaching career. No one in this group is going to speak off-the-cuff, and that’s exactly what Brown wants. Keep it simple, stupid.
At the same time, these three Longhorns will do well to preserve the face of the Texas football program.
Walters is coming off of a strong sophomore season in which he anchored an offensive line that opened some massive holes for backs Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron, and he will look to do more of the same this season. Walters will be able to provide insight on the state of the offensive line and, of course, the man he’s in charge of protecting in sophomore quarterback Ash.
Byndom and Hicks essentially are serving as replacements to the dynamic duo of Kenny Vaccaro and Big 12 preseason Defensive Player of the Year Alex Okafor, both of whom had a run-in with police earlier this summer and will not be representing Texas at any media functions this offseason.
It’s no big deal for Byndom and Hicks, who have already matured into important roles within the Longhorns’ defense. Consider this another step in their maturation that they should handle with ease.
There is already a considerable amount of buzz surrounding the Longhorn defense as the start of the season nears. Defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, along with Okafor and Vaccaro, were named to the preseason All-Big 12 Team recently, and Texas was picked to finish in the top five in the Big 12 by the media.
While Texas may not have a quarterback on hand, there will be plenty of other topics of conversation to fill time at Media Days. Expect the defense of the Longhorns to get a lot of attention and for good reason.