Gameday: Blog & Previews
Gameday is here, and the Bears are a few hours away from opening the 2009 Big 12 Conference season against No. 19 Oklahoma at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. The game will be televised live regionally on ABC, and fans can keep track of the action and updates via our IN GAME BLOG.
To tide you over for the next two hours, here are some game previews on today's matchup:
OKLAHOMA (2-2, 0-0 Big 12)
SPECIAL TEAMS PREVIEW
Punter: The aforementioned Way handles punting duties for the Sooners. He ranks fifth nationally and second in the Big 12 (behind Baylor's Derek Epperson) with an average of 45.3 yards per punt. The Sooners rank 13th nationally in net punting (40.2 ypp). That five-yard-per-punt drop off is because of touchbacks, not returns. Five of Way's 19 punts have gone into the end zone, and he has another seven inside the 20. In fact, Oklahoma ranks third nationally in punt return defense, allowing minus-2 yards on five returns with a long of two yards. Way has seven punts of 50-plus yards and one fair catch.
Return Specialists: Juniors Dominique Franks and Mossis Madu will handle kickoff return duties with the loss of Ryan Broyles, who averaged 20.2 yards on four returns this season. Madu has returned three kickoffs for 46 yards (15.3 ypr) with a long of 21 yards. Franks has one return on the year, going for 23 yards. ... Oklahoma ranks 106th nationally in kickoff returns (18.8 ypr). ... Broyles also handled punt returns; he was second in the Big 12 and 24th nationally with 11.5 yards per return. In his absence, Franks likely will drop deep for the Sooners. Franks already has five punt returns for 68 yards (13.6 ypr) this season, inlcuding a 51-yard return last week against Miami-FL. ... Oklahoma ranks fourth in the Big 12 and 29th nationally in punt returns (12.9 ypr).
Other: Senior Carter Whitson is the Sooners' holder. Senior Ben Hampton handles snapping duties on punts and place kicks.
OKLAHOMA (2-2, 0-0 Big 12)
Line: Oklahoma's defensive line is a veteran unit that has worked together nearly each game for the past two-plus seasons. The four starters have combined for 92 career starts. That continuity starts in the middle where junior tackles Gerald McCoy (6-4, 297) and Adrian Taylor (6-4, 291) have started 31 and 19 consecutive games, respectively. Junior end Jeremy Beal (6-3, 261) has started 18 consecutive games, while senior end Auston English has 20 career starts after missing four games last season due to injury. ... Beal has been on a tear of late, recording 3.0 sacks in each of the Sooners' last two games. He is tied for third nationally with 1.5 sacks per game, and he is tied for sixth nationally with 2.0 tackles for loss per game. A Lombardi and Nagurski awards candidate, Beal has 14 tackles this season and eight of those have come behind the line. He has 15.5 career sacks, 2.5 shy of OU's career top 10 list. An All-Big 12 selection last season, Beal made the transition from linebacker to end during the 2007 season. That proved to be the right move as he racked up 61 tackles with 15.5 stops behind the line and 8.5 sacks last season. ... English was the 2008 Preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year; while his numbers were not as strong as expected, he still was an honorable mention all-conference selection last season despite missing four games with a knee sprain. As a freshman in 2007, he earned first-team all-league honors after recording 36 tackles with 13.0 stops for loss and 9.5 sacks. Last season, he had 33 tackles with nine losses and 4.5 sacks. Through four games this season, English has seven tackles, including 2.0 stops behind the line and 1.0 sack. ... McCoy is a candidate for the Outland Trophy and the Lombardi Award. Of his nine tackles this season, 6.5 came behind the line, including one sack. He also has forced one fumble and is tied for the team lead with four quarterback hurries. McCoy earned first-team All-America honors from The Sporting News and was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year by The Dallas Morning News last season after recording 30 tackles with 11 stops behind the line, 6.5 sacks and one interception. A 2007 Freshman All-American, McCoy ranks 18th nationally this season with 1.6 tackles for loss per game. ... Taylor is in his second season as a starter on the OU line. He has seven tackles with one sack, three quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery this season. Last year, he tallied 26 stops, 6.5 behind the line, with 4.5 sacks. ... Also look for redshirt freshman end David King (6-5, 235), sophomore end Frank Alexander (6-4, 259), senior tackle Cordero Moore (6-2, 310) and redshirt freshman tackle Casey Walker (6-0, 302), each of whom has seen time in the line rotation for the Sooners this season. Alexander leads that group with four tackles, 1.5 behind the line, and one interception this season.
Linebackers: OU's linebackers are an active group in the tackles department. Sophomore weak-side backer Travis Lewis (6-2, 232) and senior middle backer Ryan Reynolds (6-2, 225) rank first and second on the team with 39 and 33 tackles, respectively. Senior strong-side backer Keenan Clayton (6-1, 221) is fifth on the squad with 19 tackles. ... Lewis, a Lombardi and Bednarik awards candidate, started all 14 games for the Sooners last season en route to Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year honors. He tallied 144 tackles last season, breaking the Oklahoma freshman tackles record that previously was held by Brian Bosworth. His best game was against Texas when he finished with 19 tackles. Lewis also had 11.5 stops behind the line, 3.5 sacks and four interceptions in 2008. Two of his interceptions came against Kansas State. He has eight career double-digit tackle performances, including a 10-tackle outing last week at Miami-FL. This year, he is tied for third in the Big 12 and tied for 26th nationally with 9.8 tackles per game. ... Reynolds is tied for sixth in the Big 12 with 8.3 tackles per game this season. He also has 3.0 sacks (second on the team) and one interception. Reynolds turned in his fourth career double-digit tackle outing three weeks ago with 13 stops against Tulsa. Last season, he sustained a season-ending knee injury in the Texas game but still earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors from The Associated Press based on 46 tackles with 5.0 stops behind the line. It was the second season-ending knee injury of his career. ... Clayton has one sack, one interception and one forced fumble this season. He has one double-digit tackle performance this year, recording 11 stops against Tulsa. Clayton started all 14 games for the Sooners last season and earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors with 84 tackles, 11 behind the line, 4.5 sacks, six fumbles forced, one fumble recovery and one interception. His six fumbles forced set an Oklahoma single-season record, and he also broke up nine passes. His career high in tackles came against Baylor last season when he tallied 14 stops. ... Three underclassmen are listed as backups at the linebacker spot, and each has seen plenty of action this season. Sophomore Austin Box (6-2, 220) works behind Lewis on the weak side. He tied a career high with nine tackles against Idaho State. True freshman Ronnell Lewis (6-2, 234) is slotted behind Reynolds in the middle. He recorded a safety with a sack in the end zone against Idaho State. Redshirt freshman Joseph Ibiloye (6-3, 208) started his career as a safety and now is the backup at strong-side backer; he has three tackles on the season.
Secondary: The Sooners are very experienced on the corners and somewhat inexperienced at the safety positions. Senior Brian Jackson (6-1, 200) and junior Dominique Franks (6-0, 192) start at the corner spots, and each has started 18 consecutive games. Junior free safety Quinton Carter (6-1, 193) and sophomore strong safety Sam Proctor (6-0, 208) both are in their first seasons as regular starters; however, both saw extensive action in previous seasons. ... Jackson has recorded interceptions in back-to-back games and is tied for fourth in the Big 12 with 0.5 interceptions per game. He also ranks sixth on the team with 16 tackles. A 2008 honorable mention All-Big 12 pick by The Associated Press, Jackson had 72 tackles with two interceptions and 10 pass breakups last season. He is the cousin of Chris Draft, who spent the last nine seasons in the NFL with the Bears, 49ers, Falcons, Panthers and Rams. ... Franks, a 2008 all-conference honoree, has 13 tackles, one interception and two pass breakups this season. He tied for second on the OU squad with four interceptions last season, including one he returned 19 yards for a touchdown against Nebraska. ... Carter is tied for 11th in the Big 12 with 7.8 tackles per game, ranking third on the Sooners' defense with 31 stops this season. He tied his career high with 10 tackles in the Sooners' season opener against BYU, and he recorded his first career interception three weeks ago against Tulsa. Carter saw time in 12 games with two starts last season, working primarily as the Sooners' nickelback. He finished the 2008 season with 36 tackles. ... Proctor ranks fourth on the OU squad with 20 tackles this season. He tallied a career-high seven tackles last week against Miami-FL. Proctor saw action in each game last season but on special teams.
Bears Battling Injuries / Blog Updates
For a program that only suffered one significant injury to a starter in 2008 (lineman Jordan Hearvey), the Bears have had their fair share and then some of injuries thus far this season. Through four games, seven different starters have missed time due to injuries - including two that suffered season-ending injuries.
Baylor's injured list includes QB Robert Griffin III (torn ACL, out for season), returner/DB Mikail Baker (torn ACL, out for season), TB Jay Finley (missed last two games with ankle sprain), CB Antaries Bryan (knee, out last two games, return undetermined), S Jeremy Williams (ankle, missed 1 game), OG John Jones (ankle, missed 1 game), CB Tim Atchison (broken hand, expected to continue playing).
BLOG CHECK: Baylor bloggers Jerry Hill (View From The Hill) and Justin Cange (Cuttin' In The Baylor Line) have both posted new blogs this week. Check out Hill's piece on the depth at the QB position, and Cange's thought's on the game in Norman.
OKLAHOMA (2-2, 0-0 Big 12)
Quarterback: Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford (junior, 6-4, 233) has missed the past three games after sustaining a shoulder injury in the Sooners' season opener against BYU. Prior to the injury, he was 10-of-14 passing for 96 yards and a touchdown. Last season, Bradford put together one of the best statistical seasons in college football history. He was 328-of-483 (67.9 percent) for 4,720 yards and 50 touchdowns against only eight interceptions. Bradford, who also earned first-team All-America honors and was named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year in 2008, led the nation in touchdown passes last season and established an NCAA FBS record with 86 career touchdown passes through a sophomore season. The jury is still out as to whether or not Bradford will start against Baylor. Even if he does not start, it is likely that he'll see some time on the field as the Sooners will want him to shake off some rust before next week's game against Texas. ... Redshirt freshman Landry Jones (6-4, 216) has been under center in Bradford's absence. He is 67-of-111 passing (60.4 percent) for 861 yards and 10 touchdowns with three interceptions. Jones ranks 30th nationally in passing efficiency (149.84), and he is tied for 14th nationally in point responsibility (15.0 ppg). Three weeks ago, Jones torched Tulsa for six touchdowns, going 25-of-37 passing for 336 yards with two interceptions. Last week at Miami-FL, he was 18-of-30 for 188 yards and one touchdown in the Sooners' 21-20 loss to the Hurricanes. Jones was a Parade All-American at Artesia [N.M.] High School.
Running Back: Oklahoma has a two-headed monster at the tailback position in senior Chris Brown (5-10, 200) and junior DeMarco Murray (6-1, 214), both of whom appear on the Doak Walker Award watch list. Murray leads the team with 299 yards on 55 rushes with three touchdowns. Brown adds 268 yards on 52 carries with one touchdown. Both average over 5.0 yards per carry. ... Brown was an honorable mention All-Big 12 pick last season after becoming the 20th OU player to gain 1,000 yards in a season. He tallied 1,220 yards on 216 carries with 20 touchdowns last season, one of four players nationally to score at least 20 touchdowns in 2008. Brown has yet to produce a 100-yard game this season, reaching a season-high 73 yards on 16 carries three weeks ago against Tulsa. His lone touchdown this season was against Idaho State (9/12). Last week at Miami-FL, he had 71 yards on 11 carries. ... Murray also enjoyed a 1,000-yard season last year, gaining 1,002 yards on 179 carries with 14 touchdowns. He also was very active in the passing game in 2008, snagging 31 passes for 395 yards and four touchdowns. Those numbers garnered first-team All-Big 12 honors as he established an OU single-season record with 2,171 all-purpose yards (he also had 774 yards in kickoff returns). This season, Murray has produced one 100-yard game, gaining 101 yards on 12 carries with two touchdowns against Idaho State. He had 80 yards on 23 carries with one touchdown last week at Miami-FL. Murray also has two receptions in each of the Sooners' four games, gaining 109 yards with one touchdown. ... Two freshman tailbacks also have seen action this season. Jonathan Miller (6-0, 190) has 118 yards on 16 carries (7.4 ypc) with one touchdown, while Jermie Calhoun (6-0, 218) has 61 yards on 17 totes with one touchdown. ... Senior fullback Matt Clapp (6-2, 246) has one carry this season for one yard.
Receivers: Sophomore wideout Ryan Broyles (5-11, 178) has been the go-to man in the Oklahoma passing game this season. Broyles has 23 receptions for 346 yards and seven touchdowns. He ranks 32nd nationally with 86.5 receiving yards per game, and he is tied with Cincinnati's Mardy Gilyard for the national lead in touchdown receptions. Six of his seven touchdowns came against Idaho State, tying an Oklahoma single-game record. However, the Sooners will be without Broyles' services Saturday against Baylor after he sustained a broken shoulder blade last week at Miami-FL. ... In Broyles' absence, the Sooners will look to junior Brandon Caleb (6-1, 186), who has 14 receptions for 201 yards and two touchdowns. Caleb played in 12 games last season but had only four receptions for 52 yards, including a 20-yarder at Baylor. ... Two other Sooners have touchdown receptions this season: Murray and junior wide receiver Cameron Kenney (6-1, 190), who has nine receptions for 110 yards on the season. ... Senior tight end Brody Eldridge (6-5, 265) is an interesting story. He played full back each of the past three seasons and earned All-Big 12 honors in 2007 despite not registering a carry all season. Eldridge started the Sooners' 2009 season opener against BYU at center but has started at tight end each of the last three games. He has one reception for nine yards this season.
Line: Oklahoma's line features a mix of experience and youth. Senior left tackle Trent Williams (6-5, 318) is an Outland Trophy candidate with 30 career starts and 46 career games played. He was a first-team All-Big 12 selection last season. ... Senior left guard Brian Simmons (6-4, 318) has 39 career caps but is in his first season as a regular starter. He worked at both guard positions in a backup role last season and had two starts during the 2007 season. ... Redshirt freshman Ben Habern (6-3, 288) has started each of the last three games after Eldridge started the season opener. Habern saw action in three games last season but was granted a medical redshirt after suffering a season-ending ankle injury at Baylor in OU's Big 12 opener. He was a Parade All-American at Liberty Christian School in Argyle, Texas. ... Junior Tavaris Jeffries (6-4, 309) earned his first career start at right guard last week at Miami-FL. He is in his first season with the Sooners after two years at Coahoma [Miss.] Community College where he was considered one of the nation's top JuCo offensive lineman prospects. Freshman Tyler Evans (6-5, 280) started games two and three at right guard for the Sooners and should see time on the line Saturday. ... Sophomore Jarvis Jones (6-7, 297) has started the last three games at right tackle after starting at right guard in the season opener. Jones sat out last season as a redshirt after transferring to Oklahoma from LSU where he saw action in seven games as a backup tackle and guard in 2007. Junior Cory Brandon (6-7, 310) also has seen time at right tackle this season and has 19 career games played. ... Oklahoma's line has allowed five sacks in four games, ranking 34th nationally with 1.25 sacks allowed per game.
ABC Coverage Map For BU-OU Saturday
ABC has released its coverage map for Saturday's game between Baylor and No. 19 Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., (2:30 p.m. CDT) and the game will air over 19 percent of the nation.
The areas airing the game includes almost the entire Big 12 region, as well as parts of the Southeast (Louisiana, portions of Arkansas and Mississippi) the Intermountain West (Utah, Wyoming, Montana and portions of Nevada) and the Upper Midwest (North Dakota, portions of Minnesota and South Dakota).
Briles On Oklahoma, OU On Baylor / More NFL
Coach Briles held his weekly luncheon Tuesday, you can catch his thoughts on the upcoming game vs. Oklahoma by reading here, or watching here. To read/watch what the OU coaches and players had to say to the media Tuesday click here.
MORE NFL NEWS: The same day we posted our NFL Update (below), receiver Trent Shelton was dropped from the Redskins practice squad, though this Skins blogger expects him to eventually rejoin the team. Also, Matt Bryant, who was release by the Bucs and failed to make the Browns roster, was reportedly brought to New York to tryout for the Giants.
The NFL season is four games old and we'll take a moment to give updates on Baylor's current pros:
DANIEL SEPULVEDA [NFL bio] - Sepulveda has played four games for the Pittsburgh Steelers and has averaged 45.1 yards on 14 punts. His long is 58 and he has put seven punts within the 20.
JUSTIN SNOW [NFL bio] - Snow has played in four games for the Indianapolis Colts. He registered one tackle vs. Arizona on Sept. 27.
C.J. WILSON [NFL bio] - Wilson, a backup defensive back, has played in one game this season for the Carolina Panthers.
Receivers Trent Shelton and Dominique Zeigler are currenlty on the practice squads of the Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers, repectively.
Josh Bell (Broncos) and Matt Bryant (Bucs) were cut before the season and are current free agents.
YouTube - Kent State Highlights
For those of you who haven't yet bookmarked the Baylor Athletics YouTube page, here are the highlights of Saturday's win over Kent State:
Catching Up On Baylor Media Coverage
Here's a look at what's been published recently after the Bears' 31-15 win over Kent State last Saturday:
- Tim Griffin of ESPN.com updated his Big 12 power rankings Monday (ranks BU 8th) and wrote the following about Baylor: "Impressive relief performances by Nick Florence and Jarred Salubi enabled the Bears to finish off a 3-1 nonconference record."
- Griffin's blog entry Sunday (What we learned in the Big 12) praised the depth of Baylor's 2009 squad: "Baylor has a deeper bench than we expected. Baylor coach Art Briles was supremely challenged Saturday night when he started third-string quarterback Nick Florence and used Jarred Salubi as his starting tailback with Jay Finley still injured. Those moves paid off handsomely as the Bears claimed a 31-15 victory over Kent State."
- Freshman Nick Florence, a native of Garland, Texas, was praised for his performance Saturday by both Metroplex papers: Chuck Carlton's Dallas Morning News blog reads: "Nick Florence, the freshman from South Garland, played better than almost anyone expected leading Baylor to a 31-15 win over Kent State." Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram wrote an article entitled "Super sub Florence lifts Bears to win."
- John Werner of the Waco Tribune-Herald wrote an article Monday about the huge role freshmen have played on the Baylor squad during the four nonconference games: "Baylor freshmen shine in nonconference despite starters' injuries."
- Two good feature stories of note from Friday to pass along. Price's Fort Worth Star-Telegram piece on Blake Szymanski "Let records show: Szymanski is qualified to start at QB for Baylor"; and Werner's Waco Trib piece on Jason Lamb "Lineman Lamb becoming Baylor defense's lion."
Baylor-Kent State Replay On FOX Sports Southwest
FOX Sports Southwest will rebroadcast last Saturday's Kent State game in its condensed, one-hour format known as "Big 12 No Huddle." The replays will air Tuesday, Oct. 6 at noon and Thursday, Oct. 8 at 11 a.m.
Time Set For ISU Game Oct. 17, No TV
Next up for the Bears is a matchup vs. No. 19 Oklahoma in Norman Saturday (to be televised regionally on ABC), but today it was announced that the following week's game, Oct. 17 at Iowa State, will kickoff at 6 p.m. CDT and there will be no television coverage.