Texas Tech defensive tackle Kerry Hyder said he’s weighing 288 to 290 pounds this summer. The 6-foot-2 Hyder played at 281 last season.
Hyder said the few extra pounds are mostly a natural byproduct of another year of strength and conditioning, though he has another motive.
“I did want to put on some weight, especially for pro scouts,” Hyder said Monday during Big 12 media days. “I’ve been seen as undersized. Being 290, it shows I can put on the bulk and look like a D-tackle.”
Hyder, who led Big 12 defensive tackles last season in sacks and tackles for loss, said he doesn’t feel much different than before.
“I’m a little heavier, but I don’t feel it,” he said. “My body feels great. I don’t feel like I look 290.”
Gimme a break
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy on Monday defended the type of up-tempo, spread offenses he favors in the face of criticisms coming from the Southeastern Conference. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema complained last week that fast-paced offenses lead to more injuries because defensive players often can’t be subbed out during drives.
“I certainly don’t agree with that,” Gundy said during his session at Big 12 media days in Dallas. “I think it’s great for college football.”
Gundy said he thinks fast-paced offenses have affected the power structure of college football. When he was growing up in the 1970s, Gundy said, the top 15 teams had a clear edge over the others.
Spread offenses have leveled the playing field, he says, making the top 40 or 45 teams capable of winning big.
“High tempo and spread offenses are the single thing that have brought parity to college football,” Gundy said.
At last week’s SEC media days, Alabama coach Nick Saban also questioned the up-tempo approach. “Should we allow football to be a continuous game?” Saban was quoted as saying in The New York Times. “Is that the way the game is designed to be played? Is there a safety issue with that? They play 64 plays in the NFL; we play over 80 in college, and up-tempo teams play more than that. I don’t know the answer to that.”
Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury brushed off the suggestions for slower play. Recently, Kingsbury said, “Stop recruiting these beasts up front and we won’t run as many plays.”
TCU coach Gary Patterson said having LSU for a season opener has helped his team’s spring and summer preparation. The two teams play on Aug. 31 Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
Horned Frogs players and coaches should get used to an early challenge. They have scheduled non-conference series with Minnesota in 2014 and 2015, with Arkansas in 2016 and 2017 and with Ohio State in 2018 and 2019.
In each of those home-and-home series, TCU hosts the first game and goes on the road for the second.
“You’re going to play tough games within the conference,” Patterson said, “but I truly believe you’ve got to cross over every once in a while.”
Each of the first three coaches on the docket Monday at Big 12 media days has more than one option — and a starter to be decided — at quarterback.
There are quarterback battles involving Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh at Oklahoma State, Daniel Sams and Jake Waters at Kansas State and, perhaps most interesting, Casey Pachall and Trevone Boykin at TCU.
Pachall was the media’s preseason choice as all-Big 12 quarterback. But after Pachall was suspended last year, Boykin passed for 2,054 yards and 15 touchdowns and ran for 417 yards and three TDs.
Both Horned Frogs quarterbacks have enough of a track record that neither is likely to be strapped to the bench. Even TCU coach Gary Patterson concedes that.
“It won’t be a 50-50 thing,” Patterson said, “but I do believe there’s a place for both of them.
“If it is Casey as the starter, you have Trevone that really can beat you with his legs. … He had an unbelievable spring, to be honest with you, which bodes well for us because he’s only going to be a sophomore.”
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has Chelf coming off a season in which he passed for 1,588 yards and 15 touchdowns and Walsh back after throwing for 1,564 yards and 13 TDs. Chelf started the last five games and was MVP of the Cowboys’ 58-14 bowl victory against Purdue.
“I think we’ll continue to work like we have,” Gundy said. “We’ve got two young men that we feel very comfortable with, and they’ve worked and they’re extremely dedicated to our program. They’re great team players. They’ll get equal reps.”
Gundy said he probably won’t advance the discussion on the quarterbacks much more until he sees how they fare in the season opener against Mississippi State.
At Kansas State, the choice is between Sams, who set a school freshman rushing record for a quarterback last year with 235 yards and three touchdowns in relief of Collin Klein, and Waters, who was NJCAA offensive player of the year after leading Iowa Western to a national championship.
Whomever emerges will have one benefit: The Wildcats return their offensive line intact.
“If I’m the quarterback, I’m awful happy about it, for sure,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said.
Something to prove
With one junior, a trio of sophomores and a redshirt freshman, the Texas Tech offensive line does not hold much experience.
With the high tempo offense that head coach Kliff Kingsbury will run this fall, the offensive line needs to protect the quarterback, allowing him to have time to hit his target downfield and to pave the way for the running back to gain some yards up the middle.
Don’t let this unit’s youth fool you into calling it inadequate.
“I’ve never seen an offensive line work as hard as they work,” junior running back Kenny Williams said. “They’re out there every day at seven-on seven-sessions, getting better and trying to go over schemes.”
While no starting quarterback has been named between redshirt sophomore Michael Brewer and true freshman Davis Webb, the threats on offense are widespread.
Senior receiver Eric Ward returns after last season’s team-leading 1,053 receiving yards and 12 receiving touchdowns.
On the inside, sophomore receiver Jakeem Grant and junior tight end Jace Amaro, a 5-foot-6 frame and a 6-5 frame, could be a dynamic duo.
“The offensive line has really gotten better,” senior defensive end Kerry Hyder said. “They’ve gotten a lot of slack saying that they won’t be too good, but that’s a real solid group of guys. I feel like they’re going to shock people this year on how well they play.”
Defense strong up front
On the opposite side of the line of scrimmage, Texas Tech returns the entire front seven defensively.
Fifth year senior Kerry Hyder headlines the pack at defensive end.
“We made a big jump coming from last to, like, the middle of the pack last year,” Hyder said. “We feel like with the whole front seven coming back, we can make another jump like that and be in the top 10.”
Hyder has had a different defensive coordinator each of the five years he has been in the red and black.
This season welcomes Matt Wallerstedt coming in off a season at Texas A&M with Kingsbury.
“Well, the coaches come in and we just have blind faith in the coach,” Hyder said. “We realize that he wants the best for us and the best for the university so we really just go in head first and whatever sticks we just roll with it. We don’t question it. We just realize it’s part of the transition.”
Waiting is the hardest part
The buzz in West Texas, coming primarily from Lubbock, is in anticipation of Aug. 30 in Dallas when Tech kicks off for the first time of the 2013 season.
This excitement has been in the air since December when Tech hired Kliff Kingsbury as head coach.
“I feel like he has the fan base more excited about the season,” junior running back Kenny Williams said. “From day one when he got here, there’s basically been a parade. Everyone’s been excited about it.”
So is Kingsbury.
“The parity in this league, it’s exciting,” Kingsbury said. “I think you go in week in and week out and everybody feels that they have a chance to win this league, and it may not be that in that other one I just came from.”
Six different Big 12 teams received votes to finish first in the Big 12 conference.
For the first time in years, there’s within the Red Raiders.
“It’s a lot of belief because a lot of the coaches played for us,” senior defensive end Kerry Hyder said. “They’ve been to Tech. They’ve been through it. They’ve been in the same lockerroom so it’s easier to relate to them. They have the same passion about the game that we do. And how bad we want to win, they want to win just as bad, if not more. They’ve brought a new excitement back to Texas Tech.”
Selling the program
Kansas has seven recruits in place for 2014 despite finishing 1-11 last season with a 0-9 record in the Big 12. Kansas coach Charlie Weis was blunt when asked what he tells prospects to convince them KU should be their choice.
Weis said he pitches the university, the education, the academic support, the strength coach, the trainer, the facilities and plans for stadium improvement.
Oh, and then there’s the team.
“I said, ‘Have you looked at that pile of crap out there?’” Weis said. “‘Have you taken a look at that? So if you don’t think you can play here, where do you think you can play?’ It’s a pretty simple approach, and that’s not a sales pitch. That’s practical.”