Big 12 spring sees unexpected changes at Texas and Kansas

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STEPHEN HAWKINS
·4 min read
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When Texas finished with consecutive lopsided victories last December, it seemed that coach Tom Herman would be back for a fifth season despite again falling short of a Big 12 title. There was no reason to think Les Miles would be gone from Kansas, even after a winless second season.

Yet, the Longhorns and Jayhawks both went through spring practice with different coaches.

Four days after Texas won the Alamo Bowl, Herman was fired and replaced hours later by Steve Sarkisian, the offensive coordinator for national champion Alabama.

Asked about only two offensive touchdowns in last Saturday's glorified scrimmage, Sarkisian responded bluntly: “Spring game.” He also mentioned watered-down versions of the offense with split squads and unusual rotations.

“All in all, it was fun, I think, for our guys just to get out and compete. Clearly we’ve got a long way to go,” said Sarkisian, a former USC and Washington head coach. “We’ve come a long way in 3 ½ months, but we’ve got plenty of work to do here, starting in June and then into fall camp.”

Texas had four winning seasons with four bowl wins under Herman, and is still the last national champion from the Big 12 (the 2005 season). But Oklahoma has won the last six Big 12 titles. Plus, Iowa State went to its first league championship game last year after winning 23-20 in the Longhorns' home finale.

Miles had three years left on his contract when Kansas announced his departure in March, only days after he was placed on administrative leave amid sexual misconduct allegations from his tenure at LSU, where he won a national title in 2007.

Interim head coach Emmett Jones has led the Jayhawks this spring, with their spring game set for Saturday.

FIRST SPRING

Dave Aranda finally got to go through his first spring drills at Baylor after a season as head coach and several changes to his staff.

The Bears went 2-7 last year, averaging only 310 yards and 23 points per game after no spring workouts because of the pandemic.

Offensive coordinator Larry Fedora was replaced by Texas native Jeff Grimes, the BYU offensive coordinator the past three years, and there are also new receivers and offensive line coaches. Grimes was previously at LSU, overlapping in 2016-17 with the first two of Aranda's four seasons as defensive coordinator there that were capped by the 2019 national title.

“To be the consistent, reliable offense we want comes with running the football and really setting the stage for the play-action passes,” Aranda said after the spring game. “We can see that. I think the details we can hone in on better.”

BIG BACK

No player frustrated Texas fans last season more than tailback Bijan Robinson. Not because of anything he did, but because of Herman’s odd refusal to give him the ball more often. The five-star recruit lived up to it that billing by smashing the Texas record for yards-per-carry at a whopping 8.2. He gained 355 yards and averaged 18.7 per carry his last two games. But Robinson’s 86 carries over nine games was nearly 30 fewer than departed quarterback Sam Ehlinger, as Herman insisted on platooning tailbacks.

QBs COACHING QBs

Four former Big 12 quarterbacks are coaching QBs at their alma mater, three moving into that role this spring.

Collin Klein, the 2012 Heisman Trophy finalist at Kansas State, is going into his fifth season as the Wildcats quarterback coach. The spring additions are Sonny Cumbie at Texas Tech, Kenny Hill at TCU and Shawn Bell at Baylor.

Cumbie returned to Texas Tech as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach after seven seasons in the same role at TCU. The former walk-on threw for 4,742 yards and 32 touchdowns as a senior for the Red Raiders in 2004.

Hill, an offensive analyst at TCU last season, replaced the position coach he had when starting for the Horned Frogs in 2016 and 2017.

Bell is in his fifth year on Baylor’s staff. He started as an offensive analyst, then coached the offensive line and tight ends before taking over the position he played for the Bears from 2003-06.

DOEGE COMEBACK

West Virginia quarterback Jarret Doege’s stock fell at the end of last season when he struggled in a blowout loss at Iowa State and was benched in the second half of a Liberty Bowl win over Army.

Doege was second in the Big 12 with 259 passing yards per game, but was sixth with only 14 TD passes. He worked on his efficiency in the pocket during the spring and seems to have the starting job for his senior season after backup Austin Kendall entered the transfer portal in January.

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AP Sports Writers Jim Vertuno and John Raby contributed to this report.

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