CBS Sports college football analyst Houston Nutt recently spent some time in Big 12 country, and he came away very, very impressed by what he saw.
We’ll start with Texas. Why? Because that’s Brian Jones’ alma mater.
“I’ll tell you what, they look good,” Nutt said of the Longhorns. “Guys were working hard. I got to watch practice. Charlie Strong allowed me to come in there. I was really impressed.”
Texas has gone 30-21 over the last four years – including 18-17 in the Big 12 – which is why Mack Brown is no longer the head coach. Then again, while last year’s 8-5 campaign was disappointing, the Longhorns did beat Oklahoma, which went 11-2 and beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. So there were bright spots.
But make no mistake: Texas hired Strong to compete for national championships.
“When you look at Texas, I think the key thing is David Ash really needs to stay healthy some way, somehow,” Nutt said of the junior quarterback, who only played three games last year. “The other two guys (Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard) are athletic, but they’re just not there yet. The other day when I was there, you could just tell they’re behind with a few things, especially with some accuracy. I love the backs. Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown look good. The offensive line, they look the part. (The coaching staff) wants to get them tougher.”
“But I’ll tell you what,” Nutt continued. “The day I was there, BJ, I think you’d be proud of your alma mater. They’re a little thin at a couple positions in the back end, but they’re running to the ball, working hard. I’m looking forward to their season because I really think they can do something.”
The Longhorns play three top-10 teams this year – all in the first half of their schedule. They face No. 7 UCLA on Sept. 13, No. 10 Baylor on Oct. 4 and No. 4 Oklahoma on Oct. 11.
Speaking of those Sooners, they look mighty good as well.
“I saw them the year before, and they’ve improved themselves physically,” Nutt said. “They’re bigger, they’re stronger, they look quick. Of course, we saw the Sugar Bowl. They looked really quick that night against Alabama. Trevor Knight was outstanding the day I got to watch him. He has some good receivers. Sterling Shepard, he is a guy that can really come out of his break and create separation. And I like the backs. You don’t know their names right now, but I really like (Alex) Ross. And then that defense, man. These guys are fast, quick – they got it going right now. They got a little swagger about themselves.”
All in all, Nutt is pretty excited about this season, especially because of the inaugural College Football Playoff.
“Everybody’s been wanting this,” he said. “It’s a good first step. I’m real curious to see how the committee goes about things and what’s going to be their format in picking these teams.”
Nutt only has one concern.
“I just know No. 5 is going to be mad,” he said, laughing. “We all know that. And we’ll be talking about it too – because there’ll be so much scrutiny this year. But I’m looking forward to it. It’s kind of a new frontier. I’m sure everybody’s going to be wanting eight, clamoring for eight. But this is a good first step. Let’s play it through these bowls, have that final four and see what happens.”