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June 11, 2008

Big 12 passers not high on NFL wish lists

There already has been lots of talk about how good the quarterbacks will be in the Big 12 this season. Check out this roll call: Missouri's Chase Daniel, Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, Texas Tech's Graham Harrell, Kansas' Todd Reesing, Texas' Colt McCoy, Colorado's Cody Hawkins, Oklahoma State's Zac Robinson and Kansas State's Josh Freeman. And I think Nebraska's Joe Ganz is primed for a big season, too.

But are any of these signal-callers NFL prospects? I talked to an NFL scout who follows the Big 12 to get his views.

"No, most of these guys don't project as big-time prospects," he says. "Most are short quarterbacks who excel in their system.

"Look at Daniel. He's not even 6-foot. He's about 5-10. I think he'll be a late-round pick. He'll have to find the right system where they move him around and he gets windows to throw through. But Doug Flutie was a small guy. And he's who Daniel reminds me of."

But a few Big 12 players who will be draft-eligible in April already are gaining attention.

"I'll tell you who I really like: (Nebraska RB Marlon) Lucky," he says. "He's a good player who showed up in every game last year. With the way he runs and catches, I think he'd be perfect for a West Coast offense.

"I think (Missouri tight end Chase) Coffman will be a better pro than Martin Rucker. I think Coffman is tougher and has more of an NFL body. He'll just be a better fit in the NFL. You always wonder why they don't use him more.

"I'll tell you who's another good tight end: the kid at Oklahoma State (Brandon Pettigrew). He is as good as any of the tight ends who came out in last year's draft."

SOME EXTRA MOTIVATION

I was in the office of Illinois offensive coordinator Mike Locksley recently. Taped to a cabinet above his desk was an article from an Internet site (ahem this Web site, as a matter of fact) that notes Illinois could be a team headed for a fall after making a miraculous run to the Rose Bowl last season.

"I saw this and wanted to keep it here where I could see it," says Locksley, who is on a collision course with a head-coaching job. "I use it as motivation."

Why doubt Illinois' legitimacy? In particular, many wonder if the offense will have teeth after tailback Rashard Mendenhall left early for the NFL. And will quarterback Juice Williams take the next step as a passer?

25 TO WATCH
Here's a look at my 25 best non-conference games this season.
Ohio State at USC, Sept. 13.
Auburn at West Virginia, Oct. 23.
Missouri vs. Illinois, Aug. 30 (St. Louis).
Alabama vs. Clemson, Aug. 30 (Atlanta).
South Carolina at Clemson, Nov. 29.
Georgia at Arizona State, Sept. 20.
Wisconsin at Fresno State, Sept. 13.
Virginia Tech at Nebraska, Sept. 27.
Tennessee at UCLA, Sept. 1.
Fresno State at Rutgers, Sept. 1.
Utah at Michigan, Aug. 30.
Arkansas at Texas, Sept. 13.
Michigan at Notre Dame, Sept. 13.
Florida at Florida State, Nov. 29.
Miami at Florida, Sept. 6.
BYU at Washington, Sept. 6.
Michigan State at California, Aug. 30.
Notre Dame at USC, Nov. 29.
Virginia Tech vs. East Carolina, Aug. 30 (Charlotte).
Kansas at USF, Sept. 12.
Colorado vs. Florida State, Sept. 27 (Jacksonville).
Notre Dame at Michigan State, Sept. 20.
Oklahoma at Washington, Sept. 13.
Georgia Tech at Georgia, Nov. 29.
Oregon at Purdue, Sept. 13.

"He's coming along," Locksley says. "And we all are working hard. This little article hanging here is just one thing that motivates me."

LET IT BE GAME TIME ALREADY

I can't help but peek ahead at the first month or so of the season, anticipating what will be some of the best non-conference games.

A few years ago, we were treated to a two-season Ohio State-Texas series. Last season was largely devoid of a much-anticipated matchup, though Virginia Tech-LSU had some juice.

This year, all eyes are on Sept. 13, when Ohio State visits USC on a date that shapes up to be the first defining Saturday of the season. In addition to the big clash in L.A., there's also Arkansas at Texas; Oklahoma at Washington; Michigan at Notre Dame; Wisconsin at Fresno State; Oregon at Purdue; Iowa State at Iowa; California at Maryland; and Penn State at Syracuse.

BORGES LOOKING AROUND

Al Borges is staying busy since leaving his post as Auburn's offensive coordinator at the end of last season.

"I have been traveling around, visiting other schools and other coaches," says Borges, whose offense played a big role in Auburn's 13-0 season in 2004. "It has been good. I'm learning new things and helping out some people, too.

"It's all about staying on top of things, and that's what I'm doing."

Borges, 52, most recently visited the Detroit Lions, talking offense with coach Rod Marinelli, his good friend. Borges also has visited and worked with staffs at Georgia, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and California.

"I also did some consulting for Gene Chizik at Iowa State," says Borges, whose career has taken him to UCLA, Indiana, Oregon and Cal, among other stops. "Gene and I worked together at Auburn. He has a good staff in Ames. I think they have a chance to be successful."

Borges, a noted devotee of the West Coast offense and developer of quarterbacks Cade McNown and Jason Campbell, is a bright mind and hard worker who hopes to get back in the business as soon as possible. He came close to landing a few coordinator jobs in the offseason and almost snagged the coordinator post at UCLA before Norm Chow became available.

Tom Dienhart is a national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com.



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