The second day of Big 12 Media Days took place on Thursday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and there was no shortage of storylines. Baylor, Kansas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Texas were scheduled to make the rounds to the assembled members of the media.
First-year Longhorns coach Steve Sarkisian was the star of the show as the former Alabama assistant is the latest coach charged with bringing the down-trodden program back from a decade of frustration. Perennial dark-horse Oklahoma State and mullet-less coach Mike Gundy was another hot topic considering the Cowboys bring back quarterback Spencer Sanders and a dangerous offense -- something that's always necessary in the Big 12.
After Wednesday's first day of Big 12 Media Days hat were the biggest storylines of Day 2? Let's break them down.
Is Texas back?
We have been able to ask this question every year since 2010. Sarkisian got the job specifically to answer 'yes' to that decade-old question. He knows it and embraces it, but isn't promising immediate results for a fan base that is craving relevancy.
"Winning is hard," he said said. "It takes grit. It takes teamwork."
If Texas is finally going to be back, it'll be on the heels of the first new starting quarterback the program has had since Sam Ehlinger took over in 2017. Hudson Card and Casey Thompson are vying for the job. Thompson replaced an injured Ehlinger in the Alamo Bowl and threw four second half touchdowns in a win over Colorado. Card, only threw three passes last year. Despite that, Sarkisian is excited about where his offense stands.
The defense will ultimately tell the tale of Texas' season. It was horrendous last year, and new coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski will have a tough job on his hands. If Sark's offense can pick things up, all Kwiatkowski will have to do is produce an adequate defense to contend for the Big 12 title and finally bring the Longhorns back into contention.
How 'horns down' will be handled
Players flashing the "horns down" sign every time they make a big play against Texas is a common occurrence. So common that the league is still trying to crack down on it.
"If you do a 'horns down' to a Texas player, that's probably going to be a foul," said Big 12 coordinator of officials Greg Burks. "If you do a 'horns down' to the crowd, it probably won't be a foul. I promise you we discuss this every year because we know you discuss this every year."
Note the use of the word "probably." Part of the frustration in this annual discussion is the fact that the conference consistently uses ambiguous terms to address something that isn't that big of a deal. Yes, flashing 'horns down' to a player can be considered taunting. No, flashing it to the crowd isn't. Just make a decision and go with it -- preferably one that allows players to have fun. After all, this is still a game.
Cowboys quiet confidence
There has been very little buzz surrounding Oklahoma State heading into the season, and it's clear that Gundy likes that. Gundy, along with Sanders and linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez, took the quiet confidence approach to their time at AT&T Stadium. That could be a problem for the rest of the conference. Why? Because there is a ton of firepower on that roster .
Sanders polished off his 2020 season with a four-touchdown, no-interception performance vs. Miami in the Cheez-It Bowl. A full offseason as the unquestioned starter in Gundy's high-octane system should work wonders for Sanders, who is also a threat on the ground. That should provide a big boost to a running game that includes Dezmon Jackson and LD Brown.
All of the publicity has gone to Iowa State as Texas' primary contender. Don't count out the Cowboys.
The Shough show
Texas Tech has been heaven on earth for quarterbacks who want to put up video game stats, and former Oregon signal-caller Tyler Shough transferred to Lubbock, Texas, to be the next in line. He had 1,559 yards and 13 touchdowns in seven games last year, and has the attention of coach Matt Wells -- who is on one of the hotter seats in the country according to CBS Sports senior writer Dennis Dodd.
Shough, a 6-foot-5, 221-pounder from Chandler, Arizona, has the attention of Wells -- but has some work to do to win the starting gig for the Red Raiders.
"Tyler got to Tech, practiced three in spring ball," Wells said. "And I think the things he brings, things that are hard to measure. He's in early, stays late. He's a football junkie. He's been a really good leader, and fit(s) in with our players almost immediately."
Let's be real ... Shough is there to be the starter. He is going to have a ton of pressure on his shoulders when he takes the field on Sept. 4 vs. Houston.
Baylor's new quarterback
Veteran quarterback Charlie Brewer exited the program to head to Utah this offseason which has left a wide open quarterback battle that should be wildly intriguing this offseason. Second-year coach Dave Aranda said Thursday that the three-man battle that includes sophomore Gerry Bohanon, redshirt freshman Jacob Zeno and redshirt freshman Blake Shapen should shake itself out as fall camp progresses. Aranda said that he prefers a single player to emerge as quickly as possible in order to get the rest of the offense accustomed to the system of first-year coordinator Jeff Grimes.
Speaking of Grimes, the former coordinator at BYU was wildly successful with quarterback Zach Wilson -- the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Will the new Bears quarterback follow in his footsteps? That's hard to imagine in Year One under Grimes, but Baylor has had plenty of success with quarterbacks in the past.
"I think for us, as an offense, the ability to build an offense that has a strong identity and can run the ball and play-action pass and have movement passes is really important," Aranda said. "But then leaving enough room to where if it's a certain type of quarterback, right, that we can feature that quarterback and make the offense about him. And these are plays that really feature this guy. So to be able to leave that aside for who this quarterback is going to be."
Kansas missing in action
The Jayhawks did not make it to suburban Dallas on Thursday after its flight was grounded due to inclement weather. It's really a shame. The scandal that led to Les Miles' dismissal has been lingering for months, which surely would have been a topic of conversation. Perhaps more importantly, though, is that the country missed out on the opportunity to get to know first-year coach Lance Leipold.
Will Kansas get the opportunity to put itself in a spotlight at any point throughout the regular season? If history repeats itself, the answer is going to be 'no.' That's a shame, because Leipold is one of the best coaches that many casual fans outside of Big 12 (and MAC) country have never heard of.
No more mullet
Last but not least, Gundy's iconic mullet is gone. But maybe not forgotten. Gundy told ESPNU that he had his barber cut it off because he was in a hurry and wanted to get on with his day. That is only temporary. He expects it to be back for the start of the season, which is obviously the most important news of the day.