Kliff Kingsbury is making his rounds through the car wash that is Big 12 Media Days. Marketing photos, interviews with CBS and of course random questions about hover boards and what designer he's wearing. The grandest of stages is when Kliff and the other coaches face 100+ media members in the press conference room. Most coaches are very reserved in such a large setting, but the fourth year coach was very open on a few topics. Here are my top 6 thoughts from his time behind the mic.
* 1) KLIFF LOVES HIM SOME PATRICK MAHOMES - Just like myself and the rest of Raider Nation, Kingsbury can't hide his excitement for the season that Patrick Mahomes has before him. It was mentioned during the press conference that Kliff hasn't really had a "returning quarterback" since his days with Kase Keenum at Houston. The idea of hitting the ground running and focusing solely on the 2016 football season will be big for both Pat and Kliff.
"Pat worked hard (this offseason) on becoming an all-around quarterback. It's his first full offseason without baseball. Last year he made spectacular plays and really carried us at times...this year we're going to work on things with him, when the ordinary play is there, let's take it. I think you're going to see a much more refined, athletic, polished quarterback this fall."
Off the field, I think Kliff likes Pat even more. He mentioned his humbleness and how much he has grown as a leader.
"This is Patrick's team now. It's been fun to watch him grow into the leader he has become"
Kliff has former quarterback talent all over the country, including Davis Webb at Cal, Baker Mayfield at Oklahoma and Vincent Testeverde at Miami. More than the talent, more than being a good teammate, I think Kliff loves the fact that Pat is Texas Tech's quarterback and has no desire to go anywhere else.
* 2) DAVID GIBBS RETURNING TO THE TEAM WILL BE HUGE - Much like Pat and the offense will hit the ground running, Kliff expects to benefit from a returning defensive coordinator. The position has been a merry-go-round since Kliff came back to Lubbock and having David Gibbs for year number two will be big. Kingsbury mentioned that if you review most of the recent Big 12 champions, they all have one thing in common: a returning defensive coordinator.
"Coach Gibbs did a great job at Houston and he's making big strides at Texas Tech. I expect us to be much improved on that side of the ball.
* 3) REPLACING JAKEEM GRANT AND DEANDRE WASHINGTON WILL BE DIFFICULT BUT NOT IMPOSSIBLE - Every successful program has the same task when the calendar rolls over to the next year: replace talent that just left for the NFL or graduated. Replacing Grant (all-time leading receiver) and Washington (#5 all-time in rushing at Tech) will be job one for Kliff. Fortunately, he's not rebuilding his reloading.
"Deandre Washington was incredible back for us...so we gotta find a guy. Justin Stockton is that guy. He's as explosive as you'll find in college football at the running back position. Now he's the guy. I'm anxious to see how he produces."
As for a go to receiver. Dylan Cantrell will apparently become the heir to the Patrick Mahomes security blanket roll. Kingsbury discussed how their offense in 2015 was built a lot around Washington and Grant getting a lot of touches, now sans their two best playmakers, Kliff expects their passing game to change a bit and for Cantrell to be a big part of it.
"Anytime Pat gets in trouble, he's looking for Cantrell. We're fired up about him. He was a deep ball threat that we felt like we didn't have last year, the way he attacks the ball. He will have an instant impact."
If you haven't already seen it, check out Cantrell's twitter (dylancantrell14). He might be a fantastic option for Mahomes to "throw it up to."
* 4) KLIFF UNDERSTANDS WHAT'S IMPORTANT IN RECRUITING - Maybe my favorite answer that Kliff gave the entire press conference was to the question: "What can you do that will help you on the recruiting trail the most?" With satellite camps, jersey combinations, new facilities all being the new trends in recruiting, Kingsbury kept it simple.
Simple, straight forward and 100% factual. Top recruits want to go a proven winner. Winning big games and possible Big 12 titles will only create a snowball effect on recruiting.
He added, "We feel like we've recruited well, going on year four, and have great relationships across the state now. It's time to take that next step.
* 5) THE DEVIN LAUDERDALE DOG HOUSE SITUATION IS IN THE PAST - After being suspended for the bowl game, Kliff, Devin and the team look like they're moving forward in the right direction.
"He's a guy that has explosiveness to help fill the void (Jakeem Grant gruaduating). He's had a good summer, he's come back focused. He knew he screwed up. It's on him and he's gotta earn back the trust of his teammates and his coaches and so far he has. If he can fulfill his potential then he can be a really good player."
* 6) THE JETT IS CLOSE TO BEING ON THE RUNWAY - Kliff said both true freshman Jett Duffey and junior transfer Nic Shimonek have had great offseasons and he hasn't made a decision on who will be Mahomes back next month, but Kingsbury sounds open to letting the Mansfield product take over if something were to happen.
"Jett was a tremendous player here in the DFW. Played a similar offense and understands what we are trying to do. We're going to give Jett every opportunity to win that job (backup quarterback), but Nic really played well this spring."
As it is with most true freshman quarterbacks, is burning a year of eligibility on Duffey worth it? Depending on the circumstance, time of the season and ongoing maturation process, I think that decision is still up in the air.
Side note: Kliff did not mention which designer he was wearing and did not have a mullet, unlike some other coaches. It's ok, he's a man...he's 40.
More from the Big 12 Media Days coming soon.