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Friday, April 18, 2014

Big 12 officials address The Salute

BY KELLIS ROBINETT AND
The Wichita Eagle

DALLAS — Kansas State fans will never forget The Salute.

Last December, Adrian Hilburn caught a touchdown pass near the end of the Pinstripe Bowl that pulled K-State within two points of Syracuse and celebrated by saluting a small group of fans. Officials flagged him for unsportsmanlike conduct, the Wildcats failed to convert a long two-point conversion and the penalty was discussed nationally for several days.

Few saw a problem with his behavior, and blamed the officials for penalizing a player for doing nothing more than being excited after a big play.

Turns out that criticism was taken seriously.

Big 12 coordinator of officials Walt Anderson kicked off Big 12 media day by discussing rule changes and new points of emphasis. He began his presentation by showing video of Hilburn's controversial celebration.

"Those types of acts," Anderson said, "hopefully we will be more consistent on by not calling."

He called Hilburn's celebration "spontaneous." He said it was not over the top or considered taunting. Should a similar celebration occur this year, it shouldn't be flagged.

Unless it is "clearly" unsportsmanlike or obviously taunting, Anderson said players should be allowed to pump their fists, throw the ball in the air or even salute after big plays.

"If you have to think about it, don't flag it," Anderson said. "We don't want to get into the debates that got us up to this point... why in the world are they flagging that?"

Berglund pleads not guilty — Kansas freshman quarterback Brock Berglund pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge and will stand trial on Dec. 13 in Colorado.

Berglund's lawyer, Kevin McGreevy, said Berglund will be at KU's first practice of fall camp Aug. 3.

On April 9, according to the public information officer at the Douglas County (Colo.) Sheriff's office, Berglund, 18, was "involved in an altercation with another male" and "struck the other party." Berglund was not injured in the incident, but the victim sustained injury.

On June 24, Berglund was booked and charged with third-degree assault, a misdemeanor. He could face a minimum of a $50 fine to a maximum six months in jail and or a $750 fine.

Berglund, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound dual-threat quarterback rated a three-star prospect by Rivals.com, was expected to challenge Jordan Webb for the starting quarterback job this season, but Webb will have a decided advantage with Berglund having missed spring practice and summer workouts.

An encore? —Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon caught 111 passes for 1,782 yards and 20 touchdowns last season. Those stats put him in the conversation for the Heisman Trophy, and make him one of the most-hyped players in the country entering the year.

What does he have planned for an encore?

"I'm not going to set my goal up to do better than I did last year or try to re-enact last year," he said. "It was good, but I'm just going to go out there and play and do whatever I need to do to help my team win."

Being Baylor — For teams in the old Big 12 North, much has been made about the Big 12's new scheduling format.

In the last few years, they've had it rather easy. Kansas, Kansas State, Nebraska, Colorado, Iowa State and Missouri is a much less daunting lineup to face on a yearly basis than Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Baylor.

But now that the Cornhuskers and Buffaloes are gone and the remaining 10 teams will face each other year-in, year-out, there is no hiding from the powers of the old Big 12 South.

Baylor has been fighting through it for years, and its players are happy to finally have some relief.

"It's always hard," Baylor linebacker Elliot Coffey said. "The Big 12 South is just so strong."

What's the big deal? —Baylor coach Art Briles was the only coach other than Mack Brown to say he wasn't bothered by Texas gaining a recruiting advantage over other Big 12 schools with the beginning of the Longhorn Network.

"Do I worry about it? Not a bit," Briles said. "I mean, they're pretty hard to recruit against anyway."

A&M watches TV, too — The first question for Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman wasn't about his impressive group of returning offensive skill players. It was about a television station that you might have heard of called the Longhorn Network, which will soon debut thanks to a promise of $300 million over 20 years from ESPN.

The network came under scrutiny this summer after word leaked that ESPN and Texas were planning to air high-school football games that featured UT recruits (that presumably were also being recruited by schools such as A&M). Texas A&M fans and alums are worried about the advantage that could create for Texas.

Sherman didn't want to discuss it, saying, "I'm sure you guys can sort that out yourselves."

What Sherman did want to discuss was his defense, which will play its second season under defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter. That full offseason to learn DeRuyter's system that he brought with him from Air Force will counteract the loss of No. 2 overall pick Von Miller, Sherman hopes.

"The familiarity they have with the system will be much, much greater than it was a year ago," Sherman said. "Some of the mistakes we made last year I don't see us making. From a scheme standpoint, they'll understand it better. From a talent standpoint, we're not gonna replace Von Miller, but we can do it collectively."

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