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June 30, 2009Mike Leach touched off a veritable media hissy fit when he did not bring Heisman Trophy candidates Michael Crabtree and Graham Harrell with him to Big 12 Media Days a year ago. Instead, Leach trotted out lesser lights Jamar Wall, Daniel Charbonnet and Eric Morris.
Some media types took umbrage. Indeed, one prominent pundit refused to put Harrell's name on his Heisman ballot in order to punish Leach for refusing to kowtow to the all-mighty media. And this particular maven had the gall to call Leach unprofessional!
What certain egomaniacal media types cannot get through their thick skulls is the fact that Leach's primary concern is winning football games. Stroking journalistic egos and making the cushy lives of scribes even cushier is way down his list of job priorities. That being the case, Leach will choose individuals to attend Media Days with the good of his team in mind, and not the preferences of the media.
The media will have much less reason to be torqued at Leach in 2009 Media Days than a year ago if for no other reason that his current squad has no superstars reporters are wetting themselves to interview. There simply are no Harrells and Crabtrees for Leach to leave home this time round.
Now the primary reason Leach did not bring Crabtree and Harrell to Media Days in 2008 was because both of those players were already getting a tremendous amount of publicity. And is it turned out, both players continued to get enormous pub throughout the season despite not having attended Media Days.
Crabtree and Harrell to Media Days would have been coals to Newcastle. Moreover, Leach did not want to fan any nascent embers of jealousy on the team by exalting Crabtree and Harrell further than they already were.
In 2009, the situation is exactly the opposite. The Red Raiders have few real stars and award candidates. They do, however, have several stellar players who probably deserve more publicity than they're currently receiving. Thus, rather than tamping down publicity as he did a year ago, Leach's job this year may be to whip it up for certain players. And that calculus could govern his selections for the media shebang coming up in July.
Coaches are allowed to bring only three players to Media Days. I do not know which three Red Raiders will accompany Boss Pirate to Kansas City, but I suspect the three will come from the following group of five: Baron Batch, Brandon Carter, Brian Duncan, Taylor Potts and Colby Whitlock.
Coaches generally bring players to represent both the offense and the defense, and the above quintet contains three offensive players and two defensive guys. The possibility of rough proportional representation is thus allowed for.
And insofar as Brandon Carter is the only famous, award-winning player in the group, Leach can help out on the early publicity campaign for players he believes need more exposure.
No player on the roster deserves the exposure more than running back Baron Batch. Doubtless unbeknownst to most media types, Batch actually led the Red Raiders in rushing a year ago despite the fact that he did not start. What's more, he averaged 6.7 yards per carry despite playing with a bum toe.
If Batch can stay healthy in 2009, there is every reason to believe he will be Leach's first running back to crack the 1,000-yard rushing barrier. He's really a terrific talent. Additionally, Batch is an extremely intelligent, articulate young man who will represent Texas Tech very well in the media spotlight.
Carter, in addition to being a returning All American and arguably the most colorful player on the team, may also be the leader of the offense. He's a senior who's been through the wars and has the full respect of his teammates. Selecting Carter for Media Days would only solidify his role as a crucial team leader.
Brian Duncan, although only a junior, plays a role similar to Carter's, but on the defensive side of the ball. He's a smart, articulate individual who orchestrates the defense from his middle linebacker position. Duncan's also a good player who could use a bit of publicity.
The starting quarterback will always be strongly considered for attending events such as Media Days, and Tech's Taylor Potts is no exception. And in Potts' case such consideration makes extra good sense because he has been under the radar the entirely of his collegiate career. That will change whether Potts attends Media Days or not. Best to give him a media baptism early on and let him get used to it.
Along with Baron Batch, Colby Whitlock is the most unknown player on the team who deserves to be known better. But because he plays defense in a program known for offense, and because defensive tackles rarely accumulate impressive statistics, Whitlock is a pretty obscure figure nationally.
He shouldn't be. Whitlock is one of the Big 12's elite defensive tackles and it's high time that his name gets into the media slipstream. Attending Big 12 Media Days would be a good first step toward that end.