SAN ANTONIO – Mike Gundy was perhaps the last person to be surprised by Adarius Bowman's emergence last season other than Bowman himself.
In 2005, Gundy could see clearly one of the best receivers in the Big 12 was playing on his scout team. In 2006, he proved he could do it on the varsity.
And this season, Bowman is the star offensive player on a team hoping to crash the conference championship game after going 7-6 last season.
The Big 12 South could be decided by a receiver with Bowman at Oklahoma State, Limas Sweed at Texas and Malcolm Kelly at Oklahoma.
All had at least 800 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. All three are at least 6 feet 4 and 215 pounds.
"It is a lot of big-name guys and guys getting pub," Kelly said. "And they're deserving of the pub they're getting – Adarius Bowman and Limas Sweed. They're all capable of making plays. I tip my cap to them."
Bowman might be the most loquacious of all three. He's quick with a joke and not afraid to speak his mind.
"To be honest, off the field I'm probably the silliest guy you'll ever meet. On the field, I'm probably the worst guy you want to meet," Bowman said. "My personality is a lot different on and off the field. Y'all might not even like me on the field."
Opponents certainly have not. Bowman is the conference's leading returning receiver with 1,181 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging 19.7 yards per catch. He turned in the single-best receiving game of the season with a 300-yard, four-touchdown day against Kansas.
Gundy was not surprised at all after watching Bowman on the scout team in 2005 following his transfer from North Carolina.
"When he transferred in it was pretty evident when he was on the scout team what he could do because they couldn't tackle him either," Gundy said. "Good players show up pretty fast. It's kind of like watching tape on a high school player. Generally in the first five or six plays, the good ones show up pretty fast."
Now the key is getting consistency out of Bowman, who had only one other 100-yard receiving game in addition to his breakout against the Jayhawks.
"When he has the ball in his hands he's dangerous," Gundy said. "I think that he would probably tell you that he had some dropped balls in games last year. Other than that he does very well. He's a good blocker and helps our running game."
Bowman is just grateful to have a second chance. North Carolina dismissed Bowman after he and two teammates were cited for marijuana possession.
"I always think about that," Bowman said. "Every time that does cross my mind I thank God for Coach Gundy for giving me that second chance and allowing me to grow and learn from my mistakes rather than repeating them."
Decision time for Chiles
Texas true freshman John Chiles will have a tough decision on his hands in the coming weeks.
The Rivals100 athlete can either follow Vince Young's example and redshirt to develop as a quarterback, or he can play right away and be an impact receiver, safety or kick returner.
Like another Texas super recruit, Chiles comes to the Longhorns as a raw passer but with athletic ability to spare.
"He saw Vince redshirt. He was an inconsistent passer early in his career. That's what worked for him and kids are saying I want to be Vince Young I want to wait and slow down," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "John has been a little more confused of whether he would like to be a quarterback or a receiver or a kickoff returner. He can do all these things."
Redshirting probably would mean an end to playing other positions for Chiles, who arrived in the spring and will go through two-a-days before making a decision.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy won't be surprised if receiver Artrell Woods returns from a freak back injury sustained a couple of weeks ago.
Woods underwent back surgery for 3½ hours after the accident in the weight room that nearly left him paralyzed. He probably will miss the season but could return to Stillwater in the next few days.
"He has a long road ahead of him because of that injury," Gundy said. "But in my opinion, he will be back and he will play again because that's the type of person he is. He believes in himself, and I think he'll be back. That's just my prediction."
Collins to stay
Oklahoma State linebacker Chris Collins was a Rivals.com second-team freshman All-American and the Cowboys' leading tackler at the time of a season-ending injury last year.
However, off-the-field issues continue to cloud his career. Collins pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of sexual assault involving a 12-year-old girl in a May 2004 incident while Collins was still at Texarkana (Texas) High. Collins was one of four men charged.
He will remain on the team "until he leaves or somebody comes and gets him," coach Mike Gundy said from Big 12 Media Days on Wednesday.
"I don't think there's any doubt that Chris would say he made a mistake, and I don't agree with what happened," Gundy said. "We gave a young man an opportunity to make up for something because of the investigation we did over the phone. I'm believer that he made a mistake and he deserves a second chance. I'm not siding with anyone."
Gundy said Collins has remained quiet on the issue in Stillwater and has been well-behaved. His case might not be resolved until the end of the season.
David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.