Big 12: Oklahoma Sooners
Chris J. in Houston, Texas, writes: If the playoffs expand to include automatic bids for conference champions, does this affect end of season out of conference rivalries? Do you think coaches might rest or limit players knowing they essentially have a play-in game the following week?
Brandon Chatmon: Man, you leapfrogged a couple of steps here Chris. But if it ever gets to that, I definitely could see coaches making decisions like that because as important as rivalries are in college football, I think winning a national title would rise above them. I really don't see this becoming a major problem anytime soon, though.
James in Wheeling, West Virginia, writes: Can you see the Big 12 being West Virginia's permanent home? If not, where do you think we fit in best?
BC: Ready to jump ship already James? It's only been three years.
Wallace in Cincinnati writes: I hate that football has ended, and I'm not an NFL fan so my season ended January 12th, but I digress. So what needs to occur for the Big 12 to expand from 10 teams to 12? They were already left at the alter by the College Playoff Committee for not having a "true champion." Is it going to take another year of missing out on the playoff? Or having a team like Texas or Oklahoma miss out before Bob Bowlsby realizes he needs to expand the conference to have a conference championship game?
BC: A conference full of athletic directors who want to expand would be a good start. It would probably take a consistent, multi-year trend of missing out on the playoffs before expansion becomes a real consideration. As much as some people want it to happen, expansion is not a priority right now.
Rob in Denver writes: Any idea why TCU isn't in the running to get Devonte Fields back? From his stats in JUCO I'm not sure the Frogs would want him back, but I was curious. At this point, chances of the Frogs landing Daylon Mack?
BC: Why would TCU want Fields back? He had plenty of chances in Gary Patterson's program and the Horned Frogs just won 12 games without him. As far as Mack, it feels like TCU has a decent shot, the Horned Frogs would be making a terrific statement if they landed the No. 6 player in the ESPN 300.
Josh writes: Who do you think will take over the quarterback duties in Norman? Who fits the Lincoln Riley offense better?
BC: Baker Mayfield would be my favorite but it could be anybody's job. I'm not ready to give up on Trevor Knight and we never know how Cody Thomas or Justice Hansen will fit in Riley's offense. It should be a fun spring to watch in Norman.
Stanley Wren in Houston writes: Could you see a scenario whereas a Big 12 team went undefeated in '15 and was not included in the top 4 of the College Football Playoff?
Justin in the UK writes: How do you think all the crazy recruiting possibilities at Texas are going to pan out?
BC: I have a feeling UT will end up with a top-5 class. Charlie Strong is after a bunch of elite recruits during the home stretch and the Longhorns already have a strong class. If they're able to flip Kyler Murray or Kai Locksley and land Daylon Mack or Chris Warren as they close with a bang, UT could become the talk of signing day.
Robert in Tulsa, Oklahoma, writes: Am I the only Baylor fan concerned the Bears have a logjam under center and could end up having all the young ones transfer away? I think people jump to Seth Russell being the answer too quickly and forget that Chris Johnson was the #5 Dual Threat QB when he came out of high school. With Chad President already gone, I'm concerned Jarrett Stidham and Johnson will get antsy and leave? Am I overreacting?
BC: I think so. First, Art Briles is in charge. Enough said. Second, it's never bad to have several quality options at quarterback, most of the Big 12 would love to be in the same position. Third, Baylor isn't going to have a problem attracting talented quarterbacks if someone does leave. Who wouldn't want to trigger that offense?
- Remember Devonte Fields, who was the preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year before getting booted from TCU in late July? Well, Fields, who spent last year at Trinity Valley (Texas) Community College, is taking a visit to Louisville this weekend. Our man Max Olson, by the way, broke the story. Hopefully Fields has his life in order, and is able to put his football career back on track. No doubt, Fields is an immense talent with loads of potential. Which, considering they did it without Fields, makes the Horned Frogs' remarkable 2014 turnaround all the more remarkable.
- Speaking of the Horned Frogs, ex-TCU cornerback Kevin White was one of the "winners" from the Senior Bowl over the weekend, according to NFL.com's Chase Goodbread. "White showed the skills needed to play either cornerback or nickelback," Goodbread wrote, "and such versatility could help his draft status significantly." Goodbread wasn't so high on former Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, though the writer noted Petty had the quickest release of any Senior Bowl QB.
- Texas' recruiting class got more good news when ESPN 300 wideout John Burt committed back to the Longhorns after reopening his recruitment earlier this month and giving Auburn a hard look. The Longhorns now have 10 ESPN 300 commitments and counting. New wide receivers coach Jay Norvell, who had previously been an assistant at Oklahoma since 2008, has already begun to make an impact in Austin; he appeared to have a hand in Burt's reaffirmation.
- New Kansas coach David Beaty continued his delve into the Lone Star State, landing a pair of Texas prospects in College Station receiver Jeremiah Booker and Dorance Armstrong, a three-star defensive end from Houston. The Jayhawks did lose DeSoto, Texas, receiver Kevin Thomas to SMU over the weekend. But Beaty now has 16 commitments on board from the state of Texas. That is a development that should excite the Kansas fan base.
- Former Oklahoma offensive coordinator Josh Heupel has landed on his feet as the playcaller at Utah State, noted The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel. Heupel had some great seasons as a QB coach at OU, then some good ones as the offensive coordinator. After the Sooners struggled to an 8-5 finish with a pistol zone-read that Heupel never seemed comfortable calling, he ultimately became the fall guy. But Heupel should look no further than Manny Diaz for inspiration of how to bounce back. After flaming out at Texas, Diaz went to Louisiana Tech and coordinated a top-40 defense. Now, he's back in the Power 5 as the defensive coordinator at Mississippi State. Likewise, Heupel could make a quick bounce back.
Total commits: 18
ESPN 300 commits: 3
ESPN JC50 commits: 1
Class rank: 27th
The latest: The Bears added a fourth offensive lineman to their class on Sunday in the form of Ringling, Oklahoma, guard Riley Daniel. He chose Baylor after an official visit this weekend and a trip to Texas Tech last weekend. Baylor is also battling the Red Raiders for three-star Louisiana cornerback Henry Black, who visited Waco over the weekend.
Total commits: 18
ESPN 300 commits: 0
ESPN JC50 commits: 1
Class rank: Not ranked
The latest: Iowa State is searching for a running back to replace Devine Ozigbo, who flipped to Nebraska earlier this month. Might the answer be Joshua Thomas? The three-star back from Buford, Georgia, appears to be down to Iowa State and Wisconsin. A decision is expected soon. Thomas visited the Badgers this weekend. Another recruit to keep an eye on: Julian Good-Jones, the Cyclones' tackle commit who visited Louisville this weekend.
Total commits: 24
ESPN 300 commits: 0
ESPN JC50 commits: 0
Class rank: Not ranked
The latest: Kansas picked up five intriguing pledges from the state of Texas in the last week -- DE Dorance Armstrong, WR Jeremiah Booker, WR Steven Sims, LB Osaze Ogbebor and former Tulsa CB commit Shola Ayinde -- but also lost two significant commits over the weekend. On Sunday, three-star receiver Kevin Thomas flipped to SMU and three-star athlete Arico Evans made his flip to TCU.
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 0
ESPN JC50 commits: 0
Class rank: Not ranked
The latest: Kansas State will be a finalist for one Georgia prospect on signing day and will have to do some work to ensure another stays in the fold. Three-star defensive end G.G. Robinson, a Louisville commit, visited K-State over the weekend and hails from Lilburn, Georgia. Meanwhile, three-star OLB commit Mohamed Barry took an official visit to Nebraska and will make his final decision between KSU, Nebraska and Miami on Thursday.
Total commits: 20
ESPN 300 commits: 8
ESPN JC50 commits: 3
Class rank: 17th
The latest: The Sooners are likely going to part ways with ESPN 300 defensive tackle Marquise Overton, whose ACT score has the OU staff concerned he won't qualify. A key target to take his place in the OU class is four-star Darrion Daniels. The Dallas defensive tackle visited Iowa this weekend and is expected to decide this week, though Texas Tech might be the favorite at the moment.
Total commits: 18
ESPN 300 commits: 3
ESPN JC50 commits: 1
Class rank: 35th
The latest: The Cowboys moved quickly to land ESPN 300 athlete Louis Brown after he parted ways with Texas last weekend. Brown took an official visit to OSU and made his commitment on Saturday night. The Burton, Texas, native will likely play defensive end. OSU also held its first junior day for the 2016 class this weekend.
Total commits: 24
ESPN 300 commits: 0
ESPN JC50 commits: 0
Class rank: 37th
The latest: The Horned Frogs loaded up on speed this weekend. First they secured a commitment from Kavontae Turpin, an electric receiver and returner from Monroe, Louisiana. Then came the commitment from Arico Evans, who'd pledged to Kansas earlier this month. He accounted for 34 total touchdowns as a quarterback at Dallas Hillcrest this season.
Total commits: 23
ESPN 300 commits: 9
ESPN JC50 commits: 1
Class rank: 9th
The latest: Texas had a big-time weekend with five-star DT Daylon Mack, ESPN 300 running back Soso Jamabo and ESPN 300 athlete Kai Locksley in town for official visits. Mack and Jamabo will announce their decisions on signing day. Locksley, an important QB target for Texas after losing Zach Gentry to Michigan, will go home and mull over whether he should flip from Florida State. The Horns also brought in Georgia DB commit Deandre Baker and Dominique Reed, the nation's No. 4 juco receiver. Texas also picked up a re-commitment on Monday from ESPN 300 wide receiver John Burt, who'd backed out earlier this month to reconsider Auburn.
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 3
ESPN JC50 commits: 0
Class rank: 33rd
The latest: The Red Raiders picked up a commitment last week from three-star offensive lineman Cody Wheeler of powerhouse Allen High School in Texas. He was one of the many official visitors in Lubbock over the weekend, a list headlined by ESPN 300 running back Chris Warren III. Three-star defensive end pledge Lonzell Gilmore visited Baylor over the weekend.
Total commits: 24
ESPN 300 commits: 3
ESPN JC50 commits: 1
Class rank: 25th
The latest: In addition to landing a commitment from three-star lineman Rob Dowdy, West Virginia had a big-time weekend with three Florida studs visiting Morgantown: four-star Miami pledge RB Mark Walton, four-star Georgia commit WR Shaquery Wilson and ESPN 300 receiver Antonio Callaway. Another Florida native, four-star athlete Jordan Cronkrite, will decide between WVU and Florida on signing day.
- Landing local recruits has played a key role in Baylor's rise, writes John Werner of the Waco Tribune. From safety Ahmad Dixon to defensive tackle Andrew Billings, Art Briles' program is starting to keep the bulk of the best players in the Waco area at BU. Briles makes an important point in the story, noting that Baylor recruits those local stars because they can help compete for championships, not because they are local stars.
- Texas lost a commitment from ESPN300 quarterback Zach Gentry so landing a quarterback commitment in the final days of recruiting is important for Charlie Strong's program, writes Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News. It was interesting to see the reaction to Gentry's flip to Michigan over the weekend. It was as if Gentry was a lock to step in and answer the questions at the quarterback position in Austin. But, realistically, the chances of Gentry, Kyler Murray or Kai Locksley stepping in as true freshman and leading UT into Big 12 title contention aren't particularly high. It's much more likely the immediate answer is already on campus or could arrive via transfer during this offseason. The odds aren't in the favor of any true freshman quarterback -- no matter how elite-- transforming UT's outlook in Year 1.
- A solid look at Texas Tech commitment D'Vonta Hinton from Jason McDaniel of the Houston Chronicle includes how questions about his height have placed a chip on Hinton's shoulder. "If size matters why isn't the elephant king of the jungle?" Hinton ponders in the piece. I like this guy already.
- Could Samaje Perine be even better in Year 2? The Oklahoma running back earned All-Big 12 honors while rushing for 1,713 yards during his first semester on campus. Guerin Emig of the Tulsa World looks at ways Perine could be even more productive as a sophomore, from increased touches to improved measurables after a offseason in OU's strength and conditioning program. I could see Perine being better but less productive as a sophomore with other talented running backs on the roster and the Sooners unlikely to lean on Perine and the running game for most of its offensive success. It will be interesting to see how he grows as a player and how the offense evolves around him under new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley.
- Several Big 12 players made an impression with their play in the Senior Bowl but a TCU Horned Frog was one of Todd McShay's top 10 performers at the event in Mobile, Alabama. One year after Jason Verrett went from standout on TCU's defense to NFL first-round pick, Kevin White has his stock on the rise after a strong showing. He may not go as high as Verrett but he's on the road to landing on an NFL roster if he continues to perform like he did during the past week.
On to the 'bag:
@Jake_Trotter Really enjoyed the Top 25 players series, but curious why the underutilized and underrated DeAndre Washington wasn't on it.— Robert Jones (@wr_jones) January 23, 2015
Trotter: We're big fans of Washington here on the blog. We made him a second-team All-Big 12 selection. But the top 25 player ranking was a tough list to crack. A number of other terrific players like Oklahoma's Sterling Shepard and Baylor's Antwan Goodley didn't make the list, either. Washington has a chance, though, to open next year on the preseason top 25 list as one of the league's top returning running backs.
@Jake_Trotter who takes the opening handoff for Oklahoma State next year?— Brian Murphy (@Bmurphy47) January 23, 2015
Trotter: Rennie Childs is the obvious bet at this point, since he's the only healthy scholarship running back currently on campus. But I think the Cowboys land a marquee back before signing day. Oklahoma State has a powerful pitch to make, and that's immediate playing time. Keep an eye on Chris Carson, who is an ESPN Junior College 50 prospect. Carson has been committed to Georgia since August, but he's reportedly taking a visit to Stillwater this weekend. Because they can offer playing time -- and Georgia can't having Nick Chubb -- I think the Cowboys have a decent chance to flip Carson.
@Jake_Trotter do you believe Art Briles when he said Baylor was only 3 votes short of making the playoff?— Floyd_Sign (@sign_floyd) January 23, 2015
Trotter: I believe that Briles believes or was told that. But after Heather Dinich spoke with College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock, it doesn't seem very likely that Briles got good info, considering the playoff votes are taken via secret ballot over computer.
@Jake_Trotter red river rivalry or black Friday showdown more important game next year?— BearsCanClimb (@TideNormand) January 23, 2015
Trotter: The Red River Showdown hasn't been the league's most important game in seven years. I don't see why next season would be any different.
@Jake_Trotter favorite Kurt Russell movie?— Michael Van (@MichaelVan17) January 23, 2015
Trotter: "Miracle." But "Death Proof," "Escape from L.A.," "Tombstone," "Poseidon" and even "Overboard" have high rewatchability.
@Jake_Trotter Should BU redshirt Stidham, letting him backup Seth Russell next year, then having a 3 yr starter with maturity & experience?— Mike McGown (@mikemcgown) January 23, 2015
Trotter: Yes, but only if he's not the best quarterback. If he is, Baylor should start him. That would give him four seasons.
@Jake_Trotter is Joe Hubener Kstates most like go to starter next year at QB?— Nathan Davis (@nate_davis17) January 23, 2015
Trotter: I think so. Incoming freshman Alex Delton is an intriguing prospect, but Bill Snyder isn't prone to playing true freshmen anywhere, much less at quarterback. Joe Hubener has three years in the system, which gives him a huge advantage over the others. He has good size, good speed and a good arm, from what I hear. If he takes care of the ball he will be tough to unseat.
@Jake_Trotter The latest on Big XII expansion/conf. championship game ?— Chris Hartzler (@cykowboyz) January 23, 2015
Trotter: No latest. If you read my Q&A with commissioner Bob Bowlsby from earlier this week, you'll know that there are no immediate plans for either. The only change I see the Big 12 making is eliminating the "co-champions" rule. Otherwise, expect status quo.
@Jake_Trotter if you were doing your preseason power rankings today, who #3?— John Cassidy (@TheRealJCassidy) January 23, 2015
Trotter: I already did a too-early Big 12 power poll for 2015, and I had Oklahoma State third. The Cowboys clearly have something that OU, Texas, Kansas State and West Virginia don't at the moment, and that's a quarterback (Mason Rudolph).
@Jake_Trotter what's tcu's chance of making the playoffs next year without dawson, hackett or kevin white— Sasha Lueck (@Sasha02997) January 23, 2015
Trotter: Pretty good. Last I checked, Trevone Boykin is still on the roster.
Trotter: He will if he flips the gem of Texas A&M's recruiting class, Kyler Murray who is the nation's No. 13 overall player and top dual-threat quarterback, to Texas. That would send a strong message to College Station.
"We feel like we've established ourselves as somebody," Briles said shortly before the Cotton Bowl. "When you're looking at one of the better teams in the southwest part of the United States of America, Baylor is one of them."
Although it earned a Big 12 co-championship in 2012, Oklahoma hasn’t won an outright Big 12 title since 2010. Texas hasn’t won a conference title outright since 2009. Those two programs combined to win every Big 12 title from 2004 through 2010.
A conference that could point to Oklahoma and Texas as its standard bearers for the majority of the 2000s has seen five different teams win a share of the Big 12 title since 2010.
The immediate assumption is the problem can be found on the recruiting trail. As the Big 12’s most dominant performers slid down the standings, surely they slid down the recruiting rankings. After all, talent wins games.
The reality is different.
Oklahoma and Texas have finished 1-2 in the Big 12 in recruiting rankings every season since 2010. And each program finished among the top 20 nationally each season, including three top-five finishes by the Longhorns. According to ESPN recruiting analysts, here is a closer look at the top recruiting classes in the conference each year since 2010:
Class of 2014
- Oklahoma No. 13 in nation, 1st in Big 12
- Texas No. 16 in nation, 2nd in Big 12
- Baylor No. 22 in nation, 3rd in Big 12
- Oklahoma State No. 28 in nation, 4th in Big 12
- Texas No. 16 in nation, 1st in Big 12
- Oklahoma No. 17 in nation, 2nd in Big 12
- Oklahoma State No. 27 in nation, 3rd in Big 12
- Baylor No. 28 in nation, 4th in Big 12
- Texas No. 3 in nation, 1st in Big 12
- Oklahoma No. 11 in nation, 2nd in Big 12
- Texas Tech No. 20 in nation, 3rd in Big 12
- Texas No. 5 in nation, 1st in Big 12
- Oklahoma No. 11 in nation, 2nd in Big 12
- Oklahoma State No. 23 in nation, 3rd in Big 12
- Texas No. 2 in nation, 1st in Big 12
- Oklahoma No. 5 in nation, 2nd in Big 12
- No other Big 12 team in top 25
Those recruiting rankings haven’t transferred to the field. Oklahoma has the best winning percentage during that span, with Oklahoma State and Baylor -- two programs lauded for their ability to develop and evaluate -- joining the Sooners in the top three. Texas is just eight games above .500 and in the bottom half of the conference.
Winning percentage since 2010
- Oklahoma 77.3 percent (51-15 overall)
- Oklahoma State 73.8 percent (48-17)
- Baylor 72.3 percent (47-18)
- Kansas State 69.2 percent (45-20)
- TCU 60.5 percent (23-15 in 38 games as Big 12 member)
- Texas 56.3 percent (36-28)
- Texas Tech 52.4 percent (33-30)
- West Virginia 47.4 percent (18-20 in 38 games)
- Iowa State 35.5 percent (22-40)
- Kansas 20 percent (12-40)
NFL Draftees since 2010
- Oklahoma 28
- Baylor 17
- Texas 16
- TCU 13
- West Virginia 13
- Oklahoma State 10
- Kansas State 7
- Iowa State 5
- Kansas 4
- Texas Tech 4
What does it all mean?
Texas, under Mack Brown, was struggling to transform its talented signees into wins as a combination of poor evaluation and development hampered the Longhorns. First-year coach Charlie Strong has an eye on changing that trend.
"It's all about character, young men who want to change their lives," Strong said during his debut season. "The thing about it, I'm not looking for players who want to be mediocre. We don't need to be mediocre. That's not who we are. We need to recruit players who love football and want to do something special."
The Longhorns have made terrific inroads with their first full class under Strong, sitting atop the Big 12 and ranking No. 9 nationally in the Class of 2015.
The Sooners’ recruiting problems and lack of talent are grossly overstated. Bob Stoops' program is looking down at everyone in the Big 12 with the highest number of NFL draftees and best winning percentage since 2010, with only Texas consistently landing higher-ranked recruiting classes. Oklahoma isn’t as dominant as it was during the 2000s, but that has everything to do with the improved overall depth of the Big 12 more than the Sooners’ struggles. And Oklahoma looks poised to land another quality class, ranking second in the Big 12 and 17th nationally.
The foundation of Baylor’s rise is found in that program’s ability to turn overlooked recruits into stars. Turning two-star receiver Tevin Reese into an NFL draft pick is just one example of how Briles' program has risen to national prominence.
"You want to find the lifeline of our business, it's all about recruiting and getting the players that you need on campus and giving you a chance to sustain," Briles said. "We’ve proved we have substance as a football program. We have other things we need to prove at a very high level, and that to me is what it's all about. You know, that night will pass, there will be another night. We're not a one-night wonder."
- Kansas quarterback commit Carter Stanley has completely shut down recruiting, reports Tom Keegan of the Lawrence Journal-World. The Jayhawks pledge told the new coaching staff he would shut things down if they stopped recruiting other signal-callers. It's a clear sign the Jayhawks think pretty highly of Stanley if they are willing to stop recruiting other quarterbacks. That's not to say that he is going to step into the starting lineup from Day 1 but new head coach David Beaty and offensive coordinator Rob Likens obviously think they may have a hidden gem in Stanley, who added an offer from Connecticut in recent weeks.
- Who is going to be Texas' starting quarterback? Tyrone Swoopes? Jerrod Heard? Kyler Murray? Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News takes a stab at predicting the starter, with percentages for each potential option. Finger tabs Heard as the favorite to start and I'd have to agree. Murray set social media on fire with his tweet of a Longhorns jersey earlier this week and UT might be the Texas A&M commitment's best option if he hopes to play immediately. But it seems like Charlie Strong and the Longhorns are playing with fire a little it with long-time commitment Zach Gentry flirting with Michigan while UT flirts with Murray. I guess we will see if Charlie has any game.
- Former Oklahoma offensive coordinator Josh Heupel appears to have landed on his feet as the new offensive coordinator at Utah State. OU fired Heupel earlier this month after the Sooners' offense struggled to find balance and explosive plays for the second-straight season. Yet it seems like a good fit for Heupel, as he gets the opportunity to blaze his own trail, and a good hire for Utah State.
- Baylor coach Art Briles discusses several things including freshman quarterback Jarrett Stidham and his coaching hires in this story from John Werner of the Waco Tribune. One interesting tidbit is Baylor holding its spring game at McLane Stadium for the first time. It will be a drastic change for the Bears, which held the spring game on their practice field in the past. Baylor's spring game should be a much better recruiting tool this year with recruits getting a much more game-like feel for the program.
- Kansas State receiver Tyler Lockett is making himself some money in Mobile, Alabama. Lockett has shined during Senior Bowl practices, showing scouts the quickness and shifty moves that made him one of the Big 12's most explosive playmakers for the past four years. He had 28 plays of 30 yards or more during his Wildcats' career and could be a terrific value pick for an NFL team with his route running, return prowess and willingness to play special teams.
But before then, we want to mention the players who narrowly missed the cut.
The unfortunate part of our top 25 ranking is that only 25 players can make the cut. But we considered at least a dozen other standouts who were also worthy of inclusion.
KD Cannon, who totaled more than 1,000 receiving yards as a true freshman; Texas' Jordan Hicks, who led a stout Longhorns defense in tackles; West Virginia's Mario Alford, who was a big-play threat on offense and special teams; Kansas State's Curry Sexton, who was third in the league in receptions despite playing alongside Tyler Lockett; Baylor's Shock Linwood, who finished second in the Big 12 in rushing; and Texas' John Harris, who finished fifth in the league in receiving.
But there were five other players who proved most difficult to leave out.
Oklahoma receiver Sterling Shepard most definitely would have made the top 25 had he not suffered a groin injury that severely limited him late in the season. Still, with more than 900 receiving yards before November, Shepard almost made the cut anyway.
So did his teammate, offensive right tackle Daryl Williams. The first-team All-Big 12 selection helped pave the way for the Sooners' powerful running game. His tackle cohort Tyrus Thompson, however, did crack the top 25 at No. 20.
Like Shepard, Baylor wideout Antwan Goodley would have been a lock had it not been for an early-season injury. After totaling more than 1,300 yards receiving last year, Goodley finished with just more than 800 this season. Still, Goodley re-emerged as one of the most dominant pass-catchers during Big 12 play, placing seventh in the league in receiving during conference games. He had 158 yards receiving and two touchdowns in Baylor's critical 61-58 victory over TCU.
The final two players who nearly made the list didn't play for prolific teams, but they stood out nonetheless. Iowa State tight end E.J. Bibbs tied for seventh in the Big 12 with eight touchdown receptions. Kansas' JaCorey Shepherd, meanwhile, surfaced as one of the top cover corners in the conference for an underrated Jayhawks defense. Shepherd was fourth in the country with 18 pass breakups.
So we put the question to you in our weekly Big 12 poll.
Of Shepard, Williams, Goodley, Bibbs and Shepherd, who has the biggest gripe about being left out of our Big 12 top 25 player ranking?
Remember, criteria for these rankings were based solely on performances from 2014, not a culmination of previous seasons. Pro potential was not a factor. Neither was preseason hype. Number of games played was taken into account.
Without further delay, our countdown goes on to Nos. 6-10:
6. Kevin White, WR, West Virginia (preseason rank: not ranked): The light came on for White as a senior, as the Mountaineer receiver committed himself to taking more of a businesslike approach to his preparation. The result was 109 receptions for 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns during a season that made him an Biletnikoff Award finalist. At 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, White’s long frame and terrific ball skills make him a prime red zone candidate and deep-ball threat. Yet he’s terrific after the catch, as well, leading the Big 12 with 650 yards after catch.
7. Spencer Drango. T, Baylor (9): Drango’s importance to the Baylor offense rose to the forefront after his injury late in the 2013 season. He returned to his dominant, pre-injury form in 2014, earning All-Big 12 and All-American honors while anchoring the offensive line that helped the Bears lead the nation in points per game (48.2), yards per game (581.5) and first downs (30.1). Drango led all BU offensive linemen with an 88.8 coaches grade.
8. Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma (NR): The hard-running true freshman burst upon the scene with a 242-yard, four-touchdown performance in an early road win at West Virginia. Yet few remember that performance, thanks to his FBS-record 427 rushing yards against Kansas in November. Perine is a handful for defenders, finishing with 263 carries for 1,713 yards (6.5 yards per carry) and 21 touchdowns. His 636 yards after contact and 1,148 yards between the tackles led the Big 12.
9. Ben Heeney, LB, Kansas (16): Few players can match the productivity of Captain Heeney in 2014. The Jayhawks senior left his best for last, leading the Big 12 with 10.58 tackles per game and 88 solo tackles. Heeney could make plays from sideline to sideline and finished his final season with double-digit tackles in seven games, including a 21-tackle game against Texas Tech. KU didn’t have the team success he was striving for, but Heeney did everything he could for the Jayhawks.
10. Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor (NR): The strongest man in the Big 12 is also one of the most disruptive. While teammate Shawn Oakman got most of the attention, Billings was anchoring the middle of a Bears defense that allowed 3.15 yards per carry, ranking seventh among FBS teams. The sophomore had a breakout season, finishing with 37 tackles including 11.5 tackles for loss, nine hurries, two sacks and one forced fumble. Billings is a critical building block for Art Briles' team in 2015.
Lillian Sims in Austin, Texas, writes: With Malcom Brown entering the NFL Draft early, and huge talent on the defense graduating, who do you think will make a big difference on defense next year for the Longhorns?
Brandon Chatmon: As crazy as it sounds I think Hassan Ridgeway (six sacks, 9.5 tackles for loss in 2014) can step right into the void left by Brown. Longhorns fans should be more concerned about who steps into Ridgeway’s complementary role in 2015. There are good options like Poona Ford and Paul Boyette Jr. who could fit the bill in the defensive interior. As far as general playmakers for Charlie Strong’s defense, safety Jason Hall stands out as someone who could become a star on the Longhorns' defense in 2015.
Scott in Lafayette writes: I will immediately admit that I am biased; but is Marcus Mariota really that much better than Bryce Petty? Do you think Petty warrants a first round pick or is Mariota overrated? Or is the talent gap really that much between the two?
BC: Let me preface this by saying I’m not an NFL draft expert but I don’t think Mariota is overrated at all. I also don’t think Bryce Petty is that far behind. Petty may not end up being a first-round pick but I think he will have a successful NFL career and become a starter at the next level. His accuracy and leadership should help him have success on Sundays, in a league in need of quality quarterbacks. He may not be a first-round pick and, while that hurts his pocketbook, I don’t think it will keep him from developing into a NFL quarterback.
Tommy in Austin, Texas, writes: I know there is a lot of talk about the Big 12 having "One True Champion" and Baylor fans bring up the head-to-head win and TCU fans bring up the better non-conference schedule and not losing to West Virginia. So, if the point is to get our Big 12 champion into the playoff then don't we want that team held in the highest regard by the committee? So why not use the last ranking by the committee as the tie breaker if 2-3 teams end with the same conference record?
BC: If three teams end up tied, that is the tiebreaker. With two teams it should be the head-to-head winner. Co-champions should be a thing of the past. I understand why the Big 12 commish played his hand like he did in December, and it could have turned out to be a genius move, but the head-to-head winner should always win a tiebreaker in that scenario. I’m uncertain about the committee doing it all based off the drastic difference in the second-to-last poll and the final poll this time around. I’m not sure a clear and defined champion between Baylor and TCU would have changed the final result this year. The message Big 12 teams received is don’t leave your destiny in the hands of others (Florida State didn't, got rewarded, then got run off the field in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual).
Raymond in Dallas writes: With all the recent success with Redshirt Freshman QB's, why don't people give Jerrod Heard a chance on the field before talking about UT still not having an elite QB?
BC: I think the short answer is this: Tyrone Swoopes started 11 games with Heard on campus. I don’t really agree with that line of thinking but it explains why some people might be quick to write off Heard. I’ve always said I felt like Heard was the answer and nothing has made me stray from that thinking. I’m willing to sit back and see what he brings to the table but I think we all know Texas won’t reach new levels under Strong without finding an answer at quarterback.
Tom in Austin, Texas, writes: I think Ohio State's victory with a third-string QB was an excellent case study in how useful a good offensive line can be (without minimizing Cardale Jones' accomplishments, of course). How long before Joe Wickline can fix Texas's O-line?
BC: It needs to happen this year and I think it can happen this year. Part of the problem along the UT offensive line in 2014 was limited numbers and lack of competition. The Longhorns currently have six offensive linemen on the commit list, meaning Wickline is starting to get his guys in his meeting room. The more that happens, the more successful that unit will be under Wickline. I’d be surprised if it's not a much improved group in 2015.
Mark in Georgetown, Texas writes: Has Bob Stoops won his last Big 12 title?
BC: No. It is time to stop questioning Bob Stoops and start recognizing that the Big 12 is much improved. Many have questioned Stoops' desire with OU’s recent stumbles but I think he sent a message with his decision to part ways with former offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, which could not have been an easy one. You can question certain ways Stoops runs the program and how he goes about trying to win a Big 12 title and get in the national title conversation but I don’t think you can question Stoops' will to win.
With signing day just a couple weeks away, we delve into the recruiting storylines around the league in this week's Big 12 roundtable:
Which class has impressed you the most?
Chatmon: It’s hard not to like what Charlie Strong is doing with his first full class at Texas. It’s packed with defensive talent including three ESPN 300 linebackers in Malik Jefferson, Anthony Wheeler and Cameron Townsend. Add five offensive linemen to help address UT’s issues up front and it looks like the Longhorns are on their way to a strong recruiting haul. The cherry on top would be ESPN 300 quarterback Zach Gentry becoming the future behind center.
Olson: Texas has the best class of the Big 12. But I'm also really impressed by what Baylor has done on offense and what Oklahoma is doing on defense. The Bears are loading up again, and I really like Jarrett Stidham, Ja'Mycal Hasty, Devontre Stricklin and Blake Lynch. The Sooners still need linebackers but are stacked everywhere else on D with this group. The group of defensive backs they've landed -- P.J. Mbanasor, Will Sunderland Jr., William Johnson, Kahlil Haughton and Antoine Stephens -- promises to be killer.
Trotter: Texas obviously has the most impressive class, but you have to also be impressed with what Oklahoma has done, despite the mediocre season and the coaching changes. Jerry Montgomery has been an absolute terror on the trail, loading up the Sooners with a trio of ESPN 300 prospects along the defensive line.
Who really needs a strong finish?
Chatmon: Oklahoma State needs some good things to happen in the home stretch of this recruiting cycle. Ronald Jones' decommitment was a crippling blow as he looked like the ideal fit with the chance to become a dynamic quarterback-running back-receiver trio with Mason Rudolph and James Washington. Instead Jones is USC-bound and the Cowboys are searching for answers at the position. OSU’s offense was at its peak when it had NFL running backs carrying the ball, so it’s critical the Cowboys land a running back such as Chris Warren, Jordan Stevenson or juco RB Chris Carson.
Olson: Texas is in a fascinating spot here with two weeks left. The Longhorns have eight spots left to fill in their class and are recruiting a ton of big-name players for those scholarships. Defensive backs Holton Hill and Kris Boyd and running backs Chris Warren III and Nick Brossette are right at the top of that list. All four could end up in Austin. All four really could go elsewhere. Texas still needs another quarterback, too, and Charlie Strong's staff must fight hard to make sure no other commits flip to other schools.
Trotter: I'm with Brandon, Oklahoma State has to land a running back here in the final two weeks. If not, the Cowboys are going to be stuck with Rennie Childs and not much else in the backfield. With Rudolph settling in at quarterback, the Cowboys have no other weaknesses offensively. But to keep the balance Oklahoma State wants to play with, the Pokes have to go out and land a back, whether it's Warren, Carson or somebody else.
Who will be the instant impact freshman recruit in this class?
Chatmon: Jefferson has the athleticism and versatility to slide right into a role in Texas defense. He’s a playmaker who should be ready to play as a true freshman on special teams and on defense. As the No. 31 player in the ESPN300, Jefferson has all the tools to help the Longhorns at a linebacker spot that is losing 222 combined tackles from Jordan Hicks and Steve Edmond this offseason.
Olson: How wild would it be if five-star defensive tackle Daylon Mack does end up signing with TCU? The former longtime Texas A&M commit is still strongly considering the Aggies, but Gary Patterson and his coaches have done a deft job of staying in this race throughout. At the Under Armour All-America Game, Mack proved he's ready to wreck college offensive lines right away. Securing the nation's No. 6 recruit would be a heck of a cherry on top of the Frogs' dream season.
Trotter: Texas Tech desperately needs help on the defensive line, and ESPN 300 DT Breiden Fehoko has the talent to bring help right away. But keep an eye on QB Jarrett Stidham. Baylor has an heir apparent to Bryce Petty in Seth Russell, who has been a solid backup the last two seasons. But Stidham has the ability to make a move on the job should Russell struggle this spring or during the season.
We're including our top 25 preseason rankings of each player too. In some cases we were on the money with our preseason player projections. In others, our prognostications were completely off the mark.
Criteria for these rankings were based solely on performances from 2014, not a culmination of previous seasons. Pro potential was not a factor. Neither was preseason hype.
On Tuesday, we continue with players 16 through 20:
16. Le'Raven Clark, T, Texas Tech (preseason rank: 10): The Red Raiders finished No. 2 among FBS teams in sack percentage, and Clark was a major reason why. The anchor of on offensive line that allowed 13 sacks in 2014, Clark has started 38 straight games. He also played a key role in DeAndre Washington's 1,000-yard season. The 6-foot-6, 313-pound junior has been among the Big 12’s best players since his sophomore season.
17. Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia (NR): Arguably the Big 12’s fiercest hitter, Joseph plays with a physical style, yet has been one of the Big 12’s most durable defenders. The senior-to-be has started all 38 games he has played in a Mountaineers uniform and has vastly improved as an all-around safety since his true freshman season. He finished with 92 tackles in 2014, including 4.5 tackles for loss, 62 solo stops, three forced fumbles, one interception and three pass breakups.
18. Chris Hackett, S, TCU (NR): Hackett just seemed to come up with big plays when the Horned Frogs needed them, recording his best games of the season against Oklahoma, Baylor, Kansas State and West Virginia. He finished with 75 tackles, 13 passes defensed, seven interceptions and one forced fumble in 2014. It was hard to watch TCU’s defense in action without noticing Hackett’s No. 1 jersey all over the field.
19. S Sam Carter, S, TCU (14): Numbers can’t possibly represent Carter’s importance to the Horned Frogs. His veteran leadership helped carry TCU to a 12-1 record in his final season and his statistical numbers were pretty solid with 55 tackles and four interceptions. Essentially a coach on the field, Carter played a critical role on a TCU defense that finished atop the Big 12 in most defensive categories.
20. Tyrus Thompson, T, Oklahoma (NR): Thompson finished his OU career with a stellar senior season. He earned first-team All-Big 12 honors as a key contributor on an offensive line that carried the Sooners to the Big 12 rushing title with 261.15 rushing yards per game. The Sooners also led the nation by allowing only nine sacks in 13 games.