His world had changed in a matter of hours, and the atmosphere surrounding him had become saturated with unease and uncertainty.

Sitting in the home of Oklahoma starting center Ty Darlington, Sooners cornerback Zack Sanchez looked at teammate Eric Striker amid feelings of bewilderment.

"Bro, we committed here three years ago, who knew we would be in this position?" he pondered.

[+] EnlargeBob Stoops, Sterling Shepard, Nila Kasitati, Eric Striker, Ty Darlington, Trevor Knight
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiCoach Bob Stoops and his players say the team has become closer since a video of members of a campus fraternity participating in a racist chant went viral on March 8.

Striker, Sanchez and Darlington were among the leaders on the football team who helped to create a plan of action after a video of members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the University of Oklahoma participating in a racist chant went viral March 8. Oklahoma president David Boren acted swiftly, closing the campus chapter of SAE and expelling a pair of students in the following week.

While Boren was handing out punishments, the football team was shaken and unsure about the future. Once the entire team got together in the Adrian Peterson team meeting room at the Switzer Center, the debate went on for hours with various players expressing their opinions on the subject.

"The room was very split in what was the right thing to do moving forward," Darlington said. "This almost tore us apart. Instead it really brought us together in a way that is unparalleled in my time here."

The focus became being proactive in trying to raise awareness of racism, not only at the University of Oklahoma but nationwide. You already have seen some of the ideas that were born during that debate with the Sooners’ decision to postpone practice and hold demonstrations instead, along with their joint statements on social media in the week that followed the incident.

"At the end of the day, guys put away their beliefs and whatever the captains wanted to ride with, they were behind us 100 percent," Sanchez said. "I think this has made us stronger than anything could have, it’s kind of a blessing the way it has bonded us."

On Monday, the Sooners returned to the practice field for the first time since their worlds were rattled. And their activism returned with them in the form of black practice jerseys, shorts and socks as they went through practice No. 2 of the spring.

"It signifies the strong message they want to send across the country," coach Bob Stoops said. "They realize this isn't just an issue on our campus, it’s something they know from talking to their friends across the country, you have different incidents and hopefully it can be stopped. It’s their way of putting it in people’s minds."

The offense wore black jerseys and the defense wore white jerseys Monday. The plan is to switch colors between each side of the ball on a practice-by-practice basis. The Sooners also have other things planned this spring as they continue their efforts to increase awareness.

"It brings awareness about our stand for a positive change," Striker said.

After a trying few weeks, the Sooners' return to the practice field was a welcome sight. They don't want to be known as "just football players," but the lack of football left a void after postponing a pair of practices in the days following the incident, then heading to various locales for a weeklong spring break.

"It felt good being back out there with my teammates," Striker said. "I love being around my teammates, it’s my family, it’s like medicine being around them."

When they returned, the Sooners hit the practice field as a more unified team than ever before, ready to return to the game that brought them together as the outside world threatened to tear them apart.

"It was very important," defensive end Charles Tapper said. "We were ready to get out there and release some anger on each other. To show [we're a] brotherhood, we can fight to change the culture here and still go out on the field, is very important."

After Monday’s practice, Darlington announced the Sooners plan to begin their media opportunities during the spring with a statement to raise awareness of racism with the goal of making sure the burning fire doesn’t go out with time.

"We want to continue to keep it in people’s minds," he said. "When these things happen people get really emotional about it for a couple of days or weeks, then the passion fades away and sometimes the change doesn’t happen like you would want it to."

Big 12 morning links

March, 24, 2015
Mar 24
9:00
AM ET

The St. Louis Raiders? Seriously? I'm all for bringing the NFL to L.A., but come on.

  • After a break of more than two weeks, Oklahoma returned to the practice field on Monday. Its players are wearing black to continue their efforts toward eliminating racism on OU's campus following the SAE fiasco. You have to respect the fact that Sooners players are taking this problem seriously and haven't just moved on now that the national controversy has seemingly passed. As for on-field news, Joe Mixon and Dede Westbrook are earning praise, and all four quarterbacks are reportedly getting near-equal reps.
  • Charlie Strong talked quarterbacks and a whole lot more on Monday to kick off Texas' first week of spring practice. Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News offers a solid recap here and makes some good points about the kind of building that's ahead for Strong and his Longhorns. Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman offers a fine take on talk of rebuilding, too. As I wrote about yesterday, Strong is still working to build up a lot more than just the talent level when it comes to this team.
  • Kansas is opening spring practice on Tuesday, and David Beaty sounds fired up to get started. Matt Tait of the Lawrence Journal-World caught up with the new head coach on the eve of practice and got him to lay out some of his goals for spring ball. You will notice Beaty rarely talks about specific players in these interviews -- it sure seems like he's trying to bring a clean-slate mentality to finding out what he's working with on this roster. Beaty's emphasis on establishing a clean brand of football in terms of penalties, turnovers and special teams is probably a good start, too.
  • Former Oklahoma tight end Taylor McNamara is transferring to USC, he announced Monday night via Twitter. His plans to depart had been largely expected for the past month, and McNamara seems to be making a smart move here. He'll graduate from Oklahoma in May and play right away for a Trojans team that's thin at tight end while Bryce Dixon is suspended. Blake Bell's move to tight end really marginalized McNamara's chances to help Oklahoma in 2014, so you can't blame him for wanting to start over closer to home.
  • Here's an interesting look by Bobby La Gesse of the Ames Tribune at Iowa State's Jake Campos and why improved flexibility is going to be a difference-maker for the touted tackle this fall. It's a close examination of how a 6-foot-8, 295-pound lineman can get more effective simply by making a change as minor as doing more ankle stretches. If you're an O-line junkie, I think you'll enjoy this read.

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

March, 23, 2015
Mar 23
2:30
PM ET

Spring ball rolls on and a few new commitments rolled in, too. The latest from the Big 12 on the recruiting trail:

BAYLOR

Total commits: 7
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 4
The latest: The Bears hosted a big group of recruits for its "Friday Night Lights" scrimmage, including incoming freshmen and targets from several classes. One big man on campus was ESPN 300 lineman J.P. Urquidez, a 6-foot-6, 305-pound tackle from Copperas Cove, Texas. Urquidez also visited Miami recently and has those two schools high on his list along with Texas and Oklahoma. He's expected to make his decision this spring.

IOWA STATE

Total commits:
0

ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0

The latest: The Cyclones still have not landed a commitment for 2016. They do continue to pursue defensive end Noah Fant, though that's getting more challenging. The defensive end out of Omaha, Nebraska, recently took an unofficial visit to Nebraska and is expected to check out Purdue next. Getting him in for ISU's junior day was a good move, but Fant is drawing more and more interest these days.

KANSAS

Total commits: 1
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0

The latest:
Kansas could face an interesting battle for offensive lineman Chris Hughes of Harker Heights, Texas. He's been offered by KU, North Texas and now Texas Tech, and you wonder if his stock will rise this spring. The younger brother of Texas players Naashon Hughes and Camrhon Hughes is 6-foot-3 and 260 pounds, but doesn't hold an offer from the Longhorns yet. Can KU fight to steal him from the state of Texas?

KANSAS STATE

Total commits: 1
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcats lost a big-time commit over the weekend when defensive end Xavier Kelly elected to reopen his recruitment. Kelly, whose stock has been on the rise this spring, had committed to KSU back in November but is reportedly focusing on Michigan, Oregon and TCU at the moment. He checked in at 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds with a 4.55-second 40-yard dash at The Opening regional camp in Arlington, Texas.

OKLAHOMA

Total commits: 3
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Sooners got one of the nation's best running back recruits on campus. ESPN 300 running back Devwah Whaley, the nation's No. 34 recruit, took an unofficial visit to Norman over the weekend. Texas A&M is presumed to be the frontrunner for Whaley at the moment, but OU is right there in the mix along with Texas, Georgia and several other programs.

OKLAHOMA STATE

Total commits: 3
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: Who might Oklahoma State take at quarterback for 2016? The favorite sure seems to be Nick Starkel, a 6-foot-3, 175-pound passer from Argyle, Texas. Though his only FBS offers are from Oklahoma State and Old Dominion, Starkel had a good showing at his Elite 11 tryout in Dallas earlier this month and is expected to visit Stillwater again at the end of the month.

TCU

Total commits: 8
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Horned Frogs' first commit for 2017 is in the books: Roshauud Paul. The athlete from Bremond, Texas, pulled the trigger on a commitment last Tuesday and is being recruited as a receiver/corner. As a sophomore, he helped lead Bremond to a Class 2A state title as a quarterback with more than 3,200 total yards and 40 TDs.

TEXAS

Total commits: 4
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 3
The latest: Texas actually has five pledges for 2016, as quarterback Matthew Merrick will grayshirt and enroll next spring. That's his final decision after several schools (led by Florida) pushed hard following signing day to flip Merrick and get him enrolled in the fall. Merrick and ESPN 300 commit Shane Buechele both are expected to arrive in Austin in January. Merrick has a big arm and will be a nice development prospect.

TEXAS TECH

Total commits: 3
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: Texas Tech's staff landed a good one in Donte Coleman. The tight end from West Mesquite High in Texas turned down a dozen other good offers to pick the Red Raiders on Saturday. Coleman, who hauled in four TDs as a junior, could be a matchup nightmare in Tech's scheme at 6-4 and 220 pounds.

WEST VIRGINIA

Total commits: 7
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: West Virginia's newest pledge came from Zach Sandwisch of Toledo, Ohio, an outside linebacker who likes how he'll fit in the Mountaineers' defensive plans. Sandwich racked up 80 tackles in 10 games while helping lead Central Catholic to a state title as a junior. He took visits to West Virginia, Indiana, Toledo and Bowling Green before reaching his decision last week.

Thursday wasn't pretty for Big 12 basketball. Never fear, I'm here to put ailing minds back on football. In Friday's Twitter mailbag, we discuss a potential undefeated Revivalry showdown, Texas Tech's underrated offensive weapon, and whether Baker Mayfield will win the starting QB job in Norman.

On to the 'Bag:

Trotter: The easy answer on offense is either TCU or Baylor or both. The Horned Frogs return 10 starters off an attack that ranked second in the country (behind Baylor). Quarterback is the only real question in Waco, and the early returns on Seth Russell this spring have been good. Defensively, keep an eye on Oklahoma State. The Cowboys will have four cornerbacks whocan really play. Jordan Sterns is an All-Big 12-caliber safety. The linebacking corps will be the deepest of the Mike Gundy era. And Emmanuel Ogbah is the reigning Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year.

Trotter: At this point, I'd be surprised. A lot can happen this spring. But the Sooners got a long look at Trevor Knight and Cody Thomas last year, and it was very evident that neither was the answer, at least in their 2014 form. Given his time at Texas Tech and his skill set, Mayfield is also a better fit for the air raid offense that new coordinator Lincoln Riley is installing. Knight could get another shot if Mayfield struggled next season. But my money would be on Mayfield opening the year as the starter.

Trotter: You forced me to look up that 1935 Iron Skillet showdown. That was a big one, considering both the Frogs and Ponies were undefeated. But a "Revivalry" featuring an unbeaten TCU and Baylor would be monstrous. The winner would be all but guaranteed a spot in the playoff. I feel pretty comfortable in saying that would constitute the biggest college football game in Fort Worth history.

Trotter: I expect a step back offensively. But maybe a step forward on defense. It would be almost impossible for any offense to immediately replace the production that Kevin White, Mario Alford and Clint Trickett supplied last year. The Mountaineers also have some retooling to do on the offensive line. Even in a best-case scenario, it's hard to see the Mountaineers being close to as explosive as they were last year. That said, West Virginia could have the league's top secondary with Karl Joseph, Dravon Henry and Daryl Worley. The linebackers have experience. And though pass rush is a concern, this has a chance to be West Virginia's best defense in years. Will that be a net plus given the losses on offense? Probably not. But the possibility is there.

Trotter: I'm not sure what preview you're referring to, but Washington definitely gets overlooked, due to Tech's overall struggles last year. But he's a dynamic all-around back, who can reel off big plays and inflict damage as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. This is one of the league's better offensive players. With more consistent quarterbacking in front of him, he could have a huge 2015 season.

During the next two weeks, we'll be featuring 10 Big 12 players who are on the spot this spring. Maybe they are coming back from injury. Maybe they have much to prove after a disappointing 2014 season. Maybe they are embroiled in a key position battle. Whatever the case, this spring is big for them.

Today's player on the spot: Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight

Last season was supposed to be the season to remember for Knight. He was coming off a magical performance in Oklahoma's shocking Allstate Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama after the 2013 season. And with several other key performers coming back around him, the Sooners had the preseason look of a playoff contender.

[+] EnlargeTrevor Knight
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiTrevor Knight threw 12 interceptions in an injury-shortened season in 2014.

That only held up for a little over a moment. On the same day that Katy Perry confessed to having a crush on him, Knight threw a pick-six interception in the fourth quarter that catapulted TCU to victory and sent the Sooners on a spiral.

A month later, during Oklahoma's 48-14 home loss to Baylor, Knight suffered a transient quadriplegia injury that knocked him out for the rest of the regular season. When he came back in the Russell Athletic Bowl, he looked completely discombobulated, throwing three interceptions, including another pick-six, as Clemson wiped out the Sooners 40-6.

This spring, Knight is in a fight to keep his job. Baker Mayfield, who redshirted last year after transferring in from Texas Tech, has emerged as the favorite to take over as starting quarterback in coordinator Lincoln Riley's air-raid attack.

The key for Knight will be taking care of the ball, making plays with his feet and improving on his throwing accuracy, which is paramount in any air-raid system.

Despite missing four games, Knight threw 12 interceptions (second-worst in the Big 12) and easily had the most pick-six interceptions with three (he also threw another pick that was returned to the 1-yard line against Baylor).

Knight also completed less than 57 percent of his passes. Among Big 12 QBs who averaged at least 15 pass attempts per game, only Iowa State's Sam B. Richardson and Kansas' Michael Cummings had lower rates.

Knight showed last season against Iowa State, when he rushed for 146 yards and three touchdowns, what he can do with his wheels, no matter how well he's passing. But he finished with more than 45 yards on the ground only one other time during the season, as previous offensive coordinator Josh Heupel seemed hesitant to run him, for fear he might get injured.

Knight, however, will need everything in his arsenal to hold off Mayfield, as well as Cody Thomas and Justice Hansen in Oklahoma's QB derby.

The Sooners aren't ready to give up on Knight, and for good reason. As the Alabama game showed, the talent and the potential is there. A lot can happen in the coming months, too.

But Knight is running out of time. That is why this spring is critical.

The production from Kansas State's quarterbacks in the past three seasons should make it no surprise the Wildcats have become mainstays in the Big 12 title race.

Since TCU and West Virginia joined the Big 12 in 2012, the Wildcats have had the conference's most productive quarterbacks ahead of Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and other Big 12 programs that have a reputation for stellar signal-callers. With the help of ESPN Stats and Information, here's a closer look at the Big 12 Total QBR rankings (conference games only) since 2012.

(Note: Total QBR is a ESPN metric used to determine a quarterback's impact. Here is a detailed explanation of Total QBR.)

1. Kansas State, 79.5

2014: 83.5, 1st

2013: 71.8, 3rd

2012: 83.2, 2nd

Summary: The combination of Jake Waters and Collin Klein helped push the Wildcats to the top of the list. Klein’s 83.9 Total QBR in 2012 is the third-best in the Big 12 since 2012, and his 23 rushing touchdowns helped offset a 16:9 touchdown-interception ratio. Waters’ 83.2 Total QBR led the Big 12 in 2014 and was fifth overall during this span. The Wildcats were the only program with two quarterbacks in the top five.

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Allen Kee/ESPN ImagesIn 2013, Baylor's Bryce Petty had the Big 12's best statistical season for a quarterback in the last three years.

2. Baylor, 78.6

2014: 71.2, 4th

2013: 85.4, 1st

2012: 78.8, 4th

Summary: Bryce Petty had the Big 12’s best season during this span, recording a 86.2 Total QBR and earning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year during the 2013 season. Nick Florence finished with a 79.5 Total QBR in 2012, helping offset Petty’s 71.4 a year ago. The Bears started one of the conference’s top quarterbacks in each of the past three seasons, a feat only K-State can match.

3. Oklahoma, 74.5

2014: 75, 2nd

2013: 57.8, 7th

2012: 83.9, 1st

Summary: Landry Jones had the Big 12’s second-highest Total QBR during this span, recording a 84.4 in 2012 during the last season OU used a air raid-style offense. After a horrible 2013 season full of uncertainty at the position, the Sooners landed third on this list thanks to Trevor Knight’s 79.4 in 2014.

4. Texas Tech, 69.4

2014: 68.9, 5th

2013: 67.2, 5th

2012: 72.5, 6th

Summary: Davis Webb’s 77.7 Total QBR in 2013 is yet another reason to pump the brakes on the Patrick Mahomes coronation. It was the Red Raiders' best and among the top 10 in the conference during this span. Mahomes (70.7 in 2014) and Seth Doege (71.4 in 2012) join Webb among the top 15 in the Big 12 during the past three seasons, giving the Red Raiders three quarterbacks in the top 15, more than any other Big 12 program.

5. Oklahoma State, 66.4

2014: 46.3, 9th

2013: 74.6, 2nd

2012: 72.7, 5th

Summary: Clint Chelf is the sole reason the Pokes finished in the top half of the conference. His Total QBR was second in the Big 12 at 83.8 in 2013 and 13th in the Big 12 at 71.2 in 2012. Chelf was constantly battling for his spot during his final two seasons, but when Oklahoma State turned the offense over to him, he produced.

6. Texas, 65

2014: 58.4, 8th

2013: 70.1, 4th

2012: 66.7, 7th

Summary: This sums up the Longhorns' quarterback struggles. Case McCoy’s Total QBR of 69.1 in 2013 was the Longhorns' highest Total QBR during this span. Tyrone Swoopes recorded a 58.2 in 2014 and David Ash had a 67 in 2012.

7. West Virginia, 64.3

2014: 64, 6th

2013: 44.1, 9th

2012: 81.2, 2nd

Summary: Things went downhill for Dana Holgorsen’s team after Geno Smith recorded a 80.5 Total QBR in 2012, sixth in the Big 12 during this span, then headed to the NFL. Clint Trickett started the 2014 season strong, but his turnover-filled second half of the season dropped his final Total QBR to 61.9. Yet that was still better than the 54.9 he recorded in 2013.

8. TCU, 58.5

2014: 72.5, 3rd

2013: 47.9, 8th

2012: 54.2, 8th

Summary: This underscores just how bad the Horned Frogs production at quarterback was during TCU’s first two seasons in the Big 12. And that lackluster production came partially with Trevone Boykin under center. Boykin recorded a 52 Total QBR in 2013 before jumping to a 71.8 in 2014. It was one of the nation's highest jumps from a returning quarterback.

9. Iowa State, 54.9

2014: 58.8, 7th

2013: 56.7, 6th

2012: 47.5, 9th

Summary: One big reason the Cyclones have been going downhill since TCU and West Virginia entered the league is their subpar quarterback play. Fortunately for Iowa State, Sam Richardson has the potential to make quarterback a strength for the Cyclones in 2015.

10. Kansas, 31.7

2014: 44.5, 10th

2013: 20.2, 10th

2012: 30.7, 10th

Summary: The Jayhawks are the only team that showed no movement in the standings in any of the three seasons. It doesn’t get much worse than KU’s production in 2013. It’s easy to see why Kansas decided to go in a different direction with the hope David Beaty can spark a change at quarterback.

Big 12 morning links

March, 20, 2015
Mar 20
9:00
AM ET

Looks like it's up to you Kansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Oklahoma State.

  • John Harris of HoustonTexans.com details his experience at Baylor's pro day, including the atmosphere and a few tidbits about Bryce Petty that convinced him the former BU quarterback can be the face of a franchise at the NFL level. It shouldn't be a surprise but Petty has nailed the pre-draft process from his savvy answers to media questions to his on-field work. He is making a strong case to be considered the consensus No. 3 quarterback behind Florida State's Jameis Winston and Oregon's Marcus Mariota.
  • Former Kansas State receiver Tyler Lockett has been named the winner of the Jet Award, which is awarded to a primary kick or punt returner who finishes among the national leaders in return categories. After he dazzled in Manhattan, Kansas, for four seasons, I hate to see Lockett go as someone who covers the Big 12 closely. He always seemed to do something special, week in and week out.
  • Former TCU linebacker Paul Dawson is back with another draft diary for USA Today. A tight hamstring was to blame for Dawson's poor 40-yard time at the NFL combine and the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year promises he's going to make up for it during TCU's pro day on March 27. It really shouldn't matter if he makes up for it or not. Dawson was a dominant football player in 2014 and should be an NFL starter in 2015.
  • Could former Oklahoma defensive tackle Jordan Phillips be the replacement for Vince Wilfork in New England? The New England Patriots have a late first round pick and the former Sooner could be an ideal fit. Like most top draft prospects, Phillips has been making several NFL visits, including Detroit earlier this week.
  • A pair of former Big 12 defenders have landed a spot on Charles Davis' All-Underrated list heading toward the NFL draft. Kansas' Ben Heeney and Texas' Cedric Reed make the list. I could see Reed going on to have a solid NFL career. He has the ability, he just needs to maximize it.

It's tourney time!

Here's our effort to take your mind off of your bracket with a few angst-filled days ahead during the NCAA tournament. In today's roundtable we single out potential Cinderella teams, potential overseeded (i.e. overrated) teams and potential underseeded (underrated) teams.

Who could be the Cinderella of the Big 12?

Brandon Chatmon: My vote goes for West Virginia. I have a feeling the Mountaineers are going to get productive and efficient play at the quarterback position from Skyler Howard or William Crest and I think they will answer various questions at receiver, offensive line and defensive line. I love the talent on Dana Holgorsen’s roster and expect WVU to learn from its late-season stumbles a year ago.

[+] EnlargePatrick Mahomes
Jerod Foster/Icon SportswireIn Patrick Mahomes' last three games, the Texas Tech QB had eight TD passes and no picks.

Jake Trotter: Who could reprise the role of TCU as Big 12 Cinderella? I think it’s Texas Tech. The Red Raiders are coming off a dreadful 4-8 season in which they fielded a turnover machine of an offense and one of the worst statistical defenses in Big 12 history. But the Red Raiders are not devoid of talent. Patrick Mahomes was one of the most exciting players in the league late last year as a true freshman quarterback. DeAndre Washington is coming off a 1,000-yard season. Jakeem Grant leads a bevy of playmaking receivers. And All-Big 12 performer Le'Raven Clark heads an underrated offensive line. The big question is whether Tech can play better defense. But new coordinator David Gibbs ought to give the Red Raiders an immediate jolt with his ability to coach turnovers. Pete Robertson can get after the quarterback and linebacker newcomer Mike Mitchell should instantly improve the run defense. I’m not saying the Red Raiders are going to win the Big 12. But if you’re looking for Cinderella-like potential, they’re the pick.

Max Olson: Can I say Oklahoma State? I mean, I know it's looking like the Pokes will have top-25 expectations in 2015. But this is still a team that went 1-5 against the Big 12's best teams last season, and got outscored by an average margin of 26 points in those losses. The OU win was epic, but I still think OSU is a sleeper from a national standpoint and poised for a comeback season that'll surprise.

Who could be "overseeded" heading into the preseason?

Chatmon: Oklahoma. I had high expectations for the Sooners last season and got burned for believing Trevor Knight would take things to another level as a sophomore and the defense would be among the Big 12’s best. Now the Sooners will have to make me a believer in September and October before I will expect anything higher than a mid-Big 12 finish.

Trotter: I think Texas has the chance to be very good very soon. But the Longhorns have many questions before I would consider them a top-25 team. And yet, if history is any indication, Texas will likely open in the preseason top 25. The Longhorns still have no definitive answer at quarterback. And they will be replacing their best running back (Malcolm Brown, their two best receivers (John Harris and Jaxon Shipley), their two best defensive linemen (Malcom Brown and Cedric Reed), their leading tackler (Jordan Hicks) and their best defensive back (Quandre Diggs). Texas has some good, young players on campus and on the way this summer. But they’re not top-25 material. At least not yet.

Olson: Kansas State is probably still going to get some benefit of the doubt entering this season -- Bill Snyder magic and all that good stuff -- but the senior leaders they've lost aren't going to be easy to replace. I'm sure a bunch of walk-ons and two-stars will rise up and make me look silly for saying this, but I'm just not convinced K-State is going to be a Big 12 title contender this year.

Who could be "underseeded" heading into the preseason?

Chatmon: Kansas State will exceed expectations. Bill Snyder’s program is likely to enter the season projected to be among the bottom half of the conference but I’m expecting a finish in the top half of the conference even though uncertainty reigns at quarterback, running back and receiver. The Wildcats won’t get much respect heading into the season but they’ll prove everyone wrong yet again.

Trotter: Seemingly every year Kansas State is picked low in the standings. And every year, Bill Snyder & Co. figure out a way to outperform expectations. Sure, the Wildcats have their work cut out in 2015. The bulk of production from last year’s Big 12 contending club is gone, including All-American Tyler Lockett, quarterback Jake Waters and leading tackler Jonathan Truman. But the K-State system is bigger than one player or even one team. It would hardly surprise me if the Wildcats outperformed their preseason seed yet again.

Olson: Takeaways make any defense look a lot better, and I think Texas Tech is going to find a way to get a lot more under new DC David Gibbs. With so much offensive firepower returning along with two confident guys at quarterback in Patrick Mahomes and Davis Webb, I think Tech is getting closer to having what it needs to play with the best in this league. Folks will be wary of expecting much from the Red Raiders, but I think they're moving in the right direction.

Barring some unforeseen catastrophe in Waco or Fort Worth, TCU and Baylor will exit spring ball still as the Big 12 co-favorites heading into 2015.

But the following question will linger well into the summer: Who in the league is most equipped to challenge their conference superiority?

It’s a question sure to foster several opinions, which is why we’re putting it you in our weekly Big 12 poll.

SportsNation

Which team has the best chance of challenging Baylor and TCU?

  •  
    11%

  •  
    26%

  •  
    19%

  •  
    22%

  •  
    22%

Discuss (Total votes: 6,873)

Oklahoma State debuted as the No. 3 team in our Way-Too-Early Big 12 Power Rankings. The Cowboys seem to have a budding standout at quarterback in rising sophomore Mason Rudolph. Oklahoma State returns several starters on either side of the ball as well. But the Cowboys also struggled for much of last season. And without a miraculous comeback in the regular-season finale in Norman, which catapulted Oklahoma State to its bowl victory over Washington, the Cowboys’ 2015 outlook wouldn’t be looking so sunny. This is still a team with much to prove.

Oklahoma was viewed as the co-favorite along with Baylor heading into the 2014 season. The Sooners were in the top five of the polls during the first half of the season, too, before the bottom fell out. The Sooners have some major questions, notably at quarterback and in pass defense. But Samaje Perine and Sterling Shepard are All-American-caliber performers and whoever wins the quarterback battle could flourish in Lincoln Riley’s air-raid system.

Texas has an even bigger question at quarterback. Tyrone Swoopes struggled down the stretch last year, and Jerrod Heard will only be a second-year freshman. The Longhorns will also be replacing several of its best players off last year’s team. Charlie Strong, however, has recruited well. And if the young pieces come along fast, Texas could be a factor.

TCU overshadowed the run that West Virginia made last year until a late-season slide. The Mountaineers have to replace a lot of offensive firepower in wideouts Kevin White and Mario Alford. But Skyler Howard received invaluable experience at quarterback filling in for Clint Trickett. And behind safety Karl Joseph, the Mountaineers should feature the best defensive backfield in the league.

Kansas State doesn’t have much coming back off a team that was a Big 12 title contender going into the final week of last season. The departures of Tyler Lockett, Jake Waters and several other key contributors won’t easily be replaced. But the presence of Bill Snyder alone warrants the Wildcats a spot in this poll.

So, midway through spring ball, who is the biggest threat to TCU and Baylor?

Let us know what you think by casting your vote.

Big 12 morning links

March, 19, 2015
Mar 19
9:00
AM ET

Is that Dahntay Jones?

  • The Dallas Morning News looks at the five biggest issues facing Baylor football this spring, including health. Shehan Jeyarajah contends that it is important for the Bears to enter the fall with a healthy roster. While there are some position battles to be decided, I'd largely agree. There's really no reason to put established stars like Spencer Drango, Andrew Billings or Corey Coleman in harm's way repeatedly for Art Briles' program. It would be a good idea to have players like those take minimal reps in contact situations this spring. What do they have to prove?
  • The Oklahoma football team is the wrong messenger in the protest against the racist fraternity video at OU, suggests The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel. It's a thought-provoking piece that is worth a read and Tramel makes several good points, yet there are so many deeper issues in play here that it is hard to properly address them in one single attempt.
  • The Dallas Morning News also looks at the five biggest issues facing Oklahoma, including the Sooners secondary. The installation of Lincoln Riley's offense will get plenty of attention once the Sooners return to the field on Monday but none of it will matter if new secondary coach Kerry Cooks doesn't fix OU's secondary. There is talent on the roster but the group underachieved in 2014 and this spring should show if Cooks has turned the boat in the right direction.
  • Texas Tech is another team with five issues to address via the Dallas Morning News including a switch to the 4-3 defense under new defensive coordinator David Gibbs. The lack of continuity for the Red Raiders defense is pretty shocking with Gibbs set to become the seventh defensive coordinator at Tech in seven years. It's not hard to understand why the defense has struggled with players pretty much having to adapt to new coaching on a yearly basis.
  • The Dallas Morning News also looked at five issues the Texas Longhorns need to address this spring. Leadership is No. 2 on the list after Charlie Strong repeatedly questioned the leadership on his team in 2014. Even with some of the questions on the roster, I could be convinced leadership should be No. 1. Why? Because I think it will be critical for the Longhorns not to underachieve this fall. And that starts with leadership.

Austin Woods doesn't know Mitchell Meyers personally. But there might not be anyone who knows what Meyers is going through better.

Meyers, one of Iowa State's top defensive players, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma earlier this year.

Three years ago as a junior offensive lineman at Oklahoma, Woods was diagnosed with the same.

[+] EnlargeMitchell Meyers
AP Photo/Luke LuThrough a released statement, Iowa State's Mitchel Meyers says he's "determined to embrace the process and fight this with a positive attitude."

"I've read his story," Woods said. "It's very similar. You're a young guy in the best shape of your life, playing football. Then you go to the doctor and they tell you you have cancer. That's really tough."

But as Meyers has fallen into one of the fights of his life, Woods has a message of hope for the Cyclones' defensive end.

Today, Woods remains in remission. He's in his second year as an offensive quality control coach for the Sooners. It was hardly easy, but he was able to practice through the exhausting chemotherapy treatments during the spring and summer and ultimately fill a key reserve role on the Oklahoma offensive line that 2012 season.

"There is light at the end of the tunnel," Woods said.

Meyers, a defensive lineman who was one of only four Iowa State players to start all 12 games last season as a sophomore, has declined to do interviews since his diagnosis became public. He did release a statement last month that he was "determined to embrace the process and fight this with a positive attitude."

Woods says such a positive attitude is paramount.

"That's the only thing you can control," Woods said. "You can't control how you feel after the chemo. But you can control your attitude. That's the one thing that helped me get through it."

Woods said he was fortunate in that the chemotherapy didn't debilitate him to the point he couldn't go to class or even work out with the team. He didn't lose his hair or drop a ton of weight, either. But as Woods notes, everyone has a different reaction to the treatments. The important part, Woods said, is not to view yourself as a victim.

"You have to keep trucking along," Woods said. "It's hard. After four hours of getting chemicals pumped into you, you get frustrated. There are days you don't want to get up. You're gonna feel tired. You're gonna feel bad. But you can't feel sorry for yourself. You can't see yourself as being ill."

Woods, however, said his support system was his biggest asset to beating the cancer.

"I couldn't have gotten through it without them," Woods said of his family, his friends and his teammates. "They kept me going. They didn't treat me differently. That meant a lot."

Meyers seems to have a similar support system in Ames, where he's staying to get his treatment.

"I have the greatest teammates in the world," he added in his statement. "It's been humbling to see their care and words of encouragement."

Meyers is hoping to play football again, perhaps as soon as this fall. But for now, he's focused on getting better.

"I just hope my story can inspire him," Woods said. "Help him to get through what he's going through."

Big 12 Tuesday mailbag

March, 17, 2015
Mar 17
4:00
PM ET

In Tuesday's mailbag we chat about West Virginia's offensive line, Texas Tech's potential standouts and Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes. As always, thanks for your questions. To submit questions for next week's mailbag, click here.

Zac in Auburn, Nebraska, writes: A recent article indicated the questions coming out of the spring in Morgantown revolve primarily around quarterbacks and receivers. I'm more concerned with the offensive line, what with Mark Glowinski and Quenton Spain gone. Adam Pankey is being moved to guard on one side of Tyler Orlowski and Marcus Lucus is the only other returning starter. Who fills in the rest? What's WVU's O-Line gonna look like? To me that's the most important question, given, they open the holes for the backs and protect the QB. What are your thoughts?

Brandon Chatmon: Offensive line is definitely a question mark Zac, no doubt about it because if that doesn’t come together it won’t matter who wins the quarterback battle or receiver competition. But I get the sense WVU feels good about its options and the overall competition up front. Offensive line coach Ron Crook wants the ability to move guys around to find his best five players and I think the Mountaineers have options, with guys such as Russell Haughton-James and Tony Matteo set to battle for starting spots, yet the depth and competition to make the entire unit raise its level. Pankey’s move inside to guard is a sign WVU likes its options at tackle, even though there isn’t an unquestioned replacement for him. This spring is about finding those five guys, but I don’t think the offensive line will end up being a weak link in Morgantown.

Thomas James in Bossier City, Louisiana, writes: What do you think Samaje Perine's role will be in Oklahoma's new air raid offense? Will there be a few between-the-tackles runs to keep the defense from selling out 100 percent to the pass? Also, is a Baker Mayfield-Perine backfield good enough for a New Year's Six bowl?

BC: I think Perine will make defenses pay if the Sooners can force opponents to respect their passing game. I expect him to get plenty of carries, but I also expect him to be used in the passing game at times as well. He’s not the pass-catching threat that Joe Mixon or Keith Ford is, but he’s not bad as a pass receiver either. He should get plenty of touches and OU’s running backs should be good enough to get into a New Year’s Six bowl. It’s the quarterback position that is the question mark, and I'm not ready to pencil Mayfield in as the starter. If he runs away with the job this spring, maybe we can start talking about New Year's Six bowls.

Dave Fredriksen in Chicago writes: How did the Kansas State pro day go for all KSU players involved with it? What is the latest on Jake Waters, who had shoulder surgery after the season in mid-January?

BC: Receiver Tyler Lockett and center B.J. Finney had strong showings at the NFL combine, so they didn’t really need to makeup for any missteps in Indianapolis. Lockett and Finney simply followed up with a solid pro day. I think both guys are going to be pretty good NFL players and potential starters as rookies. Receiver Curry Sexton reportedly ran a 4.66 and 4.67 with a 32-inch vertical, which should help him earn a shot in an NFL camp. Waters will have to prove he’s healthy first then he could get his NFL shot.

Nick Tam in Dallas writes: Who do you think will be the top players to watch on offense and defense for the Red Raiders? Is it possible that we'll see a slightly more energetic defense under Gibbs?

BC: It sounds like David Gibbs has definitely brought energy to the Tech defense with the Red Raiders skill guys telling reporters they don’t like the Tech defense’s new tendency to rip at the ball every chance they get. Tech fans should be excited to hear those types of things coming out of Lubbock. It makes me think Gibbs is the guy to get the Red Raider defense turned around. I think quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the guy to watch on offense and cornerback Nigel Bethel on defense. I think both guys could have stellar sophomore seasons that earn them consideration among the best in the Big 12 at their positions.

Tim in Austin, Texas writes: The word on the street is that Tyrone Swoopes is entering spring practice as the frontrunner and the guy to beat. How long before ESPN backtracks on that mantra that you've presented as fact that Swoopes is definitely not the answer?

BC: I’m not going to step back in my opinion that Swoopes is not the answer, Tim. Obviously you think he is. The great thing about sports is it doesn’t matter what I think. Tyrone can shut me up between the white lines. He has shown flashes he can be that guy, but it hasn’t been consistent enough for me to think he’s the answer. Instead I think Jerrod Heard could be. By the way, I don’t know how being the favorite heading into spring practice changes anything. He could start Game 1 of the 2015 season and that doesn’t mean he’s the answer, unless the question is: Who is going to start the season opener? And that’s not the question I’m looking to answer.

No. 1 Greg Little has visit plans 

March, 17, 2015
Mar 17
12:00
PM ET
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The top ranked player in the ESPN Junior 300, Greg Little, has been committed to Texas A&M since June 20 of 2014, but that hasn’t kept many of the nations top programs from attempting to knock down the door in hopes of swaying the 6-foot-6, 308-pound Texan.

The nation's No. 1-ranked offensive tackle made a first visit to someone other than the Aggies since committing in February, making the short trip north to take a look at the Oklahoma Sooners. As it turns out, that will be just one of many hurdles the Aggies have to clear to sign the 2016 Under Armour All-America Game selection.

"Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Ohio State, UCLA and USC are coming at me hard,” Said Little. "And Auburn and Florida, too. The first week of June, I’m going to take visits to the Southeast. I’ll go to Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Florida and some other schools like that. Then in the middle of the summer I’m going to go to the West Coast to see USC, UCLA and Stanford. I want to try and get up to Ohio State, too."

Little, who lists the Aggies and Bruins as the schools he talks to the most, says building a relationship with new offensive line coach Dave Christensen is going to be key for keeping his commitment to Texas A&M.

"[A&M] is telling me to just be patient. They have a new O-line coach, so we have to build a good connection. I just have to get to know him, because I think we have only talked a couple of times. I need to get to know him a little more."

For Texas A&M fans hoping or expecting Little to make a final declaration by the end of the summer, that is unlikely to happen.

"I will probably have a true final decision after my senior season. Probably at the beginning of January."



Following the Nike Opening Dallas Regional on Sunday, Little was one of 13 players invited to the The Opening to be held July 5-10 at Nike World Headquarters.

Quick take: There are a couple of key factors to look at with the recruitment of Little. First is his relationship with teammate and class of 2015 Texas A&M signee Kyler Murray. Murray is a pied piper of sorts on the recruiting trail, and this is certainly true when speaking about Little. As long as Murray shows up on campus and suits up for the Aggies, and does not choose to go the MLB route if selected in the first round of the June draft, Texas A&M stands a good chance to sign Little. Should Murray end up going to MLB, and Little does not feel comfortable with his relationships with the Aggies' offensive staff, then all bets are off.
Hundreds of the top prospects from Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana were on hand for The Opening Dallas Regional on Sunday. As is always the case, there are certain trends to be found in recruiting, both positive and negative. Here are five points from the event that featured 40 ESPN Junior 300 prospects.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

March, 16, 2015
Mar 16
4:00
PM ET

Several elite recruits in the area were in Dallas over the weekend to battle for a spot in The Opening, an elite Nike football camp held annually in June in Eugene, Oregon.

BAYLOR

Total commits: 7

ESPN Junior 300 commits: 4

The latest: The offers continue to roll in for defensive tackle commit Jordan Elliott, who reportedly added offers from Michigan and Florida State last week. Texas, Alabama, Oregon and Oklahoma are among the other teams trying to flip Elliott from the commit list of Art Briles team. He claims he is solid with BU but plans to take other visits.

Total commits: 0

ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0

The latest: The Cyclones continue to try to find hidden gems in Florida with seven offers to recruits from the Sunshine State including Sarasota Riverview athlete Oshea Grant. The Cyclones join Kentucky, Connecticut and South Florida as teams who have offered the 6-foot, 180-pound prospect.

KANSAS

Total commits: 1

ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0

The latest: The Jayhawks got a pleasant surprise with an unofficial visit from 2017 prospect Najee Harris. The Antioch (California) running back already boasts offers from Alabama, TCU, UCLA, USC and others. In addition the Jayhawks offered Isaiahh Loudermilk, an eight-man football standout. The Howard (Kansas) West Elk prospect also boasts an in-state offer from Kansas State.

KANSAS STATE

Total commits: 2

ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0

The latest: The Wildcats offered a couple of quality prospects in TCU commit D'Eriq King and highly regarded cornerback Jared Mayden. It was a terrific week for Mayden, who also earned an invite to The Opening after a strong showing in the Dallas Regional.

OKLAHOMA

Total commits: 3

ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0

The latest: Houston C.E. King running back Trayveon Williams released his top 10 last week with the Sooners making the cut for the ESPN Junior 300 member. The ultra-quick running back would be the ideal fit as a all-purpose threat in Lincoln Riley’s offense. Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas and Texas Tech join the Sooners on his top 10 list.

OKLAHOMA STATE

Total commits: 3

ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0

The latest: The Cowboys landed their third pledge of the Class of 2016 with Arlington (Texas) Lamar cornerback Madre Harper deciding to commit to OSU. Harper turned down several other offers including Oklahoma to join the Pokes' commit list.

TCU

Total commits: 8

ESPN Junior 300 commits: 3

The latest: TCU offered Washington commit Brandon Wellington as Gary Patterson’s program continues to expand its recruiting reach to the West Coast. The Horned Frogs also missed out in its pursuit of a potential playmaker when California receiver Theo Howard, who had made unofficial visits to TCU and Baylor, picked Oregon over the weekend.

TEXAS

Total commits: 4

ESPN Junior 300 commits: 3

The latest: Longhorns receiver target Devin Duvernay starred at the Dallas Regional, earning a spot at The Opening. He reportedly ran a 4.38 in the 40-yard dash over the weekend and has several schools including the Longhorns, TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma and others battling for his signature.

TEXAS TECH

Total commits: 2

ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0

The latest: The Red Raiders became the first offer for Baldwin Park (California) offensive lineman Francisco Perez. San Diego State and Vanderbilt quickly followed with offers for the 6-foot-5, 300-pounder.

WEST VIRGINIA

Total commits: 6

ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0

The latest: The Mountaineers held junior day on Sunday and it paid off with a pair of commitments. Sandy Spring (Maryland) Sherwood receiver Marcus Simms and Charleston (West Virginia) Capital quarterback Tyrhee Pratt picked the Mountaineers. Simms picked WVU over Maryland, Pittsburgh and others.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Stoops, Players Want To Effect Change
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops sits down with Gene Wojciechowski to discuss his team's stand against racism.
VIDEO PLAYLIST video