Big 12 morning links

February, 24, 2015
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It was good to see Kevin White, Tyler Lockett and Bryce Petty among the Big 12 players who helped themselves during the combine. And here's hoping the TCU trio can redeem themselves at pro day.
  • Dustin Garrison has decided to leave West Virginia. The running back is set to graduate and should be eligible to play immediately at his next school. It's not a major blow to the Mountaineers, as Garrison managed 20 carries for 92 yards as a junior. WVU has Rushel Shell, Wendell Smallwood, Andrew Buie and redshirt freshman Dontae Thomas-Williams coming off a solid season on the scout team. Garrison's decision to leave is the best move for both parties and he could be a quality pickup for any team searching for help at running back.
  • Former Oklahoma State defensive tackle James Castleman has been working out alongside people who have suffered catastrophic injuries, writes Kyle Fredrickson of The Oklahoman. It's pushed Castleman, who wasn't invitied to the NFL combine, to work harder as he prepares to try to earn a spot in the NFL. I was surprised Castleman didn't earn an invite to the combine so I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up getting drafted, particularly with a strong showing at OSU's pro day.
  • Everyone associated with Texas Tech expects more from the Red Raiders next season, reports Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News. Kliff Kingsbury found the 4-8 season to be motivating while athletic director Kirby Hocutt remains certain that Kingsbury is the right guy to get Tech back on track. And there's no reason to assume he isn't. The Red Raiders are recruiting well but there's no doubt Kingsbury needs to start a conference winning streak after going 6-12 in the Big 12 during his first two seasons. Tech fans shouldn't be impatient with Kingsbury because there aren't a lot of people who want to get things right or care more about Tech football than he does.
  • Oklahoma inside receivers coach Cale Gundy insists the Sooners are going to run the ball in Lincoln Riley's new offense, writes Guerin Emig of the Tulsa World. It's odd that people think Riley wouldn't run the ball and the myth that "Air Raid" style attacks don't run the ball is getting odd. Mike Leach is the only one who really sticks to the pass only philosophy (79.6 pass percentage) at Washington State. Riley's ECU offense was among the top five among FBS teams in pass percentage but at a much lower 62.5 pass percentage in 2014. Time will tell how much the Sooners run the ball, but I'd be surprised if Riley doesn't put together a balanced offense during his first season in charge.
  • Texas landed a quarterback for the Class of 2016 with Shane Buechele deciding to commit to the Longhorns. Buechele, the No. 246 player in the ESPN Jr300, had offers from Oklahoma, TCU, Texas Tech and others. UT has offered several quarterbacks in the Class of 2016 and would be wise to continue to pursue some of those signal callers even with Buechele's commitment. Not only does UT need more options at the position, they would be wise to have Plan B, C and D in place if Buechele changes his mind late in the process like Zack Gentry did during the last recruiting cycle.

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

February, 23, 2015
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Junior day season is still underway, and that means a lot more offers and new names on the radar. Here's the latest on the 2016 recruiting trail in the Big 12:

BAYLOR
Total commits: 5
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 3
The latest: Baylor running back commit Kameron Martin received an offer from Texas last week, but so far that move hasn't been enough to flip him. The ESPN Junior 300 back is a cousin of former Texas great Jamaal Charles and has called UT his "dream school," but Baylor was the first to offer and he's been a loyal pledge to the Bears since July 2014.

IOWA STATE
Total commits: 0
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Cyclones were the first to offer 6-foot-5 tight end T.J. Hockenson of Chariton, Iowa. He landed his offer during a junior day visit and put up serious numbers as a junior: 73 catches, 1,116 yards and 18 touchdowns. Hockenson is expected to take a junior day trip to Kansas State as well.

KANSAS
Total commits: 2
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Jayhawks locked up their second commitment of 2016 from Antoine Frazier, a 6-foot-5, 250-pound offensive tackle from Huffman, Texas, who pledged one day after receiving an offer. Frazier was a high school teammate of KU early enrollee receiver Chase Harrell at Huffman.

KANSAS STATE
Total commits: 2
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: One of the many recruits hoping for an offer at Kansas State's junior day Feb. 28 will be Ian Rudzik, a linebacker/running back from Ulysses, Kansas, who visited KU earlier this month. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound junior is drawing interest from Arizona State and Minnesota, but a KSU offer might end his recruitment quickly.

OKLAHOMA
Total commits: 3
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 1
The latest: Though Oklahoma only picked up one commitment from its junior day last weekend, the Sooners did make progress with a number of key targets in the state of Texas. ESPN Junior 300 defensive end Marvin Terry, defensive tackle Chris Daniels and lineman Kellen Diesch all emerged with positive reviews and will be intriguing targets moving forward.

OKLAHOMA STATE
Total commits: 2
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: Oklahoma State went to the juco ranks for its second pledge of 2016. Fort Scott (Kansas) Community College cornerback Malik Kearse picked the Cowboys on Thursday. He originally hails from Miami, but an elbow injury in his senior year of high school meant no offers. Kearse logged two interceptions and 10 pass breakups in his first year at Fort Scott.

TCU
Total commits: 8
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 3
The latest: TCU hosted another big junior day on Saturday and received a commitment from offensive lineman Austin Myers of Manvel, Texas. The Horned Frogs also made offers to ATH Tyrell Alexander, TE Donte Coleman and 2017 ATH Roshauud Paul and were able to get ESPN Junior 300 running back Trayveon Williams and corner Jared Mayden on campus.

TEXAS
Total commits: 3
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 2
The latest: Texas made a ton of offers this week, and most of them went to quarterbacks. LSU commit Feleipe' Franks, Oregon commit Seth Green, Texas Tech commit Tristen Wallace and Baylor commit Zach Smith all picked up Texas offers, as did uncommitted passers Xavier Gaines, Woody Barrett and Bowman Sells. Considering the Horns' depth issues at QB, taking two in this class might make sense.

TEXAS TECH
Total commits: 3
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Red Raiders landed their third commitment of the 2016 class from running back Da'Leon Ward of powerhouse Dallas Skyline. The all-purpose back picked Tech over TCU and rushed for 1,779 yards and 20 touchdowns as a junior, but he is still expected to take more visits despite his pledge.

WEST VIRGINIA
Total commits: 4
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: West Virginia is reportedly expected to get an unofficial visit from defensive end Shavar Manuel this spring. The nation's No. 2 overall 2016 recruit has Florida State in the lead following his FSU junior day trip, but WVU is on Manuel's list of upcoming trips along with Clemson, Florida, LSU and Virginia Tech.

Biggest Big 12 spring questions

February, 23, 2015
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Spring ball kicks off in Big 12 country today with Baylor slated to hold its first practice. Later this week, TCU and Texas Tech will get started, too.

Plenty of questions surround the league. Many won’t be answered until the the fall. But a few could gain clarity over the next two months.

Here are some of the biggest Big 12 questions to follow this spring:

Can freshmen factor into Baylor, Kansas State quarterback derbies?

[+] EnlargeRussell
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsAfter being the backup at Baylor, Seth Russell is now the favorite to lead the Bears.
With all-conference performers Bryce Petty and Jake Waters gone, the Bears and Wildcats will have new quarterbacks behind center. After backing up Petty the last two years, Seth Russell is the favorite to take over as the starter. In Manhattan, former walk-on Joe Hubener will be entering his fourth year on campus and holds the edge to succeed Waters. Both, however, will have to hold off a pair of talented freshmen in Jarrett Stidham and Alex Delton, who have enrolled early with sights on winning starting jobs. Stidham was the No. 3 quarterback signee in the country; Delton’s skill set fits the mold of quarterbacks who have thrived for Bill Snyder in the past. The learning curve for first-year quarterbacks is always steep. But both Snyder and Art Briles have indicated Delton and Stidham will have the chance to prove they deserve to start.

What will the new Oklahoma offense look like?

After a recent trend in the wrong direction, Bob Stoops brought in play-calling prodigy Lincoln Riley to inject life in the Sooner program. Riley is a product of the Mike Leach air raid. So how will he balance that background while also utilizing Oklahoma’s dynamic backfield trio of Samaje Perine, Alex Ross and Joe Mixon? And who will Riley turn to at quarterback among Trevor Knight, Baker Mayfield and Cody Thomas to lead the offense? Those reasons alone makes this the most fascinating spring of the Stoops era.

Who will play linebacker for TCU?

The Horned Frogs return 10 offensive starters, experience along the defensive line and a couple of key cogs in the secondary. But with All-American Paul Dawson, Marcus Mallet and Jonathan Anderson gone, the slate has been wiped clean at linebacker. Sammy Douglas and Paul Whitmill will get the first cracks to show they can fill the void. But early enrollees Alec Dunham and Mike Freeze could push them.

Can Mason Rudolph, Patrick Mahomes take next step?

Rudolph and Mahomes were fabulous after taking over starting quarterback jobs as true freshmen late last season. Rudolph ignited Oklahoma State to wins over Oklahoma and Washington, elevating expectations in Stillwater for 2015. Mahomes threw 14 touchdowns with just two interceptions in Texas Tech’s final three games, and passed for 598 yards in the season finale against Baylor. The fortunes of both the Cowboys and Red Raiders will hinge on whether their young quarterbacks can build on such promising performances.

Is Jerrod Heard ready?

Though he had moments, the prospects of Tyrone Swoopes becoming Texas' long-lost, long-term answer at quarterback diminished toward the end of last season as the Longhorns flat-lined offensively. That has opened the door for Heard to make a run at the job this spring. Heard has the pedigree. He won two state championships in high school and was an ESPN 300 recruit. But by all accounts, he wasn't ready to step in last season. Will that change this spring?

Who will catch passes at Kansas State and West Virginia?

The Wildcats and the Mountaineers between them graduated 359 receptions and 4,966 receiving yards after Tyler Lockett, Curry Sexton, Kevin White and Mario Alford left. That is an unenviable -- and unbelievable -- amount of production to replace. This spring, both schools will begin to sift through who they can lean on at receiver in 2015.

Can Skyler Howard hold off William Crest?

After taking over for injured quarterback Clint Trickett late last season, Howard brought another dimension to the West Virginia offense with his wheels. At the same time, he struggled with his accuracy. As a result, Howard didn’t quite lock up the job for 2015. Now, he’ll have to fend off Crest, who actually beat Howard out for the No. 2 job coming out of August before a shoulder injury forced a redshirt. Crest, a four-star signee last year, is a talented prospect. Howard will have to be more precise with his arm to remain behind center.

Can David Gibbs turn around the Tech defense?

Last season the Red Raiders fielded one of the most futile defenses in Big 12 history. Tech will now hope its new coordinator can cure those ills on that side of the ball. Getting the Red Raiders to play more opportunistic will be one key. Under Gibbs, Houston forced 73 turnovers the last two seasons. Over the same span, the Red Raiders forced just 34.

Can a new staff give Kansas hope?

In five years under Turner Gill and Charlie Weis, the Jayhawks failed to total more than three victories in a season. Kansas brought in David Beaty to set the Jayhawks back on a course to respectability. How will he begin to set that plan into motion? This spring will give us a glimpse.

How will Iowa State replace its dismissed players?

Since the end of the season, Iowa State lost running back DeVondrick Nealy, safety T.J. Mutcherson and wide receivers P.J. Harris and Tad Ecby. All four were supposed to play big roles for the Cyclones in 2015. With Quenton Bundrage's from a knee injury, Iowa State should be fine at receiver. But finding a starting running back to replace Nealy and safety to step in for Mutcherson will be paramount this spring.
In today's Big 12 Twitter mailbag, we discuss the position unit with the most to prove, who holds the edge at quarterback in Manhattan, and whether the the league will finally rid itself of the ridiculous co-champions rule.

On to the 'bag:

@jake_trotter: Taking quarterback out of the equation, I think it might be the Baylor defensive backs. When ranking individual position groups, the Baylor secondary generated the most discussion. Yeah, they have four starters back. But true freshman Patrick Mahomes also lit them up for 600 yards passing. I like Orion Stewart, and you would think cornerbacks Ryan Reid and Xavien Howard would be better in their second seasons as starters. Then again, this was a unit that was really poor at times last season. It collectively has a lot to prove, in my opinion.

Trotter: Great question, and I don't know the answer. The Horned Frogs were completely decimated by graduation, losing All-American Paul Dawson, Marcus Mallet, and key reserve Jonathan Anderson. This is the one glaring issue the Horned Frogs going into 2015. They were actually in this situation two years ago, and Dawson and Mallet stepped up. They will need a couple of guys to emerge again from a pool of inexperienced returners -- Sammy Douglas, Paul Whitmill and Ty Summers -- and incoming freshmen Alec Dunham, Mike Freeze and Semaj Thomas.

Trotter: The edge goes to Joe Hubener. This will be his fourth year on campus. He has a huge advantage when it comes to maturity and knowledge running K-State's offense. Even though he's played sparingly, I've also heard good things about his arm strength and mobility. Then again, Alex Delton is a talented and intriguing prospect. Should Hubener struggle to move the chains (which is a distinct possibility given how many new faces K-State will have to rely on in the passing game), the Wildcats could turn to Delton for a spark.

Trotter: I'm concerned with some of the rhetoric defending the status quo, but ultimately I'm confident the Big 12 will tweak this rule during the spring meetings. The confusion hurt the Big 12 in the playoff rankings this past season. And I think they realize having co-champs will hurt them again unless they change it.

Trotter: This is a common misconception. This is not up to Bob Bowlsby. The schools are the ones that vote on rule changes. The conference just enforces them.

Trotter: I really liked what I saw from defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway last season. He might not be Malcom Brown, but the 300-pound Ridgeway could be one of the best tackles in the league, and the new anchor up front for the Texas defense.

Trotter: If not him, then who? Michael Cummings was effective after taking over for Montell Cozart, leading the Jayhawks to a win against Iowa State and a near upset of TCU. I know the scheme will be more wide open under new coordinator Rob Likens. And yes, the Jayhawks have a couple of intriguing incoming freshmen quarterbacks in Carter Stanley and Ryan Willis. But even if Cummings doesn't have the job locked up yet, he has to be considered the front-runner.

Trotter: That will hinge on how good the Sooners are, and how Samaje Perine is utilized in the Lincoln Riley air raid offense. Perine is not winning the Heisman on another 8-5 team. And he's not going to have the numbers getting less than 20 carries per game. But if Oklahoma emerges as a playoff contender, and Perine remains the focal point of the attack, then he could force himself into the mix. Remember, Perine rushed for more than 1,700 yards as a true freshman despite starting just over half the season.

Trotter: Baylor at TCU on Black Friday tops the list. That game could determine the Big 12 title and a playoff spot. Both teams will have to win at Stillwater in November first. Honorable mention honors go to the Red River Showdown, which, someday, will matter again..

Playing good defense wasn’t just a 2014 trademark of the TCU Horned Frogs.

Gary Patterson’s program has played strong defense since it joined the Big 12, sitting atop the conference in points per drive allowed by a comfortable margin after three seasons as a member. TCU is joined by Oklahoma State and Oklahoma in the top three, making it no surprise those two teams have been in the middle of the Big 12 title battle more often than not in recent years.

Here’s a look at the Big 12’s points per drive allowed rankings since TCU and West Virginia joined the Big 12 in 2012 (conference games only).

1. TCU, 1.58
Conference record: 14-13
Summary: Patterson’s team prides itself on good defense, and a change in conference didn’t change the production of the Horned Frogs' defensive unit. TCU creates turnovers, limits big plays and makes offenses uncomfortable to cement its spot as the toughest defense to score against during the past three seasons.
Key stat: TCU sets the standard, leading the Big 12 in several other key stats including yards per play (5.24), forced turnovers (66) and third-down conversion percentage (31.2 percent).

2. Oklahoma State, 1.77
Conference record: 16-11
Summary: Ever since Mike Gundy’s team started lighting up scoreboards there’s been a myth the Cowboys never play good defense. Yet TCU is the only defense that is harder to score on than OSU's. The Pokes rarely rank among the best in the league in total yards allowed but is third in yards per play allowed (5.41).
Key stat: OSU’s defense steps up in the red zone, allowing touchdowns on 54.1 percent of opponents' red zone drives, ranking second in the conference behind TCU (42.2 percent).

3 (tied). Oklahoma, 1.83
Conference record: 20-7
Summary: The Sooners' defense has had plenty of ugly moments but has been solid overall, particularly when it comes to allowing opponents to score. OU ranks among the Big 12’s best in punt percentage (43.3) and percentage of possible yardage allowed (40.7). Mike Stoops has work to do, but the Sooners' defense has not been horrible during the past three seasons.
Key stat: Limiting the big play has been one of the Sooners' specialties as they rank second in the Big 12 in percent of plays allowed gaining 10 yards or more (18.7).

3 (tied). Kansas State, 1.83
Conference record: 20-7
Summary: The Wildcats consistently have underrated athletes on defense who force offenses to methodically drive down the field if they hope to score. They get pressure on the quarterback (64 sacks, second in the Big 12) while limiting big plays in the passing game (6.7 passing yards per attempt).
Key stat: KSU’s plus-33 turnover margin is mind-boggling but not surprising. Bill Snyder’s teams win with relentless efficiency and playmaking in key moments.

5. Texas, 1.84
Conference record: 17-10
Summary: UT’s defense has been full of athletes but inconsistent at times. The Longhorns are good on third down, allowing a 36.2 percent conversion rate, yet sit in the middle of the conference as neither exceptional or bad in most key categories.
Key stat: The Longhorns' 79 sacks by far are the most in the Big 12 during the past three seasons, with K-State’s 64 ranking second.

6. Baylor, 2.13
Conference record: 20-7
Summary: The Bears' defense is getting better but still has a ways to go before it locks down a spot among the conference’s top units. BU’s run defense is strong (3.93 yards per rush, second in Big 12) but its struggles to stop teams once they get in the red zone are at the heart of its medicore ranking. BU is in the bottom third of the Big 12 in red zone touchdown percentage (71.6 percent) and goal-to-go touchdown percentage (82 percent).
Key stat: BU’s run defense is second in the Big 12 at 3.93 yards per carry.

7. West Virginia, 2.33
Conference record: 11-16
Summary: It’s taken a while for the Mountaineers to get settled in the Big 12 as they were forced to play young, inexperienced talent on defense early in their transition to the conference. The Mountaineers' defense has been improving, however, as their young talent has begun to mature.
Key stat: A lack of a pass rush has also been an issue for WVU with 34 sacks in 27 conference games, tied for eighth worst in the Big 12.

8. Iowa State, 2.44
Conference record: 5-22
Summary: The Cyclones feature the least disruptive defense in the conference with a Big 12-worst 29 percent of opponents' plays resulting in zero or negative yardage. ISU tends to have quality linebacker play but its defensive line and secondary play needs improving.
Key stat: The Cyclones allowed 5.33 yards per carry during this span, worst in the Big 12.

9. Kansas, 2.59
Conference record: 2-25
Summary: The Jayhawks are second in the conference in forced fumbles (28) but that didn’t do much to change the production of their defense. KU’s inability to consistently force punts and struggles to stop the run (5.11 yards per carry allowed) or pass (8.24 yards per pass attempt allowed) are at the root of the problem.
Key stat: KU’s 6.55 yards per play allowed was the Big 12’s worst.

10. Texas Tech, 2.63
Conference record: 10-17
Summary: New Texas Tech defensive coordinator David Gibbs is tasked with creating more turnovers for the Red Raiders, who have forced 34 turnovers in 27 games during the past three seasons. The inability to slow offenses or take the ball away has made Tech the Big 12’s easiest defense to score on.
Key stat: Tech’s minus-159 points off turnover margin speaks volumes. Having to make up an average of 5.8 points per game is a good way to end up 10-17 during this three-year span.
The last two weeks we analyzed and ranked the individual position units in the Big 12 heading into the spring, measuring them based on past performance, future potential and quality depth.

Below is a snapshot recap of how each position group of every Big 12 team was ranked:

BAYLOR: The Bears are stout in the trenches and lethal at the offensive skill positions.
  • QBs: 4th; RBs: 2nd; WRs: 1st; OL: 1st; DL: 1st; LBs: 5th; DBs: 5th; STs: 4th
  • Average rank: 2.875
TCU: The Horned Frogs have pieces to replace defensively; but the offense should be awesome.
  • QBs: 1st; RBs: 3rd; WRs: 2nd; OL: 2nd; DL: 2nd; LBs: 9th; DBs: 4th; STs: 1st
  • Average rank: 3.000
OKLAHOMA STATE: Lots of buzz around quarterback Mason Rudolph, but an experienced defense could be what elevates Oklahoma State into a contender.
  • QBs: 2nd; RBs: 8th; WRs: 3rd; OL: 4th; DL: 4th; LBs: 2nd; DBs: 2nd; STs: 7th
  • Average rank: 4.000
OKLAHOMA: It will be interesting to see how new coordinator Lincoln Riley utilizes one of the most talented and deepest position groups in the league, OU's running backs.
  • QBs: 5th; RBs: 1st; WRs: 4th; OL: 5th; DL: 5th; LBs: 1st; DBs: 7th; STs: 5th
  • Average rank: 4.125
WEST VIRGINIA: The offense needs some retooling, but the secondary should be formidable.
  • QBs: 6th; RBs: 4th; WRs: 7th; OL: 9th; DL: 7th; LBs: 4th; DBs: 1st; STs: 3rd
  • Average rank: 5.125
TEXAS: Finally unlocking an answer at quarterback would boost the rest of the offensive units.
  • QBs: 7th; RBs: 6th; WRs: 8th; OL: 7th; DL: 3rd; LBs: 3rd; DBs: 6th; STs: 8th
  • Average rank: 6.000
TEXAS TECH: The Red Raiders have enough firepower offensively; but can the defense come around under David Gibbs?
  • QBs: 3rd; RBs: 5th; WRs: 5th; OL: 3rd; DL: 8th; LBs: 7th; DBs: 8th; STs: 9th
  • Average rank: 6.000
KANSAS STATE: The offense is a blank slate, but no one should discount Bill Snyder's capacity to rebuild with unknown parts.
  • QBs: 10th; RBs: 9th; WRs: 9th; OL: 6th; DL: 6th; LBs: 6th; DBs: 3rd; STs: 2nd
  • Average rank: 6.375
IOWA STATE: The Cyclones had the worst statistical defense in college football last year for a reason.
  • QBs: 8th; RBs: 10th; WRs: 6th; OL: 8th; DL: 10th; LBs: 10th; DBs: 9th; STs: 6th
  • Average rank: 8.375
KANSAS: David Beaty and his staff have their work cut out.
  • QBs: 9th; RBs: 7th; WRs: 10th; OL: 10th; DL: 9th; LBs: 8th; DBs: 10th; STs: 10th
  • Average rank: 9.125
It only took one season for Samaje Perine to force his way into the Ultimate ESPN 300.

At this time last year, he was still in high school. Now, he’s the star of Oklahoma’s offense and the No. 279 player on the list. Not to be outdone, a pair of teammates, No. 101 Sterling Shepard and No. 236 Jordan Phillips, took a little longer to make an appearance on the list.

The Big 12 features several players who could end up on the Ultimate ESPN 300 list once their career comes to a close. Some, such as Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson, are unproven true freshmen with plenty of potential. Others, such as Baylor’s Andrew Billings, are young players who have already started making a mark. Here are five current Big 12 players who could find themselves on future Ultimate 300 lists.

Baylor defensive tackle Andrew Billings
Recruiting rank: No. 252 in the ESPN 300, Class of 2013
2014 accolades: First-team All-Big 12
2014 stats: 37 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, two sacks
Future impact: The anchor of the Big 12’s best defensive line, Billings is a monster in the middle. Teams that try to block him with one man often end up regretting it after Billings uses his strength and quickness to create problems. Expect him to cement his spot among the Big 12’s best players, and he could force his way into the All-American conversation with another jump in production for the Bears. The Bears have several other candidates for this list, namely Corey Coleman and KD Cannon, but Billings is the best of the bunch.

[+] EnlargeAaron Green
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesAaron Green had a breakout season with 922 rushing yards and nine touchdowns for TCU.
TCU running back Aaron Green
Recruiting rank: No. 11 in the ESPN 300, Class of 2011
2014 accolades: Second-team All-Big 12
2014 stats: 129 carries for 922 rushing yards, 7.1 yards per carry, 19 receptions for 166 receiving yards, 11 touchdowns
Future impact: Green was huge during the home stretch of the 2014 season and could be even better in 2015. He’s a terrific complement for Trevone Boykin thanks to Green's open-field excellence and overall versatility, giving the Horned Frogs the best quarterback-running back duo in the Big 12. If he finishes his college career with an All-Big 12 season, he could find himself on next year’s list.

Iowa State receiver Allen Lazard
Recruiting rank: No. 148 in the ESPN 300, Class of 2014
2014 accolades: Honorable mention All-Big 12 Offensive Freshman of Year
2014 stats: 45 receptions for 593 yards, 3 touchdowns
Future impact: The Cyclones' top recruit in last year’s class lived up to the hype despite being called upon earlier than expected after Quenton Bundrage’s knee injury. If he makes a significant jump as a sophomore, Lazard could become one of the Big 12’s top receivers. The Cyclones likely will have to win more often to help Lazard earn a spot on the list, but the former ESPN 300 receiver looks well on his way to a stellar college career.

Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah
Recruiting rank: No. 121 defensive end, No. 196 in Midlands Region, No. 150 in Texas, Class of 2012
2014 accolades: Big 12 defensive lineman of the Year, first-team All-Big 12
2014 stats: 49 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 11 sacks
Future impact: The lowest-rated recruit on this list, Ogbah has accomplished the most so far in his career. His breakout sophomore season has set him up to chase All-American honors as a junior, but he will have to overcome being the focus of opposing offenses and will need other Cowboys defensive linemen to emerge to allow him a few one-on-one opportunities.

Oklahoma receiver Michiah Quick
Recruiting rank: No. 74 in the ESPN 300, Class of 2014
2014 stats: 25 receptions for 237 yards, one touchdown
Future impact: Quick has the potential to explode in Lincoln Riley’s version of the Air Raid offense. The new attack is sure to create space for the ultra-quick sophomore, who will be a nightmare between the hashmarks for opposing linebackers, nickelbacks and safeties. And as one of the few Sooners receivers who tried to step up after Sterling Shepard was injured, Quick has already shown he’s a guy who should get opportunities with the ball in his hands.

Big 12 morning links

February, 20, 2015
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That NBA trading deadline was unreal. I can't wait to see how all the moves play out.
  • Oklahoma replaced departed defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery on Thursday with the hire of former Stanford assistant Diron Reynolds, reports Jason Kersey of The Oklahoman. Reynolds has solid college and NFL experience but it seems unlikely he can replace the recruiting prowess of Montgomery. Yet it seems like a good hire because that experience should help develop the young defensive line talent already on campus like Charles Walker, Matt Romar and others. And a "now" hire feels like the right move because patience has left the building in Norman.
  • Tilman Fertitta, the chairman of the Board of Regents at the University of Houston, believes the school should be a member of the Big 12 Conference and should push current in-state members to add UH, reports Benjamin Wermund of the Houston Chronicle. Guess we can add UH to the list of schools that would like to be added to the conference. It's pretty clear the conference has no desire to add more mouths to feed despite Fertitta's belief the school should essentially threaten its way into the conference. So, good luck with that.
  • Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney did a draft diary for USA Today. Heeney tells us how "Captain Heeney" came about and talks about some of the misconceptions about his ability. Heeney will be taking part in the NFL combine during the next few days, so he has the chance to change some of those misconceptions about his athletic ability and potential to transfer his production into the NFL.
  • Former Missouri and Oklahoma receiver Dorial Green-Beckham talked to the media for the first time in a year on Thursday, writes Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star. DGB said he was disappointed in having to miss the entire season after transferring to OU before the 2014 season but he tried to show NFL scouts he had matured during his time in Norman. Time will tell how much he has grown and matured but it's hard to blame NFL teams for being hesitant to take him. It's pretty much a guarantee he gets drafted lower than his physical talent would warrant.
  • Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty may have to be patient when it comes to his NFL future, writes Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. It's clear questions about his ability to translate his production into the NFL level will linger until he proves himself outside of Baylor's explosive spread attack. Petty seems like the type of quarterback prospect the Patriots or Packers will grab and stash then develop into an asset for the future.
The last two weeks we've been analyzing and ranking individual position units in the Big 12. In our weekly Big 12 roundtable, we discuss the league's strongest overall position group, the strongest individual position group and the position group to watch this spring:

What is the strongest overall position group in the league heading into spring ball?

Olson: I'm leaning toward running backs right now, though I do think this is shaping up to be a deep year in the secondary. The Big 12 has, in my opinion, at least six premier backs returning in 2015: Samaje Perine, Aaron Green, Shock Linwood, DeAndre Washington, Johnathan Gray and Rushel Shell. A few others could rise to their level this season, and the freshman class of backs in this league is awfully exciting.

Trotter: I'm going with wide receivers. I'd like to see a better one-two punch heading into next season than Baylor's Corey Coleman and KD Cannon. The Horned Frogs might not have a superstar receiver, but they have three darn good ones who know how to play. Oklahoma State's group of receivers is going to excellent and also deep. And when healthy, Oklahoma's Sterling Shepard is All-American caliber.

[+] EnlargeSamaje Perine
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsSamaje Perine heads a deep group of running backs at Oklahoma.
Chatmon: I’d have to agree with Max. The running back position is loaded with stars from OU’s Perine to Texas Tech’s Washington. The interesting aspect of the Big 12’s plethora of ball carriers is the star power is supported by quality depth at most Big 12 schools. The conference is full of running backs in a backup role who would start at the majority of FBS schools, including Oklahoma's Keith Ford, West Virginia’s Wendell Smallwood and others.

What about strongest individual position unit?

Olson: If Ohio State's quarterbacks could team up with Oklahoma's running backs and Baylor's receivers, there would be no need for a College Football Playoff. I'll go with the Bears' wideouts as the strongest group because Coleman and Cannon are going to be prolific no matter who's playing quarterback. I'm excited to see what guys such as Davion Hall, Jay Lee and Ishmael Zamora can do with more reps. Oklahoma will face some challenges in divvying up its carries, whereas in Baylor's offense, it really doesn't matter who gets the ball.

Trotter: Assuming we're not counting quarterbacks (in which case the answer would be TCU), I'm going with the Oklahoma running backs, slightly over the Baylor wide receivers and Baylor defensive line. Perine has the capability and durability to rush for 2,000 yards. Alex Ross was an All-Big 12 kick returner and could start for almost half the teams in the league. Joe Mixon is the "X" factor. He was more ballyhooed coming out of high school than Perine. If he lives up anywhere close to the hype, this could become the best running back group in the country.

Chatmon: It has to be Baylor’s defensive line. I love what defensive tackle Andrew Billings brings to the table and defensive end Shawn Oakman is extremely productive and can get even better. Add defensive tackle Beau Blackshear and defensive end K.J. Smith into the mix and Baylor has four quality defensive linemen along with good depth. The healthy return of defensive end Jamal Palmer would take this unit to an even higher level.

What is the position unit to watch this spring?

Olson: Texas' concerning quarterback situation might not get resolved until fall camp, but the Longhorns need to find some answers along the offensive line this spring. Joe Wickline needs a lot more competition and depth, and I wouldn't be surprised if junior college transfers Brandon Hodges and Tristan Nickelson work with the No. 1 line right away. That group is in for a shakeup, and certainly a necessary one for the growth of Texas' offense.

Trotter: Again, taking out quarterbacks -- Texas, Oklahoma, K-State and West Virginia each have intriguing QB derbies -- some of the units I'll be watching this spring include the Oklahoma and Texas receivers, the K-State running backs, the Oklahoma State offensive line and the Texas Tech linebackers. Outside of Shepard, no returning receiver in Norman or Austin has yet to stand out. With its entire passing attack graduated, K-State desperately needs a featured running back to emerge (Dalvin Warmack?). Improved offensive line play could be the biggest key to Oklahoma State challenging TCU and Baylor. And I'm curious to see how Ohio State transfer Mike Mitchell makes an impact with the Red Raiders, who need another defensive difference-maker to pair with Pete Robertson.

Chatmon: I’m looking forward to seeing how the battle to become Mason Rudolph’s top target at Oklahoma State turns out. My favorite to win the battle is sophomore James Washington, but the Pokes have a meeting room full of potential playmakers. Brandon Sheperd really came on at the end of the year, Jhajuan Seales has made plenty of plays during his career and Marcell Ateman could be the most talented receiver on the roster. I can’t wait to see who steps up.
The Ultimate 300 featured plenty of Big 12 playmakers, but it’s hard to decide which one is the best.

So we are going to let you decide.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was the highest former Big 12 player on the list. The former Oklahoma All-American was No. 19 on the Ultimate 300 after a stellar college career which saw him start every game he played at Oklahoma. He finished with 33 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks in 40 games.

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Who was the best Big 12 player on the Ultimate 300?

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Former Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown was one of the best linebackers in the Big 12 era. After the Wichita native returned home after two years at Miami (Fla.), he became one of the top defenders in the Big 12 in 2011 and 2012. The No. 47 player in the Ultimate 300 finished with 201 tackles and 16.5 tackles for loss during his two seasons in Bill Snyder’s program.

What more can be said about Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III? The 2011 Heisman Trophy winner had observers glued to their televisions during his time in Waco, Texas. He could drop a deep pass over the heads of the secondary or escape the pocket and run away from the defense as he cemented a spot among the Big 12’s most explosive playmakers from 2008-2011. Griffin was the No. 57 player in the Ultimate 300.

Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat became an All-American during his time in Austin after stepping on campus as the No. 2 overall recruit in the Class of 2010. Jeffcoat started 33 games and joined Carlton Massey, Bill Atessis, Tony Brackens, and Brian Orakpo as the only Longhorns defensive ends to become consensus All-Americans. The No. 70 player in the Ultimate 300 had 25 sacks in his final 26 games in a Longhorns uniform.

Those four players where the highest ranked players from their schools, yet other former Big 12 stars on the Ultimate 300 could easily be considered the top Big 12 player on the list. From Oklahoma's Sam Bradford to Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant to Kansas State's Collin Klein, there are plenty of other candidates as the top Big 12 player on the list.

Who do you think should sit atop the list? Vote and leave your comment below.

Green-Beckman expresses regret

February, 19, 2015
Feb 19
1:07
PM ET
video

INDIANAPOLIS -- Wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham said he has matured and that he regretted the mistakes he made that led to his dismissal last year at the University of Missouri.

He was accused of forcing his way into an apartment in Columbia, Missouri, and pushing a woman down the stairs, but no arrests were made in the case and he wasn't charged. He was also arrested when marijuana was found in a car he was in, although he was never charged in that case, either.

He was also arrested another time for marijuana possession, but that charge was dropped.

"All the decisions I made, I wish I could take it back," Green-Beckham said. "It's happened. I was young. I made mistakes. I understand that and I just want to focus on one thing and look forward to this draft and focus on being the best I can be."

Green-Beckham said he had wanted to stay at Missouri and still wishes he could have finished there. He wouldn't go into detail about his "mistakes," and when he was asked specifically about the allegations of pushing a woman down the stairs, he said he plans to show teams how he has grown.

"I proved that I'm a better person by showing them how mature I've grown," Green-Beckham said. "This past few months have been real tough on me, missing a whole season, missing playing with my teammates, just missing football, period.

"Just looking from the outside in, seeing things that I've never seen before, I just want to take advantage of that and make sure I'm going to be here for all my teammates and make sure that I'm still going to be the best guy I'm going to be off the field and try to show everybody I'm capable of doing those things."


(Read full post)


With spring ball a month away, we've been ranking position groups in the Big 12. These evaluations have been based on past performance, future potential, and quality depth. We complete the series below with special teams:

1. TCU: All-Big 12 kicker Jaden Oberkrom will be a four-year starter, as will punter Ethan Perry. Cameron Echols-Luper is also back after ranking 16th nationally in punt returns. TCU’s coverage units have also been spectacular. Not only did the Horned Frogs lead the country in punt return coverage last year, they became the first team to allow negative punt return yards in the 14 seasons that the statistic has been tracked. Special teams is just one reason why TCU figures to be a playoff contender in 2015.

2. Kansas State: Freshman Matthew McCrane led the Big 12 in field goal percentage after taking over for Jack Cantele in September; McCrane connected on 18 of 19 field goal attempts. Freshman Nick Walsh had a decent season punting. The outgoing Tyler Lockett is irreplaceable, but Morgan Burns averaged more than 30 yards per kick return.

3. West Virginia: The Mountaineers are third here despite sporting the worst coverage units in the league last season. Punt returns have also been an utter disaster. But the combination of Lou Groza finalist kicker Josh Lambert and punter Nick “Boomstache” O’Toole is elite.

4. Baylor: After a shaky start, kicker Chris Callahan got better as his freshman season wore on, making all four field goals and the game-winner against TCU. The Bears have to replace All-Big 12 punter Spencer Roth and return specialist Levi Norwood. But they have several electric options from which to choose on returns.

5. Oklahoma: Alex Ross led the Big 12 in kick returns, including two touchdowns. Austin Seibert was the nation’s No. 1 ranked kicker recruit, and will succeed Michael Hunnicutt. The Sooners, however, ranked seventh and eighth in kickoff and punt coverage in the Big 12 last season, respectively, which cost them dearly in the loss to Oklahoma State.

6. Iowa State: Kicker Cole Netten is coming off a solid sophomore season, in which he nailed the game-winning field goal that beat Iowa. Colin Downing was also a serviceable punter as a true freshman. Though Iowa State’s return units got wiped out by attrition, the Cyclones led the Big 12 last year in kickoff coverage.

7. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys would be much closer to the top if they still had Tyreek Hill. It’s unclear who will take over returning punts and kicks, but the Pokes are sure to audition several candidates this spring. After struggling as a freshman, kicker Ben Grogan had a nice bounce-back sophomore season. Oklahoma State also led the league last season with six blocked kicks.

8. Texas: Nick Rose made only 14 of his 21 field goal attempts, though he nailed 51- and 47-yarders in Texas’ final two regular-season games. He also led the league in touchback rate. Armanti Foreman is back after returning kicks as a freshman; Daje Johnson can be a dangerous returner when he’s not in the doghouse.

9. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders ranked 114th in kick returns and 124th in punt returns last year. Cameron Batson and Jakeem Grant are capable as returners, but they didn’t produce. The Red Raiders’ coverage units, however, were steady, and didn’t allow a TD all season. Someone will have to fill Kenny Williams’ tackling prowess on special teams. Taylor Symmank had a solid year punting, though Tech will be breaking in a new place-kicker.

10. Kansas: All-Big 12 punter Trevor Pardula is gone. So are returners JaCorey Shepherd and Nick Harwell. Matthew Wyman is back, but he ranked last in the Big 12 in field goal percentage with only nine makes.
A glimpse at the Ultimate 300 underscores the greatness of Oklahoma’s Class of 2006.

The Sooners signees included five members of the Ultimate 300 including the Big 12’s top-ranked member, Gerald McCoy at No. 19. The Class of 2006 was the foundation of OU’s 2008 team that lost to Florida in the BCS national championship game.

Here’s a closer look at the five Ultimate 300 players who comprised that exceptional class including what was said about them when they signed.

[+] EnlargeGerald McCoy
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsGerald McCoy is as much of a force in the NFL as he was at OU.
No. 19 Gerald McCoy, defensive tackle, Oklahoma City (Oklahoma) Southeast
Ranking out of high school: The No. 21 player in the ESPN 150.
What ESPN recruiting analysts said at the time: “McCoy has that rare mixture of skills and size that will allow him to fill a number of different roles for a defense as a tackle and be a real force to handle.”
His OU career: Started every game he played at Oklahoma as he became an two-time All-American. As a junior, 46 percent of his tackles were for loss (15.5 of 34) during his final season in Norman. McCoy finished his career with 83 tackles including 33 for loss and 14.5 sacks in 40 games started.

No. 37 Sam Bradford, quarterback, Oklahoma City (Oklahoma) Putnam City North
Ranking out of high school: The No. 16 quarterback in the nation with a scout’s grade of 79.
What ESPN recruiting analysts said at the time: “At times he looks awkward in his movements and is not a very fluid athlete, but the bottom line is that he is very productive and makes plays with his arm. He's still on the lean side and must bulk up, but that will come with maturity and a college weight program. Very good prospect.”
His OU career: The 2008 Heisman Trophy winner who destroyed records during an exceptional redshirt sophomore season which included 4,720 passing yards and 50 touchdowns with eight interceptions. He ended his career with 15 school records including passing yards (8,403) and touchdown passes (88) before Landry Jones passed him in several career categories.

No. 46 DeMarco Murray, running back, Las Vegas Bishop Gorman
Ranking out of high school: The No. 6 player in the ESPN 150.
What ESPN recruiting analysts said at the time: “Murray is quite possibly the best overall athlete of any running back in this class. He is spectacular in everything that he does and is a nightmare to gameplan against. He is a difference-maker right now and should make an impact right away at the college level.”
His OU career: The Sooners career leader in all-purpose yardage (6,498), Murray had a stellar career in crimson and cream. Murray had 3,685 rushing yards, 1,462 kick return yards and 1,571 receiving yards during his 50 career games (32 starts). One of the most versatile running backs in OU history, Murray lived up to the hype that followed him to campus in 2006.

No. 169 Trent Williams, offensive tackle, Longview (Texas) High
Ranking out of high school: The No. 22 offensive guard with a scout's grade of 76.
What ESPN recruiting analysts said at the time: “Williams has a good frame and plays with a mean streak. Williams has the frame to put on additional size and that will only help his game. He has the tools and frame to be an offensive tackle at the college level, but may project better as a guard.”
His OU career: Williams showed versatility during his time in crimson and cream, lining up at both tackle spots during his time in Norman. A two-time All-Big 12 honoree, Williams was an All-American in 2009. He led the Sooners with 97 knockdowns as a senior and started 38 career games in crimson and cream. Williams was the lowest-rated of this group, but he became a critical contributor to OU's success during his time on campus.

No. 194 Jermaine Gresham, tight end, Ardmore (Oklahoma) High
Ranking out of high school: The No. 111 player in the ESPN 150.
What ESPN recruiting analysts said at the time: “Right now Gresham is a tweener between the tight end and wide receiver positions. He has excellent athletic ability and height, and has the tools to be a big wide receiver at the college level. However, continued growth could make him a better fit at the tight end spot and he would be a dangerous weapon at that position. Gresham is definitely a player that can contribute in the passing game in college, but he has the potential to be much more.”
His OU career: One of the top tight ends in school history, Gresham had 111 receptions for 1,629 yards and 26 touchdowns in 42 career games. His final season was taken away by a preseason knee injury after he played a major role in OU’s 2008 title game appearance. He had 66 receptions for 950 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2008 while earning All-American honors.
Players and media are arriving in Indianapolis for the NFL's annual scouting combine. Specialists, offensive linemen and tight ends comprise the first group with interviews and weight-room work starting on Thursday, followed by on-field workouts and drills set to begin on Friday.

Here are five former Big 12 players who have a chance to improve their stock over the next few days. You can find the full list of Big 12 participants here.

Needs to impress: Dorial Green-Beckham, receiver, Oklahoma. DGB’s talent is not in question. On the field, he looks like a difference-maker with his combination of size, speed and athleticism. But plenty of questions about his off-the-field troubles linger over his physical talent, making it easy for NFL scouts and coaches to look elsewhere. If Green-Beckham can start to ease those concerns with a strong showing in the interview rooms,then dazzle on the turf at Lucas Oil Stadium, it would help his stock tremendously.

[+] EnlargeKevin White
Scott Clarke/ESPN ImagesIf he shows elite speed, West Virginia's Kevin White could be the first receiver taken in the draft.
Needs to run well in the 40: Kevin White, receiver, West Virginia. He is in a battle to be the first receiver off the board. The Biletnikoff Award finalist will likely be a high draft pick either way, but if he runs a fast time in the 40-yard dash, erasing any questions about his speed, his stock could really skyrocket. At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds with terrific ball skills and the ability to make plays after the catch, White looks like a No. 1 receiver in the making.

Has the most to gain: Bryce Petty, quarterback, Baylor. As the fourth-ranked quarterback by draft guru Mel Kiper, Petty isn’t expected to be given the immediate reins of an NFL franchise during draft weekend. But Baylor's record-setter could really help himself with a strong combine that shows off his accuracy and arm strength. He should have no problem intriguing teams with his intelligence and confidence in the interview room.

Can maintain momentum: Kevin White, cornerback, TCU. After a solid showing at the Senior Bowl, White could continue the momentum at the combine. The on-field work for the cornerbacks on Monday could be a critical time for the former Horned Frogs cornerback. If his on-field workout shows he is fluid enough to handle NFL slot receivers, it would help White's stock tremendously.

Overlooked player to keep an eye on: Blake Bell, tight end, Oklahoma. Bell is right alongside Petty as one of the former Big 12 players who could gain plenty with a strong combine. At this time a year ago, Bell was in the early stages of a transition from quarterback to tight end. His limited experience and raw ability is intriguing for NFL teams thanks to his athleticism at 6-foot-6 and245 pounds. The combine is his opportunity to show NFL teams he can be an asset with high upside if they decide to take a chance on him in the later rounds.
With spring ball a month away, we've been ranking position groups in the Big 12. These evaluations have been based on past performance, future potential, and quality depth. We continue the series below with defensive backs:

1. West Virginia: Strong safety Karl Joseph, the hardest hitter in the league who will be a four-year starter, is a Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Free safety Dravon Henry is coming off a freshman All-American season. Daryl Worley is an All-Big 12 caliber cornerback. The Mountaineers also inked two more dynamic corners in Tyrek Cole (ESPN 300) and Rasul Douglas (ESPN 50 JC). This unit is loaded.

2. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys own the deepest cornerback group in the league, with four players boasting FBS starting experience in Kevin Peterson, Ramon Richards, Ashton Lampkin and Michael Hunter, a graduate transfer from Indiana. Jordan Sterns is a rising star at free safety.

3. Kansas State: Danzel McDaniel and Morgan Burns quietly formed one of the league's top cornerback tandems last season. Both are back, too. McDaniel brings the hammer; Burns can cover ground. Dante Barnett is among the Big 12's top returning safeties with a nose for the ball. With better hands, he could have finished with double-digit interceptions last year. The Wildcats do have to find a replacement for Randall Evans, who was an anchor at nickelback.

4. TCU: The Horned Frogs were hit hard by attrition. All three of its All-Big 12 defensive backs are gone in cornerback Kevin White, strong safety Sam Carter and weak safety Chris Hackett, who bolted early for the draft. Still, this unit has the remnants to be stout again. Ranthony Texada had a banner freshman season playing opposite of White, and seems primed to take over as TCU's No. 1 corner. Free safety Derrick Kindred has been a cog the past three seasons, and former juco transfer Kenny Iloka was a key reserve in 2014. Those three form the core of what figures to be another stout TCU secondary.

5. Baylor: The good news is the Bears return four starters in the secondary; that might be the bad news, too. Pass defense was Baylor's Achilles heel last season, culminating with Texas Tech true freshman Patrick Mahomes torching the Bears for almost 600 passing yards. Deep safety Orion Stewart is the best of the bunch; he's a playmaker. Cornerbacks Ryan Reid and Xavien Howard should be better in their second years as starters. Cover safety Terrell Burt has the most experience, but struggled greatly in coverage late last season. It will be interesting to see whether this group collectively improves off a shaky 2014 performance.

6. Texas: Outside West Virginia, no secondary in the league has more upside than Texas. Safety Jason Hall was one of the league's top true freshmen last season, and incoming cornerbacks Holton Hill and Kris Boyd and safeties DeShon Elliott and Davante Davis are all elite blue-chip prospects. The Longhorns will lean on Duke Thomas, Sheroid Evans and Dylan Haines until the young guns are ready. But when they are -- look out.

7. Oklahoma: The Sooners ranked ninth in the Big 12 in pass defense last season, easily Oklahoma's worst finish in the Bob Stoops' era. The best player of the group is cornerback Zack Sanchez; he gives up big plays, but he makes some, too. The Sooners desperately need their young defensive backs to coalesce around him. Ahmad Thomas, Hatari Byrd, Steven Parker and Jordan Thomas all looked discombobulated at times in their first seasons as rotation players. The antidote could be this month's signing class. P.J. Mbanasor was the No. 6 CB recruit in the country; William Johnson was the No. 2 juco CB. Safety Will Sunderland Jr. was another ESPN 300 addition. If any of those three contribute right away, the chance is there for dramatic improvement.

8. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders return the entire two-deep from a secondary that held up reasonably well. Of course, opponents were also merely content to just hand the ball off most of the time against Tech's porous run defense. Still, this secondary has potential. Cornerback Nigel Bethel II leads the way in the potential department. After serving a three-game suspension he held his own as a true freshman starter. Bethel II, Justis Nelson and Tevin Madison, who was also a true freshman last season, have promise and a ton of experience for their age. If they can stay healthy, Keenon Ward and J.J. Gaines have the chance to form a competent safety duo. ESPN 300 signee Jamile Johnson Jr. could be an immediate factor there, too.

9. Iowa State: Safety Kamari Cotton-Moya is the reigning Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year; he and cornerback Nigel Tribune are quality players. T.J. Mutcherson, Cotton-Moya's wingman at safety last season, has since been dismissed from the team. But Sam Richardson returns at corner opposite Tribune. This unit looks good on paper and should be the strength of Iowa State. And yet, the Cyclones are coming off a season in which they ranked last in the league defending the pass.

10. Kansas: The Jayhawks graduated All-Big 12 performer JaCorey Shepherd, who was one of the best corner covers in the league last season. With Shepherd gone, the Jayhawks will be counting on a big sophomore season from Matthew Boateng, who started opposite Shepherd as a true freshman last year. The Jayhawks also need safety Isaiah Johnson, who was the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year two seasons ago, to return to his 2013 form.

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National recruiting analysts Tom Luginbill and Craig Haubert discuss the top 2015 recruiting classes in the Big 12.
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