Big 12 Tuesday mailbag

January, 20, 2015
Jan 20
Questions from Austin, Texas, dominate Tuesday's mailbag (come on Big 12, are you really going to let Longhorn nation run this thing?) as inquires about replacing Malcom Brown and finding a quarterback remain hot topics. As always, thanks for your questions. To submit questions for next week's mailbag, click here.

Lillian Sims in Austin, Texas, writes: With Malcom Brown entering the NFL Draft early, and huge talent on the defense graduating, who do you think will make a big difference on defense next year for the Longhorns?

Brandon Chatmon: As crazy as it sounds I think Hassan Ridgeway (six sacks, 9.5 tackles for loss in 2014) can step right into the void left by Brown. Longhorns fans should be more concerned about who steps into Ridgeway’s complementary role in 2015. There are good options like Poona Ford and Paul Boyette Jr. who could fit the bill in the defensive interior. As far as general playmakers for Charlie Strong’s defense, safety Jason Hall stands out as someone who could become a star on the Longhorns' defense in 2015.

Scott in Lafayette writes: I will immediately admit that I am biased; but is Marcus Mariota really that much better than Bryce Petty? Do you think Petty warrants a first round pick or is Mariota overrated? Or is the talent gap really that much between the two?

BC: Let me preface this by saying I’m not an NFL draft expert but I don’t think Mariota is overrated at all. I also don’t think Bryce Petty is that far behind. Petty may not end up being a first-round pick but I think he will have a successful NFL career and become a starter at the next level. His accuracy and leadership should help him have success on Sundays, in a league in need of quality quarterbacks. He may not be a first-round pick and, while that hurts his pocketbook, I don’t think it will keep him from developing into a NFL quarterback.

Tommy in Austin, Texas, writes: I know there is a lot of talk about the Big 12 having "One True Champion" and Baylor fans bring up the head-to-head win and TCU fans bring up the better non-conference schedule and not losing to West Virginia. So, if the point is to get our Big 12 champion into the playoff then don't we want that team held in the highest regard by the committee? So why not use the last ranking by the committee as the tie breaker if 2-3 teams end with the same conference record?

BC: If three teams end up tied, that is the tiebreaker. With two teams it should be the head-to-head winner. Co-champions should be a thing of the past. I understand why the Big 12 commish played his hand like he did in December, and it could have turned out to be a genius move, but the head-to-head winner should always win a tiebreaker in that scenario. I’m uncertain about the committee doing it all based off the drastic difference in the second-to-last poll and the final poll this time around. I’m not sure a clear and defined champion between Baylor and TCU would have changed the final result this year. The message Big 12 teams received is don’t leave your destiny in the hands of others (Florida State didn't, got rewarded, then got run off the field in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual).

Raymond in Dallas writes: With all the recent success with Redshirt Freshman QB's, why don't people give Jerrod Heard a chance on the field before talking about UT still not having an elite QB?

BC: I think the short answer is this: Tyrone Swoopes started 11 games with Heard on campus. I don’t really agree with that line of thinking but it explains why some people might be quick to write off Heard. I’ve always said I felt like Heard was the answer and nothing has made me stray from that thinking. I’m willing to sit back and see what he brings to the table but I think we all know Texas won’t reach new levels under Strong without finding an answer at quarterback.

Tom in Austin, Texas, writes: I think Ohio State's victory with a third-string QB was an excellent case study in how useful a good offensive line can be (without minimizing Cardale Jones' accomplishments, of course). How long before Joe Wickline can fix Texas's O-line?

BC: It needs to happen this year and I think it can happen this year. Part of the problem along the UT offensive line in 2014 was limited numbers and lack of competition. The Longhorns currently have six offensive linemen on the commit list, meaning Wickline is starting to get his guys in his meeting room. The more that happens, the more successful that unit will be under Wickline. I’d be surprised if it's not a much improved group in 2015.

Mark in Georgetown, Texas writes: Has Bob Stoops won his last Big 12 title?

BC: No. It is time to stop questioning Bob Stoops and start recognizing that the Big 12 is much improved. Many have questioned Stoops' desire with OU’s recent stumbles but I think he sent a message with his decision to part ways with former offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, which could not have been an easy one. You can question certain ways Stoops runs the program and how he goes about trying to win a Big 12 title and get in the national title conversation but I don’t think you can question Stoops' will to win.

Underclassmen to watch in the Big 12

January, 20, 2015
Jan 20
You already know all about young bucks like Samaje Perine, Mason Rudolph, Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield, so we will spare you the more obvious rising stars of the Big 12. Instead, here’s a closer look at 10 underclassmen worth watching in 2015.

Baylor WR Davion Hall: When you are as stacked at receiver as Baylor was last season, somebody is bound to be the odd man out. Once Big 12 play got going, that was Hall. The true freshman put up 13 catches for 192 yards and a touchdown in non-conference play, but caught two balls the rest of the season. Departing seniors Antwan Goodley, Levi Norwood and Clay Fuller accounted for one-third of all Baylor completions. Hall’s share should be going up soon.

Iowa State OT Jake Campos: We haven’t forgotten about Allen Lazard, Kamari Cotton-Moya or the rest of the young Cyclones. But Campos deserves credit. He was thrown into a tough spot, forced to fill in as a starter for 11 games this season because of injuries. Asking a redshirt freshman to handle right tackle and then moving him to left tackle is quite a challenge, and Campos handled it as best he could. The experience will help in 2015.

Kansas LB Kyron Watson: It’s easy to trust the guy Ben Heeney has selected as his successor. The top backup at middle linebacker this season, Watson played in 11 games as a reserve and on special teams. Heeney took the former top-150 recruit under his wing last season and taught him plenty. You can’t teach Watson’s athleticism. Watch out for him.

Kansas State LB Elijah Lee: He wowed right away for K-State as a true freshman, racking up a KSU freshman record 4.5 sacks. Along the way, he steadily worked to prove he’s ready to be an every-down player. Lee’s athleticism and maturity make him a major asset, and one of the league’s better young defenders.

Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon: No Big 12 underclassman will face more attention and scrutiny in 2015, right? Mixon is on track to be reinstated after his season-long suspension. He has maintained good behavior and is out to prove he deserved his second chance. He’s also a terrific fit for Lincoln Riley’s offensive scheme. Mixon’s return could give Oklahoma one of the best running back groups in the nation.

Oklahoma State WR James Washington: A great off-the-radar discovery for Mike Gundy’s staff, Washington was an unknown true freshman from a tiny Texas town who just so happened to lead the Pokes with six touchdown receptions. The small speedster recorded eight catches of 20-plus yards and will keep growing into a big-play threat.

TCU CB Ranthony Texada: Starting a redshirt freshman at cornerback in this conference? Good luck with that. Texada acquitted himself well in his debut season, breaking up seven passes and picking one off as defenses attacked him to avoid Kevin White. There will be some fresh faces in this TCU secondary, making his play in 2015 even more important.

Texas WR Armanti Foreman: It only took a few catches to prove he’s one of Texas’ most explosive playmakers. As a true freshman, Foreman hauled in a 45-yard score at Oklahoma State and took a screen pass to the house for a 73-yard touchdown against TCU. His role the rest of the season was inconsistent, but perhaps playing for new receivers coach Jay Norvell -- who heavily recruited Foreman while at Oklahoma -- will solve that problem.

Texas Tech LB Mike Mitchell: Now this guy is exciting. The Ohio State transfer sat out the 2014 season after redshirting at OSU in 2013. Mitchell, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound sophomore, has worked at inside and outside linebacker in Tech practices and promises to be a game-changer no matter where he lines up. In fact, he’ll be one of the Red Raiders’ best defensive players in 2015.

West Virginia QB William Crest Jr.: There is reason Crest has been getting admiringly called "Little Geno" for a while now. He has a big arm and big potential, which we didn’t see much of in 2014. A shoulder injury suffered in his debut against Towson led to a medical redshirt. Crest should be OK for spring ball and might be the Mountaineers’ quarterback of the future.
The 2014 season is over and done. This week, we're going to rank the top 25 players in the Big 12 from the past season.

We're including our top 25 preseason rankings of each player too. In some cases we were on the money with our preseason player projections. In others, our prognostications were completely off the mark.

Criteria for these rankings were based solely on performances from 2014, not a culmination of previous seasons. Pro potential was not a factor. Neither was preseason hype.

On Tuesday, we continue with players 16 through 20:

16. Le'Raven Clark, T, Texas Tech (preseason rank: 10): The Red Raiders finished No. 2 among FBS teams in sack percentage, and Clark was a major reason why. The anchor of on offensive line that allowed 13 sacks in 2014, Clark has started 38 straight games. He also played a key role in DeAndre Washington's 1,000-yard season. The 6-foot-6, 313-pound junior has been among the Big 12’s best players since his sophomore season.

17. Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia (NR): Arguably the Big 12’s fiercest hitter, Joseph plays with a physical style, yet has been one of the Big 12’s most durable defenders. The senior-to-be has started all 38 games he has played in a Mountaineers uniform and has vastly improved as an all-around safety since his true freshman season. He finished with 92 tackles in 2014, including 4.5 tackles for loss, 62 solo stops, three forced fumbles, one interception and three pass breakups.

18. Chris Hackett, S, TCU (NR): Hackett just seemed to come up with big plays when the Horned Frogs needed them, recording his best games of the season against Oklahoma, Baylor, Kansas State and West Virginia. He finished with 75 tackles, 13 passes defensed, seven interceptions and one forced fumble in 2014. It was hard to watch TCU’s defense in action without noticing Hackett’s No. 1 jersey all over the field.

19. S Sam Carter, S, TCU (14): Numbers can’t possibly represent Carter’s importance to the Horned Frogs. His veteran leadership helped carry TCU to a 12-1 record in his final season and his statistical numbers were pretty solid with 55 tackles and four interceptions. Essentially a coach on the field, Carter played a critical role on a TCU defense that finished atop the Big 12 in most defensive categories.

20. Tyrus Thompson, T, Oklahoma (NR): Thompson finished his OU career with a stellar senior season. He earned first-team All-Big 12 honors as a key contributor on an offensive line that carried the Sooners to the Big 12 rushing title with 261.15 rushing yards per game. The Sooners also led the nation by allowing only nine sacks in 13 games.

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big 12 

January, 20, 2015
Jan 20
Oklahoma landed much-needed secondary help, Oklahoma State hosted a ESPN300 running back and Texas put its hat in the ring for a fast-rising Californian.

These, and more, in this week's Big 12 recruiting weekend recap:

Big 12 morning links

January, 20, 2015
Jan 20
The Phog strikes again...
  • TCU QB Trevone Boykin conducted a Q&A with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram from the Walter Camp Football Foundation national awards in New Haven, Connecticut. Boykin told the Star-Telegram's Carlos Mendez that "we’re no longer last year’s team. We have to prove ourselves once again." That is definitely true. After going 12-1, the Horned Frogs will have a target on their chest next season. But coming off a 42-3 demolition of Ole Miss in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, they will have the confidence that they can play with -- and defeat -- anyone in the country.
  • Kansas picked up a commitment from Carter Stanley, a 6-foot-2 quarterback from Vero Beach, Florida, over the weekend, and in the opinion of the Lawrence Journal-World's Tom Keegan, Stanley could challenge Michael Cummings for the starting job. That might be a little bold. Stanley has good size, but his only other major offer was from Connecticut, which went 2-10 this past season. Cummings played pretty well after taking the starting job midseason and seems to be fairly ingrained, even with the coaching change. But Keegan brings up a good point. The addition of Stanley gives new coach David Beaty the option to experiment with Montell Cozart at receiver. Who knows, maybe the coaching change will flip the switch for Cozart at quarterback this offseason. But if not, he's a good enough athlete to help the Jayhawks elsewhere on the field.
  • Allen Taylor of MetroNews ranked the Big 12 coaches in terms of job security. Not surprisingly, Baylor's Art Briles and TCU's Gary Patterson topped the list in terms of having the most security. Interestingly, Taylor has Iowa State's Paul Rhoads at the bottom. Rhoads still has the support of the administration, but after winning just five games in the last two years, Rhoads needs to have a bounce-back season in 2015 to feel comfortable about his long-term standing in Ames.
  • In this week's Reese's Senior Bowl, former Baylor QB Bryce Petty will look to separate himself from the other five quarterbacks there. Mike Herndon of notes that Petty might have the best chance to position himself immediately behind Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota as the No. 3 QB prospect in the NFL draft. Petty's draft hopes will hinge on whether he can show he's not a "system" QB and that he can operate NFL-style offenses with the same efficiency he demonstrated at Baylor. This week will be a big audition for him to prove that.
  • The Oklahoman's Jason Kersey breaks down the upcoming QB battle in Norman, which will carry even more intrigue with Lincoln Riley's arrival to coordinate the offense. Kersey speculates that the Sooners will drift away from running the QB under Riley, even though Riley has a track record of occasionally dabbling with the QB run game. Ultimately Kersey writes that the winner of the QB derby, whether it's Baker Mayfield, Trevor Knight or Cody Thomas, will depend on which quarterback best leads and distributes. I would add a third caveat: The winner of the job will also be the one that takes care of the ball. Knight tossed three pick-sixes, and another interception that was returned to the 1-yard line, which contributed to four of the Sooners' five losses.
Six Big 12 players have elected to go pro and try their luck in the 2015 NFL draft. What does that mean for the program they're leaving behind? Here's a closer look at players who could be tasked with filling these vacancies.

Leaving: Oklahoma WR Dorial Green-Beckham
Replacement: Michiah Quick

There is no replacing Green-Beckham. In terms of matching DGB’s size, second-year receivers Jeffery Mead and Dallis Todd come close. Mead, a 6-foot-6 wideout who needs to bulk up considerably, played in eight games in 2014 but didn’t log a catch while the 6-5 Todd ended up redshirting. The Sooners will have a new receivers coach, so both will have to work hard to prove they belong on the field.

But if we’re talking about production, Quick is the safest bet to have a breakout season in new coordinator Lincoln Riley’s offense. The speedy slot receiver put up a team-best seven catches in the Russell Athletic Bowl and caught 25 balls on the year. Quick looks like the biggest beneficiary in terms of targets now that DGB is out of the picture, and he’s going to do some real damage in this scheme.

Leaving: Texas DT Malcom Brown
Replacement: Hassan Ridgeway

[+] EnlargeHassan Ridgeway
AP Photo/Michael ThomasHassan Ridgeway filled in for Malcolm Brown this season and showed the ability to take over the role.
Losing nose tackle Desmond Jackson to a season-ending injury was a difficult blow for Texas last season. The only upside? Finding out what the Horns have in Ridgeway, who flashed potential of being a monster in his 10 starts.

Ridgeway racked up six sacks and 11 tackles for loss while lining up next to Brown. At 6-4 and 307 pounds, he can be just as imposing a presence as Brown was going forward. If you’re looking for the guy who can command double teams and open the field up for everyone else, it’s going to be Ridgeway.

Leaving: Oklahoma DT Jordan Phillips
Replacement: Matthew Romar

That's the name Bob Stoops has circled for this spot. "I think that definitely that Matt Romar as a freshmen has played really well," Stoops said this month when asked who's taking over for Phillips. Charles Walker and Jordan Wade are in line to benefit, too, from Phillips' decision to go pro, but Romar has a big opportunity to take over this spring.

The redshirt freshman isn't nearly as big as Phillips at 6 feet and 287 pounds, but he showed signs of big potential as a redshirt freshman in a reserve role with nine stops and a sack in 12 games.

Leaving: TCU S Chris Hackett
Replacement: Kenny Iloka

Iloka, whose brother George Iloka plays for the Bengals, was an under-the-radar find from Tyler Junior College who’s been on campus a full year now. He played sparingly in all 13 games and logged 15 tackles this season while playing behind one of the most talented safety groups in the country.

He doesn’t have to match Hackett’s seven interceptions in order to have a similar impact. There are a lot of nice young pieces to work with here, too, but Iloka and Derrick Kindred, both seniors, can help provide some critical leadership in the secondary now that Sam Carter and Kevin White have graduated.

Leaving: TCU RB B.J. Catalon
Replacement: Kyle Hicks

Whether Catalon came back, you knew Aaron Green was going to be the established feature back after his star turn to end the 2014 season. He’s proven to be an incredible fit for where this TCU offense is heading. So let’s focus on who can complement him.

Trevorris Johnson did a nice job in 2013 as the power back option -- the thumper who can pick up tough yards. But keep an eye on Hicks, who contributed 160 rushing yards and 118 receiving yards in a limited role as a redshirt freshman. He’s not going to be the returner that Catalon was, but his versatility can be put to good use to help keep Green fresh.

Leaving: Kansas WR Nigel King
Replacement: Kevin Thomas

You would think first-year coach David Beaty will take a special interest in a Kansas receivers group that does not bring back many proven options. Sophomores Bobby Hartzog Jr., Darious Crawley and Derrick Neal (if he moves back to offense) could be relied upon as the top insider receiver options. But what about the guys on the outside?

Thomas, a three-star recruit who comes from powerhouse DeSoto (Texas) High School, should get a chance to prove he can play right away as a true freshman. Our ESPN scouts have high praise for his size, speed and hands. Chase Harrell, another true freshman whom Beaty flipped from Houston when he landed at KU, could also get a real look at entering the lineup early.

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

January, 19, 2015
Jan 19
These final few weeks of this recruiting cycle should be fun to watch. Here's the latest on each Big 12 team's recruiting efforts:

Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 3
ESPN JC50 commits: 1
Class rank: 26th
The latest: The Bears hit the ground running out of the dead period with three commitments in the past week. A trio of linebackers decided to play college football at McLane Stadium with Waco (Texas) Midway's Lenoy Jones Jr., Richmond (Texas) Foster's Eric Ogor and Paris (Texas) High's Jordan Williams picking the Bears. Jones is a three-star prospect who had an offer from Houston, Williams is a unranked prospect with an offer from Sam Houston State and Ogor is a unranked prospect with offers from Lamar, Louisiana-Lafayette and McNeese State.

Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 0
ESPN JC50 commits: 1
Class rank: Not ranked
The latest: The Cyclones had a solid start to the home stretch of this recruiting cycle with commitments from Jenks (Oklahoma) receiver Carson Epps, Citra (Florida) North Marion linebacker De'Amontae Jackson and Lithonia Georgia Military College safety Jarnor Jones during the past week. Jackson, a three-star prospect, is the top-rated of the trio and stands as the Cyclones' highest-ranked high school recruit on the pledge list.

Total commits: 21
ESPN 300 commits: 0
ESPN JC50 commits: 0
Class rank: Not ranked
The latest: Did David Beaty and Rob Likens land Kansas' quarterback of the future this week? The Jayhawks grabbed a pledge from Vero Beach (Florida) quarterback Carter Stanley, who has experience running an uptempo spread offense. He passed for over 3,000 yards and 40 touchdowns as a high school senior.

Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 0
ESPN JC50 commits: 0
Class rank: Not ranked
The latest: Bill Snyder's program could look back upon this weekend as a key stretch of this recruiting cycle after Metairie (Louisiana) Archbishop Rummel defensive tackle Tyrell Jacobs visited Manhattan, Kansas. The three-star prospect, who reports a lengthy offer list that includes Oklahoma, Arizona State and Tennessee, has plans to visit Missouri and Illinois. He would be a terrific anchor for K-State's defense if Snyder's team can secure his signature.

Total commits: 19
ESPN 300 commits: 8
ESPN JC50 commits: 3
Class rank: 18th
The latest: The Sooners hosted several prospects over the weekend, including Dallas Kimball cornerback Antoine Stephens, who decided to commit to OU during his visit. The three-star prospect picked the Sooners over reported offers from Texas Tech, Baylor, Louisville and others. Stephens has the chance to bring size (6-foot-1, 187 pounds) and versatility to OU's secondary.

Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 2
ESPN JC50 commits: 1
Class rank: 34th
The latest: It was a key weekend for Oklahoma State with several prospects including a pair of potential ball carries in Rockwall (Texas) running back Chris Warren III and Dallas South Oak Cliff running back Jordan Stevenson visiting Mike Gundy's program. The running back position is a key need for the Cowboys, who lose two-year starter Desmond Roland this offseason.

Total commits: 22
ESPN 300 commits: 0
ESPN JC50 commits: 0
Class rank: 36th
The latest: The Horned Frogs are trying to flip Miami commitment Terrell Chatman, who made an official visit to TCU over the weekend. The Baton Rouge (Louisiana) Central receiver is the No. 254 player in the ESPN300 and would bring another tall, lanky option alongside Josh Doctson in TCU's offense at 6-3, 176 pounds if the Horned Frogs are able to land him.

Total commits: 26
ESPN 300 commits: 11
ESPN JC50 commits: 1
Class rank: Eighth
The latest: LSU commitment Nick Brossette took an official visit to Austin, Texas, and Charlie Strong's program left an impression with the four-star prospect as the Baton Rouge (Louisiana) University running back tweeted the visit "gave him a lot to think about." He is the No. 121 player in the ESPN300.

Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 3
ESPN JC50 commits: 0
Class rank: 31st
The latest: It was the first of several key weekends for Kliff Kingsbury's program as several prospects including offensive linemen Semisi Uluave and Riley Daniel visited Lubbock, Texas. Daniel is an unranked tackle from Ringling, Oklahoma, while Uluave is a three-star guard from Honolulu, Hawaii.

Total commits: 24
ESPN 300 commits: 3
ESPN JC50 commits: 1
Class rank: 26th
The latest: With the bulk of its 2015 class secured, West Virginia has an eye on the future, becoming the first school to offer Class of 2017 linebacker David Adams. The Pittsburgh Central Catholic prospect averaged 6.6 tackles per game during his sophomore season.
Sitting alongside Bob Stoops with a crimson “OU” logo on his chest, new Sooners offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley didn’t have all the answers. Hired on Jan. 12 to run Oklahoma’s offense, Riley is charged with kick-starting the offense but doesn’t know exactly how the end result will look.

“If I had to tell you what it’s gonna look like here, I don’t know yet,” Riley said. “I don’t have a clue.”

The offense will be built upon base concepts rooted in the Air Raid style of offense Riley learned from Mike Leach during his time as an assistant at Texas Tech. When Stoops set out to replace Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell, whom he fired earlier this month, the veteran head coach wanted to return to the style of offense that led him to his lone national championship in 2000.

“I had a goal in mind to get back to running that kind of system,” Stoops said. “I felt I got the absolute best guy. He’s a guy who has come up through it and understands it inside and out and has had success running it.

“It’s ultimately my fault that we haven’t been in it the last several years.”

Riley, the former East Carolina coordinator, has no idea what the Sooners offense will look like in 2015. Will it be built around Samaje Perine’s powerful running? Will it take advantage of OU’s current crop of quarterbacks’ ability to make plays with their legs? Riley didn’t have answers to any of those type of questions.

And that’s exactly how it should be.

“Growing up and learning this from Mike Leach and Dana Holgorsen and all the guys I was with at Texas Tech as I was learning, the one thing I appreciated was how open-minded they were,” Riley said. “I think sometimes coaches can get a little too rigid in what they’re looking for, and that can limit you. If the personnel doesn’t fit exactly what you’re looking for, there can be a disconnect.”

Don’t just take his word for it. Take a quick glance at two of the most drastic changes in Big 12 offenses in recent years. TCU and Oklahoma State each brought in Air Raid-style attacks to jump-start their offenses, with Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie taking over TCU’s offense in 2014 and Holgorsen triggering OSU’s offense in 2010.

Both offenses completely transformed each team, with TCU averaging 46.5 points per game (an increase of 21.4 points) on its way to a 12-1 season and OSU averaging 44.2 points per game (an increase of 15.8 points) en route to an 11-2 season. Both offenses also looked nothing like expected at times during their debut seasons at TCU and OSU. Meacham and Cumbie’s attack had quarterback Trevone Boykin running the option at times in 2014, while Holgorsen’s offense had a pair of future NFL running backs (Kendall Hunter, Joseph Randle) featured in a three-running-back system that became one of the foundations of its attack.

Riley’s uncertainty about the Oklahoma offense shows his willingness to change and adapt to the personnel at his disposal, a trait some of the best offensive coaches in the nation share.

“If you go back and look at our offense from 2010 to this year at East Carolina, it changed quite a bit there, too,” Riley said. “Based on personnel and what we could recruit and the people we were playing against, we had to adapt.”

During his time at ECU, the passing percentage (pass attempts per total plays) of Riley’s offense constantly changed.

“One of the beautiful things about this offense is it can become whatever we need it to be,” Riley said. ”We’ll go recruit certain players for certain positions and look for certain skill sets. At the same time, I don’t think you need a lot of specific things to make it work.”

During his first season at ECU in 2010, the Pirates passed 65.4 percent of the time with Dominique Davis at quarterback and future Dallas Cowboy Dwayne Harris catching 101 passes. Two seasons later, the Pirates passed 54.6 percent of the time as running back Vintavious Cooper rushed for 1,049 yards. During his final season in 2014, the percentage jumped back to 62.5 percent with Justin Hardy at receiver and Shane Carden at quarterback.

Riley has a track record of getting the ball in the hands of his playmakers and adapting his offenses to make sure that happens.

“We have an idea of what we wanna do and the base concepts, but we’re gonna use this personnel,” Riley said. “Our best people are gonna touch the ball. We’re gonna do the best job we can of putting these kids in a position to succeed.”

If Stoops has his way and Riley has success, what we’ll see in 2015 is an Air Raid-style offense dyed crimson and cream.

“I had a strong feeling and commitment that I wanted to be back in it,” Stoops said of an Air Raid-based attack. “And adapt it to our personnel and what we can do the best.”
The 2014 season is over and done. This week, we're going to rank the top 25 players in the Big 12 from the past year.

We're including our top 25 preseason rankings of each player too. In some cases we were on the money with our preseason player projections. In other cases, our prognostications were completely off the mark.

Criteria for these rankings were based solely on performances from 2014, not a culmination of previous seasons. Pro potential was not a factor. Neither was preseason hype.

Now, without further ado, the first five names in the countdown:

21. Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma (preseason rank: 4): Striker didn’t live up to the monster preseason expectations that came with his three-sack performance in last year’s Sugar Bowl win over Alabama. But he was still a dominant player off the edge at times, finishing fourth in the Big 12 with nine sacks and 17 tackles for loss.

22. Bryce Hager, LB, Baylor (19): Hager capped his fabulous college career with another standout season. He finished fourth in the Big 12 with 114 tackles and earned second-team All-Big 12 honors for a third consecutive season. Hager had only one interception on the year, but it was a pivotal one, as he picked off Oklahoma and returned the ball to the 1-yard line to ignite the Bears’ 48-14 rout in Norman. The road victory propelled the Bears to their second straight Big 12 title.

23. Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas (18): Diggs was the vocal leader of one of the Big 12’s top defenses. He was the Longhorns’ most reliable performer in the secondary, finishing with three interceptions, 67 tackles and a pair of sacks. Diggs also helped usher in the Charlie Strong era at Texas, with his strong public backing of the first-year coach going all the way back to the summer. Replacing Diggs in the locker room will be just as difficult for Strong as replacing him on the field.

24. Dante Barnett, SS, Kansas State (NR): He successfully replaced Ty Zimmerman as the anchor of what proved to be a stout K-State defense. Barnett finished second among Big 12 safeties with 11 passes defended and was a major reason why the Wildcats ranked second in the Big 12 in pass defense. He was also second on the team with 77 tackles. With the likes of linebacker Jonathan Truman, end Ryan Mueller and nickelback Randall Evans graduating, the Wildcats will be asking even more out of Barnett in 2015.

25. Pete Robertson, LB, Texas Tech (NR): The Texas Tech defense might have been one of the worst statistical units in Big 12 history, but Robertson did everything he could to try to keep the Red Raiders afloat. Operating out of the bandit position in the Tech defense, Robertson topped the Big 12 with 13 sacks and was third in the league with 15.5 tackles for loss. Only a junior, Robertson will give new defensive coordinator David Gibbs a big piece to work with as he attempts to rebuild the Red Raiders defensively.

Coming Tuesday: Nos. 16-20

Big 12 morning links

January, 19, 2015
Jan 19
That Seahawks-Packers game was terrific. I hope the Super Bowl can match it.
  • Despite not being named Kansas' permanent head coach, Clint Bowen is still excited about the future, writes Kevin Haskin of the Topeka Capital Journal. Bowen had to be disappointed not to get the job, particularly since he was able to change the atmosphere within the program, but KU could end up with a best of both worlds scenario with David Beaty taking over and Bowen willing to stick around. Time will tell if this is the recipe to turn things around but Bowen's willingness to stay and his commitment to the program should do nothing but help Jayhawks football. It's also interesting to note that Beaty and Bowen had a conversation about the situation to remove any potential animosity between the two.
  • The Red River Showdown just got more interesting. Texas hired former Oklahoma receivers coach Jay Norvell to coach its receivers, reports Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express News. Make no mistake, Norvell is a quality hire for the Longhorns. During his time at OU, Norvell coached several receivers who were selected in the NFL draft including Ryan Broyles and Kenny Stills. He was fired from OU after the Sooners struggled to find playmakers outside of Sterling Shepard in 2014 but one bad season doesn't change his proven record of producing NFL draft picks and recruiting well. The Sooners were ready to move on and it could pay off greatly for Charlie Strong and the Longhorns.
  • Oklahoma is reaching back into its past with the hire of Lincoln Riley, writes Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman. During Riley's first meeting with local reporters, he balked at the thought the Sooners' quarterback position is a question mark while stating they will have three quarterbacks who have started in major college football. That's true. But the quarterback position is a major question mark at OU. The Sooners have talented quarterbacks but whoever wins the job will have to perform much better for Riley's offense to take off in 2015.
  • Former KU linebacker Ben Heeney created some buzz during his time at the East-West Shrine Game. Heeney had six tackles in the game and probably helped himself with the NFL draft on the horizon. Heeney's not a first-round pick but I could see him carve himself a solid NFL career as a linebacker and special-teamer.
  • Speaking of the Shrine Game, Kansas State center BJ Finney was one of the players who stood out, writes Rob Rang of Finney had a strong week of practices and a solid game, showing NFL scouts and draft experts why he's been among the Big 12's best players for multiple seasons. Much like Finney, he's not going to be the No. 1 pick in the draft, but he should have a solid NFL career, thanks to his experience and versatility.

Best of the visits: Big 12

January, 18, 2015
Jan 18
The third weekend in January is always a busy -- if not the busiest -- weekend in the recruiting cycle. College coaches are allowed to contact recruits face-to-face again and the college football season is over, so both players and coaches have turned their attention to the final few weeks of recruiting. It was a busy weekend around the Big 12 with almost every conference program hosting recruits on official visits. Here’s a look at some of the best of the best form those visits.

ESPN 300 running back Nick Brossette has been a longtime LSU commitment, but that hasn’t stopped him from giving Texas a long, long look. Texas would like to land an impact running back in the 2015 class, and Brossette remains one of its best options. Brossette has built a great relationship with Horns coach Charlie Strong, and from all indications he had a good time in Austin this weekend.

Oklahoma landed a much-needed commitment from Dallas Kimball three-star cornerback Antoine Stephens on Sunday. The 6-foot-1, 187-pound Stephens was also offered scholarships by Texas Tech, Baylor, Louisville, SMU, Washington State and others.

After losing five commitments in the past few weeks, Iowa State received positive news from three-star inside linebacker De'Amontae Jackson over the weekend. The 6-foot, 235-pounder was a big get for the Cyclones out of the Sunshine State. At one point in time, Jackson had offers from Alabama, Florida State, Kentucky, Miami and others.

It also looks like Iowa State did a very impressive job with No. 10 junior college offensive tackle Jaypee Philbert this weekend. He posted about loving his time at the Kansas-Iowa State basketball game and also posted a picture of him hanging out with Cyclones offensive coordinator Mark Mangino.

Three-star defensive tackle Tyrell Jacobs joined fellow Louisianan Reggie Walker on an official visit to Kansas State this weekend. Jacobs, who visits Missouri and Illinois the next two weeks, was also accompanied by his mother.

Texas Tech had a large group of visitors on campus this weekend, including Kansas three-star athlete pledge Arico Evans. The 6-1, 190-pounder from Dallas Hillcrest seemed to be having a good time on his trip to Lubbock.

Oklahoma State also had some big prospects on campus, including eight players who were already committed to the Cowboys. This includes players like three-star safety Za'Carrius Green, who definitely liked what he saw with the black Oklahoma State uniform.

Postseason #CFBrank: 31-40

January, 18, 2015
Jan 18

We're wrapping up the 2014 season by ranking the top 100 players in college football, just as we did before the season. As the rankings are announced, you also can find them here on the pages of

What is #CFBrank?

#CFBrank is the Twitter hashtag to use if you want to get involved in the discussion or just follow along.

How did we rank the players?

We asked 32 of ESPN's college football writers and editors to rate players on a scale of 0-10 based on their performance during the 2014 season.

(Read full post)

In the 100 days leading up to signing day 2015, RecruitingNation will be looking back at our ESPN recruiting rankings from 2006 to the present and counting down the best player of the past 10 years at each ranking position, No. 100 to No. 1.

Gerald McCoy, No. 21 in 2006 class

McCoy came out of Oklahoma City Southeast High as one of the most coveted prospects nationally in the 2006 class. After making official visits to USC, Notre Dame, Miami (FL), LSU and Virginia tech, McCoy elected to stay home and sign with the Oklahoma Sooners over the Trojans on National Signing Day. McCoy was part of a stellar 2006 class for the Sooners that included Sam Bradford, Jermaine Gresham, Demarco Murray, Trent Williams, and Jeremy Beal.

McCoy redshirted in 2006 before becoming a full-time starter in 2007. In 13 starts, McCoy made 19 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and two sacks, earning Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year honors.

As a redshirt sophomore, McCoy became one of college football’s top defensive tackles, recording 30 tackles along with 11 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks in 14 starts. He earned AP Second Team All-American honors and was named All-Big 12 First Team.

McCoy would better his 2008 numbers in 2009. In 13 starts, he had 34 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and six sacks, again earning All-Big 12 First Team honors and numerous mentions on All-American teams.

McCoy started every game he played for the Sooners. He finished with 83 tackles, 33 tackles for loss, and 14.5 sacks. McCoy entered the 2010 NFL Draft, and was selected No. 3 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He has been selected to the past three Prow Bowls, and is considered one of the Top 100 players in the NFL two years running.

Honorable mention: Sean Spence, No. 21 in 2008 class. Spence played in the 2008 Under Armour All-America game before attending Miami (FL) where he became a starter as a true freshman. After a standout four-year career in Coral Gables, Spence was selected in the third round, No. 86 overall, by the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he rebounded from a serious knee injury and returned to the field in 2014, making nine starts.

Postseason #CFBrank: 81-90

January, 16, 2015
Jan 16

We're wrapping up the 2014 season by ranking the top 100 players in college football, just like we did before the season. As the rankings are announced, you can also find them here on the pages of

What is #CFBrank?

#CFBrank is the Twitter hashtag to use if you want to get involved in the discussion or just follow along.

How did we rank the players?

We asked 32 of ESPN's college football writers and editors to rate players on a scale of 0-10 based on their performance during the 2014 season.

(Read full post)

Texas hires ex-Sooner Jay Norvell

January, 16, 2015
Jan 16

The Red River rivalry added another layer of intrigue Friday when Texas hired former Oklahoma assistant Jay Norvell as its new wide receivers coach.

Norvell left OU earlier this month after seven seasons, including four as co-offensive coordinator.

"Jay is a guy that has always had an outstanding reputation, and when I had a chance to talk to him, what impressed me the most was his energy, passion and drive to be successful," Texas coach Charlie Strong said in a statement. "The thing you see and everyone talks about with him is that he's a great teacher, very detailed and organized, and he really develops his players. He's coached so many great players, gets the most out of his guys, and they really like playing for him.

"He brings a lot to our staff, is very familiar with the Big 12 and has experience recruiting in Texas. We're really excited he's joining us."

Prior to his time at Oklahoma, Norvell had coached at UCLA, Nebraska, Iowa State, Wisconsin, as well as in the NFL. Under his tutelage, Sooners receiver Ryan Broyles became the NCAA's all-time receptions leaders in 2011.

"The first thing that really drew me to this opportunity was the chance to work with Charlie Strong," Norvell said in a statement. "I've followed his career for a long time, and after sitting down and talking to him, seeing his vision for the program, the recruiting philosophy, his values, every area of the team, I was totally impressed. Our visit convinced me I wanted to be a part of that championship vision at Texas."

Norvell will take over at Texas for Les Koenning, who was fired after one season. Strong still has one vacancy to fill on his coaching staff after tight ends coach Bruce Chambers was also let go.

(Read full post)


Big 12 Recruiting Classes Evaluated
National recruiting director Tom Luginbill and national recruiting coordinator Craig Haubert join ESPN's Matt Schick to break down Big 12 recruiting efforts with less than one week remaining before signing day.