Big 12 morning links

February, 13, 2015
Feb 13
9:00
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Remember when the dunk contest was worth watching.
  • Here is a little insight into Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley's plan for the Sooners' offense. Riley reiterates that his focus will be on getting the ball to OU's best players. And he doesn't care if OU scores points by running the ball or throwing it. Most of the questions about the focus of the offense stem from concerns about making sure to feed Samaje Perine, but the Sooners could have the Big 12's best group of running backs with Perine, Keith Ford, Alex Ross and Joe Mixon. Quite frankly, Riley would be wise to be coming up with ways to get two of those guys on the field together in several different packages this fall.
  • Indiana transfer cornerback Michael Hunter talked to The Oklahoman's Kyle Fredrickson about joining Oklahoma State's football program for his senior season. The Cowboys have been among the nation's best teams at taking advantage of the graduate transfer rule. People tend to focus on quarterback transfers but Josh Furman and Tyler Patmon were critical transfers into the program who provided experience and playmaking in route to helping OSU to bowl games during their final season in college.
  • Former Iowa State basketball coach Tim Floyd's advice played a role in the Cyclones' football Class of 2015, writes Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register. Floyd told Paul Rhoads to recruit winners and that's what the Cyclones tried to do with their 2014 class. Hopefully it pays off for Rhoads' sake because the Cyclones have fallen off the map after being a bowl team just a few seasons ago.
  • David Beaty doesn't sleep, apparently. Kansas' new football coach was in Hutchinson, Kansas, on Thursday as he talked with KU fans in the area. Beaty went on to tell Brad Hallier of the Hutchinson News why recruits from Kansas are so important to his vision for the program. Kansas isn't a recruiting hotbed but Beaty wants to keep as many Kansas recruits in the state as possible including walk-ons. It's clear Texas will be an important recruiting ground for Beaty but he's aiming to make the state of Kansas a similar priority.
  • Former Oklahoma defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery goes into detail about his role with the Green Bay Packers in this story from Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Montgomery's jump to the NFL happened quickly with the Packers expressing interest shortly after signing day then interviewing Montgomery on Monday. It's a pretty crippling loss for the Sooners, who looked like they were done with all of the changes in the coaching staff but now must replace one of the most valuable members of the staff.
Louisville signed the 30th-best 2015 class and is already off to a great start in 2016. The Cardinals have a good group of receivers on board and look to be in great shape with ESPN Junior 300 quarterback Jawon Pass.

Roundtable: Junior college impact

February, 12, 2015
Feb 12
4:00
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The past several days, we've focused on the incoming freshmen in the Big 12. In today's Big 12 roundtable, we're focusing on the junior college transfers:

Which junior-college transfer will make the biggest impact in 2015?

Chatmon: The door is wide open for receiver DeDe Westbrook to make a major impact for Oklahoma. The Sooners need playmaking receivers, and Westbrook fits the mold. He could be a terrific running mate with Sterling Shepard in Lincoln Riley’s version of the "Air Raid" offense, with the ability to line up in the slot or outside. Westbrook is the No. 14 player the ESPN JC50 as a four-star recruit from Blinn (Texas) Junior College.

Olson: Oklahoma State pulled off one of the better surprise coups of the final week of recruiting by flipping Chris Carson from Georgia. When you look at OSU's running back situation, it's clear he's going to get a lot of work in 2015. He's a complete back and a workhorse capable of answering a big question mark about the Cowboys' offense.

Trotter: I'm a huge fan of both Westbrook and Carson, and I think they are probably the two early favorites to contend for Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year honors. But on the other side of the ball, incoming Texas defensive end Quincy Vasser could also have a huge impact. The Longhorns are searching for a replacement for Cedric Reed, and Vasser, an ESPN JC50 signee, has the skill set to step in and be a starter from Day 1. It won't hurt him, either, that Texas will have a new defensive line coach, meaning Vasser should open spring ball on equal footing with the returners.

Which junior college transfer is flying too far under the radar?

Chatmon: It worked the first time, right? Receiver Ka'Raun White was somehow overlooked during the recruiting process despite his brother Kevin White becoming a Biletnikoff finalist for the Mountaineers last fall. From his hair free flowing out of the back of his helmet to his ability to run away from defenders, Ka'Raun will spark memories of his older brother. West Virginia needs immediate help at the receiver position, so Dana Holgorsen’s program will be hoping it goes two-for-two with receiver recruits from the White family.

Olson: I've been keeping an eye on Ke'aun Kinner since 2012, when he was perhaps the most productive back in the DFW Metroplex out of Little Elm, Texas. He rushed for more than 2,900 yards and 28 touchdowns as a senior but never had the grades to go FBS. At Navarro College, he earned All-America honors in 2014 with more than 1,800 yards of offense and 22 TDs. He packs a lot of electricity into his 5-foot-9 frame, and I bet he'll be productive right away at Kansas.

Trotter: Carson could very well make a huge splash for Oklahoma State, but I'm also intrigued by the other running back they signed, Todd Mays. The East Mississippi Community College product can do it all, including play quarterback, running back, and receiver. He doesn't possess Tyreek Hill's world-class speed. But he can fill the role that Hill did this past season in the Oklahoma State offense as a running back/slot receiver combo player. He could also help the Cowboys on returns, and, who knows, maybe be a threat to pass off trick plays, too.

What team will see the biggest overall impact from its junior college class?

Chatmon: The Mountaineers didn’t need major junior college help, but they got it anyway with White, ESPN JC50 cornerback Rasul Douglas and two other junior college signees (Xavier Pegues, Larry Jefferson) who can help immediately. Douglas will add to secondary that already could be the Big 12’s best unit and Pegues, and Jefferson could kick start the pass rush in 2015.

Olson: I'm definitely a fan of the junior college haul that Oklahoma State put together. Carson is going to get most of the headlines, but defensive tackle Motekiai Maile has the potential to be a monster up the middle. Antwan Hadley is a big 6-foot-4 cornerback, and I'm excited to see what Mike Gundy's staff does with Mays. He's a true athlete -- quarterback/running back/receiver -- and potentially a pretty fun weapon.

Trotter: Overall, the answer to this might be Kansas or Iowa State. Underscoring several immediate needs, the two signed a combined 14 junior college transfers. The Cyclones are banking that ESPN JC50 defensive tackle Demond Tucker can instantly boost what was the nation's worst statistical defense last season. With the fewest returning starters in the league, the Jayhawks will also need multiple contributions out of its massive junior college class.
Texas signed the Big 12’s top class in 2014.

SportsNation

Which Big 12 recruiting class will have the biggest impact in 2015?

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Discuss (Total votes: 5,635)

It won’t matter once the pads go on. Some elite prospects fulfill their potential while others fall by the wayside as lower-rated prospects prove they shouldn't have been under-the-radar on signing day.

So, here’s your chance: Which Big 12 recruiting class will have the biggest impact in 2015?

The Longhorns could be considered the favorite to have the recruiting class that makes the biggest immediate impact in 2015. Charlie Strong’s first full recruiting cycle was fruitful with plenty of potential playmakers at need positions including linebacker Malik Jefferson, receiver Ryan Newsome and cornerback Holton Hill.

Oklahoma ended up with a solid group of signees, including eight members of the ESPN 300. Junior college receiver DeDe Westbrook appears tailor made for Lincoln Riley’s version of the Air Raid offense while top-rated signee P.J. Mbanasor should provide immediate depth at cornerback. Add a trio of quality safeties in Will Sunderland, Kahlil Haughton and Prentice McKinney and the Sooners could have four newcomers who earn playing time in the secondary in 2015.

Jarrett Stidham enrolled at Baylor with a goal of playing immediately, and the ESPN 300 quarterback has the talent to win the starting quarterback spot and take over as Bryce Petty’s replacement. But he’s just the headline signee of a group of solid athletes, including running back Ja’Mycal Hasty along with defensive backs Tony Nicholson and J.W. Ketchum. Keep an eye on linebacker Eric Ogor, who could be a hidden gem who fights his way onto the field this fall.

Oklahoma State needed immediate help at running back and got it with junior college signee Chris Carson, who could slide right into the Cowboys backfield alongside Mason Rudolph. Carson is one of seven junior college signees for the Pokes, setting OSU up with added depth along the offensive and defensive lines to amp up the competition and help let some of the skill talent in Stillwater, Oklahoma flourish.

UT, OU, BU and OSU may have had the conference’s top-ranked classes, but several other Big 12 classes could rise to the top in 2015.

Texas Tech finished strong, loading up on receivers while filling other needs on the roster including defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko. J.F. Thomas, Tony Brown, Keke Coutee, Donta Thompson, Quan Shorts and Jonathan Giles could end up rivaling any group of receiver signees in the Big 12.

West Virginia capitalized on selling the Big 12 on the East Coast with several signees who could see the field immediately. Defensive end Larry Jefferson could provide a pass rush, while receivers Jovon Durante, Gary Jennings and Ka’Raun White could help replace Kevin White and Mario Alford.

TCU added skill talent and multiple recruits with terrific long-term upside after its breakout 2014 season. Receivers Kavontae Turpin and Jaelan Austin join cornerback DeShawn Raymond and safety Montrel Wilson as the Horned Frogs highest-rated signees.

Quarterback Alex Delton and running back Alex Barnes arrived at Kansas State at the perfect time with the Wildcats searching for playmakers on offense. Time will tell if the duo is ready to contribute as true freshmen, but KSU has a proven track record of securing overshadowed talent that become the foundation of consistent success.

Kansas coach David Beaty hit the junior college ranks hard in his initial class with eight junior college signees, including cornerback Brandon Stewart who should be in the mix to replace All-Big 12 cornerback JaCorey Shepherd.

Iowa State finally got the opportunity to address its defensive line after injuries and departures hit the Cyclones defensive line hard prior to the 2014 season. Paul Rhoads program signed five defensive linemen, including ESPN JC50 defensive tackle Demond Tucker, who could end up emerging as anchor of the Cyclones defensive front.
With spring ball a month away, we've been ranking position groups in the Big 12. These evaluations are based on past performance, future potential and quality depth. We continue this series with offensive line:

1. Baylor: All five starters return for the Bears, notably All-American left tackle Spencer Drango, who spurned the NFL draft to return for his senior season. The majority of the entire two-deep, in fact, is back, as well, including right guard Desmine Hilliard, who missed much of last year with a wrist injury. Despite being a two-year starter, Hilliard will have to fight to reclaim his starting job, as Jarell Broxton slotted in nicely in place of him during the second half of the season. This unit has a superstar in Drango, plenty of experience and a ton of depth.

2. TCU: The TCU offensive line was among the most-improved units in the league last year, setting the tone up front for the nation's second-highest scoring offense. Left tackle Tayo Fabuluje is gone, but the rest of the unit returns intact, including center Joey Hunt and right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who were both second-team All-Big 12 performers in 2014.

3. Texas Tech: Texas Tech encountered all kinds of problems last year, but offensive line wasn't one of them. All-Big 12 left tackle Le'Raven Clark was terrific protecitng the blindside of quarterbacks Pat Mahomes and Davis Webb, as Tech allowed only one sack per 43 pass attempts, which was among the best rates in the country. Center Jared Kaster and guards Alfredo Morales and Baylen Brown will all be three-year starters.

4. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys were dreadful along the offensive line for much of last year. But the group rapidly rebounded late, due in part to the healthy comeback of Zachary Crabtree at right tackle. Crabtree will be able to stick on the right side, too, thanks to the mid-semester arrival of transfer Victor Salako, who started two years for UAB and is expected to man left tackle for the Pokes. Oklahoma State also should be deeper overall with junior college transfers Brandon Pertile and Matt Kellerman joining returning starters Michael Wilson, Jesse Robinson and center Paul Lewis. Mike Gundy still needs to hire a position coach for this group with Bob Connelly bolting for USC.

5. Oklahoma: The Sooners were hit hard by graduation with longtime lynchpin tackles Daryl Williams and Tyrus Thompson both departing. Center Ty Darlington is back; so is veteran guard Nila Kasitati. Oklahoma also signed the nation's No. 1 juco guard, Jamal Danley, to play alongside them. Tackle is the big concern, but the Sooners are hopeful that either Orlando Brown Jr. or Kenyon Frison will be ready to step up after redshirting last year.

6. Kansas State: B.J. Finney was a four-year fixture at center for the K-State offensive line and will be dearly missed. But the Wildcats return the rest of the offensive line, including standout left tackle Cody Whitehair, who should take over for Finney as group leader. The Wildcats need guard Boston Stiverson to make a full return from the leg injury he suffered in the Valero Alamo Bowl. They also need more consistent pass protection from their right tackles.

7. Texas: The Longhorns got better up front as the season wore on, but this is still a unit with a bunch of questions. Left guard Sedrick Flowers was the only linemen to start every game, as Texas tinkered with six different combinations over the course of the season. Center Taylor Doyle and right guard Kent Perkins should retain their starting gigs, but junior college transfers Brandon Hodges and Tristan Nickelson, as well as early enrollee freshman Connor Williams, all have a chance to overtake Marcus Hutchins, Camrhon Hughes and Jake Raulerson at the tackle spots.

8. Iowa State: Left tackle Brock Dagel missing most of last season with a knee injury could be a silver lining for the Cyclones in 2015. Jake Campos got valuable experience along the line, including left tackle. As a result, the Cyclones should be in good shape on the bookends, provided Dagel is 100 percent. Guard Daniel Burton is one of the more underrated players in the league. Cole Anderson and Kory Kodanko, who both redshirted last year, have a good shot of joining the rotation.

9. West Virginia: The Mountaineers weren't great up front last year, and now they've graduated their two best blockers in guards Quinton Spain and Mark Glowinski. Tyler Orlosky bring stability on the inside at center, but tackles Adam Pankey and Marquis Lucas need to take a step forward in their second seasons as full-time starters.

10. Kansas: The Jayhawks don't have any difference-makers up front, at least not yet. But Jacob Bragg, one of the top center recruits in the country last year, has a chance to become one in time. Joe Gibson and Junior Visinia return along the interior. So does rising senior tackle Larry Mazyck, who may be asked to swing to the left side.

Coaches' poll: Favorite Big 12 recruits

February, 12, 2015
Feb 12
10:00
AM ET
video
College recruiters rarely care about star ratings. They're looking for all sorts of other things: scheme fit, projection, growth potential, maturity, even track times. So once signing day passed, we asked.

We polled more than a dozen anonymous Big 12 coaches and recruiting coordinators for their favorite prospects in the 2015 class -- both the kids they signed and the ones they wanted.

[+] EnlargePatrick Vahe, Josh Wariboko
Gerry Hamilton/ESPNOne Big 12 recruiter predicts offensive guard Patrick Vahe (at left), a Longhorns' 2015 signee, will be "a good one" at the collegiate level.
Most of the recruits they named were under-the-radar finds. By now, you already know all about the elite signees such as Malik Jefferson, Jarrett Stidham and Breiden Fehoko. We were looking for the recruits who might not be big names now but are poised to make a big impact in the conference for years to come.

Here are 25 players that Big 12 recruiters liked in the class of 2015:

Baylor OG Riley Daniel: "Riley is a huge human. Schools got on him late. If you make a mistake in recruiting, make it big."

Baylor WR Blake Lynch: "Like him a lot. We had a hard time projecting where we saw him last spring position-wise, but I liked him a lot. At first we were thinking safety and we fell in love with him, but we were too late."

Baylor LB Jordan Williams: "Tremendous upside. I think he's athletic enough to play inside or outside with great tenacity. When I went to see him I said, 'How did we not know about this guy earlier?' Everybody had him at 5-11 and 190. He's 6-1 and 217."

Iowa State WR Hakeem Butler: "He’s got huge hands, good 40, good vert in a big body. He played AAU basketball, now football will become his focus. His ceiling is really high. Four or five years from now people could be looking back like ... how did Iowa State get that guy?"

Iowa State DE Seth Nerness: "Seth Nerness is a great kid. He plays with a great attitude and work ethic."

Kansas DE Dorance Armstrong: "That kid has a body on him and he can run. No idea how other people didn't get him. He had like 20 offers and comes from a big program. Watch him and he's every bit of what you'd want to recruit. That was a steal."

Kansas TE Jace Sternberger: "Jace is a coach’s son. Small-school, multiple-sport athlete. He shows his athleticism on the basketball court. He could blow up once he’s committed to one sport."

Kansas State DT Trey Dishon: "Trey is a big athlete. Everyone slept on him."

Kansas State DB Johnny Durham: "Jonathan plays with a very high football IQ. He’s always in the right spot and deceptively fast. I would compare him to Ty Zimmerman."

Oklahoma RB Rodney Anderson: "Anderson is a freak. He’s the real deal. Size, speed, power. He’s a no-brainer."

Oklahoma WR John Humphrey Jr.: "A guy that I really liked in camps. He was a fast kid, came out of nowhere and can really run. I see him playing corner, to be honest, because of his feet and speed. With his change of direction and how fast he is, there's something about that kid."

Oklahoma CB P.J. Mbanasor: "Potentially really good player. I watched him and researched him and he was fluid and really played transition well. Big corners who can run are hard to come by."

Oklahoma State RB Chris Carson: "I think they may have gotten the best back in this signing class. He’s a Newcomer of the Year-type possibility."

Oklahoma State CB Antwan Hadley: "He has a safety body playing corner. Tall and long with a nose for the ball. He played against good people, too."

Oklahoma State S Kenneth McGruder: "McGruder is a stud. Big, physical, a leader. He’s a big-time safety. That’s the enforcer you want."

TCU S Arico Evans: "One kid that I think is really going to be good. He was an athletic quarterback who has that 'it' factor. He was his whole (high school) team, he knows how to play and has real upside. He's going to thrive in Gary Patterson's defense and can even grow into a linebacker."

TCU CB Julius Lewis: "Julius is a good athlete. Multiple-sport athlete, which limited his exposure in spring ball. He played both ways, which questioned what position he would play."

TCU C Jozie Milton: "Reminds you of Joey Hunt, a hardcore guy. He had all kinds of offers, but a lot of people in Texas probably didn’t see him coming. Physical, smart and you like that he can call signals."

Texas TE Devonaire Clarington: "He’s very talented. He’s just a nightmare for DBs with that size and speed. He’s probably going to end up being an NFL guy."

Texas OG Patrick Vahe: "He probably gets lost in the shuffle and gets forgotten because he committed so early. He’s going to be a good one. Tough player."

Texas Tech WR Tony Brown: "He's smooth, a good route runner. He's a good get for them. Kliff [Kingsbury] got some good receivers."

Texas Tech RB Corey Dauphine: "I like him a lot. He was a good player and a 200-meter guy. Big, physical and fast. I have a feeling he’ll cause people a lot of problems before he’s done."

Texas Tech LB D'Vonta Hinton: "Under the radar because of his height, but just a freaking football player with instincts."

West Virginia LB David Long: "He's not the biggest guy, but he plays bigger than his size. Reminds you a lot of Karl Joseph coming out of high school, a guy who can cover a big space. He's a good fit for the Big 12."

West Virginia DE Adam Shuler: "He didn’t get all of the attention and all of that but I think he has the chance to be a special player."

Big 12 morning links

February, 12, 2015
Feb 12
9:00
AM ET
On the road to becoming known as one of the best "This is SportsCenter" spots of all time.
  • Here's an interesting NFL draft diary from former TCU linebacker Paul Dawson in USA Today. Dawson addresses several different issues from concerns about his character to his reputation at TCU to his upbringing, so it's worth a read. There may be questions about Dawson, and I'm sure NFL teams will try to leave no stone unturned, but his ability to make plays is not one of those questions. Regardless of his eventual draft position, here's hoping he has a lengthy and productive NFL career.
  • Former West Virginia quarterback Marc Bulger is donating $50,000 to WVU to support a scholarship for a student-athlete with a parent or sibling on active duty in the military or working as a police officer or firefighter. It's a pretty sweet move by Bulger who has set it up so others can donate to the endowment.
  • Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt should meet Art Briles' approval as the newest member of the College Football Playoff committee, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. I'd agree with Tramel that Hocutt is a good fit and brings life experience into the meeting room that was missing in 2014. I still have to wonder if that would have changed anything last year, however. The committee came out golden when Ohio State went on to win the national title, but who is to say TCU or Baylor could not have done the same? The bottom line is the playoff needs to be expanded. Four playoff teams with five major conferences was a good first step but let's hope it doesn't stop there.
  • The Oklahoman's Jason Kersey takes a look at some candidates to replace Jerry Montgomery at Oklahoma. Montgomery, a rising star in the coaching profession, left OU to become a coach for the Green Bay Packers. Bob Stoops' recent track record of hiring assistant coaches is pretty solid with Montgomery, Bill Bedenbaugh and Jay Boulware paying off during their first two years in Norman. It's pretty staggering how much uncertainty has hit the Sooners' coaching staff with Bedenbaugh, who coaches the offensive line, as the only coach set to return in the exact same capacity as he held in 2014. Stoops has made several important decisions and he needs them to turn out well or else things could go south in a hurry for him.
  • Former Kansas high school coach Gene Wier is excited about his new job as the director of high school relations at Kansas, writes Bobby Nightengale of KUsports.com. New KU coach David Beaty's focus on high schools and developing a walk-on program has really stood out during his short span as head coach and I think it could really pay off for the Jayhawks. Wier makes a great point in the story about potential Big 12-level players from Kansas ending up playing at a lower level because they might not look like legit prospects during their prep careers then developing into quality players upon really focusing on football in college. If KU can turn two to four of their walk-ons into quality players, it could do wonders for Beaty's chances for success.
Some Big 12 squads had to lean on true freshmen to help them make it through the season while others had the luxury of redshirting the bulk of their Class of 2014.

Here's a team-by-team look at the true freshmen who played in 2014, their impact in their first season and one redshirt who may have been forgotten last fall but could become an impact player in 2015. Part I features Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Oklahoma.

Baylor

Receiver KD Cannon: Named to multiple freshman All-American teams after finishing with 58 receptions for 1,030 yards and eight touchdowns.
Receiver Davion Hall: Looked poised to have a significant impact before injuries derailed a promising season. He finished with 15 receptions for 210 yards and one touchdown.
Tight end Jordan Feuerbacher: Played in 12 of 13 games but wasn't overly productive on offense, finishing with two receptions for 15 yards.
Cornerback Chance Waz: Played a special teams role, finishing with 10 tackles in 10 games played.

Redshirt to keep an eye on: Receiver Ishmael Zamora. The 2014 ESPN 300 member could help lessen the loss of Antwan Goodley and Levi Norwood on the outside.

Iowa State

Running back Martinez Syria: Played five games with 20 carries for 47 yards.
Receiver Jauan Wesley: Started one game as injuries riddled the Cyclones' receiver depth, finishing with 10 receptions for 107 yards.
Receiver Allen Lazard: The Cyclones' top signee didn't disappoint, starting 11 of 12 games. He finished with 45 receptions for 593 yards and three touchdowns.
Punter Colin Downing: Had a solid debut season, averaging 39.4 yards per punt after winning the punting duties.

Redshirt to keep an eye on: Defensive end Terry Ayeni. A preseason knee injury kept the junior college signee off the field in 2014. If he returns to full health in 2015, he could make a major impact.

Kansas

Cornerback Matthew Boateng: Played in eight games, recording nine tackles and five pass breakups.
Running back Corey Avery: He emerged as the Jayhawks' most productive running back, rushing for a team-high 631 yards as a true freshman.
Linebacker Kyron Watson: Saw time as a special teamer, looks poised to slide into Ben Heeney's spot in 2015.
Cornerback Derrick Neal: Played receiver, cornerback and returned kicks in four games as a freshman.
Guard Junior Visinia: Played in every game, starting the last three games after Ngalu Fusimalohi was injured.

Redshirt to keep an eye on: Center Jacob Bragg. The ESPN 300 member redshirted during his first season but could be poised to become a three- or four-year starter in Lawrence, Kansas.

Kansas State

Safety Kaleb Prewett: Spent most of his freshman season as a special teamer.
Linebacker Elijah Lee: The Wildcats' best true freshman finished with 19 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 13 games.

Redshirt to keep an eye on: Running back Dalvin Warmack could be the answer to KSU's struggles to replace John Hubert.

Oklahoma

Running back Samaje Perine: FBS single-game rushing record holder. All-Big 12 running back. Freshman All-American. Finished with 1,713 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns.
Safety Steven Parker: Emerged as a key contributor in the secondary, playing in 13 games (four starts). He had 31 tackles including two tackes for loss, one sack and six pass breakups.
Receiver Michiah Quick: Looked like OU's biggest playmaking threat in the passing game after Sterling Shepard's injury. Finished with 25 receptions for 237 yards and one touchdown in 13 games (two starts).
Receiver Jeffery Mead: Played in eight games but didn't record a catch.
Cornerback Jordan Thomas: Got thrown into the fire when injuries hit the secondary after playing a backup role early in 2014. He had 32 tackles and five pass breakups in 13 games (four starts).
Fullback Dimitri Flowers: Carved himself a role immediately, playing in 13 games (five starts). He had nine receptions for 92 yards but mostly made his impact as a blocking back.
Deep snapper Wesley Horky: It's not often scholarships are offered to deep snappers but Horky stepped right into the role with 13 games played in 2014.

Redshirt freshman to keep an eye on: Running back Joe Mixon could force himself onto the field after sitting out 2014 due to a suspension. Nixon was OU's top-rated running back and brings a versatility that could be an asset in Lincoln Riley's offense.
With spring ball a month away, we're ranking position groups in the Big 12. These evaluations are based on past performance, future potential and quality depth. Our outlooks will likely look different after the spring, but this is how we see them now. We continue this series with wide receivers (and tight ends):

1. Baylor: The Bears just keep reloading at wide receiver. All-Big 12 selection Corey Coleman and freshman All-American KD Cannon return from 1,000-yard seasons to give Baylor one of the most electrifying one-two punches in the country. Jay Lee and Davion Hall headline the rest of the group, which is loaded with up-and-coming prospects such as Ishmael Zamora, Chris Platt, Devontre Stricklin and Blake Lynch.

2. TCU: The Horned Frogs return their top three pass catchers in Josh Doctson, Kolby Listenbee and Deante' Gray, who all delivered big performances for the nation’s second-highest scoring offense in combining for 23 touchdown catches. Desmon White and Emanuel Porter also flashed potential as freshmen, and should offer even more help as sophomores.

3. Oklahoma State: Every single receiver that caught a pass for the Cowboys last season is back, including starters Brandon Sheperd, David Glidden and James Washington. Sheperd exploded once Mason Rudolph took over at quarterback; Glidden is one of the most experienced receivers in the league out of the slot; Washington was among the top true freshman receivers in the country. Jhajuan Seales, Marcell Ateman, Chris Lacy and Austin Hays, who all have starting experience, round out the deepest receiving corps in the league.

4. Oklahoma: The Sooners receiving unit fell apart last season after Sterling Shepard suffered a groin injury. The good news is that Shepard will be back -- and hopefully healthy -- for his senior year. He alone elevates this group into one of the better ones in the Big 12 when he’s on the field. Shepard should have more help next season, as Dede Westbrook was arguably the top junior-college receiver in the country and figures to be an instant starter in Norman.

5. Texas Tech: This group had a lackluster 2014 season, but the talent is still there. Jakeem Grant is an All-Big 12-caliber talent and should put up bigger numbers with more consistent quarterback play. After a slow start, Devin Lauderdale came on strong during the second half of the season on the outside. Ian Sadler, Reginald Davis and Dylan Cantrell all finished with at least 20 catches last season. The Red Raiders also signed a pair of four-star wideouts in Keke Coutee and J.F. Thomas, who was a late flip from TCU. There are concerns about Thomas qualifying, but if he makes it to campus, he could give the Red Raiders another playmaker on the perimeter.

6. Iowa State: The Cyclones have major concerns at running back and on defense, but one place they are not weak is at wide receiver. Like Cannon and Washington, Allen Lazard was terrific as a true freshman and should become an even bigger focal point of the offense next season. The Cyclones also will welcome back 2013 leading receiver Quenton Bundrage, who missed all of 2014 with a knee injury. D'Vario Montgomery gives the Cyclones a very capable trio at the position.

7. West Virginia: The Mountaineers face the unenviable task of replacing All-American receivers Kevin White and Mario Alford. Jordan Thompson and Daikiel Shorts will have to play bigger roles. They were able to capitalize off all the attention defenses devoted to stopping White. Shelton Gibson has the talent to be a difference maker, but he finished with just four catches last season. Incoming freshmen Jovon Durante, who was the top signee in West Virginia’s class, and Gary Jennings could be immediate factors in the rotation, as could junior-college transfer Ka'Raun White, Kevin White's younger brother.

8. Texas: John Harris and Jaxon Shipley were responsible for more than 50 percent of Texas' receptions last season, and both are gone. The Longhorns will have to unearth a new No. 1 target for whoever emerges out of the QB derby. Armanti Foreman has a chance to be that receiver after playing some as a true freshman. Marcus Johnson is the lone veteran of the group, but is mostly just a burner. Texas desperately needs someone such as Daje Johnson or Gilbert Johnson, or one of its highly touted signees such as Ryan Newsome, John Burt, or DeAndre McNeal -- or even tight end Devonaire Clarington -- to emerge.

9. Kansas State: The Wildcats graduated the most prolific receiver in school history in Tyler Lockett, and the best wingman in the Big 12 in Curry Sexton. Those two combined for 185 catches and 2,574 receiving yards last season. That level of production won’t easily be replaced. Deante Burton probably takes over as the leading receiver, but he had only 17 catches last year. Kody Cook, Judah Jones and Andre Davis have some experience in minor roles. This could be a transition year.

10. Kansas: After years of mediocrity, the Jayhawks were better at receiver last season. But with their top five pass-catchers gone, they could be taking a step back again. Nigel King would have been the top returning receiver, but he curiously declared for the draft. Former Florida tight end Kent Taylor, who was an ESPN 300 recruit in 2012, transferred to Kansas last year and should help. The staff has high hopes for early enrollee Chase Harrell as well, but this group overall is completely unproven.
Kyler Murray. Jarrett Stidham. John Kolar.

The Big 12 region was full of elite quarterbacking talent in the Class of 2015.

Yet, Oklahoma and Texas Tech found themselves on the outside looking in.

The Red Raiders and Sooners combined to sign zero quarterbacks in the Class of 2015 making their efforts to land a signal caller in the Class of 2016 rise to the top of the priority queue.

[+] EnlargeKliff Kingsbury
AP Photo/Orlin WagnerTexas Tech did not sign a QB in the Class of 2016, but coach Kliff Kingsbury isn't worried. "We'll wait till 2016 and try to find a bigtime guy then."
Neither program was pressing the panic button on signing day with both coaching staffs confident the quarterbacks on campus can get the job done this fall. OU has Trevor Knight, Baker Mayfield and Cody Thomas while Tech boasts Patrick Mahomes and Davis Webb giving the two programs five different quarterbacks who have started and won Big 12 games early in their collegiate careers.

OU and Tech made the right move by letting signing day come and go without inking a quarterback, there's no reason to sign a quarterback just to sign a quarterback. Quality is critical.

"That's a position I take a lot of pride in recruiting and I wanted to make sure we got it right," said Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury on signing day. "We'll wait till 2016 and try to find a bigtime guy then."

This looked like it wouldn't be an issue for Tech for the bulk of the recruiting cycle with Stidham, the No. 37 player in the ESPN 300, sitting on the Red Raider commit list for the majority of the process. But when Stidham decided to call McLane Stadium his future home and head to Baylor instead, Kingsbury saw no reason to panic.

"You'd like to take one every year, but when it gets that close to signing day, you don't want to screw that deal up," he said. " We decided to ante up for '16 and recruit a great one in that class."

Tech has hit the ground running in the Class of 2016 with a commitment from DeSoto (Texas) quarterback Tristen Wallace coupled with an offer to Arlington (Texas) Lamar quarterback Shane Buechele, a member of the ESPN JR 300. With Webb and Mahomes manning the quarterback spot, the opportunity to come into the Red Raider program with the "quarterback of the future" moniker appears wide open by the time February 2016 rolls around and should combine with Tech's pass happy attack to intrigue any prep quarterback.

OU took a similar stance after flirting with Murray, who eventually signed with Texas A&M, during the final months leading up to signing day. Mayfield is a welcome addition to the quarterback competition -- after transferring from Tech and sitting out the 2014 season -- and 2014 ESPN 300 member Justice Hansen joins Mayfield, Knight and Thomas to give new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley plenty of options behind center.

"There comes a fine line," OU assistant head coach and inside receivers coach Cale Gundy said. "We're just not going to bring a guy in just to bring a guy in."

Instead, the Sooners will use the obvious black hole in this recruiting class as a lighthouse to try to lure the elite passers in the Class of 2016 to Norman, Oklahoma.

"It will be extremely appealing to the top quarterbacks in the country next year that the University of Oklahoma is going to throw the ball quite a bit and did not sign a quarterback," Gundy said. "That will grab a lot of people's attention."

One week after the Class of 2015 was signed, sealed and delivered, the Sooners already have offered three ESPN JR 300 quarterbacks with Potomac (Maryland) Bullis quarterback Dwayne Haskins and Shreveport (Louisiana) Calvary Baptist Academy quarterback Shea Patterson joining Buechele on OU's offer list. Riley's passing game rewrote the record book at East Carolina, with OU's new offensive coordinator directing the units that sit No. 1 through 5 in the Pirates single-season passing record list, so convincing a quarterback to pick the Sooners could be much easier during the upcoming recruiting cycle than it was while OU's passing game suffered a downward slide during the past two seasons.

"With what Coach Riley has done, I think he's going to have the opportunity to bring in a top-notch quarterback," Gundy said.

Big 12 morning links

February, 11, 2015
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Jon Stewart waited until after signing day to announce he's leaving, too...
  • Bob Stoops has yet another hire to make on his coaching staff. Defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery, who was recently promoted to co-defensive coordinator, is bolting for the Green Bay Packers. According to ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky. Montgomery likely will join the staff in a newly created position with the title of defensive assistant. This a major blow to the Sooners. Montgomery had been a bulldog on the recruiting trail, signing a trio of ESPN 300 defensive linemen just last week. With Montgomery's departure and the other coaching changes the Sooners have made, only offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh will be coaching the same exact position he did last season. It will be interesting to see how the Sooners perform in 2015 with so much turnover to the staff.
  • The legal battle between Oklahoma State and Texas offensive line coach Joe Wickline is about to get interesting. Oklahoma State notified Texas officials that it wants to take sworn statements from Longhorns coach Charlie Strong and offensive coordinator Shawn Watson about who is calling the plays at Texas. Remember, Oklahoma State is suing Wickline for breach of contract, claiming he made a lateral move to Texas and didn't take a promotion with "play-calling duties" as required in the contract. This will put Strong in a precarious position. He's already on record saying that Watson would be the "one final voice" in play calling.
  • Baylor has gotten off to a strong start with its 2016 recruiting, but suffered a setback Tuesday as ESPN Junior 300 wideout Tren'Davian Dickson announced his decommitment via Twitter. Dickson is a talented prospect, but if the Bears could withstand a decommitment anywhere, it's at wide receiver where Baylor appears loaded for the next several years.
  • Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury was in Amarillo this week to meet with local boosters. He also chatted with Lee Passmore of the Amarillo Globe-News. Though Tech has announced it will tailor its spring practices around Pat Mahomes' baseball schedule, Kingsbury stopped short with Passmore in naming Mahomes the starting QB over Davis Webb. “If a leader emerges during the spring we’ll name one starter," he told the Globe-News. "But if it goes through the summer sessions we’ll go with who comes out on top then, and that’s fine. They both bring some big things to the table athletically, even if they’re different from each other.” Despite a rocky sophomore season, I'm not ready to give up on Webb. But I would also be stunned if Mahomes weren't named the starter coming out of the spring.
  • Lastly, FootballScoop.com released this interesting listing of all 128 FBS coaches based on their tenures. Stoops was second, followed by TCU's Gary Patterson at No. 5. Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy is now No. 13. Art Briles is the other Big 12 coach in the top 25 at No. 21.
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Quarterback Kyler Murray grabbed all of the headlines at Allen (Texas) High School over the past few seasons, but it’s actually junior offensive tackle Greg Little who is a higher-ranked prospect.


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[+] EnlargeRoquan Smith
ESPNRoquan Smith committed to UCLA on television before finding out defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich was headed to the Atlanta Falcons.

Sometime in the coming days -- or weeks or maybe even months -- the top remaining unsigned college football prospect in the country will decide where he's going to play and attend school this coming fall.

Macon County (Georgia) High School linebacker Roquan Smith thought he was going to attend UCLA. At least that's what he announced on ESPNU on national signing day a week ago, choosing the Bruins over Georgia, Michigan and Texas A&M.

But shortly after picking UCLA, Smith learned that Bruins defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich was considering an offer to become an assistant with the Atlanta Falcons. Upon learning the news, Smith decided not to sign his national letter of intent with UCLA and reopened his recruiting. The Bruins announced on Sunday that Ulbrich, who was Smith's primary recruiter, was indeed leaving to join the Falcons.

"We didn't know anything about it," said Macon County High coach Larry Harold. "There are no hard feelings toward UCLA and Coach Ulbrich. The whole system is imperfect, and something needs to be in place to help the kids reconsider if something happens."


(Read full post)


Jerry Montgomery leaves Oklahoma

February, 10, 2015
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[+] EnlargeJerry Montgomery
Jackson Laizure/Getty ImagesJerry Montgomery is moving on from Oklahoma to join the Packers' coaching staff, sources say.

Oklahoma defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery, one of the Sooners' top assistants, is headed to the NFL, the school announced Tuesday.

"This is a rare opportunity for Jerry and his family to join one of the finest organizations in the National Football League," coach Bob Stoops said in a statement. "I appreciate the positive impact that Jerry has made with our defensive line the past two seasons, as well as his many other contributions to Oklahoma Football.

"The NFL is getting a fine man and a very talented football coach. I support Jerry's decision to further his career goals working with one of the most stable and successful franchises in pro football."

Oklahoma's announcement did not reveal which NFL team lured Montgomery away, but he was officially named to the Green Bay Packers' staff Thursday as a defensive front assistant.

The Sooners hired Montgomery away from Michigan two years ago, and he quickly turned the Oklahoma defensive line into one of the Big 12's best during the 2013 season. The Sooners finished the year by overwhelming Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, sacking quarterback AJ McCarron seven times in a victory over the Crimson Tide.


(Read full post)


With spring ball a month away, we're ranking position groups in the Big 12. These evaluations are based on past performance, future potential and quality depth. Our outlooks will likely look different after the spring. But this is how we see them now. We continue this series with running back:

1. Oklahoma: Samaje Perine led the Big 12 in rushing and touchdowns as a true freshman, and heads into 2015 as the league's best Heisman chance after TCU QB Trevone Boykin. Perine, however, isn't a one-man show in the Sooner backfield. Alex Ross averaged 6.8 yards per carry, and while Keith Ford endured fumbling issues, he has shown he can be effective. The wildcard is Joe Mixon, who was the gem of OU's 2014 signing class before getting suspended for the season. He's back with the team, and possesses enough talent to give the Sooners one of the nation's premier one-two punches at running back.

2. Baylor: Shock Linwood quietly rushed for 1,252 yards and 16 touchdowns in his first season as the full-time starter. With a new QB, the Bears could lean on him even more, but he won't have to shoulder the load alone. Johnny Jefferson is back after totaling 524 yards and six touchdowns, and power back Devin Chafin rounds out a versatile three-man rotation, which could easily extend to five in a pinch with Terence Williams and ESPN 300 signee Ja'Mycal Hasty.

3. TCU: The Horned Frogs boast a deep running back corps, even with B.J. Catalon bolting early for the draft. Aaron Green wound up fourth in the league in rushing despite backing up Catalon for half the year. The former Nebraska transfer averaged a whopping 7.1 yards per carry, including 6.5 as a starter. Kyle Hicks and Trevorris Johnson, who contributed 99 carries last year, and freshman Shaun Nixon, who is expected back after missing last season with a knee injury, give the Horned Frogs plenty of options after Green.

4. West Virginia: After Perine, Rushel Shell was as good as any Big 12 runner between the tackles last season. When healthy, he's a load. Wendell Smallwood also returns as the change of pace back. Together, they formed the only running back tandem to both finish in the top 10 in rushing in the conference last year. Dontae Thomas-Williams, a former ESPN 300 signee, should add to the rotation after redshirting last year.

5. Texas Tech: DeAndre Washington was a revelation last season, becoming the first Tech rusher to break the 1,000-yard barrier in 16 years. He'll be flanked again by Justin Stockton, who showed flashes as a true freshman. The Red Raiders added more talent to the position by inking ESPN 300 runner Corey Dauphine, who operated out of a similar offense in high school.

6. Texas: Coming off the Achilles tear, Johnathan Gray wasn't the same explosive runner he was as a sophomore. Maybe another year away from the injury will help. Running back was a huge need in Charlie Strong's first full recruiting class, and he delivered in signing three backs last week, including ESPN 300 runners Chris Warren III and Tristian Houston. The Longhorns will need at least one to contribute to a backfield that also includes Donald Catalon and D'Onta Foreman, who are both still green.

7. Kansas: Corey Avery was one of the top true freshmen in the conference last year, rushing for 631 yards and five touchdowns. Newcomer De'Andre Mann was effective, as well, with an average of 4.7 yards per carry. Juco addition Ke'aun Kinner should give the Jayhawks more depth than they had in 2014.

8. Oklahoma State: After losing Desmond Roland to graduation and Tyreek Hill to an off-the-field incident, the Cowboys were desperate to sign a running back ready to contribute. The weekend leading into signing day, Oklahoma State landed that back, getting juco four-star Chris Carson to flip from Georgia. Carson could be the starter from Day 1, and should stabilize the biggest question mark of the offense. Besides Carson, the Cowboys still have Rennie Childs, who has been a solid, albeit-injury prone backup the last two years.

9. Kansas State: The running game was the Wildcats' weakness last year. With Jake Waters and Tyler Lockett gone, it will have to be much better for K-State to have any chance of sticking in the upper half of the Big 12. Charles Jones scored 14 touchdowns and will inherit a larger role in the offense, but the Wildcats need one of their younger backs to emerge. Dalvin Warmack, who redshirted last season, is an intriguing possibility. He rushed for more than 4,500 yards and 77 touchdowns his final two seasons of high school. Alex Barnes, who was one of the top additions in the 2015 recruiting class, has the physical maturity to bring help, too.

10. Iowa State: The Cyclones are hurting here with projected starter DeVondrick Nealy no longer with the team. Without Nealy, the Cyclones have little experience returning. Tyler Brown, Martinez Syria and incoming freshmen Joshua Thomas and Sheldon Croney will be vying for the job.

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