Today, we debut our Big 12 true freshman power rankings, which we’ll update occasionally through August and the season. This list combines the factors of playing time and potential impact.

Without further ado, the Big 12 freshman power ranks:

1. Dravon Henry, FS, West Virginia: After just a few months in Morgantown, Henry is pushing to be the starting free safety for the opener against Alabama, another team that also recruited him hard. The ultra-athletic Henry could also be a factor in the return game. He and cornerback Daryl Worley give the Mountaineers potentially two of the best young defensive backs in the Big 12.

2. Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State: The gem of Iowa State’s recruiting class has not disappointed this preseason. He is already getting first-team reps alongside Quenton Bundrage and E.J. Bibbs. If he continues to progress, Lazard could round out a dynamic pass-catching trio.

3. K.D. Cannon, WR, Baylor: Cannon is behind Lazard, but only because the Bears are loaded at wide receiver. Cannon has been equally as impressive. Baylor coach Art Briles acknowledged that Cannon has proved to be even faster than he thought while recruiting him.

4. Armanti Foreman, WR, Texas: Foreman has taken full advantage of the injuries and dismissals Texas has endured at the wide receiving position this preseason. He might even have a chance to start the opener against North Texas.

5. Corey Avery, RB, Kansas: Avery could be heir in the Kansas backfield to departed All-Big 12 running back James Sims. Avery has wowed with his ability to make defenders miss and has recently begun to receive first-team snaps.

6. Dimitri Flowers, FB, Oklahoma: The Sooners raved about Flowers in the spring before he suffered an injury in the spring game. The 220-pound Flowers, who has drawn comparisons to former Oklahoma fullback Trey Millard, is healthy again and figures to be a big part of the Sooners’ pistol attack.

7. James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State: Up until late in the recruiting process, this small-school Texas standout’s only other offer was from Texas State. But the Cowboys have apparently uncovered a diamond in the rough in Washington, who has been turning heads with his knack for catching any pass in his direction. Oklahoma State is deep at receiver, but Washington has played himself into a rotation role.

8. William Crest, QB, West Virginia: Clint Trickett was named the starter over the summer, but Crest is vying to become West Virginia’s second-team quarterback. That could be a critical role, considering Trickett’s injury history. Dana Holgorsen also has hinted at installing a special offensive package for his athletic quarterback.

9. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech: Davis Webb is the clear-cut starter in Lubbock, but Mahomes is showing he might be ready to be a reliable backup. Mahomes tossed five touchdown passes during a scrimmage over the weekend. That might also be an indictment of Tech’s second-team defense. But even against air, five touchdowns is impressive.

10. Emanuel Porter, WR, TCU: With Trevone Boykin still working at quarterback, the Horned Frogs need help at receiver. They’ve been getting it from Porter, who has impressed the coaching staff with his penchant for making big plays downfield.

On the radar: Dalvin Warmack, RB, Kansas State; Jeffery Mead, WR, Oklahoma; Justin Stockton, RB, Texas Tech

Big 12 morning links

August, 15, 2014
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Happy Friday everybody. The first glorious Saturday of the season is now two weeks and a day away. Hang in there, we're just so close. Here's what happening in Big 12 country:
  • The Oklahoman is reporting the Joe Mixon case is finally seeing some progress: The alleged victim is believed to have interviewed with police Thursday. Even if, as hoped, the case is turned over to a DA by the end of the week, Jenny Carlson points out that this isn't your typical "Law & Order" episode. OU obviously wants some clarity with the season two weeks away, but this process is going to take time, and who knows how it might play out? Still, after a relatively quiet three weeks, it's good to hear we're getting a little closer.
  • Now that quarterback Davis Webb is in his second year and the uncontested starter, Kliff Kingsbury is ready to entrust him with more duties. Kingsbury told Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal he's giving Webb more responsibility to change the play at the line. "He’s always had freedom," Kingsbury said. "I just feel like with his comfort level, he’ll take more risk as far as believing what he sees out there and getting us into a play." That's what makes the prospect of three more years of the Kingsbury-Webb duo scary: Once he gets confident with running the show on his own, look out.
  • This is my favorite fall camp position battle in the Big 12 and it's not even close: LaQuan McGowan vs. Blake Muir. The competition to replace Cyril Richardson at left guard on Baylor's line is still rolling. McGowan is the 6-foot-8, 400-pound monster we wrote about earlier this week, the one Art Briles calls "2034" because he assumes linemen will be that big in 20 years. He'll have to beat out Muir, the Australian who has a year of starting experience under his belt from his time at Hawaii. Whoever wins has to work well alongside Spencer Drango and keep Bryce Petty clean, so it's a critical job.
  • Now this is a wonderful story: Kansas defensive lineman T.J. Semke was put on scholarship this week. If you happen to skip a court date in the Kansas City area, you could have a chance to meet him. Semke is a bounty hunter in his spare time who made the Jayhawks' roster after seeing an ad for a tryout in the college newspaper. Now he's a second-string defensive tackle tasked with hunting quarterbacks. Hard not to root for that dude.
  • As Mike Gundy maintains his relative silence about his quarterback plan, Mason Rudolph has to be wondering where he stands. His high school coach told Kyle Fredrickson of The Oklahoman that Rudolph "wants to be the starter right now." That same coach also hopes he redshirts, for the betterment of his development. Gundy has been coy about his plans for using the true freshman from South Carolina. Considering how fellow backup Daxx Garman has raised his game lately, I think the redshirt is probably a safe bet at this point.
video

Not even West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck knows what the ideal nonconference schedule should look like in the new era of the College Football Playoff -- and he's on the selection committee.

Here's a good start: Alabama versus USC. LSU versus Wisconsin. Michigan versus Oklahoma. Notre Dame at Texas. Clemson at Auburn.

A plethora of blockbuster matchups have been scheduled for coming seasons, and while it would be faulty to assume they are all a product of the playoff, there's no question programs across the country are strategically beefing up their lineups with the intent of impressing the selection committee. "Strength of schedule" is a phrase fans are going to hear ad nauseum in the College Football Playoff era, as it will be one of the factors the 13-member selection committee considers when choosing the top four teams in the country.

Just how heavily it will be weighed, though, remains to be seen.

"I don't know if I want to give it a percentage," Luck said. "Everybody, they may view it a little bit differently on the committee, but I certainly believe it's important. ... I do think it's something that matters. There are years you may not face the conference heavyweight, or conference powerhouses. In those cases, it will be important to look at what a team has done with its nonconference scheduling."

Virginia Tech, for example, does not play defending national champ Florida State this fall -- and will see the Seminoles only twice through 2024 -- but the Hokies will travel to Ohio State for a nationally televised game in Week 2, and they've scheduled games against Wisconsin (2019-20), Michigan (2020-21), West Virginia (2021-22), Penn State (2022-23) and Purdue (2023). Tennessee, though, has Alabama as its permanent crossover partner, and the SEC has implemented a rule requiring all schools to schedule at least one opponent from another Power Five school in their nonconference schedule.


(Read full post)


The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting news across the country. Today’s offerings: Michigan fans have had to stomach some serious ups and downs with the 2015 recruiting cycle, but Wolverine fans looking for positive news can look at the job they've done locally. Plus, Oklahoma is looking to load up at running back and our daily tour of the top recruiting happenings on social media.

[+] EnlargeMike Weber
Tom Hauck for Student SportsRunning back Mike Weber was a big in-state commitment for Michigan.
1. Michigan fans have had to endure an up-and-down recruiting cycle so far in 2015. Early on it looked like the Wolverines were in position to pass Ohio State as the best class in the B1G. But when elite prospects such as running back Damien Harris and athlete George Campbell decommitted, Michigan slid to around the No. 20 range in the class rankings. There’s a chance Michigan could stay there if things don’t go well on the field this season, but if you’re looking for a positive spin on things, take a look at how the Wolverines have done in state in 2015. When ESPN 300 running back Mike Weber committed late last week, it gave Michigan pledges from three of the top four players in-state. Included in that list is Michigan’s top-ranked player, ESPN 300 athlete Brian Cole.

2. Few schools can match the running back tradition Oklahoma has, and with the question marks surrounding Joe Mixon’s future in Norman, the Sooners have made landing multiple running backs a priority in the 2015 class. The good news is that ESPN 300 rusher Rodney Anderson is already on board, and he should fit the Sooners' offense well with his ability to make big plays in the passing game and on the ground. But also keep an eye on OU with ESPN 300 running backs Tyreik Gray and Soso Jamabo. Both are expected to take official visits and could be excellent complements to Anderson in the class.

3. One of the best prospects in the 2016 class has made a commitment to play in the Under Armour All-America Game. Quarterback Malik Henry, the No. 2 player in the ESPN Junior 300 and the top-passer in the 2016 class, announced via Twitter he’s playing in the annual all-star game. Henry recently listed a final four of Notre Dame, UCLA, Ohio State and Florida State.

#FlashbackFriday
Ten years ago today, highly coveted receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey out of Silver Springs (Maryland) McDonogh went public with his commitment to Maryland. The Terps beat out Alabama and North Carolina for his commitment, and even back then in high school he was known as a speedster. He was timed by his high school coach at 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash. At Maryland, he improved his speed -- including a school-reported 4.23-second time in the 40 -- and become one of the ACC's best receivers. He finished his career second in school history in career receiving yards, third in receptions and tied for third in touchdown catches. After running a 4.3 40-time at the NFL combine, Heyward-Bey was selected by the Oakland Raiders as the seventh overall pick in the 2009 draft. He spent four years with the Raiders, one year with the Indianapolis Colts and is now with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Social Studies
Social media continues to be one of the most amazing windows into how a school recruits. More and more of those involved with the recruiting process are posting the mailings they receive from schools for the entire world to see. And the mailing from Florida State that was posted on Facebook by Butler (Kansas) Community College coach Troy Morrell caught my attention. For all of the success the Noles have had with high school targets, it’s easy to forget they’ve had plenty of success with two-year prospects also. This mailer highlights some of those success stories, including Tank Carradine and Markus White, who played for Morrell at Butler.

 
ESPN 300 safety Cameron Ordway surprised some observers when he tweeted Thursday he was going to stretch the recruiting process out some. In July, he tweeted he was going to announce his decision in mid-August between Tennessee, Ole Miss, Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Penn State. The Vols are still projected as the team to beat with Ordway.
Baylor Bears quarterback Bryce Petty ranked No. 6 in the debut addition of ESPN.com’s Heisman Watch on Thursday. The Bears’ quarterback was the lone Big 12 representative on the list.

Here is a closer look at four dark horse Heisman candidates who could find themselves alongside Petty in the Heisman conversation at some point this fall.

Receiver Tyler Lockett, Kansas State Wildcats

Why he might: Lockett is the Big 12’s most important offensive player that doesn’t line up behind center. He does it all for the Wildcats and has matured into a quality receiver in the past year with seven games of 100 receiving yards or more in 2013. As the centerpiece of the offense, he will become the face of K-State’s offensive success.

Why he might not: If the Wildcats aren’t in the mix to win the Big 12, Lockett’s dark horse Heisman campaign likely hits the wall. It won’t matter what type of numbers he puts up if the Wildcats aren’t getting the national attention that comes with a Big 12 title race.

Quarterback Davis Webb, Texas Tech Red Raiders

Why he might: Only Petty had a higher adjusted QBR last season among the Big 12's returning quarterbacks. Webb’s 79.7 joined Petty’s 86.6 as the lone returning signal callers above 75 in 2013. He appears to be even better heading into the 2014 season after settling in as the clear No. 1 quarterback for Kliff Kingsbury’s Red Raiders.

Why he might not: He’ll need Tech receivers to step up and replace Jace Amaro and Eric Ward, who were a quarterback’s best friend a season ago. The Red Raiders will also need to exceed expectations as a team to help validate the eye-popping numbers that Webb could have this fall.

Receiver Antwan Goodley, Baylor

Why he might: Goodley makes highlight-reel plays with his running back-like strength and blazing speed. If the senior makes a major jump in production for the second straight season, the sky is the limit for Petty’s top target.

Why he might not: There’s only one football and a receivers’ room full of talented pass-catchers at Baylor. Goodley could easily have multiple games this fall where he has more than 100 receiving yards yet doesn’t lead the team in receiving. Petty will have Levi Norwood, KD Cannon and several other options along with Goodley.

Quarterback Trevor Knight, Oklahoma Sooners

Why he might: Did you see the Allstate Sugar Bowl? If Knight can repeat that performance, particularly in OU’s biggest games this fall, he would find himself cemented in the race for the Heisman.

Why he might not: He’s surrounded by youth and inexperience at the skill positions for the Sooners, meaning a bigger share of the Sooners’ offense will be on his shoulders than any point last season. OU needs young players to step up at running back and receiver to make Knight the all-purpose threat that he can be in 2014.
This summer, ESPN.com is taking a closer look at each scholarship player on the Oklahoma Sooners' roster in our Crimson Countdown series. Each day, we analyze each player’s impact on the program since arriving on campus, his potential impact this fall, and his long-term projection. Starting with No. 1 Dominique Alexander, the series follows the roster numerically through No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

No. 93 Jordan Wade, defensive tackle, 6-foot-4, 314 pounds, Sophomore

Impact thus far: After a redshirt season in 2012, Wade was arguably the most overlooked contributor to Oklahoma's Allstate Sugar Bowl championship campaign. Wade was thrown into the fire after Jordan Phillips was lost for the season after four games. Wade ended up starting eight games, finishing with 17 tackles including 1.5 sacks as a redshirt freshman.

Impact in 2014: He should continue to be a key contributor for the Sooners, particularly if Phillips suffers any setbacks with his back. Wade is one of the stronger defensive linemen on the squad and got better as the season progressed a year ago.

Long-term upside: Wade has the ability to become an all-conference performer during his time in crimson and cream.

Evaluation grade for Wade: A. As the No. 103 player in the ESPN150, Wade arrived in Norman, Oklahoma, as a highly regarded defensive prospect. He went a long way to meeting those expectations with his eight starts as a redshirt freshman. Wade had games where he was disruptive and dependable in the middle, allowing his teammates to shine.

Development grade for Wade: A. No complaints here. Wade’s redshirt season helped prepare him to make an impact in 2014, and there is no guarantee he will leave before his fifth season in the program. Thus it’s very possible the Sooners get four productive seasons from Wade, which would not be the case if they had let him see spot duty as a true freshman in 2012.

The Oklahoma Sooners submitted Baker Mayfield's appeal to the NCAA on Thursday in hopes the quarterback can be eligible this season, his attorney Jim Darnell said.

A freshman walk-on quarterback at Texas Tech last season, Mayfield said he decided to leave Tech when he was told he wouldn't be put on scholarship. Mayfield enrolled at Oklahoma in the spring but is appealing the transfer rule -- supported by Tech -- that requires him to sit out a season before he is eligible.

Mayfield was the first freshman walk-on quarterback to start at a BCS school, but Mayfield said Texas Tech would not guarantee him a scholarship for the 2014 season, prompting him to leave.

Mayfield's family hired Darnell, who represented former Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel last season in his eligibility issues with the NCAA.

Texas Tech repeatedly blocked Mayfield's request to allow Oklahoma to put him on scholarship before July 1, Darnell said. If Mayfield's transfer was approved by Tech, he would have been eligible this season at OU, Darnell said.

"But they blocked it," Darnell said. "It surprised me some. I'd like to think they weren't (vindictive), but I don't know."

Darnell hopes to have a response from the NCAA before OU's Aug. 30 season opener against Louisiana Tech.

At last month's Big 12 media days, Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury and Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops both addressed Mayfield's situation.

Kingsbury said Tech blocked the transfer, requiring Mayfield to sit out this season, because it was "team policy. That's it. The NCAA has the in-conference policy for a reason.


(Read full post)


This summer, ESPN.com is taking a closer look at each scholarship player on the Oklahoma Sooners' roster in our Crimson Countdown series. Each day, we analyze each player’s impact on the program since arriving on campus, his potential impact this fall, and his long-term projection. Starting with No. 1 Dominique Alexander, the series follows the roster numerically through No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

No. 92 Matthew Romar, defensive tackle, 6-foot, 287 pounds, redshirt freshman

Impact thus far: Romar redshirted during his freshman season in 2013.

Impact in 2014: Romar should provide depth along the Sooners’ defensive line. It would be a surprise if he earns a bigger role, but he did have a solid spring and is already showing signs he can be a contributor on OU’s defensive line during his career.

Long term upside: Don’t expect a major impact as a redshirt freshman but Romar has the ability to be a three-year contributor and emerge as a key asset along OU’s defensive front for the next few years.

Evaluation grade for Romar: C. It’s early to grade Romar but it would be a surprise if he never makes an impact for OU after having a solid spring following a redshirt campaign. The talent in front of him in 2014 is likely to have more to do with his lack of an impact than a lack of ability on his part.

Development grade for Romar: A. Even though the Sooners lost Jordan Phillips to injury during the season, a redshirt year for Romar was the right move. Now he has four full seasons to emerge as a impact player after one season in the strength and conditioning program.

Bama can't afford a loss

August, 13, 2014
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During the BCS and other previous eras of college football, a major complaint about the preseason polls was that they created a pecking order among teams that made it very difficult for any one outside of the top 10 to survive a loss and still win a national title.

Last year's Auburn Tigers, however, didn't appear on a single preseason ballot, suffered their only loss in September and still played Florida State in the BCS Championship Game. And now that the College Football Playoff will give four teams a shot at a national title -- and since the selection committee won't even begin to discuss the teams until late October -- there's little reason to believe that preconceived notions in August should have anything more than a minuscule effect on the postseason picture moving forward.

But while preseason rankings now have less impact on a team's postseason outlook, some teams will still have a tougher time overcoming a loss than others.

Of the top 15 teams in the ESPN Power Rankings, these four will likely suffer the most.


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Trevor Knight, OklahomaStreeter Lecka/Getty ImagesThere's reason for optimism in the Big 12 following Oklahoma's win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

The last time a Big 12 team won a national championship, Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty was still in junior high. And the last national title game that merely included a Big 12 program, Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight had just passed his driver's test.

Yet with the BCS era dead and gone -- and conference realignment in the rearview mirror -- the Big 12 is out to re-establish its legitimacy in the debut season of the College Football Playoff.

And, most importantly, get back to contending for national championships again.

"We have excellent programs in the Big 12," said Kansas State coach Bill Snyder. "Is there any reason why this conference couldn't play somebody in the national championship?

"I don't see why not."

At the turn of the millennium, the Big 12 forged an identity on playing for BCS national championships an almost annually. Between 2000 and 2009, in fact, the Big 12 pushed a team into the national title game seven times.

But since Vince Young led Texas to that thrilling Rose Bowl win over USC nine years ago, the league has gone without a national title. And since Colt McCoy quarterbacked the Longhorns to the BCS national championship game five years ago, the Big 12 has not played in one.

[+] EnlargeStrong
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsCharlie strong is hoping to return Texas, the last Big 12 school to play for and win the national title, to its former national standing.
The title drought can be attributed, in part, to bad luck. But it can also be attributed to Oklahoma slipping a bit and Texas slipping a bunch over the past few years.

After hitting grand slams with Young and McCoy, Texas whiffed in its quarterback recruiting, and has failed to reach double-digit victories since 2009 as a result.

After winning six Big 12 titles early in the Bob Stoops era with dominating defense, the Sooners softened on that side of the ball and consequently have won only one outright conference title since 2008.

But there are signs the league could finally be breaking out of its recent malaise. None bigger than Oklahoma's Sugar Bowl smashing of Alabama behind a resurgent defense under coordinator Mike Stoops and the emergence of quarterback Trevor Knight, who torched the Crimson Tide in just his fifth career start.

Texas also took steps to revive its program by bringing in Charlie Strong, who already has installed a no-nonsense approach his first year in Austin.

But unlike the early 2000s, the conference flagships won't have to carry the Big 12 banner alone in the playoff era.

Oklahoma State has won 59 games over the past six years. Kansas State was ranked No. 1 in the polls at one point late in 2012. And Baylor ascended under coach Art Briles, who last season delivered the program its first Big 12 title.

"Name me two leagues that are better," said Briles. "You might could name one. But on a week in, week out basis, name me two. I ain't got them."

The Big 12's mettle, however, will be put to the test in the playoff era. With five major conferences and only four playoff spots, at least one league will be left out every year.

But the Big 12 believes its unique, nine-game, round-robin league schedule -- the same format that doomed the conference during the BCS -- will be a strength in the eyes of the playoff selection committee.

"I think we're in great position," said Bob Stoops. "When you play nine conference games, it's challenging. The more you play, the more you knock each other out. That's what happens generally. That's why it's difficult playing nine conference games. No matter what, it's easier to play eight conference games."

[+] EnlargeArt Briles
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports"If those other (conferences) round-robined it, there'd be a bunch more bruises on some bodies," Art Briles said. "I can tell you that right now."
The Cowboys were ranked second in the BCS standings in 2011 before losing on the road in double overtime at Iowa State in its fifth conference road game.

Kansas State was also undefeated two years ago heading into its fifth Big 12 road game, but ran out of steam at Baylor. Those same Bears went on to win 13 straight, but fell at Oklahoma State last November.

"If those other [conferences] round-robined it, there'd be a bunch more bruises on some bodies," Briles said. "I can tell you that right now."

Even though Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Baylor each won 11 regular-season games in those seasons, none wound up playing for the national championship. All three Big 12 champs, however, might have been strong contenders for a playoff spot.

"I think people across the country have a lot of respect for our league," said Cowboys coach Mike Gundy. "I think they're aware that teams that come out of this league at the top ... not only can compete, but they can win."

The Big 12 sent such a message during the last bowl season.

Baylor lost to Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl. But on top of the Sooners defeating Alabama, Kansas State destroyed Michigan while Texas Tech manhandled Arizona State.

Fresh off its banner bowl season, the Big 12 will have several more opportunities to send a message this nonconference season.

Oklahoma State will take on defending national champ Florida State in the opener. That same day, West Virginia will play Alabama.

Later in September, Kansas State will get reigning SEC champion Auburn in Manhattan. Texas will meet seventh-ranked UCLA. Oklahoma will face Tennessee. And Texas Tech will host Arkansas.

"Those games are big," said Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters. "To be able to play those teams and beat them would really solidify the Big 12.

"We're a great conference. We just need to get over the hump."

Big 12 morning links

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13
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Kick off your morning with some beef and a laugh. No, not that kind of beef.
  • It's odd to see Collin Klein and Kansas State assistant coach in the same sentence. We're just a couple years removed from watching Klein destroy Big 12 defenses while leading K-State to a Big 12 title. Yet Klein has joined the Wildcats' coaching staff and, while it's not his dream job, Klein is already starting to make an impact as a part of Bill Snyder's staff, writes Kellis Robinett of the Kansas City Star. Leave it to Bill Snyder to recognize Klein's potential as a coach and give him an opportunity to return to Manhattan, Kansas, this fall. Even though Klein doesn't like the thought of his playing days being over, something tells me he could experience a meteoric rise up the coaching ranks if he decides coaching is his future.
  • Running backs DeVondrick Nealy and Aaron Wimberly are poised to share carries in Iowa State's backfield this season. ISU coach Paul Rhoads believes both guys are "good enough for us to win in the Big 12" reports Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register. Wimberly averaged 4.02 yards per carry in 2013, while Nealy averaged 3.85 yards per carry. Neither running back averaged more than five yards per touch from scrimmage last season, so Wimberly or Nealy would need to separate themselves from the competition if making big plays is going to be a consistent part of their resume this fall.
  • As good as true freshman Dravon Henry has looked during his first few weeks at West Virginia, sophomore Jeremy Tyler won't be giving up his spot in the Mountaineers' secondary without a fight, writes Mike Casazza of the Charleston Daily Mail. It looks like WVU will be using both players in the secondary, and they hope for minimal dropoff from last season. Henry has been one of the stars of WVU's preseason camp but don't overlook Tyler, who was overshadowed by fellow freshman Daryl Worley in 2013 and now seems to be overshadowed by Henry. Yet Tyler was really starting to come on late in his freshman campaign, recording 13 of his 17 tackles in the final two games of the season.
  • Offensive success at Oklahoma State could be defined by the Cowboys' offensive line. And center Paul Lewis finds himself in the spotlight after a couple of early departures from the program. New offensive line coach Bob Connelly wants Lewis to be "a direct reflection of me" reports Kyle Fredrickson of The Oklahoman. A strong season from the offensive line will be critical for a Cowboys' squad overflowing with skill position talent on offense. If Lewis can become an anchor of the offensive front, the Cowboys have the skill talent to surprise.
  • Oklahoma has high expectations for linebacker Jordan Evans, particularly if Frank Shannon cannot play this season, writes The Oklahoman's Ryan Aber. Evans was late addition to the Sooners' Class of 2013 and played several different positions at Norman (Oklahoma) North High School, including kick returner. Shannon led OU in tackles last season, but Evans is an upgrade athletically. He was one of OU's standouts during the offseason, which should give Sooners fans peace of mind if Shannon is unable to play.

Take Two: DGB or Mayfield?

August, 12, 2014
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It's Take Two Tuesday time, when we give diverging opinions on a topic related to the Big 12.

Today's Take Two topic: Oklahoma plans to apply for waivers to get a pair of marquee transfers eligible for the 2014 season. Which player – WR Dorial Green-Beckham or QB Baker Mayfield -- would most boost the Sooners’ chance of advancing to the College Football Playoff?

Take 1: Jake Trotter – Green-Beckham

There’s no doubt having Mayfield eligible would be an invaluable insurance policy for the Sooners. Because of his dual-threat style, Trevor Knight has a track record of getting injured. And Mayfield, the reigning Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, showed during the Sooners’ spring game that he’s more than capable of efficiently operating Oklahoma’s offense. Sure, Oklahoma’s other backups – Cody Thomas and Justice Hansen – are completely inexperienced and might not be ready to quarterback the Sooners in a pinch. Mayfield, certainly at this point, would be the better option.

But Oklahoma wasn’t tabbed the Big 12 favorite because of Mayfield’s pending eligibility. The Sooners are being considered playoff contenders because of the upside of Knight, who flashed potential in a performance for the ages in the Sugar Bowl win over Alabama. And DGB would give Knight a weapon in the passing game while filling the one offensive asset the Sooners currently lack – an experienced, big, physical receiver who can go get the ball downfield and in the red zone.

On top of that, DGB’s talent would be a difference-maker for the Oklahoma offense. By all accounts, he’s been phenomenal in preseason camp so far, and he’s coming off a season at Missouri in which he would have led the Big 12 in red zone touchdown receptions.

From Mark Clayton to Ryan Broyles, the Sooners have enjoyed some prolific pass-catchers in the Bob Stoops era. But none has the NFL body and build at wide receiver that DGB brings.

Mayfield would obviously help the Sooners should Knight suffer a bump or bruise. But DGB is the caliber of player that could put Oklahoma over the top – and into the playoff.

Take 2: Max Olson – Mayfield

You know it’s DGB, I know it’s DBG, it’s obviously DGB. But just for the sake of messing with Jake, let’s just go ahead and explore another argument.

What if Mayfield is better than Knight?

Both were unpredictable in their first season of starting, moving in and out of the starting lineup at various points. Mayfield got seven starts at Texas Tech. Knight got five.

In those starts, Mayfield completed 62 percent at 6.89 yards per attempt. Knight hit almost 59 percent at 6.32. Their passer efficiency was almost identical.

Throw in the rest of their appearances and Mayfield has Knight beat in completion percentage, yards per attempt and third-down passing.

Yes, their offenses were significantly different. Mayfield threw 42 passes per game in his starts to Knight’s average of 23. OU actually had a credible run game to lean on.

But let’s give Mayfield credit: He was a freshman walk-on who’d been on campus three months when he made his first start. Knight was a redshirt freshman at OU, a full year ahead.

OK, fine, I give in. Knight’s average QBR in starts is 16 points great greater, he’s three times the rusher (by YPC) that Mayfield was and his two best games by QBR, against K-State and Alabama, easily trump Mayfield’s best (Stephen F. Austin, Kansas).

But haggling over numbers aside, my point is this: You better believe Stoops wants Mayfield in his back pocket – and not ineligible on the bench – in case Knight regresses or gets hurt. We know what the scrappy Mayfield is capable of, and the same can’t be said of fellow backups Thomas and Hansen.

Not adding a five-star receiver won’t hurt OU’s College Football Playoff hopes. Not having a good No. 2 quarterback might.

Campaign trail: No. 3 Oklahoma

August, 12, 2014
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Which teams will make the College Football Playoff? Ultimately, the selection committee will decide. But until then, there will be a lot of campaigning. What should the top four teams in the ESPN's power rankings be touting to fans and committee members? Each week during the season, we'll unveil a new campaign poster for a contender, starting today with a look at our top four teams.

NCF Oklahoma Vote PosterIllustration by Sam Ho
This summer, ESPN.com is taking a closer look at each scholarship player on the Oklahoma Sooners' roster in our Crimson Countdown series. Each day, we analyze each player’s impact on the program since arriving on campus, his potential impact this fall and his long-term projection. Starting with No. 1 Dominique Alexander, the series follows the roster numerically through No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

No. 91 Charles Tapper, defensive end, 6-foot-4, 281 pounds, junior

Impact thus far: Tapper had a breakout season as a sophomore, earning All-Big 12 honors while starting 12 of 13 games. He had 49 tackles including nine tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in 2013. As a true freshman he played in five games and recorded two tackles in 2012.

Impact in 2014: If Tapper makes another jump as a junior he could find himself in the fight for All-American honors. He has all the physical skills to dominate a game yet still has plenty of room to grow as a guy who didn’t start playing football until midway though high school.

Long term upside: All-American honors and individual awards are in play for Tapper during his career, if he continues his development.

Evaluation grade for Tapper: A. The Baltimore, Maryland native is a former basketball player who intrigued the Sooners, particularly Bobby Jack Wright, with his raw talent and OU didn’t hesitate to offer him a scholarship despite his inexperience on the gridiron. He’s been everything they could have asked for and more. Tapper is easily the best evaluation on the roster.

Development grade for Tapper: B. Normally the Sooners would get a D or lower for playing a true freshman in just five games and essentially wasting a year. But it’s highly unlikely Tapper will be in Norman, Oklahoma for five years anyway as he seems destined to play on Sundays in the future. Thus, getting five games as a true freshman and having him prepare with the first team probably helped him breakout as a sophomore. And, although he probably could have played more in 2012, five games as a true freshman is better than nothing.
February is still months away, which means there is plenty of time for all of the Big 12 programs to fill holes in much-needed spots. With signing day on Feb. 4, conference programs are hoping the next few weeks will be beneficial from a recruiting standpoint.

Here are some must-get 2015 recruits who will help bolster each Big 12 school’s recruiting class.


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