Oklahoma Sooners: Big 12 mailbag

In this week's mailbag we discuss scheduling, Charlie Strong tempering expectations and quarterbacks David Ash, Trevor Knight and Jake Waters.

Remember, to submit a mailbag entry, simply go here.

Without further ado, to the ‘bag we go:

Justin in Dallas writes: Sure, Kliff Kingsbury has gotten some studs, and West Virginia is off to a hot start, but are you really going to talk about recruiting in the Big 12 and not mention Baylor? I think the blinders might be on, and you could be forgetting where Baylor’s recruiting was just a few years ago. This class, though inherently small, could be one of the best ever in Waco.

Trotter: I have no idea what makes you feel slighted, but we’ve mentioned Baylor’s impressive recruiting haul multiple times. Think about this -- Baylor has six of the league’s 22 ESPN 300 commitments. That’s better than 27 percent. And the Bears aren’t done, either. This could wind up being a top-15 class.


Steve in Phoenix writes: Does the loss of Daniel Sams at K-State help Jake Waters’ chance of a standout season? Now, he can bomb away every game if he (or rather coach Bill Snyder) wants. I know I am reaching here but there has to be a bright side to this thing.

Trotter: Sorry, you’re reaching, Steve. Waters was going to be the unequivocal starter whether Sams had stayed or not. Waters was never going to be looking over his shoulder, especially considering Sams had changed positions during the spring. The bottom line is, the Wildcats lost a big-time playmaker, who is going to be making those plays now for McNeese State.


James in El Paso, Texas, writes: Jake, Texas' backfield is going to good again this year, and maybe even great. Do you see the Longhorns winning 10 games this year if David Ash can return as the starter, and stay healthy for the entire year?

Trotter: If Ash is healthy for the entire season, that changes Texas’ outlook substantially. The Longhorns have the most experienced offense and defense returning in the Big 12, and there’s not a weak unit on the team other than quarterback and possibly placekicker. If Ash stays healthy and finally realizes his potential, Texas could be formidable. But that’s a Texas-sized if.


J.J. in Tumalo, Ore., writes: Jake, good article on Big 12 scheduling last week. But if Baylor goes 12-0 playing three complete stiffs out of conference and Oregon goes 12-1 with an out of conference win against Michigan State, why would the committee select Baylor over the Ducks? Thanks for the great blog.

Trotter: We really don’t know yet how the committee is going to select the four playoff teams. I would think that any Power-5 team that goes undefeated would be a virtual lock. Where Baylor is going to run into trouble with its scheduling is if it goes 11-1. Nonconference scheduling is likely going to carry a lot of weight in differentiating one-loss teams for the playoff. Given its nonconference slate, that wouldn't bode well for Baylor.


Trevor Collins in Burleson, Texas, writes: Even as an avid Longhorn fan, I recognized Trevor Knight’s brilliant performance in the bowl game. But I don’t really think he’s fully proven himself for a whole season. Looking back at last season, he really didn’t play a significant role in most of the Sooners’ games, and when he did his stats weren’t that great. I just feel OU is being a little overrated right now, and I’m not just saying this because I’m a UT fan. What happens if Knight doesn’t work out?

Trotter: There’s no doubt that Knight has much to prove, considering he’s only started and finished three games so far in his career (Louisiana-Monroe, Kansas State, Alabama). But there’s also no denying the talent Knight showcased in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Don’t forget about the return of nine defensive starters, which is another big reason why the Sooners are getting so much preseason love. I agree, after the inconsistency last season, there’s still much for this team to prove. But there’s a lot to like, too, especially if Knight plays anywhere near the level he did in the Sugar Bowl.


Ben in Dallas writes: Do you think it was a smart or dumb move for Charlie Strong to temper fan expectations during his tour? On one hand fans might be happier with moderate improvement. On the other hand isn't fan enthusiasm during games a problem? Telling the Texas faithful they have a shot at the playoffs might solve that.

Trotter: I liked it. For too long Texas has been playing against expectations that didn’t really reflect where the team actually was. Mack Brown told everyone he ran into that the 2013 team was going to be the one that was going to take Texas back to the top. That looked utterly ridiculous after BYU obliterated the Longhorns in Week 2. Anyone who watched the Texas spring game knows the Longhorns are still a ways off from contending for a playoff spot. They could always surprise. But Strong tempering expectations will help alleviate the pressure that has enveloped the program.
In this week's mailbag we discuss the College Football Playoff and other various topics.

To submit a mailbag entry via Twitter, simply include the hashtag #big12mailbag. To submit a mailbag entry the traditional way, simply go here.

To the 'bag:

Jonathan in California writes: Hey, Jake, enjoy the blog. My question has to do with the unlikely but still probable dilemma when five conference champions all go undefeated? It has happened before and will likely happen again. What would the committee have to value the most then? What if it is the traditional powers that are undefeated, as in Oklahoma, Florida State, Alabama, Oregon and Ohio State? Would expansion occur or would conferences have to change so all are playing similar schedules then?

Trotter: Probable? The last time we had just three undefeated teams from the power conferences was in 2004 (Oklahoma, USC, Auburn). The more likely scenario would be five one-loss conference champs. In that event, the strength of the conference and the strength of individual nonconference schedules (you reading, Baylor fans?) would be the determining factor in picking the team to leave out.


Mark in Snyderville, USA, writes: Am I wrong for being skeptical of the new playoff system? Let's say a one-loss Texas team and a one-loss K-State team are in the mix for the final playoff spot. Isn't Texas more likely to get in based off name recognition alone? Am I just being paranoid or should schools with less recognizable brands just prepare to be left in the cold?

Trotter: Would that be any different than the system we had before? Does anyone really believe that Texas or Oklahoma would have been left out of the 2011 national championship game with Oklahoma State’s résumé that season? I have no idea how the playoff committee is going to select its teams. But the lesser brands can’t be at any more of a disadvantage than they were during the BCS era.


Lost Mountaineer in Nashville, Tenn., writes: How big of an impact can FCS All-American Shaquille Riddick have for West Virginia? I saw him as a projected second-round draft pick prior to the transfer.

Trotter: I did a Q&A with Riddick earlier this week. I’m starting to think this could be a big addition. Playmaking off the edge is where the Mountaineers need the most help defensively. That’s what Riddick brings. I have no idea how the transition to the higher classification will affect him. But he could be a factor.


Alex in Chicago writes: What are your thoughts on the rumors going around of replacing West Virginia with Tulane due to the geographical logistic headaches, and the league wanting to further strengthen inroads into the fertile recruiting grounds around New Orleans?

Trotter: My thought is you need to take a vacation from the message boards.


C.L. in Abilene, Texas, writes: Do ya'll know if any of the Big 12 coaches are good friends? I know it's tough being rivals and all, but I figure some of the guys must be known to hang out on occasion.

Trotter: Art Briles, Kliff Kingsbury and Dana Holgorsen all know each other very well, dating to their connections to Houston and/or Texas Tech. Mike Gundy gave Holgorsen his big break by bringing him into the Big 12 as a coordinator at Oklahoma State. New TCU offensive coordinator Doug Meacham was at Oklahoma State just two years ago and is close with Texas offensive line coach Joe Wickline from their days in Stillwater. TCU’s other offensive coordinator, Sonny Cumbie, played with several of the coaches at Texas Tech. New Iowa State offensive coordinator Mark Mangino has strong ties to Oklahoma and Kansas State. Oklahoma’s Stoops Brothers coached under Bill Snyder at K-State. Gundy’s brother Cale is an assistant at Oklahoma. I could go on and on.


Wallace Bever in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, writes: Jake, I think your observations on in-stadium beer sales are right on. A few beers is one thing. Going to the car at halftime for a load of heavier alcohol is different, and not in a good way. West Virginia may have gotten this one right.

Trotter: In case you missed it this week, this is what Wallace is referring to. If you know you can get beer inside the stadium, doesn’t that dissuade you from getting loaded before the game? I think it does. People are going to drink at college football games. At least inside the stadium, it can be managed.


Matt in Wamego, Kansas, writes: Jake, as Charlie Weis begins Year 3 in Lawrence, what do you think the Jayhawks have to do this year to keep him off the hot seat?

Trotter: Progress in the right direction would do the trick. The Jayhawks don’t have to go to a bowl game. But they need to show they’re better than they were last year. With a veteran defense and a much improved receiving corps, it would be a major disappointment if they took a step back this season, which would also warm up Weis’ seat.
In this week's mailbag, we discuss the contested recruiting in Texas, the starting experience of Baylor and Oklahoma State, and whether Big 12 schools should be selling beer inside their stadiums.

To submit a mailbag entry via Twitter, simply include the hashtag #big12mailbag. To submit a mailbag entry the traditional way, simply go here.

To the ‘bag:




David Elswick in Richmond, Va., writes: I'm a little nervous about the future of the Big 12. Part of that is due to watching the Big East stand still until it was too late. Other conferences are talking about seeking more games against the power conferences. Is the Big 12 falling behind?

Jake Trotter: David, you know I’ll give it to you straight when it comes to the Big 12 and any potential flailing status, but I see no correlation between the power conference scheduling of the SEC and ACC, and the welfare of the Big 12. It’s a death knell to those outside the Power 5 conferences (was it a bad week for BYU or what?). But it has no bearing on the Big 12, other than it could supply the league with more marquee nonconference opportunities. The reason the Big 12 hasn’t introduced a similar clause is because the league already plays nine conference games. The SEC and ACC play eight.




Marty in Dallas writes: Jake, I noticed in the latest recruiting update, that Baylor has six guys committed who are in the ESPN 300. I understand that Art Briles has had some success at Baylor, but I have to admit I am still a little surprised that he has been able to get so much quality talent to Waco. I think many assumed that Baylor's success would impact UT's recruiting, but this number suggests that it may be having a greater impact on the conference schools outside Texas. Thoughts?

Trotter: Recruiting in Texas has never been more competitive. Texas A&M is a different animal in the SEC. Alabama and LSU are recruiting Texas like never before. Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Baylor are doing major damage. Texas’ top in-state commitment (safety DeShon Elliott) is ranked No. 13 in the state. Oklahoma’s top Texas recruit (OT Bobby Evans) is No. 21. The Longhorns and Sooners are still going to get Texas players. But it’s not like it was a decade ago when they were getting all the players in Texas.




Mulley in Cleveland writes: I had my 11-year-old son and two of his buddies with me at Five Guys, where we were in line with Justin Gilbert. The boys got his autograph, talked to him about Johnny Football. Gilbert now has three fans for life. I didn’t even have the heart to tell him I was a WVU grad. It was cool to see that Justin is handling his newfound stardom in the NFL exceptionally well.

Trotter: Gilbert was one of the feel-good Big 12 stories of this draft. After a bad junior season, he came back to school for his senior year, worked his tail off and turned himself into a first-round pick. Good to see he has hit the ground running with the fans in Cleveland.




Philip in Fort Worth, Texas, writes: Hey Jake -- I'm loving all of the preseason attention that my Sooners are getting, but I'm worried. What if Trevor Knight goes down? What if Sterling Shepard goes down? Lord knows we're not stacked up in the running game. Are these preseason accolades taking potential injuries into account? I'm scared OU doesn't have enough depth at skill positions to meet the expectations. Thoughts?

Trotter: If Jameis Winston goes down, Florida State isn’t winning any titles. Same goes for Oregon and Marcus Mariota. Injuries are part of the game -- and impossible to predict. Lucky breaks are part of the national championship equation. Just ask the 2000 Sooners.




Mike T. in Dallas writes: Looks like there will be a lot of preseason hype for Baylor. Art Briles is a good coach and has some good players, but you will not convince me Baylor has reached the plug-and-play status of OU, Texas and, to a degree, OSU. Baylor had a great season, but let's not forget its embarrassment in the Fiesta Bowl. I believe the media needs to tap the brake pedal just a bit on Baylor and focus more on the traditional powers. That's still where the talent lies.

Trotter: I don’t agree with your premise, but you bring up a really interesting point that I was thinking about on Thursday after reading Max Olson’s well-done post on returning experience in the Big 12. Baylor and Oklahoma State both have, by far, the least collective returning experience in the Big 12. Yet, we in the media (me included) are pinning Baylor near the top of the Big 12 and national preseason rankings. Meanwhile, we’re burying Oklahoma State, which has a sparkling track record of exceeding expectations under Mike Gundy. Are we giving Baylor too much credit? Are we not giving the Cowboys enough?




JR in Houston writes: Do y'all think the Big 12 should start selling beer at games?

Trotter: As long as it’s done in a responsible manner, I don’t have a problem with it. West Virginia claims it curbed binge drinking by serving beer while disallowing spectators from leaving and coming back into the stadium to go “tailgate” at halftime. That makes sense to me. People are going to drink at football games. At least inside the stadium, it can be managed. Selling beer might not work for everyone in the Big 12. But for some, it could be a moneymaker -- and a way to eliminate problems that are occurring outside the stadium.
In Friday's mailbag, we discuss West Virginia rivalries, Jarrett Stidham 's recruiting stock and the team poised to take a step forward in 2014.

To submit a mailbag entry via Twitter, simply include the hashtag #big12mailbag. To do it the traditional way, go here.

Now, to the 'bag ...

John in Industry, Pa., writes: Jake, with West Virginia joining the conference, who has started to become their new rival? It looks like Texas because of WVU wearing the gold-rush jerseys when they play at home. But I'm wondering if there is a rival brewing between WVU and Oklahoma dating all the way back to when WVU crushed Oklahoma in Fiesta Bowl back in 08'. Just wondering who's replacing Pitt in this conference?

Trotter: John, the sad part is, I don’t think anyone will be replacing Pitt as West Virginia’s primary rival. OU and Texas already have their big rivalry games, and West Virginia isn’t going to supplant that overnight. Rome wasn’t built in a day; rivalries aren’t either.


Jace in Dallas writes: Jake, I am not the conspiracy theory type. That being said, what is the deal with ESPN devaluing Jarrett Stidham after he committed with Tech? He was the No. 1 dual-threat QB, then he signs with Tech and drops to the second-ranked DT-QB? Then, he wins the MVP at the Elite 11 Dallas event and drops to third, when the guy he beat out (Kyler Murray) took snaps right beside him? Seem a little strange to you?

Trotter: First of all, Stidham never dropped to third. He only dropped one spot to second. And knowing what I know about ESPN’s recruiting evaluators, I can guarantee the ranking flip had nothing to do with where Stidham is going to college. You have to remember, we’re very early in the evaluation process for the Class of 2015. These recruits haven’t even gone through the summers before their senior seasons yet. As the scouts get closer looks at these players, there will be many changes to the ESPN 300 between now and signing day. But whether he’s No. 1 or No. 2, Stidham is an outstanding prospect, who had an outstanding offer sheet. As a Tech fan, you should be pumped you got him.


Taylor in Harrisonburg, Va., writes: Hey, Jake, big fan of the blog. Thanks for keeping me posted on what's going on in Big 12 Country out here in Virginia. Will you be doing a Big 12 Ultimate Road Trip over the summer to keep us entertained? Always fun to hear thoughts on match ups and what should be the highlight game of each week. Thanks and EMAW!

Trotter: Thanks, Taylor. Yes, the Ultimate Road Trip series is on the schedule, set to begin running later this month.


Trotter: It will be Shock Linwood. But Devin Chafin and especially Johnny Jefferson will play a bunch. The Bears will be good in the backfield again.


Trotter: TCU seems poised to make the biggest leap forward after winning only four games last year. The defense is going be stout, and the ingredients are there with QB Matt Joeckel in the fold for the offense to be at least a little better. Utah State is the only team in college football with fewer returning starters than Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have talent, but that much inexperience suggests they’ll take a temporary step back.


Trotter: The Sooners have Keith Ford and Alex Ross, so it’s difficult to predict how many carries Joe Mixon will get. After Sterling Shepard, OU has very little experience at receiver. So the path to playing time is easier for Michiah Quick.


Trotter: Well, it’s helped him in two places. One, it gives him more arm strength. Anyone who watched Webb live in the fall, then again this spring, knows how much more zip he had on the ball after gaining the weight. Two, it helps his durability. The more padding he has, the less prone he’ll be to injury. For those who haven’t checked Texas Tech’s roster lately, that’s no small thing. And as long as the weight is good weight, I don’t see where it would hurt him.


Trotter: The 2011 Cowboys would’ve had the best chance of the three. Save for the fluky overtime loss at Iowa State, Oklahoma State’s offense dominated everyone that year. I think the Cowboys would’ve put points up on LSU, too. Kansas State would’ve matched up decently with Notre Dame, which wasn’t the same team in its bowl game with Manti Te'o going through what he went through. I still would’ve favored the Irish, though. Baylor couldn’t beat Central Florida in its bowl game, so I doubt the Bears would’ve been able to hang with Florida State.
In Friday's mailbag, we discuss everything from dream nonconference rivalries to who has the most favorable schedule.

To submit a mailbag entry via Twitter, simply include the hashtag #big12mailbag. To do it the traditional way, go here.

To the 'bag ...

Kyler in Lubbock, Texas, writes: Hey, Jake! So the SEC Blog came out with an article on "dream nonconference rivalries". This is not to be confused with the "sister schools" question, but more along the lines of, who would make for an interesting match up? I was wondering what you think the Big 12 dream non-conference rivalries would be.

Trotter: Great question, Kyler. I also put this out on Twitter, and here were some of your suggestions:



OK, that last one was pretty funny.

Anyway, here are my suggestions:

Baylor-Oregon: We could call it in the Green Pinball Wizard Bowl.
Iowa State-Iowa: The Cyclones already have their ideal nonconference game on the schedule.
Kansas-Missouri: Agreed, we need to bring back the Border War.
Kansas State-Nebraska: How many times did this showdown decide the Big 12 North?
Oklahoma-Alabama: The Big Red Rivalry with Nebraska died on the vine during the Big 12 years; time to start another battle of the reds.
Oklahoma State-LSU: It has been awhile since Les Miles ate Stillwater grass.
TCU-Boise State: After these two were disrespected by the major conferences for so long, it would be fun to see them play.
Texas-Texas A&M: Will these two grow up already?
Texas Tech-Texas A&M: Since I’m not sure the two aforementioned will, this underrated rivalry could take its place.
West Virginia-Pitt: As you can see, I’m for restoring the rivalries that conference realignment destroyed.




Chris is Martinsburg, W. Va., writes: We all know that West Virginia has had trouble since joining the Big 12. My question is, what quarterback do you think has the best shot of leading West Virginia to a Big 12 championship?

Trotter: Does Geno Smith have any eligibility left? Honestly, I’m not sure that West Virginia has a quarterback on its current roster capable of leading the Mountaineers to a title, at least not this season.




Matt Blank in Wamego, Kan., writes: Question for you, Jake. What are your thoughts on Montell Cozart being named the starting QB for KU?

Trotter: I thought it was the right move. Kansas wasn’t going anywhere with Jake Heaps. They might not win many games with Cozart next season, either, but at least now they have a young QB with some upside to build around for the future.




Trotter: I really feel like K-State will have a good shot in this game. By the end of last year, the Wildcats were one of the 20-best teams in college football. If they can figure out the running back quandary and the bulk of the jucos pan out, K-State could be formidable. Auburn is going to be tough, too, but Manhattan on a Thursday night is not going to be an easy place for anyone to come in and win.




Trotter: The schedule really sets up for the Sooners this year. They get Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma State in Norman and Texas going through a coaching change with quarterback issues. Tennessee, their big nonconference opponent, wasn’t any good last year, either. Texas Tech on the road is a little bit scary, given Oklahoma’s past struggles there. But really, the schedule could not line up more favorably, which is a big reason the Sooners will be a trendy pick to make the College Football Playoff.




Trotter: I think the offense will be better. There’s more depth and size up front on the offensive line. The addition of Jordan Moore and likely Trevone Boykin will boost the WR corps. And yes, I believe Joeckel will be the starter. Having practiced it the last two years at Texas A&M, Joeckel has the most experience of any TCU QB in the offense the Horned Frogs are installing. You know TCU’s defense is going to be a load. If they could score just a few more points, the Horned Frogs could be the most improved team in the league next year.
In Friday's mailbag we discuss West Virginia pessimism, Texas Tech optimism and "sister schools" of the Big 12.

To submit a mailbag entry via Twitter, simply include the hashtag #big12mailbag. To do it the traditional way, go here.

To the 'bag ...

Kirk Bebout in Morgantown, W. Va., writes: Is it just me, or does all of the positive and upbeat talk about WVU's D sound exactly like the past few springs? The only difference is Tony Gibson's name is being used instead of Keith Patterson’s or Joe DeForest’s. I fear there will be more of the same in Morgantown this season.

Trotter: You might very well end up being right, but I see two differences this year. One, you left out the name of Tom Bradley, who is one of the most respected defensive assistants in the country; he’s going to be a major asset. Two, the Mountaineers have more depth and experience than they’ve had defensively the past couple years, including seven returning starters. There’s reason to believe this might be the same old West Virginia defense. But there’s reason to believe it will be improved, too.

Josh in Dallas writes: Jake, at this point, though it is very early, does Tech even really qualify as a dark horse for winning the conference? With the shaky QB play around the league and Davis Webb (provided he stays healthy) looking like one of the top two quarterbacks, doesn't it seem fair to say they have a legit shot at the conference title?

Trotter: You omitted one major requisite to winning a conference title: defense, which Tech played very little of last season. Not since the 2001 Colorado Buffaloes has a team won the Big 12 title without placing at least fourth in the league in scoring defense. The Red Raiders were seventh last season. They’ll have to be a lot better on that side of the ball to become a legitimate contender.

Cameron in Houston writes: Jake, noticed you went to Washington and Lee University. Are you a fraternity man?

Trotter: Yes sir. Sigma Chi. Zeta Chapter. Intramural Chair.

Donnie R. in Green Country, Okla., writes: Saw in the lunch links where you "played pickup basketball ... and lost all six games." That's nothing. Went out with the kids a few weeks back and was showing off my hops ... tore my calf muscle. Now they call me the old crippled man. Oh to be young again.

Trotter: I think my team would’ve been better off had I torn my calf muscle. Get well soon, Donnie.

Ken in Goldthwaite, Texas, writes: Hello, Jake. Lately there’s been a lot of buzz about Tech quarterbacks leaving for other programs, leaving Davis Webb as the only scholarship QB. If Patrick Mahomes opts for baseball, couldn’t they could pull Keenon Ward from safety and play him at quarterback, which was his original position coming out of high school at Snyder, Texas?

Trotter: Reginald Davis also played quarterback in high school, but Tech’s best option at that point -- if the rules so allowed – would be Kliff Kingsbury calling plays from under center.

Carla in Houston writes: You know how cities across the U.S. have sister cities? Houston has Abu Dhabi, for example. Just for fun, what schools would you say are the “sister schools” of each Big 12 member?

Trotter: Really interesting question, Carla. Below are my answers, with explanations:

Baylor/BYU: Religious institutions that innovated offense and developed quarterbacks to win at levels no one thought possible.

Iowa State/Mississippi State: Agricultural schools that are tough to beat at home. Only 14 all-time wins separate the two.

Kansas/Indiana: Basketball schools that have also had their occasional moments in football.

Kansas State/Virginia Tech: There’s only one Bill Snyder and there has been only one Manhattan Miracle, but Frank Beamer has coached 13 of Virginia Tech’s 14 double-digit win seasons. The Wildcats and Hokies rarely beat themselves, either.

Oklahoma/Alabama: In terms of conference championships, unbeaten seasons, All-Americans and national titles, only a couple of programs mirror what OU and Alabama have accomplished.

Oklahoma State/Oregon: Emerged after getting bankrolled by mega-boosters; have been on the cutting edge of high-flying offense and uniform possibilities since. The Cowboys haven’t quite reached Oregon’s level, but their Big 12 regular-season record the last five seasons is tied for best in the league.

TCU/Pittsburgh: Metro universities that have to compete for attention with popular pro franchises nearby (Cowboys and Steelers), and flagship schools within their own states (Texas and Penn State). TCU has 13 bowl wins in 29 appearances; Pitt has 13 in 30.

Texas/Ohio State: Similar money, power, resources, tradition, pressures; both located smack in the middle of recruiting hotbeds, and in the capital cities of huge states.

Texas Tech/Washington State: Lubbock and Pullman are equally remote, presenting similar challenges. But both still enjoyed strong runs in the 2000s. Also, two important figures in Tech history (Mike Leach/Graham Harrell) are now coaching for Wazzu.

West Virginia/Arkansas: Due to little instate talent, both have had to get creative in recruiting, and yet still have enjoyed success over the years. The Mountaineers have won 60 percent of their games all-time; the Razorbacks, 59 percent.
We've been doing something different with the mailbag, including Twitter questions with the regular mailbag submissions. To submit a mailbag entry via Twitter, simply include the hashtag #big12mailbag. You also still can send in questions the traditional way here, too.

To the 'bag...

Trotter: At this point, I think it's only a matter of time before Grant Rohach is named the starter. He was clearly the best QB in the spring game, and coming off the way he played at the end of last season, momentum is in his corner. I know the Cyclones are high on the potential of redshirt freshman Joel Lanning, and Rohach will have to perform once the season begins to keep the job, but at this point, it's difficult envisioning anyone other than Rohach starting the opener against North Dakota State.

Trotter: Texas' Cedric Reed, Kansas State's Ryan Mueller, Oklahoma's Charles Tapper, TCU's Devonte Fields and Baylor's Shawn Oakman. On the next tier, I'd have Oklahoma's Geneo Grissom, Texas Tech's Branden Jackson, Iowa State's Cory Morrissey and Oklahoma State's Jimmy Bean.

Trotter: My two darkhorse picks at this point would be Texas Tech and TCU. Schedule is a big part of this, and Tech gets Oklahoma and Texas at home, and Baylor in Arlington, Texas. If the Red Raiders could escape a September Thursday night clash at Oklahoma State, then they could be a factor. QB Davis Webb has made tremendous improvement since December, and he's going to have plenty of firepower surrounding him. Assuming Fields is back to his old self, the Horned Frogs will again be a formidable defense. The big question, as always, is, can they score enough points? But if Matt Joeckel can step in at QB and direct what is essentially the same offense he had at Texas A&M to respectability, TCU could be a handful.

Trotter: Charlie Strong can't get destroyed by Oklahoma. Can't enter any fourth quarter without a legitimate chance to win. Can't lose more than three games. If he avoids those three potholes, he has chance to take Texas a step forward. To me, that's the litmus test.

Trotter: Anytime a team loses its leading tackler, it hurts. Fortunately for the Sooners, they're deep at linebacker, and can absorb a key loss there better than they'd be able to at some other positions. Jordan Evans played well as a true freshman, and shined in place of Shannon in the spring game. A linebacking corps of Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year Dominique Alexander, sack-master Eric Striker and Evans would still be stout. Of course, it would be even better with Shannon.

Trotter: That's a tough question. It was startling how much the K-State defense suffered when Ty Zimmerman wasn't on the field last year, but I have faith Dante Barnett is ready to assume a leadership role in that secondary and stabilize the defense. I have less faith right now in K-State's running backs. So far this spring, no one has really emerged from a crop of backs with almost no meaningful experience. The K-State attack has always been predicated on a strong running game, so this is no small issue. Maybe freshman Dalvin Warmack can jumpstart the position when he arrives this summer. But running back looks like the biggest question on a solid-looking team with not many questions elsewhere.
We've been doing something different with Friday's Big 12 mailbag. From now on, we'll be including Twitter questions with the regular mailbag submissions. To submit a mailbag entry via Twitter, simply include the hashtag #big12mailbag. You also still can send in questions the traditional way here, too.

To the 'bag...
Trotter: So far, Oklahoma State running back/receiver Tyreek Hill, TCU safety Kenny Iloka and Kansas receiver Nick Harwell. With his speed, Hill could lead the league in all-purpose yards. Iloka is going to be a key piece in the best secondary in the Big 12. And Harwell should finally give the Jayhawks that go-to receiver they haven’t had since Dezmon Briscoe.

Trotter: The Cyclones get K-State in Ames the second week of the season, which could be a dangerous game for the Wildcats, who might get caught looking ahead to that Thursday night clash with Auburn. Another team that must pay heed is Oklahoma. The Sooners go to Iowa State the week before hosting Baylor in a game that could determine the Big 12 crown. OU can't afford to be looking ahead, either.

Trotter: I'm going to set it at 1 1/2, and I think I would actually bet the over. The Jayhawks are going to be better this season, and quite possibly good enough to steal two conference wins.

Trotter: Right now, the Red Raiders have one on campus, and that's well below the national average. I don't see an issue. The way Davis Webb has improved in the last five months, he's going to be the guy the next three seasons barring something unforeseen. That would still give Jarrett Stidham three seasons of eligibility to be the starter, if he redshirted next year. Patrick Mahomes will get this chances, too. Seems like what TTU is going to do is be really good at quarterback the next six years.

Trotter: I have no inside info here, but if the game is at 11 a.m. again, hit me up in the fall and I'll share with you my shortcut to the Texas State Fair.

Trotter: It was a move that had to be made. Sams is too talented to be standing on the sidelines. He's not going to instantly become an All-Big 12 receiver. But if they can devise ways to get Sams the ball in space, the move could work out well. I see Sams getting a lot of his touches through flares, screens, reverses and maybe a handoff or Wildcat formation here or there. If they can get Sams the ball 10 times a game, that will only help the K-State offense. Think Trevone Boykin in TCU's offense late last year. That's how I see Sams best fitting in.

Trotter: Playing? Yes. Starting? No. I think Williams ultimately favors one side of the ball. The most likely scenario is he still keeps a major role at running back, then gives coordinator Matt Wallerstedt 15-20 plays at outside linebacker, which is more than I would have predicted at the beginning of the spring. Williams can really help the defense, but not at the expense of playing 130 snaps.

Trotter: Bob Stoops, Art Briles, Mike Gundy, Bill Snyder and Gary Patterson have ironclad job security. Paul Rhoads and Kliff Kingsbury have nothing to worry about, either, and Charlie Strong is too new to have to worry (though in Austin, that could change fast). That leaves Charlie Weis and Dana Holgorsen, whose seats are warmest among Big 12 coaches. I think Weis just has to show improvement this season. He can't go 0-12. Holgorsen is the most interesting to watch. Considering the brutal schedule, it's very possible West Virginia is better than last year and still goes 5-7, which might not be enough for Holgorsen to keep his job. But if the Mountaineers go, say, 7-5 against that slate, then I would think Holgorsen would be deserving of another year. West Virginia has been recruiting at an impressive clip, and the schedule will line up more favorably in 2015.


jrodxc07 in Dallas writes: Jake, love the blog, nice work sir. I think you could make a case for incoming Baylor receiver K.D. Cannon as Offensive Newcomer of the Year. Can you explain why you left him off your list?

Trotter: Appreciate it, sir. Cannon was actually on the poll for Offensive Freshman of the Year two weeks ago. The newcomer poll was for transfers, which is why you didn't see him there.


I only care about the Big 12 writes: Please go ahead and give us your way-too early power rankings? That is, if you haven't already...

Trotter: I actually released a power poll in January that went this way: OU, Baylor, K-State, Texas, Oklahoma State, Tech, TCU, Iowa State, West Virginia, Kansas. I'll be updating it, though, after spring ball concludes.

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