Oklahoma Sooners: Big 12 Take Two Tuesday

It’s Take Two Tuesday again, when we give our takes on a burning question in the league.

Today's Take Two topic: Who has the best chance of jumping up and challenging Big 12 favorites Baylor and Oklahoma for the conference crown?

Take 1: Max Olson -- Texas

Oklahoma and Baylor should both be considered top-10 squads in 2014, there’s no dispute about that. They’re in terrific shape going forward. But the way this league is set up, it’s hard to see either emerging undefeated by December.

The team best built to challenge them is Texas, at least on paper. Remember, for all its flaws in 2013, the Longhorns were two quarters away from winning the Big 12 despite major injuries and inconsistent quarterback play. They lose key pieces, but could come back better than expected.

That’s because there’s a new sheriff in town. Charlie Strong is dedicated to changing the mentality of this program and bringing back the toughness and accountability that went missing in recent years. He put together an impressive staff and brought in a revered strength coach. This program is undergoing big changes.

And there’s enough talent on board to sustain another run at a conference title. Joe Wickline and Shawn Watson will build an offense around the run game trio of Malcolm Brown, Johnathan Gray and Joe Bergeron, and there’s good depth at receiver and on the line. What Texas needs most is a full year from David Ash, but Max Wittek seems likely to become the insurance option there.

If Texas is going to challenge the league favorites, it’ll be with a defense that brings back leaders at all three levels (Cedric Reed, Steve Edmond, Quandre Diggs) and is full of experienced talent. This is a unit that will line up a bunch of different ways and cause a lot of problems.

Revamping this Texas program will take time, but the Longhorns could have enough to make another run in 2014.

Take 2: Jake Trotter -- Kansas State

[+] EnlargeJake Waters
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesJake Waters was one of the nation's most effective quarterbacks during the second half of last season.
The Longhorns certainly have the talent and supporting cast to seriously compete for a Big 12 title. But until they find the answer at quarterback -- and I’m dubious they will in Strong’s first season – it’s hard to see them doing so.

The Kansas State Wildcats have no such issues. And they too have the surrounding cast to make a run at the Bears and Sooners for the league championship.

After struggling early, Jake Waters settled in at quarterback the last half of the season and cut talented playmaker Daniel Sams out of the rotation. From Oct. 26 on, Waters produced the 13th-best Adjusted QBR in the country, according to ESPN Stats & Info, while leading the Wildcats to wins in six of their final seven games (he threw for 348 yards and three touchdowns in the lone loss, too).

Besides Waters, K-State also boasts one of the top wide receivers in the nation in the uncoverable Tyler Lockett, who had the third-most receiving yards in college football during the same Oct. 26-on stretch.

On the other side, Bill Snyder replenished his defense with a trio of ESPN JC 50 signees in defensive tackle Terrell Clinkscales, outside linebacker D'Vonta Derricott and cornerback Danzel McDaniel, who should fill the slots in the lineup where the Wildcats have holes.

K-State will have to earn its way into the conference title chase, with road trips to both Baylor and Oklahoma. But K-State gets the Longhorns in the Little Apple, where it hasn’t lost to Texas since 2002.

The Wildcats also get defending national runner-up Auburn in Manhattan, Kan., earlier in September. If they topple the Tigers in that Thursday night clash, the rest of the Big 12 will quickly realize that K-State is a legitimate contender.
Once again, it’s Take Two Tuesday, when we give our takes on a burning question related to the Big 12.

Today's topic: Which Big 12 redshirt freshman defender will have the biggest breakout season in 2014?

Take 1: Brandon Chatmon

Something tells me that Big 12 reporters and editors alike will have to become diligent in our spelling of the name Ranthony Texada.

The TCU cornerback has a name that will draw early attention but I have a feeling his game will start to garner more and more attention during his first season on the field for the Horned Frogs.

At 5-foot-10 but only 160 pounds, Texada isn’t going to be an overwhelming physical force on the perimeter for TCU. But size limitations didn’t stop two-time All-Big 12 cornerback Jason Verrett.

Texada has exceptional speed which could help him to overcome any size or strength concerns, especially if he’s competitive and aggressive. He has the physical tools to step in for Verrett alongside Kevin White as the Horned Frogs starting cornerback duo. Once he gets comfortable and starts to mature, he could become a breakout defender.

Make no mistake, Texada will have early bumps in the road as teams try to attack him as the potential weak link in an superb TCU secondary. He hasn’t even secured the starting job yet but his physical tools will be tough to overlook. If he has the mental toughness and competitive nature to shake off getting picked on constantly, he could be a key contributor on TCU’s defense and help lessen the blow of losing one of the top cornerbacks in the nation.

Take 2: Jake Trotter

Texada might be the Big 12 redshirt freshman defender most likely to secure a starting job coming out of the spring.

But ask any Oklahoma player who the most impressive redshirt freshman in closed practices was last fall, and you’ll pretty much get the same answer -- defensive tackle Charles Walker.

In December, cornerback Zack Sanchez called Walker a “monster.”

Center Gabe Ikard used the word “animal,” and said Walker might be “the most explosive guy” on the entire team.

Nothing over winter workouts curbed the hype, either, as Walker was clocked running the 40-yard dash in 4.67 seconds, shattering the Oklahoma DT record in the Bob Stoops era set by All-American Tommie Harris (4.80) in 2003.

“Charles has really been impressive,” Stoops said. “He had a great fall. He’s up to about 300 pounds now, light on his feet. So Charles really has a bright future. He’s going to be a big factor in that defensive line.”

It will be interesting to see where Walker fits into the D-line rotation, considering the Sooners bring everyone back from last season. Returners Chuka Ndulue and Jordan Wade both made starts inside, and Jordan Phillips was having an All-Big 12 caliber season through the first four games before suffering a season-ending back injury.

Yet even with those players back, it might be difficult -- if not impossible -- to keep Walker off the field. And if his rapid development continues, Walker could turn into one of the more menacing defensive tackles in the entire league.

Take Two: Biggest Rushmore gripe?

February, 25, 2014
Feb 25
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It’s Take Two Tuesday, where we give our takes on a burning question in the league.

Today's Take Two topic: Which player has the biggest gripe about being left off our Big 12 Mount Rushmore

Take 1: Jake Trotter

The player with the biggest gripe is Texas running back Ricky Williams.

SportsNation

Who has the biggest gripe for being left off the Big 12 Mount Rushmore?

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    8%
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    20%
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    21%
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    44%
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    7%

Discuss (Total votes: 3,495)

Plenty of people have taken up his cause and filled up my Twitter timeline and email inbox, asking why the 1998 Heisman winner who also broke the FBS career rushing record was omitted.

My reply: Who then would you take off?

Nobody would argue that Vince Young doesn’t belong after his magical season that put Texas over the national championship hump for the first time in 35 years. Oklahoma’s dominance of the conference under Bob Stoops warranted the Sooners at least one spot on Rushmore. So if Adrian Peterson came off, he’d have to be replaced by some other Sooner.

Ndamukong Suh is the only defensive player, and while the Big 12 has been an offensive conference, the Rushmore wouldn’t feel legitimate without at least one defender. What about Williams over Robert Griffin III? Well, no player has had a bigger impact on his school -- or the entire Big 12 -- than RG III, who with his coach transformed Baylor from the laughingstock of the league to one of its premier programs.

But if Rushmores included five spots, Williams would have been on mine, and here’s why: by coming back to school, winning the Heisman and leading Texas to a 9-3 record (a year after the Longhorns went 4-8), he expedited Mack Brown’s rebuilding project in Austin. Two years later, the Longhorns would go on to win 10 or more games in nine consecutive seasons, culminating with the national title.

Without the rapid turnaround in ’98, who knows if the national title happens in ’05? Williams’ Heisman season gave Brown the credibility to recruit the best talent in the country. And that’s why Williams has a gripe.

Take 2: Brandon Chatmon

Big 12 folklore is full of players who are worthy of their place on the conference’s Mount Rushmore and Ricky Williams has a stronger case than most. Yet former Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon was the biggest snub.

Has he been the best receiver in Big 12 history? No, Michael Crabtree will have some say in that. Is he the most productive player left off the original foursome? No. Did he hoist the Heisman Trophy? Not even close.

But he’s the biggest snub because he fits the criteria to land on our Big 12 Mount Rushmore. OSU’s first Big 12 championship in 2011 was built upon his shoulders, as the Cowboys went 23-3 in his final two seasons. He won back-to-back Biletnikoff Awards as the nation’s top receiver with 232 receptions for 3,304 yards and 38 touchdowns combined in 2010 and 2011. And he had at least 100 receiving yards in every game he played in 2010, a 12-game streak that is the best in the FBS since 2004, with only BYU’s Austin Collie (11 games in 2008) joining Blackmon in double digits.

So, while Blackmon isn’t a name that immediately comes to mind, he helped take a football program to new heights, dominated opponents with his individual brilliance and had the ability to take over games from the receiver position in a way that has been rarely seen since the Big 12 was formed in 1996.

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