Oklahoma Sooners: Jaxon Shipley
Back again with more stats and tidbits courtesy of SID departments across the league and ESPN stats and information. Did you know …
- TCU coach Gary Patterson returns to his alma mater for the first time as a head coach when he visits Kansas State on Saturday. He played linebacker and safety for the Wildcats before graduating in 1983. He was born in Larned, Kan., and lived in Rozel, Kan.
- TCU's Trevone Boykin is the only player in the nation with a 100-yard rushing, 100-yard receiving and 200-yard passing game this season.
- TCU leads the Big 12 with 70.4 percent (2,379 of 3,380 yards) of its scrimmage yards from underclassmen.
- Deante' Gray, who started two games at receiver this season, started at cornerback for TCU against Iowa State last Saturday and had two tackles and a pass breakup. He also leads the squad in special teams tackles.
- Iowa State's DeVondrick Nealy's 98-yard kick return for a touchdown snapped TCU's 135-game streak without allowing a kick return for a score, which was the nation's longest.
- TCU is tied for the conference lead and sixth in the nation with 25 forced turnovers this season.
- TCU holds the nation's third longest streak of games without being shut out at 265, dating back to a 32-0 shutout loss to Texas in 1991.
- Kansas State coach Bill Snyder earned victory No. 175 overall and No. 100 in conference play with the Wildcats' 49-26 win over Texas Tech last Saturday. He's the 46th coach to reach the 175-win mark and just the 11th reach that standard at one school. He joins Tom Osborne of Nebraska and Barry Switzer of Oklahoma as the only Big 8/12 coaches with at least 100 wins at one school.
- K-State has turned it on in the fourth quarter of recent games, outscoring opponents 56-14 during its three-game win streak.
- The Wildcats are 49-17 in November under Snyder since 1991.
- KSU is looking to become the fourth Big 12 team to start 2-4 or worse yet still make a bowl game. 2001 K-State, 2002 Oklahoma State and 2004 Iowa State are the only teams to achieve that feat thus far.
- Since 1999, K-State ranks No. 1 nationally in non-offensive touchdowns with 91.
- John Hubert is averaging 109.5 rushing yards per game and one touchdown in KSU's last four games after averaging 53.6 rushing yards in the Wildcats' first five contests.
- KSU sophomore defensive lineman Travis Britz has blocked four kicks this season, which leads the nation.
- Texas is 6-0 in the Big 12 for the fifth time under Mack Brown (1999, 2005, 2006, 2009).
- The Longhorns has scored 30 points or more in their last six games, matching their longest streak since 2009.
- UT is No. 5 nationally in sacks in its last six games. The Longhorns have gotten to the quarterback 24 times during their last six contests.
- Longhorns' guard Mason Walters has started 47 straight games, the second-longest streak in the nation among offensive linemen (Mississippi State's Gabe Jackson owns the longest streak).
- Texas has scored 11 touchdowns on plays of 45 yards or more this season. Eight different Longhorns have achieved that feat.
- UT receiver Jaxon Shipley is clutch with 30 of his 46 receptions resulting in a first down this season, including three on fourth down. His fourth-down catch kept hope alive in the Longhorns' 47-40 overtime win over West Virginia last Saturday.
- UT defensive end Cedric Reed is the lone FBS defender with at least six sacks, four pass breakups and four forced fumbles. The junior has seven sacks, four pass breakups and four forced fumbles.
- Oklahoma State has won 10 of its last 11 games in the state of Texas.
- An OSU win over Texas would be the Cowboys third-straight victory in Austin and make the Cowboys the first team to do it since Colorado in 1990, 1994 and 1997.
- OSU has scored 20 or more points in 48 straight games dating back to the start of the 2010 season. It's the longest streak in the nation.
- OSU has forced a turnover in 17 straight games.
- Cowboys cornerback Justin Gilbert leads all active players with six kickoff returns for touchdown in his career after his kickoff return for a score to open the game against Kansas.
- OSU is one of seven teams ranking in the nation's top 20 in both scoring offense (40.7 points per game) and scoring defense (19.7 ppg). Alabama, Baylor, Florida State, Oregon, Ohio State and Louisville join the Pokes in that category.
- The Cowboys are averaging 6.11 three-and-outs forced per game this season.
- OSU ranks No. 9 nationally in yards per play allowed at 4.67 yards per play. Michigan State leads the nation at 3.47 followed by Baylor's 4.08.
- The Cowboys lead the Big 12 in third down conversion percentage at 29.6 percent which ranks sixth nationally.
- The Cowboys could feature the league's most balanced offense. OSU has 343 rushing attempts and 343 passing attempts heading into its battle with Texas.
- Texas Tech's series with Baylor is the longest in school history. The Red Raiders hold a 36-34-1 lead in the series.
- The Red Raiders have scored 20 points or more in 25 straight games, dating back to 2011.
- Linebacker Will Smith has either led or tied for the team lead in tackles in six of TTU's last eight games. He has 72 tackles in 10 games, including 50 solo stops.
- TTU had its nation-leading streak of 257 straight PATs snapped when KSU blocked Ryan Bustin's attempt last Saturday. It also snapped Bustin's personal streak of 101 consecutive PATs.
- TTU tight end Jace Amaro had nine receptions for 67 yards against Kansas State to make it nine straight games with at least eight receptions for the junior, tying Michael Crabtree for the school record. He also moved to 10th on Tech's single season receptions list with 88 catches this season.
- Baylor head coach Art Briles is a 1979 Texas Tech graduate and was an assistant coach on Mike Leach's staff from 2000-02.
- It's been a full year since Baylor lost a game and the Bears 12-game winning streak is a school record. Oklahoma was the last team to defeat Baylor on Nov. 10, 2012.
- The Bears' 8-0 start is the best in Baylor's history.
- Baylor is hoping to win three straight games against TTU for the first time since 1984-87.
- Baylor leads the nation in total offense (686 ypg), scoring (61 ppg), pass efficiency (201.5), yards per play (8.64) and passing yards per completion (19.29).
- The Bears defense has more interceptions (11) than passing touchdowns allowed (8).
- Baylor leads the nation in fewest three-and-outs per game (1.02) and is No. 2 in three-and-outs forced (7).
- Baylor is on track to set NCAA records in points per game (61) and yards per game (686). Army averaged 56 points per game in 1944 while Houston averaged 624.9 yards per game in 1989.
- BU's starting offense has 85 drives resulting in 52 touchdowns, getting into the end zone on 61.1 percent of its drives.
- Baylor has won a school-record eight straight conference games. The previous high was five in 2010.
- The Bears lead the Big 12 in tackles for loss with 8.9 per game. That ranks No. 2 in the FBS.
- Baylor has converted 52.7 percent of its third down attempts, which leads the Big 12 and ranks No. 8 in the nation.
- Baylor leads the Big 12 in sacks at 3 per game. That number ties the Bears for 14th nationally.
- BU quarterback Bryce Petty leads the nation in pass efficiency (210.6) and yards per completion (19.68).
- BU running back Lache Seastrunk has 10 games of 100 rushing yards or more in Baylor's last 12 games. He's averaging 8.7 yards per carry, which ranks No. 2 nationally.
- Seastrunk leads the league with 111 rushing yards per game and 11 touchdowns.
- Teammate Shock Linwood, a redshirt freshman running back, is second in the Big 12 with 89.3 rushing yards per game.
- BU receiver Antwan Goodley leads the Big 12 with 121.8 receiving yards per game, which is No. 4 nationally.
- Baylor is 12-1 in November and December since 2011, which is tops in the FBS. That record includes a 5-1 mark against Top 25 teams.
- Iowa State's loss to TCU was the fifth time this season the Cyclones lost a game by eight points or less, including losses to Big 12 foes Texas, Texas Tech and TCU by a combined 12 points.
- ISU and Rutgers are the only two teams with two different players who have returned a kickoff 95 yards or more for a touchdown.
- Nealy has scored in four straight games in three different ways for the Cyclones.
- ISU has used eight different starting offensive lines in nine games. With injuries ravaging its offensive front, 10 different Cyclones have starting along the offensive line.
- Receiver Quenton Bundrage is the only Cyclone to start every game on offense.
- ISU linebacker Jeremiah George has recorded double digit tackles in seven of nine games. He leads the Big 12 with 11.3 tackles per game, ranking fourth nationally.
- Even with ISU's struggles on the field, the Cyclones have had three sellouts this season (Oklahoma State, Iowa, Northern Iowa) and are averaging the highest attendance average (55,617) in program history.
- ISU has converted 23 of 24 red zone possessions into points (18 touchdowns, five field goals) to lead the Big 12 and rank No. 4 nationally at 95.8 percent.
- West Virginia is making its first trip to Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kan.
- Two of the top-20, single-game rushing performances in KU history have occurred on Nov. 16. June Henley rushed for 209 yards against Texas in 1996 (15th best) and John Riggins rushed for 189 yards against K-State in 1968 (19th best).
- Mountaineers running back Dreamuis Smith played at Wichita (Kan.) Heights and was committed to the Jayhawks before spending two seasons at Butler County Community College.
- KU's Michael Reynolds has 5.5 sacks this season, the most by a KU defender since 2009. He has a sack in four of KU's last five games.
- KU punter Trevor Pardula has punted for 3,044 yards this season, nearly 1.73 miles. He leads the nation at 338.2 yards per game.
- West Virginia has scored 30 points or more in 24 games, 40 points of more in 12 games, 50 points or more in six games and 60 points or more in three games during Dana Holgorsen's tenure.
- WVU running back Charles Sims leads the Big 12 in all-purpose yardage, averaging 124.2 yards per game.
- WVU has forced a turnover in 16 straight games and 28 of its last 29 contests.
- WVU's is looking to extend its streak of making bowl appearances to 12 with wins over Kansas and Iowa State to close the season.
- WVU is 3-1 on the road in November under Holgorsen
- Oklahoma has won 14 straight games against Iowa State and is 8-0 under Bob Stoops.
- The Sooners are 13-1 on Senior Day under Stoops.
- Stoops has 156 career victories and will be looking to tie Barry Switzer at 157 with a win on Saturday.
- OU will honor 17 seniors on Senior Day. This class is 39-10 during their time in Norman.
- The Sooners are seeking a perfect home record for the 11th time in 15 seasons under Stoops and the first time since 2010.
- The Sooners-Cyclones contest will feature a battle of brothers. Tom Farniok is ISU's starting center while Derek Farniok is a backup tackle at OU.
Teams of the week: For the first time this season, we're recognizing two teams here, as both Baylor and Kansas State snagged the biggest wins of their seasons in impressive fashion.
The Wildcats jumped to a 35-10 lead at then-No. 25 Texas Tech, then coasted to a 49-26 rout. QBs Daniel Sams and Jake Waters produced the two-highest Big 12 Adjusted QBRs of the week (98.4 and 94.9), while John Hubert, who had a 63-yard touchdown run on the opening drive, finished with a season-high 157 rushing yards.
Baylor was equally dominant in a 41-12 win Thursday night over Oklahoma. QB Bryce Petty kept his Heisman campaign alive with three touchdowns passes and two touchdown runs. Baylor's defense put the clamps on the Sooners, holding them to just 237 yards, the lowest output from an OU offense since 2007.
Disappointment of the week: Oklahoma traveled to Waco with a chance to gain an upper hand over the Big 12's favorite. Instead, the Sooners were exposed as a second-tier team in the conference. OU was especially dreadful offensively. Blake Bell completed just 15 of 35 passes with two interceptions for a raw QBR score of 5.9 (scale 0-to-100). The Sooners averaged only 2.6 yards per carry on the ground, as well, with just one run going for more than 10 yards. With games at Kansas State and Oklahoma State still looming, the Sooners could be on the verge of their worst season since 2009.
With Lache Seastrunk banged up and Glasco Martin injured, Linwood kept the Baylor ground game rolling without a hitch, piling up 182 yards while averaging 7.9 yards per carry. Despite being Baylor's third-team tailback, Linwood astonishingly is second in the Big 12 with an average of 89.3 rushing yards per game.
Back in the role he was always meant for, Boykin was excellent at Iowa State as a receiver and change-of-pace quarterback. He scored three touchdowns on five carries, including a one-yard keeper in the final minute to lift TCU to a 21-17 win. Boykin also had four receptions.
Finally, K-State's offensive line obliterated Texas Tech up front, setting the tone for the Wildcats in Lubbock. Behind Cornelius Lucas, Cody Whitehair, BJ Finney, Keenan Taylor and Tavon Rooks, the Wildcats rolled up 291 yards on the ground with an average of almost seven yards per carry.
Big (defensive) men on campus: Texas defensive ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed, Oklahoma State defensive tackle Calvin Barnett, Baylor safety Ahmad Dixon and Kansas State safety Ty Zimmerman.
The Longhorns gave up 40 points in Morgantown, but Jeffcoat and Reed were swarming West Virginia's backfield all night. The two combined for three sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, as the defense gave the Texas offense excellent field position for most of the game.
Barnett spearheaded another strong defensive effort from the Cowboys in a 42-6 win over Kansas. Barnett had five tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack.
Dixon led Baylor's shutdown effort of the Sooners. He had a team-high 8½ tackles, a tackle for loss and a pass breakup, as Oklahoma failed to score a touchdown until late in the third quarter.
Zimmerman gutted out a shoulder injury to lead the Wildcats defensively. He had a couple of big hits, and a 43-yard interception return to provide the exclamation point in Lubbock.
Special-teams players of the week: Oklahoma State returner Justin Gilbert, Iowa State returner DeVondrick Nealy and Texas kicker Anthony Fera.
With former Oklahoma State great Barry Sanders in attendance, Gilbert pulled off his best Sanders impression, taking the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.
Nealy opened the third quarter against TCU with a 98-yard TD return that tied the game.
As he has been all year, Fera was clutch in Texas' overtime win at West Virginia. He converted all five of his extra points and all four of his field goals, including the 24-yarder in the final seconds to send the game to overtime. Fera has missed only one field goal attempt all season, and the four makes at West Virginia were a career-best.
Play of the week: With 59 seconds to play, Texas faced fourth-and-7 trailing West Virginia 40-37. Out of a timeout, QB Case McCoy stepped into the blitz and delivered a first-down strike to Jaxon Shipley a yard ahead of the marker. Fera ended the drive with a game-tying field goal, then the Longhorns prevailed in overtime to win their sixth straight game.
Stat of the week: After surrendering an average of 7.0 yards per carry in losses to BYU and Ole Miss, the Texas defense has held its past six opponents to a combined average of 3.2, with nobody topping more than 4.0 in a game.
Quote of the week: "We're not a tradition. But we're going to be here awhile, the way this thing is going." -- Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, after the Bears' 41-12 win over Oklahoma
Baylor’s Tevin Reese and Antwan Goodley, however, have a chance to top that list.
Depending on how they finish, Reese and Goodley could wind up becoming the best duo in Big 12 history. But they aren’t the only big-time duos in the Big 12 this year.
Kansas State’s Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett have been lighting it up since returning from injury. The last two weeks the two have totaled five touchdown catches.
Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard lead the Sooners with five touchdowns apiece. Texas Tech’s Eric Ward and Jakeem Grant are fifth and sixth in the league in receiving. Oklahoma State’s Josh Stewart and Tracy Moore are beginning to warm up with Clint Chelf at QB. And Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis have been stalwarts in this league for years.
But who are the best tandems ever to play Big 12? We lay it out below.
Tight ends were not included (sorry Jermaine Gresham and Chase Coffman). The tandems were evaluated on what they accomplished together, not on whether their careers simply overlapped (eliminating Jeremy Maclin and Danario Alexander, for example); and, this is a list for duos, not singles, trios or quartets (apologies to Rashaun Woods, and the 2008 Oklahoma and 2010 Baylor receiving corps).
To the list:
1. Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin, West Virginia (2012): In their only year in the league, this tandem was one-two in the Big 12 in receiving, combining for 224 receptions and 2,914 receiving yards. Bailey himself had 25 receiving touchdowns; nobody else in the league had more than 13. Austin, meanwhile, also rushed for 344 yards in one game at running back. As Bailey tweeted out earlier Monday morning on this topic, “case closed.”
2. Michael Crabtree and Danny Amendola, Texas Tech (2007): Crabtree got all the headlines in 2007 on his way to winning his first of two Biletnikoff awards. But out of the slot, Amendola quietly put up 109 receptions for 1,245 yards, as Tech went 9-4.
3. Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby, Texas (2008): Shipley and Cosby starred on one of the three best Big 12 teams that didn’t win a conference title. The two each had 1,000 receiving yards and double-digit TDs from QB Colt McCoy, as the Longhorns finished the year 12-1, their only loss coming on Crabtree’s game-winning touchdown in the final seconds in Lubbock. The two were also prolific on special teams, with Shipley’s kick return touchdown sparking Texas’ 45-35 comeback win over Oklahoma.
4. Justin Blackmon and Josh Cooper, Oklahoma State (2011): As with Crabtree-Amendola, Blackmon got all the attention on his way to a second Biletnikoff award. But Cooper was a pivotal piece in OSU’s first Big 12 title team, as he racked up 71 receptions out of the slot. Blackmon, of course, had a monster year with 121 catches and 18 touchdowns.
5. Kendall Wright and Terrance Williams, Baylor (2011): Reese was actually the third wheel to this duo, which shined with RGIII at quarterback. Wright was an All-American with 108 catches, 1,663 yard and 14 touchdowns. Williams was big time, too, finishing fifth in the Big 12 in receiving before taking over the No. 1 role in 2012.
6. Ryan Broyles and Kenny Stills, Oklahoma (2010): Broyles led college football with 131 receptions on his way to becoming the all-time FBS leader in career catches. Stills broke OU’s freshman single-season receiving record, as the Sooners stormed back to capture the Big 12 crown after a pair of midseason losses.
7. Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas (2008): It might be difficult to remember now, but the Jayhawks used to play some ball. Meier tied Crabtree for second in the league with 97 receptions. Briscoe trailed only Dez Bryant with 1,402 receiving yards. This was an underrated duo.
8. Quincy Morgan and Aaron Lockett, Kansas State (1999): On one of the first passing teams in the Big 12, Morgan and Lockett shined. Morgan had 42 receptions for 1,007 yards and nine touchdowns and was a first-team all-conference selection. Lockett, Tyler Lockett's uncle, was a second-team all-league pick for the Wildcats, who went 11-1 and finished the year ranked sixth in the polls.
9. Mark Clayton and Travis Wilson, Oklahoma (2004): Clayton carried the moniker of best receiver in OU history until Broyles came around. Because of Adrian Peterson, Clayton’s numbers dipped in ’04, but he was still an All-American with 66 catches. Wilson led the Sooners with 11 TD grabs, as OU advanced to a second consecutive national championship game.
10. Jarrett Hicks and Joel Filani, Texas Tech (2005): Neither might be a household name around the Big 12 anymore, but these two were both first-team All-Big 12 selections in ’05 along with Iowa State WR Todd Blythe.
To the 'bag:
Matt in Kansas writes: The Kansas Jayhawks are going to prove you wrong. Can't wait for the Hawks to prove the non-believers wrong!!
Jake Trotter: It wasn’t me who called your squad a “pile of crap.”
Dan in Atlanta writes: It seems the comments from the West Virginia coaching staff about true freshman WR Daikiel Shorts mirror the camp praise heaped on Karl Joseph last year. Déjà vu all over again?
Jake Trotter: Shorts has turned heads this fall, no doubt. It would not surprise me at all if he eventually earned a starting job -- especially if he stays at inside receiver, where he was moved to last week. The Mountaineers have an opening there, and Shorts could fill it.
Pete in Paw Paw, Mich., writes: I see that Jake’s chats are very Texas and Oklahoma heavy. He mentioned it in one the week previous. I would suggest putting a notice that one is coming up with him on the Big 12 Blog to get more diverse questions. It can only help. Thanks.
Jake Trotter: Quick PSA announcement: starting next week, my Big 12 chat on SportsNation will be moved to Tuesdays at 11 a.m. CST. Colleague Brandon Chatmon will also be holding a chat on Wednesdays at 3 p.m. CST.
Randall in Arlington, Texas, writes: There is no doubt that the SEC has outperformed the Big 12 in football over the last decade and appears they will continue to do so in the near future. Looking at how the SEC has only expanded in recent years into states with rich football cultures, how reliant do you think the Big 12 is on Texas players for their talent and how will their inability to pull away talent away from southern states continue to factor into the disparity between the SEC and Big 12?
Jake Trotter: Texas high school talent is the lifeblood of the Big 12. When SEC powers pluck players away from the Lone Star State, those are players that otherwise would be going go the Big 12. Texas A&M’s SEC exodus has placed the Big 12 in precarious position with respect to recruiting. The Aggies have a strong pitch they can now make to prospects: stay close to home and play in the best conference in college football. It’s an appealing case. Texas A&M being in the SEC has also cracked the door wider for the likes of LSU and Alabama to make inroads in Texas. The Big 12 must continue opening up other pipelines, while reinforcing to Texas kids that staying in the Big 12 is the best thing for them.
Zion in Chester, Va., writes: Hey man! Love the mailbag! Do you think that Karl Joseph and Darwin Cook are the best safety combination in the big 12?
Jake Trotter: I might give TCU the slight edge here. Sam Carter and Elisha Olabode are All-Big 12-caliber players. But West Virginia’s twosome is right there. Iowa State, Kansas State and Oklahoma State all have solid safety duos, as well.
Michael in Clyde, Kan., writes: Are there really no Big 12 teams that have top 10 potential this year? Or is the polls just overrating and putting the SEC teams in there too high? I know the SEC is actually good, but with Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina in the same division they can't all be a top 10 teams.
Jake Trotter: Well, five SEC teams finished in the top 10 of the final AP poll last year, so actually they can. But the Big 12 has almost as many top 10 potentials, even if just one team finishes there.
Tom in OKC writes: Will 10-2 win the Big 12 title this year? If so, do you think there is a possibility of a 3-way tie?
Jake Trotter: I don’t really see a 12-0 team in the conference this season; so yeah, 10-2 could definitely win the league. And yeah, because of the parity, there’s opportunity for the first three-way tie since 2008. One obvious scenario in which this happens: OU beats Texas in Dallas; Texas beats OSU in Austin; OSU beats OU in Stillwater; and they all lose one other game along the way. All three would then be 7-2 in the league.
Andy in Austin writes: OK, my nickname for Jaxon Shipley tanked last mailbag. But I will make believers of you all! Let me explain: Shipley is smooth like caramel, his playmaking makes your eyes pop, and, let’s be honest, you've got to be a bit nutty to hang yourself out there for a catch over the middle. Also, I have another UT player nickname for you: Quandre “The Giant” Diggs.
Jake Trotter: Last week, I put Andy on a mailbag ban. The masses, however, clamored for me to give him another chance. So I did. And behold, look what happened. This is not my responsibility. It’s yours. Own it.
OU’s thirrd-and-8 conversion on its first possession
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Stopping the run will be a high priority for the Sooners against a UT offense averaging 209 rushing yards per game. Through five games, Joe Bergeron , Malcolm Brown  and Johnathan Gray  have formed a balanced trip. Brown is nursing a ankle injury and could miss the Red River Rivalry after sitting out last week against West Virginia.
Fortunately for the Sooners, their secondary appears built to perform.
Cornerbacks Demontre Hurst and Aaron Colvin have been outstanding, safeties Javon Harris and Tony Jefferson are ranked 1-2 in tackles and nickelbacks Gabe Lynn and Julian Wilson have held their own thrown into action in passing situations. Against Texas Tech, OU allowed 271 yards passing to a squad that entered the game ranked No. 7 nationally with 358.8 passing yards per contest.
“I thought the guys were excellent the last several games,” OU head coach Bob Stoops said. “They’ve really covered well (against) a team (Texas Tech) you don’t hold down much.”
For the Sooners, those six defenders could be a key to winning on Saturday. If the Sooners can consistently win their one-on-one battles against UT’s receivers, OU can feel confident loading the box and stopping the run, knowing they’ll be covered on the backend and won’t give up several game-changing catches.
“We all expect each other to be accountable,” Harris said. “We’re accountable to each other, we’ve play together all the time. We just want to get better every game, knowing those guys are out there it just helps you play at little more loose because you know the plays that sometimes happen, aren’t going to happen.”
They can’t happen on Saturday if the Sooners expect to prevail. The Longhorns have 20 pass plays of 20-plus yards this season with Jaxon Shipley, Mike Davis, Marquis Goodwin and Daje Johnson each multiple making catches of over 20 yards this season.
While the battle in the trenches is always critical, the battle on the outside could be just as important on Saturday. OU has passed the test through four games, we’ll see if they continue to earn a passing grade against the Longhorns.
The Oklahoma cornerback is in just his second season playing the position but already looks like a veteran shutdown corner. Heading into the Sooners' battle with Texas at 11 a.m. CT Saturday at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Colvin could be a difference-maker against the Longhorns.
“You have to have great corner play to have success in any league,” said defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. “Aaron is a very complete player, he does way more than cover. He’s very instinctual, he finds the football very quickly, he understands concepts. From Day One, once he got healthy, I knew he was a special player.”
After missing the spring with a shoulder injury, Colvin moved from safety to cornerback this fall and has played at an elite level through four games.
Tevin Reese, WR, Baylor: Reese is undersized at 5-foot-10, 165 pounds, sure. Who cares? He's productive, and should only be more so without Kendall Wright in Waco this season. Reese will likely be the second option behind Terrance Williams, but the speedster at inside receiver managed to rack up 877 receiving yards, eighth-most in school history, as the third option for RG3 last season.
Trey Millard, FB/TE, Oklahoma: Millard is a jack of all trades for the Sooners, and played three positions last year. He's invaluable for the Sooners, and may be even more so this season. Look for him to grab some touches at tailback this season, probably in short yardage situations that require a power back.
Alex Elkins, LB, Oklahoma State: Elkins was second on the team with 90 stops, including five tackles for loss. The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder is a solid tackler, but too often, the former walk-on who didn't play football until junior college gets written off as one of the league's top linebackers.
James White, RB, Iowa State: White looked like a non-factor last season, but after Shontrelle Johnson went down with a neck injury, White ascended to starter status. He finished with 743 yards and eight scores, including the game-winner against Iowa in triple overtime.
Seth Doege, QB, Texas Tech: Doege's offense put up big numbers last year, but he didn't have much of a chance to win big last season. Doege's name never comes up among the league's best passers, but despite having no running game and tons of injuries on the offensive line, Doege topped 4,000 yards and threw for 28 touchdowns with just 10 picks. If Tech starts winning (which wasn't much of Doege's fault in 2011), his name might come up in the debate for the Big 12's best passer.
Jaxon Shipley, WR, Texas: Shipley's instincts and great hands are two things you simply can't coach. Now, he'll only get better as a sophomore, and his numbers will balloon if his quarterback improves and Shipley can stay healthy. Even with the revolving door at QB last year and an injury that caused him to miss three games, he finished with 607 yards and three scores on 44 catches.
K.J. Morton, CB, Baylor: Baylor's defense caught big criticism last year, but Morton was a big bright spot late in the season. The Bears were +10 in turnover margin over the last six games, and Morton was a big reason why. All four of his interceptions came in the final three games of the regular season. Now, he's got to improve his coverage skills.
John Hubert, RB, Kansas State: You know about Collin Klein, but it seems like nobody's paying attention to Hubert, who just so happens to be the Big 12's No. 3 returning rusher with 970 yards on just 200 carries.
Eric Ward, WR, Texas Tech: Texas Tech's 2011 season was rough, but Ward emerged as the most consistent target for a receiving corps racked by injuries. It wasn't fun last year, but now, the Red Raiders have some serious depth, and Ward gets no attention, despite catching 84 balls for 800 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Let's do this:
1. Geno Smith, West Virginia: Smith put up huge numbers (4,385 yards, 31 TD, 7 INT, 65.8 completion percentage) and did so efficiently last season. Both of his top two targets are back and the adjustment to Big 12 defenses shouldn't be too difficult.
2. Landry Jones, Oklahoma: Jones and Smith will go head-to-head all season for honors as the Big 12's top passer. Who comes out on top is anyone's guess, but Jones regressed last season, and his receivers let him down after Ryan Broyles' season ended with a knee injury. He'll try to bounce back with just one reliable target (Kenny Stills) to start the season. The rest of the receiving corps is loaded with potential, but very inexperienced.
3. Collin Klein, Kansas State: Clearly, I'm taking more than just passing acumen into account here. Klein is the Big 12's No. 2 returning rusher, and also threw for just under 2,000 yards last season, adding 13 passing touchdowns to the 27 he scored rushing. We'll see how much better he is as a passer this fall.
5. Casey Pachall, TCU: Pachall didn't have eye-popping numbers, but only because TCU rode on the shoulders of its trio of running backs. Still, Pachall's numbers are going to be better this year, and he's got great targets in Josh Boyce, Skye Dawson and Brandon Carter, not to mention youngster LaDarius Brown.
6. Nick Florence, Baylor: I like Florence to have a big year with really good receivers, but he's got too much to prove for now. He looked good in spot duty for RG3 against Texas Tech last season, but his senior season will look much, much different than his inconsistent freshman year all the way back in 2009.
7. Wes Lunt, Oklahoma State: The Big 12's only freshman quarterback is a true freshman, and Lunt earned this spot by beating out some really tough competition in J.W. Walsh and Colton Chelf this spring. Amazing stuff, and his coaches know good quarterbacks. Zac Robinson and Brandon Weeden have established quite the QB tradition in Stillwater. Here's guessing Lunt continues it.
8. Dayne Crist, Kansas: Crist's college career hasn't been what he imagined after coming to Notre Dame as one of the most highly recruited signal-calling prospects in his class, but he's got a chance to start something special at Kansas in his senior year, reunited with former coach Charlie Weis. Crist won't have the weapons some of the other guys on this list have, but he gives KU a big, big upgrade at the position.
9. Steele Jantz/Jared Barnett, Iowa State: These two have to cut down the turnovers, but they've both shown the ability to be playmakers. There's no guessing who wins this legitimate battle in the fall, but coach Paul Rhoads isn't afraid to bench either one if the turnovers don't stop.
10. David Ash/Case McCoy, Texas: Mack Brown insists it's still a contest. My jaw will be on the floor if Ash doesn't trot out on the field for the first game of the season. Ash has some potential and promising targets in Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley, but he hasn't shown the big-play ability of Jantz or Barnett. Expect Ash to move up this list by season's end, but for now, it's all just potential.
2011 record: 8-5 | 2011 conference record: 4-5 (Big 12)
OU’s all-time against Texas: 42-59-5
Top returners: QB David Ash, RB Malcolm Brown, WR Marquise Goodwin, WR Jaxon Shipley, WR Mike Davis, OT Trey Hopkins, OT Josh Cochran, C Dominic Espinosa, DE Jackson Jeffcoat, DE Alex Okafor, DT Ashton Dorsey, LB Jordan Hicks, CB Quandre Diggs, CB Carrington Byndom, S Kenny Vaccaro
Key losses: FB Cody Johnson, RB Fozzy Whittaker, G David Snow, DT Kheeston Randall, LB Emmanuel Acho, LB Keenan Robinson, S Blake Gideon, S Christian Scott, K Justin Tucker
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Well, Oklahoma State had a little something to do with it, but so did two huge positions in need of improvement.
Both cracked colleague Travis Haney's list of positions with the potential for huge growth in 2012.
First up, the Texas quarterbacks.
Texas seemed to indicate it would like for the more athletic [David] Ash to be the guy, even as a freshman, but he could not sustain enough consistency to win the job outright. And, really, Ash simply could not take care of the ball. He threw an interception every 21.8 passes. (The most efficient quarterback in 2011, Wisconsin's Russell Wilson, threw one every 77.3 throws.My take: I totally agree with this one. How much Ash improves is the big question. An offseason full of first-team reps will be extremely valuable -- he got almost none last year before being thrust into the role of starter as a true freshman. During spring camp last year, he was a fourth-stringer. He could get better, but Ash has never really looked the part of future superstar to me. Fortunately for the Longhorns, the team is good enough everywhere else it doesn't need him to be a superstar. If he's solid, but able to get the ball to Texas' playmakers like Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis, the Longhorns will be a factor in the Big 12 race.
[Case] McCoy was more consistent in November, but no one was mistaking him for his older brother in terms of arm strength and accuracy. He did put up a 356-yard passing day in the loss to Baylor at the end of the regular season, but McCoy then gave way to Ash for the bowl victory against Cal. It was a yo-yo effect all season for the Horns, who would like to see one of the two emerge -- but still haven't really through spring ball.
Second, Haney looks at the Oklahoma defensive backs, who are under new direction this year with Mike Stoops.
Stoops has a variety of options for the different spots in the defensive backfield. Already, he has shifted Tony Jefferson from sam linebacker to free safety, his more natural position, and moved Javon Harris from free to strong safety. Harris was the goat in several games, including the Baylor debacle. Jefferson might be the most underrated defensive player in the Big 12 because he has yet to settle into one, specific position.My take: The league's best quarterbacks gave the Sooners all kinds of trouble last year, and it won't be much easier this year. Yeah, Brandon Weeden and Robert Griffin III are gone, but TCU's Casey Pachall and West Virginia's Geno Smith are the new guys very capable of tearing up anybody's secondary.
Another important piece of the OU defense, Aaron Colvin, missed the spring after minor shoulder surgery. He can play any of the secondary spots, again freeing up Mike Stoops to mix and match to find a solution for the big-play disease.
It's tough to know exactly what the problem for Oklahoma was. The Sooners could be dominant at times. They have the talent and athleticism. Most importantly, they have lots of experience. For OU, it's a matter of just doing it. Stoops will try to make it happen, but big improvement could result in a big, big year for the Sooners.
A national title, perhaps?
1. After listening to Mike Stoops yesterday, if I had to guess today, OU's starting secondary in the fall: Tony Jefferson at FS, Javon Harris at SS, Aaron Colvin and Demontre Hurst at CB, Joe Ibiloye at NB; with Quentin Hayes and Gabe Lynn the backups at safety, Lamar Harris and Joe Powell the top reserves at CB, and Lynn working in at NB, perhaps even starting, against the faster offenses.
2. It hasn't been the greatest few days for OU's recruiting efforts. First DT Justin Manning criticized how the Sooners have recruited him. Then Max Browne, quite possibly the top QB in the nation, committed to USC over the Sooners. It might feel like the sky is falling, but these things happen. The Sooners have a strong foundation for the '13 class in potential 5-star RBs Keith Ford and Greg Bryant, and are in on a number of blue-chip prospects defensively. Remember, everyone was knocking OU's 2012 class in December. Then the Sooners closed as strong as anyone in the country and finished with a borderline Top 5 class. It hasn't been a great couple of days, but OU will be fine again this year.
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What is Texas' greatest strength?
Texas' greatest strength is the versatility it brings to the field on offense and defense. But primarily it is the offense. The Longhorns had 66 snaps against Iowa State (not including penalties) and 60 of those were evenly split between David Ash and Case McCoy at quarterback. The other six were taken by players in the wildcat formation. Beyond the splitting of snaps, McCoy and Ash bring two distinctive styles to the game. McCoy is going to run to throw. He will scramble, pull the defense out of its assignments and then dump the ball where it needs to go. Ash is either going to run or throw, but he won't do both on the same play. That allows co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin several options.
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