Oklahoma Sooners: Lache Seastrunk

Big 12 lunchtime links

May, 20, 2014
May 20
12:00
PM ET
LeSean "Shady" McCoy doesn't sound excited that DeSean Jackson is no longer in Philly.
All-Big 12 players such as Lache Seastrunk, Aaron Colvin and Ahmad Dixon had to wait until the final day to be drafted. Jackson Jeffcoat, James Sims and Josh Stewart settled for free-agent deals after going undrafted.

You have expectations going in, but truthfully, you just never know how the NFL draft is going to play out. The good organizations know, however, that you can't construct a contender without finding high-impact player in the draft's final rounds.

Borrowing a page from our friends over at ESPN.com's SEC blog, who authored this thoughtful post earlier this week, here's a reminder why you shouldn't sleep on the late-round choices.

Here are a handful of active players from Big 12 schools who were not selected in their respective drafts' first three rounds but have still managed to develop into big-time talents, starters and contributors. The round they were drafted in is listed in parentheses, and FA indicates the player was an undrafted free agent.
Last weekend, the Big 12 had 17 players get taken in the NFL draft. Wonder how they got there? Well, we went back and pulled the ESPN scouting reports on those players while they were still just in high school. Some were highly touted, and lived up to their potential. Some defied the odds.

CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State: Cleveland Browns (No. 8 overall)
Ranking: No. 39 ATH
What our scouts said then: “Gilbert is a dual-threat quarterback. ... is a player that will likely be moved to wide receiver or safety. He is a gifted athlete with good football awareness and an athlete that has his best football ahead of him. ... once he commits to the position full time at the next level.”
What happened: Gilbert quickly found a new position at cornerback, and was one of the best at that position in the country last year.

[+] EnlargeJason Verrett
AP Photo/Craig RuttleTCU CB Jason Verrett had no offers coming out of high school but developed into the Chargers' first-round pick
CB Jason Verrett, TCU: San Diego Chargers (No. 25)
Ranking: Unranked
What our scouts said then: No report
What happened: Verrett graduated high school as a running back with no stars and no offers. At juco, the coaching staff moved him to the secondary, setting the stage for him to become one of the best cornerbacks in college football.

TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech: New York Jets (No. 49)
Ranking: No. 28 TE
What our scouts said then: “Amaro is a productive receiving tight end. He has good size and appears on film to have the frame to be able to add more good bulk with time in a college weight program. He will play and block from an in-line position, but at this point it seems the strength of his game is a receiver. Can be a productive receiver.”
What happened: Well, Amaro added 30 pounds of bulk and became one of the most productive receiving tight ends in college football history.

RB Charles Sims, West Virginia: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 69)
Ranking: No. 114 RB
What our scouts said then: “If a college program is patient with Sims' development, they are going to get a future workhorse in the backfield. Hands are soft adding to his upside as a future featured back. Potential sleeper on the national scene as well and could blow up with a big senior season and added size prior to next fall.”
What happened: At Houston, Sims was named the Conference USA Freshman of the Year after rushing for nine touchdowns. His final year, he transferred to West Virginia to raise his pro profile. Displaying those “soft hands” out of the backfield, Sims led all Big 12 running backs in receiving.

DE Will Clarke, West Virginia: Cincinnati Bengals (No. 88)
Ranking: Unranked
What our scouts said then: No report
What happened: Clarke committed to rival Pitt, but never signed there. Instead, in late March, he faxed his letter-of-intent to West Virginia. Clarke became a three-year starter at defensive end, and the first and only Big 12 defensive lineman to get taken in the draft.

WR Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma: New York Jets (No. 104)
Ranking: Unranked
What our scouts said then: No report
What happened: After two banner seasons at Fresno State, Saunders transferred to OU and became one of the Sooners’ top playmakers. He had 1,136 all-purpose yards as a senior, and helped fuel OU’s late surge to the 2013 season.

CB Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma: Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 114)
Ranking: No. 40 S
What our scouts said then: “Colvin should be a very solid safety at the next level especially from the strong position and be a very solid zone pass defender.”
What happened: Colvin played a key part in the OU secondary for four seasons. He would have been a higher pick had it not been for a knee injury he suffered in the Senior Bowl.

OG Cyril Richardson, Baylor: Buffalo Bills (No. 153)
Ranking: No. 64 OT
What our scouts said then: “Great size and a large wing span which can be beneficial especially in pass protection. Wins most battles at the line of scrimmage when base and drive blocking. Richardson should develop into a very good tackle at the next level.”
What happened: Richardson actually settled in as one of the elite power-blocking guards in college football, and became an Outland finalist as a senior. Richardson didn’t have the best pre-draft workouts, but he’ll have a chance to play in Buffalo.

ILB Jeremiah George, Iowa State: New York Jets (No. 154)
Ranking: No. 55 OLB
What our scouts said then: “George plays inside linebacker but is a little undersized for the position at the major level of competition. However this is a very active, hard-hitting player with the athleticism we like to see in second level defenders.”
What happened: George never let his size be a hindrance, and had a spectacular senior season, leading the Big 12 in tackles and earning all-conference honors.

[+] EnlargeLache Seastrunk
Casey Sapio/USA TODAY SportsLache Seastrunk was considered one of the nation's best RBs out of high school and lived up to that billing at Baylor.
RB Lache Seastrunk, Baylor: Washington Redskins (No. 186)
Ranking: No. 6 RB (ESPN 150)
What our scouts said then: “Fast, explosive, electric, either way you slice it, Seastrunk is arguably one of this class' biggest game-breakers at the running back position.”
What happened: Seastrunk signed with Oregon, but took off after transferring to Baylor. Despite missing two games to injury, Seastrunk led the Big 12 with 1,117 rushing yards last year.

CB Demetri Goodson, Baylor: Green Bay Packers (No. 197)
Ranking: No. 11 point guard (ESPN 100)
What our scouts said then: “Demetri is a true leader, and has the proper mentality to play the point and run a team. He can really push the ball down the court and he gets wherever he wants with it.”
What happened: After starting two seasons of hoops at Gonzaga, Goodson transferred to Baylor, and found his new calling on the gridiron. He finally broke out as a senior last season, earning the starting nod at cornerback, where he improved with every appearance.

OL Tavon Rooks, Kansas State: New Orleans Saints (No. 202)
Ranking: Unranked
What our scouts said then: No report
What happened: After transferring in from Navarro Junior College, Rooks instantly became a two-year starter at right tackle for K-State.

OLB Will Smith, Texas Tech: Dallas Cowboys (No. 238)
Ranking: Unranked
What our scouts said then: “Smith has large frame and shows promise on film. His taller frame and lack of ideal top-end speed and elusiveness may see him get recruited more at outside linebacker; his measurables could eventually be better suited on defense if his body continues to physically develop. Could be a late bloomer on the recruiting trail.”
What happened: Smith went to Riverside (Calif.) Community College, and indeed became a late bloomer. This past season, he finished second in the league behind George with 120 tackles, and was one of Texas Tech’s most consistent defensive performers all year.

WR Tevin Reese, Baylor: San Diego Chargers (No. 240)
Ranking: Unranked
What our scouts said then: No report
What happened: Reese played for plenty of scouts at Temple (Texas) High School, but only because they came to see his teammate, Seastrunk. Even though Reese was incredibly slight at less than 160 pounds, the Baylor coaching staff loved his explosiveness. He started four games as a true freshman, and eventually became a star in the league.

OLB Corey Nelson, Oklahoma: Denver Broncos (No. 242)
Ranking: No. 3 OLB (ESPN 150)
What our scouts said then: “Nelson may be a bit raw and inexperienced in linebacker play but after watching film on this guy it's hard not to see a special linebacker prospect. A defensive playmaker with the quick-twitched burst and striking short-area power you just can't coach.”
What happened: Nelson played a true freshman, but never really became a full-time starter until his senior year. He had a great first month, then suffered a season-ending pectoral injury.

FB Trey Millard, Oklahoma: San Francisco 49ers (No. 245)
Ranking: No. 59 ATH
What our scouts said then: “Overall, Millard brings a lot to the table physically for a program to mold and develop. Not going to wow you on film ... but grows on you the more you watch and just does a lot of the little things right.”
What happened: On his way to earning all-conference honors three times, Millard did many little things right at OU, whether it was blocking, catching passes or even carrying the ball himself. A senior injury hurt his draft stock, but he’ll have a chance to stick in San Fran.

SS Ahmad Dixon, Baylor: Dallas Cowboys (No. 248)
Ranking: No. 3S (ESPN 150)
What our scouts said then: “Dixon is an exceptional defensive back that really is a prototype free safety. A real hitter that is a true leader by the effort he gives every play.”
What happened: After flirting with Tennessee, Dixon became one of the most high-profile recruits ever to sign with Baylor during the Art Briles era. He became a three-year starter, and last season as an All-American was a key piece on Baylor’s first Big 12 title team.

NFL draft breakdown: Big 12

May, 12, 2014
May 12
10:30
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Several former Big 12 stars watched their dreams come true with their selection in the NFL draft over the weekend.

None of those players went to Texas.

The Longhorns did not have a player drafted for the first time since 1937, leaving a lasting memory that could remain in Austin, Texas, until the 2015 draft.

Baylor led the league with five players selected, followed by Oklahoma with four. Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert and TCU cornerback Jason Verrett were the only Big 12 players selected in the first round.

Here's a closer look at some of the Big 12's draftees and storylines from the draft over the weekend.

[+] EnlargeCyril Richardson
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsGuard Cyril Richardson was the first of five Baylor players who were selected in the draft. The Bears had five of the league's 17 draft picks.
Interesting storyline: In addition to the Longhorns going without a player drafted, it was a lackluster weekend for the rest of Big 12 with a total of 17 draftees, including five on the first two days of the draft (Rounds 1-3). Five Big 12 players were selected in the seventh round, helping to increase what was looking like a ugly and disappointing number midway through the draft’s final day. The Big 12 had 22 players selected in 2013, with eight in the first three rounds and 17 in the first five rounds.

Strong statement: While his current team did not get any players drafted, Texas coach Charlie Strong watched his former school, Louisville, get more players drafted in the first round than the entire Big 12. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, safety Calvin Pryor and linebacker Marcus Smith each were selected in the first round after being recruited by and playing for Strong at Louisville. Linebacker Preston Brown was selected by the Bills in the third round, giving Louisville four players selected in the first three rounds. No Big 12 team matched that feat.

Best fit: It’s probably hard to find a rookie in a better situation than former Oklahoma State cornerback Gilbert, who was selected No. 8 overall by the Cleveland Browns. First, Cleveland clearly valued him, taking him in the top 10 after moving down, and he should slide right into the starting lineup for the Browns. Second, he will be the most overlooked top-10 pick in recent memory as all the attention during his rookie season is likely to be focused on former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, the Browns’ second pick of the first round. Third, he will get the opportunity to be mentored by Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden in a system that will allow his physical gifts to shine.

Immediate impact rookie: Former Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro could be the poised to have the biggest impact as a rookie. Amaro, the New York Jets' second-round pick, could become a big target who is a quarterback’s best friend, as Amaro proved to be during his standout 2013 season with the Red Raiders. If Amaro can hold his own as a blocker, he could develop into a lethal weapon on play action for Rex Ryan’s Jets.

Long-term impact: Former Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin won’t be earning Rookie of the Year honors. Selected in the fourth round by the Jacksonville Jaguars, Colvin is recovering from an torn ACL in January and could miss the entire 2014 season as he recovers from the injury. When he does get healthy, Colvin has the ability to be a starting NFL cornerback and could become a mainstay in the Jaguars secondary.

Potential steal: It's hard to understand why former Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk dropped all the way into the sixth round, where Washington drafted him to rejoin former teammate Robert Griffin III in the offensive backfield. He might not arrive in Washington and lock up a starting role, but it would be a surprise if Seastrunk, who averaged 7.4 yards per carry in 2013, doesn't makes an impact with his new squad.

Big 12 draft recap

May, 10, 2014
May 10
8:30
PM ET

Below is a recap of how the Big 12 fared this weekend in the NFL draft. Baylor led the league with five picks, and Texas failed to have a selection for the first time since 1937.

Round 1

[+] EnlargeJustin Gilbert
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesFormer Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert was the top Big 12 player drafted, going at No. 8 to the Cleveland Browns.
CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State: Cleveland Browns (8th overall)
Should start immediately opposite Pro Bowl CB Joe Haden.

CB Jason Verrett, TCU: San Diego Chargers (25th)
His aggressive cover corner skills will instantly boost an ailing San Diego secondary.

Round 2

TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech: New York Jets (49th)
The Jets needed weapons for their passing game, and they got a big one here.

Round 3

RB Charles Sims, West Virginia: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (69th)
Pass-catching skills makes him the likely third-down back in Tampa.

DE Will Clarke, West Virginia: Cincinnati Bengals (88th)
If he can develop his frame, he could be a factor down the line.

Round 4

WR Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma: New York Jets (104th)
Brings major playmaking to the slot and the return teams.

CB Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma: Jacksonville Jaguars (114th)
Would have been a second-round pick if not for the Senior Bowl injury.

Round 5

OG Cyril Richardson, Baylor: Buffalo Bills (153rd)
A mauler who will probably need to trim down to succeed at the next level.

ILB Jeremiah George, Iowa State: New York Jets (154th)
Tackling skills could make him a force on special teams.

Round 6

RB Lache Seastrunk, Baylor: Washington Redskins (186th)
Had to wait a while, but gets to join former Bear RG III in the backfield.

CB Demetri Goodson, Baylor: Green Bay Packers (197th)
The former basketball player has upside that intrigued the Packers.

OL Tavon Rooks, Kansas State: New Orleans Saints (202nd)
It's a mild surprise that he was the first and only K-State alum drafted.

Round 7

OLB Will Smith, Texas Tech: Dallas Cowboys (238th)
Big-time college tackler who will contribute on coverage teams.

WR Tevin Reese, Baylor: San Diego Chargers (240th)
Will be interesting to see if San Diego can take advantage of Reese’s top-end speed.

OLB Corey Nelson, Oklahoma: Denver Broncos (242nd)
Has a nose for the ball and probably would’ve gone higher had it not been for the pectoral injury.

FB Trey Millard, Oklahoma: San Francisco 49ers (245th)
A typical talented 49ers draft pick coming off an injury.

SS Ahmad Dixon, Baylor: Dallas Cowboys (248th)
Brings a physical presence, but improvement in coverage will determine whether he sticks on the defense.
The NFL draft is here.

It all begins tonight at 8 p.m. (ET) and the draft will continue through Saturday. Several Big 12 players should be selected in the next three days, so here is a team-by-team NFL draft primer, which includes each school’s top prospect, one sleeper/value pick and a list of each potential draftee. All projections are courtesy of ESPN Insider's draft board , and the potential draftees listed are players with an ESPN.com Scouts Inc. ranking of 31 or above. All draft projections are listed by day, i.e. Day 1 (Round 1), Day 2 (Rounds 2 and 3) and Day 3 (Rounds 4, 5, 6 and 7).

Baylor

Top prospect: G Cyril Richardson. The Bears’ All-American guard is projected to be an early Day 3 selection and could provide quality depth (or even start) during his first NFL season.

Sleeper pick: WR Tevin Reese. Slated as a late Day 3 selection, Reese could surprise with his speed and take the top off NFL defenses, particularly on a team with a strong running game.

Other potential draftees (projected selection): RB Lache Seastrunk (Day 3), S Ahmad Dixon (Day 3), CB Demetri Goodson (Day 3).

Iowa State

Top prospect: LB Jeremiah George. The Cyclones’ undersized but athletic linebacker didn’t wow scouts with his measurables but it would be unwise to brush him off as a player unable to make an impact on Sundays. He’s projected to go late on Day 3 and could, at the very least, carve out a special teams role.

Sleeper pick: None.

Other potential draftees: None.

Kansas

No Jayhawk is projected to be drafted or has a ESPN.com Scout’s Inc. rating of 31 or above.

Kansas State

Top prospect: S Ty Zimmerman. He was extremely productive during his time at KSU and is projected to go late on Day 3.

Sleeper pick: OT Cornelius Lucas. Projected to be a late Day 3 selection, Lucas would be worth taking a flyer on for most NFL teams due to his mammoth size (6-foot-8, 316 pounds).

Other potential draftees: None.

Oklahoma

Top prospect: CB Aaron Colvin. Projected to come off the board early on Day 3, Colvin would be drafted much higher if he hadn’t torn his ACL during Senior Bowl practices. It’s quite possible some team will eventually get Day 1 or Day 2 production from Colvin if they’re patient with his recovery.

Sleeper pick: FB Trey Millard. Another Sooner coming off an ACL injury, Millard is the type of guy who won’t get any headlines this weekend but will end up playing 10 years in the league as a key contributor on offense and special teams. He projected to be drafted on Day 3.

Other potential draftees: WR Jalen Saunders (Day 3), RB Damien Williams (Day 3), C Gabe Ikard (Day 3).

Oklahoma State

Top prospect: CB Justin Gilbert. Gilbert is projected to go in the first round and is considered one of the top cornerback prospects in the draft. He’s likely to be the first Big 12 player selected.

Sleeper pick: WR Josh Stewart. His physical attributes aren’t going to make NFL scouts drool, but Stewart seems to consistently find ways to make plays and could initially make an impact as a returner. He’s projected to be a late Day 3 selection.

Other potential draftees: None.

TCU

Top prospect: CB Jason Verrett. The elite cover cornerback sits right alongside Gilbert among the draft’s top cornerbacks. He’s projected to join Gilbert as a first-round selection.

Sleeper pick: None.

Other potential draftees: None.

Texas

Top prospect: DE Jackson Jeffcoat. He finished his Texas career with an extremely productive senior season. He’s projected to be an early Day 3 selection.

Sleeper pick: WR Mike Davis. He has a bunch of talent and upside but never really became a difference maker in the Big 12. Davis is projected to be selected on Day 3 and could be a steal if his NFL team can push him to maximize his potential.

Other potential draftees: OG Trey Hopkins (Day 3), DT Chris Whaley (Day 3).

Texas Tech

Top prospect: TE Jace Amaro. The Big 12’s biggest mismatch creator could transition into an individual matchup nightmare in the NFL as well. He’s projected to go early on Day 2 and will give some NFL team a unique weapon.

Sleeper pick: DT Kerry Hyder. The former foundation of the Red Raiders’ defensive line is expected to be drafted late on Day 3. He’s the type of player NFL teams can draft and hope for the best because he does have some NFL traits that could earn him a spot on a roster.

Other potential draftees: None.

West Virginia

Top prospect: HB Charles Sims. It’s quite possible Sims would be projected to go higher if the overall value of running backs as a whole was not trending down. One of the most versatile running back prospects, Sims is projected to be selected on Day 2.

Sleeper pick: DE William Clarke. The lanky defensive end prospect is projected to be drafted early on Day 3. His athleticism and instincts could make in him Saturday steal.

Other potential draftees: None.

Big 12's lunch links

April, 28, 2014
Apr 28
12:00
PM ET
Kaiden's play was the biggest one of Kansas State's spring game.

Reviewing the Big 12 pro days

March, 31, 2014
Mar 31
9:00
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Pro day season has come and gone. Draft-eligible players returned to school this month and hit the weight room and practice field to give NFL scouts a taste of their potential. Here’s a rundown of how the Big 12’s top draft prospects fared as well as a few who surprised.

TCU (March 6)
Big name: CB Jason Verrett. A total of 26 NFL teams had reps at the Horned Frogs’ pro day, and you know many of them came for Verrett. He didn’t look to improve his 40 time from the NFL combine (4.38), but he did show off a 39 -inch vertical and benched 19 reps.
Sleeper: QB Casey Pachall. While he’ll have to answer lots of questions about his off-field issues, Pachall’s on-field work at pro day was encouraging. He checked in at 6-foot-3 and 216 pounds, ran his 40 in the mid-4.9s and completed 62 of 72 passes, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Kansas State (March 11)
Big name: S Ty Zimmerman. Though 20 Kansas State players worked out at pro day, Zimmerman was not one of them. He’s still recovering from labrum surgery and reportedly plans to hold a workout next month to show his progress.
Sleeper: OT Cornelius Lucas. Hard to project how things will play out for Lucas, a mammoth tackle at 6-8 and 316 pounds, after he discovered a stress fracture in his left foot at the NFL combine. He’s supposed to be out up to eight weeks but plans to work out along with Zimmerman on April 28.

Oklahoma (March 12)
Big name: CB Aaron Colvin. The Sooners had 28 NFL organization represented at their pro day, but a few key players were still on the mend. Colvin, who suffered a torn ACL at the Senior Bowl, did not work out but hopes to be running again by late April and vowed his recovery is ahead of schedule.
Sleeper: C Gabe Ikard. While Ikard elected to stand by his combine numbers, which were strong for his position group, he did use the pro day to show in position drills just how athletic an interior lineman he can be for an NFL club. Running back Damien Williams also made a solid impression, and receiver Jalen Saunders drew mixed reviews after poor shuttle times.

Oklahoma State (March 13)
Big name: CB Justin Gilbert. The Steelers have the No. 15 pick, so it made sense that Mike Tomlin and his GM were among the many coaches in Stillwater to scout Gilbert. He stood by his 4.37 in the 40 from the NFL combine but did agility drills and reportedly wowed in his position drills. He’s a first-rounder, no doubt.
Sleeper: WR Josh Stewart. Well, OK, he’s not much of a sleeper. But Stewart had work to do to raise his stock, and pro day should’ve helped. He improved his 40 slightly, from 4.69 at the combine to 4.59 at pro day, and showed what he can do as a receiver and returner. Safety Daytawion Lowe also made a good impression.

Texas Tech (March 14)
Big name: TE Jace Amaro. The All-America tight end tried to secure a spot in the first round with improvements in the 40 (4.68) and vertical, and at 6-5 and 266 pounds he evoked comparisons to Vernon Davis from one 49ers scout.
Sleeper: CB Bruce Jones. He’s undersized at 5-7 and 183 pounds, but Jones did grab some attention at pro day with a run of a 4.5-second 40 time and team-best vertical of 41 inches.

Kansas (March 14)
Big name: RB James Sims. A dozen scouts showed up for the Jayhawks’ pro day, and the highlight was probably Sims busting off a run of 4.56 seconds in the 40. The 6-foot, 205-pound back was not invited to the NFL combine and told the Lawrence Journal-World he felt good about the numbers he put up.

Baylor (March 19)
Big names: OT Cyril Richardson, RB Lache Seastrunk, S Ahmad Dixon. Richardson shed 20 pounds after his senior season, which had to encourage NFL scouts, and he did nothing at his pro day to diminish his chances of being a top-50 pick. Seastrunk was as explosive as expected, with a time of 4.37 in the 40 and a 4.36 second shuttle, and tried to show off his pass-catching ability. Dixon ran a 4.64 in the 40 at the NFL combine and improved that to 4.48 at pro day.
Sleeper: TE Jordan Najvar. At nearly 6-6 and 280 pounds, Najvar certainly has the size to make the NFL. His speed had been a question mark, but his reported best for pro day was 4.86 seconds in the 40.

West Virginia (March 21)
Big name: RB Charles Sims. A nice showing at the NFL combine (40 time: 4.48) meant Sims needed only to do positional drills, and he drew good reviews for his pass-catching ability despite small hands.
Sleeper: DE Will Clarke. Knowing it’s possible he’ll be asked to play outside linebacker in an NFL scheme, Clarke worked out at both end and linebacker on pro day and tried to show what he can bring to pass coverage as a nearly 6-6, 268-pound defender.

Iowa State (March 25)
Big name: LB Jeremiah George. After a subpar showing at the combine, George had a nice day in front of 30 NFL officials. He hit 4.69 in the 40-yard dash, posted a big improvement in his broad jump and was solid in positional work.
Sleeper: CB Jeremy Reeves. How’s this for a success story? Reeves played at ISU from 2010-12, missed last season with a pectoral injury and showed up to pro day to prove he’s still got it. He had a crazy good day: 4.29-second 40, 43-inch vertical, 11-foot broad jump. The New York Jets signed him on Friday.

Texas (March 26)
Big name: DE Jackson Jeffcoat. Like most other top prospects, Jeffcoat stuck with his NFL combine testing numbers. The 6-3, 253-pound end demonstrated his coverage ability in position drills amid talk that he might have to be a 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level.
Sleeper: CB Carrington Byndom. Questions about the three-year starter’s speed were put to rest when he ran his 40 in 4.37 seconds. Byndom was happy with his positional drills and is starting to line up meetings.

Signing day was kind to the Oklahoma Sooners.

A strong finish to its 2014 recruiting class has helped OU land at No. 5 in the ESPN.com Post-Signing Day Way-Too-Early Top 25. The Sooners are the Big 12’s top team, with Baylor and Texas joining them on the list. The Bears are ranked No. 10 and the Longhorns No. 22.

Florida State, Alabama, Oregon and Michigan State are the top four teams, in that order.

OU skyrocketing to the top five shows just how quickly things can change. In mid-November the Sooners were reeling after a 41-12 thrashing at the hands of the eventual Big 12 champion Bears. Almost three months later, the Sooners find themselves projected to be among the nation’s top five teams after four straight wins to end the season, including a 45-31 Allstate Sugar Bowl triumph over Alabama led by sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight. The Sooners used that momentum to land several top recruits, including running back Joe Mixon, athlete Michiah Quick and safety Steven Parker II.

Baylor will have to overcome the loss of running back Lache Seastrunk and defensive leader Ahmad Dixon, but running back Shock Linwood and safety Orion Stewart both made game-changing plays as backups. Linwood finished with 881 rushing yards and Stewart had a critical interception return for touchdown against TCU. Art Briles' team appears ready to handle those departures -- and the loss of All-American guard Cyril Richardson -- while adding a recruiting class full of talented athletes, including elite receiver K.D. Cannon, to its roster to earn a preseason top-10 ranking.

Texas is the wildcard team with a new coach in Charlie Strong but uncertainty at the quarterback position due to David Ash’s health concerns. But a solid finish to its recruiting class, including the late addition of ESPN 300 defensive tackle Poona Ford, combined with an exceptional coaching staff landed Texas in the Top 25. The Longhorns have the talent to rise into the top 10 or, if their struggles at the quarterback position continue, could tumble out of the rankings completely.

Oklahoma State could have a strong case for inclusion in the Way-Too-Early Top 25, but Kansas State has the strongest case of the Big 12 squads that find themselves left outside. The Wildcats have quarterback Jake Waters returning to man the offense, and receiver Tyler Lockett could be the Big 12’s top returning offensive playmaker. Add in several impact junior college signees and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Wildcats consistently ranked among the top 25 teams in college football this fall.
Twenty-five Big 12 players have been invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis Feb. 19-24. The NFL released the invite list Thursday afternoon. The Big 12 players are below:

Quarterbacks
  • None
Running backs
Fullbacks
Tight ends
Wide receivers
Offensive linemen
Defensive linemen
Linebackers
Defensive backs
Long snapper
Kicker
Punter
  • None
Notable omissions:
Images and highlights of Big 12 football are often filled with high-flying catches, deep throws and pass-happy spread offenses. Yet, Big 12 title hopes were rooted in the ability to run the ball in 2013.

[+] EnlargeShock Linwood
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesWith Lache Seastrunk off to the NFL, Shock Linwood will find a more prominent role in Baylor's rushing attack.
Baylor and Oklahoma were the lone 11-win teams and BCS bowl participants and that duo finished atop the Big 12 in several rushing categories. With the help of ESPN Stats and Information, let’s take a closer look at some revealing Big 12 rushing statistics, how they impacted 2013 and what it could mean for 2014.

OU and Baylor each rushed for over 1,900 yards before contact in 2012

The Bears and Sooners were consistently winning the battle in the trenches with a pair of quality offensive lines. OU rushed for 1,949 yards before contact (3.81 ypc), and BU rushed for 1,909 yards before contact (3.33 ypc) in 2013.

Impact on 2013: For Baylor, it meant the Bears could put multiple running backs in the backfield without missing a beat. Lache Seastrunk, Glasco Martin and Shock Linwood had plenty of success thanks to BU’s offensive line. For Oklahoma, it meant the Sooners were able to overcome inconsistency at the quarterback position. Seastrunk (720 yards before contact) and OU’s Brennan Clay (682) finished 1-2 in yards before contact in the conference.

What it means for 2014: Both offensive lines lose their anchors (BU’s Cyril Richardson, OU’s Gabe Ikard). The two teams will have to find quality replacements for those players but BU returns quarterback Bryce Petty to keep defenses honest, and OU returns some quality, experienced linemen who can step in to do the job.

Baylor led the Big 12 with 1,995 yards inside the tackles, averaging 5.4 yards per carry on designed run plays

In other words, the Bears spread you out, make you cover every inch of the field and then run the football right at you. It makes BU’s offense extremely difficult to stop as defenses have to account for everything and everyone without making mistakes.

Impact on 2013: Linwood’s 7.4 yards per carry inside the tackles led the Big 12, and he was joined in the top five by Seastrunk (6.1). They helped the Bears lead the league in rushing with 259.69 rushing yards per game.

What it means for 2014: Baylor’s offense won’t change. Art Briles and Co. will still force defenses to cover the entire field while aiming to run the ball down the defense’s throat. Even with Seastrunk and Richardson off to the NFL, it’s unlikely the Bears' rushing attack will become much easier to stop.

Oklahoma led the Big 12 with 1,625 rushing yards outside the tackles

The Sooners averaged six yards per carry on runs outside the tackles. With OU adding more quarterback zone-read plays to its offense, the Sooners used their quickness and speed at running back to test defenses.

What it meant in 2013: The Sooners aimed to use Clay, Damien Williams and Roy Finch to challenge defenses with their athleticism, while also utilizing the quickness of quarterback Trevor Knight to get on the edge during the eight games (five starts) the redshirt freshman was under center. The approach helped OU win 11 games and finish with 223.92 rushing yards per game, second in the Big 12, despite an inconsistent passing game that averaged 199.08 yards per outing.

What it means for 2014: Don’t be surprised if this number increases in 2014. If Knight locks down the job and plays consistently, he provides a running threat on the perimeter from the quarterback position. And OU has some quality young options at running back, led by sophomore Keith Ford, to replace Clay, Finch and Williams.

Other notable numbers

Texas Tech led the Big 12 in rushing yards against a five-man box with 102 carries for 508 yards, five yards per carry. Baylor’s 6.5 yard average paced the conference… Baylor led the Big 12 in rushing yards against a six-man box with 323 carries for 2,095 yards, 6.5 yards per carry … Kansas State led the Big 12 in rushing yards against a seven-man box with 196 carries for 1,103 yards and 5.6 yards per carry. OU led the conference with 6.1 yards per carry against a seven-man box.
There are a record number of underclassmen entering the 2014 NFL draft. The NFL publishes its official list of draft departures this weekend, and more than 90 players are expected to be on it. That would eclipse the previous record of 73 from last year.

But the Big 12 suffered the least attrition of any of the five major conferences, with only three players announcing they were going pro before the Jan. 15 deadline: Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk, Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro and Oklahoma State receiver Josh Stewart.

That pales in comparison to other leagues. The SEC alone has 28 players leaving early. The Pac-12 has 25. Even the ACC has 10.

As for the Big 12, there are two ways to look at this. One, there's a lot of young talent coming back in the league, including the dynamic Baylor pass-catching duo of quarterback Bryce Petty and receiver Antwan Goodley and Kansas State wideout Tyler Lockett, who was uncoverable this season, on offense. On defense, menacing Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker and Texas pass-rushing defensive end Cedric Reed are back.

The other way to look at it, though, is the overall talent of the league is down, relative to other conferences. Amaro is the only one of the early entries who has a shot of being a first-round pick. Nobody else who elected to come back would have had a shot at being first-round selections, either. By contrast, the SEC, Pac-12 and ACC are loaded with underclassmen who figure to be Day 1 picks.

In 2010, the Big 12 had a conference-record nine players selected in the first round, including five underclassmen. That was a banner draft for the conference. This draft will not be.

Big 12 bowl players to watch

December, 19, 2013
12/19/13
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Here are five key players to watch from the Big 12 this bowl season:

Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert

AT&T Cotton Bowl vs. Missouri

[+] EnlargeSaunders
Richard Rowe/USA TODAY SportsJalen Saunders' big-play ability will be much needed against Alabama.
The Jim Thorpe Award finalist and consensus All-American will be matched up against one of the rising pass-catching stars in college football in Dorial Green-Beckham. "DGB" finished just ninth in the SEC in receiving but exploded in the SEC championship game with 144 receiving yards and two touchdowns. He also had four touchdown catches in one game earlier in the season. If Gilbert can take away Missouri’s top downfield threat, the rest of the Oklahoma State defense can zero in on stopping running back Henry Josey and pressuring quarterback James Franklin.

Gilbert has made himself quite a bit of future money by coming back to school for what has been a banner senior season. He could make even more blanketing the physical, 6-foot-6 Green-Beckham.

Oklahoma receiver/returner Jalen Saunders

Allstate Sugar Bowl vs. Alabama

In many ways, the Sooners don’t match up well with Alabama, which was on track to advance to a fourth national championship game in five seasons before a dramatic loss to Auburn in the Iron Bowl.

But Oklahoma does have an X factor in Saunders, whose versatile playmaking could keep the two-touchdown underdog Sooners in the game.

In the upset victory over Oklahoma State that pushed Oklahoma into the Sugar, Saunders had a 61-yard punt return touchdown, a 37-yard reverse rush that set up another score and a game-winning, 7-yard touchdown grab in the corner of the end zone with 19 seconds remaining.

If Saunders can also pull off big plays on special teams and reel in clutch receptions, Oklahoma just might be able to hang around with the Crimson Tide.

Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl vs. Central Florida

In the summer, Seastrunk declared he was "going to win the Heisman" this season. While Seastrunk rushed for more than 1,000 yards and Baylor led the nation in offense, Seastrunk didn’t have the kind of individual season he had gunned for, due in part to a midseason groin strain.

Will that prompt Seastrunk to come back for his senior season, or will the Fiesta be his final college game? According to ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper, Seastrunk grades out somewhere around a third-round pick. The Fiesta could be a chance for Seastrunk to improve his stock.

Or it could be a chance for him to build toward a more serious Heisman campaign in 2014.

Texas Tech quarterback Michael Brewer

National University Holiday Bowl vs. Arizona State

The ongoing Texas Tech quarterback competition was reduced by one last week, when freshman Baker Mayfield elected to transfer. That could open the door for Brewer to finally regain a stranglehold on the position.

Brewer was the offseason favorite to win the job. Then, he suffered a summer back injury and, after returning to practice in October, was never able to shake off enough rust to catch up with Mayfield and Davis Webb.

These bowl practices, however, should give Brewer plenty of snaps to return to form, and if he gets the starting nod over Webb, he could take the job for good with a solid showing against Arizona State.

Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl vs. Michigan

The junior college transfer was one of the most improved players in the Big 12 from beginning to end. After struggling during the nonconference and early portion of the league schedule, Waters helped fuel K-State’s surge the second half of the season. In fact, in the Wildcats’ only loss (Oklahoma) after Oct. 12, Waters still passed for 348 yards and three touchdowns.

The Wildcats will need another big game out of Waters against Michigan. They’ll also need him to take care of the ball, too. The Wolverines have been up and down defensively, but with 17 interceptions, they feature one of the better ball-hawking defensive backfields in the country.

Big 12 bowl roundtable

December, 12, 2013
12/12/13
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Now that the ink is dry on the bowl schedule, the Big 12 team offers up some first impressions on the Big 12's bowl games:

Most intriguing game?

Jake Trotter: Kansas State-Michigan could end up being a wild shootout in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, and the AT&T Cotton Bowl features two evenly matched, high-quality teams in Oklahoma State and Missouri. But anytime you can get two of the most storied programs together on the same field, it automatically becomes very intriguing. Even if the Alabama is a two-touchdown favorite over Oklahoma in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Brandon Chatmon: Oklahoma against Alabama in a BCS game? Sign me up! Nobody thinks the Sooners have a chance, and they might not. But these two tradition-rich programs don’t meet often and there’s a bunch of prideful people in both locker rooms who will want to represent their conferences well. OSU-Missouri is interesting, Texas-Oregon should be fun but nothing tops a meeting between two of the winningest college football programs of all time.

Max Olson: Oklahoma State-Missouri in the Cotton Bowl. I’m sorry, I can’t choose the Sugar Bowl, because the Sooners have no chance in that game. The Big 12 realignment storylines aside, OSU-Mizzou is just a really nice pairing of balanced teams who are both BCS bowl-caliber. In fact, both would’ve been playing in BCS bowls had they not suffered losses last weekend. And Dorial Green-Beckham vs. Justin Gilbert should be worth the price of admission.

Least intriguing game?

Trotter: Even though it’s a double-digit underdog in three of its six bowl games, the Big 12 doesn’t have a game that’s not intriguing. But I’m not sure Central Florida can hang with Baylor in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, which could end up resembling the Oklahoma-UConn siesta of 2010.

Chatmon: Watching Baylor is never boring. Yet their Fiesta Bowl matchup with UCF sits at the bottom of the list of games that will make you want grab a seat and some popcorn with the knowledge you’re going to see a battle. The Bears offense is explosive and fun to watch but things could get out of hand if Bryce Petty and Co. are operating as efficiently as they have for the majority of the season.

Olson: Kansas State-Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. The obvious answer is probably the Fiesta Bowl, but Blake Bortles and UCF could make that one interesting. Michigan has lost four of its last five and that lone victory came in triple OT against Northwestern. Kansas State probably has to like this matchup and its chances of getting its first bowl win since 2002.

Of Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech, who has the best chance of pulling an upset?

Trotter: It would be great if the Longhorns could send Mack Brown out with a win over Oregon, but I just don’t see enough points in the Texas offense. I’m not sure Tech can slow down Arizona State, either. So I’ll go with Oklahoma. Who knows what’s going on with Nick Saban, and it’s possible Alabama isn’t as locked in for this game having gotten knocked out of the national title game in the Iron Bowl.

Chatmon: The Red Raiders will have the best shot because beating Arizona State isn’t the same task as bringing down Oregon or Alabama, two teams that have cemented themselves among the nation’s top 10 for the past few seasons. Texas Tech is coming off a five-game losing streak to end the year but still features an explosive offense with the potential to create problems for any defense. And Kliff Kingsbury will have a creative trick or two up his sleeve.

Olson: Texas Tech. The other two games are such mismatches that I have to go with the Red Raiders, even despite their five-game slide. If any Big 12 team needed a month off to regroup, review and improve, it’s Tech. We saw what Kliff Kingsbury did to Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl last year when given several weeks to prep. If he can get the quarterback situation figured out and Matt Wallerstedt can get his defense to defend the run much better, an upset wouldn’t shock me.

Player to watch?

Trotter: The only way Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State was with big plays from Jalen Saunders. The only chance the Sooners have against Alabama is if Saunders can pull off more big plays, both at receiver and in the kicking game. He is OU’s best chance in this game.

Chatmon: Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert. How could you not be looking forward to watching Gilbert take on Missouri’s receivers, particularly Dorial Green-Beckham ? The Cowboys senior has played like an elite corner this season and DBG is emerging as the type of receiver everyone expected him to be when he was one of the nation’s top recruits in the Class of 2012. Basically, it’s an opportunity to watch two future NFL players compete on one of college football’s top stages.

Olson: Baylor RB Lache Seastrunk. Of all the Big 12 players going bowling, it’s Seastrunk and Jace Amaro I’ll be watching because both could opt to go pro early after one final game. Seastrunk will be 100 percent healthy by January, Baylor won’t be afraid to run it 60 times if it’s working (remember the UCLA game last year?) and a huge game on this stage could help his draft stock and sway him to enter the draft. If he comes back, it’s huge for the Bears and for the Big 12.

Big 12 Week 15: Did you know?

December, 6, 2013
12/06/13
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It's the final regular season edition of stats and tidbits courtesy of ESPN Stats and Information and various SIDs around the conference. Did you know …
  • Oklahoma State quarterback Clint Chelf has sparked the Cowboys offense. In Chelf’s last five starts, the Cowboys have averaged 47.8 points per game and have outscored opponents by 28.4 points per game.
  • Chelf completed 9-of-13 passes thrown 15 yards or longer against Baylor. His nine completions and 278 yards on such passes were the most by a Big 12 player this season.
  • Chelf has had an FBS-high 94.4 opponent-adjusted QBR since Nov. 1. During that time, Oklahoma State defeated three opponents ranked in the top 25 of the BCS standings and Chelf has been responsible for 15 touchdowns and 305.8 total yards per game.
  • Oklahoma State has scored a touchdown on 92 percent of its red-zone drives in the last five games, third best in the FBS since the start of Week 9. From Weeks 1-8, the Cowboys scored a touchdown on 64.5 percent of their red-zone opportunities, 51st among FBS teams.
  • Oklahoma State has nine interceptions on passes thrown 15 yards or longer, tied with Kansas State for most in the Big 12.
  • On Saturday, Oklahoma State is looking to win its 51st game in five years.
  • OSU can finish undefeated at home for just the 12th time in school history and improve to 18-1 in its last 19 games at Boone Pickens Stadium.
  • OSU has scored 20 or more points in 50 straight games, a streak that started at the beginning of the 2010 season. It’s the longest active streak in the country.
  • OSU has won or tied the turnover battle in 19 of its last 22 games and has forced at least one turnover in its last 19 contests.
  • OSU’s undefeated November was its first since 1945 when the Cowboys went 9-0 and won the Sugar Bowl.
  • OSU outscored opponents 181-70 in November, earning wins over three ranked teams in the process (Texas Tech, Texas, Baylor).
  • Oklahoma has a Big 12-low 60 missed tackles this season, 11 fewer than any other Big 12 team.
  • Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is 7-1 in head-to-head meetings with Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy.
  • OU is looking to score 40 points for three straight games for the first time this season. The Sooners averaging 31.7 points per game after averaging 38.2 points per game in 2012.
  • OU’s defense has allowed 10 points and 33 rushing yards in its last two games combined (wins over Iowa State and Kansas State).
  • OU is 4-0 when senior running back Brennan Clay rushes for 100 yards or more.
  • With a win the Sooners would join Alabama, Oregon and Stanford as teams from BCS conferences with four straight seasons with at least 10 wins.
  • OU is 11-3 in December under Stoops.
  • The Sooners are 12-8 on the road against ranked opponents under Stoops.
  • OU is 38-7-5 all-time against OSU in Stillwater.
  • OU and OSU are the Big 12’s winningest teams in conference play since 2008. OU is 38-12 while OSU is 37-13.
  • The Texas-Baylor series dates back to 1901 and Saturday’s meeting will be the 103rd battle between the two teams.
  • Texas coach Mack Brown is 13-2 against Baylor.
  • UT has allowed 3.4 yards per carry in its last eight games after allowing seven yards per carry to BYU and Ole Miss earlier this season.
  • UT has 14 seasons of eight or more wins during 15 seasons under Brown. The Longhorns had six seasons of eight or more wins in the previous 15 years.
  • UT has scored 30 or more points in seven of its last eight games.
  • This year’s UT-BU matchup is the first time both teams are ranked since 1990.
  • UT has held Baylor to 14 points or fewer in 9 of 15 meetings under Brown.
  • Baylor has 26 touchdowns on drives that lasted 1 minute or less, six more than any other team. However, the Bears only have one such touchdown in their past two games.
  • Even with its recent struggles, Baylor’s offense leads the nation in total offense (635.1 yards per game), scoring (55.4 points per game) and passing yards per completion (17.81).
  • Baylor will wear Nike retro uniforms to honor the first team to play in Floyd Casey Stadium against Texas. It is the final game at Floyd Casey, where the Bears are 190-146-5 all-time.
  • Baylor leads the FBS in plays (53) and touchdowns (28) of 30 yards or longer.
  • BU running back Lache Seastrunk has made it at least 5 yards past the line of scrimmage before first contact on 36 percent of his rushes, the highest percentage among AQ running backs with at least 75 carries.
  • Bryce Petty has 25 completions on passes thrown 25 yards or longer, five more than any other AQ quarterback. He also leads all AQ quarterbacks with 13 touchdowns on such passes.
  • In conference play, Texas’ opponents have had a 35.9 Total QBR, tied for second best in the Big 12. In nonconference games, Texas’ opponents have had a 78.0 Total QBR, worst in the Big 12.
  • BU is looking to close Floyd Casey with a 10th straight win at home, a school record.
  • BU is 14-2 in November and December since 2011.
  • The Bears are looking to win their third game in four seasons against UT for the first time since 1988-91.
  • Baylor’s starting defense has allowed 26 touchdowns in 11 games.
  • Baylor is fifth in the FBS and second in the Big 12 with 8.1 tackles for loss per game.
  • BU has converted 79 of 165 third down conversion attempts (47.9 percent), ranking No. 16 nationally and No. 1 in the Big 12.
  • Petty set a program record with 229 pass attempts without an interception until throwing one against TCU. Robert Griffin III was the previous record holder with 209.
  • Petty needs one game of 200 passing yards or more to break Griffin’s single season record of 12 set in 2011.
  • BU receiver Antawn Goodley needs one more touchdown catch to move into sole possession of second place on the single season list. He’ll tie Kendall Wright’s 14 with two more touchdown catches.
  • AP Top 25 teams are 0-5 at Floyd Casey Stadium during the past three seasons.
  • Baylor has the longest home win streak in the conference, having won nine straight in Waco.

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