Texas Longhorns: Big 12

Big 12 lunchtime links

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
12:00
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Played pick-up basketball last night... and lost all six games.
  • Texas coach Charlie Strong is a little too honest for his fanbase, in the opinion of the Dallas Morning News' Kevin Sherrington. The paper's Chuck Carlton got a one-on-one video interview with Strong.
  • The naming of Montell Cozart as Kansas' starting QB was all about timing, writes the Lawrence Journal-World's Matt Tait.
  • Baylor is relishing its role as the defending Big 12 champs.
  • TCU defensive end Devonte Fields has returned better than ever, writes Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Lindy Berry, a former TCU All-American QB, passed away at 86.
  • Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads wants a starting quarterback named by mid-August, reports the Ames Tribune's Bobby La Gesse.
  • The Kansas State running back competition continues, according to the Manhattan Mercury's Joshua Kinder. The Wildcats are looking for more out of linebacker Charmeachealle Moore, writes the Topeka Capital-Journal's Ken Corbitt.
  • Oklahoma lost another commitment, its second in the last week. The Sooners are hoping to land this blue-chip kicker. An Alabama transfer offensive lineman chose Ohio State over Oklahoma. Bob Stoops weighs in on whether transfer QB Baker Mayfield will be on scholarship.
  • West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen is a fan of the NCAA’s graduate transfer rule, but wonders if it's going to be reformed, reports Dave Hickman of the Charleston Gazette. Allan Taylor of the West Virginia MetroNews Network addresses whether the Mountaineers receiving corps can regain its swagger.
  • Coach Kliff Kingsbury said incoming freshman Patrick Mahomes is likely to be Texas Tech's No. 2 QB behind starter Davis Webb.
  • Big 12 coaches don't see players as employees, The Oklahoman's Jason Kersey reports.
  • Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy sees the College Football Playoff eventually going to eight teams, according to the Austin American-Statesman's Kevin Lyttle. Gundy also thinks college football is becoming more time consuming for players, reports the Tulsa World's Kelly Hines.
  • The Dallas Morning News wraps up spring ball for Baylor, Oklahoma, TCU, Texas and Texas Tech.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Calling Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes’ performance in the Orange-White spring game “inconsistent” or “up-and-down” doesn’t suffice. It’s too simplistic a summation of what was really a tale of two performances.

So we reviewed the film. Here’s a closer look at the plays that stood out from the second-year QB’s critical day.

The bad

[+] EnlargeTyrone Swoopes
AP Photo/Michael ThomasQB Tyrone Swoopes showed flashes of his incredible talent, but was inconsistent in the Orange-White game.
We have to start off here only because of Swoopes’ rocky start. Facing a second-team defense, his first four drives as Texas’ QB went like this: Interception, punt, three-and-out and a missed field goal after three plays netted zero yards.

His only first-quarter completion was a screen pass. So was his second completion of the day. When Shawn Watson appeared for a quick in-game interview on Longhorn Network, he admitted Swoopes had “a little deer-in-the-headlights look” early on.

In fairness, his offensive line should take some of the blame for his early mistakes. Desmond Harrison ignored defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway on Swoopes’ first dropback, leading to an 11-yard sack. In a real game, Swoopes would’ve been flattened on that one.

On the next snap, right tackle Kennedy Estelle didn’t slow down a blitz from the slot by Naashon Hughes, who got good pressure. Dalton Santos did an impressive job of dropping back deep into coverage, leading Swoopes to try throwing the pass high. It sailed past his receiver and into walk-on Dylan Haines' arms.

Swoopes got oh-so-close on two potential touchdown balls to Jaxon Shipley. On the first, Shipley beat Chevoski Collins for an easy third-down TD over the middle if the pass was even chest-high. Instead, another overthrow that seemed more a product of Swoopes’ footwork.

He had a heck of a throw later when Shipley was fading to the right corner of the end zone. Swoopes put it in the perfect spot, right where Bryson Echols and Adrian Colbert had no chance to make a play, but just one yard too far from Shipley’s outstretched hands.

One more play to note, because it came right before Swoopes started to get rolling: The ugly conversion on fourth and 4 in the second quarter. Texas lined up in a power set with two tight ends and a fullback and went with a play-action pass that was well-protected.

But Swoopes looked right and didn’t find what he wanted. So he rolled left and fired a pass off his back foot. He was fortunate Shipley broke off his comeback route toward the sideline. The sophomore QB fit the pass into traffic for a difficult but important completion.

The response from Watson? Screaming. He threw down his headset and ripped into Swoopes, presumably for making the wrong look off the run fake and turning a tricky play into a much more difficult one.

The good

From there, Swoopes got better. Texas found the end zone three plays after the fourth-down pass to Shipley. Then, after a quick takeaway from the No. 1 defense, came the play that turned the tide for Swoopes.

He rolled to the right and all the way to the sideline on the final play of the first half. With Caleb Bluiett in close pursuit, Swoopes loaded up and fired a pass off his back foot that traveled at least 50 yards. The diminutive Daje Johnson pulled it down in a crowd of three defenders.

That, in one shiny nutshell, is what you can get when Swoopes’ raw tools are put to good use. A lucky completion, obviously, but one that still requires a cannon.

The Texas coaches were wise to simplify from there. Swoopes got in a zone by hitting some easy stuff, comebacks and passes over the middle and two bootleg passes to tight end Geoff Swaim. It’s also good vanilla ball for a spring game on TV.

Swoopes ended his day with a magnificent throw. Clean drop, looked off a safety, made the right read and threw a perfect ball that fluttered nearly 45 yards to Shipley. He pulled it down in between Collins and Colbert and finished for the score.

That gave Swoopes reason to celebrate. He watched, waited, even leaned in as he watched the ball. When he knew it was good, he threw up his hands and let out a shout. Plays like that build confidence, no matter the setting.

The unknown

There’s a lot more work to be done here. Watson will work with Swoopes on his mechanics this summer, though he says those fixes won’t need to be significant. He’ll get stronger -- though the physical tools are all there -- and he’ll spend a lot of time studying the scheme the summer.

But how far Swoopes advances by the end of summer and into fall camp will depend on what he puts in. With Jerrod Heard and, potentially, Max Wittek arriving in the summer, and David Ash returning from his foot fracture, reps with the No. 1 offense won’t be handed to Swoopes by default like they were over the final week of spring ball.

This isn’t to say Swoopes will be some forgotten man. Not at all. But if he wants to seriously contend for the job this fall, he’s going to have to master this offense and outwork everyone else.

If his rally on Saturday means anything, perhaps it’s this: Don’t count him out just yet.
Baylor coach Art Briles finally got his chance Tuesday to respond to Texas linebacker Steve Edmond's rantings against Baylor.

Three days after Edmond told reporters after the Orange-White spring game that, among other things, "I really don't like Baylor. I still think they're trash," Baylor's head coach offered a response that was predictably diplomatic.

[+] EnlargeArt Briles
AP Photo/LM OteroCoach Art Briles and Baylor have won three out of four games against the Longhorns.
"I’m not aware of anything he had to say," Briles said in his Big 12 teleconference appearance. "Hard for me to comment on something I’m not aware of."

When a reporter further clarified that Edmond said he considers Baylor "trash," Briles didn't bite.

“Well that’s all right," he said. "Shoot, everybody's entitled to their opinion."

The senior linebacker's post-spring game comments evoked a big response from Baylor players and fans on social media, and no doubt gave Briles and his coaching staff perfect bulletin board material for when BU takes on Texas in Austin on Oct. 4.

Briles didn't think much of Edmond's complaint about how much the Bears celebrated their 30-10 victory over Texas last December. He has been in those shoes before.

"I wasn't particularly pleased at some of the places we weren't victorious, either," Briles said. "Our cause for celebration that game was for two reasons: winning the Big 12 and closing down Floyd Casey Stadium. I'm not going to spend a lot of time being protective of somebody's comments about our program when they don't understand it."

Edmond wasn't reprimanded by Texas for his largely unprovoked comments about Baylor, at least not publicly, but first-year coach Charlie Strong was disappointed by Edmond's comments.

"You know how kids are, they get so emotional and wrapped up in the game," Strong said on the teleconference. "But he's got to be smarter than that. I have a lot of respect for Coach Briles. He's done an unbelievable job at Baylor. Right now, that's the way it is. We haven't beaten Baylor."

Briles does have the scoreboard on his side. Baylor was won three of its last four against Texas, with two of those victories coming by 20-plus point margins. Sure seems like he has won the war of words with Edmond, too.

Big 12's lunch links

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
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The Grizzlies eventually won, but this shot was insane.
This week's "Take Two" topic: Who will be Texas’ starting quarterback in the Longhorns’ Aug. 30 opener against North Texas?

Take 1: Max Olson -- David Ash

[+] EnlargeDavid Ash
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesIf David Ash can stay healthy, he's Texas' best option at quarterback for 2014.
When is the last time we saw David Ash at his best?

There are two correct answers: Either the second half of the 2013 opener against New Mexico State (a team that would go 2-10), or the second half of the 2012 Valero Alamo Bowl to rally past Oregon State.

Texas fans have been clinging to those fleeting flashes of brilliance for, what, eight months now? Those quarters are some of the best evidence that, when everything is clicking, Ash can operate a tempo offense with confidence and creativity.

But he has to do it for four quarters and 12 games if he wants to hold on to Texas’ starting quarterback job.

I don’t doubt that, barring another injury, Ash will be the guy behind center when the Longhorns open their season. He did enough this spring in nearly a dozen practices to show Charlie Strong and quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson he’s the right quarterback to bet on.

The foot fracture Ash is recovering from now is a poorly timed setback, no question, and it prompts skeptics to point out Ash has now dealt with three troubling injuries (broken ribs, concussions, foot fracture) in less than two years.

An Ash optimist would point out this: As a true sophomore in 2012, he was a top-25 passer by QBR and efficiency standards. And, really, it won’t be easy for another QB to surpass him. Tyrone Swoopes should redshirt. Jerrod Heard is better off doing the same. That leaves potential transfer Max Wittek, who’d face three months of catching up this summer, to learn the offense.

As long as Ash doesn’t eliminate himself from the race with another injury, you only need that process of elimination to see it’s still his job to lose.

Take 2: Jake Trotter – Max Wittek

I don’t deny Ash has talent. But after missing an entire season due to lingering concussion issues, then most of a spring with a fractured foot, I’m skeptical of Ash’s long-term health. And that’s why I’m going another direction.

Swoopes showed in the spring game that he’s not ready to be the starting quarterback at Texas, even with a decent finish after a disastrous start. Heard is loaded with potential, but he’s going to be a true freshman.

That leaves USC transfer Max Wittek, who visited the Austin campus for a third time over the weekend, suggesting a decision to ink with the Longhorns could be imminent. Wittek will graduate from USC in May and will be eligible immediately wherever he decides to go. He has two seasons of eligibility remaining.

Wittek might not be Bobby Layne, but given Ash’s injuries, Swoopes’ lack of polish and Heard’s complete inexperience, Wittek could very well be the best option for Strong’s maiden voyage.

Big 12 recruiting update: 2015

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
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With spring football all wrapped up, college coaches are back on the road recruiting from now until May 31. Here’s an update on where the Big 12 classes stand entering the spring evaluation period. Also, remember to check out the RecruitingNation team and follow the On the Trail blog:

BAYLOR

4-star: WR John Humphrey Jr.; WR Devontre Stricklin; ATH Louis Brown; WR Chad President; RB Ja’Mycal Hasty; ATH Blake Lynch

3-star: OT Sam Tecklenburg

Other: OT Maurice Porter

The skinny: Baylor’s class is ranked No. 15 nationally, and no program in this conference has more ESPN 300 commitments than BU’s six. Hasty and Humphrey are perfect fits for what the Bears do on offense, and Humphrey might be the fastest prospect in the state of Texas. After loading up on offensive talent, expect some defensive pledges in the next few months.

IOWA STATE

4-star: None

3-star: None

Other: OLB Bobby McMillen

The skinny: More than two months after landing McMillen, the Cyclones have yet to add a second pledge.

KANSAS

4-star: None

3-star: None

Other: None

The skinny: Kansas hosted plenty of recruits this spring, but still no verbal commitments so far.

KANSAS STATE

4-star: None

3-star: QB Alex Delton

Other: None

The skinny: Delton remains the only pledge in this class, but he’s a good one. ESPN scouts praise his athleticism and instincts but want to see him make some mechanical fixes before he gets on KSU’s campus.

OKLAHOMA

4-star: DT Marquise Overton; TE Bobby Evans; S Jamile Johnson Jr.

3-star: DT Du’Vonta Lampkin

Other: None

The skinny: Oklahoma’s post-Sugar Bowl recruiting moment took a hit when ESPN 300 lineman Joshua Wariboko decommitted last week, but the Sooners are still in the running for him as well as some of the best prospects in Oklahoma and Texas. Wariboko wants to play in college with his younger brother, 2016 CB Max Wariboko, so it might take offering both to get the offensive guard back on board.

OKLAHOMA STATE

4-star: RB Ronald Jones II; QB John Kolar; OG Johnny Wilson

3-star: DT Taaj Bakari

Other: None

The skinny: The newly released ESPN 300 was very friendly to the Cowboys. Jones chose OSU this month over Baylor, Oklahoma, Oregon, Ohio State, USC and Notre Dame, and he’s now ranked No. 3 among all running back prospects. Kolar was a huge riser in the rankings and is now the nation’s No. 3 pocket passer. Bakari, the most recent pledge, was a nice interior addition.

TCU

4-star: None

3-star: WR Tony James; WR Jarrison Stewart; OLB Alec Dunham; DE Breylin Mitchell

Other: DT Joseph Broadnax; WR J.F. Thomas; ILB Semaj Thomas; ATH Tre’Vontae Hights; OT Cody Ford

The skinny: TCU is off to a really nice start with nine commitments, highlighted by pledges from four future receivers. That’s just what the Frogs’ new offense needs. James might be one of the most underrated athletes in Texas, but the same could be said of several of these recruits. Considering this staff’s reputation for talent evaluation, don’t be shocked if a few of these TCU commits end up as four-stars when it’s all said and done.

TEXAS

4-star: S DeShon Elliott; OT Toby Weathersby; OG Patrick Vahe; RB Tristian Houston; RB Jordan Stevenson; OT Ronnie Major

3-star: DT Bryce English; RB Kirk Johnson; DE Charles Omenihu

Other: CB Keivon Ramsey

The skinny: The Longhorns are now in great shape at running back after landing Houston and Johnson in the same week, and Johnson’s coveted younger brother, 2016 WR Collin Johnson, also committed last week. Ramsey made his pledge at the spring game and is another hard hitter for the secondary. Texas would have 12 commitments now, but early pledges CB Jalen Campbell and S Johnny Shaw were taken off the list and will get a chance to re-earn their offers in summer camp.

TEXAS TECH

4-star: QB Jarrett Stidham; DT Breiden Fehoko

3-star: None

Other: ILB D’Vonta Hinton; RB Corey Dauphine; OT Trace Ellison; OG Lio Lafaele

The skinny: Landing Stidham was huge, but Fehoko is another top-50 recruit who followed in his brother’s footsteps and will work hard to recruit for this class. He can play anywhere on a defensive line. Even at 5-foot-10, Hinton is one of the state’s most talented linebackers. The Red Raiders have a chance to put together one of their best classes in a long time.

WEST VIRGINIA

4-star: WR Jovon Durante; S Kendrell McFadden

3-star: ATH Jordan Adams; ATH Jacquez Adams; WR Kahlil Lewis; RB William Cameron; OG Matt Jones; Stone Wolfley

Other: S Kevin Williams; S Sheldrick Redwine

The skinny: Thanks to its efforts in Florida, WVU is off to an excellent start with this 10-man class. The tricky part will be holding on to some of these recruits, especially Durante. The No. 120 overall recruit visited Alabama this weekend and reportedly came very close to committing. That flip could be coming soon unless the Mountaineers coaching staff can convince him to stay put.

Big 12's lunch links

April, 21, 2014
Apr 21
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A great moment.

Spring game review: Texas

April, 21, 2014
Apr 21
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas finished its first spring under new coach Charlie Strong with its annual Orange-White spring game on Saturday. The two-hour scrimmage was won by Texas' first-team offense 38-14, and while Tyrone Swoopes' up-and-down showing stole most of the attention, here are a few more takeaways from the Longhorns' spring finale:

[+] EnlargeTyrone Swoopes
AP Photo/Michael ThomasTyrone Swoopes should improve as he gains confidence.
Best offensive performance: With only one other scholarship back available, you knew Malcolm Brown was in for a big workload. He kicked off his critical senior season with a solid day, picking up 82 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries and adding 26 yards and another score on two screen passes. Texas will need Johnathan Gray (torn Achilles) healthy and Joe Bergeron (academics) back if this run game is going to lead the way, but Brown could be poised for an All-Big 12 caliber season if he stays healthy.

Best defensive performance: Strong didn't need to watch any film to know who stood out on his defense on Saturday. Defensive tackle Malcom Brown was a "handful," in his eyes, and that was obvious to everyone in attendance. The junior lineman racked up five tackles, one tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry, and he spent plenty of time in the backfield. "When he wants to play," Strong said, "he can create a lot of havoc and can make plays."

Best debut: Not many candidates for this, since Texas had just three early enrollees, so let's give a little love to a walk-on. Dylan Haines is a name most Longhorns fans had never heard entering Saturday, but the defensive back stole the show in the first quarter by intercepting Swoopes' overthrown first pass attempt and returning it 23 yards. Haines, a second-year scout team player in 2013, was rewarded for his big play with reps on Texas' first-team defense.

Notable play: Swoopes' best play of the day was his last. He took a low snap midway through the fourth quarter, faked a handoff and hurled a deep ball to Jaxon Shipley, fitting it in perfectly between defensive backs Chevoski Collins and Adrian Colbert. Shipley pulled it down over his shoulder for a 44-yard touchdown, giving Swoopes plenty to smile about after a frustrating start to the day. The pass was by far the best Swoopes has thrown in his first year of action and, to some extent, an encouraging sign he's not afraid to take shots downfield.

Developing storyline: Texas has a chance to have one of the Big 12's better offensive lines this fall under the guidance of Joe Wickline, but this summer and fall camp will be critical toward fortifying that line and establishing needed depth. The mammoth Desmond Harrison must continue to develop at left tackle after a rough 2013 season. Kennedy Estelle and the injured Kent Perkins can become some of UT's best linemen in time. And the battle at right guard, between Taylor Doyle and Rami Hammad, isn't over. Wickline will start his five best, and that five should reveal itself over the next few months.

Biggest question answered: Is Swoopes the heir apparent at quarterback for Texas? He showed flashes in the spring game, particularly in the second half, but he never faced a first-team defense Saturday and his play early on served as a reminder why a redshirt would have been the right move last fall. Shawn Watson is encouraged by his potential and still has plenty to teach him this summer and beyond. Swoopes has raw tools and will get better as he gets more confident, but his coaches and fans should stay patient.

Quotable: "When you look at the level of concern, you look at today and you go out and say defensively you would like to play a lot better and get stops and make sure you don't allow teams to just consistently drive the football on you. Then on offense it is all about executing, but that is going to come with focus and with preparation. What happens is that the players understand what we are looking for and what we are all about. So once we understand that, things are going to get much better because they believe in the system. When they trust and believe in the system, then we are always going to have a chance." -- Strong
We've been doing something different with the mailbag, including Twitter questions with the regular mailbag submissions. To submit a mailbag entry via Twitter, simply include the hashtag #big12mailbag. You also still can send in questions the traditional way here, too.

To the 'bag...

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

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

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

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

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

Trotter: That's a tough question. It was startling how much the K-State defense suffered when Ty Zimmerman wasn't on the field last year, but I have faith Dante Barnett is ready to assume a leadership role in that secondary and stabilize the defense. I have less faith right now in K-State's running backs. So far this spring, no one has really emerged from a crop of backs with almost no meaningful experience. The K-State attack has always been predicated on a strong running game, so this is no small issue. Maybe freshman Dalvin Warmack can jumpstart the position when he arrives this summer. But running back looks like the biggest question on a solid-looking team with not many questions elsewhere.

Spring game preview: Texas

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
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AUSTIN, Texas -- The first Texas football game of the Charlie Strong era will look a lot more like a practice.

The Longhorns hit the field this weekend for the first time since Strong arrived. Even though fans can expect a more scrimmage-like approach to the annual Orange-White spring game, there will be plenty worth keeping an eye on.

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Where: Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium

[+] EnlargeTyrone Swoopes
Matthew Visinsky/Icon SMISophomore QB Tyrone Swoopes will get a chance to work with the No. 1 offense in a game setting Saturday.
What to watch for:

  • Swoopes' confidence: The last time we saw Tyrone Swoopes in action, he looked like a flustered freshman (he was, in fact, a freshman) trying his hardest not to mess up amid a beatdown from Oregon in the Valero Alamo Bowl. He wasn't afraid to take some shots, and he scrambled for a 28-yard gain, but all in all it was a tough ask for a first-year QB who still had a lot to learn. With David Ash sidelined, Swoopes gets a chance to run the No. 1 offense in the spring game and show how far he has come in 14 practices with Shawn Watson, Texas' new quarterbacks coach. Watson is enthusiastic about the sophomore's future and praises his work as a student of the game, but this is a chance to see how well he can execute with a crowd watching and a No. 1 defense coming after him. Strong says the key to Swoopes' play is confidence and playing within himself. Everyone in attendance on Saturday will want to see if he can do just that.
  • New-look defense: This is going to be a vanilla ballgame on both sides of the ball. Both coordinators acknowledged that after their final practice Thursday. Why give up the good stuff when any Big 12 opponent can DVR the game on Longhorn Network and pick it apart? Even fiery defensive coordinator Vance Bedford will show restraint. But how he lines this defense up, both in scheme and personnel, will be intriguing. Texas coaches say this will be a multiple defense capable of lining up in 4-3 or 3-4, and you could see a little bit of both on Saturday. No, the defenders can't touch Swoopes. But you better believe Bedford will demand they get after him and put up a fight.
  • Playmakers on the outside: The hype is building for this Longhorns receiving corps, and their coaches have had nothing but good things to say about a group that must make up for the loss of deep threat Mike Davis. Nobody will be surprised if Marcus Johnson is the breakout player of the spring game. He's a star in the making. Jaxon Shipley, Kendall Sanders, Daje Johnson and Jacorey Warrick are all said to have had a big spring as well, and don't be shocked if you see tight end Geoff Swaim do some things in the passing game after primarily serving as a blocker in 2013.
  • Rising returnees: A new coaching staff means a clean slate for these Longhorns, and that means a fresh start for players who either weren't playing or were underperforming. The differences will be far more noticeable by August after a long summer of lifting and drills, but there will be some new standouts on Saturday. Guys such as safety Mykkele Thompson, offensive guard Taylor Doyle and linebacker Tim Cole have made an impression on the new staff and could do so again this weekend. Or perhaps it'll be someone nobody else is talking about, like how Duke Thomas caught everyone's eyes last year.
  • New sheriff in town: It's going to be a little strange to see someone other than Mack Brown on that sideline, isn't it? You know plenty of Texas fans will have their eyes on Strong for a glimpse of how he operates in a game setting and what he bring to the Texas sideline. You know the 100-plus recruits in attendance will care about that, too. For all the talk about how Strong is a stern coach out to lay down the law and whip the Longhorns into shape, let's see him have a little fun on Saturday.

Big 12 lunchtime links

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
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NBA playoffs start this weekend. This should get you ready for the fun!
Today is a minor holiday for recruitniks: The newest edition of the ESPN 300 recruiting rankings have been released, along with a slew of other grades and evaluations.

It's always a big-time endeavor for the ESPN crew of scouts, so be sure to click HERE for the ESPN 300 rankings.

Several of today's updates to the ESPN 300 affect the Big 12. Here's a closer look at what you should take away from the rankings:
  • Oklahoma State quarterback commit John Kolar enjoyed an incredible jump, going from unranked to the nation's No. 3 pocket passer. He's now ranked No. 82 overall in the ESPN 300. The Norman (Okla.) North senior-to-be impressed filling in for injured Alabama signee David Cornwell last year, and he has wowed our scouts as well.
  • What a killer start for Baylor. The Bears have verbal commitments from six high school prospects, and all six made the ESPN 300. The highest ranked of the bunch is WR John Humphrey Jr., who announced his commitment last night. He's one of three ESPN 300 receivers in the class, joining Devontre Stricklin and Chad President. The Bears signed four ESPN 300 recruits in last year's class, and three the previous year, so this is quite the jump. With Baylor high on the list of several other ESPN 300 prospects, including WR DaMarkus Lodge (No. 63 in ESPN 300) and DE James Lockhart (No. 113), there's a good chance this class ends up being the best in the Big 12 when it's all said and done.
  • Texas now has verbal commitments from five ESPN 300 recruits: S DeShon Elliott (No. 94), OT Toby Weathersby (No. 138), OG Patrick Vahe (No. 171), new RB commit Tristian Houston (No. 208) and RB Jordan Stevenson (No. 296). The Longhorns are in the mix for more than 30 ESPN 300 prospects and have offered several more elite out-of-state recruits. Texas has some real momentum under new coach Charlie Strong at the moment, and it's possible more than 10 uncommitted ESPN 300 prospects visits Austin this week for the spring game.
  • The state of Oklahoma has five prospects in the ESPN 300, and nearly all of them could end up being Sooners. OU already has verbal pledges from DT Marquise Overton (No. 150) and OG Joshua Wariboko (No. 190) and is among the leaders for OG Jalin Barnett (No. 36) and S Will Sunderland Jr. (No. 212). And then there's Kolar, who the Sooners could still make a push for over time. Four of Oklahoma's five current pledges are in the ESPN 300.
  • Texas Tech already has two top-50 recruits in QB Jarrett Stidham and DT Breiden Fehoko, and they'll be the lead recruiters of this Red Raiders class. Stidham checks in at No. 37 in the new ESPN 300, which puts him No. 4 among all prospects in Texas, and Fehoko is the nation's No. 7 defensive tackle.
  • It's a great year to find a running back in the state of Texas. Ten of them made the newest ESPN 300, and six have already committed to schools. The top-rated member of the group is Oklahoma State commit Ronald Jones II, the nation's No. 3 running back. Texas already has Houston and Stevenson, Baylor has Ja'Mycal Hasty (No. 274) and Texas A&M has pledges from Rodney Anderson (No. 263) and Jay Bradford (No. 277).
  • West Virginia is off to a great start with the 2015 class thanks to its dedication to recruiting Florida. Two of its verbal commits made the ESPN 300 in WR Jovon Durante (No. 120) and S Kendrell McFadden (No. 153), and half of its 10 pledges come from the Sunshine State. WVU is one of only seven program in the country with double-digit commitments at this point.

ESPN 300: Top Big 12 targets 

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
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The spring evaluation period is upon us, and coaches are traveling and hosting spring games in an effort to evaluate and attract the nation’s elite prospects. Fortunately for coaches, roughly two-thirds of the players making up the 2015 ESPN 300 are still uncommitted. A large majority of those players are considering playing in the Big 12.

Here are five ESPN 300 players heavily targeted by Big 12 schools:


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AUSTIN, Texas -- Charlie Strong tried to play coy. Well, either that or he didn’t understand the question.

The question posed Tuesday was whether the first-year Texas coach can envision a quarterback joining this Longhorns program in the summer and competing for the starting job.

“I don’t know who that would be. You got somebody coming in for me?” Strong said before chuckling. “You got a secret guy coming here for me? We signed one in Jerrod [Heard]. He’s the only one.”

[+] EnlargeTyrone Swoopes
Matthew Visinsky/Icon SMITexas QB Tyrone Swoopes will now run the first-team offense and coach Charlie Strong told him "This is your team and it's up to you to go lead."
This was, of course, a veiled attempt at the question Horns fans have been chewing on for weeks and, in particular, the past five days: Is Max Wittek coming to Texas?

The Longhorns’ need for the former USC quarterback looms large now that David Ash has been lost for the spring. Right now, there’s a whole lot more interest in the three passers who won’t be playing in the Orange-White spring game this Saturday than the trio who will.

Finally recovered from the concussion-related issues that ended his 2013 season early, Ash was poised to once again take control of the Texas offense and he made a strong first impression on his new coaches.

Those efforts got put on hold when UT doctors discovered a fracture in his left foot that required surgery.

“It’s very tough because the injury for him, I don’t know how long he had it, but he said it had been bothering him,” Strong said. “He came in the other day, our trainers checked him and we were able to find out exactly what was wrong.

“You would’ve never known he had the injury with just how well he was practicing and the way he’s been carrying himself. He understands this: A team is going to come and go as its quarterback goes. He wants to be the leader.”

Strong won’t call Ash his clear-cut No. 1 quarterback, at least not publicly, and said he didn’t anticipate naming a starter this spring. That decision will come during fall camp. But Ash had learned the new scheme and terminology, and he’s led the offense before.

With Ash out, Texas is left with three passers for its Saturday scrimmage at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Sophomore Tyrone Swoopes will run the first-team offense. Walk-on Trey Holtz and converted tight end Miles Onyegbule, who prior to this spring hadn’t played QB since 2010, will get the backup snaps.

After the news of Ash’s injury broke, Strong told Swoopes to get ready to roll. This is, for the final week of spring ball, his offense.

“I told Tyrone the key thing for you is it’s all about confidence and it’s all about you just doing everything we ask you to do and play within yourself,” Strong said. “Now that you are the quarterback, just take the field and know this: This is your team and it’s up to you to go lead.”

In his six appearances as Texas quarterback last season, Swoopes played like a freshman. With the exception of three drives in a Valero Alamo Bowl loss to Oregon, the dual-threat quarterback with tantalizing size (6-foot-4, 245 pounds) and intriguing speed wasn’t asked to do much. He was inconsistent in the mop-up minutes he did receive.

Swoopes will remain a project until he gets more comfortable throwing the ball. His legs usually did the job while he thrived in small-town Whitewright, Texas, and he still has plenty to learn about beating Big 12 defenses.

But Strong saw enough last Saturday during a spring scrimmage to be encouraged, calling his performances “outstanding.”

“I don’t know his numbers, but he had really good numbers and threw an unbelievable ball to Marcus [Johnson] down the sideline where he beat one of our defensive backs, laid it out there and it was a big throw,” Strong said. “He did a really good job and he settled in. He took it and had the confidence and just had a different air about him, and did a really good job leading the offense.”

Still, quarterback is atop the list of Strong’s biggest concerns as Texas finishes off its first round of practices. The addition of Wittek, who has taken multiple visits to Austin and is expected to decide in the near future, would alleviate some of the worry.

So would a strong summer from Heard, a two-time state champion at Denton (Texas) Guyer who arrives the first week of June. Strong said he’ll get a chance to win the job like everyone else, but first he’ll have to master his playbook.

Heard will be in the stands on Saturday afternoon, with the thousands of other Longhorns fans. They'll be watching closely for the first round of a Texas quarterback battle, but the truth is, it hasn't even begun.
Even though almost 10 months remain until the next national singing day, teams across the Big 12 have jumped off to fast starts in putting together their 2015 classes.

To catch you up on all the recruiting storylines that have developed so far, we checked in with ESPN.com senior national recruiting writer Jeremy Crabtree and Big 12 recruiting reporter Damon Sayles for their takes:

Which team has impressed you the most with its 2015 recruiting?

Crabtree: With all of the questions West Virginia faced in the offseason and the product the Mountaineers put on the field in 2013, you would think they would be struggling out of the gate with the 2015 class. But it has been the exact opposite. WVU has 10 commitments, including from one of the best receivers in the country, Jovon Durante. West Virginia is selling kids on an opportunity to play early and make a big difference in getting the program back on track. Plus, it has gone back to its roots and mined the very familiar recruiting territory of Florida for some of its best pledges.

Sayles: As much as I like what Texas Tech and TCU have done so far, I have to tip my hat to what West Virginia has accomplished. The Mountaineers have a pair of ESPN Junior 300 players in safety Kendrell McFadden and Durante. The Mountaineers are recruiting the state of Florida well; five of the 10 pledges are from the Sunshine State. West Virginia is off to a fast start, and with the program fresh off a successful spring game, more big-time commits could be coming soon.

Who has disappointed?


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