Seth Russell's stellar spring scrimmage, Texas Tech's Davis Webb, and West Virginia's chances lead the mailbag. As always, thanks for your questions. To submit questions for next week's mailbag, click here.

[+] EnlargeRussell
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsSeth Russell's spring has given Baylor fans every reason to believe a third consecutive title is a real possibility.

Robert in Tulsa writes: How far away was Seth Russell last Friday from Baylor three-peating?

Brandon Chatmon: Russell had a terrific scrimmage for the Bears, no question about it. He left no doubt he won’t give up his starting spot without a fight with 345 passing yards and four touchdowns. I think we saw the reason Baylor should be considered right alongside TCU as the favorites in the Big 12 despite losing Bryce Petty. A three-peat is a definite possibility.

Lillian in Austin, Texas, writes: If the Longhorns are able to figure out the quarterback problem, will they have a shot at the Big 12 Title?

BC: Absolutely. The Longhorns went 5-2 when ending a game with a Total QBR above 50 (which is considered average) in 2014. A good quarterback can cure a lot of ills, and the Longhorns have enough talent in their locker room to join the fight for a Big 12 title if they are getting consistent quarterback play from Tyrone Swoopes, Jerrod Heard or whoever wants to step up.

Michael in Dallas writes: True or false: Kliff Kingsbury continues to favor Davis Webb in order to try and prove that letting Baker Mayfield slip away was the right call?

BC: False. That sounds like a good way to end up searching for a new job. You can’t favor anyone after a 4-8 season. To be clear, I think Patrick Mahomes should be the guy, and ultimately will be the guy, but I don’t think Kingsbury should be handing out jobs to anyone, particularly a young quarterback with four starts under his belt during a bowl-less season.

Omar C. in Flower Mound, Texas, writes: Do you think it would be justifiable if NCAA mandated all Power 5 conferences to play one Power 5 and one Group 5 in their schedules to level the playing a field a little bit?

BC: First off, you’re giving the NCAA more credit and power than it has. If the Power 5 conferences decided to move forward with this idea, I think it would be a good one for fans and observers alike. I’m all for anything that helps to put schedules closer to an even playing field. I don’t see it happening unfortunately because it would require all of those schools to give up their power over their own schedules while risking losing money and/or games. I don’t see that happening.

Lonely in Lubbock, Texas, writes: When the old Big 12 changed everyone was making a big fuss about Texas losing its second-best rival Texas A&M, but in Lubbock we lost our main and only rival. After three years of this new version, do we have any hope of finding a new rival as good as the Aggies?

BC: I’m not a big fan of creating rivalries. I like when they organically emerge. I could Oklahoma State, TCU or even West Virginia as good potential candidates. But it requires something special to happen and leave a lasting memory for a rivalry to be born. And we haven’t seen that yet. I don't think you can force rivalries to happen so we might have to be patient until one develops on its own.

John Newcomb in Rochester, Pennsylvania, writes: I have to ask you, if William Crest and Dontae Thomas-Williams come out and become the starters with all the new wideouts including Ka'Raun White what levels could this team rise on defense and offense? Shot at the title in the near future?

BC: I don’t see it happening. Crest may win the starting quarterback job but DTW has Rushel Shell and Wendell Smallwood ahead of him at runing back. Nonetheless, I could see the Mountaineers getting a shot at a Big 12 title as early as this fall. An efficient quarterback could make WVU the surprise of the Big 12 this fall.

Jacob Worcester in Manhattan, Kansas writes: Kyle Klein should be back from an injury, and he even started two games in 2013. What type of impact will he have when he comes back for the Snydercats?

BC: He can be an asset for the Wildcats' offense. I don’t see him replacing Tyler Lockett (who can?) nor do I see him reaching the heights of older brother Collin. But he would bring experience to a relatively inexperienced receiver group.

Chris in Arden, West Virginia writes: What is your take on Joe DeForest at West Virginia?

BC: DeForest is a solid coach who seems to take a lot of undue heat from Mountaineers fans for some reason. His safeties should be among the Big 12’s best with Karl Joseph and Dravon Henry leading the way and his special teams helped win games in 2014 with Josh Lambert coming up clutch several times while punter Nick O’Toole was solid. Granted the WVU punt return unit was laughable at times so his units and players aren’t perfect, but whose are?

Cole in Oklahoma City writes: Will DeDe Westbrook and Joe Mixon share punt return snaps this spring ... leading in to the summer to see who is going to be returning punts for Oklahoma? Would you consider Heard to be the starting QB for Texas? Who is more of a dark horse Big 12 team?

BC: Three for one huh? Punt return duties are at the bottom of OU’s priority list but Westbrook or Michiah Quick would be good candidates. I think Heard should get every opportunity to win the job, and personally think he will. West Virginia is a good dark horse team to keep an eye on, particularly if the quarterback position becomes a strength.

Big 12 morning links

March, 24, 2015
Mar 24
9:00
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The St. Louis Raiders? Seriously? I'm all for bringing the NFL to L.A., but come on.

  • After a break of more than two weeks, Oklahoma returned to the practice field on Monday. Its players are wearing black to continue their efforts toward eliminating racism on OU's campus following the SAE fiasco. You have to respect the fact that Sooners players are taking this problem seriously and haven't just moved on now that the national controversy has seemingly passed. As for on-field news, Joe Mixon and Dede Westbrook are earning praise, and all four quarterbacks are reportedly getting near-equal reps.
  • Charlie Strong talked quarterbacks and a whole lot more on Monday to kick off Texas' first week of spring practice. Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News offers a solid recap here and makes some good points about the kind of building that's ahead for Strong and his Longhorns. Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman offers a fine take on talk of rebuilding, too. As I wrote about yesterday, Strong is still working to build up a lot more than just the talent level when it comes to this team.
  • Kansas is opening spring practice on Tuesday, and David Beaty sounds fired up to get started. Matt Tait of the Lawrence Journal-World caught up with the new head coach on the eve of practice and got him to lay out some of his goals for spring ball. You will notice Beaty rarely talks about specific players in these interviews -- it sure seems like he's trying to bring a clean-slate mentality to finding out what he's working with on this roster. Beaty's emphasis on establishing a clean brand of football in terms of penalties, turnovers and special teams is probably a good start, too.
  • Former Oklahoma tight end Taylor McNamara is transferring to USC, he announced Monday night via Twitter. His plans to depart had been largely expected for the past month, and McNamara seems to be making a smart move here. He'll graduate from Oklahoma in May and play right away for a Trojans team that's thin at tight end while Bryce Dixon is suspended. Blake Bell's move to tight end really marginalized McNamara's chances to help Oklahoma in 2014, so you can't blame him for wanting to start over closer to home.
  • Here's an interesting look by Bobby La Gesse of the Ames Tribune at Iowa State's Jake Campos and why improved flexibility is going to be a difference-maker for the touted tackle this fall. It's a close examination of how a 6-foot-8, 295-pound lineman can get more effective simply by making a change as minor as doing more ankle stretches. If you're an O-line junkie, I think you'll enjoy this read.

AUSTIN, Texas -- When Charlie Strong pulled Tyrone Swoopes aside this winter and gave him a new assignment, he didn't need to explain why.

"You're gonna go run with the skill guys."

Swoopes was accustomed to racing linebackers in the "big skill" group during Texas' 5:30 a.m. offseason conditioning drills. So Strong told his junior quarterback to switch sides. Go challenge the receivers and defensive backs.

"When I placed him in that group, he didn't back away at all," Strong said. "You see a big guy like that winning most of the races, and he's beating our skill guys. He didn't back away at all."

[+] EnlargeCharlie Strong, Malcom Brown
AP Photo/Eric Gay"You go be the best player you can be," Charlie Strong says. "If [a teammate] doesn't want to come with you, just leave him behind and we'll get someone to come with you."

And how did Jerrod Heard, Swoopes' top competition at quarterback, react?

"When Jerrod saw me move him, he automatically moved on his own," Strong said. "I turned around and looked and he says, ‘I'm going with the skill guys.'"

That's life these days at Texas, where competition will be the supreme goal for a young team striving to rebuild and find new leaders. The Longhorns will begin spring practice on Wednesday knowing nobody's starting job is guaranteed after a 6-7 season.

That competition starts at quarterback with Swoopes and Heard. Strong would like to have a good feel for that job by the end of the spring, but he'd rather have a fierce battle that brings out the best in both passers.

"Going into spring practice, we're going to give them equal reps and give them a chance to go compete against each other," he said.

His message for them going into the battle is no different than what he told players during a team meeting Sunday: Don't be afraid to separate yourself.

While Strong preaches pride and chemistry and a need for Texas players to come together this spring, it's important to not misunderstand the goal. He didn't think his Longhorns played together as a team in 2014. He recognized cliques within the locker room, and that has to change. But those cliques can hold a team back in another way.

"What's happened is guys don't want to go make a move," he said. "There's nothing wrong with it. Sometimes, you can't always bring your friends with you. You have your teammates, but you can't always bring them with you.

"There can be a separation, and when you have that separation you know, ‘OK this guy here really wants to improve. He wants to be an outstanding player.'"

Strong points to receiver John Harris, the senior a year ago who emerged from the previous Texas staff's doghouse and worked like never to become a 1,000-yard receiver.

There are countless others -- linebackers Jordan Hicks and Steve Edmond, safety Dylan Haines, center Taylor Doyle, defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway -- who exceeded expectations and played their best football a year ago under Strong's watch. So who's next?

As Strong puts it: "Anybody can hang back and stay in the pile, but who's going to be the guy to step away from that pile?"

Texas will address those questions throughout its lineup this spring. Texas needs new receivers and linebackers, a reshuffled offensive line, depth at running back and in the secondary and a reliable punter. There needs to be new voices in the locker room, too, after losing so many vital seniors. So it's not hard to see why Strong is dropping hints about the need for Darwinism to win out.

"You go be the best player you can be," he says. "If [a teammate] doesn't want to come with you, just leave him behind and we'll get someone to come with you."

It's not about hurting feelings. It's about finding players who deserve to play and shine at Texas. Quarterback is the No. 1 issue, but this spring, everyone else in burnt orange has been warned.

On the spot: Texas RB Johnathan Gray

March, 23, 2015
Mar 23
12:00
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Continuing our series from last week, we're featuring 10 Big 12 players who are on the spot this spring. Maybe they are coming back from injury. Maybe they have much to prove after a disappointing 2014 season. Maybe they are embroiled in a key position battle. Whatever the case, this spring is big for them.

Today’s player on the spot: Texas running back Johnathan Gray

[+] EnlargeJohnathan Gray
Cooper Neill/Getty ImagesTexas will be counting on big production from running back Johnathan Gray this season.

Johnathan Gray is too polite a guy to complain about the cards he’s been dealt. That’s just not like him. He would shrug, too, if asked about his former five-star status. Why worry about old expectations?

The Texas senior running back has been a quality contributor for three seasons, but not exactly a star. Gray seemed to be on the fast track to that fame in 2013, during a six-game stretch in which he compiled 628 rushing yards. He was explosive, elusive, savvy.

Then, in an instant, the setback. A freak accident, really, considering Gray tore his Achilles without being touched. Days later, of course, he was still smiling and chuckling about his bad luck.

More than 16 months have now passed since Gray went down that night against West Virginia. He wasn’t the same player last fall. Nobody’s questioning his health today. The Longhorns are about to find out how good Gray can still be.

Coach Charlie Strong needs him to be great. Gray is already there with his leadership and his hard work, but it’s time for the production to match. His workload will be significant -- four of Texas’ five backups this fall will be freshmen -- and 1,000 yards is well within reach for Gray.

He has rushed for 100 yards just five times at Texas. He has logged 20 carries only four times. The Longhorns are undefeated in those games. They are 9-2 when he scores. They are tough to beat on his best days.

Why Gray had so few of those days as a junior had a lot to do with his offensive line, an underwhelming and constantly changing group for most of 2014. Gaping holes for big gains are hard to come by when your line is inexperienced, and even harder when it's unstable.

Texas is working hard to correct its flaws up front with an influx of new talent this spring, but Gray has work to do, too. He didn’t have the same burst last fall. His vision and open-field instincts -- traits that made him ESPN’s No. 2 recruit and made college scouts drool -- weren’t consistently strengths.

But on a Texas team with such big question marks at quarterback, the running back has to be the answer. With the torn Achilles now in the past and a better line now in the works, it’s about time for Gray to become one of the Big 12’s best.

The production from Kansas State's quarterbacks in the past three seasons should make it no surprise the Wildcats have become mainstays in the Big 12 title race.

Since TCU and West Virginia joined the Big 12 in 2012, the Wildcats have had the conference's most productive quarterbacks ahead of Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and other Big 12 programs that have a reputation for stellar signal-callers. With the help of ESPN Stats and Information, here's a closer look at the Big 12 Total QBR rankings (conference games only) since 2012.

(Note: Total QBR is a ESPN metric used to determine a quarterback's impact. Here is a detailed explanation of Total QBR.)

1. Kansas State, 79.5

2014: 83.5, 1st

2013: 71.8, 3rd

2012: 83.2, 2nd

Summary: The combination of Jake Waters and Collin Klein helped push the Wildcats to the top of the list. Klein’s 83.9 Total QBR in 2012 is the third-best in the Big 12 since 2012, and his 23 rushing touchdowns helped offset a 16:9 touchdown-interception ratio. Waters’ 83.2 Total QBR led the Big 12 in 2014 and was fifth overall during this span. The Wildcats were the only program with two quarterbacks in the top five.

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Allen Kee/ESPN ImagesIn 2013, Baylor's Bryce Petty had the Big 12's best statistical season for a quarterback in the last three years.

2. Baylor, 78.6

2014: 71.2, 4th

2013: 85.4, 1st

2012: 78.8, 4th

Summary: Bryce Petty had the Big 12’s best season during this span, recording a 86.2 Total QBR and earning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year during the 2013 season. Nick Florence finished with a 79.5 Total QBR in 2012, helping offset Petty’s 71.4 a year ago. The Bears started one of the conference’s top quarterbacks in each of the past three seasons, a feat only K-State can match.

3. Oklahoma, 74.5

2014: 75, 2nd

2013: 57.8, 7th

2012: 83.9, 1st

Summary: Landry Jones had the Big 12’s second-highest Total QBR during this span, recording a 84.4 in 2012 during the last season OU used a air raid-style offense. After a horrible 2013 season full of uncertainty at the position, the Sooners landed third on this list thanks to Trevor Knight’s 79.4 in 2014.

4. Texas Tech, 69.4

2014: 68.9, 5th

2013: 67.2, 5th

2012: 72.5, 6th

Summary: Davis Webb’s 77.7 Total QBR in 2013 is yet another reason to pump the brakes on the Patrick Mahomes coronation. It was the Red Raiders' best and among the top 10 in the conference during this span. Mahomes (70.7 in 2014) and Seth Doege (71.4 in 2012) join Webb among the top 15 in the Big 12 during the past three seasons, giving the Red Raiders three quarterbacks in the top 15, more than any other Big 12 program.

5. Oklahoma State, 66.4

2014: 46.3, 9th

2013: 74.6, 2nd

2012: 72.7, 5th

Summary: Clint Chelf is the sole reason the Pokes finished in the top half of the conference. His Total QBR was second in the Big 12 at 83.8 in 2013 and 13th in the Big 12 at 71.2 in 2012. Chelf was constantly battling for his spot during his final two seasons, but when Oklahoma State turned the offense over to him, he produced.

6. Texas, 65

2014: 58.4, 8th

2013: 70.1, 4th

2012: 66.7, 7th

Summary: This sums up the Longhorns' quarterback struggles. Case McCoy’s Total QBR of 69.1 in 2013 was the Longhorns' highest Total QBR during this span. Tyrone Swoopes recorded a 58.2 in 2014 and David Ash had a 67 in 2012.

7. West Virginia, 64.3

2014: 64, 6th

2013: 44.1, 9th

2012: 81.2, 2nd

Summary: Things went downhill for Dana Holgorsen’s team after Geno Smith recorded a 80.5 Total QBR in 2012, sixth in the Big 12 during this span, then headed to the NFL. Clint Trickett started the 2014 season strong, but his turnover-filled second half of the season dropped his final Total QBR to 61.9. Yet that was still better than the 54.9 he recorded in 2013.

8. TCU, 58.5

2014: 72.5, 3rd

2013: 47.9, 8th

2012: 54.2, 8th

Summary: This underscores just how bad the Horned Frogs production at quarterback was during TCU’s first two seasons in the Big 12. And that lackluster production came partially with Trevone Boykin under center. Boykin recorded a 52 Total QBR in 2013 before jumping to a 71.8 in 2014. It was one of the nation's highest jumps from a returning quarterback.

9. Iowa State, 54.9

2014: 58.8, 7th

2013: 56.7, 6th

2012: 47.5, 9th

Summary: One big reason the Cyclones have been going downhill since TCU and West Virginia entered the league is their subpar quarterback play. Fortunately for Iowa State, Sam Richardson has the potential to make quarterback a strength for the Cyclones in 2015.

10. Kansas, 31.7

2014: 44.5, 10th

2013: 20.2, 10th

2012: 30.7, 10th

Summary: The Jayhawks are the only team that showed no movement in the standings in any of the three seasons. It doesn’t get much worse than KU’s production in 2013. It’s easy to see why Kansas decided to go in a different direction with the hope David Beaty can spark a change at quarterback.

Barring some unforeseen catastrophe in Waco or Fort Worth, TCU and Baylor will exit spring ball still as the Big 12 co-favorites heading into 2015.

But the following question will linger well into the summer: Who in the league is most equipped to challenge their conference superiority?

It’s a question sure to foster several opinions, which is why we’re putting it you in our weekly Big 12 poll.

SportsNation

Which team has the best chance of challenging Baylor and TCU?

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    11%

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    26%

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    19%

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    22%

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    22%

Discuss (Total votes: 6,873)

Oklahoma State debuted as the No. 3 team in our Way-Too-Early Big 12 Power Rankings. The Cowboys seem to have a budding standout at quarterback in rising sophomore Mason Rudolph. Oklahoma State returns several starters on either side of the ball as well. But the Cowboys also struggled for much of last season. And without a miraculous comeback in the regular-season finale in Norman, which catapulted Oklahoma State to its bowl victory over Washington, the Cowboys’ 2015 outlook wouldn’t be looking so sunny. This is still a team with much to prove.

Oklahoma was viewed as the co-favorite along with Baylor heading into the 2014 season. The Sooners were in the top five of the polls during the first half of the season, too, before the bottom fell out. The Sooners have some major questions, notably at quarterback and in pass defense. But Samaje Perine and Sterling Shepard are All-American-caliber performers and whoever wins the quarterback battle could flourish in Lincoln Riley’s air-raid system.

Texas has an even bigger question at quarterback. Tyrone Swoopes struggled down the stretch last year, and Jerrod Heard will only be a second-year freshman. The Longhorns will also be replacing several of its best players off last year’s team. Charlie Strong, however, has recruited well. And if the young pieces come along fast, Texas could be a factor.

TCU overshadowed the run that West Virginia made last year until a late-season slide. The Mountaineers have to replace a lot of offensive firepower in wideouts Kevin White and Mario Alford. But Skyler Howard received invaluable experience at quarterback filling in for Clint Trickett. And behind safety Karl Joseph, the Mountaineers should feature the best defensive backfield in the league.

Kansas State doesn’t have much coming back off a team that was a Big 12 title contender going into the final week of last season. The departures of Tyler Lockett, Jake Waters and several other key contributors won’t easily be replaced. But the presence of Bill Snyder alone warrants the Wildcats a spot in this poll.

So, midway through spring ball, who is the biggest threat to TCU and Baylor?

Let us know what you think by casting your vote.

Big 12 morning links

March, 19, 2015
Mar 19
9:00
AM ET

Is that Dahntay Jones?

  • The Dallas Morning News looks at the five biggest issues facing Baylor football this spring, including health. Shehan Jeyarajah contends that it is important for the Bears to enter the fall with a healthy roster. While there are some position battles to be decided, I'd largely agree. There's really no reason to put established stars like Spencer Drango, Andrew Billings or Corey Coleman in harm's way repeatedly for Art Briles' program. It would be a good idea to have players like those take minimal reps in contact situations this spring. What do they have to prove?
  • The Oklahoma football team is the wrong messenger in the protest against the racist fraternity video at OU, suggests The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel. It's a thought-provoking piece that is worth a read and Tramel makes several good points, yet there are so many deeper issues in play here that it is hard to properly address them in one single attempt.
  • The Dallas Morning News also looks at the five biggest issues facing Oklahoma, including the Sooners secondary. The installation of Lincoln Riley's offense will get plenty of attention once the Sooners return to the field on Monday but none of it will matter if new secondary coach Kerry Cooks doesn't fix OU's secondary. There is talent on the roster but the group underachieved in 2014 and this spring should show if Cooks has turned the boat in the right direction.
  • Texas Tech is another team with five issues to address via the Dallas Morning News including a switch to the 4-3 defense under new defensive coordinator David Gibbs. The lack of continuity for the Red Raiders defense is pretty shocking with Gibbs set to become the seventh defensive coordinator at Tech in seven years. It's not hard to understand why the defense has struggled with players pretty much having to adapt to new coaching on a yearly basis.
  • The Dallas Morning News also looked at five issues the Texas Longhorns need to address this spring. Leadership is No. 2 on the list after Charlie Strong repeatedly questioned the leadership on his team in 2014. Even with some of the questions on the roster, I could be convinced leadership should be No. 1. Why? Because I think it will be critical for the Longhorns not to underachieve this fall. And that starts with leadership.
video
On Nov. 24, 2011, Texas kicker Justin Tucker booted a 40-yard field goal at Texas A&M to win the 118th game in the state’s oldest rivalry. It was expected to possibly be the last matchup in one of college football’s top rivalries. The University of Texas was set to launch the Longhorn Network, much to the dismay of the Aggies, who were on their way to joining the SEC.

Three seasons later, it remains to be seen whether the Aggies and Longhorns will renew the series that was the most-watched game on an annual basis in the Lone Star State. While talk surrounding the loss of the game centered around its effects on the fans, alumni and universities, it also removed a game that had showcased football in the state.

Big 12 morning links

March, 18, 2015
Mar 18
9:00
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Not easy to find football links this morning. Everybody is writing about some basketball tournament. Weird.

  • Recruiting has gotten expensive for Iowa State, which has to travel farther distances than its Big 12 brethren to find players. In 2013, the Cyclones picked up a $584,510 recruiting tab -- the third-highest among Big 12 public schools and roughly $107,000 more than Iowa spent that year, according to a USA Today study, which included money spent on transportation, lodging and meals for recruits on school visits and coaches on recruiting trips. You can see the entire database here. Oklahoma ($834,326) and Texas Tech ($622,897) were the only Big 12 public schools that spent more than the Cyclones.
  • TCU won a recruiting battle with Metroplex rival SMU, and landed 2017 athlete Roshauud Paul. SMU was the first to offer Paul in mid-February. Three days later, Paul attended TCU junior day and picked up an offer there. Paul fits the profile of many past successful TCU recruits. As a sophomore, he finished with 1,545 yards passing, 1,670 yards rushing and 39 total touchdowns; he also recorded 33 tackles as his team won a state title. In case you didn't know, the Horned Frogs are also off to a fast start on their 2016 class, too, with eight commitments, including three from the ESPN Junior 300.
  • Eric Kiesau and Charlie Weis Jr., who were both part of the Kansas staff last season, have landed in off-the-field roles at Alabama, according to the Tuscaloosa News. Kiesau was Kansas' wide receivers coach last season, arriving via Washington last offseason. He'll be an offensive analyst for the Crimson Tide. It's unclear what role Weis Jr. will have.
  • Joe Parker, who worked at Texas, Oklahoma and most recently as the deputy athletic director at Texas Tech is the new athletic director at Colorado State. Parker helped run the day-to-day athletic operations at Texas Tech.
  • Actor/comedian Kevin Hart confessed on the Jimmy Kimmel Show that he threw up after working out with the Texas football team. Did Hart at least enjoy himself before getting sick? “I'm gonna be honest with you… no,” Hart replied. “Not at all. It was one of those things that was a good idea at first. I threw up right after. It's a true story, it's a true story. I didn't let them see it though. They were like, ‘Kev, you good?' And I was like, ‘Yes I am!' And I gave like a Longhorn symbol and walked out and threw up on the wall. I didn't even clean it up, I just ran. I didn't want nobody to know it was me. I just took off.” Good stuff.

Big 12 Tuesday mailbag

March, 17, 2015
Mar 17
4:00
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In Tuesday's mailbag we chat about West Virginia's offensive line, Texas Tech's potential standouts and Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes. As always, thanks for your questions. To submit questions for next week's mailbag, click here.

Zac in Auburn, Nebraska, writes: A recent article indicated the questions coming out of the spring in Morgantown revolve primarily around quarterbacks and receivers. I'm more concerned with the offensive line, what with Mark Glowinski and Quenton Spain gone. Adam Pankey is being moved to guard on one side of Tyler Orlowski and Marcus Lucus is the only other returning starter. Who fills in the rest? What's WVU's O-Line gonna look like? To me that's the most important question, given, they open the holes for the backs and protect the QB. What are your thoughts?

Brandon Chatmon: Offensive line is definitely a question mark Zac, no doubt about it because if that doesn’t come together it won’t matter who wins the quarterback battle or receiver competition. But I get the sense WVU feels good about its options and the overall competition up front. Offensive line coach Ron Crook wants the ability to move guys around to find his best five players and I think the Mountaineers have options, with guys such as Russell Haughton-James and Tony Matteo set to battle for starting spots, yet the depth and competition to make the entire unit raise its level. Pankey’s move inside to guard is a sign WVU likes its options at tackle, even though there isn’t an unquestioned replacement for him. This spring is about finding those five guys, but I don’t think the offensive line will end up being a weak link in Morgantown.

Thomas James in Bossier City, Louisiana, writes: What do you think Samaje Perine's role will be in Oklahoma's new air raid offense? Will there be a few between-the-tackles runs to keep the defense from selling out 100 percent to the pass? Also, is a Baker Mayfield-Perine backfield good enough for a New Year's Six bowl?

BC: I think Perine will make defenses pay if the Sooners can force opponents to respect their passing game. I expect him to get plenty of carries, but I also expect him to be used in the passing game at times as well. He’s not the pass-catching threat that Joe Mixon or Keith Ford is, but he’s not bad as a pass receiver either. He should get plenty of touches and OU’s running backs should be good enough to get into a New Year’s Six bowl. It’s the quarterback position that is the question mark, and I'm not ready to pencil Mayfield in as the starter. If he runs away with the job this spring, maybe we can start talking about New Year's Six bowls.

Dave Fredriksen in Chicago writes: How did the Kansas State pro day go for all KSU players involved with it? What is the latest on Jake Waters, who had shoulder surgery after the season in mid-January?

BC: Receiver Tyler Lockett and center B.J. Finney had strong showings at the NFL combine, so they didn’t really need to makeup for any missteps in Indianapolis. Lockett and Finney simply followed up with a solid pro day. I think both guys are going to be pretty good NFL players and potential starters as rookies. Receiver Curry Sexton reportedly ran a 4.66 and 4.67 with a 32-inch vertical, which should help him earn a shot in an NFL camp. Waters will have to prove he’s healthy first then he could get his NFL shot.

Nick Tam in Dallas writes: Who do you think will be the top players to watch on offense and defense for the Red Raiders? Is it possible that we'll see a slightly more energetic defense under Gibbs?

BC: It sounds like David Gibbs has definitely brought energy to the Tech defense with the Red Raiders skill guys telling reporters they don’t like the Tech defense’s new tendency to rip at the ball every chance they get. Tech fans should be excited to hear those types of things coming out of Lubbock. It makes me think Gibbs is the guy to get the Red Raider defense turned around. I think quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the guy to watch on offense and cornerback Nigel Bethel on defense. I think both guys could have stellar sophomore seasons that earn them consideration among the best in the Big 12 at their positions.

Tim in Austin, Texas writes: The word on the street is that Tyrone Swoopes is entering spring practice as the frontrunner and the guy to beat. How long before ESPN backtracks on that mantra that you've presented as fact that Swoopes is definitely not the answer?

BC: I’m not going to step back in my opinion that Swoopes is not the answer, Tim. Obviously you think he is. The great thing about sports is it doesn’t matter what I think. Tyrone can shut me up between the white lines. He has shown flashes he can be that guy, but it hasn’t been consistent enough for me to think he’s the answer. Instead I think Jerrod Heard could be. By the way, I don’t know how being the favorite heading into spring practice changes anything. He could start Game 1 of the 2015 season and that doesn’t mean he’s the answer, unless the question is: Who is going to start the season opener? And that’s not the question I’m looking to answer.

Hundreds of the top prospects from Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana were on hand for The Opening Dallas Regional on Sunday. As is always the case, there are certain trends to be found in recruiting, both positive and negative. Here are five points from the event that featured 40 ESPN Junior 300 prospects.


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Big 12 recruiting scorecard

March, 16, 2015
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Several elite recruits in the area were in Dallas over the weekend to battle for a spot in The Opening, an elite Nike football camp held annually in June in Eugene, Oregon.

BAYLOR

Total commits: 7

ESPN Junior 300 commits: 4

The latest: The offers continue to roll in for defensive tackle commit Jordan Elliott, who reportedly added offers from Michigan and Florida State last week. Texas, Alabama, Oregon and Oklahoma are among the other teams trying to flip Elliott from the commit list of Art Briles team. He claims he is solid with BU but plans to take other visits.

Total commits: 0

ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0

The latest: The Cyclones continue to try to find hidden gems in Florida with seven offers to recruits from the Sunshine State including Sarasota Riverview athlete Oshea Grant. The Cyclones join Kentucky, Connecticut and South Florida as teams who have offered the 6-foot, 180-pound prospect.

KANSAS

Total commits: 1

ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0

The latest: The Jayhawks got a pleasant surprise with an unofficial visit from 2017 prospect Najee Harris. The Antioch (California) running back already boasts offers from Alabama, TCU, UCLA, USC and others. In addition the Jayhawks offered Isaiahh Loudermilk, an eight-man football standout. The Howard (Kansas) West Elk prospect also boasts an in-state offer from Kansas State.

KANSAS STATE

Total commits: 2

ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0

The latest: The Wildcats offered a couple of quality prospects in TCU commit D'Eriq King and highly regarded cornerback Jared Mayden. It was a terrific week for Mayden, who also earned an invite to The Opening after a strong showing in the Dallas Regional.

OKLAHOMA

Total commits: 3

ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0

The latest: Houston C.E. King running back Trayveon Williams released his top 10 last week with the Sooners making the cut for the ESPN Junior 300 member. The ultra-quick running back would be the ideal fit as a all-purpose threat in Lincoln Riley’s offense. Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas and Texas Tech join the Sooners on his top 10 list.

OKLAHOMA STATE

Total commits: 3

ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0

The latest: The Cowboys landed their third pledge of the Class of 2016 with Arlington (Texas) Lamar cornerback Madre Harper deciding to commit to OSU. Harper turned down several other offers including Oklahoma to join the Pokes' commit list.

TCU

Total commits: 8

ESPN Junior 300 commits: 3

The latest: TCU offered Washington commit Brandon Wellington as Gary Patterson’s program continues to expand its recruiting reach to the West Coast. The Horned Frogs also missed out in its pursuit of a potential playmaker when California receiver Theo Howard, who had made unofficial visits to TCU and Baylor, picked Oregon over the weekend.

TEXAS

Total commits: 4

ESPN Junior 300 commits: 3

The latest: Longhorns receiver target Devin Duvernay starred at the Dallas Regional, earning a spot at The Opening. He reportedly ran a 4.38 in the 40-yard dash over the weekend and has several schools including the Longhorns, TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma and others battling for his signature.

TEXAS TECH

Total commits: 2

ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0

The latest: The Red Raiders became the first offer for Baldwin Park (California) offensive lineman Francisco Perez. San Diego State and Vanderbilt quickly followed with offers for the 6-foot-5, 300-pounder.

WEST VIRGINIA

Total commits: 6

ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0

The latest: The Mountaineers held junior day on Sunday and it paid off with a pair of commitments. Sandy Spring (Maryland) Sherwood receiver Marcus Simms and Charleston (West Virginia) Capital quarterback Tyrhee Pratt picked the Mountaineers. Simms picked WVU over Maryland, Pittsburgh and others.

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Nike Opening Dallas Regional produced more invites to The Opening in one stop, 13, than any ever. When taking a look at the uber-talented roster in the days leading up to Sunday’s marquee event, that came without surprise when 40 members of the ESPN Junior 300 come together to compete on the same field.

Here is a look at some of the sights and sounds from the regional that brought out the best from Louisiana, Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Minnesota in addition to the Lone Star State.


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Big 12 morning links

March, 16, 2015
Mar 16
10:00
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How many brackets are you filling out? I think I'm going to limit myself to two.

  • Baylor fans, it's not worth disliking Bob Bowlsby, writes Brice Cherry of the Waco Tribune. The Big 12 commissioner has done a bunch of great things for the conference and shouldn't be disliked for his role in the Baylor/TCU debate a year ago. I'd have to agree with Cherry, Bowlsby has done a good job overall, and the Big 12 should be happy to have him in charge.
  • Finding receivers to replace Kevin White and Mario Alford and with improving its turnover margin are high on West Virginia's priority list with spring football drills kicking off on Sunday. The turnovers are a huge deal for Dana Holgorsen's team as WVU went from within a arm's length of a Big 12 title to finishing sixth in the conference after committing 14 turnovers in its final five games.
  • Former Texas Longhorn Emmanuel Acho believes college football players should be paid based on the number of snaps they play, reports Ryan Autillo of the Austin American-Statesman. It's an interesting idea. Granted, that leads to all kinds of potential pitfalls (for coaches and players), but I like the idea overall and think it could work. One thing is for certain, this current system needs to change.
  • Former Oklahoma State standout Perrish Cox left the San Francisco 49ers for the Tennessee Titans over the weekend. Cox had a rough start to his NFL career after some off-the-field trouble ended his time in Denver, but it appears the Waco, Texas, native has matured into a quality NFL player while putting some of his off-the-field struggles behind him.
  • Kansas will have to completely rebuild its secondary after Isaiah Johnson decided to leave KU with one year of eligibility remaining. His departure means KU must replace Johnson, Cassius Sendish, JaCorey Shepherd, and Dexter McDonald from last season's secondary. New coach David Beaty will need someone to step up in the defensive backfield if KU hopes to field the aggressive defense he promised upon taking the job.

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