The Ultimate 300 featured plenty of Big 12 playmakers, but it’s hard to decide which one is the best.

So we are going to let you decide.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was the highest former Big 12 player on the list. The former Oklahoma All-American was No. 19 on the Ultimate 300 after a stellar college career which saw him start every game he played at Oklahoma. He finished with 33 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks in 40 games.

SportsNation

Who was the best Big 12 player on the Ultimate 300?

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    23%
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Discuss (Total votes: 4,080)

Former Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown was one of the best linebackers in the Big 12 era. After the Wichita native returned home after two years at Miami (Fla.), he became one of the top defenders in the Big 12 in 2011 and 2012. The No. 47 player in the Ultimate 300 finished with 201 tackles and 16.5 tackles for loss during his two seasons in Bill Snyder’s program.

What more can be said about Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III? The 2011 Heisman Trophy winner had observers glued to their televisions during his time in Waco, Texas. He could drop a deep pass over the heads of the secondary or escape the pocket and run away from the defense as he cemented a spot among the Big 12’s most explosive playmakers from 2008-2011. Griffin was the No. 57 player in the Ultimate 300.

Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat became an All-American during his time in Austin after stepping on campus as the No. 2 overall recruit in the Class of 2010. Jeffcoat started 33 games and joined Carlton Massey, Bill Atessis, Tony Brackens, and Brian Orakpo as the only Longhorns defensive ends to become consensus All-Americans. The No. 70 player in the Ultimate 300 had 25 sacks in his final 26 games in a Longhorns uniform.

Those four players where the highest ranked players from their schools, yet other former Big 12 stars on the Ultimate 300 could easily be considered the top Big 12 player on the list. From Oklahoma's Sam Bradford to Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant to Kansas State's Collin Klein, there are plenty of other candidates as the top Big 12 player on the list.

Who do you think should sit atop the list? Vote and leave your comment below.
With spring ball a month away, we've been ranking position groups in the Big 12. These evaluations have been based on past performance, future potential, and quality depth. We complete the series below with special teams:

1. TCU: All-Big 12 kicker Jaden Oberkrom will be a four-year starter, as will punter Ethan Perry. Cameron Echols-Luper is also back after ranking 16th nationally in punt returns. TCU’s coverage units have also been spectacular. Not only did the Horned Frogs lead the country in punt return coverage last year, they became the first team to allow negative punt return yards in the 14 seasons that the statistic has been tracked. Special teams is just one reason why TCU figures to be a playoff contender in 2015.

2. Kansas State: Freshman Matthew McCrane led the Big 12 in field goal percentage after taking over for Jack Cantele in September; McCrane connected on 18 of 19 field goal attempts. Freshman Nick Walsh had a decent season punting. The outgoing Tyler Lockett is irreplaceable, but Morgan Burns averaged more than 30 yards per kick return.

3. West Virginia: The Mountaineers are third here despite sporting the worst coverage units in the league last season. Punt returns have also been an utter disaster. But the combination of Lou Groza finalist kicker Josh Lambert and punter Nick “Boomstache” O’Toole is elite.

4. Baylor: After a shaky start, kicker Chris Callahan got better as his freshman season wore on, making all four field goals and the game-winner against TCU. The Bears have to replace All-Big 12 punter Spencer Roth and return specialist Levi Norwood. But they have several electric options from which to choose on returns.

5. Oklahoma: Alex Ross led the Big 12 in kick returns, including two touchdowns. Austin Seibert was the nation’s No. 1 ranked kicker recruit, and will succeed Michael Hunnicutt. The Sooners, however, ranked seventh and eighth in kickoff and punt coverage in the Big 12 last season, respectively, which cost them dearly in the loss to Oklahoma State.

6. Iowa State: Kicker Cole Netten is coming off a solid sophomore season, in which he nailed the game-winning field goal that beat Iowa. Colin Downing was also a serviceable punter as a true freshman. Though Iowa State’s return units got wiped out by attrition, the Cyclones led the Big 12 last year in kickoff coverage.

7. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys would be much closer to the top if they still had Tyreek Hill. It’s unclear who will take over returning punts and kicks, but the Pokes are sure to audition several candidates this spring. After struggling as a freshman, kicker Ben Grogan had a nice bounce-back sophomore season. Oklahoma State also led the league last season with six blocked kicks.

8. Texas: Nick Rose made only 14 of his 21 field goal attempts, though he nailed 51- and 47-yarders in Texas’ final two regular-season games. He also led the league in touchback rate. Armanti Foreman is back after returning kicks as a freshman; Daje Johnson can be a dangerous returner when he’s not in the doghouse.

9. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders ranked 114th in kick returns and 124th in punt returns last year. Cameron Batson and Jakeem Grant are capable as returners, but they didn’t produce. The Red Raiders’ coverage units, however, were steady, and didn’t allow a TD all season. Someone will have to fill Kenny Williams’ tackling prowess on special teams. Taylor Symmank had a solid year punting, though Tech will be breaking in a new place-kicker.

10. Kansas: All-Big 12 punter Trevor Pardula is gone. So are returners JaCorey Shepherd and Nick Harwell. Matthew Wyman is back, but he ranked last in the Big 12 in field goal percentage with only nine makes.
Here are three players in the Ultimate ESPN 300 who will be remembered for their exploits in the Big 12.

Austin
Tavon Austin, receiver, West Virginia

The No. 197 player in the Ultimate ESPN 300 played in the Big 12 for only one season but stuffed a career's worth of memories into those 13 games with the conference logo on his uniform. Austin rushed for 643 yards, averaging 8.9 yards per carry, while adding 114 receptions for 1,269 yards as a senior in 2012.

His performance in a 50-49 loss to Oklahoma in 2012 won’t be forgotten anytime soon as he left any Sooners defender who tried to tackle him one-on-one in the open field grasping for air more often than not. He finished with 572 all-purpose yards, including 344 rushing yards on 21 carries (16.4 yards per carry) and two touchdowns. That single-game performance will not be forgotten anytime soon.

Griffin
Robert Griffin III, quarterback, Baylor

It’s hard not to like what Griffin was able to accomplish during his time at Baylor. He stands as a sterling example of what one talented person can accomplish with confidence, laser-like focus and unyielding desire. The No. 57 player in the Ultimate 300 put Baylor on the map and wasn’t shy about letting people know this was a new era at Baylor. Griffin joined Art Briles to help create excitement and belief around a program that had called the Big 12 basement home since the conference’s inception.

During his Heisman Trophy-winning season in 2011, Griffin had plenty of Heisman moments, including exceptional performances against TCU, Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri as he helped the Bears to a 10-win season. A big-play machine with exceptional speed, Griffin was a joy to watch.

Thomas
Earl Thomas, safety, Texas

The No. 240 player in the Ultimate 300 was simply awesome to watch play football. Thomas played only two seasons in Austin but he was a marvel during his time in the Big 12. He was a blur in the secondary who caused havoc with his explosiveness to the ball. Thomas was a true rarity as a must-watch college football player who lined up on the defensive side of the ball.

As he made play after play, it was amazing how the native of Orange, Texas, was dominating a game as a 5-foot-10, 197-pound safety. Thomas earned All-American honors and finished his career with 149 tackles, 33 pass breakups, 10 interceptions and five forced fumbles in 27 games. Texas lost just twice with Thomas in the lineup.
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Fozzy Whittaker, Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho have spent time working out together during this NFL off-season. Courtesy - Longhorn Network
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The Texas Longhorns' morning workouts are part of the football squad trying to redefine itself after finishing last season with a 6-7 record. Courtesy - Longhorn Network
With spring ball a month away, we've been ranking position groups in the Big 12. These evaluations have been based on past performance, future potential, and quality depth. We continue the series below with defensive backs:

1. West Virginia: Strong safety Karl Joseph, the hardest hitter in the league who will be a four-year starter, is a Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Free safety Dravon Henry is coming off a freshman All-American season. Daryl Worley is an All-Big 12 caliber cornerback. The Mountaineers also inked two more dynamic corners in Tyrek Cole (ESPN 300) and Rasul Douglas (ESPN 50 JC). This unit is loaded.

2. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys own the deepest cornerback group in the league, with four players boasting FBS starting experience in Kevin Peterson, Ramon Richards, Ashton Lampkin and Michael Hunter, a graduate transfer from Indiana. Jordan Sterns is a rising star at free safety.

3. Kansas State: Danzel McDaniel and Morgan Burns quietly formed one of the league's top cornerback tandems last season. Both are back, too. McDaniel brings the hammer; Burns can cover ground. Dante Barnett is among the Big 12's top returning safeties with a nose for the ball. With better hands, he could have finished with double-digit interceptions last year. The Wildcats do have to find a replacement for Randall Evans, who was an anchor at nickelback.

4. TCU: The Horned Frogs were hit hard by attrition. All three of its All-Big 12 defensive backs are gone in cornerback Kevin White, strong safety Sam Carter and weak safety Chris Hackett, who bolted early for the draft. Still, this unit has the remnants to be stout again. Ranthony Texada had a banner freshman season playing opposite of White, and seems primed to take over as TCU's No. 1 corner. Free safety Derrick Kindred has been a cog the past three seasons, and former juco transfer Kenny Iloka was a key reserve in 2014. Those three form the core of what figures to be another stout TCU secondary.

5. Baylor: The good news is the Bears return four starters in the secondary; that might be the bad news, too. Pass defense was Baylor's Achilles heel last season, culminating with Texas Tech true freshman Patrick Mahomes torching the Bears for almost 600 passing yards. Deep safety Orion Stewart is the best of the bunch; he's a playmaker. Cornerbacks Ryan Reid and Xavien Howard should be better in their second years as starters. Cover safety Terrell Burt has the most experience, but struggled greatly in coverage late last season. It will be interesting to see whether this group collectively improves off a shaky 2014 performance.

6. Texas: Outside West Virginia, no secondary in the league has more upside than Texas. Safety Jason Hall was one of the league's top true freshmen last season, and incoming cornerbacks Holton Hill and Kris Boyd and safeties DeShon Elliott and Davante Davis are all elite blue-chip prospects. The Longhorns will lean on Duke Thomas, Sheroid Evans and Dylan Haines until the young guns are ready. But when they are -- look out.

7. Oklahoma: The Sooners ranked ninth in the Big 12 in pass defense last season, easily Oklahoma's worst finish in the Bob Stoops' era. The best player of the group is cornerback Zack Sanchez; he gives up big plays, but he makes some, too. The Sooners desperately need their young defensive backs to coalesce around him. Ahmad Thomas, Hatari Byrd, Steven Parker and Jordan Thomas all looked discombobulated at times in their first seasons as rotation players. The antidote could be this month's signing class. P.J. Mbanasor was the No. 6 CB recruit in the country; William Johnson was the No. 2 juco CB. Safety Will Sunderland Jr. was another ESPN 300 addition. If any of those three contribute right away, the chance is there for dramatic improvement.

8. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders return the entire two-deep from a secondary that held up reasonably well. Of course, opponents were also merely content to just hand the ball off most of the time against Tech's porous run defense. Still, this secondary has potential. Cornerback Nigel Bethel II leads the way in the potential department. After serving a three-game suspension he held his own as a true freshman starter. Bethel II, Justis Nelson and Tevin Madison, who was also a true freshman last season, have promise and a ton of experience for their age. If they can stay healthy, Keenon Ward and J.J. Gaines have the chance to form a competent safety duo. ESPN 300 signee Jamile Johnson Jr. could be an immediate factor there, too.

9. Iowa State: Safety Kamari Cotton-Moya is the reigning Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year; he and cornerback Nigel Tribune are quality players. T.J. Mutcherson, Cotton-Moya's wingman at safety last season, has since been dismissed from the team. But Sam Richardson returns at corner opposite Tribune. This unit looks good on paper and should be the strength of Iowa State. And yet, the Cyclones are coming off a season in which they ranked last in the league defending the pass.

10. Kansas: The Jayhawks graduated All-Big 12 performer JaCorey Shepherd, who was one of the best corner covers in the league last season. With Shepherd gone, the Jayhawks will be counting on a big sophomore season from Matthew Boateng, who started opposite Shepherd as a true freshman last year. The Jayhawks also need safety Isaiah Johnson, who was the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year two seasons ago, to return to his 2013 form.
video Robert Griffin played a major role in transforming Baylor into a Big 12 champion. Yet he’s not the only Big 12 player who earned a spot on the Ultimate ESPN 300 after making a important impact on their program of choice.

Here’s a look at a few members of the Ultimate 300 who had a significant impact on their respective programs.

No. 57 Robert Griffin III, quarterback, Baylor

When it comes to impact -- on and off the field -- and actually changing the future of a program, Griffin is second to none. He became the unquestioned face of Baylor’s program while elevating it to new heights and opening doors that might have remained closed without his arrival.

A Heisman Trophy winner, All-American and BU record-breaker, Griffin did it all during his four seasons at Baylor. Griffin began to put his stamp on the program as a freshman All-American in 2008 before leading BU to back-to-back bowl appearances in 2010 and 2011. Griffin ended his career with 10,366 passing yards and 2,254 rushing yards while accounting for 111 touchdowns. He is a transcendent figure that still impacts Baylor today.

No. 72 Dez Bryant, receiver, Oklahoma State

The Dallas Cowboys star and Pro Bowl receiver played a major role in OSU’s rise to the top of the Big 12 standings. The Cowboys' 2011 Big 12 title might not have been possible without Bryant, who thrust OSU onto the national landscape with his breathtaking talent and exceptional playmaking.

Bryant helped leave no doubt that the Cowboys program was on the rise, and everyone -- including recruits -- took notice. His sophomore season was program changing campaign as OSU rose as high as No. 7 nationally in 2008 with Bryant leading the way. He earned All-American honors and became a Biletnikoff Award Finalist with 87 receptions for 1,480 yards and 19 touchdowns.

No. 240 Earl Thomas, safety, Texas

Thomas’ impact on his program doesn’t reach the heights of Bryant or Griffin, but his time on the 40 Acres is what every recent Longhorns signee should be striving for. Thomas was an All-American and a legit difference-maker for the Longhorns before becoming a star for the Seattle Seahawks.

Thomas started all 27 games during his two seasons as UT went 25-2 in 2008 and 2009. The Orange, Texas, native finished his career with 149 tackles, including eight tackles for loss, 33 pass breakups and 10 interceptions. Thomas' time at UT is a standard other signees should be judged on.

No. 256 Tony Jefferson, safety, Oklahoma

While his impact on the program wasn’t earth-shattering, Jefferson joined Kenny Stills and Brennan Clay as the “Cali Trio” at Oklahoma, helping to spark the Sooners' recruiting efforts in California. The Class of 2010 signee helped the Sooners create a bigger presence in the Golden State, with OU signing several other highly-rated Californians, including Michiah Quick and Hatari Byrd, in recent seasons.

On the field, Jefferson was a immediate-impact player who bolted Norman, Oklahoma, a year too soon. He started 34 of 40 games at OU finishing with 258 tackles -- including 180 solo stops and 18 tackles for loss -- eight interceptions and seven sacks from 2010-12.
Here's a look at five intriguing recruitments of Big 12 standouts who landed a spot on the Ultimate ESPN 300:

Big 12 Tuesday mailbag

February, 17, 2015
Feb 17
4:30
PM ET
In Tuesday's mailbag, nonconference scheduling, Kansas' recruiting philosophy and Oklahoma's quarterback situation are among the topics. As always, thanks for your questions. To submit questions for next week's mailbag, click here.

 




Jonathan Chambers in Bonneau: Will the Big 12 consider adding two more teams, such as BYU and Boise State, in order to have that coveted conference championship game, or will it petition the NCAA for a 10 team conference championship?

Brandon Chatmon: Doesn't look like that sits atop the priority list for the Big 12. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby addressed a championship game and expansion in this Q&A with Jake Trotter. The first step is to address the tiebreaker rules, which became an issue in 2014 as the TCU-Baylor debate hit its peak. Getting rid of the possibility for co-champions and uncertainty over who should be considered the Big 12’s top team would be a good first step.

 




Nathan in Boundurant, Iowa: What are the odds Iowa State jucos Demond Tucker and Bobby Leath anchor the defensive line this season and make it back to a bowl game this season?

BC: I’m looking for a big impact from Tucker and Leath and the Cyclones desperately need some impact newcomers along the defensive line. The Cyclones were last in the Big 12 with 15 sacks and 3.2 sack percentage. Paul Rhoads' team needs a disruptive force along the defensive line. But it will be tough for the Cyclones to get to a bowl game unless both sides of the ball take massive steps forward. I like some of the talent in Ames, but I can't say I expect ISU to return to a bowl game quite yet.

 




Stanley Metz Jr. in Princeton, West Virginia, writes: Way too early question, but ... how can any Big 12 team expect to make the playoffs with their nonconference scheduling being so bad? Texas is the only team I see having a chance considering their nonconference schedule, and that's only if the Irish have a good season.

BC: Man, what’s with all the doom and gloom, Stanley? All this debate and conversation about nonconference scheduling is overblown at this point. It’s pretty simple, if any Big 12 team wins every game in 2015 (or beyond) and is left on the outside looking in at the College Football Playoff, I’ll be shocked. I’d agree that most Big 12 teams should amp up their nonconference schedules in the future but their destiny is still in their own hands, on the field, either way.

 




Terry in Texas writes: Texas Tech’s Mike Mitchell has been flying under the radar. What are some realistic expectations out of this kid this season?

BC: Global domination. OK, maybe that's too much to ask, but I expect him to become one of the core members of the Red Raider defense. Mitchell, a linebacker who transferred from Ohio State, is talented and he fits a need so I could see him force his way into the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year competition. The Red Raiders' defense needs playmakers and Mitchell could be the guy.

 




Andrew in Albuquerque writes: How much do you feel Oklahoma's success this season will depend on the QB situation?

BC: For me, success would mean Big 12 championship contention at the very least. So, yes, OU’s success is very much tied into the play of the quarterbacks. Trevor Knight has shown he can play at a high level but he also has shown he can make game-changing mistakes. I think the Sooners learned the past two years that you can’t win Big 12 titles without offensive balance. I think Lincoln Riley will bring that balance and I think he will find an answer at quarterback, whether it’s Knight, Baker Mayfield or one of OU’s other signal-callers. But TCU and Baylor are still the clear favorites in the conference in my eyes, which means OU needs exceptional, not just good, quarterback play to force itself into the mix.

 




Scott in Overland Park writes: I'm calling shenanigans on KU's Beaty making Kansas a priority in recruiting. It has been pretty much nothing but Texas recruiting since he got here. Didn't he get only one Kansas recruit in his whole class?

BC: First off, I'm pretty happy to be able to sneak the word shenanigans into a mailbag, so thanks for that Scott. But, to answer your question, what did you expect him to do? Just take a bunch of players from Kansas after arriving in Lawrence in December? That sounds like a good way to make a bunch of mistakes on the recruiting trail. Beaty is focused on planting seeds that could blossom two or three years from now, not after two months on the job. It makes sense for him to lean on what he knows, which is Texas, for right now during his short stint in charge. But I’d expect to see signs of Beaty’s in-state philosophy during his first full recruiting cycle in the Class of 2016, when he has had the chance to properly evaluate the top talent in Kansas and decide which players are a good fit for how he's looking to build his program.

 




Ethan Brown in Waco, Texas, writes: Who do you think will win the Baylor starting QB job this year?

BC: I think Seth Russell will be the guy. He has plenty of experience in the offense and he performed well during his limited opportunities behind Bryce Petty. Chris Johnson and Jarrett Stidham are both talented enough to win the job, but it’s Russell’s job to lose.
This week, we examined the steps that catapulted Baylor and TCU into becoming national powerhouses. That has come at the expense of conference flagships Texas and Oklahoma, who were never factors in the Big 12 race last year.

But can the Sooners and Longhorns return to being contenders and challenge TCU and Baylor in 2015? And if so, who has the better shot?

We tackle this question with the return of our weekly Take Two debate:

Take 1: Brandon Chatmon -- Texas

It may not look pretty now but I have a feeling Texas can force its way into the Big 12 title conversation. Year 2 of the Charlie Strong era should be much better than Year 1. With his first fully evaluated recruiting class on the way and the foundation of his program in place, Strong can focus on exceeding expectations in 2015.

The quarterback position is scary with Tyrone Swoopes showing inconsistency, Jerrod Heard as an unknown and Kai Locksley not even on campus yet. But what’s new? And an overall search for playmakers and big plays should keep the Longhorns' offensive coaches busy this offseason.

Yet, all those problems with the offense don’t stand as an immovable obstacle between Strong’s team and Big 12 championship contention because the Longhorns' defense should be able to keep UT in every game next season. Even though Malcom Brown, Jordan Hicks, Quandre Diggs and Cedric Reed are no longer in Austin, Strong’s roster has the talent to have one of the Big 12’s top defenses yet again. Defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway could take his game to another level as a junior and highly-touted freshman linebacker Malik Jefferson seems college-ready.

Both teams need to find an answer at quarterback and questions about their offenses will linger into the fall, but its defense makes UT the better choice over OU.

Take 2: Jake Trotter -- Oklahoma

Texas is coming. But the Longhorns aren't there yet.

Texas isn't any closer to finding its long-term answer at quarterback. And the Horns graduated its best running back, two best receivers, two best defensive linemen, best linebacker and best defensive back off last year's team.

Considering it may take a while for Strong's recruiting triumphs to pay off on the field, Texas is not built to win big just quite yet.

Oklahoma might not be, either. But the Sooners are definitely closer.

As Bob Stoops would say (and has many times) Oklahoma is only months removed from defeating Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Sooners bring back a front seven capable of wreaking havoc; one of the best receivers in the Big 12 in Sterling Shepard; and one of the best running backs in the country in Samaje Perine.

Like with Texas, the key to Oklahoma contending is better quarterback play. Trevor Knight was good, at times. But when he was bad, he was really bad, leading the Big 12 in pick-six interceptions. The Sooners, however, will be adding Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield, who was the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year two years ago, to the competition this spring.

If Mayfield (or Knight or Cody Thomas) can stabilize the position and thrive in new coordinator Lincoln Riley's Air Raid system, Oklahoma has the talent elsewhere to return to contender status.

That might be a big "if." But smaller than what Texas faces in Strong's second season.
With spring ball a month away, we've been ranking position groups in the Big 12. These evaluations have been based on past performance, future potential, and quality depth. We continue the series below with linebackers:

1. Oklahoma: The Oklahoma linebackers didn’t quite live up to expectations last season. But Dominique Alexander and Jordan Evans are two of the top five returning tacklers in the league. Eric Striker was also tops among Big 12 linebackers with nine sacks, and has All-American potential even if the production wasn’t quite there in 2014. The Sooners are also banking on getting back 2013 leading tackler Frank Shannon, who was suspended from school last year for violating the school’s Title IX conduct policy. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Devante Bond bring depth and speed off the edge.

2. Oklahoma State: Ryan Simmons will be a three-year starter and brings plenty of speed from the inside. Seth Jacobs is also back after a breakout sophomore season. Simmons and Jacobs ranked 11th and 13th in the league in tackles last season, respectively. The Cowboys should also begin to feel the effects of their outstanding 2014 linebacking recruiting class. Gyasi Akem and Justin Phillips both played as true freshmen and warrant bigger roles in 2015. ESPN 300 signee Kevin Henry and junior-college transfer Jordan Burton could both challenge for time at the "star" outside linebacking spot.

3. Texas: The Longhorns graduated leading tackler Jordan Hicks, who chose not to seek a sixth year of eligibility. But veterans Dalton Santos and Peter Jinkens are back to anchor the unit. The Longhorns also signed perhaps the best linebacking class in the country this month, headlined by four-star prospects Malik Jefferson, Anthony Wheeler and Cameron Townsend.

4. West Virginia: No returning linebacker has more tackles the last two years than Nick Kwiatkoski's 189. Kwiatkoski is a tackling machine. K.J. Dillon had a solid season after moving down from safety to outside linebacker. Seniors Isaiah Bruce, Jared Barber, Shaq Petteway, and Edward Muldrow all have starting experience, as well. No Big 12 team has a deeper corps than the Mountaineers.

5. Baylor: Taylor Young is the AP’s reigning Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. As a redshirt freshman, he produced 91 tackles, eight tackles for loss, and a fourth-quarter interception against Michigan State in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic. Who will start alongside him remains a question after the Bears graduated longtime stalwart Bryce Hager. Grant Campbell will probably get the nod starting out in the middle, but Aiavion Edwards, Kendall Ehrlich, Raaquan Davis, and Xavier Phillips will all have opportunities.

6. Kansas State: Elijah Lee shined while getting significant snaps as a true freshman as a pass-rushing specialist. He has a chance to be the Big 12’s next version of Striker. Will Davis started out the season starting alongside Jonathan Truman, but lost snaps to Dakorey Johnson late in the season. The Wildcats will need Davis to bounce back to fill some of the massive production Truman supplied. A healthy return of Charmeachealle Moore from a season-ending injury would help, too.

7. Texas Tech: All eyes in Lubbock will be on Ohio State transfer Mike Mitchell, whom the Red Raiders are hoping will deliver big. The Plano, Texas, native was an ESPN 300 prospect before signing with the Buckeyes. He has the potential to be a difference-maker. Micah Awe was third on the team in tackles last season from the inside. Redshirt freshman Dakota Allen and incoming freshman D'Vonta Hinton could both step into the rotation.

8. Kansas: The Jayhawks graduated one of the best defensive players in school history in linebacker Ben Heeney, who topped the Big 12 with 88 solo tackles last season. To help replace him, Kansas will have to hope that Jake Love can more consistently produce the kind of performance he delivered early last year against Central Michigan, when he had four tackles for loss and a sack. Courtney Arnick returns after finishing sixth on the defense in tackles. Former ESPN 300 signee Kyron Watson figures to play a much bigger role as a sophomore.

9. TCU: There wasn’t a better linebacking tandem in the Big 12 last season than All-American Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallet. Both, however, are gone, leaving a gigantic void in the middle of the TCU defense. For the Horned Frogs to challenge for a playoff spot again, someone will have to emerge from the likes of Sammy Douglas, Paul Whitmill, Ty Summers, and incoming freshmen Alec Dunham, Mike Freeze and Semaj Thomas.

10. Iowa State: The Cyclones had one of the worst run defenses in the country last season. Better linebacking will help correct this Achilles' heel. Brian Mills eventually won a starting job as a redshirt freshman last season. He and Luke Knott have the chance to develop into a quality one-two punch from the outside. In the middle, Kane Steely, Jordan Harris, and Alton Meeks will battle for time. Whoever is most consistent will get the majority of the snaps.
They've done it in very different ways but Baylor, Oklahoma and Kansas State have been the Big 12's most efficient offenses during the past three seasons. The Wildcats do it with efficient playmaking, the Sooners have leaned on the running game and the Bears used explosive speed and big plays. All three teams have won 20 games and lost seven games in the Big 12 during the past three seasons.

Here's a look at the Big 12's points-per-drive rankings since TCU and West Virginia joined the Big 12 in 2012 (conference games only).

1. Baylor 2.96

Conference record: 20-7

Summary: The Bears have scored 1,213 points, 44.9 points per game, during this three-year span. Bryce Petty earned Big 12 offensive player of the year honors in 2013 as he passed for 4,200 yards, 32 touchdowns and three interceptions while leading the Bears to their first Big 12 title.

Key stat: The Bears have also led the Big 12 in yards per play with 6.65 since 2012.

2. Kansas State 2.71

Conference record: 20-7

Summary: A pair of exceptional quarterbacks, Collin Klein and Jake Waters, have joined Tyler Lockett to give the Wildcats one of the top offenses in the conference. Lockett had 231 receptions for 3,464 yards and 26 touchdowns as the Big 12’s top playmaking threat during the past three seasons.

Key stat: The Wildcats averaged 9.18 yards per pass attempt, best in the Big 12.

3. Oklahoma 2.51

Conference record: 20-7

Summary: This offseason has made it easy to forget the Sooners had one of the Big 12’s top offenses in recent years. Thanks to Damien Williams, Brennan Clay and Samaje Perine, OU has rushed for 6,158 yards as the Sooners leaned on their running game, particularly during the past two seasons. Williams, Clay and Perine each recorded at least 1,000 rushing yards during the span.

Key stat: The Sooners have averaged a Big 12-best 5.54 yards per carry.

4. Texas Tech 2.13

Conference record: 10-17

Summary: The Red Raiders have passed for 9,834 yards (364.22 passing yards per game) since 2012. Davis Webb, Seth Doege, Baker Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes have had their time behind center for Tech during this span yet the Red Raiders' passing attack remained productive regardless of who ran the offense. Tech’s 64 turnovers and minus-30 turnover margin have kept it from seeing that offensive production transform into Big 12 title contention.

Key stat: Tech’s 63.5 completion percentage is the Big 12’s best.

5 (tie). Oklahoma State 2.07

Conference record: 16-11

Summary: The Cowboys offense has taken a step backward after being among the Big 12’s best units before 2012. Clint Chelf, Joseph Randle and Josh Stewart were among the Cowboys' key contributors during this three-year span but the explosiveness that became commonplace in Boone Pickens Stadium definitely disappeared at times, particularly in 2014.

Key stat: OSU’s 83.1 goal-to-go touchdown percentage was second in the Big 12 behind OU.

5 (tie). West Virginia 2.07

Conference record: 11-16

Summary: Outstanding receivers helped the Mountaineers remain productive with Kevin White, Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and Mario Alford creating problems for defenses. WVU would likely be even higher on this list if Dana Holgorsen’s team capitalized on red zone opportunities. WVU converted 58.3 percent of its red zone possessions into touchdowns, ranking eighth in the Big 12.

Key stat: WVU averaged 4.44 yards per carry (third in the Big 12) during this span, bringing balance to the Mountaineer attack.

7. TCU 1.98

Conference record: 14-13

Summary: TCU’s offense was turnover-ridden during the Horned Frogs first two seasons in the Big 12 before Trevone Boykin sparked an offensive explosion in 2014. Boykin, the 2014 Big 12 offensive player of the year, has been one of the conference’s top playmakers as a passer, runner and receiver but 62 turnovers have served as a anchor to the offense.

Key stat: The Horned Frogs got 62.7 percent of their yardage through the air, ranking third in the Big 12 and higher than Baylor and Oklahoma State.

8. Texas 1.97

Conference record: 17-10

Summary: UT’s quarterback struggles are well-documented and have hampered the Longhorns’ offense. Their 1.2-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio was ninth in the Big 12. There was talent on the 40 acres but the offense never really seemed to find a rhythm or transfer that talent into consistent playmaking.

Key stat: The Longhorns were pretty solid on third down despite their struggles to score, finishing fourth in the Big 12 by converting 42 percent of their third-down attempts.

9. Iowa State 1.56

Conference record: 5-22

Summary: ISU’s offense hasn’t excelled in the running game or the passing game during this span as the Cyclones averaged 5.9 yards per pass attempt and 3.84 yards per carry. Injuries and struggles along the offensive line have hurt but ISU must improve drastically if it hopes to return to a bowl game.

Key stat: The Cyclones offense won’t make a drastic jump on this list without doing better at limiting negative plays. ISU had 38 percent of its plays end up with zero yards or negative yardage, worst in the Big 12.

10. Kansas 1.06

Conference record: 2-25

Summary: David Beaty is tasked with jump-starting this lackluster attack. KU ranked last in most categories. James Sims, who rushed for 1,751 yards and 12 touchdowns, was the main bright spot during this span.

Key stat: The Jayhawks' 4.49 yards per play was, by far, the worst in the Big 12. ISU was second at 4.88 ypp.

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

February, 16, 2015
Feb 16
2:30
PM ET
Here's what's been cooking on the recruiting trail around the Big 12:

Baylor
Total commits: 5
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Bears got in early on Houston defensive tackle Jordan Elliott, who committed to Baylor last month. But the Bears will have to fight to keep him. Elliott received an offer from Alabama last week, and more big-time offers figure to pour in.

Iowa State
Total commits: 0
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: Iowa State continues to battle for in-state offensive lineman Jake Heinrich, whose recruitment outside the state has picked up. Heinrich is not expected to be at Iowa State's junior day this weekend, but his twin brother, John, and Urbandale offensive lineman teammate, Caleb Bright, are.

Kansas
Total commits: 1
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Jayhawks are heading out West to try and land a QB. Last week, Kansas extended offers to a pair of California QBs in Devon Modster of Las Flores and Khalil Tate of Gardena. The connection is offensive coordinator Rob Likens, who previously was at Cal.

Kansas State
Total commits: 2
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: Oregon reportedly has offered Wichita defensive end Xavier Kelly, who has been committed to the Wildcats since November. Kelly committed to the Wildcats shorty after getting an offer from Nebraska, but it will be interesting to see if he gives the Ducks a look.

Oklahoma
Total commits: 2
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 1
The latest: Off their junior day event, the Sooners picked up their first in-state commitment over the weekend in Tulsa's Jon-Michael Terry. Though Terry also plays tight end, the Sooners have targeted him as an outside linebacker. He had 103 tackles and 19 sacks for Victory Christian last season.

Oklahoma State
Total commits: 1
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: Like the Sooners, Oklahoma State landed its first in-state commitment last week in Tulsa running back Justice Hill, who rushed for 1,426 yards and 22 touchdowns at Booker T. Washington as a junior. The Cowboys have done well replenishing their running back depth in these two latest recruiting classes, which included the signings of Chris Carson, Todd Mays and Jeff Carr earlier this month.

TCU
Total commits: 7
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Horned Frogs are in a battle with Texas Tech for three-star Dallas Skyline RB Da'Leon Ward, who is down to the two Big 12 rivals. Ward is expected to be in Fort Worth for TCU's junior day this weekend, then Lubbock for Tech's the weekend after that.

Texas
Total commits: 3
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 2
The latest: The Longhorns host junior day Feb. 28 and extended some 2016 offers last week in advance, including LB Dontavious Jackson and a trio of WRs: former Baylor commit Tren'Davian Dickson, LSU commit Dee Anderson and juco standout Taj Williams.

Texas Tech
Total commits: 2
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Red Raiders are one of the schools that have jumped on ESPN Junior 300 athlete Christian Wallace, who decommitted from TCU a week ago. The Red Raiders have an in with Wallace in defensive back Collin Wilder, who is committed to Tech and high school teammates with Wallace at Katy High School.

West Virginia
Total commits: 4
ESPN Junior 300 commits: 0
The latest: West Virginia has always been working from a disadvantage in recruiting because of the lack on in-state talent. But this could be a banner year for the state. The Mountaineers have already locked up commitments from linebacker Dylan Tonkery and defensive end Reese Donahue, and they have extended an offer to Charleston quarterback Tyrhee Pratt. The last time West Virginia signed three in-state players was 2007.
With spring ball a month away, we've been ranking position groups in the Big 12. These evaluations have been based on past performance, future potential and quality depth. We continue the series with defensive line:

1. Baylor: The Bears boast two bona fide All-American candidates up front in tackle Andrew Billings and end Shawn Oakman, who put off the draft to return for his senior season. Both are coming off first-team All-Big 12 seasons. Alongside Billings, Beau Blackshear will be a three-year starter. The group has the potential to be scary good -- and also just plain scary.

2. TCU: The Horned Frogs lose three-time All-Big 12 lynchpin Chucky Hunter; the rest of the D-line, however, is back. Fellow tackle Davion Pierson will finally be out of Hunter's shadow. He quietly was one of TCU's better players last year. The entire playmaking defensive end quartet of Josh Carraway, Mike Tuaua, James McFarland and Terrell Lathan is back, as well. If junior Tevin Lawson or sophomore Chris Bradley can fill Hunter's production, this unit has a chance to be as good as it was in 2014 -- if not better.

3. Texas: Malcom Brown deservedly received all the attention for his magnificent 2014 campaign. But he also overshadowed Hassan Ridgeway, who was one of the Big 12's better tackles by the end of the season. Ridgeway is a breakout bet for 2015. He'll be flanked by Desmond Jackson, who is coming back from season-ending foot injury, and former ESPN 300 signee Poona Ford. At end, the Longhorns lose Cedric Reed, but have Naashon Hughes, Caleb Bluiett and Shiro Davis back as well as Derick Roberson, the team's top overall signee in 2014. ESPN JC50 DE Quincy Vasser rounds out a deep and talented rotation.

4. Oklahoma State: Emmanuel Ogbah is the reigning Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the year, and will only be a junior. Last season in his first as a starter, he finished second in the league with 11 sacks and third with 17 tackles for loss. Jimmy Bean is a two-year starter at the other end. James Castleman and Ofa Hautau are gone inside, but Oklahoma State has ESPN JC 50 recruit Motekiai Maile and several up-and-coming options at tackle, including Vincent Taylor, Vili Leveni and four-star signee Darrion Daniels.

5. Oklahoma: The Sooners had a disappointing 2014, due in part to a defensive line that failed to dominate as expected. Yet despite losing Jordan Phillips, Chuka Ndulue and Geneo Grissom, Oklahoma is hardly devoid of talent up front. Charles Tapper is one year removed from a first-team All-Big 12 season. The Sooners need him to return to his disruptive 2013 level. The program is excited about Matt Dimon, Matthew Romar, Charles Walker and D.J. Ward after they served bit roles last season. The biggest question is nose tackle, where Phillips' departure leaves a huge void in Mike Stoops' 3-4 scheme. Jordan Wade is the only returning 300-pound defender on the roster, but he fell out of the rotation last year. ESPN 300 signee Neville Gallimore could be the long-term answer there, but it's unknown how ready he'll be able to assist as a true freshman. The Sooners also have to replace prolific D-line coach Jerry Montgomery, who recently left for the Green Bay Packers.

6. Kansas State: Travis Britz is one of the top returning tackles in the league, and should be healthy after missing K-State's final three games with an ankle injury. Jordan Willis was active at end with four sacks. Veteran backup Marquel Bryant likely will step in for Ryan Mueller opposite Willis. Rotation tackles Will Geary and Demonte Hood will be asked to play bigger roles in 2015. It will be interesting to see if defensive tackle Bryce English, the top signee in K-State's 2015 class, or defensive tackle Trey Dishon, perhaps the sleeper of the class, will be able to help early on, as well.

7. West Virginia: Shaq Riddick was West Virginia's only real pass-rush threat last season, and he's gone. Still, the team can count Kyle Rose, Noble Nwachukwu and Christian Brown -- all experienced players. The Mountaineers need one of their two incoming juco ends, Larry Jefferson or Xavier Pegues, to supply the pressure Riddick brought off the edge.

8. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders finally have a chance to hold their own. Pete Robertson is a big reason why, having led the Big 12 with 13 sacks last year. Branden Jackson is a two-year starter on the other side of the line and a solid player. To combat what was a disastrous run defense in 2014, Tech is hopeful that former juco transfers Rika Levi and Keland McElrath will be more effective in their second seasons. The "X" factor will be incoming freshman Breiden Fehoko, who was the No. 51 overall recruit in the country. If Fehoko can give the Red Raiders something early, they will instantly be better.

9. Kansas: The Jayhawks have the fewest returning starters in the Big 12, but they do bring back two-year starter Ben Goodman. Andrew Bolton is Kansas' top returner on the inside. Juco transfer Jacky Dezir should add depth in the middle. Incoming freshman end Dorance Armstrong has the potential to be a difference-maker in time.

10. Iowa State: The Cyclones were awful against the run in 2014, giving up an average of 5.67 yards per carry. Only New Mexico, New Mexico State and Georgia State allowed a worse average. The playing status of Iowa State's best returning defensive lineman, Mitchell Meyers, is also up in the air after he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. The Cyclones need a major impact from ESPN JC 50 defensive tackle Demond Tucker, as well as fellow juco addition Bobby Leath.

Big 12 spring practice dates

February, 13, 2015
Feb 13
5:00
PM ET
Spring football is just around the corner. The two-time Big 12 champs from Baylor will kick off this spring for the Big 12 in less than two weeks.

Below are the rest of the spring start dates and spring game schedules for the Big 12:

Baylor
  • Spring practice begins: Feb. 23
  • Spring game: March 20
Iowa State
  • Spring practice begins: March 3
  • Spring game: April 11
Kansas
  • Spring practice begins: March 24
  • Spring game: April 25
Kansas State
  • Spring practice begins: April 1
  • Spring game: April 25 in Kansas City
Oklahoma
  • Spring practice begins: March 7
  • Spring game: TBA
Oklahoma State
  • Spring practice begins: March 9
  • Spring game: April 18
Texas
  • Spring practice begins: March 25
  • Spring game: April 18
TCU
  • Spring practice begins: Feb. 28
  • Spring game: April 10
Texas Tech
  • Spring practice begins: Feb. 28
  • Spring game: March 28 in Midland, Texas
West Virginia
  • Spring practice begins: March 15
  • Spring game: April 25

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