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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Below are the rest of the spring start dates and spring game schedules for the Big 12:
- Spring practice begins: Feb. 23
- Spring game: March 20
- Spring practice begins: March 3
- Spring game: April 11
- Spring practice begins: March 24
- Spring game: April 25
- Spring practice begins: April 1
- Spring game: April 25 in Kansas City
- Spring practice begins: March 7
- Spring game: TBA
- Spring practice begins: March 9
- Spring game: April 18
- Spring practice begins: March 25
- Spring game: April 18
- Spring practice begins: Feb. 28
- Spring game: April 10
- Spring practice begins: Feb. 28
- Spring game: March 28 in Midland, Texas
- Spring practice begins: March 15
- Spring game: April 25
I hope everyone enjoys their Valentine's Day weekend. Guys, if you're wondering what to do, remember, it's always better to overshoot.
Now, on to the 'bag:
@Jake_Trotter How do you see the Baylor QB battle going in the Spring? Is it Russell's job to lose or open with him, Johnson, and Stidham?— David Hornbeak (@davidhornbeak) February 13, 2015
Trotter: The job is Seth Russell's to lose, but that doesn't mean he has it locked up. Russell has been solid for the most part backing up Bryce Petty the past two seasons, but he was a little shaky filling in for Petty against Texas Tech late last season. Chris Johnson is obviously in the mix and shouldn't be overlooked, but Jarrett Stidham has an impressive skill set that could allow him to ultimately win this job. It might not happen by the end of the spring. It might not happen at the start of next season. But, eventually, it could happen.
@Jake_Trotter do you see any position battles actually being decided in spring ball? anything newsworthy coming out of the Spring?— Andrew Katz (@Andrewpkatz) February 13, 2015
Trotter: I don't know how many of them will actually be decided before the end of the spring, but there will be several other intriguing quarterback battles to follow, including West Virginia (Skyler Howard vs. William Crest), Oklahoma (Trevor Knight vs. Baker Mayfield vs. Cody Thomas), Texas (Tyrone Swoopes vs. Jerrod Heard), K-State (Joe Hubener vs. Alex Delton) and Texas Tech (Pat Mahomes vs. Davis Webb). Who has the best chance to come out of spring as the definitive starter? My money is on Mahomes.
@Jake_Trotter Will 2015 be Paul Millard's (WVU) breakout year or is he a proverbial backup?— JO_P3FE (@Thump8251) February 13, 2015
Trotter: I think Paul Millard's time has come and gone. Never say never, I guess, but the West Virginia quarterback battle is going to be about Howard and Crest. Millard is a nice No. 3 to have. But I don't see him winning the job.
@Jake_Trotter What's the likelihood of TTU replicating TCU's 4-8 to 11-1 season turnaround?— Andrew Hart (@TheHartofTexas) February 13, 2015
Trotter: Tech has quarterback talent, and some receivers that have big-play potential. I also like Tech's offensive line, especially Le'Raven Clark manning left tackle. But that's where the comparisons to TCU stop. The Horned Frogs quietly had another superb defense again last season, with All-Big 12 talents littered across the defensive line (Chucky Hunter), linebacker (Paul Dawson), and the secondary (Chris Hackett, Sam Carter, Kevin White). I don't see the players right now in Lubbock. Sure Pete Robertson is a nice piece, and I'm looking forward to seeing what Breiden Fehoko and Mike Mitchell bring. But to go 11-1, you need a defense that can bring it, too. Tech has a long way to go there.
@Jake_Trotter chances Big 12 gets 1 team in next years playoff? Chances they get 2? If somebody gets in, who is it? Baylor? TCU? Other?— LENNON - JON JON " (@yaboylennon) February 13, 2015
Trotter: As this season showed, it's very difficult for a conference to get two teams in the playoff. Possible, yes. But very difficult. I think the most likely scenario is that the Big 12 champion gets into the playoff as the league's lone rep. Right now, I'd give the edge to TCU over Baylor, because of the quarterback advantage and because Baylor has to go to Fort Worth this time around. If you're looking for a darkhorse, keep an eye on Oklahoma State, which ESPN Insider Brad Edwards actually has in the playoff in his early projection. The Cowboys get TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma all in Stillwater, all in the final month of the season. If they get hot, they could be a factor.
Trotter: Yeah, I actually really liked both. Brick Haley had a proven track record of developing big-time defensive linemen. He's familiar with the recruiting area, too. I also liked the addition of Jeff Traylor as tight ends and special teams coach. My one concern with Charlie Strong's original staff was the lack of previous connection to Texas high school football. Traylor, who won three state championships at Gilmer High, has the relationships around the state to help bridge that gap.
@Jake_Trotter with the league losing Lockett, White, & Goodley who are some pass catchers to lookout for we may not know about— MediaMillennialAllen (@ACisWrite) February 13, 2015
Trotter: Oklahoma's Sterling Shepard returns, and would have been a 1,500-yard receiver had he not suffered a groin injury on Nov. 1 that basically knocked him out for the season. Shepard along with Baylor's Corey Coleman and KD Cannon are the top returning wideouts in the league. But some other guys flying a bit under the radar to watch for include Oklahoma State's Brandon Sheperd, Iowa State's Quenton Bundrage, and Texas Tech's Devin Lauderdale. Sheperd exploded after Mason Rudolph took over at quarterback last November; he torched Oklahoma for 156 receiving yards and two TDs in the Cowboys' upset win in Norman. Bundrage was third in the Big 12 in TD catches in 2013, then missed all of last year with a knee injury; if he's healthy, he could be a force again. Finally, Lauderdale came on really strong late last season after a slow start; he had at least 80 yards receiving in four of Tech's final five games. He, Bundrage and Sheperd could all have big 2015 seasons.
@Jake_Trotter Big 12 baseball starts today! Do you pay attention to the baseball season?— march_born (@sign_floyd) February 13, 2015
Trotter: I enjoy college baseball -- and baseball overall -- very much. It's even more enjoyable when the Big 12 has so many good teams, like it appears to again this season..
We have been without college football for a little more than a month, but next season's rosters are beginning to take shape with signing day in the rearview mirror and spring position battles on the horizon. Here is a look at five under-the-radar players to keep an eye on in the Big 12 this spring.
Tight end Kent Taylor, Kansas: The Florida transfer was a highly regarded prospect out of high school and saw action as a true freshman for the Gators in 2012. He left Florida after the 2013 season, transferring to Kansas, and could be the ideal replacement for Jimmay Mundine. With a big spring showing, Taylor could set himself up to be a terrific big receiving option in new coach David Beaty's up-tempo offense in the fall.
Quarterback Chris Johnson, Baylor: With Seth Russell the favorite to start and Jarrett Stidham">Jarrett Stidham the talk of Baylor's recruiting class, Johnson has slipped under the radar. Yet Johnson was a member of the ESPN 300 and has the skills to win Baylor’s quarterback derby. Johnson couples terrific size and athleticism with a couple of seasons in the Bears' offensive system, so he could use this spring to start making a mark in the program.
Cornerback Rasul Douglas, West Virginia: The Mountaineers feature some of the Big 12’s top defensive backs with Karl Joseph, Dravon Henry, and Daryl Worley, but Douglas could secure a spot in the secondary this spring. The No. 23 player in the ESPN JC50 brings length and athleticism to WVU’s secondary. With Big 12 receivers getting bigger and more physical each year, Douglas brings good size at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds.
Athlete Todd Mays, Oklahoma State: The last time Oklahoma State signed a multi-skilled athlete from the junior college ranks it turned out pretty well. Tyreek Hill was key playmaker in several games for the Cowboys in 2014, and Mays has the versatility to make a similar impact. The junior college signee can play quarterback, running back, and receiver, which will allow offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich to be creative with his play calls and personnel packages. Fellow junior college signee Chris Carson got most of the attention on signing day, but Mays could end up being an "X factor" in OSU's offense.
Cornerback Jermaine Roberts, Texas: It feels like Roberts needs to seize the opportunity to secure a role in Texas' secondary this spring. Head coach Charlie Strong's program landed several defensive backs on signing day, including ESPN 300 cornerbacks Holton Hill and Kris Boyd. Roberts redshirted last fall after being one of Texas' top Class of 2014 signees and has the physical ability to be an impact player as a redshirt freshman. This spring gives him the chance to get a leg up on the cornerback competition before Hill and Boyd arrive on campus.
Brick Haley, a former defensive line coach at LSU and Mississippi State, was named the Longhorns' defensive line coach.
Haley joins the staff from LSU where he served six seasons (2009-14). During his time at LSU, the the Tigers produced several NFL defensive linemen, including first round picks Michael Brockers and Barkevious Mingo.
Texas also added Gilmer High School head coach Jeff Traylor to its staff as a tight ends and special teams coach.
Traylor had been at Gilmer the past 15 seasons (2000-14), and won state championships in 2004, 2009 and last season.
Success on the field in college football generally goes hand-in-hand with success on the recruiting trail. For the fourth consecutive season, the Alabama Crimson Tide signed the No. 1 class, according to ESPN RecruitingNation rankings. In fact, coach Nick Saban has brought in a top-3 class for eight straight seasons, and those elite recruits have led the Tide to three national championships and a berth in the inaugural College Football Playoff in that span.
The best players don't always guarantee success, of course, and many programs struggle on the field despite the fact their rosters are loaded with talent. We calculated program profiles for each team based on multiple years of recruiting rankings and compared those rankings with every FBS game result of the past five seasons. In total, the team that fielded a more talented roster beat the less talented opponent 65 percent of the time.
On Thursday, we chronicled the overachievers who routinely do more with less.
The five teams on today's list of underachievers have not been able to consistently translate prospective talent into wins on the field. Each school signed a number of new potential stars last week, but each still needs to prove that it can consistently win games against less-loaded rosters.
Five-year record as more talented team: 36-28 (.563)
2015 RecruitingNation class rank: 9
From 2009 to 2012, the Longhorns signed four consecutive classes ranked in the top 5 in ESPN's RecruitingNation ratings. Those classes did not meet expectations, however, as they posted two losing seasons in the past five years and never lost fewer than four games in a season in that stretch. In the same span, the Longhorns plummeted from the No. 2 overall team in our program ratings to outside the top 40.
Still, that doesn't mean every Big 12 nonconference game will be a bore. Texas goes to Notre Dame. Oklahoma travels to Tennessee. Texas Tech returns a trip to Arkansas.
But which team has the toughest nonconference slate? And which has the softest? The rankings are below, going from most difficult to least (*denotes FCS opponents):
1. TEXAS: at Notre Dame (8-5), Rice (8-5), Cal (5-7)
- Opponents’ 2014 combined winning percentage: .552
- Toughest opponent: Notre Dame
- Weakest opponent: Rice
- 2014 bowl teams: 2
- Quick take: The Longhorns continue their recent trend of challenging nonconference schedules, opening with a trip to South Bend. The Fighting Irish were up-and-down last year, but they finished with a victory over LSU in the Music City Bowl. Even though it didn't make a bowl, Cal was one of the most improved teams in college football last season, going from 1-11 to 5-7 in Sonny Dykes' second year. Rice is a solid non-Power 5 opponent. It won't take long to find out what Charlie Strong has in Year 2 in Austin.
- Opponents’ 2014 combined winning percentage: .675
- Toughest opponent: Memphis
- Weakest opponent: South Dakota State
- 2014 bowl teams: 2
- Quick take: David Beaty will be baptized by fire. The Jayhawks have a tough nonconference slate, including South Dakota State, which made the second round of the FCS playoffs last year. Memphis is coming off a 10-win season; Rutgers on the road will be a big challenge, as well. This is a brutal early series of games for a program transitioning to a new coaching staff which will have the fewest returning starters in the Big 12.
- Opponents’ 2014 combined winning percentage: .378
- Toughest opponent: Tennessee
- Weakest opponent: Tulsa
- 2014 bowl teams: 1
- Quick take: The Sooners face potentially the toughest nonconference game of any Big 12 team with a road trip to Tennessee. The Vols have struggled in recent years, but could be on the verge of turning the corner after a series of elite recruiting classes. The Vols also return an SEC-high 18 starters, including Joshua Dobbs, who is one of the up-and-coming quarterbacks in college football. The Sooners will have to play well -- and much better than they did toward the end of last season -- to prevail in Knoxville.
- Opponents’ 2014 combined winning percentage: .595
- Toughest opponent: Arkansas
- Weakest opponent: Sam Houston State
- 2014 bowl teams: 1
- Quick take: The Razorbacks smacked the Red Raiders around in Lubbock last year. The return trip to Arkansas is a game the Red Raiders can win. But they have to hold up way better in the trenches. Tech struggled with UTEP last year, too, foreshadowing struggles the rest of the season. The early tilts against Sam Houston State -- a quality FCS program -- and UTEP figure to serve as a harbinger again.
- Opponents’ 2014 combined winning percentage: .641
- Toughest opponent: Maryland
- Weakest opponent: Liberty
- 2014 bowl teams: 1
- Quick take: After playing the toughest nonconference schedule in the Big 12 last year, the Mountaineers have a more manageable slate this time around. Still, it's not a cupcake one. Georgia Southern won the Sun Belt last year. Maryland, once again, will be one of the pivotal games on West Virginia's schedule. If the Mountaineers can beat their Atlantic rivals, they should head into Big 12 play with a boost of momentum.
- Opponents’ 2014 combined winning percentage: .625
- Toughest opponent: Iowa
- Weakest opponent: Northern Iowa
- 2014 bowl teams: 2
- Quick take: The Cyclones are actually capable of winning all three of these games -- and losing all three, as well. Iowa State has dropped its last two openers to FCS opponents, including two years ago to Northern Iowa. QB Logan Woodside is back to lead a Toledo offense that ranked 15th nationally last year. The Cyclones have had success against Iowa under Paul Rhoads, but the Hawkeyes will be out for revenge after losing on a last-second field goal. This stretch will determine whether the Cyclones will have a shot at getting back to bowl eligibility.
- Opponents’ 2014 combined winning percentage: .447
- Toughest opponent: Minnesota
- Weakest opponent: Stephen F. Austin
- 2014 bowl teams: 1
- Quick take: Minnesota surprisingly became a quality nonconference victory for TCU last year. A win at Minnesota, which has 13 returning starters, could be an even better win in 2015. At least the Horned Frogs better hope so. The rest of the nonconference schedule will do little to help TCU's strength of schedule résumé.
- Opponents’ 2014 combined winning percentage: .459
- Toughest opponent: Central Michigan
- Weakest opponent: Central Arkansas
- 2014 bowl teams: 1
- Quick take: After opening with defending champion Florida State last year, the Cowboys have dialed down their nonconference slate in 2015. The opener at Central Michigan could be a little tricky; the Chippewas qualified for the Popeye's Bahamas Bowl, and almost rallied to stun Western Michigan with a 34-point fourth quarter. But the rest of the schedule should be a mere warm-up for the Cowboys for Big 12 play.
- Opponents’ 2014 combined winning percentage: .395
- Toughest opponent: Louisiana Tech
- Weakest opponent: South Dakota
- 2014 bowl teams: 1
- Quick take: After facing Miami and Auburn in recent years, this schedule is more reminiscent of the early Bill Snyder nonconference slates. Louisiana Tech is decent. But this schedule should give the Wildcats time to adjust after losing so many key starters from last season's team.
- Opponents’ 2014 combined winning percentage: .405
- Toughest opponent: Rice
- Weakest opponent: Lamar
- 2014 bowl teams: 1
- Quick take: Once again, Baylor's nonconference schedule is miserable. Then again, Rice would've destroyed anyone Baylor faced last year, so at least it's an upgrade. If the Bears get into the playoff mix again, their nonconference schedule could come back to haunt them. Again.
Which junior-college transfer will make the biggest impact in 2015?
Chatmon: The door is wide open for receiver DeDe Westbrook to make a major impact for Oklahoma. The Sooners need playmaking receivers, and Westbrook fits the mold. He could be a terrific running mate with Sterling Shepard in Lincoln Riley’s version of the "Air Raid" offense, with the ability to line up in the slot or outside. Westbrook is the No. 14 player the ESPN JC50 as a four-star recruit from Blinn (Texas) Junior College.
Olson: Oklahoma State pulled off one of the better surprise coups of the final week of recruiting by flipping Chris Carson from Georgia. When you look at OSU's running back situation, it's clear he's going to get a lot of work in 2015. He's a complete back and a workhorse capable of answering a big question mark about the Cowboys' offense.
Trotter: I'm a huge fan of both Westbrook and Carson, and I think they are probably the two early favorites to contend for Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year honors. But on the other side of the ball, incoming Texas defensive end Quincy Vasser could also have a huge impact. The Longhorns are searching for a replacement for Cedric Reed, and Vasser, an ESPN JC50 signee, has the skill set to step in and be a starter from Day 1. It won't hurt him, either, that Texas will have a new defensive line coach, meaning Vasser should open spring ball on equal footing with the returners.
Which junior college transfer is flying too far under the radar?
Chatmon: It worked the first time, right? Receiver Ka'Raun White was somehow overlooked during the recruiting process despite his brother Kevin White becoming a Biletnikoff finalist for the Mountaineers last fall. From his hair free flowing out of the back of his helmet to his ability to run away from defenders, Ka'Raun will spark memories of his older brother. West Virginia needs immediate help at the receiver position, so Dana Holgorsen’s program will be hoping it goes two-for-two with receiver recruits from the White family.
Olson: I've been keeping an eye on Ke'aun Kinner since 2012, when he was perhaps the most productive back in the DFW Metroplex out of Little Elm, Texas. He rushed for more than 2,900 yards and 28 touchdowns as a senior but never had the grades to go FBS. At Navarro College, he earned All-America honors in 2014 with more than 1,800 yards of offense and 22 TDs. He packs a lot of electricity into his 5-foot-9 frame, and I bet he'll be productive right away at Kansas.
Trotter: Carson could very well make a huge splash for Oklahoma State, but I'm also intrigued by the other running back they signed, Todd Mays. The East Mississippi Community College product can do it all, including play quarterback, running back, and receiver. He doesn't possess Tyreek Hill's world-class speed. But he can fill the role that Hill did this past season in the Oklahoma State offense as a running back/slot receiver combo player. He could also help the Cowboys on returns, and, who knows, maybe be a threat to pass off trick plays, too.
What team will see the biggest overall impact from its junior college class?
Chatmon: The Mountaineers didn’t need major junior college help, but they got it anyway with White, ESPN JC50 cornerback Rasul Douglas and two other junior college signees (Xavier Pegues, Larry Jefferson) who can help immediately. Douglas will add to secondary that already could be the Big 12’s best unit and Pegues, and Jefferson could kick start the pass rush in 2015.
Olson: I'm definitely a fan of the junior college haul that Oklahoma State put together. Carson is going to get most of the headlines, but defensive tackle Motekiai Maile has the potential to be a monster up the middle. Antwan Hadley is a big 6-foot-4 cornerback, and I'm excited to see what Mike Gundy's staff does with Mays. He's a true athlete -- quarterback/running back/receiver -- and potentially a pretty fun weapon.
Trotter: Overall, the answer to this might be Kansas or Iowa State. Underscoring several immediate needs, the two signed a combined 14 junior college transfers. The Cyclones are banking that ESPN JC50 defensive tackle Demond Tucker can instantly boost what was the nation's worst statistical defense last season. With the fewest returning starters in the league, the Jayhawks will also need multiple contributions out of its massive junior college class.
It won’t matter once the pads go on. Some elite prospects fulfill their potential while others fall by the wayside as lower-rated prospects prove they shouldn't have been under-the-radar on signing day.
So, here’s your chance: Which Big 12 recruiting class will have the biggest impact in 2015?
The Longhorns could be considered the favorite to have the recruiting class that makes the biggest immediate impact in 2015. Charlie Strong’s first full recruiting cycle was fruitful with plenty of potential playmakers at need positions including linebacker Malik Jefferson, receiver Ryan Newsome and cornerback Holton Hill.
Oklahoma ended up with a solid group of signees, including eight members of the ESPN 300. Junior college receiver DeDe Westbrook appears tailor made for Lincoln Riley’s version of the Air Raid offense while top-rated signee P.J. Mbanasor should provide immediate depth at cornerback. Add a trio of quality safeties in Will Sunderland, Kahlil Haughton and Prentice McKinney and the Sooners could have four newcomers who earn playing time in the secondary in 2015.
Jarrett Stidham enrolled at Baylor with a goal of playing immediately, and the ESPN 300 quarterback has the talent to win the starting quarterback spot and take over as Bryce Petty’s replacement. But he’s just the headline signee of a group of solid athletes, including running back Ja’Mycal Hasty along with defensive backs Tony Nicholson and J.W. Ketchum. Keep an eye on linebacker Eric Ogor, who could be a hidden gem who fights his way onto the field this fall.
Oklahoma State needed immediate help at running back and got it with junior college signee Chris Carson, who could slide right into the Cowboys backfield alongside Mason Rudolph. Carson is one of seven junior college signees for the Pokes, setting OSU up with added depth along the offensive and defensive lines to amp up the competition and help let some of the skill talent in Stillwater, Oklahoma flourish.
UT, OU, BU and OSU may have had the conference’s top-ranked classes, but several other Big 12 classes could rise to the top in 2015.
Texas Tech finished strong, loading up on receivers while filling other needs on the roster including defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko. J.F. Thomas, Tony Brown, Keke Coutee, Donta Thompson, Quan Shorts and Jonathan Giles could end up rivaling any group of receiver signees in the Big 12.
West Virginia capitalized on selling the Big 12 on the East Coast with several signees who could see the field immediately. Defensive end Larry Jefferson could provide a pass rush, while receivers Jovon Durante, Gary Jennings and Ka’Raun White could help replace Kevin White and Mario Alford.
TCU added skill talent and multiple recruits with terrific long-term upside after its breakout 2014 season. Receivers Kavontae Turpin and Jaelan Austin join cornerback DeShawn Raymond and safety Montrel Wilson as the Horned Frogs highest-rated signees.
Quarterback Alex Delton and running back Alex Barnes arrived at Kansas State at the perfect time with the Wildcats searching for playmakers on offense. Time will tell if the duo is ready to contribute as true freshmen, but KSU has a proven track record of securing overshadowed talent that become the foundation of consistent success.
Kansas coach David Beaty hit the junior college ranks hard in his initial class with eight junior college signees, including cornerback Brandon Stewart who should be in the mix to replace All-Big 12 cornerback JaCorey Shepherd.
Iowa State finally got the opportunity to address its defensive line after injuries and departures hit the Cyclones defensive line hard prior to the 2014 season. Paul Rhoads program signed five defensive linemen, including ESPN JC50 defensive tackle Demond Tucker, who could end up emerging as anchor of the Cyclones defensive front.
1. Baylor: All five starters return for the Bears, notably All-American left tackle Spencer Drango, who spurned the NFL draft to return for his senior season. The majority of the entire two-deep, in fact, is back, as well, including right guard Desmine Hilliard, who missed much of last year with a wrist injury. Despite being a two-year starter, Hilliard will have to fight to reclaim his starting job, as Jarell Broxton slotted in nicely in place of him during the second half of the season. This unit has a superstar in Drango, plenty of experience and a ton of depth.
2. TCU: The TCU offensive line was among the most-improved units in the league last year, setting the tone up front for the nation's second-highest scoring offense. Left tackle Tayo Fabuluje is gone, but the rest of the unit returns intact, including center Joey Hunt and right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who were both second-team All-Big 12 performers in 2014.
3. Texas Tech: Texas Tech encountered all kinds of problems last year, but offensive line wasn't one of them. All-Big 12 left tackle Le'Raven Clark was terrific protecitng the blindside of quarterbacks Pat Mahomes and Davis Webb, as Tech allowed only one sack per 43 pass attempts, which was among the best rates in the country. Center Jared Kaster and guards Alfredo Morales and Baylen Brown will all be three-year starters.
4. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys were dreadful along the offensive line for much of last year. But the group rapidly rebounded late, due in part to the healthy comeback of Zachary Crabtree at right tackle. Crabtree will be able to stick on the right side, too, thanks to the mid-semester arrival of transfer Victor Salako, who started two years for UAB and is expected to man left tackle for the Pokes. Oklahoma State also should be deeper overall with junior college transfers Brandon Pertile and Matt Kellerman joining returning starters Michael Wilson, Jesse Robinson and center Paul Lewis. Mike Gundy still needs to hire a position coach for this group with Bob Connelly bolting for USC.
5. Oklahoma: The Sooners were hit hard by graduation with longtime lynchpin tackles Daryl Williams and Tyrus Thompson both departing. Center Ty Darlington is back; so is veteran guard Nila Kasitati. Oklahoma also signed the nation's No. 1 juco guard, Jamal Danley, to play alongside them. Tackle is the big concern, but the Sooners are hopeful that either Orlando Brown Jr. or Kenyon Frison will be ready to step up after redshirting last year.
6. Kansas State: B.J. Finney was a four-year fixture at center for the K-State offensive line and will be dearly missed. But the Wildcats return the rest of the offensive line, including standout left tackle Cody Whitehair, who should take over for Finney as group leader. The Wildcats need guard Boston Stiverson to make a full return from the leg injury he suffered in the Valero Alamo Bowl. They also need more consistent pass protection from their right tackles.
7. Texas: The Longhorns got better up front as the season wore on, but this is still a unit with a bunch of questions. Left guard Sedrick Flowers was the only linemen to start every game, as Texas tinkered with six different combinations over the course of the season. Center Taylor Doyle and right guard Kent Perkins should retain their starting gigs, but junior college transfers Brandon Hodges and Tristan Nickelson, as well as early enrollee freshman Connor Williams, all have a chance to overtake Marcus Hutchins, Camrhon Hughes and Jake Raulerson at the tackle spots.
8. Iowa State: Left tackle Brock Dagel missing most of last season with a knee injury could be a silver lining for the Cyclones in 2015. Jake Campos got valuable experience along the line, including left tackle. As a result, the Cyclones should be in good shape on the bookends, provided Dagel is 100 percent. Guard Daniel Burton is one of the more underrated players in the league. Cole Anderson and Kory Kodanko, who both redshirted last year, have a good shot of joining the rotation.
9. West Virginia: The Mountaineers weren't great up front last year, and now they've graduated their two best blockers in guards Quinton Spain and Mark Glowinski. Tyler Orlosky bring stability on the inside at center, but tackles Adam Pankey and Marquis Lucas need to take a step forward in their second seasons as full-time starters.
10. Kansas: The Jayhawks don't have any difference-makers up front, at least not yet. But Jacob Bragg, one of the top center recruits in the country last year, has a chance to become one in time. Joe Gibson and Junior Visinia return along the interior. So does rising senior tackle Larry Mazyck, who may be asked to swing to the left side.
College recruiters rarely care about star ratings. They're looking for all sorts of other things: scheme fit, projection, growth potential, maturity, even track times. So once signing day passed, we asked.
We polled more than a dozen anonymous Big 12 coaches and recruiting coordinators for their favorite prospects in the 2015 class -- both the kids they signed and the ones they wanted.
Here are 25 players that Big 12 recruiters liked in the class of 2015:
Baylor OG Riley Daniel: "Riley is a huge human. Schools got on him late. If you make a mistake in recruiting, make it big."
Baylor WR Blake Lynch: "Like him a lot. We had a hard time projecting where we saw him last spring position-wise, but I liked him a lot. At first we were thinking safety and we fell in love with him, but we were too late."
Baylor LB Jordan Williams: "Tremendous upside. I think he's athletic enough to play inside or outside with great tenacity. When I went to see him I said, 'How did we not know about this guy earlier?' Everybody had him at 5-11 and 190. He's 6-1 and 217."
Iowa State WR Hakeem Butler: "He’s got huge hands, good 40, good vert in a big body. He played AAU basketball, now football will become his focus. His ceiling is really high. Four or five years from now people could be looking back like ... how did Iowa State get that guy?"
Iowa State DE Seth Nerness: "Seth Nerness is a great kid. He plays with a great attitude and work ethic."
Kansas DE Dorance Armstrong: "That kid has a body on him and he can run. No idea how other people didn't get him. He had like 20 offers and comes from a big program. Watch him and he's every bit of what you'd want to recruit. That was a steal."
Kansas TE Jace Sternberger: "Jace is a coach’s son. Small-school, multiple-sport athlete. He shows his athleticism on the basketball court. He could blow up once he’s committed to one sport."
Kansas State DT Trey Dishon: "Trey is a big athlete. Everyone slept on him."
Kansas State DB Johnny Durham: "Jonathan plays with a very high football IQ. He’s always in the right spot and deceptively fast. I would compare him to Ty Zimmerman."
Oklahoma RB Rodney Anderson: "Anderson is a freak. He’s the real deal. Size, speed, power. He’s a no-brainer."
Oklahoma WR John Humphrey Jr.: "A guy that I really liked in camps. He was a fast kid, came out of nowhere and can really run. I see him playing corner, to be honest, because of his feet and speed. With his change of direction and how fast he is, there's something about that kid."
Oklahoma CB P.J. Mbanasor: "Potentially really good player. I watched him and researched him and he was fluid and really played transition well. Big corners who can run are hard to come by."
Oklahoma State RB Chris Carson: "I think they may have gotten the best back in this signing class. He’s a Newcomer of the Year-type possibility."
Oklahoma State CB Antwan Hadley: "He has a safety body playing corner. Tall and long with a nose for the ball. He played against good people, too."
Oklahoma State S Kenneth McGruder: "McGruder is a stud. Big, physical, a leader. He’s a big-time safety. That’s the enforcer you want."
TCU S Arico Evans: "One kid that I think is really going to be good. He was an athletic quarterback who has that 'it' factor. He was his whole (high school) team, he knows how to play and has real upside. He's going to thrive in Gary Patterson's defense and can even grow into a linebacker."
TCU CB Julius Lewis: "Julius is a good athlete. Multiple-sport athlete, which limited his exposure in spring ball. He played both ways, which questioned what position he would play."
TCU C Jozie Milton: "Reminds you of Joey Hunt, a hardcore guy. He had all kinds of offers, but a lot of people in Texas probably didn’t see him coming. Physical, smart and you like that he can call signals."
Texas TE Devonaire Clarington: "He’s very talented. He’s just a nightmare for DBs with that size and speed. He’s probably going to end up being an NFL guy."
Texas OG Patrick Vahe: "He probably gets lost in the shuffle and gets forgotten because he committed so early. He’s going to be a good one. Tough player."
Texas Tech WR Tony Brown: "He's smooth, a good route runner. He's a good get for them. Kliff [Kingsbury] got some good receivers."
Texas Tech RB Corey Dauphine: "I like him a lot. He was a good player and a 200-meter guy. Big, physical and fast. I have a feeling he’ll cause people a lot of problems before he’s done."
Texas Tech LB D'Vonta Hinton: "Under the radar because of his height, but just a freaking football player with instincts."
West Virginia LB David Long: "He's not the biggest guy, but he plays bigger than his size. Reminds you a lot of Karl Joseph coming out of high school, a guy who can cover a big space. He's a good fit for the Big 12."
West Virginia DE Adam Shuler: "He didn’t get all of the attention and all of that but I think he has the chance to be a special player."
Here's a team-by-team look at the true freshmen who played in 2014, their impact in their first season and one redshirt who may have been forgotten last fall but could become an impact player in 2015. Earlier Wednesday, part I featured Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Oklahoma. Part II features Oklahoma State, Texas, TCU, Texas Tech and West Virginia.
Quarterback Mason Rudolph: Became the starter for the Cowboys' final three games. He finished with 853 passing yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions in three starts.
Receiver Chris Lacy: Played in seven games with four receptions for 47 yards.
Receiver James Washington: Showed flashes of big-time upside, finishing with 28 receptions for 456 yards and six touchdowns.
Linebacker Gyasi Akem: Mainly a special teams contributor, Akem had nine tackles in 10 games.
Linebacker Justin Phillips: Played minimally but was a star in OSU's Bedlam win over Oklahoma with 10 tackles.
Cornerback Ramon Richards: He was overshadowed but Richards was as good as any true freshman for the Cowboys. He had 42 tackles and three interceptions in 13 games.
Safety Dylan Harding: A special teamer, Harding had two tackles in 11 games.
Center Brad Lundblade: A walk-on, Lundblade forced his way onto the field for the Cowboys, splitting reps with Paul Lewis.
Redshirt to keep an eye on: Defensive end Jordan Brailford was the only ESPN 300 signee who did not play for the Cowboys in 2014. While he may not make a major impact with Jimmy Bean and Emmanuel Ogbah in 2015, he could be a name to watch in the future.
Safety Jason Hall: Started seven games as the Longhorns' top true freshman. He finished with 36 tackles.
Receiver Armanti Foreman: Made an impact as a receiver and kick returner. Foreman had 10 receptions for 188 yards and two touchdowns.
Tight end Andrew Beck: Shifted from linebacker to tight end during the preseason and played in 13 games with two starts but didn't record a catch.
Defensive tackle Poona Ford: Played in nine games as a true freshman, recording nine tackles as he came on during the final stretch of the season.
Running back D'Onta Foreman: Played in seven games but wasn't a major factor, finishing with 15 carries for 73 yards.
Receiver Lorenzo Joe: Played in all 13 games for the Longhorns as a special teamer and receiver. He had three receptions for 36 yards.
Receiver Dorian Leonard: Didn't make a significant impact with one reception for seven yards.
Receiver Roderick Bernard: Played in five games as a special teamer.
Redshirt to keep an eye on: Quarterback Jerrod Heard was one of the headliners of the Longhorns' recruiting class and many questioned why he wasn't given a chance in 2014. This spring is his chance to show he can be the answer at quarterback in 2015.
Receiver Desmon White: Had a solid freshman season, finishing with 14 receptions for 119 yards and one touchdown.
Receiver Emanuel Porter: Could become a valuable big target as a sophomore after 12 receptions for 154 yards and one touchdown.
Cornerback Nick Orr: A backup cornerback, Orr had three tackles as a true freshman.
Cornerback Torrance Mosley: Another backup in the secondary, Mosley had two tackles.
Safety Travin Howard: Played in all 13 games as a true freshman but didn't record a stat.
Defensive tackle Chris Bradley: A solid true freshman season from Bradley should help lessen the concerns over Chucky Hunter's departure. The young defensive tackle finished with 12 tackles, including two for loss, and 1.5 sacks in 2014.
Redshirt to keep an eye on: Running back Shaun Nixon was forced to redshirt after a preseason knee injury. But as the only 2014 ESPN 300 signee on the roster, Nixon could add to the Horned Frogs' talented group of running backs.
Cornerback Nigel Bethel II: The Red Raiders' highest-rated signee started seven games and finished with 41 tackles including 1.5 tackles for loss and six passes defended.
Receiver Ian Sadler: Played his way into the lineup as a true freshman, finishing with 23 receptions for 336 yards and two touchdowns in nine games (three starts).
Running back Justin Stockton: He flashed his big-play ability during nonconference games and led the Red Raiders in rushing touchdowns (four) and yards per carry (8.2).
Receiver Cameron Batson: Played in all 12 games for the Red Raiders finishing with nine receptions for 41 receiver yards and 106-all-purpose yards.
Cornerback Tevin Madison: Joined with Bethel to give Tech a pair of quality true freshman cornerbacks. He started seven games, finishing with 56 tackles including three for loss, seven pass breakups and one interception.
Redshirt to keep an eye on: Linebacker Dakota Allen was a highly regarded signee in February 2014 but spent a year on the scout team. He could make a contribution at a need position for the Red Raiders in 2015.
Safety Dravon Henry: One of the top freshmen in the Big 12, Henry started 13 games and finished with 45 tackles and two interceptions.
Linebacker Xavier Preston: Had limited time as a true freshman, recording two tackles.
Redshirt to keep an eye on: Quarterback William Crest entered the 2014 season as Clint Trickett's backup before a shoulder injury forced a redshirt season. He is poised to battle to replace Trickett as the starter in 2015.
Celebrating Black History Month With Texas HC Charlie Strong
BIG 12 SCOREBOARD
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