Texas Longhorns: Dayne Crist

Staff picks: Texas vs. Kansas 

October, 26, 2012
10/26/12
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Texas 49 Kansas 17
Texas will physically beat up Kansas with the run game and I expect the Kansas safety Bradley McDougald to have a lot of tackles. It will be good for him but bad for the Kansas defense. Texas will run for 300 yards and impose its will early on Kansas. The Texas defense will actually have a really good game even though it will be marginalized because it is against Kansas. Texas will force turnovers and put this game away early.
- Sean Adams

Texas 49, Kansas 17
AUSTIN, Texas -- Don't look now but there appears to be some optimism around No. 23 Texas.

Oh wait, that's just Kansas.

Yep, the Big 12's panacea is up next. And the game couldn't come soon enough for Texas. The Longhorns, fresh with perhaps a false sense of confidence after not-so-thoroughly dispatching Baylor, 56-50, need a game in which the defense can rule the day as well as perhaps playing some young guys.

[+] EnlargeAlex Okafor
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesThe Longhorns have struggled as a unit on defense this season, but Kansas' pro-style offense has struggled with inconsistency.
Kansas sets up perfectly for just that. The Jayhawks, coached by Charlie Weis, who Mack Brown said is a great, not good coach, are actually not all that great. Statistically, at least. Or in the record books. Kansas is 0-4 in the Big 12. The Jayhawks are 89th in total offense and 85th in total defense. The thing they do the best is run the ball. They are 49th nationally in rushing yards per game with 180 yards per game. In addition, James Sims is back after a suspension and rushed for 102 yards against Oklahoma.

Now that does not dovetail too great with what Texas does not do well, defend the run. The Longhorns have given up 1,065 rushing yards in just the last four games. But again, there is some optimism.

While Texas did give up 255 yards on the ground to Baylor, 69 of that was to the quarterback. Kansas does not have a quarterback who can run the ball. Or a quarterback at all. Dayne Crist was benched after throwing for 13 yards against Oklahoma. Redshirt freshman Michael Cummings threw for 111 yards and two interceptions in relief.

(Read full post)

Big 12 power rankings: Week 1

August, 27, 2012
8/27/12
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Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

The Big 12 power rankings are heavily influenced by what each team did in the previous week, and aren't necessarily a reflection of the Big 12 standings.

Think of it this way: As of right now, this is how well each Big 12 team is playing. Here's how I slot it to begin the season:

1. Oklahoma: The Sooners have an awkward opener, kicking things off on the road out in the desert against UTEP at 10:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. Still, we'll get a first look at a revamped offensive line and the new, young receivers Landry Jones will be throwing to all season. Look out for a coming out party from Trey Metoyer, the Big 12 Preseason Newcomer of the Year.

2. West Virginia: West Virginia plays Saturday's first game, kicking off against in-state rival Marshall at noon. The Big 12 newcomers have all the offense they need, but what will the pass rush look like with new defensive coordinators Joe DeForest and Keith Patterson?

3. Kansas State: K-State opens with Missouri State on Saturday night, with Collin Klein's revamped arm on display after an offseason of development. Everyone's watching that. What they should be watching? How does the offensive line look after replacing three starters?

4. Texas: The Longhorns settled on David Ash at quarterback, but the season opener Saturday night against Wyoming on the Longhorn Network. The defense will be fiendishly fun to watch this year, but how much better is Ash? We'll get somewhat of a feel in this one.

5. TCU: Oh, you poor Frogs. TCU is officially a Big 12 member, but has to sit and watch all Saturday as the rest of the Big 12 opens their respective seasons. It gives Amon G. Carter Stadium one more week to prepare for the debut of its facelift, but by the time it does next week against Grambling, 13 Big 12 games will have been completed.

6. Oklahoma State: The defending Big 12 champs are the sixth team in the mix for a Big 12 title in 2012, but their hopes rest on the 18-year-old shoulders of Wes Lunt, a true freshman we haven't heard much out of all summer or fall camp. The Pokes don't know who his top target will be just yet, but the defense that supports the offense should be improved from 2011. We'll see them open up against the poor saps at Savannah State (yuck) on Saturday night.

7. Baylor: The post-RG3 era doesn't officially kick off until Sunday, when Nick Florence takes a snap against Baylor's old Southwest Conference rival, SMU. Last year's opener against TCU proved to be one of the most memorable games of the season. Florence and receivers Terrance Williams and Tevin Reese have the firepower to outgun the Mustangs in a shootout. Hyped transfer Lache Seastrunk will make his long-awaited debut after coming back home from Oregon.

8. Texas Tech: Tech opens against Northwestern State on Saturday night. That's no big challenge. Staying healthy could be after two injury-riddled years to start the Tommy Tuberville Era. Keep an eye on how running back Eric Stephens looks after returning from a catastrophic knee injury last season.

9. Iowa State: The Cyclones should be challenged in their 3:30 p.m. visit fron Tulsa. Steele Jantz quarterbacked ISU to three fourth-quarter comebacks to open last season, and he may need another one. Paul Rhoads' Cyclones are a slight underdog in this windy weather showdown.

10. Kansas: Kansas' last coach, Turner Gill, opened with a disastrous 6-3 loss against FCS outfit North Dakota State two years ago. This time, Charlie Weis takes on South Dakota State. He's got a better team. Expect a better result Saturday for the former Notre Dame coach and a former Irish quarterback, Dayne Crist.
We'll be walking through the top 10 players at each position in the Big 12 before the season, but we'll start with the most important, especially in this league.

Let's do this:

1. Geno Smith, West Virginia: Smith put up huge numbers (4,385 yards, 31 TD, 7 INT, 65.8 completion percentage) and did so efficiently last season. Both of his top two targets are back and the adjustment to Big 12 defenses shouldn't be too difficult.

2. Landry Jones, Oklahoma: Jones and Smith will go head-to-head all season for honors as the Big 12's top passer. Who comes out on top is anyone's guess, but Jones regressed last season, and his receivers let him down after Ryan Broyles' season ended with a knee injury. He'll try to bounce back with just one reliable target (Kenny Stills) to start the season. The rest of the receiving corps is loaded with potential, but very inexperienced.

3. Collin Klein, Kansas State: Clearly, I'm taking more than just passing acumen into account here. Klein is the Big 12's No. 2 returning rusher, and also threw for just under 2,000 yards last season, adding 13 passing touchdowns to the 27 he scored rushing. We'll see how much better he is as a passer this fall.

[+] EnlargeCasey Pachall
Otto Kitsinger III/Getty ImagesTCU's Casey Pachall could be poised for a big year with a stable of talented receivers.
4. Seth Doege, Texas Tech: I refuse to hang last year's failures on Doege's shoulders. Absolutely not. He played well, at least as well as he could. The running game struggled and offered almost no support after Eric Stephens' injury. The defense was a disaster and there were injuries all over the place. Doege still went for more than 4,000 yards, 28 scores and just 10 picks. Don't be surprised if Doege throws his hat in the ring as the Big 12's best passer by season's end.

5. Casey Pachall, TCU: Pachall didn't have eye-popping numbers, but only because TCU rode on the shoulders of its trio of running backs. Still, Pachall's numbers are going to be better this year, and he's got great targets in Josh Boyce, Skye Dawson and Brandon Carter, not to mention youngster LaDarius Brown.

6. Nick Florence, Baylor: I like Florence to have a big year with really good receivers, but he's got too much to prove for now. He looked good in spot duty for RG3 against Texas Tech last season, but his senior season will look much, much different than his inconsistent freshman year all the way back in 2009.

7. Wes Lunt, Oklahoma State: The Big 12's only freshman quarterback is a true freshman, and Lunt earned this spot by beating out some really tough competition in J.W. Walsh and Colton Chelf this spring. Amazing stuff, and his coaches know good quarterbacks. Zac Robinson and Brandon Weeden have established quite the QB tradition in Stillwater. Here's guessing Lunt continues it.

8. Dayne Crist, Kansas: Crist's college career hasn't been what he imagined after coming to Notre Dame as one of the most highly recruited signal-calling prospects in his class, but he's got a chance to start something special at Kansas in his senior year, reunited with former coach Charlie Weis. Crist won't have the weapons some of the other guys on this list have, but he gives KU a big, big upgrade at the position.

9. Steele Jantz/Jared Barnett, Iowa State: These two have to cut down the turnovers, but they've both shown the ability to be playmakers. There's no guessing who wins this legitimate battle in the fall, but coach Paul Rhoads isn't afraid to bench either one if the turnovers don't stop.

10. David Ash/Case McCoy, Texas: Mack Brown insists it's still a contest. My jaw will be on the floor if Ash doesn't trot out on the field for the first game of the season. Ash has some potential and promising targets in Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley, but he hasn't shown the big-play ability of Jantz or Barnett. Expect Ash to move up this list by season's end, but for now, it's all just potential.
The Big 12 preseason awards have been announced. West Virginia's Geno Smith won the preseason Offensive Player of the Year Award. Texas defensive end Alex Okafor won Defensive Player of the Year and Oklahoma wide receiver Trey Metoyer won for Newcomer of the Year.

Here's how I voted:

Offensive Player of the Year: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia. In talking with people involved with the conference voting process this week at media days, I learned that the final vote between Smith and Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones was very, very close. I went with Geno. It's pretty close, but I didn't debate this one very much. Smith was inconsistent at times last year, sure, but when it mattered most, he was great. Jones faltered in big spots. Sure, Jones doesn't have the same quality of targets for all of last season after Ryan Broyles went down, but when it came to numbers, Smith dominated. Additionally, he takes care of the ball much more efficiently than Jones. That counts for a lot. Even though Smith has never played a down in the Big 12, I went with the Mountaineers' man for the preseason award.

Defensive Player of the Year: Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State. There's no slam dunk here. You could probably make a case for no fewer than seven or eight guys. After a lot of debate, I voted for Brown. I mostly did so because of his importance to Kansas State's defense. His speed in the middle and locked-in tackling make him more valuable to his team than any other player in the league. The SnyderCats aren't loaded on depth and athletes, but Brown has the measurables to play for anybody in the league. He's irreplaceable for Kansas State and his speed and athleticism make him a specimen anybody would love to have. Anybody else remember him hurdling a blocker in the Cotton Bowl against Arkansas? Not many guys can do that.

Newcomer of the Year: Trey Metoyer, WR, Oklahoma. This was a tough vote, too. You hear a lot about these guys and have to go by players' words in these days of closed practices. For me, Newcomer of the Year comes down to opportunity and need, though. Metoyer has been hyped by coaches and teammates since he arrived on campus as a freak athlete, but he's got to do more than contribute. Oklahoma needs him to be a huge factor, and he'll have every opportunity to do so. He's got a Heisman candidate in Jones throwing him the ball, an established weapon in Kenny Stills to take some attention from defenses and a great offensive line. All the pieces are in place for him to be very, very productive. For me, that earned him my vote just ahead of guys like Wes Lunt and Blake Jackson at Oklahoma State, Dayne Crist at Kansas, Brandon Moore at Texas, Will Smith and SaDale Foster at Texas Tech and Lache Seastrunk at Baylor.
To get more on the Jayhawks, Carter Strickland spoke with Matt Tait the Kansas beat writer at the Lawrence Journal World.

Carter Strickland: Charlie Weis' last experience as a head coach failed miserably. Do you think he learned anything and can he put that knowledge to use at KU?

Matt Tait: It sure sounds as if he learned a lot. And he'll be the first to tell you that. From the importance of putting together a coaching staff with good chemistry to the way he coaches the players and handles himself in front of the media, Weis vows that he's a different coach -- and person -- than he was at Notre Dame, a kinder, gentler version of the same wise guy from New Jersey. In addition to the overwhelming desire to succeed at everything he does, Weis is driven daily by the chance to prove that his failure at Notre Dame was a fluke.

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Yesterday, the Big 12 unveiled its team-by-team lineup for Big 12 media days, which begin on July 23 at the Westin Galleria in north Dallas.

Here's a few things of note:
  • Oklahoma, Iowa State, Kansas State, Texas Tech and TCU will be meeting with the media on Day 1, July 23. Texas, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Baylor and West Virginia will meet with the media to close out Day 2.
  • The programs who bring an extra stowaway always attract a little more attention, but it never means very much. This time, it's West Virginia and Baylor, who are both bringing four players to Day 2, instead of just three.
  • Oklahoma State is sticking to its policy of not allowing first-year players to speak to the media. That's no surprise. Coach Mike Gundy expressed that earlier this offseason, but true freshman starter Wes Lunt won't be coming to media days. Oklahoma State joins Texas and Iowa State as the only three teams not bringing a QB to media days. Texas hasn't officially announced a starter, and Iowa State has a legitimate battle between Steele Jantz and Jared Barnett in fall camp next month.
  • The most memorable media days absentee? Remember when Baylor didn't bring RG3 in 2010? Turned out to be pretty interesting.
  • A little surprising to see Oklahoma State bring Cooper Bassett, a relative unknown across the league, though he's a senior who has put in a lot of work in Stillwater.
  • Kansas didn't get very much attention last year, but expect that to change this year. Charlie Weis will be a hit with the horde of media, and the media outside of Lawrence hasn't had a real chance to get to interact with newcomer Dayne Crist, who could morph Kansas into a respectable squad this year. Those two won't be twiddling their thumbs much in Dallas. Bring water and prepare to talk a whole lot.
  • The star power isn't as high this year. Oklahoma's contingent last year was a complete zoo. Landry Jones, Ryan Broyles and Travis Lewis could hardly go anywhere last year without being hounded, but this year, Jones is the player with the biggest profile in the league among players.
  • The West Virginia folks in town should be a hit, especially coach Dana Holgorsen, who coached in the Big 12 but never needed to attend media days since he wasn't a head coach. The Big 12 media will learn very soon that Geno Smith is a great interview, arguably one of the best in the Big 12. He's my pick as the guy who'll leave media days as a new star, even if folks are well aware of what he brings on the field.

I know it's a little hokey and in today's media landscape, probably a bit unnecessary. Still, I can't help it. I love media days. It's always fun, and good to see the league's players and media in one place, if only for a few days. I'm looking forward to it, and you know we'll have wall to wall coverage right here. Want to know what you can expect? Here's a sampling of our coverage from last year.
The Big 12 season is approaching, and there's no league in which the quarterback position is more important. Want success? Experience is a good place to start. How do the QBs rank in experience? Let's take a look.

1. Landry Jones, Oklahoma (37 starts): Jones is the league's elder statesman by a long, long ways. He took over as a redshirt freshman in 2009 when Sam Bradford injured his shoulder, and didn't miss any of his 27 starts in 2010 and 2011.

2. Geno Smith, West Virginia (26 starts): Smith has been the team's unquestioned starter for each of the past two seasons, and should be ready for a big 2012 after topping 4,000 yards in 2011.

[+] EnlargeCollin Klein
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesNo doubt, Kansas State QB Collin Klein drew a ton of attention from opposing defenses in 2011.
3. Collin Klein, Kansas State (15 starts): Klein had two more starts at receiver earlier in his career, but we're not counting those. Klein was a gadget QB in 2010, but took over as the team's offensive workhorse in 2011, accounting for nearly 70 percent of the team's total offense.

4. Casey Pachall, TCU (13 starts): Pachall played well in his first year as a starter, but often relied on his three star running backs in the offense and didn't top 3,000 yards. He's ready for more responsibility if necessary this year.

5. Seth Doege, Texas Tech (13 starts): Doege earned one start all the way back in 2009, but ceded that spot by the end of the game. He did no such thing in a strong 2011 season, though Tech missed a bowl game and had a losing season (5-7) for the first time in almost two decades.

6. Dayne Crist, Kansas (10 starts): Crist's 10 starts all came at Notre Dame, but there doesn't look to be much challenge from any other QBs on the roster this season. Does he have the offensive weapons to be productive?

7. Nick Florence, Baylor (seven starts): Florence started seven games in 2009 when Robert Griffin III suffered a knee injury, and earned a half of playing time last season against Texas Tech that cost him his redshirt season.

8. Steele Jantz, Iowa State (seven starts): Jantz got off to a strong start, but never figured out his very serious turnover issues. That cost him his starting job in midseason, despite three fourth-quarter comebacks to begin the 2011 season 3-0.

9. David Ash, Texas (six starts): Ash was the fourth-string QB last summer, but when Garrett Gilbert and Connor Wood transferred, it was up to him and Case McCoy to carry the load. By season's end, Ash had established himself as the future at the position, at least immediately, but Texas' coaches haven't given him the official designation yet.

10. Jared Barnett, Iowa State (six starts): Barnett took over for Jantz in the middle of the season and engineered wins over Texas Tech, Kansas and a historic win over No. 2 Oklahoma State, but struggled with inconsistency late and opened up the competition to Jantz in a Pinstripe Bowl loss to Rutgers. There's no assurance for either to be the starter after the spring.

11. Case McCoy, Texas (five starts): McCoy's gutsiest performance came in a comeback win over Texas A&M, but his lack of arm strength limited what the Longhorns could do in 2011. McCoy's got all the heart you could ask for, but his physical attributes bring about plenty of questions about his ability to carry the team over the course of his career.

12. Wes Lunt, Oklahoma State (zero starts): Lunt shocked even his own offensive coordinator by beating out junior Clint Chelf and redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh in the spring to earn the starting job. He still has to validate that spot in the fall, but Lunt is in a class of his own at the bottom of the Big 12 when it comes to experience. He's a big, NFL-sized QB with a big arm, though. Can his mind catch up fast enough to help the Cowboys defend a Big 12 title?
With the spring in the Big 12 over, it's time to hand out some awards.

Best newcomer: Brandon Moore, DT, Texas. Moore and offensive lineman Donald Hawkins were the first two juco transfers at Texas since 2002. This spring, Moore showed why, and Hawkins should start on the offensive line. Moore, a 330-pound force in the middle of the defense was reportedly "unstoppable" this spring. Conditioning may be an issue, but that could get better over the summer. If he's busting up offensive lines, Texas' defense is going to be terrifying. Honorable mention: Blake Jackson, WR/TE, Oklahoma State, Dayne Crist, QB, Kansas

Biggest shocker: Wes Lunt, QB, Oklahoma State. OSU OC Todd Monken said himself he'd be "shocked" if Lunt came in and won the QB job. Well, consider him shocked. Junior Clint Chelf didn't distance himself from his competition, and Lunt learned enough to surpass dual-threat J.W. Walsh and win the job. Chelf and Walsh don't sound like they're itching to transfer, which is a welcome sign for OSU's coaches, but Lunt could begin a storied career in Stillwater this fall, even if there are growing pains in the immediate future.

Best quote: Todd Monken, OC, Oklahoma State. Monken got the Sooners fired up with his take on how quickly things can change for a quarterback when it comes to confidence. "It didn’t take long when ol’ (Oklahoma receiver Ryan) Broyles went down and (OU) started running the dozer to think, 'Do we have our guy?' That didn’t take long," Monken said. "Landry Jones went from like, 'I’m the man,' to all of a sudden, 'I haven’t thrown a touchdown pass, I'm fumbling it over my head at Oklahoma State. I gotta go back and see my quarterback guru." Monken later apologized, and even though he made an example of a rival player, it wasn't explicit criticism. Out of line? Maybe. Definitely not what Mike Gundy wanted to hear. Above all, though, it was fact. Even Oklahoma fans who watched the Sooners in 2011 would admit that. It's the truth. Nice move to apologize, and Oklahoma can call it disrespect if it wants. I'll call it what it is: the truth.

Second-best quote: Glenn Gronkowski, FB, Kansas State. On the light-hearted side of things, the youngest of the Gronkowski boys explained his family slogan, "Get Gronk'd" on his bracelet ("It basically just means beasting as much as possible. It's about beasting and going as hard as possible at all times and in everything you do.") and what it was like growing up with his older brothers, notably New England Patriots' TE Rob Gronkowski. "We'd just break stuff, man. We were into WWE when we were little. One time, we got an old table and pulled it out into the living room. We got Rob and choke-slammed him through it. That thing broke right in half." Mrs. Gronkowski, you are a saint.

Biggest black eye: TCU drug scandal. TCU had a squeaky-clean image before this spring, but there's no doubt the newcomers picked a bad time to have it end. Not the best first impression. Four players were arrested in a campus drug sting, including former All-American linebacker Tanner Brock, who would have been the team's top defender. There's some debate about how widespread the problem was, but the impact, scope and attention of the scandal were a bigger problem for the schools than players at Baylor and Iowa State being under investigation for sexual assault. Isn't that a problem in itself?

Best spring-game performance: Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State. Klein was going up against second-teamers, sure. Other K-State quarterbacks have put up crazy numbers in this game, but Klein bested them all with an eye-popping stat line. He completed 47-of-56 passes for 480 yards and six touchdowns, though he threw an interception on the final drive with the game tied at 42. Most impressive? He called all the plays, as K-State QBs traditionally do in the spring game. Honorable mention: Charlie Moore, WR, Oklahoma State

Best viral video: Charlie Weis, Kansas. Weis allowed media access to one open practice, and at the end, ripped into his team for not being enthusiastic enough while celebrating what was supposed to be a game-winning field goal to beat TCU and go 3-0, he told them. "I can tell you guys aren’t used to winning. ... Winning a football game is not supposed to be an uncommon occurrence. I know that’s a novel concept around here," Weis yelled. "When you win a football game, there’s supposed to be a celebration that looks like a celebration. And that was a pile of crap." Was it legitimate? Was it a media stunt? I don't care. It was compelling.
Another spring has come and gone in the Big 12. In this league, it's a long one. Texas Tech kicked things off on February 17, just two weeks after signing day.

Kansas and Kansas State didn't wrap it up until spring games on April 28.

Through it all, we learned a lot. Here's a taste.

Texas is inching much closer to contention: The offense? Well, it's still a work in progress, though David Ash showed some solid progression during the spring. But the defense? It's leading the way for the Longhorns' road back from the 5-7 implosion in 2010. Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom might just be the two best cornerbacks in the Big 12, and Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat are probably the two best defensive ends. Great coverage and a great pass-rush? Sounds like a good start to slowing down Big 12 offenses. Add in junior college man-child Brandon Moore, and solid linebacker play with Jordan Hicks, Demarco Cobbs and Steve Edmond, and the Longhorns have a unit that can help them get back into title contention.

Only one team doesn't know who its quarterback will be: Baylor hardly had a competition to replace RG3. Kansas replaced Jordan Webb with transfer Dayne Crist. Oklahoma State pulled the trigger on a youngster. Texas hasn't officially named him, but Ash has all but sewn up the job in Austin. That leaves Iowa State, which has sophomore Jared Barnett and senior Steele Jantz competing for the job for a second consecutive fall. Anything could happen there.

Mike Gundy has guts: Oklahoma State said goodbye to a mature, big-armed passer in Brandon Weeden, who won 23 games in two seasons. However, the reigning Big 12 champion again will have a big arm at quarterback. Gundy made the league's gutsiest move this spring, handing the reins to 18-year-old Wes Lunt from Illinois. He's one of just six players in the Big 12 from Illinois, and he's a decade younger than Weeden. Robert Griffin III was the league's last true freshman to start a majority of games, but Lunt might be the first to win the job in the spring.

There's a new sherriff in town: The Big 12 knew Chuck Neinas was a quick fix at the commissioner spot, but the league made a quick move in pegging Stanford AD Bob Bowlsby as the new commissioner to replace Dan Beebe, who was fired in September. The Big 12 is likely to cash in on a nice TV deal shortly after Bowlsby takes over, but he'll have to help reconnect a league that must work through some possibly divisive issues like expansion in the near future. He'll also need to manage the relationship between Texas, who he referred to as an "800-pound gorilla," and the rest of its Big 12 brethren. The relationship sounds good now, but over time, issues could arise.

Charlie Weis is making sure KU looks nothing like its 2011 team: Kansas has undergone the biggest change of any team in the Big 12 this offseason. New coach Weis saw a lot of problems at KU, and went about fixing them quickly. He welcomed six Division I transfers, including three from Notre Dame, which included his new quarterback, Crist. He also saw gaping holes along the defensive line and tried to fill them with junior college players and high schoolers who will be challenging for playing time in the fall. Kansas will look a lot different, but will it be better?
The spring is nearing its end with just a little over a week remaining for some.

Oklahoma State and West Virginia will wrap up their spring practices this weekend. Until then, it's time to break down where we stand in the quarterback competitions around the league.

Baylor: Bears coach Art Briles said it was Nick Florence's job to lose entering the spring, and Florence did nothing to let Briles down. Instead, he seized the job ahead of talented backup Bryce Petty, who has a bright future ahead of himself. Florence gave up his redshirt last season by playing the second half against Texas Tech, but he'll try to make his senior season count. For now, this is his team.

Iowa State: Nothing's been settled after Iowa State's spring game last Saturday. Steele Jantz got back into the race when Jared Barnett struggled in the bowl game, and the competition was too close to call at the end of spring. ISU coach Paul Rhoads even said redshirt freshman Sam Richardson isn't out of the race. Former QB Jerome Tiller is, though. He was in the four-man competition last spring, which Jantz eventually won, but missed the season because of academic issues. He's a receiver now, and doing well at the position.

Kansas: Charlie Weis brought in his guy, Dayne Crist, from Notre Dame, and last year's starter, Jordan Webb, transferred. Crist has entrenched himself as the starter midway through spring practice, which ends with the spring game on April 28. BYU transfer Jake Heaps is taking reps with the second team now, but he'll be phased out in the fall while he sits out his NCAA-mandated redshirt season after transferring.

Kansas State: Collin Klein is still developing as a passer, but he is K-State's offense. Moving on ...

Oklahoma: Landry Jones returned for his senior season, but with a healthy set of running backs, the Belldozer, a power formation named after big-bodied backup Blake Bell, may be phased out this season. Bell, though, showcased his arm in the spring game and outperformed the older Drew Allen. The backup QB race should be interesting to watch this fall.

Oklahoma State: Coach Mike Gundy really wanted to name a starter by the end of spring, but it doesn't look likely to happen. No quarterback has established any distance, but they'll have a huge chance in Saturday's spring game. For now, true freshman Wes Lunt is still in the race, though dual-threat man J.W. Walsh may be the favorite ahead of junior Clint Chelf, who has some game experience the past two seasons. This is the league's best race, but also its most difficult to predict. Just about anything could happen.

Texas: Coach Mack Brown isn't making anything official, but sophomore David Ash was getting nearly all the first-team reps in the spring, ahead of Case McCoy. There's no official title yet, but there would be major shock if anyone but Ash starts the season opener. Now, if Ash struggles...

TCU: Casey Pachall had a great first year, and brings back his top three targets in Josh Boyce, Skye Dawson and Brandon Carter. The sky is the limit for Pachall.

Texas Tech: The Red Raiders' staff liked what Seth Doege did as a first-year starter, but the defense and injuries to his offense put too much strain on him in 2011. He'll look a lot better if his receivers and running backs can stay healthy.

West Virginia: Geno Smith may be the league's best quarterback, and coach Dana Holgorsen can't quit calling him "special." That's not to say he should. It could be a special season for him and the Mountaineers as they join the Big 12.
Across our little blog village here at ESPN, we're taking a look at the top newcomers in college football this year. You (probably) don't know their names yet, but here's who you need to watch this fall in the Big 12.

Will Smith, LB, Texas Tech: The Red Raiders only found Smith while recruiting another possible impact transfer, running back SaDale Foster. The California juco transfer stepped on campus this winter and by the end of spring, coach Tommy Tuberville called him the team's best linebacker. He started playing outside, but Tuberville moved the 6-foot-2, 220-pounder to starting middle linebacker in the middle of camp so he'd be on the field even during passing downs. He'll be important to Tech's new 4-3 scheme. Think K-State's Arthur Brown, a Miami transfer who's almost the exact same size.

[+] EnlargeDayne Crist
Andrew Weber/US PresswireFormer Notre Dame QB Dayne Crist brings experience as a starter to Kansas.
Dayne Crist, QB, Kansas: You probably know this name, but Crist started nine games in 2010 for Notre Dame and appeared in 17 career games. He began 2011 as the starter, but was benched and transferred to KU to play his final season of college football for Charlie Weis, the coach who recruited him to South Bend as the nation's No. 2 quarterback and No. 22 overall prospect in the 2008 class. He threw 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2010.

Brandon Moore, DT, Texas: Moore is part of a changing world in Austin, thanks to a revamped coaching staff with some SEC sensibilites. He and OT Donald Hawkins were the first juco transfers to sign with Texas since 2002 and Moore may be the lynchpin of the Big 12's best defense this year. Teammates have described the "full-grown man" as "unstoppable." Such is life at 6-6 and 330 pounds. Moore has to work on his conditioning, but he's going to wreak havoc on Big 12 offensive lines when he's on the field this year. Look for him to collapse a pocket or two early and often this season.

Trey Metoyer, WR, Oklahoma: Metoyer spent a year in military school after not qualifying academically, but he's already made an impact this spring after finally arriving at Oklahoma. He was the nation's No. 8 receiver in the 2011 class and offers the Sooners some much-needed sure hands. The unit came down with the dropsies late last season, and the FBS career leader for receptions, Ryan Broyles, is NFL-bound. Metoyer is exactly what the Sooners need to keep their offense on pace with the league's best, and he'll be catching passes from a Heisman candidate in Landry Jones.

Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor: Seastrunk's short-lived career at Oregon was marred by a recruiting scandal, but he's back home, 30 miles north of his hometown in Temple, Texas, and ready for a fresh start. Baylor needs a replacement for Big 12 rushing champ Terrance Ganaway, and Seastrunk, the nation's No. 6 running back and No. 40 overall prospect in the 2010 class, is battling Glasco Martin and Jarred Salubi for the chance to be the man.

West Virginia and TCU: Have y'all heard about this? It's gonna be kind of crazy. After losing four teams since June 2010, the Big 12 poached the Big East and added the former Southwest Conference-dwelling Frogs and the Mountaineers, badly in need of a home away from the weakened Big East. Here's how we welcomed the Frogs and did the same for WVU earlier this year.

Spring superlatives: Texas

April, 3, 2012
4/03/12
11:30
AM ET
Time to continue our series breaking down each team's best and worst positions entering the 2012 season. Texas is up next.

More spring superlatives:
Strongest position: Defensive end

Look out for these guys. Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor just might take both of the All-Big 12 spots by the end of the season. The same might be true for Texas' cornerbacks, who were narrowly edged out for my "strongest position" on the Longhorns. Okafor and Jeffcoat combined for 29.5 tackles for loss last season as first-year starters, both ranking in the Big 12's top eight. They also had 14 sacks, both in the top seven in the league. No defensive line duo was more productive, and that should continue this season. Jeffcoat, the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2010 class, has a bit more upside, but both of these guys have potential to win the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2012. Texas will have the luxury this season to rush just four players and drop back seven in coverage, but still get plenty of pressure on quarterbacks. The biggest reason why: Okafor and Jeffcoat. When that happens, the defense can at times look impenetrable.

Weakest position: Quarterback

It's a sad state of affairs at quarterback for Texas right now. Blue-chip recruit Garrett Gilbert flopped, and the Longhorns have scrambled since. For now, Case McCoy and David Ash are what's left behind, and it wasn't pretty last season. Quarterback is the biggest hole for a team that's otherwise complete.

For Texas, that's a huge hole, especially considering the talents like Vince Young and Colt McCoy that filled it previously, sending Texas to national title games. Ash is the presumed starter for 2012, but from my perspective, no team in the Big 12 is weaker at quarterback. Kansas hopped the Longhorns when it brought in Notre Dame transfer Dayne Crist. Ash could show some major development after an offseason with a lot of first-team reps -- reps he didn't get as a fourth-string true freshman leading up to the 2011 season -- but he's got a long way to go to even meet the average production for Big 12 quarterbacks.
Spring is already underway at three Big 12 schools (Texas, TCU, Texas Tech), but it's March today, and we're headed for full swing this month.

Here's what you can expect when it comes to quarterback competitions this fall. Each spot is ranked from most to least secure entering spring 2012.

FASTEN YOUR SEATBELTS

1. Oklahoma State: This should be the best battle by far. Junior Clint Chelf is the elder statesman of the group, but redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh and early enrolling true freshman Wes Lunt were both much more highly recruited. Lunt hails from Illinois and Walsh from Denton, Texas, but Chelf, from nearby Enid, Okla., will try to hold off the younger guys to grab the reins of one of the most powerful passing offenses in the country.

2. Texas: The Longhorns didn't resolve much late in the season, but David Ash had the best finish, helping Texas win the Holiday Bowl. Case McCoy is back, too, though, and the coaches say the competition is still wide open. Early enrolling freshman Connor Brewer would like to crash the party, and he and Ash are more physically gifted passers, but McCoy made plenty of plays during the season. He'll be right there fighting, too.

TIME TO LOCK IT DOWN

3. Iowa State: Jared Barnett looked like the future of the program over the second half of the season, but struggled down the stretch and opened the door for senior Steele Jantz, who helped Iowa State start the season 3-0 before being benched for Barnett. It's probably Barnett's job, but he's got to earn it. If he doesn't improve, Jantz could take advantage.

4. Baylor: Nick Florence started nine games in 2009 with mixed results, but looked good in relief of Heisman winner Robert Griffin III in a win over Texas Tech. Coach Art Briles says it's Florence's job to lose to start the spring, but Bryce Petty will be looming during the spring, too.

5. Kansas: Last year's starter, Jordan Webb, has transferred, and ex-Golden Domer Dayne Crist is on campus and taking part in promotional videos for the program. He looks like the guy, but juco national champion Turner Baty is joining the team, too. Could Michael Cummings be a factor, too? Jake Heaps is waiting his turn until 2013 while he sits out his NCAA-mandated redshirt season after transferring from BYU.

FIX ALL THE LITTLE THINGS

6. Oklahoma: Hush, Sooner fans clamoring for Blake Bell. He's part of the Belldozer gadget formation that produced 13 rushing touchdowns in the final half of 2011. But it's exactly that, a gadget formation. If OU can run the ball between the tackles well next year, we may not even see much of it. He's not touching Landry Jones' spot, though. Jones enters 2011 as a legitimate Heisman contender.

7. Kansas State: Collin Klein is the guy at Kansas State, but he's still got to develop as a passer. We'll see what kind of growth he shows this offseason.

8. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders' coaches were pleased with Seth Doege's performance in all but two games (Iowa State, Oklahoma State), but the defense gave him almost no chance to succeed. He's back this spring. Michael Brewer's development is encouraging, but it's highly unlikely we see any shift in the starter's status.

9. TCU: Casey Pachall threw for 25 touchdowns, seven picks and completed 66.5 percent of his passes. His top three targets return. When it comes to the QB spot, the spring is about preparing for a big year on offense at TCU.

10. West Virginia: Geno Smith makes WVU's offense go, and he'll be back for his senior year with big hopes in Morgantown. Smith threw for 4,385 yards and 31 touchdowns with just seven interceptions. Like Pachall, Smith's spring is about getting ready for a memorable Big 12 debut.

Big 12 position rankings: Quarterback

January, 25, 2012
1/25/12
4:00
PM ET
Today, we'll kick off a look at the postseason rankings for each position in the Big 12. Here's a look back on where our first position, quarterback, stood in the preseason.

Quarterbacks' rushing talents are factored into these rankings. As such, it's tough to figure out how to weigh that vs. passing acumen. Ultimately, teams ranked 4-7 were really, really close.

In these position rankings, we take into account backups, though that impact is minimal at the quarterback spot.

1. Baylor

If your quarterback wins the Heisman, you're not finishing below No. 1 on this list. Robert Griffin IIIlit up defenses and broke the NCAA record for passing efficiency, even though Wisconsin's Russell Wilson did the same this year, and finished higher than RG3. Even when RG3 suffered concussion-like symptoms against Texas Tech, backup Nick Florencecame in and burned Texas Tech's defense in a 66-42 win. Griffin finished with as many touchdowns as Brandon Weeden (37), but threw as few interceptions as Collin Klein (6), despite throwing the ball 121 more times than Klein.

(Read full post)

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