Texas Longhorns: Iowa State Cyclones
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Bears lost their top-rated commitment last week when John Humphrey Jr. decommitted. Baylor had plans to use the four-star prospect as a cornerback, but Humphrey has his eyes on playing receiver, where the Bears are well stocked with playmakers.
Total commits: 6
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Cyclones landed another commitment last week in Denton (Texas) Guyer safety Jordan Wallace, who is reportedly a distant cousin of former Iowa State standout OB Seneca Wallace. The coaching staff snagged five of their six commitments in the month of June, including Austin (Texas) Lake Travis dual-threat QB Dominic DeLira.
Total commits: 9
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Kansas continued to make noise on the recruiting trail by snagging a pair of Texas prospects last week. Carl Thompson, a 6-foot-3, 260-pound defensive lineman from Denton (Texas) Guyer, had offers from Duke, Minnesota and Vanderbilt. Taylor Martin, a 5-foot-9, 179-pound running back, committed to Kansas later the same day. He had an offer from Colorado State, and was reportedly drawing interest from TCU, Illinois and Kansas State. The Jayhawks went into the month of June with one commitment, but now have nine.
Total commits: 6
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcats landed two running backs last week, one from their backyard, the other all the way out of Georgia. Denzel Goolsby's recruitment picked up in the last week, with Kansas and Iowa State both extending offers. But the Wichita (Kansas) Bishop Carroll product wound up pledging to Kansas State. Goolsby is a versatile offensive threat, who also plays slot receiver and returns kicks. The Wildcats picked up another intriguing playmaker earlier in the week in Cartersville, Georgia, running back Kalin Heath, who had offers from the likes of Mississippi State, Washington State and Louisville. At 6-foot-1, Heath has the frame to become K-State’s next power back in the mold of Daniel Thomas.
Total commits: 7
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: John Humphrey’s decommitment from Baylor could be Oklahoma’s gain. The Sooners are giving Humphrey the option to play receiver, and Oklahoma appears to be his favorite. The Sooners also recently made the top five that ESPN 300 WR Ryan Newsome released, along with Texas, Oregon, UCLA and Notre Dame.
Total commits: 8
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Cowboys already have one ESPN 300 cornerback commitment in Jaylon Lane, and now have a strong chance to grab another. Xavier Lewis announced last week that Oklahoma State made his cut of final four schools along with LSU, Arkansas and Texas. Lewis, out of Laplace, Lousiana, is the No. 14 rated cornerback in the country, seven spots behind Lane. If the Cowboys managed to scoop up Lewis, too, they would have an incoming cornerback tandem that would be the envy of the Big 12, and perhaps the country.
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Even though they didn’t add anyone last week, the Horned Frogs still easily have the biggest commitment total of the Big 12. They’ll have to fight to hold onto to guard Cody Ford, who is showing interest in the Sooners after recently getting an offer. At 6-foot-4, 314 pounds, Ford has the potential to be a road grader in the run game down the line.
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: Texas is hosting a key night camp July 18 that will include visits from several of its top targets as well as top-rated pledge, QB Zach Gentry. Texas is also planning to host four-star QB Kai Locksley in mid-July after making his top six, along with with Florida State, Auburn, Maryland, Oregon and Virginia Tech. Locksley is the son of Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley.
Total commits: 7
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: Texas Tech is still looking for its running back from this class, and last week extended an offer to three-star New Orleans product Kendall Bussey, who is currently committed to Nebraska. The Red Raiders also got a visit recently from Waco, Texas, four-star safety Kahlil Haughton, who has offers from Baylor, Ohio State, LSU and Oklahoma, among many others.
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: The Mountaineers already have three pledges in this class from their Miramar, Florida, pipeline, and could be close to adding another. Mammoth offensive lineman Leeward Brown, who is currently committed to Miami, visited West Virginia last weekend along with Miramar teammates Kahlil Lewis and Kendrell McFadden, and reportedly came away impressed. If the Mountaineers wind up offering the 6-4, 340-pound Brown, they stand a chance of flipping him.
- The Oklahoman's Jason Kersey weighs in on the possibility of troubled but talented Dorial Green-Beckham ending up at Oklahoma.
- Iowa State center Tom Farniok is ready to roll, according to the Des Moines Register's Tommy Birch.
- Bill Snyder says Kansas State is going to miss Daniel Sams. The Wichita Eagle's Taylor Eldridge has the details.
- Tony Pierson should play running back, not wide receiver, in the opinion of the Lawrence Journal-World's Tom Keegan.
- The Jayhawks are considering removal of the stadium track before the season, reports the Kansas City Star's Rustin Dodd.
- Baylor picked up a safety commitment.
- The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel makes a case for the Big 12 forging a scheduling alliance with BYU.
- Longtime TCU assistant football coach Eddie Williamson has retired, reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Stefan Stevenson.
- Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine believes Texas Tech will field an entertaining, but unpredictable team this season.
- Hollywood, Texas and Texas Tech have gone to TCU to tell a great story. Read the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Mac Engel to find out why.
- Former SMU, Texas RB Traylon Shead was declared eligible for the NFL supplemental draft, according to the Dallas Morning News' Chuck Carlton.
To keep with that theme, we’ve selected what we think were the biggest regular season wins for every Big 12 program during the BCS years (postseason victories were not eligible for this, since they would be too obvious).
Every school had multiple wins to choose from. But the ones we picked were based on the following criteria: how they helped shape each program; what the wins meant in the context of a particular season (or stretch of seasons); who the wins were over (a rival or a highly ranked team?); and, finally, the wins each respective fanbase seems to discuss the most still to this day.
Here is the list:
Nov. 19, 2011 (45-38 vs. No. 5 Oklahoma): The 2013 victories over Oklahoma and Texas, which clinched the program’s first Big 12 championship, were strongly considered here. But Robert Griffin III's stunning, 34-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams in the waning seconds not only landed the Bears a historical win, it changed the way the media, the fans and budding recruits perceived Baylor. The win catapulted RG III to the Heisman and basically became the spark that ignited the funding for the school’s new $260 million McLane Stadium.
Nov. 18, 2011 (37-31 vs. No. 2 Oklahoma State): Paul Rhoads had delivered some signature wins his first three seasons at Iowa State. But the Cyclones were 0-56-2 against teams ranked sixth or higher in The Associated Press poll all-time. That changed on this night, as Iowa State pulled off the upset of the college football season. The victory helped galvanize fan support for Iowa State, which has sold out Jack Trice Stadium the last two years despite 6-7 and 3-9 seasons.
Nov. 3, 2007 (76-39 vs. Nebraska): For many years, Nebraska kicked the Jayhawks when they were down. In 2007, the tables were squarely turned. The 8-0 Jayhawks went into that game holding BCS bowl and national title aspirations, but they had yet to deliver a signature win. But the first week of November, Kansas delivered exactly that, humiliating the Cornhuskers. It was just Kansas’ second victory over Nebraska in 39 years, but it couldn’t have come in finer fashion for the Jayhawks. In the long, storied history of Nebraska football, the Huskers had never given up 48 points in a half or 76 points in a game -- both of which Kansas accomplished. The Jayhawks went on to win 12 games and beat Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
Nov. 14, 1998 (40-30 vs. No. 11 Nebraska): The final building block to the Manhattan Miracle was overcoming rival and Big 12 North power Nebraska. Going into the season, the Wildcats had lost 29 straight to Cornhuskers, including a 30-point loss the year before that essentially knocked 11-1 K-State out of the Big 12 and national title picture. But in ’98, the Wildcats finally got over the hump, dispatching Nebraska on their way to capturing the Big 12 North title, the program’s first title of any kind in 64 years.
Oct. 28, 2000 (31-14 vs. No. 1 Nebraska): Bob Stoops has delivered many memorable victories over Texas and Oklahoma State. But ask him, and he’ll tell you this victory over Nebraska remains his most memorable. The Sooners had defeated No. 11 Texas and No. 2 Kansas State their previous two games, but there was still skepticism as to whether Oklahoma was really back -- especially after the Huskers jumped to an early 14-0 lead. But that skepticism was replaced with belief during a furious second-quarter rally. This is still the only game of the Stoops era where the fans rushed the field.
Dec. 3, 2011 (44-10 vs. No. 13 Oklahoma): The Bedlam rivalry historically had been one of the most lopsided in-state rivalries in the country. But to secure the school’s first Big 12 championship and BCS bowl appearance, the Cowboys had to topple their longtime nightmare nemesis. They did that and more, completely obliterating the Sooners to come within a hair of advancing to the national championship game despite the loss to Iowa State two weeks before.
Nov. 6, 2010 (47-7 at No. 6 Utah): In arguably the biggest game in Mountain West history, TCU traveled to Utah with a possible BCS bowl berth and second consecutive undefeated regular season on the line. With College GameDay in the house, the Horned Frogs flexed their muscles, routing the Utes to secure a trip to the Rose Bowl. There, the Horned Frogs defeated Big Ten champ Wisconsin to finish the season 13-0 while proving to the Big 12 they were worthy of inclusion in the league after the second round of conference realignment.
Oct. 8, 2005 (45-12 vs. Oklahoma): In just a couple of years, Mack Brown turned the Texas program around, restoring the Longhorns to a perennial double-digit win team. But the one crimson stain on Brown’s tenure was his series of debacles suffered against Red River rival Oklahoma, which had won five in a row against the Longhorns by an average margin of almost four touchdowns. But behind All-American QB Vince Young, Brown and the Longhorns conquered those demons with a convincing 45-12 rout of the Sooners. With Oklahoma finally vanquished, the Longhorns went on to seize the school’s first national championship in 35 years.
Nov. 1, 2008 (39-33 vs. No. 1 Texas): With the final seconds ticking away and Texas Tech trailing by a point, quarterback Graham Harrell heaved a pass toward the boundary. At the other end, wideout Michael Crabtree snagged Harrell’s throw, shook off a defender, and tiptoed down the sidelines for a stunning, game-winning 28-yard touchdown with one second remaining. The victory catapulted the Red Raiders to second in the polls, and ultimately assured them a three-way split of the South Division title with Texas and Oklahoma. Current Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, who had just started his coaching career at Houston and was at that game, has a painting commemorating the Texas win hanging in his office.
Oct. 22, 2003 (28-7 vs. No. 3 Virginia Tech): In 2003, the jury was still out on coach Rich Rodriguez, who had replaced the legendary Don Nehlen two years before. The Mountaineers had gone 3-8 in Rich-Rod’s first year, and were off to a terrible 2-4 start in 2003. Next up was rival Virginia Tech, which was ranked third in the country and held national championship expectations. The Mountaineers quashed those by the end of the third quarter with a dominating effort in Morgantown for the program’s firs-ever win over an opponent ranked in the top three of the polls. The game also turned around West Virginia’s season, as the Mountaineers reeled off seven straight wins to make the Gator Bowl. The stunning upset also set the tone for the Rich-Rod era, as West Virginia won 11 games apiece in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
You can view the entire list here.
As for the Big 12 teams, they rank like this:
11. West Virginia (78.33 percent)
29. OU (73.85 percent)
30. Texas (73.77 percent)
39. TCU (72.31 percent)
53. Texas Tech (70.42 percent)
61. Baylor (69.86 percent)
116. Iowa State (60.61 percent)
119. Kansas State (60.0 percent)
126. Kansas (56.14 percent)
128. Oklahoma State (54.29 percent)
- Calculating the percentage of lettermen returning only tells the small part of the story when examining experience. And in many cases, what story it tells can reveal very little. A reserve that only plays in mop-up time might letter, but whether he returns might make no difference on the outlook of a team.
- That said, this chart bodes well for West Virginia, which has had issues with its depth since joining the Big 12. Dana Holgorsen has said this will be his deepest and most complete team yet, and this chart certainly supports that notion.
- Conversely, this is yet another chart that suggests Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy and his staff have their work cut out this fall. The Cowboys have the fewest returning starters, least percentage of tackles coming back, and now the fewest returning letterman. If the Cowboys are competitive this season, they could be an absolute load in 2015 with the number of players they’ll have coming back.
The World Cup will consume sports fan across the globe for the next month, taking us right up to the outskirts of the college football season.
Many in Big 12 country know little about the World Cup, or what team to pull for outside the United States. So to give you soccer novices a rooting choice, we’ve come up with the fútbol counterparts for every team in the Big 12 (thanks to soccer aficionados Royce and Russ for their help in putting this list together):
Belgium: Baylor has been the up-and-coming squad in the Big 12, winning its first conference title last year. The Belgians are the up-and-comers of this World Cup, and a popular sleeper pick to win it all. Both have lethal offensive attacks, but still must prove their staying power this year.
South Korea: On its home soil in 2002, South Korea pulled off three of the bigger upsets in World Cup history, knocking off Portugal, Italy and Spain to reach the quarterfinals. The Cyclones under coach Paul Rhoads have also been a giant killer at home, most recently upsetting second-ranked Oklahoma State to bounce the Cowboys from the 2011 national title race. With 21-year-old forward Son Heung-min leading the charge, South Korea boasts a potentially formidable offensive attack. And with nine offensive starters back this year, Iowa State has the chance to feature its best offense in a long time.
Australia: Both had their finest moments around the same time -- the Aussies advancing out of its World Cup group in 2006; the Jayhawks winning the Orange Bowl in 2007 -- but the hearts of both fan bases lie in another sport (basketball for Kansas, rugby for Australia).
Greece: Greece is not flashy. But emulating the Bill Snyder playbook to success, the Greeks grind out victories (and ties) with stout defense, fundamental play and by avoiding mistakes. Like K-State, the Greeks have been defined by their coach (Otto Graham/Fernando Santos) more than any star player. And Greece’s improbable 2004 Euro Cup title run might be the soccer equivalent of K-State’s Manhattan Miracle.
Germany: The Germans have been the epitome of consistent success, advancing to the semifinals in eight of the last 11 World Cups. The Sooners have matched that level of consistency during the Bob Stoops era, with eight conference titles and a dozen double-digit win seasons over the last 14 years.
Portugal: In recent years, both have piled up the wins and have featured plenty of star power. But they have failed to breakthrough when the spotlight has been the brightest. Portugal’s “golden generation” flopped in the 2002 World Cup, losing to the U.S. in the opener before failing to advance out of the group stage. Oklahoma State could have clinched the 2010 and 2013 Big 12 titles, but slipped at home against rival Oklahoma. The Cowboys and the Portuguese have also had to exist in the shadow of two preeminent powers in their sports (Sooners/Spain). Still they have become two clubs nobody wants to play, and have reached enviable levels of year-to-year success.
Uruguay: Uruguay is a small country surrounded by some of the giants in World Cup soccer. The same goes for TCU, which doesn’t have the enrollments or resources of the likes of Oklahoma or Texas. But just like Uruguay, TCU has carved out success with a hardnosed style of play. Furthermore, Uruguay won the first World Cup ever played in 1930, while both of TCU’s national championships came in the same decade (1935, 1938).
England: All the tradition, history and resources. And yet in recent years, these two have been massive underachievers. In South Africa in 2010, the English surrendered the top seed in its group to the Yanks, then got obliterated 4-1 by Germany in the first game of the knockout round. The Longhorns, meanwhile, have failed to win more than eight regular-season games the last four seasons. Because of these struggles, both squads are flying somewhat under the radar, and the talent is still there for either to ignite a run. But first, someone -- anyone -- has to light the fuse.
Mexico: After an emotional roller-coaster ride through the qualifying stages, Mexico is feeling optimistic following a manageable World Cup draw and cleaner play of late. Texas Tech rode the roller coaster of a five-game losing streak last season, but is feeling confident these days coming off its dominating bowl performance against Arizona State.
Ivory Coast: Les Éléphants bring the fireworks with Didier Drogba and Yaya Touré the same way the Mountaineers have through the Pat White and Geno Smith eras. But while West Virginia dominated the Big East the way Ivory Coast has Africa, neither has been able to take that next step against the big boys. In its first two appearances in the World Cup in 2006 and 2010, Ivory Coast failed to advance out of its group. Likewise, the Mountaineers have struggled their first two years in the Big 12. Both have the individual talents of a championship-caliber club, but neither will contend until the depth improves.
Of course, just because the answer is canned doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
Turnovers are one of the biggest differences between winning a game and losing it.
Delving further into the data, I analyzed fumbles lost and gained, interceptions lost and gained and turnover margin over the last three seasons to determine which Big 12 teams have best used turnovers to their advantage. And, conversely, which teams have used it to their disadvantage.
View the results of my research on the right:
What the data revealed:
- Wonder why Oklahoma State is one of college football’s winningest teams over the last five years? The Cowboys force turnovers in bundles. And offensively they hold onto the ball. Sure, the 2011 season, when Oklahoma State led the country in turnover margin, might be a bit of an outlier. But the Cowboys led the conference in turnover margin again last season, and they also forced the most in the league in 2010, which was not included in the data. This is no coincidence. Mike Gundy’s team emphasizes the turnover battle in practice. Last offseason, all-conference linebackers Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey actually practiced catching the ball, which is a major reason why they combined for seven picks last season. Oklahoma State’s ball carriers have also been phenomenal holding on to the ball, which is why they’ve only lost 21 fumbles -- and also improved their ball security each of the last three years. The Cowboys might not have many starters coming back this season. But if their turnover margin rate holds steady, they will be tough to beat yet again.
- Like Oklahoma State, Kansas State has made a living off its turnover rate. The Wildcats struggled early last season, in large part because they deviated from the Bill Snyder playbook to winning, and turned the ball over 25 times during a 2-4 start. But while reeling off wins in six of seven final games, K-State actually led the Big 12 with a plus-9 turnover margin over that stretch. Decisively winning the turnover margin again will be the recipe to K-State becoming a legitimate Big 12 title contender this season.
- On the flip side, one of the major hindrances that has kept Texas Tech from getting over the hump has been its disastrous turnover margin. The Red Raiders have been dreadful at forcing turnovers, which, as Oklahoma State's defense has proven, is one of the best ways to stopping the up-tempo attacks of the Big 12. Texas Tech hasn’t been much better at holding onto the ball, either. During their five-game losing streak to cap the regular season, the Red Raiders were a minus-8, and the only time they actually won the turnover battle in an individual game last season came in a 54-16 win at Kansas. In fact, Texas Tech’s turnover margin in the dreaded month of November the last three years is minus-18. With Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma all on the November slate, the only chance the Red Raiders have of reversing that trend of late-season collapses is by cleaning up the turnovers. Having a semi-experienced quarterback in Davis Webb should help. But Texas Tech will not sniff a double-digit winning season -- like it did in 2008 when the team was plus-8 -- until it improves in the turnover margin department.
- Baylor absolutely crushed its opponents off turnovers last season, ranking fourth nationally with 135 points off turnovers. Only Florida State, Arizona State and Houston had more. The TCU game was a great example of how Baylor capitalized off turnovers. Despite struggling offensively, the Bears scored three touchdowns off three turnovers (including two pick-sixes and a fumble recovery at the TCU 1-yard line) to win the game, 41-38. Baylor will be replacing several key players off its secondary, but with a swarming defensive line led by end Shawn Oakman, the Bears could set their explosive offense up with numerous short fields again in 2014.
- Oklahoma has had rather pedestrian turnover numbers defensively the last three years. But it's difficult to see that not jumping up in 2014, especially if the Allstate Sugar Bowl against Alabama when the Sooners forced five turnovers is any indication. Oklahoma has several defenders coming back capable of getting to the quarterback, headlined by menacing outside linebacker Eric Striker.
- The overall numbers for TCU and West Virginia included a season (2011) in the Mountain West and Big East conferences, respectively. The turnovers forced, however, have actually gone up for both teams since joining the Big 12. But so have the turnovers lost. Only Texas Tech gave up more turnovers than the Horned Frogs and Mountaineers last season. Inconsistent quarterbacking has been a big part of that increase. To bounce back from bowl-less seasons, both teams need their QBs -- whoever they turn out to be -- to take better care of the ball.
But before we completely turn the page on the BCS here on the Big 12 blog, we’re going to have some fun -- with a playoff.
Through the month of June, we’re going to decide who the best Big 12 team of the BCS era really was.
Actually, you are going to decide.
Here’s how this will work. On Thursday morning, we’ll unveil the 16-team bracket, which will be seeded 1 through 16. Then beginning next Monday, you will vote each day to determine which team advances to the next round.
But first things first. We’d like your nominations of teams that should be included in the field of 16, with the following caveats:
- The teams have to be from the BCS era (1998-2013).
- Teams from programs (Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri, Texas A&M) that have since departed the Big 12 are eligible for inclusion. However, any team from those programs that came after departure from the Big 12 is not eligible. (And don’t worry, we don’t think any Texas A&M team will make the cut anyway.)
- Lastly, in the spirit of Big 12 unity, we’re making all TCU and West Virginia teams from the BCS era (1998-2013) eligible for this tournament.
Send us your Big 12 BCS-era team nominations here.
And check back Thursday morning for the bracket unveiling.
To submit a mailbag entry via Twitter, simply include the hashtag #big12mailbag. To submit a mailbag entry the traditional way, simply go here.
To the 'bag:
Jonathan in California writes: Hey, Jake, enjoy the blog. My question has to do with the unlikely but still probable dilemma when five conference champions all go undefeated? It has happened before and will likely happen again. What would the committee have to value the most then? What if it is the traditional powers that are undefeated, as in Oklahoma, Florida State, Alabama, Oregon and Ohio State? Would expansion occur or would conferences have to change so all are playing similar schedules then?
Trotter: Probable? The last time we had just three undefeated teams from the power conferences was in 2004 (Oklahoma, USC, Auburn). The more likely scenario would be five one-loss conference champs. In that event, the strength of the conference and the strength of individual nonconference schedules (you reading, Baylor fans?) would be the determining factor in picking the team to leave out.
Trotter: Would that be any different than the system we had before? Does anyone really believe that Texas or Oklahoma would have been left out of the 2011 national championship game with Oklahoma State’s résumé that season? I have no idea how the playoff committee is going to select its teams. But the lesser brands can’t be at any more of a disadvantage than they were during the BCS era.
Trotter: I did a Q&A with Riddick earlier this week. I’m starting to think this could be a big addition. Playmaking off the edge is where the Mountaineers need the most help defensively. That’s what Riddick brings. I have no idea how the transition to the higher classification will affect him. But he could be a factor.
Trotter: My thought is you need to take a vacation from the message boards.
Trotter: Art Briles, Kliff Kingsbury and Dana Holgorsen all know each other very well, dating to their connections to Houston and/or Texas Tech. Mike Gundy gave Holgorsen his big break by bringing him into the Big 12 as a coordinator at Oklahoma State. New TCU offensive coordinator Doug Meacham was at Oklahoma State just two years ago and is close with Texas offensive line coach Joe Wickline from their days in Stillwater. TCU’s other offensive coordinator, Sonny Cumbie, played with several of the coaches at Texas Tech. New Iowa State offensive coordinator Mark Mangino has strong ties to Oklahoma and Kansas State. Oklahoma’s Stoops Brothers coached under Bill Snyder at K-State. Gundy’s brother Cale is an assistant at Oklahoma. I could go on and on.
Trotter: In case you missed it this week, this is what Wallace is referring to. If you know you can get beer inside the stadium, doesn’t that dissuade you from getting loaded before the game? I think it does. People are going to drink at college football games. At least inside the stadium, it can be managed.
Trotter: Progress in the right direction would do the trick. The Jayhawks don’t have to go to a bowl game. But they need to show they’re better than they were last year. With a veteran defense and a much improved receiving corps, it would be a major disappointment if they took a step back this season, which would also warm up Weis’ seat.
What Max unearthed was that Texas (by far) leads the Big 12 in career starts returning, both offensively and defensively. TCU’s defense ranked second behind the Longhorns’ defense, while the Iowa State offense placed second. The Horned Frogs could have their most dominant defense yet in the Big 12, and the Cyclones could feature their best offensive attack in years, suggesting both teams could also be in for bounce-back 2014 campaigns.
Yet while revealing, compiling returning starts doesn’t tell the entire story when examining team experience, since the equation doesn’t account for those who played key roles as reserves. TCU safety Derrick Kindred, Texas Tech linebacker Micah Awe and Baylor end Shawn Oakman weren’t starters last year. But they were still valuable players on their respective teams.
To examine returning experience in another way, I’ve tallied up the percentage of tackles returning for every team in the Big 12:
With nine starters back, it’s not surprising the Sooners top this chart. But the number of returning starters isn’t the only reason why Oklahoma is optimistic about its 2014 defense. The Sooners also bring back several key defensive performers that weren’t full-time starters last season. End Geneo Grissom, who notched three sacks against Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, only started five games in 2013. Linebacker Jordan Evans thrived whenever his number got called as a freshman. And tackle Jordan Phillips only started four games but was playing at an All-Big 12-caliber level before suffering a season-ending back injury in early October.
On the flip side, Oklahoma State is at the cellar of this list, and not just because it graduated seven starters. The Cowboys also lost several defensive reserves that played a bunch, including linebacker Joe Mitchell, cornerback Tyler Patmon and safety Zack Craig.
Of course, like with returning starts, a high level of returning tackles doesn’t guarantee success. And it doesn’t necessarily preclude it, either.
Oklahoma ranked 119th nationally in returning tackles (40 percent) last season. But by the end of the season, the Sooners were wreaking havoc in the backfield of the two-time defending national champs.
The tackle equation can be an indicator of the defenses that might be formidable. Oklahoma State and Baylor both had 73 percent of their tackles returning from 2012 going into last season. Both wound up being formidable, ranking first and second in the league in both fewest yards per play and points per drive.
That bodes well for the defensive prospects of Oklahoma, Kansas, TCU, Texas and West Virginia, which all have like tackle rates coming back for 2014.
Last season the strongest position of the league was defensive back, headlined by Justin Gilbert, Jason Verrett, Ahmad Dixon, Aaron Colvin and Ty Zimmerman, among others.
But those players are all gone. So what will be the strongest position in 2014?
With such players such as TCU’s Devonte Fields, Oklahoma’s Charles Tapper and Texas’ Cedric Reed returning, we believe it will be defensive line.
Maybe you think it will be another position such as receiver, which includes All-American hopefuls Antwan Goodley and Tyler Lockett, and a host of potential 1,000-yard threats such as Texas Tech’s Jakeem Grant, Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard, Iowa State’s Quenton Bundrage, Oklahoma State’s Jhajuan Seales and Texas’ Jaxon Shipley.
Perhaps it’s your opinion that the strength of the Big 12 will be at linebacker, where Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, Kansas and TCU bring their entire units back, and virtually everyone else has at least one proven performer returning.
Maybe the conference’s best unit is the offensive line, with experienced centers BJ Finney (Kansas State), Dominic Espinosa (Texas) and Tom Farniok (Iowa State); talented tackles Spencer Drango (Baylor), Le'Raven Clark (Texas Tech) and Daryl Williams (Oklahoma); and versatile stalwarts Cody Whitehair (Kansas State), Quinton Spain (West Virginia) and Daniel Koenig (Oklahoma State).
Or with Baylor’s Bryce Petty, Kansas State’s Jake Waters, Texas Tech’s Davis Webb and Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight, do you believe quarterback is on its way back to becoming the dominant position in a league that not long ago was the nation’s preeminent conference for that position?
Tell us by voting in the weekly Big 12 poll.
McShay had three Big 12 players going in his mock first round: Baylor QB Bryce Petty 15th overall to the Houston Texans, TCU DE Devonte Fields 25th overall to the San Francisco 49ers and Oklahoma LB Eric Striker 29th overall to the Green Bay Packers.
Though we have almost a full year to go, here are some of other top Big 12 prospects for the 2015 draft (in alphabetical order):
- TE E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State: Three pass-catching tight ends went in the first two rounds last weekend, and that’s exactly what Bibbs is. He caught 39 passes last season and can far exceed that if QB Grant Rohach settles into new coordinator Mark Mangino’s offense.
- DT Malcom Brown, Texas: Like his D-line teammate Cedric Reed, Brown has first-round talent. He was rated the second-best DT coming out of high school and began to realize that potential last season.
- SS Sam Carter, TCU: Carter has manned strong safety at a high level in Fort Worth for the past two seasons and was the only underclassman defensive back to earn first- or second-team All-Big 12 honors in 2013. With teammate Jason Verrett gone, he won’t be as overshadowed next season.
- OT Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech: After starting his first two seasons in college at left tackle, Clark could get moved to guard this season. Clark has the strength to be a devastating run-blocking guard, and the NFL loves players who can play multiple positions.
- CB Quandre Diggs, Texas: Diggs has been a starter in Austin since his true freshman season. He is fast, and he’s a solid tackler against the run. Diggs has an NFL pedigree, too. His brother, Quentin Jammer, was a first-round pick in 2002 after starring for the Horns.
- OT Spencer Drango, Baylor: Drango will get plenty of attention protecting Petty’s blindside. The back injury from last season is a concern, but it also underscored how dominant Drango actually was. Baylor’s pass protection was leaky without him the rest of the year. Like Clark, Drango will just be a junior next season.
- C BJ Finney, Kansas State: The Big 12 has some other draft hopefuls at center in Iowa State’s Tom Farniok and Texas’ Dominic Espinosa, but Finney seems like the best bet of the three to get drafted. The former walk-on and high school state wrestling champ will be a four-year starter, and has 39 career starts, which is tied for the Big 12 active lead.
- WR Antwan Goodley, Baylor: He might not be tall at only 5-foot-10, but Goodley is physical and fast. With another ultra-productive season like last fall, he could be one of the top receivers on next year’s board.
- WR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State: Lockett’s versatility both as an inside or outside receiver and in the return game only makes him a more attractive prospect. With Jake Waters now installed as the full-time QB, Lockett could have a monster statistical senior season.
- DE Shawn Oakman, Baylor: At 6-9, 275 pounds, Oakman has intriguing size for an NFL defensive line. If he dominates in the fall the way Art Briles said he did in the spring, Oakman could quickly turn into a hot prospect even though he’ll only be a junior.
- DE Cedric Reed, Texas: According to NFL.com, Reed was one of two players nationally in 2013 to record five sacks, five forced fumbles and four pass breakups. The other? Buffalo’s Khalil Mack, who was the fifth overall pick in last week’s draft. By coming back to school for another year, Reed could potentially become a first rounder, too.
- DE Charles Tapper, Oklahoma: Tapper almost has the size of a defensive tackle and the athleticism of a linebacker. He didn’t have an overly huge statistical sophomore season but was the only underclassman defensive lineman voted All-Big 12 by the coaches. Tapper too will only be a junior.
- OT Daryl Williams, Oklahoma: Even though Tyrus Thompson has manned the left side in Norman, Williams has the better pro outlook. Williams will be a three-year starter and has the athleticism to transition to the left side at the next level.
After each lineup, read our final takes on our teams. Then, decide who drafted best in the weekly Big 12 poll.
BRANDON CHATMON’S TEAM
- QB: Trevor Knight, Oklahoma
- RB: Wendell Smallwood, West Virginia
- WR: Jhajuan Seales, Oklahoma State
- WR: Tony Pierson, Kansas
- WR: Daje Johnson, Texas
- WR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
- LT: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech
- LG: Cody Whitehair, Kansas State
- C: Tom Farniok, Iowa State
- RG: Dominic Espinosa, Texas
- RT: Tyrus Thompson, Oklahoma
- DE: Charles Tapper, Oklahoma
- DT: Malcom Brown, Texas
- DT: Chucky Hunter, TCU
- DE: Cedric Reed, Texas
- WLB: Dominique Alexander, Oklahoma
- SLB: Pete Robertson, Texas Tech
- NB: JaCorey Shepherd, Kansas
- CB: Daryl Worley, West Virginia
- FS: Dante Barnett, Kansas State
- SS: Quentin Hayes, Oklahoma
- CB: Kevin White, TCU
MAX OLSON'S TEAM
- QB: Davis Webb, Texas Tech
- RB: Shock Linwood, Baylor
- RB: Johnathan Gray, Texas
- WR: Antwan Goodley, Baylor
- WR: Jaxon Shipley, Texas
- IR: Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State
- LT: Halapoulivaati Vaitai, TCU
- LG: Quinton Spain, West Virginia
- C: B.J. Finney, Kansas State
- RG: Daniel Koenig, Oklahoma State
- RT: Troy Baker, Baylor
- DE: Devonte Fields, TCU
- DT: Andrew Billings, Baylor
- DE: Shawn Oakman, Baylor
- DE: Geneo Grissom, Oklahoma
- OLB: Frank Shannon, Oklahoma
- ILB: Bryce Hager, Baylor
- OLB: Nick Kwiatkoski, West Virginia
- CB: Quandre Diggs, Texas
- SS: Sam Carter, TCU
- FS: Terrell Burt, Baylor
- CB: Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma
JAKE TROTTER’S TEAM
- QB: Bryce Petty, Baylor
- RB: Malcolm Brown, Texas
- WR: Quenton Bundrage, Iowa State
- WR: Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech
- WR: Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma
- TE: E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State
- LT: Spencer Drango, Baylor
- LG: Nila Kasitati, Oklahoma
- C: Jared Kaster, Texas Tech
- RG: Mark Glowinski, West Virginia
- RT: Daryl Williams, Oklahoma
- DE: Ryan Mueller, Kansas State
- Nose: James Castleman, Oklahoma State
- Tackle: Travis Britz, Kansas State
- OLB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma
- ILB: Ben Heeney, Kansas
- ILB: Paul Dawson, TCU
- OLB: Brandon Golson, West Virginia
- CB: Kevin Peterson, Oklahoma State
- SS: Karl Joseph, West Virginia
- FS: Chris Hackett, TCU
- CB: Nigel Tribune, Iowa State
1. Oklahoma (pre-spring ranking: 1): While the future of inside linebacker Frank Shannon remains unclear, the Sooners have a tailor-made replacement in Jordan Evans ready to go. Shannon was OU’s leading tackler a year ago, but Evans was the defensive MVP of the spring game in his place. Blitzing outside linebacker Eric Striker had a huge spring coming off his three-sack performance in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. And the Sooners had another blitzing linebacker in juco transfer Devante Bond emerge in March, which could give them flexibility to move Striker around. Dominique Alexander, the reigning Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year, solidifies OU’s perch atop this positional ranking, even with Shannon’s future in limbo.
2. Texas (2): Steve Edmond sparked controversy with his Baylor comments, but he also impressed coach Charlie Strong this spring with his knack for making tackles. Edmond and Dalton Santos team up to give the Longhorns a reliable combination on the inside. Athletic sophomore Timothy Cole took advantage of his opportunities with the first-team defense during the spring but should fall back into a spot role once Jordan Hicks returns this summer from a second consecutive season-ending injury. This will be a good group of linebackers, but Hicks playing up to his five-star potential is what could make it great.
3. West Virginia (3): After struggling at the “Spur” linebacker spot in 2013, Isaiah Bruce moved back inside this spring, where he starred as a freshman All-American two years ago. Bruce said he didn’t feel as comfortable playing outside and that showed, as he didn’t record a sack last season despite playing off the edge. Taking over in the Spur is converted safety K.J. Dillon, who was as impressive as any West Virginia defender this spring. With the ability to drop back in coverage, attack the run and rush the quarterback, Dillon seems to be a much better fit at the Spur. If he continues to progress at his new spot and Bruce gets back to his old self playing alongside tackling machine Nick Kwiatkoski inside, the Mountaineers will be stout at the second level.
4. Kansas (5): If the Jayhawks finally climb out of the Big 12 cellar for the first time in six years, it will be on the back of Ben Heeney and a Kansas defense that returns nine starters. One of those nine returners is Heeney’s linebacker wingman, Jake Love, who delivered a strong spring game with a scrimmage-high 10 tackles. The Jayhawks have several weaknesses, but the tackling of their linebackers is not one of them.
5. TCU (6): They get overshadowed by the units in front of and behind them, but linebackers Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallet simply fulfill what’s asked of them. The Horned Frogs were surprisingly solid at linebacker last year. They should be even better in 2014.
6. Texas Tech (7): The Red Raiders received a huge boost in the spring from Kenny Williams, who made a seamless -- and voluntary -- position switch from running back to the “Raider” linebacker position. With honorable mention All-Big 12 pick Pete Robertson on the other outside spot and veterans Sam Eguavoen and Micah Awe and Utah transfer V.J. Fehoko manning the middle, the Red Raiders have a solid foundation. Ex-Ohio State linebacker Mike Mitchell, who attended Tech’s spring game, could give the unit another boost in the summer. He was an ESPN 300 recruit last year and could be eligible immediately at his next school.
7. Kansas State (8): Coach Bill Snyder seemed to be reasonably pleased with returners Jonathan Truman and Will Davis, who have locked up two of the linebacker spots. If D'Vonta Derricott, who was in the ESPN Junior College 50 and had offers from Miami, Wisconsin, Arizona State and a host of Big 12 programs, can make an impact at the third linebacker spot, the Wildcats could quickly solidify their biggest question spot defensively.
8. Baylor (4): Middle linebacker Bryce Hager will be fine once he finally recovers from a groin injury. That means Aiavion Edwards, who exited spring as the starter on the weak side, will be the key as the Bears attempt to overcome the graduation of All-Big 12 performer Eddie Lackey. Baylor, though, still has big expectations for juco transfer Grant Campbell, even though he finished spring as a backup on the depth chart. After a shaky first few practices, Campbell began to come on late in spring drills.
9. Oklahoma State (9): The Cowboys picked up a valuable transfer during the spring in former Michigan safety Josh Furman, who will be eligible immediately after getting his degree. Furman isn’t a star, but he has plenty of experience and could be a real asset teamed with juco transfer D'Nerius Antoine at Oklahoma State’s “Star” linebacker spot. On the weak side, fellow juco transfer Devante Averette really shined before suffering some mild injuries at the end of spring ball. The Cowboys will be even better there if 2012 four-star signee Seth Jacobs emerges.
10. Iowa State (10): The Cyclones remain in transition mode at linebacker while working to replace the production of departed All-Big 12 performer Jeremiah George. Redshirt freshman and former QB Alton Meeks was one of the defensive surprises of the spring; he currently sits atop the depth chart at middle linebacker. The other big defensive surprise was walk-on senior Drake Ferch, who beat out returning starter Jared Brackens on the strong side. Jevohn Miller is the third starting linebacker, but he figures to be a placeholder on the weak side until Luke Knott returns from last year’s season-ending hip injury.
1. TCU (pre-spring ranking: 1): The Horned Frogs’ coverage units were pretty lousy last year. If they can shore those up, this could be an elite special-teams unit with kicker Jaden Oberkrom, punter Ethan Perry and returners B.J. Catalon and Cameron Echols-Luper.
2. Kansas State (3): Freshman Judah Jones, who was one of the stars of the spring game with a 51-yard touchdown catch, fielded kickoffs, too. Cornerback Morgan Burns also added a 39-yard kickoff return. They could take some pressure off Tyler Lockett in the return game and also him to get a breather when needed.
3. Baylor (2): The return units are going to be spectacular, and Spencer Roth is one of the best punters in the nation. But field-goal kicking is an unknown. Freshman Chris Callahan has taken over for now as the team’s kicker, but missed one chip shot badly in the spring game. Callahan could be fine. But as Oklahoma State found out last year, rolling with a first-time kicker can be dicey.
5. West Virginia (7): Josh Lambert created plenty of buzz this spring, including his 53-yard field goal in the spring game. Mario Alford also took the opening kick in the spring game to the house. Punter Nick O’Toole is a proven commodity. If Lambert has a big sophomore year (he was really good as a freshman) and Alford’s TD is a sign of improvement in the return units, which ranked last in the Big 12 last year, this could become one of the league’s better special-teams units.
6. Texas Tech (4): The Red Raiders continued to have issues fielding punts during the spring, which is probably one reason why the return slots were left blank in the team’s post-spring depth chart. Incoming freshman Ian Sadler, who had six return touchdowns during his senior season of high school, could solidify that spot once he arrives on campus.
7. Iowa State (6): Sophomore kicker Cole Netten showed off his big leg in the spring game by making a 56-yard field goal. That came after coach Paul Rhoads gave him a shot at a 62-yard attempt. Netten, combined with the dynamic return trio of Jarvis West, DeVondrick Nealy and Aaron Wimberly, should translate into a strong special-teams unit. If incoming freshman Colin Downing can adequately step in at punter, the unit will be even stronger.
8. Texas (8): Nick Rose showed a strong leg on a missed 55-yard field goal try in the spring game and converted a 40-yarder. William Russ averaged 43.3 yards per punt in the spring game. Those were positive signs, but replacing All-American kicker/punter Anthony Fera will be one of the underrated storylines in Charlie Strong’s first season.
9: Oklahoma State (10): With so much turnover on both sides of the ball, the Cowboys need their special teams to be much better than last season. They just might be, though. With his speed, Tyreek Hill will be a major factor in the return game. Also, place-kicker Ben Grogan, after a shaky freshman season, drew praise for his improvement this spring from coach Mike Gundy.
10. Kansas (9): Special teams did not excel in Kansas’ spring game. Matthew Wyman made a 23-yard field goal but missed an extra point. The punting in the game was mediocre as well. The Jayhawks reportedly have preferred walk-on John Duvic enrolling this summer. After setting the Illinois state high school record with five field goals in a game, he could be a welcomed addition.
To submit a mailbag entry via Twitter, simply include the hashtag #big12mailbag. To do it the traditional way, go here.
To the 'bag ...
Kyler in Lubbock, Texas, writes: Hey, Jake! So the SEC Blog came out with an article on "dream nonconference rivalries". This is not to be confused with the "sister schools" question, but more along the lines of, who would make for an interesting match up? I was wondering what you think the Big 12 dream non-conference rivalries would be.
Trotter: Great question, Kyler. I also put this out on Twitter, and here were some of your suggestions:
@Jake_Trotter Alabama-OU— Cody Tolbert (@C_Tolbert1) May 2, 2014
@Jake_Trotter virginia tech for the black diamond trophy— Jacob Murphy (@Jake2M) May 2, 2014
@Jake_Trotter TTU and Arkansas. Good thing we have it the next 2 years— Carsón (@TheCarsonUKnow) May 2, 2014
@Jake_Trotter OU-Nebraska, Texas-Texas A&M. Discussion over.— Justin Peabody (@PeabodyJ) May 2, 2014
@Jake_Trotter K-State vs Nebraska— Lane Schartz (@Lane_Schartz) May 2, 2014
@Jake_Trotter easy. Baylor vs. Incarnate Word.— Oso Fly (@OsoFlyBU) May 2, 2014
OK, that last one was pretty funny.
Anyway, here are my suggestions:
Baylor-Oregon: We could call it in the Green Pinball Wizard Bowl.
Iowa State-Iowa: The Cyclones already have their ideal nonconference game on the schedule.
Kansas-Missouri: Agreed, we need to bring back the Border War.
Kansas State-Nebraska: How many times did this showdown decide the Big 12 North?
Oklahoma-Alabama: The Big Red Rivalry with Nebraska died on the vine during the Big 12 years; time to start another battle of the reds.
Oklahoma State-LSU: It has been awhile since Les Miles ate Stillwater grass.
TCU-Boise State: After these two were disrespected by the major conferences for so long, it would be fun to see them play.
Texas-Texas A&M: Will these two grow up already?
Texas Tech-Texas A&M: Since I’m not sure the two aforementioned will, this underrated rivalry could take its place.
West Virginia-Pitt: As you can see, I’m for restoring the rivalries that conference realignment destroyed.
Chris is Martinsburg, W. Va., writes: We all know that West Virginia has had trouble since joining the Big 12. My question is, what quarterback do you think has the best shot of leading West Virginia to a Big 12 championship?
Trotter: Does Geno Smith have any eligibility left? Honestly, I’m not sure that West Virginia has a quarterback on its current roster capable of leading the Mountaineers to a title, at least not this season.
Matt Blank in Wamego, Kan., writes: Question for you, Jake. What are your thoughts on Montell Cozart being named the starting QB for KU?
Trotter: I thought it was the right move. Kansas wasn’t going anywhere with Jake Heaps. They might not win many games with Cozart next season, either, but at least now they have a young QB with some upside to build around for the future.
Trotter: I think the offense will be better. There’s more depth and size up front on the offensive line. The addition of Jordan Moore and likely Trevone Boykin will boost the WR corps. And yes, I believe Joeckel will be the starter. Having practiced it the last two years at Texas A&M, Joeckel has the most experience of any TCU QB in the offense the Horned Frogs are installing. You know TCU’s defense is going to be a load. If they could score just a few more points, the Horned Frogs could be the most improved team in the league next year.
@Jake_Trotter What is your prediction for TCU's new revamped offense? Will Matt Joeckel be the starter?— Cy Sonderer (@CySonderer) April 24, 2014
Strong Fires Up Crowd at Kickoff Rally
BIG 12 SCOREBOARD
12:00 PM ET North Dakota State Iowa State 3:30 PM ET West Virginia 2 Alabama 7:00 PM ET Louisiana Tech 4 Oklahoma 7:00 PM ET Samford TCU 7:00 PM ET Central Arkansas Texas Tech 7:10 PM ET Stephen F. Austin 20 Kansas State 8:00 PM ET North Texas Texas 8:00 PM ET 1 Florida State Oklahoma State