Texas Longhorns: Jake Knott

The Lombardi Award, which has my personal favorite description for its award, released its 145-man preseason watch list (you'll see why in a bit) and the Big 12 landed 17 players on it.

Here's who's eligible:
That's quite a hefty list. Here's the description I love to hear every year for who can win the award:
To be considered for the Rotary Lombardi Award players must be a Division I college football team member and meet the following qualifications:
  • Be a down lineman, end-to-end, either on offense or defense, setting up no farther than 10 yards to the left or right of the ball at the time of snap.
  • Be a linebacker on defense, setting up no farther than 5 yards deep from the line of scrimmage.
  • May not come out of the offensive backfield and set up on the line of scrimmage as a blocker or receiver, or be listed as a back or receiver.
  • Shows leadership, courage, desire, respect for authority and discipline.

The voting electorate is made up of the head coaches from all Division I schools, sports media personnel from across the country and former winners and finalists of the Rotary Lombardi Award. Currently the total number of voters is approximately 500.

Complicated, no? It's fun anyway. It also has my favorite trophy of any of the college football awards. I'm an unashamed Lombardi Award lover, folks.

Boston College's Luke Kuechly won the award last season. Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh (2009) was the last player from the Big 12 to win the award. Texas' Brian Orakpo (2008) was the last player from the current Big 12 configuration to win it.

Oklahoma and Texas both have three winners all-time, tied for the fourth-most nationally. Nebraska's five winners is second all-time behind only Ohio State (six).
The Nagurski Trophy, given annually to college football's best defender, has released its 84-man, preseason watch list. From the Big 12:
That's a hefty list. My only possible additions? Quandre Diggs of Texas and maybe Shaun Lewis of Oklahoma State. Other than that, it's basically a who's who of the best defenders in the Big 12.

The league's 13 candidates are third-most among conferences, behind only the SEC (19) and the Big Ten (14).

Texas and Oklahoma are tied for the nation's most Nagurski Trophies, with two. Brian Orakpo in 2008 and Ndamukong Suh in 2009 are the last Big 12 talents to take home the hardware.

Luke Kuechly of Boston College won the award last season.

More awards watch lists:
We're breaking down the Big 12's benchmark performers next season, and we're on the defensive side of the ball now.

For defenders, 100 tackles is the dividing line of a productive season, even though plenty of other big talents don't hit the triple digits.

As for the ones who will in 2012?

College football had 86 players top 100 tackles in 2011. Only eight from the Big 12 reached that benchmark. Here's who will do it next year:

1. Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State: Knott's the most physical defender on Iowa State's defense, and he's already got two 100-tackle seasons under his belt. He'll add a third this year alongside his teammate, A.J. Klein, who's brought the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year hardware to Ames in 2011.

2. A.J. Klein, LB, Iowa State: Klein will do the same thing Knott will in 2012: earn his third consecutive 100-tackle season. Iowa State's defensive line leaves a bit to be desired, but the Cyclones backer duo brings a punch, even if they're not behind the line of scrimmage too often. Klein's the better athlete between the two, but these two will go head to head again for the Big 12 tackles title.

3. Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State: Brown's speed and sure tackling will pay off again in his second year as the cornerstone of the K-State defense. The Wildcats need him to shut down open spaces, and nobody in the Big 12 closes them faster than Brown.

4. Jordan Hicks, LB, Texas: The Longhorns are losing 215 tackles at linebacker without Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho. The time is now for Hicks. Texas' defense will be salty, but Hicks, a former five-star recruit from Ohio, may be a household name very, very soon.

5. Mike Hicks, S, Baylor: Baylor won't have two safeties with 100 tackles this year, but they'll still have one, and Hicks will be that guy for the Bears. The defense will be better in Year 2 under Phil Bennett, but not all that much better. Big plays will happen against Baylor, but Hicks can keep them from being backbreaking plays.

6. Alex Elkins, LB, Oklahoma State: Elkins' story is incredible, and he'll finish it with 100 stops as a senior. Not bad for a guy who responded to an open tryout at junior college. Now, he'll be a lynchpin of a much-improved defense in Stillwater.

Do you see anybody else hitting triple digits?
College football guru Phil Steele is previewing his must-read offseason magazine, and with it, he's releasing his all-conference and All-America teams.

Here's who he slated as his first-team All-Big 12 squad:

OFFENSE

QB: Landry Jones, Oklahoma
RB: Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State
RB: Malcolm Brown, Texas
WR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia
WR: Kenny Stills, Oklahoma
WR: Stedman Bailey, West Virginia
TE: Jordan Najvar, Baylor
C: Ben Habern, Oklahoma
OL: Lane Taylor, Oklahoma State
OL: Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
OL: LaAdrian Waddle, Texas Tech
OL: Cyril Richardson, Baylor
  • I'd probably go with Geno Smith ahead of Jones, but it's close. You could definitely make a compelling case for both.
  • I'd also lean more toward Terrance Williams at Baylor for that third receiver spot ahead of Stills. Stills' upside is still really high, but again, it's close between those two.
  • Good grief, the tight end spot in the Big 12 is a rough. Navjar is a good selection. Travis Tannahill at Kansas State could grab that spot, too. You're almost better off picking a sixth offensive lineman or a fullback like Trey Millard at Oklahoma, who's more valuable than any of the league's tight ends.
DEFENSE

DL: Alex Okafor, Texas
DL: Stansly Maponga, TCU
DL: Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas
DL: Jamarkus McFarland, Oklahoma
LB: Jake Knott, Iowa State
LB: Tom Wort, Oklahoma
LB: A.J. Klein, Iowa State
LB: Arthur Brown, Kansas State
CB: Nigel Malone, Kansas State
CB: Brodrick Brown, Oklahoma State
S: Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
S: Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma

SPECIALISTS

P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
K: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
PR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia
KR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
  • No complaints among the specialists, but I'd definitely have kept a more traditional three linebackers. You could afford to leave Tom Wort off that list. Not so with the other three.
  • After a sad group of cornerbacks in 2011, the position looks pretty loaded this year. There's no fewer than five guys in my book who deserve strong consideration and probably a spot on the first team. It's too bad there are only two spots. Clearly, Malone and Brown are deserving, but so are Justin Gilbert, Carrington Byndom and Quandre Diggs.
  • Safeties are both loaded. Maybe two of the best defenders in the league.

Here's who Steele tabbed as All-Americans, too.

FIRST TEAM
  • Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
SECOND TEAM
  • Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
  • Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
  • Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State
  • Quinn Sharp, K, Oklahoma State
THIRD TEAM
  • Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma
  • Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia
  • Lane Taylor, OL, Oklahoma State
  • Quinn Sharp, P, Oklahoma State
  • Tyler Lockett, KR, Kansas State
FOURTH TEAM
  • Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
  • Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State
  • Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
  • Gabe Ikard, OL, Oklahoma
  • Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas
  • A.J. Klein, LB, Iowa State
  • Tony Jefferson, S, Oklahoma
  • Tavon Austin, KR, West Virginia

100 Days Countdown: Big 12

May, 22, 2012
5/22/12
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As part of “College Football Live’s” 100 Days Till Kickoff countdown, here’s a look at the top 10 players in the Big 12.

Note: This is a separate list from our preseason top 25 players. We'll tackle that later. It might be a lot different. It might be much of the same.

1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: Geno's a newcomer to the Big 12, but putting up big numbers is nothing new for the senior, who threw for 4,385 yards last season. Only one quarterback threw for more, but Smith had two more touchdown passes and eight fewer interceptions than the No. 2 quarterback on this list. Smith also completed nearly 3 percent more of his passes.

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith
Kim Klement/US PresswireGeno Smith led the Big East last season in pass efficiency and average passing yards per game.
2. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma: Jones checks in at No. 2 as the Big 12's leading returning passer, and will try to climb back in 2012 to give the Sooners another Big 12 title. Jones is the Big 12's most experienced quarterback, which should pay off the fall.

3. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State: Klein was the league's No. 4 rusher and threw for 1,900 yards? You can't argue with that production, and Klein accounted for 69.8 percent of the Wildcats' offense. That's insane. His importance to K-State can't be understated.

4. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia: Austin's the most dangerous playmaker in the Big 12, a true triple threat as a receiver, runner and kick/punt returner. He's the Big 12's No. 2 returning receiver, but he also returned two kicks for touchdowns in 2011, joining two other Big 12 returners who duplicated that feat last season.

5. Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State: Knott was outplayed by teammate A.J. Klein last season, but not by much. Knott was also playing through injuries. He's a superior talent, and like Klein, there's no arguing with his production. He's made 244 tackles in the past two seasons.

6. Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State: Randle is the Big 12's leading returning rusher and should see an increased workload from his 208 carries last season. He turned those into 24 touchdowns to come three short of the Big 12 record.

7. Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State: Brown's one of the league's most impressive freak athletes, a cruise missile of a linebacker who doesn't miss tackles in the open field and gets there faster than any true linebacker in the league. (You nickelbacks don't count.)

8. Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas: Vaccaro's the most versatile talent on a loaded Texas defense, and as a roaming nickelback, offenses must account for where he is on every snap. He's also got a case as the hardest hitter in the Big 12.

9. Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas: Who has two last names and is the Big 12's returning sack leader? This guy. His 8.5 sacks were 1.5 more than any other returner in the Big 12, and he made four more tackles for loss (17) than any other returner, too.

10. Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia: Bailey's a more traditional receiver in WVU's offense and he's taken advantage. He's the league's leading returning receiver and offers the Mountaineers a steady, dangerous target with sure hands who will help make WVU arguably the league's most dangerous offense.
We're moving on with our postseason position rankings. Today, it's time for linebackers. If you missed it, here's how I ranked them in the preseason.

At this position, depth is a major factor in these rankings. Additionally, I included nickelbacks in this grouping. Hybrid defensive end/linebackers will be grouped with defensive lines.

[+] EnlargeJake Knott
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireIowa State linebackers Jake Knott, 20, and A.J. Klein combined for 231 tackles in 2011.
More postseason position rankings: 1. Iowa State: The Cyclones top the list after a huge year from their outstanding duo, Jake Knott and A.J. Klein. They combined for 231 tackles in 2011, both finishing among the top four in the Big 12 in tackles. They had 241 together in 2010, but this season Knott played through injuries and Klein was awarded co-Defensive Player of the Year honors from the league's coaches.

2. Texas: The Longhorns will sorely miss an outstanding duo of their own with tons of experience. Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho are both NFL-bound after combining for 215 tackles.

3. Oklahoma: The Sooners weren't quite as good as expected in 2011, but part of that was because of a Travis Lewis preseason toe injury that slowed him for much of the season. Lewis, Tony Jefferson and Tom Wort all topped 70 tackles in 2011, and are a solid group.

4. Kansas State: Arthur Brown reinvigorated this group, finishing eighth in the Big 12 with 101 tackles, but the Wildcats linebackers were more than just Brown. Tre Walker and converted safety Emmanuel Lamur combined for 135 stops and helped lead one of the league's most underrated units and a much-improved run defense.

5. Texas A&M: The Aggies' backers were big pass-rushers, though they struggled in coverage this season. Sean Porter was the Big 12's sack champion with 9.5, and Caleb Russell and Jonathan Stewart combined for six more. Damontre Moore is the rawest talent of the bunch, but built on that in 2011, making 72 tackles.

6. Oklahoma State: OSU's group was good, but not great. Alex Elkins' crazy story came to an end with 90 stops in 2011. He showed up everywhere for the Cowboys, but reigning Big 12 Freshman of the Year Shaun Lewis didn't quite have the sophomore season some had hoped. Caleb Lavey added some solid play for the turnover-hungry unit, producing 74 tackles and five tackles for loss.

7. Missouri: Zaviar Gooden wasn't quite the impact player Mizzou had hoped, but he was solid alongside a group that's been injury prone over the past two years. Sophomore Andrew Wilson emerged as the team's top tackler with 98 stops, and Luke Lambert added 82 more. A high ankle sprain in the season opener kept Will Ebner off the field, but he'll be back in 2012 after the NCAA granted him a fifth year of eligibility.

8. Kansas: Steven Johnson led the Big 12 with 119 tackles, but the rest of the unit left a lot to be desired. Darius Willis has some potential, but the rest of the team's linebackers have their work cut out for them in 2012. Tunde Bakare also returns from a unit that ranked ninth in the Big 12 in rushing defense.

9. Baylor: The Bears needed help just about everywhere. Elliot Coffey was solid, and finished tied for fourth with 114 stops, but Baylor was eighth in the Big 12 in rush defense. Baylor has solid athlete in the secondary and on the defensive line, but at linebacker, Rodney Chadwick and Brody Trahan leave a bit to be desired. Ahmad Dixon was better in 2011, but still has a lot of potential that needs to be filled.

10. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders are looking for a new defensive coordinator and the 4-2-5 made a short stop in Lubbock. The Red Raiders were awful everywhere on defense, but especially up front. Nobody in college football was worse at stopping the run, and D.J. Johnson, Daniel Cobb and Cqulin Hubert turned in forgettable performances. Time to get better for 2012.

Updated 2012 Big 12 recruiting scorecard

December, 20, 2011
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So, the season gets, you know, kind of crazy. It's unrelenting, and recruiting plummets in priority. Thus, we haven't had a recruiting update since before the season.

Time to update.

Signing Day is less than two months away, and here's where each Big 12 team sits as we hit the recruiting home stretch before the big day in February.

All commit totals, rankings and stars via ESPN Recruiting, which updated its national recruiting rankings this week.

1. Texas Longhorns

National ranking: No. 1
Total commits: 25
ESPNU 150 commits: 10
Key commits: RB Johnathan Gray, DT Malcom Brown, WR Cayleb Jones, QB Connor Brewer
Class notes: Four of Texas' top five commits are skill position players, a huge need for the Longhorns. They're one of a handful of schools still chasing one of the nation's top recruits, too, receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. Gray will come to Texas as the Gatorade National Player of the Year. Texas also has two juco transfers coming next year, OT Donald Hawkins and DT Brandon Moore, a rarity for the Longhorns.

(Read full post)

It's always fun looking back on what we thought in the preseason, and today, we'll take another look.

Here's who made the postseason team.

How did our All-Big 12 preseason team stack up at season's end?

DEFENSE

DL: Brad Madison, Missouri
  • Madison ranked 11th in the Big 12 with 4.5 sacks and 16th with 8.5 tackles for loss and didn't earn a spot on any All-Big 12 first or second teams, though his teammate, Jacquies Smith, cracked the media and coaches' second team.
DL: Tony Jerod-Eddie, Texas A&M
  • Jerod-Eddie had four sacks and six tackles for loss with 47 total stops, but didn't crack any All-Big 12 first or second teams.
DL: Kheeston Randall, Texas
  • Randall was eighth on the team with four tackles for loss and had 29 tackles with one sack. He wasn't named to any All-Big 12 first or second teams.
DL: Frank Alexander, Oklahoma
  • Alexander led the Big 12 with 18 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. He was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year by the media and shared the coaches award with A.J. Klein of Iowa State. He, of course, was a unanimous All-Big 12 first-team selection.
LB: Travis Lewis, Oklahoma
  • Lewis suffered a broken toe in preseason camp, and finished second on the team with 79 tackles, his first season at OU with fewer than 108 tackles. He made the media and coaches' second Big 12 teams.
LB: Jake Knott, Iowa State
  • Knott finished third in the Big 12 with 107 tackles and made the media any my first Big 12 teams. The coaches put Knott on the second team.
LB: Keenan Robinson, Texas
  • Robinson finished second on the team and 10th in the Big 12 with 90 tackles and made the coaches' second Big 12 team.
DB: Coryell Judie, Texas A&M
  • Judie fought a hamstring injury all season and didn't make any All-Big 12 teams after making 21 tackles and forcing one fumble.
DB: Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State
  • Martin made a few All-American teams and earned All-Big 12 first-team honors from the coaches and me after making 65 tackles and breaking up 11 passes. The media voted him second team.
DB: Trent Hunter, Texas A&M
  • Hunter made 73 tackles and broke up eight passes, but didn't earn any first or second-team honors.
DB: Demontre Hurst, Oklahoma
  • Hurst earned second-team honors from the coaches after making 51 tackles and having 10 pass breakups. He also returned his lone interception for a touchdown against Texas.
SPECIALISTS

K: Grant Ressel, Missouri
  • Ressel didn't earn any first or second team honors after making just 9-of-16 kicks and making all 30 of his extra points.
P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
  • Sharp earned All-Big 12 first team honors from the media and coaches after averaging over 46 yards on his 42 punts.
KR: Coryell Judie, Texas A&M
  • Injuries prevented Judie from returning more than eight kicks this season. He averaged 25 yards per return on his eight returns and didn't make any All-Big 12 teams.
PR: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
  • Broyles returned 19 punts at an average of just over 10 yards, and didn't earn any All-Big 12 teams as a punt returner.
AWARDS

Offensive Player of the Year: Justin Blackmon, WR, OSU
Defensive Player of the Year: Travis Lewis, LB, Oklahoma
  • An injury derailed Lewis' season and he never looked like his usual self during the season, ceding Player of the Year honors to his teammate, Frank Alexander.
Newcomer of the Year: Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State
  • Brown won my Big Newcomer of the Year Award and the Defensive Newcomer of the Year from the coaches and media.

Recruiting rewind: All-Big 12 Defense

December, 14, 2011
12/14/11
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The season has come and gone, and brought with it an All-Big 12 team. But where do these guys come from? How easy is it for a no-name recruit to earn all-conference first-team honors?

We took a look at the offense earlier today.

Now, let's examine the All-Big 12 defense and see who surprises us.

You'll need ESPN Insider Insider to see each player's recruiting page from back in the day, but I excerpted a bit of what the scouts had to say about each player coming out of high school.

DE: Frank Alexander, Oklahoma
  • Was the nation's No. 41 defensive end and graded out at 77 by ESPN. Was also recruited by Auburn and Tulane. Scouts take: Alexander is a high school tight end / defensive end. He has good hands and good speed, but projects best as a defensive end in college. He has the frame to bulk up and play either position and has good size in general for a high school prospect. Right now his strength is rushing the passer.
DT: Dominique Hamilton, Missouri
  • Was the nation's No. 22 defensive tackle in 2007 and was recruited by Arizona State, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. Graded out at a 78. Scouts take: Hamilton is a big, physical presence on the interior of the defensive line. He has good size for a high school prospect and the potential to develop into a physical beast at the college level. You would really classify him at this stage as a bit raw. He plays with a bullying style and not much technique. He is capable of coming off the ball and knocking blockers back.
DE: Alex Okafor, Texas
  • Okafor was No. 149 on the 2009 ESPNU 150, and was the nation's No. 12 defensive end. Was also recruited by Oklahoma, Nebraska and LSU. Scouts take: Okafor is a tall wiry defender with a high motor. He needs to get into a college weight program and add some bulk, but for a tall lean kid he displays the ability to play with good leverage. He has a solid get-off and can come out of his stance, keep his knees bent, and on contact generate power from his lower body.


DE: Jamie Blatnick, Oklahoma State
  • Was the nation's No. 105 defensive end and graded out at 71. He was also recruited by Texas Tech, TCU and Duke. Scouts take: Blatnick is an effort guy on the football field. He will probably fit best as a six or seven technique in college or add bulk and play defensive tackle. He has a good get-off and charges up-field hard. He does an adequate job of using his hands, but needs to be more consistent coming off the ball and shooting them to create separation.
LB: Sean Porter, Texas A&M
  • Porter was the nation's No. 70 outside linebacker and was originally committed to Houston. He was also recruited by Oklahoma State and Kansas. He graded out at 76. Scouts take: Porter is a good-looking athlete with great upside when projecting for the next level. He is tall, high-cut and layered with good muscle tone. Lean frame with plenty of room to add great bulk while maintaining speed and quickness. Very active and athletic 'backer who can run and is light on his feet. Mirrors ball carriers well, changes direction and transitions smoothly.
LB: Jake Knott, Iowa State
  • Knott was the nation's No. 114 linebacker, and graded out at 74 by ESPN. He was also recruited by Army, Iowa and Northern Illinois. Scouts take: Knott is a great football player who will make any roster better at the next level. This is a kid who is not going to blow you away at a combine with blazing speed and agility, but he gets it done on both sides of the ball and is a tough, instinctive, productive football player. Is tall, well-built and should continue to pack on good bulk.
LB: Emmanuel Acho, Texas
  • Acho was the nation's No. 9 linebacker and No. 100 on the ESPNU 150 in 2008. He was also recruited by Nebraska, LSU and Michigan. He graded out at an 81. Scouts take: Acho is a very productive outside linebacker who flashes all the tools to be successful. Possesses the size, speed and athletic ability to disrupt an offense on any given play. Displays very good feet that are extremely light for a linebacker with his stature. This allows him to play better in space and in coverage, which is why he will probably remain on the outside in college.
NB: Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma
  • Jefferson was the nation's No. 4 athlete and No. 21 on the 2010 ESPNU 150. He was a four-star recruit and graded out at an 84. He was also recruited by Arizona, UCLA, USC and Florida. Scouts take: There may not be a more fast-twitched athlete in this class -- period. Jefferson has rare burst and acceleration between the white lines and has the ability to be playmaker on both sides of the ball in college. He lacks ideal height at linebacker but is very compact, tightly-built and his striking explosiveness allows him to play much bigger. Pursues to the football like he was shot out of a cannon.
CB: Nigel Malone, Kansas State
  • Malone was a juco recruit and not rated by ESPN.
CB: Carrington Byndom, Texas
  • Byndom was the nation's No. 10 cornerback and No. 122 on the 2010 ESPNU 150. He was a four-star recruit that graded out at an 81. He was also recruited by LSU, Oklahoma, Missouri and Oklahoma State. Scouts take: Byndom is a very instinctive defensive back with excellent deep coverage skills and range. While we could see programs recruiting him as strictly a corner, he has all the physical and mental tools that project high as a free safety. Has a taller, rangier frame and its that great length that allows him to be so effective breaking up passes as a deep centerfielder.
S: Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
  • Vaccaro was the nation's No. 42 safety and graded out at a 78. He was also recruited by USC, Florida, LSU and Oklahoma. Scouts take: Vaccaro flies around and makes plays as a safety. He looks the part, tall and stout in stature, he plays like he looks. Really flies around the secondary and attacks the line of scrimmage with ferocity. Instinctive player that reads the run then breaks to the ball with velocity and aggressiveness. Has made many big hits on the blitz and on inside-out contain. Needs to come under a little bit more control; sometimes overruns ball carrier or misses tackle.
S: Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State
  • Martin was the nation's No. 15 safety and graded out at a 79. He was also recruited by Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Texas and Kansas State. Scouts take: Martin possesses excellent size, range and toughness at his safety position. He will break off the hash over sideline routes and the next play step down and make a physical hit near the line of scrimmage. He is very versatile and well rounded in all facets. His greatest attribute might be his savvy diagnosing skills. He expertly reads the quarterback and underneath routes.

Gotta say, most of these scouting reports were pretty spot-on for the defense, but there weren't very many small-time recruits that crashed onto the defensive list.

ESPN.com's 2011 All-Big 12 Team

December, 9, 2011
12/09/11
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Editor’s Note: Tune into the “AT&T ESPN All America Team Show” on Saturday (ABC, 1:30 p.m. ET) to see who ESPN’s writers and experts selected.

It's been a fun season across the Big 12, with a few big names who didn't play as well as we thought, and lots of unknowns who became household names by the end of the season.

I'll offer my comments below, but here's our All-Big 12 team for 2011.

OFFENSE

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
Jerome Miron/US PresswireThe heroics of Robert Griffin III got Baylor to 9-3 and made him a Heisman Trophy finalist.
QB: Robert Griffin III, Baylor
All-purpose: Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
RB: Terrance Ganaway, Baylor
RB: Henry Josey, Missouri
FB: Trey Millard, Oklahoma
WR: Kendall Wright, Baylor
WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
WR: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
TE: Michael Egnew, Missouri
C: Grant Garner, Oklahoma State
OL: Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State
OL: Levy Adcock, Oklahoma State
OL: Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
OL: Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M

DEFENSE

DE: Frank Alexander, Oklahoma
DT: Dominique Hamilton, Missouri
DE: Alex Okafor, Texas
DE: Jamie Blatnick, Oklahoma State
LB: Sean Porter, Texas A&M
LB: Jake Knott, Iowa State
LB: Emmanuel Acho, Texas
NB: Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma
CB: Nigel Malone, Kansas State
CB: Carrington Byndom, Texas
S: Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
S: Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State

SPECIALISTS

P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
PK: Randy Bullock, Texas A&M
PR: Dustin Harris, Texas A&M
KR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

Finally, a few notes and explanations:

  • I loved the media's idea to craft an all-purpose spot to accomodate Collin Klein. The Big Ten did the same for Michigan's Denard Robinson last season. I followed suit, and did so on the defensive side of the ball with a nickel-back spot for Oklahoma's Tony Jefferson. Two players that missed first-team designation by the coaches, but clearly deserve to be recognized.
  • Additionally, I prefer the teams to reflect the Big 12 style of play, so the nickel back fits. Each team doesn't have 11 players, but there were deserving linebackers. The same with Egnew and Millard. Does every team use a fullback or a tight end? No, but both are standout performers. They'd rotate in anyway, just as Jefferson would in a theoretical package.
  • Tough call to leave Philip Blake from Baylor off my team, but Garner's been better. Blake is very, very close, though.
  • Hated to leave off Brodrick Brown and E.J. Gaines, but I went with a more traditional two corners and two safeties, rather than four corners like the media's team.
  • Steven Johnson and Arthur Brown would have been right behind my three linebackers. That race was probably closer than at any other position, except maybe cornerback. Difficult to leave either of those guys off my first team, but the three on the team were better. I gave Brown my Newcomer of the Year nod, though.
  • I don't like going with three defensive ends and one defensive tackle, but there wasn't a defensive tackle who deserved the honor more than Okafor, my third defensive end. Okafor was a defensive tackle last year anyway, so that's close enough, right? He moved from tackle to end before spring practice earlier this year. In the Big 12, an additional pass rusher is necessary, too, right?
  • I made a similar move with my offensive line. Went tackle-heavy, but the guards didn't have quite as many standouts.

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 14

December, 1, 2011
12/01/11
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We've only got three games to watch this week, but there's a few good ones. Here's what I'm watching for.

1. Oklahoma State transforming into politicians. Mike Gundy and his players shied away from campaigning for inclusion into the BCS National Championship Game this week. But what if they beat Oklahoma? Can OSU prove the difference between them and Alabama is much closer than people think? Appeal to voters that oppose a rematch? It'll be interesting to see if the Cowboys change their tune. There would be no reason not to, and if I was an OSU fan, I'd want them to do it.

[+] EnlargeOklahoma State's Mike Gundy
Andrew Weber/US PRESSWIREWill Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy change his tune and campaign for a title shot should his Cowboys beat Oklahoma?
2. Oklahoma's pass rush. The Sooners won't have one of the league's best, Ronnell Lewis. They will, however, have the league's best, Frank Alexander. OU needs to get as much push as possible with its front four. Brandon Weeden's smart. If Oklahoma starts needing to bring a lot of guys to get in his face, big plays will follow. Alexander and Lewis' replacement(s), David King and R.J. Washington, can do it. Will they?

3. Texas' containment. You saw it on the game-winning drive against Oklahoma two weeks ago. Robert Griffin III made Texas Tech pay, too. Keep Griffin from running and life gets a bit easier for the defense. The Texas defensive line is one of the best in the Big 12 at getting upfield, but do it too aggressively, and the linebackers are going to chase Griffin all day, most likely with little success.

4. RG3's psyche. Griffin took a big shoulder/forearm to the head last week on an impressive scramble that shortened his day considerably. Texas' defense hits much, much harder than Texas Tech's. Is he at all tentative to test the Texas defense with his legs, especially knowing it might shorten his day like it did against Texas Tech? Griffin said he felt fine last week and wanted to go in if Texas Tech got any closer than 52-42. We'll see if that frustrating exercise changes how he plays.

5. Collin Klein's fresh legs. Klein's probably taken more hits than anybody in the Big 12 this year. He's withstood them all, but practiced sparingly, if at all, late in the season. The off week gave him time to heal, and he's back practicing. Will that work carry over into the field, either as a more spry runner, or as a passer more in tune with his receivers?

6. The battle at the second line of defense. Kansas State loves to pound. So do Iowa State's linebackers, Jake Knott and A.J. Klein. They're two of the best in the league, which is arguably the best unit of any in the Big 12. That'll be fun to watch. Winner takes this game.

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