Texas Longhorns: Paul Dawson

Big 12 pre-spring breakdown: LBs

February, 25, 2014
Feb 25
3:00
PM ET
As we await the start of spring ball, we’re examining and ranking the positional situations of every team in the Big 12, continuing Tuesday with linebackers. Some of these outlooks will look different after the spring. But here’s how we see the linebacking corps going into the spring:

[+] EnlargeDominique Alexander
William Purnell/Icon SMIDominique Alexander was a star as a true freshman and leads a loaded Oklahoma linebacking corps.
1. Oklahoma: After a couple of lean years, the Sooners are loaded at linebacker again. Dominique Alexander was the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year, Frank Shannon led the defense in tackles as a sophomore, and Eric Striker is budding into the most ferocious blitzing linebacker in the country (just ask Alabama). Jordan Evans played extensively as a true freshman, too. This is an athletic group that can cover, stop the run and get to the quarterback.

2. Texas: This is the deepest linebacking corps in the league, with starters Peter Jinkens, Dalton Santos and Steve Edmond all returning off a unit that improved dramatically after the rocky nonconference start. After allowing a school-record 550 yards rushing to BYU, Texas had the Big 12’s fourth-best rush defense in conference games. Whether this group can take another step up will depend on what happens with Jordan Hicks, who enters his fifth year in the program after suffering season-ending injuries in back-to-back years. Hicks was the No. 1 linebacker in the country coming out of high school and has played well when healthy.

3. West Virginia: This will be the strength of the defense, as Brandon Golson, Isaiah Bruce, Jared Barber and Nick Kwiatkoski all return with significant starting experience. Kwiatkoski was West Virginia’s leading tackler last season, and Bruce was a freshman All-American the season before. Wes Tonkery and Jewone Snow also have starting experience, and Shaq Petteway, who missed last season with a knee injury, was a key rotation player the previous year. This level of experience and production with give the new defensive regime of Tony Gibson and Tom Bradley a foundation to build around.

4. Baylor: Bryce Hager is one of the best returning linebackers in the league. He was a second-team all-conference pick two years ago and would have earned similar honors last season had he not missed the final three games of the regular season with a groin injury. Grant Campbell, a three-star juco signee, is already on campus and will vie for the vacancy of departing All-Big 12 linebacker Eddie Lackey. Kendall Ehrlich and Aiavion Edwards are the only other players at the position with any meaningful experience, but Raaquan Davis, a former four-star recruit who redshirted last season, could be a factor.

5. Kansas: Middle linebacker Ben Heeney was a second-team All-Big 12 selection after finishing fourth in the league in tackles per game. His wingman, Jake Love, got beat out by juco transfer Samson Faifili during the preseason but took over when Faifili suffered an injury and was solid. As long as Heeney remains healthy, the Jayhawks will be solid here.

6. TCU: Projected to be the Achilles’ heel of the TCU defense last season, Paul Dawson, Marcus Mallet and Jonathan Anderson actually gave the position stability. Dawson led the Horned Frogs with 91 tackles, Mallet was third with 70 and Anderson was fourth with 66. All three will be seniors in 2014 and should give the Horned Frogs a solid, reliable linebacking unit again.

7. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders and their 3-4 scheme graduate two very productive players in Will Smith and Terrance Bullitt. Smith was second in the Big 12 in tackles, and Bullitt led all Big 12 linebackers in pass breakups. Austin Stewart and Micah Awe go into the spring as the favorites to replace Bullitt and Smith, respectively. Two starters do return in Sam Eguavoen and Pete Robertson, who was honorable mention All-Big 12 thanks to his impact off the edge. Tech also has several intriguing young players, including Jacarthy Mack, Malik Jenkins and Kahlee Woods, who will all be second-year players.

8. Kansas State: The Wildcats lose two stalwarts to graduation in captains Blake Slaughter and Tre Walker. The only returner is former walk-on Jonathan Truman, who was second on the team in tackles from the weak side. The Wildcats will be hoping for big things from D'Vonta Derricott, an ESPN JC 50 signee who had offers from Miami and Wisconsin, among many others. Will Davis, who was Slaughter’s backup as a freshman last season, could thrive if he secures the starting role in the middle.

9. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys are somewhat decimated here with the graduations of all-conference veterans Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey. The only returning starter, Ryan Simmons, could move inside, which would open the door for hard-hitting jucos D'Nerius Antoine and Devante Averette to start on either side of him. Seth Jacobs, who was a four-star recruit two years ago, should jump into the rotation, and the Cowboys could get an instant boost from freshman Gyasi Akem, who was an ESPN 300 signee. The potential ascension of this group, though, hinges on what Antonie and Averette accomplish.

10. Iowa State: The Cyclones graduate their defensive cornerstone in Jeremiah George, who was a first-team all-conference performer after leading the Big 12 with 133 tackles. Replacing George won’t come easy. There’s reason to hope that Luke Knott can become Iowa State’s next cornerstone at the position. The younger brother of Cyclone LB great Jake Knott, Luke Knott started five games as a freshman and quickly racked up 45 tackles before suffering a season-ending hip injury, which required surgery. If he makes a full recovery, Knott has the talent to become the next in a growing line of All-Big 12 Iowa State linebackers. Seniors Jevohn Miller and Jared Brackens, who combined for 19 starts last season, flank Knott with experience.

Big 12 unsung heroes: Week 11

November, 11, 2013
11/11/13
3:00
PM ET
Here are the Big 12’s unsung heroes for Week 11:

[+] EnlargeK.J. Morton, Jordan Najvar
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsK.J. Morton and Baylor's defense made it a difficult night for Oklahoma's offense last Thursday.
Baylor cornerback K.J. Morton: The senior was active and physical in Baylor’s 41-12 win over Oklahoma last Thursday. Morton’s hit on Sooners receiver Sterling Shepard set an aggressive tone for the Bears’ defense early. He finished with seven tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss, and was one of the reasons the Bears' defense has surpassed expectations this season.

Iowa State tight end E.J. Bibbs: The junior was the Cyclones' leading receiver with seven catches for 63 yards in ISU’s 21-17 loss to TCU. Bibbs provides a solid athletic target, particularly on third downs. He had three receptions for 28 yards (two first downs) on third down against the Horned Frogs.

Kansas linebacker Darius Willis: The senior was productive in spot duty for the Jayhawks in their 42-6 loss to Oklahoma State. He had a season-high six tackles, including four solo stops, and looked like one of the few KU players who was engaged and excited to compete against the Cowboys.

Kansas State cornerback Randall Evans: Playing alongside Ryan Mueller, who had three sacks, and Ty Zimmerman, who returned an interception for a touchdown, it was easy to overlook Evans’ performance. He had 10 tackles, one pass breakup and one interception in KSU’s 49-26 win over Texas Tech.

Oklahoma linebacker Dominique Alexander: Corey Nelson’s replacement has been growing into his role during his first four games as a starter. Even though he still shows his inexperience at times, he flashes the upside that had OU’s coaches raving about his ability earlier this season. He finished with 11 tackles, including eight solo stops, one sack and one forced fumble in OU’s 41-12 loss to Baylor.

Oklahoma State receiver David Glidden: The sophomore was terrific after standout receiver Josh Stewart left with an injury. Glidden finished with six receptions for 73 yards in OSU’s 42-6 win over Kansas. He entered the game with eight career receptions but filled in admirably against the Jayhawks. Three of his six receptions came on third down.

Texas defensive tackle Desmond Jackson: The junior stepped right in for the injured Chris Whaley with little drop off in the Longhorns’ 47-40 overtime win over West Virginia. He had eight tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss, with two sacks and one forced fumble. It’s rare to lose a player like Whaley without taking a step backward, but Jackson seamlessly filled in to help UT remain undefeated in the Big 12.

Texas Tech running back Kenny Williams: The junior is a solid threat as a running back in the Red Raiders’ offense. Kansas State took control of the game and limited Williams’ opportunities, but he finished with 15 carries for 66 yards, averaging 4.4 yards per play. He hasn’t had a 100-yard rushing game this season, but he is a quality running and receiving threat in coach Kliff Kingsbury’s attack.

TCU linebacker Paul Dawson: The junior quietly has been playing as well as any linebacker in the Big 12 during the past month. He’s recorded double-digit tackles in four of his past five games, including the past three. Dawson had 14 tackles, including eight solo stops and two tackles for loss, in TCU’s 21-17 win over Iowa State.

West Virginia receiver Mario Alford: The junior had arguably the most explosive game by a Mountaineers’ receiver this season. He finished with 205 all-purpose yards, including 97 receiving yards, 88 kick-return yards and 20 rushing yards. His 72-yard touchdown catch and run in the fourth quarter looked like last season's WVU offense.

First glance: TCU Horned Frogs

October, 21, 2013
10/21/13
10:00
AM ET
A look ahead at the next opponent of Texas’ month on the road, TCU. The Longhorns and Horned Frogs meet Saturday at 6:30 p.m. CT in Fort Worth.

All-time record vs. Texas: 21-61-1

Last game: Another poor showing from TCU’s offense, plus some game-swinging special teams, proved costly in a 24-10 loss to Oklahoma State in Stillwater. Trevone Boykin threw three interceptions and was briefly benched, and the Horned Frogs didn’t get on the scoreboard until late in the third quarter. They enter this weekend with a 3-4 record and are 1-3 in the Big 12.

Last meeting with Texas: In its biggest win of its Big 12 debut season, TCU defeated No. 16 Texas 20-13 in Austin on Thanksgiving. The Frogs’ defense forced four turnovers, three coming from an injured David Ash, and Case McCoy’s last-ditch effort at a fourth-quarter rally ended in an interception. The loss killed a four-game win streak for Texas and its slim hopes of sneaking into a BCS bowl.

Key player: TCU’s best player, by far, is cornerback Jason Verrett. He leads the Big 12 in passes defended and did pick off a pass against the Longhorns last season. But considering the run-heavy offense Texas operated against Oklahoma the key guys might be TCU’s linebackers, a somewhat inexperienced group. Paul Dawson has stepped up recording a combined 24 tackles in his first two starts.

Why TCU might win: The Horned Frogs have followed every win with a loss and every loss with a win this season. It’s just been that kind of a year. Despite their struggles, they still have the No. 1 run defense in the Big 12 and force more turnovers than anyone in the conference, and Boykin’s rushing talents proved problematic for Texas in 2012. TCU’s losses have all come against ranked foes, and only one of those came by more than 10 points. Don’t be surprised if this is a close game.

Why TCU might lose: By the standards of the Big 12, this is a below-average offense in nearly every way. TCU plays close games and tends to make second-half pushes, but the fact is Boykin has struggled and the offense is averaging less than 7 points per game in the first half this season. If Texas can produce the kind of fire it showed in the Cotton Bowl and get some momentum, you’d have to like its chances of starting 4-0 in the conference.

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 7

October, 13, 2013
10/13/13
9:00
AM ET
Recognizing the best and brightest from around the Big 12 in Week 7:

RB Johnathan Gray and RB Malcolm Brown, Texas: Case McCoy is just as deserving of a helmet sticker this week, if not more so, but we'll credit the collaboration of Gray and Brown for their shredding of the No. 1 defense in the Big 12 to pace a 36-20 upset of 12th-ranked Oklahoma. Gray went for 123 yards on 29 carries, including a 38-yard dash on a third-and-long, and Brown was one of the surprises of the day with 120 yards on 23 carries. They pounded the middle all afternoon, and it paid off big for Texas.

WR Tevin Reese, Baylor: Good luck finding a way to shut down both Reese and Antwan Goodley. Both went for 100 yards in the Bears' 35-25 win against Kansas State, but it was Reese who shined on Saturday. He finished with 184 yards on five catches (36.8 per catch) thanks to a 93-yard catch and score and another touchdown from 54 yards out to start the fourth quarter.

QB Davis Webb, Texas Tech: There were some throws Webb will want back -- he completed 35 of 56 passes -- but the freshman fared well in his first career start, throwing for 415 yards with three touchdowns and one interception in Tech's 42-35 win against Iowa State. It didn't hurt his cause that Texas Tech had three running backs each produce at least 80 rushing yards and a touchdown on the day.

LB Paul Dawson, TCU: How's this for a first career start: Dawson recorded 17 tackles, including three tackles for loss and a pass breakup, in TCU's 27-17 win over Kansas. The junior college transfer played receiver in high school, but it's clear he's found the position that suits him best. He recorded 14 stops in 13 games last season and proved Saturday what he can do when he stays on the field.

QB Daniel Sams, Kansas State: Good things happen when Sams is given the ball and asked to run. He rushed 30 times for 199 yards and three touchdowns as K-State gave Baylor a scare. Jake Waters still got twice as many pass attempts, and Sams did throw one interception, but there's no denying he's a danger on designed runs.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

All Access Wired: Chris Rumph
Texas defensive line coach Chris Rumph wired during spring 2014 practice.Tags: Chris Rumph, Longhorn Network, All Access
VIDEO PLAYLIST video