Texas Longhorns: Robert Griffin III

Our Big 12 Mount Rushmore

February, 19, 2014
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LeBron James controversially put, of all things, Mount Rushmore in the news last week by suggesting he would be etched in stone one day among the four best in NBA history.

The James story set off a firestorm of other sports-related Rushmores. NFL Rushmores. IndyCar Rushmores. One site even put together its Mount Rushmore of Pro Bass Fishermen.

Not to be outdone, Brandon and I have put together a Mount Rushmore of Big 12 football players.

For those who slept through social studies, the actual Mount Rushmore includes the likenesses of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. The four were chosen not only because they were famous presidents. They were chosen because they were transformational figures in American history.

Washington won the Revolutionary War. Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence. Lincoln freed the slaves. Roosevelt changed American diplomacy.

In keeping with the spirit of the real Mount Rushmore, our Big 12 Rushmore wasn’t just about picking the four best players. It was about picking transformational figures whose impact was far-reaching. And it's just from the Big 12 era (1996-present).

Without further ado, the Big 12 football Mount Rushmore:

Texas QB Vince Young

[+] EnlargeVince Young
Scott Clarke/Getty ImagesVince Young led Texas to its first national championship in 35 years.
Before 2005, Texas was a great program. But it was not an elite one. It had been 35 years since the Longhorns had won a national championship. By contrast, Oklahoma had captured four national titles during that span. Even though coach Mack Brown had turned the Texas program around, the Sooners were still beating in the Longhorns’ heads on the field.

That all changed in 2005, thanks to one of the greatest individual seasons in college football history. Young put the Longhorns on his back, and took them all the way to Pasadena, Calif. The Longhorns destroyed everyone, including the Sooners, with Ohio State being the only regular-season opponent to play Texas within 10 points.

Young was even more spectacular in the national title game against USC. The mighty Trojans had no answer for Young, who threw for 267 yards and rushed for 200. And in the closing seconds on fourth down, he dashed past the pylon for the game-winning touchdown.

Young didn’t win the Heisman Trophy (he should have), but he became the first FBS quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 in the same season. He also finally lifted Texas over the hump, taking the Longhorns from great to elite.

Oklahoma RB Adrian Peterson

Just this month, Oklahoma signed one of the best running backs in the country in California native Joe Mixon. Who is Mixon’s idol? Peterson. Who knows how many recruits the Sooners were able to sign the last decade because of Peterson. The number is substantial.

Peterson arrived in 2004 as the Sooners’ most ballyhooed recruit since Marcus Dupree. Texas wanted Peterson badly. And Peterson actually watched the 2003 Red River Rivalry from the Texas sidelines. But even though Peterson dreamed of playing for the Longhorns growing up, he wanted to win more. Peterson’s signing with Oklahoma added insult to injury to its cross-river rival.

After getting to campus, Peterson put together one of the best freshman seasons ever. He rushed for 1,925 yards, leading the Sooners to the national title game. He also finished second in the Heisman voting, even though there was still a stigma against voting for freshmen.

The next two years of Peterson’s career were marred by injuries (even though he still finished with 4,041 career rushing yards). When healthy, he was the single-most dominant force in Big 12 history.

Baylor QB Robert Griffin III

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
Sarah Glenn/Getty ImagesRobert Griffin III won the Heisman Trophy and put Baylor back on the map.
Along with his coach Art Briles, Griffin changed the way people thought about Baylor football. He also changed the way Baylor football thought about itself. Before Griffin followed Briles to Waco in 2008, Baylor football was the laughingstock of the Big 12.

The Bears had not enjoyed a single winning season since before the inception of the league, and had lost 85 of 96 Big 12 games. The facilities were a mess and attendance was so poor, the school rolled a tarp over Floyd Casey Stadium's south end zone bleachers.

But by the time Griffin left, the program had been transformed. He brought the school its first Heisman Trophy and just its second 10-win season.

Griffin’s effect can still be felt in the Big 12. His magical season spurred Baylor to secure the funding for an on-campus, $260-million stadium that will open this fall. The Bears have also been a force ever since, both on the field and on the recruiting trail. In the last three months, Baylor captured its first Big 12 title, then nailed down a top-25 recruiting class. Until Griffin came along, that would have been unthinkable in Waco. It’s now the standard.

Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh

There have been some great defensive players to come through the Big 12. None come close to matching Suh, who was one of the most menacing defensive tackles to ever play college football.

In 2009, Suh captured the Outland, Nagurski and Bednarik national awards as the nation’s most outstanding lineman and defensive player. He also became the first defensive Heisman finalist since Michigan’s Charles Woodson in 1997.

Spearheaded by Suh, Nebraska also fielded perhaps the greatest defense in Big 12 history. Despite playing in an era of high-flying offenses, the Huskers gave up just 10.4 points per game, the fewest any defense has allowed in Big 12 history.

Facing off against the Big 12’s best offense in the Big 12 championship, Suh and the Huskers imposed their will, and came a controversial call away from toppling the Longhorns. Texas went on to the national championship game, and Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy still finished one spot higher in the Heisman voting than Suh. But in that game, like every other one he played in that season, Suh was the best player on the field.
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It’s always fun to think back to the former stars of college football recruiting. The Big 12 had a few players who made an impact during their respective recruiting processes.

Here are five players from the Big 12 who made the top 50 of the ESPN Ultimate 300.


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Charlie Strong’s arrival at the University of Texas is going to change the Big 12.

The on-field impact of the former Louisville coach’s arrival in Austin remains to be seen, but he will undoubtedly change the landscape of the conference. His words during his introductory news conference should put fear into the heart of two Big 12 teams in particular.

“Let's not get caught up in the five stars; let's not get caught up in the four stars,” Strong said Monday. “Let's get caught up in the football players.”

The Longhorns’ new head coach went on to speak of American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smith, who was a quarterback when Strong recruited him to Louisville, yet recorded 14.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss as a defensive end in 2013. His words should be music to the ears of Longhorns fans, as recruiting has not been the problem in recent years at Texas. Poor evaluation and player development has been one of the biggest contributors to the program’s slide.

[+] EnlargeCharlie Strong
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesCharlie Strong says his staff won't get caught up in recruiting rankings, which is a philosophy employed by a few Big 12 rivals.
Largely by taking advantage of those struggles, Oklahoma State and Baylor sat alongside the Longhorns in the Big 12 title race heading into the final weekend of the regular season and seem poised to be the teams most impacted by Strong’s arrival. Oklahoma State and Baylor each went 3-2 against the Longhorns during the past five seasons after combining to go winless in 10 games against Texas in the previous five years. Their rise has had a direct correlation to the Longhorns’ decline.

The biggest impact on those two teams could come on the recruiting trail. If Strong’s priority is evaluation and development, as he contends, that's a shot across the bow to Oklahoma State and Baylor, two programs that have built their success upon their ability to better evaluate and develop their recruits. Those two schools featured 162 combined players from Texas and combined for 21 victories in 2013.

Running back Kendall Hunter, cornerback Justin Gilbert and tackle Russell Okung are just of few of the overlooked Texans that Oklahoma State pounced on. They had NFL-level talent and built the Cowboys into a Big 12 title contender. We all know about Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III and his journey to Baylor, but receiver Kendall Wright -- an NFL first-round pick -- and guard Cyril Richardson -- a 2013 Lombardi Finalist -- have been key contributors to the Bears’ rise. They each were overlooked by the Longhorns.

While Strong’s arrival could make it harder for Oklahoma State and Baylor to repeat their Big 12 championship runs of recent years, both schools have created enough momentum that they could still consistently compete for Big 12 titles regardless of how well Strong does in Austin.

Of all the Big 12 teams, Strong’s hire should have the least impact on Oklahoma. The Sooners are a tradition-rich program with the ability to compete for championships regardless of their surroundings. OU’s 5-5 record against UT since 2005 is second only to Kansas State (5-1 in six meetings). And the Sooners should have no problem recruiting in Texas against Strong’s Longhorns program, particularly with the stability head coach Bob Stoops brings to the program.

The rest of the Big 12 schools are less likely to be dramatically altered.

TCU and Texas Tech have combined to beat Texas once in the past five seasons, with the Horned Frogs’ 20-13 victory in 2012 as the lone triumph. Although both schools are similar to Baylor and Oklahoma State in their ability to turn hidden gems into productive players, they haven’t turned that into consistent on-field success against the Longhorns in a way the other two schools have, although TCU has only played UT twice during that five-year span. The impact on their recruiting will be similar to Oklahoma State and Baylor, but on a lower level as neither school can tout a Big 12 title as proof of their success when trying to land those hidden gems.

Kansas State, Kansas, West Virginia and Iowa State should see their biggest impact on the field, as their brushes with the Longhorns on the recruiting trail are few and far between.


What’s the most critical position in the Big 12? It depends on who you talk to. In a conference that rides its offensive reputation, some coaches are hoping to land players that will help them score points, while others are looking for the prospects to prevent points.

As official visits become finalized and uncommitted players get closer to announcing their commitments, here is a look at some of the most critical positions in recruiting for the Big 12 teams.

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Colleague Brandon Chatmon looked at a few guys across the Big 12 who could be "The Next Johnny Manziel" yesterday, but really, those kinds of guys do exist. I will not be encouraging you to curb your collective enthusiasms today. Sometimes, players who haven't played a down of football in the Big 12 end up being some of the best players in the league.

Want a few examples, even from just the past few seasons? I'm glad you asked.

Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech, 2007: A position switch and transcript issues meant a redshirt season in 2006, but Crabtree had one of the greatest debut seasons in Big 12 history. He caught three touchdowns in his first game ever, and finished the season with 1,962 yards and 22 touchdowns on 134 catches. No Big 12 receiver has had more yards since, and he took home the Biletnikoff Award after leading the nation in receiving yards by 356 yards. His closest competition caught just 16 touchdowns, too.

[+] EnlargeSam Bradford
Nelson Chenault/US Presswire Sam Bradford had a stellar first season at Oklahoma.
Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma, 2007: Bradford narrowly beat out blue-chip recruit Keith Nichol and junior Joey Halzle to win the job after redshirting in 2006, and by the end of the season, he led the nation in quarterback rating, and no Big 12 quarterback was within 20 points of him. He threw for 3,121 yards, 36 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. He won the Heisman Trophy the following season.

Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor, 2008: Griffin committed to Houston first, but followed Art Briles to Baylor and electrified the crowd with early runs in a loss to Wake Forest. He eventually broke the FBS record for passes without an interception, and didn't throw his first until the ninth game of the season. It was clear he was the future of the program, and he finished the season with almost 3,000 yards of offense, accounting for 28 touchdowns.

Daniel Thomas, RB, Kansas State, 2009: Thomas joined the long line of junior college stars under Bill Snyder at Kansas State. Thomas arrived in Manhattan as an unknown and led the Big 12 with 1,265 yards and 11 touchdowns, showcasing great vision and toughness on the way to an eventual NFL draft selection. He led the Big 12 in rushing again in 2010, too.

Devonte Fields, DE, TCU, 2012: Fields was the Frogs' top recruit in 2012 as the nation's No. 73 overall player and the No. 11 defensive end. By the first week of October, he had 9.5 tackles for loss and cruised to earning the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska, 2010: He's one of the many Blackshirts' greats over the years, and made adjusting to life in the Big 12 from junior college look easy. He led the league with an eye-popping 152 tackles, and anybody who watched the Huskers every week might have sworn it was more. He was everywhere. He added 12.5 tackles for loss and six sacks, as well as eight pass breakups.

Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor, 2012: Seastrunk didn't get much time on the field for the first two months of the season, but once November arrived, he broke out in a huge way. The Oregon transfer was stuck behind Glasco Martin and Jarred Salubi on the depth chart, but earned the nod as the featured back heading into November, and rushed for 831 yards in Baylor's final six games, including an upset of No. 1 Kansas State in the Bears' 5-1 run to close the season.

Bruce Irvin, DE, West Virginia, 2010: Irvin's road was incredible, using junior college to turn his life around and earn his way to WVU after dropping out of high school. In his first season as a Mountaineer, he finished second nationally with 14 sacks, and forced a pair of fumbles.

Travis Lewis, LB, Oklahoma, 2008: Lewis redshirted his first season in Norman, but led the Big 12 with 144 tackles as a redshirt freshman, making 12 tackles for loss and intercepting four passes. It was the start of an incredible career. He led the Sooners in tackles for each of the next four seasons.

Big 12 class rankings analysis 

August, 14, 2013
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With the help of ESPN 300 prospects announcing their verbal commitments, two Big 12 schools saw a slight rise in the latest ESPN class rankings. Because of one Big 12 school’s rise, another Big 12 school took a slight fall in the rankings. Here’s a closer look at the rankings as it pertains to the conference.

Trending up: Oklahoma State saw the biggest rise of the conference -- and of the nation -- by jumping from No. 33 to No. 28. Only Oklahoma State and Florida saw ranking spikes of that caliber during the week. The Cowboys’ success stemmed from landing ESPN 300 CB Chris Hardeman (Houston/Alief Taylor) and three-star WR and high school teammate Keenen Brown. Both committed on Aug. 11. Hardeman, a former LSU commit, is a top-25 cornerback nationally, and Brown, at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, can be used as a reliable outside threat in Mike Gundy’s potent offense.


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AUSTIN, Texas -- When it came to David Ash, Malcolm Brown's answer was no different than any other Texas player has given over the past several years when the quarterback question has come up.

"Like Mike Davis said, he has a swagger about him now," the running back said of the quarterback.

Only now it might be time to believe in the rising junior. Not because of some huge personality shift in Ash, but because this time –-- the junior season following a multi-year starter's sophomore season -- is typically when said actions start to speak louder than words.

Looking back at eight Big 12 multi-year starting quarterbacks -- Texas’ Colt McCoy, Texas’ Vince Young, Missouri’s Chase Daniel, Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones, Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden, Baylor’s Robert Griffin III and Kansas’ Todd Reesing -- all but one had a dramatic leap in every statistical category from their sophomore to junior years. (Jones was the exception. In the six categories measured, he only increased his stats in one category, average yards per game.)

So the odds are Ash, who started 12 games in 2012, should follow suit. Maybe not to the extreme of Young, who topped the other seven aforementioned quarterbacks when it came to overall production increase. But there should at least be a measure of improvement to Ash’s stats. How much is up for debate for the next several months.

But if he follows the statistical average presented by those eight quarterbacks who have gone before him, Ash could see his passing efficiency rating rise by 17.10 points, completion percentage by 5 percent, touchdowns by 5.8, interceptions shrink by a nominal 0.25, overall yards move up 581.8 and yards per game to increase by 45.6.

Of course, there are mitigating factors that could shape whether or not Ash has a rise or fall in his stats in 2013.

One of which is that Ash already experienced a dramatic rise in his stats from 2011 to 2012. In his sophomore season, Ash finished in the top 25 in passer efficiency rating and increased that rating 45.9 points. He had 15 more touchdown passes as a sophomore, threw for 1,620 yards and completed 10.4 percent more of his passes. (He also had 144 more attempts as a sophomore than as a freshman.) The point being that quite possibly a ceiling, if not already hit, is at least within arm’s length.

A counter argument could be that a shift in offensive philosophy, from traditional sets to spread, should serve to bolster his stats. In addition, the Big 12’s defenses -- at least that of the top teams Oklahoma and Kansas State -- have experienced huge losses on their side of the ball. Add that fact to the unavoidable truth that the Big 12 is not exactly chock full of top defenses -- only TCU and Texas Tech finished in the top 40 in total defense in 2012 -- and it sets up for Ash to have at least a nominal rise in his statistical production in his junior season.

If all that is not enough to make a decision, there are still the words of Ash’s teammates to go by as well:

"Now that he has it down, he’s a lot more comfortable," Brown said. "He’s loosened up with us and he talks more now because he knows what he’s doing."

Given that this is Ash’s junior year and that history is on his side, it might just be time to believe those words.

Texas recruiting misses: 2008 

January, 28, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Recruiting is all about choices.

Some are good. Some are bad. And sometimes teams don’t even get a chance to make a choice. Players just want to go elsewhere.

With all that in mind, HornsNation decided to take a look at the top players in Texas, as rated by ESPN, who did go elsewhere – aka not the Texas program -- in the past five years. It’s a look back at what could have been.

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Big 12 power rankings: Week 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10. Kansas: Kansas' last coach, Turner Gill, opened with a disastrous 6-3 loss against FCS outfit North Dakota State two years ago. This time, Charlie Weis takes on South Dakota State. He's got a better team. Expect a better result Saturday for the former Notre Dame coach and a former Irish quarterback, Dayne Crist.
We're overlooking the state of each conference in the country today on the ESPN Blog network. Where does every league stand entering 2012? Here's what you need to know about the Big 12:

The favorite: Oklahoma. The Sooners lost a shot at the Big 12 title in the season finale against Oklahoma State last year, but they bring back QB Landry Jones and a handful of the team's best defenders. Jones needs to find more receivers opposite Kenny Stills, and injuries on the offensive line pose a few questions, but the Sooners are in the familiar spot of the team to beat entering 2012.

The new guys: West Virginia and TCU. Texas A&M and Missouri checked out for the SEC in 2012, but the Big 12 replaced them with a pair of teams who would have been in the Big East this season. The Horned Frogs, in nearby Fort Worth, and the Mountaineers, in far-away Morgantown, bring with them two high-powered offenses that should fit right in with their new Big 12 brethren.

The stirring giant: Texas. The Longhorns have won just 13 games the past two seasons. By comparison, they won the same number in 2005, the last time they won a national title. Mack Brown has revamped his staff with new coordinators and position coaches, and young talent is taking over in Austin. Texas isn't back yet from a five-win season in 2010, but this could be the year it starts making everyone take the Longhorns seriously again as a perennial title contender.

The up-and-comer: Baylor. The Bears broke through for their best season ever and the school's first Heisman winner. Robert Griffin III is gone and the 10 wins are in the past. Still, the Bears have a new stadium under construction and enough talent to get back to a bowl in 2012. That's pretty amazing. Art Briles is building something out of nothing at Baylor. The Bears look like they're in position to go to a bowl nearly every year moving forward after reaching their first bowl in Big 12 history back in 2010.

The guys with something to prove: Oklahoma State and Kansas State. K-State's got to prove last year's 10-win season was legitimate, despite the number of games won in the final minutes. Despite returning 17 starters and all the key pieces from a 10-win team, the Wildcats aren't even in everyone's top 20. Oklahoma State, meanwhile, has to prove last year's Big 12 title was more than an accident or a one-time thing. They'll roll true freshman Wes Lunt out at quarterback to start the road back to a second league title.

Fighting to stay relevant: Texas Tech. The Red Raiders used to be the only team who could seem to beat Oklahoma and/or Texas with any consistency. Everyone feared making a trip out to the Plains of West Texas to face Mike Leach's band of pirates. Now? When teams walk into your home stadium and beat you by 60, it's hard to still be taken seriously. Coach Tommy Tuberville's been handcuffed by injuries, but he's got to get it turned around in Lubbock -- and fast. Fans are unhappy after last year's 5-7 campaign, the first losing season in almost two decades.

Trying to take the next step: Iowa State. Iowa State's cracked a bowl game in two of three seasons under Paul Rhoads, but did so just barely in both seasons, and needed huge upsets against Nebraska and Oklahoma State to make it happen. Iowa State's still trying to build, but enters 2012 with a quarterback controversy on its hands. The Cyclones were once again picked eighth in the league, but can Rhoads keep gaining momentum in Ames?

Trying to catch up: Kansas. The Jayhawks are just 1-23 in their last 24 Big 12 games, and the one team they beat (Colorado) left the Big 12. That stretch has included a whole lot of embarrassing losses for one reason or another, but former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis is in charge now, with four Super Bowl rings and a renewed sense of purpose in tow. Can he turn it around in Lawrence after KU bottomed out following its Orange Bowl win to close the 2007 season?

RGIII a Longhorn ... Well, virtually

July, 11, 2012
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Robert Griffin IIICourtesy of EA SportsRGIII in burnt orange? It's a reality, virtually.


It’s not impossible, you know.

Robert Griffin III could’ve been a Longhorn had Texas recruited him as a quarterback. And had he not gone pro early, Griffin would be a senior this fall.

What an alternate reality that would be, huh? Luckily, with the newest feature in EA Sports’ “NCAA Football 13,” he can come true. With the Heisman Challenge feature, RGIII is a Longhorn.

We simulated the 2012 season. The results were, well, surprising.

Week 1: Wyoming
Griffin lobs a 75-yard touchdown pass to Jaxon Shipley on his first-ever play in burnt orange. Everything else is a disaster. Griffin throws for 456 yards and three touchdowns but also tosses two picks. Wyoming scores with 2:56 left and stops Texas on its next three drives.

Wyoming 35, Texas 31. Seriously.

Week 2: New Mexico
The now-unranked Longhorns respond with a whooping of virtual Bob Davie and his Lobos. Griffin passes for 498 yards and four touchdowns. He finds Shipley 12 times for 178 yards and two scores. The Longhorns D forces four turnovers, three on picks.

Texas 52, New Mexico 0.

(Read full post)

The 2012 NFL draft is over, but it's never too early to look ahead to 2013. I mean, we basically have to, right?

NFL draft guru Todd McShay released his first-round mock draft, Insider and there are plenty of Big 12 talents on the list. You'll need ESPN Insider to see it all, but here's who he pegs as a first-rounder for next year.

No. 3, Minnesota Vikings: Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas

My take: This is the first of many times you'll see Jeffcoat's name on draft lists. Jeffcoat came to Texas as the nation's No. 1 recruit in the 2009 class, and next offseason will be the first in which he's available for the NFL draft. He's made good on his potential, but struggled with an ankle injury that slowed an otherwise outstanding first season. He was very solid in 2011, but could be poised for a breakout season in 2012 on the national stage. Either way, I'd be shocked if Jeffcoat wasn't a first-rounder whenever he leaves. If he continues to progress, top five is a near certainty.

No. 12, Seattle Seahawks: Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor

My take: Williams has a lot to prove in 2012. He may have had the quietest 900-yard receiving season in history last season, overshadowed by the Big 12's leading rusher (Terrance Ganaway), leading receiver (Kendall Wright, 1,600+ yards), and Heisman winner Robert Griffin III. Can Williams handle the pressure from defenses as the bona fide No. 1 target for a new quarterback in Nick Florence? You have to love Williams' physical attributes, but can he maintain his production? I'm confidently betting yes, but we'll find out next year.

No. 19, Kansas City Chiefs: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma

My take: Jones has plenty to prove, too. When Ryan Broyles went down, Jones struggled. He's back, and coaches love what he's done this spring. If he plays well, I could see Jones reinvigorating his stock and rising into the top 10 or top five. If he struggles again, I'd be shocked if he was a first rounder. Of all the Big 12 talents on this list, I'd say Jones' stock is the most volatile.

No. 25, Cincinnati Bengals: Alex Okafor, DE, Texas

My take: Love Okafor's game a whole lot, and admittedly, I regret snubbing him from the Big 12's top 25 players in 2011. The thing with him is, his physical attributes don't wow you like his teammate Jeffcoat's does. That said, he's consistently productive, and that says a lot. He has plenty of help in Texas' defense, and the Longhorns defensive line will be scary this year with Jeffcoat, Okafor and juco transfer defensive tackle Brandon Moore, who teammates pegged as "unstoppable" this spring.
We've already gone over my thoughts on the Big 12's first round of the draft. What about the rest? Here are some thoughts:

  • [+] EnlargeRyan Broyles
    Brian Spurlock/US PresswireThe Lions saw enough from Ryan Broyles to take a risk on him in the second round.
    Absolutely fantastic to see Ryan Broyles find a home in Detroit in the second round. Broyles is a second-round talent, and it was great to see him recognized as such -- with NFL teams seeing enough out of his newly-rehabbed knee to know he's a solid prospect. No player in the history of college football had more receptions. I like his chances for a productive career, especially on a building Detroit team with a lot of talent, especially at the offensive skill positions.
  • I've written about it in the past, but I'm intrigued to see what Missouri tight end Michael Egnew does at the next level. He was less productive than his predecessors at Mizzou, Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman, but supposedly is a more talented blocker. Coffman got stuck in a franchise that didn't seem willing to use him for what he is -- a receiving tight end -- but can Egnew shed the Mizzou tight end stereotype? We'll find out in Miami.
  • Really happy to see things work out well for Oklahoma's Frank Alexander, who was drafted in the fourth round by Carolina. He had a scare at the combine. Doctors thought he had a heart condition and his playing career was in jeopardy. Turns out, he was fine. Glad the mixup didn't cost him more than it could have.
  • Allow me to join in the chorus of folks asking, "What the heck is Washington doing drafting Kirk Cousins?" Nothing against Cousins, who I actually think will do well at the next level (or could elsewhere, at least), but this isn't even about bringing in a fellow rookie to "compete with" Robert Griffin III. Washington has plenty of other holes. The Redskins couldn't try to draft and fill it, while finding a backup quarterback in free agency? Seriously. Good grief. And you wonder why Washington hasn't won anything in a long while.
  • Ronnell Lewis' fall from top-25 prospect to fourth-rounder is intriguing. Did NFL teams see him up close and get spooked by his lack of a true position? In my book, he'd be a great defensive end, but if NFL teams think he's too small, I have major, major doubts about his ability to play the linebacker spot. The mental part of the game didn't come easily to Lewis at OU, but his career will be fascinating to watch. He's got a high motor, and if it doesn't work out, it won't be because of a lack of effort.
  • Good on A&M's Randy Bullock, who went in the fifth round. Prepare for a similar fate in 2011, Quinn Sharp.
  • Interesting to see OU's Travis Lewis fall all the way to the seventh round. How much did his broken toe in 2011, which he rushed back from to help his team, hurt his NFL stock? His tape from senior season was underwhelming, no doubt. NFL teams had to be scared about his lack of progression from freshman to senior year, at least not what you'd expect from a guy who topped 140 tackles as a freshman.
  • A year ago, A&M folks were rejoicing a future Big 12 title run when Jeff Fuller announced his intention to return. The Aggies went 7-6 and Fuller went undrafted. I hate to see when guys who make decisions to come back get hurt by them, but Fuller's season started with a hamstring injury, and his production never recovered, even when he got healthy. Almost the exact same scenario with A&M corner Coryell Judie, who couldn't get healthy in 2011 and didn't get drafted, even though he was one of the Big 12's top players in 2010.
  • Meanwhile, Bryce Brown was drafted, and his 2011 tape included three total carries, one of which was a fumble on his own goal line that nearly cost 10-win Kansas State a game early in the season. Take a bow, Mr. Brown.
  • Adding Josh Cooper to the Browns to play with Brandon Weeden? Well played, Cleveland. Well played.
  • How did Leonard Johnson go undrafted? I have no idea. Seemed like a solid middle rounder to me, and he proved his worth plenty of times this year against some great Big 12 receivers. His physical skills don't wow you, but he's instinctive at the position, and was physical and productive.
Last season, Oklahoma or Texas failed to win the Big 12 for the first time since 2003.

How?

Well, Oklahoma State had a little something to do with it, but so did two huge positions in need of improvement.

Both cracked colleague Travis Haney's list of positions with the potential for huge growth Insider in 2012.

First up, the Texas quarterbacks.
Texas seemed to indicate it would like for the more athletic [David] Ash to be the guy, even as a freshman, but he could not sustain enough consistency to win the job outright. And, really, Ash simply could not take care of the ball. He threw an interception every 21.8 passes. (The most efficient quarterback in 2011, Wisconsin's Russell Wilson, threw one every 77.3 throws.

(Read full post)


So, maybe you're not an NFL GM (or maybe you are).

If you're an obsessive fantasy football player (guilty here), you know the tier system well. It's similar to what NFL teams use on draft day, to know when they're getting a player at a value, and when they can afford to wait around. Often, they're broken into position groups.

Our draft guru, Todd McShay, broke down the tier system for this year's draft, and placed players in several groups. Here's who landed where from the Big 12:

Tier 1 -- elite prospects
Tier 2 --top 10 quality, but below elite
Tier 3 -- good value in picks 10-20
Tier 4 -- Late first-round value picks
Tier 5 -- Round 2 value picks
Tier 6 -- Mid-to-late second round value
  • none
Tier 7 -- Solid third-round picks

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Defensive Backs Coach & Special Teams Coordinator Chris Vaughn wired during 2014 spring practice.Tags: Texas Longhorns, All Access, Longhorn Network, Chris Vaughn, NCAA Football
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