Texas Longhorns: Ryan Broyles

Big 12 all-BCS-era team

January, 13, 2014
Jan 13
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After 16 years, the BCS era is finally over. Next season, college football will have a playoff instead.

With the BCS done, we've come up with our Big 12 all-BCS era team (1998-2013) below:

Offense

[+] EnlargeVince Young
Scott Clarke/Getty ImagesWith Vince Young at the helm, Texas won a national title and Rose Bowl.
QB: Vince Young, Texas (2003-05) -- Young led Texas to its first national title in 35 years with an unforgettable performance in the Rose Bowl against USC. The Heisman runner-up also became the first QB in college football history to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 in the same season.

RB: Ricky Williams, Texas (1998) -- Williams was part of the BCS era for only one season, but what a season it was. He rushed for 2,327 yards and won the Heisman Trophy going away. Only Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne has more career rushing yards than Williams (6,279).

RB: Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma (2004-06) -- Despite battling injuries throughout his career, Peterson still was a beast in college. After rushing for 1,925 yards while leading the Sooners to the national title game, he finished second in the ’04 Heisman voting, even though there was still a stigma then in voting for a freshman.

WR: Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech (2007-08) -- Crabtree became the first two-time winner of the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top receiver. In '08, he and QB Graham Harrell led the Red Raiders to an upset of Texas and a No. 2 ranking in the polls.

WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (2009-11) -- Blackmon became the second and only other two-time winner of the Biletnikoff. In his final two seasons, he finished with 233 receptions, 3,304 receiving yards and 38 touchdowns, and he helped propel the Cowboys to their first Big 12 title in '11.

TE: Chase Coffman, Missouri (2005-08) -- Coffman had a monster statistical college career for a tight end with 247 catches for 2,659 receiving yards and 30 touchdowns. He won the ’08 Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end. Missouri won 37 games during the four years Coffman was in the lineup.

OT: Jammal Brown, Oklahoma (2001-04) -- Brown was a unanimous All-American and a three-time All-Big 12 selection. He became the fifth Sooner to win the Outland Trophy, awarded to the nation’s top interior lineman.

OT: Russell Okung, Oklahoma State (2007-09) -- In Okung’s final two seasons, Oklahoma State led the Big 12 in rushing yards. The Cowboys were also third in the country in ’07 in fewest sacks allowed with Okung at left tackle. He was a unanimous All-American and Outland finalist in ’09 and became the sixth overall pick in the ’10 NFL draft.

OG: Cyril Richardson, Baylor (2010-13) -- Richardson became Baylor’s seventh all-time unanimous All-American. The Outland finalist was also a key piece on the nation’s highest-scoring offense this season.

OG: Justin Blalock, Texas (2003-06) -- Though a guard in the NFL, Blalock actually started 50 games for Texas, most coming at right tackle. He was a three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection and a consensus All-American in 2006.

C: Dominic Raiola, Nebraska (1998-2000) -- Raiola was the inaugural winner of the Rimington Award, named after former Nebraska center Dave Rimington, which recognizes the best center in college football. He was an Outland finalist and a consensus All-American.

APB: Darren Sproles, Kansas State (2001-04) -- One of the most prolific all-purpose performers in college football history, Sproles finished his career with 6,812 all-purpose yards. Among his 39 consecutive starts, his most memorable performance came in the ’03 Big 12 championship, when he had 235 yards rushing and 88 receiving, as K-State upset top-ranked Oklahoma 35-7.

Defense

DE: Brian Orakpo, Texas (2005-08) -- Orakpo captured the ’08 Nagurski Award as the most outstanding defensive player in the country, and the Lombardi Award, given to the best college lineman or linebacker. He also was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus All-American while piling up 11 sacks his senior year.

DE: Von Miller, Texas A&M (2007-10) -- Out of a hybrid defensive end/linebacker role, Miller led the nation with 17 sacks in ’09. He was a two-time All-American and won the Butkus Award in ’10 as the nation’s top linebacker.

DT: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska (2005-09) -- There was no more dominant defensive player in college football during the BCS era. Suh finished fourth in the Heisman voting in ’09 and won several national awards, including the Outland, Lombardi, Nagurski (most outstanding defensive player)and Bednarik (defensive player of the year). He was also a unanimous All-American and the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.

DT: Tommie Harris, Oklahoma (2001-03) -- Harris was a force from the beginning as a freshman on the OU defensive line. He won the Lombardi his junior year, and he was a two-time consensus All-American, garnering unanimous honors in ’03.

LB: Derrick Johnson, Texas (2001-04) -- Johnson was a menacing linebacker for the Longhorns, earning consensus All-American honors in ’03 and unanimous honors in ’04. He was also a three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection, and won the Butkus (best linebacker) and Nagurski awards as a senior. Johnson finished his career with 458 tackles.

LB: Rocky Calmus, Oklahoma (1998-2001) -- Calmus played a major role in OU’s resurgence under Bob Stoops. He won the Butkus in ’01 and was a finalist for the Nagurski and Bednarik. A three-time All-Big 12 pick, Calmus led the Sooners in tackles in all three of those seasons.

LB: Teddy Lehman, Oklahoma (2000-03) -- Lehman too won the Butkus, beating out Johnson for the award in ’03. He also was Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, captured the Bednarik, was a unanimous All-American and played in two national championship games.

[+] EnlargeTavon Austin
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesWest Virginia receiver and returner Tavon Austin had a huge 2012 season.
CB: Terence Newman, Kansas State (1999-2002) -- Newman was a solid player for Bill Snyder his first three seasons, then broke out as a senior. Newman was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, a unanimous All-American and the Thorpe winner, given to college football’s top defensive back.

CB: Derrick Strait, Oklahoma (2000-03) -- A four-year starter, Strait finished with a school-record 52 career pass breakups. He also won the Thorpe, and was a unanimous All-American.

S: Roy Williams, Oklahoma (1999-2001) -- Nicknamed “Superman,” Williams was the Big 12’s most dominating defensive player until Suh came along. He won the Thorpe and Nagurski in ’01, and was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a unanimous All-American the same season. He also famously skied over the Texas offensive line to force the game-clinching interception to earn his moniker.

S: Michael Huff, Texas (2002-05) -- Huff became the first Longhorn to win the Thorpe, and was the leader of the ’05 national championship defense. He was also a unanimous All-American that season.

Special teams

K: Mason Crosby, Colorado (2003-06) -- Crosby was three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection, and twice was a consensus All-American even though he never won the Lou Groza Award, given to the nation's top kicker. He was also the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year as a junior, and converted 66 field goals in his career.

P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State (2009-12) -- Sharp became the first three-time All-American in Oklahoma State history, and he earned All-American honors both as a punter and a kicker. He was twice named the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year. In his career, he made 50 of 59 field goals, averaged 45.9 yards per punt and missed only one extra point.

KR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia (2012) -- Austin was in the Big 12 only one season, but he was unstoppable that one season. On top of being one of the most dangerous kick returners in the country, Austin had 1,289 yards receiving and 643 rushing, and finished second in the country in all-purpose yards.

PR: Ryan Broyles Oklahoma (2008-11) -- On top of being a prolific punt returner, Broyles was one of the most efficient receivers in college football history. He finished his career with an FBS-record 349 receptions, and was a two-time consensus All-American before a knee injury cut his senior season short.

Best WR tandems in Big 12 history

November, 4, 2013
11/04/13
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The Big 12 has featured some prolific wide receiver tandems over the years.

Baylor’s Tevin Reese and Antwan Goodley, however, have a chance to top that list.

[+] EnlargeAntwan Goodley, Tevin Reese
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsAntwan Goodley and Tevin Reese rank 1-2 in the Big 12 in receiving yards per game.
This season, Reese is second in the Big 12 with 118 yards receiving a game. He trails only Goodley, who leads the league with an average of 128 yards receiving. They are a big reason why the Bears are on pace to break the FBS records for points (56.0) and yards (624.9) per game that were set by Army in 1944 and Houston in 1989.

But Reese and Goodley aren’t the only big-time duos in the Big 12 this year.

Kansas State’s Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett have been lighting it up since returning from injury. The last two weeks the two have totaled five touchdown catches.

Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard lead the Sooners with five touchdowns apiece. Texas Tech’s Eric Ward and Jakeem Grant are fifth and sixth in the league in receiving. Oklahoma State’s Josh Stewart and Tracy Moore are beginning to warm up with Clint Chelf at QB. And Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis have been stalwarts in this league for years.

But who are the best tandems ever to play Big 12? We lay it out below.

Tight ends were not included (sorry Jermaine Gresham and Chase Coffman). The tandems were evaluated on what they accomplished together, not on whether their careers simply overlapped (eliminating Jeremy Maclin and Danario Alexander, for example); and, this is a list for duos, not singles, trios or quartets (apologies to Rashaun Woods, and the 2008 Oklahoma and 2010 Baylor receiving corps).

To the list:

1. Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin, West Virginia (2012): In their only year in the league, this tandem was one-two in the Big 12 in receiving, combining for 224 receptions and 2,914 receiving yards. Bailey himself had 25 receiving touchdowns; nobody else in the league had more than 13. Austin, meanwhile, also rushed for 344 yards in one game at running back. As Bailey tweeted out earlier Monday morning on this topic, “case closed.”

2. Michael Crabtree and Danny Amendola, Texas Tech (2007): Crabtree got all the headlines in 2007 on his way to winning his first of two Biletnikoff awards. But out of the slot, Amendola quietly put up 109 receptions for 1,245 yards, as Tech went 9-4.

3. Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby, Texas (2008): Shipley and Cosby starred on one of the three best Big 12 teams that didn’t win a conference title. The two each had 1,000 receiving yards and double-digit TDs from QB Colt McCoy, as the Longhorns finished the year 12-1, their only loss coming on Crabtree’s game-winning touchdown in the final seconds in Lubbock. The two were also prolific on special teams, with Shipley’s kick return touchdown sparking Texas’ 45-35 comeback win over Oklahoma.

4. Justin Blackmon and Josh Cooper, Oklahoma State (2011): As with Crabtree-Amendola, Blackmon got all the attention on his way to a second Biletnikoff award. But Cooper was a pivotal piece in OSU’s first Big 12 title team, as he racked up 71 receptions out of the slot. Blackmon, of course, had a monster year with 121 catches and 18 touchdowns.

5. Kendall Wright and Terrance Williams, Baylor (2011): Reese was actually the third wheel to this duo, which shined with RGIII at quarterback. Wright was an All-American with 108 catches, 1,663 yard and 14 touchdowns. Williams was big time, too, finishing fifth in the Big 12 in receiving before taking over the No. 1 role in 2012.

6. Ryan Broyles and Kenny Stills, Oklahoma (2010): Broyles led college football with 131 receptions on his way to becoming the all-time FBS leader in career catches. Stills broke OU’s freshman single-season receiving record, as the Sooners stormed back to capture the Big 12 crown after a pair of midseason losses.

7. Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas (2008): It might be difficult to remember now, but the Jayhawks used to play some ball. Meier tied Crabtree for second in the league with 97 receptions. Briscoe trailed only Dez Bryant with 1,402 receiving yards. This was an underrated duo.

8. Quincy Morgan and Aaron Lockett, Kansas State (1999): On one of the first passing teams in the Big 12, Morgan and Lockett shined. Morgan had 42 receptions for 1,007 yards and nine touchdowns and was a first-team all-conference selection. Lockett, Tyler Lockett's uncle, was a second-team all-league pick for the Wildcats, who went 11-1 and finished the year ranked sixth in the polls.

9. Jarrett Hicks and Joel Filani, Texas Tech (2005): Neither might be a household name around the Big 12 anymore, but these two were both first-team All-Big 12 selections in ’05 along with Iowa State WR Todd Blythe.

10. Mark Clayton and Travis Wilson, Oklahoma (2004): Clayton carried the moniker of best receiver in OU history until Broyles came around. Because of Adrian Peterson, Clayton’s numbers dipped in ’04, but he was still an All-American with 66 catches. Wilson led the Sooners with 11 TD grabs, as OU advanced to a second consecutive national championship game.
We'll be walking through the top 10 players at each position in the Big 12 before the season, but we'll start with the most important, especially in this league.

Let's do this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10. David Ash/Case McCoy, Texas: Mack Brown insists it's still a contest. My jaw will be on the floor if Ash doesn't trot out on the field for the first game of the season. Ash has some potential and promising targets in Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley, but he hasn't shown the big-play ability of Jantz or Barnett. Expect Ash to move up this list by season's end, but for now, it's all just potential.
With the spring in the Big 12 over, it's time to hand out some awards.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best viral video: Charlie Weis, Kansas. Weis allowed media access to one open practice, and at the end, ripped into his team for not being enthusiastic enough while celebrating what was supposed to be a game-winning field goal to beat TCU and go 3-0, he told them. "I can tell you guys aren’t used to winning. ... Winning a football game is not supposed to be an uncommon occurrence. I know that’s a novel concept around here," Weis yelled. "When you win a football game, there’s supposed to be a celebration that looks like a celebration. And that was a pile of crap." Was it legitimate? Was it a media stunt? I don't care. It was compelling.
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.
Across our little blog village here at ESPN, we're taking a look at the top newcomers in college football this year. You (probably) don't know their names yet, but here's who you need to watch this fall in the Big 12.

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

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

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

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

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

West Virginia and TCU: Have y'all heard about this? It's gonna be kind of crazy. After losing four teams since June 2010, the Big 12 poached the Big East and added the former Southwest Conference-dwelling Frogs and the Mountaineers, badly in need of a home away from the weakened Big East. Here's how we welcomed the Frogs and did the same for WVU earlier this year.
AUSTIN, Texas -- D.J. Monroe has shown flashes, but to this point, they've been little more.

The most memorable? An 80-yard scamper in Red River in 2010 to jolt the Longhorns awake from an early 14-0 deficit.

Monroe's role in the offense has been minimal, but his gamebreaking potential is enormous. That's clear to everyone, including Texas' coaching staff.

Monroe, despite his speed, would likely be little more than Texas' fourth-string running back next fall after Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown established themselves as top runners in 2011 and the nation's No. 1 high school running back -- Johnathan Gray -- en route to Austin this summer.

Texas' response? Helping Monroe get on the field by working him at receiver, where the Longhorns are much thinner.

"The best play D.J. has for us is the speed sweep, and he is a wide receiver when he does that," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "He will work more with (receivers coach) Darrell Wyatt the latter part of practice so we can try to get him in the game without giving it away that he's in there only for a play that he runs."

That could mean a bigger role for the bubble screen in Monroe's arsenal, too.

For Texas, though, it's a great move and a necessary one.

Monroe's a running back at heart. Brown made that clear.

"He can do things in space. So we've been trying to force tailback on him when our tailbacks are now 205 to 240, and that's not his game," Brown said. "He's 165 pounds, 170 pounds, and he needs to be a space player. And I think we've got something that can help him if he can grow in that area."

Giving Monroe the ball on bubbles like Oklahoma did with Ryan Broyles could birth big results next season. Monroe's a gamebreaker waiting to happen, but with his limited package, his touches have been minimal.

If Monroe can prove the slant route or a quick out are legitimate options defenses must respect, the whole team should be better off. It sounds small, but keep an eye out for big results.

And though Texas wants balance, don't expect the Longhorns to lose sight of what this move is really about.

"He needs to be outside," Brown said. "That's who he is."

Big 12 position rankings: Receivers/TEs

February, 14, 2012
2/14/12
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We're continuing our look at the postseason rankings for each position in the Big 12. Here's a look back at where the receivers ranked in the preseason.

In this position, unlike quarterback, depth is a major, major factor in these rankings.

More postseason position rankings:
[+] EnlargeJustin Blackmon
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesJustin Blackmon highlighted Oklahoma State's deep group of receivers this season.
1. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys boasted two-time Biletnikoff winner Justin Blackmon, but he wasn't the only weapon. The Cowboys had nine (!) receivers with at least 19 catches and 200 yards receiving this season. Insane. Life is good with Brandon Weeden at quarterback.

2. Baylor: Kendall Wright actually outperformed Blackmon and Ryan Broyles on the stat sheet, catching 108 balls for 1,663 yards. The Bears didn't have the insane depth of OSU, but the trio of Wright, Terrance Williams (59 rec, 957 yards, 11 TDs) and Tevin Reese (51 rec, 877 yards, 7 TDs) were all in the Big 12's top seven receivers.

3. Texas A&M: Ryan Swope emerged to become one of just four Big 12 receivers to notch 1,000-yard seasons. Jeff Fuller's season was disappointing, but he still finished eighth in the league in receiving, and Uzoma Nwachukwu was in the league's top 15 in receiving.

4. Oklahoma: The Sooners weren't quite as solid as they thought to begin the season. Broyles was as advertised, though his Biletnikoff-contending season was cut short by a torn ACL. The unit was productive, but came down with the drops late in the season. Broyles and Kenny Stills were both in the league's top seven in receiving, and Jaz Reynolds caught 41 passes for 715 yards to crack the top 10.

5. Texas Tech: Tech's top target, Darrin Moore, battled injuries all year, but Eric Ward emerged as the team's most consistent target, catching 84 passes for 800 yards and 11 scores. Alex Torres missed two games, but added 616 more yards.

6. Missouri: The Tigers' receivers had their production dip with a dual-threat passer in James Franklin who ran the ball more than his predecessor, but they were still pretty good, despite lacking a true big-time threat. T.J. Moe caught 54 passes for 649 yards and four scores. Tight end Michael Egnew added 50 grabs for 523 yards and three scores. L'Damian Washington, Marcus Lucas and Wes Kemp had unremarkable individual seasons, but their production added up to a good year for Mizzou's receivers.

7. Kansas State: Kansas State was better than most thought to begin the season, but the ground-based offense limited their receivers' ability to finish with big production. Chris Harper (40 rec, 547 yards, 5 TDs) led the group. Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett showed some good promise, too.

8. Texas: The Longhorns could get really good, really fast at this spot. The uncertainty/struggles at quarterback limited this group, but Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis could both mature into absolute stars. For now, though, they didn't quite crack the top 15 in the Big 12 in receiving. Both topped 40 catches and 600 receiving yards.

9. Iowa State: Darius Reynolds' size downfield will be missed, but Aaron Horne and Josh Lenz are tough covers working the middle of the field. Reynolds caught seven touchdowns, and Horne and Lenz both topped 38 catches.

10. Kansas: Yikes. The Jayhawks didn't have a receiver in the league's top 20, but D.J. Beshears led the team with 40 grabs for 437 yards and three touchdowns. He was the only Jayhawk in the Big 12's top 32 in receiving.

Big 12 position rankings: Quarterback

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

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

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

1. Baylor

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

(Read full post)

The season's over, so it's time to take stock of what the Big 12 has to get done between now and next season.

Here's the list from last year. All things considered, I'd say the Big 12 did pretty well on most fronts.

Figure out who's in and who's out: That's the big question hanging over the Big 12 for now. West Virginia and the Big 12 have every intention of joining forces in 2012, but until the Big East lawsuits are settled, they can't make it official. Otherwise, we may be waiting a while to see the Mountaineers wearing the Big 12 crest on their uniforms and playing on fields and courts with the logo. Truth be told, the Big 12 won't miss Missouri or Texas A&M nearly as bad as it will national power Nebraska. But TCU and West Virginia are both in good position to play well and make it easier to forget the SEC-bound Tigers and Aggies.

(Read full post)

We're marching along in our recap of 2011 here on the blog, and today it's time to look back on the most improved players of 2011.

Here's a few other posts you might want to check out:
In no particular order, here are the players who showed the most growth during 2011 or from 2010 to 2011.

Frank Alexander, DE, Oklahoma: The physical tools had always been there for Alexander, but he'd never quite progressed into what he looked like he could be as a freshman in 2008. Until this year, that is. Alexander was a monster all season, leading the Big 12 in tackles for loss (19) and finishing second in sacks (8.5) to win defensive player of the year honors.

Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State: Nobody knew exactly what to expect from Klein this season, but he exceeded anyone's expectations on the ground, and developed into a serviceable passer by season's end. That growth should only continue into 2012. He ran for more than 1,000 yards and tied the Big 12 single-season record with 27 touchdowns, which also tied an FBS record for quarterbacks.

Carrington Byndom, CB, Texas: Byndom was a huge question mark when the season began, but by December, he'd developed into arguably the league's best shutdown corner. Players like that don't often put up big stats, but ask around the league's receivers about Byndom and look at how many big plays the Longhorns gave up. Both are testaments to Byndom's talents.

Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor: Wright, like Alexander, was a good player who became truly elite in 2011. Wright, believe it or not, had never enjoyed a 1,000-yard receiving season before 2011, even though he'd led the Bears in receiving in the three previous seasons. But who led the Big 12 in receiving this year? It wasn't Biletnikoff winner Justin Blackmon. It wasn't Ryan Broyles. It was Wright, with 1,663 yards and 17 scores. Insane. Robert Griffin III is the biggest reason for Baylor's rise, but Wright is a much closer second than most realize.

Texas' offensive line: Tough to pick one guy out of this group, which was dreadful last year but was a big part of Texas' moderate rebound this year. Stacy Searels coaches the unit, which ranked third in the Big 12 in rushing offense this season.

Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M: Jeff Fuller earned the headlines at Texas A&M this year, but Swope was the man for the Aggies. He actually had the same number of catches as Fuller in 2010, but had almost 250 fewer yards and eight fewer scores. Fuller battled injuries this year, but Swope caught 89 balls for 1,207 yards and 11 touchdowns, far surpassing the future NFL receiver's output.

Leonard Johnson, CB, Iowa State: Johnson, like Byndom, didn't quite get the press of other cornerbacks in the Big 12 like Brodrick Brown, E.J. Gaines or Justin Gilbert who broke up tons of passes and intercepted lots of others, but he quietly earned a reputation as one of the league's premier lockdown defenders.

James Franklin, QB, Missouri: Franklin looked shaky in a season-opening win over Miami (Ohio), throwing for just 129 yards and looking generally unimpressive. He wouldn't have another game like that the rest of the year. He topped 285 yards passing in four games this season and was sixth in the Big 12 in total offense, throwing for 2,872 yards as a first-year starter, and equaling the eight wins produced by Chase Daniel and Blaine Gabbert in their first years as starters.
Here's a few other things we learned over the course of the 2011 season in the Big 12.

On Wednesday, we looked back on what we learned during the bowl season.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
AP Photo/LM OteroLeading once-lowly Baylor to a top-three finish in the Big 12 helped Robert Griffin III earn the Heisman.
1. The Heisman isn't what you thought it was. The best player on the best team? Not anymore. This was no Mark Ingram Heisman. The 2011 Heisman race restored the faith of many in the award which, simply put, went to the best player in college football -- Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. He carried the Bears to 10 wins, tying a school record, and doing things no one ever thought possible at Baylor. Like, for instance, a third-place finish in one of the toughest years in Big 12 history. And, you know, winning that stiff-arm trophy thing.

2. The 2011 title just wasn't meant to be for Oklahoma. The first loss was perhaps the most painful. A two-hour weather delay preceded a shocking loss to 28-point underdog Texas Tech that all but ended the "Chase for 8," the first national title since 2000 for the Sooners. It also sparked unrest in the locker room after controversial comments from linebacker Travis Lewis, who wondered aloud why some of his teammates didn't play injured when he did. He later apologized to teammates in a meeting, but the comments set something of a tone for the rest of the season. They didn't shy away from preseason expectations, but RG3 thrust himself back into the Heisman picture with a virtuoso game against a vulnerable Sooners' secondary that proved a weakness by season's end. That was aided by Ryan Broyles' torn ACL that ultimately handcuffed Oklahoma's offense. The Sooners managed just three points in a humbling five-touchdown beatdown in Stillwater from rival Oklahoma State, before scoring a late touchdown in garbage time. The Sooners will chase another title in 2012 with Landry Jones at the helm, but this season began with promise and a No. 1 ranking. It ended in the Insight Bowl. That's not good enough at Oklahoma, in a year like 2011 that had so much more potential.

3. Texas A&M and Missouri are nothing if not bold. Texas A&M is -- voluntarily, barring something sinister -- joining a division that just had three teams finish in the top 5. Missouri is putting its Texas recruiting pipeline at risk to join the SEC East, which is littered with sleeping giants (Florida, Tennessee) that are struggling for the time being, but still boasted two teams in the top 20 (Georgia, South Carolina) in 2011. Texas A&M knows the SEC is its best chance to surpass Texas' program, an opportunity to offer recruits in Texas something the Longhorns can't. We'll see if it pays off. Missouri wanted out of a tumultuous Big 12 that nearly left it without a home last summer before patching itself back together. Now, it'll play its games a long way from Columbia, Mo. Will the moves be worth it? Time will tell.
The season's over, but our look back is just beginning. Here's five things we learned this year in the Big 12.

1. In the national title debate, losses mean a lot more than wins. Oklahoma State deserved its shot at LSU. Period. It was close, yes. Making LSU beat Alabama a second time was unfair to the Tigers, who already waded through one of the most difficult schedules in college football history, dispatching the Big East and Pac-12 champions, who also won BCS bowls. It also beat the national champion and SEC East champion. But OSU deserved a shot, based on its total résumé. Voters, though, weren't willing to look beyond the one awful loss (in double overtime at Iowa State) and focus on the five wins over teams in the final BCS top 25 of the regular season (Alabama only had two). They also looked over the seven wins over bowl teams with winning records (the Crimson Tide had three). Do I think Alabama was a better team? Yes, I do. But in the current system, Oklahoma State deserved its chance, not a second chance for Alabama that rendered the Nov. 5 "Game of the Century" meaningless. It also produced a snoozer of a title game and deprived us of definitively settling the year-long conference dispute, which might be the most frustrating aspect of the entire debate.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezQuarterback Robert Griffin brought the Baylor Bears to record-breaking levels this season.
2. A whole lot of points are a whole lot of fun to watch. Bad defense? Yeah, there was some of that. There was also a whole lot of good offense. Baylor's Robert Griffin III only accounted for one touchdown and the Bears still hung 67 points in a win over Washington -- a bowl record for all of a week before West Virginia posted 70 in the Orange Bowl. Baylor had three 100-yard rushers and Griffin wasn't one of them, even though he had arguably the most memorable run of his season, a Houdini act of slipping out of a handful of tacklers and outrunning the Washington offense to the pylon, taking a hit as he dove into the end zone. The game drew a 5.1 rating, and more than 5 million people watched, making it the fifth most-watched non-BCS bowl in history.

3. Texas looks on its way back up. The whispers were out there: Was 5-7 the beginning of the end of Mack Brown's tenure at Texas? Had he lost it? The problems were plentiful throughout the 2010 season, but the Longhorns bounced back (sort of) in 2011 and fixed many of them. The 21-10 win over Cal was mostly a four-hour advertisement for Texas' best asset: the Manny Diaz-led defense. An enormous, and biggest, void at quarterback remains, but this year the running game was much improved, and will continue to get better in 2012. Malcolm Brown will mature and Johnathan Gray will join him and Joe Bergeron in the backfield. The defense was the Big 12's best and should reclaim that title in 2012. Texas isn't back yet, but 2010 was not the beginning of the end for the burnt orange.

4. The top two teams are all that separates the Big 12 and SEC. Assume all you'd like, but compare the bowl records: The Big 12 was 6-2. The SEC was 6-3, with a win over and loss to itself in the title game. The Big 12 finished 33-5 (.868) in nonconference play, the best mark of any conference since the SEC in 1997. The SEC finished 47-8 (.855). The SEC earned all the headlines by putting LSU and Alabama in the title game, but the difference between the two leagues isn't very wide. They met on the field just twice this season: Arkansas beat both Texas A&M and Kansas State. The Big 12 beat teams like Stanford, TCU, Florida State, Washington, Northern Illinois and California along the way. The league's top five teams returning in 2012 went 19-1 in nonconference play. Four of the five losses came via expatriates-to-be Texas A&M and Missouri, as well as Iowa State and Kansas, who finished in the bottom three in the Big 12 standings. The league was deep, and unfortunately, didn't get many chances to prove it against the SEC.

5. The Big 12 is getting two really, really good teams in 2012. If you didn't watch, you should have. West Virginia put on an absolute show in the Orange Bowl, beating Clemson by a rousing 70-33 final that included 400 yards of passing from one Geno Smith (you'll get to know him better in 2012) and a 99-yard fumble return for a touchdown that featured a review that could have resulted in a touchdown for either team. TCU? All the BCS-snubbed Horned Frogs did was play an uninspired game against underrated Louisiana Tech (who beat, ahem, SEC member Ole Miss by 20) and win by a touchdown. But they're on their way in 2012, and both could win the Big 12. Next year, the league will have three conference champions, and if you include new members, went 8-2 in bowl games. Of course, if you subtract the departing members, it went 6-2, so who's counting?
We took a look on Thursday at the first few big surprises in the Big 12, and it's time for a few more before we decide the big one.

1. Oklahoma won't finish in the Big 12's top three. The Sooners entered the season as the preseason No. 1 and earned 41 of 43 first-place votes in the Big 12. This was supposed to be the big year for Oklahoma, but upsets and injuries dropped it to 9-3 and a fourth-place finish in the Big 12, via a loss to Baylor that gave the Bears the tiebreaker. Ryan Broyles missed the final three games with a torn ACL, and leading rusher Dominique Whaley missed most of the past four games with a fractured ankle. The Sooners lost two of their final three regular-season games and fell to the Insight Bowl.

2. Despite losing Dana Holgorsen, Oklahoma State's offense will be more productive. Holgorsen revitalized the Cowboys' offense, helping them set a school record with 10 regular-season wins and a share of the Big 12 South. Then he left for West Virginia. Enter Todd Monken. The results? A Big 12 title and 11 regular-season wins, along with more total offense and more points. Who knew?

3. Garrett Gilbert's junior season will last less than two games. Texas stuck with Gilbert for all 12 games of the 5-7 season in 2010, but he floundered in rather spectacular fashion in just his second start of 2011. He was 2-of-8 for eight yards and two interceptions before being benched for Case McCoy and David Ash. The Longhorns rallied to beat BYU that night, and less than a month later, Gilbert underwent shoulder surgery and announced his plans to transfer. He plans to play at SMU next year.

4. You're never out of it at halftime against Texas A&M. The Aggies looked so good so often, especially in the first half against eventual Big 12 champion Oklahoma State. They led 20-3 before losing the lead in the next quarter, and it would only become the first of six losses in which the Aggies led by double digits. Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas State and Texas all erased big leads to beat the Aggies, who finished 6-6.

5. Texas Tech ends college football's longest home winning streak -- then doesn't win again. After suffering close losses to Kansas State and Texas A&M, Texas Tech upset Oklahoma as 28-point underdogs, ending Oklahoma's 39-game home winning streak that dated back to 2005 and became the first Big 12 team to win in Norman since 2001. A week later, though, the Red Raiders were whacked, 41-7, by Iowa State and didn't win a game the rest of the year. Which was more surprising? Both were jaw-droppers. As a result, Texas Tech endured its first losing season in 18 years.

The 2011 Big 12 Super Seniors, Part II

December, 16, 2011
12/16/11
1:30
PM ET
This week, we're taking a look at guys who have invested four or five years into their respective programs, and earned a spot as one of the greats after providing some big-time senior leadership. Here's the rest of each Big 12 team's Super Seniors. (For Part I, click here.)

[+] EnlargeRyan Broyles
Peter G. Aiken/US PresswireRyan Broyles finished his career with 349 receptions, 4,586 yards and 45 touchdowns.
Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma: Over his career, Broyles progressed from being an immature freshman to becoming one of the team's best players, best leaders and a mentor to the younger receivers. A torn ACL cruelly ended his career a few weeks early, with the FBS career receiving yardage record nearly in reach. Still, he leaves Oklahoma with the receptions record and a spot as the greatest Sooners receiver in history.

Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State: Weeden's an unbelievable story who did unbelievable things for Oklahoma State's program. He walked on after spending half a decade chasing his minor league baseball dreams. He waited his turn, got a shot in a Thursday night game back in 2009 and led the Cowboys to a comeback win. That was just the beginning. He won the starting job the next season, and all he did in his two years as the starter was set the school record for wins -- twice. Oh yeah, and he broke a ton of Zac Robinson's and Mike Gundy's passing records along the way.

Emmanuel Acho, LB, Texas: Acho followed in his brother Sam's footsteps as one of the Longhorns' vocal leaders and perhaps its best defender. He led the team with 109 tackles this year, and was one of its best students and most active members of the community. For those on- and off-the-field efforts, he was named a finalist for the Lott IMPACT Trophy.

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M: Tannehill will leave Texas A&M with a rare distinction: A&M believes he's the only player in FBS history with a 400-yard passing game and a 200-yard receiving game. Every year, Tannehill was a major storyline for the team. He led the team in receiving his first two seasons before taking a reduced role last year as insurance for Jerrod Johnson. The team needed it. Johnson never fully healed from shoulder surgery, and Tannehill took over as the starting quarterback, helping the Aggies close with six consecutive wins. This year, he started every game and was a calming presence for a team that hit a few rough patches.

Tramain Swindall, WR, Texas Tech: Texas Tech didn't have many seniors this year, especially any worthy of a "Super Senior" title. Swindall, though, has been a major contributor in the passing game for all four seasons, through a whole lot of quarterbacks.

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