Texas Longhorns: Chris Whaley

Seventeen Big 12 players heard their names called during the 2014 NFL draft. Many other Big 12 alums will have a chance at the next level as undrafted free agents.

Below is a list of undrafted players who reportedly have agreed to free agent deals. This is not a final list, as teams are still working to sign undrafted free agents. But these are the players we know of so far.

Baylor
Iowa State
Kansas
Kansas State
Oklahoma
Oklahoma State
TCU
Texas
Texas Tech
West Virginia
Shortly after Texas' worst NFL draft weekend in more than 75 years, six Longhorns ended the day with good news.

Texas made national news Saturday when it failed to produce a selection in the NFL draft for the first time since 1937, a shutout that nobody saw coming and led to a long day of mockery for the program.

But once the draft ended with Memphis safety Lonnie Ballentine being named Mr. Irrelevant with the 256th pick, the phones began ringing and the undrafted free agent deals got rolling.

Defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas' highest-rated draft prospect, inked a deal with the Seattle Seahawks to join an already-stacked defensive line.

Jeffcoat was ESPN's No. 106-rated prospect entering the draft and No. 9 at his position. He watched as 22 ends were drafted ahead of him. Questions about his scheme fit, versatility and injury history seemed to be the reason for his drop, and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told a reporter he passed because Jeffcoat was a "tweener."

“Going to work in the great northwest. Hello Seattle! #humble&hungry," Jeffcoat wrote on his Twitter account after signing with the defending Super Bowl champions.

One encouraging number for Jeffcoat's chances: Since 2010, the Seahawks have signed 15 undrafted free agents to their 53-man active roster.

Former Texas wide receiver Mike Davis, who was expected to be a mid-round pick, landed with the Oakland Raiders. The first message he posted on his Twitter page after learning of his destination was to Derek Carr, the Raiders' second-round QB selection out of Fresno State.

For the sixth year in a row, no Texas offensive linemen were selected in the draft. Guard Trey Hopkins signed with the Cincinnati Bengals and tackle Donald Hawkins inked a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Cornerback Carrington Byndom signed with the Carolina Panthers and defensive tackle Chris Whaley, who is still recovering from a torn ACL, will get a chance to play for the Dallas Cowboys.

Whaley is a particularly interesting fit there since the Cowboys signed Henry Melton this offseason, another Texas running back-turned-defensive tackle who also happens to be coming back from an ACL tear.

The contracts that Jeffcoat and his undrafted Texas teammates agreed to are three-year deals worth a little less than $1.5 million over the life of the deal, but the only guaranteed money in unrestricted free agent deals come from a signing bonus and, for some, a partially guaranteed base salary.

One surprise among Texas' free-agent hopefuls was kicker Anthony Fera. The consensus All-American and Lou Groza Award finalist did not sign with a team on Saturday, and a source close to him said few teams had expressed interest thus far. If that doesn't change soon, Fera's ticket to the league will have to come through tryouts.

Texas had six former undrafted free agents playing in the NFL last season: Justin Tucker, Phil Dawson, Fozzy Whittaker, Lyle Sendlein, David Snow and Cullen Loeffler.
The NFL draft is here.

It all begins tonight at 8 p.m. (ET) and the draft will continue through Saturday. Several Big 12 players should be selected in the next three days, so here is a team-by-team NFL draft primer, which includes each school’s top prospect, one sleeper/value pick and a list of each potential draftee. All projections are courtesy of ESPN Insider's draft board , and the potential draftees listed are players with an ESPN.com Scouts Inc. ranking of 31 or above. All draft projections are listed by day, i.e. Day 1 (Round 1), Day 2 (Rounds 2 and 3) and Day 3 (Rounds 4, 5, 6 and 7).

Baylor

Top prospect: G Cyril Richardson. The Bears’ All-American guard is projected to be an early Day 3 selection and could provide quality depth (or even start) during his first NFL season.

Sleeper pick: WR Tevin Reese. Slated as a late Day 3 selection, Reese could surprise with his speed and take the top off NFL defenses, particularly on a team with a strong running game.

Other potential draftees (projected selection): RB Lache Seastrunk (Day 3), S Ahmad Dixon (Day 3), CB Demetri Goodson (Day 3).

Iowa State

Top prospect: LB Jeremiah George. The Cyclones’ undersized but athletic linebacker didn’t wow scouts with his measurables but it would be unwise to brush him off as a player unable to make an impact on Sundays. He’s projected to go late on Day 3 and could, at the very least, carve out a special teams role.

Sleeper pick: None.

Other potential draftees: None.

Kansas

No Jayhawk is projected to be drafted or has a ESPN.com Scout’s Inc. rating of 31 or above.

Kansas State

Top prospect: S Ty Zimmerman. He was extremely productive during his time at KSU and is projected to go late on Day 3.

Sleeper pick: OT Cornelius Lucas. Projected to be a late Day 3 selection, Lucas would be worth taking a flyer on for most NFL teams due to his mammoth size (6-foot-8, 316 pounds).

Other potential draftees: None.

Oklahoma

Top prospect: CB Aaron Colvin. Projected to come off the board early on Day 3, Colvin would be drafted much higher if he hadn’t torn his ACL during Senior Bowl practices. It’s quite possible some team will eventually get Day 1 or Day 2 production from Colvin if they’re patient with his recovery.

Sleeper pick: FB Trey Millard. Another Sooner coming off an ACL injury, Millard is the type of guy who won’t get any headlines this weekend but will end up playing 10 years in the league as a key contributor on offense and special teams. He projected to be drafted on Day 3.

Other potential draftees: WR Jalen Saunders (Day 3), RB Damien Williams (Day 3), C Gabe Ikard (Day 3).

Oklahoma State

Top prospect: CB Justin Gilbert. Gilbert is projected to go in the first round and is considered one of the top cornerback prospects in the draft. He’s likely to be the first Big 12 player selected.

Sleeper pick: WR Josh Stewart. His physical attributes aren’t going to make NFL scouts drool, but Stewart seems to consistently find ways to make plays and could initially make an impact as a returner. He’s projected to be a late Day 3 selection.

Other potential draftees: None.

TCU

Top prospect: CB Jason Verrett. The elite cover cornerback sits right alongside Gilbert among the draft’s top cornerbacks. He’s projected to join Gilbert as a first-round selection.

Sleeper pick: None.

Other potential draftees: None.

Texas

Top prospect: DE Jackson Jeffcoat. He finished his Texas career with an extremely productive senior season. He’s projected to be an early Day 3 selection.

Sleeper pick: WR Mike Davis. He has a bunch of talent and upside but never really became a difference maker in the Big 12. Davis is projected to be selected on Day 3 and could be a steal if his NFL team can push him to maximize his potential.

Other potential draftees: OG Trey Hopkins (Day 3), DT Chris Whaley (Day 3).

Texas Tech

Top prospect: TE Jace Amaro. The Big 12’s biggest mismatch creator could transition into an individual matchup nightmare in the NFL as well. He’s projected to go early on Day 2 and will give some NFL team a unique weapon.

Sleeper pick: DT Kerry Hyder. The former foundation of the Red Raiders’ defensive line is expected to be drafted late on Day 3. He’s the type of player NFL teams can draft and hope for the best because he does have some NFL traits that could earn him a spot on a roster.

Other potential draftees: None.

West Virginia

Top prospect: HB Charles Sims. It’s quite possible Sims would be projected to go higher if the overall value of running backs as a whole was not trending down. One of the most versatile running back prospects, Sims is projected to be selected on Day 2.

Sleeper pick: DE William Clarke. The lanky defensive end prospect is projected to be drafted early on Day 3. His athleticism and instincts could make in him Saturday steal.

Other potential draftees: None.


Texas hosted its pro day on Wednesday and put its senior prospects to the test in front of representatives from all 32 NFL organizations. Here’s how the Longhorns' top draft prospects fared and a look at who helped their stock.

[+] EnlargeJackson Jeffcoat
AP Photo/Michael ConroyJackson Jeffcoat, shown at the NFL combine, says he's open to playing wherever a pro team wants him.
DE Jackson Jeffcoat: Texas’ top draft prospect did not participate in testing or the 40-yard dash because he was satisfied with his NFL combine times.

With father and former Dallas Cowboys lineman Jim Jeffcoat in attendance, Jeffcoat did positional drills and displayed the work he’s been putting in on dropping into coverage. Jeffcoat checked in at 6-foot-3 and 253 pounds said he’s open to playing 4-3 end, 3-4 outside linebacker or whatever else an NFL defensive staff would ask of him.

“When it comes down to it, it’s football,” he said. “Whatever a coach tells me to play, I’ll do it. It’s exciting to see they want me to play a hybrid outside linebacker rush guy. It’s fun watching Brian Orakpo and Sam Acho do it, so it would be fun to do the same thing.”

WR Mike Davis: Going into the day, perception was Davis had a chance to raise his draft stock if he put up an impressive time in the 40-yard dash.

The 6-foot, 197-pound deep threat did not run at the NFL combine, so he did have plenty to prove Tuesday. Davis looked sharp in his passing drills with former SMU and Eastern Washington QB Kyle Padron throwing to him. The 40 time? A solid 4.48.

A likely mid-round selection, Davis said he’s receiving good interest so far and has visits scheduled with the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys.

K Anthony Fera: For Fera, preparing for the draft has meant lots of work on his kickoffs. The consensus All-American and Groza Award finalist was Texas’ placekicker and punter but hadn’t done kickoffs in two years thanks to Nick Rose’s strong leg. NFL scouts want to see him boom the ball, and he did just that on Wednesday.

“I hit them to the back of the end zone every time, and one of them hit the roof, so I thought I did pretty well,” Fera said.

The Saints, Titans, Browns and Jaguars could be searching for their kicking solutions in this draft and Fera should be in the running to be the first kicker selected.

OG Trey Hopkins: A 42-game starter at Texas, Hopkins has a chance to be the Longhorns’ first drafted offensive lineman since Tony Hills (2008). He came away proud of his 28 reps on the bench press and said interest is picking up, with a meeting with the Cleveland Browns already set up.

“I want people to know I play all positions on the offensive line,” Hopkins said. “I can snap, play tackle in games. And of course guard is where I played the most. I’m comfortable doing any of them.”

CB Carrington Byndom: It’s possible no Longhorn helped his draft stock more than Byndom on Wednesday. The three-year starting cornerback knew there were questions about his speed, and he’s confident he answered those with a time of 4.37 in the 40-yard dash.

“I think a lot of scouts had me running a lot slower than that,” Byndom said. “I could’ve done a little better on my position work, but there’s still time for that.”

He has one workout lined up and is hoping his performance Wednesday will spark more interest in the weeks ahead.

DT Chris Whaley: A left knee injury ended Whaley’s senior season in November, at a time when Mack Brown believed he was playing like a surefire NFL draft pick. Now Whaley is trying to get healthy, get back on the field and get drafted.

The 6-foot-3, 273-pound defensive tackle said he’s about three months away from being fully healthy again, but received positive feedback from NFL doctors about the progress of his knee’s recovery. Whaley participated in the NFL combine and did only one event at the Texas pro day, knocking out 22 reps on the bench press.

OT Donald Hawkins: At 6-foot-4 and 295 pounds, Hawkins knows that, like Hopkins, he’s capable of lining up at a variety of offensive line spots. He thinks he can be a swing tackle-guard but isn’t sure what to expect when draft day arrives. Hawkins’ 40 time wasn’t immediately available, but he hit 20 reps on the bench press.

S Adrian Phillips: The two-year starter set out to prove he’s worthy of a late-round selection and believed he helped his case. While there was some uncertainty about what he ran in the 40 -- some said 4.44, others thought it was closer to 4.5 -- Phillips emerged feeling confident about his coverage work and hoping he’ll hear his name called in the draft.
Twenty-five Big 12 players have been invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis Feb. 19-24. The NFL released the invite list Thursday afternoon. The Big 12 players are below:

Quarterbacks
  • None
Running backs
Fullbacks
Tight ends
Wide receivers
Offensive linemen
Defensive linemen
Linebackers
Defensive backs
Long snapper
Kicker
Punter
  • None
Notable omissions:

Ten plays that defined Texas' season

December, 12, 2013
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Counting down 10 of the biggest plays of Texas’ season, the ones that ended up defining the 2013 Longhorns:

10. McCoy’s no-look TD pass at Baylor: The epitome of Case McCoy’s moxie magic. On 4th-and-goal down big in Waco, McCoy faked a handoff but the pass was well-covered so he scrambled to his left, but the run was blown up quickly. McCoy turned back and, amid good pressure, fired off a long pass to a wide-open Malcolm Brown for the score. It’s about as a tough a 2-yard touchdown as you’ll find, and McCoy probably had no business making the throw. But it worked.

[+] EnlargeDaje Johnson
Cooper Neill/Getty ImagesDaje Johnson's TDs against New Mexico State in the opener displayed Texas big-play potential on offense.
9. Daje Johnson goes deep: Try to remember what this meant at the time. Late in the second quarter of a low-scoring game, Texas ran a four-verticals play, and David Ash hit an open Johnson from the slot. He found space and dash untouched past three New Mexico State defenders for a 66-yard score. At the time, it was a sign of Texas’ potential to become a big-play offense in its new up-tempo spread attack.

8. Justin Gilbert pick-sixes McCoy: The phrase “slim margin for error” came up a lot in the final weeks of Texas’ season. This play was certainly indicative. Down 21-10 to Oklahoma State, Texas was driving to trim the deficit before halftime, but Gilbert baited McCoy into forcing a pass to Kendall Sanders along the sideline, then picked it off and ran it back 43 yards. There would be no coming back from 28-10 against Oklahoma State.

7. Jeffcoat finishes off the Sooners: We had to get one of Jackson Jeffcoat’s 12 sacks on the list. This one came on 4th-and-13 late in the fourth quarter against OU. Blake Bell, in the red zone and threatening to possibly cut Texas’ lead to 36-28, dropped back but had no chance. Cedric Reed’s rush forced Bell to his left, where Jeffcoat dropped him for a sack and a 12-yard loss to kill the Sooners’ last-ditch rally. One of many times Texas’ defensive end duo made a big play.

6. Taysom Hill’s first touchdown run: A sign of big, bad things to come for Texas’ defense. Hill faked a handoff on 3rd-and-2 in the first quarter and darted around his left tackle. Adrian Phillips took a bad angle and missed. Sheroid Evans and Josh Turner both dove for Hill’s legs and missed. He scooted 68 yards for the first of his three rushing touchdowns. It was the beginning of the end for defensive coordinator Manny Diaz.

5. “Score pass” to beat West Virginia: Arguably Major Applewhite’s best play call of the season. The Longhorns’ first possession of overtime against West Virginia could’ve stalled after Brown was twice stopped on goal-line runs. But they caught WVU by surprise on 3rd-and-goal. McCoy faked a handoff and tossed a short pass to fullback Alex De La Torre for the 2-yard touchdown. The go-ahead score was DLT’s first career catch, and McCoy had missed on this exact same play vs. OU.

4. Ash goes down at BYU: We don’t know for certain when Ash suffered his concussion against BYU. But one play stands out: With less than nine minutes left in Provo, Ash scrambled out of the pocket and was hit hard from behind by end Bronson Kaufusi as another defender wrapped up his legs. Ash was helped up, went back down, knelt and put his head down as trainers rushed out. He missed the rest of the game and nearly the entire rest of the season.

3. McCoy’s Red River dime: In another example of McCoy’s infinite irrational confidence, he chucked a 30-yard pass down the sideline and perfectly hit Marcus Johnson in stride off a wheel route. Johnson burned his defender for a 59-yard score to put Texas ahead 17-3. It was a real game-changer both for momentum and for the confidence of the Longhorn offense.

2. The near-fumble at Iowa State: Paul Rhoads and his legion of Cyclone fans had a hard time getting over this one. It’s entirely possible Johnathan Gray lost a fumble at the goal line with less than four minutes left, but no camera angle could confirm this to game officials. and McCoy would later score. Imagine where this season would’ve headed had ISU won the review and the game, sending Texas to a 2-3 record.

1. Chris Whaley’s INT for a TD against Oklahoma: No play better sums up Texas’ six-game Big 12 win streak. Whaley, the 295-pound defensive tackle, slipped back into coverage in a heavy blitz front. Adrian Phillips got to Blake Bell, whose pass sailed wide and right into Whaley’s hands. He rumbled 31 yards for the touchdown that gave Texas a stunning 10-3 lead. Just a crazy, inexplicable play that led to an unexpected rout.

Week 12 helmet stickers

November, 17, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Well, it wasn't easy to come up with many of these after Texas' 38-13 loss to No. 12 Oklahoma State on Saturday. A few Longhorns who did stand out in the blowout:

WR Mike Davis: Davis finished with 112 yards on a season-high nine receptions and did so fairly quietly. Maybe that’s because nobody paid attention to the second half, and five of Davis’ catches came on the final two drives of a blowout. But Davis did gain nine-plus yards on six of his catches and snagged a nice 41-yard fade to start the second half. OSU coach Mike Gundy credited him after the game as being a guy they feared.

DT Malcom Brown: We’d have to review the film to know which defenders really stood out, but Brown certainly flashed a few times against Oklahoma State. He finished with seven tackles and two of them came behind the line of scrimmage. The sophomore also deserves props for doing so while wearing a No. 96 jersey in honor of injured teammate Chris Whaley. Classy move.

RB Malcolm Brown: Hard to fault him much for his showing in replacing Johnathan Gray, since Texas had little need for a run game in the second half when trying to rally. Brown finished with a respectable 73 rushing yards on 25 carries. Among running backs this year, only Kansas’ Tony Pierson (87 yards) had a better rushing performance against OSU’s defense than Brown did.

Big 12 primer: Week 12

November, 16, 2013
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Oklahoma State and Texas will duke it out with Big 12 title implications on the line; Oklahoma, Texas Tech and West Virginia will try to bounce back from disappointing losses; Kansas and Iowa State will attempt to get off the Big 12 snide; TCU will hope to remain bowl eligible, and Baylor and Kansas State will look to keep rolling.

Those, among others, will be the storylines to watch in Week 12 of the Big 12:

Iowa State at No. 18 Oklahoma, 11 a.m. CT (FS1): Coach Bob Stoops said he would be sticking with Blake Bell as his starting QB, but also indicated backup Trevor Knight could get more playing time. The Sooners are beat up after last week’s loss at Baylor, with receiver Sterling Shepard, linebacker Jordan Evans and defensive backs Julian Wilson and Aaron Colvin all dealing with an assortment of injuries. Iowa State is still looking for its first Big 12 victory and guaranteed to have its worst record since Paul Rhoads became coach in 2009.

West Virginia at Kansas, 11 a.m. CT (FSN): Despite a deflating overtime loss to Texas last weekend, the Mountaineers are still on track for a bowl berth. But they have to win here. Behind freshman QB Montell Cozart, who is expected to get more playing time if not the start over Jake Heaps, Kansas will attempt to snap its 27-game losing streak in Big 12 games. If the Mountaineers don’t take better care of the ball -- they turned it over five times against Texas -- the Jayhawks just might have a shot.

No. 12 Oklahoma State at No. 24 Texas, 2:30 p.m. CT (FOX): Both teams enter this showdown on a roll. Texas has won six straight while Oklahoma State has reeled off five in a row. The Longhorns, however, will be without running back Johnathan Gray and defensive tackle Chris Whaley, who both suffered season-ending injuries last weekend. This game carries major Big 12 title repercussions, though Texas could still win the league with a loss. This is the fifth time Oklahoma State and Texas have met as BCS-ranked teams. The Longhorns won the previous four meetings.

TCU at Kansas State, 2:30 p.m. CT (FSN): K-State is one of the hottest teams in the Big 12, coming off three straight wins and a 49-26 victory at Texas Tech. QBs Daniel Sams and Jake Waters have been incredibly efficient during the win streak, completing 73 percent of their passes without an interception. Senior running back John Hubert has had the hot hand, too, rushing for more than 100 yards the last two games. TCU has to win this game to keep its slim bowl hopes alive. The good news is that Brandon Carter is beginning to perform like the No. 1 wideout the Horned Frogs thought he would be at the beginning of the season. Carter had six receptions for 93 yards in last week’s win at Iowa State.

Texas Tech at No. 5 Baylor, 6 p.m. (FOX): Baylor is in the thick of the national championship conversation, but remains on the outside looking in on the title game and could use some more style points. The Bears, however, will be without star wideout Tevin Reese, who suffered a dislocated wrist last week. Running backs Lache Seastrunk (groin) and Glasco Martin (knee) are banged up, too, and questionable for this game. Texas Tech is 1-10 in the month of November, and desperately needs a victory to stave off another late-season collapse. That won’t be easily achieved here. The Bears are four-touchdown favorites.

Big 12 lunchtime links

November, 11, 2013
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The Tavon Austin who destroyed the Big 12 finally reappeared on Sunday. Two weeks after my fantasy team gave up on him.

Previewing Texas' treacherous final stretch

November, 11, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Three weeks ago, we looked ahead to Texas' next three games and made a simple statement.

The Longhorns needed to take care of business with wins against three seemingly inferior foes in order to make the final three games of the year count.

Go 3-0 against TCU, Kansas and West Virginia and the Longhorns would be in position for a big-time finish. Well, they did just that, and here we are. Texas won a rain-soaked beatdown, an afternoon snoozer and a wild late-night shootout.

Now this 7-2 team is on a six-game winning streak and controls its own destiny. Two home games, one trip to Waco. Win these final three tests and Bevo is Fiesta Bowl-bound. Take two of three and things get complicated. Lose all three and, well, the hot seat gets hotter for coach Mack Brown.

Here's a look ahead at the Longhorns' final three games and what might be in store for them.

Nov. 16: No. 14 Oklahoma State

Let's start with the elephant in the room. How can Texas win this game without Johnathan Gray?

Gray's season-ending Achilles injury will send the Longhorns back to the drawing board. The one-two punch is now Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron, and both have been injury prone in the past. Daje Johnson will have to play a larger role. And Case McCoy will have to play more mistake-free football after throwing six picks in his last four starts.

Just as important, though, is how Texas' defense responds from losing Chris Whaley and giving up 40 points in Morgantown. It's going to take strong run defense and another pressure-filled performance from Texas' defensive line to throw off quarterback Clint Chelf and a Pokes offense that, while vanilla, is getting back on track.

Here's what makes this win so critical: Texas beating Oklahoma State just might render the Bedlam game on Dec. 7 irrelevant to the Big 12 title picture. Both Texas and Baylor would appreciate that, and Texas especially, because in a three-way tiebreaker scenario at 8-1, the Longhorns could be the lowest ranked member of the trio.

Lose to Oklahoma State and this gets messier. To win the league, Texas would need to win out and for somebody to hand OSU its second loss. Take care of business now and we're down to a two-horse race.

Nov. 28: Texas Tech

For Texas, this Thanksgiving matchup is looking a whole lot more favorable now than it did a month ago.

The Red Raiders started 7-0, has lost three straight and are a 26-point underdog against Baylor this weekend at AT&T Stadium. If they're blown out -- entirely possible, considering how shoddy it played the run against Kansas State -- they'll be low on morale and probably back to juggling freshman quarterbacks.

Texas took a bad loss at home on Turkey Day last year against TCU, in front of a weak holiday crowd, and spoiled its faint hopes of reentering the Big 12 title hunt. This team will have a lot more on the line if it gets past OSU and plenty of motivation.

What we don't know now, though, is just how the Big 12 race will look when this game kicks off on Nov. 28. The Baylor-Oklahoma State game on Nov. 23 looms large. If the Bears go 8-1 in the Big 12, this game is the most likely candidate for the lone loss.

But that's out of Texas' control, and so are a lot of other things if Texas can't knock off these suddenly slumping Red Raiders.

Dec. 7: No. 5 Baylor

Baylor and Texas both have treacherous roads to 8-0, but if they emerge unscathed, the Big 12 gets its Game of the Year on conference championship week.

Right now, the Bears need Texas to get to 9-2. If they're still clawing with the likes of Florida State, Ohio State and Stanford for that No. 2 spot in the BCS, a primetime, high-stakes victory over a ranked Texas team to win the league will give the Bears' national title hopes a critical boost.

If you're already marking this down as a loss, Texas fans, you're justified. Imagine the buzzsaw the Longhorns could be walking into: Final game at Floyd Casey Stadium, crazy atmosphere, titles on the line and a loaded Baylor team capable of putting 50-plus on Texas no matter how much progress Greg Robinson's defense has made.

Oh, and then there's the uneasy topic of Coach Brown. Say Texas wins eight straight and then gets blown out by Baylor. What would come next? There are a ton of different ways this stretch plays out, but Brown's future becomes a remarkably contentious issue if Texas is 9-2 and 8-0 in the Big 12 entering the finale.

A lot can change for the fortunes of these two teams before then, so there's no point in over-speculating about the various Big 12 scenarios. For now all we can do is state the obvious: Texas vs. Baylor is setting up to be a gigantic game with major short- and long-term ramifications.

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 11

November, 11, 2013
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And then there were three:

1. Baylor (8-0, 5-0 Big 12, last week 1): We’re 11 weeks into the season, and Baylor still leads the Big 12 in total defense, scoring defense and red zone defense. Those numbers aren’t a fluke, as Oklahoma found out the hard way. Ahmad Dixon is one of the best safeties in the conference; Eddie Lackey and Bryce Hager are a stout one-two punch at linebacker; and the defensive line has size and speed. The Sooners might not be very good offensively this year. But Baylor made them look downright ridiculous. This is a complete team.

2. Oklahoma State (8-1, 5-1, LW 2): This will be just the fifth time Oklahoma State has played Texas when both teams have been ranked in the BCS. The Longhorns have won all four such previous meetings. As a program still aspiring to greater heights, this is the kind of game the Cowboys need to win. Texas is banged up. Oklahoma State has the better defense. And as a result of both, the Cowboys are favored in Austin. Some of the more haunting moments in Oklahoma State history have occurred at the hands of the Longhorns. This is a prime opportunity for the Pokes to produce a memorable one.

3. Texas (7-2, 6-0, LW 3): The Longhorns have depth at running back and defensive tackle. But they no longer have all-conference players at those positions. That’s what tailback Johnathan Gray and defensive tackle Chris Whaley are. Can Texas overcome these additional hits against one of the hotter teams in the Big 12 in Oklahoma State this weekend? If the Horns do, Mack Brown should get votes for Big 12 Coach of the Year.

4. Kansas State (5-4, 3-3, LW 6): More and more, K-State is beginning to resemble the Baylor of last year. Maybe not in style, but most certainly in efficiency. The Wildcats scored touchdowns on their first five possessions to basically put then-No. 25 Texas Tech away on its home field by the second quarter. Think about this: From the third quarter of the West Virginia game three weeks ago to halftime at Texas Tech, K-State has scored touchdowns on 14 of 22 possessions (not counting kneel downs). That level of touchdown efficiency would even impress Baylor coach Art Briles. Like the Bears last year, K-State could finish this season with a flourish to set up a run back at the Big 12 title in 2014.

5. Oklahoma (7-2, 4-2, LW 4): The Sooners’ quarterback situations have been the envy of the Big 12 dating back to the advent of the Bob Stoops era. No more. OU has major problems at the position, not only for the rest of this season, but beyond. It’s difficult to see the Sooners winning a Big 12 championship with Blake Bell at quarterback next season. But the fact the Sooners won’t let Trevor Knight attempt a pass or Kendal Thompson step on the field raises red flags, too. OU had no shot of coming back on Baylor with Bell behind center, yet the Sooners still refused to give either one of the other quarterbacks a chance. Stoops is not one to make drastic changes. But if the Sooners don’t shake things up offensively, they could easily finish this regular season a disappointing 8-4.

6. Texas Tech (7-3, 4-3, LW 5): After three straight losses, the unranked Red Raiders find themselves four-touchdown underdogs to Baylor at a neutral site. A month ago, this game looked like it might be for the Big 12 crown. Instead, Tech will be playing to avoid going 1-11 in the month of November over the past three years.

7. West Virginia (4-6, 2-5, LW 7): The Mountaineers just missed out on landing another marquee home win, falling 47-40 to Texas in overtime. They have to put that behind them. By snagging these next two winnable games against Kansas and Iowa State, West Virginia will go to a bowl. Considering all the pieces the Mountaineers had to replace from last year, that would constitute a solid season for a team in rebuilding mode.

8. TCU (4-6, 2-5, LW 8): Credit TCU for not throwing in the towel after dropping three straight for the first time in the Gary Patterson era. The Horned Frogs continued to struggle offensively. But despite missing several key players, they gutted out a game-winning, fourth-quarter touchdown drive at Iowa State to keep their slim bowl hopes alive.

9. Iowa State (1-8, 0-6, LW 9): The Cyclones had yet to win a Big 12 game and were facing an opponent riding a three-game losing streak in a late-morning kickoff. And yet, Jack Trice Stadium was just about full. Cyclone Nation brought it this weekend, even if their team came up another goal-line stand short. Tweeted Iowa State defensive back Deon Broomfield: “Best fans in nation. Even through a season like this we have a packed stadium. Sorry for the letdown.” It’s been a rough year to be an Iowa State fan. You can bet the players will fight to reward that loyalty in the form of a Big 12 win before the end of the season.

10. Kansas (2-7, 0-6, LW 10): The Jayhawks are 118th in scoring offense, 119th in total offense and 120th in 10-plus-yard plays. Kansas' offense is going nowhere as it’s currently constructed. It’s time for coach Charlie Weis to give freshman quarterback Montell Cozart the keys to the offense. Even though the Jayhawks failed to reach the end zone at Oklahoma State, Cozart flashed promise, leading Kansas to 202 yards on the ground and 13 of its 15 first downs.
That relentless injury bug continues to attack the University of Texas.

The Longhorns announced on Sunday that running back Johnathan Gray (Achilles) and defensive tackle Chris Whaley (knee) would miss the remainder of the season. Gray and Whaley were injured during UT’s 47-40 overtime win over West Virginia on Saturday night. The two join linebacker Jordan Hicks and quarterback David Ash among several Longhorns forced to miss significant time due to injury this season.

It’s devastating news for the Longhorns as Gray and Whaley were playing the best football of their careers and had emerged as driving forces behind UT’s resurgence during conference play.

Now Texas will have to replace both with Oklahoma State coming to Austin on Saturday. Gray’s absence could make life easier for a Cowboys’ defense that will aim to stop the run and force Case McCoy to beat them, while Whaley’s absence could help a Pokes’ offensive line that has struggled at times.

Gray leads the Longhorns with 780 rushing yards, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. The sophomore’s quick feet and decisive running will be impossible to replace, but UT’s depth at the position should allow them to handle the loss better than most teams. Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron and even Daje Johnson, at times, can provide quality options at running back to replace him. But make no mistake: Gray was the best of the bunch.

Whaley had become one of the most productive defensive tackles in the league before the injury. He had scored touchdowns against Kansas and Oklahoma in the Longhorns’ last four games and was one of the anchors of a front that has sparked UT’s 6-0 conference record. He was one of the leaders on the entire defense and the sheer number of his teammates coming to his side after the injury against the Mountaineers showed how much his veteran presence and leadership will be missed. Junior Desmond Jackson replaced Whaley against WVU and is likely in line to step into his spot.
 

Survive and advance. That’s all Texas could worry about doing on Saturday night.

A wild night in Morgantown, W.Va., ended with an even crazier finish, when Longhorns linebacker Steve Edmond snagged a diving interception on Paul Millard’s fourth-down pass to clinch a 47-40 overtime victory.

The last-second win keeps Texas’ Big 12 championship hopes alive another week. The Longhorns got to 6-0 in the league despite another perfect storm of injuries and mistakes. They couldn’t have pulled this off without the help of a large cast of big-moment contributors and surprise saviors.

[+] EnlargeSteve Edmond
Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY SportsSteve Edmond and Texas made big plays when the Longhorns needed them most against West Virginia.
“That’s the way this team has had it all year. Nothing has been easy,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “They’ve had to come back from the dead and they’ve had to fight and claw each week and they’ve had to win some tight games. They just continue to amaze me and overcome everything.”

This wasn’t like the Iowa State game, when Texas won an ugly 31-30 game and Brown was nothing but smiles, declaring a win a win and that he loves nothing more than a comeback on the road. That cheery optimism drew more than a few eye rolls.

No, this was a get the heck out of Dodge -- or, in this case, Appalachia -- and get home with a win, and no more casualties.

“We’ll take this win any time,” quarterback Case McCoy said.

For Texas, nearly everything that could’ve gone wrong early on did. The first four offensive possessions ended with a safety on a blocked punt, an interception, a fumble and a punt.

Its defense forced five turnovers and recorded six sacks. The Longhorns have never lost a game in the past decade when getting four takeaways. But they came awfully close on this night, with a rough first half of offense and injuries to running back Johnathan Gray, defensive tackle Chris Whaley and right tackle Kennedy Estelle.

Texas trailed 19-13 at halftime, then 26-16 midway through the third quarter. And yet, this team kept finding a way to scrap together just enough, delivering on every critical moment.

Jaxon Shipley caught his first touchdown of the season, on as beautiful and difficult a pass as McCoy has thrown, with a diving two-handed grab on a corner route.

Then came Shipley’s fourth-down conversion on Texas’ final drive in regulation. And Malcolm Brown’s 27-yard run. And Anthony Fera’s field goal to send Texas to the first overtime of Brown’s entire coaching tenure, and just the second in school history.

There was Marcus Johnson’s third-down catch in overtime. And Major Applewhite’s best play call of the year, a play-action pass on third down to Alex De La Torre, whose first career catch gave Texas its overtime lead.

And then there was Edmond, the once-maligned middle linebacker, batting a floated pass at the goal line on third down and slipping back to snag an interception on the game’s final play.

Big moments, each of them. Drop the ball once and it could be game over. The Longhorns delivered, over and over again.

“When I got that pick, I felt like I just won the lottery, like I was just the richest man on earth,” Edmond said. “I didn’t know what to do. When you don’t know what to do, you just do crazy stuff. I just took off running.”

And his teammates, tired and worn out but undeniably relieved, chased him as Edmond tried running the length of the field.

How long a run does this Texas team have left? Next up, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech at home. Then Baylor on the road, possibly for the Big 12 title, Baylor’s BCS title hopes, Texas’ Fiesta Bowl dreams and all the other marbles.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. These Longhorns aren’t. They’ve been humbled a few times during the six-game streak, enough to know that they’re living one week at a time.

We don’t know the prognosis on Gray. If he misses extended time -- he was in a boot and crutches by the end of the night -- Texas’ coaching staff will need to go back to the drawing board this week and find new ways for their offense to get the job done.

Another key leader went down early on, when Whaley was lost for the night with a left knee injury. The senior leader, a heart-and-soul cog of the defense, wiped away tears as he left the field on a cart.

His defense kept going, plugging in tackle Desmond "Tank" Jackson and getting an inspired performance and two sacks. They survived and advanced.

This is a resilient bunch. They shouldn’t even be in this position after starting 1-2. West Virginia found ways to exploit them on both sides of the ball. They can lose any or all of these final three games.

But just when you’re ready to count them out, the Longhorns somehow keep fighting.

“They’ve been called everything, they had their struggles when they got started, they never got their head down,” Brown said. “They kept their head up and played with pride. I’m just happy to coach them and continue to watch them play.

“It’ll be interesting to watch them the next three weeks. I’m not going to bet against them.”

Planning for success: Texas

November, 7, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Entering the season, Texas’ starting defensive line was comprised of the following: An injury-prone former five-star end, a tall and underrated end with limited starting experience, a young defensive tackle coming off an inconsistent true freshman year and, last but not least, a converted running back playing tackle.

With five games left in the 2013 season, Texas’ starting defensive line features four future NFL players, and perhaps several All-Big 12 candidates. Same guys, of course.

[+] EnlargeChris Whaley
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsTexas' defensive isn't just about rushing the passing. Chris Whaley (96) and Co. have deflected and intercepted passes and scored points.
Talent was never the issue for Jackson Jeffcoat, Cedric Reed, Malcom Brown and Chris Whaley. The potential was always there. But it was a ragtag group, at least on paper, and one that had to answer a lot of questions this season.

They’ve done a lot more than that this season, fortifying the Longhorns defense with their consistent pressure and knack for creating game-changing turnovers.

“They're pushing the pocket back, and those guys are caving it in,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “We're really doing a great job of getting pressure on the quarterback.”

The numbers since Texas began conference play are impressive. Texas has recorded 20 sacks on the season, with 16 coming from its defensive line and a Big 12-best 18 coming in conference games. The front four is responsible for 39 of the Longhorns' 58 tackles for loss on the year.

During these last five games, Jeffcoat leads the Big 12 in sacks with six and he and Reed are among the top three in the conference in tackles for loss. And their head coach believes Whaley and Brown are playing like two of the better defensive tackles “in our history,” which is fairly high praise.

This truly is a front four that specializes in pass rushing, which has become an absolute must to be competitive in this league. According to ESPN Stats & Info, sacks have accounted for 49 percent of Texas’ tackles behind the line of scrimmage this season.

If that didn’t make passing difficult enough, the long-armed Reed and the disruptive Brown have each already broken up four passes. Jeffcoat has deflected two and grabbed the game-sealing interception at Iowa State.

And Whaley is doing just fine, with the pick-six against Oklahoma and the fumble return for a touchdown against Kansas. He might’ve gotten the 40-yard run back and the glory on that one, but Jeffcoat brought the pressure and Reed recorded the sack and strip.

When all four are clicking at the same time, like this line is, opposing offensive lines are left to make impossible choices about how to properly account for all four. Just ask Texas senior offensive lineman Mason Walters, who faces these guys on a daily basis.

“I think that's the thing our defensive line has done the best: They've been able to give them a problem on matchups or somebody has got a mismatch every time, and that one person is able to jump and make plays,” Walters said. “I think they all continue to play at a high level and you start to have more and more of them with household names.”

This defensive line’s next potential victim, West Virginia, had quarterback issues early in the year but settled on Clint Trickett. He has a TD-INT ratio of 5-5 in Big 12 play and has fumbled on two of the nine sacks he’s taken.

The real challenge is limiting talented Mountaineers running back Charles Sims. The more he’s slowed early, the more the ball stays in Trickett’s hands and the sooner he starts feeling uncomfortable.

That’s just what this pass-rushing unit wants. More important, they don’t want to lose any of the confidence they’ve built during this five-game streak.

“There are still people out there that kind of doubt us,” Jeffcoat said, “so we've got to show that we can do it against anybody.”

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 10

November, 4, 2013
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Taking stock of Week 10 in the Big 12:

Team of the week: The Cowboys on Saturday showed why they were the preseason pick to win the Big 12. Oklahoma State jumped to a 21-0 lead over Texas Tech, and, for the most part, controlled the game the rest of the way. Despite throwing two interceptions, QB Clint Chelf played his best game since last season, accounting for four touchdowns. Desmond Roland and Rennie Childs also spearheaded another tremendous effort on the ground, as OSU converted all six of its red zone possessions into touchdowns. Defensively, the Cowboys were terrific, too, limiting Tech to just three touchdowns over 17 possessions. This is a team beginning to find its stride -- just in time to make a run at the Big 12 championship.

[+] EnlargeJace Amaro
Michael C. Johnson/USA TODAY SportsJace Amaro, who caught 15 passes for 174 yards in Texas Tech's loss to Oklahoma State, had a crucial fumble caused by Cowboys safety Daytawion Lowe.
Disappointment of the week: The Horned Frogs had an opportunity to take a step toward securing a bowl berth and partially salvaging the season. Instead, TCU blew a 17-3 lead, then self-destructed in overtime in a 30-27 loss to West Virginia. The Frogs turned the ball over three times in five plays, then committed a personal foul in overtime that resulted in having to attempt a 62-yard field goal. To even qualify for a bowl now, TCU will have to run the table, which is less likely than a 62-yard field goal.

Big (offensive) men on campus: Chelf, West Virginia running back Charles Sims and Kansas State running back John Hubert.

Chelf had two terrible interceptions, including a pick-six, in Lubbock. But he was terrific otherwise. Chelf threw for 211 yards and rushed for another 88 while accounting for four touchdowns.

Sims had his best performance yet as a Mountaineer, piling up 154 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries to power the West Virginia comeback in Fort Worth.

Hubert produced his best game of the season, too, rushing for 105 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.

Big (defensive) men on campus: OSU safety Daytawion Lowe, Texas defensive tackle Chris Whaley and K-State defensive end Ryan Mueller.

In the first quarter, Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro hauled in a 21-yard pass across the middle on third-and-long. But at the end of the play, Lowe upended him, popping the ball loose, which the Cowboys recovered. The next play, the Cowboys converted a flea-flicker. The play after that, they were in the end zone to storm to a 14-0 lead. Lowe also led the Cowboys with a game-high 11 tackles.

With Texas clinging to a 14-6 lead midway through the third quarter, Whaley delivered his second game-changing defensive touchdown of the season. Teammate Cedric Reed hit Kansas QB Jake Heaps from behind, the ball popping to the turf. Whaley scooped it up and thundered 40 yards for the touchdown. “All of the momentum changed in one play," said Kansas coach Charlie Weis, as the Longhorns charged to a 35-13 win.

[+] EnlargeCharles Sims
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsWest Virginia tailback Charles Sims had his best game of the season vs. TCU, rushing for 154 yards and adding two touchdowns.
Mueller had another huge performance with seven tackles and two sacks. His tackle also knocked Iowa State QB Sam B. Richardson out of the game just before halftime.

Special-teams players of the week: Oklahoma State specialist Derek Branson and West Virginia kicker Josh Lambert.

With the Cowboys leading 14-0 in the first quarter, Branson busted through the West Virginia punt protection, blocked the punt and recovered it, setting up the Cowboys with great field position at the Tech 15. Four plays later, Roland was in the end zone.

Lambert was money in the Mountaineers’ rally over TCU. He nailed all three of his field goal attempts, including the game-winning 34-yarder in overtime.

Honorable mention recognition goes to TCU kicker Jaden Oberkrom, who converted a 45-yard field goal to send the game to overtime. Oberkrom also nearly saved TCU on his 62-yard try in overtime. The kick had the distance, but was wide to the left.

Play of the week: After Tech closed the deficit to 28-24 at halftime, OSU reestablished control in the third quarter. With the Red Raiders selling out on run blitzes off the edge, OSU offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich dialed up the perfect counter, a QB draw. Chelf took off up the middle of the field and raced 67 yards for the touchdown, giving the Cowboys a 42-24 lead. The scamper was the longest TD run by an OSU QB since Brent Blackman’s 72-yarder in 1972.

Stat of the week: With the overtime loss to West Virginia, TCU has lost three games in a row for the first time since Gary Patterson took over as head coach in 2000.

Quote of the week: "I'm pretty sore. I'm pretty beat up. But ... it’s worth it.” -- Oklahoma State's Roland, after carrying the ball 57 times the past two weeks.

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