Texas Longhorns: Josh Stewart

Reviewing the Big 12 pro days

March, 31, 2014
Mar 31
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Pro day season has come and gone. Draft-eligible players returned to school this month and hit the weight room and practice field to give NFL scouts a taste of their potential. Here’s a rundown of how the Big 12’s top draft prospects fared as well as a few who surprised.

TCU (March 6)
Big name: CB Jason Verrett. A total of 26 NFL teams had reps at the Horned Frogs’ pro day, and you know many of them came for Verrett. He didn’t look to improve his 40 time from the NFL combine (4.38), but he did show off a 39 -inch vertical and benched 19 reps.
Sleeper: QB Casey Pachall. While he’ll have to answer lots of questions about his off-field issues, Pachall’s on-field work at pro day was encouraging. He checked in at 6-foot-3 and 216 pounds, ran his 40 in the mid-4.9s and completed 62 of 72 passes, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Kansas State (March 11)
Big name: S Ty Zimmerman. Though 20 Kansas State players worked out at pro day, Zimmerman was not one of them. He’s still recovering from labrum surgery and reportedly plans to hold a workout next month to show his progress.
Sleeper: OT Cornelius Lucas. Hard to project how things will play out for Lucas, a mammoth tackle at 6-8 and 316 pounds, after he discovered a stress fracture in his left foot at the NFL combine. He’s supposed to be out up to eight weeks but plans to work out along with Zimmerman on April 28.

Oklahoma (March 12)
Big name: CB Aaron Colvin. The Sooners had 28 NFL organization represented at their pro day, but a few key players were still on the mend. Colvin, who suffered a torn ACL at the Senior Bowl, did not work out but hopes to be running again by late April and vowed his recovery is ahead of schedule.
Sleeper: C Gabe Ikard. While Ikard elected to stand by his combine numbers, which were strong for his position group, he did use the pro day to show in position drills just how athletic an interior lineman he can be for an NFL club. Running back Damien Williams also made a solid impression, and receiver Jalen Saunders drew mixed reviews after poor shuttle times.

Oklahoma State (March 13)
Big name: CB Justin Gilbert. The Steelers have the No. 15 pick, so it made sense that Mike Tomlin and his GM were among the many coaches in Stillwater to scout Gilbert. He stood by his 4.37 in the 40 from the NFL combine but did agility drills and reportedly wowed in his position drills. He’s a first-rounder, no doubt.
Sleeper: WR Josh Stewart. Well, OK, he’s not much of a sleeper. But Stewart had work to do to raise his stock, and pro day should’ve helped. He improved his 40 slightly, from 4.69 at the combine to 4.59 at pro day, and showed what he can do as a receiver and returner. Safety Daytawion Lowe also made a good impression.

Texas Tech (March 14)
Big name: TE Jace Amaro. The All-America tight end tried to secure a spot in the first round with improvements in the 40 (4.68) and vertical, and at 6-5 and 266 pounds he evoked comparisons to Vernon Davis from one 49ers scout.
Sleeper: CB Bruce Jones. He’s undersized at 5-7 and 183 pounds, but Jones did grab some attention at pro day with a run of a 4.5-second 40 time and team-best vertical of 41 inches.

Kansas (March 14)
Big name: RB James Sims. A dozen scouts showed up for the Jayhawks’ pro day, and the highlight was probably Sims busting off a run of 4.56 seconds in the 40. The 6-foot, 205-pound back was not invited to the NFL combine and told the Lawrence Journal-World he felt good about the numbers he put up.

Baylor (March 19)
Big names: OT Cyril Richardson, RB Lache Seastrunk, S Ahmad Dixon. Richardson shed 20 pounds after his senior season, which had to encourage NFL scouts, and he did nothing at his pro day to diminish his chances of being a top-50 pick. Seastrunk was as explosive as expected, with a time of 4.37 in the 40 and a 4.36 second shuttle, and tried to show off his pass-catching ability. Dixon ran a 4.64 in the 40 at the NFL combine and improved that to 4.48 at pro day.
Sleeper: TE Jordan Najvar. At nearly 6-6 and 280 pounds, Najvar certainly has the size to make the NFL. His speed had been a question mark, but his reported best for pro day was 4.86 seconds in the 40.

West Virginia (March 21)
Big name: RB Charles Sims. A nice showing at the NFL combine (40 time: 4.48) meant Sims needed only to do positional drills, and he drew good reviews for his pass-catching ability despite small hands.
Sleeper: DE Will Clarke. Knowing it’s possible he’ll be asked to play outside linebacker in an NFL scheme, Clarke worked out at both end and linebacker on pro day and tried to show what he can bring to pass coverage as a nearly 6-6, 268-pound defender.

Iowa State (March 25)
Big name: LB Jeremiah George. After a subpar showing at the combine, George had a nice day in front of 30 NFL officials. He hit 4.69 in the 40-yard dash, posted a big improvement in his broad jump and was solid in positional work.
Sleeper: CB Jeremy Reeves. How’s this for a success story? Reeves played at ISU from 2010-12, missed last season with a pectoral injury and showed up to pro day to prove he’s still got it. He had a crazy good day: 4.29-second 40, 43-inch vertical, 11-foot broad jump. The New York Jets signed him on Friday.

Texas (March 26)
Big name: DE Jackson Jeffcoat. Like most other top prospects, Jeffcoat stuck with his NFL combine testing numbers. The 6-3, 253-pound end demonstrated his coverage ability in position drills amid talk that he might have to be a 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level.
Sleeper: CB Carrington Byndom. Questions about the three-year starter’s speed were put to rest when he ran his 40 in 4.37 seconds. Byndom was happy with his positional drills and is starting to line up meetings.
As we await the start of spring ball, we’ve been examining and ranking the positional situations of every team in the Big 12. Thursday, we close this series out with special teams.

1. TCU: Honorable mention All-Big 12 place-kicker Jaden Oberkrom was 13 of 14 on field goals inside the 50 last season and drilled a 56-yarder late in the fourth quarter at Kansas State. B.J. Catalon was second in the league in kickoff returns and took one to the house in the opener against LSU. Freshman Cameron Echols-Luper took his first punt return 51 yards and had a 41-yarder in the season finale against Baylor. Brandon Carter has had moments in the return game in the past as well. Ethan Perry will be a three-year starter at punter, rounding out a formidable special teams unit.

2. Baylor: Corey Coleman led the league in kick returns, and Levi Norwood scored twice off punt returns. The Bears are loaded with potential game-breakers in the return game and welcome back All-Big 12 punter Spencer Roth. If Kyle Peterson proves to be a reliable replacement for departing kicker Aaron Jones, this special teams unit will have no weakness.

[+] EnlargeTyler Lockett
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesAlong with being a top-flight wide receiver, Kansas State's Tyler Lockett can also provide big plays in the return game.
3. Kansas State: The Wildcats feature one of the best kickoff return men in the game in Tyler Lockett, who doubles as an All-American WR candidate. Jack Cantele, the younger brother of All-Big 12 K-State kicker Anthony Cantele, only missed two field goal attempts as a sophomore and nailed a 41-yarder as time expired to beat TCU. Defensive tackle Travis Britz also returns after leading the nation with four blocked kicks.

4. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders will feature a lethal one-two punch in the return game in Jakeem Grant and Reginald Davis, who took a kick back for a touchdown in the bowl game. Receiver Jordan Davis also has return experience. Kicker Ryan Bustin returns after garnering honorable mention All-Big 12 honors last year.

5. Oklahoma: The Sooners lose the most explosive return duo in the league in Jalen Saunders and Roy Finch. Sterling Shepard and Alex Ross could be among the players who replace them. Oklahoma boasts the league’s most efficient returning place-kicker in Michael Hunnicutt, who nailed 24 of 27 field goal tries last season. The Sooners have a secret weapon in Nick Hodgson, who led the league in touchback kickoffs last season. Jed Barnett, fifth in the Big 12 in punting average last season, returns as well.

6. Iowa State: The Cyclones had four players make first- or second-team All-Big 12 last season, and departing punter Kirby Van Der Kamp was one of them. Replacing his production won’t be easy, though incoming three-star freshman Colin Downing will try. DeVondrick Nealy, Jarvis West and Aaron Wimberly all had several dynamite moments returning kicks. Cole Netten was 13-of-18 on field goals as a freshman,

7. West Virginia: Nick O'Toole leads the Mountaineers on special teams. The “Boomstache” was 15th nationally in punting last season. The Mountaineers have all their returners back in Wendell Smallwood, Mario Alford and Jordan Thompson, though more big plays are needed from this group -- the Mountaineers ranked last in the league in both punt and kick returns in 2013. Josh Lambert comes back after making 17 of 23 field goals as a freshman. The Mountaineers also enjoy a luxury in Michael Molinari, who can do a little bit of everything.

8. Texas: The Longhorns lose their punter and their kicker in consensus All-American Anthony Fera. That hurts. Nick Jordan, who made nine of 15 field goals in 2012, could reclaim his job. Daje Johnson -- who returned a punt for a TD against Oklahoma -- Duke Thomas, Quandre Diggs, Marcus Johnson, Kendall Sanders and Jaxon Shipley all have experience returning.

9. Kansas: Return men Connor Embree (punts) and JaCorey Shepherd (kicks) both come back. The Jayhawks also return kicker Matthew Wyman, who connected on a game-winning 52-yard field goal to beat Louisiana Tech. The freshman, however, only made two field goals after that and eventually lost that job to departing senior Ron Doherty. Trevor Pardula was third in the Big 12 in punting as a junior and received votes for Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year.

10. Oklahoma State: After enjoying All-Americans Dan Bailey and Quinn Sharp the last few years, the Cowboys were finally mediocre in the kicking game last season. Ben Grogan struggled as a freshman, making just 11 of 18 field goals while missing two critical attempts in the early-season loss at West Virginia. The Cowboys were also last in the league in punting. Oklahoma State signed three-star kicker Zach Sinor with hopes of curing some of those ills. The Cowboys were still dynamic in the return game, but with Justin Gilbert and Josh Stewart both gone, Oklahoma State could lean on juco transfer and track star Tyreek Hill for a jolt on returns.
Big 12 offenses took a clear step backward in 2013.

Poor quarterback play was the main culprit, but the conference’s lack of elite signal-callers wasn’t the lone reason for the general absence of explosive playmaking in Big 12 stadiums last fall.

Conference pass catchers earned their share of the blame as well.

[+] EnlargeAntwan Goodley
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsAntwan Goodley was dangerous after the catch for Baylor, but in general, explosive plays from wide receivers were down in the Big 12 in 2013.
The 2013 season was the first time the Big 12 had less than four receivers eclipse the 1,000-yard receiving mark since 2006. Baylor’s Antwan Goodley (1,339) and Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett (1,262) were the only receivers to reach that mark.

Yards after catch is one way Big 12 running backs, tight ends and receivers can take ownership over their offense’s success. While the accuracy of the quarterback impacts the opportunities for yards after catch, there has been a correlation between yards after catch and team success in the Big 12 in recent seasons. With the help of ESPN Stats and Information, a closer look at the yards after catch for each Big 12 team during the past three seasons reveals some interesting trends.

  • Ten Big 12 teams have finished the season with at least 2,000 yards after catch during the past three seasons. Those teams averaged 8.9 wins per season, with half of them winning at least 10 games.
  • Baylor’s record-setting offense was spurred by its highest yards-after-catch percentage in the past three years. The 2013 Bears gained 2,281 yards after catch, 48.9 percent of their 4,668 receiving yards during their Big 12 title season. In 2012, 41.6 percent of their receiving yards came after the catch. In 2011, 44.8 percent of their yards came after the catch.
  • Goodley led the league with 598 yards after catch. His yards after catch total would have been no higher than third in the conference in 2012 and 2011. Five different receivers had at least 698 yards after catch in the past three seasons, with Tavon Austin’s 992 for West Virginia in 2012 ranking as the highest individual total during that span.
  • Oklahoma State’s 2,851 yards after catch in 2011 is the highest total during the past three seasons and 56.6 percent of its 5,034 total. The Cowboys went 12-1 and won their first-ever Big 12 championship during that season. Justin Blackmon’s 794 yards after catch led the Big 12 in 2011.
  • Oklahoma struggled with quarterback play throughout the 2013 season, but the Sooners led the league with 58 percent of their receiving yards coming after the catch, the highest percentage in conference during the past three seasons. OU had 2,588 receiving yards, with 1,500 of those coming after the catch. Sterling Shepard paced the way for OU with 384 yards after the catch.
  • Kansas, which has struggled to find playmaking receivers in recent years, hasn’t had more than 1,000 yards after catch in the past three seasons.
  • Not surprisingly, Kansas State is the lone Big 12 team that is barely impacted by yards after catch numbers. The Wildcats recorded a 39.4 yards after catch percentage during the past three seasons for a total of 2,991 yards after catch during that span.
  • Dana Holgorsen’s offense at West Virginia is built around getting athletes in one on one situations and letting them make plays in the open field. The Mountaineers gained 55.3 percent of their receiving yards after the catch during the past three seasons. Although they only spent two of those seasons in the Big 12, the Mountaineers are the only current Big 12 squad who gained at least 50 percent of their yards after catch in each of the past three seasons.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of the numbers via ESPN Stats and Information:







There's money to be made this weekend.

The NFL combine is underway with on-field workouts beginning on Saturday. The Big 12 has 25 participants in the combine, and several former conference standouts can make themselves some money. Here are eight former Big 12 playmakers that could help themselves with strong performances at the combine.

[+] EnlargeAhmad Dixon
John Rivera/Icon SMIFormer Baylor safety Ahmad Dixon needs to show his coverage skills at the NFL combine.
Ahmad Dixon, Baylor safety: Dixon’s ability to impact games with his aggressiveness and physicality is not in question. But his ability to cover is a concern, and in this era of football, safeties are often asked to cover like cornerbacks and hold their own in one-on-one situations with receivers. Dixon will need to have a strong performance and potentially surprise NFL general managers and scouts with his coverage abilities when combine participants take the field for defensive back drills on Tuesday. Dixon is projected as an early Day 3 selection.

Cyril Richardson, Baylor guard: The anchor of the Bears’ offensive line, Richardson is aiming to prove his Senior Bowl performance was an aberration. The combine gives him the opportunity to show his body of work at Baylor is more representative of his NFL future than a week which saw him struggle in Mobile. He has the talent to make an impact on Sundays so it will be a key week for Richardson from the interviews to the on-field work. Richardson is projected as an early Day 3 selection.

Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma center: One of the most productive offensive linemen in OU history, Ikard needs to show he can overcome physical limitations to earn a spot on an NFL roster. Questions about his athleticism surround Ikard so Saturday’s on-field drills for the offensive linemen are key. He has the intelligence and versatility to become a valuable asset for an NFL team but he will have to prove his assets are more important than his weaknesses during the combine. Ikard is projected as a potential Day 3 pick.

Josh Stewart, Oklahoma State receiver: The combine provides Stewart the opportunity to prove his decision to leave school a year early was a good one. Questions about his size and speed have hurt his draft stock and, while he’s not going to grow taller in Indianapolis, he can show he’s faster and stronger than NFL scouts think. Stewart is projected as a Day 3 selection.

Jason Verrett, TCU cornerback: Much like Stewart, size limitations sit upon the shoulders’ of Verrett. Nobody questions his competitiveness, production or coverage skills, but if he wows NFL scouts with his athleticism and impresses them during the interview process, he could prove himself too talented to ignore and spark a rise up NFL draft boards. Verrett is projected as a Day 2 pick that could slip into the first-round conversation.

Mike Davis, Texas receiver: Davis has the physical skills to be an impact NFL receiver but he needs to use the combine to show scouts their concerns about his production, mindset and commitment are unwarranted. If he comes out focused and tries to dominate during on-field workouts on Sunday, Davis could help earn himself some money. If not, he will have even more obstacles to overcome before draft day. Davis is projected as a Day 3 selection.

Jace Amaro, Texas Tech tight end: It’s a big week for Amaro. ESPN.com draft expert Todd McShay included Amaro in his list of prospects with the most riding on the combine Insider. Amaro needs to perform well in drills and show he has unique athleticism to combine with his size (6-foot-5, 265 pounds). Saturday’s drills and on-field work will be critical for the most productive tight end in college football in 2013. Amaro is projected as a first- or second-round pick.

Charles Sims, West Virginia running back: Sims could really boost his draft stock with a fast 40-yard dash time and strong performance in other drills. When the running backs hit the field on Sunday, Sims needs to excel. He’s likely to stand out during receiving drills but if he runs a bad time it could erase all the good work he does during the receiving drills. Sims is projected to be an early pick on Day 3.
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:
There are a record number of underclassmen entering the 2014 NFL draft. The NFL publishes its official list of draft departures this weekend, and more than 90 players are expected to be on it. That would eclipse the previous record of 73 from last year.

But the Big 12 suffered the least attrition of any of the five major conferences, with only three players announcing they were going pro before the Jan. 15 deadline: Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk, Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro and Oklahoma State receiver Josh Stewart.

That pales in comparison to other leagues. The SEC alone has 28 players leaving early. The Pac-12 has 25. Even the ACC has 10.

As for the Big 12, there are two ways to look at this. One, there's a lot of young talent coming back in the league, including the dynamic Baylor pass-catching duo of quarterback Bryce Petty and receiver Antwan Goodley and Kansas State wideout Tyler Lockett, who was uncoverable this season, on offense. On defense, menacing Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker and Texas pass-rushing defensive end Cedric Reed are back.

The other way to look at it, though, is the overall talent of the league is down, relative to other conferences. Amaro is the only one of the early entries who has a shot of being a first-round pick. Nobody else who elected to come back would have had a shot at being first-round selections, either. By contrast, the SEC, Pac-12 and ACC are loaded with underclassmen who figure to be Day 1 picks.

In 2010, the Big 12 had a conference-record nine players selected in the first round, including five underclassmen. That was a banner draft for the conference. This draft will not be.

Big 12 lunchtime links

January, 8, 2014
Jan 8
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It's so cold, the Great Lakes are freezing over, from Chicago to Toronto:

First glance: Oklahoma State Cowboys

November, 11, 2013
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A look ahead at the No. 12-ranked Oklahoma State team that’s coming to Austin, Texas, to take on No. 24 Texas this weekend. The Longhorns and Cowboys face off Saturday at 2:30 p.m. CT.

Record: 8-1 (5-1 Big 12)

All-time record vs. Texas: 4-23

Last game: Like Texas, Oklahoma State earned a relatively easy win over Kansas, 42-6, this past Saturday and didn’t need a great performance on offense to do so. Justin Gilbert took the opening kickoff to the house, Clint Chelf threw for 235 yards and three scores and OSU pretty much had this one wrapped up by halftime with a 28-0 lead. One issue worth noting: Leading receiver Josh Stewart did suffer a leg injury and missed the rest of the game.

Last meeting with Texas: A last-second victory for the Longhorns on par with Texas’ nailbiter against West Virginia this past weekend. David Ash led a game-winning drive capped by a controversial Joe Bergeron touchdown with 29 seconds left to escape Stillwater with a 41-36 victory. Jaxon Shipley caught three touchdowns and Ash came through big with a 29-yard pass to D.J. Grant on fourth down with the game on the line, then a 32-yard pass to Mike Davis, who made an acrobatic catch to set up the winning score. This was also one of the first fall-apart games for Texas’ defense in 2012. The Pokes went for 576 total yards and Joseph Randle burned Texas for 199 yards and two scores on the ground.

Key player: Chelf has been playing some nice ball the past two weeks since regaining the starting quarterback job for the Cowboys. He lit Texas Tech up for 299 total yards and four touchdowns, including two on the ground, and was solid against KU. West Virginia’s Paul Millard exploited Texas’ pass coverage on several occasions Saturday, and Chelf is capable of doing the same -- though that won’t be as easy if he doesn’t have top playmaker Stewart at his disposal.

Why Oklahoma State might win: Do not underestimate these Pokes. They’ve reeled off five straight wins since the 30-21 upset loss to West Virginia, found their run game with the bruising Desmond Roland and have one of the best defenses in the Big 12 under new coordinator Glenn Spencer. They know what’s on the line this weekend: If they want to win the Big 12, they must beat Texas.

Why Oklahoma State might lose: Case McCoy magic, obviously. No, truthfully this will be a brawl of a ballgame and Texas is at a big disadvantage if Johnathan Gray is unavailable. If McCoy can limit his turnovers (six interceptions in his last four games) and Texas’ defense can get past the WVU shootout and back to playing at an elite level, the Longhorns have a chance. And they’ll be underdogs again this week, a role this team has embraced during its six-game winning streak.

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.

Big 12 fantasy football: Draft recap

August, 27, 2013
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Following in the footsteps of our brethren over at the Big Ten Blog, we held our inaugural Big 12 fantasy draft on Saturday. And yes, it was pretty awesome.

We drew names out of a hat for draft order. Brandon Chatmon won and wisely chose Baylor RB Lache Seastrunk first overall. Jake Trotter was second and chose Seastrunk’s teammate, QB Bryce Petty. I went with Kansas RB James Sims and Oklahoma State WR Josh Stewart with picks No. 3 and 4.

Jake followed that by selecting Oklahoma State RB Jeremy Smith. Brandon went with a surprise move for the sixth pick, TCU QB Casey Pachall. And it was all downhill from there.

We drafted out a full 15-team roster, will follow standard fantasy scoring and are allowing up to two free-agent pickups each week. The guy whose team puts up the most points in a week gets a ‘W.’ The season title goes to whoever wins the most weeks.

The reward? Believe me, immeasurable bragging rights are on the line. So stay tuned, because we’ll be posting weekly updates here.

Take a look at the teams we put together and be sure to let us know who has the best roster starting off. Let the (friendly) trash talk begin.

Brandon Chatmon’s team

QB: Casey Pachall, TCU

RB: Lache Seastrunk, Baylor

RB: Johnathan Gray, Texas

FLEX: Tony Pierson, Kansas

WR: Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma

WR: Mike Davis, Texas

TE: Cody Clay, West Virginia

K: Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma

DEF: Texas Tech

BENCH: WR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

BENCH: WR Corey Coleman, Baylor

BENCH: DEF Oklahoma State

BENCH: QB J.W. Walsh, Oklahoma State

BENCH: QB Sam Richardson, Iowa State

BENCH: WR Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech

Chatmon: Landing the preseason player of the year with the first pick was a no-brainer. Lache Seastruck seems ready for a superb season and matching him up alongside Johnathan Gray is a terrific 1-2 punch at running back. That duo coupled with Jalen Saunders and Mike Davis at receiver gives me a group of runners and pass catchers that is second to none. I decided to take a chance on Casey Pachall at quarterback and should have one of the conference’s top scorers in Oklahoma kicker Michael Hunnicutt. Add in Kansas’ Tony Pierson and I’m ready to light up the scoreboard.

Jake Trotter’s team

QB: Bryce Petty, Baylor

RB: Jeremy Smith, Oklahoma State

RB: Damien Williams, Oklahoma

FLEX: Charles Sims, West Virginia

WR: Eric Ward, Texas Tech

WR: Tracy Moore, Oklahoma State

TE: Jace Amaro, Texas Tech

K: Aaron Jones, Baylor

DEF: TCU

BENCH: WR Jaxon Shipley, Texas

BENCH: WR Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma

BENCH: RB Waymon James, TCU

BENCH: WR Kevin White, West Virginia

BENCH: QB David Ash, Texas

BENCH: RB Dreamius Smith, West Virginia

Trotter: In Bryce Petty, I have a quarterback who is guaranteed his starting job and is going to put up monster numbers. In Jeremy Smith and Damien Williams, I have the primary running backs from two of the league's most explosive offenses. In TCU, I have -- by far -- the best defense. And in Eric Ward, Tracy Moore, Jaxon Shipley, Sterling Shepard and Kevin White, I have a deep collection of wide receivers who could all have huge years. If Charles Sims blows up like I expect him to, my fantasy team is going to be rather formidable. Sorry boys, this might be over before it begins.

Max Olson’s team

QB: Trevor Knight, Oklahoma

RB: James Sims, Kansas

RB: John Hubert, Kansas State

FLEX: Brandon Carter, TCU

WR: Josh Stewart, Oklahoma State

WR: Tevin Reese, Baylor

TE: Blake Jackson, Oklahoma State

K: Jaden Oberkrom, TCU

DEF: Texas

BENCH: RB Kenny Williams, Texas Tech

BENCH: WR Robbie Rhodes, Baylor

BENCH: RB Glasco Martin, Baylor

BENCH: QB Clint Chelf, Oklahoma State

BENCH: RB Joe Bergeron, Texas

BENCH: QB Daniel Sams, Kansas State

Olson: I had the third pick and got a lineup that features the supposed next Johnny Manziel, two 1,000-yard rushers and two of the Big 12’s three best receivers. Yeah, I’ll take that. Carter was my favorite pick, don’t know how he slipped to the seventh round. I love pairing Baylor’s best WRs. In the past two years, BU’s two best have combined for an average of 2,700 yards and 23 TDs. I wouldn’t do this in regular fantasy football, but taking this trio of QBs felt right because Knight has never played. Chelf could lead the Big 12 in passing, and Sams’ rushing talents might make him a fantasy stud (if he wins the job).
DALLAS -- During this era of realignment, a sense of unfamiliarity has become common. Yet that doesn’t make the getting-to-know-you phase any easier.

In 2012, every Big 12 team faced the challenge of preparing for a conference game against an unfamiliar opponent. As teams prepped for TCU and West Virginia during their first season in the league, there was plenty of uncertainty about the different challenges the newcomers would bring to the table.

“We didn’t know what to expect,” Texas Tech defensive tackle Kerry Hyder said.

[+] EnlargeDana Holgorsen
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsDana Holgorsen and the Mountaineers have had a full season to acclimate to the rigors of Big 12 football.
Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat added, “It’s kind of like those first three games against teams not in your conference. When I first saw West Virginia on film I was like ‘Wow, we’re really playing them.’ Everybody talked about playing them but to actually play them was cool, it made it real.”

TCU brought solid defense, West Virginia brought explosive offense and nobody in the Big 12 had a great feel for their new conference rivals.

“You had to do more studying than usual,” Oklahoma center Gabe Ikard said. “You may have seen that scheme but you haven’t seen their personnel. If I’ve played a guy at Texas three times, you kind of know a little about them, but I hadn’t played against any of them.”

It wasn’t a major issue that decided games, but it was a noticeable change from the weekly routine of preparing for a well-known conference opponent.

“Every year is different,” Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said. “We knew less about TCU and West Virginia a year ago, but this year’s teams [at TCU and WVU] are going to be different than those teams. I don’t know if we have a leg up this year but it’s good to have a library of thoughts and film.”

For the first time since 2010, the Big 12 will enter this football season with the same members as it had the previous season, giving teams a better idea of what it is going to take to win a conference title in 2013.

“This year we’ll have a better game plan for them, we’ll be more prepared for them,” Hyder said of the newest conference members. “Experience helps in every aspect of life.”

On the flip side, TCU and West Virginia will have a much better understanding of what it takes to have success in the Big 12. TCU coach Gary Patterson and WVU coach Dana Holgorsen did their best to prepare their teams with their words, but actually experiencing a Big 12 schedule was a better teacher than anything Patterson or Holgorsen could have said.

After one season in the Big 12, TCU safety Sam Carter came away with a much better idea of what success in the new conference requires.

“One mistake can cost you a game,” Carter said. “Not just on defense, our offense understands that mistakes can kill you in this conference. Our first Big 12 loss [to Iowa State], we gave up a few big plays, and coaches had been telling us the whole summer that one mistake can cost you in the Big 12. And it came up and really cost us in a few games.”

The Mountaineers had a slight advantage with Holgorsen at the helm. He had an extensive Big 12 background with coaching experience at Oklahoma State and Texas Tech before taking over at WVU in 2011. However, Holgorsen believes it will take at least two seasons before the Mountaineers really feel at home in the conference.

“I did my best of explaining what it’s going to be like at the different places,” Holgorsen said. “After a couple years, you start getting some familiarity with it, the fan base understands it, the administration understands it and your players understand it, and they can talk about it with the other guys.”

While the Mountaineers have more experience after one season in the conference, Holgorsen said he’ll still have some teaching do to. For example, since the Mountaineers hosted the Sooners in 2012, the players still don't know what it’s like to play OU in Norman, Okla. Once they have played in stadiums across the Big 12, then he’ll be more confident that his team has a complete understanding of what Big 12 football is all about.

“It’s going to take time for half of our team to understand what it’s like in Lubbock, Texas,” he said. “And be able to relay that to the other kids in the locker room."

All these variables add to what could be one of the most entertaining Big 12 seasons in recent memory.

“It’s the first year with everybody knowing what everybody is going to do,” said OSU receiver Josh Stewart, a junior who has never experienced playing a conference schedule that featured the exact same teams he played the previous year. “It’s going to be some exciting football in the Big 12.”

The 2013 all-OU-Texas team 

July, 18, 2013
7/18/13
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What if you combined the 2013 rosters of Oklahoma and Texas? Who would start? Who would ride the pine? SoonerNation and HornsNation have teamed up to answer that question:

OFFENSE

QB: Blake Bell, Oklahoma


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STILLWATER, Okla. -- Texas coach Mack Brown was curious to see how his team reacted against a solid Big 12 team. In the first half, the answers were mixed. Offensively Texas was solid. Defensively the struggles from Ole Miss continued.

Stat of the half: After scoring a combined 35 points in the first quarter, all these two teams could only manage three points in the second quarter. Oklahoma State clearly struggles in second quarters. The Cowboys failed to score against Arizona in that loss and only scored three against Texas. This was the first time that Texas has failed to score in the second quarter.

Player of the half: Oklahoma State running back Joseph Randle has devastated Texas in the run game. The junior took his first handoff and went 69 yards for a touchdown. Randle had 103 yards in the first quarter and continued to carve up Texas in the second, finishing with 147 yards and a touchdown. Oklahoma State had 168 rushing yards in the first half.

What's working for Texas: David Ash has continued to play with poise. The sophomore has directed two scoring drives and been accurate on most of his downfield passes. Ash, who has two touchdown passes, should have had another, but a 40-yard toss was dropped by Mike Davis in the end zone.

What's not working for Texas: The Longhorns are once again failing to tackle. Both of Oklahoma State's first half touchdowns came as a result of missed tackles by safety Adrian Phillips. The first was the 69-yard run by Randle. Phillips had Randle wrapped up at the 48, released hum and watch him run the next 52 yards. On the next touchdown, Phillips hit receiver Josh Stewart at the 23 but bounced off, getting injured on the play. Stewart scooted into the end zone from there.

What Texas needs to do to stay ahead: Continue to get a rotation of fresh players in on defense. The Longhorns are down four potential starters on that side of the ball. Defensive tackle Brandon Moore (virus) and linebacker Jordan Hicks (hip) did not make the trip. Phillips was hurt in the game. Defensive tackle Desmond Jackson also was hurt. Texas has had to use true freshman Malcom Brown at defensive tackle and little-used junior Kyle Kreigel.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Justin Blackmon isn’t walking through that door. Dez Bryant isn’t walking through that door. But that doesn’t mean Oklahoma State’s receiving corps is lacking the kind of talent necessary to test Texas’ touted secondary.

After a week of evaluating what the Cowboys' passing attack has to offer in the face of losing Blackmon and quarterback Brandon Weeden, Texas secondary coach Duane Akina sees plenty of challenges.

[+] EnlargeTracy Moore
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireSenior wideout Tracy Moore had four touchdowns in his first game this season for Oklahoma State.
“There’s not a Dez or a Blackmon, but the staff has done a great job, I think, of utilizing their weapons and their running backs,” Akina said. “It’s still a well-conceived system. Without Dez or Blackmon, it has not hurt their offensive numbers.”

The Cowboys’ top two wideouts this season are inside receivers. Blake Jackson, a junior college transfer, leads the team with 217 yards and a touchdown on 12 catches. At 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, he provides some matchup challenges.

Then there’s the receiver who will likely be J.W. Walsh’s favorite target. Josh Stewart, Walsh’s go-to receiver during their high school days at Denton (Texas) Guyer, leads OSU in receptions with 19, good for 208 yards and two scores.

And don't forget the big guy on the outside who takes Blackmon’s place, Tracy Moore. The senior has 1,195 career receiving yards and 12 career touchdowns.

(Read full post)


David Ubben says Baylor QB Nick Florence, OSU WR Josh Stewart and Texas RB Joe Bergeron are three players to watch in the Big 12 this year

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