Texas Longhorns: Keith Ford

With spring ball done, we’re reexamining and reranking the positional situations of every Big 12 team, continuing Tuesday with running backs. These outlooks will look different in August. But here’s how we see them post-spring:


1. West Virginia (pre-spring ranking: 4): West Virginia running backs coach JaJuan Seider has one of the best and most difficult jobs in the Big 12. Seider has an embarrassment of riches at his position in Dreamius Smith (the No. 1 juco back in 2013), Wendell Smallwood (who played last year as a true freshman), Rushel Shell (who before transferring from Pitt set the Pennsylvania state high school rushing record), Andrew Buie (the team’s leading rusher in 2012) and Dustin Garrison, West Virginia’s leading rusher from 2011, who, finally healthy again, enjoyed a resurgent spring. The Mountaineers also will add four-star signee Donte Thomas-Williams in the summer. The difficult part for Seider will be divvying up carries to so many capable backs. But if the Mountaineers can keep everyone happy and find the right combination, this could become a devastating and versatile running back stable.

2. Texas (1): Coach Charlie Strong delivered promising news on Monday in San Antonio, suggesting Johnathan Gray could be cleared from his Achilles injury by mid-June. Strong also said that Joe Bergeron will be rejoining the team shortly, too, after sitting out the spring to focus on academics. When healthy and eligible, the trio of Malcolm Brown, Gray and Bergeron is a formidable bunch and the backbone of the Texas offense.

3. Baylor (3): Shock Linwood and Devin Chafin exited spring as the co-starters, but Johnny Jefferson left the biggest impression in the spring game. The Bears have a track record of spreading carries around, which means Big 12 fans will become very acquainted with the talented redshirt freshman next season.

4. Oklahoma State (5): One of the biggest surprises of the spring was how much the Cowboys used Tyreek Hill at running back. Oklahoma State is planning to utilize the nation’s top juco playmaker the way West Virginia did Tavon Austin two years ago. In other words, Hill could line up in the backfield one play then slot receiver the next. Either way, arguably the fastest player in college football gives the Cowboys a dynamic lightning component to complement the thunderous running of senior Desmond Roland, who led all Big 12 backs in touchdowns last season.

5. Oklahoma (3): There might not be a Big 12 backfield with more upside than Oklahoma’s. Of course, with that upside comes little experience. Sophomore Keith Ford has the potential to be a punishing inside runner, but he had fumbling issues last season as a freshman that re-emerged during the spring. If he can’t hang onto the ball, he won’t play, no matter how tough he runs between the tackles. After getting passed by Ford on the depth chart last year, Alex Ross bounced back with an impressive spring. Early enrollee Dimitri Flowers was a revelation this spring as a powerful run-blocking fullback in the mold of Trey Millard. If fellow incoming freshman Joe Mixon lives up to his recruiting hype, the Sooners could feature their most potent rushing attack in years.

6. Iowa State (8): The most underrated one-two punch at running back in the league resides in Ames. According to first-year offensive coordinator Mark Mangino, Aaron Wimberly and DeVondrick Nealy were sharp all spring and will spearhead an offense that could surprise in 2014. The key will be keeping the slight but explosive Wimberly relatively healthy, which he never really was before and after rushing for 137 and 117 yards back to back against Tulsa and Texas. Wimberly, however, was 100 percent all spring, and it showed, as he racked up 68 yards on just nine touches in the spring game.

7. TCU (7): TCU had to make do without its three top backs in the spring due to injuries. Aaron Green suffered a broken collarbone, Kyle Hicks had a shoulder bruise, and returning leading rusher B.J. Catalon dealt with a nagging hamstring injury. All three, however, should be fine for the fall, and could form a reliable rotation at running back. Four-star recruit Shaun Nixon could help out, too, once he arrives on campus.

8. Texas Tech (6): The Red Raiders dropped two spots, largely because returning starter Kenny Williams played outside linebacker all spring and could remain there for good. But even if Williams becomes a full-time linebacker, Tech still could be solid at running back with veteran DeAndre Washington, sophomore Quinton White and incoming four-star freshman Justin Stockton, whom the Texas Tech coaching staff is very high on. Head coach and offensive play-caller Kliff Kingsbury wouldn’t have given Williams the go-ahead to move to defense if he didn’t feel optimistic about what remained in the backfield.

9. Kansas (9): Though they come in ninth here, running back could be a position of strength for the Jayhawks next season. Brandon Bourbon, the favorite to start, rushed for 96 yards on 12 carries in the spring game, but Taylor Cox (63 yards on 15 carries) and Darrian Miller (50 yards on seven carries) had nice outings, as well. The Jayhawks also will welcome De’Andre Mann, the nation’s fifth-best juco running back, in the summer, as well as four-star freshmen Traevohn Wrench and Corey Avery. Until they start winning more games, it’s difficult to give the Jayhawks the benefit of the doubt in these position rankings. But with this collection of runners, they might not miss All-Big 12 performer James Sims as much as first thought.

10. Kansas State (10): The spring brought little clarity about who John Hubert’s primary replacement will be. Jarvis Leverett and Charles Jones both ran hard in K-State’s spring game, though neither broke a run for longer than 11 yards. Meanwhile, DeMarcus Robinson, who has the most experience of the three, sat out the scrimmage with an injury. As a result, incoming freshman Dalvin Warmack, who rushed for 4,500 yards and 70 touchdowns while averaging almost 9 yards per carry his final two years in high school, will have an opportunity to be a factor once he joins the team this summer.
The Dallas Cowboys of the 1990s captured three Super Bowls on the backs of their triplets. Running back Emmitt Smith churned out yardage between the tackles. Wide receiver Michael Irvin hauled in receptions downfield. And quarterback Troy Aikman captained the unstoppable attack.

Like with the Cowboys, big-time triplets usually translate to big-time offense. And the Big 12 over the years has showcased several notable ones. Oklahoma’s Jason White, Adrian Peterson and Mark Clayton in 2004. Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden, Joseph Randle and Justin Blackmon in 2011. West Virginia’s Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey in 2012. Even last season, Baylor boasted one of the best triplets in the country in Bryce Petty, Lache Seastrunk and Antwan Goodley.

So which Big 12 teams will feature the most prolific offensive triplets in 2014? We rank them below:

1. Baylor

QB Bryce Petty, RB Shock Linwood, WR Antwan Goodley

The Bears remain atop this list, even with Seastrunk bolting early for the NFL draft. Despite being Baylor’s third-string running back last season, Linwood still finished sixth in the Big 12 in rushing and shined as the featured back while Seastrunk and Glasco Martin were injured. After totaling 46 touchdowns throwing and rushing, Petty should be even better in his second season as a starter. Goodley is an All-American-caliber wideout.

2. Oklahoma

QB Trevor Knight, RB Keith Ford, WR Sterling Shepard

Knight finally live up to his preseason billing with a sparkling Sugar Bowl performance against Alabama. Knight has the talent and potential to be one of the best dual-threat QBs in the country. Ford was one of the top running back recruits in 2013, and would have played more as a freshman had the Sooners not also had four senior running backs on the roster. Shepard has been a dependable starter the last two seasons, and he already has 96 career receptions going into his junior season. He seems ready to take over for Jalen Saunders as the go-to receiver.

3. Texas Tech

QB Davis Webb, RB Kenny Williams, WR Jakeem Grant

Webb broke out with a tremendous performance in the National University Holiday Bowl, throwing for 403 yards and four touchdowns in an upset of Arizona State. He had his moments during the regular season, too, and could be in for a monster sophomore campaign in Kliff Kingsbury’s air-it-out offense. Williams is a solid pass-catching running back out of the backfield, and he led the Red Raiders with 497 rushing yards and eight touchdowns last season. Williams has been taking first-team snaps at outside linebacker this spring, so he could wind up deferring carries to DeAndre Washington, who has been a capable backup. Grant is electric with the ball, burning Arizona State with a pair of touchdown catches. Grant was sixth in the Big 12 last season in receiving, and with Jace Amaro and Eric Ward gone, should take on an expanded role offensively.

4. Texas

QB David Ash, RB Malcolm Brown, WR Jaxon Shipley

The possibilities of this threesome hinges heavily on the health of Ash, who missed virtually all of the 2013 season with concussion issues. Ash is back with the team this spring, and he has had moments before of performing at a high level. After Johnathan Gray’s Achilles injury, Brown took over as the starting running back and performed admirably, rushing for more than 100 yards in each of Texas’ final three games. Shipley has sure hands, is a precise route runner and is capable of catching 70-plus passes in the right quarterback situation.

5. Kansas State

QB Jake Waters, RB DeMarcus Robinson, WR Tyler Lockett

The Wildcats would be ranked second here if John Hubert had another season of eligibility. But running back is a major question, with no back on the roster holding much experience. Robinson might be the favorite to win the job, but he’ll have to fend off Jarvis Leverett and incoming freshman Dalvin Warmack. Lockett is the best receiver in the Big 12 and one of the best in the country. Waters improved dramatically in his first season as the starter in 2013. If a running back emerges, the Wildcats could surge up this list.

6. Iowa State

QB Grant Rohach, RB Aaron Wimberly, WR Quenton Bundrage

Rohach first must win the starting quarterback derby this spring over Sam B. Richardson. But he played well down the stretch while leading Iowa State to a pair of wins to finish last year. Wimberly was banged up for much of last season, but he can be dynamic when healthy. Bundrage was third in the Big 12 in receiving touchdowns in 2013, and with a little more consistency, could be an all-league receiver. This could be the best triplet combination coach Paul Rhoads has enjoyed in Ames.

7. Oklahoma State

QB J.W. Walsh, RB Desmond Roland, WR Jhajuan Seales

Walsh was fifth in college football in Adjusted Total QBR as a redshirt freshman, but he took a step back as a sophomore and eventually lost the starting gig back to Clint Chelf. If he plays like he did as a freshman, Walsh could be one of the five-best QBs in the league. If he performs like his sophomore season, he could lose the job again. Roland is a touchdown machine and is as good as any back in the league in short-yardage situations. Seales could be on the verge of breaking out in a big way after starting as a freshman.

8. West Virginia

QB Clint Trickett, RB Dreamius Smith, WR Kevin White

The Mountaineers have plenty of weapons, but they will only score more points with more consistent QB play. Trickett tops the projected depth chart for now, but he’ll have to outperform Paul Millard, Skyler Howard and William Crest to stick there. Smith was very impressive at times last season backing up Charles Sims. He’ll get the first crack at starting, but Pittsburgh transfer Rushel Shell will be looming if Smith sputters. White gets the nod as the No. 1 wideout, but Daikiel Shorts and Mario Alford are not far behind as part of a deep and balanced wide receiving corps.

9. TCU

QB Trevone Boykin, RB B.J. Catalon, WR Josh Doctson

Boykin is back at quarterback again after splitting time at receiver the last two seasons. Boykin struggled as the starting QB last season but got little help from his offensive line or receivers. Reports are that he has been sharp this spring in the new Doug Meacham/Sonny Cumbie offense. Catalon is a solid cog at running back, and he averaged 5.3 yards per carry despite playing in an anemic attack last year. Brandon Carter was supposed to be the No. 1 receiver last season -- and still could be in 2014 -- but he wasn’t reliable on or off the field. In Carter’s stead, Doctson surfaced after transferring in from Wyoming, and led the Horned Frogs with 36 receptions and 440 receiving yards.

10. Kansas

QB Jake Heaps, RB Brandon Bourbon, WR Nick Harwell

Harwell should give Kansas what it hasn’t had in a long time -- a go-to receiver. Harwell was the nation’s second-leading receiver in 2011 at Miami (Ohio), and he should give the Kansas offense a much needed shot in the arm. Heaps lost time to freshman Montell Cozart last fall, but he has reasserted himself this spring amid a three-way competition with Cozart and UCLA transfer T.J. Millweard. Bourbon is battling Taylor Cox and Darrian Miller to see who replaces All-Big 12 running back James Sims.
In 2013, Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty was the overwhelming pick as Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year after leading the conference in passing while guiding the Bears to their first Big 12 championship.

As a result, Petty will go into his senior season as the clear-cut favorite to repeat.

But is there anyone else in the league capable of threatening his reign?

SportsNation

Who is the biggest threat to stopping Baylor QB Bryce Petty from repeating as Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year?

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    12%
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    35%
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    18%
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    23%
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    12%

Discuss (Total votes: 6,320)

There might be, including a couple of budding young quarterbacks, a tough veteran runner and one of the best playmaking wide receivers in the country.

That receiver -- Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett -- could become Petty’s biggest challenger, especially if the Wildcats emerge as contenders for the Big 12 title. Despite missing two games because of injury, Lockett finished third in the conference in receiving yards (1,262) and receptions (81) last season. He led the league in receiving yards per game and became virtually uncoverable late in the season, when quarterback Jake Waters also found his passing stride. Lockett torched Oklahoma for 278 receiving yards and three touchdowns, then hauled in another three touchdowns two games later in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against Michigan.

Lockett, however, isn’t the only player who could push for the award, especially if quarterbacks Trevor Knight and Davis Webb build on the way they played at the end of their freshman seasons.

In the Allstate Sugar Bowl, Knight shredded two-time defending national champ Alabama while leading Oklahoma to a stunning 45-31 victory. Knight threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns and finally performed the way the Sooners thought he would when he beat out favorite Blake Bell for the starting job before the season.

Webb was just as impressive in Texas Tech's victory over double-digit favorite Arizona State in the National University Holiday Bowl. Webb completed 28 of 41 passes and threw for four touchdowns, tying a Holiday Bowl record. He finished with the league’s third-best Adjusted QBR behind Petty and second-team All-Big 12 performer Clint Chelf.

The league’s top five rushers from last season are out of eligibility. But after taking over for injured starter Johnathan Gray, Texas' Malcolm Brown showed he could be a reliable workhorse running back able to move the chains. In his final three games last season, Brown rushed for 128, 131 and 130 yards. With Gray’s health in question as he attempts to return from a ruptured Achilles' tendon, Brown could open the 2014 season as the primary back again.

In addition to Petty, Baylor has two other big-time playmakers coming back in receiver Antwan Goodley, who led the Big 12 in receiving touchdowns last season with 13, and running back Shock Linwood, who was sixth in the Big 12 in rushing in 2013 with 881 yards despite being Baylor’s third-team running back.

There are several dark horses to watch as well, including Gray, Oklahoma running back Keith Ford and West Virginia running back Rushel Shell.

But we put the question to you via a poll: Who is the biggest threat to Petty repeating as Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year?

Spring preview capsules: Big 12

February, 24, 2014
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Spring football is rapidly approaching.

Here's a team-by-team look at what to watch in the Big 12 this spring:

Baylor

Spring start: Feb. 28

Spring game: April 5

What to watch: Who will replace Lache Seastrunk? The Bears' running back was the engine that helped keep the Baylor offense balanced and defenses honest. Shock Linwood will step in, but is he ready to handle the burden of keeping the offense balanced? . . . Baylor, the 2013 regular-season champion, has to find key replacements on a defense that is losing half of its starters. But several second-teamers -- including Jamal Palmer, Shawn Oakman, Andrew Billings and Orion Stewart -- are poised to fill the void . . . The Bears need to replace guard Cyril Richardson along the offensive line. Several candidates, including junior college transfer Jarell Broxton, will battle for the job. Baylor has arguably the league's best group of skill position players, but that will mean nothing if its offensive line takes a step backward.

Iowa State

Spring start: March 10

Spring game: April 12

What to watch: New offensive coordinator Mark Mangino arrives in Ames to bring more points and creativity to the Cyclones’ offense. The spring is the first opportunity for Mangino to get a feel for the playmakers and the players to get a feel for Mangino’s expectations . . . The quarterback competition is another thing to keep an eye on. Grant Rohach ended the season as the starter, but Sam B. Richardson could take his job back with a strong spring. And there are other young quarterbacks on campus who could insert themselves into the mix . . . Defensively, the Cyclones need to replace linebacker Jeremiah George and safety Jacques Washington, who finished 1-2 in tackles in the Big 12 in 2013 and finished their careers with 59 career starts combined. Iowa State seems to always have quality linebackers, so finding a replacement for Washington could be the defense’s top priority in the spring.

Kansas

Spring start: March 4

Spring game: April 12

What to watch: Shuffling the offensive coaching staff has been the theme of the offseason. New offensive coordinator John Reagan, who was a KU assistant from 2005 to 2009, returns to the Jayhawks after running Rice’s offense last season. The spring is Reagan’s first chance to identify the playmakers who will be the foundation of his offense this fall. Expect wide-open competition across the board after KU finished 115th in the FBS in points scored ... The quarterback position will grab the headlines, with T.J. Millweard joining the competition with Jake Heaps and Montell Cozart, who each started games in 2013. Millweard transferred to KU from UCLA before the 2013 season.

Kansas State

Spring start: April 2

Spring game: April 26

What to watch: Finding John Hubert’s replacement sits high on the Wildcats’ priority list. The former running back carried the ground attack for the past three seasons, and there’s no clear favorite to step into his shoes. Will someone step up during spring football? . . . What will happen with quarterback Daniel Sams? The Wildcats have a proven Big 12 playmaker in Sams, a junior, and another proven quarterback in Jake Waters. Sams is an exceptional open-field runner who started two games in 2013, but look for Kansas State to start exploring ways to have both on the field together this spring . . . Replacing Ty Zimmerman’s playmaking and leadership on defense is another key this spring. The defense has to replace several starters in the secondary and at linebacker. Keep an eye on junior college defensive back Danzel McDaniel, who has the versatility to step in at several different spots.

Oklahoma

Spring start: March 8

Spring game: April 12

What to watch: With Trevor Knight poised to start at quarterback in 2014, Blake Bell moves to tight end after starting eight games under center in 2013. Bell’s transition to tight end will be the talk of the spring, with the senior’s commitment to the program and OU's need for help at the position . . . The battle to be the starting running back is another storyline, with sophomores Keith Ford and Alex Ross hoping to make a statement this spring before ESPN 300 running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine arrive in the summer. Ford forced his way into the lineup as a freshman before an injury slowed him . . . The Sooners will be looking to shore up the secondary after the departure of All-Big 12 cornerback Aaron Colvin and starting safety Gabe Lynn. Sophomore Stanvon Taylor could be set to replace Colvin, while sophomores Hatari Byrd and Ahmad Thomas will battle to replace Lynn.

Oklahoma State

Spring start: March 10

Final spring practice: April 5

What to watch: Incoming freshman Mason Rudolph enrolled early to participate in spring football with the hope of replacing quarterback Clint Chelf. J.W. Walsh has won a lot of games in a Cowboys uniform, but will have to hold off stern competition to earn the starting spot as a junior . . . The Cowboys lose seven seniors off one of their best defenses in recent memory. The overall quality might be upgraded, but spring football will be the first chance to see if those talented yet inexperienced defenders are ready to step into the fire. Defensive end Jimmy Bean, linebacker Ryan Simmons and cornerback Kevin Peterson could emerge as the foundation of the defense . . . Who will step up at receiver? The Cowboys lose three of their top four receivers, with Jhajuan Seales as the lone returnee. But several youngsters appear poised to step in, including sophomore Marcell Ateman and redshirt freshman Ra'Shaad Samples.

TCU

Spring start: March 1

Final spring practice: April 5

What to watch: Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie have arrived to take over as co-offensive coordinators at TCU. The Horned Frogs need a jump start and could get it from the “Air Raid”-style offense the duo will bring to the table. This spring will be an important first step in improving the offense . . . Who will be the quarterback? Trevone Boykin started several games in 2013 but might actually be TCU’s top receiver. Tyler Matthews, a redshirt freshman, also saw time under center, but he faces stiff competition. Don’t expect the battle to end until fall camp . . . TCU needs someone to step up in the secondary, with Jason Verrett NFL-bound after spending the past two seasons as one of the Big 12’s top coverage cornerbacks. Ranthony Texada and Travoskey Garrett are among several young defensive backs who could try to fill the void.

Texas

Spring start: March 18

Spring game: April 19

What to watch: David Ash's health will be one of the main storylines of Texas’ first spring under coach Charlie Strong. Ash has the talent to be a key piece of the puzzle, but head injuries are always tough to overcome. If Ash is 100 percent healthy, the Longhorns will feel better about the overall status at quarterback . . . Strong has talked of instilling a tough mindset in Austin since he arrived in January, and spring football will be the first real taste of what the Longhorns’ new coach is trying to bring to the program . . . Where are the playmakers? Texas has a talent-laden roster, but didn’t have the exceptional talent who could consistently change games. This spring gives several returning skill players, including receiver Jaxon Shipley and all-purpose standout Daje Johnson, the chance to become the foundation of the offense in 2014.

Texas Tech

Spring start: March 5

Spring game: April 12

What to watch: Davis Webb's health is the No. 1 priority for the Red Raiders, who have seen three quarterbacks leave the program since the beginning of the 2013 season. Coach Kliff Kingsbury could have the toughest job of the spring as he tries to manage the lack of quarterbacks with the desire to have a productive spring for the roster as a whole . . . The Red Raiders have some consistency among the defensive coaching staff, meaning they could improve in 2014 despite losing multiple starters, including defensive tackle Kerry Hyder, linebacker Will Smith and safety Tre' Porter. Tech could start seeing dividends of that continuity . . . The Red Raiders have to replace Jace Amaro and Eric Ward, who combined to catch 189 passes for 2,299 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. Jakeem Grant and Bradley Marquez made a bunch of plays in 2013 and Devin Lauderdale, a junior college transfer and early enrollee, will get the chance to show why he had Texas Tech fans buzzing when he initially signed in February 2013.

West Virginia

Spring start: March 2

Spring game: April 12

What to watch: Finding a quarterback is critical for the Mountaineers, who have talent at the skill positions but won’t transform into an explosive offense without efficient quarterback play. Clint Trickett is recovering from shoulder surgery, meaning Paul Millard, junior college transfer Skyler Howard and former receiver Logan Moore will run the offense this spring . . . Tony Gibson takes over as WVU’s defensive coordinator after coaching the safeties in 2013. His promotion allows some continuity on the defense after former DC Keith Patterson left for Arizona State after the season . . . Replacing defensive tackle Shaq Rowell and defensive end Will Clarke, who started 56 combined career games for WVU, won’t be easy. The Mountaineers will lean heavily on veteran juniors Isaiah Bruce and Karl Joseph, who have started since their freshman seasons.

Big 12 pre-spring breakdown: RBs

February, 19, 2014
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As we wait for the start of spring ball, we're examining and ranking the positional situations of every team, continuing Wednesday with running backs. Some of these outlooks will look different after the spring. But here’s how they compare at the moment:

1. Texas: The three-headed monster of Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron gives Texas the best 1-2-3 punch in the league. Whether this group goes from good to great hinges on a healthy return for Gray, who is coming back from an Achilles injury and will sit out spring drills. Either way, this will be the backbone of Charlie Strong’s first offense.

[+] EnlargeShock Linwood
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsShock Linwood showed breakaway ability as a Baylor reserve in 2013.
2. Baylor: Shock Linwood takes over in the backfield after a dynamic freshman season in which he finished seventh in the league in rushing despite being a third-team running back. The competition for carries after Linwood will be interesting. Devin Chafin is the favorite to be Linwood’s wing man, but he could be pressed by Johnny Jefferson and/or incoming four-star freshman Terence Williams, who is already on campus.

3. Oklahoma: The potential of this running back crop has no bounds. But it will be young and inexperienced after seniors Brennan Clay, Roy Finch and Damien Williams (until he was kicked off the team) hoarded the carries last season. Keith Ford, who was the nation’s No. 3 running back recruit in the 2013 class, will take over the starting role. Joe Mixon, this year’s No. 6 RB recruit, won’t get to Norman until the summer, but he should supply the lightning to Ford’s thunder. Alex Ross, who was the nation’s No. 7 RB recruit in the 2012 class, rounds out a fearsome threesome with tremendous pedigree.

4. West Virginia: The Mountaineers lose All-Big 12 performer Charles Sims, but still claim a glut of capable rushers. Dreamius Smith and Wendell Smallwood thrived playing behind Sims last year. West Virginia also has Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie, its leading rushers from 2011 and 2012, respectively. (Buie is back after leaving school for a semester.) On top of all that, Pittsburgh transfer Rushel Shell figures to be in the mix. Shell was the No. 26 overall recruit in the country coming out of high school after becoming the all-time leading rusher in Pennsylvania high school history. If that weren’t enough, the gem of the incoming recruiting class, Donte Thomas-Williams, is also a running back. Suffice to say, the competition for carries will be fierce in the league’s deepest backfield.

5. Oklahoma State: Desmond Roland helped fuel Oklahoma State’s midseason turnaround after seizing a starting role. Roland was great in short yardage and led the Big 12 with 13 touchdowns, but he wasn’t a big-play runner, with an average of only 4.6 yards per carry (14th in the league). The Cowboys are banking that Rennie Childs can complement Roland as the breakaway back. Childs showed flashes as a true freshman. Roland and Childs can form a solid combo, but four-star freshman Devon Thomas, who is enrolled for the spring, should not be discounted, nor should Sione Palelei, who has the good hands that past Oklahoma State running backs also possessed.

6. Texas Tech: The returning trio of Kenny Williams, DeAndre Washington and Sadale Foster won’t do much damage between the tackles. All three, however, are excellent pass-catchers, making them supreme fits for Kliff Kingsbury’s spread attack. Together they combined for 82 receptions, and that number should go up in 2014 as quarterback Davis Webb settles in as a sophomore.

7. TCU: The Horned Frogs were a disaster offensively last year, but the potential at running back is a reason why TCU could be equipped for a bounce-back season. Aaron Green, Kyle Hicks and incoming freshman Shaun Nixon were all ESPN 300 recruits. That doesn’t include B.J. Catalon, either, who led the Frogs with 569 yards and six touchdowns last season. With a new regime making the play calls, there’s reason to believe this could become one of the better units in the league.

[+] EnlargeDalton Santos
David Purdy/Getty ImagesIf Aaron Wimberly can stay healthy, Iowa State has a potentially dynamic returning running back.
8. Iowa State: When healthy, Aaron Wimberly can be a game-breaker. He torched Texas for 137 yards as the Cyclones nearly pulled off a Thursday night upset. Wimberly, however, was never really healthy the rest of the season, and never had the same impact. After Wimberly, though, the Cyclones don’t have much returning firepower. Firepower, however, could be on the way. Oklahoma native Michael Warren went overlooked in recruiting, but he can fly; he rushed for more than 2,500 yards as a high school senior.

9. Kansas: The Jayhawks gradated their heart and soul in James Sims, who was an all-conference selection even though Kansas won only one Big 12 game. Tony Pierson returns as an electric playmaker, but he has never been a full-time running back, often flexing out as a receiver. It will be interesting to see who emerges in Sims’ shoes. Brandon Bourbon (191 yards) will have the first crack in the spring, but newcomers De'Andre Mann and Traevohn Wrench could vie for time once they arrive in the summer.

10. Kansas State: It’s difficult to believe K-State will be at the bottom here once the season starts, but running back is a major hole for the Wildcats going into the spring. That’s because longtime starter John Hubert is gone. Hubert, senior backup Robert Rose and QBs Jake Waters and Daniel Sams combined for 492 carries last season. Nobody else had more than five. Rising senior DeMarcus Robinson, who has only 11 career carries, will probably be atop the depth chart going into the spring. It’s also possible that Sams will get a look at running back with Waters having nailed down the full-time QB job. But the player to watch here is freshman Dalvin Warmack, who rushed for more than 4,500 yards and 70 touchdowns his final two seasons in Blue Springs, Mo. Warmack isn’t big at 5-foot-8 and 185 pounds. But his size fits the mold of past K-State running backs Hubert and Darren Sproles.
Immediately after the national championship game, colleague Mark Schlabach released his Way-Too-Early Top 25. In concert, below is our Way-Too-Early Big 12 power poll. This could change between now and the end of the spring. In fact, it probably will. But this is a first look at how the Big 12 teams stack up against one another for 2014:

1. Oklahoma Sooners

In the Allstate Sugar Bowl, freshman Trevor Knight finally played like the quarterback that had been drawing comparisons to Johnny Manziel behind Oklahoma’s closed practices. The Sooners lose some cornerstone players to graduation, notably running back Brennan Clay, center Gabe Ikard, receiver Jalen Saunders and cornerback Aaron Colvin. But with Knight and budding running back Keith Ford returning to man the backfield, and nine starters coming back defensively, including menacing outside linebacker Eric Striker, Oklahoma could be a favorite in every game next season -- and a force once again on the national stage.

2. Baylor Bears

Even with running back Lache Seastrunk going pro, the Bears return plenty of firepower offensively. Bryce Petty will be the reigning All-Big 12 quarterback, and Antwan Goodley will be coming off a monster junior season. Rising sophomore Shock Linwood showed he could shoulder the rushing load, too, when Seastrunk and Glasco Martin were banged up late in the season. The Bears, however, could take a step back defensively. Baylor, which got torched for 52 points in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, loses six starters there, including All-American safety Ahmad Dixon and All-Big 12 linebacker Eddie Lackey. Former blue-chip defensive tackle recruit Andrew Billings will need to step up and become more of a force. Even if the defense stumbles, Baylor should be capable of scoring enough points to win every game on its schedule, thanks to coach Art Briles being back on its sidelines.

3. Kansas State Wildcats

Along with Missouri, the Wildcats were the first two teams left out of Schlabach’s Top 25. But they make a compelling case for inclusion. Quarterback Jake Waters improved dramatically during the second half of the season, eventually squeezing Daniel Sams out of the QB rotation. Wideout Tyler Lockett could be a preseason All-American, after torching Texas, Oklahoma and Michigan for a combined 631 receiving yards and six touchdowns. The defense should be better, too, with sack artist Ryan Mueller back at end, and rising junior safety Dante Barnett set to take over for the outgoing Ty Zimmerman as leader of the secondary. The Wildcats will be tested early with national runner-up Auburn visiting Manhattan on Sept. 20. If K-State can win that game, the rest of the Big 12 will be on notice.

4. Texas Longhorns

During his introductory news conference on Monday, new Texas coach Charlie Strong said Mack Brown left him with a team that could win right away. Strong might be right. The Longhorns return eight starters off a defense that found its stride under interim coordinator Greg Robinson. Texas also brings back six starters offensively and its entire running back corps, including Malcolm Brown, who rushed for more than 100 yards in the Valero Alamo Bowl. A big part of Mack Brown’s downfall, however, was quarterback play, and that once again will be a huge question mark in Strong’s first season. David Ash sat out most of this season with concussion issues, making his football future tenuous. Tyrone Swoopes is athletic with a big arm but needs polish. The other option will be incoming freshman Jerrod Heard, who just led his high school team to a Texas state championship. If one of those three emerges, Strong could have Texas on the way back ahead of schedule.

5. Oklahoma State Cowboys

The Cowboys were 19 seconds away from playing in a BCS bowl game. But two losses to end the year soured what could have been a stellar season. Now, Oklahoma State must replace the bulk of its team, including quarterback Clint Chelf and seven starters defensively. Star slot receiver Josh Stewart is also reportedly mulling over leaving early, too. Either way, 2014 will be a retooling season for coach Mike Gundy, whose first order of business will be settling on a quarterback. J.W. Walsh, who started the first half of the season before losing the job back to Chelf, would have to be considered the favorite. But Gundy has shown before he’s not afraid of turning the keys of the offense to a true freshman, and the Cowboys have an intriguing freshman QB enrolling for the spring in Mason Rudolph, who threw 64 touchdown passes this fall as a high school senior in South Carolina. That could result in some growing pains for Oklahoma State, which opens the season against defending national champion Florida State. But if Rudolph proves to be the long-term answer at QB, it shouldn’t be more than a year before the Cowboys are contending in the Big 12 again.

6. Texas Tech Red Raiders

Texas Tech completely changed the tenor of its offseason with a dominating 37-23 win over Pac-12 South Division champ Arizona State in the National University Holiday Bowl. Finally healthy again, the Red Raiders showed they were better than a five-game losing streak to end the regular season indicated. Now, Tech returns eight starters offensively, including quarterback Davis Webb, who torched the Sun Devils and had several other encouraging moments as a true freshman. Tech has to replace most of its defense. But if Webb settles in at quarterback, the Red Raiders should be improved in coach Kliff Kingsbury’s second season in Lubbock.

7. TCU Horned Frogs

TCU was the 2013 preseason pick of many people to win the Big 12. Instead, injuries ravaged the roster, and the Horned Frogs failed to go to a bowl game for just second time with Gary Patterson as coach. Patterson shook up his offensive staff after the season, bringing in Houston’s Doug Meacham and Texas Tech’s Sonny Cumbie as co-coordinators to revamp TCU’s offensive attack. TCU should be stout again defensively, especially if 2012 Big 12 defensive freshman of the year Devonte Fields returns to form from a broken foot. But the key to a better season will be whether Meacham and Cumbie can squeeze more offense out of the Horned Frogs and find the answer at quarterback. The answer, however, might not be on campus yet. Trevone Boykin has 15 career QB starts, but is probably a better fit as a receiver. Meanwhile, TCU’s top incoming recruits, Foster Sawyer and Grayson Muehlstein, are both quarterbacks, and could factor into the wide-open competition.

8. Iowa State Cyclones

Even though Iowa State just finished in the bottom three of the Big 12 in points per game (24.8), yards per game (363), yards per play (4.82), rushing yards (143.8) and passing yards (219.2), the Cyclones return some offensive firepower. Tailback Aaron Wimberly was effective when healthy, and Quenton Bundrage flashed signs of a legit No. 1 receiver. The key will be QB, and whether Grant Rohach builds on his late-season surge. But with a proven offensive coordinator in Mark Mangino now on board, the Cyclones have the pieces to form one of the better offenses in the league next season.

9. West Virginia Mountaineers

The Mountaineers careened off the road late this season with back-to-back losses to Kansas and Iowa State. Now, the pressure is on coach Dana Holgorsen, who will have to win games to keep his job even though the 2014 schedule is brutal. Like so many other teams in the Big 12, West Virginia must find a solution at quarterback. Holgorsen has options. Clint Trickett, Paul Millard and Ford Childress are all back after getting at least two starts apiece last year. Junior-college transfer Skyler Howard will be enrolling early and joining the fray. Four-star recruit William Crest will be in the mix, too. Even if Holgorsen finds his answer at quarterback, a winning season won’t come easy. The Mountaineers have one of the toughest schedules in the country, beginning with the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game against Alabama in Atlanta.

10. Kansas Jayhawks

Kansas showed only modest improvement in Charlie Weis’ second season as head coach. This will be a key season for Weis as he attempts to rebuild the program. He desperately needs Montell Cozart to develop into the answer at quarterback. Cozart still has a ways to go with his passing, but he showed he could hurt defenses with his legs. Defensively, the Jayhawks bring back some solid players, notably linebackers Ben Goodman and Ben Heeney and safety Isaiah Johnson. But Kansas will take the next step only if Cozart -- or somebody else -- emerges at quarterback.

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 7

October, 14, 2013
10/14/13
9:00
AM ET
After a Red River upset, the power rankings have a new top two:

1. Baylor (5-0, 2-0 Big 12, last week 2): Kansas State coach Bill Snyder had the right game plan to slow Baylor. Run the ball, chew up clock, bottle up Lache Seastrunk, take away the quick passing attack and hope you can somehow survive Baylor’s vertical speed downfield. But that’s what makes the Bears so prolific. Take away the short stuff, and Bryce Petty will beat you deep with Tevin Reese & Co. Back off, and Baylor will tear you apart with quick passes and a heavy dose of Seastrunk with a side of Glasco Martin. K-State proved the Bears could be slowed. But can they be stopped?

2. Texas Tech (6-0, 3-0 Big 12, last week 3): In 2012, West Virginia was 5-0 when it traveled the 1,500 miles to Lubbock, Texas, where its season began to go the wrong direction. Can the Red Raiders avoid a similar fate against a likewise backloaded schedule? There’s reason to believe Tech is better equipped to do so than last year's Mountaineers. At the moment, the Red Raiders’ balanced offense claims four of the top eight receivers in the Big 12, while the defense has been tremendous at getting off the field on third down. The next two games, on the road at West Virginia and Oklahoma, will determine whether Tech is a contender or pretender. If the Tech quarterbacks keep spreading the ball around and the defense continues to buck up in key situations, it very well might be the former.

3. Texas (4-2, 3-0 Big 12, last week 5): The 1989 Longhorns and 1996 Sooners also pulled off big upsets in the Red River Rivalry. Both teams, however, went just 2-4 the rest of the season. The biggest question for Texas coming off its most impressive victory in four years is whether it can keep it going. At 3-0 in the Big 12 standings, the Longhorns have plenty to play for. If Texas keeps running its offense through running backs Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown and its veteran offensive line, and defensive ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed keep wreaking havoc, it’s not unthinkable that Texas could be playing for the Big 12 title in Waco, Texas, on Dec. 7.

4. Oklahoma (5-1, 2-1 Big 12, last week 1): Quarterback Blake Bell was completely off in his first Red River start, but he didn’t get a lot of help from Josh Heupel, either. The offensive coordinator kept Oklahoma’s designed quarterback running plays that had been so effective on the shelf even though Texas had been vulnerable all year to stopping the quarterback run game. While Texas finally elected to ride Gray in the running game, the Sooners are the ones that now seem confused about who to ride. Is it Brennan Clay? Damien Williams? True freshman Keith Ford? The good news is that Bob Stoops is 14-0 the game after Texas, with an average winning margin of 27 points; OU visits Kansas on Saturday, too. But if the Sooners don’t figure out who they are offensively soon, they could be staring down yet another second-half swoon.

5. Oklahoma State (4-1, 1-1 Big 12, last week 4): An interesting question to think about: Had he not transferred to Illinois, would Wes Lunt be Oklahoma State’s starting quarterback this weekend against TCU? My hunch is he would. Spotty downfield passing is restricting the potential of this Cowboys offense, which still has the playmakers at receiver to form the the basis of a prolific attack. Problem is, J.W. Walsh can’t consistently get them the ball. And now the best pass defense in the conference comes to town. If the Cowboys sputter again, they’ll have to give serious thought to giving Clint Chelf another shot to open up an offense that has looked shockingly mediocre against Big 12 competition.

6. TCU (3-3, 1-2 Big 12, last week 6): Announced attendance of Saturday’s home game against Kansas was almost 42,000. But based on photos taken of the stands, it looked like there was less than half that. As one of the preseason favorites, the Horned Frogs carried plenty of hype into the season. But after three early-season losses, apparently the excitement surrounding the program for this season has completely evaporated. It might be too soon, however, to give up on TCU. Nobody has played a tougher schedule thus far. And few teams have been bit harder by the injury bug. If the Frogs can pull off the upset in Stillwater, Okla., they could fight their way back into the Big 12 race, especially if quarterback Casey Pachall can return to the field from a broken forearm before month’s end.

7. West Virginia (3-3, 1-2 Big 12, last week 7): The West Virginia defense has had a week to recover from the TKO it suffered in Waco. No matter who Dana Holgorsen goes with at quarterback this week, the Mountaineers’ best chance of getting bowl eligible is with solid defense. But is this a solid defense? It’s hard to tell. The Mountaineers have had two good defensive performances (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State) and two bad ones (Maryland, Baylor). What West Virginia does against Texas Tech this weekend will be revealing about where this defense really is.

8. Kansas State (2-4, 0-3 Big 12, last week 8): The Wildcats have been in every game, and yet don’t have much to show from it. This still could be a bowl team, however. Getting starting receivers Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson back from injury after the open week would be a boost. But the real key will be limiting turnovers. The Wildcats are last in the Big 12 in turnover margin, a year after they led the conference in the category. If quarterback Daniel Sams can take better care of the ball, K-State is good enough and well coached enough to get to six wins despite the tough start.

9. Iowa State (1-4, 0-2 Big 12, last week 9): With a bounce here or there, the Cyclones could easily be 2-0 in the conference. This young team is making plays, but it still has to figure out how to win games in the fourth quarter. Now, the Cyclones find themselves in a tough spot this week. They face a Baylor offense looking to prove it’s better than it showed over the weekend. The Bears also haven’t forgotten about losing in Ames, Iowa, last year. If Iowa State is still in the game at halftime, that will be a victory in and of itself.

10. Kansas (2-3, 0-2 Big 12, last week 10): You have to give it up to the Jayhawks for showing some fight at TCU. The early start, the paltry crowd, the loss of running back Tony Pierson -- there were many reasons for Kansas to mail it in. Instead, the Jayhawks took TCU to the brink and had the ball three different times in the fourth quarter with a chance to tie the game. The Jayhawks might not win a Big 12 game this season, but if they keep scrapping and clawing like they did Saturday, they'll have more chances.

Big 12 mailbag

October, 4, 2013
10/04/13
4:00
PM ET
In today’s mailbag, Cyclones are feeling heartbroken, Mountaineers are feeling confident and I am called an idiot.

To the 'bag:

Matt in Seattle writes: It’s a disgrace what the Big 12 refs did to Iowa State. Please talk about it on the blog.

Jake Trotter: I have a feeling we’re going to be discussing it plenty.


Timothy in Ames writes:What did you make of the call at the end last night?

Jake Trotter: Looked like a fumble to me.


Cade in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, writes: After watching the Iowa State-Texas game, I am nothing but frustrated. I live in Romania and for the past two years I've stayed up numerous times till 6 in the morning to watch my beloved ISU football and basketball, only to be let down in the last minute of the game. This loss is heartbreaking, but how much will this loss affect the rest of ISU's season? Is there any hope for resurrection later this season? Or should I get my rest and not mind to watch any more games that are in the evening? I'll probably watch them anyways because that’s what ISU fans do, but it would be nice to hear your opinion.

Jake Trotter: Between last night’s game, the overtime losses to Kansas in basketball and the way Ohio State knocked the Cyclones out of the NCAA tournament, it’s been a rough year for Iowa State fans. I wouldn’t give up on this team, though. The offense is finding a groove, and I think the Cyclones finally have their QB in Sam Richardson, who was marvelous against Texas. A bowl game is probably a longshot, but with so many inexperienced players, this team should get better every game – as long as they can put what happened last Thursday night behind them.


Schawki in Anderson, S.C., writes:Hey, man. Hawkeye fan here who generally pays very little attention to the Cyclones. I watched the Texas game, and that was gross! I actually found myself actually cheering for the 'Clones simply because that was the worst case of officials helping a team win that I have ever witnessed in all my years of watching college football.

Jake Trotter: I’m glad this forum could bring Hawkeyes and Cyclones together in perfect harmony.


Andy in Austin writes: Who suspends Mike Davisfirst? The Big 12 or UT? His cheap shot was garbage. Do you believe either organization will make an example of him?

Jake Trotter: I doubt either suspends him. The precedent is not strong for the conference to suspend players for nontargeting hits. OU offensive tackle Tyrus Thompson punched TCU’s Stansly Maponga in the head last year after Maponga was on the ground and the ball had left their vicinity. Nothing happened. I doubt anything will happen here, either, even though it was a pretty sorry cheap shot that could have seriously injured Deon Broomfield.


Caleb Weaver in Lubbock, Texas, writes: As a Tech student, I'm loving the publicity and hype that Kliff Kingsbury has brought back to Lubbock. The game atmospheres have been crazy so far. Before the season, I was expecting, best-case scenario, eight wins. Tech definitely has exceeded a lot of expectations, and is much further in the rebuilding process than what I was expecting. How shocked are you that Texas Tech is where it is in the conference, and are you even more shocked that it is their defense that has taken them there?

Jake Trotter: I’m not shocked, but I am surprised. I didn’t think Tech would emerge into the top tier of the conference with so many questions at quarterback. But the defense has been stout, and the skill guys have made plays for the freshman QBs. At this point, anything less than a top-four finish in the league would be a bit disappointing.


Vivek in San Diego writes: I am a Texas Tech alum, and I keep hearing Kliff's name (and Kevin Sumlin's name) in USC's search for a coach here. Just when I thought there is stability and standards being maintained in the coaching staff, should I start worrying about Kliff leaving the program? What are the chances of him getting offers from big programs (USC or Texas)?

Jake Trotter: There’s always a chance, but I think Kingsbury is where he wants to be. Mike Gundy always called the Oklahoma State gig his New York Yankees job because it was his alma mater. I think Kingsbury feels similarly about being at Texas Tech.


Bob in Fort Worth, Texas, writes: As a former Red Raider I wanted to add a sane perspective on the whole Baylor thing. I have grown a massive amount of respect from what they have done thus far. I don’t think they are a lock to win the Big 12 or anything, but you cannot help but be impressed by their offensive performances no matter who they were against. Every game was out of reach in the first half by. That’s something we are not able to say. One of the most frustrating things about being a Red Raider is having to listen to our fans say stupid stuff about football.

Jake Trotter: A Red Raider complimenting Baylor? What’s next, a Big 12 official making a controversial call against Texas?


Josh in Dallas writes: Give your odds on the following coaches coming to the great state of Texas: Will Muschamp, Charlie Strong, Nick Saban, David Shaw.

Jake Trotter: The ship seems to have sailed on Muschamp; don’t see Saban leaving Alabama, unless Texas makes him a ridiculous financial offer. Strong and Shaw seem the most likely of the four.


Josh in Wichita, Kan., writes: Please make my day and give me a very long list of reasons why Texas wouldn't be interested in John Currie.

Jake Trotter: My impression is that Texas would want to make a splashier hire to replace DeLoss Dodds. But Currie has done a tremendous job at K-State. Last academic year, the Wildcats captured Big 12 titles in football, men's basketball and baseball. In the BCS era, only Stanford (1999-2000), Texas (2005-06) and Louisville (2012-13) accomplished the same feat.


Rob in West Chester, Pa., writes: Why is everyone so hyped over Clint Trickett and saying WV may have found their QB? He was terrible and a lot of his throws were ridiculous. The Mountaineers should go back to Paul Millard. WV's QB problem still exists. This will show over the next couple weeks.

Jake Trotter: I agree that West Virginia’s QB problem still exists. But I completely disagree that Trickett played terrible. He gave the offense something it desperately needed – a spark. Ford Childress is the QB of the future in Morgantown. But at this moment, Trickett gives West Virginia the best chance to win.


Nick in Frisco, Texas, writes:I'm not sure what to think of this WVU defense. They played OU well, though Bell wasn't there really. They didn't look good against Maryland, but then they looked decent to good against Oklahoma State. Is this defense for real or not?

Jake Trotter: Honestly, I think we’ll find out for sure this weekend. The Maryland game wasn’t as bad as it seemed because of all the offensive turnovers. But then the Sooners weren’t playing Blake Bell yet when the Mountaineers went to Norman. If West Virginia keeps Baylor under 40, we can go ahead and proclaim this to be a solid defense. If the Mountaineers give up 70, well, it was all smoke and mirrors.


Patrick in Charleston, S.C., writes:With the way WVU's defense has been playing, if the offense keeps improving, is it crazy to think of WVU hanging around and possibly beating Baylor in Waco?

Jake Trotter: I don’t see this West Virginia offense scoring with Baylor.


Bit in Knoxville, Tenn., writes:With the win over Oklahoma State, WVU has placed themselves firmly in the Big 12 race. Can they remain there? We'll find out more after the Baylor game next week. I like WVU's chances with this defense.

Jake Trotter: I wouldn’t put them firmly in the race. But I would if they somehow knocked off Baylor this weekend.


Charlie Bear in Panama City, Fla., writes: Hey guys, first of all, I love the work you guys are doing on the Big 12 blog this year. You have brought a much-needed balance to our conference coverage. What would it take for Baylor to get a shot at the BCS title this year? I think we can all agree that Baylor going undefeated this year isn't impossible; though it is unlikely. So, I guess what I am asking is this: What apocalyptic events would have to transpire in the SEC, ACC, and the Pac-12 for an undefeated or one-loss Baylor to be given a title shot? Thanks again for doing what you do – you keep office drones like me sane.

Jake Trotter: No problem, Charlie. Baylor’s only chance is to go undefeated. And the Bears would probably need Ohio State, Oregon, Stanford, Clemson and Florida State to all lose, too, unless the SEC ate its own.


Kurt Vonnecat in San Lorenzo, Ecuador, writes:In a recent mailbag you stated, "Kansas State is coming off its best season in school history..." I beg to differ. It was one of the best, but actually the 1997 season would have to be the best. K-State went 11-1, won the Fiesta Bowl and its lone loss was to Nebraska in Lincoln. Don't you agree ’97 was best?

Jake Trotter: What about 1998? The 'Cats were three points away from playing for the national title. I think you could argue the ’97, ’98 or ’12 seasons as being the best in K-State history.


Gentry in Las Vegas writes: With the OU D getting better, does Mike Stoops stay as defensive coordinator or does he entertain head-coaching jobs?

Jake Trotter: I think the possibility is there Mike could be Bob’s heir apparent in Norman, especially if the OU defenses get back to the level they were at early in the Stoops era.


Hollis Bartholomew in the Dallas area writes: I know Keith Fordis a true freshman and all, but he's shown that he's a physical running back and gives his all every play that he's been in. So what I don't understand is why he didn't get in the game on offense at all against a physical Notre Dame team. Not complaining, but he could've done very well, in my opinion. Do you agree?

Jake Trotter: In that setting, Bob Stoops wanted his veterans on the field. Ford will get more and more work as the season goes on – the Sooners want him ready to step into the starting role in 2014.


Ohn Thomas in DeBary, Fla., writes: Welcome aboard. I enjoy reading your insight of the Big 12. Regarding future conference realignment, why isn't there more consideration given to UCF? I'm a Tech-san living in Florida; I have seen UCF grow all of their programs. The central Florida area would be a great road trip and would return the favor to the SEC and A&M by opening up Florida to the Big 12. UCF has a student population of almost 50,000 and as the competition has improved, the fan support has grown.

Jake Trotter: If the Big 12 ever committed to expansion and a current BCS conference school were not available, both UCF and South Florida would be interesting options, for all the reasons you point out. The only drawback would be travel. Lubbock, Texas, is 1,488 miles from Orlando, Florida. The football programs could overcome that. But for the other sports, it would be taxing.


John Barnard in Dallas writes:I've noticed that you continually talk about the Big 12 imploding, as if the conference was somehow on its last legs. I would have thought that someone who covers the Big 12 would be a little better informed about the facts. In 2011, the Big 12 members agreed to sign their first-tier media rights over to the conference, essentially locking all the members in from leaving. What evidence do you have that the Big 12 is somehow a faltering conference that is near falling apart?

Jake Trotter: I’ve never suggested that the Big 12 is on the verge of imploding. But if there’s anything to be learned from the past three years, it’s that contracts can always be circumvented in college sports.


Mary in Prairie Village, Kan., writes:You really think the Big 12 is only the fourth-best conference? You're an idiot. Stop insulting us with your lack of intelligence!

Jake Trotter: My wife said the exact same thing to me this morning, except the discussion wasn't centered on conference rankings in college football.

Hackenberg, Olsen earn UA Game starts

January, 3, 2013
1/03/13
4:35
PM ET

Black Team offense

Quarterback: Christian Hackenberg (Penn State)

Running back: Alvin Kamara

Receiver: Alvin Bailey (Florida), Robert Foster (Alabama), Damore'ea Stringfellow (Washington)

Tight end: O.J. Howard (Alabama)

Offensive tackle: Darius James (Texas), Denver Kirkland

Offensive guard: Grant Hill (Alabama), Joas Aguilar (Texas A&M)

Center: Hunter Bivin (Notre Dame)

Captains: Kelvin Taylor, Hunter Bivin, Robert Nkemdiche, Ben Boulware

Black Team defense

Defensive end: Robert Nkemdiche, Elijah Daniel

Defensive tackle: Greg Gilgmore (LSU), Kennedy Tulimasealii (Hawaii)

Inside linebacker: Ben Boulware (Clemson)

Outside linebacker: Alex Anzalone (Notre Dame), Matthew Thomas

Safety: Keanu Neal (Florida), Leon McQuay III

Cornerback: Vernon Hargreaves III (Florida), Tarean Folston (Notre Dame)

Black Team special teams

Long snapper: Tyler Kluver (Iowa)

Kicker/punter: Sean Covington (UCLA)

White Team offense

Quarterback: Kevin Olsen (Miami)

Running back: Keith Ford (Oklahoma)

Receiver: Laquon Treadwell, Ryan Green (Florida State), Jalin Marshall (Ohio State)

Tight end: Hunter Henry (Arkansas)

Offensive tackle: Derwin Gray (Maryland), Dorian Johnson (Pittsburgh)

Offensive guard: Patrick Kugler (Michigan), David Dawson (Michigan)

Center: Scott Quessenberry (UCLA)

White Team defense

Defensive end: Carl Lawson (Auburn), Joey Bosa (Ohio State)

Defensive tackle: Henry Poggi (Michigan), Kelsey Griffin (South Carolina)

Inside linebacker: Reuben Foster, Yannick Ngakoue

Outside linebacker: Trey Johnson

Safety: Max Redfield, Antonio Conner

Cornerback: Gareon Conley (Ohio State), Shaq Wiggins (Georgia)

White Team special teams

Long snapper: Brendan Turelli

Kicker: Ryan Santoso (Minnesota)

Punter: Shane Tripucka

Captains: Ryan Green, Hunter Henry, Patrick Kugler, Reuben Foster
May is nearly over, and as we head into June, it's time to update the Big 12 recruiting scorecard. You can see each full class by clicking on the team name, but you'll need ESPN Insider access to see the full coverage.

Here's where the Big 12 stands for the respective 2013 classes, which can't sign letters of intent until next February.

Remember, this card is in pencil. Players are free to switch commitments until they sign a letter of intent with a school.

1. Texas Longhorns

Total commits: 14
ESPN 150 commits: 8
Key commits: QB Tyrone Swoopes, WR Ricky Seals-Jones, C Darius James, OT Jake Raulerson
Class update: Texas added just one players since our last update, cornerback Antwuan Davis. The Bastrop, Texas, native is the nation's No. 13 cornerback and the No. 19 player in Texas. He checks in at No. 147 on our ESPN 150.

2. Oklahoma Sooners

Total commits: 9
ESPN 150 commits: 3
Key commits: RB Greg Bryant, RB Keith Ford, DE D.J. Ward
Class update: Oklahoma has added five commits since our last update, but no ESPN 150 commits. The biggest pickup was pro-style QB Cody Thomas, a native of Colleyville, Texas. The Sooners also added ATH Stanvon Taylor, kicker Jack Steed and offensive lineman Dalton Rodriguez. It's a nice bounce back from a slow start on the trail for the Sooners.

3. Baylor Bears

Total commits: 9
ESPNU 150 commits: 1
Key commits: QB Chris Johnson, OLB Raaquan Davis, RB Johnny Jefferson, WR Quan Jones
Class notes: Baylor has added three commits since our last update, but no ESPN 150 recruits. Davis pledged his intent to come to Waco from Heath, Texas. DT Tanner Thrift is also on the way, and OLB D.J. Green is one of the class' top talents as the nation's No. 27 outside linebacker.

4. Texas Tech Red Raiders

Total commits: 7
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: ATH Devin Lauderdale, WR Dylan Cantrell, OG Baylen Brown
Class notes: Texas Tech added two commits since we last updated the scorecard. Brown is the top recruit to join the fold. The 6-foot-4, 280-pounder is from Helotes, Texas. Safety Stormy Butler is trying to crash both Lubbock and my All-Name Team.

5. Oklahoma State Cowboys

Total commits: 5
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: WR Fred Ross Jr., WR Marcell Ateman, OT Zach Crabtree
Class update: OSU has been a big mover since our last update, picking up four commits, giving the Cowboys two four-star players and helping OSU leap over Kansas State. Crabtree joined the class on Tuesday, and Ateman gave OSU a second receiver earlier this month.

6. Kansas State Wildcats

Total commits: 4
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: ILB Tanner Wood, DE Jordan Willis, WR LeAndrew Gordon
Class notes: Guard Chance Allen is the only addition to the class since we last checked in with the SnyderCats. He's a 6-foot-4, 295-pounder from Spring, Texas, a Houston suburb.

7. TCU Horned Frogs

Total commits: 4
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: OLB Paul Whitmill, OLB Sammy Douglas, OG Patrick Morris
Class notes: TCU added two commits since our last update, but only two of the class members are ranked. Whitmill was the biggest addition, and takes a place as the top recruit in the class. The 6-foot, 200-pounder is the nation's No. 21 outside linebacker and hails from Bastrop, Texas. ATH Ty Slanina also committed last week.

8. West Virginia Mountaineers

Total commits: 4
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: QB Chavas Rawlins, OT Marcell Lazard, RB DeShawn Coleman
Class notes: WVU didn't have a commit the last time we checked in, but has the weakest class of those with just four commits. Only one, Rawlins, is nationally ranked. It's early, but WVU's got to pick it up. Worth noting: Three of the commits are from Pennsylvania and one is from New Jersey. The recruiting strategy switch hasn't paid off just yet. It's very, very early, though.

9. Kansas Jayhawks

Total commits: 3
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: QB Montell Cozart, TE Ben Johnson, LB Kellen Ash
Class notes: Kansas hasn't added anyone since our mid-April update, but the program is branching out its recruiting strategy to a national stage, not just the Kansas City area and Texas. That's nothing new for former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis. Can he convince them to commit, though? We'll find out soon.

10. Iowa State Cyclones

Total commits: 0
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: None
Class notes: Still nada on the board for the Cyclones, who are the lone Big 12 team without a commit in the fold yet.

Keith Ford unimpressed by Texas 

May, 20, 2012
5/20/12
4:44
PM ET
We got a chance to catch up with Oklahoma commit Keith Ford (Cypress, Texas/Cypress Ranch) yesterday at the Houston Under Armour Sevens tournament. If you missed it yesterday, here’s a feature on the state’s top running back prospect.

During a talk with his father, Keith Ford Sr., the topic of Texas came up. Why was Texas never a school Ford seriously considered during his recruiting process?

“They didn’t fit at all,” he said. “They did the same things they did with Robert Griffin III, and RGIII’s parents are military too. We’re very forward when it comes to anything in life. I really wasn’t impressed with Texas at all, and Keith wasn’t impressed either.”

Recruiting season got started in earnest on Tuesday with the release of the ESPN 150, so it's time to offer our first real check-in on where the Big 12 recruiting classes sit with a little less than 10 months before players can officially sign.

Remember, this card is in pencil. Players are free to switch commitments until they sign a letter of intent with a school.

1. Texas Longhorns

Total commits: 13
ESPNU 150 commits: 7
Key commits: QB Tyrone Swoopes, WR Ricky Seals-Jones, C Darius James, OT Jake Raulerson
Class notes: Texas' top three commits are all the best at their positions, and 10 of the class' 13 commitments are four stars or higher. That's nothing new in Austin, but Swoopes looks like the quarterback of the future in Austin, though he hails from a smaller school in Whitewright, Texas. Seals-Jones is a physical presence at 6-foot-5, 220 pounds.

2. Oklahoma Sooners

Total commits: 4
ESPNU 150 commits: 3
Key commits: RB Greg Bryant, RB Keith Ford, DE D.J. Ward
Class notes: Oklahoma's class is still pretty small for now, but the Sooners are getting some much needed help at running back, where numbers are suddenly thin following a rash of transfers after the season. Ward joins fellow DE Matt Dimon in the class, too.

3. Baylor Bears

Total commits: 6
ESPNU 150 commits: 1
Key commits: QB Chris Johnson, RB Johnny Jefferson, WR Quan Jones
Class notes: No surprise here: Baylor's new class is loaded with skill position talent. Johnson is the nation's No. 2 dual-threat passer and Jefferson is the nation's No. 36 running back. It seems like almost every year, Baylor reels in a huge prospect. For now, 2013 is no different, and coach Art Briles looks like he can continue his QB lineage. Johnson is a four-star, and Jefferson and Jones are three-star recruits.

4. Texas Tech Red Raiders

Total commits: 5
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: ATH Devin Lauderdale, WR Dylan Cantrell, CB Will Barrow
Class notes: Texas Tech has landed top-25 recruiting classes in each of Tommy Tuberville's first full seasons in Lubbock, and the Red Raiders are off to another nice start in 2013. Super recruiter Robert Prunty's developed a penchant for reeling in ESPN 150 talent, so keep an eye on the newest major player on the recruiting scene. Lauderdale is a four-star recruit.

5. Kansas State Wildcats

Total commits: 3
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: ILB Tanner Wood, DE Jordan Willis, WR LeAndrew Gordon
Class notes: Two of Kansas State's three commits are three-star recruits. The Wildcats won 10 games in 2011, but another solid year in 2012 could help spur recruiting efforts even further.

6. Oklahoma State Cowboys

Total commits: 1
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: WR Fred Ross Jr.
Class notes: Ross is a four-star and the nation's No. 21 receiver, but OSU could climb this list quickly, riding the success from its first Big 12 title in 2011. It's a slower start than you'd envision for OSU, but we'll see if the Cowboys can win some battles with Texas Tech, TCU and others.

7. TCU Horned Frogs

Total commits: 2
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: OLB Sammy Douglas, OG Patrick Morris
Class notes: Douglas is a three-star recruit and the nation's No. 36 outside linebacker. That's a big position of need for TCU, but the Big 12 entrance and recent campus drug sting that resulted in four players being arrested will be battling for positive and negative pushes on the recruiting trail. We'll see which one wins out in 2012.

8. Kansas Jayhawks

Total commits: 3
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: QB Montell Cozart, TE Ben Johnson, LB Kellen Ash
Class notes: Kansas doesn't have a nationally ranked recruit, but Weis sounds like he's high on Cozart, a highly recruited QB from the Kansas City area who had offers from West Virginia and Minnesota.

9. West Virginia Mountaineers

Total commits: 0
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: None
Class notes: WVU is one of two teams without a commit yet in the 2013 class. We'll see if that picks up if WVU can validate its membership in the Big 12 with a strong debut season.

10. Iowa State Cyclones

Total commits: 0
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: None
Class notes: Iowa State has started slow, too. Another bowl appearance would help, but it has to be a bit frustrating for the Cyclones to be behind the eight-ball for now. That's especially true considering what Kansas has done thus far.
AUSTIN, Texas - Do the math and you’ll understand the dilemma Texas faces when it comes to recruiting 2013 running backs.

It is, of course, a good dilemma to have. The Longhorns have an impressive collection of young rushers and only so many handoffs to hand out.

Rarely does a program have the luxury of signing arguably the best running back recruit in the country in back-to-back years. Add in three experienced backups and it’s easy to see why Texas might have the best stable of rushers in the country in 2012.

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Chat wrap: Recruiting and running backs 

December, 28, 2011
12/28/11
2:00
PM ET
William Wilkerson chatted with SportsNation on Tuesday. Not surprisingly, Dorial Green-Beckham and Mario Edwards' names came up.

Read the full chat here.

Remember, you can always chat with HornsNation on Tuesdays or send questions to our mailbag.

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Discussion: Ash Out Against BYU
Texas quarterback David Ash will not play against BYU on Saturday after experiencing concussion-related symptoms. Kevin Dunn, Dan Neil and David Thomas discuss how this will impact Ash's career and the Longhorns' season.
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