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Big 12 recruiting scorecard

June, 30, 2014
Jun 30
1:30
PM ET
Here’s the latest in recruiting from around the Big 12:

BAYLOR

Total commits: 10

ESPN 300 commits: 3

The latest: The Bears lost their top-rated commitment last week when John Humphrey Jr. decommitted. Baylor had plans to use the four-star prospect as a cornerback, but Humphrey has his eyes on playing receiver, where the Bears are well stocked with playmakers.

IOWA STATE

Total commits: 6

ESPN 300 commits: 0

The latest: The Cyclones landed another commitment last week in Denton (Texas) Guyer safety Jordan Wallace, who is reportedly a distant cousin of former Iowa State standout OB Seneca Wallace. The coaching staff snagged five of their six commitments in the month of June, including Austin (Texas) Lake Travis dual-threat QB Dominic DeLira.

KANSAS

Total commits: 9

ESPN 300 commits: 0

The latest: Kansas continued to make noise on the recruiting trail by snagging a pair of Texas prospects last week. Carl Thompson, a 6-foot-3, 260-pound defensive lineman from Denton (Texas) Guyer, had offers from Duke, Minnesota and Vanderbilt. Taylor Martin, a 5-foot-9, 179-pound running back, committed to Kansas later the same day. He had an offer from Colorado State, and was reportedly drawing interest from TCU, Illinois and Kansas State. The Jayhawks went into the month of June with one commitment, but now have nine.

KANSAS STATE

Total commits: 6

ESPN 300 commits: 0

The latest: The Wildcats landed two running backs last week, one from their backyard, the other all the way out of Georgia. Denzel Goolsby's recruitment picked up in the last week, with Kansas and Iowa State both extending offers. But the Wichita (Kansas) Bishop Carroll product wound up pledging to Kansas State. Goolsby is a versatile offensive threat, who also plays slot receiver and returns kicks. The Wildcats picked up another intriguing playmaker earlier in the week in Cartersville, Georgia, running back Kalin Heath, who had offers from the likes of Mississippi State, Washington State and Louisville. At 6-foot-1, Heath has the frame to become K-State’s next power back in the mold of Daniel Thomas.

OKLAHOMA

Total commits: 7

ESPN 300 commits: 5

The latest: John Humphrey’s decommitment from Baylor could be Oklahoma’s gain. The Sooners are giving Humphrey the option to play receiver, and Oklahoma appears to be his favorite. The Sooners also recently made the top five that ESPN 300 WR Ryan Newsome released, along with Texas, Oregon, UCLA and Notre Dame.

OKLAHOMA STATE

Total commits: 8

ESPN 300 commits: 3

The latest: The Cowboys already have one ESPN 300 cornerback commitment in Jaylon Lane, and now have a strong chance to grab another. Xavier Lewis announced last week that Oklahoma State made his cut of final four schools along with LSU, Arkansas and Texas. Lewis, out of Laplace, Lousiana, is the No. 14 rated cornerback in the country, seven spots behind Lane. If the Cowboys managed to scoop up Lewis, too, they would have an incoming cornerback tandem that would be the envy of the Big 12, and perhaps the country.

TCU

Total commits: 16

ESPN 300 commits: 0

The latest: Even though they didn’t add anyone last week, the Horned Frogs still easily have the biggest commitment total of the Big 12. They’ll have to fight to hold onto to guard Cody Ford, who is showing interest in the Sooners after recently getting an offer. At 6-foot-4, 314 pounds, Ford has the potential to be a road grader in the run game down the line.

TEXAS

Total commits: 10

ESPN 300 commits: 5

The latest: Texas is hosting a key night camp July 18 that will include visits from several of its top targets as well as top-rated pledge, QB Zach Gentry. Texas is also planning to host four-star QB Kai Locksley in mid-July after making his top six, along with with Florida State, Auburn, Maryland, Oregon and Virginia Tech. Locksley is the son of Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley.

TEXAS TECH

Total commits: 7

ESPN 300 commits: 2

The latest: Texas Tech is still looking for its running back from this class, and last week extended an offer to three-star New Orleans product Kendall Bussey, who is currently committed to Nebraska. The Red Raiders also got a visit recently from Waco, Texas, four-star safety Kahlil Haughton, who has offers from Baylor, Ohio State, LSU and Oklahoma, among many others.

WEST VIRGINIA

Total commits: 13

ESPN 300 commits: 2

The latest: The Mountaineers already have three pledges in this class from their Miramar, Florida, pipeline, and could be close to adding another. Mammoth offensive lineman Leeward Brown, who is currently committed to Miami, visited West Virginia last weekend along with Miramar teammates Kahlil Lewis and Kendrell McFadden, and reportedly came away impressed. If the Mountaineers wind up offering the 6-4, 340-pound Brown, they stand a chance of flipping him.

Big 12's lunch links

June, 19, 2014
Jun 19
12:00
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Tweet of the day.

Stat crunch: Returning lettermen

June, 13, 2014
Jun 13
11:30
AM ET
As part of his in-depth look at returning experience, college football guru and ESPN Insider Phil Steele calculated the percentage of lettermen returning for every team in the country.

You can view the entire list here.

As for the Big 12 teams, they rank like this:

11. West Virginia (78.33 percent)

29. OU (73.85 percent)

30. Texas (73.77 percent)

39. TCU (72.31 percent)

53. Texas Tech (70.42 percent)

61. Baylor (69.86 percent)

116. Iowa State (60.61 percent)

119. Kansas State (60.0 percent)

126. Kansas (56.14 percent)

128. Oklahoma State (54.29 percent)

Couple thoughts:
  • Calculating the percentage of lettermen returning only tells the small part of the story when examining experience. And in many cases, what story it tells can reveal very little. A reserve that only plays in mop-up time might letter, but whether he returns might make no difference on the outlook of a team.
  • That said, this chart bodes well for West Virginia, which has had issues with its depth since joining the Big 12. Dana Holgorsen has said this will be his deepest and most complete team yet, and this chart certainly supports that notion.
  • Conversely, this is yet another chart that suggests Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy and his staff have their work cut out this fall. The Cowboys have the fewest returning starters, least percentage of tackles coming back, and now the fewest returning letterman. If the Cowboys are competitive this season, they could be an absolute load in 2015 with the number of players they’ll have coming back.

Finally, football is back. Well, fútbol, actually.

The World Cup will consume sports fan across the globe for the next month, taking us right up to the outskirts of the college football season.

Many in Big 12 country know little about the World Cup, or what team to pull for outside the United States. So to give you soccer novices a rooting choice, we’ve come up with the fútbol counterparts for every team in the Big 12 (thanks to soccer aficionados Royce and Russ for their help in putting this list together):

BAYLOR

Belgium: Baylor has been the up-and-coming squad in the Big 12, winning its first conference title last year. The Belgians are the up-and-comers of this World Cup, and a popular sleeper pick to win it all. Both have lethal offensive attacks, but still must prove their staying power this year.

IOWA STATE

South Korea: On its home soil in 2002, South Korea pulled off three of the bigger upsets in World Cup history, knocking off Portugal, Italy and Spain to reach the quarterfinals. The Cyclones under coach Paul Rhoads have also been a giant killer at home, most recently upsetting second-ranked Oklahoma State to bounce the Cowboys from the 2011 national title race. With 21-year-old forward Son Heung-min leading the charge, South Korea boasts a potentially formidable offensive attack. And with nine offensive starters back this year, Iowa State has the chance to feature its best offense in a long time.

KANSAS

Australia: Both had their finest moments around the same time -- the Aussies advancing out of its World Cup group in 2006; the Jayhawks winning the Orange Bowl in 2007 -- but the hearts of both fan bases lie in another sport (basketball for Kansas, rugby for Australia).

KANSAS STATE

Greece: Greece is not flashy. But emulating the Bill Snyder playbook to success, the Greeks grind out victories (and ties) with stout defense, fundamental play and by avoiding mistakes. Like K-State, the Greeks have been defined by their coach (Otto Graham/Fernando Santos) more than any star player. And Greece’s improbable 2004 Euro Cup title run might be the soccer equivalent of K-State’s Manhattan Miracle.

OKLAHOMA

Germany: The Germans have been the epitome of consistent success, advancing to the semifinals in eight of the last 11 World Cups. The Sooners have matched that level of consistency during the Bob Stoops era, with eight conference titles and a dozen double-digit win seasons over the last 14 years.

OKLAHOMA STATE

Portugal: In recent years, both have piled up the wins and have featured plenty of star power. But they have failed to breakthrough when the spotlight has been the brightest. Portugal’s “golden generation” flopped in the 2002 World Cup, losing to the U.S. in the opener before failing to advance out of the group stage. Oklahoma State could have clinched the 2010 and 2013 Big 12 titles, but slipped at home against rival Oklahoma. The Cowboys and the Portuguese have also had to exist in the shadow of two preeminent powers in their sports (Sooners/Spain). Still they have become two clubs nobody wants to play, and have reached enviable levels of year-to-year success.

TCU

Uruguay: Uruguay is a small country surrounded by some of the giants in World Cup soccer. The same goes for TCU, which doesn’t have the enrollments or resources of the likes of Oklahoma or Texas. But just like Uruguay, TCU has carved out success with a hardnosed style of play. Furthermore, Uruguay won the first World Cup ever played in 1930, while both of TCU’s national championships came in the same decade (1935, 1938).

TEXAS

England: All the tradition, history and resources. And yet in recent years, these two have been massive underachievers. In South Africa in 2010, the English surrendered the top seed in its group to the Yanks, then got obliterated 4-1 by Germany in the first game of the knockout round. The Longhorns, meanwhile, have failed to win more than eight regular-season games the last four seasons. Because of these struggles, both squads are flying somewhat under the radar, and the talent is still there for either to ignite a run. But first, someone -- anyone -- has to light the fuse.

TEXAS TECH

Mexico: After an emotional roller-coaster ride through the qualifying stages, Mexico is feeling optimistic following a manageable World Cup draw and cleaner play of late. Texas Tech rode the roller coaster of a five-game losing streak last season, but is feeling confident these days coming off its dominating bowl performance against Arizona State.

WEST VIRGINIA

Ivory Coast: Les Éléphants bring the fireworks with Didier Drogba and Yaya Touré the same way the Mountaineers have through the Pat White and Geno Smith eras. But while West Virginia dominated the Big East the way Ivory Coast has Africa, neither has been able to take that next step against the big boys. In its first two appearances in the World Cup in 2006 and 2010, Ivory Coast failed to advance out of its group. Likewise, the Mountaineers have struggled their first two years in the Big 12. Both have the individual talents of a championship-caliber club, but neither will contend until the depth improves.

Playoff: '08 Texas vs. '10 TCU

June, 12, 2014
Jun 12
9:00
AM ET
Wednesday, the ’08 Sooners avenged their loss in the Fiesta Bowl the year before by toppling ’07 West Virginia to advance with 55 percent of the vote.

SportsNation

Who should advance to the second round?

  •  
    40%
  •  
    60%

Discuss (Total votes: 3,464)

That could set the stage for a titanic rematch from one of the all-time great games in Big 12 history.

But first, the 2008 Longhorns will have to get past 2010 TCU, which was one of only three teams in the Big 12 BCS-era 16-team playoff bracket to finish its season undefeated.

Again, the voting will be open until 10 p.m. Central time on Thursday. Now, to the matchup:

No. 5 Seed: ’08 TEXAS LONGHORNS

Record: 12-1

Final ranking: No. 4

Top player: QB Colt McCoy

Consensus All-America: McCoy, DE Brian Orakpo

First-Team All-Big 12: Orakpo, OT Adam Ulatoski, DT Roy Miller, LB Sergio Kindle

Second-Team All-Big 12: McCoy, WR Jordan Shipley, C Chris Hall, CB Ryan Palmer, K Hunter Lawrence

Best wins: No. 1 Oklahoma (45-35); No. 11 Missouri (56-31); No. 7 Oklahoma State (28-24); No. 10 Ohio State (24-21, Fiesta Bowl)

Losses: at No. 6 Texas Tech (39-33)

Why they should advance: The ’08 Longhorns likely would have played for the national championship had it not been for Michael Crabtree’s miracle game-winning touchdown catch in Texas’ loss at Texas Tech.

Still, this Texas team was good as any in the country in ’08, which was validated by the Longhorns’ double-digit victory over the Sooners.

Texas played for the national championship the following season, but ’08 might have been its better team.

The defensive line was ferocious, while McCoy and Shipley formed one of the best quarterback-receiver tandems in college football history.

No. 12 Seed: ’10 TCU HORNED FROGS

Record: 13-0

Final ranking: No. 2

Top player: QB Andy Dalton

Consensus All-America: S Tejay Johnson

First-Team All-Mountain West: Dalton, Johnson, RB Ed Wesley, OC Jake Kirkpatrick, OT Marcus Cannon, DE Wayne Daniels, LB Tank Carder, LB Tanner Brock, PR Jeremy Kerley

Second-Team All-Mountain West: DT Cory Grant, DE Stansly Maponga, CB Jason Teague, S Colin Jones

Best wins: No. 24 Oregon State (30-21); at No. 6 Utah (47-7); No. 4 Wisconsin (21-19, Rose Bowl)

Losses: None

Why they should advance: All the ’10 Horned Frogs could do was beat every team on their schedule -- and that’s exactly what they did, solidifying their credibility by taking down Big Ten champion Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.

TCU featured a future NFL starting quarterback in Dalton, and the No. 1 statistical defense in the country. That’s a recipe for defeating anyone.

Who I would vote for: With the ’05 Longhorns out, ’08 Texas could -- and should -- be a real threat to win this entire tournament.

McCoy was fabulous as a junior, completing a virtually unprecedented 77 percent of his passes. He had two reliable targets in Shipley and Quan Cosby. And on the other side, the defense was littered with future NFL starters.

This clash with ’10 TCU, however, would be a sneaky tough matchup for these Longhorns. The Horned Frogs had the defense that would have created problems for Texas, which really didn’t have to face any great defenses in 2008, at least until the bowl game.

But even though Dalton has turned out to be the better pro, McCoy was the better college quarterback.

And with slightly more talent across the board as well, I would give the nod -- and my vote -- to the vaunted ’08 Longhorns.

Coming up Monday: (3 seed) 2009 Texas vs. (14 seed) 2001 Nebraska
In this week's mailbag we discuss scheduling, Charlie Strong tempering expectations and quarterbacks David Ash, Trevor Knight and Jake Waters.

Remember, to submit a mailbag entry, simply go here.

Without further ado, to the ‘bag we go:

Justin in Dallas writes: Sure, Kliff Kingsbury has gotten some studs, and West Virginia is off to a hot start, but are you really going to talk about recruiting in the Big 12 and not mention Baylor? I think the blinders might be on, and you could be forgetting where Baylor’s recruiting was just a few years ago. This class, though inherently small, could be one of the best ever in Waco.

Trotter: I have no idea what makes you feel slighted, but we’ve mentioned Baylor’s impressive recruiting haul multiple times. Think about this -- Baylor has six of the league’s 22 ESPN 300 commitments. That’s better than 27 percent. And the Bears aren’t done, either. This could wind up being a top-15 class.


Steve in Phoenix writes: Does the loss of Daniel Sams at K-State help Jake Waters’ chance of a standout season? Now, he can bomb away every game if he (or rather coach Bill Snyder) wants. I know I am reaching here but there has to be a bright side to this thing.

Trotter: Sorry, you’re reaching, Steve. Waters was going to be the unequivocal starter whether Sams had stayed or not. Waters was never going to be looking over his shoulder, especially considering Sams had changed positions during the spring. The bottom line is, the Wildcats lost a big-time playmaker, who is going to be making those plays now for McNeese State.


James in El Paso, Texas, writes: Jake, Texas' backfield is going to good again this year, and maybe even great. Do you see the Longhorns winning 10 games this year if David Ash can return as the starter, and stay healthy for the entire year?

Trotter: If Ash is healthy for the entire season, that changes Texas’ outlook substantially. The Longhorns have the most experienced offense and defense returning in the Big 12, and there’s not a weak unit on the team other than quarterback and possibly placekicker. If Ash stays healthy and finally realizes his potential, Texas could be formidable. But that’s a Texas-sized if.


J.J. in Tumalo, Ore., writes: Jake, good article on Big 12 scheduling last week. But if Baylor goes 12-0 playing three complete stiffs out of conference and Oregon goes 12-1 with an out of conference win against Michigan State, why would the committee select Baylor over the Ducks? Thanks for the great blog.

Trotter: We really don’t know yet how the committee is going to select the four playoff teams. I would think that any Power-5 team that goes undefeated would be a virtual lock. Where Baylor is going to run into trouble with its scheduling is if it goes 11-1. Nonconference scheduling is likely going to carry a lot of weight in differentiating one-loss teams for the playoff. Given its nonconference slate, that wouldn't bode well for Baylor.


Trevor Collins in Burleson, Texas, writes: Even as an avid Longhorn fan, I recognized Trevor Knight’s brilliant performance in the bowl game. But I don’t really think he’s fully proven himself for a whole season. Looking back at last season, he really didn’t play a significant role in most of the Sooners’ games, and when he did his stats weren’t that great. I just feel OU is being a little overrated right now, and I’m not just saying this because I’m a UT fan. What happens if Knight doesn’t work out?

Trotter: There’s no doubt that Knight has much to prove, considering he’s only started and finished three games so far in his career (Louisiana-Monroe, Kansas State, Alabama). But there’s also no denying the talent Knight showcased in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Don’t forget about the return of nine defensive starters, which is another big reason why the Sooners are getting so much preseason love. I agree, after the inconsistency last season, there’s still much for this team to prove. But there’s a lot to like, too, especially if Knight plays anywhere near the level he did in the Sugar Bowl.


Ben in Dallas writes: Do you think it was a smart or dumb move for Charlie Strong to temper fan expectations during his tour? On one hand fans might be happier with moderate improvement. On the other hand isn't fan enthusiasm during games a problem? Telling the Texas faithful they have a shot at the playoffs might solve that.

Trotter: I liked it. For too long Texas has been playing against expectations that didn’t really reflect where the team actually was. Mack Brown told everyone he ran into that the 2013 team was going to be the one that was going to take Texas back to the top. That looked utterly ridiculous after BYU obliterated the Longhorns in Week 2. Anyone who watched the Texas spring game knows the Longhorns are still a ways off from contending for a playoff spot. They could always surprise. But Strong tempering expectations will help alleviate the pressure that has enveloped the program.
Ask any coach before a game about the key to winning, and one of the canned answers almost always will be, “turnovers.”

Of course, just because the answer is canned doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

Turnovers are one of the biggest differences between winning a game and losing it.

Delving further into the data, I analyzed fumbles lost and gained, interceptions lost and gained and turnover margin over the last three seasons to determine which Big 12 teams have best used turnovers to their advantage. And, conversely, which teams have used it to their disadvantage.

View the results of my research on the right:

What the data revealed:
  • Wonder why Oklahoma State is one of college football’s winningest teams over the last five years? The Cowboys force turnovers in bundles. And offensively they hold onto the ball. Sure, the 2011 season, when Oklahoma State led the country in turnover margin, might be a bit of an outlier. But the Cowboys led the conference in turnover margin again last season, and they also forced the most in the league in 2010, which was not included in the data. This is no coincidence. Mike Gundy’s team emphasizes the turnover battle in practice. Last offseason, all-conference linebackers Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey actually practiced catching the ball, which is a major reason why they combined for seven picks last season. Oklahoma State’s ball carriers have also been phenomenal holding on to the ball, which is why they’ve only lost 21 fumbles -- and also improved their ball security each of the last three years. The Cowboys might not have many starters coming back this season. But if their turnover margin rate holds steady, they will be tough to beat yet again.
  • Like Oklahoma State, Kansas State has made a living off its turnover rate. The Wildcats struggled early last season, in large part because they deviated from the Bill Snyder playbook to winning, and turned the ball over 25 times during a 2-4 start. But while reeling off wins in six of seven final games, K-State actually led the Big 12 with a plus-9 turnover margin over that stretch. Decisively winning the turnover margin again will be the recipe to K-State becoming a legitimate Big 12 title contender this season.
  • On the flip side, one of the major hindrances that has kept Texas Tech from getting over the hump has been its disastrous turnover margin. The Red Raiders have been dreadful at forcing turnovers, which, as Oklahoma State's defense has proven, is one of the best ways to stopping the up-tempo attacks of the Big 12. Texas Tech hasn’t been much better at holding onto the ball, either. During their five-game losing streak to cap the regular season, the Red Raiders were a minus-8, and the only time they actually won the turnover battle in an individual game last season came in a 54-16 win at Kansas. In fact, Texas Tech’s turnover margin in the dreaded month of November the last three years is minus-18. With Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma all on the November slate, the only chance the Red Raiders have of reversing that trend of late-season collapses is by cleaning up the turnovers. Having a semi-experienced quarterback in Davis Webb should help. But Texas Tech will not sniff a double-digit winning season -- like it did in 2008 when the team was plus-8 -- until it improves in the turnover margin department.
  • Baylor absolutely crushed its opponents off turnovers last season, ranking fourth nationally with 135 points off turnovers. Only Florida State, Arizona State and Houston had more. The TCU game was a great example of how Baylor capitalized off turnovers. Despite struggling offensively, the Bears scored three touchdowns off three turnovers (including two pick-sixes and a fumble recovery at the TCU 1-yard line) to win the game, 41-38. Baylor will be replacing several key players off its secondary, but with a swarming defensive line led by end Shawn Oakman, the Bears could set their explosive offense up with numerous short fields again in 2014.
  • Oklahoma has had rather pedestrian turnover numbers defensively the last three years. But it's difficult to see that not jumping up in 2014, especially if the Allstate Sugar Bowl against Alabama when the Sooners forced five turnovers is any indication. Oklahoma has several defenders coming back capable of getting to the quarterback, headlined by menacing outside linebacker Eric Striker.
  • The overall numbers for TCU and West Virginia included a season (2011) in the Mountain West and Big East conferences, respectively. The turnovers forced, however, have actually gone up for both teams since joining the Big 12. But so have the turnovers lost. Only Texas Tech gave up more turnovers than the Horned Frogs and Mountaineers last season. Inconsistent quarterbacking has been a big part of that increase. To bounce back from bowl-less seasons, both teams need their QBs -- whoever they turn out to be -- to take better care of the ball.
The BCS era is over. Next up, the College Football Playoff era.

But before we completely turn the page on the BCS here on the Big 12 blog, we’re going to have some fun -- with a playoff.

Through the month of June, we’re going to decide who the best Big 12 team of the BCS era really was.

Actually, you are going to decide.

Here’s how this will work. On Thursday morning, we’ll unveil the 16-team bracket, which will be seeded 1 through 16. Then beginning next Monday, you will vote each day to determine which team advances to the next round.

But first things first. We’d like your nominations of teams that should be included in the field of 16, with the following caveats:
  • The teams have to be from the BCS era (1998-2013).
  • Teams from programs (Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri, Texas A&M) that have since departed the Big 12 are eligible for inclusion. However, any team from those programs that came after departure from the Big 12 is not eligible. (And don’t worry, we don’t think any Texas A&M team will make the cut anyway.)
  • Lastly, in the spirit of Big 12 unity, we’re making all TCU and West Virginia teams from the BCS era (1998-2013) eligible for this tournament.

Send us your Big 12 BCS-era team nominations here.

And check back Thursday morning for the bracket unveiling.
In this week's mailbag we discuss the College Football Playoff and other various topics.

To submit a mailbag entry via Twitter, simply include the hashtag #big12mailbag. To submit a mailbag entry the traditional way, simply go here.

To the 'bag:

Jonathan in California writes: Hey, Jake, enjoy the blog. My question has to do with the unlikely but still probable dilemma when five conference champions all go undefeated? It has happened before and will likely happen again. What would the committee have to value the most then? What if it is the traditional powers that are undefeated, as in Oklahoma, Florida State, Alabama, Oregon and Ohio State? Would expansion occur or would conferences have to change so all are playing similar schedules then?

Trotter: Probable? The last time we had just three undefeated teams from the power conferences was in 2004 (Oklahoma, USC, Auburn). The more likely scenario would be five one-loss conference champs. In that event, the strength of the conference and the strength of individual nonconference schedules (you reading, Baylor fans?) would be the determining factor in picking the team to leave out.


Mark in Snyderville, USA, writes: Am I wrong for being skeptical of the new playoff system? Let's say a one-loss Texas team and a one-loss K-State team are in the mix for the final playoff spot. Isn't Texas more likely to get in based off name recognition alone? Am I just being paranoid or should schools with less recognizable brands just prepare to be left in the cold?

Trotter: Would that be any different than the system we had before? Does anyone really believe that Texas or Oklahoma would have been left out of the 2011 national championship game with Oklahoma State’s résumé that season? I have no idea how the playoff committee is going to select its teams. But the lesser brands can’t be at any more of a disadvantage than they were during the BCS era.


Lost Mountaineer in Nashville, Tenn., writes: How big of an impact can FCS All-American Shaquille Riddick have for West Virginia? I saw him as a projected second-round draft pick prior to the transfer.

Trotter: I did a Q&A with Riddick earlier this week. I’m starting to think this could be a big addition. Playmaking off the edge is where the Mountaineers need the most help defensively. That’s what Riddick brings. I have no idea how the transition to the higher classification will affect him. But he could be a factor.


Alex in Chicago writes: What are your thoughts on the rumors going around of replacing West Virginia with Tulane due to the geographical logistic headaches, and the league wanting to further strengthen inroads into the fertile recruiting grounds around New Orleans?

Trotter: My thought is you need to take a vacation from the message boards.


C.L. in Abilene, Texas, writes: Do ya'll know if any of the Big 12 coaches are good friends? I know it's tough being rivals and all, but I figure some of the guys must be known to hang out on occasion.

Trotter: Art Briles, Kliff Kingsbury and Dana Holgorsen all know each other very well, dating to their connections to Houston and/or Texas Tech. Mike Gundy gave Holgorsen his big break by bringing him into the Big 12 as a coordinator at Oklahoma State. New TCU offensive coordinator Doug Meacham was at Oklahoma State just two years ago and is close with Texas offensive line coach Joe Wickline from their days in Stillwater. TCU’s other offensive coordinator, Sonny Cumbie, played with several of the coaches at Texas Tech. New Iowa State offensive coordinator Mark Mangino has strong ties to Oklahoma and Kansas State. Oklahoma’s Stoops Brothers coached under Bill Snyder at K-State. Gundy’s brother Cale is an assistant at Oklahoma. I could go on and on.


Wallace Bever in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, writes: Jake, I think your observations on in-stadium beer sales are right on. A few beers is one thing. Going to the car at halftime for a load of heavier alcohol is different, and not in a good way. West Virginia may have gotten this one right.

Trotter: In case you missed it this week, this is what Wallace is referring to. If you know you can get beer inside the stadium, doesn’t that dissuade you from getting loaded before the game? I think it does. People are going to drink at college football games. At least inside the stadium, it can be managed.


Matt in Wamego, Kansas, writes: Jake, as Charlie Weis begins Year 3 in Lawrence, what do you think the Jayhawks have to do this year to keep him off the hot seat?

Trotter: Progress in the right direction would do the trick. The Jayhawks don’t have to go to a bowl game. But they need to show they’re better than they were last year. With a veteran defense and a much improved receiving corps, it would be a major disappointment if they took a step back this season, which would also warm up Weis’ seat.
Last week, colleague Max Olson crunched the numbers on the total career starts each Big 12 team has coming back for next season.

What Max unearthed was that Texas (by far) leads the Big 12 in career starts returning, both offensively and defensively. TCU’s defense ranked second behind the Longhorns’ defense, while the Iowa State offense placed second. The Horned Frogs could have their most dominant defense yet in the Big 12, and the Cyclones could feature their best offensive attack in years, suggesting both teams could also be in for bounce-back 2014 campaigns.

Yet while revealing, compiling returning starts doesn’t tell the entire story when examining team experience, since the equation doesn’t account for those who played key roles as reserves. TCU safety Derrick Kindred, Texas Tech linebacker Micah Awe and Baylor end Shawn Oakman weren’t starters last year. But they were still valuable players on their respective teams.

To examine returning experience in another way, I’ve tallied up the percentage of tackles returning for every team in the Big 12:

With nine starters back, it’s not surprising the Sooners top this chart. But the number of returning starters isn’t the only reason why Oklahoma is optimistic about its 2014 defense. The Sooners also bring back several key defensive performers that weren’t full-time starters last season. End Geneo Grissom, who notched three sacks against Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, only started five games in 2013. Linebacker Jordan Evans thrived whenever his number got called as a freshman. And tackle Jordan Phillips only started four games but was playing at an All-Big 12-caliber level before suffering a season-ending back injury in early October.

On the flip side, Oklahoma State is at the cellar of this list, and not just because it graduated seven starters. The Cowboys also lost several defensive reserves that played a bunch, including linebacker Joe Mitchell, cornerback Tyler Patmon and safety Zack Craig.

Of course, like with returning starts, a high level of returning tackles doesn’t guarantee success. And it doesn’t necessarily preclude it, either.

Oklahoma ranked 119th nationally in returning tackles (40 percent) last season. But by the end of the season, the Sooners were wreaking havoc in the backfield of the two-time defending national champs.

The tackle equation can be an indicator of the defenses that might be formidable. Oklahoma State and Baylor both had 73 percent of their tackles returning from 2012 going into last season. Both wound up being formidable, ranking first and second in the league in both fewest yards per play and points per drive.

That bodes well for the defensive prospects of Oklahoma, Kansas, TCU, Texas and West Virginia, which all have like tackle rates coming back for 2014.
On Wednesday, we ranked the Big 12 position-by-position from strongest to weakest.

Last season the strongest position of the league was defensive back, headlined by Justin Gilbert, Jason Verrett, Ahmad Dixon, Aaron Colvin and Ty Zimmerman, among others.

But those players are all gone. So what will be the strongest position in 2014?

With such players such as TCU’s Devonte Fields, Oklahoma’s Charles Tapper and Texas’ Cedric Reed returning, we believe it will be defensive line.

SportsNation

What will be the Big 12's strongest overall position in 2014?

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    32%
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    12%
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    8%
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    11%
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    37%

Discuss (Total votes: 3,613)

But do you agree?

Maybe you think it will be another position such as receiver, which includes All-American hopefuls Antwan Goodley and Tyler Lockett, and a host of potential 1,000-yard threats such as Texas Tech’s Jakeem Grant, Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard, Iowa State’s Quenton Bundrage, Oklahoma State’s Jhajuan Seales and Texas’ Jaxon Shipley.

Perhaps it’s your opinion that the strength of the Big 12 will be at linebacker, where Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, Kansas and TCU bring their entire units back, and virtually everyone else has at least one proven performer returning.

Maybe the conference’s best unit is the offensive line, with experienced centers BJ Finney (Kansas State), Dominic Espinosa (Texas) and Tom Farniok (Iowa State); talented tackles Spencer Drango (Baylor), Le'Raven Clark (Texas Tech) and Daryl Williams (Oklahoma); and versatile stalwarts Cody Whitehair (Kansas State), Quinton Spain (West Virginia) and Daniel Koenig (Oklahoma State).

Or with Baylor’s Bryce Petty, Kansas State’s Jake Waters, Texas Tech’s Davis Webb and Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight, do you believe quarterback is on its way back to becoming the dominant position in a league that not long ago was the nation’s preeminent conference for that position?

Tell us by voting in the weekly Big 12 poll.
Last week the Pac-12 blog discussed some dream nonconference matchups that we’d like to see someday. But the Pac-12 blog is firmly rooted in reality, none of this dream stuff (unless we feel like writing about it). So, let’s talk real-world, actually-happening, nonconference matchups.

So Kevin Gemmell and Chantel Jennings will take to that topic this week.

What nonconference match up are you most looking forward to in 2014?

Chantel Jennings: Easy. Has to be Michigan State-Oregon in Week 2. I grew up in Big Ten territory and before moving west this spring to cover the Pac-12, the Midwest was the only place I had ever lived. I attended the University of Michigan and saw my fair share of interesting (read: meh) nonconference games during my four years there. As a freshman, my first game was Michigan-Appalachian State. For those who don’t remember, the Wolverines lost -- that was my introduction as a student to Wolverines football. As a result, I sold my ticket for the following weekend to Oregon-Michigan (the Wolverines lost that one, too). Despite that, I’m a big fan of the historical relevance of Big Ten-Pac-12 matchups, and having closely covered the Spartans last season, I’m very excited to see what these two teams bring to the table.

Oregon QB Marcus Mariota isn’t going to have to face the vaunted "No Fly Zone" of the Spartans defense next season, but there’s plenty of talent on that side of the ball for Michigan State and there are few coordinators who are better than Michigan State's Pat Narduzzi. Plus, reigning Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year Shilique Calhoun will have Mariota’s number. On the flip side, reigning Rose Bowl Offensive MVP Connor Cook is going to have to face the Oregon defense, which is no easy task. Cook lost his top receiver, but running back Jeremy Langford is back for the Spartans.

And as a side note: Michigan State has one of the best tweeters in the country in punter Mike Sadler (he’s also a tremendous punter). Between his ability to regularly get responses from Arby’s and Faux Pelini (the fake Twitter account for Nebraska coach Bo Pelini) and his wit, Sadler has one of the better athlete Twitter timelines that I’ve seen. With the Spartans playing the Ducks, there will be plenty of pre-game fodder for Sadler, and I’m looking forward to seeing how that plays out.

Kevin Gemmell: It’s a good thing you found your way West, Chantel. The Pac-12 neeehhhvvveeerrr loses to FCS teams (cough, cough).

Your pick makes sense -- not only because you’re the Oregon writer, but because that is going to be the marquee nonconference game in the Pac-12 this season. Oregon wants a seat at the playoff table, and Michigan State’s Rose Bowl win is still fresh in a lot of minds. A win will definitely strengthen Oregon’s national profile.

But I think the same can be said for UCLA, which faces Texas Sept. 13 in Arlington, Texas. Granted, the Longhorns are a former super-power transitioning from Mack Brown to Charlie Strong. But Strong’s presence gives Texas a renewed sense of national credibility, and a victory would open some eyes of folks still straddling the Bruins’ fence. Despite its recent shortcomings, Texas is still a name program.

Like Oregon, UCLA is a team expecting big things in 2014. That makes their Oct. 11 showdown at the Rose Bowl awfully interesting.

But before the Bruins get there, they have the Texas matchup, followed by a bye week, and then a Thursday night showdown with defending South champ Arizona State in Tempe. A win over Texas gives the Bruins a ton of momentum heading into a game that has essentially decided the South Division the last two seasons. A loss could send them tumbling down the rankings and stunt any forward progress heading into league play.

The Pac-12 is traditionally ambitious with its nonconference scheduling. There are three showdowns with Notre Dame this season -- ASU, USC and Stanford -- and that always makes for entertaining football. I think Utah at Michigan has some intrigue -- given Kyle Whittingham’s success over Brady Hoke when their teams sparred in the Mountain West. I also think it’s interesting that for the second straight season, a Pac-12 team will face its bowl opponent from the previous year in the season opener (Washington-Boise State in 2013, USC-Fresno State in 2014).

But in terms of games that could boost the national standing of the conference, it probably doesn’t get bigger than Michigan State-Oregon and UCLA-Texas.
In this week's mailbag we discuss our imaginary Big 12 draft, Texas' disastrous 2014 draft class and who has impressed most on the recruiting trail.

To submit a mailbag entry via Twitter, simply include the hashtag #big12mailbag. To do it the traditional way, go here.


Stephen in Houston writes: Which teams have impressed you so far in the 2015 recruiting class?

Trotter: Oklahoma State and Baylor have really impressed so far. The Cowboys already have three top-100 players on board, more than anyone else in the league. The Bears, meanwhile, have six ESPN 300 commitments, which ties Texas for the conference lead. Despite its struggles on the field, West Virginia, with 11 commitments, is off to a great start on its 2015 class. So is Texas Tech, with a pair of top-100 pledges, including Jarrett Stidham, the nation’s second-ranked dual-threat QB, who had offers from everyone.

 




 

Daniel C. in Bel Air, Md., writes: With all this draft analysis and way-too-early 2015 draft stuff, I'd like to offer this: Bryce Petty is a good college quarterback. He's accurate, but consistently has open receivers to throw to and he tends to stare them down. I don't see him in the NFL unless he can also improve his footwork and drive off of his back leg. Jake Waters actually faces some of the same issues with his plant foot, but his throwing motion is prettier. I find it strange to see this league, dominated by great quarterbacks and supposedly NFL prospects at the position for so long, without an elite signal-caller. Who has the best chance to rise from the rubble?

Trotter: Well, many people, me included, would disagree with you about Petty. His arm, mobility, size and intelligence make him a very good pro quarterback prospect. If he had a problem starting down receivers last year, he would have thrown more than three interceptions in 403 pass attempts. Will he go in the first round? That will depend on what he does this season. Sure, Petty has plenty to improve on, including his pocket awareness, which has been an emphasis for him this offseason. But he’s a potential first rounder.

 




 

Patrick in Abilene, Kan., writes: Twenty-two rounds by three people and no Jake Waters?

Trotter: Only three quarterbacks could get drafted, and Brandon went with Trevor Knight over Waters late. It was an interesting call. Waters was the safer pick, but Knight’s upside is tantalizing. Who would you guys have taken? Given the way Brandon constructed his offense with four receivers and a receiving running back in Wendell Smallwood, I probably would have gone with Waters.

 




 

Andy in Austin, Texas, writes: How does this draft shutout for the Longhorns affect Mack Brown’s legacy? And how does a player like Jackson Jeffcoat fall so far out of favor with scouts given the latter half of his season and the hardware he picked up along the way?

Trotter: I think Jeffcoat’s injury history ultimately turned scouts off. If he can stay healthy in Seattle, though, he can be a productive player there. As for Brown, the draft shutout basically validated that Texas was justified in making the coaching change. It’s completely unacceptable for a program like Texas to be so depleted of talent that not a single player gets drafted. The 2014 draft cemented what we already knew: The Longhorns slipped in the waning years of Brown’s Texas career.

 




 

Michael in Austin, Texas, writes: Charlie Strong had three players go in the first round of the draft. What kind of impact could this have on the Longhorns recruiting going forward?

Trotter: That’s why the draft shutout will have little effect on the Longhorns going forward, in my opinion. But can you imagine the negative recruiting that would have stigmatized Texas had Brown returned?

 




Trotter: As you suggest, the Big 12 collectively will be facing some non-conference heavyweights this year. West Virginia-Alabama. Oklahoma State-Florida State. Texas-UCLA. The league’s best chance of springing an upset, though, will be Sept. 18, when Auburn will travel to Manhattan, Kan. Yes, the Tigers are the defending SEC champs and played for the national championship. But Bill Snyder Family Stadium on a Thursday night won’t be an easy place to play. Plus, K-State will enter this season with a ton of momentum after winning six of seven to finish out last year. This is the best opportunity for the Big 12 to land a marquee nonconference win.

 




Trotter: Their chances would improve dramatically. But playoff inclusion is going to also hinge on how the Bears perform in their other games. Their non-conference schedule is lousy, so the margin for error is slim. But if the Bears go to Norman and win, they at least will be well on their way to defending their Big 12 title.

 




Trotter: Right now, you’d have to say linebacker, since he’s sitting atop the depth chart there coming out of the spring. Williams could still help Tech at running back, but he’s going to be favoring one position over the other. Every indication of Lubbock is that position will be linebacker.
Though the 2014 NFL draft ended just last weekend, ESPN Insider Todd McShay posted his way-too-early 2015 mock draft Insider on Wednesday.

McShay had three Big 12 players going in his mock first round: Baylor QB Bryce Petty 15th overall to the Houston Texans, TCU DE Devonte Fields 25th overall to the San Francisco 49ers and Oklahoma LB Eric Striker 29th overall to the Green Bay Packers.

Though we have almost a full year to go, here are some of other top Big 12 prospects for the 2015 draft (in alphabetical order):

  • TE E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State: Three pass-catching tight ends went in the first two rounds last weekend, and that’s exactly what Bibbs is. He caught 39 passes last season and can far exceed that if QB Grant Rohach settles into new coordinator Mark Mangino’s offense.
  • [+] EnlargeMalcom Brown
    John Albright/Icon SMIMalcom Brown might be the best DT in the Big 12 this season and could make NFL scouts take notice.
  • DT Malcom Brown, Texas: Like his D-line teammate Cedric Reed, Brown has first-round talent. He was rated the second-best DT coming out of high school and began to realize that potential last season.
  • SS Sam Carter, TCU: Carter has manned strong safety at a high level in Fort Worth for the past two seasons and was the only underclassman defensive back to earn first- or second-team All-Big 12 honors in 2013. With teammate Jason Verrett gone, he won’t be as overshadowed next season.
  • OT Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech: After starting his first two seasons in college at left tackle, Clark could get moved to guard this season. Clark has the strength to be a devastating run-blocking guard, and the NFL loves players who can play multiple positions.
  • CB Quandre Diggs, Texas: Diggs has been a starter in Austin since his true freshman season. He is fast, and he’s a solid tackler against the run. Diggs has an NFL pedigree, too. His brother, Quentin Jammer, was a first-round pick in 2002 after starring for the Horns.
  • OT Spencer Drango, Baylor: Drango will get plenty of attention protecting Petty’s blindside. The back injury from last season is a concern, but it also underscored how dominant Drango actually was. Baylor’s pass protection was leaky without him the rest of the year. Like Clark, Drango will just be a junior next season.
  • C BJ Finney, Kansas State: The Big 12 has some other draft hopefuls at center in Iowa State’s Tom Farniok and Texas’ Dominic Espinosa, but Finney seems like the best bet of the three to get drafted. The former walk-on and high school state wrestling champ will be a four-year starter, and has 39 career starts, which is tied for the Big 12 active lead.
  • WR Antwan Goodley, Baylor: He might not be tall at only 5-foot-10, but Goodley is physical and fast. With another ultra-productive season like last fall, he could be one of the top receivers on next year’s board.
  • WR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State: Lockett’s versatility both as an inside or outside receiver and in the return game only makes him a more attractive prospect. With Jake Waters now installed as the full-time QB, Lockett could have a monster statistical senior season.
  • DE Shawn Oakman, Baylor: At 6-9, 275 pounds, Oakman has intriguing size for an NFL defensive line. If he dominates in the fall the way Art Briles said he did in the spring, Oakman could quickly turn into a hot prospect even though he’ll only be a junior.
  • DE Cedric Reed, Texas: According to NFL.com, Reed was one of two players nationally in 2013 to record five sacks, five forced fumbles and four pass breakups. The other? Buffalo’s Khalil Mack, who was the fifth overall pick in last week’s draft. By coming back to school for another year, Reed could potentially become a first rounder, too.
  • DE Charles Tapper, Oklahoma: Tapper almost has the size of a defensive tackle and the athleticism of a linebacker. He didn’t have an overly huge statistical sophomore season but was the only underclassman defensive lineman voted All-Big 12 by the coaches. Tapper too will only be a junior.
  • OT Daryl Williams, Oklahoma: Even though Tyrus Thompson has manned the left side in Norman, Williams has the better pro outlook. Williams will be a three-year starter and has the athleticism to transition to the left side at the next level.
Others to watch: RB Malcolm Brown, Texas; DT James Castleman, Oklahoma State; C Dominic Espinosa, Texas; C Tom Farniok, Iowa State; ILB Bryce Hager, Baylor; FS Chris Hackett, TCU; LB Ben Heeney, Kansas; DT Chucky Hunter, TCU; FS Karl Joseph, West Virginia; DE Ryan Mueller, Kansas State; DT Jordan Phillips, Oklahoma; DT Davion Pierson, TCU; OG Quinton Spain, West Virginia; OT Tyrus Thompson, Oklahoma; CB Kevin White, TCU; OG Cody Whitehair, Kansas State
Earlier Thursday, we concluded our 22-round draft of current Big 12 players. Below are the three lineup outcomes of that draft, and as you can see, each of us went in different directions.

SportsNation

Who had the best imaginary Big 12 player draft?

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    30%
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    38%
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    32%

Discuss (Total votes: 2,440)

Like the St. Louis Rams, Max and Brandon built up their defensive lines before worrying about the rest of their rosters. While I grabbed the best quarterback in the league and surrounded him with protection and weapons.

After each lineup, read our final takes on our teams. Then, decide who drafted best in the weekly Big 12 poll.

BRANDON CHATMON’S TEAM

OFFENSE
DEFENSE
What Brandon says about his team: “Offensively, as soon as Petty was gone with the first pick I knew I wouldn’t take a quarterback until my final pick. Knight could be the steal of the draft. Versatility is the name of the game with the rest of the offense. We can put Pierson and Smallwood in the backfield and go read option or really ruin your Saturday and throw Daje back there in the Diamond. When you bring more guys in the box, you leave Seales and Lockett one-on-one. Or we can just go five wide and you can try to cover running backs who run routes like receivers with your linebackers. And an experienced offensive line will be the foundation of it all. Defensively, it would be wise for opposing quarterbacks to tell their families to stay home when facing this group. We’re going to man up and have our mail forwarded to the opposing backfield and make you want to take your ball and go home. And with a secondary full of coverage guys, I’m not concerned about the back end of the defense holding up. We’ll win more battles than we lose. By the final whistle, my team will have earned the moniker 'Chatmon’s chaos creators' with Tapper, Reed, Brown, Hunter, Alexander and Robertson living in your backfield.”

MAX OLSON'S TEAM

OFFENSE
DEFENSE
What Max says about his team: “You do not want to play against my team. That was my goal going in, and I constructed exactly the team I wanted. I have a great QB in Webb who gets to throw to Goodley, one of the nation's best receivers, and he'd help Jaxon Shipley put up Jordan Shipley numbers. I have the two-back punch of Linwood and Gray. I have Hill, who can do everything, and a good line. We're going to spread the ball around like crazy. Good luck stopping that. On defense, you have Fields, Oakman and Grissom all rushing the passer. That's deadly. We can go three-man fronts or even put Oakman in the middle, letting the 6-foot-8 stud swat your passes down. And while you're worrying about him and Grissom, you have the Big 12's best defensive player [Fields] coming after you. Hager and Shannon will hold it down at the second level, and the secondary is full of playmakers. This is a fun team, plain and simple, and one that can frustrate the heck out of anybody.”

JAKE TROTTER’S TEAM

OFFENSE
DEFENSE
What Jake says about his team: “Max and Brandon are good at talking smack. I’ll give them that. But my players do their talking on the field. Once I was fortunate to land reigning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year Bryce Petty as my quarterback, my goal was two-fold: to keep him upright from pressure off the edge; and, to surround him with firepower. I accomplished both ends, and then some. I wasn’t able to get either of the two elite receivers in the league in Goodley or Lockett. But I put together the best overall receiving corps in Grant, Shepard and Bundrage, who could all deliver 1,000-yard receiving seasons in 2014. On top of that, I snagged the best pass-catching tight end on the board in Bibbs, as well as Brown, so that we can pound the ball between the tackles when we need. Speaking of tackles, aware that Brandon and Max were focused almost solely on their pass rush in the early rounds, I also added two of the most reliable pass-protecting bookends in the league in Drango and Williams. Defensively, I can bring pressure, too, with Mueller and Striker, who last season respectively placed second and fourth in the Big 12 in sacks. Castleman and Britz are roadblocks, Heeney and Dawson are tackle machines and my entire secondary has All-Big 12 potential. We don’t talk. We just dominate.”

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