Big 12: West Virginia Mountaineers

We've been doing something different with the mailbag, including Twitter questions with the regular mailbag submissions. To submit a mailbag entry via Twitter, simply include the hashtag #big12mailbag. You also still can send in questions the traditional way here, too.

To the 'bag...

Trotter: At this point, I think it's only a matter of time before Grant Rohach is named the starter. He was clearly the best QB in the spring game, and coming off the way he played at the end of last season, momentum is in his corner. I know the Cyclones are high on the potential of redshirt freshman Joel Lanning, and Rohach will have to perform once the season begins to keep the job, but at this point, it's difficult envisioning anyone other than Rohach starting the opener against North Dakota State.

Trotter: Texas' Cedric Reed, Kansas State's Ryan Mueller, Oklahoma's Charles Tapper, TCU's Devonte Fields and Baylor's Shawn Oakman. On the next tier, I'd have Oklahoma's Geneo Grissom, Texas Tech's Branden Jackson, Iowa State's Cory Morrissey and Oklahoma State's Jimmy Bean.

Trotter: My two darkhorse picks at this point would be Texas Tech and TCU. Schedule is a big part of this, and Tech gets Oklahoma and Texas at home, and Baylor in Arlington, Texas. If the Red Raiders could escape a September Thursday night clash at Oklahoma State, then they could be a factor. QB Davis Webb has made tremendous improvement since December, and he's going to have plenty of firepower surrounding him. Assuming Fields is back to his old self, the Horned Frogs will again be a formidable defense. The big question, as always, is, can they score enough points? But if Matt Joeckel can step in at QB and direct what is essentially the same offense he had at Texas A&M to respectability, TCU could be a handful.

Trotter: Charlie Strong can't get destroyed by Oklahoma. Can't enter any fourth quarter without a legitimate chance to win. Can't lose more than three games. If he avoids those three potholes, he has chance to take Texas a step forward. To me, that's the litmus test.

Trotter: Anytime a team loses its leading tackler, it hurts. Fortunately for the Sooners, they're deep at linebacker, and can absorb a key loss there better than they'd be able to at some other positions. Jordan Evans played well as a true freshman, and shined in place of Shannon in the spring game. A linebacking corps of Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year Dominique Alexander, sack-master Eric Striker and Evans would still be stout. Of course, it would be even better with Shannon.

Trotter: That's a tough question. It was startling how much the K-State defense suffered when Ty Zimmerman wasn't on the field last year, but I have faith Dante Barnett is ready to assume a leadership role in that secondary and stabilize the defense. I have less faith right now in K-State's running backs. So far this spring, no one has really emerged from a crop of backs with almost no meaningful experience. The K-State attack has always been predicated on a strong running game, so this is no small issue. Maybe freshman Dalvin Warmack can jumpstart the position when he arrives this summer. But running back looks like the biggest question on a solid-looking team with not many questions elsewhere.

Big 12's lunch links

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
12:00
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I'm guessing this is how Usain Bolt plays soccer.
Two seasons ago, the Big 12 sent an unprecedented nine of its 10 members to bowl games, prompting Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops -- among others -- to tout the depth of the league.

But last season, only six Big 12 teams qualified for bowls, as Iowa State, TCU and West Virginia had losing records while Kansas ran its bowl-less streak to five seasons.

In this week’s poll question, we ask: Which Big 12 team that didn’t qualify for a bowl last year has the best chance of getting back to one in 2014?

SportsNation

Which Big 12 team that failed to qualify for a bowl last year has the best chance of making one in 2014?

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    17%
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    2%
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    39%
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    42%

Discuss (Total votes: 5,054)

Until last season, the Mountaineers had made a bowl every year all the way back to 2001. But inconsistent play at quarterback and defensive injuries doomed them in 2013. West Virginia returns starter Clint Trickett and has added some interesting quarterbacks to the competition. The Mountaineers also appear loaded in the backfield and at wide receiver, and they added veteran assistant Tom Bradley to the defensive staff. But West Virginia plays a brutal schedule, which includes Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, and has road trips to Maryland, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Texas.

TCU had also been accustomed to going to bowl games annually, as the Horned Frogs hadn’t missed one since 2004. Injuries to defensive end Devonte Fields and quarterback Casey Pachall ravaged TCU early on in the season. The Horned Frogs also struggled offensively all year, prompting coach Gary Patterson to overhaul his attack and bring in Houston’s Doug Meacham and Texas Tech’s Sonny Cumbie to coordinate a no-huddle, spread attack. TCU lost All-American cornerback Jason Verrett off last fall’s team, but Fields appears healthy after undergoing foot surgery. The defense figures to be stout again.

Paul Rhoads had led Iowa State to two straight bowls before taking a step back last season. The Cyclones got off to a rough start with a stunning loss to Northern Iowa in the opener. They later dropped a one-point game on a Thursday night to Texas and never regained the momentum. The Cyclones never quit, however, and finished the season on a high note by routing Kansas and rallying to topple West Virginia on the road in triple overtime. Iowa State still needs several players to emerge defensively, but the offense could feature the best collection of skill players the Cyclones have enjoyed in a long time, headlined by running back Aaron Wimberly, wideout Quenton Bundrage and tight end E.J. Bibbs.

Kansas hasn’t been to a bowl since current Iowa State offensive coordinator Mark Mangino was its head coach. The Jayhawks did defeat West Virginia last season to snap their 27-game Big 12 losing streak, but that remained their lone Big 12 win. Kansas has added transfer Nick Harwell, who was second in the nation in receiving in 2011 at Miami (Ohio) and should give the Jayhawks a much-needed go-to receiver. Kansas also brings back 16 starters, including nine on a defensive unit that played several teams tough last season. Of course, after winning just nine games combined the past four seasons, the Jayhawks would seemingly have the longest road back to a bowl.

But we leave it to you to decide: Which of these four teams -- West Virginia, TCU, Iowa State or Kansas -- has the best chance of getting back to a bowl in 2014?
Today is a minor holiday for recruitniks: The newest edition of the ESPN 300 recruiting rankings have been released, along with a slew of other grades and evaluations.

It's always a big-time endeavor for the ESPN crew of scouts, so be sure to click HERE for the ESPN 300 rankings.

Several of today's updates to the ESPN 300 affect the Big 12. Here's a closer look at what you should take away from the rankings:
  • Oklahoma State quarterback commit John Kolar enjoyed an incredible jump, going from unranked to the nation's No. 3 pocket passer. He's now ranked No. 82 overall in the ESPN 300. The Norman (Okla.) North senior-to-be impressed filling in for injured Alabama signee David Cornwell last year, and he has wowed our scouts as well.
  • What a killer start for Baylor. The Bears have verbal commitments from six high school prospects, and all six made the ESPN 300. The highest ranked of the bunch is WR John Humphrey Jr., who announced his commitment last night. He's one of three ESPN 300 receivers in the class, joining Devontre Stricklin and Chad President. The Bears signed four ESPN 300 recruits in last year's class, and three the previous year, so this is quite the jump. With Baylor high on the list of several other ESPN 300 prospects, including WR DaMarkus Lodge (No. 63 in ESPN 300) and DE James Lockhart (No. 113), there's a good chance this class ends up being the best in the Big 12 when it's all said and done.
  • Texas now has verbal commitments from five ESPN 300 recruits: S DeShon Elliott (No. 94), OT Toby Weathersby (No. 138), OG Patrick Vahe (No. 171), new RB commit Tristian Houston (No. 208) and RB Jordan Stevenson (No. 296). The Longhorns are in the mix for more than 30 ESPN 300 prospects and have offered several more elite out-of-state recruits. Texas has some real momentum under new coach Charlie Strong at the moment, and it's possible more than 10 uncommitted ESPN 300 prospects visits Austin this week for the spring game.
  • The state of Oklahoma has five prospects in the ESPN 300, and nearly all of them could end up being Sooners. OU already has verbal pledges from DT Marquise Overton (No. 150) and OG Joshua Wariboko (No. 190) and is among the leaders for OG Jalin Barnett (No. 36) and S Will Sunderland Jr. (No. 212). And then there's Kolar, who the Sooners could still make a push for over time. Four of Oklahoma's five current pledges are in the ESPN 300.
  • Texas Tech already has two top-50 recruits in QB Jarrett Stidham and DT Breiden Fehoko, and they'll be the lead recruiters of this Red Raiders class. Stidham checks in at No. 37 in the new ESPN 300, which puts him No. 4 among all prospects in Texas, and Fehoko is the nation's No. 7 defensive tackle.
  • It's a great year to find a running back in the state of Texas. Ten of them made the newest ESPN 300, and six have already committed to schools. The top-rated member of the group is Oklahoma State commit Ronald Jones II, the nation's No. 3 running back. Texas already has Houston and Stevenson, Baylor has Ja'Mycal Hasty (No. 274) and Texas A&M has pledges from Rodney Anderson (No. 263) and Jay Bradford (No. 277).
  • West Virginia is off to a great start with the 2015 class thanks to its dedication to recruiting Florida. Two of its verbal commits made the ESPN 300 in WR Jovon Durante (No. 120) and S Kendrell McFadden (No. 153), and half of its 10 pledges come from the Sunshine State. WVU is one of only seven program in the country with double-digit commitments at this point.

Big 12 lunchtime links

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
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This kid might have just saved a life.
Even though almost 10 months remain until the next national singing day, teams across the Big 12 have jumped off to fast starts in putting together their 2015 classes.

To catch you up on all the recruiting storylines that have developed so far, we checked in with ESPN.com senior national recruiting writer Jeremy Crabtree and Big 12 recruiting reporter Damon Sayles for their takes:

Which team has impressed you the most with its 2015 recruiting?

Crabtree: With all of the questions West Virginia faced in the offseason and the product the Mountaineers put on the field in 2013, you would think they would be struggling out of the gate with the 2015 class. But it has been the exact opposite. WVU has 10 commitments, including from one of the best receivers in the country, Jovon Durante. West Virginia is selling kids on an opportunity to play early and make a big difference in getting the program back on track. Plus, it has gone back to its roots and mined the very familiar recruiting territory of Florida for some of its best pledges.

Sayles: As much as I like what Texas Tech and TCU have done so far, I have to tip my hat to what West Virginia has accomplished. The Mountaineers have a pair of ESPN Junior 300 players in safety Kendrell McFadden and Durante. The Mountaineers are recruiting the state of Florida well; five of the 10 pledges are from the Sunshine State. West Virginia is off to a fast start, and with the program fresh off a successful spring game, more big-time commits could be coming soon.

Who has disappointed?


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Take Two: Which QB advanced?

April, 15, 2014
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This week's "Take Two" topic: Which Big 12 quarterback still in a battle for a job took the biggest step toward earning a starting role during the spring games Saturday?

Take 1: Max Olson -- West Virginia’s Paul Millard

If the season started today … well, that’s a question Dana Holgorsen doesn’t have to answer, so no way is he going to any time soon.

[+] EnlargePaul Millard
James Lang/USA TODAY SportsPaul Millard was impressive on Saturday for West Virginia, but can he nail down the QB job?
There’s no gun to the West Virginia coach’s head when it comes to his quarterback decision, not when only three of his five potential candidates played in the Gold-Blue Game. No need to commit to anything now, though the Mountaineer quarterbacks did have one important audition Saturday.

And the passer who made the best impression this weekend was Millard. Which is understandable, considering this was the senior’s fourth chance at a spring game at WVU.

Millard completed 14 of 19 passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns, with both of those scores coming in the red zone. With Clint Trickett out for the spring and touted freshman William Crest not yet on campus, this was a prime opportunity for Millard to what he can do with the offense.

His competition on this day was junior college transfer Skyler Howard and former Division II transfer Logan Moore, who played receiver last fall. Holgorsen wanted to see his quarterbacks do a better job of getting the ball to playmakers like Mario Alford, but it’s hard to demand that consistency when your quarterback play is ever-changing.

Millard started three games, appeared in four more and finished with 1,122 passing yards and six touchdowns last season. But all three WVU starting QBs threw as many interceptions as they did touchdowns in 2013. He knows as well as anybody it’ll be imperative for the Mountaineers to find their best guy and stick with him.

“We all know it’s a long road ahead,” Millard said after the spring game. “Just got to keep competing.”

Take 2: Jake Trotter – Iowa State’s Grant Rohach

Millard certainly had a sharp spring game. But because Trickett wasn’t on the field Saturday due to the shoulder injury, it was impossible for Millard to distinguish himself from his biggest competition.

Rohach had no such issue in the Cyclones’ spring game. With Sam B. Richardson and Joel Lanning also getting ample opportunity, Rohach outshined them both Saturday while taking a strong step toward locking up the starting job.

Building off how he finished last season, Rohach completed 22 of 38 passes for 171 yards. He also dashed for an 8-yard touchdown off a slick read option, and was behind center on three of the offense’s six scoring drives.

The offense wasn't nearly as crisp when Rohach was off the field. Lanning, a redshirt freshman with a lot of potential, completed only 7 of his 14 attempts with 44 yards. Richardson, who began the 2013 season as the starter before suffering an array of injuries, threw for just 55 yards while completing 8 of 13 passes.

While head coach Paul Rhoads cautioned that the derby wasn’t necessarily over and that a lot could happen until August, he admitted that Rohach was the top spring game performer among the quarterbacks.

“We will come out of spring with two leading candidates,” Rhoads later reiterated.

The Cyclones have good reason to take their time in naming a quarterback. The players are still adapting to new coordinator Mark Mangino’s offensive system. And one spring game is no reason to overreact. Rohach wasn't perfect, either, throwing two late interceptions.

But Rohach has been surging since the end of last season. As a freshman, he was on point in a 34-0 win over Kansas. Then he rallied the Cyclones from a 24-point, second-half deficit to lift them to a triple-overtime victory at West Virginia.

Rohach still has work to do to nail down the job in August. But after his spring game showing, he will head into the summer as the clear front-runner to do so.

Big 12 lunchtime links

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
12:00
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It's not like bringing a cat to the spring game but Kliff Kingsbury is still winning ...
West Virginia capped its spring drills with the Gold-Blue game on Saturday. Here’s a recap of what happened:

Best offensive performance: The other quarterbacks had their moments, but veteran Paul Millard was the steadiest, completing 14 of 19 passes for 129 yards with no turnovers. Millard also threw a pair of 6-yard touchdown passes, the first to Kevin White, the second to Daikiel Shorts. The West Virginia quarterback derby is far from over. Junior-college transfer Skyler Howard is still grasping the offense and will only get more comfortable. Clint Trickett, the favorite to win the job, will be back shortly after undergoing offseason surgery. Hotshot freshman William Crest will also be joining the team in the summer. But after a shaky 2013 campaign, Millard has plenty to build off from his spring game performance.

Best defensive performance: By all accounts, cornerback Daryl Worley has been tremendous all spring, and Saturday was no different. As he has been in practice, Worley shut down wideout Mario Alford in the spring game, holding him to just two catches for 12 yards. “Daryl Worley has had a phenomenal spring,” coach Dana Holgorsen said. “Mario’s confidence is a little down right now because he has had to go against him so much.” With Justin Gilbert, Jason Verrett and Aaron Colvin all gone, Worley could be a contender to earn All-Big 12 honors in his sophomore season.

Best debut: Last year, Logan Moore toiled as a reserve walk-on wide receiver after transferring in from Fairmont State in 2012. But this spring, Moore was moved back to quarterback, the position he played at Fairmont, and in the spring game, he generated some buzz with his athleticism. Moore completed 10 of 21 attempts for 109 yards, and rushed the ball three times for 38 yards with all the quarterbacks stripped of their no-contact jerseys. Moore still remains a long shot to gain playing time in the fall. But he also turned some heads Saturday.

Notable play: Alford took the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown with a couple of gorgeous cutbacks. "I just saw an opening and took it," Alford said. "We have been working real hard this spring on hitting the gaps.” Alford’s return was a promising sign for the Mountaineers, who ranked last in the Big 12 last year in both kickoff and punt returns.

Developing storyline: West Virginia has long been known as a high-scoring program. But the Mountaineers have rapidly progressed defensively this spring under new coordinator Tony Gibson and first-year assistant Tom Bradley. The defense forced the offense to punt on the first four possessions and was assignment sound throughout the scrimmage. The linebacking corps is deep and experienced, Worley is turning into a star, and safeties K.J. Dillon and Karl Joseph are coming into their own. If the defensive line holds up, which remains the biggest question, the Mountaineers could field their best defense in years.

Biggest question answered: Who knows at this point how exactly carries will be divided among West Virginia’s running backs? But this has become clear -- the Mountaineers figure to feature the deepest stable of running backs in the Big 12. Finally healthy again, Dustin Garrison, West Virginia’s leading rusher all the way back in 2011, has enjoyed a renaissance this offseason and rushed for 47 yards in the spring game. Wendell Smallwood, who had 45 yards Saturday, gives the backfield a heavy dose of versatility. Rushel Shell ran for 37 yards in the spring game and has one of the highest ceilings of any back in the league. And none of the above includes Dreamius Smith, who sat out the spring game, but is the front-runner to start. The Mountaineers also welcomed back 2012 leading rusher Andrew Buie during the winter and will welcome in four-star freshman Donte Thomas-Williams in the summer. Don’t forget about Cody Clay, who is one of the best run-blocking fullbacks in the league. West Virginia still has several questions coming out of the spring. Running back depth is not one of them.

Quotable: “The first-team defense played excellent. Once we started taking those guys out, that’s when we started moving the ball a little bit. As a head coach, that’s what you want to see.” -- Holgorsen
Saturday, Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and West Virginia all held their spring games. Below is a sample of the sights from each stadium:

IOWA STATE

KANSAS

OKLAHOMA

TEXAS TECH

WEST VIRGINIA

Spring game preview: West Virginia

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11
3:00
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West Virginia finishes its spring practice schedule with the annual Gold-Blue spring football game this weekend. Here's what you need to know:

When: 1 p.m. ET Saturday

Where: Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, W.Va.

What to watch for:
  • The quarterback battle: This is Paul Millard's chance to make his case for why he should be West Virginia's starting quarterback. The senior appeared in seven games last season and has earned good reviews so far in spring ball with Clint Trickett sidelined. The challenger here is Skyler Howard, an undersized (6-foot, 200 pounds) passer who showed off a big arm and scrambling ability at the junior college level but had some ups and downs this spring. He's still learning the offense and needs to show progress.
  • New-look defense? When Tony Gibson took over as defensive coordinator this offseason, he vowed he wouldn't make too many changes because his players needed continuity. He is, after all, their fourth defensive coordinator in four years. But how does the promoted safeties coach plan to upgrade a WVU defense that ranked 99th in FBS in scoring defense and 101st in total defense last year? Expect to see some 3-3-5 and 3-4 fronts on Saturday and a major emphasis on getting defenders in the backfield. Gibson and Dana Holgorsen want a simplified scheme that lets their defenders play fast, and that concept will be put to the test.
  • Meet the rushers: The battle to replace Charles Sims won't be won by just one person; that much seems certain. West Virginia has a stable of running backs who bring intriguing possibilities for this offense, and the Gold-Blue Game should offer a sample of what's to come. Dreamius Smith proved plenty in his debut season last season, but technically he's not even the most experienced back. That would be junior Andrew Buie, an 850-yard rusher in 2012 who took off the fall semester and redshirted last season. Wendell Smallwood and Dustin Garrison can be difference-makers, and Pitt transfer Rushel Shell could be the most talented member of the bunch. Let's see which ones make a statement on Saturday.
  • Worley on the rise: One of the best defensive backs whom nobody is talking about in the Big 12 has to be Daryl Worley, who survived playing on an island last season as a freshman. In this league, if you can keep up with these offenses in your rookie season, you've got a bright future. West Virginia coaches have praised Worley as easily one of their best defenders, even as he's been on campus for less than a year, and much will be expected of him in 2014. On a defense that will have to get takeaways to stay competitive, Worley will be a weapon.
  • O-line depth: WVU is pretty set at offensive guard, but the tackles are a bit of a question mark. Marquis Lucas and Adam Pankey are the favorites to land those jobs at the moment, and there are several options behind them, but the depth is an issue that will be tested Saturday. All any coach wants from a spring game is zero injuries, and any hits to this offensive line would cause some real problems and more shifting around.
We've been doing something different with Friday's Big 12 mailbag. From now on, we'll be including Twitter questions with the regular mailbag submissions. To submit a mailbag entry via Twitter, simply include the hashtag #big12mailbag. You also still can send in questions the traditional way here, too.

To the 'bag...
Trotter: So far, Oklahoma State running back/receiver Tyreek Hill, TCU safety Kenny Iloka and Kansas receiver Nick Harwell. With his speed, Hill could lead the league in all-purpose yards. Iloka is going to be a key piece in the best secondary in the Big 12. And Harwell should finally give the Jayhawks that go-to receiver they haven’t had since Dezmon Briscoe.

Trotter: The Cyclones get K-State in Ames the second week of the season, which could be a dangerous game for the Wildcats, who might get caught looking ahead to that Thursday night clash with Auburn. Another team that must pay heed is Oklahoma. The Sooners go to Iowa State the week before hosting Baylor in a game that could determine the Big 12 crown. OU can't afford to be looking ahead, either.

Trotter: I'm going to set it at 1 1/2, and I think I would actually bet the over. The Jayhawks are going to be better this season, and quite possibly good enough to steal two conference wins.

Trotter: Right now, the Red Raiders have one on campus, and that's well below the national average. I don't see an issue. The way Davis Webb has improved in the last five months, he's going to be the guy the next three seasons barring something unforeseen. That would still give Jarrett Stidham three seasons of eligibility to be the starter, if he redshirted next year. Patrick Mahomes will get this chances, too. Seems like what TTU is going to do is be really good at quarterback the next six years.

Trotter: I have no inside info here, but if the game is at 11 a.m. again, hit me up in the fall and I'll share with you my shortcut to the Texas State Fair.

Trotter: It was a move that had to be made. Sams is too talented to be standing on the sidelines. He's not going to instantly become an All-Big 12 receiver. But if they can devise ways to get Sams the ball in space, the move could work out well. I see Sams getting a lot of his touches through flares, screens, reverses and maybe a handoff or Wildcat formation here or there. If they can get Sams the ball 10 times a game, that will only help the K-State offense. Think Trevone Boykin in TCU's offense late last year. That's how I see Sams best fitting in.

Trotter: Playing? Yes. Starting? No. I think Williams ultimately favors one side of the ball. The most likely scenario is he still keeps a major role at running back, then gives coordinator Matt Wallerstedt 15-20 plays at outside linebacker, which is more than I would have predicted at the beginning of the spring. Williams can really help the defense, but not at the expense of playing 130 snaps.

Trotter: Bob Stoops, Art Briles, Mike Gundy, Bill Snyder and Gary Patterson have ironclad job security. Paul Rhoads and Kliff Kingsbury have nothing to worry about, either, and Charlie Strong is too new to have to worry (though in Austin, that could change fast). That leaves Charlie Weis and Dana Holgorsen, whose seats are warmest among Big 12 coaches. I think Weis just has to show improvement this season. He can't go 0-12. Holgorsen is the most interesting to watch. Considering the brutal schedule, it's very possible West Virginia is better than last year and still goes 5-7, which might not be enough for Holgorsen to keep his job. But if the Mountaineers go, say, 7-5 against that slate, then I would think Holgorsen would be deserving of another year. West Virginia has been recruiting at an impressive clip, and the schedule will line up more favorably in 2015.


jrodxc07 in Dallas writes: Jake, love the blog, nice work sir. I think you could make a case for incoming Baylor receiver K.D. Cannon as Offensive Newcomer of the Year. Can you explain why you left him off your list?

Trotter: Appreciate it, sir. Cannon was actually on the poll for Offensive Freshman of the Year two weeks ago. The newcomer poll was for transfers, which is why you didn't see him there.


I only care about the Big 12 writes: Please go ahead and give us your way-too early power rankings? That is, if you haven't already...

Trotter: I actually released a power poll in January that went this way: OU, Baylor, K-State, Texas, Oklahoma State, Tech, TCU, Iowa State, West Virginia, Kansas. I'll be updating it, though, after spring ball concludes.

Athlon ranks the Big 12 coaches

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
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Athlon Sports has always been big on lists. And this week, Athlon’s Steven Lassan ranked all 128 FBS coaches. He also pulled out the top 10 Big 12 coaches.

As a disclaimer, this is NOT our list. This is Athlon’s. So forward all hate tweets and emails to them. Not me. I already get enough.

[+] Enlarge Art Briles
Ron Jenkins/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT/Getty ImagesArt Briles' status has grown in the eyes of Athlon.
Without further ado:

1. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

2. Art Briles, Baylor

3. Bill Snyder, Kansas State

4. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

5. Gary Patterson, TCU

6. Charlie Strong, Texas

7. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State

8. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech

9. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia

10. Charlie Weis, Kansas

Some observations:

  • Athlon prefers coaches who win conference championships. Briles, Snyder, Gundy and Stoops, the top four on this list, have won the past four Big 12 titles.
  • I went back and checked and noticed some interesting changes. Snyder was No. 1 in 2013, but dropped two spots this year (why, I’m not sure; K-State did win six of seven to close out the season). Mack Brown was No. 6 -- the same slot that Strong opened up here. Kingsbury moved up only one spot after going 8-5 in his first season.
  • In the eyes of Athlon, Patterson’s stock is falling. He was the No. 2 coach going into his first year in the Big 12 and was ranked third going into last season. On the flip side, Briles has made the biggest rise in the last two years, going from sixth to second after winning the Big 12 last season.
  • Athlon actually had Snyder fifth in 2012, which is hard to believe. We’re talking about one of the best coaches of all-time, right?
  • As you can see, I have a bigger beef with the 2012 and 2013 rankings than the 2014 one.
  • Kingsbury has the potential to ascend the most of anyone on this list. I don’t know that the No. 8 spot is completely unfair, considering he’s only been a head coach one season. But if he can turn Texas Tech into a Big 12 contender on a quasi-regular basis, he could jump several spots.
  • This is obviously not an easy list to compile. How do you weigh what Briles has done the last five years against what Snyder has the last 25? It’s all a matter of subjectivity.
In 2013, Charles Sims transferred to West Virginia from Houston for his final college season. After finishing third in the league in rushing, Sims deservedly was named the Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year.

This year, several offensive transfers have the potential to impact their teams in their first year in the league the way Sims did last season.

But who will win this year’s award?

SportsNation

Which of these transfers will win Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year honors in 2014?

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    23%
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    4%
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    23%
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    7%
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    43%

Discuss (Total votes: 2,647)

Oklahoma State running back/wide receiver Tyreek Hill already has the look of a serious contender. Hill was the No. 4 overall juco recruit this year and figures to be one of the fastest players in college football. He was named Big 12 Indoor Track & Field Outstanding Freshman of the Year and finished fifth at the NCAA Division I Indoor Track and Field Championships in the 200-meter dash. Though he’s been splitting time this spring between track and football, Hill has been almost as impressive on the gridiron as on the track. The Cowboys are hoping to utilize Hill the way the Mountaineers did Tavon Austin two years ago as a slot receiver and backfield threat. Hill has spent the spring working mostly at running back, the position he played in junior college. But he also has good enough hands to line up at receiver, too, which would give Oklahoma State more ways to get him the football.

Hill isn't the only intriguing offensive player to transfer into the league from the juco ranks.

Kansas State is counting on big things from receiver Andre Davis, who most likely will be lining up opposite All-Big 12 performer Tyler Lockett. Davis averaged more than 20 yards per reception last season at Santa Rosa (Calif.) Junior College, and should get plenty of opportunities in single coverage downfield with defenses keyed on Lockett. Davis could also help out in returns with Tramaine Thompson gone.

The Big 12 has other talented receivers joining the league, especially Kansas newcomer Nick Harwell, who was second in the country in receiving in 2011 for Miami (Ohio). Harwell, who transferred to Kansas last summer, has 229 career receptions, 3,166 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns. He should instantly give the Jayhawks a go-to receiver, something they’ve desperately lacked in recent years. Kansas, in fact, hasn’t had a top-20 Big 12 receiver the last four seasons.

Iowa State is also getting help from a transfer receiver in D'Vario Montgomery, who arrived from South Florida. Montgomery was a top-100 player in Florida, coming out of the same high school as Iowa State quarterback Sam B. Richardson. At 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, Montgomery gives the Cyclones a physical presence on the perimeter. And with him, Quenton Bundrage, slot man Jarvis West, tight end E.J. Bibbs and hotshot freshman Allen Lazard, Iowa State could field its most talented group of wideouts in a long time.

The West Virginia offense is also getting a shot in the arm with another high-profile running back transfer. Rushel Shell, who transferred in from Pittsburgh last year, set a Pennsylvania high school record with 9,078 career-rushing yards. He was formerly rated the third-best running back in the country and had offers from programs such as Alabama and Ohio State before signing with Pitt and rushing for 641 yards as a freshman. The Mountaineers have plenty of other options at running back in Dreamius Smith, Wendell Smallwood, Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie. But the 6-foot, 220-pound Shell gives West Virginia a potentially devastating power back between the tackles.

Could he give the Mountaineers a second consecutive Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year? Or will one of the other aforementioned candidates snag the award? Weigh in with your opinion in this week’s poll.

Big 12 lunchtime links

April, 9, 2014
Apr 9
12:00
PM ET
You missed a crazy night in Ames, including riots and car flipping.

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