Big 12: Baylor Bears
I took Twitter questions for this mailbag. But you can always submit a mailbag entry the traditional way by clicking here.
On to the 'bag:
Chris in Edmond, Oklahoma, writes: I'm really surprised to that Tyreek Hill was the only player on the Top 25 ranking from Oklahoma State. Desmond Roland only started for half of last season and still led the league in TDs. I'm also surprised not to see James Castleman or Kevin Peterson on this list. Other candidates with very strong possibilities: Jhajuan Seales, Ryan Simmons and Jimmy Bean. I expect Oklahoma State to have a year similar to 2010 and the end of year awards/player rankings to reflect the talent on this roster.
Jake Trotter: Who knows, Chris, you might be right. I remember many people picked that 2010 team to finish sixth in the Big 12 South. Instead, they won 11 games. All the guys you mentioned are good players. But there are a lot of good players in the league. Hill, to me, is the most likely to be great, which is why he cracked the list. There’s a reason why Mike Gundy is saying he wants to get Hill the ball 20 times, at the least, per game. It would not surprise me at all if Peterson or Seales had All-Big 12 caliber seasons. But I think Hill could be special.
Trotter: Yeah, a system quarterback who’s also going to be a first-round pick next spring.
Trotter: With nine starters back defensively and some viable options (finally) at wide receiver, I think Kansas will be improved. But I’m not ready to call the Jayhawks a sleeper. After all, they have only one victory in their last 30 Big 12 games.
We also took Twitter questions for today’s mailbag…
Trotter: There are a few candidates for this, including the Big 12 co-favorites. Oklahoma has to go to Iowa State the week before hosting Baylor. The Sooners could get caught looking ahead. Baylor, meanwhile, has to go to Ames the week before traveling to Texas. The Bears could get caught looking ahead, too. I also think Texas Tech could be ripe Nov. 15. The Red Raiders' November woes have been well-documented. But Tech will be coming off back-to-back home games against Texas and Oklahoma. They'll also have the tilt with Baylor at Cowboys Stadium the following week. Will they have anything left in the emotional well for the Cyclones? Iowa State is going to upset someone in Ames this year. I'm just not sure who.
@Jake_Trotter what team has best chance to be the Paul Rhoads upset special this year— Ted Flint (@TedFlintKansas) August 1, 2014
Trotter: Right now, there is no backup plan. Blake Bell is at tight end, Baker Mayfield is in ineligible and the young quarterbacks don't look ready yet. If Knight struggles, so will the Sooners. But I'd be more worried about Knight getting nicked up then him not playing well.
@Jake_Trotter Jake~ Looks like OU is in everyone's Top 5. But what's the backup plan if Trevor Knight goes back to being...Trevor Knight?— Logan Scott Culp (@logansc88) August 1, 2014
Trotter: Definitely the Mountaineers. They have the most talent of the three. The schedule is West Virginia's biggest problem. The Mountaineers could be better and still only go 5-7. That's how tough this schedule is. But if they can survive the September portion of the schedule, this is a team that could get back to bowl eligibility.
@Jake_Trotter Who has most potential to make a run at the top half this year? ISU, KU or WVU?— Carter J (@carterj1982) August 1, 2014
Trotter: The ceiling is a Big 12 title. Even with last week's player purge, Texas has no real weaknesses elsewhere. If David Ash is healthy and consistently plays like one of the three best quarterbacks in the league, then the Longhorns could contend with Oklahoma, Baylor and Kansas State for the Big 12 crown. But, as the last couple of years have shown, that is one big if.
@Jake_Trotter What is the ceiling for UT if David Ash stays healthy and productive?— Stephen Davis (@Beltrefan) August 1, 2014
Trotter: The defensive line is going to be really good. Shawn Oakman is a budding superstar and Andrew Billings is right behind him. Bryce Hager is also one of the best linebackers in the league. The Bears feel good about their cornerbacks and safeties, but those guys haven't played a lot yet. They also don't have a thumper like Ahmad Dixon. But if the D-line proves to be as good as Art Briles thinks it will be, there might not be as much fall-off defensively as everyone is expecting. We'll see.
@Jake_Trotter What can we expect from Baylor's defense this year?— Kale Norman (@kale_norman13) August 1, 2014
Trotter: The league is deep at wide receiver. Everyone knows about Tyler Lockett and Antwan Goodley. But keep an eye on the likes Oklahoma State's Jhajuan Seales, Baylor's Corey Coleman and Texas Tech's Reginald Davis. Those three guys have the potential to break out with big seasons.
@Jake_Trotter what under the radar player is poised to make some noise this year ?— E (@DudeNamed_E) August 1, 2014
Trotter: Don't sleep on incoming freshman Steven Parker.
@Jake_Trotter Byrd or Thomas? For OU. Im thinking Ahmad— Dave Clouse (@DavidClouse3) August 1, 2014
Trotter: Petty, and probably Knight (because of the playoff potential) and Lockett (because he returns kicks, too).
@Jake_Trotter who are the top 3 heisman candidates in the big 12?— Grant Kawata (@GrantKawata) August 1, 2014
Today brings the final unveiling with Nos. 20-1. And the Big 12’s top returning player placed close to the top:
No. 7: Baylor QB Bryce Petty
Petty is very deserving of a place among the top 10 players, and he’s slated alongside impressive company, just behind Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, and one spot ahead of Alabama wideout Amari Cooper.
Though he’s seventh overall, Petty is the fourth quarterback behind Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota and Braxton Miller. I would have slotted Petty ahead of Miller, but the voting was very close between the two.
Petty is on the short list of Heisman Trophy contenders going into the season. If he somehow improves on his amazing 2013 passing stat line of 4,340 yards, 33 touchdowns and only three interceptions – and leads Baylor back into Big 12 title and playoff contention – he will be a factor in the Heisman race.
I hope everyone enjoyed the top 100 this week as well as our unveiling of the top 25 players in the Big 12.
Pretty soon, we'll be talking about actual games again.
- A father of a disciplined Oklahoma Sooner is thankful for how Bob Stoops handled his son's situation.
- West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett seems like a different player as the Mountaineers kicked off their preseason camp.
- Trickett is the unquestioned man behind center at WVU and Dana Holgorsen hopes the extra time with his teammates pays off this fall.
- A promise rescued Oklahoma State from NCAA sanctions this fall, reports Kyle Fredrickson of The Oklahoman.
- Former Texas Tech standout Jace Amaro is off to a slow start at New York Jets camp.
- True freshman Dravon Henry is already making an strong impression at West Virginia.
You can click here to see the previous four installments.
Today, we wrap up the series with who we think the top five players in the league will be in 2014:
5. Cedric Reed, DE, Texas: Overshadowed by his Big 12 defensive player of the year teammate in 2013, Reed had almost as productive a season as Jackson Jeffcoat. Reed was third in the Big 12 with 10 sacks, fourth with 19 tackles for loss and tied for first with five forced fumbles. With Jeffcoat gone, Reed takes over as the centerpiece of coach Charlie Strong’s defense. He bring as much speed off the corner as any defensive end in the league and could play himself into the first round of the NFL draft with another big season.
4. Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma: He’s the Lawrence Taylor of the Big 12. Striker still needs to refine other parts of his game, but when it comes to rushing the passer off the blitz, there’s no one better in the country. Everyone remembers his three sacks in the Allstate Sugar Bowl win over Alabama, including the game-clinching forced fumble that led to an exclamation-point touchdown. But Striker had a penchant for creating big plays all season. On the first possession at Notre Dame, Striker slammed into quarterback Tommy Rees, knocking the ball into the air and into the arms of linebacker Corey Nelson, who gave the Sooners a quick 7-0 lead on the way to a 35-21 victory. Reed, Shawn Oakman and Ryan Mueller are all double-digit sack contenders, but Striker could be the odds-on favorite to win the Big 12’s sack crown in 2014.
3. Antwan Goodley, WR, Baylor: Goodley was arguably the league’s most improved player in 2013. He exploded right along with the Baylor offense, hauling in 1,339 receiving yards and a Big 12-best 13 touchdown catches. The big-play deep threat also led the nation with five receptions of 60 yards or more. Goodley won’t sneak up on anyone this season, but that doesn’t mean anyone will be able to contain him. The Bears have plenty of other weapons in the passing game and one of the nation’s top quarterbacks to get him the ball in Bryce Petty. Goodley has a legitimate chance to join Justin Blackmon and Michael Crabtree as the third Big 12 wideout to win Biletnikoff Award.
2. Tyler Lockett, WR, Kansas State: One of Goodley’s prime competitors for the Biletnikoff Award figures to be Lockett. Prone to utterly unconscious performances in big games, Lockett combined for 35 receptions, 631 yards and six touchdowns in the three games against Texas, Oklahoma and Michigan last season. He’ll have a prime opportunity to show the nation what he can do in September, when defending SEC champion Auburn visits Manhattan, Kansas, for a Thursday night clash. Lockett is on pace to break every school career receiving record held by his father, Kevin Lockett. Tyler Lockett will square off against Goodley in the final week of the regular season in a showdown featuring two of the best wideouts to come through the Big 12.
1. Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor: The Dairy Queens in Salem, Oregon, might not appreciate Petty, but we do here, as slotting Petty No. 1 was the easiest decision we made while putting together this top-25 player ranking. In his first season as a starting quarterback, Petty totaled 46 touchdowns and threw just three interceptions while earning Big 12 offensive player of the year honors. It will be difficult for Petty to replicate such gaudy numbers, but with a year of experience behind him operating Art Briles' offense, Petty should be even sharper in 2014. If he is, he’ll have a chance to become the second Baylor quarterback to capture the Heisman Trophy in the past four seasons.
That’s it for our top 25 player ranking. Did we get it right? Send your thoughts to the Big 12 mailbag.
Here’s the actual rank for each Big 12 team and a couple of quick thoughts on the ranking:
No. 3 Oklahoma (1382 points, 3 first-place votes): The momentum from OU’s Allstate Sugar Bowl win over Alabama continues but the Sooners still find themselves looking up at No. 2 Alabama in this preseason ranking. If OU, particularly quarterback Trevor Knight, plays like it did against the Crimson Tide, there’s no reason to think the Sooners can’t fulfill this ranking or higher. If not, they’ll likely find themselves outside of the top 10 at some point this season.
No. 10 Baylor (965 points): The Bears could be ranked even higher after a stellar 2013 campaign but memories of Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles making big plays against BU’s defense have cast a shadow that’s made people forget the Bears' 11-1 regular season and first Big 12 title. With Bryce Petty at the helm, Baylor has the ability to rise to the top of this poll. But it won’t happen until some untested players step up on defense.
No. 21: Kansas State (257 points): The Wildcats enter the season with plenty of respect after a strong end to the 2013 season and their first bowl win in 11 years. Quarterback Jake Waters and receiver Tyler Lockett are one of college football’s top quarterback-receiver duos and defensive end Ryan Mueller is disruptive and productive. A playmaker emerging at running back could be the key to K-State rising higher than No. 21 this season.
No. 24: Texas (143 points): The Longhorns are an interesting case. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Charlie Strong’s team rise into the top 10, but it also wouldn’t be a surprise to see UT fall out of the rankings altogether. UCLA provides a tough early-season test but also an opportunity for the Longhorns to send a Strong message to the nation.
NR/RV Oklahoma State (56 points): It wouldn’t be the first time the Cowboys entered the season with muted expectations then rose up the Big 12 standings and national polls. A date with No. 1 Florida State to start the season will be the first opportunity for Mike Gundy’s squad to show the world they’re being underestimated yet again.
NR/RV TCU (54 points): Gary Patterson’s squad is nipping at the heels of OSU despite a 4-8 season a year ago. We can always count on the Horned Frogs to play good defense, so TCU’s new offense would likely be the key reason if it finds itself as a consistent member of this Top 25 this season.
NR/RV Texas Tech (8 points): The Red Raiders’ National University Holiday Bowl win was an impressive finish to the 2013 season. The Sooners got all the attention but Tech and Davis Webb had a performance second to none in the Red Raiders' win over Arizona State. Webb will have to carry that stellar display into this season and get some help from a defense which is replacing several key playmakers if Tech expects to break into the Top 25 in Kliff Kingsbury's second season.
Today, the unveiling continued with Nos. 40-21.
Here is the lone Big 12 player who made the fourth installment:
No. 30: Baylor WR Antwan Goodley
Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty seems to get all the national headlines. But Goodley is a pretty good player, too. Despite splitting touches with a host of other playmakers, Goodley finished the 2013 season with 71 catches, 1,339 receiving yards and a Big 12-best 13 touchdowns. Goodley was the only receiver in the country that had five catches of at least 60 yards.
With Lache Seastrunk and Tevin Reese gone, Goodley will have a little more pressure to carry the playmaking load. But the Bears still boast plenty of firepower elsewhere in Corey Coleman, Shock Linwood and Levi Norwood. Plus, Goodley will still be hauling in passes from one of the preeminent quarterbacks in the country.
Make sure to check back Friday to find out who our top 20 players are.
Coming Friday: Nos. 20-1.
NOTE: For battles with multiple teams, reporters chose reported leaders or best fits.
- Witness intimidation charges against West Virginia running back Wendell Smallwood have been dropped. Smallwood is expected to be on the field with the Mountaineers when they open fall camp.
- Thanks to the recent graduation of a player from the 1990s, Oklahoma State's APR penalty has been lifted. The Cowboys will have the full 20 weekly hours of practice time.
- Oklahoma State added future games with Tulsa, reports the Tulsa World's Bill Haisten.
- Oklahoma State is experiencing an all-time five-year win total, according to Kyle Porter of pistolsfiringblog.com.
- The fate of Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon is in the hands of the district attorney and coach Bob Stoops, writes The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel.
- Norman police released the 911 call in the Mixon investigation.
- A court date has been set for two former Longhorns charged with felony sexual assault.
- Could more Texas players face possible suspension?
- Jonathan Truman is a tried and true veteran anchoring the Kansas State defense, writes the Topeka Capital-Journal's Ken Corbitt.
- The Lawrence Journal-World's Tom Keegan lays odds on who will lead the Jayhawks in rushing.
- Eastern Washington will play at Texas Tech in 2017.
With the Big 12 football season kicking off in a few weeks, college recruits will be focused on setting up official visits and also narrowing their college lists in preparation for a commitment. As important as this time will be for recruits, it’ll be equally important for schools, as they prepare for a season that, with solid performances in home-game environments, can assist in landing some of the best uncommitted prospects around.
Here are some names that the Big 12 schools will be pursuing throughout the fall.
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The Las Vegas sportsbook released odds on each team's chance to win the conference earlier this summer and recently released an updated set of odds. The Sooners are now 2/3 to win the conference, followed by Baylor at 11/4.
The biggest surprise on this list might be Oklahoma State. Even though the Cowboys lost the bulk of their 2013 team, Bovada is still bullish on them at 10-1. But the sportsbook is not buying Texas Tech as a darkhorse conference title contender, pegging the Red Raiders at 28/1.
Here's a look at the full list of odds for the conference crown:
Kansas State: 10/1
Oklahoma State: 10/1
Texas Tech: 28/1
West Virginia: 66/1
Iowa State: 100/1
Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, receiver Antwan Goodley, linebacker Bryce Hager and defensive end Shawn Oakman weren’t exactly thrilled to see Oklahoma atop the Big 12 preseason poll with the Bears sitting at No. 2.
Oakman: “Same ol, same ol.”
Goodley: “I couldn’t believe it.”
Petty: “Let’s go, that’s all I can say.”
Hager: “Just another thing to motivate us.”
These are the same players that handed the Sooners a 41-12 defeat in Waco, Texas a year ago, making their displeasure very easy to understand.
“We beat them last season and won the Big 12,” Hager said. “So that is just another motivation heading into this season.”
All four players took it as a sign they still have work to do, both on the field and off the field.
“That’s not up to us to vote, it’s up to us to play,” Petty said. “That tells us that we’re not there yet, and that’s fine with me. I don’t think you’re ever there. Once you think you’ve arrived, that’s when you're in trouble.”
The Sooners, with their Allstate Sugar Bowl win over Alabama, carried more momentum into the offseason while the Bears stumbled into the offseason after a Tostitos Fiesta Bowl loss to Central Florida. OU’s win helped cement Bob Stoops program in the national spotlight during the offseason while Baylor got overshadowed.
“They deserve it, they beat a good football team on a big stage,” Goodley said. “We have no control over that. I guess we still have a lot to prove, we still don’t get the respect we deserve, but we haven’t been at the top that long. I feel like we’re going to get there though.”
Even with the feeling of disrespect helping the spur them into the preseason, the Bears understand their 2013 accomplishments mean nothing. Art Briles squad outscored opponents by 375 total points a year ago but those points don’t carry over into 2014, so this season’s team will still has plenty to prove. It’s part of the reason the Bears still consider themselves the hunter instead of the hunted despite entering the fall as the defending Big 12 champions.
“At Baylor we’ve been fighting for respect,” Oakman said. “One day we’re going to get it, but not today.”
- Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon met with police investigators on Monday, The Oklahoman's Jason Kersey reports. His attorney claims Mixon did nothing wrong regarding assault allegations of a female student from last week.
- Texas Tech added a transfer QB from Iowa to shore up its depth.
- Seafood po’boys, barbecue sandwiches and various deep-fried and bacon-wrapped concoctions are among the concession items that will be available at Baylor's McLane Stadium.
- Athlon released its Big 12 breakout players for 2014.
- Defensive tackle Du'Vonta Lampkin, a former Sooners pledge, committed to Texas, which has been picking up its recruiting momentum in July.
- The Jayhawks are shrugging off negativity, writes KUSports.com's Benton Smith.
- The little brother of West Virginia running backs coach running backs coach JaJuan Seider will be joining him in Morgantown.
- Iowa State picked up a commitment from a Kansas linebacker.
- There are plenty of questions about the Cyclones defensive line, writes the Ames Tribune's Bobby La Gesse.
- The Oklahoman's Kyle Fredrickson did a Q&A with Oklahoma State receivers coach Jason Ray.
The new ESPN 300 features 22 players currently committed to Big 12 programs. Texas leads the conference race with seven commits, while Oklahoma is next with five. Texas Tech has the conference’s highest-ranked ESPN 300 player in quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who is ranked No. 38 and is the No. 3 dual-threat quarterback in the country.
Here are five things to know in the Big 12:
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This is a ranking of who we think the best 25 players will be over the course of the 2014 season.
Monday, we kicked this series off with the first five names. Today, we continue with Nos. 20-16.
20. Johnathan Gray, RB, Texas: Health is the only concern with Gray. Because when he’s healthy, Gray is a devastating combination of speed and power. There’s a reason the Longhorns have never lost when Gray has gotten 20 carries, which included victories over Oklahoma and Kansas State last year. A torn Achilles ended his 2013 season prematurely. But Gray has been cleared for fall camp, which is a good sign for the Longhorns and a bad one for the rest of the Big 12.
19. Bryce Hager, LB, Baylor: Hager is the Bryce Petty of the Baylor defense, with a pair of second-team All-Big 12 seasons behind him. Hager has recorded 195 tackles over the past two seasons and is one of the most seasoned players in the league. He missed the spring rehabbing from a season-ending groin injury, but should be 100 percent when the Bears begin fall camp. If Baylor avoids a drop off from last year’s breakout defensive campaign, Hager’s steady play will be a major reason why.
18. Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas: Diggs is the most outspoken player in the league, even foreshadowing during Big 12 media days that coach Charlie Strong might have to weed out certain players. Diggs will be a four-year starter and the unequivocal leader of the Texas defense. He should be more comfortable back at cornerback after a stint last season at the nickel. With cornerbacks Jason Verrett, Justin Gilbert and Aaron Colvin all gone, Diggs figures to be the new class of the position in the league.
17. Chucky Hunter, DT, TCU: The Horned Frogs might not have star end Devonte Fields this season. But they should still be stout up front, thanks to the return of Hunter, who is coming off an All-Big 12 season. Fellow tackle Davion Pierson is one of the most underrated players in the league. And the two form arguably the best one-two punch at defensive tackle in the league.
16. Ben Heeney, LB, Kansas: Don’t blame Heeney for the Jayhawks’ 3-9 record last year. The Big 12’s top returning tackler spearheaded a defense that gave opposing offenses fits at times in 2013, despite getting virtually no assistance from the Kansas offense. With nine starters back, the Jayhawks could create even more problems for the offenses of the Big 12. Especially with Heeney manning the middle.
Coming Wednesday: Nos. 15-11
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: ESPN300 linebacker Malik Jefferson of Mesquite, Texas/Poteet visited Baylor over the weekend. The No. 39 player in the ESPN300 has an offer list that includes the nation’s elite and fellow Big 12 squads Oklahoma and Texas.
Total commits: 8
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Cyclones landed arguably the top recruit on their current commit list when Sachse (Texas) running back Devine Ozigbo picked Iowa State. At 5-foot-11, 230 pounds, the three-star prospect is in line to bring a big, physical presence to the Cyclones’ running back corps. His pledge wasn’t the only positive news for Cyclone nation as Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Washington tackle Julian Good-Jones also picked ISU last week. Another three-star prospect, Good-Jones picked ISU over offers from Kansas State and Oregon State.
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Jayhawks lost one of their top signees from the Class of 2013 when running back Traevohn Wrench failed to qualify and enrolled in Butler (Kansas) Junior College. Wrench was a four-star signee who had the talent to battle for carries in the race to replace James Sims this fall.
Total commits: 8
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: K-State held a camp over the weekend with 2016 quarterback Kasey Ford reportedly in attendance. The Bentonville (Arkansas) signal caller is largely considered a strong Arkansas lean but his attendance at Wildcats camp is a sign he’s willing to give Bill Snyder’s program an opportunity to earn his signature.
Total commits: 9
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: Defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery is a happy man. The Sooners landed a pair of defensive line commitments last week with Metairie (Louisiana) Archbishop Rummel defensive tackle Tyrell Jacobs and Burleson (Texas) defensive end Kenneth Mann picking OU. Mann picked the Sooners over Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Iowa, California and others. Jacobs selected OU over K-State, Arizona State, Tennessee and others.
Total commits: 8
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: ESPN300 quarterback John Kolar of Norman (Oklahoma) North, a Cowboys commitment, told The Oklahoman he is taking summer classes and is considering enrolling early at OSU. Kolar is the No. 82 player in the ESPN300. If he chooses to enroll early he would be the third straight scholarship quarterback recruit to do so, following in the footsteps of Wes Lunt and Mason Rudolph.
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: TCU’s coaching staff will have to wait a while to see the fruits of its labor but Class of 2016 quarterback Brennen Wooten could prove worth the wait after he decided to be a part of Gary Patterson’s program last week. The Marble Falls (Texas) signal caller is the No. 109 player in the ESPNJR300 and a four-star prospect. It’s pretty clear the Horned Frogs’ new offense is already paying dividends on the recruiting trail.
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 7
The latest: While Charlie Strong was taking a hacksaw to his current roster, he was adding hope for the future. UT landed a pair of ESPN300 members with the commitments of Burton (Texas) athlete Louis Brown and Tallahassee (Florida) Lincoln receiver John Burt last week. Brown is the No. 251 player in the ESPN300 and Burt is the No. 236 player in the ESPN300.
Total commits: 7
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: Tech commit and Class of 2016 prospect Collin Wilder took an unofficial to Lubbock, Texas, this week. The Katy (Texas) defensive back is the No. 212 player in the ESPNJr300. Although he’s been committed to Kliff Kingsbury’s program since June, Wilder continues to be pursued by several programs so keeping him on Tech’s commit list will be just as important as landing him in the first place.
Total commits: 15
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: The Mountaineers added to their commit list with the pledge of Belle Glade (Florida) Glades Central guard Jah'Shaun Seider. The three-star prospect picked WVU over offers from LSU, Ole Miss and others. He is the younger brother of WVU running backs coach JaJuan Seider.