Here, we'll take a look at a couple of key players going, staying and coming for each team in the Big 12.
Sean Weatherspoon, LB
Weatherspoon, a possible first-round pick in next week's draft, was the unquestioned leader of the Missouri defense as a senior. His 111 tackles were second most in the Big 12, despite dropping from 155 as a junior and 127 as a sophomore. Missouri loses only a couple of starters from an eight-win team in 2009, but the hole Weatherspoon leaves behind is the largest, because he anchored the defense physically, emotionally and mentally.
The 6-foot-5, 215-pounder spent three injury-prone seasons trying to become a major contributor to the Tigers offense. His senior season, he finally did it, and stayed healthy throughout the season. His 113 receptions were third most nationally, and his 1,781 receiving yards were more than any other receiver in college football. That's thanks to a big finish to his regular season, when he caught over 10 passes in each of the final four games, surpassing 200 receiving yards in three of those games.
Blaine Gabbert, QB
Gabbert begins his second season as starter with a chance to stake his claim as the conference's top quarterback. He loses Alexander, his top target, but he'll be throwing to a couple of experienced receivers in Wes Kemp and Jerrell Jackson, along with relative newcomers T.J. Moe and Rolandis Woodland. Look for tight end Michael Egnew to reignite the tight end tradition at Missouri this season, too. Gabbert threw for 3,593 yards and 24 touchdowns on a bum ankle for most of conference play. If he stays healthy this season, both of those numbers could grow.
Aldon Smith, DE
NCAA Clearinghouse issues kept Smith from playing as a true freshman, but last season, he delivered on legends of him dominating the first-team offense throughout his redshirt season. Smith had 11.5 sacks, good for fourth in the Big 12, and 19 tackles for loss, earning Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year honors.
Tyler Gabbert, QB
Gabbert, like his brother, decommitted from Nebraska with and made his way to Columbia. The 6-foot, 190-pound Ballwin, Mo., native won't get a shot to play until his brother is gone, but he enrolled early as the nation's No. 56 quarterback, along with fellow 2010 signee James Franklin (No. 60 QB) and either could prove to be the future of the position for the Tigers.
Nick Demien, OL
Demien, a 6-foot-5, 295-pound freshman, isn't likely to play early, but with 18 starters returning, few of the incoming freshmen will get chances to be major contributors. Demien, the nation's No. 17 offensive tackle prospect and the top overall prospect in Missouri, could provide depth on the line for the Tigers, and will likely be over 300 pounds by the time he comes to campus. When he does, he'll be coming back from an ACL injury.
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