Wednesday, May 5, 2010
The Big 12's offensive spring risers
By ESPN.com staff
Every spring has its movers. Nobodies earning their first real on-field action. Backups blossoming into featured roles. Starters becoming stars. There’s a few of each on this list, which looks at the spring risers on offense for each team in the conference. We'll look at the defensive risers later this week.
No longer unknowns
Luke Joeckel, LT, Texas A&M
When was the last time an offensive lineman became the story of the spring? That’s exactly what Joeckel did in College Station, enrolling early and leaving spring as the starting left tackle for one of college football’s best offenses. Joeckel came to the Aggies as the No. 6 tackle prospect in the country and No. 83 on the ESPNU 150, but he didn’t make his coaches wait long for him to make good on his potential.
Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska
This spring, Martinez made sure there was no debate in Lincoln over who was the Huskers’ fastest quarterback. But now he’ll have a chance this fall to prove he’s the Huskers’ best quarterback, alongside Cody Green, who struggled in the spring game, and Zac Lee, who sat out the spring after surgery on his throwing arm. Martinez stole the show at the Red-White game, throwing for two touchdowns and running for 60 yards on nine carries.
Marshall Musil, FB, Oklahoma
Musil was a non-factor in 2009, buried on the depth chart behind starter Matt Clapp. But the redshirt freshman surpassed senior Brandon Crow to leave the spring as the starter, and had a memorable day in a rainy spring game. With DeMarco Murray held out of action as a precautionary measure, Musil ran for 92 yards and a workman-like 29 carries. He might not get that many carries all of next season, but he proved that if he needs to, he can be counted on.
Justin Britt, OL, Missouri
With left guard Austin Wuebbels fighting off back spasms, Missouri coaches got a long look at the redshirt freshman this spring, who also worked at right guard. He could find time in the rotation after his impressive performance at left guard, or even start as the replacement for three-year starter and All-Big 12 performer Kurtis Gregory, the lone lost lineman for the Tigers.
Toney Clemons, WR, Colorado
Clemons, a Michigan transfer, had sky-high expectations coming into this spring, before he finally becomes eligible this fall. He delivered, impressing his teammates enough to be selected first in the team’s draft for the spring game, where he caught four passes for 33 yards.
Looking for a bigger role
Harrison Jeffers, RB, Texas Tech
Jeffers is the third man in a crowded, talented and young Red Raiders backfield, but he played well this spring with starter Baron Batch limited as a precaution. He led the team in rushing in the spring game with 68 yards, and in an earlier scrimmage, ran for 139 yards and two touchdowns on just nine carries.
Fozzy Whittaker, RB, Texas
Whittaker carried the ball just 53 times for 212 yards last season, but has overcome a handful of other backs to become one of the two featured runners for the Longhorns, alongside Tre’ Newton. Four Longhorns rushed for more yards than Whittaker last season. It’s possible none do it in 2010.
Braden Wilson, FB, Kansas State
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder gushed on Wilson’s effort this spring, saying “he may make a mistake, but he's doing it at 120 miles an hour. I just love the way he practices.” He was the lead blocker for the Big 12’s leading rusher, Daniel Thomas, as a freshman, and also rushed for 110 yards on just 11 carries. Look somewhere else for a sophomore slump.
Philip Blake, OL, Baylor
Blake moved from tackle to center this spring, and impressed Baylor coach Art Briles. High praise in reaching for a high bar set by the man he’s replacing, three-year starter and All-American J.D. Walton, who was drafted in the third round of last month’s NFL Draft.
Kale Pick, QB, Kansas
Pick began the spring as a pigeon-holed runner with five quarterbacks looking to take his job. He left as his team’s best passer and a much heavier front-runner for the starting gig, while keeping his versatility as a runner. He gave the fans in the spring game a nice preview of what could be on the way, throwing a gorgeous 72-yard touchdown pass and a 37-yarder for the win. Those assured no one will see him as just a runner anymore.
Stars shining brighter
Kendall Hunter, RB, Oklahoma State
Common sense said new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen’s spread offense meant fewer touches for running back Kendall Hunter. While it might mean fewer carries, it won’t mean fewer touches. Holgorsen said Hunter was even better than he thought he’d be, and coach Mike Gundy forecasted about 250 touches for the senior in 2010. Of those, 170 would be rushes, but the offense will look to get the shifty Hunter in space where he can make tacklers miss. If Gundy’s prediction comes true, it won’t be hard for Hunter to eclipse his disappointing numbers as a junior.
Austen Arnaud, QB, Iowa State
Arnaud saw his production drop across the board in 2009, even as his team enjoyed its most successful year at quarterback. But Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads says Arnaud was his team’s most improved player and will be looking for more big wins with big numbers as a senior.