Monday, February 6, 2012
Looking at the new 'too early' top 25
By ESPN.com staff
Colleague Mark Schlabach uncorked his newest preseason top 25 with (sad sigh time) almost seven months until the college season begins.
Here's where the Big 12 teams landed:
4. Oklahoma Sooners
Previous rank: 5
7. West Virginia Mountaineers
The Sooners are going to be really explosive on offense again, especially with quarterback Landry Jones and receivers Kenny Stills and Jaz Reynolds coming back. There's no question OU will sorely miss record-setting receiver Ryan Broyles, but the Sooners signed a deep corps of receivers in their 2012 recruiting class, including Sterling Shepard, Durron Neal and Derrick Woods. Oklahoma's defense should be better after coach Bob Stoops hired his brother, former Arizona coach Mike Stoops, as his team's defensive coordinator. OU will have to replace defensive ends Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis, and linebacker Travis Lewis.
Previous rank: 7
12. Kansas State Wildcats
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney might still be having nightmares about West Virginia's offense. Here's the really scary part: The Mountaineers should be even better on offense in their second season in coach Dana Holgorsen's system. Quarterback Geno Smith is coming back, along with tailback Dustin Garrison and top receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. Holgorsen really likes his incoming skill players, including receiver Deontay McManus, and the Mountaineers signed four offensive linemen. With defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel leaving for Arizona, the Mountaineers are going to ditch his 3-3-5 stack scheme and go with a more traditional 3-4 or 4-3 defense.
Previous rank: 12
15. TCU Horned Frogs
With quarterback Collin Klein and linebacker Arthur Brown coming back this season, the Wildcats might be among the Big 12 favorites, along with Oklahoma and West Virginia (if the Mountaineers get to leave the Big East). Klein will enter next season as a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate after totaling more than 3,000 yards of total offense and scoring 40 touchdowns last season. Top tailback John Hubert and receiver Chris Harper are also coming back, but three starting offensive linemen will have to be replaced. Five starters are also leaving on defense. Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, 72, filled his team's biggest need by signing four top defensive linemen: juco transfers Chaquil Reed and Wesley Hollingshed, and prep recruits Travis Britz and Demonte Hood.
Previous rank: 15
19. Oklahoma State
The Horned Frogs started preparing for life in the Big 12 by signing a recruiting class that was heavy on defensive linemen. TCU's top signees were defensive end Devonte Fields and tackle Joey Hunt. The Horned Frogs are making the jump from the Mountain West to the Big 12 this season, after winning 11 or more games in seven of the past nine seasons. TCU will take an eight-game winning streak into the Big 12 after finishing 7-0 against MWC foes in its last season in the league. TCU brings back much of its firepower on offense, with quarterback Casey Pachall, tailbacks Waymon James and Ed Wesley and receivers Josh Boyce and Skye Dawson coming back. Three starting offensive linemen will have to be replaced, along with star linebacker Tank Carder on defense.
Previous rank: 16
22. Texas Longhorns
The Pokes won 23 games the past two seasons and claimed the school's first conference title since 1976. If OSU coach Mike Gundy is going to keep his program near the top of the Big 12, he's going to have to rebuild his record-setting offense after losing quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon. Rising junior Clint Chelf, redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh and incoming freshman West Lunt (who already has enrolled at OSU) will battle for the starting quarterback job this spring. The Pokes also must replace starting left tackle Levy Adcock and two other starting offensive linemen. The Pokes signed six receivers and top tight end Dominic Ramacher in their recruiting class. Eight starters are expected back on defense, but safety Markelle Martin is a big loss.
Previous rank: 21
The Longhorns rebounded nicely this past season, after a head-scratching 5-7 finish in 2010. Although the UT defense made big strides under first-year coordinator Manny Diaz, its offense continued to sputter because of poor quarterback play. David Ash will have the edge entering spring practice, but he'll continue to be pushed by Case McCoy. The running game should be better if tailbacks Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron can stay healthy, and incoming freshman Johnathan Gray -- ranked the No. 1 running back in the ESPNU 150 -- might provide immediate help. The Horns will have to replace linebackers Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho, as well as defensive tackle Kheeston Randall. Incoming freshman Malcolm Brown was the No. 7 prospect in the ESPNU 150.
Yours truly's thoughts?
Too high: Oklahoma, West Virginia
Too low: Kansas State
Just right: TCU, Oklahoma State, Texas
What do you think?