Big 12: 2010 CFB Live IP

Who's most prepared for an injury?

June, 9, 2010
Few teams make it through a season without getting banged up. So which units around the Big 12 are best prepared for an injury?

1. Texas Tech quarterbacks. It doesn't take much research to see the potential here. Texas Tech proved this spring it may be able to roll with four different quarterbacks. Steven Sheffield and Taylor Potts both had success in spots last season, but suffered injuries that ended their springs early. In their place came Jacob Karam and Seth Doege, who impressed coaches by stepping in and taking advantage of the opportunity. In one scrimmage this spring, the two combined for 10 touchdown passes. Doege also got plenty of playing time against Kansas and Texas A&M last season.

2. Texas cornerbacks. The Longhorns have three future NFL players in Curtis Brown, Chykie Brown and Aaron Williams. In a league that's not afraid to pass, they'll spend a lot of time on the field together, but it would take a few injuries to slow this group.

3. Nebraska running backs. Roy Helu Jr. is the most experienced of the group, but Rex Burkheadproved late last season he could be counted on for plenty of production, too. But what tips the Huskers over the edge here is rumbler Dontrayevous Robinson, a 230-pounder who should get some carries in spots in 2010. Helu topped 1,000 yards last season and Burkhead has a legitimate chance to do the same this season.

4. Baylor quarterbacks. Silver Lining City right here. No one liked seeing Robert Griffin III go down with his college career on the rise, but as a result, the Bears have a young, but seasoned backup in Nick Florence behind him. Florence struggled in stretches during his freshman season, but he also threw for 427 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in Baylor's lone conference win, an upset of Missouri in Columbia. Hardly a consolation, but Florence is a luxury for Baylor that not every team has.

5. Texas A&M receivers. The Aggies had five receivers with at least 35 catches last season. We've written about them here before, and it may happen again. Ryan Swope and Kenric McNeal may join that group this season, but don't look for Uzoma Nwachukwu, Jeff Fuller and Ryan Tannehill to leave. Between those five, Jerrod Johnson won't be lacking for targets in 2010.

6. Texas Tech running backs. Baron Batch is the headliner after rushing for 884 yards in 2010, but new offensive coordinator Neal Brown will look to run the ball more than Texas Tech usually has to utilize their depth this season. Sophomores Harrison Jeffers and Eric Stephens will give the Red Raiders plenty of options. In one scrimmage this spring, Jeffers scampered for 139 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries.

Big 12's most irreplaceable players and their backups

June, 9, 2010
You heard about Oklahoma's Landry Jones and his backup earlier this morning, but here are the most irreplaceable players for the rest of the conference.

Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor: This one's pretty simple. Griffin means more to his team than any player in the conference. The 2008 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year helped the Bears win their 2009 season opener at Wake Forest before a season-ending knee injury in the third game. He'll come back for 2010 still a sophomore. But his injury last season now means his backup, Nick Florence, is surprisingly experienced.

Alexander Robinson, RB, Iowa State: Robinson rushed for 1,195 yards in 2009 and is by far the Cyclones' best player. His yards per carry average is almost 1.5 yards higher than his backup last season. This year, the battle for No. 2 is ongoing, with Beau Blankenship and freshmen James White and Jeff Woody trying to earn any spare carries not soaked up by Robinson.

Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: This season will be Solder's third as starting left tackle, the key position on the offensive line. He's proven to be one of college football's premier linemen, but his durability and experience have meant very little playing time for backup Ryan Dannewitz, a redshirt freshman.

Jake Laptad, DE, Kansas: Laptad is a force in the backfield and racked up 6.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss last season. His backup is junior college transfer Quintin Woods, but with just four career tackles, there's a clear dropoff in both production and talent.

Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri: In just his second year as starter, Gabbert could be poised for a big jump like his predecessor, Chase Daniel. The Tigers earned a North title in Daniel's second season and No. 1 ranking after the regular season. But Gabbert needs to stay healthy. His backup is former walk-on Jimmy Costello, who's never played a meaningful snap, but behind him are a group of untested freshmen with potential in Ashton Glaser, James Franklin and Gabbert's younger brother, Tyler Gabbert.

Eric Hagg, S/LB, Nebraska: The central figure of the Huskers' Peso defensive scheme (Hey! Remember that?) gives the Husker defense the teeth that helped them nearly upset Texas and blow out Arizona. His backup is Austin Cassidy, who has plenty of on-field experience after appearing in all 13 games last season. Like Hagg, Cassidy has the ideal size for the position at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, and notched nine tackles as a sophomore in 2009.

Markelle Martin, S, Oklahoma State: Martin's sophomore season was overshadowed by big-hitting senior Lucien Antoine, but he'll be one of the team's leaders as a junior in 2010. He's the team's leading returning tackler, and should join Orie Lemon and Ugo Chinasa as the anchors of a defense replacing its four leading tacklers from 2009. His backup, Mathies Long, played in the last six games of 2009, but has just three career tackles.

Sam Acho DE, Texas: The better known of Texas' Acho brothers, he played in 24 games before taking over as starter last season. He notched 63 tackles and four fumble recoveries, tied for most in college football. He was also a semifinalist for the Lott Trophy. But at Texas, there's always a pretty narrow gap between starter and backup. Acho's backup should be either Russell Carter or Alex Okafor, who will also play behind opposite defensive end Eddie Jones. Carter played in nine games last season and notched five tackles. Okafor played in all 14 games last season and tallied 22 tackles.

Jerrod Johnson, QB, Texas A&M: No backup will be able to reproduce Johnson's impressive numbers from 2009 (38 touchdowns, 4,085 total yards). But Johnson's backup Ryan Tannehill does have plenty of experience--at a different position. He got plenty of reps this spring with Johnson sidelined from live action after minor shoulder surgery, but he's the team's active leader in receiving, with 1,418 career yards. He's thrown just nine passes in two seasons with the Aggies.

Colby Whitlock, DT, Texas Tech: Should assume the role of nose tackle in Tech's new 3-4 scheme under coach Tommy Tuberville and defensive coordinator James Willis. Though it's a new position, Whitlock's experience will be tough to replace. Of his 46 tackles in 2009, 8.5 came behind the line of scrimmage. His backup is a mountain of a man, Myles Wade. The 6-foot-2, 340-pound junior college transfer made just two tackles in limited action last season, but he still has two years of eligibility left, and could plug plenty of holes in the middle of the defense after Whitlock graduates.

(UPDATE 12:01 p.m: Kansas State's Daniel Thomas was mistakenly left off this list. I trust we can agree he belongs. He's really good at football. Read more about him here.)

OU's Drew Allen prepared to replace

June, 9, 2010
ESPN's College Football Live named Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones a Big 12 representative as one of the nation's most irreplaceable players. Here's a story about his backup, Drew Allen. Tune into College Football Live at 3:30 p.m. ET to see more on Jones and Allen.

Bob Stoops doesn't have to imagine what it would be like to lose his starting quarterback for the season. That scenario became all too real when Heisman winner Sam Bradford was slammed into the Cowboys Stadium turf in the opener last season. He rolled over, immediately clutched his throwing shoulder in pain, and Oklahoma's season dramatically altered its course.

Been there, done that. Got five losses.

But before that -- the injuries, the losses, the growing pains -- there was a position battle of an importance few envisioned.

Sitting behind Bradford, Jones and Allen didn't expect to play, but they fought for the backup spot.

"They were both awfully young and still learning," said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.

The rest of the story is well-told. Jones, with a redshirt year already behind him, won the backup battle. Allen, a true freshman, redshirted. Jones played -- and played well -- after Bradford went down.

So 2010 begins with Jones possessing a Bradford-like choke hold on the starting job. But if he falls to a fate similar to Bradford?

"I’d have to feel great, since that’s where we’re at. Just like I did a year ago," Stoops said. "But hopefully that scenario, we don’t have to do that again."

Allen came to Oklahoma via San Antonio's Alamo Heights High as the nation's No. 58 quarterback, and Stoops said yes to his impressive measureables.

"He’s similar to the style of guy we’re used to working with. He’s a big guy, has a good arm. He works really hard," Stoops said.

At 6-foot-5 and 224 pounds, Allen is built from the mold of the prototype quarterback. But there's still that nagging detail: He's never thrown a pass in a college football game. A year ago, neither had Jones.

Allen struggled in the rain during the Sooners' spring game, completing just 10 of 22 passes for 137 yards and a pair of interceptions. Stoops prefers to reserve his judgments for the Drew Allen he sees in practice every day.

"Like most guys that haven't played a ton, [he has to improve] decision making through experience and continue to improve accuracy. But he’s working hard on it," Stoops said. "I feel really good that he’s a guy that’s worked as hard as he can, and he’ll do a good job."