Big 12: 2012 offseason to-do list

Offseason to-do list: Baylor

February, 17, 2012
2/17/12
2:45
PM ET
We're taking a look at what each program in the Big 12 needs to deal with during the offseason, whether it be in the spring, summer or fall preseason camp. Maybe all three! Who knows?

Next up: The Baylor Bears.

1. Invest in Nick Florence as RG3's replacement. Don't look for a quarterback competition in Waco this spring. Bryce Petty could maybe steal this job, but every indication is Florence is the assumed starter heading into spring, and it'll take a meltdown for him to lose the job and cede it to the younger player. Florence already started nine games in 2009 with mixed results, but looked a lot better in a win over Texas Tech this year when Robert Griffin III suffered concussion-like symptoms. Florence is no RG3, but he's probably a well-above average QB for next year, and he'll have one of the league's best receiving corps returning, even without Kendall Wright.

2. Study, study, study and keep learning Phil Bennett's system. The defense has to get better at everything. Baylor's invested in its veteran defensive coordinator, and the program believes in him. The team has the athletes -- these Bears are big enough and fast enough - -to see success, but last year was a mess. Keep at it, and it may turn around. Only two of the team's top 13 tacklers are gone. Cornerback K.J. Morton showed some promise late in the year and Ahmad Dixon is solid at nickel back.

3. Sort out the running backs. Is next year the Lache Seastrunk show in the Baylor backfield? Jay Finley and Terrance Ganaway both cleared 1,200 yards rushing the past two seasons. But the Bears need a new feature back, and the Oregon transfer will vie for the job. Glasco Martin has been in the program longer, but Seastrunk's got the higher upside. And what about senior Jarred Salubi? It's a bit jumbled back there, but there's lots of talent and the spring should provide some clarity.

More offseason to-do lists.

Offseason to-do list: Iowa State

February, 16, 2012
2/16/12
3:45
PM ET
We're taking a look at what each program in the Big 12 needs to deal with during the offseason, whether it be in the spring, summer or fall preseason camp. Maybe all three! Who knows?

Next up: The Iowa State Cyclones.

1. Make the decision: Is there a quarterback controversy? Heading into the bowl game, Jared Barnett looked like Iowa State's man of the future. The freshman took over in the middle of the season and orchestrated three consecutive wins, including the biggest win in school history, an upset of No. 2 Oklahoma State. But in the bowl game loss to Rutgers, Barnett was off-target and benched for Steele Jantz early on. He didn't return. Coach Paul Rhoads was noncommital after the game, but this spring could be interesting.

2. Plug the holes in the secondary. Leonard Johnson was one of the most underrated players in the league and had a big role in that OSU upset, and Ter'Ran Benton was another versatile talent in the Cyclones secondary. Johnson will leave behind the biggest hole in trying to defend a crazy talented group of Big 12 receivers, and fellow corner Anthony Young is gone, too.

3. Adjust the offense to a new man in charge. Tom Herman didn't have a high profile, but Urban Meyer knew about him and asked him to make the no-brainer move to offensive coordinator at Ohio State. In his place is receivers coach Courtney Messingham. You don't quite know what to expect from Messingham, who has experience at lower levels as a head coach and a coordinator. It helps that the 22-year coaching veteran is hardly new at this, but he'll have big shoes to fill. This spring, we'll get a look at how the players respond. The system, best run by a dual-threat quarterback, won't be all that different, but Messingham will be tested this year.

More offseason to-do lists.

Offseason to-do list: Kansas

February, 13, 2012
2/13/12
4:00
PM ET
We're taking a look at what each program in the Big 12 needs to deal with during the offseason, whether it be in the spring, summer or fall preseason camp. Maybe all three! Who knows?

Next up: The Kansas Jayhawks.

1. Figure out what Dayne Crist is capable of doing. Kansas has their man at quarterback. Jordan Webb, last year's starter, transferred. Crist knows new coach Charlie Weis' offense. He has all the physical skills you could ask for in a passer. But can he turn that into production? Kansas has a deep, very underrated corps of running backs, headed by James Sims. How heavily can this team lean on Crist? They probably need to have some idea by the end of spring. Getting receiver Justin McCay, an Oklahoma transfer, officially eligible for 2012 would help a lot.

2. Forget the past two years. Learn what's expected. Other than what not to do, Kansas probably didn't learn a lot from getting beat down week to week the past two seasons. Focusing on that won't do much. Learning how to succeed under Weis has to be the Jayhawks' focus. It always takes a little while for players to learn what's expected, whether that's off the field or simply learning the systems on both sides of the ball on the field. Making things simple will help. Kansas still needs help in terms of teamwide talent, but maximizing what they have now depends on the players on campus buying in to Weis' philosophy.

3. Shore up the middle of the defense. Big 12 teams like to throw, but look at Tech last year. The book on torching the defense was out early: Run on the Red Raiders and they couldn't stop you. Teams, even heavy passing teams, ran a lot more on them. Kansas loses both defensive tackles, Patrick Dorsey and Richard Johnson. The Big 12's leading tackler, physical linebacker Steven Johnson is also gone. KU's defense has a whole lot of problems to fix. The middle of the defense is probably at the top of the list.

More offseason to-do lists.

Offseason to-do list: Kansas State

February, 10, 2012
2/10/12
1:30
PM ET
We're taking a look at what each program in the Big 12 needs to deal with during the offseason, whether it be in the spring, summer or fall preseason camp. Maybe all three!

Next up: The Kansas State Wildcats.

1. Have Collin Klein throw, throw, throw and throw. Then throw some more. This offseason will be huge for the Wildcats' rising senior quarterback. His best asset is his legs, but he made astronomical development from August to December this season. K-State's improvement paralleled Klein's, especially on offense. But can you imagine how much better this offense would be if Klein progressed well above an average passer? It's possible. If he shows up in August with a more accurate arm, it's going to be an unbelievable year for the Cats.

2. Develop the offensive line. Klein's development aside, K-State can't lose what carried it to 10 wins in 2011: the running game. The fastest way to slow that down? Fail to replace the three departing offensive linemen from the 2011 team. Zach Hanson, Clyde Aufner and Colten Freeze are all gone, but promising freshman center B.J. Finney returns. The spring will be key for this group to jell and figure out its personnel heading into voluntary summer workouts and fall camp.

3. Prove they've got some perspective. It's easy to look at those 10 wins and feel pretty satisfied. But like we've mentioned several times, 2011 could have gone much differently for Kansas State. Improvement will be huge this offseason. K-State brings back a lot of talent next year. Only seven teams in college football return more than the Wildcats' 18 starters. Last year's team won 10 games by the hairs on their chinny chin chins, though. Duplicating it will be tough. Daily improvement is one of the founding principles upon which Bill Snyder's program is built. Here's guessing he makes sure his team abides by it.

Offseason to-do list: Missouri

February, 2, 2012
2/02/12
1:15
PM ET
We're taking a look at what each program in the Big 12 needs to deal with during the offseason, whether it be in the spring, summer or fall preseason camp. Maybe all three! Who knows?

Next up: The Missouri Tigers.

1. Figure out what/if the offense has to change. The Tigers, like Texas A&M, are headed for the SEC, and there are plenty of questions about how well Mizzou's wide-open, fast-paced attack will work in their new league, which is known for having the biggest, strongest and fastest defenses in all of college football. This season especially, those defenses were responsible for the league winning its sixth consecutive national title.

2. Solidify the defensive line. Mizzou's defensive line was the most talented in the Big 12, but was somewhat underwhelming in 2011. It was good, far above average for the Big 12, but nowhere near dominant. Well, defensive lines in the SEC are like quarterbacks in the Big 12: The grade is much stricter. The Tigers lose Jacquies Smith and Terrell Resonno, as well as one of the Big 12's most productive tackles, Dominique Hamilton. Brad Madison is back after a 2011 that had him slowed by injury, but this unit will face much different offenses in 2012, and needs to be better.

3. Develop chemistry on the offensive line. Left tackle Elvis Fisher's status for an additional year from the NCAA after a preseason knee injury is still in flux, but if he's gone, Mizzou's big hole gets even bigger. Guards Jayson Palmgren and Austin Wuebbels are gone, as is right tackle Dan Hoch, one of the team's top talents. The line of scrimmage is where games are won, and though Mizzou's been really solid on the offensive line the past few years, that will have to continue against tougher defensive lines in the SEC.

Offseason to-do list: Oklahoma

January, 30, 2012
1/30/12
2:30
PM ET
We're taking a look at what each program in the Big 12 needs to deal with during the offseason, whether it be in the spring, summer or fall preseason camp. Maybe all three! Who knows?

Next up: The Oklahoma Sooners.

1. Fix the secondary. Losses to Texas Tech and especially Baylor and Oklahoma State exposed a weakness in the secondary: giving up big plays. The man who'll be charged with fixing that problem is new defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, who led some of the best defenses in Oklahoma history, including one that gave the Sooners their last national title in 2000. Cornerback Jamell Fleming is gone, but the rest of the secondary returns, and Oklahoma has the talent to fill Fleming's absence. Keep an eye on what happens to Tony Jefferson, too. He's a big weapon at nickelback, but played some traditional safety after Javon Harris struggled against Baylor. Where will Jefferson play?

2. Mature the receiving corps. The struggles after Ryan Broyles' injury were clear, but Landry Jones was only part of it. Oklahoma was deceptively shallow beyond Broyles, and Jaz Reynolds and Kenny Stills just weren't good enough late in the season. They'll have to figure out how to consistently produce without Broyles on the field, and this offseason is the time to do it. Blue-chip recruits Trey Metoyer, Durron Neal and Sterling Shepard should join them next year, and Kameel Jackson showed some decent potential.

3. Sort out the running backs. Dominique Whaley will be healthy next year, and a slew of transfers has thinned the corps, but Brennan Clay and Roy Finch are more than serviceable. Finch emerged as the team's top back late when Whaley was sidelined with a fractured ankle, but Alex Ross should join the team, too. Will Trey Millard get a few carries, too? This situation's pretty unpredictable for now. You'd figure Whaley grabs the starting job back when he gets healthy, but there's no guarantee there. Hence, on the to-do list it lands.

Offseason to-do list: Oklahoma State

January, 27, 2012
1/27/12
1:30
PM ET
We're taking a look at what each program in the Big 12 needs to deal with during the offseason, whether it be in the spring, summer or fall preseason camp. Maybe all three! Who knows?

Next up: The Oklahoma State Cowboys.

1. Don't get comfortable. Congratulations, you just won your first Big 12 title. Guess what? Now everybody wants to beat you a whole lot more. It took a whole lot of work for Oklahoma State to scale the league's mountain, and it has to remember how hard that was. Forget it, and get complacent? Ask Texas how easy it is to replace the number of big-time contributors on a team good enough to win the national title. The two biggest reasons for the Big 12 title run, Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden, are gone. New players have to work with that same sense of purpose.

2. Find a quarterback. Losing Blackmon and Josh Cooper isn't as big of a concern. OSU has a lot of talent at receiver. But at quarterback? For now, there's no question filling Weeden's void is a huge question mark. All three guys vying for the spot — Clint Chelf, J.W. Walsh and Wes Lunt — have potential, but Weeden shattered all kinds of records and will be tough to replace. Additionally, will the offense change with more experience at running back? That's up to Todd Monken. This year will be a much tougher test than last year, which Monken compared to being handed the keys to a Ferrari.

3. Solidify the offensive line. You've got to like offensive line coach Joe Wickline's ability to make this happen, and there's plenty of promise in the rising offensive linemen. Parker Graham has especially impressed older players. Tackle Levy Adcock, center Grant Garner and guard Nick Martinez are all gone. Adcock was the most talented player on the line and Garner made the whole machine work. Like Weeden, they leave enormous holes. This group will have to do what the unit in 2010 did: Grow during the season after figuring who'll be in the lineup by the season opener.

More offseason to-do lists.

Offseason to-do list: Texas A&M

January, 26, 2012
1/26/12
1:00
PM ET
We're taking a look at what each program in the Big 12 needs to deal with during the offseason, whether it be in the spring, summer or fall preseason camp. Maybe all three! Who knows?

Next up: The Texas A&M Aggies.

1. Find a quarterback. Ryan Tannehill's gone, and the Aggies look like they've got a suitable replacement: Jameill Showers. But do they? We'll probably know by spring. Johnny Manziel and Matt Joeckel will be there to push Showers, and him winning the job is no sure thing. So, who will it be? Showers throws one of the prettiest balls you'll ever see, but playing QB for A&M requires a whole lot more than just a tight spiral. Now's his chance to prove himself.

2. Figure out what works and what won't in the SEC. Maybe the Aggies could call Nebraska? Texas A&M and Oklahoma were probably the two Big 12 teams best built to compete against the SEC style of play, with versatile, physical offenses and lots of speed on defense. New coach Kevin Sumlin ran a lot of pro sets back at Oklahoma, but was best known for his wide-open, spread attack at Houston.

3. Change the mindset, forget 2011. Texas A&M loses a lot of talent from its 2011 team, namely Tannehill and running back Cyrus Gray, plus three starters in the secondary. Still, the remnants of this year could easily affect next year's team. In a close game late, confidence is a must. Believing you can win games. The Aggies will be in a lot of tight ones in the SEC. It won't be easy, but A&M has to figure out a way to put all the late-game failures of 2011 behind it. A big early-season win would help a lot. So will having an all-new coaching staff. Will it mean results?

Offseason to-do list: Texas Longhorns

January, 25, 2012
1/25/12
4:15
PM ET
We'll start taking a look at what each program in the Big 12 needs to deal with during the offseason, whether it be in the spring, summer or fall preseason camp. Maybe all three! Who knows?

Next up: The Texas Longhorns.

Invest in David Ash. Texas will bring on another true freshman this spring, Connor Brewer. The Longhorns have already been down that road. Ash is the most physically gifted of the Longhorns' quarterbacks, and that gives him the most upside. He's been in the program just one calendar year, and he got hardly any practice reps last spring and in the preseason while Texas was trying to prepare Garrett Gilbert to bounce back. If you ask me, forget competition with Case McCoy. Get Ash tons of reps and get him ready to take over in 2012. They'll be better off for it.

Find new defensive leadership. Leadership was one of the Longhorns' downfalls in 2010 after Colt McCoy left. Without Keenan Robinson, Emmanuel Acho and Blake Gideon, the Longhorns have a huge hole once again. Who's going to take over? Senior Kenny Vaccaro's probably the most talented player returning for the Horns, closely followed by junior-to-be Jackson Jeffcoat. What about Alex Okafor, the senior up front? Somebody's got to take hold of this team.

Figure out how the running backs will be used. Texas' backfield next year's going to be real crowded. Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron return, and Johnathan Gray, the nation's No. 1 running back and No. 2 prospect overall, will join them. All three could probably start for most teams in the Big 12, if not the country. The Longhorns need to utilize that strength, along with a maturing offensive line. Will offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin debut some new formations to get them on the field? Maybe a Wishbone redux? Copycatting Oklahoma and Oklahoma State's "Backs" or "Diamond" formation? Who takes over for Fozzy Whittaker in the Wildcat formation? Who gets the lion's share of the carries for these Horns? All are questions that have to be answered over the next seven months.

More offseason to-do lists.

Offseason to-do list: Texas Tech

January, 24, 2012
1/24/12
1:00
PM ET
We'll start taking a look at what each program in the Big 12 needs to deal with during the offseason, whether it be in the spring, summer or fall preseason camp. Maybe all three! Who knows?

It's about to get crazy up in here.

The Texas Tech Red Raiders are first.

Double-check the way the program is being run. Maybe they’ve all been freak incidents. At least a few were, especially some of the most notable ones like Eric Stephens’ knee injury against Texas A&M. But in each of the past two seasons, Texas Tech has dealt with more injuries than any other team in the Big 12. It has paid for it, too, especially with a five-win season in 2011. Now’s the time to examine practice habits and how hard players are being pushed before and during the season. Is that contributing to injuries? Only those deep inside the program would have a real idea, but the injuries can’t continue at this rate.

Figure out who’s in and who’s out at running back. Coach Tommy Tuberville recently expressed optimism that Eric Stephens would be able to return in 2012 from a serious knee dislocation he suffered in midseason 2011. What will his role be? DeAndre Washington also tore his ACL late in the season. It could be thin this spring in Lubbock at the positon, but figuring out that rotation in the fall could be pretty tricky.

Learn yet another defense. I don't envy Texas Tech defenders lately. When they're not getting injured, they're having to learn new system after new system. Art Kaufman was Tommy Tuberville's third defensive coordinator in three years, and once again, the Red Raiders will be learning a new system. It was a 3-4 in 2010 under James Willis and a 4-2-5 under Chad Glasgow last year. Now, it's a 4-3. That's not easy, and doesn't help a defense improve -- especially one that badly needs improvement after ranking eighth in the conference in total defense.

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