Big 12: 2012 spring wrap

Another spring has come and gone in the Big 12. In this league, it's a long one. Texas Tech kicked things off on February 17, just two weeks after signing day.

Kansas and Kansas State didn't wrap it up until spring games on April 28.

Through it all, we learned a lot. Here's a taste.

Texas is inching much closer to contention: The offense? Well, it's still a work in progress, though David Ash showed some solid progression during the spring. But the defense? It's leading the way for the Longhorns' road back from the 5-7 implosion in 2010. Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom might just be the two best cornerbacks in the Big 12, and Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat are probably the two best defensive ends. Great coverage and a great pass-rush? Sounds like a good start to slowing down Big 12 offenses. Add in junior college man-child Brandon Moore, and solid linebacker play with Jordan Hicks, Demarco Cobbs and Steve Edmond, and the Longhorns have a unit that can help them get back into title contention.

Only one team doesn't know who its quarterback will be: Baylor hardly had a competition to replace RG3. Kansas replaced Jordan Webb with transfer Dayne Crist. Oklahoma State pulled the trigger on a youngster. Texas hasn't officially named him, but Ash has all but sewn up the job in Austin. That leaves Iowa State, which has sophomore Jared Barnett and senior Steele Jantz competing for the job for a second consecutive fall. Anything could happen there.

Mike Gundy has guts: Oklahoma State said goodbye to a mature, big-armed passer in Brandon Weeden, who won 23 games in two seasons. However, the reigning Big 12 champion again will have a big arm at quarterback. Gundy made the league's gutsiest move this spring, handing the reins to 18-year-old Wes Lunt from Illinois. He's one of just six players in the Big 12 from Illinois, and he's a decade younger than Weeden. Robert Griffin III was the league's last true freshman to start a majority of games, but Lunt might be the first to win the job in the spring.

There's a new sherriff in town: The Big 12 knew Chuck Neinas was a quick fix at the commissioner spot, but the league made a quick move in pegging Stanford AD Bob Bowlsby as the new commissioner to replace Dan Beebe, who was fired in September. The Big 12 is likely to cash in on a nice TV deal shortly after Bowlsby takes over, but he'll have to help reconnect a league that must work through some possibly divisive issues like expansion in the near future. He'll also need to manage the relationship between Texas, who he referred to as an "800-pound gorilla," and the rest of its Big 12 brethren. The relationship sounds good now, but over time, issues could arise.

Charlie Weis is making sure KU looks nothing like its 2011 team: Kansas has undergone the biggest change of any team in the Big 12 this offseason. New coach Weis saw a lot of problems at KU, and went about fixing them quickly. He welcomed six Division I transfers, including three from Notre Dame, which included his new quarterback, Crist. He also saw gaping holes along the defensive line and tried to fill them with junior college players and high schoolers who will be challenging for playing time in the fall. Kansas will look a lot different, but will it be better?

Baylor spring wrap

May, 9, 2012

2011 overall record: 10-3
2011 conference record: 6-3
Returning starters: Offense (6), Defense (8), P/K (2)

Top returners: WR Terrance Williams, WR Tevin Reese, S Ahmad Dixon, S Sam Holl, CB K.J. Morton, S Mike Hicks, OL Cyril Richardson, OL Ivory Wade

Key losses: QB Robert Griffin III, WR Kendall Wright, RB Terrance Ganaway, OL Philip Blake, LB Elliot Coffey, DT Nicolas Jean-Baptiste, DL Tracy Robertson

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Terrance Ganaway (1,547 yards)
Passing: Robert Griffin III (4,293 yards)
Receiving: Kendall Wright (1,663 yards)
Tackles: Elliot Coffey (114)
Sacks: Tracy Robertson (4.5)
Interceptions: K.J. Morton* (4)

Spring answers

1. Don't sweat the quarterbacks: Anybody who thinks Baylor's destined to go back to 3-4 win seasons in the post-RG3 era isn't paying much attention. Nick Florence had a rough time as a true freshman filling in for RG3 in 2009, but he's grown up a whole lot since then, and he'll get a chance to show it this fall. Behind him, Bryce Petty is itching for a chance, too, but Florence's leadership and decision-making assured him the job in the spring.

2. The receivers are ready to roll: And what about Kendall Wright's absence? He led Baylor in receiving for each of the past four seasons, but Baylor's going to be just fine in his wake, too. Terrance Williams is a future NFL draft pick, and Tevin Reese is ready to see an increased role in the offense, too. Lanear Sampson offers more depth and playmaking ability at the position.

3. Lache Seastrunk is a lot more than just hype: The Temple, Texas, native couldn't quite catch on at Oregon, but he's proving he'll be a factor at Baylor at some point, if not immediately. The backfield is still crowded, but he exploded for 138 yards and a touchdown on seven carries. He's the fastest of the Baylor backs, but he's got to prove he can be the most productive too.

Fall questions

1. How much better can the defense get? Baylor doesn't have the RG3 Express to fall back on anymore. He helped make the Bears the first team to ever win four consecutive games in a single season while also giving up at least 30 points. BU won games in 2011 while giving up 56, 48 and 42 points, too. Phil Bennett's defense has the athletes, but it's got to force more turnovers like it did the second half of the season and get those point totals down. Florence is good, but he's no RG3. If the defense doesn't improve, making a bowl will prove difficult.

2. Can Baylor truly carry on without Robert Griffin III? Baylor has all the pieces in place to get back to a bowl game, but RG3 had plenty of truly intangible attributes that are hard to duplicate. He was a compelling leader who always seemed to make everyone around him better. Florence sounds like he has many of those same things, but will they translate into wins? You never quite know for sure. RG3 was a truly transcendent player unlike anything Waco had ever seen.

3. Will the Bears have a featured running back? Seastrunk made lots of noise in the spring game, but Jarred Salubi and Glasco Martin have a lot more experience, and that could pay off in playing time when it comes to things like pass blocking and doing the little things right. Jay Finley and Terrance Ganaway grabbed starring roles the past two seasons, but will coach Art Briles use a committee come fall? Or will he find a back to lean on?

Iowa State spring wrap

May, 9, 2012
2011 overall record: 6-7

2011 conference record: 3-6
Returning starters: Offense (7), Defense (5), P/K (1)

Top returners: RB James White, LB A.J. Klein, LB Jake Knott, QB Jared Barnett, QB Steele Jantz, WR Josh Lenz, WR Aaron Horne

Key losses: OL Kelechi Osemele, WR Darius Reynolds, CB Leonard Johnson, DE Jake Lattimer, DL Stephen Ruempolhamer

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: James White* (743 yards)
Passing: Steele Jantz* (1,519 yards)
Receiving: Darius Reynolds (695 yards)
Tackles: A.J. Klein* (117)
Sacks: Patrick Neal (3.5)
Interceptions: Ter'Ran Benton (3)

Three spring answers

1. Jerome Tiller's not pouting: Tiller sat out 2011 after being academically ineligible, and as such, became a nonfactor in the quarterback race, even though he was the likely successor to Austen Arnaud. Tiller came back with a vengeance this spring ... at receiver. He caught five passes for 44 yards, but don't be surprised to see him put up those kinds of numbers during the season. Nice to see him bounce back.

2. The linebacker spot is in good hands: Jake Knott missed the spring after offseason shoulder surgery, but the linebackers put on a show during the spring. Jevohn Miller played well in Knott's absence, but Jeremiah George was one of the most improved players on the team during the spring. Knott and Klein will be senior stars, but Iowa State's linebacker tradition will carry on when they leave.

3. The offense isn't changing: Offensive coordinator Tom Herman left to take the same job at Ohio State, but replacement Courtney Messingham isn't messing with much in the offense. There will be subtle changes, sure, but mostly to suit whoever wins the QB job. The version of the spread ISU uses has a lot of zone read concepts, and that will continue with either. What the passing game looks like will be a little different.

Three fall questions

1. Who will be the quarterback? Jared Barnett and Steele Jantz both had their moments in 2011. Both went 3-0 in their first three starts. Jantz had three fourth-quarter comebacks and Barnett grabbed one of the biggest wins in school history against OSU to get ISU bowl eligible. Jantz was turnover-prone, however, and Barnett struggled with consistency. The competition is still wide open heading into fall camp.

2. What's the status of Shontrelle Johnson? Johnson's the biggest home run hitter on the offense, but he's been out since early last season with a neck injury. His status is still in doubt. James White filled in nicely last year, but Johnson can take the offense to another level. Iowa State hopes he can get back, but nothing's promised.

3. Who's the new No. 1 receiver? Jantz loved Darius Reynolds early in the season, but Aaron Horne and Josh Lenz were more productive with Barnett late in the season. Reynolds is gone, but who's the new go-to guy in the passing game? It could be either.

Kansas spring wrap

May, 9, 2012
2011 overall record: 2-10
2011 conference record: 0-9
Returning starters: Offense 7; defense 6; P/K (2)

Top returners:
RB James Sims, WR D.J. Beshears, S Bradley McDougald, OL Tanner Hawkinson, DE Toben Opurum, RB Tony Pierson

Key losses:
QB Jordan Webb, RB Darrian Miller, LB Steven Johnson, CB Isiah Barfield, DL Patrick Dorsey

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: James Sims* (727 yards)
Passing: Jordan Webb (1,883 yards)
Receiving: D.J. Beshears* (437 yards)
Tackles: Steven Johnson (119)
Sacks: Toben Opurum* (4)
Interceptions: Bradley McDougald*, Greg Brown* (2)

Spring answers

1. A culture change is underway: Kansas' players have been beaten down over the past two years. Faith that a corner would be turned under Turner Gill wasn't rewarded. Part of what new coach Charlie Weis has to pound into his team is a sense of confidence. He memorably got his team to practice celebrating a win during one of this spring's open practices, producing a video that went viral. Confidence has to be KU's first step back from five wins in two seasons.

2. Recognizable names looking for a new start: Weis isn't the only person looking for a fresh start in Lawrence. KU welcomed six Division I transfers this fall, including starting quarterback Dayne Crist. Jake Heaps is waiting his turn to take the quarterback spot in 2013, but Oklahoma transfer Justin McCay had his appeal to waive the redshirt year denied by the NCAA. He'll be back in 2013, but defensive coordinator Dave Campo brings a big resume to Weis' staff, too.

3. Underrated at receiver: Kansas' receivers were obviously not very productive, but Weis actually left the spring really impressed with the unit. That's a good sign for Crist, and that's even without McCay suiting up. Former quarterback Kale Pick should contribute alongside D.J. Beshears and Daymond Patterson, who sat out the last 11 games of 2011 with a groin injury. JaCorey Shepherd, 6-foot-4 junior Chris Omigie and junior Christian Matthews fill out the unit that had enough depth to move Marquis Jackson to running back.

Fall questions

1. Can Charlie Weis reward the KU administration's faith? Kansas is very different than Notre Dame. It's very different from the Kansas City Chiefs and Florida Gators, too. The prospect of building a team from the bottom up appealed to Weis, and KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger made a hire that was panned by most across the country. Weis will coach with a chip on his shoulder, and the man knows football. Can he prove his detractors wrong?

2. What will the defensive line look like? This unit was the biggest hole on Kansas' team last season, and handcuffed what Weis saw was an underrated secondary. Weis noted the Jayhawks needed some bigger "muchachos" up front, and noted that reinforcements were on the way. Players that were working with the first team during the spring may be sliding way down the depth chart in the fall. How will it play out? Well, that's what fall camp is for.

3. How will the running back spot shake out? James Sims has led Kansas in rushing for each of the past two seasons, but was suspended for the first three games of 2012 after an OWI arrest. That's bad news for Sims, who had a bunch of competition at KU's best position, even after Darrian Miller was dismissed from the team during the offseason. Jackson and Tony Pierson both made huge impacts in the spring game, and Sims could have serious trouble earning his spot back when he returns in the fall. Weis won't waste first-team reps on Sims during fall camp, and with a new staff, that's a lot of exposure for Pierson, Jackson and Brandon Bourbon.

Kansas State spring wrap

May, 9, 2012
2011 overall record: 10-3
2011 conference record: 7-2
Returning starters: Offense 9; defense 7; P/K (2)

Top returners:
QB Collin Klein, RB John Hubert, LB Arthur Brown, CB Nigel Malone, WR Tyler Lockett, LB Tre Walker, WR Chris Harper

Key losses:
CB David Garrett, LB Emmanuel Lamur, S Tysyn Hartman, DL Ray Kibble, DE Jordan Voelker

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Collin Klein* (1,141 yards)
Passing: Collin Klein* (1,918 yards)
Receiving: Chris Harper* (547 yards)
Tackles: Arthur Brown* (101)
Sacks: Meshak Williams* (7)
Interceptions: Nigel Malone* (7)

Spring answers

1. Filling the void left behind by Garrett: David Garrett was one of the biggest playmakers for the K-State defense, but Allen Chapman seems to have locked down the assignment of replacing him in 2012. The California juco transfer broke up four passes last year and returned his only interception 60 yards for a touchdown. K-State's secondary should be solid. Kip Daily will also help out at corner.

2. Collin Klein can chuck it: You have to take into account that Klein did it against second-teamers and that the quarterbacks have put up big numbers in spring games, but his 47-of-56, 480-yard performance is encouraging. He won't do that during the fall, but it's a good sign that Klein's improvement was obvious in the one practice fans or media were allowed to see.

3. Lockett returns: Tyler Lockett was the most explosive talent on an offense mostly devoid of home run threats, but a lacerated kidney ended his 2011 season early. Lockett returned and practiced this spring, but reportedly had another minor injury before the spring game, depriving us of a chance to see him back in action. Still, it sounds like he'll be back in the fall.

Fall questions

1. Can Kansas State validate its surprising 2011? The Wildcats memorably won eight games in 2011 by a touchdown or less, ascending to a second-place finish in the Big 12 after being picked to finish eighth. Advanced college football statistics suggest K-State is due for a regression in 2012, but this is Bill Snyder we're talking about. His team will be better in 2012. Can its record improve, too? Klein must remain healthy after leading the Big 12 in carries last season.

2. Who's filling in for Tysyn Hartman? Hartman had loads of experience and was one of the most intelligent players on the team. The Wildcats don't have many question marks, but who replaces Hartman is one. They'll still have competition between Thomas Ferguson, Randall Evans and Jarard Milo this fall to win the job.

3. What will the offensive line look like? Kansas State was the Big 12's most physical team in 2011 because of their strong offensive line. K-State loses three starters, and there's no doubt that if there's one thing that derails K-State in the fall, it's the new faces on the line. B.J. Finney is a stud at center, and Nick Puetz is solid, but the other three spots on the line didn't sound like they were sewn up by the end of spring.

Oklahoma spring wrap

May, 9, 2012
2011 overall record: 10-3
2011 conference record: 6-3 (T-3rd)
Returning starters: Offense: 8; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

QB Landry Jones, RB Dominique Whaley, FB Trey Millard, WR Kenny Stills, OG Gabe Ikard, LB Tom Wort, CB Demontre Hurst, CB/S Aaron Colvin, FS Tony Jefferson

Key losses

WR Ryan Broyles, LT Donald Stephenson, TE James Hanna, DE Ronnell Lewis, DE Frank Alexander, LB Travis Lewis, CB Jamell Fleming

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Dominique Whaley* (627 yards)
Passing: Landry Jones* (4,463 yards)
Receiving: Ryan Broyles (1,157 yards)
Tackles: Travis Lewis and Aaron Colvin* (84)
Sacks: Frank Alexander (8.5)
Interceptions: Tony Jefferson* (4)

Spring answers

1. Trey Metoyer is the real deal: The true freshman had the best spring of any wide receiver on the OU roster, then capped it by leading the Sooners in receiving in the spring game. Metoyer has all but solidified a starting spot at wide receiver, and should help fill the massive production gap left by the graduation of Ryan Broyles.

2. Secondary on right path: Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops wasted no time revamping the secondary, sliding Tony Jefferson to free safety while inserting Javon Harris back into the starting lineup at strong safety. Stoops liked what he saw there in the spring, and if Harris can continue to bounce back from a shaky 2011 season, Stoops will have the flexibility of bumping Aaron Colvin to cornerback opposite three-year starter Demontre Hurst, solidifying the Sooners there, too.

3. O-line could be OU’s best in years: Not since 2008 have the Sooners been this deep and talented on the offensive line. Even with center Ben Habern rehabbing from offseason neck surgery, the line didn’t miss a beat grinding out OU’s defensive front most of the spring. Gabe Ikard has proved he can excel at either guard or center, guard Tyler Evans is entering his fourth year as a starter, and Adam Shead could be OU’s top interior run-blocker since All-America Duke Robinson. The tackles remain a little bit of a question mark. But Daryl Williams all but locked down the starting job on the right side with a great spring. On the left side, Tyrus Thompson is pushing to beat out 2011 starting right tackle Lane Johnson.

Fall questions

1. The No. 2 QB battle: Head coach Bob Stoops is no hurry to name a backup quarterback, a competition that figures to extend through August. Blake Bell, who shined running the ball out of the Belldozer formation last season, outplayed Drew Allen in the spring game, but Allen had his moments, too, and has another year of experience in the offense. Whoever wins the No. 2 job could have a leg up on the 2013 derby to replace Landry Jones.

2. The defensive line: Bob Stoops has had a first-team all-Big 12 defensive lineman every year since 1999. That streak, however, could be in jeopardy. Gone are sack machines Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis, leaving the Sooners without a proven difference-maker up front. The top five players in the rotation across the front will all be seniors, making it the most experienced in the conference. But for the Sooners to win the Big 12 and contend for a national title, someone must emerge as that difference-maker.

3. The backfield rotation: The Sooners have options in the backfield, but it’s unclear how running backs coach Cale Gundy will use them. It’s also unclear how effective 2011 leading rusher Dominique Whaley will be after missing half of last season with a fractured ankle. Roy Finch can be electric with the ball, but has not earned the trust of the coaching staff in his pass protection. Brennan Clay, banged up the past two seasons, finally looks healthy and had a solid spring. Then there’s touted junior-college transfer Damien Williams, who was also recruited by USC, and fullback Trey Millard, who warrants at least a handful of carries a game. Will someone emerge as the feature back? Or will Gundy go with a backfield by committee?

Oklahoma State spring wrap

May, 9, 2012
2011 overall record: 12-1
2011 conference record: 8-1

Returning starters: Offense 6; defense 8; P/K 2

Top returners
RB Joseph Randle, WR Tracy Moore, WR Isaiah Anderson, CB Brodrick Brown, LB Shaun Lewis, S Daytawion Lowe, LB Alex Elkins, CB/KR Justin Gilbert

Key losses
QB Brandon Weeden, WR Justin Blackmon, S Markelle Martin, DE Jamie Blatnick, C Grant Garner, RT Levy Adcock, WR Josh Cooper, WR Michael Harrison

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Joseph Randle* (1,216 yards)
Passing: Brandon Weeden (4,727 yards)
Receiving: Justin Blackmon (1,522 yards)
Tackles: Daytawion Lowe* (97)
Sacks: Jamie Blatnick (8)
Interceptions: Justin Gilbert*, Brodrick Brown* (5)

Spring answers

1. Handing the reins to the youngster: I had my doubts about whether OSU would actually pull the trigger and name a starting quarterback. For the Cowboys to name 18-year-old true freshman Wes Lunt is a big move, and proof of the staff's confidence that the Illinois native is the best man for the job. The summer will be about him establishing himself as the team's leader, but seeing how he handles the fall will be fascinating.

2. Rebooting the offensive line: You could say OSU must replace four starters on the offensive line, but sixth-year senior Jonathan Rush has plenty of experience while he returns from a knee injury, and Lane Taylor returns, too. Michael Bowie was a starter-quality contributor last year, and Parker Graham earned rave reviews for his work in the second unit last year, moving into a starter role for the final five games. Evan Epstein is the man at center, but replacing Grant Garner won't be easy. This is a unit hardly devoid of experience.

3. Emerging stars at receiver: OSU knew Justin Blackmon and Josh Cooper would be gone this year, but Michael Harrison's exit from the team was a surprise. OSU needed talents to emerge in the spring, and they did. Josh Stewart was a big standout, as was juco newcomer Blake Jackson, in the mold of former Sooners star Jermaine Gresham. Charlie Moore exploded for 243 receiving yards and three touchdowns in the spring game.

Fall questions

1. How far can Lunt take the Cowboys? Oklahoma State will carry the banner of defending Big 12 champs for the first time in school history next fall. They'll do so with a wide-eyed true freshman making his way through plenty of unfamiliar territory and playing plenty of new faces for the first time. His ceiling is high, but Oklahoma State will start in the top 25 and is good enough to be a factor in the Big 12 title race. How far will Lunt carry them?

2. Who's filling in for Markelle Martin? Martin was the leader of the defense in 2011, but defensive coordinator Bill Young says replacing him will be done by committee. Lavocheya Cooper, Zack Craig and Shamiel Gary will be in the mix, but how will that rotation work out in the fall?

3. Can the defense carry more of the load? OSU forced 44 turnovers last season, the most of any team in college football. It also finished 107th nationally in total defense. The Cowboys won't have the same awe-inspiring offense in 2011, but the defense returns a lot of experience and a lot of talent. Defensive ends Jamie Blatnick and Richetti Jones leave holes in the pass rush. The defense should be better, but it has to be. The margin for error will be much smaller.

Texas spring wrap

May, 9, 2012


2011 overall record: 8-4

2011 conference record: 4-5 (6th)

Returning starters:

Offense: 9; defense: 8; kicker/punter: 0
Top returners

RB: Malcolm Brown, C Dominic Espinosa, WR Jaxon Shipley, QB David Ash, LB Jordan Hicks, S Kenny Vaccaro, DE Alex Okafor, CB Carrington Byndom

Key losses

LB Emmanuel Acho, LB Keenan Robinson, K/P Justin Tucker

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Malcolm Brown* (742 yards)

Passing: David Ash* (1,068 yards)

Receiving: Mike Davis* (609 yards)

Tackles: Emmanuel Acho (131)

Sacks: Jackson Jeffcoat (8)

Interceptions: Quandre Diggs* (4)

Spring answers

Quarterbacks maturing: While Texas refuses to name an outright starter before the season, it is clear that both Case McCoy and David Ash have taken strides toward becoming more complete quarterbacks. Ash, who was plagued by indecision and interceptions, matured throughout the spring and has started to become the leader Texas needs him to be. McCoy is still having problems with picks, but has increased the velocity on his throws and, as a result, can make more down the field throws.

Replacements fit: Texas did not have to replace much on the defensive side of the ball -- only three players. But two of those three were the leading tacklers from 2011, linebackers Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson. Still, it appears as if the Longhorns have upgraded at the linebacker with Steve Edmond and Demarco Cobbs. Edmond is bigger and faster than Robinson. Cobbs is faster and more agile than Acho. What neither has is experience and that will be tested early in the 2012 season.

Bergeron pushes Brown: Backup running back Joe Bergeron made his case for more carries in the spring. Despite playing in 11 of 13 games, the sophomore only received consistent snaps in two games as a freshman. During those two games, Bergeron rushed for 327 yards. An injury hampered him the rest of the season, but he was healthy over the spring and showed the coaching staff that he is ready to challenge Malcolm Brown for the starting spot at running back.

Fall questions

Who is going wild? Texas deployed the wild formation to great success under first year co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin in 2011. But headed into 2012, the Longhorns have yet to figure out who will be running that formation. There are several candidates, many of which are freshmen. Johnathan Gray, the most heralded recruit of the 2012 class, should get the first shot. The running back has great speed and instincts but has to prove he can read the linebackers and make the right decisions. Texas also will try two other freshmen, Daje Johnson and Jalen Overstreet. Overstreet was a high school quarterback so he could bring the option of throwing out of the wild as well.

Rotating quarterbacks: Texas could not make up its mind until the last game of the season last year when it came to quarterbacks. In that game Ash took every snap. Whether or not he continues to take the significant snaps for Texas is the largest question surrounding this team. If Ash is at all shaky under center, the Longhorns have no qualms about going with McCoy. But if both finally prove inadequate, Texas might have to make a decision on freshman Connor Brewer. Texas would prefer to redshirt Brewer, but the Longhorns have suffered through two years of poor quarterback play and a third may not be tolerated by fans.

Wide receiver: Mike Davis, Jaxon Shipley and Marquise Goodwin are all back at wide receiver, but beyond those three players, Teas is severely lacking experienced depth. D.J. Monroe has been converted from running back to wide receiver to take advantage of his speed and shiftiness on bubble screens. But Monroe has had problems catching the ball consistently. DeSean Hales showed up in the spring. But the senior has shown up in the spring before and disappeared in the fall. He had two catches in 2011.

That means freshmen Cayleb Jones, Daje Johnson, Kendall Sanders and Marcus Johnson are all going to get a shot. Additionally, Texas will be working with a redshirt freshman M.J. McFarland at tight end.

TCU spring wrap

May, 9, 2012
2011 overall record: 11-2
2011 conference record: 7-0
Returning starters: offense: 6; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 0

Top returners
QB Casey Pachall, RB Waymon James, DL Stansly Maponga, RB Ed Wesley, RB Matthew Tucker, WR Josh Boyce, LB Kenny Cain, DB Jason Verrett

Key losses
LB Tank Carder, LB Tanner Brock, S Tekerrein Cuba, S Johnny Fobbs, WR Antoine Hicks, S Devin Johnson

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Waymon James* (875 yards)
Passing: Casey Pachall* (2,921 yards)
Receiving: Josh Boyce* (998 yards)
Tackles: Kenny Cain*(72)
Sacks: Stansly Maponga* (9)
Interceptions: Tank Carder, Kris Gardner, Greg McCoy (2, none return)

Spring answers

1. Filling a hole at linebacker: TCU was ready to lose Tank Carder, but the loss of Tanner Brock was unexpected. Thus, TCU entered spring with big questions at linebacker. Danny Heiss and Joel Hasley have stepped in to help fortify a position with a lot to prove in 2012. TCU has a feel for who its guys will be, but are those guys good enough?

2. Beware of the TCU receivers: TCU already felt good about Josh Boyce and Skye Dawson after 2011, but sophomore Brandon Carter is bigger and better this spring. LaDarius Brown may join the fold as a big factor, though. It's not impossible for him to become one of the team's best targets. Casey Pachall has to love adding a 6-foot-4, 220-pounder to his targets, and freshman Kolby Listenbee proved he can contribute right away after enrolling early this spring. He'll play.

3. A change in identity: There's no doubt TCU has big questions on defense, especially at linebacker and in the secondary. But offensively? The Horned Frogs have to shore up the offensive line, but its skill-position players are as deep and as talented as any in the Big 12. It's not often that offense has to carry the load for a Gary Patterson team, but it looks like that'll be the case this year.

Fall questions

1. How will TCU handle the jump? Complain about the question all you want, Frogs. It's not that anyone's beating it into the ground, it's that TCU hasn't had a chance to answer it. Fact: The Big 12 will be much more difficult than the Mountain West Conference. TCU brings back a good amount of talent that's built to have success in the Big 12 immediately. Can they do it, though? I'm betting yes, that TCU will flirt with double-digit wins.

2. Will the secondary, especially the safeties, improve? TCU's rise under Gary Patterson has been marked by suffocating defense, but TCU slid to a finish outside the national top 30 in total defense last season after leading the nation in total defense in 2009 and 2010. The loss to Baylor personified those struggles more than any game all season. Patterson wasn't happy with his secondary this spring, either. The bad news: There are lots of Baylors in the Big 12. The good news: Safeties coach Chad Glasgow is back after serving as defensive coordinator at Texas Tech for one season.

3. Can TCU handle gut-punching defensive losses? The Horned Frogs suffered the biggest off-field scandal in the Big 12 this offseason when four players were arrested in a campus drug sting. That's a problem of its own off the field, but on the field, TCU still has to replace 2011 big contributors in Tanner Brock, Devin Johnson and D.J. Yendrey. How much will those losses hurt in the fall?

Texas Tech spring wrap

May, 9, 2012
2011 overall record: 5-7
2011 conference record: 2-7
Returning starters: Offense (9), Defense (10), P/K (1)

Top returners: QB Seth Doege, S Cody Davis, WR Alex Torres, S D.J. Johnson, S Terrance Bullitt, RB Eric Stephens, WR Eric Ward, WR Darrin Moore

Key losses: DE Scott Smith, TE Adam James, DB Brett Dewhurst

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Eric Stephens* (565 yards)
Passing: Seth Doege* (4,004 yards)
Receiving: Eric Ward* (800 yards)
Tackles: Cody Davis* (93)
Sacks: Scott Smith (5.5)
Interceptions: D.J. Johnson* (2)

Three spring answers

1. An answer in the middle: When you recruit junior college talent, you never quite know what you're going to get. That was a good thing for Texas Tech this spring, which found a starting middle linebacker in Will Smith. He's already the team's best at the position, according to coach Tommy Tuberville. They found him while recruiting running back SaDale Foster in California, but Tech found a hidden gem that made a huge impact.

2. Depth developing at running back: Texas Tech was thin at running back during the spring with DeAndre Washington and Eric Stephens sidelined by knee injuries. Stephens' return in 2012 isn't guaranteed, but the spring gave Tech a nice chance to see what it had at running back. Newcomer SaDale Foster played well, as did Kenny Williams. The position's in good shape, even though Ronnie Daniels transferred.

3. Familiar unfamiliarity on defense: Art Kaufman arrived in Lubbock this spring to install his 4-3 defense, which on its own wouldn't be all that notable. What makes it notable? He's the fourth defensive coordinator in four years at Texas Tech. The biggest task in front of him is building depth and developing his linebackers, who were among the Big 12's worst in 2011, ranking dead last nationally in rush defense.

Three fall questions

1. Will Eric Stephens be back in time? Stephens' dislocated knee against Texas A&M looked ugly, but the impact was even bigger than anyone could have imagined. Stephens had tons of experience, and was not only the team's best runner, but was the best pass-blocking back (a huge deal in Tech's offense) and pass-catching back. Tech is hopeful he'll be back by the beginning of the season, but he'll be limited in fall camp.

2. Who's the top receiver? Is Eric Ward the most talented receiver on the team? I'd vote more for Alex Torres and Darrin Moore. Still, you can't deny Ward's production in Torres' and Moore's absence with injuries in 2011. They'll be in a derby this fall to catch passes from Doege, and look out for guys like Tyson Williams and Marcus Kennard, too. Hyped freshmen Dominique Wheeler and Reginald Davis are on the way, too.

3. Can Texas Tech stay healthy? Nothing's hurt Tech more the past two seasons than injury. They've been everywhere on defense, and last year, the team's top two receivers and running backs both suffered big injuries. There hasn't been a clear reason Tech seems to have been snake bitten so badly, but the injuries exposed the lack of depth in 2011. Reasons aside, Tech has to stay healthy to get back into a bowl after ending a nearly two-decade streak of winning seasons with the 5-7 campaign in 2011.

West Virginia spring wrap

May, 9, 2012

2011 overall record: 10-3

2011 conference record: 5-2

Returning starters: Offense (8), Defense (6), P/K (2)

Top returners: QB Geno Smith, WR Stedman Bailey, WR Tavon Austin, RB Dustin Garrison, RB Shawne Alston, S Darwin Cook, S Terence Garvin

Key losses: DE Bruce Irvin, LB Najee Goode, DE Julian Miller, S Eain Smith, CB Keith Tandy

2011 statistical leaders (*returners):

Rushing: Dustin Garrison* (742 yards)

Passing: Geno Smith* (4,385 yards)

Receiving: Stedman Bailey* (1,279 yards)

Tackles: Najee Goode (87)

Sacks: Bruce Irvin (8)

Interceptions: Keith Tandy (4)

Three spring answers

1. A clear defensive vision: Jeff Casteel packed up for Arizona and rejoined former WVU coach Rich Rodriguez in Tucson. He took the 3-3-5 with him. On the way to the Big 12, coach Dana Holgorsen went away from the defense that made a name for the Mountaineers. Now, he's got co-defensive coordinators Keith Patterson and Joe DeForest getting his team ready to utilize a 3-4 with a pass rush built to confuse and fluster Big 12 quarterbacks.

2. Wealth overflows at receiver: Bailey and Austin make a great case for being the Big 12's No. 1 and 2 receivers entering the 2012 season, but now true freshman Jordan Thompson adds even more depth to the position. He provides another target for Smith.

3. No worries on offense: WVU is already one of the most productive offenses, and any doubt was eliminated during a quiet spring in West Virginia before one of the most anticipated seasons in school history. The passing game should be fine, but Shawne Alston filled in well for Garrison, who was out this spring after seriously spraining a knee during practices for the Orange Bowl.

Three fall questions:

1. Can the Mountaineers handle the heat? West Virginia is no stranger to big games. Its played LSU and Auburn in recent years and is 3-0 on the BCS stage. Can WVU handle the week-to-week grind of the Big 12 and difficult venues every week? The step up from the Big East won't be as great as TCU's from the Mountain West, but it's still going to be more difficult. WVU was the only Big East team ranked in the top 25 for most of the 2011 season. Six Big 12 teams will likely be ranked in the preseason.

2. How explosive is this offense in Year 2? Holgorsen can work some magic with his offense, and he'll have lots and lots of toys in 2012. Brandon Weeden didn't get a second year with the offensive wizard, but Holgorsen has high hopes for special talents in Smith and Austin, two players he can't complement enough. Is West Virginia the best offense in its new conference?

3. A clear vision, but will it work? West Virginia recruited to build a 3-3-5 scheme, but it'll try and piece together the 3-4 in a defense that lost its top three pass-rushers from 2011. Holgorsen knows what he wants to do schematically on defense, but there's certainly reason to doubt whether it can handle the huge jump in quality of offenses from the Big East to the Big 12.