Big 12: Andre Davis

Kansas State will have one less weapon at its disposal this fall.

[+] EnlargeDaniel Sams
Ed Zurga/Getty ImagesDaniel Sams accounted for 1,261 total yards and 15 scores last season.
Daniel Sams decision to leave KSU is a clear step backward for the Wildcats offense as the former quarterback turned receiver was one of the Big 12’s most explosive players. In 2013, he was a useful and versatile weapon, leading all Big 12 quarterbacks with 807 rushing yards, ranking No. 3 in the conference in Total QBR (83.4 on a scale of 100 with 50 being average) and tied for fifth in the Big 12 with 11 touchdowns.

This spring, Sams moved to receiver and failed to make a mark in the offense, likely sparking his plan to transfer. He had two receptions for 9 yards in the spring game.

Sams' transfer takes away options for Bill Snyder’s offense, a group searching for playmakers after the departures of running back John Hubert and receiver Tramaine Thompson. Even if Sams never found his footing at receiver this fall, he still could have been a valuable weapon as a Wildcat quarterback in short yardage situations and provided a quality safety net behind starting quarterback Jake Waters.

Redshirt freshman Jesse Ertz and sophomore Joe Hubener are battling to be Waters’ backup, leaving the Wildcats with inexperienced signal-callers behind their senior starter. Hubener played in one game last season with no pass attempts, while Ertz redshirted.

The Wildcats should be fine at receiver with Tyler Lockett, arguably the conference’s top receiver, and Curry Sexton, who brings veteran experience to the group. Deante Burton, Andre Davis and Judah Jones also could help fill the playmaking void in KSU’s passing game.

On the surface, Sams’ departure doesn’t look like a major setback as he saw limited action for KSU in the home stretch of the 2013 season, with just one pass attempt and nine carries for 23 yards in the final three games of the year.

But, make no mistake: Sams was one of KSU’s top 11 players on the offensive side of the ball. Snyder would have found a way to use him, even in special situations, to help the Wildcats create problems for defenses. Even though they have done it before, Sams’ big-play ability will be tough to replace and creates one more obstacle between the Wildcats and their hopes of winning their second Big 12 title in three seasons.
Over the next two weeks, we’ll be analyzing the depth charts of every Big 12 team coming out of the spring, continuing Friday with Kansas State’s projected post-spring depth chart.

OFFENSE (projected starter in bold)

QB: Jake Waters (Sr.), Jesse Ertz (RFr.)

[+] EnlargeJake Waters
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesJake Waters' emergence late last season solidified Kansas State's offense and has the Wildcats set up for a big 2014.
Waters becomes the unquestioned leader and main man behind center with Daniel Sams' move to receiver. The senior was one of the conference’s top quarterbacks during the final month of the 2013 season and gives the Wildcats plenty of confidence as a trigger man of the offense. Ertz showed good potential in the spring and could be the future at the position. KSU is one of the few Big 12 squads with a settled and productive starter and quality depth, as Sams is able to line up behind center at any point if need be.

RB: Charles Jones (So.), Jarvis Leverett (So.), DeMarcus Robinson (Sr.)

The battle to become John Hubert's successor remains wide open. Jones and Leverett had solid spring games while Robinson sat out, but none of the Wildcats running backs currently on campus distanced himself from the competition in the spring. The summer will bring new competitors into the mix, including true freshman Dalvin Warmack.

FB: Glenn Gronkowski (So.), Zach Nemechek (Sr.)

Gronkowski could be ready to stake his claim as the Big 12’s top fullback. He’s an solid runner, receiver and blocker and should continue to see his role in the offense expand as a sophomore. Nemechek has been a special teams performer and provides a solid backup option at the position.

WR: Tyler Lockett (Sr.), Curry Sexton (Sr.), Deante Burton (So.), Andre Davis (Jr.), Judah Jones (RFr.), Daniel Sams (Jr.), Kyle Klein (So.)

Lockett could be considered the Big 12’s best receiver and gives Waters a consistent target when he’s healthy. Sams is a proven playmaker, but it remains to be seen if he can transfer his explosiveness to his new position. Sexton was solid in his role last season and could be a key target during his final season. Keep an eye on Jones, who impressed with a strong spring showing and could be a much-needed playmaker alongside Lockett. If at least two additional targets emerge to join Lockett, this could be one of the conference’s top groups.

TE: Zach Trujillo (Sr.), Cody Small (RFr.)

Trujillo is a returning starter and a veteran in KSU’s offense. He won’t break the Big 12 record for pass receptions but is a productive player who could be a big target in the passing game and a key to the Wildcats' offense.

C; BJ Finney (Sr.), Reed Bergstrom (Jr.)

G: Boston Stiverson (Jr.), Drew Liddle (Sr.), Luke Hayes (Jr.), Will Ash (So.)

T: Cody Whitehair (Jr.), Matt Kleinsorge (Jr.), Reid Najvar (RFr.), Ajhane Brager (RFr.)

Bill Snyder’s desire to get the best five offensive linemen on the field means this group will likely remain fluid with veterans such as Whitehair, who has moved from guard to tackle, and Finney as the foundation of the line. Overall, the Wildcats should have a pretty solid and deep group of offensive linemen despite losing several seniors off last year’s front.

DEFENSE

DE: Ryan Mueller (Sr.), Marquel Bryant (Jr.), Laton Dowling (Sr.)

DT: Travis Britz (Jr.), Valentino Coleman (Sr.), Will Geary (RFr.)

[+] EnlargeTravis Britz
Bo Rader/Wichita Eagle/MCTK-State's opponents will have their work cut out for them in trying to block junior defensive tackle Travis Britz.
Much like the offensive line, K-State has a veteran and productive group along the defensive front. There are still jobs left to be won, but Mueller and Britz are among the Big 12’s best at their positions and provide consistent production. Add ESPN JC 50 defensive tackle Terrell Clinkscales into the mix and this defensive line group should be a big reason to consider Kansas State a conference title contender.

LB: Jonathan Truman (Sr.), Will Davis (So.), Dakorey Johnson (Sr.), Charmeachealle Moore (Jr.)

Truman returns after breakout junior season which featured 89 tackles in 13 starts for the Wildcats. Davis appears ready to slide into the starting lineup after impressing as a redshirt freshman, while Johnson and Moore should provide solid depth at the position but will have to battle to maintain their roles with ESPN JC 50 linebacker D'Vonta Derricott arriving in the summer.

CB: Randall Evans (Sr.), Morgan Burns (Jr.), Nate Jackson (Jr.), Cre Moore (RFr.), Danzel McDaniel (Jr.), Corey Jackson (RFr.)

Burns was one of KSU’s stars of the spring and appears to have settled into the No. 1 cornerback spot. The rest of the Wildcats cornerbacks are battling for the other starting spot outside of Evans, who started 11 games as KSU’s nickelback in 2013 and is lone returning starter of the group. While KSU lost experience at corner, the Wildcats might have upgraded in terms of overall talent.

S: Dante Barnett (Jr.), Dylan Schellenberg (Sr.), Sean Newlan (RFr.), Weston Hiebert (Sr.)

Barnett is a star and one of the more underrated defenders in the Big 12, while Schellenberg got plenty of experience when Ty Zimmerman was sidelined by injury last season. Barnett is probably the only safety with a secure spot in KSU’s defensive plans, so expect the battle for playing time to continue deep into August.
With spring ball done, we’re reexamining and re-ranking the positional situations of every Big 12 team, continuing Wednesday with receivers (and tight ends). These outlooks could look different in August. But here’s how we see them post-spring:

1. Baylor (pre-spring ranking: 1): The Bears maintained their commanding advantage over any other receiving corps in the league. Antwan Goodley remains an All-American candidate, and Corey Coleman looks primed to become Baylor’s next great wideout following a spectacular spring. Levi Norwood, Jay Lee and Clay Fuller are proven performers. And more talent is about to arrive, including blue-chip freshman K.D. Cannon. The Baylor receivers are as formidable as any position grouping in the league.

2. Texas Tech (3): The Red Raiders lost their two best pass-catchers from last year in tight end Jace Amaro and Eric Ward, but this group is overflowing with dynamic young talent. After reeling in two touchdowns in the bowl and dominating Texas Tech’s spring game, Jakeem Grant looks like he’s on the verge of becoming a star in the league. Bradley Marquez should be even sharper after giving up baseball to focus on football this offseason. And the speedy Reginald Davis is a potential big-play threat on the perimeter. All three players can fly, and they have a quarterback in Davis Webb who can deliver the ball to them down field. The unit goes deep in the rotation, too, with D.J. Polite-Bray, Devin Lauderdale, Jordan Davis and Derreck Edwards all poised to be factors.

3. Oklahoma State (4): The Cowboys don’t have a Justin Blackmon or Dez Bryant. But they have a deep rotation and a budding All-Big 12 candidate in Jhajuan Seales, who is ready to take over as the offense’s go-to receiver. Marcell Ateman, David Glidden and Brandon Sheperd were all significant parts of the corps last year, as well, and Blake Webb and Austin Hays, who both made starts two years ago as true freshmen, bounced back from injury-plagued 2013 seasons to impress in the spring. Track star/running back Tyreek Hill also will line up in the slot at times and will be a home-run threat any time he touches the ball. Considering none of the projected eight in the two-deep will be a senior, this group should only continue to get better, too.

4. Texas (5): Don’t fault the Texas receivers for not making a bigger impact in the spring game. For three quarters, reserve quarterback Tyrone Swoopes struggled to get them the ball. While the Longhorns probably lack an All-Big 12-caliber performer, they boast an experienced, reliable trio in three-year starter Jaxon Shipley and juniors Kendall Sanders and Marcus Johnson. Daje Johnson, who caught a Hail Mary from Swoopes in the spring game, brings even more playmaking to the group as a full-time receiver. Texas obviously has QB issues. But if the Horns can find the right player there, that QB will have reliable weapons to operate within the passing game.

5. Kansas State (2): K-State still has one of the best receivers in the country in Tyler Lockett, who is deserving of preseason All-American consideration. But the rest of the unit didn’t round out during the spring as well as the Wildcats would have hoped. Curry Sexton (eight catches for 88 yards) and Deante Burton (six catches for 48 yards) were both solid in the spring game. So was freshman Judah Jones, who hauled in a 51-yard scoring grab. But converted QB Daniel Sams still has a ways to go before making a huge impact, and highly touted juco transfer Andre Davis failed to make a big spring splash. Any receiving corps featuring Lockett is going to be a handful. But the supporting cast still needs work.

6. Iowa State (7): The Cyclones have the top returning pass-catching tight end in the league in E.J. Bibbs, who coach Paul Rhoads believes could vie for All-American honors. Quenton Bundrage has all-league potential, though he disappeared too many times last season, and did so again in the spring game. Jarvis West has proven he can make plays out of the slot, and the Cyclones have depth on the perimeter in P.J. Harris, Brett Medders and D'Vario Montgomery, who all developed rapidly during the spring. With highly touted signee Allen Lazard set to join the rotation, the Cyclones could boast their best receiving corps in several years.

7. Oklahoma (6): The Sooners feature a bona-fide No. 1 receiver in Sterling Shepard, who has 96 career catches his first two seasons. But the position is the Sooners' biggest question mark. With 12 catches last year, Durron Neal is the team's second-leading returning receiver. Austin Bennett, Jordan Smallwood and Derrick Woods all had moments in the spring game, but the competition for snaps will carry over into the fall. Talented four-star incoming freshman Michiah Quick could be a factor in the slot once he gets to Norman.

8. West Virginia (8): Starters Mario Alford, Kevin White and Daikiel Shorts are all back, but, collectively, must produce more consistently than they did last season. Alford seems to be the key. He had 215 receiving yards in West Virginia’s final game of 2013, and he has the talent and speed to give the Mountaineers a dangerous No. 1 wideout. Cody Clay is a valuable tight end, though does most of his damage with his blocking. Shelton Gibson, who was ineligible last year and this spring as a partial qualifier, is a former four-star recruit and could give West Virginia a boost.

9. TCU (9): The Horned Frogs actually had two positive developments at this position during the spring. Jordan Moore made a seamless transition from running back to receiver and is in line to give TCU a physical and fast presence on the outside. Then, former Texas A&M QB Matt Joeckel transferred in, potentially clearing the way for Trevone Boykin to swing back to receiver. This group has depth, with Ty Slanina, Josh Doctson, David Porter and Cameron Echols-Luper returning. But the future of the most talented receiver on the roster -- Brandon Carter -- remains in doubt after he was recently arrested on suspicion of marijuana possession, after sitting out spring ball to focus on academics.

10: Kansas (10): The Jayhawks might be at the bottom here, but they seem primed to field their best one-two punch at receiver since Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe roamed Lawrence five years ago. Miami (Ohio) transfer Nick Harwell has taken on a much-needed vocal leadership role among this group and brings a track record of production, having finished second nationally in receiving in 2011. Flanking Harwell will be former running back Tony Pierson, who made the full-time move to receiver this offseason. While he’s raw as a receiver, Pierson is capable of the big play. Rodriguez Coleman also emerged this spring as potential viable third option. The dark days of the Jayhawk receivers posing no threat in the passing game appear to be over.
Kansas State will conclude spring ball in the Big 12 with its spring game Saturday.

Here’s a closer look:

When: 1:10 p.m. CT Saturday

Where: Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, Kan.

What to watch for:
  • QB Jake Waters: Waters finished out 2013 on fire after struggling in his first few career FBS starts. Now, Waters – and his teammates – say his confidence level is night and day from where it was last season. Saturday will provide a glimpse of just how far he’s come along.
  • Daniel Sams’ new spot: The former dual-threat quarterback requested and was granted the opportunity to try out at receiver this spring. So far the results have been positive, according to coach Bill Snyder. Sams can be dynamic with the ball in his hands and could give the K-State attack a major boost by finding a way back onto the field.
  • The running backs: This position group is biggest question on the roster, and it could gain a little clarity with a big performance. So far, neither Jarvis Leverett, Charles Jones nor DeMarcus Robinson has separated in the competition to replace three-year starter John Hubert. With blue-chip freshman Dalvin Warmack set to join the fray in the summer, the spring game will be a big chance for one of the backs to make his mark.
  • Juco impact: Once again, Snyder dipped heavily into the juco ranks to replenish his roster. Three of those players – receiver Andre Davis, offensive tackle Luke Hayes and cornerback Danzel McDaniel – signed early and will be on full display Saturday. Hayes has been particularly impressive and could be on the verge of locking down a starting role. Davis and McDaniel could eventually become starters, too.
  • Defensive newcomers: The Wildcats return four key players defensively in All-Big 12 end Ryan Mueller, second-team all-conference tackle Travis Britz, linebacker Jonathan Truman and safety and Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl defensive MVP Dante Barnett. But that leaves seven other spots for the taking. The Wildcats have some highly touted jucos joining the team in the summer, notably tackle Terrell Clinkscales and outside linebacker D'Vonta Derricott. But the spring game will provide up-and-coming defenders such as cornerback Morgan Burns and linebacker Charmeachealle Moore to build confidence and show what they can do.
In 2013, Charles Sims transferred to West Virginia from Houston for his final college season. After finishing third in the league in rushing, Sims deservedly was named the Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year.

This year, several offensive transfers have the potential to impact their teams in their first year in the league the way Sims did last season.

But who will win this year’s award?

SportsNation

Which of these transfers will win Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year honors in 2014?

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    23%
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    4%
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    23%
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    7%
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    43%

Discuss (Total votes: 2,647)

Oklahoma State running back/wide receiver Tyreek Hill already has the look of a serious contender. Hill was the No. 4 overall juco recruit this year and figures to be one of the fastest players in college football. He was named Big 12 Indoor Track & Field Outstanding Freshman of the Year and finished fifth at the NCAA Division I Indoor Track and Field Championships in the 200-meter dash. Though he’s been splitting time this spring between track and football, Hill has been almost as impressive on the gridiron as on the track. The Cowboys are hoping to utilize Hill the way the Mountaineers did Tavon Austin two years ago as a slot receiver and backfield threat. Hill has spent the spring working mostly at running back, the position he played in junior college. But he also has good enough hands to line up at receiver, too, which would give Oklahoma State more ways to get him the football.

Hill isn't the only intriguing offensive player to transfer into the league from the juco ranks.

Kansas State is counting on big things from receiver Andre Davis, who most likely will be lining up opposite All-Big 12 performer Tyler Lockett. Davis averaged more than 20 yards per reception last season at Santa Rosa (Calif.) Junior College, and should get plenty of opportunities in single coverage downfield with defenses keyed on Lockett. Davis could also help out in returns with Tramaine Thompson gone.

The Big 12 has other talented receivers joining the league, especially Kansas newcomer Nick Harwell, who was second in the country in receiving in 2011 for Miami (Ohio). Harwell, who transferred to Kansas last summer, has 229 career receptions, 3,166 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns. He should instantly give the Jayhawks a go-to receiver, something they’ve desperately lacked in recent years. Kansas, in fact, hasn’t had a top-20 Big 12 receiver the last four seasons.

Iowa State is also getting help from a transfer receiver in D'Vario Montgomery, who arrived from South Florida. Montgomery was a top-100 player in Florida, coming out of the same high school as Iowa State quarterback Sam B. Richardson. At 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, Montgomery gives the Cyclones a physical presence on the perimeter. And with him, Quenton Bundrage, slot man Jarvis West, tight end E.J. Bibbs and hotshot freshman Allen Lazard, Iowa State could field its most talented group of wideouts in a long time.

The West Virginia offense is also getting a shot in the arm with another high-profile running back transfer. Rushel Shell, who transferred in from Pittsburgh last year, set a Pennsylvania high school record with 9,078 career-rushing yards. He was formerly rated the third-best running back in the country and had offers from programs such as Alabama and Ohio State before signing with Pitt and rushing for 641 yards as a freshman. The Mountaineers have plenty of other options at running back in Dreamius Smith, Wendell Smallwood, Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie. But the 6-foot, 220-pound Shell gives West Virginia a potentially devastating power back between the tackles.

Could he give the Mountaineers a second consecutive Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year? Or will one of the other aforementioned candidates snag the award? Weigh in with your opinion in this week’s poll.
Near the end of last year, one of Kansas State’s most dynamic playmakers wasn’t on the field.

He was standing on the sidelines.

This spring, Daniel Sams will get another chance to get back on the field.

Only this time, the former quarterback will be at a different position.

Tuesday in his first news conference of the spring, K-State coach Bill Snyder confirmed the worst kept secret in Manhattan, Kan. -- that Sams is making the switch to wide receiver.

[+] EnlargeSams
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesDaniel Sams wants back on the field this season for Kansas State.
“Right now he is just focusing at the wide receiver position,” Snyder said. “He wants to play there. I’m going to give him the opportunity.”

Giving Sams another opportunity could pay off for him. And it could pay off for a K-State offense that is brimming over with potential.

“We’re definitely going to find a way to use him,” said quarterback Jake Waters, who beat out Sams last season. “He’s a great athlete, and we need to get him touches.”

As a quarterback last season, Sams was spectacular at times while touching the ball. Despite the limited role, he still finished ninth in the Big 12 with 807 rushing yards while averaging 5.31 yards per carry with 11 touchdowns. Sams went completely off in an early October clash with eventual Big 12 champ Baylor. With starting receivers Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson out with injuries, Sams almost willed the Wildcats to the upset, rushing for 199 yards and three touchdowns.

But including at the end of that Baylor game in which he threw a costly late interception, Sams also struggled at times with his decision-making. Eventually, Waters emerged out of the quarterback time share with Sams to become the clear-cut starter the second half of the season, while leading the Wildcats to wins in six of their final games. Sams attempted only one pass combined in K-State’s final three games.

“The dialogue I had with Daniel was, I want you to be happy, I want to see you on the field,” Snyder said. “He approached me about playing as a wide receiver, I made my recommendations to him, but I said I would certainly abide by his and give him a chance. There’s a lot of places Daniel can play. If he wants to go out and be a wide receiver, he needs to go out and be a wide receiver and let reality set in.

“I like the way he is working at it. He’s made some headway. There have been some ups and downs in there, as well. But I feel that he can be competitive in that arena.”

Snyder has a track record of finding the right position for his best playmakers. Collin Klein was a receiver before he became a Heisman finalist quarterback in 2012. Daniel Thomas was a junior college quarterback before he became an All-Big 12 running back in 2009.

Sams is far from mastering his new position. But he’s also begun to show signs he can be a weapon there, too.

“You’ve all seen him. He is a great playmaker, especially with the ball in his hands and in space,” said sophomore wideout Deante Burton. “He’s got a few tips and little tricks to learn, but he’s a tremendous playmaker. His athleticism is [among] the best in the country.”

This spring will serve as the first proving ground. But if Sams’ athleticism translates to receiver, he’ll only augment an offensive attack that should be among the best in the Big 12.

Lockett is one of the top-returning receivers in the country and figures to garner preseason All-American consideration after finishing 11th nationally last season in receiving yards per game. Possession receiver Curry Sexton is back, as well, after placing second on the team last year in receptions. The Wildcats also added one of the top juco wideouts in the country in Andre Davis, who is already on campus.

But to maximize their full potential offensively, working Sams back onto the field in his new role will be paramount.

“He has got to be on the field,” Snyder said. “We’ve just got to find the spot for him.”
Kansas State will be the last Big 12 team to open spring drills, with its first practice not coming until April 2. We cap our Big 12 spring primers by previewing what to look for from the Wildcats when they kick off spring ball:

[+] EnlargeDante Barnett
John Rieger/USA TODAY SportsDante Barnett had four interceptions as a sophomore.
Offensive returner ready to take next step: Quarterback Jake Waters’ career at Kansas State got off to a rough start. The K-State offense sputtered in the junior college transfer’s first start, as FCS power North Dakota State toppled the Wildcats in Manhattan. By late October, however, Waters was a completely different player. He forced Bill Snyder to abandon the two-QB system with Daniel Sams, and led the Wildcats to wins in six of their final seven games. During that stretch, Waters threw 14 touchdown passes to just four interceptions. With a year of experience, he should only be better in 2014.

Defensive returner ready to take the next step: The Wildcats lose one of the best safeties in the country in All-Big 12 performer Ty Zimmerman. But they also have been grooming his heir, Dante Barnett, who broke into the starting lineup at safety as a sophomore last season. Barnett was third on the team with 75 tackles (one more than Zimmerman) and led the Wildcats with four interceptions. He has the talent to become K-State’s next cornerstone in the defensive backfield.

Redshirt freshman to watch: Nick Ramirez was the top signee from the 2013 recruiting class, but redshirted with seniors Tre Walker and Blake Slaughter manning two of the spots at linebacker. With Walker and Slaughter now gone, Ramirez will have a chance to jump into the rotation -- if not earn a starting spot.

Most significant position battle: The biggest unknown on the offense is who will replace three-year starter John Hubert at running back. No returning running back had more than five carries last season, leaving this battle wide open. DeMarcus Robinson and Jarvis Leverett will likely split carries this spring, but they’ll have to produce to avoid being mere placeholders for highly touted incoming freshman Dalvin Warmack, who will join the team in the summer.

Key midterm enrollee: With Tramaine Thompson gone, the Wildcats need a new wideout complement to All-American candidate Tyler Lockett. K-State might have found just that player in junior college transfer Andre Davis, who is already on campus. He was ranked the No. 36 overall juco recruit in the country. Davis has the kind of burst that allows him to blow by defenders downfield. With defenses sure to be keyed on Lockett next season, Davis could have plenty of opportunities against single coverage.

Question that could be answered: Spring ball will give the Wildcats the opportunity to experiment with Sams, who essentially fell out of the rotation at quarterback the last month of the season. Still, Sams has tremendous playmaking potential, underscored by his 199-rushing-yard, three-touchdown performance against Baylor. Sams could still be useful as a situational quarterback. But he is also too talented to spend the rest of games watching Waters on the sidelines. Sams could boost the K-State receiving corps. He could also command a few carries a game at running back. Whatever the case, the Wildcats should exit the spring knowing how they’ll be able to unleash Sams in 2014.

Question that won’t be answered until fall: Even though Davis, offensive tackle Luke Hayes and cornerback Danzel McDaniel will be with the team this spring, the Wildcats won’t know until the fall just how big the juco impact will be in 2014. It could be significant. Davis, Hayes and McDaniel could all turn into starters. But more starters from his juco class could be on the way. Defensive tackle Terrell Clinkscales was a four-star recruit who flipped from Nebraska late in the recruiting process. Outside linebacker D'Vonta Derricott was also one of top 50 juco recruits in the country. Both players could nail down starting spots and become impact performers. There are others who could help the team in 2014, too. This could prove to be one of the best juco classes Bill Snyder has ever signed. But that won’t be clear until after the entire class gets to campus.
Across the Big 12, teams are looking for instant impact from their recruiting classes. Several of those potential instant impact players have enrolled at their schools early, looking for a chance to play right away.

Below is a breakdown of all the Big 12 early enrollees, and their outlooks for the spring:

BAYLOR

Juco

OG Jarell Broxton: Could grab a starting role with All-American guard Cyril Richardson gone.

CB Chris Sanders: Was a favorite to start, but is out for the spring after shoulder surgery.

CB Tion Wright: Less highly-touted than Sanders, but has an opportunity with Sanders out.

LB Grant Campbell: With All-Big 12 LB Eddie Lackey gone, Bears hoping Campbell can fill a starting role alongside Bryce Hager.

High school

WR Davion Hall: Recruited as a receiver, Hall is a powerful athlete who gives Baylor another potential dynamic playmaker.

RB Terence Williams: A bruising runner destined to someday fill the role held last season by Glasco Martin.

TE Jordan Feuerbacher: Baylor lost tight ends Jordan Najvar and Jerod Monk off last season's team so there’s an opportunity for Feuerbacher.

IOWA STATE

Juco

LB Jordan Harris: Harris was the No. 5 juco ILB in the country, and will help ease the sting of losing All-Big 12 LB Jeremiah George.

S Devron Moore: The Cyclones graduated both Jacques Washington and Deon Broomfield so help is needed here.

DE Gabe Luna: Luna is one of three juco DEs the Cyclones signed, but the first to arrive on campus.

KANSAS

Juco

OG/C Keyon Haughton: Charlie Weis calls him “a bad muchacho,” and the Jayhawks will need him to play right away.

CB Ronnie Davis: The Jayhawks return starting cornerbacks Dexter McDonald and JaCorey Shepherd, but you can never have enough corners in the Big 12.

S Anthony Smithson: Adds depth and versatility to an already deep and experienced secondary.

KANSAS STATE

Juco

WR Andre Davis: All-Big 12 WR Tyler Lockett needs someone to emerge on the other side, and the No. 5-ranked juco WR has a great chance to do just that.

OT Luke Hayes: Could answer the call at a key spot vacated by departing All-Big 12 OT Cornelius Lucas.

CB Danzel McDaniel: One of the top juco corners in the country, McDaniel could lock up a starting role quickly.

Grayshirt

TE Dayton Valentine: Adds depth as a blocking tight end.

OL Bryce Fitzner: Will have time to fill out his 6-7 frame.

OKLAHOMA

Juco

TE Isaac Ijalana: The No. 1 juco TE in the country, Ijalana could help stabilize a position that has given the Sooners trouble the past couple seasons.

LB Devante Bond: Bond adds depth to what potentially could be one of the best linebacking corps in the country.

High school

QB Justice Hansen: Will be the third-team QB with Blake Bell moving to TE and Baker Mayfield ineligible until 2015.

FB Dimitri Flowers: The Sooners need a replacement for departing all-conference blocking fullback Trey Millard.

OKLAHOMA STATE

Juco

LB Devante Averette: The hard-hitting Averette has an opportunity to nail down a starting role this spring with All-Big LBs Caleb Lavey and Shaun Lewis gone.

WR Tyreek Hill: Hill is running track this spring and has already broken several records; he gives the Cowboys a speedy playmaker to help ease the early loss of Josh Stewart.

High school

QB Mason Rudolph: One of the highest-rated QBs ever to sign with the Cowboys, Rudolph will battle J.W. Walsh immediately for the starting job.

RB Devon Thomas: Thomas was the highest-rated running back from the state of Oklahoma, and adds depth to a position that could use some help.

TCU

Juco

S Kenny Iloka: Iloka has already impressed, and pads a deep and talented safety rotation at TCU.

OG Frank Kee: Will be asked to fill a starting job inside on the TCU offensive line.

TEXAS

Juco

TE Blake Whiteley: The nation’s No. 2 juco tight end, the Longhorns signed to fill a position that’s been inconsistent for them.

High school

OLB Andrew Beck: With Texas’ depth at LB, Beck most likely is a redshirt candidate.

OG Alex Anderson: Recruited by Joe Wickline when still at Oklahoma State, Anderson was a late addition to the class.

TEXAS TECH

Juco

S Josh Keys: The nation’s No. 5 juco safety, Keys could step into the spot vacated be departing veteran Tre’ Porter.

DT Keland McElrath: Has been dealing with a foot stress fracture, but the Red Raiders need help at DT with Kerry Hyder and Dartwan Bush gone.

WR Devin Lauderdale: Was a four-star player coming out of high school and will give QB Davis Webb another weapon on the inside.

WEST VIRGINIA

Juco

QB Skyler Howard: Has a chance to make a move on the QB competition, especially with Clint Trickett out for the spring.

S Keishawn Richardson: Opened up the spring as the second-string cornerback behind Daryl Worley, who started as a true freshman in 2013.

LB Edward Muldrow II: Currently backing up returning starter Isaiah Bruce as the Sam linebacker.

OT Sylvester Townes: The Mountaineers have two holes at tackle, giving Townes a chance to make an instant impact.

High school

DE Davonte James: The ESPN 300 signee brings speed to West Virginia’s D-end position.

WR Ricky Rogers: Rogers is a redshirt candidate with the entire West Virginia WR rotation back from last season.

Big 12 pre-spring breakdown: WRs

February, 20, 2014
Feb 20
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As we wait for the start of spring ball, we’ll be examining and ranking the positional situations of every team, continuing Thursday with receivers (and tight ends). Some of these outlooks will look different after the spring. But here’s how we see them at the moment:

[+] EnlargeTyler Lockett
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesTyler Lockett had seven games with more than 100 yards receiving and two games with more than 200.
1. Baylor: Antwan Goodley hauled in 1,339 receiving yards last year and is back for his senior campaign. Levi Norwood filled in well as a second option after Tevin Reese’s injury, and, like Goodley, can also fly. The Bears are also about to enjoy the fruits of back-to-back monster recruiting classes in the position, including five ESPN 300 players in the last two years. The best of those, incoming freshman K.D. Cannon, has the talent to be Baylor’s next great receiver.

2. Kansas State: The Wildcats have the Big 12’s finest receiver in Tyler Lockett, which warrants them a high ranking even if the supporting cast isn’t tantalizing. Lockett was basically uncoverable downfield last season, and exploded once QB Jake Waters got more comfortable. Curry Sexton has turned into a reliable possession target. The Wildcats also welcome one of the best juco receivers in the country in Andre Davis. If Davis pans out, this has a chance to be among the best receiving corps Bill Snyder has ever had.

3. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders lose an ultra-productive player in Eric Ward and a superstar in tight end Jace Amaro, but this position remains stocked with talent. Jitterbug slot man Jakeem Grant was sixth in the league last year in receiving, and showed in the Holiday Bowl how dangerous he can be when 100 percent focused. Bradley Marquez and Jordan Davis are reliable pass-catchers, but the player to watch here is Reginald Davis. A former high school quarterback, Davis has gradually picked up the nuances of playing receiver. But as he flashed in a kickoff return touchdown against Arizona State, Davis is a playmaker with the ball in his hands, and could be a major factor.

4. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys lose their top three receivers, but outside Baylor, no team in the Big 12 has more WRs ready to contribute in 2014 than Oklahoma State. Jhajuan Seales and Marcell Ateman combined for 61 receptions as freshmen, and will give the Cowboys a physical presence on the perimeter. Brandon Sheperd and David Glidden were also part of the regular rotation, and Austin Hays, who started nine games in 2012, would have been had he not missed virtually the entire season with injury. The two to watch here, though, have yet to play a down, but will bring major speed. Former ESPN 300 recruit Ra’Shaad Samples redshirted last year, but reportedly ran a 4.3-second 40 last summer. That might seem slow compared to Tyreek Hill, the nation’s No. 4 juco recruit, who doubles as a track phenom.

5. Texas: Jaxon Shipley isn’t his brother Jordan, but he’s still a quality college receiver. Even with all of Texas’ QB issues, Shipley already has 159 career receptions. The Longhorns have speed and playmaking elsewhere in downfield burner Marcus Johnson, Kendall Sanders and the versatile Daje Johnson. The Longhorns also signed one of three best incoming WRs in the Big 12 in Armanti Foreman. This group could really thrive with an uptick in QB play.

[+] EnlargeJordan Thompson
AP Photo/Chris BernacchiJordan Thompson showed near the end of the season the type of weapon he can be in West Virginia's offense.
6. Oklahoma: The Sooners graduate Jalen Saunders, who was “Mr. Everything” for the OU offense. But Sterling Shepard seems primed to take over the No. 1 role after hauling in 51 passes and seven touchdowns. Who will surround him? Durron Neal is the only other player on the roster with much experience. But the good news for the Sooners is they’ve recruited superbly at the position. Among many options, the player to keep an eye on is freshman Jordan Smallwood, who was turning heads last summer, until a foot fracture forced him to redshirt.

7. Iowa State: Quenton Bundrage is one of the more underrated receivers in the league despite ranking third in the Big 12 in touchdowns. With Amaro gone, E.J. Bibbs becomes the best receiving tight end in the league after hauling in 39 passes last year. Iowa State’s standing here, though, is contingent on incoming freshman Allen Lazard, one the most highly touted WRs Iowa State has ever signed. If Lazard can make an immediate impact, like the Iowa State coaching staff is banking on, this could become one of the better units in the league.

8. West Virginia: There’s no corps in the Big 12 that could move up more spots than West Virginia’s. The Mountaineers didn’t have a receiver rank in the top 15 in the Big 12 in receiving last year, but Kevin White, Mario Alford and Daikiel Shorts all ranked in the top 20. All three are back, too, as is the diminutive Jordan Thompson, who finally came alive the second half of the season. Former ESPN 300 recruit Shelton Gibson, who redshirted, will also join the rotation. The Mountaineers rank eighth for now, but they are closer to Kansas State than to Kansas.

9. TCU: This week, TCU kicked receiver LaDarius Brown off the team. Considering Brown tied for the team lead in receptions last year, it’s a tough loss. This unit is obviously better with Trevone Boykin, but he might have to play QB, at least until someone else emerges there. The Horned Frogs desperately need Brandon Carter to become a No. 1 receiver. After a promising sophomore year, Carter was basically a non-factor, before showing signs of bouncing back the last month of the season. TCU needs him in a big way in 2014.

10. Kansas: The Jayhawks didn’t have a receiver with more than 11 catches last year. Some of that was the quarterbacks. Some of it was, well, the receivers. The group had little overall impact, which put tremendous pressure on James Sims and the running game. With Sims gone, the receivers have to elevate their game significantly for Kansas to have a chance of taking a step forward. The Jayhawks do have a solid tight end in Jimmay Mundine, who had five TD catches. And Tony Pierson could play more receiver this year. But somebody else needs to emerge.

Post-signing day roundtable

February, 7, 2014
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Below, we address what signing day means for the 2014 season:

Which incoming freshman QB will play most in 2014?

[+] EnlargeJerrod Heard
Max Olson/ESPNNot saying he will, but QB Jerrod Heard has the skills to make some noise for Texas this fall.
Brandon Chatmon: Is none of the above an option? Even though the quarterback play in the league was lackluster in 2013, I don’t expect any true freshman to have a major impact on the level of Texas Tech’s Davis Webb during the upcoming season. If I have to pick, Texas quarterback Jerrod Heard gets the nod. He’s a talented dual-threat quarterback who led his Denton (Texas) Guyer squad to two straight titles during his prep career. In other words, he’s a consistent playmaker and a winner. Two traits the Longhorns haven’t seen at the quarterback spot in a while.

Max Olson: Don’t sleep on the two quarterbacks that TCU signed on Wednesday. Foster Sawyer and Grayson Muehlstein walk into a situation that could be pretty wide-open entering the spring. The Frogs not only need a replacement for Casey Pachall, but one who will be comfortable and competent in the Oklahoma State/Texas Tech style offense they’ll install for 2014. We know Trevone Boykin is capable of playing a number of roles in this offense, but can one (or both) of these rookies come in and do what Webb and Baker Mayfield did for Texas Tech?

Jake Trotter: I’m already hearing good things about four-star QB Mason Rudolph, who is already enrolled at Oklahoma State and will participate in spring ball. Rudolph’s skill set is a better fit for the Oklahoma State’s offense than J.W. Walsh, who struggled getting the ball downfield last season, which in turn allowed opposing defenses to stack the line of scrimmage. Rudolph might not be the starter in the opener, but coach Mike Gundy has shown he’s not afraid of playing a true freshman quarterback.

Which non-QB freshman will make the biggest splash?

Chatmon: Iowa State receiver Allen Lazard is an elite talent who will have every opportunity to emerge as a major part of a Cyclones offense searching for playmakers at the skill positions. At 6-foot-5, 208 pounds, Lazard brings terrific size and athleticism. The No. 148 player in the ESPN 300 will become a valuable asset for Paul Rhoads’ squad in 2014.

Olson: I hate to feed the hype machine, but I have to go with Joe Mixon. Oklahoma managed the lure the No. 1 running back in California by convincing him he can play from Day 1, which is obviously a reasonable promise with OU’s top three backs from 2013 all gone now.

Trotter: I think this ultimately could come down to a pair of blue-chip wide receivers in Baylor’s K.D. Cannon and Lazard. Both players should be in their receiving rotations from Day 1; either could wind up starting before long, too.

Which juco player will make the most significant immediate impact?

Chatmon: TCU defensive back Kenny Iloka fits the mold of a Gary Patterson safety. He’s athletic, aggressive and physical so he should be among friends on TCU’s defense. The Horned Frogs return several talented secondary players, including Sam Carter, Derrick Kindred and Chris Hackett, but Iloka should force Patterson to find a spot for him.

Olson: You didn’t hear about him much on Wednesday because he’s already on campus, but Tyreek Hill is a name you must know. The Oklahoma State signee will be one of college football’s fastest players in 2014. Hill is a former elite track athlete who will line up at slot receiver and also tote the rock on sweeps and handoffs. He’s an absolute home run threat and he’s going to get the ball a lot.

Trotter: This spring, Paul Millard will be playing baseball and Clint Trickett will still be injured, at least at the outset. With Ford Childress also gone, plenty of snaps will be available to juco QB Skyler Howard, who enrolled for the spring at West Virginia. Howard was the No. 3-ranked dual-threat juco QB. With West Virginia's QB situation completely in flux, Howard will have an opportunity this spring of laying claim to the job.

Who is the recruit nobody is talking about that will be talked about a lot in the fall?

Chatmon: Although the opportunity will be there with three senior cornerbacks moving on from Baylor, I’m not ready to say cornerback Verkedric Vaughns will immediately be an impact player in the Bears secondary in 2014. Nonetheless he is a name to know that went largely unnoticed on signing day and a guy to keep an eye on this fall, particularly if he makes a smooth transition to the demands of college football. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Vaughns ends up outperforming several highly rated cornerback prospects who signed with other Big 12 schools on signing day.

Olson: Lots of very talented receivers signed with Big 12 schools on Wednesday, and I’m tempted to say Baylor’s Ishmael Zamora is the choice here. Instead, let’s go with a guy who the Texas Tech coaching staff absolutely loves: Ian Sadler. The do-everything athlete led Argyle (Texas) High to a state championship as a receiver/quarterback, rushing for three touchdowns and returning a punt for a fourth score in the title game. He has the kind of playmaking ability and polish needed to see the field early, and I don’t doubt he’ll elicit comparisons to Wes Welker from the fan base.

Trotter: Keep an eye on Kansas State wide receiver Andre Davis. QB Jake Waters loves throwing the ball downfield, and Davis, one of the top receivers coming out of the juco ranks, has the ability to get downfield. When other teams focus their attention on Tyler Lockett on the other side, Davis should have plenty of opportunities to make plays in one-on-one coverage.
Today will be the busiest of the year for fax machines. That’s because it’s national signing day, and recruits across the country will be faxing in their letters of intent.

It’s always an exciting day for college football fans. And there’s plenty to be excited about in the Big 12.

Below is a breakdown of the most exciting element from each of the 10 Big 12 recruiting classes:

Baylor

What to get excited about: The wide receivers

The players: K.D. Cannon (Mount Pleasant, Texas/Mount Pleasant), Davion Hall (Texarkana, Texas/Liberty-Eylau), Ishmael Zamora (Houston/Alief Elsik), Chris Platt (Willis, Texas/Willis)

The skinny: The Bears have one of the best WR classes in the country, with four players ranked in the ESPN 300. With Antwan Goodley also back in Waco, QB Bryce Petty should have a big, signing day smile on his face.

Iowa State

What to get excited about: A blue-chip wideout

The player: Allen Lazard (Urbandale, Iowa/Urbandale)

The skinny: Elite skill talent has come at premium in Ames the last few years. But that’s exactly what Iowa State is getting in Lazard, an ESPN 300 prospect who had offers from Notre Dame, Nebraska and Stanford. If Lazard comes ready to play, new offensive coordinator Mark Mangino will have a dynamic complement to pair with No. 1 wideout Quenton Bundrage.

Kansas

What to get excited about: The replacements for RB James Sims

The players: Traevohn Wrench (Gardner, Kan./Gardner Edgerton), Corey Avery (Dallas/Carter)

The skinny: The Jayhawks graduated their only All-Big 12 performer this past season in Sims. But they prevailed in a pair of hard-fought recruiting battles to land four-star running backs Wrench and Avery. Wrench was the first commit in the class, and gave coach Charlie Weis a player to build the rest of the class around. Then this week, Weis beat out Nebraska, Ohio State and LSU, among others, to reel in Avery. The one-two combination of Wrench and Avery is reason to be optimistic about the future of the KU offense, even without Sims.

Kansas State

What to get excited about: Junior-college impact

The players: Terrell Clinkscales (Dodge City, Kansas), Andre Davis (Santa Rosa, Calif./Santa Rosa), D’Vonta Derricott (Garden City, Kan./Garden City), Danzel McDaniel (Dodge City, Kan.)

The skinny: The Wildcats have a returning core capable of contending for the Big 12 title. In this recruiting class, they’ll be adding four players in the ESPN Junior College 50 to aid that cause. K-State swiped Clinkscales from Nebraska, and he could team with Travis Britz to form a stout one-two punch at DT. Davis could be the perfect complement opposite wideout Tyler Lockett. Derricott (OLB) and McDaniel (CB) should help the defense.

Oklahoma

What to get excited about: Backfield firepower

The player: Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom)

The skinny: The Sooners closed as strong as any program in the country, and that included plucking the No. 53 overall recruit away from the West Coast powers. Mixon, together with last year’s No. 3 RB Keith Ford and budding dual-threat QB Trevor Knight, could be a devastating rushing force in the Big 12 for years to come.

Oklahoma State

What to get excited about: The linebackers

The players: Gyasi Akem (Broken Arrow, Okla./Broken Arrow), Josh Mabin (Spring, Texas/Klein Oak), Kirk Tucker (Tucker, Ga./Tucker), Devante Averette (Melvindale, Mich./Ellsworth Community College), Justin Phillips (Pearland, Texas/Pearland)

The skinny: The Cowboys graduated a pair of all-conference linebackers in Caleb Lavey and Shaun Lewis, who played big parts in Oklahoma State’s defensive turnaround. But impressive help is on the way. Akem is a ESPN 300 prospect, and Tucker, the other outside linebacker in the class, ended up at Oklahoma State after failing to gain admission to Stanford. Averette should provide instant impact on the inside, and Mabin is a four-star recruit.

TCU

What to get excited about: The offensive skill talent

The players: Foster Sawyer (Fort Worth, Texas/All Saints Episcopal), Grayson Muehlstein (Decatur, Texas/Decatur), Shaun Nixon (Austin, Texas/Lake Travis), Corey McBride (Geismar, La.,/Dutchtown), Emanuel Porter (Dallas/Lincoln)

The skinny: The top five players in TCU’s class are offensive skill players, providing help where the Horned Frogs really need it. Sawyer and Muehlstein could battle for the starting QB job right away. The opportunity for playing time is there for receivers McBridge and Porter, too. TCU also pulled off a coup Tuesday by flipping Nixon, a four-star RB, from Texas A&M.

Texas

What to get excited about: Possible QB of the future

The player: Jerrod Heard (Denton, Texas/Guyer)

The skinny: Charlie Strong’s quickest path to putting Texas back on top is finding a solution at QB that eluded Mack Brown the last four years. Heard, an ESPN 300 quarterback who won two state titles in high school, could very well emerge as the answer.

Texas Tech

What to get excited about: A shutdown corner

The player: Nigel Bethel II (Miami, Fla./Booker T. Washington)

The skinny: The Red Raiders lose three starters from their secondary, but they have a player who can come in and help right away in Bethel. The ESPN 300 prospect is one of the better pure coverage corners in the country. To win in the Big 12, you have to defend the pass. And Bethel can defend the pass.

West Virginia

What to get excited about: The quarterbacks

The players: Skyler Howard (White Settlement, Texas/Riverside Community College), William Crest (Baltimore/Dunbar)

The skinny: Coach Dana Holgorsen struggled to replace Geno Smith last year, using three quarterbacks to limited success. But Holgorsen is bringing in a pair of talented players at the position who could be immediate factors. Howard was the No. 3 dual-threat juco QB in the country and is already enrolled for spring ball. Crest is the No. 11 high school dual-threat QB nationally.

Big 12 recruiting roundtable 

February, 4, 2014
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National signing day is now just 24 hours away. To get you ready, we checked in with our ESPN.com recruiting experts for their takes on the major storylines in the Big 12.

Senior national recruiting writer Jeremy Crabtree and Big 12 recruiting reporter Damon Sayles took time from their extremely busy schedules this week to address a few questions:

Oklahoma is closing strong here. With a few blue-chip players still in play, could the Sooners end up with the top class in the Big 12

Big 12 recruiting storylines: Dec. 19 

December, 19, 2013
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With the first day of the mid-year transfer signing period in the books, Big 12 schools managed to pick up some quality players. Twenty-nine junior college players signed letters of intent to nine of the 10 schools in the conference.

Texas Tech scored the most signees with five. Josh Keys (Seminary, Miss./Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College) was one of the bigger names to sign, as he’s the No. 4 juco safety in the country. Other new Red Raiders include offensive tackle Dontae Levingston (Harbor City, Calif./Santa Monica College), wide receiver Devin Lauderdale (Corsicana, Texas/Navarro College) and defensive tackles Keland McElrath (Clarksdale, Miss./Coahoma Community College) and Marcus Smith (Highland, Kan./Highland Community College).

Here are some of the more intriguing storylines involving teams and players -- new and future -- in the conference:

K-State’s juco reputation lives on

The last thing Kansas State’s reputation did on Wednesday was take a hit.


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Big 12 signing day storylines 

December, 17, 2013
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Consider the countdown a go.

With 50 days from national signing day, a lot of questions about star players have been answered. Some questions, however, are still left to be answered.

Here are 10 signing day storylines that could affect recruiting classes throughout the Big 12:


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Under Armour game storylines: Big 12 

December, 5, 2013
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The Under Armour All-Americans have been announced; now, it’s a wait-and-see process for many of them. Will the committed players stay committed? Will the uncommitted make decisions soon? Can we see a major flip before national signing day?

This week’s recruiting storylines focuses on some of the Under Armour All-Americans being recruited by Big 12 programs.

Big 12 representation -- or lack thereof -- at the UA game. The Big 12 currently has four representatives who will compete in the Under Armour All-America Game -- Texas defensive end commit Derick Roberson (San Antonio/Brennan) and cornerback commit Jermaine Roberts (New Orleans/St. Augustine), Oklahoma quarterback pledge Justice Hansen (Edmond, Okla./Santa Fe) and Kansas offensive lineman pledge Jacob Bragg (Nacogdoches, Texas/Nacogdoches).

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