Big 12: Ashton Glaser

The Big 12 is known for its quarterback play, but not every five-star recruit meets his potential.

Not every two or three-star is a diamond in the rough.

Sometimes, careers require a restart.

The most prominent case this weekend? Former Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert, who left high school as the nation's No. 2 quarterback and No. 11 overall prospect.

[+] EnlargeGarrett Gilbert
Brendan Maloney/US PresswireGarrett Gilbert once looked like Texas' future QB, but is now trying to restart his career at SMU.
Gilbert showed limitless promise when he was rushed into duty against Alabama for the Longhorns in the national title game to close the 2009 season. Colt McCoy suffered a shoulder injury on the opening drive, and the rest of the game was Gilbert's.

After struggling early, he hit Jordan Shipley for a pair of scores, and looked the part of McCoy's heir apparent in 2010, despite struggling with turnovers against the Tide. (What redshirt freshman wouldn't?)

He never fixed it. Gilbert threw 17 interceptions a year later as the Horns fell to 5-7, and he was benched in the second game of 2011. He never saw the field again, transferring to SMU after rushing to complete 27 hours at Texas.

That allowed him to graduate and play immediately for June Jones at SMU, where he'll get a shot against more Big 12 competition on Sunday when the Mustangs travel to Waco to face Baylor.

"That says a lot about how badly he wants to be here and what kind of person he is," Jones told reporters this offseason.

He's not the only former Big 12 quarterback getting shot against Big 12 competition in Week 1.

Cody Green signed with Nebraska in 2009 after visiting Lincoln and only Lincoln, despite interest from other major programs.

He earned playing time in 2010 and 2011, but transferred to Tulsa in July 2011 after it became clear Taylor Martinez was Nebraska's future at quarterback.

Green threw for 657 yards and five touchdowns in two seasons for the Huskers, but he's found a new home with the Golden Hurricane, who travel to Iowa State on Saturday.

After redshirting in 2011, Green is the new starter for Bill Blankenship's team.

He's already beaten Iowa State once. In 2010, he completed 7-of-12 passes for 79 yards in a 31-30 overtime win to deny Iowa State an upset win and keep Nebraska in the driver's seat for its eventual Big 12 North title.

Green's squad is once again the favorite, and a Tulsa team that has won 10 games in three of the past five seasons could make more noise with the former Husker at the helm. A win against Iowa State would be the perfect start to a season, and the Golden Hurricane were picked to finish second in the C-USA West division.

Former Missouri quarterback Ashton Glaser, who transferred to Missouri State, could jockey for time on Saturday against Kansas State. Because the Bears are an FCS program, Glaser is immediately eligible.

Glaser appeared in just one game for the Tigers over his three years in Columbia, but the Wildcats will be a familiar opponent across the sidelines in his first game at his new home.

For Gilbert and Green, the same is true.

Mailbag: Beebe's dozen, future scandal

July, 15, 2011
7/15/11
9:00
AM ET
Thanks for the emails, which kept flowing in even while I was away. Glad you missed me, I suppose. Switching it up Friday with a morning mailbag.

James in Atlanta, Ga., asked: Here's an interesting water-cooler-conversation I came across - if Nebraska (or in a long shot, Colorado) do REALLY well in their new conferences... will that still reflect back on the strength of the Big XII? I think the media won't spin it that way because the head-to-head games are a more direct comparison, but I don't think its that far out of the question for people to re-evaluate the day in and day out toughness the Big XII demands compared to the Big 10 and Pac 12. What do you think?

David Ubben: True or not, it's absolutely going to happen. Nebraska proved the last couple years it had emerged to be a very good team in the Big 12. But it was not a great team, and not a team that could win the Big 12, all possibilities aside.

If they walk into the Big Ten, which is wiiiiiide open this fall, and win it, how does that not reflect on the Big 12? The same is true if they walk in and win 6-7 games. Nebraska will be good, but I highly doubt it's significantly better or worse than it was last season. Top 15, etc.

So, in that sense, you're definitely right. Nebraska will be fun to watch, but make no mistake: both conferences' reputations are at stake if Nebraska strays very far from what's expected.

For Colorado, the same is true. I'd expect the Buffs to be a little bit better than last season's team, but if it scraps and wins eight games in a somewhat top-heavy Pac-12, that says a whole lot about the Pac-12's depth.

The same is true of Colorado wins a game in conference and gets embarrassed by any teams other than Stanford and Oregon.

For Big 12 fans, it should be fun to watch, even if they're doing it from afar. I know I'll be watching.


GTCat in Tonganoxie, Kan., asked: I know we're done with this whole trying to rename the conference thing, but can we at least coin a new nickname? If a Baker's Dozen is 13, can the Big 12 become a Beebe's Dozen? Man I want some doughnuts now, chocolate with chocolate frosting and powercat sprinkles please.

DU: It's official: We have found my favorite moniker for the new Big 12. Prepare for plenty of Beebe's Dozen references on the blog from here on out.


Collin in Irvine, Calif., asked: David, I just finished the second season of Friday Night Lights yesterday. Tell me it gets better... Please....

DU: Oh, it does. Season Two? Well, it's not very good. The makers of the show readily admit this (spoiler alert), and it's a product of pressure from the TV studios.

But no worries. It gets much better. Seasons 1, 3, and 5 are the best, and Season 4 breathes a fantastic new life into the show that was very, very risky on the part of the writers. Plus, the series finale is one of the best ever. Have no fear, Collin. You won't be disappointed by the next three seasons.


Chef in Austin, Texas, asked: I've noticed that the big 12 seems to be the only big 6 conference without an institution under NCAA scrutiny this offseason. If the big 12 stays clean, what implications do you think that will have on the overall perception and quality of the schools?

DU: This hasn't been lost on me, but I wouldn't keep saying that out loud too often. You never quite know when something will leak. There's no one under serious investigation currently (despite A&M fans' best efforts re: Rachel McCoy/Longhorn Network) for now.

If this continues for, oh, a decade or so, then you'll definitely see the Big 12 cement a reputation as college football's cleanest league, especially one that produces success. I wouldn't be surprised to see it written about if it continues for another couple years and more scandals like the one at Georgia Tech continue, but don't look for the Big 12 to advertise it much. If that status changes, things like that look pretty embarrassing in retrospect. Regardless of when you get caught, if things are going on behind closed doors and you say one thing, and it's clearly not the case, you look very, very out of touch.


Sarah Smith in Austin, Texas, asked: In regards to whether or not Marquis will get scholarship or not, at least for this year while he is redshirting they are honoring his scholarship. Texas does not in general revoke scholarships. The general consensus around here is that we wish him the very best and hopes that he can represent us and the US in the olympics. If he were to gain success and go to the olympics, I doubt that he would return here.Just thought you would like to know! Oh, and thank you for not bashing Garrett. He is good friend of mine and it urks me beyond no belief when people want to put all of the blame of last season on his shoulders. I think fans and analysts will be surprised at what our team brings to the table this year. No one is expecting much, and we will use that to our advantage.I enjoy your blog very much! Hook 'Em!

DU: Interesting info. Thanks for the heads up. Take note, UT fans.

As for Gilbert, I'd agree completely. Obviously, he wasn't anything close to what people thought he'd be last year, and he deserves a good portion of the blame for that, but he got no help at all. Just go look at where Texas ranked at the skill position rankings. Spoiler alert for the offensive line rankings on the way: Texas will not be high.


Dave in Temple, Texas, asked: How can you keep abandoning us in the middle of the most critical time in the year??? Your blog is what keeps us football fans sane in July. What are we going to do - watch baseball???

DU: My bad. I'll take that into consideration. My next vacation time is scheduled for the first week of September, the first week of December, and the first two weeks of January.


Mr. Oblivious in Hollywood, Calif., asked: Mr. Ubben: Do you think that with the pressure of quarterbacking the Mizzou Tigers, AND simultaneously coaching a young Vanderbilt team, James Franklin can hold onto his starting position this fall? Or will the stress be too much and allow Costello, Glaser, or even Berkstresser to challenge him in August? (There's no way T.Gabbert is returning, right? right?!) thank you,Mr.O

DU: It'll be tough, no doubt. Especially the travel. But I think he can manage. As for Gabbert, no. I've heard the rumors he asked to return after leaving Louisville suddenly, but every indication I've heard is that the door closed behind him at Missouri. He'll find a good fit somewhere else, I'm sure.

(Email of the week there.)


Nuria in Tulsa, Okla., asked: Dear Dave, I know you've compared and contrasted Brandon Weeden and Landry Jones enough times to give you a headache, but each time you do so it seems that you draw a different conclusion. First you rate Weeden as the better Big 12 player, but Jones as the better quarterback. I know that Weeden works well in a group that clicks, and Jones is a great athlete on a dominant team. If you could clear the fog as to who you think is better, it would be much appreciated.

DU: Yeah, I've talked about this at length several times, but let me be clear about this: I think Jones has more upside, and it sounds like he's really taking control of this team. That'll be good for him. His head was kind of spinning in 2009. Last season was kind of the process of him taking control of the team, and now, he has it. I really think that confidence will pay off for him.

Their numbers were very, very close last season, especially when you look at the short passing numbers Jones put up.

Last season, I thought Weeden was ever so slightly better because when he made mistakes, they were much less costly, and he played well in both of OSU's losses. The Cowboys scored 41 points in both of their losses, versus Jones, who really struggled early against Texas A&M and late against Missouri and really hurt his team.

I think Jones will be the better quarterback and put up better numbers in 2011, but heading into the season, I give Weeden a very, very slight edge in a race that's unbelievably close.


PB in Houston asked: rapid fire minute for ubben; go! 1) best game of the first weekend? 2) what fall camp are you most excited to go to before the season starts? 3) of other CFB pundits, who's stock do you put most in of someone else's opinion? 4) will the willie lyles story have a big effect on any of the conference members? 5) nachos or waffles? thanks and gig 'em!

DU: Ha, alright, let's close this in style.

1) Baylor versus TCU, closely followed by Texas A&M versus SMU.

2) Texas

3) I always love reading Pat Forde's stuff. The Forde-Yard Dash is a weekly must-read during the season.

4) My guess is no, barring new information. As for what we don't know, I'm not betting one way or the other.

5) I'm a breakfast man. Waffles, clearly. Which reminds me of an age-old debate we had during high school. It was always 50/50. Which do you prefer: jalapeņos or gravy?

The Revolving Door: Missouri

May, 23, 2011
5/23/11
1:30
PM ET
I've done it. You've done it.

"Hey, is that guy still around?"

Even with two fewer teams, it's hard to keep track. Our next series, which we did last year, too, takes a look at two key players for every team in the league that are taking their talents elsewhere, returning to campus, or arriving to try and write a legacy of their own.

So really, this series isn't so much for the fans of the teams in the posts, but more for everyone else. It wouldn't be a bad idea to bookmark this series.

Next up: Missouri

Going:

Blaine Gabbert, QB

Gabbert left Missouri after his junior season with two years of starting experience under his belt. The rocket-armed, 6-foot-5, 235-pounder did it as the 10th pick in the NFL draft, after throwing for more than 6,800 yards and 40 touchdowns with just 18 interceptions. The St. Louis native came to Missouri as one of the program's most touted recruits ever and made a whole lot of his potential. It was obvious during his freshman season that Gabbert was the heir to Chase Daniel, and he earned the right the following season. As a first-year starter, Gabbert earned loads of respect from his teammates for playing through a painful ankle injury courtesy of the House of Spears. In 2010 he helped Missouri win the biggest game of Gary Pinkel's career, knocking off No. 1 Oklahoma at home in front of a homecoming crowd with ESPN's College GameDay in town for the first time.

One final note: At this rate, Gabbert is on pace to have the NFL's most recognizeable 'do south of Troy Polamalu and Tom Brady. Gordon Gekko? Give me Gordon Bombay.

Aldon Smith, DE

Smith earned a reputation as one of the league's best pass rushers fast, sprinting to an 11-sack freshman season in 2009, a Missouri record. His production was limited in 2010 because of a broken bone in his leg, but NFL teams believed in his freakish athletic ability and upside, enough so that the San Francisco 49ers made him the seventh overall pick in last month's draft.

The 6-foot-5, 260-pound Raytown, Mo. native was one of the first surprises of the draft, but he'll get his chance to develop while collecting hefty paychecks in the NFL.

Staying:

T.J. Moe, WR and Michael Egnew, TE

Missouri's top receiving duo is back and should provide Gabbert's replacement, James Franklin, with a lot of help. Both are sure-handed and won't go down easily. They were the driving force behind Missouri's passing game in 2010, which lacked a home-run threat a la Jeremy Maclin or Danario Alexander. A year of experience as relied-upon threats should be valuable, too.

In 2009, they combined for five catches and 33 yards. Last season? Try 182 catches, 1,807 yards and 11 scores. Finding a deep threat that was absent in 2010 will make it a lot easier -- their production dipped in the heart of conference play -- but both should put up big numbers again in 2011.

Will Ebner, LB

Ebner seems to continually battle injuries, but the big-hearted senior is back for a fourth season. As a freshman, he earned a reputation as one of the team's hardest hitters very early in camp. In 2009, he returned in two weeks from arthroscopic knee surgery, and in 2010 he played through a broken foot. He had just 47 tackles last season, thanks in part to being slowed by the foot injury, but he's likely to slide into a spot on the All-Big 12 team if he can finally stay healthy.

Coming:

Sheldon Richardson, DT

I'd argue that no player in Missouri history has had more written about him before he stepped on campus as an official, enrolled member of the Tigers. Richardson's three-year (and perhaps longer) saga seemed to reach its natural end when he signed with Missouri as its top recruit in 2009, a member of the ESPNU150. But Richardson didn't qualify and headed to junior college in California. Then, as the nation's No. 3 juco recruit, he committed to USC but switched back to Missouri before signing with the Tigers. He's expected to be on campus in June. The athletic, 6-foot-4, 296-pounder looks like a game-changer on paper and on the limited game tape he produced during an injury-plagued juco career. Will he become one at the major college level?

Corbin Berkstresser, QB

After Tyler Gabbert's transfer, James Franklin looks like the likely successor to Tyler's older brother, Blaine. But could Berkstresser slide in front of Ashton Glaser to become Franklin's backup, or perhaps earn time if Franklin struggles? The 6-foot-3, 218-pounder from outside Kansas City will have to make up a big experience gap between himself and Glaser, a redshirt sophomore entering his third season in the program. Berkstresser didn't come to Missouri this spring like fellow 2011 signee Wesley Leftwich, whose speed wowed coaches in his first 15 practices as a Tiger.
Click here for more from The Revolving Door.

Big 12 spring game recap: Missouri

April, 18, 2011
4/18/11
1:45
PM ET
What happened:

  • James Franklin completed 13-of-21 passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Tyler Gabbert completed 8-of-22 passes for 48 yards and an interception.
  • Cornerback E.J. Gaines had the game's lone interception.
  • The Tigers put in a strong case for most ridiculous spring game scoring system. In the first half, the reserves were spotted a 14-0 lead and ended up beating the starters, 21-10. In the second half, once the score was reset, the offense beat the defense, 3-0.
  • A crowd of about 10,000 showed up on a chilly Saturday.
What we learned:
  • Missouri's quarterback race was already almost certain to continue into the fall, but the Tigers' final few practices, including Saturday, only further complicated the race. Gabbert was pretty clearly outperforming Franklin early in spring practice, but after spring break, Franklin outperformed Gabbert in the final scrimmage and pretty clearly outplayed a struggling Gabbert on Saturday. Gabbert was honored at the game as the team's most improved quarterback, but that improvement didn't show up on the spring's biggest stage. Ashton Glaser (14-of-17, 95 yards) had a pretty good day, but this looks like it's trimmed down to a two-man race. Heading into fall, it looks like a complete toss-up between Gabbert and Franklin, who both enrolled early before last spring.
  • As for an improved player who did show up, take a look at Kony Ealy. The freshman defensive end has had a lot of buzz this spring, and finished with four tackles and one of the game's three sacks. At 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, he's got some rare size, and as part of a loaded Missouri defensive line, he should be fun to watch this fall.
  • Missouri's biggest strength really seems to have shifted to the defensive side of the ball, which is a bit surprising considering how the program has operated under Gary Pinkel. In terms of experience, that's definitely the case. Brad Madison looks likely to blossom into a star next season, and defensive back Kip Edwards might do the same. The defensive line speaks for itself, and Zaviar Gooden is loaded with potential at linebacker. T.J. Moe and Michael Egnew rack up plenty of receptions, but beyond them, the Tigers don't look likely to put another offensive player on the preseason All-Big 12 team. Someone will have to surprise if Missouri's offense is going to put a player on the postseason team.
They said it:

"I don’t like getting involved in the process, I like to let it take care of itself. We have two great competitors. We will see where it goes. There is not a timetable. Let the competition begin." -- Pinkel on the Tigers' quarterback competition.

More Big 12 spring game recaps:

Big 12 weekend scrimmage roundup

April, 11, 2011
4/11/11
9:00
AM ET
Time to catch up with a few on-field happenings over the weekend...

Missouri quarterback competition heats up

For most of the spring, the only big mover in Missouri's competition has been Tyler Gabbert. He used the first few weeks of spring to move from the No. 3 quarterback to co-No.1 before taking over the No. 1 spot heading into Saturday's scrimmage.

James Franklin, however, looked like he made a move in Saturday's scrimmage. The competition is close enough that it's highly unlikely that Missouri will have an official starter at the end of spring, but Franklin and Gabbert appear to have made it a two-man race ahead of Ashton Glaser.

Here's how it shook out on Saturday:
  • Franklin: 19-30, 222 yards, TD, INT; 4 carries, 27 yards, TD
  • Gabbert: 14-26, 103 yards, INT

Franklin was the day's leading rusher.

Gabbert's interception was returned 32 yards for a score by new corner E.J. Gaines, and that's exactly the kind of play that can knock you down a peg in competitions like these. All mistakes are not created equal.

Gaines' pick, though, was indicative of a big day for the defense, which won the scrimmage by adding two more touchdowns on an interception and a fumble return and had four interceptions on the day. Defensive end Brad Madison had two of the team's six sacks.

Kony Ealy, who's earned plenty of buzz this spring as a likely contributor at defensive end alongside Madison and Jacquies Smith, had a sack, a fumble recovery and a blocked field goal.

With just one more week for Missouri until Saturday's spring game, it's clear the quarterback position is even more muddled, so don't expect a true starter to emerge until late in fall camp.

Missouri fans have reason to worry about the center spot, though. New starter Travis Ruth, replacing All-Big 12 performer Tim Barnes, had a nice day, but the backups had a difficult time snapping the ball. One of the defensive touchdowns, a 40-yard return by Marcus Malbrough, came off a bad snap.

Young running back steals show for Kansas

Could James Sims have company at the head of the pack among Kansas' running backs? It would seem so.

The practice was closed to fans and the media, but the early enrolling freshman from Kansas City scored four touchdowns, including one run that sounded like a sight to see.

From the team's report on the website:
Miller scored four touchdowns, including a run where he seemed to be surrounded by the defense, but spun out of it and ran to daylight.

But alas, coach Turner Gill brings the video goods via his Twitter account!

That's a heck of a run. I always love seeing quarterbacks hustle to make blocks, too, even if they don't get there.

"[Darrian] definitely had some good runs today and he showed that he has good vision and direction, and showed a good burst of speed," Gill said.

The Jayhawks are pretty deep at running back, with Sims and Darrien Miller being joined by DeShaun Sands, Brandon Bourbon, Rell Lewis and fellow freshmen Dreamius Smith and Anthony Pierson.

I'd still expect Sims to get the bulk of the carries, but Miller is clearly making a case early in his career that he'll be a factor as well.
Missouri's quarterback race has officially heated up.

Tyler Gabbert outperformed his competition, Ashton Glaser and James Franklin, at the first scrimmage of the spring for Missouri on Saturday, and as a result, debuted on Tuesday as the co-No. 1 quarterback with Franklin.

Last spring, Gabbert was the No. 5 quarterback when he enrolled early along with Franklin as a freshman. Franklin won the No. 2 job and played while Gabbert redshirted and started the spring at No. 3 behind Franklin and Glaser.

Now, it looks like he's neck-and-neck with Franklin to succeed Blaine Gabbert as Missouri's quarterback.

Coach Gary Pinkel downplayed the move, but it's obvious Gabbert has made an impression early.

"We looked at all the practices and scrimmages," Pinkel told reporters after Tuesday's practice, downplaying the big-picture impact of Gabbert's performance on Saturday. "There’s a lot of competition. That’s good. It’s going to be very competitive. Someone’s going to have to pull away. But there’s a long way to go here, you know. A lot of things are going to happen. They’re all great competitors."

What looked like an interesting spring in Columbia has lived up to its billing. Even if Gabbert wins the race, I'd still expect Franklin to get a good amount of playing time. As a freshman, Franklin spelled Blaine Gabbert in a role as a runner.

Chase Daniel did the same for Brad Smith as a freshman and Gabbert did the same for Daniel when he was a freshman in 2008.

That's consistent with what offensive coordinator David Yost told me during my visit to Missouri earlier this month. If a backup quarterback offers something the starter can't duplicate, it's worth getting them on the field. Daniel was a more accurate passer than Smith. Franklin was a much better runner between the tackles than Blaine Gabbert. Yost, in fact, compared him to Tim Tebow. The comparison stretched only as far as Franklin's ability to move the pile as a powerful runner and find creases between the tackles, but even though all three quarterbacks have decent wheels, Franklin, at 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, has size and power the other two lack.

Like Pinkel said, there's a long, long way to go. At this point, it seems unlikely that Missouri will definitively settle much at the position by the end of spring, but like you read last week, the players will decide.
Missouri's first official scrimmage of the spring was on Saturday, and who was the first quarterback to take snaps?

Redshirt freshman Tyler Gabbert.

All three Missouri quarterbacks wore orange jerseys signifying they could each bit hit above the waist, so the race is close, but Gabbert made the most of his opportunity, turning in the best day among the three passers.

Here's how they finished:
Franklin's day featured a forgettable interception returned 40 yards by Zaviar Gooden (Told you folks to keep an eye on him last week) and Gabbert's biggest highlight was a 64-yard touchdown pass to L'Damian Washington. Franklin's score was a toss across his body to Brandon Gerau in the back corner of the end zone for a 10-yard score.

Washington added a second touchdown and had 83 yards on four catches to lead all receivers.

Franklin obviously wasn't happy with his performance, but this was what it was: A spring scrimmage. By all accounts, Gabbert was the most impressive passer on Saturday, but there's a long way to go before Missouri's season opener in September.

Defensive ends Jacquies Smith and Kony Ealy, who has earned a good amount of buzz early in spring camp after redshirting in 2010, both had sacks in the scrimmage.

Defensive end Brad Madison added a pair of hurries.

The Tigers also left with at least one big concern. All-Big 12 center Tim Barnes is gone, and Travis Ruth and Justin Britt are competing to replace him.

But in Saturday's scrimmage, there were numerous botched snaps, including one on the opening drive that Gabbert was forced to dive on.

"It's very tough on the QBs," coach Gary Pinkel told reporters after the scrimmage. "You've got the QBs battling out there, and the snaps are all over the place. That's very difficult. Obviously, we've got to fix it."

Continuing the QB line at Missouri

March, 16, 2011
3/16/11
9:00
AM ET
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Missouri offensive coordinator David Yost sat down in the quarterbacks' meeting room, pulled out his cell phone and fired off a text to his former quarterback, Blaine Gabbert, alerting the soon-to-be first-round draft pick that Missouri's first spring practice was hours away.

"You'd make my life a lot easier if you were sitting here on the right side of me in meetings," Yost wrote.

But Gabbert isn't. He's been preparing for the draft, and Yost -- the Tigers' third-year offensive coordinator -- is preparing for his first season running Missouri's offense without Gabbert behind center.

For Missouri, whose quarterbacks have been coached by Yost since Gary Pinkel and his staff arrived in 2001, it's the first real quarterback competition since some redshirt freshman named Brad Smith beat out senior Kirk Farmer to win the job in 2002.

[+] EnlargeMissouir's David Yost
AP Photo/L.G. PattersonDavid Yost, who has been the quarterbacks coach at Missouri since 2001, must find a replacement for Blaine Gabbert.
"Each guy kind of has his own thing that he does really well, but they’re all alike enough, and they can all throw the ball really well, and for the most part, the offense won’t majorly change for whoever wins the job," Yost said.

Sophomore James Franklin is the front-runner after winning the No. 2 job as a true freshman last season and earning spot duty as a runner between the tackles and in short-yardage situations.

Sophomore Ashton Glaser has the No. 2 spot currently after enrolling early in spring 2009 and spending two seasons in the program.

Blaine Gabbert's younger brother, redshirt freshman Tyler Gabbert, entered spring as the No. 3, but possesses the strongest arm in the group, Yost says.

"They’re going to decide it," Yost said. "If one guy would separate themselves, that’d be good, but it’d still probably continue on throughout the summer."

Though the specific experience of a quarterback competition is foreign, Pinkel maintains that competition isn't.

"There’s no difference if we’re talking about this position or if we’re talking about the offensive guard," Pinkel said. "You’ve got to perform and you’ve got to perform consistently, and you’ve got to play better than the guy in front of you. That’s how it works."

Casual Missouri fans may think of Franklin as a runner. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound quarterback did run well last season, albeit with power and shiftiness as opposed to the blinding speed of Smith, who started four seasons at Missouri. But Franklin is plenty more, and now is his chance to showcase it.

"Not that James couldn’t throw it, but we thought, well, if we’re going to throw it, we better let No. 11 [Gabbert] throw it," Yost said. "There's a reason why he was so talented."

A player's potential does nothing to influence the coach's decision. As much as the staff would like one player to separate himself, if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
AP Photo/L.G. PattersonJames Franklin showed last season how much of a threat he can be running with the ball.
Want the job? Show them who you are. Who a quarterback could be doesn't matter at Missouri.

"That’s the beauty of how we do it," Pinkel said, "and the reason we don’t -- I don’t think as coaches, I don’t do it and our coaches don’t do it -- we don’t think in our head, 'Well, this guy might be The Guy, or I might think that guy might be The Guy.' And the reason we don’t is it taints your evaluation. Let the players decide what’s going to happen and we’ll just see it and evaluate it."

As freshmen, Gabbert and his predecessor, Chase Daniel, had potential and talents that differed enough from the starter that they earned meaningful playing time. But once the torch was passed in the spring, they were clearly better than the passers below them on the depth chart.

This time around, it hasn't happened yet. But regardless of how far the separation is, Missouri will have a No. 1, a No.2 and a No. 3 quarterback leaving spring, just like it did to begin spring practice.

"We’re trying to get better because we all want the spot. Even though I'm in the No. 1 spot right now, that doesn’t mean I’m going to keep it," Franklin said. "I know that’s what a lot of people expect, and that’s what their guess is, but that doesn’t mean anything."

He says he feels the added pressure of those expectations, but he also felt more comfortable this spring after getting a chance to adjust to the speed of the college game with an early spring and a season on the field already under his belt.

"It’s kind of hard not to think, 'Oh, I’ve got all this pressure, I’m supposed to be the starter and this and that,'" Franklin said. "I just think it’ll help me have that edge."

He threw just 14 passes last season, completing 11 for 106 yards and a touchdown, in addition to running 23 times for 116 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including one in Missouri's win over then-No. 1 Oklahoma.

Those 14 passes in real games, though, are 14 more than Tyler Gabbert and Glaser have thrown in their careers combined.

"Everyone messes up, but when I go out there, it should look like someone that’s gone through it before," Franklin said. "I don't want to have thoughts like, 'Hey, well, this guy is a sophomore or a freshman and he’s going to make those mistakes,' so I should look maybe not on the level of a veteran, but closer to that than a rookie."

The coaches wanted this competition. They signed two quarterbacks in the 2010 class so this would be a three-man battle instead of a two-man battle. Now, they've got it. All that's left is for someone to win it.

"I think we’re going to be pretty good at quarterback," Yost said. "He’s going to be the least experienced member of our offense, a lot of other guys will be counted on, but I think we’re going to be fine at that position with whichever guy separates himself whenever that happens."

Notes/observations from Mizzou practice

March, 11, 2011
3/11/11
9:00
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COLUMBIA, Mo. -- A chilly, blustery day meant practice indoors for Missouri on Thursday, where the Tigers took the field in shorts and helmets for about two hours. Here are a few notes and observations from what I saw:

It's so early in the competition, and I saw just a small portion of what the coaches will ultimately use to make the decision, so it's not prudent to make any sweeping generalizations about the quarterbacks at Missouri. There's no question that James Franklin is a step ahead of the other two at this point, and looked the part on Thursday.

That said, Missouri has three quarterbacks who look capable of running its offense well enough to win games. You look around the Big 12 and not many schools can say that. At least a few schools don't even have one.

They all had some forgettable throws in team drills; bad decisions, a ball behind a receiver, etc. But all three showed flashes of what they could be. Franklin looks sharp on tight out routes and finding seams down the middle. Offensive coordinator David Yost also was complimentary of his deep ball, which he didn't show off a ton in practice. All three have the physical tools to make all the throws, but consistency is what will set them apart. I'll have more on the race next week with plenty of input from Yost, coach Gary Pinkel and Franklin, but it's still very, very early in the race.

Plenty of balls hit the ground, way more than you'd see in a practice with Chase Daniel or Blaine Gabbert, but that's what you'd expect at this point. There's lots of growth ready to happen for the Tigers' quarterbacks, and for the coaching staff, there's certainly some excitement at getting to see that happen.
  • Kendial Lawrence looked like the most polished route-runner of the running backs. Missouri doesn't throw to its running backs very often, but that's encouraging, and for a young quarterback, an additional short option could be a nice asset. The linebackers had a ton of trouble covering Lawrence, and that could mean more touches in situations where the running back's main function is catching passes, which could be valuable in a crowded Missouri backfield. Like I said a couple days ago, my money is still on sophomore Henry Josey to become the team's leading rusher, but offering something different could be a big boost.
  • For what it's worth, Missouri has a fresh Big 12 North champions banner hanging in its indoor facility. Facts are facts, and Missouri finished first in the Big 12 North last year, but considering all the talk on this blog lately about things along those lines, my thoughts on the issue are pretty clear. I'm sure any Nebraska fans who come across this post will be thrilled to hear about the banner.
  • It's comical to see Zaviar Gooden run with the rest of the linebackers on the field. The difference in speed between him and others is wide. "I don't think there's anyone in our league that can run as fast as he can, at linebacker," Pinkel said. As someone who's seen a lot of linebackers across the Big 12 last season, I'd agree. The hard part for Gooden, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound converted safety who finished the year with 30 tackles, comes now. "He's got that tremendous speed. Now you've got to see it carry over to the field," Pinkel said. The potential for a big year is there, and Gooden could blossom into a star this season, but he'll have to solidify a starting spot and make plays to do it. He doesn't have the instinct and nose for the ball of a Lavonte David, but the physical tools are there to make him one of the league's rare talents. How much of that talent becomes production is up to him.

Opening spring camp: Missouri

March, 8, 2011
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Schedule: Practice opens today, and continues through the spring game on April 16. Practices between now and then are open to fans and media.

What’s new: Not much, really. There will be a quarterback derby, but we'll get to that in a bit. Missouri returns nine starters on offense and six on defense and didn't have a coaching change in the offseason. There will be new faces in the secondary, but Gary Pinkel has established a solid foundation for his program around his quarterback and there shouldn't be much concern about a down year in 2011 with a new passer.

On the mend: Linebacker Donovan Bonner missed all of 2010 with a knee injury, but he looked like a budding star before the injury. He's back this spring and should get a chance to get back to where he was in fall camp.

Key battle: There's plenty to see at quarterback. Pinkel says sophomore James Franklin will enter spring practice as the starter, but Ashton Glaser and Tyler Gabbert will push for the starting gig. This is definitely new territory for the Tigers, who haven't had any real uncertainty about their starting quarterback since Brad Smith took over as the starter in 2002. Chase Daniel and Blaine Gabbert were clear heir apparents, but a quarterback competition should add some new intrigue to the offseason in Columbia.

New faces: Receiver Wesley Leftwich will take part in camp, alongside offensive lineman Michael Boddie and defensive lineman Gerrand Johnson.

Breaking out: When defensive end and likely first-round pick Aldon Smith suffered a broken leg last year, backup defensive end Brad Madison flourished. He had three sacks against Texas A&M and finished with 7.5 sacks to lead the team and with Smith gone. Madison's road to becoming a household name across the conference could begin this spring.

Question marks: Secondary troubles have been a constant for Missouri's defenses over the past decade. Until last year, anyway. The secondary became a strength, but it did it with a pair of experienced, senior corners, Carl Gettis and Kevin Rutland. Now, promising young players E.J. Gaines and Kip Edwards look ready to replace them, but will the excellence on the back line continue under third-year defensive coordinator Dave Steckel, or was last year an anomaly?

Big shoes to fill: All-Big 12 center Tim Barnes is gone, and Justin Britt and Travis Ruth will compete to take his place. Barnes was responsible for a lot of organization for the offense before the snap, not to mention his blocking and snapping talents. A weakness there would throw a kink into Missouri's offense. The Tigers need a solid talent to emerge, and that could happen this spring. The good news is the other four offensive linemen return.

Don’t forget about: The running backs. Missouri split carries between four backs last season, with none receiving more than 100 carries. Pinkel says he wants one to emerge and separate themselves, and if I'm guessing, I'd put my money on sophomore Henry Josey. He's the shiftiest of the four backs, and in Missouri's offense, a scat back can be a big asset. He may not get the goal-line carries (look for De'Vion Moore to take that duty), but he could get the Tigers down there.

All eyes on: Quarterback James Franklin. It sounds like he has a lead to start the spring, but the job isn't his yet. Missouri fans would like to see him (or someone, anyway) grab a firm hold on the job by the end of spring practice and impress them heading into fall camp. Uncertainty may not be the best option for Missouri's offense next fall, but if no one separates themselves, it might be a necessity.

Who's set and who's not at quarterback?

February, 17, 2011
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We took a look at the Big 12's spring storylines yesterday, and for several teams, that involves the quarterback. For others, it doesn't. But heading into the spring, which starts as early as Friday at Texas Tech, here's how the Big 12's teams rank in terms of certainty at quarterback.

LOCKED AND LOADED

Baylor: Baylor's offense runs entirely through the Bears' Robert Griffin III. He rebounded well last season from the knee injury that made him miss most of the 2009 season, and became a much, much better passer. We'll see if that continues in 2011, but it would take a serious injury to knock him off his starting spot.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Weeden
John Rieger/US PresswireBrandon Weeden enters next season as Oklahoma State's starting quarterback.
Oklahoma State: Brandon Weeden started every game for the Cowboys last season and earned All-Big 12 first-team honors. He's back. Look elsewhere for quarterback controversy. The backup race between Clint Chelf, Johnny Deaton and early enrolling freshman J.W. Walsh could be interesting, though.

Oklahoma: Landry Jones will effectively be a third-year starter for the Sooners next season, and a strong contender for All-Big 12 honors and possibly the Heisman. It's his offense for sure in 2011.

Texas A&M: Ryan Tannehill would be the easy front-runner even if he hadn't started the second half of the 2010 season. But he did, went 5-1 in his starts, and has the Aggies sniffing the top 10 in the preseason.

BETTER LOCK IT DOWN, KID

Texas: Garrett Gilbert had a horrible first year as starter in 2010, but he'll need to show his coaches -- new and old -- he'll be better in 2011. Grasping new coordinator Bryan Harsin's system will be key in keeping the junior ahead of his competition, Case McCoy and Connor Wood. Coach Mack Brown said last month that the job was open.

Missouri: James Franklin is the likely lead dog in the race, but only because he got more time and experience playing the game and adjusting to the speed of the game. He'll need to clearly be the best quarterback Missouri has to leave the spring as the projected starter. Tyler Gabbert and Ashton Glaser might steal the title with standout springs, but if all three aren't getting it done, incoming freshman Corbin Berkstresser could theoretically crash the party in preseason camp.

Iowa State: Jerome Tiller has five starts in two seasons because of injuries to Austen Arnaud, including an historic, albeit ugly, 9-7 win at Nebraska in 2009. But Paul Rhoads signed juco transfer Steele Jantz, and he'll have a great chance to win the job, too. James Capello and Jared Barnett will try to make splashes in the spring.

WHICH END IS UP?

Texas Tech: Tech, as usual, is likely to get good play out of whoever wins the job, but it's a near guessing game at this point. Seth Doege and Jacob Karam impressed coach Tommy Tuberville last spring working with the first team after Steven Sheffield and Taylor Potts were hurt, but Doege and Karam will have to hold off younger talents Scotty Young and Michael Brewer to win the job.

Kansas: The Jayhawks never settled on a quarterback, and battled injuries at the position last year. Kale Pick was moved to receiver during the 2010 season, and Jordan Webb and Quinn Mecham will be the main competition this year, despite a lack of truly inspired play for much of 2010. If incoming freshman Brock Berglund, who enrolled early, can show flashes of potential and outplay Webb and Mecham, he might be the guy best suited to help Kansas win right now and in the future.

Kansas State: The Wildcats' presumptive starter might not even be playing the position in 2011, and we've seen very, very little of the three quarterbacks hoping to replace the departed Carson Coffman. Justin Tuggle, a juco transfer, started three games at Boston College and has a good shot to win the job. Newcomer Daniel Sams could win the gig eventually, or it could be the returning Sammuel Lamur, who threw all of three passes last season (completing all three!) as the third-stringer.

What to watch in the Big 12 this spring

February, 16, 2011
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Springtime is almost here. And here's a look at what to expect across the Big 12 when it gets into full swing here in the next couple weeks.

BAYLOR BEARS

Spring practice starts: February 28

Spring game: April 2

What to watch:
  • Big changes on defense. Baylor brought in Phil Bennett as its new defensive coordinator, and he says his scheme will be multiple, built to fit the Bears' personnel. Considering the Bears' recent recruiting successes in the secondary, look for a 4-2-5 type of look.
  • Recruiting stars: time to shine. Both safeties, Tim Atchison and Byron Landor, are gone. Baylor, though, has two former ESPNU 150 recruits at safety who would be well served to start filling their potential. Prince Kent was a reserve last season and at one time, the nation's No. 51 overall recruit who originally signed with Miami. Ahmad Dixon, meanwhile, was the No. 15 overall prospect in the 2010 class. The opportunity is there. Baylor needs big talent at the position. Briles has recruited it. Can they develop into players who make Baylor a contender?
  • Running back competition. Jay Finley topped 1,200 yards in 2010, but he's gone. Who steps into his void? Terrance Ganaway is a bowling ball at 5-foot-11, 235 pounds, but the shifty Jarred Salubi could get a good amount of carries, too. They could begin to share carries this spring.
IOWA STATE CYCLONES

Spring practice starts: March 22

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Quarterback competition. It should be a good one in Ames this spring. Jerome Tiller is the name most recognize after getting lots of meaningful time and starts because of injuries to Austen Arnaud over the past two seasons. But juco transfer Steele Jantz sounds confident he can win the job. Rising sophomore James Capello and redshirt freshman Jared Barnett will compete, too.
  • Paging Cyclone receivers. Iowa State had one of the most underwhelming receiving corps in the league during the past season, and three of its top five pass-catchers won't return in 2011. Of those three, however, one is a tight end (Collin Franklin) and another is a running back (Alexander Robinson). The new quarterback will need some help, and Darius Darks and Darius Reynolds will need to provide it as seniors.
  • Shontrelle's time or not? Freshman Shontrelle Johnson looked like the running back with the most pop behind Robinson for most of 2010, but two other freshmen running backs jockeyed for carries, too. Paul Rhoads is hardly handing the job over to Johnson, but spring could be the time when he really separates himself from the pack.
KANSAS JAYHAWKS

Spring practice starts: April 1

Spring game: April 30

What to watch:
  • What are they doing behind center? Kansas never got much consistent play out of the quarterback position last year, but freshman Brock Berglund is one of the 2011 class' top recruits, and enrolled early to compete in the spring with Jordan Webb and Quinn Mecham. With a building program like Kansas, there's perhaps some value in handing the program to a younger player like Webb or Berglund, but they'll have to earn it. Doing so will start in the spring, but don't expect the Jayhawks to have a set-in-stone starter by spring's end.
  • Top linebacker back on the field. Huldon Tharp missed all of 2010 with a foot injury, but he says he's 100 percent and ready to get back on the field. As a freshman in 2009, he was fifth on the team in tackles, with 59, and looked like one of the league's possible budding stars. Now, he'll get his chance to join fellow linebacker Steven Johnson as one of the team's top tacklers, and he'll do it as a sophomore after redshirting in 2010.
  • Toben rising? Turner Gill raised plenty of eyebrows when he moved his team's leading rusher in 2009, Toben Opurum, to linebacker in fall camp, and eventually slid him up to defensive end. But toward the end of 2010, Opurum started showing some major signs of growth at the position. We'll get a better idea this spring if he's one of the league's most unlikely new stars at defensive end.
KANSAS STATE WILDCATS

Spring practice starts: April 6

Spring game: April 30

What to watch:
  • Prodigal Kansan sons come home. There's no doubt that the Wichita native Brown brothers are the main attraction at Kansas State this spring, a season after transferring back home. Bryce Brown, the running back, was the nation's No. 8 prospect in the 2009 class. Arthur Brown, the linebacker, was the nation's No. 6 prospect in the 2008 class. Bryce transferred from Tennessee and Arthur from Miami. The Wildcats are pinning much of their hopes on the duo, and we'll get a good sense of what they can provide soon.
  • Quarterback competition. Carson Coffman is gone, and two new faces will challenge for the job: juco transfer Justin Tuggle and Daniel Sams. Sammuel Lamur is also up for the gig. Collin Klein may or may not be; Bill Snyder hasn't explicitly confirmed a past comment from Sams saying Klein had moved to receiver. Don't expect a starter to be named by spring's end, but a general order could start to form.
  • Can the defense show improvement? Kansas State had the Big 12's worst overall defense last year, and the worst rushing defense in college football, giving up 3,008 yards on the ground. Coordinator Chris Cosh looks like he'll still be around in 2011, and defensive backs David Garrett and Tysyn Hartman are solid pieces to try and build around. But this young maturing defense must get better to make a bowl game again with so many questions on offense. That starts in the spring.
MISSOURI TIGERS

Spring practice starts: March 8

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Franklin comes alive! Blaine Gabbert bolted to the NFL early, and Missouri has a gaping hole a quarterback. The position, however, is surrounded by a lot of quality talent that likely makes the Tigers a Top 25 team. There's no understating the importance of the position for the Tigers, and that will begin to be decided in the spring. James Franklin, a rising sophomore, saw spot duty in 2010 as more of a runner, and may have the inside track on the job, but Tyler Gabbert, Blaine's younger brother, and Ashton Glaser should make it an interesting competition in the spring. If neither of them impress early, don't count out incoming freshman Corbin Berkstresser.
  • Here is the new secondary. Same as the old secondary? After years of pass defense being one of the Tigers' biggest weaknesses, it became a strength in 2010 behind the leadership of senior corners Kevin Rutland and Carl Gettis. But the Tigers lose them and safety Jarrell Harrison. Rutland emerged as one of the team's most impressive players last spring, but was Missouri's success in the secondary a one-time thing or the beginning of a welcome trend?
  • Time to dominate the trenches? Missouri played without likely first-round pick Aldon Smith for much of the previous season, but the defensive and offensive lines for the Tigers were as good as ever in 2010. How will they look in 2011? Impact juco transfer Sheldon Richardson won't be enrolled by the spring, but the four returning starters on the offensive line should get some solid work against Brad Madison, Jacquies Smith and Terrell Resonno.
OKLAHOMA SOONERS

Spring practice starts: March 21

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Freshmen on display. Coach Bob Stoops hasn't been shy about saying his 2010 recruiting class was his best ever, but it could look even better after this spring. Two of his best emerging recruits, Justin McCay and Geneo Grissom, didn't even play in 2010, and could start to make an impact. The same goes for Corey Nelson, who will try to earn some more time somewhere backing up star Travis Lewis.
  • Is there a golden boot in Norman? Jimmy Stevens was much more accurate in 2010, finishing 19-for-23, but his attempts outside 45 yards were sparse. The good news is he missed none of his 53 extra points. Field goals have been a bit of an adventure for the past couple years, but continuing in the spring what he started last year would be a good sign for Oklahoma. The Sooners are strong everywhere and need good special teams play to reach their lofty title goals.
  • Are the Sooners' backs back? Roy Finch missed the Fiesta Bowl with a stress fracture, and his durability is certainly questionable entering 2011. When he's healthy, he looks like the next star in the Sooners' backfield, but they'll need some depth behind the 5-foot-8, 173-pounder. Jermie Calhoun, Jonathan Miller and Brennan Clay have all looked good at times, but there should be some good competition from newcomers Brandon Wegher, an Iowa transfer who'll be in camp this spring and eligible next season, and blue-chip recruit Brandon Williams, who enrolled early.
OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS

Spring practice starts: March 7

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Every piece of the offense. The spring in Stillwater is all about keeping or improving upon the status quo. Had it kept Dana Holgorsen, there'd be little doubt that would happen, but Oklahoma State must make the most of its five returning offensive linemen, quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon. The opportunity for a historic season is there, but they'll have to pick up the nuances of the new offense quickly in the spring like they did last year.
  • What about the kicker? Dan Bailey won the Lou Groza Award as the nation's top kicker in 2010, but he's gone. Oklahoma State needs to fill that role quickly, and we'll likely know who will get the nod after the spring.
  • Who steps up on the defensive line? The Cowboys lose three starters up front on defense, including All-Big 12 performer Ugo Chinasa and tackles Chris Donaldson and Shane Jarka. Can senior Richetti Jones become a star in the Big 12? We'll have a good idea if he, or any of the Cowboys' other defensive linemen, can by the end of April.
TEXAS LONGHORNS

Spring practice starts: February 24

Spring game: April 3

What to watch:
  • New coaches and their students/players. Texas has five new coaches. Although it's hard to get a good read early on, how they relate with the players on the field, in the film room and around the facilities will have a big impact on how the 2011 season plays out in Austin. The young-blooded coordinators could serve themselves well by relating to players and the players will need to spend plenty of extra time learning new schemes and plays.
  • Quarterback competition ... or not? Mack Brown says the gig is open and it is, for now. Garrett Gilbert can close it with a strong spring. If Garrett struggles on the field or has difficulty grasping the new system, the door will be wide open for Connor Wood or Case McCoy to step in and close it. Gilbert didn't get much help, but he did very little in 2010 to inspire a lot of breathing room with McCoy and Wood clamoring for playing time.
  • And you've got to defend the pass, too. Texas loses its top three cornerbacks to the NFL, and only Carrington Byndom and A.J. White got much meaningful playing time last season. Younger players can earn some rare early playing time with a strong spring. Will anyone step up?
TEXAS A&M AGGIES

Spring practice starts: March 22

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • New linebackers in the running. Spring isn't so scary when you bring back nine defensive starters, but the two Texas A&M lost were the heart of its defense. Linebackers Michael Hodges and Von Miller are gone. Kyle Mangan didn't look fantastic when forced into action during the Cotton Bowl, but the time is now for Damontre Moore and Dominique Patterson, a pair of sophomores, to make their impact.
  • Tannehill's tuning things up. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill played about as well as anyone could have hoped late last season, but he'll need it to continue his performance with a solid spring nailing down the timing with his receivers, who all return. He's already got a leg up on last year's quarterback, Jerrod Johnson, who was held out of team drills last spring after shoulder surgery that eventually derailed his senior season.
  • Christine's back. Christine Michael missed the second half of the season with a broken leg, giving way to Cyrus Gray's rise among Big 12 backs. It should make Texas A&M's depth at the position even more impressive, but we'll see how Michael looks coming back from the injury.
TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS

Spring practice starts: February 19

Spring game: March 26

What to watch:
  • Past defending that pass defense. Texas Tech had the Big 12's worst pass defense last season, but has a pair of big potential players at cornerback in rising sophomores Tre Porter and Jarvis Phillips. Starters LaRon Moore and Franklin Mitchem are gone, but if returning starters Cody Davis and Will Ford can continue to mature, the defense should improve in the area most important for success in the Big 12.
  • And they're off! There's a four-man quarterback derby set in Lubbock this spring between Seth Doege, Jacob Karam, Michael Brewer and Scotty Young. I don't expect it to be settled until midway through fall camp, similar to last season, but there should be a solid front-runner and more clarity after spring. Coach Tommy Tuberville was extremely impressed with Doege and Karam last spring after Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield went down with injuries.
  • Time to find new stars. Most of the big names on Texas Tech's defense are gone. Colby Whitlock, Bront Bird, Brian Duncan will all continue their careers elsewhere. The leaders on the defense will have to begin to emerge in the spring. Is it Scott Smith? Cody Davis? A younger, unexpected player? We'll find out. Sometimes these types of situations aren't as easy to predict as they might seem, like Missouri's strength in 2010 emerging in the secondary.
Tags:

Baylor Bears, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Missouri Tigers, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Texas Longhorns, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Colby Whitlock, Corey Nelson, Ahmad Dixon, Brennan Clay, Jacob Karam, Darius Reynolds, Christine Michael, Von Miller, Alexander Robinson, Kyle Mangan, Chris Cosh, Steven Sheffield, Turner Gill, Tysyn Hartman, Bill Snyder, Bront Bird, Case McCoy, Brandon Williams, Dan Bailey, Justin Blackmon, Franklin Mitchem, Richetti Jones, James Capello, Connor Wood, Shane Jarka, Ryan Tannehill, Terrance Ganaway, Byron Landor, Cody Davis, Travis Lewis, Cyrus Gray, Scotty Young, Chris Donaldson, Bryce Brown, Jerome Tiller, Brian Duncan, LaRon Moore, Toben Opurum, Darius Darks, Paul Rhoads, Brad Madison, Art Briles, Kevin Rutland, Carrington Byndom, Sheldon Richardson, Bob Stoops, Jerrod Johnson, Blaine Gabbert, Jay Finley, Jared Barnett, Taylor Potts, Huldon Tharp, Jimmy Stevens, Arthur Brown, Mack Brown, Jarvis Phillips, Garrett Gilbert, Tyler Gabbert, Jordan Webb, Jermie Calhoun, Collin Franklin, Phil Bennett, Jacquies Smith, Jarred Salubi, Collin Klein, Tim Atchison, Carl Gettis, Seth Doege, Ugo Chinasa, Terrell Resonno, Carson Coffman, Aldon Smith, Brandon Weeden, David Garrett, Justin McCay, James Franklin, Corbin Berkstresser, Geneo Grissom, Quinn Mecham, Scott Smith, Tre Porter, Shontrelle Johnson, Prince Kent, Damontre Moore, Michael Brewer, A.J. White, Brock Berglund, Ashton Glaser, Michael Hodges, Brandon Wegher, Steele Jantz, Jonathan Miller, Justin Tuggle, Daniel Sams, Dominique Patterson

Thanks for all the questions in the chat today. It was a good one. Here's the transcript if you missed it. And a few highlights:

Nick Thompson in Columbia, Mo., asked: How will Missouri transition from James Franklin to Blaine Gabbert? What impact will losing Gabbert have on the Missouri offense and what will Franklin have to do to step in effectively?

David Ubben: Well, that's assuming Franklin wins the job, which is absolutely not a given right now. I've said it a few times, but it's going to come down to accuracy and decision-making more than anything. I'm not sure Franklin's running ability will do much for him. In 2010, it allowed him to offer a change of pace to Missouri's offense and get some playing time, but the full-time starter has to be the guy who can deliver the ball to playmakers most often.


Ben in Las Vegas asked: You've mentioned that ideal targets for Big 12 expansion back to 12 teams are the Arizona teams. Is that even remotely possible or just the ideal? Any movement in that direction at all?

DU: I haven't heard many real conversations about it happening, and I don't think it will, but it's the only expansion move the Big 12 can make, should it choose to in the future, that would be a solid step forward, rather than just spinning its wheels. I should be clear, the Big 12 isn't looking to expand, but if you can convince the Arizona schools that they can make more money in the Big 12, which is possible, I could see them being talked into joining the league.


Martin in Dallas asked: Can you give your reasoning on why you think the Big 12 remains the same in 5 years, or just a wild guess?

DU: In short, Texas is getting exactly what it wants in the Big 12, money upon money and good scheduling/competition. Texas A&M and Oklahoma don't exactly have "open" invitations to the SEC. I don't see anyone actually leaving. What are the other schools without networks going to do? Leave? That's insane. Complain about Texas all you want, but schools like Iowa State and Kansas State can't do anything about it. Texas A&M would like to, but doesn't have the options it did this summer.


Gary in Syracuse asked: Care to offer a brief evaluation of Dan Beebe's job performance over the past twelve months?

DU: Not as bad as everyone thinks it was. He gets a bad rap. What, exactly, what he supposed to do to keep Nebraska or Missouri from leaving? He inherited a lot of problems, and it was a minor miracle that he convinced Texas and the rest of the Pac-16 crew to stay anyway. Worked hard to do it and succeeded.


Reece in Texas asked: With the new schedules in the Big 12 how hard will it be for the middle tier schools to win the Big 12?

DU: It was always hard for teams in the South, but a North team, in a clunker year, could slip into the Big 12 title game and get a shot at a South team. Now, you've got to outplay everybody, and nobody with fewer than 10 wins or so is winning this league. So, it's going to get a lot tougher.


Allan in Stillwater asked: If Hubert Anyiam comes back healthy and plays to his potential, does OSU have the best receiving core in the nation? Blackmon, Cooper, Anyiam, Tracy Moore, and Harrison... surely there isn't a better group out there.

DU: Oh yeah, it's up there. Anyiam gets overlooked, and he could be a quiet sleeper for an all-conference type season in 2011. If guys like Moore and Harrison keep developing, these guys could be incredible.
Blaine Gabbert made the right decision by declaring for the NFL draft. ESPN's Scouts, Inc. has Gabbert as the No. 20 overall prospect in April's draft, and Gabbert received a first-round grade from the NFL draft advisory committee after he submitted his paperwork.

For every Jake Locker and Jevan Snead, there's a Sam Bradford: There's nothing wrong with sticking around another year if you're projected as a first-rounder, and the risk of injury is somewhat overrated.

[+] EnlargeBlaine Gabbert
Scott Rovak/US PresswireBlaine Gabbert is leaving Missouri to enter the NFL draft.
Gabbert is a bit different. In Missouri's spread offense, he wouldn't have been much further along as an NFL prospect this time next year, and his size (6-foot-5, 240 pounds) and arm strength (ridiculous) are exactly what NFL teams want in a prospective future starter. His capability to make NFL reads and develop footwork on dropbacks wouldn't have been much further along, and for a guy with a promising future looming like Gabbert, he might as well get a head start. Now was the time.

The lack of an elite receiver like Jeremy Maclin or Danario Alexander kept Gabbert from posting jaw-dropping numbers in 2010, but he played well and notched Missouri's fourth 10-win season in school history. To Gabbert's credit, he didn't force very many plays this year, and did what he needed to do for Missouri to win games. Missouri notched 10 wins because of it.

Gabbert is a competitive guy, and he'd surely like to achieve more than he did -- he never played in a Big 12 Championship or won a bowl game -- but he still had a great career and will go down as one of the best quarterbacks in Tigers history. He'll lack the legacy of Heisman finalist and three-year starter Chase Daniel, but don't be surprised if Gabbert is better in the NFL than in college. He's an Academic All-Big 12 performer and a smart, coachable player who made clear strides for all three of his seasons at Missouri. I'd expect that to continue in the NFL.

For the Tigers, things get a bit complicated.

The knee-jerk reaction for some will write off Missouri as a Big 12 contender in 2011, but that's not necessarily what should happen. It'll be tough for Missouri to win, but they bring back plenty of talent, especially on defense and in a more experienced receiving corps with a stable of young running backs who all got experience this year. Talk about replacing starters all you'd like, but Oklahoma State lost a "franchise" quarterback in Zac Robinson and played a first-year quarterback in Brandon Weeden who had not made a start in nine years. His last start was in high school. That worked out pretty well for them. I'd say 11 wins is a pretty good season.

Replacing Gabbert will be crucial for Missouri not just in 2011, but in retaining its stability as a winner in the Big 12. Tommy Tuberville said it last week at the TicketCity Bowl: In the SEC, you win with running backs and defense. In the Big 12, you win with quarterbacks. That's exactly how Missouri has done it.

In the last four years, Oklahoma is the only team with more Big 12 wins than Missouri.

Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, Chase Daniel, Zac Robinson, Graham Harrell, Todd Reesing -- the bar has been set high in this league, even in just the most recent few years.

And for Missouri, any hope they have of being a legitimate Big 12 contender hinges on the guy who steps in for Gabbert. And unlike Daniel and Gabbert were, choosing the next starting quarterback won't be a formality this spring.

James Franklin played more than any of Missouri's other young quarterbacks, but he was used mostly as a runner. He was a miniature version of Brad Smith, at the risk of Missourian heresy.

He has the arm strength, but his decision making ability is a question mark. His coaches probably have only a bit more information from what they've seen in practices. That's what Missouri has to figure out when spring practice kicks off in a couple months.

The true freshman threw all of 14 passes in 2010. That's not much of a sample size.

I'd expect a fierce competition between Franklin and Gabbert's younger brother, freshman Tyler Gabbert, as well as redshirt freshman Ashton Glaser.

Franklin's experience, however limited, gives him the edge. And the Tigers have a few proven playmakers in receiver T.J. Moe, tight end Michael Egnew and receivers Wes Kemp and Jerrell Jackson.

Franklin's legs produced a valuable change of pace, especially in the red zone. He ran 23 times for 116 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

But those legs won't win him the job in 2011. He has to prove it as a passer. Maybe he's Missouri's most accurate passer. Maybe it's the younger Gabbert or Glaser.

We'll find out soon. It should be an interesting spring in Columbia.
If you haven't noticed just yet, Friday's college football content at ESPN.com is all about the quarterbacks. We've ranked the conference's top 5 individual quarterbacks, but now it's time to take a broader look at who's in good shape behind center and who's in trouble across the conference.

The discrepancy between the South's QBs and the North's is somewhat jarring, especially when you see it on paper (bandwidth?) like this. Only one North team made the top six, and the bottom five teams are all from the North.

Five schools (four in the North) still have their starters up in the air, and that makes this a little tricky, but here's how I'd rank them:

[+] EnlargeJerrod Johnson
Brett Davis/US PresswireJerrod Johnson is not only the best quarterback in the conference, he's also the best player.
1. Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M: The Aggies boast the preseason player of the year at quarterback and the man at the top of our Big 12 player list from earlier this summer. I also got a few e-mail requests from some Aggies fans to stress -- once again -- that it's juh-RAHD, not Jared from Subway. Word has apparently not reached every corner of Big 12 country just yet. It might if the Aggies can win more than six games like they did in 2009. But Johnson broke out in a big way last season, throwing for 3,579 yards, 30 touchdowns and just six interceptions while also running for 506 yards and eight touchdowns.

2. Robert Griffin, Baylor: Trust in Griffin's knee lands the Bears here, significantly higher than they're used to considering the strong quarterback tradition across the Big 12 for the past decade. But Griffin will still have to regain his status as the conference's most electrifying player on a reconstructed knee after missing the final nine games of the previous season with a torn ACL. Baylor also has a nice situation at backup quarterback because of the injury with sophomore Nick Florence, who threw for 427 yards in Baylor's lone conference win -- at Missouri -- last season.

3. Blaine Gabbert, Missouri: Gabbert has a claim as the conference's best quarterback, and he'll try to snatch it as a junior after playing much of his sophomore season with a bum ankle, courtesy of a soggy Ndamukong Suh sack. Despite being hobbled for most of conference play, he still racked up 3,593 passing yards and 24 touchdowns. If he stays healthy, he might get a chance to showcase his underrated wheels, too. Freshman James Franklin is impressing in camp and hanging on to his job as Gabbert's backup over Jimmy Costello, Ashton Glaser and little brother Tyler Gabbert.

4. Landry Jones, Oklahoma: Jones should benefit from his first full spring and preseason camp taking the first-team reps, but he'll need a second reliable target opposite Ryan Broyles to emerge if he wants to improve on his 26 touchdowns and 3,198 yards as a redshirt freshman. Jones also needs to limit his turnovers after throwing a league-high 14 interceptions in 2009, but it's worth noting that seven of those came away from Owen Field against top-tier defenses in Texas and Nebraska. He didn't play a good defense in Norman, but he threw 18 touchdowns to just four interceptions and helped the Sooners stretch their home streak to 30 games. Backup Drew Allen is untested and inexperienced, but has potential and wouldn't inspire panic if Jones finds injury in 2010.

5. Steven Sheffield/Taylor Potts, Texas Tech: No team has two quarterbacks with as much skill and experience as Texas Tech, but unlike receivers or running backs, the Red Raiders can't play both of them. Regardless of who wins the competition in Lubbock, Texas Tech will be in great shape with Potts or Sheffield. You heard a few hundred words on the details of this race earlier this morning.

6. Garrett Gilbert, Texas: This may look silly in November, but it's tough to put Gilbert on top of anyone else on this list who has already proven themselves. Clearly, the potential is there, and he's inspired a lot of confidence from his coach and team, but making good on that potential will mean finding a solid target to replace the only player he's ever thrown a real touchdown to: Jordan Shipley. If Gilbert goes down, Texas would have to rely on a pair of true freshmen: Connor Wood or Case McCoy, Colt's little brother.

7. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State: This won't be the last time you hear about the Cowboys 26-year-old former minor leaguer. Just make good decisions, make easy throws to open receivers who make plays with the ball and he should put up big numbers in new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen's version of the Air Raid. Oklahoma State got to see Houston's offense in person last season and wanted it for themselves. Now they've got the man who coordinated the best offense in college football a year ago and an unquestioned, mature starter to run it. If he's injured, the Cowboys would have to rely on one of two freshmen, Clint Chelf or most likely Johnny Deaton, to run the offense.

8. Austen Arnaud, Iowa State: Coach Paul Rhoads says no player on his team has improved from Year 1 to Year 2 more than Arnaud, but he'll need to prove it on the field to move up this list. He's probably likely to improve on his 2,015 yards passing to go with 15 touchdowns, but he's right behind Jones in the interception column, with 13. That number has to shrink for the Cyclones to get back to a bowl game. Talented sophomore Jerome "JT" Tiller led the Cyclones to their marquee win over Nebraska and should take the reins next year. The future looks bright in Ames.

9. Tyler Hansen, Colorado: Hansen not emerging from preseason camp as the starter would be shocking, and he'll get a lot more help this year with a beefed-up receiving corps that's among the conference's most underrated. Newcomers Paul Richardson, Travon Patterson and preseason Big 12 Newcomer of the Year Toney Clemons will join the reliable Scotty McKnight. If Hansen goes down, at least they'll have an experienced vet behind him in Cody Hawkins. Freshman Nick Hirschman looked good in the spring and provides some hope for the position in the future.

10. Zac Lee, Nebraska: A two-quarterback system is never ideal, but it might work for the Huskers. Lee is the best passer of the group competing for the starting job, but using the athletic Taylor Martinez or Cody Green in spot duty, similar to last year, could very well happen. But Bo Pelini would much prefer if one player -- most likely Lee, in my opinion -- would emerge and improve on his play from 2009, when he threw for 2,143 yards, 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

11. Kale Pick, Kansas: Pick is untested, and so are Jordan Webb and junior college transfer Quinn Mecham. Pick, however, seems like the favorite to win the job. The Jayhawks need a spark on offense, and Pick could provide it. He'll have some nice receivers to throw to in sophomore Bradley McDougald, senior Johnathan Wilson and tight end Tim Biere. Former cornerback Daymond Patterson looks ready for a good year in the slot.

12. Carson Coffman, Kansas State: Coffman needs to improve from his play last year that cost him his job early last season. Beating out Collin Klein and Sammuel Lamur won't be easy -- and the competition between the three is still pretty tight -- but Coffman's experience gives him a slight edge. Whoever wins the race will lean on the league's leading rusher, Daniel Thomas, and a revamped receiving corps with transfers Brodrick Smith from Minnesota and Chris Harper from Oregon. The Wildcats hope the duo will add the spark that was missing from the team's offense in 2009.

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