Big 12: Big 12

In this week's mailbag we discuss West Virginia’s quarterbacks, Baylor’s scheduling and the campuses of the Big 12 through the eyes of a recruit.

To submit a future mailbag entry, simply go here.

Now, to the ‘bag:

Grayson Grundhoefer in San Antonio writes: I am really comfortable in saying that I think Baylor has a legit shot to make the playoff this year. They return a top three quarterback in the country to lead an offense that I think is going to be even better this year than last year. Bryce Petty got happy feet last year in big games due to the that he had never played in those kind of games before. He will correct that this year. He has an unreal amount of talent at skill positions along with some stud offensive linemen. I also think defensively this team is going to pass rush well and force turnovers. What are your thoughts?

Trotter: I’m not quite as bullish on the Baylor defense as you are. The D-line is going to be superb, but that secondary is a total question mark. That said, the offense is going to be awesome again. If Petty is even slightly better than last year, he will be a viable Heisman candidate. Even without Tevin Reese and Lache Seastrunk, the skill talent around Petty is in place. And getting left tackle Spencer Drango back from the back injury will be huge (the pass protection went down the tubes after he got hurt last year). If the defensive backfield rounds out, Baylor could indeed be a bona fide playoff contender.


Matthew W. in Tyler, Texas, writes: Hey guys, just a quick comment about Baylor's horrendous non-conference scheduling. With things as they are now, it's horrible that Baylor is playing such pasties. But nonconferencegames are contracted years in advance, and it wasn't that long ago that Baylor was struggling for bowl eligibility. I would expect (and hope) that the teams we've signed contracts within the past three years or so will provide us with fewer and fewer cupcakes as time passes.

Trotter: That explanation would hold more water if the game with budding powerhouse Incarnate Word wasn’t agreed to just this year.


Paul in Waco, Texas, writes: Big 12 teams currently have more than 60 out-of-conference games scheduled against “Power 5” conference teams. Out of those, Baylor has a paltry two (the home-and-home with Duke). If the Big 12 did not fine its members for disparaging other members, how many coaches would speak out against the Bears’ scheduling? As a ticket-buying alum, I am upset and embarrassed with our out-of-conference offerings.

Trotter: Opposing coaches still probably wouldn’t publicly criticize Baylor’s scheduling. But they have definitely taken notice. And if Baylor goes 11-1 and is trying to slide into the playoff, the nonconference slate will get brought up by everybody, including the playoff selection committee behind closed doors.


Chuck Jordan in Fairmont, W. Va., writes: Jake, any chance Dana Holgorsen uses Logan Moore and Skyler Howard to back up Clint Trickett in the fall and redshirts Paul Millard, so he doesn't lose three QBs in one year and has some experience behind Howard and William Crest next year?

Trotter: After two mediocre seasons, Holgorsen doesn’t have the job security to be thinking about 2015. He needs to win now, and that means all hands will be on deck. Trickett has a history of getting dinged up, and Holgorsen will need his top backup ready to go -- if that is in fact Millard.


Jesse in Houston writes: How would you rank the Big 12 college campuses from the point of view of a recruit?

Trotter: This question is going to make pretty much everyone on here mad so ... let’s answer it! Again, this would be through the lens of a football recruit, not necessarily my own personal preference. And we’re talking campuses, not just football facilities. Austin, where I was for a couple days last week, is the clear No. 1. After that: 2. Lawrence, 3. Fort Worth, 4. Stillwater, 5. Norman, 6. Morgantown, 7. Lubbock, 8. Manhattan, 9. Ames, 10. Waco. Let the hate mail flow.


Mark Masa in Garden Grove, Calif., writes: Measuring Colorado’s realignment grade based off their (lack of) recent football achievements shows your fundamental misunderstanding of realignment logic. CU left because there are (supposedly) more CU alums in California than the entire Big 12 footprint. The Buffs have as much money now than if they had stayed put, so their grade should be a "push" at best unless you have inside information regarding contributions, gifts, monetary giving, etc.

Trotter: The grade I referenced was solely based on improved visibility, competitive standing and future outlook for its football program. I get there were other motives behind realignment with the Pac-12 (academic, cultural, etc.). And I’m not saying overall it wasn’t the right move for Colorado. But in four years, Colorado has yet to play a meaningful game in the Pac-12. There’s really no case to be made that Colorado’s football program is better off now in the Pac-12 than it would have been in the Big 12.


Tommy in Virginia Beach, Va., writes: Is it really that hard to believe that a healthy Clint Trickett-led team, that could have easily been 8-4 last year, be as bad as the media is predicting this year? Or does this come down to media hype? Mark it down sir, because I will be back in January to remind you and the rest of the readers. Go Eers!

Trotter: I have it marked down, sir. Good luck.

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

June, 30, 2014
Jun 30
Here’s the latest in recruiting from around the Big 12:


Total commits: 10

ESPN 300 commits: 3

The latest: The Bears lost their top-rated commitment last week when John Humphrey Jr. decommitted. Baylor had plans to use the four-star prospect as a cornerback, but Humphrey has his eyes on playing receiver, where the Bears are well stocked with playmakers.


Total commits: 6

ESPN 300 commits: 0

The latest: The Cyclones landed another commitment last week in Denton (Texas) Guyer safety Jordan Wallace, who is reportedly a distant cousin of former Iowa State standout OB Seneca Wallace. The coaching staff snagged five of their six commitments in the month of June, including Austin (Texas) Lake Travis dual-threat QB Dominic DeLira.


Total commits: 9

ESPN 300 commits: 0

The latest: Kansas continued to make noise on the recruiting trail by snagging a pair of Texas prospects last week. Carl Thompson, a 6-foot-3, 260-pound defensive lineman from Denton (Texas) Guyer, had offers from Duke, Minnesota and Vanderbilt. Taylor Martin, a 5-foot-9, 179-pound running back, committed to Kansas later the same day. He had an offer from Colorado State, and was reportedly drawing interest from TCU, Illinois and Kansas State. The Jayhawks went into the month of June with one commitment, but now have nine.


Total commits: 6

ESPN 300 commits: 0

The latest: The Wildcats landed two running backs last week, one from their backyard, the other all the way out of Georgia. Denzel Goolsby's recruitment picked up in the last week, with Kansas and Iowa State both extending offers. But the Wichita (Kansas) Bishop Carroll product wound up pledging to Kansas State. Goolsby is a versatile offensive threat, who also plays slot receiver and returns kicks. The Wildcats picked up another intriguing playmaker earlier in the week in Cartersville, Georgia, running back Kalin Heath, who had offers from the likes of Mississippi State, Washington State and Louisville. At 6-foot-1, Heath has the frame to become K-State’s next power back in the mold of Daniel Thomas.


Total commits: 7

ESPN 300 commits: 5

The latest: John Humphrey’s decommitment from Baylor could be Oklahoma’s gain. The Sooners are giving Humphrey the option to play receiver, and Oklahoma appears to be his favorite. The Sooners also recently made the top five that ESPN 300 WR Ryan Newsome released, along with Texas, Oregon, UCLA and Notre Dame.


Total commits: 8

ESPN 300 commits: 3

The latest: The Cowboys already have one ESPN 300 cornerback commitment in Jaylon Lane, and now have a strong chance to grab another. Xavier Lewis announced last week that Oklahoma State made his cut of final four schools along with LSU, Arkansas and Texas. Lewis, out of Laplace, Lousiana, is the No. 14 rated cornerback in the country, seven spots behind Lane. If the Cowboys managed to scoop up Lewis, too, they would have an incoming cornerback tandem that would be the envy of the Big 12, and perhaps the country.


Total commits: 16

ESPN 300 commits: 0

The latest: Even though they didn’t add anyone last week, the Horned Frogs still easily have the biggest commitment total of the Big 12. They’ll have to fight to hold onto to guard Cody Ford, who is showing interest in the Sooners after recently getting an offer. At 6-foot-4, 314 pounds, Ford has the potential to be a road grader in the run game down the line.


Total commits: 10

ESPN 300 commits: 5

The latest: Texas is hosting a key night camp July 18 that will include visits from several of its top targets as well as top-rated pledge, QB Zach Gentry. Texas is also planning to host four-star QB Kai Locksley in mid-July after making his top six, along with with Florida State, Auburn, Maryland, Oregon and Virginia Tech. Locksley is the son of Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley.


Total commits: 7

ESPN 300 commits: 2

The latest: Texas Tech is still looking for its running back from this class, and last week extended an offer to three-star New Orleans product Kendall Bussey, who is currently committed to Nebraska. The Red Raiders also got a visit recently from Waco, Texas, four-star safety Kahlil Haughton, who has offers from Baylor, Ohio State, LSU and Oklahoma, among many others.


Total commits: 13

ESPN 300 commits: 2

The latest: The Mountaineers already have three pledges in this class from their Miramar, Florida, pipeline, and could be close to adding another. Mammoth offensive lineman Leeward Brown, who is currently committed to Miami, visited West Virginia last weekend along with Miramar teammates Kahlil Lewis and Kendrell McFadden, and reportedly came away impressed. If the Mountaineers wind up offering the 6-4, 340-pound Brown, they stand a chance of flipping him.

Big 12's lunch links

June, 19, 2014
Jun 19
Tweet of the day.

Stat crunch: Returning lettermen

June, 13, 2014
Jun 13
As part of his in-depth look at returning experience, college football guru and ESPN Insider Phil Steele calculated the percentage of lettermen returning for every team in the country.

You can view the entire list here.

As for the Big 12 teams, they rank like this:

11. West Virginia (78.33 percent)

29. OU (73.85 percent)

30. Texas (73.77 percent)

39. TCU (72.31 percent)

53. Texas Tech (70.42 percent)

61. Baylor (69.86 percent)

116. Iowa State (60.61 percent)

119. Kansas State (60.0 percent)

126. Kansas (56.14 percent)

128. Oklahoma State (54.29 percent)

Couple thoughts:
  • Calculating the percentage of lettermen returning only tells the small part of the story when examining experience. And in many cases, what story it tells can reveal very little. A reserve that only plays in mop-up time might letter, but whether he returns might make no difference on the outlook of a team.
  • That said, this chart bodes well for West Virginia, which has had issues with its depth since joining the Big 12. Dana Holgorsen has said this will be his deepest and most complete team yet, and this chart certainly supports that notion.
  • Conversely, this is yet another chart that suggests Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy and his staff have their work cut out this fall. The Cowboys have the fewest returning starters, least percentage of tackles coming back, and now the fewest returning letterman. If the Cowboys are competitive this season, they could be an absolute load in 2015 with the number of players they’ll have coming back.

Ask any coach before a game about the key to winning, and one of the canned answers almost always will be, “turnovers.”

Of course, just because the answer is canned doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

Turnovers are one of the biggest differences between winning a game and losing it.

Delving further into the data, I analyzed fumbles lost and gained, interceptions lost and gained and turnover margin over the last three seasons to determine which Big 12 teams have best used turnovers to their advantage. And, conversely, which teams have used it to their disadvantage.

View the results of my research on the right:

What the data revealed:
  • Wonder why Oklahoma State is one of college football’s winningest teams over the last five years? The Cowboys force turnovers in bundles. And offensively they hold onto the ball. Sure, the 2011 season, when Oklahoma State led the country in turnover margin, might be a bit of an outlier. But the Cowboys led the conference in turnover margin again last season, and they also forced the most in the league in 2010, which was not included in the data. This is no coincidence. Mike Gundy’s team emphasizes the turnover battle in practice. Last offseason, all-conference linebackers Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey actually practiced catching the ball, which is a major reason why they combined for seven picks last season. Oklahoma State’s ball carriers have also been phenomenal holding on to the ball, which is why they’ve only lost 21 fumbles -- and also improved their ball security each of the last three years. The Cowboys might not have many starters coming back this season. But if their turnover margin rate holds steady, they will be tough to beat yet again.
  • Like Oklahoma State, Kansas State has made a living off its turnover rate. The Wildcats struggled early last season, in large part because they deviated from the Bill Snyder playbook to winning, and turned the ball over 25 times during a 2-4 start. But while reeling off wins in six of seven final games, K-State actually led the Big 12 with a plus-9 turnover margin over that stretch. Decisively winning the turnover margin again will be the recipe to K-State becoming a legitimate Big 12 title contender this season.
  • On the flip side, one of the major hindrances that has kept Texas Tech from getting over the hump has been its disastrous turnover margin. The Red Raiders have been dreadful at forcing turnovers, which, as Oklahoma State's defense has proven, is one of the best ways to stopping the up-tempo attacks of the Big 12. Texas Tech hasn’t been much better at holding onto the ball, either. During their five-game losing streak to cap the regular season, the Red Raiders were a minus-8, and the only time they actually won the turnover battle in an individual game last season came in a 54-16 win at Kansas. In fact, Texas Tech’s turnover margin in the dreaded month of November the last three years is minus-18. With Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma all on the November slate, the only chance the Red Raiders have of reversing that trend of late-season collapses is by cleaning up the turnovers. Having a semi-experienced quarterback in Davis Webb should help. But Texas Tech will not sniff a double-digit winning season -- like it did in 2008 when the team was plus-8 -- until it improves in the turnover margin department.
  • Baylor absolutely crushed its opponents off turnovers last season, ranking fourth nationally with 135 points off turnovers. Only Florida State, Arizona State and Houston had more. The TCU game was a great example of how Baylor capitalized off turnovers. Despite struggling offensively, the Bears scored three touchdowns off three turnovers (including two pick-sixes and a fumble recovery at the TCU 1-yard line) to win the game, 41-38. Baylor will be replacing several key players off its secondary, but with a swarming defensive line led by end Shawn Oakman, the Bears could set their explosive offense up with numerous short fields again in 2014.
  • Oklahoma has had rather pedestrian turnover numbers defensively the last three years. But it's difficult to see that not jumping up in 2014, especially if the Allstate Sugar Bowl against Alabama when the Sooners forced five turnovers is any indication. Oklahoma has several defenders coming back capable of getting to the quarterback, headlined by menacing outside linebacker Eric Striker.
  • The overall numbers for TCU and West Virginia included a season (2011) in the Mountain West and Big East conferences, respectively. The turnovers forced, however, have actually gone up for both teams since joining the Big 12. But so have the turnovers lost. Only Texas Tech gave up more turnovers than the Horned Frogs and Mountaineers last season. Inconsistent quarterbacking has been a big part of that increase. To bounce back from bowl-less seasons, both teams need their QBs -- whoever they turn out to be -- to take better care of the ball.
Last week, colleague Max Olson crunched the numbers on the total career starts each Big 12 team has coming back for next season.

What Max unearthed was that Texas (by far) leads the Big 12 in career starts returning, both offensively and defensively. TCU’s defense ranked second behind the Longhorns’ defense, while the Iowa State offense placed second. The Horned Frogs could have their most dominant defense yet in the Big 12, and the Cyclones could feature their best offensive attack in years, suggesting both teams could also be in for bounce-back 2014 campaigns.

Yet while revealing, compiling returning starts doesn’t tell the entire story when examining team experience, since the equation doesn’t account for those who played key roles as reserves. TCU safety Derrick Kindred, Texas Tech linebacker Micah Awe and Baylor end Shawn Oakman weren’t starters last year. But they were still valuable players on their respective teams.

To examine returning experience in another way, I’ve tallied up the percentage of tackles returning for every team in the Big 12:

With nine starters back, it’s not surprising the Sooners top this chart. But the number of returning starters isn’t the only reason why Oklahoma is optimistic about its 2014 defense. The Sooners also bring back several key defensive performers that weren’t full-time starters last season. End Geneo Grissom, who notched three sacks against Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, only started five games in 2013. Linebacker Jordan Evans thrived whenever his number got called as a freshman. And tackle Jordan Phillips only started four games but was playing at an All-Big 12-caliber level before suffering a season-ending back injury in early October.

On the flip side, Oklahoma State is at the cellar of this list, and not just because it graduated seven starters. The Cowboys also lost several defensive reserves that played a bunch, including linebacker Joe Mitchell, cornerback Tyler Patmon and safety Zack Craig.

Of course, like with returning starts, a high level of returning tackles doesn’t guarantee success. And it doesn’t necessarily preclude it, either.

Oklahoma ranked 119th nationally in returning tackles (40 percent) last season. But by the end of the season, the Sooners were wreaking havoc in the backfield of the two-time defending national champs.

The tackle equation can be an indicator of the defenses that might be formidable. Oklahoma State and Baylor both had 73 percent of their tackles returning from 2012 going into last season. Both wound up being formidable, ranking first and second in the league in both fewest yards per play and points per drive.

That bodes well for the defensive prospects of Oklahoma, Kansas, TCU, Texas and West Virginia, which all have like tackle rates coming back for 2014.
On Wednesday, we ranked the Big 12 position-by-position from strongest to weakest.

Last season the strongest position of the league was defensive back, headlined by Justin Gilbert, Jason Verrett, Ahmad Dixon, Aaron Colvin and Ty Zimmerman, among others.

But those players are all gone. So what will be the strongest position in 2014?

With such players such as TCU’s Devonte Fields, Oklahoma’s Charles Tapper and Texas’ Cedric Reed returning, we believe it will be defensive line.


What will be the Big 12's strongest overall position in 2014?


Discuss (Total votes: 3,613)

But do you agree?

Maybe you think it will be another position such as receiver, which includes All-American hopefuls Antwan Goodley and Tyler Lockett, and a host of potential 1,000-yard threats such as Texas Tech’s Jakeem Grant, Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard, Iowa State’s Quenton Bundrage, Oklahoma State’s Jhajuan Seales and Texas’ Jaxon Shipley.

Perhaps it’s your opinion that the strength of the Big 12 will be at linebacker, where Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, Kansas and TCU bring their entire units back, and virtually everyone else has at least one proven performer returning.

Maybe the conference’s best unit is the offensive line, with experienced centers BJ Finney (Kansas State), Dominic Espinosa (Texas) and Tom Farniok (Iowa State); talented tackles Spencer Drango (Baylor), Le'Raven Clark (Texas Tech) and Daryl Williams (Oklahoma); and versatile stalwarts Cody Whitehair (Kansas State), Quinton Spain (West Virginia) and Daniel Koenig (Oklahoma State).

Or with Baylor’s Bryce Petty, Kansas State’s Jake Waters, Texas Tech’s Davis Webb and Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight, do you believe quarterback is on its way back to becoming the dominant position in a league that not long ago was the nation’s preeminent conference for that position?

Tell us by voting in the weekly Big 12 poll.
In this week's mailbag we discuss our imaginary Big 12 draft, Texas' disastrous 2014 draft class and who has impressed most on the recruiting trail.

To submit a mailbag entry via Twitter, simply include the hashtag #big12mailbag. To do it the traditional way, go here.

Stephen in Houston writes: Which teams have impressed you so far in the 2015 recruiting class?

Trotter: Oklahoma State and Baylor have really impressed so far. The Cowboys already have three top-100 players on board, more than anyone else in the league. The Bears, meanwhile, have six ESPN 300 commitments, which ties Texas for the conference lead. Despite its struggles on the field, West Virginia, with 11 commitments, is off to a great start on its 2015 class. So is Texas Tech, with a pair of top-100 pledges, including Jarrett Stidham, the nation’s second-ranked dual-threat QB, who had offers from everyone.



Daniel C. in Bel Air, Md., writes: With all this draft analysis and way-too-early 2015 draft stuff, I'd like to offer this: Bryce Petty is a good college quarterback. He's accurate, but consistently has open receivers to throw to and he tends to stare them down. I don't see him in the NFL unless he can also improve his footwork and drive off of his back leg. Jake Waters actually faces some of the same issues with his plant foot, but his throwing motion is prettier. I find it strange to see this league, dominated by great quarterbacks and supposedly NFL prospects at the position for so long, without an elite signal-caller. Who has the best chance to rise from the rubble?

Trotter: Well, many people, me included, would disagree with you about Petty. His arm, mobility, size and intelligence make him a very good pro quarterback prospect. If he had a problem starting down receivers last year, he would have thrown more than three interceptions in 403 pass attempts. Will he go in the first round? That will depend on what he does this season. Sure, Petty has plenty to improve on, including his pocket awareness, which has been an emphasis for him this offseason. But he’s a potential first rounder.



Patrick in Abilene, Kan., writes: Twenty-two rounds by three people and no Jake Waters?

Trotter: Only three quarterbacks could get drafted, and Brandon went with Trevor Knight over Waters late. It was an interesting call. Waters was the safer pick, but Knight’s upside is tantalizing. Who would you guys have taken? Given the way Brandon constructed his offense with four receivers and a receiving running back in Wendell Smallwood, I probably would have gone with Waters.



Andy in Austin, Texas, writes: How does this draft shutout for the Longhorns affect Mack Brown’s legacy? And how does a player like Jackson Jeffcoat fall so far out of favor with scouts given the latter half of his season and the hardware he picked up along the way?

Trotter: I think Jeffcoat’s injury history ultimately turned scouts off. If he can stay healthy in Seattle, though, he can be a productive player there. As for Brown, the draft shutout basically validated that Texas was justified in making the coaching change. It’s completely unacceptable for a program like Texas to be so depleted of talent that not a single player gets drafted. The 2014 draft cemented what we already knew: The Longhorns slipped in the waning years of Brown’s Texas career.



Michael in Austin, Texas, writes: Charlie Strong had three players go in the first round of the draft. What kind of impact could this have on the Longhorns recruiting going forward?

Trotter: That’s why the draft shutout will have little effect on the Longhorns going forward, in my opinion. But can you imagine the negative recruiting that would have stigmatized Texas had Brown returned?


Trotter: As you suggest, the Big 12 collectively will be facing some non-conference heavyweights this year. West Virginia-Alabama. Oklahoma State-Florida State. Texas-UCLA. The league’s best chance of springing an upset, though, will be Sept. 18, when Auburn will travel to Manhattan, Kan. Yes, the Tigers are the defending SEC champs and played for the national championship. But Bill Snyder Family Stadium on a Thursday night won’t be an easy place to play. Plus, K-State will enter this season with a ton of momentum after winning six of seven to finish out last year. This is the best opportunity for the Big 12 to land a marquee nonconference win.


Trotter: Their chances would improve dramatically. But playoff inclusion is going to also hinge on how the Bears perform in their other games. Their non-conference schedule is lousy, so the margin for error is slim. But if the Bears go to Norman and win, they at least will be well on their way to defending their Big 12 title.


Trotter: Right now, you’d have to say linebacker, since he’s sitting atop the depth chart there coming out of the spring. Williams could still help Tech at running back, but he’s going to be favoring one position over the other. Every indication of Lubbock is that position will be linebacker.
Though the 2014 NFL draft ended just last weekend, ESPN Insider Todd McShay posted his way-too-early 2015 mock draft Insider on Wednesday.

McShay had three Big 12 players going in his mock first round: Baylor QB Bryce Petty 15th overall to the Houston Texans, TCU DE Devonte Fields 25th overall to the San Francisco 49ers and Oklahoma LB Eric Striker 29th overall to the Green Bay Packers.

Though we have almost a full year to go, here are some of other top Big 12 prospects for the 2015 draft (in alphabetical order):

  • TE E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State: Three pass-catching tight ends went in the first two rounds last weekend, and that’s exactly what Bibbs is. He caught 39 passes last season and can far exceed that if QB Grant Rohach settles into new coordinator Mark Mangino’s offense.
  • [+] EnlargeMalcom Brown
    John Albright/Icon SMIMalcom Brown might be the best DT in the Big 12 this season and could make NFL scouts take notice.
  • DT Malcom Brown, Texas: Like his D-line teammate Cedric Reed, Brown has first-round talent. He was rated the second-best DT coming out of high school and began to realize that potential last season.
  • SS Sam Carter, TCU: Carter has manned strong safety at a high level in Fort Worth for the past two seasons and was the only underclassman defensive back to earn first- or second-team All-Big 12 honors in 2013. With teammate Jason Verrett gone, he won’t be as overshadowed next season.
  • OT Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech: After starting his first two seasons in college at left tackle, Clark could get moved to guard this season. Clark has the strength to be a devastating run-blocking guard, and the NFL loves players who can play multiple positions.
  • CB Quandre Diggs, Texas: Diggs has been a starter in Austin since his true freshman season. He is fast, and he’s a solid tackler against the run. Diggs has an NFL pedigree, too. His brother, Quentin Jammer, was a first-round pick in 2002 after starring for the Horns.
  • OT Spencer Drango, Baylor: Drango will get plenty of attention protecting Petty’s blindside. The back injury from last season is a concern, but it also underscored how dominant Drango actually was. Baylor’s pass protection was leaky without him the rest of the year. Like Clark, Drango will just be a junior next season.
  • C BJ Finney, Kansas State: The Big 12 has some other draft hopefuls at center in Iowa State’s Tom Farniok and Texas’ Dominic Espinosa, but Finney seems like the best bet of the three to get drafted. The former walk-on and high school state wrestling champ will be a four-year starter, and has 39 career starts, which is tied for the Big 12 active lead.
  • WR Antwan Goodley, Baylor: He might not be tall at only 5-foot-10, but Goodley is physical and fast. With another ultra-productive season like last fall, he could be one of the top receivers on next year’s board.
  • WR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State: Lockett’s versatility both as an inside or outside receiver and in the return game only makes him a more attractive prospect. With Jake Waters now installed as the full-time QB, Lockett could have a monster statistical senior season.
  • DE Shawn Oakman, Baylor: At 6-9, 275 pounds, Oakman has intriguing size for an NFL defensive line. If he dominates in the fall the way Art Briles said he did in the spring, Oakman could quickly turn into a hot prospect even though he’ll only be a junior.
  • DE Cedric Reed, Texas: According to, Reed was one of two players nationally in 2013 to record five sacks, five forced fumbles and four pass breakups. The other? Buffalo’s Khalil Mack, who was the fifth overall pick in last week’s draft. By coming back to school for another year, Reed could potentially become a first rounder, too.
  • DE Charles Tapper, Oklahoma: Tapper almost has the size of a defensive tackle and the athleticism of a linebacker. He didn’t have an overly huge statistical sophomore season but was the only underclassman defensive lineman voted All-Big 12 by the coaches. Tapper too will only be a junior.
  • OT Daryl Williams, Oklahoma: Even though Tyrus Thompson has manned the left side in Norman, Williams has the better pro outlook. Williams will be a three-year starter and has the athleticism to transition to the left side at the next level.
Others to watch: RB Malcolm Brown, Texas; DT James Castleman, Oklahoma State; C Dominic Espinosa, Texas; C Tom Farniok, Iowa State; ILB Bryce Hager, Baylor; FS Chris Hackett, TCU; LB Ben Heeney, Kansas; DT Chucky Hunter, TCU; FS Karl Joseph, West Virginia; DE Ryan Mueller, Kansas State; DT Jordan Phillips, Oklahoma; DT Davion Pierson, TCU; OG Quinton Spain, West Virginia; OT Tyrus Thompson, Oklahoma; CB Kevin White, TCU; OG Cody Whitehair, Kansas State
Following up on NFL draft weekend, we’ve been conducting our own draft, picking from current Big 12 players to fill out three 22-man lineups.

Below is a recap of the first 15 rounds of the draft from the past two days, followed by rounds 16-22.

As another reminder, this is NOT a Top 25 player ranking. It’s only an exercise in determining where the value of the league lies, and the different strategies to putting a team together from the league’s present talent pool.

Jake Trotter:
Brandon Chatmon:
Max Olson:
Round 16

  • Olson: WR/RB Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State
  • Chatmon: OLB Pete Robertson, Texas Tech
  • Trotter: OLB Brandon Golson, West Virginia
  • Analysis: "To combat the offensive attacks I would face in the Big 12, I'm going with a 3-4 on defense. Golson, who led the Big 12 in forced fumbles last season, is another playmaking outside linebacker who would fit in nicely in this scheme opposite Striker." -- Trotter
[+] EnlargeJohnathan Gray, Tanner Jacobson
AP Photo/Eric GayGetting potential Big 12 rushing leader Johnathan Gray in the 17th round could be a big steal for Max Olson.
Round 17

  • Trotter: LB Paul Dawson, TCU
  • Chatmon: C Dominic Espinosa, Texas
  • Olson: RB Johnathan Gray, Texas
  • Analysis: “I ended up getting a potential All-Big 12 running back in the 17th round. So I feel pretty good about that. Gray should be healthy for the opener, and he leads all returning Big 12 rushers with 86 rushing yards per game last season." -- Olson
Round 18

  • Olson: OT Troy Baker, Baylor
  • Chatmon: SS Quentin Hayes, Oklahoma
  • Trotter: OG Mark Glowinski, West Virginia
  • Analysis: "I wanted a safety who is comfortable in holding his own in coverage, while also having the ability to make plays all over the field. Hayes is the guy. With Worley, Shepherd, White, Barnett and Hayes in the secondary, I can unleash the rest of my defense on the quarterback and feel comfortable about my secondary holding its own against anyone." -- Chatmon
Round 19

  • Trotter: OG Nila Kasitati, Oklahoma
  • Chatmon: WR Tony Pierson, Kansas
  • Olson: SS Terrell Burt, Baylor
  • Analysis: "With Max and Brandon hoarding centers, I needed to attack the interior of my offensive line. Kasitati can excel manning either guard or center, and Glowinski is one of the league’s top returning guards." -- Trotter
Round 20

  • Olson: OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, TCU
  • Chatmon: WR Jhajuan Seales, Oklahoma State
  • Trotter: WR Quenton Bundrage, Iowa State
  • Analysis: "The guys I wanted for my second guard spot weren't available at this round, so I'm going with the mammoth "Big V" Vaitai (6-foot-6, 308 pounds) and moving one of my other tackle selections inside. I ended up with a fairly good offensive line, which was pretty much my plan going in." -- Olson
Round 21

  • Trotter: CB Nigel Tribune, Iowa State
  • Chatmon: WR Wendell Smallwood, West Virginia
  • Olson: LB Nick Kwiatkoski, West Virginia
  • Analysis: “I picked up Bundrage in the previous round to seal up what I feel is the best all-around receiving corps, even if I didn’t get Goodley or Lockett. Tribune, the only true freshman to play for Iowa State in the past two seasons, is a corner with a ton of upside and, paired with Kevin Peterson, should provide me plenty of tenaciousness against the pass.” -- Trotter
Round 22

  • Olson: WR Jaxon Shipley, Texas
  • Chatmon: QB Trevor Knight, Oklahoma
  • Trotter: C Jared Kaster, Texas Tech
  • Analysis: “I just got the steal of the draft, and I knew I would wait until the final round to do so. As soon as Jake snapped up Petty, I knew I would be content with Davis Webb or Trevor Knight and wouldn’t draft a quarterback until the final round. The fact that Max opted for Webb made things even better for me as Knight has the versatility to run a run-heavy offense or spread things out and use his arm. He fits perfectly with the versatility I was striving for with each pick.” -- Chatmon
Texas Tech offensive line coach Lee Hayes explains his long and winding road to college coaching. It started back when he was a 29-year-old walk-on player, writes Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

Reginald Davis and Dominique Wheeler have been the stars of the Red Raider passing game this spring, reports the Avalanche-Journal's Nick Kosmider.

Oklahoma State is trying to turn around the attitude, image and results of its defense, writes The Oklahoman's Gina Mizell.

Oklahoma quarterback candidate Trevor Knight grew up surrounded by burnt orange but now bleeds crimson, writes Jason Kersey of The Oklahoman.

Three unexpected players saw their stock rise with solid spring performances, according to ESPN's HornsNation.

SoonerNation's Brandon Chatmon reports that early enrollees Ahmad Thomas and Dannon Cavil have started to make a name for themselves.

Iowa State football coaches made 962 impermissible recruiting calls over a three-year period, according to a report released to the Iowa State Daily.

West Virginia not only needs to find a quarterback, it has to build depth at receiver as well, writes Amir Batra of The Daily Athenaeum.
Big 12 blog regular David Ubben might still basking away in some sunshine somewhere on vacation, but the beat must still go on. With that in mind here are today's daily lunch links:

Oklahoma’s new hire might be fitting in fine with the Sooners but his departure from Wisconsin at least one in the dairy land pretty upset, writes Adam Rittenberg.

From the stop if you have heard this line before department: Kansas believes it is ready to climb out of the rather deep and large hole that it finds itself in, writes Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star

Kellis Robinett of the Kansas City Star takes a look at how a three seniors at Kansas State weathered a coaching change -- two other players from their recruiting class had already transferred -- and are now reaping the rewards.

Mack Brown worked the crowd following spring practice Saturday, trading barbs and offering up center stage to Cedric Golden of the Austin American-Statesman.

Just a few years removed from his playing days, former West Virginia player Wesley Lyons decided he had enough perspective to pen an autobiography, writes Megan Calderado of The Daily Athenaeum.

Damon Sayles of ESPN takes a look at highly touted recruit Treyvon Hughes and how Texas is recruiting him as a linebacker not a running back.

Pregame: Tostitos Fiesta Bowl

January, 3, 2013
Oregon (11-1, 8-1 Pac-12) vs. Kansas State (11-1, 8-1 Big 12)

Who to watch: The Fiesta Bowl features two of the nation's best quarterbacks, Kansas State's Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein and Oregon's Marcus Mariota, who was first-team All-Pac-12 as a redshirt freshman. They are the QBs for high-powered, though very different, offenses. Klein carries far more of the load for the Wildcats than Mariota does for the Ducks, but if one of them turns in an uncharacteristically mediocre or sloppy game, it probably will cost his team the win. And that's not too far out of the realm of possibility. While both teams protect the ball well, both also rank among the nation's leaders in forcing turnovers. It will be interesting to see what happens if things are still in doubt in the fourth quarter, as most expect. Mariota played only one close game this season, and the Ducks lost that one to Stanford.

What to watch: Tackling. Klein is the Wildcats' best runner, and he thrives at getting yards after contact, especially when he smells the end zone. He has 40 rushing touchdowns over the past two seasons and is one of four Football Bowl Subdivision players with more than 200 rushing yards in the red zone this season. He gained 35.7 percent of his red zone yards after contact. Running back John Hubert isn't big but runs hard, so the Ducks need to make their first hit count. Oregon is all about speed. If Mariota, Kenjon Barner, Josh Huff or De'Anthony Thomas make the first defender miss, the odds are good they'll go yard, or at least gain a big chunk of yards. Tackling will be interesting to watch early and late. Early because both teams are dealing with a long layoff (just over a month), and late because that's when fatigue -- and pressure -- sets in.

Why watch: This is the only bowl game that matches top-five teams other than the national title game between Alabama and Notre Dame. It features well-coached teams with plenty of star power and sets up to be highly competitive. It's a nice Pac-12 versus Big 12 showdown, a conference pairing the Big 12 has dominated this bowl season. And it could be Chip Kelly's final game as the Ducks coach before he takes an NFL job.

Predictions: Ted Miller says Oregon 33, Kansas State 24. Kevin Gemmell says Oregon 49, Kansas State 38. David Ubben says Oregon 38, Kansas State 31. For full predictions from the Pac-12's Miller and Gemmell, click here. For Ubben's full prediction on the Big 12 blog, click here.

Instant analysis: Baylor 49, UCLA 26

December, 28, 2012

It was billed as a potentially high-scoring, exciting Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl. Baylor got the memo. UCLA didn't. The Bears dominated, making an early statement for the Big 12 in the battle with the Pac-12 for the title of "second best conference."

UCLA was gifted a TD at the end they didn't actually score. The final score should have been 49-19.

It was over when: It was 35-10 at halftime, so there wasn't much tension at any point. Baylor dominated in every way from gun-to-gun, on both sides of the ball. That the Bears' offense was explosive wasn't a surprise. That the Bears' defense crushed UCLA, well, that was.

Turning point: UCLA wanted to blitz and pressure Baylor's offense. It seemed like a good idea. But in the second quarter, on third-and-9 from the Baylor 45, the Bruins blitzed Bears QB Nick Florence, and he connected on a 55-yard TD pass to Tevin Reese. It was a beautiful pass and catch. It made the score 21-zip, and it firmly established the direction of this game.

Baylor game ball goes to: Coordinator Phil Bennett and the Baylor defense. There was this guy who kept calling Baylor's defense "horrible" and "terrible" and "awful." He doesn't feel very smart at this moment. Of course, that was the take on Baylor's defense just about all season from everyone. Still, just as Baylor transformed after a 3-4 start, the defense posted its best game in its final outing of 2012.

UCLA game ball goes to: Let's hear it for the special teams! Bruins kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn was 2-for-2 on field goals, and punter Jeff Locke was his usual outstanding self. Shaquelle Evans had a 43-yard punt return, and Steven Manfro had a 51-yard kick return.

Unsung hero: Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk, who announced his Heisman Trophy candidacy before the game, had a nice performance with 16 carries for 138 yards. But backup running back Glasco Martin had 98 yards and three TDs.

Stat of the game: UCLA was 1-of-17 on third down. That's just horrible. The Bruins were also 3-of-8 on fourth down. Credit to Baylor. Discredit to UCLA.

Stat of the game II: Baylor outrushed UCLA 306 yards to 33. One word: dominant.

What it means: This was the first of three bowl games putting Big 12 and Pac-12 teams. Those conferences are competing for the mythical title of Second Best Conference. This was a decisive win for the Big 12, as a team that went 7-5 overall and 4-5 in Big 12 play whipped a Pac-12 team that went 9-4 overall and 6-3 in conference play. While it's probably silly to read too much into one bowl game, which can be fluid and surprising, the pressure certainly is now on Oregon State in the Valero Alamo Bowl against Texas and Oregon in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl against Kansas State.

Late game, great game. Arizona upset No. 18 Oklahoma State, 59-38, in Tucson, Ariz., on Saturday night. Here's how it happened:

It was over when: Arizona cornerback Jonathan McKnight picked off a pass from OSU quarterback Wes Lunt and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown. The Wildcats blitzed the true freshman and it paid off as Lunt threw off his back foot across the field, making it easy for McKnight to intercept the pass and cruise untouched into the endzone. OSU never recovered.

Game ball goes to: Matt Scott. The Wildcats senior quarterback was poised and efficient. He completed 28 of 41 pass attempts for 320 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. He added 55 rushing yards and another score on the ground.

Stat of the Game: 15 OSU penalties for 167 yards. Those numbers defined the game for the Cowboys who made mental mistakes and dropped passes throughout the game. It's possible some Cowboy players will have to walk back to Stillwater.

Unsung hero: With 14 tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovered, Jake Fischer put his stamp on the game. The Wildcats junior linebacker was all over the field and relentless in his pursuit of OSU running backs and receivers.

Unsung hero, Part II: Once Scott softened up the Cowboys' defense through the air, running back Ka'Deem Carey exploited them on the ground. The sophomore finished with 26 carries for 125 yards and three touchdowns for the Wildcats. He added four catches for 28 yards and another score to account for four touchdowns on the night.

What it means: The Big 12 Conference's BCS profile takes a hit. A ranked Big 12 squad suffered a double-digit loss to an unranked Pac-12 foe, simple as that. For Arizona, it gives Rich Rodriguez a signature win early in his tenure. For OSU, it will be a long plane ride home as the Cowboys know they got in their own way on Saturday night.