Big 12: Brandon Collins

Career games delineate Big 12's best offensive players

July, 24, 2009
7/24/09
10:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

I was brought up in an era of distinctive achievements like 100-yard rushing and receiving games and 300-yard passing performances.

That's why I still look at these kind of efforts as a personal benchmark when I measure the effectiveness of rushers, passers and receivers.

And it sent me scrambling to the NCAA website for some information about Big 12 players.

I was curious about the number of 100-yard rushing and receiving games and 300-yard passing games that returning Big 12 players have compiled over the course of their careers.

Here's a list of the active leaders heading into the upcoming season.


100-yard rushing games                    No. High game    Opponent             Year

Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State          11       210         Houston              2008

Chris Brown, Oklahoma                        7        169         @Baylor              2006

DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma                 7         128          vs. Texas            2007

Jake Sharp, Kansas                            6          181         Kansas State       2008

Robert Griffin, Baylor                          4           217         Wash. State        2008

Jay Finley, Baylor                               3           119         Wash. State        2008

Rodney Stewart, Colorado                   3           166          West Virginia      2008

Alexander Robinson, Iowa State          3            149         @Missouri           2007

Derrick Washington, Missouri               3            139        @Nebraska         2008

Roy Helu Jr., Nebraska                       3             166         Colorado           2008

Keith Toston, Oklahoma State             3             148         Mo. State          2008

Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State             3            144        @Baylor             2007

Quentin Castille, Nebraska                   2             125         Clemson*         2008

Colt McCoy, Texas                              2              106        @Okla. State      2007

Lamark Brown, Kansas State                 1             137        La.-Lafayette      2008

Logan Dold, Kansas State                     1             115        @Texas A&M       2008

Mossis Madu, Oklahoma                       1            114         Missouri **         2008

Cody Johnson, Texas                            1            102          Texas A&M        2008

Note: * - 2009 Gator Bowl
** - 2008 Big 12 championship game

300-yard passing games                         No.     High game    Opponent         Year

Todd Reesing, Kansas                             13             412         La. Tech         2008

Sam Bradford, Oklahoma                         13             468          Kansas          2008

Colt McCoy, Texas      &nb
sp;                            10            414         Ohio State***   2008

Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State                    5            430          Texas            2007

Austen Arnaud, Iowa State                          3             440          Kansas State  2008

Cody Hawkins, Colorado                              2            322         Alabama ****   2007

Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M                         2            419        Kansas State     2008

Note

*** - 2009 Fiesta Bowl

**** - 2007 Independence Bowl


100-yard receiving games                                 No.   High game    Opponent       Year

Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State                                8          236         Houston        2008

Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas                                      7          269       @Oklahoma    2008

Kerry Meier, Kansas                                             5          136    Sam Houston St. 2008

Brandon Banks, Kansas State                               4          153        @Louisville     2008

Jordan Shipley, Texas                                          3          168        Okla. State     2008

Edward Britton, Texas Tech                                   3           139        Texas            2008

Kendall Wright, Baylor                                          2           132        Iowa State      2008

Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M                                   2           210        Kansas State  2008

Scotty McKnight, Colorado                                     1           106      Colo. State       2007

Darius Darks, Iowa State                                       1           113       @Okla. State   2008

Jake Sharp, Kansas                                              1           107       @Iowa State    2008

Johnathan Wilson, Kansas                                     1           179      @South Florida 2008

Daymond Patterson, Kansas                                   1           130    Louisiana Tech   2008

Jeron Mastrud, Kansas State                                   1           103      @Kansas         2006

Aubrey Quarles, Kansas State                                 1           102        @Texas A&M   2008

Danario Alexander, Missouri                   &nb
sp;                1           117       vs. Kansas     2007

Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma                                 1           158      @Okla. State   2008

Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma                                          1           141      Cincinnati        2008

Brandon Collins, Texas                                             1           103      Texas A&M     2008

Malcolm Williams, Texas                                           1           182  @Texas Tech   2008

Jamie McCoy, Texas A&M                                           1          110  @Iowa State     2008

Detron Lewis, Texas Tech                                           1          163  East. Wash.     2008  

Tramain Swindall, Texas Tech                                     1           101  @Texas A&M    2008

Source: ESPN.com research

Longhorns' defense steps up to harass even Colt McCoy

April, 5, 2009
4/05/09
7:43
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

AUSTIN, Texas -- Will Muschamp came into the Orange-White scrimmage wanting a shutout.

The Texas defensive coordinator didn't get that in the Longhorns' spring scrimmage, but he might have gotten the next best thing in an early turnover-producing binge.

After notching only six interceptions in 13 games last season, the Longhorns produced two picks in the first five possessions in Sunday's scrimmage.

"I'm real pleased with making big plays," Muschamp said. "We've got to make more big plays. We've got to make more turnovers and cash in on them when we get the chance. It was big to get a chance to get them when we had the opportunity."

The Orange claimed a 21-7 victory over the White in a game where the two offenses were limited to 188 total yards on 64 snaps.

Included was a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown by safety Earl Thomas, who picked off Colt McCoy on a pass intended for Brandon Collins to account for the lone White squad touchdown.

Safety Nolan Brewster produced the other interception on a 34-yard return on a ball thrown by backup Sherrod Harris.

"I think we won the scrimmage today," cornerback Chykie Brown said. "Look at the turnovers. That says something."

McCoy struggled through an 11-for-24 outing, passing for 95 yards.

Putting those numbers into perspective, McCoy has completed less than half of his passes in only one game in his career -- a 12-for-28 outing against Nebraska as a sophomore in 2007. He set an NCAA record last season by completing 76.7 percent of his passes, breaking Daunte Culpepper's mark of 73.6 percent in 1998.

"You can't say much about today," McCoy said. "The offense and defense both knew what was coming and what we were doing. It makes it a challenge. But working through the wind, the younger receivers, the secondary, I feel great.

"We threw some balls today and had some incompletions. I threw some away today. I'm not worried about that at all."

Texas coach Mack Brown was pleased with the work of watching his first-string offense work against the first-string defense.

"I think to have both sides press some today was good for this football team," Brown said. "We need to know we've got some work to do. The guys really competed with each other. But we also have to know that we can't just roll out the helmets and expect to be really good. We're not going out to understand we're having a cakewalk spring and make things look good for the offseason."

Chiles' move to wide receiver on display at UT scrimmage

April, 2, 2009
4/02/09
10:31
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

John Chiles wasn't satisfied sitting on the bench at quarterback behind Colt McCoy.

The result was his move to wide receiver earlier this spring in a bold transition that could provide another gamebreaking talent to the Longhorns' already explosive offense.

Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis said that Chiles made his decision based on pragmatism before the start of spring.

"I think John made a great decision in that when we talked before spring training, he brought up to me that Colt was coming back and he would only have one more year left," Davis said. "And he said, 'I really think my best position would be wide receiver.' "

After losing eight pounds, Chiles is more physically ready for the demands at his new position.

And during the last several practices, Chiles has emerged as a solid playmaker at his new position.

"He's really, in the last part of spring, come on and been the productive guy," Davis said. "He'll play a position at which we throw a lot of balls really quickly to him and take advantage of his ability to break tackles. John has shown that ability to catch the ball and do something with it after the catch."

Texas' receiving corps was presumed before the spring to be one of the most stacked positions on the roster with returnees like Dan Buckner, Brandon Collins, Malcolm Williams, James Kirkendoll and Montre Webber back from last season. Additionally, All-American candidate Jordan Shipley is recovering from shoulder surgery and will be ready by fall practice.

But Chiles' abilities to run after making the catch might have in a good position to replace Quan Cosby as the Longhorns' top target on screens and short passes.

It will make Chiles' performance one of the most intriguing parts of the Longhorns' spring scrimmage on Sunday.

Mailbag: OU's Murray, Reynolds recovering nicely

February, 27, 2009
2/27/09
2:12
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here's a batch of fresh letters from my readers who wrote me about various Big 12 topics this week.

Steve from Clearwater, Fla., writes: I'm wondering what's the status of Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray and Ryan Reynolds. Will they be ready for spring practice? Thanks again for all of your great coverage of Big 12 ball.

Tim Griffin: Hey, thanks for the kudos. Because of the severity of Murray's partial rupture of his left hamstring tendon and Reynolds torn knee ligaments, neither player will participate in a full spring practice regimen in the next few weeks. But Oklahoma officials say that both are progressing at or ahead of the normal pace of recovery for their injuries. The forecast for both key players participating in the 2009 season is bright, I am told.


Dale from Richmond, Texas, writes: Is John Chiles the next Percy Harvin? His athleticism is unquestionable on film. Moving Chiles to wide receiver is like finding a diamond in the rough! What is your opinion?

Tim Griffin: Like you mentioned, Chiles is an athlete and should be able to make plays in Texas' offense.

I'm wondering, however, if he might be better suited as a running back than a receiver. His speed and pass-catching abilities could be more useful there. I think the Longhorns are much weaker in the backfield with oft-injured Fozzy Whittaker, Tre' Newton and Vondrell McGee as their lone breakaway threats along with the hulking Cody Johnson. Among receivers, Chiles will have to challenge Dan Buckner, Malcolm Williams, Brandon Collins, James Kirkendoll and Jordan Shipley when he recovers from his injury. It will be very hard for him to crack that rotation.

An even more likely role for him will be as a kick returner. Mack Brown said that special emphasis will be placed on improving the Longhorns' kick returns after the Longhorns placed only sixth in the conference last season. I could see Chiles being very useful there.


Kent from Cushing, Iowa, writes: Tim, in your blog about what you don't love about the Big 12 you list human mascots and have my beloved Cyclones listed. Hey, we had a REAL cyclone for one game in Ames. It was against Colorado in 2005, I believe. CU just packed up Ralphie and went home.

Tim Griffin: I remember that game and the unusual weather conditions. But I still like animals rather than those mascots in costumes -- even if the climatic conditions might belong on The Weather Channel.


Kyle Highberg from Omaha writes: Hey, good blog and I greatly appreciate it. But that being sad, can the North Division get some love, too? Each and every day you blog about something going on at Texas. I know you live only an hour away from Austin, but I don't need to hear three updates a day on the same slow news story! Maybe it's just me, or maybe it is only February and I have a big itch for Big 12 football. Seriously, thanks for the blog!

Tim Griffin: The reason that Texas schools have been featured so prominently the last several days is that they are actually practicing. Texas is taking advantage of the warmer weather to start practice as the first team in the conference. Baylor will start its next week, leading to my story earlier today on Robert Griffin.

As I've often said, I consider the 12 schools in the conference as almost my children and I try not to show any one of them any more love or favoritism than another. Even if it makes me feel like Old Mother Hubbard sometimes.

But during next few weeks, you can be assured that I'll have reports of teams across the Big 12.


Dane from Dallas writes: What is a guy do until September 5th? Your blogs alone are enough to satiate me enough to prevent withdrawals and I am going crazy here! How do you feel about OU opening up Jerry's world against BYU?

Tim Griffin: First, let me suggest ESPN Classic. They often play great games of the past that will help feed your "Football Jones" when no live games are available.

As for the Sooners, I think their game against BYU will be one of the most intriguing nonconference games of the season. Both teams have got a lot of offensive firepower. The Cougars have never lost to a Big 12 team, beating two teams from the conference since the Big 12 started play in 1996.

It should make for an intriguing first college game at the Dallas Cowboys' Stadium in Arlington, Texas, shouldn't it? First team to 50 points will win.


Rene from Valencia, Calif., writes: Hey Tim, I just have two simple questions. I'm a Longhorn fan, and I was wondering if the Rose Bowl 2006 has been the only time that USC has played Texas? How many times has Texas played USC in school history? And in your opinion, what makes one team better than another? History, accomplishments such as national championships, Heisman Trophies. or head-to-head records?

Tim Griffin: The Longhorns and Trojans have played five times in the history of both programs. USC won the four previous games in the series: 19-7 in Los Angeles in 1955, 44-20 in Austin in 1956, 10-6 in Austin in 1966 and 17-13 in Los Angeles in 1967. Some my more experienced friends in Austin still see former USC football player John Wayne attending the game in Austin back in 1966.

But the way that the 2006 Rose Bowl played out convinced me that these two programs should be occasionally playing each other. It would be a heck of an intersectional matchup.

And as far as the most important factor I use to gauge the strength of programs is consistency: If a team has been great for a long time, I think that speaks volumes about it. And it's why I think that ESPN.com's ranking of Oklahoma as the nation's most prestigious program was completely warranted.


John from Austin writes: In your coverage of the Nebraska quarterback battle, you haven't really mentioned Taylor Martinez. I realize that he was brought in to be a safety, but his high school quarterback numbers and apparent competitiveness warrant SOME mention, I think. I have an issue with prototypical quarterbacks like Sam Keller, Harrison Beck and Josh Freeman and how it seems like they never really live up to their hype - but maybe that's just been because we've been spoiled with a player like Joe Ganz!

Wasn't there talk about Martinez getting a chance to compete for the job? Where has that talk gone, if it ever existed?

Tim Griffin: I think the talk was the heaviest right around national signing day when Bo Pelini was trying to convince Martinez to attend Nebraska. I do
know that Martinez will fall far behind Cody Green, Kody Spano and Zac Lee because those players will receive chances to take many snaps during spring practice. It would be hard to imagine Martinez being able to catch up against that trio when he arrives later this summer, but I know he desperately wants to play quarterback.

Eventually, Martinez might become a factor, but it might be too early to think he will become one in 2009.

The Cornhuskers will have little depth at the position. I'm predicting Lee to have the starting job going into the summer with Green close behind. I could see Pelini using Green like Ohio State coach Jim Tressel used Terrelle Pryor last season by getting his feet wet with a few snaps early in the season before more extensive use later in the season. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

That's all the time I have for today. Check back for my live chat on Big 12 football on Monday and keep the e-mails coming. I appreciate all of them.

What Chiles' move to WR will mean to Texas

February, 26, 2009
2/26/09
6:55
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas coaches always have been fascinated by John Chiles' game-breaking abilities.

Now, they'll have the opportunity to use them in a different way as Chiles switches to wide receiver for the Longhorns' first practice of the spring.

In a way, the move is a little surprising. The Longhorns have only Sherrod Harris behind starter Colt McCoy at quarterback. It shouldn't hurt them this spring and may even benefit Harris' development as he will get more snaps behind McCoy.

Chiles likely will have trouble breaking into Texas' receiving rotation, considering the Longhorns' deep stable of talent at the position. It's hard to perceive him becoming much of a factor there considering players like Brandon Collins, James Kirkendoll, Malcolm Williams and Dan Buckner have already become established players in the system.

And even with the arrival of heralded incoming freshman Garrett Gilbert this spring, it's not an optimum situation as far as depth at quarterback.

Considering how much McCoy runs in Texas' basic offense, as well as the hits he took from blitzing defenders, he's only one shot from being knocked out of the lineup for an extended period of time.

Would that be enough to have Chiles moved back to his original position?

Or would Gilbert be good enough that Mack Brown would gamble an extended part of the season on an untested freshman?

The Texas coach assuredly doesn't want to have to play through those scenarios during the 2009 season.

Chiles plans to move to WR for Texas' first practice

February, 26, 2009
2/26/09
6:18
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

AUSTIN, Texas -- Backup Texas quarterback John Chiles has decided to move to wide receiver for the Longhorns' first practice on Friday.

"At our position meetings this morning, John asked [offensive coordinator] Greg Davis if we would consider letting him move to receiver," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "Greg told John to think about it, talk to his family and then he would talk to me about it. John came back this afternoon, told us he had decided he definitely wanted to move to receiver, we visited about it and are all excited about the move."

Chiles was used in a multipurpose role last season in Texas' "Q package." He completed 11 of 13 passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns, but struggled at times with his consistency and mechanics.

"I talked to my family, the coaches and everyone close to me and just came to the realization that I think I can really help the team at receiver," Chiles said. "I'm willing to do anything to help us win games and make another run at a championship, which is the ultimate goal.

"I think the timing is right. I'm a junior and am a little older, so anything I can do to get on the field and help the team, I'm willing to do."

Chiles also played wide receiver last season, starting in the Longhorns' season opener against FAU. That experience should help him stand out in a crowded receiving group that also includes key returnees Brandon Collins, Malcolm Williams, Dan Buckner and James Kirkendoll.

"Having had a chance to do some work out there last year laid a foundation for me, but I think having played quarterback will really help me have a better understanding of the receiver position," Chiles said. "As a quarterback, you know how much trust you need in your receivers and where you expect them to be. I think understanding that and knowing the demands of the position will help my transition. I'm really excited and looking forward to getting started."

Chiles also will receive work as a kick returner, providing some help for a Texas unit that ranked sixth in the Big 12 in kickoff returns.

"Colt [McCoy]'s return and Quan [Cosby]'s departure makes this a great move for our team," added Brown, who also said Chiles will compete for action as a kickoff returner. "When we've done our draft boards during the spring, our staff has always voted John as one of our best athletes on the team. This gives us a chance to get him more playing time."

Chiles contacted McCoy soon after he made the decision to ask coaches for the position change.

"Working together and being around each other so much, John and I have gotten really close," McCoy said. "He's a great football player that has the ability to make big plays for us. I'm really looking forward to working with him and seeing him out there at receiver."

What to watch at Big 12 spring practices

February, 13, 2009
2/13/09
10:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The Big 12 should again be loaded in 2009. And the spring will feature several key positional battles and holes to fill that will go a long way in determining whether Oklahoma can make history and claim a fourth-straight championship this season.

Here a look at each team and three major items to watch in spring practice.

NORTH DIVISION

Colorado Buffaloes

Spring practice begins: March 31

Spring game: April 25

What to watch:

  • The health of the team: The Buffaloes' players lost a combined total of 121 games to due to illness or injury last season. Some players like tight end Riar Geer, guards Devin Head, Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner and Mike Iltis, linebacker Jon Major and cornerback Jalil Brown will be limited during the spring because of past injuries. But others like tackle Ryan Miller, tailback Rodney Stewart and cornerback Benjamin Burney should be good to go throughout the spring. Coach Dan Hawkins won't push things, but it will be good to have as many regulars as possible practicing again.
  • The return of Darrell Scott: The conference's most publicized running back recruit of 2008 never could get untracked, rushing for disappointing totals of 343 yards and 3.9 yards per carry last season. The spring will give him a chance to show why he was one of the nation's top recruits in the Class of 2008.
  • Settle the kicking game: After Colorado kickers combined to shank 11 of 17 attempts last season, it might be the last chance for Aric Goodman or Jameson Davis to show what they can do after their struggles last season and the arrival of heralded recruit Zach Grossnickle in the fall.

Iowa State Cyclones

Spring practice begins: March 24

Spring game: April 18

What to watch:

  • Paul Rhoads' early assimilation: After his hiring last Dec. 23, Rhoads has concentrated on recruiting and building a coaching staff. Being able to work on the field with his team will likely be a relief for him after such a hectic start.
  • Help in the secondary: The Cyclones lose starters Chris Singleton and Brandon Hunley from a unit that ranked in the bottom 10 nationally in pass efficiency defense and pass defense. Rhoads' specialty is defense, but he'll have his work cut out with his new unit.
  • Finding another starter at wide receiver: Darius Darks is back after an impressive freshman season, but Rhoads needs to find a replacement for 2008 leading receiver R.J. Sumrall. Look for Sedrick Johnson, Marquis Hamilton and Houston Jones all to have their chances at the starting unit during the spring.

Kansas Jayhawks

Spring practice begins: March 9

Spring game: April 11

What to watch:

  • Finding starters at linebackers: The Jayhawks must completely rebuild their linebacking corps as James Holt, Mike Rivera and Joe Mortensen all are gone from last season. Arist Wright and Dakota Lewis are in the mix because of their experience. A bigger wild card could be converted running back Angus Quigley, who turned heads with his defensive instincts and tackling in work before the Jayhawks' bowl game last season.
  • Get a consistent kick returner: The mystifying struggles of Marcus Herford last season resulted in a drop of more than 8 yards per kick return as the Jayhawks fell from seventh in 2007 to 118th nationally last season. Dezmon Briscoe showed flashes of being a productive returner late in the season, but more work from different players will be needed in the spring to shore up the area.
  • Rebuild the center of the offensive line: Losing starting guards Chet Hartley and Adrian Mayes along with center Ryan Cantrell will be the biggest offensive concern this spring for the Jayhawks. Carl Wilson and Sal Kapra should get a long look at guard and Brad Thorson will given the first shot at center.

Kansas State Wildcats:

Spring practice begins: April 6

Spring game: May 2

What to watch:

  • Bill Snyder's return to coaching: The wily Snyder will be facing the biggest challenge of his professional career after returning after a three-year coaching sabbatical. The Wildcats aren't as bad as they were in 1989 when Snyder originally took over, but the Big 12 is a much tougher than the Big Eight was in those days. And it will test the patience and legendary work ethic of Snyder to get the Wildcats back into Big 12 title contention in the immediate future.
  • The quarterback battle: New offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig is one of the conference's most notable hirings after his strong recent work at Utah. Ludwig will be challenged as he looks at Carson Coffman or junior-college transfer Daniel Thomas to replace Josh Freeman as his starting quarterback.
  • Looking for a defensive turnaround: The Wildcats were woeful last season, ranking among the bottom 10 teams nationally in rushing defense, scoring defense and total defense and 106th nationally in pass defense. It will likely try the patience of new coordinator Chris Cosh, who will be looking for replacements along the defensive front for Brandon Balkcom and Ian Campbell. One potential playmaker could be Jeff Fitzgerald, who started 13 games for Virginia in 2007.

Missouri Tigers

Spring practice begins: March 10

Spring game: April 18

What to watch:

  • The changing of the guard on offense -- and then some: Gone are all-time greats like Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin and Chase Coffman, along with productive receivers Tommy Saunders and Earl Goldsmith. Offensive coordinator Dave Christensen has left for the Wyoming coaching job, meaning that Dave Yost takes over as the coordinator along with Blaine Gabbert at quarterback, Andrew Jones at tight end and Jerrell Jackson as the featured receiver. Collectively, it will be the largest transformation in Gary Pinkel's coaching tenure at Missouri.
  • Finding a pass rush: Three starters are gone along the defensive front as productive starters Stryker Sulak, Tommy Chavis and Ziggy Hood all are gone from last year. Look for redshirt defensive end Aldon Smith to get in the fight for playing time immediately, along with holdover Brian Coulter at defensive end if he can recover quickly from labrum surgery. Terrell Resonno and Dominique Hamilton will get a long look at defensive tackle before the arrival of heralded "tight end" Sheldon Richardson in the summer.
  • Secondary assistance: The Tigers need help after losing starting safeties Justin Garrett and William Moore and cornerback Tru Vaughns from last year's team. Considering all of the prolific offenses in the Big 12, this will capture much of defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus' attention as newcomers like safety Jarrell Harrison and cornerback Robert Steeples will show what they can do.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Spring practice begins: March 21

Spring game: April 18

What to watch:

  • The battle for quarterback: One of the nation's most intriguing quarterback battles will play out during the spring. Incoming freshman Cody Green arrived in college early intent to battle for the starting job and become the first four-year starting quarterback for the Cornhuskers since Eric Crouch. Holdovers Patrick Witt, Zac Lee and redshirt freshman Kody Spanos all are in the hunt to replace Joe Ganz. Witt has more experience, but it's not much more than any other contender. It should be interesting to see how offensive coordinator Shawn Watson handles the competition.
  • Find starters at wide receiver: The Cornhuskers lose starters Nate Swift and Todd Peterson who combined for 125 receptions last season as the team's two major receiving threats. Menelik Holt has more experience than any other returner, although coaches are salivating about the chance to work with Antonio Bell, a 2008 recruit who wasn't on the team last season while he got his grades in order.
  • Rebuild the right side of the offensive line: Powerful blockers Matt Slauson at guard and tackle Lydon Murtha both are gone from last season, leaving a huge void for offensive line coach Barney Cotton to fill. Marcel Jones and D.J. Jones should get the first crack at the starting jobs during the spring.

SOUTH DIVISION

Baylor Bears

Spring practice begins: March 3

Spring game: April 4

What to watch:

  • Competition at offensive tackle: The Bears will be looking for two new starting tackles to replace Don Gay and Jason Smith along the offensive line. Sophomore Joe Korbel figures to get a look at one of the positions, but beyond him it's anybody's guess who will replace the talented pair that combined for 73 career starts.
  • New starters on the left side of the defensive line: Starting defensive end Leon Freeman and defensive tackle Vincent Rhodes both will be gone after their eligibility expired. The only holes in Baylor's front seven will be found there as Jameon Hardeman and Zac Scotton will challenge at defensive end and Sam Sledge at defensive tackle.
  • Better production in their pass defense: The Bears struggled mightily last season and could never seem to produce big plays when they needed them, ranking 103rd in pass defense, 84th in sacks and 109th in tackles for losses. Another spring learning the concepts of defensive coordinator Brian Norwood should benefit them and perhaps serve as a catalyst for a bowl berth with significant improvement.

Oklahoma Sooners

Spring practice begins: March 3

Spring game: April 11

What to watch:

  • Help at wide receiver: After losing Juaquin Iglesias, Quentin Chaney and Manuel Johnson from last season's BCS title-game runner-up, the Sooners desperately need some players to emerge this spring. Ryan Broyles assumes the No. 1 position, although junior college receiver Cameron Kenney will help, along with Brandon Caleb from last season's two-deep roster. It will also be noteworthy to watch the work of running back Mossis Madu, who will receive some work at slot receiver.
  • Competition in the offensive line: Trent Williams is the only returning starter from last season for a talented veteran group that will lose four starters who combined for 149 starts during their college career. The Sooners aren't devoid of talent, but it's just untested. It means they need a big lift this spring from players like tackle Cory Brandon, guards Brian Simmons and Alex Williams and center Jason Hannan.
  • New look at safety: Nic Harris and Lendy Holmes seemingly had been at Oklahoma since
    the days of Brian Bosworth. That's a little bit of an exaggeration, but the Sooner duo combined for 83 starts and provided steady, efficient defense throughout their careers. Quinton Carter and Desmond Jackson appear poised to take over for them, although it will be impossible for the Sooners to match their experience.

Oklahoma State Cowboys

Spring practice begins: March 9

Spring game: April 18

What to watch:

  • Bill Young's work: Oklahoma State has the offense to challenge for the Big 12 championship. But the success of the season ultimately will be determined by the defense generated by new defensive coordinator Bill Young. The Cowboys return six starters but must improve drastically after last season's late collapse that saw them blistered for 56, 61 and 42 points among their final three games of the season.
  • Help at safety and defensive tackle: The Cowboys lose starters Tonga Tea and Jeray Chatham at tackle and starting safeties Quinton Moore and Ricky Price. Those key positions in the heart of Oklahoma State's defense will command much of Young's attention. He's particularly excited about the play of Swanson Miller and Shane Jarka and Johnny Thomas at safety. But other players need to step up when they get their chance.
  • Develop depth at wide receiver: Dez Bryant accounted for a larger percentage of completions than any other wide receiver in the Big 12. His absence this spring as he recovers from knee surgery will enable others to have a chance to play and become acclimated with the first-string offense. The Cowboys' depth at the position is aggravated after Bo Bowling was suspended after his arrest earlier this week. It will provide players like Hubert AnyiamJosh Cooper and DeMarcus Conner an opportunity to work with Zac Robinson while Bryant and Bowling are gone.

Texas Longhorns

Spring practice begins: Feb. 27

Spring game: April 5

What to watch:

  • Build consistency in the running game: The Longhorns ranked 41st nationally in rushing last season -- their worst national ranking since 2002 -- and relied on Colt McCoy as their primary running threat. That dangerous strategy has to change this season if the Longhorns have any legitimate national title contenders. Key tasks during the spring will be to build cohesion in an offensive line that loses only starter Cedric Dockery from last season and additional work for Fozzy Whittaker, who struggled with injuries most of his freshman season last year.
  • Rebuild the defensive front: The Longhorns had the nation's most productive pass rush, leading the country with an average of 3.62 sacks per game last season. It will be a challenge to replace key players like Brian Orakpo, Roy Miller and Henry Melton. But defensive coordinator Will Muschamp liked what he saw in limited playing time for players like Sam Acho, Russell Carter, Ben Alexander, Michael Wilcoxson, Kheeston Randall and Eddie Jones. Those players, along with possibly Sergio Kindle getting more playing time at defensive end, will be key to Texas' defensive hopes this season. And incoming freshmen Dominique Jones, Alex Okafor and Kyle Kriegel all arrived at college early to challenge for immediate playing time.
  • Build confidence with young receivers: Leading receiver Quan Cosby graduated and Jordan Shipley will miss spring work after recovering from shoulder surgery. It will give McCoy a chance to build confidence in some of the younger members of his receiving corps, most notably Brandon Collins, Dan Buckner, Malcolm Williams and James Kirkendoll.

Texas A&M

Spring practice begins: March 26

Spring game: April 18

Spring practice ends: April 24

What to watch:

  • Additional development of young talent: The Aggies were one of the nation's youngest teams last season as 10 true freshmen combined to see action in 90 games and start in 41 of them. The spring will provide an additional opportunity for those young players and others on the roster to gain much-needed experience.
  • Improvement of the pass rush: The biggest hole on defense for the Aggies will be at defensive end where Michael Bennett, Amos Gbunblee and Cyril Obiozor accounted for most of the playing time last season from a group that ranked 11th in the Big 12 and 100th nationally in sacks. Paul Freeney is poised to assume one of the starting positions there. The other side looks like a wide-open battle that will play out throughout the spring and into summer camp.
  • Find a running back: Coach Mike Sherman will be looking at Keondra Smith, Cyrus Gray and Bradley Stephens for the role as the Aggies' featured running back -- for a few weeks anyway. Whoever wins that battle may celebrate a kind of pyrrhic victory as heralded running back Christine Michael arrives for fall camp as the Aggies' likely featured back. But Sherman likely will be working on building depth in the spring.

Texas Tech Red Raiders

Spring practice begins: March 25

Spring game: April 18

Spring practice ends: April 20

What to watch:

  • Any passing game regression?: Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree rewrote the national record book as one of the most prolific pass-and-catch
    combinations in NCAA history. But yet, the Red Raiders always have always had a potent passing attack with Mike Leach in charge. It will be interesting to see Taylor Potts' development at quarterback and the growth of wide receivers like Detron Lewis, Lyle Leong, Edward Britton, Rashad Hawk and Tramain Swindall as they try to fill those big shoes for the Red Raiders.
  • Find a pass-rushing threat: Defensive end Brandon Williams is turning pro after leading the Big 12 with a school-record 12 sacks last season. McKinner Dixon was a big performer in spot duty last season and could be ready to emerge, as is junior-college transfer Daniel Howard.
  • Rebuild the left side of the offensive line: Rylan Reed and Louis Vasquez were the two most decorated linemen in Texas Tech history during their careers. The productive duo will be missed, along with starting center Stephen Hamby. Chris Olson at left tackle and Lonnie Edwards at left guard aren't nearly as big or experienced as Reed and Vasquez. Growth during the spring for the unit will be important as the Red Raiders prepare for a difficult September schedule.
Tags:

Quentin Chaney, Houston Jones, Ian Campbell, Sergio Kindle, Lydon Murtha, Jerrell Jackson, Menelik Holt, Cyril Obiozor, Will Muschamp, Brad Thorson, Ziggy Hood, Nate Swift, Rodney Stewart, Mike Iltis, Brandon Balkcom, Lonnie Edwards, Barney Cotton, Brian Norwood, Christine Michael, Justin Garrett, Joe Korbel, Ryan Cantrell, Andy Ludwig, Josh Cooper, Aric Goodman, James Kirkendoll, Trent Williams, Chris Cosh, Quan Cosby, Tru Vaughns, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Jameon Hardeman, Mike Rivera, Sam Sledge, Ryan Broyles, Roy Miller, Cameron Kenney, Bill Snyder, Kyle Kriegel, Eddie Jones, Sedrick Johnson, Baylor Bears, Chase Coffman, Brandon Williams, Ben Alexander, Leon Freeman, Texas Longhorns, Jeff Fitzgerald, Marcus Herford, Vincent Rhodes, Mossis Madu, Malcolm Williams, Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Kody Spanos, Jason Smith, Colt McCoy, William Moore, Stryker Sulak, Brandon Caleb, Johnny Thomas, Ryan Miller, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Michael Bennett, Tommy Saunders, Louis Vasquez, Quinton Moore, Cory Brandon, Adrian Mayes, Missouri Tigers, Darrell Scott, Colorado Buffaloes, R.J. Sumrall, Patrick Witt, Jason Hannan, Shane Jarka, Maxwell Tuiot-Mariner, Matt Slauson, Tommy Chavis, Chase Daniel, Cyrus Gray, McKinner Dixon, Zac Scotton, Chet Hartley, Eric Crouch, Devin Head, Dakota Lewis, Robert Steeples, James Holt, Cody Green, Matt Eberflus, Chris Singleton, Dave Christensen, Oklahoma Sooners, Spring what to watch, Andrew Jones, Michael Wilcoxson, Manuel Johnson, Dan Hawkins, Todd Peterson, Mike Leach, Kansas State Wildcats, Russell Carter, Edward Britton, Dan Buckner, Darius Darks, Alex Williams, Michael Crabtree, Juaquin Iglesias, Angus Quigley, Shawn Watson, Marquis Hamilton, Carl Wilson, Paul Freeney, Paul Rhoads, Bradley Stephens, Kansas Jayhawks, Joe Mortensen, Stephen Hamby, Brian Coulter, Sheldon Richardson, Detron Lewis, Bo Bowling, Lendy Holmes, Bill Young, Zac Robinson, Hubert Anyiam, Blaine Gabbert, Brandon Collins, Jameson Davis, Antonio Bell, Taylor Potts, Daniel Thomas, Iowa State Cyclones, Alex Okafor, Desmond Jackson, Graham Harrell, Benjamin Burney, Keondra Smith, Brian Bosworth, Lyle Leong, Cedric Dockery, Dezmon Briscoe, Earl Goldsmith, Fozzy Whittaker, Nic Harris, Henry Melton, Brian Simmons, Amos Gbunblee, Daniel Howard, Dominique Jones, Jordan Shipley, Chris Olson, Rashad Hawk, Jarrell Harrison, D.J. Jones, Brian Orakpo, Ricky Price, Jeray Chatham, Swanson Miller, Brandon Hunley, Jeremy Maclin, Terrell Resonno, Tremain Swindall, Josh Freeman, Carson Coffman, Gary Pinkel, Zach Grossnickle, DeMarcus Conner, Kheeston Randall, Aldon Smith, Marcel Jones, Dominique Hamilton, Arist Wright, Rylan Reed, Jalil Brown, Quinton Carter, Mike Sherman, Texas A&M Aggies

Shipley's shoulder injury shouldn't cripple Texas' spring work

January, 23, 2009
1/23/09
2:39
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Oft-injured Texas wide receiver Jordan Shipley underwent surgery again Friday, repairing an aggravating shoulder injury that bothered him most of the 2008 season.

But this injury will be different for Shipley than those that kept him out of the 2004 and 2005 seasons and necessitated a rare sixth season of eligibility from the NCAA. As a matter of fact, his surgery might even have some long-term benefits for his team apart from him getting healthier.

Without Shipley available at practice this spring, it will force Texas quarterback Colt McCoy to work more with a young receiving corps.

The Longhorns already would be missing 2008 receiving leader Quan Cosby, resulting in one starting position open. But now, McCoy will be throwing to some largely untested targets all spring.

Players like Dan Buckner, Malcolm Williams and James Kirkendoll were going to have to step up to fill in for Cosby. But Shipley's injury will give his primary backup, skinny 170-pound junior-to-be Brandon Collins, a chance at more experience working with McCoy and with other starters in the Texas offense.

Williams showed flashes throughout the 2008 season, most notably his dramatic 91-yard touchdown grab from McCoy that helped push the Longhorns back into the Texas Tech game. And Kirkendoll provided the key play of Texas' game-winning scoring drive against Ohio State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, making a critical 3-yard fourth-down grab for a first down.

McCoy hooked up with Cosby for the game-winning 26-yard touchdown reception two plays later, but the late heroics never would have happened if Kirkendoll hadn't battled through defender Chimdi Chekwa for the first down.

It won't be the same for McCoy as having Shipley back there during spring practice. But it might be more beneficial for the Longhorns in the upcoming season to work with all of his receivers, developing experience and confidence with them that would carry over into the 2009 season.

Texas recruiting needs

January, 20, 2009
1/20/09
2:44
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Mack Brown has earned the reputation as one of the game's master recruiters as he has developed a program that has run off 10 straight victories over the past eight consecutive seasons.

The Longhorns have a few holes to fill from this season's 12-1 team that claimed the Fiesta Bowl but was disappointed in its hopes to have a shot at the BCS title by a last-second loss at Texas Tech.

The most pressing need will be along the defensive front as starters Brian Orakpo, Roy Miller, Henry Melton and part-time starter Aaron Lewis all will leave from a unit that led the nation with 47 sacks last season. Don't be surprised if linebacker Sergio Kindle moves to defensive end to help fill the talent gap for next season.

More talent for the future could be used at linebacker where both projected starters Jared Norton and Roddrick Muckelroy will be seniors next season. The secondary appears set with eight players in the playing rotation who were either sophomores or freshmen last season, including both starting safeties in Earl Thomas and Blake Gideon.

With Colt McCoy set for his senior season, finding depth at quarterback is an immediate goal. Heralded prospect Garrett Gilbert will likely redshirt in order to prepare for the battle to replace McCoy in 2010.

The Longhorns lose only Cedric Dockery as a starter along the offense line and appear stacked with talented players lined up for playing time. Center Chris Hall, guard Charlie Tanner and tackle Adam Ulatoski all will be seniors next season, giving impetus to finding more depth across the line.

Redshirt freshman Tre Newton appears poised for a battle for playing time at running back, where the lack of a breakaway threat remains a concern. Vondrell McGee has struggled in the featured role and Fozzy Whittaker has been injury-prone.

The need isn't quite as pressing at wide receiver. The development of youngsters like Malcolm Williams, James Kirkendoll, Brandon Collins and Dan Buckner have the Longhorns apparently set for the loss of Quan Cosby and the eventual departure of Jordan Shipley after the 2009 season.

Emptying out the notebook on a Friday

October, 24, 2008
10/24/08
10:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here's a collection of factoids, notes and quotes that I came up with during the course of the week.

HOT AND NOT

Sizzling

  • Nebraska's ball-control offense in the last two games. The Cornhuskers have dominated time of possession by a 77:23 to 42:37 difference -- an incredible margin of nearly 35 minutes. And Nebraska's 10 scoring drives in those two games have averaged 10.3 plays, 73.6 yards with an average time of possession of 5 minutes, 7.6 seconds.

Hot

  • Oklahoma State's run defense, which has limited opponents to 53 yards and 2.2 yards per carry in the last two games.

Not:

Texas A&M, which started the season at 2-5 for the first time since 1980.

Hot

  • Missouri tight end Chase Coffman who has produced 38 catches in his last four games, including more than 10 receptions in three of the games.

Not

  • Missouri running back Derrick Washington, who has rushed for an average of 14 yards per game and 1.9 yards per carry in his last two games. Washington produced an average of 100 yards per game and 7.5 yards per carry in his first five games.

Hot

Not

  • Missouri's defense, which slid to 114th in pass defense and 100th in total defense after losing to the Longhorns last week.

Hot

  • Kansas, which has won 13 straight games at home. Texas Tech, however, will be the first foe during that streak that has been ranked.

Not

  • Baylor has lost 15 straight games to ranked teams

Hot

  • Texas Tech's defense, which limited Texas A&M to 32 yards in the second half and 20 yards rushing in the game to nail down a 43-25 victory over the Aggies.

Not

  • Texas Tech's kicking game, which has missed six extra point opportunities and made only 4 of 8 field goal attempts. No wonder coach Mike Leach is considering walk-on Matt Williams as an alternative.

Hot

  • Colorado running back Rodney Stewart, who last week tied the school freshman record with his third 100-yard game of the season.

Not

  • Colorado kicker Aric Goodman has missed six straight field goals since earning a scholarship after his game-winning kick against West Virginia on Sept. 18.

Frigid

  • Missouri's ballyhooed offense at the start of last week's game against Texas. In their first four possessions, the Tigers produced 14 yards on 15 plays.

(Read full post)

Texas injured list for Rice game

September, 19, 2008
9/19/08
5:48
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Texas lists three players as questionable for Saturday night's game in Austin against Rice, including two potential starters.

Junior G Charlie Tanner (left ankle) and redshirt freshman RB Fozzy Whittaker (right knee) both are questionable. Michael Huey would start at guard and the Longhorns would alternate Vondrell McGee and Chris Ogbonnaya as the featured running threat if Whittaker can't go.

Texas trainer Kenny Boyd also lists sophomore WR Brandon Collins (back) as questionable for the game.

Collins out for Longhorns opener

August, 30, 2008
8/30/08
7:34
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas sophomore wide receiver Brandon Collins will miss Saturday's game against Florida Atlantic as a result of an administrative error that resulted in a violation of financial aid regulations.

School officials said Collins made retribution of the error on his on-campus housing check this summer. But as a result of cashing it, he will be required to serve a one-game suspension.

Texas sets wide receivers and running backs

August, 25, 2008
8/25/08
5:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Texas coach Mack Brown released his depth chart for Saturday's game against Florida Atlantic. The Longhorns' biggest questions at running back and wide receiver remained unsettled after the announcement at his press conference.

At running back, sophomore Vondrell McGee is coupled with senior Chris Ogbonnaya, listed as an "or" on the depth chart for the starting job. Redshirt freshman Fozzy Whittaker is listed third, in an "or" situation with Cody Johnson. In the last week, Whittaker fell out of a potential bid for a starting position after struggling with a knee injury.

Brown told reporters that he cared less about the starter than Texas fans.

"We're going to play both," Brown told reporters. "The one that runs out there first really doesn't matter."

And at wide receiver, Brown said Quan Cosby and Jordan Shipley had separated themselves from the others. Redshirt freshman Malcolm Williams is listed first in an "or" situation with Brandon Collins behind the two starters.

Brown had hoped to pick a third receiver because of his preference to use three wide receivers as one of his primary offensive sets, but no one had earned that status, he said.

Texas still looking for top rushing, receiving threats

August, 20, 2008
8/20/08
10:37
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas players have some rest scheduled this weekend after an intense and grueling training camp that will conclude with a short practice on Friday.

But that's when Texas coach Mack Brown will get really busy as he sorts through his playing options as he prepares for the Longhorns' Aug. 30 opener against Florida Atlantic.

Texas coaches will huddle this weekend with several lingering offensive questions. Their primary concerns will be settling on a starting running back and finding a third wide receiver.

Redshirt freshman Foswhitt "Fozzy" Whittaker, sophomore Vondrell "The Bulldozer" McGee and senior third-down specialist Chris Ogbonnaya are hooked up in a tight battle to replace Jamaal Charles as the Longhorns' featured back.

Brown said that the competition is close as each candidate is a little better in one football facet than the others. Early workouts have indicated that Whittaker is the more explosive breakaway threat, McGee is a stronger inside runner and Ogbonnaya is a more experienced player who is suited as a pass-catching threat.

"[Texas offensive coordinator] Greg [Davis] and I will sit down with our offensive staff and we'll go back and figure out where we are after all the scrimmages," Brown said. "Then, we'll go back and see who we need to be as a team. We'll be locked at deciding and talking about what this offense needs to do to help the defense and vice versa."

The Longhorns also are sorting through several options at wide receiver, where leading returning receivers Quan Cosby and Jordan Shipley have emerged as the top two players. Among the contenders for the other spot include redshirt freshman Malcolm Williams, freshman Dan Buckner and sophomores James Kirkendoll and Brandon Collins.

"Quan and Jordan are doing a great job," Brown said. "But we're still looking for another guy. We'd like to play with three wide receivers a lot. Those guys are fighting for that job and we're not there yet."

Brown also praised the play of massive tight end Greg Smith -- a converted center who is the largest player at the position in the history of the school. Smith would be a short-yardage blocker to go along with top returnees Blaine Irby and Peter Ullman at the position.

"He's been a good move for us because he's 295 pounds and can move his feet," Brown said about Smith. "He made a nice catch today and he can really block."

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