Big 12: Brandon Moore

Signing day has come and gone, but we'll have plenty of coverage looking more closely at each Big 12 team's class. This morning, we're looking at how each team filled its needs. We ran down the top of the Big 12 alphabet earlier today. Here's the second half:

OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS

Needs filled: The Cowboys once again lost both starters at defensive end, and junior-college transfer Sam Wren could have an immediate impact. ESPN 300 member Vincent Taylor is a big presence and might contribute early, too. In all, OSU signed six defensive linemen. In this offense, you can never have too many receivers, especially gifted ones. Marcell Ateman and Ra'Shaad Samples will have some fun in Stillwater.

Holes remaining: The Pokes lost one starter at linebacker and will have two seniors on next season's team, but didn't sign a linebacker in this class. We'll see if they can make up for that with development and recruiting in 2014.

TEXAS LONGHORNS

Needs filled: Texas is getting some big upgrades on the offensive line, headlined by the nation's No. 1 center, Darius James. Kent Perkins and Jake Raulerson are also top-10 tackles nationally and guard Rami Hammad and juco tackle Desmond Harrison fill out the class, which was one-third offensive linemen.

Holes remaining: Texas kept striking out with defensive linemen and ended up signing zero, despite losing Alex Okafor and Brandon Moore, and with Jackson Jeffcoat a rising senior. That could be a problem soon, but the Longhorns lost Daeshon Hall and missed out on Andrew Billings, who went to Baylor.

TCU HORNED FROGS

Needs filled: The running backs were drained after last season, but the Frogs had one of the league's best hauls at the position, grabbing ESPN 300 member Kyle Hicks and Trevorris Johnson, two of the best backs in Texas. The Frogs are also loading up on 6-foot, 200-pound linebackers who'll be able to cover in the open field. Paul Whitmill headlines that group, but the Frogs signed three linebackers with that profile.

Holes remaining: Josh Boyce and Skye Dawson are gone, and though LaDarius Brown and Brandon Carter will be there for 2013, you need a lot more big-time receivers than that to win in the Big 12. TCU signed four athletes, but no pure receivers in this class.

TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS

Needs filled: Receivers are always a must in this offense, and Tech got a pair of good ones in Dylan Cantrell and Justis Nelson. After Seth Doege graduated and Scotty Young transferred, Tech needed a quarterback to follow Michael Brewer and Davis Webb, the nation's No. 24 pro-style passer, could be that guy.

Holes remaining: The Red Raiders might be a little thin at defensive tackle after signing just one in this class. Kerry Hyder will be a senior and Leon Mackey graduated. Tech will have to develop that position and maybe put some weight on some defensive ends -- a position where Texas Tech is well-stocked.

WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS

Needs filled: Defense, defense, defense. West Virginia needs some talent upgrades all over the field, and landed linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton and ESPN 300 member Darrien Howard. Hodari Christian is another talented linebacking prospect and Dontrill Hyman will try to have an immediate impact as a pass-rusher out of junior college. WVU signed four outside linebackers and two defensive ends.

Holes remaining: Where are the cover guys? WVU needs help in the secondary and got it in safeties Malik Greaves and Jeremy Tyler, but didn't sign a pure cornerback in this class.
Now that all of the early entries for this year's NFL draft are in, we decided to take a closer look at some of the players who decided to leave school early.

We're checking in on how teams were affected and who some of the winners and losers were from all of these early departures:

Biggest winners: David Ash and Texas' offense. Mike Davis committed to returning for his senior season. Then he didn't. Then he did again. For that brief period when he was headed to the NFL draft but hadn't signed with an agent -- it was less than a day -- it felt pretty close to panic time for Texas' offense. Ash is still trying to mature, and if his biggest deep threat took his talents to the NFL, the Longhorns would have had exactly one receiver with more than 10 catches in 2012. That's not conducive to Ash progressing as a passer. Texas still needs a bit more depth at the position, but Davis' decision to stick around is a huge boon for its offense, which very well may pay off in the Big 12 title race next year. Winning in this league typically requires teams to hang 30-40 points a game.

[+] EnlargeKenny Stills
Jackson Laizure/Getty ImagesWill Oklahoma's passing game suffer in 2013 without receiver Kenny Stills in the lineup?
Biggest losers: Oklahoma. The Sooners got gutted by the draft. Kenny Stills and Tony Jefferson might have been able to improve their stock with another year, but two-thirds of the Cali Trio is officially checking out of school early. New quarterback, likely Blake Bell, will have to adjust to a young group of receivers without Stills, the most consistent member of the group. Additionally, the defense has more pieces to fill. Tom Wort wasn't outstanding, but he at least had experience. He's headed to the NFL draft, too, and the Sooners lost a starting linebacker.

Headscratchers: Stansly Maponga, Tom Wort, Brandon Moore. Maponga is best suited to hear his name called pretty early in the draft, but the Frogs' best preseason standout was banged up this season and definitely could have improved his stock with a strong season in a major conference as a senior in 2013. He was overshadowed by teammate Devonte Fields, a fellow defensive lineman, and managed just 6.5 tackles for loss, the fourth-most for the Frogs. He had just four sacks after making nine a season ago. Wort, meanwhile, made the perplexing decision amidst rumors that he was unhappy with Oklahoma's new defensive scheme, which was a reason for a major production drop from him. Linebackers aren't meant to rack up tackles or make plays, but instead funnel ball carriers and plug up gaps. He runs the risk of being undrafted, and so does Moore, a Texas defensive tackle who transferred to Austin and started about half of Texas' games. Moore was basically just a member of a strong rotation up front for the Longhorns' defense, which struggled to stop the run for most of the season.

The replacements:
  • Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma: Shepard definitely brings about comparisons to Ryan Broyles. He has similar size and proved to be a solid option in the passing game as a true freshman. It's doubtful he'll be able to stretch the field like Stills, but his 45 grabs for 621 yards are sure to grow next season. He'll help smooth over the quarterback transition away from Landry Jones. Shepard and Fresno State transfer Jalen Saunders will be the team's top two returning receivers.
  • Jeremy Smith/Desmond Roland, RBs, Oklahoma State: Joseph Randle is gone, but Oklahoma State is definitely prepared to fill his shoes. Neither Smith nor Roland has as much raw talent as Randle, but both are certainly capable to be very productive in Oklahoma State's pass-first offense. Smith's touches were down this year, but he ran for 646 yards in 2011. He and Roland are both more physical than Randle, but can they prove to be big-play backs? Smith's game tape against Texas in 2011 suggests the answer is yes.
  • LaDarius Brown, WR, TCU: Brown is a huge target for whoever TCU lines up at quarterback. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder caught 27 passes for 385 yards. Brandon Carter is the more immediate option as the team's best target without Josh Boyce and Skye Dawson, but Brown's potential is sky-high. Look for him to get tons of targets in the red zone next season.
  • Malcom Brown, DT, Texas: Brown might be one big reason why Moore is leaving for the NFL. Brown fought his way into the rotation as a true freshman, which is no easy task even for the nation's best recruits. Brown was the nation's No. 12 player in the 2012 class, and everybody wanted him. He made 19 tackles and two tackles for loss.
Colleague Mel Kiper Jr. weighed in with a "good call/bad call" column Insider this week, but the only Big 12 player mentioned was Oklahoma safety Tony Jefferson, and Kiper Jr. liked Jefferson's decision to enter the draft. Here are the Big 12 players who are going and staying in 2013.

Heading to the draft

Jefferson, S, Oklahoma: Probably the Big 12's best early entry prospect, he made 119 tackles this season. Expect the California native to go in the first two rounds.

Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State: Randle has led the Big 12 in rushing in each of the past two seasons, and felt the need to cash in now after producing a 1,400-yard season despite turnover at quarterback.

Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia: He led the nation with 25 touchdown catches. He is getting out of Morgantown as the Mountaineers shift to a new quarterback after Geno Smith graduated.

Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma: He is disappointed with his 2012 season and leaves Oklahoma without a 1,000-yard season, but he improved in all three seasons in Norman.

Josh Boyce, WR, TCU: Boyce didn't produce a 1,000-yard season in his career, and it was a mild surprise that he left early. TCU's receiving corps will still be OK with Brandon Carter and LaDarius Brown.

Stansly Maponga, DE, TCU: Maponga's decision came late and out of nowhere. Most didn't think he was even pondering an early entry after a disappointing 2012.

Brandon Moore, DT, Texas: Moore started less than half the season, but the juco transfer made it a one-and-done stop in Austin. He never quite reached the hype from the spring, but he was a good contributor.

Tom Wort, LB, Oklahoma: Plenty of rumbling that he was unhappy with the defensive schemes and wanted to leave Oklahoma because the gap responsibility didn't showcase his skills. He had about 20 fewer tackles this season than in 2011.

Staying in college:

James Sims, RB, Kansas: Sims was one of the Big 12's best backs and led KU in rushing each of the past two seasons. KU has given him a ton of carries, but he's signing up for another year of it, and an attempt to win a Big 12 game.

Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma: Colvin will be the Sooners' best player next season, and the lone returner in the secondary with an interception.

Mike Davis, WR, Texas: Davis flip-flopped a couple times, but ended up staying at Texas. The Longhorns' offense needed him, and surely David Ash and Major Applewhite were big fans of this decision.

Jason Verrett, CB, TCU: Verrett might just be the nation's best cornerback next season, and he'll be a huge piece of TCU's defense in 2013, which could be one of the nation's best next season, too.

Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State: Gilbert's 2012 was a disappointment, but he's still a physical freak. He'll have another year likely returning kicks, and it's hard to see 2013 going worse than this season.

Brandon Moore enters NFL Draft

January, 11, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- The deepest position on the Texas roster took a hit as defensive tackle Brandon Moore announced his intent to enter the NFL draft on Friday.

"I want to thank coach [Mack] Brown, [defensive line] coach [Bo] Davis and everyone at Texas," Moore said in a statement. "I enjoyed my time and really appreciate the opportunity I had to play for the Longhorns, but my life-long dream has been to play in the NFL and to have a chance to support my family. I'll definitely miss everyone at Texas and will always pull for the Longhorns, but I'm ready to put all of my energy into preparing for my future and getting ready to work out for NFL scouts."

The transfer from East Mississippi Community College started five games and had eight tackles for loss, two sacks and six quarterback pressure in his only season at Texas.

If there were a position Texas could afford to lose a player it was defensive tackle. The Longhorns used a five-man rotation last season and, prior to Moore’s declaration, were set to have all five players back. Moore’s departure should clear more room for rising sophomore Malcom Brown.

Brown’s playing time steadily increased throughout the year and it became clear he would be become and impact player in his sophomore season. Ashton Dorsey, Chris Whaley and Desmond Jackson will all vie for the starting spot opposite Brown.

While those four should garner most of the minutes, Paul Boyette Jr. may now have the opportunity to become part of the rotation. Boyette redshirted in 2012.

Overall the Texas defense will lose three starters from what was the worst defense in school history. Defensive end Alex Okafor and safety Kenny Vaccaro are expected to be selected within the first two rounds. Because of his potential and size (6-5, 320) Moore could also grab a spot in the first three rounds.
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas defense, which has suffered many blows in the past few weeks, just took another to the gut.

Jackson Jeffcoat is out. Gone for the season. He tore his pectoral muscle. This time it was the right one. Last year it was the left one. So much for Texas having the top two defensive ends in the Big 12. Instead Texas is just left with big questions at a time when it is searching for answers.

The foremost is: Can Cedric Reed or Reggie Wilson even come close to producing at Jeffcoat’s level? The answer is no. If they could, they would have had the starting spot.

[+] EnlargeJackson Jeffcoat
John Albright/Icon SMITexas will have to replace DE Jackson Jeffcoat, arguably its top defender, with inexperienced players.
Wilson showed a flash against Ole Miss when he jumped a diving blocker and sacked Bo Wallace.

Jeffcoat does stuff like that every game. The junior had four sacks, 11 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown already this season. Reed and Wilson have a combined five tackles for loss and one sack.

But Jeffcoat’s game went beyond stats. He, along with bookend Alex Okafor, was able to pin in quarterbacks and shrink their options. The reason Geno Smith was unable to roll the pocket and therefore roll Texas was because he had Jeffcoat to his left and Okafor to his right every time he dropped back. It was the combined pressure of the two that forced Smith to take four sacks and be stripped of the ball twice.

Without that type of pressure the Texas secondary, which already has issues in coverage, is susceptible to being picked apart by a quarterback like Baylor’s Nick Florence. Florence, the FBS leader in total offense, just so happens to be the next QB Texas faces.

The Longhorns might consider pulling the redshirt off someone like Shiro Davis in order to get more speed on the edge. But, as Texas has proven in the past two losses, it is very tough to play fast as a defensive player when you do not know where you are going.

Without Jeffcoat, Texas, a team that has allowed 111 points and more than 1,100 yards in the past two games, might be wondering where it is going.

Ash not ruled out
Texas has prepared itself since the spring to use two quarterbacks. Now the Longhorns might have to do just that.

While quarterback David Ash has not been ruled out with a bruise to his non-throwing wrist, he has not been cleared to play, either. That means Texas might once again be turning to backup Case McCoy.

The junior, who was 3-2 as a starter in 2011, lost out on the starting job after what was an eight-month competition. But the Texas coaches qualified their selection of Ash by stating, repeatedly, that they felt McCoy was more than an adequate backup and that they would not hesitate to play him.

Well, now the time might have come and it might be against Baylor, which happens to be the last team McCoy started against. In that game, McCoy was responsible for five turnovers. That, as much as anything, is what led to his demotion.

The coaching staff could not abide a quarterback who played fast and loose with the ball. They wanted a game manager. Ash better fit that role. McCoy, on the other hand, is much more of a draw-it-up-in-the-dirt player.

But McCoy has matured. He has added 15-20 pounds and put more zip on his intermediate throws as well as length on deep throws.

If he is the quarterback, it is almost a certainty that co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin will play it close to the vest and try to get McCoy to distribute the ball to playmakers such as Daje Johnson, Marquise Goodwin and Johnathan Gray. That has been when Texas is at its best. And to beat Baylor, a team that is No. 2 in total offense and No. 4 in scoring offense, Texas’ offense will have to be at its best.
Everything seemed fine on the 40 Acres this time two years ago.

The defensive cupboard was well-stocked and Mack Brown was talking up the squad, openly inviting high expectations for his defense and claiming they might be the best in his time in Austin.

With the Acho brothers up front and three future NFL draft picks in the secondary, who could blame him?

[+] EnlargeJackson Jeffcoat
Jody Gomez/US PresswireJackson Jeffcoat, above, and Alex Okafor combine to form the Big 12's best defensive end tandem.
"It didn’t turn out that way," Brown said this week.

The Longhorns defense was good, but not good enough. It led the Big 12 in total defense, but forced just 18 turnovers for 11th in the Big 12.

Oh, and Texas went 5-7.

The Longhorns bounced back with eight wins in 2011, and in 2012 the hype is back for a defense loaded with NFL talent once again. There is talk that it might be among the nation's best, if not the nation's best.

"I want our defense to live up to those expectations," Brown said. "All of us sitting here in preseason have expectations, especially at a school like the University of Texas. But, until you produce on the field, and we’ll have a better idea of how they look on Saturday, then we’re not sure how good they will be."

Brown's tempering the expectations a bit this time around, but he knows what he has.

The league's No. 1 and No. 2 defensive ends are anything but an unknown commodity. Both Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor could hear their names called in the first round of next April's NFL draft, though Jeffcoat said this week he wants to stay and get his degree from Texas.

Cornerbacks Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom morphed a question mark at cornerback into one of the team's strengths late in the season, and safety Kenny Vaccaro might be the best overall defender in the Big 12.

The one thing most closely resembling a question mark? The middle of the defense.

"I’ve consistently talked about the loss of the four seniors down the middle," Brown said, "and that we’ve got new, young guys in their places."

Linebackers Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson were the vocal leaders of the defense last season, but have been replaced by super recruits Steve Edmond and Jordan Hicks, joining a speedster on the outside in linebacker Demarco Cobbs, who played quarterback, receiver, safety and returned kicks and punts in high school.

Tackle Kheeston Randall is gone, too, but the Longhorns look well suited to replace him by plugging juco transfer Brandon Moore and reformed running back Chris Whaley at the top of a rotation of five capable contributors in the middle of the defense.

Adrian Phillips moves up to replace four-year starter Blake Gideon at strong safety opposite Vaccaro.

"Until they prove it on Saturday that they’re ready to show that leadership and show that ability to handle Big 12 football at a fast pace, then we have to wait until they prove it before we can anoint them as a great defense," Brown said.

Here's guessing we won't wait long.

Fresh faces: Texas Longhorns

August, 27, 2012
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Today we continue our look across the league at few players from each team who had low profiles last year, but you'd better get to know before Saturday. They just might be household names by season's end.

More fresh faces:
Next up: Texas.

Donald Hawkins, OT: Hawkins and another guy on this list were the first juco transfers to sign with Texas since 2002, and both look like they'll have huge impacts in their first seasons on campus. Texas' offensive line is pretty stout, but Hawkins has already earned a starting spot after a spring and fall camp, trotting out as the starting left tackle ahead of freshman Kennedy Estelle. The 6-foot-5, 310-pounder came to Texas via Mississippi, and OL coach Stacy Searels will help mold him. You never know, of course, but don't be surprised if you see Hawkins' name on the All-Big 12 offensive line at season's end.

Chris Whaley and Brandon Moore, DTs: Texas is crazy deep at defensive tackle, but these two players have the oddest roads to where they are today. Whaley came to Texas as one of the nation's top running backs all the way back in 2009, but he's earned a starting spot as a 292-pound defensive tackle. He made five tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and fumble recovery last year, but made just one start. Moore, meanwhile, was the second juco transfer to sign with the 2012 class, despite Texas' aversion to the practice for the past decade. The 6-5, 320-pounder already wowed teammates in the spring, and with the kind of depth Texas has to help spell Moore, he's going to be scary when he's on the field.

Steve Edmond, LB: Edmond came to Texas as the nation's No. 4 linebacker, and he's going to be literally and figuratively a huge presence at middle linebacker for the Horns. The 6-3, 255-pounder offers some size in the middle of the defense that few Big 12 teams can duplicate. We'll see how well Edmond can cover, but Texas' scheme is unlikely to leave Edmond on islands with pass-catchers. He had two tackles for loss last year, 16 tackles and a forced fumble.
Thanks for coming to today's chat, those of you who showed. It was a good crowd and a fun chat. Here's the full transcript.

Got more to say? Send it to my mailbag right here and it might make the blog on Friday.

Now, time for some highlights:

Craig (Ames): With Jantz at quarterback, do you think that the Cyclones are any more or less likely to win 6 games this year?

David Ubben: No, not particularly. It's about the same. He and Jared Barnett are both really, really close. The biggest thing for Jantz has to be turnovers. He threw 11 picks in just over six games. He can't do that anymore. I loved his poise in the fourth quarter of games early last season, but Iowa State doesn't have a very explosive offense. Every possession needs to be taken advantage of. I'm sure he knows that, too.

Jswaggert (Laguna Beach): Dubbs... A lot of talk about Landry Jones being under appreciated by Sooner fans. It seems his quite, reserved demeanor is keeping him him in background, not only in the eyes of the fans, but the national media as well. Interesting to hear your thoughts on this?

David Ubben: It's an interesting dichotomy for sure. I talked about this a little bit today, but you can see it on the blog tomorrow. He's not a real compelling personality, but he's one of the most compelling storylines of the entire season this year. He could win the Heisman and have an undefeated team. He could also have like, 25 TDs, 15 INTs and an eight-win team. I'm excited to see which it is. He's a really meek guy, and that's earned him some respect on this team over time. He's matured into a leader who only speaks when he needs to. Guys listen.

Cliff Angel (Dallas): Is OU going to be able to overcome all the injuries and suspension and people leaving this year to make a run for the championship?

David Ubben: National title, I don't believe so. Big 12 title, yes. The Sooners are a very, very narrow favorite, but favorites none the less. The problem is there are six contenders who could all win it. Think of it like a golf tournament. This league has the Sooners at like -7, and five other teams at -4 or lower. They've got to be great or somebody's going to step up and beat them. This league is too deep and too many teams will be in contention.

Bill (West Virginia): Do you think the Big 12 Teams are excited to play in a different venue like the mountains of West Virginia? How many games do you think you will cover here? Thanks for the good coverage.

David Ubben: I think so. It'll be fun. The travel won't be the easiest, but it won't be a major issue. I think the fans are more excited than the teams. It's new blood and a new city to explore. I loved my time there this spring. I'm sure I'll be back this fall, as long as WVU holds up their end of the deal. All that means is win.

Pfc Miller (Baghdad, Iraq): Ubbie, How can there be so much talk about OU winning the conference? Texas has the deeper defense and hasn't endured all of the preseason losses (injuries/suspensions). Is there something that I'm missing here?

David Ubben: It's all about the quarterbacks, baby. If Texas had a good one, there's no doubt the Longhorns would be the Big 12 favorite in my mind. They don't have a good one, and my position rankings made it clear: Texas has the worst QB situation of anybody in the league. You can't ignore that, and it knocks UT down from a national title contender to a dark horse in the Big 12 title chase. Probably a nine-win team. OU, meanwhile, has Landry Jones. He's got his faults, but he's a big-time player.

John (Midland): Is LaDarius Brown (TCU) in your top three for Big 12 Newcomer of the Year?

David Ubben: Nope. I'd probably go with Trey Metoyer at OU, Wes Lunt or Blake Jackson at Oklahoma State and Brandon Moore at Texas ahead of him. Not a lot of opportunity for Brown to make nearly as big of an impact at TCU than the other three. TCU doesn't really need him right now, even though he sounds like a great player. His time is coming.

withrowsp (West Virginia): Another thing Jason Sehorn declared is that the Big 12 is the 4th or 5th best conference in college football. I call shenanigans on that and I think he is way off base. What say you Ubben?

David Ubben: Shenanigans. Big 12 will probably be behind the SEC this year when it's all said and done, but it's silly to suggest it's behind the Big Ten or Pac-12 this year. This league's depth is ridiculous.

withrowsp (West Virginia): Lets pretend for a moment that you are a CB in the Big 12. Which opposing WR would make you most nervous in man coverage?

David Ubben: Tavon Austin, easily. He plays bigger than his size, and he's so shifty. He's going to get open on you. That's why I probably would have picked Ryan Broyles last year ahead of Justin Blackmon on this question. You can cover Blackmon, but he's just going to make a play over you or beat you by a step. Broyles might run a route and leave you in a different zip code altogether. That's embarrassing. Austin can do a lot of the same.

 
AUSTIN, Texas -- Longhorns freshman defensive tackle Malcom Brown doesn’t like to consume himself with football.

“I don’t want to be obsessed with it,” he said. “I want to get on the field, do what I’ve got to do and get off the field.”

In fact he seldom watches the game if he’s not playing in it.

Malcom Brown
Davide De Pas for ESPN.comMalcom Brown was an All-American in high school and has already turned heads during summer workouts.
“I don’t watch no sports,” said the former Under Armour All-American from Brenham, Texas. “When I get home, I fix me a bowl of cereal, lay in bed and watch me some ‘Dragon Ball Z’ or something.”

As much as Brown likes to keep his personal life separate from football, he might find that more challenging now that he’s in Austin with some lofty expectations.

The Longhorns bring back three quality defensive tackles in Ashton Dorsey, Chris Whaley and Desmond Jackson, and added a mountain of a man in junior college transfer Brandon Moore (6-foot-5, 320 pounds).

Still, there’s not a person familiar with ‘Mancom,’ as he is known, that isn’t willing to wager that he’ll factor into the rotation this season.

“There is opportunity for him to play,” Texas senior All-American defensive end Alex Okafor said. “If he can come in and learn the playbook then he will be there. He definitely has a shot this year.”

The 6-foot-4, 315-pound Brown was the No. 2 defensive tackle and No. 12 overall prospect in 2012, which makes him the second highest-rated player in Texas’ incoming class behind Gatorade National Player of the Year Johnathan Gray.

Brown, a three-year starter, tallied 125 tackles, 66 tackles for loss, 91 quarterback hurries, 24 sacks, nine forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries in his prep career.

From the sounds of it, he practically intimidated an opposing running back into one of those forced fumbles.

“I remember one time we were playing Magnolia West and he called out the running back,” Brenham teammate and current Longhorns linebacker Tim Cole said. “[Brown] said, ‘Hey you! I’m gonna get you!’ And then, as soon as the play goes, he tackles him in the backfield for a loss. And he fumbled. It was ridiculous."

This is all coming from a guy who would rather watch cartoons than Monday Night Football, remember?

When Brown wasn’t bulldozing his way through offensive lines, he was showing off his light feet and reliable hands as a tight end. Ponder that for a second.

“Physically he is just a strong guy,” Okafor said. “He is very quick on his feet. He gets it so far. He is a great team guy, is pretty vocal and a great kid. Now let’s see if he can play.”

There seems to be little doubt about that. In fact, the addition of he and Moore are a big reason why the departure of Kheeston Randall isn’t one of the team's underlying concerns heading into fall camp. An All-Big 12 selection in 2011, Randall was key in Texas finishing as one of the nation’s best defenses last season.

“They are deep,” Okafor said of Texas’ defensive tackles. “We have five to six guys that are ready to go. We have the advantage of keeping guys fresh in the middle. Not many guys have the advantage of doing that.”

And only one team has the advantage of plugging Brown into the equation.

Power Rankings: No. 17 Texas

August, 7, 2012
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After two years of being an also-ran on the national stage and in the Big 12, Texas appears poised to move out of the wings. The Longhorns return eight starters from a defense that was No. 11 nationally last season and have added quality depth at defensive tackle position. Defensive lineman Brandon Moore and linebacker Steve Edmond could be breakout stars. Offensively, Texas is still trying to find the next Colt McCoy. It's clear it is not his brother, Case. The younger McCoy continues to be locked in a quarterback battle with sophomore David Ash. Whoever wins will have the benefit of what appears to be the Big 12's best and deepest backfield with sophomores Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron as well as the nation's top running back recruit in Johnathan Gray.

Texas tops Big 12 defensive lines

August, 2, 2012
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Colleague Travis Haney continued our series at ESPN.com on college football's best position units Insider by ranking the nation's top 10 defensive lines.

Only one Big 12 team made his list, and it's the Texas Longhorns.

No question here. Texas is in a league of its own in the Big 12 when it comes to the defensive line. Ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor are the league's two best, and Okafor was named Big 12 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year by the media.

The Longhorns checked in at No. 3 on Haney's list, behind only Florida State and LSU.

The kicker for Texas? Jeffcoat and Okafor get plenty of attention, but the depth at defensive tackle might take this line to the next level.

Ashton Dorsey returns along with sophomore Desmond Jackson, but juco transfer Brandon Moore and incoming freshman Malcom Brown could have a big impact. If that rotation starts collapsing pockets up front, flushing quarterbacks into the flats, Jeffcoat and Okafor are going to be racking up big, big numbers this year. Look out for former running back Chris Whaley on the line, too.

Texas is going to have a fearsome front four all season, regardless of who's on the field, well-deserving of a spot in the national top three.

TCU and Oklahoma may have the next-best defensive lines in the league, but nobody's got one like Texas does this year. We'll see how much damage the Longhorns do.
The Big 12 preseason awards have been announced. West Virginia's Geno Smith won the preseason Offensive Player of the Year Award. Texas defensive end Alex Okafor won Defensive Player of the Year and Oklahoma wide receiver Trey Metoyer won for Newcomer of the Year.

Here's how I voted:

Offensive Player of the Year: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia. In talking with people involved with the conference voting process this week at media days, I learned that the final vote between Smith and Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones was very, very close. I went with Geno. It's pretty close, but I didn't debate this one very much. Smith was inconsistent at times last year, sure, but when it mattered most, he was great. Jones faltered in big spots. Sure, Jones doesn't have the same quality of targets for all of last season after Ryan Broyles went down, but when it came to numbers, Smith dominated. Additionally, he takes care of the ball much more efficiently than Jones. That counts for a lot. Even though Smith has never played a down in the Big 12, I went with the Mountaineers' man for the preseason award.

Defensive Player of the Year: Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State. There's no slam dunk here. You could probably make a case for no fewer than seven or eight guys. After a lot of debate, I voted for Brown. I mostly did so because of his importance to Kansas State's defense. His speed in the middle and locked-in tackling make him more valuable to his team than any other player in the league. The SnyderCats aren't loaded on depth and athletes, but Brown has the measurables to play for anybody in the league. He's irreplaceable for Kansas State and his speed and athleticism make him a specimen anybody would love to have. Anybody else remember him hurdling a blocker in the Cotton Bowl against Arkansas? Not many guys can do that.

Newcomer of the Year: Trey Metoyer, WR, Oklahoma. This was a tough vote, too. You hear a lot about these guys and have to go by players' words in these days of closed practices. For me, Newcomer of the Year comes down to opportunity and need, though. Metoyer has been hyped by coaches and teammates since he arrived on campus as a freak athlete, but he's got to do more than contribute. Oklahoma needs him to be a huge factor, and he'll have every opportunity to do so. He's got a Heisman candidate in Jones throwing him the ball, an established weapon in Kenny Stills to take some attention from defenses and a great offensive line. All the pieces are in place for him to be very, very productive. For me, that earned him my vote just ahead of guys like Wes Lunt and Blake Jackson at Oklahoma State, Dayne Crist at Kansas, Brandon Moore at Texas, Will Smith and SaDale Foster at Texas Tech and Lache Seastrunk at Baylor.
We're taking a look at spring breakout players across college football today, and here's who made a big impact across the Big 12.

Trey Metoyer, WR, Oklahoma: Metoyer may have had the best spring of anyone in the Big 12. The physical freshman spent last season in prep school, but walked in this spring and essentially earned a starting job. Then three Sooners receivers were suspended indefinitely. Metoyer was already going to play and probably going to start. Now, with Oklahoma's passing offense and Landry Jones throwing the ball, it's a near certainty that he'll have a huge impact.

Wes Lunt, QB, Oklahoma State: Lunt hasn't made an impact yet, but he's already made headlines. Lunt may be the first freshman to win a starting QB job in the spring in the history of the Big 12. The Illinois native beat out junior Clint Chelf and redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh for the right to succeed Brandon Weeden, and quickly trended nationwide on Twitter after the announcement.

Will Smith, LB, Texas Tech: Smith came to Lubbock as a lightly recruited California juco transfer trying to find some playing time at outside linebacker. Midway through spring, he'd already established himself as the team's best linebacker and coach Tommy Tuberville moved him to the inside so he wouldn't have to leave the field during passing downs.

Jordan Thompson, WR, West Virginia: WVU is already loaded at receiver, albeit a bit top-heavy. Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin are bona fide studs, but Thompson should find a niche in the Mountaineers' offense after showing he could make an impact as an early enrolling true freshman. He's quick and has good hands, and the Houston native may resemble (gasp!) a young Tavon Austin next fall.

Brandon Moore, DT, Texas: Moore reportedly still needs to work on his conditioning, but the 6-foot-6, 330-pound juco transfer was a force in the middle of the line for the Longhorns, and could be a valuable pocket collapser and run stopper for a loaded Texas defense in 2012. That could blow up a lot of great Big 12 offenses. Think Nick Fairley vs. Oregon in the 2010 season's national title game.

Charlie Moore, WR, Oklahoma State: There was buzz surrounding Moore all spring, but he proved it in a big way as a spring game breakout star. The junior caught nine passes for 243 yards and three touchdowns in the game, and overshadowed yet another breakout star over the course of the spring, sophomore receiver Josh Stewart. OSU needed to find weapons this spring to replace Justin Blackmon, Josh Cooper, Hubert Anyiam and Michael Harrison at receiver. The Cowboys did exactly that.

Tony Pierson, RB, Kansas: Pierson made a small impact last season, but he's essentially the unquestioned starter at KU for now after Darrian Miller was kicked off the team and James Sims was suspended for the first three games of 2012. The East St. Louis native is dangerous in the open field and gives KU a much needed home run threat.
With the spring in the Big 12 over, it's time to hand out some awards.

Best newcomer: Brandon Moore, DT, Texas. Moore and offensive lineman Donald Hawkins were the first two juco transfers at Texas since 2002. This spring, Moore showed why, and Hawkins should start on the offensive line. Moore, a 330-pound force in the middle of the defense was reportedly "unstoppable" this spring. Conditioning may be an issue, but that could get better over the summer. If he's busting up offensive lines, Texas' defense is going to be terrifying. Honorable mention: Blake Jackson, WR/TE, Oklahoma State, Dayne Crist, QB, Kansas

Biggest shocker: Wes Lunt, QB, Oklahoma State. OSU OC Todd Monken said himself he'd be "shocked" if Lunt came in and won the QB job. Well, consider him shocked. Junior Clint Chelf didn't distance himself from his competition, and Lunt learned enough to surpass dual-threat J.W. Walsh and win the job. Chelf and Walsh don't sound like they're itching to transfer, which is a welcome sign for OSU's coaches, but Lunt could begin a storied career in Stillwater this fall, even if there are growing pains in the immediate future.

Best quote: Todd Monken, OC, Oklahoma State. Monken got the Sooners fired up with his take on how quickly things can change for a quarterback when it comes to confidence. "It didn’t take long when ol’ (Oklahoma receiver Ryan) Broyles went down and (OU) started running the dozer to think, 'Do we have our guy?' That didn’t take long," Monken said. "Landry Jones went from like, 'I’m the man,' to all of a sudden, 'I haven’t thrown a touchdown pass, I'm fumbling it over my head at Oklahoma State. I gotta go back and see my quarterback guru." Monken later apologized, and even though he made an example of a rival player, it wasn't explicit criticism. Out of line? Maybe. Definitely not what Mike Gundy wanted to hear. Above all, though, it was fact. Even Oklahoma fans who watched the Sooners in 2011 would admit that. It's the truth. Nice move to apologize, and Oklahoma can call it disrespect if it wants. I'll call it what it is: the truth.

Second-best quote: Glenn Gronkowski, FB, Kansas State. On the light-hearted side of things, the youngest of the Gronkowski boys explained his family slogan, "Get Gronk'd" on his bracelet ("It basically just means beasting as much as possible. It's about beasting and going as hard as possible at all times and in everything you do.") and what it was like growing up with his older brothers, notably New England Patriots' TE Rob Gronkowski. "We'd just break stuff, man. We were into WWE when we were little. One time, we got an old table and pulled it out into the living room. We got Rob and choke-slammed him through it. That thing broke right in half." Mrs. Gronkowski, you are a saint.

Biggest black eye: TCU drug scandal. TCU had a squeaky-clean image before this spring, but there's no doubt the newcomers picked a bad time to have it end. Not the best first impression. Four players were arrested in a campus drug sting, including former All-American linebacker Tanner Brock, who would have been the team's top defender. There's some debate about how widespread the problem was, but the impact, scope and attention of the scandal were a bigger problem for the schools than players at Baylor and Iowa State being under investigation for sexual assault. Isn't that a problem in itself?

Best spring-game performance: Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State. Klein was going up against second-teamers, sure. Other K-State quarterbacks have put up crazy numbers in this game, but Klein bested them all with an eye-popping stat line. He completed 47-of-56 passes for 480 yards and six touchdowns, though he threw an interception on the final drive with the game tied at 42. Most impressive? He called all the plays, as K-State QBs traditionally do in the spring game. Honorable mention: Charlie Moore, WR, Oklahoma State

Best viral video: Charlie Weis, Kansas. Weis allowed media access to one open practice, and at the end, ripped into his team for not being enthusiastic enough while celebrating what was supposed to be a game-winning field goal to beat TCU and go 3-0, he told them. "I can tell you guys aren’t used to winning. ... Winning a football game is not supposed to be an uncommon occurrence. I know that’s a novel concept around here," Weis yelled. "When you win a football game, there’s supposed to be a celebration that looks like a celebration. And that was a pile of crap." Was it legitimate? Was it a media stunt? I don't care. It was compelling.
The 2012 NFL draft is over, but it's never too early to look ahead to 2013. I mean, we basically have to, right?

NFL draft guru Todd McShay released his first-round mock draft, Insider and there are plenty of Big 12 talents on the list. You'll need ESPN Insider to see it all, but here's who he pegs as a first-rounder for next year.

No. 3, Minnesota Vikings: Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas

My take: This is the first of many times you'll see Jeffcoat's name on draft lists. Jeffcoat came to Texas as the nation's No. 1 recruit in the 2009 class, and next offseason will be the first in which he's available for the NFL draft. He's made good on his potential, but struggled with an ankle injury that slowed an otherwise outstanding first season. He was very solid in 2011, but could be poised for a breakout season in 2012 on the national stage. Either way, I'd be shocked if Jeffcoat wasn't a first-rounder whenever he leaves. If he continues to progress, top five is a near certainty.

No. 12, Seattle Seahawks: Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor

My take: Williams has a lot to prove in 2012. He may have had the quietest 900-yard receiving season in history last season, overshadowed by the Big 12's leading rusher (Terrance Ganaway), leading receiver (Kendall Wright, 1,600+ yards), and Heisman winner Robert Griffin III. Can Williams handle the pressure from defenses as the bona fide No. 1 target for a new quarterback in Nick Florence? You have to love Williams' physical attributes, but can he maintain his production? I'm confidently betting yes, but we'll find out next year.

No. 19, Kansas City Chiefs: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma

My take: Jones has plenty to prove, too. When Ryan Broyles went down, Jones struggled. He's back, and coaches love what he's done this spring. If he plays well, I could see Jones reinvigorating his stock and rising into the top 10 or top five. If he struggles again, I'd be shocked if he was a first rounder. Of all the Big 12 talents on this list, I'd say Jones' stock is the most volatile.

No. 25, Cincinnati Bengals: Alex Okafor, DE, Texas

My take: Love Okafor's game a whole lot, and admittedly, I regret snubbing him from the Big 12's top 25 players in 2011. The thing with him is, his physical attributes don't wow you like his teammate Jeffcoat's does. That said, he's consistently productive, and that says a lot. He has plenty of help in Texas' defense, and the Longhorns defensive line will be scary this year with Jeffcoat, Okafor and juco transfer defensive tackle Brandon Moore, who teammates pegged as "unstoppable" this spring.

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