Big 12: Brandon Sharpe

Pregame: New Era Pinstripe Bowl

December, 29, 2012
12/29/12
9:00
AM ET
West Virginia (7-5, 4-5 Big 12) versus Syracuse (7-5, 5-2 Big East):

WHO TO WATCH: Stedman Bailey. Hard to pick just one of the West Virginia trio on offense that has shattered just about every school record. Geno Smith and Tavon Austin are just as worthy of selection. So are Ryan Nassib and Alec Lemon for Syracuse. But I went with Bailey for a variety of reasons. First, he had an incredible season, leading the nation with 23 touchdown receptions. Second, this is his last game after declaring early for the NFL draft, a perfect opportunity to showcase his talents for everybody to see. And third, he was just about the only West Virginia player to have any success against Syracuse last season, with seven catches for 130 yards and a touchdown.

WHAT TO WATCH: Geno Smith versus Syracuse's front. This is the biggest matchup to watch in the game, and it is not even really that close. Syracuse beat West Virginia the past two years in large part because its defensive front found a way to harass Smith. In those two victories, Syracuse combined to sack Smith nine times and force him into five interceptions. Chandler Jones was particularly impressive in both of those games. He is gone, and you can bet Syracuse will be turning its focus to Brandon Sharpe as a rush end in this game. Now, by all measures, Smith was a more complete quarterback this season than the past two years, as he threw a whopping 40 touchdown passes. But five of his six interceptions came in losses, so the game plan for Syracuse should remain the same as the previous two years -- make Smith as uncomfortable as possible.

WHY WATCH: This game is being billed as potentially having plenty of offensive fireworks, as both teams average more than 470 yards per game. Plus, they are longtime Big East rivals. Before 2012, Syracuse and West Virginia had met annually since 1955 and played for the Ben Schwartzwalder Trophy when it was established in 1993. Although the trophy is not going to be on the line in this game, West Virginia will try to beat the Orange for the first time since 2009. One more thing to keep an eye on -- the weather. Snow is expected in New York on Saturday, so that could radically alter game plans and force both teams to rely more on their ground games. Jerome Smith and Andrew Buie (or even Shawne Alston) could end up with big days.

PREDICTION: Syracuse 45, West Virginia 44.

The Revolving Door: Texas Tech

June, 16, 2010
6/16/10
3:35
PM ET
Here, we'll take a look at a couple of key players going, staying and coming for each team in the Big 12.

Going:

Brandon Sharpe, DE

The Red Raiders will miss Sharpe's playmaking off the edge, and must replace a first-team All-Big 12 team member. The senior racked up a single-season school record 15 sacks to rank second in the Big 12 and had four in Texas Tech's 31-10 win over Nebraska. Even more impressive was his numbers coming in his only season as starter after transferring to Texas Tech from Fresno City (Calif.) College.

Brandon Carter, OL

A three-year starter, Carter earned All-Big 12 honors in each season. As a senior, he finished on the first team. Although perhaps best known for his face paint, Carter was one of the league's best linemen for the majority of his career.


Staying:

Taylor Potts/Steven Sheffield, QBs

Probably the league's most interesting quarterback battle, Sticks vs. Potts will be back again this fall with a new coach and a sped-up offense. The pair's spring battle only lasted a couple weeks after Sheffield broke the same foot from last season and Potts suffered a deep cut on his throwing hand. Both required surgery. Sheffield outperformed Potts near the end of the season and in the final spring scrimmage before the injury, but with so much time off, anything could happen in the fall. The fans want Sheffield. We won't find out who coach Tommy Tuberville wants until the fall.

Baron Batch, RB

Batch's consistency has given Texas Tech a reliable option at running back for the past two seasons, topping 750 yards in both and averaging almost 6 yards per carry during that span. In an offense that will run the ball more than the Red Raiders are used to, he has a great chance to top 1,000 yards as a senior. He earned All-Big 12 honorable mention last season, and if he hits the quadruple digits, he'll move way up in that line.


Coming:

Jackson Richards, DE

Richards might not be able to fill Sharpe's hole right away, but he could be a contributor for Texas Tech at the end spot. The Red Raiders snatched the 6-foot-4, 235-pounder over LSU, Kansas State and Colorado. The Southlake (Tex.) Carroll alum was ranked as the No. 34 defensive end prospect in the country.

Shawn Corker, WR

Texas Tech has a lot of depth at receiver, but in the Air Raid offense, there's always room for one more. If Corker proves he can handle it, he'll get on the field. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., native has solid speed with a 4.45 40 time and chose the Red Raiders over Miami and Florida, among others. ESPNU ranked him as the No. 47 receiver in the 2010 class.


More Revolving Door:

Texas Tech spring wrap

May, 6, 2010
5/06/10
6:00
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2009 overall record: 9-4

2009 conference record: 5-3

Returning starters: Offense (7), Defense (6) P/K (2)

Top returners: QB Steven Sheffield, WR Detron Lewis, QB Taylor Potts, RB Baron Batch, WR Alex Torres, CB LaRon Moore, DT Colby Whitlock, LB Brian Duncan, LB Bront Bird

Key losses: DE Brandon Sharpe, OL Brandon Carter, CB Jamar Wall, OL Marlon Winn, LB Marlon Williams, DE Daniel Howard

2009 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Baron Batch* (884 yards)

Passing: Taylor Potts* (3,440 yards)

Receiving: Detron Lewis* (844 yards)

Tackles: Brian Duncan* (87)

Sacks: Brandon Sharpe (15)

Interceptions: Franklin Mitchem*, LaRon Moore*, Jamar Wall (2)

Three spring answers

1. Business as usual. The offense will remain the same under new coordinator Neal Brown, like he said it would. Other than differences in terminology and how plays are relayed to the quarterback, the offense will be similar to former coach Mike Leach’s. One big difference is that quarterbacks will have the green light to tuck the ball and run if the opportunity arises.

2. Let's run this town. Brown says the Red Raiders will run more next season. The main reason is his offense’s depth at running back. Texas Tech has three running backs who could be factors in leading rusher Baron Batch, as well as sophomores Harrison Jeffers and Eric Stephens. The pass will still be king in Lubbock, but the running game will likely be featured more than it ever was under Leach.

3. Taking out their aggression. Former defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill is gone to East Carolina. He took with him his bend-but-don’t-break defensive approach. Now, Texas Tech will be dictating the action with former Alabama linebackers coach James Willis coordinating the defense. He helped the Crimson Tide win a national title in 2009 with his blitz-happy schemes that force defenses to make difficult throws instead of preventing the big play at the cost of giving up underneath passes.

Three fall questions

1. What happens once the QBs become healthy again? Steven Sheffield and Taylor Potts’ battle for the QB job ended early this spring when Sheffied re-broke his foot and Taylor Potts suffered a serious laceration to his throwing hand. Both underwent surgery midway through the team’s 15 practices and did little to settle the quarterback debate. Sheffield likely had a slight edge when the two were injured, but they’ll pick up where they left off—this time with more urgency—in the fall.

2. What happens if Brown’s offense stalls? The offense, even directed by two inexperienced quarterbacks, flourished late in the spring. But if Sheffield or Potts are unable to complete a high enough percentage of their passes or move the ball, will the Red Raiders depend even more on the run? If the offense doesn’t continue its run of piling up gawdy numbers against Big 12 defenses, will the spread return in 2011?

3. Will Tech fans embrace Tommy Tuberville? Mike Leach was perhaps the most beloved figure in the history of the program. Among the fans, at least. Will the fans cozy up to his less colorful, less quotable replacement? If he wins, it’ll be easy. Tuberville’s been historically more successful than Leach, but the bar in Lubbock has been set by Leach, who won more games than any coach in Texas Tech history.

Notable undrafted Big 12ers finding homes

April, 27, 2010
4/27/10
10:45
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Nine players from the Big 12 were drafted in the first round, but not everybody can make millions. Here's where a few notable Big 12ers ended up after going undrafted:

Baylor

Four-time All-Big 12er will try to fit in with new coach Pete Carroll.

Everyone respects Lake as a hitter, but a lack of speed will likely keep the Thorpe Award candidate from succeeding at the pro level.

Kansas

Might end up in Canada after struggling to show scouts he could compensate for his lack of height.

Kansas State

Banks ran a 4.43 at the combine, the fifth-fastest time recorded by a receiver, but his size will keep him from playing receiver at the next level. Some team will give him a shot as a return man eventually. What he does with it is up to him.

Missouri

NFL teams are waiting on Alexander to pass a physical after undergoing his fourth knee surgery in just over a year. The nation's receiving leader can't seem to catch a break.

Baston and Gregory were second-team All-Big 12ers and Carolina began contacting Gregory during the sixth round, expressing its interest in signing him.

Nebraska

Turner and O'Hanlon make five Blackshirts who ended up on NFL rosters after leaving Nebraska. DT Ndamukong Suh, S Larry Asante and LB Phillip Dillard were drafted.

Oklahoma

An ankle injury ended English's season early and any chance the defensive end, who was named to the All-Big 12 first team as a freshman, had of being drafted.

  • DT DeMarcus Granger - Seattle
Former blue-chip recruit never recovered from offseason back surgery before last season and didn't play until the bowl game.

Solid runner led the Sooners in rushing the past two seasons. Might be able to slip into Josh McDaniels' uncertain situation at running back. Lesser accomplished backs have done it in Denver in the past, but that was under Mike Shanahan, who's now in Washington.

Oklahoma State

Toston stepped in after Kendall Hunter was injured and ran for over 1,000 yards.

Lewis began the season on the cover of SI, and Bond came to Oklahoma State after playing eight-man football. Both are now on current NFL rosters.

Texas

The most accurate kicker in Texas history, Lawrence doesn't seem likely to beat out the solid Connor Barth, who took over the job midseason last year, for the starting job. But impress during minicamp, or stay on the roster through training camp, and other teams could take notice.

Ulatoski has the size (6-foot-6, 310 pounds) to succeed in the NFL, he just has to prove it with the Texans. Tanner and Ulatoski have a handful of All-Big 12 honors heading into the next level.

Texas A&M

McCoy caught 35 passes for 367 yards and two scores and made the All-Big 12 second team.

Texas Tech

Sharpe finished second in the Big 12 with 15 sacks.

Carter, most known for his hair and makeup, turned an All-Big 12 first-team effort in 2009 into a free-agent deal with the world champs.

Big 12 pre-spring power rankings

February, 10, 2010
2/10/10
11:00
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With spring practice set to begin soon -- Texas opens its camp on March 2 -- here’s a quick look at how I have the teams ranked heading into spring practice. In formulating my rankings, I took into account returning players, transfers, arriving freshmen and a teams’ schedules.

1. Texas (14 starters back: 6 offensive, 7 defensive, 1 special teams). Garrett Gilbert got a head start on replacing Colt McCoy with his considerable playing time in the national title game, an invaluable learning experience for a young player. The Longhorns return most of the defense that improved in its second season under Will Muschamp. The biggest chores will be for offensive coordinator Greg Davis, who has to boost running game production and find a replacement for record-breaking wide receiver Jordan Shipley.

2. Nebraska (18 starters back: 8 offensive, 8 defensive, 2 special teams). Bo Pelini has the Cornhuskers positioned for a potential top-10 preseason ranking. Most of the offensive weapons will be back from a unit that sputtered down the stretch before breaking out in the Holiday Bowl victory. Quarterback Zac Lee will miss some of spring practice as he recovers from postseason surgery. Cody Green and Kody Spano will get most of the work until Lee returns. Nebraska coaches think the defense can be better this season, even without the up-the-middle strength of Ndamukong Suh, Phillip Dillard, Larry Asante and Matt O’Hanlon.

3. Oklahoma (15 starters back: 9 offensive, 4 defensive, 2 special teams). The Sooners overcame a debilitating run of injuries last season to finish with a flourish, knocking Oklahoma State out of a BCS game and winning the Sun Bowl in their final two games. Landry Jones will be infinitely better in his second season as a starter and Ryan Broyles and DeMarco Murray may be the best one-two receiving/running back combination in the conference. Bob Stoops will be facing a big renovation on defense where key players like Gerald McCoy and Dominique Franks left early for the NFL draft. Look for Travis Lewis to be the key to a defense that will need to improve by the time Big 12 play begins if the Sooners are to have any hope of claiming a seventh Big 12 title this season.

4. Missouri (19 starters back: 9 offensive, 9 defensive, 1 special teams). The Tigers will miss Danario Alexander and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who were arguably the best players at their positions in the conference last season. But Blaine Gabbert is back for a second season as starting quarterback and some talented recruits are expected to emerge on defense. A key for the Tigers’ success will be a more productive running game and consistency from the offensive line. Improvement on both will be critical for coordinator David Yost during the spring.

5. Texas Tech (15 starters back: 7 offensive, 6 defensive, 2 special teams). New coach Tommy Tuberville immediately will have to sort through a potentially difficult decision at quarterback between Taylor Potts and fan favorite Steven Sheffield. New coordinator James Willis hopes to install a 3-4 defense that should be a haven for athletic linebackers. But the group’s success will hinge on replacing Jamar Wall at cornerback and finding some pass-rushing threats to replace Brandon Sharpe, Richard Jones and Daniel Howard along the front.

6. Texas A&M (19 starters back: 8 offensive, 9 defensive, 2 special teams). With Jerrod Johnson, Jeff Fuller, Uzoma Nwachukwu and Christine Michael back, the Aggies shouldn’t have trouble scoring points, although the line needs to do a better job of protecting Johnson. But the Aggies’ success will depend on the returning starters quickly taking to new coordinator Tim DeRuyter’s teachings. The group was blistered for at least 35 points in seven games last season and allowed at least 30 points in two other games. So needless to say that even with nine starters back, DeRuyter has his work cut out.

7. Kansas (16 starters back: 7 offensive, 7 defensive, 2 special teams). New coach Turner Gill inherits an uncertain quarterback situation, but has the framework for a strong running attack with all of his starting linemen back, along with Toben Opurum and heralded back Brandon Bourbon as running threats. The Jayhawks will need to fill in for the loss of Darrell Stuckey in the secondary, but new coordinator Carl Torbush should find the elements for a blitzing, attacking defense among the returnees. But the biggest reason the Jayhawks might be bound for a bowl game in Gill’s first season is swapping Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma for Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Baylor in their cross-divisional schedule.

8. Iowa State (13 starters back: 8 offensive, 4 defensive, 1 special teams). Paul Rhoads returns most of the offensive weapons that led the Cyclones to the Insight Bowl, most notably quarterback Austen Arnaud and running back Alexander Robinson. But the team loses all of its starting linebackers; veteran coordinator Wally Burnham will be challenged to cobble together a serviceable unit. The Cyclones could actually be a better team in 2010 but post a worse record. A tougher schedule featuring nonconference games against Utah, Iowa and Northern Illinois and the addition of South Division powers Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech will make last season’s bowl trip much tougher to duplicate.

9. Oklahoma State (10 starters back: 4 offensive, 4 defensive, 2 special teams). The Cowboys must find replacements for key players like Zac Robinson, Keith Tosten, four offensive linemen (including Outland finalist Russell Okung) and six of their back seven on defense. New offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen finds an uncertain quarterback situation but will lean heavily on a healthy Kendall Hunter. A manageable nonconference schedule should have them in bowl contention, but this should be a step back from Mike Gundy’s last two teams.

10. Kansas State (15 starters back: 7 offensive, 6 defensive, 2 special teams). The Wildcats missed out on a bowl trip last season only because they scheduled two FCS teams, but they surprisingly challenged for the Big 12 North title up to their last game of the season. It might be tougher to do that this season, although Daniel Thomas will provide the foundation on offense. Carson Coffman has the inside track at quarterback, but keep an eye out for Oregon transfer Chris Harper at either that position or wide receiver. Players like Jeffrey Fitzgerald and John Houlik will be missed on defense, but all four starters are back in the secondary.

11. Colorado (16 starters back: 8 offensive, 7 defensive, 1 special teams). Dan Hawkins’ seat is the hottest in the Big 12 and arguably in college football after missing a bowl for a second straight season last year. Tyler Hansen returns as the starting quarterback, but the Buffaloes need to find some help in the backfield with only three scholarship backs in spring practice. The defense was young last season and should be improved, but will miss the leadership provided by Jeff Smart and Cha’pelle Brown. A bowl trip likely will be necessary to save Hawkins’ job and a tough nonconference schedule featuring games at California and against Hawaii and Georgia will prove troublesome even before Big 12 play begins.

12. Baylor (14 starters back: 6 offensive, 6 defensive, 2 special teams). The Bears’ hopes of stopping the conference’s longest bowl drought will hinge largely on the health of Robert Griffin, who is recovering from knee surgery that forced him to miss the final nine games of the 2009 season. New offensive lineman “Big” Robert Griffin will have to protect his quarterback if coach Art Briles has any hope of making a bowl trip. Jay Finley and Kendall Wright are underrated offensive threats, but the Bears will miss key defensive leaders like Joe Pawelek and Jordan Lake who were stalwarts for several years.

'The Punisher' plays big in Texas' victory in Nation All-Star Game

February, 8, 2010
2/08/10
3:30
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Oklahoma State safety Lucien "The Punisher" Antoine provided a big game in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Texas vs. the Nation All-Star Challenge game.

Antoine produced two tackles and an assist for the Texas team, which rolled to a 36-17 victory over the Nation at the Sun Bowl in El Paso.

Several other former Big 12 players participated in the fourth annual February all-star game.

Here's a look at what the Big 12 players accomplished in the game. All of them played for the Texas team.
  • Texas A&M FB Jamie McCoy: Rushed twice for 12 yards and produced one catch for 5 yards.
  • Iowa State P Mike Brandtner: Two kicks for a 33.0 yard average. His longest was 43 yards and he had one pooch kick inside the 20.
  • Baylor S Jordan Lake: Two assists, a shared tackle for a loss and one pass broken up.
  • Missouri WR Jared Perry: One reception for 16 yards.

Several players who appeared on game rosters earlier in the week did not participate. Among those who were missing included Baylor wide receiver David Gettis, Oklahoma State guard Andrew Lewis, Texas A&M center Kevin Matthews, Texas Tech defensive end Brandon Sharpe and Texas Tech tackle Marlon Winn, according to the official statistical game book that was posted at the game's web site.

After the game, organizers told the El Paso Times that they were disappointed with an announced crowd of 26,041 for the game. That attendance was down significantly from last season's attendance of 42,000.

Game CEO Kenny Hansmire told the Times the game could be headed for San Antonio or Dallas because of the attendance decline.

Six Big 12 schools represented in all-star game

February, 5, 2010
2/05/10
8:44
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Some of the nation's more underrated draft prospects will see action at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Texas vs. the Nation All-Star Challenge game at 2 p.m. ET Saturday at the Sun Bowl in El Paso.

The Big 12 will be represented by a group of players looking to make some pre-draft buzz.

Here's a look at the prospects representing the Big 12 schools, who will participate on the Texas team in the game.

Baylor

WR David Gettis

S Jordan Lake

Iowa State

P Mike Brandtner

Missouri

WR Jared Perry

Oklahoma State

S Lucien Antoine

G-C Andrew Lewis

Texas A&M

FB-H-back Jamie McCoy

C Kevin Matthews

Texas Tech

DE Brandon Sharpe

T Marlon Winn

Former Dallas Cowboys standout Bill Bates and Florida Atlantic University head coach Howard Schnellenberger will serve as the coaches at Saturday's game.

All-Big 12 teams show recruiting hits and misses

February, 2, 2010
2/02/10
1:00
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As we all pore over the recruiting ratings of each school for the next few days, it's wise to take all of these rankings and ratings with a healthy grain of salt.

Recruiting is, always has been and always will be an inexact science. For every can't miss product, there are others who emerge out of nowhere to become standout players.

This trend was shown after I analyzed the first- and second-team All-Big 12 teams from the 2009 season and went back to check their original ESPNU grades. On some, the service hit. But on many others, it missed like Sean Weatherspoon and Danario Alexander.

Both had scores of 40 when they came out in their recruiting class. Weatherspoon weighed 195 pounds. Alexander was projected as a safety. And both put aside their dubious recruiting marks to develop into two of the best players in the country at their position over the course of their college career. I thought it was interesting to go back and look at the best players in the conference and see where they were ranked coming into college.

The ESPNU ratings database goes back only to 2006. That does not allow us to get ratings for players who took a redshirt year during their college careers. But it gives a pretty accurate picture about the crap shoot that college recruiting really is.

Here's a look at the Big 12's coaches' first and second teams for 2009. The positional rankings, typically listed second for most players, are national rankings.

FIRST TEAM OFFENSE

QB: Colt McCoy, Texas: Class of 2005, no information available.

RB: Daniel Thomas, Kansas State: Junior college class of 2009.

RB: Keith Toston, Oklahoma State: 77 rating; ranked 44th among all safeties; ranked 73rd in state.

FB: Bryant Ward, Oklahoma State: Walk-on.

WR: Jordan Shipley, Texas: Class of 2004, no information available.

WR: Danario Alexander, Missouri: 40 rating (as safety), ranked 229th in state.

WR: Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas: 40 rating, ranked 363rd in state.

TE: Jeron Mastrud, Kansas State: 40 rating, ranked 13th in state.

OL: Russell Okung, Oklahoma State: 73 rating, ranked 61st among all tackles, 138th in state.

OL: Trent Williams, Oklahoma: 76 rating, ranked 22nd among all guards, 78th in state.

OL: Nick Stringer, Kansas State: Class of 2005, no information available.

OL: Brandon Carter, Texas Tech: Class of 2005, no information available.

OL: Nate Solder, Colorado: 40 rating (as tight end), ranked 48th in state.

PK: Grant Ressel, Missouri: Walk-on.

KR/PR: Brandon Banks, Kansas State: Junior college class of 2008.


FIRST TEAM DEFENSE

DL: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska: Class of 2005, no information available.

DL: Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma: 89 rating, ranked 2nd among all defensive tackle, ranked first in state, ranked 21st in nation.

DL:Von Miller, Texas A&M: 77 rating, ranked 37th among all defensive ends, ranked 52nd in state.

DL: Brandon Sharpe, Texas Tech: Junior-college class of 2007.

DL: Jared Crick, Nebraska: 73 rating, ranked 86th among all defensive ends, ranked seventh in state.

LB: Jesse Smith, Iowa State: Class of 2005, no information available.

LB: Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri: 40 rating, ranked 294th in state.

LB: Travis Lewis, Oklahoma: 75 rating, ranked 86th among all running backs, ranked 96th in state.

DB: Earl Thomas, Texas: 71 rating, ranked 75th among all cornerbacks, ranked 170th in state.

DB: Perrish Cox, Oklahoma State: 77 rating, ranked 25th among all cornerbacks, ranked 57th in state.

DB: Dominique Franks, Oklahoma: 74 rating, ranked 53rd among all cornerbacks, ranked 15th in state.

DB: Prince Amukamara, Nebraska: 78 rating, ranked 31st among all running backs, ranked fifth in state.

DB: Larry Asante, Nebraska: Junior college class of 2007.

P: Derek Epperson, Baylor: 76 rating, ranked 15th among all kickers, ranked 87th in state.


SECOND TEAM OFFENSE

QB: Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M: 79 rating, ranked first among all athletes, ranked 29th in state.

RB Roy Helu Jr., Nebraska: 73 rating, ranked 113th among all running backs, ranked 97th in state.

RB: DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma: 92 rating, ranked first among all running backs, ranked first in state, ranked sixth in nation.

FB: Jamie McCoy, Texas A&M: Class of 2005, no information available.

WR: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma: 77 rating, ranked 58th among all wide receivers, ranked fourth in state.

WR: Kerry Meier, Kansas: Class of 2005 , no information available.

WR: Brandon Banks, Kansas State: Junior college class of 2008.

TE: Riar Geer, Colorado: Class of 2005, no information available.

OL: J.D. Walton, Baylor: Class of 2005, no information available (transfer from Arizona State).

OL: Chris Hall, Texas: Class of 2005, no information available.

OL: Kurtis Gregory, Missouri: Class of 2005, no information available.

OL: Adam Ulatoski, Texas: Class of 2005, no information available.

OL: Brody Eldridge, Oklahoma: Class of 2005, no information available.

OL: Lee Grimes, Texas A&M: Class of 2005, no information available.

PK: Alex Henery, Nebraska: Walk-on.

KR/PR: Perrish Cox, Oklahoma State: 77 rating, ranked 25th among all cornerbacks, ranked 57th in state.


SECOND TEAM DEFENSE

DL: Sergio Kindle, Texas: 92 rating, ranked first among all outside linebackers, ranked second in state, ranked seventh in nation.

DL: Lamarr Houston, Texas: 78 rating, ranked seventh among all fullbacks, ranked fourth in state.

DL: Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma: 80 rating, ranked 11th among all defensive ends, ranked 17th in state, ranked 137th nationally.

DL: Jaron Baston, Missouri: Class of 2005, no information available.

DL: Daniel Howard, Texas Tech: Junior college class of 2007

LB: Joe Pawelek, Baylor: Class of 2005, no information available.

LB: Roddrick Muckelroy, Texas: Class of 2005, no information available.

LB: Phillip Dillard, Nebraska: Class of 2005, no information available.

DB: Jamar Wall, Texas Tech: 72 rating, ranked 79th among all safeties, ranked 142nd in state.

DB: Quinton Carter, Oklahoma: 77 rating, ranked 39th among all safeties, ranked third in state.

DB: Brian Jackson, Oklahoma: Class of 2005, no information available.

DB: Jordan Lake, Baylor: Class of 2005, no information available.

DB: Cha’pelle Brown, Colorado: 40 rating, ranked 287th in state.

DB: Trent Hunter, Texas A&M: 68 rating, ranked 90th among all cornerbacks, ranked 250th in state.

P: Tress Way, Oklahoma: 78 rating, ranked sixth among all kickers, ranked sixth in state.

It's interesting to note that only four members of the two teams were ESPNU top 150 selections: Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy, DeMarco Murray and Jeremy Beal and Texas' Sergio Kindle.

McCoy wins DCTF honors

January, 22, 2010
1/22/10
4:54
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Dave Campbell Texas Football's winter edition will hit the newsstands in the next several days.

One of the interesting things about the magazine's winter edition is their annual All-Texas team for players from colleges across the Lone Star State.

Texas quarterback Colt McCoy and TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes were named as the offensive and defensive players of the year.

Here's a look at the other selections for the magazine.

All-Texas first-team offense

QB: Colt McCoy, Texas

RB: Donald Buckram, UTEP

RB: Charles Sims, Houston

WR: Jordan Shipley, Texas

WR: Emmanuel Sanders, SMU

WR: James Cleveland, Houston

TE: Dan Buckner, Texas

OL: Brandon Carter, Texas Tech

OL: J.D. Walton, Baylor

OL: Chris Hall, Texas

OL: Marshall Newhouse, TCU

OL: Marcus Cannon, TCU

K: Hunter Lawrence, Texas

All-Texas first-team defense

DL: Von Miller, Texas A&M

DL: Brandon Sharpe, Texas Tech

DL: Lamarr Houston, Texas

DL: Jerry Hughes, TCU

LB: Daryl Washington, TCU

LB: Sergio Kindle, Texas

LB: Joe Pawelek, Baylor

DB: Earl Thomas, Texas

DB: Rafael Priest, TCU

DB: Jordan Lake, Baylor

DB: Jamar Wall, Texas Tech

P: Chase Turner, Houston

Ret: Jeremy Kerley, TCU

The magazine all selected other awards for specific positional groups.

Best passer: Case Keenum, Houston

Best runner: Donald Buckram, UTEP

Best offensive lineman: Marshall Newhouse, TCU

Best receiver: Jordan Shipley, Texas

Best defensive lineman: Jerry Hughes, TCU

Best linebacker, Daryl Washington, TCU

Best defensive back: Earl Thomas, Texas

Most versatile: Von Miller, Texas A&M

DCTF also picked an all-Texas second team as well

All-Texas second-team offense

QB: Andy Dalton, TCU

RB: Lance Dunbar, North Texas

RB: Shawnbrey McNeal, SMU

WR: Jeff Moturi, SMU

WR: Tyron Carrier, Houston

WR: Kendall Wright, Baylor

TE: Justin Akers, Baylor

OL: Adam Ulatoski, Texas

OL: Jarve Dean, Houston

OL: Mike Aguayo, UTEP

OL: Lee Grimes, Texas A&M

OL: Charlie Tanner, Texas

K: Ross Evans, TCU

All-Texas second-team defense

DL: Scott Solomon, Rice

DL: Tyrell Graham, Houston

DL: Daniel Howard, Texas Tech

DL: Sam Acho, Texas

LB: Tank Carder, TCU

LB: Marcus McGraw, Houston

LB: Craig Robertson, North Texas

DB: Nick Sanders, TCU

DB: Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith, UTEP

DB: Blake Gideon, Texas

DB: Brandon Brinkley, Houston

Ret: Tyron Carrier, Houston

P: Derek Epperson, Baylor

Note: All Big 12 players are listed in bold facing.

Texas Tech's all-decade team

January, 21, 2010
1/21/10
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Despite its isolated location, Texas Tech became one of the prime stories in college football during the last decade.

Tech was an underrated program on the field, qualifying for a bowl game in every season under Mike Leach.

In building his program, Leach was known for his love of pirates and Sherlock Holmes and many other things that had little to do with football. He was a breath of fresh air in the coaching fraternity.

When he was fired after the 2009 regular season, it was a national story because of its abrupt nature.

The Red Raiders claimed 85 victories during the decade, trailing only Oklahoma and Texas. All but one of those wins was earned by Leach, who was fired shortly before Tech’s Valero Alamo Bowl victory over Michigan State.

The Red Raiders certainly were the Big 12's most entertaining program with a high-powered offense and the quirky Leach in charge. And when they were at their very best, the Red Raiders had an underrated defense directed by Ruffin McNeill that accentuated the team’s offensive firepower.

Here’s a look at my selections for the top moments and players for Tech from the last decade.

OFFENSE

QB: Graham Harrell

RB: Taurean Henderson

RB: Baron Batch

WR: Michael Crabtree

WR: Joel Filani

WR: Wes Welker

OL: Brandon Carter

OL: Rylan Reed

OL: Luis Vasquez

OL: Daniel Loper

C: Dylan Gandy

DEFENSE

DL: Aaron Hunt

DL: Adell Duckett

DL Brandon Sharpe

DL: Brandon Williams

LB: Lawrence Flugence

LB: Mike Smith

LB: Marlon Williams

DB: Dwayne Slay

DB: Kevin Curtis

DB: Darcel McBath

DB: Jamar Wall

P: Alex Reyes

K: Alex Trlica

Ret: Wes Welker

Offensive player of the decade: WR Michael Crabtree. Despite playing only two seasons, he became the most productive receiver in Tech’s history. He was a two-time winner of the Biletnikoff Award with 231 receptions and 41 TD grabs setting an NCAA record for two seasons of production.

Defensive player of the decade: S Kevin Curtis. A fiery, hard-hitting safety, Curtis was the most decorated and one of the most versatile defensive player of the decade for the Red Raiders. Curtis earned first-team All-Big 12 honors in 1999 and 2000 and second-team all-conference honors in 2001. He was a second-team All-American in 2000 while playing strong safety and a second-team All-America choice in 2001 after moving to free safety.

Coach of the decade: Mike Leach. He perhaps was the most influential coaching figure in Big 12 history as he helped push the conference from a stodgy run-based attack to one where cutting-edge passing attacks predominated. He also became a national figure because of his personality and his guest appearances on television shows as diverse as “Sixty Minutes” and “Friday Night Lights.”

Moment of the decade: Michael Crabtree’s late touchdown grab beats Texas in 2008. Graham Harrell’s 28-yard touchdown pass to Crabtree was one second left helped push Tech to an area it had never been before. It not only boosted them to a 39-33 triumph over Texas but also served as a national coming-out party for Leach, Crabtree and the rest of the Tech program. In the process, the Red Raiders earned an unprecedented share of the Big 12 South title that season.

Big 12 South recruiting needs

January, 21, 2010
1/21/10
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Here's a look at what each of the South Division teams need to address in terms of recruiting with signing day fast approaching.

Baylor

Defensive line: After losing starters Jason Lamb and Trey Bryant and having Phil Taylor and Earl Patin entering their senior seasons, the Bears need to add immediate depth. Xavier Ruben and Anthony Gonzales will help shore up the deficiencies and the Bears still are in the hunt for top prospects like Carlos Thompson and Byran Jones.

Secondary: Starters Jordan Lake and Jeremy Williams have graduated and four juniors in the two-deep roster will start their senior seasons. Coach Art Briles has already lured surprising strength in the defensive backfield with Ahmad Dixon, Tyler Stephenson and Prince Kent. That trio makes it one of the finest positional groupings for Baylor in recent history.

Robert Griffin’s redshirt season has lessened the immediate need at quarterback: With Griffin now having three years of eligibility remaining, recruits now see only a two-season window to play. But another Robert Griffin should help the Bears as well. Baylor coaches see the other Griffin, a junior college transfer from Coriscana Junior College, being able to contend for the starting position at right tackle from his first day in the program.

Oklahoma

Running back: With Chris Brown graduating and DeMarco Murray entering his senior season, the Sooners need some producers at the position. Bob Stoops has never hesitated to playing top freshman players in the past if they can help. Don’t be surprised if top recruits like Brennan Clay and Roy Finch get an early chance in 2010 with the Sooners.

Receiver: Ryan Broyles is entrenched in the slot, but the Sooners are looking all over for pass catchers who can challenge existing players. Recruits Kenny Stills, Joe Powell, Julian Wilson and Sheldon McClain all should challenge this summer to battle their way into the rotation.

Defensive tackle: Injuries and NFL declarations have riddled the Sooners’ depth at the postion. Gerald McCoy will leave early for the NFL draft with JaMarkus McFarland ready to take over. Adrian Taylor was set at the other position, but his nasty ankle injury sustained in the Sun Bowl has depleted the Sooners’ depth. Redshirt sophomore Casey Walker and four incoming freshmen are all that is in place as far as depth at the critical position.

Oklahoma State

Offensive line: The Cowboys lose four senior starting offensive linemen from the Cotton Bowl team, including the left side of their offensive line in tackle Russell Okung, guard Noah Franklin and center Andrew Lewis, as well as right tackle Brady Bond. Mike Gundy needs some immediate help at the position, both from existing players and incoming ones.

Defensive tackle: Starters Swanson Miller and Derek Burton both will graduate and top backups Shane Jarka and Chris Donaldson both will be senior this season. Defensive coordinator Bill Young needs to find some defensive linemen who can challenge for playing next season.

Linebackers: Young also will have to rebuild this group after the underrated group of Andre Sexton, Donald Booker and Patrick Lavine helped sparked the Cowboys’ surprising defensive growth last season. All will be gone this season, putting pressure to add some more contributors to add to the returning mix of players including James Thomas, Tolu Moala and Justin Gent.

Texas

Defensive end: With Sergio Kindle graduating and Sam Acho and Eddie Jones both entering their senior season, the Longhorns need a talent boost here. It also just happens to be the position where top target Jackson Jeffcoat would immediately fill the rather sizable hole.

The left side of the offensive line: Tackle Adam Ulatoski, guard Charlie Tanner and center Chris Hall combined for 114 starts during their careers.The Longhorns has some strong arriving talent, but they’ll still miss the leadership and savvy that this trio provided over the years.

Quarterback: Even with Garrett Gilbert seemingly entrenched as the Longhorns’ quarterback of the future, the Longhorns added depth with the commitments of Connor Wood and Colt’s little brother Case McCoy. It will make for some interesting competition this spring and fall as the rotation sorts itself out.

Texas A&M

Defensive end: The Aggies received a huge boost when Von Miller announced he would return for his senior season, but A&M needs to prepare for his departure -- particularly after losing starting defensive end Matt Moss and Miller’s backup Matt Featherston as departing seniors from 2009.

Tight end: Starter Jamie McCoy graduated and top replacements Kenny Brown and Craig Raschke both will be seniors next season. Adding at least one player would be beneficial as the Aggie coaches hope they can find a combination blocker/receiving threat at the position like McCoy was.

Offensive tackle: The Aggies lose bookend senior starters Michael Shumard and Lee Grimes. They do have Stephen Barrera and Danny Baker in the depth chart but would like more depth to help the line develop.

Texas Tech

Defensive line: The Red Raiders’ biggest need is at defensive end where all three players in the two-deep roster -- Brandon Sharpe, Ra’Jon Henley and Daniel Howard were seniors. At defensive tackle, Richard Jones departs as a senior and Colby Whitlock will be a senior next season. New coordinator James Willis needs to find some productive players in the trenches quickly.

Linebackers: Starters Bront Bird and Brian Duncan will be back as seniors next season, but Tech loses departing starter Marlon Williams on the other side. They need some depth to help build for the future at the position.

Quarterback: Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield will wage one of the closest-watched battles for playing time in the nation during the spring and summer. But both will be seniors, meaning the Red Raiders need to prepare for their departure by grooming some young talent like Scotty Young, a recent commitment at the position.

Big 12's top 25 moments of 2009

December, 24, 2009
12/24/09
5:40
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I've always been intrigued by those end-of-the-year montages where videographers encapsulate an event or a season.

I've tried to do something similar for the Big 12 -- boiling down the conference's 2009 campaign into the 25 most significant moments of the regular season.

Here are my choices. Let me know if you think I've forgotten any. A bunch of good moments were left out, let me assure you.

Unfortunately for the conference, the most significant moments were off-the-field items like injuries and suspensions.

They aren't ranked in any order, although some assuredly are more important than others.


    Tim Heitman/US PresswireLosing Sam Bradford for most of the season derailed Oklahoma's shot at a Big 12 title.

  • Sam Bradford’s injury: Oklahoma’s hopes of claiming the BCS championship were abruptly detoured in the first half of the Sooners’ first game. Bradford was hit by BYU linebacker Coleby Clawson shortly before halftime, knocking him out of the Cougars' 14-13 season-opening victory. The legal hit caused a sprained AC joint in Bradford's right shoulder that kept him out for the next three games.
  • Bradford’s injury – part two: After successfully returning form injury, and leading the Sooners to a victory over Baylor in their conference opener, Bradford started strongly against Texas the following week. He directed a 77-yard scoring drive on the Sooners’ first possession for a 3-0 lead. On the next Oklahoma offensive play, the Sooners' hopes of a fourth straight Big 12 title were dealt a cruel ending. Texas cornerback Aaron Williams knocked Bradford out of the game with a devastating sack. Bradford landed on his shoulder and didn’t play the rest of the season, undergoing surgery several weeks later.
  • “I’m so proud to be your coach”: Without starting quarterback Austen Arnaud and top rusher Alexander Robinson, and with a sapping flu bug, first-year Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads was overcome with his emotion in the locker room following his team's 9-7 upset of Nebraska. His heartfelt reaction captured by an ISU film crew became an immediate YouTube sensation. But something tells me that Bo Pelini will show it to his Nebraska team often before the Cornhuskers’ rematch in Ames next season.
  • Robert Griffin’s injury: Baylor’s worst fears were realized in the Bears’ 68-13 victory over Northwestern State when their stellar sophomore quarterback suffered a season-ending knee injury. It killed their hopes of snapping the conference’s longest bowl drought.
  • Todd Reesing is pulled late from Texas Tech game: Kansas appeared on the verge of a breakthrough road win at Texas Tech that would have qualified them for a bowl game. But the Jayhawks squandered a 21-14 lead entering the fourth quarter after two drives ended with fumbles by senior quarterback Todd Reesing. Coach Mark Mangino pulled Reesing for Kale Pick, saying he thought his quarterback was battered from the constant Tech pressure. Removing Kansas’ most decorated player foreshadowed the Kansas collapse the rest of the season. The Jayhawks lost the game 42-21 and the remaining four games on their schedule.
  • Blocked kick saves the Wildcats: Iowa State had pulled within a point of Kanas State with 23 seconds left, but Emmanuel Lamur blocked the ensuing conversion, preserving a 24-23 victory that catapulted the Wildcats into the North Division lead for much of the season.
  • Banks’ kickoff returns: Brandon Banks provided kickoff returns of 91 and 92 yards in less than 3 minutes to boost Kansas State past Tennessee Tech.
  • Colt McCoy's "too early" Heisman moment: Texas quarterback Colt McCoy was presumed to have locked up his Heisman with a 65-yard touchdown run through the middle of the Texas A&M defense, helping spark a 49-39 victory over the Aggies. It punctuated an effort in which McCoy accounted for 479 yards and five touchdowns against A&M. That was, until …

  • John Rieger/US PresswireNdamukong Suh dominated Big 12 opponents all season, but never more than in the Big 12 title game.

  • "Big Suh" dominates Texas: Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh provided a dominating performance, and almost single-handedly pushed his team to the Big 12 title before losing 13-12 against Texas. Suh had a Big 12 title game record 4.5 sacks, and the Cornhuskers harassed McCoy into three interceptions and sacked him nine times. Goodbye Heisman for McCoy in a performance that undoubtedly sparked Suh's trip to the Heisman presentation at the same time.
  • Nebraska’s comeback in the rain against Missouri: The Tigers had dominated the first three quarters en route to a 12-0 lead. But Nebraska quarterback Zac Lee torched Missouri’s secondary for three touchdowns in a span of 202 seconds to spark a 27-12 victory. Lee had completed 9 of 27 passes heading into the fourth quarter.
  • Danario’s late-season explosion: Missouri wide receiver Danario Alexander progressed into the nation’s most explosive receiver during the final half of the season. He nearly became the first player in college football history to notch back-to-back-to-back-to-back 200-yard receiving games. He finished with 214 yards against Baylor, 200 against Kansas State, 173 yards against Iowa State and 233 yards against Kansas in his final four games.
  • Virginia Tech’s late rally against Nebraska: The Cornhuskers appeared poised to steal a victory at Virginia Tech despite an offensive attack that consisted of five Alex Henery field goals. But with less than 90 seconds remaining, Danny Coale got behind Matt O’Hanlon for an 81-yard reception from Tyrod Taylor. The Cornhuskers’ collapsed three plays later when Taylor hooked up with Dyrell Roberts on an 11-yard touchdown with 21 seconds left to cap the Hokies' 16-15 victory.
  • Nebraska’s fumble-fest against Iowa State: The Cornhuskers’ sputtering offense bottomed out in a 9-7 loss at Iowa State. The Cornhuskers started the day on offense with a fumble and finished with a Zac Lee interception on their final play. In between, there were six turnovers that doomed the Cornhuskers’ hopes, leading to the Cyclones’ first victory in Lincoln since 1977.
  • Broyles slices through the Cowboys: Oklahoma wide receiver/punt returner Ryan Broyles punctuated a 209-yard punt return effort with an 87-yard scoring return to lead the Sooners’ 27-0 victory over Oklahoma State, ending the Cowboys’ hopes of making a trip to a BCS game. His 316 all-purpose yards were the third-best effort in school history.
  • Tyler Hansen's redshirt season abruptly ends: After seeing a 14-10 halftime lead over Texas dissipate into a 24-14 deficit in one quarter, Colorado coach Dan Hawkins inserted quarterback Tyler Hansen into the lineup for the first time, ending thoughts that he would redshirt. The Buffaloes beat Kansas in their next game and Hansen remained in the starting lineup much of the rest of the season in front of Hawkins’ son, Cody.
  • Dez Bryant’s dismissal: Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant rebounded from nagging early-season injuries and appeared ready to help the Cowboys challenge for their first South Division title. He produced five touchdowns in OSU’s first three games. But he was ruled ineligible for the rest of the season on October 7 for violating an NCAA bylaw. Bryant failed to fully disclose his interactions with former NFL standout Deion Sanders to the NCAA.
  • The emergence of "Sticks" Sheffield: A 2-2 Texas Tech team looked in trouble when starting quarterback Taylor Potts suffered a concussion shortly before the half against New Mexico. Backup Steven “Sticks” Sheffield responded by completing his first three passes and punctuated that possession with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Alex Torres as time expired in the first half to boost Tech to a 14-7 lead. That sparked a run of four straight drives capped by touchdowns and a 48-28 victory. Tech won its next three games with Sheffield as a starter.
  • They can play defense at Tech: The offensive-minded Red Raiders led the conference with 34 sacks. Their defensive emergence was best typified in a late-stand against Baylor that preserved a 20-13 victory.
  • Florence’s comeback: Baylor freshman quarterback Nick Florence rallied the Bears from an 11-point halftime against Missouri to an eventual 40-32 victory. In their only conference victory, Florence passed for a school-record 427 yards and three touchdowns, overcoming a 468-yard passing effort by Missouri's Blaine Gabbert.
  • Cha'pelle's clutch pass defense: Colorado cornerback Cha’pelle Brown’s defense in the end zone preserved the Buffaloes’ 34-30 victory over Kansas. It was the loss that started the Jayhawks’ seven-game losing streak, costing them a bowl berth and ultimately Mark Mangino’s job.
  • Mangino's coaching gaffe: Nursing a three-point lead with 2:59 left, Mangino curiously went for three straight passes from his end zone against Missouri. On the final play, Reesing was sacked for a safety by Brian Coulter and Aldon Smith, setting up Grant Ressel’s 27-yard field goal on the last play to give Missouri a 41-39 victory.
  • Matt O’Hanlon’s trio of picks: Former walk-on safety O’Hanlon provided three interceptions, including the game-sealing one with 27 seconds left, to preserve Nebraska’s 10-3 victory over Oklahoma.

  • Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesHunter Lawrence's game-winning kick gave Colt McCoy, above, and the Longhorns reason to celebrate.

  • It’s just not only Suh, too: Nebraska defensive tackle Jared Crick was overshadowed most of the season playing next to Ndamukong Suh --except during Crick's record-breaking five-sack performance during a 20-10 win over Baylor. Crick tied the school record with seven tackles for losses and provided a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter that helped seal the victory.
  • Marquise Goodwin's clutch kickoff return: Texas A&M had just pulled within 42-39 of Texas, and had Kyle Field roaring after a 20-yard touchdown pass from Jerrod Johnson to Jeff Fuller. But freshman Marquise Goodwin, returning kickoffs only because of D.J. Monroe's suspension, silenced the crowd with a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that iced the Longhorns' victory.

And how could we forget …
  • Hunter Lawrence’s field goal: After it appeared Texas had mismanaged its way to losing the Big 12 title game, one second was put back on the clock. Hunter Lawrence took advantage with a 46-yard field goal that gave the Lonhorns a 13-12 victory over Nebraska and a berth in the BCS title game. It was the first time in Lawrence’s career – dating back to pee-wee football – that he had ever attempted a game-winning kick.

Here's a look at 15 under-the-radar Big 12 players for 2009

December, 18, 2009
12/18/09
12:44
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One of the neat things about following college football each season is watching players provide unexpected contributions to their teams.

The Big 12 was full of these contributors in 2009, with some emerging to become some of the best players in the country.

Here's a look at 15 of those under-the-radar players, in no particular order, who achieved much more than their coaches ever would have expected coming into the season.

Missouri wide receiver Danario Alexander: Beset by injuries much of his career, Alexander never fulfilled much of the promise expected for him. The departure of Jeremy Maclin provided a chance for him to become Missouri’s featured receiver and Alexander took advantage. In the process, he produced conference-best totals of 107 receptions, 1,644 yards and 13 touchdowns. Alexander finished with a flourish with three 200-yard receiving games in his final four contests.

Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara: Amukamara was a nickel back for the Cornhuskers last season who notched 34 tackles, but only five in his final four games. From those struggles, he emerged as a prime playmaker in 2009, tying for the team lead with five interceptions and leading the Blackshirts with 11 pass deflections.

Oklahoma State linebacker Donald Booker: A season-ending knee injury sustained by Orie Lemon a week before the season started was expected to ground the Cowboys’ defense. Booker took advantage of the opportunity by leading the team with 86 tackles, eight tackles for losses and five sacks.

Nebraska defensive tackle Jared Crick: After producing only two tackles in nine games as a freshman in 2008, Crick won the starting job next to Ndamukong Suh in fall camp. Crick responded by setting the school record with five sacks and seven tackles for losses against Baylor en route to a season with 9.5 sacks, 15 tackles for loss and 70 tackles.

Nebraska linebacker Phillip Dillard: After struggling with injuries last season, Dillard was as low as No. 4 on Nebraska’s depth chart during spring practice. The senior earned a starting position early this season and nabbed 76 tackles to tie for second on the team.

Colorado tight end Riar Geer: His earlier career had been marked by injuries and legal woes. But Geer rebounded to lead all Big 12 tight ends with 37 receptions and 426 yards.

Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson: During a streaky sophomore season, Johnson struggled with his consistency in running the Aggies offense. But Johnson took advantage of the offseason, leading the conference and setting a school record with 28 touchdown passes. He also smashed school records with 3,217 passing yards, 3,672 yards of total offense and five 300-yard passing games.

Colorado wide receiver Scotty McKnight: Josh Smith’s abrupt departure this spring left the Buffaloes needing a breakaway receiver. McKnight had led the team in receiving in each of the last two seasons, but responded with a huge season of 76 receptions to tie for second-most in school history for 893 yards.

Texas A&M defensive end/linebacker Von Miller: Defensive coordinator Joe Kines knew that Miller could develop into a prime playmaker if he could find a spot for him. Kines developed the hybrid “jack” position that combined elements of linebacker and defensive end. Miller took advantage by leading the nation with 17 sacks and ranking fifth nationally with 21 tackles for losses.

Texas Tech defensive end Brandon Sharpe: The former Fresno City College player posted only four tackles last season. But he blossomed this season into the top pass-rushing threat in the league’s top sack-producing defense with 15 sacks, ranking second nationally.

Iowa State linebacker Jesse Smith: The former walk-on linebacker was a strong producer last season, but wasn’t expected to have the monster season he had in 2009. The undersized Smith had a conference-leading 128 tackles, becoming the only Big 12 player to average more than 10 tackles (10.67) this season.

Iowa State center Reggie Stephens: Even after enduring a mid-season appendectomy, Stephens emerged as the foundation of an offensive line that allowed only 14 sacks to rank tied for 21st nationally. He earned All-Big 12 honors by the Associated Press and had a string of 36 consecutive starts before he missed the Texas A&M game.

Kansas State tailback Daniel Thomas: When he was recruited from Northwest Mississippi Junior College, Thomas was expected to contend at quarterback. Instead, he developed as the Wildcats’ top offensive threat at tailback, rushing for a league-best 1,265 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Texas Tech wide receiver Alex Torres: The transfer from the Air Force Academy returned home to El Paso where he worked as a server at Red Lobster as he awaited another opportunity. Texas Tech provided it to him and he produced team-leading totals of 65 receptions and 791 yards in his first season.

Oklahoma State running back Keith Toston, Oklahoma State: His early career had been marked by struggles as he labored in the shadows of Kendall Hunter. But after the 2008 Big 12 rushing leader went down with a foot injury, Toston rushed for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns to serve as the Cowboys’ top offensive threat.

18 Big 12 players selected on AP All-America's three teams

December, 15, 2009
12/15/09
3:52
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The Big 12 was well represented with 18 players who were honored by the Associated Press on its three All-America teams for the 2009 season.

The conference had seven first-team selections, five second-team selections and six third-team selections.

Here's a look at the AP's Big 12 honorees.

First team: QB Colt McCoy, Texas; T Russell Okung, Oklahoma State; T Trent Williams, Oklahoma; C J.D. Walton, Baylor; WR Jordan Shipley, Texas; DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska; S Earl Thomas, Texas.

Second team: WR Danario Alexander, Missouri; DE Von Miller, Texas A&M; DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma; LB Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri; CB Perrish Cox, Oklahoma State.

Third team: G Brandon Carter, Texas Tech; C Chris Hall, Texas; K Hunter Lawrence, Texas; DE Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma; DE Brandon Sharpe, Texas Tech; LB Sergio Kindle, Texas.

Here's a link to the entire All-America team picked by AP pollsters.

Texas Tech team review

December, 9, 2009
12/09/09
9:52
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Texas Tech was expected to be a team in transition this season after losing key players such as Michael Crabtree and Graham Harrell from last season’s South Division champions.

But the Red Raiders’ evolution was even more radical than expected. Injuries caused coach Mike Leach to go with three quarterbacks to start games this season, shuffling through Steven Sheffield, Taylor Potts and Seth Doege. Before this year, Leach had never started a backup quarterback.

All things being considered, the Red Raiders’ 8-4 record was better than expected, especially the way it was achieved. With a consistent running game -- at least by Tech’s standards -- and a sack-happy defense that led the conference with 39 sacks, the Alamo Bowl berth was a nice reward.

Tech quarterbacks combined to pass for 4,568 yards and 35 touchdowns, but the real story was the play of running back Baron Batch and a receiver-by-committee grouping that filled in for Crabtree by having nine different players with at least 24 receptions.

Other than a surprise blowout home loss against Texas A&M, the defense played well down the stretch. Ruffin McNeill’s unit limited opponents to 14 points or fewer in four of its last seven games. It was the kind of performance that can lead to the defense getting some notoriety around Lubbock, too.

Offensive MVP: RB Baron Batch

With the varied collection of receivers and quarterbacks playing around him, Batch became the Red Raiders’ primary offensive threat, becoming the top run/receiver combination player for the Red Raiders since Taurean Henderson. Batch was hampered by an arm injury early in the season, but rebounded to finish with 784 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns and also added 51 receptions for 310 yards.

Defensive MVP: DE Brandon Sharpe

Texas’ late defensive renaissance was keyed by Sharpe, a junior college transfer who notched 13 of his school-record 15 sacks in Big 12 play. Sharpe entered the season with four career tackles, but quickly filled a void at the Red Raiders’ biggest presumed defensive positional weakness coming into the season. He had five multisack games, including four against Nebraska and 3.5 against Kansas.

Turning point: Oct. 3 vs. New Mexico

The Red Raiders were floundering after a 2-2 start capped by consecutive emotional losses to Texas and Houston. With players sniping at each other after the Houston loss and complaining about Leach on their Twitter accounts, the coach cut off their social networking privileges and suspended All-Big 12 guard Brandon Carter for a game. It got worse when Potts went down with an injury before halftime. But Sheffield rallied the offense for a 48-28 victory over the Lobos and followed it up with a seven-TD effort against Kansas State the following week. The late turnaround helped steer the Red Raiders to a fast finish that saw them win six of their last eight games.

What’s next?

The Red Raiders have a favorable Alamo Bowl matchup against suspension-wracked Michigan State. Tech’s passing game will be a test against a Michigan State team that ranks 96th nationally in pass efficiency defense and 103rd in pass defense. The return of Sheffield and Potts promises a quarterback controversy into the spring and beyond. And with a talented cast of returning skill players next season, the Red Raiders approach 2010 as a team that could contend for the South Division championship.

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