Big 12: Brian Lockridge
Through nearly three quarters against Hawaii, it looks like he was right. With Georgia on the way in two weeks, Colorado badly needed a win. The Buffaloes look in good position to get it with a 17-13 lead against the Warriors.
Colorado has done what it couldn't do against Cal: Establish the running game and limit turnovers. Colorado fumbled twice early on, but Tyler Hansen hasn't thrown an interception and the Buffaloes have already rushed for 189 yards on 40 carries. Tailback Rodney Stewart has also topped 100 yards in just three quarters.
For a team trying to hold a lead through the fourth quarter, that's a good sign. Look for the Buffaloes to lean even more heavily on Stewart and Brian Lockridge to finish.
Lockridge has 69 yards on nine carries.
Colorado's offense struggled in its Friday scrimmage, but Michigan transfer Toney Clemons caught six passes for 37 yards and two touchdowns, both from goal-line situations. Receivers Scotty McKnight, Markques Simas and Will Jefferson did not play.
The 106-play scrimmage featured seven scores, but all came in that goal-line package late in practice. Tyler Hansen hit Clemons for both touchdowns and completed 12 of 22 passes for 102 yards. He also threw an interception. Cody Hawkins completed 10 of 22 passes for 111 yards.
Running backs Rodney Stewart and Brian Lockridge were held out of the scrimmage and the running game struggled, gaining just 61 yards on 22 carries.
But Buffaloes coach Dan Hawkins said the lack of personnel wasn't to blame for the offensive struggles, instead pointing to the scrimmage's situational and segmented focus.
The big news, of course, was the absence of Taylor Potts (laceration on hand) and Steven Sheffield (surgery to repair broken foot), who both are expected to miss the spring.
Sophomore Seth Doege and redshirt freshman Jacob Karam stepped in and impressed new coach Tommy Tuberville.
"I'm really proud of the young quarterbacks," Tuberville said after Friday's closed scrimmage. "They came out and threw the ball well, threw some touchdown passes. We were able to get them some work that otherwise they may not have seen. They split the reps evenly, with Doege running with the ones and Karam with the twos. We'll switch them up for Monday's practice."
Junior quarterback Tyler Hansen showed flashes of greatness last season, throwing for more than 250 yards in three of the Buffaloes final four games, including 269 against Big 12 North champ Nebraska. This year, he’ll get to throw to Toney Clemons, a Michigan transfer who coach Dan Hawkins has lauded since Clemons’ arrival.
The chemistry between the two that begins this spring could determine how much damage Colorado can do in a Big 12 that should be stocked with solid defenses again in 2010.
An added bonus: All spring practices will be open, beginning with Saturday’s two-hour practice at 10 a.m. Just don’t get caught with a cell phone, pet or a camera, unless you’re also a fan of Hawkins’ bad side.
Scott told the Boulder Camera he has no plans to return to the Colorado team he left last season after playing five games while struggling with injuries.
"Nope, not at all," Scott told the Camera when asked if there was any truth to an anonymous report that was given by Denver station KCNC. "It is a lie. I don't plan on coming back."Scott has been the most-heralded recruit signed during Hawkins' tenure, but struggled through two injury-plagued seasons with the Buffaloes. He rushed for only 95 yards last season, rushing for most of those yards against Toledo. He injured his knee in that game and underwent minor surgery before leaving the team in November.
The Camera also reported that senior running back Demetrius Sumler has appealed the decision where his Colorado scholarship was revoked by Hawkins for the spring semester. Sumler announced last month that he planned to graduate from Colorado this spring and then transfer to another program for his senior season next fall, utilizing an NCAA rule that allows graduates with remaining eligibility to make a move. Kansas State quarterback Grant Gregory utilized the rule to transfer to the Wildcats from South Florida for his senior season last fall.
The departure of Sumler and Scott's rebuff of the Buffaloes' program has placed a huge priority heading into spring camp for running backs. Hawkins added four running backs among his Class of 2010 who could arrive when fall camp begins in August. But in the spring, the Buffaloes will have three scholarship running backs on their roster -- projected starter Rodney "Speedy" Stewart, Brian Lockridge and Corey Nabors.
Several Colorado newspapers have reported that Sumler, who plans to graduate in May, will be looking for a chance to play more in his final season of college eligibility.
The Denver Post reported that Sumler's carries dwindled last season as he was used primarily as a blocking back in passing situations.
Sumler had 36 carries for 128 yards and a touchdown last season. He did not play in the Buffaloes' season-ending loss to Nebraska and had no more than two carries in any of the Buffaloes' final seven games of the season.
His best season came as a redshirt freshman in 2007 when he rushed for 335 yards and four touchdowns. Sumler showed much early promise by rushing for 85 yards against Colorado State in his first college game and 91 yards against Miami (Ohio) later that season.
But his playing time diminished as coach Dan Hawkins began leaning on Rodney "Speedy" Stewart and Brian Lockridge this season.
The Boulder Daily Camera reported that Stewart's departure will make him the ninth scholarship player to transfer from the Colorado program in the past calendar year.
His announcement places pressure on Hawkins to add some backfield depth in the upcoming recruiting period. Signing day is Feb. 3.
Colorado tailback Darrell Scott could miss up to three games after he underwent an arthroscopic procedure for an injured knee.
Colorado coach Dan Hawkins told reporters the surgery would help alleviate an injury that occurred during the Buffaloes' Sept. 11 loss at Toledo.
"They're just going to clean up some stuff; they're not taking anything out," Hawkins said.
Scott produced 85 first-half rushing yards in the Toledo game, but has rushed only nine times for 10 yards since then. He also missed the Buffaloes' victory over Wyoming.
The injury continues the streak of bad luck that seemingly has dogged Scott since his arrival at school. He was one of the nation's top backs when he chose Colorado over Texas in the 2008 recruiting class, but missed much of last season while struggling to remain in playing shape after an injury during training camp.
With Scott's injury earlier this season, Rodney Stewart has taken over the role as the Buffaloes' featured rusher. Scott has averaged nearly 27 yards per return this season to rank second in the Big 12. Colorado's return unit that ranks 27th nationally.
Brian Lockridge will take over the role as the Buffaloes' prime kick returner.
Stewart, Lockridge and Demetrius Sumler will fill the primary roles at running back in Scott's absence when the Buffaloes host Kansas State on Saturday.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It wouldn’t be a Friday without a few letters from my readers. Here’s a representative sample of those I received this week:
Beau from Vidor, Texas, writes: What happened to Texas' freshman running back Chris Whaley. He was supposed to be all-world and most thought he would help us out this season. Any news?
Tim Griffin: Whaley arrived at fall camp out of shape and has had trouble picking up some of Texas' offensive philosophy. And since he hasn't seen action yet, I don't think we’ll see him play this year. He’ll be more likely to sit as a redshirt, while he gets into better shape and learns Texas’ offensive scheme better. But if he would ever play, this might be the week, considering the iffy condition of Tre’ Newton and Vondrell McGee. The Longhorns would have room for him, although I would sincerely doubt if Mack Brown put him in his first game against Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry. That's too far-fetched to believe.
I look for Whaley to get better acclimated and in better shape for next season.
Robert Northrop from Superior, Colo., writes: Tim, thanks for covering the Big 12. I only wish Colorado was more relevant so you could write more frequently about the Buffs. Colorado struggles moving the ball using walk-ons at wide receiver. What is it about a Hawkins' psyche that makes him stubbornly refuse to modify his offense so that he can get the ball to his fastest players (Brian Lockridge, Darrell Scott, Andre Simmons, Anthony Wright) hands? Why are two players with starting experience (Blake Behrens, Matt Bahr) sitting while the rest of the CU offensive line struggles? And don't get me started about the QB situation. I think something smells fishy up in Boulder. Thanks again.
Tim Griffin: It’s been a challenging season for Hawkins and the Buffaloes, particularly on offense. I also have wondered why Brian Lockridge and Darrell Scott haven’t become more of a focal point in the Buffaloes’ offense. I would think that with Hawkins actually coaching the wide receivers as a position coach that he would have the best idea of who can help make his offense more productive.
It will be interesting to see what they can do against a Kansas defense that has struggled the last two weeks. I’m thinking Colorado might play this game a little bit closer than most. Maybe this is the week that the Buffaloes get their offense going. I certainly know they are due.
Steve Strom of Lubbock, Texas, writes: What do you think about Texas Tech’s chances Saturday in Nebraska? Is there any way we can steal a win from a Nebraska team that might be a little flat after beating Missouri last week?
Tim Griffin: Steve, I don’t think so. I really like Nebraska’s defensive line keyed by Ndamukong Suh to put pressure on whomever Tech has playing quarterback. Mike Leach has been successful in recent seasons against the Cornhuskers and has even won in Lincoln before. But this is a different Nebraska team coached by Bo Pelini than in previous seasons. Because of that, I'm thinking it will be tough for the Red Raiders to win tomorrow in Lincoln.
Chris from Lawrence, Kan., writes: Tim, I see that you are very high on Jordan Shipley and have him on your Heisman board. He's definitely a good player, but I'm curious why you don't have Dezmon Briscoe ranked above him? Briscoe averages more yards per catch than Shipley and has an equal number of TD's, despite missing the first game of the season. He's done this while having 17 fewer receptions than Shipley. If you were to average Briscoe's current stats to account for the missed game, he would have more yards, yards per catch and touchdowns than Shipley, and would still have less receptions. I'm not saying that Shipley isn't a good player, but I don't understand why Briscoe isn't considered better (and more deserving of Heisman talk)?
Tim Griffin: Shipley has had a knack for making big plays in big games and his bigger receiver numbers grab you. He's had double-figure reception games in his last three contests, which is something that no player in Texas' history has been able to accomplish. Look at his punt return for a touchdown reception and his big catch last week against Colorado that helped turned the game around. Briscoe has had some nice games, but he needs to stand out even on his own team. I think many would think that he’s been overshadowed by Kerry Meier on the Jayhawks so far this season.
Briscoe will have the chance to show what he can do over the next several weeks as the Jayhawks’ schedule will get tougher. If he can produce those numbers against Texas, Kansas and Nebraska, I would think that Heisman voters will start taking notice of him.
Donald Ashburn from Houston writes: My condolences to you, Tim. The Aggie bloggers complained earlier this year when you didn't think they would win. Now, they say you have put the kiss of death on them by picking A&M over K-State. I hope you can do a better job in the future! Good luck!
Tim Griffin: Donald, I’ve had a difficult time reading the Aggies so far this season. I thought they would beat Arkansas and I also thought they would beat Oklahoma State last week. They looked strong for the first 10 minutes against Arkansas in a game that turned on Jerrod Johnson’s fumble that was returned for a touchdown by Jerry Franklin midway through the second quarter. And the Oklahoma State game changed when A&M was held without scoring at the OSU 1 late in the first half.
But because of Johnson and all of his offensive talent around him, I’m picking the young Aggies to win again this week at Kansas State.
Is the third time finally the charm for me? I don’t know, I guess we’ll see.
Kyle Kvasnicka from Irvine, Calif., writes: Do you think Nebraska's defense this year will give it a chance to make it to the Big 12 Title game and if so, be competitive with the Big 12 South Champion? How close does Bo Pelini have this team to being a player again nationally?
Tim Griffin: Kyle, I think that because of the play of the Nebraska defense, especially compared with Kansas’ recent defensive struggles, is the major reason I’ve elevated the Cornhuskers into the favorite role in the Big 12 North. There are still some things I don’t like about the Cornhuskers. Zac Lee is too streaky for my taste and the Cornhuskers’ depth at running back isn’t very good with proven players with Quentin Castille gone and Rex Burkhead injured.
But I think Nebraska’s defensive play is the reason they are above the other teams in the North at this point of the season. It will be interesting to see if that makes them more competitive against the South’s powers when we see them play in the next several weeks.
I would also hope we would see Cody Green being used in the next week or two. The Cornhuskers have had some time to work on a package with their talented freshman quarterback. I’m just saying that bringing him into the game for a couple of series could change the momentum and make Nebraska that much more difficult to beat with a shot of offensive diversity that's missing right now. And with the questions about their running backs, developing another running threat could be huge for them.
I still think Pelini is a couple of recruiting classes from having the Cornhuskers back among the contenders who will challenge for national titles. It will be interesting to see if he gets them there.
Thanks again for all of the good questions. We’ll check back again next week.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Another getaway day before I go back home this weekend. Big plans with my 12th wedding anniversary -- I think that's right -- set for Sunday.
But before I leave Oklahoma, here are a few lunchtime links to gnaw on as we head to the weekend.
- CBS Sports.com's Dennis Dodd has the definitive story on Baylor offensive tackle Danny Watkins, the former Canadian firefighter who will be protecting Robert Griffin's blind side.
- The Austin American-Statesman's Kirk Bohls profiles Texas defensive tackle Lamarr Houston, who hopes to follow his friend Sergio Kindle into a productive role with the Longhorns this season.
- The Lincoln Journal Star's Steve Sipple detects that Bo Pelini has brought a more purposeful attitude to practice this season.
- Oklahoma State's Derek Burton is making the most of his switch to defensive tackle, the Oklahoman's Brandon Chatmon reports.
- Iowa State coaches have been impressed with the determined inside running of bullish 5-foot-11, 232-pound redshirt freshman Jeremiah Schwartz, the Ames Tribune's Bobby La Gesse writes.
- Texas Tech coach Mike Leach tells the Associated Press' Betsy Blaney that Taylor Potts is better prepared in his first season than any of his previous quarterbacks who led the nation in passing.
- The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel analyzes the autograph phenomenum, talking to former Sooner Heisman Trophy winners Steve Owens and Billy Sims for their take on signing their names so many times over the years.
- Texas A&M wide receiver Jeff Fuller tells the Bryan Eagle's Robert Cessna that he's never had as close a connection with a quarterback as the one he has with Jerrod Johnson.
- The battered Missouri secondary is seeking growth after struggling as the conference's worst statistical unit last season, the Kansas City Star's Mike DeArmond reports.
- The Lawrence Journal-World's Dugan Arnett describes how Kansas tackle Tanner Hawkinson has bulked up by nearly 50 pounds since last season as he prepares for the Jayhawks' starting job.
- The Topeka Capital-Journal's Rick Dean writes about the growing confidence in Kansas State's young secondary. And the Manhattan Mercury's Joel Jellison writes about the secondary's new 4-2-5 alignment that will feature three safeties playing at the same time.
- CUBuffs.com's B.G. Brooks writes that Colorado running back Brian Lockridge has placed his modeling career on hold to continue his football career.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are some questions to get you ready for the weekend. They are representative of some of the best e-mails I received over the last week or so.
John Stinson of Des Moines, Iowa, writes: Tim, love your blog. Keep it coming during the off-season. I know of no better daily source of Big 12 information anywhere.
My question for you is this. Who is the most underrated player in the Big 12? Is there a player, or players, who are sometimes overlooked with all of the great talent like Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy in the conference.
Tim Griffin: John, thanks for the kind words. My appreciation for Oklahoma fullback Matt Clapp is well-known. He does a lot of dirty work as far as blocking, but is one of the best in the nation in what the Sooners ask of him. I think Alexander Robinson is overlooked sometimes at Iowa State. And Baron Batch doesn't receive the due he deserves because Texas Tech's offense is stacked so heavily to the pass. But I think the most underrated player in the conference is multipurpose Kansas State player Brandon Banks, who is a valuable receiver and return threat. He's a threat to score or break a big gainer every time he touches the ball. The plan is to use him as a quarterback in some "Wildcat" formations to get the ball in his hands more often next season. I think I would pick Banks first, followed closely by Batch and Clapp.
Jacob Traxler from Champaign, Ill., writes: Hey Tim. I've got a quick bone to pick with you in one of your items this week. You mentioned that Colorado had the best backfield in the Big 12. Have you ever heard of Oklahoma?
Tim Griffin: Jacob, I didn't say that Colorado had the best backfield, but merely the deepest with their collection of players like Darrell Scott, Rodney Stewart, Demetrius Sumler and Brian Lockridge. While the Buffaloes don't have the upper talent to match DeMarco Murray or Chris Brown on Oklahoma, I think they have a deeper collection of proven talent. An indication can be seen in the Sooners' struggles running the ball without Murray in the BCS title game against Florida. I wouldn't necessarily say the Buffaloes are better than the Sooners in running the ball, but they have a few more potential runners so there isn't quite the drop-off that Oklahoma would face if they had to withstand another injury to either Murray or Brown.
Steve Johnson from Tampa, Fla., writes: Tim, always enjoy reading your blog. You have a good handle on news in the Big 12 area. It's something I miss living in this part of the country.
My question is do you see any interest in the Big 12 returning to the old association the Big Eight used to have with the Orange Bowl to send its champion down here. I sure would like to have an occasional chance to see Big 12 teams in my area and that might be the opportunity.
What do you think?
Tim Griffin: Steve, while many old-time Big Eight fans would share your sentiments, I think the Big 12 is very happy with its current association with the Fiesta Bowl to keep sending its champions there when it isn't playing for a national championship. It would surprise me to see the Big 12 push for an association with the Orange Bowl.
And Steve, don't fret. You can occasionally see Big 12 teams end up at the Gator Bowl. And Oklahoma will renew its tradition-steeped rivalry at Miami at the newly named Land Shark Stadium on Oct. 3. You might consider driving down there and checking it out.
Jake from Horseshoe Bay, Texas, wrote: Tim, thanks so much for your blog. Your daily information is getting me through the down season until camps start later this summer.
Quick question for you. Who do you consider to be the best coach in terms of developing talent in the Big 12?
Tim Griffin: Jake, thanks for your compliment. I think the best way to judge your question is to look at who gets the most from players who aren't necessarily the four- and five-star recruits. Obviously, coaches like Mark Mangino of Kansas and Gary Pinkel of Missouri have done a nice job in turning their programs in recent seasons with those players. But the coach who consistently gets the most from less-heralded incoming talent is Mike Leach of Texas Tech. His coaching is one of the biggest reasons why the Red Raiders have been the only program to be bowl-eligible every season of Big 12 history.
Leach has developed a national reputation for his off-beat, quirky way of doing things. But don't ever underestimate his ability to develop players. He's among the best in the business.
Andy from San Diego, Calif., writes: I wonder if you could analyze Blaine Gabbert vs. Zac Lee vs. Carson Coffman. Which of the new Big 12 North QBs do you like at this point in time to have the best year? The stats will more than likely lean to Gabbert by the end of the season, but that isn't the best way to do look at it due to different systems. What do you see these three quarterbacks doing this season?
Tim Griffin: It wouldn't surprise me if all three end up leading their teams to bowl games before the season ends. Coffman still has to nail down the starting job and will be facing a big challenge this summer when Grant Gregory and Daniel Thomas arrive in the Kansas State program. Coffman has the edge now, but it wouldn't surprise me if one of the other two players gets substantial playing time.
I think Zac Lee has already nailed down the starting job at Nebraska, as has Gabbert at Missouri. I expect the Tigers to run the ball more this season, but Gabbert will still provide better passing statistics than the other two. Lee won't match the numbers posted last year by Joe Ganz, but I look for the Cornhuskers to feature a tough running game keyed by Roy Helu Jr. and Quentin Castille. Lee doesn't need to post big numbers, but he should serve as a strong manager of his team's offense.
I would expect Gabbert to have better passing numbers, Lee's team to have the best record and Coffman to occasionally struggle to keep his job. But I still think the Wildcats could sneak into a bowl game -- mainly because of the coaching acumen of Bill Snyder and an underrated defense.
Justin from Kansas City writes: Great blog, Tim. I read it every day. It was a week or two ago when you were blogging about how many similarities there for this year compa
red to the year Texas won the National Championship (USC and Florida being the power houses and winning the Championship the year before, this year it will be in the Rose Bowl, etc ). To add onto that deja vu, Texas is now seeded No. 1 in the NCAA baseball tournament and also won the championship that season. That same year Texas football won it all, so did baseball. Let's hope the trend continues and we find Texas defeating Florida for the National Title like we did USC. Any thoughts?
Tim Griffin: You're correct in the fact that Texas claimed the baseball championship in the spring of 2005 and followed it up with a national championship in football in the fall. Before we start jumping too far in front of ourselves, let's remember that no Big 12 football or baseball team has won a national championship since that run. As a matter of fact, the last five baseball teams to win the national championship were not among the national seeds coming into the championship, including Fresno State, which was a No. 4 regional seed last season. And no Big 12 baseball team has even made it to Omaha since the Longhorns' last trip. That's on top of no Big 12 football championships during that span, although Oklahoma made the BCS title game last year. So it will be interesting to see how things play out.
Lance Cogburn of Tulsa, Okla., writes: Hey Tim, what are your thoughts on Zac Robinson's evolving into a pocket passer for Oklahoma State? His sophomore year was incredible and he kept defenses guessing with his running and passing. Last season, his rushing stats really fell off from the previous year. Now I hear that he's trying to put on more weight. I would think that would make him even less of a threat to run. What kind of impact do you think this will have on Oklahoma State's offensive production this season, if any?
Tim Griffin: I can sense Robinson gaining more comfortable in Mike Gundy and Gunter Brewer's offense. Because of that, he's less compelled to make things happen with his feet. That growing confidence in the offense has been bolstered by the developed of Kendall Hunter and Dez Bryant, the best running/receiving combination in the conference and maybe in college football.
Like you mentioned, Robinson is bigger and stronger than he ever has been. I think that will change him even more into a pocket passer. If he can stay healthy, I look for him to have the best passing numbers of his career, although his rushing statistics might drop again.
Thanks again for all of the good questions. I'll catch some more again next week.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Some Big 12 position groups are clearly above others as far as raw talent and athleticism. Here's a look at some of the most dominant in the conference.
Oklahoma's front seven: The Sooners go two-deep in talent in the defensive line and linebackers. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy anchors the defensive front and is an Outland Trophy candidate. Adrian Taylor and Cordero Moore also are capable players. The Sooners have the best collection of defensive ends in college football with Frank Alexander, Jeremy Beal, R.J. Washington and Auston English. Travis Lewis could develop into one of the finest linebackers in Oklahoma history and Mike Balogun, Brandon Crow and Keenan Clayton all are expected to contribute. If heady team leader Ryan Reynolds comes back from his knee injury, this group could rival any in the country -- if it doesn't already.
Texas' secondary: After producing only six interceptions last season, Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp ratcheted up competition among defensive backs. The results were seen in the spring, when the group was the best defensive backfield group I saw in the conference. Aaron Williams and Chykie Brown have emerged as starters at the corners with Curtis Brown and Deon Beasley providing backup. Safeties Blake Gideon and Christian Scott both are emerging, but the key player might be sophomore safety Earl Thomas, who played the nickel position with tenacity and abandon. It's not a stretch to say that two Thorpe Award winners could emerge out of this group in the next several years.
Colorado's running backs: The Buffaloes seemingly have a back for every situation with the deepest backfield in the conference. Darrell Scott appears intent on making a comeback after a disappointing freshman season. Rodney Stewart looks recovered from a broken leg sustained last season that kept him from rushing for 1,000 yards. Sophomore Brian Lockridge appears to be the fastest back and 215-pound Demetrius Sumler is the biggest back with the best inside running ability among the group. This group will serve as the backbone for the Buffaloes' hopes of returning to a bowl game and perhaps their dark horse challenge for the Big 12 North title.
Kansas' wide receivers: Dezmon Briscoe missed all of spring practice for an undisclosed violation of team rules, but is back to serve as one of the nation's most explosive deep talents. Coach Mark Mangino hopes to be able to permanently switch Kerry Meier to receiver for his senior season after a breakout season in 2008. Meier and Briscoe were two of the nation's top-15 receivers last season when they combined for 189 catches, 2,452 yards and 23 touchdown grabs. And Wilson emerged as quarterback Todd Reesing's go-to receiver in the spring when Briscoe was gone, notching six catches in the spring game. Add Rod Harris, Tertavian Ingram and Raimond Pendleton and it might be among the most potent pass-catching groups in the nation.
Nebraska's running backs: With unproven Zac Lee starting at quarterback, look for Shawn Watson to lean heavily on a pair of talented returning backs. Quentin Castille trimmed about 20 pounds to get into better shape and leading returning rusher Roy Helu Jr. boosted his weight by 24 pounds to become a more powerful rusher between the tackles. Together, it wouldn't be a stretch that the two backs could combine for 2,000 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns if both can stay healthy.
Iowa State's running backs: With new offensive coordinator Tom Herman taking over with a spread offensive attack, a talented array of running backs still will have frequent opportunities to contribute. Leading returning rusher Alexander Robinson could be poised to become one of the most underrated rusher/receiver combination backs in the conference. But Robinson will have to fight for playing time with a stacked group that also includes bruising redshirt freshman Jeremiah Schwartz and heralded University of Florida transfer Bo Williams. Herman will be able to utilize all three backs in a variety of roles.
Missouri's defensive ends: The Tigers appeared loaded before spring practice with Brian Coulter and Jacquies Smith back, but redshirt freshman Aldon Smith has developed into an immediate contributor. Converted offensive tackle Brad Madison and redshirt Marcus Marlbrough also had strong springs, leading Gary Pinkel to say it was his best group of defensive ends he's ever had at Missouri.
Texas Tech's wide receivers: Even after losing two-time Biletnikoff Award winner Michael Crabtree and Eric Morris, the Red Raiders developed several potential playmakers during the spring. Edward Britton appeared to have crawled out of Mike Leach's doghouse with strong late production. New quarterback Taylor Potts should have many productive targets including Detron Lewis, Tramain Swindall, Lyle Leong, walk-on flanker Adam Torres, 6-foot-7 Adrian Reese and redshirt freshmen Austin Zouzalik and Eric Ward. The Red Raiders won't have two players grab the majority of balls like Crabtree and Morris did in recent seasons. Instead, they will feature a more balanced attack featuring eight to 10 receivers capable of thriving in a tag-team approach.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
One of our most popular features during the season was our Sunday morning awarding of helmet stickers for strong performances during games of that week.
With the completion of all spring games across the conference, it figured to be a good way to honor some of the best of the Big 12's spring game performances.
Here are my choices:
Baylor QB Robert Griffin: Passed for 310 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 41 yards and another score as the focal point of the Bears' final scrimmage.
Colorado's running backs: Hard to single out one player as Darrell Scott (90 yards), Demetrius Sumler (73 yards), Brian Lockridge (55 yards) and Rodney Stewart (52 yards) all had big days in the Buffs' Black-Gold game.
Iowa State QB Jerome Tiller: The backup Iowa State quarterback outplayed projected starter Austen Arnaud as he led the Cardinal (second-string offense) to a 34-16 victory over the Gold (first-string offense). Tiller passed for 210 yards and two touchdowns and added a 65-yard touchdown run to key the victory.
Texas' secondary: The Longhorns even made Colt McCoy look bad, allowing him to complete only 11 of 24 passes for 95 yards. Earl Thomas and Nolan Brewster contributed interceptions, but the Longhorns showed legitimate two-deep talent at all secondary positions.
Kansas State DE Brandon Harold: Made the most of his switch back outside by contributing nine tackles, including four for losses, and three sacks as a key performer in the Wildcats' Purple-White game.
Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh: Despite limited playing time, produced four tackles, including two for losses, and a sack to key production in Nebraska's Red-White game.
Kansas State QB Carson Coffman: Passed for 334 yards and three touchdowns to contribute most of the offense in the Purple-White game. Coffman's big effort has given him the lead leaving spring practice, but he'll still have to hold off South Florida transfer Grant Gregory and heralded junior-college transfer Daniel Thomas to win the starting job.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Colorado came into the spring as the North Division's mystery team.
Sure, coach Dan Hawkins had plenty of bluster and bravado about how good he thinks his team will be this season. We can tell that by his surprising boast at the end of last season that the Buffaloes will finish 2009 with a 10-2 record.
After the Buffaloes' spring practice and spring game, I'm even more befuddled by how good the Buffaloes can be.
The injury and subsequent thumb surgery for Tyler Hansen scrambles the quarterback situation. It makes me think that Hansen's battle with Cody Hawkins for the starting job will play out during most of Colorado preseason camp. And it's interesting that Dan Hawkins has hinted it could be a similar situation as to late last season, when he alternated his son and Hansen depending on game situations.
An even more pressing concern will be the status of offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, who could be headed for Oregon and a place on Chip Kelly's staff. The loss of an offensive coordinator after spring practice could have huge ramifications as Dan Hawkins tries to get his staff ready for the upcoming season.
But the Buffaloes showed some good signs in spring practice and the spring game that might indicate they will be vastly improved from last season's 5-7 team -- even if 10-2 might be a little bit of a stretch.
- The strong running game exhibited in the spring game was the most impressive building block to carry away from the spring. The Buffaloes should be in good shape if they can keep their offensive line healthy. And as Darrell Scott told me last week, the Buffaloes might have the best rotation of running backs this side of Oklahoma. And they proved it in Saturday's spring game as Scott rushed for a game-high 90 yards, while Demetrius Sumler chipped in with 73 yards, Brian Lockridge added 55 and Rodney "Speedy" Stewart produced 52.
- Scott has started living up to his advance billing with a strong camp after missing much of last season with injuries. But he emerged this spring as the most improved player on the team, earning the Fred Casotti Award given each spring for the most improved offensive back. He even contributed a 48-yard punt during the spring game.
Hawkins was pleased with Scott's strong spring production, where he finally started showing flashes of what made him the nation's No. 1 running back recruit in the 2008 recruiting class.
"He's always been such a great kid, and I've been so impressed with how he handled all the hype and the glitz and all the glimmer," Hawkins told reporters Saturday. "And things didn't go exactly like he wanted them necessarily last year. But he never threw in a towel, he continued to show up."
If he continues that growth, it wouldn't surprise me if Scott rushes for 1,000 yards this season and is the most improved player in the Big 12.
- Colorado's offensive line should be one of its most underrated strengths. They helped the backs rush for an average of 6.2 yards per carry in the spring game. Sure it was against a defensive front that was playing a generic defense. But that yardage has to catch Hawkins' attention for what his ground game can produce.
I still think the underrated Colorado group that is keyed by tackles Bryce Givens and Nate Solder, guard Ryan Miller and center Mike Iltis can be the best in the North Division if it stays healthy. And that's not even considering a potential return by Max Tuioti-Mariner, who is recovering from knee surgery and might be ready by fall practice.
- I'm still wondering if the Buffaloes have the kind of quarterbacking to contend for the North Division title. Hawkins and Hansen provide different talents. And while in theory it sounds good to say that you'll play both of them, a team really needs to have one starting quarterback it can count on. What's that old coach's cliche about two starting quarterbacks often end up being two too many?
- Wide receiver remains a liability after the injury to Scotty McKnight earlier in camp. The Buffaloes had one experienced receiver available at the spring game and it showed.
It means that Hawkins has to hope he can convince Michigan transfer Toney Clemons to come to play for the Buffaloes as well as work heralded sophomore Markques Simas into the rotation. And it also will likely result in the immediate need for production from an underrated group of arriving wide receivers including Jarrod Darden, Terdema Ussery and Andre Simmons. There is playing time available if any of those arriving players can step up.
- The defensive line remains a big concern, even as coaches spent must of the scrimmage tinkering with a 3-4 front. But the productions of three starters won't be enough to replace the contributions of key players like George Hypolite & Co. overnight. Experienced players like junior defensive end Marquez Herrod, senior defensive tackle Taj Kaynor and sophomore nose tackle Eugene Goree will be pivotal.
- Linebacker Marcus Burton was the biggest defensive revelation this spring and he showed it in the spring game. After producing eight tackles last season, he notched that many in the spring game along with a pair of sacks. That playmaking will be critical for a Colorado defense that often has missed it. His sideline-to-sideline tackling ability will be huge if Colorado employs the 3-4 defense.
- Even with all of the flux around the Colorado team, the rest of the North Division remains just as unsettled.
For all of the excitement at Nebraska, the Cornhuskers still will be counting on a quarterback who has never started a Division I game, throwing to two new wide receivers. Kansas has the most returning offensive talent but has to rebuild its defensive core after losing three starting linebackers. And the Jayhawks have that pesky South Division crossover schedule that features games against Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech.
Defending two-time title game participant Missouri has two new coordinators and must replace the most productive quarterback, wide receiver and tight end in its history. The Tigers also lose a first-round NFL draft pick at defensive tackle, a second-round NFL draft pick at strong safety who was the glue of their defense and their top pass-rushing defensive end.
And here's one more reason to like Colorado's chances a little bit more. Their games against Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri all will be played in Boulder. That edge playing in the high altitude at Folsom Field might be enough to boost the Buffaloes into North Division title contention for the first time in Hawkins' coaching tenure there -- despite all of the spring questions.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
TEMPLE, Texas -- I'm venturing back to my journalistic roots this morning, so to speak.
I started my career here a long time ago. It was so long ago, in fact, that SMU was a still a dominant football program back then. Jerry Moore was just starting his program at Texas Tech. Big 12 director of football championships Donnie Duncan was roaming the sidelines at Iowa State, with a young assistant named Mack Brown at his side.
But it's always fun to return to my simpler days when I lived off of Rahmen noodles and four or five television games during the course of a Saturday.
Which made those Sunday night highlight shows for Texas and Oklahoma on the Dallas independent station must-see television every week. Not only because there weren't there wasn't a regular schedule of NFL games played, but because the dichotomy between Fred Akers and Barry Switzer always was so pronounced.
Watching football sure is a lot better these days.
Here's a stack of steaming links to get you ready for Saturday's games.
- The Baylor era under Art Briles starts with a thud.
- Iowa State set a school record with 202 interception return yards en route to a 44-17 victory over Division I-AA South Dakota State. It was the largest victory in Gene Chizik's coaching tenure.
- Redshirt sophomore Brian Lockridge, hampered since the spring recovering from hernia surgery, will redshirt because of Colorado's depth in the backfield.
- Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star has Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe's take on the SEC's new television deal along with is weekly ranking of Saturday's games.
- Kansas LB Mike Rivera has been picking up nicknames since he's played with the Jayhawks. But instead of calling him "Mr. Kansas" or "The Caveman," teammates are now calling him "Big Time Mike."
- Missouri QB Chase Daniel's mushrooming fame has resulted in his mother and girlfriend sometimes being besieged by autograph seekers.
- Kansas State WR Ernie Pierce is hoping to emerge as Kansas State's big-play receiving threat.
- New Nebraska coach Bo Pelini finally tackles the challenge of coaching in a football game.
- The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel goes interactive as he calls Oklahoma's game against Chattanooga the biggest mismatch in school history.
- Bill Haisten of the Tulsa World provides the definitive scoop on Oklahoma State WR Artrell Woods' amazing comeback.
- Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman predicts another 10-win season for Texas this year. Among other items he foretells that the Longhorns will beat Oklahoma, lose to Missouri and Texas Tech and meet LSU in the Cotton Bowl.
- Texas Tech has cleared an unspecified player on the possibility of an NCAA rules violation in a "possible compliance problem." The school didn't release the player's name, but the Lubbock Avalance Journal said that speculation has centered on All-American WR Michael Crabtree.
- Texas A&M FB Jorvorskie Lane has returned to practice this week, although RB Cornell Tarrant has transferred to Stephen F. Austin University.
- Kevin Haskin of the Topeka Capital Journal goes out on the limb and picks Missouri and Texas Tech to win division titles this season.