Big 12: Cam Newton

Newton, Snyder spark juco rise

October, 9, 2013

GARDEN CITY, Kan. -- In February, 167 junior college football players signed with schools that are part of the five power conferences, a 37 percent spike from 2008. Even traditional powers that have eschewed juco players in the past, like Penn State, Texas and Alabama, got in on the action.

The increase is part of a recruiting revolution that has seen the value of junior college players grow like never before. "We had Georgia, Alabama, USC, Washington, and about every top-40 school in the country coming through our place in the spring," Garden City (Kan.) Community College coach Matt Miller said. "That speaks volumes that everybody is trying to get some special players out of the junior college ranks. The stigma of the junior college player is a lot more positive now than it once was viewed as by colleges."

Players are at places like Georgia Military College, East Mississippi Community College or Tyler (Texas) Junior College for a reason. They failed to reach NCAA qualifying standards out of high school, ran into trouble off the field, transferred from another school in hopes of landing more playing time down the road or were lightly recruited out of high school but believe they have Division I talent.

Regardless of the reason, even as recently as five years ago many juco players were viewed as toxic by recruiters at the top programs in the country. One FBS assistant who didn't want to be named said his head coach used to tell him that juco recruits are "nothing but thugs, criminals or dummies," but that same coach was sent out on the road to visit every Kansas junior college this past spring. So what has changed? Recruiters and juco coaches across the country point to two people: Bill Snyder and Cam Newton.

Kansas State is located in the backyard of the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Football Conference, home to many of the nation's premier juco programs. When Snyder arrived in 1989, he immediately turned to the likes of Butler Community College, Hutchinson Community College and Garden City to supplement a lackluster in-state high school recruiting base. The plan worked. Snyder's Wildcats came within a game of playing for the national championship in 1998, won a Big 12 championship in 2003 and were ranked No. 1 in the BCS poll late into the 2012 season. Under Snyder, there were a number of individual success stories as well, none more so than quarterback Michael Bishop. After a perfect 24-0 record at Blinn (Texas) Junior College and two national championships, Bishop transferred to K-State, where he shattered school records and finished second in the 1998 Heisman Trophy voting.

Miller has seen firsthand "The Snyder Plan" in action. Before taking over at Garden City in January, he was a K-State assistant for 10 years. Since arriving at Garden City, he's talked to many of the college coaches on recruiting tours. "They truly have told me they're going to use Bill Snyder's Kansas State model to turn their program around," Miller said. "They've told me 'We want to get five, 10 good junior college prospects in this recruiting class,' and I'm talking about schools from the Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC, ACC. They're all coming in and all wanting to try to follow that blueprint that Bill Snyder built at Kansas State.

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Offseason to-do list: Kansas State

February, 4, 2013
Each season, there's lots of turnover and change for every college program. What do the Big 12 teams need to do before next fall? Let's continue our look with the Wildcats up in Manhappenin'.

1. Fill in the secondary. Three starters in the secondary are gone, and cornerback Nigel Malone will be the toughest guy to replace. Safety Jarard Milo and cornerback Allen Chapman were solid talents as well. The Wildcats will have a lot of work to do in the spring to figure out who'll be jumping into the starting lineup to replace the trio. Ty Zimmerman will be healthy, and true freshman safety Dante Barnett showed some promise in replacing Zimmerman after he suffered a leg injury. Randall Evans is a playmaker at corner, and Carl Miles backed up Chapman. Does K-State move them up, or fill their spots with incoming jucos?

2. Sort out the quarterback competition. Collin Klein is gone, and somebody has to be next in line. It sounds as if spring in Manhattan will feature a very open competition between sophomore Daniel Sams, who showcased his legs all of last season and got over a half of experience in K-State's 44-30 win over Oklahoma State at home this season. He's probably the league's fastest quarterback, but expect him to be pushed by newcomer Jake Waters, one of the top juco quarterbacks in the country who broke Cam Newton's completion percentage record last season. This one should be interesting.

3. Develop the defensive line. This defensive line was one of the most underrated in the country, highlighted by Meshak Williams, Adam Davis and Vai Lutui, as well as John Sua and Javonta Boyd. The bad news? All of them are gone, and K-State is forced to replace them. The Wildcats are losing 10 starters on defense. Ryan Mueller showed some promise this year, but K-State's facing a similar problem on the D-line as it is in the secondary. Replacing these guys is just as important, and if K-State can do it, the 2013 season could be a promising one.

More offseason to-do lists:
Thanks for all the e-mails this week. Interesting stuff as always. Here's where you can reach me if you've got more to say.

Bert in Frisco, Texas writes: You keeping talking about Texas Tech surprising everyone next season. What does surprising mean exactly and how many wins do you think surprising translates to?

David Ubben: Texas Tech has obviously overhauled its coaching staff on the sideline, and you have to figure there will be some growing pains in Kliff Kingsbury's first year as a head coach. That's no small task for a young guy who hasn't been in coaching long. It also doesn't have a returning starter at quarterback. There's lots of room for the Red Raiders to falter next year, and the expectations will be mild, likely 6-8 wins. That said, when you look at the rest of the team (and Kingsbury's upside) the potential to be a really, really good team is absolutely there.

Michael Brewer has looked great in his spot duty. Receiver Eric Ward is back and Jakeem Grant looked good this year, not to mention TE Jace Amaro, who's probably the most talented guy on the entire offense. ESPN 150 receivers Dominique Wheeler and Reginald Davis will be playing this year, too. Kerry Hyder and Terrance Bullitt are solid on the defensive side, and running backs Kenny Williams and SaDale Foster are solid.

Tech has the advantage next year of perhaps sneaking up on teams, too. Nobody (except maybe WVU) will be fired up to beat Tech. Nobody's got them circled on the calendar. The Red Raiders should be solid, though, and if the ball bounces their way a few times, don't be surprised if they win 10 games or more.

Rick in Waco, Texas writes: DU,Please give some justification (that would be acceptable to a reasonable person ) for grading Baylor an A on offense and OK State an A+. In case you took a nap in the off season, Baylor lost their all time leading receiver that was arguably better than the receiver lost by OSU. We lost a 1500 yard rusher (school record), two offensive linemen... Oh yea, and the Heisman Trophy winner. I realize that BU was just plain bad on the defensive side for the first 4 games in conference, and even struggled on O a bit in that stretch - but showed they could play with ANYONE in the second half. There's not a team in team in the country that they would have been concerned to play in December or January.

DU: Hey, remember that time when Baylor's No. 1 QB got hurt, and then a few games later, the No. 2 guy went down, too? Then after replacing him with the No. 1 guy, the No. 1 guy got hurt a game and a half later and the Bears had to finish the season with their No. 3 quarterback, but still finished in the top five nationally in total offense?

Me either.

Baylor lost a little more than OSU, mostly at running back, but most everyone knew Baylor had depth at the position anyway. OSU went through just as much as Baylor did, but its offense was more consistent through the first half of the season and at the end of the year, was basically on pace with the Bears, despite dealing with all that from the quarterback position. It's that simple.

Vince Young in Texas writes: Is it possible that I could be back in Philadelphia with the hiring of Chip Kelly? I know Vick is a great athlete but he's a little injury prone and I ran an offense very similar at the best school on the planet, THE University of Texas.

DU: I don't see it. Young's a great athlete, but there's a big misconception about how much Oregon's quarterbacks run. Last year, it was on just over 10 percent of the Ducks 1,000+ snaps. I expect that number will shrink even more in the NFL. Having a QB who can move is integral in running the zone read, but you still have to run the other 90 percent of your offense, too. That requires a guy who can deliver the ball accurately with velocity and good decison-making. Guys like Cam Newton, Kaepernick, RG3 and Russell Wilson have shown an ability to do that. Vince Young has not for the better part of his career.

David in Wichita, Kan. writes: Why are we only seeing a big difference for 7-on-7 on the offensive side of the ball? Shouldn't there be a marked improvement in coverage skills as well?

DU: Interesting question, David. Fantastic name, by the way. One would think so, but the results clearly indicate that has not been the case. It's apparent that 7-on-7 far benefits offensive players, but much more so the quarterbacks. Playing that much skeleton helps their decision-making and accuracy and gets them extremely comfortable delivering intermediate and deep balls, something that wasn't the case long ago. That's the biggest difference, and the biggest reason why the impact of 7-on-7 has swung so heavily in the offense's favor. Quarterbacks are better.

Lunch links: Mike Gundy makes amends

August, 8, 2012
Big-time job by K-State's Eric Kynard, Olympic silver medalist.
The Davey O'Brien Award, given annually to college football's best quarterback, has released its 34-man preseason watch list, and five Big 12 QBs made the list.

Here they are:
Great list there. Don't be surprised if Nick Florence cracks the list of midseason semifinalists, but for now, based on his efforts in 2009 (and one half last year), he didn't deserve a spot on the preseason list. I'm expecting a big year from him, but the five guys on this list should all have big years, too.

The Big 12 has won three of the past four Davey O'Brien Awards. Baylor's Robert Griffin III won it last year, two years after Texas' Colt McCoy took it home. Oklahoma's Sam Bradford won the O'Brien and the Heisman in 2008. Auburn's Cam Newton broke up the Big 12 streak in 2010.

Oklahoma's three O'Brien Awards are tied for second-most nationally, behind only BYU, with four in the award's 20-year history.
NORMAN, Okla. -- Landry Jones was watching ESPN the first time he'd heard of George Whitfield. The California-based quarterbacks coach helped Heisman Trophy winner -- and eventual top pick -- Cam Newton prepare for the NFL draft last year, and ESPN's cameras followed both Whitfield and Newton for much of the process.

After Whitfield contacted Jones' father earlier this offseason, the Oklahoma quarterback decided he wanted a closer look.

[+] EnlargeLandry Jones
Rick Scuteri/AP ImagesTo his coaches' surprise, Landry Jones visited a quarterback guru in California over spring break.
Jones left last Friday for Stanford's campus to work with Whitfield for two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon for nearly a week, returning home the following Wednesday.

"I heard he was a good fundamentals coach, so I decided instead of spending all my time at the beach or something like that, I’d go out there and get some work in," said Jones, set to embark on his senior season in the fall.

The visit focused on those physical fundamentals, and Jones didn't get much coaching on the mental side of the game. For one, he was looking to shorten his release by holding the ball higher in the pocket, but doing so in a manner that remained comfortable.

Despite traveling to the San Francisco Bay Area, Jones didn't get any time on Northern California's scenic coast.

"I was pretty exhausted at the end of the day," he said.

Oklahoma's coaches, however, said they were unaware of Jones' jaunt to the West Coast during his time off. Coach Bob Stoops didn't know about it, and neither did co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell. Norvell added that fellow offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, the Sooners' quarterbacks' coach, likely did not know. Heupel was not made available for interviews on Tuesday.

"I think it’s always good to get any pointer from anybody you can. You can assess it all you want and how much you use of it," Stoops said. "If you think I’m at all sensitive about our quarterback lineage here and how they’ve been schooled, I think you’re mistaken. I think ours is maybe as good as anyone’s in the country, so I’m not real insecure about what we’ve been doing."

Said Jones: "Heupel’s a great coach, I’m just getting a little different perspective on things and seeing if he could help me out. It was just one of those deals where I wanted to get some extra work in."

Norvell, who had met Whitfield but didn't have an opinion on the coach, also supported Jones' decision.

"They work hard and help kids out there," Norvell said. "I think it’s good that he goes and talks to people and learns, I know he’s been to camps in the summer."

Jones was joined by Clemson quarterback Tahj Boyd, who Jones noted "likes" new defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who spend the past 12 seasons at Oklahoma before taking the Clemson coordinator job.

Presumed No. 1 pick Andrew Luck also worked with Whitfield on Stanford's campus while Jones was in California. Luck would work out after Jones, and the two got time to talk between sessions.

As for results, Jones says it still may be time before he sees them.

"I think it’s an over time type deal," he said. "It’s pretty soon after spring break, I’m still trying to work on stuff, trying to button some stuff up."

And Stoops says he's not worried about any coaching advice from Whitfield or Heupel clashing, or the almost-four-year starter getting overwhelmed.

"I didn’t notice any clashing out there today," Stoops said. "He seems to be good ol’ Landry like he usually is."

Could RG3 break Cam Newton's record?

February, 8, 2012
Cam Newton made a splash in the NFL this season, breaking Peyton Manning's rookie passing yards record and making the Pro Bowl.

He won the Heisman in 2010, but a similar player followed in his footsteps in 2011: Baylor's Robert Griffin III.

Griffin was a different, less-apt runner than Newton, but was clearly a better passer.

Could he be a better passer immediately in the NFL Insider?

ESPN Insider KC Joyner says so.
If that sounds like a powerful statement, consider some of the evidence that led to that conclusion.

In his 2010 Heisman Trophy-winning campaign with the Auburn Tigers, Newton averaged 9.3 yards per attempt (YPA) in games against opponents from BCS conferences. He also tallied a 12.9 vertical YPA (vertical defined as passes thrown 11 or more yards downfield) and a 15.5 stretch vertical YPA (aerials thrown 20 or more yards).

All of those are superb totals, but contrast them with the 2011 totals posted by Griffin in games against opponents from BCS conferences: 10.7 overall YPA (tops in the FBS), 16.0 vertical YPA and 23.0 stretch vertical YPA. Each of Griffin's marks is appreciably better than Newton's. While Griffin may not have the shiftiness Newton possesses, he is a terrific scrambler in his own right with elite speed that defenses must respect.

One of the likely reasons for the statistical edge is that the Baylor Bears' offense had more pro-style tendencies than the run-heavy spread offense Newton played in at Auburn. That allowed Griffin to attack defenses in a wider variety of ways than Newton was able to and should help reduce his pro transition time.

You'll need ESPN Insider to see more of Joyner's reason for the assertion, as well as the teams that could set up RG3 best to break the record.

Check it out.

My Heisman Trophy ballot has changed every week for the last couple of months.

I'm not surprised there are more than three players going to the trophy presentation.

Five players were invited to New York for Saturday night's Heisman Trophy presentation -- quarterbacks Andrew Luck of Stanford and Robert Griffin III of Baylor, tailbacks Montee Ball of Wisconsin and Trent Richardson of Alabama and cornerback Tyrann Mathieu of LSU.

It's a shame the Heisman Trust didn't have room for three more quarterbacks because Houston's Case Keenum, USC's Matt Barkley and Boise State's Kellen Moore were just as deserving.

With five finalists going to New York, it figures to be one of the closer votes in recent Heisman Trophy history.

The closest vote in Heisman Trophy history came just two years ago, when Alabama tailback Mark Ingram edged Stanford's Toby Gerhart by only 28 points. Ingram received 227 first-place votes, Gerhart got 222 and Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, the second runner-up, received 203.

Given the number of finalists and their geographical regions, we could have another really close finish on Saturday night.

Luck, the runner-up to Auburn's Cam Newton last season, entered the 2011 season as the Heisman Trophy favorite. His performance didn't slip much this season, as he completed 70 percent of his passes for 3,170 yards with 35 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

I still feel Luck might be the most valuable player on any team in the country. Without him, there's no way the Cardinal is ranked No. 4 in the country and playing No. 3 Oklahoma State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Luck has done more with less, as Stanford lacks the game-changing playmakers that other teams have.

But Luck might still be the second-best quarterback in New York. Griffin, who is widely known as RG3, completed 72.4 percent of his passes for 3,998 yards with 36 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also ran for 644 yards with nine touchdowns.

Without him, the Bears wouldn't have beaten TCU, Oklahoma and Texas. Griffin's one drawback: He had a late interception that sealed the Bears' fate in a 36-35 loss at Kansas State on Oct. 1 and threw two picks in a 59-24 loss at Oklahoma State on Oct. 29. But with everything else RG3 has done this season, it's easy to give him a mulligan for the miscues.

LSU defense
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesRunning back Trent Richardson has been at his best in Alabama's biggest games.
I still believe Richardson is the best player in the country. He looked like the best player on the field in No. 2 Alabama's 9-6 loss in overtime to No. 1 LSU on Nov. 5. He had 89 rushing yards and 80 receiving yards in a game where every yard mattered. He finished the season with 1,583 yards with 20 touchdown runs and three touchdown catches. He's also Mr. Dependable, not losing a fumble in his past 520 touches and only once in 614 career touches.

Ball has been a scoring machine for the No. 10 Badgers this season, running for 1,759 yards with 32 touchdown runs and six touchdown receptions. His 38 total touchdowns are one shy of matching former Oklahoma State running back Barry Sanders' NCAA single-season record of 39 set in 11 games in 1988. Ball's production helped lead the Badgers to a Jan. 2 date against Oregon in the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO.

Mathieu fell off my ballot after he was suspended from playing in the Tigers' 45-10 victory over Auburn on Oct. 22 for smoking synthetic marijuana. But his big plays helped the Tigers overcome deficits in each of their last two victories, over Arkansas and Georgia in the SEC championship game.

Mathieu -- aka the "Honey Badger" -- is the best player on the top-ranked team. He leads the Tigers with 70 tackles and has forced six fumbles and recovered five. He also is the most dynamic punt returner I've seen since Florida State's Deion Sanders. Mathieu has scored four touchdowns -- two on fumble returns and two on punt returns.

To penalize Mathieu for one foolish mistake wouldn't have been right. After all, Newton was briefly ruled ineligible at Auburn last season and 2010 Heisman Trophy finalist LaMichael James of Oregon was suspended from playing in last season's opener.

Does Collin Klein deserve Heisman hype?

November, 9, 2011
A special thanks to Josh in Salina, Kansas, a reader who brought this to my attention.

Let's compare a couple of guys.

Quarterback A
  • 112-of-192 (58.3 percent), 1,223 yards, 9 TD, 4 INT
  • 206 carries, 906 rushing yards, 19 TD
Quarterback B
  • 105-of-189 (55.6 percent), 1,510 yards, 7 TD, 10 INT
  • 203 carries, 1,115 rushing yards, 18 TD

Which would you rather take?

I won't play this game much longer.

Quarterback A, as you might have guessed, is Kansas State's Collin Klein, a guy who still has three more games left to play and has topped 90 yards rushing in each of his past four games.

But who is our man, Quarterback B? None other than Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch in 2001, who led the Huskers to 11 consecutive wins before blowout losses to Colorado in the season finale and Miami in the national championship game. For his efforts, he was awarded the Heisman Trophy.

Klein's Wildcats are 7-2 after losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, both ranked in the BCS top six, which explains why Klein isn't getting an ounce of Heisman buzz.

Klein doesn't have the speedy, game-changing runs that Crouch made a living on in Lincoln. He's a workhorse with 206 carries, 47 more than any player in the Big 12. He's also third in the Big 12 in rushing (10 yards from second place) and only Wisconsin's Montee Ball has more rushing touchdowns.

By the time his bowl game has ended, Klein might have more passing yards and rushing yards than Crouch. He's got a lot more touches, but there's no competition in passing numbers. It's Klein by a long way.

You never really know what a Heisman field will look like. Cam Newton and Tim Tebow lapped the field when they won the award.

It's too late this year, and K-State may finish with too many losses for Klein to get any Heisman notice. But he's only a junior.

How about next year?
Today is all about the QBs here at, and here's a look at each of the quarterback races in the Big 12.


[+] EnlargeJerome Tiller
Nelson Chenault/US PresswireJerome Tiller is expected to open as Iowa State's starting QB.
The safe bet: Jerome Tiller. Tiller, a junior, has filled in for Austen Arnaud much of the past two seasons, but struggled late last season after Arnaud suffered a season-ending knee injury. Tiller quarterbacked a win at Nebraska in 2009, but didn't look much improved in the game time he earned in 2010.

The wild card: Steele Jantz. Jantz is a speedy transfer from junior college in California who also arrived at Iowa State with his top receiver from the City College of San Francisco, Aaron Horne. Jantz will have to keep learning the offense, but can he inject life into the offense with his legs like Taylor Martinez did for Nebraska? Iowa State's version of The Decision is set for Aug. 20. Who will be taking their talents under center at Jack Trice Stadium? Give me the underdog in this race.

The dark horse: Jared Barnett. James Capello, a fourth contender, transferred, but Paul Rhoads says Barnett still has a chance. Can he make enough noise in fall camp to make that a reality?


The heavy favorite: Jordan Webb. Webb started seven games as a redshirt freshman in 2010, and appeared to take control during the summer, but he struggled last season. He should learn from experience, too. Last year's opening-day starter, Kale Pick, is now a receiver. Webb will almost certainly get the call for the season opener, but if he doesn't improve, that could change fast.

The underdog: Quinn Mecham. Mecham started four of the final five games for the Jayhawks, but the senior and junior college transfer might not be the best long-term option for Kansas. Webb learning on the go could pay off in the future, while any lessons Mecham learns will be out the door after the season. Mecham as the backup might be a better role for the team's greater good.

The wild cards: Brock Berglund and Michael Cummings, a pair of true freshmen. Cummings enters with a bit less talent but much less baggage. Berglund was a blue-chip recruit from Colorado, but legal issues stemming from an April assault charge have him spending much more time back home than anticipated. Berglund also missed summer voluntary workouts because of the charge and went back to Colorado before spring practice began, despite enrolling at Kansas in January, a semester earlier than the rest of the freshman class. Expect a redshirt for one of the two, but the two quarterbacks in front of them haven't exactly set the bar high. If the favorites struggle, don't be surprised to see Cummings or Berglund get a chance.


The heavy favorite: Collin Klein. Coach Bill Snyder has already given Klein the status as Day 1 starter, but the Wildcats have played two quarterbacks before under Snyder, and Klein's backups could benefit from a similar strategy this season. The only rumors surrounding Klein are those of vast development during the summer, but he'll have to prove it during fall camp and early in the season to get a stranglehold on the job.

The hype man: Justin Tuggle. Tuggle replaced Cam Newton at Blinn Junior College and transferred to Kansas State before spring practice after originally playing for Boston College out of high school. Tuggle sounded like a strong contender entering spring practice, but didn't make it happen. We'll see if his status changes during fall camp.

The backup plan: Sammuel Lamur. Lamur was the No. 3 quarterback last season, and took over the No. 2 spot on the depth chart ahead of Tuggle during the spring. We haven't seen much of Lamur during his career, but this might be the year.


The favorite: Garrett Gilbert. Gilbert, despite his struggles in 2010, never got pulled and started all 12 games for the Longhorns. He looked unimpressive in the spring game, but indications from his teammates are that he's embodied the leadership aspect of the job, something coach Mack Brown covets. That might earn Gilbert the job, but if he doesn't look like a vastly different player this season, he'll lose it.

The wild card: Case McCoy. McCoy, the younger brother of that other McCoy kid you might have heard of, has taken on a bit of a fan-favorite role after his performance in the spring game, when he outplayed Gilbert. Despite his good numbers in the spring game, however, he looked uncomfortable and must make up for his lack of experience to oust Gilbert for the reins of the offense.

The mystery man: Connor Wood. Wood is a former high school All-American, but redshirted in 2010 and played sparingly in the spring game. Outside of a few snaps in spring, no one outside the locker room has had much of a chance to see Wood play, but if he starts making noise during fall camp, you'll hear it.

The young gun: David Ash. Coaches lauding true freshman quarterbacks in the spring is rare, but Ash arrived in Austin early and got a lot of compliments from the new Longhorns coaches. He's the long shot in this race, and Brown apologized to him for not getting him enough snaps in the spring game, but the coaches indicate he's still alive in the race.
We'll kick off our look today at the position rankings for each team in the Big 12 before looping back around to rank the top 10 at every position in the Big 12.

We'll start at the most obvious position: Quarterback, a position that I'd argue is more important in the Big 12 than in any other conference.

Depth will be a huge factor in these rankings, though at quarterback, it's the toughest to gauge, considering how little we see of backup quarterbacks.

Here's how each Big 12 team ranks at the quarterback position:

[+] EnlargeLandry Jones
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireLandry Jones leads the Big 12's deepest and best group of quarterbacks.
1. Oklahoma

Oklahoma learned the hard way in 2009 about the importance of the backup quarterback, but even in his limited experience, Drew Allen has impressed Bob Stoops after narrowly losing out on the backup job behind Sam Bradford in 2009. Landry Jones is a great one, and with his opportunities, has become a Heisman Trophy favorite. Could Allen have done the same if he had beaten out Jones in 2009? Blake Bell, the nation's No. 3 quarterback in the 2010 class, will likely be Oklahoma's No. 3 in 2011.

2. Oklahoma State

Brandon Weeden's profile spiked when he led the Cowboys to a comeback win over Colorado on a Thursday night game in 2009. He took over as the starter shortly after, but going into that game Weeden was a third-stringer. Alex Cate transferred after it became evident that Weeden would be the starter in 2010, and behind Weeden is Clint Chelf and two solid recruits: Johnny Deaton and J.W. Walsh, who was the nation's No. 10 QB (just outside the ESPNU 150) in 2011 and enrolled early.

3. Texas A&M

Ryan Tannehill is entrenched at the starting spot, with a lot of youth behind him. Matt Joeckel and Jameill Showers will try to hold off incoming freshman Johnny Manziel for the No. 2 spot this fall. Manziel was impressive during the spring, and will contend for the starting job in 2012, but he'll likely redshirt unless he wins the backup job.

4. Texas Tech

Seth Doege looks ready to grab the reins for two seasons, barring injury. Jacob Karam is probably ready to start in the Big 12 right now, he's just not as good as Doege. Behind them are two promising prospects with upside and development to do: Scotty Young and Michael Brewer. The Red Raiders are the last of the Big 12 teams who have truly solid depth at quarterback.

5. Baylor

Robert Griffin III will probably hold every school record for quarterbacks by the time he leaves Waco, but the Bears need to find a true replacement behind him. Nick Florence filled in well in 2009 when Griffin missed the final nine games with a knee injury, but he's a junior like Griffin and their eligibility will expire simultaneously. Redshirt freshman Bryce Petty and 2012 commit Jared Johnson could battle for the spot in 2013.

6. Missouri

The Tigers depth took a hit after Tyler Gabbert's transfer following spring practice, but expectations are high for sophomore James Franklin, who got a bit of experience in 2010 behind Blaine Gabbert. Senior Jimmy Costello quit the team after last season to focus on an impending fall enlistment in the Army, but rejoined after the Gabbert brothers' departures from Columbia. He's likely to be the backup, with Ashton Glaser and walk-on Ryan Howerton filling out the rest of the quarterback spots. Corbin Berkstresser, a 6-foot-3, 218-pound quarterback from Kansas City that ESPN ranked No. 43 at his position, will arrive in the fall, too.

7. Texas

How long until we see a quarterback make the kind of plays Garrett Gilbert made against Alabama in the national championship? Those kinds of long scores were rare last year, but the Longhorns will have a competition this fall that sounds like it's pretty open heading into camp. If Gilbert wins, he'll likely have a much shorter leash in 2011 than he did in 2010, before Case McCoy or Connor Wood gets a crack, and dark horse true freshman David Ash could make things interesting, too.

8. Kansas State

Collin Klein made a nice move toward winning the job with a strong spring game performance. But coach Bill Snyder says he still didn't see a ton of separation between Klein and his backups, Sammuel Lamur and Boston College transfer Justin Tuggle, who spent last year replacing Cam Newton at Blinn College in Texas.

9. Iowa State

James Capello transferred after the spring, but Iowa State's race has likely boiled down to two men: Jerome Tiller and Steele Jantz. Jantz, a juco transfer, is the wild card and Tiller will need to show that his struggles in spot duty last season were temporary. He didn't show the progress you'd expect from a maturing player when he played for an injured Austen Arnaud in a few games early and late in 2010. Jared Barnett is still battling in Ames, but him winning the job would be a huge upset.

10. Kansas

The Jayhawks could use a couple more years of Todd Reesing. The Jayhawks saw a huge drop off at the quarterback position in 2010, as Jordan Webb, Quinn Mecham and Kale Pick all got time under center. Kansas will likely run its offense through a strong group of running backs, but unless newcomer Brock Berglund shows potential and proves he's the best of the group, expect Kansas to remain near the bottom of the Big 12 by the end of 2011.

Mailbag: Recruiting, Gabbert, coddling?

May, 11, 2011
Caesar in Limbo asked: Is there an increasing trend with coaches losing the battle against whining players? Leach, Mangino and I'm sure there's got to be more. Does a weak player just have to point their finger if they feel mistreated? Do these kids need therapy or a boot?! Why won't administrators back their coaches anymore? Could a coach from 20 years ago make it in today's "coddle" culture?

David Ubben: I don't know if I buy that. To some level, sure, we're more sensitive as a culture than ever before, but I also think those two situations are very different, and the issues with the players weren't the only reason Mangino and Leach were let go.

Mangino's was obviously a big part of it, but that controversy also hit in the middle of a seven-game losing streak to end the season, despite still having Todd Reesing, Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier. Like I wrote yesterday, Mangino's coaching style, which I'll just call intense, doesn't come off as well if he's not winning games. Winning solves if not everything, something close to it. (This is the point when I glare in Columbus, Ohio's direction.) If Kansas won 10 games in 2009, does anyone think Mark Mangino would not still be the coach?

In Leach's case, it was pretty clear that he badly strained his relationship with his bosses during his contract negotiations prior to the 2009 season. That relationship between a coach and the administration often gets overlooked. Leach's wasn't good, and he gave the higher-ups a reason to fire him.

Bob Stoops has a fantastic relationship with his AD, Joe Castiglione and the university president, David Boren. If the Adam James situation happened to Stoops, would he still be around?

I think we all know the answer to that question.

These situations are a lot more complex than just a couple whiny, entitled kids getting coaches fired.

Mike in Oklahoma City, Okla., asked: Ubbs, do you think Tyler Gabbert leaving MU has anything to do with his brother's "slide" in the recent NFL draft due to the college system he played for? Do you think he will transfer to a pro style team in response to that?

DU: No, and that's not really the reason for his "slide," per se. The way I see his slide is one team saw Jake Locker as a better fit and better talent than Gabbert, which bumped him out of the top 5-7 where he was projected to go, down to No. 10. In the days leading up to the draft, I'd say it was pretty clear that Cam Newton was going to be the first quarterback taken.

Everyone had questions this year. Can Newton be a true NFL passer? Is Locker accurate enough? Can Gabbert be the same kind of passer after a dropback? I really doubt that had anything to do with Tyler Gabbert's decision.

And besides that, from the moment Blaine Gabbert stepped on Missouri's campus, he had NFL written all over him. Guys with big arms that are 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds tend to, at the very least, get drafted. Tyler Gabbert's career is just beginning, but at 6-foot and 190 pounds, he's going to be fighting uphill to get his chance at the NFL level.

Scott in College Station, Texas asked: David, When do the first 2012 ESPN recruit rankings come out? Thanks

DU: We released them last year around late May and early June, so I'd expect them then, but don't get too worried, Scott. I'm sure your Aggies will be well represented in our ESPNU150, unlike last year.

I'd be very, very surprised if Trey Williams wasn't on it. Matt Davis probably has a good shot, too. Maybe Davante Borque. Our recruiting guys handle that.

Preston in Dallas asked: If Texas has another bad year, and Texas A&M and Oklahoma St. continue to take the next step how do think this will effect recruiting in Texas?

DU: It would help a little bit, but it's going to take a lot of losing for Texas to not be back on top of the recruiting game. For one, players want to play for Mack Brown.

But more than anything, you're battling Texas culture. Players grow up wanting to be Longhorns. That's just a fact. Not all of them, of course, but certainly a majority of kids in one of the richest recruiting banks in the country.

How many kids grow up in Texas dreaming of playing for Oklahoma State? Texas A&M?

They'll grow up, and some will realize that in their personal situation, maybe either school is a better fit or Texas doesn't want them, but there's no changing that Texas is the flagship program in the state. That's one recruiting advantage that takes a whole heck of a lot to negate.

Another losing season, or even 2-3 more isn't going to suddenly allow either school to consistently outrecruit Texas.

Lunch links: Tigers dine with Obama

April, 28, 2011
If you want to help the people of Alabama after the damage of Wednesday's tornados, texting REDCROSS to 90999 will add a $10 donation to your next phone bill.

Future star watch...Steele Jantz?

March, 15, 2011
A year ago, few outside of Florida or Auburn knew who Cam Newton was. A year later, he was a national champion and a Heisman winner.

Colleague Ryan McGee went in search of the next budding star that could be a household name next season. The only person on his list from the Big 12?

Iowa State quarterback Steele Jantz.

McGee writes:
Unless you're a big-time fan of the Northern California Football Association, you've likely never heard of Jantz. So here's some 2010 numbers that should get your attention: 3,075 yards and 23 TDs passing, 601 yards and 14 TDs rushing. Cyclones head coach Paul Rhoads was in the stands last fall when Jantz threw for one touchdown and ran for four more versus Fresno City College in the NCFA title game, and clearly the QB's production got Rhoads' attention. Iowa State ranked 99th in total offense one year ago en route to a 5-7 record against a brutal schedule. The opponents get no easier in 2011, but it won't be because Jantz doesn't know how to move the football.

I'm not quite as sure about Jantz as McGee, and granted, Jantz still has to win a quarterback competition that's set to begin when Iowa State kicks off spring practice on March 22.

But then again, a year ago, so did juco all-everything Newton. McGee's not drawing a direct comparison, but if Jantz beats out Jerome Tiller to become the Cyclones' next quarterback and Iowa State gets off to a nice start, Jantz will earn plenty of recognition.

Mailbag: Class grades, TT, OSU, UT futures

February, 4, 2011
Thanks for the questions, everybody. Lots of good ones as usual.

Rusty Shakleford in Kerrville, Texas asks: Mr. Ubben, enjoy reading your work daily. I was wondering which Big 12 school had the best recruiting class from a standpoint of filling immediate needs as well as anticipating future holes? Overall class rating really doesn't always mean a whole lot. Thanks!

David Ubben: Yeah, generally I'd agree with you. I tweeted this on Thursday, but I still got a ton of questions about my comments about recruiting classes not correlating to their grades. Those grades weren't given by me, they were given by our team of ESPN recruiting analysts. They were also in the context of national recruiting, not relative to each team's individual circumstances.

I hope that explains why some of those grades were low.

Anyway, I think there were definitely some great classes in the Big 12. I don't see much notable about Texas and Oklahoma's class, but the two that impressed me the most were Kansas and Texas Tech. Turner Gill had a ton of pressure to bring in a good class this year, and he's gotten one with a lot of players who look like they could be impact players, and added some good offensive linemen to hopefully help out with depth.

Texas Tech added a lot of speed, and a caliber of player that hasn't signed with Texas Tech very often. The elite defensive players weren't there in 2011, but I think more guys will follow Derek David's lead in 2012. He's one of the nation's best linebackers, and committed to Tech last summer.

So, if you want to talk about relative grades, I thought those two classes were the best in the Big 12. Oklahoma State was probably right below them.

Luke in Heartland, America asks: Why does ESPN still keep posting [expletive] about Colorado and Nebraska in the Big 12 blogs and newslines. Not one of their signees will ever see action as a Big 12 player, nobody gives a [expletive], and it just ESPN look behind the times like usual.

Ron in Omaha asks: David, last time I checked Nebraska and Colorado are still in the big 12. Why the snub on recruiting analysis? Still would be interesting to read your thoughts on those two.

DU: Ha, I can't win with you guys. You might have noticed that Colorado and Nebraska have been removed from our little sidebar on the right and moved to their respective new conference, but the official transition is coming very soon. You won't be able to miss it. It hasn't taken place just yet, though.

Cody in Lubbock, Texas asks: David, hopefully, you get me in this time. Do you think there is a correlation between Auburn's national championship team and Tommy Tuberville's recruiting abilities, given his recruiting success this week at Tech? Obviously Tuberville did not bring in Cam Newton or Michael Dyer, nor did he coach the team, but his presence on Auburn's squad does seem apparent. I appreciate it.

DU: There's definitely some. It's not huge, but there's no denying that Tuberville had an influence. Does that mean "Well, Texas Tech's national title is only a couple years away?" Obviously, no. Recruiting doesn't work like that. Neither does college football. But Texas Tech is getting a lot better, and things are changing on the plains.

Tommy B in Stillwater, Okla., asks Is J.W. Walsh the next starting QB for the Pokes after Weeden leaves?

DU: If I had to bet on it, he'd be my pick. From the quick release to the mobility to the winning in high school, Welsh has a lot to like. That said, it should be a solid competition between him, Clint Chelf and Johnny Deaton. Chelf earned most of the backup reps this year for the Cowboys, and that will be valuable, but you might see (read: hear about) some solid competition for the backup job this year in practice.

Mack Prioleau in Fort Worth, Texas asks: once again, Texas lands a top 5 recruiting class in the nation... With all of their new espn150 and rivals 5 and 4 star recruits, will they be good next year? I am not a Texas fan, but I am just wondering because it is embarrassing for them to do as bad as last year when they have a top 3 recruiting year after year

DU: Well, Texas rebounding in 2011 doesn't have much to do with the recruiting class. It has everything to do with the talent already in place learning the new offense under Bryan Harsin and the new defense under Manny Diaz, and executing it on the field. Malcolm Brown might have an impact, but Texas won't try to rebuild its program in 2011 with these guys just yet. That task is charged to guys like Keenan Robinson, Emmanuel Acho, Garrett Gilbert and the big guys on the offensive line.

What I'm interested to see is what a Texas team with a whole lot to prove looks like. You heard it last week from Mack Brown, there's a renewed sense of purpose in the program, and certainly a lot of anger from what happened last season that should manifest itself on the field. Does that mean wins and a return to contender status for the Longhorns? We'll see.