Big 12: Carl Gettis

Young corners? Big plays for the Tigers

September, 3, 2011
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Missouri lost two senior cornerbacks from last year's team, Kevin Rutland and Carl Gettis. Additionally, the team's third corner in 2010, Kip Edwards, isn't playing today.

Replacing them won't be easy, but the coaching staff has lauded its young defensive backs all offseason.

That confidence paid off late in the first half when sophomore E.J. Gaines intercepted a pass in the end zone to keep Miami (Ohio) off the scoreboard and the Tigers ahead, 10-0.

Gaines came from underneath on the play and intercepted the ball in zone coverage.

The road will get tougher for this secondary once it starts facing Big 12 quarterbacks, but for now, Gaines is helping Missouri's defense carry over a strong season from 2010.

Assessing the contenders: Missouri

July, 14, 2011
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Heading into the season, I see five teams in the Big 12 with a realistic chance to win the league. I'll be breaking them down in order (which won't be the same as my post-spring power rankings) of their chances to leave the season with the Big 12 title.

No. 1 on the list was the favorite: Oklahoma.

No. 2 was Texas A&M.

Oklahoma State came in at No. 3.

Why the Tigers will win the Big 12

1. Experience. Missouri returns 105 starts on the offensive line, losing only center Tim Barnes. That's the most in the Big 12 and 11th most in the nation on an offensive line that was fantastic in 2010. Just less than 80 percent of its total lettermen return, eighth-most in college football. That's a lot of guys who have been around, and the Tigers knocked over a big wall last year when they toppled the Sooners. Eliminate Mizzou's curious road hiccup at Texas Tech, and the Tigers would have been back in the Big 12 title game instead of sharing the Big 12 North with Nebraska after a third 10-win season in four years.

2. Dave Steckel. The Tigers' defense has steadily improved under Steckel, who previously coached linebackers under Matt Eberflus. Missouri had its best defense under Gary Pinkel last year, and that could continue this year with a great mix of experience and upside at linebacker, with Will Ebner and Zaviar Gooden set to knock around a few folks. Missouri's defense is noticeably tougher under Steckel, and though the Tigers must replace Aldon Smith and both starting corners, don't expect it to take a big jump back. Though Kip Edwards and E.J. Gaines lack the experience of Carl Gettis and Kevin Rutland, they may prove to be better corners very soon.

3. The defensive line. And what's the best way to negate inexperience at corner? How about the Big 12's best defensive line. Brad Madison is arguably the Big 12's best returning pass-rusher, and his counterpart at defensive end, Jacquies Smith, is one of the better ends in the Big 12, too. Missouri also has the best depth of any defensive line, with Michael Sam and Kony Ealy itching to spell Madison and Smith. At defensive tackle, Terrell Resonno could be poised for a breakout year, and blue-chip recruit Sheldon Richardson, if/when he actually makes it to campus, should join Dominique Hamilton at the opposite tackle spot, making sure Missouri's front four are not to be trifled.

Why the Tigers won't win the Big 12

1. The quarterback has never started a game. Sometimes, it's just this simple. James Franklin may blossom into a star at Missouri, but as a first-year starter, he's bound to have a few bad nights. Can Missouri survive them? Its Big 12 title hopes depend on it. If Blaine Gabbert had stayed, Missouri would likely be a top-15 or top-10 team and join Texas A&M and OSU as the chief contenders to knock off Oklahoma. Instead, the Tigers are relegated to a dark horse/wild-card role that depends heavily on how Franklin performs in his first year. The one advantage he has is after Tyler Gabbert's post-spring transfer, fall camp will be more about cementing his role as starter than winning it. Franklin walked in as a true freshman last spring and eventually won the No. 2 job behind Blaine Gabbert. That says a lot, and he earned some playing time last year, but his sophomore season won't be anything like 2010, when he threw all of 14 passes.

2. The passing game is limited. NFL teams knew Blaine Gabbert had a cannon, but he didn't get very many chances to showcase it to college fans last year, and Franklin may be forced to do the same. T.J. Moe and Michael Egnew are a great duo with some of the best hands in the league and a great sense of space, but without a deep threat to keep defenses honest, their production declined late in the season. Danario Alexander and Jeremy Maclin were able to stretch the field for guys like Chase Coffman and Martin Rucker in the past, but Moe and Egnew won't come close to 2010's production if the Tigers can't find someone to haul in a few passes over the top of the secondary.

3. Trips to Norman and College Station are on the schedule. I hear you, Missouri fans. I was there for the destruction of Texas A&M at Kyle Field last year. But that was a very different Texas A&M team than you'll be facing this time around. And the return trip may not be quite as enjoyable. Jerrod Johnson struggled against the Tigers, but the 30-9 loss was his penultimate start and Ryan Tannehill is driving the bus now. Also, don't count on this one being an 11 a.m. kickoff. I'd plan for prime time, and Kyle Field is a very different place at 8 p.m. than at lunch time. Ask Nebraska. Missouri knocked off Oklahoma last year, too, but don't think the Sooners have forgotten the fourth-quarter meltdown in Columbia. Oklahoma gets both of its losses in 2010 -- Missouri and Texas A&M -- in Norman this year, where it carries a 36-game home winning streak, the nation's longest, into 2011.
We'll move on to the cornerbacks today in our position rankings across the Big 12.

Here's what we've covered so far:
This group? Well, it's not very good. And considering the crazy depth in the Big 12 at receiver, it could be a long season for cornerbacks in this league. I love the upside of many of the Big 12 corners -- namely the guys at Missouri and Texas Tech (especially working with Chad Glasgow's 4-2-5 in Lubbock). Texas could also develop fast in its new defense, but outside of Texas A&M and Oklahoma, I don't see any Big 12 teams that should be completely comfortable with their cornerbacks.

Of course, for fans who love points, this could be a welcome development. For secondary coaches and defensive coordinators? Not so much.

[+] EnlargeJamell Fleming
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireJamell Fleming returns as the Big 12's top cornerback.
1. Oklahoma -- Jamell Fleming is the Big 12's top returner at the position and gives the Sooners a huge boost after being reinstated last week. Fleming had withdrawn from the university because of academic problems following the season. Aaron Colvin moved to safety during the offseason, but Fleming will still have to beat out Gabe Lynn in fall camp to start opposite Demontre Hurst. Julian Wilson also adds depth.

2. Texas A&M -- Fleming's return pushed the Sooners over A&M as having the Big 12's best group of corners. But Coryell Judie and Terrence Frederick could both challenge for first team All-Big 12 honors at the position. They are ahead of reserves Dustin Harris and Lionel Smith, who will get plenty of time on the field.

3. Missouri -- Missouri loses starters Carl Gettis and Kevin Rutland, but the coaches consider Kip Edwards a returning starter because of how much he played last season. Edwards could join E.J. Gaines in eventually becoming better than both Gettis and Rutland. Trey Hobson and Robert Steeples will get time in the rotation, too.

4. Oklahoma State -- OSU has to replace the Big 12's interception leader Andrew McGee , but Brodrick Brown's development should continue. He's likely a dark horse to earn first-team All-Big 12 honors after the season. The Cowboys didn't release a post-spring depth chart, but don't be surprised if return specialist Justin Gilbert edges out Devin Hedgepeth for the starting spot before the opener. Andrae May has earned playing time on special teams in both of his first two seasons on campus, but could be counted on for a much bigger role this year as the fourth corner.

5. Texas -- The Longhorns are fairly decimated at corner after losing three to the NFL in one offseason. Curtis and Chykie Brown joined Aaron Williams for one of the most talented sets of corners we've seen in this league, but now, secondary coach Duane Akina will have to replace them. Texas' depth chart is still as in flux as any in college football, but I'd be surprised if Carrington Byndom didn't emerge with a starting spot. True freshman Quandre Diggs might swipe the other, but A.J. White will be on the field, too.

6. Texas Tech -- The Red Raiders are likely to ascend this list by season's end, but for now, find themselves at No. 6. Injuries were costly for the defense last season, but Tre Porter and Derrick Mays should be much better, and Tech fans can be encouraged by the upside in Jarvis Phillips, Jeremy Reynolds and Eugene Neboh.

7. Iowa State -- This group might be a bit underrated, but with Iowa State's defensive problems last season, it's a bit hard to tell. Jeremy Reeves and Leonard Johnson return with loads of experience, and Anthony Young is a great additional piece as the third corner. Matthew Thomas should be in the rotation, too.

8. Baylor -- The Bears return both starters. Chance Casey has 15 career starts to Tyler Stephenson's four, but the Bears secondary struggled last season, especially the corners. Tuswani Copeland should be on the field under new coordinator Phil Bennett, whose work is cut out for him at this spot.

9. Kansas -- Kansas loses Chris Harris from last season's team, but Isiah Barfield is a playmaker at the position. Greg Brown, Tyler Patmon and Anthony Davis fill out the group.

10. Kansas State -- The Wildcats have a huge talent in David Garrett, who led the team in tackles last season and was the nation's leader in tackles for loss, but he's still just one player at a position that needs lots of depth in this league. Also, his coverage leaves a bit to be desired. For now, K-State doesn't look like it has that necessary depth. Terrance Sweeney and Stephen Harrison are gone, but the Wildcats need to find more talents at the position in fall camp. Watch for Thomas Ferguson to emerge as the other starter.

The Big 12's three dark horses

May, 25, 2011
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A little more than three months before we kick off the 2011 season, one thing is clear: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M are the Big 12 favorites.

Of course, last season, Texas and Oklahoma were the favorites and Oklahoma State came out of nowhere to contend.

So, who could be this season's Cowboys? Here are three teams with the most upside that could contend for a Big 12 title.

Missouri

Last season: 10-3

Big 12 Power Rankings: 4th

Why the Tigers aren't a contender: Simply put, Blaine Gabbert is gone. If the Tigers still had their first-round pick, they'd likely be a borderline top-10 team entering the season.

Why they can contend: Missouri's defense should be great once again after taking big strides in 2010 under coordinator Dave Steckel. The Tigers have lots of confidence in corners Kip Edwards and E.J. Gaines, and even list Edwards as a returning starter since he was in the rotation alongside Carl Gettis and Kevin Rutland last season. They'll get a lot of help up front from an offensive line that should be the Big 12's best, and perhaps one of the best in college football.

Offensively, James Franklin replaces Gabbert, but has lots of talent around him, including four returning running backs with experience and every single receiver on the team returns, including four with at least 39 catches a season ago. That's rare, and the experience gained will pay off next fall.

Texas

Last season: 5-7

Big 12 Power Rankings: 7th

Why the Longhorns aren't a contender: The offense crashed and burned in 2010 and the reigning Big 12 champs and national runner-up endured its worst season since 1997.

Why they can contend: Mock recruiting rankings all you'd like, but it's still hard to shake the feeling that Texas is a sleeping giant in 2011. The offensive talent didn't look like it was there last season, but can new coordinator Bryan Harsin change that? The Big 12 won't have a truly elite defense this season, so it's possible.

Texas also should have one of the Big 12's best defenses, as long as it can overcome some inexperience in the secondary. The front seven has loads of experience and potential, and if the turnovers, which coach Mack Brown has harped on all offseason, swing in the Longhorns favor, Texas could become a factor once again. That 5-7 record last season wasn't far from 9-3. Texas lost four games by eight points or fewer.

Kansas State

Last season: 7-6

Big 12 Power Rankings: 8th

Why the Wildcats aren't a contender: The Wildcats rode Daniel Thomas for two seasons, and lose him, as well as starting quarterback Carson Coffman. Combine that with a defense that struggled for most of last season, and it's not an attractive résumé.

Why they can contend: It all comes down to how good the new faces will be. Bryce Brown and Arthur Brown have gotten plenty of press this spring, but Arthur and quarterback Collin Klein will likely have the most to do with the Wildcats exceeding expectations. Klein will have receiver Brodrick Smith back, a transfer who started the season hot before breaking his leg against Nebraska.

The Wildcats are by far the darkest of these horses, but it could be one of Bill Snyder's best coaching jobs if this team contends or finishes in the top 25.

Missouri spring wrap

May, 6, 2011
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MISSOURI

2010 overall record: 10-3

2010 conference record: 6-2

Returning starters: Offense (9), Defense (6) P/K (2)

Top returners: DE Brad Madison, WR T.J. Moe, TE Michael Egnew, RB De’Vion Moore, LB Zaviar Gooden, S Kenji Jackson, LB Will Ebner

Key losses: QB Blaine Gabbert, DE Aldon Smith, LB Andrew Gachkar, CB Kevin Rutland, CB Carl Gettis, C Tim Barnes

2010 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: De’Vion Moore* (517 yards)

Passing: Blaine Gabbert (3,186 yards)

Receiving: T.J. Moe (1,045 yards)

Tackles: Andrew Gachkar, Zaviar Gooden* (84)

Sacks: Brad Madison* (7.5)

Interceptions: Kevin Rutland (3)

Three spring answers

1. Primary concern? Not the secondary. Missouri lost both starting corners, Carl Gettis and Kevin Rutland, from last year’s team, but the secondary could be even better in 2011. Kip Edwards played extensively last year and the coaching staff considers him a returning starter. E.J. Gaines, just a sophomore, could be in for a solid year, too. Don’t expect a big dropoff from the Tigers’ secondary.

2. The next Aldon Smith? Missouri already has a solid duo at defensive end with Jacquies Smith and Brad Madison, but the Tigers found another this spring. Kony Ealy, a 6-foot-5, 250-pound redshirt freshman, was unblockable for stretches during the spring and should find a spot in the rotation of a loaded Missouri defensive line next fall.

3. Tigers find a center. Three-year starting center Tim Barnes is gone, and the search for his replacement was on this spring. Missouri’s reserve centers struggled with snaps at times, but Travis Ruth won the job over Justin Britt after the spring. I wouldn’t expect that to change in the fall.

Three fall questions

1. Is the new QB ready? James Franklin will enter fall as the starter, but Tyler Gabbert is right there with him. The Tigers didn’t settle much this spring, but most agree that this is the best team surrounding the quarterback maybe ever under Gary Pinkel. Once the Tigers figure out who’s starting, can he keep up with what should be a solid team?

2. Paging Sheldon Richardson. The defensive tackle is one of the most highly recruited prospects in Missouri history, and has already signed with the Tigers twice, snubbing USC the second time. He was scheduled to arrive this spring, but he hasn’t officially qualified yet. He’s expected to arrive in June, but if we’ve learned one thing throughout this saga, it’s nothing is a given. If he does eventually arrive, will he be the impact player that his athletic, 6-foot-4, 295-pound frame suggests he could be?

3. Can the offense stretch the field? Missouri’s two top receivers, T.J. Moe and Michael Egnew, are possession receivers that don’t often beat defenses deep. Defenders keyed in on them late in the season, and their production waned a bit. Can Missouri find a player like Danario Alexander or Jeremy Maclin this year to stretch the field and open up more space for Egnew, Moe and the running game?

The Big 12 and the draft: A wide-angle look

March, 24, 2011
3/24/11
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Scouts Inc. has put together a comprehensive draft board of each position, and as you've seen this offseason, plenty of former Big 12ers should hear their names called next month.

Here's a rough estimate of where each offensive prospect from the league is set to be drafted.

First round:
Second round:
Third round:
Fourth round:
Fifth round:
Sixth round:
Seventh round:

Want to see the full boards? Here's the offense and the defense.

Opening spring camp: Missouri

March, 8, 2011
3/08/11
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Schedule: Practice opens today, and continues through the spring game on April 16. Practices between now and then are open to fans and media.

What’s new: Not much, really. There will be a quarterback derby, but we'll get to that in a bit. Missouri returns nine starters on offense and six on defense and didn't have a coaching change in the offseason. There will be new faces in the secondary, but Gary Pinkel has established a solid foundation for his program around his quarterback and there shouldn't be much concern about a down year in 2011 with a new passer.

On the mend: Linebacker Donovan Bonner missed all of 2010 with a knee injury, but he looked like a budding star before the injury. He's back this spring and should get a chance to get back to where he was in fall camp.

Key battle: There's plenty to see at quarterback. Pinkel says sophomore James Franklin will enter spring practice as the starter, but Ashton Glaser and Tyler Gabbert will push for the starting gig. This is definitely new territory for the Tigers, who haven't had any real uncertainty about their starting quarterback since Brad Smith took over as the starter in 2002. Chase Daniel and Blaine Gabbert were clear heir apparents, but a quarterback competition should add some new intrigue to the offseason in Columbia.

New faces: Receiver Wesley Leftwich will take part in camp, alongside offensive lineman Michael Boddie and defensive lineman Gerrand Johnson.

Breaking out: When defensive end and likely first-round pick Aldon Smith suffered a broken leg last year, backup defensive end Brad Madison flourished. He had three sacks against Texas A&M and finished with 7.5 sacks to lead the team and with Smith gone. Madison's road to becoming a household name across the conference could begin this spring.

Question marks: Secondary troubles have been a constant for Missouri's defenses over the past decade. Until last year, anyway. The secondary became a strength, but it did it with a pair of experienced, senior corners, Carl Gettis and Kevin Rutland. Now, promising young players E.J. Gaines and Kip Edwards look ready to replace them, but will the excellence on the back line continue under third-year defensive coordinator Dave Steckel, or was last year an anomaly?

Big shoes to fill: All-Big 12 center Tim Barnes is gone, and Justin Britt and Travis Ruth will compete to take his place. Barnes was responsible for a lot of organization for the offense before the snap, not to mention his blocking and snapping talents. A weakness there would throw a kink into Missouri's offense. The Tigers need a solid talent to emerge, and that could happen this spring. The good news is the other four offensive linemen return.

Don’t forget about: The running backs. Missouri split carries between four backs last season, with none receiving more than 100 carries. Pinkel says he wants one to emerge and separate themselves, and if I'm guessing, I'd put my money on sophomore Henry Josey. He's the shiftiest of the four backs, and in Missouri's offense, a scat back can be a big asset. He may not get the goal-line carries (look for De'Vion Moore to take that duty), but he could get the Tigers down there.

All eyes on: Quarterback James Franklin. It sounds like he has a lead to start the spring, but the job isn't his yet. Missouri fans would like to see him (or someone, anyway) grab a firm hold on the job by the end of spring practice and impress them heading into fall camp. Uncertainty may not be the best option for Missouri's offense next fall, but if no one separates themselves, it might be a necessity.

What to watch in the Big 12 this spring

February, 16, 2011
2/16/11
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Springtime is almost here. And here's a look at what to expect across the Big 12 when it gets into full swing here in the next couple weeks.

BAYLOR BEARS

Spring practice starts: February 28

Spring game: April 2

What to watch:
  • Big changes on defense. Baylor brought in Phil Bennett as its new defensive coordinator, and he says his scheme will be multiple, built to fit the Bears' personnel. Considering the Bears' recent recruiting successes in the secondary, look for a 4-2-5 type of look.
  • Recruiting stars: time to shine. Both safeties, Tim Atchison and Byron Landor, are gone. Baylor, though, has two former ESPNU 150 recruits at safety who would be well served to start filling their potential. Prince Kent was a reserve last season and at one time, the nation's No. 51 overall recruit who originally signed with Miami. Ahmad Dixon, meanwhile, was the No. 15 overall prospect in the 2010 class. The opportunity is there. Baylor needs big talent at the position. Briles has recruited it. Can they develop into players who make Baylor a contender?
  • Running back competition. Jay Finley topped 1,200 yards in 2010, but he's gone. Who steps into his void? Terrance Ganaway is a bowling ball at 5-foot-11, 235 pounds, but the shifty Jarred Salubi could get a good amount of carries, too. They could begin to share carries this spring.
IOWA STATE CYCLONES

Spring practice starts: March 22

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Quarterback competition. It should be a good one in Ames this spring. Jerome Tiller is the name most recognize after getting lots of meaningful time and starts because of injuries to Austen Arnaud over the past two seasons. But juco transfer Steele Jantz sounds confident he can win the job. Rising sophomore James Capello and redshirt freshman Jared Barnett will compete, too.
  • Paging Cyclone receivers. Iowa State had one of the most underwhelming receiving corps in the league during the past season, and three of its top five pass-catchers won't return in 2011. Of those three, however, one is a tight end (Collin Franklin) and another is a running back (Alexander Robinson). The new quarterback will need some help, and Darius Darks and Darius Reynolds will need to provide it as seniors.
  • Shontrelle's time or not? Freshman Shontrelle Johnson looked like the running back with the most pop behind Robinson for most of 2010, but two other freshmen running backs jockeyed for carries, too. Paul Rhoads is hardly handing the job over to Johnson, but spring could be the time when he really separates himself from the pack.
KANSAS JAYHAWKS

Spring practice starts: April 1

Spring game: April 30

What to watch:
  • What are they doing behind center? Kansas never got much consistent play out of the quarterback position last year, but freshman Brock Berglund is one of the 2011 class' top recruits, and enrolled early to compete in the spring with Jordan Webb and Quinn Mecham. With a building program like Kansas, there's perhaps some value in handing the program to a younger player like Webb or Berglund, but they'll have to earn it. Doing so will start in the spring, but don't expect the Jayhawks to have a set-in-stone starter by spring's end.
  • Top linebacker back on the field. Huldon Tharp missed all of 2010 with a foot injury, but he says he's 100 percent and ready to get back on the field. As a freshman in 2009, he was fifth on the team in tackles, with 59, and looked like one of the league's possible budding stars. Now, he'll get his chance to join fellow linebacker Steven Johnson as one of the team's top tacklers, and he'll do it as a sophomore after redshirting in 2010.
  • Toben rising? Turner Gill raised plenty of eyebrows when he moved his team's leading rusher in 2009, Toben Opurum, to linebacker in fall camp, and eventually slid him up to defensive end. But toward the end of 2010, Opurum started showing some major signs of growth at the position. We'll get a better idea this spring if he's one of the league's most unlikely new stars at defensive end.
KANSAS STATE WILDCATS

Spring practice starts: April 6

Spring game: April 30

What to watch:
  • Prodigal Kansan sons come home. There's no doubt that the Wichita native Brown brothers are the main attraction at Kansas State this spring, a season after transferring back home. Bryce Brown, the running back, was the nation's No. 8 prospect in the 2009 class. Arthur Brown, the linebacker, was the nation's No. 6 prospect in the 2008 class. Bryce transferred from Tennessee and Arthur from Miami. The Wildcats are pinning much of their hopes on the duo, and we'll get a good sense of what they can provide soon.
  • Quarterback competition. Carson Coffman is gone, and two new faces will challenge for the job: juco transfer Justin Tuggle and Daniel Sams. Sammuel Lamur is also up for the gig. Collin Klein may or may not be; Bill Snyder hasn't explicitly confirmed a past comment from Sams saying Klein had moved to receiver. Don't expect a starter to be named by spring's end, but a general order could start to form.
  • Can the defense show improvement? Kansas State had the Big 12's worst overall defense last year, and the worst rushing defense in college football, giving up 3,008 yards on the ground. Coordinator Chris Cosh looks like he'll still be around in 2011, and defensive backs David Garrett and Tysyn Hartman are solid pieces to try and build around. But this young maturing defense must get better to make a bowl game again with so many questions on offense. That starts in the spring.
MISSOURI TIGERS

Spring practice starts: March 8

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Franklin comes alive! Blaine Gabbert bolted to the NFL early, and Missouri has a gaping hole a quarterback. The position, however, is surrounded by a lot of quality talent that likely makes the Tigers a Top 25 team. There's no understating the importance of the position for the Tigers, and that will begin to be decided in the spring. James Franklin, a rising sophomore, saw spot duty in 2010 as more of a runner, and may have the inside track on the job, but Tyler Gabbert, Blaine's younger brother, and Ashton Glaser should make it an interesting competition in the spring. If neither of them impress early, don't count out incoming freshman Corbin Berkstresser.
  • Here is the new secondary. Same as the old secondary? After years of pass defense being one of the Tigers' biggest weaknesses, it became a strength in 2010 behind the leadership of senior corners Kevin Rutland and Carl Gettis. But the Tigers lose them and safety Jarrell Harrison. Rutland emerged as one of the team's most impressive players last spring, but was Missouri's success in the secondary a one-time thing or the beginning of a welcome trend?
  • Time to dominate the trenches? Missouri played without likely first-round pick Aldon Smith for much of the previous season, but the defensive and offensive lines for the Tigers were as good as ever in 2010. How will they look in 2011? Impact juco transfer Sheldon Richardson won't be enrolled by the spring, but the four returning starters on the offensive line should get some solid work against Brad Madison, Jacquies Smith and Terrell Resonno.
OKLAHOMA SOONERS

Spring practice starts: March 21

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Freshmen on display. Coach Bob Stoops hasn't been shy about saying his 2010 recruiting class was his best ever, but it could look even better after this spring. Two of his best emerging recruits, Justin McCay and Geneo Grissom, didn't even play in 2010, and could start to make an impact. The same goes for Corey Nelson, who will try to earn some more time somewhere backing up star Travis Lewis.
  • Is there a golden boot in Norman? Jimmy Stevens was much more accurate in 2010, finishing 19-for-23, but his attempts outside 45 yards were sparse. The good news is he missed none of his 53 extra points. Field goals have been a bit of an adventure for the past couple years, but continuing in the spring what he started last year would be a good sign for Oklahoma. The Sooners are strong everywhere and need good special teams play to reach their lofty title goals.
  • Are the Sooners' backs back? Roy Finch missed the Fiesta Bowl with a stress fracture, and his durability is certainly questionable entering 2011. When he's healthy, he looks like the next star in the Sooners' backfield, but they'll need some depth behind the 5-foot-8, 173-pounder. Jermie Calhoun, Jonathan Miller and Brennan Clay have all looked good at times, but there should be some good competition from newcomers Brandon Wegher, an Iowa transfer who'll be in camp this spring and eligible next season, and blue-chip recruit Brandon Williams, who enrolled early.
OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS

Spring practice starts: March 7

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Every piece of the offense. The spring in Stillwater is all about keeping or improving upon the status quo. Had it kept Dana Holgorsen, there'd be little doubt that would happen, but Oklahoma State must make the most of its five returning offensive linemen, quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon. The opportunity for a historic season is there, but they'll have to pick up the nuances of the new offense quickly in the spring like they did last year.
  • What about the kicker? Dan Bailey won the Lou Groza Award as the nation's top kicker in 2010, but he's gone. Oklahoma State needs to fill that role quickly, and we'll likely know who will get the nod after the spring.
  • Who steps up on the defensive line? The Cowboys lose three starters up front on defense, including All-Big 12 performer Ugo Chinasa and tackles Chris Donaldson and Shane Jarka. Can senior Richetti Jones become a star in the Big 12? We'll have a good idea if he, or any of the Cowboys' other defensive linemen, can by the end of April.
TEXAS LONGHORNS

Spring practice starts: February 24

Spring game: April 3

What to watch:
  • New coaches and their students/players. Texas has five new coaches. Although it's hard to get a good read early on, how they relate with the players on the field, in the film room and around the facilities will have a big impact on how the 2011 season plays out in Austin. The young-blooded coordinators could serve themselves well by relating to players and the players will need to spend plenty of extra time learning new schemes and plays.
  • Quarterback competition ... or not? Mack Brown says the gig is open and it is, for now. Garrett Gilbert can close it with a strong spring. If Garrett struggles on the field or has difficulty grasping the new system, the door will be wide open for Connor Wood or Case McCoy to step in and close it. Gilbert didn't get much help, but he did very little in 2010 to inspire a lot of breathing room with McCoy and Wood clamoring for playing time.
  • And you've got to defend the pass, too. Texas loses its top three cornerbacks to the NFL, and only Carrington Byndom and A.J. White got much meaningful playing time last season. Younger players can earn some rare early playing time with a strong spring. Will anyone step up?
TEXAS A&M AGGIES

Spring practice starts: March 22

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • New linebackers in the running. Spring isn't so scary when you bring back nine defensive starters, but the two Texas A&M lost were the heart of its defense. Linebackers Michael Hodges and Von Miller are gone. Kyle Mangan didn't look fantastic when forced into action during the Cotton Bowl, but the time is now for Damontre Moore and Dominique Patterson, a pair of sophomores, to make their impact.
  • Tannehill's tuning things up. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill played about as well as anyone could have hoped late last season, but he'll need it to continue his performance with a solid spring nailing down the timing with his receivers, who all return. He's already got a leg up on last year's quarterback, Jerrod Johnson, who was held out of team drills last spring after shoulder surgery that eventually derailed his senior season.
  • Christine's back. Christine Michael missed the second half of the season with a broken leg, giving way to Cyrus Gray's rise among Big 12 backs. It should make Texas A&M's depth at the position even more impressive, but we'll see how Michael looks coming back from the injury.
TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS

Spring practice starts: February 19

Spring game: March 26

What to watch:
  • Past defending that pass defense. Texas Tech had the Big 12's worst pass defense last season, but has a pair of big potential players at cornerback in rising sophomores Tre Porter and Jarvis Phillips. Starters LaRon Moore and Franklin Mitchem are gone, but if returning starters Cody Davis and Will Ford can continue to mature, the defense should improve in the area most important for success in the Big 12.
  • And they're off! There's a four-man quarterback derby set in Lubbock this spring between Seth Doege, Jacob Karam, Michael Brewer and Scotty Young. I don't expect it to be settled until midway through fall camp, similar to last season, but there should be a solid front-runner and more clarity after spring. Coach Tommy Tuberville was extremely impressed with Doege and Karam last spring after Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield went down with injuries.
  • Time to find new stars. Most of the big names on Texas Tech's defense are gone. Colby Whitlock, Bront Bird, Brian Duncan will all continue their careers elsewhere. The leaders on the defense will have to begin to emerge in the spring. Is it Scott Smith? Cody Davis? A younger, unexpected player? We'll find out. Sometimes these types of situations aren't as easy to predict as they might seem, like Missouri's strength in 2010 emerging in the secondary.
Tags:

Baylor Bears, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Missouri Tigers, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Texas Longhorns, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Colby Whitlock, Corey Nelson, Ahmad Dixon, Brennan Clay, Jacob Karam, Darius Reynolds, Christine Michael, Von Miller, Alexander Robinson, Kyle Mangan, Chris Cosh, Steven Sheffield, Turner Gill, Tysyn Hartman, Bill Snyder, Bront Bird, Case McCoy, Brandon Williams, Dan Bailey, Justin Blackmon, Franklin Mitchem, Richetti Jones, James Capello, Connor Wood, Shane Jarka, Ryan Tannehill, Terrance Ganaway, Byron Landor, Cody Davis, Travis Lewis, Cyrus Gray, Scotty Young, Chris Donaldson, Bryce Brown, Jerome Tiller, Brian Duncan, LaRon Moore, Toben Opurum, Darius Darks, Paul Rhoads, Brad Madison, Art Briles, Kevin Rutland, Carrington Byndom, Sheldon Richardson, Bob Stoops, Jerrod Johnson, Blaine Gabbert, Jay Finley, Jared Barnett, Taylor Potts, Huldon Tharp, Jimmy Stevens, Arthur Brown, Mack Brown, Jarvis Phillips, Garrett Gilbert, Tyler Gabbert, Jordan Webb, Jermie Calhoun, Collin Franklin, Phil Bennett, Jacquies Smith, Jarred Salubi, Collin Klein, Tim Atchison, Carl Gettis, Seth Doege, Ugo Chinasa, Terrell Resonno, Carson Coffman, Aldon Smith, Brandon Weeden, David Garrett, Justin McCay, James Franklin, Corbin Berkstresser, Geneo Grissom, Quinn Mecham, Scott Smith, Tre Porter, Shontrelle Johnson, Prince Kent, Damontre Moore, Michael Brewer, A.J. White, Brock Berglund, Ashton Glaser, Michael Hodges, Brandon Wegher, Steele Jantz, Jonathan Miller, Justin Tuggle, Daniel Sams, Dominique Patterson

Recruiting needs: Big 12 North

January, 26, 2011
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Signing day is exactly a week from today, and it's time to take a look at who needs what in its 2011 class.

Some schools have addressed these with their current class. Some haven't. Others are still trying.

We'll kick things off with the artists formerly known as the Big 12 North and examine the South later today.

COLORADO

Cornerback: Jalil Brown and Jimmy Smith were pretty reliable for the Buffaloes, but both are headed to the NFL, and the Buffaloes could definitely use some depth behind their first-year starters. It's not quite as pressing of an issue considering their move to the less pass-happy Pac-12, but they still like to sling it out west.

Receiver: Colorado isn't exactly starving anywhere on offense, but receiver sticks out a bit. Toney Clemons was good, but maybe not quite what the Buffaloes hoped he'd be in 2010, but they caught a break in getting Paul Richardson back after a great freshman season. The Buffaloes need some complementary pieces around Clemons and Richardson to replace departed pass-catchers Scotty McKnight and Travon Patterson. Next year, that should be tight end Ryan Deehan and receiver Will Jefferson.

IOWA STATE

Receiver: It's been a struggle for Iowa State in recent years, but they have to get better outside to help out their quarterback. Sedrick Johnson's transfer only worsens the Cyclones depth at the position, but Jake Williams and tight end Collin Franklin, the team's leading receiver, are gone. Shontrelle Johnson looks ready to become a big factor in the offense, but the Cyclones filling the space at receiver will make it easier for Johnson to replace running back Alexander Robinson.

Safety: Both starters, David Sims and Zac Sandvig, are gone. So is the Cyclones top reserve at the position, Michael O'Connell. Sims was a top-notch talent that will be tough to replace, but Iowa State needs more depth here. They should be solid at corner with Leonard Johnson, Ter'ran Benton, Jeremy Reeves and Anthony Young, which could make the new safeties' jobs easier.

KANSAS

Defensive line: KU is losing three of four starters on the line, including the team's only All-Big 12 talent, defensive end Jake Laptad. Turner Gill wants more speed, and this is a place to install it. Tackles that tip the scales at 320 pounds aren't too necessary in this league, but speed on the edge can go a long way in stopping the pass.

Quarterback: Neither Jordan Webb or Quinn Mecham look like long-term answers at quarterback for the Jayhawks. Mecham will be a senior, and Webb might develop into a better player as a sophomore next year, but Kansas needs other options. The Jayhawks hope Brock Berglund, the top-rated recruit in Colorado, is the solution to the problem.

KANSAS STATE

Running back: I hear your cries for Bryce Brown, Wildcats fans, but K-State can't expect to hitch their wagon to the former blue-chip recruit turned Tennessee transfer in the same way it did for Daniel Thomas. Thomas and his backup, William Powell, are gone, and the Wildcats need some depth at running back to show up.

Interior offensive linemen: K-State loses both guards and its center from an offense that produced the Big 12's leading rusher in 2010. Don't expect them to do it again in 2011 without Wade Weibert, Kenneth Mayfield and Zach Kendall, as well as Thomas and Powell, but finding some new talent behind them will help them come close.

Cornerback: David Garrett emerged as a budding star in 2010 ready for a breakout senior year in 2011, but the Wildcats lose Terrance Sweeney and Stephen Harrison, as well as safety Troy Butler. Like we've mentioned earlier, good secondaries are a must for success in the Big 12, and K-State had one of the league's worst in 2010.

MISSOURI

Receiver: Missouri has some good ones ready to suit up in 2011, namely Wes Kemp, Jerrell Jackson and T.J. Moe, but the Tigers don't have a true gamebreaker. They have some younger players in Marcus Lucas and Jimmie Hunt who they hope will develop into big-time, All-American caliber receivers, a la Jeremy Maclin and Danario Alexander. In Missouri's system, though, adding a few receivers is always a good idea. They certainly don't need any more running backs.

Defensive backs: Mizzou doesn't have any huge holes that need to be filled with recruiting, but the Tigers lose both corners, Carl Gettis and Kevin Rutland from their 2010 team. Kip Edwards and E.J. Gaines look likely to fill those roles, but the Tigers could use some depth and keep recruiting in the secondary to help add some talent around Tavon Bolden and Matt White, safeties who will replace departed Jarrell Harrison, who actually had to play some linebacker in 2010 because of injuries.

NEBRASKA

Every kind of kicker: Alex Henery, the team's punter and kicker is gone. So is kickoff specialist and lover/producer of touchbacks, Adi Kunalic. Fan favorite Henery was hardly underappreciated by the Nebraska faithful, but they'll miss him even more if the Huskers can't find a suitable placekicker and punter. Bo Pelini was reportedly after Wake Forest commit Mauro Bondi this week.

Receiver: Niles Paul and Mike McNeill are gone. The Huskers need Brandon Kinnie to come through with another good year and it'd be nice if Quincy Enunwa broke through in 2011, but Taylor Martinez needs some more help at wide out, and a couple new recruits could provide it as Martinez's passing prowess matures.

Top 10 moments of 2010 in the Big 12

January, 18, 2011
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It's a difficult task to narrow down a season into 10 moments. My definition of the "top" 10 is the 10 moments that we'll look back on from this season and remember them, good or bad. So, here goes.

1. A&M makes the switch. College football can be a cruel game. Texas A&M entered the season with the Big 12's Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, Jerrod Johnson, hoping to lead the Aggies to their first Big 12 title since 1998. But offseason surgery sapped the zip from his throwing shoulder and produced an ugly start to his season, leading the Aggies to switch to Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill set the school record for passing yards in his first start, a win over Texas Tech, and helped the Aggies finish the regular season with six consecutive wins and a berth in the Cotton Bowl.

2. Texas' loss to UCLA. The red flags were there. Texas looked uninspired in wins over Wyoming and Rice, but looked dominant on defense in a road win over Texas Tech. Then the cellar-dwelling Bruins and their Pistol offense came to town. The Longhorns got rolled 34-12 in their own stadium. The loss shocked just about everyone, but it was a sign of what was to come: a 5-7 season the Texas faithful would rather forget.

3. Don't call it a comeback. Actually, you could probably call it a comeback. It was no Cam Newton in the Iron Bowl, but Landry Jones helped rally Oklahoma from a 17-0 deficit to Nebraska in the Big 12 Championship to knock off the Huskers, 23-20. The win gave Oklahoma its seventh Big 12 title of the decade.

[+] EnlargeTaylor Martinez
AP Photo/Charlie RiedelTaylor Martinez's career night included 241 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
4. T-Magic runs wild. Kansas State packed Bill Snyder Family Stadium for a Thursday night game with its eyes on an upset of the undefeated Huskers. Taylor Martinez had other ideas. The Nebraska quarterback ran for 241 yards and five touchdowns, injecting himself into the Heisman race and making people think very seriously about Nebraska as a national title contender. Who would have thought Martinez would go the season's final nine games without a rushing touchdown after scoring 10 in the first four? Yes, K-State ended up finishing the season as the Big 12's worst defense, but Martinez put on a show and previewed what Nebraska fans hope is to come in the future.

5. We got a tip drill. Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones thought he'd thrown it away cleanly. Not so, said Brodrick Brown. The Oklahoma State corner skied for Jones' pass headed for the sideline, tipped it back inbounds to his teammate, linebacker Shaun Lewis, who caught it as one of Jones' three interceptions in the first half of the Big 12 South's deciding game.

6. Taylor Martinez's injury. Nebraska already had a loss on its record, but one harmless-looking hit late in the first half of a big win changed Nebraska's season. Martinez was running laterally looking for a crease in the defense when Missouri safety Kenji Jackson flew in from the secondary and laid a hit on his lower body. Martinez sat the entire second half, and later revealed he had a sprained ankle. The freshman quarterback was never the same, and aggravated the injury again in a loss to Texas A&M.

7. Saluting your fans is bad, mmmmk. Adrian Hilburn made one of the biggest plays of Kansas State's season, catching a short pass and taking it 30 yards for a possible game-tying score with his team down eight. But after scoring, he saluted a group of Kansas State fans in the stands, and the official tossed a flag for excessive celebration after telling Hilburn he'd made the "wrong choice, buddy." The 15-yard penalty moved the Wildcats back, and Carson Coffman's pass on the conversion fell incomplete. Kansas State lost by two.

8. Moe's miracle. Missouri's season already looked off the rails. Blaine Gabbert threw a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions. The Tigers trailed San Diego State 24-20 with a minute to play and 68 yards between them and the end zone. Don't worry about it, said T.J. Moe. The sophomore receiver caught a short pass, made two defenders slam into each other and sprinted for the game-winning score that helped Missouri jump out to a 7-0 start to its season. Teammate Carl Gettis told Moe in the end zone, "Thank you for saving our season."

9. Last five minutes of Bedlam. Bedlam lived up to its moniker with a crazy finish that ended with the Sooners on top. Four touchdowns were scored within 92 seconds in the game's final five minutes. Oklahoma State scored to get within two points with just over four minutes to play, but on 3rd-and-long, Landry Jones found Cameron Kenney over the middle for an 86-yard touchdown pass. The ensuing kickoff? Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert took it 89 yards to get back within two. But 17 seconds later, Jones found tight end James Hanna down the left sideline for a 76-yard touchdown that all but sealed the Sooners' win.

10. The Jayhawks win one for the ages. Kansas and Colorado were the Big 12's only teams still without a win in conference play. Something had to give. Few figured the Buffaloes 28-point lead would be what buckled. Colorado led 45-17 with just over 11 minutes to play, but the Jayhawks scored a frenzied 35 points to finish with a 52-45 win, their only conference win of the season. Buffaloes coach Dan Hawkins never got to coach another game for Colorado after being fired following the loss.

Mailbag: Coordinator exits, bowl picks

December, 17, 2010
12/17/10
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Matt W. in Bancroft, NE asks: Nebraska's almost out the door towards the Big Ten. What are your thoughts on the Leaders and Legends names for the divisions and what about the new logo?

David Ubben: The logo's not exactly lighting it up like the Pac-12's, which might be the best logo in sports outside of the Jumpman, but I don't have a huge problem with the Big Ten's. As for the division names, I feel about like most do. A little lofty, no? Not exactly the people's choice.

If it makes a move to change the names, which sounds possible after Delany's comments this week, it'd be a nice chance for the league to endear itself and shed some of the elitist perception that emerged during the expansion brouhaha over the summer.


Jay in Austin, TX asks: Why is Will Muschamp such a hot commodity? His defense gave up 30 or more points in 4 games this year. They also gave up 20 or more points 7 times. They lost 7 games and really only had 1 impressive win (over Nebraska on the road) and no bowl game. He had some great talent around him too. I know the offense is a problem but sometimes that defense just looked pathetic Should Florida fans be concerned?

DU: Well, first off, since when did giving up 20 points or more become an indictment of a defense? And when your quarterback is throwing 17 picks and 10 touchdowns, you're out on the field plenty more than you'd like to be. That said, you're a little too wrapped up in 2010. This was a historically bad year for Texas, but the defense was pretty good most of the time. They had some poor stretches, but I'd hardly call them pathetic. And in the past, he's had some just amazing defenses. Like, you know, last year, when they got to the national championship (the second trip of Muschamp's career) and ranked third in total defense. Everyone around the SEC knows how good his defenses were at LSU and Auburn, too.

His pick for an offense coordinator will be a big, big decision, but I wouldn't be too concerned about his coaching future. As with any first-time head coach, there's always some slight reservation, but like I wrote when he was hired, there might not be another coordinator in the country more ready to be a head coach.


Brett in Kansas City asks: Hey David, correct me if I'm wrong but did West Virgina hire Dana Holgorsen as a coach in waiting. Did they learn anything from what happened at Texas less than a week earlier?

DU: Well, this is a very different situation. The kicker at Texas was Muschamp never knew when he'd be able to take over, and outside of a few anonymous reports during the year, there was never any indication that Mack Brown was being pressured to offer any kind of definitive timing.

Holgorsen knows he'll take over in 2012. That presents a whole other set of awkward problems and odd team dynamics for 2011, but when it's all over, Holgorsen should be in a good spot. It didn't sound like Muschamp was looking to go anywhere, but if Florida calls you, most guys are going to pick up the phone and give the Gators a good, long listen.

And then leave.

So yeah, they learned plenty. If Holgorsen hadn't been given a definite timeline, I don't know if he would have taken the job. Everyone involved would probably be better off if West Virginia just moved Bill Stewart into an administrative role after this season, but if the Mountaineers have a disappointing 2011 season, it's up to the next similar situation to learn from this one.

And on a side note, there's some major drain on great coordinators in the Big 12 this year. We'll see what that means next year. Barring their replacements, it could mean worse football. But it seems like everybody's leaving and nobody's coming.


Ben in CoMo asks: With the addition of Sheldon Richardson and the likely return of both Jaquis and Alden Smith, along with our D'line backup's (who led in sacks btw), won't most opposing offenses be scared senseless, and if they aren't shouldn't they be? MU is poised to have the best D in the Big 12 if they can replace their DB's with comperable or better players in 2011. Also, will 2011 bring a 10-2, 11-1, 12-0 or worse record for my Tigers during regular season play?

DU: We'll see about the best defense in the Big 12, because replacing those corners is easy to do in theory, difficult in practice. That's been a big problem for Missouri under Gary Pinkel. The two senior corners this year, Carl Gettis and Kevin Rutland, really struggled before having fantastic seasons in 2010. Is that just simple player development, better coaching from coordinator Dave Steckel, or a little of both?

Next year, with guys like E.J. Gaines, Kip Edwards and Trey Hobson, we'll get a better idea of what to expect from Missouri's secondary in the years to come.

That said, you're right about the front four. That rotation with Jacquies and Aldon Smith (assuming they both return), Sheldon Richardson, Terrell Resonno, Michael Sam, Brad Madison and Jimmy Burge could be pretty scary.


Wally Washington in Dallas, Texas asks: My Brother,Can you explain why the loser of the Big 12 Championship doesn't play in the 2nd best bowl tie in? You would think a division winner should be automatic to either the BCS game or fall to the next level Bowl. For example, Nebraska should be playing in the Cotton Bowl this year. Or in a better year be the next choice for an at-large bid for a BCS game. Enlighten me.

DU: I actually get this question a lot. It seems like a lot of fans don't quite understand. The bowl system is not a meritocracy, and they don't have to pick teams via standings. It's about making money. Fans more excited about their team and more likely to go watch their teams are going to make more money. Period. Outside of Oklahoma, I don't think any fan base in the Big 12 is more excited about their team than Texas A&M. Six consecutive wins, with two over top 10 teams will do that. And they're three hours away from the Cotton Bowl with a huge alumni base in Dallas. That's a big deal, and a big factor, fair or otherwise.

And if you're running the Cotton Bowl, you think fans of Oklahoma or Nebraska are going to be willing to travel back to the same stadium and the same city a month later after losing the Big 12 Championship? Not happening.

The Cotton Bowl sold out its ticket allotment for both schools really, really quickly. It didn't want an Arkansas-Texas A&M rematch back in Cowboys Stadium (the same game would have taken place three times in the same stadium within a year) but they got LSU when Arkansas got into the BCS. It's a great matchup with two great fan bases and the best Big 12 bowl matchup. I'd say the Cotton Bowl did pretty well.


KCC in Missouri asks: Dubbs, Absolutely love the blog, and as a huge husker fan I'm definitely gonna miss it. My question is when do I have to stop reading you and go to Ritt's big 10 blog, and how do we say good bye? A "thanks for everything", fist bump, awkward hug or what?

DU: Hey man, just do what feels right. Shoulder pat, awkward side hug, crushing bear hug, whatever strikes you. Maybe shed a few tears. I won't tell anyone.

Missouri Tigers season recap

December, 7, 2010
12/07/10
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Missouri's season featured the biggest win of the Gary Pinkel Era, and even though the Tigers couldn't capitalize on it for a historic season, there's nothing wrong with a 10-2 record.

Fresh off a program-altering win over then-No. 1 Oklahoma that featured a record crowd of 18,000 for College GameDay earlier in the day, the idea of a run to the national championship wasn't entirely far-fetched.

That was, until the first snap against Nebraska's offense the next week. Roy Helu Jr. keyed off a 300-yard rushing day with a 66-yard run and the Tigers found themselves down 24-0 after a quarter in an eventual 31-17 loss. A second loss the next week at Texas Tech removed the prospect of a third Big 12 North title in four years and eliminated the prospect of a truly special season, though a three-game winning streak to close the season salvaged a solid one with a third 10-win season in three years.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, what looked like the worst nonconference schedule in the conference to begin the season actually ended up being pretty good. Miami (Ohio) went from a 1-11 team to MAC champions. Illinois, picked to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten, went 4-4 in conference play and made a bowl. San Diego State also made a bowl at 8-4 and nearly knocked off TCU in Fort Worth earlier this year.

Offensive MVP: T.J. Moe, WR. Whispers of Moe's enhanced role in the offense leaked out of preseason camp, but few could have predicted just how integral he really was to the Tigers. Missouri's most consistent offensive target, Moe hauled in 77 catches for 893 yards and six touchdowns. Only Justin Blackmon, Ryan Broyles and Jeff Fuller had more receiving yards in the Big 12 this year.

Defensive MVP: Andrew Gachkar, LB. There's an argument to be made for cornerbacks Carl Gettis and Kevin Rutland, but the senior speedy linebacker was everywhere for the Tigers and came on strong late in the season with 36 of his 81 tackles in Missouri's final five games. Missouri got contributions from everyone, and really did play what you could call team defense.

Turning point: The win over Oklahoma. The first turning point announced, rather loudly, that the Tigers were for real and ready to contend for just about any title after torching Texas A&M in College Station the week before.

Turning point II: The loss to Texas Tech. The second turning point was a somewhat shocking loss that featured uncharacteristic inaccuracy by Blaine Gabbert, who couldn't bounce back from a rough outing against a great Nebraska secondary. The Tigers played well the following week against Kansas State to get back on track, but the loss in Lubbock ended up costing the Tigers a chance to play for a Big 12 Championship.

What's next: Probably more of the same. Missouri has trouble moving the ball against elite defenses who can match their speed. But the Tigers took a big step forward defensively this year, eliminating concerns in the secondary and turning the unit into a strength. We'll see if that continues with the personnel turnover in the secondary. Kip Edwards and Kenji Jackson look ready to take over with the departures of Gettis, Rutland and Jarrell Harrison. E.J. Gaines could move into a starting role opposite Edwards at corner next year. Aldon Smith's injury early in the season allowed the Tigers to discover talented young defensive ends Michael Sam and Brad Madison.

Kansas State patents Fumble-whoops-ki

November, 13, 2010
11/13/10
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Kansas State tried some trickery to get back into its game against Missouri, but it cost the Wildcats three more points and they now trail 31-14 late in the second quarter, a three-possession deficit.

On the first play of its drive after Missouri's scoop-and-score, with the offensive line standing up, quarterback Carson Coffman took the snap and handed it under the legs of running back John Hubert while Coffman faked a play to the opposite side of the field.

Hubert carried the ball to the left after a delay, but was stripped and Missouri cornerback Carl Gettis came up with a recovery, giving the Big 12 its early leader for "Worst play" on Monday's Weekend Rewind here on the Big 12 blog.

The Wildcats went back to regular football on the next drive, but Coffman was sacked again by Aldon Smith, forcing a three-and-out.

This one looks like it's getting out of hand, and if Missouri can hang a few more points on the board on this drive and eat up some clock, it could remove any drama from the fourth quarter.

Missouri kicks off with a big run, too

November, 6, 2010
11/06/10
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Kansas State wasn't the only team to establish itself early on the ground in the Big 12's late games tonight.

Missouri's Marcus Murphy did to Texas Tech what Nebraska running back Roy Helu Jr. did to Missouri last week.

On Missouri's third play from scrimmage, the freshman broke a 69-yard touchdown run that has Missouri up, 7-0.

Last week, the Tigers gave up a 66-yard touchdown run on the first play of the game to Nebraska before falling behind 24-0 in the first quarter.

The Tigers will certainly score points, but the game will hinge on how well it can stop Texas Tech's offense. The Red Raiders have put up big points often, but teams like Oklahoma State and Texas have shut them down consistently in wins.

Missouri's secondary is much improved, and even though Texas Tech is playing without receivers Jacoby Franks and Alex Torres, top targets Lyle Leong and Detron Lewis will provide a tough test for Missouri's cornerbacks, Kevin Rutland and Carl Gettis.

Big 12 predictions: Week 10

November, 4, 2010
11/04/10
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» Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

OK, I'm done not listening to myself. I told you last week I picked against my gut twice last week, trusting Texas' defense to wake up like it did against Nebraska, and putting confidence in Missouri to be able to run the ball against Nebraska like it did against Oklahoma.

Nope. I whiffed on both picks. This week, I went with my gut on all six picks.

Last week: 4-2 (.667)

Overall: 59-12 (.831)

No. 17 Oklahoma State 51, No. 21 Baylor 44: In no way is this a joke. Come back later this afternoon for a video of me explaining my pick.

Colorado 27, Kansas 20: This one is by far my least confident pick. That comes with picking Colorado to win on the road, where it suffered 26-, 33- and 42-point losses this year. But here goes. Rodney Stewart has a big day, and Cody Hawkins hits Scotty McKnight enough times to halt the Buffaloes' 15-game road losing streak.

No. 7 Nebraska 38, Iowa State 20: Iowa State's pulled off a pair of wins nobody thought it would at the season's start, knocking off Texas and Texas Tech. But then again, neither team has been anywhere near as good as most thought in the preseason. Nebraska is considerably better, thanks to Taylor Martinez. No passing necessary in this one. The Huskers don't reach the double digits in pass attempts and roll over the Cyclones.

No. 8 Oklahoma 30, Texas A&M 28: Consider me a believer in Oklahoma's struggles on the road. It's probably unfair to say it necessarily struggled on the road last year, it just played much better competition. This year, though, the Sooners were a muffed punt return away from having a real chance to lose to a bad Cincinnati team and one bounce of the ball away from possibly going into overtime against Texas. Both sides of the ball fell apart in the fourth quarter against Missouri. The Sooners lead 27-14 midway through the third quarter of this one, but hang on late. The Aggies will miss Christine Michael dearly. Cyrus Gray is very good. Michael is better.

Texas 21, Kansas State 20: For all the curves Oklahoma State and Baylor should bring, this game's bringing the hairy moles. Kansas State and Texas might play the ugliest game of the year in the Big 12. Somebody's got to win, and Garrett Gilbert engineers a late drive, continuing his maturation process, and bringing along freshman receiver Mike Davis.

No. 12 Missouri 34, Texas Tech 24: Missouri won't blow out the Red Raiders; it is Lubbock, after all. But it will win comfortably if corners Carl Gettis and Kevin Rutland continue their solid play. The offense will move the ball consistently for 60 minutes, but chalk the Tigers up for an inexplicable turnover in one of the toughest places to play in the Big 12.

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