Big 12: Curtis Riser

With spring ball done, we’re reexamining and re-ranking the positional situations of every Big 12 team, continuing Thursday with the offensive line. These outlooks will probably look different in August. But here’s how we see them post-spring:

1. Oklahoma (pre-spring ranking: 1): The Sporting News has listed the Sooners as its preseason No. 1 team in the country, due in large part to Oklahoma’s offensive line. That might be going overboard, but the Sooners have a wealth of experience and depth returning up front, which includes four starters. They’ll get even deeper once guard Tyler Evans is cleared this summer, as expected (he was running this spring). Evans has missed the past two seasons with knee injuries but was a three-year starter before getting hurt.

[+] EnlargeCody Whitehair
John Albright/Icon SMIAfter losing both offensive tackles from last season, Kansas State is switching All-Big 12 guard Cody Whitehair to left tackle.
2. Kansas State (2): K-State responded to losing both tackles from last season by swinging All-Big 12 guard Cody Whitehair to left tackle and slotting juco transfer Luke Hayes at right tackle. With B.J. Finney entering his fourth year as the starting center and more juco offensive line help arriving in the summer, the Wildcats should be more than solid up front.

3. Texas (3): The Longhorns will feature one of the eldest lines in the Big 12, with its projected starting front comprising two seniors and three juniors. Right guard Taylor Doyle emerged this spring at the biggest question spot, but Texas has other options inside with Rami Hammad, Curtis Riser and the versatile Kent Perkins. Center Dominic Espinosa is the anchor of this group, which will be asked to establish itself with the running game in Charlie Strong’s first season.

4. Baylor (4): The Bears are still waiting for left tackle Spencer Drango to return from last season’s back injury, but right tackle Troy Baker showed no lingering effects of the knee injury he suffered last spring. With the depth inside and with Kyle Fuller locking up the center job, there are no weaknesses with this cast -- provided Drango gets healthy and gets back to the field.

5. Oklahoma State (5): The Cowboys are also waiting for their left tackle to return from an injury he suffered last season. Devin Davis has NFL potential but has been slow to recover from an ACL tear last preseason. The Cowboys seemed to also be in a fix at center with their top-two players at the position from last fall moving on from the program with eligibility still remaining. But Paul Lewis slid over from guard this spring and stabilized that spot. Daniel Koenig is an All-Big 12 caliber player and capable of playing tackle or guard. He’ll continue to man left tackle, at least until Davis returns.

6. Texas Tech (6): Tech received some welcome news during spring ball with starting right tackle Rashad Fortenberry being granted an extra year of eligibility. The Red Raiders have one of the best returning tackles in the league on the left side in Le’Raven Clark, and two juco tackles they’re high on in Shaq Davis and Dominique Robertson. With Jared Kaster and Alfredo Morales also returning as starters inside, Tech’s offensive line should be much better than last season's.

7. West Virginia (7): The Mountaineers have the league’s most reliable one-two punch at guard in Quinton Spain and Mark Glowinski, who have 38 career starts together. The rest of the line, however, is a question. Left tackle Adam Pankey impressed coach Dana Holgorsen early in the spring and won a starting job before the Gold-Blue Game. If Pankey pans out, the Mountaineers could be a load up front.

8. Iowa State (8): The Cyclones had disastrous luck with the health of their offensive line last season, but that should pay off in 2014 with so many different players having gotten experience. Left tackle Brock Dagel has immense upside, and center Tom Farniok is an All-Big-type player. But the Cyclones were especially pumped with the development of sophomore right guard Daniel Burton, who is physical and one of the smartest players on the team. If they get better luck with good health, this could wind up being a very a tough and balanced unit.

9. TCU (9): The Horned Frogs welcomed the return of tackle Tayo Fabuluje, who left the team before the start of the season last fall. Fabuluje, however, missed several practices with an ankle injury, allowing redshirt freshman Joseph Noteboom to move ahead of him on the depth chart. Fabuluje will have a chance to earn his spot back in the spring opposite Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who replaced Fabuluje last season. But the way the 2013 season went, the Horned Frogs can’t have too many reliable offensive tackles. Juco transfer Frank Kee impressed during the spring and should lock down a starting spot at guard next to center Joey Hunt, who did a nice job of adapting to the new offense during the spring. With 6-foot-7, 350-pound Matt Pryor also likely to fit in somewhere in the rotation, the Frogs will definitely be bigger up front than they were in 2013 -- and probably better, too.

10: Kansas (10): Because he can get in and out of the pocket, Montell Cozart winning the starting job should help the offensive line. The fact that new offensive coordinator John Reagan is also an offensive line coach should be a boost, as well. The Jayhawks have several battles up front that will continue into the fall, including center, where walk-on Joe Gibson made a huge impression during the spring.
Texas entered the 2013 season with one of the nation's most experienced offensive lines. That's no longer the case going into spring ball, though the Longhorns did add one of the nation's most respected offensive line coaches this offseason.

How's he going to put this group together? A look at the battle to replace four former starters:

Departed: Left guard Trey Hopkins (42 career starts), right guard Mason Walters (51) and left tackle Donald Hawkins (23) are graduating, and former starting right tackle Josh Cochran elected to end his playing career due to a recurring shoulder injury. The junior had started 23 of his 30 career games. Backup center Garrett Porter also graduates. Walters’ 51-game start streak tied for longest in the nation among lineman at the end of 2013.

Spring contenders: OT Kennedy Estelle, OT Desmond Harrison, OT Kent Perkins, OT Garrett Greenlea, OT Camrhon Hughes, OG Sedrick Flowers, OG Curtis Riser, OG Rami Hammad, OG Darius James, OG Taylor Doyle, OG Alex Anderson, C Dominic Espinosa, C Jake Raulerson

Summer contenders: C Terrell Cuney, OT Elijah Rodriguez

The skinny: Yep, that’s a crowded field. Lot of big bodies, not a lot of experience among them.

Espinosa is the elder statesman of the group, having started all 39 games of his career. He and Harrison are the only seniors of this group, and Harrison hasn’t played meaningful minutes yet.

We don’t know what many of these linemen are capable of entering spring ball because so few have seen the field, but the bar has been set high for the members of Texas’ 2013 signing class. Former Texas coach Mack Brown considered that group -- Harrison, Perkins, Hammad, James and Raulerson -- the best offensive line class he had ever signed.

Will new offensive line coach and OC Joe Wickline agree? He recruited several of his new pupils during his days at Oklahoma State, but he has no reason to stick to the plan laid out by the previous staff. If the younger linemen beat out the veterans, they’ll play.

The best of the bunch, at least based on 2013 performances, could be Estelle and Perkins. Estelle, a junior, started eight games in place of Cochran and had some promising moments. Perkins was too good to redshirt as a true freshman. Harrison is the wild card of the group and has been an enigma during his time in burnt orange.

As for the guards, Flowers had the full respect of Walters and Hopkins and is finally getting his chance. The highly-touted James redshirted as a freshman, as did Hammad. They’ll battle Riser this spring. Anderson, an early enrollee from New Orleans, could challenge them as well.

That’s how it looks on paper, but keep this in mind: Wickline isn’t afraid to move linemen around and cross-train them at other positions. That preparation paid off for several of his Cowboy linemen over the years. The way this group looks today could be very different come August.

Prediction: Expect movement and possibly a few surprises. It’s all up to Wickline and who makes an impression on him in spring ball. The safest bets to start are probably Espinosa, Estelle and Flowers. Don’t be surprised if James or Hammad win out for the other guard spot, and for Perkins to take a lead over Harrison exiting spring ball. These second-year linemen are legit.

Checking in on the ESPN 150 in 2012

January, 1, 2013
1/01/13
2:00
PM ET
The ESPN 150 are the best of the best when it comes to recruits, but how do they really stack up on the field? We check in each season with the freshmen who made an impact and those who didn't in Year 1.

You can look back on the ESPN 150 in 2012 right here, but how did the guys who landed in the Big 12 do? So glad you asked.

Also, here's how the last few years of Big 12 ESPN 150 recruits shaped up: No. 2: Johnathan Gray, RB, Texas: Took over in midseason as the team's featured running back and led the team with 701 yards and three touchdowns. Had 22 more carries than any other Texas back.

No. 12: Malcom Brown, DT, Texas: Contributed as a reserve on Texas' strong defensive line. Made 19 tackles and two tackles for loss.

No. 54: Dominique Wheeler, WR, Texas Tech: Redshirted his first season for Texas Tech's deep receiving corps.

No. 57: Peter Jinkens, OLB, Texas: Started two games and played in every game this season. Made 27 tackles and three tackles for loss with a sack and an interception.

No. 58: Kennedy Estelle, OL, Texas: Missed five games with a shoulder injury but contributed as a reserve offensive lineman in three games.

No. 60: Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma: Was one of the league's most promising freshmen in Year 1. Emerged with a breakout game against Kansas State with seven catches for 108 yards and a score. He finished with 41 catches for 578 yards and three touchdowns.

No. 64: Durron Neal, WR, Oklahoma: Played sparingly and contributed in nine games. Caught four passes for 62 yards.

No. 70: Alex Ross, RB, Oklahoma: Redshirted in 2012.

No. 77: Torshiro Davis, LB, Texas: Goes by "Shiro" now and moved to defensive end. Played in the final six games of Texas' season and made three tackles, one tackle for loss and broke up a pass.

No. 78: Curtis Riser, OG, Texas: Redshirted in 2012.

No. 79: Bryson Echols, CB, Texas: Redshirted in 2012.

No. 87: Reginald Davis, WR, Texas Tech: Redshirted in 2012.

No. 92: Dalton Santos, LB, Texas: Played in 12 games and made 24 tackles, mostly contributing on special teams. Added 2.5 tackles for loss.

No. 97: Alex Norman, DT, Texas: Redshirted in 2012.

No. 120: Michael Starts, OT, Texas Tech: Moved to defensive tackle but played in just three games. Made three tackles with a sack against New Mexico. Missed time because of a blood pressure issue.

No. 126: Dominic Ramacher, LB, Oklahoma State: Moved to fullback and redshirted in 2012.

No. 130: Connor Brewer, QB, Texas: Redshirted in 2012.

No. 137: Derrick Woods, WR, Oklahoma: Redshirted in 2012.

No. 141: Daje Johnson, ATH, Texas: Speedster made an impact as a big-play threat at running back for Texas. Carried the ball 27 times for 203 yards and a touchdown and caught 19 passes for 287 yards and a score.

No. 147: Cayleb Jones, WR, Texas: Played in 12 games but caught two passes for 35 yards and carried the ball once for 10 yards.

No. 148: Ty Darlington, OL, Oklahoma: Earned starts late in the season at center and proved to be a valuable piece of the Sooners' offensive line that provided an opportunity for versatility and ability to move Gabe Ikard to guard.

Texas leads the way in ESPNU 150

June, 8, 2011
6/08/11
12:35
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ESPN Recruiting has released its annual ESPNU 150, the nation's top 150 recruits. No more watch lists. No more guesses. The list can shift, but here's how the full list looks.

Committments are non-binding, and players won't be able to sign letters of intent until next February, but upon the list's release today, here's who is committed where:

And which players are committed where in the Big 12.

Texas (9 of 17 commits)
Texas A&M (3 of 22 commits)
Oklahoma (2 of 7 commits)
Texas Tech (2 of 8 commits)
Oklahoma State (1 of 6 commits)
Notes from the group:
  • Texas' nine commits are the most in the nation, leading Florida State (7) and Alabama (6). Texas A&M, with its three commits, is tied for seventh-most in the nation.
  • Oklahoma and Texas Tech's two commits have them tied for 12th most.
  • Of the ESPNU 150, 82 still remain uncommitted with about eight months to go before signing day.
  • Counting up the members of the list by state, Florida leads the way with 28 natives. Twenty of the players on the list call Texas home.
  • Six positions had more than 10 players on the list. Offensive tackles (21) were the largest group, followed by athletes and receivers (19), defensive tackles (16), defensive ends (14) and outside linebackers (11).

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