Big 12: Cyrus Gray

Lunch links: TCU's untapped potential

June, 15, 2012
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It means the book is full of cubes of knowledge. It's a good title.
This time last year, we broke down which Big 12 players would most likely reach the benchmarks for their positions in 2011.

The benchmark for running backs is clearly 1,000 yards. Here's what I wrote about the Big 12's 1,000-yard rushers.

It's time to revisit those projections.

Forty-seven players in college football topped 1,000 yards rushing last season. I ranked the Big 12 backs in order of the likelihood they'd hit 1,000 yards, not how many yards I projected them to reach. The Big 12 had five of them. Here's who I picked to do it:
[+] EnlargeJames Sims
John Rieger/US PresswireJames Sims numbers in 2011 were very similar to those from his freshman season in 2010.
1. James Sims, Kansas -- As a true freshman in 2010, Sims didn't play in the opener, but it was clear as the season went on that he's the Jayhawks most consistent runner. Kansas is deep at the position, but Sims figures to get the biggest share of carries for a team with big questions at quarterback. The Jayhawks averaged nearly 40 rushing attempts per game last year. I don't see that number dropping this year. Sims got just 168 of those 470 carries, and he still managed 742 yards.
Final 2011 yardage tally: 727 yards

Thoughts: Sims simply didn't improve his production as expected from his true freshman year in 2010, even though his carries jumped from 168 to 182. I thought he'd get a few more touches, but the production wasn't there, and Kansas was limited in how often it could run the ball, considering some of the lopsided losses it suffered.
2. Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M -- Gray and his teammate in the backfield, Christine Michael, should both have very good years. I like both of them to clear 800 yards, and it's possible they both hit 1,000 yards, but there's only so much offense to go around. Ryan Tannehill and Jeff Fuller, along with the rest of the talented receiving corps, will have to get theirs. Considering the way Gray closed the season, he's likely to start out with the biggest share of carries.
Final 2011 yardage tally: 1,045 yards

Thoughts: Right on the money for Gray. Yes, Christine Michael was injured, which allowed Gray to grab a few more carries, but remember, Gray didn't play in the final two games of A&M's season. Still, a strong senior campaign.
3. Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State -- Randle will also be in split backfield along with Jeremy Smith, but he showed plenty of pop as a true freshman last year. Only DeMarco Murray caught more passes as a running back last year, so he may clear 1,000 yards of offense without doing it on the ground. But the Cowboys run an Air Raid system with a commitment to the run, so the touches should still be there for Randle with Kendall Hunter gone to the NFL.
Final 2011 yardage tally: 1,216 yards

Thoughts: Nailed the upside on Randle. Unlike Sims, he took a huge step forward as a sophomore, in part because of his featured role. Randle finished second in the Big 12 in rushing, and added 24 touchdowns, too.
SportsNation

How would you grade my projections?

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Discuss (Total votes: 847)

5. Roy Finch, Oklahoma -- Finch has the talent to do it. No doubt. But there's no getting around doubting his health. A stress fracture in his foot caused him to miss almost half his freshman season, and the Sooners are mindful of that with a good group of backs behind him that might sap a few carries. Finch will have to hit a few big runs to get to 1,000, but if he gets hurt again, perhaps true freshman Brandon Williams or Brennan Clay could step in.
Final 2011 yardage tally: 605 yards

Thoughts: Whiffed on this one. Finch inexplicably couldn't get on the field early in the season while walk-on Dominique Whaley dominated before breaking his leg in a win over Kansas State. In Finch's defense, after he started getting touches, he topped 83 yards four times in five games late in the season. He also averaged 5.45 yards a carry.

In 2011, I missed out on three of the five rushers. Baylor's Terrance Ganaway rumbled to 1,547 yards rushing and led the Big 12. Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein led the league in carries and rushed for 1,141 yards and 27 touchdowns.

Missouri running back Henry Josey took advantage of the injuries to two backs ahead of him on the depth chart and had a breakout year, rushing for 1,168 yards before suffering a catastrophic knee injury against Texas. He likely won't return in 2012, and just underwent an additional surgery earlier this week.

How would you grade my projections?

Chat: Defenses, developing Ash, Holgorsen

March, 27, 2012
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Thanks for all the questions today. Here's the full transcript from our Tuesday chat.

If you want to reach me with more questions or comments, here's where you can do it.

Orange Power (Columbus, OH): Ubben, Looks like Oklahoma State is going to have a pretty good combo at RB next year. Do you think they should warrant as much hype as the Gray-Michael combo last year? And also, how many wacky run game possibilities are available now with Randle, Smith, and Sims (not to mention sweeps to WR's like Stewart or Moore)?

David Ubben: No, not quite. For one, OSU's offense isn't as physical and doesn't blow people off the ball like Texas A&M's did at times. Plus, Gray and Michael were, at least for now, better than Randle was. Randle is a better pass-catcher, but he can't match the physicality of A&M's backs. Smith is good, but not on that level. Either way, the duo is probably the best in the league this year.

Matt (Okc,Ok): OU's new DC said he is going to simplify things on defense. Why do new coaches come in and say we are going to simplify what the defense, so the players can react better and not have to think so much? If complexity of scheme is the cause of the problem, why do coordinators make the same mistakes by making it so complicated? Or is it just coach speak that "simplifying" is the answer to our poor defense?

David Ubben: It depends on the situation. That's not always the case. The more complex the scheme is, the more confusing it is for offenses. The older and more experienced your defense is, the easier it is to make things complex. I think sometimes DCs overestimate what their players are capable of. It's an easy mistake. They see a lot of good things in practice. That's not always the case, but the best defenses are ones that can do complex things like disguise coverages perfectly and make a QB confused about where pressure will be coming from.

Tony (Richmond, CA): Which road game will be tougher, WVU or TCU? Do the recruiting implications in Texas make the Horned Frogs matchup more important regardless of the outome of either game?

David Ubben: Definitely WVU. TCU's going to have a nice stadium, but the WVU folk are known for being loud and providing a crazy atmosphere. Just ask LSU last year.

Jman (Amarillo, TX): At the University of Texas, how well do you think David Ash will compete as an elite QB or do you even see him as an elite.

David Ubben: For one, I still think it's early to make any true distinction. Ash simply didn't get enough reps in the spring or preseason camp to get used to the game. Then, suddenly, he was playing a ton. That's obviously changed this year. I don't think I see him as an elite guy, but we could see some huge improvement this year. Ultimately, he's the guy who decides Texas' fate this year between 7-8 wins and 10-11.

Trey (Texas): What are the odds that OU has a better overall defensive ranking at the end of next season, than Texas?

David Ubben: Not impossible, but it's going to be really, really hard for anybody to top Texas' defense next year. OU's got the best shot, with TCU, K-State and OSU behind them.

wvirishref (West Virginia): What will be the take on Dana coming back as a head coach for the game in Stillwater?

David Ubben: He'll be fine. There are no hard feelings in Stillwater. He revitalized the offense for its best year ever (until this year) and took a really, really good job at a good program. That's how the game is played. He'll be welcomed back.

BigDroot (middle of nowhere oklahoma): Are you buying or selling OU as preseason Big 12 #1?

David Ubben: Buying, but only by a bit. OU is the most experienced and most consistent team in the league next year, but there's a chunk of 4-5 teams right behind them that could definitely win the league. OU was a huge favorite last year and didn't get it done, aided by injuries a bit. OU is the best team coming into this year, but TCU, WVU, K-State, OSU and Texas are right there behind them, capable of winning.
Our countdown of the Big 12's top-25 players continues today. The official list is locked away in a vault in an undisclosed location, but we're revealing a new member of the list every day.

Here's a quick rundown on my criteria for this list.

No. 23: Cyrus Gray, RB, Texas A&M

2011 numbers: Carried the ball 198 times for 1,045 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also caught 31 passes for 239 yards and three touchdowns.

Most recent ranking: Gray was ranked No. 9 in our preseason list of the top 25 players.

Making the case for Gray: Texas A&M needed Gray, and once again, Gray stepped up, despite missing the final two games of the season with an injury. Christine Michael suffered a torn ACL, and in the two games after the injury, Gray rushed 39 times for 312 yards and five touchdowns, his best portion of the season. The Big 12's leading returning rusher predictably split carries with Michael early in the season, but answered the call when he inherited the load for the Aggies.

A stress fracture in his shoulder kept him out of a painful loss to Texas and a bowl win over Northwestern, but he rushed for 90 yards in seven games and topped 1,000 yards for the second consecutive season. Well done, sir.
Kevin SumlinCal Sport Media/AP ImagesBetween a young team and a tough new conference, coach Kevin Sumlin has his work cut out for him.
It's Moving Day No. 2 on the blog network today, and the Aggies are following Missouri out the door into the SEC blog today. We introduced the Aggies to the SEC earlier, but now it's time to debate.

The Aggies' move to the SEC was more about having the program grow in brand-new soil, whereas Missouri's move was more about conference stability.

Will the Aggies thrive? SEC blogger Chris Low and Big 12 blogger David Ubben go head to head to find out.

Chris Low: OK, David, let's not tiptoe around. This is a big-boy conference in the SEC with big-boy stakes. I know everything is supposedly bigger in the state of Texas, but do the Aggies really know what they're getting themselves into? For one, they tend to play all four quarters in the SEC. Judging by what I saw from the Aggies last season, somebody might want to remind them that there is a second half. Come to think of it, that's not very hospitable of me. I take that back. But, honestly, how do you think the Aggies will handle the grind of this league?

David Ubben: Now, now, Chris, that's not very nice. The Aggies are ...

As one final tribute to Texas A&M, I elected to forfeit the second half of that sentence.

In the early running, Texas A&M's going to have a lot of issues. Losing the volume and quality of talent they did in 2011 will hurt, especially on offense, as the program moves into a league -- and, particularly, a division -- known for defense. Ryan Tannehill wasn't great last year, but his experience helped, and Jeff Fuller and Cyrus Gray are a pair of NFL players that don't roll around every year.

I like the talent on campus at A&M a lot, though. They're just going to be young for now. With what they have now, they'll get better and better, as long as Kevin Sumlin does well. Based on what we've seen from his career, I think he will.

[+] EnlargeSean Porter
Troy Taormina/US PresswireLinebacker Sean Porter tallied 9 sacks for A&M last season, but the Aggies will need more from their defensive line.
Beyond these first three to four years, how well they progress will depend on recruiting. The Aggies think the SEC will be a big draw for Texas recruits who want to play in the best conference in college football. Being able to offer that could help them surpass Texas on the recruiting trail and on the field.

Are you buying that? I strongly lean toward no, but I could see it happening. What do you think? Is playing in the SEC going to be a draw for Texas kids? Why or why not?

CL: I absolutely think the SEC will be a draw for some Texas recruits who see it as a chance to stay in the state and still play their college football and also be able to do it against SEC competition. That's a pretty sweet proposition: Stay close to home in the football-crazed state of Texas and compete in the football-crazed SEC, which has a standing order with the sculptor who designs that crystal trophy every year for the BCS national champion.

There's also another side to this story. The boys in the SEC think their chances of going deep into the heart of Texas and landing elite prospects are better than ever with Texas A&M joining the league. Rival coaches can tell mamas and daddies (that's the way the Bear used to say it) that they'll be able to keep up with their sons just like they were in the Big 12 with the Aggies now part of the SEC family, although the recruiting atmosphere in this league isn't very family-oriented. Just ask Urban Meyer. He got so tired of the recruiting shenanigans in the SEC that he's now pulling his own in the Big Ten, according to some of his new brethren there.

That leads me to my next question: Has anybody informed the Aggies that the rules are a little different in the SEC? Unlike the Big 12, it's not the first team to 40 points that wins.

DU: For the record, the league changed those rules for Baylor-Washington in the Alamo Bowl. First to 60 wins now, but that's irrelevant news for the Aggies.

A&M's front seven's actually been really good these past two years, but this year, it was the secondary that let the team down. The Aggies led the nation with 51 sacks, but the team wasn't happy that it took a lot of risky blitzes to get those sacks. The defensive line wasn't the unit applying the pressure most often — it was linebackers and defensive backs. That meant a lot of big plays in the passing game; the Aggies ranked 109th nationally in pass defense, giving up more than 275 yards a game. Now, they won't see the same caliber of quarterbacks in the SEC, but we will see if the front seven can handle the power of teams in the SEC West, which, to their credit, do have a handful of quarterbacks with a lot of potential. Tyler Wilson's great now. AJ McCarron and Kiehl Frazier could be elite soon.

We'll see what new defensive coordinator Mark Snyder can fix.

On the flip side of the recruiting debate, how much do you think SEC teams will try and slide into Texas? Could we see some collateral damage in the Big 12? Will the SEC one day take over the world? I heard Nicolas Sarkozy already has a special security detail in place in case Mike Slive comes after him.

CL: I'm not sure about taking over the world. It's just college football that the SEC one day would like to own. Some might suggest it already does.

Arkansas and LSU will probably be helped the most in terms of going into Texas and getting players. Other schools in the SEC might be more apt to target players in the state of Texas and make a push for those select players, but I don't think you're going to suddenly see a mass of teams in the SEC setting up camp in Texas on the recruiting trail. There's no need to when you look at how bountiful the states of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and South Carolina are in most years.

You mention some of the quarterbacks in the Western Division. It's fair to say that this wasn't a quarterback's league this season, and I also realize that the Big 12 has produced some quarterbacks over the last few years who've put up Xbox-type numbers.

[+] EnlargeTexas A&M
Thomas Campbell/US PresswireThere's little doubt that the state of Texas and the SEC share a deep passion for football.
But my question for you: Is Texas A&M capable of playing the kind of defense it takes to win big in the SEC?

DU: I think so, eventually. They know they have to, which is huge. They've seen how teams succeed in the SEC, and it's with defense.

If you invest in something, especially with the resources A&M has, good things will happen. Don't forget, the Aggies defense was really, really good last year. The athletes are there. For A&M, it's about putting it together.

CL: With all due respect, "really, really good" on defense in the Big 12 is entirely different than being "really, really good" in the SEC on defense. The more I watch this conference, the more it's ingrained in me that you're never going to win at a high level unless you can run the ball, stop the run and consistently win the turnover battle. Everything else is window dressing. I understand that's not exactly rocket science, but being able to run the ball creates a mindset that positively impacts your entire team. The same goes for playing good run defense.

So if I were offering any advice to the Aggies as they make the big jump, it would be to fortify their offensive backfield and recruit like crazy in the offensive and defensive lines. There's no such thing as too much depth in the SEC.

Having a little Texas flavor in the SEC is exciting. I know you're on record as saying the Aggies might struggle next season. But over time, I think they have what it takes to be an upper-echelon team in the SEC. Of course, that's the beauty of the SEC. So does everybody else in the league.

DU: Oh, there's no respect due when we're talking Big 12 defenses. The best in the SEC are on another stratosphere from the best in the Big 12.

Your game plan sounds like what I'd recommend, but it's easier said than done. Like Mizzou, A&M will have to start mining some of those junior colleges down south like the rest of the SEC West.

Generally, I'd agree with you on A&M's long-term prospects. The Aggies will win less than they did in the Big 12 ... which is to say not much. But they could put it together and have a huge year every now and then. I don't see them surpassing Texas as a program, but they're on their own now.

For some Aggies, that's enough. Next year, the Aggies will struggle, but watching them grow and try to build a new program will be fascinating.

Season report card: Texas A&M Aggies

January, 27, 2012
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We're offering up grades for each team in the Big 12 after their seasons conclude, so here's a look at how the 7-6 Texas A&M Aggies graded out in 2011.

More report cards:
OFFENSE: The past two seasons, Texas A&M has had as much, if not more, offensive talent than any team in the Big 12 to begin the season. Yet, it never quite works out. Last season, Jerrod Johnson's shoulder was the biggest problem with an early-season swoon. This season, the late-game collapses didn't have a single culprit, but injuries to Jeff Fuller, Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray certainly didn't help.

Those weren't the biggest problems, though. Too often in the second half of crucial games the Aggies' offense sputtered. Every loss was something different it seemed. After scoring 20 points in the first half against Oklahoma State, it managed just seven in the second. A week later, a 35-point first half was followed by a three-point second half in a loss to Arkansas.

Ryan Tannehill's decision making, especially in those infamous second halves, was poor, and resulted in 15 interceptions for the season. Mike Sherman's play calling didn't help much, running the ball just six times in the second half of the OSU loss that started it all, despite rolling over OSU's defense in the first half.

The Aggies had a lot of firepower. That's hard to ignore. They finished fourth in the Big 12 (seventh nationally) in total offense and 11th nationally in scoring offense, with just under 40 points a game.

But it's impossible to ignore that when that firepower was needed most, it was mostly a dud. With the Aggies, you have to grade on a curve, considering the amount of talent on the field and the depth of offense in the Big 12.

GRADE: D+

DEFENSE: The loss of Von Miller was bigger than maybe anyone could have imagined. The Aggies' Wrecking Crew wasn't so fearsome this season, possessing a powerful pass rush, but doing so by bringing lots of blitzes.

The Aggies had 51 sacks in 2011, five more than any team in the nation. However, they gave up more than 275 passing yards a game, more than all but 11 teams in college football. When opponents passed on the Aggies, it seemed like it was always going to be a big play for at least one team.

Early in the season, the Aggies went 22 quarters without a turnover and finished the season minus-nine in turnover margin, forcing a Big 12-low 15 turnovers. That's unacceptable, and the coverage struggles in the secondary made the defense look hopeless at times, letting five quarterbacks set career highs for pass yardage throughout the season, including 510 yards to Arkansas' Tyler Wilson.

The Aggies were a fun team to watch, but defensively, were too often a mess.

GRADE: D

OVERALL: Well, its coach was fired, so you know this grade won't be a good one. Give the Aggies this, at least: They beat Texas at something. The Aggies were a far bigger disappointment this season than Texas in 2010, when the Longhorns went 5-7.

That was a young team with no proven offense. The Aggies were loaded on both sides of the ball, even without Miller. The pieces were there to win the Big 12 and maybe even the national championship. You don't lead by double digits in 12 of 13 games in the Big 12 without having tons and tons of talent. The Aggies had it.

They finished with seven wins, and only one (Baylor) was impressive. The second-half meltdowns were too much, and led to Sherman's firing after snatching the title of the Big 12's most disappointing team, and having an argument as the nation's biggest disappointment after starting the season in the top 10.

The losses piled up and ended with one final indignity: a loss to Texas that should never have happened. The program will have to live with that loss for decades at least, and perhaps forever. It'll go down as the most painful night in one of the most painful seasons in school history, and the defining moment in a season that Texas A&M would love to forget.

GRADE: F
We're continuing our look at the postseason rankings for each position in the Big 12. Here's a look back at where the running backs ranked in the preseason.

In this position, unlike quarterback, depth is a major, major factor in these rankings.

1. Texas A&M

The Aggies had the two most talented backs, and despite injuries to both, proved it through an otherwise frustrating 2011. Christine Michael suffered a torn ACL, but still managed 899 yards on just 149 carries. Cyrus Gray injured his shoulder late in the season, but secured his second consecutive 1,000-yard season and ranked third in the Big 12, despite carrying the ball just 198 times. This duo should have easily surpassed 1,000 yards, but even when they were injured, Ben Malena played well in the final two games.

[+] EnlargeChristine Michael
AP Photo/Brandon WadeChristine Michael averaged 6 yards per carry before a torn ACL ended his season.
2. Missouri

Mizzou dealt with injuries, too, first to Kendial Lawrence and De'Vion Moore. Cue Henry Josey. Josey became the best back in the Big 12 this year before suffering a major knee injury that included torn ligaments. He may not be back in 2012. His 1,168 yards were third most in the Big 12, despite carrying the ball just 145 times. Lawrence finished 12th with 566 yards.

3. Oklahoma State

Joseph Randle stole the show this year, rushing for 24 scores and ranking second in the Big 12 with 1,216 yards. Only Collin Klein ran for more touchdowns and Terrance Ganaway was the only player with more yardage. Still, Jeremy Smith had averaged more than 7 yards a carry, and he'd be able to start for anyone else in the league. Herschel Sims showed promise, too, with 242 yards on 31 carries.

4. Baylor

Ganaway led the Big 12 in rushing with huge performances late in the season, including a 200-yard, five-touchdown game in his final outing as a college athlete in the Alamo Bowl. He averaged more than 6 yards on his 250 carries and had 330 more yards than any other back in the league. Jarred Salubi added 331 yards, too.

5. Texas

Texas' Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron were banged-up late in the season, but Fozzy Whittaker played well until suffering a torn ACL against Missouri, too. Scatback D.J. Monroe was effective in the passing game as well. Four running backs topped 300 yards and Brown led the team with 742 yards, despite missing three games and having his carries limited early in the season.

6. Oklahoma

Oklahoma got great contributions from walk-on Dominique Whaley early on, and he proved to be the team's most effective runner and best runner between the tackles. He fractured his ankle in midseason, and finished with just 627 yards to lead the team. Roy Finch emerged late in the seasons after a quiet first half and added 605 yards.

7. Kansas

KU's James Sims led the team in rushing again with 727 yards. Darrian Miller was excellent, too, with 559 yards, though he was dismissed after the season. Freshmen Tony Pierson and Brandon Bourbon have plenty of promise, both averaging more than 5.5 yards a carry in 2011. The bad news: All their carries were limited by an awful defense that limited KU's chances to run the ball.

8. Kansas State

K-State's rushing attack centered around Klein, but John Hubert, a slippery back from Waco, Texas, had a good year. Hubert was seventh in the Big 12 with 970 yards. Bryce Brown offered basically nothing to K-State, and beyond Klein and Hubert, the Wildcats were pretty thin. Additionally, without Klein, would Hubert have duplicated his success?

9. Texas Tech

An awful knee injury derailed Eric Stephens' likely 1,000-yard season, and the rest of Texas Tech's backfield got banged-up, too. Stephens will probably return in 2012 from his dislocated knee, and finished with 565 yards, 17th in the Big 12. Aaron Crawford and DeAndre Washington both topped 300 yards.

10. Iowa State

ISU lost Shontrelle Johnson for the season early on, but James White filled in well. He finished with 743 yards, which ranked ninth in the Big 12. Jeff Woody had 380 yards and provided quality carries late, including the game-winning touchdown against Oklahoma State.

No Senior Bowl for Cyrus Gray

January, 24, 2012
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One more Big 12 player has checked out of the Senior Bowl.

Texas A&M running back Cyrus Gray won't participate after failing a physical this week, according to bowl officials.

Gray joins a teammate, quarterback Ryan Tannehill (broken foot), and Baylor receiver Kendall Wright (ankle) as players named to the roster but unable to play after suffering injuries.

There's been no official word on what prompted Gray to fail the test, but the likely reason stems from the stress fracture in his shoulder suffered late this past season against Kansas.

Gray sat out the final two games of the season, but hoped to be ready for this week's game.

Now, it looks like he'll have to wait for next month's combine.
If you're one of our most faithful readers, you'll remember we took a look at the ESPNU 150 recruits from the past five years before Signing Day 2011.

You can take a look at those here:
That was before the 2011 season. Now, our recruitniks have taken it upon themselves to provide a new update for the 2008 class.

You'll need ESPN Insider to see the full updates for each player group, but here's how the Big 12 players have done:

Prospects ranked from 1-25 Insider

No. 6 Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State (via Miami): Brown committed to Miami (Fla.), where he struggled to see the field in 2008 and 2009. He transferred to Kansas State and was named Big 12 newcomer of the year in 2011 after recording 95 tackles, two sacks and an interception (of Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III).

No. 7: Jermie Calhoun, RB, Oklahoma: Calhoun's career never got off the ground at Oklahoma after he redshirted as a true freshman. He appeared in 16 games and rushed for 242 yards on 56 carries. He tore his ACL early in his sophomore season (2010) and decided to transfer to Football Championship Subdivision program Angelo State University.

No. 11: R.J. Washington, DE, Oklahoma: Washington has appeared in 25 games (no starts) for the Sooners, and has 20 tackles and 3.5 sacks. His 13 tackles, three sacks and five pass breakups in 2011 are all career highs.

No. 13: Josh Jarboe, WR, Oklahoma: Jarboe was arrested for bringing a weapon onto his high school campus before enrolling at Oklahoma. His career with the Sooners didn't last long, as he was kicked off the team after a YouTube video emerged with him rapping about guns and violence. Jarboe resurfaced at Troy but couldn't escape the negative headlines and was dismissed in 2009. After a year at Northeast Mississippi junior college, Jarboe returned to the Football Bowl Subdivision ranks at Arkansas State, and had 54 receptions for 730 yards and two touchdowns this season

No. 16: D.J. Grant, WR, Texas: After redshirting in 2008, Grant suffered season-ending knee injuries in 2009 and 2010. He finally got on the field in 2011 and started six games, finishing the season with 16 receptions for 180 yards and three touchdowns.

No. 17: Dan Buckner, WR, Texas: Buckner had 50 receptions for 526 yards and six touchdowns in two seasons with Texas. He was arrested on charges of criminal trespassing and resisting arrest in January 2010 and decided to transfer to Arizona. Buckner had 42 catches for 606 yards and two touchdowns this season for the Wildcats.

Prospects ranked 26-50 Insider

No. 38: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri: It was once thought that Gabbert would be redshirted as a freshman in 2008. Instead, he was the third-string quarterback for the Tigers. He is now a starting NFL quarterback, playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars. During his career at Missouri, Gabbert threw for more than 6,800 yards and 40 touchdowns. He left for the NFL after his junior season.

Prospects ranked 51-75 Insider

57. Cyrus Gray, RB, Texas A&M: Gray closed out his junior season with seven consecutive 100-yard rushing performances, and he added two more to that streak to open his senior campaign. He missed the final two games of the Aggies' season, but he closed out his career with 312 yards and five scores in his final two games. He was named to the 2011 All-Big 12 second team, and ran for nearly 3,300 yards and 30 touchdowns in his career.

No. 72: Jameel Owens, WR, Oklahoma: In two years with the Sooners, Owens caught four passes for 44 yards. He then transferred to Tulsa before the 2010 season, receiving a transfer waiver so he did not have to sit out a season. But he lasted only one season for the Hurricanes, as he was granted a leave of absence during spring drills in 2011 and never returned to the team.

Prospects ranked 76-100 Insider

No. 79: David Snow, OL, Texas: Snow came right in and played as a true freshman. When it was all said and done, he appeared in 51 games, starting 31 at center and both guard positions. He received a Big 12 honorable mention this past season.

No. 84: Stephen Good, OL, Oklahoma: Good has been an active member of the Sooners' offensive line since he arrived in 2008. He was in the two-deep since day one, playing both guard positions.

No. 91: Derrick Hall, ATH, Texas A&M: Hall never made it to College Station because he failed to qualify academically. He went on to Navarro Junior College, where he rushed for more than 2,200 yards and 29 touchdowns in two seasons. Hall then signed with Tulsa, but the NCAA ruled him ineligible.

No. 92: Daniel Franklin, ILB, Oklahoma: Franklin redshirted his freshman season, and has since been a career backup and special-teams player in Norman.

No. 95: DeSean Hales, WR, Texas: Hales redshirted his freshman season in Austin. Through the next three years, he played in 31 games, catching 13 passes for 87 yards. He has one more season of eligibility.

No. 100: Emmanuel Acho, LB, Texas: Acho started every game this past season for the Longhorns, leading the team in tackles with 131. He also recorded 19 tackles for loss and three sacks. Acho was named first-team All-Big 12 in 2011, and finished his career with 269 tackles, 40 tackles for loss and eight sacks.

Prospects ranked 101-125 Insider

No. 106: Jordan Fields, CB, Texas A&M: Fields committed to Texas A&M but never signed with the Aggies. He enrolled at Blinn JC (Texas) following high school and has yet to sign with an FBS school.

No. 114: Nolan Brewster, OLB, Texas: Brewster played in all 13 games as a true freshman, mainly on special teams, and had eight tackles. He had 24 tackles and an interception as a backup safety as a sophomore and then redshirted his junior year after undergoing shoulder surgery. As a senior, Brewster played in Texas' first four games but had to retire from football due to multiple concussions and post-traumatic migraine headaches.

No. 117: Kye Staley, RB, Oklahoma State: Staley redshirted and then suffered a knee injury that wiped out his 2009 season. He quit the football team and didn't play in 2010 but rejoined the team the following year. He played in 13 games this past season, catching 10 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown.

No. 118: Kendall Wright, ATH, Baylor: He made an immediate impact as a true freshman, leading the team in catches, yards and touchdowns. He earned second-team All-Big 12 honors his sophomore year, catching 66 balls for 740 yards and four touchdowns. Wright broke school records his junior season, catching 78 passes for 952 yards and seven touchdowns to again earn second team All-Big 12. As a senior, Wright earned several All-American honors after catching 108 passes for 1,663 yards and 14 touchdowns, all school records. He's rated as a potential first-round draft pick in April's NFL draft.

No. 122: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma: Jones will likely shatter every Sooners passing mark after surprisingly deciding to come back for his senior year. He started 10 games his redshirt freshman season after starter Sam Bradford (St. Louis Rams) suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. He set a school freshman record, throwing for 3,198 yards and 26 touchdowns, including a school-record six in one game. He earned All-American honors as a sophomore after throwing for 4,718 yards and 38 touchdowns and led the Big 12 in total offense. Jones' numbers were down a bit his junior season, but he still threw for 4,463 yards and 29 touchdowns.

No. 125: Justin Johnson, RB, Oklahoma: Johnson's Sooners career was short-lived as he transferred to Abilene Christian following his freshman year. He rushed for 103 yards and had a 100-yard kickoff return for a score as a sophomore but transferred following that season to McMurry, a Division III school. Johnson rushed for 771 yards and eight touchdowns to go with 40 catches for 352 yards and four more scores for the War Hawks as a junior last year.

Prospects ranked 126-150 Insider

No. 138: Dravannti Johnson, LB, Texas: Johnson decided to transfer from Texas last month, having already graduated. The junior defensive end saw limited action, playing in only seven games and registering just four tackles, one for a loss. Johnson's most productive season came in 2010, when he started five games and recorded 23 tackles, two tackles for a loss, one sack and six quarterback pressures. He is expected to transfer to a smaller school for more playing time.

No. 143: Rodrick Davis, DT, Texas A&M: After two uneventful seasons at Texas A&M, Davis transferred to Fort Scott (Kansas) Community College before transferring again to New Mexico following the 2011 season. Davis played in eight games last season for Fort Scott and recorded 28 tackles. He redshirted in 2008 so he has one year of eligibility remaining and can play this season.
Four Texas A&M players will suit up for the Senior Bowl on Jan. 28 in Mobile, Ala.
Cornerback Coryell Judie was also invited and accepted, but he won't be able to participate after breaking his wrist in Texas A&M's 33-22 win over Northwestern in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.

They'll join three Baylor players in Mobile for the week.

The game is big, but really, the Senior Bowl week is most about the practices, while scouts flood to Alabama to see NFL draft talent go head-to-head in rep after rep for the week of practice. Those, like the game, are televised on the NFL Network.

Draft stocks can rise and fall during the week just as much as they can during the combine.

Their NFL futures offer even more reason to be disappointed with the 2011 season. The talent was obvious, especially in these four, who are just about as good as anyone at their position in the Big 12. The Aggies' 6-6 finish after warranted preseason hype cost Mike Sherman his job.

Tannehill, Gray, Fuller and Bullock will get a chance to show what they can do at the Senior Bowl, and I'd expect them all to have solid careers at the next level. Judie, too.

But there's no forgetting what could have been -- and wasn't -- in 2011.

Car Care Bowl: Texas A&M-Northwestern

December, 30, 2011
12/30/11
1:00
PM ET
Texas A&M and Northwestern will kick off the New Year's Eve action in Houston with a noon ET kickoff at Reliant Stadium in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.

Here's a bit of what to expect:

WHO TO WATCH: Cyrus Gray, RB, Texas A&M. The Aggies' backfield has been banged up this year, and it already lost top back Christine Michael to a torn ACL. Gray was sorely missed in a season-ending, heartbreaking loss to Texas after suffering a stress fracture in his shoulder against Kansas. Gray is expected to return, and he's at his best when his team has to use him as the lone featured back. That will likely be the case in this one, and we'll see if he's back to 100 percent after the injury.

WHAT TO WATCH: Texas A&M's second half. You have to, don't you? The Aggies haven't played since Thanksgiving night, but a promising season was ruined by five losses in which the Aggies led by double digits, including early season losses to Oklahoma State and Arkansas in which the Aggies led by 17 and 18 points, respectively, and lost. Coach Mike Sherman was fired because of those losses, and Tim DeRuyter is temporarily in charge before leaving, but we'll see if this season-ruining trend ends.

WHY TO WATCH: Who knows what's going to happen with this team? The talent gap between these two teams is enormous, but the Aggies have underachieved all year. With a month off, a coach gone, another coach leaving and their new coach, Houston's Kevin Sumlin, roaming around practice, it's anyone's guess how this unpredictable bunch responds. It should be a fun one.

PREDICTION: Texas A&M 31, Northwestern 21: The Aggies are shaken up, with one coach (Mike Sherman) fired and its interim coach (Tim DeRuyter) getting ready to take over at Fresno State. The Aggies' talent takes over in this one, and Cyrus Gray is expected to return. The Wildcats rebounded later in the season to reach a bowl game, but have only one quality win all season: Nebraska. Texas A&M's talent takes control, and this big lead is safe.

Predictions: Non-BCS Big 12 Bowls

December, 26, 2011
12/26/11
11:00
AM ET
Time to dish out a few predictions for the Big 12's non-BCS bowls.

I notched perfection in the season's final weekend, but bowl picks are always tough.

For the curious, here's how I've done predicting each team's games this year. You guys gave me a solid B. I'll take it.

Last week: 3-0

Overall: 57-18 (.760)

Today

Missouri 34, North Carolina 28: The Tigers match up pretty well with UNC, and take care of business with a solid performance from James Franklin, who tops 125 yards rushing and throws for 225, accounting for four touchdowns. The Tigers head to the SEC on the right note.

Dec. 28

No. 24 Texas 20, California 17: The Longhorns suffocate another offense in this one, quieting Keenan Allen and Zach Maynard. Texas has seen better offenses and played well. They take care of business out in San Diego to notch a Holiday Bowl win. A healthy backfield of Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron get back down to business and build toward a big sophomore year.

Dec. 29

No. 12 Baylor 47, Washington 31: RG3 doesn't give many clues as to his future plans, but he looks the part of an NFL quarterback in this one, sending Kendall Wright into the NFL with a big day. We expected plenty of offense in this one, and both teams delivered. Chris Polk racks up big yardage on a suspect Baylor defense, but the Bears pull away late.

Dec. 30

Iowa State 24, Rutgers 21: Doubt Paul Rhoads' teams in bowl games at your own risk. They say the team that wants to be in bowl games the most wins them, and games like these are huge for the Cyclones. They'll be ready to go against a mediocre Rutgers team. It should be interesting to see what Jared Barnett looks like with a month to prepare, and I'm betting he looks pretty good.

No. 14 Oklahoma 23, Iowa 21: On the flip side of the "Bet who wants to be here more" coin is Oklahoma, whose trip to the Insight Bowl is far from what they'd hoped in a season that began with national title hopes. The Sooners are banged up and dealing with player exits, but they're still significantly better than Iowa. We see a pretty lackluster performance from the Sooners, but they survive. Iowa is, after all, a team that lost to Iowa State, Minnesota and Penn State, and is playing without its top two running backs.

Dec. 31

Texas A&M 31, Northwestern 21: The Aggies are shaken up, too, with one coach (Mike Sherman) fired and its interim coach (Tim DeRuyter) getting ready to take over at Fresno State. The Aggies talent takes over in this one, and Cyrus Gray is expected to return. The Wildcats rebounded later in the season to reach a bowl game, but have only one quality win all season: Nebraska. Texas A&M's talent takes over this big lead is safe.

Jan. 6

No. 6 Arkansas 24, No. 8 Kansas State 23: This could be a classic. The Wildcats win the time of possession game (they always do. K-State ranks fourth nationally in the stat) and suffocates Arkansas' offense, which has struggled running the ball all year, ranking ninth in the SEC. K-State finally loses a close game, though, and like the loss to Oklahoma State, a late drive comes up short. A strong performance from the defense though, and K-State enters 2012 as one of the Big 12 favorites.

Lunch links: Rumor mill swinging wildly

December, 21, 2011
12/21/11
12:00
PM ET
Can't people just cheer by themselves? Like, on their own? To themselves?

What to watch in the Big 12 bowls

December, 15, 2011
12/15/11
10:15
AM ET
Here are a few things to keep an eye on in the bowl games involving teams from the Big 12 this season.

1. The headless Aggies. A team playing in a bowl after firing its coach is a bit of a rarity, but that's where the Aggies are as they prepare to face Northwestern on Dec. 31 in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. Defensive coordinator and interim head coach Tim DeRuyter is leaving to become the coach at Fresno State. Former coach Mike Sherman served as their offensive coordinator, too, and it'll be interesting to see what Texas A&M looks like without him. Cyrus Gray is questionable, but Northwestern's defense is a lot different than Texas'. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill should be able to win this game, but will Texas A&M look like it's playing for anything, and will it show it has fixed the second-half woes?

2. Oklahoma State on the big stage. Oklahoma State has played in a lot of big games over the past two years, but the two biggest -- Oklahoma in both years -- were played in its home stadium. The Cowboys never played in a Big 12 title setting and never played in a huge neutral-site game against a team suited to beat them. The Jan. 2 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, opposite Stanford, will be all new for the Cowboys. Will the team look the same after a week unlike anything it has experienced before?

3. Sooners stopping a swoon? Oklahoma finished the season with two losses in its final three games and now will be without Jaz Reynolds in the Dec. 30 Insight Bowl against Iowa. Landry Jones will be missing his No. 1 and No. 3 receivers, and the Hawkeyes' offense will take on a defense that struggled late in the year against Baylor and Oklahoma State. Iowa is closer to Iowa State -- Oklahoma's only victory in the final three games -- but the Sooners had better show up in this one, or this season will get even more forgettable.

4. A finale for RG3? At Baylor, 2011 has been unforgettable. The Bears already have nine wins, a third-place finish in the Big 12 and the school's first Heisman winner. Quarterback Robert Griffin III has become must-see TV, but the Valero Alamo Bowl against Washington on Dec. 29 might be the last time we see him in green and gold. There's no guarantee on either side, but what's Griffin got in store for the finale?

5. Did the Longhorns learn? Texas lamented its holidays at home last year, with players saying they never wanted to experience the feeling again. Several said they couldn't even watch the bowls. Well, the Longhorns are back. How much will they relish the Dec. 28 Holiday Bowl meeting with Cal? Texas should be back to health by then, and a big win in this game might produce big results next fall for a young offense that needs good vibes heading into the offseason.

Preseason vs. Postseason All-Big 12 team

December, 14, 2011
12/14/11
2:15
PM ET
It's always fun looking back on what we thought in the preseason, and today, we'll take another look.

Here's who made the postseason team.

How did our All-Big 12 preseason team stack up at season's end?

OFFENSE

QB: Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State
  • Led the Big 12 with 4,328 passing yards and threw 34 touchdown passes. Only the postseason All-Big 12 QB, Robert Griffin III, had more. He was named the second-team All-Big 12 QB by both the coaches and media.
RB: Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M
  • Gray was sidelined late in the season with a stress fracture in his shoulder, but rushed for 1,045 yards and 12 touchdowns, his second consecutive 1,000-yard season. That ranked fifth in the Big 12, and Gray earned second-team All-Big 12 honors by the coaches and media.
RB: Christine Michael, Texas A&M
  • Michael tore his ACL against Oklahoma, derailing another likely 1,000-yard season. He still rushed for 899 yards and averaged better than six yards per carry.
WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
  • Blackmon won his second consecutive Biletnikoff Award and earned unanimous All-Big 12 first-team honors after catching 113 passes for 1,336 yards and 15 touchdowns.
WR: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
  • Broyles caught 83 passes for 1,157 yards before tearing his ACL in the ninth game of the season. He still cracked the coaches' first team and my first team, but was relegated to second team by the media.
TE: Michael Egnew, Missouri
  • Egnew kept on keeping on, leading all Big 12 tight ends with 47 catches for 484 yards and three touchdowns, earning unanimous All-Big 12 first-team honors.
OL: Levy Adcock, Oklahoma State
  • Adcock cracked a few All-American teams and earned unanimous All-Big 12 first-team honors.
OL: Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State
  • Osemele landed on SI.com's All-American team and earned unanimous first-team honors.
C: Grant Garner, Oklahoma State
  • Garner cracked SI.com's All-American team and landed on the media's first team, but was pushed to the second team by Baylor's Philip Blake on the coaches All-Big 12 teams.
OL: Lane Taylor, Oklahoma State
  • Taylor didn't crack any All-Big 12 postseason first teams.
OL: Elvis Fisher, Missouri
  • Fisher suffered a ruptured patellar tendon before the season and didn't play, and is waiting on an NCAA waiver for a sixth year of eligibility.
We'll take a look at the defense later today.

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