Big 12: Darius Jones

Big 12 spring game recap: Baylor

April, 4, 2011
4/04/11
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What happened:

  • Junior quarterback Robert Griffin III completed 21-of-26 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns. The first touchdown was a short pass that Tevin Reese turned into a 45-yard score and the second was a 50-yard strike to Kendall Wright.
  • Running back Jarred Salubi led all rushers with 40 yards on six carries and a touchdown.
  • Terrance Williams led all receivers with nine catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Eight receivers caught at least four passes, and 17 players caught passes.
  • An estimated crowd of 3,500 came to the game at Baylor's Highers Athletic Complex.
  • The game was televised locally.
What we learned:
  • If it wasn't already clear, Saturday's spring game further illustrated it: Baylor is way, way deep at receiver. They've got a lot of guys who can make plays for Griffin, and a quarterback in RG3 who can utilize them well. Last season, the Bears had five players with at least 40 receptions. "All those guys could be a star somewhere else, but we're lucky to have them on our campus," Griffin said. "I'll spread the ball around like I did last year. When they get their chance to make plays, they'll make them, and that will make us that much better." I liked how Darius Jones looked during my visit to campus, and he's been making plays in scrimmages as well. He had just two catches last season, but had five on Saturday. I'd expect him to be a nice addition to Griffin's targets this year as a sophomore.
  • Griffin: He's still pretty good.
  • The talk of the spring has been the defense, and though it had a nice day in the previous scrimmage, it's tough to be too encouraged by letting three quarterbacks combine for 587 yards and four touchdowns on 56-of-72 passing. Baylor has an efficient offense that looks for easy completions, but that completion percentage is way, way too high for the defense. Baylor can keep winning 6-7 games if the defense keeps playing like that and the offense remains constant. But to make any real noise in the Big 12, defenses have to be able to stop the pass. The Bears' passing offense will be one of the toughest they see all next season, so that's something to consider. But if you're letting opponents complete 77 percent of their passes, that offense is going to be sitting on the sideline much more often than coach Art Briles would like to see.It's a work in progress, yes. There's still time to get better. To be fair, the defense did get five sacks and made six tackles for loss, keeping the offense off the board for six consecutive possessions at one point in the first half. But if the season started today, their bad days would outnumber the good. The good news is the season doesn't start today. Summer workouts and fall preseason camp will be huge for Phil Bennett's defense, which will be the biggest factor in determining whether Baylor builds off its seven-win campaign from last season.
  • I don't see the running back rotation shifting much. If I was guessing, I'd expect Salubi and Terrance Ganaway to share the carries pretty evenly with a little dash of Glasco Martin for 3-4 touches a game.
They said it:

"We're looking for a guy that's never been 'it' in the game of tag."

-- Briles earlier in the week, on trying to replace running back Jay Finley. No doubt a strong candidate for the quote of the spring, perhaps in all of college football.

More Big 12 spring game recaps:

Roundup: Sooner hurt, OSU surgery, Bear D

March, 28, 2011
3/28/11
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A look back at the happenings across the Big 12 this weekend.

Sooners lose another starter

It's been a less-than-ideal offseason for Oklahoma, which heads into the fall as one of the favorites to win the national title. It got even less ideal when starting right tackle Jarvis Jones suffered a ruptured patellar tendon in his knee.

"We were in a team period and it just buckled on him," coach Bob Stoops said in a release.

Jones started four games last season, but he's expected to miss six months and return in late September or October. That's a big deal for the Sooners, who play at Florida State, a likely top five opponent, on Sept. 17. If Jones can get ahead of schedule on his rehab, it wouldn't be shocking if he returned by then, but it's another setback for the Sooners.

Three starters had run-ins with the law before spring practice, and All-Big 12 cornerback Jamell Fleming, the team's best cover man, is not currently enrolled at Oklahoma after reported academic dishonesty. His future is still in flux, and though none of the offseason happenings are complete game-changers, they're all unnecessary distractions for the Sooners, who have admitted themselves that this season is all about gunning for the national title.

Baylor defense bounces back

Baylor's defense couldn't have played much worse in the team's last scrimmage, but new coordinator Phil Bennett had to be pretty happy with the effort in a weekend scrimmage.

The Bears had eight sacks and scored three touchdowns. Defensive end Willie Jefferson, a converted tight end, led the team with three sacks and scored on a 30-yard fumble return. Jared Edwards also had a pair of sacks.

"I thought we made some strides this week. I think we are starting to get some people in the right positions," Bennett told reporters after the scrimmage. "As I told them, we aren’t there yet, but I saw some steps. We put them in some tough situations. We moved the ball downfield, we did some red zone with one minute and they responded better. But like I said, we are not there yet. I told the guys that if we can stay on an even keel with our offense, we are going to get better and win some games.”

Terrance Ganaway put up a nice stat line with 42 yards on seven carries and a touchdown, and Darius Jones led all receivers with 70 yards on six receptions.

Kicker Aaron Jones struggled down the stretch after a fast start last season, but he was 4-of-5 on field goals, including a 57-yarder and another from outside 50 yards.

Oklahoma State sits Markelle Martin for spring surgery

Safety Markelle Martin should be one of the leaders of Oklahoma State's defense next spring, but Oklahoma State elected to end his spring for shoulder surgery.

"We cleaned his shoulder up,” coach Mike Gundy told reporters. "He really didn't need the surgery right now, but there was no reason [to delay the surgery], because we have a lot of depth at safety."

Top among those remaining safeties is Daytawion Lowe, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, but has impressed throughout the spring. Lavocheya Cooper is listed behind Martin at strong safety on the spring depth chart.

Cyclones snatch another Knott

Linebacker Jake Knott is already one of Iowa State's best players after making 130 tackles in 2010, third-most in the Big 12.

Now, his little brother, quarterback Luke Knott, is ready to follow. The native of Lee's Summit, Mo., gives Iowa State two 2012 commitments, both quarterbacks.

California native Grant Rohach committed to the Cyclones this month.

Baylor practice notes and observations

March, 17, 2011
3/17/11
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WACO, Texas -- Baylor practiced for about two hours in full pads on Tuesday, the second practice in two days after a week-long intermission for spring break. It was their fifth of 15 spring workouts.

The big story at Baylor on the field is the progress of its defense. And based on the early returns, it has a good ways to go. Most of the practice was spent in team drills, both in seven-on-seven and 11-on-11. They were constantly beat over the middle, on the outside and over the top and running backs gashed the defense in the middle.

Keep in mind, however, that the Bears' offense has been at it awhile and is also one of the Big 12's best. The defense under Phil Bennett is in practice No. 5. The depth chart is still fluid, and every player on the roster is getting a chance to run with the first or second team at some point, according to Bennett. That accounts for some of the mistakes, surely. Their work is clearly cut out for them, but they've got the rest of spring and fall camp to make it happen. The talent and athletic ability are there, and the only guys getting beat physically were the corners. Most of the other mistakes looked like mental ones that Bennett and new linebackers coach Jim Gush were animatedly trying to correct throughout the practice.

For now, it looks like there's a lot more thinking than playing going on, but that's to be expected five practices in. I'll be writing more about the defense on Friday, but I do think Baylor fans can take some encouragement in the progress made in just one season by Texas A&M. The Baylor coaches I talked to aren't so sure about that comparison, but it could happen. Texas A&M's defense in 2009 was a lot worse than Baylor's in 2010.

A few other observations:
  • Robert Griffin III continues to throw one of the league's most accurate deep balls. He was on all practice. It's probably not too encouraging how often guys were wide open, but don't worry about him regressing in 2011. If the defense helps the Bears win a few more games and they get to 8-10 wins, don't count out Griffin as a possible Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year. No team in the Big 12 is more reliant on one guy to do so much, but he fills those duties well. The defense couldn't contain him as a runner, either. He's made a lot of progress in his zone read fake. At least a few times he had the defense completely shifted to cover the running back while he went the other way for a 3-on-2 with his receivers blocking corners on the outside and safeties committed to the running back, who didn't have the ball.
  • Former left tackle Danny Watkins was back on campus. The likely first- or second-rounder in next month's draft took in the practice, and his presence, along with others who preceded him in heading to the NFL, is a welcome sight. "Everybody wants to go pro, but the reality is, a very, very small percentage of guys do go pro," Griffin said. "So when you see Danny, Phil [Taylor], [No. 2 pick in 2009] Jason [Smith], guys that have been up there even since I've been here, it's great. You see them up there. There we are, guys. We can make it. There's nothing holding us back. If you help this team win, it makes all of us shine and it helps all of our chances at making it."
  • Former blue-chip recruit Ahmad Dixon looks like he's progressing nicely. I like his chances at winning a starting spot this year. He practiced a bit during 11-on-11 drills at nickel back, and looked like a good fit, but he also looks like he's got a nose for the ball that makes a great safety. On at least three occasions, he went around a receiver to slap a ball away without making too much contact that would draw a flag.
  • Heads up for Josh Gordon. I'll be writing about him for Friday as well, but I didn't realize just how big he was until I got a good look at him up close on Tuesday. I thought he was a bit lankier just from seeing him come onto the scene this year, but he only had one catch as a freshman and I get a chance to see him up close during the season. My original thought couldn't have been further from the truth. He comes in at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, compared to Jeff Fuller at Texas A&M, who is 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds. Griffin had a lot of interesting stuff to say about him. He feels really comfortable throwing him a jump ball in the red zone after last year. Fuller made his big leap with his first 1,000-yard season as a junior last year. Gordon is a junior this year. With a year of real experience in Baylor's offense behind him, we might see a similar breakout year from the big guy in 2011. Among actual contributors from last year, no receivers in the league are bigger than Fuller and Gordon.
  • Other guys to watch: wide receiver Darius Jones and running back Terrance Ganaway. Most know Ganaway as the guy who picked up that onside kick and ran it back for a touchdown against Texas Tech while a few Red Raiders loitered nearby. This year he's competing for a starting job with Jarred Salubi. I think they'll end up splitting carries, but Ganaway's got quite a bit of pop to him. He was running people over and seeing the way Big 12 teams defending big backs in bowl games last year, that could be a pretty valuable asset to have. Everybody in the league seems to have a back like Salubi. Not many have one like the 6-foot, 240-pound Ganaway, who's got decent speed, too. Jones, meanwhile, is a burner. He caught just two balls last year, but he was everywhere on Tuesday. Maybe it was just one good practice, but he was getting open in the slot, open behind the linebackers and in front of safeties over the middle, and burning guys deep. Griffin already has a ton of established weapons in Kendall Wright, Gordon and three other receivers who caught at least 40 balls last year, as well as a tight end with 26. Everyone but Taylor, the tight end, is back. Has he found another reliable receiver? It's pretty clear at this point: Baylor's skill position talent from top to bottom is as good as anyone else's in the country. That's a credit to Art Briles' recruiting and development. Now everything else just has to follow suit. The offensive line has been pretty good, but as I mentioned early, if the defense can it pick up, it could turn Baylor into a real contender.
  • I can confirm that after a year in the program, the other Robert Griffin goes by "Big Griff" and Robert Griffin III goes by "Griff."
  • Kendall Wright, by the way, has let his hair grow out and is sporting a solid, sizable afro. Two thumbs up from this blogger.

Baylor recruiting analysis

February, 3, 2011
2/03/11
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BAYLOR BEARS

The class

Signees: 19 (five enrolled early, four junior college)

Top prospects: The Bears got a big-time offensive tackle in Spencer Drango, the nation's No. 14 prospect at the position. Trevor Clemons-Valdez (No. 32 defensive tackle) and Johnathan Lee (No. 48 receiver) are two other highly-rated prospects in the class. Suleiman Masumbuko and Beau Blackshear add more talent on the front line of the defense.

Needs met: Baylor is set for 2011 at the skill positions; they have elite Big 12 talent at quarterback and receiver, and some talent with potential at running back. Where they needed help is on the offensive line and everywhere on defense, excluding the secondary, where they stocked up on talent in their 2010 class. The Bears got exactly what they needed. It's not a balanced class, but that's not what Art Briles wanted. He wanted big bodies up front, and nine of his 19 signees are offensive or defensive linemen. Defensive tackle Phil Taylor and offensive tackle Danny Watkins will be making big money in the NFL next year, and they need to be replaced. The Bears have done that. Jay Finley is gone, and Baylor signed three running backs in this class with a chance to replace him in 2011.

Analysis: Baylor's location in central Texas helps so, so much in recruiting. The Bears can get in on a lot of talent that's overlooked by other programs, they don't have to worry about distance (18 of the 19 commits are from Texas) and have been able to grab an elite, top-tier recruit in recent years. Last year, it was Ahmad Dixon, a safety who was the nation's No. 15 overall prospect. Darius Jones, an ESPNU 150 prospect, signed in 2009. Kendall Wright has become one of the league's best receivers as the No. 112 overall prospect in 2008. This year, they don't have an elite prospect, but they've got a lot of quality talents to help fill what Baylor needs. They lost offensive tackle Nila Kneubuhl on signing day after the offensive tackle had been committed to the Bears for nearly a year, which has to be frustrating for Briles, but it's not a huge blow. New defensive coordinator Phil Bennett has been on the job less than a month. He'll have 11 new players with two possible ones at athlete, compared to just six offensive prospects. The class ranks eighth in the Big 12, but it's an acceptable group for the Bears, who have a lot of established talent already on campus.

ESPN recruiting grade: C-plus

Tracking Big 12 ESPNU 150 signees: 2009

February, 1, 2011
2/01/11
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ESPN The Magazine had a fascinating feature looking back at the past 25 No. 1 high school recruits Insider, where they are now and what the ranking meant to them. With apologies to Vince Young, there aren't a ton of Big 12 talents on the list, but there have been plenty of great recruits to come through the Big 12. We took a look on Thursday at how the All-Big 12 team stacked up as recruits, and you saw quite a mixed bag.

Well, it's the same for the recruits who came to campus with high rankings and high profiles. Going back to 2006, here's how every Big 12 commit from the ESPNU 150 turned out. We'll eventually get to 2010 and the current class, 2011, around signing day, but here's how the 2009 class breaks down. This class' careers are certainly still in progress, and they're readying for their third seasons on campus, so as long as they're still at said campus, it's probably unfair to label anyone on this list a bust just yet. No. 11: Garrett Gilbert, QB, Texas. Forced into action in 2009 BCS National Championship Game after a Colt McCoy shoulder injury. Played a little over three quarters and threw two touchdown passes and four interceptions in the loss. Became the starter in 2010 as a sophomore and threw for 2,744 yards, 10 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

No. 27: Mason Walters, C, Texas. Missed most of 2009 season with a foot injury and redshirted. Started 11 games at right guard, becoming one of the Longhorns' best offensive linemen.

No. 29: Paden Kelly, OT, Texas. Redshirted in 2009 and appeared in five games on the offensive line in 2010.

No. 35: Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M. Ran for 844 yards and 10 touchdowns as a true freshman and was named Big 12 offensive freshman of the year. Missed final five games of 2010 season with a broken leg, but still ran for 631 yards and four touchdowns before the injury.

No. 54: Jamarkus McFarland, DT, Oklahoma. Played in 2009 as a reserve before becoming a starter as a sophomore in 2010. Finished season with 23 tackles, five tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.

No. 72: Chris Whaley, RB, Texas. Redshirted in 2009 before being moved to H-back before the 2010 season. Appeared in 10 games -- nine on special teams and three at running back.

No. 76: Darius Jones, ATH, Baylor. Redshirted in 2009. Caught two passes for 26 yards in 2010. Also returned four kicks for 73 yards.

No. 77: Thomas Ashcraft, OG, Texas. Redshirted in 2009. Appeared in three games on the offensive line and 10 on special teams in 2010.

No. 78: Marcus Davis, CB, Texas. Transferred to Oregon in June 2010 after an arrest in November 2009.

No. 80: Gabe Lynn, S, Oklahoma. Redshirted in 2009. Appeared in eight games in 2010 and recovered a fumble.

No. 83: Ronnell Lewis, LB, Oklahoma. Garnered notoriety after a series of big hits on special teams as a freshman and earned consistent playing time in the Sooners' rotation at linebacker and defensive end as a sophomore. Made 37 tackles, five tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and an interception and fumble recovery. Scored a touchdown.

No. 85: Tom Wort, LB, Oklahoma. Missed all of 2009 after a knee injury in fall camp. Moved into Sooners' rotation at linebacker in 2010, making 66 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.

No. 93: Barrett Matthews, TE, Texas. Played in 13 games as a tight end and on special teams in 2009. Started five games at tight end in 2010 and caught 10 passes for 47 yards and a touchdown.

No. 100: Justin Chaisson, DE, Oklahoma. Redshirted in 2009. Withdrew from school and went back home just before 2010 season began.

No. 105: Kevin Brent, S, Oklahoma. Redshirted after a shoulder injury in 2009. Did not record a stat in 2010.

No. 107: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri. Did not qualify academically and enrolled at College of the Sequoias in California. After a two-year stay, he re-signed with Missouri as the nation's No. 3 JUCO prospect in December 2010. Hoped to enroll for 2011 winter semester, but has yet to do so.

No. 121: Tariq Allen, LB, Texas. Redshirted in 2009 and did not play in 2010. Left the team after the season.

No. 138: Dexter Pratt, RB, Oklahoma State. Redshirted in 2009 and left the team before the 2010 season.

No. 149: Alex Okafor, DE, Texas. Played in 24 games and became a starter at defensive tackle in 2010. Made 22 tackles, 2.5 sacks and three tackles for loss.

Baylor recruiting capsule

February, 6, 2009
2/06/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Baylor: Signing class can be found here.

Recruits: 28.

Breakdown: 23 high school, four junior college, one FBS transfer

Positions: 7 OL, 5 WR, 5 DB, 4 DL, 3 ATH, 3 LB, 2 RB

Where they came from: Texas 25, Canada 2, Bahamas 1, Louisiana 1.

The stud: ATH Darius Jones, Marshall, Texas -- Versatile high school quarterback ranked as the No. 76 player on the ESPNU 150 and as the nation's fourth-best athlete by Scouts Inc. Coach Art Briles beat Oklahoma for this commitment and he's already salivating about using Jones as a slot receiver because of his speed.

Recruiting-class sleeper: DE Rico Forbes, Houston (St. Pius) -- Briles is hoping for a contribution from this native of the Bahamas who was too old to play as a senior in high school because he was already 19 years old. Coaches see the 270-pounder, a one-time Texas A&M oral commitment, as being able to develop into a dominant player if he can get his college transcripts in order.

The one who got away: WR Chris Omigie of Arlington (Lamar) was a vital recruit for the Bears because of his playmaking abilities.The lanky wide receiver would have been a nice fit as a deep threat for several years, but instead decided on an offer from Kansas.

Needs addressed: Offensive line, wide receivers, secondary.

Didn't get it: A breakaway running threat.

Scouts Inc. grade: C (ninth in the Big 12, sixth in South Division).

My take: Briles has surrounded quarterback Robert Griffin with several notable athletic receivers and the makings of an offensive line. But the Bears attracted only 12 true defensive players in the class and will likely transition several of their athlete recruits into defensive roles. It remains their biggest need for the future - particularly with standouts like Joe Pawelek and Jordan Lake entering their senior seasons.

Recruiting soaring for Briles, Baylor

February, 4, 2009
2/04/09
4:34
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Baylor's improvement in the Big 12 apparently has caught the attention of recruits.

Baylor coach Art Briles said that the Bears' improvement with quarterback Robert Griffin and promising signs from a 4-8 season were big selling points for his 28-player recruiting class.

"Our 2008 football team allowed us to have a good recruiting season," Briles said in a prepared statement. "Without a doubt, it created momentum that carried over off the field, where the image of Baylor football is good across the country. That has allowed us to increase our recruiting potential and ability, which we have done and that is evidenced by this class."

The class was topped by Darius Jones, an all-purpose player who played quarterback, cornerback and wide receiver at Marshall (Texas) High School. Jones, ESPNU's No. 71 recruit nationally and Scouts Inc.'s fifth-ranked athlete, is projected as a slot receiver for the Bears.

The Baylor class has 25 players from Texas, two from Canada, one from the Bahamas and one from Louisiana.

"We are extremely pumped about our 2009 signing class," Briles said. "I think we really filled some needs and solidified positions for the future."

Here's a complete list of Baylor's recruiting class.

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