Big 12: Daryl Worley

Preseason All-Big 12 team

August, 21, 2014
Aug 21
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Today, ESPN.com released its preseason All-American team. Before Big 12 media days, we released our individual preseason All-Big 12 ballots. But to pair with the All-American team, we debated, argued and eventually settled on one Big 12 blog, consensus preseason All-Big 12 team.

Here we go:

Offense

QB: Bryce Petty, Baylor
Easy choice. Petty is the reigning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year after he threw for 4,200 yards and 32 touchdowns with just three picks. He should be even better in Year 2 as a starter.

RB: Johnathan Gray, Texas
Malcolm Brown finished strong in place of Gray the past season, but there’s a reason Gray was Texas’ No. 1 back before he suffered an Achilles injury. Gray is healthy again, which gives Texas the best one-two punch at running back in the league.

RB: Shock Linwood, Baylor
Despite being Baylor’s third-string running back the past season, Linwood still finished sixth in the Big 12 in rushing. He’s the featured back now and could wind up the league’s top rusher.

WR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
Lockett was literally uncoverable at times last year. Just ask Texas, Oklahoma and Michigan, which surrendered a combined 631 receiving yards and six touchdowns to Lockett. With Jake Waters settled in at quarterback, Lockett could put up even bigger numbers in 2014.

WR: Antwan Goodley, Baylor
Goodley might have been the most improved player in the league the past season. He was also one of the most dominant, with 1,339 receiving yards and a national-best five catches of 60 yards or more.

TE: E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State
With Jace Amaro gone, Bibbs takes over as the top receiving tight end threat in the league. Only Amaro had more catches and yards than Bibbs among Big 12 tight ends the past season.

OT: Spencer Drango, Baylor
With Drango in the lineup, Petty was sacked only eight times through the Bears’ first nine games last year. After Drango was sidelined with a back injury, Petty was sacked nine times in Baylor’s last four games. Suffice it to say, Petty is glad to have Drango back protecting his blindside.

OG: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech
The Red Raiders previously had plans to move Clark inside to guard, but they still have him manning left tackle this season. Whether he stays at the bookend or slides to guard, Clark is one of the most dominating offensive linemen in the league.

C: BJ Finney, Kansas State
Finney owns a Big 12-best 39 starts over the past three years. The former walk-on is also a two-time first-team All-Big 12 selection and will be the favorite to garner such recognition again as the linchpin of the K-State offensive line.

OG: Cody Whitehair, Kansas State
Whitehair is capable of manning either guard or tackle, but the Wildcats will be showing their trust in him by asking him to protect Waters’ blindside this season.

OT: Daryl Williams, Oklahoma
Williams is the best piece on the league’s best offensive line, which returns four starters and plenty of capable backups.

AP: Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech
Grant finished sixth in the league in receiving yards per game, despite being the third option in Tech’s passing attack the past season. Grant is now the first option in the passing game, as well as an electric playmaker on special teams.

K: Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma
The Sooners have never had an All-American kicker before, but they have a strong candidate in Hunnicutt, who converted 24 of 27 field goals the past season.

Defense

DE: Ryan Mueller, Kansas State
In 2013, Mueller finished with 11.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss, which were second in the league only to Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Jackson Jeffcoat. Mueller, who also forced four fumbles, has one of the conference’s best noses for finding the ball.

DT: Chucky Hunter, TCU
The Horned Frogs still had a formidable front the past season, even without Devonte Fields, due in large part to Hunter. TCU won’t have Fields again. But Hunter is back to anchor a defensive line loaded with quality players.

DT: Malcom Brown, Texas
This former blue-chipper broke out the past season with 68 tackles, including 12 for loss. He and Cedric Reed team up to form the best inside-outside defensive line combination in the league.

DE: Cedric Reed, Texas
Reed was third in the Big 12 in 2013 with 10 sacks, fourth with 19 tackles for loss and tied for first with five forced fumbles. He gives the Longhorns a chance to feature the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season.

LB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma
When it comes to rushing the passer, there’s no one better in the league. Striker has spent this offseason refining other parts of his game to become a more complete player. But his pass rushing alone makes him one of the top players in the league.

LB: Ben Heeney, Kansas
Heeney was a tackling machine last year for a defense that performed valiantly despite getting little help from its offense. Heeney will get plenty of help from his defense, though, which returns eight other starters.

LB: Bryce Hager, Baylor
Hager has notched 195 tackles over the past two seasons, while twice earning second-team All-Big 12 honors. With Ahmad Dixon and Eddie Lackey gone, he takes over as the leader of a defense angling to prove it can be as good as the past year’s.

CB: Quandre Diggs, Texas
Diggs, who has never been afraid to speak his mind, is the heart and soul of the Longhorns. If the rest of the team takes on his mentality, Texas could have one feisty team in Charlie Strong’s first season.

CB: Daryl Worley, West Virginia
Despite being just a second-year player, Worley has already taken over as one of the vocal leaders of the West Virginia defense. He’s also already one of the best cover corners in the league.

SS: Sam Carter, TCU
Carter has nine interceptions the past two years, the most of any returning Big 12 player. He leads arguably the best secondary in the league, too.

FS: Karl Joseph, West Virginia
Joseph has started all 25 games for the Mountaineers since he stepped foot in Morgantown. No other returning Big 12 defensive back has more career tackles than Joseph’s 170.

P: Nick O'Toole, West Virginia
The “Boomstache” ranked 15th nationally last year, with an average of 44.1 yards per punt. He also has the best mustache in the league, which has to count for something.
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Previewing the 2014 season for the West Virginia Mountaineers:

Key returners: QB Clint Trickett, OG Quinton Spain, CB Daryl Worley, SS Karl Joseph

Key losses: RB Charles Sims, DT Shaq Rowell, DE Will Clarke, SS Darwin Cook

Most important 2014 games: Sept. 13 at Maryland; Sept. 20 vs. Oklahoma; Oct. 18 vs. Baylor; Nov. 20 vs. Kansas State

Projected win percentage: 38.5 percent

[+] EnlargeClint Trickett
AP Photo/Tyler EvertClint Trickett threw for 1,605 yards last season.
Over/under Vegas odds: 4.5 wins

Instant impact newcomers: DE Shaquille Riddick, FS Dravon Henry. Riddick was one of the top defensive players in the FCS last year for Gardner-Webb. He should give the Mountaineers an element of pass rushing they previously might have lacked. Henry, one of the top recruits in West Virginia’s freshman signing class, is pushing for a starting job at free safety right away. In Henry and sophomore Daryl Worley, the Mountaineers could have two young cornerstones to anchor the secondary for years to come.

High point from 2013: The Mountaineers got off to a tough September, including a 37-0 loss to Maryland that was even uglier than the final score. But the following week with a new quarterback, West Virginia pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the Big 12 by knocking off No. 11 Oklahoma State 30-21 in Morgantown. In his first start, Trickett was 24-for-50 for 309 yards and a touchdown, and the West Virginia secondary put the clamps on Cowboys QB J.W. Walsh.

Low point from 2013: Kansas has only one Big 12 victory in its past 30 tries. That lone win came against West Virginia last season as the Jayhawks snapped a 27-game Big 12 losing streak with a 31-19 win over the Mountaineers. West Virginia went on to squander a huge lead the following week and fell in triple overtime to Iowa State, which ended the Mountaineers’ season with six losses in their final seven games.

Best-case scenario for 2014: Trickett stays healthy, limits his turnovers and spreads the ball around to West Virginia’s bevy of playmakers. The defense holds up, too, with more depth and a playmaking secondary led by Joseph, Worley and Henry. The Mountaineers beat Maryland in a key nonconference game and go 8-4 to get back to a bowl game, with three of their losses coming to top-10 teams.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: West Virginia gets off to a 1-3 start against a rugged early-season schedule. The rest of the season doesn’t go much better. The quarterbacks can’t stop turning the ball over, and the defense doesn’t improve in the Tony Gibson/Tom Bradley regime. West Virginia goes 3-9 and its Big 12 career record drops to 8-19.

They said it: “I think our players in our locker room understand what the Big 12 is all about. They understand how challenging it is. They understand what the venues are like. They understand what the teams are like, personnel is like, coaching is like, style of play is like. I obviously tried my hardest to be able to relay that to not only the players, but the coaches and the administration and the fan base. And until we got through it for a couple of years, I knew it was going to be challenging.” – West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen

Top Big 12 players: Nos. 25-21

July, 28, 2014
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With the 2014 season just a month away, we’re going to spend this week ranking the Top 25 players in the Big 12.

All three Big 12 reporters weighed in on this list, with the slant focused on a projection of who we think the 25 best players will be this season.

Unlike past years, we’ll be releasing these in groups of five, not individually.

Before getting started, we need to address the two “asterisk” players: TCU defensive end Devonte Fields and Oklahoma wideout Dorial Green-Beckham. Even though they’re Top-25-caliber players, we opted to leave Fields and Green-Beckham off this list because their statuses for this season currently remain unclear (Fields is “separated” from TCU pending an assault charge; Green-Beckham is still waiting to see if he’ll get an eligibility waiver).

Now, without further delay, the first five names in the countdown ...

25. Tyreek Hill, RB, Oklahoma State: Hill is the only player to make this list having never played a down in the FBS. But the preseason pick to win Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, who doubled as a track star in the spring, has as much big-play potential as any offensive skill player in the league. Considering Mike Gundy is planning to give him 20-plus touches a game, Hill could be in for a huge year as the Tavon Austin-like weapon in the Oklahoma State attack.

24. Jake Waters, QB, Kansas State: From the North Dakota State loss in the opener to the Michigan victory in the bowl, Waters developed into a completely different quarterback over the course of the 2013 season. In fact, while leading K-State to wins in six of its final seven games, Waters actually produced a higher Adjusted QBR in the same stretch than the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, Bryce Petty. With a year of experience behind him -- and Daniel Sams no longer around to take away snaps -- Waters should open this season with the same confidence he finished the past.

23. Jakeem Grant, WR, Texas Tech: Despite being the third receiving option in an offense that rotated true freshman quarterbacks last year, Grant still finished sixth in the league in receiving yards per game. Now he’s the No. 1 option. And he’ll be catching passes from a rapidly improving passer in Davis Webb. Grant is electric with the ball in his hands. Unfortunately for opposing defenses, he should have the ball plenty this season.

22. E.J. Bibbs, TE, Iowa State: Coach Paul Rhoads believes Bibbs can be an All-American tight end, and all the tools are there for the 6-foot-3, 261-pounder to be just that. There’s no better pass-catching tight end in the league, and with wideouts Quenton Bundrage and Allen Lazard flanking him, Bibbs should have more chances this season for big pass plays down the seam.

21. Daryl Worley, CB, West Virginia: The West Virginia coaching staff has spent this summer repairing the confidence of top wideout Mario Alford. That’s because Worley completely destroyed it while blanketing him in the spring. The Mountaineers haven’t enjoyed a first-class lock-down corner since Adam “Pacman” Jones a decade ago. But Worley, who has emerged as the leader of the defense despite being just a second-year player, has the skill and attitude to be just that.

Coming Tuesday: Nos. 20-16 ...
DALLAS -- Daryl Worley was visibly annoyed, not by the question, but by the memory it evoked.

“Against Texas, there was a miscommunication,” the West Virginia cornerback recalled. “I didn’t get the call and they ended up scoring. If it wasn’t for that we wouldn’t have even went into overtime. It’s a team mistake, but the way I look at it, it was my mistake.”

Worley’s calm, cool demeanor while answering the question masked the fire behind his eyes as he spoke. The sophomore went on to say the play still sticks with him.

[+] EnlargeDaryl Worley, Travis Bell
AP Photo/Christopher JacksonDaryl Worley has used last year's Texas game as motivation as he prepares for what could be a breakout sophomore season.
His determination, high expectations for himself and exceptional physical talent are just a few of the reasons Worley could be one of the Big 12’s breakout performers in 2014. Worley started five games and played in 11 as a true freshman in 2013, finishing with 45 tackles (36 solo).

“Coming in I had high expectations and I definitely did not fulfill all of them,” Worley said. “That’s just me, even if I feel like I did my best, deep down, I don’t think I did my best.”

Teammates noticed Worley could be an impact player as he stepped on campus.

“He attacked the weight room, he attacked the film room, you would have thought he’d been here five years,” receiver Kevin White said. “He definitely had the right mindset.”

Heading into 2014, the Big 12 could see a different, much-improved version of Worley.

“I feel like a completely different person,” Worley said about the difference from last year to this year. “[I went] from not knowing what to expect to being a student of the game and trying to perfect everything, studying so much and try to be perfect.”

WVU is going to need Worley to take his game to another level this fall. At 6-foot-1, 198 pounds, Worley has the size, skills and mental makeup to become one of the Big 12’s top cover men this fall.

“He's one of the better cover guys that I've seen,” coach Dana Holgorsen said. “And he's only going into his second year on our team.”

White, as a player who battles Worley on a consistent basis in practice, knows the cornerback’s potential.

“He’s going to be a heck of a player for us, we’re looking to him to make big-time plays,” White said. “He’s big, he’s quick, he has catch-up speed, [going against him] is hard, even if you’re a big receiver. He can be on an island by himself and that side will be shut down.”

After falling short of expectations a year ago, Worley has high expectations for himself as a sophomore, and if he takes his game to another level this fall his goals should be within reach.

“I want to contend for the Jim Thorpe trophy,” he said. “If a play needs to be made, I want to be the guy that makes it.”
Earlier this morning we gave you our preseason All-Big 12 picks. Here are some additional thoughts:

The other player I most considered for Offensive Player of the Year?

Chatmon: Tyler Lockett was tough to leave in Bryce Petty's wake. The Kansas State receiver means as much to the Wildcats' attack as anyone in the conference. He's unstoppable in one-on-one situations and transforms the Wildcats offense when he's on the field. He's able to single-handedly take over games from the receiver position in ways very few receivers have done in the Big 12.

Olson: Petty is the undisputed king for this honor, but Lockett is the clear runner-up. His game against Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl was terrific, but that was just a cherry on top after epic performances against Oklahoma (12 catches for 278 yards and 3 TDs) and Texas (13-237). He's a no-doubt All-American if you ask me.

Trotter: Lockett was the only other player deserving of consideration. He's going to have another monster year, and the biggest reason why K-State could be a darkhorse Big 12 title contender. But Petty is the reigning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, and there's no reason to believe he won't be even better in his second year as a starter.

[+] EnlargeTyler Lockett
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesKansas State receiver Tyler Lockett was next in line for Offensive Player of the Year behind Baylor QB Bryce Petty according to all three voters.
The other player I most considered for Defensive Player of the Year?

Olson: While I thought he was a tad overhyped last year, you just know defensive end Ryan Mueller is going to be in the DPOY conversation at the end of November. He's already tied Kansas State's single-season sacks record (11.5) and will probably break that this fall, even with opposing linemen paying more attention to him.

Chatmon: Even though I eventually settled on Devonte Fields, Oklahoma's Eric Striker is destined to cause havoc this fall. His Allstate Sugar Bowl performance is a glimpse at his pass-rush ability and the Sooners are going to spend much of the year trying to find ways to allow Striker to do what he does best. Quite frankly the main reason I settled on Fields is the fact Striker will have to beat offensive tackles AND teammates Charles Tapper and Geneo Grissom to the quarterback to rack up sacks in 2014.

Trotter: You could make a viable case for a half-dozen different defenders here. But the only other player I really considered was Striker. He's the Lawrence Taylor of the Big 12, and is going to be in the nightmares of opposing quarterbacks this year. The Sooners are loaded up front, which will give Striker plenty of opportunities to rush the passer without double teams. But right now, Striker seems to be a little too one-dimensional to pick as the conference's Defensive Player of the Year. Fields, meanwhile, is the total package -- when he's healthy.

The other player I most considered for Newcomer of the Year?

Olson: No disrespect to Harwell, who should be quite productive at Kansas, but I did give some consideration to Oklahoma's Joe Mixon. The freshman running back is capable of emerging as an elite playmaker from the get-go. Of course, if we knew he was eligible in 2014, Dorial Green-Beckham would be the runaway choice for this preseason honor.

Chatmon: It wouldn't surprise me in the least if Oklahoma State's Tyreek Hill beats out Harwell for the award. Hill will consistently be the fastest player on the field and has the quickness and change of direction skills to give teams fits. Harwell got the nod because KU has fewer playmaking options than the Cowboys, who also feature Jhajuan Seales, Desmond Roland, Rennie Childs and Marcell Ateman as potential playmakers.

Trotter: If I knew running back Rushel Shell was going to get the lion's share of West Virginia's carries, he would have received stronger consideration. But at the moment, Dreamius Smith sits atop the Mountaineers' depth chart, and West Virginia has other capable backs in Wendell Smallwood and Dustin Garrison, to boot. While Shell is an immense talent, it's unclear just how big a part he'll be of the West Virginia attack. There's no doubt Hill is going to be a focal point of the Oklahoma State offense. And after dazzling in the spring, there's little doubt Hill is in for big year thanks to his world-class speed.

What was the most difficult position to figure out?

Olson: I had to crunch the numbers on Malcolm Brown vs. Johnathan Gray, since Gray did have the superior YPG average when healthy. The tiebreaker went to Brown for his receiving production and TDs. I do think the discussion at cornerback will be interesting this year, too. I chose Zack Sanchez over Kevin White and Daryl Worley, but several others could step up in 2014.

Chatmon: The defensive line spot was easily the toughest with Brown and Baylor's Shawn Oakman finding themselves on the outside looking in. Both players got left off my first team but I wouldn't be surprised if either guy emerges as the Big 12's most dominant defensive lineman this fall, surpassing Tapper, Mueller, Reed and Fields. Defensive back was another tough spot with Oklahoma's Zack Sanchez, TCU's Chris Hackett and Kansas State's Dante Barnett each getting strong consideration.

Trotter: Defensive end was the most difficult position to sort out, because let's face it, there are actually five first-team All-Big 12 caliber players there. I ultimately went with Oakman alongside Fields because of the upside. But Reed, Mueller and Tapper are right there, and more deserving of being All-Big 12 than some of the other players that made my team at other positions.

The toughest omission from the All-Big 12 team was?

Olson: Because I am a man of honor and integrity, I selected two ends and two tackles for my All-Big 12 defensive line, even though this was not required. That made excluding Mueller and Shawn Oakman or Tapper a difficult but necessary call. But I stand by my admirable self-restraint.

Chatmon: Malcom Brown is going to make me regret leaving him off my list. The Texas defensive tackle could emerge as a nightmare in the middle for Charlie Strong's Longhorns. As much as I wanted to include him on my first team, I had to go with a few proven veterans ahead of him.

Trotter: Besides Mueller, Reed and Tapper, the toughest omissions were Baylor running back Shock Linwood and Oklahoma offensive tackle Daryl Williams. Linwood had a big two-game stretch last year that flashed his talent. But I also think he's going to share carries with Devin Chafin and Johnny Jefferson, which could drive down his individual numbers. Williams is the best of a terrific Sooners offensive line, which is tops in the league. But Oklahoma's strength up front lies in its depth, not just the talent of any one individual player.

Our All-Big 12 ballots

July, 9, 2014
Jul 9
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The deadline for media to turn in All-Big 12 ballots to the conference office comes Friday. The official All-Big 12 team won't be released until Big 12 media days in Dallas in a couple weeks.

But below, the Big 12 blog team released the ballots we turned in to the office to you for your viewing pleasure.

Later this morning we'll go into more depth about how we went about selecting our ballots.

But before we do that, the ballots:

BRANDON CHATMON'S BALLOT

Offense

WR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

TE: E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State

OL: Spencer Drango, Baylor

OL: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech

C: Dominic Espinosa, Texas

OL: Cody Whitehair, Kansas State

OL: Daryl Williams, Oklahoma

WR: Antwan Goodley, Baylor

QB: Bryce Petty, Baylor

RB: Malcolm Brown, Texas

RB: Shock Linwood, Baylor

PK: Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma

PR: Levi Norwood, Baylor

[+] EnlargePetty
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesBaylor QB Bryce Petty made it on all three ballots.
Defense

DL: Devonte Fields, TCU

DL: Ryan Mueller, Kansas State

DL: Cedric Reed, Texas

DL: Charles Tapper, Oklahoma

LB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma

LB: Bryce Hager, Baylor

LB: Ben Heeney, Kansas

DB: Kevin White, TCU

DB: Daryl Worley, West Virginia

DB: Kevin Peterson, Oklahoma State

DB: Sam Carter, TCU

P: Trevor Pardula, Kansas

KR: B.J. Catalon, TCU

Player of the Year Awards

Offensive Player of the Year: Bryce Petty, Baylor

Defensive Player of the Year: Devonte Fields, TCU

Newcomer of the Year: Nick Harwell, Kansas

Quick explainer: The Big 12 features more proven stars heading into this season than it did in 2013 but that didn't make my preseason All-Big 12 team any easier. Several young players seem ready to take their contributions to another level at the expense of established playmakers. The receiver position was a no-brainer (although two receivers on the squad seems a little odd), while the running back position is so littered with unknowns I considered just throwing a darts at the dart board and hoping for the best. Overall I ended up going with proven production over up-and-coming stars, meaning my postseason All-Big 12 squad could look much different than this version.

MAX OLSON'S BALLOT

Offense

WR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

TE: E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State

OL: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech

OL: Cody Whitehair, Kansas State

C: B.J. Finney, Kansas State

OL: Quinton Spain, West Virginia

OL: Spencer Drango, Baylor

WR: Antwan Goodley, Baylor

QB: Bryce Petty, Baylor

RB: Malcolm Brown, Texas

RB: Shock Linwood, Baylor

PK: Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma

PR: Levi Norwood, Baylor

Defense

DL: Devonte Fields, TCU

DL: Chucky Hunter, TCU

DL: Malcom Brown, Texas

DL: Cedric Reed, Texas

LB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma

LB: Bryce Hager, Baylor

LB: Ben Heeney, Kansas

DB: Quandre Diggs, Texas

DB: Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma

DB: Sam Carter, TCU

DB: Chris Hackett, TCU

P: Nick O'Toole, West Virginia

KR: B.J. Catalon, TCU

Player of the Year Awards

Offensive Player of the Year: Bryce Petty, Baylor

Defensive Player of the Year: Devonte Fields, TCU

Newcomer of the Year: Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State

Quick explainer: Petty, Lockett and Goodley are easy choices, but from there it gets tricky and you can make a case for a ton of players being deserving of preseason all-conference honors. On defense, the Big 12's ballot provides flexibility with DL, LB and DB as the three position categories, but I still tried to put together a unit with true defensive tackles and safeties. When in doubt, I went by 2013 production. How well these guys would all fit together on a playing field, who knows? But there's plenty of star power and proven talent in this lineup.

JAKE TROTTER'S BALLOT

Offense

WR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

TE: E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State

OL: Spencer Drango, Baylor

OL: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech

C: B.J. Finney, Kansas State

OL: Quinton Spain, West Virginia

OL: Cody Whitehair, Kansas State

WR: Antwan Goodley, Baylor

QB: Bryce Petty, Baylor

RB: Johnathan Gray, Texas

RB: Keith Ford, Oklahoma

PK: Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma

PR: Daje Johnson, Texas

Defense

DL: Devonte Fields, TCU

DL: Chucky Hunter, TCU

DL: Malcom Brown, Texas

DL: Shawn Oakman, Baylor

LB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma

LB: Ben Heeney, Kansas

LB: Bryce Hager, Baylor

DB: Daryl Worley, West Virginia

DB: Kevin White, TCU

DB: Sam Carter, TCU

DB: Quandre Diggs, Texas

P: Nick O'Toole, West Virginia

KR: Corey Coleman, Baylor

Player of the Year Awards

Offensive Player of the Year: Bryce Petty, Baylor

Defensive Player of the Year: Devonte Fields, TCU

Newcomer of the Year: Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State

Quick explainer: The official Big 12 ballot doesn't differentiate between offensive tackles and guards, defensive tackles and ends and cornerbacks and safeties. But like Max, I still tried to keep position integrity, which made putting this ballot together significantly more difficult. But unlike Max and Brandon, I attempted to project out this year's all-conference team instead of leaning on rehashing last year's, which is why Worley, Oakman and Ford made my preseason team over more conventional selections like Sanchez, Mueller and Linwood. Those three gambles could make me look incredibly smart at the end of the year -- or incredibly dumb. Time will tell.
Week 13 features some interesting matchups but no clear game of the week.

For the past few weeks, we've taken a closer look at the 2014 Big 12 schedule during our Big 12's Ultimate Road Trip series. This week, we'll wrap up the series with the final stretch of the regular season.

To those unfamiliar with this series, we both pick a game featuring a Big 12 team in every week of the season that we’d cover if the travel budget were unlimited and there were no editors telling us where to go.

We’ll be basing our choices on several factors, including the quality of the matchup and the stakes that could be involved. The only restriction is that each of us can pick only one game per week.

Let’s continue with Week 13.

Nov. 20-22

Kansas State at West Virginia
Oklahoma State at Baylor
Kansas at Oklahoma
Texas Tech at Iowa State

Jake Trotter’s pick: Kansas State at West Virginia

Two years ago at West Virginia, Kansas State proved it was a Big 12 title contender while the Mountaineers showed they were just a pretender. Ever since, these two programs have been going in opposite directions.

This is almost a must-win for West Virginia if it wants to get back to a bowl game, and a must-win for Dana Holgorsen if he wants to show athletic director Oliver Luck he has the Mountaineers back on track. West Virginia has talent in the backfield and at wide receiver, and the defense could be sneaky good under the Tony Gibson/Tom Bradley regime. But the Mountaineers better hope a quarterback has emerged (Clint Trickett? Paul Millard? Skyler Howard? William Crest? Logan Moore?) well before this game comes around.

K-State has an open date before and after this trip to West Virginia, which bodes well. When Bill Snyder has time to prepare, the Wildcats can be tough to beat (just ask Michigan). If K-State can escape Morgantown, that season finale at Baylor could loom large.

You won’t find a prettier drive than the one along the country roads from Pittsburgh to Morgantown. I can’t wait to make it again.

Brandon Chatmon’s pick: Kansas State at West Virginia

A Thursday night game in Morgantown, W. Va.? Yes, please.

Both teams have a bye week before this weekday matchup, meaning the bumps and bruises of the season could have time to heal. This allows both coaching staffs, which feature some of the conference’s most creative minds, some time to come up with new wrinkles for each other as well.

If the Mountaineers’ quarterback situation is not settled by this point, I have little hope for a great game. If it is, I expect a great game. WVU could be fighting for a bowl appearance, and K-State could be fighting for quite a bit more.

To top it off, a potential matchup between WVU cornerback Daryl Worley, who I think is poised for a breakout sophomore season, and KSU receiver Tyler Lockett, who I think is the Big 12’s most dynamic receiver, is enough to make a trip to Milan Puskar.

A great environment, great individual matchups and two hungry teams make this the game of the week.

Previous weeks:

Week 1: Trotter -- SMU at Baylor; Chatmon -- West Virginia vs. Alabama (in Atlanta)

Week 2: Trotter -- Kansas State at Iowa State; Chatmon -- Kansas State at Iowa State

Week 3: Trotter -- Texas vs. UCLA (in Arlington); Chatmon -- Tennessee at Oklahoma

Week 4: Trotter -- Auburn at Kansas State; Chatmon -- Auburn at Kansas State

Week 5: Trotter -- Texas Tech at Oklahoma State; Chatmon -- Baylor at Iowa State

Week 6: Trotter -- Baylor at Texas; Chatmon -- Baylor at Texas

Week 7: Trotter -- Texas vs. Oklahoma; Chatmon -- TCU at Baylor

Week 8: Trotter -- Kansas State at Oklahoma; Chatmon -- Oklahoma State at TCU

Week 9: Trotter -- Texas Tech at TCU; Chatmon -- Texas at Kansas State

Week 10: Trotter -- Texas at Texas Tech; Chatmon -- TCU at West Virginia

Week 11: Trotter -- Baylor at Oklahoma; Chatmon -- Baylor at Oklahoma

Week 12: Trotter -- Oklahoma at Texas Tech; Chatmon -- Texas at Oklahoma State
The college football offseason is way too long. But we’re here to help with your suffering. With spring ball done and gone and the season still months away, we’re giving you a taste of the 2014 season, with the long-awaited Big 12 Ultimate Road Trip series.

To those unfamiliar with this series, we both pick a game featuring a Big 12 team in every week of the season that we’d cover if the travel budget was unlimited and there were no editors telling us where to go.

We’ll be basing our choices on a number of factors, including the quality of the matchup and the stakes that could be involved. The only restriction is that both of us can only pick one game per week.

Let's begin with Week 1.

Here's the schedule:

Aug. 30-31

Central Arkansas at Texas Tech
Stephen F. Austin at Kansas State
North Dakota State at Iowa State
North Texas at Texas
Louisiana Tech at Oklahoma
Samford at TCU
West Virginia vs. Alabama (Atlanta)
Oklahoma State vs. Florida State (Arlington, Texas)
SMU at Baylor

Jake Trotter’s pick: SMU at Baylor

It was tempting to go with either Florida State-Oklahoma State or West Virginia-Alabama. But with both Big 12 teams being heavy underdogs in those games, I settled on seeing the debut of the Jewel of the Brazos.

The $266 million McLane Stadium could be a game-changer for Baylor, which has had to overcome playing in (and recruiting to) an archaic, off-campus Floyd Casey Stadium. Now, Baylor will be armed with one of the finest stadiums in the entire Big 12, with the individuality of being located along the Brazos River. If only I can hook up with a “sailgate” party before heading up to the press box.

The opportunity to check out the defending Big 12 champs is another reason to head to Waco on Week 1.

We all know about quarterback Bryce Petty and wideout Antwan Goodley. But I’m intrigued to see Baylor’s array of young talent in person, including running back Johnny Jefferson, receivers Corey Coleman, K.D. Cannon and defensive tackle Andrew Billings.

Plus, since the Baylor-SMU game is on a Sunday, I’ll be able to watch the entire opening Saturday of college football -- including Florida State-Oklahoma State and West Virginia-Alabama -- on the tube.

Brandon Chatmon’s pick: West Virginia vs. Alabama (Atlanta)

I strongly considered a trip to Arlington, Texas, to check out Florida State-Oklahoma State but instead a trip to The ATL gets the nod.

Dana Holgorsen vs. Nick Saban? Sign me up.

Seeing how Holgorsen’s squad opens the season against a Crimson Tide team looking send a message after a surprising Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma is an intriguing prospect. It’s the Mountaineers first chance to state their intent to force themselves into the Big 12 title conversation against a team that has been in the national title race for the past few seasons.

The amount of talent on the field at the Georgia Dome will be astronomical with Alabama’s roster full of NFL talent and West Virginia’s group of young, yet talented playmakers.

Running backs Wendell Smallwood and Dreamius Smith should be fun to watch, while cornerback Daryl Worley and safety Karl Joseph could make highlight plays in the secondary. And the Mountaineers have a class full of potential impact newcomers who could see the field for the first time.

The Mountaineers have the skill position talent to hold their own against the Crimson Tide, but their offensive and defensive lines will decide their success. I won’t be heading to this game expecting an upset but, if the Mountaineers find a quarterback, stranger things have happened.

While Trotter heads to Waco, Texas, I’d gladly be Georgia-bound as the combination of talent, upset potential and coaching storylines make this is the marquee game in the Big 12 during opening weekend.
Two weeks ago, we ranked every team in the Big 12 position-by-position coming out of the spring. Putting that together, we’ve ranked the overall league position-by-position. In other words, what is the league’s strongest position? What is its weakest?

[+] EnlargeCedric Reed
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesCedric Reed will anchor Texas' defensive line.
In 2013, there’s no doubt the strength of the league was in the defensive backfield. Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert and TCU cornerback Jason Verrett were the league’s two first-round picks. Safety Ahmad Dixon earned All-American honors and Texas cornerback Carrington Byndom, West Virginia safety Darwin Cook, Kansas State safety Ty Zimmerman and Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin were longtime stalwarts in their defensive backfields.

Here’s how the positions of the league rank going into 2014:

1. Defensive line: This was easily the most difficult position to rank by team, as line figures to be the defensive strength of TCU, Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. The Horned Frogs had the league’s best run defense last season, and on top of returning basically the entire unit, will be adding back 2012 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Devonte Fields. The Sooners are also loaded, led by All-Big 12-caliber ends Geneo Grissom and Charles Tapper and tackle Jordan Phillips, and the could also go three-deep across the board next year. The Longhorns have two potential first-round picks up front in tackle Malcom Brown and end Cedric Reed. And Baylor coach Art Briles is already on record stating his D-line could go toe-to-toe with any in the country. Collectively, this should be the best the conference has been at the position since Gerald McCoy and Ndamukong Suh roamed the middle five years ago.

2. Wide receiver: The league has two superstars at receiver in Baylor’s Antwan Goodley and Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett, who have the résumés to garner preseason All-American consideration. But they aren’t the only prolific playmakers here. Texas Tech’s Jakeem Grant, Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard, Iowa State’s Quenton Bundrage, Oklahoma State’s Jhajuan Seales and Texas’ Jaxon Shipley are all capable of 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Baylor might feature the best receiving corps in the country, Oklahoma State is a solid nine deep and West Virginia returns its entire starting lineup from last season. Even Kansas has the nation’s second-leading receiver from 2011 in Miami (Ohio) transfer Nick Harwell. Assuming the league’s quarterbacks can get them the ball, this could be another banner year for the Big 12’s pass-catchers.

3. Linebacker: Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, Kansas and TCU return virtually their entire linebacker units from last year. And from Texas Tech’s Pete Robertson and Kansas State’s Jonathan Truman to Baylor’s Bryce Hager and Oklahoma State’s Ryan Simmons, the rest of the league basically has at least one proven linebacker coming back, too.

4. Offensive line: The strength of the Big 12's offensive lines resides in experienced centers and talented tackles. Kansas State’s BJ Finney, Texas’ Dominic Espinosa and Iowa State’s Tom Farniok are all four-year starters with a combined 113 career starts. At tackle, Baylor’s Spencer Drango, Texas Tech’s Le’Raven Clark and Oklahoma’s Daryl Williams have NFL futures. The league also boasts three other very stout and versatile players up front in Kansas State’s Cody Whitehair, West Virginia’s Quinton Spain and Oklahoma State’s Daniel Koenig, all three of which can man either guard or tackle.

[+] EnlargeDavis Webb
Donald Miralle/Getty ImagesDavis Webb seems like one of the few sure things at QB in the Big 12.
5. Quarterback: The Big 12 has one Heisman candidate in Baylor’s Bryce Petty, a proven performer in Kansas State’s Jake Waters and two budding stars in Texas Tech’s Davis Webb and Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight. The rest of the league is a big fat unknown at the game’s most-critical position. But if Oklahoma State’s J.W. Walsh and Texas’ David Ash regain their forms from two seasons ago, Iowa State’s Grant Rohach builds off his strong 2013 finish, Clint Trickett can stay upright at West Virginia, and transfer Matt Joeckel and sophomore Montell Cozart prove to be the answers at TCU and Kansas, the Big 12 could be on the way back to becoming the preeminent conference for quarterbacking once again.

6. Running back: Half the teams lost their leading rushers from last season, and that doesn’t include Texas Tech’s Kenny Williams switching positions to linebacker. The Longhorns pose a potentially devastating one-two punch in Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray, and the Mountaineers could go five-deep with Dreamius Smith, Wendell Smallwood, Rushel Shell, Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie. But the rest of the league will be leaning on potential more than past performance. That said, there is a lot to like in Baylor’s Shock Linwood, Iowa State’s Aaron Wimberly, TCU’s B.J. Catalon, Oklahoma State’s Tyreek Hill and Oklahoma’s Keith Ford.

7. Defensive back: With Gilbert, Verrett, Dixon, Colvin, Zimmerman, Cook and Byndom all gone, this position took a major attrition hit. Thanks to Sam Carter, Chris Hackett and Kevin White, TCU remains well stocked in its secondary. Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas have veterans back, too. Everywhere else, there is rebuilding to be done. But the next wave of secondary stars appears to be on its way. Cornerbacks Nigel Tribune (Iowa State), Justis Nelson (Texas Tech) and Daryl Worley (West Virginia) all started as true freshmen. So did Oklahoma State corner Kevin Peterson and West Virginia safety Karl Joseph, who are now both juniors. It might not be long before defensive back is a strength of the league again like it was last season.
Earlier Thursday, we concluded our 22-round draft of current Big 12 players. Below are the three lineup outcomes of that draft, and as you can see, each of us went in different directions.

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Like the St. Louis Rams, Max and Brandon built up their defensive lines before worrying about the rest of their rosters. While I grabbed the best quarterback in the league and surrounded him with protection and weapons.

After each lineup, read our final takes on our teams. Then, decide who drafted best in the weekly Big 12 poll.

BRANDON CHATMON’S TEAM

OFFENSE
DEFENSE
What Brandon says about his team: “Offensively, as soon as Petty was gone with the first pick I knew I wouldn’t take a quarterback until my final pick. Knight could be the steal of the draft. Versatility is the name of the game with the rest of the offense. We can put Pierson and Smallwood in the backfield and go read option or really ruin your Saturday and throw Daje back there in the Diamond. When you bring more guys in the box, you leave Seales and Lockett one-on-one. Or we can just go five wide and you can try to cover running backs who run routes like receivers with your linebackers. And an experienced offensive line will be the foundation of it all. Defensively, it would be wise for opposing quarterbacks to tell their families to stay home when facing this group. We’re going to man up and have our mail forwarded to the opposing backfield and make you want to take your ball and go home. And with a secondary full of coverage guys, I’m not concerned about the back end of the defense holding up. We’ll win more battles than we lose. By the final whistle, my team will have earned the moniker 'Chatmon’s chaos creators' with Tapper, Reed, Brown, Hunter, Alexander and Robertson living in your backfield.”

MAX OLSON'S TEAM

OFFENSE
DEFENSE
What Max says about his team: “You do not want to play against my team. That was my goal going in, and I constructed exactly the team I wanted. I have a great QB in Webb who gets to throw to Goodley, one of the nation's best receivers, and he'd help Jaxon Shipley put up Jordan Shipley numbers. I have the two-back punch of Linwood and Gray. I have Hill, who can do everything, and a good line. We're going to spread the ball around like crazy. Good luck stopping that. On defense, you have Fields, Oakman and Grissom all rushing the passer. That's deadly. We can go three-man fronts or even put Oakman in the middle, letting the 6-foot-8 stud swat your passes down. And while you're worrying about him and Grissom, you have the Big 12's best defensive player [Fields] coming after you. Hager and Shannon will hold it down at the second level, and the secondary is full of playmakers. This is a fun team, plain and simple, and one that can frustrate the heck out of anybody.”

JAKE TROTTER’S TEAM

OFFENSE
DEFENSE
What Jake says about his team: “Max and Brandon are good at talking smack. I’ll give them that. But my players do their talking on the field. Once I was fortunate to land reigning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year Bryce Petty as my quarterback, my goal was two-fold: to keep him upright from pressure off the edge; and, to surround him with firepower. I accomplished both ends, and then some. I wasn’t able to get either of the two elite receivers in the league in Goodley or Lockett. But I put together the best overall receiving corps in Grant, Shepard and Bundrage, who could all deliver 1,000-yard receiving seasons in 2014. On top of that, I snagged the best pass-catching tight end on the board in Bibbs, as well as Brown, so that we can pound the ball between the tackles when we need. Speaking of tackles, aware that Brandon and Max were focused almost solely on their pass rush in the early rounds, I also added two of the most reliable pass-protecting bookends in the league in Drango and Williams. Defensively, I can bring pressure, too, with Mueller and Striker, who last season respectively placed second and fourth in the Big 12 in sacks. Castleman and Britz are roadblocks, Heeney and Dawson are tackle machines and my entire secondary has All-Big 12 potential. We don’t talk. We just dominate.”
Following up on NFL draft weekend, we’ve been conducting our own draft, picking from current Big 12 players to fill out three 22-man lineups.

Below is a recap of the first 15 rounds of the draft from the past two days, followed by rounds 16-22.

As another reminder, this is NOT a Top 25 player ranking. It’s only an exercise in determining where the value of the league lies, and the different strategies to putting a team together from the league’s present talent pool.

Jake Trotter:
Brandon Chatmon:
Max Olson:
Round 16

  • Olson: WR/RB Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State
  • Chatmon: OLB Pete Robertson, Texas Tech
  • Trotter: OLB Brandon Golson, West Virginia
  • Analysis: "To combat the offensive attacks I would face in the Big 12, I'm going with a 3-4 on defense. Golson, who led the Big 12 in forced fumbles last season, is another playmaking outside linebacker who would fit in nicely in this scheme opposite Striker." -- Trotter
[+] EnlargeJohnathan Gray, Tanner Jacobson
AP Photo/Eric GayGetting potential Big 12 rushing leader Johnathan Gray in the 17th round could be a big steal for Max Olson.
Round 17

  • Trotter: LB Paul Dawson, TCU
  • Chatmon: C Dominic Espinosa, Texas
  • Olson: RB Johnathan Gray, Texas
  • Analysis: “I ended up getting a potential All-Big 12 running back in the 17th round. So I feel pretty good about that. Gray should be healthy for the opener, and he leads all returning Big 12 rushers with 86 rushing yards per game last season." -- Olson
Round 18

  • Olson: OT Troy Baker, Baylor
  • Chatmon: SS Quentin Hayes, Oklahoma
  • Trotter: OG Mark Glowinski, West Virginia
  • Analysis: "I wanted a safety who is comfortable in holding his own in coverage, while also having the ability to make plays all over the field. Hayes is the guy. With Worley, Shepherd, White, Barnett and Hayes in the secondary, I can unleash the rest of my defense on the quarterback and feel comfortable about my secondary holding its own against anyone." -- Chatmon
Round 19

  • Trotter: OG Nila Kasitati, Oklahoma
  • Chatmon: WR Tony Pierson, Kansas
  • Olson: SS Terrell Burt, Baylor
  • Analysis: "With Max and Brandon hoarding centers, I needed to attack the interior of my offensive line. Kasitati can excel manning either guard or center, and Glowinski is one of the league’s top returning guards." -- Trotter
Round 20

  • Olson: OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, TCU
  • Chatmon: WR Jhajuan Seales, Oklahoma State
  • Trotter: WR Quenton Bundrage, Iowa State
  • Analysis: "The guys I wanted for my second guard spot weren't available at this round, so I'm going with the mammoth "Big V" Vaitai (6-foot-6, 308 pounds) and moving one of my other tackle selections inside. I ended up with a fairly good offensive line, which was pretty much my plan going in." -- Olson
Round 21

  • Trotter: CB Nigel Tribune, Iowa State
  • Chatmon: WR Wendell Smallwood, West Virginia
  • Olson: LB Nick Kwiatkoski, West Virginia
  • Analysis: “I picked up Bundrage in the previous round to seal up what I feel is the best all-around receiving corps, even if I didn’t get Goodley or Lockett. Tribune, the only true freshman to play for Iowa State in the past two seasons, is a corner with a ton of upside and, paired with Kevin Peterson, should provide me plenty of tenaciousness against the pass.” -- Trotter
Round 22

  • Olson: WR Jaxon Shipley, Texas
  • Chatmon: QB Trevor Knight, Oklahoma
  • Trotter: C Jared Kaster, Texas Tech
  • Analysis: “I just got the steal of the draft, and I knew I would wait until the final round to do so. As soon as Jake snapped up Petty, I knew I would be content with Davis Webb or Trevor Knight and wouldn’t draft a quarterback until the final round. The fact that Max opted for Webb made things even better for me as Knight has the versatility to run a run-heavy offense or spread things out and use his arm. He fits perfectly with the versatility I was striving for with each pick.” -- Chatmon

Imaginary Big 12 players draft, Part I

May, 13, 2014
May 13
9:15
AM ET
The NFL draft came and went it, but we thought it would be fun -- and possibly revealing -- to conduct a draft of our own of returning Big 12 players. We stole a version of this idea from our colleagues at the ACC blog, who apparently had stolen it before that from the guys over at the Big Ten site.

Anyway, the rules are fairly simple. All players currently on a Big 12 roster are eligible. No departing seniors or early entrees to the draft. No incoming freshmen or jucos scheduled to arrive in the summer. The premise is to fill out a 22-man lineup.

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsBryce Petty accounted for 46 touchdowns last season.
As you’ll be able to see, the strengths of the league quickly begin to manifest (last year it was cornerback; guess where it is this year) as a run on a certain position ignites early. You’ll also be able to see the positions that got put off for later, seemingly due to a lack of high impact relative to other positions, or to an indiscernible difference between players of the same position (just like with the NFL draft, where are the running backs?).

Keep in mind, this is NOT a top-25 player ranking. It’s only an exercise in determining where the value of the league is, and the different ways of putting together teams from the current pool of players.

Rounds 1-7 are below. We’ll pick up with Round 8 on Wednesday.

Round 1

Jake Trotter: QB Bryce Petty, Baylor

Brandon Chatmon: WR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

Max Olson: DE Devonte Fields, TCU

Analysis: "There's really no wrong answer when it comes to choosing one of the Big 12's elite defensive ends. Went with Fields because reports of his comeback this spring were consistently encouraging and we know he has All-America potential." -- Olson

Round 2

Olson: WR Antwan Goodley, Baylor

Chatmon: DE Charles Tapper, Oklahoma

Trotter: LT Spencer Drango, Baylor

Analysis: "In the first round, I got the league's top returning QB. With plenty of WRs still on the board, and Brandon and Max going all in on their pass rush, I went ahead and snagged the league's top pass-blocking tackle to protect Petty's blindside. Let's just hope that back is 100 percent by August." -- Trotter

Round 3

Trotter: OLB Eric Striker, Oklahoma

Chatmon: DE Cedric Reed, Texas

Olson: DE Shawn Oakman, Baylor

Analysis: “After securing a big play receiver and returner, I’m looking to create pressure on the quarterback. Tapper and Reed should help get it done. Both guys have the ability to win their individual battles consistently, yet haven’t maxed out their potential either. A solid 1-2 punch to build my defense around.” -- Chatmon

Round 4

Olson: QB Davis Webb, Texas Tech

Chatmon: LT Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech

Trotter: DE Ryan Mueller, Kansas State

Analysis: "Did I reach for my quarterback here? You could make the argument, especially if you're a Trevor Knight lover. But Webb is precisely the kind of quarterback I wanted to run my offense. He has a ton of poise and confidence for a sophomore." -- Olson

Round 5

[+] EnlargeDevonte Fields
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsDevonte Fields' comeback this spring has been impressive.
Trotter: RT Daryl Williams, Oklahoma

Chatmon: DT Malcom Brown, Texas

Olson: LB Frank Shannon, Oklahoma

Analysis: "Really wanted Brown here to complete a monster defensive line. Good job, BC. Instead I went with Shannon, who's probably the best of the available linebackers (though this is a risk pick with his status currently in limbo). This defense is going to be loaded at every level. You'll see." -- Olson

Round 6

Olson: CB Quandre Diggs, Texas

Chatmon: DT Chucky Hunter, TCU

Trotter: WR Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech

Analysis: “I’m loading up on defensive lineman. I want to create havoc for any quarterback who steps on the field against Brown, Hunter, Tapper and Reed. I like creating nightmares.” -- Chatmon

Round 7

Trotter: WR Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma

Chatmon: CB Daryl Worley, West Virginia

Olson: SS Sam Carter, TCU

Analysis: "In Grant and Shepard, I snatched up two of the league's budding stars at receiver for Petty. I'll have to come back and get some bigger receivers later. But good luck blitzing Petty against this offensive line with those two dynamos operating out of either slot.” -- Trotter
With spring ball done, we’ve been re-examining and re-ranking the positional situations of every Big 12 team. Wednesday, we finish up with defensive backs. Once again, these outlooks could look different in August. But this is how we see them post-spring:

1. TCU (pre-spring ranking: 1): Juco safety Kenny Iloka was one of the storylines of the spring in Fort Worth, augmenting an already loaded secondary. In TCU’s spring game, Iloka scored a touchdown off a fumble return and picked off a pass, underscoring pretty much how he performed all spring. Iloka could probably start for the majority of teams in the Big 12. At TCU, he’s a backup. Coach Gary Patterson seemingly praised Ranthony Texada more than anyone else on his roster this spring, and the redshirt freshman cornerback looks poised to step into the starting role vacated by All-American Jason Verrett. At 5-foot-9, Texada isn’t big. Then again, neither was Verrett. Safeties Sam Carter and Chris Hackett and cornerback Kevin White could play for anyone in the conference. In other words, this TCU secondary is stacked.

2. Texas (2): Texas is one of the few teams in the Big 12 without really any position battle in its secondary coming out of the spring. Senior safeties Mykkele Thompson and Josh Turner have been up and down throughout their careers, but they really buttoned up their play in the spring. Thompson delivered a pick-six in the Orange-White game. Turner had the hit of the day and intercepted a pass. At cornerback, Quandre Diggs isn’t an All-American, but he’s developed into a solid veteran leader. Duke Thomas can really run at the other cornerback spot. This is a sound group.

3. Oklahoma (3): The Sooners return two proven players in cornerback Zack Sanchez and nickel back Julian Wilson. Sanchez was erratic at times last season, but he displayed mental toughness and usually came back with big plays of his own after getting burned. Wilson will be a three-year starter. Safety Quentin Hayes had a decent junior season, too. After that, things get murky, and that’s not necessarily a negative. Dakota Austin, who was an unheralded two-star signee last year, is probably the favorite coming out of the spring to start at cornerback opposite Sanchez and over more heralded classmate Stanvon Taylor. Sophomores Ahmad Thomas and Hatari Byrd are both talented young safeties, but they have yet to prove they’re every-down players. Steven Parker II will be the player to watch here. Insiders in Norman believe the incoming true freshman has the talent and the temperament to win a starting job by the opener the way Tony Jefferson did in 2010. If he does, that will allow coordinator Mike Stoops to utilize Byrd and Thomas in certain sub-packages where the scheme will be more simplified.

4. Kansas State (4): K-State already boasts one of the best nickel backs in the league in Randall Evans and an up-and-coming safety in Dante Barnett. The Wildcats had a productive spring elsewhere in their secondary, as Morgan Burns stepped up to essentially nail down a starting job at corner. Coveted juco transfer Danzel McDaniel progressed after arriving on campus and exited spring ball on the cusp of earning the other starting cornerback gig. Dylan Schellenberg, who started the two games Ty Zimmerman missed last season, will go into the fall as the favorite to start at safety alongside Barnett.

5. West Virginia (5): The Mountaineers might have the best underclassman cornerback in the league in sophomore Daryl Worley, who locked up Mario Alford in West Virginia’s spring game. Worley was fabulous all spring, and he brings a maturity and attitude that defies his age. Like Worley, Karl Joseph started as a true freshman, and he could be on the verge of turning into one of the best safeties in the Big 12 as a junior. It will be interesting to see if incoming blue-chip freshman Dravon Henry can break into the rotation at cornerback, which would only make this secondary better.

6. Kansas (6): Senior cornerback Dexter McDonald put in the work during the offseason, and it showed in Kansas’ spring game. He's become a technically-sound player. Fellow cornerback Kevin Short, a juco transfer forced by the NCAA to sit out last season, can fly. Safety Isaiah Johnson, who became the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year after picking off five passes last season, had another pick in the spring game. With four starters back from last fall, plus the addition of Short, Kansas’ secondary will be the team's strength next season.

7. Oklahoma State (7): The emergence of Ashton Lampkin was a positive development for the Cowboys. Lampkin had a pick-six in the “Orange Blitz” scrimmage, and after two seasons as a key backup, looks ready to take over as a starting cornerback opposite All-Big 12 hopeful Kevin Peterson. The Cowboys are completely inexperienced at safety, with second-year players Jordan Sterns, Deric Robertson, Jerel Morrow and Tre Flowers basically comprising the position. Only time will determine how effective the Cowboys can be at the back end.

8. Texas Tech (8): The Red Raiders have to feel good about their safeties coming out of the spring. Keenon Ward was the defensive MVP and brought the hammer all spring. J.J. Gaines will soon be completely back from a season-ending shoulder injury. He played extremely well through five games last season. Justis Nelson is oozing confidence after earning a starting job as a true freshman last fall. The biggest question is at the other cornerback spot. Sophomore La’Darius Newbold is currently the starter, but speedy true freshman Nigel Bethel II could make noise once he arrives this summer.

9. Baylor (9): The rebuild of a secondary that graduated four starters remains a work in progress. Sophomore Orion Stewart had the best spring of the young players and looks primed to take over the deep safety role held by All-American Ahmad Dixon. Sophomore cornerbacks Terrence Singleton and Xavien Howard also won starting jobs, but they’ll have to fend off juco transfer Chris Sanders in the preseason. Walk-on senior Collin Brence was the surprise of the spring and is listed as the starter at nickelback. This a group, though, that still has more questions to answer.

10: Iowa State (10): Nigel Tribune, who was the only true freshman to play at Iowa State in the past two seasons, is one of the best young cornerbacks in the league and a cornerstone defender for the Cyclones. The rest of the secondary is a big fat unknown. Juco transfer Devron Moore, whom Iowa State beat TCU, Texas Tech and West Virginia for, left school in the middle of spring ball with homesickness. He is dubious to return. That leaves juco transfer Qujuan Floyd, redshirt freshman Kamari Cotton-Moya and T.J. Mutcherson, who suffered an MCL injury in the spring game (he should be back in June), as Iowa State’s only remaining options at safety.
Over the next two weeks, we’ll be analyzing the depth charts of every Big 12 team coming out of the spring. West Virginia released its depth chart after the spring but not every question was answered during the 15 practices as the Mountaineers have several position battles, including quarterback, that will last into August.

OFFENSE (starters in bold)

QB: Clint Trickett (Sr.), Logan Moore (Sr.) or Paul Millard (Sr.) or Skyler Howard (Jr.)

Trickett missed the spring with an injury yet emerged atop the depth chart. It’s fair to say the Mountaineers still have issues at quarterback. Coach Dana Holgorsen is confident his team will see someone step up. Regardless, the competition should last into August and incoming freshman William Crest will enter the mix this summer.

[+] EnlargeDreamius Smith
Dan Friend/USA TODAY SportsDreamius Smith leads a deep group of running backs.
RB: Dreamius Smith (Sr.), Wendell Smallwood (So.), Rushel Shell (So.), Dustin Garrison (Jr.), Andrew Buie (Jr.)
FB/TE: Cody Clay (Jr.), Elijah Wellman (RFr.)

Arguably the deepest position group in the entire Big 12. The Mountaineers go five deep with running backs who could be featured backs on several teams in the league and they will add four-star signee Donte Thomas-Williams into the competition this summer. Expect WVU to use its running backs together at times this fall. At fullback, Clay is underrated and could be a valuable weapon.

WR (X): Mario Alford (Sr.), Devonte Mathis (So.), Shelton Gibson (RFr.)
IR (H): Daikiel Shorts (So.), Jacky Marcellus (RFr.)
R (Y): Jordan Thompson (Jr.), Vernon Davis (So.)
WR (Z): Kevin White (Sr.), Kj Myers (Jr.), Ricky Rogers (Fr.)

WVU has athletes and playmakers at receiver, they just need a consistent quarterback to get those guys involved. There’s no Tavon Austin or Stedman Bailey -- proven all-conference performers -- but Shorts has terrific upside and Alford came on at the end of the 2013 campaign. This is a solid group that will make plays if the quarterback situation sorts itself out.

LT: Adam Pankey (So.), Sylvester Townes (Jr.)
LG: Quinton Spain (Sr.), Russell Haughton-James (Jr.)
C: Tyler Orlosky (So.), Tony Matteo (So.)
RG: Mark Glowinski (Sr.), Stone Underwood (Jr.)
RT: Marquis Lucas (Jr.), Michael Calicchio (Sr.)

Spain is a great place to start at guard but the Mountaineers need this unit to improve if they hope to return to a bowl game this fall. Inexperience is a major concern with Pankey, Lucas and Orlosky moving into the starting lineup with seven combined career starts.

DEFENSE

DE: Dontrill Hyman (Sr.), Noble Nwachukwu (So.)
NT: Kyle Rose (Jr.), Darrien Howard (So.)
DE: Christian Brown (So.), Eric Kinsey (Jr.)

Will Clarke and Shaq Rowell are going to be extremely tough to replace. Rose moves inside to fill the void left by Rowell and should be solid in the middle but the new starters alongside him will have play well if the Mountaineers hope to improve on their 33.3 points allowed and 455 yards allowed per game in 2013. Brown returns from a foot injury a year ago and has the potential to be a force as early as this season. This unit has a ways to go if it hopes to find a place among the Big 12’s top defensive line units.

SAM: Isaiah Bruce (Jr.), Edward Muldrow (Jr.)
MIKE: Nick Kwiatkoski (Jr.), Al-Rasheed Benton (RFr.)
WILL: Brandon Golson (Sr.), Sean Walters (So.)

Bruce has made the move from the SPUR position to the SAM linebacker spot but should continue to be a key playmaker in WVU’s defense. Add Kwiakoski and Golson and the Mountaineers have one of the better linebacker groups in the Big 12.

RCB: Daryl Worley (So.), Keishawn Richardson (Jr.), Nana Kyeremeh (So.)
LCB: Ishmael Banks (Sr.), Terrell Chestnut (Jr.), Brandon Napoleon (So.)
FS: Jeremy Tyler (So.), Ricky Rumph (Jr.)
BS: Karl Joseph (Jr.), Jarrod Harper (So.)
SPUR: K.J. Dillon (Jr.), Malik Greaves (RFr.)

Don’t be surprised if Worley inserts his name among the Big 12’s top cornerbacks this fall, he’s that good. Tyler slides into the spot vacated by Darwin Cook and looks like a future playmaker in the secondary while Joseph and Banks have combined to start 39 games during their careers. It’s a good combination of youth and experience. WVU doesn’t have one of the Big 12’s top secondary units but it has the talent to rise to that level in 2014.
West Virginia capped its spring drills with the Gold-Blue game on Saturday. Here’s a recap of what happened:

Best offensive performance: The other quarterbacks had their moments, but veteran Paul Millard was the steadiest, completing 14 of 19 passes for 129 yards with no turnovers. Millard also threw a pair of 6-yard touchdown passes, the first to Kevin White, the second to Daikiel Shorts. The West Virginia quarterback derby is far from over. Junior-college transfer Skyler Howard is still grasping the offense and will only get more comfortable. Clint Trickett, the favorite to win the job, will be back shortly after undergoing offseason surgery. Hotshot freshman William Crest will also be joining the team in the summer. But after a shaky 2013 campaign, Millard has plenty to build off from his spring game performance.

Best defensive performance: By all accounts, cornerback Daryl Worley has been tremendous all spring, and Saturday was no different. As he has been in practice, Worley shut down wideout Mario Alford in the spring game, holding him to just two catches for 12 yards. “Daryl Worley has had a phenomenal spring,” coach Dana Holgorsen said. “Mario’s confidence is a little down right now because he has had to go against him so much.” With Justin Gilbert, Jason Verrett and Aaron Colvin all gone, Worley could be a contender to earn All-Big 12 honors in his sophomore season.

Best debut: Last year, Logan Moore toiled as a reserve walk-on wide receiver after transferring in from Fairmont State in 2012. But this spring, Moore was moved back to quarterback, the position he played at Fairmont, and in the spring game, he generated some buzz with his athleticism. Moore completed 10 of 21 attempts for 109 yards, and rushed the ball three times for 38 yards with all the quarterbacks stripped of their no-contact jerseys. Moore still remains a long shot to gain playing time in the fall. But he also turned some heads Saturday.

Notable play: Alford took the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown with a couple of gorgeous cutbacks. "I just saw an opening and took it," Alford said. "We have been working real hard this spring on hitting the gaps.” Alford’s return was a promising sign for the Mountaineers, who ranked last in the Big 12 last year in both kickoff and punt returns.

Developing storyline: West Virginia has long been known as a high-scoring program. But the Mountaineers have rapidly progressed defensively this spring under new coordinator Tony Gibson and first-year assistant Tom Bradley. The defense forced the offense to punt on the first four possessions and was assignment sound throughout the scrimmage. The linebacking corps is deep and experienced, Worley is turning into a star, and safeties K.J. Dillon and Karl Joseph are coming into their own. If the defensive line holds up, which remains the biggest question, the Mountaineers could field their best defense in years.

Biggest question answered: Who knows at this point how exactly carries will be divided among West Virginia’s running backs? But this has become clear -- the Mountaineers figure to feature the deepest stable of running backs in the Big 12. Finally healthy again, Dustin Garrison, West Virginia’s leading rusher all the way back in 2011, has enjoyed a renaissance this offseason and rushed for 47 yards in the spring game. Wendell Smallwood, who had 45 yards Saturday, gives the backfield a heavy dose of versatility. Rushel Shell ran for 37 yards in the spring game and has one of the highest ceilings of any back in the league. And none of the above includes Dreamius Smith, who sat out the spring game, but is the front-runner to start. The Mountaineers also welcomed back 2012 leading rusher Andrew Buie during the winter and will welcome in four-star freshman Donte Thomas-Williams in the summer. Don’t forget about Cody Clay, who is one of the best run-blocking fullbacks in the league. West Virginia still has several questions coming out of the spring. Running back depth is not one of them.

Quotable: “The first-team defense played excellent. Once we started taking those guys out, that’s when we started moving the ball a little bit. As a head coach, that’s what you want to see.” -- Holgorsen

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