Big 12: Denard Robinson

Welcome to the long, dark, cold world of the college football offseason. We aren't leaving for eight months.
Sports Illustrated's college football preview issue hits newsstands soon, but the magazine is once again going the regional cover route.

It released all five covers earlier today, and two Big 12 quarterbacks grabbed spots.

Oklahoma's Landry Jones grabbed one spot, with the headline "Deep Threat," which asks if Jones is the man to lead Oklahoma to a Big 12 title and beyond.

West Virginia's Geno Smith, the Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year, grabbed the other spot. His headline reads, "Air Raid," previewing his bombs away style of passing's debut on the bigger stage.

Good-looking crew. You can see all five covers here. USC's Matt Barkley, Michigan's Denard Robinson and Alabama's AJ McCarron filled out the five spots for quarterbacks on the cover. Check it out.

Mailbag: System QB, A&M doubt, upsets?

November, 18, 2011
11/18/11
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Thanks for all the questions this week. As always, send them here if you want to show up here next week.

Matt Walters in Dallas asked: Graham Harrell was labeled a "system quarterback" in 2008. Should players like Brandon Weeden and Case Keenum be given this label since they are in the exact same 'system'?

David Ubben: Here's the deal with the whole "system quarterback" knock: Most of the time, the criticism comes when quarterbacks don't make difficult throws and mostly rely on dink-and-dunk plays blocked downfield for big yardage. Anybody who watches Oklahoma State knows the Cowboys offense is nothing remotely of the sort. OSU throws it downfield plenty, and Weeden can make every throw. He's got a much bigger arm than Harrell or Keenum has, and OSU's offense shows it.

Also, Weeden is relied upon to make a lot of split-second decisions after the snap. OSU runs a number of plays that have the option to be a run or a pass, and he's the guy who has to read the defense and make the apt decision. I don't know if you've taken a look at OSU's offensive numbers lately, but it seems like he's done OK.

John Schultze in College Station, Texas, asked: After watching Von play at the next level, is Timmy D a great defensive mind? Or just a decent coordinator with an absolute freak on his side of the ball?

DU: It can't be both?

I had a chance to sit in on a lecture about the 3-4 that defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter gave to a couple hundred coaches at a coaching convention in January, and trust this: The guy knows his stuff. A&M's defense has fallen apart for a number of reasons, but DeRuyter's not the only one. You forget how bad this defense was in 2009, before DeRuyter arrived. It gave up about five more points a game than any other Big 12 team.

Former Aggies linebacker Von Miller is an unbelievable player who is having exactly as much success in the NFL as most of us thought he would, but DeRuyter's still a solid coordinator, and one of the best in the Big 12.

John in Ames, Iowa, asked: How big of a deal would it be if ISU pulled off the upset against Oklahoma State?

DU: Uh, the term "Poke Choke" comes to mind. Simply put, Iowa State doesn't have the necessary offense to win this game. Uncharacteristic mistakes like drops, turnovers or a weird night for Weeden is the only way Oklahoma State loses this game. Prepare for it, Iowa State fans. If the Cyclones win this, it's going to be about OSU.

John in Olathe, Kan., asked: What will it take for Collin Klein to be considered nationally as a legit QB talent? He is putting up ridiculous numbers in the nation's second best conference. On ESPN's Heisman Expert polling, there is no mention of his name. Do you think they will ignore him next year, too?

DU: It took a while for a couple reasons, most of which is he's not a big-play guy and he doesn't throw a pretty ball, which is sort of a prerequisite as a quarterback. You saw Taylor Martinez and Denard Robinson get Heisman hype last year because they made highlight runs and terrified defenses. Klein pushing the pile for a 3-yard touchdown run isn't exactly the stuff of legend.

Combine that with an underwhelming early-season schedule and it took a lot of folks (myself included) to realize what Klein really could be. Now, with K-State proving itself as a top 15-20 team or better, and Klein putting up some big-time numbers, he's gained attention. He'll definitely be a guy on Heisman watch lists next year.

Lee in Raleigh, N.C., asked: How can you say that the Texas defense is the best that Kansas St will face? The OU defense stiffled Kansas St (in Manhattan). I think the Wildcats will put up a lot more points on Texas, than they did on OU. And they'll do it in Austin.

DU: It might have something to do with that pesky rumor that Texas is giving up 47 fewer yards per game than any team in the Big 12 and more than 85 fewer than the Big 12's No. 3 team. Combine that with a ton of fantastic athletes at all three levels, and, well ... you get the point.

Kansas State might score a few more points on Texas, but that doesn't mean Texas' defense isn't better. The Longhorns D is legit.

Arnav in St. Louis asked: LSU couldn't score off of Alabama's defense, and if Alabama had had any passing attack whatsoever instead of having [Trent] Richardson try to run through 10 defenders, they might have scored a touchdown. Does OK State's passing juggernaut and pretty solid defense find a win there?

DU: I'm not ready to predict a win just yet, but I think it'd be close and a game that nears the 30s, probably something like 23-20 or 28-24. Could probably go either way. OSU's defense is better than I thought it was early in the year, and the offense isn't going to get totally shut down by any defense.

Mark in Corpus Christi, Texas, asked: BCS selection(s) aside. Which Big 12 team would you consider must watch out of the following. Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Baylor, Texas or Kansas State. List them in order of preference. Thanks.

DU: Give me OSU, Baylor, OU, K-State and then Texas. Oklahoma State's offensive athletes are a thing of beauty. The same's true of Baylor and Oklahoma, especially Robert Griffin III. He might be the most fun player to watch in the league. K-State and UT are doing it ugly.

Chris in Manhattan, Kan., asked: Everyone is saying K-State's offense isn't sexy. But Collin Klein is our offense, right? For the most part yes. Collin Klein is rugged, right? Yes. And being rugged is generally considered sexy, right? I think so. Therefore K-states offense is generally sexy when Klein is on the field.

DU: You just blew my mind.

Big 12 did you know: Week 11

November, 11, 2011
11/11/11
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Time for a few fun facts via various sports information departments around the Big 12 and ESPN Stats & Information.
  • Oklahoma in 2000 is the only team in BCS history to appear in the national championship game without a previous BCS appearance. Oklahoma State is in position to become the second.
  • Four Big 12 teams are bowl-eligible; four more are on the cusp with five wins. Missouri has four wins.
  • Kansas State's Collin Klein has 72 more net rushing yards than Michigan's Denard Robinson, though has played in one more game.
  • Kansas State has given up 1,095 passing yards and 110 points the last two weeks, both losses.
  • In its last two games, Texas has outrushed opponents by a combined yardage of 880-28.
  • Baylor's 697 yards of offense last week against Missouri was the most in school history.
  • In that game, quarterback Robert Griffin III broke his own record with 470 yards of offense. The record was set the previous week against Oklahoma State, with 452.
  • Oklahoma State is 1-9 in its past 10 trips to Lubbock.
  • Missouri's only victory over Texas since 1920 was in 1997, when Texas went 4-7 under John Mackovic.
  • Missouri running back Henry Josey has at least 129 yards in four consecutive games.
  • Josey's 13 runs of 20 yards or longer is the most among FBS running backs.
  • Texas first met Missouri back in 1894. That's also the first time Texas played Texas A&M.
  • Kansas State has four non-offensive touchdowns in four weeks.
  • Iowa State quarterback Jared Barnett is 2-0 as starter.
  • Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon has 10 touchdown catches in the red zone, the most of any receiver.
  • Oklahoma State is tied with LSU for No. 1 in the BCS computer rankings. Stanford is No. 8, according to the computers.
  • Oklahoma's crowd of 85,709 last week against Texas A&M was a school record.
  • Baylor receiver Kendall Wright has at least seven catches in nine consecutive games. With 29 more yards, he'll be the first 1,000-yard receiver in school history.
  • Ryan Broyles' 4,586 receiving yards is second-most in NCAA history.
  • Missouri has been outscored 43-0 in the third quarter of each of its four losses.
  • Last week's loss to Oklahoma was Texas A&M's first road defeat of the season.
  • Iowa State has at least 250 yards rushing in consecutive games for the first time since 2000.
  • Kansas lost to Iowa State 13-10 last week, but the 13 points were the fewest allowed by a Kansas defense since 2007.
  • The Jayhawks shut out ISU in the third quarter, the first time this season Kansas hasn't allowed any points in the third quarter.
  • Last week's 95 receiving yards were a career high for Texas Tech's Adam James.
  • Baylor is second nationally with more than 577 yards of offense per game. Kansas, its opponent Saturday, is last nationally, giving up more than 541.
  • Oklahoma State has nine wins in four consecutive seasons for the first time in school history.

K-State won't be getting a new QB

February, 9, 2011
2/09/11
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Michigan transfer Tate Forcier was scheduled to visit Kansas State this week, but he's made his choice of a new school, eliminating Kansas State from the race.

The former ESPNU 150 recruit, who started as a freshman in 2009 before ceding the job to Denard Robinson in 2010, will transfer to Miami.

"Miami had the best opportunity," Forcier, a native of San Diego, told ESPN. "There is so much positive energy around this program and I really want to be a part of it. I love these coaches and feel like they are the right guys for me. I had a great visit and I really want to be a part of the rebirth at Miami."

In 20 career games, Forcier threw for 2,647 yards with 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Kansas State is scheduled for a quarterback derby in the spring between newcomers Justin Tuggle and Daniel Sams, as well as last year's third-stringer, Sammuel Lamur. Part-time starter and last year's backup, Collin Klein, has reportedly been moved to receiver, where he played in 2009 as a freshman.

Last year's starter, Carson Coffman, has graduated.

Brandon Weeden a Manning Award finalist

November, 30, 2010
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Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden is the only Big 12 member of the list of 10 finalists for the Manning Award, given to the top quarterback in college football.

It's the only award voted on after the bowl games, and takes quarterbacks' bowl game performances into account.

Texas' Colt McCoy won the award last season.

Here's the full list of finalists:
That's a pretty stacked list. Baylor's Robert Griffin III and Oklahoma's Landry Jones are usually in the conversation for discussions like these, but I'm not sure either of those guys have an argument to be on this list over anyone who made it.

Big 12 Heisman Watch: Week 9

October, 26, 2010
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What miniscule Heisman hopes the Big 12 had took a huge hit with Oklahoma's loss. Not to discount what Blaine Gabbert is doing, because he's one of the biggest reasons Missouri is undefeated, but there are lots of other reasons, too, and Gabbert's slow start on the stat sheet will probably keep him from getting serious consideration.

So for now, here are the five players with the best chance to head to New York and win the Heisman.

1. Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State: Blackmon busted an 80-yard score on a flea flicker against one of the nation's best corners in Nebraska's Prince Amukamara, and finished with 157 yards and two touchdowns on five catches.

2. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska: Nebraska's defense hasn't been what it was last year, and without Martinez, the Huskers would have earned a second loss on Saturday against Oklahoma State. T-Magic set a school freshman record with 435 total yards, and threw five touchdowns passes. The Huskers would love for him to continue showing that kind of progression as a passer.

3. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor: Griffin has to be one of the favorites for the league's Offensive Player of the Year, and has the Bears on top of the Big 12 South. If he keeps it that way, and can help the Bears finish with 8-9 wins, you might see him in New York. He's a much, much better passer (Big 12 leader in passer rating) now than he's ever been, and just as good of a runner as he was a freshman.

4. Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri: Gabbert is making so, so few mistakes, and making lots of big plays, especially when it counts. He completed eight of his final nine passes against Oklahoma, and has completed 68 percent of his passes in his past two games. He's also got six touchdowns to no interceptions in conference play this year.

5. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma: Saturday was a rough night for Jones, who had his first multiple-interception game since the season opener, but he's still thrown 17 touchdowns and completing almost 67 percent of his passes, over eight percentage points higher than last season.

Here's my ballot for ESPN's Heisman Watch this week:

1. Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
2. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State
3. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon
4. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
5. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan

Benching Martinez a questionable move

October, 16, 2010
10/16/10
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Nebraska coach Bo Pelini called on Zac Lee late in the third quarter, benching Taylor Martinez, who has struggled running 13 times for 21 yards and completing 4-of-12 passes for 37 yards.

The Huskers trail, 20-3.

Staring at a 17-point deficit, Nebraska needs a big play. On offense, there might be no better player in America (more 20-plus yard runs than both LaMichael James and Denard Robinson) to provide that than Martinez.

The best guess here is that Pelini wants more consistency in the passing game, including looks for receiver Niles Paul, who got a deep ball from Lee on his first drive. In that case, the senior is the best option.

Against a Texas secondary full of experienced, NFL-caliber talent, that's not a great idea, either.

Granted, the best option is just to not fall behind 17 points to a defense like Texas', but Nebraska has already expended that luxury. Whether it comes from Martinez, Lee, Paul or the defense, Nebraska has to make something happen fast, or it will suffer yet another painful loss to the Longhorns.

Kansas State recruiting capsule

February, 5, 2009
2/05/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Kansas State

Recruits: 30

Breakdown: 23 high school, five junior college, two transfers.

Positions: 7 DB, 5 OL, 5 ATH, 3 TE, 3 LB, 3 DL, 1 QB, 1 RB , 1 WR, 1 K.

Where they came from: Oklahoma 6, Texas 5, Kansas 4, Florida 4, Georgia 2, Louisiana 2, California 1, Colorado 1, Illinois 1, Maryland 1, Mississippi 1, Missouri 1, Virginia 1.

The stud: RB Timothy Flanders, Midwest City, Okla. Elusive running back and receiving threat who should also see immediate playing time in the backfield and as a kick returner.

Recruiting-class sleeper: TE Travis Tannahill, Olathe, Kan. (East Olathe). Strong player who also punts and played quarterback in high school. Could blossom with the opportunity to concentrate on playing one position in college, where his size already makes him a viable prospect.

The one who got away: QB/ATH Denard Robinson, Deerfield Beach, Fla. Slightly built 180-pounder would have been an ideal run-pass threat at quarterback for Kansas State, particularly after the loss of Josh Freeman to the NFL draft. Instead, he chose to attend Michigan, where Rich Rodriguez visualizes him as the second coming of his former QB Pat White.

Needs addressed: Defensive back, offensive line.

Still lacking: Quarterback.

Scouts Inc. grade: C- (12th in the Big 12, sixth in North Division).

My take: So this is why Bill Snyder got back into football? The veteran coach struggled in his first recruiting foray, failing to attract much star power. Snyder mentioned several times this week that his first recruiting class since his return to coaching was similar to his first at the school in 1989. That's probably not a good sign, considering the Wildcats' early struggles when Snyder took over. The Wildcats desperately need  someone to emerge at quarterback, perhaps Daniel Thomas of Northwest Mississippi Junior College, a player who Snyder  compared to Michael Bishop.

KSU's bid for late playmakers comes up empty

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

Hoping to add some late punch to his offense, Kansas State coach Bill Snyder was still waiting Wednesday with hopes of attracting key recruits Denard Robinson and Raymond Cotton in a dramatic last-day recruiting bonanza.

Kansas State missed out on both recruits. Robinson, a 6-foot, 180-pounder, was lured to Michigan as coach Rich Rodriguez said he would have a chance to compete at the quarterback job for the Wolverines.

And Mississippi claimed one of several signing day victories by claiming Cotton, a former Auburn recruit who changed his mind after Tommy Tuberville was fired late in the season.

Both players would have been ideal for a Kansas State offense that will be morphing without quarterback Josh Freeman.

The Wildcats attracted three of the nation's top 122 safeties, according to Scouts Inc.'s rankings. Included in the group was Thomas Ferguson of South Grand Prairie (Texas) High School (23rd nationally), lanky Torrell Miller of Walker High School in New Orleans (No. 90) and Joseph Bonugli (No. 122) of San Antonio Warren.

Unlike some of Snyder's previous recruiting classes from earlier in his career, this one was heavily dotted with high school recruits. Only four of the 30 players in Kansas State's 2009 recruiting class are coming from junior colleges.

Eleven different states are represented, headed by six Oklahoma players, five from Texas and four from Kansas.   

Michigan beats out KSU for playmaker Denard Robinson

February, 4, 2009
2/04/09
2:54
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Michigan wasn't presumed to be in the hunt for Denard Robinson, but the Wolverines closed late to claim the recruit from Deerfield Beach, Fla.

Robinson, a 6-foot, 180-pounder was thought to be too small to play at quarterback. But Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said that Robinson will begin by playing the position at college.

"We had to fill our needs," Rodriguez said about Scouts Inc.'s No. 8 ranked athlete in the nation. "We needed explosiveness at every position. We got some players like that today." 

Robinson had taken a recruiting trip to Kansas State last month, along with Central Florida, Florida and Georgia.

Late signing day stories to track around the Big 12

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

National signing day will provide its usual flurry of last-minute surprises and drama as most top players will make their commitments and finally agree to scholarship offers from their respective schools.

But today's events will provide special interest for Big 12 schools for a variety of reasons.

Here are some of the late trends to watch from around the conference:

  • Will Baylor coach Art Briles find some receiving talent to surround scintillating sophomore quarterback Robert Griffin in what appears to be the Bears' top recruiting class of the Big 12 era?
  • Can Colorado coach Dan Hawkins continue his recent upturn with a late victory in the heated recruiting battle for Byron Moore?
  • What will the return of Paul Rhoads as the Iowa State's new coach mean for the Cyclones -- and will his familiarity throughout the state result in a fast finish after his late start after his hiring?
  • Will Mark Mangino have his typical understated recruiting success that has resulted in the Jayhawks' recent North Division ascension?
  • Will the return of Bill Snyder at Kansas State enable the Wildcats to land a huge statement-making recruit like Bryce Brown or Denard Robinson?
  • Can Missouri hold onto the commitment of heralded defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson as the foundation for the development of a defense that matches the Tigers' recent offensive success?
  • Will Nebraska's late surge last season, capped by the Cornhuskers' Gator Bowl victory, result in a couple of late surprises in Bo Pelini's largely settled recruiting class?
  • Can Oklahoma pluck a late commitment from wide receiver Rueben Randle, the top remaining national commitment, at the Sooners' biggest position of need?
  • Will Oklahoma State's recent development be marked with similar success recruiting Oklahoma players as it initially appears?
  • Can Mack Brown pluck a couple of late recruits from heralded signees like Dre Kirkpatrick and Jarvis Jones that would enable the Longhorns to challenge for the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation?
  • Will the arrival of key recruits like Christine Michael help Mike Sherman cobble together what should be the best recruiting class at Texas A&M in several seasons?
  • Is the offer of playing Michael Crabtree's old position enough of a lure to attract top recruit Emory Blake to Texas Tech and finish Mike Leach's recruiting class with a flourish?

All of those questions and more will be revealed in the few hours.

Stay tuned.

Texas still in mix for national recruiting championship

February, 2, 2009
2/02/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Texas has a late chance to claim the mythical national recruiting championship or move up in the final ESPNU national rankings with a fast finish Wednesday on National Signing Day.

The Longhorns' chances will play out Wednesday and you can follow it during a nine-hour broadcast of "ESPNU Recruiting Insider: National Signing Day," which will start at 10 a.m. ET to 7 p.m.

Lowell Galindo will host the Signing Day special along with ESPN's Scouts, Inc. national recruiting director Tom Luginbill, ESPNU college football analyst Charles Arbuckle and former Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville. David Amber will anchor another news desk at the Charlotte studios tracking news and developments from across the country with two other Scouts Inc. analysts -- Bill Conley and Craig Haubert. The show will also integrate fan comments from ESPN.com and ESPNU.com and will feature a matrix graphic that will display constant updates of school recruiting classes.

The Longhorns could jump from their current spot at third in ESPNU's current rankings behind No. 1 LSU and No. 2 USC. Texas is still in play with two of the top 60 players on the recruiting list -- No. 4 national prospect cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick of Gasden, Ala., and outside linebacker Jarvis Jones of Carver High School in Columbus, Ga., the 60th best prospect in the country.

Oklahoma currently ranks ninth in ESPNU's national rankings. No other Big 12 team is in the top 25.

Here are the current remaining recruiting battles involving Big 12 teams among the ESPNU's 150.

  • Kirkpatrick is considering Alabama, Texas, Florida, LSU and USC. He will make his announcement live on ESPNU.
  • Wide receiver Rueben Randle of Bastrop, La., is considering LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma, Auburn and Mississippi. Randle is ranked as the No. 10 prospect in the country.
  • Jones is still weighing scholarship offers from Georgia, Texas, Florida, LSU and USC.
  • Wide receiver Byron Moore Jr. of Narbonne High School of Harbor City, Calif., is still considering Colorado, Notre Dame and USC. Moore, the No. 71 prospect in the country, will make his announcement on ESPNU.
  • Wide receiver Denard Robinson of Deerfield Beach, Fla., is considering Kansas State along with Florida, Michigan, Georgia and Rutgers.
  • Running back Eddie Lacy of Dutchtown High School in Geismar, La., is considering Oklahoma among finalists including Alabama, Tennessee, LSU and Ole Miss. Lacy is the 144th ranked prospect in the country.

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