Big 12: Derek Burton

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

Well, it's the same for the recruits who came to campus with high rankings and high profiles. Going back to 2006, here's how every Big 12 commit from the ESPNU 150 turned out. We'll look at 2006 in this post before eventually reaching 2010 and the current class, 2011, by signing day.

2006

No. 6: DeMarco Murray, RB, Oklahoma. Murray set the school records for touchdowns (64) and all-purpose yards (6,498) as a Sooner. He's projected to be drafted on the first day of this year's NFL Draft.

No. 7: Sergio Kindle, OLB, Texas. Kindle was a finalist for the Butkus and Hendricks Awards and was a two-time All-Big 12 performer with 176 career tackles. He was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the second round last year's NFL Draft, but missed his rookie season after fracturing his skull in a fall on the stairs at his home.

No. 13: Jevan Snead, QB, Texas. Lost a quarterback battle to Colt McCoy following the 2005 season. Played sparingly as a freshman before transferring to Ole Miss. Went undrafted in 2010. Now plays for Arena League's Tampa Bay Storm.

No. 21: Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma. McCoy was a Lombardi finalist, a three-time All-Big 12 performer, a two-time All-American who left Oklahoma after his junior season and was selected No. 3 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2010 NFL Draft.

No. 22: Eddie Jones, DE, Texas. Jones just finished his career at Texas with an All-Big 12 honorable mention year in 2010. Finished his career with 111 tackles and 13.5 sacks.

No. 34: J'Marcus Webb, OT, Texas. Webb played one year at Texas before transferring to Navarro College and eventually West Texas A&M. He was drafted in the seventh round of the 2010 draft and spent the season with the Chicago Bears.

No. 36: Adron Tennell, WR, Oklahoma. Tennell finished his four-year career at Oklahoma with 40 catches, 505 yards and five touchdowns.

No. 42: Dustin Earnest, LB, Texas. Earnest finished his career in 2010 with 84 tackles and a sack for the Longhorns.

No. 45: Mike Goodson, RB, Texas A&M. Goodson was the Big 12 Freshman of the Year in 2006 with his career high 847 yards. He finished with 1,966 yards and 13 TDs in three seasons before being drafted in the fourth round by the Carolina Panthers.

No. 67: Phillip Payne, WR, Texas. Caught his first career pass in 2009, his third year at UT, before transferring after the season.

No. 75: Derek Burton, DE, Oklahoma State. Started 15 games in four years for the Cowboys, recording 67 career tackles.

No. 82: Ben Alexander, DT, Texas. Made four career starts, with 51 tackles and half a sack in 38 career appearances.

No. 104: Terrance Anderson, CB, Oklahoma State. Made 96 tackles in four years with the Cowboys. Had four career interceptions.

No. 110: Jonathan Nelson, CB, Oklahoma. Started all 14 games in 2010 for the Sooners after earning All-Big 12 honorable mention as a junior in 2009. Finished career with 155 tackles and five interceptions.

No. 111: Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma. Caught 111 passes for 1,629 yards and 26 touchdowns in three seasons, including an All-American season in 2008. Missed all of 2009 with knee injury. Drafted No. 21 overall in the 2010 draft by Cincinnati Bengals.

No. 137: Jeremy Beal, DE, Oklahoma. Had 224 tackles, 58.5 tackles for loss, and 29 sacks in four seasons, including three All-Big 12 seasons, an All-American season and was a Hendricks Award finalist in 2009. Projects as middle-round pick in 2011 NFL Draft.

No. 141: Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas State. Threw for 8,078 yards and 44 touchdowns and 34 interceptions in 35 career games. Also ran for 404 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior. Drafted No. 17 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Big 12 South recruiting needs

January, 21, 2010
1/21/10
12:18
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Here's a look at what each of the South Division teams need to address in terms of recruiting with signing day fast approaching.

Baylor

Defensive line: After losing starters Jason Lamb and Trey Bryant and having Phil Taylor and Earl Patin entering their senior seasons, the Bears need to add immediate depth. Xavier Ruben and Anthony Gonzales will help shore up the deficiencies and the Bears still are in the hunt for top prospects like Carlos Thompson and Byran Jones.

Secondary: Starters Jordan Lake and Jeremy Williams have graduated and four juniors in the two-deep roster will start their senior seasons. Coach Art Briles has already lured surprising strength in the defensive backfield with Ahmad Dixon, Tyler Stephenson and Prince Kent. That trio makes it one of the finest positional groupings for Baylor in recent history.

Robert Griffin’s redshirt season has lessened the immediate need at quarterback: With Griffin now having three years of eligibility remaining, recruits now see only a two-season window to play. But another Robert Griffin should help the Bears as well. Baylor coaches see the other Griffin, a junior college transfer from Coriscana Junior College, being able to contend for the starting position at right tackle from his first day in the program.

Oklahoma

Running back: With Chris Brown graduating and DeMarco Murray entering his senior season, the Sooners need some producers at the position. Bob Stoops has never hesitated to playing top freshman players in the past if they can help. Don’t be surprised if top recruits like Brennan Clay and Roy Finch get an early chance in 2010 with the Sooners.

Receiver: Ryan Broyles is entrenched in the slot, but the Sooners are looking all over for pass catchers who can challenge existing players. Recruits Kenny Stills, Joe Powell, Julian Wilson and Sheldon McClain all should challenge this summer to battle their way into the rotation.

Defensive tackle: Injuries and NFL declarations have riddled the Sooners’ depth at the postion. Gerald McCoy will leave early for the NFL draft with JaMarkus McFarland ready to take over. Adrian Taylor was set at the other position, but his nasty ankle injury sustained in the Sun Bowl has depleted the Sooners’ depth. Redshirt sophomore Casey Walker and four incoming freshmen are all that is in place as far as depth at the critical position.

Oklahoma State

Offensive line: The Cowboys lose four senior starting offensive linemen from the Cotton Bowl team, including the left side of their offensive line in tackle Russell Okung, guard Noah Franklin and center Andrew Lewis, as well as right tackle Brady Bond. Mike Gundy needs some immediate help at the position, both from existing players and incoming ones.

Defensive tackle: Starters Swanson Miller and Derek Burton both will graduate and top backups Shane Jarka and Chris Donaldson both will be senior this season. Defensive coordinator Bill Young needs to find some defensive linemen who can challenge for playing next season.

Linebackers: Young also will have to rebuild this group after the underrated group of Andre Sexton, Donald Booker and Patrick Lavine helped sparked the Cowboys’ surprising defensive growth last season. All will be gone this season, putting pressure to add some more contributors to add to the returning mix of players including James Thomas, Tolu Moala and Justin Gent.

Texas

Defensive end: With Sergio Kindle graduating and Sam Acho and Eddie Jones both entering their senior season, the Longhorns need a talent boost here. It also just happens to be the position where top target Jackson Jeffcoat would immediately fill the rather sizable hole.

The left side of the offensive line: Tackle Adam Ulatoski, guard Charlie Tanner and center Chris Hall combined for 114 starts during their careers.The Longhorns has some strong arriving talent, but they’ll still miss the leadership and savvy that this trio provided over the years.

Quarterback: Even with Garrett Gilbert seemingly entrenched as the Longhorns’ quarterback of the future, the Longhorns added depth with the commitments of Connor Wood and Colt’s little brother Case McCoy. It will make for some interesting competition this spring and fall as the rotation sorts itself out.

Texas A&M

Defensive end: The Aggies received a huge boost when Von Miller announced he would return for his senior season, but A&M needs to prepare for his departure -- particularly after losing starting defensive end Matt Moss and Miller’s backup Matt Featherston as departing seniors from 2009.

Tight end: Starter Jamie McCoy graduated and top replacements Kenny Brown and Craig Raschke both will be seniors next season. Adding at least one player would be beneficial as the Aggie coaches hope they can find a combination blocker/receiving threat at the position like McCoy was.

Offensive tackle: The Aggies lose bookend senior starters Michael Shumard and Lee Grimes. They do have Stephen Barrera and Danny Baker in the depth chart but would like more depth to help the line develop.

Texas Tech

Defensive line: The Red Raiders’ biggest need is at defensive end where all three players in the two-deep roster -- Brandon Sharpe, Ra’Jon Henley and Daniel Howard were seniors. At defensive tackle, Richard Jones departs as a senior and Colby Whitlock will be a senior next season. New coordinator James Willis needs to find some productive players in the trenches quickly.

Linebackers: Starters Bront Bird and Brian Duncan will be back as seniors next season, but Tech loses departing starter Marlon Williams on the other side. They need some depth to help build for the future at the position.

Quarterback: Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield will wage one of the closest-watched battles for playing time in the nation during the spring and summer. But both will be seniors, meaning the Red Raiders need to prepare for their departure by grooming some young talent like Scotty Young, a recent commitment at the position.

Ranking the Big 12's defenses

September, 2, 2009
9/02/09
6:34
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


Big 12 defenses are nearly as proficient as their offensive counterparts. But the best teams in terms of defense will likely end up as the conference’s best teams because stopping the high-powered offenses in the conference is so rare.

Here’s a look at how I rank them:


1. Oklahoma:
The Sooners return nine starters and are among the nation’s very best defenses. It starts with three-deep talent along the defensive line keyed by Gerald McCoy and Auston English, who was the conference’s preseason player of the year last season before spraining his knee. They might be a little lacking in depth at middle linebacker behind Ryan Reynolds with the injury to freshman standout Tom Wort and Mike Balogun’s iffy status. The only new starters are strong safety Sam Proctor and free safety Quinton Carter, who have both been impressive in fall camp. The Sooners’ substitutes might be better collectively than most Big 12 units.


2. Texas:
The Longhorns have arguably the conference’s best back seven, particularly a developing secondary led by Earl Thomas and corners Chykie Brown and Aaron Williams. Sergio Kindle and Alex Okafor are poised to become the primary pass-rushing specialists. Lamarr Houston has developed into an anchor at defensive tackle, but the Longhorns need to find another player at the other defensive tackle position to juice production for their biggest defensive weakness. Will Muschamp’s unit must do a better job after producing only 16 turnovers last season to rank tied for 104th nationally.


3. Nebraska:
It all starts with the defensive line, which is among the best in the nation with Outland Candidate Ndamukong Suh and defensive ends Pierre Allen and Barry Turner. The Cornhuskers are young at linebacker where they might start two linebackers, although coaches really like 6-foot-6, 230-pound buck linebacker Sean Fisher and Will Compton. Coaches say the secondary is playing with more confidence, but the group produced only 12 interceptions last season. Boosting that turnover production will be critical in the Cornhuskers’ division title hopes.


4. Texas Tech:
This is where the big drop-off starts from the top three teams. The Red Raiders will miss pass-rushing threats McKinner Dixon and Brandon Williams from last season, but have an experienced unit back. Rajon Henley and Brandon Sharpe are set to fill in as the pass-rushing threats and Colby Whitlock can be a terror at times -- particularly against Texas. Brian Duncan is a producer and the team’s leading tackler at middle linebacker. Jamar Wall is one of the better cover corners in the league. But the unit will depend on the improvement of two projected starters: redshirt freshman free safety Cody Davis and strong safety Franklin Mitchem.


5. Oklahoma State:
The development by veteran defensive coordinator Bill Young will determine whether this unit has the goods to lead the Cowboys to their first South title and a potential maiden BCS bowl appearance. The biggest key will be producing more sacks from a defensive front that notched only 15 last season. Young has been concentrating on push from his defensive tackles and thinks he has an underrated pair in seniors Swanson Miller and Derek Burton. The loss of Orie Lemon at middle linebacker will hurt, although Donald Booker has been a producer in limited playing time. The secondary will be playing new starters with only Perrish Cox returning. But keep an eye out for senior free safety Lucien “The Punisher” Antoine who was turning heads last season before blowing out his ACL in the second game last season.


6. Colorado:
The Buffaloes are faster this season and that should help them cope with the high-powered offenses in the Big 12. The linebackers are deep with Shaun Mohler and Jeff Smart as the prime producers. And I really like the secondary, with Jimmy Smith and Cha’pelle Brown among the best pair of cornerbacks in the conference. The biggest concern is along the defensive line, particularly after the injury of heralded freshman Nick Kasa that may idle him for the season. One area to note will be at right defensive end, where sophomore Lagrone Shields and freshman Forrest West are in the two-deep. Shields has played four snaps in his career.


7. Kansas:
The Jayhawks need defensive improvement if they are going to fulfill their hopes of making their first championship game. The Jayhawks were crippled last season without a consistent pass rush. They hope junior-college transfer Quintin Woods, Caleb Blakesley and 304-pound Jamal Greene up front along with sack leader Jake Laptad. After losing three starting linebackers from last season, the Jayhawks will retool. I look for them to play two linebackers and a nickel look in many cases. Look for freshman Huldon Tharp to become a producer at linebacker. The secondary is the strength of the defense with All-Big 12 candidate Darrell Stuckey at strong safety and Phillip Strozier poised to continue his late-season development.


8. Baylor:
Up the middle, the Bears might be among the strongest defenses in the conference with heralded transfer defensive tackle Phil Taylor, linebacker Joe Pawelek and hard-hitting safety Jordan Lake. Baylor coordinator Brian Norwood knows he needs more production from a defensive line that collected only 21 sacks and allowed opponents to complete 67 percent of passes for 3,063 yards. Antonio Jones and Antonio Johnson sometimes get overshadowed by Pawelek at linebacker. Junior cornerbacks Tim Atchison, Clifton Odom and Antareis Bryan need to improve or it could be a long season for the secondary.


9. Missouri:
Any defense that starts with All-American candidate Sean Weatherspoon won’t be too bad. The Tigers could be a surprise considering that Gary Pinkel has been raving about the speed his unit possesses -- particularly at defensive end and at cornerback. Look for a three-man rotation at defensive end with Brian Coulter, Jacquies Smith and Aldon Smith to boost production in the pass rush. The secondary was a huge liability last season ranking 118th in pass defense. Kevin Rutland has shown a physical style at cornerback and Kenji Jackson and Hardy Ricks might be ready to help at safety.


10. Kansas State:
New coordinators Chris Cosh and Vic Koenning plan to run a 4-2-5 defense. Their first concern is developing a rush with 2008 first-team freshman All-America pick Brandon Harold out with an injury. While he’s gone, the Wildcats need Eric Childs and Jeffrey Fitzgerald to emerge up front. John Houlik and Alex Hrebec apparently have earned the starting jobs at linebacker. Three junior college players -- David Garrett, Troy Butler and Emmanuel Lamur -- have apparently earned starting jobs for a secondary that desperately needs to improve after ranking 106th nationally in pass defense. The defense ranked tied for 110th in scoring defense and 117th in total defense, so the new coordinators better boost improvement or it will be another long season.


11. Texas A&M:
Whatever happened to the Wrecking Crew defenses from the past? The best indication of the concern that Mike Sherman has for his defensive unit came when he transferred projected starting left tackle Lucas Patterson move back to defensive tackle late in preseason practice to boost production inside. Von Miller was impressive at the “jack” position, but he’ll need some good fortune to hold up consistently rushing against the huge offensive lines in the conference. The Aggies need to improve after yielding 461 yards and 37 points per game and earning the ignominy of being one of three FBS teams to allow opponents to average 200 yards rushing and passing last season. Coaches say the unit is faster and more athletic, but they have to play much better to get the Aggies back into bowl contention.


12. Iowa State:
Veteran defensive Wally Burnham has a great reputation and most recently flummoxed the spread defenses of the Big East while at South Florida. The Big 12, however, will be a different story. The Cyclones ranked tied for 110th in scoring defense and 112th in total defense. Coach Paul Rhoads says he’s been frustrated by his team’s lack of tackling techniques. They have a building block in cornerback Leonard Johnson. Burnham and Rhoads know what they are talking about defensively as both were coordinators for top 30 defenses last year. But it will take a lot of patience to help rebuild this unit that needs so much improvement.

Big 12 links: Former firefighter ready to play

August, 14, 2009
8/14/09
1:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Another getaway day before I go back home this weekend. Big plans with my 12th wedding anniversary -- I think that's right -- set for Sunday.

But before I leave Oklahoma, here are a few lunchtime links to gnaw on as we head to the weekend.

Three predictions for Oklahoma State

August, 11, 2009
8/11/09
7:38
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The preseason hype around the Oklahoma State program has been constant, almost commencing at the end of the Cowboys' Holiday Bowl loss to Oregon.

Oklahoma State owns one of the most varied offenses in the nation with playmakers like quarterback Zac Robinson, running back Kendall Hunter and wide receiver Dez Bryant. And massive tackle Russell Okung might be the best offensive lineman in the Big 12.

The Cowboys will be able to score with anybody, but the biggest factor in whether they fulfill the high preseason rankings will be a defense that has had trouble matching up against high-powered attacks like Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech in recent seasons.

Here are three predictions for the Cowboys:

1. Oklahoma State's offense will remain the most balanced in the Big 12. Over the last two seasons, the Cowboys have been almost equal in passing yards and rushing yards. The Cowboys averaged 245 yards rushing and 243 passing yards last season and 243 yards rushing and passing in 2007.

I don't think that will change too much this season. The Cowboys have been successful with Hunter running and Robinson throwing the ball. Why mess with success?

2. Bill Young will coax more sacks out of his defense. Of course, it would be hard for the Cowboys to struggle more in pass defense than they did last season when the Cowboys ranked 107th in sacks and 109th in pass defense.

Young has worked very hard with his defensive front, particularly returning starting defensive tackle Derek Burton and defensive end Ugo Chinasa. I think increased defensive pressure from the front will be the key to Oklahoma State's South Division title hopes.

3. The Cowboys still don't have the talent -- particularly defensively -- to match up with either Texas or Oklahoma. Oklahoma State can score with anybody in the nation. But their inability to have the kind of defense that can consistently stop Big 12 powers like Texas and Oklahoma will ultimately be the Cowboys' undoing. Mike Gundy has upgraded the recruiting and improved the players there. But he still hasn't caught either the Longhorns or the Sooners, particularly in depth issues.

These Big 12 positions got most help during spring

May, 22, 2009
5/22/09
6:31
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Sometimes the spring provides a chance for personnel holes to be filled. Sometimes it doesn't.

Here are some of the notable positions around the Big 12 that picked up some assistance during the spring.

Baylor: The quick development of defensive tackle Phil Taylor, a heralded transfer from Penn State, should turn a traditional position of weakness for the Bears into a strength. Joining him at the position will be Jason Lamb, who showed some promise after moving over from defensive end before spring practice.

Colorado: The emergence of hulking 260-pound middle linebacker Marcus Burton and B.J. Beatty at outside linebacker have helped transform the Buffaloes' defense. Burton led the team in tackles and was a prime playmaker in the spring game with eight tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery. He had eight tackles in 10 games last season.

Iowa State: Redshirt freshman quarterback Jerome Tiller outplayed starter Austen Arnaud in the spring game, passing for 210 yards and getting free for a 65-yard touchdown run. I'm not sure that Tiller will be starting come September, but he'll make Arnaud work harder to earn his job.

Kansas: The Jayhawks had questions in the defensive line before the spring, even with the return of all-Big 12 honorable mention selections Caleb Blakesley and Jake Laptad and late season starting defensive tackles Richard Johnson and Jamal Greene. The development of tackle Darius Parish and end Max Onyegbule should add to the depth. And that doesn't even account for the arrival of heralded junior college transfer Quintin Woods, who originally signed with Michigan out of high school before heading to Bakersfield (Cal.) Community College to get his grades in order.

Kansas State: The emergence of linebackers like Alex Hrebec, Ulla Pomele and John Houlik has helped turn the position into the strength of the defense, even as the Wildcats are transforming to a 4-2-5 alignment. Hrebec, a former walk-on, contributed 19 tackles in the spring game and Houlik is a huge hitter despite his 5-foot-11, 219-pound size.

Missouri: Redshirt freshman Aldon Smith has only added to the Tigers' depth at defensive end, which already featured Brian Coulter and Jacquies Smith in front of him. Smith was voted as the team's most improved player in the spring. Throw in converted offensive tackle Brad Madison and redshirt freshman Marcus Marlbrough and you'll see why Gary Pinkel considers it his best collection of defensive ends at Missouri.

Nebraska: The Cornhuskers had serious questions at quarterback, particularly after the departure of projected starting challenger Patrick Witt before spring practice and Kody Spano's knee injury. But the strong spring by Zac Lee and the surprising development of converted linebacker LaTravis Washington eased some of offensive coordinator Shawn Watson's concerns. Their strong spring work also should mean that heralded freshman Cody Green likely won't be thrown into action perhaps as quickly as Watson might have feared before the spring.

Oklahoma: After losing starters Nic Harris and Lendy Holmes, safety was the only position without returning starters for the Sooners on defense. Quinton Carter nailed down one starting position and Sam Proctor and Joseph Ibiloye are poised to fight for the other job beside him. Emmanuel Jones and Desmond Jackson also had strong spring efforts to challenge for playing time.

Oklahoma State: Defensive tackle was enough of a question that new coordinator Bill Young moved Derek Burton inside from defensive end to help bolster depth at the position. Burton and Swanson Miller appear to have won starting jobs with redshirt freshman Nigel Nicholas and junior Chris Donaldson providing strong depth. Their strong play helped the Cowboys rack up seven sacks in the spring game - more than half of their 2008 season total of 13.

Texas: The Longhorns were concerned about defensive end after the departure of NFL draft picks Brian Orakpo and Henry Melton from last season. Those fears appear to be assuaged after the seamless transition of Sergio Kindle to the position from linebacker and the quick assimilation by freshman Alex Okafor. Toss in Sam Acho and Russell Carter and the return injured pass-rushing threat Eddie Jones and the Longhorns appear stacked at the position.

Texas A&M: Safety was a question mark before spring camp after the loss of Devin Gregg and Alton Dixon and the move of 2008 starting free safety Jordan Peterson to cornerback. But the strong return to safety by converted cornerback Jordan Pugh and the noticeable development by Trent Hunter helped solidify the position during the spring. And the Aggies' depth at the position was improved after the move of wide receiver Chris Caflisch to the position along with strong play from DeMaurier Thompson.

Texas Tech: The departure of two-time Biletnikoff Award winner Michael Crabtree and underrated Eric Morris was supposed to cripple the Red Raiders' receiving corps. Mike Leach appears to have found several serviceable replacements after Tramain Swindall, Lyle Leong, Detron Lewis and walk-on flanker Adam Torres all emerged during the spring. And that doesn't include Edward Britton, who was in Leach's doghouse much of the spring after falling behind in the classroom but still is perhaps their most athletic force on the field.

Five Big 12 players poised to emerge out of the shadows

February, 27, 2009
2/27/09
10:35
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Heading into spring practice, several players across the Big 12 appear they might ready to blossom and become key contributors for their teams. Here are some of the most notable as spring practice approaches.

Missouri DE Brian Coulter -- After arriving from Florida State last summer, Coulter brashly predicted he would develop into an All-Big 12 player. He didn't do it last season, but might be ready this season as new Missouri defensive coordinator Dave Steckel rebuilds the defensive front after losing three starters.

Colorado WR Markques Simas -- After redshirting as a true freshman in 2007, Simas was academically ineligible last season. During that period, he tore it up on the Buffaloes' scout team. That performance has provided coach Dan Hawkins with hope that Simas can develop into a consistent producer with regular playing time.

Texas Tech WR Edward Britton -- Despite the presence of receivers like Michael Crabtree and Eric Morris in the Red Raiders' rotation last season, Britton produced a team-best average of 16.5 yards per catch on his 35 receptions and produced six TD grabs. With new quarterback Taylor Potts throwing, Britton might have a chance to emerge as his featured receiver without Crabtree and Morris returning.

Texas A&M DE Von Miller -- He's been known primarily for a late hit on Graham Harrell two seasons ago and his controversial horse-collar tackle that caused a broken leg for Colorado's Rodney Stewart last season. But Miller may be ready to become one of the conference's top pass-rushing threats for the Aggies after producing 3.5 sacks last season.

Oklahoma State DT Derek Burton -- A prime contributor as a starter last season at defensive end, Burton could blossom after moving inside. Developing his run-stuffing abilities will be critical as the Cowboys compensate after the loss of starters Tonga Tea and Jeray Chatham from last season.

What we learned in the Big 12 on Saturday

October, 19, 2008
10/19/08
10:42
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here's what we learned in the Big 12 on Saturday:

1. Impressive victories by Texas over Missouri and Oklahoma over Kansas indicate that the South has shot past the North in terms of relative strength this season. The South has already claimed a 7-1 lead, buoyed by the two victories on Saturday over the two top North contenders by an average of 19.5 points per game. And the only North win this season remains Kansas State's triumph over lowly Texas A&M last week.

2. The best sign in Texas' victory over Missouri for Longhorn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp was the ease that the Longhorns were able to generate pressure with a three- or four-man rush -- just like in the second half against Oklahoma last week. That should bode well for the Longhorns in the next two weeks when Texas' young secondary will be tested by Dez Bryant and Michael Crabtree, the Big 12's best two receivers.

3. Pulling freshman quarterback Tyler Hansen's redshirt with six games left in the season was a dicey move by Colorado coach Dan Hawkins. Putting Hansen into the lineup ahead of his son, quarterback Cody Hawkins, could have been a tough one around his kitchen table. But the move was correct, as evidenced by Colorado's comeback victory over Kansas State. The Colorado coach knew his sputtering team needed an offensive boost and realized that Hansen's running abilities would give the Buffaloes the best chance to be successful against Kansas State's leaky defense. The result was a victory Saturday that resuscitated the Buffs' bowl hopes.

4. Chase Daniel's Heisman hopes are likely dead after he struggled through a difficult performance against Texas. With the national attention focused on Austin, Missouri fell into an early 35-0 deficit that will resonate with voters. And this statistic best indicates how bad a night it was for Daniel, whose offense didn't have a three-and-out during the first five games of the season. Texas forced three-and-outs the first four times that Missouri had the ball Saturday night.

5. The best reason for Oklahoma State's confidence heading into next week's showdown against Texas is their increased defensive pass rush after some early struggles. OSU defensive coordinator Tim Beckman has cooked up a new formation that has helped generate half of the Cowboys' sacks in the last two weeks. Beckman has inserted defensive end Derek Burton at nose guard, flanked by two other defensive ends around him. And backup middle linebacker Donald Booker has alternated as a stand-up end or a blitzing middle linebacker for increased pass-rushing traction. The unit's work will be vital in trying to keep Texas QB Colt McCoy from feeling comfortable in the pocket in next week's South Division showdown of BCS challengers. And Oklahoma State might need something special, considering the Cowboys have lost 10 straight games in Austin with their most recent victory coming in 1944.

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