Big 12: Devin Chafin

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.
With spring ball done, we’re reexamining and reranking the positional situations of every Big 12 team, continuing Tuesday with running backs. These outlooks will look different in August. But here’s how we see them post-spring:


1. West Virginia (pre-spring ranking: 4): West Virginia running backs coach JaJuan Seider has one of the best and most difficult jobs in the Big 12. Seider has an embarrassment of riches at his position in Dreamius Smith (the No. 1 juco back in 2013), Wendell Smallwood (who played last year as a true freshman), Rushel Shell (who before transferring from Pitt set the Pennsylvania state high school rushing record), Andrew Buie (the team’s leading rusher in 2012) and Dustin Garrison, West Virginia’s leading rusher from 2011, who, finally healthy again, enjoyed a resurgent spring. The Mountaineers also will add four-star signee Donte Thomas-Williams in the summer. The difficult part for Seider will be divvying up carries to so many capable backs. But if the Mountaineers can keep everyone happy and find the right combination, this could become a devastating and versatile running back stable.

2. Texas (1): Coach Charlie Strong delivered promising news on Monday in San Antonio, suggesting Johnathan Gray could be cleared from his Achilles injury by mid-June. Strong also said that Joe Bergeron will be rejoining the team shortly, too, after sitting out the spring to focus on academics. When healthy and eligible, the trio of Malcolm Brown, Gray and Bergeron is a formidable bunch and the backbone of the Texas offense.

3. Baylor (3): Shock Linwood and Devin Chafin exited spring as the co-starters, but Johnny Jefferson left the biggest impression in the spring game. The Bears have a track record of spreading carries around, which means Big 12 fans will become very acquainted with the talented redshirt freshman next season.

4. Oklahoma State (5): One of the biggest surprises of the spring was how much the Cowboys used Tyreek Hill at running back. Oklahoma State is planning to utilize the nation’s top juco playmaker the way West Virginia did Tavon Austin two years ago. In other words, Hill could line up in the backfield one play then slot receiver the next. Either way, arguably the fastest player in college football gives the Cowboys a dynamic lightning component to complement the thunderous running of senior Desmond Roland, who led all Big 12 backs in touchdowns last season.

5. Oklahoma (3): There might not be a Big 12 backfield with more upside than Oklahoma’s. Of course, with that upside comes little experience. Sophomore Keith Ford has the potential to be a punishing inside runner, but he had fumbling issues last season as a freshman that re-emerged during the spring. If he can’t hang onto the ball, he won’t play, no matter how tough he runs between the tackles. After getting passed by Ford on the depth chart last year, Alex Ross bounced back with an impressive spring. Early enrollee Dimitri Flowers was a revelation this spring as a powerful run-blocking fullback in the mold of Trey Millard. If fellow incoming freshman Joe Mixon lives up to his recruiting hype, the Sooners could feature their most potent rushing attack in years.

6. Iowa State (8): The most underrated one-two punch at running back in the league resides in Ames. According to first-year offensive coordinator Mark Mangino, Aaron Wimberly and DeVondrick Nealy were sharp all spring and will spearhead an offense that could surprise in 2014. The key will be keeping the slight but explosive Wimberly relatively healthy, which he never really was before and after rushing for 137 and 117 yards back to back against Tulsa and Texas. Wimberly, however, was 100 percent all spring, and it showed, as he racked up 68 yards on just nine touches in the spring game.

7. TCU (7): TCU had to make do without its three top backs in the spring due to injuries. Aaron Green suffered a broken collarbone, Kyle Hicks had a shoulder bruise, and returning leading rusher B.J. Catalon dealt with a nagging hamstring injury. All three, however, should be fine for the fall, and could form a reliable rotation at running back. Four-star recruit Shaun Nixon could help out, too, once he arrives on campus.

8. Texas Tech (6): The Red Raiders dropped two spots, largely because returning starter Kenny Williams played outside linebacker all spring and could remain there for good. But even if Williams becomes a full-time linebacker, Tech still could be solid at running back with veteran DeAndre Washington, sophomore Quinton White and incoming four-star freshman Justin Stockton, whom the Texas Tech coaching staff is very high on. Head coach and offensive play-caller Kliff Kingsbury wouldn’t have given Williams the go-ahead to move to defense if he didn’t feel optimistic about what remained in the backfield.

9. Kansas (9): Though they come in ninth here, running back could be a position of strength for the Jayhawks next season. Brandon Bourbon, the favorite to start, rushed for 96 yards on 12 carries in the spring game, but Taylor Cox (63 yards on 15 carries) and Darrian Miller (50 yards on seven carries) had nice outings, as well. The Jayhawks also will welcome De’Andre Mann, the nation’s fifth-best juco running back, in the summer, as well as four-star freshmen Traevohn Wrench and Corey Avery. Until they start winning more games, it’s difficult to give the Jayhawks the benefit of the doubt in these position rankings. But with this collection of runners, they might not miss All-Big 12 performer James Sims as much as first thought.

10. Kansas State (10): The spring brought little clarity about who John Hubert’s primary replacement will be. Jarvis Leverett and Charles Jones both ran hard in K-State’s spring game, though neither broke a run for longer than 11 yards. Meanwhile, DeMarcus Robinson, who has the most experience of the three, sat out the scrimmage with an injury. As a result, incoming freshman Dalvin Warmack, who rushed for 4,500 yards and 70 touchdowns while averaging almost 9 yards per carry his final two years in high school, will have an opportunity to be a factor once he joins the team this summer.
Over the next two weeks, we’ll be analyzing the depth charts of every Big 12 team coming out of the spring. We start with Baylor, which released an official two-deep shortly after concluding spring ball in early April.

OFFENSE

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsCan Bryce Petty be even better this season?
QB: Bryce Petty (Sr.), Seth Russell (So.)

The Bears have one of the top returning quarterbacks in college football in Petty, who was phenomenal last year in his first season as a starter. With a year of experience under his belt, there’s no reason to believe he won’t be better in 2014. Russell performed well in limited duty last year, suggesting the Bears could survive at least a minor injury to Petty.

RB: Shock Linwood (So.) or Devin Chafin (So.), Johnny Jefferson (RFr.), Terence Williams (Fr.)

The Bears boast four potentially outstanding runners who all have at least three seasons of eligibility remaining. Linwood finished sixth in the Big 12 in rushing last season, despite backing up Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin. Jefferson, however, was the back who created the most buzz during the spring. The 5-foot-11, 200-pounder looks poised to give the Bears a dynamic home-run threat to complement the rest of the backfield. It’s not often a program can lose two talents like Seastrunk and Martin and remain loaded.

WR: Antwan Goodley (Sr.), Davion Hall (Fr.)

WR: Jay Lee (Jr.) or Robbie Rhodes (So.), Quan Jones (RFr.)

IR: Corey Coleman (So.) or Clay Fuller (Sr.), Cal Spangler (Jr.)

IR: Levi Norwood (Sr.), Lynx Hawthorne (So.)

TE: Tre’von Armstead (So.) or Gus Penning (Jr.), Jordan Feuerbacher (Fr.)

Despite graduating all-conference performer Tevin Reese, the Bears should easily have the deepest collection of pass-catchers in the Big 12. Coleman was tremendous all spring, capped by a 47-yard receiving effort in the spring game. He and Rhodes could have breakout campaigns in their second years in the rotation. Goodley is one of the two best wideouts in the league along with Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett, and Lee, Fuller and Norwood are all proven commodities. More firepower is on the way this summer, including hotshot freshman K.D. Cannon, who looks like a virtual lock to crack the rotation somewhere.

LT: Spencer Drango (Jr.), Pat Colbert (Jr.)

LG: LaQuan McGowan (Jr.) or Blake Muir (Jr.)

C: Kyle Fuller (So.), Tyler Edwards (Sr.)

RG: Desmine Hilliard (Jr.), Jarell Broxton (Jr.)

RT: Troy Baker (Sr.), Tyler Edwards (Sr.)

The Bears lose unanimous All-American guard Cyril Richardson, but will get a huge boost if Drango makes a full recovery from a back injury he suffered late last season. With Drango out, Baylor’s blindside pass protection also suffered the final month of the season. When healthy, Drango is one of the best pass-protecting left tackles in the country. Baker, who started as a sophomore, returned late last season after tearing his ACL last spring to reclaim his starting job, which he held through the spring. With Hilliard returning at guard, Fuller locking down the starting job at center and other quality depth inside, the Bears should be very solid on the offensive line -- provided Drango can get healthy and Baker can stay healthy at the bookends.

DEFENSE

[+] EnlargeShawn Oakman
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsShawn Oakman has elevated his game.
RE: Shawn Oakman (Jr.), K.J. Smith (RFr.)

NT: Andrew Billings (So.), Suleiman Masumbuko (Jr.)

DT: Beau Blackshear (Jr.) or Javonte Magee (So.), Byron Bonds (So.)

LE: Jamal Palmer (Jr.), Sam Ukwuachu (Jr.)

Last week, Baylor coach Art Briles said he’d put his top-seven defensive linemen against any other top seven in college football. The unit still has a lot to prove to reach that level, but there’s no denying the potential. Oakman elevated his game to another level this spring, and was basically unblockable. He’s a candidate to be an All-Big 12 performer even in a league that’s stocked at defensive end. The fact that Magee is listed as a co-starter with Blackshear -- a starter last season -- underscores what the coaching staff thinks of Magee, who before taking last year off due to personal matters was among the most highly touted recruits Briles had ever signed. This group is high on ability, and has the capability to prove their coach right in the fall.

WLB: Aiavion Edwards (So.), Taylor Young (RFr.) or Raaquan Davis(RFr.)

MLB: Bryce Hager (Sr.), Grant Campbell (Jr.) or Kendall Ehrlich (So.)

Hager missed the final four games of last season due to a groin injury, which also kept him out this spring. But Hager is about as reliable as it gets in the Big 12, having earned second-team all-conference honors the last two years. Edwards is the one to watch. He was given the first nod on the weak side, after playing in the middle last season and in the spring in place of Hager. But he’ll have to perform to fend off the competition, including Young, who impressed defensive coordinator Phil Bennett during the spring with his nose for the ball.

NB: Collin Brence (Sr.), Pat Levels (So.)

CB: Terrence Singleton (So.), Ryan Reid (So.)

CB: Xavien Howard (So.) or Chris Sanders (Jr.)

DS: Orion Stewart (So.), Alfred Pullom (RFr.)

CS: Terrell Burt (Jr.), Taion Sells (So.)

This unit comprises by far the biggest question mark on the team. The Bears should be in good shape at safety. Burt, the only returning starter in the group, will be back shortly from offseason shoulder surgery that kept him out of a spring ball. Briles also singled out Stewart for having a very promising spring as the replacement for All-American Ahmad Dixon. After a series of injury setbacks early in his career, Singleton returned to win a starting job at corner, at least for now. Howard also showed a ton of promise during the spring, but he’ll have competition from Sanders, one of the top juco corners in the country, who had a shoulder injury this spring. Brence, a walk-on, was the biggest surprise in the secondary, and is listed as the starter at nickelback. How this untested unit comes together could ultimately determine whether the Bears repeat as Big 12 champs.

Spring primer: Baylor Bears

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Baylor is already on the practice field, set to begin its Big 12 title defense. Below is a preview of what to look for from the Bears during their spring practices:

Offensive returner ready to take next step: Playing time was hard to come by last season for freshman wideout Robbie Rhodes. On top of competing in a loaded rotation, Rhodes injured his knee early in the season and gradually drifted out of the rotation. But Rhodes, the nation’s No. 3 WR in the Class of 2013, has the talent to be an elite pass-catcher in the Big 12, and he should have opportunities in his second season.

[+] EnlargeRobbie Rhodes
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsA healthy Robbie Rhodes should be able to play a significant role in Baylor's passing attack.
Defensive returner ready to take the next step: DT Andrew Billings. Last season, Billings signed with the Bears despite a strong recruitment by Texas, and immediately contributed as a freshman. With the bulk of Baylor’s defense gone, the time has come for him to elevate his game. And all signs point to Billings, who has the talent to be the best defensive tackle in the entire league, being ready for the challenge.

Redshirt freshman to watch: Even though the Bears lost their top two running backs in Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin, they bring back a clear-cut starter in Shock Linwood. The coaching staff, however, has been waiting in delighted anticipation to see what Johnny Jefferson can do on the field after redshirting last season. Jefferson had offers from the likes of Ohio State, Notre Dame and UCLA coming out of high school, and he has the blend of speed and power to command a role in the offense.

Most significant position battle: With four of five starters gone from its secondary -- and that one starter back (Terrell Burt) out for the spring with shoulder surgery -- the battle for time in the defensive backfield is wide open. The spotlight will be on cornerbacks Tyler Stephenson, Xavien Howard, Ryan Reid and Tion Wright, as well as Orion Stewart, Taion Sells, Terrence Singleton, Alfred Pullom and Patrick Levels at safety.

Key midterm enrollee: The Bears face the task of replacing All-Big 12 linebacker Eddie Lackey, but they’re hoping Bakersfield College transfer Grant Campbell can step in and take his place. Other than Bryce Hager, who is out this spring with a groin injury, the Bears have little experience at linebacker. Campbell filling a major hole will be a huge step forward in coordinator Phil Bennett retooling his defense.

Question that could be answered: The Bears should have a feel after this spring about who will be their primary playmakers. Even with Seastrunk and receiver Tevin Reese gone, the Bears should boast plenty of offensive firepower next season to surround All-Big 12 quarterback Bryce Petty with. Rhodes, Jay Lee and Corey Coleman should be able to fill out Reese’s production, while Linwood, Jefferson and Devin Chafin could give the Bears another prolific combination at running back.

Question that won’t be answered until fall: The Bears had one of the best defenses in the Big 12 last season, but it could be a while before Baylor discovers what it has defensively in 2014. Billings, Beau Blackshear and Shawn Oakman have the talent to field the best defensive line Baylor has had in years. But the back seven is a major question mark, with Hager and Burt being the only incumbents.

Big 12 pre-spring breakdown: RBs

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As we wait for the start of spring ball, we're examining and ranking the positional situations of every team, continuing Wednesday with running backs. Some of these outlooks will look different after the spring. But here’s how they compare at the moment:

1. Texas: The three-headed monster of Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron gives Texas the best 1-2-3 punch in the league. Whether this group goes from good to great hinges on a healthy return for Gray, who is coming back from an Achilles injury and will sit out spring drills. Either way, this will be the backbone of Charlie Strong’s first offense.

[+] EnlargeShock Linwood
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsShock Linwood showed breakaway ability as a Baylor reserve in 2013.
2. Baylor: Shock Linwood takes over in the backfield after a dynamic freshman season in which he finished seventh in the league in rushing despite being a third-team running back. The competition for carries after Linwood will be interesting. Devin Chafin is the favorite to be Linwood’s wing man, but he could be pressed by Johnny Jefferson and/or incoming four-star freshman Terence Williams, who is already on campus.

3. Oklahoma: The potential of this running back crop has no bounds. But it will be young and inexperienced after seniors Brennan Clay, Roy Finch and Damien Williams (until he was kicked off the team) hoarded the carries last season. Keith Ford, who was the nation’s No. 3 running back recruit in the 2013 class, will take over the starting role. Joe Mixon, this year’s No. 6 RB recruit, won’t get to Norman until the summer, but he should supply the lightning to Ford’s thunder. Alex Ross, who was the nation’s No. 7 RB recruit in the 2012 class, rounds out a fearsome threesome with tremendous pedigree.

4. West Virginia: The Mountaineers lose All-Big 12 performer Charles Sims, but still claim a glut of capable rushers. Dreamius Smith and Wendell Smallwood thrived playing behind Sims last year. West Virginia also has Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie, its leading rushers from 2011 and 2012, respectively. (Buie is back after leaving school for a semester.) On top of all that, Pittsburgh transfer Rushel Shell figures to be in the mix. Shell was the No. 26 overall recruit in the country coming out of high school after becoming the all-time leading rusher in Pennsylvania high school history. If that weren’t enough, the gem of the incoming recruiting class, Donte Thomas-Williams, is also a running back. Suffice to say, the competition for carries will be fierce in the league’s deepest backfield.

5. Oklahoma State: Desmond Roland helped fuel Oklahoma State’s midseason turnaround after seizing a starting role. Roland was great in short yardage and led the Big 12 with 13 touchdowns, but he wasn’t a big-play runner, with an average of only 4.6 yards per carry (14th in the league). The Cowboys are banking that Rennie Childs can complement Roland as the breakaway back. Childs showed flashes as a true freshman. Roland and Childs can form a solid combo, but four-star freshman Devon Thomas, who is enrolled for the spring, should not be discounted, nor should Sione Palelei, who has the good hands that past Oklahoma State running backs also possessed.

6. Texas Tech: The returning duo of Kenny Williams and DeAndre Washington won’t do much damage between the tackles. Both, however, are excellent pass-catchers, making them supreme fits for Kliff Kingsbury’s spread attack. Together they combined for 64 receptions, and that number should go up in 2014 as quarterback Davis Webb settles in as a sophomore.

7. TCU: The Horned Frogs were a disaster offensively last year, but the potential at running back is a reason why TCU could be equipped for a bounce-back season. Aaron Green, Kyle Hicks and incoming freshman Shaun Nixon were all ESPN 300 recruits. That doesn’t include B.J. Catalon, either, who led the Frogs with 569 yards and six touchdowns last season. With a new regime making the play calls, there’s reason to believe this could become one of the better units in the league.

[+] EnlargeDalton Santos
David Purdy/Getty ImagesIf Aaron Wimberly can stay healthy, Iowa State has a potentially dynamic returning running back.
8. Iowa State: When healthy, Aaron Wimberly can be a game-breaker. He torched Texas for 137 yards as the Cyclones nearly pulled off a Thursday night upset. Wimberly, however, was never really healthy the rest of the season, and never had the same impact. After Wimberly, though, the Cyclones don’t have much returning firepower. Firepower, however, could be on the way. Oklahoma native Michael Warren went overlooked in recruiting, but he can fly; he rushed for more than 2,500 yards as a high school senior.

9. Kansas: The Jayhawks gradated their heart and soul in James Sims, who was an all-conference selection even though Kansas won only one Big 12 game. Tony Pierson returns as an electric playmaker, but he has never been a full-time running back, often flexing out as a receiver. It will be interesting to see who emerges in Sims’ shoes. Brandon Bourbon (191 yards) will have the first crack in the spring, but newcomers De'Andre Mann and Traevohn Wrench could vie for time once they arrive in the summer.

10. Kansas State: It’s difficult to believe K-State will be at the bottom here once the season starts, but running back is a major hole for the Wildcats going into the spring. That’s because longtime starter John Hubert is gone. Hubert, senior backup Robert Rose and QBs Jake Waters and Daniel Sams combined for 492 carries last season. Nobody else had more than five. Rising senior DeMarcus Robinson, who has only 11 career carries, will probably be atop the depth chart going into the spring. It’s also possible that Sams will get a look at running back with Waters having nailed down the full-time QB job. But the player to watch here is freshman Dalvin Warmack, who rushed for more than 4,500 yards and 70 touchdowns his final two seasons in Blue Springs, Mo. Warmack isn’t big at 5-foot-8 and 185 pounds. But his size fits the mold of past K-State running backs Hubert and Darren Sproles.

Baylor using all of its increased depth

November, 21, 2013
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WACO, Texas -- Art Briles has been saying it for nearly a year. After what his No. 4 Baylor team has endured this season, he definitely believes it too.

“We finally have Big 12-quality depth,” said Briles once more after the Bears’ 41-12 win over Oklahoma on Nov. 7.

In the two weeks since that game, he’s needed all that depth to come through in a big way. Briles is proud of the fact his 9-0 Bears don’t lean on any one person to succeed, and they’ve needed plenty of reserves to step up recently.

The Bears lost top deep threat Tevin Reese for the season to a dislocated wrist. Running backs Lache Seastrunk (groin) and Glasco Martin (knee) also went down against the Sooners and haven’t played since.

[+] EnlargeShock Linwood
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesThird-string running back Shock Linwood starred against Texas Tech, rushing for 187 yards and a touchdown.
Like the rushing duo, linebacker Bryce Hager is questionable for this week’s huge test at No. 10 Oklahoma State with a groin injury. Left tackle Spencer Drango had back surgery on Tuesday and is out indefinitely.

It’s November. The guys that are practicing and playing are banged up, too. And Briles’ confidence in just how deep these Bears are is being put to the test.

“I wish we weren’t having to prove it,” Briles said. “You hate to see anybody give so much time and effort and soul to a situation and then not be able to carry on.”

And yet, Baylor keeps plugging in new parts and thriving.

Levi Norwood replaced Reese and scored three touchdowns against Texas Tech. Redshirt freshmen Shock Linwood and Devin Chafin filled in at running back and each went for 100-plus yards. Another freshman, Aiavion Edwards, took over for Hager.

“The only thing that’s changed is the name and the number,” senior safety Ahmad Dixon said. “Guys are still running the ball as if Lache was there. Guys are still catching the ball as if Tevin was there.”

And those are just the obvious spots, where injury created opportunity. How’s this for depth: Defensive end Shawn Oakman leads the team with 12 tackles for loss and isn’t even a starter. Fellow backup Jamal Palmer is second on the team in sacks.

True freshmen Byron Bonds and Andrew Billings are getting major minutes at defensive tackle and succeeding. The Bears’ No. 3 cornerback, Joe Williams, has 22 career starts.

Baylor has been stockpiling talent like this for years in preparation for a season like this.

“It is critical. It’s something our staff and everybody has done a great job recruiting to fill needs,” Briles said. “That’s the first thing you look at, what needs do we need to fill? We’ve been fortunate up to this point. I don’t think you ever get to where you want to get, but we do have guys that can play on our roster.”

The development of that Big 12-caliber depth begins with recruiting, but getting them to Waco was just the first step. Bears players say they wouldn’t be ready to play whenever needed if not for strength coach Kaz Kazadi.

“We rely on Coach Kaz a lot,” Chafin said. “Coach Kaz is our base and foundation. He has us ready physically.”

Kazadi has been part of the Briles regime from day one and is renowned for his intensity and passion. Players say his offseason regimen is especially challenging. And borderline crazy.

Dixon offers this example: Kazadi tinkers with the atmosphere of his workouts every day. He’ll crank the temperatures to hot one day and cold the next. Blast rap music one day, old-school reggae the next and the Baylor fight song the next, never at the same volume. He’s trying to create chaos by any means necessary.

“He puts us in difficult situations, weird situations,” Dixon said. “I mean, you sit there and you hear the fight song over and over, doing drills in the indoor during offseason. He’s doing everything possible to try to throw our focus off.”

There’s another key reason why so many Bears are ready to ball: All those blowouts.

Only three foes have faced Baylor’s starting offense in the fourth quarter. Bryce Petty has 11 pass attempts in the fourth. Seastrunk has two carries. The rest of the snaps have gone to backups and underclassmen, and those extra reps are proving valuable now.

Going into the Oklahoma game, Linwood and Chafin had a combined 86 carries. The third- and fourth-quarter snaps they shared early in the year brought needed experience.

“Us young people still have a lot to learn, but for us to step in at a big level like that just shows us how to prepare ourselves and all the depth we have,” Linwood said.

Dixon can spot that depth and development every day on the practice field. The amount of talent on the Bears’ roster has come a long way since he was a freshman. It’s going to take a lot more than the best 22 to sustain this Big 12 championship run.

“That depth, that offseason, all of that work with Coach Kaz has helped us,” Dixon said. “We’re starting to turn elite."

Big 12 unsung heroes: Week 12

November, 18, 2013
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Here are the Big 12’s unsung heroes for Week 12:

Baylor running back Devin Chafin: Where do the Bears keep finding these running backs? Chafin finished with 11 carries for 100 yards, 9.1 yards per carry, and two touchdowns, all career-highs. He allowed the Bears to sub out Shock Linwood without a drop-off in production in BU’s 63-34 win over Texas Tech.

[+] EnlargeJake Waters
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesKansas State QB Jake Waters didn't have huge numbers, but he made key plays to help beat West Virginia.
Kansas linebacker Ben Goodman: Goodman was outstanding as Kansas snapped its 27-game Big 12 losing streak with a 31-19 win over West Virginia. He had six solo tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack and one interception, which was key as the Mountaineers were driving early in the third quarter. He showed the athleticism and hops normally seen on the Allen Fieldhouse floor on his momentum-changing interception.

Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters: He didn’t finish with great numbers but led the Wildcats on a game-winning drive in the final two minutes, finding Curry Sexton and Tyler Lockett on key connections to set up Jack Cantele’s game-winning 41-yard field goal. Waters finished 10 of 24 for 234 yards, two touchdowns and one interception but stepped up to make key plays in key moments.

Iowa State defensive end Cory Morrissey: Defensive teammates Jacques Washington and Jeremiah George sat atop the tackles list in the Cyclones’ 48-10 loss to Oklahoma, but Morrissey was solid with five tackles and one tackle for loss. It was his fifth time recording at least five tackles this season.

Oklahoma receiver Jalen Saunders: The Sooners' running game was the star, but Saunders sparked OU’s 48-10 win with a 91-yard punt return for a touchdown right before halftime. The slippery senior didn’t have a major impact in the passing game (three receptions for 15 yards), but his actual impact on the outcome was as big as quarterback Trevor Knight and running back Damien Williams, who each rushed for more than 100 yards in the win.

Oklahoma State receiver Charlie Moore: The senior was very productive in the Cowboys’ 38-13 win over Texas. He caught six of seven targets for 83 yards and one touchdown. With OSU’s top receiver, Josh Stewart, out due to injury, Moore provided a quality receiving option for Clint Chelf in the victory with his season high in receptions and receiving yards.

Texas safety Mykkele Thompson: The junior led UT with six solo tackles (seven total) and one interception in the Longhorns’ 38-10 loss to OSU. His effort was one of the few bright spots in a disappointing home loss to the Cowboys as Thompson recorded a season-high in solo tackles.

TCU safety Derrick Kindred: The sophomore continues to play at a high level while emerging as another option in the Horned Frogs' secondary. He led the squad with eight solo tackles in TCU’s 33-31 loss to Kansas State. He has 17 tackles in the past two games.

Texas Tech cornerback Justis Nelson: Talk about thrown into the fire. Nelson earned his first collegiate start against the explosive Baylor offense and held up well despite his team’s 63-34 loss. The true freshman showed signs he might emerge as an critical part of the Red Raiders' defense of the future with five solo tackles and three pass breakups.

West Virginia linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski: The Mountaineers linebacker contributed to a turnover for the third straight game. After grabbing interceptions in his squad’s previous two outings, Kwiatkoski had eight tackles, including six solo stops, 1.5 tackles for loss and one fumble recovery in the 31-19 loss to KU.

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 6

October, 6, 2013
10/06/13
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Recognizing the best and brightest from around the Big 12 in Week 6:

Baylor running backs: Bryce Petty was sharp as usual, but what a night for the Baylor rushing attack. In the 73-42 beatdown of West Virginia, it rushed for 468 yards and a whopping eight touchdowns on 7.5 yards per carry. Lache Seastrunk, the Big 12's leading rusher, put up an 80-yard score and 172 yards on 15 carries, backup Glasco Martin ran for 63 yards, No. 3 back Shock Linwood had 126 and Devin Chafin chipped in 56 yards. Big kudos to the Bear offense line for the mauling on Saturday.

RB Brennan Clay, Oklahoma: Clay locked up the Sooners' 20-17 win over TCU when he went 76 yards untouched to give OU a 10-point lead with less than five minutes left after the Frogs had cut the deficit to three points by the end of the third quarter. He finished with 111 yards on nine carries and is now the Big 12's third-leading rusher this season with 450 yards.

LB Shaun Lewis, Oklahoma State: Turnovers were the key to the game in Oklahoma State's 33-29 win over Kansas State, and Lewis forced perhaps the most important one. On KSU's first play on offense after OSU had taken a 30-29 lead late, Lewis picked off an underthrown pass from Daniel Sams and picked up 21 yards. That set up Ben Grogan's field goal to go ahead by four. Lewis also led OSU in tackles with eight, had one tackle for loss and forced and recovered a fumble.

WR Eric Ward, Texas Tech: Fellow receivers Jace Amaro and Jakeem Grant are both worthy recipients this week, but we'll go with Ward because he broke out of a slump with seven catches for 122 yards and a touchdown in a win over Kansas. Six of his receptions went for first downs, and his touchdown was a 25-yarder in the fourth quarter. Amaro finished with 96 yards, and Grant added 92.

QB Bryce Petty, Baylor: Petty threw the first interception of his career, which he said will haunt him for the next week, but the junior made up for that rare moment of weakness with 347 passing yards and two touchdowns and also rushed for another score. His night was over after one third-quarter drive, and Petty has still yet to play a four-quarter game thanks to Baylor's blowout wins.

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