Big 12: Dexton Fields
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
On the heels of last season's Orange Bowl appearance, there was curiosity how much a tougher schedule of South Division opponents would affect Kansas.
After losses to Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech by a combined 143-59 margin, it would appear that the tougher schedule had an effect on the 7-5 Jayhawks' season.
That tougher schedule killed their hopes of winning the North Division after a 5-1 start. The Jayhawks fell out of title contention after losing to Nebraska.
The loss of veteran defensive coordinator Bill Young proved critical. New coordinator Clint Bowen's group struggled against better opponents, ranking 87th in scoring defense, 94th in total defense and 113th in pass defense.
Todd Reesing led a potent offense that kept the Jayhawks competitive in most games and sparked a wild comeback victory over Missouri to finish the regular season.
It enabled the Jayhawks to earn a berth in the Insight Bowl against Minnesota. That might not seem like much in the grand scheme of football, but it did enable the Jayhawks to make history.
Coach Mark Mangino's team became the first in Kansas' 119-season football history to make back-to-back bowl appearances. And considering the tougher schedule, that achievement assuredly is an accomplishment.
Offensive player of the year: QB Todd Reesing. Sometimes overshadowed by the other quarterbacks in the league, Reesing broke his own school records for completions (302), attempts (406) and passing yards (3,575) as he threw 28 touchdown passes. He capped his season with a gutsy four-TD effort against Missouri which should resonate through the offseason.
Defensive player of the year: LB James Holt. The most consistent player on an inconsistent defense, Holt was involved in every facet of Kansas' defense. Holt shared the Big 12 lead with 15.5 tackles for loss and six fumbles forced. He was the Jayhawks' best blitzer with seven sacks and led the team with 97 tackles.
Turning point: The Jayhawks rallied from a 20-point halftime deficit to beat Iowa State after Mangino inserted Jake Sharp in the lineup after he had seldom played in the season's first four games. Sharp emerged as a consistent rusher, finishing as the Big 12's third-leading rusher in conference games with 710 yards over the final eight games.
What's next: A victory over slumping Minnesota in the bowl game would help build confidence heading into the offseason. And with the return of key players like Reesing, Sharp, Dexton Fields and Kerry Meier, a run at the Big 12 North title wouldn't be out of the question next season -- even with a tough slate of Big 12 South opponents again next season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are a few tidbits from around the Big 12 as teams prepare for their upcoming games this weekend.
- Missouri S William Moore is back and practicing without a red jersey this week, meaning he'll likely be ready for Nebraska. His absence the last couple of weeks has been the biggest reason for the drop-off in production from the Tigers' defense. Those struggles remain the Tigers' biggest question heading into conference play.
- The return of WR Dexton Fields will not only provide Kansas with its best deep receiving threat, but the Jayhawks also have missed Fields' downfield blocking, which has hurt the breakaway abilities of their pedestrian running game.
- After missing last week's game for what coach Bob Stoops termed as "a discipline problem," Oklahoma G Duke Robinson should be back in the starting lineup this week for the Sooners. Robinson's absence was one of many reasons why the Sooners rushed for only 25 yards last week against TCU -- lowest total in an Oklahoma victory since beating Alabama in 2002.
- Josh Smith's recent fumbling struggles has Colorado coaches considering changes in his use on the special teams. Smith had never played special teams before college and coaches worry he's trying to do too much. Jason Espinoza's return from a broken collarbone could give them another return option, although he's not expected to be back until next week.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
|Tom Hauck/Getty Images|
|Kansas receiver Dezmon Briscoe makes waves with his helmet on -- and off.|
LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Dezmon Briscoe claims there's quiet side to him that he keeps to himself.
But that changes when he plays football. And in honor of the upcoming season, the Kansas sophomore wide receiver has one of the most unusual tonsorial styles in college football to emphasize his flamboyant on-the-field personality.
Briscoe, who snagged 43 receptions for 496 yards last season, carved '"Jayhawks" in block letters on one side and his jersey number 80 on the other side.
"It was just something that me and a couple of other players decided to do," Briscoe said.
As much as the Dallas product might be trying to make a statement when his hairstyle, he says he's determined to show improvement along with fellow receivers Dexton Fields and Marcus Henry. The trio combined to produce 160 receptions last season for 2,344 yards and 23 TDs last season.
"My coaches helped me improve on one of my weaknesses last year, which was dropping a lot of balls," Briscoe said. "I've been working a lot on that in practice, catching balls when I'm tired and a lot of drills like that. It's gotten me better and made excited for the upcoming season."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
|Wesley Hitt/Getty Images|
|Jeremy Maclin racked up 2,776 all-purpose yards as a freshman.|
With all of the expected offense in the Big 12 this season, receivers are poised to rack up some big numbers. The conference is stacked at the top as has some underrated receivers who are poised to emerge as they become the featured catchers for their teams. Here's a look at who I think are the 10 best in the conference.
1. Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech -- What can he do for an encore after the most productive receiving season in college football history?
2. Jeremy Maclin, Missouri -- What can he do for an encore after the most productive all-purpose season in college football history?
3. Juaquin Iglesias, Oklahoma -- Unheralded recruit who should blossom into the Sooners' big-play threat with Malcolm Kelly's departure.
4. Dexton Fields, Kansas -- Produced 63 catches last season and will emerge as Todd Reesing's top deep threat with the departure of Marcus Henry.
5. Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas -- Rangy catcher will be Reesing's primary target for tough catches in traffic -- again.
6. Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State -- Averaged six catches and produced two 100-yard receiving efforts in his final four games in 2007. With the departure of Adarius Bowman, should slide easily into Cowboys' featured receiving role.
7. Quan Cosby, Texas -- His team needs a breakaway receiving threat and this former minor-league baseball player has the speed to fill that role.
8. Deon Murphy, Kansas State -- Ron Prince likes to say that Murphy had better numbers than Jordy Nelson in his junior season. Let's see if Murphy can similarly blossom in his senior season.
9. Detron Lewis, Texas Tech -- He tore up defenders in spring practice and could emerge in Danny Amendola's role as the second receiver in Tech's offense. Mike Leach would be satisfied if Lewis came close to Amendola's 109 catches and 1,245 yards in 2007.
10. Josh Smith, Colorado -- Injured last season as a freshman, but could be ready to erupt as Colorado's deep-play threat. It will be interesting to see what the presence of his nephew, heralded TB recruit Darrell Scott, inspires Smith to do.
Big 12 recruiting coordinators joke they can throw a rock in Houston and Dallas and find more potential football players within a 20-mile radius than any place in the country. It's why those areas have become the recruiting center for almost every team in the conference.
An ESPN.com survey (see chart below) indicates that 45.4 percent of all players in the conference played at Texas high schools. Every team in the South Division has more Texas players on its roster than those from any other state.
Both Missouri and Kansas have parlayed contributions from lightly-regarded Texas recruits to become North Division powers in recent seasons.
Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel was ranked as a solid prospect at Southlake Carroll in suburban Dallas-Fort Worth, but never turned the heads of national powers when he was recruited as might have been expected after watching his college career play out.
But the Tigers have also hit the jackpot on Texans like wide receiver Danario Alexander (Marlin), defensive tackle Ziggy Hood (Amarillo Palo Duro) and defensive end Stryker Sulak (Rockdale) to become huge producers.
Kansas coach Mark Mangino has employed the same strategy, clicking on players like quarterback Todd Reesing (Austin Lake Travis), wide receivers Dezmon Briscoe (Dallas Cedar Hill), Dexton Fields (Dallas South Oak Cliff) and Marcus Herford (De Soto Cedar Hill) and safety Patrick Resby (Houston Forest Brook) to help fuel last season's trip to the Orange Bowl.
The survey indicates that seven schools have more Texas players on their roster than any other state. Baylor, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech all have rosters tilted to the Lone Star State.
Texas coach Mack Brown realizes that he can't keep every top recruit in the state.
"There are a lot of kids that get out of Texas because there's 350 of them and we can only take 22," Brown said. "So there's about 330 that are mad at me every year."
Such recruiting slights have fueled Daniel, who will make his first trip to Austin in a pivotal Oct. 18 game when he faces the Longhorns. Brown and the Longhorns face those challenges from former Texas high-school players every week in the Big 12.
"That's an exciting thing," Brown said. "They always want to prove we were wrong. We knew [about Daniel], the guy didn't lose one high school game. This doesn't surprise us at all. He's done a great job changing the face of Missouri and turning them into a national power. He's great."
Daniel actually never lost a high school game, but who's counting? He was a great Texas high school player who decided that playing at a Big 12 school away from the state was the best way that his friends and family could watch him.
Source: 2008 Big 12 Media Guide