Big 12: Dustin Harris

We're moving on with our 2011 postseason position rankings. Today, it's time for cornerbacks. If you missed it, here's how I ranked them in the preseason.

Here are the other position rankings we've done so far:
Depth is somewhat of a factor here, but I weighted it heavily toward the top two starters at the position.

[+] EnlargeCarrington Byndom
John Albright/Icon SMICarrington Byndom went up against some of the Big 12's top receivers and held his own.
1. Texas — The Longhorns duo of Carrington Byndom and Quandre Diggs were by far the league's best at limiting the big play. Both are physical. Both return. Beware, Big 12 offenses. In just their first year as starters, they helped the Longhorns lead the league in pass defense. Diggs, a true freshman, led the team with four interceptions. Until the regular-season finale against Baylor, Texas and Alabama were the only teams that hadn't given up a touchdown pass longer than 20 yards. Obviously, that's way, way more impressive in the Big 12.

2. Kansas State — K-State overachieved in a lot of ways this year, and perhaps nowhere more than at cornerback. Juco transfer Nigel Malone led the league with seven interceptions. Known entity David Garrett was even more solid, making 88 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss. I ranked this unit 10th in the Big 12 before the season. They finished second. I was wrong.

3. Oklahoma — The Sooners' corners were good, but not great, and underachieved slightly. Jamell Fleming and Demontre Hurst are supremely talented, but were susceptible to big plays this year. Granted, everybody in the Big 12 was, but the Sooners ranked fourth in pass defense. Fleming broke up 10 passes and intercepted two more. Hurst broke up 11 and had an interception.

4. Oklahoma State — At times, Oklahoma State's Brodrick Brown was a legitimate shutdown corner. Justin Gilbert turned in a solid effort in his first year as a starter, which was much more important after a season-ending injury to Devin Hedgepeth in September. Gilbert picked off five passes, second-most in the Big 12.

5. Iowa StateLeonard Johnson was quietly an NFL prospect that put together a huge year. He was a big reason for ISU's upset of No. 2 Oklahoma State, and helped shut down Justin Blackmon. He finished with 71 tackles, eight pass breakups and a pick. Jeremy Reeves added two picks and seven pass breakups.

6. MissouriE.J. Gaines led the Big 12 with 16 pass breakups, and the Tigers ranked fifth in the Big 12 in pass defense. Fellow first-year starter Kip Edwards added a pick and three pass breakups.

7. Texas A&M — The team's top corner, Coryell Judie, was hampered by a hamstring injury all season, but production is production. It wasn't there for Judie, one of the league's top corners in 2010. Terrence Frederick had a good year with 13 pass breakups and a pick, but the Aggies were susceptible through the air all year. Lionel Smith and Dustin Harris filled in well in Judie's absence, but not well enough. A&M finished eighth in pass defense and helped five QBs set career highs for passing yardage in 2011.

8. BaylorK.J. Morton played well down the stretch for Baylor, but the Bears defense left a lot to be desired almost everywhere. They finished last in the Big 12 in pass defense, giving up over 290 yards a game. Morton picked off four passes and broke up six more. All four of his picks came in the final three games of 2011. Chance Casey broke up six passes and made 48 stops.

9. Texas Tech — How's this for irony? The Red Raiders actually finished second in the Big 12 in pass defense. It doesn't matter much. Tre' Porter had the only interception for a cornerback all season, and broke up two passes. Injuries were a problem all season. Cornelius Douglas, Derrick Mays, Jarvis Phillips and Sawyer Vest filled the unit, but Tech faced 61 fewer pass attempts than Kansas and 111 fewer than the next team in the Big 12. That's what happens when you can't stop the run. Doesn't mean the corners played well.

10. KansasGreg Brown picked off two passes and broke up three more. Isiah Barfield made 35 tackles and broke up five passes. The Jayhawks ranked ninth in the Big 12 in pass defense. They didn't get much of a pass rush to help the corners, but the corners were very poor in 2011.

The 2011 Big 12 All-Bowl team

January, 13, 2012
1/13/12
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Here's the All-Bowl team from the Big 12, recognizing the best single-game performances from this year's bowls.

QB: Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State: Weeden threw for 399 yards and three touchdowns (it could have been four if a game-winning TD pass to Colton Chelf hadn't been overturned) on 29-of-42 passing. His first pass was intercepted, but he had an otherwise solid night and ran for his first career touchdown in the 41-38 win against Stanford.

[+] EnlargeTerrance Ganaway
AP Photo/Darren AbateBaylor's Terrance Ganaway rushed for five TDs in the Alamo Bowl.
RB: Terrance Ganaway, Baylor: The Big 12 rushing champion ran for 200 yards and five touchdowns in the Bears' 67-56 win against Washington in the Alamo Bowl.

RB: Ben Malena, Texas A&M: Malena stepped in for the injured Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael and had a solid game in the Aggies' 33-22 win against Northwestern in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. He finished with 77 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, showcasing his physical running style. He also caught six passes for 36 yards.

FB: Trey Millard, Oklahoma: Millard carried the ball four times for 21 yards but also helped pave the way for three Blake Bell touchdowns from the Belldozer formation.

WR: Ryan Swope, Texas A&M: Jeff Fuller had better numbers in the bowl, but it was aided by big catches late. Swope kept the Aggies offense humming for most of the game, with eight catches for 105 yards in the win against Northwestern.

WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State: Blackmon was the best offensive player in the Big 12 bowls, spearheading Oklahoma State's offense in the Fiesta Bowl win with eight catches for 186 yards and three touchdowns.

WR: Colton Chelf, Oklahoma State: Chelf made two huge catches over the middle early and a third nearly won the game, but his touchdown was overturned. Still, OSU doesn't win its first BCS bowl without Chelf's 97 yards on five catches.

TE: Michael Egnew, Missouri: By Egnew's standards, it was a quiet game, but he played well with a 25-yard grab and three catches for 39 yards in Mizzou's win.

OL: Grant Garner, Oklahoma State: Oklahoma State's offensive line is keyed by Garner, who helped the Cowboys handle Stanford's blitzes well and give Weeden plenty of time in the Fiesta Bowl win.

OL: Philip Blake, Baylor: Baylor ran for 482 yards and scored 67 points in its win against Washington in the Alamo Bowl. Blake's the man who keyed it all.

OL: Levy Adcock, Oklahoma State: Adcock's the best overall talent on OSU's line, and he showed it in the win against Stanford.

OL: Dan Hoch, Missouri: Missouri rolled over one of the nation's best rush defenses, North Carolina, for 337 yards on the ground.

OL: Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M: The Aggies' offense was potent for most of its win against Northwestern, and Joeckel was solid in run and pass blocking for the balanced attack.

DEFENSE

DL: Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas: Jeffcoat made five tackles, two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss in the Longhorns' 21-10 win against Cal. The Texas defense dominated, and the defensive line's play was the catalyst. He did it all with a torn pectoral muscle, too. He'll miss the spring after having it surgically repaired this week.

[+] EnlargeAdam Davis
AP Photo/Matt StrasenKansas State defensive end Adam Davis, 97, had two sacks and forced this first-half fumble by Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson in the Cotton Bowl.
DL: Adam Davis, Kansas State: Davis sacked Arkansas' Tyler Wilson twice and had three tackles for loss with a forced fumble in the loss to the Razorbacks.

DL: R.J. Washington, Oklahoma: With Ronnell Lewis ineligible, Washington showed up big in the win against Iowa. He had two sacks and made three tackles.

DL: Tony Jerod-Eddie, Texas A&M: Jerod-Eddie made eight tackles and had a sack in the win against Northwestern.

LB: Damontre Moore, Texas A&M: Moore was a monster in the season finale for the Aggies, making nine tackles and forcing a fumble on his lone sack.

LB: A.J. Klein, Iowa State: Klein flew around for the Cyclones, making 15 tackles in a physical game against Rutgers, though the Cyclones lost.

LB: Jordan Hicks, Texas: Could this be a big piece of momentum heading into 2012? Hicks starred with seven tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss and a pass breakup in the win against Cal.

CB: Jamell Fleming, Oklahoma: Fleming was the Big 12's best defensive player of the bowls and the best player on the field in the Insight Bowl, making seven tackles, intercepting a pass and returning it 21 yards. He also broke up three passes.

CB: David Garrett, Kansas State: Garrett made 10 tackles and had two tackles for loss in the loss to Arkansas.

S: Kenny Vaccaro, Texas: He hates the nickname Machete, but Vaccaro was hacking away at Cal. He made three tackles, including two for loss and a sack.

S: Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State: Even if it was illegal (it was), Martin had the hit of the bowl season with a huge blast on Stanford's Ty Montgomery that took Montgomery's helmet off on the opening drive. He finished with nine tackles and a tackle for loss, with a fumble recovery.

SPECIALISTS

P: Tress Way, Oklahoma: Way averaged 50 yards on his six punts, including a 67-yarder.

PK: Randy Bullock, Texas A&M: Bullock made all four of his field goal attempts, including two from beyond 40 yards.

PR: Dustin Harris, Texas A&M: Harris looked the part of the Big 12's best, returning a punt 35 yards and finishing with 54 yards on his four returns.

KR: Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State: Gilbert had a 50-yard return and returned his four kicks for a total of 136 yards.

ESPN.com's 2011 All-Big 12 Team

December, 9, 2011
12/09/11
10:30
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Editor’s Note: Tune into the “AT&T ESPN All America Team Show” on Saturday (ABC, 1:30 p.m. ET) to see who ESPN’s writers and experts selected.

It's been a fun season across the Big 12, with a few big names who didn't play as well as we thought, and lots of unknowns who became household names by the end of the season.

I'll offer my comments below, but here's our All-Big 12 team for 2011.

OFFENSE

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
Jerome Miron/US PresswireThe heroics of Robert Griffin III got Baylor to 9-3 and made him a Heisman Trophy finalist.
QB: Robert Griffin III, Baylor
All-purpose: Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
RB: Terrance Ganaway, Baylor
RB: Henry Josey, Missouri
FB: Trey Millard, Oklahoma
WR: Kendall Wright, Baylor
WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
WR: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
TE: Michael Egnew, Missouri
C: Grant Garner, Oklahoma State
OL: Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State
OL: Levy Adcock, Oklahoma State
OL: Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
OL: Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M

DEFENSE

DE: Frank Alexander, Oklahoma
DT: Dominique Hamilton, Missouri
DE: Alex Okafor, Texas
DE: Jamie Blatnick, Oklahoma State
LB: Sean Porter, Texas A&M
LB: Jake Knott, Iowa State
LB: Emmanuel Acho, Texas
NB: Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma
CB: Nigel Malone, Kansas State
CB: Carrington Byndom, Texas
S: Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
S: Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State

SPECIALISTS

P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
PK: Randy Bullock, Texas A&M
PR: Dustin Harris, Texas A&M
KR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

Finally, a few notes and explanations:

  • I loved the media's idea to craft an all-purpose spot to accomodate Collin Klein. The Big Ten did the same for Michigan's Denard Robinson last season. I followed suit, and did so on the defensive side of the ball with a nickel-back spot for Oklahoma's Tony Jefferson. Two players that missed first-team designation by the coaches, but clearly deserve to be recognized.
  • Additionally, I prefer the teams to reflect the Big 12 style of play, so the nickel back fits. Each team doesn't have 11 players, but there were deserving linebackers. The same with Egnew and Millard. Does every team use a fullback or a tight end? No, but both are standout performers. They'd rotate in anyway, just as Jefferson would in a theoretical package.
  • Tough call to leave Philip Blake from Baylor off my team, but Garner's been better. Blake is very, very close, though.
  • Hated to leave off Brodrick Brown and E.J. Gaines, but I went with a more traditional two corners and two safeties, rather than four corners like the media's team.
  • Steven Johnson and Arthur Brown would have been right behind my three linebackers. That race was probably closer than at any other position, except maybe cornerback. Difficult to leave either of those guys off my first team, but the three on the team were better. I gave Brown my Newcomer of the Year nod, though.
  • I don't like going with three defensive ends and one defensive tackle, but there wasn't a defensive tackle who deserved the honor more than Okafor, my third defensive end. Okafor was a defensive tackle last year anyway, so that's close enough, right? He moved from tackle to end before spring practice earlier this year. In the Big 12, an additional pass rusher is necessary, too, right?
  • I made a similar move with my offensive line. Went tackle-heavy, but the guards didn't have quite as many standouts.

Halftime analysis: Texas A&M 16, Texas 7

November, 24, 2011
11/24/11
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas games look quite a bit different than the rest in the Big 12. That's not necessarily a good thing. The Longhorns have a solid defense, but a limping and inexperienced offense. The result: A brand of football not often seen in the Big 12.

Quite the half. The Aggies lead 16-7. Time for a bit of analysis.

Turning point: Dustin Harris let a punt hit him and the Longhorns recovered. A trick play later, the Longhorns cut the Aggies' lead to 13-7 when Jaxon Shipley hit Blaine Irby for a 41-yard touchdown pass. Before that, Texas' offense hardly had a pulse. Funny how one play can produce so much confidence. The Longhorns looked much better moving forward from that point, which came at the 9:19 mark in the second quarter.

Stat of the half: The two teams combined to convert 2 of 17 third downs. Ouch.

Best player in the half: Randy Bullock, K, Texas A&M. Bullock's been money for the Aggies, banging home kicks of 49, 52 and 29 yards to become the school's single-season record-holder for made field goals with 24. He's also got 124 points, four short of the single-season school record set back in 1927.

Best call: Bryan Harsin's double pass. It was pretty obvious that nothing the Longhorns did was working. They needed a bit of misdirection or something that could rip off a chunk of yardage. It came at the perfect time, caught the Aggies off-guard and pushed Texas back into contention in a game that, early on, looked like it had no business being in.

What Texas needs to do: Keep mixing in some misdirection plays and tricky stuff as needed. The Longhorns don't look capable of moving the ball using their traditional offense. Case McCoy hasn't been able to stretch the field. Receivers haven't been getting open often. The holes haven't been there for Malcolm Brown. The Longhorns need big plays from the defense, special teams or offense. Without them, adding a couple more touchdowns in the second half to come back and win this is going to be extremely difficult.

What Texas A&M needs to do: Look at the scoreboard. Texas has seven points. It came off the Aggies' biggest mistake. Quit making big mistakes. Take what the Longhorns' defense gives them. Prevent the big play. Make Texas string together completions to move the ball. There's not much evidence to suggest the Longhorns can do it. Check all those things off the list and Texas A&M gets the last shot at Texas on the way to the SEC.

Did you know: Lone Star Showdown edition

November, 23, 2011
11/23/11
5:00
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Texas and Texas A&M are jumping the gun as usual and kicking off on Thursday night. We'll get a head start, too, and add a few fun facts courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information and various sports information departments around the Big 12.
  • Thursday will be the 64th time among the 118 meetings between the schools that they have played on Thanksgiving Day.
  • Texas' 92 appearances in the BCS standings are the most of any team in the nation.
  • This season's offensive line is the heaviest in Texas A&M school history, and the Aggies are one of just seven teams nationally without a senior starting on the O-line.
  • Cyrus Gray is just the third player in Texas A&M history with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
  • Gray's 6,423 career all-purpose yards are No. 24 on the all-time FBS list.
  • Texas held Kansas State to 121 yards of total offense last week, the lowest for the Wildcats since 182 yards against Kansas in 2005.
  • Texas has won 34 0f its past 40 true road games in Big 12 play.
  • A&M's Dustin Harris had 162 yards of punt return yardage last week, the most in school history.
  • The Longhorns have four consecutive games with at least 10 tackles for loss, including 16 against K-State. Quarterback Collin Klein ran 26 times for four yards.
  • Aggies quarterback Ryan Tannehill needs 103 passing yards for 5,000 career yards.
  • Texas leads the all-time series, 75-37-5, including a 9-4 record since Mack Brown took over at UT.
  • Brown needs 29 wins to take over the all-time lead at Texas, but has 53 more wins than the No. 3 coach at UT.
  • Texas A&M's 61 points last week were the third-highest in school history.
  • Texas has faced Texas A&M on a short week 25 times, and have a 14-11 record in those meetings.
  • Brown's 225 career wins are now second-most among active coaches, behind Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer, who has 250.
  • Texas has won 17 of its last 18 games decided by three points or less.
  • A&M kicker Randy Bullock's 114 points this season are 14 short of the school record for scoring, set by Joel Hunt in 1927. Bullock's 21 field goals are already tied for a school record. One more would give it to him outright, breaking Scott Slater's 1986 record.
  • Texas A&M hasn't lost to a team from Texas since UT beat the Aggies in the 2009 season finale.

Big 12 Players of the Week: BU, ISU, A&M

November, 21, 2011
11/21/11
10:30
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The Big 12 has announced its players of the week.

OFFENSE

Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor: Griffin led Baylor to its first win against a top five opponent since 1985 with 479 yards and four touchdowns on 21-of-34 passing, adding 72 yards rushing in the 45-38 win. He completed a 34-yard, game-winning touchdown pass with eight seconds left and also had completions of 22, 23, 50, 55, 69 and 87 yards.

DEFENSE

A.J. Klein, LB, Iowa State: Klein made 14 tackles, forced a fumble and had a quarterback hurry that led to an interception in Iowa State's 37-31 win against No. 2 Oklahoma State in double overtime. He also had a tackle for loss and helped hold OSU to 60 yards rushing on 18 attempts.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Dustin Harris, CB/PR, Texas A&M: Harris had 162 yards on three punt returns to set a school record and returned one 72 yards for a touchdown in the Aggies 61-7 win against Kansas.

RB Cyrus Gray's day ends with an injury

November, 19, 2011
11/19/11
2:38
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Could be a costly win for Texas A&M, even if it's easy.

The Aggies lead, 61-0, late in the third quarter, but Cyrus Gray emerged from the locker room after halftime without pads and wearing only a warmup suit.

He's out with an undisclosed injury, and will be re-evaluated after the game, according to a sideline report. Texas A&M officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Dustin Harris continued his big day returning punts with a 72-yard return to put the Aggies up 61, but the Gray injury would be huge if it's serious.

Texas A&M is already playing without Christine Michael, who was the team's leading rusher when he tore his ACL against Oklahoma.

Ben Malena is the Aggies' third back, but the league's best 1-2 punch at running back is down for now.

With Texas waiting next week in what may be the final Lone Star Showdown for a long time, there will be some nervous moments ahead for the Aggies.

Malena has 32 yards and a touchdown on eight carries today.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill's took a seat in the third quarter because of the big lead, and Jameill Showers has gotten the nod in mop-up duty.

Kansas' league win hopes shaky

November, 19, 2011
11/19/11
12:38
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Kansas has knocked on the door of its first conference win the past two weeks, losing to Baylor and Iowa State by a combined four points.

On Saturday, the Jayhawks haven't been nearly as threatening at Texas A&M. The Aggies lead 9-0 in the first quarter, after a punt snap went awry and the Jayhawks took a safety.

For those counting, that's three times as many points in a third of the time as Baylor scored last week. The Bears trailed, 24-3, entering the fourth quarter before a furious comeback forced overtime.

It's pretty simple: Kansas can't make those kinds of mistakes and hope to win this game. Texas A&M has a lot more talent and a lot more experience. So far, it's shown. A nice punt return from Dustin Harris set up a three-play, 42-yard touchdown drive that opened the game, highlighted by a 30-yard run from Cyrus Gray.

Kansas has already put itself in a hole, and the Jayhawks haven't been a team that's shown an ability to climb out of one.


COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III was wrapped up, all but down on fourth down deep in Texas A&M's red zone.

Somehow, he found a way to lob the ball to tight end Jordan Najvar. The ball fluttered over the hands of two Aggies defenders and Najvar, setting off a celebration on the way back to the sidelines and firing up the 87,361 comprising the fourth-largest crowd ever at Kyle Field.

Baylor didn't score again, and Texas A&M rolled to a 55-28 win over the Bears.

"Unstoppable. That’s really what we thought," defensive end Spencer Nealy said.

Nealy led the team with seven tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.

"After the fourth down stop, honestly, you look at every guy running off the field, jumping up and down. We really uplifted our confidence," he said.

Sometimes all it takes is one play to change the course of a game and perhaps a season. The Aggies led by 13, and if the Aggies hadn't made the stop, the odds of a third second-half nightmare in four weeks becoming a reality would have quickly risen.

"We knew it was big," said linebacker Jonathan Stewart, who had one of five sacks for Texas A&M. "We just knew we needed to grit our teeth and just get the stop."

The mistakes were there. Griffin torched this wrecked crew for a school-record 430 yards, the third quarterback in four weeks to write his name in the school record book at the Aggies' expense.

A few costly offside penalties in the first half extended Baylor drives.

"I’m sure we’ll probably get yelled at for that during Monday morning film, but we had to get pressure on him," Nealy said.

Twice the defense got beat over the top for touchdown passes of 77 yards and 43 yards, and Griffin set up another touchdown with a 50-yard bomb to Tevin Reese, who drew pass interference on the play, too.

After the game, Sherman stopped Griffin.

"If you're III, I don't want to meet I and II," he told him.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
AP Photo/Jon EiltsTexas A&M's defense contained Robert Griffin III and the Baylor offense when it counted in the fourth quarter.
But for Texas A&M, it can focus on the day's biggest number: Baylor's gaping zero on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter.

"We're not going to shut this team out," Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman said of the Bears, who entered Saturday's game third nationally in total offense with the most efficient passing game in college football. "They will move the ball against anyone and everyone."

Except, apparently, Texas A&M in the fourth quarter.

"In the end, it came down to that fourth-down stop," Nealy said.

The stop allayed at least a few fears that this experienced team loaded with as much talent as any in the Big 12 can't perform in the second half.

This was a game complete with the end of a 22-quarter drought without a turnover. The Aggies did it with pressure on a previously unflappable quarterback in Griffin. He'd thrown just one interception with 19 touchdowns in 143 attempts entering Saturday's game, but the Aggies pressured him and he threw it up for grabs. Dustin Harris took advantage.

"We're taught to get takeaways. That's the first thing on our list," Harris said. "It was on our backs to get that pick or a turnover on defense and it happened on that play. Our offense went down and converted."

The last part was nothing new for the Aggies, who didn't punt in the second half. With the kind of firepower Texas A&M fields on offense, the defense's margin of error is only slightly wider than the separation Ryan Swope got on opposing defenders throughout Saturday's game.

Swope finished with a career-high 206 yards on 11 receptions and four of Ryan Tannehill's six touchdown passes.

"Our offensive line really set the tone of the game," Swope said. "People were just making plays. Coach strives on winning 1-on-1 matchups, and I feel like we did that."

Said Tannehill: "It was fun watching him play today."

The first-team offense scored on every possession in the second half, scoring 52 points in the game's final 39 minutes. The second-half failures that had become the team's defining trait through the first half of the season had, for at least an afternoon, disappeared.

Sometimes, all it takes is one play.

Aggies offense carrying the load

October, 15, 2011
10/15/11
3:16
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- One fourth-down stop was all it took.

Texas A&M's offense has scored points on all four of its possessions this half and opened up a 48-28 lead midway through the fourth quarter.

The defense let Baylor get to the 4-yard line before making a stop to get the ball back.

It took just seven plays to go 96 yards and add another touchdown.

For Texas A&M's defense, it's pretty obvious that it doesn't need much to win games like this against teams without elite defenses.

The offense has been outstanding throughout, and one defensive stop in the entire half meant a 20-point lead. The defense also ended its 22-quarter streak without a turnover when Dustin Harris intercepted a Robert Griffin III jump ball.

This is what Texas A&M can be.

The defense doesn't have to be great for the Aggies to rescue this season. It just has to be better.

In the second half, it has been.

Aggieland is buzzing early

October, 15, 2011
10/15/11
9:59
AM ET
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- It looks like everybody in Aggieland remembered to set their alarm clocks for an early wake-up call.

The tailgates were getting fired up a full 150 minutes before kickoff this morning and it's a gorgeous morning as the Corps of Cadets marched through a few of them.

A crisp morning will progress into a warm afternoon for the noon ET kickoff. The sun's out and there's not a cloud in sight from the press box at Kyle Field.

The season hasn't gone as A&M (3-2) would have liked, but they've got a chance for a satisfying victory today. A&M is headed to the SEC next year, and every fan in maroon and white today would love a win over the school that tried the hardest to stop it.

The good news for the Aggies: Receiver Jeff Fuller has been officially cleared to play after suffering a concussion in last week's 45-40 win over Texas Tech.

Fuller practiced Tuesday and Wednesday without contact, but was cleared for contact on Thursday and is good to go today. One player who isn't: Receiver/punt returner Kenric McNeal.

He has a sprained foot, and is a game-time decision. He'll come out to the field today and work out before coaches decide if he's ready to go. If not, cornerback Dustin Harris is expected to replace him as punt returner.

Big 12 Players of the Week: OU, Texas A&M

October, 10, 2011
10/10/11
11:30
AM ET
The Big 12 has named its players of the week for Week 6.

OFFENSE

Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma: Jones threw for 367 yards and three touchdowns on 31-of-50 passing, including all three scores and 305 yards coming in the first half of the Sooners' 55-17 win over Texas.

DEFENSE

Jamell Fleming, CB, Oklahoma: Fleming made 13 tackles (11 solo), including two of the Sooners' 17 tackles for loss. He also forced and recovered a fumble, returning it 56 yards for a touchdown.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Dustin Harris, CB, Texas A&M: Harris blocked a field goal that Texas A&M's Terrance Frederick returned for a touchdown in the Aggies' 45-40 win over Texas A&M. He also made two tackles.

Big plays galore in the first quarter

October, 1, 2011
10/01/11
12:45
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- It didn't take long before Texas A&M and Arkansas started putting on a show.

The Aggies had plays of 48 and 44 yards before Arkansas got back into the game with a 68-yard touchdown.

After the first quarter, the Aggies led 14-7.

Last week, the Aggies struggled early with Oklahoma State's offensive pace. This week, Texas A&M is doing it to the Hogs. Texas A&M's pace is giving Arkansas problems, but the real problem is Texas A&M's recommitment to the running game.

A week after becoming the forgotten man in Texas A&M's running game, Christine Michael has re-emerged with a pair of touchdowns, including his 48-yard score on an awkward exchange with quarterback Ryan Tannehill and a hurdle over a few linemen into the open field.

Michael appeared to grab the ball out of Tannehill's hand as he cocked to throw. When he does that and scores from midfield, though, everybody's happy, even if it's not pretty.

Texas A&M's defense has been solid, but the 68-yard touchdown to Jarius Wright late in the quarter was a rare bust for the unit, which has been consistently pressuring Tyler Wilson and putting him on his back.

Dustin Harris gave the Aggies their only sack with a big hit on Wilson, who didn't see the unblocked corner.

With these two offenses, expect more big plays before it's over.

Plenty of new looks on A&M depth chart

August, 30, 2011
8/30/11
10:30
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Texas A&M unveiled its depth chart on Monday, too, with a few interesting looks.
  • Damontre Moore, on the heels of his spot duty as a true freshman last season, had plenty of hype heading into 2011. But as fall camp progressed, it was apparent he might not have a starting spot. Caleb Russell, a junior, overtook Moore for the spot and enters the season as the starter at the Joker spot for the Wrecking Crew. Russell, a former walk-on who was awarded a scholarship on Monday, doesn't have the physical measurables of Moore, but he's proved he deserves the spot. Bully for him.
  • Junior Jonathan Stewart grabbed the inside linebacker spot opposite Garrick Williams for the Aggies in one of the most high-profile position battles in the league. Michael Hodges will be missed at the spot, but Kyle Mangan and true freshman Donnie Baggs are co-backups at the other inside linebacker spot behind Williams.
  • Terrance Frederick is the starter at one corner for the Aggies, but the other? Dustin Harris and Coryell Judie are sharing a spot. Big surprise on that one.
  • Cyrus Gray starts the season on top of the depth chart, ahead of Christine Michael. No worries. Both will get plenty of touches.
  • The offensive line hasn't quite jelled. Evan Eike is listed as a co-starter with sophomore Shep Klinke (a missed possible selection for the all-name team? I think so.)
  • At tight end, Hutson Prioleau has unseated returning starter Nehemiah Hicks, a sophomore who has slid to third behind Prioleau and co-starter Michael Lamothe. Surprised to see that there. Hopes are high for Hicks in College Station, but he's got a lot to prove.
  • Jameill Showers was named the backup quarterback on Monday.
We'll move on to the cornerbacks today in our position rankings across the Big 12.

Here's what we've covered so far:
This group? Well, it's not very good. And considering the crazy depth in the Big 12 at receiver, it could be a long season for cornerbacks in this league. I love the upside of many of the Big 12 corners -- namely the guys at Missouri and Texas Tech (especially working with Chad Glasgow's 4-2-5 in Lubbock). Texas could also develop fast in its new defense, but outside of Texas A&M and Oklahoma, I don't see any Big 12 teams that should be completely comfortable with their cornerbacks.

Of course, for fans who love points, this could be a welcome development. For secondary coaches and defensive coordinators? Not so much.

[+] EnlargeJamell Fleming
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireJamell Fleming returns as the Big 12's top cornerback.
1. Oklahoma -- Jamell Fleming is the Big 12's top returner at the position and gives the Sooners a huge boost after being reinstated last week. Fleming had withdrawn from the university because of academic problems following the season. Aaron Colvin moved to safety during the offseason, but Fleming will still have to beat out Gabe Lynn in fall camp to start opposite Demontre Hurst. Julian Wilson also adds depth.

2. Texas A&M -- Fleming's return pushed the Sooners over A&M as having the Big 12's best group of corners. But Coryell Judie and Terrence Frederick could both challenge for first team All-Big 12 honors at the position. They are ahead of reserves Dustin Harris and Lionel Smith, who will get plenty of time on the field.

3. Missouri -- Missouri loses starters Carl Gettis and Kevin Rutland, but the coaches consider Kip Edwards a returning starter because of how much he played last season. Edwards could join E.J. Gaines in eventually becoming better than both Gettis and Rutland. Trey Hobson and Robert Steeples will get time in the rotation, too.

4. Oklahoma State -- OSU has to replace the Big 12's interception leader Andrew McGee , but Brodrick Brown's development should continue. He's likely a dark horse to earn first-team All-Big 12 honors after the season. The Cowboys didn't release a post-spring depth chart, but don't be surprised if return specialist Justin Gilbert edges out Devin Hedgepeth for the starting spot before the opener. Andrae May has earned playing time on special teams in both of his first two seasons on campus, but could be counted on for a much bigger role this year as the fourth corner.

5. Texas -- The Longhorns are fairly decimated at corner after losing three to the NFL in one offseason. Curtis and Chykie Brown joined Aaron Williams for one of the most talented sets of corners we've seen in this league, but now, secondary coach Duane Akina will have to replace them. Texas' depth chart is still as in flux as any in college football, but I'd be surprised if Carrington Byndom didn't emerge with a starting spot. True freshman Quandre Diggs might swipe the other, but A.J. White will be on the field, too.

6. Texas Tech -- The Red Raiders are likely to ascend this list by season's end, but for now, find themselves at No. 6. Injuries were costly for the defense last season, but Tre Porter and Derrick Mays should be much better, and Tech fans can be encouraged by the upside in Jarvis Phillips, Jeremy Reynolds and Eugene Neboh.

7. Iowa State -- This group might be a bit underrated, but with Iowa State's defensive problems last season, it's a bit hard to tell. Jeremy Reeves and Leonard Johnson return with loads of experience, and Anthony Young is a great additional piece as the third corner. Matthew Thomas should be in the rotation, too.

8. Baylor -- The Bears return both starters. Chance Casey has 15 career starts to Tyler Stephenson's four, but the Bears secondary struggled last season, especially the corners. Tuswani Copeland should be on the field under new coordinator Phil Bennett, whose work is cut out for him at this spot.

9. Kansas -- Kansas loses Chris Harris from last season's team, but Isiah Barfield is a playmaker at the position. Greg Brown, Tyler Patmon and Anthony Davis fill out the group.

10. Kansas State -- The Wildcats have a huge talent in David Garrett, who led the team in tackles last season and was the nation's leader in tackles for loss, but he's still just one player at a position that needs lots of depth in this league. Also, his coverage leaves a bit to be desired. For now, K-State doesn't look like it has that necessary depth. Terrance Sweeney and Stephen Harrison are gone, but the Wildcats need to find more talents at the position in fall camp. Watch for Thomas Ferguson to emerge as the other starter.

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