Big 12: Eric Richter

Weak & Strong: Colorado

March, 9, 2010
3/09/10
9:00
AM ET
Here, we’ll take a look at one area where each team in the Big 12 can expect to succeed and another that needs improvement.

Next up: Colorado

Weak: Running back

Rodney Stewart rushed for a respectable 804 yards in 2009, topping 100 yards in five games. But Stewart’s backups, Darrell Scott and Demetrius Sumler, both left Boulder in the offseason, leaving Dan Hawkins with just three scholarship backs to employ during spring practice. Outside of Stewart, Brian Lockridge is the only one with experience, and he carried the ball just 12 times for 53 yards in 2009.

Colorado was 11th in the Big 12 in total rushing yards last season, but averaged more than half a yard less per carry than any other team in the conference and rushed for the fewest touchdowns (14). Hardly anyone uses just one running back anymore, and Stewart will need help from someone when the season arrives. If no one can give it to him, and Stewart is forced to miss time with injury, 2010 could be another long year for Colorado, which finished 3-9 overall and 2-6 in Big 12 play last year.

Strong: Left tackle

Nate Solder enters his junior season as a two-year starter at tackle after transitioning to the position from tight end. Solder earned All-Big 12 honors as a junior, but even at 6-foot-9 and 305 pounds, he can’t block all 11 players lined up across from him. His unit gave up 44 sacks in 2009, 12 more than any other team in the conference.

Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner returns after missing much of 2009 with knee injuries, and JUCO transfer Eric Richter, a 6-foot-4, 315-pounder from California, could inject some hope into the rest of the Buffaloes' line.

More Weak & Strong:

Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each program heading into the spring:

Baylor Bears
Spring practice starts: March 16
Spring game: April 10

1. Quarterback Robert Griffin III's surgically repaired right knee. Griffin hasn't played since tearing the ACL in his right knee in the third game of the '09 season. He recently said he's ahead of schedule in rehabilitation, but probably won’t do much during spring practice. He'll wear a heavy knee brace and won’t participate in contact drills.

2. New linebackers. The Bears lost strongside linebacker Antonio Jones and middle linebacker Joe Pawelek, who combined to make 190 tackles last season. Senior Earl Patin, who also has played some defensive end during his career, is poised to replace Pawelek in the middle. But Patin will have to hold off highly regarded youngsters Chris McAllister and LeQuince McCall, who redshirted in ’09. Senior Chris Francis is probably the top candidate to replace Jones on the strong side.

3. Safety. The Bears must replace both of their starting safeties, including All-Big 12 performer Jordan Lake, who started 36 games in a row. Junior college transfer Byron Landor and sophomore Mike Hicks will get the first looks in the spring. But they'll have to hold off incoming freshman Ahmad Dixon, one of the top prospects to ever sign with Baylor, after he arrives for fall camp.

Colorado Buffaloes
Spring practice starts: March 6
Spring game: April 10

1. Michigan transfer Toney Clemons. Buffaloes coach Dan Hawkins called Clemons his team's most exciting receiver while he sat out the '09 season under NCAA transfer rules. The cousin of Arizona Cardinals receiver Steve Breaston, Clemons could bring an interesting dynamic to the CU offense. His arrival couldn't come at a better time, either, after Markques Simas was suspended indefinitely for violating team rules.

2. Linebacker. The Buffaloes must replace their two most productive linebackers after losing Marcus Burton and Jeff Smart. The departed seniors combined to make 105 solo tackles and 6.5 sacks last season. Senior Michael Sipili is the top candidate to replace Burton in the middle, and sophomore Jon Major might get the first crack at replacing Smart on the weak side.

3. Offensive line. The unit's inconsistency has dogged Hawkins' offense in each of his first four seasons. Eight offensive linemen had significant playing time in '09, so the Buffs are looking for more stability up front. The return of sophomore guard Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner from a pair of knee injuries, and early arrival of junior college transfer Eric Richter might shore up the interior line.

Iowa State Cyclones
Spring practice starts: March 23
Spring game: April 17

1. Linebackers. The Cyclones lost each of their starting three linebackers: Josh Raven, Jesse Smith and Fred Garrin. Junior Jacob Lattimer is in line to replace Raven on the strong side, and two highly regarded sophomores are in line to fill the other spots. A.J. Klein, who had 17 tackles in 13 games as a freshman, might get the unenviable task of replacing Smith, who led the Big 12 in tackles in '09. Jake Knott, who had 23 tackles as a freshman, is the top candidate to start on the weak side.

2. Wide receiver. Iowa State lost leading receiver Marquis Hamilton, who had 50 catches for 606 yards with four touchdowns in '09. Tight end Derrick Catlett, another top receiving threat, also is gone. The good news: Junior Darius Reynolds returns from a broken leg that caused him to miss all but four games last season. Reynolds, who earned the moniker "Money" for his big-play potential, had 13 catches for 72 yards before he was hurt in practice in late September. Junior college tight end Ricky Howard enrolled in classes in January and will participate in spring practice.

3. Defensive line. Two starters will have to be replaced after ISU lost right end Christopher Lyle and tackle Nate Frere. Lyle led the team with five sacks in '09; Frere was a pretty good run-stopper. Sophomores Cleyon Laing and Roosevelt Maggitt will get strong looks at end, and senior Austin Alburtis and sophomore Jake McDonough will move into the tackle rotation.

Kansas Jayhawks
Spring practice starts: March 27
Spring game: April 24

1. Quarterback. New Kansas coach Turner Gill might have one heck of a competition on his hands. Sophomore Kale Pick is a mobile option, after averaging 11.9 yards per rushing attempt in 2009. Junior college transfer Quinn Mecham, who enrolled in classes at Kansas in January, threw for 3,091 yards with 40 touchdowns and 11 interceptions at Snow College in Utah last season.

2. Wide receiver. The Jayhawks have to replace departed stars Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe, which will be no easy task. The duo combined to catch 186 passes for 2,322 yards with 17 touchdowns last season. Bradley McDougald and Johnathan Wilson were proven targets last season, but younger players such as Chris Omigie and incoming freshman Keeston Terry will have to help this fall.

3. Secondary. The Kansas defense gave up too many big passing plays and didn't create enough turnovers last season. The Jayhawks will have to replace strong safety Darrell Stuckey, who led them with 93 tackles in '09. Senior Phillip Strozier will get the first crack at replacing the heart and soul of the Kansas defense.

Kansas State Wildcats
Spring practice starts: March 21
Spring game: April 24

1. Oregon transfer Chris Harper. In 2008, Harper played wide receiver and quarterback for the Ducks as a freshman. He became the first Oregon player in eight years to run, pass and catch a touchdown in the same season. Harper, a native of Wichita, Kan., might figure into Kansas State's quarterback or wide receiver plans after sitting out the '09 season under NCAA transfer rules.

2. Quarterback battle. Harper and two other players will probably battle to replace departed senior Grant Gregory. Senior Carson Coffman, who started the '09 season at quarterback, figures to be back in the mix, along with junior college transfer Sammuel Lamur.

3. Defensive line. The Wildcats have a couple of gaping holes to fill up front defensively. End Jeff Fitzgerald, who had 40 tackles and 10 tackles for loss in '09, has to be replaced, along with tackles Daniel Calvin and Chidubamu Abana. Junior college transfer Javonta Boyd, who has already enrolled in classes, could help in the interior line.

Missouri Tigers
Spring practice starts: March 9
Spring game: April 17

1. Wide receiver. The Tigers have to replace Danario Alexander, who led the country with 1,781 receiving yards in 2009. Juniors Jerrell Jackson and Wes Kemp both caught more than 20 passes last season, but younger players like T.J. Moe and Rolandis Woodland are going to have to contribute more. Incoming freshman Marcus Lucas could help in the fall.

2. Linebacker. The Tigers bring back two of their starting three linebackers, but three-time All-Big 12 selection Sean Weatherspoon is the one who left. Sophomore Donovan Bonner heads into spring camp as the top candidate to replace Weatherspoon on the weak side, and Will Ebner and Andrew Gachkar are back at the other linebacker spots.

3. Defensive line. Two starters are gone on the defensive front: end Brian Coulter and nose tackle Jaron Baston. At least the Tigers know they’re set at one side, with end Aldon Smith coming back after totaling 19 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks in '09. Marcus Malbrough and Jacquies Smith will battle for starting end, and Terrell Resonno could move into the vacant tackle spot.

Nebraska Cornhuskers
Spring practice starts: March 24
Spring game: April 17
What to watch:

1. Will quarterback Zac Lee keep his starting job? After Lee was plagued by inconsistency throughout the '09 season, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson is expected to open the competition during spring practice. Sophomore Cody Green, senior Latravis Washington and freshman Taylor Martinez will all be given a fair chance to win the job.

2. Defensive tackle. Nebraska fans won't see All-American Ndamukong Suh commanding double-team blocks along the line of scrimmage. Even after losing one of the most decorated players in school history, the Cornhuskers figure to be pretty good up front. Jared Crick and Baker Steinkuhler will man the middle, with Pierre Allen and Cameron Meredith entering spring camp as the favorites at ends.

3. Rex Burkhead. The sophomore burst onto the scene after Roy Helu Jr. was hurt early in the Huskers' 33-0 rout of Arizona in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl, rushing for 89 yards with one touchdown. Burkhead was very explosive running out of the Wildcat package, so look for Watson to try and utilize him even more to make the Nebraska attack less predictable.

Oklahoma Sooners
Spring practice starts: March 8
Spring game: April 17

1. Offensive line. The Sooners have a lot of questions up front on offense, after left tackle Trent Williams and right guard Brian Simmons departed. Will junior Donald Stephenson finally be ready to contribute at left tackle after being suspended for all of the ’09 season? Will center Ben Habern be ready after breaking his leg late in the ’09 season? When will Jarvis Jones return from a broken heel?

2. Linebacker Ronnell Lewis. The sophomore had a break-out game in the Sooners’ 31-27 victory over Stanford in the Sun Bowl, finishing with six tackles and a forced fumble. With starting linebackers Keenan Clayton and Ryan Reynolds departing, Lewis will assume a starting role on the strong side. Redshirt freshman Tom Wort is projected to start in the middle, with junior Travis Lewis starting on the weak side.

3. Secondary. The Sooners have shuffled their defensive backs after losing cornerbacks Dominique Franks and Brian Jackson. Sophomore Demontre Hurst is in line to replace Franks at field cornerback, and senior Jonathan Nelson has moved from strong safety to boundary cornerback. Junior Sam Proctor is expected to replace Nelson at strong safety, and senior Quinton Carter is back at free safety.

Oklahoma State Cowboys
Spring practice starts: March 8
Spring game: April 17

1. Quarterback Brandon Weeden. The 26-year-old junior is the top candidate to replace Zac Robinson, who broke nearly every OSU passing record. Weeden was a second-round choice of the New York Yankees in the 2002 amateur baseball draft. If he can grasp new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorson's spread offense quickly, the Pokes' passing game should again be potent in 2010.

2. Defense. Defensive coordinator Bill Young will have his hands full this spring trying to replace nine starters. The only returning starters are defensive end Ugo Chinasa and strong safety Markelle Martin. The Pokes have to replace three starters on the defensive line, three linebackers and three defensive backs. Three newcomers -- linebacker Caleb Lavey and defensive backs Devin Hedgepeth and Malcolm Murray -- will get early looks in spring camp.

3. Offensive line. The Cowboys will have to replace star left tackle Russell Okung, left guard Noah Franklin, center Andrew Lewis and right tackle Brady Bond. Juniors Nick Martinez, Casey LaBrue and Grant Garner will be the top candidates to fill open starting spots.

Texas Longhorns
Spring practice starts: Feb. 26
Spring game: April 4

1. Quarterback Garrett Gilbert. The sophomore was thrust into action after Colt McCoy injured his shoulder against Alabama in the Citi BCS National Championship Game and played admirably well in tough circumstances. The Longhorns might change their identity on offense with a young quarterback under center, so developing a running game to take pressure off Gilbert might be a top priority.

2. Defense. The unit is in good hands with coordinator Will Muschamp, but he'll have to replace many of the star players from 2009. End Sergio Kindle, tackle Lamarr Houston, linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy and safety Earl Thomas are all gone. Younger players such as end Alex Okafor and tackle Tyrell Higgins will have to turn it up a notch during spring practice.

3. Wide receiver. Jordan Shipley, who was McCoy's favorite target, also departed. Seniors James Kirkendoll and John Chiles, junior Malcolm Williams and sophomore Marquise Goodwin will have to be more consistent in their route running and pass catching. Other receivers such as D.J. Monroe and DeSean Hales will be trying to crack the receiver rotation during the spring, before talented freshmen like Darius White, Mike Davis and Demarco Cobbs arrive on campus.

Texas A&M Aggies
Spring practice starts: March 23
Spring game: April 17

1. New defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter, who built one of the country’s best units at Air Force last season. He inherits an A&M defense that was woefully porous last season and will switch to a 3-4 scheme. Nine starters are coming back on defense, including pass-rushing specialist Von Miller. DeRuyter will spend the spring trying to install his system and getting his players comfortable with it.

2. Offensive line. The Aggies must replace three starting offensive linemen: left tackle Michael Shumard, center Kevin Matthews and right tackle Lee Grimes. Juniors Joe Villavisencio and Danny Baker and sophomore Stephen Barrera have to be ready to step up this spring.

3. Special teams. The Aggies’ special teams weren’t so special last season, as they ranked 104th in net punting, 91st in kickoff return defense and 49th in kickoff returns among FBS teams. Aggies coach Mike Sherman is putting a new emphasis on special teams, which cost his team dearly in its 44-20 loss to Georgia in the Independence Bowl.

Texas Tech Red Raiders
Spring practice starts: March 7
Spring game: April 17

1. Quarterbacks. With former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville replacing Mike Leach at Texas Tech, senior quarterbacks Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield figure to start spring camp on a level playing field. Potts started 10 games last season, throwing for 3,440 yards with 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Sheffield started two games and threw for 1,219 yards with 14 touchdowns and four picks. New offensive coordinator Neal Brown, who was hired from Troy, runs a version of the spread offense, but Tuberville will probably incorporate more of a traditional running game into the offense.

2. Defensive line. New defensive coordinator James Willis has to replace three starters on his defensive front: ends Brandon Sharpe and Daniel Howard and tackle Richard Jones. Making matters worse, the top two reserve ends in 2009 were seniors, along with the backup nose tackle.

3. Offensive line. O-line coach Matt Moore, who was retained from Leach's staff, has to replace three starters: center Shawn Byrnes, right guard Brandon Carter and right tackle Marlon Winn. Juniors Justin Keown and Mickey Okafor and sophomore LaAdrian Waddle will probably be given first crack at replacing them. Incoming junior college transfer Scott Smith could play stand-up end in Tech's 3-4 scheme, and junior college defensive tackle Donald Langley might also have an impact in spring practice.
Tags:

Baylor Bears, Colorado Buffaloes, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Missouri Tigers, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Texas Longhorns, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Jerrell Jackson, Ahmad Dixon, Cameron Meredith, Danny Baker, Darius Reynolds, Wes Kemp, Chris Omigie, Demontre Hurst, James Kirkendoll, Ben Habern, Steven Sheffield, Toney Clemons, Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner, Earl Patin, Jeff Fitzgerald, Jacob Lattimer, Malcolm Williams, Jared Crick, DeSean Hales, T.J. Moe, Marquise Goodwin, Phillip Strozier, Taylor Martinez, Donald Stephenson, Byron Landor, Travis Lewis, Zac Lee, Chris Harper, Sam Proctor, Cody Green, Rex Burkhead, Ronnell Lewis, Bradley McDougald, LaTravis Washington, Jon Major, Marcus Malbrough, Rolandis Woodland, Tom Wort, Taylor Potts, Alex Okafor, Johnathan Wilson., Garrett Gilbert, D.J. Monroe, Keeston Terry, John Chiles, Cleyon Laing, Will Ebner, Markques Simas, Jake Knott, Nick Martinez, Jacquies Smith, Jarvis Jones, Pierre Allen, Ugo Chinasa, Baker Steinkuhler, Terrell Resonno, Carson Coffman, Michael Sipili, Kale Pick, Aldon Smith, Brandon Weeden, Quinton Carter, A.J. Klein, Austin Alburtis, Mickey Okafor, Markelle Martin, Stephen Barrera, Andrew Gachkar, Jonathan Nelson, Sammuel Lamur, Quinn Mecham, Eric Richter, Scott Smith, Malcolm Murray, Tim DeRuyter, Ricky Howard, Caleb Lavey, Devin Hedgepeth, Donald Langley, Robert Griffin III, Chris McAllister, LeQuince McCall, Roosevelt Maggitt, Jake McDonough, Javonta Boyd, Marcus Lucas, Donovan Bonner, Casey LaBrue, Grant Garner, Tyrell Higgins, Joe Villavisencio, Justin Keown, LaAdrian Waddle

Big 12 recruiting: RB Mister Jones headed for Aggies

December, 14, 2009
12/14/09
5:49
PM ET
Considering that new Kansas coach Turner Gill mentioned recruiting four times among his seven major priorities for his new program, it's understandable how important these December days are for coaches everywhere.

Here's a look at some late afternoon Big 12-related recruiting nuggets compiled by Tom Luginbill, the national scouting director from ESPN's Scouts Inc.

RB Mister Jones

Littleton, CO

Littleton H.S.

Scouts Grade: 75

Position Rank: 99

Mister Jones, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound running back from Littleton High (Littleton, Colo.), has made a decision to switch his Class of 2010 commitment from Colorado to Texas A&M.

The three-star prospect was also offered by Kansas and Wyoming. He rushed for 1,317 yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior.

"After leaving College Station, I thought a lot about whether I wanted to change my commitment," he told ESPN affiliate Web site TexAgs.com. "I had to decide which school was going to get me to where I wanted to go and help make me successful. My mom and I [called the Colorado coaches] to tell them that I was switching my commitment. It was really tough, but I thought that A&M would be better and that's why I decided to commit to A&M."

He continued, "All I've wanted to do since I was a little kid was make it to the NFL. Having a coaching staff that has been there and done that, it is a huge plus. It's a good thing to know that they have that experience and they know what they're talking about."

Texas A&M now has 21 pledges.

QB Quinn Mecham

Quinn Mecham, a quarterback from Timpview (Provo, Utah)/Snow CC, Utah, has accepted a Class of 2010 offer from Kansas.

He was also recruited by Virginia, Arizona State, Utah State, Utah and Mississippi State.

During the 2009 season, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Mecham finished second in the NJCAA national rankings by passing for 3091 yards and 40 touchdowns. Snow College finished fifth in the final NJCAA poll.

The Jayhawks now have 15 commitments.

ATH Tuswani Copeland

Lawton, OK

MacArthur H.S.

Scouts Grade: 75

Position Rank: 118

Baylor has added defensive back/receiver Tuswani Copeland of MacArthur (Lawton, Okla.) for the Class of 2010.

The 6-foot-0, 175-pound athlete was also sought by Kansas State, Louisville, Michigan State and Western Michigan.

"I feel like Baylor's perfect for me," Copeland told the Waco Tribune-Herald. "I played receiver on my high school team as well as cornerback, but people have been recruiting me as a cornerback. I like taking the ball away from receivers and putting hits on guys."

He is the 15th pledge for Baylor.

T Eric Richter

Mission Viejo, CA

Saddleback College (CA)

6-foot-5, 315-pound offensive lineman Eric Richter of Saddleback CC, Calif., has chosen Colorado for the Class of 2010.

Richter, who is originally from Capistrano Valley (Mission Viejo, Calif.), holds other offers from San Diego State and Arkansas State.

The Buffs have 11 commitments.

CB Anthony Young

Ontario, CA

Palomar College (CA)

A 5-foot-9, 175-pound cornerback, Anthony Young of Colony (Ontario, Calif.)/Palomar CC, Calif., has chosen Iowa State in the Class of 2010.

He also drew offers from Arizona State, Colorado State, Tulsa and Middle Tennessee State.

T Jon Caspers

Olivia, MN

North Dakota State College of Sci. (ND)

Iowa State has a pledge from Jon Caspers, a 6-foot-5, 295-pound offensive lineman from Bold HS (Olivia, Minn.)/Bird Island, Minn./North Dakota State College of Science, ND.

Caspers chose the Cyclones over Washington State.

He becomes the 22nd commitment for ISU's Class of 2010.

DE Chris Martin

Aurora, CO

Grandview H.S.

Scouts Grade: 81

ESPNU150 Rank: 111

Position Rank: 12

ESPNU 150 defensive end Chris Martin (Aurora, Colo.,/Grandview) has decided to come back home, verbally committing to California, choosing the Bears over Florida, USC, and Oklahoma, ESPN affiliate Web site IrishSportsDaily.com reports.

Back in February, Martin, who is an Oakland native, verbally committed to Notre Dame, but dropped the Irish from consideration December 1st.

"One of the things, when Chris committed to Notre Dame, the quote I said to him was Chris, if you do not go to Notre Dame, you need to come back home," Martin's mother Cheryl said. "Well, he's coming back home and this is solid. We're not going to do anymore visits or entertain anyone coming by."

ESPN's Craig Haubert added, "Cal scored big this weekend and it looks like they have coaching changes at two other schools to partially thank for it. Florida seemed to be a strong contender, but it appears the staff turnover there clouded the picture and made the hometown Golden Bears look like right fit. Regardless of the path that led Martin to Cal, the Golden Bears now add to their top-25 caliber class with their highest rated prospect."

"Martin is a kid who possesses good natural size and certainly looks the part. He has played several positions and while we feel overall he will fit best as a defensive end, in Cal's scheme they could get more from him. With his size he could fit well at end, but he could also be a good fit for them at outside linebacker in their 3-4 look as more of that hybrid end / backer. With his size and straight line speed he could be tough to handle."

Martin is the second ESPNU 150 and 11th overall commitment for the Bears' Class of 2010.

DE Wayne Dorsey

Baltimore, MD

Mississippi Gulf Coast Comm College (MS)

Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (Perkinston, Miss.) defensive lineman Wayne Dorsey has pledged to join Ole Miss' Class of 2010, ESPN affiliate Web site InsideTheGrove.com reports.

He also visited Florida State and North Carolina. Programs including Michigan, Tennessee, Mississippi State, South Florida, Oklahoma State and Iowa State were amongst Dorsey's other offers.

"I like everything about Ole Miss. The city the conference, the team, the assistants, everything," he said.

Another Mississippi Gulf Coast product, safety Damien Jackson (Pineville, La.), is set to play for Ole Miss. The Rebels now have 14 commitments.

S Tejay Johnson

Egg Harbor Township, NJ

Egg Harbor Township H.S.

Scouts Grade: 73

Position Rank: 127

A 6-foot-1, 185-pound receiver/defensive back, Tejay Johnson of Egg Harbor Township, N.J., has made a decision to play for Rutgers in the Class of 2010.

Cincinnati, Michigan State, Nebraska and Syracuse had also made offers.

Johnson is the 15th commitment for the Knights.

WR Joshua Ford

Washington, DC

Calvin Coolidge H.S.

Scouts Grade: 76

Position Rank: 126

Wide reciever Joshua Ford of Coolidge H.S. in Washington has picked New Mexico for the Class of 2010.

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Ford was also sought by Kansas and Utah. He had 19 receptions for 470 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior.

Ford is the 7th pledge for the Lobos.

CB T.J. Ballou

Russell, MS

East Mississippi Community College (MS)

Physical cornerback T.J. Ballou, a 6-foot-0, 200-pounder from Northeast Lauderdale (Russell, Miss.)/Alabama/East Mississippi CC, Miss., has made a decision to attend Alabama-Birmingham with the Class of 2010.

Oklahoma State, Western Michigan, Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe has also offered.

Ballou spent two years as a walk-on for the Tide before transferring to junior college.

He is the 19th commitment for the Blazers.

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