Big 12: Foswhitt Whittaker
Texas has plenty of question marks, namely at receiver. Repeating as Big 12 champs would be a lot easier if one of its talented running backs emerges to flirt with 1,000 yards and takes some of the pressure off first-year starter Garrett Gilbert. Tre’ Newton is the most likely candidate, but Foswhitt Whittaker, or Fozzy Bear as I prefer to refer to the running back, wins if the tiebreaker is best name.
The defense will be fearsome again, even after losing both starting cornerbacks and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. DeMarco Murray looks to take on an expanded role in the run game, but the offensive line will have to improve quickly for his increased touches to translate into increased yardage.
Nebraska finally made it back to the Big 12 title game after a two-year run by Missouri representing the North. Even after Ndamukong Suh’s exit, the teeth of the Husker D should be strong, with junior defensive tackle Jared Crick and sophomore defensive tackle Baker Steinkuhler mucking up the front lines. Both will be on display during the spring. The offense had one of its best performances of the season against Arizona in the Holiday Bowl, but enters the spring with plenty to prove.
Blaine Gabbert will continue to mature along with his young receivers, who lose the lanky Danario Alexander. Gabbert could put up gawdy numbers as a junior, but he’ll need the secondary to improve if the Tigers can challenge for the North.
5. Texas A&M
The Aggies looked like a trainwreck at moments in 2009, (48-point loss to Kansas State? What? 55-point loss to Oklahoma? Ouch.) but their entertaining offense will take a backseat to Tim DeRuyter’s new 3-4 defense as the main attraction for spring.
6. Kansas State
The dark horse to win the North in 2010 came within a game of matching up with Texas in Dallas in 2009. Year 2 of the Bill Snyder Reboot could be fun to watch. The Wildcats had the fewest turnovers (18) of any team in the Big 12 last season, but losing Brandon Banks removes some of K-State’s explosiveness on offense.
7. Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State hoped they could make a run at the Big 12 South last season, but got embarrassed in losses to Texas and Oklahoma. A South title in 2010 might be a stretch, but the spring could set up another solid season for Mike Gundy’s Cowboys.
Finding replacements for All-Big 12 defenders Joe Pawelek and Jordan Lake should be the prime concern for the spring, but it will definitely be good to see Robert Griffin III get back on the field.
9. Texas Tech
What injustice! The Red Raiders below the Bears? Tommy Tuberville is a good coach, but the transition to Tech could be a difficult one. Don’t be surprised if the Red Raiders prove me wrong, but somebody’s got to finish last in a great South division. There won’t be an easy win for anyone against South teams this season. I mentioned this in Thursday's chat, but I’m interested to see how Tuberville’s second go-around with the spread offense (see: Tony Franklin) goes. Easing up on his trigger finger might be a good idea.
Turner Gill loses a lot of offense without Todd Reesing, Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe. Sophomore running back Toben Opurum could emerge as one of the conference’s young stars this spring.
Tyler Hansen and Toney Clemons bring some excitement to the Buffaloes spring, but the offensive line is also a concern. Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner returns from injury to help talented lineman Nate Solder protect Hansen and pave the way for running back Rodney Stewart, one of just three scholarship backs who will practice this spring.
12. Iowa State
The Cyclones depleted defense (only four starters return) could make it tough for Austen Arnaud to produce wins no matter how well he plays. Plenty of spots up for grabs there, and linebacker Jake Knott is one to watch as a new starter. Paul Rhoads impressed with a bowl win last season, but what does it say about a team when its best win (Nebraska) came by only two points when it forced eight turnovers and committed none?
Thanks for the support the first week, fans. Enjoy the weekend.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
AUSTIN, Texas -- Senior running back Chris Ogbonnaya is in a tight battle for playing time at Texas, competing with sophomore Vondrell "The Bulldozer" McGee and fleet redshirt freshman Foswhitt "Fozzy" Whittaker for the starting tailback job with the Longhorns.
Whoever emerges will be filling big shoes as the Longhorns attempt to find a replacement for Jamaal Charles.
We caught up with Ogbonnaya for a few minutes after practice Tuesday, where he talked about competition for playing time, his team's preparation for its opener against Florida Atlantic and how hard it was for him to give up Chicken McNuggets to get ready for the season.
How is training camp going so far?
CO -- It's going great. We're getting excited about playing Florida Atlantic, continuing to work on the things we need to work. We're continuing to get better. It's exciting
Can you talk about the competition for running back between you, Vondrell and Fozzy?
CO -- I think every guy brings a different attribute to the table. As a group, we want to continue to get better at the things we all do well and also what we don't do well. We want to all be able to do the same things at the same time -- whether it be catching the ball, running the ball or picking up the blitz to help our offense move the ball more effectively.
Will it hurt your team's effectiveness not having one guy featured as the primary back?
CO -- I don't think so. It will just be a case of seeing if one guy is in making plays, he'll probably stay in. Having three guys with ability to make plays makes it difficult for any defense to prepare for us.
Will it basically evolve to who is hot for that particular game?
CO -- Definitely. Whatever we can go with, I think we'll do. Some guys run some plays better than others. But we want to jell together.
How are you off the field with Vondrell and Fozzy?
CO -- We all get along very well. Fozzy is from Houston and when he was first came here, I hosted him on his recruiting trip. I also hosted Vondrell when he was here in 2006. It's really been a blessing. I love those guys to death. We get along together and we're always asking each other questions. We're just trying to make each other better.
How would you describe your running style?
CO -- My style is physical. I tried this summer to shed a little weight so I could add a little speed and lateral quickness to my game. I just want to keep running harder.
Have you been pleased with your progress this training camp?
CO -- I have been pleased, but I want to continue to get better at doing things, whether it's catching, blocking or running routes. You can always get better.
How much weight have you lost?
CO -- I lost about 13 pounds. I feel great at the new weight. It's definitely easier to run. I wanted to be able to lead the [team conditioning] runs in my senior year. When I was a freshman, I had people like Ahmad Hall and David Thomas to look up to when I was running. I wanted to do the same thing for the younger guys. I'm about 212 or 213 now and really feeling good.
Did you see Coach Schnellenberger's comments about your offense and his perceptions about your team's toughness?
CO -- I didn't see them. But we're just going to play our game. We'll show up on the 30th and, hopefully, we'll be prepared to play.
How did you get ready for your senior season?
CO -- I met with [Texas running backs coach] Major [Applewhite]. He told me the things he wanted me to work on -- how to become a better leader. I really took that to heart and changed my diet up and tried to do things to better prepare me for this upcoming season.
What did you have to give up in order to lose the weight?
CO -- Fast food (laughing). And it was difficult. But it was something I had to do. My favorite thing was Chinese food or Chicken McNuggets. I love those McDonald's chicken nuggets. That was the hardest thing. I could probably eat 15 or 16 at a time. I'd be full but I would just keep eating them because they are so good. And I definitely would eat barbecue or sweet and sour sauce.
Have you gotten any indication about how the playing rotation will play out for the first game of the season?
CO -- I really don't know, not at this time. It will probably be something we'll learn the week of the game. But the way it's been going at practice, all of us will get the opportunity to play. And all we can hope for is to play well when we get that opportunity.