Big 12: Grant Gilbert

Ranking the Big 12's backup quarterbacks

May, 27, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Most coaches hope they never have to turn to their backup quarterback. But it's still a good insurance policy as any team gets ready for a season to have a trusted replacement who can bail out an injured or struggling starter.

Coaches in the Big 12 are no different. Here's a look at the top backup quarterbacks in the league. During my analysis, I placed particular importance on proven ability to play rather than future promise. And I also did not factor in highly regarded incoming freshmen players who will join their teams at schools like Texas and Kansas State later this summer.

Here's my ranking of the backup quarterbacks in the Big 12 in order.

1. Colorado: The conference's most fluid starting quarterback situation results in the Buffaloes having the top backup. With Cody Hawkins appearing to be nosing ahead at the end of spring practice, Tyler Hansen earns the nod because of his recent experience as a winning quarterback in the Big 12 -- even considering he is recovering from a broken thumb suffered in Colorado's spring game.

2. Baylor: Experience helps Blake Szymanski in case the Bears would ever need to replace Robert Griffin. Szymanski has made 13 career starts and has thrown for 3,561 yards and 26 career touchdown passes.

3. Kansas: Mark Mangino says he wants to keep the move of Kerry Meier to wide receiver permanent. If so, he would need to turn the backup quarterback job over to Kale Pick at some point this season. But it still has to be relatively reassuring for Mangino to know he can always turn to Meier, who made eight career starts and has completed 28 of his last 32 passes over the past two seasons.

4. Iowa State: Obviously, it was against the Iowa State offense. But redshirt freshman Jerome Tiller looks like he's ready to challenge Austen Arnaud for the starting position this summer after blistering the Cyclones' defense for 210 yards and adding a 65-yard TD run in the ISU spring game. That outing should enable new ISU coach Paul Rhoads to have some confidence if he has to turn to Tiller.

5. Oklahoma: With Sam Bradford likely to play most of the season, Bob Stoops probably won't turn to his backups that much. Redshirt freshman Landry Jones showed flashes in the Sooners' spring game, completing 5 of 12 passes for 73 yards and a touchdown during limited playing time. Drew Allen, who left high school a semester early to join the Sooners, looked painfully raw in his limited work.

6. Nebraska: For all of the pre-spring excitement about a battle for the quarterback job, Zac Lee easily won the starting spot. The Cornhuskers have several capable backups, with the best showing of the spring coming from converted linebacker LaTravis Washington. Kody Spano should be good to go by fall practice after he recovers from knee surgery. And Cody Green is the most heralded quarterback prospect in the Nebraska program, although he struggled with injuries and fell behind early after graduating from high school early to join the program this spring.

7. Oklahoma State: Mike Gundy hoped that former minor-league baseball player Brandon Weeden would distance himself from Alex Cate and earn the backup role behind Zac Robinson. Weeden struggled late in spring practice and couldn't widen the gap, leaving the backup battle continuing into the summer.

8. Missouri: After Blaine Gabbert claimed the starting job early in spring practice, as expected, scrappy walk-on Jimmy Costello had his moments, too. But Costello's performance leveled off late in spring practice and Blaine Dalton was pushing to unseat him as the backup before he was arrested and suspended from the team. Both Dalton and Ashton Glazer had typical freshman moments of great plays and shaky ones on a consistent basis.

9. Texas Tech: Taylor Potts was picked as the starter from the opening day of spring practice, but former walk-on Steven Sheffield appeared to have claimed the No. 2 job over Stefan Loucks and Seth Doege. All are relatively inexperienced in operating Mike Leach's offense.

10. Texas: Sherrod Harris struggled operating the Texas offense in the spring game. Some of his struggles might have been understandable considering he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee only three weeks after spring practice finished. When Garrett Gilbert arrives this summer, it will push the Longhorns up several places on the list. But until then, they rank among the bottom Big 12 teams on the list.

11. Texas A&M: Expected competition in spring ball never materialized as wide receiver Ryan Tannehill was recuperating from a torn labrum. Instead, Tommy Dorman got most of the snaps behind Jerrod Johnson as the only other scholarship quarterback on the team. Dorman struggled with his consistency.

12. Kansas State: Carson Coffman appears to have claimed the starting job for the Wildcats -- at least until Grant Gregory and Daniel Thomas arrive to challenge him later this summer. His backups who played in the spring game struggled through a miserable effort against the Wildcats' defense, which is saying something. Collin Klein, Joseph Kassanavoid, Trey Scott and Milton McPeak combined to complete only 9 of 26 passes in the spring game with two interceptions and five sacks. Look for the Wildcats' quarterback depth to improve with the arrival of Gregory and Thomas.

Big 12 teams facing summer work

May, 18, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

The spring semester is ending across the Big 12. Most teams will take the rest of the month of May off. Intensive conditioning work will begin again next month and continue throughout the summer as Big 12 squads prepare for the upcoming season.

Here's a look at several teams with the most immediate work this summer facing them when they return.

Colorado: The Buffaloes will have to settle on a quarterback before the start of the season. Several variables are involved, including the close race between Tyler Hansen and Cody Hawkins for the starting job in spring practice, Hansen's broken thumb in the spring game and new offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau working into his new job. If the Buffaloes are to fulfill the spoiler role that some are predicting in the North Division, they need to make a real push before training camp starts in August.

Iowa State: Oh, so much work and so little time to do it. New Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads lamented he couldn't have 30 spring practices rather than the 15 mandated by the NCAA in order to help transform his program. Rhoads needs a lot of work to rebuild ISU's defense from a unit that ranked 110th in scoring defense, 112th in total defense, 116th in pass defense and 117th in pass efficiency defense. The summer will be critical as the Cyclones try to prepare for another run of high-powered Big 12 offenses.

Kansas State: Bill Snyder will be facing a big challenge to return the Wildcats to the role of a Big 12 North challenger again. His first chore will be sorting through a quarterback battle that should rage throughout training camp as South Florida transfer Grant Gilbert and heralded junior-college transfer Daniel Thomas arrive to challenge Carson Coffman. Both will be facing a crash course in learning Del Miller's offensive strategy after Coffman made a strong late push in training camp to earn the No. 1 job. And that's just the start of Snyder's work.

Oklahoma: After being called out by Coach Bob Stoops before spring practice for their lack of diligence in conditioning drills, it would behoove Oklahoma offensive linemen to stay in shape this summer. The Sooners' offensive line remains the most glaring question as the three-time defending Big 12 champions prepare this summer. Stephen Good got the start at left guard and Ben Habern flourished at center. Cory Brandon and LSU transfer Jarvis Jones also showed some development, but need much more. The group will need to work hard through strength coach Jerry Schmidt's summer drills to keep from earning Coach Bob Stoops' wrath - again.

Texas A&M: Coach Mike Sherman was nowhere near playing with a full deck after struggling through spring practice with 20 players who sat out the spring game from a group of Aggie players were treated with 19 off-season surgeries. Surprisingly, none of the Aggies' freshman class enrolled early or they could have gone a long way to staking a claim for immediate playing time. Sherman has estimated that 60 to 65 percent of those freshmen players will be able to contribute immediately. Defensive coordinator Joe Kines urged those players to arrive in shape for a shot at immediate playing time - even with their lack of college experience.