Big 12: Isiah Barfield

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.
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.

Kansas spring wrap

May, 6, 2011
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KANSAS

2010 overall record: 3-9

2010 conference record: 1-7

Returning starters: Offense (8), Defense (6) P/K (0)

Top returners: RB James Sims, WR Daymond Patterson, QB Jordan Webb, LB Steven Johnson, OL Tanner Hawkinson, DB Isiah Barfield, LB Huldon Tharp

Key losses: CB Chris Harris, LB Justin Springer, DL Jake Laptad, LB Drew Dudley, S Olaitan Oguntodu, WR Johnathan Wilson

2010 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: James Sims* (742 yards)

Passing: Jordan Webb (1,195 yards)

Receiving: Daymond Patterson* (487 yards)

Tackles: Steven Johnson (95)

Sacks: Jake Laptad (4.5)

Interceptions: Tyler Patmon*, Isiah Barfield* (2)

Three spring answers

1. Sudden strength up front. Pat Lewandowski redshirted last season, and former running back Toben Opurum tried to learn the intricacies of the defensive line. This spring though? Both were standouts and could be impact players up front for a Jayhawks defense that needs it badly. Kansas may have a couple solid athletes who underwent position changes at the back of the defense, too. Former receivers Keeston Terry and Bradley McDougald look like the Jayhawks' starting safeties.

2. Lightning to Sims' thunder. Leading rusher Sims returns and figures to log plenty of carries, but freshman Darrian Miller showed a burst that no other Jayhawks running back had previously. He enrolled early and started making plays immediately, which should land him on the field next season.

3. Add another receiver to the mix. Kale Pick is another Jayhawks player who dealt with a position change last year. He had little impact as a receiver after making the switch from quarterback, but he showed great hands all spring and led the team in receptions at the spring game. He looks like he’s got a natural understanding of the position and is following in the footsteps of another Jayhawks great: Kerry Meier.

Three fall questions

1. Can they be competitive? No amount of scrimmaging will give Kansas the answer to this question. The Jayhawks were blown out often last year, losing five games by more than 20 points. Is the program back to being one that can at least flirt with more than three wins in 2011? Kansas must show progress.

2. Who’s the QB? Webb has the edge ahead of Quinn Mecham after the spring, but the wild card shows up to campus this fall. Brock Berglund, the top prospect in Colorado, enrolled early before heading back home before practice began. He plans to be back this fall and could throw a wrench into the quarterback competition if he grasps the offense quickly.

3. Is Tharp back to 100 percent? Linebacker Tharp showed the makings of an All-Big 12 talent as a freshman in 2009. A leg injury kept him off the field in 2010, and he was limited this spring. Once he’s back on the field next fall, can he continue his development and look at least like his old self?

Tallying the Big 12 North's returning starters

January, 27, 2011
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God bless you, Phil Steele.

I wasn't planning to tally up the returning starters across the Big 12 until next week, but the college football guru put together a ranking of every team's total returning starters.

For better or worse, this number has quite a bit of impact on people's perceptions of teams entering 2011, so there's no doubt that each team's bottom line has a big influence heading into next year.

We'll kick if off with the Big 12 North. A star signifies that the team's starting quarterback will return.

1. Colorado - 17 starters* (9 offense, 7 defense, 1 specialist)

Top returners: RB Rodney Stewart, QB Tyler Hansen, LB Jon Major, DB Terrel Smith

1. Missouri - 17 starters (9 offense, 6 defense, 2 specialists)

Top returners: WR T.J. Moe, TE Michael Egnew, LB Will Ebner, S Kenji Jackson

3. Kansas - 14 starters* (8 offense, 6 defense, 0 specialists)

Top returners: RB James Sims, WR Daymond Patterson, LB Steven Johnson, DB Isiah Barfield

3. Iowa State - 14 starters (5 offense, 7 defense, 2 specialists)

Top returners: LB Jake Knott, LB A.J. Klein, DB Leonard Johnson, DB Jeremy Reeves

5. Nebraska - 12 starters* (5 offense, 7 defense, 0 specialists)

Top returners: QB Taylor Martinez, LB Lavonte David, RB Rex Burkhead, DT Jared Crick

5. Kansas State - 12 starters (5 offense, 6 defense, 1 specialist)

Top returners: DB David Garrett, DB Tysyn Hartman, DB Ty Zimmerman, WR/PR Tramaine Thompson

Are those numbers deceiving for any team on the list?

Any team have a high number of starters that could be overrated entering 2011?

Mailbag: Blackmon and Martin suspensions

October, 29, 2010
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First off, I got a lot of e-mails covering a lot of different aspects of the Justin Blackmon suspension, but I'll just offer my general thoughts instead of answering 15 different questions:

My first big problem with all this is, it doesn't sound like enough people are differentiating between what Blackmon actually did and the "drunk driving" connotations that come with the initials "DUI." Blackmon traveled out of state on a game week. Not a great decision, but I highly doubt he's the only guy on the team to ever do that; it's my understanding that his trip was not explicitly in violation of team rules. Blackmon drank underage. Mistake, obviously, and illegal, but nothing uncommon to college or even college football teams. He waited until after 3 a.m. to make a 4.5-hour drive home. Definitely a bad decision, but not illegal on its own, minus the alcohol that was apparently in his system, although the exact wording of the police's statement leaves that up to interpretation. Making that drive at 92 mph, 32 miles above the speed limit, is both reckless and illegal.

But none of that equals "drunk driving." According to the police, there was a field sobriety test conducted and it found a "detectable" amount of alcohol on Blackmon. That adds up to a minor in possession charge in most states and a speeding ticket. I can think of at least three starting quarterbacks in football right now who have public intoxication charges on their records, a more serious charge, and that's just off the top of my head. It also includes at least one player who received serious Heisman buzz earlier in the year. Based on the police's actions, Blackmon was well below the legal limit, but in Texas, that's a DUI if you're under 21. If Blackmon was actually above the legal limit, I'm pretty certain he'd be facing a lot more than a three-digit fine.

Based on most of the e-mails I got throughout the week, it seems like not everyone understands that. I don't know Blackmon, but by all accounts, this is the first mistake by an otherwise upstanding student-athlete. My guess is, he didn't know the law in Texas, which is understandable, because before this week, I didn't either. And I live in Texas. I'm not going to defend any of the bad decisions, but I'll defend him against some of the e-mailers who wrote in claiming he got off too easy.

It was a series of decisions I'm sure he regrets, but he's taken his suspension, impressively took a few questions from the media only days after being arrested, and the team has moved on. I suggest everyone else do the same, and not do so with the notion of Blackmon as a "drunk driver." I'm not at all trying to excuse what he did; it was dangerous and against the law, but I got the sense this week that not enough people understood what he did.

This incident shouldn't have any effect on voters' minds if they're voting for the Heisman, Biletnikoff, Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, or any other various awards Blackmon might be up for in December. Gundy (who handled the entire situation really, really well, by the way) made the right call in suspending him, but this one speed bump isn't significant enough to sully an otherwise remarkable season on the field.


Melissa in Lincoln, Neb., asks: What do you think about the suspension of Martin for Nebraska. Can the league really pick and choose which helmet to helmet gets a suspension?

David Ubben: There's some stuff you can debate on this and there's some you can't. First off, that hit was illegal. Period. I don't care if he "led with his shoulder" or not. It looks better from the angle from behind, but his helmet clearly hits Andrew Hudson's helmet first, and he followed through with his body and de-cleated him. You're in denial if you can't see the helmet-to-helmet contact on the replay from the angle the shows the hit from the front.

The suspension is certainly up for debate. I got plenty of questions on Twitter throughout the week and in my mailbag about why he got suspended and others with helmet-to-helmet hits didn't. My answer: I have no idea, because the people making those decisions haven't told us. I didn't expect the Big 12 to be very transparent about this, but it doesn't change the fact that I'd like them to be. A league spokesman explained some of the decision-making process to the Omaha World-Herald, but did not comment on the decision itself.

Two weeks ago, Kansas Isiah Barfield definitely hit Kansas State's Tramaine Thompson helmet-to-helmet. He wasn't suspended. Oklahoma safety Quinton Carter got flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit in this weekend's game against Missouri and he wasn't suspended, though that hit was from behind, if my memory serves correctly.

Why is Martin suspended? Maybe the Big 12 has a good reason. There's no doubt in my mind the NFL's recent focus on helmet-to-helmet hits played a huge factor. But based on the concise release they sent to the media, there are plenty of other hits that qualify under the criteria stated by the league. He's the first player in the almost two-year history of the rule to be suspended because of a hit, but there's no way he's the first to make a helmet-to-helmet hit like that in that span. It wasn't a "cheap shot" and he wasn't intentionally trying to hit Hudson in the head, even though he definitely did hit him in the head.

I just wish we knew what the difference was.

I'm not going to rip the Big 12's decision on this, but I'm not going to defend it, either. It's an illegal hit. I feel strongly about that. They're within their right to suspend Martin if they see fit. But there's a lot of illegal hits happening. Not everybody is getting suspended. Why? I have no idea, and if the Big 12 had planned on issuing an explanation, we'd have heard it by now.


Don Bowers in Oklahoma City, Okla., asks: Is this one of the questions you are going to pick for your totally awesome blog so I can brag to my friends how cool it is to get a question on here?

DU: Nope.


Joe in Waco, Texas asks: If Baylor can pull off the win this weekend, (I know, Texas will be playing with a purpose and Baylor hasn't won 3 straight all year) could it be the game that finally puts RG3 on the same stage as T-Magic and Newton?

DU: You bring up an interesting point. First off, Robert Griffin III is pretty clearly a better overall quarterback (Note: As a runner, I'd go with T-Magic) at this point than Taylor Martinez, but let's take a look at Griffin's numbers vs. Newton's.

Passing:
  • Griffin: 180-270 (66.7 percent), 2,373 yards, 18 TD, 4 INT. Rating: 159.53
  • Newton: 90-138 (65.2 percent), 1,364 yards, 13 TD, 5 INT. Rating: 172.08
Rushing:
  • Griffin: 76 car, 374 yards (5.1 avg). 6 TD
  • Newton: 157 car, 1,077 yards (6.9 avg). 14 TD

It's pretty obvious that while Griffin is a great player, the impact of what Newton is doing this year is greater than what Griffin has done, and Newton is doing it for an undefeated, No. 1 team against an SEC schedule featuring a handful of ranked teams.

Griffin is a great player who's near the top of my ballot for Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, but there's a reason why all 15 of our ESPN Heisman Watch first-place votes went to Newton. Tell the SEC linebackers Newton is trucking on a regular basis that the 250-pounder is all hype.


Wyatt in Nebraska asks: Which big 12 players do you think would make the best body guards?

DU: Apparently I might need a couple after picking against the Huskers this week. I've got calls placed in to Colorado's Nate Solder (6-foot-9, 310 pounds) and Baylor's Robert T. Griffin (6-foot-6, 330 pounds) to tag along with me to Lincoln this weekend.


Barry in Houston asks: David,I just wanted your opinion on the act of tearing down goalposts. I ask because it seems that there is somewhat of a double standard that goes on here in particular, Texas Tech was known for a few years for rushing the field and tearing down goalposts, this got them labeled 'classless clowns' in the media. It even got to the point where law enforcement was brought into home games to keep it from happening. I remember reading several articles in the Houston area about how atrocious this behavior was and how it had no place in college football. The other day I was on here and the Mizzou 'tradition' of tearing down the goalposts and marching them through town was depicted as some sort of magical experience that every college football fan should experience. How is there such a difference in the schools actions? Why are they perceived so differently? Just wondering about your thoughts here.

DU: There's a time and place for it. I think you're overreacting on the "classless clowns" comment that I bet few people have any memory of. Texas Tech doesn't have that reputation for field-storming as far as I know. There's a time to rush the field. Beating a team with one win is not it (ahem, Colorado), unless you haven't won a game in more than a year. Qualifying for a bowl game for the first time in 15 years is definitely appropriate. Beating a No. 1 team, especially the same team that your program hasn't beaten in more than a decade, the same team that beat you to keep you out of the national title game is an appropriate time to do it. Anybody who criticizes the actual act is an oversensitive curmudgeon who needs to lighten up. There are definitely times to do it. Missouri and Baylor took advantage of their opportunities.

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