Big 12: Jacob Lattimer
More spring superlatives:
This one is clear. Iowa State topped our position rankings at linebacker, and for good reason. Or, perhaps more accurately, two good reasons.
Big 12 co-Defensive Player of the Year A.J. Klein and teammate Jake Knott make up the best 1-2 punch at linebacker of any team in the country, and sophomore C.J. Morgan should fill out the unit heading into the spring. Knott was banged up all over throughout the 2011 season, but he and Klein were still the most productive duo of any linebackers in the Big 12.
They combined for 231 tackles and finished second and fourth in the Big 12 in tackles. Even scarier for the rest of the Big 12? They'll both be back and be third-year starters in 2012. Look out, especially if Knott stays healthy during the season.
Weakest position: Defensive line
If you want to know why Iowa State had such trouble stopping opposing offenses last year, point to this unit. Additionally, its most productive members are gone after last season.
Patrick Neal and Jacob Lattimer combined for 6.5 sacks, and are gone. As is tackle Stephen Ruempolhamer, who added five tackles for loss and 2.5 more sacks.
End Roosevelt Maggitt returns, as does tackle Jake McDonough, but Iowa State has big holes in a trouble spot for the defense.
Here's what each team across the Big 12 needs. You'll find Texas A&M and Mizzou on the SEC blog and West Virginia on the Big East Blog.
Quarterback: This one's pretty simple. Robert Griffin III is taking his talents to the NFL early. Nick Florence is waiting to take over, and the Bears have Bryce Petty behind him, but more reinforcements at quarterback are needed. Dual-threat quarterbacks, ideally.
Defensive tackle: Baylor already was one of the nation's worst teams (102nd nationally) at stopping the run. Now it'll need to replace both its interior linemen, Nicolas Jean-Baptiste and Tracy Robertson.
Offensive linemen: Baylor's offensive line, meanwhile, has been solid. It loses junior college transfer and two-year starter Robert T. Griffin, as well as All-Big 12 center Philip Blake. John Jones, a reserve guard, also has exhausted his eligibility.
Receiver: This has been a weak spot for the team for several years, and its top overall talent, Darius Reynolds, is gone. Darius Darks is, too. Aaron Horne and Josh Lenz will be the team's best weapons in 2012, but the pair of shifty slot guys will be seniors. This position needs reinforcements.
Defensive back: The DBs have been a quiet strength for ISU, especially in 2011. Cornerback Leonard Johnson and safety Ter'Ran Benton both have exhausted their eligibility, though, and defensive backs coach Bobby Elliott left for Notre Dame. You'll see plenty of new faces in the Cyclones' secondary next year.
Defensive line: Experienced starters Stephen Ruempolhamer and Jacob Lattimer are both gone, and Iowa State has struggled to stop the run consistently the past few seasons.
Quarterback: Kansas landed high-profile transfers Dayne Crist (Notre Dame) and Jake Heaps (BYU), but this is still a huge position of need. Last year's starter, Jordan Webb, left the team. Quinn Mecham is out of eligibility. Heaps is sitting out his NCAA-mandated year after transferring. Crist is the starter, but he badly needs a backup, especially if Brock Berglund's transfer appeal allows him to leave.
Wide receiver: Kansas lacks a big threat at this position. It needs a talent upgrade in a big way. Oklahoma transfer Justin McCay is joining the team, but he's no guarantee to a) be granted immediate eligibility or b) become an impact player.
Defensive tackle: Kansas is thin here, too. Richard Johnson, Patrick Dorsey and Michael Martinovich are gone, and Kansas couldn't stop much of anything on defense. Some push up front could help make everything look better. A late addition to the 2012 class from a junior college seems like a no-brainer. The Jayhawks need physically mature players to contribute immediately.
Offensive line: K-State's offensive line was much better in 2011 and could be again in 2012. It needs help replacing All-Big 12 lineman Clyde Aufner, though. Starter Colten Freeze is also gone.
Defensive line: Kansas State is bringing back about as many starters as anyone in the Big 12, but the biggest losses are along the defensive line. Kick-blocking specialist (five in 2011) Ralph Guidry is gone, along with tackle Ray Kibble. Juco transfer Jordan Voelker exploded onto the scene this year, but he's gone, too.
Defensive backs: Cornerback David Garrett leaves a huge hole behind. Tysyn Hartman may not be as talented as teammate Ty Zimmerman, but his experience leaves a big hole. Zimmerman will have to mentor a younger safety in the near future.
Receiver: The Sooners are thin here in a big way. That was obvious late in the season when Ryan Broyles' storied college career ended a few weeks early with a knee injury. The team also lost Justin McCay (transfer) to Kansas. Jaz Reynolds and Kenny Stills are the likely top two targets, but they need help.
Tight end: This position inspired a bit of panic at the end of the season. Seniors James Hanna and Trent Ratterree are gone. Austin Haywood wasn't allowed back on the team, and two more tight ends left the team for various reasons. That left the Sooners suddenly without a scholarship player at the position returning in 2012.
Offensive line: Starting tackle Donald Stephenson must be replaced, as will guard Stephen Good, who moved in and out of the starting lineup throughout his career. The Sooners bring back a lot of talent and aren't dying for depth there, but those two will leave holes. Three more offensive line starters will be seniors in 2012.
Offensive line: The Cowboys need a whole lot of help here to fill in behind young players stepping into the starting lineup. Starters Levy Adcock, Nick Martinez and Grant Garner are gone. Backup center Casey LaBrue is gone, too. Those are two All-Big 12 linemen who leave big shoes to be filled.
Receiver: Justin Blackmon surprised no one by leaving a year early, and Josh Cooper leaves with perhaps the most underrated career of any receiver in school history. In OSU's offense, there's always room for depth here. Nine receivers had at least 19 catches in 2011. Blackmon and Cooper combined for 192, though.
Defensive ends: The pass rush was solid for Oklahoma State this year, but both starters, Jamie Blatnick and Richetti Jones, are gone. Replacing both is a necessity.
Receiver: Texas lacks a true game-changer at the position, though Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis may develop into that role in 2012. Former blue-chip recruit Darius White left for Missouri, too.
Quarterback: David Ash and Case McCoy didn't show a ton of potential at quarterback this year, though Ash may grow with an offseason to prepare as starter. Garrett Gilbert got a big chunk of the work in the spring, summer 7-on-7 and fall preseason camp. Even if Ash does grow, the Longhorns need reinforcements at the position.
Linebacker: Two senior impact players are gone. Texas is left trying to replace Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson, though Jordan Hicks may mature into a star in 2012.
Offensive line: TCU's offensive line is headed for some major turnover. OT Robert Deck, OG Kyle Dooley and OG Spencer Thompson are gone. Two more starters, OG Blaize Foltz and C James Fry, will be seniors in 2012.
Defensive linemen: TCU isn't losing a lot at this spot, but Ross Forrest and D.J. Yendrey will be seniors in 2012. The Horned Frogs would be well-served to prepare, and offer some depth next year.
Specialists: TCU will have to break in a pair of new starters on special teams next season. Kicker Ross Evans and punter Anson Kelton have exhausted their eligibility.
Receiver: The Red Raiders' offense requires a lot of depth here. Tramain Swindall is the only loss at the position, but three more (Alex Torres, Cornelius Douglas, Darrin Moore) will be seniors. Douglas moved to cornerback this year after the team was racked with injury, but we'll see whether he moves back this offseason.
Offensive line: Tech has a huge need here. Four players won't be returning in 2012. Lonnie Edwards, Mickey Okafor and center Justin Keown must be replaced.
Defensive linemen: Tech's Donald Langley and Scott Smith are both out of eligibility, and juco transfer Leon Mackey will be a senior.
- Bill Snyder's depth chart for the team's game notes heading into next week's game against Eastern Kentucky? A work of art.
- Snyder said he'll be releasing the depth chart tomorrow. More later on the Wildcats.
- Oklahoma didn't have any huge surprises, but the biggest news: Jamell Fleming has officially reclaimed his spot above Gabe Lynn at the boundary corner spot, despite missing all of spring practice after leaving the university.
- Three true freshmen also broke the lineup. Kameel Jackson will back up Trey Franks at receiver, and recently added linebacker Kellen Jones is a co-backup with Jaydan Bird behind Tom Wort at middle linebacker. Nila Kasitati is a co-backup behind Tyler Evans at right guard.
- Doubt the committee approach at running back? Brennan Clay, Dominique Whaley and Roy Finch are all co-starters at the position. Finch is listed last on that group, but we'll see how carries are distributed in Week 1 vs. Tulsa. Whaley is a walk-on who has had big days in the spring game the past two seasons.
- Ronnell Lewis is listed as the starter at defensive end, but the university has yet to officially clarify his eligibility status. Kenny Stills is likely suspended for Saturday's game after an offseason arrest, but he's listed as the starter at receiver.
- Texas Tech has pair of hyped defensive linemen, and both cracked the two-deep. Leon Mackey, a juco transfer, will start at defensive end in Week 1 for the Red Raiders against Texas State. Meanwhile, former UNC signee and recently cleared true freshman Delvon Simmons will back up Kerry Hyder at defensive tackle in Chad Glasgow's 4-2-5 scheme, fresh from TCU.
- Glasgow will lean on a true freshman for one of his two linebacker spots. Blake Dees had a huge impact in the spring and solidified his starting spot during fall camp.
- Receiver Marcus Kennard, a juco transfer, looks like he'll redshirt after not showing up on the two-deep, but Darrin Moore will grab the Z receiver spot for the Red Raiders.
- The rumors have been officially proven correct at Oklahoma State: The Cowboys return all five starters on the offensive line, but juco transfer Michael Bowie has crashed the starting lineup at left tackle. He'll replace Nick Martinez, who'll back up Lane Taylor at right guard now. The Cowboys offensive line is the league's best, and clearly, Bowie's hyped arrival gives it a whole lot more than depth.
- Justin Gilbert has officially usurped Devin Hedgepeth as the corner opposite Brodrick Brown. No surprise there. Gilbert's ceiling is sky high.
- Caleb Lavey was the likely starter at the spot, but he'll officially start the year as Orie Lemon's replacement at middle linebacker, where he began spring camp.
- Justin Britt replaces Elvis Fisher at left tackle. The sophomore had been inside, but the team saw him moving outside eventually. He'll take that spot now with Fisher out for the season with a torn patellar tendon.
- Hyped juco transfer Sheldon Richardson? Fifth on the depth chart no more. The recently cleared big man moved to No. 2 at defensive tackle behind Terrell Resonno.
- Center Travis Ruth is out for the opener against Miami (OH). Jayson Palmgren fills his void.
- Starting corner Kip Edwards is doubtful. Trey Hobson is listed as the starter.
- Receiver Jerrell Jackson is also doubtful. Marcus Lucas will get the nod if Jackson can't go.
- True freshman Corbin Berkstresser grabbed the No. 3 quarterback spot behind James Franklin and returning backup Jimmy Costello, who left the team and planned to join the Army, but re-joined after Tyler Gabbert's transfer.
- Iowa State made it official on paper: Steele Jantz is the starting quarterback. His backfield? Crowded, but led by Shontrelle Johnson, as expected.
- I'm not sure if it means he's playing for sure just yet, but Darius Reynolds is listed as the starter at one of the three receiver spots, despite suffering a broken toe earlier in fall camp.
- A.J. Klein, meanwhile, has moved to middle linebacker next to weak side linebacker Jake Knott. Matt Tau'fo'ou started at middle linebacker spot last year, but after suffering a broken leg, he's backing up Klein in the middle. C.J. Morgan, a freshman, takes over at strong side. I haven't seen Morgan play, but at 207 pounds vs. Klein's 243, he'd presumably offer some more, much-needed speed at the position. Jacob Lattimer? Starting at defensive end, despite a March arrest and suspension.
2010 overall record: 5-7
2010 conference record: 3-5
Returning starters: Offense (5), Defense (7) P/K (2)
Top returners: LB Jake Knott, LB A.J. Klein, CB Leonard Johnson, CB Ter'Ran Benton, WR Darius Reynolds, RB Shontrelle Johnson, OT Kelechi Osemele
Key losses: QB Austen Arnaud, RB Alexander Robinson, TE Collin Franklin, S David Sims, DB Michael O’Connell
2010 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Alexander Robinson (946 yards)
Passing: Austen Arnaud (1,703 yards)
Receiving: Collin Franklin (530 yards)
Tackles: Jake Knott (131)
Sacks: Jacob Lattimer* (4)
Interceptions: Jake Knott* (4)
Three spring answers
1. Encouraging signs at receiver. Iowa State’s leading receiver in 2010 was tight end Franklin, not a good sign for explosive plays in a league that demands them. This spring, though, the Cyclones may have a pair of good ones. Juco transfer Aaron Horne made an impact, and Reynolds showed signs of becoming the big-play threat the Cyclones hoped they recruited.
2. No questions about defensive leaders. Linebacker Knott was already a captain. But after having surgery for a broken arm, his first stop? Practice. His 130 tackles last season already said plenty. His clear priority said even more. Neither required words.
3. Nice addition. We’ll see a new-look stadium this fall. The Cyclones are adding a new free-standing structure with an HD video display above the Jacobson Athletic Building in the north end zone. It’s a sharp update and a reason for fans to be excited for the fall.
Three fall questions
1. Who’s the QB? The Cyclones have the Big 12’s most jumbled quarterback situation. Four players are still trying to lay claim to the position, each bringing something a bit different. Jerome Tiller has the most experience, but Steele Jantz, Jared Barnett and James Capello may end up the starter by the end of fall. My money is on Jantz, the fastest of the quartet.
2. Down south blues? Iowa State snuck into a bowl game in 2009 and just missed another berth in 2010 after losing its final three games. It looks like it’ll be on a similar plane in 2011, needing to beat a few teams it isn’t supposed to in order to reach the postseason. Can that happen with a schedule that features nine conference games, including every Big 12 South team? And I didn’t even mention Iowa …
3. Replacing A-Rob? Shontrelle Johnson showed some nice burst last year in spot duty but had a fairly quiet spring. He’s likely to replace the Cyclones’ offensive star the last two seasons, Robinson, but can he keep up with the kind of production that Iowa State got out of its back?
- Stewart Mandel of SI.com has a burning question for each team in the Big 12.
- A second arrest in two years won't change Jacob Lattimer's status with the team, writes Andrew Logue of the Des Moines Register.
- Bob Stoops paid Boise State's practice a visit on Wednesday, reports Jake Trotter of The Oklahoman.
- After missing all of last year with a broken foot, Texas offensive lineman Tray Allen is glad to be back, writes Randy Riggs of the Austin American-Statesman.
- NFL.com has a video of former Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller and his path to the NFL.
- Miller, by the way, keeps impressing NFL scouts, writes Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
- Former Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant envies Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman.
Sooners down another DB
Oklahoma announced safety Marcus Trice would be transferring, which usually wouldn't cause much of a ripple considering Trice played primarily special teams and didn't crack the depth chart last season, eventually being moved to receiver.
But as a freshman, Trice worked as a backup safety and looked ready to become a major contributor again as a sophomore. He didn't, and rumors swirled that he turned in defensive backs coach Willie Martinez for asking in a voicemail for an explanation of why Trice missed a voluntary workout, which is a secondary violation of NCAA rules. The violation forced Oklahoma to sit out a week during this offseason.
Reached by the Tulsa World, however, Trice denied the rumors.
"It wasn't me," Trice told the paper, "but I don't and won't throw anyone else under the bus."
He cited a desire for playing time, something that didn't look like it was coming any time soon at Oklahoma, a school Trice said he grew up dreaming of playing for.
A source at Oklahoma also told the paper that Trice wasn't in bad graces with the coaches. Oklahoma won't be hurt much by his departure, with Javon Harris, Sam Proctor or perhaps nickel back Tony Jefferson looking well prepared to take over for the Sooners' departed safeties, Quinton Carter and Jonathan Nelson. But it's certainly an interesting case, more so than a routine transfer.
The Sooners did get some good news, however.
Receiver Dejuan Miller's career picked up steam with strong outings in wins over Cincinnati (3 rec., 66 yards) and Texas (5 rec., 61 yards) before a knee injury ended his season. He's been cleared for action this spring, but won't compete in contact drills or play full speed.
Oklahoma's receiving corps already has two outstanding options in Biletnikoff Award finalist Ryan Broyles and sophomore Kenny Stills, who broke Broyles' freshman receiving record with 786 yards last year. Trey Franks came on late, as did tight end James Hanna and the Sooners signed a top receiver in Trey Metoyer in their 2011 class, but Miller returning to form could make them even deeper.
Two Cyclones arrested
Iowa State defensive end Jacob Lattimer and reserve tight end Ricky Howard were arrested over the weekend and suspended indefinitely.
Lattimer, 22, faces charges of assault on a peace officer and interference with official acts. Howard, 20, is suspected of operating a vehicle while intoxicated.
Lattimer moved from linebacker to defensive end last season and appeared in all 12 games, making 6.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. He also forced two fumbles.
Howard did not play last season.
Cowboys get punter back
Oklahoma State had to play without Ray Guy semifinalist and All-Big 12 punter Quinn Sharp in the Alamo Bowl. The game carried on without incident thanks to a solid performance from Lou Groza Award winner Dan Bailey's fill-in duties as kickoff specialist and punter, but the Cowboys won't have to worry about any hiccups in 2011.
The academic issues surrounding Sharp have been cleared up, and he's been reinstated to the team, taking part in offseason conditioning and preparing for spring practice, which begins today in Stillwater.
Barring any further changes, he should be ready to go for the season this fall. That's great news for a team with legitimate Big 12 title aspirations. You never miss specialists like Sharp until something goes horribly wrong. The Cowboys won't have to worry about that moving forward. Sharp will also compete this spring to replace his replacement in the bowl game, Bailey, as the Cowboys' placekicker.
Gabbert completed 30 of 42 passes for 308 yards and a touchdown. Martinez set a Nebraska freshman record with 435 total yards and threw five touchdown passes.
Defense: Jacob Lattimer, DE, Iowa State
Lattimer made seven tackles, including two sacks, forced a fumble and hurried quarterback Garrett Gilbert four times.
Special teams: Gahn McGaffie, KR, Missouri
McGaffie took back the opening kickoff against then-No. 1 Oklahoma and put the Tigers on top 7-0 just seconds into the game.
The top four on the depth chart competing for the three starting spots have just 44 career tackles, less than a third of Smith's total in just last season. Soon-to-be sophomores Jake Knott and A.J. Klein are embracing full-time duty this spring on the outside, with juco transfer Matt Tau'fo'ou competing in the middle. Senior Jacob Lattimer, also a juco transfer who had just three tackles last season, is looking for an increased role this season, too.
"They’re inexperienced and not sure what they’re supposed to do," Rhoads said. "They are not playing fast. That’s a direct correlation between thinking because you’re not sure what you’re supposed to do, and doing it."
Rhoads has spent the spring trying to make sure that changes. Klein and Knott proved they could perform in a limited capacity last season, appearing in every game, but they'll make the jump to every-down players as just sophomores.
"Last year, as a No. 2 guy, I always had to know things, but I didn’t have to know things," Klein said. "Now, it’s more in-depth. You’ve got to know everything, you’ve got to know what’s going on, what the safeties are doing, the corners are doing. You have to know the whole defense, not just one position."
Knott is strapping in for the challenge in conditioning, playing without the knowledge that he'll have a handful of plays off between his appearances on the field.
"If you mess up on one little thing while you’re out there, that could be the one big play. You can’t take one play off, and last year when you’re playing just a couple plays, you could go all out for all those plays and then take a break," Knott said. "But when you’re in for the entire game, you’ve got to all out for every play like it’s your last."
Though this season could be full of mistakes common to young players, it could be the beginning of a stretch of three seasons with the same two numbers chasing down ballcarriers on the outside of the defensive line.
"The opportunity is there, we just have to make it happen. Coach is going to be looking to us to be guys that make plays, and I think we’re all just ready," Klein said. "We’ve been waiting our whole lives for this, and it’s a great opportunity."
Klein and the rest of the linebackers aren't the only ones who believe. It hasn't happened yet, but their coach is ready for it, and what he's seen this spring only makes him more sure the production will come.
"I’m confident that they’ll get there because they’re the kind of guys who will spend the extra time and effort to make sure they get there," Rhoads said. "The defense is hitting the heck out of people, and both sides are walking around a little dizzy now and then."
Two sophomores, A.J. Klein and Jake Knott, will man the outside linebacker positions to begin the spring. Klein, at 6-foot-1 and 237 pounds, recorded 17 tackles as a freshman. Knott, a 6-foot-2, 237-pounder, had 23 tackles and will line up on the opposite side. Junior Jacob Lattimer will back up Klein and sophomore Kevin Hamlin will back up Knott.
In the middle, juco transfer Matt Tau’fo’ou will begin his senior spring as a starter after transferring from the College of San Mateo (Calif.) before his junior year. Tau'fo'ou didn't play in his first season, but was a juco All-American in 2008 and Rhoads singled him out as someone he wanted to check on in the spring. The pre-spring depth chart says Tau'fo'ou will have plenty of responsibility and reps when practice begins Tuesday.
Rhoads mentioned last week he was excited to get a look at juco transfer Anthony Young, a cornerback from Palomar Community College in San Marcos, Calif., but Young will begin the spring as a backup at right cornerback to returning starter junior Leonard Johnson, a Freshman All-American who made 64 tackles and picked off two passes as a sophomore last season.
The Cyclones offense, of course, is still headlined by a pair of returning seniors, Austen Arnaud and Alexander Robinson, at quarterback and running back, respectively.
Arnaud passed for 2,015 yards as a junior and scored 22 touchdowns. Robinson rushed for 1,195 yards, third-most in the Big 12, had six 100-yard games and was named All-Big 12 honorable mention.
He’ll be replacing all three starting linebackers, including Jesse Smith, who anchored the second level of the defense with a Big 12-most 135 tackles.
Junior Jacob Lattimer and sophomores A.J. Klein and Jake Knott should enter the spring as the three to watch.
Knott appeared in all 13 games for the Cyclones last season, and leads the new trio with 23 tackles. Klein added 17.
It’s the older Lattimer who might have the biggest learning curve. He played in just five games as a sophomore, and made three tackles. Iowa State gave up over 165 yards on the ground last season (10th in the Big 12), so maybe some new faces in the linebacking corps might not be such a bad thing.
But it’s never easy to replace 135 tackles.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It's getting close to summer. Most schools are conducting "unofficial" workouts as players return to prepare for the season and get ahead in their schooling.
And we still have links.
Many of them.
Here are some of today's best.
- Boulder Camera columnist Neill Woelk writes that there's no common reason to explain why five Colorado players have transferred from the program in the last several months.
- I guess we can figure who Athlon likes to win the Oct. 17 game in Dallas, can't we? Oklahoma is revealed as the magazine's No. 2 national team, a day after Texas was released as No. 3.
- The Lubbock-based Williams and Hyatt Blog wonders if Texas Tech moving their game at Texas to Sept. 19 is really such a good idea.
- Linebacker Jacob Lattimer of Hutchison Community College is the second linebacker added to Iowa State's program after signing day by new coach Paul Rhoads, the Ames Tribune's Bobby La Gesse reports.
- The Lawrence Journal-World's Tom Keegan isn't buying a preseason prediction that slots Kansas fourth in the Big 12 North.
- The Tulsa World's Dave Sittler plays a game of "what if" with the career of former Oklahoma assistant coach Jim Donnan, who will be elected to College Football Hall of Fame's Divisional Hall of Fame.
- Backup quarterback Blaine Dalton is off suspension and back taking part in offseason drills with the Missouri football team, Mike DeArmond of the Kansas City Star reports.
- Nearly 1,000 attendees took part in Football 101, Bo Pelini's interactive course in football developed for women, Jon Nyatawa of the Omaha World Herald reports. The event raised more than than $50,000 to benefit the Southeast Nebraska Cancer Center Foundation and the UNMC Eppley Cancer Center, according to the Lincoln Journal-Star.
- Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert, Texas defensive end Sergio Kindle, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin, Iowa State quarterback Austen Arnaud and Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing are among the players that a panel of College Football News columnists predict could be "September stars" early in the season.
- Former Texas A&M All-American lineman Joe Boyd passed away at the age of 92, the Dallas Morning News reports. Boyd, who later became a noted evangelist, was a member of the Aggies' 1939 national championship team.
- Former Texas defensive back Erick Jackson didn't make the cut on Michael Irvin's "Fourth and Long" reality football show, Austin American-Statesman columnist Cedric Golden reports in his delicious blog "Golden Nuggets."