Big 12: Jake Laptad

The Revolving Door: Kansas

June, 2, 2011
6/02/11
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I've done it. You've done it.

"Hey, is that guy still around?"

Even with two fewer teams, it's hard to keep track. Our next series, which we did last year, too, takes a look at two key players for every team in the league who are taking their talents elsewhere, returning to campus, or arriving to try to write a legacy of their own.

So really, this series isn't so much for the fans of the teams in the posts, but more for everyone else. It wouldn't be a bad idea to bookmark these.

Next up: Kansas

Going:

Justin Springer and Drew Dudley, LBs

Springer and Dudley anchored the Jayhawks defense in 2010, combining for 149 tackles as the team's No. 2 and 4 tacklers. Dudley was an All-Big 12 performer in 2009 for his 88-tackle season, and was named to the Big 12's All-Academic team in each of his final three seasons. He also had 13.5 tackles for loss in his final two seasons, including 8.5 in 2009.

Springer had 25 tackles in 2009, but emerged as one of the defense's leaders in 2010, making 85 tackles as a team captain. In Kansas' big win early in the season against Georgia Tech, Springer earned Big 12 Player of the Week honors for his 15-tackle performance.

Jake Laptad, DE

Laptad was a constant on the defensive line for the Jayhawks during each of his four years in Lawrence, beginning with the Orange Bowl season in 2007. Laptad finished his career with 145 tackles, 33 tackles for loss and was a three-time All-Big 12 honoree. Of those 33 tackles for loss, 20.5 came in the last two seasons, when he led the Jayhawks.

Staying:

Daymond Patterson, WR

Patterson, a former wide receiver turned cornerback turned receiver again, emerged as Kansas' best playmaker in 2010 and could hold the title once again in 2011. He made his presence known in a big way when he broke a handful of tackles and made one of the biggest plays of the Jayhawks' season: a 32-yard, catch-and-run touchdown to put Kansas over the top against defending ACC champion Georgia Tech. Patterson led the team with 60 catches last season for 487 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Steven Johnson, LB

Johnson is a former walk-on, but his recent efforts have been rewarded when the Pennsylvania native was offered a scholarship. Johnson led the Jayhawks in tackles last season with 95 stops, ranking 15th in the Big 12. Johnson hardly played in his first two seasons, but after coach Turner Gill designated him a starter before the start of the 2010 season, Johnson blossomed. He had just nine tackles in 2009, but in 2010, he had four games with as many stops.

Coming:

Darrian Miller, RB

Miller was one of the top players in the Kansas City area. Gill nabbed him and he's made a huge impact early. A shifty, speedy, 5-foot-10, 190-pound back, Miller showed his skills this spring after enrolling early. He was the nation's No. 18 running back, and already figures to be a factor in the backfield along with the team's leading returning rusher, James Sims.

Brock Berglund, QB

Berglund had planned to join Miller this spring, but after enrolling in classes during the spring semester, Berglund went back to his home in Colorado. Berglund was the top quarterback in Colorado and originally committed to the Buffs, but after Dan Hawkins was fired, signed with Kansas. A dual-threat quarterback who describes his skill set as "Tim Tebow, Michael Vick and Peyton Manning kind of all put together," Berglund could be the long-term solution to Kansas' struggles at quarterback.

Click here for more from The Revolving Door.

Kansas spring wrap

May, 6, 2011
5/06/11
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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?

Lunch links: K. Hunter or D. Murray?

February, 17, 2011
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I wore a tank top today because I thought it was summer. No one ever taught me how to read a calendar.

Recruiting needs: Big 12 North

January, 26, 2011
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Signing day is exactly a week from today, and it's time to take a look at who needs what in its 2011 class.

Some schools have addressed these with their current class. Some haven't. Others are still trying.

We'll kick things off with the artists formerly known as the Big 12 North and examine the South later today.

COLORADO

Cornerback: Jalil Brown and Jimmy Smith were pretty reliable for the Buffaloes, but both are headed to the NFL, and the Buffaloes could definitely use some depth behind their first-year starters. It's not quite as pressing of an issue considering their move to the less pass-happy Pac-12, but they still like to sling it out west.

Receiver: Colorado isn't exactly starving anywhere on offense, but receiver sticks out a bit. Toney Clemons was good, but maybe not quite what the Buffaloes hoped he'd be in 2010, but they caught a break in getting Paul Richardson back after a great freshman season. The Buffaloes need some complementary pieces around Clemons and Richardson to replace departed pass-catchers Scotty McKnight and Travon Patterson. Next year, that should be tight end Ryan Deehan and receiver Will Jefferson.

IOWA STATE

Receiver: It's been a struggle for Iowa State in recent years, but they have to get better outside to help out their quarterback. Sedrick Johnson's transfer only worsens the Cyclones depth at the position, but Jake Williams and tight end Collin Franklin, the team's leading receiver, are gone. Shontrelle Johnson looks ready to become a big factor in the offense, but the Cyclones filling the space at receiver will make it easier for Johnson to replace running back Alexander Robinson.

Safety: Both starters, David Sims and Zac Sandvig, are gone. So is the Cyclones top reserve at the position, Michael O'Connell. Sims was a top-notch talent that will be tough to replace, but Iowa State needs more depth here. They should be solid at corner with Leonard Johnson, Ter'ran Benton, Jeremy Reeves and Anthony Young, which could make the new safeties' jobs easier.

KANSAS

Defensive line: KU is losing three of four starters on the line, including the team's only All-Big 12 talent, defensive end Jake Laptad. Turner Gill wants more speed, and this is a place to install it. Tackles that tip the scales at 320 pounds aren't too necessary in this league, but speed on the edge can go a long way in stopping the pass.

Quarterback: Neither Jordan Webb or Quinn Mecham look like long-term answers at quarterback for the Jayhawks. Mecham will be a senior, and Webb might develop into a better player as a sophomore next year, but Kansas needs other options. The Jayhawks hope Brock Berglund, the top-rated recruit in Colorado, is the solution to the problem.

KANSAS STATE

Running back: I hear your cries for Bryce Brown, Wildcats fans, but K-State can't expect to hitch their wagon to the former blue-chip recruit turned Tennessee transfer in the same way it did for Daniel Thomas. Thomas and his backup, William Powell, are gone, and the Wildcats need some depth at running back to show up.

Interior offensive linemen: K-State loses both guards and its center from an offense that produced the Big 12's leading rusher in 2010. Don't expect them to do it again in 2011 without Wade Weibert, Kenneth Mayfield and Zach Kendall, as well as Thomas and Powell, but finding some new talent behind them will help them come close.

Cornerback: David Garrett emerged as a budding star in 2010 ready for a breakout senior year in 2011, but the Wildcats lose Terrance Sweeney and Stephen Harrison, as well as safety Troy Butler. Like we've mentioned earlier, good secondaries are a must for success in the Big 12, and K-State had one of the league's worst in 2010.

MISSOURI

Receiver: Missouri has some good ones ready to suit up in 2011, namely Wes Kemp, Jerrell Jackson and T.J. Moe, but the Tigers don't have a true gamebreaker. They have some younger players in Marcus Lucas and Jimmie Hunt who they hope will develop into big-time, All-American caliber receivers, a la Jeremy Maclin and Danario Alexander. In Missouri's system, though, adding a few receivers is always a good idea. They certainly don't need any more running backs.

Defensive backs: Mizzou doesn't have any huge holes that need to be filled with recruiting, but the Tigers lose both corners, Carl Gettis and Kevin Rutland from their 2010 team. Kip Edwards and E.J. Gaines look likely to fill those roles, but the Tigers could use some depth and keep recruiting in the secondary to help add some talent around Tavon Bolden and Matt White, safeties who will replace departed Jarrell Harrison, who actually had to play some linebacker in 2010 because of injuries.

NEBRASKA

Every kind of kicker: Alex Henery, the team's punter and kicker is gone. So is kickoff specialist and lover/producer of touchbacks, Adi Kunalic. Fan favorite Henery was hardly underappreciated by the Nebraska faithful, but they'll miss him even more if the Huskers can't find a suitable placekicker and punter. Bo Pelini was reportedly after Wake Forest commit Mauro Bondi this week.

Receiver: Niles Paul and Mike McNeill are gone. The Huskers need Brandon Kinnie to come through with another good year and it'd be nice if Quincy Enunwa broke through in 2011, but Taylor Martinez needs some more help at wide out, and a couple new recruits could provide it as Martinez's passing prowess matures.

The Big 12 North's Super Seniors

December, 13, 2010
12/13/10
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I'll take a page from fellow blogger Chris Low out east in the SEC and take some time to recognize the elder statesmen of the Big 12. We'll tackle the North right now and the South a bit later today.

There's plenty of talented underclassmen across the Big 12 -- 10 members of the All-Big 12 first team carry the designation -- but every program needs solid seniors on the field and in the locker room.

With the exception of junior college transfers, these are players who gave everything they had to a program for four and five years. As such, here's a salute to guys who meant a lot to their teams this year:

Nate Solder, LT, Colorado: Solder spent his first two years in Boulder as a tight end, but he'll leave as an All-American left tackle, an Outland Trophy finalist and the team's MVP for 2010. If you've gotten to read much about him, talk to him or caught any of his interviews during the College Football Awards last week, you'd see why his personality could serve as a calm for the young Buffaloes dealing with Dan Hawkins' exit in the middle of the season. Also, he's enormous. That will make him plenty of money very soon.

Austen Arnaud, QB, Iowa State: Arnaud had to deal with three different coaches in his five years at Iowa State, but helped get the Cyclones to a bowl in 2009 and get the program's first-ever win against Texas this season. A three-year starter, Arnaud holds plenty of school records as a passer. His career met a sad end with a knee injury against Colorado, but his letter to fans after the injury was only further evidence of how much the program meant to him. The feeling is mutual from everyone else, and even the university president was moved to commend Arnaud after his injury ended his senior year.

Jake Laptad, DE, Kansas: The Jayhawks suffered a rough season, but Laptad was one of its bright spots. He finished with 4.5 sacks, leading Kansas' defense for a second consecutive year, as well as 8.5 tackles for loss. He earned the teams only non-special teams All-Big 12 nod, and will finish his career with 21 sacks, never amassing fewer than three in any season, including his freshman year. Not many players can say that.

Daniel Thomas, RB, Kansas State: Thomas walked into the Big 12 last year and led it in rushing, and only got better in 2010. He took the roundabout route to FBS football, but coach Bill Snyder has commended Thomas for committing himself to academics to get to Kansas State, and as a result, he's been the team's workhorse for two seasons. He's racked up 523 carries, 2,760 yards and 27 touchdowns in two years as a Wildcat. Where would Kansas State be without him these past two seasons? I'm not sure anyone in Manhattan wants to know the answer to that question.

Kevin Rutland, CB, Missouri: When Sean Weatherspoon left Missouri's program, it was left searching for a leader on defense. It didn't need to look for long. Rutland emerged both on and off the field this spring and was one of the big reasons, along with fellow corner Carl Gettis, that the secondary, once the biggest weakness of Missouri's defense, became one of its strengths in 2010. Missouri intercepted eight passes in 2009. Only Kansas had fewer in the Big 12. The Tigers picked off 16 this year. Only Oklahoma and Nebraska were better. Rutland was one of five Tigers with a pair of picks.

Roy Helu Jr., RB, Nebraska: Helu's quiet confidence carried the Huskers all season while Taylor Martinez and a dominant secondary soaked up all the headlines. This senior saved his biggest day for Nebraska's most important, rumbling for 307 yards and three touchdowns in what ended up being every bit the Big 12 North Championship it was advertised. Helu was the difference that day and has made a difference since arriving in Lincoln in 2007. Put it this way: The world would be a better place if there were more Roy Helu's running around.

Kansas Jayhawks season recap

December, 7, 2010
12/07/10
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After losing seven consecutive games to end the 2009 season, which resulted in coach Mark Mangino being fired, few expected much from the Jayhawks in their first season under Turner Gill.

Early on, that was about right. Kansas began its season with a loss to an FCS team, but followed it up with a win over the defending ACC champions. For the next month, though, it looked mostly inept.

The Jayhawks were outscored 159-24 in their first three league games, and the prospect of an 0-8 season in Big 12 play looked like a possibility. That was until they put together one of the Big 12's signature moments with a comeback that ranks among the best in college football history.

Trailing 45-17 to Colorado with just over 11 minutes to play, the Jayhawks rallied to win 52-45, a win that cost Buffaloes coach Dan Hawkins his job. Kansas took advantage of its best chance to win a Big 12 game, and looked competitive more often than not, which is a good sign for seasons to come under Gill.

Offensive MVP: James Sims, RB. Sims didn't play in the Jayhawks opener, but took over the starting job against Georgia Tech and kept it after Kansas pulled the upset. He had three 100-yard games in scored four touchdowns in the win over Colorado. Best of all, he's a true freshman.

Defensive MVP: Jake Laptad, DE. He's probably capable of better numbers if the talent around him were a bit better -- i.e., solid cover corners -- but Laptad managed 4.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles to earn the Jayhawks only All-Big 12 non-special teams selection. That includes honorable mention. By contrast, Texas A&M had 23 players earn all-Big 12 honors.

Turning point: The season opener. I wasn't sure if I should be shocked or not, but the Jayhawks 6-3 loss to North Dakota State prompted personnel changes on the field and made it obvious that the football fans in Lawrence were in for a stormy maiden voyage on the U.S.S. Gill.

What's next: I've said it before, I'll say it again: What Turner Gill does over the next nine months before the 2011 season is infinitely more important than anything that happened on the field in the last three. Simply put, Kansas didn't have the talent to compete on a week-to-week basis in the Big 12, and if that's going to change, he's going to have to reel in a few recruits who can contribute immediately. Huldon Tharp will be back next year after missing the entire season with an injury, and James Sims looks like a solid four-year starter at running back, but Kansas never settled its issues at quarterback, and will be losing senior defensive leaders Chris Harris, Drew Dudley and Justin Springer. More pieces to build around like Tharp, Sims will have to show up and make themselves known in fall camp next year. Receiver Daymond Patterson and tight end Tim Biere should offer good complements on offense after making major contributions in 2010.

10 players from Big 12 on Lombardi list

August, 27, 2010
8/27/10
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The Lombardi Award features my favorite trophy in sports. It's uncluttered, unique, and symbolic of what the award is about, being an immovable object or unstoppable force in the trenches.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, here's a photo. The Heisman is undoubtedly more iconic, but give me the Lombardi as a sweeter trophy. There's not another one like it. Anybody can sculpt a bronze man with a leather helmet in a variety of football stances.

This year, the Big 12 will host 10 candidates for the award, given annually to the best player who essentially lines up in what's referred to as "the box," or down linemen on offense or players on defense who line up closer than 10 yards to the line of scrimmage and within five yards wide of where the ball is spotted.

In short, offensive linemen, linebackers and defensive linemen.

Here are some players to watch:
Pretty good list filled with the usual suspects for these sorts of things, minus Missouri's Aldon Smith, who finished fourth in the conference with 11.5 sacks last season. He absolutely deserved to be on this list. Fellow sophomore offensive tackle Tanner Hawkinson of Kansas might have found a spot on here, too. The same goes for Jayhawks defensive end Jake Laptad. But again, it's just a watch list. Not being on the preseason list won't keep them from winning the award if they prove dominant during the season.

Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh won the 2009 award to give the Huskers their fifth winner, second-most nationally, behind Ohio State. Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy was also a finalist.

The Big 12 has taken home two consecutive Lombardi Awards; Brian Orakpo preceded Suh as 2008's winner.

Oklahoma and Texas have three winners each.

Texas A&M is the only other school in the Big 12 with a winner. Dat Nguyen, currently the Aggies linebackers coach, won the trophy in 1998.
So far this preseason, we've ranked the conference's best quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and linebackers. We'll even out the offense-defense balance a little more this afternoon with a ranking of the Big 12's top 10 defensive linemen.

This will encompass both ends and tackles, so get ready. The next few minutes you spend reading this could be among your life's most intense.

6. Adrian Taylor, DT, Oklahoma

Taylor faces an uphill battle after recovering from an ugly dislocated ankle in the Sun Bowl, but when he's at 100 percent, he's definitely one of the league's best. Overshadowed by NFL first-round talent Gerald McCoy last year, Taylor played nearly every snap alongside the star, finishing with 36 tackles, including seven for loss and 3.5 sacks. He'll line up next to former blue-chip recruit Jamarkus McFarland this year in the center of a defense that will try to stop the run like it did in 2009, when the Sooners ranked 10th nationally in rush defense.

7. Ugo Chinasa, DE, Oklahoma State

Chinasa should be one of the rocks of defensive guru Bill Young's defense in his second year in Stillwater. Chinasa's excellent speed off the edge helped him reach 6.5 sacks in 2009, including a strong finish against Ole Miss in the Cotton Bowl, with 2.5.

8. Jake Laptad, DE, Kansas

One of the bright spots on a defense that struggled to a 10th-place finish in 2009, Laptad made 6.5 sacks as a third-year starter, earning All-Big 12 honorable mention. A better performance in conference (only two of his sacks came in Big 12 play, and one was against Colorado, who gave up 43 in 2009) would move him up this list in the postseason.

9. Pierre Allen, DE, Nebraska

Nebraska fans and coaches don't see a defensive dip in the team's future, and Allen is a big reason why. One of the new leaders of a defense that lost four starters from last year's team, Allen will get a chance to showcase his talents outside two good tackles once again in Jared Crick and Baker Steinkuhler. He'll be a third-year starter as a senior and by now, has seen about everything Big 12 offensive lines have to offer.

10. Kheeston Randall, DT, Texas

He's been called the key to the middle of Texas' defense, and the Longhorns' coaches expect a big season from their big 6-foot-5, 295-pound junior. He's got lots of talent around him, but after taking over as the starter last season, expect him to surpass his 25 tackles and two sacks from last season.

Honorable mention: Marquez Herrod, DE, Colorado; Lucas Patterson, DT, Texas A&M; Alex Okafor, DE, Texas; Frank Alexander, DE, Oklahoma

Six from Big 12 on watch for Hendricks Award

August, 11, 2010
8/11/10
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Six players from the Big 12 were placed on the watch list for the Ted Hendricks Award, given annually to college football's best defensive end.
  • Sam Acho, Texas
  • Pierre Allen, Nebraska
  • Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma
  • Jake Laptad, Kansas
  • Von Miller, Texas A&M
  • Aldon Smith, Missouri

The 8-year-old award has been won only once by a Big 12 player: Texas' Brian Orakpo in 2008.

Acho and Beal should be strong contenders for the award, but Smith could possibly become a finalist if he can improve on his impressive freshman season that featured 11.5 sacks.

I'm also a little surprised to not see Oklahoma State's Ugo Chinasa (6.5 sacks, eight hurries, 30 tackles) on the 36-man list, but players can be added or deleted as necessary before the list is trimmed in November.

What to expect for media days: Day 3

July, 28, 2010
7/28/10
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IRVING, Texas -- More good stuff from media days on Tuesday that you can't find on the blog is up on our notebook page, so head over and check that out. Pat Forde and I will be on hand again today, and things are scheduled to get started in about an hour, barring plane troubles like yesterday.

Here's today's schedule, and once again, the proceedings will be carried live from Big12Sports.com: (all times ET)

10:00 Kansas: Coach Turner Gill, DE Jake Laptad, CB Chris Harris, OL Brad Thorson.

10:45 Oklahoma: Coach Bob Stoops, DE Jeremy Beal, LB Travis Lewis, WR Ryan Broyles, RB DeMarco Murray

11:30 Colorado: Coach Dan Hawkins, CB Jalil Brown, WR Scotty McKnight, OL Nate Solder.

12:15 Texas: Coach Mack Brown, QB Garrett Gilbert, OT Kyle Hix, DE Sam Acho, DT Kheeston Randall.
  • All of Kansas' star power has left Lawrence, but if the Jayhawks make it to Dallas this week, I think we can all agree Kansas isn't literally under the radar. Two linemen and a cornerback don't exactly move the meter (Kansas and Baylor were the only schools to bring no offensive skill players), but if Kansas is going to win this year, they'll have to do it up front with guys like Jake Laptad and Brad Thorson. And Kansas' real main attraction, new coach Turner Gill will get his first real time in front of a massive group of media, and situations like this are where he excels, so look for the first-year coach to earn some big points early in the day.
  • Oklahoma will hear plenty about its string of injuries and the recent shift of power to Austin in the Red River Rivalry, after the Longhorns have taken four of the past five matchups. Bob Stoops didn't bring his quarterback, but he'll still hear plenty of questions about Landry Jones' progression and his first chance to truly grasp the starting quarterback position full-time.
  • The waiting-to-be-finalized exit date for the Buffaloes will probably be discussed at some point, as well as general thoughts about the exit to the recently renamed "Pac-12." The big question for the Buffaloes' likely last season in the Big 12 is simple, even though coach Dan Hawkins hasn't talked as big of a game as he did before last season: Why will this season be different than the first four in Hawkins' time in Boulder? How well they can answer that -- and then deliver -- will decide how the Buffaloes fare in 2010.
  • With media covering the other 11 teams in the conference, Texas might end up being grilled about the perception -- real or otherwise -- that after this summer's realignment, it's more powerful than ever before, and able to get whatever it wants. If that happens, I've got no idea what the Longhorns response would be, other than to suggest that none of that affects the game on the field. I'll be shocked if three questions pass before the words "national championship" or "Alabama" come up in a question, either about the defense or Brown's new quarterback, Garrett Gilbert, who made the trip to Dallas.

Big 12 Media Days schedule

July, 14, 2010
7/14/10
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Big 12 Media Days in Irving, Texas are only a couple weeks away, and the schedule for the three-day gabfest has been released.

First thing I noticed: Nebraska (first) and Texas (last) are as far away as possible. Though I don't think the week is going to be as conducive to fireworks as some believe, it should still be plenty entertaining.

Media Days run July 26-28, and here's when to look for who on your team. (all times ET)

Monday, July 26

2:00 Nebraska: Coach Bo Pelini, WR Niles Paul, DE Pierre Allen, CB Prince Amukamara

2:45 Baylor: Coach Art Briles, LB Antonio Johnson, OT Danny Watkins

3:30 Iowa State: Coach Paul Rhoads, QB Austen Arnaud, RB Alexander Robinson, DE Rashawn Parker

4:15 Texas A&M: Coach Mike Sherman, QB Jerrod Johnson, LB Von Miller, DT Lucas Patterson

Tuesday, July 27

10:00 Missouri: Coach Gary Pinkel, QB Blaine Gabbert, RB Derrick Washington, CB Kevin Rutland

10:45 Oklahoma State: Coach Mike Gundy, QB Brandon Weeden, LB Orie Lemon, DE Jamie Blatnick

11:30 Kansas State: Coach Bill Snyder, RB Daniel Thomas, S Tysyn Hartman, OL Zach Kendall

12:15 Texas Tech: Coach Tommy Tuberville, QB Taylor Potts, QB Steven Sheffield, DL Colby Whitlock

Wednesday, July 28

10:00 Kansas: Coach Turner Gill, DE Jake Laptad, CB Chris Harris, OL Brad Thorson

10:45 Oklahoma: Coach Bob Stoops, DE Jeremy Beal, LB Travis Lewis, WR Ryan Broyles

11:30 Colorado: Coach Dan Hawkins, CB Jalil Brown, WR Scotty McKnight, OL Nate Solder

12:15 Texas: Coach Mack Brown, QB Garrett Gilbert, OT Kyle Hix, DE Sam Acho, DT Kheeston Randall

A few quick thoughts:
  • Definitely surprised that Texas' Garrett Gilbert will be making the trip. I saw firsthand how well-spoken he was this spring on my visit to Austin, but I'm still surprised Brown would trot out his first-year starting quarterback for the media horde outside Dallas. Although his presence guarantees there should be plenty to talk about with the Longhorns.
  • Tommy Tuberville probably had to bring two or none of his quarterbacks, lest he tip his undecided hand at his starter and get people talking about a nonexistent decision. He chose the former. Interesting to note that Colorado's Dan Hawkins went with the latter.
  • Not sure why DE Jamie Blatnick will be one of Oklahoma's State's representatives instead of DE Ugo Chinasa or S Markelle Martin. Chinasa is a senior two-year starter heading into his third, while Blatnick is a junior who started only part-time last season. Martin is one of the conference's rising stars.
  • Baylor is the only team in the league bringing just a three-man contingent, and in Waco, they're the closest team to Media Days. A little surprised that Robert Griffin III won't be making the short drive, but at least that forces everyone to ask questions not about Griffin's knee. For that, I thank you, Art. But throwing WR Kendall Wright in the car at the last minute wouldn't be a terrible idea.
  • Meanwhile, Texas is the only team with a five-man crew. Everything's bigger.
  • Pretty good representation elsewhere, no real complaints. What do you think?

No breaks for Turner Gill

July, 13, 2010
7/13/10
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Turner Gill already has a difficult task ahead of him, trying to rebuild a program at Kansas from a team that lost its three best players from a 5-7 team in 2009 in quarterback Todd Reesing and receivers Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier.

Those three, along with coach Mark Mangino, saw one of the highest moments in program history, winning the Orange Bowl to cap a 12-1 2007 season. But it also saw one of its lows, a seven-game losing streak to close 2009, capped by Mangino's contract being bought out by the school.

The road back for Gill wasn't made easier this spring, when his two best defenders, linebacker Drew Dudley and defensive end Jake Laptad, had to be held out of contact because of shoulder injuries.

Now, his job's gotten tougher.

The offensive line brought back all five starters from a season ago and was expected to be one of the positions of strength for the Jayhawks. But they'll have to do it without junior tackle Jeff Spikes, who injured his Achilles tendon and will miss the entire 2010 season, according to the Lawrence-Journal World. Spikes started 23 games over the past two seasons -- 10 last season -- and earned third-team All-American status in the 2009 preseason from pundit Phil Steele.

This comes a week after another offensive line starter, tackle Brad Thorson, suffered a broken foot. He's expected to be back for the start of fall camp on Aug. 3., but we'll see how much contact he'll be able to take part in when preseason camp begins.

The good news for Spikes is he'll likely be granted a medical redshirt, and come back next season with two more years of eligibility remaining.

Gill knows how to rebuild, eventually winning a MAC title over No. 12 Ball State in 2008 at Buffalo in his third season at a school that won six games in four seasons before his arrival.

He'll face another tough rebuilding project at Kansas in a much tougher league. He's got a mild quarterback controversy led by Kale Pick and his 2009 leading rusher, Toben Opurum, didn't show up on the post-spring depth chart after battling injuries throughout the spring.

Spikes injury assures the rebuilding job won't get any easier for Gill.

Big 12's most irreplaceable players and their backups

June, 9, 2010
6/09/10
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You heard about Oklahoma's Landry Jones and his backup earlier this morning, but here are the most irreplaceable players for the rest of the conference.



Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor: This one's pretty simple. Griffin means more to his team than any player in the conference. The 2008 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year helped the Bears win their 2009 season opener at Wake Forest before a season-ending knee injury in the third game. He'll come back for 2010 still a sophomore. But his injury last season now means his backup, Nick Florence, is surprisingly experienced.

Alexander Robinson, RB, Iowa State: Robinson rushed for 1,195 yards in 2009 and is by far the Cyclones' best player. His yards per carry average is almost 1.5 yards higher than his backup last season. This year, the battle for No. 2 is ongoing, with Beau Blankenship and freshmen James White and Jeff Woody trying to earn any spare carries not soaked up by Robinson.

Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: This season will be Solder's third as starting left tackle, the key position on the offensive line. He's proven to be one of college football's premier linemen, but his durability and experience have meant very little playing time for backup Ryan Dannewitz, a redshirt freshman.

Jake Laptad, DE, Kansas: Laptad is a force in the backfield and racked up 6.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss last season. His backup is junior college transfer Quintin Woods, but with just four career tackles, there's a clear dropoff in both production and talent.

Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri: In just his second year as starter, Gabbert could be poised for a big jump like his predecessor, Chase Daniel. The Tigers earned a North title in Daniel's second season and No. 1 ranking after the regular season. But Gabbert needs to stay healthy. His backup is former walk-on Jimmy Costello, who's never played a meaningful snap, but behind him are a group of untested freshmen with potential in Ashton Glaser, James Franklin and Gabbert's younger brother, Tyler Gabbert.

Eric Hagg, S/LB, Nebraska: The central figure of the Huskers' Peso defensive scheme (Hey! Remember that?) gives the Husker defense the teeth that helped them nearly upset Texas and blow out Arizona. His backup is Austin Cassidy, who has plenty of on-field experience after appearing in all 13 games last season. Like Hagg, Cassidy has the ideal size for the position at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, and notched nine tackles as a sophomore in 2009.

Markelle Martin, S, Oklahoma State: Martin's sophomore season was overshadowed by big-hitting senior Lucien Antoine, but he'll be one of the team's leaders as a junior in 2010. He's the team's leading returning tackler, and should join Orie Lemon and Ugo Chinasa as the anchors of a defense replacing its four leading tacklers from 2009. His backup, Mathies Long, played in the last six games of 2009, but has just three career tackles.

Sam Acho DE, Texas: The better known of Texas' Acho brothers, he played in 24 games before taking over as starter last season. He notched 63 tackles and four fumble recoveries, tied for most in college football. He was also a semifinalist for the Lott Trophy. But at Texas, there's always a pretty narrow gap between starter and backup. Acho's backup should be either Russell Carter or Alex Okafor, who will also play behind opposite defensive end Eddie Jones. Carter played in nine games last season and notched five tackles. Okafor played in all 14 games last season and tallied 22 tackles.

Jerrod Johnson, QB, Texas A&M: No backup will be able to reproduce Johnson's impressive numbers from 2009 (38 touchdowns, 4,085 total yards). But Johnson's backup Ryan Tannehill does have plenty of experience--at a different position. He got plenty of reps this spring with Johnson sidelined from live action after minor shoulder surgery, but he's the team's active leader in receiving, with 1,418 career yards. He's thrown just nine passes in two seasons with the Aggies.

Colby Whitlock, DT, Texas Tech: Should assume the role of nose tackle in Tech's new 3-4 scheme under coach Tommy Tuberville and defensive coordinator James Willis. Though it's a new position, Whitlock's experience will be tough to replace. Of his 46 tackles in 2009, 8.5 came behind the line of scrimmage. His backup is a mountain of a man, Myles Wade. The 6-foot-2, 340-pound junior college transfer made just two tackles in limited action last season, but he still has two years of eligibility left, and could plug plenty of holes in the middle of the defense after Whitlock graduates.

(UPDATE 12:01 p.m: Kansas State's Daniel Thomas was mistakenly left off this list. I trust we can agree he belongs. He's really good at football. Read more about him here.)

Kansas spring wrap

May, 6, 2010
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2009 overall record: 5-7

2009 conference record: 1-7

Returning starters: Offense (7), Defense (7) P/K (2)

Top returners: RB Toben Opurum, OL Brad Thorson, OL Jeremiah Hatch, LB Drew Dudley, WR Johnathan Wilson, LB Huldon Tharp, DE Jake Laptad

Key losses: WR Dezmon Briscoe, QB Todd Reesing, WR Kerry Meier, S Darrell Stuckey, RB Jake Sharp, S Justin Thornton, Coach Mark Mangino

2009 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Toben Opurum* (554 yards)

Passing: Todd Reesing (3,616 yards)

Receiving: Dezmon Briscoe (1,337 yards)

Tackles: Darrell Stuckey (93)

Sacks: Jake Laptad* (6.5)

Interceptions: Ryan Murphy* (2)

Three spring answers

1. This is how we do things. Coach Turner Gill set the tone for his program early, speaking out about his curse-free zone at practices and other team functions. That goes for coaches and players. Practices are slightly uptempo, and Gill gave each position a fresh start. Everyone wanted to know how Gill would run his program when spring began, and he gave a good look in his first 15 practices.

2. Pick leads the way. Kale Pick was the only one of Kansas’ six quarterbacks with past experience and looked like the front-runner to win the job. He and Jordan Webb emerged as the front-runners in the final week of practice before Pick took a firm hold of the job with his performance in the spring game. He threw a pair of touchdowns, including a game-winner to Christian Matthews—who he also beat out for the job.

3. Linebackers ready to play. Kansas entered the spring with way more questions on defense than offense. The linebackers answered those early on. Defensive coordinator Carl Torbush feels like he has six or seven linebackers ready to see action in the Big 12, led by Drew Dudley, the Jayhawks leading returning tackler.

Three fall questions

1. Can Gill compete in the Big 12? Gill accomplished a remarkable turnaround at Buffalo, but Kansas isn’t looking to rebuild and get back to winning eight games, Gill’s previous career high for wins in a season. Gill hasn’t competed in the Big 12 since coaching Nebraska’s wide receivers in 2004. Kansas likely won’t compete for any serious titles in 2010, but can he take a step toward doing it in the future?

2. Are the wide receivers ready? Pick is replacing record-holding quarterback Todd Reesing, but he won’t have two NFL draft picks, Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier catching his passes. In their place, senior Johnathan Wilson and sophomore Bradley McDougald. McDougald has moved outside, but both will be counted on for major production this season.

3. Can Kansas find a defense? The Jayhawks finished 2009 on a seven-game losing streak, finishing at 1-7 in conference. During that span, they gave up an average of almost 36 points per game. With no major defensive stars taking the field this season, can Kansas find playmakers and make that number shrink? If they don’t, year one of the Turner Gill era won’t be much fun.

Big 12 North recruiting needs

January, 21, 2010
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Signing day is just around the corner, and each Big 12 team is doing what it can to keep together its class while adding a late upgrade in talent.

Here's a look at what immediate recruiting needs each North Division team must address first.

Colorado

Running back: With the departure of Darrell Scott and Demetrius Sumler, Dan Hawkins needs to find some talent at running back. With only three scholarship backs on the roster, an immediate talent infusion is needed. Tony Jones is the only commitment and the Buffaloes could use size from a bigger back.

Tight end/H-back: All of the positions are important in Kent Riddle’s offense, and six players graduated from those positions in December. The only player who will return with experience includes junior tight end Ryan Deehan, so Hawkins needs players at the position who can help immediately.

Quarterback: With Tyler Hansen set at quarterback and Cody Hawkins set to graduate after next season, the Buffaloes still would like to add some depth at the position. Nick Hirschman has enrolled early to get a head start on his development, and Josh Moten appears ready to enroll after failing to make his grades before last season.

Iowa State

Across the board talent infusion: The Cyclones already have added 24 commitments for the upcoming season. Junior college players like massive offensive lineman Jon Caspers, defensive end Rony Nelson, wide receiver Anthony Young and tight end Ricky Howard should provide an immediate lift. And look for coach Paul Rhoads to add a couple of more to capitalize on the late momentum from the Insight Bowl victory.

Running back: Preparing for the future will be important as Alexander Robinson will be entering his senior season. Freshmen Beau Blankenship still has some developing to do and Jeremiah Schwartz has left the program. The Cyclones have added depth with the addition of Duran Hollis and Shontrelle Johnson. Don’t be surprised if Hollis moves positions once he comes to college if Johnson develops as expected.

Wide receiver: The Cyclones had trouble making big plays and could use a talent boost at the position. Leading 2009 receiver Marquis Hamilton has graduated and Jake Williams will be a senior next season. Recruits Jarvis West and Chris Young appear to have addressed those needs.

Kansas

Defensive end: The Jayhawks could use a talent upgrade here with occasional starters Jeff Wheeler and Maxwell Onyegbule graduated, and Jake Laptad and Quintin Woods entering their senior seasons in 2010. It became more of a need after Oklahoma beat out the Jayhawks for top defensive end prospect Geneo Grissom earlier this week.

Quarterback: With unproven Kale Pick set to take over for Todd Reesing, the Jayhawks have added junior college transfer Quinn Mecham of Snow Junior College to immediately contend for playing time. Meacham threw for 3,091 yards and 40 touchdowns last season and has already captured the attention of new offensive coordinator Chuck Long because of his experience in the spread offense.

Secondary: New coach Turner Gill also needs help in the secondary where starters Darrell Stuckey and Justin Thornton were seniors and Philip Strozier, Chris Harris and Calvin Rubles will be seniors next season.

Kansas State

Adjust time-held notions to recruiting: Bill Snyder said recruiting seemed “out of kilter” in his first season back because of how teams now are in a hurry to link up with rising juniors. This strategy has caused Snyder to change his recruiting strategy, looking into signing more players earlier than in his previous coaching strategy.

Junior-college additions again will be critical in the trenches: Snyder has attacked the junior colleges with his traditional fervor as he attempts to unearth a couple of under-recruited gems in the offensive line and defensive lines -- the Wildcats’ two primary needs. Also, the Wildcats need some immediate help from the junior colleges after a recruiting imbalance during the last two seasons under Ron Prince that has left them with a need for immediate contributors. Snyder has estimated that up to 13 players will enroll at the semester break to contend immediately for playing time.

Quarterback: Even with a crowded group of potential contenders at the position, Snyder is still considering another quarterback. Carson Coffman, Sammuel Lamur, Collin Klein and Oregon transfer Chris Harper all are in the mix at the position heading into spring practice.

Missouri

Wide receiver: The Tigers have a lot of talent returning, but still will lose leading 2009 receiver Danario Alexander and Jared Perry. The opportunity for eventual playing time will be there for new arrivals, although Jerrell Jackson, Brandon Gerau, T.J. Moe and Wes Kemp will be back.

Nose tackle: The graduation of Jaron Baston and Bart Coslet’s senior-to-be status opens up a position for a contribution in the trenches for the Tigers.

Secondary: All four of Missouri’s projected starters next season -- cornerbacks Carl Gettis and Kevin Rutland and safety Jarrell Harrison and Jasper Simmons -- will be seniors. The Tigers need to restock depth at the position and perhaps move it forward from this class.

Nebraska

Defensive end: The Cornhuskers could use an additional player with Barry Turner graduating and Pierre Allen set to enter his senior season in 2010. They are in the hunt with Oregon for Owamagbe Odighizuwa, a heralded speed rusher from Portland, Ore., who would be the crown jewel in the Cornhuskers’ incoming class if he commits.

Wide receivers: Many players are back, although the Cornhuskers could use an infusion of speed at the position. Niles Paul will be a senior and more talent is needed to make the Cornhuskers competitive with the athletic teams in the South Division like Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech.

Safety: Starters Matt O’Hanlon and Larry Asante both will be graduating and Eric Hagg will be a senior in 2010. The Cornhuskers will need some help to join with youngsters Courtney Osborne, Austin Cassidy and P.J. Smith at the position.

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