Big 12: Jamal Greene
- Colorado isn't sure if it's leaving the Big 12 in 2011 or 2012, but it's preparing for both scenarios, writes B.G. Brooks on Colorado's website.
- And the Buffs hope to know their plans by the end of the month, reports Natalie Meisler of the Denver Post.
- Missouri has kicked junior linebacker Tyler Crane off the team for disciplinary reasons, reports Dave Matter of the Columbia Tribune.
- Bill Haisten at the Tulsa World says 1,000 rushing yards and 600 receiving yards are reasonable goals for Cowboys running back Kendall Hunter.
- Former Kansas lineman Jamal Greene may go the NAIA route after being dismissed from the team following an arrest this spring.
- Baylor has landed two commits in three days: Spencer Drago, the nation's No. 13 offensive tackle and now Baylor's top recruit, and Devante Davis, a linebacker from Dallas.
- So this new Dick's Sporting Goods commercial starring Ndamukong Suh is pretty awesome. Click "Quarterback Hunters."
- Nebraska football radio broadcasts will stay on KFAB in Omaha through 2014.
- Texas A&M has hired Ben Martin, an offensive line coach at Merrimack College in Massachusetts, as a graduate assistant, according to the Boston Globe.
- The Dallas Morning News has five reasons to be optimistic about Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech this season.
- I know you want a bottle of water shaped like the University of Texas Tower.
- Oklahoma State's new offense can be described as basketball on grass, writes Brandon Chatmon of The Oklahoman.
- Kansas receiver Johnathan Wilson is using a forgettable season in 2009 as motivation for 2010, writes Jesse Newell of the Lawrence Journal-World.
- The Oklahoman's Jake Trotter takes a look at the Sooners' brutal nonconference schedule.
- Schools like TCU and SMU are looking their best as doors may creak open for new conference membership, writes Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News.
- Brian Christopherson at the Lincoln Journal Star examines the idea of Nebraska's recruiting pipeline to Texas drying up after a move to the Big Ten.
- A study by a Nebraska grad student found that a train line from Omaha to Lincoln could be successful, writes Richard Piersol of the Lincoln Journal Star.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Big 12 defenses are nearly as proficient as their offensive counterparts. But the best teams in terms of defense will likely end up as the conference’s best teams because stopping the high-powered offenses in the conference is so rare.
Here’s a look at how I rank them:
1. Oklahoma: The Sooners return nine starters and are among the nation’s very best defenses. It starts with three-deep talent along the defensive line keyed by Gerald McCoy and Auston English, who was the conference’s preseason player of the year last season before spraining his knee. They might be a little lacking in depth at middle linebacker behind Ryan Reynolds with the injury to freshman standout Tom Wort and Mike Balogun’s iffy status. The only new starters are strong safety Sam Proctor and free safety Quinton Carter, who have both been impressive in fall camp. The Sooners’ substitutes might be better collectively than most Big 12 units.
2. Texas: The Longhorns have arguably the conference’s best back seven, particularly a developing secondary led by Earl Thomas and corners Chykie Brown and Aaron Williams. Sergio Kindle and Alex Okafor are poised to become the primary pass-rushing specialists. Lamarr Houston has developed into an anchor at defensive tackle, but the Longhorns need to find another player at the other defensive tackle position to juice production for their biggest defensive weakness. Will Muschamp’s unit must do a better job after producing only 16 turnovers last season to rank tied for 104th nationally.
3. Nebraska: It all starts with the defensive line, which is among the best in the nation with Outland Candidate Ndamukong Suh and defensive ends Pierre Allen and Barry Turner. The Cornhuskers are young at linebacker where they might start two linebackers, although coaches really like 6-foot-6, 230-pound buck linebacker Sean Fisher and Will Compton. Coaches say the secondary is playing with more confidence, but the group produced only 12 interceptions last season. Boosting that turnover production will be critical in the Cornhuskers’ division title hopes.
4. Texas Tech: This is where the big drop-off starts from the top three teams. The Red Raiders will miss pass-rushing threats McKinner Dixon and Brandon Williams from last season, but have an experienced unit back. Rajon Henley and Brandon Sharpe are set to fill in as the pass-rushing threats and Colby Whitlock can be a terror at times -- particularly against Texas. Brian Duncan is a producer and the team’s leading tackler at middle linebacker. Jamar Wall is one of the better cover corners in the league. But the unit will depend on the improvement of two projected starters: redshirt freshman free safety Cody Davis and strong safety Franklin Mitchem.
5. Oklahoma State: The development by veteran defensive coordinator Bill Young will determine whether this unit has the goods to lead the Cowboys to their first South title and a potential maiden BCS bowl appearance. The biggest key will be producing more sacks from a defensive front that notched only 15 last season. Young has been concentrating on push from his defensive tackles and thinks he has an underrated pair in seniors Swanson Miller and Derek Burton. The loss of Orie Lemon at middle linebacker will hurt, although Donald Booker has been a producer in limited playing time. The secondary will be playing new starters with only Perrish Cox returning. But keep an eye out for senior free safety Lucien “The Punisher” Antoine who was turning heads last season before blowing out his ACL in the second game last season.
6. Colorado: The Buffaloes are faster this season and that should help them cope with the high-powered offenses in the Big 12. The linebackers are deep with Shaun Mohler and Jeff Smart as the prime producers. And I really like the secondary, with Jimmy Smith and Cha’pelle Brown among the best pair of cornerbacks in the conference. The biggest concern is along the defensive line, particularly after the injury of heralded freshman Nick Kasa that may idle him for the season. One area to note will be at right defensive end, where sophomore Lagrone Shields and freshman Forrest West are in the two-deep. Shields has played four snaps in his career.
7. Kansas: The Jayhawks need defensive improvement if they are going to fulfill their hopes of making their first championship game. The Jayhawks were crippled last season without a consistent pass rush. They hope junior-college transfer Quintin Woods, Caleb Blakesley and 304-pound Jamal Greene up front along with sack leader Jake Laptad. After losing three starting linebackers from last season, the Jayhawks will retool. I look for them to play two linebackers and a nickel look in many cases. Look for freshman Huldon Tharp to become a producer at linebacker. The secondary is the strength of the defense with All-Big 12 candidate Darrell Stuckey at strong safety and Phillip Strozier poised to continue his late-season development.
8. Baylor: Up the middle, the Bears might be among the strongest defenses in the conference with heralded transfer defensive tackle Phil Taylor, linebacker Joe Pawelek and hard-hitting safety Jordan Lake. Baylor coordinator Brian Norwood knows he needs more production from a defensive line that collected only 21 sacks and allowed opponents to complete 67 percent of passes for 3,063 yards. Antonio Jones and Antonio Johnson sometimes get overshadowed by Pawelek at linebacker. Junior cornerbacks Tim Atchison, Clifton Odom and Antareis Bryan need to improve or it could be a long season for the secondary.
9. Missouri: Any defense that starts with All-American candidate Sean Weatherspoon won’t be too bad. The Tigers could be a surprise considering that Gary Pinkel has been raving about the speed his unit possesses -- particularly at defensive end and at cornerback. Look for a three-man rotation at defensive end with Brian Coulter, Jacquies Smith and Aldon Smith to boost production in the pass rush. The secondary was a huge liability last season ranking 118th in pass defense. Kevin Rutland has shown a physical style at cornerback and Kenji Jackson and Hardy Ricks might be ready to help at safety.
10. Kansas State: New coordinators Chris Cosh and Vic Koenning plan to run a 4-2-5 defense. Their first concern is developing a rush with 2008 first-team freshman All-America pick Brandon Harold out with an injury. While he’s gone, the Wildcats need Eric Childs and Jeffrey Fitzgerald to emerge up front. John Houlik and Alex Hrebec apparently have earned the starting jobs at linebacker. Three junior college players -- David Garrett, Troy Butler and Emmanuel Lamur -- have apparently earned starting jobs for a secondary that desperately needs to improve after ranking 106th nationally in pass defense. The defense ranked tied for 110th in scoring defense and 117th in total defense, so the new coordinators better boost improvement or it will be another long season.
11. Texas A&M: Whatever happened to the Wrecking Crew defenses from the past? The best indication of the concern that Mike Sherman has for his defensive unit came when he transferred projected starting left tackle Lucas Patterson move back to defensive tackle late in preseason practice to boost production inside. Von Miller was impressive at the “jack” position, but he’ll need some good fortune to hold up consistently rushing against the huge offensive lines in the conference. The Aggies need to improve after yielding 461 yards and 37 points per game and earning the ignominy of being one of three FBS teams to allow opponents to average 200 yards rushing and passing last season. Coaches say the unit is faster and more athletic, but they have to play much better to get the Aggies back into bowl contention.
12. Iowa State: Veteran defensive Wally Burnham has a great reputation and most recently flummoxed the spread defenses of the Big East while at South Florida. The Big 12, however, will be a different story. The Cyclones ranked tied for 110th in scoring defense and 112th in total defense. Coach Paul Rhoads says he’s been frustrated by his team’s lack of tackling techniques. They have a building block in cornerback Leonard Johnson. Burnham and Rhoads know what they are talking about defensively as both were coordinators for top 30 defenses last year. But it will take a lot of patience to help rebuild this unit that needs so much improvement.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Kansas checks in at No. 22 in the preseason rankings compiled by my colleague Mark Schlabach.
The biggest concern about the Jayhawks has been their defense and specifically the loss of starting linebackers James Holt, Mike Rivera and Joe Mortensen from last season.
Any time you have to replace consistent producers like them, it's a big worry. But it might not necessarily be as troublesome for Kansas as you might expect.
First, Coach Mark Mangino is tinkering with a 4-2-5 defense that he expects he will use in most base situations. It's a good idea because of the heavy aerial attacks in the Big 12, but also because the four players he started in the final six games of the season all return. That group is keyed by a potential big-time producer in strong safety Darrell Stuckey, free safety Phillip Strozier and starting cornerbacks Justin Thornton and Daymond Patterson.
But the biggest reason I expect the Jayhawks to improve will be their depth up front along the defensive line. I really like Jake Laptad at defensive end who is one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the league. And I expect junior college transfer Quinton Woods to be an immediate force on the other side.
The Jayhawks also have a nice set of experienced tackles returning in Jamal Greene and Caleb Blakesley. Their experience will help them immeasurably in their second season together as starters.
It will be interesting to see how much the Jayhawks' statistics are altered with the losses at linebacker. Needless to say there's a lot of pressure on returnees like Dakota Lewis and Arist Wright. And I'm intrigued how much playing time that converted running back Angus Quigley will receive.
Another factor that will be interesting in the team's development will be what the addition of veteran co-defensive coordinator Bill Miller means to the group. Bill Young had all kinds of success with the defense and got much of the acclaim for the team that won the Orange Bowl two seasons ago.
When Young left, it was left to first-year coordinator Clint Bowen to start his program. There were some rocky parts along the way, considering they allowed at least 33 points in seven of their final 11 games.
Development in the defense will be the biggest key in the Jayhawks fulfilling their high preseason ranking and determining whether they will be able to contend for their first berth in the Big 12 championship game.
It won't necessarily be a surprise because Kansas' defense might not be as depleted as some might presume.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Sometimes the spring provides a chance for personnel holes to be filled. Sometimes it doesn't.
Here are some of the notable positions around the Big 12 that picked up some assistance during the spring.
Baylor: The quick development of defensive tackle Phil Taylor, a heralded transfer from Penn State, should turn a traditional position of weakness for the Bears into a strength. Joining him at the position will be Jason Lamb, who showed some promise after moving over from defensive end before spring practice.
Colorado: The emergence of hulking 260-pound middle linebacker Marcus Burton and B.J. Beatty at outside linebacker have helped transform the Buffaloes' defense. Burton led the team in tackles and was a prime playmaker in the spring game with eight tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery. He had eight tackles in 10 games last season.
Iowa State: Redshirt freshman quarterback Jerome Tiller outplayed starter Austen Arnaud in the spring game, passing for 210 yards and getting free for a 65-yard touchdown run. I'm not sure that Tiller will be starting come September, but he'll make Arnaud work harder to earn his job.
Kansas: The Jayhawks had questions in the defensive line before the spring, even with the return of all-Big 12 honorable mention selections Caleb Blakesley and Jake Laptad and late season starting defensive tackles Richard Johnson and Jamal Greene. The development of tackle Darius Parish and end Max Onyegbule should add to the depth. And that doesn't even account for the arrival of heralded junior college transfer Quintin Woods, who originally signed with Michigan out of high school before heading to Bakersfield (Cal.) Community College to get his grades in order.
Kansas State: The emergence of linebackers like Alex Hrebec, Ulla Pomele and John Houlik has helped turn the position into the strength of the defense, even as the Wildcats are transforming to a 4-2-5 alignment. Hrebec, a former walk-on, contributed 19 tackles in the spring game and Houlik is a huge hitter despite his 5-foot-11, 219-pound size.
Missouri: Redshirt freshman Aldon Smith has only added to the Tigers' depth at defensive end, which already featured Brian Coulter and Jacquies Smith in front of him. Smith was voted as the team's most improved player in the spring. Throw in converted offensive tackle Brad Madison and redshirt freshman Marcus Marlbrough and you'll see why Gary Pinkel considers it his best collection of defensive ends at Missouri.
Nebraska: The Cornhuskers had serious questions at quarterback, particularly after the departure of projected starting challenger Patrick Witt before spring practice and Kody Spano's knee injury. But the strong spring by Zac Lee and the surprising development of converted linebacker LaTravis Washington eased some of offensive coordinator Shawn Watson's concerns. Their strong spring work also should mean that heralded freshman Cody Green likely won't be thrown into action perhaps as quickly as Watson might have feared before the spring.
Oklahoma: After losing starters Nic Harris and Lendy Holmes, safety was the only position without returning starters for the Sooners on defense. Quinton Carter nailed down one starting position and Sam Proctor and Joseph Ibiloye are poised to fight for the other job beside him. Emmanuel Jones and Desmond Jackson also had strong spring efforts to challenge for playing time.
Oklahoma State: Defensive tackle was enough of a question that new coordinator Bill Young moved Derek Burton inside from defensive end to help bolster depth at the position. Burton and Swanson Miller appear to have won starting jobs with redshirt freshman Nigel Nicholas and junior Chris Donaldson providing strong depth. Their strong play helped the Cowboys rack up seven sacks in the spring game - more than half of their 2008 season total of 13.
Texas: The Longhorns were concerned about defensive end after the departure of NFL draft picks Brian Orakpo and Henry Melton from last season. Those fears appear to be assuaged after the seamless transition of Sergio Kindle to the position from linebacker and the quick assimilation by freshman Alex Okafor. Toss in Sam Acho and Russell Carter and the return injured pass-rushing threat Eddie Jones and the Longhorns appear stacked at the position.
Texas A&M: Safety was a question mark before spring camp after the loss of Devin Gregg and Alton Dixon and the move of 2008 starting free safety Jordan Peterson to cornerback. But the strong return to safety by converted cornerback Jordan Pugh and the noticeable development by Trent Hunter helped solidify the position during the spring. And the Aggies' depth at the position was improved after the move of wide receiver Chris Caflisch to the position along with strong play from DeMaurier Thompson.
Texas Tech: The departure of two-time Biletnikoff Award winner Michael Crabtree and underrated Eric Morris was supposed to cripple the Red Raiders' receiving corps. Mike Leach appears to have found several serviceable replacements after Tramain Swindall, Lyle Leong, Detron Lewis and walk-on flanker Adam Torres all emerged during the spring. And that doesn't include Edward Britton, who was in Leach's doghouse much of the spring after falling behind in the classroom but still is perhaps their most athletic force on the field.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Heralded junior-college running back Jocques Crawford's career at Kansas could be in jeopardy after coach Mark Mangino announced he was suspended for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
Mangino made the announcement after the Jayhawks' spring game on Saturday.
"To be quite honest, it was a situation where he has breached team policy more than once in a relatively short period of time," Mangino told reporters. "Every kid that I deal with and every situation, they're all different. I'm taking a look at his situation. He will not participate the rest of the spring. I just don't know his situation. I'll be honest with you, I don't know his status, whether he'll be back or not."
The Kansas coach declined to confirm or deny if Crawford's suspension had anything to do with an incident last weekend that sent Kansas freshman offensive lineman Ben Lueken to the hospital after he was struck by a vehicle last weekend outside a Lawrence apartment complex,
Lueken was treated in the hospital for several days before he was released last week. Neither Lueken or Crawford played in Saturday's spring game.
"There's an investigation that's pending and I can't speak to that at the present time," Mangino said.
Crawford was one of the most ballyhooed recruits to arrive at Kansas during Mangino's coaching tenure after he led the nation's junior college rushers with 1,935 yards in the 2007 season at Cisco (Texas) Junior College. He chose Kansas over offers from TCU, Arizona and Alabama.
Before last season, Crawford predicted he would rush for 2,000 yards. Instead, he struggled finding a niche and produced only 262 rushing yards as Jake Sharp emerged as the Jayhawks' featured ball-carrier.
Crawford's suspension is the third for the Jayhawks this spring. Earlier, defensive tackle Jamal Greene and wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe also were suspended for undisclosed violations of team rules.
Greene has returned to the team. Mangino will meet with Briscoe on Monday to determine whether he will be reinstated.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Todd Reesing and the Kansas offense looked in midseason form at the Jayhawks' spring game Saturday.
Played before an announced crowd at Memorial Stadium of 17,000, the Jayhawks provided the most public glimpse of the spring for a team that is considered one of the primary North Division title contenders heading into the season.
The offense's success came at the expense of a young, developing defense that struggled at times. Some of the struggles could have been because it played against the Kansas offense, but a few more victories could have helped the confidence over the course of the spring.
Here are some specific things we learned about the Jayhawks during their spring work.
- Kale Pick showed flashes of becoming the Jayhawks' backup quarterback, but still not enough to enable Kerry Meier to move to wide receiver full-time. That move still may come, but coach Mark Mangino likely won't make it until the summer at the earliest.
- Jocques Crawford's suspension means that Jake Sharp will be the Jayhawks' primary running threat. Sharp's status as starter was solid already, but Crawford's suspension placed him deeper in Mangino's doghouse. It's hard to get out of it when you aren't playing, which leaves Sharp firmly entrenched as the starter. The play of Rell Lewis might have made Crawford's chances of moving back into the rotation academic anyway.
- An offensive line breaking in three new starters looked good in Saturday's scrimmage. Jeremiah Hatch appeared to be a natural at center, as coaches expected. Tanner Hawkinson is a work in progress at left tackle, but coaches love his upside and are willing to let him learn.
- The line's strong play during the spring is because it has a lot of talented skill-position people. Mangino hopes that the line's strong performance isn't indicative of a growing defensive weakness - or else we could see a lot of shootouts involving the Jayhawks this season.
- The Jayhawks' retooled linebackers are improving, but the position remains a big question mark after losing three starters from last season. Newcomer Jake Schermer contributed eight tackles in the spring game, but converted running back Angus Quigley clearly is a work in progress.
- Mangino had a busy spring, suspending Crawford, top receiver Dezmon Briscoe and defensive lineman Jamal Greene. Only Greene is back, leaving a question mark over the program about discipline problems as Kansas finishes spring practice. It's something that Mangino needs to iron out if the Jayhawks are going to contend for their first berth in the Big 12 title game.
- Raimond Pendleton returned to the end zone for one of the few times since his infamous 2007 punt return for a touchdown prompted the wrath of Mangino after his post-score theatrics. Needless to say, Pendleton's score on Saturday -- which came as a second-string receiver -- was a lot quieter.
- We're still not sure about the Jayhawks' kick returns. Briscoe appeared to be a revelation late last season, although his productivity obviously is in doubt with his suspension. The returns are a concern considering Kansas ranked 118th nationally last season and would have been last nationally without Briscoe's late spurt. It will remain a worry until the season starts and Briscoe's status clears up.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
I'm back home with a cornucopia of Big 12 links for your lunchtime delight as spring practice continues across the conference.
- Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne defended Bo Pelini's new megabuck salary by saying the school is one of 10-12 in the country where the athletic program is self-supporting, David Ledbetter of NewsnetNebraska reports.
- Pete Fiutak of collegefootballnews.com makes his early BCS predictions, soothsaying that Texas will meet Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl and Oklahoma will hook up with Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.
- Citing a dwindling budget, Kansas has decided to do away with the 20 percent discount for faculty and staff for athletic events, Chad Lawhorn of the Lawrence Journal-World reports.
- Robert Griffin's second spring at quarterback has been much smoother after establishing himself as the leader of Baylor's offense, John Werner of the Waco Tribune-Herald reports.
- Record-setting Nebraska kicker Alex Henery is in a tight battle for the team's punting job this spring, the Lincoln Journal-Star's Brian Christopherson reports.
- Kansas defensive lineman Jamal Greene returned to practice Wednesday, although wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe still remains suspended, Dugan Arnett of the Lawrence Journal-World reports.
- Missouri tailback Derrick Washington has a new look to match his determined attitude, Dave Matter of the Columbia Daily Tribune reports.
- Missing last season's Holiday Bowl because of academic struggles helped Oklahoma State cornerback Terrance Anderson's commitment, Oklahoman beat writer Scott Wright reports.
- Texas A&M defensive coordinator Joe Kines' decision to make a four-linebacker alignment prominent is bringing back memories of the school's vaunted "Wrecking Crew" defenses of the past, reports Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle/San Antonio Express-News.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Two Big 12 teams will conclude their spring work this week and another starts spring practice later in the week.
Baylor will conduct a controlled scrimmage Thursday afternoon at the school's new Highers Practice Complex to finish off its spring work.
And Texas will have its annual Spring Jamboree Sunday afternoon in Austin. Festivities will kick off with the annual Fan Fest at noon, followed by the scrimmage at 2:30 p.m.
Fans can even take home the ultimate Texas football keepsake as they leave the stadium that day. The school's athletic department is selling chunks of the facility's turf to help defray the cost of a new playing surface that will be installed before the team's Sept. 5 season opener against Louisiana-Monroe.
Colorado will begin its spring practices on Tuesday. That leaves Kansas State, which will begin spring work on April 6, as the only team that will not be conducting spring practice this week.
Other notable items to watch around the conference will be whether Kansas wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe is welcomed back to Kansas' roster. Coach Mark Mangino said last week he would review whether Briscoe and starting defensive tackle Jamal Greene would return for the rest of spring practice. Mangino suspended both before spring practice started for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
Heralded Nebraska freshman quarterback Cody Green will be looking to return completely to practice later this week for the Cornhuskers. Green dabbled briefly during the Cornhuskers' weekend work, but would like to be back and working in his challenge for the team's starting job at his position.
And Texas running back Cody Johnson hopes to return to the lineup at the Longhorns' Sunday scrimmage after a hamstring injury that knocked him out of the lineup last week.