Big 12: Jarred Salubi

We’re continuing our countdown of the Big 12's top 25 players from the 2012 season. Here's more on my criteria for the list. You can take a peek at how the preseason list looked here.

The official list is locked away in a vault in an undisclosed location, but we'll be revealing one player a day moving forward.

On with the show ...

No. 19: Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor

2012 numbers: Carried the ball 131 times for 1,012 yards and seven touchdowns. Caught nine passes for 107 yards and a touchdown.

Most recent ranking: Seastrunk was unranked in our preseason list of the Big 12's top 25 players.

Making the case for Seastrunk: I felt a little silly continuing to champion Seastrunk's cause in midseason, wondering aloud why the superstar recruit couldn't seem to get many touches throughout the first half of the season, even as Baylor stumbled to a 0-4 record in the Big 12 and 3-4 overall. Jarred Salubi and Glasco Martin had been OK, but far from excellent. Looking back, I still don't quite understand how the Bears could have kept Seastrunk off the field after seeing what he was capable of doing late in the season. Seastrunk topped 135 yards in each of the Bears' final four games and rushed for 831 yards in the final six games of the season. Most impressive? He received fewer than 20 carries in all five of those games, but it was a far cry from early in the season, when he received seven carries or fewer in the first seven games of the year.

He made headlines in December when he announced his plans to win the Heisman next season, but it's not entirely out of the question. Seastrunk's irrelevance over the first seven games of the year is the only reason he's this low on the list. Once he became the Bears' starting running back, you could certainly argue he had a case as the Big 12's best player over the final six games of the year. What does he have in store for 2013? I can't wait to find out.

The rest of the list:

Big 12 Game Balls: Week 13

November, 27, 2012
Not everybody can earn helmet stickers on Sunday morning or mentions in our Monday morning weekend rewind, but lots of performances deserve recognition. These are the best of the rest:

Shawne Alston, RB, West Virginia: Alston lost half of his season to a bruise, but he finally broke back out last week against Iowa State. After 123 yards in WVU's season opener, hopes were high for Alston. This hasn't been the season he wanted, but he racked up 130 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries against an Iowa State team solid against the run. It was a new career high for Alston, and just his second touchdown since the second game of the season.

Darrin Moore, WR, Texas Tech: Moore was an absolute handful for Baylor in Cowboys Stadium on Saturday afternoon. He hauled in 13 catches for 186 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the overtime loss. Teammate Eric Ward wasn't far off the pace. He caught nine passes for 113 yards and a score. Quite the duo for quarterback Seth Doege.

Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor: Another week, another huge game for Seastrunk, who's building for what may be an enormous campaign in 2013. He rolled over Texas Tech for 136 yards on 19 carries. Seastrunk began the season as the No. 3 back, but Jarred Salubi's been largely relegated to the bench for Seastrunk as the featured back in recent weeks. Seastrunk now has at least 91 yards in his last four games, and has accounted for four touchdowns and three 100-yard games in that span.

Justin Brown, WR, Oklahoma: There were plenty of big performances on Saturday, but Brown's got overshadowed in the Sooners' win. The Penn State transfer caught a game-high 15 balls for 146 yards, and also caught a two-point conversion try that tied the game in the fourth quarter. He'd never had more than seven catches in a game before Saturday night.

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 8

October, 18, 2012
Here's what I'm watching in the Big 12 this week:

1. What baseball-sized bruise? David Ash says he's playing, and he's practiced this week with a wrap on his left, non-throwing wrist. He can take snaps, too. Will we see Case McCoy start or play? And will Ash make it through the game without having to sit?

2. You want to be the Lunter, not the Lunted. Wes Lunt has been sidelined for more than a month now, and J.W. Walsh has played pretty well in his absence. Lunt is still "day-to-day" after suffering a knee injury against Louisiana-Lafayette, but is this the week he returns? Offensive coordinator Todd Monken and head coach Mike Gundy seemed to disagree on his availability last week. My guess is Lunt is back.

3. Shuffling the deck. Baylor struggled to run the ball against TCU last week, but now faces the league's worst rushing defense in Texas. Will we see a shuffle in the carry distribution, or will Jarred Salubi hang on to his status as the featured back? Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin will be nipping at his heels, too.

[+] EnlargeTrevone Boykin
Jerome Miron/US PresswireTCU quarterback Trevone Boykin next takes aim at Texas Tech, the Big 12's best defense.
4. Who's who, and which is which? Trevone Boykin threw three picks and fumbled in a frustrating loss to Iowa State, but last week we saw him look like a star against Baylor. The Bears' defense, though? Not strong. Texas Tech leads the Big 12 in total defense and will be a much tougher test. How much of last week's performance was Boykin, and how much was Baylor's defense's inability to cover?

5. Check your pants, sir. Meanwhile, at Kansas, Charlie Weis says he plans to play two quarterbacks against the Sooners. Michael Cummings provided a spark in a near comeback against Oklahoma State last week. Everyone saw it, including Weis. Can he do something similar in Norman, Okla., on Saturday, or was last week an aberration?

6. Running away from trouble. Iowa State's linebacker duo of Jake Knott and A.J. Klein can shut down Oklahoma State's running game, and did so last year. Kansas did the same and OSU couldn't beat the Jayhawks convincingly through the air. Iowa State's secondary is strong, led by Jacques Washington. If ISU shuts down the running game, this could be another upset in the making.

7. Accounts receiving ... losses. Texas Tech has one of the deepest receiving units in the league, but suffered major losses this week. Bradley Marquez and Javon Bell are out for the season and tight end Jace Amaro might not play after injuring his ribs against West Virginia. Can Seth Doege and the passing game still survive those hits and move on with business as usual? They'll get a tough test this week against TCU, which leads the nation with 14 interceptions.

8. Achilles' heel ... or ankle. Last week was pretty ugly for the Mountaineers, but was it just an aberration? I'm betting yes, but they'll have to prove it against a very good, very sound Kansas State defense that was shown a way to slow this offense last week when Texas Tech stuffed WVU. Star receiver Stedman Bailey missed the second half last week with an ankle injury and is "day-to-day" this week. Will he even play? And if he does, will he be healthy? When he was out, Tech was able to shut down Tavon Austin. Can K-State do the same?

9. Make sure you've got your contacts in. Oklahoma suited up for the most meaningful game of its season last week against Texas. On Oct. 27, one of college football's most storied programs comes to Norman, likely without a loss on its record. This week ... it's 1-5 Kansas, which hasn't beaten an FBS team this season. Do the Sooners keep their focus and still look sharp, avoiding a letdown ahead of Notre Dame's visit?

10. Those last plays are important, guys. Geno Smith won't throw picks to anybody these days. WVU's not fumbling all that much, either. You want to stop WVU from scoring? Getting fourth-down stops is one of your best bets. How will K-State do? Dana Holgorsen doesn't trust his kicker and loves to roll the dice on fourth down. That stat may just decide the K-State game. WVU was 5-of-5 against Texas and won. It was 2-of-7 last week against Texas Tech and got blasted by five touchdowns. A fourth-down stop isn't listed as a turnover on the stat sheet, but it's just as good.

Baylor rallies, avoids shocking FCS upset

September, 15, 2012
You won't find many FCS teams better than Sam Houston State.

That's still no excuse for a Big 12 team to lose to the Bearkats. Baylor came much closer than they would have liked, but ralled to win, 48-23.

The Bears couldn't move the ball and couldn't stop Sam Houston State's offense in the first half, and went to the locker room losing 20-10.

The second half? All Bears, and both of Baylor's units led the charge.

The offense racked up 31 points and the defense held the Bearkats to three points, and Terrance Williams caught the second of his two scores on the night, finishing with 131 yards and six catches.

The running game was slowed in the first half, but like the rest of Baylor, picked up in the second. Jarred Salubi led the Bears with 83 yards on 17 carries.

Ideally, you'd like to see a much higher completion percentage from Nick Florence, who finished just 24-of-41 for 312 yards, three scores and two interceptions. The first of those two picks, however, came on a Hail Mary at the end of the first half. The second came early in the fourth quarter after the Bears retook a 24-20 lead.

Not pretty for Baylor, but the Bears survived, and have a worrisome trip ahead. Baylor travels to Louisiana-Monroe next week to face the WarHawks, who beat Arkansas a week ago and nearly knocked off Auburn this week.

Take care of business there, and the Bears will get a hyped Big 12 opening game on the road against West Virginia -- the Mountaineers' first Big 12 game.
Thanks for all the e-mails this week, everybody. Didn't get to hear back from me? Send your thoughts, questions and quips to my Mailbag and try again next week.

On to your letters ...

Mike J. in Jacksonville, Fla., wrote: Wouldn't it be nice if West Virginia was playing F.S.U. this week??

David Ubben: Yes, yes it would, Mike, and "College GameDay" might be coming to their city (aka Tallahassee) as we speak. Hey, I get why WVU dropped the game. The first year in the Big 12 is going to be hard enough. No reason to overdo it with a top 10 game out of conference, especially with one that's on the road. That said, the game itself is better off when matchups like that happen.

I don't necessarily blame WVU for dropping the two-year home-and-home instead of another matchup, but that doesn't change the fact that it makes this weekend's set of games (and the Big 12's nonconference schedule as a whole) very lackluster.

Shaun in Old Bridge, N. J., wrote: Hey Ubben, Thought this week's mailbag would be a good opportunity for you to explain to the people why the WVU faithful will be rooting for OSU to blowout Arizona this week. Just a hint for those that don't know, it has nothing to do with conference affiliation.

DU: Ha, I can do my part. Oklahoma State, West Virginia would really like it if you went down to Tucson and put a whooping into Arizona. Why? Let's go with a quick history lesson:

Rodriguez, a West Virginia native and alumni, followed the legendary Don Nehlen in 2001 and won four Big East titles in his seven seasons in Morgantown. In 2006, Alabama came calling, but Rodriguez said no, indicating he'd be in Morgantown for quite awhile.

He wasn't. The next season, Rodriguez carried the preseason top five Mountaineers to a 10-1 record entering the Backyard Brawl against rival Pittsburgh, who was just 3-7 entering the game. A win would easily put the Mountaineers into the BCS title game. West Virginia's high-powered offense looked awful and (with the help of Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads at defensive coordinator), Pitt pulled the 13-9 upset in the season finale and knocked the Mountaineers out of the BCS title game.

If the sting from that game wasn't enough, Rodriguez left two weeks later for Michigan. This was only a few months after Rodriguez had renegotiated his contract that included a $4 million buyout.

His struggles over three seasons at Michigan (15-22 overall record) are well-chronicled, but Rodriguez left a chance to become the next legend at his alma mater and home state to chase the big job. Once he got that big job, he didn't succeed, and West Virginians are still a little bitter over the way he left and that 2007 loss. So, West Virginians will be quite happy if a Big 12 team hands Rodriguez a big loss in his first major test in Tucson.

So, Big 12 fans: If you don't know, now you know.

J.R. in Waco, Texas, wrote: Ubbs! I love you man but ranking us seventh in the conference really?! Baylor, as a team, is basically as good as last year and can very well have close to the same record. We are returning 16 starters. Our defense only can get better. Losing RG3, Wright and Ganaway hurts no doubt. But Florence is a pretty darn good QB! Salubi and Seastrunk are ready to take the mantle at running back; and Sampson and Williams are both phenomenal receivers. My prediction would be about third or fourth in the conference with victories over TCU, Texas and Texas Tech. Keep in mind that we just crushed an SMU team that beat TCU in Fort Worth last year.

DU: Hey, I feel you on this. It was hard for me at times to believe on Sunday night I was watching the Big 12's seventh-best team, but when you look around at the rest of the league, it's just a jumbled mess in the top seven. I'm not sure if I really believe Baylor can contend for a league title over the course of a 12-game season, but the Bears looked the part on Sunday night.

The top seven teams in the league all legitimately have the talent to contend. You could make an legitimate argument for any order of the top seven teams in the league, minus having West Virginia and Oklahoma finishing outside the top half. I don't see that happening. Whoever can be the most consistent is the team that's going to win this league. Can Baylor beat any team in the league? Abso-freakin'-lutely. Can they do it every week? I'm skeptical.

That's why we play the games.

Luke in Cyclone Country wrote: Hey Ubben, did you see any indication from the ISU/Tulsa game that Steele Jantz will be benched for Barnett any time this season? I also noticed you haven't been to Ames for a game since the 2008 Missouri game. I think ISU is due for a win over Oklahoma and KSU. Do you realize how hungry the fans are to see both play in Ames. Its been years since either visited. Any chance you are going to be on hand for either of those, or do they have to win both for you to be in Ames for the WVU game?

DU: I didn't, but that could change if he goes back to his old ways of turning the ball over. Jared Barnett will be ready, and he could quarterback this team well, too. That said, I was impressed with what I saw from Jantz last week. As for me coming to Ames, I hear you Cyclones. I've been inundated with e-mails from you folks all season. Ultimately, we still cover the most nationally relevant games in the Big 12 each week. Iowa State likes to pull upsets, but we don't usually cover games with spreads of 20 points or more.

If Iowa State's winning ways grow and they become more relevant in the league title race, you'll see me in Ames. So far, that hasn't happened, but I'll be more than happy to make my way over when it does.

Justin in Iowa wrote: The apocalypse is coming. Beware the 'clones!

DU: That's one of the most terrifying things I've ever seen. Sheesh. Nightmare fuel of the highest order.

Gabe in Bryan, Texas wrote: Last time you failed to mention anything about OK State- Boone Pickens Stadium when asked about the best venue. You mentioned that Texas and Oklahoma had the most impressive stadiums. Having been to the home of the longhorns and sooners, I seriously think OSU does have the best stadiums in terms of infrastructure as well as atmosphere. Just curious on where (overall rank amongst big 12 schools) would you place Boone Pickens Stadium??

DU: There's no doubt Boone Pickens is one of the nicest -- if not the nicest stadium in the league. TCU's new digs will give it a run for its money in that category, though. In terms of volume, I've never really been wowed by Boone Pickens Stadium. It can get pretty loud -- the past two years of Bedlam are as loud as I've ever heard it -- but you heard significantly louder crowds at times at Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M. Just not in the same category as those places. It's a great atmosphere, and definitely in the top half of the Big 12 when it comes to volume, but it's not one of the loudest.

Always a fun place to see a great game and a good atmosphere around the stadium, though.

Matt in Austin, Texas wrote: Ubbs, is this the third year in a row that Baylor has a better QB than UT?

DU: Yes. And no, I don't know how that's possible, either.
WACO, Texas -- Where had we seen this before?

A Baylor receiver celebrating a long touchdown catch in the end zone while his quarterback sprinted toward him?

Exactly one year earlier, Robert Griffin III kicked off his Heisman-winning season with five touchdown passes in an upset of TCU.

On Sunday night, Nick Florence threw four of his own, leading to the same celebration after a 36-yard rainbow to Lanear Sampson that gave the Bears a six-touchdown lead in their 59-24 blowout win of former Southwest Conference rival SMU.

[+] EnlargeNick Florence
Cooper Neill/Getty ImagesQuarterback Nick Florence got off to a strong start Sunday night.
The only difference was Florence's bushy beard fighting to be freed from his chinstrap, versus Griffin's braids flapping out the back of his helmet.

"Nick was Nick, and that's what you are going to love about him," coach Art Briles said. "That's what we love about Nick; he's going to be that way every time he steps on the football field."

Florence earned playing time in 2009 when RG3 sat with a torn ACL and rallied the Bears for a win over Texas Tech in Cowboys Stadium last November, but in his first game as the new face of Baylor football, he finished 21-of-30 for 341 yards and no turnovers.

"He's going to continue improving," Briles said. "Honestly, for him percentage-wise [Sunday], it was a little low."

Baylor's history-making quarterback wasn't in attendance on Sunday (even if his top target a year ago, fellow first-round draft pick Kendall Wright was), but even in his absence, his presence was felt.

His toothy smile after receiving last year's Heisman Trophy adorns the western wall of Floyd Casey Stadium. Throughout Sunday's rout, the Washington Redskins' starting quarterback tweeted encouragement to his former teammates and celebrated their successes with almost as much gusto as he did his own a year ago.

"The touchdowns just keep coming," he wrote. "Ha ha gotta love this."

(Read full post)

Bears open post-RG3 era with a bang

September, 2, 2012
WACO, Texas -- Baylor was missing its most famous face on Sunday (Robert Griffin III), but the Bears didn't look too gloomy with Nick Florence at the helm.

Florence sat the game's final 15 minutes after completing 21 of 30 passes for 341 yards and four touchdowns, and a 21-point third quarter helped Baylor embarrass SMU, 59-24.

The most welcome development for the Bears? What may be a stingy defense. Phil Bennett's second season in Waco had high hopes, and though SMU sustained several drives, the Bears capitalized with three turnovers, including an interception near the goal line that preserved a second-quarter, 14-3 lead.

Three plays later, the lead ballooned to 21-3 and the Bears looked firmly in control.

Plenty more to come tonight from Waco, but Sunday was exactly what the Bears wanted to see in their season opener. No doubt about which the better team was.

Jarred Salubi finished with 91 yards and a touchdown on just 13 carries. Terrance Williams hauled in seven passes for 138 yards. Lanear Sampson caught five passes for 69 yards and two touchdowns.

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 1

August, 30, 2012
Here's what I'm keeping an eye on in the Big 12 openers this weekend:

1. Close calls. It happens to somebody every weekend. You never know who, but some heavy favorite is going to get locked in a tight game. You can't really read into it too much later in the season, but you always know there's going to be drama somewhere when teams take the field after nine months off. Who's it going to be? Look out for unexpected excitement on Saturday.

[+] EnlargeDavid Ash
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireTexas will be counting on improvement from quarterback David Ash this season.
2. David Ash. No single player has more power to reshape the Big 12 preseason landscape. He might look like a whole new quarterback this season, or he might show the same old mediocrity. The odds probably favor the latter, considering how little experience Ash had in practice before starting last season. How much better will he be?

3. West Virginia's offense. The Mountaineers struggled with consistency last season, for those of you who didn't see WVU play a game before its Orange Bowl coming out party. For one, tune in to see how they look in Week 1. For two, I'm betting some of you have legitimately never seen Geno Smith, Tavon Austin or Stedman Bailey play before. Change that on Saturday. The Mountaineers are the only Big 12 game going at noon ET.

4. The youngest gun in the Big 12. Wes Lunt surprised a lot of folks when he beat out two older players to win the Oklahoma State quarterback job. He's got great running backs and should have some good targets. Few people have ever seen Lunt play in this offense. That changes this weekend.

5. Iowa State's quarterback(s). Steele Jantz has been named the starter, and he'll have a long leash, but how will he look? We didn't see much of him late in the season, and it's been a long time since this was really his team. It will be to start the season, but Iowa State's receivers need to help him out. Jantz needs to help himself out and control his turnovers, too. Nothing would put backup quarterback Jared Barnett on the field faster than turnovers.

6. Baylor's running back logjam. This one should be interesting. There's no telling just yet what Baylor will do, but it hasn't used a real committee since 2009, when it didn't have Robert Griffin III. Since then, the Bears have had a pair of 1,200-yard rushers, and Terrance Ganaway won the Big 12 rushing title last season. Will Lache Seastrunk, Jarred Salubi and Glasco Martin form a committee? Or will a featured back emerge? Ganaway broke out in a big way last season against TCU.

7. Kansas' new faces. I've got no idea what to think of Kansas this season. It's anybody's guess. Nobody's seen a complete overhaul this offseason like KU has. Charlie Weis saw a lot of work that needed to be done when he got to Lawrence and he did it. Big upgrades at quarterback and along the defensive line are the biggest change, but suspensions will keep running back Darrian Miller off the team forever, and James Sims for three games. What's Kansas look like? Here's guessing Dayne Crist holds the answer to that question.

8. Collin Klein's arm. Klein put in a lot of work this offseason to progress as a passer, and threw for 480 yards and six scores in the spring game. That's about all we've seen of Kansas State this offseason, but that was against the Wildcats' second-team defense. That said, it was more than a third of Klein's production through the air in all of last season. How much better has he gotten this offseason? We'll get a preview this weekend.

9. Oklahoma's young receivers. Kenny Stills will be the only eligible receiver on Saturday night who has ever caught a pass in a Sooners uniform. Freshman Trey Metoyer and Penn State transfer Justin Brown will start alongside Stills, and we know they'll have a good quarterback in Landry Jones. However, what can juco transfer LaColton Bester and freshmen Durron Neal and Sterling Shepard do? Shepard has already drawn comparisons to Ryan Broyles.

10. Texas Tech's health and new defense. Tech already lost one of its most talented special-teamers in camp, Aaron Fisher, but can the rest of these guys finally stay in one piece? Art Kaufman has a new defense in place, and we'll get our first look at Eric Stephens on Saturday after a horrific knee injury ended his 2011 season.

Opening camp: Baylor Bears

August, 8, 2012
Camp is open down in Waco. Before we get too deep in sweltering hot practices, I'll offer up a quick preview of what you need to know heading into the season.

See more fall camp previews.

First up: Baylor.

Media's predicted finish: Seventh

Biggest story line: Can Nick Florence fill RG3's legendary cleats? Florence is a much, much different player, but he's mobile and has plenty of experience for what's essentially still a first-year starter. Better yet, he's got a fantastic offensive line headlined by Ivory Wade and Cyril Richardson. He'll have two of the league's best receivers in Terrance Williams and Tevin Reese, and be supported by an outstanding trio of backs in Jarred Salubi, Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin.

Biggest question mark: The defense. Baylor won't have a Heisman winner to outweigh a rough season from the defense. The Bears were the first team in FBS history last season to win four consecutive games in a single season while also giving up at least 30 points in each win. Phil Bennett is ready for Year 2, and his defense has a lot to prove after finishing ahead of only Kansas in total defense. The Bears forced lots of turnovers late in the season, helping them finish strong, but will that continue?

Fun fact: The Bears' six-game win streak is the longest of any team in one of college football's six major conference. The MAC's Northern Illinois (9) is the only team who has won more consecutive games entering 2012.

Who needs to step up: Williams and the backfield. Baylor had the Big 12's leading rusher in Terrance Ganaway and leading receiver in Kendall Wright last season. Those losses are big, too. Williams and the backfield trio have the potential to be great replacements for the Bears, who have had 1,200-yard rushers in each of the past two seasons. Who knows if a featured back will emerge, but this group has to be productive if Baylor's going to reach a third consecutive bowl.

Don't forget about: S Ahmad Dixon and CB K.J. Morton. Neither get the same recognition as guys who earned a reputation as the league's best at their position, but after really strong finishes to 2011, Dixon and Morton might make a run in 2012 that proves they deserve a place in the conversation as one of the Big 12's best defensive backs.

Baylor spring wrap

May, 9, 2012

2011 overall record: 10-3
2011 conference record: 6-3
Returning starters: Offense (6), Defense (8), P/K (2)

Top returners: WR Terrance Williams, WR Tevin Reese, S Ahmad Dixon, S Sam Holl, CB K.J. Morton, S Mike Hicks, OL Cyril Richardson, OL Ivory Wade

Key losses: QB Robert Griffin III, WR Kendall Wright, RB Terrance Ganaway, OL Philip Blake, LB Elliot Coffey, DT Nicolas Jean-Baptiste, DL Tracy Robertson

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Terrance Ganaway (1,547 yards)
Passing: Robert Griffin III (4,293 yards)
Receiving: Kendall Wright (1,663 yards)
Tackles: Elliot Coffey (114)
Sacks: Tracy Robertson (4.5)
Interceptions: K.J. Morton* (4)

Spring answers

1. Don't sweat the quarterbacks: Anybody who thinks Baylor's destined to go back to 3-4 win seasons in the post-RG3 era isn't paying much attention. Nick Florence had a rough time as a true freshman filling in for RG3 in 2009, but he's grown up a whole lot since then, and he'll get a chance to show it this fall. Behind him, Bryce Petty is itching for a chance, too, but Florence's leadership and decision-making assured him the job in the spring.

2. The receivers are ready to roll: And what about Kendall Wright's absence? He led Baylor in receiving for each of the past four seasons, but Baylor's going to be just fine in his wake, too. Terrance Williams is a future NFL draft pick, and Tevin Reese is ready to see an increased role in the offense, too. Lanear Sampson offers more depth and playmaking ability at the position.

3. Lache Seastrunk is a lot more than just hype: The Temple, Texas, native couldn't quite catch on at Oregon, but he's proving he'll be a factor at Baylor at some point, if not immediately. The backfield is still crowded, but he exploded for 138 yards and a touchdown on seven carries. He's the fastest of the Baylor backs, but he's got to prove he can be the most productive too.

Fall questions

1. How much better can the defense get? Baylor doesn't have the RG3 Express to fall back on anymore. He helped make the Bears the first team to ever win four consecutive games in a single season while also giving up at least 30 points. BU won games in 2011 while giving up 56, 48 and 42 points, too. Phil Bennett's defense has the athletes, but it's got to force more turnovers like it did the second half of the season and get those point totals down. Florence is good, but he's no RG3. If the defense doesn't improve, making a bowl will prove difficult.

2. Can Baylor truly carry on without Robert Griffin III? Baylor has all the pieces in place to get back to a bowl game, but RG3 had plenty of truly intangible attributes that are hard to duplicate. He was a compelling leader who always seemed to make everyone around him better. Florence sounds like he has many of those same things, but will they translate into wins? You never quite know for sure. RG3 was a truly transcendent player unlike anything Waco had ever seen.

3. Will the Bears have a featured running back? Seastrunk made lots of noise in the spring game, but Jarred Salubi and Glasco Martin have a lot more experience, and that could pay off in playing time when it comes to things like pass blocking and doing the little things right. Jay Finley and Terrance Ganaway grabbed starring roles the past two seasons, but will coach Art Briles use a committee come fall? Or will he find a back to lean on?

Big 12 spring game recap: Baylor Bears

April, 16, 2012
Miss Baylor's spring game on Saturday? We've got you covered.

What happened:
  • Nick Florence ruined the defense's day, completing 14-of-18 passes for 180 yards and three touchdowns. Bryce Petty completed 18-of-27 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown.
  • Lache Seastrunk stole the show with 135 yards on just seven carries, including a 75-yard touchdown.
  • Lanear Sampson caught five passes for 65 yards and a touchdown. Tevin Reese had four catches for 89 yards.
  • Josh Wilson led all tacklers with 10 stops.
  • The Bears ran 112 plays in the 75-minute scrimmage.
  • About 2,750 fans showed up.
What we learned:
  • When I visited Baylor this spring, Seastrunk was the third man in what looked like a pretty balanced backfield by committee. Now, though? If he's that productive for the rest of fall camp, he may be validating that recruiting hype and hoopla that followed his transfer from Oregon. His competition, Jarred Salubi (88 yards, seven carries) and Glasco Martin (58 yards, TD eight carries) were productive, but Seastrunk has that home-run capability. Salubi does, too, but the senior hasn't shown it on the field. Fall camp should be an interesting race. All three could be productive, but Briles prefers to have a featured back in the offense. Jay Finley and Terrance Ganaway were outstanding the past two years, and I like Baylor's chances to have a third 1,000-yard rusher.
  • Color me unsurprised at Florence and Petty's big day. Baylor, Oklahoma and West Virginia all have a case as the league's deepest roster of QBs.
  • The easy rebuttal from those numbers is Baylor's defense is terrible. Well, it was last year. It won't be great this year, and it might not be a ton better. That said, putting up those kinds of numbers is difficult, and my point is this: Baylor's still going to have one of the league's most productive offenses. RG3 had lots of help around him and lots of potential behind him. We'll get a chance to see it this year. The spring game didn't change my mind about Baylor as a 6-8-win team, but this is not a program that's going to flatline without RG3 at quarterback. The receivers are really talented, really deep and really smart. The offensive line should be really good and the running backs will be productive.
They said it:
"I'm learning. I know my teammates are going to keep helping me. As long as I keep my head in the books and keep understanding all the checks and calls, I'll be fine." - RB Lache Seastrunk, on his day
Across our little blog village here at ESPN, we're taking a look at the top newcomers in college football this year. You (probably) don't know their names yet, but here's who you need to watch this fall in the Big 12.

Will Smith, LB, Texas Tech: The Red Raiders only found Smith while recruiting another possible impact transfer, running back SaDale Foster. The California juco transfer stepped on campus this winter and by the end of spring, coach Tommy Tuberville called him the team's best linebacker. He started playing outside, but Tuberville moved the 6-foot-2, 220-pounder to starting middle linebacker in the middle of camp so he'd be on the field even during passing downs. He'll be important to Tech's new 4-3 scheme. Think K-State's Arthur Brown, a Miami transfer who's almost the exact same size.

[+] EnlargeDayne Crist
Andrew Weber/US PresswireFormer Notre Dame QB Dayne Crist brings experience as a starter to Kansas.
Dayne Crist, QB, Kansas: You probably know this name, but Crist started nine games in 2010 for Notre Dame and appeared in 17 career games. He began 2011 as the starter, but was benched and transferred to KU to play his final season of college football for Charlie Weis, the coach who recruited him to South Bend as the nation's No. 2 quarterback and No. 22 overall prospect in the 2008 class. He threw 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2010.

Brandon Moore, DT, Texas: Moore is part of a changing world in Austin, thanks to a revamped coaching staff with some SEC sensibilites. He and OT Donald Hawkins were the first juco transfers to sign with Texas since 2002 and Moore may be the lynchpin of the Big 12's best defense this year. Teammates have described the "full-grown man" as "unstoppable." Such is life at 6-6 and 330 pounds. Moore has to work on his conditioning, but he's going to wreak havoc on Big 12 offensive lines when he's on the field this year. Look for him to collapse a pocket or two early and often this season.

Trey Metoyer, WR, Oklahoma: Metoyer spent a year in military school after not qualifying academically, but he's already made an impact this spring after finally arriving at Oklahoma. He was the nation's No. 8 receiver in the 2011 class and offers the Sooners some much-needed sure hands. The unit came down with the dropsies late last season, and the FBS career leader for receptions, Ryan Broyles, is NFL-bound. Metoyer is exactly what the Sooners need to keep their offense on pace with the league's best, and he'll be catching passes from a Heisman candidate in Landry Jones.

Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor: Seastrunk's short-lived career at Oregon was marred by a recruiting scandal, but he's back home, 30 miles north of his hometown in Temple, Texas, and ready for a fresh start. Baylor needs a replacement for Big 12 rushing champ Terrance Ganaway, and Seastrunk, the nation's No. 6 running back and No. 40 overall prospect in the 2010 class, is battling Glasco Martin and Jarred Salubi for the chance to be the man.

West Virginia and TCU: Have y'all heard about this? It's gonna be kind of crazy. After losing four teams since June 2010, the Big 12 poached the Big East and added the former Southwest Conference-dwelling Frogs and the Mountaineers, badly in need of a home away from the weakened Big East. Here's how we welcomed the Frogs and did the same for WVU earlier this year.

Where does Seastrunk's fit in Baylor's O?

March, 20, 2012
WACO, Texas -- Lache Seastrunk has changed his address, coming back home to Texas after a season at Oregon.

He's changed his number, electing to wear No. 25 instead of the No. 6 he wore on the sidelines last season and the No. 15 he wore as a Duck.

He sat out the 2011 season when, after transferring, his request to have his NCAA-mandated redshirt year waived was denied. Now, the nation's No. 6 running back in the 2010 recruiting class finally has a chance to compete for a spot on the depth chart and earn his first official carry as a college athlete.

But after essentially two years without playing competitive football, where is his spot on his new team with a new shades of green and gold?

"We’ll find out. That’s what the spring’s for. He had to sit out the fall so he’s out here this spring on the same ground as everybody else with the same chance to prove himself," Baylor coach Art Briles said.

"We’ll see if he can live up to his advertisement. We’re certainly hoping he can."

His "advertisement" is a reputation as a gamebreaking athlete with dangerous speed and shifty moves crafted to embarrass defenders.

Seastrunk signed with Oregon after an All-American high school career in Temple, Texas, about 35 miles south of Waco. After signing, though, he found himself in the middle of a recruiting controversy and an NCAA investigation that alleged Willie Lyles steered him to Oregon in exchange for money from the Ducks, which would be a violation. The NCAA's investigation is still ongoing.

Seastrunk also found himself near the bottom of the depth chart, passed up by the younger De'Anthony Thomas. The skills were there, but the production wasn't. The skills are still there, will the production follow?

"He’s a very explosive runner, he’s really fast and really shifty," said fellow running back Jarred Salubi, one of three backs competing to replace Big 12 rushing champ Terrance Ganaway this spring. "As far as what you’re going to see, it’s up to him to show y’all, but I’m expecting big things from him."

He elected for a change of scenery just before the 2011 season began.

"[We've seen] great comfort in being back home and being at Baylor. Great energy, great want-to, which is a great first step for anybody wanting to do an outstanding job, and just very hungry and very humble," Briles said. "He’s been nothing but an absolute great teammate and hopefully on the path to being a great contributor, because that’s what we brought him here for, to contribute."

To be the top contributor, he'll have to pass more experienced teammates in junior Glasco Martin and Salubi, a senior. But Seastrunk still has plenty of time beyond 2012.

Baylor's just waiting for him to take advantage and earn an opportunity to turn that potential into production. For the Bears, no change in Seastrunk would be more welcomed.
WACO, Texas -- Baylor practiced for about two hours in shoulder pads and shorts on Monday, and I got a chance to see the new-look Bears up close and personal.

I’ll be writing about this in detail in the coming weeks, but first things first: the quarterbacks.
  • It was a windy day with what I’d say were easily 30-40 mph gusts, so the Bears moved inside for the second half of practice, but even in the wind, quarterback Nick Florence looked really good. Throwing into the wind, he hit Terrance Williams and Tevin Reese on consecutive deep balls down the field in one-on-one drills. Reese and Williams, by the way, looked great ... but you already knew that.
  • Bryce Petty is a step above Florence when it comes to physical skills, but Florence isn’t that far behind. Petty has a bigger arm and a bit more velocity, but both quarterbacks can definitely “make all the throws,” as they say. We’ve seen Florence do it in game action, but ultimately, it’s hard to see Florence losing this job. He’s been in this system since 2009, and it shows. He’s decisive. He’s got a quick release. He makes moving the ball in pass skeleton or 11-on-11 look effortless at times and he takes care of the ball.
  • [+] EnlargeNick Florence
    Sarah Glenn/Getty ImagesEarly indications from spring practice shows Nick Florence will be Baylor's starter this fall.
    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Florence will be a well above average quarterback in this league, but Petty could already start for a handful of Big 12 teams. Bottom line is I think this plays out like most think. This is Florence's team in 2012. Baylor can feel good about that. In 2013 and 2014, this is Petty's team. Baylor can feel really, really good about that. Art Briles has to sleep easy at night when it comes to worrying about quarterbacks.
  • I’ll have more on him today, too, but hyped transfer Lache Seastrunk looks like he’s bulked up a whole lot. It shows in his shoulders and calves, especially. He’s much thicker, which I have to think he understood he needed after an unproductive stop at Oregon before transferring to Baylor. His development will be fun to watch. Right now, he’s getting some reps with the first team, but Jarred Salubi was getting the majority of first-team reps. Surpassing him will be tough, but I think Seastrunk will get a decent chunk of touches this year. He’s got an explosiveness and shiftiness that’s rare; it’s easy to see why he was so highly recruited. But will that mean production? We’ll see. Late in practice, he disappeared in the pile during 11-on-11 drills, but broke outside and outran everybody down the left side for what would have been an 80-yard touchdown run.
  • That wowed the defenders on the sideline. "He’s been hanging out with one of the best backs around, LaMichael James," exclaimed defensive end Tevin Elliott on the sidelines, to no one in particular. “That must be where he gets some of his swag from."
  • That said, don’t let the hype from Seastrunk distract from what looks like a strong effort by Salubi to win this job ahead of Glasco Martin as well. He’s running hard inside the tackles and showcasing a physical style we didn’t see much of last year. Terrance Ganaway provided that all last season, and the Bears need someone to duplicate it. Salubi looks like he wants to answer the call and be known for more than shiftiness on the outside.
  • One scary thing to watch for, Bears: Replacing center Philip Blake. I don’t recall many bad snaps last year, but the first two to Florence during 11-on-11 drills on Monday were bad, and I counted at least six through the rest of the practice. Four with the first unit. There’s a lot of time to fix that, but center is one of those positions people don’t quite appreciate until they don’t have a good one.
  • A rough day for the defense. The athletes are there for the Bears, but the offense moved the ball at will in most of the team drills. Such is life going up against a high-powered set of skill players like the ones the Bears have. You couldn’t get much of a feel for the physicality, however, because players were only wearing shoulder pads.
  • Baylor’s one of the most fun teams in the league when it comes to trick plays; the Bears successfully executed quite a few in wins over TCU and Oklahoma. They’ve got some more fun ones drawn up along the goal line; plays we didn’t see in 2011 and ones I haven’t seen anyone duplicate. Detailing those is a good way to make sure you don’t ever see a practice again, but I’ll say this: They’ll be fun when Baylor busts them out.
  • With Baylor’s pro day looming on Wednesday, lots of the team’s departing seniors were on hand at Monday’s practice, back from training for the combine and pro day. Quarterback Robert Griffin III was on the field and for the first half and in the huddle for some of that period talking with Briles and various players. Receiver Kendall Wright and Ganaway were also on hand, and stuck around to watch the second half of practice indoors.
  • We’ll have some more from Griffin later today, but don’t be surprised if he busts out some bright cleats at his pro day showcase on Wednesday. He showed up Monday toting cleats reminiscent of the “Electricity” uniforms Baylor’s basketball team wore this postseason. Scott Drew would be proud.

Breaking down spring camp: Baylor

March, 6, 2012
Baylor's next in line to kick off spring practice, and the party gets started in Waco this afternoon. Here's a closer look on what to watch for.

Schedule: The first of Baylor's 15 practices is today, leading up to the annual spring game on April 14. Baylor's spring game is a controlled scrimmage at the practice field. Practices are open to the media.

What's new: This is the first spring since 2008 that Robert Griffin III won't be on the field at Waco, and the first since 2009 that he's not in the spring as the starter. It'll be a little jarring without his No. 10 jersey on the field making plays, but the time is now for his understudy for much of that time, Nick Florence.

New faces: Special teams/wide receivers coach Dino Babers took the head coaching job at Eastern Illinois, and he was replaced from within. Coach Art Briles promoted assistant Jeff Lebby to a staff position. Baylor is also welcoming two new scholarship players: juco signee Eddie Lackey, a linebacker, and 2012 Recruiting All-Name team MVP Lynx Hawthorne, an early enrolling freshman athlete.

Big shoes to fill: Terrance Williams. The senior might have had the quietest 59-catch, 957-yard, 11-touchdown season of all time last year. He's supremely talented, but Kendall Wright led the Big 12 with 1,662 yards and leaves after leading the Bears in receiving for the past four seasons. Williams made some big catches in 2011, including the game-winner over Oklahoma that will live on as the defining moment of the Bears' dream year that ended with the first Heisman Trophy in school history. Williams has to show he can handle being the No. 1 target for a new quarterback.

Question mark: Will the defense progress? It should in Year 2 under coordinator Phil Bennett, who Baylor aggressively pursued after the 2010 season. The Bears were one of the league's worst defenses in 2011, but had the best player in the country on offense the pick up the slack. Florence is good. He's not the best player in the country. Will the payoff for getting Bennett begin to show up this spring? It was rough last year from what I saw on my trip to Waco. Leading tackler Elliot Coffey and DT Nicolas Jean-Baptiste are gone, but the team returns nine of its top 10 tacklers.

Breaking out: Running back Lache Seastrunk. The Oregon transfer tried to become eligible for 2011, but didn't do so after joining the team just before the season. The Bears didn't need him anyway; Terrance Ganaway rumbled to a Big 12 rushing title. Ganaway's gone now, though, and Seastrunk will try and win the job this spring alongside promising, more experienced backs in Glasco Martin and Jarred Salubi.

All eyes on: Florence. It's pretty obvious. Florence hasn't been handed the job just yet. Bryce Petty is behind him on the depth chart and loaded with potential, too. Florence, though, played most of the 2009 season and looked good in relief of RG3 this year, leading the Bears to a win over Texas Tech on Thanksgiving weekend. I'm betting Florence is above average this year, and he'll have arguably the Big 12's best receiving corps (with apologies to West Virginia), a good offensive line and a great group of backs. In Briles' system, though, the quarterback makes it all go.