Big 12: Jeff Wolfert
The Tigers are still looking for their first Big 12 title, but they've had many memorable players dot their rosters over the decade.
Here's a look at the best of them. The toughest decision was to leave Justin Gage off the team at wide receiver, although I opted to go with an alignment much like offensive coordinator David Yost preferred, with one running back, two wide receivers and two tight ends. My team is reflected with that strategy.
QB: Chase Daniel
RB: Zack Abron
WR: Jeremy Maclin
WR: Danario Alexander
TE: Chase Coffman
TE: Martin Rucker
OL: Joel Clinger
OL: Tony Palmer
OL: Kurtis Gregory
OL: Rob Droege
C: Adam Spieker
DL: Justin Smith
DL: Atiyyah Ellison
DL: Lorenzo Williams
DL: Ziggy Hood
LB: Sean Weatherspoon
LB: Marcus Bacon
LB: Brock Christopher
DB: William Moore
DB: Pig Brown
DB: David Overstreet
DB: Shirdonya Mitchell
K: Jeff Wolfert
P: Jake Harry
KR: Jeremy Maclin
Offensive player of the decade: QB Chase Daniel. Orchestrated the Tigers’ back-to-back North Division championship teams in 2007-08, finishing fourth in the Heisman race in 2007 and setting the school’s career total offense and passing records as a senior.
Defensive player of the decade: LB Sean Weatherspoon. Lightly recruited player who emerged to become the dominant defensive player for the Tigers during his three-season career as a starter, leading the team in tackles each season.
Coach of the decade: Gary Pinkel. After struggling in his first two seasons, has taken the Tigers to a bowl game in every season except one, including two Big 12 title games and a No. 4 finish in the 2007 season.
Memory of the decade: Missouri’s 36-28 victory over Kansas in a 2007 showdown for the Big 12 North title pushed the Tigers to their first Big 12 championship game appearance. Daniel completed 40 of 49 passes for 361 yards and three touchdowns, but the game wasn’t settled until Lorenzo Williams sacked Todd Reesing for a safety to ice the victory.
The Big 12 has provided a few of latter -- and more -- over the last decade with some of the most entertaining games in recent college football history.
Here are my favorite 10 games of the past decade. There are 10 to 15 other games that legitimately could have been included on this list.
1. Texas 41, USC 38 (Jan. 1, 2006): The Longhorns claimed the 2005 national title with a dramatic comeback capped by Vince Young’s game-winning 8-yard TD run with 19 seconds left. Michael Huff’s critical fourth-down stop of LenDale White set the stage on the preceding drive. And many observers still think that Pete Carroll could have gone for a game-tying field goal attempt on the final play of the game if he hadn't squandered a timeout before a two-point try after Young's TD run.
2. Texas Tech 39, Texas 33 (Nov. 1, 2008): Michael Crabtree’s 28-yard touchdown reception from Graham Harrell with one second remaining capped the wildest victory in Tech history -- made even more improbable after Blake Gideon dropped an interception on the play before Crabtree’s game-winning touchdown.
3. Boise State 43, Oklahoma 42 (Jan. 1, 2007): The Broncos won the 2007 Fiesta Bowl by fooling Bob Stoops’ team with three gadget plays: a game-tying hook and ladder play in regulation, an option pass from wide receiver Vinny Perretta to Derek Schouman in overtime to pull within one point and a game-winning two-point conversion by Ian Johnson on a Statue of Liberty play. Johnson proposed to his girlfriend, Chrissy Popadics, on the field after the play. After all the excitement, of course, she accepted.
4. Oklahoma State 49, Texas Tech 45 (Sept. 22, 2007): This classic offensive battle produced 62 first downs and 1,328 yards and wasn’t settled until Michael Crabtree dropped a potential game-winning touchdown pass in the end zone in the final minute of play. And we all still remember it more for the fireworks in the press conferences with Mike Leach and Mike Gundy than for what happened on the field, don’t we?
5. Oklahoma 35, Texas A&M 31 (Nov. 11, 2000): Torrance Marshall’s game-winning 41-yard interception return with 7:42 left enabled the Sooners to continue their charge to the 2000 national championship. Oklahoma overcame an 11-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter and a 10-point hole with less than 9 minutes remaining. Marshall’s heroics gave the Sooners the lead and the Oklahoma defense did the rest, turning away the Aggies twice deep in Oklahoma territory late in the game.
6. Kansas 40, Missouri 37 (Nov. 29, 2008): Four lead changes in the final 6:52 made this game memorable, even though Missouri had already clinched the North title coming into the game. Todd Reesing and Kerry Meier hooked up five times on the game-winning drive, capped by a 26-yard touchdown pass with 27 seconds left. Missouri had one last hope, but Jeff Wolfert’s 54-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the game was partially blocked by Phillip Strozier.
7. Texas 13, Nebraska 12 (Dec. 5, 2009) : In a conference that made its national reputation with wild offensive battles, it was refreshing to see a defensive struggle in the 2009 Big 12 title game. Nebraska, keyed by a ferocious defense that forced three interceptions and sacked Colt McCoy nine times, appeared to have taken control on a 42-yard field goal by Alex Henery with 1:44 left. Ndamukong Suh sacked McCoy a championship-game record 4.5 times. But McCoy withstood the rush and drove the Longhorns for the game-winning field goal after a controversial officiating decision put extra time back on the clock after it appeared the Longhorns had squandered their chance to win. Hunter Lawrence’s 46-yard field goal as time expired gave Texas the victory.
8. Texas 56, Oklahoma State 35 (Nov. 6, 2004): The Longhorns were in a 35-7 hole late in the second quarter before Vince Young hooked up on a 4-yard TD pass to Bo Scaife shortly before halftime. That opened the floodgates, as the Longhorns scored touchdowns on six straight drives. Cedric Benson rushed for 141 yards and five touchdowns and Vince Young rushed for 123 yards and completed 12 straight passes at one point en route to a then career-high 278 passing yards. The Longhorns piled up 600 yards of total offense in the wild comeback, outgaining the Cowboys 266-to-minus-5 in the third quarter of the comeback.
9. Nebraska 40, Colorado 31 (Nov. 28, 2008): Alex Henery’s school-record 57-yard field goal with 1:43 left gave the Cornhuskers the lead for good in this classic that Colorado needed to win to qualify for a bowl game. And Ndamukong Suh foreshadowed his monster season to come by icing the victory with a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown with 55 seconds left.
10. Baylor 35, Texas A&M 34 (Oct. 30, 2004): The Bears had been waiting for a long time for a chance to beat Texas A&M -- particularly after losing 73-10 to the Aggies in College Station the previous season. So it was understandable that Guy Morriss didn’t hesitate to go for the win after pulling within one point in overtime on Shawn Bell’s pass to Dominique Ziegler. Bell and Ziegler then hooked up again for the two-point conversion, snapping an 18-game winless streak to the Aggies.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Biggest surprise of the day so far for the Big 12 has been the strong early play of Missouri, which is bouncing favored Illinois all over the Edward Jones Dome with a quick 16-3 lead early in the third quarter.
In the process, the Tigers appear to be living up to the prophecy of preseason All-American linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who promised to "squeeze the Juice" -- Illinois quarterback Juice Williams.
New Missouri kicker Grant Ressel has picked up where Jeff Wolfert left off with three field goals to lead the Tigers.
But the play of sophomore quarterback Blaine Gabbert has been the biggest revelation as he has riddled Illinois for 191 yards in the first half. The Tigers have taken advantage of deeper passes than they typically used with Chase Daniel.
Dave Steckel's defense has done a masterful job of keeping Illinois' talented pass-catch tandem of Williams and Arrelious Benn. Williams was limited to 79 yards in the first half. Benn accounted for one catch for 9 yards.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
I know this makes me sound like a coaches, but I actually think that special teams really does account for a third of a team's success. And I think that solid play in all facets is especially critical in the Big 12 because of the small margin of error in most games.
Here's a look at how I rank the special teams in the conference, giving each team a master rating including all facets of the kicking game.
1. Texas: The best combination kicking game in the league with two-deep talent at both kicker and punter and Jordan Shipley to take care of the returns. The Longhorns always have fast, talented athletes covering kicks as well. And I'm curious to see if Justin Tucker really will be able to produce rugby-style punts with both feet.
2. Oklahoma State:The Cowboys have the best kickoff/punt returners in the conference in Dez Bryant and Perrish Cox. Special-teams coach Joe DeForest always does an outstanding job, although he’ll be in tough spot replacing Matt Fodge as his punter this season.
3. Nebraska: Alex Henery was the best kicker in the conference with a knack for making huge kicks. It's curious that Nebraska coaches would risk that success by having him double up as a punter this season. But he actually came to college as a walk-on punter. Niles Paul will get the start as both punt returner and kick returner. And Adi Kunalic led the nation in touchbacks as a kickoff specialist.
4. Kansas State:I’m basing this as much on past success as anything else -- Ron Prince’s team blocked four punts for touchdowns last season. Brandon Banks is a threat to break a big return on every play and he’ll be doubling as a kick and punt returner this season. Even with Bill Snyder taking over, I’m still thinking this will be a productive unit as they break in new kicker Josh Cherry and new punter Ryan Doerr.
5. Baylor: The Bears have the most consistent punter in the conference with Derek Epperson. Look for improvement from kicker Ben Parks. One key will be boosting punt returns with new returner Krys Buerck after ranking only 118th nationally as a team last season.
6. Iowa State: I think that Jack Trice Stadium might be the toughest facility in the conference because of its swirling winds. Paul Rhoads has some confidence with Grant Mahoney back at kicker and Mike Brandtner at punter. Leonard Johnson is one of the most effective kickoff returners in the conference. But the Cyclones need a boost on punt returns and in covering kicks.
7. Oklahoma: For a team with as many athletes as the Sooners, I was surprised with their difficulties in covering kicks last season. That’s the immediate concern for them. DeMarco Murray was a threat on every return, but I doubt he plays there much because of his recent injury problems. Dominique Franks, Ryan Broyles and Cameron Kenney are expected to contribute in the return game. And Kenney might even push Tress Way for punting duties. Coaches have also been impressed with the improved range of kicker Jimmy Stevens. We’ll see if that holds up when the season starts.
8. Texas Tech: The story about Matt “Lynwood” Williams was one of the best in college football last year as he emerged from an in-game kicking contest to win most of the kicking honors for the Red Raiders. Donnie Carona was a disappointment as a kicker, but may emerge as a punter along with Ryan Erxleben (yeah, he’s the son of former Texas punter Russell Erxleben) as the Red Raiders wait for Jonathan LaCour to come off a Big 12-mandated suspension. Edward Britton and Jamar Wall will be involved in returning kicks, along with many others.
9. Texas A&M: Here’s a stat that shows how far Texas A&M’s once vaunting kicking game has fallen in recent years. The Aggies haven’t converted a field goal of 50 yards or more since 2000. Randy Bullock is back as the kicker and freshman Ryan Epperson and Ken Wood are still battling for the punting job. Christine Michael inherits the kickoff return duties, but look for heralded junior-college cornerback Coryell Judie to be involved some way.
10. Missouri: No Jeremy Maclin and Jeff Wolfert means that the Tigers will rebuild one of their strongest units last season. Their net punting figures to improve after Jake Harry’s strong start. Grant Ressel won the kicking job in a tight battle, but might be pushed this season. Gary Pinkel is sorting through his options in the return game but won’t have anybody nearly as gifted as Maclin. And they need to do a better job covering kicks after allowing a kickoff return for a touchdown for the first time last season.
11. Kansas: The Jayhawks desperately need some improvement in this category. Jacob Branstetter converted 75 percent of his kicks, but his longest was only 34 yards. Punter Alonso Rojas’ net average was only 33.9 yards. And the Jayhawks ranked 118th nationally in kickoff returns as Marcus Herford accounted for most of the returns. They showed some strong improvement late in the season when Dezmon Briscoe took over.
12. Colorado: The Buffaloes had the worst field-goal percentage in the country as they converted only 29 percent last season. They also lose Josh Smith, who set a school record for total kick return yards. Coaches think that Andre Simmons will be able to help here, but I’ll take a wait-and-see attitude before I get too excited.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Enjoy your lunch with the accompaniment of these tasty lunchtime links from across the Big 12.
It will help build strong bodies 12 ways -- for those of you who still remember those old Wonder Bread commercials.
And provide a pretty good glimpse of where we are in the Big 12 with less than three weeks until the season openers finally roll around.
- The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel explains why Oklahoma State is the only Big 12 school without an indoor training facility dedicated specifically to football.
- The Sporting News figures out that the Big 12 South is the toughest division in college football.
- Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel writes what Ndamukong Suh needs to do to be included at the top of Nebraska's greatest defensive linemen.
- Colorado kicker Aric Goodman learned a lesson about perspective after he and several teammates helped save a Colorado student's life after Jacob Dana was involved in a serious bicycle accident, CUbuffs.com's B.G. Brooks reports.
- Baylor's hopes of playing Notre Dame in 2012 in the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans are appearing to fade, the Waco Tribune-Herald reports.
- Former Texas Tech walk-on wide receiver Landon Hoefer jumped at the chance to start his career as a graduate assistant on Tommy West's staff at Memphis rather than complete his eligibility with the Red Raiders, the Memphis Commercial-Appeal's Phil Stukenborg reports.
- Des Moines Register columnist Sean Keeler predicts that Iowa State could flirt with bowl eligibility as the Cyclones finish in a three-way tie for fourth in the Big 12 North. And Keeler also writes how important early success will be for the Cyclones' fragile confidence.
- The loss of Jeremy Maclin and Jeff Wolfert -- arguably the most productive returner and kicker in Missouri history -- is causing a huge transformation to Missouri's special teams, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Vahe Gregorian reports.
- Kansas tailback Jake Sharp tells the Kansas City Star's J. Brady McCollough that he remains motivated, despite a strong foothold on the starting job.
- Idaho State vs. Oklahoma and Tennessee Tech vs. Kansas State make the Orlando Sentinel's ranking of the top five "Christians vs. the Lions" matchups of 2009.
- Texas A&M's quarterback battle between Jerrod Johnson and Ryan Tannehill likely will be settled sometime this week, the Houston Chronicle/San Antonio Express-News' Brent Zwerneman reports.
- The Kansas City Star's Paul Suellentrop writes that Kansas State's defensive line be key to any defensive growth.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
There's no doubt after spending a lot of time around Missouri players last week that they feel disrespected by preseason prognosticators who aren't picking them to contend in the North Division title race this season.
Sure, the Tigers lose players like Chase Daniel, Chase Coffman, Jeremy Maclin, William Moore, Ziggy Hood and Jeff Wolfert from their back-to-back title-game teams. All arguably are among the greatest players at their positions in school history.
Recruiting has picked up in recent years for the Tigers. And that infusion will have them be competitive in nearly every game this season.
But being able to contend for a third-straight appearance in the Big 12 championship game might be a different story -- particularly with the balance that should be present in the rest of the division this season.
Here's a look at three predictions for the Tigers this year.
1. There's no way that Missouri can escape the nonconference part of their schedule without at least one loss.
Illinois has lost all four games in the Missouri series since it returned to St. Louis in 2002. The Illini have been embarrassed by allowing an average of 46 points per game in the last two seasons. They will want revenge and with Juice Williams, they probably will get it this season.
And veteran Nevada coach Chris Ault still remembers how the Tigers ran up the score in a 69-17 loss at Columbia last season. The Wolf Pack will have their chance at revenge this season, buying quarterback Colin Kaepernick some exposure before a national television audience.
I'm expecting Missouri to lose at least one of those nonconference games. And it wouldn't be a shock to me if they lost both of them.
2. Blaine Gabbert won't be Chase Daniel, but he won't fare badly in his first season as starter.
There was some "Chicken Little" thinking among Missouri fans when Gabbert struggled during the spring game. Don't worry about him. By the middle of the season, I'm expecting him to be an accomplished Big 12 starter.
And even with the troubles I'm expecting for his team early, the Big 12 will be a different story. And if Gabbert can orchestrate a big victory over Nebraska on Oct. 8 in the Tigers' Big 12 opener, they might hang around the Big 12 North Division title race a lot longer than most are expecting.
3. Missouri will have five receivers who will produce at least 50 receptions this season.
The Tigers won't have Maclin, Coffman or Tommy Saunders this year. Don't look for as much concentration at the top of the receiving list, but expect a lot more balance. Danario Alexander, Wes Kemp, Andrew Jones, Jared Perry and even running back Derrick Washington are ready to step up as receivers this season. New coordinator David Yost's offensive strategy will feature a lot of producers.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Missouri had already wrapped up the Big 12 North title. And Kansas was playing merely to avoid a trip to the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.
But last year's Border War had as much drama as any of the games in the series because of the gutty performance from several Kansas players who rebounded after earlier injuries in the season.
Reesing to Meier. Again and again.
Date: Nov. 29, 2008
Place: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.
Score: Kansas 40, Missouri 37
Some of the luster from the previous season's game was missing as Missouri had already claimed the North title.
Kansas jumped ahead early and stretched the lead to 26-10 early in the third quarter on a 19-yard touchdown run by Jake Sharp.
But Missouri climbed back in with a pair of Chase Daniel touchdown passes 57 seconds apart midway through the third quarter.
The Tigers claimed the lead for the first time at 30-26 on Daniel's fourth touchdown pass of the game, a 6-yard strike to Chase Coffman with 6:52 left.
Kansas stormed back to reclaim the lead as Reesing connected with Kerry Meier on an 8-yard touchdown pass with 4:26 left to put them ahead, 33-30.
Daniel answered with an epic 73-yard drive in which he accounted for all of the yardage by his runs or passes until the last play of the possession -- a 6-yard scoring run by Derrick Washington with 1:50 left that pushed Missouri ahead, 37-33.
But the Tigers left too much time. And Reesing and Meier, who both had been banged up with injuries earlier in the season, were ready.
The duo hooked up five times for receptions on the game-winning drive, including the game-winning 26-yard strike on fourth down which gave the Jayhawks the lead with 27 seconds left.
But the game still wasn't over. Missouri took advantage of a 25-yard pass from Daniel to Jared Perry to advance to the Kansas 36. It set up a 54-yard field goal attempt by Jeff Wolfert on the final play of the game. But Phillip Strozier partially blocked the kick, preserving the victory in one of the wildest games of the 117-game series between the two bitter rivals.
Only a year ago, Reesing had beaten Meier out for the starting position at quarterback. But the former positional rivals worked together when the Jayhawks most needed them to provide one of the most dramatic triumphs in school history.
The numbers: Reesing, who played through various injuries in the game and had his hand stitched up afterward, finished 37-for-51 for 375 yards and four touchdowns. Meier produced a school-record 14 catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns.
Darrell Stuckey was the defensive standout for the Jayhawks, sharing team honors with six tackles, producing two interceptions and forcing and recovering a fumble.
They said it, part I: "Our injury list, a roll of toilet paper wouldn't be enough. We've got guys that played today that could barely walk a week ago. It's the guttiest performance I've ever been associated with as a coach," -- Kansas coach Mark Mangino, who told reporters after the game how proud he was of his team's effort.
They said it, part II: "His play was phenomenal. I get this feeling when I watch him that you can almost see this competitive spirit radiate from him," Mangino on Reesing's performance.
The upshot: Despite the loss, Missouri advanced to the Big 12 championship game the following week in the same stadium. The Tigers dropped a 62-21 loss to Oklahoma, their second-straight Big 12 title game defeat to the Sooners.
Kansas advanced to the Insight Bowl, where Reesing, Dezmon Briscoe and Meier were at it again. The Jayhawks combined for an impressive 42-21 victory over Minnesota. The game marked the Jayhawks' first back-to-back bowl appearances in school history. After losing four of five games late in the season, Kansas finished 8-5.
Missouri concluded the season with an impressive bowl victory, punctuating Daniel's career with a 30-23 overtime victory over Northwestern in the Alamo Bowl. Missouri finished 10-4 with a No. 19 ranking in the final AP poll in 2008.
22. A Texas-sized comeback - Texas over Oklahoma State in 2004.
23. A Border War unlike any of the rest -- Missouri over Kansas in 2007.
24. Seneca Wallace's wild TD run vs. Texas Tech in 2001.
25. Baylor's "So Much for Taking a Knee."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
With only two teams still holding spring games, we're nearly down to the bitter end in terms of practices across the Big 12.
Colorado and Kansas State still have work to do. But there are other stories around the conference today that merit some consideration as well.
- Dave Matter of the Columbia Tribune writes an outstanding story that delves into the unconventional coaching background of new Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Yost.
- Former Nebraska All-American linebacker Trev Alberts has emerged as the leading candidate for the Nebraska-Omaha athletic director job, Rob White of the Omaha World-Herald reports. Alberts is set for two days of meetings with school officials and students in Omaha later this week.
- Dave Curtis of the Sporting News lists Kansas State running back Keithen Valentine and Nebraska wide receiver Curenski Gilleylen as prime examples of "Mr. April" from 2008.
- Former Texas A&M football coach Jackie Sherrill tells Victoria Advocate reporter Mike Forman why he remembers Texas fans chanting "Poor Aggies" only once during his coaching career.
- Robert Cessna of the Bryan Eagle proposes a way for Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne to make his budget by selling the roughly 200 empty seats in the press box for the Aggies' spring game.
- An argument with a former girlfriend lead to felony and misdemeanor drug charges for Oklahoma State wide receiver Bo Bowling, the Oklahoman's Scott Wright reports.
- Fast-rising former Oklahoma tackle Phil Loadholt could sneak his way into the first round of this weekend's NFL draft, according to the Oklahoman's Jake Trotter.
- David Youngblood of the Oklahoma State Daily O'Collegian writes about the Cowboys' defensive progress this spring.
- Bobby La Gesse reports for the Omaha World-Herald that new Iowa State defensive coordinator Wally Burnham has started his transformation of the Cyclones' defense, but still has much work to do.
- Record-breaking Missouri kicker Jeff Wolfert expects to be a free-agent selection in this weekend's draft, but told Randy Covitz of the Kansas City Star he remains confident he can play in the NFL.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The weekend is coming. If you can't wait for the spring games, here are a few links to get you ready.
- Don't look for much of a statement from Texas A&M's running game at Saturday's spring game. The Aggies will have only seven scholarship offensive linemen and two running backs healthy for the workout, Robert Cessna of the Bryan Eagle reports.
- Texas Tech defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill worked with a retooled defensive front to accommodate the loss of McKinner Dixon, Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reports.
- Quarterback Zac Robinson's playing time will be limited at Saturday's Orange-White game, but most other starters will play in the game, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy told the Oklahoman's Scott Wright.
- Missouri kicking coach Dave Yost expects a stiff three-way battle to replace Jeff Wolfert to play out throughout the summer, Matt Schiffman of the Columbia Missourian reports.
- Hey, blame them and not me. Sporting News college football writers Matt Hayes and David Curtis will make a lot of Big 12 fans angry after both picked Tim Tebow over either Sam Bradford or Colt McCoy as the best quarterback in college football.
- Multi-faceted Colorado standout Josh Smith had to overcome an initial fear of returning kicks, Kyle Ringo of the Boulder Daily Camera reports.
- Tulsa World columnist Dave Sittler opines on the rock-solid Oklahoma defense.
- Former Oklahoma State defensive back Eric Roark was among the first assistant coaches named Wednesday to Larry Coker's inaugural coaching staff at Texas-San Antonio.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim GriffinHere are some of Friday's more notable stories from across the conference. Enjoy them.
- Tulsa World columnist Dave Sittler provides the scoop on why Oklahoma might not necessarily be interested in re-entering the Bryce Brown Sweepstakes.
- Jimmy Burch of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram consults with Dr. Makum Playbetter for information about Texas as the Longhorns prepare for Friday, the first day of spring practice.
- Texas fans planning to attend the Longhorns' Sept. 12 game at Wyoming who don't already have tickets better prepare to dig deeply in their pockets to pay. Austin Ward of the Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune reports that some online ticket brokers are already commanding nearly $350 per ticket for the game.
- Nebraska defensive backs John Levorson and Justin Rogers are not a part of the Cornhuskers' roster as the team prepares for the start of spring practice, Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal Star reports. But defensive end Barry Turner, who sustained a broken leg early in the second game last season against San Jose State, will be back.
- Record-breaking Missouri kicker Jeff Wolfert tells Elisabeth Rentschler of the Columbia Missourian that his return to the pool at this week's Big 12 diving meet is coming with some inherent challenges.
- More respondents to a Manhattan Mercury poll view outgoing athletic director Bob Krause as a fall guy rather than a villain.
- Kansas is hoping to start a "Gridiron Club" offering premium seating among other perks to capitalize on the Jayhawks' recent run of success, the Lawrence World-Journal's Dugan Arnett reports.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
While watching the recruiting lists that will be released by Big 12 schools tomorrow, it might be wise to remember some of the players who have thrived without much early recruiting hype. It's also interesting to remember some of the highly touted recruits who struggled once they arrived at college.
Here's a look at some of the more notable hits and misses in the Big 12 the past few seasons which should explain why some of the recruiting hoopla should be taken with a grain of salt.
Hits: The Big 12's two Heisman Trophy finalists in 2008, Sam Bradford of Oklahoma and Texas' Colt McCoy, both were projected as middle-of-the-pack recruits. Oklahoma State's Zac Robinson was presumed to be a step behind them. All three have developed into players who could end up being among the finest quarterbacks in their respective schools' histories.
Misses: Oklahoma's Tommy Grady never materialized as a prospect from the Class of 2003 and ended up transferring to Utah. And Harrison Beck was a highly anticipated prospect at Nebraska before washing out and ending up at North Carolina State.
Hits: Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter was a midrange recruit before blossoming to lead the Big 12 in rushing in 2008. And Shannon Woods was even more lightly regarded before excelling as a multifaceted back in Texas Tech's offense.
Misses: Daniel Davis was a highly ranked junior-college prospect who was expected to blossom once he arrived from at Kansas State. He never fulfilled that promise after several legal run-ins. Webster Patrick was a tough running back who was compared favorably to the Davis brothers who had thrived in Dan McCarney's offense at Iowa State. But Patrick failed to qualify academically for the Cyclones and ended up at Butte College.
Hits: Juaquin Iglesias was barely recruited coming out of Killeen (Texas) High School, where his track exploits were more widely regarded. He accepted a scholarship offer from Oklahoma and blossomed into the second-leading receiver in school history. Dezmon Briscoe had one catch as a junior at Cedar Hill High School in Dallas, but caught the attention of then-Kansas assistant coach Tim Beck. He produced 92 catches for school-record totals of 1,407 yards and 15 touchdowns last season for the Jayhawks.
Misses: Colorado's Tyler Littlehales was a huge recruit for Gary Barnett in the Class of 2002 after playing at the Army All-American Bowl, but never could crack the starting lineup for the Buffaloes. Marquis Johnson was a top national recruit who was counted as a top recruit when he came to Texas from Champaign, Ill., as an All-American high school receiver. He failed to keep his grades up and ended up at Hutchinson Community College, eventually resurfacing at Texas Tech where he caught 21 passes in a two-season career.
Hits: Jermaine Gresham wasn't a top prospect after a knee injury in his junior season of high school stifled recruiting interest. He blossomed in college and is expected to be a first-round pick in the NFL draft this April. Chase Coffman was thought to be a good but not great prospect while playing at Raymore-Peculiar High School in Raymore, Mo. Coffman beefed up from his high school playing weight of 210 pounds and developed into a sure-handed receiver who won the Mackey Award in 2008.
Misses: Josh Barbo appeared to be a prototypical tight end and had the recruiting clippings to match when he arrived at Missouri in the 2003 recruiting class. But Chase Coffman and Martin Rucker took over the position as Barbo moved to defensive line and never got higher than third string on the depth chart before leaving school after the 2006 season. Walter Nickel was presumed to be a key player at Iowa State after arriving from Dixie State Community College, but he struggled with injuries and produced 35 catches in his two seasons with the Cyclones.
Hits: Few could have imagined that Jason Smith would be a key producer when he arrived at Baylor as a 220-pound tackle. But after gaining 85 pounds, he likely will go among the first 10 picks in the upcoming NFL draft. Center Daniel Sanders wasn't offered a scholarship by Colorado until the week before signing day after originally committing to Northern Arizona. He developed into a four-year starter for the Buffaloes.
Misses: Jorrie Adams was touted as the nation's best offensive line prospect when he arrived at Texas A&M in the class of 2003 from Jasper, Texas. But Adams struggled and switched to defense before he was kicked out of school after a drug-related arrest. Kyle Riggs was one of the nation's top line prospects when he arrived at Missouri in 2003, but never developed after suffering from an undetermined stomach condition. He eventually became a student assistant coach.
Hits: Texas Tech coaches discovered Brandon Williams playing in a high school basketball game at South Hills High School at Fort Worth. He eventually developed into the Big 12's leading sacker last season. Stryker Sulak's recruiting was almost as surprising. Sulak was set to attend Houston before Missouri coaches saw him in a recruiting film. He eventually bulked up and became a three-season starter for Missouri and an All-Big 12 selection last season.
Misses: Texas A&M defensive end Chris Smith was one of the nation's top prospects who committed to Aggies before his senior season in high school in 2004. He hurt his knee during his senior season and struggled thereafter, posting 12 tackles and not playing in the 2008 season. Xavier Lawson-Kennedy was one of the most heralded players to arrive at Oklahoma State, announcing his decision on regional television as a key member of the 2003 class. Struggles with injuries and his weight kept him from developing into a starter in his college career.
Hits: Sean Weatherspoon weighed 195 pounds when he left Jasper, Texas, as a marginal recruit who picked Missouri over Houston, Iowa State and TCU. He has developed into the Tigers' key defensive player on back-to-back North Division championship teams. Joe Pawelek also received little interest from FBS football schools, but immediately claimed a starting job as a freshman with Baylor. He was a freshman All-American and an All-Big 12 selection by his junior season when he led the conference in tackles.
Misses: Kelvin Flood was one of the top linebacker prospects of the 2002 class. But after the Dallas Kimball player selected Texas A&M, he never cracked the Aggies' lineup and left sch
ool after two seasons. Mike Reed was a prototypical middle linebacker who was one of the nation's top recruits when he arrived at Oklahoma from California's Yuba College in 2007. But Reed had difficulty juggling college with the finances of raising three young children and eventually left school. Reed resurfaced last season at the University of Central Oklahoma.
Hits: William Moore was a midrange recruit who was thought to be more of a wide receiver than a defensive player. But he's blossomed into a standout at safety and a likely first-round draft pick in April. Jordan Lake was a hard-hitting safety at Houston McAllen Memorial who received scant recruiting notice. Lake picked Baylor over Northwestern, Rice and Houston and has developed into an All-Big 12 player with one more season remaining.
Misses: Edorian McCullough was one of the highest-ranked defensive back prospects in recent Big 12 history. But his career stalled at Texas before transferring to City College of San Francisco and ending up at Oregon State. Jason Frederick was one of the top recruits at Texas A&M in the class of 1999, but transferred out of school after only one season. He struggled to earn playing time after transferring to Sam Houston State.
Hits: Jeff Wolfert arrived at Missouri on a partial diving scholarship and tried out for the football team on a lark. He left school as the most accurate kicker in college football history in combined percentage for field goals and extra points. Matt Williams arrived on Texas Tech's doorstep last season after capturing the attention of coaches while converting a field goal during an in-game promotion. Williams converted all of his 33 extra points after claiming the job midway through last season.
Misses: Williams got his chance only because of the struggles of Donnie Carona, who arrived as the first scholarship kicking recruit at Texas Tech in Mike Leach's tenure. Carona lost his chance to kick after missing four extra points and five of his nine field goal attempts last season. Iowa State kicker Josh Griebahn was the highest-rated kicking recruit ever attracted to Iowa State by McCarney. But Griebahn redshirted as a freshman and had ankle surgery the following season. He never won the Cyclones' kicking job.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Jeff Wolfert found unexpected fame as a record-breaking kicker for Missouri, thriving in a walk-on role to become the most consistent performer at his position in Big 12 history.
But Wolfert still couldn't forget about the college sports that brought him into college athletics in the first place.
Wolfert told the Columbia Missourian he will be rejoining the Missouri swimming and diving team as they battle with Texas A&M for the conference lead.
"I didn't think anything about it until (Missouri diving) Coach (James) Sweeney approached me with the idea," Wolfert told the Missourian. "He said we are neck and neck with Texas A&M for the Big 12 Conference meet, and with your help we might be able to beat them."
Wolfert came to Missouri to participate on the diving team and joined the Tigers' football squad in 2006 as a walk-on. He completed his senior season after leading the team with 133 points, converting 20 of 27 field goals and all 73 extra points.
He finished his career connecting on 244 of 257 kicks (field goals and extra points) for a career kicking percentage of 94.9 percent, breaking the previous record of 93.3 percent set by John Lee of UCLA from 1982-85.
That showing should catch the attention of some NFL scouts. But Wolfert is willing to put those hopes aside for a few weeks as his diving could help the Tigers, too.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Missouri's recruiting efforts have been as solid as any in the North Division over the last several seasons, largely because Gary Pinkel's staff had been untouched for the first eight years of his coaching tenure.
That familiarity helped his staff build relationships that enabled them to attract several unheralded recruits who blossomed as the Tigers claimed back-to-back North championships.
But the departure of offensive coordinator Dave Christensen for the Wyoming head coaching job will provide the first break in Pinkel's staff since he arrived in Columbia in 2001.
Christensen's old unit is also undergoing a major breakup as well. The Tigers will be missing the most heralded pass-and-catch trio in school history with the loss of quarterback Chase Daniel, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and record-setting tight end Chase Coffman.
Untested sophomore Blaine Gabbert will likely take over the starting quarterback position. Returning receivers will feature a cast including Danario Alexander, Jared Perry, Jerrell Jackson and tight end Andrew Jones. But other players are needed to add depth at the positions, particularly at flanker where seniors Tommy Saunders and Earl Goldsmith both completed their eligibility this past season.
The offensive line loses starters Ryan Madison and tackle Colin Brown, but should be in good shape for the future with six freshmen or sophomores in the final two-deep roster. Rebuilding the defensive line is a concern after starting ends Tommy Chavis and Stryker Sulak and defensive tackle Ziggy Hood all finished their college careers.
But depth is present after freshman defensive end Jacquies Smith and redshirt freshmen defensive tackles Terrell Resonno and Dominique Hamilton and redshirt freshman Chris Earnhardt all received work last season.
An infusion of new talent also is needed at safety, where starters Justin Garrett and William Moore both were seniors last season and top backup, Hardy Ricks, will be a senior in 2009.
The Tigers could also need some help at kicker where Jeff Wolfert finished his record-breaking career as a senior last season and Tanner Mills is in place to be his replacement.
It will prove a challenge for the Tigers to continue their mastery of the North. But if Pinkel can find some replacements for his departing stars, Missouri could be a factor in what should be a balanced North Division.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
So much for Chase Daniel's Alamodome curse.
Daniel overcame a struggling three-interception performance to orchestrate a dramatic comeback as Missouri claimed a 30-23 overtime victory over Northwestern in the Valero Alamo Bowl.
Earlier in his career, Daniel lost a high school state championship game and struggled through a blowout victory in the 2007 Big 12 championship game to Oklahoma at the San Antonio domed facility.
|Margaret Bowles/US Presswire|
|Jeremy Maclin won the Most Valuable Player trophy.|
It looked like more of the same after his early struggles Monday night. After being booed by Missouri fans earlier in the fourth quarter, Daniel hooked up with Jeremy Maclin for a game-winning 7-yard pass to cap the first possession of overtime. Daniel bobbled the snap, but still got the ball away for the score to finish his record-breaking career for the Tigers.
Missouri's maligned pass defense did the rest. A couple of key blitzes helped secure the victory, which was settled by a game-sealing interception in the end zone by William Moore.
Maclin was the best player on the field Monday night. His 75-yard punt return for a touchdown late in the first half pumped life in the moribund Missouri offense that sleepwalked through most of the first half.
As Daniel struggled with any kind of vertical passing game, Maclin became more involved in the offense as he finished by accounting for 187 all-purpose yards.
And Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon was dominant as the Tigers finally clamped on Northwestern's pesky spread offense by holding it scoreless on its final four possessions. Weatherspoon ended up with 13 tackles, including three for losses. He also contributed a sack, forced a fumble and also notched two quarterback hurries.
But as Daniel and the Tigers' ballyhooed offense sputtered, the game turned into exactly the kind of contest that Missouri coach Gary Pinkel feared. The underdog Wildcats jumped to an early lead and seemed to be emboldened as they seemingly played with house money for much of the game as they converted eight of their first 11 third downs.
Their luck appeared to have held at the end of regulation, when Jeff Wolfert misfired on a 44-yard field goal at the final buzzer that would have won the game. Wolfert was the most successful kicker in NCAA history before his late miss, converting 95.5 percent of his field goals and point after touchdowns in his career.
But Daniel shrugged off his early struggles to lead the Tigers to the comeback, capping off a 10-4 season that marked the the first time in school history that Missouri has won 10 games in consecutive seasons.
The loss continued Northwestern's bowl game struggles. The Wildcats have not won a bowl game since Jan. 1, 1949 -- a stretch of 21,912 days.
But they certainly made the Tigers sweat to extend the streak Monday night.