Big 12: Jimmy Costello

Six from Big 12 earn top academic honor

March, 7, 2012
Sixty athletes from the Big 12 were awarded the Dr. Gerald Lage Award, the highest honor for academics in the Big 12.

Of those, six were football players.

From the Big 12:
In order to be eligible for the accolade, student-athletes must have lettered at least once in their career while maintaining residence at their institution for at least one academic year. The honoree, which can only be recognized once, should have 100 hours of earned credit with a cumulative grade-point average of 3.80 at the time of the nomination.

Here's who was awarded the honor:
Well done, guys. Here's the full list of athletes.

Notes/thoughts from the Big 12 two-deeps

August, 29, 2011
A few teams across the Big 12 updated their depth charts in preparation for the season. Here's what you ought to know.

  • Bill Snyder's depth chart for the team's game notes heading into next week's game against Eastern Kentucky? A work of art.
  • Snyder said he'll be releasing the depth chart tomorrow. More later on the Wildcats.
  • Oklahoma didn't have any huge surprises, but the biggest news: Jamell Fleming has officially reclaimed his spot above Gabe Lynn at the boundary corner spot, despite missing all of spring practice after leaving the university.
  • Three true freshmen also broke the lineup. Kameel Jackson will back up Trey Franks at receiver, and recently added linebacker Kellen Jones is a co-backup with Jaydan Bird behind Tom Wort at middle linebacker. Nila Kasitati is a co-backup behind Tyler Evans at right guard.
  • Doubt the committee approach at running back? Brennan Clay, Dominique Whaley and Roy Finch are all co-starters at the position. Finch is listed last on that group, but we'll see how carries are distributed in Week 1 vs. Tulsa. Whaley is a walk-on who has had big days in the spring game the past two seasons.
  • Ronnell Lewis is listed as the starter at defensive end, but the university has yet to officially clarify his eligibility status. Kenny Stills is likely suspended for Saturday's game after an offseason arrest, but he's listed as the starter at receiver.
  • Texas Tech has pair of hyped defensive linemen, and both cracked the two-deep. Leon Mackey, a juco transfer, will start at defensive end in Week 1 for the Red Raiders against Texas State. Meanwhile, former UNC signee and recently cleared true freshman Delvon Simmons will back up Kerry Hyder at defensive tackle in Chad Glasgow's 4-2-5 scheme, fresh from TCU.
  • Glasgow will lean on a true freshman for one of his two linebacker spots. Blake Dees had a huge impact in the spring and solidified his starting spot during fall camp.
  • Receiver Marcus Kennard, a juco transfer, looks like he'll redshirt after not showing up on the two-deep, but Darrin Moore will grab the Z receiver spot for the Red Raiders.
  • The rumors have been officially proven correct at Oklahoma State: The Cowboys return all five starters on the offensive line, but juco transfer Michael Bowie has crashed the starting lineup at left tackle. He'll replace Nick Martinez, who'll back up Lane Taylor at right guard now. The Cowboys offensive line is the league's best, and clearly, Bowie's hyped arrival gives it a whole lot more than depth.
  • Justin Gilbert has officially usurped Devin Hedgepeth as the corner opposite Brodrick Brown. No surprise there. Gilbert's ceiling is sky high.
  • Caleb Lavey was the likely starter at the spot, but he'll officially start the year as Orie Lemon's replacement at middle linebacker, where he began spring camp.
  • Justin Britt replaces Elvis Fisher at left tackle. The sophomore had been inside, but the team saw him moving outside eventually. He'll take that spot now with Fisher out for the season with a torn patellar tendon.
  • Hyped juco transfer Sheldon Richardson? Fifth on the depth chart no more. The recently cleared big man moved to No. 2 at defensive tackle behind Terrell Resonno.
  • Center Travis Ruth is out for the opener against Miami (OH). Jayson Palmgren fills his void.
  • Starting corner Kip Edwards is doubtful. Trey Hobson is listed as the starter.
  • Receiver Jerrell Jackson is also doubtful. Marcus Lucas will get the nod if Jackson can't go.
  • True freshman Corbin Berkstresser grabbed the No. 3 quarterback spot behind James Franklin and returning backup Jimmy Costello, who left the team and planned to join the Army, but re-joined after Tyler Gabbert's transfer.
  • Iowa State made it official on paper: Steele Jantz is the starting quarterback. His backfield? Crowded, but led by Shontrelle Johnson, as expected.
  • I'm not sure if it means he's playing for sure just yet, but Darius Reynolds is listed as the starter at one of the three receiver spots, despite suffering a broken toe earlier in fall camp.
  • A.J. Klein, meanwhile, has moved to middle linebacker next to weak side linebacker Jake Knott. Matt Tau'fo'ou started at middle linebacker spot last year, but after suffering a broken leg, he's backing up Klein in the middle. C.J. Morgan, a freshman, takes over at strong side. I haven't seen Morgan play, but at 207 pounds vs. Klein's 243, he'd presumably offer some more, much-needed speed at the position. Jacob Lattimer? Starting at defensive end, despite a March arrest and suspension.

Mailbag: Beebe's dozen, future scandal

July, 15, 2011
Thanks for the emails, which kept flowing in even while I was away. Glad you missed me, I suppose. Switching it up Friday with a morning mailbag.

James in Atlanta, Ga., asked: Here's an interesting water-cooler-conversation I came across - if Nebraska (or in a long shot, Colorado) do REALLY well in their new conferences... will that still reflect back on the strength of the Big XII? I think the media won't spin it that way because the head-to-head games are a more direct comparison, but I don't think its that far out of the question for people to re-evaluate the day in and day out toughness the Big XII demands compared to the Big 10 and Pac 12. What do you think?

David Ubben: True or not, it's absolutely going to happen. Nebraska proved the last couple years it had emerged to be a very good team in the Big 12. But it was not a great team, and not a team that could win the Big 12, all possibilities aside.

If they walk into the Big Ten, which is wiiiiiide open this fall, and win it, how does that not reflect on the Big 12? The same is true if they walk in and win 6-7 games. Nebraska will be good, but I highly doubt it's significantly better or worse than it was last season. Top 15, etc.

So, in that sense, you're definitely right. Nebraska will be fun to watch, but make no mistake: both conferences' reputations are at stake if Nebraska strays very far from what's expected.

For Colorado, the same is true. I'd expect the Buffs to be a little bit better than last season's team, but if it scraps and wins eight games in a somewhat top-heavy Pac-12, that says a whole lot about the Pac-12's depth.

The same is true of Colorado wins a game in conference and gets embarrassed by any teams other than Stanford and Oregon.

For Big 12 fans, it should be fun to watch, even if they're doing it from afar. I know I'll be watching.

GTCat in Tonganoxie, Kan., asked: I know we're done with this whole trying to rename the conference thing, but can we at least coin a new nickname? If a Baker's Dozen is 13, can the Big 12 become a Beebe's Dozen? Man I want some doughnuts now, chocolate with chocolate frosting and powercat sprinkles please.

DU: It's official: We have found my favorite moniker for the new Big 12. Prepare for plenty of Beebe's Dozen references on the blog from here on out.

Collin in Irvine, Calif., asked: David, I just finished the second season of Friday Night Lights yesterday. Tell me it gets better... Please....

DU: Oh, it does. Season Two? Well, it's not very good. The makers of the show readily admit this (spoiler alert), and it's a product of pressure from the TV studios.

But no worries. It gets much better. Seasons 1, 3, and 5 are the best, and Season 4 breathes a fantastic new life into the show that was very, very risky on the part of the writers. Plus, the series finale is one of the best ever. Have no fear, Collin. You won't be disappointed by the next three seasons.

Chef in Austin, Texas, asked: I've noticed that the big 12 seems to be the only big 6 conference without an institution under NCAA scrutiny this offseason. If the big 12 stays clean, what implications do you think that will have on the overall perception and quality of the schools?

DU: This hasn't been lost on me, but I wouldn't keep saying that out loud too often. You never quite know when something will leak. There's no one under serious investigation currently (despite A&M fans' best efforts re: Rachel McCoy/Longhorn Network) for now.

If this continues for, oh, a decade or so, then you'll definitely see the Big 12 cement a reputation as college football's cleanest league, especially one that produces success. I wouldn't be surprised to see it written about if it continues for another couple years and more scandals like the one at Georgia Tech continue, but don't look for the Big 12 to advertise it much. If that status changes, things like that look pretty embarrassing in retrospect. Regardless of when you get caught, if things are going on behind closed doors and you say one thing, and it's clearly not the case, you look very, very out of touch.

Sarah Smith in Austin, Texas, asked: In regards to whether or not Marquis will get scholarship or not, at least for this year while he is redshirting they are honoring his scholarship. Texas does not in general revoke scholarships. The general consensus around here is that we wish him the very best and hopes that he can represent us and the US in the olympics. If he were to gain success and go to the olympics, I doubt that he would return here.Just thought you would like to know! Oh, and thank you for not bashing Garrett. He is good friend of mine and it urks me beyond no belief when people want to put all of the blame of last season on his shoulders. I think fans and analysts will be surprised at what our team brings to the table this year. No one is expecting much, and we will use that to our advantage.I enjoy your blog very much! Hook 'Em!

DU: Interesting info. Thanks for the heads up. Take note, UT fans.

As for Gilbert, I'd agree completely. Obviously, he wasn't anything close to what people thought he'd be last year, and he deserves a good portion of the blame for that, but he got no help at all. Just go look at where Texas ranked at the skill position rankings. Spoiler alert for the offensive line rankings on the way: Texas will not be high.

Dave in Temple, Texas, asked: How can you keep abandoning us in the middle of the most critical time in the year??? Your blog is what keeps us football fans sane in July. What are we going to do - watch baseball???

DU: My bad. I'll take that into consideration. My next vacation time is scheduled for the first week of September, the first week of December, and the first two weeks of January.

Mr. Oblivious in Hollywood, Calif., asked: Mr. Ubben: Do you think that with the pressure of quarterbacking the Mizzou Tigers, AND simultaneously coaching a young Vanderbilt team, James Franklin can hold onto his starting position this fall? Or will the stress be too much and allow Costello, Glaser, or even Berkstresser to challenge him in August? (There's no way T.Gabbert is returning, right? right?!) thank you,Mr.O

DU: It'll be tough, no doubt. Especially the travel. But I think he can manage. As for Gabbert, no. I've heard the rumors he asked to return after leaving Louisville suddenly, but every indication I've heard is that the door closed behind him at Missouri. He'll find a good fit somewhere else, I'm sure.

(Email of the week there.)

Nuria in Tulsa, Okla., asked: Dear Dave, I know you've compared and contrasted Brandon Weeden and Landry Jones enough times to give you a headache, but each time you do so it seems that you draw a different conclusion. First you rate Weeden as the better Big 12 player, but Jones as the better quarterback. I know that Weeden works well in a group that clicks, and Jones is a great athlete on a dominant team. If you could clear the fog as to who you think is better, it would be much appreciated.

DU: Yeah, I've talked about this at length several times, but let me be clear about this: I think Jones has more upside, and it sounds like he's really taking control of this team. That'll be good for him. His head was kind of spinning in 2009. Last season was kind of the process of him taking control of the team, and now, he has it. I really think that confidence will pay off for him.

Their numbers were very, very close last season, especially when you look at the short passing numbers Jones put up.

Last season, I thought Weeden was ever so slightly better because when he made mistakes, they were much less costly, and he played well in both of OSU's losses. The Cowboys scored 41 points in both of their losses, versus Jones, who really struggled early against Texas A&M and late against Missouri and really hurt his team.

I think Jones will be the better quarterback and put up better numbers in 2011, but heading into the season, I give Weeden a very, very slight edge in a race that's unbelievably close.

PB in Houston asked: rapid fire minute for ubben; go! 1) best game of the first weekend? 2) what fall camp are you most excited to go to before the season starts? 3) of other CFB pundits, who's stock do you put most in of someone else's opinion? 4) will the willie lyles story have a big effect on any of the conference members? 5) nachos or waffles? thanks and gig 'em!

DU: Ha, alright, let's close this in style.

1) Baylor versus TCU, closely followed by Texas A&M versus SMU.

2) Texas

3) I always love reading Pat Forde's stuff. The Forde-Yard Dash is a weekly must-read during the season.

4) My guess is no, barring new information. As for what we don't know, I'm not betting one way or the other.

5) I'm a breakfast man. Waffles, clearly. Which reminds me of an age-old debate we had during high school. It was always 50/50. Which do you prefer: jalapeņos or gravy?
We'll kick off our look today at the position rankings for each team in the Big 12 before looping back around to rank the top 10 at every position in the Big 12.

We'll start at the most obvious position: Quarterback, a position that I'd argue is more important in the Big 12 than in any other conference.

Depth will be a huge factor in these rankings, though at quarterback, it's the toughest to gauge, considering how little we see of backup quarterbacks.

Here's how each Big 12 team ranks at the quarterback position:

[+] EnlargeLandry Jones
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireLandry Jones leads the Big 12's deepest and best group of quarterbacks.
1. Oklahoma

Oklahoma learned the hard way in 2009 about the importance of the backup quarterback, but even in his limited experience, Drew Allen has impressed Bob Stoops after narrowly losing out on the backup job behind Sam Bradford in 2009. Landry Jones is a great one, and with his opportunities, has become a Heisman Trophy favorite. Could Allen have done the same if he had beaten out Jones in 2009? Blake Bell, the nation's No. 3 quarterback in the 2010 class, will likely be Oklahoma's No. 3 in 2011.

2. Oklahoma State

Brandon Weeden's profile spiked when he led the Cowboys to a comeback win over Colorado on a Thursday night game in 2009. He took over as the starter shortly after, but going into that game Weeden was a third-stringer. Alex Cate transferred after it became evident that Weeden would be the starter in 2010, and behind Weeden is Clint Chelf and two solid recruits: Johnny Deaton and J.W. Walsh, who was the nation's No. 10 QB (just outside the ESPNU 150) in 2011 and enrolled early.

3. Texas A&M

Ryan Tannehill is entrenched at the starting spot, with a lot of youth behind him. Matt Joeckel and Jameill Showers will try to hold off incoming freshman Johnny Manziel for the No. 2 spot this fall. Manziel was impressive during the spring, and will contend for the starting job in 2012, but he'll likely redshirt unless he wins the backup job.

4. Texas Tech

Seth Doege looks ready to grab the reins for two seasons, barring injury. Jacob Karam is probably ready to start in the Big 12 right now, he's just not as good as Doege. Behind them are two promising prospects with upside and development to do: Scotty Young and Michael Brewer. The Red Raiders are the last of the Big 12 teams who have truly solid depth at quarterback.

5. Baylor

Robert Griffin III will probably hold every school record for quarterbacks by the time he leaves Waco, but the Bears need to find a true replacement behind him. Nick Florence filled in well in 2009 when Griffin missed the final nine games with a knee injury, but he's a junior like Griffin and their eligibility will expire simultaneously. Redshirt freshman Bryce Petty and 2012 commit Jared Johnson could battle for the spot in 2013.

6. Missouri

The Tigers depth took a hit after Tyler Gabbert's transfer following spring practice, but expectations are high for sophomore James Franklin, who got a bit of experience in 2010 behind Blaine Gabbert. Senior Jimmy Costello quit the team after last season to focus on an impending fall enlistment in the Army, but rejoined after the Gabbert brothers' departures from Columbia. He's likely to be the backup, with Ashton Glaser and walk-on Ryan Howerton filling out the rest of the quarterback spots. Corbin Berkstresser, a 6-foot-3, 218-pound quarterback from Kansas City that ESPN ranked No. 43 at his position, will arrive in the fall, too.

7. Texas

How long until we see a quarterback make the kind of plays Garrett Gilbert made against Alabama in the national championship? Those kinds of long scores were rare last year, but the Longhorns will have a competition this fall that sounds like it's pretty open heading into camp. If Gilbert wins, he'll likely have a much shorter leash in 2011 than he did in 2010, before Case McCoy or Connor Wood gets a crack, and dark horse true freshman David Ash could make things interesting, too.

8. Kansas State

Collin Klein made a nice move toward winning the job with a strong spring game performance. But coach Bill Snyder says he still didn't see a ton of separation between Klein and his backups, Sammuel Lamur and Boston College transfer Justin Tuggle, who spent last year replacing Cam Newton at Blinn College in Texas.

9. Iowa State

James Capello transferred after the spring, but Iowa State's race has likely boiled down to two men: Jerome Tiller and Steele Jantz. Jantz, a juco transfer, is the wild card and Tiller will need to show that his struggles in spot duty last season were temporary. He didn't show the progress you'd expect from a maturing player when he played for an injured Austen Arnaud in a few games early and late in 2010. Jared Barnett is still battling in Ames, but him winning the job would be a huge upset.

10. Kansas

The Jayhawks could use a couple more years of Todd Reesing. The Jayhawks saw a huge drop off at the quarterback position in 2010, as Jordan Webb, Quinn Mecham and Kale Pick all got time under center. Kansas will likely run its offense through a strong group of running backs, but unless newcomer Brock Berglund shows potential and proves he's the best of the group, expect Kansas to remain near the bottom of the Big 12 by the end of 2011.

Lunch links: Paul Rhoads to the Buckeyes?

June, 1, 2011
Dirk is about to have the most talked-about finger in Texas history.

If you haven't noticed just yet, Friday's college football content at is all about the quarterbacks. We've ranked the conference's top 5 individual quarterbacks, but now it's time to take a broader look at who's in good shape behind center and who's in trouble across the conference.

The discrepancy between the South's QBs and the North's is somewhat jarring, especially when you see it on paper (bandwidth?) like this. Only one North team made the top six, and the bottom five teams are all from the North.

Five schools (four in the North) still have their starters up in the air, and that makes this a little tricky, but here's how I'd rank them:

[+] EnlargeJerrod Johnson
Brett Davis/US PresswireJerrod Johnson is not only the best quarterback in the conference, he's also the best player.
1. Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M: The Aggies boast the preseason player of the year at quarterback and the man at the top of our Big 12 player list from earlier this summer. I also got a few e-mail requests from some Aggies fans to stress -- once again -- that it's juh-RAHD, not Jared from Subway. Word has apparently not reached every corner of Big 12 country just yet. It might if the Aggies can win more than six games like they did in 2009. But Johnson broke out in a big way last season, throwing for 3,579 yards, 30 touchdowns and just six interceptions while also running for 506 yards and eight touchdowns.

2. Robert Griffin, Baylor: Trust in Griffin's knee lands the Bears here, significantly higher than they're used to considering the strong quarterback tradition across the Big 12 for the past decade. But Griffin will still have to regain his status as the conference's most electrifying player on a reconstructed knee after missing the final nine games of the previous season with a torn ACL. Baylor also has a nice situation at backup quarterback because of the injury with sophomore Nick Florence, who threw for 427 yards in Baylor's lone conference win -- at Missouri -- last season.

3. Blaine Gabbert, Missouri: Gabbert has a claim as the conference's best quarterback, and he'll try to snatch it as a junior after playing much of his sophomore season with a bum ankle, courtesy of a soggy Ndamukong Suh sack. Despite being hobbled for most of conference play, he still racked up 3,593 passing yards and 24 touchdowns. If he stays healthy, he might get a chance to showcase his underrated wheels, too. Freshman James Franklin is impressing in camp and hanging on to his job as Gabbert's backup over Jimmy Costello, Ashton Glaser and little brother Tyler Gabbert.

4. Landry Jones, Oklahoma: Jones should benefit from his first full spring and preseason camp taking the first-team reps, but he'll need a second reliable target opposite Ryan Broyles to emerge if he wants to improve on his 26 touchdowns and 3,198 yards as a redshirt freshman. Jones also needs to limit his turnovers after throwing a league-high 14 interceptions in 2009, but it's worth noting that seven of those came away from Owen Field against top-tier defenses in Texas and Nebraska. He didn't play a good defense in Norman, but he threw 18 touchdowns to just four interceptions and helped the Sooners stretch their home streak to 30 games. Backup Drew Allen is untested and inexperienced, but has potential and wouldn't inspire panic if Jones finds injury in 2010.

5. Steven Sheffield/Taylor Potts, Texas Tech: No team has two quarterbacks with as much skill and experience as Texas Tech, but unlike receivers or running backs, the Red Raiders can't play both of them. Regardless of who wins the competition in Lubbock, Texas Tech will be in great shape with Potts or Sheffield. You heard a few hundred words on the details of this race earlier this morning.

6. Garrett Gilbert, Texas: This may look silly in November, but it's tough to put Gilbert on top of anyone else on this list who has already proven themselves. Clearly, the potential is there, and he's inspired a lot of confidence from his coach and team, but making good on that potential will mean finding a solid target to replace the only player he's ever thrown a real touchdown to: Jordan Shipley. If Gilbert goes down, Texas would have to rely on a pair of true freshmen: Connor Wood or Case McCoy, Colt's little brother.

7. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State: This won't be the last time you hear about the Cowboys 26-year-old former minor leaguer. Just make good decisions, make easy throws to open receivers who make plays with the ball and he should put up big numbers in new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen's version of the Air Raid. Oklahoma State got to see Houston's offense in person last season and wanted it for themselves. Now they've got the man who coordinated the best offense in college football a year ago and an unquestioned, mature starter to run it. If he's injured, the Cowboys would have to rely on one of two freshmen, Clint Chelf or most likely Johnny Deaton, to run the offense.

8. Austen Arnaud, Iowa State: Coach Paul Rhoads says no player on his team has improved from Year 1 to Year 2 more than Arnaud, but he'll need to prove it on the field to move up this list. He's probably likely to improve on his 2,015 yards passing to go with 15 touchdowns, but he's right behind Jones in the interception column, with 13. That number has to shrink for the Cyclones to get back to a bowl game. Talented sophomore Jerome "JT" Tiller led the Cyclones to their marquee win over Nebraska and should take the reins next year. The future looks bright in Ames.

9. Tyler Hansen, Colorado: Hansen not emerging from preseason camp as the starter would be shocking, and he'll get a lot more help this year with a beefed-up receiving corps that's among the conference's most underrated. Newcomers Paul Richardson, Travon Patterson and preseason Big 12 Newcomer of the Year Toney Clemons will join the reliable Scotty McKnight. If Hansen goes down, at least they'll have an experienced vet behind him in Cody Hawkins. Freshman Nick Hirschman looked good in the spring and provides some hope for the position in the future.

10. Zac Lee, Nebraska: A two-quarterback system is never ideal, but it might work for the Huskers. Lee is the best passer of the group competing for the starting job, but using the athletic Taylor Martinez or Cody Green in spot duty, similar to last year, could very well happen. But Bo Pelini would much prefer if one player -- most likely Lee, in my opinion -- would emerge and improve on his play from 2009, when he threw for 2,143 yards, 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

11. Kale Pick, Kansas: Pick is untested, and so are Jordan Webb and junior college transfer Quinn Mecham. Pick, however, seems like the favorite to win the job. The Jayhawks need a spark on offense, and Pick could provide it. He'll have some nice receivers to throw to in sophomore Bradley McDougald, senior Johnathan Wilson and tight end Tim Biere. Former cornerback Daymond Patterson looks ready for a good year in the slot.

12. Carson Coffman, Kansas State: Coffman needs to improve from his play last year that cost him his job early last season. Beating out Collin Klein and Sammuel Lamur won't be easy -- and the competition between the three is still pretty tight -- but Coffman's experience gives him a slight edge. Whoever wins the race will lean on the league's leading rusher, Daniel Thomas, and a revamped receiving corps with transfers Brodrick Smith from Minnesota and Chris Harper from Oregon. The Wildcats hope the duo will add the spark that was missing from the team's offense in 2009.

Big 12's most irreplaceable players and their backups

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suh comes up big early

October, 8, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Professional scouts tell me that Ndamukong Suh could be the best defensive player available in the 2010 NFL draft.

Suh showed that promise when he slung Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert down like a rag doll as he tried to scramble and forced a fumble that was recovered by Nebraska's Jared Crick.

Gabbert limped to the sidelines, but appears ready to return with his offensive unit. Just to make sure, Missouri backup quarterback Jimmy Costello was warming up on the sidelines.

This is one of those early momentum plays. And Suh has already showed his importance on that play.

He's going to be making a lot of money playing on Sundays pretty soon.

Few Big 12 backup QBs have much experience

October, 2, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Backup quarterbacks already played a big part in Big 12 play before October arrived.

Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford was idled with a sprained shoulder, paving the way for Landry Jones to take over for the Sooners for the last two games. And a season-ending knee injury for Baylor’s Robert Griffin last week has 2007 Baylor starter Blake Szymanski inserted back in the lineup – if he can overcome his own shoulder injury sustained in the same game in which Griffin went down.

Here’s a look at the backup quarterback situations around the Big 12 heading into this week’s games.

Ready to roll:

Kansas State: Behind starter Carson Coffman, the Wildcats have Grant Gregory, a fifth-year senior transfer from South Florida who has seen action in three games for KSU so far this season, rushing for 92 yards and passing for 21 yards. Gregory battled Matt Grothe for the starting job at South Florida and played in 21 games earlier in his career for the Bulls.

Has the hype:

Kansas: If Todd Reesing were sidelined, Kansas coach Mark Mangino finally feels comfortable enough to turn to redshirt freshman Kale Pick, who was Kansas’ offensive scout team player of the year last season. Pick is an adept runner who rushed for 47 yards against Northern Colorado, 87 yards against UTEP and an 18-yard scamper against Duke already this season. And Mangino could always turn to Kerry Meier, although he’s much more valuable now playing every down as a wide receiver.

Nebraska: Cody Green came into the Nebraska program with hype that he could see sizable playing time this season as a freshman. He graduated from high school early and arrived in the spring, but a hip injury set him back. But finally healthy, he’s shown flashes of brilliance early in his career. Green broke a 49-yard run on his first college carry and a 24-yard touchdown run last week against Louisiana-Lafayette. He’s also showing maturity as a passer after completing 12 of 17 passes in mop-up time in three games for the Cornhuskers.

Texas: Garrett Gilbert was the most heralded quarterback prospect in the nation after he was selected as the Gatorade and Parade national player of the year last season in high school. Mack Brown has wasted little time getting him game action as Gilbert has completed 11 of 14 passes for 110 yards in three games this season. And his confidence in the offense has grown in each game he’s played.

Texas A&M: Ryan Tannehill is listed as Jerrod Johnson’s backup and would likely be installed if Johnson was sidelined for a long period of time. But Tannehill’s first focus in the Aggies’ offense now is as a wide receiver where he’s produced 11 catches for a team-leading 201 receiving yards. But Tannehill aspires to play quarterback and got the first snaps at the position in the blowout victory over UAB last week when Johnson left the game. He waged a closer battle than expected this spring before Johnson claimed the starting job.

Who knows?

Baylor: With Griffin’s injury, Szymanski takes over. He’s more tested than most backups, considering he threw for a school-record 2,844 passing yards during his season as a starter in 2007 and accounted for 27 career touchdown passes in 22 college games. But behind him is freshman Nick Florence, whose experience consists of one college game -- last week against Northwestern State. If Szymanski isn’t ready to go Saturday night against Kent State, Florence would be entrusted with the starting job.

Colorado: Behind starter Cody Hawkins, the Buffaloes currently have rangy freshman Seth Lobato listed as his backup. They might be in better shape if Tyler Hansen chose to be available. But Hansen, who orchestrated a victory over Kansas State last season as a freshman, has stated he wants to redshirt this season unless there’s a season-ending injury for Hawkins.

Iowa State: Austen Arnaud is one of the most durable starters in the league. But behind him, Paul Rhoads has gotten freshman backup Jerome Tiller playing time in the first three 2009 games. Tiller showed flashes in spring practice, but still would be an inexperienced alternative.

Missouri: Blaine Gabbert is entrenched as the starter. Jimmy Costello has assumed the backup position and has played in two games this season with scant action in garbage time. Coaches like his live arm and feel for the Missouri offense, despite his lack of game experience.

Oklahoma: After Bradford’s injury, Jones was immediately thrust into the lineup and he’s played well, including a school-record six touchdown passes against Tulsa. Freshman Drew Allen is the backup behind him, but coach Bob Stoops has avoided playing him yet with hopes of preserving a redshirt season if Bradford can return to the starting lineup quickly.

Oklahoma State: Alex Cate and Brandon Weeden staged a tight battle to back up Zac Robinson throughout preseason practice. Cate, a redshirt junior, won the No. 2 job but struggled in brief early playing time this season. He was outplayed last week by Weeden, a 26-year-old former minor-league baseball pitcher who rifled a pair of garbage-time touchdown passes against Grambling last week. But neither has much actual game experience with Cate playing in six career games and Weeden in two games.

Texas Tech: Behind Taylor Potts, the Red Raiders have junior Steven Sheffield, who passed for 52 yards and threw a touchdown pass against Rice in the only live action for a Tech backup quarterback this season. Sheffield would be an inexperienced alternative if Potts can’t play.

Pinkel: 'We should be further ahead'

August, 21, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Missouri's second scrimmage didn't provide much encouragement for Coach Gary Pinkel as the Tigers continue preseason practice.

In fact, the Tigers might have taken a big step backwards as the Tigers prepare for their Sept. 5 opener in St. Louis against Illinois.

"I thought it was kind of sloppy," Pinkel told reporters after Thursday's practice. "The (first-string) one offense was lethargic out there, made a lot of mistakes. And when you have penalties, you have sacks.

"It just dissolves execution. I'm disappointed in that."

Pinkel was also angry that his defense was singed for three touchdowns in two-minute and short-field situations.

"The one defense played pretty good," Pinkel said, "but certainly giving up a couple of big plays at the end is certainly not what you want to be about."

The Tigers line struggled without starting tackle Dan Hoch. His replacement, All-Big 12 guard Kurtis Gregory, was beaten several times at his new position by backup defensive end Brad Madison.  

The defense won the scrimmage, 34-20, as points were given for three-and-outs, sacks, turnovers and other big plays.

Projected QB starter Blaine Gabbert was 14-of-21 for 121 yards and a 11-yard touchdown to Danario Alexander. Jimmy Costello was 18-of-25 for 137 yards with an interception and a 29-yard TD strike to Rolandis Woodland. Blaine Dalton was 12-of-22 for 72 yards and a 3-yard TD pass to Michael Egnew.

Gilbert Moye was the leading rusher with 40 yards on three carries.  Jerrell Jackson, the recent addition to Missouri's No. 1 offensive unit, produced team-best totals of six receptions and 60 receiving yards.

Linebacker Will Ebner and defensive Aldon Smith each produced a sack and two tackles for losses. And freshman linebacker Andrew Wilson and redshirt freshman cornerback Robert Steeples accounted for interceptions. 

But the Tigers' struggles left Pinkel knowing that more immediate improvement will be needed soon with the start of the season looming barely two weeks away.

"I just think we should be further ahead than we are right now," Pinkel said.

Pinkel shaking up Missouri's depth chart

August, 18, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

It's one of the oldest motivational tricks in the book, but one that Missouri coach Gary Pinkel apparently is employing in the middle of two-a-day practices for his young team.

Sophomore Jerrell Jackson has moved ahead of Missouri's leading returning receiver, Jared Perry, after Perry struggled through the Tigers' scrimmage on Saturday.

Perry grabbed 41 passes for the Tigers in 2008. He expected to see his role expand with the departure of Missouri's top three receivers from last season -- wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and Tommy Saunders and tight end Chase Coffman.

Perry told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he was surprised by the move.

"When I first heard about it, it was real frustrating, kind of de-motivating," Perry said. "I have to come back and make plays like I've done, and it'll all work out. I know I'm a playmaker. I respect the decision the coaches made, and it makes me work harder."

Also, quarterbacks Blaine Dalton and Jimmy Costello have moved into a co-No. 2 role behind starter Blaine Gabbert.

I'm just wondering if this is kind of an "inspirational move" meant to shake the cobwebs from Perry in the middle of long preseason practices, or if it instead shows Pinkel's growing confidence in one of his young players.

Pinkel has repeatedly said he's getting better, faster players from improved recruiting in recent years after the Tigers' back-to-back appearances in the Big 12 title game.

Maybe this is just one of those players moving up.

Ranking the Big 12's backup quarterbacks

May, 27, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Most coaches hope they never have to turn to their backup quarterback. But it's still a good insurance policy as any team gets ready for a season to have a trusted replacement who can bail out an injured or struggling starter.

Coaches in the Big 12 are no different. Here's a look at the top backup quarterbacks in the league. During my analysis, I placed particular importance on proven ability to play rather than future promise. And I also did not factor in highly regarded incoming freshmen players who will join their teams at schools like Texas and Kansas State later this summer.

Here's my ranking of the backup quarterbacks in the Big 12 in order.

1. Colorado: The conference's most fluid starting quarterback situation results in the Buffaloes having the top backup. With Cody Hawkins appearing to be nosing ahead at the end of spring practice, Tyler Hansen earns the nod because of his recent experience as a winning quarterback in the Big 12 -- even considering he is recovering from a broken thumb suffered in Colorado's spring game.

2. Baylor: Experience helps Blake Szymanski in case the Bears would ever need to replace Robert Griffin. Szymanski has made 13 career starts and has thrown for 3,561 yards and 26 career touchdown passes.

3. Kansas: Mark Mangino says he wants to keep the move of Kerry Meier to wide receiver permanent. If so, he would need to turn the backup quarterback job over to Kale Pick at some point this season. But it still has to be relatively reassuring for Mangino to know he can always turn to Meier, who made eight career starts and has completed 28 of his last 32 passes over the past two seasons.

4. Iowa State: Obviously, it was against the Iowa State offense. But redshirt freshman Jerome Tiller looks like he's ready to challenge Austen Arnaud for the starting position this summer after blistering the Cyclones' defense for 210 yards and adding a 65-yard TD run in the ISU spring game. That outing should enable new ISU coach Paul Rhoads to have some confidence if he has to turn to Tiller.

5. Oklahoma: With Sam Bradford likely to play most of the season, Bob Stoops probably won't turn to his backups that much. Redshirt freshman Landry Jones showed flashes in the Sooners' spring game, completing 5 of 12 passes for 73 yards and a touchdown during limited playing time. Drew Allen, who left high school a semester early to join the Sooners, looked painfully raw in his limited work.

6. Nebraska: For all of the pre-spring excitement about a battle for the quarterback job, Zac Lee easily won the starting spot. The Cornhuskers have several capable backups, with the best showing of the spring coming from converted linebacker LaTravis Washington. Kody Spano should be good to go by fall practice after he recovers from knee surgery. And Cody Green is the most heralded quarterback prospect in the Nebraska program, although he struggled with injuries and fell behind early after graduating from high school early to join the program this spring.

7. Oklahoma State: Mike Gundy hoped that former minor-league baseball player Brandon Weeden would distance himself from Alex Cate and earn the backup role behind Zac Robinson. Weeden struggled late in spring practice and couldn't widen the gap, leaving the backup battle continuing into the summer.

8. Missouri: After Blaine Gabbert claimed the starting job early in spring practice, as expected, scrappy walk-on Jimmy Costello had his moments, too. But Costello's performance leveled off late in spring practice and Blaine Dalton was pushing to unseat him as the backup before he was arrested and suspended from the team. Both Dalton and Ashton Glazer had typical freshman moments of great plays and shaky ones on a consistent basis.

9. Texas Tech: Taylor Potts was picked as the starter from the opening day of spring practice, but former walk-on Steven Sheffield appeared to have claimed the No. 2 job over Stefan Loucks and Seth Doege. All are relatively inexperienced in operating Mike Leach's offense.

10. Texas: Sherrod Harris struggled operating the Texas offense in the spring game. Some of his struggles might have been understandable considering he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee only three weeks after spring practice finished. When Garrett Gilbert arrives this summer, it will push the Longhorns up several places on the list. But until then, they rank among the bottom Big 12 teams on the list.

11. Texas A&M: Expected competition in spring ball never materialized as wide receiver Ryan Tannehill was recuperating from a torn labrum. Instead, Tommy Dorman got most of the snaps behind Jerrod Johnson as the only other scholarship quarterback on the team. Dorman struggled with his consistency.

12. Kansas State: Carson Coffman appears to have claimed the starting job for the Wildcats -- at least until Grant Gregory and Daniel Thomas arrive to challenge him later this summer. His backups who played in the spring game struggled through a miserable effort against the Wildcats' defense, which is saying something. Collin Klein, Joseph Kassanavoid, Trey Scott and Milton McPeak combined to complete only 9 of 26 passes in the spring game with two interceptions and five sacks. Look for the Wildcats' quarterback depth to improve with the arrival of Gregory and Thomas.

Missouri's defense steps out in strong spring-game effort

April, 20, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

The post-Chase Daniel era was noticeable at Missouri's Black-Gold Game as much for what didn't happen as what did.

With Daniel watching from the bench and helping his old coaches, his replacements sagged in a struggling performance where the Missouri defense largely dominated.

Projected starter Blaine Gabbert completed 9 of 17 passes for 93 yards with an interception. He showed a rocket arm with a 60-yard pass that was barely incomplete. But he was also fortunate that two other passes weren't intercepted.

"Everybody has got to improve," Gabbert said. "We're going to have to work hard all summer just to get better. Overall, we've all done well. I just need to work on the little stuff."

Gabbert could be given a little bit of a mulligan, considering top receivers like Jared Perry, Danario Alexander and Michael Egnew did not see action and top running back Derrick Washington barely played.

"Making completions, that's the big thing," Gabbert said. "Just playing catch. That's what we need to work on the most."

The defense's dominant effort showed up on the scoreboard as it claimed a 68-40 triumph over the offense in a scoring system devised by the Missouri coaches. But even those wacky numbers couldn't diminish an effort where the Missouri offense was limited to a combined 355 yards and one touchdown.

Coach Gary Pinkel was pleased with his defense's performance. Second-string quarterback Jimmy Costello couldn't lead his unit to a single first down against Missouri's No. 1 defense.

"If your defense is playing well, then that's OK," Pinkel said. "There's nothing wrong with that. If you're not excited about the defense after the spring game, then that's not good. We're glad they're getting out there and playing football."

The defense's dominance prompted a quick description from Gabbert about their performance.

"They beasted us," Gabbert told the Kansas City Star of the effort. "Plain and simple they just outplayed us."

All-Big 12 linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, one of only four starters back for the defense, said his unit still has much growth ahead.

"I don't think it's safe to say that we're a dominant defense at the moment, but I think we've definitely made some strides and come far," Weatherspoon said. " I think the offense is still good... don't sleep on that offense."

Pinkel was intrigued with the unit's athleticism and particularly how quickly it has adapated to new defensive coordinator Dave Steckel's schemes.

"I don't like to compare, but this season we have a lot of speed on defense," Pinkel said. "We have a lot of young guys, freshman guys, and they have a lot of ability. We have to get better and we have the coaching and ability to get there."

A crowd of 13,122 attended at Faurot Field -- about half of last year's spring game attendance.

Ten good minutes with Missouri's Dave Yost

April, 8, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Missouri offensive coordinator David Yost is one of the busiest men in college football. And his work has only gotten more involved this spring.

  Paul Jasienski/Getty Images
  Replacing Chase Daniel will be important for Missouri.

Yost is Missouri's new offensive coordinator, along with serving as the team's recruiting coordinator and kicking coach. And he's working on a huge vacancy on the team as he tries to find a new starting quarterback to replace Chase Daniel.

During a recent interview, Yost discussed his new responsibilities, the challenge of replacing Daniel and whether he plans to shave his soul patch as he assumes his new job.

How have things changed for you this spring with the new job?

Dave Yost: Definitely, there are some things that are different for me. But it's easier because of how our offense has worked and how the staff has been together for so long. Four of us have been here for eight years and three of the other coaches have been together for 14 years. But it's the same ol' stuff that keeps going, because we have a way we do things and it's how we've done them.

But there are some little things I'm in charge of. Now I have to decide what time we are meeting as an offensive staff after the staff meeting. There are some others.

It's fun. I enjoy it. It's kind of what I've wanted to progress to in this business. Having that opportunity is great. I'm glad coach [Gary] Pinkel is giving me the opportunity to do it.

I'll probably get way too much credit when things are going good. But we have a lot of good people around me and some good players, too.

Do you think your new role will cause you to grow up a little bit? After all, you might be the only offensive coordinator -- at least in the Big 12 -- with a soul patch.

I've always been grown up, I just try not to get old [laughing]. But I haven't been told I have to change any of that stuff. I try to be myself as much as I can. I'm not going to try to be coach C (his predecessor, Dave Christensen) in that way. As long as coach Pinkel lets me continue to be the way I am, I will be.

The same fun-loving guy as before?

DY: Everybody thinks that.

(Read full post)

Who's going to win the North Division? Heck, I don't know

April, 1, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- After driving more than 1,100 miles and meeting with five of the six coaches in the North Division over the last week, it would seem that I would have a pretty good idea who should be the favorite for next season.

But after meeting with Bill Snyder earlier today to finish off my North swing, I'm more confused than ever who should be favored.

Confidence is high at both Kansas and Nebraska. The Jayhawks believe they finally have an offense to contend with Oklahoma and Texas. The defense -- minus three starting linebackers -- is another story.

And Nebraska feels reasonably confident about its defense with the return of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and several other key defense players. The offense, which will start a new quarterback and two new wide receivers figures to be a lot like the Cornhuskers were back in the 1980s -- the Big Red ground machine -- with a lot of Roy Helu Jr. and Quentin Castille.

If you could morph Kansas and Nebraska together, I think you might be able to find a Big 12 championship-caliber team. The Jayhawks' offense, supported by the Cornhuskers' defense, would be a salty combination. But both teams are lacking one key element that makes it unlikely the conference championship will come back to the North Division for the first time since 2003.

After visiting every Big 12 team but Colorado, here are some of my perceptions.

  • I was really impressed with the confidence emanating from Kansas players like wide receiver Kerry Meier. He might be ready to catch 100+ balls this season. But the Jayhawks need Dezmon Briscoe back in the lineup if they are going to challenge for their first Big 12 title.
  • The most athletic looking player I saw during my brief glimpses of practice was Suh, who could be poised for an even bigger season after last year's breakout campaign. He told me after practice that he didn't come back to college intent on picking up many awards. He might not be able to help himself -- particularly with the Outland Trophy being presented in Omaha next January.
  • It's hard not to like new Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads. He reminds me a lot of former Cyclone head coach Dan McCarney because of his people skills and his upbeat enthusiasm. Like it was for McCarney, all of those skills will be tested during his first season in Ames.
  • While watching Missouri practice, I was more impressed with the play of backup quarterback Jimmy Costello than heralded prospective No. 1 quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Now Gabbert made a bunch of good throws when I saw him, but Costello did too. I don't expect Costello to make a legitimate challenge for the starting job, but if plays like I saw him on Tuesday, he's got a shot.
  • It was interesting to compare the media hordes at the various practices. Bo Pelini's appearance on Saturday drew a crowd of more than 30 media members from all over the state. The Cornhuskers traditionally receive the most extensive media coverage in the league. And the excitement from last season's Gator Bowl victory over Clemson has done nothing to diminish that.
  • Bill Snyder looked as relaxed as any time I have interviewed him over the years, seemingly re-engergized after his three-year sabbatical from football. As is his tradition, he was wearing his customary coat and tie to the office -- an offseason outfit different than most head coaches. It's like he never left.
  • Snyder had a couple of tidbits of news and provided me with the basis of a nice profile. First, all jobs are open on his starting team and he's not even thinking of using a depth chart when practice begins next week. Leading 2008 rusher Lamark Brown has requested a position change earlier this spring to wide receiver that will be granted. And heralded junior-college quarterback/running back recruit Daniel "Big Boy" Thomas of Northwest Mississippi Community College should be eligible when the Wildcats begin preseason camp later this summer.
  • I'm the first to admit to being a barbecue snob considering where I grew up. I think Kansas City-style Q ranks with most Texas versions, but nowhere near what I grew up with. The Memphis barbecue is going to be the biggest thing that John Calipari misses when he leaves the Bluff City for Kentucky. I can already feel his pain.
  • Are there really many inventions that are better than satellite radio? Nothing passes time better on the Kansas Turnpike than a Jimmy Buffett buffet or a Bruce Springsteen concert replay that is readily available over most satellite channels.
  • Watch for feature stories over the next several days from my various stops. And I'm planning to be in Austin Sunday afternoon for the Longhorns' scrimmage to wrap up their spring practices.