Big 12: Joe Hubener

With spring ball a month away, we'll be ranking the position groups in the Big 12 over the next two weeks. These evaluations will be based on past performance, future potential and quality depth. Our outlooks will probably look different after the spring. But this is how we see them at the moment. We begin this series with quarterbacks:

1. TCU: Trevone Boykin is one of the top returning quarterbacks in the country and should open the season on the short list of legitimate Heisman contenders. Boykin was fabulous in Year 1 of the Doug Meacham/Sonny Cumbie spread offense, and could be even better with a season of experience under his belt. Depth after Boykin is a bit of a concern, though Foster Sawyer and Grayson Muehlstein were highly touted signees last year.

2. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys boast one of the top young QBs in the league -- if not the country -- in Mason Rudolph, who led Oklahoma State to wins over Oklahoma and Washington to end his true freshman season. In just three starts, he displayed a poise that could elevate the Cowboys into dark-horse Big 12 contender status. After Rudolph the Cowboys have a pair of quarterbacks with extensive starting experience in J.W. Walsh and Daxx Garman. They also just signed ESPN 300 passer John Kolar, who could have the luxury of redshirting.

3. Texas Tech: If Rudolph isn't the Big 12's best young returning quarterback, Patrick Mahomes is. He caught fire after taking over the starting job, throwing for 14 TDs in Tech's final three games, including a 598-yard passing effort in a near upset of Baylor. Mahomes has become such an integral part of the program, the Red Raiders have said they will tailor spring practices around his baseball schedule. Davis Webb was thought to be Tech's quarterback of the future going into last season, but struggled with turnovers, then injuries. He still has the ability to be a quality player.

4. Baylor: Bryce Petty is gone, but the cupboard is hardly devoid of talent. Seth Russell has been a solid backup the last two years, and will enter the spring as the favorite to take over as the starter. Russell, however, will have plenty of competition, notably via incoming freshman Jarrett Stidham, who was the top-rated QB recruit to sign into the Big 12. Stidham has all the tools to be a star in the league down the road. Dual-threat Chris Johnson will also be in his third year.

5. Oklahoma: Quarterback remains a huge question mark for the Sooners, but it also has the chance to be way better than it was in 2014. Baker Mayfield is finally eligible after transferring in from Texas Tech last year. Mayfield was the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year in 2013, and could be the favorite to win the job. Returning starter Trevor Knight was actually solid at times last season, but also killed the Sooners with costly mistakes, topping the league with three pick-six interceptions, all of which came in defeats. Cody Thomas, who started three games while Knight was injured, has given up baseball to focus on the QB derby, but might be a long shot after completing just 46 percent of his passes as a starter. Justice Hansen, who redshirted last year, is a former ESPN 300 recruit.

6. West Virginia: Skyler Howard sparked West Virginia with his wheels after Clint Trickett missed the final three games last year. But Howard was also hit and miss with his accuracy, which prevented him from locking up the job. Instead, he'll have to fend off William Crest, who actually beat out Howard for the No. 2 job coming out of fall camp before a shoulder injury forced a redshirt. Crest has a skill set reminiscent of former West Virginia standout Geno Smith. Paul Millard brings veteran depth after taking a redshirt in his fourth year. Freshman David Sills, who once committed to USC in junior high, will also take part in spring drills.

7. Texas: For now, the Longhorns are basically where they were last year. Tyrone Swoopes is the only quarterback on the roster with any experience. He's had his moments, but also struggled late last season as the Texas offense cratered. Jerrod Heard is the X factor. He won a pair of high school state championships and was a highly touted signee, but clearly wasn't ready as a true freshman. Barring an unforeseen transfer, the Longhorns will have to ride with one of those two. Kai Locksley was a key late addition to last week's class, but his passing needs development.

8. Iowa State: When healthy, Sam B. Richardson was the least of Iowa State's problems last year. He did a solid job limiting turnovers and made plays with his feet. He should be the starter again. The Cyclones also return Grant Rohach, who has 245 pass attempts the last two seasons in relief.

9. Kansas: Michael Cummings pumped life into the Jayhawks after going from fourth string to starter following the Charlie Weis firing. Kansas also signed a pair of promising players at the position last week in three-star Ryan Willis and Carter Stanley.

10. Kansas State: The Wildcats are a blank slate at quarterback following the graduation of Jake Waters. Ex-walk-on Joe Hubener will get first dibs at the job entering his fourth year on campus. Hubener has good arm strength and good speed, but only 17 career pass attempts. He'll be pushed this spring by three-star signee Alex Delton, who is already in school.
In today's Big 12 mailbag, we discuss the Top 25 player ranking, the looming QB derbies in Waco and Manhattan, the Texas recruiting wars, Oklahoma State running backs and, curiously, Kurt Russell.

On to the 'bag:

Trotter: We're big fans of Washington here on the blog. We made him a second-team All-Big 12 selection. But the top 25 player ranking was a tough list to crack. A number of other terrific players like Oklahoma's Sterling Shepard and Baylor's Antwan Goodley didn't make the list, either. Washington has a chance, though, to open next year on the preseason top 25 list as one of the league's top returning running backs.

Trotter: Rennie Childs is the obvious bet at this point, since he's the only healthy scholarship running back currently on campus. But I think the Cowboys land a marquee back before signing day. Oklahoma State has a powerful pitch to make, and that's immediate playing time. Keep an eye on Chris Carson, who is an ESPN Junior College 50 prospect. Carson has been committed to Georgia since August, but he's reportedly taking a visit to Stillwater this weekend. Because they can offer playing time -- and Georgia can't having Nick Chubb -- I think the Cowboys have a decent chance to flip Carson.

Trotter: I believe that Briles believes or was told that. But after Heather Dinich spoke with College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock, it doesn't seem very likely that Briles got good info, considering the playoff votes are taken via secret ballot over computer.

Trotter: The Red River Showdown hasn't been the league's most important game in seven years. I don't see why next season would be any different.

Trotter: "Miracle." But "Death Proof," "Escape from L.A.," "Tombstone," "Poseidon" and even "Overboard" have high rewatchability.

Trotter: Yes, but only if he's not the best quarterback. If he is, Baylor should start him. That would give him four seasons.

Trotter: I think so. Incoming freshman Alex Delton is an intriguing prospect, but Bill Snyder isn't prone to playing true freshmen anywhere, much less at quarterback. Joe Hubener has three years in the system, which gives him a huge advantage over the others. He has good size, good speed and a good arm, from what I hear. If he takes care of the ball he will be tough to unseat.

Trotter: No latest. If you read my Q&A with commissioner Bob Bowlsby from earlier this week, you'll know that there are no immediate plans for either. The only change I see the Big 12 making is eliminating the "co-champions" rule. Otherwise, expect status quo.

Trotter: I already did a too-early Big 12 power poll for 2015, and I had Oklahoma State third. The Cowboys clearly have something that OU, Texas, Kansas State and West Virginia don't at the moment, and that's a quarterback (Mason Rudolph).

Trotter: Pretty good. Last I checked, Trevone Boykin is still on the roster.

Trotter: He will if he flips the gem of Texas A&M's recruiting class, Kyler Murray who is the nation's No. 13 overall player and top dual-threat quarterback, to Texas. That would send a strong message to College Station.

2015 Too-Early Big 12 Power Rankings

January, 13, 2015
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Kansas State will have one less weapon at its disposal this fall.

[+] EnlargeDaniel Sams
Ed Zurga/Getty ImagesDaniel Sams accounted for 1,261 total yards and 15 scores last season.
Daniel Sams decision to leave KSU is a clear step backward for the Wildcats offense as the former quarterback turned receiver was one of the Big 12’s most explosive players. In 2013, he was a useful and versatile weapon, leading all Big 12 quarterbacks with 807 rushing yards, ranking No. 3 in the conference in Total QBR (83.4 on a scale of 100 with 50 being average) and tied for fifth in the Big 12 with 11 touchdowns.

This spring, Sams moved to receiver and failed to make a mark in the offense, likely sparking his plan to transfer. He had two receptions for 9 yards in the spring game.

Sams' transfer takes away options for Bill Snyder’s offense, a group searching for playmakers after the departures of running back John Hubert and receiver Tramaine Thompson. Even if Sams never found his footing at receiver this fall, he still could have been a valuable weapon as a Wildcat quarterback in short yardage situations and provided a quality safety net behind starting quarterback Jake Waters.

Redshirt freshman Jesse Ertz and sophomore Joe Hubener are battling to be Waters’ backup, leaving the Wildcats with inexperienced signal-callers behind their senior starter. Hubener played in one game last season with no pass attempts, while Ertz redshirted.

The Wildcats should be fine at receiver with Tyler Lockett, arguably the conference’s top receiver, and Curry Sexton, who brings veteran experience to the group. Deante Burton, Andre Davis and Judah Jones also could help fill the playmaking void in KSU’s passing game.

On the surface, Sams’ departure doesn’t look like a major setback as he saw limited action for KSU in the home stretch of the 2013 season, with just one pass attempt and nine carries for 23 yards in the final three games of the year.

But, make no mistake: Sams was one of KSU’s top 11 players on the offensive side of the ball. Snyder would have found a way to use him, even in special situations, to help the Wildcats create problems for defenses. Even though they have done it before, Sams’ big-play ability will be tough to replace and creates one more obstacle between the Wildcats and their hopes of winning their second Big 12 title in three seasons.

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