Big 12: Johnny Deaton

Lunch links: What about AggieVision?

July, 21, 2011
Here we go again ...
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.

Mailbag: QB change, best D, new rivalries

May, 27, 2011
Good questions this week. Much appreciated on my end. If yours didn't get answered, or you were too lazy to ask it, feel free to send it my way.

Paul in Oklahoma City asked: Ubbs...who do you see taking over at QB at OSU after Weeden leaves? A lot of people think JW Walsh will but is there any chance Clint Chelf or Johnny Deaton take over instead?

David Ubben: It's pretty tough to tell early on, and we haven't had much chance to see these guys. J.W. Walsh's head was still spinning when I visited Stillwater the spring, but when the game slows down for him, we'll get a better feel of how good he could be.

It should be a pretty fun competition, but experience like Chelf got last season and probably will get this season is impossible to duplicate. Too many times people lose sight of the importance of the backup quarterback race and making sure you have a guy that's ready. Landry Jones narrowly beat out Drew Allen in 2009, and like the Sooners learned the hard way, the old adage of "You're only one play away" is a cliche that's far from meaningless.

Kevin Bright in Oklahoma City asked: David, Should the Sooners trade Westbrook? How will the loss of Murry effect the Thunder? You know he scored a bunch of touchdowns to get them to the Western Conference Finals? And speaking of the Finals why did Stoops go small and allow the Mavs all those rebounds. And do you think Scott Brooks would leave for the Ohio State job if Tressel gets handed his gold pants? I am so confused, is it August yet? Any way, no way Alabama is going to beat the Thunder next year! Sooners should be #1. Always have been, always will be. At least to me. And sometimes in the polls. You da man.

DU: Ha. I'm not sure why, but this e-mail made me laugh. I had to share. But seriously ... is it August yet?

Keyser Soze in Houston asked: Big 12 talk is always about the offense. Tell me which teams you think are going to do the most damage on the defensive side of the ball. NU is out so the conference is losing some of the little defensive credibility it had. Texas played pretty well considering they had no offense to give them a breather, but they have to replace the secondary. A&M started off pretty porous but was playing pretty impressive late in the year, unfortunately they have von miller to replace. Missouri could be pretty good and an unconfirmed rumor says tubberville can teach red raiders to spell tackle.

DU: I generally think Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas and Texas A&M will battle it out for the Big 12's best defense. Tech is still a year away on both sides of the ball, but if they can stick around and win 7-8 games this season, the Red Raiders could be in position for a Big 12 title run in 2012.

Those first four defenses are pretty complete, with a few minor problems. Whoever fixes them the best will come out on top. The Aggies have to figure out how to replace Michael Hodges, which I actually think will be harder to do than replacing Miller. Missouri has to make sure its new corners are as good as the coaches think they are.

Texas' secondary, as you mentioned, is really young. But there's no denying Texas' ability to pump out DBs and getting Duane Akina back was huge for the Horns. Oklahoma has some inexperience in the secondary and some questions at defensive tackle, but I doubt those two positions will drop below average at worst.

Lou in USA asked: You seem to post on the comment section more than the other bloggers. What do you think of the new format? I personally like it.

DU: I like it a lot. I think it'll make it easier for people to carry on conversations about linear topics without a lot of distraction. That's what the comments section is all about, and helping accomplish that is a good thing.

Everyone on the Internet generally hates every change at first, but they get used to it over time. I'm sure the comments section will be the same.

Matthew in Rolla asked: Hey David! I read the article about Big 12 rivalries that "should be." How about Missouri vs. Arkansas or Iowa?

DU: Missouri needs one, but it's best nonconference rivalry (Illinois) just ended. Arkansas already plays its old SWC rival, Texas A&M, and with an SEC schedule looming, doesn't need to add Missouri. The same with Iowa, who plays Iowa State every year in nonconference anyway.

In theory, those games would be great, but Iowa and Arkansas are busy with other series to add Missouri. The Tigers have a nice marquee nonconference matchup in probably Pac-12 South favorite Arizona State this year, but finding a geographic rival outside of Illinois would be a nice move in the future.

Larry Scott in Walnut Creek, Calif., asked: David, in my massive marketing deal for the 12-Pack, I used a company called Pac-12 Media Enterprises and that company is a for-profit holding company for the conference. Does creating a FOR-profit company to collect hundreds of millions of dollars for NON-profit educational institutions make you nervous?

DU: I'll just say this: yes.

Matt in Dallas: Should the conference look at each team playing a 4-4-1 "Big 12" schedule? As in 4 home games, 4 away games, and 1 neutral site? If so, which teams should play which and where should they play the games?

DU: Yeah, teams definitely need to look into doing that. It can be tough to fill the seats in games like that (see: Missouri versus Kansas and Iowa State versus Kansas State at Arrowhead last season) but playing five away games in conference seems like a rough deal for coaches.

As the league's strength fluctuates, somebody is going to get completely hammered on a road schedule one of these years, too. Could see some really good teams lose 2-4 games as a result.

Lunch links: Weight watchers abound

March, 25, 2011
J.Chance is in the lead heading into the second half of the Sweet 16 games, but for the second consecutive update, our leader's national champion (Duke) has been eliminated. Meanwhile, who is that in eighth place of our 300-plus member pool? Why, could it be ... me?

Opening spring camp: Oklahoma State

March, 7, 2011
Schedule: Practice opens today, and continues through the spring game on April 16. All 14 practices between now and then are closed to fans and media.

What’s new: The guy calling the plays, but the Cowboys hope the offense isn't. Todd Monken is back in Stillwater for a second term after serving as receivers coach and passing game coordinator under Les Miles. He says he plans on keeping the same system as departed coordinator Dana Holgorsen, and is getting a lesson on the intricacies from his quarterback, Brandon Weeden.

On the move: Punter Quinn Sharp missed the Alamo Bowl, but his duties may be fairly comprehensive after this spring. He already handles punts and kickoffs, and he'll be battling for the starting placekicker job this spring, too.

Key battle: Oklahoma State returns all five starters from last year's offensive line, but that doesn't mean the same five guys will start the season. Early-enrolling juco transfer Michael Bowie is listed as co-No. 2 at right tackle in the pre-spring depth chart and could make a play for a starting job this spring.

New faces: Freshman quarterback J.W. Walsh enrolled early and should take part in a three-way battle for the No. 2 spot behind All-Big 12 quarterback Brandon Weeden with fellow passers Clint Chelf, last year's backup, and Johnny Deaton.

Breaking out: Running back Joseph Randle was a great compliment to Kendall Hunter last season, but enters the spring before his sophomore year as the starter ahead of the bulkier Jeremy Smith. Randle caught 37 passes last year, second-most among running backs in the Big 12 behind only Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray. He'll see a big boost in his carries this time around. He had just 81 last year.

Question marks: Oklahoma State lost both defensive tackles, Shane Jarka and Chris Donaldson from last year's team, and Nigel Nicholas and Christian Littlehead, among others, will try and fill their voids. Dominant interior defensive line play isn't necessary to win in the Big 12, but teams that have it can be great on a national scale.

Big shoes to fill: Linebacker Caleb Lavey. He enters the spring as the starter at middle linebacker, and is in line to replace Orie Lemon, one of the defense's leaders in 2010 and the Big 12's No. 2 tackler with 133 stops. Lavey was one of the jewels of the Cowboys' 2010 recruiting class, and as a sophomore, it's time for him to make good on that potential.

Don’t forget about: Receiver Hubert Anyiam. He led the team in receptions after Dez Bryant was suspended for the final nine games of 2009, but battled an ankle injury throughout 2010 while teammate Justin Blackmon raced to a Biletnikoff Award-winning season. If he can stay healthy, he could develop as an underrated, but very valuable compliment to Blackmon as a senior.

All eyes on: Quarterback Brandon Weeden. He came out of nowhere last season to become Oklahoma State's first all-conference quarterback since 1932. The 27-year-old went eight years between starts, but looked like he didn't miss a beat from the start. He'll have to try and build off last year with a new coordinator, and him doing so will be necessary for the Cowboys to capture the Big 12 title that narrowly eluded them in 2010.

Who's set and who's not at quarterback?

February, 17, 2011
We took a look at the Big 12's spring storylines yesterday, and for several teams, that involves the quarterback. For others, it doesn't. But heading into the spring, which starts as early as Friday at Texas Tech, here's how the Big 12's teams rank in terms of certainty at quarterback.


Baylor: Baylor's offense runs entirely through the Bears' Robert Griffin III. He rebounded well last season from the knee injury that made him miss most of the 2009 season, and became a much, much better passer. We'll see if that continues in 2011, but it would take a serious injury to knock him off his starting spot.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Weeden
John Rieger/US PresswireBrandon Weeden enters next season as Oklahoma State's starting quarterback.
Oklahoma State: Brandon Weeden started every game for the Cowboys last season and earned All-Big 12 first-team honors. He's back. Look elsewhere for quarterback controversy. The backup race between Clint Chelf, Johnny Deaton and early enrolling freshman J.W. Walsh could be interesting, though.

Oklahoma: Landry Jones will effectively be a third-year starter for the Sooners next season, and a strong contender for All-Big 12 honors and possibly the Heisman. It's his offense for sure in 2011.

Texas A&M: Ryan Tannehill would be the easy front-runner even if he hadn't started the second half of the 2010 season. But he did, went 5-1 in his starts, and has the Aggies sniffing the top 10 in the preseason.


Texas: Garrett Gilbert had a horrible first year as starter in 2010, but he'll need to show his coaches -- new and old -- he'll be better in 2011. Grasping new coordinator Bryan Harsin's system will be key in keeping the junior ahead of his competition, Case McCoy and Connor Wood. Coach Mack Brown said last month that the job was open.

Missouri: James Franklin is the likely lead dog in the race, but only because he got more time and experience playing the game and adjusting to the speed of the game. He'll need to clearly be the best quarterback Missouri has to leave the spring as the projected starter. Tyler Gabbert and Ashton Glaser might steal the title with standout springs, but if all three aren't getting it done, incoming freshman Corbin Berkstresser could theoretically crash the party in preseason camp.

Iowa State: Jerome Tiller has five starts in two seasons because of injuries to Austen Arnaud, including an historic, albeit ugly, 9-7 win at Nebraska in 2009. But Paul Rhoads signed juco transfer Steele Jantz, and he'll have a great chance to win the job, too. James Capello and Jared Barnett will try to make splashes in the spring.


Texas Tech: Tech, as usual, is likely to get good play out of whoever wins the job, but it's a near guessing game at this point. Seth Doege and Jacob Karam impressed coach Tommy Tuberville last spring working with the first team after Steven Sheffield and Taylor Potts were hurt, but Doege and Karam will have to hold off younger talents Scotty Young and Michael Brewer to win the job.

Kansas: The Jayhawks never settled on a quarterback, and battled injuries at the position last year. Kale Pick was moved to receiver during the 2010 season, and Jordan Webb and Quinn Mecham will be the main competition this year, despite a lack of truly inspired play for much of 2010. If incoming freshman Brock Berglund, who enrolled early, can show flashes of potential and outplay Webb and Mecham, he might be the guy best suited to help Kansas win right now and in the future.

Kansas State: The Wildcats' presumptive starter might not even be playing the position in 2011, and we've seen very, very little of the three quarterbacks hoping to replace the departed Carson Coffman. Justin Tuggle, a juco transfer, started three games at Boston College and has a good shot to win the job. Newcomer Daniel Sams could win the gig eventually, or it could be the returning Sammuel Lamur, who threw all of three passes last season (completing all three!) as the third-stringer.

Mailbag: Class grades, TT, OSU, UT futures

February, 4, 2011
Thanks for the questions, everybody. Lots of good ones as usual.

Rusty Shakleford in Kerrville, Texas asks: Mr. Ubben, enjoy reading your work daily. I was wondering which Big 12 school had the best recruiting class from a standpoint of filling immediate needs as well as anticipating future holes? Overall class rating really doesn't always mean a whole lot. Thanks!

David Ubben: Yeah, generally I'd agree with you. I tweeted this on Thursday, but I still got a ton of questions about my comments about recruiting classes not correlating to their grades. Those grades weren't given by me, they were given by our team of ESPN recruiting analysts. They were also in the context of national recruiting, not relative to each team's individual circumstances.

I hope that explains why some of those grades were low.

Anyway, I think there were definitely some great classes in the Big 12. I don't see much notable about Texas and Oklahoma's class, but the two that impressed me the most were Kansas and Texas Tech. Turner Gill had a ton of pressure to bring in a good class this year, and he's gotten one with a lot of players who look like they could be impact players, and added some good offensive linemen to hopefully help out with depth.

Texas Tech added a lot of speed, and a caliber of player that hasn't signed with Texas Tech very often. The elite defensive players weren't there in 2011, but I think more guys will follow Derek David's lead in 2012. He's one of the nation's best linebackers, and committed to Tech last summer.

So, if you want to talk about relative grades, I thought those two classes were the best in the Big 12. Oklahoma State was probably right below them.

Luke in Heartland, America asks: Why does ESPN still keep posting [expletive] about Colorado and Nebraska in the Big 12 blogs and newslines. Not one of their signees will ever see action as a Big 12 player, nobody gives a [expletive], and it just ESPN look behind the times like usual.

Ron in Omaha asks: David, last time I checked Nebraska and Colorado are still in the big 12. Why the snub on recruiting analysis? Still would be interesting to read your thoughts on those two.

DU: Ha, I can't win with you guys. You might have noticed that Colorado and Nebraska have been removed from our little sidebar on the right and moved to their respective new conference, but the official transition is coming very soon. You won't be able to miss it. It hasn't taken place just yet, though.

Cody in Lubbock, Texas asks: David, hopefully, you get me in this time. Do you think there is a correlation between Auburn's national championship team and Tommy Tuberville's recruiting abilities, given his recruiting success this week at Tech? Obviously Tuberville did not bring in Cam Newton or Michael Dyer, nor did he coach the team, but his presence on Auburn's squad does seem apparent. I appreciate it.

DU: There's definitely some. It's not huge, but there's no denying that Tuberville had an influence. Does that mean "Well, Texas Tech's national title is only a couple years away?" Obviously, no. Recruiting doesn't work like that. Neither does college football. But Texas Tech is getting a lot better, and things are changing on the plains.

Tommy B in Stillwater, Okla., asks Is J.W. Walsh the next starting QB for the Pokes after Weeden leaves?

DU: If I had to bet on it, he'd be my pick. From the quick release to the mobility to the winning in high school, Welsh has a lot to like. That said, it should be a solid competition between him, Clint Chelf and Johnny Deaton. Chelf earned most of the backup reps this year for the Cowboys, and that will be valuable, but you might see (read: hear about) some solid competition for the backup job this year in practice.

Mack Prioleau in Fort Worth, Texas asks: once again, Texas lands a top 5 recruiting class in the nation... With all of their new espn150 and rivals 5 and 4 star recruits, will they be good next year? I am not a Texas fan, but I am just wondering because it is embarrassing for them to do as bad as last year when they have a top 3 recruiting year after year

DU: Well, Texas rebounding in 2011 doesn't have much to do with the recruiting class. It has everything to do with the talent already in place learning the new offense under Bryan Harsin and the new defense under Manny Diaz, and executing it on the field. Malcolm Brown might have an impact, but Texas won't try to rebuild its program in 2011 with these guys just yet. That task is charged to guys like Keenan Robinson, Emmanuel Acho, Garrett Gilbert and the big guys on the offensive line.

What I'm interested to see is what a Texas team with a whole lot to prove looks like. You heard it last week from Mack Brown, there's a renewed sense of purpose in the program, and certainly a lot of anger from what happened last season that should manifest itself on the field. Does that mean wins and a return to contender status for the Longhorns? We'll see.
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 spring game recap: Oklahoma State

April, 20, 2010
What happened:

  • New starter Brandon Weeden threw four touchdowns.
  • The offense beat the defense, 55-39.
  • About 7,000 people showed up to Boone Pickens Stadium on a rainy Saturday.
What we learned:

  • This spring at Oklahoma State has been all about the offense, even as the defense replaces seven defensive starters.
  • Kendall Hunter is Oklahoma State's best offensive weapon, and it's not close. New offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen knows this, and so does everyone else. Hunter is going to get the ball in 2010, but I don't think he'll do most of his damage in the running game. He got four catches and four carries in the spring game for 28 and 43 yards, respectively, but obviously that's an extremely small sample size. "He had a really difficult time not competing last year and he couldn't practice full speed and he lost a little bit of his edge," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. "He's regained it in the offseason and we're really looking forward to him having a good year." I like Hunter's chances to be more effective catching the ball in space and making people miss than I do weaving his way through blocks from an offensive line replacing four starters and learning a new system. Hunter doesn't need to learn much to break tackles in the flat. It could be a rough year for the Oklahoma State O-line.
  • Have to be encouraged by Weeden's performance, which only legitimizes the talk of progress this spring. He threw for 423 yards to go with his four touchdowns on 22 of 34 passing. Those are very Holgorsen-esque numbers. Weeden won't be getting any Heisman buzz like Case Keenum did last season, but there's no quarterback controversy in Stillwater. "The last three weeks, he got better every week," Holgorsen said. "He can make every throw."
  • On the note of quarterbacks, I was in Stillwater when Oklahoma State opened spring practice. Holgorsen mostly just smiled and shook his head when talking about early enrollee Johnny Deaton's struggles. As spring came to a close, he nailed down the No. 2 spot. Have to say that's a little surprising and not a great sign for sophomore Clint Chelf's future at the position. "The first three days, [Deaton] was overwhelmed, so I ignored him for three weeks and told him to absorb [the offense],” Holgorsen said. "When his number was called this past week, he knew where to go with the ball and he was much better. Where he’s at right now, I didn’t expect him to be based on his first practices.”
  • Hubert Anyiam was a surprise no-show, quietly breaking his foot during spring practice. Losing your top receiver in the spring is never good, and with Tracy Moore and Justin Blackmon looking like the only probable threats, it's not a timely injury. Better than in the fall, I guess. It could be a big summer for Josh Cooper, too. He'll have opportunities in the pass-happy offense and he'll need to take advantage of them.
They said it:

"I think the pace of the offense got better as we went on. We kept moving the ball and getting first downs. Coach Holgorsen stresses that -- just get first downs and things will take care of themselves."

-- Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden

Lunch links: Video of Suh's message to Husker fans

April, 19, 2010
Hope you all enjoyed the spring games over the weekend. We'll be breaking down each of those later this week.

Spring break no problem for Cowboys

March, 12, 2010
STILLWATER, Okla. -- Oklahoma State goes on spring break next week, and in the middle of installing a new offense, that might seem problematic.

Not the case for Cowboys offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen.

“I like it. As long as we can get three practices in here, and we talked about that here, then I can take that and when we come back from spring break, we’ve already introduced everything.”

Once his players return, he’ll re-introduce them to the offense, and “pull over” to re-teach aspects of the offense his players find troublesome.

Holgorsen has been drilling footwork into his new quarterbacks, the centerpiece of his offense that threw the ball 747 times at Houston last season. Among them are junior Brandon Weeden and freshmen Clint Chelf and Johnny Deaton.

“You can’t coach poise and being able to handle good situations and being able to handle bad situations,” Holgorsen said. “A guy, how quickly he processes things, you can’t teach that. How smart the kid is, you can’t teach that. But you can teach things like getting your release quicker and getting your footwork better and sticking that toe in the ground and getting the ball out quicker.”

That quick release is key for his offense, but the footwork comes first as a high priority.

“The ball ain’t coming out quick if your feet are slow, so we’ll work that every day,” he said.

OSU's Weeden riding late-season confidence

March, 12, 2010
STILLWATER, Okla.— Brandon Weeden had been there before. The only thing missing was some up-tempo entrance music and a sprint from the bullpen. A shorter sprint from the locker room to the field would have to suffice this time. But stepping in for a struggling starter was nothing new for the 26-year-old former minor leaguer who spent his last season in baseball as a relief pitcher.

J.P. Wilson/Icon SMIOklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden is drawing on past experience to prepare for the season.
“I ran out of the tunnel as fast as I could, grabbed my hat, er, grabbed my helmet and cut loose,” said Weeden.

Freudian slips aside, the Oklahoma State quarterback earned his coaches’ confidence when he played second-half savior against Colorado in a nationally televised game last November.

Weeden threw two touchdown passes and salvaged a 31-28 win for the Cowboys, who trailed 21-10 with four minutes to play in the third quarter.

“I didn’t really get too many nerves, I didn’t really hear what was going on throughout the stadium,” he said. “The only time I really heard them was when I threw that pass to Kendall (Hunter) and it got really loud. I just didn’t realize why.”

“That pass to Kendall” was a short eight-yard completion on Oklahoma State’s first possession of the second half. But it drew an ovation from a crowd that watched eight of starter Alex Cate’s nine first-half passes fall incomplete. Cate’s only completion was to a Buffaloes defender, and Mike Gundy chose to make a change at halftime.

Quarterbacks coach Robert Matthews pulled Weeden aside, gave him a brief rundown of the gameplan and sent him on his way.

“It was a dream come true. You wait for that moment two years, basically. Practice, practice and you’re finally thrown into the fire in a Big 12 game,” Weeden said. “And it’s just incredible.”

Weeden, a junior, is the likely successor to three-year starter Zac Robinson, chasing his chance to experience that feeling every Saturday this fall. He’ll have to beat out a pair of freshmen, Johnny Deaton and Clint Chelf, to do it. Cate, who would have been a senior, left the program after the season.

“Obviously, he’s mature,” Gundy said of Weeden. “He’s excited and he’s been studying tape and he needs to develop the leadership role. I think he’ll have the chance to do that, and the players are going to follow him. They’re going to see, they’re going to watch him and see his demeanor and the way he carries himself.

“And now is the time for him to develop those skills.”

Weeden’s age might not have as much to do with his team’s tendency to follow as his position. If a coach opens his mouth about Weeden, it won’t be long before the word mature makes an appearance. Weeden says it hasn’t affected his relationships with teammates, some of whom are eight years younger than him.

“I don’t think a lot of the guys on this team would know I’m as old as I am -- unless you told them,” he said.

The task now becomes mastering new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen’s pass-happy offense that gained more yardage than any team in college football a season ago at Houston.

“I feel pretty comfortable. I haven’t had many reps yet, but the minimal reps I have had, I feel good when I’m out there,” Weeden said.

And he’s not shy about admitting his comfort and confidence stems from that night in the spotlight.

“That was my first real, meaningful snaps,” he said. “I felt good coming back for the OU game and throughout bowl practices.”

Now, that confidence will have to carry over into the spring and fall as he tries to cement his status as the permanent starter.

“You have to be confident behind center,” Weeden said. “If you don’t have confidence, you’re not going to make plays.”

Change arrives as Cowboys begin spring

March, 10, 2010
STILLWATER, Okla. -- The storm clouds that delayed the opening of Oklahoma State's spring practice on Monday rolled out as Dana Holgorsen's offense rolled in on Tuesday. With it came a new-look Cowboy offensive attack that had everyone in Stillwater trying to adjust.

"It was different. I’m not exactly sure what I did, or what I accomplished out there, but I’m learning," said Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy.

Holgorsen will take over play-calling duties from Gundy, who still has the final say for play calls, but for Gundy, that meant he has time to spend half his practice watching the defense, a luxury he hadn't enjoyed in his first five seasons.

[+] EnlargeHunter
Paul Jasienski/US PresswireKendall Hunter may see a different distribution of his touches this season.
Gundy said one practice wasn't nearly enough to identify more than the most obvious differences between his offense and Holgorsen's.

"It’s fast-paced, very similar to what we have been the past few years here," Gundy said. "There’s some variety to the ways the running backs can touch the football, which I think is good for us."

Gundy said he envisioned running back Kendall Hunter touching the ball 250 times as a senior. As a sophomore, Hunter led the Big 12 with 1,555 yards and 16 touchdowns on 241 carries and added 198 yards on 22 catches. That's a total of 263 touches.

This season, the difference will come in the distribution of those touches.

"He may have 150 or 160 rushes, and maybe it's more catches," Gundy said.

Gundy also added that the system could provide opportunities for young players who couldn't find opportunities in the previous scheme. Among those who could benefit: 5-foor-10, 170-pound sophomore inside receiver Isaiah Anderson and sophomore running back Travis Miller.

The quarterbacks went through adjustments of their own, running through new drills and new exercises in the new offense. Brandon Weeden is the likely starter ahead of a pair of freshmen, Johnny Deaton and Clint Chelf.

"[Deaton's] head was spinning, which most kids, their head is going to spin," Holgorsen said. "Weeden’s head was spinning a little at times, too, as mature as he is. But you could tell that kids had never been put in that situation before; that’s natural. It happens everywhere."

Tuesday was my first opportunity to meet Holgorsen, a branch of the Mike Leach coaching tree who spent the past two seasons at Houston. Holgorsen's laid-back demeanor likely meshed well with Leach during their eight seasons together, and I sense Holgorsen's quirky quotability was only enhanced as a member of Leach's staff. I should note I didn't see any pirate memorabilia during my visit to the Oklahoma State facilities.

Said Holgorsen, who has yet to formally move to Stillwater: "I'm enjoying [my hotel in Stillwater] right now. I got me a nice, big king bedroom suite and they make my bed for me every day, wash the towels on the floor. What more can you ask for?"

How about a season opener that's not akin to "doing surgery with a chainsaw instead of a scalpel," to quote Holgorsen's former boss.

But last year, his Cougar offense averaged 58 more yards per game than college football's second best. Keep that pace, and Holgorsen can keep his license to be as quirky as he wants.

Change already underway at Oklahoma State

March, 4, 2010
New Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen arrived in Stillwater in January. A student of departed Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, Holgorsen said then he came to call the plays.

Today, the Cowboys released their preseason depth chart, and regardless of who is on it, where they’ll be lining up suggests the spread is officially in place at Oklahoma State.

Last season, the Cowboys lined up three receivers and a tight end. This spring's depth chart lists two inside receivers and two outside receivers.

Junior Hubert Anyiam and sophomore Justin Blackmon will start as wide receivers. Holgorsen’s inside receivers will be junior Josh Cooper and sophomore Tracy Moore.

Former All-American Kendall Hunter remains the starter at running back after missing extended time in 2009 because of an ankle injury.

The fullback position has also disappeared. In its place, a second running back spot stocked with a pair of 220-plus pound running backs, likely to be used in short-yardage situations or as blockers on third down.

Those slots went to Bryant Ward, a senior from Stillwater and Dexter Pratt, a freshman.

No surprise at quarterback, where junior Brandon Weeden enters the spring as the starter. Freshmen Clint Chelf and Johnny Deaton enter the spring as co-backups.

Holgorsen came to Oklahoma State via Houston, where he crafted college football’s best offense behind quarterback Case Keenum, who spearheaded a Houston team that beat the Cowboys, 45-35, in Stillwater last season.

Oklahoma State recruiting capsule

February, 4, 2010
Oklahoma State

Total class: 27

ESPN 150: 1

By position: S 6, ATH 3, DT 3, QB 2, WR 2, OT 2, G 2, OLB 2, ILB 2, LB 1, DE 1, CB 1.

By state: Texas 20, Kansas 2, Oklahoma 2, Arkansas 1, Florida 1, California 1.

Already enrolled in school: 4.

The big ones: Undersized OLB Shaun Bell, OSU's only recruit in the ESPNU150, has shown marvelous instincts and should grow into a key contributor. ILB Caleb Lavey has good size and is an explosive player between the tackles who has been compared to former standouts like Rocky Calmus and Teddy Lehman.

Sleeper: OT Dan Koenig might not play for a couple of years, but has the bloodlines that suggest he will be a big contributor. Two older brothers preceded him as key OSU players.

Needs met: With both starting cornerbacks graduating, the Cowboys needed immediate contributors and appeared to have gotten them with junior college transfer Malcolm Murray, Devin Hedgepeth and three other arriving high school products. All three starting linebackers are leaving, but the added talent at the top of the class should help. And with four departing starters in the offensive line, the Cowboys attacked that need with developing projects like Koenig and Eli Dickerson.

Analysis: Despite some big losses on defense, the Cowboys appear to have restocked with some productive players who should help immediately. It was a big loss when Calvin Barnett signed with Arkansas on Wednesday. The arrival of quarterbacks Johnny Deaton and Nate Sorenson immediately starts a quarterback competition. It will be interesting to see how much the offense changes and if the Cowboys will have the kind of linemen to flourish in new coordinator Dana Holgorsen’s pass-heavy attack.

What Mike Gundy said: “Everyone is excited on signing day. We are no exception. We won't truly know about this class for a couple of years, but we obviously hope it turns out to be an exceptional group. … “We obviously like our class. It's a testament to our program, and to our current student-athletes, that we can sign a class of this caliber. We think we have helped ourselves in a number of areas.”

Scouts Inc. grade/rankings: B-minus, fourth in Big 12.