Big 12: Jordan Voelker

Kansas State spring wrap

May, 9, 2012
2011 overall record: 10-3
2011 conference record: 7-2
Returning starters: Offense 9; defense 7; P/K (2)

Top returners:
QB Collin Klein, RB John Hubert, LB Arthur Brown, CB Nigel Malone, WR Tyler Lockett, LB Tre Walker, WR Chris Harper

Key losses:
CB David Garrett, LB Emmanuel Lamur, S Tysyn Hartman, DL Ray Kibble, DE Jordan Voelker

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Collin Klein* (1,141 yards)
Passing: Collin Klein* (1,918 yards)
Receiving: Chris Harper* (547 yards)
Tackles: Arthur Brown* (101)
Sacks: Meshak Williams* (7)
Interceptions: Nigel Malone* (7)

Spring answers

1. Filling the void left behind by Garrett: David Garrett was one of the biggest playmakers for the K-State defense, but Allen Chapman seems to have locked down the assignment of replacing him in 2012. The California juco transfer broke up four passes last year and returned his only interception 60 yards for a touchdown. K-State's secondary should be solid. Kip Daily will also help out at corner.

2. Collin Klein can chuck it: You have to take into account that Klein did it against second-teamers and that the quarterbacks have put up big numbers in spring games, but his 47-of-56, 480-yard performance is encouraging. He won't do that during the fall, but it's a good sign that Klein's improvement was obvious in the one practice fans or media were allowed to see.

3. Lockett returns: Tyler Lockett was the most explosive talent on an offense mostly devoid of home run threats, but a lacerated kidney ended his 2011 season early. Lockett returned and practiced this spring, but reportedly had another minor injury before the spring game, depriving us of a chance to see him back in action. Still, it sounds like he'll be back in the fall.

Fall questions

1. Can Kansas State validate its surprising 2011? The Wildcats memorably won eight games in 2011 by a touchdown or less, ascending to a second-place finish in the Big 12 after being picked to finish eighth. Advanced college football statistics suggest K-State is due for a regression in 2012, but this is Bill Snyder we're talking about. His team will be better in 2012. Can its record improve, too? Klein must remain healthy after leading the Big 12 in carries last season.

2. Who's filling in for Tysyn Hartman? Hartman had loads of experience and was one of the most intelligent players on the team. The Wildcats don't have many question marks, but who replaces Hartman is one. They'll still have competition between Thomas Ferguson, Randall Evans and Jarard Milo this fall to win the job.

3. What will the offensive line look like? Kansas State was the Big 12's most physical team in 2011 because of their strong offensive line. K-State loses three starters, and there's no doubt that if there's one thing that derails K-State in the fall, it's the new faces on the line. B.J. Finney is a stud at center, and Nick Puetz is solid, but the other three spots on the line didn't sound like they were sewn up by the end of spring.

Season report card: Kansas State

February, 13, 2012
We're offering up grades for each team in the Big 12 after their seasons conclude, so here's a look at how the 10-3 Kansas State Wildcats graded out in 2011.

More report cards:
OFFENSE: Before the season, the outlook for this group looked grim. It was headed by an inexperienced quarterback who'd only thrown a handful of passes, and an unproven transfer named Bryce Brown would be charged with filling the role of NFL-bound workhorse Daniel Thomas.

Or so we thought, anyway. Who knew Collin Klein was a stud that became more of a workhorse than Thomas -- the Big 12 leader in carries and rushing the past two seasons -- ever was?

Well, Bill Snyder probably did. Or at least had a hunch. Klein carried the Wildcats on his back, complete with perpetually bleeding elbows and led the Big 12 in carries, toting the ball 317 times, 67 more than any other ballcarrier in the Big 12. He wasn't the only one. K-State's ground attack also relied on the lightly-recruited John Hubert, a Waco native who filled in for Brown. Brown left the team in midseason after struggling early and carrying the ball just three times, fumbling once. He added 970 yards of his own.

The offensive line was one of the Big 12's best, and the receivers were good enough. This unit, though, revolved around Klein, who turned out better than anyone expected, tying the Big 12 record for rushing touchdowns with 27, and giving way to Heisman hype for 2012.


DEFENSE: Stop me if you've heard this before, but the expectations for this group were ... let's say measured. That's what happens when you give up 3,000 rushing yards in a single season. Only two teams did it this season. Kansas State did it in 2010.

Enter Arthur Brown and Nigel Malone. The Miami transfer/linebacker and junior college transfer/cornerback checked in and gave K-State a much-needed speed boost that helped the rest of the defense look pretty good. Defensive ends Jordan Voelker and Meshak Williams combined for 11 sacks and provided a pass rush that was non-existent in 2010. None of the teams top five sackers in 2010 were defensive ends.

Fellow corner David Garrett had another solid season for the Wildcats, too. The ball-control offense perhaps inflated the defensive numbers, but K-State held its own for 13 games this season against a ton of great offenses. Well done.


OVERALL: This year was one Kansas State won't soon forget. Snyder hates comparing his teams, but admitted at the end of the season this team grew more than just about any he'd ever have. That's pretty obvious.

After a season-opening 10-7 win over Eastern Kentucky (let me repeat that: a 10-7 win over Eastern Kentucky) I dropped the unimpressive 'Cats all the way to ninth in the Big 12 Power Rankings. They finished the season at No. 2. That's a heck of a season.

Yeah, Kansas State got fortunate in a few spots to win games late. But it won, and the wins as underdogs grew even more impressive by the week. Wins over Miami, Baylor, Missouri and Texas Tech helped push the Wildcats to a 7-0 start and gave them four consecutive wins as an underdog, despite getting outgained in each game. That's pretty unbelievable.

Believe it.


Big 12 recruiting needs in 2012

January, 24, 2012
Signing day is coming fast. Next Wednesday, the next round of players will sign up for their respective programs and start what could be storied careers.

Here's what each team across the Big 12 needs. You'll find Texas A&M and Mizzou on the SEC blog and West Virginia on the Big East Blog.


Quarterback: This one's pretty simple. Robert Griffin III is taking his talents to the NFL early. Nick Florence is waiting to take over, and the Bears have Bryce Petty behind him, but more reinforcements at quarterback are needed. Dual-threat quarterbacks, ideally.

Defensive tackle: Baylor already was one of the nation's worst teams (102nd nationally) at stopping the run. Now it'll need to replace both its interior linemen, Nicolas Jean-Baptiste and Tracy Robertson.

Offensive linemen: Baylor's offensive line, meanwhile, has been solid. It loses junior college transfer and two-year starter Robert T. Griffin, as well as All-Big 12 center Philip Blake. John Jones, a reserve guard, also has exhausted his eligibility.


Receiver: This has been a weak spot for the team for several years, and its top overall talent, Darius Reynolds, is gone. Darius Darks is, too. Aaron Horne and Josh Lenz will be the team's best weapons in 2012, but the pair of shifty slot guys will be seniors. This position needs reinforcements.

Defensive back: The DBs have been a quiet strength for ISU, especially in 2011. Cornerback Leonard Johnson and safety Ter'Ran Benton both have exhausted their eligibility, though, and defensive backs coach Bobby Elliott left for Notre Dame. You'll see plenty of new faces in the Cyclones' secondary next year.

Defensive line: Experienced starters Stephen Ruempolhamer and Jacob Lattimer are both gone, and Iowa State has struggled to stop the run consistently the past few seasons.


Quarterback: Kansas landed high-profile transfers Dayne Crist (Notre Dame) and Jake Heaps (BYU), but this is still a huge position of need. Last year's starter, Jordan Webb, left the team. Quinn Mecham is out of eligibility. Heaps is sitting out his NCAA-mandated year after transferring. Crist is the starter, but he badly needs a backup, especially if Brock Berglund's transfer appeal allows him to leave.

Wide receiver: Kansas lacks a big threat at this position. It needs a talent upgrade in a big way. Oklahoma transfer Justin McCay is joining the team, but he's no guarantee to a) be granted immediate eligibility or b) become an impact player.

Defensive tackle: Kansas is thin here, too. Richard Johnson, Patrick Dorsey and Michael Martinovich are gone, and Kansas couldn't stop much of anything on defense. Some push up front could help make everything look better. A late addition to the 2012 class from a junior college seems like a no-brainer. The Jayhawks need physically mature players to contribute immediately.


Offensive line: K-State's offensive line was much better in 2011 and could be again in 2012. It needs help replacing All-Big 12 lineman Clyde Aufner, though. Starter Colten Freeze is also gone.

Defensive line: Kansas State is bringing back about as many starters as anyone in the Big 12, but the biggest losses are along the defensive line. Kick-blocking specialist (five in 2011) Ralph Guidry is gone, along with tackle Ray Kibble. Juco transfer Jordan Voelker exploded onto the scene this year, but he's gone, too.

Defensive backs: Cornerback David Garrett leaves a huge hole behind. Tysyn Hartman may not be as talented as teammate Ty Zimmerman, but his experience leaves a big hole. Zimmerman will have to mentor a younger safety in the near future.


Receiver: The Sooners are thin here in a big way. That was obvious late in the season when Ryan Broyles' storied college career ended a few weeks early with a knee injury. The team also lost Justin McCay (transfer) to Kansas. Jaz Reynolds and Kenny Stills are the likely top two targets, but they need help.

Tight end: This position inspired a bit of panic at the end of the season. Seniors James Hanna and Trent Ratterree are gone. Austin Haywood wasn't allowed back on the team, and two more tight ends left the team for various reasons. That left the Sooners suddenly without a scholarship player at the position returning in 2012.

Offensive line: Starting tackle Donald Stephenson must be replaced, as will guard Stephen Good, who moved in and out of the starting lineup throughout his career. The Sooners bring back a lot of talent and aren't dying for depth there, but those two will leave holes. Three more offensive line starters will be seniors in 2012.


Offensive line: The Cowboys need a whole lot of help here to fill in behind young players stepping into the starting lineup. Starters Levy Adcock, Nick Martinez and Grant Garner are gone. Backup center Casey LaBrue is gone, too. Those are two All-Big 12 linemen who leave big shoes to be filled.

Receiver: Justin Blackmon surprised no one by leaving a year early, and Josh Cooper leaves with perhaps the most underrated career of any receiver in school history. In OSU's offense, there's always room for depth here. Nine receivers had at least 19 catches in 2011. Blackmon and Cooper combined for 192, though.

Defensive ends: The pass rush was solid for Oklahoma State this year, but both starters, Jamie Blatnick and Richetti Jones, are gone. Replacing both is a necessity.


Receiver: Texas lacks a true game-changer at the position, though Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis may develop into that role in 2012. Former blue-chip recruit Darius White left for Missouri, too.

Quarterback: David Ash and Case McCoy didn't show a ton of potential at quarterback this year, though Ash may grow with an offseason to prepare as starter. Garrett Gilbert got a big chunk of the work in the spring, summer 7-on-7 and fall preseason camp. Even if Ash does grow, the Longhorns need reinforcements at the position.

Linebacker: Two senior impact players are gone. Texas is left trying to replace Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson, though Jordan Hicks may mature into a star in 2012.


Offensive line: TCU's offensive line is headed for some major turnover. OT Robert Deck, OG Kyle Dooley and OG Spencer Thompson are gone. Two more starters, OG Blaize Foltz and C James Fry, will be seniors in 2012.

Defensive linemen: TCU isn't losing a lot at this spot, but Ross Forrest and D.J. Yendrey will be seniors in 2012. The Horned Frogs would be well-served to prepare, and offer some depth next year.

Specialists: TCU will have to break in a pair of new starters on special teams next season. Kicker Ross Evans and punter Anson Kelton have exhausted their eligibility.


Receiver: The Red Raiders' offense requires a lot of depth here. Tramain Swindall is the only loss at the position, but three more (Alex Torres, Cornelius Douglas, Darrin Moore) will be seniors. Douglas moved to cornerback this year after the team was racked with injury, but we'll see whether he moves back this offseason.

Offensive line: Tech has a huge need here. Four players won't be returning in 2012. Lonnie Edwards, Mickey Okafor and center Justin Keown must be replaced.

Defensive linemen: Tech's Donald Langley and Scott Smith are both out of eligibility, and juco transfer Leon Mackey will be a senior.

Eight in Big 12 honored for academics

November, 11, 2011
Eight Big 12 players were named to the Academic All-District VII First Team.
  • Emmanuel Acho, LB, Texas
  • Cody Davis, S, Texas Tech
  • Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
  • Tysyn Hartman, S, Kansas State
  • Gabe Ikard, OL, Oklahoma
  • Trevor Marrongelli, OL, Kansas
  • Trey Millard, FB, Oklahoma
  • Jordan Voelker, DE, Kansas State

Each of the players is eligible to become a Capital One Academic All-American. Players' on-field performance is also factored into the award.

Hartman has been named to the All-District team for a third consecutive season. Griffin has been named to the the team for the second consecutive season.

Midseason top 25 list: Honorable mention

October, 21, 2011
This list was really, really difficult to put together. Much more so than the pre or postseason lists. That sort of surprised me. Lots and lots of talented players just missed my list.

Once again, here was the criteria I examined in putting together the list.

And here's the full list.

In no particular order, here are other players I considered, but couldn't put on the list. This league is deep in the standings, and it's no different on the field. Don't be surprised to see any of these guys on the postseason list.

Ronnell Lewis, DE, Oklahoma: Lewis is seventh in the Big 12 with 3.5 sacks, and has 37 tackles, with two pass breakups and a forced fumble.

Nigel Malone, CB, Kansas State: No cornerbacks made my top 25, but Malone is among a handful of DBs that were close. He leads the Big 12 with four interceptions, and has 27 tackles with four pass breakups.

Brodrick Brown, CB, Oklahoma State: Brown is right there, too. He's made 21 tackles, broken up seven passes, intercepted three passes and made two tackles for loss.

Meshak Williams, DE, Kansas State: Williams is a breakout player this year, sitting at fourth in the Big 12 with four sacks. He also has 5.5 tackles for loss, 13 tackles and a forced fumble.

Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma: Stills has missed two games this season, but he's made 27 catches for 330 yards and five touchdowns. That puts him at seventh in the Big 12 in TD catches.

A.J. Klein, LB, Iowa State: Klein is a worthy sidekick to top 10 player Jake Knott in Ames. Klein's made 45 tackles (7th in the Big 12) and has four tackles for loss with an interception for a touchdown and a sack.

James Franklin, QB, Missouri: Franklin has gotten it done as a sophomore first-year starter in a league filled with great QB play. He's thrown for 1,488 yards, 10 touchdowns and four interceptions, while also running for 390 yards (12th in the Big 12) and seven scores.

Cyrus Gray, RB, Texas A&M: Gray's been good, but his teammate Christine Michael has just been a bit better. He's ninth in the Big 12 with 521 yards and seven touchdowns. He's also caught 13 passes for 112 yards and a score.

Jamell Fleming, CB, Oklahoma: Fleming entered the season as the league's best corner, and he's still in the conversation. He's made 30 tackles, returned a fumble for a touchdown, has broken up three passes and forced a fumble. He also has two tackles for loss.

Jamie Blatnick, DE, Oklahoma State: Blatnick has been a force up front, ranking third in the Big 12 with five sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss, 27 tackles and an interception. He also has a fumble recovery and a pass breakup.

Demontre Hurst, CB, Oklahoma: Hurst and Fleming form the Big 12's best cornerback duo, and Hurst has made 23 tackles, one tackle for loss and returned his lone interception 55 yards for a touchdown. He's also forced a fumble and broken up three passes.

Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State: Randle has 552 rushing yards and is second in the Big 12 with nine touchdowns, filling in admirably for the departed Kendall Hunter.

Carrington Byndom, CB, Texas: Byndom's stepped in as a first-year starter and been a huge boon to Texas' defense, making 28 tackles and intercepting a pass. He helped shut down Justin Blackmon last week, and has broken up nine passes with 3.5 tackles for loss.

Brad Madison, DE, Missouri: Madison has 3.5 sacks and an interception, with 18 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss. He's also forced a fumble.

Darius Reynolds, WR, Iowa State: Reynolds made a few huge catches in the Cyclones' early 3-0 start, including an eventual game-winner against UConn, and has 522 yards and 28 catches to rank fifth in the Big 12. He also has six touchdown catches.

Jordan Voelker, DE, Kansas State: Voelker and Williams have been a huge surprise at defensive end, making four sacks to tie for fourth in the Big 12, with five tackles for loss, 18 tackles and a pass broken up.

Kelechi Osemele, OT, Iowa State: Osemele has a bright future in the NFL. ISU's offense has rushed for a Big 12-low 903 yards and given up 15 sacks, but Osemele has still been solid, albeit banged up.

Terrance Ganaway, RB, Baylor: Ganaway may finish with 1,000 yards after big games against Texas Tech and TCU. He's sixth in the Big 12 with 561 yards and seven touchdowns.

Big 12 Stock Watch: Week 6

October, 5, 2011
You're so money and you don't even know it ... but you do!


Texas Tech's turnover margin: The Red Raiders won the turnover battle 4-1 in their 45-34 comeback win over Kansas. That moved them to third nationally in turnover margin, forcing eight more turnovers (11) than they've committed (3). The three turnovers are third-fewest nationally, behind only Northwestern and Stanford. Clean football being played out in West Texas.


Kansas' defense: The numbers are ugly for the Jayhawks after four games and a 2-2 record. Kansas' offense is much better this season, but it hardly has a chance when the team ranks dead last nationally in scoring defense (44.25 points), 119th in total defense (545 yards/game), 118th in rush defense (252.5 yards/game) and 108th in pass defense (292.5 yards/game). That's not going to work well in the Big 12. Or any league, for that matter.


Kendall Wright: The Bears receiver is outperforming his more highly-touted competition across the Big 12, like Justin Blackmon, Ryan Broyles and Jeff Fuller. All three receivers have admittedly played tougher competition, but his numbers have risen every season, and he's on pace for a career season that's paralleling his quarterback, Robert Griffin III. Wright is tied for the national lead with seven touchdown catches, leads the Big 12, fourth nationally, with 621 receiving yards, and he leads the Big 12, sixth nationally, with 40 receptions.


Texas A&M's pass defense: The Aggies have had two rough weeks, helping Brandon Weeden set a school record with 438 yards and following it up by letting Arkansas' Tyler Wilson break Ryan Mallett's record by more than 100 yards with 510 passing yards last week. Those two performances have the Aggies in dead last nationally in pass defense, giving up an average of 336 yards a game. Kansas is the next-worst Big 12 team, with its 292 yards a game average. Making matters more difficult, the Aggies haven't forced a turnover in 15 quarters, dating back to the first quarter against SMU in its opener. A dash of good news: A&M is fifth nationally in rush defense (63 yards/game).


Kansas State's defensive line: The Wildcats had one of the league's worst defensive lines a season ago, but this season, have two players in the Big 12's top five in sacks. Meshak Williams and Jordan Voelker both have three sacks and linebacker Arthur Brown also has two to rank eighth in the league. Last season, Prizell Brown was the only Wildcat in the Big 12's top 30 in sacks, with five on the season. The Wildcats already have 11 sacks after notching just 20 all of last season.


Iowa State's turnover margin: The Cyclones have had turnover problems all season, but overcame them to reach 3-0 for the first time since 2005. Not anymore. Texas came to town and made ISU pay, winning the turnover battle 3-0 in a 37-14 win. Iowa State has now turned the ball over 13 times in four games, which ranks 108th nationally. They've only forced five all season, though, and rank T-116th last nationally in turnover margin, at -8. Only Notre Dame (-9) has been worse.