Big 12: Justin Gilbert
- There is plenty to celebrate after the announcement that the Red River Showdown will remain at the Cotton Bowl through 2025. Oklahoma and Texas have met in Dallas since 1929.
- The Dallas Morning News continues its Big 12 predictions.
- Oklahoma State landed a commit from a Texas safety.
- Former Oklahoma State star Lorenzo Turner passed away.
- Former Cowboys cornerback Justin Gilbert is already making a strong impression in Cleveland.
- Here's a preview of Texas Tech's top prospects for the 2015 NFL draft from CBSsports.com.
“We went out in the spring, we had some crayons and we did the best we could,” OSU’s cornerbacks coach said.
Malone and the rest of the Cowboys’ defensive coaching staff spent the spring trying to prepare an inexperienced group of talented youngsters to replace a senior-laden defense that was one of the Big 12’s best in 2013. The task is particularly difficult for Malone, who is replacing top-10 NFL draft pick Justin Gilbert.
Junior Kevin Peterson returns after starting opposite Gilbert and provides an experienced and talented anchor at the position. Fellow junior Ashton Lampkin looks ready to slide right into the starting lineup in Gilbert’s place after two seasons as a special teams ace. And the rest of the roster has several talented albeit inexperienced cornerbacks who could provide quality depth, including redshirt freshman Darius Curry, whom Malone singled out for his strong spring.
“He has a Justin Gilbert-type body for the position, really strong upper body and is doing a good job picking up the schemes,” Malone said of Curry. “We look forward to him being able to step in [and contribute].”
Replacing Gilbert won’t be easy, but the cornerbacks in his meeting room are talented enough for Malone’s excitement to override his concerns.
“I’m excited about the group,” he said. “Because Justin Gilbert was not just a first-round talent, he was one of these guys [on the current roster], a guy with incredible talent who just hadn't realized it yet on the college level.”
It’s the theme on OSU’s entire defense. They’re young and inexperienced, but the talent level has changed.
“In the secondary and the defense as a whole, from an experience level, we have some guys who haven’t seen as much as Daytawion Lowe, who started 30 games,” Malone said. “They don’t have the experience level but from an overall level of talent and athletic ability, we feel like we’ve raised the bar.”
The Cowboys might have raised the bar but the only certainty about the Pokes’ defense is the ups and downs and uneven play that will become commonplace this fall. The only way for these young guys to get experience is to throw them into the fire.
“That can be scary but that kind of makes it fun when you don’t quite know where they may line up. They may create a new defense,” Malone joked. “That happened a few times this spring where we created a new coverage.”
But the Cowboys are hoping their plan during their recruitment of the young players currently on the roster will pay off.
“One thing when we recruited these guys, we researched and they love football,” Malone said. “So if they love football they’re going to be in here watching film and preparing themselves.”
Malone won’t rule out the possibility of playing his true freshmen with Chris Hardeman, Juwan Offray and Ramon Richards joining the battle for playing time at cornerback this summer, especially if they display the traits Hardeman has shown before even arriving on campus.
“Chris Hardeman is text messaging every coach,” Malone said. “Those kind of kids are the ones you can put out there, even as freshmen, because you know they are spending the time it takes to be prepared to go out and play. You put a lot on their plate and playing, for a freshman, is a lot on their plate. But these kids will be able to accept the challenge because that’s who they are.”
Replacing Gilbert is a tall task, one that probably won’t be accomplished this fall. But the long-term dividends could be well worth the roller coaster ride the Cowboys' secondary could experience in 2014.
“Eventually those freshmen will be sophomores,” Malone said. “If you can just make it to them being sophomores then you have a really talented guy with experience.”
A thick, physical corner at 5-foot-8 and 185 pounds, Hardeman is confident he has what it takes to make it as a freshman defender in the Big 12. Now he just has to prove it.
Our summer series of weekly Q&As with the Big 12's best incoming freshmen continues today with Hardeman, who'd been committed to LSU for more than a year before eventually choosing OSU.
Now that the recruiting is all over, do you ever think about what would've happened had you gone to LSU?
Hardeman: Oh, I think about it. At the same time, I'm glad I chose Oklahoma State because it's a great program where I can see myself. It's an opportunity for early playing time for me playing in the Big 12, where they throw a lot and I can make a lot of plays.
Did it bug you when you saw your friends and fellow DBs Jamal Adams and Ed Paris go on to sign with LSU? You helped recruit those guys.
Hardeman: Yeah, it kind of bugged me a lot. But I knew Ed was going to be there and I knew Jamal was real strong on them. Me and [Alabama signee] Tony Brown have a good relationship, so I knew if Tony would've went it would've been more difficult. But I kind of knew where Tony's head was, too.
You visited Oklahoma and OSU on the same weekend that you made your decision. How did those two compare in your eyes?
Hardeman: Oklahoma is a great university and great place, but I just couldn't see myself playing there. When I went to Oklahoma State there was just a difference, to me, with the players and the coaching staff. I felt more family and more at home when I went to Oklahoma State.
To be going to Oklahoma State with your teammate Keenen Brown, will that keep both of you focused?
Hardeman: Yeah, it'll keep both of us motivated. Me and Keenen are going to push each other every day. We're going to be roommates. We're going to go up there and grind for the next three or four years to try to make our dreams a reality and make it to the next level.
What kind of opportunity do you have to play in 2014?
Hardeman: I have a great opportunity. Coach [Van] Malone has told me that I have a great opportunity to come in there and play right away. It's just going to be up to me. He's going to put me in the fire once I get there, and I'm either going to swim or I'm going to sink. If I swim, I'll be playing. If not, I'll redshirt. He basically told me it's up to me. I'll go compete like I've always done and try to get on the field that first game against Florida State.
The Cowboys lose one of the best DBs they've ever had in Justin Gilbert. Do you see that as motivation?
Hardeman: Justin was a big part of me deciding to go to Oklahoma State. He's a real cool guy. I went down there for spring practice and he was down there after the [NFL] combine. He remembered me from when I went out there in August to commit and he was just real cool, even though he's a big-time dude. He was normal and humble. I really like that about him.
I know Coach Malone helped get him to this high stature, and I feel like I can do the same thing. They basically do the same stuff we run at Taylor, that man press coverage. I feel like that's a big asset of my game, getting in people's faces and knocking them off their routes. It fits right into what I do, so I'll come in and adapt really well.
Do you like that pressure, that sink-or-swim reality of playing against Big 12 receivers?
Hardeman: That's the main reason why I decided to go to Oklahoma State. I'm always thinking of my future. I know the first thing NFL scouts want to see is, can he cover and can he make plays on the ball? If I'd gone to LSU, I would've had to do some tremendous things like my idol, Tyrann Mathieu, in order to even get considered for the next level. At Oklahoma State, I can prove to them and prove to myself that I can cover big-time Baylor and Oklahoma and Texas Tech receivers and make plays.
I'm sure you've fantasized about it, but what would it mean to play against Jameis Winston and Florida State at AT&T Stadium in your first career game?
Hardeman: That would be crazy. That's one of my goals as a true freshman. That's a great way to get your name out there and get publicized. If I go out there in the first game as a freshman to play Jameis Winston -- my dream is to catch an interception -- and help my team win, that would bring a lot of exposure.
If you guys beat Florida State, there's no telling where the year goes from there, right?
Hardeman: If we beat Florida State, we should shoot up in the rankings and we might even be in the national championship talk. That game is going to be real fun. I can't wait.
Last season the strongest position of the league was defensive back, headlined by Justin Gilbert, Jason Verrett, Ahmad Dixon, Aaron Colvin and Ty Zimmerman, among others.
But those players are all gone. So what will be the strongest position in 2014?
With such players such as TCU’s Devonte Fields, Oklahoma’s Charles Tapper and Texas’ Cedric Reed returning, we believe it will be defensive line.
Maybe you think it will be another position such as receiver, which includes All-American hopefuls Antwan Goodley and Tyler Lockett, and a host of potential 1,000-yard threats such as Texas Tech’s Jakeem Grant, Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard, Iowa State’s Quenton Bundrage, Oklahoma State’s Jhajuan Seales and Texas’ Jaxon Shipley.
Perhaps it’s your opinion that the strength of the Big 12 will be at linebacker, where Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, Kansas and TCU bring their entire units back, and virtually everyone else has at least one proven performer returning.
Maybe the conference’s best unit is the offensive line, with experienced centers BJ Finney (Kansas State), Dominic Espinosa (Texas) and Tom Farniok (Iowa State); talented tackles Spencer Drango (Baylor), Le'Raven Clark (Texas Tech) and Daryl Williams (Oklahoma); and versatile stalwarts Cody Whitehair (Kansas State), Quinton Spain (West Virginia) and Daniel Koenig (Oklahoma State).
Or with Baylor’s Bryce Petty, Kansas State’s Jake Waters, Texas Tech’s Davis Webb and Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight, do you believe quarterback is on its way back to becoming the dominant position in a league that not long ago was the nation’s preeminent conference for that position?
Tell us by voting in the weekly Big 12 poll.
Here’s how the positions of the league rank going into 2014:
1. Defensive line: This was easily the most difficult position to rank by team, as line figures to be the defensive strength of TCU, Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. The Horned Frogs had the league’s best run defense last season, and on top of returning basically the entire unit, will be adding back 2012 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Devonte Fields. The Sooners are also loaded, led by All-Big 12-caliber ends Geneo Grissom and Charles Tapper and tackle Jordan Phillips, and the could also go three-deep across the board next year. The Longhorns have two potential first-round picks up front in tackle Malcom Brown and end Cedric Reed. And Baylor coach Art Briles is already on record stating his D-line could go toe-to-toe with any in the country. Collectively, this should be the best the conference has been at the position since Gerald McCoy and Ndamukong Suh roamed the middle five years ago.
2. Wide receiver: The league has two superstars at receiver in Baylor’s Antwan Goodley and Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett, who have the résumés to garner preseason All-American consideration. But they aren’t the only prolific playmakers here. Texas Tech’s Jakeem Grant, Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard, Iowa State’s Quenton Bundrage, Oklahoma State’s Jhajuan Seales and Texas’ Jaxon Shipley are all capable of 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Baylor might feature the best receiving corps in the country, Oklahoma State is a solid nine deep and West Virginia returns its entire starting lineup from last season. Even Kansas has the nation’s second-leading receiver from 2011 in Miami (Ohio) transfer Nick Harwell. Assuming the league’s quarterbacks can get them the ball, this could be another banner year for the Big 12’s pass-catchers.
3. Linebacker: Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, Kansas and TCU return virtually their entire linebacker units from last year. And from Texas Tech’s Pete Robertson and Kansas State’s Jonathan Truman to Baylor’s Bryce Hager and Oklahoma State’s Ryan Simmons, the rest of the league basically has at least one proven linebacker coming back, too.
4. Offensive line: The strength of the Big 12's offensive lines resides in experienced centers and talented tackles. Kansas State’s BJ Finney, Texas’ Dominic Espinosa and Iowa State’s Tom Farniok are all four-year starters with a combined 113 career starts. At tackle, Baylor’s Spencer Drango, Texas Tech’s Le’Raven Clark and Oklahoma’s Daryl Williams have NFL futures. The league also boasts three other very stout and versatile players up front in Kansas State’s Cody Whitehair, West Virginia’s Quinton Spain and Oklahoma State’s Daniel Koenig, all three of which can man either guard or tackle.
6. Running back: Half the teams lost their leading rushers from last season, and that doesn’t include Texas Tech’s Kenny Williams switching positions to linebacker. The Longhorns pose a potentially devastating one-two punch in Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray, and the Mountaineers could go five-deep with Dreamius Smith, Wendell Smallwood, Rushel Shell, Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie. But the rest of the league will be leaning on potential more than past performance. That said, there is a lot to like in Baylor’s Shock Linwood, Iowa State’s Aaron Wimberly, TCU’s B.J. Catalon, Oklahoma State’s Tyreek Hill and Oklahoma’s Keith Ford.
7. Defensive back: With Gilbert, Verrett, Dixon, Colvin, Zimmerman, Cook and Byndom all gone, this position took a major attrition hit. Thanks to Sam Carter, Chris Hackett and Kevin White, TCU remains well stocked in its secondary. Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas have veterans back, too. Everywhere else, there is rebuilding to be done. But the next wave of secondary stars appears to be on its way. Cornerbacks Nigel Tribune (Iowa State), Justis Nelson (Texas Tech) and Daryl Worley (West Virginia) all started as true freshmen. So did Oklahoma State corner Kevin Peterson and West Virginia safety Karl Joseph, who are now both juniors. It might not be long before defensive back is a strength of the league again like it was last season.
It's Take Two Tuesday, when we give takes on a burning topic related to the Big 12.
Today's topic: There were 17 Big 12 players taken in the NFL draft -- who left the biggest shoes to fill?
Take 1: Brandon Chatmon -- Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert
Ashton Lampkin has gigantic shoes to fill.
The Oklahoma State junior is in line to replace Gilbert, a top-10 NFL draft pick. Gilbert was a special playmaker for the Cowboys and he changed several games during his four seasons in Stillwater, Okla.
Lampkin won’t be able to replace the complete package Gilbert brought to the table as a cover man and returner, but he has the pedigree and ability to slide right into the starting lineup without becoming the weak link in the secondary.
The Arlington, Texas, native has played in every game since becoming a Cowboy and was named OSU’s Special Teams Most Valuable Player in 2013. Lampkin has looked like a player who could handle an increased role for the past two seasons and should finally get his opportunity to shine at cornerback this fall. At 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, Lampkin brings decent size to the position and has the athletic ability to be a quality Big 12 cornerback.
Yet, Lampkin still has the biggest shoes to fill in the entire conference. Gilbert was a unique athlete who often made big plays when the Cowboys needed them, so Lampkin could have a superb first season as a starter and still leave people reminiscing about the eye-popping plays that Gilbert made look easy, particularly as a senior.
Thus, Lampkin could be, for all intents and purposes, in a no-win situation.
Take 2: Jake Trotter -- Baylor free safety Ahmad Dixon
Brandon went with a first-rounder in Gilbert. I’ll go the other direction, and pick a seventh-rounder.
Sure, Dixon was the last Big 12 player selected in the draft, coming off the board 240 picks after Gilbert. But like Gilbert, Dixon was the tone-setter in the Baylor secondary, and one of the major reasons why the Bears fielded their best defensive unit in years. The Waco, Texas, native was also a 38-game starter, and Baylor’s first All-American safety since Thomas Everett in 1986.
The Bears also fielded the second-best pass defense in the league last year, after fielding the worst the previous two seasons. And no player had a bigger hand in that staggering improvement than Dixon, who was the unequivocal leader and heavy hitter of the Baylor defense. Sure, the Bears featured the nation’s top-scoring offense in 2013, but Baylor doesn’t capture its first Big 12 title without a drastically improved defense.
Next season, however, Dixon will be gone. And in his place, the Bears will be leaning on another Waco native that graduated from the same Midway High School as Dixon.
Backing up Dixon, Orion Stewart was a key reserve for the Bears last year as a freshman, and garnered key time in significant moments. In the same game Dixon was ejected for targeting last year, Stewart picked off a pass and dashed 82 yards for a touchdown, which helped lift Baylor to a 41-38 win over TCU. Stewart also started the following game against Texas while Dixon served a first half suspension.
In both games, Stewart performed admirably. But he’ll have to fill Dixon’s shoes for an entire season in 2014. And those shoes are as big as any in the Big 12.
CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State: Cleveland Browns (No. 8 overall)
Ranking: No. 39 ATH
What our scouts said then: “Gilbert is a dual-threat quarterback. ... is a player that will likely be moved to wide receiver or safety. He is a gifted athlete with good football awareness and an athlete that has his best football ahead of him. ... once he commits to the position full time at the next level.”
What happened: Gilbert quickly found a new position at cornerback, and was one of the best at that position in the country last year.
What our scouts said then: No report
What happened: Verrett graduated high school as a running back with no stars and no offers. At juco, the coaching staff moved him to the secondary, setting the stage for him to become one of the best cornerbacks in college football.
TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech: New York Jets (No. 49)
Ranking: No. 28 TE
What our scouts said then: “Amaro is a productive receiving tight end. He has good size and appears on film to have the frame to be able to add more good bulk with time in a college weight program. He will play and block from an in-line position, but at this point it seems the strength of his game is a receiver. Can be a productive receiver.”
What happened: Well, Amaro added 30 pounds of bulk and became one of the most productive receiving tight ends in college football history.
RB Charles Sims, West Virginia: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 69)
Ranking: No. 114 RB
What our scouts said then: “If a college program is patient with Sims' development, they are going to get a future workhorse in the backfield. Hands are soft adding to his upside as a future featured back. Potential sleeper on the national scene as well and could blow up with a big senior season and added size prior to next fall.”
What happened: At Houston, Sims was named the Conference USA Freshman of the Year after rushing for nine touchdowns. His final year, he transferred to West Virginia to raise his pro profile. Displaying those “soft hands” out of the backfield, Sims led all Big 12 running backs in receiving.
DE Will Clarke, West Virginia: Cincinnati Bengals (No. 88)
What our scouts said then: No report
What happened: Clarke committed to rival Pitt, but never signed there. Instead, in late March, he faxed his letter-of-intent to West Virginia. Clarke became a three-year starter at defensive end, and the first and only Big 12 defensive lineman to get taken in the draft.
WR Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma: New York Jets (No. 104)
What our scouts said then: No report
What happened: After two banner seasons at Fresno State, Saunders transferred to OU and became one of the Sooners’ top playmakers. He had 1,136 all-purpose yards as a senior, and helped fuel OU’s late surge to the 2013 season.
CB Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma: Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 114)
Ranking: No. 40 S
What our scouts said then: “Colvin should be a very solid safety at the next level especially from the strong position and be a very solid zone pass defender.”
What happened: Colvin played a key part in the OU secondary for four seasons. He would have been a higher pick had it not been for a knee injury he suffered in the Senior Bowl.
OG Cyril Richardson, Baylor: Buffalo Bills (No. 153)
Ranking: No. 64 OT
What our scouts said then: “Great size and a large wing span which can be beneficial especially in pass protection. Wins most battles at the line of scrimmage when base and drive blocking. Richardson should develop into a very good tackle at the next level.”
What happened: Richardson actually settled in as one of the elite power-blocking guards in college football, and became an Outland finalist as a senior. Richardson didn’t have the best pre-draft workouts, but he’ll have a chance to play in Buffalo.
ILB Jeremiah George, Iowa State: New York Jets (No. 154)
Ranking: No. 55 OLB
What our scouts said then: “George plays inside linebacker but is a little undersized for the position at the major level of competition. However this is a very active, hard-hitting player with the athleticism we like to see in second level defenders.”
What happened: George never let his size be a hindrance, and had a spectacular senior season, leading the Big 12 in tackles and earning all-conference honors.
Ranking: No. 6 RB (ESPN 150)
What our scouts said then: “Fast, explosive, electric, either way you slice it, Seastrunk is arguably one of this class' biggest game-breakers at the running back position.”
What happened: Seastrunk signed with Oregon, but took off after transferring to Baylor. Despite missing two games to injury, Seastrunk led the Big 12 with 1,117 rushing yards last year.
CB Demetri Goodson, Baylor: Green Bay Packers (No. 197)
Ranking: No. 11 point guard (ESPN 100)
What our scouts said then: “Demetri is a true leader, and has the proper mentality to play the point and run a team. He can really push the ball down the court and he gets wherever he wants with it.”
What happened: After starting two seasons of hoops at Gonzaga, Goodson transferred to Baylor, and found his new calling on the gridiron. He finally broke out as a senior last season, earning the starting nod at cornerback, where he improved with every appearance.
OL Tavon Rooks, Kansas State: New Orleans Saints (No. 202)
What our scouts said then: No report
What happened: After transferring in from Navarro Junior College, Rooks instantly became a two-year starter at right tackle for K-State.
OLB Will Smith, Texas Tech: Dallas Cowboys (No. 238)
What our scouts said then: “Smith has large frame and shows promise on film. His taller frame and lack of ideal top-end speed and elusiveness may see him get recruited more at outside linebacker; his measurables could eventually be better suited on defense if his body continues to physically develop. Could be a late bloomer on the recruiting trail.”
What happened: Smith went to Riverside (Calif.) Community College, and indeed became a late bloomer. This past season, he finished second in the league behind George with 120 tackles, and was one of Texas Tech’s most consistent defensive performers all year.
WR Tevin Reese, Baylor: San Diego Chargers (No. 240)
What our scouts said then: No report
What happened: Reese played for plenty of scouts at Temple (Texas) High School, but only because they came to see his teammate, Seastrunk. Even though Reese was incredibly slight at less than 160 pounds, the Baylor coaching staff loved his explosiveness. He started four games as a true freshman, and eventually became a star in the league.
OLB Corey Nelson, Oklahoma: Denver Broncos (No. 242)
Ranking: No. 3 OLB (ESPN 150)
What our scouts said then: “Nelson may be a bit raw and inexperienced in linebacker play but after watching film on this guy it's hard not to see a special linebacker prospect. A defensive playmaker with the quick-twitched burst and striking short-area power you just can't coach.”
What happened: Nelson played a true freshman, but never really became a full-time starter until his senior year. He had a great first month, then suffered a season-ending pectoral injury.
FB Trey Millard, Oklahoma: San Francisco 49ers (No. 245)
Ranking: No. 59 ATH
What our scouts said then: “Overall, Millard brings a lot to the table physically for a program to mold and develop. Not going to wow you on film ... but grows on you the more you watch and just does a lot of the little things right.”
What happened: On his way to earning all-conference honors three times, Millard did many little things right at OU, whether it was blocking, catching passes or even carrying the ball himself. A senior injury hurt his draft stock, but he’ll have a chance to stick in San Fran.
SS Ahmad Dixon, Baylor: Dallas Cowboys (No. 248)
Ranking: No. 3S (ESPN 150)
What our scouts said then: “Dixon is an exceptional defensive back that really is a prototype free safety. A real hitter that is a true leader by the effort he gives every play.”
What happened: After flirting with Tennessee, Dixon became one of the most high-profile recruits ever to sign with Baylor during the Art Briles era. He became a three-year starter, and last season as an All-American was a key piece on Baylor’s first Big 12 title team.
None of those players went to Texas.
The Longhorns did not have a player drafted for the first time since 1937, leaving a lasting memory that could remain in Austin, Texas, until the 2015 draft.
Baylor led the league with five players selected, followed by Oklahoma with four. Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert and TCU cornerback Jason Verrett were the only Big 12 players selected in the first round.
Here's a closer look at some of the Big 12's draftees and storylines from the draft over the weekend.
Strong statement: While his current team did not get any players drafted, Texas coach Charlie Strong watched his former school, Louisville, get more players drafted in the first round than the entire Big 12. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, safety Calvin Pryor and linebacker Marcus Smith each were selected in the first round after being recruited by and playing for Strong at Louisville. Linebacker Preston Brown was selected by the Bills in the third round, giving Louisville four players selected in the first three rounds. No Big 12 team matched that feat.
Best fit: It’s probably hard to find a rookie in a better situation than former Oklahoma State cornerback Gilbert, who was selected No. 8 overall by the Cleveland Browns. First, Cleveland clearly valued him, taking him in the top 10 after moving down, and he should slide right into the starting lineup for the Browns. Second, he will be the most overlooked top-10 pick in recent memory as all the attention during his rookie season is likely to be focused on former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, the Browns’ second pick of the first round. Third, he will get the opportunity to be mentored by Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden in a system that will allow his physical gifts to shine.
Immediate impact rookie: Former Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro could be the poised to have the biggest impact as a rookie. Amaro, the New York Jets' second-round pick, could become a big target who is a quarterback’s best friend, as Amaro proved to be during his standout 2013 season with the Red Raiders. If Amaro can hold his own as a blocker, he could develop into a lethal weapon on play action for Rex Ryan’s Jets.
Long-term impact: Former Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin won’t be earning Rookie of the Year honors. Selected in the fourth round by the Jacksonville Jaguars, Colvin is recovering from an torn ACL in January and could miss the entire 2014 season as he recovers from the injury. When he does get healthy, Colvin has the ability to be a starting NFL cornerback and could become a mainstay in the Jaguars secondary.
Potential steal: It's hard to understand why former Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk dropped all the way into the sixth round, where Washington drafted him to rejoin former teammate Robert Griffin III in the offensive backfield. He might not arrive in Washington and lock up a starting role, but it would be a surprise if Seastrunk, who averaged 7.4 yards per carry in 2013, doesn't makes an impact with his new squad.
Below is a recap of how the Big 12 fared this weekend in the NFL draft. Baylor led the league with five picks, and Texas failed to have a selection for the first time since 1937.
Should start immediately opposite Pro Bowl CB Joe Haden.
CB Jason Verrett, TCU: San Diego Chargers (25th)
His aggressive cover corner skills will instantly boost an ailing San Diego secondary.
TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech: New York Jets (49th)
The Jets needed weapons for their passing game, and they got a big one here.
RB Charles Sims, West Virginia: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (69th)
Pass-catching skills makes him the likely third-down back in Tampa.
DE Will Clarke, West Virginia: Cincinnati Bengals (88th)
If he can develop his frame, he could be a factor down the line.
WR Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma: New York Jets (104th)
Brings major playmaking to the slot and the return teams.
CB Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma: Jacksonville Jaguars (114th)
Would have been a second-round pick if not for the Senior Bowl injury.
OG Cyril Richardson, Baylor: Buffalo Bills (153rd)
A mauler who will probably need to trim down to succeed at the next level.
ILB Jeremiah George, Iowa State: New York Jets (154th)
Tackling skills could make him a force on special teams.
RB Lache Seastrunk, Baylor: Washington Redskins (186th)
Had to wait a while, but gets to join former Bear RG III in the backfield.
CB Demetri Goodson, Baylor: Green Bay Packers (197th)
The former basketball player has upside that intrigued the Packers.
OL Tavon Rooks, Kansas State: New Orleans Saints (202nd)
It's a mild surprise that he was the first and only K-State alum drafted.
OLB Will Smith, Texas Tech: Dallas Cowboys (238th)
Big-time college tackler who will contribute on coverage teams.
WR Tevin Reese, Baylor: San Diego Chargers (240th)
Will be interesting to see if San Diego can take advantage of Reese’s top-end speed.
OLB Corey Nelson, Oklahoma: Denver Broncos (242nd)
Has a nose for the ball and probably would’ve gone higher had it not been for the pectoral injury.
FB Trey Millard, Oklahoma: San Francisco 49ers (245th)
A typical talented 49ers draft pick coming off an injury.
SS Ahmad Dixon, Baylor: Dallas Cowboys (248th)
Brings a physical presence, but improvement in coverage will determine whether he sticks on the defense.
Here's a look at what the experts were saying about Gilbert and Verrett on Twitter after they were selected:
Joe Haden and Justin Gilbert? Can't be mad at that, Browns fans. Remember Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield? #NFLDraft— Michael Smith (@michaelsmith) May 9, 2014
Surprise pick for the Browns, who trade up to take CB Justin Gilbert. Has all the talent in the world - long arms and crazy athletic...— Terez A. Paylor (@TerezPaylor) May 9, 2014
#Browns coach Mike Pettine wanted the tallest CB w/ a 1st-rd grade & that was Justin Gilbert. Needs 2 lock-down CBs to play his D!— Vic Carucci (@viccarucci) May 9, 2014
One of the top priorities for Mike Pettine tonight was to come away with a potential shutdown CB. The #Browns see that in Gilbert— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) May 9, 2014
Interesting tandem on the defensive boundaries in Cleveland. Joe Haden and Justin Gilbert have the potential to cause a lot of problems.— Dion Caputi (@nfldraftupdate) May 9, 2014
Justin Gilbert on playing opposite @joehaden23: "It's a dream come true." Did he have sense Browns would pick him? Laughed: "Not. At. All."— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) May 9, 2014
Verrett to the Chargers is another really good pick. Were he taller, he'd be drafted higher, to me. Can play all coverages, tackle, & blitz.— Dion Caputi (@nfldraftupdate) May 9, 2014
Love the #Chargers pick. Verrett is pigeonholed as a slot corner but he is much more. Can play the catch pt much better than many longer CBs— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) May 9, 2014
Mighty Mouse to San Diego! I'm all-in on Jason Verrett. Height challenged and all, but best feet of any CB in the #NFLDraft.— Charles Davis (@CFD22) May 9, 2014
Jason Verrett was burned for 3 of @RGIII 6 TD passes vs TCU in 2011, was so upset almost quit. Stuck with it, balled out.. now first round— trey wingo (@wingoz) May 9, 2014
It all begins tonight at 8 p.m. (ET) and the draft will continue through Saturday. Several Big 12 players should be selected in the next three days, so here is a team-by-team NFL draft primer, which includes each school’s top prospect, one sleeper/value pick and a list of each potential draftee. All projections are courtesy of ESPN Insider's draft board , and the potential draftees listed are players with an ESPN.com Scouts Inc. ranking of 31 or above. All draft projections are listed by day, i.e. Day 1 (Round 1), Day 2 (Rounds 2 and 3) and Day 3 (Rounds 4, 5, 6 and 7).
Top prospect: G Cyril Richardson. The Bears’ All-American guard is projected to be an early Day 3 selection and could provide quality depth (or even start) during his first NFL season.
Sleeper pick: WR Tevin Reese. Slated as a late Day 3 selection, Reese could surprise with his speed and take the top off NFL defenses, particularly on a team with a strong running game.
Other potential draftees (projected selection): RB Lache Seastrunk (Day 3), S Ahmad Dixon (Day 3), CB Demetri Goodson (Day 3).
Top prospect: LB Jeremiah George. The Cyclones’ undersized but athletic linebacker didn’t wow scouts with his measurables but it would be unwise to brush him off as a player unable to make an impact on Sundays. He’s projected to go late on Day 3 and could, at the very least, carve out a special teams role.
Sleeper pick: None.
Other potential draftees: None.
No Jayhawk is projected to be drafted or has a ESPN.com Scout’s Inc. rating of 31 or above.
Top prospect: S Ty Zimmerman. He was extremely productive during his time at KSU and is projected to go late on Day 3.
Sleeper pick: OT Cornelius Lucas. Projected to be a late Day 3 selection, Lucas would be worth taking a flyer on for most NFL teams due to his mammoth size (6-foot-8, 316 pounds).
Other potential draftees: None.
Top prospect: CB Aaron Colvin. Projected to come off the board early on Day 3, Colvin would be drafted much higher if he hadn’t torn his ACL during Senior Bowl practices. It’s quite possible some team will eventually get Day 1 or Day 2 production from Colvin if they’re patient with his recovery.
Sleeper pick: FB Trey Millard. Another Sooner coming off an ACL injury, Millard is the type of guy who won’t get any headlines this weekend but will end up playing 10 years in the league as a key contributor on offense and special teams. He projected to be drafted on Day 3.
Other potential draftees: WR Jalen Saunders (Day 3), RB Damien Williams (Day 3), C Gabe Ikard (Day 3).
Top prospect: CB Justin Gilbert. Gilbert is projected to go in the first round and is considered one of the top cornerback prospects in the draft. He’s likely to be the first Big 12 player selected.
Sleeper pick: WR Josh Stewart. His physical attributes aren’t going to make NFL scouts drool, but Stewart seems to consistently find ways to make plays and could initially make an impact as a returner. He’s projected to be a late Day 3 selection.
Other potential draftees: None.
Top prospect: CB Jason Verrett. The elite cover cornerback sits right alongside Gilbert among the draft’s top cornerbacks. He’s projected to join Gilbert as a first-round selection.
Sleeper pick: None.
Other potential draftees: None.
Top prospect: DE Jackson Jeffcoat. He finished his Texas career with an extremely productive senior season. He’s projected to be an early Day 3 selection.
Sleeper pick: WR Mike Davis. He has a bunch of talent and upside but never really became a difference maker in the Big 12. Davis is projected to be selected on Day 3 and could be a steal if his NFL team can push him to maximize his potential.
Other potential draftees: OG Trey Hopkins (Day 3), DT Chris Whaley (Day 3).
Top prospect: TE Jace Amaro. The Big 12’s biggest mismatch creator could transition into an individual matchup nightmare in the NFL as well. He’s projected to go early on Day 2 and will give some NFL team a unique weapon.
Sleeper pick: DT Kerry Hyder. The former foundation of the Red Raiders’ defensive line is expected to be drafted late on Day 3. He’s the type of player NFL teams can draft and hope for the best because he does have some NFL traits that could earn him a spot on a roster.
Other potential draftees: None.
Top prospect: HB Charles Sims. It’s quite possible Sims would be projected to go higher if the overall value of running backs as a whole was not trending down. One of the most versatile running back prospects, Sims is projected to be selected on Day 2.
Sleeper pick: DE William Clarke. The lanky defensive end prospect is projected to be drafted early on Day 3. His athleticism and instincts could make in him Saturday steal.
Other potential draftees: None.
OSU cornerbacks’ coach Van Malone, who switched to coaching cornerbacks in 2013 after coaching the safeties during the 2012 season, has known Gilbert since the NFL prospect was in high school so he understands Gilbert’s journey to elite NFL prospect better than most. With the draft approaching, Malone took some time to chat with ESPN.com about Gilbert and his improvement from junior to senior year.
I had recruited him when I was at Texas A&M (Malone coached at Texas A&M from 2006-2009) so I knew about him, his family and what type of person he was. When I came through the doors at Oklahoma State with him and a few of the guys on the team it was more like reuniting. When I switched to the corners, it was a natural transition. I went to talk to him first, before any other player, because I wanted to talk to him about that fact a lot of people were talking about his junior season. I had seen a couple interviews about being disappointed and the first thing I said was, “Hey, we’re going to let that go.” At cornerback you have to have the mentality that “that play is over” and that year was like a play, we’re going to let that go, we’re not going to talk about that, we’re going to focus on the next season and he took that to heart.
What’s been the biggest area of growth in the past year?
He developed a sense of responsibility, a sense of leadership. He’s always been a guy that, “Hey what time do we need to be there? I’m going to be there.’ But he never realized his responsibility, by his actions or his words, to make sure he’s leading the other guys. He started to do that this season, which, when a guy is a senior it’s almost pulled out of them. And I think he made considerable improvement as far as his preparation for his opponent. He matured in that way and had a understanding that what you do during the week, during the offseason, the summertime, it will pay off. Our guys talk, even today, about how they were always impressed with his work.
I’d imagine there were a lot of them, but was there one play where you realized his talent?
There were a lot of them but there are a couple games I always allude to. The Texas game, he got beat for a catch. His technique on that particular play was poor and he got beat. We came back to the sideline and, like you would want, he was listening, he knew what he did wrong, he could explain what he did wrong and he went back out there, they attacked him with the same route and, with great technique, he intercepted it. It’s what I call video evidence, the younger guys can learn from what happened. They saw a bad play, they saw him correct it and they saw him go out and make a good play on the same exact play. If you do the same thing two times, you have two interceptions. He had that happen in the West Virginia game and the Texas game.
When you think of Thursday what will it be like for you?
It will be a proud moment. I’ve been talking to Justin the past few days, talking to his family, talking to his mom, who is a big part of his life. I’ve been trying to give him those pieces of advice that people gave to me and I didn’t grab onto or that people didn’t give to me. Doors will open that were never open to you before, people always say people with money change, “money changes you.” No, it doesn’t, it changes the people around you. Be who you’ve been all of your life, treat people the right way, have fun with this super opportunity and make the most of it. I told them his mom is that person for him, maintain that relationship because his mom does not want anything from him, she wants nothing but him to be successful. Those are the type of people you need to maintain relationships with. Thursday will be a proud moment for me, Oklahoma State and for Justin as well.
I’m sure that helps on the recruiting trail.
Of course. Kids want to go to [the NFL]. For me it’s about the players. Good players make great coaches and that’s what Justin is and was, he’s going to go and make someone else a great coach. When recruits watch Justin they can see some of the things we’ve helped him develop on only on the field but his character, his behavior as a teammate, how he operates with his family, in the community, that’s important. We’re proud to say he spent time at Oklahoma State and will point to him when we recruit.
“180 degrees,” he says.
At this time a year ago, Spencer was a new defensive coordinator with a defense full of veterans. From cornerback Justin Gilbert, a likely NFL draft first-round pick, to linebacker Shaun Lewis, an All-Big 12 performer, the Cowboys defense featured several players with plenty of experience. His task required fine-tuning and allowed him to be creative, with the understanding his experienced defense could handle the extra burden of additional schemes.
This spring has been much different as he prepares for his second season running the Pokes' defense. The unit, while talented, is young and inexperienced as they try to replace a group of seniors who started 239 combined games in a Cowboys uniform.
Instilling mental toughness was a spring focus.
“It’s been a process the whole spring; it’s not a real surprise,” Spencer said. “We have some guys running with the first unit that haven’t earned a thing yet and there’s probably a sense of entitlement right now.”
Oklahoma State does have several returning defenders with experience, including defensive tackle James Castleman and cornerback Kevin Peterson, who both say they prefer to lead by example. So there is a potential vocal leadership void, but Spencer has been pleased with the spring progress of his youthful unit, even if it hasn’t reached the heights required for success this fall.
“We got a lot done,” Spencer said. “I’m still not happy, but we got a lot done. There was some improvement made -- a lot of it -- mostly in the tough situations we put them in, some adversity that happened and watching and studying and seeing yourself on tape and realizing what you think you’re doing and what you’re actually doing doesn’t match up sometimes.”
If removing what Spencer had referred to as "a sense of entitlement" earlier in the spring has been achieved, then Oklahoma State can call this spring a success.
“Our perception of what we are and then what we are accomplishing is a lot different,” Spencer said. "Those things were huge, and we took a big step toward that.”
Even with their spring progress, the inexperience of the Cowboys defense will remain a storyline until the fall.
“There were a number of years where we had Joe [Mitchell] and Shaun and those guys you know about,” head coach Mike Gundy said. “When you’re experienced on defense, they can overcome speed, and they can overcome different tempos of offense and formations and movement. When you get in a game on that side of the ball, if you’re not real experienced, things that move around a little bit and you start paying attention to that, and then they snap the ball and you get out of your gap. We have to really pay attention as a coaching staff to that and put our players in positions to give them the best chance to have success early in the season.”
Thursday, ESPN Insider Todd McShay released his 2014 NFL Mock Draft 4.0, which includes the first two rounds of the draft.
McShay has three former Big 12 players going in the top two rounds: Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert, TCU cornerback Jason Verrett and Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro.
To see when and where McShay has the Big 12 trio going, click here .
TCU (March 6)
Big name: CB Jason Verrett. A total of 26 NFL teams had reps at the Horned Frogs’ pro day, and you know many of them came for Verrett. He didn’t look to improve his 40 time from the NFL combine (4.38), but he did show off a 39 ˝-inch vertical and benched 19 reps.
Sleeper: QB Casey Pachall. While he’ll have to answer lots of questions about his off-field issues, Pachall’s on-field work at pro day was encouraging. He checked in at 6-foot-3˝ and 216 pounds, ran his 40 in the mid-4.9s and completed 62 of 72 passes, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Kansas State (March 11)
Big name: S Ty Zimmerman. Though 20 Kansas State players worked out at pro day, Zimmerman was not one of them. He’s still recovering from labrum surgery and reportedly plans to hold a workout next month to show his progress.
Sleeper: OT Cornelius Lucas. Hard to project how things will play out for Lucas, a mammoth tackle at 6-8 and 316 pounds, after he discovered a stress fracture in his left foot at the NFL combine. He’s supposed to be out up to eight weeks but plans to work out along with Zimmerman on April 28.
Oklahoma (March 12)
Big name: CB Aaron Colvin. The Sooners had 28 NFL organization represented at their pro day, but a few key players were still on the mend. Colvin, who suffered a torn ACL at the Senior Bowl, did not work out but hopes to be running again by late April and vowed his recovery is ahead of schedule.
Sleeper: C Gabe Ikard. While Ikard elected to stand by his combine numbers, which were strong for his position group, he did use the pro day to show in position drills just how athletic an interior lineman he can be for an NFL club. Running back Damien Williams also made a solid impression, and receiver Jalen Saunders drew mixed reviews after poor shuttle times.
Oklahoma State (March 13)
Big name: CB Justin Gilbert. The Steelers have the No. 15 pick, so it made sense that Mike Tomlin and his GM were among the many coaches in Stillwater to scout Gilbert. He stood by his 4.37 in the 40 from the NFL combine but did agility drills and reportedly wowed in his position drills. He’s a first-rounder, no doubt.
Sleeper: WR Josh Stewart. Well, OK, he’s not much of a sleeper. But Stewart had work to do to raise his stock, and pro day should’ve helped. He improved his 40 slightly, from 4.69 at the combine to 4.59 at pro day, and showed what he can do as a receiver and returner. Safety Daytawion Lowe also made a good impression.
Texas Tech (March 14)
Big name: TE Jace Amaro. The All-America tight end tried to secure a spot in the first round with improvements in the 40 (4.68) and vertical, and at 6-5 and 266 pounds he evoked comparisons to Vernon Davis from one 49ers scout.
Sleeper: CB Bruce Jones. He’s undersized at 5-7 and 183 pounds, but Jones did grab some attention at pro day with a run of a 4.5-second 40 time and team-best vertical of 41 inches.
Kansas (March 14)
Big name: RB James Sims. A dozen scouts showed up for the Jayhawks’ pro day, and the highlight was probably Sims busting off a run of 4.56 seconds in the 40. The 6-foot, 205-pound back was not invited to the NFL combine and told the Lawrence Journal-World he felt good about the numbers he put up.
Baylor (March 19)
Big names: OT Cyril Richardson, RB Lache Seastrunk, S Ahmad Dixon. Richardson shed 20 pounds after his senior season, which had to encourage NFL scouts, and he did nothing at his pro day to diminish his chances of being a top-50 pick. Seastrunk was as explosive as expected, with a time of 4.37 in the 40 and a 4.36 second shuttle, and tried to show off his pass-catching ability. Dixon ran a 4.64 in the 40 at the NFL combine and improved that to 4.48 at pro day.
Sleeper: TE Jordan Najvar. At nearly 6-6 and 280 pounds, Najvar certainly has the size to make the NFL. His speed had been a question mark, but his reported best for pro day was 4.86 seconds in the 40.
West Virginia (March 21)
Big name: RB Charles Sims. A nice showing at the NFL combine (40 time: 4.48) meant Sims needed only to do positional drills, and he drew good reviews for his pass-catching ability despite small hands.
Sleeper: DE Will Clarke. Knowing it’s possible he’ll be asked to play outside linebacker in an NFL scheme, Clarke worked out at both end and linebacker on pro day and tried to show what he can bring to pass coverage as a nearly 6-6, 268-pound defender.
Iowa State (March 25)
Big name: LB Jeremiah George. After a subpar showing at the combine, George had a nice day in front of 30 NFL officials. He hit 4.69 in the 40-yard dash, posted a big improvement in his broad jump and was solid in positional work.
Sleeper: CB Jeremy Reeves. How’s this for a success story? Reeves played at ISU from 2010-12, missed last season with a pectoral injury and showed up to pro day to prove he’s still got it. He had a crazy good day: 4.29-second 40, 43-inch vertical, 11˝-foot broad jump. The New York Jets signed him on Friday.
Texas (March 26)
Big name: DE Jackson Jeffcoat. Like most other top prospects, Jeffcoat stuck with his NFL combine testing numbers. The 6-3, 253-pound end demonstrated his coverage ability in position drills amid talk that he might have to be a 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level.
Sleeper: CB Carrington Byndom. Questions about the three-year starter’s speed were put to rest when he ran his 40 in 4.37 seconds. Byndom was happy with his positional drills and is starting to line up meetings.