Big 12: Keeston Terry
See more fall camp previews.
Next up: Kansas.
Media's predicted finish: Tenth.
Biggest story line: The climb begins. Kansas has won just five games the past two seasons, and just one Big 12 game. Along the way, it endured plenty of lopsided losses that were anything but competitive. Enter Charlie Weis, whose tenure at Notre Dame started with a pair of BCS bowl berths, but plummeted to three sub-par seasons before being fired. He's back in his first head coaching job since, and the announcement turned heads and brought on plenty of criticism. Now begins Weis and Kansas' road back, both equally invested in one another. How will Year 1 look? Step one is getting back to being competitive, just five years removed from a BCS bowl win in Lawrence.
Biggest question mark: Defensive line. Kansas brought in Keon Stowers and Nebraska transfer Josh Williams to help bolster a defense that was gashed often last season. The defensive backs are somewhat underrated and the linebackers are pretty good, but none of them had a chance when the D-line was getting blown off the line on running downs and getting zero pass rush (nine sacks, seven fewer than any Big 12 team) in a pass-heavy Big 12. Hope has arrived in Lawrence. Now, it's time to make it happen.
Setting the stage: Kansas coach Charlie Weis set a strong precedent early on, announcing the removal of 10 players all the way back in January, including big-time talents like safety Keeston Terry, running back Darrian Miller and quarterback Brock Berglund. Sorting out the cause/effect is messy, but the Jayhawks saw a huge boost in GPA for the Jayhawks this spring and a clear message sent from Weis to his team: This is serious business. Take your responsibilities seriously or get out.
On the mend: WR Daymond Patterson. Patterson might be the top target in the Jayhawks' passing game, but he's back this year after sitting out with a medical redshirt because of a groin injury suffered in the season opener last year. He's back, healthy and ready for a good run at his senior season.
Who needs to step up: QB Dayne Crist. Crist's career arc has brought him to Lawrence, and last year's 12-game starter, Jordan Webb, transferred out to Colorado when Crist arrived with Weis. He's the guy now. Jake Heaps is in line for this team in 2013, but Crist has no legitimate backup with any real experience, and if he doesn't play well or gets hurt, it's going to be tough for KU to be much better than it was last year.
Breaking out: DE/LB Toben Opurum. Kansas' leading rusher in 2009, Opurum's career has been pretty crazy since, and full of position moves. Now, he's playing a hybrid linebacker/defensive end spot, and when I was filling out my ballot for All-Big 12 preseason nods, Opurum wasn't far from it. The 6-foot-2, 250-pound senior has emerged as one of the team's leaders, and could help lead a renaissance for the Kansas defense.
- Brent Shirley of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram has some reaction from TCU's campus after Thursday's news.
- For TCU, what's not to like about the Big 12? Randy Galloway of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram says nothing, it's all good for the Frogs.
- Celebrate away, Frogs, but you were better off going to the Big East, writes Gil LeBreton of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
- Kansas State president Kirk Schulz talks expansion with plenty of interesting insight. "When we’ve talked to our media consultants, they’ve really stressed the number of TV sets isn’t as critical as adding quality schools that people might want to watch on television,” Schulz said.
- Zach Schonbrun of ESPN The Magazine profiles Oklahoma running back Dominique Whaley. Good stuff here.
- Kansas receiver Daymond Patterson weighed in with his thoughts on the last week in his blog on KU's website.
- Steve Greenberg of Sporting News profiles the Texas safety whose career has featured plenty of ups and downs: Blake Gideon.
- A move away from making calls and into making plays is helping Kansas safety Keeston Terry, writes J. Brady McCollough of the Kansas City Star.
- Texas Tech's president says the TCU invitation and acceptance stabilizes the Big 12.
- On Saturday, Oklahoma will sit down at the one poker table where it can handle Texas, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman.
- Looking to impress Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads? Excel at more than one sport, writes Andrew Logue of the Des Moines Register.
- Missouri's defense must prepare for a tough test at defending the run, writes Vahe Gregorian of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- Kellis Robinett of the Kansas City Star looks at the two men most responsible for Kansas State's rise: Arthur Brown and Bill Snyder.
- Texas Tech receiver Austin Zouzalik comes from a family of Aggies, but he's suiting up for Tech this weekend, writes Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
- Chicken or the egg? Did Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden make Dana Holgorsen? Or did Dana Holgorsen make Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden? Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman examines the question.
- Texas is trying to clear the air about the Longhorn Network and its plans to air high school games, reports David Barron of the Houston Chronicle.
- Kansas' safeties are full of upside after unorthodox paths to starting roles, writes Matt Tait of the Lawrence Journal-World. He also has another name to watch out for at tight end for the Jayhawks.
- Concerns over the change at offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State are unfounded, writes John Helsley of The Oklahoman. Todd Monken's strong pedigree and talented offensive weapons will carry the Cowboys.
- Iowa State added a linebacker to its 2012 class, reports Andrew Logue of the Des Moines Register.
- Yours truly and the rest of the ESPN college football blog crew tab each conference's player who is "Next." Who'd I pick? Well, obviously you'll have to click to find out.
- David Conway at the Columbia Missourian looks inside the changing world of compliance departments in a social media-filled world.
- OSU receiver Justin Blackmon talks about what it means to break records.
- Guerin Emig of the Tulsa World offers some psychoanalysis on Oklahoma's recently released depth chart.
- Texas Tech gives a look inside the offseason strength and conditioning program for the Red Raiders.
- Mike Baldwin of The Oklahoman tallies up the total career starts for Oklahoma at every position.
Here's what we've covered so far:
The group of safeties across the Big 12 isn't fantastic, without any truly elite groups, but it's decent. There aren't any teams that look really hopeless at the position in the immediate future.
I haven't given it real close examination so far on the positions we haven't covered yet, but this is by far the closest gap between 1-10 of any position so far.
Here's how I ranked them. (Remember, I lumped in nickel backs with linebackers, so Ahmad Dixon and Tony Jefferson won't be found anywhere in this post.)
2. Texas -- Blake Gideon takes his share of criticism, a good deal of it fair, but there's a reason he's starting for Texas for a fourth season this fall. He knows what he's doing. Kenny Vaccaro will challenge OSU's Martin, among others, for the title of the Big 12's biggest hitter and Nolan Brewster and Christian Scott are strong reserves at the position. The Longhorns lose a lot at corner, but all the safeties are back from a defense that allowed just over 170 yards a game through the air in conference play last season.
3. Texas A&M -- The Aggies' Steven Terrell and Trent Hunter are solid, and Hunter is a big playmaker who made 62 stops and picked off two passes last year. Toney Hurd Jr. is the backup and was one of the most impressive freshmen in fall camp last year, joined by Steven Campbell in the rotation.
4. Kansas State -- Tysyn Hartman has loads of experience and is one of the Wildcats that Bill Snyder loves to rave about. Ty Zimmerman was one of the Big 12's best freshman last year, and picked off three passes. They should be solid again next year, and for as much criticism as K-State's defense faced last year, they were fifth in the Big 12 in pass defense. Logan Dold should be in the rotation, too.
5. Oklahoma -- Reserve Sam Proctor has starting experience, but Javon Harris and Aaron Colvin enter fall camp as starters. That says plenty about how Bob Stoops and Brent Venables feel about them. In a word: confident. Colvin has the most potential in the group, but the two starters will have to learn on the go. Proctor, a senior, should be able to help. James Haynes will also be in the rotation.
6. Missouri -- Jasper Simmons is gone, but Missouri's safeties might be a bit underrated in this spot. Kenji Jackson has loads of experience and should be solid, and Tavon Bolden and Matt White are a pair of promising sophomores who should compete at free safety. Kenronte Walker should be in the rotation, too.
7. Texas Tech -- Injuries were a problem last year for the Tech secondary, but Cody Davis and D.J. Johnson will hold down the traditional safety spots away from the line of scrimmage in new coordinator Chad Glasgow's 4-2-5. The unit gave up lots of big plays in 2010 (151 over 10 yards, 46 over 20, and 25 over 30, all the most in the Big 12), but I'd expect that number to drop under Glasgow if the secondary stays healthy. Davis is the team's leading returning tackler, with 87 stops. Brett Dewhurst and Giorgio Durham should be in the rotation.
8. Kansas -- Keeston Terry and Bradley McDougald give Kansas a lot of speed and athletic ability at the position, but both of the team's safeties from 2010 graduated and Terry and McDougald are short on experience. Lubbock Smith should add some solid depth to the position.
9. Iowa State -- Iowa State loses their top playmaker at the position, David Sims, but returns starter Ter'Ran Benton. He'll be helped out by some combination of Jacques Washington, Earl Brooks and Deon Broomfield once the season starts. Iowa State's biggest weakness is on the defensive line, so it's hard to get a good read on how good the safeties really are with such a poor pass rush up front.
10. Baylor -- This group might move up the list during the year under Phil Bennett, but the two best raw athletes (Ahmad Dixon, Prince Kent) at the position moved to nickel back and linebacker, respectively. The team's leading tackler, Byron Landor, graduated, and that left Mike Hicks as the other starter. He'll be helped out at safety by Sam Holl, Josh Wilson and K.J. Morton. Last year, the Bears ranked last in the Big 12 in pass defense in conference play, giving up over 300 yards a game. That'll have to change or Baylor won't get past seven wins.
2010 overall record: 3-9
2010 conference record: 1-7
Returning starters: Offense (8), Defense (6) P/K (0)
Top returners: RB James Sims, WR Daymond Patterson, QB Jordan Webb, LB Steven Johnson, OL Tanner Hawkinson, DB Isiah Barfield, LB Huldon Tharp
Key losses: CB Chris Harris, LB Justin Springer, DL Jake Laptad, LB Drew Dudley, S Olaitan Oguntodu, WR Johnathan Wilson
2010 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: James Sims* (742 yards)
Passing: Jordan Webb (1,195 yards)
Receiving: Daymond Patterson* (487 yards)
Tackles: Steven Johnson (95)
Sacks: Jake Laptad (4.5)
Interceptions: Tyler Patmon*, Isiah Barfield* (2)
Three spring answers
1. Sudden strength up front. Pat Lewandowski redshirted last season, and former running back Toben Opurum tried to learn the intricacies of the defensive line. This spring though? Both were standouts and could be impact players up front for a Jayhawks defense that needs it badly. Kansas may have a couple solid athletes who underwent position changes at the back of the defense, too. Former receivers Keeston Terry and Bradley McDougald look like the Jayhawks' starting safeties.
2. Lightning to Sims' thunder. Leading rusher Sims returns and figures to log plenty of carries, but freshman Darrian Miller showed a burst that no other Jayhawks running back had previously. He enrolled early and started making plays immediately, which should land him on the field next season.
3. Add another receiver to the mix. Kale Pick is another Jayhawks player who dealt with a position change last year. He had little impact as a receiver after making the switch from quarterback, but he showed great hands all spring and led the team in receptions at the spring game. He looks like he’s got a natural understanding of the position and is following in the footsteps of another Jayhawks great: Kerry Meier.
Three fall questions
1. Can they be competitive? No amount of scrimmaging will give Kansas the answer to this question. The Jayhawks were blown out often last year, losing five games by more than 20 points. Is the program back to being one that can at least flirt with more than three wins in 2011? Kansas must show progress.
2. Who’s the QB? Webb has the edge ahead of Quinn Mecham after the spring, but the wild card shows up to campus this fall. Brock Berglund, the top prospect in Colorado, enrolled early before heading back home before practice began. He plans to be back this fall and could throw a wrench into the quarterback competition if he grasps the offense quickly.
3. Is Tharp back to 100 percent? Linebacker Tharp showed the makings of an All-Big 12 talent as a freshman in 2009. A leg injury kept him off the field in 2010, and he was limited this spring. Once he’s back on the field next fall, can he continue his development and look at least like his old self?
- Three quarterbacks got pretty even time, but Jordan Webb completed 8-of-14 passes for 108 yards and a score. Quinn Mecham completed 6-of-11 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown, but was sacked four times.
- Webb also led all rushers with 39 yards on three carries. James Sims had 11 yards on five carries and Darrian Miller had 23 yards on four carries.
- Kale Pick led all receivers with four catches for 38 yards.
- The game's biggest highlight: a 53-yard touchdown pass from Mecham.
- The Blue team beat White, 17-6.
- A crowd of 6,000 showed up.
- Great to see defensive end D.J. Marshall get back on the field after battling Hodgkin's lymphoma. The fans recognized the significance of the moment, too. He received a standing ovation and had a pair of tackles for loss, including a sack.
- The quarterback competition is headed into the fall, and the Jayhawks will add two quarterbacks in preseason camp, Brock Berglund and Michael Cummings. For now, though, Webb's spring performance gives him the leg up. "If I had to give an edge right now, I would give it to Jordan Webb," Gill told reporters after the game.
- Kansas might have found a big strength on the defensive line. Pat Lewandowski had a huge spring, and former running back Toben Opurum looks like he's coming into his own at defensive end. Both had great days, albeit against backup linemen, but those two still have a lot of room to get better. The skill-position talent isn't there yet for Kansas, and if it's going to win games next season, it'll have to do it by winning the line of scrimmage. Opurum had a sack, as did John Williams. "I think Toben is going to be a guy to be reckoned with in the Big 12," Gill said. "I think he's going to be a guy people are going to be talking about as time goes along." If that ends up happening, Gill's going to look like a genius. Find me another guy that went from a team's leading rusher to an All-Big 12 defensive lineman. Gutsy move that looks like it's paying off for Kansas, which has plenty of quality running backs.
- The same goes for Pick, who had a great spring, and I'd bet is good for 30-50 catches next season. That'll probably be second-most on the team, behind Daymond Patterson.
- Nice day for Darrian Miller to cap the freshman's great spring. He's going to be fun to watch and a nice complement to James Sims' more powerful running style. He gives them a home-run threat no other backs on the roster have really shown. He'll make an impact next season.
- Patterson, the team's leading receiver, sat as a precaution after suffering an injury this spring, but I'd be surprised if he didn't lead the team in receiving once again.
- Keeston Terry and Bradley McDougald both had great springs and look like they've locked down starting spots at safety. McDougald had a couple nice hits on Saturday, a bit of a surprise for a former receiver. Terry came to campus as a receiver, too, but now both will be in the secondary. Combined with Opurum's move, it's clear that Gill's going to do things quite a bit differently than Mark Mangino, if that wasn't already quite obvious.
"It’s up for grabs. I can say today Jordan has been a little more consistent. We’ll go into fall camp, go up to an appropriate time for us to announce who is best to start."
- Coach Turner Gill, on the Jayhawks' quarterback battle.
More Big 12 spring game recaps:
1. Moment of truth for the Brothers Brown. Nobody outside the program has seen them play in quite awhile. That will change on Saturday, when the Big 12's two biggest transfers take the field. Running back Bryce Brown is locked into a battle for the starting running back job, and Arthur Brown sounded like he tore up the scout team last season during his NCAA-mandated year on the sidelines after transferring from Miami. How good can they be? We won't know for sure, but we'll get some idea this weekend.
2. Kansas, you know human cloning is illegal, right? A year ago, Kale Pick was leading the race to start at quarterback. Now, he looks like he'll transition into a solid playmaker for the Jayhawks in the passing game next year -- as a receiver. If that sounds familiar, it should. Kerry Meier was one of the greatest receivers in school history, and he started out as a quarterback, too, before ceding the job to Todd Reesing. Does he have that kind of future ahead of him? Maybe not, but he's shown big-time hands this spring and Kansas is starved for receivers. Plenty of other Jayhawks have built some expectations for themselves this spring like RB Darrian Miller, DL Pat Lewandowski and the team's pair of safeties, Bradley McDougald and Keeston Terry, but Pick emerging as a true target might have the biggest impact of all.
3. How much more speed? It's been an emphasis for the Jayhawks this spring, but Kansas has to get faster on both sides of the ball. After a few months away and with some new talent mixed in, how much faster is Turner Gill's team as a whole? Improving that area will have to come first if Kansas is going to get back to at least being competitive in Big 12 play, something it wasn't in 2010.
4. More quarterback derby at K-State. It's tough to tell much in short spring games, but quarterbacks usually give you a good feel. The pressure (as much pressure as there can be in the spring, anyway) is on, the crowd is there for the first time in some time, and the Wildcats have a big competition. It's obvious he can do a whole lot with his legs, but how much has Collin Klein developed as a passer? Does Justin Tuggle offer anything that Klein can't? And what about Sammuel Lamur? Can he throw a wrench into the discussion? He's already the No. 2 quarterback ahead of Tuggle.
What’s new: Kansas' staff is mostly intact and ready to start Year 2 of the Turner Gill Era in Lawrence. Receivers coach Darrell Wyatt left to coach the same position at Texas, but the Jayhawks brought back David Beaty as receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator after a year away coaching at Rice. He helped coach former Jayhawks stars Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier.
On the mend: Linebacker Huldon Tharp returns after missing all of last season with a leg injury just before the season. He'll be just a sophomore, but likely one of the leaders for a linebacking corps that should be pretty strong.
On the move: Former receiver Bradley McDougald played some safety last year, but he'll focus on safety alongside Keeston Terry, who did the same. Former running back and former linebacker Toben Opurum looks like he'll stick at defensive end this spring after playing well down the stretch last season for the Jayhawks defense.
New faces: Offensive lineman Dylan Admire and running back Darrian Miller were two of the top recruits in Kansas' 2011 class, and both are on campus early. Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, the No. 1 player most fans wanted to see suit up this spring won't be there. Quarterback Brock Berglund graduated early and enrolled in classes at the beginning of the semester, but returned home to Colorado last month because of what the school called "personal circumstances." He'll be with the team beginning this fall.
Breaking out: Receiver D.J. Beshears. Turner Gill wants more speed on the field, and Beshears offers that. He's one of the best home-run threats the Jayhawks have, and look for Kansas to find ways to get the ball in his hand and let him make plays. He already got some time in the Wildcat last year, and unless the quarterback play improves quickly, he's likely to see some more.
Don’t forget about: Tight end Tim Biere. He caught four of Kansas' 11 touchdown passes last year, and the burly, 6-foot-4, 260-pounder will be looking for a big senior year after finishing with 19 catches for 228 yards last year, tied for the third-most catches on the team.
All eyes on: The new/young guys. Kansas' current crop of players should improve some this year and help the team get competitive, but if the Jayhawks are going to get back to winning games like they did under Mark Mangino, Gill will have to infuse more talent into the program via recruiting. If young players, not even necessarily freshmen, can show some flashes of potential, there will be a lot more optimism within the program after a long 3-9 season last year that featured five losses by at least 20 points.
- We got a whiff of the BCS this week, and it smells a lot like corruption, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman.
- Three Big 12 players get a mention in colleague Bruce Feldman's "Fastest players in college football" post.
- Don't read too much into the rotation of players for Texas in this weekend's spring game, reports Randy Riggs of the Austin American-Statesman.
- Oklahoma State says it was unaware of allegations that former receiver Dez Bryant accepted loans or made excessive jewelry purchases while a Cowboy, reports Bill Haisten of the Tulsa World.
- Kansas launched its new football website on Wednesday. It's a little busy, but it's pretty cool.
- Kansas' former ticket director was sentenced to 37 months in jail for her role in the theft and resale of football and basketball tickets, reports Tony Rizzo of the Kansas City Star.
- The Oklahoman's Brandon Chatmon has more on Oklahoma State running back Kye Staley's attempt at a comeback after leaving the team last year. He also has a few notes on the scrimmage standouts from Wednesday and the escalating backup quarterback battle.
- Kansas safety Keeston Terry tried to make the most of a season spent on the sidelines, writes Matt Tait of the Lawrence Journal-World.
Record: 2-3 (0-1 Big 12)
The loss to North Dakota State prompted an "Oh, no" reaction from fans, which was quickly replaced by "But wait!" after the Jayhawks upset the defending ACC champions, Georgia Tech, in Lawrence. Those have since been replaced by "Nevermind" after convincing losses to Southern Miss and Baylor -- the Bears won by a school-record in conference play 48 points -- and Georgia Tech's fall out of the top 25. It's going to be a long season in Lawrence, but Turner Gill's rebuilding effort begins here, as the only team in the Big 12 with a losing record. Kansas was in the Orange Bowl and won three years ago. Winning big isn't impossible there. Gill has been decisive, moving top recruits and past contributors like Toben Opurum and Keeston Terry to defense, while handing his offense to a pair of freshmen and a converted cornerback in quarterback Jordan Webb, running back James Sims and receiver Daymond Patterson. The good news for Kansas is that most of its top talent is young, along with players like left tackle Tanner Hawkinson, injured linebacker Huldon Tharp. If Gill can recruit well and surround those guys with more talent, the rebuilding job might get off the ground fast.
Offensive MVP: WR Daymond Patterson – Patterson provided the defining play of Kansas' season, a short pass he turned into a 32-yard touchdown that put Kansas up by 11 in the fourth quarter by breaking a handful of Georgia Tech tackles. He's also provided Kansas with its most consistent target and playmaker in the passing game, recording 28 receptions for 259 yards and a pair of touchdowns. You could make a strong case here for James Sims as well, who topped 100 yards against Georgia Tech and added 115 more with a pair of scores in Kansas' other win against New Mexico State.
Defensive MVP: LB Justin Springer – Springer had his best game of the year in the win over Georgia Tech, making 15 stops with three tackles for loss and a sack, one of just three for the Jayhawks this season. He's second on the team with 38 tackles, but leads with five tackles for loss. The 6-foot-4, 242-pounder has helped the Jayhawks with some senior leadership as well.
Todd Reesing, QB
Reesing entered Kansas undersized and underrecruited. He left as the most prolific passer in school history and an Orange Bowl champion. His 11,194 career passing yards are fifth-most in Big 12 history. A logjam of six candidates, currently led by Kale Pick, Jordan Webb and Christian Matthews, will vy to be Reesing's replacement next fall.
Dezmon Briscoe, WR
A first-team All-Big 12 performer a season ago, Briscoe was a big-time receiver for his final two seasons in Lawrence. As a junior, the 6-foot-3, 200-pounder caught 92 passes for 1,407 yards and 15 touchdowns. His encore last season featured 84 catches for 1,337 yards. That was good enough for ninth in the nation in receptions per game.
Bradley McDougald and Johnathan Wilson, WRs
McDougald and Wilson might not be the next Meier and Briscoe, but both posted solid numbers in 2009 and will need to see those numbers grow to support a new starter at quarterback. Wilson caught 35 passes for 449 yards and McDougald caught 33 passes for 318 yards.
Drew Dudley, LB
Dudley, with 88 stops a season ago, is the Jayhawks' leading returning tackler. On a defense devoid of big-time talent, he's the most likely candidate to emerge as a household name on defense.
Runner-up: Jacob Branstetter, K. A two-year starter, Branstetter booted a 57-yard field goal last season against Oklahoma.
Brandon Bourbon, RB
Never mind his automatic qualifier on the All-Name team. Bourbon is a balanced running back, running a 4.48 40-yard dash at 6-foot-2 and 208 pounds. His time could be coming soon, but he could earn at least a few carries in his first season on campus.
Keeston Terry, WR
Terry isn't coming from far away, only a few miles east across the state line in Blue Springs, Mo., but the 6-foot-2, 179-pound receiver could give the Jayhawk receivers some additional depth. Missouri and Kansas State were both after one of the top receivers in the state of Missouri. Turner Gill got him.
More Revolving Door
Spring practice starts: March 16
Spring game: April 10
1. Quarterback Robert Griffin III's surgically repaired right knee. Griffin hasn't played since tearing the ACL in his right knee in the third game of the '09 season. He recently said he's ahead of schedule in rehabilitation, but probably won’t do much during spring practice. He'll wear a heavy knee brace and won’t participate in contact drills.
2. New linebackers. The Bears lost strongside linebacker Antonio Jones and middle linebacker Joe Pawelek, who combined to make 190 tackles last season. Senior Earl Patin, who also has played some defensive end during his career, is poised to replace Pawelek in the middle. But Patin will have to hold off highly regarded youngsters Chris McAllister and LeQuince McCall, who redshirted in ’09. Senior Chris Francis is probably the top candidate to replace Jones on the strong side.
3. Safety. The Bears must replace both of their starting safeties, including All-Big 12 performer Jordan Lake, who started 36 games in a row. Junior college transfer Byron Landor and sophomore Mike Hicks will get the first looks in the spring. But they'll have to hold off incoming freshman Ahmad Dixon, one of the top prospects to ever sign with Baylor, after he arrives for fall camp.
Spring practice starts: March 6
Spring game: April 10
1. Michigan transfer Toney Clemons. Buffaloes coach Dan Hawkins called Clemons his team's most exciting receiver while he sat out the '09 season under NCAA transfer rules. The cousin of Arizona Cardinals receiver Steve Breaston, Clemons could bring an interesting dynamic to the CU offense. His arrival couldn't come at a better time, either, after Markques Simas was suspended indefinitely for violating team rules.
2. Linebacker. The Buffaloes must replace their two most productive linebackers after losing Marcus Burton and Jeff Smart. The departed seniors combined to make 105 solo tackles and 6.5 sacks last season. Senior Michael Sipili is the top candidate to replace Burton in the middle, and sophomore Jon Major might get the first crack at replacing Smart on the weak side.
3. Offensive line. The unit's inconsistency has dogged Hawkins' offense in each of his first four seasons. Eight offensive linemen had significant playing time in '09, so the Buffs are looking for more stability up front. The return of sophomore guard Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner from a pair of knee injuries, and early arrival of junior college transfer Eric Richter might shore up the interior line.
Iowa State Cyclones
Spring practice starts: March 23
Spring game: April 17
1. Linebackers. The Cyclones lost each of their starting three linebackers: Josh Raven, Jesse Smith and Fred Garrin. Junior Jacob Lattimer is in line to replace Raven on the strong side, and two highly regarded sophomores are in line to fill the other spots. A.J. Klein, who had 17 tackles in 13 games as a freshman, might get the unenviable task of replacing Smith, who led the Big 12 in tackles in '09. Jake Knott, who had 23 tackles as a freshman, is the top candidate to start on the weak side.
2. Wide receiver. Iowa State lost leading receiver Marquis Hamilton, who had 50 catches for 606 yards with four touchdowns in '09. Tight end Derrick Catlett, another top receiving threat, also is gone. The good news: Junior Darius Reynolds returns from a broken leg that caused him to miss all but four games last season. Reynolds, who earned the moniker "Money" for his big-play potential, had 13 catches for 72 yards before he was hurt in practice in late September. Junior college tight end Ricky Howard enrolled in classes in January and will participate in spring practice.
3. Defensive line. Two starters will have to be replaced after ISU lost right end Christopher Lyle and tackle Nate Frere. Lyle led the team with five sacks in '09; Frere was a pretty good run-stopper. Sophomores Cleyon Laing and Roosevelt Maggitt will get strong looks at end, and senior Austin Alburtis and sophomore Jake McDonough will move into the tackle rotation.
Spring practice starts: March 27
Spring game: April 24
1. Quarterback. New Kansas coach Turner Gill might have one heck of a competition on his hands. Sophomore Kale Pick is a mobile option, after averaging 11.9 yards per rushing attempt in 2009. Junior college transfer Quinn Mecham, who enrolled in classes at Kansas in January, threw for 3,091 yards with 40 touchdowns and 11 interceptions at Snow College in Utah last season.
2. Wide receiver. The Jayhawks have to replace departed stars Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe, which will be no easy task. The duo combined to catch 186 passes for 2,322 yards with 17 touchdowns last season. Bradley McDougald and Johnathan Wilson were proven targets last season, but younger players such as Chris Omigie and incoming freshman Keeston Terry will have to help this fall.
3. Secondary. The Kansas defense gave up too many big passing plays and didn't create enough turnovers last season. The Jayhawks will have to replace strong safety Darrell Stuckey, who led them with 93 tackles in '09. Senior Phillip Strozier will get the first crack at replacing the heart and soul of the Kansas defense.
Kansas State Wildcats
Spring practice starts: March 21
Spring game: April 24
1. Oregon transfer Chris Harper. In 2008, Harper played wide receiver and quarterback for the Ducks as a freshman. He became the first Oregon player in eight years to run, pass and catch a touchdown in the same season. Harper, a native of Wichita, Kan., might figure into Kansas State's quarterback or wide receiver plans after sitting out the '09 season under NCAA transfer rules.
2. Quarterback battle. Harper and two other players will probably battle to replace departed senior Grant Gregory. Senior Carson Coffman, who started the '09 season at quarterback, figures to be back in the mix, along with junior college transfer Sammuel Lamur.
3. Defensive line. The Wildcats have a couple of gaping holes to fill up front defensively. End Jeff Fitzgerald, who had 40 tackles and 10 tackles for loss in '09, has to be replaced, along with tackles Daniel Calvin and Chidubamu Abana. Junior college transfer Javonta Boyd, who has already enrolled in classes, could help in the interior line.
Spring practice starts: March 9
Spring game: April 17
1. Wide receiver. The Tigers have to replace Danario Alexander, who led the country with 1,781 receiving yards in 2009. Juniors Jerrell Jackson and Wes Kemp both caught more than 20 passes last season, but younger players like T.J. Moe and Rolandis Woodland are going to have to contribute more. Incoming freshman Marcus Lucas could help in the fall.
2. Linebacker. The Tigers bring back two of their starting three linebackers, but three-time All-Big 12 selection Sean Weatherspoon is the one who left. Sophomore Donovan Bonner heads into spring camp as the top candidate to replace Weatherspoon on the weak side, and Will Ebner and Andrew Gachkar are back at the other linebacker spots.
3. Defensive line. Two starters are gone on the defensive front: end Brian Coulter and nose tackle Jaron Baston. At least the Tigers know they’re set at one side, with end Aldon Smith coming back after totaling 19 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks in '09. Marcus Malbrough and Jacquies Smith will battle for starting end, and Terrell Resonno could move into the vacant tackle spot.
Spring practice starts: March 24
Spring game: April 17
What to watch:
1. Will quarterback Zac Lee keep his starting job? After Lee was plagued by inconsistency throughout the '09 season, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson is expected to open the competition during spring practice. Sophomore Cody Green, senior Latravis Washington and freshman Taylor Martinez will all be given a fair chance to win the job.
2. Defensive tackle. Nebraska fans won't see All-American Ndamukong Suh commanding double-team blocks along the line of scrimmage. Even after losing one of the most decorated players in school history, the Cornhuskers figure to be pretty good up front. Jared Crick and Baker Steinkuhler will man the middle, with Pierre Allen and Cameron Meredith entering spring camp as the favorites at ends.
3. Rex Burkhead. The sophomore burst onto the scene after Roy Helu Jr. was hurt early in the Huskers' 33-0 rout of Arizona in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl, rushing for 89 yards with one touchdown. Burkhead was very explosive running out of the Wildcat package, so look for Watson to try and utilize him even more to make the Nebraska attack less predictable.
Spring practice starts: March 8
Spring game: April 17
1. Offensive line. The Sooners have a lot of questions up front on offense, after left tackle Trent Williams and right guard Brian Simmons departed. Will junior Donald Stephenson finally be ready to contribute at left tackle after being suspended for all of the ’09 season? Will center Ben Habern be ready after breaking his leg late in the ’09 season? When will Jarvis Jones return from a broken heel?
2. Linebacker Ronnell Lewis. The sophomore had a break-out game in the Sooners’ 31-27 victory over Stanford in the Sun Bowl, finishing with six tackles and a forced fumble. With starting linebackers Keenan Clayton and Ryan Reynolds departing, Lewis will assume a starting role on the strong side. Redshirt freshman Tom Wort is projected to start in the middle, with junior Travis Lewis starting on the weak side.
3. Secondary. The Sooners have shuffled their defensive backs after losing cornerbacks Dominique Franks and Brian Jackson. Sophomore Demontre Hurst is in line to replace Franks at field cornerback, and senior Jonathan Nelson has moved from strong safety to boundary cornerback. Junior Sam Proctor is expected to replace Nelson at strong safety, and senior Quinton Carter is back at free safety.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Spring practice starts: March 8
Spring game: April 17
1. Quarterback Brandon Weeden. The 26-year-old junior is the top candidate to replace Zac Robinson, who broke nearly every OSU passing record. Weeden was a second-round choice of the New York Yankees in the 2002 amateur baseball draft. If he can grasp new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorson's spread offense quickly, the Pokes' passing game should again be potent in 2010.
2. Defense. Defensive coordinator Bill Young will have his hands full this spring trying to replace nine starters. The only returning starters are defensive end Ugo Chinasa and strong safety Markelle Martin. The Pokes have to replace three starters on the defensive line, three linebackers and three defensive backs. Three newcomers -- linebacker Caleb Lavey and defensive backs Devin Hedgepeth and Malcolm Murray -- will get early looks in spring camp.
3. Offensive line. The Cowboys will have to replace star left tackle Russell Okung, left guard Noah Franklin, center Andrew Lewis and right tackle Brady Bond. Juniors Nick Martinez, Casey LaBrue and Grant Garner will be the top candidates to fill open starting spots.
Spring practice starts: Feb. 26
Spring game: April 4
1. Quarterback Garrett Gilbert. The sophomore was thrust into action after Colt McCoy injured his shoulder against Alabama in the Citi BCS National Championship Game and played admirably well in tough circumstances. The Longhorns might change their identity on offense with a young quarterback under center, so developing a running game to take pressure off Gilbert might be a top priority.
2. Defense. The unit is in good hands with coordinator Will Muschamp, but he'll have to replace many of the star players from 2009. End Sergio Kindle, tackle Lamarr Houston, linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy and safety Earl Thomas are all gone. Younger players such as end Alex Okafor and tackle Tyrell Higgins will have to turn it up a notch during spring practice.
3. Wide receiver. Jordan Shipley, who was McCoy's favorite target, also departed. Seniors James Kirkendoll and John Chiles, junior Malcolm Williams and sophomore Marquise Goodwin will have to be more consistent in their route running and pass catching. Other receivers such as D.J. Monroe and DeSean Hales will be trying to crack the receiver rotation during the spring, before talented freshmen like Darius White, Mike Davis and Demarco Cobbs arrive on campus.
Texas A&M Aggies
Spring practice starts: March 23
Spring game: April 17
1. New defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter, who built one of the country’s best units at Air Force last season. He inherits an A&M defense that was woefully porous last season and will switch to a 3-4 scheme. Nine starters are coming back on defense, including pass-rushing specialist Von Miller. DeRuyter will spend the spring trying to install his system and getting his players comfortable with it.
2. Offensive line. The Aggies must replace three starting offensive linemen: left tackle Michael Shumard, center Kevin Matthews and right tackle Lee Grimes. Juniors Joe Villavisencio and Danny Baker and sophomore Stephen Barrera have to be ready to step up this spring.
3. Special teams. The Aggies’ special teams weren’t so special last season, as they ranked 104th in net punting, 91st in kickoff return defense and 49th in kickoff returns among FBS teams. Aggies coach Mike Sherman is putting a new emphasis on special teams, which cost his team dearly in its 44-20 loss to Georgia in the Independence Bowl.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Spring practice starts: March 7
Spring game: April 17
1. Quarterbacks. With former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville replacing Mike Leach at Texas Tech, senior quarterbacks Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield figure to start spring camp on a level playing field. Potts started 10 games last season, throwing for 3,440 yards with 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Sheffield started two games and threw for 1,219 yards with 14 touchdowns and four picks. New offensive coordinator Neal Brown, who was hired from Troy, runs a version of the spread offense, but Tuberville will probably incorporate more of a traditional running game into the offense.
2. Defensive line. New defensive coordinator James Willis has to replace three starters on his defensive front: ends Brandon Sharpe and Daniel Howard and tackle Richard Jones. Making matters worse, the top two reserve ends in 2009 were seniors, along with the backup nose tackle.
3. Offensive line. O-line coach Matt Moore, who was retained from Leach's staff, has to replace three starters: center Shawn Byrnes, right guard Brandon Carter and right tackle Marlon Winn. Juniors Justin Keown and Mickey Okafor and sophomore LaAdrian Waddle will probably be given first crack at replacing them. Incoming junior college transfer Scott Smith could play stand-up end in Tech's 3-4 scheme, and junior college defensive tackle Donald Langley might also have an impact in spring practice.
Total class: 18
ESPNU 150: 0
By position: DE 3, ATH 2, RB 2, WR 2, S 2, ILB 2, WR 1, TE 1, OT 1, QB 1, DT 1.
By state: Texas 8, Missouri 3, Kansas 1, Illinois 1, Iowa 1, Virginia 1, Florida 1, New Jersey 1, Utah 1.
Already enrolled in school: 1.
The big ones: Brandon Bourbon, the nation's No. 104 running back, is projected as a featured running threat after decommitting from Stanford for Kansas several days ago. WR Keeston Terry is a tall, skinny athlete who coaches feel will develop into a potent breakaway threat. He's listed as the nation's No. 129 athlete.
Sleeper: ATH Jake Farley could be a producer on offense and defense, although he’s expected to end up at safety where his heady play and physicality should help the Jayhawks’ secondary.
Needs met: Kansas added four potential receivers -- all of whom will provide the “breakaway ability” that coach Turner Gill has deemed so necessary. Junior college transfer quarterback Quinn Mecham is already in school and will push Kale Pick during spring practice. And Bourbon and James Sims should add pop to Kansas’ running game.
Analysis: Gill did a nice job of keeping the class together and adding a couple of impressive late gets in Bourbon and cornerback Dexter McDonald in the last days of recruiting. The loss of pass-rushing specialist Geneo Grissom was disappointing, but the Jayhawks regrouped and finished strong. They only signed one offensive lineman, but the Jayhawks have a lot of across-the-board young talent already in place.
What Turner Gill said: “I think the recruiting class has speed and length and playmakers. That’s the type of things we are looking for. We feel really good about the guys who are signing with us. We also feel good about the players who are here. We are trying to mesh together the talent that we have now, and then the talent that we bring in to make sure we move forward.”
Scouts Inc. grade/rankings: C-minus, 11th in Big 12.
In between all of the signing announcements and the analysis throughout the day, how about some stories from across the Big 12 to keep you occupied throughout your lunch hour and before the news conferences later this afternoon?
- ESPN.com retells some memorable stories from previous National Signing Days, including how Missouri lost Mount San Jacinto Junior College recruit Mike Anderson to Utah.
- Ruffin McNeill has added former Texas Tech coaching staff members Brandon Jones, Clay McGuire and Dennis Simmons to his staff at East Carolina.
- The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Tully Corcoran relates how Turner Gill recruited Keeston Terry and Brandon Bourbon out of the state of Missouri. And the St. Louis Globe-Democrat’s Alvin Reed wonders why Brandon Bourbon turned down Stanford to attend Kansas.
- Defensive backs Lavaughn Whigham and Phillip Warren from Miami Southridge High School, appear ready to commit to Texas Tech, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal’s Don Williams reports.
- The Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Wiilliam Wilkerson details the story lines of the final day of recruiting.
- Dallas-Fort Worth-area receivers Mike Davis, John Harris, Darius Terrell and Darius White are determined for success once they hit college at Texas, Mark Dent of the Dallas Morning News reports.
- New Kansas State recruits say that the stability fostered by Bill Snyder is a major reason for choosing the Wildcats, Austin Meek of the Topeka Capital-Journal reports.
- The Denver Post’s Tom Kensler talks with Colorado quarterback recruit Nick Hirschman about arriving early at college and his tutorial work with quarterback guru Bob Johnson. And Hirschman tells the San Jose Mercury-News’ Dennis Knight that he's arrived at Colorado intent on contending for early playing time with the Buffaloes.
- The Lincoln Journal Star breaks down Nebraska’s recruiting class commitments.
- The Boulder Camera’s Kyle Ringo reports that Colorado will learn Wednesday if it can seal a recruiting commitment from quarterback Munchie Legaux of New Orleans. Legaux gave the Buffaloes an early commitment last fall, but is still considering the Buffaloes and Cincinnati.
- Jon Solomon of the Birmingham News has some sobering information about recruiting success that might stop some of the excitement about the top classes that schools will announce today.
- The Dallas Morning News’ Laken Litman analyzes Case McCoy’s chances for playing time at Texas -- as he follows in the footsteps of his older brother, Colt.
- The Des Moines Register’s Randy Peterson reports that Iowa State will have its best recruiting class since 2002 with 26 commitments expected.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The final weekend before fall practice begins across the Big 12 had most coaches savoring their last free weekend for a long time over the last couple of days.
But here are some delicious lunch links to get us ready for the start of practice at most Big 12 schools later this week.
- The Waco Tribune-Herald's John Werner writes about Baylor's new $11 million Jay and Jenny Allison Indoor Football Facility which will open later this week. Baylor becomes the 10th Big 12 team with an indoor practice facility.
- The Austin American-Statesman's Kirk Bohls wonders if the Big 12 is overrated when compared with the SEC.
- Kerry Meier's transformation from quarterback to wide receiver is analyzed by the Topeka Capital-Journal's Rick Dean.
- The Tulsa World's Dave Sittler opines about the South Division's domination over the North.
- Bo Pelini's Football 202 clinic provided all kinds of neat tidbits into the Nebraska program for the Omaha World Herald's Tom Shatel and the Lincoln Journal-Star's Steve Sipple.
- The Columbia Tribune's Dave Matter wonders if the Big 12's defenses are really as bad as their statistics indicate - or whether it's merely a byproduct of playing against so many good offensive teams.
- The Kansas City Star's Mike DeArmond expects two-time defending North Division championship game performer Missouri to be better early than most preseason prognosticators are predicting.
- Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong met with Texas A&M's defensive staff this spring to share some of the Gators' tips that boosted them to the national championship, Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle/San Antonio Express-News reports.
- New Iowa State defensive coordinator Wally Burnham describes his new unit as a sponge to the Ames Tribune's Bobby La Gesse because they are so eager to learn.
- Wide receiver prospect Keeston Terry of Blue Springs, Mo., told the Lincoln Journal-Star's Brian Christopherson that he changed his recruiting commitment from Nebraska to Kansas because he felt "more comfortable with Lawrence."
- Texas Tech will be looking for depth in the defensive line, another starting cornerback and a starting left tackle when the Red Raiders' fall practice begins on Saturday, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal's Don Williams reports.