Big 12: Kelechi Osemele

Earlier this week, we looked at the 2009 recruiting class' biggest surprises and biggest busts, and colleague Jake Trotter tackled 2008 last week.

You guys loved it. It's still a little soon to make generalizations about the 2010 class just yet, but you wanted more, so let's take a look back at 2007.

Here's half of the Big 12. We'll look at the rest later this week. (Note: Players who signed and did not academically qualify are not eligible.)

BAYLOR BEARS

Best surprise: "CB" Elliott Coffey. Coffey signed with Baylor as the nation's No. 84 cornerback and a middle of the road recruit for Guy Morriss. By the end of his career, he'd gained almost 60 pounds and was a versatile linebacker at 235 pounds and the leader of the Bears' defense as an All-Big 12 talent.

Biggest bust: WR Romie Blaylock. He was the highest-ranked recruit who made it to campus for the Bears but managed to have negative receiving yardage in his true freshman season. He eventually moved to cornerback but made just one start and eventually transferred to Midwestern State.

IOWA STATE CYCLONES

Best surprise: OL Kelechi Osemele. This wasn't a very strong class from Iowa State, but Osemele, the nation's No. 149 tackle from Houston, blossomed into a three-year starter and an NFL draft pick who started for the Baltimore Ravens and won a Super Bowl ring earlier this month.

Biggest bust: QB Philip Bates. Bates lost a quarterback competition to Austen Arnaud and transferred during his sophomore season, eventually landing at Ohio where he played quarterback and receiver. The Omaha native was Iowa State's highest-ranked recruit and the nation's No. 76 quarterback.

KANSAS JAYHAWKS

Best surprise: OLB Justin Springer. Springer was rated higher than just two of KU's high school signees in the 23-member class, but he emerged as a starter and a team captain as a senior in 2010, helping KU upset the ACC champion Georgia Tech and winning the Big 12's Player of the Week honor. The California native was unranked as a recruit.

Biggest bust: RB Carmon Boyd-Anderson. The Jayhawks' signed the Jacksonville, Texas native as the nation's No. 71 running back and the second-highest rated recruit in the class. He played sparingly as a freshman before transferring before the 2008 class when it was clear he had fallen down the depth chart.

KANSAS STATE WILDCATS

Best surprise: DE Ralph Guidry. He was the nation's No. 150 defensive end in an average class for K-State and came to K-State at just 235. He was all the way up to 290 pounds by the end of his career and was a two-year starter at defensive tackle who notched more sacks than all but one Wildcat in 2011, when K-State won 10 games and reached the Cotton Bowl.

Biggest bust: S Lamark Brown. Brown was the class' highest-ranked recruit as the nation's No. 19 safety, but he played exclusively offense in Manhattan and never caught on. He switched positions twice but never had more than 215 yards receiving and transferred to Minnesota State Mankato in the summer of 2010.

OKLAHOMA SOONERS

Best surprise: "RB" Travis Lewis. The top of Oklahoma's class in 2007 was loaded, but the nation's No. 86 running back made a huge impact after a redshirt season. He led the team with 144 tackles and won Big 12 Freshman of the Year. He topped 100 tackles two more times in his career and became the first player in Oklahoma history to lead the team in tackles in four seasons.

Biggest bust: S Desmond Jackson. Jackson was the class' second-highest rated recruit, behind only the late Austin Box. He was the nation's No. 16 safety but never started a game and made just 13 tackles before transferring to Tarleton State.

Big 12 sending 17 alums to Super Bowl

January, 22, 2013
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The Super Bowl doesn't kick off for almost two weeks, but the Ravens and 49ers have officially booked their tickets to the game. How many Big 12 alums are heading to the game? Let's take a closer look.

For the purposes of this post, I only included players who played their college ball in the Big 12. This kind of thing gets complicated, but I'm including former Big 12 teams and not TCU and West Virginia. These guys all actually played in the Big 12.

Baltimore Ravens
San Francisco 49ers

To rank it by team:

T-1 .Texas - 4

T-1. Oklahoma State - 4

T-3. Iowa State - 2

T-3. Texas Tech - 2

T-3. Missouri - 2

T-6. Colorado - 1

T-6. Nebraska - 1

T-6. Texas A&M - 1
Colleague Mel Kiper Jr. named his All-NFL Rookie team this weekInsider, and if you've followed this blog very long, you'll recognize a few of the names on the team.

You'll need Insider to see it all, but it was a solid year for the Big 12 rookies at the next level. Headliner Robert Griffin III was edged out by Andrew Luck for the QB spot, but the Big 12 grabbed two of the three wide receiver spots.

Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon had one of them, and if you want to count him for Baylor, Josh Gordon grabbed another after a great rookie season with the Cleveland Browns, featuring 50 grabs for 805 yards. Blackmon tied for the rookie lead with 64 catches and led the class with 865 receiving yards, despite playing for the passing-deficient Jacksonville Jaguars. Impressive stuff.

Iowa State's Kelechi Osemele started all 16 games this year for the Ravens and earned a spot on the All-Rookie offensive line at right guard, the last spot for the Big 12.

It's no surprise that the league's only honorees were on offense, and two came at receiver, which has been the league's strongest position other than quarterback for the past few years. Nebraska's Lavonte David spent some time in the Big 12, and the Husker alum turned Buccaneer also cracked the team after making a big impact as a juco transfer back in 2011.
Kirk Ferentz, Paul RhoadsGetty Images, US PresswireWho is better in the state of Iowa, Kirk Ferentz or Paul Rhoads?
So, it's that time of year again, Brian. Let us kneel by this bushel of corn and debate the merits of two men on Iowan sidelines. Ultimately, we're debating Paul Rhoads versus Kirk Ferentz, but let's start with the basics.

Ferentz is the guy whose name seems to come up every other offseason for an NFL opening, but yet, here he is well beyond the seven-year itch in Iowa City. How would you describe his place in the collective opinion of the Hawkeyes fan base?

Brian Bennett: Unless you're winning national titles every other year like Nick Saban, it's hard to coach somewhere for 14 years and not hear some grumbling. I don't think you could have found many Iowa fans who would have been upset with Ferentz in 2009, when the team started 10-0 and won the Orange Bowl. Unfortunately, the Hawkeyes have stalled a bit since then, going 7-5 in the last two regular seasons. There are some who want to see a more dazzling offense -- even though James Vandenberg threw for more than 3,000 yards last season -- or bigger-name coordinators. Iowa fans have high expectations for a guy who makes $3.8 million and is one of the top 10 best paid coaches in the country. But I think most reasonable Hawkeyes fans know, at least deep down, that they'd be hard pressed to land a better coach in Iowa City.

I know you're very high on Rhoads, and not just because he's highly quotable. He's masterminded some great upsets in his short tenure with the Cyclones. Still, he's got a 19-20 record. Should we be that excited about him?

David Ubben: It's unfair to look simply at his overall record and draw conclusions from there. Simply put: It's hard to win at Iowa State. Maybe harder than any other school in the Big 12, though Kansas State and Kansas have a strong argument. All you need to do is look at history.

Iowa State's been to 11 bowls in a little more than a century of college football. Rhoads has brought the Cyclones to bowl games in two of the past three seasons, and almost made it 3-for-3 if not for a missed throw on a windy day against Nebraska in 2010. Nobody knows the danger of crossing paths with Rhoads more than Nebraska. Find me another coach who could lose his starting quarterback, running back and a handful of linemen, but still go into Memorial Stadium and beat a Big 12 North (check your history books if y'all don't know what that is) champion like Nebraska for the first time in Lincoln in more than three decades. (I don't care how many turnovers Nebraska had in that game, by the way. Somebody had to force them, no?)

[+] EnlargePhil Parker
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireDefensive coordinator Phil Parker has been with Kirk Ferentz for 14 years.
Rhoads is unbelievable. Coaching is all about getting the most out of what you have. Rhoads does that as well as anybody in the country. Gene Chizik won a national championship at Auburn ... and went 5-19 in two seasons in Ames before he did it. Rhoads took the same two-win team from Chizik and turned them into a seven-win team, winning the first bowl game for the school since 2004. Not many guys can do that.

You also have to consider the kinds of coaches Rhoads has brought on his staff. He's only been at Iowa State a little more than three years and Urban Meyer already jacked his offensive coordinator, Tom Herman. For the uninitiated among us, who are a few coaching names we'd recognize from Kirk Ferentz's coaching tree?

BB: Ferentz's coaching staff at Iowa has been so strongly-rooted that no new tree has needed to sprout. He had the same offensive and defensive coordinators for his first 13 years at Iowa before Norm Parker retired and Ken O'Keefe left for the NFL this past offseason. Many of his other assistants are also virtual Hawkeye lifers, like new defensive coordinator Phil Parker, who's in his 14th year with Ferentz. I guess you could point to his son, Brian, who was an offensive assistant with the New England Patriots before moving on to -- you guessed it -- Iowa this offseason.

Ferentz must be doing something right for all those coaches to want to stay on his staff for so long. Besides, wouldn't you rather have long-term stability with your coaches instead of assistants who can't wait to jump at the next opportunity? Continuity has been a hallmark of Ferentz's tenure, as has tremendous player development. NFL scouts know they must make a stop in Iowa City, because Hawkeyes players are so well-coached and prepared for the pro game. Iowa has had 18 players selected in the NFL draft in the past three years alone, which is pretty impressive. Can Rhoads make the same claim?

DU: He can't, but you could make the argument that it only makes Rhoads' accomplishments at Iowa State even more impressive. He's only had two players drafted since he arrived, highlighted by second-rounder Kelechi Osemele last year, a four-year starter along the offensive line for the Cyclones.

Bottom line: Iowa State is the school with less tradition in a state that doesn't have a ton of Division I talent. Rhoads has to go elsewhere, and most often for him, that means Texas. He's found some gems down there, including Jared Barnett, the guy who engineered last year's upset against No. 2 Oklahoma State--the best win in school history. Rhoads is a great developer of talent, but ultimately, the NFL loves its measureables. Iowa State doesn't churn out many players that wow you with their physical skills. Still, the wins come, and last year, his linebacker, A.J. Klein, shared Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors. Klein and teammate Jake Knott may have NFL futures, and future Cyclones may as well, but Rhoads is still building. That NFL pipeline is still under construction.

The thing that ISU fans have to love most about Rhoads, though, is how much he's changed the perception of the school. It's similar to what Mike Leach established at Texas Tech. Teams fear Iowa State, and after last year's win over Oklahoma State, how could they not? Iowa State's anything but a gimme win these days. That alone is worth a lot.

What's Ferentz done for Iowa's perception across the Big Ten?

(Read full post)

Lunch links: Last-minute draft sleepers

April, 26, 2012
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Straight down the middle, no hook, no spin, no fuss. Anything more and this becomes figure skating.

So, maybe you're not an NFL GM (or maybe you are).

If you're an obsessive fantasy football player (guilty here), you know the tier system well. It's similar to what NFL teams use on draft day, to know when they're getting a player at a value, and when they can afford to wait around. Often, they're broken into position groups.

Our draft guru, Todd McShay, broke down the tier system for this year's draft, and placed players in several groups. Here's who landed where from the Big 12:

Tier 1 -- elite prospects
Tier 2 --top 10 quality, but below elite
Tier 3 -- good value in picks 10-20
Tier 4 -- Late first-round value picks
Tier 5 -- Round 2 value picks
Tier 6 -- Mid-to-late second round value
  • none
Tier 7 -- Solid third-round picks

Digging deeper in NFL mock drafts

April, 6, 2012
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You've seen Mel Kiper's first-round mock draft, but his latest version dips all the way into the second round.

And for where he slotted Big 12 talents in the second round:

No. 37: Cleveland Browns: Brandon Weeden QB, Oklahoma State

Cincy drafted a ready-to-play QB at a similar spot last year, and the Browns can get Weeden to push Colt McCoy.

My take: That, folks, is a rich Big 12 storyline.

No. 43: Seattle Seahawks: Ronnell Lewis, LB, Oklahoma

His production dipped some in 2011, but Lewis could start as a situational pass-rusher and become more.

No. 56: Pittsburgh Steelers: Kelechi Osemele, OT, Iowa State

A versatile player, Osemele will be tried at tackle, but I like him more as a potentially dominant guard.

Big 12 spring football preview

February, 21, 2012
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Spring football is already under way at Texas Tech, but in the coming weeks, the Big 12's other nine programs will join the Red Raiders in taking the field as a team for the first time since January, December or November for some.

Here's a preview of what to expect:

BAYLOR BEARS

Spring practice start date: March 19
Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • Nick Florence: It's not official, but the Baylor quarterback job is Florence's to lose. That means he inherits the unenviable task of replacing the school's first Heisman winner. He replaced RG3 in 2009 with mixed results, but showed some major potential in a win over Texas Tech when RG3 took a shot to the head and sat out the second half. Can he keep the bowl streak alive at Baylor? We'll get an idea this spring.
  • The defense's progression: You didn't need to see much more than the 67-56 Alamo Bowl win over Washington to know the Bears needed some work on defense. In the month of November, Baylor became the first team in FBS history to win four consecutive games in a single season while also giving up at least 30 points in each of those games. The defense can't make Florence pick up the slack to that level. Year 2 under Phil Bennett must be better. Baylor has no excuses. The Bears have the athletes on campus necessary to be at least a decent defense.
  • The team's attitude/motivation: Baylor played with a lot of purpose the past two seasons, and made history in both, cracking a 16-year bowl drought and winning 10 games this year. Is that fire still there? Baylor has to prove it is without RG3 (and Kendall Wright) carrying the team on the field, emotionally and mentally.
IOWA STATE CYCLONES

Spring practice start date: March 20
Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • The quarterback battle: Or is it? Jared Barnett looked like the man of the future in Ames late in the season, leading the Cyclones to an historic upset of No. 2 Oklahoma State. But in the ugly Pinstripe Bowl loss to a mediocre Rutgers team, Barnett's inaccuracy posed big questions. He was benched and Steele Jantz stepped in, though he didn't play much better than Barnett. Turnovers were an issue for Jantz early on, but Barnett has to bounce back in the spring to make sure the job doesn't come open.
  • The receivers: Darius Reynolds was the big-play man for the Cyclones, but he's gone. It's going to be tough to replace him. Slot receivers Aaron Horne and Josh Lenz were productive, but did little to stretch defenses like Reynolds did. Can ISU find someone to fill the void?
  • The new man at left tackle: Iowa State had the luxury of having a future pro, Kelechi Osemele, at left tackle for the past three seasons. He earned All-Big 12 nods in each of those seasons, but he's gone now. Junior Carter Bykowski was behind Osemele on the depth chart, but will the converted tight end be the new man at tackle for the Cyclones?
KANSAS JAYHAWKS

Spring practice start date: March 27
Spring game: April 28

What to watch:
  • Uh, everything?: I mean, what's not to watch at KU? Charlie Weis steps in for the fired Turner Gill and tries to build KU up from nothing. The Jayhawks were one of the worst teams in Big 12 history last season, losing six games by at least 30 points. Weis will speak his mind and watching him rebuilding the Jayhawks is going to be fun. It all starts next month -- on the field, at least.
  • KU's new pass-catch combo: Dayne Crist is on campus, and so is Oklahoma transfer Justin McCay, a former blue-chip recruit who didn't quite catch on in Norman. Quarterback and receiver were arguably the two biggest positions of need for KU last year, and we'll get a preview of what could be a productive combo next season. McCay isn't officially eligible for the 2012 season yet -- he needs the NCAA to waive its mandated redshirt year after a transfer -- but the coaching staff is confident he'll have it granted.
  • The uncertainty on the depth chart: When a new staff comes in, you never know what to expect. Kansas' leading rusher in its final season under Mark Mangino, Toben Opurum, is now one of its best defensive linemen. Look for Weis to shake things up, too. Where? Who knows?
KANSAS STATE WILDCATS

Spring practice start date: April 4
Spring game: April 28

What to watch:
  • Collin Klein's maturation: Kansas State's quarterback could be fun to watch this spring and next fall. His throwing motion isn't pretty, but his accuracy improved in a big way throughout the season. If that continues at a pace anything close to what we saw last year, K-State's going to be a load for everyone. Look out.
  • Developing depth at running back: John Hubert is back, and so is seldom-used Angelo Pease. Bryce Brown is gone, though. Klein handles a lot of the heavy lifting in the running game, but it'd be some nice insurance if K-State could establish some more depth in the backfield. Making Klein carry the ball 300 times again is tempting fate.
  • Stars becoming superstars: Kansas State brings back more starters than all but seven teams in college football, so this team is going to look remarkably similar in 2012 to the way it did last year. However, it should get better. And its two transfers could look dominant this spring. Cornerback Nigel Malone and linebacker Arthur Brown emerged as stars last year, but we could see the duo emerge as true game-changers this spring. Look out, Big 12 offenses.
OKLAHOMA SOONERS

Spring practice start date: March 8
Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • New faces on, off the field: Mike Stoops' arrival as the defensive coordinator was the biggest news this offseason in the Big 12, and Brent Venables, who had been at OU for all of Bob Stoops' tenure, left for Clemson rather than become co-defensive coordinator. Hopes are high that Stoops can revitalize Oklahoma's defense. He was in charge when the Sooners rode a dominant D to the 2000 national title, and the Sooners have the talent to win it all in 2012. Receiver Trey Metoyer joins the team this spring, and could be a major contributor immediately. Two of the team's four new tight ends are also enrolled early.
  • QB Blake Bell's role: The Belldozer is back … but so is full-time quarterback Landry Jones. How will the balance between the duo look this spring? And what new wrinkles will we see in Oklahoma's simple, yet near-unstoppable short-yardage formation that scored 13 touchdowns in the second half of 2011?
  • The battle at defensive end: Oklahoma must fill two huge holes at defensive end. Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Frank Alexander is gone, as is possible first-round pick Ronnell Lewis. R.J. Washington contributed late and has potential, but David King filled in for Lewis in the final three games of the season. The duo could be great, but it could also be pretty pedestrian. We'll get an idea this spring, but Lewis and Alexander set a high, high bar.
OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS

Spring practice start date: March 12
Spring game: April 21

What to watch:
  • The quarterback battle: This will easily be the highest-profile, highest-quality quarterback battle in the Big 12. It won't be at the level of Texas Tech in 2010, but it won't be too far off. Clint Chelf, J.W. Walsh and Wes Lunt will go head to head. All have plenty of potential, though Lunt may have the most. The big-armed true freshman also has the least experience. Anything could happen here.
  • Which receivers rise: Justin Blackmon and Josh Cooper leave huge holes behind. It's not every day a two-time Biletnikoff Award winner walks on campus. Hubert Anyiam is gone, too. Michael Harrison is unlikely to play for the 2012 season, but the school has offered no confirmation on his status. He had the most potential, but OSU is deep at the position. Who emerges as the top target? Isaiah Anderson? Tracy Moore? Josh Stewart? Anything could happen there, too.
  • Defense needs a leader: Safety Markelle Martin has been the heart of the defense the past two seasons, but his big-hitting days are over. Who becomes the new voice of the defense? It needs to find leadership this spring heading into summer voluntary workouts.
TEXAS LONGHORNS

Spring practice start date: Feb. 23
Spring game: April 1

What to watch:
  • The quarterback competition: I still think having a competition at the spot, which Texas says it will, isn't the best option, but David Ash and Case McCoy will go at it alongside early-enrolling freshman Connor Brewer. If Ash secures the job, expect an announcement heading into summer officially anointing the sophomore.
  • More sophistication on both sides of the ball: The progression is natural and likely. Offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz had good first years in Austin, but this is Year 2. The spring won't be devoted to learning the playbook. It's time to master it. Both units could look markedly different, and much more refined next fall. Deny it all you like: Texas is back on its way to the top after a rough two years.
  • Maturing offensive weapons: Last season, the Longhorns relied on two true freshman running backs (Malcolm Brown/Joe Bergeron), a freshman/sophomore rotation at quarterback and its top receiver (Jaxon Shipley) was a true freshman. No. 2 (Mike Davis) was a sophomore. I hope I don't have to tell you what freshmen and sophomores do in college football. Look. Out.
TCU HORNED FROGS

Spring practice start date: Feb. 25
Spring end date: April 5

What to watch:
  • Can TCU shut out the scandal? Four team members were arrested in a recent drug sting and kicked off the team. How much of a distraction will that be for a program undergoing the most monumental change in its history? Quantifying the effects of the scandal will be pretty impossible, and we've got no idea how they'll handle the change, but will it be on players' minds?
  • The offense tightens up: The Horned Frogs' offense is absolutely loaded and ready to go for 2012. Quarterback Casey Pachall returns and brings his top three weapons (Josh Boyce, Skye Dawson and Brandon Carter) with him. Running backs Waymon James, Ed Wesley and Matthew Tucker each topped 700 yards rushing in 2011 and all return. The spring will be all about fine-tuning an already stellar offense, and it'll be fun to watch.
  • Replacing departed starters: All-America linebacker Tanner Brock was among the four football players arrested and booted from the team, as was all-conference defensive tackle D.J. Yendrey and likely starting safety Devin Johnson. Those were unforeseen losses, but TCU can't feel sorry for itself. Gary Patterson has no choice but to find new faces to fill those holes.
TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS

Spring practice start date: Feb. 17
Spring game: March 24

What to watch:
  • Once again, a new defense: Texas Tech sounds like a broken record these days when it comes to defensive coordinators. This time, Art Kaufman will be stepping to the microphone as the fourth defensive coordinator in Lubbock in four years. He's bringing a 4-3, a shift back to what Ruffin McNeil ran in 2009. Chad Glasgow's 4-2-5 and James Willis' 3-4 failed miserably in 2011 and 2010, respectively, the first two years under Tommy Tuberville.
  • The battle at running back: No one knows yet if Eric Stephens will be back next season. There's still a long way to go in his rehab from a dislocated knee he suffered last season in a loss to Texas A&M. DeAndre Washington is also out this spring after tearing his ACL against Missouri. Harrison Jeffers hung up his cleats. Who will prove to be reliable this spring? Look for the Red Raiders to try to use sophomore Bradley Marquez, freshman Javares McRoy and junior SaDale Foster in a manner similar to the way Oregon uses scatback De'Anthony Thomas, with lots of short passes and bubble screens to get them the ball in space, where they can use their speed and shiftiness to make plays.
  • Team health: Tuberville said earlier this month that the team is missing 15 players this spring. It can't afford any more injuries. It's already going to be tough to get enough done this spring, but Tech can't start getting banged up.
WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS

Spring practice start date: March 11
Spring game: April 21

What to watch:
  • Dana Holgorsen's offense in Year 2: Holgorsen didn't get a chance to coach his talented offense at Oklahoma State in its second year. The results could have been crazy. They might be at West Virginia in 2012, and the beginning steps will be taken this spring as Geno Smith & Co. get more and more comfortable with the system and Holgorsen adds more wrinkles.
  • The battle at running back: Sophomore Dustin Garrison hurt his knee in practices leading up to the Mountaineers' 70-33 Orange Bowl win over Clemson, and won't be there for the spring. What does senior Shawne Alston have in store for the spring? Garrison was the featured back last season, but a big spring could help Alston earn a few carries next year.
  • Defense needs help: Najee Goode leaves a big hole at linebacker, and defensive back Eain Smith's exit means the Mountaineers enter the season without two of their top three tacklers from a year ago. Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller's talents on the defensive line will be tough to replace, and in a league that requires a great pass rush, Irvin, Goode and Miller's 19 combined sacks must be replaced somehow.

Ranking the Big 12's best players: No. 17

February, 17, 2012
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Our countdown of the Big 12's top 25 players continues. The official list is locked away in a vault in an undisclosed location, but we're revealing a new member of the list every day.

Here's a quick rundown on my criteria for this list.

No. 17: Kelechi Osemele, LT, Iowa State

2011 numbers: Helped Iowa State amass 2,760 passing yards and 2,265 rushing yards and win six games, while allowing just 25 sacks on the season.

Most recent ranking: Osemele was ranked No. 13 in our preseason list of the top 25 players.

Making the case for Osemele: The Cyclones lineman finished one of the best careers in league history this past season. Osemele played all four years, starting three seasons in Ames. In each season, he earned all-conference honors and even garnered a spot on an All-America team this past season.

The 6-foot-6, 347-pounder has great athleticism for his size and his quick feet make him a solid prospect at the next level. With his nod as an All-American, he became the first Cyclone to earn that honor since Ben Bruns in 2000.

He'll leave a giant hole in Iowa State's offensive line next year, but he'll leave an even bigger legacy as one of the best players and students to come through the Cyclone program in a long time.

The rest of the list:










What to watch in this week's Senior Bowl

January, 24, 2012
1/24/12
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We've got plenty of folks on the ground in Mobile, Ala., at this week's Senior Bowl practices and Saturday's games, and we'll offer updates as the week goes along.

Until then, our analyst Todd McShay fills you in on a few players to watch this week Insider.

Here's the full roster of who's playing, though Baylor's Kendall Wright and Oklahoma State's Levy Adcock will be sitting out. Texas A&M DE Tony Jerod-Eddie was a late addition to the roster.
Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden Insider
(Grade: 79):
He has a quick release and strong arm, but Weeden's accuracy and decision-making were spotty in 2011. He got away with a lot of questionable throws and decisions due to the Cowboys' wide-open offense and the ability of WR Justin Blackmon Insider to bail him out. How will Weeden perform on a level playing field compared to other top prospects?

McShay says one big Big 12 player is under the radar.
Iowa State OT/G Kelechi Osemele (84): Osemele lined up at left tackle in college and should get some reps there this week, but don't be surprised if he struggles to protect the edge. He doesn't show great lateral quickness on film. On the other hand, Osemele has the tenacity, size and power to turn heads when he slides inside to guard, and that's where he might fit best in the NFL.

Osemele weighed in at 333 pounds, the third-heaviest player in Mobile this week. His 35 1/4-inch arms were the longest of any player at the Senior Bowl. Jerod-Eddie was fifth with 34 3/8-inch arms. Osemele's wingspan was predictably the longest as well, at 85 1/2 inches.

You can watch the practices this week on the NFL Network.

The Big 12's Super Seniors of 2011

December, 15, 2011
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We honored the freshmen in the Big 12 earlier this week, but what about the old guys?

These guys have played at their programs for four or five years each, and earned a spot as one of the greats after providing some big-time senior leadership. Here's each Big 12 team's Super Senior of 2011.

Baylor: Kendall Wright, WR -- How many players lead a program at receiver for four consecutive years? Talk about a rarity. Wright did it emphatically this season, catching 101 passes for 1,572 yards, second-most nationally and the most in the Big 12. Wright got better every season, even in 2009 when Robert Griffin III missed the last nine games with a torn ACL. RG3 was the guy collecting the Heisman, so Wright's value sometimes got lost.

Iowa State: Kelechi Osemele, OT -- Osemele has been a mainstay on the Cyclones' offensive line, helping the program reach two bowl games in three years. He started each of those three seasons, and half of his redshirt freshman year in 2008. He'll carry on Iowa State's reputation into the NFL next year, but he's been valuable to an underrated offensive line.

Kansas: Steven Johnson, LB -- Johnson was a Pennsylvania kid who wanted a chance. Mark Mangino gave it to him, first letting him walk on and then giving him a scholarship. He's been around for two coaching changes now, but he's done after a huge year in 2011, where he led the Big 12 in tackles, with 119. It's been a dark period in Kansas' recent history, but Johnson's been the brightest spot.

Kansas State: Tysyn Hartman, S -- Hartman's a great personification of the "student-athlete," earning a finalist nod for the Campbell Trophy, which is essentially the academic Heisman. He's also been a four-year starter and helped bring about change this season under Bill Snyder, who led the Wildcats to a 10-2 record. Hartman made 62 tackles and intercepted three passes this year.

Missouri: Jacquies Smith, DE/Kenji Jackson, S -- Smith and Jackson were both major contributors for four seasons and shared captain duties for the Tigers this season. Smith's been big on the defensive line for all four seasons, and both have played through injuries. Smith dislocated an elbow this year and Jackson fought through a knee injury last year, as well as a hamstring injury in camp. Jackson made 71 tackles and picked off three passes, while Smith bullrushed his way into All-Big 12 honors with eight tackles for loss and five sacks, as well as four forced fumbles.

We'll review part two later.

Preseason vs. Postseason All-Big 12 team

December, 14, 2011
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It's always fun looking back on what we thought in the preseason, and today, we'll take another look.

Here's who made the postseason team.

How did our All-Big 12 preseason team stack up at season's end?

OFFENSE

QB: Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State
  • Led the Big 12 with 4,328 passing yards and threw 34 touchdown passes. Only the postseason All-Big 12 QB, Robert Griffin III, had more. He was named the second-team All-Big 12 QB by both the coaches and media.
RB: Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M
  • Gray was sidelined late in the season with a stress fracture in his shoulder, but rushed for 1,045 yards and 12 touchdowns, his second consecutive 1,000-yard season. That ranked fifth in the Big 12, and Gray earned second-team All-Big 12 honors by the coaches and media.
RB: Christine Michael, Texas A&M
  • Michael tore his ACL against Oklahoma, derailing another likely 1,000-yard season. He still rushed for 899 yards and averaged better than six yards per carry.
WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
  • Blackmon won his second consecutive Biletnikoff Award and earned unanimous All-Big 12 first-team honors after catching 113 passes for 1,336 yards and 15 touchdowns.
WR: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
  • Broyles caught 83 passes for 1,157 yards before tearing his ACL in the ninth game of the season. He still cracked the coaches' first team and my first team, but was relegated to second team by the media.
TE: Michael Egnew, Missouri
  • Egnew kept on keeping on, leading all Big 12 tight ends with 47 catches for 484 yards and three touchdowns, earning unanimous All-Big 12 first-team honors.
OL: Levy Adcock, Oklahoma State
  • Adcock cracked a few All-American teams and earned unanimous All-Big 12 first-team honors.
OL: Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State
  • Osemele landed on SI.com's All-American team and earned unanimous first-team honors.
C: Grant Garner, Oklahoma State
  • Garner cracked SI.com's All-American team and landed on the media's first team, but was pushed to the second team by Baylor's Philip Blake on the coaches All-Big 12 teams.
OL: Lane Taylor, Oklahoma State
  • Taylor didn't crack any All-Big 12 postseason first teams.
OL: Elvis Fisher, Missouri
  • Fisher suffered a ruptured patellar tendon before the season and didn't play, and is waiting on an NCAA waiver for a sixth year of eligibility.
We'll take a look at the defense later today.

Recruiting rewind: All-Big 12 Offense

December, 13, 2011
12/13/11
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The season has come and gone, and brought with it an All-Big 12 team. But where do these guys come from? How easy is it for a no-name recruit to earn all-conference first-team honors?

Let's take a look at the All-Big 12 offense and see who surprises us.

You'll need ESPN Insider Insider to see each player's recruiting page from back in the day, but I excerpted a bit of what the scouts had to say about each player coming out of high school.

OFFENSE

QB: Robert Griffin III, Baylor
  • Griffin was infamously recruited as an "athlete" by top programs like Texas that may have moved him to safety or receiver. Scouts graded him as a 77 and the No. 40 quarterback. He committed to Houston before following coach Art Briles to Houston. One interesting note: He only threw for 1,734 yards as a high school senior. Development much? Scouts take: Griffin is a wonderful athlete with great size, solid arm strength and the ability to move to wide receiver if he doesn't remain at quarterback in college. He is long-legged, well built and is a smooth athlete. He's at his best when he is out of the pocket and can improvise. He will create when things break down and he shows very good presence to avoid the rush, use his feet to get on the perimeter and throw on the move.
All-purpose: Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
  • Klein was graded as a 75 by ESPNRecruiting and the nation's No. 60 quarterback. He picked K-State over Colorado State, Utah and Air Force. Scouts take: Klein has prototypical size and a powerful arm. What you don't expect is how athletic he is and while he is a pocket passer, if he gets on the move, he can build momentum and create a few plays here and there with his legs. He can be unorhtodox in his delivery and mechanics can be inconsistent, but he is very productive and has a lot of physical tools to mold at the next level.
RB: Terrance Ganaway, Baylor
  • Ganaway played at Houston before transferring from junior college to Baylor. He was graded at the minimum grade of 45 and wasn't ranked by ESPN coming out of high school or junior college.
RB: Henry Josey, Missouri
  • Josey was a two-star recruit and the nation's No. 258-ranked athlete. He was also recruited by Baylor, TCU and UTEP. Scouts take: Josey flashes playmaker skills on both sides of the ball at the high school level and may get recruited on either side of the ball in college. We feel he is a bit of an overachiever and his weaknesses may get exposed at the major college level, but we like his foot-speed, quickness and overall savvy as a potential hybrid safety/Bandit type or change-of-pace back on offense.
FB: Trey Millard, Oklahoma
  • Millard was a three-star prospect and the nation's No. 59 athlete in the 2010 class. He graded out at 78, and was also recruited by Syracuse, Iowa, South Carolina and Tennessee. Scouts take: Millard is a thick inside linebacker prospect with good mobility and downhill burst between the tackles. We like his athleticism as a future tight end or H-back as well. Has a large upper-body and overall frame. Carries his weight well and has above average lateral agility for a defender with his thickness.
WR: Kendall Wright, Baylor
  • Wright was No. 118 in the 2008 ESPNU 150 and was the nation's No. 12 athlete. He was also recruited by Arkansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas A&M. Scouts take: Wright is an athlete playing quarterback who belongs at either wide receiver or at cornerback at the next level. He is an athlete with great speed and acceleration. He is at quarterback because he is a playmaker and is very difficult to handle in the open field. With the ball in his hands, he has running back-type skills. (My take: Hey, remember this?)
WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
  • Blackmon was the nation's No. 139 receiver and was also recruited by Colorado and Missouri, grading out at a 74. Scouts take: Blackmon is a smooth-looking, natural receiver prospect with well-rounded tools at the position. A potential sleeper at this time. He is tall, rangy and layered with good muscle tone. Shows great downfield, big-catch ability with his good size, hands and large catch radius. Displays very good concentration tracking the ball in tight coverage and plucks the ball smoothly in stride.
WR: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
  • Broyles was the No. 58 receiver and graded out at a 77. He committed to Oklahoma State before switching to OU just before signing his letter of intent. He was also recruited by Arkansas, South Carolina and Tennessee. Scouts take: This versatile athlete excels as both a cornerback and wide receiver but appears to be more of a playmaker on the offensive side of the ball at this stage. Broyles is a lean, sleek athlete who is very shifty and fluid in his movements. He has excellent straight-line speed and acceleration. He is a threat to turn a short gain into a big play but is also a vertical threat who plays bigger than his size. Has very good hands.
TE: Michael Egnew, Missouri
  • Egnew was a two-star recruit who graded out at 40 and wasn't ranked. He was also recruited by Purdue and TCU.
C: Grant Garner, Oklahoma State
  • Garner was the No. 20 center in the 2007 class and graded out at 72. He was also recruited by Iowa State and Vanderbilt. Scouts take: Garner is a good center prospect but will need to add bulk to his frame. He is going to need some time to properly get up into that 280-290 lbs. range. He looks to have a strong quick snap and can also adequately handle shotgun responsibilities. Once he snaps the ball, he does a good job of bringing his off hand and making good contact.
OL: Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State
  • Osemele graded out at 68 and was the nation's No. 149 offensive tackle in the 2007 class. He was also recruited by Arkansas, Houston and TCU. Scouts take: Osemele is a good sized prospect that can deliver a good initial blow. He gets good hand placement and displays the ability to get into a defender and push him off the line of scrimmage in the run game. He needs to work on his initial footwork coming out of his stance.
OL: Levy Adcock, Oklahoma State
  • Adcock was a junior college recruit and not scouted by ESPN.
OL: Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
  • Ikard was the nation's No. 19 tight end and graded out at 78. He was also recruited by Notre Dame, Stanford and Oklahoma State. Scouts take: Ikard is a good football player and it is tough not to like him. He comes across as a smart, hard working, and productive player. He plays both defensive end and tight end in high school and is a legitimate recruit on both sides of the ball. He is a sound defensive end prospect.
OL: Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
  • Joeckel was No. 83 in the 2010 ESPNU 150 and was a four-star recruit. He was ranked as the nation's No. 6 offensive tackle prospect. He was also recruited by Nebraska, LSU, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Scouts take: Joeckel is a dominant offensive lineman. He has great size and is an intimidating force on the field. Exceptional run blocker that completely engulfs smaller defensive lineman. Has a real nasty streak and finishes his run blocks on a consistent basis. Does a great job of getting his hands into the frame of the defensive lineman and locks on like vice grips. Drives feet after initial contact and often puts defender into the turf due to his aggressiveness in finishing the block.

Fascinating stuff here. I enjoyed looking these guys up. The two most highly recruited players on the All-Big 12 team? Kendall Wright and Luke Joeckel. Shocking stuff.

ESPN.com's 2011 All-Big 12 Team

December, 9, 2011
12/09/11
10:30
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Editor’s Note: Tune into the “AT&T ESPN All America Team Show” on Saturday (ABC, 1:30 p.m. ET) to see who ESPN’s writers and experts selected.

It's been a fun season across the Big 12, with a few big names who didn't play as well as we thought, and lots of unknowns who became household names by the end of the season.

I'll offer my comments below, but here's our All-Big 12 team for 2011.

OFFENSE

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
Jerome Miron/US PresswireThe heroics of Robert Griffin III got Baylor to 9-3 and made him a Heisman Trophy finalist.
QB: Robert Griffin III, Baylor
All-purpose: Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
RB: Terrance Ganaway, Baylor
RB: Henry Josey, Missouri
FB: Trey Millard, Oklahoma
WR: Kendall Wright, Baylor
WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
WR: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
TE: Michael Egnew, Missouri
C: Grant Garner, Oklahoma State
OL: Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State
OL: Levy Adcock, Oklahoma State
OL: Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
OL: Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M

DEFENSE

DE: Frank Alexander, Oklahoma
DT: Dominique Hamilton, Missouri
DE: Alex Okafor, Texas
DE: Jamie Blatnick, Oklahoma State
LB: Sean Porter, Texas A&M
LB: Jake Knott, Iowa State
LB: Emmanuel Acho, Texas
NB: Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma
CB: Nigel Malone, Kansas State
CB: Carrington Byndom, Texas
S: Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
S: Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State

SPECIALISTS

P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
PK: Randy Bullock, Texas A&M
PR: Dustin Harris, Texas A&M
KR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

Finally, a few notes and explanations:

  • I loved the media's idea to craft an all-purpose spot to accomodate Collin Klein. The Big Ten did the same for Michigan's Denard Robinson last season. I followed suit, and did so on the defensive side of the ball with a nickel-back spot for Oklahoma's Tony Jefferson. Two players that missed first-team designation by the coaches, but clearly deserve to be recognized.
  • Additionally, I prefer the teams to reflect the Big 12 style of play, so the nickel back fits. Each team doesn't have 11 players, but there were deserving linebackers. The same with Egnew and Millard. Does every team use a fullback or a tight end? No, but both are standout performers. They'd rotate in anyway, just as Jefferson would in a theoretical package.
  • Tough call to leave Philip Blake from Baylor off my team, but Garner's been better. Blake is very, very close, though.
  • Hated to leave off Brodrick Brown and E.J. Gaines, but I went with a more traditional two corners and two safeties, rather than four corners like the media's team.
  • Steven Johnson and Arthur Brown would have been right behind my three linebackers. That race was probably closer than at any other position, except maybe cornerback. Difficult to leave either of those guys off my first team, but the three on the team were better. I gave Brown my Newcomer of the Year nod, though.
  • I don't like going with three defensive ends and one defensive tackle, but there wasn't a defensive tackle who deserved the honor more than Okafor, my third defensive end. Okafor was a defensive tackle last year anyway, so that's close enough, right? He moved from tackle to end before spring practice earlier this year. In the Big 12, an additional pass rusher is necessary, too, right?
  • I made a similar move with my offensive line. Went tackle-heavy, but the guards didn't have quite as many standouts.

Midseason top 25 list: Honorable mention

October, 21, 2011
10/21/11
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This list was really, really difficult to put together. Much more so than the pre or postseason lists. That sort of surprised me. Lots and lots of talented players just missed my list.

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

And here's the full list.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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