Big 12: Keon Stowers

Since last week, we've been analyzing the depth charts of every Big 12 team coming out of the spring. We conclude the series with Kansas' projected post-spring depth chart.

OFFENSE

QB: Montell Cozart (So.), Jake Heaps (Sr.), Michael Cummings (So.), T.J. Millweard (So.)

[+] EnlargeMontell Cozart
AP Photo/Orlin WagnerMontell Cozart was the clear choice at quarterback for the Jayhawks this spring.
Cozart was clearly the Jayhawks’ best quarterback during the spring game, so it made perfect sense when Kansas coach Charlie Weis named him the starter shortly after spring practice. If the sophomore continues to develop as a passer, he could help KU’s offense take a clear step forward. Heaps' status is unclear but, with Weis making it clear Cozart is the man, there’s no reason for him to stick around. Millweard and Cummings should be solid behind Cozart. It’s not the best group of quarterbacks in the league, but it’s not the worst, either.

RB: Brandon Bourbon (Sr.), Darrian Miller (Jr.), Taylor Cox (Sr.)

Bourbon had a solid spring and Miller returns after finishing second on the squad with 322 rushing yards in 2013. Yet it won’t be easy to replace James Sims, who was a mainstay in KU’s backfield for four seasons. Freshmen Corey Avery and Traevohn Wrench join De'Andre Mann as newcomers in the summer. KU should be able to replace Sims with a combination of these six running backs and its running game should be solid, particularly with Cozart providing a running threat at quarterback as well.

WR: Nick Harwell (Sr.), Tony Pierson (Sr.), Rodriguez Coleman (Jr.), Justin McCay (Sr.), Andrew Turzilli (Sr.)
TE: Jimmay Mundine (Sr.), Ben Johnson (RFr.)

With Harwell and Pierson, the Jayhawks could have two of the Big 12’s top big-play creators this fall. Both guys can be a handful in the open field and can turn a short gain into a long touchdown. Coleman came on in the spring and could provide another target for Cozart. The Jayhawks receivers looked solid in the spring. Now they just need to carry that momentum into actual production in the fall or end up being considered one of the conference’s worst groups of receivers again.

C: Keyon Haughton (Jr.), Joe Gibson (RFr.)
G: Ngalu Fusimalohi (Sr.), Joey Bloomfield (RFr.)
G: Mike Smithburg (Sr.), Bryan Peters (Jr.)
T: Damon Martin (So.), Zach Fondal (Sr.)
T: Pat Lewandowski (Sr.) Brian Beckmann (So.)

The Jayhawks' offensive line situation seems fairly fluid, so expect KU to continue to search for its five best offensive linemen during preseason camp. Fusimalohi is the best of the bunch and anchors the offensive front. This group had its moments last season, but needs to play better for KU’s offense to really take off.

DEFENSE

DL: Ben Goodman (So.), Tyler Holmes (So.)
DL: Andrew Bolton (Jr.), T.J. Semke (Jr.)
DL: Keon Stowers (Sr.), Tedarian Johnson (Sr.)

Goodman and Stowers are returning starters for the Jayhawks defense. Stowers is solid in the middle and Goodman has the talent to break out in 2014. The unit has a solid group of starters, but needs additional depth.

BUCK: Michael Reynolds (Sr.), Marcus Jenkins-Moore (Jr.) Victor Simmons (Sr.)
LB: Ben Heeney (Sr.), Courtney Arnick (So.)
LB: Jake Love (Jr.), Schyler Miles (Jr.)

This is a solid and deep group of linebackers, with several players competing for a job. Outside of Heeney and Love, nobody’s job could be safe, with players such as Miles and Arnick looking like contributors.

CB: Dexter McDonald (Sr.), Ronnie Davis (Jr.)
CB: JaCorey Shepherd (Sr.), Michael Mesh (Jr.)
NB: Kevin Short (Jr.), Greg Allen (So.)
S: Cassius Sendish (Sr.), Tevin Shaw (So.)
S: Isaiah Johnson (Jr.), Anthony Smithson (So.)

The Jayhawks have a solid secondary full of playmakers. McDonald and Shepherd can hold their own at cornerback, and Sendish and Johnson are a pair of active safeties. Short was one of the stars of KU’s spring practice. This starting unit could rank among the Big 12’s best if it continues to improve heading into the fall.
With spring ball done, we’re re-examining and re-ranking the positional situations of every Big 12 team, continuing Monday with defensive line. These outlooks will look different in August. But here’s how we see them post-spring:

[+] EnlargeDevonte Fields
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsWith a healthy and productive Devonte Fields this fall, TCU's defensive line could be an elite unit.
1. TCU (pre-spring ranking: 2): Devonte Fields appears to be back, which is a scary proposition for the rest of the Big 12. The 2012 Big 12 AP Defensive Player of the Year basically had a fruitless sophomore campaign, which ended with season-ending foot surgery. But this spring, defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas noted that Fields was making the plays he did as a freshman All-American. Even without Fields, this would be a good D-line, headlined by veteran tackles Chucky Hunter and Davion Pierson. But with Fields playing up to his potential, this line could be elite.

2. Oklahoma (1): Not only did the Sooners return the entire line that destroyed Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, they’ve added three redshirt freshmen who are clamoring for playing time. Charles Walker is the most athletic tackle on the roster, and he ran the fastest tackle 40 time (4.67 seconds) of the Bob Stoops era. Tackle Matt Romar quietly emerged this spring and could be on the verge of taking away snaps from some of the veterans inside. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo showed this spring he's yet another Sooner capable of getting to the quarterback off the edge. There's a debate on the best D-line in the league. There’s no debate on the deepest, with Oklahoma capable of going three-deep across the board.

3. Baylor (6): Coach Art Briles believes he has one of the best defensive lines in the country, and there's reason to believe he might be right. The Bears made the biggest jump on this list, thanks to the development of end Shawn Oakman and emergence of tackle Javonte Magee. Briles called the 6-foot-9 Oakman “unblockable” during the spring. Oakman already flashed plenty of potential last season as a sophomore, finishing sixth in the league with 12.5 tackles for loss. Magee, who might be the most highly-touted high school defender Briles has ever signed, sat out his freshman season while dealing with a personal issue. But he established himself this spring and could beat out returning starter Beau Blackshear. With former four-star signee Andrew Billings (who played as a true freshman) also poised for a big year at the other tackle spot, Briles could indeed be proven correct in the fall.

4. Texas (3): The Longhorns boast two of the league’s blue-chip defensive linemen in end Cedric Reed and tackle Malcom Brown. But whether this unit rises to the top of the league will hinge on the supporting cast. If athletic end Shiro Davis and run-stuffing tackle Desmond Jackson play up to their potential, and the Longhorns can get a boost from incoming freshmen Derick Roberson and Poona Ford, this could be a foundational positional unit in Charlie Strong’s first season.

5. Kansas State (4): Like Texas, the Wildcats have two blue-chip pieces returning up front in All-Big 12 end Ryan Mueller and tackle Travis Britz. They’re banking they’ll soon be adding a third in Terrell Clinkscales, who will be arriving to Manhattan shortly. Clinkscales, whom the Wildcats snatched away from Nebraska, was the nation’s No. 4-rated juco DT, and at 315 pounds, could be the run-stuffer K-State currently lacks.

6. Oklahoma State (5): With so much turnover elsewhere, the Cowboys will be counting on their line to be their anchor defensively. There’s reason to believe it could be that and more. Sam Wren received votes for Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year last season, while Emmanuel Ogbah garnered consideration for Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year. Throw in promising redshirt freshmen Vili Leveni, Ben Hughes and Vincent Taylor, who all showed signs this spring they might be ready to contribute, along with veterans James Castleman, Ofa Hautau and Jimmy Bean, and Oklahoma State could have the anchor up front it needs while the rest of the defense retools.

7. West Virginia (7): This will probably be the weakest area of West Virginia defense, but with their talent at linebacker, the Mountaineers don’t have to be great up front. Dontrill Hyman, Christian Brown and Kyle Rose are currently the starters coming out of the spring. But the player to watch up front is sophomore Darrien Howard, who rapidly progressed since having his redshirt pulled late in 2013. If Howard develops into an impact player, he could give the Mountaineers a huge jolt up front.

8. Texas Tech (9): The Red Raiders tried to get by this spring while awaiting the horde of defensive line help set to arrive this summer. All told, the Red Raiders signed four juco D-linemen, only one of which – Keland McElrath -- enrolled early (McElrath was hobbled by a stress fracture all spring to boot). To be better up front, Tech, which ranked ninth in run defense last fall, will need at least a couple of its juco transfers to hit.

9. Kansas (10): Keon Stowers quietly has become as one of the better tackles in the league. He was the defensive MVP of Kansas' spring game after collecting eight tackles from his defensive tackle spot, and he was voted captain for a second straight year. Stowers and linebacker Ben Heeney will lead a defense that returns nine starters and could surprise after gaining confidence from playing Oklahoma and Texas tough last season.

10: Iowa State (8): The Cyclones took it on the chin this spring, with projected D-line starters Rodney Coe and David Irving both getting kicked off the team. Iowa State got a boost shortly after spring ball ended when 2013 starting tackle Brandon Jensen changed his mind about leaving the team. The Cyclones should be solid at end with Cory Morrissey and Mitchell Meyers, but even with Jensen’s return, interior line depth is a major concern.

Big 12 pre-spring breakdown: DL

February, 24, 2014
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As we wait for the start of spring ball, we’re examining and ranking the positional situations of every team in the Big 12, continuing Monday with defensive line. Some of these outlooks will look different after the spring. But here’s how we see the defensive lines at the moment:

[+] EnlargeAmari Cooper
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesOklahoma end Charles Tapper will lead the Big 12's best defensive line in 2014.
1. Oklahoma: D-line began as a weakness but quickly turned into a strength under first-year position coach Jerry Montgomery. End Charles Tapper was an All-Big 12 selection as a sophomore, and tackle Jordan Phillips was on his way to earning similar honors before a back injury ended his season prematurely. Both players are back. So is Geneo Grissom, who had three sacks in the bowl win over Alabama. Nose guard Jordan Wade earned a starting role late in 2013, and Chuka Ndulue will be a starter for a third season. Basically, the entire rotation returns. If Phillips rebounds from the injury, this could prove to be Oklahoma’s finest D-line since 2009, when NFL All-Pro Gerald McCoy roamed the middle.

2. TCU: DE Devonte Fields, the Associated Press’ Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year as a freshman in 2012, had an empty season in 2013 thanks to a suspension, then a season-ending foot injury. If Fields can return to the player he was, TCU will be formidable up front. Chucky Hunter was a second-team All-Big 12 pick inside last season, and he’ll be flanked by an array of experienced tackles in Davion Pierson and Tevin Lawson, who were all part of the rotation last season. Ends Terrell Lathan, James McFarland and Mike Tuaua, who combined for 11 sacks in 2013, all return as well. Even with DT Jon Lewis giving up football, TCU's D-line figures to be as deep as any in the league.

3. Texas: Cedric Reed, one of the best sack men in the Big 12 last season, returns after giving the NFL a cursory thought. The Longhorns have to replace Big 12 co-Defensive Player of the Year Jackson Jeffcoat on the other side, but ESPN 300 recruit Derick Roberson, the No. 8 DE in the Class of 2014, could help right away. The Longhorns should also be stout inside, with run-stuffing tackles Malcom Brown and Desmond Jackson back to clog the middle.

4. Kansas State: Ryan Mueller, who was eighth nationally with 11.5 sacks last season, comes back after a breakout All-Big 12 season. Travis Britz is an all-conference-caliber tackle and gives K-State one of the better one-two punches on the D-line in the league. Joining them will be Terrell Clinkscales, who was the No. 4 junior college DT in the 2014 class. The Wildcats pried Clinkscales away from Nebraska, and at 315 pounds he could be the perfect complement to Britz, who relies more on quickness.

[+] EnlargeShawn Oakman
John Rivera/Icon SMIBaylor defensive end Shawn Oakman will play a bigger role next season.
5. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys lose two-time All-Big 12 tackle Calvin Barnett. James Castleman, however, will be a three-year starter, and end Jimmy Bean had a career night in the Cotton Bowl with three tackles for loss. The key to the Cowboys fielding one of the better lines in the league again will be whether Ben Hughes, Vincent Taylor and/or Vili Leveni can emerge inside after redshirting in 2013. All three are promising prospects, especially Taylor, who was an ESPN 300 recruit in the 2013 class.

6. Baylor: The Bears feature two of the more intriguing defensive linemen in the league. DE Shawn Oakman, a former Penn State transfer with tremendous length at 6-foot-9, finished sixth in the league with 12.5 tackles for loss last season, but he tailed off in Big 12 play. Baylor will ask him to play a much bigger role along the line, and he has the potential to give the Bears a unique playmaker there. On the inside, Baylor will lean more on Andrew Billings, who was part of the DT rotation as a freshman. If both Billings and Oakman play up to their vast potential, Baylor could be a handful up front.

7. West Virginia: The Mountaineers lose two of three starters along the D-line, including second-team All-Big 12 end Will Clarke. West Virginia is hoping for big things from DE Kyle Rose, who played a lot as a sophomore. Dontrill Hyman will likely fill a starting role on the other side, though he could get pushed for time by Eric Kinsey and Noble Nwachukwu, who both will be in their third year in the program. The Mountaineers will lean on Christian Brown and Darrien Howard at nose guard. Howard was an ESPN 300 recruit last year and played as a freshman. There’s some talent and potential here.

8. Iowa State: Like Texas Tech, Iowa State loaded up on immediate defensive line help, signing three juco defensive ends in Dalyou Pierson, Terry Ayeni and Gabe Luna, who is enrolled already for spring ball. Those three together with All-Big 12 honorable-mention selection Cory Morrissey and sophomore Mitchell Meyers should give Iowa State a solid rotation at end. Rodney Coe, who started the last four games, will anchor the Cyclones inside.

9. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders lose their two best defensive linemen in Kerry Hyder and Dartwan Bush, and Tech got pushed around up front anyway last season. Coach Kliff Kingsbury recognized this deficiency and signed four juco defensive linemen, all of whom have a chance to play immediately. Of the returning linemen, Branden Jackson was by far the most productive, totaling nine tackles for loss and four sacks as a starter.

10. Kansas: Despite also losing two starters, the Jayhawks have experience up front. Defensive captain Keon Stowers is back after manning the middle in 2013. Ben Goodman returns as well in Kansas’ “buck” role, and he is coming off a very solid sophomore season. Goodman’s backup, Michael Reynolds, and rotation players Tedarian Johnson and Ty McKinney give the Jayhawks depth.

Opening camp: Kansas Jayhawks

August, 8, 2012
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Camp is open up in Lawrence. Before we get too deep in sweltering hot practices, I'll offer up a quick preview of what you need to know heading into the season.

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.

Lunch links: Money talks

July, 9, 2012
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Am I the only one here watching Food Network Star? Consider me firmly #TeamJustin.

Updated 2012 Big 12 recruiting scorecard

December, 20, 2011
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So, the season gets, you know, kind of crazy. It's unrelenting, and recruiting plummets in priority. Thus, we haven't had a recruiting update since before the season.

Time to update.

Signing Day is less than two months away, and here's where each Big 12 team sits as we hit the recruiting home stretch before the big day in February.

All commit totals, rankings and stars via ESPN Recruiting, which updated its national recruiting rankings this week.

1. Texas Longhorns

National ranking: No. 1
Total commits: 25
ESPNU 150 commits: 10
Key commits: RB Johnathan Gray, DT Malcom Brown, WR Cayleb Jones, QB Connor Brewer
Class notes: Four of Texas' top five commits are skill position players, a huge need for the Longhorns. They're one of a handful of schools still chasing one of the nation's top recruits, too, receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. Gray will come to Texas as the Gatorade National Player of the Year. Texas also has two juco transfers coming next year, OT Donald Hawkins and DT Brandon Moore, a rarity for the Longhorns.

2. Texas A&M Aggies

National ranking: No. 8
Total commits: 22
ESPNU 150 commits: 4
Key commits: OLB Jordan Richmond, RB Trey Williams, ATH Bralon Addison, QB Matt Davis
Class notes: Texas A&M's class is being spearheaded by Davis, who's spreading the "Agg Swagg Movement" via social media, and Texas A&M will enter the SEC with one of its best classes in recent history. It's a deep class, too. Eleven of the 22 commits earned four-star status on ESPN.

3. Oklahoma Sooners

National ranking: No. 9
Total commits: 17
ESPNU 150 commits: 5
Key commits: RB Alex Ross, WR Sterling Shepard, WR Durron Neal, OL Ty Darlington
Class notes: The Sooners are after DGB, too, but may have a sudden big need at running back after a handful of transfers over the past few months. ESPNU 150 signee from 2010 Trey Metoyer, a receiver, is expected to be in Norman next year after spending a year at Hargrave Military Academy. He'll offer some nice help, but will Landry Jones be throwing him the ball?

4. Texas Tech Red Raiders

National ranking: No. 17
Total commits: 22
ESPNU 150 commits: 3
Key commits: WR Reginald Davis, WR Dominique Wheeler, OT Michael Starts, QB Clayton Nicholas
Class notes: The Red Raiders added five commits since our last update, but Davis, Wheeler and Starts should all be nice pickups and additions to an offense that lacked a big-play threat this year when Darrin Moore was battling injuries. Tech is also adding five juco transfers, including two more receivers and a pair of pass-rushers.

5. Oklahoma State Cowboys

Total commits: 16
ESPNU 150 commits: 1
Key commits: TE Dominic Ramacher, OLB Jeremiah Tshimanga, QB Wes Lunt
Class notes: Texas swiped CB Kendall Sanders with a late recruiting push, following a few high-profile former OSU commits to go elsewhere. This year's class won't make many headlines, but it'll be interesting to see if the 2011 Big 12 title pays off in the 2013 recruiting class. OSU knows definitively now that it can be better than OU and Texas. Lunt, an Illinois native, is an uber-productive dual-threat. Former blue-chipper Calvin Barnett, a DT from Tulsa, spurned OSU for Arkansas on Signing Day 2010, but he's committed this year via junior college.

6. Baylor Bears

Total commits: 19
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: ATH Corey Coleman, OT Kyle Fuller, CB Terrell Burt, WR Kiante' Griffin
Class notes: Baylor added a handful of recruits just before the season to reach 18 commits, and added just one commit over the course of the season. Baylor's grabbed big-time recruits like Ahmad Dixon and Kendall Wright in the past that have been productive, but there's no big name in this class just yet.

7. Missouri Tigers

Total commits: 15
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: DT Donald Hopkins, QB Maty Mauk, ILB Donavin Newsom
Class notes: Missouri is chasing DGB too, but the story this season has been class attrition for the Tigers. They were in the top 20 but lost ESPNU 150 commit Evan Boehm, who decommitted. The Tigers fell out of the top 25 and fell behind Oklahoma State and Baylor. Running back Jonathan Williams took his four stars to Arkansas and OT Germain Ifedi moved to fellow future SEC member Texas A&M. Mauk, Hopkins and Newsom are the only remaining four-star recruits in the class.

8. Iowa State Cyclones

Total commits: 20
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: OT Daniel Burton WR P.J. Harris, WR Quan West, QB Grant Rohach
Class notes: The Cyclones added 11 commits since our last update. Three of the Cyclones top four commits are offensive skill position players, but Burton is the class' top commit. He committed on Sept. 29. A second QB, Luke Knott, committed way back in April. His older brother, Jake Knott, is a star linebacker for the Cyclones. Paul Rhoads' 10-year contract extension could help on the recruiting trail next year, too, offering parents some security that he'll still be coaching their sons for their whole careers. ISU has no four-star commits, but eight three-stars.

9. Kansas State Wildcats

Total commits: 11
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: WR Vernon Vaughn, DT Travis Britz, RB Jarvis Leverett, QB Tavarius Bender
Class notes: Kansas State added four commits since our preseason update. Seven of the commits are three-stars and just one is committed via junior college. Two commits are unranked.

10. Kansas Jayhawks

Total commits: 8
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: QB Seth Russell, TE Jordan Smith, OG Brian Beckmann
Class notes: ATH Bilal Marshall and DE De'Jon Wilson are no longer committed and new Kansas coach Charlie Weis has his work cut out for him. He says he doesn't want to be under scholarship numbers, but he doesn't want to offer guys just to fill scholarships with bodies. It'll be a tough balance. He's got catching up to do. WR Tre Parmalee and DT Keon Stowers are Weis' first two commits.

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