Big 12: Kevin Peterson

Big 12 all-bowl team

January, 16, 2015
Jan 16
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Below, we recognize the best individual performances of the 2014-15 bowl season with our Big 12 all-bowl team:

OFFENSE

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
AP Photo/LM OteroBryce Petty had a huge game in his college finale.
QB: Bryce Petty, Baylor. Petty didn’t go out with a win, but he did go out with a monster performance, as he threw for a Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic-record 550 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for another score.

RB: Desmond Roland, Oklahoma State. Roland ran for more than 100 yards for the first time all season and finished with 123 yards on 32 carries in Oklahoma State’s TicketCity Cactus Bowl win.

RB: Samaje Perine, Oklahoma. Perine was about the Sooners’ only positive in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Playing on a bum ankle, he ran for 134 yards to finish his true freshman season with a Big 12-best 1,713 rushing yards.

WR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State. Lockett fueled a furious second-half comeback in the Valero Alamo Bowl with 164 receiving yards and two touchdowns. The rally came up short, but Lockett was fabulous in his final game at K-State.

WR: Kevin White, West Virginia. White was unstoppable yet again in his last college game. He finished with 129 yards receiving and a touchdown in West Virginia’s loss to Texas A&M in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.

WR: K.D. Cannon, Baylor. By hauling in eight caches for 197 yards and two touchdowns, Cannon became just the seventh receiver and first underclassman in Baylor history to finish with more than 1,000 yards receiving.

AP: Aaron Green, TCU. Green ignited a 42-3 onslaught of Ole Miss in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl by hauling in a 31-yard pass on a trick play for TCU's first touchdown. He scored the Horned Frogs’ second touchdown too and finished with 114 yards rushing and receiving.

OT: Halapoulivaati Vaitai, TCU: With “Big V” locking up one of the edges, the Horned Frogs dominated the line of scrimmage and finished with 177 yards on the ground.

OG: LaQuan McGowan, Baylor. The 400-pound backup guard delivered one of the most unforgettable plays of the bowl season, when he lined up as an eligible receiver then snagged an 18-yard touchdown pass to give Baylor a 20-point lead.

C: B.J. Finney, Kansas State. With K-State struggling to protect quarterback Jake Waters through the first half, Finney swung from center to right tackle after halftime. The Wildcats had no trouble moving the ball the rest of the way.

OG: Brady Foltz, TCU: Foltz had one of the best games of his TCU career as the Horned Frogs rolled up 423 total yards against Ole Miss’ talented defense.

OT: Zach Crabtree, Oklahoma State. Crabtree’s return to the lineup late in the year helped stabilize the line. With Crabtree, the Cowboys controlled a Washington front seven that featured three All-Americans.

DEFENSE

DE: Ryan Mueller, Kansas State. Mueller finished with seven tackles and produced a huge forced fumble of the Bruins in the third quarter that sparked K-State’s rally.

DT: James Castleman, Oklahoma State. Castleman’s biggest contributions actually came on offense. In Oklahoma State’s heavy set, Castleman rushed for a 1-yard touchdown, then late in the game hauled in a 48-yard yard reception off play-action that helped propel the Cowboys to victory.

DT: Malcom Brown, Texas. Brown did what he could in a 31-7 loss to Arkansas in the Advocare V100 Texas Bowl by leading Texas with eight tackles, a tackle for loss and a pair of QB hurries.

DE: James McFarland, TCU. McFarland essentially ended the game when he came up with an acrobatic, diving interception of Bo Wallace in the Ole Miss end zone that put the Frogs ahead 28-0 just before halftime.

LB: K.J. Dillon, West Virginia. Dillon had a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown that gave West Virginia a 10-point lead over the Aggies and early command of the game. Neither the lead nor the command lasted, however.

LB: Marcus Mallet, TCU. The Horned Frogs brutalized Ole Miss’ offense, and Mallet was a big reason for that. He put up a game-high 10 tackles and forced and recovered a fumble, as the Rebels finished with just 9 yards rushing.

[+] EnlargeOklahoma State, Deric Robertson, Kevin Peterson
AP Photo/Rick ScuteriKevin Peterson (1) and the Oklahoma State defense made plenty of stops against Washington.
LB: Taylor Young, Baylor. Young had a game-high 15 tackles and very nearly produced the game-clinching play. His 84-yard fourth-quarter interception return, however, was called back by a penalty.

CB: Kevin Peterson, Oklahoma State. In addition to providing solid coverage all night, Peterson came up with the game-clinching interception of Washington in the final seconds.

CB: Ramon Richards, Oklahoma State. The sure-tackling true freshman had perhaps the best performance in his young career and finished with six tackles, a tackle for loss and two pass breakups.

S: Karl Joseph, West Virginia. Joseph led the Mountaineers with 10 tackles and delivered yet another devastating hit that resulted in a forced fumble.

S: Derrick Kindred, TCU. Kindred picked off the Rebels in the first quarter and finished with five tackles and a tackle for loss as the TCU secondary swarmed Ole Miss' receivers all game.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: Matthew McCrane, Kansas State. McCrane nailed 47-yard and 29-yard field goals and nearly pulled off a remarkable onside kick using the “Rabona” soccer technique. Honorable mention honors here go to West Virginia’s Josh Lambert, who broke the FBS season record with 39 made field goals.

P: Kip Smith, Oklahoma State. Smith placed all four of his punts inside the Washington 20 to help the Cowboys control the field-position battle.

Returner: Mario Alford, West Virginia: The electric Alford had two big kick returns, as well as a 45-yard touchdown reception off a quick pass in his final game as a Mountaineer.

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 9

October, 26, 2014
10/26/14
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The Big 12 gave us a battle, a blowout and a mega blowout this week. Lots of folks had themselves a good day. The top performers in the conference on Saturday:

QB Trevone Boykin, TCU: We legally are allowed to give the young man only one helmet sticker, but he might deserve a few more. In three quarters of play, he threw for a career-best 433 yards and a TCU-record seven touchdowns. Many of those throwing scores were absolute dimes -- his first three TDs really stand out -- and the 82-27 result should get people talking about Boykin as a Heisman contender now.

S Dante Barnett, Kansas State: Barnett was all over the place, racking up four pass breakups to go with his seven tackles in K-State's 23-0 shutout of Texas. He was in on the key fourth-and-1 stop of Johnathan Gray and helped KSU allow only 106 passing yards and 196 total yards on the day.

S Dravon Henry, West Virginia: The touted true freshman is making a name for himself. Henry's 52-yard interception return for a touchdown sealed the 34-10 win at Oklahoma State, and he grabbed another pick in the first quarter. Way to be clutch in a tough road environment, kid.

WR Deante' Gray, TCU: The speedster burned Tech for the longest offensive TD in the Big 12 this season, a 92-yard score in which he danced around three defenders. He finished with 165 yards and two TDs on four catches. Really, though, this helmet sticker could've gone to Aaron Green, Josh Doctson or any number of other TCU skill players.

RB Wendell Smallwood, West Virginia: Rushel Shell and Dreamius Smith got the preseason hype, but Smallwood continues to maximize his value in this dangerous offense. He rushed for a career-high 132 yards on 23 carries in the win at OSU, his second 100-yard performance in three weeks.

CB Kevin Peterson, Oklahoma State: When this season is over, Peterson might end up being the only guy who can boast that he shut down Kevin White. The nation's leading receiver finished with three catches for 27 yards and a score, snapping a seven-game streak of 100-yard games. Peterson deserves some props for that, even in a losing effort.
It seems like Oklahoma State has been forgotten.

A glance at the Big 12 standings finds the Cowboys ahead of Kansas State, Oklahoma, TCU and West Virginia and sitting alongside Baylor at the top with a 3-0 conference record.

"We're in a good position right now as a team,” linebacker Seth Jacobs said. “We're undefeated in league play. We're doing well, but we're focusing on the next game trying to improve each week."

[+] EnlargeKevin Peterson
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports"Knowing the guys on our team, we like when the light is shining on us," Oklahoma State cornerback Kevin Peterson said.
Yet Mike Gundy’s squad is rarely included when Big 12 championship contenders are discussed.

It could be because Gundy has been vocal about his team’s struggles, consistently calling his team “average” during a five-game winning streak that has landed them at 5-1 following their season-opening loss to Florida State. Or it could be moments of visible inexperience eventually overcome by the overall talent on the roster.

The why doesn’t really matter. The Cowboys have been winning, but they haven’t been impressive.

OSU, uncharacteristically, is in the bottom half of the conference in most offensive categories including yards per play (5.7, seventh), third-down conversion rate (42.3 percent, seventh) and points per possession (2.39, sixth). Meanwhile the Pokes defense, which could have been the weak link, has exceeded expectations as the driving force behind the win streak despite its inexperience.

The struggles have been impossible to ignore but we’ve seen an OSU team that can play with anyone. The Cowboys proved it during their 37-31 loss to then top-ranked Florida State to open the season. Even though they left AT&T Stadium with their lone loss of the year, they looked better in defeat than they have in victory.

“Florida State was a big prime time game, probably one of the biggest games any of us have played in and everybody played the best game they’ve played up to this point,” cornerback Kevin Peterson said.

When No. 15 OSU travels to Fort Worth to take on No. 12 TCU, the spotlight returns for Peterson and his teammates. And maybe that’s just what they need.

“Knowing the guys on our team, we like when the light is shining on us,” Peterson said. “There isn’t any pressure on us, we love the spotlight, we love the crowd, we love the fans, when the limelight comes, we play even better.”

The spotlight will become commonplace for OSU moving forward, starting with this weekend’s trip to TCU, which is coming off a win over Oklahoma and a narrow defeat to Baylor.

“This could very well be the best team we’ve played, give or take,” Gundy said.

The visit to TCU is followed by a home contest with West Virginia and road trips to Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma among OSU’s final four games.

“It’s going to be fun to see how we play against these caliber teams down the road,” Peterson said.

Games they found a way to win during the first half of the year could transform into losses against ranked opponents.

But if the team that almost beat FSU returns, the Cowboys could make a run at the Big 12 title.

“We’re right where we want to be,” Peterson said.

Big 12 players in Week 7 spotlight

October, 9, 2014
10/09/14
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Last week, Brandon Chatmon correctly predicted big games for Baylor's offensive line, TCU receiver Kolby Listenbee (103 receiving yards) and Iowa State cornerback Nigel Tribune (one interception). Who could be due for a breakout game in Week 7? Here are nine players to keep an eye on Saturday.

Baylor WR KD Cannon: He was killer in non-conference play, but now that the veterans are back his targets are down considerably. He played an insignificant role last week -- one catch, 8 yards -- and Baylor did not hit the game-changing deep bombs against Texas. The Bears will need to find better ways to free up Cannon in space and let him do his thing.

Iowa State TE E.J. Bibbs: The breakthrough finally came last week for Bibbs, who caught two touchdowns in the second half against Oklahoma State. Against a Toledo defense that ranks fourth-worst in FBS in pass defense, he should feast.

Kansas QB Michael Cummings: It's possible the Jayhawks stick with Montell Cozart this week, but now that the quarterback position is an open competition again, what is Cummings capable of? A week of preparation knowing that he could start should help, and he did better things in the pass game during his second-half audition last week than Cozart has. Let's see what the guy can do if he gets his chance.

Oklahoma offensive line: Two things Texas' defense does best: Sacks and takeaways. At a time when Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight's play is being called into question, it's going to be on his big boys up front to protect him and reduce the pressure he will face in a crazy Cotton Bowl atmosphere. Plus, if the weather forecast holds true and we get some rain on Saturday, this line has to create push for Oklahoma's run game in what could be a sloppy brawl.

Oklahoma State CB Kevin Peterson: Whoever is playing quarterback at Kansas (and the Pokes could see all three), the Cowboys' secondary should be in for some fun. Peterson has just one interception this season, but should get a chance to snag at least one pass forced Nick Harwell's way.

TCU RB B.J. Catalon: His final stats against Oklahoma were relatively modest, but Catalon is a guy who can burn you as a rusher, receiver and returner. He snuck behind the Sooners' defense for a wide-open, 39-yard touchdown reception last week, ran another TD in and went 30 yards on TCU's trick play kick return. Don't be surprised if he finds the end zone a few more times this week.

Texas LB Steve Edmond: He is coming off probably the finest performance of his career, a team-high 17 tackles and two sacks against Baylor, and he is earning major praise from Charlie Strong and his teammates for all the extra film work he's putting in during the week. Edmond was asked to do a lot against the Bears, and he will be just as responsible this week against Oklahoma's tough power run game.

Texas Tech RB DeAndre Washington: The Red Raiders completely abandoned the run last week, giving just one carry to a running back in the second half against Kansas State. And it didn't go to Washington, either. Tech needs to keep this game close enough that it can have a lot more balance offensively, and Washington needs to make a dent with his first-half opportunities.

West Virginia CB Daryl Worley: Well, how much rust should we expect? Worley is coming back from a two-game suspension and has some catching up to do. Now that he has been reinstated, West Virginia has arguably its best defender back just in time to help shut down Jakeem Grant and Bradley Marquez. He should get tested often on Saturday.
Oklahoma State figured replacing Justin Gilbert would not be easy.

The former Cowboy was the eighth overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft after an All-America season at OSU a year ago. While Gilbert provided game-changing plays and three years of starting experience to the Cowboys secondary in his final season, Kevin Peterson was the overlooked lieutenant in the cornerback duo, quietly holding his own opposite his standout teammate.

This year it’s Peterson’s time to be the captain in the Cowboys’ backfield. And he’s slid into the role with unusual ease.

[+] EnlargeKevin Peterson
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsKevin Peterson had big shoes to fill in Oklahoma State's secondary, replacing Justin Gilbert as the top corner.
“He wanted that role,” defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said. “He knew Gilbert’s gone, I’m the guy, I’m going to be put on a island a lot. I think he wanted that.”

Lots of guys want a role like that, as the key cover man who can be counted on to battle with the Big 12’s best receivers throughout a 60-minute frenzy of passes from all angles. Fewer guys seize the opportunity and hold up under the barrage.

“To want it and then to be effective every snap is different,” Spencer said. “He’s doing what he’s supposed to do now preparations-wise and practice-wise to fulfill that role. It’s a week-by-week process though.”

Now he finds himself on a similar path as Gilbert. He’s been a starter since his sophomore season after making an impact as a freshman and teams that test him, more often than not, end up regretting it. Most importantly, he sets the competitive tone and provides a daily model for OSU’s freshman cornerbacks Ramon Richards and Juwan Offray as the most experienced cover man on the roster.

“They see how he approaches practice and when we’re doing scout reps he’s not backing up, he’s not going through the motions,” Spencer said. “The harder they practice it translates to Saturday and Kevin does that, so it’s good for the young guys to see … 'He's practicing like this? Against the scout team on a Wednesday?' Then they say, that’s probably the way it’s supposed to be done.”

It’s part of the reason the Cowboys have been better than expected thus far this season. Gilbert wasn’t just a superstar. Along with fellow three-year starter and departed Cowboy Daytawion Lowe, Gilbert passed along his good habits and provided a baseline during Peterson's first two seasons for how to strive to mimic their success when he was the man.

“Having those guys show how to work hard instilled it in me,” Peterson said. “It takes more than athletic ability to be a great player.”

Said defensive tackle James Castleman: "I feel like what sets him apart from everyone else is not only is he a vocal leader, but he sets an example. So, you know, ‘You've got to do this, you've got to do that,' and it's good when you tell someone 'You've got to do this,' and you do it as well.”

Four games into his junior season Peterson has 15 tackles, six pass breakups and one interception. He ranks second in the Big 12 with seven disrupted dropbacks -- an ESPN metric that combines sacks, interceptions, passes broken up and batted balls -- behind Baylor’s Xavien Howard (7.5). He's not quite on Gilbert's level yet but he's quickly becoming one of the Big 12's top cornerbacks and a critical playmaker for OSU's defense.

“Up to now, game-by-game, he hasn't disappointed,” Spencer said. “He’s made some big-time breakups in critical situations and his discipline is good. He’s done what he’s supposed to do. His preparation needs to be the same. If he takes that approach he will do that every week.”
Jhajuan Seales could be the next star receiver at Oklahoma State.

[+] EnlargeJhajuan Seales
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesJhajuan Seales had 39 catches for 571 yards in 2013.
 The Cowboys have gotten used to having greatness at the receiver position with Dez Bryant, Rashaun Woods and Justin Blackmon starring in Stillwater, Oklahoma before being selected in the first round of the NFL draft.

Blackmon is the most recent OSU receiver to rise to stardom while calling Boone Pickens Stadium home, and Seales shares some similarities with the two-time Biletnikoff Award winner. Both players were lightly-regarded recruits, finished third on the team in receptions as redshirt freshmen and wear the No. 81 jersey.

Seales’ redshirt freshman numbers favorably compare to Blackmon. As a redshirt freshman, Blackmon caught 20 of 37 passes thrown his way (54.1 reception percentage) for 260 yards and two touchdowns. Last season, Seales caught 39 of 61 passes thrown his way (63.9 reception percentage) for 571 yards and three touchdowns.

It’s important to note the Cowboys' offense changed drastically after Blackmon’s redshirt freshman season as Dana Holgorsen brought his high-flying attack to Stillwater in 2010. During Blackmon’s debut season in 2009, the Cowboys had 336 pass attempts and 2,333 passing yards. In 2013, OSU had 484 pass attempts and 3.599 passing yards. Make no mistake, Seales had many more opportunities to shine.

Nonetheless both players showed signs they could become elite pass-catchers during their first seasons on the field. Blackmon fulfilled that potential. Whether Seales can do the same remains to be seen but the Cowboys will be looking to him to become the main man, as he is the top returning receiver on the roster.

“He definitely can have a breakout season,” cornerback Kevin Peterson said. “He could be able to dominate this year.”

Peterson would know. He's the guy who consistently battles the sophomore during practice so he understands the challenges Seales can create for a defensive back.

“His strength and speed are really deceptive, and his routes are so smooth,” Peterson said. “If you watch film you think he’s slow, people think they can cover him, but once you’re out there guarding him, he’s throwing people out of the way and burning people [with his speed]. His size makes it deceptive the type of player he really is.”

Going against former OSU All-american cornerback and Cleveland Browns first-round pick Justin Gilbert should pay off for Seales this fall. He's a name to know as a potential breakout player in the Big 12 in 2014. With OSU needing big plays from Seales, it brings peace of mind to know he got tested during his head-to-head duals with the future NFL cornerback.

“I won sometimes, he won too, we got after it a lot during practice,” Seales said. “He gave me a lot of tips on how to go at other teams. It helped me a lot.”

Our All-Big 12 ballots

July, 9, 2014
7/09/14
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The deadline for media to turn in All-Big 12 ballots to the conference office comes Friday. The official All-Big 12 team won't be released until Big 12 media days in Dallas in a couple weeks.

But below, the Big 12 blog team released the ballots we turned in to the office to you for your viewing pleasure.

Later this morning we'll go into more depth about how we went about selecting our ballots.

But before we do that, the ballots:

BRANDON CHATMON'S BALLOT

Offense

WR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

TE: E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State

OL: Spencer Drango, Baylor

OL: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech

C: Dominic Espinosa, Texas

OL: Cody Whitehair, Kansas State

OL: Daryl Williams, Oklahoma

WR: Antwan Goodley, Baylor

QB: Bryce Petty, Baylor

RB: Malcolm Brown, Texas

RB: Shock Linwood, Baylor

PK: Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma

PR: Levi Norwood, Baylor

[+] EnlargePetty
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesBaylor QB Bryce Petty made it on all three ballots.
Defense

DL: Devonte Fields, TCU

DL: Ryan Mueller, Kansas State

DL: Cedric Reed, Texas

DL: Charles Tapper, Oklahoma

LB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma

LB: Bryce Hager, Baylor

LB: Ben Heeney, Kansas

DB: Kevin White, TCU

DB: Daryl Worley, West Virginia

DB: Kevin Peterson, Oklahoma State

DB: Sam Carter, TCU

P: Trevor Pardula, Kansas

KR: B.J. Catalon, TCU

Player of the Year Awards

Offensive Player of the Year: Bryce Petty, Baylor

Defensive Player of the Year: Devonte Fields, TCU

Newcomer of the Year: Nick Harwell, Kansas

Quick explainer: The Big 12 features more proven stars heading into this season than it did in 2013 but that didn't make my preseason All-Big 12 team any easier. Several young players seem ready to take their contributions to another level at the expense of established playmakers. The receiver position was a no-brainer (although two receivers on the squad seems a little odd), while the running back position is so littered with unknowns I considered just throwing a darts at the dart board and hoping for the best. Overall I ended up going with proven production over up-and-coming stars, meaning my postseason All-Big 12 squad could look much different than this version.

MAX OLSON'S BALLOT

Offense

WR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

TE: E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State

OL: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech

OL: Cody Whitehair, Kansas State

C: B.J. Finney, Kansas State

OL: Quinton Spain, West Virginia

OL: Spencer Drango, Baylor

WR: Antwan Goodley, Baylor

QB: Bryce Petty, Baylor

RB: Malcolm Brown, Texas

RB: Shock Linwood, Baylor

PK: Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma

PR: Levi Norwood, Baylor

Defense

DL: Devonte Fields, TCU

DL: Chucky Hunter, TCU

DL: Malcom Brown, Texas

DL: Cedric Reed, Texas

LB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma

LB: Bryce Hager, Baylor

LB: Ben Heeney, Kansas

DB: Quandre Diggs, Texas

DB: Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma

DB: Sam Carter, TCU

DB: Chris Hackett, TCU

P: Nick O'Toole, West Virginia

KR: B.J. Catalon, TCU

Player of the Year Awards

Offensive Player of the Year: Bryce Petty, Baylor

Defensive Player of the Year: Devonte Fields, TCU

Newcomer of the Year: Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State

Quick explainer: Petty, Lockett and Goodley are easy choices, but from there it gets tricky and you can make a case for a ton of players being deserving of preseason all-conference honors. On defense, the Big 12's ballot provides flexibility with DL, LB and DB as the three position categories, but I still tried to put together a unit with true defensive tackles and safeties. When in doubt, I went by 2013 production. How well these guys would all fit together on a playing field, who knows? But there's plenty of star power and proven talent in this lineup.

JAKE TROTTER'S BALLOT

Offense

WR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

TE: E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State

OL: Spencer Drango, Baylor

OL: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech

C: B.J. Finney, Kansas State

OL: Quinton Spain, West Virginia

OL: Cody Whitehair, Kansas State

WR: Antwan Goodley, Baylor

QB: Bryce Petty, Baylor

RB: Johnathan Gray, Texas

RB: Keith Ford, Oklahoma

PK: Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma

PR: Daje Johnson, Texas

Defense

DL: Devonte Fields, TCU

DL: Chucky Hunter, TCU

DL: Malcom Brown, Texas

DL: Shawn Oakman, Baylor

LB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma

LB: Ben Heeney, Kansas

LB: Bryce Hager, Baylor

DB: Daryl Worley, West Virginia

DB: Kevin White, TCU

DB: Sam Carter, TCU

DB: Quandre Diggs, Texas

P: Nick O'Toole, West Virginia

KR: Corey Coleman, Baylor

Player of the Year Awards

Offensive Player of the Year: Bryce Petty, Baylor

Defensive Player of the Year: Devonte Fields, TCU

Newcomer of the Year: Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State

Quick explainer: The official Big 12 ballot doesn't differentiate between offensive tackles and guards, defensive tackles and ends and cornerbacks and safeties. But like Max, I still tried to keep position integrity, which made putting this ballot together significantly more difficult. But unlike Max and Brandon, I attempted to project out this year's all-conference team instead of leaning on rehashing last year's, which is why Worley, Oakman and Ford made my preseason team over more conventional selections like Sanchez, Mueller and Linwood. Those three gambles could make me look incredibly smart at the end of the year -- or incredibly dumb. Time will tell.
The Big 12 continues to be represented on Mel Kiper Jr.'s lists of 2015 NFL prospects.

The ESPN NFL draft expert released his list of the top receiver and cornerback prospects for 2015, with four Big 12 players earning a spots.

Baylor receiver Antwan Goodley is one of the nation’s top five senior receivers. Insider Writes Kiper:
“Goodley possesses pure speed, but with the ability to make contested catches.”

A pair of Lone Star state standouts are among Kiper’s top five senior cornerbacks. Insider Texas’ Quandre Diggs and TCU’s Kevin White earned a spot on Kiper’s list.

On White:
"He isn't a big corner, but neither was recent TCU first-rounder Jason Verrett."

On Diggs:
"While not a star, he had a quietly solid junior season with 10 pass breakups."

Oklahoma State cornerback Kevin Peterson is the lone Big 12 cover man in Kiper’s list of top five underclassmen. Writes Kiper:
“He will be the name to know in the Oklahoma State secondary this season.”
Van Malone’s description of spring football at Oklahoma State is a clear representation of the obstacles facing the Cowboys' program in 2014.

“We went out in the spring, we had some crayons and we did the best we could,” OSU’s cornerbacks coach said.

Malone and the rest of the Cowboys’ defensive coaching staff spent the spring trying to prepare an inexperienced group of talented youngsters to replace a senior-laden defense that was one of the Big 12’s best in 2013. The task is particularly difficult for Malone, who is replacing top-10 NFL draft pick Justin Gilbert.

Junior Kevin Peterson returns after starting opposite Gilbert and provides an experienced and talented anchor at the position. Fellow junior Ashton Lampkin looks ready to slide right into the starting lineup in Gilbert’s place after two seasons as a special teams ace. And the rest of the roster has several talented albeit inexperienced cornerbacks who could provide quality depth, including redshirt freshman Darius Curry, whom Malone singled out for his strong spring.

“He has a Justin Gilbert-type body for the position, really strong upper body and is doing a good job picking up the schemes,” Malone said of Curry. “We look forward to him being able to step in [and contribute].”

Replacing Gilbert won’t be easy, but the cornerbacks in his meeting room are talented enough for Malone’s excitement to override his concerns.

“I’m excited about the group,” he said. “Because Justin Gilbert was not just a first-round talent, he was one of these guys [on the current roster], a guy with incredible talent who just hadn't realized it yet on the college level.”

It’s the theme on OSU’s entire defense. They’re young and inexperienced, but the talent level has changed.

“In the secondary and the defense as a whole, from an experience level, we have some guys who haven’t seen as much as Daytawion Lowe, who started 30 games,” Malone said. “They don’t have the experience level but from an overall level of talent and athletic ability, we feel like we’ve raised the bar.”

The Cowboys might have raised the bar but the only certainty about the Pokes’ defense is the ups and downs and uneven play that will become commonplace this fall. The only way for these young guys to get experience is to throw them into the fire.

“That can be scary but that kind of makes it fun when you don’t quite know where they may line up. They may create a new defense,” Malone joked. “That happened a few times this spring where we created a new coverage.”

But the Cowboys are hoping their plan during their recruitment of the young players currently on the roster will pay off.

“One thing when we recruited these guys, we researched and they love football,” Malone said. “So if they love football they’re going to be in here watching film and preparing themselves.”

Malone won’t rule out the possibility of playing his true freshmen with Chris Hardeman, Juwan Offray and Ramon Richards joining the battle for playing time at cornerback this summer, especially if they display the traits Hardeman has shown before even arriving on campus.

“Chris Hardeman is text messaging every coach,” Malone said. “Those kind of kids are the ones you can put out there, even as freshmen, because you know they are spending the time it takes to be prepared to go out and play. You put a lot on their plate and playing, for a freshman, is a lot on their plate. But these kids will be able to accept the challenge because that’s who they are.”

Replacing Gilbert is a tall task, one that probably won’t be accomplished this fall. But the long-term dividends could be well worth the roller coaster ride the Cowboys' secondary could experience in 2014.

“Eventually those freshmen will be sophomores,” Malone said. “If you can just make it to them being sophomores then you have a really talented guy with experience.”
Two weeks ago, we ranked every team in the Big 12 position-by-position coming out of the spring. Putting that together, we’ve ranked the overall league position-by-position. In other words, what is the league’s strongest position? What is its weakest?

[+] EnlargeCedric Reed
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesCedric Reed will anchor Texas' defensive line.
In 2013, there’s no doubt the strength of the league was in the defensive backfield. Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert and TCU cornerback Jason Verrett were the league’s two first-round picks. Safety Ahmad Dixon earned All-American honors and Texas cornerback Carrington Byndom, West Virginia safety Darwin Cook, Kansas State safety Ty Zimmerman and Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin were longtime stalwarts in their defensive backfields.

Here’s how the positions of the league rank going into 2014:

1. Defensive line: This was easily the most difficult position to rank by team, as line figures to be the defensive strength of TCU, Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. The Horned Frogs had the league’s best run defense last season, and on top of returning basically the entire unit, will be adding back 2012 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Devonte Fields. The Sooners are also loaded, led by All-Big 12-caliber ends Geneo Grissom and Charles Tapper and tackle Jordan Phillips, and the could also go three-deep across the board next year. The Longhorns have two potential first-round picks up front in tackle Malcom Brown and end Cedric Reed. And Baylor coach Art Briles is already on record stating his D-line could go toe-to-toe with any in the country. Collectively, this should be the best the conference has been at the position since Gerald McCoy and Ndamukong Suh roamed the middle five years ago.

2. Wide receiver: The league has two superstars at receiver in Baylor’s Antwan Goodley and Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett, who have the résumés to garner preseason All-American consideration. But they aren’t the only prolific playmakers here. Texas Tech’s Jakeem Grant, Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard, Iowa State’s Quenton Bundrage, Oklahoma State’s Jhajuan Seales and Texas’ Jaxon Shipley are all capable of 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Baylor might feature the best receiving corps in the country, Oklahoma State is a solid nine deep and West Virginia returns its entire starting lineup from last season. Even Kansas has the nation’s second-leading receiver from 2011 in Miami (Ohio) transfer Nick Harwell. Assuming the league’s quarterbacks can get them the ball, this could be another banner year for the Big 12’s pass-catchers.

3. Linebacker: Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, Kansas and TCU return virtually their entire linebacker units from last year. And from Texas Tech’s Pete Robertson and Kansas State’s Jonathan Truman to Baylor’s Bryce Hager and Oklahoma State’s Ryan Simmons, the rest of the league basically has at least one proven linebacker coming back, too.

4. Offensive line: The strength of the Big 12's offensive lines resides in experienced centers and talented tackles. Kansas State’s BJ Finney, Texas’ Dominic Espinosa and Iowa State’s Tom Farniok are all four-year starters with a combined 113 career starts. At tackle, Baylor’s Spencer Drango, Texas Tech’s Le’Raven Clark and Oklahoma’s Daryl Williams have NFL futures. The league also boasts three other very stout and versatile players up front in Kansas State’s Cody Whitehair, West Virginia’s Quinton Spain and Oklahoma State’s Daniel Koenig, all three of which can man either guard or tackle.

[+] EnlargeDavis Webb
Donald Miralle/Getty ImagesDavis Webb seems like one of the few sure things at QB in the Big 12.
5. Quarterback: The Big 12 has one Heisman candidate in Baylor’s Bryce Petty, a proven performer in Kansas State’s Jake Waters and two budding stars in Texas Tech’s Davis Webb and Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight. The rest of the league is a big fat unknown at the game’s most-critical position. But if Oklahoma State’s J.W. Walsh and Texas’ David Ash regain their forms from two seasons ago, Iowa State’s Grant Rohach builds off his strong 2013 finish, Clint Trickett can stay upright at West Virginia, and transfer Matt Joeckel and sophomore Montell Cozart prove to be the answers at TCU and Kansas, the Big 12 could be on the way back to becoming the preeminent conference for quarterbacking once again.

6. Running back: Half the teams lost their leading rushers from last season, and that doesn’t include Texas Tech’s Kenny Williams switching positions to linebacker. The Longhorns pose a potentially devastating one-two punch in Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray, and the Mountaineers could go five-deep with Dreamius Smith, Wendell Smallwood, Rushel Shell, Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie. But the rest of the league will be leaning on potential more than past performance. That said, there is a lot to like in Baylor’s Shock Linwood, Iowa State’s Aaron Wimberly, TCU’s B.J. Catalon, Oklahoma State’s Tyreek Hill and Oklahoma’s Keith Ford.

7. Defensive back: With Gilbert, Verrett, Dixon, Colvin, Zimmerman, Cook and Byndom all gone, this position took a major attrition hit. Thanks to Sam Carter, Chris Hackett and Kevin White, TCU remains well stocked in its secondary. Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas have veterans back, too. Everywhere else, there is rebuilding to be done. But the next wave of secondary stars appears to be on its way. Cornerbacks Nigel Tribune (Iowa State), Justis Nelson (Texas Tech) and Daryl Worley (West Virginia) all started as true freshmen. So did Oklahoma State corner Kevin Peterson and West Virginia safety Karl Joseph, who are now both juniors. It might not be long before defensive back is a strength of the league again like it was last season.
Earlier Thursday, we concluded our 22-round draft of current Big 12 players. Below are the three lineup outcomes of that draft, and as you can see, each of us went in different directions.

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Like the St. Louis Rams, Max and Brandon built up their defensive lines before worrying about the rest of their rosters. While I grabbed the best quarterback in the league and surrounded him with protection and weapons.

After each lineup, read our final takes on our teams. Then, decide who drafted best in the weekly Big 12 poll.

BRANDON CHATMON’S TEAM

OFFENSE
DEFENSE
What Brandon says about his team: “Offensively, as soon as Petty was gone with the first pick I knew I wouldn’t take a quarterback until my final pick. Knight could be the steal of the draft. Versatility is the name of the game with the rest of the offense. We can put Pierson and Smallwood in the backfield and go read option or really ruin your Saturday and throw Daje back there in the Diamond. When you bring more guys in the box, you leave Seales and Lockett one-on-one. Or we can just go five wide and you can try to cover running backs who run routes like receivers with your linebackers. And an experienced offensive line will be the foundation of it all. Defensively, it would be wise for opposing quarterbacks to tell their families to stay home when facing this group. We’re going to man up and have our mail forwarded to the opposing backfield and make you want to take your ball and go home. And with a secondary full of coverage guys, I’m not concerned about the back end of the defense holding up. We’ll win more battles than we lose. By the final whistle, my team will have earned the moniker 'Chatmon’s chaos creators' with Tapper, Reed, Brown, Hunter, Alexander and Robertson living in your backfield.”

MAX OLSON'S TEAM

OFFENSE
DEFENSE
What Max says about his team: “You do not want to play against my team. That was my goal going in, and I constructed exactly the team I wanted. I have a great QB in Webb who gets to throw to Goodley, one of the nation's best receivers, and he'd help Jaxon Shipley put up Jordan Shipley numbers. I have the two-back punch of Linwood and Gray. I have Hill, who can do everything, and a good line. We're going to spread the ball around like crazy. Good luck stopping that. On defense, you have Fields, Oakman and Grissom all rushing the passer. That's deadly. We can go three-man fronts or even put Oakman in the middle, letting the 6-foot-8 stud swat your passes down. And while you're worrying about him and Grissom, you have the Big 12's best defensive player [Fields] coming after you. Hager and Shannon will hold it down at the second level, and the secondary is full of playmakers. This is a fun team, plain and simple, and one that can frustrate the heck out of anybody.”

JAKE TROTTER’S TEAM

OFFENSE
DEFENSE
What Jake says about his team: “Max and Brandon are good at talking smack. I’ll give them that. But my players do their talking on the field. Once I was fortunate to land reigning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year Bryce Petty as my quarterback, my goal was two-fold: to keep him upright from pressure off the edge; and, to surround him with firepower. I accomplished both ends, and then some. I wasn’t able to get either of the two elite receivers in the league in Goodley or Lockett. But I put together the best overall receiving corps in Grant, Shepard and Bundrage, who could all deliver 1,000-yard receiving seasons in 2014. On top of that, I snagged the best pass-catching tight end on the board in Bibbs, as well as Brown, so that we can pound the ball between the tackles when we need. Speaking of tackles, aware that Brandon and Max were focused almost solely on their pass rush in the early rounds, I also added two of the most reliable pass-protecting bookends in the league in Drango and Williams. Defensively, I can bring pressure, too, with Mueller and Striker, who last season respectively placed second and fourth in the Big 12 in sacks. Castleman and Britz are roadblocks, Heeney and Dawson are tackle machines and my entire secondary has All-Big 12 potential. We don’t talk. We just dominate.”
Following up on NFL draft weekend, we’ve been conducting our own draft, picking from current Big 12 players to fill out three 22-man lineups.

Below is a recap of the first 15 rounds of the draft from the past two days, followed by rounds 16-22.

As another reminder, this is NOT a Top 25 player ranking. It’s only an exercise in determining where the value of the league lies, and the different strategies to putting a team together from the league’s present talent pool.

Jake Trotter:
Brandon Chatmon:
Max Olson:
Round 16

  • Olson: WR/RB Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State
  • Chatmon: OLB Pete Robertson, Texas Tech
  • Trotter: OLB Brandon Golson, West Virginia
  • Analysis: "To combat the offensive attacks I would face in the Big 12, I'm going with a 3-4 on defense. Golson, who led the Big 12 in forced fumbles last season, is another playmaking outside linebacker who would fit in nicely in this scheme opposite Striker." -- Trotter
[+] EnlargeJohnathan Gray, Tanner Jacobson
AP Photo/Eric GayGetting potential Big 12 rushing leader Johnathan Gray in the 17th round could be a big steal for Max Olson.
Round 17

  • Trotter: LB Paul Dawson, TCU
  • Chatmon: C Dominic Espinosa, Texas
  • Olson: RB Johnathan Gray, Texas
  • Analysis: “I ended up getting a potential All-Big 12 running back in the 17th round. So I feel pretty good about that. Gray should be healthy for the opener, and he leads all returning Big 12 rushers with 86 rushing yards per game last season." -- Olson
Round 18

  • Olson: OT Troy Baker, Baylor
  • Chatmon: SS Quentin Hayes, Oklahoma
  • Trotter: OG Mark Glowinski, West Virginia
  • Analysis: "I wanted a safety who is comfortable in holding his own in coverage, while also having the ability to make plays all over the field. Hayes is the guy. With Worley, Shepherd, White, Barnett and Hayes in the secondary, I can unleash the rest of my defense on the quarterback and feel comfortable about my secondary holding its own against anyone." -- Chatmon
Round 19

  • Trotter: OG Nila Kasitati, Oklahoma
  • Chatmon: WR Tony Pierson, Kansas
  • Olson: SS Terrell Burt, Baylor
  • Analysis: "With Max and Brandon hoarding centers, I needed to attack the interior of my offensive line. Kasitati can excel manning either guard or center, and Glowinski is one of the league’s top returning guards." -- Trotter
Round 20

  • Olson: OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, TCU
  • Chatmon: WR Jhajuan Seales, Oklahoma State
  • Trotter: WR Quenton Bundrage, Iowa State
  • Analysis: "The guys I wanted for my second guard spot weren't available at this round, so I'm going with the mammoth "Big V" Vaitai (6-foot-6, 308 pounds) and moving one of my other tackle selections inside. I ended up with a fairly good offensive line, which was pretty much my plan going in." -- Olson
Round 21

  • Trotter: CB Nigel Tribune, Iowa State
  • Chatmon: WR Wendell Smallwood, West Virginia
  • Olson: LB Nick Kwiatkoski, West Virginia
  • Analysis: “I picked up Bundrage in the previous round to seal up what I feel is the best all-around receiving corps, even if I didn’t get Goodley or Lockett. Tribune, the only true freshman to play for Iowa State in the past two seasons, is a corner with a ton of upside and, paired with Kevin Peterson, should provide me plenty of tenaciousness against the pass.” -- Trotter
Round 22

  • Olson: WR Jaxon Shipley, Texas
  • Chatmon: QB Trevor Knight, Oklahoma
  • Trotter: C Jared Kaster, Texas Tech
  • Analysis: “I just got the steal of the draft, and I knew I would wait until the final round to do so. As soon as Jake snapped up Petty, I knew I would be content with Davis Webb or Trevor Knight and wouldn’t draft a quarterback until the final round. The fact that Max opted for Webb made things even better for me as Knight has the versatility to run a run-heavy offense or spread things out and use his arm. He fits perfectly with the versatility I was striving for with each pick.” -- Chatmon

Imaginary Big 12 players draft, Part II

May, 14, 2014
5/14/14
9:00
AM ET
Following up off of NFL draft weekend, we’ve been conducting our own draft, picking current Big 12 players with the premise of filling out three 22-man lineups.

So far, this draft has been revealing, accentuating the prospective strength of the conference (defensive line) in 2014, as well as some of the potential shortcomings.

As a reminder, this is NOT a top-25 player ranking. It’s only an exercise in determining where the value of the league lies, and the different strategies to cobbling a team together from the league’s present talent pool.

Below is a recap of the first seven rounds of the draft from Monday, followed by rounds 8-15. We’ll conclude the draft Thursday by picking the final seven rounds.

Jake Trotter:
Brandon Chatmon:
Max Olson:
Round 8

  • Olson: LB Bryce Hager, Baylor
  • Chatmon: CB Kevin White, TCU
  • Trotter: TE E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State
  • Analysis: "In Grant, Shepard and now Bibbs, I have three of the most difficult matchups for opposing defensive backfields in the league. With Petty at QB, and two of the best pass-protecting tackles in the country, I feel like I'll be able to fling the ball at will." -- Trotter
[+] EnlargeCody Whitehair
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesKansas State's Cody Whitehair provides versatility on the offensive line.
Round 9

  • Trotter: RB Malcolm Brown, Texas
  • Chatmon: OG Cody Whitehair, Kansas State
  • Olson: DT Andrew Billings, Baylor
  • Analysis: “Whitehair should help solidify my offensive line. His ability to play multiple positions up front will be valuable and I had to start addressing my offensive line before all of the top guys were off the board. He’ll join Clark to give me a solid foundation.” -- Chatmon
Round 10

  • Olson: LT Daniel Koenig, Oklahoma State
  • Chatmon: SS Dante Barnett, Kansas State
  • Trotter: DT Travis Britz, Kansas State
  • Analysis: "Time to start building my offensive line. I don't love that many linemen in the league this year, honestly, so that's why I waited. But Koenig is a good one, and he can play either tackle spot." -- Olson
Round 11

  • Trotter: DT James Castleman, Oklahoma State
  • Chatmon: C Tom Farniok, Iowa State
  • Olson: CB Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma
  • Analysis: "With my offense looking strong across the board, I'm circling back to my defense. I have two of the league's very best getting to the quarterback in Striker and Mueller. Now, it's time to solidify the interior run defense. I got just the guys in Castleman and Britz." -- Trotter
Round 12

  • Olson: RB Shock Linwood, Baylor
  • Chatmon: LB Dominique Alexander, Oklahoma
  • Trotter: CB Kevin Peterson, Oklahoma State
  • Analysis: "I went with Alexander because I love his versatility and instincts. He should be able to hold up in coverage at times but can blitz too. To top it all off, he's just a sophomore who has barely scratched the surface of his ability. Win, win." -- Chatmon
Round 13

  • Trotter: SS Karl Joseph, West Virginia
  • Chatmon: CB JaCorey Shepherd, Kansas
  • Olson: C BJ Finney, Kansas State
  • Analysis: "After loading up on defense early, I'm collecting pieces offensively. I think I got two good ones in the veteran Finney, and the budding Linwood." -- Olson
Round 14

  • Olson: OG Quinton Spain, West Virginia
  • Chatmon: RT Tyrus Thompson, Oklahoma
  • Trotter: FS Chris Hackett, TCU
  • Analysis: “I got my lockdown corner a couple rounds ago in Peterson, and with these last two picks, got safeties capable of being All-Big 12 performers this season.” -- Trotter
Round 15

  • Trotter: LB Ben Heeney, Kansas
  • Chatmon: WR Daje Johnson, Texas
  • Olson: DE Geneo Grissom, Oklahoma
  • Analysis: "Daje makes plays. A lot of them. Nothing more needs to be said here." -- Chatmon

With spring ball done, we’ve been re-examining and re-ranking the positional situations of every Big 12 team. Wednesday, we finish up with defensive backs. Once again, these outlooks could look different in August. But this is how we see them post-spring:

1. TCU (pre-spring ranking: 1): Juco safety Kenny Iloka was one of the storylines of the spring in Fort Worth, augmenting an already loaded secondary. In TCU’s spring game, Iloka scored a touchdown off a fumble return and picked off a pass, underscoring pretty much how he performed all spring. Iloka could probably start for the majority of teams in the Big 12. At TCU, he’s a backup. Coach Gary Patterson seemingly praised Ranthony Texada more than anyone else on his roster this spring, and the redshirt freshman cornerback looks poised to step into the starting role vacated by All-American Jason Verrett. At 5-foot-9, Texada isn’t big. Then again, neither was Verrett. Safeties Sam Carter and Chris Hackett and cornerback Kevin White could play for anyone in the conference. In other words, this TCU secondary is stacked.

2. Texas (2): Texas is one of the few teams in the Big 12 without really any position battle in its secondary coming out of the spring. Senior safeties Mykkele Thompson and Josh Turner have been up and down throughout their careers, but they really buttoned up their play in the spring. Thompson delivered a pick-six in the Orange-White game. Turner had the hit of the day and intercepted a pass. At cornerback, Quandre Diggs isn’t an All-American, but he’s developed into a solid veteran leader. Duke Thomas can really run at the other cornerback spot. This is a sound group.

3. Oklahoma (3): The Sooners return two proven players in cornerback Zack Sanchez and nickel back Julian Wilson. Sanchez was erratic at times last season, but he displayed mental toughness and usually came back with big plays of his own after getting burned. Wilson will be a three-year starter. Safety Quentin Hayes had a decent junior season, too. After that, things get murky, and that’s not necessarily a negative. Dakota Austin, who was an unheralded two-star signee last year, is probably the favorite coming out of the spring to start at cornerback opposite Sanchez and over more heralded classmate Stanvon Taylor. Sophomores Ahmad Thomas and Hatari Byrd are both talented young safeties, but they have yet to prove they’re every-down players. Steven Parker II will be the player to watch here. Insiders in Norman believe the incoming true freshman has the talent and the temperament to win a starting job by the opener the way Tony Jefferson did in 2010. If he does, that will allow coordinator Mike Stoops to utilize Byrd and Thomas in certain sub-packages where the scheme will be more simplified.

4. Kansas State (4): K-State already boasts one of the best nickel backs in the league in Randall Evans and an up-and-coming safety in Dante Barnett. The Wildcats had a productive spring elsewhere in their secondary, as Morgan Burns stepped up to essentially nail down a starting job at corner. Coveted juco transfer Danzel McDaniel progressed after arriving on campus and exited spring ball on the cusp of earning the other starting cornerback gig. Dylan Schellenberg, who started the two games Ty Zimmerman missed last season, will go into the fall as the favorite to start at safety alongside Barnett.

5. West Virginia (5): The Mountaineers might have the best underclassman cornerback in the league in sophomore Daryl Worley, who locked up Mario Alford in West Virginia’s spring game. Worley was fabulous all spring, and he brings a maturity and attitude that defies his age. Like Worley, Karl Joseph started as a true freshman, and he could be on the verge of turning into one of the best safeties in the Big 12 as a junior. It will be interesting to see if incoming blue-chip freshman Dravon Henry can break into the rotation at cornerback, which would only make this secondary better.

6. Kansas (6): Senior cornerback Dexter McDonald put in the work during the offseason, and it showed in Kansas’ spring game. He's become a technically-sound player. Fellow cornerback Kevin Short, a juco transfer forced by the NCAA to sit out last season, can fly. Safety Isaiah Johnson, who became the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year after picking off five passes last season, had another pick in the spring game. With four starters back from last fall, plus the addition of Short, Kansas’ secondary will be the team's strength next season.

7. Oklahoma State (7): The emergence of Ashton Lampkin was a positive development for the Cowboys. Lampkin had a pick-six in the “Orange Blitz” scrimmage, and after two seasons as a key backup, looks ready to take over as a starting cornerback opposite All-Big 12 hopeful Kevin Peterson. The Cowboys are completely inexperienced at safety, with second-year players Jordan Sterns, Deric Robertson, Jerel Morrow and Tre Flowers basically comprising the position. Only time will determine how effective the Cowboys can be at the back end.

8. Texas Tech (8): The Red Raiders have to feel good about their safeties coming out of the spring. Keenon Ward was the defensive MVP and brought the hammer all spring. J.J. Gaines will soon be completely back from a season-ending shoulder injury. He played extremely well through five games last season. Justis Nelson is oozing confidence after earning a starting job as a true freshman last fall. The biggest question is at the other cornerback spot. Sophomore La’Darius Newbold is currently the starter, but speedy true freshman Nigel Bethel II could make noise once he arrives this summer.

9. Baylor (9): The rebuild of a secondary that graduated four starters remains a work in progress. Sophomore Orion Stewart had the best spring of the young players and looks primed to take over the deep safety role held by All-American Ahmad Dixon. Sophomore cornerbacks Terrence Singleton and Xavien Howard also won starting jobs, but they’ll have to fend off juco transfer Chris Sanders in the preseason. Walk-on senior Collin Brence was the surprise of the spring and is listed as the starter at nickelback. This a group, though, that still has more questions to answer.

10: Iowa State (10): Nigel Tribune, who was the only true freshman to play at Iowa State in the past two seasons, is one of the best young cornerbacks in the league and a cornerstone defender for the Cyclones. The rest of the secondary is a big fat unknown. Juco transfer Devron Moore, whom Iowa State beat TCU, Texas Tech and West Virginia for, left school in the middle of spring ball with homesickness. He is dubious to return. That leaves juco transfer Qujuan Floyd, redshirt freshman Kamari Cotton-Moya and T.J. Mutcherson, who suffered an MCL injury in the spring game (he should be back in June), as Iowa State’s only remaining options at safety.
Over the next two weeks, we’ll be analyzing the depth charts of every Big 12 team coming out of the spring, continuing Wednesday with Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have yet to release an official depth chart, so this is only a projection:

OFFENSE (projected starters in bold)

QB: J.W. Walsh (Jr.), Daxx Garman (Jr.) OR Mason Rudolph (Fr.)

Walsh lost the job to Clint Chelf last season, but he all but reclaimed it with a steady spring. Coach Mike Gundy said the competition would continue into the fall, but barring injury, it’s only a matter of time before Walsh is named the starter for the opener against Florida State.

[+] EnlargeTyreek Hill
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiExpectations are high for newcomer Tyreek Hill.
RB: Desmond Roland (Sr.) OR Tyreek Hill (Jr.), Rennie Childs (So.)

FB: Jeremy Seaton (Jr.), Teddy Johnson (Sr.)

The Cowboys added what figures to be the favorite to be named preseason Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year in Hill, who was dynamic in the spring despite splitting duties with the track team. With Roland back to grind out yards between the tackles and Hill a threat to go the distance whenever he touches the ball, the Cowboys have the opportunity to create problems for opposing defenses when they play on the field at the same time, which should happen a lot next year. Childs, who rushed for 189 yards as a freshman, adds depth to the position, while Seaton is a solid lead-blocking fullback who can also catch passes out of the backfield.

WR: Jhajuan Seales (So.), C.J. Curry (So.)

WR: Marcell Ateman (So.), Brandon Sheperd (Jr.)

IR: Austin Hays (So.), Ra’Shaad Samples (RFr.)

IR: Blake Webb (So.), David Glidden (Jr.)

TE/FB: Blake Jarwin (So.), Jordan Frazier (Fr.)

From Rashaun Woods to Justin Blackmon, the Cowboys have often had the luxury of a superstar wideout to throw the ball up to. The strength of his group, however, will be in its number. Seales, who had 39 catches as a freshman last season, headlines this unit, but Ateman, Hays, Webb, Glidden and Sheperd have all played in big games before. Hill will also boost this group whenever he moves from running back to the slot. Samples was banged up most of the spring, but he’ll also eventually bring speed to the rotation.

LT: Devin Davis (So.), Brandon Garrett (Sr.), Michael Wilson (So.)

LG: Chris Grisbhy (Sr.), Zachary Hargrove (Jr.)

C: Paul Lewis (So.), Jaxson Salinas (RFr.)

RG: Zac Veatch (So.), Colby Hegwood (Jr.)

RT: Daniel Koenig (Sr.), Zachary Crabtree (RFr.)

The Cowboys have some major questions up front that won’t be answered until the fall. Davis missed all of last year after tearing his ACL in the preseason, and still wasn’t cleared in the spring. Garrett’s leg was broken in the AT&T Cotton Bowl, and he too is still working his way back. On top of that, longtime position coach Joe Wickline is now at Texas. If Davis and Garrett return to 100 percent, Lewis is able to successfully man his new position at center and new offensive line coach Bob Connelly builds on Wickline’s success, the Cowboys could field yet another banner offensive line. Of course, that is a lot of "ifs."

DEFENSE

DE: Jimmy Bean (Jr.), Trace Clark (Jr.)

DT: James Castleman (Sr.), Vincent Taylor (RFr.) OR Vili Leveni (RFr.)

DT: Ofa Hautau (Sr.), Ben Hughes (RFr.) OR Eric Davis (So.)

DE: Sam Wren (Sr.), Emmanuel Ogbah (So.)

Even though the Cowboys graduated all-conference tackle Calvin Barnett, this should be the strength of the defense. Castleman is capable of performing at an All-Big 12 level, and Wren, Bean and Ogbah can get to the quarterback. Oklahoma State will be even stronger along the defensive line if former four-star signees Hughes and Taylor emerge in their second years on campus.

MLB: Ryan Simmons (Jr.), Dominic Ramacher (So.) OR Demarcus Sherod (So.)

WLB: Devante Averette (Jr.) OR Kris Catlin (Jr.) OR Seth Jacobs (So.)

Simmons moved inside this spring after flanking All-Big 12 veterans Caleb Lavey and Shaun Lewis last season. Simmons will be the new leader of this unit. The Cowboys also seemed pleased with the development of Averette and Catlin during the spring. Oklahoma State signed a very highly touted linebacking class in February, but chances are, those freshmen won’t be ready to contribute until at least 2015.

NB: D’Nerius Antoine (Jr.) OR Josh Furman (Sr.)

CB: Kevin Peterson (Jr.), Darius Curry (RFr.) OR Taylor Lewis (RFr.)

CB: Ashton Lampkin (Jr.), Miketavius Jones (Jr.)

FS: Jordan Sterns (So.), Larry Stephens (Sr.) OR Jerel Morrow (RFr.)

SS: Deric Robertson (So.), Tre Flowers (RFr.)

Like with so many other teams in the Big 12, Oklahoma State’s secondary is an uncertainty. Peterson, who is one of the top budding cover men in the league, will anchor the group as its lone returning starter. The Cowboys should be in good hands at the other corner with Lampkin, who has appeared in every game his first two years and had a pick-six in Oklahoma State’s “Orange Blitz” scrimmage. Safety is a complete unknown as Robertson and Sterns have little experience. The Cowboys could get some much-needed help from Furman, who transferred in from Michigan during the offseason and will be eligible immediately.

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