Big 12: Kirby Van Der Kamp

As we await the start of spring ball, we’ve been examining and ranking the positional situations of every team in the Big 12. Thursday, we close this series out with special teams.

1. TCU: Honorable mention All-Big 12 place-kicker Jaden Oberkrom was 13 of 14 on field goals inside the 50 last season and drilled a 56-yarder late in the fourth quarter at Kansas State. B.J. Catalon was second in the league in kickoff returns and took one to the house in the opener against LSU. Freshman Cameron Echols-Luper took his first punt return 51 yards and had a 41-yarder in the season finale against Baylor. Brandon Carter has had moments in the return game in the past as well. Ethan Perry will be a three-year starter at punter, rounding out a formidable special teams unit.

2. Baylor: Corey Coleman led the league in kick returns, and Levi Norwood scored twice off punt returns. The Bears are loaded with potential game-breakers in the return game and welcome back All-Big 12 punter Spencer Roth. If Kyle Peterson proves to be a reliable replacement for departing kicker Aaron Jones, this special teams unit will have no weakness.

[+] EnlargeTyler Lockett
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesAlong with being a top-flight wide receiver, Kansas State's Tyler Lockett can also provide big plays in the return game.
3. Kansas State: The Wildcats feature one of the best kickoff return men in the game in Tyler Lockett, who doubles as an All-American WR candidate. Jack Cantele, the younger brother of All-Big 12 K-State kicker Anthony Cantele, only missed two field goal attempts as a sophomore and nailed a 41-yarder as time expired to beat TCU. Defensive tackle Travis Britz also returns after leading the nation with four blocked kicks.

4. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders will feature a lethal one-two punch in the return game in Jakeem Grant and Reginald Davis, who took a kick back for a touchdown in the bowl game. Receiver Jordan Davis also has return experience. Kicker Ryan Bustin returns after garnering honorable mention All-Big 12 honors last year.

5. Oklahoma: The Sooners lose the most explosive return duo in the league in Jalen Saunders and Roy Finch. Sterling Shepard and Alex Ross could be among the players who replace them. Oklahoma boasts the league’s most efficient returning place-kicker in Michael Hunnicutt, who nailed 24 of 27 field goal tries last season. The Sooners have a secret weapon in Nick Hodgson, who led the league in touchback kickoffs last season. Jed Barnett, fifth in the Big 12 in punting average last season, returns as well.

6. Iowa State: The Cyclones had four players make first- or second-team All-Big 12 last season, and departing punter Kirby Van Der Kamp was one of them. Replacing his production won’t be easy, though incoming three-star freshman Colin Downing will try. DeVondrick Nealy, Jarvis West and Aaron Wimberly all had several dynamite moments returning kicks. Cole Netten was 13-of-18 on field goals as a freshman,

7. West Virginia: Nick O'Toole leads the Mountaineers on special teams. The “Boomstache” was 15th nationally in punting last season. The Mountaineers have all their returners back in Wendell Smallwood, Mario Alford and Jordan Thompson, though more big plays are needed from this group -- the Mountaineers ranked last in the league in both punt and kick returns in 2013. Josh Lambert comes back after making 17 of 23 field goals as a freshman. The Mountaineers also enjoy a luxury in Michael Molinari, who can do a little bit of everything.

8. Texas: The Longhorns lose their punter and their kicker in consensus All-American Anthony Fera. That hurts. Nick Jordan, who made nine of 15 field goals in 2012, could reclaim his job. Daje Johnson -- who returned a punt for a TD against Oklahoma -- Duke Thomas, Quandre Diggs, Marcus Johnson, Kendall Sanders and Jaxon Shipley all have experience returning.

9. Kansas: Return men Connor Embree (punts) and JaCorey Shepherd (kicks) both come back. The Jayhawks also return kicker Matthew Wyman, who connected on a game-winning 52-yard field goal to beat Louisiana Tech. The freshman, however, only made two field goals after that and eventually lost that job to departing senior Ron Doherty. Trevor Pardula was third in the Big 12 in punting as a junior and received votes for Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year.

10. Oklahoma State: After enjoying All-Americans Dan Bailey and Quinn Sharp the last few years, the Cowboys were finally mediocre in the kicking game last season. Ben Grogan struggled as a freshman, making just 11 of 18 field goals while missing two critical attempts in the early-season loss at West Virginia. The Cowboys were also last in the league in punting. Oklahoma State signed three-star kicker Zach Sinor with hopes of curing some of those ills. The Cowboys were still dynamic in the return game, but with Justin Gilbert and Josh Stewart both gone, Oklahoma State could lean on juco transfer and track star Tyreek Hill for a jolt on returns.
The Big 12 had nine players participate in the Reese's Senior Bowl over the weekend, but the group's impact on the actual game in Mobile, Ala., was negligible.

West Virginia running back Charles Sims, who drew rave reviews in practice throughout the week, had just eight yards rushing on three carries. Sims, however, definitely improved his draft stock. Scouts Inc. recognized Sims as a Senior Bowl week standout, calling him the "most versatile" running back in camp Insider.

Texas wide receiver Mike Davis had a decent game with 20 yards receiving on three catches. So did Oklahoma's Jalen Saunders, who had two receptions and a 14-yard punt return.

Defensively, Baylor safety Ahmad Dixon was tied for fourth on the North side with four tackles. West Virginia defensive end Will Clarke added one tackle for the North.

The player that had perhaps the biggest impact on the Senior Bowl was Iowa State punter Kirby Van Der Kamp. On eight punts, Van Der Kamp averaged 46.9 yards with a long of 54.

Baylor guard Cyril Richardson, Oklahoma center Gabe Ikard and Kansas State long snapper Marcus Heit each played in the game. While Sims seemed to help his stock at the Senior Bowl, Richardson apparently hurt his.

Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin also started out the week in Mobile, but he suffered a torn ACL during practice last Tuesday.

Season report card: Iowa State

January, 16, 2014
Jan 16
Paul Rhoads’ team took punch after punch this season.

Yet Iowa State’s will to compete remained strong each week despite an injury-riddled season and the Cyclones finished the season playing their best football. A close-call loss against Texas will be the lasting memory of the 3-9 season but the Cyclones’ response to a seven-game losing streak to start Big 12 play should not go unnoticed. ISU rallied to win its final two games and head into the offseason with some hope.

Offense: D

ISU’s offense didn’t scare anyone, finishing among the bottom three in almost every offensive category. The Cyclones’ 24.8 points per game was ninth in the Big 12 and No. 89 nationally and their 4.82 yards per play was also ninth in the conference.

Receiver Quenton Bundrage was the lone big-play threat on offense with nine receiving touchdowns including a 97-yard catch-and-run against Texas. He finished with 48 receptions for 676 yards.

Freshman quarterback Grant Rohach provided hope for the future, starting the last four games. In those games, ISU’s offense averaged 28.2 points and 5.38 yards per play. His 66.5 adjusted QBR was sixth in the Big 12. He joins Bundrage as a good building block for the future.

Realistically, the offensive line was the root of a lot of ISU’s offensive problems as injuries forced the Cyclones to play musical chairs throughout much of the season.

Defense: F

The Cyclones finished last in the Big 12 in points allowed per game (36), total yards allowed (463.1), yards per play allowed (6.05), rushing yards allowed (224), total sacks (15) and yards per rush (5.35). In other words, they earned this F.

There were individual standouts on the unit, like linebacker Jeremiah George and safety Jacques Washington, but the overall defense was really bad. A general lack of aggressive, active playmaking made this the conference’s worst unit. Yet there were a lot of inexperience players who got thrown into the fire so ISU can only hope 2013’s disappointment will spark success in 2014.

Special teams: B-

ISU’s special teams were solid but not exceptional. Punter Kirby Van Der Kamp was solid and Cole Netten hit 10 of 11 attempts inside 40 yards. Add two different players with kickoff returns for touchdowns (Jarvis West, DeVondrick Nealy) and ISU’s special teams held their own.

Overall: D+

The Cyclones escaped an lower grade with their strong finish to the season and Rohach’s strong play once he took over the starting role. Their 52-44 triple-overtime win at West Virginia in its season finale showed a lot of fight for a team that could have thrown in the towel during a seven-game losing streak in the middle of the season. Nonetheless, a three-win season was a disappointing result.

Big 12 lunchtime links

October, 18, 2013
Only these guys could pull this off:
  • The Kansas offense is about to learn if more is less, Tom Keegan of the Lawrence Journal-World writes. Jayhawks safety Dexter Linton is focusing on tackling, writes the paper's Matt Tait.
  • The Waco Herald-Tribune's Brice Cherry profiles Iowa State punter Kirby Van Der Kamp, who has turned one scholarship offer into an NFL chance. Paul Rhoads gives his keys to slowing Baylor.
  • The Fort Worth Star-Telegram asks if Baylor has a chance at the national championship game. The Dallas Morning News' Chuck Carlton breaks down the Bears' path to the title.
  • Coach Gary Patterson addresses the lack of fans at TCU's last home game in an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Stefan Stevenson.
  • West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck is excited about being on the College Football Playoff selection committee, he tells Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. QB Ford Childress is out indefinitely after irritating a torn pectoral muscle in practice this week.
  • Luck was asked about Texas' soon-to-be vacant athletic director's job.
  • Texas Tech DT Kerry Hyder is cool with the coaching shuffle in Lubbock, according to the Charleston Gazette's Dave Hickman.
  • A depleted Oklahoma defense is looking for improvement. The Tulsa World's Guerin Emig writes that there's nothing like Kansas to heal Texas-sized wounds for the Sooners.
  • Kansas State has its eye on reaching a bowl game, writes the Topeka Capital-Journal's Ken Corbitt.
  • Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy apparently has been giving offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich some input, according to The Oklahoman's Gina Mizell.

Big 12 Week 6: Did you know?

October, 4, 2013
Thanks to the fine work of the folks of ESPN Stats & Info and a sports information department near you, we’re excited to continue the tradition of ending the week with a large heaping of knowledge in the form of numbers.

Chew on these nuggets of fun info and random trivia, and you’re sure to be the smartest guy or gal at your tailgate.

Did you know …
  • No team in FBS has given up more quarterback rushing yards (525) than Texas. That's 100 more yards than any other school.
  • Case McCoy attempted a career-high 45 passes against Iowa State. He's only the second FBS QB this season to attempt at least 45 passes, throw for fewer than 250 yards and still win.
  • McCoy has led three game-winning drives on his career, and each came on the road: at Texas A&M in 2011, Kansas in 2012 and Iowa State in 2013.
  • In a battle of two of the Big 12's best punters, Texas' Anthony Fera averaged 43.9 yards on eight punts and Iowa State's Kirby Van Der Kamp averaged 39.7 on six. They combined for eight kicks downed inside the 20.
  • Quenton Bundrage's 97-yard catch and score against Texas set an Iowa State record and tied for the second-longest reception in FBS this season. Georgia's Aaron Murray completed a 98-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Davis against North Texas last month.
  • Aaron Wimberly could be on his way to 1,000 yards. Iowa State's new starting back has rushed for 254 in his past two games.
  • ISU QB Sam B. Richardson has rushed for 427 yards in his eight career games, at an average of 53.3 per contest.
  • Three of the top four single-game yardage totals in Baylor school history have occurred this season.
  • The Bears' starting offense has scored touchdowns on 21 of its 26 offensive drives this season.
  • Baylor's defense has forced three-and-outs on 54.3 percent of opposing teams' drives this season.
  • Last time they met (which was the first time ever), West Virginia and Baylor combined for a Big 12-record 133 points and 1,507 yards of offense.
  • West Virginia has won 16 games against ranked opponents since 2001.
  • The Mountaineers offense is No. 2 in the Big 12 in first downs produced with 100, five fewer than Texas Tech.
  • West Virginia opponents are converting 31 percent of their third-down attempts in the second half this season. WVU has made 26 stops and given up 12 conversions.
  • Texas Tech is 13-1 all-time against Kansas and has won six in a row in this series. Since joining the Big 12, though, Tech is only 7-6 in games following a bye week.
  • Of the 35 Big 12 players with more than 100 receiving yards, only two play tight end: Tech's Jace Amaro and Iowa State's E.J. Bibbs. Amaro is the No. 3 receiver in the conference.
  • Texas Tech's defense has pitched shutouts in each of its past two games. The last time this unit did that in back-to-back games was 2005.
  • Kansas defensive back Dexter McDonald leads the Big 12 and the nation in passes defended per game at 2.7. He has seven pass breakups on the season.
  • Matthew Wyman's 52-yard game-winning field goal for Kansas against Louisiana Tech is tied for the seventh-longest made kick in the nation this year.
  • A total of 13 junior college transfers are listed on Kansas' current depth chart. Speaking of newcomers, only one true freshman is on KU's depth chart: Backup snapper John Wirtel.
  • Under Bob Stoops, Oklahoma is 12-2 in games immediately preceding the Red River Rivalry. That includes a 9-1 record against Big 12 schools, with the lone loss coming in 2007 to Colorado.
  • Blake Bell is No. 2 in the Big 12 in total QBR at 88.4. The best QBR season his predecessor, Landry Jones, ever produced in his career was 75.0 in 2012.
  • Only three teams ranked in the top 25 got to 4-0 by beating four FBS teams: Oklahoma, Stanford and Michigan.
  • TCU has forced a conference-leading 12 turnovers on defense this season but has scored just 37 points off those takeaways.
  • This weekend, the Horned Frogs begin a stretch of seven consecutive weeks with Big 12 games. Oklahoma will be TCU's third top 25 opponent of the season.
  • Since beating a No. 5 Oklahoma team in 2005, the Frogs are 0-2 against OU.
  • TCU has allowed a total of 59 rushing yards in its past two games. Oklahoma is averaging 256 rushing yards per game this season.
  • Oklahoma State has won three consecutive games against Kansas State when they play in Stillwater, but all three were decided by 7 points or fewer.
  • The Cowboys have won 13 of their past 14 games at Boone Pickens Stadium. They've played at home only once in their past seven games.
  • Oklahoma State's offense has accounted for 400 or more total yards in 29 of its past 30 games, including 12 in a row.
  • How's this for spreading the love: Nine different wide receivers have caught touchdown passes for Oklahoma State this season.
  • Kansas State started the season 2-2 for the first time since 2009 and hasn't gone 2-3 to begin a season since 2004, a season in which KSU went 4-7.
  • K-State quarterback Jake Waters has completed 16 passes of more than 20 yards this season. That ties him for best in the Big 12 with Baylor's Bryce Petty.
  • In its past 26 games, KSU is 21-5 when its defense intercepts at least two passes.

Iowa State season preview

August, 19, 2013
Today our Big 12 season previews continue with a look at Iowa State, which may be ready to take the next step as a program.


Coach: Paul Rhoads (24-27, 4 seasons; 24-27, 4 seasons at ISU)

2012 record: 6-7 (3-6 Big 12)

Key losses: LB Jake Knott, LB A.J. Klein, WR Josh Lenz, DT Jake McDonough, OT Carter Bykowski

Key returnees: P Kirby Van Der Kamp, LB Jeremiah George, S Jacques Washington, RB James White, RB Shontrelle Johnson, QB Sam Richardson, S Deon Broomfield, C Tom Farniok, DE Willie Scott

[+] EnlargeSam B. Richardson
AP Photo/Orlin WagnerSam Richardson will lead what is expected to be a more up-tempo Iowa State offense in 2013.
Newcomer to watch: Junior college transfer TE E.J. Bibbs has earned praise from Rhoads this fall for his ability to make people miss when he gets the ball in his hands. Considering ISU’s inexperience at receiver, he could emerge as a key target.

Biggest games in 2013: Who’s going to be the upset special this season? Last year it was No. 15 TCU on the road, the year before No. 2 Oklahoma State at home. Texas (Oct. 3) and Oklahoma State (Oct. 26) both travel to Ames this fall. The rivalry game vs. Iowa on Sept. 14 is always a big one, too.

Biggest question mark heading into 2013: Iowa State has made bowl game appearances in three of Rhoads’ first four seasons. What’s the next step? ISU has won three Big 12 games in each of those four years, but it’s time for a new benchmark.

Forecast: Rhoads has a good thing going in Ames right now. He wins six games a year, pulls off one big upset in conference play, goes to a bowl and remains beloved by the Cyclones fan base. It’s a credit to the hard work he’s put in to steady a program that his predecessor, Gene Chizik, sent downhill in only two seasons at the helm.

If this Iowa State team is going to climb higher than No. 8 or No. 9 in the final Big 12 standings this fall, it’s going to take another strong coaching job. This Cyclones bring back only nine starters. There’s good talent in the secondary, and Van Der Kamp is one of the nation’s best punters, but there’s also inexperience throughout the defense. The Cyclones will rely on seniors Washington and George to raise the rest of the defense’s game, and they’ll be seriously tested by the league’s high-powered offenses.

The wild card for ISU just might be the addition of new offensive line coach Chris Klenakis and the intricate knowledge of the pistol offense he possesses as a disciple of legendary Nevada coach Chris Ault. Richardson, a sophomore, will be entrusted to run the show and operate a more fast-tempo attack, and he proved last year he isn’t afraid to tuck it and run. He’ll have lots of intriguing options at running back to work with, and if a few wide receivers emerge ISU might just have a pretty competitive offense and a fighting chance in most games.
Six Big 12 players have been nominated for the American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team, which honors players' off-field activities and contributions to their communities and others.
Here's what's needed to stay eligible, via the AFCA release:
... each player must be actively involved and committed to working with a charitable organization, service group or community service while maintaining a strong academic standing.

Kansas State's Collin Klein was the lone Big 12 representative last season.
Two Big 12 players cracked the 25-man watch list for the Ray Guy Award, given annually to college football's top punter.
Van Der Kamp was a semifinalist last year for this award and will definitely get a shot to win this time around. He averaged 41 yards a punt in 2012, but on 77 kicks, he pinned opponents inside the 20-yard line 29 times. Even more impressive: He had just two touchbacks.

Perry averaged 44.51 yards on his 63 punts. Twenty of those punts were longer than 50 yards.

They'll be the two best punters to begin the season, especially considering Oklahoma's Tress Way and Oklahoma State's Quinn Sharp are gone.

Louisiana Tech's Ryan Allen has won the award in each of the past two seasons, but Big 12 punters have won the trophy four times since its inception in 2000.

Baylor's Daniel Sepulveda won it in 2004 and 2006, and Oklahoma State's Matt Fodge won it in 2008. Colorado's Mark Mariscal won the award in 2002.
Phil Steele knows college football, and rolled out his preseason all-conference teams recently, including the Big 12.

You can see the full conference picks here, but plenty of interesting selections from the college football guru.'s teams won't be released until much later this offseason, but here's a few thoughts on Steele's teams:
  • Is it a little bit crazy to pick a guy who has thrown 10 career passes as your first-team All-Big 12 quarterback? Absolutely. If I had to pick one, though, would I tab Baylor's Bryce Petty as the first-team All-Big 12 quarterback to close the season? Yes, I would. Generally, I see preseason honors as a "Who's had the best career to this point?" type of deal and not as much of a prediction, but that's a personal belief and not anything the Big 12 officially states when it sends out preseason All-Big 12 ballots. Petty is an intriguing choice as the Big 12's No. 1 quarterback that's obviously going to draw attention, but I'm not going to be one to argue.
  • I'd say selecting Petty as the Big 12's No. 1 QB says just as much about the rest of the guys in the Big 12 than it does about Petty. Steele tabbed TCU's Casey Pachall as his second-teamer, Texas' David Ash as his third and Oklahoma's Blake Bell on the fourth team. I'd say Clint Chelf or Michael Brewer belongs in that mix, but none of those guys have the statistical potential of Petty. Pachall makes great decisions on the field, but TCU's offense doesn't give him the capability to routinely roll up 400-yard games. Ash is above average, but he's not a world-beater (doesn't need to be for Texas to win a Big 12 title, I might add) and still has to prove he can be more consistent.
  • This might be the deepest season at running back we've seen in a long time. I'd put John Hubert or James Sims ahead of Oklahoma's Damien Williams, but good selections from Steele to give Andrew Buie, Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown a little love, too. Opportunities are all that's limited Jeremy Smith from having a big year. He'll have them now, and I'm betting on him to be the seventh consecutive Oklahoma State running back to top 1,000 yards.
  • Conversely, this could be one of the weakest years for wide receivers. There are a lot of above average receivers in the league, but there's not a guy that jumps out as one defenses really fear and spend a ton of time game-planning for. Mike Davis and Josh Stewart are good, somewhat obvious picks for the first team, but I'd go with Jalen Saunders ahead of Tracy Moore, and probably Eric Ward, too.
  • Tough picks this year at safety, which has been easy for a while in the Big 12 with Tony Jefferson and Kenny Vaccaro hanging around. Tons of depth at that position. Steele went with Ty Zimmerman and Daytawion Lowe as his first-teamers. I'd probably say Joseph over Lowe by a hair but even when you get down to third-teamers like Baylor's Ahmad Dixon or fourth-teamers like Iowa State's Jacques Washington and Texas' Adrian Phillips, you're talking about guys who can really, really play. Could be a very defensive year in the Big 12, relative to what we're used to seeing in this league. Look at the cornerbacks, too. The dropoff from the first to third teams is negligible. Aaron Colvin and Jason Verrett have NFL-type measurables, but so do Justin Gilbert and Quandre Diggs and third-teamers Carrington Byndom and Joe Williams could be strong.
  • Steele illustrates the weight of Delvon Simmons' departure from Texas Tech. The defensive lineman was on Steele's second team before leaving school and electing to transfer. Kliff Kingsbury said last week he wants guys who want to be Red Raiders, but it's still a big loss for the Tech defense.
  • What about the kickers? It seems like everybody in the league hates their kicker these days, but two guys on Steele's list have their jobs up for grabs. Iowa State's Edwin Arceo is a second-teamer, but he'll be battling freshman Cole Nettlen to even get on the field once fall camp begins. Fourth-teamer Ron Doherty from Kansas is on the chopping block, too. Weis was displeased with just about every facet of his special-teams units last year, and completely revamped the way the units are coached. Every assistant coach now is in charge of one facet of special teams, instead of having one special teams coach. He brought in juco kicker Nick Pardula to try and fix those issues, too. He'll compete with Doherty in the fall, but Weis raved about Pardula's big leg when I talked with him last month. First-teamers Jaden Oberkrom from TCU and Iowa State's Kirby Van Der Kamp are certified studs, but it could be an ugly year elsewhere in Big 12 special teams.

Iowa State Cyclones spring wrap

May, 1, 2013
2012 record: 6-7
2012 Big 12 record: 3-6
Returning starters: offense: 5; defense: 4; special teams: 2.

Top returners: C Tom Farniok, RB James White, LB Jeremiah George, RB Shontrelle Johnson, S Jacques Washington, DE Willie Scott, P Kirby Van Der Kamp, QB Sam Richardson

Key losses: LB Jake Knott, LB A.J. Klein, DL Jake McDonough, QB Steele Jantz, WR Josh Lenz, S Durrell Givens, WR Aaron Horne, CB Jeremy Reeves, DL Cleyon Laing

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Passing: Steele Jantz (1,603 yards)
Rushing: James White* (505 yards)
Receiving: Josh Lenz (459 yards)
Tackles: A.J. Klein (117)
Sacks: Cleyon Laing (3)
Interceptions: Durrell Givens, Jacques Washington* (3)

Spring answers

1. Leaders emerging. Jake Knott and A.J. Klein led vocally and by example for the past few years in Ames, and without that duo, somebody had to fill the void. Jeremiah George did some of that this spring, and Jacques Washington might be counted on for leadership from some of his experience, too. George is a heck of player who's got a good amount of playing time, too.

2. The offensive line is jelling. Four starters who closed the season for Iowa State return, and this should be the strongest position for the Cyclones, who need to find some big-play ability on offense. Center Tom Farniok headlines this unit, but Ethan Tuftee is an experienced senior and ISU should have some good depth there, too.

3. Iowa State's going to focus on the running game. Sam Richardson is still a green sophomore, but the running backs are deep and have tons of ability. James White and Shontrelle Johnson are shifty and productive, though Johnson is coming off an injury, and Jeff Woody is a solid power guy. Reserve Devondrick Nealy broke out in the spring game and juco transfer Aaron Wimberly provides even more depth. ISU will never be short for solid, fresh legs at running back.

Fall questions

1. Can the receivers step up? The Cyclones lost all three of their top receivers from last year's team, and three new starters have to step into bigger roles for a team that's struggled with inconsistency at quarterback. Tad Ecby, Quenton Bundrage and Jarvis West have to help Iowa State's passing game become a bigger threat that defenses must respect. Albert Gary has experience and should contribute, but ISU needs more than 459 yards from its top receiver. Coach Paul Rhoads called this the thinnest position on the Cyclones' team.

2. Is Sam Richardson really the long-term answer? After Jared Barnett's postseason transfer, it looked like the Richardson Era began, but when two of his three career starts ended with completion percentages below 50 percent, it's hard to have a ton of faith in him coming into fall. He' has promise and more accuracy than Steele Jantz and Barnett, but he's not far from being replaced by Grant Rohach if he struggles at some point in 2013.

3. Can Iowa State find a kicker? Three missed extra points is three too many, and Edwin Arceo's senior camp will be spent competing with freshman Cole Netten. Both missed a pair of kicks on a big stage in the spring game, but ISU has a penchant for getting locked into close games. It needs consistency from this spot.
You saw Tony Jefferson and Kenny Stills' reportedly made their NFL draft decisions over the weekend, but colleague Mel Kiper dropped his latest top five juniors Insider and seniors at each position Insider. You need Insider to see the full lists, but I'll give you a taste in this post.

Here's who cracked the list from the Big 12, with still a whole bunch of guys around the league with draft decisions to make.

Running backs

Wide receivers
Offensive guards


Offensive tackles
Defensive ends
Outside linebackers
  • Texas' Kenny Vaccaro is the No. 1 senior.
  • Oklahoma's Tony Jefferson is the No. 2 junior.

Interesting to see how those rankings change as the Senior Bowl happens, players enter the draft or decide to stay in school and the NFL scouting combine and pro days take place.
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?

We looked at the All-Big 12 offense on Monday. Then we moved on to the defense on Tuesday. Let's take a look at some of the league's top specialists today. I didn't limit this list to just first-teamers.

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.

Quinn Sharp, K/P/KOS, Oklahoma State
  • Sharp was not ranked or scouted when he came out of Arlington, Texas in the 2008 class. He did put 75 percent of his kicks into the end zone for touchbacks, made a 52-yard field goal and was 13-of-14 on field goals as a senior in 2007.
Anthony Cantele, K, Kansas State
  • Cantele went to Missouri State to play soccer after high school. Then ended up at Kansas State and became one of the Big 12's best kickers. (Snyder, y'all. Seriously.) He was 10-of-12 on kicks as a senior in Wichita, Kan. and was 20-of-23 for his career.
Kirby Van Der Kamp, P, Iowa State
  • Van Der Kamp was the nation's No. 27 kicker in the 2010 class. The West Des Moines, Iowa native was graded at a 74 by scouts. He was also a goalie on the soccer team. Scouts take: Van Der Kamp plays wide receiver at a top-level high school, but he is blossoming as a punter. The 6-foot-3 athlete has solid leg speed and hands. On punts of 50-plus yards, he can hit 4.9 second on his hang time. His lefty spin on the ball should make it difficult for Big 12 returners. The FBS level talent had multiple solid showings at Kohl's events and he should get better in college when he is able to focus specifically on punting.
Tyler Lockett, KR, Kansas State
  • Lockett was the nation's No. 170 receiver and drew interest from Kansas and Houston, as well as TCU. The Tulsa, Okla. native was graded at 74 by scouts. Scouts take: Lockett is a savvy, versatile slot receiver that could also play running back in the spread offensive as a utility player. He is undersized, but stocky and looks to have a sturdy build. He is very crafty and makes plays. Isn't always flashy, but has a knack for getting open and is very good against zone coverage. Comes off the ball quickly and gets into coverage. Accelerates nicely, runs low and is an effective player in all three phase. Locates soft spots in zone coverage, knows where to settle and can be counted on the make the catch across the middle or in a crowd. He is a sneaky deep threat.
Tavon Austin, PR/KR, West Virginia
  • Austin was the nation's No. 41 running back, and the Baltimore native was given a grade of 78 by scouts. He was also the No. 75 player in his region. Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina and Penn State also recruited him. Scouts take: Austin is a smallish but dynamic prospect who has the skills to be a good change-of-pace or scatback runner at the next level. He lacks great size, but he runs harder and bigger than his measurables suggest. He's dangerous on the perimeter and in space, but also very good between the tackles as a zone runner. Can pick and stab his way through traffic and decisively hit small cutback creases without losing much in transition. Shows good body control, vision and balance. Excels at changing gears and eluding defenders with sudden bursts and sharp cuts.
Tramaine Thompson, PR, Kansas State
  • Thompson was the nation's No. 137 athlete in the 2009 class. The Jenks, Okla. native was graded at 74 by scouts and drew interest from Arkansas, Colorado and Oklahoma State. Scouts take: Thompson is a quick-footed slot receiver prospect who excels at creating mismatches in space and could be a nice weapon in an open spread offense. Has very marginal height and overall size which is a concern when projecting for the next level. Does utilize his smaller frame and great foot-quickness when matched up versus less agile linebackers and safeties in space. Can stretch a defense with his good vertical speed and is also very difficult to mirror tightly as a route runner with his sharpness and quickness out of his breaks.
The Home Depot College Football Awards will be held on Thursday, Dec. 6 in Orlando, Fla., and you can watch it all on ESPN at 7:30 p.m. ET.

The list of finalists for the awards were released on Monday afternoon, and here's who you can see try and earn a trophy down at Disney World.

Biletnikoff Award (best receiver)
I voted for Tavon Austin instead of Bailey there, and had USC's Marqise Lee on the list. It's six in one, half dozen in the other when it comes to Austin, but I know he can do things no other player in college football can do.

Oklahoma State's Quinn Sharp was left off the finalists list for both the Ray Guy (punter) and Lou Groza (kicker) award. Iowa State's Kirby Van Der Kamp also didn't make the list for the Groza Award.

Davey O'Brien Award (best quarterback)
Maxwell Award (best player)
  • Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State

Big 12 stock report: Week 12

November, 14, 2012
J-curves! Gift taxes! Neutral hedges!

We're back again with some trends across the Big 12 paired with nonsensical financial terms. Let's get started.

Rising: Turnovers in TCU games

If you tune into a TCU game, there's probably going to be some wildness going on. The Frogs have forced 26 turnovers, more than all but one Big 12 team (Kansas State, with 27). The Frogs even forced two from K-State last week, and the Wildcats had turned the ball over just four times in their first nine games. The bad news? TCU has four more turnovers than any team in the Big 12. The Frogs have given the ball away 25 times, so their turnover margin of plus-1 is just fourth in the Big 12.

Falling: Kansas buttkickings

There's been a lot of attention paid to Kansas' close calls, but look at the other end of the spectrum, too. Last year, Kansas lost six games by at least 30 points and four by at least 40 points. KU has just two losses of that variety this season. Both came by at least 40 points, but consider this: Both were to Kansas State and Oklahoma, a top-15 team and a national title contender. Last year, KU let seven-win Texas A&M beat it by 54 points and eight-win Texas earned a 43-0 victory. KU is hanging tough just about every week, and mediocre teams aren't beating up on KU these days.

Rising: Josh Stewart

The Oklahoma State receiver is quickly ascending to near elite status among Big 12 receivers. That's a tough group to crack, too. Last week, Stewart grabbed career highs in receptions (13) receiving yards (172) and had his third career game with multiple touchdown passes. That's more than just one game, too. Stewart's topped 120 yards in two of his past three games and has averaged 10 catches a game in his past four games. Stewart never had 100 yards in a game before his third game of this year, his sophomore season. His late rise is a pretty strong signifier of what's to come.

Falling: Punters against Texas

What a weird stat. Texas has faced some of the nation's best punters, including Iowa State's Kirby Van Der Kamp and Oklahoma State's Quinn Sharp. Still, the Longhorns' opponents average just 36 yards a kick against them, the lowest average in college football. Sharp punted twice (avg. 38 yards) and Van Der Kamp booted seven punts on Saturday (37.71 yards) against the Horns. Only two teams all season have averaged more than 40 yards a punt against Texas.
A pair of Big 12 players made the semifinalist cut for a few national awards.

Oklahoma State running back Joseph Randle is among 10 semifinalists for the Doak Walker Award, given annually to college football's best running back.

He's the lone Big 12 back on the list and leads the league in rushing with 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns.

Iowa State punter Kirby Van Der Kamp is one of 10 semifinalists for the Ray Guy Award, given annually to college football's best punter. The Cyclones punter has dropped 26 of his 62 punts inside opponents' 20-yard line.

Kansas running back James Sims and Oklahoma State punter Quinn Sharp have pretty legitimate gripes for exclusion, but Sharp's big leg hasn't gotten much exercise with OSU's high-flying offense, and Sims missed the first three games of the season because of a suspension.