Big 12: Kyle Hix

Texas spring wrap

May, 6, 2011

2010 overall record: 5-7

2010 conference record: 2-6

Returning starters: Offense (8), Defense (6) P/K (1)

Top returners: RB Fozzy Whittaker, LB Keenan Robinson, LB Emmanuel Acho, DE Jackson Jeffcoat, WR Mike Davis, RB Cody Johnson

Key losses: DE Sam Acho, DC Will Muschamp, CB Curtis Brown, CB Aaron Williams, CB Chykie Brown, DL Eddie Jones, OL Kyle Hix, WR James Kirkendoll

2010 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Cody Johnson* (592 yards)

Passing: Garrett Gilbert* (2,744 yards)

Receiving: James Kirkendoll (707 yards)

Tackles: Keenan Robinson* (106)

Sacks: Sam Acho (8)

Interceptions: Keenan Robinson* (2)

Three spring answers

1. Offseason mission accomplished. Mack Brown hired five new coaches and a new strength coach, Benny Wylie. The players have taken to the younger blood on the sidelines, mostly up-and-comers who have plenty to prove and plenty of energy. Brown lauded the team’s effort in the offseason program, too. Whether or not it pays off on the field immediately, Brown made great hires that his players have bought into.

2. Right place, right time for Okafor. Defensive end Alex Okafor was a defensive tackle last year and figured he’d stay there this year. But days before spring practice, he moved to defensive end and had one of the best springs on the team, capping it with five sacks in the spring game.

3. Recruiting pipelines are still full. Despite all the unrest with the coaching staff and last year’s on-field struggles, Texas hasn’t seen the effects on the recruiting trail. It retained all but one recruit from its 2010 class (an he was an out-of-stater, albeit a five-star lineman) and its 2011 class is already one of the nation’s best.

Three fall questions

1. Is Texas back? There are tons of little questions (secondary, the entire offense), but they all add up to this one. The Longhorns have more money than anyone else. Recruiting is easier for them than perhaps any school in the country. They have a tradition of success. Seasons like last year aren’t supposed to happen at Texas. Was last year a hiccup, or a significant hurdle?

2. What about the QBs? Texas has one of the most jumbled messes in the league at quarterback. Garrett Gilbert started all 12 games last year, but he was unimpressive and threw 17 picks to 10 TDs. The competition was reopened under new OC Bryan Harsin, but after the spring, none of Texas three quarterbacks had separated themselves, and Case McCoy was the most impressive passer in the spring game. Anything could happen this fall. No one is a front runner.

3. Is Malcolm Brown the future or present? We’ve seen impressive freshman running backs in this league before, and the opportunity will be there for Brown if he’s good enough to seize it. Texas has Fozzy Whittaker and Cody Johnson, but both are seniors and neither has proven to be a reliable every-down threat. What’s in store for the nation’s top running back in the 2011 class?

Breaking down the offensive draft boards

April, 27, 2011
You've surely seen plenty of mock drafts and draft boards by position by now, but those are all put together by mashing together players' total skill sets.

So what would happen if you broke down those skill sets and re-ranked players in the draft? Todd McShay did exactly that for every draftable offensive player.

Here's a look at what he had to say.

Quarterbacks Insider
  • Missouri's Blaine Gabbert was No. 3 in intelligence and decision-making, behind Greg McElroy of Alabama and TCU's Andy Dalton.
  • Gabbert was No. 1 in throwing accuracy.
  • He's the Big 12's only draftable quarterback, according to McShay, and ranked No. 1 overall on his positional draft board.
Running backs Insider
  • McShay ranked DeMarco Murray as the No. 1 running back in the draft, according to receiving skill.
  • Murray was also No. 1 in pass blocking. Kansas State's Daniel Thomas was No. 2.
  • Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter is the Big 12's top back on his positional draft board. Hunter ranks No. 4. Thomas is No. 5. Murray ranked 10th.
Offensive line Insider
  • Baylor's Danny Watkins ranked No. 2 in pass blocking among draftable guards.
  • Watkins also ranked No. 2 in run blocking among guards.
  • He ranked No. 1 in "toughness" among guards.
  • Watkins was the No. 6 overall offensive line prospect available. Texas' Kyle Hix was his No. 42 available and Missouri's Tim Barnes was No. 50.

The Big 12 and the draft: A wide-angle look

March, 24, 2011
Scouts Inc. has put together a comprehensive draft board of each position, and as you've seen this offseason, plenty of former Big 12ers should hear their names called next month.

Here's a rough estimate of where each offensive prospect from the league is set to be drafted.

First round:
Second round:
Third round:
Fourth round:
Fifth round:
Sixth round:
Seventh round:

Want to see the full boards? Here's the offense and the defense.

Lunch links: Sooners land big commit

March, 1, 2011
All right, hosers! I want all 12 of us fighting for every meter on all three downs! We're going to make this a Boxing Day the Prime Minister will never forget!

Big 12 at the NFL combine: Offense

February, 28, 2011
The NFL Scouting Combine concludes on Tuesday, but plenty of drills have been completed, and the offensive skill position players, always the most fun units to watch, took their turn on Sunday. Offensive linemen were the first to take the field, wrapping their week up on Saturday.

The linebackers and defensive linemen will take their turns today before the defensive backs close the drills on Tuesday.

Here's how the Big 12 offensive players did in respective drills. Note: Players could opt out of drills by choice. Position ranking in parentheses when available.


Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
  • 40-yard dash. 4.62 (5)
  • Broad jump: 10-0 (4)
  • Vertical jump: 33.5 inches (6)
  • Three-cone drill: 6.84 seconds (3)
  • 20-yard shuttle: 4.26 seconds (10)
Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M
  • 40-yard dash: 4.8 (8)
  • Broad jump: 9-11 (6)
  • Vertical jump: 29 inches (15)
  • 20-yard shuttle: 4.31 seconds (13)
Running backs

Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State
  • 40-yard dash: 4.53 (9)
  • 225-pound bench: 24 reps (7)
  • Vertical jump: 35 inches (12)
  • Broad jump: 10-2 (4)
  • Three-cone drill: 6.74 (3)
  • 60-yard shuttle: 11.19 (2)
DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma
  • 40-yard dash: 4.41 (5)
  • Vertical jump: 34.5 inches (14)
  • Broad jump: 10-4 (2)
  • 20-yard shuttle: 4.18 (9)

An injury prevented Kansas State's Daniel Thomas from taking part in any of the physical tests at the combine.

Offensive linemen

Kyle Hix, Texas
  • 40-yard dash: 5.46
  • Vertical jump: 32 inches (3)
  • Three-cone drill: 7.77 seconds
  • 20-yard shuttle: 4.78
  • Broad jump: 8-8 (13)
Danny Watkins, Baylor
  • 40-yard dash: 5.40 (9)
  • 225-pound bench press: 29 reps (9)
  • Vertical jump: 26 inches
  • Three-cone drill: 7.61 seconds (15)
  • 20-yard shuttle: 4.62
  • Broad jump: 7-8

The NFL combine is dangerously close

February, 23, 2011
The NFL Scouting Combine kicks off Wednesday, and when it concludes next week, draft boards from media and NFL teams alike could look very different.

Physical tests won't begin until Thursday, but the first round of players will arrive Wednesday and take part in various preparatory tests before the real sizing up begins.

A week from now, stocks will be up. Others will be down.

Here are the players from the Big 12 slated to take part, in case you missed it the first time around:

Oklahoma State -- 5
  • Dan Bailey, K
  • Ugo Chinasa, DE
  • Kendall Hunter, RB
  • Orie Lemon, LB
  • Andrew McGee, CB
Texas -- 5
  • Sam Acho, DE
  • Chykie Brown, CB
  • Curtis Brown, CB
  • Kyle Hix, OL
  • Aaron Williams, CB
Oklahoma -- 4 Missouri -- 3 Baylor -- 2
  • Phil Taylor, DT
  • Danny Watkins, OT
Texas A&M -- 2 Iowa State -- 1
  • David Sims, S
Kansas State -- 1 Texas Tech -- 1
  • Colby Whitlock, DT

Big 12 talent headed to the NFL combine

February, 4, 2011
The NFL released its list of invitations to the scouting combine late this month, and plenty of Big 12 players should be taking part.

Here's who got invitations:
That's a pretty solid (and lengthy) list. Add it up, and it's 36 players from 11 of 12 Big 12 schools, excluding Kansas. It's a little surprising that Missouri center Tim Barnes wasn't on the list. It's possible it was a mistake, but the first-team All-Big 12er and Rimington Trophy watch lister was named as one of the top centers in the draft last spring by Mel Kiper. Barnes had also earned some favorable reviews at the NFLPA Bowl this week.

It was good to see Aggies quarterback Jerrod Johnson get a shot to show scouts if he's regained any more strength in his arm, too.

Here's how it ranks by team, as well.

1. Nebraska - 9
2. Oklahoma State - 5
2. Texas - 5
4. Oklahoma - 4
5. Colorado - 3
5. Missouri - 3
7. Baylor - 2
7. Texas A&M - 2
9. Iowa State - 1
9. Kansas State - 1
9. Texas Tech - 1

Tracking Big 12 ESPNU 150 signees: 2007

January, 31, 2011
ESPN the Magazine had a fascinating feature looking back at the past 25 No. 1 high school recruits, where they are now and what the ranking meant to them. With apologies to Vince Young, there aren't a ton of Big 12 talents on the list, but there have been plenty of great recruits to come through the Big 12. We took a look on Thursday at how the All-Big 12 team stacked up as recruits, and you saw quite a mixed bag.

Well, it's the same for the recruits who came to campus with high rankings and high profiles. Going back to 2006, here's how every Big 12 commit from the ESPNU 150 turned out. We'll eventually get to 2010 and the current class, 2011, around signing day, but here's how the 2007 class breaks down. 2007

No. 21: Tray Allen, OT, Texas. Forced to redshirt 2010 season after breaking a bone in his foot. Appeared in 31 games over first three seasons. Should be healthy for senior season in 2011.

No. 24: Christian Scott, S, Texas. Became a starter in 2010, starting eight games and playing in nine for the Longhorns. Made 54 tackles and had an interception. Forced to sit out 2009 season due to academic eligibility issues

No. 29: Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State. Caught 147 passes for 2,425 yards and 29 touchdowns in just over two seasons. Named All-American in 2008. Sat out final nine games of 2009 season because of NCAA suspension. Taken No. 24 overall in the 2010 NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys.

No. 39: Austin Box, LB, Oklahoma. Battled knee and back injuries, but has been a periodic starter and consistent contributor for the Sooners. Has 106 tackles in three seasons.

No. 41: John Chiles, WR, Texas. Played quarterback in 2007 and 2008 before switching to receiver. Finished career with 65 catches for 752 yards and four touchdowns.

No. 42: Richetti Jones, DE, Oklahoma State. Emerged as one of the Cowboys' top reserves in 2010, when he notched 34 tackles, seven tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. Will be a senior in 2010.

No. 65: Keenan Robinson, LB, Texas. Started 24 games at outside linebacker in the last two seasons. Should be one of the Longhorns' defensive leaders in 2011 after making 194 tackles (110 solo), 4.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss in his career. Earned All-Big 12 honorable mention in 2009.

No. 71: Ryan Miller, OT, Colorado. Became a starter at tackle as a freshman, and became one of the Big 12's best offensive guards in 2009 and 2010 after missing most of the 2008 season with a broken fibula and being granted a medical hardship. He switched from tackle to guard after the injury and has twice earned All-Big 12 honorable mention.

No. 79: Ben Wells, CB, Texas. Had 12 tackles and a sack in 24 games before transferring from Texas last April.

No. 91: Derrick Stephens, LB, Texas A&M. Redshirted in 2007, but doctors forced him to quit football because of multiple concussions.

No. 97: Curtis Brown, CB, Texas. Became a starter late in 2008, finishing his career with 28 starts. Earned All-Big 12 honors in 2009 and 2010. Finished his career with 120 tackles, 32 passes broken up and a pair of interceptions.

No. 102: Malcolm Williams, S, Texas. Moved to receiver. Has 78 receptions for 1,118 yards and six scores in three seasons and 38 games.

No. 104: Conrad Obi, DE, Colorado. Moved to defensive tackle as a sophomore in 2009. Has four career tackles and played just 23 snaps in 2009, but blocked a field goal against Oklahoma State.

No. 109: Michael Keck, DE, Missouri. Quit team after one game in September of 2008, eventually transferring to Missouri State.

No. 114: Sam Acho, DE, Texas. Won Academic Heisman in 2010. Two-time All-Big 12 performer after becoming starter in 2009 and was an All-American selection in 2010. In 50 career games, finished with 148 tackles, 23.5 sacks (10th on UT's career list) and 37 tackles for loss. Projects as middle round pick in 2011 NFL draft.

No. 123: Bradley Stephens, RB, Texas A&M. Aggies reserve running back. Has 328 yards and a touchdown on 74 carries in three seasons.

No. 125: Michael Huey, OG, Texas. Started 20 games over four seasons, missed the final four games of 2010 with a knee injury. Earned All-Big 12 honorable mention in 2009.

No. 126: Kyle Hix, OT, Texas. Moved to left tackle as a senior, but started 39 games in his four-year career, earning All-Big 12 honorable mention in 2009.

No. 136: Cody Johnson, RB, Texas. Featured as a goal-line back with 30 career touchdowns. Will enter his senior season in 2011 with 1,265 career yards on 297 carries.

No. 142: Michael Ebbitt, DE, Texas A&M. Redshirted in 2007, but has seen very little playing time in three seasons.

Lunch links: Huskies quiz stumps Sooners

December, 23, 2010
My parents had my trust fund amended; I don't get anything until I'm 50, which is a waste because I'm gonna be a billionaire in Costa Rica by then. Eating dolphins and hangin' out with lady singers.

Welcome to Austin, Texas

November, 13, 2010
AUSTIN, Texas -- Both teams have arrived, and it should be a beautiful night for football. It's a little windy, hovering around 60 degrees and prepared to drop below 50 as the sun sets well before the 8 p.m. ET kickoff.

Both teams have arrived, and a few Texas players have made their way on the field for warm-ups.

One player who hasn't is Texas receiver Marquise Goodwin. He'll be out tonight to attend his grandmother's funeral in Lubbock.

That means Garrett Gilbert is down one of his targets, and Goodwin is third on the team with 28 receptions. The Longhorns will have to put points on the board to beat No. 10 Oklahoma State, the No. 3 scoring offense in the country, which is something they haven't done much this year.

For Texas to pull the upset in this one, top receivers Mike Davis and James Kirkendoll will need big days. That, or Texas can control the time of possession with a ball-control running attack like it showed at Nebraska in an upset this season.

Either way, look for Gilbert to try and make a few plays with his feet at some point tonight, especially after struggling last week in a loss to Kansas State that featured five interceptions from the sophomore first-year starter.

Goodwin's absence only adds to Texas' missing numbers heading into tonight's game. The Longhorns lost cornerback Chykie Brown for the season last week, and will be without offensive linemen Michael Huey and Kyle Hix for tonight's game.

Lunch links: Bringing back Mac

November, 12, 2010
And if we have to have government, make it as small as possible. Dwarfs! Tiny buildings! Pizza bagels for lunch!

What we can learn from blowouts

September, 3, 2010
You won't hear this from any of their coaches, but let's be frank: Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas A&M will win on Saturday. Convincingly, to say the least.

Oklahoma State isn't bringing a cupcake to Stillwater, but the Cowboys are heavy favorites at home against Pac-10 doormat Washington State.

So, what can we learn from watching them race out to early leads? Each team's coach weighed in on what they want to see from their team most going into season openers against teams that clearly look overmatched on paper. (Note: My words, not theirs.)


Longhorns coach Mack Brown hasn't been shy about his defense, playing prognosticator this preseason and stating they might be his best ever. No such praise for his offense, which is breaking in all kinds of new blood everywhere.

"We’re changing what we’re doing as well," Brown said. "Our philosophy won’t change, but we will run more and we’ll have more of a power running game, even though we’ll probably throw the ball 50 percent of the time."

In charge of that power running game? Power running back Cody Johnson, a 251-pounder who'll be running behind an offensive line that's replacing three starters and moving another, All-Big 12 right tackle Kyle Hix, to left tackle. No amount of domination up front will impress anyone, but Brown will at least give a look at what his team has been working on since spring, as well as fresh-faced signal-caller Garrett Gilbert.

James Kirkendoll has emerged as the No. 1 target in preseason camp, but can he do it consistently and help Gilbert? We'll get an idea on Saturday, but we may not know for sure until after the Longhorns' trip to Lubbock in Week 3.


Oklahoma's first play from scrimmage last season was halted by a false start. That trend continued throughout the game, and the Sooners lost to BYU, derailing a run at a national title.

So it shouldn't be surprising that Sooners coach Bob Stoops will be looking carefully at his team's mental performance on Saturday against Utah State as much as their physical performance.

"I just want to see us play with some discipline," Stoops said. "Penalties, taking care of the football and mental responsibility. Just not having mental errors. Take care of the ball, don’t have foolish penalties and execute cleanly."

Oklahoma will have the advantage of kicking off its season at home at Owen Field, where it's looked invincible of late, instead of the unfamiliar stage of Cowboys Stadium, which had never hosted a college football game before last year's tilt with the Cougars.

That could mean making Stoops happy will come a little easier for his players this time around.


The Huskers have ridden a wave of hype since a fantastic finish to the 2009 season, and finally, on Saturday, it's time to start validating it. Nebraska coach Bo Pelini has been -- for the most part -- complimentary of his team. Against Western Kentucky at Memorial Stadium, they'll get a chance to show Huskers fans he was right.

"I’m anxious to see our guys execute, put to the test in live action against someone other than ourselves with the things we’ve been talking about," Pelini said. "It’s always different, that first game, it’s obviously the first time you’ve got a live opponent."

Plenty of attention will be placed on his yet-unnamed quarterback, but Pelini says he's not looking forward to getting a glimpse of any position group in particular.

"I’ve liked the progress of our football team through camp, and now it’s time to see who’s going to step up, now that it’s for real," he said.


With just eight total starters returning on both sides of the ball, Mike Gundy's team may possess potential, but it's clearly lacking in experience. Gundy has seen what he's got in practice. He hasn't in games. That might change things.

"The first few games, you learn what you’re dealing with with young men and how they handle being in a game situation and how tough they are," Gundy said.

That includes freshmen. And though Gundy wishes only a couple will enter into Week 1 with unanswered questions, the Cowboys' depth chart features nine freshmen.

"We don’t have that luxury," Gundy said. "Our QB hasn’t played a lot, so we’ll learn a lot about him and we’ve got several guys on defense that’ll be playing for the first time. And a number of offensive linemen. We’ve got six or eight guys we’ll know a lot about after next week and maybe even more so a month from now."


The offensive line has been of particular concern for Texas A&M all preseason, a unit that may start three true freshmen this season, and will at least play all three. But Colorado learned last season that three linemen don't compose an offensive line. Sherman wants plenty more than that. Ten, in fact.

"It’s something we’re still working on, and I imagine it will be through the first third or half of the season -- trying to find out who those guys are -- and a lot of that will be predicated on how well we play in these games," said Sherman, who plays Louisiana Tech and Florida International the next two weeks. "As we get closer, I'll feel comfortable on offense if we can get like an NFL formula. They only dress like eight guys on game day; we want to get eight guys that could rotate in there at any time. I think we’re close to that. We’re not right where we need to be in the two-deep, as far as having 10 guys on offense, but I feel like we’re getting there."

The same goes for his defensive line, but with a new 3-4 scheme under Tim DeRuyter, developing depth there is a bit simpler.

"I feel like we have to have at least 6-8 guys in rotation because those big guys get tired chasing the football. I think we’ll end up having a two-deep and work toward that three deep," Sherman said.

10 players from Big 12 on Lombardi list

August, 27, 2010
The Lombardi Award features my favorite trophy in sports. It's uncluttered, unique, and symbolic of what the award is about, being an immovable object or unstoppable force in the trenches.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, here's a photo. The Heisman is undoubtedly more iconic, but give me the Lombardi as a sweeter trophy. There's not another one like it. Anybody can sculpt a bronze man with a leather helmet in a variety of football stances.

This year, the Big 12 will host 10 candidates for the award, given annually to the best player who essentially lines up in what's referred to as "the box," or down linemen on offense or players on defense who line up closer than 10 yards to the line of scrimmage and within five yards wide of where the ball is spotted.

In short, offensive linemen, linebackers and defensive linemen.

Here are some players to watch:
Pretty good list filled with the usual suspects for these sorts of things, minus Missouri's Aldon Smith, who finished fourth in the conference with 11.5 sacks last season. He absolutely deserved to be on this list. Fellow sophomore offensive tackle Tanner Hawkinson of Kansas might have found a spot on here, too. The same goes for Jayhawks defensive end Jake Laptad. But again, it's just a watch list. Not being on the preseason list won't keep them from winning the award if they prove dominant during the season.

Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh won the 2009 award to give the Huskers their fifth winner, second-most nationally, behind Ohio State. Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy was also a finalist.

The Big 12 has taken home two consecutive Lombardi Awards; Brian Orakpo preceded Suh as 2008's winner.

Oklahoma and Texas have three winners each.

Texas A&M is the only other school in the Big 12 with a winner. Dat Nguyen, currently the Aggies linebackers coach, won the trophy in 1998.

Opening camp: Texas

August, 9, 2010
Schedule: Practice started on Sunday

What’s new: The offense. Colt McCoy completing 70 percent of his passes meant a shift away from the Vince Young zone read to a pass-heavy spread offense that served the Longhorns well for McCoy's four seasons as starter. Now, they'll take the offense more under center to try and establish a downhill running game that's been missing since 2007, the last time Texas had a 1,000-yard rusher.

Key battle: Receiver. There might not be a more muddled group in the entire conference. Texas has a handful of receivers that could be capable of becoming the No. 1 target, but that status could fluctuate throughout the season and who ends up on top is anyone's guess. Malcolm Williams, James Kirkendoll and Marquise Goodwin are probably the safest bets, but there's a reason Texas brought in Darius White and Mike Davis, two of the top three receivers in the 2010 class.
New on the scene: Safety Christian Scott. Scott sat out the regular season because of eligibility issues, but he played as a freshman and looks like the solid favorite to replace the departed Earl Thomas at safety opposite Blake Gideon.

Breaking out: Defensive tackle Kheeston Randall. Enjoyed an impressive spring after earning 10 starts a season ago. He'll be counted on for experience on the defense's front line after the departure of Lamarr Houston. At last week's media days, coach Mack Brown called the role the "key to the defense."

Don’t forget about: Offensive tackle Kyle Hix. He's got the talent to be one of the conference's top linemen, but a switch from right tackle to left tackle could complicate his situation in preseason camp.

All eyes on: Quarterback Garrett Gilbert. Gave fans a taste of what might be on the way with a pair of touchdown throws to Jordan Shipley in the second half of the BCS title game last season, and only amped up the hype with an impressive spring game performance. His development as a sophomore in camp this fall, his first as the starter, will decide how he measures up to the hype surrounding his chance to take the helm as the next Longhorn QB.

Quoting: "We did a lot of self study and found out that we had more explosive plays when the quarterback was under the center in the running game as well as the tailback being right behind the quarterback. ... when you have instances come up when you lose a quarterback -- and we lost Colt in the Kansas State game his first year and the Alabama game last year -- you're putting your second quarterback, in our estimation, under a tremendous amount of pressure if you can't run the ball.

"The other reason that we feel like we need to go ahead and run the ball more and better is the last two years in the BCS we played two-back downhill running Ohio State, and this year we played two-back downhill running Alabama. And in both cases, we didn't tackle the great tailbacks very well.

"We feel like by having downhill runs and working more in the running game and against the running game in practice would help us if we go out of conference and see someone who wants to just line up and run us." -- Texas coach Mack Brown on the offense's shift

Opening camp: Iowa State

August, 5, 2010
Schedule: Practice starts Thursday

What’s new: Most of the defense. The Cyclones are replacing seven starters, including three linebackers from the defense last season, including Jesse Smith, who led the Big 12 with 135 tackles.

Key battle: Safety David Sims vs. his playing status. The 2009 Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year pleaded guilty to unauthorized use of a credit card on Monday and received a deferred judgment and probation. He also paid back the $600 to the victim, but his status with the team is unclear.

New on the scene: Sophomore linebackers A.J. Klein and Jake Knott will be stepping into starting roles after contributing some as freshmen. After Smith's departure, the bar will be high, but coach Paul Rhoads believes each could help the unit eventually improve from where it was in the past.

Breaking out: Junior left tackle Kelechi Osemele. He made second-team All-Big 12 as a first-year starter a year ago, but he has yet to earn the recognition of other offensive linemen around the league like Texas' Kyle Hix, Missouri's Tim Barnes or Colorado's Nate Solder.

Don’t forget about: Iowa State's talent in the secondary. Rhoads believes the unit is his team's deepest and has some of the most talent of any on the team. Sims makes the headlines at safety, but the Cyclones have three solid junior corners in Ter'ran Benton, Leonard Johnson and Anthony Young.

All eyes on: The offensive backfield. Austen Arnaud struggled in 2009 in a new system while running back Alexander Robinson flourished. If both put it together in 2010, the Cyclones' bumpy road through a difficult schedule might end up a little smoother.

Quoting: "There's a word we refer to often in our program, and that's development. We've seen a lot of development take place over the last 18, 19 months: Bowl game preparation, all the extra work we got in, our winter workouts, spring practice. And that's continued on into the summer workout session. With that in mind, we will be an improved football team in 2010, and we'll need to be. We face a very challenging schedule that some rate as the toughest in the country." -- Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads

  1. Austen_4

    Austen_4 2010 campaign starts today... continous improvement 1 day at a time.

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