Big 12: Lamark Brown
You guys loved it. It's still a little soon to make generalizations about the 2010 class just yet, but you wanted more, so let's take a look back at 2007.
Here's half of the Big 12. We'll look at the rest later this week. (Note: Players who signed and did not academically qualify are not eligible.)
Best surprise: "CB" Elliott Coffey. Coffey signed with Baylor as the nation's No. 84 cornerback and a middle of the road recruit for Guy Morriss. By the end of his career, he'd gained almost 60 pounds and was a versatile linebacker at 235 pounds and the leader of the Bears' defense as an All-Big 12 talent.
Biggest bust: WR Romie Blaylock. He was the highest-ranked recruit who made it to campus for the Bears but managed to have negative receiving yardage in his true freshman season. He eventually moved to cornerback but made just one start and eventually transferred to Midwestern State.
IOWA STATE CYCLONES
Best surprise: OL Kelechi Osemele. This wasn't a very strong class from Iowa State, but Osemele, the nation's No. 149 tackle from Houston, blossomed into a three-year starter and an NFL draft pick who started for the Baltimore Ravens and won a Super Bowl ring earlier this month.
Biggest bust: QB Philip Bates. Bates lost a quarterback competition to Austen Arnaud and transferred during his sophomore season, eventually landing at Ohio where he played quarterback and receiver. The Omaha native was Iowa State's highest-ranked recruit and the nation's No. 76 quarterback.
Best surprise: OLB Justin Springer. Springer was rated higher than just two of KU's high school signees in the 23-member class, but he emerged as a starter and a team captain as a senior in 2010, helping KU upset the ACC champion Georgia Tech and winning the Big 12's Player of the Week honor. The California native was unranked as a recruit.
Biggest bust: RB Carmon Boyd-Anderson. The Jayhawks' signed the Jacksonville, Texas native as the nation's No. 71 running back and the second-highest rated recruit in the class. He played sparingly as a freshman before transferring before the 2008 class when it was clear he had fallen down the depth chart.
KANSAS STATE WILDCATS
Best surprise: DE Ralph Guidry. He was the nation's No. 150 defensive end in an average class for K-State and came to K-State at just 235. He was all the way up to 290 pounds by the end of his career and was a two-year starter at defensive tackle who notched more sacks than all but one Wildcat in 2011, when K-State won 10 games and reached the Cotton Bowl.
Biggest bust: S Lamark Brown. Brown was the class' highest-ranked recruit as the nation's No. 19 safety, but he played exclusively offense in Manhattan and never caught on. He switched positions twice but never had more than 215 yards receiving and transferred to Minnesota State Mankato in the summer of 2010.
Best surprise: "RB" Travis Lewis. The top of Oklahoma's class in 2007 was loaded, but the nation's No. 86 running back made a huge impact after a redshirt season. He led the team with 144 tackles and won Big 12 Freshman of the Year. He topped 100 tackles two more times in his career and became the first player in Oklahoma history to lead the team in tackles in four seasons.
Biggest bust: S Desmond Jackson. Jackson was the class' second-highest rated recruit, behind only the late Austin Box. He was the nation's No. 16 safety but never started a game and made just 13 tackles before transferring to Tarleton State.
2009 conference record: 4-4
Returning starters: Offense (7), Defense (6) P/K (2)
Top returners: RB Daniel Thomas, DB Emmanuel Lamur, DB Tysyn Hartman, DB Troy Butler, DT Prizzell Brown
Key losses: WR Brandon Banks, QB Grant Gregory, WR Lamark Brown, DB Joshua Moore, TE Jaron Mastrud, OT Nick Stringer, DT Daniel Calvin, DT Jeffrey Fitzgerald
2009 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Daniel Thomas* (1,265 yards)
Passing: Grant Gregory (1,096 yards)
Receiving: Brandon Banks (705 yards)
Tackles: Emmanuel Lamur* (68)
Sacks: Jeffrey Fitzgerald (7)
Interceptions: Tysyn Hartman* (5)
Three spring answers
1. Coffman states his case…loudly. The spring began with a three-man quarterback race, and ended with Carson Coffman throwing seven touchdown passes in the spring game. Collin Klein and Sammuel Lamur will be back to compete in the fall, but Coffman’s performance, combined with his experience last season, will likely be too much for either to overcome.
2. Chris Harper won’t be taking snaps. Oregon transfer Chris Harper figured to be a factor in the quarterback race, but he elected to move to receiver and stayed there throughout the spring. His impressive size and athleticism will be used on the sidelines, rather than in the backfield.
3. Butler shining in the spring. Juco transfer Troy Butler won a starting safety job last season, but made just 46 tackles and was held without an interception. In the spring game, he picked off two passes and made eight tackles. They came against the second-team, but he’s getting to the ball, and that’s something he didn’t do often last year.
Three fall questions
1. How will the new-look receivers fit in? Kansas State has plenty of size at receiver, something it didn’t have last season. But it’s possible that all three of the Wildcats top receivers won’t have caught a pass since the 2008 season. Aubrey Quarles sat out the 2009 season, and transfers Brodrick Smith and Chris Harper could also make big impacts this season.
2. Are the Wildcats deep enough? For all the celebration around Coffman’s performance, his team’s 79-0 win in the spring game over the second-teamers suggests a wide gap in talent between only the first and second teams. If Kansas State suffers a couple injuries in the right place, could the season fall well short of expectations?
3. Playmakers wanted. Daniel Thomas is a reliable option at running back, but can the Wildcats find a way to give the offense some additional firepower? The Wildcats were short on big plays in 2010; Thomas broke runs of 25 yards or longer in just two plays. If the receivers can prove they’re deep threats, and Coffman can get them the ball, it’ll be easier for both them and Thomas to operate and produce big plays.
The only consistent returning target for whoever wins the quarterback job in Manhattan is in the backfield -- running back Daniel Thomas, who caught 25 passes for 257 yards last season.
Now, they'll break in a new set of receivers. Aubrey Quarles redshirted last season with a leg injury, but he caught 34 balls for 407 yards in his lone season of action.
"Aubrey Quarles gives you a reasonably physical receiver. He is a pretty sharp young guy that understands what you are trying to do," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. "He's got good hands that can catch the ball and has the capacity to advance the ball and get it up field, because he is a little more physical."
At just 5-foot-11 and 202 pounds, Quarles plays physical, but the Wildcats have a handful of other receivers built to be physical.
Oregon transfer Chris Harper, who Snyder said will work exclusively at receiver and won't get snaps at quarterback, is 6-foot-1 and a stout 234 pounds. Minnesota transfer Brodrick Smith is 6-foot-2 and 206 pounds. He returned back home to Kansas after catching five passes for 50 yards and a score for the Golden Gophers.
"All of us were extremely impressed with his progress, his effort, his quickness, his ability to change direction, etc. [in the offseason program]. Now that he is on the field that has been tempered a little bit and I am quite certain that is because it is a learning process," Snyder said. "He has got to think his way through some things and I think that has kind of tempered his ability to do things naturally. We are just waiting for him to feel more comfortable with the offense, and when he does I think his capabilities will present themselves."
Snyder praised Harper's good hands, and though he won't be working at quarterback, Snyder knew Harper's athleticism would allow him to find his way onto the field somewhere.
"He has got good hands. He has been slowed down a little bit with a nagging injury, so he can't go full speed for us. So there is still some uncertainty in that respect," Snyder said. "Seeing him in the out of season program, the way he runs and changes direction, has good balance and body control, he's probably somebody that is a pretty good athlete."
If Collin Klein doesn't win the quarterback job, he'll switch back to receiver. He caught six passes for 38 yards last season.
Whoever emerges on the edge for the Wildcats, the sooner the better. Quarles will be looking to regain his 2008 form, and if anyone's going to surpass Banks' numbers (56 rec, 705 yards) from 2009, he would be the most likely candidate.
Kansas State's leading returning receiver is running back Daniel Thomas, but we'll get back to him in a bit. Brandon Banks is taking his 56 catches to the NFL, not to mention his game-breaking kick returns. Kansas State will have to replace receiver Attrail Snipes and tight end Jeron Mastrud, too. Kansas State threw just seven touchdown passes in 2009, and one came from Thomas.
Strong: Running back
Few could have expected just how effective Thomas would be in his first year in the program. A juco transfer, he was the Wildcats' offense as a junior. With speedster Banks gone, that doesn't seem likely to change. Thomas, like most good running backs, was marked by consistency. He ran for less than 79 yards just twice, and topped 100 yards on five occasions. In a 62-14 blowout win over Texas A&M, he ran for four touchdowns. Thomas touched the ball 272 times last season, and finding a suitable complement could help keep him healthy, a necessity if Kansas State wants to make a bowl game or challenge for the North title.
But like their Sunflower State rivals, the Wildcats could stimulate growth at an uncertain quarterback position with their running game.
More Weak & Strong:
Grant Gregory struggled much of the first half, but ended it on a high note.
Gregory's 31-yard touchdown pass to Lamark Brown with 20 seconds left boosted Kansas State to an improbable 10-7 halftime lead over Kansas.
Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing has struggled with turnovers in the first half, coughing the ball up twice and throwing one interception.
Even with the touchdown pass, Gregory was a pedestrian 6-for-13 passing with 55 yards in the first half.
The Wildcats have been able to move the ball consistently with tailback Daniel Thomas, who has accounted for a game-high 55 rushing yards.
Reesing appears to be hobbled with his groin injury. And leading Kansas running threat Jake Sharp was treated for a cut over his left eye that caused him to miss some of the second quarter.
I'm surprised that Kansas has still used Reesing in the running game. He just appears off in his running.
A better idea might be to emphasize the Kansas short passing game. We'll see if Mark Mangino does that in the second half.
The first quarter of the Kansas-Kansas State game has been a testament to blown chances.
Both teams have blown scoring opportunities in a 0-0 deadlock.
Jacob Branstetter misfired on a 30-yard field goal after the first Kansas possession. And quarterback Todd Reesing's struggles have continued with another interception.
But Kansas State couldn't make anything of Emmanuel Lamur's interception. Grant Gregory overthrew a wide-open Lamark Brown on a fourth-down play that could have easily resulted in a touchdown.
Both teams are struggling early in this pivotal North Division battle.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here's a look at how I rank the Big 12 offenses heading into the season.
1. Oklahoma State – The conference’s most balanced offense also features the best rushing/receiving combination in Kendall Hunter and Dez Bryant and one of the Big 12's best offensive linemen in Russell Okung. Zac Robinson still has meltdown moments, but he’s gotten much better with experience. The big questions will be finding a No. 2 receiver and a tight end to replace Brandon Pettigrew.
2. Oklahoma: The Sooners have the most productive quarterback in school history in Sam Bradford with the conference’s best backfield combination in Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray and college football’s best tight end in Jermaine Gresham. The offensive line, however, isn’t nearly as good as some from the program's past. The line's development will largely determine if the Sooners can claim four-straight Big 12 titles.
3. Texas: Colt McCoy is back for his fourth season as starter and Jordan Shipley seemingly has been around long enough to collect a pension. That’s a great start. Vondrell McGee has emerged as a steady back who might end up earning the majority of carries running behind a deep offensive line. It will be interesting to see if they can find a tight end who will block consistently enough to keep the team from running multiple wide-receiver sets down the stretch. Developing that bruising running game will be the biggest challenge for the Longhorns.
4. Kansas: Todd Reesing might be the nation’s most underrated quarterback and the development of a tandem backfield in Jake Sharp and Toben Opurum will provide balance to the conference’s best receiving corps. It will be interesting to see how much better Kerry Meier can become by concentrating on offense. He adds with top deep threat Dezmon Briscoe, the underrated Jonathan Wilson and freshman addition Bradley McDougald. The Jayhawks’ title hopes will hinge on better pass blocking, particularly from new left tackle Tanner Hawkinson, a converted high school tight end.
5. Texas Tech: There are more questions with the loss of Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree, although Mike Leach seems very happy with Taylor Potts and his current group. The Red Raiders might be deeper at wide receiver with a collection of players than when Crabtree commandeered most of the catches. Baron Batch’s recovery from an elbow injury will be critical, but the Red Raiders have a big nasty offensive front keyed by All-Big 12 candidate Brandon Carter and the underrated Marlon Winn.
6. Baylor: Robert Griffin makes these guys go and he should be even more comfortable in his second season as a starter. Jay Finley might be one of the least-appreciated backs in the league and a deep collection of wide receivers will help boost production. The biggest concern will be the play of tackles Danny Watkins and Phillip Blake, who will be replacing decorated former starters Jason Smith and Dan Gay.
7. Missouri: This offense will be different from the attack in the Chase Daniel era. Look for new coordinator David Yost to utilize a strong running game keyed by Derrick Washington, who is finally healthy after being hurt most of the second half of 2008. New quarterback Blaine Gabbert obviously doesn’t have the experience in the Tigers’ offense as Daniel, but he might have a better deep arm which will give Yost more chances to attack with long passes. It’s a typically deep collection of receivers with Danario Alexander poised for a breakout season if he can stay healthy.
8. Colorado: Other than the fact that Dan Hawkins can’t decide on a starting quarterback, this unit might be a little underrated and ready to blossom. I really like their collection of running backs with Darrell Scott poised to fulfill his recruiting promise. Rodney Stewart and Demetrius Sumler add different running styles behind a nice line keyed by Ryan Miller, Nate Solder and Mike Iltis. The passing game might sputter early as Markques Simas misses the first two games and Andre Simmons plays his way into the rotation after missing most of fall practice. But it might be surprisingly productive by the time conference play rolls around.
9. Nebraska: Lack of an experienced quarterback and tested running backs behind Roy Helu Jr. cause them to drop a little after Quentin Castille’s dismissal. I’m hearing the Cornhuskers will feature more deep passing with Zac Lee, which might allow receivers Menelik Holt and Niles Paul a chance to go deep. The best part of their offense is their five-headed monster at tight end keyed by Mike McNeill and Dreu Young. Ricky Henry’s emergence at right guard has enabled Jacob Hickman to stay at center where he’ll anchor a developing line.
10. Texas A&M: Jerrod Johnson won the starting quarterback job this summer, but I was surprised that Ryan Tannehill will remain behind him as a backup rather than a wide receiver where he was the team’s leading receiver this season. Jeff Fuller might be one of the Big 12’s most underrated wide receivers and Jamie McCoy is a productive, pass-catching tight end. A bigger, stronger Cyrus Gray will get the start at tailback, although heralded freshman Christine Michael will push him for playing time. The biggest question remains an offensive line that struggled with injuries and produced only 89 yards rushing and 39 sacks. If they are healthy, they might be a surprise after last year’s consistent struggles.
11. Iowa State: New coordinator Tom Herman will attempt to retrofit his no-huddle attack that was so successful at Rice for the Cyclones. He has a tough, savvy quarterback in Austen Arnaud and a multi-talented running back in Alexander Robinson. Keep an eye out for Darius Reynolds who has emerged as the team’s slot receiver as Darius Darks overcomes a training-camp injury. The largest offensive line in FBS will be protecting Arnaud, but needs to do a better job of dominating at the point of attack.
12. Kansas State: Carson Coffman and Daniel Thomas were named as starters today by Bill Snyder. Coffman was effective at times last season as Josh Freeman’s backup, but remains a question mark as he takes over the starting job. The position changes of Lamark Brown and Logan Dold opened up the running back job in training camp and the 227-pound Thomas took advantage. Brandon Banks is a strong player who belies his size as a receiver and kick returner. The offensive line remains a question after a season-ending injury to Brock Unruh leaves only Nick Stringer and a cast of unknowns to share playing time.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder has been working heralded junior college transfer Daniel Thomas at running back during most of practice.
Thomas, a transfer from Northwest Mississippi Junior College, was considered as a potential contender for the Wildcats at quarterback. But Snyder has played him at running back with the emergence of Carson Coffman and Grant Gregory at quarterback.
"He is really a fun guy to watch," Snyder said of Thomas. "I think he is going to be a good player. As we all know, he is kind of multi-faceted and he can do a number of things, which makes him more than just a single, isolated threat as just a running back."
Thomas is in the mix along with Keithen Valentine, who leads the group and is the most experienced player at the position. Valentine rushed for 129 yards in eight games last season.
Other potential contenders include redshirt freshman Jarell Childs and freshman John Hubert, who both have showed flashes of potential in the Wildcats' early work as they prepare for their Sept. 5 opener against Massachusetts.
"When you talk about depth, you talk about quality depth, and we've got some numbers at running back," Snyder said.
But Thomas, a 6-foot-2, 227-pounder who rushed for 618 yards and six touchdowns and passed for 450 more yards and two TDs, has been one of the more intriguing parts of the Wildcats' offensive work during fall camp.
"He can be utilized in the running game, the passing game, and can become a blocker as well," Snyder said. "But all running backs normally have to be that way, and we will utilize Daniel to do the things he can do best."
Thomas' development and the depth at the position has enabled Snyder to switch his two leading rushers from 2008 to other positions.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
I was brought up in an era of distinctive achievements like 100-yard rushing and receiving games and 300-yard passing performances.
That's why I still look at these kind of efforts as a personal benchmark when I measure the effectiveness of rushers, passers and receivers.
And it sent me scrambling to the NCAA website for some information about Big 12 players.
I was curious about the number of 100-yard rushing and receiving games and 300-yard passing games that returning Big 12 players have compiled over the course of their careers.
Here's a list of the active leaders heading into the upcoming season.
100-yard rushing games No. High game Opponent Year
Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State 11 210 Houston 2008
Chris Brown, Oklahoma 7 169 @Baylor 2006
DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma 7 128 vs. Texas 2007
Jake Sharp, Kansas 6 181 Kansas State 2008
Robert Griffin, Baylor 4 217 Wash. State 2008
Jay Finley, Baylor 3 119 Wash. State 2008
Rodney Stewart, Colorado 3 166 West Virginia 2008
Alexander Robinson, Iowa State 3 149 @Missouri 2007
Derrick Washington, Missouri 3 139 @Nebraska 2008
Roy Helu Jr., Nebraska 3 166 Colorado 2008
Keith Toston, Oklahoma State 3 148 Mo. State 2008
Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State 3 144 @Baylor 2007
Quentin Castille, Nebraska 2 125 Clemson* 2008
Colt McCoy, Texas 2 106 @Okla. State 2007
Lamark Brown, Kansas State 1 137 La.-Lafayette 2008
Logan Dold, Kansas State 1 115 @Texas A&M 2008
Mossis Madu, Oklahoma 1 114 Missouri ** 2008
Cody Johnson, Texas 1 102 Texas A&M 2008
Note: * - 2009 Gator Bowl
** - 2008 Big 12 championship game
300-yard passing games No. High game Opponent Year
Todd Reesing, Kansas 13 412 La. Tech 2008
Sam Bradford, Oklahoma 13 468 Kansas 2008
Colt McCoy, Texas &nb
sp; 10 414 Ohio State*** 2008
Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State 5 430 Texas 2007
Austen Arnaud, Iowa State 3 440 Kansas State 2008
Cody Hawkins, Colorado 2 322 Alabama **** 2007
Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M 2 419 Kansas State 2008
*** - 2009 Fiesta Bowl
**** - 2007 Independence Bowl
100-yard receiving games No. High game Opponent Year
Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State 8 236 Houston 2008
Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas 7 269 @Oklahoma 2008
Kerry Meier, Kansas 5 136 Sam Houston St. 2008
Brandon Banks, Kansas State 4 153 @Louisville 2008
Jordan Shipley, Texas 3 168 Okla. State 2008
Edward Britton, Texas Tech 3 139 Texas 2008
Kendall Wright, Baylor 2 132 Iowa State 2008
Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M 2 210 Kansas State 2008
Scotty McKnight, Colorado 1 106 Colo. State 2007
Darius Darks, Iowa State 1 113 @Okla. State 2008
Jake Sharp, Kansas 1 107 @Iowa State 2008
Johnathan Wilson, Kansas 1 179 @South Florida 2008
Daymond Patterson, Kansas 1 130 Louisiana Tech 2008
Jeron Mastrud, Kansas State 1 103 @Kansas 2006
Aubrey Quarles, Kansas State 1 102 @Texas A&M 2008
Danario Alexander, Missouri &nb
sp; 1 117 vs. Kansas 2007
Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma 1 158 @Okla. State 2008
Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma 1 141 Cincinnati 2008
Brandon Collins, Texas 1 103 Texas A&M 2008
Malcolm Williams, Texas 1 182 @Texas Tech 2008
Jamie McCoy, Texas A&M 1 110 @Iowa State 2008
Detron Lewis, Texas Tech 1 163 East. Wash. 2008
Tramain Swindall, Texas Tech 1 101 @Texas A&M 2008
Source: ESPN.com research
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- After driving more than 1,100 miles and meeting with five of the six coaches in the North Division over the last week, it would seem that I would have a pretty good idea who should be the favorite for next season.
But after meeting with Bill Snyder earlier today to finish off my North swing, I'm more confused than ever who should be favored.
Confidence is high at both Kansas and Nebraska. The Jayhawks believe they finally have an offense to contend with Oklahoma and Texas. The defense -- minus three starting linebackers -- is another story.
And Nebraska feels reasonably confident about its defense with the return of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and several other key defense players. The offense, which will start a new quarterback and two new wide receivers figures to be a lot like the Cornhuskers were back in the 1980s -- the Big Red ground machine -- with a lot of Roy Helu Jr. and Quentin Castille.
If you could morph Kansas and Nebraska together, I think you might be able to find a Big 12 championship-caliber team. The Jayhawks' offense, supported by the Cornhuskers' defense, would be a salty combination. But both teams are lacking one key element that makes it unlikely the conference championship will come back to the North Division for the first time since 2003.
After visiting every Big 12 team but Colorado, here are some of my perceptions.
- I was really impressed with the confidence emanating from Kansas players like wide receiver Kerry Meier. He might be ready to catch 100+ balls this season. But the Jayhawks need Dezmon Briscoe back in the lineup if they are going to challenge for their first Big 12 title.
- The most athletic looking player I saw during my brief glimpses of practice was Suh, who could be poised for an even bigger season after last year's breakout campaign. He told me after practice that he didn't come back to college intent on picking up many awards. He might not be able to help himself -- particularly with the Outland Trophy being presented in Omaha next January.
- It's hard not to like new Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads. He reminds me a lot of former Cyclone head coach Dan McCarney because of his people skills and his upbeat enthusiasm. Like it was for McCarney, all of those skills will be tested during his first season in Ames.
- While watching Missouri practice, I was more impressed with the play of backup quarterback Jimmy Costello than heralded prospective No. 1 quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Now Gabbert made a bunch of good throws when I saw him, but Costello did too. I don't expect Costello to make a legitimate challenge for the starting job, but if plays like I saw him on Tuesday, he's got a shot.
- It was interesting to compare the media hordes at the various practices. Bo Pelini's appearance on Saturday drew a crowd of more than 30 media members from all over the state. The Cornhuskers traditionally receive the most extensive media coverage in the league. And the excitement from last season's Gator Bowl victory over Clemson has done nothing to diminish that.
- Bill Snyder looked as relaxed as any time I have interviewed him over the years, seemingly re-engergized after his three-year sabbatical from football. As is his tradition, he was wearing his customary coat and tie to the office -- an offseason outfit different than most head coaches. It's like he never left.
- Snyder had a couple of tidbits of news and provided me with the basis of a nice profile. First, all jobs are open on his starting team and he's not even thinking of using a depth chart when practice begins next week. Leading 2008 rusher Lamark Brown has requested a position change earlier this spring to wide receiver that will be granted. And heralded junior-college quarterback/running back recruit Daniel "Big Boy" Thomas of Northwest Mississippi Community College should be eligible when the Wildcats begin preseason camp later this summer.
- I'm the first to admit to being a barbecue snob considering where I grew up. I think Kansas City-style Q ranks with most Texas versions, but nowhere near what I grew up with. The Memphis barbecue is going to be the biggest thing that John Calipari misses when he leaves the Bluff City for Kentucky. I can already feel his pain.
- Are there really many inventions that are better than satellite radio? Nothing passes time better on the Kansas Turnpike than a Jimmy Buffett buffet or a Bruce Springsteen concert replay that is readily available over most satellite channels.
- Watch for feature stories over the next several days from my various stops. And I'm planning to be in Austin Sunday afternoon for the Longhorns' scrimmage to wrap up their spring practices.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Bill Snyder's rebuilding job at Kansas State just got a lot more difficult.
Quarterback Josh Freeman told ESPN.com's Joe Schad Thursday that he will declare for the NFL draft. It leaves a giant hole for the Wildcats' new coach as he attempts to bring the program back to the success it had when Snyder led it to a Big 12 championship and 11 consecutive bowl appearances from 1993-2003.
Freeman appeared to have been an ideal quarterback to work in Snyder's system, which always valued big, tough running quarterbacks who could move outside the pocket like Michael Bishop, Matt Miller and Ell Roberson. But that won't happen for the 6-foot-6, 250-pound Freeman as he moves on to the NFL.
The Wildcats return a workable nucleus next season keyed by do-everything wide receiver Brandon Banks, sophomore running back Lamark Brown and wide receiver Deon Murphy. Most key players on the defense also return, giving Snyder some talent when he starts coaching again.
But the loss of Freeman was huge. Although the highest-regarded quarterback of the modern KSU era never developed into the player that some recruiting analysts thought when he picked the Wildcats over Nebraska, he still was a solid quarterback. He had a special knack of tormenting Texas, beating the Longhorns in 2006 and 2007.
It means that sophomore Carson Coffman inherits the starting quarterback heading into spring practice. But expect new KSU offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig to be beating the bushes the next several weeks in hopes of turning up a junior-college quarterback who could contribute immediately or perhaps even start for KSU.
The North Division appears wide open with no real true favorite next season. Nebraska and Missouri were the two best teams in the division this season and both lose their starting quarterbacks to graduation. Freeman could have helped push the Wildcats into a potential darkhorse role as a North Division challenger if he had stayed.
That now changes without Freeman. It will be a big struggle for Snyder to work his magic and take the Wildcats back to a bowl game.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here's a look at some tidbits from around the league that are transpiring as teams get ready for games this week.
1. Both Kansas and Oklahoma have added more playmakers to their special teams after recent struggles for both teams covering and returning kickoffs. Bob Stoops plans to add four new members to his kick coverage team that has been blistered for two TD returns, including a pivotal 96-yard return by Texas' Jordan Shipley last week that turned the game around. And Kansas coach Mark Mangino has talked about placing starters like James Holt and Joe Mortensen on his special teams as the Jayhawks rank last in the nation in kick returns. The Jayhawks are averaging 12.4 yards per kickoff -- almost three yards per return less than the next-lowest team, Kent State at 118th.
2. Iowa State has inserted freshman Jerome Tiller as its backup quarterback after Phillip Bates left school. Coach Gene Chizik hopes that he can still make it through the season using only Austen Arnaud as the quarterback and keeping the redshirts intact for Tiller and fellow freshman Bret Bueker. Early word is that Bates likely won't resurface at another Big 12 school because it would cost him an additional season in the transfer. A more likely location would be a FCS school where he could play immediately or an FBS school like Ohio University, where his family already has a strong association with coach Frank Solich. Bates' father, Phillip Bates Sr., was a running back at Nebraska who played there when Solich was his position coach under Tom Osborne.
3. Texas ditched using a tight end in favor of a four-wide receiver look as its base offensive formation against Oklahoma. And the unit's success -- 438 total yards and 20 combined catches from Quan Cosby and Shipley -- make it likely to be used more during the rest of the season. Starting tight end Blaine Irby's season-ending injury robbed the Longhorns of their top receiving threat at the position. The four-receiver sets have made the Longhorns lethal in terms of big-play capabilities, but a little weaker trying to consistently run the ball.
4. Considering the recent injury to Lamark Brown, it wasn't surprising that quarterback Josh Freeman emerged as a key rushing threat in the Wildcats' victory last week over Texas A&M. Freeman produced career-high totals of 18 carries, 95 yards and four rushing touchdowns against the Aggies. In the philosophy of Kansas State quarterbacks coach Warren Ruggiero and offensive coordinator Dave Brock, the quarterback is used as more of a rushing weapon. Freeman has gained positive rushing yards in each of his six starts this season. Before this season, Freeman had netted positive yards in only eight of his 20 previous career starts.
5. Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman is doing what he can to instill discipline on his team, even if it affects its performance in the short term. Key players Michael Bennett and Mike Goodson weren't in the starting lineup last week against Kansas State after discipline issues, paving the way for the Wildcats to jump to an early 27-3 lead over Sherman's beleaguered team. Sherman is hoping that his struggles bottom out as he tries to make the Aggies know they've got a firm leader running the program.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here's a look at who's hot and who's not around the Big 12, as well as a few other nuggets to provide some interest heading into Saturday's games. Enjoy.
Missouri's offense with Chase Daniel in charge. With Daniel running Missouri's No. 1 offensive unit, the Tigers have yet to have a single three-and-out possession.
Oklahoma State's offense. The Cowboys have produced two of the eight best "total offense" games in school history in the last three games -- 699 yards against Houston and 612 against Troy.
Missouri's defense, which has struggled all season, mainly because senior safety William Moore has been injured much of the year. The Tigers are last in the league in total defense, allowing 378.5 yards per game.
Oklahoma, which is one of three FBS teams not to fumble this season. The Sooners lead the nation in red-zone offense, converting 19 attempts into 18 touchdowns and a field goal.
Oklahoma's special teams. The Sooners are ranked 104th in kickoff return yardage allowed per kick, 51st in punt return yardage allowed per punt and 95th in net punting average.
Missouri, which has trailed for 13 seconds all season.
Missouri's cornerbacks, who have produced only two interceptions in the Tigers' last 19 games.
Freshman Kansas State defensive end Brandon Herald, who has notched three sacks and eight-and-a-half tackles for losses after only four games.
Colorado's depth in the offensive line. Since the start of fall camp, the Buffaloes have lost six offensive linemen because of injuries, academics and suspensions.
Kansas State wide receiver Brandon Banks, who leads the nation in yards receiving per game (115.8 ypg) and has produced at least one touchdown in all four games.
Baylor, which has lost 39 of its last 41 games against ranked teams since joining the Big 12. The Bears have lost 13 straight games against ranked teams since beating Texas A&M 35-34 on Oct. 30, 2004.
Kansas State running back Lamark Brown, a converted wide receiver who has emerged as the Wildcats' leading rushing threat after producing 137 yards on 29 carries last week against Louisiana-Lafayette.
Kansas State's rush defense, which has been gashed for more than 300 yards in back-to-back games by Louisville and Louisiana-Lafayette.
Nebraska's special teams, specificially at home against Missouri. In the Cornhuskers' last six home games against the Tigers, they have produced four punt returns for touchdowns.
Preseason All-Big 12 kick returner Marcus Hereford of Kansas, who has produced an average of only 11.4 yards per kick return.
Kansas State's offensive line, which hasn't allowed a sack in the first four games of the season.
Oklahoma's offensive line, which allowed four sacks and produced only 25 rushing yards last week against TCU. It was the lowest rushing total for the Sooners in 82 games, dating back to a 37-27 victory over Alabama on Sept. 7, 2002, where they produced minus-23 yards.
Multi-talented Missouri wide receiver/kick returner Jeremy Maclin, who has accounted for multiple touchdowns rushing (five), receiving (13), on punt returns (two) and kickoff returns (two). The only other active players with at least career touchdowns in all of those categories are seniors Derrick Williams of Penn State and Brandon Tate of North Carolina.
Texas Tech's opponents so far this season. Of the four teams the Red Raiders have beaten, they have combined for one victory over a FBS program - Nevada's triumph over UNLV.
Colorado's special teams against Florida State last week. The Buffaloes had a punt blocked through the end zone for a safety and allowed a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Returner Josh Smith also fumbled a kickoff at the 4-yard line and kicker Aric Goodman misfired on a 27-yard field goal attempt.
Weird statistical trend: Missouri is 10-3 in games where Chase Daniel has attempted 40 or more passes. Before he earned the team's starting job in 2006, the Tigers were just 1-12-1 in games where a Tiger quarterback had 40 pass attempts or more.
The chart, part I
Missouri wide receiver/kick returner Jeremy Maclin is one of the most versatile players in the nation. But he's been overshadowed in most Heisman polls so far this season.
Here's how Maclin's numbers compare with those of Desmond Howard, who was the last wide receiver to claim the Heisman in 1991.
|Desmond Howard||Jeremy Maclin|
|Receptions per game||5.5||6.5|
|Rec. yards per game||86.4||97.8|
|All-purpose yards per game||165.8||193.5|
|TD average per game||2.1||1.5|
Obviously, if Howard could break a couple of big plays in the next several games, it would immeasurably boost his Heisman hopes.
Source: ESPN.com research.
The chart, part II
Texas is on a remarkable recent streak, winning 34 of its last 37 road games. Here's a look at the road games that Texas has lost during that time.
Nov. 16, 2002 at Texas Tech 38-42
Nov. 11, 2006 at Kansas State 42-45
Nov. 23, 2007 at Texas A&M 30-38
Note: Texas' record in neutral-site games during that period is a more pedestrian 9-9, which includes six losses to Oklahoma in Dallas and three bowl-game losses.
Here are some of the more notable quotes around the Big 12 this week.
"I don't know how many ways you can say it creatively,but we're going through the gauntlet. If you want to spend time handing out game balls because you beat West Virginia or having funerals because you lost to Florida State, that's wrong. You just keep repooling and working it out."
ure over the last two weeks.
"This is not like the NFL, where you might go to the playoffs with a 9-7 record. You don't have that many opportunities in college football, because every game matters. It would do us a lot of good to come out and play well."
Kansas State coach Ron Prince on his team's mindset heading into its game against Texas Tech.
"I've never gone into a game making concessions. I won't start this week. We're going to play the best we possibly can and try to shut them out."
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini on trying to derail Missouri's explosive offensive attack.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
With Big 12 teams concluding the nonconference portion of their schedules, reporters have a chance to take stock of where the league is heading into conference games. Here's a few links that detail what's happening around the league Wednesday.
- The Dallas Morning News' Chuck Carlton has an extensive look at the Big 12's bests so far, giving Chase Daniel a slight edge over Colt McCoy for the league's MVP. Just curious what my readers think about that?
- Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman does a detailed study comparing Texas' 4-0 team this year with last season's team.
- Emerging Missouri tailback Derrick Washington always dreamed of playing for Nebraska but ended up with the Tigers when the Cornhuskers didn't offer him a scholarship. All-American WR Jeremy Maclin seriously considered Nebraska as well, but lost interest when former Nebraska coach Bill Callahan wanted him to grayshirt (meaning he could enroll part-time his first year but not go on scholarship until the following year) before his first season.
- After struggling to develop into a wide receiver, Kansas State's Lamark Brown has finally found a home at running back.
- Despite a 17-0 record against Baylor in series history, Oklahoma players are preparing for their trip to Waco like they have a target on their backs.
- A multiplicity of offensive weapons has Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Christensen prepared for almost any game situation.