Big 12: Levi Norwood

Five days before Big 12 media days get underway, the conference has released its official preseason All-Big 12 team as well as its preseason award-winners, as voted on by conference media.

Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty was named Big 12 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. No surprise there. Oklahoma State RB/WR Tyreek Hill, the speedy juco transfer from Garden City (Kansas) Community College, received preseason Newcomer of the Year honors.

The more debatable award, preseason Defensive Player of the Year, went to TCU defensive end Devonte Fields. He played in just three games in 2013 due to a foot injury but was voted the league's top defender and newcomer in 2012 as a true freshman.

Baylor led the way with seven players on the All-Big 12 team. Kansas State had five selections on the squad, and Oklahoma received four. Only one Big 12 program -- Oklahoma State -- did not have at least one player make the team.

All-Big 12 Team

QB Bryce Petty, Baylor
RB Shock Linwood, Baylor
RB Malcolm Brown, Texas
WR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
WR Antwan Goodley, Baylor
TE E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State
OL Spencer Drango, Baylor
OL Cody Whitehair, Kansas State
OL B.J. Finney, Kansas State
OL Daryl Williams, Oklahoma
OL Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech

DL Ryan Mueller, Kansas State
DL Devonte Fields, TCU
DL Chucky Hunter, TCU
DL Cedric Reed, Texas
LB Bryce Hager, Baylor
LB Ben Heeney, Kansas
LB Eric Striker, Oklahoma
DB Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma
DB Sam Carter, TCU
DB Quandre Diggs, Texas
DB Karl Joseph, West Virginia

PK Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma
P Spencer Roth, Baylor
KR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
PR Levi Norwood, Baylor

There aren't many snubs to be found from this year's team. You can make a case for a bunch of other players -- TCU cornerback Kevin White, Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman, Texas' Johnathan Gray and Malcom Brown, West Virginia's Quinton Spain and Nick O'Toole. But based on 2013 performance, this list looks about right.

Any more exclusions stand out to you? Should Ryan Mueller or someone else win DPOY? Hit us with your complaints in the comments below.
Tuesday, the Biletnikoff Award released its watch list for the upcoming this season. The Biletnikoff is given to the top receiver in college football. The only two two-time winners of the award both hailed from the Big 12 (Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon and Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree).

Here are the Big 12 players that made this year's watch list:

Our All-Big 12 ballots

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

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

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

But before we do that, the ballots:

BRANDON CHATMON'S BALLOT

Offense

WR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

TE: E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State

OL: Spencer Drango, Baylor

OL: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech

C: Dominic Espinosa, Texas

OL: Cody Whitehair, Kansas State

OL: Daryl Williams, Oklahoma

WR: Antwan Goodley, Baylor

QB: Bryce Petty, Baylor

RB: Malcolm Brown, Texas

RB: Shock Linwood, Baylor

PK: Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma

PR: Levi Norwood, Baylor

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

DL: Devonte Fields, TCU

DL: Ryan Mueller, Kansas State

DL: Cedric Reed, Texas

DL: Charles Tapper, Oklahoma

LB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma

LB: Bryce Hager, Baylor

LB: Ben Heeney, Kansas

DB: Kevin White, TCU

DB: Daryl Worley, West Virginia

DB: Kevin Peterson, Oklahoma State

DB: Sam Carter, TCU

P: Trevor Pardula, Kansas

KR: B.J. Catalon, TCU

Player of the Year Awards

Offensive Player of the Year: Bryce Petty, Baylor

Defensive Player of the Year: Devonte Fields, TCU

Newcomer of the Year: Nick Harwell, Kansas

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

MAX OLSON'S BALLOT

Offense

WR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

TE: E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State

OL: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech

OL: Cody Whitehair, Kansas State

C: B.J. Finney, Kansas State

OL: Quinton Spain, West Virginia

OL: Spencer Drango, Baylor

WR: Antwan Goodley, Baylor

QB: Bryce Petty, Baylor

RB: Malcolm Brown, Texas

RB: Shock Linwood, Baylor

PK: Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma

PR: Levi Norwood, Baylor

Defense

DL: Devonte Fields, TCU

DL: Chucky Hunter, TCU

DL: Malcom Brown, Texas

DL: Cedric Reed, Texas

LB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma

LB: Bryce Hager, Baylor

LB: Ben Heeney, Kansas

DB: Quandre Diggs, Texas

DB: Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma

DB: Sam Carter, TCU

DB: Chris Hackett, TCU

P: Nick O'Toole, West Virginia

KR: B.J. Catalon, TCU

Player of the Year Awards

Offensive Player of the Year: Bryce Petty, Baylor

Defensive Player of the Year: Devonte Fields, TCU

Newcomer of the Year: Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State

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

JAKE TROTTER'S BALLOT

Offense

WR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

TE: E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State

OL: Spencer Drango, Baylor

OL: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech

C: B.J. Finney, Kansas State

OL: Quinton Spain, West Virginia

OL: Cody Whitehair, Kansas State

WR: Antwan Goodley, Baylor

QB: Bryce Petty, Baylor

RB: Johnathan Gray, Texas

RB: Keith Ford, Oklahoma

PK: Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma

PR: Daje Johnson, Texas

Defense

DL: Devonte Fields, TCU

DL: Chucky Hunter, TCU

DL: Malcom Brown, Texas

DL: Shawn Oakman, Baylor

LB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma

LB: Ben Heeney, Kansas

LB: Bryce Hager, Baylor

DB: Daryl Worley, West Virginia

DB: Kevin White, TCU

DB: Sam Carter, TCU

DB: Quandre Diggs, Texas

P: Nick O'Toole, West Virginia

KR: Corey Coleman, Baylor

Player of the Year Awards

Offensive Player of the Year: Bryce Petty, Baylor

Defensive Player of the Year: Devonte Fields, TCU

Newcomer of the Year: Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State

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

That ball got rolling Monday morning with the release of the watch lists for the Maxwell (player of the year), Bednarik (defensive player of the year) and Hornung (most versatile player) awards.

Here are the Big 12 players who made each watch list.

Maxwell
Bednarik
Hornung
With spring ball done, we’re reexamining and re-ranking the positional situations of every Big 12 team, continuing Wednesday with receivers (and tight ends). These outlooks could look different in August. But here’s how we see them post-spring:

1. Baylor (pre-spring ranking: 1): The Bears maintained their commanding advantage over any other receiving corps in the league. Antwan Goodley remains an All-American candidate, and Corey Coleman looks primed to become Baylor’s next great wideout following a spectacular spring. Levi Norwood, Jay Lee and Clay Fuller are proven performers. And more talent is about to arrive, including blue-chip freshman K.D. Cannon. The Baylor receivers are as formidable as any position grouping in the league.

2. Texas Tech (3): The Red Raiders lost their two best pass-catchers from last year in tight end Jace Amaro and Eric Ward, but this group is overflowing with dynamic young talent. After reeling in two touchdowns in the bowl and dominating Texas Tech’s spring game, Jakeem Grant looks like he’s on the verge of becoming a star in the league. Bradley Marquez should be even sharper after giving up baseball to focus on football this offseason. And the speedy Reginald Davis is a potential big-play threat on the perimeter. All three players can fly, and they have a quarterback in Davis Webb who can deliver the ball to them down field. The unit goes deep in the rotation, too, with D.J. Polite-Bray, Devin Lauderdale, Jordan Davis and Derreck Edwards all poised to be factors.

3. Oklahoma State (4): The Cowboys don’t have a Justin Blackmon or Dez Bryant. But they have a deep rotation and a budding All-Big 12 candidate in Jhajuan Seales, who is ready to take over as the offense’s go-to receiver. Marcell Ateman, David Glidden and Brandon Sheperd were all significant parts of the corps last year, as well, and Blake Webb and Austin Hays, who both made starts two years ago as true freshmen, bounced back from injury-plagued 2013 seasons to impress in the spring. Track star/running back Tyreek Hill also will line up in the slot at times and will be a home-run threat any time he touches the ball. Considering none of the projected eight in the two-deep will be a senior, this group should only continue to get better, too.

4. Texas (5): Don’t fault the Texas receivers for not making a bigger impact in the spring game. For three quarters, reserve quarterback Tyrone Swoopes struggled to get them the ball. While the Longhorns probably lack an All-Big 12-caliber performer, they boast an experienced, reliable trio in three-year starter Jaxon Shipley and juniors Kendall Sanders and Marcus Johnson. Daje Johnson, who caught a Hail Mary from Swoopes in the spring game, brings even more playmaking to the group as a full-time receiver. Texas obviously has QB issues. But if the Horns can find the right player there, that QB will have reliable weapons to operate within the passing game.

5. Kansas State (2): K-State still has one of the best receivers in the country in Tyler Lockett, who is deserving of preseason All-American consideration. But the rest of the unit didn’t round out during the spring as well as the Wildcats would have hoped. Curry Sexton (eight catches for 88 yards) and Deante Burton (six catches for 48 yards) were both solid in the spring game. So was freshman Judah Jones, who hauled in a 51-yard scoring grab. But converted QB Daniel Sams still has a ways to go before making a huge impact, and highly touted juco transfer Andre Davis failed to make a big spring splash. Any receiving corps featuring Lockett is going to be a handful. But the supporting cast still needs work.

6. Iowa State (7): The Cyclones have the top returning pass-catching tight end in the league in E.J. Bibbs, who coach Paul Rhoads believes could vie for All-American honors. Quenton Bundrage has all-league potential, though he disappeared too many times last season, and did so again in the spring game. Jarvis West has proven he can make plays out of the slot, and the Cyclones have depth on the perimeter in P.J. Harris, Brett Medders and D'Vario Montgomery, who all developed rapidly during the spring. With highly touted signee Allen Lazard set to join the rotation, the Cyclones could boast their best receiving corps in several years.

7. Oklahoma (6): The Sooners feature a bona-fide No. 1 receiver in Sterling Shepard, who has 96 career catches his first two seasons. But the position is the Sooners' biggest question mark. With 12 catches last year, Durron Neal is the team's second-leading returning receiver. Austin Bennett, Jordan Smallwood and Derrick Woods all had moments in the spring game, but the competition for snaps will carry over into the fall. Talented four-star incoming freshman Michiah Quick could be a factor in the slot once he gets to Norman.

8. West Virginia (8): Starters Mario Alford, Kevin White and Daikiel Shorts are all back, but, collectively, must produce more consistently than they did last season. Alford seems to be the key. He had 215 receiving yards in West Virginia’s final game of 2013, and he has the talent and speed to give the Mountaineers a dangerous No. 1 wideout. Cody Clay is a valuable tight end, though does most of his damage with his blocking. Shelton Gibson, who was ineligible last year and this spring as a partial qualifier, is a former four-star recruit and could give West Virginia a boost.

9. TCU (9): The Horned Frogs actually had two positive developments at this position during the spring. Jordan Moore made a seamless transition from running back to receiver and is in line to give TCU a physical and fast presence on the outside. Then, former Texas A&M QB Matt Joeckel transferred in, potentially clearing the way for Trevone Boykin to swing back to receiver. This group has depth, with Ty Slanina, Josh Doctson, David Porter and Cameron Echols-Luper returning. But the future of the most talented receiver on the roster -- Brandon Carter -- remains in doubt after he was recently arrested on suspicion of marijuana possession, after sitting out spring ball to focus on academics.

10: Kansas (10): The Jayhawks might be at the bottom here, but they seem primed to field their best one-two punch at receiver since Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe roamed Lawrence five years ago. Miami (Ohio) transfer Nick Harwell has taken on a much-needed vocal leadership role among this group and brings a track record of production, having finished second nationally in receiving in 2011. Flanking Harwell will be former running back Tony Pierson, who made the full-time move to receiver this offseason. While he’s raw as a receiver, Pierson is capable of the big play. Rodriguez Coleman also emerged this spring as potential viable third option. The dark days of the Jayhawk receivers posing no threat in the passing game appear to be over.
Over the next two weeks, we’ll be analyzing the depth charts of every Big 12 team coming out of the spring. We start with Baylor, which released an official two-deep shortly after concluding spring ball in early April.

OFFENSE

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsCan Bryce Petty be even better this season?
QB: Bryce Petty (Sr.), Seth Russell (So.)

The Bears have one of the top returning quarterbacks in college football in Petty, who was phenomenal last year in his first season as a starter. With a year of experience under his belt, there’s no reason to believe he won’t be better in 2014. Russell performed well in limited duty last year, suggesting the Bears could survive at least a minor injury to Petty.

RB: Shock Linwood (So.) or Devin Chafin (So.), Johnny Jefferson (RFr.), Terence Williams (Fr.)

The Bears boast four potentially outstanding runners who all have at least three seasons of eligibility remaining. Linwood finished sixth in the Big 12 in rushing last season, despite backing up Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin. Jefferson, however, was the back who created the most buzz during the spring. The 5-foot-11, 200-pounder looks poised to give the Bears a dynamic home-run threat to complement the rest of the backfield. It’s not often a program can lose two talents like Seastrunk and Martin and remain loaded.

WR: Antwan Goodley (Sr.), Davion Hall (Fr.)

WR: Jay Lee (Jr.) or Robbie Rhodes (So.), Quan Jones (RFr.)

IR: Corey Coleman (So.) or Clay Fuller (Sr.), Cal Spangler (Jr.)

IR: Levi Norwood (Sr.), Lynx Hawthorne (So.)

TE: Tre’von Armstead (So.) or Gus Penning (Jr.), Jordan Feuerbacher (Fr.)

Despite graduating all-conference performer Tevin Reese, the Bears should easily have the deepest collection of pass-catchers in the Big 12. Coleman was tremendous all spring, capped by a 47-yard receiving effort in the spring game. He and Rhodes could have breakout campaigns in their second years in the rotation. Goodley is one of the two best wideouts in the league along with Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett, and Lee, Fuller and Norwood are all proven commodities. More firepower is on the way this summer, including hotshot freshman K.D. Cannon, who looks like a virtual lock to crack the rotation somewhere.

LT: Spencer Drango (Jr.), Pat Colbert (Jr.)

LG: LaQuan McGowan (Jr.) or Blake Muir (Jr.)

C: Kyle Fuller (So.), Tyler Edwards (Sr.)

RG: Desmine Hilliard (Jr.), Jarell Broxton (Jr.)

RT: Troy Baker (Sr.), Tyler Edwards (Sr.)

The Bears lose unanimous All-American guard Cyril Richardson, but will get a huge boost if Drango makes a full recovery from a back injury he suffered late last season. With Drango out, Baylor’s blindside pass protection also suffered the final month of the season. When healthy, Drango is one of the best pass-protecting left tackles in the country. Baker, who started as a sophomore, returned late last season after tearing his ACL last spring to reclaim his starting job, which he held through the spring. With Hilliard returning at guard, Fuller locking down the starting job at center and other quality depth inside, the Bears should be very solid on the offensive line -- provided Drango can get healthy and Baker can stay healthy at the bookends.

DEFENSE

[+] EnlargeShawn Oakman
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsShawn Oakman has elevated his game.
RE: Shawn Oakman (Jr.), K.J. Smith (RFr.)

NT: Andrew Billings (So.), Suleiman Masumbuko (Jr.)

DT: Beau Blackshear (Jr.) or Javonte Magee (So.), Byron Bonds (So.)

LE: Jamal Palmer (Jr.), Sam Ukwuachu (Jr.)

Last week, Baylor coach Art Briles said he’d put his top-seven defensive linemen against any other top seven in college football. The unit still has a lot to prove to reach that level, but there’s no denying the potential. Oakman elevated his game to another level this spring, and was basically unblockable. He’s a candidate to be an All-Big 12 performer even in a league that’s stocked at defensive end. The fact that Magee is listed as a co-starter with Blackshear -- a starter last season -- underscores what the coaching staff thinks of Magee, who before taking last year off due to personal matters was among the most highly touted recruits Briles had ever signed. This group is high on ability, and has the capability to prove their coach right in the fall.

WLB: Aiavion Edwards (So.), Taylor Young (RFr.) or Raaquan Davis(RFr.)

MLB: Bryce Hager (Sr.), Grant Campbell (Jr.) or Kendall Ehrlich (So.)

Hager missed the final four games of last season due to a groin injury, which also kept him out this spring. But Hager is about as reliable as it gets in the Big 12, having earned second-team all-conference honors the last two years. Edwards is the one to watch. He was given the first nod on the weak side, after playing in the middle last season and in the spring in place of Hager. But he’ll have to perform to fend off the competition, including Young, who impressed defensive coordinator Phil Bennett during the spring with his nose for the ball.

NB: Collin Brence (Sr.), Pat Levels (So.)

CB: Terrence Singleton (So.), Ryan Reid (So.)

CB: Xavien Howard (So.) or Chris Sanders (Jr.)

DS: Orion Stewart (So.), Alfred Pullom (RFr.)

CS: Terrell Burt (Jr.), Taion Sells (So.)

This unit comprises by far the biggest question mark on the team. The Bears should be in good shape at safety. Burt, the only returning starter in the group, will be back shortly from offseason shoulder surgery that kept him out of a spring ball. Briles also singled out Stewart for having a very promising spring as the replacement for All-American Ahmad Dixon. After a series of injury setbacks early in his career, Singleton returned to win a starting job at corner, at least for now. Howard also showed a ton of promise during the spring, but he’ll have competition from Sanders, one of the top juco corners in the country, who had a shoulder injury this spring. Brence, a walk-on, was the biggest surprise in the secondary, and is listed as the starter at nickelback. How this untested unit comes together could ultimately determine whether the Bears repeat as Big 12 champs.

WACO, Texas -- Last season, Baylor won 11 games, claimed a Big 12 championship and played in a BCS bowl game -- all first-time accomplishments for the once-woebegone program.

But as much as the Bears accomplished last season -- they also scored more points (52.4 per game) and gained more yards (618.8) than any other FBS team in the country –- their last performance left a bitter taste in their mouths.

Kind of like Texas dust.

After starting the 2013 season with a 9-0 record and then beating then-No. 25 Texas 30-10 to win a Big 12 championship, the Bears were embarrassed in a 52-42 loss to Central Florida in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. The Knights, who were 17-point underdogs, piled up 556 yards of offense and scored on four straight possessions after Baylor tied the score at 28 in the third quarter. The Bears were penalized 17 times for 135 yards.

[+] EnlargeArt Briles
AP Photo/LM OteroArt Briles and Baylor have the talent to be considered the favorite to repeat as Big 12 champs in 2014.
“It was disappointing because that’s the only game you remember,” Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty said. “I had to be reminded that we won a Big 12 title. I didn’t even remember it because of what happened in the bowl game, and it’s the best thing that’s happened to Baylor football in a long time.”

Baylor coach Art Briles and his players haven’t forgotten the ugly loss more than five months after the bitter defeat in the Arizona desert. It figures to provide the Bears with plenty of motivation as they head into an unexpected Big 12 title defense this coming season.

“I don’t know how you describe sickening,” Briles said. “You hate to have your motivation fueled by getting slapped in the face, but that’s kind of what happened. We know [UCF] has a good football team, but we had to listen to how good we were for more than a month. Sometimes, reality isn’t perception. There was a hungry team on the field and a happy one on the field. We were the happy one.”

While its lackluster performance in the Fiesta Bowl might have sullied what had been a magical season, Baylor will enter the 2014 season as the team to beat in the Big 12. For a program that hadn’t been to a bowl game for 13 consecutive seasons when Briles arrived in 2008, it’s a rare position for the Bears.

“I think we take being the Big 12 champions as a challenge,” Baylor receiver Levi Norwood said. “Guys are targeting us and wanting what we have. We have to go out and do it again. We all know that when we got here, we weren’t that good and it’s not normal for us to be winning. We’re trying to make it normal.”

There’s nothing normal about Baylor under Briles. The Bears bring back much of the offense that shattered nearly every school record last season, although they’ll miss leading rusher Lache Seastrunk (1,177 yards with 11 touchdowns in 2013), All-America guard Cyril Richardson and receiver Tevin Reese (38 catches for 867 yards with eight touchdowns).

Petty, a senior from Midlothian, Texas, is back after completing 62 percent of his passes for 4,200 yards with 32 touchdowns and three interceptions in his first season as a starter.

“He needs to be better and he should be,” Briles said. “He’s expected to be better. You can have a lot of money, but you can’t buy experience. Some things should happen on pre-snap reads. We should know what happens before it happens. He’s a good player and a great leader. That’s why he’s who he is.”

Petty will be surrounded by plenty of proven playmakers in Briles’ high-octane offense. All-America receiver Antwan Goodley is back after catching 71 passes for 1,339 yards with 13 touchdowns last season, and three other Bears wideouts caught at least 32 passes. Tailback Shock Linwood returns after running for 881 yards with eight touchdowns.

“We’ve got some people who can play,” Briles said. “We feel really good about everybody who is around [Petty] offensively. We can be very diverse with everybody around him.”

Petty I had to be reminded that we won a Big 12 title. I didn't even remember it because of what happened in the bowl game, and it's the best thing that's happened to Baylor football in a long time.

-- Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty
The Bears must replace seven starters on defense, but Briles feels much better about his defensive front. Boise State transfer Sam Ukwuachu and sophomore tackle Javonte Magee, who sat out last season after unexpectedly leaving the team, are expected to bolster the defensive front.

“You’d have to shake the tree pretty hard to find three or four universities that have what we have up front,” Briles said.

Now, Briles’ challenge is to make sure his team doesn’t become complacent after last season’s unexpected success.

“That’s the first thing we talked about when we got back to campus,” Briles said. “We had to learn and grow up. We thought we were an accomplished football team and program. We lost [our edge] and got happy. We have to stay humble.”

If the Bears don’t, they might be a one-hit wonder. The Big 12 figures to be even more rugged this coming season. Oklahoma stunned Alabama 45-31 in the Allstate Sugar Bowl to finish 11-2 last season, and former Louisville coach Charlie Strong replaced longtime Texas coach Mack Brown.

“To be honest, we got too happy with where we were,” Petty said. “We became complacent. Every game is a big game that you have to prepare for as a hunter. We kind of bought into what everybody was saying about us, and unfortunately UCF put us in our place. You don’t lose; you learn. We learned a lot from that game, and we’re not going to let it happen again. When you’re building a tradition and dynasty, you can’t talk about complacency. It’s not something that Coach Briles is going to allow.”

The Bears open the 2014 season against SMU on Aug. 31 at McLane Stadium, their new $260 million riverfront stadium. They’ll play at Texas, West Virginia and Oklahoma and versus Texas Tech in Dallas -- opponents they defeated at home last year.

“I think it’s always tough,” Briles said. “If we jump back a year ago, I don’t think people were picking us to be an outright champion. We’ve got to lock our doors and windows. Everybody is coming for us, but we’re going to protect what we got.”
It sure seemed like they came out of nowhere.

Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty and wide receiver Antwan Goodley patiently waited for their time until they were ready to burst onto the college landscape. At this time a year ago both players knew it was finally their time to shine even though few people knew who they were. Petty learned while sitting behind fellow signal-callers Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence, while Goodley watched from the sidelines as big-play pass catchers Terrance Williams and Kendall Wright made names for themselves.

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty and Antwan Goodley
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsBryce Petty and Antwan Goodley took the Big 12 by storm in 2013, but they know they have to work harder this season.
Now, after leading the Bears to their first Big 12 title in 2013, the duo opened spring football as the Big 12’s best quarterback-receiver combination after putting fear in the hearts of defensive backs across the conference.

“We were sitting for a long time,” Goodley said. “We got out there and we had a lot to prove, show what we can do.”

The pair connected 71 times for 1,339 yards and 13 touchdowns, averaging 18.86 yards per completion, with 71.8 percent of their connections resulting in a first down or touchdown during a breakout junior season for both players.

“We’ve grown up in the system together,” Petty said. “We had to wait and we had to be patient, we grew hungry together and it exploded this year for us.”

What could they possibly do for an encore?

“We have to prove last year wasn’t a fluke,” Petty said. “For us it’s ‘Ok, we were the best in the Big 12, why not the best in the nation?’ The encore is to be the best quarterback-receiver duo in the nation and lead Baylor to a Big 12 championship for a second time and get into the playoff and win a national championship.”

All three goals are setting up to be tough tasks. Kansas State’s Jake Waters and Tyler Lockett could insert themselves into the conversation as one of the Big 12’s (and nation’s) top quarterback-receiver duos, Oklahoma will be looking for revenge as a roadblock Baylor defending its conference title, and winning a national championship is never easy for any program, no matter how high it's ascended.

But Goodley and Petty each entered spring drills with an eye on ways to improve. Petty wants to increase his pocket awareness, while Goodley wants to become a more consistent pass catcher. Most importantly, both players mentioned the lack of a national title as confirmation their breakout seasons weren't good enough.

“There are always things we can do to get better,” Goodley said. “We didn’t get where we wanted to, we didn’t get that national championship.”

Petty and Goodley went from unknowns to household names in the span of a year, so they understand that defensive coordinators around the league are preparing to slow them down in 2014 now that they know some of the strengths and weaknesses of the Bears’ big-play duo. Thus, they know they’ll have to be even better if they hope to match their production from 2013.

I feel like next year is going to bring a lot more chemistry between us. We're going to try to put up better numbers than we did this year.

Baylor wideout Antwan Goodley on his 2014 season with quarterback Bryce Petty.
“It’s all about taking it to the next level, it’s not a learning year anymore,” Petty said. “It’s all about what I can do to improve. I need to make sure I prepare, I work and I progress in such a way that next year they’re going to have to prepare for a different Bryce Petty than they saw before.”

Expect Goodley to remain a big part of Petty’s plans one way or another. The Bears quarterback targeted Goodley 108 times last season, an average of 8.31 times per game and 50 more times than any other receiver. His description of Goodley’s talent gives a glimpse at the reason why No. 5 seemed like his best option more often than not.

“He is not your normal receiver,” Petty said. “He’s about as strong and stout as you can possibly be with the ability to run and play fast. When you couple those things together it is hard to stop a guy that is that strong, that powerful but can still blow by you. For me it’s about getting the ball out there and letting him make a play.”

Consistency and less drops could be Goodley’s road to another stellar season. While Petty targeted Goodley more than any other receiver, Levi Norwood (77.6 percent) and Jay Lee (72.7 percent) had better reception percentages when Petty looked their way.

“I’m working on being more consistent with my hands,” Goodley said. “I know I’m going to have to up my game a bit because teams will be gunning for us, not just me. The guys around me, I’m hoping they’ll produce and make plays, which opens up things for me.”

With both players focusing on a clear area of their game they’d like to improve during the offseason, the Big 12 could be looking a different versions of Goodley and Petty in 2014.

“I feel like next year is going to bring a lot more chemistry between us,” Goodley said. “We’re going to try to put up better numbers than we did this year.”

That's a scary thought for any Big 12 defender.
Over the next two weeks, we’ll be breaking down the 10 best players at the moment on every team in the Big 12.

These lists won’t include junior college or freshman signees who haven’t arrived on campus yet. Rather, they will include only the players currently on their teams this spring. Some of these rankings might look different after the spring, but this is how we see them now.

On Monday, we start with the defending Big 12 champs: the Baylor Bears.

1. QB Bryce Petty: Petty is the reigning All-Big 12 quarterback and will begin the 2014 season on the Heisman short list after recording 46 total touchdowns throwing and running with only three interceptions last season. The Bears will start out as a legitimate playoff contender, and Petty will be a major reason why.

[+] EnlargeAntwan Goodley
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsBaylor's Antwan Goodley gives quarterback Bryce Petty a playmaking, go-to wide receiver.
2. WR Antwan Goodley: Every big-time QB needs a go-to receiver, and Goodley is just that and more. He finished with 1,339 receiving yards last season, second in the Big 12 only to Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro by 13 yards. Goodley is physical and he can fly, making him a nightmare matchup for opposing cornerbacks. Like Petty, Goodley will enter the season as an All-American candidate.

3. ILB Bryce Hager: With Eddie Lackey and Ahmad Dixon gone, Hager will be the clear-cut anchor of the Baylor defense once he returns from groin surgery. Hager is a tackling machine and will be a reliable piece for a defense that will be debuting several new starters.

4. LT Spencer Drango: Those outside the Baylor program learned just how valuable Drango was when he wasn’t in the lineup in 2013. After Drango suffered a season-ending back injury, Baylor’s pass protection of Petty slipped substantially the final month of the season. Even though he missed the final three games of the regular season, Drango deservedly was named first-team All-Big 12. With Outland finalist Cyril Richardson gone, Drango will be the headliner on the Baylor offensive line.

5. RB Shock Linwood: Despite being Baylor’s third-team running back last year, Linwood still finished sixth in the Big 12 in rushing with 881 yards. Some of that was due to Art Briles’ system and Baylor’s other offensive weapons. But some of it was due to Linwood’s talent, too. In his first significant action, Linwood shredded Oklahoma’s defense for 182 rushing yards, then followed that up with 187 yards against Texas Tech. Linwood is now the starter, and though he’ll likely share carries with Johnny Jefferson and Devin Chafin, he could put up a full season worth of big rushing totals.

[+] EnlargeLevi Norwood
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsBetween his receiving and kick-returning abilities, Levi Norwood is a dangerous weapon for the Bears.
6. WR Levi Norwood: When Tevin Reese was lost for the regular season with a wrist injury, more throws went Norwood’s way. And he capitalized on those opportunities, totaling 156, 83 and 83 receiving yards in three straight games near the end of the season to finish in the top 10 of the Big 12 in receiving along with teammates Goodley and Reese. Norwood is also a dangerous returner, taking two punts to the house last year. With Reese gone for good, Norwood will step into the No. 2 receiving role alongside Goodley, giving the Bears a formidable one-two punch for Petty to operate with.

7. DT Andrew Billings: Billings was one of the gems of the 2013 recruiting class and commanded a role along the defensive line as a true freshman. In his second year in the program, Billings could be primed for a breakout season. He has the talent, strength and quickness to be the best defensive tackle in the entire league.

8: DT Beau Blackshear: He might get overshadowed by Billings’ hype, but Blackshear has become a solid cog in Phil Bennett’s defense up front. Together, Blackshear and Billings could give the Bears a defensive tackle tandem as good as any in the Big 12.

9. DE Shawn Oakman: At 6-foot-9, 275 pounds, Oakman has the size and length to be a menacing defensive end. He flashed his immense potential several times last year and finished tied for sixth in the Big 12 with 12.5 tackles for loss despite being a part-time player. Oakman will take on a much bigger role on the defense this season, and he has the capability to be an All-Big 12 performer. The trio of Billings, Blackshear and Oakman is the foundation of what Baylor’s defensive line could be under Briles.

10. P Spencer Roth: The Bears featured one of the best special-teams units in the country in 2013, and Roth spearheaded that effort. The All-Big 12 punter was sixth nationally with an average of 45.8 yards per punt. Because of how prolific the Baylor offense is, Roth doesn’t get to punt often. But when he does, he usually swings field position the other way.
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.
Big 12 offenses took a clear step backward in 2013.

Poor quarterback play was the main culprit, but the conference’s lack of elite signal-callers wasn’t the lone reason for the general absence of explosive playmaking in Big 12 stadiums last fall.

Conference pass catchers earned their share of the blame as well.

[+] EnlargeAntwan Goodley
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsAntwan Goodley was dangerous after the catch for Baylor, but in general, explosive plays from wide receivers were down in the Big 12 in 2013.
The 2013 season was the first time the Big 12 had less than four receivers eclipse the 1,000-yard receiving mark since 2006. Baylor’s Antwan Goodley (1,339) and Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett (1,262) were the only receivers to reach that mark.

Yards after catch is one way Big 12 running backs, tight ends and receivers can take ownership over their offense’s success. While the accuracy of the quarterback impacts the opportunities for yards after catch, there has been a correlation between yards after catch and team success in the Big 12 in recent seasons. With the help of ESPN Stats and Information, a closer look at the yards after catch for each Big 12 team during the past three seasons reveals some interesting trends.

  • Ten Big 12 teams have finished the season with at least 2,000 yards after catch during the past three seasons. Those teams averaged 8.9 wins per season, with half of them winning at least 10 games.
  • Baylor’s record-setting offense was spurred by its highest yards-after-catch percentage in the past three years. The 2013 Bears gained 2,281 yards after catch, 48.9 percent of their 4,668 receiving yards during their Big 12 title season. In 2012, 41.6 percent of their receiving yards came after the catch. In 2011, 44.8 percent of their yards came after the catch.
  • Goodley led the league with 598 yards after catch. His yards after catch total would have been no higher than third in the conference in 2012 and 2011. Five different receivers had at least 698 yards after catch in the past three seasons, with Tavon Austin’s 992 for West Virginia in 2012 ranking as the highest individual total during that span.
  • Oklahoma State’s 2,851 yards after catch in 2011 is the highest total during the past three seasons and 56.6 percent of its 5,034 total. The Cowboys went 12-1 and won their first-ever Big 12 championship during that season. Justin Blackmon’s 794 yards after catch led the Big 12 in 2011.
  • Oklahoma struggled with quarterback play throughout the 2013 season, but the Sooners led the league with 58 percent of their receiving yards coming after the catch, the highest percentage in conference during the past three seasons. OU had 2,588 receiving yards, with 1,500 of those coming after the catch. Sterling Shepard paced the way for OU with 384 yards after the catch.
  • Kansas, which has struggled to find playmaking receivers in recent years, hasn’t had more than 1,000 yards after catch in the past three seasons.
  • Not surprisingly, Kansas State is the lone Big 12 team that is barely impacted by yards after catch numbers. The Wildcats recorded a 39.4 yards after catch percentage during the past three seasons for a total of 2,991 yards after catch during that span.
  • Dana Holgorsen’s offense at West Virginia is built around getting athletes in one on one situations and letting them make plays in the open field. The Mountaineers gained 55.3 percent of their receiving yards after the catch during the past three seasons. Although they only spent two of those seasons in the Big 12, the Mountaineers are the only current Big 12 squad who gained at least 50 percent of their yards after catch in each of the past three seasons.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of the numbers via ESPN Stats and Information:







Q&A: Baylor WR coach Kendal Briles

February, 27, 2014
Feb 27
9:00
AM ET
There are few assistants in college football who pulled in a better recruiting haul this year than Kendal Briles.

Earlier this month, the Baylor wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator inked four receivers ranked in the ESPN 300, padding what was already a loaded position in Waco.

As the defending Big 12 champs get ready to open spring practice Friday, Briles took time to talk to ESPN.com about his signing class, the new expectations at Baylor and what he’s learned coaching under his dad -- Bears head coach Art Briles.

Let’s first go through the four receivers you signed, and what each brings to the table. Start with K.D. Cannon, who was recruited by virtually everyone in the country.

[+] EnlargeK.D. Cannon
Tom Hauck/ESPN.comK.D. Cannon is one of four ESPN 300 wide receivers that Baylor signed in the 2014 class, making an already-rich position that much more stacked.
Briles: Well, we feel like we know a lot about K.D. already. He possesses a lot of things you look for in a wide receiver. His body control, how he catches the ball, his shiftiness, competitiveness -- all those things. He’s got a great family and all the intangibles to become a great wide receiver. We’re real excited to get him here in June. From a talent standpoint, he’s off the charts.

What about Davion Hall?

Briles: Davion is already here and is doing a really good job. His body weight has already come up. He looks real good. He’s a powerful, powerful athlete. He’s got really good ball skills. He’s not going to be as fluid as a K.D.-type player, but he’s a really powerful kid who runs well. He’s a great, great person, and wants to be extremely successful. That’s the thing we really love about him; that he's a really good person. We’ll see what he can do here in a few days. He’s going to get a chance to put the pads on and see where he’s at. He’s a little bit nervous, as he should be. But he’s been great since he’s been here working with the strength and conditioning program, and he’s going to compete in spring ball.

Ishmael Zamora?

Briles: Ishmael is a guy who might have the greatest upside of all of them. He was up to 210 pounds when I talked to him the other day. I expect him to win the state title in the 110-meter hurdles again in [Texas Class] 5A. He’s a great athlete whose talents didn’t flourish in high school because of the offense he played in. I think he had like five catches as a junior. But his upside is incredible. We’re very, very excited about him.

Last, but not least, what about Chris Platt?

Briles: Chris Platt is a sleeker guy, 168 pounds probably right now. He’s going to win the state track meet and become the first four-time state champ in the 400 meters in Texas state high school history. He’s a guy who can play -- good ball skills. We had him in camp, and you might think he’s just a straight-line guy, but he’s got some good hip flexion. He catches the ball, is competitive. He’s got tremendous upside as well.

OK, let’s get to the guys you have coming back, starting with Antwan Goodley. I remember talking to a Big 12 coach last October, and he was like, ‘Where did Antwan Goodley come from?’ How did Goodley make so much improvement, and where can he go after a monster junior season?

Briles: Antwan was a really good high school football player. I saw him, and the kid could run. He wasn’t real tall. He committed to us on a junior day in February and held strong the whole time. He was 192 pounds, and he’s been as high as 222 -- he’s gained 30 pounds of pure muscle. He’s one of the strongest kids we have on the team without a doubt. My expectation for him now is to be the best wide receiver in the United States of America. He’s proven what he can do on the football field, now we have to make sure he keeps getting better. The spring is big for him. We won’t let him go as much -- we have other guys we want to get reps, and we know what he can do. But there are things for him to work on, and he’s very excited to get back out there and get back to work.

You’ve got two highly-touted young guys in Corey Coleman and Robbie Rhodes who haven’t made that big splash yet. What is your expectation for them as sophomores?

Briles: With Corey, you don’t think he had a splash as a freshman, but if you look at it, he was second all-time among Baylor freshmen in receiving yards next to Kendall Wright. That’s pretty good company. He has a chance to have a tremendous career. He’s a little bit raw, but has tremendous speed, tremendous hands and catches the ball very well. He wants to be great. And he’s a tough guy. He’s not a big guy (5-foot-10) but at 190 pounds, he’s very stout. He can play inside and outside because he can handle the blocking stuff well with how strong he is. We’re going to have him plugged in all over the field, and he gives us a really dynamic factor.

As for Robbie, it’s hard to come in and play as a true freshman. I probably should have redshirted Robbie because he didn’t get the experience that he probably needed. He got to play in some big games, but he hurt his ankle early against West Virginia, then again against Kansas, and was out the latter part of the year. He gained 10 pounds in the fall, changed his body in the last two months and looks tremendous. He’s going to have an unbelievable spring, and I can’t wait for the fall for him. He’s about as natural as it gets.

[+] EnlargeLevi Norwood
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsLevi Norwood's size and ability to get open makes him a lethal weapon in Baylor's high-powered offense.
How would you characterize Clay Fuller's role on this team? Seems like he’s a reliable target for you.

Briles: That’s Clay. That’s what we call him. If it’s third down or we’re in the red zone, you throw it up to him, and he’ll make the catch for you. He runs really well, and he’s reliable. Add in Levi Norwood, who’s in the same mold, and you’re playing two big guys inside who are long, rangy, block well, catch the football well, run well. They do a tremendous job for us. Both do a great job on special teams for us, too.

With so many options at receiver, seems like you’ve got a good problem to have, right?

Briles: Yeah it is. One guy we haven’t talked about, Jonathon Lee, came on at the end of the year. I expect him to have a good year, too. We’ve done a good job recruiting as a staff. And playing wide receiver at Baylor is a pretty good deal. Wide receivers in this league have had success. We’ve led the country in total offense, we chuck the ball around, play in space. We have great uniforms, we’re going to be playing in a great stadium. It’s a pretty good gig playing wide receiver for us.

This season is going to have a different feel for you guys. As the defending Big 12 champs, you’re going to have a target on your backs. How will you guys adjust?

Briles: There’s no doubt there’s going to be a target on our backs, but we’ve always had a chip on our shoulder the way we play. We’re not going to change our mindset. Our guys play fearless, physical and fast. People will be gunning for us, but we’ll be ready for the task. We have a great team, and we’re looking forward to defending our Big 12 championship.

What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned about being a coach from your dad?

Briles: Treating people right. The way he treats people on a daily basis is one reason why he’s been so successful. The humility, the way he cares for people, he truly wants people to be successful. He makes people around him feel good, and he gets the best out of people. That’s a great trait that he has.

There was a lot of talk leading up to the bowl game about him possibly taking a job elsewhere. How did you guys handle that behind the scenes, and what was it like with all that around you?

Briles: To be honest with you, it never came up inside this office or practice field with our players. People say stuff, put stuff out there. But if other people are coming after your head coach, then you’re doing something right. But I think Baylor University understands the coach we have here, and weren’t going to let him go anywhere. And Art Briles understands how much he loves Baylor, and doesn’t want to go anywhere. It’s a great marriage, and we’re looking forward to being here a long time.

What’s the one thing about your dad that people don’t know about him?

Briles: Everyone knows he’s competitive. But if he sends you a text message to play golf at 11:30 in the morning, you better understand you’re getting into a war. He’s not going out there to enjoy the scenery or to a swing a club. He’s going out there to kick someone’s [butt]. Most people don’t know that. But it better be understood by the people getting into that situation.

Big 12 pre-spring breakdown: WRs

February, 20, 2014
Feb 20
4:30
PM ET
As we wait for the start of spring ball, we’ll be examining and ranking the positional situations of every team, continuing Thursday with receivers (and tight ends). Some of these outlooks will look different after the spring. But here’s how we see them at the moment:

[+] EnlargeTyler Lockett
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesTyler Lockett had seven games with more than 100 yards receiving and two games with more than 200.
1. Baylor: Antwan Goodley hauled in 1,339 receiving yards last year and is back for his senior campaign. Levi Norwood filled in well as a second option after Tevin Reese’s injury, and, like Goodley, can also fly. The Bears are also about to enjoy the fruits of back-to-back monster recruiting classes in the position, including five ESPN 300 players in the last two years. The best of those, incoming freshman K.D. Cannon, has the talent to be Baylor’s next great receiver.

2. Kansas State: The Wildcats have the Big 12’s finest receiver in Tyler Lockett, which warrants them a high ranking even if the supporting cast isn’t tantalizing. Lockett was basically uncoverable downfield last season, and exploded once QB Jake Waters got more comfortable. Curry Sexton has turned into a reliable possession target. The Wildcats also welcome one of the best juco receivers in the country in Andre Davis. If Davis pans out, this has a chance to be among the best receiving corps Bill Snyder has ever had.

3. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders lose an ultra-productive player in Eric Ward and a superstar in tight end Jace Amaro, but this position remains stocked with talent. Jitterbug slot man Jakeem Grant was sixth in the league last year in receiving, and showed in the Holiday Bowl how dangerous he can be when 100 percent focused. Bradley Marquez and Jordan Davis are reliable pass-catchers, but the player to watch here is Reginald Davis. A former high school quarterback, Davis has gradually picked up the nuances of playing receiver. But as he flashed in a kickoff return touchdown against Arizona State, Davis is a playmaker with the ball in his hands, and could be a major factor.

4. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys lose their top three receivers, but outside Baylor, no team in the Big 12 has more WRs ready to contribute in 2014 than Oklahoma State. Jhajuan Seales and Marcell Ateman combined for 61 receptions as freshmen, and will give the Cowboys a physical presence on the perimeter. Brandon Sheperd and David Glidden were also part of the regular rotation, and Austin Hays, who started nine games in 2012, would have been had he not missed virtually the entire season with injury. The two to watch here, though, have yet to play a down, but will bring major speed. Former ESPN 300 recruit Ra’Shaad Samples redshirted last year, but reportedly ran a 4.3-second 40 last summer. That might seem slow compared to Tyreek Hill, the nation’s No. 4 juco recruit, who doubles as a track phenom.

5. Texas: Jaxon Shipley isn’t his brother Jordan, but he’s still a quality college receiver. Even with all of Texas’ QB issues, Shipley already has 159 career receptions. The Longhorns have speed and playmaking elsewhere in downfield burner Marcus Johnson, Kendall Sanders and the versatile Daje Johnson. The Longhorns also signed one of three best incoming WRs in the Big 12 in Armanti Foreman. This group could really thrive with an uptick in QB play.

[+] EnlargeJordan Thompson
AP Photo/Chris BernacchiJordan Thompson showed near the end of the season the type of weapon he can be in West Virginia's offense.
6. Oklahoma: The Sooners graduate Jalen Saunders, who was “Mr. Everything” for the OU offense. But Sterling Shepard seems primed to take over the No. 1 role after hauling in 51 passes and seven touchdowns. Who will surround him? Durron Neal is the only other player on the roster with much experience. But the good news for the Sooners is they’ve recruited superbly at the position. Among many options, the player to keep an eye on is freshman Jordan Smallwood, who was turning heads last summer, until a foot fracture forced him to redshirt.

7. Iowa State: Quenton Bundrage is one of the more underrated receivers in the league despite ranking third in the Big 12 in touchdowns. With Amaro gone, E.J. Bibbs becomes the best receiving tight end in the league after hauling in 39 passes last year. Iowa State’s standing here, though, is contingent on incoming freshman Allen Lazard, one the most highly touted WRs Iowa State has ever signed. If Lazard can make an immediate impact, like the Iowa State coaching staff is banking on, this could become one of the better units in the league.

8. West Virginia: There’s no corps in the Big 12 that could move up more spots than West Virginia’s. The Mountaineers didn’t have a receiver rank in the top 15 in the Big 12 in receiving last year, but Kevin White, Mario Alford and Daikiel Shorts all ranked in the top 20. All three are back, too, as is the diminutive Jordan Thompson, who finally came alive the second half of the season. Former ESPN 300 recruit Shelton Gibson, who redshirted, will also join the rotation. The Mountaineers rank eighth for now, but they are closer to Kansas State than to Kansas.

9. TCU: This week, TCU kicked receiver LaDarius Brown off the team. Considering Brown tied for the team lead in receptions last year, it’s a tough loss. This unit is obviously better with Trevone Boykin, but he might have to play QB, at least until someone else emerges there. The Horned Frogs desperately need Brandon Carter to become a No. 1 receiver. After a promising sophomore year, Carter was basically a non-factor, before showing signs of bouncing back the last month of the season. TCU needs him in a big way in 2014.

10. Kansas: The Jayhawks didn’t have a receiver with more than 11 catches last year. Some of that was the quarterbacks. Some of it was, well, the receivers. The group had little overall impact, which put tremendous pressure on James Sims and the running game. With Sims gone, the receivers have to elevate their game significantly for Kansas to have a chance of taking a step forward. The Jayhawks do have a solid tight end in Jimmay Mundine, who had five TD catches. And Tony Pierson could play more receiver this year. But somebody else needs to emerge.
With the 2013 season in the books, it's time to begin looking ahead to identify potential breakout performers for 2014.

We could come up with a long list of such Big 12 players, but are limiting ourselves to 10 on each side of the ball. These lists will include players who can take that step into greatness next year, much like Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett, Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro and Baylor’s Antwan Goodley did in 2013.

Players who earned first-team or second-team All-Big 12 honors from either the coaches or the media were not eligible for this list, as the focus is limited to guys who have yet to make that leap.

Below are 10 players to watch on the offensive side of the ball in 2014 (in alphabetical order):

Texas Tech WR Reginald Davis: With Amaro and Eric Ward gone, quarterback Davis Webb will need a new go-to target. Davis, a former ESPN 150 recruit, broke into the starting lineup late in the season. In limited time, Davis displayed big-play talent, turning three of his 15 receptions into touchdowns and returning a kickoff yards for a score in the National University Holiday Bowl against Arizona State. Davis could become a game-breaker on the outside for the Red Raiders.

[+] EnlargeKeith Ford
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiKeith Ford averaged 5.8 yards per carry in 23 rushes as a freshman.
Oklahoma RB Keith Ford: With Brennan Clay and Roy Finch out of eligibility, Ford is set to take over as the starter in the Sooners’ backfield. As a true freshman this season, Ford excelled as a change-of-pace power back, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. Fumbling was an issue early in the season. But he corrected that in time to rejoin the rotation for the Alabama game and re-establish himself as the heir apparent at running back.

Oklahoma QB Trevor Knight: There might not have been a player who had a better bowl performance than the one Knight delivered in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Showing off poise, a rocket arm and plenty of wheels, Knight shredded the Alabama defense. Plagued by injuries, Knight still quietly went 5-0 as a freshman starter this season. If he continues to develop, that victory total could skyrocket.

Baylor RB Shock Linwood: When Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin were injured, Linwood showed he could shoulder the rushing load, racking up 182 and 187 yards in back-to-back weeks as the starter. With Seastrunk and Martin gone for good, Linwood will be the featured back next season. He has the skill to put up huge numbers for an entire season.

Baylor WR Levi Norwood: With defensive backfields focused on Goodley, Norwood scored touchdowns in each of Baylor’s final six games. Like the outgoing Tevin Reese, Norwood can fly, and as Goodley’s new full-time wingman in 2014, he's ready to puncture defenses downfield.

Iowa State QB Grant Rohach: Since Seneca Wallace left more than a decade ago, the Cyclones have enjoyed very little stability at quarterback. But late this season, Rohach began to show he just might be the long-term answer, notably rallying the Cyclones from 17 points down to an overtime victory at West Virginia. He’ll have playmakers back around him on the field. Off the field, he'll have a new offensive coordinator in Mark Mangino, who has a track record of putting his quarterbacks in positions to succeed.

[+] EnlargeRoland
Richard Rowe/USA TODAY SportsDesmond Roland found the end zone 13 times in his junior season.
Oklahoma State RB Desmond Roland: Roland helped turn around the Oklahoma State offense in the second half of the season as the starting running back. With Oklahoma State set to break in a new quarterback and replace three starting receivers, Roland will probably have to shoulder an even greater load of the offense, which might not be a bad thing for the Cowboys.

Oklahoma State WR Jhajuan Seales: Seales will be the only returning starter in the Oklahoma State receiving corps with Josh Stewart, Tracy Moore and Charlie Moore all departing. As a redshirt freshman, Seales had moments suggesting he’s capable and close to emerging into a No. 1 receiving threat. He had better be. Plenty of passes will be going his direction next season.

Kansas State QB Jake Waters: The former No. 1 junior-college quarterback recruit found his stride in the second half of the season after struggling early. Waters was a major reason why the Wildcats won six of seven games to close out the season. He had the sixth-best QBR of any bowl-game quarterback, and with wideout Lockett back at his disposal, he could have a banner senior season.

Texas Tech QB Davis Webb: Webb began the season by losing the starting job to a walk-on. He ended it by carving up one of the better defenses in the nation. Webb’s sparkling, 403-yard, four-touchdown performance against Arizona State underscored why the Red Raiders are thrilled going forward at quarterback, even after Baker Mayfield’s surprise transfer.

Season report card: Baylor

January, 6, 2014
Jan 6
3:00
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Baylor had one of the best seasons in school history, winning 11 games for the first time, making its first BCS bowl and winning the Big 12 for the first time. Those accomplishments easily could have been forgotten with the Bears' horrible showing in their 52-42 loss to UCF in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, but this season will be remembered fondly in Waco, Texas.

Offense: A+

[+] EnlargePetty
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesBryce Petty led Baylor to a nation's-best 52.4 points per game.
Is there anything higher than an A-plus? What more could Bryce Petty & Co. do? The Bears averaged 52.4 points per game, 618.8 yards per game and 7.49 yards per play as their offense led the Big 12 in nearly every offensive category. During his first season as the starting quarterback for Baylor, Petty earned Big 12 offensive player of the year honors and was the driving force behind the Bears' title run.

The running backs were superb, with Lache Seastrunk, Shock Linwood and Glasco Martin each finishing with at least 500 rushing yards, helping Baylor lead the conference in rushing. The receivers were just as good, with Antwan Goodley and Tevin Reese ranking among the Big 12’s top receivers and Levi Norwood, Corey Coleman and Clay Fuller providing quality depth.

The foundation was the offensive line, led by Lombardi Award finalist Cyril Richardson. Their offensive front allowed Petty’s accuracy to draw praise, Seastrunk’s shiftiness to frustrate defenders and Reese’s deep speed to scare Big 12 secondaries.

Defense: A-

The defense was the biggest reason the Bears won their first Big 12 title. In recent history, the Baylor offense has been good consistently, always explosive. This season, the defense held up its end of the bargain, finishing among the top 10 nationally in yards per play at 4.75, ranking ninth among FBS teams.

Safety Ahmad Dixon was the emotional leader of the defense and set a tone for its aggressive approach with his physical presence in the secondary. Cornerback K.J. Morton was a playmaker on the outside and linebackers Eddie Lackey and Bryce Hager were versatile tackling machines in the middle of the field.

The defensive line did its part as well, leading the Big 12 with 99 tackles for loss and recording 31 sacks. Defensive ends Shawn Oakman and Chris McAllister were active throughout the season and defensive tackle Beau Blackshear was an underrated presence in the middle.

The lone reason the Bears don’t get an A-plus was their performance in Baylor’s two losses. They allowed 594 yards to Oklahoma State and 556 yards to UCF. As good as Baylor's defense was in 2013, it took a step backward on the big stage against the Cowboys and Knights.

Special teams: C

Baylor’s special teams weren’t special; they were average. The Bears finished ninth in the Big 12 in field goal percentage, seventh in kickoff returns and eighth in punt returns. Baylor did have two punt returns and one kickoff return for touchdowns this season, but its special teams units didn’t win games. But the Bears didn’t need their special teams do to anything but operate efficiently and allow their offense and defense to perform.

Overall: A+

The Bears will receive rings that say "Big 12 champions" on them. What more could you ask for from a team that opened the season picked to finish fifth in the conference?

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