Big 12: Luke Knott

With spring ball done, we’re re-examining and re-ranking the positional situations of every Big 12 team, continuing Tuesday with linebackers. These outlooks will look different in August. But here’s how we see them post-spring:

1. Oklahoma (pre-spring ranking: 1): While the future of inside linebacker Frank Shannon remains unclear, the Sooners have a tailor-made replacement in Jordan Evans ready to go. Shannon was OU’s leading tackler a year ago, but Evans was the defensive MVP of the spring game in his place. Blitzing outside linebacker Eric Striker had a huge spring coming off his three-sack performance in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. And the Sooners had another blitzing linebacker in juco transfer Devante Bond emerge in March, which could give them flexibility to move Striker around. Dominique Alexander, the reigning Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year, solidifies OU’s perch atop this positional ranking, even with Shannon’s future in limbo.

2. Texas (2): Steve Edmond sparked controversy with his Baylor comments, but he also impressed coach Charlie Strong this spring with his knack for making tackles. Edmond and Dalton Santos team up to give the Longhorns a reliable combination on the inside. Athletic sophomore Timothy Cole took advantage of his opportunities with the first-team defense during the spring but should fall back into a spot role once Jordan Hicks returns this summer from a second consecutive season-ending injury. This will be a good group of linebackers, but Hicks playing up to his five-star potential is what could make it great.

3. West Virginia (3): After struggling at the “Spur” linebacker spot in 2013, Isaiah Bruce moved back inside this spring, where he starred as a freshman All-American two years ago. Bruce said he didn’t feel as comfortable playing outside and that showed, as he didn’t record a sack last season despite playing off the edge. Taking over in the Spur is converted safety K.J. Dillon, who was as impressive as any West Virginia defender this spring. With the ability to drop back in coverage, attack the run and rush the quarterback, Dillon seems to be a much better fit at the Spur. If he continues to progress at his new spot and Bruce gets back to his old self playing alongside tackling machine Nick Kwiatkoski inside, the Mountaineers will be stout at the second level.

4. Kansas (5): If the Jayhawks finally climb out of the Big 12 cellar for the first time in six years, it will be on the back of Ben Heeney and a Kansas defense that returns nine starters. One of those nine returners is Heeney’s linebacker wingman, Jake Love, who delivered a strong spring game with a scrimmage-high 10 tackles. The Jayhawks have several weaknesses, but the tackling of their linebackers is not one of them.

5. TCU (6): They get overshadowed by the units in front of and behind them, but linebackers Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallet simply fulfill what’s asked of them. The Horned Frogs were surprisingly solid at linebacker last year. They should be even better in 2014.

6. Texas Tech (7): The Red Raiders received a huge boost in the spring from Kenny Williams, who made a seamless -- and voluntary -- position switch from running back to the “Raider” linebacker position. With honorable mention All-Big 12 pick Pete Robertson on the other outside spot and veterans Sam Eguavoen and Micah Awe and Utah transfer V.J. Fehoko manning the middle, the Red Raiders have a solid foundation. Ex-Ohio State linebacker Mike Mitchell, who attended Tech’s spring game, could give the unit another boost in the summer. He was an ESPN 300 recruit last year and could be eligible immediately at his next school.

7. Kansas State (8): Coach Bill Snyder seemed to be reasonably pleased with returners Jonathan Truman and Will Davis, who have locked up two of the linebacker spots. If D'Vonta Derricott, who was in the ESPN Junior College 50 and had offers from Miami, Wisconsin, Arizona State and a host of Big 12 programs, can make an impact at the third linebacker spot, the Wildcats could quickly solidify their biggest question spot defensively.

8. Baylor (4): Middle linebacker Bryce Hager will be fine once he finally recovers from a groin injury. That means Aiavion Edwards, who exited spring as the starter on the weak side, will be the key as the Bears attempt to overcome the graduation of All-Big 12 performer Eddie Lackey. Baylor, though, still has big expectations for juco transfer Grant Campbell, even though he finished spring as a backup on the depth chart. After a shaky first few practices, Campbell began to come on late in spring drills.

9. Oklahoma State (9): The Cowboys picked up a valuable transfer during the spring in former Michigan safety Josh Furman, who will be eligible immediately after getting his degree. Furman isn’t a star, but he has plenty of experience and could be a real asset teamed with juco transfer D'Nerius Antoine at Oklahoma State’s “Star” linebacker spot. On the weak side, fellow juco transfer Devante Averette really shined before suffering some mild injuries at the end of spring ball. The Cowboys will be even better there if 2012 four-star signee Seth Jacobs emerges.

10. Iowa State (10): The Cyclones remain in transition mode at linebacker while working to replace the production of departed All-Big 12 performer Jeremiah George. Redshirt freshman and former QB Alton Meeks was one of the defensive surprises of the spring; he currently sits atop the depth chart at middle linebacker. The other big defensive surprise was walk-on senior Drake Ferch, who beat out returning starter Jared Brackens on the strong side. Jevohn Miller is the third starting linebacker, but he figures to be a placeholder on the weak side until Luke Knott returns from last year’s season-ending hip injury.

Spring game preview: Iowa State

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11
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This weekend, Iowa State will hold its annual spring game, which will be open to the public. Here’s a closer look:

When: 2 p.m., Saturday

[+] EnlargeIowa State Cyclones
David Purdy/Getty ImagesCould Sam B. Richardson be the answer at QB for Iowa State?
Where: Jack Trice Stadium

What to watch for:

  • New offense: Before the spring, coach Paul Rhoads gave few clues as to what Mark Mangino’s new offense would look like. Iowa State is going to be transitioning to a no-huddle attack, but after that, much is left to be revealed. In the interest of competitive advantage, the Cyclones are sure to hold back most of the playbook on Saturday, but at least Iowa State fans will get a glimpse into what the Mangino offense will look like in the fall.
  • Quarterback battle: More than a decade later, the Cyclones are still essentially trying to replace Seneca Wallace. After multiple seasons of musical quarterbacks, a problem that has handcuffed the Cyclones in the past, could this be the year Iowa State finally uncovers the long-term answer at the position? It could be. Sam B. Richardson, who opened last year as the starter before getting injured, has shown promise when healthy. Grant Rohach, who finished last year as the starter, closed out the season with two strong performances in Iowa State wins. The two have been getting the majority of the snaps this spring. But don’t rule out redshirt freshman Joel Lanning, either. The former high school wrestler has impressed the Iowa State coaching staff with his toughness, work ethic and big arm. He could be the darkhorse in this competition, which figures to linger into August.
  • WR D’Vario Montgomery: With All-Big 12 candidates E.J. Bibbs and Quenton Bundrage leading the way, the Cyclones could wind up featuring the program’s best collection of pass-catchers in years. Montgomery, who sat out last year after transferring in from South Florida, could add to that corps. On Saturday, Montgomery will get to show the fans what he can do with his 6-foot-5, 210-pound frame.
  • Veteran offensive line: The offensive line should be one of the best in the Big 12, with the entire unit coming back from last year. Tom Farniok is an All-Big 12-caliber center and one of the team’s unquestioned leaders. Left tackle Brock Dagel has been out this spring with a cut on his leg that got infected, but he has the potential to play in the NFL some day. Guard Daniel Burton is physical and one of the smartest players on the offense, and right tackle Jacob Gannon has a ton of experience. The Cyclones could push several opposing defensive lines around next season, and with Iowa State still rebuilding its front seven, the offensive line ought to dominate in the spring game, too.
  • Depleted defense: While the offense will be operating at close to full strength, the defense will be operating with a dearth of able, experienced bodies. On top of graduating five starters, injuries, defections and expulsions have hampered coordinator Wally Burnham’s unit this spring. Tackle Rodney Coe was kicked off the team last month and safety Devron Moore has since left, at least temporarily, after getting homesick. Both players were potential starters. Linebacker Luke Knott is still recovering from a hip injury, and defensive linemen Pierre Aka (concussion) and David Irving (shoulder) have been knocked out with ailments. Reinforcements will arrive in the summer, but it will be interesting to see how the defense copes on Saturday. It also will be an opportunity for younger players to make their mark.

Big 12 pre-spring breakdown: LBs

February, 25, 2014
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As we await the start of spring ball, we’re examining and ranking the positional situations of every team in the Big 12, continuing Tuesday with linebackers. Some of these outlooks will look different after the spring. But here’s how we see the linebacking corps going into the spring:

[+] EnlargeDominique Alexander
William Purnell/Icon SMIDominique Alexander was a star as a true freshman and leads a loaded Oklahoma linebacking corps.
1. Oklahoma: After a couple of lean years, the Sooners are loaded at linebacker again. Dominique Alexander was the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year, Frank Shannon led the defense in tackles as a sophomore, and Eric Striker is budding into the most ferocious blitzing linebacker in the country (just ask Alabama). Jordan Evans played extensively as a true freshman, too. This is an athletic group that can cover, stop the run and get to the quarterback.

2. Texas: This will be as deep as any linebacking corps in the league, with starters Peter Jinkens, Dalton Santos and Steve Edmond all returning off a unit that improved dramatically after the rocky nonconference start. After allowing a school-record 550 yards rushing to BYU, Texas had the Big 12’s fourth-best rush defense in conference games. Whether this group can take another step up will depend on what happens with Jordan Hicks, who enters his fifth year in the program after suffering season-ending injuries in back-to-back years. Hicks was the No. 1 linebacker in the country coming out of high school and has played well when healthy.

3. West Virginia: This will be the strength of the defense, as Brandon Golson, Isaiah Bruce, Jared Barber and Nick Kwiatkoski all return with significant starting experience. Kwiatkoski was West Virginia’s leading tackler last season, and Bruce was a freshman All-American the season before. Wes Tonkery and Jewone Snow also have starting experience, and Shaq Petteway, who missed last season with a knee injury, was a key rotation player the previous year. This level of experience and production with give the new defensive regime of Tony Gibson and Tom Bradley a foundation to build around.

4. Baylor: Bryce Hager is one of the best returning linebackers in the league. He was a second-team all-conference pick two years ago and would have earned similar honors last season had he not missed the final three games of the regular season with a groin injury. Grant Campbell, a three-star juco signee, is already on campus and will vie for the vacancy of departing All-Big 12 linebacker Eddie Lackey. Kendall Ehrlich and Aiavion Edwards are the only other players at the position with any meaningful experience, but Raaquan Davis, a former four-star recruit who redshirted last season, could be a factor.

5. Kansas: Middle linebacker Ben Heeney was a second-team All-Big 12 selection after finishing fourth in the league in tackles per game. His wingman, Jake Love, got beat out by juco transfer Samson Faifili during the preseason but took over when Faifili suffered an injury and was solid. As long as Heeney remains healthy, the Jayhawks will be solid here.

6. TCU: Projected to be the Achilles’ heel of the TCU defense last season, Paul Dawson, Marcus Mallet and Jonathan Anderson actually gave the position stability. Dawson led the Horned Frogs with 91 tackles, Mallet was third with 70 and Anderson was fourth with 66. All three will be seniors in 2014 and should give the Horned Frogs a solid, reliable linebacking unit again.

7. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders and their 3-4 scheme graduate two very productive players in Will Smith and Terrance Bullitt. Smith was second in the Big 12 in tackles, and Bullitt led all Big 12 linebackers in pass breakups. Austin Stewart and Micah Awe go into the spring as the favorites to replace Bullitt and Smith, respectively. Two starters do return in Sam Eguavoen and Pete Robertson, who was honorable mention All-Big 12 thanks to his impact off the edge. Tech also has several intriguing young players, including Jacarthy Mack, Malik Jenkins and Kahlee Woods, who will all be second-year players.

8. Kansas State: The Wildcats lose two stalwarts to graduation in captains Blake Slaughter and Tre Walker. The only returner is former walk-on Jonathan Truman, who was second on the team in tackles from the weak side. The Wildcats will be hoping for big things from D'Vonta Derricott, an ESPN JC 50 signee who had offers from Miami and Wisconsin, among many others. Will Davis, who was Slaughter’s backup as a freshman last season, could thrive if he secures the starting role in the middle.

9. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys are somewhat decimated here with the graduations of all-conference veterans Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey. The only returning starter, Ryan Simmons, could move inside, which would open the door for hard-hitting jucos D'Nerius Antoine and Devante Averette to start on either side of him. Seth Jacobs, who was a four-star recruit two years ago, should jump into the rotation, and the Cowboys could get an instant boost from freshman Gyasi Akem, who was an ESPN 300 signee. The potential ascension of this group, though, hinges on what Antonie and Averette accomplish.

10. Iowa State: The Cyclones graduate their defensive cornerstone in Jeremiah George, who was a first-team all-conference performer after leading the Big 12 with 133 tackles. Replacing George won’t come easy. But there’s reason to believe that Luke Knott can become Iowa State’s next cornerstone at the position. The younger brother of Cyclone LB great Jake Knott, Luke Knott started five games as a freshman and quickly racked up 45 tackles before suffering a season-ending hip injury, which required surgery. If he makes a full recovery, Knott has the talent to become the next in a growing line of All-Big 12 Iowa State linebackers. Seniors Jevohn Miller and Jared Brackens, who combined for 19 starts last season, flank Knott with experience.
Now is the time when the foundation of future success is built.

The offseason is when players start to emerge as potential stars of the future or contributors who will change the fortunes of their teams. Here are some names to keep an eye on during the offseason in the Big 12:

Receiver Robbie Rhodes, Baylor: At this time last season, people were talking about the Bears landing Rhodes, the No. 35 player in the 2013 ESPN 300. He finished with 10 receptions for 157 yards as a freshman. The sophomore has terrific speed, athleticism and big-play ability and could emerge as the replacement for Tevin Reese in Baylor’s explosive attack.

[+] EnlargeTyrone Swoopes
AP Photo/Eric GayIt's important for Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes to have a productive spring in 2014.
Linebacker Luke Knott, Iowa State: It’s an important offseason for Knott, who is recovering from hip surgery. Knott, the younger brother of former Cyclone star Jake Knott, started five games as a redshirt freshman and recorded 45 tackles before the season-ending hip injury. If he returns to full health for his sophomore season he should be a major part of ISU’s defense in 2014.

Quarterback Montell Cozart, Kansas: After an up-and-down freshman season, Cozart will have to compete hard to remain atop KU’s depth chart this offseason. UCLA transfer T.J. Millweard will enter the competition alongside Cozart and Jake Heaps, so it will be critical for Cozart to make a jump to another level during the offseason.

Quarterback Daniel Sams, Kansas State: This offseason provides an opportunity for coach Bill Snyder to decide the best way to use the dynamic Sams. Sams could be a playmaker at several different positions in the Wildcats’ attack so seeing where the junior ends up is intriguing.

Tight end Blake Bell, Oklahoma: It’s been an amazing first four years in Norman, Okla., for Bell, who went from making a name for himself as the Belldozer to leading the Sooners on a game-deciding drive against Oklahoma State, which changed the destination of the Big 12 title rings. Now he will make the transition to tight end for his final season.

Receiver Jhajuan Seales, Oklahoma State: The quarterback battle will garner its share of attention but Seales' continued development is just as important. Top receiver Josh Stewart is NFL-bound so whoever wins the quarterback derby will need a top target. Seales could be the perfect candidate with his size, athleticism and ball skills, but he needs to continue to develop if he hopes to become a consistent threat in 2014.

Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, Texas: Swoopes saw spot duty as a freshman, never really making an impact during Mack Brown’s final season as coach. The offseason will be a critical time for the sophomore to start making an impression on new coach Charlie Strong and cement himself into the plans at quarterback.

Receiver LaDarius Brown, TCU: The junior combines terrific size (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) and exceptional athleticism. Brown tied for the team lead with 36 receptions as a sophomore but it’s time for Brown to take his game to another level and emerge as a consistent playmaker for the Horned Frogs' offense. His goal next season should be to make his 2013 game against Texas (7 receptions, 87 yards, TD) just another Saturday.

Receiver Jordan Davis, Texas Tech: With Eric Ward and Jace Amaro heading to the next level, the Red Raiders are searching for playmakers at the receiver spot. Davis can help fill the void. He stepped up at various times in 2013, finishing with 28 receptions for 243 yards and one touchdown, so he could be ready for a bigger role.

Running back Dreamius Smith, West Virginia: The Mountaineers’ second-leading rusher behind Charles Sims, Smith faces stiff competition to win the starting running back spot in 2014. Wendell Smallwood, Andrew Buie and Rushel Shell could emerge as the main in the WVU backfield so it’s important for Smith to have a strong offseason with quality competition nipping at his heels.
With the 2013 season officially in the books, we’ve begun looking ahead to identify potential breakout performers for 2014.

This morning, we took a look at 10 Big 12 offensive players to watch in 2014. Now it’s time to spotlight 10 possible breakout defenders.

As a reminder, these lists include players who can take that step into greatness next season, much as Baylor’s Ahmad Dixon and Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert did in 2013. Players who have 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. In other words, players such as TCU's Chris Hackett or Oklahoma's Eric Striker weren't eligible, as they were both second-team selections this year.

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

[+] EnlargeDante Barnett
John Rieger/USA TODAY SportsDante Barnett had four interceptions as a sophomore.
Kansas State S Dante Barnett: The last couple of years, Ty Zimmerman was the anchor of the K-State secondary. With Zimmerman out of eligibility, Barnett appears ready to take over. Barnett had a banner sophomore season, leading the Wildcats with four interceptions and finishing third with 75 tackles. He was especially impressive in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, delivering a team-high eight tackles and a 51-yard interception return that proved to be the exclamation point. Barnett is one reason why the Wildcats should be better defensively in 2014.

Texas DT Malcom Brown: Often confused with the Texas running back with the same name, Brown was a force in the middle as a sophomore. With more improvement, the former blue-chipper who was the No. 2 DT in the nation coming out of high school has a chance to be Texas’ first All-Big 12 defensive tackle since Roy Miller in 2008.

Oklahoma State DT James Castleman: The last two seasons, Castleman has operated in the shadows of All-Big 12 DT Calvin Barnett. With Barnett – and virtually the rest of the Oklahoma State defense – gone, Castleman will be the Cowboys’ top returning defensive player next season. Castleman has the talent to be an all-conference tackle, and will need to be for the Cowboys to avoid a significant defensive drop-off.

Oklahoma DE Geneo Grissom: Last year, Grissom was so dubious on his prospects of making the rotation at end that he asked to play tight end. That experiment failed, and the Sooners have to be glad that it did. The switch finally flipped for Grissom in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. In that game, he played like a man possessed and finished with two sacks and two fumble recoveries. He returned the second eight yards for a game-clinching touchdown. Grissom has only year left, but it could be a special one if he plays the way he did against Alabama.

West Virginia S Karl Joseph: After starting every game at safety as a true freshman in 2012 and leading the team in tackles, Joseph didn’t make the kind of leap the Mountaineers hoped he would as a sophomore. Still, there’s no denying the talent here. Joseph has the skill to be an all-conference safety, something that might need to happen for West Virginia to avoid another disappointing season in the Big 12.

Iowa State LB Luke Knott: Knott started five games as a redshirt freshman this year before suffering a season-ending hip injury that should keep him out of spring ball as well. But if he can make a healthy return, look out. Knott came to Iowa State as a quarterback but has made a seamless transition to linebacker, showing plenty of instinct with 11 tackles in Iowa State’s 31-30 loss to Texas. His older brother Jake was an All-Big 12 linebacker for the Cyclones. As long as that hip doesn’t get in the way, Knott could become one an all-conference selection as well.

Baylor DE Shawn Oakman: The Penn State transfer has the tools to become a dominant player in the league. Oakman had his moments as a rotation player in 2013, finishing sixth in the Big 12 in tackles for loss. But the potential is there for so much more from the 6-foot-9, 275-pound Oakman. If he can put it all together in 2014, he could become one of the league’s most disruptive defenders.

[+] EnlargeDalton Santos
David Purdy/Getty ImagesThe new Texas coaching staff will have to find the best position for Dalton Santos.
Oklahoma State CB Kevin Peterson: While All-American Justin Gilbert deservedly received the accolades this season, Peterson quietly had a very stout sophomore season on the other side of the field. Peterson, who flipped his commitment from Oklahoma to Oklahoma State in recruiting, had two interceptions and was solid in coverage all season in Glenn Spencer’s aggressive, man-to-man defense. With Gilbert gone to the NFL, Peterson will be Oklahoma State’s No. 1 cornerback in 2014. So far, he looks up to the challenge.

Texas LB Dalton Santos: After Jordan Hicks went down with yet another season-ending injury, Santos elevated his game at linebacker. The sophomore finished fourth on the team with 74 tackles, including 10 for loss. It will be interesting to see what happens with the Longhorns at linebacker. The entire group of linebackers will return, including Hicks. But the way Santos played late in the year, the new Texas regime will have to find a way to get him on the field.

Oklahoma LB Frank Shannon: Even though injuries plagued Shannon the second half of the season, he still led the Sooners with 92 tackles as a sophomore. In Shannon, blitzer extraordinaire Eric Striker and Big 12 defensive freshman of the year Dominique Alexander all back, Oklahoma might have the best linebacker corps in the country next season.

Big 12 unsung heroes: Week 6

October, 7, 2013
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Here are the Big 12's unsung heroes for Week 6.

Receiver Antwan Goodley, Baylor: Teammates like Lache Seastrunk and Bryce Petty get a lot of the attention but Goodley has been ridiculously consistent, much like the Bears’ offense as a whole. The sophomore had seven receptions for 170 yards and one touchdown in BU’s 73-42 win over West Virginia. Goodley has at least 90 receiving yards and one touchdown in every game and has caught 21 of 26 passes thrown his way this season.

Linebacker Luke Knott, Iowa State: The younger brother of former ISU standout Jake Knott, Luke has been a bright spot in the Cyclones season. The redshirt freshman finished with 11 tackles, one forced fumble, one quarterback hurry and one pass breakup. As devastating as the 31-30 loss to Texas had to be for ISU, the Cyclones have to be encouraged to know Knott can anchor their defense for the rest of the season and beyond.

Running back Darrian Miller, Kansas: The sophomore led the Jayhawks with 67 rushing yards on 12 carries in the Jayhawk’s 54-16 loss to Texas Tech. Miller added 77 kick return yards to finish with 144 all-purpose yards. He could be an important piece for the Jayhawks offense moving forward with Tony Pierson’s status unclear after his head injury on Saturday.

[+] EnlargeDaniel Sams
Ed Zurga/Getty ImagesQuarterback Daniel Sams is the focal point for the Kansas State offense.
Quarterback Daniel Sams, Kansas State: It’s unusual to call a quarterback who turned the ball over four times a unsung hero, but the Wildcats wouldn't have been in the game without Sams. He was outstanding with the football in his arms and made enough plays in the passing game to keep Oklahoma State honest. Sams rushed for 118 yards and passed for 181 yards in the 33-29 loss to OSU. If he can clean up the mistakes, his special skills could spark a winning streak for the Wildcats during Big 12 play.

Defensive tackle Jordan Wade, Oklahoma: Asked to step in with starter Jordan Phillips out, Wade was superb against TCU. The redshirt freshman had two tackles including one tackle for loss and one sack in OU’s 20-17 win. If Wade continues to develop, he increases competition in the Sooners' defensive interior and could provide a quality rotational player alongside Phillips in the future.

Linebacker Caleb Lavey, Oklahoma State: Teammate Shaun Lewis got all the accolades with his Big 12 defensive player of the week honors, but Lavey was just as critical in OSU’s 33-29 win over Kansas State. Lavey forced turnovers on back-to-back plays in the third quarter with a forced fumble and interception. The senior finished with seven tackles including two tackles for loss to go along with the forced fumble and interception. He’s a solid anchor and leader in the middle for the Cowboys.

Defensive tackle Malcom Brown, Texas: The sophomore was a beast in the middle with 10 tackles including two tackles for loss and one sack in the Longhorns’ 31-30 victory over ISU. Brown’s development into playmaker in the UT defensive interior could make things harder on Big 12 offenses as they create a plan of attack against the Longhorns.

Receiver Ty Slanina, TCU: The freshman provided a spark for the Horned Frogs’ offense in their 20-17 loss to OU. He had six receptions for 38 yards against the Sooners but his competitiveness and ability to get open and make plays when he gets the opportunity stands out on the TCU offense. If he continues to make plays, he should become a bigger part of the offense in the future.

Receiver Eric Ward, Texas Tech: After catching seven passes since opening the year with a 13-catch performance against SMU on Aug. 30, Ward got back on track against Kansas. Ward had seven receptions for 122 yards and one touchdown in the Red Raiders’ 54-16 win over the Jayhawks. When Ward is making plays on the outside with Jace Amaro punishing defenses in the middle, TTU’s offense becomes much more lethal.

Receiver Kevin White, West Virginia: White's breakout performance was overshadowed by the dominance of Baylor's defense. He had seven receptions for 130 yards and two touchdowns in the Mountaineers' 73-42 loss to Baylor. On a WVU offense looking for playmakers, it has to encourage Dana Holgorsen to watch White start to emerge and make plays. Now they just need the junior college transfer to be more consistent.

Updated 2012 Big 12 recruiting scorecard

December, 20, 2011
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So, the season gets, you know, kind of crazy. It's unrelenting, and recruiting plummets in priority. Thus, we haven't had a recruiting update since before the season.

Time to update.

Signing Day is less than two months away, and here's where each Big 12 team sits as we hit the recruiting home stretch before the big day in February.

All commit totals, rankings and stars via ESPN Recruiting, which updated its national recruiting rankings this week.

1. Texas Longhorns

National ranking: No. 1
Total commits: 25
ESPNU 150 commits: 10
Key commits: RB Johnathan Gray, DT Malcom Brown, WR Cayleb Jones, QB Connor Brewer
Class notes: Four of Texas' top five commits are skill position players, a huge need for the Longhorns. They're one of a handful of schools still chasing one of the nation's top recruits, too, receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. Gray will come to Texas as the Gatorade National Player of the Year. Texas also has two juco transfers coming next year, OT Donald Hawkins and DT Brandon Moore, a rarity for the Longhorns.

2. Texas A&M Aggies

National ranking: No. 8
Total commits: 22
ESPNU 150 commits: 4
Key commits: OLB Jordan Richmond, RB Trey Williams, ATH Bralon Addison, QB Matt Davis
Class notes: Texas A&M's class is being spearheaded by Davis, who's spreading the "Agg Swagg Movement" via social media, and Texas A&M will enter the SEC with one of its best classes in recent history. It's a deep class, too. Eleven of the 22 commits earned four-star status on ESPN.

3. Oklahoma Sooners

National ranking: No. 9
Total commits: 17
ESPNU 150 commits: 5
Key commits: RB Alex Ross, WR Sterling Shepard, WR Durron Neal, OL Ty Darlington
Class notes: The Sooners are after DGB, too, but may have a sudden big need at running back after a handful of transfers over the past few months. ESPNU 150 signee from 2010 Trey Metoyer, a receiver, is expected to be in Norman next year after spending a year at Hargrave Military Academy. He'll offer some nice help, but will Landry Jones be throwing him the ball?

4. Texas Tech Red Raiders

National ranking: No. 17
Total commits: 22
ESPNU 150 commits: 3
Key commits: WR Reginald Davis, WR Dominique Wheeler, OT Michael Starts, QB Clayton Nicholas
Class notes: The Red Raiders added five commits since our last update, but Davis, Wheeler and Starts should all be nice pickups and additions to an offense that lacked a big-play threat this year when Darrin Moore was battling injuries. Tech is also adding five juco transfers, including two more receivers and a pair of pass-rushers.

5. Oklahoma State Cowboys

Total commits: 16
ESPNU 150 commits: 1
Key commits: TE Dominic Ramacher, OLB Jeremiah Tshimanga, QB Wes Lunt
Class notes: Texas swiped CB Kendall Sanders with a late recruiting push, following a few high-profile former OSU commits to go elsewhere. This year's class won't make many headlines, but it'll be interesting to see if the 2011 Big 12 title pays off in the 2013 recruiting class. OSU knows definitively now that it can be better than OU and Texas. Lunt, an Illinois native, is an uber-productive dual-threat. Former blue-chipper Calvin Barnett, a DT from Tulsa, spurned OSU for Arkansas on Signing Day 2010, but he's committed this year via junior college.

6. Baylor Bears

Total commits: 19
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: ATH Corey Coleman, OT Kyle Fuller, CB Terrell Burt, WR Kiante' Griffin
Class notes: Baylor added a handful of recruits just before the season to reach 18 commits, and added just one commit over the course of the season. Baylor's grabbed big-time recruits like Ahmad Dixon and Kendall Wright in the past that have been productive, but there's no big name in this class just yet.

7. Missouri Tigers

Total commits: 15
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: DT Donald Hopkins, QB Maty Mauk, ILB Donavin Newsom
Class notes: Missouri is chasing DGB too, but the story this season has been class attrition for the Tigers. They were in the top 20 but lost ESPNU 150 commit Evan Boehm, who decommitted. The Tigers fell out of the top 25 and fell behind Oklahoma State and Baylor. Running back Jonathan Williams took his four stars to Arkansas and OT Germain Ifedi moved to fellow future SEC member Texas A&M. Mauk, Hopkins and Newsom are the only remaining four-star recruits in the class.

8. Iowa State Cyclones

Total commits: 20
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: OT Daniel Burton WR P.J. Harris, WR Quan West, QB Grant Rohach
Class notes: The Cyclones added 11 commits since our last update. Three of the Cyclones top four commits are offensive skill position players, but Burton is the class' top commit. He committed on Sept. 29. A second QB, Luke Knott, committed way back in April. His older brother, Jake Knott, is a star linebacker for the Cyclones. Paul Rhoads' 10-year contract extension could help on the recruiting trail next year, too, offering parents some security that he'll still be coaching their sons for their whole careers. ISU has no four-star commits, but eight three-stars.

9. Kansas State Wildcats

Total commits: 11
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: WR Vernon Vaughn, DT Travis Britz, RB Jarvis Leverett, QB Tavarius Bender
Class notes: Kansas State added four commits since our preseason update. Seven of the commits are three-stars and just one is committed via junior college. Two commits are unranked.

10. Kansas Jayhawks

Total commits: 8
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: QB Seth Russell, TE Jordan Smith, OG Brian Beckmann
Class notes: ATH Bilal Marshall and DE De'Jon Wilson are no longer committed and new Kansas coach Charlie Weis has his work cut out for him. He says he doesn't want to be under scholarship numbers, but he doesn't want to offer guys just to fill scholarships with bodies. It'll be a tough balance. He's got catching up to do. WR Tre Parmalee and DT Keon Stowers are Weis' first two commits.

The Big 12 recruiting scorecard for 2012

August, 18, 2011
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It's mid-August. The season starts in two weeks and signing day is a little more than five months away. We are more than halfway through the recruiting season and here's how the Big 12 classes for 2012 look.

We'll try to offer a monthly scoreboard update between now and signing day next February. There hasn't been a ton of shifting and activity since our last update in July, but here's a look at where we stand now.

All numbers are courtesy of ESPNU Recruiting. You can see them by clicking on each team for more on each class. The teams are ranked below.

Very nice showing for the Big 12 so far, with six of the 10 teams in the league ranked in ESPN's top 25 class rankings, including fish-in-barrel shooters Texas, which tops the national recruiting rankings.

1. Texas Longhorns
National ranking: No. 1
Total commits: 18
ESPNU 150 commits: 9
Key commits: RB Johnathan Gray, DT Malcom Brown, WR Cayleb Jones, QB Connor Brewer
Personnel notes: Seven of the Longhorns' commits are offensive players, nine are on defense and another is designated as an athlete. Four of the top five commits, however, are skill-position players. Texas also has kicker Nick Jordan (No. 8 nationally) committed.

2. Texas A&M Aggies
National ranking: No. 8
Total commits: 21
ESPNU 150 commits: 4
Key commits: OLB Jordan Richmond, RB Trey Williams, ATH Bralon Addison, QB Matt Davis
Personnel notes: The Aggies swiped Addison from Oklahoma State and gave themselves four commits who are designated as athletes. Eight of their other commits are on defense and nine play offense. Davis was recently added to the ESPNU150 as the nation's No. 7 quarterback.

3. Oklahoma Sooners
National ranking: No. 10
Total commits: 12
ESPNU 150 commits: 4
Key commits: RB Alex Ross, WR Sterling Shepard, WR Durron Neal, OL Ty Darlington
Personnel notes: The Sooners are still after Dorial Green-Beckham, the nation's No. 1 receiver and No. 3 overall prospect. Oklahoma's class has just two defensive players and one athlete, Daniel Brooks. The other seven commits play offense. The Sooners swiped Neal from Missouri, where the in-state Tigers were hoping to add him to their 2012 fold. OU missed out on QB Gunner Kiel to former coordinator Kevin Wilson, who convinced Kiel to commit to in-state Indiana.

4. Texas Tech Red Raiders
National ranking: No. 15
Total commits: 17
ESPNU 150 commits: 3
Key commits: WR Reginald Davis, WR Dominique Wheeler, OT Michael Starts, OT Christian Okafor
Personnel notes: Davis and Wheeler could offer a big talent upgrade at the skill positions in the future. Nine commits play offense, two are athletes and six play defense.

5. Missouri Tigers
National ranking: No. 18
Total commits: 15
ESPNU 150 commits: 1
Key commits: OG Evan Boehm, DT Donald Hopkins, QB Maty Mauk, OT Germain Ifedi,
Personnel notes: Hopkins was a top addition for the class, which would get a huge boost with the addition of Green-Beckham. The class includes seven defenders (four linebackers) and five offensive players, with two of the top four commits being offensive linemen. Mauk and Boehm allowed the Tigers to jump into the top 25 class rankings and leapfrog Oklahoma State over the summer.

6. Oklahoma State Cowboys
Total commits: 11
ESPNU 150 commits: 1
Key commits: TE Dominic Ramacher, CB Kendall Sanders, OLB Jeremiah Tshimanga, OT Timothy Hines
Personnel notes: Oklahoma State added four commitments since our last update to a class that features four defenders, four offensive linemen and three offensive skill position players.

7. Baylor Bears
Total commits: 18
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: ATH Corey Coleman, CB Terrell Burt, WR Kiante' Griffin, LB Kendall Ehrlich
Personnel notes: Baylor's seen the biggest jump in the past month, adding six commits to its class. Art Briles' 2012 class currently has three athletes, 10 defenders and five offensive players.

8. Iowa State Cyclones
Total commits: 9
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: WR P.J. Harris, WR Quan West, DE Mitchell Meyers, QB Grant Rohach
Personnel notes: The Cyclones added a string of a couple players earlier this month with a handful of commits in just a few days. The class now consists of two receivers, two quarterbacks (including Luke Knott, the younger brother of LB Jake Knott), a running back and four defenders.

9. Kansas State Wildcats
Total commits: 7
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: WR Vernon Vaughn, DT Travis Britz, QB Tay Bender, OG Aderius Epps
Personnel notes: Kansas State added two commits since our July update. The Wildcats have three defensive commits, and four offensive commits.

10. Kansas Jayhawks
Total commits: 6
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: QB Seth Russell, ATH Bilal Marshall, DE De'Jon Wilson, OG Brian Beckmann
Personnel notes: Kansas added three commits since our July update, including Russell, a quarterback. The class now consists of two athletes, two offensive players and two defenders.

Roundup: Sooner hurt, OSU surgery, Bear D

March, 28, 2011
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A look back at the happenings across the Big 12 this weekend.

Sooners lose another starter

It's been a less-than-ideal offseason for Oklahoma, which heads into the fall as one of the favorites to win the national title. It got even less ideal when starting right tackle Jarvis Jones suffered a ruptured patellar tendon in his knee.

"We were in a team period and it just buckled on him," coach Bob Stoops said in a release.

Jones started four games last season, but he's expected to miss six months and return in late September or October. That's a big deal for the Sooners, who play at Florida State, a likely top five opponent, on Sept. 17. If Jones can get ahead of schedule on his rehab, it wouldn't be shocking if he returned by then, but it's another setback for the Sooners.

Three starters had run-ins with the law before spring practice, and All-Big 12 cornerback Jamell Fleming, the team's best cover man, is not currently enrolled at Oklahoma after reported academic dishonesty. His future is still in flux, and though none of the offseason happenings are complete game-changers, they're all unnecessary distractions for the Sooners, who have admitted themselves that this season is all about gunning for the national title.

Baylor defense bounces back

Baylor's defense couldn't have played much worse in the team's last scrimmage, but new coordinator Phil Bennett had to be pretty happy with the effort in a weekend scrimmage.

The Bears had eight sacks and scored three touchdowns. Defensive end Willie Jefferson, a converted tight end, led the team with three sacks and scored on a 30-yard fumble return. Jared Edwards also had a pair of sacks.

"I thought we made some strides this week. I think we are starting to get some people in the right positions," Bennett told reporters after the scrimmage. "As I told them, we aren’t there yet, but I saw some steps. We put them in some tough situations. We moved the ball downfield, we did some red zone with one minute and they responded better. But like I said, we are not there yet. I told the guys that if we can stay on an even keel with our offense, we are going to get better and win some games.”

Terrance Ganaway put up a nice stat line with 42 yards on seven carries and a touchdown, and Darius Jones led all receivers with 70 yards on six receptions.

Kicker Aaron Jones struggled down the stretch after a fast start last season, but he was 4-of-5 on field goals, including a 57-yarder and another from outside 50 yards.

Oklahoma State sits Markelle Martin for spring surgery

Safety Markelle Martin should be one of the leaders of Oklahoma State's defense next spring, but Oklahoma State elected to end his spring for shoulder surgery.

"We cleaned his shoulder up,” coach Mike Gundy told reporters. "He really didn't need the surgery right now, but there was no reason [to delay the surgery], because we have a lot of depth at safety."

Top among those remaining safeties is Daytawion Lowe, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, but has impressed throughout the spring. Lavocheya Cooper is listed behind Martin at strong safety on the spring depth chart.

Cyclones snatch another Knott

Linebacker Jake Knott is already one of Iowa State's best players after making 130 tackles in 2010, third-most in the Big 12.

Now, his little brother, quarterback Luke Knott, is ready to follow. The native of Lee's Summit, Mo., gives Iowa State two 2012 commitments, both quarterbacks.

California native Grant Rohach committed to the Cyclones this month.

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