Big 12: Meshak Williams

Thanks for the emails this week, folks. Here's where you can reach me if you've got more to say.

John in Greensboro, N.C., writes: What is missing from the Big 12 to enter in the era of the Conference TV/Digital Networks? I mean in the sense of those working for the BIG, Pac12 and now the SEC. Thanks!

DU: Mostly, the entire structure of the Big 12's media rights. ESPN/ABC owns the Big 12's first-tier rights, which are the league's best games. Fox owns the second-tier rights for the Big 12, and both paid a pretty penny for them. Ultimately, the third-tier rights are mostly what conferences are building conference networks upon, led by the Big Ten and followed by the Pac-12, whose network launched last fall. Now, the SEC is joining the ranks.

However, in the Big 12, each school retains the right to use its third-tier rights in whatever manner it pleases. Texas launched its own network. Many other schools have signed deals with other distributors, and several have launched web-based networks. There is a lot of basketball, baseball and Olympic sports in the third-tier packages that provide a lot of that programming.

Unless those rules change (and considering the Big 12 fashioned this plan to differentiate itself in the marketplace, that is unlikely), a conference network is an impossibility for the Big 12.




Kevin Dobson in Emporia, Kan., writes: How did Meshak Williams go undrafted, or even at this point sign with anyone as an undrafted free agent? If I remember correctly he had 11 sacks, 3 or 4 forced fumbles, over 15 tackles for loss, several highlight reel type plays (one including him tackling the RB and QB in the same play just to make sure the ball wasn't handed off), and was named to the Big 12's First team. Is there something about his attitude, on or off the field that we as fans haven't heard, or didn't get the chance to see? This just makes little sense to me. I even had the chance to write a few sports blogs for the team, and hadn't heard any negative other than over playing the run. Very confused over this.

DU: It's not character concerns. The deal with Meshak is simple: He's an all-too-common case of the tweener. At 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds, NFL types see him as being too small to play defensive end in the pros. He's also viewed as too slow to move to outside linebacker. Thus, he's a good football player but left without a position.

I completely agree with the speed concerns, and that is pretty difficult to fix. As for the size issue, I understand it from an NFL perspective, but so many guys get invited to camps, and he had such a productive college career, it's shocking to me somebody didn't say, "You know, yeah, he's too small, sure. But let's bring him in here and see if he can prove us wrong." His technique is solid and he knows the position and the game well. What, exactly, is the risk of inviting him to minicamp?

I don't understand it, either.




Glenn in Almena, Kan., writes: Thanks for having KSU picked 6th in your early season Big 12 football rankings. We like that. You sportswriters will jump on our bandwagon when KSU meticulously works through the 2013 Big 12 schedule. Everyone will be shocked and then, once again next year, you will pick KSU to finish 6th or 7th. It's OK though. The same goes for our Basketball team.

DU: Fair enough, Glenn. K-State might prove me wrong, but let's not act like the Wildcats are rolling up 10-win seasons every single year. I believe Bill Snyder is one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game, but he has won seven games or less in four of his past six seasons at K-State. I'm just saying: It's possible that Wildcats are not just going to roll up 10 wins with a bunch of no-name guys.

Collin Klein was an otherworldly talent, and a huge reason why K-State won 21 games over the past two seasons.




Josh in Wichita, Kan., writes: It looks like Coach Snyder has you all right where he wants you again.

DU: That's a humorous point, actually. Last year at media days, somebody asked Snyder his thoughts on his team being picked sixth in the Big 12. (Which, by the way, I thought was crazy. I picked K-State to finish tied for second last season). He said if he had a vote, he'd pick the Wildcats 99th. It's motivational hyperbole meant for humor of course, but I wonder where he'd vote this team.




Doug in Philadelphia writes: Care to place odds on Clint Trickett being the starter this fall? I can't see any other reason he'd choose WVU unless he saw the writing on the wall that neither Millard or Childress is ready to be an every down starter.

DU: Difficult call here. I haven't seen enough of Millard and Childress up close, and really only got to see them once last spring, plus the highlights from the spring game. I have seen even less of Trickett, but I don't think he was attracted as much to Millard or Childress' lack of experience as he was to getting a chance to head up Holgorsen's offense, which has obviously shown an ability to send you to the NFL.

That, plus his West Virginia roots, are what seemingly attracted Trickett. For me, all three of those guys can win the job and run this offense. The lack of a starter emerging certainly was attractive, I'm sure, but if Trickett simply wanted to play, it seems like Auburn or South Florida would be even more attractive.




Phillip in Lubbock, Texas, writes: Were you aware that Texas Tech is still in the Big 12? Just wondering since you only write about Tech in context with UT or OU.

DU: I wasn't aware. Thanks for the reminder.
2012 record: 11-2
2012 Big 12 record: 8-1
Returning starters: Offense: 7; defense: 1; kicker/punter: 0

Top returners: RB John Hubert, LB Tre Walker, S Ty Zimmerman, WR Tyler Lockett, OL B.J. Finney, WR Tramaine Thompson, OL Cornelius Lucas

Key losses: QB Collin Klein, LB Arthur Brown, WR Chris Harper, DE Meshak Williams, LB Justin Tuggle, CB Nigel Malone, CB Allen Chapman, DE Adam Davis

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Passing: Collin Klein (2,641 yards)
Rushing: John Hubert* (947 yards)
Receiving: Chris Harper (857 yards)
Tackles: Arthur Brown (100)
Sacks: Meshak Williams (10.5)
Interceptions: Ty Zimmerman*, Nigel Malone, Allen Chapman (5)

Spring answers

1. Emerging talents up front. K-State's defense lost all four starters from its defensive line last year, but don't be surprised if the dropoff is minimal next season. Travis Britz, Chaquil Reed, Matt Seiwert and Demonte Hood all stood out with nice springs for the Cats. Stopping the run and a good pass rush is a great start to developing a great defense.

2. The new QBs can definitely play. Neither Jake Waters or Daniel Sams are Collin Klein, but they both look capable of being very good quarterbacks in Big 12 play. You can't take much from their eye-popping stats against second-teamers in K-State's spring game, the lone open practice for fans and media in Manhattan, but you can buy into Bill Snyder's encouraging reports on the duo and how they looked while shredding those defenses.

3. Receivers ready to step up. Chris Harper is gone, but K-State's receiving corps is in good hands. Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett impressive this spring, and Lockett even earned the distinction of being a team captain. They've both been productive with limited opportunity in K-State's run-heavy offense, but both guys are capable of being serviceable No. 1 receivers in the Big 12.

Fall questions

1. Who's the quarterback? Sams and Waters can both play, but which will actually do the playing? Is a two-quarterback system still a possibility? Waters can move, but he can't move like Sams, who's first step into a hole is lightning quick and good enough to give any defenses some major issues. The spring ended with this race tied, but Snyder has to pick one of them eventually.

2. Can K-State sustain its success? Is there still magic in Manhattan? On paper, the returning talent in Manhattan isn't title-worthy, and there will be tons of inexperience, but simply looking like a Top 25 team or finishing in the top half of the Big 12 would be a big-time accomplishment for a team that returns fewer starters than only a handful of teams in college football. Oklahoma State won its first Big 12 title and bounced back with eight wins. Can K-State do something similar this year?

3. Will the defense bounce back? Just two starters return from one of the Big 12's best defenses. The defensive line had some standouts, but replacing guys like linebacker Arthur Brown and both cornerbacks Nigel Malone and Allen Chapman won't be easy. Juco transfer Nate Jackson should earn a starting spot, but the entire unit has a ton to prove in 2013. Inexperience is always hard to overcome in a Big 12 constantly full of high-powered offenses.
More than 250 players were drafted over the weekend, but not everyone who plans on playing in the NFL made it happen.

Minicamps aren't far away, but players can sign with teams as soon as the draft ends. Many did over the weekend. Here's a look at the Big 12's notable signings.
A few thoughts:
  • Collin Klein is the obvious headliner on this list, and I'm torn on him. On the one hand, there's nothing like playing quarterback, and that's the position he wants to play and loves to play. On the other, he hasn't looked like an NFL passer at any point in his career, and he did his future career a disservice by not letting scouts get a look at him at receiver or tight end. He's a big body and an athletic, tough guy. If he wants to play quarterback and only quarterback, then fine. That's up to him. If he really is open to doing something else at the next level, he should have done more work at other positions. I don't see him making an NFL roster as a quarterback.
  • Safeties Tony Jefferson and Cody Davis should definitely make their respective rosters, however, and I'll be intrigued to see what Jefferson looks like and says once he's in camp. He sounded pretty salty on Twitter over the weekend. "I can't even attempt to express how I feel right now. Y'all really don't know how hurt/confused I am!" he tweeted. "Y'all don't even understand the fire inside of me man." Him going undrafted was definitely the most shocking Big 12 development of the draft for me, but he'll have a whole lot of motivation and a lot to prove.
  • I have to think Jake Knott would have gotten drafted if not for his shoulder surgery and being limited in workouts for NFL teams. He makes his name on his smarts, instincts and toughness because he lacks speed and a ton of agility, but being banged up and not testing well certainly didn't bode well for him in the immediate future. Mildly surprised that somebody didn't start drooling over his game tape and take a shot on him in the sixth or seventh round.
  • First guy in this group to get paid big soon? My money is on Quinn Sharp, the do-everything special teamer.
  • Very surprised to see Darrin Moore and Meshak Williams go unsigned so far. Moore is physically gifted, but lacked production and didn't make a team fall in love with him. Williams, though? I get that he's not exactly ideal size, but for his effort and production, how does some team not at least bring him into minicamp? That's just insane.
  • Watching the Big 12 quarterbacks is always interesting. Doege didn't have great arm strength, but had solid accuracy. Crist had the big arm, but his decision-making and accuracy were lacking. We'll see if either of those guys can make a splash with a fresh start in a new spot.
  • One final thought: If I have to hear the phrase "chip on their shoulder" another time in the next week, I'm going to lose it. For the record, if you really did have one, I'm fairly certain that's something that would require surgery.
Kansas State is the final Big 12 team to begin spring practice, just in time for the first team in the Big 12's spring to end. Texas' spring game was Saturday, but Kansas State's first practice is later today. Let's take a closer look.

Schedule: The first of Kansas State's 15 NCAA-allowed practices begins today. They'll lead up to a spring game on April 27. Excluding the spring game, practices are closed to fans and media.

What's new: Defensive run game coordinator and ends coach Joe Bob Clements left the staff to take a similar job at Oklahoma State. Receivers coach Michael Smith did the same and left to Arkansas. Kansas State replaced Smith with Andre Coleman, a former Wildcat from 1990-93 who spent the last three years coaching at Youngstown State. Another Kansas State alum, Blake Seiler, will replace Clements and coach the ends. He played from 2004-06 and served as a graduate assistant on the school's staff the past two seasons.

New faces: Kansas State is welcoming nine players to spring practice who enrolled early from their 2013 recruiting class. Six of them are junior college transfers, including cornerback Nate Jackson, who could make an immediate impact in the secondary. Quarterback Jake Waters and defensive end Devon Nash, juco teammates at Iowa Western, are also on campus and ready to go.

All eyes on: The quarterback race. This thing could go in a number of directions, but Daniel Sams will try and turn spot duty as a runner in mop-up time into a starting position this spring. His competition, Waters, broke Cam Newton's junior college completion percentage record a year ago. Anything could happen, but this should be a fun race between two very different passers.

Question mark: Defensive line. Ryan Mueller showed a lot of potential last season, but all four starters on the defensive line are gone, including Meshak Williams, who put together as strong of a season as any defensive lineman in the Big 12 last season. Javonta Boyd is gone, too. Kansas State needs to find answers along the defensive line this spring, and new position coach Blake Seiler has his work cut out for him.

Breaking out: Tyler Lockett. Big 12 die hard fans know him pretty well, but he's a dangerous target who can make plays with the ball in his hand. With Chris Harper graduating and chasing NFL dreams, he's likely to emerge as the top target in the unit. He's undersized, sure, but he's dangerous. K-State will find ways to get him the ball in the passing game. He'll take advantage.

All eyes on: John Hubert. He's yet another guy stepping into a bigger role this spring. Considering how tight of a ship Kansas State runs during the spring, we won't know just how much K-State's offense will rely on him until the fall, but he's topped 900 yards in each of the past two seasons with limited carries in the shadow of Collin Klein. Klein's gone. It's Hubert's time.
We’re continuing our countdown of the Big 12's top 25 players from the 2012 season. Here's more on my criteria for the list. You can take a peek at how the preseason list looked here.

We're in the top 10 now, so it's about to get heated, I'm sure. If you've got complaints, I've got a mailbag. Let's hear it.

The official list is locked away in a vault in an undisclosed location, but we'll be revealing one player a day moving forward.

On with the show ...

No. 8: Meshak Williams, DE, Kansas State

2012 numbers: Made 45 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. Forced three fumbles, broke up four passes, blocked one kick.

Most recent ranking: Williams was unranked in our preseason list of the Big 12's top 25 players.

Making the case for Williams: I was higher on Williams than most to begin the season, but this year, he blossomed into a player known for a whole lot more than a relentless motor. He refined his technique and looked like a new man as the most disruptive element on one of the Big 12's best defenses. He won the Big 12's Defensive Lineman of the Year award after making 11.5 of his tackles for loss in nine Big 12 games for the Wildcats. He was all over the place for K-State and made a season-high 2.5 sacks in a road win at West Virginia that made it very clear that K-State was going to be the Big 12's best team in 2012. The 6-foot-3, 245-pound juco transfer isn't the most physically gifted player in the Big 12, but he uses what he has and maxes out every ounce of his potential. For Bill Snyder's teams, we'd expect nothing less.

The rest of the list:
We're back ranking the top 10 players at positions across the Big 12. Today, we'll turn our eyes to the defensive lines across the Big 12. Here's what you've missed so far:

Here's what you've missed so far:
Let's get to it.

1. Devonte Fields, TCU: You could make a case for either of these two guys, and Fields wasn't as productive in conference play, but Fields' raw talent is eye-popping. I give him the No. 1 spot on this list after leading the league with 18.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks.

2. Meshak Williams, Kansas State: Williams' motor runs higher than anyone else's in this league, and the juco transfer made a ton of the talent he was given to win the Big 12's Defensive Lineman of the Year Award. He was second in the league with 10.5 sacks and added 15.5 tackles for loss.

3. Alex Okafor, Texas: Okafor finished his career in unbelievable fashion, making 4.5 sacks and dominating Texas' Alamo Bowl win over Oregon State. That jolted him into the Big 12 title with 12.5 sacks and he was second in the league with 16.5 sacks. His career has been a bit up and down, but this was a fitting crescendo to a big talent.

4. Calvin Barnett, Oklahoma State: Barnett was the league's best interior defensive lineman this year, constantly getting a push and generally being a handful for offensive lines. He fixed his early-season penalty issues and finished with nine tackles for loss.

5. Jake McDonough, Iowa State: McDonough wasn't too far behind. He was a breakout star in the middle for Iowa State this season, pushing his way to two sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. You can't grade interior linemen on numbers, but watch Iowa State's defense sometime. McDonough freed up a lot of space for the rest of the defense, one of the league's most underrated.

6. Adam Davis, Kansas State: Davis doesn't have the name recognition around the league that Williams did, but he was solid on the other side of the line, ranking fourth in the league with six sacks and eighth in the league with 11.5 sacks. K-State's defense was one of the Big 12's best last year. The D-line was a huge reason why.

7. Kerry Hyder, Texas Tech: Hyder was a breakout star this season for the much-improved Tech defense. He was fifth in the league with 14 tackles for loss and seventh with 5.5 sacks. The 6-foot-2, 281-pounder is versatile along the defensive line and could be due for a big 2013.

8. Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas: Jeffcoat's junior year came to a sad end when he injured his pectoral and underwent surgery, but even with the abbreviated season, he still had four sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss in just six games. Ridiculous. He could be a top 10 pick next April after electing to return to Texas for his senior season in 2013.

9. Stansly Maponga, TCU: Maponga was a little underwhelming this year, but still turned in a solid effort when you look from a wide angle and not from the high expectations he brought in as the Frogs' only preseason All-Big 12 selection and an All-Mountain West first-teamer. He battled injuries all year and finished with four sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss.

10. David King, Oklahoma: Maximus was mighty for the Sooners this season, who needed him to do a lot. Injuries and suspensions forced him to move all over the place on the defensive line. He was inside, outside and every other possible side. He finished with 2.5 sacks this season.

Honorable mention: Dartwan Bush, Texas Tech; Vai Lutui, Kansas State; Chris McAllister, Baylor; Chucky Hunter, TCU

Offseason to-do list: Kansas State

February, 4, 2013
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Each season, there's lots of turnover and change for every college program. What do the Big 12 teams need to do before next fall? Let's continue our look with the Wildcats up in Manhappenin'.

1. Fill in the secondary. Three starters in the secondary are gone, and cornerback Nigel Malone will be the toughest guy to replace. Safety Jarard Milo and cornerback Allen Chapman were solid talents as well. The Wildcats will have a lot of work to do in the spring to figure out who'll be jumping into the starting lineup to replace the trio. Ty Zimmerman will be healthy, and true freshman safety Dante Barnett showed some promise in replacing Zimmerman after he suffered a leg injury. Randall Evans is a playmaker at corner, and Carl Miles backed up Chapman. Does K-State move them up, or fill their spots with incoming jucos?

2. Sort out the quarterback competition. Collin Klein is gone, and somebody has to be next in line. It sounds as if spring in Manhattan will feature a very open competition between sophomore Daniel Sams, who showcased his legs all of last season and got over a half of experience in K-State's 44-30 win over Oklahoma State at home this season. He's probably the league's fastest quarterback, but expect him to be pushed by newcomer Jake Waters, one of the top juco quarterbacks in the country who broke Cam Newton's completion percentage record last season. This one should be interesting.

3. Develop the defensive line. This defensive line was one of the most underrated in the country, highlighted by Meshak Williams, Adam Davis and Vai Lutui, as well as John Sua and Javonta Boyd. The bad news? All of them are gone, and K-State is forced to replace them. The Wildcats are losing 10 starters on defense. Ryan Mueller showed some promise this year, but K-State's facing a similar problem on the D-line as it is in the secondary. Replacing these guys is just as important, and if K-State can do it, the 2013 season could be a promising one.

More offseason to-do lists:
We're grading each Big 12 team's season right now, and we'll move on to the next team on the list: The Kansas State Wildcats.

OFFENSE: We've been over this before, but even with a terrible outing against Oregon, there's a case to be made for Kansas State as the Big 12's best offense. They don't throw it around the yard. They can't score in 50 seconds like it's nothing. The bottom line: When the Wildcats got the ball, they scored touchdowns more than half the time. That's amazing stuff, and Collin Klein made it all go. Talents like Chris Harper and John Hubert went under respected, and so did the offensive line. Still, the quarterback run game had defenses' heads spinning all year. The offense notably slowed after Klein suffered a head injury against Oklahoma State, but you can't let yourself forget how unstoppable it looked at times this year. The offense also took care of the ball and was a huge reason for the Wildcats' solid turnover margin. Relative to the expectations and perception of this unit, you've got to give this unit a whole lot of respect. GRADE: A+

DEFENSE: Just like offenses, you can grade defenses on any number of criteria. I personally would cast a vote for TCU as the Big 12's best defense, but the Wildcats weren't far behind at all. Arthur Brown won the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year, and Meshak Williams was better than any other defensive lineman in Big 12 play. Safety Ty Zimmerman was a ballhawk, and this defense forced 32 turnovers, tied with TCU for the most in the Big 12. K-State was third in the Big 12 in total defense, but proved an ability to make huge plays in wins over Oklahoma State, Miami, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech. This unit had high expectations and pretty much hit them. No A+, but not far off. GRADE: A

OVERALL: Like I mentioned before, I was higher on K-State than most, so I don't want to hear all this talk about the "media" picking K-State to finish sixth in the Big 12. I picked K-State to finish second in the league and wrote numerous times about how stupid it was for folks to think K-State would really finish sixth. Even my projection of 10 wins and a second-place finish was too modest for these overachievers, who proved without a doubt throughout the season that they were the Big 12's best team. Losing two of three games to finish the season in ugly fashion hurts a bit, but it won't hurt this grade. GRADE: A+

More Big 12 report cards:

The All-Big 12 Bowl Team

January, 10, 2013
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The Big 12 had nine teams in bowl games this season, and here is the best of the best in the Big 12's postseason. Let's get to it.

[+] EnlargeDavid Ash
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsDavid Ash's big plays fueled Texas' comeback against Oregon State.
QB: David Ash, Texas: He edges out Clint Chelf because of his game-changing plays in the Longhorns' win against Oregon State. Ash had the best play of the entire bowl season with a crazy escape and acrobatic touchdown pass to Johnathan Gray, and he hit Marquise Goodwin on a 36-yard bomb to put the Longhorns ahead in the final minutes. He finished 21-of-33 with 241 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 22 yards and a score.

RB: Lache Seastrunk, Baylor: Seastrunk helped Baylor rout UCLA with 138 yards and a score on 16 carries in the Bears' Holiday Bowl win.

RB: Glasco Martin IV, Baylor: How many rushers did the Big 12 have this bowl season who had at least 95 yards? Two, and both played for Baylor. Martin scored three touchdowns in the Holiday Bowl and carried the ball 21 times for 98 yards. Heck of a night for the Bears backs.

WR: Darrin Moore, Texas Tech: Moore was the most consistent receiver in the bowl season with 11 catches for 84 yards, keeping the chains moving for the Red Raiders in their Meineke Car Care Bowl win against Minnesota.

WR: Stedman Bailey, West Virginia: Despite playing in a snowstorm, Bailey had the best performance of any Big 12 receiver. He caught eight balls for 121 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It wasn't enough to get the Pinstripe Bowl win, but no other Mountaineer scored a touchdown.

WR: Marquise Goodwin, Texas: The track star's touches were limited, but he had a huge impact. His 36-yard grab with 2:24 to play proved to be the game winner, and he finished with four catches for 68 yards. He also had one carry -- which he turned into a 64-yard touchdown, looking as fast as any player in college football while streaking to the end zone.

TE: Ernst Brun Jr., Iowa State: Brun caught four passes for 102 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown, to get the first-quarter party started for the Cyclones, which scored 17 points in the quarter. The rest of the game was forgettable, but Brun had one of the longest plays of Iowa State's season.

OL: Cyril Richardson, Baylor: The Bears' left guard was a big reason why Baylor had so much success running the ball. Baylor racked up 306 yards on the ground against UCLA.

OL: Lane Taylor, Oklahoma State: Purdue's Kawann Short is a stud and arguably the team's best player, but Taylor helped Oklahoma State rack up 58 points and helped hold the Boilermakers defensive tackle to just one tackle and one sack. Short had minimal impact throughout the game.

OL: LaAdrian Waddle, Texas Tech: The Red Raiders ran the ball well -- on the few occasions they did -- and Seth Doege had plenty of time. Waddle was a big reason why for both.

OL: Lane Johnson, Oklahoma: Texas A&M wrecking ball Damontre Moore declared for the NFL draft before the Cotton Bowl, but credit Johnson at tackle, who helped hold him to five tackles, one tackle for loss and zero sacks, despite Landry Jones throwing 48 passes.

OL: Ivory Wade, Baylor: Those 306 yards rushing for the Bears didn't come easy. Most of them came on the interior, and Wade was a solid presence in the middle of the line.

DEFENSE

DL: Chris McAllister, Baylor: He was one of a handful of guys to hold UCLA's Johnathan Franklin to 34 yards on 14 carries, had five tackles, including two sacks, and batted down a pass to help keep UCLA's passing game grounded.

DL: Alex Okafor, Texas: Okafor is my defensive MVP of the Big 12 bowl season. He gave Oregon State's offensive line nightmares and helped the Longhorns stage a late comeback with 4.5 sacks, five tackles for loss and eight stops. He also forced a fumble.

DL: Meshak Williams, Kansas State: The Wildcats had a rough night against Oregon, but Williams played pretty well with nine tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack.

DL: Terrance Lloyd, Baylor: Lloyd was part of the Baylor gang who helped UCLA have its worst running game of the season. He had four tackles, three tackles for loss and a sack. No zone read for you.

LB: Terence Garvin, West Virginia: Garvin was everywhere for the West Virginia defense, which largely struggled in a blowout loss to Syracuse. He forced a fumble, recovered a fumble, broke up a pass, had two sacks, made three tackles for loss and had 15 tackles.

LB: Tyler Johnson, Oklahoma State: Johnson blew up what Purdue likes to refer to as its "passing game." He made six tackles, had two sacks and forced two fumbles, including a huge hit on Purdue quarterback Robert Marve.

LB: Eddie Lackey, Baylor: Lackey was another part of Baylor's defense that put together one of its best games of the season. He made 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack and five tackles.

DB: Jason Verrett, TCU: Most of Michigan State's night was frustrating in the passing game before some late success, and Verrett was a big reason for those struggles. He broke up two passes, made a tackle for loss and had 12 tackles.

DB: D.J. Johnson, Texas Tech: Johnson made 14 tackles and is on this team for one of the biggest plays of Texas Tech's season. The defense hadn't forced a turnover since Oct. 20, but Johnson picked off a Gophers pass in the final minute with Minnesota driving and the game tied. He returned it 39 yards, helping to set up the winning field goal as time expired.

DB: Jeremy Reeves, Iowa State: Reeves returned a Cody Green interception 31 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter of the Liberty Bowl loss. He had six tackles with a tackle for loss and a pass breakup.

DB: Daytawion Lowe, Oklahoma State: No second-half comebacks for Purdue. Lowe opened the half with a 37-yard fumble return for a score and made seven tackles with half a tackle for loss.

SPECIALISTS

KR: Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech: This one is pretty simple. Grant returned a kickoff 99 yards for a score, giving Texas Tech a 7-3 lead early in the first quarter of its Meineke Car Care Bowl win.

PR: Josh Stewart, Oklahoma State: Purdue faked a punt to keep its opening drive alive but punted on its next set of downs. The always-shifty Stewart delivered a 64-yard punt return, giving Oklahoma State the ball on the Purdue 19-yard line. The Cowboys scored for a 7-0 lead to kick off the Heart of Dallas Bowl rout.

K: Jaden Oberkrom, TCU: He edges out Texas Tech's Ryan Bustin, who kicked a 28-yard winner, for making all three of his attempts, including a crazy 53-yarder for a 16-14 lead with 2:42 to play. He also made kicks of 47 and 31 yards.

P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State: He narrowly edges out Oklahoma's Tress Way (five punts, three inside 20, long of 58 yards, average 49.4 yards) for this award after pinning Purdue inside its 20-yard line on two of his three punts. He boomed a 65-yarder and averaged nearly 53 yards on his three punts. He was more valuable for Oklahoma State because field position mattered to Purdue. It didn't to Texas A&M.

Early Big 12 power rankings for 2013

January, 8, 2013
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The season is done, but ask any coach and he'll tell you the 2013 season already has begun. That's true on this blog, too. So, how would I slot the Big 12 heading into the fall? With a month before national signing day and a couple of months before spring football kicks into high gear, here's my first crack at slotting the conference.

To me, it looks as if we have four legitimate contenders for the conference title and three possible dark horses. We'll see how the latter three develop, but I'm sold on the top four as teams that could realistically win the league next season.

1. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys will be loaded, and that's especially true if running back Joseph Randle comes back. Cornerback Justin Gilbert is returning, but we saw this season that they can win with any one of their three quarterbacks. That's a recipe for success in this league. The defense was a bit streaky; this season was the first under defensive coordinator Bill Young that the Cowboys didn't finish in the top 15 in turnovers forced. If they can get back to forcing turnovers in bunches next season, another Big 12 title could be headed to Stillwater.

2. TCU: The Frogs are growing up fast, but their spot here is assuming that quarterback Casey Pachall will be back on the field this spring to reclaim his job. The defense looks likely to be the best in the Big 12, and as much offense as this league has, you can't win it without a solid defense. TCU's offense will win it some games; its defense might win it a Big 12 title. Look out for Devonte Fields' encore.

3. Oklahoma: The Sooners look like they may lack a true star on next season's team, but they are still solid across the two-deep and will be good enough to be in the mix for a title even without quarterback Landry Jones. A wealth of losses on the defensive end is a bigger concern, but receivers Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard also will have to navigate a transition to a new QB after three-plus years with Jones. The Sooners ought to feature fullback Trey Millard a bit more in the offense next year.

4. Texas: Believe it or not, but David Ash is the Big 12's most experienced passer. Can he look the part on the field? We'll see, but the biggest problem for Texas is continuing its defensive improvements. Jackson Jeffcoat could be back, and Jordan Hicks will be one of the league's biggest talents if he is able to recover from a hip injury. The time is now if the Longhorns' trio of backs are going to mature into true impact players.

5. Baylor: I'm a believer in the late-season run for these guys translating to 2013. The defense made big strides, and we'll see if those continue, but the offense will be fine. I buy Bryce Petty as a big talent and the next in the long line of Art Briles' quarterback disciples. Lache Seastrunk will help him out early, too. Don't be surprised if he surpasses Randle next year as the Big 12's best back.

6. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders are a huge wild card and might have the biggest upside of any team in the bottom half of these rankings. Michael Brewer is a promising QB, and he now has Kliff Kingsbury -- the former Texas A&M offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach who helped the Aggies far surpass expectations -- as his new head coach. Could Tech do the same? The Red Raiders have tons of talent on both sides of the ball, thanks to a couple of great recruiting classes from Tommy Tuberville (who left to become the coach at Cincinnati).

7. Kansas State: No Collin Klein and Arthur Brown? You know about that, but there's no Chris Harper, Travis Tannahill, Braden Wilson, and the entire defensive line is gone, including star DE Meshak Williams. Both starting cornerbacks are gone, too. Point is, K-State's probably a bowl team next season, but to come back from that mountain of losses and be in the top half of the Big 12 is going to be a tall, tall task.

8. West Virginia: The Mountaineers' trio of wide receivers Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin and quarterback Geno Smith was outstanding this year. Not much else in Morgantown was. All three are gone, and that team only went 7-5. Coordinator Keith Patterson has got to fix this defense in the spring and apply some lessons learned in a disappointing Year 1 in the Big 12. The QB derby between Paul Millard and Ford Childress should be interesting.

9. Iowa State: Sam Richardson was severely ill while playing in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, but he still didn't inspire a lot of confidence in the future of the QB spot in Ames, despite a strong finish to the season. With linebacking pillars A.J. Klein and Jake Knott both headed to the NFL, the odds once again will be against Iowa State winning six games and getting to a bowl. Without consistency at the quarterback spot, it's going to be tough, especially with the defense likely to take a step back.

10. Kansas: Gotta prove something before the Jayhawks move out of the basement. Charlie Weis is bringing in tons of juco talent, but after the Dayne Crist experiment didn't work, BYU transfer Jake Heaps simply must be better for KU to begin its climb back to the postseason.

Video: Kansas State DE Meshak Williams

December, 31, 2012
12/31/12
2:30
PM ET

Kansas State DE Meshak Williams gives a scouting report on the Oregon offense, Wildcats QB Collin Klein and the lessons from the loss to Baylor.

Preseason All-Big 12 checkup: Defense

December, 28, 2012
12/28/12
9:00
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It's always fun looking back on what we thought in the preseason, and today, we'll take another look.

Here's who made the postseason team.

How did our All-Big 12 preseason team stack up at season's end? Here's how the preseason All-Big 12 offense ended up. Now, let's look at the defense.

DL: Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas

Jeffcoat was off to a solid start with 9.5 tackles for loss and four sacks with a pair of forced fumbles in his first six games, but a torn pectoral muscle ended his season early and he didn't make the postseason team.

DL: Stansly Maponga, TCU

Maponga was TCU's lone representative on the preseason team, but he didn't quite live up to expectations, and was overshadowed by teammate Devonte Fields. Maponga made just six tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks, neither of which ranked in the top 10 of the Big 12. He did force two fumbles but didn't make the postseason team.

DL: Alex Okafor, Texas

Okafor was solid this season, and wasn't far off from being the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year. He was third in the league with eight sacks and sixth in the league with 11.5 tackles for loss. He also forced two fumbles and made the postseason team.

DL: Meshak Williams, Kansas State

I took some flack for including Williams on my preseason team, but I'll have the last laugh here. I loved his relentless motor and underrated technique and use of hands in 2011. This year, it paid off with a Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year trophy after leading the league with 9.5 sacks and finishing third with 13.5 tackles for loss. He obviously made the postseason team.

LB: A.J. Klein, Iowa State

Klein returned as the league's Defensive Player of the Year and had a really solid year with 98 tackles and an interception returned 87 yards for a score. He also had 2.5 tackles for loss and made the postseason team.

LB: Arthur Brown, Kansas State

Brown didn't have a huge statistical year but he held together a solid K-State defense and flew around all season, even playing through a painful ankle injury. He won Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors for his efforts and made 91 tackles, six tackles for loss and intercepted two passes, returning one for a score. He obviously made the postseason team.

LB: Jake Knott, Iowa State

Knott was having a great year with 79 tackles and two interceptions through eight games, as well as five pass breakups and two forced fumbles. He suffered a shoulder injury that required surgery, though, and played one last game, going out on top with a win over Baylor. Despite the injury, I still placed him on the postseason team.

CB: Carrington Byndom, Texas

Byndom was my pick as the league's top corner this year, but he was part of Texas' defensive struggles and got surpassed by some better players. The Longhorns pass D ranked third in the league, but Byndom was 21st in pass breakups, though he did have three interceptions and two blocked kicks.

CB: Brodrick Brown, Oklahoma State

Brown and teammate Justin Gilbert were two of the bigger disappointments across the league this year. The duo combined for 10 picks a year ago. Neither had one this year, and OSU ranked seventh in the league in pass defense. He was surpassed by better performances on this year's team by Aaron Colvin and Jason Verrett.

S: Kenny Vaccaro, Texas

Vaccaro had a solid year with 93 tackles, two interceptions 3.5 TFLs and two forced fumbles, but I gave the narrow nod to K-State's Ty Zimmerman for the second safety spot on the postseason team.

S: Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma

Jefferson was one of the league's best defenders this year and finished second in the league with 113 stops. He picked off two passes and broke up three more. He made the postseason team.

All-Big 12 Underrated Team: Defense

December, 27, 2012
12/27/12
4:00
PM ET
Every year, we crown an All-Big 12 team here at ESPN.com, but we also like to give some recognization to guys who don't get enough credit for just how good they really are. These are their stories.

Here's our All-Underrated Offense from Wednesday.

DL: Jake McDonough, Iowa State

McDonough quietly put together a season that was definitely an All-Big 12 first-team type of year. His numbers aren't eye-popping (31 tackles, 5.5 TFL, two sacks), but you can't often grade nose guards on their statistics. The 280-pounder was a force in the middle of the line for the Cyclones.

DL: Kerry Hyder, Texas Tech

Hyder was a big piece of Texas Tech's defensive resurgence under Art Kaufman this year. The defensive tackle bulled his way to 13.5 tackles for loss, the same number as Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year Meshak Williams. Tech needed help rushing the passer and slowing the run. Hyder did both.

DL: Adam Davis, Kansas State

Meshak Williams and Arthur Brown get all the press on K-State's defense, but Davis was a huge force, too. He had two sacks in the win over Miami, 1.5 sacks in the win over West Virginia and finished sixth in the league with 11.5 tackles for loss. He was fourth in the league with six sacks.

DL: Toben Opurum, Kansas

Opurum's got a well-chronicled road to his current spot on the D-line, leading KU in rushing in 2009 before switching postitions under Turner Gill. KU's defense was better this year, and so was Opurum. It's tough to put up big numbers when KU was getting beaten, but he made six tackles for loss and forced two fumbles.

LB: Bryce Hager, Baylor

Yes, when your offense is on the field, you get more opportunities to make tackles, but ask K-State what it thinks of Hager. He was a cruise missile against the Cats and seemed to be in Collin Klein's face all night. He led the league with 115 tackles and added eight tackles for loss and three sacks. He also forced two fumbles and had six games with double-digit tackles.

LB: Ben Heeney, Kansas

Heeney's another playmaker all over the field for a defense that struggled at times. He's a speedy, versatile playmaker for the Jayhawks, who made 112 tackles and 12 tackles for loss.

LB: Jarell Childs, Kansas State

Childs' biggest play of the season was the scoop and score against Oklahoma, but he was solid for the Wildcats all year, and filled in admirably after Tre Walker's knee injury forced him into more playing time. He recovered two fumbles and finished with 64 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss.

DB: Karl Joseph, West Virginia

Joseph broke out as a true freshman and was basically the lone bright spot on a deservedly maligned West Virginia defense this season. He forced three fumbles, intercepted two passes, made seven tackles for loss and racked up 95 tackles. There's a big career ahead of him.

DB: Bradley McDougald, Kansas

McDougald was the Jayhawks' best defender this season and one of the big reasons for KU's big improvement on that side of the ball. He picked off three passes, forced two fumbles, had four tackles for loss and made 92 stops at safety.

DB: Durrell Givens, Iowa State

Givens was a turnover machine this season. He forced four fumbles, picked off three passes and made 77 tackles. His money stat, though? He recovered a nation-high six fumbles for the Cyclones. That's just ridiculous and is good enough on its own to land him on this list.

DB: Cody Davis, Texas Tech

The Red Raiders' leader doesn't get the press of the league's elite safeties like Kenny Vaccaro, Tony Jefferson or even Ty Zimmerman, but he's solid, even if he doesn't have the physical skills of Vaccaro or Jefferson. He's still one of the league's brightest players. That shows up in his decision making and on-field discipline that kept Tech from giving up the bushels of big plays it did a year ago.

A closer look: Tostitos Fiesta Bowl

December, 27, 2012
12/27/12
10:00
AM ET
As the bowl season approaches, we're going to be looking a little closer at each game. We'll go down the Big 12 bowl schedule in chronological order.

TOSTITOS FIESTA BOWL

No. 5 Kansas State (11-1) vs. No. 4 Oregon (11-1)

Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.

When: Thursday, Jan. 3, 8:30 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

About Kansas State: Bill Snyder's boys proved they could get over a painful Baylor loss. With the Big 12 title in the balance, K-State thrashed Texas with a second-half surge to win the Big 12 title on its home field. K-State made the first 10 games of the season look pretty easy, even with close wins over Oklahoma and Iowa State on the road. The Wildcats largely controlled both games but blew out a whole bunch of 7-5 Big 12 teams like West Virginia, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. The Wildcats have a great case as the best K-State team ever, even though a painful loss to Baylor cost them what looked like a really likely shot at a national title after reaching No. 1 in the BCS for the first time ever after a win at TCU. This was K-State's first Big 12 title since 2003 but the first time it's truly been the Big 12's best team throughout the regular season since 1998.

About Oregon: The Ducks are all about go, go, go and this season's been no exception. The run-heavy offense didn't miss a beat without LaMichael James and Darron Thomas. We'll talk about the Ducks trio more a little later, but Oregon nearly reached the national title game for the second time in three years before a painful overtime loss to Oregon's super offense's kryptonite: Stanford. The Ducks hadn't scored fewer than 42 points all season. Stanford held them to just 14 in an overtime loss the same night K-State lost to Baylor. The teams were No. 1 and No. 2 in the BCS on Nov. 17, poised to block the SEC from playing for a seventh straight national title, but the loss also cost Oregon a bid to the Pac-12 championship and a second consecutive Rose Bowl berth. Instead, the Ducks are headed to the desert where they lost to Auburn in the title game two years ago. The Ducks are 4-1 against top 25 teams, but haven't played anyone ranked higher than No. 13, which was Stanford. Those four wins, though, came by an average of almost 29 points.

Wildcats to watch: In case you missed the second half of the Wildcats' win over Oklahoma State, Heisman finalist Collin Klein is K-State's offense. Receiver Chris Harper and running back John Hubert are fine talents in their own right, but Klein is the man who makes it all go. When he's out or plays poorly like he did against TCU and Baylor (performances that ultimately cost him the Heisman Trophy), K-State can look very, very average offensively. Linebacker and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Arthur Brown has led one of the Big 12's best defenses along with cornerback Nigel Malone and big-time pass-rusher Meshak Williams.

Ducks to watch: How many players on any team ever have had three different players earn legitimate Heisman hype at some point during the season? Scatback De'Anthony Thomas was an early-season splash before slowing with limited touches as the season moved forward, though Kenjon Barner emerged as the team's best back throughout the season. In the middle of the season, though, quarterback Marcus Mariota landed on a few ballots with some big games, too. Barner is the team's best player, ranking fifth nationally with 1,624 rushing yards, but Mariota's passer rating of 165.36 is higher than every Big 12 quarterback but J.W. Walsh. Linebacker Michael Clay racked up 92 tackles and fellow backer Kiko Alonso led the team with 12 tackles for loss (two defensive linemen, Dion Jordan and Taylor Hart, combined for 20.5), but let's be honest: It's all about the offense on this squad.

Did you know? Because of expansion quirks, there have been six Big 12 teams to play in this game in the past five years. No Big 12 team won the game from 2001-08, but the league is 3-1 in the game in the past four seasons, including huge wins over No. 10 Ohio State and No. 4 Stanford over that stretch. (There were also rumors of a win over a five-loss team from somewhere in the Northeast, but I don't know anything about that.)

More on the Big 12 Bowls:
The season has come and gone, and brought with it an All-Big 12 team. But where do these guys come from? How easy is it for a no-name recruit to earn all-conference first-team honors?

We looked at the All-Big 12 offense on Monday. Let's move to the other side of the ball now.

You'll need ESPN Insider Insider to see each player's recruiting page from back in the day, but I excerpted a bit of what the scouts had to say about each player coming out of high school.

DE: Devonte Fields, TCU
  • Fields was the nation's No. 11 defensive end in the 2012 recruiting class and No. 73 on the ESPN 150, a list of the top 150 recruits in the nation. He was the No. 9 player in Texas and scouts gave the Arlington, Texas native a grade of 81. Scouts take: Fields can play the game and be a productive defender. He is a kid who possesses good size and looks to have a sturdy build and should be able to continue to develop his frame some as he physically matures. He is a pretty good player and seems to be able to get around the ball and make plays. He flashes a good burst off the ball, but it is not always present and you would like to see him improve that. This is a kid with good flexibility and he can get and play low. He is able to come out of his stance and uncoil and get under a blocker's pads and derive good power from his lower body.
DT: Calvin Barnett, Oklahoma State
  • Barnett came to Oklahoma State via junior college. ESPN does not scout junior college prospects. However, he was committed to Oklahoma State for an extended period coming out of high school in Tulsa, Okla. He was the nation's No. 21 defensive tackle and signed with Arkansas. He was also recruited by Alabama, Florida and LSU. Scouts take: Barnett can be a disruptive presence in the trenches. He has good size and combines that with good quickness. He can get moving and crash the backfield. He has a nice, quick swim move that he is able to utilize when blockers lunge at him. His ability to get off the ball pretty consistently before the man in front of him makes him tough to block, but he is also physical. Flashes the ability to generate power from his lower body and can take on a block and hold his ground. Flashes the ability to use his hands to separate. He can be tough to move off the ball and does a good job of getting into the gap and working down the line laterally.
DE: Alex Okafor, Texas
  • Okafor was No. 149 on the 2009 ESPNU 150, and was the nation's No. 12 defensive end. Was also recruited by Oklahoma, Nebraska and LSU. Scouts take: Okafor is a tall wiry defender with a high motor. He needs to get into a college weight program and add some bulk, but for a tall lean kid he displays the ability to play with good leverage. He has a solid get-off and can come out of his stance, keep his knees bent, and on contact generate power from his lower body.
DE: Meshak Williams, Kansas State
  • Williams was unranked coming out of high school in 2009 in Sylvester, Ga. His recruiting page even has his name spelled as "Meshack." His only note from scouts: "Class AAA First-Team All-State selection..." Williams ended up going to junior college but returned to Kansas State and was a second-team All-Big 12 selection in his first season, 2011.
LB: A.J. Klein, Iowa State
  • Scouts graded Klein at 74 and ranked him as the nation's No. 116 outside linebacker. The Kimberly, Wisc., native was also recruited by Northern Illinois, Western Michigan and Wisconsin. He earned the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honor in 2011. Scouts take: Klein is not going to shine at a combine with his size and speed measurables as an outside linebacker prospect but you can't teach his motor, toughness and instincts pursuing the football between the white lines. He has just adequate height and bulk and his non-rangy frame does not have a ton of physical upside. Could tip the scales at a solid 225-pounds in college without losing his current athleticism. Makes sound reads and flashes good initial quicks pursuing the football. Shows above average fluidity sifting through the wash, but is more effective pursuing and attacking vertically. Lacks great sideline-to-sideline speed but flashes above average burst in the short-area and closes strong when tracking down the football.
LB: Jake Knott, Iowa State
  • Knott was the nation's No. 114 linebacker, and graded out at 74 by ESPN. He was also recruited by Army, Iowa and Northern Illinois. Scouts take: Knott is a great football player who will make any roster better at the next level. This is a kid who is not going to blow you away at a combine with blazing speed and agility, but he gets it done on both sides of the ball and is a tough, instinctive, productive football player. Is tall, well-built and should continue to pack on good bulk.
LB: Arthur Brown, Kansas State
  • Brown transferred to Kansas State from Miami, but he was the nation's No. 1 outside linebacker and No. 6 on the ESPN 150 back in 2008. He was also recruited by Florida, LSU, and USC, among others. Scouts take: Arthur Brown possesses the best short-range explosion of any linebacker in the 2008 class. His last few steps before contact are a blur, but not for ball carriers. Most of them are laying flat on their backs wondering where the freight train went that just hit them. He is thickly-built with the solid frame you want in a middle linebacker who is going to be dishing out a lot of punishment. Utilizes his long arms to make strong, impressive drag down tackles from the backside. An instinctive and fast-twitched linebacker who consistently plays downhill, and slips under blockers with his quick feet. Flashes great change-of-direction skill between the tackles. He can quickly plant, pivot and explode laterally in any direction when sifting through the wash
S: Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma
  • Jefferson was the nation's No. 4 athlete and No. 21 on the 2010 ESPNU 150. He was a four-star recruit and graded out at an 84. He was also recruited by Arizona, UCLA, USC and Florida. Scouts take: There may not be a more fast-twitched athlete in this class -- period. Jefferson has rare burst and acceleration between the white lines and has the ability to be playmaker on both sides of the ball in college. He lacks ideal height at linebacker but is very compact, tightly-built and his striking explosiveness allows him to play much bigger. Pursues to the football like he was shot out of a cannon.
CB: Jason Verrett, TCU
  • Verrett was a junior college recruit and not rated by ESPN. He was also recruited by UTEP and San Jose State.
CB: Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma
  • Colvin was the nation's No. 40 safety and given a grade of 78 by scouts. He was also recruited by Missouri and Oklahoma State. He obviously moved positions after he arrived at Oklahoma. Scouts take: Colvin is a very good cover two safety. He has good height and the frame to put on some more bulk. Possesses decent speed and quickness. Very solid in run support and keeps proper leverage on the football when coming up from the hash; prevents the cutback. When attacking face up on inside run sometimes get caught flat-footed. Slips past blockers to get a hit on the ball carrier. Usually makes the play but needs to take the extra steps to be a more physical tackler; sometimes dive tackles.
S: Ty Zimmerman, Kansas State
  • Zimmerman was not ranked or scouted coming out of high school in Junction City, Kansas, but the junior started immediately at K-State in 2010 and earned freshman All-American honors. He drew interest from Northern Illinois and Northern Iowa, too.

An interesting mix of superstars and hidden gems in this group. Bill Snyder truly is a wizard. Even more evidence here. He finds talent in obvious, less than obvious, and impossible to find places. Amazing. Also, is TCU's best recruit going to just win everything every year? Fields is going to be the latest in a long line of high-profile recruits who sign up to play for Gary Patterson in Fort Worth. This is what he does with that kind of talent.

The note about both Klein and Knott not jumping out at "combines" is equal parts hilarious, true and prescient.

What stuck out to you about this group?

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