Big 12: Michael Bennett

Update on the Big 12's undrafted free agents

April, 27, 2009
4/27/09
6:44
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

I've gotten a couple of messages today wondering where all of the Big 12's free agents have ended up.

The most complete and accurate listing I've found is on the fine website nepatriotsdraft.com. (Hat tip to The Ralphie Report.com). Here's what they have as of late Monday afternoon.

Big potential free-agent pool among Big 12 players

April, 27, 2009
4/27/09
10:16
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

I'll be back later today with a complete breakdown of the Big 12's draft.

But here's something to watch as Monday plays out.

There are still some pretty good players available from Big 12 schools who were not drafted.

Most notably are three quarterbacks who set records and took their teams to bowl games this past season.

Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell, Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel and Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz all went undrafted.

Look for teams to be dickering with them for free-agent contracts throughout the day.

Here's a list of some of the more notable Big 12 players who went undrafted.

There are some pretty good players on that list. I wouldn't be surprised to see a couple of them make an NFL roster if given the opportunity.

Big 12 could be headed for landmark draft

April, 24, 2009
4/24/09
3:05
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

It's fitting and somewhat understandable that the NFL draft will have a distinctly Big 12 tinge Saturday as the early part of the first round plays out.

Keep an eye for Big 12 players to be very conspicuous in ESPN's broadcast of the draft. Four Big 12 players have been invited to watch the proceedings from the "Green Room" for Saturday's first day of the draft.

Baylor tackle Jason Smith, Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree, Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman and Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo all will be at Radio City Music Hall in New York City for the draft.

Smith, Crabtree and Orakpo all could be taken among the draft's 10 or 15 picks. But Freeman, who could go as high as the middle of the first round or drop to the second round, could provide the most compelling drama of the draft's broadcast. Does anybody remember Brady Quinn or Aaron Rodgers in recent years?

The draft undoubtedly will showcase the Big 12's collection of talent that was continually highlighted last season.

Most mock drafts expect the Big 12 will have five or six first-round draft picks. Likely players to be selected include Orakpo, Smith, Missouri wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew, Freeman and Crabtree.

Look for the Big 12's burgeoning reputation as being on the cutting edge in terms of passing to be showcased this weekend. Most mock drafts have Crabtree and Maclin ranked as the top two receivers available. And Pettigrew is the top tight end on most draft boards.

If six Big 12 players are selected in the first round, it would match the league's previous high of six first-round selections set in 2003.

The most interesting potential selection will be Smith, a lightly-regarded recruit after a high-school career as a tight end. He blossomed after adding nearly 80 pounds of muscle over his college career.

Smith will become the Bears' first first-round draft selection since defensive tackle Daryl Gardener was picked by the Miami Dolphins in 1996.

Most prognosticators expect Smith will be picked among the first three picks in the draft. That would be the earliest a Baylor player has been chosen since quarterback Adrian Burk was the second pick in the draft by Baltimore in 1950.

The exposure for the Baylor program will be immense, according to Baylor coach Art Briles.

"We could get the smartest marketers in Texas and ask them how we could best market Baylor University, and they couldn't come up with a better scenario than what's going to happen Saturday in New York," Briles said. "Jason is a great person, and it's been nothing but positive for Baylor. We just have to take that and continue to climb as a football program."

Freeman is poised to become only the second quarterback in Big 12 history to be selected in the first round. He would join Vince Young, who was picked third by Tennessee in the 2006 draft.

Freeman also would be Kansas State's first first-round pick since Terence Newman was picked fifth in the first round by Dallas in 2003. He will also become the Wildcats' highest-selected quarterback, bettering the previous selection of Lynn Dickey, who was picked with the fourth pick in the third round by Green Bay in 1971.

Freeman's size (6-6, 250 pounds) and his rocket arm are his two biggest attributes, despite his lack of extended success in college. His abilities were clear to Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy and OSU coaches.

"The first time we saw Josh, because of his size, stature, the way he carried himself, and then his arm strength, we knew he had a chance to play," Gundy said. "He's just kind of arrived nationally -- people are just now starting to find out about him -- but we knew in our staff room that we was going to be first-round pick.

"You just don't find guys that are 6-6, 250, that can throw it and are as accurate as he is, and he's seemed to be very durable. We were impressed with him from day one."

Crabtree will become Tech's first first-round draft selection of the Big 12 era and the Red Raiders' first first-round pick since Gabe Rivera was picked with the 21st pick by Pittsburgh in 1983.

He will become the highest-selected Texas Tech wide receiver since Dave Parks was the first pick of the 1964 draft by San Francisco and the first one of Mike Leach's players to be picked on the first day of the draft.

Orakpo is poised to continue Texas' recent development as a factory for first-round selections.

Despite missing out last season, the Longhorns produced eight first-round picks in the previous four seasons and 13 over Mack Brown's coaching tenure.

In the process, Orakpo is hoping to counter-balance the so-called "Texas factor" that several analysts have mentioned this week to explain why some Longhorns have been disappointments once they started their NFL careers.

Brown angrily refuted those charges earlier this week.

"People can be more critical of us because we've had as many, or more, than anybody else in the draft," Brown told the Austin American-Statesman. "I don't really pay attention to (that), and I talk to enough general managers, coaches and scouts to know they don't either."

Maclin will become the first Missouri player selected in the first round since Justin Smith was picked by Cincinnati with the fourth pick of the draft in 2001. And Maclin also is poised to become the first Missouri wide receiver ever taken in the first round.

Here's my unofficial pegging of Big 12 draft status during the weekend draft.

Sure first-round picks: Baylor OT Jason Smith, Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree, Texas DE Brian Orakpo, Missouri WR Jeremy Maclin,

Likely first-round picks: Kansas State QB Josh Freeman

Maybe first-round picks: Missouri DT Evander "Ziggy" Hood, Oklahoma State TE Brandon Pettigrew

Likely second-round picks: Oklahoma G Duke Robinson, Missouri S William Moore.

Likely third-round picks: Oklahoma WR Juaquin Iglesias, Oklahoma T Phil Loadholt, Missouri TE Chase Coffman.

Likely picks inside the first five rounds: Texas A&M QB Stephen McGee, Texas Tech S Darcel McBath, Texas Tech DE Brandon Williams, Texas DT Roy Miller, Texas A&M RB Michael Goodson, Texas A&M DE Mi
chael Bennett
, Oklahoma S-LB Nic Harris, Texas Tech G Louis Vasquez, Nebraska DE Zach Potter, Nebraska T Lydon Murtha.

Don't always believe those heights and weights

February, 24, 2009
2/24/09
6:14
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

When I was a little kid, one element among my favorites of going to a football game was collecting a game program. I loved nothing better than to scan rosters and check the heights and weights of players as I looked at them through my father's binoculars.

It led me to collecting many programs that probably still are around my parents' house somewhere. I guess I just wanted to add to the clutter of my bedroom.

If I had known then what I know now, I might not have been so diligent about all of the effort. Little boys don't know those heights and weights for their football heroes aren't always correct.

The best way to analyze the discrepancy is by comparing the heights and weights of some of the Big 12 players who attended the recent NFL combine and compare them with what they were listed at during their college careers.

The before is their listed height and weight during last season. The after is what they were measured over the weekend by the NFL.

(Read full post)

What to watch at Big 12 spring practices

February, 13, 2009
2/13/09
10:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The Big 12 should again be loaded in 2009. And the spring will feature several key positional battles and holes to fill that will go a long way in determining whether Oklahoma can make history and claim a fourth-straight championship this season.

Here a look at each team and three major items to watch in spring practice.

NORTH DIVISION

Colorado Buffaloes

Spring practice begins: March 31

Spring game: April 25

What to watch:

  • The health of the team: The Buffaloes' players lost a combined total of 121 games to due to illness or injury last season. Some players like tight end Riar Geer, guards Devin Head, Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner and Mike Iltis, linebacker Jon Major and cornerback Jalil Brown will be limited during the spring because of past injuries. But others like tackle Ryan Miller, tailback Rodney Stewart and cornerback Benjamin Burney should be good to go throughout the spring. Coach Dan Hawkins won't push things, but it will be good to have as many regulars as possible practicing again.
  • The return of Darrell Scott: The conference's most publicized running back recruit of 2008 never could get untracked, rushing for disappointing totals of 343 yards and 3.9 yards per carry last season. The spring will give him a chance to show why he was one of the nation's top recruits in the Class of 2008.
  • Settle the kicking game: After Colorado kickers combined to shank 11 of 17 attempts last season, it might be the last chance for Aric Goodman or Jameson Davis to show what they can do after their struggles last season and the arrival of heralded recruit Zach Grossnickle in the fall.

Iowa State Cyclones

Spring practice begins: March 24

Spring game: April 18

What to watch:

  • Paul Rhoads' early assimilation: After his hiring last Dec. 23, Rhoads has concentrated on recruiting and building a coaching staff. Being able to work on the field with his team will likely be a relief for him after such a hectic start.
  • Help in the secondary: The Cyclones lose starters Chris Singleton and Brandon Hunley from a unit that ranked in the bottom 10 nationally in pass efficiency defense and pass defense. Rhoads' specialty is defense, but he'll have his work cut out with his new unit.
  • Finding another starter at wide receiver: Darius Darks is back after an impressive freshman season, but Rhoads needs to find a replacement for 2008 leading receiver R.J. Sumrall. Look for Sedrick Johnson, Marquis Hamilton and Houston Jones all to have their chances at the starting unit during the spring.

Kansas Jayhawks

Spring practice begins: March 9

Spring game: April 11

What to watch:

  • Finding starters at linebackers: The Jayhawks must completely rebuild their linebacking corps as James Holt, Mike Rivera and Joe Mortensen all are gone from last season. Arist Wright and Dakota Lewis are in the mix because of their experience. A bigger wild card could be converted running back Angus Quigley, who turned heads with his defensive instincts and tackling in work before the Jayhawks' bowl game last season.
  • Get a consistent kick returner: The mystifying struggles of Marcus Herford last season resulted in a drop of more than 8 yards per kick return as the Jayhawks fell from seventh in 2007 to 118th nationally last season. Dezmon Briscoe showed flashes of being a productive returner late in the season, but more work from different players will be needed in the spring to shore up the area.
  • Rebuild the center of the offensive line: Losing starting guards Chet Hartley and Adrian Mayes along with center Ryan Cantrell will be the biggest offensive concern this spring for the Jayhawks. Carl Wilson and Sal Kapra should get a long look at guard and Brad Thorson will given the first shot at center.

Kansas State Wildcats:

Spring practice begins: April 6

Spring game: May 2

What to watch:

  • Bill Snyder's return to coaching: The wily Snyder will be facing the biggest challenge of his professional career after returning after a three-year coaching sabbatical. The Wildcats aren't as bad as they were in 1989 when Snyder originally took over, but the Big 12 is a much tougher than the Big Eight was in those days. And it will test the patience and legendary work ethic of Snyder to get the Wildcats back into Big 12 title contention in the immediate future.
  • The quarterback battle: New offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig is one of the conference's most notable hirings after his strong recent work at Utah. Ludwig will be challenged as he looks at Carson Coffman or junior-college transfer Daniel Thomas to replace Josh Freeman as his starting quarterback.
  • Looking for a defensive turnaround: The Wildcats were woeful last season, ranking among the bottom 10 teams nationally in rushing defense, scoring defense and total defense and 106th nationally in pass defense. It will likely try the patience of new coordinator Chris Cosh, who will be looking for replacements along the defensive front for Brandon Balkcom and Ian Campbell. One potential playmaker could be Jeff Fitzgerald, who started 13 games for Virginia in 2007.

Missouri Tigers

Spring practice begins: March 10

Spring game: April 18

What to watch:

  • The changing of the guard on offense -- and then some: Gone are all-time greats like Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin and Chase Coffman, along with productive receivers Tommy Saunders and Earl Goldsmith. Offensive coordinator Dave Christensen has left for the Wyoming coaching job, meaning that Dave Yost takes over as the coordinator along with Blaine Gabbert at quarterback, Andrew Jones at tight end and Jerrell Jackson as the featured receiver. Collectively, it will be the largest transformation in Gary Pinkel's coaching tenure at Missouri.
  • Finding a pass rush: Three starters are gone along the defensive front as productive starters Stryker Sulak, Tommy Chavis and Ziggy Hood all are gone from last year. Look for redshirt defensive end Aldon Smith to get in the fight for playing time immediately, along with holdover Brian Coulter at defensive end if he can recover quickly from labrum surgery. Terrell Resonno and Dominique Hamilton will get a long look at defensive tackle before the arrival of heralded "tight end" Sheldon Richardson in the summer.
  • Secondary assistance: The Tigers need help after losing starting safeties Justin Garrett and William Moore and cornerback Tru Vaughns from last year's team. Considering all of the prolific offenses in the Big 12, this will capture much of defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus' attention as newcomers like safety Jarrell Harrison and cornerback Robert Steeples will show what they can do.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Spring practice begins: March 21

Spring game: April 18

What to watch:

  • The battle for quarterback: One of the nation's most intriguing quarterback battles will play out during the spring. Incoming freshman Cody Green arrived in college early intent to battle for the starting job and become the first four-year starting quarterback for the Cornhuskers since Eric Crouch. Holdovers Patrick Witt, Zac Lee and redshirt freshman Kody Spanos all are in the hunt to replace Joe Ganz. Witt has more experience, but it's not much more than any other contender. It should be interesting to see how offensive coordinator Shawn Watson handles the competition.
  • Find starters at wide receiver: The Cornhuskers lose starters Nate Swift and Todd Peterson who combined for 125 receptions last season as the team's two major receiving threats. Menelik Holt has more experience than any other returner, although coaches are salivating about the chance to work with Antonio Bell, a 2008 recruit who wasn't on the team last season while he got his grades in order.
  • Rebuild the right side of the offensive line: Powerful blockers Matt Slauson at guard and tackle Lydon Murtha both are gone from last season, leaving a huge void for offensive line coach Barney Cotton to fill. Marcel Jones and D.J. Jones should get the first crack at the starting jobs during the spring.

SOUTH DIVISION

Baylor Bears

Spring practice begins: March 3

Spring game: April 4

What to watch:

  • Competition at offensive tackle: The Bears will be looking for two new starting tackles to replace Don Gay and Jason Smith along the offensive line. Sophomore Joe Korbel figures to get a look at one of the positions, but beyond him it's anybody's guess who will replace the talented pair that combined for 73 career starts.
  • New starters on the left side of the defensive line: Starting defensive end Leon Freeman and defensive tackle Vincent Rhodes both will be gone after their eligibility expired. The only holes in Baylor's front seven will be found there as Jameon Hardeman and Zac Scotton will challenge at defensive end and Sam Sledge at defensive tackle.
  • Better production in their pass defense: The Bears struggled mightily last season and could never seem to produce big plays when they needed them, ranking 103rd in pass defense, 84th in sacks and 109th in tackles for losses. Another spring learning the concepts of defensive coordinator Brian Norwood should benefit them and perhaps serve as a catalyst for a bowl berth with significant improvement.

Oklahoma Sooners

Spring practice begins: March 3

Spring game: April 11

What to watch:

  • Help at wide receiver: After losing Juaquin Iglesias, Quentin Chaney and Manuel Johnson from last season's BCS title-game runner-up, the Sooners desperately need some players to emerge this spring. Ryan Broyles assumes the No. 1 position, although junior college receiver Cameron Kenney will help, along with Brandon Caleb from last season's two-deep roster. It will also be noteworthy to watch the work of running back Mossis Madu, who will receive some work at slot receiver.
  • Competition in the offensive line: Trent Williams is the only returning starter from last season for a talented veteran group that will lose four starters who combined for 149 starts during their college career. The Sooners aren't devoid of talent, but it's just untested. It means they need a big lift this spring from players like tackle Cory Brandon, guards Brian Simmons and Alex Williams and center Jason Hannan.
  • New look at safety: Nic Harris and Lendy Holmes seemingly had been at Oklahoma since
    the days of Brian Bosworth. That's a little bit of an exaggeration, but the Sooner duo combined for 83 starts and provided steady, efficient defense throughout their careers. Quinton Carter and Desmond Jackson appear poised to take over for them, although it will be impossible for the Sooners to match their experience.

Oklahoma State Cowboys

Spring practice begins: March 9

Spring game: April 18

What to watch:

  • Bill Young's work: Oklahoma State has the offense to challenge for the Big 12 championship. But the success of the season ultimately will be determined by the defense generated by new defensive coordinator Bill Young. The Cowboys return six starters but must improve drastically after last season's late collapse that saw them blistered for 56, 61 and 42 points among their final three games of the season.
  • Help at safety and defensive tackle: The Cowboys lose starters Tonga Tea and Jeray Chatham at tackle and starting safeties Quinton Moore and Ricky Price. Those key positions in the heart of Oklahoma State's defense will command much of Young's attention. He's particularly excited about the play of Swanson Miller and Shane Jarka and Johnny Thomas at safety. But other players need to step up when they get their chance.
  • Develop depth at wide receiver: Dez Bryant accounted for a larger percentage of completions than any other wide receiver in the Big 12. His absence this spring as he recovers from knee surgery will enable others to have a chance to play and become acclimated with the first-string offense. The Cowboys' depth at the position is aggravated after Bo Bowling was suspended after his arrest earlier this week. It will provide players like Hubert AnyiamJosh Cooper and DeMarcus Conner an opportunity to work with Zac Robinson while Bryant and Bowling are gone.

Texas Longhorns

Spring practice begins: Feb. 27

Spring game: April 5

What to watch:

  • Build consistency in the running game: The Longhorns ranked 41st nationally in rushing last season -- their worst national ranking since 2002 -- and relied on Colt McCoy as their primary running threat. That dangerous strategy has to change this season if the Longhorns have any legitimate national title contenders. Key tasks during the spring will be to build cohesion in an offensive line that loses only starter Cedric Dockery from last season and additional work for Fozzy Whittaker, who struggled with injuries most of his freshman season last year.
  • Rebuild the defensive front: The Longhorns had the nation's most productive pass rush, leading the country with an average of 3.62 sacks per game last season. It will be a challenge to replace key players like Brian Orakpo, Roy Miller and Henry Melton. But defensive coordinator Will Muschamp liked what he saw in limited playing time for players like Sam Acho, Russell Carter, Ben Alexander, Michael Wilcoxson, Kheeston Randall and Eddie Jones. Those players, along with possibly Sergio Kindle getting more playing time at defensive end, will be key to Texas' defensive hopes this season. And incoming freshmen Dominique Jones, Alex Okafor and Kyle Kriegel all arrived at college early to challenge for immediate playing time.
  • Build confidence with young receivers: Leading receiver Quan Cosby graduated and Jordan Shipley will miss spring work after recovering from shoulder surgery. It will give McCoy a chance to build confidence in some of the younger members of his receiving corps, most notably Brandon Collins, Dan Buckner, Malcolm Williams and James Kirkendoll.

Texas A&M

Spring practice begins: March 26

Spring game: April 18

Spring practice ends: April 24

What to watch:

  • Additional development of young talent: The Aggies were one of the nation's youngest teams last season as 10 true freshmen combined to see action in 90 games and start in 41 of them. The spring will provide an additional opportunity for those young players and others on the roster to gain much-needed experience.
  • Improvement of the pass rush: The biggest hole on defense for the Aggies will be at defensive end where Michael Bennett, Amos Gbunblee and Cyril Obiozor accounted for most of the playing time last season from a group that ranked 11th in the Big 12 and 100th nationally in sacks. Paul Freeney is poised to assume one of the starting positions there. The other side looks like a wide-open battle that will play out throughout the spring and into summer camp.
  • Find a running back: Coach Mike Sherman will be looking at Keondra Smith, Cyrus Gray and Bradley Stephens for the role as the Aggies' featured running back -- for a few weeks anyway. Whoever wins that battle may celebrate a kind of pyrrhic victory as heralded running back Christine Michael arrives for fall camp as the Aggies' likely featured back. But Sherman likely will be working on building depth in the spring.

Texas Tech Red Raiders

Spring practice begins: March 25

Spring game: April 18

Spring practice ends: April 20

What to watch:

  • Any passing game regression?: Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree rewrote the national record book as one of the most prolific pass-and-catch
    combinations in NCAA history. But yet, the Red Raiders always have always had a potent passing attack with Mike Leach in charge. It will be interesting to see Taylor Potts' development at quarterback and the growth of wide receivers like Detron Lewis, Lyle Leong, Edward Britton, Rashad Hawk and Tramain Swindall as they try to fill those big shoes for the Red Raiders.
  • Find a pass-rushing threat: Defensive end Brandon Williams is turning pro after leading the Big 12 with a school-record 12 sacks last season. McKinner Dixon was a big performer in spot duty last season and could be ready to emerge, as is junior-college transfer Daniel Howard.
  • Rebuild the left side of the offensive line: Rylan Reed and Louis Vasquez were the two most decorated linemen in Texas Tech history during their careers. The productive duo will be missed, along with starting center Stephen Hamby. Chris Olson at left tackle and Lonnie Edwards at left guard aren't nearly as big or experienced as Reed and Vasquez. Growth during the spring for the unit will be important as the Red Raiders prepare for a difficult September schedule.
Tags:

Quentin Chaney, Houston Jones, Ian Campbell, Sergio Kindle, Lydon Murtha, Jerrell Jackson, Menelik Holt, Cyril Obiozor, Will Muschamp, Brad Thorson, Ziggy Hood, Nate Swift, Rodney Stewart, Mike Iltis, Brandon Balkcom, Lonnie Edwards, Barney Cotton, Brian Norwood, Christine Michael, Justin Garrett, Joe Korbel, Ryan Cantrell, Andy Ludwig, Josh Cooper, Aric Goodman, James Kirkendoll, Trent Williams, Chris Cosh, Quan Cosby, Tru Vaughns, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Jameon Hardeman, Mike Rivera, Sam Sledge, Ryan Broyles, Roy Miller, Cameron Kenney, Bill Snyder, Kyle Kriegel, Eddie Jones, Sedrick Johnson, Baylor Bears, Chase Coffman, Brandon Williams, Ben Alexander, Leon Freeman, Texas Longhorns, Jeff Fitzgerald, Marcus Herford, Vincent Rhodes, Mossis Madu, Malcolm Williams, Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Kody Spanos, Jason Smith, Colt McCoy, William Moore, Stryker Sulak, Brandon Caleb, Johnny Thomas, Ryan Miller, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Michael Bennett, Tommy Saunders, Louis Vasquez, Quinton Moore, Cory Brandon, Adrian Mayes, Missouri Tigers, Darrell Scott, Colorado Buffaloes, R.J. Sumrall, Patrick Witt, Jason Hannan, Shane Jarka, Maxwell Tuiot-Mariner, Matt Slauson, Tommy Chavis, Chase Daniel, Cyrus Gray, McKinner Dixon, Zac Scotton, Chet Hartley, Eric Crouch, Devin Head, Dakota Lewis, Robert Steeples, James Holt, Cody Green, Matt Eberflus, Chris Singleton, Dave Christensen, Oklahoma Sooners, Spring what to watch, Andrew Jones, Michael Wilcoxson, Manuel Johnson, Dan Hawkins, Todd Peterson, Mike Leach, Kansas State Wildcats, Russell Carter, Edward Britton, Dan Buckner, Darius Darks, Alex Williams, Michael Crabtree, Juaquin Iglesias, Angus Quigley, Shawn Watson, Marquis Hamilton, Carl Wilson, Paul Freeney, Paul Rhoads, Bradley Stephens, Kansas Jayhawks, Joe Mortensen, Stephen Hamby, Brian Coulter, Sheldon Richardson, Detron Lewis, Bo Bowling, Lendy Holmes, Bill Young, Zac Robinson, Hubert Anyiam, Blaine Gabbert, Brandon Collins, Jameson Davis, Antonio Bell, Taylor Potts, Daniel Thomas, Iowa State Cyclones, Alex Okafor, Desmond Jackson, Graham Harrell, Benjamin Burney, Keondra Smith, Brian Bosworth, Lyle Leong, Cedric Dockery, Dezmon Briscoe, Earl Goldsmith, Fozzy Whittaker, Nic Harris, Henry Melton, Brian Simmons, Amos Gbunblee, Daniel Howard, Dominique Jones, Jordan Shipley, Chris Olson, Rashad Hawk, Jarrell Harrison, D.J. Jones, Brian Orakpo, Ricky Price, Jeray Chatham, Swanson Miller, Brandon Hunley, Jeremy Maclin, Terrell Resonno, Tremain Swindall, Josh Freeman, Carson Coffman, Gary Pinkel, Zach Grossnickle, DeMarcus Conner, Kheeston Randall, Aldon Smith, Marcel Jones, Dominique Hamilton, Arist Wright, Rylan Reed, Jalil Brown, Quinton Carter, Mike Sherman, Texas A&M Aggies

Forty-one Big 12 players invited to NFL Combine

February, 2, 2009
2/02/09
2:41
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here's the official list of 41 Big 12 players who have been invited to the NFL combine Feb. 18 through Feb. 24 in Indianapolis.

Oklahoma led all Big 12 teams with eight players invited to the combine, followed by Texas, Missouri and Nebraska with six players each and Texas Tech with five players.

All Big 12 schools were represented with the exception of Colorado, Iowa State and Kansas.

All players are expected to attend with the exception of Texas wide receiver Jordan Shipley, who was granted an extra season of eligibility and will remain in college. Shipley recently underwent shoulder surgery and will not be able to participate when spring practice begins for the Longhorns later this week.

NFL officials have calculated that players invited to the NFL combine typically are drafted 64 percent of the time. So these players would appear to have the best chance of being picked among eligible players from the Big 12.

Here's a list of invited players listed by their schools.

Baylor: T Dan Gay, T Jason Smith.

Colorado: None.

Iowa State: None.

Kansas: None.

Kansas State: QB Josh Freeman, DE-LB Ian Campbell.

Missouri: TE Chase Coffman, QB Chase Daniel, DT Ziggy Hood, WR-KR Jeremy Maclin, S William Moore, DE Stryker Sulak.

Nebraska: LB Cody Glenn, RB Marlon Lucky, T Lydon Murtha, DE Zach Potter, G Matt Slauson, WR Nathan Swift.

Oklahoma: C Jon Cooper, S Nic Harris, S Lendy Holmes, WR Juaquan Iglesias, WR Manuel Johnson, T Phil Loadholt, G Duke Robinson, G Brandon Walker.

Oklahoma State: P Matt Fodge, TE Brandon Pettigrew.

Texas: WR Quan Cosby, DT Roy Miller, RB Chris Ogbonnaya, DE Brian Orakpo, CB Ryan Palmer, WR Jordan Shipley.*

Texas A&M: DE Michael Bennett, P Justin Brantly, RB Michael Goodson, QB Stephen McGee.

Texas Tech: WR Michael Crabtree, QB Graham Harrell, S Darcel McBath, G Louis Vasquez, DE Brandon Williams.

*  Note: Shipley has elected to stay for a sixth season of eligibility with Texas. He will be available for the 2010 draft.

Tim's mailbag: Has A&M's talent really diminished that much?

January, 23, 2009
1/23/09
5:13
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

I received a bunch of good letters this week, telling me that Big 12 fans are observant about their football even when the season is over. Here are some of the more notable ones.

Ryan from Austin writes: Tim, Did I read that right? Only one, repeat one Texas A&M player made Dave Campbell's Texas Football's All-Texas list for 2008? Not a knock on Justin Brantly, but has A&M's program really fallen that far, or is it a reflection of the massive amount of talent in the state?

I would also like to point out how many Texas Tech players made the list, and it was especially exciting to see Texas Tech running back Baron Batch on the first team. I think he will (if Leach gives him the touches) take a huge load off of a new QB next season. If Batch touches the ball 20-25 times a game, I could see Tech having 9 or 10 wins. Think Westbrook in Red and Black.

Tim Griffin: Ryan, it does speak to how far the talent level has dropped at Texas A&M when you saw no players other than Brantly on the Dave Campbell team. I do think that coach Mike Sherman got some production from players like Jerrod Johnson, Ryan Tannehill and Jeff Fuller. The line struggled and there wasn't a single player who emerged as a top defensive player, other than maybe Michael Bennett. Considering A&M's 4-8 record, it wasn't a surprise the All-Texas team wasn't stocked with many Aggies.

Batch was a big producer for Texas Tech after missing last season with an injury. But he did have Shannon Woods who spelled him in a tailback-by-committee rotation. It will be interesting to see what Batch does as a truly featured back next season. Is he durable enough to thrive in that role? We'll see.


Chuck from Omaha writes: Could you please share any knowledge as to why Iowa State is taking so long to hire a defensive coordinator? Is Coach Paul Rhoads filling that role and I missed it, or does no one want the job? No one in the Ames area is reporting anything. Thanks.

Tim Griffin: As of the time I write this, Iowa State hasn't hired a defensive coordinator yet. I don't know why it's taking so long. Maybe it's because somebody has given Rhoads a qualified answer and might be waiting on another job. Maybe it's because Rhoads is putting more attention on building relationship with meeting with his new players and recruiting. Maybe he has a line on somebody who is still coaching in the NFL and will make an announcement after the Super Bowl.

But it is curious that it's taken so long to fill this position. I'll be interested to see who he chooses and his explanation for why it took so long to fill the position.


Eric from Denver writes: I don't think Colorado's recruiting class this year will have much - if any - effect on if they win 10 games in 2009. They may land one or two junior-college players who can help but the majority of these kids will be freshman and won't be counted on to contribute immediately. The only exception to that is defensive end Nick Kasa, but as Darrell Scott showed us, counting on a true freshman is a risky proposition.

Tim Griffin: You are right, but a truly special freshman player -- like Scott was supposed to be and Kasa apparently is as well -- can lift the play of an entire team because of his athleticism. And Colorado desperately needs that kind of boost if they are going to come close to fulfilling Dan Hawkins' 10-2 prediction for next season.


Kiko Thomas from Los Angeles writes: Ever since Ricky Williams and even before him, Texas has not had a prolific runner. Save for maybe Jamaal Charles. I wonder of your opinion on Chris Whaley who some compare to Darren McFadden from Arkansas. I see he has had many 400 yard-rushing games. No ways to tell how good he will be in college, but the remaining running backs that Texas has now are O.K. at best. Your thoughts on if he could get some time or really make an impact.

Tim Griffin: Kiko, first of all Texas has had some backs like Earl Campbell, Chris Gilbert and Hodges Mitchell who were pretty productive when they had their chances. I think that Campbell even won a Heisman.

But you are right about the needs for a running back at Texas. It was noticeable all season considering that Colt McCoy was the Longhorns' top rushing threat in 2008.

They certainly need more balance in the future. It's tough to project high-school backs into college players. But I would expect Whaley to receive every opportunity to emerge as a featured back once he arrives at Texas. I don't know if it will happen right away. But I expect he'll have that opportunity during his college career.


Korey from Midland, Texas, writes: Tim, Oklahoma plays Sept. 5 and the Big 12 Championship will be held in the billion-dollar new Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. How long until the OU-Texas game gets moved to the new stadium?

Tim Griffin: I think that as long as DeLoss Dodds and Joe Castiglione are calling the shots at Texas and Oklahoma, there's a good chance that the game remains at the Cotton Bowl. I think both realize how special the game currently is in its current location. Obviously, Dallas owner Jerry Jones can offer them more seats in his stadium. And it certainly will be a palace, from everything I'm hearing. But by keeping the number of seats at their current levels, both schools can drive interest in priority seating because there is more demand than tickets.

Maybe, some day the game gets moved. But to be honest with you, I think a more likely scenario might be that the game would be moved to campus locations in the future. Alabama-Auburn played at Legion Field forever before moving to campus sites for good in 1998. I could see the same thing happening to Texas-Oklahoma one day -- but likely after Dodds and Castiglione are gone.


Chris Watkins from Lawrence, Kan., writes: Tim, I know ESPN selects a team each spring to broadcast their spring game. Two years ago it was Oklahoma, this past spring it was Florida. Is there enough buzz around the ESPN networks or the nation about Bill Snyder's comeback that they would consider broadcasting the Kansas State spring game? If it's still in the brainstorming process, it might be something you might want to suggest for the spring of 2009. I think it would be a fabulous idea, and if they did, I would bet a large crowd would turn out.

Tim Griffin: Bad news, Chris. Apparently the network has chosen to go to Georgia. The information is related in this story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other Georgia papers this morning.

I agree that the trip to Manhattan would have been interesting. But I also think that Kansas State's 5-7 record wouldn't qualify them with some powers that might be a little closer to challenging for a national title. I think that was a major determiner in who got the ex
posure for their spring game.


Adam from Broken Arrow, Okla., writes: I enjoyed your list of 2008 moments and realize this might be a little late now. But how could you forget Artrell Woods of Oklahoma State making his first reception in a game against Iowa State after a spinal injury that nearly caused paralysis and sidelined him for more than a year. Boone Pickens Stadium gave him a standing ovation afterwards. It was a big moment for Oklahoma State football.

Tim Griffin: Adam, forgive my oversight on leaving Woods out. I saw an ESPN story on it and it absolutely brought chills to me when I saw how hard he worked to get back from injury and back into the lineup. I should have mentioned it.


Derek from Salina, Kan., writes: I enjoy reading your Big 12 coverage. I usually agree with or at least understand the things you post. Then I came across your prediction that Nebraska will win the North in '09, and more importantly that you don't think Kansas will win in Lubbock. Are you serious, and if so, why?

Tim Griffin: Derek, again I choose to respectfully disagree with your assessment of the Jayhawks. I think if Nebraska can find a serviceable quarterback from one of their potential starters, the Cornhuskers should be in good shape. Quentin Castille and Roy Helu Jr. give them a nice running attack. They'll be running behind a veteran offensive front. And the return of Ndamukong Suh might be the biggest factor in the reason why I think the Cornhuskers' defense should be stout.

And the reason I think Texas Tech will beat Kansas can be found in past history. I know Michael Crabtree and Graham Harrell won't be back next year. But Texas Tech has beaten Kansas 10 out of 11 times in the previous games of the series. The Red Raiders did hang 63 points on Kansas in Lawrence in 2008, didn't they? And Mike Leach's offense has averaged 40 points a game in the last five contests against the Jayhawks.

I think the Jayhawks will struggle in Lubbock, although I think that will be the crossover game they should have the best chance to win. I think Oklahoma will beat Kansas in Lawrence and Texas will be the Jayhawks in Austin.

Again, thanks for all of the great questions this week and keep them coming. I'll check back with more from my mailbag next week.

Texas A&M recruiting needs

January, 20, 2009
1/20/09
3:58
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

After struggling through a disappointing 4-8 season that was Texas A&M's worst since 2003, coach Mike Sherman has redoubled efforts in his first full recruiting season with the Aggies.

Sherman has seen some strong results with increased athleticism from several top early commitments, most notably breakaway running back Christine Michael from Beaumont, Texas -- the program's first five-star recruit at the position in the past decade.

Michael's arrival is important as the Aggies lose Jorvorskie Lane and Mike Goodson opted to declare for the NFL draft as a junior. The Aggies have little experience at the position as sophomores-to-be Cyrus Gray and Bradley Stephens and Keondra Smith will likely be battling Michael for immediate playing time. Any improvement would be noticeable after the Aggies ranked 114th nationally in rushing last season.

The Aggies' passing game looks in good shape with the return of quarterback Jerrod Johnson, freshman receiver Jeff Fuller and redshirt freshman receiver Ryan Tannehill. There's a need for an upgrade in the offensive line considering last season's struggles and the fact that starting tackle Michael Shumard, starting guard Lee Grimes and starting center Kevin Matthews all will be seniors in 2009.

The defensive line will take a hit as starting defensive ends Michael Bennett and Cyril Obizor and top substitute Amos Gbunblee all were seniors last season. But the development of freshman tackles Eddie Brown and Tony Jerod-Eddie will make the need less immediate inside.

An upgrade is also needed in the secondary after the Aggies lost starting cornerback Arkeith Brown and rover Devin Gregg and the top two substitutes at the position as seniors. And it behooves the Aggies to develop some young players quickly with starting cornerback Jordan Pugh and starting free safety Jordan Peterson both entering their senior seasons in 2009.

The Aggies ranked no better than 108th in any of the four major defensive statistical categories as they finished with losses to all of their South Division rivals for the first time in school history. So an immediate upgrade of defensive talent is mandatory after those struggles.

Nebraska RB Lucky has big East-West Shrine Game

January, 19, 2009
1/19/09
6:22
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Nebraska running back Marlon Lucky showed something to pro scouts with a big performance in Saturday's East-West Shrine Game in Houston.

Lucky, who finished the season as the Cornhuskers' No. 3 I-back behind Roy Helu Jr. and Quentin Castille, rushed for a game-high 68 yards and a touchdown to earn Most Valuable Player honors in the East's 24-19 victory over the West on Saturday afternoon.

"It was a big one for me," Lucky told the Associated Press. "I didn't have a strong year and to just come out and play my game and show what I can do, I seized the opportunity. Now it's back to training."

Some Big 12 players had better outings than others. Texas A&M quarterback Stephen McGee passed for 128 yards, including a 35-yard TD strike to Rice wide receiver Jarett Dillard, and rushed for four yards on three carries.

Mammoth 295-pound Texas A&M running back Jorvorskie Lane, who set a school record with 49 rushing touchdowns, was stopped three times inside the East's 5-yard on unsuccessful attempts to score. Lane produced six yards on four carries and added three receptions for 13 yards.

Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel struggled through a difficult performance for the East, completing 2 of 9 passes for 1 yards, with a long pass of 4 yards.

And Ray Guy award winner Matt Fodge of Oklahoma State had an inconsistent game, averaging 32.8 yards per kick on four punts. Fodge's longest punt was 67 yards, but he also shanked kicks of 28 and 5 yards.

Here's a look at some of the numbers for other Big 12 players in Saturday's game.

  • Missouri defensive end Stryker Sulak (East): Three tackles (one solo), one pass deflection, .5 of a tackle for a loss.
  • Texas defensive tackle Roy Miller (West): Tied for team-high honors with six tackles and four solo stops. Also added a team-high tackle for a loss.
  • Oklahoma defensive back Lendy Holmes (West): One solo tackle, three total tackles.
  • Texas cornerback Ryan Palmer (West): Two tackles.
  • Texas A&M defensive end Michael Bennett (West): One assist, one quarterback hurry.

Big 12 players will be big part of Shrine East-West game

January, 16, 2009
1/16/09
3:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

All right, admit it. You are going through college football withdrawal after seven days without a game.

If you are really missing college football, check out the Shrine East-West Shrine Game at 4 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2 from Houston's Robertson Stadium.

The Big 12 will be heavily represented. Below is a list of players and their uniform numbers if you want to give them a look on Saturday. You can find the rest of the roster on the Shrine Game web site.

East: Missouri QB Chase Daniel (No. 10), Nebraska RB Marlon Lucky (No. 20), Missouri DE Stryker Sulak (No. 38), Nebraska OL Matt Slauson (No. 75), Nebraska LS T.J. O'Leary (No. 82),

West: Oklahoma WR Manuel Johnson (No. 1), Texas DB Ryan Palmer (No. 2), Texas Tech DB Darcel McBath (No. 3), Texas A&M RB Jorvorskie Lane (No. 11), Texas A&M QB Stephen McGee (No. 12), Oklahoma State P Matt Fodge (No. 17), Oklahoma DB Lendy Holmes (No. 22), Oklahoma C Jon Cooper (No. 50), Texas Tech OL Louis Vasquez (No. 66), Baylor OL Dan Gay (No. 71), Texas OL Cedric Dockery (No. 73), Texas A&M DE Michael Bennett (No. 92), Texas DT Roy Miller (No. 98),

Martellus Bennett lays down the smack

November, 26, 2008
11/26/08
3:38
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Dallas Cowboys tight end Martellus Bennett, a former Texas A&M player whose brother, Michael, still plays on the Aggies' team, hasn't lost the touch.

Bennett

Martellus Bennett is one of my favorite quotes of all time. His brother isn't far behind. But Bennett is stirring the pot about Thursday's Texas-Texas A&M game and he isn't even in school anymore.

Bennett laid down some bold words to the Dallas Morning News' Brian Davis in the Cowboys' locker room after their game against San Francisco last week about the Longhorns and quarterback Colt McCoy.

It only continued the trash talking that Michael Bennett started the previous week.

Martellus Bennett told Davis and other reporters that he's predicting a 27-24 upset victory for the Aggies in Thursday's game over an opponent he referred to as "yellow bellies."

"We're going to beat Texas, though," Bennett said. "It's going to be an upset. We always beat Texas. It wouldn't be an upset. Well, maybe this year it would be. But we expect to beat Texas, the yellow bellies."

And he also referred to the 2006 game when his brother knocked out Texas quarterback Colt McCoy with a devastating shot.

"My brother [Michael Bennett] knocked McCoy out a while back and we call him Cart McCoy now."

Texas coach Mack Brown said he hadn't hear about Bennett's comments, but expected nothing less from the loquacious rookie tight end.

"It would've surprised me if Martellus didn't have comments this week," Brown said.

Bennett had some more comments Wednesday to the News about why he hasn't made any bets with Dallas teammates and former Texas players Roy Williams and Leonard Davis about Thursday's game.

"Roy doesn't speak English," Bennett told the News. "He's like a Martian or something. He's like a mime. Leonard? He speaks English, but he talks slow."

If his Dallas teammates don't want to muzzle Bennett, maybe his old teammates still playing at A&M might want to. Nothing like disparaging a team and then not playing against them.

Longhorns fueled by revenge, not BCS hopes

November, 26, 2008
11/26/08
10:04
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Texas players know their Bowl Championship Series hopes dangle precipitously as they prepare for old rival Texas A&M.

But their immediate chance for revenge supersedes even their postseason hopes.

 
 Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
 Mike Goodson had 151 totals yards and two TDs in the Aggies' 38-30 upset win last year.

Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo's memory of the Aggies is never far away. Each day before he leaves his locker he briefly glances at a picture of running back Michael Goodson streaking past him for a touchdown in last year's game that punctuated A&M's 38-30 upset victory in College Station.

"I know it's pretty big because they put it in their media guide," Orkapo said. "Obviously this is one of those games that have been on my mind for a long, long time."

Actually, Goodson's touchdown run is such a big part of Aggies lore that it's pictured twice in A&M's 2008 media guide. It's plays like that over the last two years that have the Aggies brimming with confidence despite a disappointing 4-7 season.

In 2006, the Aggies claimed a 12-7 victory in Austin, punctuating the victory with a dramatic 16-play, 88-yard drive where they converted five third-down plays in the process. There was high drama as A&M quarterback Stephen McGee was vomiting on the field throughout that game-winning drive. And Texas quarterback Colt McCoy had to be carted away after a devastating hit by A&M defensive end Michael Bennett.

But more importantly, that game kept the Longhorns from advancing to the Big 12 Championship Game. Instead, Texas went to the Alamo Bowl the season after winning the national championship.

And last season, the Longhorns again were in the mix for the Big 12 title game before the Aggies sprung the upset in what turned out to be Dennis Franchione's last game at A&M.

The Longhorns remember both of those losses and what resulted from them.

(Read full post)

Jawjacking around the Big 12

November, 21, 2008
11/21/08
3:57
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here are a few of the more notable quotes from around the Big 12 this week.

  • "I love it. It reminds me of the old Thirsty Thursdays' in minor-league baseball where you get beer thrown at you." - Texas Tech tackle Rylan Reed talking to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal about the raucous crowd he expects Saturday at Owen Field.
  • "It's been a one-game season for us for a long time," Colorado defensive tackle George Hypolite to the Boulder Camera about the Buffaloes' bowl game-or-bust game next week against Nebraska.
  • "I liken myself to John McCain at an (Barack) Obama pep rally." Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman, after appearing at a A&M-Texas luncheon in Houston heavily packed with Longhorn partisans.
  • "I don't worry about Oklahoma's record. Their record on the road is pretty good, too," Texas Tech coach Mike Leach on Oklahoma's nation-best 23-game winning streak and its 58-2 home record under Bob Stoops.
  • "He gets it. That's the most important thing - he gets it." Oklahoma coach Brent Venables, to the Dallas Morning News about the offensive philosophy and the philosophy of Mike Leach.
  • "We didn't reach our goal, but we can see the promised land and can be proud of that," Baylor senior wide receiver Thomas White said to the Waco Tribune-Herald after Saturday's 41-21 rout of Texas A&M.
  • "What can you say? The guy is uncanny. I've been around a bunch of them, and I don't know how you can describe him. He's a guy I'm glad wears green and gold because he's a stud," Baylor coach Art Briles, describing the contributions of Baylor linebacker Joe Pawelek.
  • "The kids deserved this. I'm real pleased with how we dominated the line of scrimmage. I'm really excited about how physical we were. There were some great licks out there," Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp on the play of his defense last week in a 35-7 victory over Kansas.
  • "I've had opportunities to be a head coach and I've been waiting on the right one, and this is the best one. If I had left Austin, my wife was going to stay here. She loves Austin." - Muschamp, on being named coach-in-waiting at Texas.
  • "There's so many different things that can happen over the next three weeks. I'll simply sit back and watch and be a fan of the game." Texas coach Mack Brown, on why he won't take a rooting interest in the Texas Tech-Oklahoma game.
  • "I think he just gets a little spooked sometimes, I don't know," Texas A&M defensive end Michael Bennett, who told the San Antonio Express-News that Colt McCoy can be rattled with heavy pressure.

Big 12 lunchtime links: Big game in Norman

November, 21, 2008
11/21/08
12:50
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Less than 36 hours and counting to tomorrow's South Division showdown in Norman. Here are some links to get you ready, along with some other tidbits from around the Big 12.

  • Steve Wieberg of USA Today visited Mike Leach's cluttered Lubbock office and heard all about how "The Wizard" helped recruit Graham Harrell to Texas Tech.
  • The Kansas City Star's Blair Kerkhoff wonders if Kansas State will be able to follow through on athletic director Bob Krause's intention of hiring an established coach before the regular season ends.
  • Tommy Hicks of the Mobile Register wonders if the coach-in-waiting concept, employed by Texas earlier this week to hire Will Muschamp, is really such a good idea.
  • Developing wide receiver Detron Lewis is providing a nice complement to Michael Crabtree in Texas Tech's deep stable of playmaking receivers, Brandon George of the Dallas Morning New reports. And Richard Oliver of the San Antonio Express-News provides the definitive interview of Michael Crabtree Sr., who tells how and why his son has developed into the Big 12's biggest game-breaker.
  • The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel breaks down the matchup between Texas Tech's Graham Harrell and Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, one that could decide who wins the Heisman Trophy.
  • Texas A&M defensive end Michael Bennett told the San Antonio Express-News/Houston Chronicle's Brent Zwerneman that he has been besieged by e-mails from irate Texas fans since his controversial hit on Colt McCoy two seasons ago. "They sent me dirty e-mails," Bennett said. "They still send me dirty e-mails saying, 'Don't hit Colt this year.'" Bennett told Zwerneman that A&M's physical play has gotten into McCoy's head. "I think he just gets a little spooked sometimes, I don't know," Bennett said.

Big 12 internal affairs: Kansas, OU look to fix leaky special teams

October, 15, 2008
10/15/08
9:58
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here's a look at some tidbits from around the league that are transpiring as teams get ready for games this week.

1. Both Kansas and Oklahoma have added more playmakers to their special teams after recent struggles for both teams covering and returning kickoffs. Bob Stoops plans to add four new members to his kick coverage team that has been blistered for two TD returns, including a pivotal 96-yard return by Texas' Jordan Shipley last week that turned the game around. And Kansas coach Mark Mangino has talked about placing starters like James Holt and Joe Mortensen on his special teams as the Jayhawks rank last in the nation in kick returns. The Jayhawks are averaging 12.4 yards per kickoff -- almost three yards per return less than the next-lowest team, Kent State at 118th.

2. Iowa State has inserted freshman Jerome Tiller as its backup quarterback after Phillip Bates left school. Coach Gene Chizik hopes that he can still make it through the season using only Austen Arnaud as the quarterback and keeping the redshirts intact for Tiller and fellow freshman Bret Bueker. Early word is that Bates likely won't resurface at another Big 12 school because it would cost him an additional season in the transfer. A more likely location would be a FCS school where he could play immediately or an FBS school like Ohio University, where his family already has a strong association with coach Frank Solich. Bates' father, Phillip Bates Sr., was a running back at Nebraska who played there when Solich was his position coach under Tom Osborne.

3. Texas ditched using a tight end in favor of a four-wide receiver look as its base offensive formation against Oklahoma. And the unit's success -- 438 total yards and 20 combined catches from Quan Cosby and Shipley -- make it likely to be used more during the rest of the season. Starting tight end Blaine Irby's season-ending injury robbed the Longhorns of their top receiving threat at the position. The four-receiver sets have made the Longhorns lethal in terms of big-play capabilities, but a little weaker trying to consistently run the ball.

4. Considering the recent injury to Lamark Brown, it wasn't surprising that quarterback Josh Freeman emerged as a key rushing threat in the Wildcats' victory last week over Texas A&M. Freeman produced career-high totals of 18 carries, 95 yards and four rushing touchdowns against the Aggies. In the philosophy of Kansas State quarterbacks coach Warren Ruggiero and offensive coordinator Dave Brock, the quarterback is used as more of a rushing weapon. Freeman has gained positive rushing yards in each of his six starts this season. Before this season, Freeman had netted positive yards in only eight of his 20 previous career starts.

5. Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman is doing what he can to instill discipline on his team, even if it affects its performance in the short term. Key players Michael Bennett and Mike Goodson weren't in the starting lineup last week against Kansas State after discipline issues, paving the way for the Wildcats to jump to an early 27-3 lead over Sherman's beleaguered team. Sherman is hoping that his struggles bottom out as he tries to make the Aggies know they've got a firm leader running the program.

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