Big 12: Michael Cummings

Spring game review: Kansas

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
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The time is now for the Kansas program under Charlie Weis. The Jayhawks head coach made several changes to his coaching staff this offseason, including the addition of new offensive coordinator John Reagan. Saturday’s spring game was unique, with the Blue team featuring KU’s first and second-teamers and the White squad featuring the third and fourth-teamers. In addition, all quarterbacks were live, meaning they could be hit, as KU tries to find its starting quarterback. Here’s what happened:

Best offensive performance: After entering the game alongside Jake Heaps as dual front-runners to start at quarterback, Montell Cozart was the best signal-caller on the field. The sophomore finished with 70 rushing yards and two touchdowns along with a game-high 58 passing yards, completing 6 of 10 passes. Cozart didn’t lock himself in as the Jayhawks starter, but Weis was pleased with what he saw.

[+] EnlargeMontell Cozart
AP Photo/Orlin WagnerMontell Cozart made several plays with his legs and showed poise in the pocket in Kansas' spring game.
"I was pleased to see him sit in the pocket,” Weis said. “We know he can bootleg and run on the edge, but it was good to see him show some poise in the pocket."

Best defensive performance: Linebacker Jake Love is a quiet playmaker alongside fellow linebacker Ben Heeney, who garners most of the headlines. Love finished with a game-high 10 tackles, including six solo stops. Love, who averaged 4.8 tackles per game in 2013, picked right up where he left off during the spring game. He could join Heeney to give KU one of the better linebacker duos in the conference.

Best debut: Receiver Nick Harwell’s final numbers were uninspiring. Four receptions for 31 yards won’t send fear into the hearts of Big 12 defensive coordinators. Those same coordinators would be wise to learn the name of the Miami (Ohio) transfer. His playmaking ability was evident and, if the spring game is any indication, Reagan’s offense is likely to try to put the ball in his hands often this fall.

Notable play: Cozart’s 60-yard run in the fourth quarter was the longest run of the game and was a glimpse at the reason why he could have the edge in the quarterback race if he continues to develop as a passer. He’s far from a finished product, but the sophomore could be a playmaker for Reagan’s offense.

Developing storyline: Michael Cummings has been the forgotten name in KU’s quarterback battle, yet he looked like the second-best quarterback on the field, outperforming Heaps and UCLA transfer T.J. Millweard. Cummings, playing on the White team, which featured third and fourth-teamers, led his squad on a 12-play, 74-yard drive against the No. 1 defense that resulted in the only points of the first half, a 26-yard receiver pass from Tre’ Parmalee to Andrew Turzilli. Cummings didn't finish with great numbers (3-of-10, 42 yards, INT) but looked like his name should be alongside Heaps and Millweard behind Cozart.

Biggest question answered: The Jayhawks have some playmakers emerging on offense to help offset the loss of running back James Sims. Harwell will be a threat at receiver, Tony Pierson is one of the Big 12’s most explosive threats when healthy and running back Brandon Bourbon more than held his own at Sims’ former spot in the backfield with 12 carries for 96 yards. KU’s offensive line and quarterback play will decide how explosive this offense can be, with multiple playmaking options starting to emerge at running back and receiver.

Quotable: “We still have questions, but we also have a lot more answers now than we did in the beginning of the spring. We've implemented a new offense and we still have a ways to go, but I think it's positive at this stage. We've got to continue raising the bar around here." -- Weis
Kansas kicked off its spring football drills on Thursday with a lot of work to be done. The Jayhawks’ to-do list is lengthy, with finding a quarterback and offensive playmakers sitting atop of it.

Offensive returner ready to take next step: New offensive coordinator John Reagan wants to use the spring to find playmakers for his offense. Receiver Rodriguez Coleman showed signs of playmaking ability, averaging 26 yards per catch while finishing third on the team with 208 receiving yards on eight catches. He was inconsistent and never emerged as a staple in KU’s game plans, but he has talent, and this spring provides the opportunity to show Reagan he wants to be a major part of the offense.

Defensive returner ready to take the next step: Cornerback Kevin Short didn’t play in one snap in 2013, but this spring he could emerge as KU’s No. 3 cornerback and give the Jayhawks defense options and versatility alongside starters JaCorey Shepherd and Dexter McDonald. Short, who signed in February 2013 but was ruled ineligible in September, is a big cornerback (6-foot-2, 182 pounds) with athleticism and return skills.

[+] EnlargeCozart
John Rieger/USA TODAY SportsKansas quarterback Montell Cozart hopes to get a chance to build on his freshman season.
Redshirt freshman to watch: Tight end Ben Johnson could emerge as a player who deserves playing time this spring. If that happens, he could join Jimmay Mundine to give the Jayhawks two talented pass catchers at tight end.

“I think he has a huge upside,” KU coach Charlie Weis said. “He hasn't played a down yet, so you can't anoint anyone at this point, but I think that Ben Johnson could be pressing [to play].”

Most significant position battle: Reagan needs someone to trigger the Jayhawks offense at quarterback. Jake Heaps, Michael Cummings, Montell Cozart and T.J. Millweard are the main contenders for the starting position, and Weis hopes the competition is settled this spring. It’s Heaps' last chance to prove himself as a quality college quarterback, Cummings is the forgotten man, Cozart hopes to put his freshman mistakes behind him and Millweard is looking to show he is the future at quarterback after transferring from UCLA before the 2013 season.

Key midterm enrollee: Offensive lineman Keyon Haughton could provide depth, and he adds competition along the offensive line during the spring. At 6-2 and 309 pounds, the junior brings terrific size to KU’s offensive front.

Question that could be answered: Weis hopes the quarterback competition ends before the summer. He was very candid in saying a prolonged quarterback derby wouldn’t be the ideal scenario because “it means you don’t have one.” KU has talent and options at the position, but if the Jayhawks can’t get better play from that position in 2014, their chances for a breakout season under Weis will decrease.

Question that won’t be answered until fall: Who will replace James Sims at running back? Brandon Bourbon and Darrian Miller saw spot duty behind Sims last season, but KU signed three quality running back prospects in junior college transfer De'Andre Mann and freshmen Traevohn Wrench and Corey Avery. It would be a major surprise if the starting running back spot is finalized heading into summer workouts.
The quarterback position was supposed to be a position of strength and certainty for Kansas heading into the 2013 season. Instead, Jake Heaps struggled and true freshman Montell Cozart replaced Heaps in the lineup, starting KU’s final three games. Heading into this spring, the starting quarterback spot is wide open.

[+] EnlargeJake Heaps
AP Photo/Orlin WagnerKansas quarterback Jake Heaps will look to regain his starting spot in a wide-open spring race.
Departed: None.

Spring contenders: Senior Jake Heaps, sophomore Montell Cozart, sophomore T.J. Millweard, junior Michael Cummings, redshirt freshman Jordan Darling.

Summer contenders: None.

The skinny: After watching his offense sputter around the Big 12 in 2013, head coach Charlie Weis hopes to sit back and watch a starter emerge under center for the Jayhawks this spring.

“I don't think you can come in with any preconceived notion,” Weis said of the spring quarterback battle. "There will be some people that will say, ‘Well, I'll be surprised if it doesn't go deep into August,’ and that's never a good thing. It's never a good thing if it goes deep into August because it means you don't have one. Any time there is a quarterback competition that goes to the end, I had one, trust me, it means you don't have [a quarterback].”

Weis has his fingers crossed that he has at least one quarterback.

Heaps and Cozart had their opportunities in 2013 and didn’t exactly take the job and run away from the competition. Cozart is an athletic quarterback who needs to improve his passing skills to become a difference-maker in the Big 12. Heaps can excel as a passer but doesn’t bring the mobility Cozart can provide.

Therefore, a lot of eyes will turn to Millweard, a UCLA transfer who joined the program shortly before the 2013 season. He was a four-star recruit as the No. 91 player in the ESPN 150 when he signed with UCLA as a member of the Class of 2012. At 6-foot-4, 255 pounds with terrific passing skills, Millweard could rise to the top of the depth chart, particularly if he proves to be a dual-threat quarterback who can combine mobility and passing skills.

This is a wide-open race, particularly with every quarterback on the roster starting from square one in a new system under first-year offensive coordinator John Reagan.

“Who is going to put us in the best position to score touchdowns, that is what it all comes down to," Weis said.

Prediction: Millweard rises to the top of the depth chart. Without a college snap under his belt, Millweard is inexperienced but could have the best upside of all the quarterbacks on campus. With Reagan and Weis searching for playmakers and using the spring to find the guys who will be the foundation of KU’s offense in 2014, don’t be surprised if Millweard begins to separate himself from the competition and heads into the summer as the main man under center.

Ranking the Big 12's top 25 quarterbacks

October, 29, 2013
10/29/13
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Naming the best quarterback in the Big 12 is easy. Deciding who's second-best right now is near-impossible. So we went a step further: Why not rank them all?

This continues to be been a strange, unpredictable year for Big 12 quarterbacks. We’ve already seen 18 start at least two games. Only three schools -- Baylor, Kansas and Iowa State -- have started the same guy for every game, and even they've used multiple quarterbacks.

The following rankings judged how these QBs are playing right now as well as their full 2013 resumes. Deciding where to slot injured passers was tricky. You might not agree with all or any of these rankings, but this is how we'd size up the competition after nine weeks:

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesConsidering how well he's run Baylor's high-scoring offense and the fact he leads the Big 12 in nearly every passing statistic, there is no debate that Bryce Petty is the Big 12's top QB.
1. Bryce Petty, Baylor: Best passer in the Big 12 by nearly every statistical measure, first in FBS in yards per attempt, TD-INT ratio of 18-1 and it's only his first season of starting. The gap between No. 1 and everyone else on this list right now is tremendous. -- Max Olson

2. Case McCoy, Texas: The career backup has been a huge part of Texas' resurgence. In wins over Oklahoma and TCU, McCoy has Adjusted QBRs of 83.9 and 95.4. -- Jake Trotter

3. Davis Webb, Texas Tech: Webb hasn’t been perfect but he’s averaging 420.67 passing yards and 5.67 completions of 20 yards or more in TTU’s past three games. He’s been very solid for a true freshman. -- Brandon Chatmon

4. Daniel Sams, Kansas State: He might be too high at No. 4, but Sams is the best athlete of the bunch and already has 538 rushing yards on just 100 carries. Still has plenty to prove as a passer. -- MO

5. Blake Bell, Oklahoma: Great against Texas Tech and Notre Dame, bad against Texas. Has promising moments as a passer, firm grasp on the job and a chance to prove he's league's second-best QB. -- MO

6. Baker Mayfield, Texas Tech: The walk-on made waves while leading the Red Raiders to a 5-0 start before a knee injury sidelined him, but he threw more interceptions than touchdowns in his final three starts before the injury. -- BC

7. Clint Chelf, Oklahoma State: Chelf finally has the job again, but he'll have to complete more passes to keep it. His completion percentage this year is less than 50 percent. -- JT

8. David Ash, Texas: Ash is throwing again, and could be cleared to return soon. But will he resume his starting role? The way McCoy is performing, probably not. -- JT

9. J.W. Walsh, Oklahoma State: His combination of moxie and leadership is hard to deny but his struggles connecting on deep passes led to Chelf replacing him in the starting lineup. He remains a valuable piece as the disposal of Mike Gundy’s squad, however. -- BC

10. Jake Waters, Kansas State: Juco transfer is starting to get the hang of Big 12 ball and his own offense, and coming off an impressive showing against West Virginia. -- MO

11. Casey Pachall, TCU: Pachall has only played in seven games over the last two seasons. It would be difficult for anyone to overcome that level of rust. -- JT

12. Clint Trickett, West Virginia: Trickett’s season has mimicked the roller coaster nature of WVU’s offense, but he did lead the Mountaineers to a win over Oklahoma State, the highlight of their season. -- BC

13. Seth Russell, Baylor: Getting mop-up time and experience in every game this season and has 427 yards on 60 percent passing. Would he start for a couple Big 12 teams? -- MO

14. Sam B. Richardson, Iowa State: Richardson has been banged up all year, and it's shown. At some point, the Cyclones may be forced to go with the healthier option in Grant Rohach. -- JT

15. Jake Heaps, Kansas: The BYU transfer just can’t seem to find any confidence or rhythm for the Jayhawks passing attack, forcing Charlie Weis to start drastically experimenting with KU’s offense. -- BC

16. Trevone Boykin, TCU: Dual-threat sophomore has his moments, but five touchdowns and nine turnovers in 2013. Back to backing up Pachall and could play some receiver. -- MO

17. Trevor Knight, Oklahoma: Knight won the job out of camp, but lost it to Bell two games in after moving the chains ineffectively. Bell's performance against Texas Tech means Knight will remain on the sidelines. -- JT

18. Michael Brewer, Texas Tech: Generally expected to be the Red Raiders starter heading into fall camp, Brewer has been surpassed by the true freshman quarterbacks. -- BC

19. Paul Millard, West Virginia: Started first two games for the Mountaineers before losing his job, got another chance late against K-State. -- MO

20. Ford Childress, West Virginia: The freshman quarterbacked West Virginia's worst performance of the year, a 37-0 loss to Maryland, before suffering a pectoral injury that could keep him out the rest of the year. -- JT

21. Grant Rohach, Iowa State: He’s come off the bench to replace Sam Richardson in ISU’s last two games but has yet to surpass 100 passing yards in the game. -- BC

22. Montell Cozart, Kansas: True freshman is now splitting snaps with Heaps and got half the reps against Baylor. Can make plays in the run game and be a spark. -- MO

23. Michael Cummings, Kansas: Cummings started five games in 2012 but has lost the No. 2 spot to Cozart, and is unlikely to play much going forward with Heaps also part of the offense. -- JT

24. Tyrone Swoopes, Texas: The 6-foot-4, 245-pound true freshman made his debut on Saturday and is a talented rusher, but he didn't attempt a pass. If McCoy goes down, he'll have to take over. -- MO

25. Tyler Matthews, TCU: The Horned Frogs got so desperate for production they turned to the redshirt freshman on multiple occasions, yet he’s seen very limited game reps and hasn't completed a pass this season. -- BC
We'll kick off our position rankings across the Big 12 today. Depth plays a factor in each. We're not ranking individual players, we're ranking each Big 12 team by their strength at the position. Quarterback obviously uses its depth the least, but ask Oklahoma State or TCU how important it is.

Here's how I rank the Big 12 teams at quarterback:

1. Oklahoma State: Wes Lunt is gone, but OSU still has two quarterbacks capable of winning a Big 12 title with this roster in likely starter Clint Chelf and short-yardage specialist J.W. Walsh. Walsh nearly knocked off Texas in his first career start last season. Chelf has lots of experience in the system, and Walsh led the Big 12 in passer rating last season.

2. TCU: Casey Pachall has to prove he can get back to his old self, but he's got a strong case as the Big 12's best quarterback. Trevone Boykin improved a lot over the 2012 season and coach Gary Patterson raved about his progress this spring, making Pachall's likely reclamation of his starting spot a tougher assignment than most figured. Boykin's arguably the Big 12's best playmaker at QB with his feet. No QB in the Big 12 has a stronger on-field résumé at this point in their careers than Pachall. That carries a lot of weight in these rankings.

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsBaylor QB Bryce Petty has the tools and the talent around him to potentially become a Heisman candidate in 2013.
3. Baylor: Bryce Petty is my pick for the Big 12's all-conference quarterback at the end of the season. He's got a great offense around him, but this is his fourth year in the system, learning behind great football minds like Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence. He's more physically gifted than Florence and will be able to do many of the things RG3 did with his arm. Seth Russell is a solid backup, and Chris Johnson is a promising young player, too.

4. Texas: David Ash has a shot to be the Big 12's best quarterback this season, but has to shake off rough games like he had against Kansas to do it. Case McCoy isn't the most physically gifted specimen at the position, but there's no denying his playmaking ability. Even Texas A&M fans would have to admit that. Tyrone Swoopes turned some heads during the spring game.

5. Oklahoma: Blake Bell should be an above average Big 12 starter, who proves he can throw the ball and is more than just a threat around the goal line. The inexperience all over the Big 12 at this position makes ranking this spot extremely difficult, but Kendal Thompson and Trevor Knight behind Bell would be intriguing to watch if they're forced into duty. All three are playmakers with their feet.

6. West Virginia: The Mountaineers probably have more upside than any team on this list, and have three guys who could probably carry the Mountaineers to 7-8 wins this season. That's a luxury, but other than Ford Childress, I'm not sure I see a real game changer in Clint Trickett or Paul Millard. Still, don't be surprised if whoever wins the job racks up 3,500-plus yards in this offense.

7. Texas Tech: Tech is right behind West Virginia in potential at this position. Michael Brewer breaking out and proving himself as the Big 12's best quarterback this season wouldn't surprise me at all. True freshman Davis Webb has impressed Kliff Kingsbury, but Brewer's inability to beat him out for the job is something of a red flag. Not much depth at the position slides the Red Raiders down the list a bit.

8. Kansas State: K-State has an intriguing race between Daniel Sams and Jake Waters. Bill Snyder has historically preferred dual-threat quarterbacks, and Sams will easily be the fastest quarterback in the Big 12, but I want to see him operate the whole offense and not do so while nursing big leads before I truly buy in. Waters isn't a statue, but Sams could surpass Boykin as the Big 12's best running quarterback.

9. Kansas: Jake Heaps is the great hope for the Jayhawks, who don't have another serviceable quarterback on the roster. Heaps has earned some rave reviews during the spring and had moderate success at BYU. He'll have a strong running game and a better group of receivers around him than Dayne Crist did last season. Michael Cummings played some last season after replacing Crist, but the results were far from inspiring.

10. Iowa State: Sam Richardson has to prove he improved a lot in his first offseason as the team's unquestioned starter. Grant Rohach is a decent backup, but this position has been a constant struggle recently in Ames. I'm not entirely sold on Richardson being the guy to change that.
Turnover at the quarterback position is the story of the Big 12 this spring, but some schools have made decisions, some are close, and some haven't gotten far in replacing their passers. Here's an update on where each race sits.

Note: Because they have clear, incumbent starters, Iowa State and Texas have been omitted from this update.

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsAs expected, Bryce Petty has locked down Baylor's starting QB job.
Baylor: Bryce Petty entered the spring as the likely successor to Nick Florence and cemented his status as the starter with a strong 15 practices. Petty was officially designated as the starting quarterback on Baylor's post-spring depth chart, besting Seth Russell.

Kansas: Jake Heaps transferred from BYU and looks to have easily surpassed Michael Cummings, as expected, with a strong spring, working mostly with the first team. Kansas held its spring game on Saturday and Heaps far outperformed Cummings, tossing four touchdown passes and completing 20 of 28 passes for 257 yards. Not much competition here.

Kansas State: K-State is about halfway through spring, but there's been almost no development (publicly, at least) in the quarterback race. Last year's backup, the speedy Daniel Sams, is helping juco transfer Jake Waters get acquainted, but they're still splitting reps with the first team and I'd be surprised if we see an announcement until fall.

Oklahoma: Bob Stoops doesn't care about establishing a starter heading into summer 7-on-7 drills, but Blake Bell might have taken that out of his hands with a strong performance in the spring game. An endorsement from Landry Jones can't hurt. Bell showed this spring he's more than a BellDozer and made plays with his arm on Saturday, completing 14 of 23 passes for 214 yards and two scores. Stoops hasn't made an official designation, but Bell looks like he's distanced himself from his competition in Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson.

Oklahoma State: You can find folks anywhere making a case for Clint Chelf, J.W. Walsh or Wes Lunt, but Mike Gundy's opinion is the only one that matters. He says Oklahoma State's starter is Chelf, but after his latest comments on Wednesday, it's not hard to see that changing. He backed off earlier comments that Chelf had a hold on the position. "Whether one of them will redshirt, one of them will start, whether there will be a package for another one, I think all of those scenarios are still out there,” Gundy told reporters. "But I don’t know that we’ve really settled and made any decisions in any of those areas, because we can’t do that at this point." It sounds, though, like the rising senior may have to do something to lose it.

TCU: Most assumed Casey Pachall's return to the team meant he'd step back in and reclaim his job. This spring, it hasn't been that easy. He may do exactly that this fall, but Gary Patterson says he's looked rusty after not throwing or lifting from October to January while receiving in-patient treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. Meanwhile, sophomore Trevone Boykin has looked much improved. Patterson says it's still an open competition, the duo is splitting first-team reps and there may not be a decision until fall.

Texas Tech: It doesn't seem like Michael Brewer has a ton of competition on the roster, but Kliff Kingsbury turned some heads when he trotted out Davis Webb to start a recent scrimmage. Brewer still has to earn the job and it's hard to see that not being the case, but for now, this job is still up for grabs.

West Virginia: This one's still wide open. Texas natives Paul Millard and Ford Childress are still splitting first-team reps and there doesn't appear to be much separation just yet. Expect this competition to heat up in the fall. The coaching staff has already said they don't expect to name a starter by the end of spring or even by the beginning of fall camp.

Offseason to-do list: Kansas Jayhawks

February, 6, 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 Jayhawks in Lawrence.

1. Sort out who's who among the new faces. Kansas is bringing in almost 20 junior college transfers, and many of them will be enrolling early. KU needs those guys to contribute early, but who's it going to be? Some will meet expectations. Some will fall short. Some will exceed them. That last group is the most important, and KU needs to exercise a keen eye in evaluation this spring and get a feel for how its depth chart will look in the fall and who needs a high percentage of reps late in spring and heading into fall camp. This team is going to look a lot different, but assessing this talent once it joins the team will be huge for the Jayhawks this offseason.

2. Find some playmakers for Jake Heaps. I wouldn't completely rule out Michael Cummings, but KU has already invested in the former superstar recruit and BYU transfer. Heaps is KU's guy heading into this season, but KU loses its leading receiver, Kale Pick, and its next-most productive receiver is a running back, Tony Pierson, who didn't top 200 yards rushing. Kansas' receivers caught a grand total of zero touchdown passes a year ago. Running backs caught four and tight ends caught three. That cannot fly in 2013. You can't win in the Big 12 like that. Dayne Crist didn't have the best year, but for Heaps to succeed, KU has got to find some serviceable receivers.

3. Fix up the offensive line and keep the running game rolling. Kansas has quietly had a really strong offensive line, even throughout these lean years under Turner Gill and Charlie Weis thus far. Three starters from last year's line, though, are gone. Left tackle and four-year starter Tanner Hawkinson is gone, along with guard Duane Zlatnik and center Trevor Marrongelli. If KU can keep this running game productive, the passing game will have a chance to blossom and the road to Big 12 relevance will be a whole lot easier. If the running game slows and James Sims and Pierson can't help balance the offense, don't expect Heaps to do much better next year than Crist.

More offseason to-do lists:
Every year, we rank the top 10 players at positions across the Big 12 before the season and after. We'll kick off our list with the glamour position in the Big 12: Quarterback.

A quick note on the rankings: Only one player per team was allowed. I picked the best QB on the teams that shuffled throughout the season, and didn't include players who left the team or were ineligible to end the season.

1. Collin Klein, Kansas State: Klein is not your traditional quarterback and not the kind of guy the Big 12 has made its offensive reputation behind. What he is, though? A leader who showcases his toughness and a good enough passer to make K-State one of the nation's most efficient offenses and forces defenses to respect him on deep and intermediate throws. He completed 64 percent of his passes for 2,646 yards and rushed for 925 yards, accounting for 39 touchdowns.

2. Geno Smith, West Virginia: One would think if you win the Big 12 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year honor, throw 42 touchdowns to just six picks and rack up almost 4,200 yards passing, you'd win it easily in the postseason. Not the case. Smith was fantastic this year and might be the first quarterback taken in the NFL draft. Smith is clearly the Big 12's best "passer," but he's not quite the Big 12's best quarterback.

3. Landry Jones, Oklahoma: Jones' experience is unmatched in this league, but he never quite got over the top as the Big 12's best quarterback. He was always solid, even if he might be vulnerable to a big mistake. He threw an interception in each of his final seven games at OU, but he also racked up 30 touchdowns and 4,272 yards. He threw for at least 3,000 yards in each of the past four seasons and leaves as the No. 3 all-time passer in FBS history.

4. Nick Florence, Baylor: Florence led the Big 12 in total offense by almost 40 full yards per game. Not only did he lead the league in passing yards with 4,309, he added almost 600 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns. He filled in admirably for RG III, and it's a shame he had to burn his redshirt in 2011 after Griffin suffered a head injury.

5. Seth Doege, Texas Tech: Doege was second nationally with 39 touchdown passes and had a solid senior season. There were some rough games, sure, but he was third in the Big 12 with 4,205 yards. The biggest negative for Doege that bumped him down this list? A Big 12-high 16 interceptions.

6. Clint Chelf, Oklahoma State: Only took one Oklahoma State quarterback for this list, but Chelf was the steadiest this season for the Pokes, and the only one who didn't get hurt. Chelf threw for 15 touchdowns and just six picks and averaged just under 200 passing yards a game. He also ran for 162 yards on just 31 carries.

7. David Ash, Texas: Ash had a really strong start and looked like one of the Big 12's best quarterbacks early in the season. He flirted with the FBS lead in passer rating before coming to Earth a bit late in the year and getting benched against KU and suffering a rib injury late in the year. He still threw for almost 2,700 yards, 19 touchdowns and eight picks.

8. Trevone Boykin, TCU: Boykin had to fill in for the Frogs' Casey Pachall, but had his biggest successes in two situations: Broken plays that required him to scramble and deep balls. The rest of the offense seemed to struggle at times, but Boykin definitely made it interesting. He completed just 57 percent of his passes and had 10 interceptions to his 15 scores, but he hung in there and helped carry the Frogs to a seven-win season.

9. Sam Richardson, Iowa State: Richardson emerged from nowhere to win the Cyclones' quarterback job in the final weeks of the season and prompt a transfer from 2011's season hero: Jared Barnett. Richardson is a prototypical passer who also has wheels and threw eight touchdowns to just one pick in the Cyclones' final three games.

10. Michael Cummings, Kansas: Cummings stepped in for a struggling Dayne Crist, but didn't offer much after doing so and couldn't get KU over the hump to get a Big 12 win. BYU transfer Jake Heaps is likely to slide in front of Cummings on the depth chart next year after Cummings completed just 45 percent of his passes for three touchdowns and four interceptions. He did make some plays with his feet, though it was hard for the yardage to show that was the case because there were so many sacks.

Season report card: Kansas Jayhawks

January, 11, 2013
1/11/13
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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 Jayhawks.

OFFENSE: The Dayne Crist Era at Kansas had inauspicious beginnings, when the Notre Dame transfer completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes for just 169 yards in his first game as a Jayhawk. Still, KU won that game over FCS South Dakota State. It wouldn't get any better. Crist didn't do much for his NFL stock at KU, completing 47 percent of his passes for four touchdowns and nine interceptions before being benched for a freshman, Michael Cummings. He didn't have much help at receiver, but the Jayhawks likely would have began the year 2-0 if they'd had James Sims, who burst out with a huge season after being suspended for the season's first three games with 1,013 yards and nine touchdowns on just 218 carries. He led the Big 12 in rushing yards per game, though KU rode him hard once he returned, giving him at least 27 carries in five of the first six games in Big 12 play. Sims earns KU's offense some points for respectability, but the lack of balance was glaring and forced KU to go winless in Big 12 play yet again. GRADE: D

DEFENSE: It felt like this unit was better when the year began, and in some ways, it was under new coordinator Dave Campo. It wasn't the complete disaster it was in 2011 when it finished dead last in total defense and gave up 50+ points on the regular. The defense kept the Jayhawks in games against Texas, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech, but the offense couldn't make enough plays to get a win. Ultimately though, KU still finished 116th nationally in total defense and 112th in scoring defense, though that was ahead of two Big 12 teams. Bradley McDougald had a solid year at safety, and the unit forced tons of turnovers early in the season, but looking at the season in its entirety, there wasn't much to be truly impressed with, besides being a little bit better than last year's defense, which was one of the worst in college football history. GRADE: D

OVERALL: You can't talk about KU's 2012 season without also noting that it lost to Rice, a team that had never beaten a Big 12 team in 20+ attempts since the breakup of the Southwest Conference. The Jayhawks lost late leads to the Owls and Orange Bowl participant Northern Illinois, which easily could have landed KU at 3-9 and a marked improvement over last year's 2-10 campaign. It's tough to grade this team. It really was better than 2011's squad. The games showed that, even though the 1-11 record did not. There were tons of close games this year, even though KU never could get over the hump and crack a Big 12 losing streak that now stands at 21 games. That improvement saves the Jayhawks from drawing an F from yours truly. GRADE: D-

More Big 12 report cards:

Passing out some Big 12 Christmas gifts

December, 24, 2012
12/24/12
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Christmas is only a few hours away, but I hope you've been shopping for your favorite folks across the league. Here's a wish list for a handful of folks across the Big 12.

Charlie Weis: A quarterback. Kansas made some big upgrades to its team via the juco ranks, but this is the Big 12. None of it will matter much if BYU transfer Jake Heaps doesn't pan out and become the player Weis hoped he would be when he brought him to Lawrence. Maybe Michael Cummings makes life interesting, but Heaps has heaps of starting experience, and if KU is going to get any better, it has to be much, much better at the quarterback spot after the Dayne Crist Experiment turned out to be a bust.

Oklahoma State fans: Forgiveness and selective memory. Yes, Oklahoma State fans, Mike Gundy disagreed with AD Mike Holder on scheduling philosophy and flirted with Tennessee and Arkansas to the point that some erroneous reports had him accepting the job as the new head Hog. Yes, he almost ruined a hugely beneficial relationship on both sides, but in the process, he damaged it some. Don't hold it against him. He says he gets along with Holder on "95 percent" of what they talk about as it relates to Oklahoma State. OSU gave him opportunities he wouldn't have gotten elsewhere, like becoming a position coach at 23 years old, and becoming a head coach at 36. He provided the program something no other coach could in a long, long time: An outright conference title. Focus on that, not on the aggravations of the offseason.

Kansas State's defense: Rocket-powered roller skates. This Oregon offense is no joke, and they've got backs faster and more talented than anything Kansas State has seen all season in the Big 12. De'Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner are going to be a handful, and quarterback Marcus Mariota has wheels of his own. Kansas State's defense might need a little help keeping up.

Oklahoma's defense: A dash of extra self-discipline. Speaking of keeping up, Oklahoma better subscribe to the LSU and Florida School of Johnny Football Defense. That is to say, keep contain and make him throw to beat you. If he gets loose in the secondary, it's going to be a long, long day for the Sooners. Keep him under wraps and in the pocket, and the Sooners will have a great shot to force a few turnovers (something they've struggled to do all season) and get a big win for the Big 12.

Iowa State linebacker Jake Knott: A hug. Shoulder surgery ended his career early, but everybody in the Big 12 respects what Knott did over his fantastic career. His leadership and toughness are rivaled by few to ever play in this league. He'll have to be in Memphis watching his fellow seniors close out their careers on the field. That's not easy to watch. Give him a hug and a pat on the back on the way to the NFL Combine. Best of luck, Jake.

Texas Tech fans: A chill pill. Excitement is through the roof in Lubbock, and Tech fans are dreaming of titles as season tickets fly out the door and fans celebrate Kliff Kingsbury's hire in the streets. Give the man time, though, and don't expect him to start racking up Big 12 titles right away. Maybe he will. I'm not saying he won't. I'm just saying the relationship between Kingsbury and Tech has a chance to be really, really special. He's still young, and still going to be learning how to run an entire program where he's making all the decisions. Give him time if it starts out rough, and don't force upon him crazy expectations.

West Virginia: Some new enemies. The poor Mountaineers didn't really find anybody to hate in their first season in the Big 12. TCU rekindled their old Southwest Conference ready-made rivalries with Texas and Texas Tech and Baylor, but the Mountaineers might get a little something going eventually with Tech (John Denver Bowl), Oklahoma State (Dana Holgorsen Bowl) or others. It doesn't help when you're getting stomped by both, and beaten by a bunch of others. For now, they'll have to settle with facing old friend from the Big East, Syracuse, in the Pinstripe Bowl.

TCU's young talents: Earplugs. The Frogs are very young and very, very promising. Over the next eight months, prepare to hear a whole lot about how good the Frogs will be, especially if Casey Pachall shows up in spring camp with his same old arm and a new way of seeing life. The freshmen and sophomore-heavy crew can't listen to it, though. That's the surest way to make it nothing more than hype.

Texas: No more Heisman mistakes in Texas. I really do feel bad for Texas. They recruit by selecting more than recruiting, and a whole lot of guys are going to be left wanting to go to Texas but not going to Texas. Offering guys like RG3 and Manziel to play defensive back while Case McCoy and David Ash hold down the quarterback spot at Texas? It's not a good look for the Longhorns. Some better quarterback evaluations are necessary, but there are a lot of good quarterbacks in the state and not all of them can go to Texas. The Longhorns would love it if guys who don't end up at Texas would stop winning Heismans.
There won't be many highlights when Kansas looks back on Year 1 of the Charlie Weis Era.

With a 59-10 loss to West Virginia in Morgantown on Saturday, the Jayhawks clinched a second consecutive winless season in Big 12 play, becoming the seventh team in league history to do so.

With just one chance left, I expected KU to put up more of a fight, but West Virginia controlled the game from start to finish. Geno Smith threw 21 consecutive completions to set a school record before leaving the game with 407 yards and three touchdowns on 23-of-24 passing. It also clinched Smith's second consecutive 4,000-yard passing season.

The Mountaineers made it look easy and raced to a 52-7 lead after three quarters and were up 35-7 at the half. Stedman Bailey caught 11 passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns, making one last case for the Biletnikoff Award.

West Virginia did what most expected, but KU didn't show much fight in its last chance to get in the win column. Michael Cummings and Dayne Crist both earned playing time, but neither was effective, even against the Big 12's worst defense.

Not a pretty finish in a season with so many close calls for KU, though this wasn't one of them.

Big 12 Upset Alert: Week 12

November, 14, 2012
11/14/12
2:00
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Each week, I pick the one game in the Big 12 this week that is most likely to go the opposite way experts expect.

Only four Big 12 games this week, but here's this week's team firmly on Upset Alert:

My pick: Iowa State at Kansas

The Cyclones travel to Lawrence as a touchdown favorite, but the Jayhawks are hungrier than ever, and aren't all that far off from being in a very different place this season.

The Jayhawks are just 1-9, but held big fourth-quarter leads against Rice and Northern Illinois to begin the season. The Jayhawks collapsed against NIU and a turnover led to a Rice game-winning field goal.

Last week, the Jayhawks erased a double-digit, fourth-quarter lead against Texas Tech and struck first with a touchdown in overtime, but gave up a TD and failed to score and push the game to a third overtime.

Change a couple plays here and there, and all of a sudden KU is playing with five wins in its pocket. Iowa State has those five wins, and this game could have been for bowl eligibility.

Still, Kansas is inching closer and closer to a win, and Iowa State was the lone team last year that KU came close to outplaying for 60 minutes. Iowa State held on for a 13-10 win, but the recipe for an upset is there. James Sims and Anthony Pierson combined for 339 yards on 46 carries last week against Tech, and though the passing game is still stalling, KU might not quite need it.

Iowa State allowed Texas' top two backs last week to average more than 6 yards a carry and the Cyclones suffered a 26-point loss to the Longhorns, their most lopsided result of the season.

If KU runs the ball like that, there's no doubt they'll have another opportunity to win. Linebacker Jake Knott is gone for the season with a shoulder injury, and reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, A.J. Klein, is still adjusting to his new position on the weak side. He's been quiet the past couple weeks, and his production has slowed.

Can KU take advantage? It's definitely possible. That 19-game Big 12 losing streak is in peril this week, and Iowa State's officially on upset alert.

Tech ends skid with OT win over Kansas

November, 10, 2012
11/10/12
3:58
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Kansas just can't seem to get over the hump.

With its opportunities to end its Big 12 losing streak dwindling, Texas Tech knocked off the Jayhawks in double overtime to stretch the skid to 19 games.

A fourth-down heave from Michael Cummings in overtime fell short, and Texas Tech moved to 7-3 with a 41-34 win. Eric Stephens found Darrin Moore for a 3-yard touchdown pass to give Tech the eventual game-winning score.

Texas Tech's final home game of the season was a must-win after frustrating losses in consecutive weeks to Kansas State and Texas, and the Red Raiders did what they had to against an improving Kansas team.

Tech withstood a second-half rally from the Jayhawks for the win, but the biggest story from Saturday in Lubbock had little to do with the game's outcome.

In the third quarter, Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville was caught on camera confronting an assistant coach and appeared to aggressively rip the coach's headset off his head, causing the assistant's hat to come off as well.

Facing a fourth-and-2 at midfield, Texas Tech was flagged for a procedure penalty and was forced to punt. That sequence set off Tuberville's sideline rant.

He'll surely be asked about it in postgame. We'll keep you posted.

On the field, Kansas and Tech was what everyone expected: A battle of contrasting styles. Tech won the battle through the air, but KU's ground attack put up an impressive fight to end what's now a 19-game losing streak in Big 12 play.

Tony Pierson set up scores with runs of 49 and 69 yards and finished with 202 yards on 16 carries. Fellow back James Sims notched his sixth consecutive 100-yard game with 127 yards on 30 carries.

Still, Seth Doege and Texas Tech's air attack was too much, and the Red Raiders moved to 7-3. Doege finished with 436 yards and three touchdown passes on 42-of-54 passing.

Tech became just the latest team to sneak by Kansas, but there's no doubt that lots of folks will be waiting to hear Tuberville's explanation for the sideline incident.

Peeking ahead to Week 11 in the Big 12

November, 5, 2012
11/05/12
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We're closing in on the end of the season, but we've still got four good weekends of football left before it's time to suit up for bowl games. Here's what you can expect in Week 11:
  • The spotlight will only continue to intensify for Kansas State as the final month of the season drags on. That's not changing any time soon, and it'll be even tougher when they go on the road. K-State's been really consistent this year, but TCU has not. If the Frogs play up to their potential, this could be an upset waiting to happen, but K-State's not making many mistakes to let teams in. I'd be surprised if Collin Klein didn't suit up for this one, but expect there to be plenty of doubt through the week. TCU has no choice but to prepare for Klein and his backup, Daniel Sams.
  • Dana Holgorsen's return won't come with very much at stake, but it should still be fun. Oklahoma State and West Virginia both have three losses, but Holgorsen's arrival before the 2010 season turned Oklahoma State from an offensive disaster into a juggernaut. OSU scored a total of seven points in its two games before Holgorsen's arrival. They've been among the nation's best offenses since. West Virginia was too, but hasn't looked the part of late. There's not much hate from the Stillwater folk toward Holgorsen, who left for a job 99 percent of coaches would have taken under the same scenario, but it'll be interesting to see his reception.
  • It had been two decades since Iowa State beat a ranked team on the road when Paul Rhoads' Cyclones went to Austin and did the deed to Texas back in 2010. ISU will get another chance against a Texas team that showed up with a solid performance of its own on the road against a ranked team last week. That 2010 team in Texas turned out to be awful, but here's guessing the older guys remember that game well.
  • Speaking of revenge, Oklahoma's secondary got embarrassed by Baylor last year and RG3 put himself back in the Heisman race. Baylor's had a tough go this season with just one Big 12 win (and it came over Kansas), while Oklahoma has just one Big 12 loss. The Sooners get Baylor in Norman and would like to keep their slim Big 12 title hopes alive, as well as start a new home winning streak after K-State and Notre Dame have all but eliminated the mystique at Owen Field, which once saw OU win 39 consecutive games there from 2005-2011.
  • Try to stay awake if you can in Texas Tech and Kansas. Tech is a bad matchup for the Jayhawks. They've been one of the league's best rushing defenses and have the ability to spread out KU and score a whole lot of points. Quarterback Michael Cummings struggled against Baylor's defense, but Charlie Weis is sticking with him as the starter instead of turning back to Dayne Crist, though Crist got some playing time late in this week's loss to Baylor.

Want to get a look at the full schedule? Here you go (all times ET):
  • Kansas at Texas Tech, Fox Sports Net, noon
  • Iowa State at Texas, Longhorn Network, noon
  • West Virginia at Oklahoma State, ABC, 3:30 p.m.
  • Baylor at Oklahoma, Fox Sports Net, 3:30 p.m.
  • Kansas State at TCU, FOX, 7 p.m.

Big 12 power rankings: Week 11

November, 5, 2012
11/05/12
9:00
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Another fun Saturday of Big 12 football is in the books. Here's how I slot the league heading into Week 11:

1. Kansas State (9-0, 6-0 Big 12; last week: 1) The Wildcats continue to take care of business. Collin Klein's status will be an interesting topic of discussion this week after the quarterback left Saturday's game in the third quarter with an undisclosed injury, but don't expect Bill Snyder or any of the Wildcats to talk about it. K-State has methodically dispatched every team it has played this season, but the Cats travel to face a TCU team coming off an emotional double-OT win at West Virginia this week.

2. Oklahoma (6-2, 4-1; last week: 2) Playing at Iowa State isn't easy, and OU looked a little sluggish early, but the Sooners walked away with a very respectable 35-20 win. The Sooners need oodles of help to win another Big 12 title, but this week they'll get a chance to avenge last year's loss to Baylor. Robert Griffin III basically won the Heisman at OU's expense last season.

3. Texas (7-2, 4-2; last week: 6) The Longhorns broke their string of losses to Top 25 teams in rather impressive fashion, winning in Lubbock against the Red Raiders. Texas is on track to surpass last year's eight-win campaign. Is a Cotton Bowl date with rival Texas A&M in the future? I want this to happen so, so badly. Other than a national title game with two undefeated teams, no bowl game would come close to matching the energy and intrigue.

4. Texas Tech (6-3, 3-3; last week: 3) The Red Raiders ran into a pretty determined Texas squad. All of a sudden, Tech's fortunes are looking a little rough and the Big 12 title hopes they had two weeks ago are a distant memory at 3-3 in league play. Kansas is up next, though. The Red Raiders miss tight end Jace Amaro more than most folks outside Lubbock realize. He's a matchup nightmare.

5. Oklahoma State (5-3, 3-2; last week: 4) Hey, the Cowboys are a good team. I know one when I see one. But by the same token, they have to beat somebody to prove it at some point. There's not a single win over a team this year that's been legitimately noteworthy for the Pokes, though they did beat TCU and Iowa State by three touchdowns. The chances will be there for OSU. A reeling West Virginia squad visits Stilly next week for Dana Holgorsen's return to his old stomping grounds.

6. TCU (6-3, 3-3; last week: 8) TCU has been playing heart-stoppers every other week, it seems. The Frogs got the short end of a three-overtime stick against Texas Tech two weeks ago, but Gary Patterson's gambles paid off this time around against the Mountaineers. TCU played to win with trick plays and a game-winning two-point conversion. Kudos. TCU can play spoiler against seemingly BCS-bound K-State this week at Amon G. Carter Stadium.

7. West Virginia (5-3, 2-3; last week: 5) Oh, how the mighty have fallen. That was a heartbreaker for WVU, and the team had to wait two weeks to play TCU after getting pounded by K-State and Texas Tech in consecutive games. Geno Smith & Co. were better this week, but the offense still looks shaky. Tavon Austin is doing his best to keep WVU afloat, but even his penchant for highlights wasn't enough this week.

8. Iowa State (5-4, 2-4; last week: 8) Iowa State's not all that far behind West Virginia here. The Cyclones played Oklahoma tough early, but the Sooners were too much. ISU will travel to Texas this week to make a second go-around at gaining bowl eligibility. KU awaits the week after even if the Cyclones can't get the job done in Austin.

9. Baylor (4-4, 1-4; last week: 9) Baylor broke its four-game losing skid, but you've got to do more than beat Kansas if you want to ascend the Big 12 power rankings. BU's defense pitching a second-half shutout was legitimately impressive considering its recent track record, but a more consistent OU team will be a tougher test for the Bears' D this week.

10. Kansas (1-8, 0-6; last week: 10) A halftime rain delay only put off the inevitable. KU showed some good fight after being down 14-0 early, but the Jayhawks have quarterback issues. If Michael Cummings can't put up some numbers against Baylor, who's he going to put them up against? Texas Tech's defense has struggled the past couple of weeks, but will be a tough test for the Jayhawks' legitimately solid running game. Even an avalanche of losses can't take the shine off an absolutely outstanding season for James Sims.

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