Big 12: Michael Tate

The Big 12's greenest units

March, 17, 2009
3/17/09
1:37
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Every team is green someplace. Here are the specific areas of the most inexperience for each Big 12 team.

Baylor offensive tackle: The Bears need to break in two new starters after losing Jason Smith and Dan Gay.

Colorado defensive line: Help is needed along the defensive front where the Buffaloes lose starting defensive end Maurice Lucas, starting defensive tackle George Hypolite and starting nose tackle Brandon Nicolas.

Iowa State defensive line: Coach Paul Rhoads desperately wants somebody to emerge on the defensive line where the Cyclones lose starting defensive tackle Michael Tate, starting defensive end Kurtis Taylor and top backup defensive back Travis Ferguson.

Kansas linebackers: Even as Mark Mangino is contemplating going to a two-linebacker base defense because of the Big 12's spread offenses, he still needs to find those two players. The Jayhawks lose starters James Holt, Mike Rivera and Joe Mortensen at the position from last season.

Kansas State quarterback: Josh Freeman departed for the NFL early, leaving Carson Coffman and junior college transfer Daniel Thomas to compete for the starting job. It's not a pleasant introduction back to football for returning KSU coach Bill Snyder.

Missouri skill-position players: The Tigers need a quick infusion of playmakers after losing quarterback Chase Daniel, wide receiver/kick returner Jeremy Maclin and tight end Chase Coffman. All of them arguably were the greatest players at their respective positions in Missouri history. Blake Gabbert will receive first look at quarterback and Andrew Jones will work at tight end. It could take several players to fill in for what Maclin did.

Nebraska quarterback: It will be tough for the Cornhuskers to replace all that Joe Ganz did for them, both as a playmaker and a leader at quarterback. Zac Lee will get the first shot, along with freshman Cody Green and redshirt freshman Kody Spano. Maybe the Cornhuskers really could use former Miami quarterback Robert Marve next season.

Oklahoma offensive line: The departure of starting center Jon Cooper, tackle Phil Loadholt and guards Duke Robinson and Brandon Walker means that Sam Bradford will have an inexperienced group protecting him next season. Trent Williams moves to left tackle and Bob Stoops likes his incoming talent, if not its early work habits.

Oklahoma State defensive tackles: The Cowboys ranked last in the conference in sacks last season and lost starting defensive tackles Tonga Tea and Jeray Chatham. It will mean that new defensive coordinator Bill Young will need somebody to step up in the trenches to help shore up that weakness.

Texas defensive line: The major question dogging the Longhorns' national title hopes will be rebuilding a defensive front that loses All-American defensive end Brian Orakpo, defensive tackle Roy Miller, defensive tackle Aaron Lewis and defensive end Henry Melton from last season.

Texas Tech offensive line: New quarterback Taylor Potts will be relying on a retooled offensive line protecting his blind side after left tackle Rylan Reed, left guard Louis Vasquez and center Stephen Hamby all departed from last year.

Texas A&M running backs: The Aggies' offensive backfield will need to restock players: Michael Goodson left school early to declare for the NFL draft and fullbacks Jorvorskie Lane and Nick LaMantia are gone. Look for Cyrus Gray to get most of the work this spring with heralded freshman Bradley Stephens arriving in the summer.

Five questions for Iowa State heading into the season

August, 21, 2008
8/21/08
4:02
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The season begins a week from tonight for Iowa State, which will open against South Dakota State to open Coach Gene Chizik's second season.

The Cyclones return seven offensive and seven defensive starters from last season's 3-9 team as they attempt to qualify for their first bowl since the 2005 Houston Bowl under former coach Dan McCarney.

Heading into the final week of practice, here's five major questions that Chizik needs to settle to get his team for the upcoming season.

1. Settle on a quarterback. Austen Arnaud and Phillip Bates are hooked up in a tight battle. Chizik has said he expects both quarterbacks will play early in the season. The sooner he can settle on a starter, the better.

2. Find a featured running back. The Cyclones have a deep collection of similarly skilled players with J.J. Bass, Alexander Robinson and Jason Scales all back from last season. Look for all of them to play.

3. Develop playmakers at linebacker. Losing Alvin "Ace" Bowen and Jon Banks robbed the Cyclones of two of their primary defenders from last season. Michael Bibbs, Fred Garrin and Jesse Smith appeared poised to claim the starting positions.

4. Get some run-stuffers in the trenches. Not having Ahtyba Rubin and Bryce Braaksma will be huge losses. But former Arkansas transfer Michael Tate and 308-pound junior NG Nate Frere have emerged as the likely starters.

5. Who will replaces Bret Culbertson at kicker? Freshman Grant Mahoney was slated to be the kicker and 6-foot-4, 169-pound freshman Zach Guyer is set for kickoffs in the opener. But Chizik still could switch them around over the next few days.

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