Big 12: Ndamukong Suh

Offensive players dominated the list of top individual seasons at Big 12 schools in ESPN.com’s The Season, with Texas’ Vince Young and Oklahoma State’s Barry Sanders advancing to Wednesday's semifinal round.

Kansas cornerback Aqib Talib is the lone Big 12-era defender who landed on the list as an honorable mention for the Jayhawks. Talib earned consensus All-American honors while helping the Jayhawks go 11-1, including a 24-21 win over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl in 2007.

Several Big 12 defenders have had stellar seasons since the conference was born in 1996. Here’s a look at other exceptional individual seasons for defenders during the Big 12 era.

[+] EnlargeVon Miller
Patrick Green/Icon SMIVon Miller was too much to handle in 2009, posting 17 sacks.
Lawrence Flugence, Texas Tech linebacker, 2002: The sheer numbers land Flugence a spot on this list. He had 193 total tackles, including 124 solo stops in 14 games during the 2002 season. The Mike Leach-led Red Raiders finished 9-5 with Flugence anchoring the defense and Kliff Kingsbury triggering the offense.

Derrick Johnson, Texas linebacker, 2004: The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and Butkus Award winner, Johnson made plays from sideline to sideline for the Longhorns during the 2004 season. He finished with 130 tackles (70 solo stops), including 19 tackles for loss, eight pass breakups, nine forced fumbles and two sacks.

Curtis Lofton, Oklahoma linebacker, 2007: Lofton was exceptional during the 2007 season, earning All-American and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors. He had 157 tackles including 10.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and three interceptions in 14 games for the Sooners. He was the anchor of a defense that allowed 20.3 points per game and 4.98 yards per play as OU finished 11-2 with a Big 12 championship.

Von Miller, Texas A&M defensive end, 2009: The future NFL Pro Bowler was relentless and dominant during the 2007 season. He finished with 17 sacks, 21.5 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles in 13 games. He accounted for 47.2 percent of the Aggies’ sack total (36) during a 6-7 season. His 17 sacks remain the highest single season total in the Big 12 era.

Terence Newman, Kansas State cornerback, 2002: Newman was a nightmare for opponents during the 2002 season, locking down receivers on defense and putting fear into the hearts of defenders on special teams and offense. He won the Thorpe Award and was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. Even as offenses avoided him, Newman finished with 44 tackles, 14 pass breakups and five interceptions.

Shaun Rogers, Texas defensive tackle, 1999: The junior was a disruptive force in the middle for the Longhorns, finishing with 27 tackles for loss, the highest total from any Big 12 defender since the conference was born in 1996. He joined teammate Casey Hampton to give UT the Big 12’s top defensive tackle duo that season.

Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska defensive tackle, 2009: The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Suh’s 2009 season was second to none during the Big 12 era. Offenses focused on keeping Suh from dominating games yet he still dominated on his way to becoming a Heisman Trophy finalist, Lombardi Award and a lengthy list of individual accolades. He finished with 85 tackles including 24 for loss and 12 sacks.

Earl Thomas, Texas safety, 2009: Thomas proved he was NFL ready with a incredible redshirt sophomore campaign. He was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award while earning all-american honors with 77 tackles, five tackles for loss, 16 pass breakups and eight interceptions. He helped UT finish No. 1 nationally in interceptions (35) and forced turnovers (37).

Roy Williams, Oklahoma defensive back, 2001: The Jim Thorpe Award winner, Williams left a lasting legacy with his “Superman” play against Texas in the Red River Rivalry, forcing a Chris Simms’ fumble that sealed an OU win. He finished with 107 tackles including 14 tackles for loss, 22 pass breakups and five interceptions.

Grant Wistrom, Nebraska defensive end, 1997: He had a stellar 1996 season but his 1997 campaign should be considered even better. As the returning Big 12 defensive player of the year, Wistrom had 8.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss and 25 quarterback hurries on his way to Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors for the second straight season. He also earned the Lombardi Trophy in 1997.

Our Big 12 Mount Rushmore

February, 19, 2014
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LeBron James controversially put, of all things, Mount Rushmore in the news last week by suggesting he would be etched in stone one day among the four best in NBA history.

The James story set off a firestorm of other sports-related Rushmores. NFL Rushmores. IndyCar Rushmores. One site even put together its Mount Rushmore of Pro Bass Fishermen.

Not to be outdone, Brandon and I have put together a Mount Rushmore of Big 12 football players.

For those who slept through social studies, the actual Mount Rushmore includes the likenesses of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. The four were chosen not only because they were famous presidents. They were chosen because they were transformational figures in American history.

Washington won the Revolutionary War. Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence. Lincoln freed the slaves. Roosevelt changed American diplomacy.

In keeping with the spirit of the real Mount Rushmore, our Big 12 Rushmore wasn’t just about picking the four best players. It was about picking transformational figures whose impact was far-reaching. And it's just from the Big 12 era (1996-present).

Without further ado, the Big 12 football Mount Rushmore:

Texas QB Vince Young

[+] EnlargeVince Young
Scott Clarke/Getty ImagesVince Young led Texas to its first national championship in 35 years.
Before 2005, Texas was a great program. But it was not an elite one. It had been 35 years since the Longhorns had won a national championship. By contrast, Oklahoma had captured four national titles during that span. Even though coach Mack Brown had turned the Texas program around, the Sooners were still beating in the Longhorns’ heads on the field.

That all changed in 2005, thanks to one of the greatest individual seasons in college football history. Young put the Longhorns on his back, and took them all the way to Pasadena, Calif. The Longhorns destroyed everyone, including the Sooners, with Ohio State being the only regular-season opponent to play Texas within 10 points.

Young was even more spectacular in the national title game against USC. The mighty Trojans had no answer for Young, who threw for 267 yards and rushed for 200. And in the closing seconds on fourth down, he dashed past the pylon for the game-winning touchdown.

Young didn’t win the Heisman Trophy (he should have), but he became the first FBS quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 in the same season. He also finally lifted Texas over the hump, taking the Longhorns from great to elite.

Oklahoma RB Adrian Peterson

Just this month, Oklahoma signed one of the best running backs in the country in California native Joe Mixon. Who is Mixon’s idol? Peterson. Who knows how many recruits the Sooners were able to sign the last decade because of Peterson. The number is substantial.

Peterson arrived in 2004 as the Sooners’ most ballyhooed recruit since Marcus Dupree. Texas wanted Peterson badly. And Peterson actually watched the 2003 Red River Rivalry from the Texas sidelines. But even though Peterson dreamed of playing for the Longhorns growing up, he wanted to win more. Peterson’s signing with Oklahoma added insult to injury to its cross-river rival.

After getting to campus, Peterson put together one of the best freshman seasons ever. He rushed for 1,925 yards, leading the Sooners to the national title game. He also finished second in the Heisman voting, even though there was still a stigma against voting for freshmen.

The next two years of Peterson’s career were marred by injuries (even though he still finished with 4,041 career rushing yards). When healthy, he was the single-most dominant force in Big 12 history.

Baylor QB Robert Griffin III

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
Sarah Glenn/Getty ImagesRobert Griffin III won the Heisman Trophy and put Baylor back on the map.
Along with his coach Art Briles, Griffin changed the way people thought about Baylor football. He also changed the way Baylor football thought about itself. Before Griffin followed Briles to Waco in 2008, Baylor football was the laughingstock of the Big 12.

The Bears had not enjoyed a single winning season since before the inception of the league, and had lost 85 of 96 Big 12 games. The facilities were a mess and attendance was so poor, the school rolled a tarp over Floyd Casey Stadium's south end zone bleachers.

But by the time Griffin left, the program had been transformed. He brought the school its first Heisman Trophy and just its second 10-win season.

Griffin’s effect can still be felt in the Big 12. His magical season spurred Baylor to secure the funding for an on-campus, $260-million stadium that will open this fall. The Bears have also been a force ever since, both on the field and on the recruiting trail. In the last three months, Baylor captured its first Big 12 title, then nailed down a top-25 recruiting class. Until Griffin came along, that would have been unthinkable in Waco. It’s now the standard.

Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh

There have been some great defensive players to come through the Big 12. None come close to matching Suh, who was one of the most menacing defensive tackles to ever play college football.

In 2009, Suh captured the Outland, Nagurski and Bednarik national awards as the nation’s most outstanding lineman and defensive player. He also became the first defensive Heisman finalist since Michigan’s Charles Woodson in 1997.

Spearheaded by Suh, Nebraska also fielded perhaps the greatest defense in Big 12 history. Despite playing in an era of high-flying offenses, the Huskers gave up just 10.4 points per game, the fewest any defense has allowed in Big 12 history.

Facing off against the Big 12’s best offense in the Big 12 championship, Suh and the Huskers imposed their will, and came a controversial call away from toppling the Longhorns. Texas went on to the national championship game, and Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy still finished one spot higher in the Heisman voting than Suh. But in that game, like every other one he played in that season, Suh was the best player on the field.
With the BCS era ending, we released the Big 12 all-BCS-era team this morning. ESPN.com also put together a national all-BCS-era team, and four Big 12 alums made that illustrious squad:
  • RB: Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma (2004-06) -- Nicknamed "A.D." because he could run "All Day," Peterson set an FBS freshman record with 1,925 rushing yards while finishing second to Matt Leinart in the '04 Heisman voting. Injuries plagued his next two seasons, but he still was a force and rushed for more than 1,000 yards to finish with 4,041 career rushing yards and 41 touchdowns before turning pro early.
  • WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (2009-11) -- Blackmon joined Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree as the only receiver to win the Biletnikoff twice. In those two seasons, Blackmon put up 233 receptions, 3,304 receiving yards and 38 touchdowns. Blackmon gets the slight nod over Crabtree, because Oklahoma State won its first Big 12 title with Blackmon at wideout, while the Red Raiders came up just short with Crabtree.
  • DT: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska (2005-09) -- There was no more dominant defensive tackle during the BCS era than Suh. After registering 12 tackles and 24 tackles for loss, he placed fourth in the Heisman voting in '09, and won a host of national awards, including the Outland, Lombardi, Nagurski and Bednarik. Suh too went on to become the second overall pick in the draft.
  • S: Roy Williams, Oklahoma (1999-01) -- Williams was a major part of Oklahoma's revival at the turn of the millennium. He was one of the Sooners' best players on the 2000 national championship team, before winning the Thorpe and Nagurski awards in '01. That year, he also was the Big 12 defensive player of the year and a unanimous All-American while placing seventh in the Heisman voting.

Big 12 all-BCS-era team

January, 13, 2014
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After 16 years, the BCS era is finally over. Next season, college football will have a playoff instead.

With the BCS done, we've come up with our Big 12 all-BCS era team (1998-2013) below:

Offense

[+] EnlargeVince Young
Scott Clarke/Getty ImagesWith Vince Young at the helm, Texas won a national title and Rose Bowl.
QB: Vince Young, Texas (2003-05) -- Young led Texas to its first national title in 35 years with an unforgettable performance in the Rose Bowl against USC. The Heisman runner-up also became the first QB in college football history to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 in the same season.

RB: Ricky Williams, Texas (1998) -- Williams was part of the BCS era for only one season, but what a season it was. He rushed for 2,327 yards and won the Heisman Trophy going away. Only Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne has more career rushing yards than Williams (6,279).

RB: Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma (2004-06) -- Despite battling injuries throughout his career, Peterson still was a beast in college. After rushing for 1,925 yards while leading the Sooners to the national title game, he finished second in the ’04 Heisman voting, even though there was still a stigma then in voting for a freshman.

WR: Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech (2007-08) -- Crabtree became the first two-time winner of the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top receiver. In '08, he and QB Graham Harrell led the Red Raiders to an upset of Texas and a No. 2 ranking in the polls.

WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (2009-11) -- Blackmon became the second and only other two-time winner of the Biletnikoff. In his final two seasons, he finished with 233 receptions, 3,304 receiving yards and 38 touchdowns, and he helped propel the Cowboys to their first Big 12 title in '11.

TE: Chase Coffman, Missouri (2005-08) -- Coffman had a monster statistical college career for a tight end with 247 catches for 2,659 receiving yards and 30 touchdowns. He won the ’08 Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end. Missouri won 37 games during the four years Coffman was in the lineup.

OT: Jammal Brown, Oklahoma (2001-04) -- Brown was a unanimous All-American and a three-time All-Big 12 selection. He became the fifth Sooner to win the Outland Trophy, awarded to the nation’s top interior lineman.

OT: Russell Okung, Oklahoma State (2007-09) -- In Okung’s final two seasons, Oklahoma State led the Big 12 in rushing yards. The Cowboys were also third in the country in ’07 in fewest sacks allowed with Okung at left tackle. He was a unanimous All-American and Outland finalist in ’09 and became the sixth overall pick in the ’10 NFL draft.

OG: Cyril Richardson, Baylor (2010-13) -- Richardson became Baylor’s seventh all-time unanimous All-American. The Outland finalist was also a key piece on the nation’s highest-scoring offense this season.

OG: Justin Blalock, Texas (2003-06) -- Though a guard in the NFL, Blalock actually started 50 games for Texas, most coming at right tackle. He was a three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection and a consensus All-American in 2006.

C: Dominic Raiola, Nebraska (1998-2000) -- Raiola was the inaugural winner of the Rimington Award, named after former Nebraska center Dave Rimington, which recognizes the best center in college football. He was an Outland finalist and a consensus All-American.

APB: Darren Sproles, Kansas State (2001-04) -- One of the most prolific all-purpose performers in college football history, Sproles finished his career with 6,812 all-purpose yards. Among his 39 consecutive starts, his most memorable performance came in the ’03 Big 12 championship, when he had 235 yards rushing and 88 receiving, as K-State upset top-ranked Oklahoma 35-7.

Defense

DE: Brian Orakpo, Texas (2005-08) -- Orakpo captured the ’08 Nagurski Award as the most outstanding defensive player in the country, and the Lombardi Award, given to the best college lineman or linebacker. He also was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus All-American while piling up 11 sacks his senior year.

DE: Von Miller, Texas A&M (2007-10) -- Out of a hybrid defensive end/linebacker role, Miller led the nation with 17 sacks in ’09. He was a two-time All-American and won the Butkus Award in ’10 as the nation’s top linebacker.

DT: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska (2005-09) -- There was no more dominant defensive player in college football during the BCS era. Suh finished fourth in the Heisman voting in ’09 and won several national awards, including the Outland, Lombardi, Nagurski (most outstanding defensive player)and Bednarik (defensive player of the year). He was also a unanimous All-American and the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.

DT: Tommie Harris, Oklahoma (2001-03) -- Harris was a force from the beginning as a freshman on the OU defensive line. He won the Lombardi his junior year, and he was a two-time consensus All-American, garnering unanimous honors in ’03.

LB: Derrick Johnson, Texas (2001-04) -- Johnson was a menacing linebacker for the Longhorns, earning consensus All-American honors in ’03 and unanimous honors in ’04. He was also a three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection, and won the Butkus (best linebacker) and Nagurski awards as a senior. Johnson finished his career with 458 tackles.

LB: Rocky Calmus, Oklahoma (1998-2001) -- Calmus played a major role in OU’s resurgence under Bob Stoops. He won the Butkus in ’01 and was a finalist for the Nagurski and Bednarik. A three-time All-Big 12 pick, Calmus led the Sooners in tackles in all three of those seasons.

LB: Teddy Lehman, Oklahoma (2000-03) -- Lehman too won the Butkus, beating out Johnson for the award in ’03. He also was Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, captured the Bednarik, was a unanimous All-American and played in two national championship games.

[+] EnlargeTavon Austin
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesWest Virginia receiver and returner Tavon Austin had a huge 2012 season.
CB: Terence Newman, Kansas State (1999-2002) -- Newman was a solid player for Bill Snyder his first three seasons, then broke out as a senior. Newman was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, a unanimous All-American and the Thorpe winner, given to college football’s top defensive back.

CB: Derrick Strait, Oklahoma (2000-03) -- A four-year starter, Strait finished with a school-record 52 career pass breakups. He also won the Thorpe, and was a unanimous All-American.

S: Roy Williams, Oklahoma (1999-2001) -- Nicknamed “Superman,” Williams was the Big 12’s most dominating defensive player until Suh came along. He won the Thorpe and Nagurski in ’01, and was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a unanimous All-American the same season. He also famously skied over the Texas offensive line to force the game-clinching interception to earn his moniker.

S: Michael Huff, Texas (2002-05) -- Huff became the first Longhorn to win the Thorpe, and was the leader of the ’05 national championship defense. He was also a unanimous All-American that season.

Special teams

K: Mason Crosby, Colorado (2003-06) -- Crosby was three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection, and twice was a consensus All-American even though he never won the Lou Groza Award, given to the nation's top kicker. He was also the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year as a junior, and converted 66 field goals in his career.

P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State (2009-12) -- Sharp became the first three-time All-American in Oklahoma State history, and he earned All-American honors both as a punter and a kicker. He was twice named the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year. In his career, he made 50 of 59 field goals, averaged 45.9 yards per punt and missed only one extra point.

KR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia (2012) -- Austin was in the Big 12 only one season, but he was unstoppable that one season. On top of being one of the most dangerous kick returners in the country, Austin had 1,289 yards receiving and 643 rushing, and finished second in the country in all-purpose yards.

PR: Ryan Broyles Oklahoma (2008-11) -- On top of being a prolific punt returner, Broyles was one of the most efficient receivers in college football history. He finished his career with an FBS-record 349 receptions, and was a two-time consensus All-American before a knee injury cut his senior season short.
We're in the middle of counting down the top 10 players in the history of the Big 12. I'm sure you'll all agree with my selections.

See more on my criteria here.

Let's move on with the list:

No. 3: Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska (2005-09)

Why he's on the list: Suh's career had modest beginnings, and coach Bo Pelini famously almost told the Oregon native to take a hike when he took over the Huskers job before the 2008 season. Instead, Suh bought in and became the Big 12's most decorated and best defender ever in two years as a starter. We're not taking his NFL career into account, but colleague Mel Kiper called Suh the most dominating defensive tackle in college football he'd seen in 32 years. Suh's greatest achievement was becoming a Heisman finalist as a defensive tackle in 2009, and I've always believed he should have won the award ahead of Alabama's Mark Ingram, who was arguably the second-best running back on that Alabama team that won the national title. Suh was simply the most dominant player in college football that season, impacting every game he played and just about every snap.

Do you know how hard it is to lead a team in tackles as a defensive tackle? Suh did it twice. He had 43 tackles for loss and 19.5 sacks in two seasons as a starter. In 2009, he collected an absurd amount of hardware: He was the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year and he won the Lombardi Award, the Nagurski Trophy and the Bednarik Award. He was also a unanimous All-American and a finalist for the Camp Award as college football's best player. Nebraska's defense in 2009 was one of the best in Big 12 history, and the team fell just short of the Big 12 title. That's not Suh's fault. His performance against a big-time Texas offense in the title game was one of the best I've ever seen. Against the Longhorns, led by senior quarterback Colt McCoy (No. 5 on our list of top Big 12 players), he made 12 tackles and 4.5 sacks, racking up a school record seven tackles for loss. He was everywhere, and it seemed like he was in McCoy's face on every snap.

All season long, Suh was unblockable. Only two players are blocking him from being the greatest Big 12 player of all-time.

The rest of the list:
ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper has two Big 12 players -- Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson and Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro -- potentially going in the first round of this year’s NFL draft.

Fellow expert Todd McShay has the same two as Kiper and also is optimistic about the chances of West Virginia’s Geno Smith and Tavon Austin.

So let’s split the difference and label the potential Big 12 first-round picks as an optimistic three, with Johnson being the only absolute first-round lock.

Those three would represent the fewest Big 12 players taken in the first round of the NFL draft since 2008. Even if four went, the Big 12 still would have the fewest since 2008.

That year, only Kansas -- yep, the Jayhawks -- managed a first-rounder, Aqib Talib to Tampa Bay with the 20th pick. In the four drafts that followed, the Big 12 has always put at least five players into the first round, including the first four overall picks in 2010.

How well this year’s group of first-round picks will fare might not be known for years. What is known, though, is how well Big 12 players have done when they are selected in the first round. With that in mind, here is a ranking -- from worst to best -- of the Big 12’s best first-round draft classes over the past 10 years.

2008: It’s all about quantity, and a little bit of quality. In 2008, the Big 12 only produced one first-round pick, Talib. He has not produced dramatic returns in the NFL. In the past two years, he has only started nine games. He was somewhat productive for Tampa Bay in the previous three seasons, starting 41 games and playing in 53. But, again, he was the only Big 12 player taken in the first round in 2008.

2006: Vince Young is working out at Texas’ pro day at the end of March. Enough said. Davin Joseph and Michael Huff have been solid producers. But when the No. 3 overall pick is out of the league and having to work out at his alma mater's pro day, it means it was a bad year for the Big 12 in the first round of the NFL draft.

2004: Tommie Harris and Marcus Tubbs, the two defensive tackles taken in the first round, were productive for a few years, with Harris selected to Pro Bowls in 2005, '06 and ’07 before he was beset by injuries. Tubbs lasted four seasons in the NFL. Roy Williams had 5,715 receiving yards but never lived up to the hype he generated coming out of Texas. Rashaun Woods played only two years and had seven career catches.

2005: The lack of numbers might be what hurts this group the most. Cedric Benson, Jammal Brown, Derrick Johnson, Mark Clayton and Fabian Washington all proved they could play at the NFL level. Benson has had three 1,000-yard-plus seasons. Johnson is one of the top linebackers in the game. Brown remains a solid option on the offensive line. Clayton played seven NFL seasons; Washington played six. But there were only five guys selected and that isn't enough to push 2005 to the top of the list.

[+] EnlargeAdrian Peterson
Andy Clayton King/Getty ImagesThe Big 12's 2007 draft class wasn't huge, but did feature 2012 NFL MVP Adrian Peterson.
2009: Every Big 12 player selected in the first round in 2009 has produced and appears to be poised to continue to do so. Only Jason Smith didn’t have a start last year. But the offensive lineman still played in all 16 games for the New York Jets. Michael Crabtree, Brian Orakpo, Josh Freeman, Jeremy Maclin, Brandon Pettigrew and Ziggy Hood are all starters for their respective teams.

2007: It wasn’t the biggest group, but it did include Adrian Peterson, so there could be some quibbling that maybe 2007 should be higher in the rankings. Throw in Aaron Ross and Michael Griffin and the debate could get even more heated. Adam Carriker was also taken this year. He started his career strong but suffered an injury and only played in two games last season.

2003: Kevin Williams has been the standout of this group. The defensive tackle has started every game but four in his 10-year career. Terence Newman has been effective as a defensive back, first in Dallas and last season in Cincinnati. Tyler Brayton played at least 15 games on the defensive line in a nine-year career. Ty Warren played eight solid seasons for New England but tailed off last season with Denver. Andre Woolfolk lasted four seasons, mostly as a reserve.

2011: Von Miller, who was the highest pick among Big 12 players this year, has proved to be the top player so far. Aldon Smith is not far behind. Add in Prince Amukamara, Phillip Taylor, who when healthy is a starter at defensive tackle, a somewhat productive Blaine Gabbert and Nate Solder as well as reliable backups Danny Watkins and Jimmy Smith and this proved to be a successful year for Big 12 first-round selections.

2012: Three quarterbacks, and all were not only starters as rookies but also made huge differences for their respective squads. Clearly, Robert Griffin III made the most dramatic impact, but Ryan Tannehill, with the Dolphins, and Brandon Weeden, with Cleveland, were both solid. Kendall Wright and Justin Blackmon each had 64 catches, for Tennessee and Jacksonville, respectively. Blackmon was targeted more (133 to 104) and had 200 more receiving yards.

2010: This list maybe doesn’t have the star power and is not littered with offensive playmakers, but six of the nine players picked were selected for the 2013 NFL Pro Bowl: Gerald McCoy, Trent Williams, Ndamukong Suh, Earl Thomas, Russell Okung and Jermaine Gresham. And the other three players -- Dez Bryant, Sam Bradford and Sean Weatherspoon -- were vital pieces for their respective teams.
The Bednarik Award, given annually to the nation's top defensive player, has released its preseason watch list complete with 11 Big 12 players up for the award. Here's the list, in alphabetical order:
That's a pretty good list. The biggest snubs in my book are all cornerbacks. Where is Texas' duo of Carrington Byndom and Quandre Diggs? And what about Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert. All deserving.

Last season, Tyrann Mathieu became the second consecutive LSU player to win the award, following up Patrick Peterson in 2010.

Ndamukong Suh (2009) was the last Big 12 player to win the award. Teddy Lehman of Oklahoma (2003) was the last player among current Big 12 teams to take home the trophy.

Fans agree: Vince Young is No. 1

June, 12, 2012
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Last week, we put Barry Sanders at the top of our list of the greatest individual seasons ever, but what about in the Big 12 era?

Sanders' dominance came all the way back in 1988, eight years before the Big 12 began competition.

What did fans think was the greatest Big 12 season ever? It wasn't even close.

Vince Young's 2005 campaign blew away the competition, taking home 45 percent of the vote, three times its closest competition.

Young was the first player in college football history to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 yards, and was the only player on our list to lead a Big 12 team to the national title.

Adrian Peterson's 2004 season grabbed 15 percent of the vote, tying Ricky Williams' 1998 season, which checked in at No. 3 on our list of the greatest college football seasons of the past 50 years.

Sam Bradford's record-breaking 2008 season was fourth with 13 percent of the vote after quarterbacking Oklahoma to the most points of any offense in the history of college football, as well as a national title game appearance.

Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh grabbed only 12 percent of the vote to come in fifth place among the five candidates after a season as the Huskers' resident wrecking ball, collecting the Lombardi Award, Bednarik Award, Outland Trophy, AP Player of the Year and earning an invitation to the Heisman ceremony.

Did the fans get this one right?
Earlier this week, I unveiled my list. But did I get it right? I also had a list of seasons that just missed the best ever.

For now, though, let's revisit that top five. I put Vince Young's 2005 season at the top, but does it belong there? He was the first player in NCAA history to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards, and he capped it off with a national title.

SportsNation

Which season was best?

  •  
    15%
  •  
    45%
  •  
    12%
  •  
    13%
  •  
    15%

Discuss (Total votes: 2,966)

In that national title game, he threw for 267 yards and ran for 200 yards to beat USC, a team considered one of the best ever before Young took it down.

But what about the House of Spears? Ndamukong Suh singlehandedly demolished Texas' offense in the 2009 Big 12 championship game, but was undone by a late field goal and a second added to the clock. Still, he collected just about every possible award for a defensive tackle, and crashed the Heisman ceremony despite being both a defender and an interior lineman. That's unbelievable.

Did Ricky deserve a spot at No. 1? Williams' career-long excellence culminated in a Heisman in 1998 and a 2,000-yard season, one of just eight players in college football history to top the mark. He also walked into the Sea of Red and continued Texas' inexplicable dominance over Nebraska, ending the Huskers' 47-game home winning streak. That's not very nice for the new conference mates. (I bet that relationship ended badly.)

All Sam Bradford did was quarterback the highest-scoring offense in the history of college football and throw for 50 touchdowns. Is that the best performance in Big 12 history? You could make the case. Do it by voting.

Adrian Peterson demolished the idea that a freshman couldn't be the best player in the country, even if he wasn't given a Heisman for his efforts. Along with Suh, he makes two players on this list completely robbed of a Heisman. Young was a third, but to a much lesser level. Was Peterson's first year the best in Big 12 history?

Vote in our poll.

Think another season was the best? Tell me here, or tell us your favorite memories from the seasons we've already mentioned.
This week, ESPN's "College Football Live" is breaking down the top 50 individual seasons of the past 50 years of college football. We couldn't leave that alone here on the conference blogs, so we're naming the league's top five individual seasons.

The Big 12 is the youngest major league, so I'll keep this list to seasons that occurred in the actual Big 12. That means the season had to come during 1996 or later. Missouri, Texas A&M, Nebraska and Colorado are all in the mix on this list. TCU and West Virginia are not.

This was really, really difficult. I'll be polling the rest of you to pitch your best seasons ever later on this week, but here's my top five for now.

1. Vince Young, QB, Texas, 2005

Young takes home this award, breaking a tough set of ties, for carrying his team to a national title. No player outside the SEC has earned a ring since Young knocked off USC (aka The Greatest Team Ever) on the Trojans' home turf in Pasadena at the Rose Bowl. He completed 65 percent of his passes and threw for 3,036 yards with 26 touchdowns. He also added 1,050 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns, none bigger than his 8-yard touchdown on fourth-and-5 to beat the Trojans and send Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush home without any championship hardware. Young finished that game with an absurd 267 yards passing and 200 yards rushing, his second game of the season with at least 200 yards of each.

2. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska, 2009

No defensive player was more destructive during his time on the field. Just ask Colt McCoy. Suh is the most dominant defensive player in the history of the Big 12, and let's just get this out of the way: He should have won the Heisman Trophy in 2009. Instead, Mark Ingram earned Alabama's first Heisman Trophy. Suh, whose name means "House of Spears," became the first defensive player to ever earn the AP Player of the Year honors and became the first defensive tackle invited to the Heisman ceremony since Warren Sapp in 1994. He finished fourth in the voting, but he didn't end the season empty-handed. Anything but. He had 85 tackles, 24 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, 10 pass breakups and an interception that changed a season-defining, comeback win at Missouri. For his efforts, he took home the Lombardi Award, the Nagurski Trophy and the Bednarik Award and was a finalist for the Walter Camp Award and Lott Trophy.

3. Ricky Williams, RB, Texas, 1998

Ricky ran and ran and ran. He finished his senior season with 2,124 yards, an average of just under 200 yards a game, becoming the eighth player in NCAA history to top 2,000 yards in a single season. He had two 300-yard rushing games (an NCAA record) and memorably set the NCAA career record for rushing that season with a long touchdown run against Texas A&M. That season, he earned the Heisman Trophy, the Maxwell Award and the Walter Camp Award and became the first two-time winner of the Doak Walker Award. Over a decade later, Texas coach Mack Brown still talks about the time Ricky ran for 150 yards to upset No. 7 Nebraska 20-16 and break the Huskers' 47-game home winning streak. Nebraska fans responded by chanting "Heisman" as Williams walked off the field.

4. Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma, 2008

Bradford broke out as a sophomore in 2008 and took home just about every piece of hardware imaginable. He threw for 4,720 yards and an absurd 50 touchdowns to just eight interceptions, while completing 328 of 483 passes (67.9 percent). For his work, he earned the Heisman Trophy (Oklahoma's fifth winner), the Davey O'Brien Award and the Sammy Baugh Trophy. Oklahoma won the Big 12 and staked its claim as the highest-scoring offense in the history of college football. The Sooners reached the national title that season but lost to Tim Tebow's Florida Gators.

5. Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma, 2004

Can you imagine a true freshman leading the nation in rushing and carries, breaking NCAA freshman rushing records along the way, and being named a unanimous All-American. Well, it happened not too long ago. The latter seasons of Peterson's career were marred by injury, but Peterson broke the mold of college football in his first year on the field, steamrolling opponents and finishing second in the Heisman voting as a true freshman back in 2004, which was unthinkable. Back then a sophomore had never even won the greatest individual award in sports. He rushed for 1,860 yards and 15 touchdowns, carrying the Sooners to the national title game. He ran for 100 yards in nine consecutive games and 11 times as a true freshman, both NCAA records. He was also the first freshman finalist for the Doak Walker Award.

Seven from Big 12 in NFL Top 100 list

July, 7, 2011
7/07/11
2:00
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NFL.com just finished unveiling its list of the top 100 players in the league heading into the 2011 season, as voted by both players and fans. Both groups had separate lists, but seven Big 12 players landed on it. Here's where they were placed:

3. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota (Oklahoma; ranked seventh by fans)

33. Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City (Texas; ranked 48th by fans)

50. Wes Welker, WR, New England (Texas Tech; ranked 50th by fans)

51. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit (Nebraska; ranked 20th by fans)

55. Carl Nicks, OL, New Orleans (Nebraska; unranked by fans)

57. Andre Gurode, OL, Dallas (Colorado; unranked by fans)

86. Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay (Kansas State; ranked 88th by fans)

Note: Considering they played in the Big 12 for the duration of their careers, Suh, Nicks and Gurode are all included in the Big 12, rather than their respective programs' new conferences.

Here's how it compares to the rest of the conferences:

Big East: 16
Big Ten: 13
SEC:
13
ACC: 12
Pac-10: 11
Big 12: 7
Notre Dame: 1
Non-AQ/Small schools: 27

I was surprised the number was so low compared to the rest of the conferences, but hey, what can you do? The Big East rules college football. No one denies this.

No Big 12 player snubs popped out to me, but what about you? Anyone missing?

Mailbag: Indy UT, Gabbert, Huskers future?

April, 20, 2011
4/20/11
4:30
PM ET
Mid-week mailbag! Boom! Roasted.

Tyler in Cairo, Neb., writes: David, don't worry, us Husker fans haven't forgotten about your amazing blog (at least not quite yet... :) Anyways, who do you think will be the first Big 12 team to schedule a Non-Conf. game with Nebraska and when will it happen? I know there could be an OU-NU series in 2020 and 2021 but do you think anyone will before then? Thanks Dave!

David Ubben: Oklahoma is the only school that, to my knowledge, the school has commented publicly on. The administration said it was in talks with a few others, but left it pretty vague.

The Oklahoma series needs to happen. Playing in 2020-21 centered around the 50th anniversary of the Game of the Century would be great.

I'd also like to see Nebraska get a series going with Missouri. And, it'll never happen, but man, a home and home with Texas would be magnificent. The Huskers can't let that 1-9 record since Texas crashed the Big 8 stand forever, can they?


Michael Petr in Houston, Texas writes: Ubben - Just saw that you rated Qdoba and Chipotle over Freebirds. Not only that, you said Freebirds was VASTLY OVERRATED. Seriously?? You're probably the type of person that thinks On The Border is good Mexican food. Pretty much what I would expect someone from Oklahoma to think about anything with actual taste. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy your football commentary. But stay away from being a food critic.

DU: Hey now, this piece of mail was so littered with inaccuracy I had to slip it in here. One, I lived in Oklahoma for all of nine months. If that qualifies as being from there in your book, well, so be it. I'd say 18 years in the great state of Arkansas would qualify it as my home state. Second, you're wrong about On The Border. Anyone who knows anything about Mexican food knows Taco Bell is the genre's pinnacle. Why do you think there are so many across the country? People love it.

(But seriously, Taco Joint near Downtown or Mia's on Lemmon. Do it.)


Tyler Gabbert in CoMo writes: Do you think I can be as successful as my brother?

DU: Honestly, no, but that doesn't mean Gabbert can't still be a pretty good quarterback, good enough to win a whole lot of games for Missouri. Blaine Gabbert's mind, arm and size don't come around very often, so it's asking a lot of a player to be as good as he was. If Tyler's last name was Smith, things might be a little bit easier, and the comparisons would never happen.

But, it's not. He'll have to deal with it, but I don't think it'll be a big problem. The good news is he's got a pretty good source to spend a lot of time with and learn a lot from.


William Tinsley in Austin, Texas writes: Do you think the new tv deal actually ensures the future for the big 12? I am a student at UT, and knowing everything I know, I think the launch of our own network is the first step towards the University of Texas going independent. We bring in the most money (athletically and academically), and soon enough someone will realize that we lose money for being in a conference with universities like Baylor and Iowa State. Do you agree?

DU: I get this question a lot, but it's worth addressing at this point.

Right now, Texas' deal with ESPN for the Longhorn Network pays it $15 million per year from ESPN for 20 years. It's also set to make at least $20 million through 2015 from Big 12 TV money, which is likely to grow when the league gets a new TV deal for its first-tier rights then.

Now, if Texas were to leave the Big 12, it likely would have to make a new TV deal with someone to broadcast its games; I highly doubt Texas would try to broadcast all its games on the Longhorn Network. That's too much of a niche for fans who don't want to pay for the network. They'd want to be on ESPN, ABC or FOX. That's like the Big Ten only playing Big Ten games on the Big Ten Network. It wouldn't happen.

Now, could Texas surpass $2o million for the rights to all its games? I'm no expert on TV revenues, but I highly, highly doubt it. Iowa State and Baylor might not be helping Texas make money, but they're far from costing it money.

If Texas left the Big 12 and went independent, fans wouldn't let the team stop playing Oklahoma and Texas A&M. The Longhorns already play lots of games against in-state teams like Rice, and it's a good bet that Texas legislature might require the Longhorns to play Texas Tech, Baylor and maybe other Texas teams with former conference ties like Houston or TCU from the Southwest Conference. So, Texas already plays three nonconference games. If they go independent, they're probably already locked into four other games.

That means independence would mean wagering you could make more money and try to schedule five other games for what would presumably be a national schedule like Notre Dame plays. That's a big risk for a school that doesn't need to take it. Texas already gets everything it wants in the Big 12. The option to go independent was there last summer. Texas chose not to. I'd be shocked if that changed in the future.


Thomas in Lubbock, Texas writes: Well, as you say "until they put on pads you never know" but with the addition of Delvon Simmons yesterday and now Javares McRoy - I think Texas Tech just put the rest of the league on notice that Texas Tech is here to play. What say you?

DU: I'm not buying McRoy as much more than a good receiver who could contribute, but definitely, Simmons could be a game-changer. In the Big 12, not having good player at defensive tackle isn't a huge problem. You can do well without it, and if you're good everywhere else, it's not going to stop a team from winning 10-12 games like it would in the Big Ten or the SEC.

That said, if you do have great, great play at defensive tackle? I think we all saw what Ndamukong Suh did to Colt McCoy and Texas' offense in the 2009 Big 12 Championship. The same for Nick Fairley and Oregon's offense in last season's national championship.

Now, I'm not saying Simmons is either of those guys, but my point is, if he is, look out for Texas Tech.

Mailbag: TV tiers, DeRuyter, UT imbalance

April, 15, 2011
4/15/11
3:10
PM ET
Thanks for all the questions. More good ones this week.

MU Fan in Dayton, Ohio, writes: Ubben, I've heard a lot of talk about the new TV deal and all the cash it's gonna bring in. Call me stupid, but what does this mean for the average Tiger fan stuck in Podunk, OH? I've been forced to go to a sports bar to watch nearly every MU game last couple of years. Does this new deal put more MU games on my TV and my butt on my own couch more Saturdays? My bar tabs are adding up....

David Ubben: In theory, yes. If you're in Ohio and you don't get Fox Sports Network, it won't put a ton more games on your TV, but FX is on most basic cable packages and is in 98 million households nationwide. That's only a million or so fewer than ESPN and ESPN2. If you get ESPN, which, I'd like to think almost everyone has if they have cable TV, you should already have FX. Fox Sports Net, which has local networks that broadcast specific, region-based programming, may require you to purchase an upgraded sports package on most cable networks. If you live in the Big 12 region, you likely get Fox Sports Southwest, where a good portion of Big 12 games are broadcast.


Greg Reid in Tallahassee, Fla., asks: Have I finally learned how to cover or tackle yet? Being able to do either one against the Sooners would be better than what I brought to the table last year.

DU: Ouch. I warned FSU fans last year, and they got mad when I called Reid the poor man's Ryan Broyles, but those complaints mysteriously disappeared following the game. Weird.

The bad news for Reid and the Seminoles next year is Oklahoma's found a handful of other receivers around Broyles, mainly Kenny Stills, so even if Reid plays well, Oklahoma could still have a big day through the air. Should be a great game. Definitely the best Big 12 nonconference game.


Dan Beebe at Big 12 Headquarters writes: Ubben,What did I tell you all along? I'm an F-18 bro! I always take care of business! WINNING!

DU: Obnoxious as this email is, I'd say the Fake Dan Beebes of the world have earned a bit of room to crow, no? Heck of a deal.


DJ in Lisbon, Portugal, writes: Concerning the new TV deal and how it pertains to the School Networks(Sooner and Longhorn). If I read correctly FSN has the rights to each schools home game unless picked up by ESPN. So that takes care of all conference games. OU and UT only have 1 OOC away game. OU has FSU and UT has UCLA. Both of those match-ups are intriguing and are most likely to be picked up by ESPN. That is all of this upcoming seasons games accounted for. So where does that leave the School Networks? It seems like they will have no live football games, the driving force for the networks creation, to show.

DU: Well, no. There's still three nonconference games, and right now, the point is that schools still hold those third-tier rights for games not picked up by FSN or ESPN and can monetize them any way they see fit, whether it be streaming it online, getting a local broadcast or setting up a pay-per-view broadcast. Texas, clearly, would broadcast theirs on the Longhorn Network. Oklahoma's network, if it becomes a reality, won't be up by this football season.

And I would disagree that live football games are the driving force for networks. When you only have one a year, you don't launch a 24-hour network on the basis of one lame nonconference game a year. The driving force is a fan hunger for more from each school, but they'll feed that with a combination of some basketball games, almost all the baseball games, and other Olympic sports, as well as coaches shows and game replays, whether they be recent or historic. You'd be surprised at how many Texas fans would sit down and watch the 2005 Rose Bowl on repeat.

Think of it like "A Clockwork Orange," except the opposite.


Boone Pickens in Stillwater, Okla., and Dallas, Texas, writes: Ubben, I put a lot of money into OK State, are they finally going to give me a return on my investment by winning the big 12 this year? or at least make a BCS bowl?

DU: This year seems like a good chance. Oklahoma is going to make it tough for anyone else to win the Big 12, but if the Cowboys can beat Texas A&M early in the year and make it through the regular season with just one loss or so, even a loss to Oklahoma at the end of the year should be good enough to keep them in the serious hunt for an at-large BCS bid, thanks to a likely preseason top 10 ranking. My guess right now is Oklahoma wins the league, and either A&M or OSU gets an at-large berth in the BCS. They'll be in position.

Also, if any of you have seen season five of "Friday Night Lights," the fake Boone Pickens character is hilarious. He's a big booster for "Oklahoma Tech" whose color is orange. His money is from oil, he has buildings on campus named after him and a special suite in the stadium. He's also unabashedly Texan.

Awesome.

Also, I'm pretty sure they shot that at Texas' stadium, ironically. I could be wrong, but it looked like Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium to me.

The Big 12 has some interesting ties to that show, now one of my favorites on TV. Mack Brown plays a booster in the pilot and Mike Leach makes an appearance as (kind of) himself later on. Their acting jobs were all really good, I thought. Much, much better than the awful coach acting in "The Blind Side."


Alex in Lubbock, Texas, asked: What kind of impact do you see Delvin Simmons having this year for Texas Tech?

DU: It's way, way too early to start talking about that. Clearly, the potential is there with his size (6-foot-4, 295 pounds) and his athleticism, but you never know with players until they actual put pads on and get in practice. Maybe he's a bust. Maybe he's the next Ndamukong Suh. We won't have any idea until he actually starts practicing. It's way too tough to tell this early. It's a huge pickup for Texas Tech, the type of player it just didn't get in its program previously, but let's not shackle the kid with crazy expectations a day after he signs with a school.


Sam in Columbia, Mo., writes: Hey david, love the blog. I was reading Ivan Maisel's three point stance this evening and he's of the opinion that the new deal with Fox is make th Big 12 as imbalanced as ever. Any thoughts?

DU: He's definitely right, but my question is, what are people going to do about it, other than complain and keep hating Texas? The Longhorns made $35 million more than anyone else in the Big 12 in gross income last year, and once the money from the Longhorn Network kicks in, that gap will only grow.

Is that healthy for the league? Definitely not. But Texas is in the Big 12, and they're not going anywhere. It built this program and it's enjoying the fruits of that. The school is fortunate to be the flagship of a huge, productive state with a big recruiting base in every sport and has solid academics. Other than a healthy dose of "Deal With It," I don't see much anyone else in the league can do about it.


Vusani in Swaziland asks: David, could you give us a simplified explanation of 1st, 2nd and 3rd tier rights and how that translates into funding with the new FOX TV contract? I have no idea what that means except that A&M is cranky again.

DU: Tier I rights are basically the huge football games, ones with big national appeal. That's your Red River Rivalry, Bedlam last year, the Lone Star Showdown in other years, basically the elite football games that the casual college football fan would care about. This is, as I understand it, a selection of 18 games. ESPN and ABC have these and they can select them in the week or two leading up to the game, so they get the most attractive matchups.

Tier II is the next set of games. Good games, but games likely only relevant to Big 12 audiences, so mostly conference games like, say, Kansas-Baylor last year or Oklahoma State-Kansas State. Now, there are 40 of these games.

Tier III includes the games that are only relevant to a certain fan base. That's your Northern Iowa-Iowa State matchups, for instance. I'm oversimplifying this to just football, but Tier III also includes Olympic sports like baseball or softball or women's basketball that people might want to watch, but untelevised games previously went unused. The Big 12 is now trying to position itself as a league that allows schools to profit off these events by monetizing them in a Big 12 Network or a school broadcast somehow.

The Big Ten, meanwhile, doesn't allow schools to monetize their third-tier rights and the Pac-12 likely will not allow schools to do that, either. That's a big reason why Texas, which has a market for its own network and stands the most to gain off these third-tier rights, didn't want to go to the Pac-16.


Taylor B in College Station, Texas asked: Hey David, thanks for all the work covering the Big 12. Question about my Ags DC Tim DeRuyter. He supposedly told Sherman than he wouldn't leave for another DC position to another school, that it would have to be a head coaching position. In your mind, what might lure him away. Do you think he would leave for HC position at, say a CUSA school or something on that level, or would it take a school in a BCS conference to lure him away?

DU: It's all about finding the right opportunity. You have to find a school where you can win and not hit a dead-end in your coaching career. Conference isn't as important as the exact school. Mississippi State? Vanderbilt? Sure, you're in the SEC. But say, West Virginia or Tulsa? A much better job, because you can win big there, even if you're in a less prestigious league like the Big East or Conference USA.


Dave R in Houston asks: Do you like Freebirds, Qdoba or Chipotle most?

DU: I'm not a huge Mexican food guy, but give me Chipotle. Qdoba is just OK. Freebirds is vastly overrated.


Jeff in Omaha, Neb., asks: Tell me to stop being excited about the Clones. This happens every year during spring ball. Is 7 or 8 possible with our schedule? What are the chances Jantz pulls a Martinez when when he gets ESPN on an off night v UConn?

DU: It's not impossible. I talked to Paul Rhoads earlier this week (ISU fans, heads up for a few Cyclones stories next week) and it's clear that Jantz is by far the fastest quarterback on the roster. I'm excited to see him in action.

Chase Daniel establishes scholarship

March, 7, 2011
3/07/11
11:30
AM ET
There's a new scholarship in town.

Chase Daniel was in Columbia on Saturday for the Border Showdown basketball game, and during his visit, announced the creation of the Chase Daniel Lone Star State Scholarship at Missouri.

The award will be given to one player from Texas each year, and can be given to the same player in multiple years.

"There’s going to be pressure on whoever to gets it to do well,” Daniel told reporters. "I don’t think they’ll realize it right away.

"That’s not what we want to do at all. We just want to sort out a kid from the state of Texas each and every year with a high GPA and with good community standing who deserves it."

It's always good to see players, especially four-year athletes, come back to their schools and give back. Nebraska defensive end Ndamukong Suh, a native of Oregon, gave the Huskers' program $2.1 million and established a scholarship that he announced at last year's spring game in Lincoln.

Daniel, a native of Southlake, Texas, a Dallas suburb, graduated after the 2008 season and is a backup quarterback for the New Orleans Saints.

The bond between athletes and their schools, even when those players come from far away and spend four years on a campus, doesn't have to end when that player graduates. Daniel and Suh are two legendary Big 12 players who made sure that was the case.

Ranking the Big 12's best players: No. 21

February, 18, 2011
2/18/11
11:00
AM ET
The official list of the Big 12's top 25 players is locked away in a vault in an undisclosed location, but we're revealing the list day by day here on the blog. Here's a refresher on my exact criteria.

[+] EnlargeJared Crick
Thomas Campbell/US PresswireOf Nebraska defensive tackle Jared Crick''s 70 tackles, 14.5 were for a loss.
No. 21: Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska

2010 numbers: Made 70 tackles, including 14.5 tackles for loss. He also had 9.5 sacks, broke up a pass and forced a fumble.

Most recent ranking: Crick was ranked No. 9 in our preseason list of the Big 12's top 25 players.

Making the case for Crick: Crick wasn't the next Ndamukong Suh, but he never said he'd be. One of the Big 12's big questions for 2010 was how Crick would look without the House of Spears lined up next to him. The answer: Pretty dang good, but not wholly dominant. Crick was disruptive, especially late in the season, and easily one of the league's best defensive linemen, earning All-Big 12 first-team honors. His strong finish meant over half his sacks (5) came in his final five games after a bit of a slow start on the stat sheet. Bo Pelini's defense will be well-served with Crick returning for his senior season in 2011.

The rest of the list:

  • No. 22: Travis Lewis, LB, Oklahoma
  • No. 23: Quinton Carter, S, Oklahoma
  • No. 24: Tim Barnes, C, Missouri
  • No. 25: Lyle Leong, WR, Texas Tech

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