Big 12: Nigel Malone

2012 record: 11-2
2012 Big 12 record: 8-1
Returning starters: Offense: 7; defense: 1; kicker/punter: 0

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

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

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

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

Spring answers

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

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

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

Fall questions

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

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

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

Offseason to-do list: Kansas State

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

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

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

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

More offseason to-do lists:
Here's a bit of what you missed over the long weekend across the Big 12.

Big 12 players trying to up stock

Collin Klein spent the week at the East-West Shrine Bowl, and he's doing so as a quarterback. It's clear he wants that to be his position in the NFL, but he'll have to prove it to a mountain of skeptical NFL teams.

"It's been a lot of fun. A lot of new stuff, so I'm drinking from a fire hydrant, but we're having a good time," said Klein said. "It's great to meet and get to know the guys. It's a great opportunity and I'm trying to make the most of it."

Klein's game, though, wasn't as strong. He finished 5-of-13 for 43 yards and an interception. He did run 35 yards on five carries. His teammate, K-State cornerback Nigel Malone, won the game's defensive MVP after returning an interception 30 yards near the end of the first half.

Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege reportedly stood out during practices leading up to the game, and completed 4-of-8 passes for 30 yards and an interception.

"He has so many pluses to him," East coach Jerry Glanville said of Klein, a Heisman finalist this season. "He reminds me years ago of a youngster at Tennessee, went on and played for the Colts, now he plays for Denver. I see a lot of the same characteristics in him."

Crist shines in NFLPA Collegiate Bowl

Former Kansas quarterback Dayne Crist struggled in an all-star game earlier this month, but he bounced back in a big way over the weekend when he accounted for a couple of touchdowns in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.

Crist's National team beat the American team, 34-0, and he completed 7-of-10 passes for 61 yards and was named the team's MVP after throwing for a score and running for another.

Former Texas Tech running back Eric Stephens also ran for a touchdown in the game.

Baylor's helmets are magic

Baylor running backs coach Jeff Lebby tweeted one of the most talked-about photos in the Big 12 over the weekend.

Here's why.

Wow. Those are amazing. Baylor also broke out some black helmets, but that "All Gold Everything" helmet immediately jumps to the top of my list as the best in the Big 12. That thing is outrageously awesome.

Can't wait to see them in a game. What do you think?
The Big 12 will have eight players competing in the annual East-West Shrine game, one of a handful of games that serve as showcases for NFL scouts. Here they are:
Klein, of course, made waves when reports leaked that the Senior Bowl wouldn't be inviting him, but he'll get an opportunity to get in front of scouts at the Shrine Game, which takes place on Jan. 19 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.

It'll be interesting to see what positions he gets work with, too.

We'll see what Doege can do for his NFL stock as well. More Big 12 players could be invited. We'll keep you posted.

Video: Kansas State CB Nigel Malone

January, 1, 2013
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Kansas State cornerback Nigel Malone talks about the Oregon offense, Ducks QB Marcus Mariota and Wildcats LB Arthur Brown.

Lunch links: How to stop Johnny Football

December, 31, 2012
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Oh, rainy Dallas.

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 14

December, 3, 2012
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It's time to once again hand out a few superlatives to wrap up the final weekend of the Big 12 season.

Best offensive performance: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia. Smith looked more like his early-season Heisman form in his last game at Milan Puskar Stadium, a 59-10 win over Big 12 bottom-feeder Kansas. He completed 23 of 24 passes for 407 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Mountaineers to a seventh win. Honorable mention: Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor.

[+] EnlargeWest Virginia's Geno Smith
Charles LeClaire/US PRESSWIREGeno Smith's final performance at Milan Puskar Field was a reason to celebrate.
Best defensive performance: Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia. Joseph was all over the field for West Virginia against Kansas. He made seven tackles, notched half a tackle for loss and intercepted a pass, returning it 22 yards. He also forced a fumble and broke up another pass. Honorable mention: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas; Eddie Lackey, LB, Baylor.

Best team performance: Baylor. The Bears looked dominant against an Oklahoma State team that has been beating the heck out of some good teams in the Big 12 to close the season. OSU made it interesting late, but Baylor was in control from start to finish during the 41-34 win, led by Lache Seastrunk's 178 yards on 16 carries.

Best game: Oklahoma 24, TCU 17. This was fun from start to finish. Oklahoma let TCU in the game with an 80-yard touchdown on a busted play and an interception by Landry Jones to give the Frogs a touchdown on a drive that began inside the 10-yard line, but the Sooners won a third consecutive game that came down to the final play or final seconds. Amazing stuff, and the Sooners find a way yet again.

Best play: Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor. Seastrunk has had cramping issues this season, and looked to suffer another one at the worst possible time -- right after clearing the Oklahoma State offense. No worries. He limped, stumbled and bumbled the last 30 yards of his 76-yard touchdown run to ice the game in the final minutes. Honorable mention: Oklahoma's offensive line on Damien Williams' untouched, 66-yard touchdown run.

Biggest bailout: Nigel Malone, CB, Kansas State. Malone was nearly a nominee for worst play, but an odd ruling earns him a special nod. Malone intercepted a wobbly ball to the sideline from Case McCoy and looked to return it for a touchdown, but pulled what's commonly known as a "DeSean Jackson," dropping the ball before he crossed the goal line. Instead of a touchback, K-State was given the ball on the half-yard line, and Collin Klein punched it in. Still. Mack Brown wasn't happy about the call, and I still don't think I understand why it wasn't a touchback.

Best quote: Tony Jefferson, S, Oklahoma, on the Sooners' shared title with Kansas State. "Hey, sharing is caring."

Worst play: Blaize Foltz, G, TCU. Trevone Boykin would have escaped the defender, but Foltz still got flagged for a game-changing holding penalty on what might have been a game-tying touchdown in the final minute of TCU's 24-17 loss to Oklahoma. Boykin had escaped the pocket and reached the end zone to set off a celebration, but it was all for naught, and the penalty backed up TCU into a near impossible situation with the game on the line.

Best quarter: Baylor's first quarter. The Bears scored a defensive touchdown and added another seven points on a 16-play, 98-yard drive to set the tone for the game. This would be Baylor's day against a team that Art Briles had never beaten, and had beaten Baylor six consecutive times. The Bears took control after falling behind 3-0 early and never looked back.

Player of the Week: Big 12

November, 5, 2012
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Kansas State was beat up and getting beaten through the air consistently. Collin Klein was on the sidelines, and one big play was waiting to change the momentum in Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Saturday night.

Wildcats defensive back Allen Chapman wasn't having it, and made it clear that he'd be making the only big plays that would change the game on this night.

Before Klein's injury, Chapman stepped in front of an ill-advised Wes Lunt throw for his first interception of the night, returning it 29 yards for a touchdown and a 31-17 halftime lead that gave the Wildcats some breathing room.

He played thief early in the second half with his second pick along the sideline on another poor Lunt decision, but his final interception satisfied a nervous crowd in The Little Apple that's had its heart broken one too many times.

K-State's offense had done little to nothing in the second half and the Wildcats had been outgained, but Chapman picked off Clint Chelf in the end zone to seal the win and get K-State one step closer to the glory that eluded the program in 1998.

For his efforts, he's the first defensive player all season to win the player of the week honors in the Big 12.

Only seven Big 12 players have had three interceptions all season long. Chapman did it in one night, and broke up two more passes for good measure.

K-State needed its special teams and defense to step up on a night when the offense wasn't itself in the second half. Chapman produced seven points in the first half when Klein was still playing, and prevented seven more late when Klein wasn't.

Those are the kinds of plays that win you games, and Chapman deserves recognition.

The senior juco transfer is often overshadowed by his teammate, Nigel Malone, at the position, but on this night the spotlight shone on Chapman. He delivered quite the performance. Between Malone and OSU corners Justin Gilbert and Brodrick Brown, there was a lot of NFL talent at the position on the field on Saturday night.

Chapman was better than all of them. Nobody's more deserving of the award this week.

Big 12 players up for various trophies

October, 30, 2012
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A handful of college football awards released their lists of midseason semifinalists this week. Here's who's up for them from the Big 12:

Maxwell Award (best overall player)
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, who Oklahoma got to know quite well on Saturday night, is also on the 16-man list.

Bednarik Award (best defender)

Te'o is obviously on that list, too, but the SEC has eight of the 16 semifinalists.

Thorpe Award (best defensive back)

How about K-State? Landing a guy on all three lists? No easy feat. Not sure I agree with the Malone pick (for my money, Aaron Colvin at OU has been better than Malone so far this year), but still, he's had a great year.

Morgantown: Perfect for Big 12 clash

October, 20, 2012
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- The clouds covering Milan Puskar Stadium are expected to clear by kickoff and the town is hoppin' before tonight's game against Kansas State. I'll be on hand all night to bring you coverage via Twitter during the game and on the blog once it's over.

Stedman Bailey (ankle) is expected to play tonight, but how effective will he be? If he's clearly hobbled, you may see Kansas State's defense focus on Tavon Austin like Texas Tech did a week ago and have some success limiting the high-powered Mountaineers offense.

The task ahead of Allen Chapman and Nigel Malone is a tough one, but they'll get plenty of help from the offense. Kansas State is without a doubt going to win the battle of time of possession. How lopsided that battle is won should be a major indicator of whether or not Kansas State gets out of Mountaineer Field with a win and a comfy seat at the head of the Big 12 title table.

Big 12 on the spot: Kansas State CBs

October, 17, 2012
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David Ubben says Kansas State's cornerbacks are On the Spot this week.
Don't ever take me out of school to play hockey.

Who will transform tomorrow: Week 4

September, 21, 2012
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It's easy to focus on new faces. The old ones, of course, are boring, right?

Juco running back Damien Williams has already made a big impact and a case as Oklahoma's best running back.

Freshman Trey Metoyer entered the season with plenty of folks (ahem) picking him to lead the Sooners in receiving.

So far, though? It's been all about the old guys in crimson and cream. Against Kansas State on Saturday, Oklahoma's Kenny Stills will transform and remind everyone why he's the elder statesman in the Sooner receiving corps.

Along the way, Oklahoma will collect a win, thanks to another big game from Stills.

Much of the talk this season in Norman has centered around the Belldozer, or the struggles on the offensive line or discussing whether Landry Jones is a franchise quarterback.

Stills? All he's done is quietly rack up 241 yards receiving and a pair of scores. Somehow, his contributions have gone underappreciated.

Through two games, he's got 154 more receiving yards than any other Sooner and is third in the Big 12, behind only West Virginia's Stedman Bailey and Baylor's Terrance Williams.

He's got 120 yards in two consecutive games, something he's never done in an Oklahoma uniform. Saturday night, he'll make it three, the first time in his career he's notched three consecutive 100-yard receiving games.

Stills grabbed four balls for 101 yards against Kansas State last year, and on Saturday night, the Sooners will need him to stretch the field. Can K-State cornerbacks Allen Chapman and Nigel Malone run with him?

I'm betting no. It's going to get tough for Oklahoma on Saturday night, and Jones will look to his most familiar target. Jones is completing 76.2 percent of his pass attempts to Stills, and just 55.8 percent to the rest of the team's receivers, according to ESPN Stats and Info.

Jones may not know the numbers, but you're crazy if you don't think he feels that familiarity. He'll fall back on Stills on Saturday, and Stills will be there for his quarterback, ready to transform Oklahoma back into the Big 12's best team.

Big 12 stock report: Week 4

September, 19, 2012
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Unfortunately, I've run out of money-based terms to throw around meaninglessly, so you'll have to settle for me getting to the facts.

Here's what's up and what's down across the Big 12 entering this week:

Rising: Collin Klein

Kansas State's dealt with some slow starts this year, but Klein's been pretty constant through three games. He's completing 72.9 percent (43-of-59) of his passes for a 609 yards, five scores and two interceptions. Klein completed only 57 percent of his throws last season and had just over 1,900 yards in 12 games, with 13 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Falling: Landry Jones

Jones' slow start has to be of at least some concern, even if the odds are with him turning it around. He's completing only 62.5 percent of his passes through two games, which is down less than half a percent from last season, but Oklahoma's only played UTEP and FCS Florida A&M so far. It's going to get more difficult. Additionally, Klein has 135 more yards on five fewer attempts than Jones. The two will be going head to head on Saturday. Jones' completion percentage is currently better than only one Big 12 starting quarterback: Kansas' Dayne Crist. He's averaging just 7.4 yards per attempt, compared to 10.3 for Klein.

Rising: Kirby Van Der Kamp's leg

Van Der Kamp is going Van Der Krazy (I'm so, so sorry) through three weeks. He's punted 19 times, and 14 of those have been pinned inside the 20-yard line. Coach Paul Rhoads referred to Van Der Kamp as a weapon this week, and he's certainly helped Iowa State win the field-position battle during the Cyclones' 3-0 start. Even more impressive: Iowa State hasn't given up a single yard or return on those 19 kicks. The only problem: The sophomore's activity suggests some offensive issues within the context of the Big 12. He has eight more punts than any other Big 12 player, and half the league has fewer than six punts. Through three games, Texas Tech has punted just twice, the fewest in the nation. TCU and West Virginia have just three punts through two games, tied for the second fewest in the nation.

Falling: Texas, Kansas kickers

The epidemic of poor field goal kicking hasn't left the Big 12 unaffected. Texas has missed a field goal in all three games this season, and freshman Nick Jordan is just 3-of-7 so far. That 42.9 percentage ranks 80th nationally. Kansas' Ron Doherty is just 4-of-8 through three games, too. In fact, through just three weeks, every Big 12 team has already missed at least one kick. West Virginia hasn't attempted a field goal, but missed a PAT.

Rising: Texas Tech's defense

There's plenty of talk about Texas Tech's offense, and for good reason: Seth Doege's 12 touchdown passes are two more than any player in the country, and he's thrown just one interception in 101 attempts. But how about the defense? The competition hasn't been strong, but the improvement under Art Kaufman is already clear. Texas Tech ranks second nationally in total defense, giving up just over 3 yards a play. The Red Raiders are also tied with Oklahoma for the Big 12's second-best scoring defense at just 10 points a game. (TCU has given up just six points in two games.) Last year, Texas Tech gave up 39.3 points a game, better than only three teams. It also gave up 485 yards a game, better than only five teams.

Falling: Kansas State's grabby hands

Kansas State nabbed 18 interceptions last season, returning three for scores. That ranked second in the Big 12, behind only Oklahoma State, who was second nationally with 24. Nigel Malone led the Big 12 with seven picks, too. Through three games this year, though, Kansas State has just one interception. Only Oklahoma has fewer than two interceptions this year, and the Sooners have played one fewer game than K-State. Last week, Kansas State allowed North Texas to complete 25-of-28 passes, too.
Earlier today, I crowned Geno Smith the Big 12's best player entering the 2012 season.

That completed our preseason countdown of the league's top 25 players, but making these lists is always difficult. A lot of deserving players had to be cut. Here's the best of the bunch I couldn't put on the list?

Nigel Malone, CB, Kansas State: Malone put up big interception numbers, picking off seven passes a year ago. However, his yards allowed per target last season make it clear he's a bit overrated. That said, he's still one of the league's best corners.

Casey Pachall, QB, TCU: Pachall set a school record with 2,921 yards last year, but in the Big 12, he'd better be ready to break his own record. With 50 fewer yards, he would have ranked just seventh in the Big 12 last year, ahead of Collin Klein and behind Missouri's James Franklin, who also rushed for 981 yards last year. Pachall's good, but the bar is much, much higher for QB play in this league. The first step: Get Pachall more attempts. He only threw the ball 343 times last year, which would have also ranked seventh in the Big 12 in 2011.

Tevin Reese, WR, Baylor: Reese is going to make a run at 1,000 yards next season, and Nick Florence will be the man to help him. He's small at 5-foot-10, 165 pounds, but his speed gives teams reason to fear him.

Joe Madsen, C, West Virginia: Madsen's been a constant in the Big East, starting the last 38 games of his career and earning All-Big East honors. With Ben Habern out of the Big 12 now, he'll challenge Baylor's Ivory Wade and Kansas State's B.J. Finney as the league's best at the position.

Seth Doege, QB, Texas Tech: Doege topped 4,000 yards passing last year, even though his receivers and running backs and offensive line were constantly in the training room and in surgery last year. He takes care of the ball, too, throwing just 10 interceptions to 28 touchdowns in 581 attempts, the most in the Big 12 last year.

Quinn Sharp, K/P/KOS, Oklahoma State: I'm against putting special teamers on my top 25 list, but Sharp's come closer than any kicker ever, surpassing Nebraska legend Alex Henery. Sharp's the league's best kicker, best punter and led the nation in touchbacks by 21.

Eric Ward, WR, Texas Tech: Ward seemed like the last man standing in a receiving corps that lost Darrin Moore and Alex Torres last season. He was a constant for Doege, grabbing 84 passes for 800 yards and 11 scores, third-most in the Big 12.

Shaun Lewis, LB, Oklahoma State: Lewis cracked into the 2010 postseason list after a huge freshman year, but his numbers stayed pretty constant in 2011, and he got passed up by some of the league's other linebackers. He's still a huge talent, and may be on this list by season's end.

Eric Stephens, RB, Texas Tech: Stephens might have won a Big 12 rushing title last year if he hadn't suffered one of the worst knee injuries of the season. I'm a believer in Stephens, and here's hoping he's back to his usual self this fall. He scored eight touchdowns and had 565 yards last year in just over five games.

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