Big 12: Prince Amukamara

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.

Mailbag: Aggies/SEC, underrating, new QBs

July, 22, 2011
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Thanks for all the emails, everyone. Short day today. Have a good weekend, and we'll see you live Monday morning from Big 12 Media Days. Get excited.

Justin in Forney, Texas, asked: DU, Why are we seeing A&M back in the news with the SEC? While I understand their frustration with the Longhorn Network, I do not see their recruiting increasing by moving to the SEC. Is this going to be a recurring issue each summer?

David Ubben: Yeah, my stance has basically remained the same since A&M's flirtations with the SEC started up more than a year ago. Texas A&M's decision-makers understand the risk in moving to the SEC, as well as the historical repercussions, saying goodbye to long-standing traditions with so many of the other schools in Texas.

Fans see opportunity for the program to grow in the SEC, and it's not impossible, but I feel it's much, much more likely that Texas A&M doesn't win in the SEC at the level it's won in the Big 12, which is already to say, not a ton. I see them on par with what Arkansas is now. Once in awhile, you may see them in the championship game, but if they're going to win a conference title, it's going to be once every 10-20 years. Programs like Alabama, LSU, Florida and rising powers like Auburn, not to mention sleeping powers like Georgia and Tennessee, won't make good new roommates if the Aggies want to win.

The recruiting advantages are overstated. The majority of players growing up in Texas dream of becoming Longhorns and beating the SEC, not going and playing in the SEC. Sure, when they get older, some of them realize schools like OU and Texas A&M are a better fit, but I absolutely, 100 percent disagree that "playing in the SEC" is a big draw for kids in Texas, and something that would help the Aggies recruiting substantially. It might be for a few guys, but it's not a game-changer, and the more difficult schedule would negate, if not overtake those advantages.

So, no. I don't think we'll see this every summer. Once this issue with the Longhorn Network is settled, I think the Big 12 will be back on solid footing. It will be glued together by the billion-dollar deal from Fox that it signed earlier this offseason, and looking forward to making even more money in 2014-15 when it negotiates a new deal for first-tier rights.


Eric in Manhattan, Kan., asked: Why does David Garrett always seem to get the shaft? He is all of 5'8" and under 180 lbs, but he hits like a 230 lb linebacker. I've seen him on multiple occasion level running backs and not be scared to take on a fullback. Then on player and awards lists he's never mentioned, even though last year he had the most tackles for the Cats.

DU: Well, I think the biggest factor was a) Kansas State didn't win enough games to get a lot of attention last season and b) their team wasn't very fun to watch.

Big 12 fans, for better or worse, have come to love the spread game and like watching teams ring up points. Kansas State scored plenty last season (third-most in the Big 12, in fact), but it wasn't a very fun team to watch. More than anything else, I point to those two factors more than any one thing about Garrett himself. It's an exposure issue.

Anyone who saw him play appreciated him, but for as much of a great football player as he is, his coverage does leave a bit to be desired, and for a cornerback, that's a big deal. You'd probably hear guys like Prince Amukamara, Alfonzo Dennard, and Jamell Fleming be appreciated a lot more, because they specialize more in coverage. If Garrett does move around and play some more safety or nickel back, he'd probably get some more notice.

It's unfair, but that's just how it is. You can't really change what people want to see or notice.


Denny Hinds in Waterloo, Iowa, asked: Tiller or Jantz in your opinion? I like jantz.

DU: I can't help but look back and think of Taylor Martinez when I think of Steele Jantz. Did Martinez have his shortcomings as a quarterback? Obviously, yes. But he wasn't significantly worse than Cody Green or Zac Lee as a passer, and his ability to run provided an absolute advantage and a new facet to the offense that no one else on the roster can provide.

For that reason, I think you'll see Jantz win the job. Tiller was very unimpressive when he got chances last season, and it's hard to believe Jantz is a worse passer. But his speed changes what Iowa State can do on offense, and it's worth putting him out there versus Tiller, unless Tiller is a substantially better passer.

For now, I don't believe he is. So, Jantz it is.


Andy in St. Louis asked: Last season, Missouri had a good rushing attack. It was strength and very effective at times, but it was still only solid. Do you think that with all returning running backs, 4 returning o-lineman, and a more run-oriented QB Mizzou's run game can make the jump to elite?

DU: It's got a pretty good chance to do it. Their running backs are great, especially when you add up their production. Any coach would love to have a 1,557-yard rusher with 19 touchdowns. And all four guys averaged more than 5.2 yards per carry! That's crazy. Missouri will benefit from not having to face a team like Nebraska, a speedy defense with instinctive defensive backs and linebackers capable of shutting down the Tigers slow-developing running game that usually starts 5-7 yards in the backfield.

Nebraska really abused Missouri's offense, but the Tigers had a lot of success against just about everyone else. I'd argue Missouri was pretty close to elite in 2010. Even though the style of its running game doesn't exactly strike fear into defenses, you can't argue with the effectiveness with the running backs. Blaine Gabbert actually had 13 more carries than any running back, but only gained 232 yards on his 112 carries, dragging down the team's average into the middle of the Big 12.


Seth Doege in Lubbock, Texas, asked: Should I attempt to do the "Teach Me How To Doege" dance after I score my first TD this year?

DU: YES.


John in Broken Arrow, Okla., asked: Ubbs, if Blackmon and Weeden have another year like last year where would you rank them as far as QB-WR tandems in Big XII history?

DU: Interesting question. If Justin Blackmon repeats and wins the Biletnikoff with equal or better numbers than he had in 2010, I think you'd have to put them at least on the level -- probably higher -- than Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree.

They won't have the longevity of the success Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley ever had, but Shipley never had a season like Blackmon had last season. Blackmon put together one of the all-time great seasons in college football history. It's been repeated ad nauseum, but I'm not sure people fully appreciate how difficult it is to account for 100 yards and a touchdown in every single game. No one had ever done that before. We might never see it again.

If nothing else, that might put Blackmon over the top.

Wrapping up the Big 12's draft

May, 2, 2011
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The NFL draft has come and gone, and I hope you're all prepared for no more NFL anything for awhile. I know I'm not.

Anyway, here's how the Big 12 shook out over the weekend, with a few thoughts to follow.

First round (8)

Second round (2)
Third round (2)
Fourth round (6)
Fifth round (3)
Sixth round (1)
Seventh round (8)

Here's how the Big 12 teams ranked in terms of total draftees:

1. Nebraska - 7
2. Baylor - 4
2. Colorado - 4
2. Oklahoma - 4
2. Texas - 4
6. Missouri - 3
7. Kansas State -1
7. Oklahoma State - 1
7. Texas A&M - 1
7. Texas Tech - 1
11. Iowa State - 0
11. Kansas - 0

And the major conferences (counting where players actually played):

SEC - 38
Pac-12 - 33
Big 12 - 30
Big Ten - 29
ACC - 35
Big East - 22

  • Texas A&M had just one player drafted, but the Aggies will have plenty next year, including a handful of possible first-rounders. Cyrus Gray, Ryan Tannehill and Jeff Fuller could all go very early in 2012, depending on what happens between now and then.
  • [+] EnlargeJeremy Beal
    Matthew Emmons/US PresswireOklahoma defensive end Jeremy Beal was drafted in the seventh round by Denver.

  • Interesting that Miller went 245 selections before the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year, according to the media, Jeremy Beal. Also an interesting coincidence? The same team drafted both. I do think Beal will have a productive NFL career, and there's no denying what he did at Oklahoma, but the measurables were never quite there for Beal. What's not measurable? How difficult he is to block. That said, Miller was my vote for the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year.
  • Good to see some hard-working, perhaps under-respected guys get drafted. This was an important year for that, considering those left over won't be able to get into NFL minicamps until the lockout ends and won't be able to do anything to further their NFL careers besides work out on their own. I'll have a post later today on some of those snubs. There's no guarantee that late-drafted guys like Baron Batch, Scotty McKnight, Jay Finley or Eric Hagg will catch on in the the pros, but I'd be willing to guarantee they'll do everything in their power to maximize what opportunities they get.
  • One of the most interesting selections? Mikail Baker. He wasn't invited to the combine, and played just one full season on defense at Baylor after working as a kick returner and a cornerback in 2009 before a season-ending knee injury. You don't see that kind of impressive athleticism at Baylor traditionally.
  • Let the debate continue: Kendall Hunter vs. DeMarco Murray. Murray getting drafted 40-some spots earlier only intensified that discussion, if you ask me.
  • Also, what's more impressive from Art Briles? That Baylor had four picks, the most in school history since 1996? Or that despite those four picks, Baylor's returning an even better team than last season, when it ended a 16-year bowl drought?
  • Colorado's draft, meanwhile? Not exactly a ringing endorsement for Dan Hawkins' coaching job in Boulder.
  • Alex Henery didn't win the Lou Groza Award, but his fourth-round selection makes him the earliest kicker draft pick since 2006. Will that end the state of Nebraska's blood feud against respectable OSU kicker Dan Bailey, who did win the Lou Groza Award? I doubt it. (Save your emails. For the 100th time, I agree, Nebraska fans. Henery > Bailey.)
  • A few guys who went way lower than I thought they would. In order of my surprise level: Beal, Gabbert, Amukamara, Hagg, Hunter.
  • A few guys who went way higher than I thought, in the same order: Aldon Smith, Batch, Gachkar, Baker.
Prince Amukamara has been one of the best cornerbacks in the Big 12 for two seasons, and was a cornerstone of one of the league's best defenses during his time at Nebraska.

He'll try to do the same in New York after being selected 19th overall by the Giants.

It'll be quite the change of scenery for Amukamara, but he'll get a chance to learn from some of the NFL's best as a Giant.

"Prince is very deserving of being a first-round selection," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said in a release. "He has worked hard to get to this point in his career and this is a great reward for Prince and his family. In my opinion, he has the all the tools to be an outstanding pro."

Amukamara's stock slipped late in the draft process, but the 6-foot-1, 205-pounder will get plenty of chances to prove himself in the NFC East.

Ranking the Big 12's best players: No. 6

March, 14, 2011
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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.

We're inside the top 10 now, so things should heat up a little bit. Have a gripe with the list? Let me know in the mailbag.

[+] EnlargePrince Amukamara
Bruce Thorson/US PresswireBig 12 quarterbacks knew to stay away from Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara.
No. 6: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

2010 numbers: Amukamara made 59 tackles and broke up 13 passes. He also had a sack.

Most recent ranking: Amukamara was ranked No. 13 in our preseason list of the Big 12's top 25 players.

Making the case for Amukamara: I said it when we launched this list: Amukamara is case No. 1 when it comes to the numbers not telling the whole story. Amukamara was already one of the league's best corners entering the season, and established himself as one of the nation's pre-eminent shutdown defenders. Entering the Big 12 Championship, Nebraska officials said Amukamara had been thrown at 43 times and given up just 13 receptions.

Speaking from experience, ask around the Big 12's top receivers and most won't have to think long to come up with the player most difficult to shake: Amukamara. The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder is physical, fast, instinctive with ball skills that are a lot better than the "0" he fielded in the interception column this season after nabbing five in 2009. Watch him for a few plays, especially against receivers used to physically dominating smaller defenders without Amukamara's strength or physicality, and you'll see why quarterbacks were so tentative to throw his way.

The rest of the list:

Ranking the Big 12's best players: No. 15

March, 1, 2011
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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.

[+] EnlargeNebraska's Alfonzo Dennard
AP Photo/Dave WeaverNebraska's Alfonzo Dennard intercepted four passes last season.
No. 15: Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska

2010 numbers: Dennard made 30 tackles, intercepted four passes and returned one for a touchdown. He also forced a fumble and broke up seven passes.

Most recent ranking: Dennard was unranked in our preseason list of the Big 12's top 25 players.

Making the case for Dennard: Admittedly, I'm a little higher on Dennard than others who cover the conference, considering I gave him the second cornerback slot on my All-Big 12 first team. He had to settle for second-team on the media and coaches' All-Big 12 teams.

That said, this isn't about numbers. Dennard, next to his teammate, Prince Amukamara, is the Big 12's second-best shutdown corner. Squeezing a ball into receivers covered by Dennard is extremely difficult: Ask Jake Locker. Want to know why Dennard didn't make a tackle against Washington in the Huskers' 56-21 win? Locker completed only 4-of-20 passes and one of those 20 made it into Dennard's hands. He promptly returned it 31 yards for a score.

He was one of the Big 12's breakout stars in 2010, but still didn't quite get enough respect nationally because he lined up across from Amukamara. Even still, there are at least a few people who cover Nebraska football for a living who would agree that there's definitely a debate about who Nebraska's best cornerback in 2010 was.

Perhaps the scariest thing about Dennard is he's still going to get better. He has decent size for a corner (5-10, 195), but he'll have a great shot at being an All-American as a senior in 2011 in the Big Ten.

The rest of the list:

Re-ranking the Big 12's best players

February, 11, 2011
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Oh, yes. It's that time again.

I made my first go-around this summer, and it was definitely a fun experience that inspired tons of discussion. Perhaps my favorite moment: The group of you (much, much larger than I ever expected) who felt the need to fill my inbox with angry e-mails after I jokingly teased in July that Garrett Gilbert would be No. 1 on my list that was "heavily weighted toward players' actual accomplishments in their college careers." Oh, you readers.

Now, it's time to do the whole project all over again, starting Monday.

We're ranking the top 25 players in the Big 12. This list, however, is based solely on their performances during the 2010 season. I composed my preliminary list on Thursday, but it's nowhere near finished.

One quick note: This is one of the last cases in which Nebraska and Colorado will remain on the Big 12 blog. Since their players did play in the Big 12 in 2010, they're going to be included on this list.

Here's what my top 25 looked like before the season:
  • No. 1: Jerrod Johnson, QB, Texas A&M
  • No. 2: Daniel Thomas, RB, Kansas State
  • No. 3: Travis Lewis, LB, Oklahoma
  • No. 4: Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
  • No. 5: Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma
  • No. 6: Nate Solder, LT, Colorado
  • No. 7: Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
  • No. 8: DeMarco Murray, RB, Oklahoma
  • No. 9: Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska
  • No. 10: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
  • No. 11: Jeremy Beal, DE, Oklahoma
  • No. 12: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
  • No. 13: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
  • No. 14: Alexander Robinson, RB, Iowa State
  • No. 15: Sam Acho, DE, Texas
  • No. 16: Roy Helu, Jr., RB, Nebraska
  • No. 17: Curtis Brown, CB, Texas
  • No. 18: Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri
  • No. 19: Kendall Hunter, RB, Oklahoma State
  • No. 20: Jeff Fuller, WR, Texas A&M
  • No. 21: Tim Barnes, C, Missouri
  • No. 22: Brian Duncan, LB, Texas Tech
  • No. 23: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
  • No. 24: Tanner Hawkinson, OT, Kansas
  • No. 25: Blake Gideon, S, Texas

As I'm sure you can tell, plenty of guys dropped off the early draft of the postseason list. Plenty of others will be crashing the party pretty high on the list.

Others made big moves up or down. I'm interested to hear your input before we get this thing kicked off.

So, who deserves to go where?

Big 12 talent headed to the NFL combine

February, 4, 2011
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The NFL released its list of invitations to the scouting combine late this month, and plenty of Big 12 players should be taking part.

Here's who got invitations:
That's a pretty solid (and lengthy) list. Add it up, and it's 36 players from 11 of 12 Big 12 schools, excluding Kansas. It's a little surprising that Missouri center Tim Barnes wasn't on the list. It's possible it was a mistake, but the first-team All-Big 12er and Rimington Trophy watch lister was named as one of the top centers in the draft last spring by Mel Kiper. Barnes had also earned some favorable reviews at the NFLPA Bowl this week.

It was good to see Aggies quarterback Jerrod Johnson get a shot to show scouts if he's regained any more strength in his arm, too.

Here's how it ranks by team, as well.

1. Nebraska - 9
2. Oklahoma State - 5
2. Texas - 5
4. Oklahoma - 4
5. Colorado - 3
5. Missouri - 3
7. Baylor - 2
7. Texas A&M - 2
9. Iowa State - 1
9. Kansas State - 1
9. Texas Tech - 1

Huskers land big late signee

February, 2, 2011
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Defensive tackle Todd Peat Jr., a native of Tempe, Ariz., spurned hometown Arizona State and fellow Pac-10 school Oregon State to sign with Nebraska.

Peat ranks as the nation's No. 24 defensive tackle, weighs in at 295 pounds and stands 6-foot-3.

Nebraska would like to see Peat develop into a player who has made the impact of star defensive tackle Jared Crick, who is returning to Nebraska for his senior year in 2011, following in the defensive tackle tradition at Nebraska under Bo Pelini after Ndamukong Suh, who was selected No. 2 overall in the 2010 NFL draft.

The Huskers have had good luck recruiting in Arizona. All-American cornerback Prince Amukamara projects as an early first-round pick in the 2011 draft and hailed from Phoenix.

The Big 12's most improved players in 2010

January, 28, 2011
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We saw plenty of talents rise up and become stars in 2010, so here's a nod to the ones who made the most improvement. The criteria: Players must have played in some capacity during the 2009 season, and ones returning from injury (Sorry, Kendall Hunter and Robert Griffin III) weren't eligible.

1. Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State. Blackmon caught 20 passes as a freshman in 2009, but with a new offense and a new guy to run it in 2010, the sophomore saw an opportunity. He ramped up his training, and finished the season with 111 receptions for 1,782 yards and 20 touchdowns. He was also the first player in college football history with 100 yards and a touchdown in 12 consecutive games.

2. Seriously, Blackmon deserves a gap between himself and the rest of the league. He went from a guy almost nobody outside Stillwater had ever heard of to the best player in the league in one season. The list of guys who have done that is extremely short.

3. T.J. Moe, WR, Missouri. Moe played through a broken foot as a freshman in 2009, but caught just two passes -- both against Furman -- for eight yards. In 2010, he became one of the toughest covers in the nation, racking up 92 receptions for 1,045 yards and six scores.

4. Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska. Dennard only became a starter late in the 2009 season, but throughout 2010, became the Big 12's next-best shutdown corner, right behind his teammate, Prince Amukamara. He finished with four interceptions and 11 passes defended, and was my pick for the second All-Big 12 first-team corner.

5. Cyrus Gray, RB, Texas A&M. Gray made perhaps his biggest leap midway through the season, but he had a strong case as the conference's best running back in conference play after teammate Christine Michael went down with a broken leg. He finished the year with seven 100-yard games and had 938 yards in that stretch alone, more than his 757 yards in 2009 and his 195 yards in the season's first six games.

6. Byron Landor, S, Baylor. Landor started just three games in 2009, and made 46 tackles, but became one of the league's best safeties as a senior. He earned a reputation as perhaps the hardest hitter in the league and made 127 tackles, fourth-most in the Big 12.

Honorable mention: Jamell Fleming, CB, Oklahoma; Michael Egnew, TE, Missouri; Dan Bailey, K, Oklahoma State; Kevin Rutland, CB, Missouri; Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M

Lunch links: ESPN-UT and high school coverage

January, 27, 2011
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Readers, your input is needed: Is chili a soup?

The 2010 All-Big 12 team ... as recruits

January, 27, 2011
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We're now less than a week away from signing day. Any national recruiting class is littered with five-stars who don't quite meet their potential, and two-star recruits who turn into first-round picks.

Analyzing the recruiting game isn't perfect, but it's not worthless, either.

Looking back is always interesting, so here's how my All-Big 12 team from 2010 looked as recruits on signing day.

OFFENSE

QB: Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State -- walk-on, returned to OSU after minor league baseball career
RB: Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State -- No. 73 running back, three stars
RB: Daniel Thomas, Kansas State -- signed with K-State out of junior college, ranked No. 35 overall JUCO recruit, four stars
WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State -- No. 139 receiver, three stars
WR: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma -- No. 58 athlete, four stars
TE: Michael Egnew, Missouri -- not ranked as receiver, two stars
C: Tim Barnes, Missouri -- No. 18 offensive guard, three stars
OL: Levy Adcock, Oklahoma State -- unranked JUCO prospect
OL: Nate Solder, Colorado -- No. 35 tight end, three stars
OL: Ricky Henry, Nebraska -- No. 53 offensive guard, three stars
OL: Danny Watkins, Baylor -- No. 39 overall JUCO recruit, four stars

DEFENSE

DE: Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma -- No. 11 defensive end, No. 137 overall prospect, four stars
DT: Jared Crick, Nebraska -- No. 86 defensive end, three stars
DT: Lucas Patterson, Texas A&M -- No. 10 offensive guard, three stars
DE: Sam Acho, Texas -- No. 14 defensive end, No. 114 overall prospect, four stars
LB: Von Miller, Texas A&M -- No. 37 defensive end, three stars
LB: Lavonte David, Nebraska -- No. 7 overall JUCO recruit, four stars
LB: Orie Lemon, Oklahoma State -- No. 40 outside linebacker, three stars
CB: Prince Amukamara, Nebraska -- No. 31 running back, three stars
CB: Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska -- No. 44 cornerback, three stars
S: Quinton Carter, Oklahoma -- No. 39 safety, three stars
S: Byron Landor, Baylor -- No. 48 safety, three stars in high school, No. 100 overall JUCO recruit

SPECIALISTS

P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State -- unranked
K: Alex Henery, Nebraska -- walk-on, unranked
KR: Coryell Judie, Texas A&M -- No. 28 overall JUCO recruit, four stars
PR: Niles Paul, Nebraska -- No. 49 receiver, three stars

ESPN.com's All-Senior Big 12 team

January, 25, 2011
1/25/11
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Inspired by our friends at the Big Ten and SEC blogs, we'll put together a long-overdue team composed of the league's best seniors.

We made a team full of freshmen, so why skimp on the old guys? Well, we won't.

My All-Big 12 team featured 16 seniors, and they're all on the team below, but plenty of other guys put together distinguished careers and 2010 seasons that deserve recognition.

Their careers may be over, but you can bet all these players will live on in school lore for quite some time. Here goes:

OFFENSE

QB: Taylor Potts, Texas Tech
RB: Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State
RB: Daniel Thomas, Kansas State
WR: Lyle Leong, Texas Tech
WR: Detron Lewis, Texas Tech
WR: Aubrey Quarles, Kansas State
C: Tim Barnes, Missouri
T: Nate Solder, Colorado
T: Danny Watkins, Baylor
G: Keith Williams, Nebraska
G: Ricky Henry, Nebraska

DEFENSE

DL: Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma
DL: Lucas Patterson, Texas A&M
DL: Sam Acho, Texas
DL/LB: Brian Duncan, Texas Tech
LB: Von Miller, Texas A&M
LB: Orie Lemon, Oklahoma State
LB: Michael Hodges, Texas A&M
CB: Andrew McGee, Oklahoma State
CB: Prince Amukamara, Nebraska
S: Quinton Carter, Oklahoma
S: Byron Landor, Baylor

SPECIALISTS

K: Alex Henery, Nebraska
P: Derek Epperson, Baylor
Returns: Niles Paul, Nebraska

Selections by school: Nebraska (5), Texas Tech (4), Oklahoma State (3), Texas A&M (3) Baylor (3), Kansas State (2), Oklahoma (2), Texas (1), Missouri (1), Colorado (1)

A few thoughts:
  • It was kind of slim pickings at receiver, but only because the Big 12's top five and 11 of its top 15 receivers will be coming back in 2011. Colorado's Scotty McKnight only narrowly missed the team. I'd say he's probably a more talented receiver than Quarles, but Quarles' production was there in 2010. McKnight's, after adding freshman Paul Richardson to the mix, took a bit of a dive in his senior year.
  • That's a heck of a defense. All 11 guys weren't very far off from making the regular All-Big 12 team. The same is true of the offensive line.
  • Potts' year was a lot better than a few Texas Tech folks would have you believe, but he didn't have a lot of competition to make the cut on this squad. His own teammate, Steven Sheffield, was probably the only guy who could keep him from this squad. The only other Big 12 starters this year were Iowa State's Austen Arnaud, Kansas State's Carson Coffman and Colorado's Cody Hawkins.
  • It's a solid group at running back, too. Thomas and Hunter were the same two guys on my All-Big 12 team, getting the nod just over Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray, Nebraska's Roy Helu Jr. and Baylor's Jay Finley. Definitely a great year for Big 12 running backs, especially the seniors.

Lunch links: Behind the scenes of draft prep

January, 19, 2011
1/19/11
12:30
PM ET
Yo, who's the grillmaster, dog?

Gabbert shoots up Kiper's Big Board

January, 6, 2011
1/06/11
11:00
AM ET
Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert declared for the NFL Draft on Tuesday, and as a result, made a big debut on ESPN Draft analyst Mel Kiper's Big Board.

The periodically updated list of the top 25 overall prospects in the incoming draft class ranks Gabbert No. 9 overall, a spot above Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller.

"Missouri's Blaine Gabbert Insider jumps onto the list this week as a guy who declared while certainly with an eye to the unsettled situation in the draft market when it comes to QBs," Kiper writes. "After Andrew Luck Insider, there's no true consensus as to who will emerge as No. 2. And if Luck opts to stay, we're obviously left with a real fluid situation."

Gabbert joins former Tigers receiver Jeremy Maclin as just the second Gary Pinkel recruit to leave Missouri early, and certainly helped his stock with a dominant, 434-yard performance in the Insight Bowl against Iowa before a late interception swung the game in the Hawkeyes' favor.

Here's what Kiper had to say in his brief analysis of Gabbert: "Strong arm, good mobility, prototype in terms of physical skills. Ranked all year in my top QBs. Jumps with draft declaration, improved stock."

Here's a quick look at the Big 12's other prospects on Kiper's Big Board.
  • No. 6: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
  • No. 10: Von Miller, LB/DE, Texas A&M
  • No. 15: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

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