Big 12: Quinton Spain

ESPN.com midseason All-Big 12 team

October, 14, 2014
10/14/14
11:00
AM ET
We're halfway through the season, which means it's time for our midseason All-Big 12 team. There's plenty of football still to play. And this midseason team might be very different from the end-of-season one. But this list recognizes the players who have distinguished themselves thus far.

After careful consideration and friendly debate, our midseason All-Big 12 team:

Offense

QB: Clint Trickett, West Virginia: Baylor's Bryce Petty had the Big 12's best game last weekend, but Trickett has had the better season so far. He leads the Big 12 in QBR and completion percentage and is third nationally in passing, fueling the Mountaineers' surprising 4-2 start.

RB: Shock Linwood, Baylor: The Big 12's top rusher has 326 rushing yards over Baylor's last two games, including 104 in the fourth quarter of the Bears' monumental comeback win against TCU.

RB: Samaje Perine, Oklahoma: This true freshman is second in the league in rushing, first in rushing touchdowns and delivered an historic performance at West Virginia with 242 yards and four scores.

WR: Kevin White, West Virginia: White has been as dominant as any player in the league. He easily leads the country with an average of 148 yards receiving per game, and has come up with a hundred yards receiving in every game.

WR: Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma: It's hard to imagine where the Oklahoma passing game would be without Shepard. He has accounted for 48 percent of Trevor Knight's passing yards.

WR: K.D. Cannon, Baylor: The true freshman might already be the most dangerous big-play receiver in the league, averaging 62.5 yards per catch on his six touchdowns.

TE: E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State: The senior has been a big part of the Cyclones' offense with 22 receptions for 190 yards and four touchdowns, including a one-handed scoring grab at Oklahoma State.

OL: Spencer Drango, Baylor: The Bears' franchise left tackle is thriving again after a return from a season-ending back injury. He has graded out the highest on the offensive line of the nation's top scoring offense.

OL: Joey Hunt, TCU: Hunt is the best offensive lineman on the Big 12's most improved offense, which is second in the league in scoring with almost 46 points per game.

OL: B.J. Finney, Kansas State: Finney is well on his way to a third consecutive All-Big 12 season as the lynchpin of the K-State offensive line.

OL: Quinton Spain, West Virginia: He and Mark Glowinski form one of the top guard duos in the country for the league's second-best passing offense.

OL: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech: Arkansas coach Bret Bielema singled out Clark's prowess after facing him. Despite throwing the ball on almost every down, Tech leads the league in fewest sacks allowed with Clark protecting Davis Webb's blindside.

AP: Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State: The speedy Hill has kick return touchdowns the past two weeks, and has proven to be tough and durable as well as really fast.

Defense

DE: Shawn Oakman, Baylor: The freaky 6-foot-9 end is second in the league with five sacks and fourth with eight tackles for loss.

DT: Chucky Hunter, TCU: Hunter has been the anchor of the TCU defensive line, joining Davion Pierson to give Gary Patterson's squad one disruptive duo up front.

DT: Malcom Brown, Texas: This 320-pound monster has been unblockable, and the most disruptive defensive player in the league.

DE: Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State: Ogbah has broken out with five sacks, including two on defending Heisman winner Jameis Winston in the opener. In addition to being tied for second in the Big 12 in sacks, he's also second with 9.5 tackles for loss.

LB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma: Striker has 4.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss, and his relentless pass-rushing ability makes him the primary focus of opposing offensive coordinators.

LB: Jordan Hicks, Texas: The Longhorns' fifth-year senior is racking up 10 tackles per game, and is bringing leadership to the Texas defense after an injury-plagued career.

LB: Paul Dawson, TCU: The Big 12's leading tackler is on pace for the most single-season tackles in the Gary Patterson era. He also had the game-winning pick-six to upset the Sooners.

CB: Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma: Sanchez has given up some big plays, but he's countered with big plays of his own. He's second nationally with five interceptions, including a pick-six against Texas.

CB: Danzel McDaniel, Kansas State: McDaniel hits more like a linebacker than a cornerback. He's been another impressive junior-college find for Bill Snyder.

S: Sam Carter, TCU: Carter doesn't have eye-popping numbers, but he's once again been the heart of the TCU defense.

S: Karl Joseph, West Virginia: The enforcer of the West Virginia secondary is second among Big 12 defensive backs with 45 tackles.

Special teams

K: Josh Lambert, West Virginia: All he's done is nail two game-winning field goals as time has expired to beat Maryland (47 yards) and Texas Tech (55 yards) on the road.

P: Trevor Pardula, Kansas: He's gotten plenty of chances, but he's made the most of them, averaging 44.8 yards per punt, while putting 37.8 percent of them inside the opponents' 20.

PR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State: Lockett, who is second in the nation in punt returns, once again has been an electric all-around playmaker. He's also sixth in the league in receiving.

KR: Alex Ross, Oklahoma: Ross leads the nation in kickoff returns, taking two of his nine kick returns to the house for touchdowns.
» More team previews: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Previewing the 2014 season for the West Virginia Mountaineers:

Key returners: QB Clint Trickett, OG Quinton Spain, CB Daryl Worley, SS Karl Joseph

Key losses: RB Charles Sims, DT Shaq Rowell, DE Will Clarke, SS Darwin Cook

Most important 2014 games: Sept. 13 at Maryland; Sept. 20 vs. Oklahoma; Oct. 18 vs. Baylor; Nov. 20 vs. Kansas State

Projected win percentage: 38.5 percent

[+] EnlargeClint Trickett
AP Photo/Tyler EvertClint Trickett threw for 1,605 yards last season.
Over/under Vegas odds: 4.5 wins

Instant impact newcomers: DE Shaquille Riddick, FS Dravon Henry. Riddick was one of the top defensive players in the FCS last year for Gardner-Webb. He should give the Mountaineers an element of pass rushing they previously might have lacked. Henry, one of the top recruits in West Virginia’s freshman signing class, is pushing for a starting job at free safety right away. In Henry and sophomore Daryl Worley, the Mountaineers could have two young cornerstones to anchor the secondary for years to come.

High point from 2013: The Mountaineers got off to a tough September, including a 37-0 loss to Maryland that was even uglier than the final score. But the following week with a new quarterback, West Virginia pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the Big 12 by knocking off No. 11 Oklahoma State 30-21 in Morgantown. In his first start, Trickett was 24-for-50 for 309 yards and a touchdown, and the West Virginia secondary put the clamps on Cowboys QB J.W. Walsh.

Low point from 2013: Kansas has only one Big 12 victory in its past 30 tries. That lone win came against West Virginia last season as the Jayhawks snapped a 27-game Big 12 losing streak with a 31-19 win over the Mountaineers. West Virginia went on to squander a huge lead the following week and fell in triple overtime to Iowa State, which ended the Mountaineers’ season with six losses in their final seven games.

Best-case scenario for 2014: Trickett stays healthy, limits his turnovers and spreads the ball around to West Virginia’s bevy of playmakers. The defense holds up, too, with more depth and a playmaking secondary led by Joseph, Worley and Henry. The Mountaineers beat Maryland in a key nonconference game and go 8-4 to get back to a bowl game, with three of their losses coming to top-10 teams.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: West Virginia gets off to a 1-3 start against a rugged early-season schedule. The rest of the season doesn’t go much better. The quarterbacks can’t stop turning the ball over, and the defense doesn’t improve in the Tony Gibson/Tom Bradley regime. West Virginia goes 3-9 and its Big 12 career record drops to 8-19.

They said it: “I think our players in our locker room understand what the Big 12 is all about. They understand how challenging it is. They understand what the venues are like. They understand what the teams are like, personnel is like, coaching is like, style of play is like. I obviously tried my hardest to be able to relay that to not only the players, but the coaches and the administration and the fan base. And until we got through it for a couple of years, I knew it was going to be challenging.” – West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen
The unfortunate part of our Top 25 ranking of the Big 12’s best players is that only 25 players can make the cut.

We’re down to the unveiling of the final five players, which will come out Friday morning. You can review who has made the list so far by clicking here.

But what about the players who narrowly didn't make the list?

SportsNation

Who has the biggest gripe being left out of our top 25 ranking of the Big 12's best players?

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    33%
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    15%
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    18%
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    19%
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    15%

Discuss (Total votes: 6,088)

When putting this ranking together, we gathered a strong case for a dozen other players who didn’t make it -- standouts like Oklahoma receiver Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma offensive tackle Daryl Williams, TCU cornerback Kevin White, West Virginia safety Karl Joseph, Texas center Dominic Espinosa and Kansas wideout Nick Harwell, who once finished second in the country in receiving at Miami (Ohio).

But there were five players specifically who were the most difficult to leave out, including two of the league’s top returning running backs.

Malcolm Brown was previously known as Johnathan Gray's wing man in the Texas backfield. But Brown proved he could handle a starring role after Gray suffered a season-ending Achilles injury Nov. 9. Brown stepped in and rushed for 128, 131 and 130 yards in the Longhorns’ final three games. Gray, who did make our top 25 list, is back from the Achilles tear. But Brown will still be a big part of the Texas offense.

Baylor’s Shock Linwood also started out last season in a backup role. But when Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin both suffered injuries against Oklahoma, Linwood stepped in and the offense didn’t miss a beat. He rushed for 182 yards against the Sooners, then 187 the following week against Texas Tech. Despite being Baylor’s third-team running back, Linwood finished sixth in the Big 12 in rushing. With Seastrunk and Martin gone, Linwood will step into the starting lineup full time this season.

The other notable omissions from our top 25 reside in the trenches.

Oklahoma defensive tackle Jordan Phillips was on his way to an All-Big 12 type of campaign before suffering a season-ending back injury. Phillips is healthy again and might be the best player on one of the nation’s deepest and most disruptive defensive lines.

On the other side of the ball, West Virginia guard Quinton Spain and Kansas State tackle Cody Whitehair were on my preseason All-Big 12 ballot. Spain has 26 career starts and might be the best guard in the league after Texas Tech’s Le'Raven Clark. Whitehair is also a two-year starter and earned second-team All-Big 12 honors as a sophomore last year. Whitehair has moved to left tackle, where he’ll be protecting the blind side of quarterback Jake Waters.

Now, we put the question to you in our weekly Big 12 poll.

Who has the biggest gripe being left out of our Big 12 Top 25 player rankings?
On Wednesday, the Big 12 released its official All-Big 12 team, which is voted together by media that covers the conference.

Like any other all-whatever team, there were several players deserving of making the cut that didn’t. But who had the biggest gripe about being left off the preseason All-Big 12 team?

SportsNation

Who had the biggest gripe about being left off the media's preseason All-Big 12 team?

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    9%
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    40%
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    4%
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    25%
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    22%

Discuss (Total votes: 3,708)

Oklahoma defensive end Charles Tapper has a compelling grievance, considering he was All-Big 12 last year as a sophomore. Tapper, in fact, was the only defensive underclassman named All-Big 12 in 2013.

Tapper, however, isn’t the only one with a gripe.

Texas running back Johnathan Gray probably also would have been All-Big 12 last season, had he not torn his Achilles at West Virginia in early November. Gray rushed for 141 yards against Kansas State and 123 against Oklahoma. Teammate Malcom Brown took over at running back after Gray’s injury, and rushed for more than 100 yards in the Longhorns’ final three games. As a result, although Gray is expected to be good to go for the opener, Brown was selected to the preseason team over him.

Only five offensive linemen have more career starts than West Virginia guard Quinton Spain, who has been the Mountaineers’ top offensive lineman the past two seasons. Spain and Mark Glowinski form arguably the league’s best one-two punch at guard. Among the offensive linemen left off, Spain might have the biggest beef.

TCU cornerback Kevin White got overshadowed last year by All-American teammate Jason Verrett. And he’s getting overshadowed this preseason by safeties Sam Carter and Chris Hackett. But White was one of the better cornerbacks in the league last year, and should be one of the Big 12’s best this season.

Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman isn’t as accomplished as the other players mentioned above. But he might have the biggest upside. Despite being a part-time player last year, Oakman ranked sixth in the Big 12 in tackles for loss. Coach Art Briles called the 6-foot-9 Oakman “unblockable” during the spring, and is probably the biggest reason why Briles believes Baylor will have one of the best offensive lines in the country.

But we’re leaving it to you to decide via our weekly Big 12 poll – who actually has the biggest gripe?
The college football award watch lists continued to roll out Monday with the unveiling of the Lombardi Trophy and Butkus Award watch lists. The Lombardi goes to the nation's best lineman or linebacker. The Butkus is awarded to the top linebacker. Here are the Big 12 players that made the watch list for each award:

Lombardi
Butkus
Several Big 12 players popped up on the watch lists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, awarded to college football's best defensive player, and the Outland Trophy, given to the best interior lineman.

Here are the Big 12 players that made each list:

Nagurski
Outland

Already this week, the Maxwell (player of the year), Bednarik (defensive player of the year), Hornung (most versatile player), Mackey (best tight end), Rimington (best center), Groza (best kicker) and Guy (best punter) watch lists have come.

Below is the rest of the preseason watch list schedule:

Friday, July 11
- Jim Thorpe Award, best defensive back

Monday, July 14
- Butkus Award, best linebacker
- Lombardi Award, best lineman

Tuesday, July 15
- Biletnikoff Award, best receiver

Wednesday, July 16
- Davey O’Brien Award, best quarterback.

Thursday, July 17
- Doak Walker Award, best running back

Friday, July 18
- Walter Camp Award, best player

Our All-Big 12 ballots

July, 9, 2014
7/09/14
7:30
AM ET
The deadline for media to turn in All-Big 12 ballots to the conference office comes Friday. The official All-Big 12 team won't be released until Big 12 media days in Dallas in a couple weeks.

But below, the Big 12 blog team released the ballots we turned in to the office to you for your viewing pleasure.

Later this morning we'll go into more depth about how we went about selecting our ballots.

But before we do that, the ballots:

BRANDON CHATMON'S BALLOT

Offense

WR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

TE: E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State

OL: Spencer Drango, Baylor

OL: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech

C: Dominic Espinosa, Texas

OL: Cody Whitehair, Kansas State

OL: Daryl Williams, Oklahoma

WR: Antwan Goodley, Baylor

QB: Bryce Petty, Baylor

RB: Malcolm Brown, Texas

RB: Shock Linwood, Baylor

PK: Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma

PR: Levi Norwood, Baylor

[+] EnlargePetty
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesBaylor QB Bryce Petty made it on all three ballots.
Defense

DL: Devonte Fields, TCU

DL: Ryan Mueller, Kansas State

DL: Cedric Reed, Texas

DL: Charles Tapper, Oklahoma

LB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma

LB: Bryce Hager, Baylor

LB: Ben Heeney, Kansas

DB: Kevin White, TCU

DB: Daryl Worley, West Virginia

DB: Kevin Peterson, Oklahoma State

DB: Sam Carter, TCU

P: Trevor Pardula, Kansas

KR: B.J. Catalon, TCU

Player of the Year Awards

Offensive Player of the Year: Bryce Petty, Baylor

Defensive Player of the Year: Devonte Fields, TCU

Newcomer of the Year: Nick Harwell, Kansas

Quick explainer: The Big 12 features more proven stars heading into this season than it did in 2013 but that didn't make my preseason All-Big 12 team any easier. Several young players seem ready to take their contributions to another level at the expense of established playmakers. The receiver position was a no-brainer (although two receivers on the squad seems a little odd), while the running back position is so littered with unknowns I considered just throwing a darts at the dart board and hoping for the best. Overall I ended up going with proven production over up-and-coming stars, meaning my postseason All-Big 12 squad could look much different than this version.

MAX OLSON'S BALLOT

Offense

WR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

TE: E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State

OL: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech

OL: Cody Whitehair, Kansas State

C: B.J. Finney, Kansas State

OL: Quinton Spain, West Virginia

OL: Spencer Drango, Baylor

WR: Antwan Goodley, Baylor

QB: Bryce Petty, Baylor

RB: Malcolm Brown, Texas

RB: Shock Linwood, Baylor

PK: Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma

PR: Levi Norwood, Baylor

Defense

DL: Devonte Fields, TCU

DL: Chucky Hunter, TCU

DL: Malcom Brown, Texas

DL: Cedric Reed, Texas

LB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma

LB: Bryce Hager, Baylor

LB: Ben Heeney, Kansas

DB: Quandre Diggs, Texas

DB: Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma

DB: Sam Carter, TCU

DB: Chris Hackett, TCU

P: Nick O'Toole, West Virginia

KR: B.J. Catalon, TCU

Player of the Year Awards

Offensive Player of the Year: Bryce Petty, Baylor

Defensive Player of the Year: Devonte Fields, TCU

Newcomer of the Year: Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State

Quick explainer: Petty, Lockett and Goodley are easy choices, but from there it gets tricky and you can make a case for a ton of players being deserving of preseason all-conference honors. On defense, the Big 12's ballot provides flexibility with DL, LB and DB as the three position categories, but I still tried to put together a unit with true defensive tackles and safeties. When in doubt, I went by 2013 production. How well these guys would all fit together on a playing field, who knows? But there's plenty of star power and proven talent in this lineup.

JAKE TROTTER'S BALLOT

Offense

WR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

TE: E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State

OL: Spencer Drango, Baylor

OL: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech

C: B.J. Finney, Kansas State

OL: Quinton Spain, West Virginia

OL: Cody Whitehair, Kansas State

WR: Antwan Goodley, Baylor

QB: Bryce Petty, Baylor

RB: Johnathan Gray, Texas

RB: Keith Ford, Oklahoma

PK: Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma

PR: Daje Johnson, Texas

Defense

DL: Devonte Fields, TCU

DL: Chucky Hunter, TCU

DL: Malcom Brown, Texas

DL: Shawn Oakman, Baylor

LB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma

LB: Ben Heeney, Kansas

LB: Bryce Hager, Baylor

DB: Daryl Worley, West Virginia

DB: Kevin White, TCU

DB: Sam Carter, TCU

DB: Quandre Diggs, Texas

P: Nick O'Toole, West Virginia

KR: Corey Coleman, Baylor

Player of the Year Awards

Offensive Player of the Year: Bryce Petty, Baylor

Defensive Player of the Year: Devonte Fields, TCU

Newcomer of the Year: Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State

Quick explainer: The official Big 12 ballot doesn't differentiate between offensive tackles and guards, defensive tackles and ends and cornerbacks and safeties. But like Max, I still tried to keep position integrity, which made putting this ballot together significantly more difficult. But unlike Max and Brandon, I attempted to project out this year's all-conference team instead of leaning on rehashing last year's, which is why Worley, Oakman and Ford made my preseason team over more conventional selections like Sanchez, Mueller and Linwood. Those three gambles could make me look incredibly smart at the end of the year -- or incredibly dumb. Time will tell.
A wonderful summer tradition is upon us: The college football preseason magazines have hit the newsstands. As usual, they're chocked full of info, predictions and glossy photos. As expected, no matter which one you pick up, it'll be full of love for Florida State and Alabama.

How did the Big 12 fare in this year's preseason publications? Oklahoma and Baylor have the unanimous respect of the pundits -- no surprise there -- but everyone has a different take on how the rest of the league standings will shake out. A rundown of the key predictions you'll find in each magazine:

PHIL STEELE

[+] EnlargeBob Stoops
Jackson Laizure/Getty ImagesBob Stoops' Sooners are a popular pick to make college football's initial playoff.
Ranking the Big 12:
1. Oklahoma (4th nationally)
"This year's Sooner squad is stronger on both sides of the ball with nine returning starters back on D and more stability at QB. … The Sooners are a legit national title contender."
2. Baylor (8th)
"QB (Bryce) Petty will likely lead the NCAA in passing, throwing to my No. 1 set of receivers with my No. 2 O-line and No. 2 RBs in the Big 12."
3. TCU (14th)
"If you are looking for this year's Auburn, which is a team that had just 3 or 4 wins the previous year and ends up playing for the national title, you may just have found them."
4. Texas (25th)
5. Kansas State (42nd)
6. Oklahoma State
7. Texas Tech
8. West Virginia
9. Iowa State
10. Kansas
All-Americans: WR Antwan Goodley, BAY (1st team); WR Tyler Lockett, KSU (2nd); DE Ryan Mueller, KSU (2nd); LB Eric Striker, OU (2nd); C BJ Finney, KSU (3rd); T Le'Raven Clark, TTU (3rd); T Spencer Drango, BAY (3rd); DE Devonte Fields, TCU (3rd); DE Cedric Reed, TEX (3rd)
Surprise team: Steele has TCU as his No. 4 team most likely to surprise behind Georgia, USC and Wisconsin. Texas came in at No. 10 on his list. Steele also claims the Horned Frogs will be the nation's most improved team in 2014.
Preseason No. 1: Florida State.
Playoff prediction: Florida State, Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma.
Heisman: Petty is ranked No. 4 and OU's Trevor Knight is No. 9 among Steele's 2014 Heisman favorites. Lockett also listed as a "contender."

ATHLON

Ranking the Big 12:
1. Oklahoma (4th nationally)
"These Sooners can win. And win big."
2. Baylor (10th)
"The Bears probably have too many questions marks to give Oklahoma a serious fight for the top spot."
3. Texas (17th)
"Any improvement from last year's 8-5 record would probably be seen as a good first year for [Charlie] Strong."
4. Kansas State (20th)
5. Oklahoma State (37th)
6. TCU (39th)
7. Texas Tech (41st)
8. Iowa State (66th)
9. West Virginia (67th)
10. Kansas (78th)
All-Americans: Lockett (1st team); Goodley (2nd); Striker (2nd); CB Quandre Diggs, TEX (2nd); Finney (3rd); OG Quinton Spain, WVU (3rd); Mueller (3rd); DT Malcom Brown, TEX (3rd).
Hot seat: Charlie Weis is ranked No. 4 among coaches in the most trouble entering 2014, a list that has Florida's Will Muschamp in the top spot. West Virginia's Dana Holgorsen is sixth on the hot-seat list.
Playoff prediction: Florida State, Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma.
Heisman: Petty is ranked fifth and Knight is 18th among Athlon's top 20 contenders.

LINDY'S

Ranking in the Big 12:
1. Oklahoma (3rd nationally)
"The Sooners have the look and feel of Big 12 bullies again."
2. Baylor (10th)
"The Bears' roster is dynamite, and [Art] Briles is a magician. A repeat Big 12 title would launch this program into the stratosphere."
3. Kansas State (16th)
"Kansas State has enough pieces to challenge for the Big 12 title and to make a name for itself with an early home game against Auburn."
4. Texas (22nd)
5. Texas Tech (33rd)
6. Oklahoma State (37th)
7. TCU (45th)
8. West Virginia (46th)
9. Iowa State (53rd)
10. Kansas (85th)
All-Americans: Goodley (1st team); Lockett (2nd); Drango (2nd); Reed (2nd); Striker (2nd).
Top newcomers: Lindy's predicts that Iowa State WR Allen Lazard will be the league's best instant-impact freshman. Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon is named the newcomer most likely to thrive in the NFL, and Oklahoma State LB Josh Mabin is the "top sleeper" among incoming freshmen.
Playoff prediction: Florida State, Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon.
Heisman: Petty is ranked fourth and Knight is No. 9 among Lindy's top 10 candidates.

SPORTING NEWS

Ranking the Big 12:
1. Oklahoma (1st nationally)
"Enough pieces are in place for Oklahoma to be among the four teams in the inaugural College Football Playoff bracket."
2. Baylor (7th)
"Baylor is capable of hanging a banner after the first year in its new home."
3. Texas (23rd)
"The defense will be improved, but the Longhorns continue to be in game-management mode at quarterback."
4. Oklahoma State
5. Kansas State
6. TCU
7. West Virginia
8. Texas Tech
9. Iowa State
10. Kansas
All-Americans: Lockett (1st team); Goodley (2nd); Clark (2nd); LB Bryce Hager, BAY (2nd); Striker (2nd); Diggs (2nd); Petty (3rd); Drango (3rd); DE Charles Tapper, OU (3rd); Reed (3rd); LB Ben Heeney, KU (3rd); Carter (3rd), P Spencer Roth, BAY (3rd).
POTY: Sporting News names Petty its preseason offensive player in the Big 12 and Fields as the league's top defender, even though he didn't earn a spot on their three All-America squads.
Playoff prediction: Oklahoma, Oregon, Florida State, Alabama.
Heisman: Petty is No. 6 among Sporting News' preseason top 10 candidates.

USA TODAY

Ranking the Big 12:
1. Oklahoma (7th nationally)
"It's hard to find many faults with this team, outside of the potential for a decline in pass defense without (Aaron) Colvin on the outside."
2. Baylor (12th)
"While there's still experience aplenty, Baylor's overall youth could prevent another run to the Big 12 title."
3. Kansas State (13th)
"The pieces are there for the Wildcats to contend for the Big 12 title if they can avoid the sort of sloppy, sluggish start that cut last season down in its tracks."
4. Texas (24th)
5. Oklahoma State (35th)
6. Texas Tech (41st)
7. TCU (57th)
8. West Virginia (74th)
9. Kansas (96th)
10. Iowa State (98th)
All-Americans: Lockett (1st team); Striker (1st); T Daryl Williams, OU (1st); S Sam Carter, TCU (1st).
Big games: USA Today's top three Big 12 games for 2014 are Texas vs. Oklahoma on Oct. 11, Baylor at Oklahoma on Nov. 8 and Kansas State at Baylor on Dec. 6.
Playoff prediction: Florida State, Ohio State, Alabama, Oregon.
Heisman: Petty listed as one of eight candidates capable of dethroning Jameis Winston.
Since last week, we’ve been examining the most indispensable player for every team in the Big 12. In other words, who is the player each team could least afford to lose to injury?

We’re knocking on wood before we turn in these posts, so no need to worry about a jinx.

[+] EnlargeQuinton Spain
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesQuinton Spain is one of the few veterans on an inexperienced West Virginia offense.
We continue with the West Virginia Mountaineers.

Most indispensable player: Guard Quinton Spain

Why West Virginia can’t afford to lose him: Spain will bring a much-needed veteran presence to the Mountaineers' offensive line and offense.

The fifth-year senior brings versatility, having played tackle and guard during his WVU career and has started 26 of 38 career games during his first three seasons. He started all 12 games as a junior, four at left tackle and eight at left guard. Spain has been on the field for 1,758 offensive plays during the past two seasons for Dana Holgorsen’s squad, bringing unrivaled experience to the offensive line. Make no mistake, he is one of the better offensive linemen in the entire conference.

The Mountaineers’ experience along the offensive front is lacking after Spain with right guard Mark Glowinski (12) as the only other projected starter with more than four career starts. The rest of the projected starting offense is just as inexperienced, with wide receiver Cody Clay’s 15 career starts making him the lone returning starter besides Spain and Glowinski with double-digit starts at WVU.

WVU has a bevy of talented running backs, but Dreamius Smith, Wendell Smallwood and the rest of the Mountaineers ball carriers need a strong offensive line if they hope to approach 2,000 combined yards in 2014. Spain should be the centerpiece of that group.

Without Spain, WVU’s offense would lose a ton of experience, meaning the Mountaineers would be counting on inexperienced but talented skill players and a relatively young offensive line to spark a return to a bowl game.
Two weeks ago, we ranked every team in the Big 12 position-by-position coming out of the spring. Putting that together, we’ve ranked the overall league position-by-position. In other words, what is the league’s strongest position? What is its weakest?

[+] EnlargeCedric Reed
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesCedric Reed will anchor Texas' defensive line.
In 2013, there’s no doubt the strength of the league was in the defensive backfield. Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert and TCU cornerback Jason Verrett were the league’s two first-round picks. Safety Ahmad Dixon earned All-American honors and Texas cornerback Carrington Byndom, West Virginia safety Darwin Cook, Kansas State safety Ty Zimmerman and Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin were longtime stalwarts in their defensive backfields.

Here’s how the positions of the league rank going into 2014:

1. Defensive line: This was easily the most difficult position to rank by team, as line figures to be the defensive strength of TCU, Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. The Horned Frogs had the league’s best run defense last season, and on top of returning basically the entire unit, will be adding back 2012 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Devonte Fields. The Sooners are also loaded, led by All-Big 12-caliber ends Geneo Grissom and Charles Tapper and tackle Jordan Phillips, and the could also go three-deep across the board next year. The Longhorns have two potential first-round picks up front in tackle Malcom Brown and end Cedric Reed. And Baylor coach Art Briles is already on record stating his D-line could go toe-to-toe with any in the country. Collectively, this should be the best the conference has been at the position since Gerald McCoy and Ndamukong Suh roamed the middle five years ago.

2. Wide receiver: The league has two superstars at receiver in Baylor’s Antwan Goodley and Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett, who have the résumés to garner preseason All-American consideration. But they aren’t the only prolific playmakers here. Texas Tech’s Jakeem Grant, Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard, Iowa State’s Quenton Bundrage, Oklahoma State’s Jhajuan Seales and Texas’ Jaxon Shipley are all capable of 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Baylor might feature the best receiving corps in the country, Oklahoma State is a solid nine deep and West Virginia returns its entire starting lineup from last season. Even Kansas has the nation’s second-leading receiver from 2011 in Miami (Ohio) transfer Nick Harwell. Assuming the league’s quarterbacks can get them the ball, this could be another banner year for the Big 12’s pass-catchers.

3. Linebacker: Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, Kansas and TCU return virtually their entire linebacker units from last year. And from Texas Tech’s Pete Robertson and Kansas State’s Jonathan Truman to Baylor’s Bryce Hager and Oklahoma State’s Ryan Simmons, the rest of the league basically has at least one proven linebacker coming back, too.

4. Offensive line: The strength of the Big 12's offensive lines resides in experienced centers and talented tackles. Kansas State’s BJ Finney, Texas’ Dominic Espinosa and Iowa State’s Tom Farniok are all four-year starters with a combined 113 career starts. At tackle, Baylor’s Spencer Drango, Texas Tech’s Le’Raven Clark and Oklahoma’s Daryl Williams have NFL futures. The league also boasts three other very stout and versatile players up front in Kansas State’s Cody Whitehair, West Virginia’s Quinton Spain and Oklahoma State’s Daniel Koenig, all three of which can man either guard or tackle.

[+] EnlargeDavis Webb
Donald Miralle/Getty ImagesDavis Webb seems like one of the few sure things at QB in the Big 12.
5. Quarterback: The Big 12 has one Heisman candidate in Baylor’s Bryce Petty, a proven performer in Kansas State’s Jake Waters and two budding stars in Texas Tech’s Davis Webb and Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight. The rest of the league is a big fat unknown at the game’s most-critical position. But if Oklahoma State’s J.W. Walsh and Texas’ David Ash regain their forms from two seasons ago, Iowa State’s Grant Rohach builds off his strong 2013 finish, Clint Trickett can stay upright at West Virginia, and transfer Matt Joeckel and sophomore Montell Cozart prove to be the answers at TCU and Kansas, the Big 12 could be on the way back to becoming the preeminent conference for quarterbacking once again.

6. Running back: Half the teams lost their leading rushers from last season, and that doesn’t include Texas Tech’s Kenny Williams switching positions to linebacker. The Longhorns pose a potentially devastating one-two punch in Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray, and the Mountaineers could go five-deep with Dreamius Smith, Wendell Smallwood, Rushel Shell, Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie. But the rest of the league will be leaning on potential more than past performance. That said, there is a lot to like in Baylor’s Shock Linwood, Iowa State’s Aaron Wimberly, TCU’s B.J. Catalon, Oklahoma State’s Tyreek Hill and Oklahoma’s Keith Ford.

7. Defensive back: With Gilbert, Verrett, Dixon, Colvin, Zimmerman, Cook and Byndom all gone, this position took a major attrition hit. Thanks to Sam Carter, Chris Hackett and Kevin White, TCU remains well stocked in its secondary. Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas have veterans back, too. Everywhere else, there is rebuilding to be done. But the next wave of secondary stars appears to be on its way. Cornerbacks Nigel Tribune (Iowa State), Justis Nelson (Texas Tech) and Daryl Worley (West Virginia) all started as true freshmen. So did Oklahoma State corner Kevin Peterson and West Virginia safety Karl Joseph, who are now both juniors. It might not be long before defensive back is a strength of the league again like it was last season.
Though the 2014 NFL draft ended just last weekend, ESPN Insider Todd McShay posted his way-too-early 2015 mock draft Insider on Wednesday.

McShay had three Big 12 players going in his mock first round: Baylor QB Bryce Petty 15th overall to the Houston Texans, TCU DE Devonte Fields 25th overall to the San Francisco 49ers and Oklahoma LB Eric Striker 29th overall to the Green Bay Packers.

Though we have almost a full year to go, here are some of other top Big 12 prospects for the 2015 draft (in alphabetical order):

  • TE E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State: Three pass-catching tight ends went in the first two rounds last weekend, and that’s exactly what Bibbs is. He caught 39 passes last season and can far exceed that if QB Grant Rohach settles into new coordinator Mark Mangino’s offense.
  • [+] EnlargeMalcom Brown
    John Albright/Icon SMIMalcom Brown might be the best DT in the Big 12 this season and could make NFL scouts take notice.
  • DT Malcom Brown, Texas: Like his D-line teammate Cedric Reed, Brown has first-round talent. He was rated the second-best DT coming out of high school and began to realize that potential last season.
  • SS Sam Carter, TCU: Carter has manned strong safety at a high level in Fort Worth for the past two seasons and was the only underclassman defensive back to earn first- or second-team All-Big 12 honors in 2013. With teammate Jason Verrett gone, he won’t be as overshadowed next season.
  • OT Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech: After starting his first two seasons in college at left tackle, Clark could get moved to guard this season. Clark has the strength to be a devastating run-blocking guard, and the NFL loves players who can play multiple positions.
  • CB Quandre Diggs, Texas: Diggs has been a starter in Austin since his true freshman season. He is fast, and he’s a solid tackler against the run. Diggs has an NFL pedigree, too. His brother, Quentin Jammer, was a first-round pick in 2002 after starring for the Horns.
  • OT Spencer Drango, Baylor: Drango will get plenty of attention protecting Petty’s blindside. The back injury from last season is a concern, but it also underscored how dominant Drango actually was. Baylor’s pass protection was leaky without him the rest of the year. Like Clark, Drango will just be a junior next season.
  • C BJ Finney, Kansas State: The Big 12 has some other draft hopefuls at center in Iowa State’s Tom Farniok and Texas’ Dominic Espinosa, but Finney seems like the best bet of the three to get drafted. The former walk-on and high school state wrestling champ will be a four-year starter, and has 39 career starts, which is tied for the Big 12 active lead.
  • WR Antwan Goodley, Baylor: He might not be tall at only 5-foot-10, but Goodley is physical and fast. With another ultra-productive season like last fall, he could be one of the top receivers on next year’s board.
  • WR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State: Lockett’s versatility both as an inside or outside receiver and in the return game only makes him a more attractive prospect. With Jake Waters now installed as the full-time QB, Lockett could have a monster statistical senior season.
  • DE Shawn Oakman, Baylor: At 6-9, 275 pounds, Oakman has intriguing size for an NFL defensive line. If he dominates in the fall the way Art Briles said he did in the spring, Oakman could quickly turn into a hot prospect even though he’ll only be a junior.
  • DE Cedric Reed, Texas: According to NFL.com, Reed was one of two players nationally in 2013 to record five sacks, five forced fumbles and four pass breakups. The other? Buffalo’s Khalil Mack, who was the fifth overall pick in last week’s draft. By coming back to school for another year, Reed could potentially become a first rounder, too.
  • DE Charles Tapper, Oklahoma: Tapper almost has the size of a defensive tackle and the athleticism of a linebacker. He didn’t have an overly huge statistical sophomore season but was the only underclassman defensive lineman voted All-Big 12 by the coaches. Tapper too will only be a junior.
  • OT Daryl Williams, Oklahoma: Even though Tyrus Thompson has manned the left side in Norman, Williams has the better pro outlook. Williams will be a three-year starter and has the athleticism to transition to the left side at the next level.
Others to watch: RB Malcolm Brown, Texas; DT James Castleman, Oklahoma State; C Dominic Espinosa, Texas; C Tom Farniok, Iowa State; ILB Bryce Hager, Baylor; FS Chris Hackett, TCU; LB Ben Heeney, Kansas; DT Chucky Hunter, TCU; FS Karl Joseph, West Virginia; DE Ryan Mueller, Kansas State; DT Jordan Phillips, Oklahoma; DT Davion Pierson, TCU; OG Quinton Spain, West Virginia; OT Tyrus Thompson, Oklahoma; CB Kevin White, TCU; OG Cody Whitehair, Kansas State
Earlier Thursday, we concluded our 22-round draft of current Big 12 players. Below are the three lineup outcomes of that draft, and as you can see, each of us went in different directions.

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Like the St. Louis Rams, Max and Brandon built up their defensive lines before worrying about the rest of their rosters. While I grabbed the best quarterback in the league and surrounded him with protection and weapons.

After each lineup, read our final takes on our teams. Then, decide who drafted best in the weekly Big 12 poll.

BRANDON CHATMON’S TEAM

OFFENSE
DEFENSE
What Brandon says about his team: “Offensively, as soon as Petty was gone with the first pick I knew I wouldn’t take a quarterback until my final pick. Knight could be the steal of the draft. Versatility is the name of the game with the rest of the offense. We can put Pierson and Smallwood in the backfield and go read option or really ruin your Saturday and throw Daje back there in the Diamond. When you bring more guys in the box, you leave Seales and Lockett one-on-one. Or we can just go five wide and you can try to cover running backs who run routes like receivers with your linebackers. And an experienced offensive line will be the foundation of it all. Defensively, it would be wise for opposing quarterbacks to tell their families to stay home when facing this group. We’re going to man up and have our mail forwarded to the opposing backfield and make you want to take your ball and go home. And with a secondary full of coverage guys, I’m not concerned about the back end of the defense holding up. We’ll win more battles than we lose. By the final whistle, my team will have earned the moniker 'Chatmon’s chaos creators' with Tapper, Reed, Brown, Hunter, Alexander and Robertson living in your backfield.”

MAX OLSON'S TEAM

OFFENSE
DEFENSE
What Max says about his team: “You do not want to play against my team. That was my goal going in, and I constructed exactly the team I wanted. I have a great QB in Webb who gets to throw to Goodley, one of the nation's best receivers, and he'd help Jaxon Shipley put up Jordan Shipley numbers. I have the two-back punch of Linwood and Gray. I have Hill, who can do everything, and a good line. We're going to spread the ball around like crazy. Good luck stopping that. On defense, you have Fields, Oakman and Grissom all rushing the passer. That's deadly. We can go three-man fronts or even put Oakman in the middle, letting the 6-foot-8 stud swat your passes down. And while you're worrying about him and Grissom, you have the Big 12's best defensive player [Fields] coming after you. Hager and Shannon will hold it down at the second level, and the secondary is full of playmakers. This is a fun team, plain and simple, and one that can frustrate the heck out of anybody.”

JAKE TROTTER’S TEAM

OFFENSE
DEFENSE
What Jake says about his team: “Max and Brandon are good at talking smack. I’ll give them that. But my players do their talking on the field. Once I was fortunate to land reigning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year Bryce Petty as my quarterback, my goal was two-fold: to keep him upright from pressure off the edge; and, to surround him with firepower. I accomplished both ends, and then some. I wasn’t able to get either of the two elite receivers in the league in Goodley or Lockett. But I put together the best overall receiving corps in Grant, Shepard and Bundrage, who could all deliver 1,000-yard receiving seasons in 2014. On top of that, I snagged the best pass-catching tight end on the board in Bibbs, as well as Brown, so that we can pound the ball between the tackles when we need. Speaking of tackles, aware that Brandon and Max were focused almost solely on their pass rush in the early rounds, I also added two of the most reliable pass-protecting bookends in the league in Drango and Williams. Defensively, I can bring pressure, too, with Mueller and Striker, who last season respectively placed second and fourth in the Big 12 in sacks. Castleman and Britz are roadblocks, Heeney and Dawson are tackle machines and my entire secondary has All-Big 12 potential. We don’t talk. We just dominate.”
Following up on NFL draft weekend, we’ve been conducting our own draft, picking from current Big 12 players to fill out three 22-man lineups.

Below is a recap of the first 15 rounds of the draft from the past two days, followed by rounds 16-22.

As another reminder, this is NOT a Top 25 player ranking. It’s only an exercise in determining where the value of the league lies, and the different strategies to putting a team together from the league’s present talent pool.

Jake Trotter:
Brandon Chatmon:
Max Olson:
Round 16

  • Olson: WR/RB Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State
  • Chatmon: OLB Pete Robertson, Texas Tech
  • Trotter: OLB Brandon Golson, West Virginia
  • Analysis: "To combat the offensive attacks I would face in the Big 12, I'm going with a 3-4 on defense. Golson, who led the Big 12 in forced fumbles last season, is another playmaking outside linebacker who would fit in nicely in this scheme opposite Striker." -- Trotter
[+] EnlargeJohnathan Gray, Tanner Jacobson
AP Photo/Eric GayGetting potential Big 12 rushing leader Johnathan Gray in the 17th round could be a big steal for Max Olson.
Round 17

  • Trotter: LB Paul Dawson, TCU
  • Chatmon: C Dominic Espinosa, Texas
  • Olson: RB Johnathan Gray, Texas
  • Analysis: “I ended up getting a potential All-Big 12 running back in the 17th round. So I feel pretty good about that. Gray should be healthy for the opener, and he leads all returning Big 12 rushers with 86 rushing yards per game last season." -- Olson
Round 18

  • Olson: OT Troy Baker, Baylor
  • Chatmon: SS Quentin Hayes, Oklahoma
  • Trotter: OG Mark Glowinski, West Virginia
  • Analysis: "I wanted a safety who is comfortable in holding his own in coverage, while also having the ability to make plays all over the field. Hayes is the guy. With Worley, Shepherd, White, Barnett and Hayes in the secondary, I can unleash the rest of my defense on the quarterback and feel comfortable about my secondary holding its own against anyone." -- Chatmon
Round 19

  • Trotter: OG Nila Kasitati, Oklahoma
  • Chatmon: WR Tony Pierson, Kansas
  • Olson: SS Terrell Burt, Baylor
  • Analysis: "With Max and Brandon hoarding centers, I needed to attack the interior of my offensive line. Kasitati can excel manning either guard or center, and Glowinski is one of the league’s top returning guards." -- Trotter
Round 20

  • Olson: OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, TCU
  • Chatmon: WR Jhajuan Seales, Oklahoma State
  • Trotter: WR Quenton Bundrage, Iowa State
  • Analysis: "The guys I wanted for my second guard spot weren't available at this round, so I'm going with the mammoth "Big V" Vaitai (6-foot-6, 308 pounds) and moving one of my other tackle selections inside. I ended up with a fairly good offensive line, which was pretty much my plan going in." -- Olson
Round 21

  • Trotter: CB Nigel Tribune, Iowa State
  • Chatmon: WR Wendell Smallwood, West Virginia
  • Olson: LB Nick Kwiatkoski, West Virginia
  • Analysis: “I picked up Bundrage in the previous round to seal up what I feel is the best all-around receiving corps, even if I didn’t get Goodley or Lockett. Tribune, the only true freshman to play for Iowa State in the past two seasons, is a corner with a ton of upside and, paired with Kevin Peterson, should provide me plenty of tenaciousness against the pass.” -- Trotter
Round 22

  • Olson: WR Jaxon Shipley, Texas
  • Chatmon: QB Trevor Knight, Oklahoma
  • Trotter: C Jared Kaster, Texas Tech
  • Analysis: “I just got the steal of the draft, and I knew I would wait until the final round to do so. As soon as Jake snapped up Petty, I knew I would be content with Davis Webb or Trevor Knight and wouldn’t draft a quarterback until the final round. The fact that Max opted for Webb made things even better for me as Knight has the versatility to run a run-heavy offense or spread things out and use his arm. He fits perfectly with the versatility I was striving for with each pick.” -- Chatmon

Imaginary Big 12 players draft, Part II

May, 14, 2014
5/14/14
9:00
AM ET
Following up off of NFL draft weekend, we’ve been conducting our own draft, picking current Big 12 players with the premise of filling out three 22-man lineups.

So far, this draft has been revealing, accentuating the prospective strength of the conference (defensive line) in 2014, as well as some of the potential shortcomings.

As a reminder, this is NOT a top-25 player ranking. It’s only an exercise in determining where the value of the league lies, and the different strategies to cobbling a team together from the league’s present talent pool.

Below is a recap of the first seven rounds of the draft from Monday, followed by rounds 8-15. We’ll conclude the draft Thursday by picking the final seven rounds.

Jake Trotter:
Brandon Chatmon:
Max Olson:
Round 8

  • Olson: LB Bryce Hager, Baylor
  • Chatmon: CB Kevin White, TCU
  • Trotter: TE E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State
  • Analysis: "In Grant, Shepard and now Bibbs, I have three of the most difficult matchups for opposing defensive backfields in the league. With Petty at QB, and two of the best pass-protecting tackles in the country, I feel like I'll be able to fling the ball at will." -- Trotter
[+] EnlargeCody Whitehair
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesKansas State's Cody Whitehair provides versatility on the offensive line.
Round 9

  • Trotter: RB Malcolm Brown, Texas
  • Chatmon: OG Cody Whitehair, Kansas State
  • Olson: DT Andrew Billings, Baylor
  • Analysis: “Whitehair should help solidify my offensive line. His ability to play multiple positions up front will be valuable and I had to start addressing my offensive line before all of the top guys were off the board. He’ll join Clark to give me a solid foundation.” -- Chatmon
Round 10

  • Olson: LT Daniel Koenig, Oklahoma State
  • Chatmon: SS Dante Barnett, Kansas State
  • Trotter: DT Travis Britz, Kansas State
  • Analysis: "Time to start building my offensive line. I don't love that many linemen in the league this year, honestly, so that's why I waited. But Koenig is a good one, and he can play either tackle spot." -- Olson
Round 11

  • Trotter: DT James Castleman, Oklahoma State
  • Chatmon: C Tom Farniok, Iowa State
  • Olson: CB Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma
  • Analysis: "With my offense looking strong across the board, I'm circling back to my defense. I have two of the league's very best getting to the quarterback in Striker and Mueller. Now, it's time to solidify the interior run defense. I got just the guys in Castleman and Britz." -- Trotter
Round 12

  • Olson: RB Shock Linwood, Baylor
  • Chatmon: LB Dominique Alexander, Oklahoma
  • Trotter: CB Kevin Peterson, Oklahoma State
  • Analysis: "I went with Alexander because I love his versatility and instincts. He should be able to hold up in coverage at times but can blitz too. To top it all off, he's just a sophomore who has barely scratched the surface of his ability. Win, win." -- Chatmon
Round 13

  • Trotter: SS Karl Joseph, West Virginia
  • Chatmon: CB JaCorey Shepherd, Kansas
  • Olson: C BJ Finney, Kansas State
  • Analysis: "After loading up on defense early, I'm collecting pieces offensively. I think I got two good ones in the veteran Finney, and the budding Linwood." -- Olson
Round 14

  • Olson: OG Quinton Spain, West Virginia
  • Chatmon: RT Tyrus Thompson, Oklahoma
  • Trotter: FS Chris Hackett, TCU
  • Analysis: “I got my lockdown corner a couple rounds ago in Peterson, and with these last two picks, got safeties capable of being All-Big 12 performers this season.” -- Trotter
Round 15

  • Trotter: LB Ben Heeney, Kansas
  • Chatmon: WR Daje Johnson, Texas
  • Olson: DE Geneo Grissom, Oklahoma
  • Analysis: "Daje makes plays. A lot of them. Nothing more needs to be said here." -- Chatmon

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be analyzing the depth charts of every Big 12 team coming out of the spring. West Virginia released its depth chart after the spring but not every question was answered during the 15 practices as the Mountaineers have several position battles, including quarterback, that will last into August.

OFFENSE (starters in bold)

QB: Clint Trickett (Sr.), Logan Moore (Sr.) or Paul Millard (Sr.) or Skyler Howard (Jr.)

Trickett missed the spring with an injury yet emerged atop the depth chart. It’s fair to say the Mountaineers still have issues at quarterback. Coach Dana Holgorsen is confident his team will see someone step up. Regardless, the competition should last into August and incoming freshman William Crest will enter the mix this summer.

[+] EnlargeDreamius Smith
Dan Friend/USA TODAY SportsDreamius Smith leads a deep group of running backs.
RB: Dreamius Smith (Sr.), Wendell Smallwood (So.), Rushel Shell (So.), Dustin Garrison (Jr.), Andrew Buie (Jr.)
FB/TE: Cody Clay (Jr.), Elijah Wellman (RFr.)

Arguably the deepest position group in the entire Big 12. The Mountaineers go five deep with running backs who could be featured backs on several teams in the league and they will add four-star signee Donte Thomas-Williams into the competition this summer. Expect WVU to use its running backs together at times this fall. At fullback, Clay is underrated and could be a valuable weapon.

WR (X): Mario Alford (Sr.), Devonte Mathis (So.), Shelton Gibson (RFr.)
IR (H): Daikiel Shorts (So.), Jacky Marcellus (RFr.)
R (Y): Jordan Thompson (Jr.), Vernon Davis (So.)
WR (Z): Kevin White (Sr.), Kj Myers (Jr.), Ricky Rogers (Fr.)

WVU has athletes and playmakers at receiver, they just need a consistent quarterback to get those guys involved. There’s no Tavon Austin or Stedman Bailey -- proven all-conference performers -- but Shorts has terrific upside and Alford came on at the end of the 2013 campaign. This is a solid group that will make plays if the quarterback situation sorts itself out.

LT: Adam Pankey (So.), Sylvester Townes (Jr.)
LG: Quinton Spain (Sr.), Russell Haughton-James (Jr.)
C: Tyler Orlosky (So.), Tony Matteo (So.)
RG: Mark Glowinski (Sr.), Stone Underwood (Jr.)
RT: Marquis Lucas (Jr.), Michael Calicchio (Sr.)

Spain is a great place to start at guard but the Mountaineers need this unit to improve if they hope to return to a bowl game this fall. Inexperience is a major concern with Pankey, Lucas and Orlosky moving into the starting lineup with seven combined career starts.

DEFENSE

DE: Dontrill Hyman (Sr.), Noble Nwachukwu (So.)
NT: Kyle Rose (Jr.), Darrien Howard (So.)
DE: Christian Brown (So.), Eric Kinsey (Jr.)

Will Clarke and Shaq Rowell are going to be extremely tough to replace. Rose moves inside to fill the void left by Rowell and should be solid in the middle but the new starters alongside him will have play well if the Mountaineers hope to improve on their 33.3 points allowed and 455 yards allowed per game in 2013. Brown returns from a foot injury a year ago and has the potential to be a force as early as this season. This unit has a ways to go if it hopes to find a place among the Big 12’s top defensive line units.

SAM: Isaiah Bruce (Jr.), Edward Muldrow (Jr.)
MIKE: Nick Kwiatkoski (Jr.), Al-Rasheed Benton (RFr.)
WILL: Brandon Golson (Sr.), Sean Walters (So.)

Bruce has made the move from the SPUR position to the SAM linebacker spot but should continue to be a key playmaker in WVU’s defense. Add Kwiakoski and Golson and the Mountaineers have one of the better linebacker groups in the Big 12.

RCB: Daryl Worley (So.), Keishawn Richardson (Jr.), Nana Kyeremeh (So.)
LCB: Ishmael Banks (Sr.), Terrell Chestnut (Jr.), Brandon Napoleon (So.)
FS: Jeremy Tyler (So.), Ricky Rumph (Jr.)
BS: Karl Joseph (Jr.), Jarrod Harper (So.)
SPUR: K.J. Dillon (Jr.), Malik Greaves (RFr.)

Don’t be surprised if Worley inserts his name among the Big 12’s top cornerbacks this fall, he’s that good. Tyler slides into the spot vacated by Darwin Cook and looks like a future playmaker in the secondary while Joseph and Banks have combined to start 39 games during their careers. It’s a good combination of youth and experience. WVU doesn’t have one of the Big 12’s top secondary units but it has the talent to rise to that level in 2014.

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