Big 12: Roosevelt Maggitt

Weak and Strong: Iowa State Cyclones

April, 16, 2013
4/16/13
10:30
AM ET
Turnover is an annual tradition in college football, but with that, teams' strengths and weaknesses constantly shift, too. Today, we'll continue our look at the biggest strengths and weaknesses for each Big 12 team.

Next up: Iowa State.

Strongest position: Offensive line

Iowa State's run the ball pretty well lately, and that should be case yet again in 2013. Four starters return from last season's solid offensive line, and they've taken to calling themselves "The Union." That union will serve the Cyclones well after losing only left tackle Carter Bykowski from last year's team in the second half of the season. Center Tom Farniok has shown tons of promise early in his career, and the junior will be flanked by a pair of seniors at guard: Ethan Tuftee and Kyle Lichtenberg. Farniok, with 26 starts, is actually the team's most experienced player, leading Tuftee by three starts. Jacob Gannon should hold down the right tackle spot. The strength of the line is in the middle, but losing Brayden Burris last year to injury was a huge loss, but the Cyclones adjusted and the offensive line should be a huge strength that makes things a whole lot easier on the skill positions, which are much stronger at running back than in the passing game.

Weakest position: Receiver and/or defensive line

You can't really pick between these two, where a whole lot of work is needed for the Cyclones. Three starters and five overall contributors on the 10-man rotation along the defensive line are gone, and starter Willie Scott, a rising senior, is currently suspended after an arrest on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance earlier this month. The unit was improved last season with Jake McDonough and Roosevelt Maggitt holding things down, but finding new talent to fill those voids this season is a tough task.

It might be even tougher at receiver. All three of the team's leading receivers -- Aaron Horne, Josh Lenz and Chris Young -- are all gone, and the leading returning receiver is tight end Ernst Brun Jr. Iowa State's receivers were already quite average, and judging by Big 12 standards, below average. Quenton Bundrage, Albert Gary and Jarvis West headline the unit, which should also get some help from sophomore Tad Ecby.
Thanks for all the e-mails this week. It's always fun to hear what you folks have to say. If you've got more, send it my way.

On to your mail!

Eric in Manhattan, Kan. writes: Come on David...K-State won't be upset by Iowa State. We know this is our trap game, as it's always been a nail biter game the last 3 years at least. Also we know those games haven't been played in Ames. No coach, player, or fan knows not to look past ISU. Because it's always a great game and full of tension. Both teams are getting better every year, but K-State at a faster pace. The team trifecta of Snyder, Klein, and Brown won't let the rest get too far ahead and keep us focused.

David Ubben: For me, this has nothing to do with Kansas State overlooking Iowa State. It's more about matchups. Iowa State's got a great defense, but its strengths are tackling and pursuit at linebacker, and that's what you've got to do to slow down Kansas State. Stop Collin Klein from getting easy yards and swarm to the ball. Iowa State does that well, and loves to play slower, lower-scoring games. It wins in those positions. When Iowa State holds opponents to under 24 points, Paul Rhoads is 19-1.

Iowa State's a good team, too, and playing well enough to beat K-State. It's not about focus or a lack thereof. It's a matter of Iowa State being a good team in good position to knock off the Wildcats. I picked K-State, but it's going to be close.

Steven in Iowa writes: You said you don't think ISU is a top 25 team. Do they have a top 25 D?

DU: I most definitely do. The secondary is way underrated, and I loved what Jacques Washington has done to this point. Jake Knott and A.J. Klein? There's not much to even say about those two. As good as any linebacker in the Big 12, though I might lean Arthur Brown.

The defensive line doesn't have a lot of freaks, but Jake McDonough and Roosevelt Maggitt have been fantastic. For my money, Iowa State may well end up the best defense in the Big 12. You can make a case for the Cyclones right now, and there's not a defense in the league that's been demonstrably better.

Michael Bay in Ames, Iowa writes: Coming soon...TransFarmers: Rhodesbots in disguise.Optimus Klein, IronSnyde, and the rest of the Autocats once again take on Sentinal Klein, WashingTron, and the Deceptaclones....Will the win go to the Autocats since they are on the side of the light? Or can the Deceptaclones rewrite classic story formats everywhere? We will find out Saturday in the battle on CYbertron.

DU: Oh man, this was the best e-mail I got all week. Love my readers only slightly more than the Transformers trilogy. Best trilogy since Spy Kids.

Jay in Kansas City, Mo. writes: Does K-State's style of play and program make it the natural born enemy of teams like WVU, Oklahoma State, Baylor, and Texas Tech and is it one of the reason why K-state went deep last year and is undefeated this year?

DU: To some degree, but I really love it. Kansas State is basically the antithesis of all things Big 12. Bill Snyder has watched the points explosion around the rest of the league and shrugged. His offense doesn't look a whole lot different than it did all the way back in 1998 with Michael Bishop. Can anybody else in the Big 12 say that?

It's one thing to not change. It's another to not change and still win. Snyder's done that.

In the process, you'll always hear Big 12 coaches talk about how difficult it is to prepare for Kansas State's offense. It's complex, it's full of misdirection and it's unlike anything you'll see in the rest of the league. Teams see the spread pretty often in practice.

When Baylor goes over and plays Oklahoma State or West Virginia goes and plays Texas Tech, preparation's not all that difficult. Teams see it in practice every day. But Kansas State? That's a whole different challenge for defenses that are most often built to stop the spread.

No doubt that's a big part of Kansas State's recent success, too. It does things differently and do it well, and always provide a tough matchup.

Eric in Arkansas writes: David,I am starting to hear the engine starting about how the B12 champ will be at a disadvantage due to no conference title game. I dont remember hearing any of this when the B10 or P12 didnt have a title game. I feel that the round robin schedule more than makes up for not having a title game. What say you?

DU: I don't hear that or buy that at all. Look at it this way: If you're playing in the Big 12, you're going to play nine league games, period. So will the SEC and the Big Ten. However, you're guaranteed to play a good team in that ninth game, maybe somebody you've already played. In the Big 12, it's just another conference game.

In the Pac-12, you have to play 10 conference games to reach the national title game, nine league games and a league title game. That's obviously more difficult.

History has shown us the Big 12 title game doesn't really ever propel teams into the national title game. Far more often (four times in Big 12 history, actually), it's cost a team a shot at the national title. The league is strong enough where schedule isn't an issue, and now, coaches don't have to worry about a major hurdle in the last week of the season, perhaps one they've already cleared.

There's no question: The Big 12's schedule, compared to the rest of the leagues, makes it easier to reach the national title game.

Alex in Plano, Texas writes: Is Nick Florence the most underrated QB in the nation? He currently leads the nation in total offense and yet gets no mention anywhere. Thanks!

DU: Yeah, I'd buy it. The biggest reason is probably a) he still plays for Baylor, who despite RG3's best efforts a year ago, isn't a national brand and b) Baylor's not in the top 25.

It'll take a long while to change a), but b) is a little ridiculous, considering the Bears' only loss is by seven points on the road against a top-five team. I had Baylor at No. 22 on my last top 25 poll.

Florence has been outstanding to this point. His decision-making keeps getting better, and he clearly has a mastery of Baylor's offense. He doesn't have the big arm or the sprinter's legs of RG3, but he can play quarterback at a high level, and I'd be surprised if he doesn't get a great shot in the NFL.

Breaking down spring camp: Iowa State

March, 20, 2012
3/20/12
9:45
AM ET
Iowa State kicks off spring practice Tuesday. Let's take a closer look.

Schedule: The first of 15 spring practices allowed by the NCAA begins and they'll conclude with the spring game on April 14. Practices are closed to fans and media.

What's new: Offensive coordinator Tom Herman helped Paul Rhoads build his program and take the Cyclones to two bowl games in three years, but he left to take the offensive coordinator job on Urban Meyer's staff at Ohio State. In his place is receivers coach Courtney Messingham, who has lots of experience at lower levels of football, but will be calling plays at the FBS level for the first time.

Key position battle: Kelechi Osemele has been an All-Big 12 stalwart at left tackle for the last three season, but the inevitable happened this offseason: He graduated and moved on to the NFL. Now, Iowa State needs a replacement. Converted tight end Carter Bykowski -- now up to 6-foot-8 and 303 pounds -- could be the man protecting the blind side, but 6-foot-6, 294-pound Kyle Lichtenberg could try to win the job this spring, too. The line also lost right guard Hayworth Hicks, a two-year starter. Jacob Gannon, a 6-foot-7, 286-pound sophomore gets the first crack at replacing him.

On the mend: The front seven. Linebacker Jake Knott will miss the spring after undergoing shoulder surgery. He'll be missed, but replaced by Jevohn Miller. Junior Willie Scott steps in for defensive end Roosevelt Maggitt, who will miss the spring with a knee injury. Cornerback Jeremy Reeves will also miss be limited this spring after undergoing wrist surgery. Look for sophomore Matt Thomas to jump in when Reeves doesn't participate.

Question marks: Cornerbacks. Reeves should be OK, but he's the only returning starter at corner for the Cyclones, and as noted, he'll be in and out during the spring. Junior Jansen Watson draws the tough task of trying to replace NFL-bound Leonard Johnson, one of the most underrated corners in the league last season. You need lots of good corners in this league, and Iowa State still has a lot to prove at the position.

All eyes on: The quarterbacks. Jared Barnett looked like the future in midseason after leading the Cyclones to wins over Texas Tech, Kansas and Oklahoma State, but he faltered down the stretch and was benched for Steele Jantz, who opened the season with three fourth-quarter comeback wins over Northern Iowa, UConn and Iowa. The guess here is it's Barnett's job to lose, but there's no guarantee he won't do exactly that: lose it. The sophomore was streaky last season.

For now, however, the pair are officially listed as co-starters to begin the spring. Looks like we've got a legitimate quarterback battle on our hands for the second consecutive season in Ames.

Top talent sitting out the spring in Ames

March, 19, 2012
3/19/12
2:15
PM ET
Iowa State will be missing a familiar name when it begins spring practice on Tuesday.

Linebacker Jake Knott will miss the entire spring after having shoulder surgery this offseason. He'll recuperate this spring and be back in the fall.

The shoulder was banged up all season, and Knott played through pain for most of the year. He was expected to miss much of the spring, but the Cyclones will keep their three-year starter off the field until fall.

Knott made 114 tackles, including four for loss and two interceptions in 2011. He also forced three fumbles.

From Iowa State's release:
Knott fought through a shoulder injury throughout the season, magnifying his top-shelf performance level. He dislocated his shoulder twice during Iowa State’s game at Baylor last season. After the second time, he had [fellow linebacker A.J.] Klein squeeze it back into place on the field. His stat sheet in that game – 18 tackles, 12 solo stops.

Sophomore Jevohn Miller is expected to fill Knott's role this spring, along with reserve Matt Morton, a senior.

Cornerback Jeremy Reeves will be on the field this spring, but won't be going full contact alongside his teammates to protect his wrist, which was operated on after the season.

“We have a returning starter at corner in Jeremy Reeves, who is not going to be as active this spring as we would like as he comes off of surgery on his wrist," Rhoads said in the release."We are going to keep him really limited and protect what was done by the physicians this winter.

Senior defensive end Roosevelt Maggitt will also miss the spring with a knee injury.

Spring superlatives: Iowa State

March, 9, 2012
3/09/12
2:30
PM ET
Time to continue our series breaking down each team's best and worst positions entering the 2012 season. Iowa State is up next.

More spring superlatives: Strongest position: Linebacker

This one is clear. Iowa State topped our position rankings at linebacker, and for good reason. Or, perhaps more accurately, two good reasons.

Big 12 co-Defensive Player of the Year A.J. Klein and teammate Jake Knott make up the best 1-2 punch at linebacker of any team in the country, and sophomore C.J. Morgan should fill out the unit heading into the spring. Knott was banged up all over throughout the 2011 season, but he and Klein were still the most productive duo of any linebackers in the Big 12.

They combined for 231 tackles and finished second and fourth in the Big 12 in tackles. Even scarier for the rest of the Big 12? They'll both be back and be third-year starters in 2012. Look out, especially if Knott stays healthy during the season.

Weakest position: Defensive line

If you want to know why Iowa State had such trouble stopping opposing offenses last year, point to this unit. Additionally, its most productive members are gone after last season.

Patrick Neal and Jacob Lattimer combined for 6.5 sacks, and are gone. As is tackle Stephen Ruempolhamer, who added five tackles for loss and 2.5 more sacks.

End Roosevelt Maggitt returns, as does tackle Jake McDonough, but Iowa State has big holes in a trouble spot for the defense.
We've tackled every other spot, and now we'll wrap up out Big 12 position rankings with the defensive lines across the Big 12.

Here are the rest of the position rankings.
Now that we've finished ranking the complete units, we'll start ranking the top 10 at each position very soon leading into the 2011 season.

This is a decent position for the Big 12 this season, and the top half of the league should feel pretty good about their group. There aren't many studs in this group, but there are a whole lot of solid players.

Brad Madison
AP Photo/Pat SullivanMissouri has one of the Big 12's best pass rushers in Brad Madison.
1. Missouri -- Missouri has the Big 12's best returning pass rusher and a Defensive Player of the Year contender in Brad Madison, but its depth is what lands it on top of the list. Jacquies Smith is solid at the opposite defensive end spot, and Michael Sam and Kony Ealy provide great depth at DE. Dominique Hamilton's absence last season hurt after breaking his ankle against Oklahoma, but he's back, alongside Terrell Resonno. Sheldon Richardson, who may be transferring from junior college, is a wildcard that could be anywhere between a complete game changer, irrelevant or absent.

2. Oklahoma -- Oklahoma's defensive tackles are somewhat suspect, but the defensive end combo of Ronnell Lewis (provided he is eligible come fall camp) and Frank Alexander is on par with the best in the Big 12. Both were preseason All-Big 12 selections, but Jamarkus McFarland needs to make good on his potential. Stacy McGee and Casey Walker should both get time at the other tackle spot.

3. Texas -- Defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat is loaded with potential as the nation's former No. 1 recruit. He had a big impact early last season before being slowed by an ankle injury. Alex Okafor moved outside from defensive tackle just before spring and had five sacks in the spring game. Inside, Kheeston Randall is an All-Big 12 favorite, but Ashton Dorsey had a strong spring and could help out with Reggie Wilson opposite Randall.

4. Texas A&M -- The Aggies have one of the best linemen in the league in Tony Jerod-Eddie, but Jonathan Mathis, Eddie Brown Jr. and Ben Bass have a lot to prove around him after the loss of Lucas Patterson, who was outstanding in 2010.

5. Texas Tech -- Sam Fehoko has moved to defensive end from middle linebacker, and should provide some good speed to the front line. Scott Smith looked on his way to an All-Big 12 campaign last season, but was suspended for the remainder of the season by coach Tommy Tuberville and has yet to be officially reinstated. For now, Dartwan Bush and Aundrey Barr will help out at defensive end, outside of Donald Langley, Kerry Hyder and Pearlie Graves. The Red Raiders did snatch a big pickup from departed UNC signee Delvon Simmons, a defensive tackle that could have an impact immediately.

6. Oklahoma State -- Defensive line is the biggest weak spot for the Cowboys, who have a decent set of ends in Jamie Blatnick and former heralded recruit Richetti Jones, but an even bigger question mark at defensive tackle where Christian Littlehead and Nigel Nicholas enter fall camp as starters.

7. Kansas -- Top rusher turned defensive end Toben Opurum came on strong late last season and should be one of the most exciting Jayhawks to watch in 2011, but the rest of the line leaves a bit to be desired. Keba Agostino has the other starting spot at defensive end ahead of Pat Lewandowski, who had a great spring. Patrick Dorsey and John Williams enter fall camp as starters at defensive tackles.

8. Kansas State -- K-State recruited this position hard in its 2011 class. For now, defensive end Brandon Harold will try to bounce back from a disappointing 2010 after a promising 2009. Lance Dunbar and Taylor Martinez think this group is ranked too high, but Meshak Williams could start opposite Harold, while Ray Kibble and Raphael Guidry should be the tackles inside.

9. Baylor -- Tevin Elliott was limited this spring because of offseason shoulder surgery, and Terrance Lloyd exited spring practice as the starter, but I'd expect Elliott to regain the spot by the time the season arrives. Phil Taylor, a first-round pick, is a big loss, but Gary Mason Jr. will try to fill his spot next to Nicolas Jean-Baptiste.

10. Iowa State -- Having a pair of linebackers combine for 241 tackles is a good and bad thing. They've got outstanding linebackers, but the defensive line was the Big 12's worst last season for a unit that ranked 10th in rush defense and had just 11 sacks. That was the fewest sacks in the Big 12 and more than just three teams in all of college football. The good news is all four starters return, but for now, this is where the Cyclones start. Stephen Ruempolhamer has some promise, but Cleyon Laing, Jake McDonough and ends Patrick Neal and Roosevelt Maggitt have a lot to prove. Jacob Lattimer ran into offseason trouble, but re-appeared atop the depth chart released by the Cyclones on Wednesday.
Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each program heading into the spring:

Baylor Bears
Spring practice starts: March 16
Spring game: April 10

1. Quarterback Robert Griffin III's surgically repaired right knee. Griffin hasn't played since tearing the ACL in his right knee in the third game of the '09 season. He recently said he's ahead of schedule in rehabilitation, but probably won’t do much during spring practice. He'll wear a heavy knee brace and won’t participate in contact drills.

2. New linebackers. The Bears lost strongside linebacker Antonio Jones and middle linebacker Joe Pawelek, who combined to make 190 tackles last season. Senior Earl Patin, who also has played some defensive end during his career, is poised to replace Pawelek in the middle. But Patin will have to hold off highly regarded youngsters Chris McAllister and LeQuince McCall, who redshirted in ’09. Senior Chris Francis is probably the top candidate to replace Jones on the strong side.

3. Safety. The Bears must replace both of their starting safeties, including All-Big 12 performer Jordan Lake, who started 36 games in a row. Junior college transfer Byron Landor and sophomore Mike Hicks will get the first looks in the spring. But they'll have to hold off incoming freshman Ahmad Dixon, one of the top prospects to ever sign with Baylor, after he arrives for fall camp.

Colorado Buffaloes
Spring practice starts: March 6
Spring game: April 10

1. Michigan transfer Toney Clemons. Buffaloes coach Dan Hawkins called Clemons his team's most exciting receiver while he sat out the '09 season under NCAA transfer rules. The cousin of Arizona Cardinals receiver Steve Breaston, Clemons could bring an interesting dynamic to the CU offense. His arrival couldn't come at a better time, either, after Markques Simas was suspended indefinitely for violating team rules.

2. Linebacker. The Buffaloes must replace their two most productive linebackers after losing Marcus Burton and Jeff Smart. The departed seniors combined to make 105 solo tackles and 6.5 sacks last season. Senior Michael Sipili is the top candidate to replace Burton in the middle, and sophomore Jon Major might get the first crack at replacing Smart on the weak side.

3. Offensive line. The unit's inconsistency has dogged Hawkins' offense in each of his first four seasons. Eight offensive linemen had significant playing time in '09, so the Buffs are looking for more stability up front. The return of sophomore guard Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner from a pair of knee injuries, and early arrival of junior college transfer Eric Richter might shore up the interior line.

Iowa State Cyclones
Spring practice starts: March 23
Spring game: April 17

1. Linebackers. The Cyclones lost each of their starting three linebackers: Josh Raven, Jesse Smith and Fred Garrin. Junior Jacob Lattimer is in line to replace Raven on the strong side, and two highly regarded sophomores are in line to fill the other spots. A.J. Klein, who had 17 tackles in 13 games as a freshman, might get the unenviable task of replacing Smith, who led the Big 12 in tackles in '09. Jake Knott, who had 23 tackles as a freshman, is the top candidate to start on the weak side.

2. Wide receiver. Iowa State lost leading receiver Marquis Hamilton, who had 50 catches for 606 yards with four touchdowns in '09. Tight end Derrick Catlett, another top receiving threat, also is gone. The good news: Junior Darius Reynolds returns from a broken leg that caused him to miss all but four games last season. Reynolds, who earned the moniker "Money" for his big-play potential, had 13 catches for 72 yards before he was hurt in practice in late September. Junior college tight end Ricky Howard enrolled in classes in January and will participate in spring practice.

3. Defensive line. Two starters will have to be replaced after ISU lost right end Christopher Lyle and tackle Nate Frere. Lyle led the team with five sacks in '09; Frere was a pretty good run-stopper. Sophomores Cleyon Laing and Roosevelt Maggitt will get strong looks at end, and senior Austin Alburtis and sophomore Jake McDonough will move into the tackle rotation.

Kansas Jayhawks
Spring practice starts: March 27
Spring game: April 24

1. Quarterback. New Kansas coach Turner Gill might have one heck of a competition on his hands. Sophomore Kale Pick is a mobile option, after averaging 11.9 yards per rushing attempt in 2009. Junior college transfer Quinn Mecham, who enrolled in classes at Kansas in January, threw for 3,091 yards with 40 touchdowns and 11 interceptions at Snow College in Utah last season.

2. Wide receiver. The Jayhawks have to replace departed stars Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe, which will be no easy task. The duo combined to catch 186 passes for 2,322 yards with 17 touchdowns last season. Bradley McDougald and Johnathan Wilson were proven targets last season, but younger players such as Chris Omigie and incoming freshman Keeston Terry will have to help this fall.

3. Secondary. The Kansas defense gave up too many big passing plays and didn't create enough turnovers last season. The Jayhawks will have to replace strong safety Darrell Stuckey, who led them with 93 tackles in '09. Senior Phillip Strozier will get the first crack at replacing the heart and soul of the Kansas defense.

Kansas State Wildcats
Spring practice starts: March 21
Spring game: April 24

1. Oregon transfer Chris Harper. In 2008, Harper played wide receiver and quarterback for the Ducks as a freshman. He became the first Oregon player in eight years to run, pass and catch a touchdown in the same season. Harper, a native of Wichita, Kan., might figure into Kansas State's quarterback or wide receiver plans after sitting out the '09 season under NCAA transfer rules.

2. Quarterback battle. Harper and two other players will probably battle to replace departed senior Grant Gregory. Senior Carson Coffman, who started the '09 season at quarterback, figures to be back in the mix, along with junior college transfer Sammuel Lamur.

3. Defensive line. The Wildcats have a couple of gaping holes to fill up front defensively. End Jeff Fitzgerald, who had 40 tackles and 10 tackles for loss in '09, has to be replaced, along with tackles Daniel Calvin and Chidubamu Abana. Junior college transfer Javonta Boyd, who has already enrolled in classes, could help in the interior line.

Missouri Tigers
Spring practice starts: March 9
Spring game: April 17

1. Wide receiver. The Tigers have to replace Danario Alexander, who led the country with 1,781 receiving yards in 2009. Juniors Jerrell Jackson and Wes Kemp both caught more than 20 passes last season, but younger players like T.J. Moe and Rolandis Woodland are going to have to contribute more. Incoming freshman Marcus Lucas could help in the fall.

2. Linebacker. The Tigers bring back two of their starting three linebackers, but three-time All-Big 12 selection Sean Weatherspoon is the one who left. Sophomore Donovan Bonner heads into spring camp as the top candidate to replace Weatherspoon on the weak side, and Will Ebner and Andrew Gachkar are back at the other linebacker spots.

3. Defensive line. Two starters are gone on the defensive front: end Brian Coulter and nose tackle Jaron Baston. At least the Tigers know they’re set at one side, with end Aldon Smith coming back after totaling 19 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks in '09. Marcus Malbrough and Jacquies Smith will battle for starting end, and Terrell Resonno could move into the vacant tackle spot.

Nebraska Cornhuskers
Spring practice starts: March 24
Spring game: April 17
What to watch:

1. Will quarterback Zac Lee keep his starting job? After Lee was plagued by inconsistency throughout the '09 season, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson is expected to open the competition during spring practice. Sophomore Cody Green, senior Latravis Washington and freshman Taylor Martinez will all be given a fair chance to win the job.

2. Defensive tackle. Nebraska fans won't see All-American Ndamukong Suh commanding double-team blocks along the line of scrimmage. Even after losing one of the most decorated players in school history, the Cornhuskers figure to be pretty good up front. Jared Crick and Baker Steinkuhler will man the middle, with Pierre Allen and Cameron Meredith entering spring camp as the favorites at ends.

3. Rex Burkhead. The sophomore burst onto the scene after Roy Helu Jr. was hurt early in the Huskers' 33-0 rout of Arizona in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl, rushing for 89 yards with one touchdown. Burkhead was very explosive running out of the Wildcat package, so look for Watson to try and utilize him even more to make the Nebraska attack less predictable.

Oklahoma Sooners
Spring practice starts: March 8
Spring game: April 17

1. Offensive line. The Sooners have a lot of questions up front on offense, after left tackle Trent Williams and right guard Brian Simmons departed. Will junior Donald Stephenson finally be ready to contribute at left tackle after being suspended for all of the ’09 season? Will center Ben Habern be ready after breaking his leg late in the ’09 season? When will Jarvis Jones return from a broken heel?

2. Linebacker Ronnell Lewis. The sophomore had a break-out game in the Sooners’ 31-27 victory over Stanford in the Sun Bowl, finishing with six tackles and a forced fumble. With starting linebackers Keenan Clayton and Ryan Reynolds departing, Lewis will assume a starting role on the strong side. Redshirt freshman Tom Wort is projected to start in the middle, with junior Travis Lewis starting on the weak side.

3. Secondary. The Sooners have shuffled their defensive backs after losing cornerbacks Dominique Franks and Brian Jackson. Sophomore Demontre Hurst is in line to replace Franks at field cornerback, and senior Jonathan Nelson has moved from strong safety to boundary cornerback. Junior Sam Proctor is expected to replace Nelson at strong safety, and senior Quinton Carter is back at free safety.

Oklahoma State Cowboys
Spring practice starts: March 8
Spring game: April 17

1. Quarterback Brandon Weeden. The 26-year-old junior is the top candidate to replace Zac Robinson, who broke nearly every OSU passing record. Weeden was a second-round choice of the New York Yankees in the 2002 amateur baseball draft. If he can grasp new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorson's spread offense quickly, the Pokes' passing game should again be potent in 2010.

2. Defense. Defensive coordinator Bill Young will have his hands full this spring trying to replace nine starters. The only returning starters are defensive end Ugo Chinasa and strong safety Markelle Martin. The Pokes have to replace three starters on the defensive line, three linebackers and three defensive backs. Three newcomers -- linebacker Caleb Lavey and defensive backs Devin Hedgepeth and Malcolm Murray -- will get early looks in spring camp.

3. Offensive line. The Cowboys will have to replace star left tackle Russell Okung, left guard Noah Franklin, center Andrew Lewis and right tackle Brady Bond. Juniors Nick Martinez, Casey LaBrue and Grant Garner will be the top candidates to fill open starting spots.

Texas Longhorns
Spring practice starts: Feb. 26
Spring game: April 4

1. Quarterback Garrett Gilbert. The sophomore was thrust into action after Colt McCoy injured his shoulder against Alabama in the Citi BCS National Championship Game and played admirably well in tough circumstances. The Longhorns might change their identity on offense with a young quarterback under center, so developing a running game to take pressure off Gilbert might be a top priority.

2. Defense. The unit is in good hands with coordinator Will Muschamp, but he'll have to replace many of the star players from 2009. End Sergio Kindle, tackle Lamarr Houston, linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy and safety Earl Thomas are all gone. Younger players such as end Alex Okafor and tackle Tyrell Higgins will have to turn it up a notch during spring practice.

3. Wide receiver. Jordan Shipley, who was McCoy's favorite target, also departed. Seniors James Kirkendoll and John Chiles, junior Malcolm Williams and sophomore Marquise Goodwin will have to be more consistent in their route running and pass catching. Other receivers such as D.J. Monroe and DeSean Hales will be trying to crack the receiver rotation during the spring, before talented freshmen like Darius White, Mike Davis and Demarco Cobbs arrive on campus.

Texas A&M Aggies
Spring practice starts: March 23
Spring game: April 17

1. New defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter, who built one of the country’s best units at Air Force last season. He inherits an A&M defense that was woefully porous last season and will switch to a 3-4 scheme. Nine starters are coming back on defense, including pass-rushing specialist Von Miller. DeRuyter will spend the spring trying to install his system and getting his players comfortable with it.

2. Offensive line. The Aggies must replace three starting offensive linemen: left tackle Michael Shumard, center Kevin Matthews and right tackle Lee Grimes. Juniors Joe Villavisencio and Danny Baker and sophomore Stephen Barrera have to be ready to step up this spring.

3. Special teams. The Aggies’ special teams weren’t so special last season, as they ranked 104th in net punting, 91st in kickoff return defense and 49th in kickoff returns among FBS teams. Aggies coach Mike Sherman is putting a new emphasis on special teams, which cost his team dearly in its 44-20 loss to Georgia in the Independence Bowl.

Texas Tech Red Raiders
Spring practice starts: March 7
Spring game: April 17

1. Quarterbacks. With former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville replacing Mike Leach at Texas Tech, senior quarterbacks Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield figure to start spring camp on a level playing field. Potts started 10 games last season, throwing for 3,440 yards with 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Sheffield started two games and threw for 1,219 yards with 14 touchdowns and four picks. New offensive coordinator Neal Brown, who was hired from Troy, runs a version of the spread offense, but Tuberville will probably incorporate more of a traditional running game into the offense.

2. Defensive line. New defensive coordinator James Willis has to replace three starters on his defensive front: ends Brandon Sharpe and Daniel Howard and tackle Richard Jones. Making matters worse, the top two reserve ends in 2009 were seniors, along with the backup nose tackle.

3. Offensive line. O-line coach Matt Moore, who was retained from Leach's staff, has to replace three starters: center Shawn Byrnes, right guard Brandon Carter and right tackle Marlon Winn. Juniors Justin Keown and Mickey Okafor and sophomore LaAdrian Waddle will probably be given first crack at replacing them. Incoming junior college transfer Scott Smith could play stand-up end in Tech's 3-4 scheme, and junior college defensive tackle Donald Langley might also have an impact in spring practice.
Tags:

Baylor Bears, Colorado Buffaloes, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Missouri Tigers, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Texas Longhorns, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Jerrell Jackson, Ahmad Dixon, Cameron Meredith, Danny Baker, Darius Reynolds, Wes Kemp, Chris Omigie, Demontre Hurst, James Kirkendoll, Ben Habern, Steven Sheffield, Toney Clemons, Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner, Earl Patin, Jeff Fitzgerald, Jacob Lattimer, Malcolm Williams, Jared Crick, DeSean Hales, T.J. Moe, Marquise Goodwin, Phillip Strozier, Taylor Martinez, Donald Stephenson, Byron Landor, Travis Lewis, Zac Lee, Chris Harper, Sam Proctor, Cody Green, Rex Burkhead, Ronnell Lewis, Bradley McDougald, LaTravis Washington, Jon Major, Marcus Malbrough, Rolandis Woodland, Tom Wort, Taylor Potts, Alex Okafor, Johnathan Wilson., Garrett Gilbert, D.J. Monroe, Keeston Terry, John Chiles, Cleyon Laing, Will Ebner, Markques Simas, Jake Knott, Nick Martinez, Jacquies Smith, Jarvis Jones, Pierre Allen, Ugo Chinasa, Baker Steinkuhler, Terrell Resonno, Carson Coffman, Michael Sipili, Kale Pick, Aldon Smith, Brandon Weeden, Quinton Carter, A.J. Klein, Austin Alburtis, Mickey Okafor, Markelle Martin, Stephen Barrera, Andrew Gachkar, Jonathan Nelson, Sammuel Lamur, Quinn Mecham, Eric Richter, Scott Smith, Malcolm Murray, Tim DeRuyter, Ricky Howard, Caleb Lavey, Devin Hedgepeth, Donald Langley, Robert Griffin III, Chris McAllister, LeQuince McCall, Roosevelt Maggitt, Jake McDonough, Javonta Boyd, Marcus Lucas, Donovan Bonner, Casey LaBrue, Grant Garner, Tyrell Higgins, Joe Villavisencio, Justin Keown, LaAdrian Waddle

SPONSORED HEADLINES