Big 12: Russell Okung

Big 12 all-BCS-era team

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

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

Offense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special teams

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

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

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

PR: Ryan Broyles Oklahoma (2008-11) -- On top of being a prolific punt returner, Broyles was one of the most efficient receivers in college football history. He finished his career with an FBS-record 349 receptions, and was a two-time consensus All-American before a knee injury cut his senior season short.
Charlie Strong’s arrival at the University of Texas is going to change the Big 12.

The on-field impact of the former Louisville coach’s arrival in Austin remains to be seen, but he will undoubtedly change the landscape of the conference. His words during his introductory news conference should put fear into the heart of two Big 12 teams in particular.

“Let's not get caught up in the five stars; let's not get caught up in the four stars,” Strong said Monday. “Let's get caught up in the football players.”

The Longhorns’ new head coach went on to speak of American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smith, who was a quarterback when Strong recruited him to Louisville, yet recorded 14.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss as a defensive end in 2013. His words should be music to the ears of Longhorns fans, as recruiting has not been the problem in recent years at Texas. Poor evaluation and player development has been one of the biggest contributors to the program’s slide.

[+] EnlargeCharlie Strong
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesCharlie Strong says his staff won't get caught up in recruiting rankings, which is a philosophy employed by a few Big 12 rivals.
Largely by taking advantage of those struggles, Oklahoma State and Baylor sat alongside the Longhorns in the Big 12 title race heading into the final weekend of the regular season and seem poised to be the teams most impacted by Strong’s arrival. Oklahoma State and Baylor each went 3-2 against the Longhorns during the past five seasons after combining to go winless in 10 games against Texas in the previous five years. Their rise has had a direct correlation to the Longhorns’ decline.

The biggest impact on those two teams could come on the recruiting trail. If Strong’s priority is evaluation and development, as he contends, that's a shot across the bow to Oklahoma State and Baylor, two programs that have built their success upon their ability to better evaluate and develop their recruits. Those two schools featured 162 combined players from Texas and combined for 21 victories in 2013.

Running back Kendall Hunter, cornerback Justin Gilbert and tackle Russell Okung are just of few of the overlooked Texans that Oklahoma State pounced on. They had NFL-level talent and built the Cowboys into a Big 12 title contender. We all know about Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III and his journey to Baylor, but receiver Kendall Wright -- an NFL first-round pick -- and guard Cyril Richardson -- a 2013 Lombardi Finalist -- have been key contributors to the Bears’ rise. They each were overlooked by the Longhorns.

While Strong’s arrival could make it harder for Oklahoma State and Baylor to repeat their Big 12 championship runs of recent years, both schools have created enough momentum that they could still consistently compete for Big 12 titles regardless of how well Strong does in Austin.

Of all the Big 12 teams, Strong’s hire should have the least impact on Oklahoma. The Sooners are a tradition-rich program with the ability to compete for championships regardless of their surroundings. OU’s 5-5 record against UT since 2005 is second only to Kansas State (5-1 in six meetings). And the Sooners should have no problem recruiting in Texas against Strong’s Longhorns program, particularly with the stability head coach Bob Stoops brings to the program.

The rest of the Big 12 schools are less likely to be dramatically altered.

TCU and Texas Tech have combined to beat Texas once in the past five seasons, with the Horned Frogs’ 20-13 victory in 2012 as the lone triumph. Although both schools are similar to Baylor and Oklahoma State in their ability to turn hidden gems into productive players, they haven’t turned that into consistent on-field success against the Longhorns in a way the other two schools have, although TCU has only played UT twice during that five-year span. The impact on their recruiting will be similar to Oklahoma State and Baylor, but on a lower level as neither school can tout a Big 12 title as proof of their success when trying to land those hidden gems.

Kansas State, Kansas, West Virginia and Iowa State should see their biggest impact on the field, as their brushes with the Longhorns on the recruiting trail are few and far between.
Glenn Spencer climbed up the coaching ranks this offseason by assuming the Pokes' defensive coordinator post, vacated when veteran Bill Young's contract wasn't renewed at the end of the season.

He's already made it clear he wants Oklahoma State's defense to get a reputation as an aggressive defense, something it hasn't been in the past. The transition's been easier for one big reason: The same one that Spencer says makes this season a good one for him to take over.

"I’ll be the first to admit, you’ve got older guys, a lot of seniors on that defense that have played a lot of ball. You can’t coach that. They’ve seen the speed of the game in the conference. They know how to function. They know how to execute," said Spencer, who was promoted from coaching the Oklahoma State linebackers. "Typically guys like that that have played a lot, when something’s going wrong, they know how to fix it. They know how to approach game day mentality. They know how to travel. A lot of things you don’t think about but they make a difference on game day, and I’ve got some."

The Pokes are still trying to find their quarterback, but linebacker Shaun Lewis and cornerback Justin Gilbert are entering their fourth seasons as contributors for the Pokes and headline the unit. Defensive tackle Calvin Barnett grew up late last season after transferring from junior college and safeties Daytawion Lowe and Shamiel Gary can both provide senior leadership for the Cowboys defense that hovered in the middle of the Big 12 last year.

"We challenged certain individuals to play some different techniques just to get a different look. They did," Spencer said. "Not to say we didn’t give up plays here and there and not to say we didn’t fundamentally have a lot of things to improve on, but it’s a building from this spring and summer and keep building on that, but I think they’re buying into it and they’re excited and hopefully the results will show in the fall. That’s really all that matters."

The "results" Oklahoma State might be helped most by is another avalanche of turnovers. Spencer's aggressive style might help that. The Cowboys ranked in the top 11 in turnovers forced from 2009-2011, peaking with an FBS-high 44 forced turnovers in 2011 on the way to a national title. Last season, that number dropped to just 22, 58th nationally.

Oklahoma State's made a reputation for sending tons of offensive talent to the NFL, highlighted by first-round picks Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden in 2012, but offensive lineman Russell Okung made waves after going in the top 10 back in 2010, too. The defense doesn't have those types of talent, but Spencer's out to prove he can field a Big 12 title-caliber defense without one.

I can honestly say this since I’ve been here, going into Year 6, there’s more quality in numbers than I’ve ever had. Is there an All-Pro guy there? No," Spencer said. "There’s a lot of guys that know how to compete and compete in this conference and be successful."
ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper has two Big 12 players -- Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson and Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro -- potentially going in the first round of this year’s NFL draft.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2010: This list maybe doesn’t have the star power and is not littered with offensive playmakers, but six of the nine players picked were selected for the 2013 NFL Pro Bowl: Gerald McCoy, Trent Williams, Ndamukong Suh, Earl Thomas, Russell Okung and Jermaine Gresham. And the other three players -- Dez Bryant, Sam Bradford and Sean Weatherspoon -- were vital pieces for their respective teams.

The biggest constant in OSU's Big 12 rise

April, 26, 2012
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STILLWATER, Okla.-- Oklahoma State holds the distinction of improving or equaling its previous record in every season under Mike Gundy.

During that run, the Cowboys have done it on the back of their offense.

There have been new faces at quarterback, running back, receiver and the offensive line. In the middle, there's been one constant as the Cowboys ranked in the top three of the offense-laden Big 12 in four of the past five seasons.

[+] EnlargeOklahoma State Cowboys offensive line coach Joe Wickline
Chris Morrison-US PRESSWIREOklahoma State Cowboys offensive line coach Joe Wickline is known for being tough and demanding focus.
"We might not have always been winning as many games as we have now, but offensive line has always been a constant in this program," said offensive lineman Jonathan Rush, a sixth-year senior who's seen plenty in Stillwater.

Russell Okung put OSU's offensive line on the map after being drafted sixth in the 2010 NFL draft, but the past two seasons, Joe Wickline's coached the Big 12's best offensive line, headlined by center Grant Garner and tackle Levy Adcock.

"Every year, he’s always produced quality linemen. He always has them prepared," Rush said. "He’s just a crazy guy. He eats, sleeps and breathes football. I don’t know how his family feels about that, and at times, it may be a little much or whatever, but after being hear, this'll be my sixth year, I’ve been able to appreciate how much he puts into it and how much work he does for us."

For young talents, the new experience can be a bit jarring. If they've never been challenged by a coach, Wickline changes that fast.

"He’s a tough son of a [expletive]. If he’s not, then he’s a phony son of a [expletive], but he sure seems like one," offensive coordinator Todd Monken said. "That’s a tough position. That’s a no nonsense position, and I think it fits his personality. I sit in on a few of their meetings and I think just his personality and the way he goes about it with those guys is the No. 1 reason."

Wickline's penchant for shuffling his offensive line groups during practices is infamous. Don't show up to practice and lose a spot? If the man who replaced you does it better, you might never get it back.

"Wick’s way of coaching can be a bit abrasive at times. He teaches you how to be able to take it. If you can take it from Wick, you can take it from anybody and just focus down on your mistakes and getting better," Rush said. "In the end, after being here for so long, it’s pretty funny. You can’t even put in words. You’d just have to sit in on one of his meetings. You might be a little bit shocked."

However abrasvie, Wickline's approach is working. Oklahoma State's enjoying the fruits of his labor.

"He spends ungodly hours up here watching film. His view of the game is a lot different. All he does is offensive line. He knows his stuff," Rush said. "If I could get half of Wick’s brain in offensive line-wise, that’ll be more than I’ll ever need."

Get used to Mike Gundy as an elite coach

January, 9, 2012
1/09/12
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Finally, these two lovebirds made it official.

Really, though, it was a matter of time. Flirtations with A&M? An eventual breakup?

Please.

Mike Gundy loves Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State loves Mike Gundy.

They'll be together for eight years and Gundy will be paid among college football's top 10 coaches after agreeing to a contract extension and a big raise. As it should be.

That's what happens when one pays for the other's education and hires him as a 23-year-old assistant coach and 27-year-old offensive coordinator.

And that's what happens when a 44-year-old head coach (yes, he's a man) guides his alma mater to the two best seasons in school history in consecutive years.

These two belong together. Gundy, who hired agent Jimmy Sexton, grew uncomfortable as the process dragged on during his team's preparations for its Fiesta Bowl date with Stanford.

The Cowboys won to cap the first 12-win season in school history, which coincided with the school's first BCS appearance ever.

Uncomfortable or not, it shouldn't have come to this. "This," though is in the past and Gundy's gotten what's coming to him.

How many coaches have held the same job for seven years and had an equal or better record every season?

Not many, and Gundy's being paid like one. His deal reportedly averages out to about $3.75 million per year, up from $2.1 million this past season.

Kansas' Turner Gill and Texas A&M's Mike Sherman were paid more in 2011. They were both fired after the season. Now, only Texas' Mack Brown and Oklahoma's Bob Stoops are paid more in the Big 12.

Gundy was the 29th-highest paid coach nationally this season, according to USA Today's coaching salary study. His new raise puts him at sixth, ahead of guys like Bobby Petrino at Arkansas, Chip Kelly at Oregon and Bret Bielema at Wisconsin.

Gundy kicked off his career with a four-win season and two seven-win seasons. For some who saw those years, its hard to see Gundy, who first burst on the scene with his polarizing rant, as a coach who has ascended to the coaching elite.

But consider also: Gundy has as many BCS wins now as Petrino and Kelly, who both have earned reputations as offensive virtuosos. He has one more than Bielema, who is 0-2 in two Rose Bowl appearances.

He's developed offensive talent with the best of anyone in the country, sending stars like Dez Bryant, Kendall Hunter, Zac Robinson, Russell Okung and soon to be Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon to the NFL. On the way, he collected bushels-full of wins that Oklahoma State has never seen before.

This has been the best four-year period in the history of Oklahoma State football. Gundy is the biggest reason why.

This took too long. Why Oklahoma State wouldn't want to pay up for as long as possible, especially with more Big 12 money on the way, I have no idea.

But it's done now.

Oklahoma State paid up. Gundy is paid like one of college football's best coaches.

With a résumé like he's put together, with 41 wins, a Big 12 title, a BCS bowl win and a share of the Big 12 South all in the past four years, how else should he be paid?

The Big 12 and NFL draft history

April, 27, 2011
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For just the second time ever, the first round of the NFL draft will be the only part of the draft's first day, set for primetime on Thursday night.

This year, the Big 12 could have as many as five first-round picks, and five players from the league are in New York for the draft.

So, let's take a look back. Since the first NFL draft of the Big 12 era, who has the most first-rounders?

Texas: 16
Oklahoma: 12
Oklahoma State: 6
Missouri: 4
Kansas State: 3
Texas A&M: 2
  • 2003: DT Ty Warren, 13th overall, New England Patriots
  • 2003: DB Sammy Davis, 30th overall, San Diego Chargers
Texas Tech: 1
Kansas: 1
  • 2008: CB Aqib Talib, 20th overall, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Baylor: 1
Iowa State: none since 1973 (George Amundson)

A few thoughts and observations:
  • I doubt many would be surprised that this list is also a reasonably accurate reflection of overall success since the Big 12's inception in 1996. Obviously, Texas and Oklahoma have dominated. Since 2000, Texas has the nation's fourth-most first-rounders. Oklahoma is No. 6. Their success has paralleled that, along with recruiting rankings.
  • In that same breath, it's impossible to look at this list and not once again be impressed with what Mike Leach did. He obviously has the reputation as an overachiever, but looking big picture, he was able to do it with one first-round pick. Nobody beat Texas and Oklahoma more and Leach helped put together what is still the Big 12's longest bowl streak.
  • Texas' consistency sticks out, too. Since just 2001, Texas has had two first-rounders in six different seasons. If you've got two first-rounders on your team, you're probably going to be pretty good. The Longhorns, if you haven't noticed, have been. Those two first-rounders in six seasons are more or as many as half the league has in the history of the Big 12. What else you should note? Texas is unlikely to have a first rounder this year, and after Aaron Williams is drafted, Sam Acho probably will be the next to go, which won't be until the third or fourth round.
  • Oklahoma State and Missouri's rise over the past three seasons has paid off in the NFL draft. Missouri had three first-rounders in the last two seasons and figures to add two more this year after having just one in the 12-year history of the league before 2009. That's quite a streak, and even more proof of what Gary Pinkel has built at Missouri. One more piece of evidence? Despite losing those two first-rounders, Missouri should be back in the preseason polls next year after losing two of its top players. That's definitely something new in Columbia. The Cowboys figure to add more soon with Justin Blackmon at least. As long as Pinkel and Gundy are at the helm for their respective programs, expect them to continue to rise.
  • Don't be surprised by Texas A&M's swoon following R.C. Slocum's departure. From 1990-1998, the Aggies won nine games every season but one. From 1990-96, the Aggies had eight first-round picks. Since 1998? Two seasons with at least nine wins and just two first-round picks.
  • More evidence you can't underestimate the importance of having first-round picks? None for Baylor in the history of the Big 12 before Art Briles. In just three years, Briles may have three if the Bears add two more this year with Phil Taylor and Danny Watkins. Taylor and Watkins both came from unlikely sources. Taylor was a Penn State transfer and Watkins a juco transfer that formerly worked as a fireman in Canada.

A look at the All-Time All-Big 12 team

November, 24, 2010
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You might have heard something about this, but 2010 is the last season of the Big 12 as we know it. To commemorate the league's run as a 12-team conference, a panel of 20 media members compiled their all-time Big 12 team. Here's who made it, and you can see the full votes here.

All-time Top Offensive Player: Vince Young, QB, Texas

All-time Top Defensive Player: Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska

All-time Coach: Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

OFFENSE:

QB: Vince Young, Texas

RB: Ricky Williams, Texas and Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma

WR: Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech and Rashaun Woods, Oklahoma State

TE: Chase Coffman, Missouri

OL: Dominic Raiola, Nebraska; Jammal Brown, Oklahoma; Aaron Taylor, Nebraska; Justin Blalock, Texas; Russell Okung, Oklahoma State

DEFENSE

DL: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska; Tommie Harris, Oklahoma; Grant Wistrom, Nebraska; Brian Orakpo, Texas

LB: Derrick Johnson, Texas; Dat Nguyen, Texas A&M; Rocky Calmus, Oklahoma; Teddy Lehman, Oklahoma

DB: Roy Williams, Oklahoma; Terence Newman, Kansas State; Derrick Strait, Oklahoma; Michael Huff, Texas

SPECIAL TEAMS

All-purpose: Darren Sproles, Kansas State

K: Mason Crosby, Colorado

P: Daniel Sepulveda, Baylor

Here's how it breaks down by team:

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

Who got snubbed? Who doesn't belong?
All the pieces were in place. Zac Robinson was the senior franchise quarterback who would eventually leave as the program's all-time leader in total offense. Kendall Hunter was the running back coming off the All-American season and ready to run past his 1,555 yards as a sophomore. Receiver Dez Bryant was the playmaker like no other, one that would eventually leave as a first-round pick in the NFL Draft.

Best of all, they'd be operating behind an experienced offensive line headlined by a four-year starter protecting Robinson's blind side, Russell Okung, who eventually was selected sixth in the NFL Draft.

The next in a line of triplets at Oklahoma State that have included greats like Barry Sanders, Rashaun Woods and Mike Gundy looked ready to compete for a Big 12 title -- maybe more.

But Hunter suffered an ankle injury early on and didn't look like the same back until the season's final game. Bryant was suspended for the season after the third game for lying to NCAA officials about a visit with Deion Sanders. Robinson suffered a shoulder injury and wasn't himself in a shutout loss to Oklahoma to close the regular season, when a win would have sent the Cowboys to a BCS bowl.

They settled for 2nd in the South, the highest finish ever for the program, and an appearance in the Cotton Bowl.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Weeden and Kendall Hunter
John Rieger/US PresswireBrandon Weeden and Kendall Hunter have given the Cowboys a shot at the Big 12 South title.
This year, a new group of unsuspecting triplets have emerged.

Brandon Weeden, a 27-year-old first-time starter, leads the Big 12 in passing yards, completion percentage, touchdowns (his 26 are tied for No. 1 nationally) and passer rating. Hunter is better than ever as a senior, leading the Big 12 in rushing and ranking third nationally.

And Justin Blackmon, a sophomore with 20 career catches that no one outside the Big 12 had ever heard of before the season, has emerged as the favorite for the Biletnikoff Award and a possible Heisman finalist. He leads the nation in receiving yards per game by a wide margin, and is tied for the most touchdowns with 15.

Together, they have the No. 10 Cowboys (8-1) on top of the Big 12 South and in position to reach the Big 12 title game for the first time ever. With a win at Texas on Saturday, Oklahoma State would come home from Austin as winners for the first time in 11 tries since 1944.

"This is what you play for. Every game gets bigger as you go and this one is a big one," Weeden said.

Even an offensive line with four new starters has become a strength.

"I thought we had a pretty good product to work with," said new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen. "You never know how kids are going to develop, but that’s why you get out there and practice every day and put guys in a position to improve."

The hype surrounding the team wasn't there when the season began, but attention on the Cowboys -- picked fifth in the Big 12 South in the preseason -- has grown as the wins have piled up.

"It’s only a factor if you start to listen to it," Gundy said. "I’ve said this for four or five weeks now. If you start to think you’re a pretty good player and that your team is better than they really are, you just need to look around the country every Saturday and you will see teams get knocked off. I’m a firm believer in that. We have some good players who have made a lot of good plays this year. And we have a good football team. But we’re not beyond practicing well and keeping the right frame of mind in order to win our football game."

Fresh Faces: Oklahoma State

July, 8, 2010
7/08/10
10:45
AM ET
Josh Cooper, WR

Any of the Oklahoma State receivers probably make sense here in a new pass-happy offense. But Cooper, at 5-foot-11 and 192 pounds, will take over as a slot receiver and could be a consistent target for new starter Brandon Weeden. Cooper caught 20 passes for 234 yards and a score last season, but he'll get a lot more opportunities in the Cowboys four and five-receiver sets under new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen. Hubert Anyiam could blossom into a star, but look out for Tracy Moore and Justin Blackmon, too.

Brodrick Brown, CB

Call Brown the silver lining of cornerback Perrish Cox's suspension from January's Cotton Bowl. Brown replaced the star cornerback and finished with three tackles and a pass breakup, gaining experience that could prove valuable in 2010. He earned the starting spot after the spring and the 5-foot-8, 190-pound sophomore will help solidify a secondary headlined by safety Markelle Martin.

Nick Martinez, LT

Faces don't get much fresher than Martinez at left tackle for the Cowboys. Russell Okung protected the quarterback's blind side for almost four full seasons before being selected No. 6 by the Seattle Seahawks in this year's NFL Draft. Martinez, a junior who's played just 18 career snaps from scrimmage, emerged from the spring as the starter at left tackle. Okung was 6-foot-5 and 310 pounds. Martinez is 6-foot-4 and weighs 317. He has Okung's size. We'll find out this fall how much of Okung's skill Martinez has.

More Fresh Faces:

Mailbag: 12 vs. Ten, OSU woes, and UT offense

May, 28, 2010
5/28/10
3:01
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David in Austin, Texas, writes: Given the "regime change" down in Austin this offseason (GG for Colt) and Mack Brown's professed desire to bring GG help in the form of a tried and true running game, how long would you give it until they revert back into the "forget strategy, let's just give it to our best player"-strategy?

David Ubben: Technically, that's what they're doing now. For all the talk about Garrett Gilbert, they've got two experienced running backs in Tre' Newton and Fozzy Whittaker, so even though they've got to find three new offensive linemen, Brown's giving those guys a chance to carry the team. But you've got a point. If Gilbert's completion percentage starts floating toward 70 percent and he's taking care of the ball, you might see the Longhorns start to spread it out a little more.



Ben in Atlanta asks: David, last week I asked if the Big 10's public jockeying for expansion was nothing but circus publicity and you didn't agree, then curiously every one of your fellow ESPN bloggers inexplicably voted the Big 10 the second best conference behind the SEC. Coincidence? I think not, pure expansion hype has been good for business for the Big 10... agree?

DU: Sorry, Ben. Still not biting. And, for the record, my boy Ted Miller out West put the Big 12 as his second-best conference. I think the perception of the conference comes down to the amount of talent that left. While having nine first-round draft picks looks good in April, it doesn't bode well for the preseason prognostication in the following months. It doesn't help that the Big 12 doesn't have a player you could even come close to arguing as the best in the country, a major departure from last season. Texas and Oklahoma in apparent "down" years (i.e. 10 wins, rather than 11+) has more to do with people putting the Big Ten ahead of the Big 12 than any of the expansion talk.



Luke Hood asks: Whats up?

DU: Not much, man. Just bloggin'.


John in Denver asks: Do you think Dan Beebe will give a deadline next week during the Big 12 conference meetings for members to commit to the conference? If so, when do you think that deadline will be established and can he provide a solution to encourage Nebraska to stay?

DU: I'd be surprised if we hear a firm deadline to make a commitment, but the conference definitely wants to move in that direction. Beebe clarified his comments last week, so don't expect to hear an ultimatum to Nebraska, Missouri or Colorado. He says he has some ideas to rectify the instability -- perceived or real -- within the conference, and we might hear some of those in Kansas City next week. But my guess is we're more likely to see them enforce some sort of negative consequence for leaving, rather than a positive consequence for staying. I could be wrong, though. Either way, I'll be there next week and let you guys know what's up when we know.


Scott in Lubbock, Texas, asks: Here's a hypothetical. Its the Big 12 coaches meeting, and the coaches are kind of bored. The Big 12 South coaches challenge the Big 12 North coaches to a game of pick up basketball. How do you see this game play out?

DU: Lots of plays being called. Few being executed. Gary Pinkel and Mike Gundy keep trying to spread everyone out and go play hoops on the grass outside. Bo Pelini keeps packing everyone inside the paint and ordering them not to shoot. In short, it would be a mess. In the end, they all decide to stick to football.


Dan in Hanover, N.H., writes: Just a heads up on your college HoF article. Barry Alvarez, while he'll go for what he's done at Wisconsin was, in fact, a linebacker at Nebraska in the 1960s under the late Bob Devaney.

David Ubben: Ten or so folks wrote in about this. I'm aware, but Alvarez was inducted as a coach, and though Gene Stallings was better known at Alabama, his induction explicitly mentions his work at Texas A&M. So, sorry Nebraska fans, Alvarez doesn't count as another in the Hall of Fame. And here's a little more on Tommie Frazier, whose exclusion prompted a few e-mails as well.


Jeff in Shakopee, Minn., asks: Every five years a Big 12 team wins a National Title. 2005- Texas 2000 Oklahoma 1995- Nebraska 1990- Colorado 1985- Oklahoma. Who from the Big 12 is going to win it this year?

DU: Interesting observation, but last year would have been the next in the five-year cycle. Might as well not even bother to play this season. But those mid-90s Nebraska teams prove it's possible for a Big 12 team to win the title in other years, so I guess we'll hold off on canceling the next three seasons. As for this year, Nebraska, Texas and Oklahoma wouldn't completely shock anyone by winning the title.

(3:26 p.m.) EDIT: Whoops. The January crossover keeps the confusion coming. I'm an idiot. Jeff's right.



Randy in McKinney, Texas, asks: I'm curious as to why so many people think OSU will take such a huge nosedive next year. 64th in one poll, seriously? Ranked behind Kansas and Tech, both of which had a complete coaching overhaul? I know that preseason polls aren't reliable, but still. What gives?

Chance Cole in Charleston, S.C., asks: With Dez Bryant suspended, Zac Robinson playing injured the last few games (and throwing inconsistently when healthy), and Toston bearing the load for an injured Hunter, the Ok. State Cowboys still put together a decent season. So with a mature gunslinger like Weeden, a healthy Kendall Hunter, a blossoming Hubert Anyiam, and a new O-coordinator, why so sour on the Cowboys for 2010? Can the defense be that bad?

DU: I was really surprised to see them that low in that ranking. I'm not sour at all on the Cowboys, I think they'll be solid. But the South is still going to be tough, and Texas and Oklahoma will be much better; Texas A&M will be slightly better. Oklahoma State and Tech are kind of on a similar rung, and Baylor is drawing some hope from their potential, which is very real. Replacing four linemen, including Russell Okung, doesn't help the Cowboys' case, and they have to figure out who they can count on at the skill positions. With Dana Holgorsen's quick-release scheme, they could probably manage if the offensive line plays poorly, but those guys playing well is obviously going to make it a lot simpler.

The Revolving Door: Oklahoma State

May, 21, 2010
5/21/10
9:04
AM ET
Here, we'll take a look at a couple of key players going, staying and coming for each team in the Big 12.

Going:

Zac Robinson, QB

Robinson had a firm grasp on the starting job for most of the past three seasons, and was drafted in the seventh round by the New England Patriots as one of the most productive quarterbacks in school history, running and passing for 7.7 yards per play over his career, second-most nationally. With 7,786 total yards, he was the school's career leader in total offense and scored 66 touchdowns. He rushed for 847 yards as a sophomore in 2007, but in 2008, had the fifth-highest passer rating at 166.8.


Russell Okung, OT

Like Robinson, Okung has been a staple of the Cowboy offense for the past few seasons. Okung was a four-year starter on the Oklahoma State offensive line, and his talent and experience -- along with his 6-foot-5, 307-pound frame -- convinced the Seattle Seahawks to draft him No. 6 overall in last month's draft. Okung landed was a first-team All-American at tackle for the past two seasons, and was named the Big 12's Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2009. After taking over a starting role as a freshman, Okung finished his career with an astounding 47 consecutive starts.


Staying:

Kendall Hunter, RB

Hunter and the other player on this list might need their own "Returning" heading, rather than "Staying." An ankle injury kept Hunter out of five games, and by the time he returned, senior Keith Toston had proved to be more than a serviceable replacement. Though Hunter isn't likely to equal his 1,555 yards (sixth-most nationally) from 2007, he'll get plenty of touches in new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen's version of the "Air Raid" offense that racked up over 1,000 yards more than No. 2 offensive team. Hunter will still carry the ball, but might be more productive getting his touches in space, allowing him to use his lateral quickness to shake defenders.


Orie Lemon, LB

Lemon missed all of last season with a torn ACL, but impressed coordinator Bill Young enough this spring to have Young campaigning for Lemon as the nation's best middle linebacker. Along with defensive end Ugo Chinasa, Lemon will help give the Cowboys a good amount of talent in their front seven. In 2008, Lemon was second on the team in tackles in his first year as starter, with 90.


Coming:

Shaun Lewis, LB

Lewis signed with Oklahoma State as its only ESPNU 150 member, but was ranked the No. 4 outside linebacker and the No. 75 overall prospect. Lewis, a Missouri City, Texas native, picked the Cowboys over Big 12 teams Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Nebraska, along with SEC powers Alabama, LSU and Florida.

Caleb Lavey and Kris Catlin, LBs

Lavey and Lewis, along with Kris Catlin, should add a solid influx of talent into Young's linebackers. Lavey ranked as the No. 9 inside linebacker and was rated by ESPNU as Oklahoma State's second-highest recruit. Catlin was the No. 13 inside linebacker and both bring impressive size to the middle of the defense as they learn from Lemon, possibly providing depth. Lavey measures at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, and Catlin is 215 pounds and stands 6-foot-2.

More Revolving Door:

Oklahoma State spring wrap

May, 6, 2010
5/06/10
7:30
AM ET
2009 overall record: 9-4

2009 conference record: 6-2

Returning starters: Offense (4), Defense(4) P/K (2)

Top returners: DE Ugo Chinasa, RB Kendall Hunter, WR Hubert Anyiam, S Markelle Martin, K Dan Bailey, P Quinn Sharp

Key losses: QB Zac Robinson, OL Russell Okung, RB Keith Toston, WR Dez Bryant, LB Donald Booker, CB Perrish Cox, LB Andre Sexton, LB Patrick Lavine, S Lucien Antoine

2009 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Keith Toston (1,218 yards)

Passing: Zac Robinson (2,084 yards)

Receiving: Hubert Anyiam (515 yards)

Tackles: Donald Booker (99)

Sacks: Ugo Chinasa* (6.5)

Interceptions: Patrick Lavine (5)

Three spring answers

1. Learning the offense: Oklahoma State looks on schedule in learning new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen’s spread attack, one he used to coordinate the best offense in college football at Houston last season. Brandon Weeden is the unquestioned starter after the spring, including a nice finish in the spring game when the junior threw four touchdown passes.

2. Kendall Hunter: New ends, different means. Coach Mike Gundy estimates Hunter will touch the ball around 250 times next season, but he won’t be doing it on the ground. Instead, he’ll be catching the ball in space, using his shiftiness to make defenders miss and pile up yards for the Cowboys. Holgorsen says Hunter is even better than he thought, and they’ll both want to prove it in the fall after Hunter’s disappointing 2009 season.

3. He’s no Lemon. Defensive coordinator Bill Young believes linebacker Orie Lemon is the best middle linebacker in the country, and Lemon had one of the best springs of any player on the Cowboy defense. He missed the entire 2009 season after tearing his ACL in fall camp, and will be ready to get back on the field this fall.

Three fall questions

1. Will Weeden be the next Keenum? At Houston under Holgorsen, Case Keenum threw for almost 1,500 more yards than the second-best in football in 2009. No one’s expecting Weeden to throw for 5,600 yards in 2010 (or throw it almost 700 times), but if he can elevate his status to one of the conference’s best quarterbacks, Holgorsen will have another impressive bullet on his resume and the Cowboys will have a few more wins.

2. Can the O-line assert itself? Will it have to? The offensive line is replacing the NFL Draft’s No. 6 pick and four-year starter Russell Okung, along with three other starters. Will they be good enough to get Holgorsen’s offense humming? With the system’s quick-release passing, it might not have to hold for long.

3. Can the Cowboys exceed expectations in a rebuilding year? After falling short of the South title in 2009 with Zac Robinson, Dez Bryant (at least part of the time) and Okung, expectations are measured in what’s somewhat of a rebuilding year for the Cowboys. They have a great chance to parlay a 4-0 non-conference record into a bowl game, but how many more wins will the Cowboys have in conference? Only the fall knows.

Lunch links: Gill on the track, expansion, rookie mini-camps

May, 3, 2010
5/03/10
12:30
PM ET
Realignment

A few reports from the rookie mini-camps that a couple of the Big 12's first-rounders attended over the weekend:

Sorting out the draft for the Big 12

April, 26, 2010
4/26/10
1:15
PM ET
The Big 12 had 30 players drafted over the weekend, fifth most among the major six conferences.


Here's a look at who went where when:

First round (9):
1. Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma (St. Louis)

2. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska (Detroit)

3. Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma (Tampa Bay)

4. Trent Williams, OL, Oklahoma (Washington)

6. Russell Okung, OL, Oklahoma State (Seattle)

14. Earl Thomas, DB, Texas (Seattle)

19. Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri (Atlanta)

21. Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma (Cincinnati)

24. Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State (Dallas)

Second round (2):

43. Sergio Kindle, DE, Texas (Baltimore)

44. Lamarr Houston, DT, Texas (Oakland)

Third round (3):
80. J.D. Walton, C, Baylor (Denver)

84. Jordan Shipley, WR, Texas (Cincinnati)

85. Colt McCoy, QB, Texas (Cleveland)

Fourth round (4):

110. Darrell Stuckey, FS, Kansas (San Diego)

115. Phillip Dillard, LB, Nebraska (New York Giants)

121. Keenan Clayton, LB, Oklahoma (Philadelphia)

131. Roddrick Muckelroy, LB, Texas (Cincinnati)

Fifth round (6):

135. Dominique Franks, CB, Oklahoma (Atlanta)

137. Perrish Cox, CB, Oklahoma State (Denver)

141. Joshua Moore, DB, Kansas State (Chicago)

160. Larry Asante, SS, Nebraska (Cleveland)

162. Brody Eldridge, TE, Oklahoma (Indianapolis)

165. Kerry Meier, WR, Kansas (Atlanta)

Sixth round (4):

191. Dezmon Briscoe, WR, Kansas (Cincinnati)

196. Jamar Wall, CB, Texas Tech (Dallas)

198. David Gettis, WR, Baylor (Carolina)

202. Jordan Pugh, DB, Texas A&M (Carolina)

Seventh round (2):

228. Reggie Stephens, OL, Iowa State (Cincinnati)

250. Zac Robinson, QB, Oklahoma State (New England)

When you arrange those by team, Oklahoma comes out on top, with seven selections.
1. Oklahoma (7)

2. Texas (6)

3. Oklahoma State (4)

T-4. Nebraska (3)

T-4. Kansas (3)

6. Baylor (2)

T-7. Iowa State (1)

T-7. Kansas State (1)

T-7. Missouri (1)

T-7. Texas Tech (1)

T-7. Texas A&M (1)

12. Colorado (0)

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