Big 12: Ryan Miller

Getting to know Colorado

February, 11, 2011
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Colorado is new to the Pac-12 but old to the Big 12, so it makes sense to check in with Big 12 blogger David Ubben to get his take on the state of the Buffaloes as they welcome new coach Jon Embree.

Just who are these Buffaloes? What are their strengths and weaknesses and how will they fit into the Pac-12, specifically the Pac-12 South?

We went looking for insights and Ubben obliged.

Ted Miller: Well, David you -- and the Big 12 -- have to say goodbye to Colorado, with the Buffaloes looking to their future out West in the Pac-12. First of all, give Pac-12 fans a CliffsNotes description of the state of the program. Things haven’t gone so well in Boulder lately. Why?

David Ubben: Colorado is certainly in rebuilding mode as they kick off a new start under coach Jon Embree after firing Dan Hawkins in the middle of the 2010 season. They bring back two stars in quarterback Tyler Hansen and running back Rodney Stewart. But fitting those guys into Embree's new system and greatly improving from their 5-7 record seems like asking a lot.

Hawkins came to Boulder promising big things but never delivered. As for why it didn't go well? Any number of reasons. One that angered fans is Hawkins' tendency to play less talented players who knew the system well over more talented players that maybe didn't have as solid of a grasp of what they wanted to do on the field. Embree has said he'll do essentially the opposite, so I guess that's a start in the eyes of fans.

TM: OK, let’s look forward then. Tell Pac-12 folks about Embree, his new staff and the talent the Buffaloes have returning. What are strengths and what are question marks heading into the 2011 season?

DU: He's stocked his coaching staff with quite a few Buffaloes, but most of the names would be more recognizable as players. The biggest name is his offensive coordinator, former Buffs great Eric Bieniemy, who spent the past few years coaching Adrian Peterson as the running backs coach at the Minnesota Vikings. They also swiped Bobby Kennedy, a Boulder native, from Texas to coach receivers.

Last year, they ran the ball pretty well, and Stewart is back. He's a small, shifty back that seems way, way underrated. He rushed for more than 1,300 yards last year, and the only Big 12 backs who had more were Daniel Thomas and Kendall Hunter, who should be drafted this year. They lose tackle Nate Solder, another first-round pick, but Ryan Miller is back, and he's an all-conference level guard.

The big question for them next season will be if their defense can stop the pass -- which my sources tell me, is pretty important in the Pac-12. Maybe not as important as in the Big 12, but still necessary for big success. Both corners from last year, Jalil Brown and Jimmy Smith, should be drafted. They weren't great at stopping the pass last year (9th in the Big 12) so it's hard to see them being better at it next year.

TM: OK. Good stuff. Let’s wind it up. How would you have projected them in the Big 12 next fall? And do you have any feeling for how they might do in the new Pac-12 South?

DU: They definitely looked like a team in the bottom third of the Big 12 next year, and it seems like it'll be tough for them to finish in the top half of the Pac-12 South in 2011.

Right now, it's just about being competitive and maybe stealing a game or two that people didn't think they'd win. If that happens enough, a bowl game isn't out of the question. We don't have any idea what to expect out of an Embree-coached team, and that could be a good or a bad thing. We won't know for sure until next year, but if Embree can bottle up whatever Colorado had inside of them the way they played down the stretch last season after Hawkins was fired, it could be a real surprise 2011 for the Buffs.

Tracking Big 12 ESPNU 150 signees: 2007

January, 31, 2011
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ESPN the Magazine had a fascinating feature looking back at the past 25 No. 1 high school recruits, where they are now and what the ranking meant to them. With apologies to Vince Young, there aren't a ton of Big 12 talents on the list, but there have been plenty of great recruits to come through the Big 12. We took a look on Thursday at how the All-Big 12 team stacked up as recruits, and you saw quite a mixed bag.

Well, it's the same for the recruits who came to campus with high rankings and high profiles. Going back to 2006, here's how every Big 12 commit from the ESPNU 150 turned out. We'll eventually get to 2010 and the current class, 2011, around signing day, but here's how the 2007 class breaks down. 2007

No. 21: Tray Allen, OT, Texas. Forced to redshirt 2010 season after breaking a bone in his foot. Appeared in 31 games over first three seasons. Should be healthy for senior season in 2011.

No. 24: Christian Scott, S, Texas. Became a starter in 2010, starting eight games and playing in nine for the Longhorns. Made 54 tackles and had an interception. Forced to sit out 2009 season due to academic eligibility issues

No. 29: Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State. Caught 147 passes for 2,425 yards and 29 touchdowns in just over two seasons. Named All-American in 2008. Sat out final nine games of 2009 season because of NCAA suspension. Taken No. 24 overall in the 2010 NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys.

No. 39: Austin Box, LB, Oklahoma. Battled knee and back injuries, but has been a periodic starter and consistent contributor for the Sooners. Has 106 tackles in three seasons.

No. 41: John Chiles, WR, Texas. Played quarterback in 2007 and 2008 before switching to receiver. Finished career with 65 catches for 752 yards and four touchdowns.

No. 42: Richetti Jones, DE, Oklahoma State. Emerged as one of the Cowboys' top reserves in 2010, when he notched 34 tackles, seven tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. Will be a senior in 2010.

No. 65: Keenan Robinson, LB, Texas. Started 24 games at outside linebacker in the last two seasons. Should be one of the Longhorns' defensive leaders in 2011 after making 194 tackles (110 solo), 4.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss in his career. Earned All-Big 12 honorable mention in 2009.

No. 71: Ryan Miller, OT, Colorado. Became a starter at tackle as a freshman, and became one of the Big 12's best offensive guards in 2009 and 2010 after missing most of the 2008 season with a broken fibula and being granted a medical hardship. He switched from tackle to guard after the injury and has twice earned All-Big 12 honorable mention.

No. 79: Ben Wells, CB, Texas. Had 12 tackles and a sack in 24 games before transferring from Texas last April.

No. 91: Derrick Stephens, LB, Texas A&M. Redshirted in 2007, but doctors forced him to quit football because of multiple concussions.

No. 97: Curtis Brown, CB, Texas. Became a starter late in 2008, finishing his career with 28 starts. Earned All-Big 12 honors in 2009 and 2010. Finished his career with 120 tackles, 32 passes broken up and a pair of interceptions.

No. 102: Malcolm Williams, S, Texas. Moved to receiver. Has 78 receptions for 1,118 yards and six scores in three seasons and 38 games.

No. 104: Conrad Obi, DE, Colorado. Moved to defensive tackle as a sophomore in 2009. Has four career tackles and played just 23 snaps in 2009, but blocked a field goal against Oklahoma State.

No. 109: Michael Keck, DE, Missouri. Quit team after one game in September of 2008, eventually transferring to Missouri State.

No. 114: Sam Acho, DE, Texas. Won Academic Heisman in 2010. Two-time All-Big 12 performer after becoming starter in 2009 and was an All-American selection in 2010. In 50 career games, finished with 148 tackles, 23.5 sacks (10th on UT's career list) and 37 tackles for loss. Projects as middle round pick in 2011 NFL draft.

No. 123: Bradley Stephens, RB, Texas A&M. Aggies reserve running back. Has 328 yards and a touchdown on 74 carries in three seasons.

No. 125: Michael Huey, OG, Texas. Started 20 games over four seasons, missed the final four games of 2010 with a knee injury. Earned All-Big 12 honorable mention in 2009.

No. 126: Kyle Hix, OT, Texas. Moved to left tackle as a senior, but started 39 games in his four-year career, earning All-Big 12 honorable mention in 2009.

No. 136: Cody Johnson, RB, Texas. Featured as a goal-line back with 30 career touchdowns. Will enter his senior season in 2011 with 1,265 career yards on 297 carries.

No. 142: Michael Ebbitt, DE, Texas A&M. Redshirted in 2007, but has seen very little playing time in three seasons.

Sizing up the Big 12 early entrants

January, 18, 2011
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After the season, we took a look back at the players who had decisions to make about the NFL.

The deadline to make those decisions arrived on Saturday, and the results made one thing clear: We're in for a very strong Big 12 in 2011. Let's add it up:

Headed to the NFL:
  • Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
  • Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri (sophomore)
  • Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
Staying in school:
  • Ryan Miller, OG, Colorado
  • Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska
  • Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
  • Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska
  • Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma
  • Travis Lewis, LB, Oklahoma
  • Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
  • Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State
  • Jeff Fuller, WR, Texas A&M

Yes, Miller, Crick, Dennard and David are done playing in the Big 12, but Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M got huge announcements from stars ready to return in 2011. As a result, all three teams should be inside the top 15 at worst to kick off next season.

Had Smith and Gabbert joined them, Missouri could have been in the same group. The Tigers should be solid about everywhere else in 2011, but finding a new quarterback could prove difficult.

Don't expect the Big 12 to exert the same kind of dominance in the first round of the NFL Draft this year as it did last year, but it should still have four first-round selections. Gabbert is the only underclassman from that group that also includes Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara, Texas A&M LB/DE Von Miller and Colorado tackle Nate Solder.

The Big 12 had six early entrants last season.

More interesting is the Big 12's number of early entrants in 2011 compared to the rest of the country:
  • SEC - 14
  • ACC - 10
  • Pac-10 - 8
  • Big Ten - 7
  • Big East - 5
  • Big 12 - 3

Will that mean a big 2011 for the league in a year that it needs some balance at the top from teams not named Oklahoma or Texas?

Could be.

The NFL Draft and Big 12 underclassmen

December, 17, 2010
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We haven't had any draft-eligible players across the Big 12 explicitly state their intentions to enter the NFL draft at the end of the season. Only a couple have committed to returning to school in 2011.

Most have given non-committal statements and emphasized a focus on the bowl game, though plenty of players across the league have turned in their game film to the NFL draft's advisory committee, who will then give the players an idea of where they would land in the draft next April. Players can do so by selecting and submitting the game film from their three best games.

ESPN's Mel Kiper named his top five draft-eligible non-seniors at each position, and using it as a guide (plus a couple additions) here are the players across the Big 12 who will probably have a decision to make at the end of the season.

Colorado
  • Ryan Miller, OG (committed to 2011 at CU)
Iowa State
  • Kelechi Osemele, OT
Missouri
Nebraska
  • Jared Crick, DT
  • Alfonzo Dennard, CB
  • Lavonte David, LB
Oklahoma
Oklahoma State
Texas
  • Cody Johnson, RB (projected as NFL fullback)
  • Aaron Williams, CB
Texas A&M

With a tip of the hat to The Clash: Should they stay or should they go?

Colorado Buffaloes season recap

December, 7, 2010
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Colorado wasn't the worst team in the Big 12 this season, but in the final weeks of Dan Hawkins' tenure, the Buffaloes played like it. They also lost starting quarterback Tyler Hansen for the year in the middle of the season after he injured his spleen and had to spend a few days in the hospital.

Colorado was blasted by Oklahoma and blew a 28-point lead to their main competition at the bottom, Kansas, in just 11 minutes.

That loss meant Hawkins would be shown the door (and handed $2.1 million to walk through it). That gave way to one of the best stories in the Big 12 this year: the Buffaloes' resurgence under interim coach Brian Cabral.

Colorado rocked an Iowa State team desperate for a win to achieve bowl eligibility, and Rodney Stewart ran for 195 yards in a win over Kansas State. The Buffaloes ran into a Nebraska team in Lincoln with a lot to play for in the season finale, and couldn't win to qualify for a bowl, but Cabral had the team playing good football at the end of the season.

It sounds like Cabral will be retained under the new staff, and he won't be forgotten any time soon for his efforts to close the season.

Offensive MVP: Rodney Stewart, RB. No competition here. Stewart ran for 1,316 yards and 10 touchdowns on the year, and finished third in the Big 12 in rushing. He also had six 100-yard games and three more with at least 85 yards rushing. Next time, when the Buffaloes are up 28 points in the fourth quarter, they should give him the ball.

Defensive MVP: Michael Sipili, LB. Sipili led an average at best defense in tackles with 74 tackles for a solid junior season, and also made eight tackles for loss with 2.5 sacks.

Turning point: The loss to Kansas and subsequent coach firing. The Buffaloes were never the same team afterward, and that's a good thing. Instead of Kansas going winless in conference play, the Buffaloes looked likely to do it after the Kansas loss. They didn't come close, and even got to play for a chance at a bowl game after Cabral helped rally the team.

What's next: A move to the Pac-12 with brand-new coach Jon Embree. Embree is a former Buff who wanted the job badly. He is a first-time head coach, so it's hard to say what to expect. Stewart should be back, and so should Hansen. Receivers Paul Richardson and Toney Clemons should give the Buffaloes a solid group of targets next year, and offensive lineman Ryan Miller will return as well.

Colorado Buffaloes get a pair of big returns

December, 6, 2010
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Colorado was already moving to the Pac-12 with a new coach.

It could have needed a new right guard and receiver, too. That won't be the case.

Receiver Paul Richardson and offensive lineman Ryan Miller remained non-committal immediately following the season, but both pledged commitments to the Buffaloes in 2011 over the weekend.

Miller could have tested the NFL draft waters, and Paul Richardson could have made the decision to transfer. Both will stay.

I'm with the black and gold regardless of what coach is hired," Miller said in a statement. The Buffaloes hired Jon Embree, making the announcement official on Monday morning. "I didn't want to talk about this immediately following the NU game because it was neither the time nor the place. I will play my senior season in a University of Colorado jersey."

Richardson told Brian Howell of the Longmont Times-Call on Saturday that he'd stick with the Buffs move west, too.

"I'll be back," he said. "I've been getting a lot of love [from teammates] and I feel like this is where I should be and I should finish out my college career here."

As a true freshman, Richardson caught 34 passes for 514 yards (a Colorado freshman record) and six touchdowns, but just seven catches for 64 yards came in the first half of the season.

Weighing in on the All-Big 12 teams/awards

November, 30, 2010
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For reference, here are the awards and here are the All-Big 12 first and second teams. Voting took place before last week's Oklahoma-Oklahoma State game.

My thoughts:
  • Defensive Player of the Year is definitely an interesting choice, and one that inspires a lot of discussion. No, that's not a euphemism for "bad." Prince Amukamara doesn't have the numbers that show up on a stat sheet, but all he does is blanket every receiver he lines up across every week. Gotta love that. Nebraska sent out a stat -- last week or a bit earlier, I believe -- that he had been thrown at 40 times this year, and gave up 11 receptions. Five of those came via the Offensive Player of the Year Justin Blackmon. That's impressive. Guys like Von Miller, Orie Lemon, Lavonte David and others were racking up the tackles and fumbles and plays that get the fans going, but I don't have a problem with Amukamara winning the award. It all comes down to what you value. The Associated Press awards and All-Big 12 teams are scheduled for release on Thursday. My guess is the media won't vote the same way.
  • I sense that what happens late in conference play isn't as weighted as what happens early. The two victims in this case are Nebraska kicker Alex Henery and Colorado running back Rodney Stewart. Oklahoma State's Dan Bailey made his first 18 kicks (more than Henery attempted all year), but missed four kicks in three games before last week's Bedlam game. He was the runaway winner early in the season, but Henery's lack of attempts (15-of-16 on the year) isn't his fault. Additionally, as a member of the All-Big 12 second team as a punter, the combination should have given him enough oomph to best Bailey. I don't have a major gripe with the selection, but if it were up to me, Henery deserved Special Teams Player of the Year.
  • Stewart's absence is my biggest gripe, and the timing of his rise has a lot to do with it as well. Stewart ranks third in the Big 12 in rushing yards (1,310) and leads the league in carries with 290, and though he's a low-profile player in the league, he didn't get enough respect with his late charge. Nebraska limited him to 88 yards, but in the three games prior, he racked up a combined 493 yards and five touchdowns. I can deal with him being left off the first team, but it's unbelievable he was left off even honorable mention. Roy Helu Jr. has a gaudy 6.75 yards a carry, which landed him on the second team, but I've got no idea how Stewart didn't at least garner honorable mention.
  • DeMarco Murray's spot on the first team was a little surprising at first, considering he ranks sixth in the league in rushing, but the coaches rightfully took his receiving prowess under consideration. Murray leads all running backs with 64 receptions for 535 yards, which is a good season for any receiver, and Murray topped 1,000 yards rushing, too. The next-best running back when it came to catching passes was Oklahoma State freshman Joseph Randle, with 35 catches for 399 yards. Most of Murray and Randle's yards came on screen passes and swing passes, but those are extensions of running plays that aren't much different than pitches. Murray has accounted for 1,598 yards of offense with 19 touchdowns.
  • The only unanimous selections were Oklahoma State running back Kendall Hunter and receiver Justin Blackmon, as well as Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles.
  • Just how important is recruiting for Turner Gill? Look no further than the Jayhawks lack of a single player on the first or second teams, and just three players earned honorable mention. Worse, one of them was a kick returner and another was a punter. The other was defensive lineman Jake Laptad. Seriously, the importance of the next couple February signing days cannot be understated for Kansas.
  • I'm a little surprised at Landry Jones absence on the first or second teams, especially considering his performance in conference play, but I imagine it was pretty close between him and Robert Griffin III for the final spot. Jones probably deserved a spot, but there's no doubt that Griffin is infinitely more important to his team's success. My guess is the coaches took that under consideration. We'll see how the media votes later this week.
  • All in all, a pretty good set of teams. Snubs like Henery and Stewart are minor complaints, but it's not difficult to see the reasons why the guys above them were given the nod.
  • Here's a few guys I didn't mention who were All-Big 12 caliber, but would be tough to argue over players who did make the team: Byron Landor, S, Baylor; Jalil Brown, CB, Colorado; Ryan Miller, OL, Colorado; A.J. Klein, LB, Iowa State; DeJon Gomes, DB, Nebraska; Keith Williams, OL, Nebraska; Andrew Gachkar, LB, Missouri; Jamell Fleming, CB, Oklahoma; Keenan Robinson, LB, Texas; Cyrus Gray, RB, Texas A&M; Michael Hodges, LB, Texas A&M; Trent Hunter, DB, Texas A&M; Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M; Cody Davis, S, Texas Tech; Lyle Leong, WR, Texas Tech

Kiper revises his draft forecast

September, 23, 2010
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Thanks to Nebraska forcing a 4-for-20 performance, Washington quarterback Jake Locker has surrendered his spot on the top of Mel Kiper's Big Board.

There's plenty of other Big 12 flavor, too, on his updated draft forecast released on Tuesady.
  • Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara is the Big 12's top overall prospect, at No. 5.
  • Kansas State running back Daniel Thomas is No. 20 on the list, Colorado left tackle Nate Solder checks in at No. 21.

Other notes:

Position rankings: Seniors
  • Texas A&M's Jerrod Johnson is the No. 5 quarterback.
  • Daniel Thomas (KSU), DeMarco Murray (OU) and Kendall Hunter (OSU) are still 1-2-3 on the top of the running back list.
  • Nebraska's Niles Paul is the No. 1 receiver.
  • Nebraska's Mike McNeill is the No. 5 tight end.
  • Solder is the No. 2 offensive tackle.
  • Oklahoma's Jeremy Beal is the No. 5 defensive end.
  • Texas A&M's Von Miller is the No. 2 outside linebacker.
  • Oklahoma's Quinton Carter is the No. 3 safety.
  • Nebraska's Alex Henery is the No. 2 kicker.
  • Baylor's Derek Epperson is the No. 4 punter.
  • Prince Amukamara (NU), Jimmy Smith (CU) and Curtis Brown (UT) are 1-3-5 among cornerbacks.
Position rankings: Non-seniors
  • Missouri's Blaine Gabbert is the No. 3 quarterback.
  • Texas' Cody Johnson is the No. 2 fullback.
  • Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles is the No. 5 receiver.
  • Iowa State's Kelechi Osemele is the No. 5 offensive tackle.
  • Colorado's Ryan Miller is the No. 3 guard.
  • Oklahoma's Frank Alexander is the No. 5 defensive end.
  • Jared Crick (NU) and Kheeston Randall (UT) are the Nos. 1 and 4 defensive tackles.
  • Oklahoma's Travis Lewis is the No. 2 inside linebacker.
  • Texas' Aaron Williams is the No. 5 cornerback.
  • Oklahoma State's Markelle Martin is the No. 5 safety.

Big 12 preseason power rankings

August, 10, 2010
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1. Texas: Texas' big-time freshmen receiving recruits Darius White and Mike Davis are on campus to compete with the remainder of the Longhorns receivers after the departures of Jordan Shipley and Dan Buckner. Whoever develops solid chemistry with quarterback Garrett Gilbert first should have a nice advantage heading into the season. Very few questions surround the Longhorns on defense, who also have exciting freshman Jordan Hicks competing for playing time at linebacker.

2. Oklahoma: Honestly, my gut tells me to slide the Sooners above the Longhorns based on coach Bob Stoops comments at media days, but I'll give the champs their due entering the preseason. Oklahoma loses its top three blockers from a season ago, and any growth from Oklahoma's eight-win team last season will have to start on the offensive line. Stoops believes it will. If it does, look for the Sooners and Longhorns to switch positions if Oklahoma earns wins against Florida State and Cincinnati while Texas beats up on Rice and Wyoming. A convincing win at Texas Tech might keep the Longhorns on top.

3. Nebraska: The Huskers quarterback issues can't end soon enough. The Big 12 blog's pick: Zac Lee. With its offensive line and quality running backs, Nebraska will be able to run the ball. If Lee can establish himself as the best passer of the group, his skills will better serve the offense than the more athletic Cody Green and Taylor Martinez. We won't know very much about how good the defense will be again this year until the Huskers' date with Jake Locker and the Washington Huskies on Sept. 18 in Seattle.

4. Missouri: A solid contender in the North, Missouri's key to hopping over the Huskers lies in the secondary. That group returns all four starters and has another experienced player in junior Kenji Jackson entering camp as a new starter at safety. If it solidifies, Missouri will be a force that spends most of the season in the top 25. Jerrell Jackson and Wes Kemp should share the spotlight catching balls from Blaine Gabbert along with slot man T.J. Moe and tight end Michael Egnew.


5. Texas A&M: The Aggies have the conference's best player, but its worst defense. Both will need to improve for the Aggies to earn a South title. On defense, new defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter will have to build around tackle Lucas Patterson, linebacker Von Miller and safety Trent Hunter. Three freed-up offensive line spots -- which might all be filled by freshman -- will have to be solid and consistent for the offense to remain one of the Big 12's best, despite the Aggies' talent at the skill positions.

6. Kansas State: Running back Daniel Thomas led the Big 12 in rushing with almost no help from the quarterback spot last season, so the competition between Carson Coffman, Collin Klein and Sammuel Lamur isn't immensely important to Kansas State's success. No doubt, they'll be a lot better with great play from one of those three, but they won't be a bad team without it. Two of the Wildcats' top four tacklers will be junior defensive backs in 2010, Emmanuel Lamur and Tysyn Hartman.

And yes, I am very proud that I'm still batting 1.000 in not mixing up Sammuel and Emmanuel Lamur. Stay tuned, though.

7. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders have a great chance to move up this poll after hosting Texas on Sept. 18. Whoever wins the quarterback competition between Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield should excel, which not every team in the Big 12 with a quarterback battle can say. Tech's aggressive new defense will have to limit big plays to see success in the first year under coach Tommy Tuberville and defensive coordinator James Willis. A convincing opening-week win against SMU will look better in December than some Tech fans might think after the team's Sunday, Sept. 5 debut.

8. Oklahoma State: One of the conference's wildcards, the Cowboys bring back just eight starters from last season, and will showcase a radical new offense in Dana Holgorsen's version of the Air Raid. Oklahoma State's receiving corps, led by Hubert Anyiam and Tracy Moore, is extremely underrated and could surprise plenty of folks in 2010. Their first real test comes Sept. 30, when they'll get a chance to knock off media darling Texas A&M in Stillwater.

9. Iowa State: The Cyclones nonconference schedule has made plenty of headlines this offseason, and Iowa State isn't shying away from its dates with Northern Illinois, Iowa and Utah. The legal issues surrounding defensive star David Sims appear to be resolved with an opening-game suspension, and running back Alexander Robinson looks ready for another big season after rushing for over 1,000 yards in his 2009 breakout season. Iowa State will need to steal a few games like last season to qualify for a second consecutive bowl game.

10. Baylor: Freshman safety Ahmad Dixon is impressing early in camp with a few big hits, and is making good on his status as one of the best recruits in Baylor history. Another -- Robert Griffin -- is already dealing with the pressures of delivering a bowl game to Waco. Coach Art Briles will need more players like Dixon and Griffin to move the Bears goals past just making a bowl game.

11. Colorado: The only team to move up from its position in the post-spring power rankings, Colorado simply brings back more talent than Kansas, and added two new receivers in UCLA non-qualifier Paul Richardson and Travon Patterson, whose transfer from USC was finalized on Monday. The offensive line has a lot of talent in Nate Solder and Ryan Miller, but the other three members will have to improve if the Buffs are going to rush for more than 1,055 yards like in 2009 (11th in the Big 12) and give up fewer than 43 sacks, 11 more than any other team in the Big 12.

12. Kansas: Losing your three best players from a team that finished last in the Big 12 North a season ago -- plus implementing a new coaching philosophy -- is a recipe for a rebuilding year. That's where the Jayhawks sit to begin 2010. They've got a good young talent in sophomore receiver Bradley McDougald, but they face major questions at quarterback with inexperienced candidates Jordan Webb and Kale Pick battling for the No. 1 spot. Last season's leading rusher, Toben Opurum, is also nowhere to be found on the depth chart after battling injuries throughout the spring. The Jayhawks were the only team in the conference to return all five starters on the offensive line, but a season-ending injury to tackle Jeff Spikes eliminated that status. Brad Thorson, who played both guard and tackle last season, is also recovering from a broken foot. A win against Southern Miss and a competitive loss to Georgia Tech would earn the Jayhawks some more respect.

Opening camp: Colorado

August, 5, 2010
8/05/10
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Schedule: Practice starts today

What’s new: Not the coach. Dan Hawkins will try to turn the Buffaloes in the right direction in Year 5, with four losing seasons and just one bowl game behind him.

Key battle: Quarterback. Tyler Hansen looked like he had taken full control of the job late last season, but Hawkins opened the competition in the spring and insists he'll do the same this fall. Hansen is the safe bet to start, but Hawkins' comments make it obvious that he's no guarantee to beat out Cody Hawkins.

New on the scene: Receiver Travon Patterson. A 5-foot-9, 175-pound transfer from USC, Patterson caught 10 passes for 96 yards in 33 games at Southern Cal. He should be a factor in the passing game alongside Scotty McKnight.

Breaking out: Receiver Toney Clemons. An obvious choice, perhaps, but a necessary one. Clemons, the preseason Newcomer of the Year, transferred to Colorado from Michigan and made a big impact this spring on his teammates, who made him the first overall pick of the draft for teams before the spring game.

Don’t forget about: Colorado's talent on the offensive line. They have two of the best linemen in the conference in guard Ryan Miller and tackle Nate Solder. But the rest of the line around them must jell for the unit to see success after giving up a Big 12-high 43 sacks in 2009, 11 more than any team in the Big 12.

All eyes on: Coach Hawkins. Seated upon perhaps the hottest seat in America, Hawkins has never needed a winning season more. The Buffaloes' difficult nonconference schedule, with games against Georgia and Cal, won't help him do it, but that doesn't change the need.

Quoting: "I asked them yesterday, I said, What's been the biggest difference between last year and this year? It has been -- it's been just a few little things. They're rolling. Their club's on fire, and they're doing a great job. For us, that's been the whole concept. Let's look at this thing from an objective standpoint of what's really affected the wins and losses. Can we clean this up? Can we be responsible for this? So for our team, that's been the whole focus. So it hasn't always been so much a rallying as it has been pointing things out and learning and getting better." -- Colorado coach Dan Hawkins, on the comparisons between his team and the Texas Rangers

Thoughts on the All-Big 12 team

July, 22, 2010
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The Big 12 announced its preseason award winners and All-Big 12 team on Thursday. Here's who's on the list:

Offensive Player of the Year: Jerrod Johnson, QB, Texas A&M

Co-Defensive Players of the Year: Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska; and Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M

Newcomer of the Year: Toney Clemons, WR, Colorado

Offense

QB: Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M

RB: DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma

RB: Daniel Thomas, Kansas State

WR: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma

WR: Jeff Fuller, Texas A&M

TE: Mike McNeill, Nebraska

OL: Ryan Miller, Colorado

OL: Nate Solder, Colorado

OL: Tim Barnes, Missouri

OL: Tanner Hawkinson, Kansas

OL: Stephen Good, Oklahoma

OL: Kyle Hix, Texas

PK: Alex Henery, Nebraska

KR: Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M

DEFENSE

DL: Aldon Smith, Missouri

DL: Jared Crick, Nebraska

DL: Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma

DL: Sam Acho, Texas

LB: Travis Lewis, Oklahoma

LB: Von Miller, Texas A&M

LB: Keenan Robinson, Texas

LB: Brian Duncan, Texas Tech

DB: Prince Amukamara, Nebraska

DB: Aaron Williams, Texas

DB: Quinton Carter, Oklahoma

DB: Blake Gideon, Texas

DB: Curtis Brown, Texas

P: Derek Epperson, Baylor

PR: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma

A few notes/thoughts from the team:
  • Only three players were unanimous selections: Jared Crick, Travis Lewis and Jeremy Beal. Other guys I'm surprised didn't earn that distinction: Ryan Broyles at receiver, Aaron Williams, Von Miller and Nate Solder.
  • Ties at linebacker, defensive back and offensive line forced the conference to make room for an extra spot.
  • The media's opinion of DeMarco Murray is somewhat divided, so I was a little unsure who would nab the second spot on the ballot. I'd be interested to see how close it was between him, Roy Helu, Kendall Hunter and Alexander Robinson.
  • Home run selection of Toney Clemons as Newcomer of the Year. If I'm guessing, the fact that he was the No. 1 pick in Colorado's spring game helped him earn this honor. An action like that by players speaks pretty loudly.
  • I definitely prefer football over basketball in these situations, which doesn't have to deal with freshmen on the preseason all-conference team.
  • I'm interested in how close the vote was between Missouri's Grant Ressel and Nebraska's Alex Henery. Henery's punting skills make him the clearly more valuable player, but talking strictly place-kicking, it's pretty close, and Ressel's additional accuracy is quantifiable.
Here's the list breakdown by team:

1. Oklahoma - 7

2. Texas - 6

3. Nebraska - 4

3. Texas A&M - 4

5. Missouri - 2

5. Colorado - 2

7. Baylor - 1

7. Kansas - 1

7. Kansas State - 1

7. Texas Tech - 1

11. Oklahoma State - 0

11. Iowa State - 0

Ten from Big 12 on Outland Trophy list

June, 22, 2010
6/22/10
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Nine players from the Big 12 were among the 63 on the preseason watch list for the Outland Trophy released on Monday. The award is given annually to the best interior lineman on either side of the ball. As the season progresses, players will be added or deleted from the list as necessary, until the finalists are named in November.

Ndamukong Suh won the award in 2009, giving Nebraska nine total winners, four more than any other school since the award's inception in 1946. The school had three consecutive winners from 1981-83 with Dave Rimington winning the trophy in 1981 and 1982 and Dean Steinkuhler winning in 1983. Steinkuhler's son, Baker Steinkuhler, is projected to start for the Huskers at defensive tackle in 2010.

Oklahoma has the second-most awards, with five. Jammal Brown in 2004 was the most recent Sooners' winner.

Texas is among four schools tied for fourth-most all-time with three winners, but hasn't had a winner since Brad Shearer in 1977.

Here's who made this year's list:

  • Sam Acho, DT, Texas
  • Tim Barnes, C Missouri
  • Cory Brandon, T, Oklahoma
  • Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska
  • Ben Habern, C, Oklahoma
  • Kyle Hix, T, Texas
  • Ben Lamaak, C, Iowa State
  • Ryan Miller, G, Colorado
  • Nate Solder, T, Colorado
  • Adrian Taylor, DT, Oklahoma
View the full list.

Steele names All-Big 12/All-American teams

May, 20, 2010
5/20/10
3:29
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Phil Steele has released his All-America and All-Big 12 teams, which will be featured in his annual season preview magazine on newsstands June 8.

Here's a look at who made each team.

All-Americans

First team:
  • Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska
  • Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
  • Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
Second team:
  • Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
  • Travis Lewis, LB, Oklahoma
Third team:
  • Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma
  • Alex Henery, Nebraska
Fourth team:
  • Kyle Hix, OT, Texas
  • Sam Acho, DT, Texas
  • Blake Gideon, S, Texas
  • Ryan Broyles, PR, Oklahoma

There are four All-Big 12 teams, but I'll just list the first-team in the interest of space.

Offense

QB Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M

RB Daniel Thomas, Kansas State

RB DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma

WR Niles Paul, Nebraska

WR Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma

WR Uzoma Nwachukwu, Texas A&M

TE Andrew Jones, Missouri

C Tim Barnes, Missouri

OG Ryan Miller Colorado

OG Stephen Good, Oklahoma

OT Nate Solder, Colorado

OT Kyle Hix, Texas

Defense

DE Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma

DT Adrian Taylor, Oklahoma

DT Jared Crick, Nebraska

DE Sam Acho, Texas

LB Von Miller, Texas A&M

LB Keenan Robinson, Texas

LB Travis Lewis, Oklahoma

LB Brian Duncan, Texas Tech

CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska

CB Curtis Brown, Texas

S Blake Gideon, Texas

S Quinton Carter, Oklahoma

Special teams

K Alex Henery, Nebraska

P Derek Epperson, Baylor

KR Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M

PR Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma

The Big 12's hardwood crossovers

March, 18, 2010
3/18/10
4:00
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Yesterday on his blog, ESPN's Bruce Feldman (link: Insider only) asked an interesting question. And then answered it, of course.

Which college football players could crossover and suit up for today's tournament on this, the holy day of college hoops?

Of his top 11 listed, four play in the Big 12.
  • Pierre Allen, DE, Nebraska
  • Ugo Chinasa, DE, Oklahoma State

Of course, all four had strong playing backgrounds, and Wright actually played for Scott Drew's team at Baylor before choosing to focus on football. Johnson was the No. 7 player in Texas as a junior, alongside Texas forward Damion James and former Kansas star Darrell Arthur. Feldman lists a few others for his "honorable mention," but what about other current (sorry, that eliminates Terrence Cody) players with little to no basketball background?

Here's my starting five: (Hint: It's mostly just really huge, really tiny or really athletic guys.)

PG: Rodney Stewart, RB, Colorado (5-foot-6, 175 pounds)

SG: Von Miller, DE/LB, Texas A&M (6-foot-3, 240 pounds)

SF: Michael Egnew, TE, Missouri (6-foot-6, 230 pounds, played in high school)

PF: Jermarcus Hardrick, OL, Nebraska (6-foot-7, 315 pounds)

C: Ryan Miller, C, Colorado (6-foot-8, 315 pounds)

Folks, that's what I call a stout frontcourt. Enter the paint at your own risk.

Who would you like to see suit up today, inside or outside of the conference?

Drop your best five in the mailbag and you might see it here tomorrow.

Lunch links: Ex-OU LB ends silence on ruling

March, 10, 2010
3/10/10
12:30
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