Big 12: Sam Bradford

A glimpse at the Ultimate 300 underscores the greatness of Oklahoma’s Class of 2006.

The Sooners signees included five members of the Ultimate 300 including the Big 12’s top-ranked member, Gerald McCoy at No. 19. The Class of 2006 was the foundation of OU’s 2008 team that lost to Florida in the BCS national championship game.

Here’s a closer look at the five Ultimate 300 players who comprised that exceptional class including what was said about them when they signed.

[+] EnlargeGerald McCoy
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsGerald McCoy is as much of a force in the NFL as he was at OU.
No. 19 Gerald McCoy, defensive tackle, Oklahoma City (Oklahoma) Southeast
Ranking out of high school: The No. 21 player in the ESPN 150.
What ESPN recruiting analysts said at the time: “McCoy has that rare mixture of skills and size that will allow him to fill a number of different roles for a defense as a tackle and be a real force to handle.”
His OU career: Started every game he played at Oklahoma as he became an two-time All-American. As a junior, 46 percent of his tackles were for loss (15.5 of 34) during his final season in Norman. McCoy finished his career with 83 tackles including 33 for loss and 14.5 sacks in 40 games started.

No. 37 Sam Bradford, quarterback, Oklahoma City (Oklahoma) Putnam City North
Ranking out of high school: The No. 16 quarterback in the nation with a scout’s grade of 79.
What ESPN recruiting analysts said at the time: “At times he looks awkward in his movements and is not a very fluid athlete, but the bottom line is that he is very productive and makes plays with his arm. He's still on the lean side and must bulk up, but that will come with maturity and a college weight program. Very good prospect.”
His OU career: The 2008 Heisman Trophy winner who destroyed records during an exceptional redshirt sophomore season which included 4,720 passing yards and 50 touchdowns with eight interceptions. He ended his career with 15 school records including passing yards (8,403) and touchdown passes (88) before Landry Jones passed him in several career categories.

No. 46 DeMarco Murray, running back, Las Vegas Bishop Gorman
Ranking out of high school: The No. 6 player in the ESPN 150.
What ESPN recruiting analysts said at the time: “Murray is quite possibly the best overall athlete of any running back in this class. He is spectacular in everything that he does and is a nightmare to gameplan against. He is a difference-maker right now and should make an impact right away at the college level.”
His OU career: The Sooners career leader in all-purpose yardage (6,498), Murray had a stellar career in crimson and cream. Murray had 3,685 rushing yards, 1,462 kick return yards and 1,571 receiving yards during his 50 career games (32 starts). One of the most versatile running backs in OU history, Murray lived up to the hype that followed him to campus in 2006.

No. 169 Trent Williams, offensive tackle, Longview (Texas) High
Ranking out of high school: The No. 22 offensive guard with a scout's grade of 76.
What ESPN recruiting analysts said at the time: “Williams has a good frame and plays with a mean streak. Williams has the frame to put on additional size and that will only help his game. He has the tools and frame to be an offensive tackle at the college level, but may project better as a guard.”
His OU career: Williams showed versatility during his time in crimson and cream, lining up at both tackle spots during his time in Norman. A two-time All-Big 12 honoree, Williams was an All-American in 2009. He led the Sooners with 97 knockdowns as a senior and started 38 career games in crimson and cream. Williams was the lowest-rated of this group, but he became a critical contributor to OU's success during his time on campus.

No. 194 Jermaine Gresham, tight end, Ardmore (Oklahoma) High
Ranking out of high school: The No. 111 player in the ESPN 150.
What ESPN recruiting analysts said at the time: “Right now Gresham is a tweener between the tight end and wide receiver positions. He has excellent athletic ability and height, and has the tools to be a big wide receiver at the college level. However, continued growth could make him a better fit at the tight end spot and he would be a dangerous weapon at that position. Gresham is definitely a player that can contribute in the passing game in college, but he has the potential to be much more.”
His OU career: One of the top tight ends in school history, Gresham had 111 receptions for 1,629 yards and 26 touchdowns in 42 career games. His final season was taken away by a preseason knee injury after he played a major role in OU’s 2008 title game appearance. He had 66 receptions for 950 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2008 while earning All-American honors.

Ultimate 300: Big 12's top classes 

January, 30, 2014
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The Texas-Oklahoma rivalry is bigger than football, but it’s always a fun topic of discussion when the rivalry talk turns to past success. It’s a conversation starter with the release of the Ultimate ESPN 300 class rankings, which ranks every top recruit since 2006. Oklahoma has a dozen players in the Ultimate ESPN 300; Texas has nine.

Here is a look at the top five Big 12 programs that have consistently put together stellar recruiting classes since ESPN began ranking recruits:

1. Oklahoma

The Sooners might start slow some years, but each year they continue to put together top recruiting classes that produce talent that can compete with any team in the country. The 2006 class was one of Bob Stoops’ best, as it produced the No. 1 running back in DeMarco Murray, a future Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Sam Bradford and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft. With players such as offensive lineman Trent Williams, wide receiver Ryan Broyles and tight end Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma is one of the most consistent teams in college football. Stoops produces winners.

Ultimate 300: Big 12's top recruits 

January, 29, 2014
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It’s always fun to think back to the former stars of college football recruiting. The Big 12 had a few players who made an impact during their respective recruiting processes.

Here are five players from the Big 12 who made the top 50 of the ESPN Ultimate 300.


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Colleague Brandon Chatmon looked at a few guys across the Big 12 who could be "The Next Johnny Manziel" yesterday, but really, those kinds of guys do exist. I will not be encouraging you to curb your collective enthusiasms today. Sometimes, players who haven't played a down of football in the Big 12 end up being some of the best players in the league.

Want a few examples, even from just the past few seasons? I'm glad you asked.

Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech, 2007: A position switch and transcript issues meant a redshirt season in 2006, but Crabtree had one of the greatest debut seasons in Big 12 history. He caught three touchdowns in his first game ever, and finished the season with 1,962 yards and 22 touchdowns on 134 catches. No Big 12 receiver has had more yards since, and he took home the Biletnikoff Award after leading the nation in receiving yards by 356 yards. His closest competition caught just 16 touchdowns, too.

[+] EnlargeSam Bradford
Nelson Chenault/US Presswire Sam Bradford had a stellar first season at Oklahoma.
Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma, 2007: Bradford narrowly beat out blue-chip recruit Keith Nichol and junior Joey Halzle to win the job after redshirting in 2006, and by the end of the season, he led the nation in quarterback rating, and no Big 12 quarterback was within 20 points of him. He threw for 3,121 yards, 36 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. He won the Heisman Trophy the following season.

Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor, 2008: Griffin committed to Houston first, but followed Art Briles to Baylor and electrified the crowd with early runs in a loss to Wake Forest. He eventually broke the FBS record for passes without an interception, and didn't throw his first until the ninth game of the season. It was clear he was the future of the program, and he finished the season with almost 3,000 yards of offense, accounting for 28 touchdowns.

Daniel Thomas, RB, Kansas State, 2009: Thomas joined the long line of junior college stars under Bill Snyder at Kansas State. Thomas arrived in Manhattan as an unknown and led the Big 12 with 1,265 yards and 11 touchdowns, showcasing great vision and toughness on the way to an eventual NFL draft selection. He led the Big 12 in rushing again in 2010, too.

Devonte Fields, DE, TCU, 2012: Fields was the Frogs' top recruit in 2012 as the nation's No. 73 overall player and the No. 11 defensive end. By the first week of October, he had 9.5 tackles for loss and cruised to earning the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska, 2010: He's one of the many Blackshirts' greats over the years, and made adjusting to life in the Big 12 from junior college look easy. He led the league with an eye-popping 152 tackles, and anybody who watched the Huskers every week might have sworn it was more. He was everywhere. He added 12.5 tackles for loss and six sacks, as well as eight pass breakups.

Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor, 2012: Seastrunk didn't get much time on the field for the first two months of the season, but once November arrived, he broke out in a huge way. The Oregon transfer was stuck behind Glasco Martin and Jarred Salubi on the depth chart, but earned the nod as the featured back heading into November, and rushed for 831 yards in Baylor's final six games, including an upset of No. 1 Kansas State in the Bears' 5-1 run to close the season.

Bruce Irvin, DE, West Virginia, 2010: Irvin's road was incredible, using junior college to turn his life around and earn his way to WVU after dropping out of high school. In his first season as a Mountaineer, he finished second nationally with 14 sacks, and forced a pair of fumbles.

Travis Lewis, LB, Oklahoma, 2008: Lewis redshirted his first season in Norman, but led the Big 12 with 144 tackles as a redshirt freshman, making 12 tackles for loss and intercepting four passes. It was the start of an incredible career. He led the Sooners in tackles for each of the next four seasons.
NORMAN, Okla. -- It didn’t take long in 2007 for Sam Bradford to solidify his starting quarterback status.

In the opener against North Texas, Bradford tied the school record for consecutive completions and broke the record for passing yards in a half. After a five-touchdown performance Week 2 against Miami, the Sooners knew they had their quarterback.

[+] EnlargeBlake Bell
Tim Heitman/US PRESSWIREBlake Bell and the Sooners face a tough early schedule in 2013.
It’s unlikely Blake Bell will have that kind of debut as Oklahoma’s starting quarterback. Still, it shouldn’t take long this time either for OU to determine if Bell is its quarterback of the future. Against the current of a brutal six-game start to the schedule, Bell will either swim and solidify the job -- as Bradford did -- or he will sink and open the way for Kendal Thompson or Trevor Knight to get their shot.

Last week during a caravan stop in Wichita, coach Bob Stoops reiterated he’s in no hurry to name a starting quarterback. Thompson and Knight both have talent. Despite his offseason dustup with police, Thompson remains one of the hardest workers on the team. He also has displayed a great feel for escaping trouble in the pocket and making plays downfield. Knight is an athletic freak who has the potential to be prolific as a dual threat. By several accounts, both Thompson and Knight have been sharp during 7-on-7 workouts so far this summer.

But given his seniority, his relative understanding of the offense, his experience on the field and the way he closed out the spring in the Red-White game, it’s difficult to envision a scenario in which Bell isn’t ultimately named the starter for the opener. Whether he’s able to hold the job will be another storyline.

All of the Sooners’ first six opponents are coming off bowl appearances. Yes, OU will be heavy home favorites in the first three games against Louisiana-Monroe, West Virginia and Tulsa. But the second trio of games -- at Notre Dame, TCU and Texas -- figures to be the defining stretch of the season. For Bell, especially.

The Irish lost quarterback Everett Golson during the offseason. But they should have another formidable defense, headlined by perhaps the best defensive line in college football. The game is also in South Bend, Ind., where Notre Dame has won 10 of 11.

After facing one of the top defenses in the country, the Sooners will see what should be the best defense in the Big 12. The Horned Frogs feature two defensive All-American candidates in end Devonte Fields and cornerback Jason Verrett.

And following all of that, the Sooners will still have the Red River Rivalry, which has both vindicated and vanquished many quarterbacks over the years.

By that point, the Sooners will know a lot about Bell. Including whether he’s their guy going forward.
We're in the middle of counting down the top 10 players in the history of the Big 12. I'm sure you'll all agree with my selections.

See more on my criteria here.

Let's move on with the list:

No. 4: Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma (2006-2009)

Why he's on the list: Bradford was Oklahoma's starting quarterback for only two seasons, really, but they were two of the best of any quarterback in college football history. He finished his career as college football's all-time leader in career passer rating, at 175.62, but his season in 2008 was one of the greatest statistical years of any major quarterback ever. He tossed 50 touchdowns to just eight interceptions while helping Oklahoma score more points than any offense in college football history.

Bradford was as accurate as any quarterback to ever play college football, but he had a huge arm and made great decisions constantly. He was a modest, three-star recruit who struggled late in his high school career, but racked up 36 touchdowns and just eight interceptions after winning the Oklahoma job as a redshirt freshman in 2007. He threw for 8,403 yards in just over two seasons as the Sooners' starter, and fell just short in 2008 of grabbing Oklahoma's eighth national title. He finished that season with a Heisman Trophy, as well as the Davey O'Brien Award and the Sammy Baugh Trophy. He thrashed Missouri in the Big 12 title game in both seasons as a Sooners, earning a pair of Big 12 championship rings.

His career ended in frustrating fashion, essentially with a shoulder injury in the 2009 season opener. He came back in the middle of the season but re-injured it early in a loss to Texas and never made the field again as a Sooner after electing to undergo season-ending surgery. The St. Louis Rams made him the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NFL draft.

The rest of the list:
During a simulated scrimmage in Oklahoma's first practice of the spring in full pads, Blake Bell used his BellDozing legs to escape the pocket, but the right-hander was rolling to his left to escape the rush.

Bell, channeling his inner Brett Favre, tried to find a receiver on the right side of the field, throwing across his body to try and make the throw. The toss predictably floated and was intercepted.

"He just shook his head," Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. "A classic example where it has sting a little bit and you’ve got to learn. Hopefully he’s learned a valuable lesson since then, that you can’t be careless with the football."

That's the bad news.

The good news is Stoops has seen plenty of evidence to suggest Bell absolutely learned his lesson from that early throw. The proof was in every throw from that point forward.

"Since that day, you haven’t seen a mistake like that," Stoops said. "Just being smart with the football is such a big deal."

In fact, it's the biggest deal for Stoops. For a yet-undecided quarterback competition, Bell's ability to take care of the ball bodes well for him keeping his status as the likely heir to four-year starter Landry Jones.

"The important part for all of them will be decision-making," Stoops said. "Who can make the right reads and decisions and getting the football where it needs to be."

He outplayed his younger competition, Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson, in the Sooners' spring game, completing 14-of-23 passes for 213 yards and a pair of scores, validating a strong spring that left him looking like the Sooners' best option. Most importantly, he didn't turn the ball over, and both Knight and Thompson couldn't say that after the Sooners' spring finale.

Those 213 passing yards are one short of doubling Bell's total passing yards in 2012, but most college football fans know him best as the BellDozer, bulling his way to 24 rushing touchdowns over the past two seasons in the Sooners' signature short-yardage package.

"He’s always been able to throw the football well, we’ve just chosen his role to this point has been short yardage and goal line, getting the extra blocker when you’re running your quarterback," Stoops said. "Plus, he’s a big strong guy to fall forward and get a yard when there isn’t one there. He throws a great deep ball."

Oklahoma's rarely employed a mobile quarterback, but that seems likely to change this season as the Sooners' personnel no longer fits the statuesque style of Jones or predecessors like Heisman Trophy winners Sam Bradford and Jason White who helped Oklahoma win eight Big 12 titles since Stoops' arrival.

"All our guys, when we recruit them, it’s all about how they throw, not how they run. We’re just fortunate that this group of guys, along with throwing the football, have the ability to run, too," Stoops said. "We’ll see what that other dimension can do for us."
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.
IRVING, Texas -- For each of the past two seasons, Landry Jones began the season on the short list for the Heisman Trophy with a team ranked in the top 10, including a nod as the nation's preseason No. 1 team in 2011.

Each season, Jones piled up bushels of yardage but never more than 10 wins -- and, most importantly, no national titles or national championship game appearances.

[+] EnlargeLandry Jones
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallLandry Jones leaves Oklahoma as the latest in a line of great quarterbacks at the school.
"Everybody wants to have that chance to play in that championship game. Everybody wants to be an All-American. Everyone wants to win the Heisman, but there’s only a select few that actually get to do it, and those things were definitely left on the table for me," Jones said. "I wish I’d been able to accomplish them, but sometimes it doesn’t work out like that. I’ve always wanted to be in New York and do all those things, but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way."

Thing is, for Oklahoma quarterbacks it very often does work out like that. Jones' offensive coordinator, Josh Heupel, won a national title in 2000. Predecessor Jason White won a Heisman and played in national title games in 2003 and '04. Even the man Jones replaced in 2009, Sam Bradford, has a Heisman statue outside Owen Field and played in the BCS National Championship Game to cap the 2008 season.

Jones didn't do any of those things, but he'll leave Norman as the No. 3 passer in FBS history and will log his 50th start on Friday night at Cowboys Stadium. It's the same place his career began, when Bradford's essentially ended with a shoulder injury in the 2009 season-opening loss to BYU.

"I’m just really thankful. Not too many people get to play 50 games in their college career," Jones said. "I’m just really thankful for what I’ve been able to do and the position God’s put me in to be on this team and play as much as I have."

Jones acknowledged the high standards of Oklahoma fans, which have often led to criticism when he fell short of the sky-high expectations established by the quarterbacks before him under Bob Stoops, and legendary coaches and players before Stoops who won the program's first six national titles.

Jones was very, very good, but made the fatal mistake of not being quite as good as Bradford, the man who left Oklahoma as the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, despite that shoulder injury that provided the opportunity for Jones to play 50 games.

After No. 50 is done, Jones will be gone, handing the torch to the man behind him, likely Blake Bell. This week, Jones certainly sounded like a man who's enjoyed his opportunities and is ready for the next step of his life.

"At this place, you know what Monday’s going to look like, you know what Tuesday’s going to look like, but I don’t know what the next chapter of my life’s going to look like. You could be first round, first pick, or you could go as a free agent," Jones said. "You just never know, and never know what teams are going to do and who they’re going to pick up and what your future’s going to look like. It’s exciting to walk out and see where you end up, and what God has in store for you."

A closer look: AT&T Cotton Bowl

January, 1, 2013
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As the bowl season approaches, we're going to be looking a little closer at each game. We'll go down the Big 12 bowl schedule in chronological order.

No. 11 Oklahoma (10-2, 8-1 Big 12) vs. No. 9 Texas A&M (10-2, 6-2 SEC)

Where: Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas

When: Friday, Jan. 4, 8 p.m. ET

TV: FOX

About Oklahoma: The Sooners began the year with some national-title aspirations, but those quickly came to an end with a mistake-filled September loss at home to Kansas State. A midseason loss to Notre Dame made it clear that Oklahoma was not an elite team in 2012, but the eight-game winning streak in Big 12 play after the K-State loss made it clear that the Sooners were a very, very good team -- and a Big 12 champion. The Sooners became part of the first-ever shared Big 12 title and celebrated with a season-ending win at TCU. The final three games of the year (West Virginia, Oklahoma State, TCU) were all decided in the final minute or on the final play, and the Cotton Bowl could very well make it four.

About Texas A&M: While Oklahoma underachieved a bit, the Aggies were one of the nation's biggest overachievers. Last year's team began in the top 10 and fell to 6-6 while losing five games with leads of at least nine points. Year 1 under Kevin Sumlin will forever be remembered as the year the legend of Johnny Manziel was born. The redshirt freshman quarterback burst onto the scene with a strong outing in a season-opening loss to Florida but truly broke out with a memorable performance in a road upset of No. 1 Alabama. The Aggies' defense matured under Mark Snyder, but Texas A&M was one of the nation's hottest teams to close the season.

Sooners to watch: Landry Jones will be making his 50th and final start of his career in the Cotton Bowl at Cowboys Stadium, the same place where his career began after an injury to Sam Bradford in the 2009 season opener against BYU. He's the NCAA's No. 3 all-time passer and leads the Big 12 in passing yards per game entering the bowl game. He's thrown 29 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions and got to know transfer receivers Jalen Saunders and Justin Brown well this season. Kenny Stills led the team with 897 yards on 75 catches, but keep an eye on leading tackler Tony Jefferson at safety and shutdown corner Aaron Colvin on defense.

Aggies to watch: Surely you know about Manziel by now, but keep an eye on his favorite targets, Mike Evans and Ryan Swope. Evans is a big physical presence at 6-foot-5, 218 pounds, while Swope uses his breakaway speed to work the slot. Defensive end Damontre Moore's 20 tackles for loss would have led the Big 12, and was third in the SEC. He was also the Aggies' leading tackler, with 80 stops. Keep an eye on the Aggies' underrated running back duo, too, Ben Malena and Christine Michael. They combined for almost 1,200 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Did you know? Oklahoma is 11-2 against Texas A&M under Bob Stoops, but the Aggies knocked off the Sooners in 2010 in College Station as part of their six-game winning streak to close the regular season. Manziel will be the third Heisman finalist Oklahoma has gone up against this season, but the Sooners are 0-2 against the first two, Kansas State QB Collin Klein and Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o. Oklahoma leads the all-time series between these two, 19-11, but will meet for the first time in the Cotton Bowl. Oklahoma hasn't played in the Cotton Bowl since 2002, when it beat Arkansas, 10-3.

More on the Big 12 Bowls:

The Big 12's Super Seniors of 2012

December, 20, 2012
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This week, we're taking a look at guys who have invested four or five years into their respective programs, and earned a spot as one of the greats after providing some big-time senior leadership.

[+] EnlargeNick Florence
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesNick Florence has stepped up when called upon during his career at Baylor.
Nick Florence, QB, Baylor: Florence is a great story of what college football is all about. When Baylor needed him, he stepped in and was ready to play as a true freshman in 2009 when Robert Griffin III tore his ACL. Then, when Griffin went down in 2011 with a concussion, Florence stepped in and tossed two long touchdown passes to help beat Texas Tech and preserve a 10-win season and a Heisman Trophy for RG III. With that game, though, he sacrificed his redshirt. Did he complain once? Nope. He gave it up when his team needed it, and this year he was honored as a member of the NFF Scholar-Athlete class, nominated for the Campbell Trophy, commonly known as the Academic Heisman.

Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State: Knott's got my nod as the toughest player in the entire Big 12, but a serious shoulder injury that required surgery finally kept him off the field. He's been a three-year starter for the Cyclones, but even opponents recognized the kind of player and teammate he was. Texas coach Mack Brown sent a personalized letter to Knott after his season ended. Knott broke his arm in spring practice and less than 24 hours later was back on the practice field encouraging his teammates. He's the same guy who dislocated his shoulder three times against Baylor last year and had a career game anyway. This year, he knew his shoulder needed surgery, but suited up one last time at home and helped beat the Bears and end his career in the right way.

Tanner Hawkinson, OL, Kansas: Hawkinson's seen a lot in his four years at KU. He's been under three different coaches and never got to play in a bowl game, but he's still remained one of the most consistent talents in the Big 12 and may have an NFL future to show for it. He started a school-record 48 games in four years along the Jayhawks' offensive line, and even helped recruit quarterback Dayne Crist to transfer to KU this year. More players like Hawkinson will help KU get back into Big 12 respectability and the postseason.

Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State: What else is there to say about Klein? He's put K-State on his back the past two seasons and helped Kansas State win its first Big 12 title since 2003 and notch 21 wins in two seasons. This year, he'll get to finish his career in the Fiesta Bowl against Oregon, and a win would basically seal the deal for the 2012 team as the greatest in Kansas State history. Klein began his career with a position move to receiver, earned spot duty alongside Carson Coffman in 2010, but showed he was more than ready to lead the team in 2011. He was better than anyone could have ever guessed, and his leadership on and off the field endeared himself to his teammates.

Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma: Jones' career began with a panic. A 2009 season began with national championship aspirations and a returning Heisman winner at quarterback in Sam Bradford. Jones was supposed to be in the background with a clipboard and a headset, learning from Bradford. Before halftime of the season opener at Cowboys Stadium, a banged-up Bradford led Jones right to center stage. He didn't win that game, but he's won a whole bunch since, including a pair of Big 12 titles. He's had up and downs in his career and made his share of mistakes on the field, but he'll leave the Sooners as a guy who matured greatly over his final three years and likely will have thrown for more passing yards than all but two quarterbacks in the history of FBS football.

Keep an eye out for Part II later this week.

Who will transform tomorrow: Week 7

October, 12, 2012
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Oklahoma and Texas players can do a lot during their careers, but ultimately, many write their legends on the field at the Cotton Bowl on a Saturday in October at the State Fair of Texas.

Adrian Peterson made his mark back in 2004 when, as a freshman, he rumbled for 225 yards in a 12-0 win against the Longhorns.

Vince Young threw three touchdown passes back in 2005 as Texas ended a five-game losing streak to the Sooners and went on to win the national title.

Oklahoma's Sam Bradford threw for three touchdowns in a win in 2007 that announced this curly-headed redshirt freshman was for real.

DeMarco Murray capped a huge career in 2010 with a pair of touchdowns and a 100-yard game, validating his status as a Sooner great.

Who will it be this year? Call it a Texas Trio.

Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron had a combined 51 yards and no touchdowns in last year's game. Johnathan Gray has never even suited up for a Red River Rivalry.

This week, the three of them will be too much for Oklahoma and take the next step on Texas' road back from a 5-7 season in 2010. The past two years, Oklahoma has earned victories at the Cotton Bowl, but it's Texas' turn and Brown, Bergeron and Gray will lead the way.

Brown is coming back from an ankle injury and his status is shaky, but Bergeron and Gray filled in admirably against West Virginia last week. Gray showed the best burst of any back in a long, long time with a 49-yard sprint against the Mountaineers.

He might break another one this week, and the freshman's long wait for his first career touchdown ends on Saturday. Bergeron has embraced his status as a touchdown vulture this season, leading the Big 12 with nine rushing touchdowns.

The three of them can be difficult for any defense to stop, and they'll prove that to Oklahoma on Saturday, transforming into players who have written a solid legacy in the Red River Rivalry with a performance that carries the Longhorns to a victory against their biggest rival.
The Davey O'Brien Award, given annually to college football's best quarterback, has released its 34-man preseason watch list, and five Big 12 QBs made the list.

Here they are:
Great list there. Don't be surprised if Nick Florence cracks the list of midseason semifinalists, but for now, based on his efforts in 2009 (and one half last year), he didn't deserve a spot on the preseason list. I'm expecting a big year from him, but the five guys on this list should all have big years, too.

The Big 12 has won three of the past four Davey O'Brien Awards. Baylor's Robert Griffin III won it last year, two years after Texas' Colt McCoy took it home. Oklahoma's Sam Bradford won the O'Brien and the Heisman in 2008. Auburn's Cam Newton broke up the Big 12 streak in 2010.

Oklahoma's three O'Brien Awards are tied for second-most nationally, behind only BYU, with four in the award's 20-year history.

Lunch links: Forecasting TCU/WVU future

July, 11, 2012
7/11/12
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"When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it happened or not." -- Mark Twain

Lunch links: New life for Greg Davis

June, 25, 2012
6/25/12
12:00
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Not sure what it says about me, but this was pretty interesting. I remember it well.

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