Big 12: Stacy McGee
This year, a record 333 players have been invited, and the Big 12 landed 30 invitations.
Draft stock can swing wildly during the week, with the main event -- the 40 time -- often serving as the catalyst for that stock. Call it silly, and in some ways it is, but it's the reality of the process. Here's who's headed to Indianapolis from the Big 12:
- Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
- Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia
- Josh Boyce, WR, TCU
- Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State
- Anthony Cantele, K, Kansas State
- Marquise Goodwin, WR, Texas
- Chris Harper, WR, Kansas State
- Tanner Hawkinson, OL, Kansas
- Tony Jefferson, S, Oklahoma
- Lane Johnson, OL, Oklahoma
- Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
- A.J. Klein, LB, Iowa State
- Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
- Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State
- Joe Madsen, OL, West Virginia
- Stansly Maponga, DE, TCU
- Bradley McDougald, DB, Kansas
- Stacy McGee, DL, Oklahoma
- Tracy Moore, WR, Oklahoma State
- Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
- Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State
- Lanear Sampson, WR, Baylor
- Quinn Sharp, K/P, Oklahoma State
- Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
- Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma
- Matthew Tucker, RB, TCU
- Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
- Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
- Braden Wilson, RB, Kansas State
- Tom Wort, LB, Oklahoma
Pretty good set of players there. You can see them when the combine kicks off Feb. 20.
Colleague Joe Schad cited a source who told him safety Tony Jefferson and receiver Kenny Stills would be leaving early to enter the NFL draft.
Jones is obviously the Sooners' biggest loss, but Jefferson's one of the defense's most talented members, and cornerback Aaron Colvin still has a draft decision to make. The transition to Jones' successor (Blake Bell, Drew Allen or scout team standout Trevor Knight?) gets a little rougher without an experienced receiver like Stills to smooth it over, too.
Oklahoma, though, will have a very tall order to try and restore a defense that struggled down the stretch after giving up 49 points to West Virginia and 48 to Oklahoma State, which was playing Clint Chelf, who began the season as the team's No. 3 quarterback.
Defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland, Stacy McGee and Casey Walker are all gone, as is star defensive end David King. Safety Javon Harris, the Sooners' biggest standout in the Cotton Bowl loss, ended his career on Friday, as did cornerback Demontre Hurst.
Point is, if Oklahoma's going to fix its defense, it will have to do so without experience. That's difficult in any league, but especially so in the Big 12, where the only thing faster than the receivers is the rate at which offenses evolve and become more difficult to stop.
Expect the Sooners' spring depth chart to look a little crazy and be very fluid throughout spring practice, but without Jefferson and Stills, both sides of the ball will be moving on to 2013 without their most talented pieces.
This year won't be the exception.
Oklahoma defensive tackle Stacy McGee is likely to miss the Cotton Bowl after being arrested on Monday for driving under the influence and driving with a suspended license.
McGee was suspended for Oklahoma's first six games after violating university rules during the preseason. But he had returned to the Sooners mid-season and become a regular part of the defensive tackle rotation along with Jamarkus McFarland and Casey Walker. If McGee does not play in the Cotton Bowl, the Sooners could turn to freshman Jordan Phillips, who has played sparingly as OU's fourth defensive tackle this season.
There's been no official word from the Sooners, but McGee, a senior, will likely never suit up again in a Sooner uniform.
Over at Texas Tech, however, interim coach Chris Thomsen is taking his new responsibility seriously. Between Tommy Tuberville's exit and Kliff Kingsbury's arrival, this is his team, and three of his players have no confusion about that.
From our news story:
A Texas Tech official says three Red Raiders won't be playing against Minnesota in Friday's Meineke Car Care Bowl because they violated team rules.
Football program spokesman Blayne Beal on Monday would not divulge the rules violated. He says Red Raiders starting defensive back Cornelius Douglas, Chris Payne, a linebacker who played mostly on Texas Tech's special teams, and backup defensive tackle Leon Mackey won't play in the bowl game.
Douglas is by far the biggest piece missing there, though Mackey could have made some impact, too. Douglas, a senior had a pair of interceptions and four tackles for loss this year, and returned against Baylor from a knee injury that cost him almost six games.
The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported that Thomsen said two players missed practices in December in Lubbock without notifying coaches but wouldn't discuss the third player because of privacy laws.
EL PASO, Texas – It was ugly. But it’s a win. The Sooners finally pulled away from UTEP in the fourth quarter to win 24-7.
It was over when: OU running back Damien Williams went over right tackle, cut back across the field, then raced 65 yards for a touchdown, giving the Sooners a 24-7 lead with 2:55 to play. The Sooners entered the fourth quarter clinging to a 10-7 lead.
Game ball goes to: UTEP running back Nathan Jeffrey, who kept the Miners in the game into the fourth quarter. Jeffrey rushed for 177 yards on 21 carries, nearly becoming the first back in a decade to run for more than 200 yards against the Sooners. Jeffrey also scored UTEP’s only touchdown, scooping up a blocked punt and racing 24 yards in the first quarter.
Stat of the game: If the Miners had a reliable field goal kicker, they might have won the game. UTEP missed all three of its field goal attempts, from 45, 31 and 41 yards out. Dakota Warren missed the first two. Steven Valadez misfired on the third, which would have tied the game late in the third quarter.
Unsung hero: Defensive tackle David King, who spearheaded OU’s consistent pass rush up the middle. The Sooners were without both of their starting in defensive tackles Stacy McGee (suspended) and Casey Walker (personal issue), but King, who flipped from end to tackle two weeks ago, made sure that Nick Lamaison never found a rhythm, as the UTEP quarterback completed just 6 of 23 passes for 39 yards.
What we learned about this team: The Sooners have a long way to go to become a Big 12 title contender, much less a national championship one. Especially on the offensive side of the ball. UTEP ranked 104th in the country last season in total defense, but stymied the Sooners for three-and-a-half quarters. The running game was sporadic, and Landry Jones looked out of sync with his new receiving corps. If the Sooners are going to score with the likes of West Virginia and Oklahoma State, they are going to need to make a lot of improvement.
The Sooners scored just 10 points in the first three quarters of their 24-7 victory over UTEP that had everybody in the crimson and cream justifiably sweating.
The 10:30 p.m. ET road kickoff was a weird one, and the Sooners looked out of sorts from the start. The biggest problem? The offensive line. The unit lost starting center Ben Habern to retirement because of nagging injuries and starting guard Tyler Evans for the season after a knee injury. That left them looking to replace 59 starts on the line, and Saturday night, it showed.
Landry Jones looked good moving, but you can't count on a quarterback to put up good numbers if he's rarely given a chance to set his feet and throw. That was Jones' night.
His numbers dipped late last season after Ryan Broyles' injury, and coach Bob Stoops spent the offseason defending his quarterback, reminding all who asked that a quarterback needs support for success.
Jones, yet again, didn't get it. His receivers and backs dropped passes, and his offensive line often looked helpless against a defense that ranked 104th nationally in 2011.
He finished with just 230 yards on 22-of-37 passing with two scores and no turnovers.
For now, Oklahoma can chalk it up to a young line and young receivers still getting used to their first real action. It's still plenty of reason to be concerned. Can it change by Big 12 play? Certainly. Oklahoma won't be tested until Sept. 22. The Sooners face FCS opponent Florida A&M next week, then have a bye before their Big 12 showdown with Kansas State.
The offense will have to be straightened out by then, not to mention a special-teams unit plagued by mistakes including a missed field goal and a blocked punt that gave UTEP its only points of the night.
The brightest spot was the defense that pitched a shutout, even though it got help in the form of three missed field goals from the Miners. Nathan Jeffery's 177 rushing yards are a red flag for sure, but the Sooners defensive backs were solid from start to finish, and UTEP quarterbacks combined to complete just 7-of-26 passes for 48 yards. That's got to make Mike Stoops, the man in charge of revitalizing Oklahoma's secondary, smile. Not many big busts in the secondary that became a hallmark of the Sooners' 2011 failures.
At least he'll get back some major pieces on his defensive line back soon. Defensive tackles Casey Walker (illness) and Stacy McGee (suspension) were missing, and we'll see how OU defends the run next week and in three weeks against Kansas State, one of the league's best running games.
Oklahoma's naturally going to be disappointed with its debut. It should be. The Sooners would have lost to every Big 12 team except Kansas playing like they did tonight, and the Jayhawks might have come close.
There's lots of work to do, but as always at Oklahoma under Bob Stoops, there's lots to work with.
Here are the rest of the position rankings.
Now that we've finished ranking the complete units, we'll start ranking the top 10 at each position very soon leading into the 2011 season.
This is a decent position for the Big 12 this season, and the top half of the league should feel pretty good about their group. There aren't many studs in this group, but there are a whole lot of solid players.
2. Oklahoma -- Oklahoma's defensive tackles are somewhat suspect, but the defensive end combo of Ronnell Lewis (provided he is eligible come fall camp) and Frank Alexander is on par with the best in the Big 12. Both were preseason All-Big 12 selections, but Jamarkus McFarland needs to make good on his potential. Stacy McGee and Casey Walker should both get time at the other tackle spot.
3. Texas -- Defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat is loaded with potential as the nation's former No. 1 recruit. He had a big impact early last season before being slowed by an ankle injury. Alex Okafor moved outside from defensive tackle just before spring and had five sacks in the spring game. Inside, Kheeston Randall is an All-Big 12 favorite, but Ashton Dorsey had a strong spring and could help out with Reggie Wilson opposite Randall.
4. Texas A&M -- The Aggies have one of the best linemen in the league in Tony Jerod-Eddie, but Jonathan Mathis, Eddie Brown Jr. and Ben Bass have a lot to prove around him after the loss of Lucas Patterson, who was outstanding in 2010.
5. Texas Tech -- Sam Fehoko has moved to defensive end from middle linebacker, and should provide some good speed to the front line. Scott Smith looked on his way to an All-Big 12 campaign last season, but was suspended for the remainder of the season by coach Tommy Tuberville and has yet to be officially reinstated. For now, Dartwan Bush and Aundrey Barr will help out at defensive end, outside of Donald Langley, Kerry Hyder and Pearlie Graves. The Red Raiders did snatch a big pickup from departed UNC signee Delvon Simmons, a defensive tackle that could have an impact immediately.
6. Oklahoma State -- Defensive line is the biggest weak spot for the Cowboys, who have a decent set of ends in Jamie Blatnick and former heralded recruit Richetti Jones, but an even bigger question mark at defensive tackle where Christian Littlehead and Nigel Nicholas enter fall camp as starters.
7. Kansas -- Top rusher turned defensive end Toben Opurum came on strong late last season and should be one of the most exciting Jayhawks to watch in 2011, but the rest of the line leaves a bit to be desired. Keba Agostino has the other starting spot at defensive end ahead of Pat Lewandowski, who had a great spring. Patrick Dorsey and John Williams enter fall camp as starters at defensive tackles.
8. Kansas State -- K-State recruited this position hard in its 2011 class. For now, defensive end Brandon Harold will try to bounce back from a disappointing 2010 after a promising 2009. Lance Dunbar and Taylor Martinez think this group is ranked too high, but Meshak Williams could start opposite Harold, while Ray Kibble and Raphael Guidry should be the tackles inside.
9. Baylor -- Tevin Elliott was limited this spring because of offseason shoulder surgery, and Terrance Lloyd exited spring practice as the starter, but I'd expect Elliott to regain the spot by the time the season arrives. Phil Taylor, a first-round pick, is a big loss, but Gary Mason Jr. will try to fill his spot next to Nicolas Jean-Baptiste.
10. Iowa State -- Having a pair of linebackers combine for 241 tackles is a good and bad thing. They've got outstanding linebackers, but the defensive line was the Big 12's worst last season for a unit that ranked 10th in rush defense and had just 11 sacks. That was the fewest sacks in the Big 12 and more than just three teams in all of college football. The good news is all four starters return, but for now, this is where the Cyclones start. Stephen Ruempolhamer has some promise, but Cleyon Laing, Jake McDonough and ends Patrick Neal and Roosevelt Maggitt have a lot to prove. Jacob Lattimer ran into offseason trouble, but re-appeared atop the depth chart released by the Cyclones on Wednesday.
What’s new: Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, responsible for the highest-scoring offense in college football history in 2008, took the head coaching job at Indiana. Replacing him for the Sooners are co-coordinators Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell. Heupel has been with the program since 2006 as the quarterbacks coach, and won a national title at OU in 2000. Wilson was with the team for its Fiesta Bowl win, but Heupel called the plays for the Sooners and will do so in 2011. Norvell has coached receivers at Oklahoma since 2008.
On the mend: Running back Roy Finch looks like the favorite to replace DeMarco Murray as Oklahoma's featured back, but surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left foot suffered during bowl practices will keep him out during the spring. Starting fullback Trey Millard is also out for spring practices after minor surgery.
On the move: Defensive back Aaron Colvin played some in spot duty as a true freshman in 2010, but opens the spring as the Sooners' starting strong safety. He was expected to replace last season's starting corner, Jamell Fleming, who is not enrolled and won't be back until the fall semester at the earliest after reported academic misconduct. The corner job went to Gabe Lynn, who enters the spring with little on-field experience.
New faces: Running back Brandon Williams enrolled early and will start the spring at No. 2 on the depth chart at running back. Quarterback Kendal Thompson is also in camp as an early enrollee alongside Marquis Anderson, a third signee from the 2011 class.
Breaking out: Nickel back Tony Jefferson. You could make the argument that he's already broken out as the co-Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2010, but he's hardly a household name across the country or even the conference. That could change fast for Jefferson, who looks like his sophomore year could mean dropping the "rising" from his status as a rising star.
Don’t forget about: Sophomore receiver Kenny Stills. His teammate Ryan Broyles gets all the headlines, but Stills showed plenty of potential in his first season on the field, giving Oklahoma a much-needed second option in the passing game. He started all 14 games as a true freshman and broke Broyles' freshman receiving record with 786 yards and five touchdowns on 61 receptions.
All eyes on: The defensive lines and secondary. It's a "National Championship or Bust" kind of year for the Sooners, who may well debut at No. 1 in the preseason polls next fall. If one thing stops them from winning it all, it will be a lack of experience up front or troubles defending the pass without their top corner, Fleming. Stacy McGee, Jamarkus McFarland, Daniel Noble and Casey Walker will be in the rotation at defensive tackle, and have to help collapse the pocket and stop the run. Junior Demontre Hurst played well as a sophomore, but if Fleming doesn't return, Lynn and Colvin will have to be solid alongside experienced safeties Javon Harris and Sam Proctor to slow the prolific Big 12 passing offenses.
Here's a wide-angle look at the Big 12, with the five biggest questions hounding the conference to begin the spring.
2. Is Texas over its "entitlement?" Is the new staff jelling with players? This should be a fascinating spring in Austin. For the first time in perhaps a decade, the Longhorns have a long, long list of things to prove. They'll try to do it with a youth-infused staff and it all begins this spring. The defense was decent last season, the offense was awful. Both will need to be great if the Longhorns are going to compete for a Big 12 title after a last-place finish in the Big 12 South. Is Texas up to the challenge?
3. Where are the quarterbacks? Think back to 2008. The Big 12 had -- by my count -- eight quarterbacks that could play for about anybody across the country. Sam Bradford won the Heisman. Colt McCoy was one of the best in school history, winning more games than any quarterback in college history and reaching a pair of BCS bowls, including a national championship appearance. Chase Daniel, Graham Harrell, Todd Reesing, Zac Robinson, Robert Griffin III and Josh Freeman were all solid. That's eight out of 10 teams in the current Big 12 with excellence under center. This year? I count four. Griffin is still around. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are set with Landry Jones and Brandon Weeden and Texas A&M should be fine with Ryan Tannehill. Beyond that? It's pretty slim. The potential is there for Garrett Gilbert at Texas, but he's coming off a season in which he threw six touchdowns and 16 picks in conference play. Will we see breakout stars begin to write their legacies at Texas Tech, Missouri or Kansas State? All three have players who could be set for breakout years in Seth Doege, James Franklin and Justin Tuggle, but they'll have to win the job first and try to make a name for themselves if they can pull that off.
4. Are leaky defenses with new coordinators ready to support their teams' high-powered offenses? Texas Tech and Baylor both had offenses good enough to compete for a Big 12 title, but poor defense meant both had to settle for seven-win seasons and lower-tier bowl games. Both are back this spring with new coordinators. Veteran Phil Bennett is in at Baylor, and first-time coordinator Chad Glasgow will try to extrapolate the success he had coaching TCU's secondary into Texas Tech's secondary and defense, which ranked last in the Big 12 last year.
5. Can the Cowboys keep the status quo? Dana Holgorsen was the big story in Oklahoma State's spring camp last year, and he showed why during the season, turning the Cowboys into the Big 12's best offensive team. He's gone, and Todd Monken is taking over. Can the excellence continue? Bringing back all five offensive linemen will make it a lot easier. Skill positions look a lot better when quarterbacks have time and running backs have holes. Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden are back, but can their talents be showcased as two of the Big 12's best in 2011. They better be. If not, the Cowboys can rule out a Big 12 title.
- Oklahoma starting defensive tackle Stacy McGee was cited for misdemeanor possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, reports Jake Trotter of The Oklahoman. Trotter also breaks down what to expect from the Oklahoma and Oklahoma State players headed to the combine this week.
- The Sooners and Cowboys got a nice gift in the Faithful Foursome, who won't be at the combine, writes Dave Sittler of the Tulsa World.
- Matt Tait of the Lawrence Journal-World breaks down the recruiting star rankings and their correlation to combine attendance.
- Texas A&M and Oklahoma State have gotten off to great starts recruiting in their 2012 classes, writes Brian McLaughlin of Sporting News.
- Texas Tech had a defensive tackle transfer, but the Red Raiders are also trying to fill a hole at outside receiver, reports Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
- Oklahoma reported secondary violations dealing with players spending too many hours training, and will give players a week off this offseason.
- The best receiver in Texas has committed to the Longhorns, reports Randy Riggs of the Austin American-Statesman.
- Suzanne Halliburton of the Austin American-Statesman runs down the storylines from the combine this week.
Tarry Luna in McKinney, Texas, asks: David,I know there has been a lot of discussion about the UT/ESPN deal. There has been a lot of speculation that UT originally offered TAMU the opportunity to be a part of it, but TAMU turned it down. Are you aware of this, and is there documentation to verify that UT did indeed offer it to TAMU, and that TAMU turned it down? Thanks!
David Ubben: That's the first I've heard of that and I haven't seen any documentation to support it. That doesn't really make sense. Basically, what you'd have to have is one of two things.
1) You'd have to be convinced that Texas A&M content and money-making capability would be on par with Texas. I don't believe that's the case. The Aggies are right there alongside UT when it comes to alumni in the state, but Texas has way, way more casual fans. Those casual fans being willing to pony up for the network are a big reason why something like this is viable for a team like Texas and not for most programs.
2) Texas A&M joins up with them, but agrees to take a lower share of the profits from the network. Think that would go over well with the Aggies? No way.
Perhaps something like that was talked about, but your e-mail was the first I had heard of it. An interesting idea, but one that would never work. I do think, if Oklahoma's and Texas' networks are both successful, that an eight-team Big 12 Network is probably only a few years away from being a reality as long as Texas A&M doesn't get antsy and try to get into the SEC.
Brent in Stillwater, Okla., asks: Yesterday you said Leach would be an imperfect fit for OK State mainly because it would be a one year fix, and leave the next OC with out Weeden and Blackmon. My question is this, what if Gundy likes the idea of promoting someone like Meacham, but doesn't think he knows the spread offense well enough yet, and would like to give him one more year to shadow an offensive mastermind? If that were the case would it not stand to reason the Leach would be a perfect one year fit? Give him a one year contract, and have Meacham watch and learn for one more season!
DU: There's some merit to that idea. I could buy into that, and the immediate payoffs are obvious. I don't think Oklahoma State should rule out hiring Leach. I just don't think it's a perfect move. It comes with a lot of positives, and I think further training Doug Meacham is probably one of them.
There aren't a lot of exciting possibilities at offensive coordinator right now, so I could certainly be convinced that hiring Leach would work out well in the long run.
Daniel Hilburn in Pittsburgh, PA asks: Mr Ubben:What is your take on paying college athletes?
DU: I could write on this forever, but in short, it causes more problems than it fixes.
How do you decide who makes what? Should Cam Newton make the same as a backup punter, even if they're both on scholarship? If you let the free market decide, isn't that a dangerous road for college sports? And considering most football programs aren't even in the black to begin with, where does that money come from?
Do you let teams like Texas pay more for players than teams like Baylor? Doesn't that already further eliminate parity in a sport that's running low on parity to begin with?
I don't think there are any good answers for any of those questions, and there are plenty of others, too. The current scholarship + stipend system isn't perfect, but it's better than the alternative. Paying players sounds great in theory, until you start trying to make it happen.
Frank in Oklahoma City, Okla., asks: OK, so we know that OU is stacked for the 2011 season. What positions and who will need to step up for the Sooners? Who do you see as darkhorses on a team of a plethora of talent? You can never be good enough.
DU: Well, obviously, Landry Jones has to continue to mature as a passer. He was a lot better in 2010 than in 2009. As for dark horses for the Sooners, they could use some big years from the defensive tackle spot. Jamarkus McFarland is loaded with potential and looked pretty good late last year, but a big year from him would be a huge help for the Sooners, who weren't fantastic against the run in 2010, especially early in the year. The same for Stacy McGee at the other tackle spot. He got some great experience this year after Adrian Taylor went down again.
Dennis in Irving, Texas, asks: 1. Would you recommend Bedlam moving to Cowboys Stadium championship week? 2. Look at OSU's 2011 schedule. If an unbeaten from the SEC, BIG 10, and OSU remain at the end of 2011, OSU will play for the NC, right? I don't see how they would get left out.
DU: I'm not really a fan of that idea. Moving it to championship week is fine, and that should be a nationally relevant game next year, but it's the wrong game to move to Cowboys Stadium. Playing an Oklahoma in-state rivalry in Texas doesn't make much sense, does it? Bedlam is the game that makes the most sense during championship week, and I think that will happen, but it doesn't look like there's a big game that makes a ton of sense in Cowboys Stadium. The Lone Star Showdown won't work. Red River obviously won't, either.
It'll be interesting to see if that ever becomes a reality. My guess is if it does, it won't be anything close to a marquee game.
Corbin in Austin asks: A&M's year was a fluke. I give them a 3% chance of competing for the conference championship next year. Especially since UT is going to be way better with our new coaching staff, and OU and OSU. Do you agree with me?
DU: Uh, no.
Cliff in Nebraska asks: David, Not trying to get rid of you or anything. Just curious when the official switch will be made and I'll have to start reading Adam's blog for Husker news?
DU: We're discussing a transition date right now. It's coming soon, and you won't miss it. All I can tell you right now is to be patient, and be thankful we're both covering the Huskers for now.
Drew in Columbia, Mo., asks: All the realignment talk got me thinking. Why doesn't the Big 12 raid the Dakotas for new members? The South Dakota State Jackrabbits have quite the following, and also have had successful basketball and football teams in the recent past. Also, they could go international and pick up schools like Oxford and Cambridge. Travel costs would be high, but the move would certainly improve the Big 12's academic perception. What do you think?
DU: I like it. If the Big 12 is supposedly sniffing around San Diego State, why stop there? I studied abroad at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, and let me tell you, they had a solid rugby team. It's basically the same thing. Just teach them a few tweaks from rugby to football and let's let Macquarie into the Big 12. What better TV market for the Big 12 than the global market? London? Sydney? There's cash to be made!
Zachary Krider in Lewisville, Texas, asks: It seems like Von Miller is exceeding the expectations of scouts at the Senior Bowl. Do you see him possibly going in the top ten if he has a great Senior Bowl game?
DU: He definitely is. He, along with Colorado offensive tackle Nate Solder, have been two of the most impressive guys out there this week. By most accounts, Miller has just been unblockable and looks like he's played himself into the top 10. As for the game, it's not quite as important as the week of practice when coaches and scouts can get a front row seat to your workouts. The game doesn't matter all that much in the grand scheme, and unless he's just a completely different player on the field, and there's no evidence to suggest he will be, he's definitely helped his stock this week.
Jeff Fuller in College Station asks: You forgot to add my left handed, behind my head leaping grab against Baylor in your plays of the year. Best catch of the year in the Big 12. Where's the love?
DU: My bad on that one, it probably deserved a spot on the list. Same with the one-handed catch late against Missouri. Seems like nobody had more one-handed grabs this year than Fuller. Another year of those highlights should be fun to watch.
Oklahoma is in a BCS bowl for the eighth time in the past 11 seasons under Bob Stoops, which is nothing less than remarkable. As much flack as Stoops and the Sooners get for their five-game losing streak in the big bowls, the ability to get there is a signifier of the stability and excellence Oklahoma has shown over the past decade.
Connecticut will be the weakest team Oklahoma has played in a BCS bowl game, but they've still got to play the game. The Sooners can't mail it in and expect to win. So, who has to step up for them to do it?
The defensive line. We know about Oklahoma's pass rush, headlined by Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Jeremy Beal. Together, the Sooners finished second in the Big 12 with 34 sacks, which also ranks 13th nationally.
The Sooners give up 4.26 yards per carry, though, which ranks ninth in the Big 12. If Connecticut is going to win this game, the Huskies will have to do it on the back of Jordan Todman, barring a lopsided turnover margin.
Todman ranks second nationally in rushing yards per game, with an average of over 143. He was also one of just two running backs nationally (Bobby Rainey, WKU) to top 300 carries on the year. Point is, with the nation's 112th-ranked pass offense, Todman will get lots and lots of touches.
The Sooners defended the run well down the stretch, limiting Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter to just 55 yards and excluding both Taylor Martinez's sacks and a 66-yard touchdown run by Roy Helu Jr. in the Big 12 Championship game, Nebraska's two running backs rushing attack 115 yards on 26 carries.
If Oklahoma can keep Todman from breaking the big ones, and defensive linemen like Jamarkus McFarland, Stacy McGee, Frank Alexander and Pryce Macon can plug the holes and help linebackers like Travis Lewis, Tom Wort and Austin Box make plays, the Sooners should be on their way to ending a frustrating bowl streak that's become one of the ugly defining marks of the program in recent years.
More Big 12 bowl On the Spots:
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
I'll admit I'm a sucker for any achievement award. Give me an All-American squad -- either preseason or after the season is over with -- and I'll peruse it with diligence as I look for familiar players and teams.
And I've seen a bunch of them so far this season in a variety of magazine and Web sites.
But one of my most favorite ones has always been College Football News' redshirt freshman All-America team. It provides an early look at some of the more notable freshmen to watch around the country, both offensively and defensively.
Richard Cirminiello's team had a lot of familiar names from Big 12 schools that merit some watching. Here's a list of his first-team selections from the Big 12.
T -- Tanner Hawkinson, Kansas
C -- Ben Habern, Oklahoma
T -- Bryce Givens, Colorado
DT -- Baker Steinkuhler, Nebraska
LB -- Sean Fisher, Nebraska
LB -- Douglas Rippy, Colorado
S -- Joseph Ibiloye, Oklahoma
It bodes well for the Big 12's passing games if both tackles come from the conference. In particular, I'm intrigued with the selection of Hawkinson, a converted high school tight end who moves over from defense to protect Todd Reesing's blind side.
Oklahoma players tell me that Habern has the skill to perhaps be one of the best at his position at Oklahoma if he can keep developing. And Fisher and Rippy both have the ability to be playmakers in defenses that struggled to make many key stops last season.
Honorable mention selections included quarterback Landry Jones of Oklahoma, tackle Mark Buchanan of Texas, guards Trevor Marrongelli and John Williams of Kansas, defensive end Dravannti Johnson of Texas, defensive tackle Stacy McGee of Oklahoma, linebacker Kyle Mangan of Texas A&M and punters Quinn Sharp of Oklahoma State and Tress Way of Oklahoma.
It wise to keep an eye on these redshirt freshman. Remember that Michael Crabtree won the Biletnikoff Award as a redshirt freshman in 2007. Sam Bradford won the first of two Big 12 titles as a redshirt freshman in the same season. And Travis Lewis developed into one of the most play-making linebackers in the nation as a redshirt freshman last season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Oklahoma's defensive depth will be tested with the loss of defensive tackle DeMarcus Granger, although the Sooners likely have players who can fill in for the injured player.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops told reporters on Wednesday that team doctors haven't decided what will be the next step of Granger's rehabilitation from the injury, which Stoops told the Oklahoman newspaper is a detached tendon in his foot.
Doctors could opt for extended rest or surgery. Rest would mean he would likely miss three or four games. Surgery would end his season.
Granger's injury occurred when he was manhandled by three Washington players late in the second quarter of the Sooners' 55-14 victory last week. Television replays showed that one of the players punched Granger while he was pinned on his back.
On the previous play, Granger had shoved Washington G Casey Bulyca to the turf after a false start penalty on the Huskies. Granger was flagged 15 yards for a personal foul on the play, starting a shoving match between the two teams.
The 6-foot-2, 302-pound Granger was a heralded recruit who made 11 starts for the Sooners last season. He came on late in the season with big games against Oklahoma State and Missouri in the Big 12 championship, earning All-Big 12 second team honors by the coaches and honorable mention by the Associated Press.
But he landed firmly in Stoops' doghouse when he was arrested for shoplifting before the Fiesta Bowl and sent home by bus.
Granger was slowed with preseason back and conditioning programs but had worked his way back into Oklahoma's regular rotation. But he had lost his starting position to sophomore Adrian Taylor in the first three games of the season. Granger had notched six tackles, 1.5 tackles for losses and a fumble recovery so far this season.
Gerald McCoy and Taylor will remain as the starters at the position with senior Cory Bennett providing depth at both positions. Junior Cordero Moore replaced Granger in the rotation against Washington. And if Granger is out for the rest of the season, the Sooners might consider bringing freshmen Casey Walker or Stacy McGee out of their redshirts for the rest of the season.
BIG 12 SCOREBOARD
Final Illinois 18 Louisiana Tech 35 Final Rutgers 40 North Carolina 21 Final North Carolina State 34 UCF 27
Final Nevada 3 Louisiana-Lafayette 16 Final Utah State 21 UTEP 6 Final 22 Utah 45 Colorado State 10 Final Western Michigan 24 Air Force 38 Final South Alabama 28 Bowling Green 33
Final Marshall 52 Northern Illinois 23 Final Navy 17 San Diego State 16
Final Central Michigan 48 Western Kentucky 49 Final Fresno State 6 Rice 30
1:00 PM ET Cincinnati Virginia Tech 2:00 PM ET 15 Arizona State Duke 3:30 PM ET Miami (FL) South Carolina 4:30 PM ET Boston College Penn State 8:00 PM ET Nebraska 24 USC
2:00 PM ET Texas A&M West Virginia 5:30 PM ET Oklahoma 17 Clemson 9:00 PM ET Arkansas Texas
3:00 PM ET Notre Dame 23 LSU 6:30 PM ET 13 Georgia 21 Louisville 10:00 PM ET Maryland Stanford
12:30 PM ET 9 Ole Miss 6 TCU 4:00 PM ET 20 Boise State 10 Arizona 8:00 PM ET 7 Mississippi State 12 Georgia Tech
12:00 PM ET 19 Auburn 18 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET 8 Michigan State 5 Baylor 1:00 PM ET 16 Missouri 25 Minnesota 5:00 PM ET 2 Oregon 3 Florida State 8:30 PM ET 1 Alabama 4 Ohio State
12:00 PM ET Houston Pittsburgh 3:20 PM ET Iowa Tennessee 6:45 PM ET 11 Kansas State 14 UCLA 10:15 PM ET Washington Oklahoma State