Big 12: Steven Johnson

Lunch links: Florida State/Big 12 fallout

May, 15, 2012
5/15/12
12:00
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I don't like the sound of that. A lot of amenities disappear when an H turns into an M.

Kansas spring wrap

May, 9, 2012
5/09/12
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2011 overall record: 2-10
2011 conference record: 0-9
Returning starters: Offense 7; defense 6; P/K (2)

Top returners:
RB James Sims, WR D.J. Beshears, S Bradley McDougald, OL Tanner Hawkinson, DE Toben Opurum, RB Tony Pierson

Key losses:
QB Jordan Webb, RB Darrian Miller, LB Steven Johnson, CB Isiah Barfield, DL Patrick Dorsey

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: James Sims* (727 yards)
Passing: Jordan Webb (1,883 yards)
Receiving: D.J. Beshears* (437 yards)
Tackles: Steven Johnson (119)
Sacks: Toben Opurum* (4)
Interceptions: Bradley McDougald*, Greg Brown* (2)

Spring answers

1. A culture change is underway: Kansas' players have been beaten down over the past two years. Faith that a corner would be turned under Turner Gill wasn't rewarded. Part of what new coach Charlie Weis has to pound into his team is a sense of confidence. He memorably got his team to practice celebrating a win during one of this spring's open practices, producing a video that went viral. Confidence has to be KU's first step back from five wins in two seasons.

2. Recognizable names looking for a new start: Weis isn't the only person looking for a fresh start in Lawrence. KU welcomed six Division I transfers this fall, including starting quarterback Dayne Crist. Jake Heaps is waiting his turn to take the quarterback spot in 2013, but Oklahoma transfer Justin McCay had his appeal to waive the redshirt year denied by the NCAA. He'll be back in 2013, but defensive coordinator Dave Campo brings a big resume to Weis' staff, too.

3. Underrated at receiver: Kansas' receivers were obviously not very productive, but Weis actually left the spring really impressed with the unit. That's a good sign for Crist, and that's even without McCay suiting up. Former quarterback Kale Pick should contribute alongside D.J. Beshears and Daymond Patterson, who sat out the last 11 games of 2011 with a groin injury. JaCorey Shepherd, 6-foot-4 junior Chris Omigie and junior Christian Matthews fill out the unit that had enough depth to move Marquis Jackson to running back.

Fall questions

1. Can Charlie Weis reward the KU administration's faith? Kansas is very different than Notre Dame. It's very different from the Kansas City Chiefs and Florida Gators, too. The prospect of building a team from the bottom up appealed to Weis, and KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger made a hire that was panned by most across the country. Weis will coach with a chip on his shoulder, and the man knows football. Can he prove his detractors wrong?

2. What will the defensive line look like? This unit was the biggest hole on Kansas' team last season, and handcuffed what Weis saw was an underrated secondary. Weis noted the Jayhawks needed some bigger "muchachos" up front, and noted that reinforcements were on the way. Players that were working with the first team during the spring may be sliding way down the depth chart in the fall. How will it play out? Well, that's what fall camp is for.

3. How will the running back spot shake out? James Sims has led Kansas in rushing for each of the past two seasons, but was suspended for the first three games of 2012 after an OWI arrest. That's bad news for Sims, who had a bunch of competition at KU's best position, even after Darrian Miller was dismissed from the team during the offseason. Jackson and Tony Pierson both made huge impacts in the spring game, and Sims could have serious trouble earning his spot back when he returns in the fall. Weis won't waste first-team reps on Sims during fall camp, and with a new staff, that's a lot of exposure for Pierson, Jackson and Brandon Bourbon.

Lunch links: Weis' epic mid-practice rant

April, 20, 2012
4/20/12
12:00
PM ET
Kevin Garnett helped me move once. Kevin Costner cooked me dinner after a bad breakup. Kevin Sorbo introduced me to his podiatrist.

Breaking down spring camp: Kansas

March, 27, 2012
3/27/12
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Kansas opens spring camp today. Here's a closer look.

Schedule: The first of 15 spring practices allowed by the NCAA begins Tuesday afternoon and they'll conclude with the spring game on April 28.

What's new: Well, pretty much everything. Former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis shocked a whole lot of people when he left his post as Florida offensive coordinator to become the head man in charge. He'll call the plays and bring in his offense, and old Cowboys coach Dave Campo will coordinate the defense for the Jayhawks. It should be fascinating to see this spring and next fall for a program that needed a big jolt of excitement after an awful 2-23 record in Big 12 play the past three seasons.

New faces: The two biggest are two you'll recognize. Dayne Crist will make his debut at quarterback after transferring from Notre Dame, where Weis recruited him. His physical skills will be there, but will it mean production? Former Oklahoma receiver Justin McCay is coming, too. He struggled to catch on at OU, and his NCAA waiver that would make him eligible for 2012 is in question, but he was a blue-chip recruit when he came to Norman. Will a fresh start help either?

Question mark: The defense. Kansas had the worst scoring defense in the country last season and lacks a lot of big playmakers on that side of the ball. Campo will walk in and it's clear that tearing up the depth chart from last season is the best approach. Let players prove themselves and go out and recruit players who are better to motivate the ones on campus. That's how you build a program. Kansas is starting anew from a tough spot. The big question is whether Campo can make an impact with a better scheme for a unit with nowhere to go but up.

All eyes on: Crist. A good quarterback can make a lot of things look a lot better in this game, and Crist qualifies. He'll have a good set of backs, but will he find enough weapons to make an impact? Look at the rest of the league's top passers? Landry Jones, Geno Smith, Casey Pachall and other passers from last season all had a lot of guys to get the ball to and make plays. KU needs to find some in a hurry.

Breaking out: DE Toben Opurum. Opurum led the Jayhawks in rushing in 2009, but when Turner Gill arrived, he moved Opurum to the defensive line. It was rough at first, but he's gotten better and better as time has progressed. He led the team with 10.5 tackles for loss last season, but he could be due for an even bigger year in a new system. Truth be told, you never know how any guys will fit in a new system, but Opurum's had maybe the most interesting career of any player in the Big 12 right now.

Big shoes to fill: Whoever wins the linebacker job replacing Steven Johnson. The former walk-on led the Big 12 in tackles last season with 119, and did it all with measurables that wouldn't wow very many. He was an instinctive, tough player who was good for the program, and the Jayhawks will need to replace his leadership as well as his production.

On the mend: Weis' coaching reputation. This is what everyone around the nation will be watching this year. Kansas' Weis hire was panned by most, but he learned a lot in his shortcomings at Notre Dame, and Kansas is a very, very different place and a very different job. Weis wanted to come here and build a program. He won't have to deal with a fan crush or crazy expectations, but he'll have recruiting limitations that weren't present in South Bend. Is this the beginning of a new start for Weis?

The best players who just missed the top 25

March, 13, 2012
3/13/12
10:30
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Our top 25 has come and gone, but we're taking a deeper look at the list throughout the day on the blog.

As we do with every list, here are the guys who were probably good enough to be on the top 25, but didn't make the cut. After all, there's only so much room.

These are listed in no particular order.

Carrington Byndom, CB, Texas: Broke up 15 passes and picked off two passes, returning one for a touchdown. Also forced a fumble and of his 54 tackles, seven were for losses.

James Franklin, QB, Missouri: Threw for 2,865 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Also rushed for 981 yards and 15 touchdowns on 217 carries.

Leonard Johnson, CB, Iowa State: Made 71 tackles and broke up eight passes. Also made two tackles for loss and forced a fumble.

Steven Johnson, LB, Kansas: Led the Big 12 with 119 tackles. Made six tackles for loss and had an interception. Broke up two passes and forced two fumbles.

Keenan Robinson, LB, Texas: Second on the team with 98 tackles. Made 8.5 tackles for loss and had one sack. Broke up seven passes and forced two fumbles.

Jeremiah Hatch, OL, Kansas: Bounced back from a scary injury against Oklahoma and played well enough to earn a second-team All-Big 12 nod.

LaAdrian Waddle, OL, Texas Tech: Was the most outstanding member of the Texas Tech offensive line, which finished sixth in the Big 12 in total offense.

David Garrett, CB, Kansas State: Picked off two passes and returned one for a touchdown. Made 88 tackles and had 6.5 tackles for loss. Also broke up two passes.

Markelle Martin, S, Oklahoma State: Made 74 tackles and broke up 11 passes. Made five tackles for loss and forced two fumbles.

Gabe Ikard, OL, Oklahoma: Was the most outstanding member of the Sooners' offensive line, which paved the way for more than 512 yards per game, third-most in the Big 12.

Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M: Missed the final three games of the season, but averaged more than six yards per carry and finished eighth in the Big 12 with 899 yards and eight touchdowns on 149 carries.

Luke Joeckel, OL, Texas A&M: Improved as a second-year starter at tackle, has the most upside of any player on the Aggies' line, which helped produce the Big 12's No. 4 offense.

Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas: Third in the Big 12 with 17 tackles for loss. Had eight sacks and broke up three passes. Made 63 tackles.

Clyde Aufner, OL, Kansas State: Aufner helped Kansas State roll to the No. 5 rushing offense in the Big 12 and lead the Big 12 with 606 carries. Earned first-team All-Big 12 honors from the coaches.

Jamie Blatnick, DE, Oklahoma State: Made eight sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. Recovered two fumbles, made 50 tackles and had an interception. Forced a fumble and broke up seven passes.
We're moving on with our postseason position rankings. Today, it's time for linebackers. If you missed it, here's how I ranked them in the preseason.

At this position, depth is a major factor in these rankings. Additionally, I included nickelbacks in this grouping. Hybrid defensive end/linebackers will be grouped with defensive lines.

[+] EnlargeJake Knott
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireIowa State linebackers Jake Knott, 20, and A.J. Klein combined for 231 tackles in 2011.
More postseason position rankings: 1. Iowa State: The Cyclones top the list after a huge year from their outstanding duo, Jake Knott and A.J. Klein. They combined for 231 tackles in 2011, both finishing among the top four in the Big 12 in tackles. They had 241 together in 2010, but this season Knott played through injuries and Klein was awarded co-Defensive Player of the Year honors from the league's coaches.

2. Texas: The Longhorns will sorely miss an outstanding duo of their own with tons of experience. Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho are both NFL-bound after combining for 215 tackles.

3. Oklahoma: The Sooners weren't quite as good as expected in 2011, but part of that was because of a Travis Lewis preseason toe injury that slowed him for much of the season. Lewis, Tony Jefferson and Tom Wort all topped 70 tackles in 2011, and are a solid group.

4. Kansas State: Arthur Brown reinvigorated this group, finishing eighth in the Big 12 with 101 tackles, but the Wildcats linebackers were more than just Brown. Tre Walker and converted safety Emmanuel Lamur combined for 135 stops and helped lead one of the league's most underrated units and a much-improved run defense.

5. Texas A&M: The Aggies' backers were big pass-rushers, though they struggled in coverage this season. Sean Porter was the Big 12's sack champion with 9.5, and Caleb Russell and Jonathan Stewart combined for six more. Damontre Moore is the rawest talent of the bunch, but built on that in 2011, making 72 tackles.

6. Oklahoma State: OSU's group was good, but not great. Alex Elkins' crazy story came to an end with 90 stops in 2011. He showed up everywhere for the Cowboys, but reigning Big 12 Freshman of the Year Shaun Lewis didn't quite have the sophomore season some had hoped. Caleb Lavey added some solid play for the turnover-hungry unit, producing 74 tackles and five tackles for loss.

7. Missouri: Zaviar Gooden wasn't quite the impact player Mizzou had hoped, but he was solid alongside a group that's been injury prone over the past two years. Sophomore Andrew Wilson emerged as the team's top tackler with 98 stops, and Luke Lambert added 82 more. A high ankle sprain in the season opener kept Will Ebner off the field, but he'll be back in 2012 after the NCAA granted him a fifth year of eligibility.

8. Kansas: Steven Johnson led the Big 12 with 119 tackles, but the rest of the unit left a lot to be desired. Darius Willis has some potential, but the rest of the team's linebackers have their work cut out for them in 2012. Tunde Bakare also returns from a unit that ranked ninth in the Big 12 in rushing defense.

9. Baylor: The Bears needed help just about everywhere. Elliot Coffey was solid, and finished tied for fourth with 114 stops, but Baylor was eighth in the Big 12 in rush defense. Baylor has solid athlete in the secondary and on the defensive line, but at linebacker, Rodney Chadwick and Brody Trahan leave a bit to be desired. Ahmad Dixon was better in 2011, but still has a lot of potential that needs to be filled.

10. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders are looking for a new defensive coordinator and the 4-2-5 made a short stop in Lubbock. The Red Raiders were awful everywhere on defense, but especially up front. Nobody in college football was worse at stopping the run, and D.J. Johnson, Daniel Cobb and Cqulin Hubert turned in forgettable performances. Time to get better for 2012.
I'm thinkin' of something orange. Something orange. Give up? It's an orange.

Offseason to-do list: Kansas

February, 13, 2012
2/13/12
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We're taking a look at what each program in the Big 12 needs to deal with during the offseason, whether it be in the spring, summer or fall preseason camp. Maybe all three! Who knows?

Next up: The Kansas Jayhawks.

1. Figure out what Dayne Crist is capable of doing. Kansas has their man at quarterback. Jordan Webb, last year's starter, transferred. Crist knows new coach Charlie Weis' offense. He has all the physical skills you could ask for in a passer. But can he turn that into production? Kansas has a deep, very underrated corps of running backs, headed by James Sims. How heavily can this team lean on Crist? They probably need to have some idea by the end of spring. Getting receiver Justin McCay, an Oklahoma transfer, officially eligible for 2012 would help a lot.

2. Forget the past two years. Learn what's expected. Other than what not to do, Kansas probably didn't learn a lot from getting beat down week to week the past two seasons. Focusing on that won't do much. Learning how to succeed under Weis has to be the Jayhawks' focus. It always takes a little while for players to learn what's expected, whether that's off the field or simply learning the systems on both sides of the ball on the field. Making things simple will help. Kansas still needs help in terms of teamwide talent, but maximizing what they have now depends on the players on campus buying in to Weis' philosophy.

3. Shore up the middle of the defense. Big 12 teams like to throw, but look at Tech last year. The book on torching the defense was out early: Run on the Red Raiders and they couldn't stop you. Teams, even heavy passing teams, ran a lot more on them. Kansas loses both defensive tackles, Patrick Dorsey and Richard Johnson. The Big 12's leading tackler, physical linebacker Steven Johnson is also gone. KU's defense has a whole lot of problems to fix. The middle of the defense is probably at the top of the list.

More offseason to-do lists.

Lunch links: Big 12 feud hits Senate floor

February, 8, 2012
2/08/12
12:00
PM ET
I was spending too much time flossing, I was missing my life.

The Big 12 All-Interview Team: Local edition

January, 25, 2012
1/25/12
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I unveiled my All-Interview team this week, but I heard about as much feedback from that post as any we've had on the blog.

Folks wanted more.

So, here it is. I asked the local reporters for help: Tell us the story of players this season who provided one memorable interview for one reason or another, or consistently offered a look inside teams that few other players could duplicate.

Here they are:

David Snow, OL, Texas: Imagine what you'd expect a guy who grew up lifting hay bales and shooting deer in the small East Texas town of Giilmer to sound like. That's exactly the voice that comes from Snow, who spent every Longhorns media session spewing blunt honesty through his thick, slow drawl. If Texas stunk, Snow owned up to it, sometimes in PG-13 terms. If he didn't like an opponent (and he usually didn't) he had no problem describing his distaste. He was one of the few guys who seemed to genuinely enjoy talking to the media, and his listeners enjoyed it too. -- Mike Finger, San Antonio Express-News

Javon Harris, S, Oklahoma: Came into the interview room for 30 minutes the Monday after that Baylor game, and answered every question honestly. -- Jake Trotter, SoonerNation

Shaun Lewis, LB, Oklahoma State It's not about quantity. It's about quality. You don't get a lot of words from Lewis, but he always helps make the story better. -- Bill Haisten, Tulsa World

Grant Garner, C, Oklahoma State: Excellent, both on topics specific to the offensive line and the big-picture condition of Oklahoma State football. -- Bill Haisten, Tulsa World

Richetti Jones, DE, Oklahoma State: Other than Weeden, Richetti was my favorite guy to chat with because he told you exactly how he felt about absolutely anything. He called out critics of the OSU defense when the Cowboys climbed to No. 2 in the nation. He ripped the BCS for the title game rematch that featured a team that didn't win its conference. But his jabs--or any answers he gave--were always entertaining. One of my interview highlights of the season was him describing how he thought the first earthquake that hit Oklahoma in November was paranormal activity in his bedroom. The dude is hilarious, and I'll miss talking with him. -- Gina Mizell, The Oklahoman

Gabe Ikard, OL, Oklahoma: I noticed you had Ben Habern, and that's a very fine selection from the Sooners. But Gabe Ikard is more than suitable as an addition. In fact, once, we interviewed Habern and Ikard together, sitting next to one another. It was their choice. They cut up and had a good time with it, but they also gave a lot of answers I could use. (I remember that being the day I was writing about walk-on Dominique Whaley's impact on the team and previously working at Subway to pay for school.)

Both of those guys, and Ikard in particular, are extremely engaging. Not only do they not mind interviews ... they seem to like them. That's rare, at least over the course of the long season. Ikard, who has a 4.0 I think, is very thoughtful and honest with his answers. Those two guys often fill your notebook, regardless of what you're working on. I appreciate their positive attitudes about media when we sometimes run into malcontents by, oh, sometime in October. -- Travis Haney, The Oklahoman

Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State: Not only did you feel like you were dealing with a grown up -- no age jokes allowed -- Weeden always gave every question sincere thought and provided a thoughtful answer. He showed up every week, after every game, ready and willing to talk. He should be hired by every team in the league to teach a Media 101 session. -- John Helsley, The Oklahoman

Jeff Woody, RB, Iowa State: Great knack for giving you insight to the game, and the emotion that goes into it - without throwing teammates under the bus. He described running back Shontrelle Johnson as a rabbit darting across the back yard, while being chased by a dog. -- Andrew Logue, Des Moines Register

Steven Johnson, LB, Kansas: No matter what the situation was, Steven Johnson was a guy we could count on for the truth. Whether it was after tough loss, a big win or the opening practice of the season, Johnson always told it like it was and rarely held back his emotions or expectations. Sometimes that meant him breaking down to the point of tears, other times it meant him holding out hope for winning the Big 12 or making a bowl game even though the Jayhawks were five or six games into a disappointing season. Johnson will go down as one of the classiest players to ever wear a KU uniform and he easily was this team's go-to guy for good quotes. -- Matt Tait, Lawrence Journal-World

Terrance Ganaway, RB, Baylor: Thoughtful with his answers, willing to answer difficult questions and very well-reasoned and well-worded responses. -- Jimmy Burch, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

R.J. Washington, DE, Oklahoma: Epic interviews in high school made us all eager to get some time with him. But after a redshirt year, he clearly had been taught to dial it back a bit. Still, he's very good. Almost always offers up something interesting, and it's frequently subject matter that you may not have asked about. He gets it. He knows not to be overly defensive or closed-down in interviews because he refuses to buy the company line that the media is out to get him. -- John Hoover, Tulsa World

Terrance Frederick, CB, Texas A&M: He seemed real -- appropriately serious but at times still light hearted -- as the season turned sour. -- Suzanne Halliburton, Austin American-Statesman

Steven Johnson, LB, Kansas: Looked like you already got him, but I'll put in another vote for KU's Steven Johnson. He was the guy you could count on to say what everyone was thinking. -- Austin Meek, Topeka Capital-Journal

Ter'ran Benton, CB, Iowa State: Benton is smart, funny and you never know where an interview with him will go. He might tell you why Louisiana Hot Sauce is the best hot sauce in the world. He might joking tell you that cornerback Leonard Johnson should be playing well because he has a light class load. He's great at explaining why things are, or aren't, working for the defense. He's an all-around great quote. -- Bobby La Gesse, Ames Tribune

B.J. Finney, C, Kansas State: The freshman center was the face of K-State football this season, at least at press conferences. He showed up at every single media availability and gave thoughtful answers to every question he was asked. Quite impressive when you consider he was the only football player to show up for a few of the midweek pressers and reporters desperate for a quote asked him about the opposing team's offense and what strategy the K-State secondary had for that week. He gets the perfect attendance award. -- Kellis Robinett, Wichita Eagle/Kansas City Star

Chris Harper, WR, Kansas State: Never afraid to speak his mind on a topic. Will respond to dull questions with incredible insight. A former quarterback, he can analyze every offensive position. By far the best and most entertaining talker on the team. But he lost points for criticizing the Pinstripe Bowl. Bill Snyder didn't care for that, and made him off limits to media for several weeks. -- Kellis Robinett, Wichita Eagle/Kansas City Star

The Big 12's 2011 All-Interview Team

January, 23, 2012
1/23/12
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Excluding the shy guys, most players love interviews at first. After time, though, it does get old. Still, these are the players who made stories like mine and others great throughout the season.

With a nod to our buddies in the SEC, here is the Big 12 All-Interview team.

Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State: Weeden and the man below him on this team probably did more interviews than any player in the entire league in 2011. It was close for both. Through it all, though, Weeden showed up every week and held court, often for 30 minutes to an hour after games, offering up refreshing honesty and insight, as well as some good humor, often.

Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor: Speaking of humor, RG3 is more than a Heisman winner with catchy socks. He's always good for a one-liner and his relentless positivity is more than a shtick. It's a huge reason why his team rallied around him the past few seasons and why so many talented players came (and will come) to Baylor. If you saw his Heisman acceptance speech, it's easy to see why he's on this team.

Fozzy Whittaker, RB, Texas: Whittaker's been through it all at Texas. Injury after injury, including a devastating knee injury that ended his career at Texas. A national championship run -- and title-game loss. A losing season. Being replaced by a freshman at the top of the depth chart. Every step of the way, he answered questions with a smile on his face and intellect in his answers. His teammates gave him a standing ovation the week after his knee injury, and I wish this blog could do the same.

Ben Habern, C, Oklahoma: More often than not, offensive linemen are a team's best interview. Throughout his career, Habern's held that title, and that was the case this season. He's smart, and helps guys like us in the media better understand the game from the inside, much like some coordinators do. It's appreciated.

T.J. Moe, WR, Missouri: So, maybe Moe got out of hand once, but he's good for an honest answer and a catchy one-liner to put in a story pretty often.

Blake Gideon, S, Texas: Like Whittaker, Gideon's been through a lot, too. Almost every year, it seems he's willing to sit and answer questions about one of the most painful football moments of his life. It's not fun to talk about, but it endears him to fans and provides a compelling story. Gideon was also great for insight into Texas' changing defense (and offense) this season.

Steven Johnson, LB, Kansas: Johnson, a former walk-on turned Big 12 tackles leader, plays with an intensity and answers questions with a smile on his face that comes from being a guy who feels blessed to be where he is.

Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State: Knott gave some memorable interviews this season helping put into context two of the most emotionally rewarding wins in his career: Iowa and Oklahoma State. He's also good to tell fans what it's like to be the toughest guy in the Big 12.

James Franklin, QB, Missouri: Franklin doesn't have much in common with his predecessors, Chase Daniel and Blaine Gabbert, outside of starting his career with an eight-win season and looking like a player with tons of potential, much of which was realized in 2012. Along the way, he offered up lots of disarming honesty (perhaps too much at times) and a look back on his roots to help fans better understand who he is and what he's about.

Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State: Klein gets the award for maybe the most impressive thing I've ever heard in an interview. He's probably not the only one who can, but I've never heard anyone rip off Bill Snyder's 16 Goals for Success in about 10 seconds without so much as a pause. He's also great for a look inside the life of a QB who takes a beating every week and gets up hungry for more. The Big 12's version of the Honey Badger will be fun to watch and talk to in 2012.
Seven Big 12 players will take part in the East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 21 in St. Petersburg, Fla.
  • Tysyn Hartman, S, Kansas State
  • Nicolas Jean-Baptiste, DT, Baylor
  • Blake Gideon, S, Texas
  • Dominique Hamilton, DT, Missouri
  • Steven Johnson, LB, Kansas
  • Cody Johnson, FB, Texas
  • David Snow, OL, Texas

Good to hear from each of these guys, who have all been extremely productive over their careers. Traditionally, the Senior Bowl the following week is a more prestigious display, but all seven of these guys will get valuable exposure in front of NFL scouts.

We'll see who takes advantage and improves their draft stock.

You can see the full roster here.

The Big 12's Super Seniors of 2011

December, 15, 2011
12/15/11
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We honored the freshmen in the Big 12 earlier this week, but what about the old guys?

These guys have played at their programs for four or five years each, and earned a spot as one of the greats after providing some big-time senior leadership. Here's each Big 12 team's Super Senior of 2011.

Baylor: Kendall Wright, WR -- How many players lead a program at receiver for four consecutive years? Talk about a rarity. Wright did it emphatically this season, catching 101 passes for 1,572 yards, second-most nationally and the most in the Big 12. Wright got better every season, even in 2009 when Robert Griffin III missed the last nine games with a torn ACL. RG3 was the guy collecting the Heisman, so Wright's value sometimes got lost.

Iowa State: Kelechi Osemele, OT -- Osemele has been a mainstay on the Cyclones' offensive line, helping the program reach two bowl games in three years. He started each of those three seasons, and half of his redshirt freshman year in 2008. He'll carry on Iowa State's reputation into the NFL next year, but he's been valuable to an underrated offensive line.

Kansas: Steven Johnson, LB -- Johnson was a Pennsylvania kid who wanted a chance. Mark Mangino gave it to him, first letting him walk on and then giving him a scholarship. He's been around for two coaching changes now, but he's done after a huge year in 2011, where he led the Big 12 in tackles, with 119. It's been a dark period in Kansas' recent history, but Johnson's been the brightest spot.

Kansas State: Tysyn Hartman, S -- Hartman's a great personification of the "student-athlete," earning a finalist nod for the Campbell Trophy, which is essentially the academic Heisman. He's also been a four-year starter and helped bring about change this season under Bill Snyder, who led the Wildcats to a 10-2 record. Hartman made 62 tackles and intercepted three passes this year.

Missouri: Jacquies Smith, DE/Kenji Jackson, S -- Smith and Jackson were both major contributors for four seasons and shared captain duties for the Tigers this season. Smith's been big on the defensive line for all four seasons, and both have played through injuries. Smith dislocated an elbow this year and Jackson fought through a knee injury last year, as well as a hamstring injury in camp. Jackson made 71 tackles and picked off three passes, while Smith bullrushed his way into All-Big 12 honors with eight tackles for loss and five sacks, as well as four forced fumbles.

We'll review part two later.

ESPN.com's All-Underrated Big 12 team

December, 13, 2011
12/13/11
4:30
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We unveiled our All-Big 12 team last week with lots of talent.

Time for a new take, with a little help from the Big Ten Blog: The All-Underrated team.

My criteria: The conference's most underrated player at each position. This is, of course, subjective. This isn't for the second-best player at each position. It's for the player who doesn't get enough respect. The only rule: He can't be on my All-Big 12 team.

Here goes:

OFFENSE

QB: James Franklin, Missouri
RB: Christine Michael, Texas A&M
RB: John Hubert, Kansas State
FB: Braden Wilson, Kansas State
WR: Ryan Swope, Texas A&M
WR: Tevin Reese, Baylor
WR: Josh Cooper, Oklahoma State
TE: James Hanna, Oklahoma
OL: Clyde Aufner, Kansas State
OL: Philip Blake, Baylor
OL: Austin Wuebbels, Missouri
OL: David Snow, Texas
OL: Lonnie Edwards, Texas Tech

DEFENSE

DE: Toben Opurum, Kansas
DT: Nicolas Jean-Baptiste, Baylor
DE: Meshak Williams, Kansas State
DE: Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas
LB: Steven Johnson, Kansas
LB: Elliot Coffey, Baylor
LB: Alex Elkins, Oklahoma State
CB: David Garrett, Kansas State
CB: Leonard Johnson, Iowa State
S: Terrance Bullitt, Texas Tech
S: Daytawion Lowe, Oklahoma State

SPECIALISTS

P: Trey Barrow, Missouri
PK: Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma
PR/KR: Jarvis West, Iowa State

Coach: Paul Rhoads, Iowa State

ESPN.com's 2011 All-Big 12 Team

December, 9, 2011
12/09/11
10:30
AM ET
Editor’s Note: Tune into the “AT&T ESPN All America Team Show” on Saturday (ABC, 1:30 p.m. ET) to see who ESPN’s writers and experts selected.

It's been a fun season across the Big 12, with a few big names who didn't play as well as we thought, and lots of unknowns who became household names by the end of the season.

I'll offer my comments below, but here's our All-Big 12 team for 2011.

OFFENSE

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
Jerome Miron/US PresswireThe heroics of Robert Griffin III got Baylor to 9-3 and made him a Heisman Trophy finalist.
QB: Robert Griffin III, Baylor
All-purpose: Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
RB: Terrance Ganaway, Baylor
RB: Henry Josey, Missouri
FB: Trey Millard, Oklahoma
WR: Kendall Wright, Baylor
WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
WR: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
TE: Michael Egnew, Missouri
C: Grant Garner, Oklahoma State
OL: Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State
OL: Levy Adcock, Oklahoma State
OL: Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
OL: Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M

DEFENSE

DE: Frank Alexander, Oklahoma
DT: Dominique Hamilton, Missouri
DE: Alex Okafor, Texas
DE: Jamie Blatnick, Oklahoma State
LB: Sean Porter, Texas A&M
LB: Jake Knott, Iowa State
LB: Emmanuel Acho, Texas
NB: Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma
CB: Nigel Malone, Kansas State
CB: Carrington Byndom, Texas
S: Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
S: Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State

SPECIALISTS

P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
PK: Randy Bullock, Texas A&M
PR: Dustin Harris, Texas A&M
KR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

Finally, a few notes and explanations:

  • I loved the media's idea to craft an all-purpose spot to accomodate Collin Klein. The Big Ten did the same for Michigan's Denard Robinson last season. I followed suit, and did so on the defensive side of the ball with a nickel-back spot for Oklahoma's Tony Jefferson. Two players that missed first-team designation by the coaches, but clearly deserve to be recognized.
  • Additionally, I prefer the teams to reflect the Big 12 style of play, so the nickel back fits. Each team doesn't have 11 players, but there were deserving linebackers. The same with Egnew and Millard. Does every team use a fullback or a tight end? No, but both are standout performers. They'd rotate in anyway, just as Jefferson would in a theoretical package.
  • Tough call to leave Philip Blake from Baylor off my team, but Garner's been better. Blake is very, very close, though.
  • Hated to leave off Brodrick Brown and E.J. Gaines, but I went with a more traditional two corners and two safeties, rather than four corners like the media's team.
  • Steven Johnson and Arthur Brown would have been right behind my three linebackers. That race was probably closer than at any other position, except maybe cornerback. Difficult to leave either of those guys off my first team, but the three on the team were better. I gave Brown my Newcomer of the Year nod, though.
  • I don't like going with three defensive ends and one defensive tackle, but there wasn't a defensive tackle who deserved the honor more than Okafor, my third defensive end. Okafor was a defensive tackle last year anyway, so that's close enough, right? He moved from tackle to end before spring practice earlier this year. In the Big 12, an additional pass rusher is necessary, too, right?
  • I made a similar move with my offensive line. Went tackle-heavy, but the guards didn't have quite as many standouts.

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