Big 12: Tim Atchison

Spring superlatives: Baylor

March, 23, 2011
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We'll kick off a series today looking at the weakest and strongest positions for each team in the Big 12. First up: the Baylor Bears.

Strongest position: Wide receiver

Key returnees: Kendall Wright, Josh Gordon, Terrance Williams, Tevin Reese, Lanear Sampson

Key losses: None, although tight end Brad Taylor graduated after catching 20 passes for 269 yards last year.

Analysis: Quarterback Robert Griffin III keys Baylor's offense, but he's got plenty of targets to throw to, and last year he distributed the ball well. All five of his top receivers had at least 40 receptions and 390 yards, and Wright led the group with 79 receptions for 952 yards and seven scores. Wright is already one of the Big 12's best receivers. Gordon could become one this year after emerging as a big red-zone target at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds. Former blue-chip recruit Darius Jones also looked impressive during my visit to Waco for spring practice last week. Because Griffin has so many targets and isn't forced to rely on just one, none of the five may ascend to the Big 12's absolute elite, but Gordon and Wright both have that potential. At worst, all five will be solid and keep Baylor's passing game a huge boost to the Bears hopes at being a Big 12 title contender.

Weakest position: Linebacker

Key returnees: Elliot Coffey, Chris McAllister

Key losses: Antonio Johnson, Chris Francis, Earl Patin

Analysis: Baylor already ranked ninth in the Big 12 in rush defense last season, and loses Francis and Johnson, two of four Bears to make at least 70 tackles last season. Johnson was also one of the defense's leaders. The Bears' D has had problems stopping the run early in spring practice, and needs someone to help solidify the defense's second line. McAllister has plenty of potential after a strong freshman season in 2010, but he'll need to turn that potential into production to help the linebackers eliminate their status as a weakness before the season. Baylor loses both safeties -- the team's two leading tacklers from last season. Though the depth chart is still very much in flux, there's plenty of talent on the back line, as Ahmad Dixon and Mike Hicks that could be ready to replace Tim Atchison and Byron Landor.

What to watch in the Big 12 this spring

February, 16, 2011
2/16/11
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Springtime is almost here. And here's a look at what to expect across the Big 12 when it gets into full swing here in the next couple weeks.

BAYLOR BEARS

Spring practice starts: February 28

Spring game: April 2

What to watch:
  • Big changes on defense. Baylor brought in Phil Bennett as its new defensive coordinator, and he says his scheme will be multiple, built to fit the Bears' personnel. Considering the Bears' recent recruiting successes in the secondary, look for a 4-2-5 type of look.
  • Recruiting stars: time to shine. Both safeties, Tim Atchison and Byron Landor, are gone. Baylor, though, has two former ESPNU 150 recruits at safety who would be well served to start filling their potential. Prince Kent was a reserve last season and at one time, the nation's No. 51 overall recruit who originally signed with Miami. Ahmad Dixon, meanwhile, was the No. 15 overall prospect in the 2010 class. The opportunity is there. Baylor needs big talent at the position. Briles has recruited it. Can they develop into players who make Baylor a contender?
  • Running back competition. Jay Finley topped 1,200 yards in 2010, but he's gone. Who steps into his void? Terrance Ganaway is a bowling ball at 5-foot-11, 235 pounds, but the shifty Jarred Salubi could get a good amount of carries, too. They could begin to share carries this spring.
IOWA STATE CYCLONES

Spring practice starts: March 22

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Quarterback competition. It should be a good one in Ames this spring. Jerome Tiller is the name most recognize after getting lots of meaningful time and starts because of injuries to Austen Arnaud over the past two seasons. But juco transfer Steele Jantz sounds confident he can win the job. Rising sophomore James Capello and redshirt freshman Jared Barnett will compete, too.
  • Paging Cyclone receivers. Iowa State had one of the most underwhelming receiving corps in the league during the past season, and three of its top five pass-catchers won't return in 2011. Of those three, however, one is a tight end (Collin Franklin) and another is a running back (Alexander Robinson). The new quarterback will need some help, and Darius Darks and Darius Reynolds will need to provide it as seniors.
  • Shontrelle's time or not? Freshman Shontrelle Johnson looked like the running back with the most pop behind Robinson for most of 2010, but two other freshmen running backs jockeyed for carries, too. Paul Rhoads is hardly handing the job over to Johnson, but spring could be the time when he really separates himself from the pack.
KANSAS JAYHAWKS

Spring practice starts: April 1

Spring game: April 30

What to watch:
  • What are they doing behind center? Kansas never got much consistent play out of the quarterback position last year, but freshman Brock Berglund is one of the 2011 class' top recruits, and enrolled early to compete in the spring with Jordan Webb and Quinn Mecham. With a building program like Kansas, there's perhaps some value in handing the program to a younger player like Webb or Berglund, but they'll have to earn it. Doing so will start in the spring, but don't expect the Jayhawks to have a set-in-stone starter by spring's end.
  • Top linebacker back on the field. Huldon Tharp missed all of 2010 with a foot injury, but he says he's 100 percent and ready to get back on the field. As a freshman in 2009, he was fifth on the team in tackles, with 59, and looked like one of the league's possible budding stars. Now, he'll get his chance to join fellow linebacker Steven Johnson as one of the team's top tacklers, and he'll do it as a sophomore after redshirting in 2010.
  • Toben rising? Turner Gill raised plenty of eyebrows when he moved his team's leading rusher in 2009, Toben Opurum, to linebacker in fall camp, and eventually slid him up to defensive end. But toward the end of 2010, Opurum started showing some major signs of growth at the position. We'll get a better idea this spring if he's one of the league's most unlikely new stars at defensive end.
KANSAS STATE WILDCATS

Spring practice starts: April 6

Spring game: April 30

What to watch:
  • Prodigal Kansan sons come home. There's no doubt that the Wichita native Brown brothers are the main attraction at Kansas State this spring, a season after transferring back home. Bryce Brown, the running back, was the nation's No. 8 prospect in the 2009 class. Arthur Brown, the linebacker, was the nation's No. 6 prospect in the 2008 class. Bryce transferred from Tennessee and Arthur from Miami. The Wildcats are pinning much of their hopes on the duo, and we'll get a good sense of what they can provide soon.
  • Quarterback competition. Carson Coffman is gone, and two new faces will challenge for the job: juco transfer Justin Tuggle and Daniel Sams. Sammuel Lamur is also up for the gig. Collin Klein may or may not be; Bill Snyder hasn't explicitly confirmed a past comment from Sams saying Klein had moved to receiver. Don't expect a starter to be named by spring's end, but a general order could start to form.
  • Can the defense show improvement? Kansas State had the Big 12's worst overall defense last year, and the worst rushing defense in college football, giving up 3,008 yards on the ground. Coordinator Chris Cosh looks like he'll still be around in 2011, and defensive backs David Garrett and Tysyn Hartman are solid pieces to try and build around. But this young maturing defense must get better to make a bowl game again with so many questions on offense. That starts in the spring.
MISSOURI TIGERS

Spring practice starts: March 8

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Franklin comes alive! Blaine Gabbert bolted to the NFL early, and Missouri has a gaping hole a quarterback. The position, however, is surrounded by a lot of quality talent that likely makes the Tigers a Top 25 team. There's no understating the importance of the position for the Tigers, and that will begin to be decided in the spring. James Franklin, a rising sophomore, saw spot duty in 2010 as more of a runner, and may have the inside track on the job, but Tyler Gabbert, Blaine's younger brother, and Ashton Glaser should make it an interesting competition in the spring. If neither of them impress early, don't count out incoming freshman Corbin Berkstresser.
  • Here is the new secondary. Same as the old secondary? After years of pass defense being one of the Tigers' biggest weaknesses, it became a strength in 2010 behind the leadership of senior corners Kevin Rutland and Carl Gettis. But the Tigers lose them and safety Jarrell Harrison. Rutland emerged as one of the team's most impressive players last spring, but was Missouri's success in the secondary a one-time thing or the beginning of a welcome trend?
  • Time to dominate the trenches? Missouri played without likely first-round pick Aldon Smith for much of the previous season, but the defensive and offensive lines for the Tigers were as good as ever in 2010. How will they look in 2011? Impact juco transfer Sheldon Richardson won't be enrolled by the spring, but the four returning starters on the offensive line should get some solid work against Brad Madison, Jacquies Smith and Terrell Resonno.
OKLAHOMA SOONERS

Spring practice starts: March 21

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Freshmen on display. Coach Bob Stoops hasn't been shy about saying his 2010 recruiting class was his best ever, but it could look even better after this spring. Two of his best emerging recruits, Justin McCay and Geneo Grissom, didn't even play in 2010, and could start to make an impact. The same goes for Corey Nelson, who will try to earn some more time somewhere backing up star Travis Lewis.
  • Is there a golden boot in Norman? Jimmy Stevens was much more accurate in 2010, finishing 19-for-23, but his attempts outside 45 yards were sparse. The good news is he missed none of his 53 extra points. Field goals have been a bit of an adventure for the past couple years, but continuing in the spring what he started last year would be a good sign for Oklahoma. The Sooners are strong everywhere and need good special teams play to reach their lofty title goals.
  • Are the Sooners' backs back? Roy Finch missed the Fiesta Bowl with a stress fracture, and his durability is certainly questionable entering 2011. When he's healthy, he looks like the next star in the Sooners' backfield, but they'll need some depth behind the 5-foot-8, 173-pounder. Jermie Calhoun, Jonathan Miller and Brennan Clay have all looked good at times, but there should be some good competition from newcomers Brandon Wegher, an Iowa transfer who'll be in camp this spring and eligible next season, and blue-chip recruit Brandon Williams, who enrolled early.
OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS

Spring practice starts: March 7

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Every piece of the offense. The spring in Stillwater is all about keeping or improving upon the status quo. Had it kept Dana Holgorsen, there'd be little doubt that would happen, but Oklahoma State must make the most of its five returning offensive linemen, quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon. The opportunity for a historic season is there, but they'll have to pick up the nuances of the new offense quickly in the spring like they did last year.
  • What about the kicker? Dan Bailey won the Lou Groza Award as the nation's top kicker in 2010, but he's gone. Oklahoma State needs to fill that role quickly, and we'll likely know who will get the nod after the spring.
  • Who steps up on the defensive line? The Cowboys lose three starters up front on defense, including All-Big 12 performer Ugo Chinasa and tackles Chris Donaldson and Shane Jarka. Can senior Richetti Jones become a star in the Big 12? We'll have a good idea if he, or any of the Cowboys' other defensive linemen, can by the end of April.
TEXAS LONGHORNS

Spring practice starts: February 24

Spring game: April 3

What to watch:
  • New coaches and their students/players. Texas has five new coaches. Although it's hard to get a good read early on, how they relate with the players on the field, in the film room and around the facilities will have a big impact on how the 2011 season plays out in Austin. The young-blooded coordinators could serve themselves well by relating to players and the players will need to spend plenty of extra time learning new schemes and plays.
  • Quarterback competition ... or not? Mack Brown says the gig is open and it is, for now. Garrett Gilbert can close it with a strong spring. If Garrett struggles on the field or has difficulty grasping the new system, the door will be wide open for Connor Wood or Case McCoy to step in and close it. Gilbert didn't get much help, but he did very little in 2010 to inspire a lot of breathing room with McCoy and Wood clamoring for playing time.
  • And you've got to defend the pass, too. Texas loses its top three cornerbacks to the NFL, and only Carrington Byndom and A.J. White got much meaningful playing time last season. Younger players can earn some rare early playing time with a strong spring. Will anyone step up?
TEXAS A&M AGGIES

Spring practice starts: March 22

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • New linebackers in the running. Spring isn't so scary when you bring back nine defensive starters, but the two Texas A&M lost were the heart of its defense. Linebackers Michael Hodges and Von Miller are gone. Kyle Mangan didn't look fantastic when forced into action during the Cotton Bowl, but the time is now for Damontre Moore and Dominique Patterson, a pair of sophomores, to make their impact.
  • Tannehill's tuning things up. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill played about as well as anyone could have hoped late last season, but he'll need it to continue his performance with a solid spring nailing down the timing with his receivers, who all return. He's already got a leg up on last year's quarterback, Jerrod Johnson, who was held out of team drills last spring after shoulder surgery that eventually derailed his senior season.
  • Christine's back. Christine Michael missed the second half of the season with a broken leg, giving way to Cyrus Gray's rise among Big 12 backs. It should make Texas A&M's depth at the position even more impressive, but we'll see how Michael looks coming back from the injury.
TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS

Spring practice starts: February 19

Spring game: March 26

What to watch:
  • Past defending that pass defense. Texas Tech had the Big 12's worst pass defense last season, but has a pair of big potential players at cornerback in rising sophomores Tre Porter and Jarvis Phillips. Starters LaRon Moore and Franklin Mitchem are gone, but if returning starters Cody Davis and Will Ford can continue to mature, the defense should improve in the area most important for success in the Big 12.
  • And they're off! There's a four-man quarterback derby set in Lubbock this spring between Seth Doege, Jacob Karam, Michael Brewer and Scotty Young. I don't expect it to be settled until midway through fall camp, similar to last season, but there should be a solid front-runner and more clarity after spring. Coach Tommy Tuberville was extremely impressed with Doege and Karam last spring after Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield went down with injuries.
  • Time to find new stars. Most of the big names on Texas Tech's defense are gone. Colby Whitlock, Bront Bird, Brian Duncan will all continue their careers elsewhere. The leaders on the defense will have to begin to emerge in the spring. Is it Scott Smith? Cody Davis? A younger, unexpected player? We'll find out. Sometimes these types of situations aren't as easy to predict as they might seem, like Missouri's strength in 2010 emerging in the secondary.
Tags:

Baylor Bears, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Missouri Tigers, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Texas Longhorns, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Colby Whitlock, Corey Nelson, Ahmad Dixon, Brennan Clay, Jacob Karam, Darius Reynolds, Christine Michael, Von Miller, Alexander Robinson, Kyle Mangan, Chris Cosh, Steven Sheffield, Turner Gill, Tysyn Hartman, Bill Snyder, Bront Bird, Case McCoy, Brandon Williams, Dan Bailey, Justin Blackmon, Franklin Mitchem, Richetti Jones, James Capello, Connor Wood, Shane Jarka, Ryan Tannehill, Terrance Ganaway, Byron Landor, Cody Davis, Travis Lewis, Cyrus Gray, Scotty Young, Chris Donaldson, Bryce Brown, Jerome Tiller, Brian Duncan, LaRon Moore, Toben Opurum, Darius Darks, Paul Rhoads, Brad Madison, Art Briles, Kevin Rutland, Carrington Byndom, Sheldon Richardson, Bob Stoops, Jerrod Johnson, Blaine Gabbert, Jay Finley, Jared Barnett, Taylor Potts, Huldon Tharp, Jimmy Stevens, Arthur Brown, Mack Brown, Jarvis Phillips, Garrett Gilbert, Roy Finch, Tyler Gabbert, Jordan Webb, Jermie Calhoun, Collin Franklin, Phil Bennett, Jacquies Smith, Jarred Salubi, Collin Klein, Tim Atchison, Carl Gettis, Seth Doege, Ugo Chinasa, Terrell Resonno, Carson Coffman, Aldon Smith, Brandon Weeden, David Garrett, Will Ford, Justin McCay, James Franklin, Corbin Berkstresser, Geneo Grissom, Quinn Mecham, Scott Smith, Tre Porter, Shontrelle Johnson, Prince Kent, Damontre Moore, Michael Brewer, A.J. White, Brock Berglund, Ashton Glaser, Michael Hodges, Brandon Wegher, Steele Jantz, Jonathan Miller, Justin Tuggle, Daniel Sams, Dominique Patterson

Mailbag: Fuller, 2011 title, new defenses

January, 14, 2011
1/14/11
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Justin Wendling in Canton, Ga., asks: Do you think the Oklahoma Sooners will beat Oklahoma State and Texas again this year?

David Ubben: Neither is a given. Oklahoma has a tough schedule; the Sooners could have as many as seven top 25 teams on their schedule. Texas is never a sure thing for Oklahoma. Far from it. Just look at this year. The Longhorns went 5-7. Oklahoma had a good year by their standards and were a legitimate top 10 team. Yet Texas came within a couple plays of beating the Sooners.

The catch for Oklahoma in Bedlam this year is they have to go back to Stillwater for a second consecutive year because of the nine-game scheduling. That's one of a few kinks in the transition to a round-robin schedule. That's not a good thing for a team bent on a national title. Oklahoma State will have learned from last year's experience, could be playing for a Big 12 title and will have Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden back to do it.

Outside of Florida State in Tallahassee early in the season, that trip to Stillwater will be Oklahoma's toughest road game in 2011.


Derek Kane in Albuquerque, N.M., asks: I Know that technically Nebraska is out of the Big Twelve (Or Should I say Big Ten) but how do you think the are going to fair this year?

DU: It's going to be tough for them with that schedule. The offense clearly has to be better, and Big Ten teams are better equipped to neutralize Nebraska's strength in the secondary simply by running the ball downhill with power. Teams like Missouri could never really do that against the Huskers, and their offensive strengths played right into Nebraska's defensive strength. Based on the way Nebraska defended Washington, they'll have to get better defending power running games in a hurry.

Jared Crick's return will be valuable in stopping those running games, but I'm interested to see how an undersized linebacker like Lavonte David does. Clearly the talent and instinct for the position is there, but can he handle offensive linemen getting into the second level of the defense and consistently tackle bigger running backs? I don't expect Nebraska to keep recruiting 210-pound linebackers like him, so he could be one of the last of his kind at Nebraska. But, if he has a lot of success next year, that might not be the case.


Eric in Houston asks: What are your predictions for Baylor's defense next year?

DU: You'd have to figure they'd be better. New coordinator Phil Bennett made it clear he's excited, and sounds confident that he can have a satisfying level of success. Replacing Phil Taylor and his size will be tough, but the departure of Tim Atchison should open up one of the safety spots and give blue-chip recruit Ahmad Dixon a chance to prove his worth on the field. The Bears defense doesn't need to be great with the way the offense played, but if it's significantly better like Texas A&M's became this year, you could see Baylor win eight, nine, even 10 games. The Bears defense last year was a lot better than Texas A&M's in 2009, but they don't quite have the same amount of raw talent. But do big little things like win the turnover battle (Baylor forced just 20 turnovers last year, No. 9 in the Big 12. It also turned it over just 20 times, No. 6 in the Big 12) and quit giving up big plays and they might be surprised at just how much that fixes immediately.


Mark Fiegener in Stillwater, Okla., asks: What will it take for Oklahoma State's defense to reach the level of success that the offense has had this past season? More talent? Some new coaches to back up Bill Young? The '09 version looked close to this goal.

DU: It's not a talent issue, although they're boosting that lately, too. I don't think you're going to see OSU's defense suddenly become the best in the country, but they got a lot better last year. Guys like Shaun Lewis, Johnny Thomas and Brodrick Brown have really bright futures, but next year, the big challenge is going to be replacing Orie Lemon. Ugo Chinasa probably had a little bit more raw talent, but Lemon made that whole thing run and got guys doing what they needed to be doing. Experience is tough to replace at linebacker.


Shane in Rushville, NE asks: David you still haven't answered my question. Will you come with us (Nebraska) to the Big Ten? Your blog will be missed.

DU: Sorry, man. No can do. I promised myself after college that I'd never live north of Missouri. Too cold for my taste. You're stuck with my man Adam Rittenberg, braving the annual arctic winds of Chicago. I'll take my 50-degree Januaries down here in Dallas.


Robert in Houston, Texas, asks: I think the Big 12 might have made a mistake going to a 9 game, round robin schedule rather than keeping an 8 game conference schedule. The difference between the two doesn't matter for the top half of the conference, but will make it very difficult for Iowa State, Kansas, etc. to get to bowl games. Even the Pac 10 thought about moving away from the round robin two years ago, since it has a hard time fulfilling bowl commitments, having teams ranked highly in polls, and this year aside, getting two teams to the BCS. The weakened Big 12 is almost making itself weaker with this move and will further hurt its perception with its teams carrying more losses than other conferences.

DU: It's absolutely true. The addition of the ninth game is automatically five more losses for the conference, and plenty of people don't realize that. Ask Ted Miller, our man out in the Pac-10 about it. He's constantly reminding people of that. Nobody gets hurt worse than the teams in the middle who traditionally would qualify for a bowl, i.e. a Kansas State, but usually wouldn't be a 10-game winner. All of a sudden, if you don't show up one or two weeks and don't spring an upset, you're staying 5-7 in the face. The Big 12 will experience some of that for the first time next year. I'm sure I'll spend time here explaining why people (except those in the conference formerly known as the Pac-10) don't understand that. I know I never really did until the last few years.


Stephen in Corpus Christi, Texas, asks: Still waiting to hear whether or not Jeff Fuller is staying at Texas A&M next season. If you had to make the decision for him, what would you advise him to do?

DU: Well, I was told his report from the NFL Draft advisory committee told him he would be drafted outside the top two rounds, and maybe that changes in pre-draft workouts, but I doubt it. He needs to say. A year ago, his teammate Von Miller was a mid-round draft pick and stayed. Now, he's probably a first rounder. With guys like Justin Blackmon and Ryan Broyles staying, I'm not saying that will for sure be the case for Fuller, but he certainly has a chance. And he can get a lot better. And leaving without a degree if you're not a first-round pick is never a prudent decision, regardless of family background.


Mark L in St. Louis, Mo., asks: Is Missouri NOT a threat next year? Personally i think alot of people are sleeping on Mizzou. Dubbs Be honest is Missouri a contenter or a pretender in the 2011-2012 season? Also who do you see as our impact player next year?

DU: Well, they are, but certainly behind Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. Maybe that changes when the season starts, but look around the league over the past decade or so. You win in the Big 12 with quarterbacks. James Franklin (or whoever ends up replacing Blaine Gabbert) should be good, but there's going to be growing pains--bad games. Even the best Missouri's had lately, Gabbert and Chase Daniel, couldn't win more than eight games as first-year starters. That won't even come close to winning the Big 12. Missouri has a more complete team than it did in 2006 and to a lesser extent, 2009, with a defense that should be solid, but Franklin is going to have to play big if the Tigers are going to make a serious run at the Big 12 title.

As for Missouri's impact player: Obviously T.J. Moe has proven to be one of the Big 12's most difficult covers. Brad Madison should be fun to watch at defensive end. A deep threat would open up Missouri's offense and make some more room for Moe, but even if a younger guy like Jimmie Hunt emerges, Franklin has to be able to get it to him. Will he be able to do it with enough consistency in Year 1 as a starter? Maybe, but history isn't on his side until next year.

Rout is officially on in Waco

October, 2, 2010
10/02/10
3:04
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Kansas showed some life with a second-quarter touchdown that brought the game to within 10 points, but Baylor is playing its most complete game of the season and dismantling the Jayhawks for the team's best win of 2010.

The Bears lead 48-7 after three quarters and have scored the game's past 31 points.

Up 34-7, Baylor scored two touchdowns in 12 seconds after Tim Atchison intercepted Kansas quarterback Jordan Webb and returned the ball 14 yards for the score. That interception came on the first play after Robert Griffin threw his third touchdown pass of the day.

The Jayhawks have no answer for Griffin, who has 380 yards and three scores on 26-of-36 passing. He's also run eight times for 64 yards.

Kansas was soundly beaten in its first road game against Southern Miss, and the Bears are doing the job even more decisively. Baylor is a good team, but Kansas will see better competition as the season progresses. If it doesn't fix the problems defending the pass that have arisen against Southern Miss and Baylor, it's going to be a long season in Lawrence.

Opening camp: Baylor

August, 4, 2010
8/04/10
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Schedule: Practice starts Thursday

What’s new: Baylor wants to stray from its recent status as a guaranteed win for teams across the Big 12 -- at least according to the fans of those teams. The Bears have won just three conference games in two years, but coach Art Briles says this is his most talented and deepest team since taking over in 2008.

Key battle: Byron Landor will have to fight off incoming freshman Ahmad Dixon, one of the program's most heavily recruited signees, to earn one of the starting safety positions, and Tim Atchison left the spring as the other starter on the defense's back line. Briles says the young players will play, but also says he needs a big year from Landor, who he tabbed as one of the leaders of his defense.

New on the scene: Running back Jarred Salubi will back up senior starter Jay Finley, but as a freshman, Salubi averaged just under 6 yards per carry on his 50 carries, second-most in the Big 12. He'll try to keep that average with more touches in 2010.

Breaking out: Senior linebacker Antonio Johnson had 77 tackles last season and is the Bears' leading returning tackler, but Briles complained at last week's media days that players like him deserve more attention, and he's one of the reasons star quarterback Robert Griffin stayed home, away from a day in front of the cameras. Big 12 ball carriers will get a chance to know the man the Bears call "Cuddy" well in 2010.

Don’t forget about: Defensive tackle Phil Taylor. Taylor has dropped some weight and Briles is hopeful Taylor, a transfer from Penn State, can fulfill more of the potential that made him the 2009 Preseason Newcomer of the Year. Taylor made 13 tackles in Baylor's first three games, but just 12 for the remainder of the season.

All eyes on: Griffin. The big question for the Bears is how Griffin will respond after missing the final nine games of 2009 with a torn ACL. The answer will decide the legitimacy of the Bears' hopes for the their first bowl game since 1994.

Quoting: "We're physically the best football team we've been from just as far as the talent standpoint. You know, the guys -- I mean, they have a very determined attitude, which we have to have. I mean, that's -- we understand what we have to do. We know we have to become a bowl-eligible football team, first and foremost, and then we'll go from there. From that standpoint also, it's very inspiring. It's a great place for a lot of people to have a lot of inspiration, and that's why I'm proud that I'm right in the middle of it." -- Baylor coach Art Briles

More opening camps:

Bears adding to secondary depth

April, 28, 2010
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Baylor coach Art Briles felt before the spring his team had a quality two-deep squad, a luxury he hadn't enjoyed in his first two seasons in Waco. The Bears 15 spring workouts confirmed his feeling, but he wants to be more than two deep at each position on the depth chart.

"We’re approaching this, but we need to get to the point that we don’t have any drop-off if someone gets injured," Briles said, "it allows us to maintain the level necessary to play in the Big 12 South.”

The Bears may be approaching it, but could see unprecedented depth in the secondary when fall arrives. On the team's post-spring depth chart, the secondary will start Byron Landor and Tim Atchison at safety. Though both are seniors, they have only a combined 18 career starts, 15 by Atchison. Landor is a junior college transfer who notched 46 tackles as a junior.

“Byron really needs to have a good year for us,” Briles said. “He’s a strong leader.”

Clifton Odom and Chance Casey solidified their spots as Briles two starting cornerbacks.

Baylor's 2010 recruiting class could certainly provide the depth Briles wants--possibly even challenging for playing time. Rivals.com ranked the Bears secondary recruiting class No. 5 in the nation, and includes plenty of incoming talent. Headlining the group is safety Ahmad Dixon, a Waco native who comes to Baylor ranked No. 15 overall in the ESPNU 150 and the No. 3 safety. Briles also signed cornerback Prince Kent, who signed with Miami in 2009 as the No. 51 overall recruit in the ESPNU 150, but didn't qualify academically and enrolled at Hargrave Military School in Virginia. Kent enrolled early and joined the Bears for spring workouts.

Baylor also signed Tyler Stephenson, rated the No. 14 cornerback and T.C. Robinson, the No. 45 cornerback overall. Sam Holl and Tuswani Copeland will also join the team in the fall.

“Some of those incoming freshmen will get looks,” Briles said. “That’s a talented bunch.”

With the quarterback play he could face in the Big 12 South, if Briles is looking for depth, the secondary is a great place to start.

Texas making it look easy

November, 14, 2009
11/14/09
1:26
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WACO, Texas -- Art Briles' Baylor team is getting hammered all over Floyd Casey Stadium.

But Briles just took an unusual timeout specifically to chew at officials and especially back judge Shawn Hochuli after cornerback Tim Atchison was flagged for taunting after an incomplete pass.

Briles' filibuster wasn't successful. And to make matters worse, Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley hooked up on a 7-yard touchdown pass to extend the Longhorns' lead to 28-0.

Shipley's scoring grab came only three plays after he had been knocked out of the game on a devastating hit by Baylor's Tracy Robertson that was penalized by officials for taunting.

No wonder Briles is mad -- as much for the score as the recent run of penalties.

Big 12 lunch links: Michael a quick study in A&M's backfield

August, 12, 2009
8/12/09
1:10
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

It's a getaway day here, but I couldn't forget a few lunch links to throw on the fire before leaving town.

Enjoy them.

  • The San Antonio Express-News' Brent Zwerneman reports how the addition of heralded running back Christine Michael already is improving Texas A&M's moribund running game.
  • Kansas wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe comments to the Kansas City Star's J. Brady McCollough about what he learned this summer during his team-mandated suspension.
  • Tulsa World columnist Dave Sittler analyzes the tenuous backup quarterback situations at Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. And Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson again was limited in his practice work on Tuesday with what coach Mike Gundy called a strained hamstring, the Tulsa World's Ryan Steele reports.
  • The Omaha World-Herald's Tom Shatel wonders if heralded Nebraska freshman quarterback Cody Green is ticketed for a redshirt.
  • Even without two-time Biletnikoff winner Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech coach Mike Leach tells The Dallas Morning News' Chuck Carlton that the Red Raiders' receivers might be better this season.
  • The Norman Transcript's John Shinn writes about the turnover on Oklahoma's offense. The Sooners could have six new offensive starters this season -- the most since a 2005 season that represents the only time this decade the Sooners failed to win at least 10 games.
  • Attorneys representing Kansas State disputed charges by those representing former coach Ron Prince that the school was aware of Prince's $3.2 million buyout, the Topeka Capital-Journal's Austin Meek reports.
  • The Boulder Camera's Kyle Ringo writes about Ryan Miller and Bryce Givens, old high school rivals who now man the right side of Colorado's starting offensive line.
  • Devin McDowell and Ter'ran Benton are learning the importance of playing nickelback in Paul Rhoads' defensive scheme, the Ames Tribune's Bobby La Gesse reports.
  • Converted high school quarterback T.J. Moe will be targeted to play wide receiver for Missouri -- as soon as his rehab from foot surgery is complete -- the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jeremy Rutherford reports.
  • Baylor cornerbacks Clifton Odom, Antareis Bryan and Tim Atchison are gearing up for the challenge of facing the Big 12's potent passing attacks, the Waco Tribune-Herald's John Werner reports.
  • Texas senior linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy is one of the few Longhorns who faithfully takes notes during the team's defensive meetings, the Austin American-Statesman's Alan Trubow reports.

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