Big 12: Travon Patterson

Recruiting needs: Big 12 North

January, 26, 2011
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Signing day is exactly a week from today, and it's time to take a look at who needs what in its 2011 class.

Some schools have addressed these with their current class. Some haven't. Others are still trying.

We'll kick things off with the artists formerly known as the Big 12 North and examine the South later today.

COLORADO

Cornerback: Jalil Brown and Jimmy Smith were pretty reliable for the Buffaloes, but both are headed to the NFL, and the Buffaloes could definitely use some depth behind their first-year starters. It's not quite as pressing of an issue considering their move to the less pass-happy Pac-12, but they still like to sling it out west.

Receiver: Colorado isn't exactly starving anywhere on offense, but receiver sticks out a bit. Toney Clemons was good, but maybe not quite what the Buffaloes hoped he'd be in 2010, but they caught a break in getting Paul Richardson back after a great freshman season. The Buffaloes need some complementary pieces around Clemons and Richardson to replace departed pass-catchers Scotty McKnight and Travon Patterson. Next year, that should be tight end Ryan Deehan and receiver Will Jefferson.

IOWA STATE

Receiver: It's been a struggle for Iowa State in recent years, but they have to get better outside to help out their quarterback. Sedrick Johnson's transfer only worsens the Cyclones depth at the position, but Jake Williams and tight end Collin Franklin, the team's leading receiver, are gone. Shontrelle Johnson looks ready to become a big factor in the offense, but the Cyclones filling the space at receiver will make it easier for Johnson to replace running back Alexander Robinson.

Safety: Both starters, David Sims and Zac Sandvig, are gone. So is the Cyclones top reserve at the position, Michael O'Connell. Sims was a top-notch talent that will be tough to replace, but Iowa State needs more depth here. They should be solid at corner with Leonard Johnson, Ter'ran Benton, Jeremy Reeves and Anthony Young, which could make the new safeties' jobs easier.

KANSAS

Defensive line: KU is losing three of four starters on the line, including the team's only All-Big 12 talent, defensive end Jake Laptad. Turner Gill wants more speed, and this is a place to install it. Tackles that tip the scales at 320 pounds aren't too necessary in this league, but speed on the edge can go a long way in stopping the pass.

Quarterback: Neither Jordan Webb or Quinn Mecham look like long-term answers at quarterback for the Jayhawks. Mecham will be a senior, and Webb might develop into a better player as a sophomore next year, but Kansas needs other options. The Jayhawks hope Brock Berglund, the top-rated recruit in Colorado, is the solution to the problem.

KANSAS STATE

Running back: I hear your cries for Bryce Brown, Wildcats fans, but K-State can't expect to hitch their wagon to the former blue-chip recruit turned Tennessee transfer in the same way it did for Daniel Thomas. Thomas and his backup, William Powell, are gone, and the Wildcats need some depth at running back to show up.

Interior offensive linemen: K-State loses both guards and its center from an offense that produced the Big 12's leading rusher in 2010. Don't expect them to do it again in 2011 without Wade Weibert, Kenneth Mayfield and Zach Kendall, as well as Thomas and Powell, but finding some new talent behind them will help them come close.

Cornerback: David Garrett emerged as a budding star in 2010 ready for a breakout senior year in 2011, but the Wildcats lose Terrance Sweeney and Stephen Harrison, as well as safety Troy Butler. Like we've mentioned earlier, good secondaries are a must for success in the Big 12, and K-State had one of the league's worst in 2010.

MISSOURI

Receiver: Missouri has some good ones ready to suit up in 2011, namely Wes Kemp, Jerrell Jackson and T.J. Moe, but the Tigers don't have a true gamebreaker. They have some younger players in Marcus Lucas and Jimmie Hunt who they hope will develop into big-time, All-American caliber receivers, a la Jeremy Maclin and Danario Alexander. In Missouri's system, though, adding a few receivers is always a good idea. They certainly don't need any more running backs.

Defensive backs: Mizzou doesn't have any huge holes that need to be filled with recruiting, but the Tigers lose both corners, Carl Gettis and Kevin Rutland from their 2010 team. Kip Edwards and E.J. Gaines look likely to fill those roles, but the Tigers could use some depth and keep recruiting in the secondary to help add some talent around Tavon Bolden and Matt White, safeties who will replace departed Jarrell Harrison, who actually had to play some linebacker in 2010 because of injuries.

NEBRASKA

Every kind of kicker: Alex Henery, the team's punter and kicker is gone. So is kickoff specialist and lover/producer of touchbacks, Adi Kunalic. Fan favorite Henery was hardly underappreciated by the Nebraska faithful, but they'll miss him even more if the Huskers can't find a suitable placekicker and punter. Bo Pelini was reportedly after Wake Forest commit Mauro Bondi this week.

Receiver: Niles Paul and Mike McNeill are gone. The Huskers need Brandon Kinnie to come through with another good year and it'd be nice if Quincy Enunwa broke through in 2011, but Taylor Martinez needs some more help at wide out, and a couple new recruits could provide it as Martinez's passing prowess matures.

Injuries galore across the Big 12 last week

November, 2, 2010
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Surveying the conference, Saturday was an pretty bad day for injuries for a handful of teams across the Big 12. Six teams had contributors hurt just in Saturday's game, and plenty of them were serious injuries. Here's a look at the most notable players who went down on Saturday.

Texas A&M: RB Christine Michael (broken tibia), out for season

Texas Tech: WRs Jacoby Franks (foot) and Alex Torres (knee). Both will miss the remainder of the season, though Franks injury came against Colorado and his status was updated on Monday.

Texas: OG Michael Huey (knee), out 4-6 weeks

Colorado: WR Travon Patterson (ankle), status in doubt

Nebraska: QB Taylor Martinez (ankle), CB Alfonzo Dennard (concussion). Both are day-to-day, but neither practiced on Monday.

Oklahoma: RB Jermie Calhoun (knee), out for season

Lunch links: New face in Heisman race

September, 10, 2010
9/10/10
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When I pulled my hamstring, I went to a misogynist.

Quick thoughts on Colorado's win

September, 4, 2010
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  • Definitely an impressive 24-3 win for Colorado, even though Colorado State isn't on the level of competition the Buffaloes will see for most of this season. After winning just three games last year, beating anyone 24-3 is a great sign for Colorado, who may have convinced a few more folks that all the optimism out of coach Dan Hawkins and the rest of his players is different than what they've been saying for the past few seasons. I'll reserve judgment until we get closer to conference play, but the Buffaloes should be one of the more intriguing teams in the Big 12.
  • Tyler Hansen's stat line (17-26, 191 yards, 2 TD, INT, 1-yard rush TD) isn't going to make anyone say, "Wow!" but he moved the offense for most of the day, and helped set up Rodney Stewart, who finished with 69 yards on 16 carries. Good sign for Hansen, though, who continued his solid play from last year and should take some good vibes into next week's game against soon-to-be (or perhaps later) Pac-10 roommate, Cal.
  • Scotty McKnight proved once again why he's one of the conference's best, giving Hansen a nice target with six catches for 78 yards and a score. The newbies I wrote about earlier today got off to nice starts, but Travon Patterson and Toney Clemons didn't do a lot after Colorado jumped out to a 17-0 lead at halftime. We'll learn more about them if Colorado gets down in nonconference play and Hansen is forced to throw the ball around 40 times.
  • This will sound backhanded, but I don't mean it to: I'm very impressed with the three interceptions, even if they came at the expense of true freshman Pete Thomas. Colorado only had nine INTs all of last season, so that's a very good sign for the development of Colorado's defense, which was getting torched this time last year.
  • Colorado was very close to Iowa State as having the most impressive debut of any team in the Big 12 so far in Week 1.

Newcomers pay off for Colorado

September, 4, 2010
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Colorado welcomed three new receivers to the field this season, Travon Patterson from USC, Paul Richardson from UCLA and Toney Clemons from Michigan, who was named the preseason Newcomer of the Year after sitting out last season.

So far, they're helping out quarterback Tyler Hansen, who beat out Cody Hawkins to win the starting job this preseason.

Patterson caught an 18-yard touchdown pass that has the Buffaloes up 7-0 in the second quarter against rival Colorado State at Invesco Field in Denver.

Clemons also logged his first catch, an eight-yarder. Richardson has yet to make a grab from Hansen.

Meanwhile, it's still the same old Scotty McKnight, who has the day's longest catch -- 20 yards -- to extend his streak of making a reception in all 38 games he's played at Colorado.

Mailbag: Colorado edition

August, 26, 2010
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We'll finish off with Baylor next week, but here are the rest of the team-themed mailbags. Andrew White in Boulder, Colo., asks: Hi David, cautiously optimistic for the Buffs in 2010. We've actually got the most experience and talent in this squad since the Barnett days, but do we have the coaching? (rhetorical) My question to you regards the recent news that CU is planning to stay in the Big 12 thru 2012. I think AD Mike Bohn is calling Beebe's bluff here. The Big 12 does not want CU sticking around for two seasons and having to navigate an 11 team slate in '12. My guess is you'll see the Buffs leave after '11, but having to pay much less of a buyout than previously stated. Thoughts?Thanks and Go Buffs!

DU: Bohn can call all the bluffs he want. I don't see the Big 12 lowering the withdrawal fees for any of the teams leaving. That sets a dangerous precedent. Dan Beebe already has a reputation (an untrue one, I might add) of being a pushover, and this would add some pretty legitimate evidence to support that. He doesn't need that. But this is about more than the reputation of a commissioner. The Big 12 can't be letting teams off easy because they don't want to/can't pay the full price to go when they want, when all it takes is one awkward year and some obnoxious rescheduling. The Buffs may end up staying until 2012, but I'd be very surprised if their withdrawal fees are lowered so that date moves to 2011. All indications so far from the conference suggest they'll do nothing to change that.


Eric of Green Mountain, Colo., asks: David - Colorado has not won a true road game since October of 2007 (over two seasons ago). Which game this year (if any) will the Buffs break the away-game losing streak?

DU: Wow, I didn't realize that. That would explain why winning seasons have been so elusive lately. The obvious choice this year is at Kansas on Nov. 6, for a game that may decide how the bottom few teams in the Big 12 shake out.


Dave in Missoula, Mont., asks: I know its popular to undervalue and underrate Colorado these days, but have you noticed that they have quietly put together the best WR corps in the conference? Add to that the best CB tandem, and the Buffs should surprise this season, that is, if they can overcome their coaching.

DU: Somebody in my chat yesterday referred to the Buffaloes' receivers as the best in the conference, too. Easy, folks. Eaaaasy. Are Paul Richardson, Travon Patterson and Toney Clemons better than the guys Colorado had last year? Sure ... we think so. But do we know? Absolutely not. Those guys have a lot of potential, but most of that potential stems from a) playing at USC or Michigan and b) recruiting stars. A lot of guys transfer and revitalize their careers. It happens a lot. But if these guys were major impact guys immediately, they wouldn't have transferred. Patterson had 10 catches in four years at USC. Richardson has still never played a down of college football and got kicked off his last team. Clemons had 12 catches in two years a Michigan. These guys could be good, and they're definitely underrated across the conference and nation, but they're not the best in the Big 12. If you want to see the conference's best receivers, watch a Texas A&M or Texas Tech game sometime.


Dave in Denver, Colo., asks: Hey David, love the blog.If the former UCLA chancelor is successful in blocking Colorado and Utah from the Pac-10, do you think the Big 12 would take them back? And if so, would they continue on with 11 teams or try to round out with another. If so, who do you see them offering to? Thanks.

DU: First off, the guy you're referencing, Chuck Young, is not going to be successful. This wasn't a hastily made decision. If the Pac-10's current chancellors legitimately try to block those teams' entrances, it would be a PR disaster for the conference. It's not going to happen. But the Big 12 wouldn't let them come back if it did. They'd have a better chance if there was a home-run 12th team hanging around, waiting for an invite. There isn't, and everyone in the conference sounds like they love the idea of a round-robin schedule in football and double round-robin in basketball.

As for future members, it looks like BYU is off the table now. Air Force might not be competitive enough. TCU and Houston make tons of competitive sense, but not enough fiscal sense. Get used to a 10-team Big 12.


Andy Baker in Grand Junction asks: Hey David,Do you think the fact that the caoches are not trying to establish an 'offensive identity' is a posititve in looking at this season?Also, do you think the denfensive backfield has a chance to be the best in the nation this year?

DU: You can make a case for either side. Last year, they tried to come into the season with that so-called "smashmouth" mentality, and they clearly didn't have the personnel to make it a reality. Colorado can do whatever it wants on offense. None of it will look good unless the offensive line gets better. If it gives up 43 sacks again and can't top 90 yards a game in rushing offense, the Buffaloes can forget about a bowl. Improve up front, and then they can start talking about a winning season.

Fresh Faces: Colorado

August, 18, 2010
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Here's a few Buffaloes with relatively low profiles around the conference who you'll be hearing from in 2010.

Toney Clemons, WR

So what if we've talked about him plenty here? You should get to know the preseason Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound receiver and Michigan transfer. After topping out at 11 receptions and 101 yards as a sophomore at Michigan, he still has to prove his potential and produce. His teammates made him the first pick of the spring game, so clearly they don't need much more convincing. But he's one of three nice additions to the Colorado receiving corps alongside Scotty McKnight, joining UCLA and USC transfers Paul Richardson and Travon Patterson, respectively.

Will Pericak, DT

Pericak (pre-check) started last year and made 39 tackles as the run-clogger for the Buffaloes, adding a pair of sacks and five tackles for loss. Alongside defensive end Marquez Herrod, he'll try to improve on both of those numbers as a sophomore. He possesses nice size at 6-foot-4 and 280 pounds, but if Colorado is going to improve its rush defense, which ranked ninth in the Big 12 last season, he'll have to be a bigger contributor in 2010.

Nick Kasa, DE

He still has to earn playing time at defensive end, but if he can make it on the field, he'll get a chance to show the potential that made him the nation's No. 17 defensive end in the 2009 class. Kasa chose to stay home in Colorado over playing for Florida, where he originally committed. His debut season was derailed by a torn MCL and missed time because of mono, but he'll try to improve on his underwhelming two tackles as a freshman. If he can stay healthy, he should help a Colorado pass rush that sacked quarterbacks just 27 times in 2009, ninth-most in the Big 12.

More Fresh Faces:
If you haven't noticed just yet, Friday's college football content at ESPN.com is all about the quarterbacks. We've ranked the conference's top 5 individual quarterbacks, but now it's time to take a broader look at who's in good shape behind center and who's in trouble across the conference.

The discrepancy between the South's QBs and the North's is somewhat jarring, especially when you see it on paper (bandwidth?) like this. Only one North team made the top six, and the bottom five teams are all from the North.

Five schools (four in the North) still have their starters up in the air, and that makes this a little tricky, but here's how I'd rank them:

[+] EnlargeJerrod Johnson
Brett Davis/US PresswireJerrod Johnson is not only the best quarterback in the conference, he's also the best player.
1. Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M: The Aggies boast the preseason player of the year at quarterback and the man at the top of our Big 12 player list from earlier this summer. I also got a few e-mail requests from some Aggies fans to stress -- once again -- that it's juh-RAHD, not Jared from Subway. Word has apparently not reached every corner of Big 12 country just yet. It might if the Aggies can win more than six games like they did in 2009. But Johnson broke out in a big way last season, throwing for 3,579 yards, 30 touchdowns and just six interceptions while also running for 506 yards and eight touchdowns.

2. Robert Griffin, Baylor: Trust in Griffin's knee lands the Bears here, significantly higher than they're used to considering the strong quarterback tradition across the Big 12 for the past decade. But Griffin will still have to regain his status as the conference's most electrifying player on a reconstructed knee after missing the final nine games of the previous season with a torn ACL. Baylor also has a nice situation at backup quarterback because of the injury with sophomore Nick Florence, who threw for 427 yards in Baylor's lone conference win -- at Missouri -- last season.

3. Blaine Gabbert, Missouri: Gabbert has a claim as the conference's best quarterback, and he'll try to snatch it as a junior after playing much of his sophomore season with a bum ankle, courtesy of a soggy Ndamukong Suh sack. Despite being hobbled for most of conference play, he still racked up 3,593 passing yards and 24 touchdowns. If he stays healthy, he might get a chance to showcase his underrated wheels, too. Freshman James Franklin is impressing in camp and hanging on to his job as Gabbert's backup over Jimmy Costello, Ashton Glaser and little brother Tyler Gabbert.

4. Landry Jones, Oklahoma: Jones should benefit from his first full spring and preseason camp taking the first-team reps, but he'll need a second reliable target opposite Ryan Broyles to emerge if he wants to improve on his 26 touchdowns and 3,198 yards as a redshirt freshman. Jones also needs to limit his turnovers after throwing a league-high 14 interceptions in 2009, but it's worth noting that seven of those came away from Owen Field against top-tier defenses in Texas and Nebraska. He didn't play a good defense in Norman, but he threw 18 touchdowns to just four interceptions and helped the Sooners stretch their home streak to 30 games. Backup Drew Allen is untested and inexperienced, but has potential and wouldn't inspire panic if Jones finds injury in 2010.

5. Steven Sheffield/Taylor Potts, Texas Tech: No team has two quarterbacks with as much skill and experience as Texas Tech, but unlike receivers or running backs, the Red Raiders can't play both of them. Regardless of who wins the competition in Lubbock, Texas Tech will be in great shape with Potts or Sheffield. You heard a few hundred words on the details of this race earlier this morning.

6. Garrett Gilbert, Texas: This may look silly in November, but it's tough to put Gilbert on top of anyone else on this list who has already proven themselves. Clearly, the potential is there, and he's inspired a lot of confidence from his coach and team, but making good on that potential will mean finding a solid target to replace the only player he's ever thrown a real touchdown to: Jordan Shipley. If Gilbert goes down, Texas would have to rely on a pair of true freshmen: Connor Wood or Case McCoy, Colt's little brother.

7. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State: This won't be the last time you hear about the Cowboys 26-year-old former minor leaguer. Just make good decisions, make easy throws to open receivers who make plays with the ball and he should put up big numbers in new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen's version of the Air Raid. Oklahoma State got to see Houston's offense in person last season and wanted it for themselves. Now they've got the man who coordinated the best offense in college football a year ago and an unquestioned, mature starter to run it. If he's injured, the Cowboys would have to rely on one of two freshmen, Clint Chelf or most likely Johnny Deaton, to run the offense.

8. Austen Arnaud, Iowa State: Coach Paul Rhoads says no player on his team has improved from Year 1 to Year 2 more than Arnaud, but he'll need to prove it on the field to move up this list. He's probably likely to improve on his 2,015 yards passing to go with 15 touchdowns, but he's right behind Jones in the interception column, with 13. That number has to shrink for the Cyclones to get back to a bowl game. Talented sophomore Jerome "JT" Tiller led the Cyclones to their marquee win over Nebraska and should take the reins next year. The future looks bright in Ames.

9. Tyler Hansen, Colorado: Hansen not emerging from preseason camp as the starter would be shocking, and he'll get a lot more help this year with a beefed-up receiving corps that's among the conference's most underrated. Newcomers Paul Richardson, Travon Patterson and preseason Big 12 Newcomer of the Year Toney Clemons will join the reliable Scotty McKnight. If Hansen goes down, at least they'll have an experienced vet behind him in Cody Hawkins. Freshman Nick Hirschman looked good in the spring and provides some hope for the position in the future.

10. Zac Lee, Nebraska: A two-quarterback system is never ideal, but it might work for the Huskers. Lee is the best passer of the group competing for the starting job, but using the athletic Taylor Martinez or Cody Green in spot duty, similar to last year, could very well happen. But Bo Pelini would much prefer if one player -- most likely Lee, in my opinion -- would emerge and improve on his play from 2009, when he threw for 2,143 yards, 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

11. Kale Pick, Kansas: Pick is untested, and so are Jordan Webb and junior college transfer Quinn Mecham. Pick, however, seems like the favorite to win the job. The Jayhawks need a spark on offense, and Pick could provide it. He'll have some nice receivers to throw to in sophomore Bradley McDougald, senior Johnathan Wilson and tight end Tim Biere. Former cornerback Daymond Patterson looks ready for a good year in the slot.

12. Carson Coffman, Kansas State: Coffman needs to improve from his play last year that cost him his job early last season. Beating out Collin Klein and Sammuel Lamur won't be easy -- and the competition between the three is still pretty tight -- but Coffman's experience gives him a slight edge. Whoever wins the race will lean on the league's leading rusher, Daniel Thomas, and a revamped receiving corps with transfers Brodrick Smith from Minnesota and Chris Harper from Oregon. The Wildcats hope the duo will add the spark that was missing from the team's offense in 2009.

Lunch links: Peso's side effect

August, 11, 2010
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Texas A&M's Jerrod Johnson at the mic singing some Blackstreet karaoke is by no means average. He's got class and style. No diggity, no doubt.

All that's missing is Lil' Penny, a puppet (OK, marionette) before puppets (Yes you, LeBron and Kobe) were cool.

Big 12 preseason power rankings

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Missing starters, stickers and ESPN beef

August, 10, 2010
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Enjoyed the time off, and I hope you guys enjoyed the quick camp previews that ran while I was gone. No, I'm absolutely not doing away with lunch links, those of you who e-mailed me. But there won't be any when I'm away from the blog.

Thanks for the e-mails. The wedding was fun, but I'm back and 100 percent ready to go for the season, which is more than a few players around the Big 12 can say. Here's a few things we missed on the blog over the long weekend:

This is any fan of football's least favorite thing about the sport, but it happens every year. Always unfortunate, but a few players' 2010 seasons are over before they've begun.
  • Kansas coach Turner Gill announced on Monday that linebacker Huldon Tharp will miss the entire season with a foot injury. He was ready to join Drew Dudley as the stars of what could have been one of the Jayhawks best units. Now, his encore to his 59-tackle freshman debut will have to wait 12 months.
  • Another linebacker, Missouri's Donovan Bonner, will miss the year with a torn ACL. Though his tweet in response was admirable, his injury could be a big deal for the Tigers. Bonner was likely the top backup to weakside linebacker Andrew Gachkar, but now his absence could give a player like juco transfer and former USC Trojan Josh Tatum a chance to shine. Freshman Michael Brennan is listed behind Bonner on the depth chart.
  • Another notable backup won't be on the field this season, but not because of injury. Texas backup QB Sherrod Harris has left the team to focus on his degree, leaving freshmen Case McCoy and Connor Wood to backup sophomore starter Garrett Gilbert. It's worth noting that Harris says he'll stick around to help the young arms along when he can. Good to see that.
Buffs adding receivers

No receiving corps in the conference has seen more turnover this offseason than Colorado. The Buffaloes lost Andre Simmons to ineligibility and Markques Simas left the school after a suspension.

Stepping in: Two new players via California schools in the Buffaloes soon-to-be new conference. Paul Richardson was kicked off the UCLA team in June, but he'll join USC transfer Travon Patterson as the two newest targets for Tyler Hansen or Cody Hawkins. Richardson, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound freshman should be a nice addition along with Patterson, a speedy 5-foot-9, 170-pound slot receiver.

Also at Colorado, I enjoyed coach Dan Hawkins somewhat-gimmicky approach to fall camp. He's taken away his team's Buffalo logos on their helmets, forcing them to earn the insignia instead.

"You got to earn your Buff," Hawkins told local reporters last week. "That's part of it. I respect the heck out of this tradition and our guys do too. I just want them to earn it."

Freshmen safeties on display

Ahmad Dixon was the prize of Art Briles' 2010 class as the nation's No. 3 safety. Early in camp, he's impressed, according to the Waco Tribune-Herald:
After moving to the indoor practice facility for the second half of practice, Dixon delivered some turf-shaking tackles on Baylor's receivers. Imagine how Dixon will hit when they get to full pads.
That has to be a good sign for Bears fans. I'd be surprised if Dixon's doesn't log at least a couple starts this season.

Meanwhile, a few hours up I-35, Oklahoma's Tony Jefferson may start early in his freshman season.

"If we started today we would play Tony Jefferson as our starting nickel back," defensive coordinator Brent Venables told The Oklahoman.

That position is somewhat of a hybrid linebacker/safety spot a la former Sooner Roy Williams. He'll have to beat out Joseph Ibiloye, who made 15 tackles as a freshman, in camp to win the job.

Tech's Sheffield has beef with ESPN

Chalk this one up as by far my favorite story of the weekend.

When Texas Tech quarterback Steven Sheffield showed up to campus, his nickname of "Sticks" was pretty accurate for a 6-foot-4, 160-pounder. But like he told me at media days last week, he's up over 200 now, and he'd like people to take notice. Namely, his player profile on ESPN, which still lists him at 175 pounds.

"It kind of fluctuates, but that's a big difference from what I was playing at last season at 185 – or 180, some people had me 175. I was probably 175 but I didn't want to tell anybody that.

"If y'all can, tell ESPN to change their little thing, it says 175," Sheffield told the Dallas Morning News.

Sheffield's broken the same foot twice, and there's been some concern that his lanky frame could cause him to be injury prone--especially since he's more apt to run than his competition, fellow senior Taylor Potts.

"I'm still fluctuating quite a bit," he told the paper. "If I don't stay on it, I'll drop back to the high 190s, mid 190s. I've got to keep eating and if you keep working out through the weight gaining process you transition pretty well. So I think it's going pretty good."

Opening camp: Colorado

August, 5, 2010
8/05/10
4:00
PM ET
Schedule: Practice starts today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big 12 lunchtime links

July, 29, 2010
7/29/10
12:15
PM ET
Will anyone miss the Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry? Is it a rivalry? Not if you ask some of the current players.

Does Bob Stoops have a “Texas problem?” Not if you consider how many Big 12 titles the program has won in the past four years.

Former USC wide receiver Travon Patterson is already getting acclimated to life in Boulder.

The Big 12 has a few wide receivers listed among The Sporting News’ top draft picks at that position heading into the fall.

Lee Barfknecht offers up some not-so-deep thoughts wrapping up media days.

What was it like being in the middle of college football expansion for Big 12 commish Dan Beebe? Try being down 21 points in the fourth quarter with four minutes to play.

Here’s a Texas recap from Day 3.

Kansas coach Turner Gill spoke with Jenni Carlson about his past drama and future hopes.

Lunch links: Beebe's radical agent solution

July, 26, 2010
7/26/10
12:30
PM ET
Football, Cornell-Hofstra. Slaughter. Then quick nap at my place, and we hit the tizzown.

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