Big 12: Tyler Patmon

Last week, colleague Max Olson crunched the numbers on the total career starts each Big 12 team has coming back for next season.

What Max unearthed was that Texas (by far) leads the Big 12 in career starts returning, both offensively and defensively. TCU’s defense ranked second behind the Longhorns’ defense, while the Iowa State offense placed second. The Horned Frogs could have their most dominant defense yet in the Big 12, and the Cyclones could feature their best offensive attack in years, suggesting both teams could also be in for bounce-back 2014 campaigns.

Yet while revealing, compiling returning starts doesn’t tell the entire story when examining team experience, since the equation doesn’t account for those who played key roles as reserves. TCU safety Derrick Kindred, Texas Tech linebacker Micah Awe and Baylor end Shawn Oakman weren’t starters last year. But they were still valuable players on their respective teams.

To examine returning experience in another way, I’ve tallied up the percentage of tackles returning for every team in the Big 12:

With nine starters back, it’s not surprising the Sooners top this chart. But the number of returning starters isn’t the only reason why Oklahoma is optimistic about its 2014 defense. The Sooners also bring back several key defensive performers that weren’t full-time starters last season. End Geneo Grissom, who notched three sacks against Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, only started five games in 2013. Linebacker Jordan Evans thrived whenever his number got called as a freshman. And tackle Jordan Phillips only started four games but was playing at an All-Big 12-caliber level before suffering a season-ending back injury in early October.

On the flip side, Oklahoma State is at the cellar of this list, and not just because it graduated seven starters. The Cowboys also lost several defensive reserves that played a bunch, including linebacker Joe Mitchell, cornerback Tyler Patmon and safety Zack Craig.

Of course, like with returning starts, a high level of returning tackles doesn’t guarantee success. And it doesn’t necessarily preclude it, either.

Oklahoma ranked 119th nationally in returning tackles (40 percent) last season. But by the end of the season, the Sooners were wreaking havoc in the backfield of the two-time defending national champs.

The tackle equation can be an indicator of the defenses that might be formidable. Oklahoma State and Baylor both had 73 percent of their tackles returning from 2012 going into last season. Both wound up being formidable, ranking first and second in the league in both fewest yards per play and points per drive.

That bodes well for the defensive prospects of Oklahoma, Kansas, TCU, Texas and West Virginia, which all have like tackle rates coming back for 2014.

Best and worst of the Big 12 bowls

January, 10, 2014
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Below, we break down the best and the worst of the Big 12’s bowl season:

Best win: The Oklahoma Sooners have been searching for a victory that would signal their return to the nation’s elite. They finally got such a victory in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, as Oklahoma smoked the two-time defending national champs from Alabama, 45-31. With tons of young talent returning, notably quarterback Trevor Knight and linebacker Eric Striker, the Alabama victory could propel Oklahoma toward a national title run in 2014.

Worst loss: Baylor had a chance to put the finishing touches on a fabulous season. Instead, the Bears lost to UCF, one of the biggest underdogs in BCS history, 52-42 in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl as the conference champion Bears ended their season on a sour note. It was still a great season for Baylor, yet one that didn’t end so great.

Best offensive performance: Texas Tech’s Davis Webb and Kansas State’s Jake Waters and Tyler Lockett were all terrific, but nobody had the bowl game Knight did. Oklahoma’s redshirt freshman quarterback completed 32 of 44 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns. He did have one interception, but even that pass bounced off his receiver’s hands. Those would be great numbers against anybody, and Knight didn’t produce them against just anybody. He produced them against Alabama.

[+] EnlargeEric Striker
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesOklahoma's Eric Striker dominated Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
Best defensive performance: Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker was an absolute menace in the Sugar Bowl. On top of a team-high seven tackles, he sacked Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron three times and forced a fumble in the game’s final minute that sealed the victory. Striker was virtually unblockable all night.

Best special teams performance: Texas Tech dominated most of the National University Holiday Bowl. But the game became tense early in the third quarter when Arizona State scored on a 44-yard run to cut Tech’s lead to 27-20. Those tense moments lasted for just moments. That’s because Reginald Davis returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown, putting the Red Raiders back up by two scores. Arizona State never threatened again as the Red Raiders cruised to a 37-23 upset victory.

Best play: With just a minute to play, Alabama got the ball back at its 18-yard line with a chance for a game-tying touchdown drive. Instead, on the first snap, Striker came barreling around the edge and crashed into McCarron’s blind side. The ball popped to the ground, and defensive end Geneo Grissom scooped it up and rumbled eight yards for a game-clinching touchdown. It was Oklahoma’s seventh sack of McCarron.

Worst play: The Big 12 had a similar play go the other way. Down 34-31, Oklahoma State drove into Missouri territory with a chance of – at worst – lining up for a game-tying field goal. Instead, the Cowboys called a pass on third-and-7, and before quarterback Clint Chelf could unload the ball, he was sacked from behind by SEC defensive player of the year Michael Sam, who knocked the ball loose. Missouri’s Shane Ray gobbled up the fumble and raced 73 yards for the touchdown, as the Tigers won the game 41-31.

Best catch: On second-and-goal from the Michigan 8, Kansas State wideout Tyler Lockett was lined up across from Michigan cornerback Raymon Taylor. Lockett drove right into Taylor, then looked back to quarterback Jake Waters. The ball came sailing low, but Lockett went down to get his hands under the ball before it touched the ground, giving him his third touchdown catch of the game and putting K-State ahead 21-6.

Worst play-calling: The Cowboys were just 9 of 22 on third down against Missouri, and curious play-calling from offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich seemed to be a big reason why. Twice on third-and-3, Yurcich called running plays up the middle, which Missouri’s powerful defensive line stuffed to snuff promising Oklahoma State drives. Yurcich called another running play up the middle on third-and-1 at the end of the quarter, which the Tigers obliterated again. With the Cowboys defense dominating Missouri through the third quarter, Oklahoma State missed an opportunity to take command of the game. Third-down play-calling was a big reason why.

Best bounce-back performance: The Texas Tech defense had capitulated during a five-game losing streak, giving up 38, 52, 49, 63 and 41 points. But finally healthy again, Tech bucked up in the National University Holiday Bowl, holding Arizona State to 18 points below its season average.

[+] EnlargeArt Briles
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesArt Briles and the Baylor defense had a nightmarish evening in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
Worst disappearing act: Baylor had claimed its defense was actually the best in the Big 12. But in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, the Bears were lit up by UCF for 52 points and 556 yards. UCF had six touchdown drives of 75 yards or longer, the most long drives Baylor gave up in a game all season.

Best quote: “So much for the big bad wolf, huh?” – coach Bob Stoops, after Oklahoma defeated the two-time defending national champion Crimson Tide.

Worst official’s call: With the AT&T Cotton Bowl knotted at 24-24 in the fourth quarter, Oklahoma State cornerback Tyler Patmon appeared to have delivered the play of the game. He stepped in front of Missouri's Dorial Green-Beckham to intercept James Franklin’s pass and returned it 37 yards into the end zone. Officials, however, flagged Patmon with pass interference – a ticky-tack call at best on Patmon, who on replays appeared to be going for the ball. With new life, Missouri capitalized to drive for a field goal, and the Tigers eventually won the game.

Best fan showing: The Longhorns didn’t have the kind of season they had hoped for. But in Mack Brown’s final game, burnt orange filled the Alamodome, turning the Valero Alamo Bowl into a sellout. The bowl game didn’t go the way the Longhorns had hoped, either -- a 30-7 loss to Oregon. But Texas fans sent out their coach in a classy way.

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Missouri sent a message for the SEC with a 41-31 win over Oklahoma State in the AT&T Cotton Bowl on Friday Night at AT&T Stadium. Here’s how it happened.

It was over when: Missouri defensive lineman Shane Ray returned a fumble 73 yards for a touchdown. Oklahoma State was driving to try to take the lead or tie the game in the final minutes when Missouri’s Michael Sam stripped OSU quarterback Clint Chelf of the ball, which Ray picked up for the scoop and score.

How the game was won: After Oklahoma State drove down to take the lead late in the fourth quarter, Missouri responded on its next drive to score the game-winning points. James Franklin led the Tigers down the field to jump right back on top after running back Henry Josey's 16-yard touchdown run made the score 34-31 with 3:08 remaining. Josey’s touchdown capped off a 7-play, 69-yard drive and gave the Tigers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Turning point: Missouri receiver Dorial Green-Beckham made a key 27-yard catch on the Tigers' final drive on 3rd-and-9 from the OSU 43-yard line. Green-Beckham used his size and ball skills to outfight OSU’s Tyler Patmon for the key third down conversion. Josey rumbled 16 yards for the game-deciding touchdown on the next play.

Stat of the game: 256. Mizzou ran for 256 yards on the Cowboys, averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Josey was shifty and solid while backup quarterback Maty Mauk was explosive with three carries for 73 yards in spot duty. OSU simply didn’t have an answer for Missouri’s running game, particularly when it needed one in the fourth quarter.

Player of the game: Josey. He didn’t have outstanding numbers, but his quickness and cutback ability gave OSU’s defense fits. He finished with 12 carries for 92 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 7.7 yards per carry.

What it means for Oklahoma State: The Cowboys end the season with back-to-back disappointing losses after falling to the Tigers in the Cotton Bowl and losing to Oklahoma in their regular-season finale. OSU heads into the offseason with very little momentum and looking to replace several starters while opening the 2014 season with Florida State.

What it means for Missouri: The Tigers rebounded well from their SEC championship loss to Auburn. Missouri finishes 12-2 with the Cotton Bowl victory and will head into 2014 with plenty of confidence and momentum.

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 13

November, 25, 2013
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Taking stock of Week 13 in the Big 12:

Team of the week: Oklahoma State took command of the Big 12 title race with a commanding 49-17 win over No. 4 Baylor. Behind the most dominant defensive performance in the Big 12 this season, the Cowboys limited the nation’s highest-scoring offense to just three points over the first three quarters. Oklahoma State also rolled up 594 yards of offense, too. The Cowboys are now 9-3 versus AP Top 25 teams going back to 2011, and after winning just one conference title from 1953 to 2010, Oklahoma State can win a second in three seasons with a victory over Oklahoma in two weeks.

[+] EnlargeClint Chelf
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesBehind a career day from signal-caller Clint Chelf, Oklahoma State rolled Baylor in Stillwater.
Disappointment of the week: Baylor traveled to Stillwater, Okla., with a chance to send a message that it belonged in the BCS National Championship. Instead, the Bears were blown out of Boone Pickens Stadium. Baylor’s vaunted offensive attack never got anything going, as the Bears finished with their fewest points in a game since 2010. The 32-point loss was also the worst from a top-four BCS team since No. 2 Texas Tech lost by 44 points to Oklahoma in 2008. It has still been a remarkable season for the Bears, but it won’t be one that ends in the national title game.

Big (offensive) men on campus: Oklahoma State quarterback Clint Chelf, Oklahoma running back Brennan Clay, Kansas State wide receiver Tyler Lockett and Iowa State quarterback Grant Rohach.

Chelf unleashed the best performance of his career, completing 19 of 25 passes for a career-high 370 yards and three touchdowns. Chelf also had a 48-yard reception on a trick play. For the second consecutive week, Chelf posted the second-highest QBR in college football, delivering a score of 97.8 (scale zero to 100) against Baylor. He is now seventh in the FBS in QBR.

Clay also had a career day, rushing for a personal-best 200 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries, with Damien Williams suspended, to lead OU to a 41-31 win over Kansas State.

Lockett had a monster performance, too, in the game, hauling in 12 passes for 278 yards and three touchdowns. Lockett’s 440 all-purpose yards broke Darren Sproles’ school record and were the second most ever in a Big 12 game.

Rohach, who had not thrown a touchdown pass in his five previous games, finished 15-of-20 passing with scoring throws of 58 and 15 yards to lead Iowa State to a 34-0 rout of Kansas.

Big (defensive) men on campus: Oklahoma State cornerbacks Tyler Patmon and Kevin Peterson.

Baylor’s pass-catchers entered the night leading the country in 30-, 40- and 50-yard receptions. Against the Cowboys, they had just two such receptions.

Even with All-American cornerback Justin Gilbert limited to spot duty because of a shoulder injury, the Cowboys still locked up Baylor’s receivers. Why? Patmon and Peterson, who held up remarkably well in man coverage on the outside against Baylor's Antwan Goodley and Levi Norwood. With Patmon and Peterson taking away the deep ball, the Cowboys were able to commit more bodies to pressuring QB Bryce Petty and shutting down Baylor’s rushing attack.

Patmon also delivered the Oklahoma State defense’s exclamation point when he scooped up a Petty fumble in the fourth quarter and raced 78 yards for a touchdown to put the Cowboys up 42-10.

Special-teams player of the week: Oklahoma’s Jalen Saunders. For the second consecutive week, a Saunders punt return proved to be the turning point in an OU win. With the Sooners up 27-24 early in the fourth quarter, Saunders fielded a short punt on the fly and dashed 30 yards to the K-State 3-yard line. Clay scored a touchdown on the next play, and the Wildcats never recovered from the special-teams swing.

Play of the week: Midway through the first quarter in Stillwater, QB Petty pulled the ball on a read-option and appeared to be on his way to a 27-yard touchdown. Instead, Petty’s feet got tangled up and he stumbled to the turf at the OSU 1. It proved to be a critical stumble. Two plays later, Shock Linwood tried to extend the ball over the goal line, but before he could, Cowboys defensive tackle James Castleman batted the ball out of Linwood’s hands and recovered the fumble. The Cowboys countered with a 99-yard touchdown drive to take a 7-0 lead and remained in control the rest of the night.

Stat of the week: Baylor has lost 35 straight road games to ranked opponents dating all the way back to 1991.

Quote of the week: "Without question, there are rodeos, and this is not their first one."
-- Baylor coach Art Briles, on Oklahoma State after the Cowboys defeated his Bears 49-17

STILLWATER, Okla. -- With nine minutes still to be played, America’s top offense finally had enough.

So instead of going for another seemingly hopeless fourth-and-long, Baylor called its record-setting offense to the sideline and sent out the punt team. On the other side of the field, sensing the capitulation, Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer began hopping up and down, slapping the helmet of any defender passing by his general vicinity.

The 10th-ranked Cowboys always believed they could knock off fourth-ranked Baylor. But nobody, from "College GameDay" guest picker Marcus Smart to the Cowboys themselves, thought they would put the mighty Bears away before the fourth quarter.

Yet, Saturday night before a sold-out Boone Pickens Stadium, Oklahoma State did exactly that, pummeling Baylor into submission 49-17 to ensure the Big 12 title will go through Stillwater.

Again.

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty, Daytawion Lowe, Tyler Johnson
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiThe Oklahoma State defense bottled up Bryce Petty and the high-flying Baylor offense all night.
“We weren’t intimidated,” said Cowboys linebacker Caleb Lavey. “And we were able to shut them down.”

No defense had slowed the Bears down all year, much less shut them down.

Baylor came into the night leading the nation with 61 points per game. After three quarters in Stillwater, the Bears had managed a single field goal.

“The Baylor offense deserved to get the pub it was getting,” Lavey said. “So being able to keep them off the board in touchdowns until the fourth quarter says a lot about this defense. Our defense did a great job.”

Great doesn’t do it justice. The Big 12’s best defense was dominant.

Head coach Mike Gundy said he felt Oklahoma State would need to score 35 points just to have a chance against Baylor. Thanks to his defense, the Cowboys needed only half that.

Even with All-American candidate Justin Gilbert limited to spot duty because of a shoulder injury, fellow cornerbacks Tyler Patmon and Kevin Peterson locked up Baylor’s speed-demon receivers in man-to-man coverage. The Bears, who led the country in completions of 30 yards or more, finished with just two such completions Saturday.

Up front, Oklahoma State tackles James Castleman and Calvin Barnett owned the line of scrimmage. Baylor, which had been averaging more than 300 yards per game on the ground, was held to just 96 yards rushing with a paltry average of 2.6 yards per carry.

And in between, linebackers Lavey and Shaun Lewis came up with huge plays all night.

All told, the Cowboys forced three fumbles, including two from inside their own 5-yard line. In the first quarter two plays after Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty stumbled to the turf at the 1 after a 27-yard dash, Castleman batted the ball out of Shock Linwood’s hands, and recovered it himself. The Cowboys countered with a 99-yard touchdown drive to grab control and a 7-0 lead.

Early in the fourth quarter, Baylor finally drove the ball back to the Oklahoma State 2 with a chance to cut the deficit to 35-17. Instead, Petty fumbled a wild snap, and Patmon scooped it up and returned it 78 yards for a touchdown to put the Cowboys up 42-10.

After a three-and-nothing on its the next possession, Baylor punted, starting up the party on the Oklahoma State sideline.

“They’re a great team,” said Spencer, who mixed up eight-man coverages with exotic blitzes all game. “But our kids tonight executed and played great defense.”

Yet as good as it was, the Oklahoma State defense was hardly the whole story.

[+] EnlargeClint Chelf
Allen Kee/ESPN ImagesOklahoma State QB Clint Chelf had a career day, throwing for 370 yards and accounting for four TDs.
Cowboy quarterback Clint Chelf remained on fire while outgunning Petty, Chelf's Heisman hopeful counterpart.

Chelf completed his first 12 passes, threw for a career-high 370 yards and accounted for four touchdowns as he continued his late-season charge since taking back over the starting job last month.

“He was accurate, and he made good decisions,” Gundy said. “I couldn’t be more proud of what he’s accomplished. He’s been a good leader, and he’s done it quietly. He's been humbled, and for that he's had success.”

Chelf lost the starting job two lackluster series into the season opener against Mississippi State. With J.W. Walsh in at quarterback, the offense languished, including in a 30-21 loss at West Virginia in a conference opener that looks more stunning by the week.

But since reclaiming the job on Oct. 26 at Iowa State, Chelf has been one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Last week, he delivered the second-highest QBR in the country in a 38-13 win at Texas.

Saturday, he was even better, throwing darts all over the field while picking apart Baylor’s secondary. Then in the third quarter, Chelf delivered the exclamation point, hauling in a throwback pass from Josh Stewart before racing 48 yards to the Baylor 5-yard line to set up a touchdown that put the Cowboys up 28-3.

“Chelf toughed everything out,” Stewart said. “He stayed with it. And tonight he was very impressive.”

So were the Cowboys, who before 2011 had only one conference title -- a three-way split in 1976 – in 58 years. After its stomping of the Bears, Oklahoma State is now one Bedlam win in Stillwater away from winning its second Big 12 title in three years.

“We have made great strides,” Gundy said. “The best way I can explain that is: I don’t know the last time we took the field and our players didn’t think we could win.”

Once again, the Cowboys took the field thinking they could win. They left it in control of the conference title. Again.

Big 12's unsung heroes: Week 10

November, 4, 2013
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The Big 12’s unsung heroes for Week 10:

Linebacker Jake Love, Kansas: Playing alongside Ben Heeney, it’s easy to overlook Love, a sophomore. He tied Heeney for the team lead with nine tackles, including six solo stops, in the 35-13 loss to Texas. Love added one quarterback hurry and one pass breakup against the Longhorns.

Linebacker Jonathan Truman, Kansas State: Lining up alongside Blake Slaughter and Tre Walker, the junior has been overshadowed this season. He had seven tackles, including six solo stops, to tie for the team lead in KSU’s 41-7 win over Iowa State. It was the first time he recorded seven tackles after beginning the season with four consecutive games recording at least seven tackles.

[+] EnlargeDeVondrick Nealy
Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY SportsDeVondrick Nealy rushed for 53 yards and Iowa State's lone score against Kansas State.
Running back DeVondrick Nealy, Iowa State: There wasn’t much to be proud of for the Cyclones in their 41-7 loss to Kansas State, but Nealy was one bright spot for ISU. The sophomore was seldom used in Iowa State's first five games but has 24 of his 29 total carries in the past three weeks. He led ISU with 12 carries for 53 yards and one touchdown against the Wildcats and finished with 96 all-purpose yards to lead the squad. It’s been a disappointing season, but Nealy’s emergence could pay off in the future.

Cornerback Tyler Patmon, Oklahoma State: A Kansas transfer, Patmon stepped in and stepped up with starting cornerback Kevin Peterson out. Patmon had six tackles, all solo, including one tackle for loss, a forced fumble and a pass breakup. It was just his second multiple-tackle game of the season. Patmon’s performance is the reason the Cowboys were interested in bringing the senior to Stillwater to provide quality, veteran depth at cornerback.

Receiver Jaxon Shipley, Texas: Running back Malcolm Brown received all the headlines with his four-touchdown performance, but Shipley recorded his best game during the Longhorns’ five-game winning streak. He finished with six receptions for 77 yards, with four of his receptions coming on third down in Texas' 35-13 victory over Kansas. The junior is a quarterback’s best friend with his quickness, route-running and sure hands.

Receiver Josh Doctson, TCU: It’s probably fair to say more was expected from the Wyoming transfer heading into the season. However, the sophomore might have had a breakout performance against West Virginia with eight receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown. He had five receptions for 33 yards and one touchdown on first-down plays. He entered the game with 12 total receptions.

Safety Keenon Ward, Texas Tech: Making his first career start, Ward finished with four tackles, including one tackle for loss and one interception. The redshirt freshman wasn’t perfect, but he showed he could become a playmaker on the Red Raiders' defense for the rest of the season and beyond.

West Virginia offensive line: Charles Sims was the clear standout with his 24 carries for 154 yards and one touchdown in WVU’s 30-27 victory over TCU. The Mountaineers’ offensive line deserves a lot of credit as they paved the way for Sims to average 6.42 yards per carry. WVU’s offensive front was particularly nasty on first down, paving the way for Sims’ 14 first-down carries for 98 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown.

Opening camp: Oklahoma State Cowboys

August, 2, 2013
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This is going to be a fascinating season in Stillwater, and the work (at least as a team, with coaches watching) begins today.

Let's have a closer look:

Schedule: Oklahoma State opens fall camp today after players reported on Thursday. They'll be working toward an afternoon opener on Aug. 31 in Houston at Reliant Stadium against Mississippi State.

Setting the scene: OSU won the Big 12 title back in 2011 and had a top-10 team preparing for a big-time opener back in 2009, but the hype around the Cowboys will be a lot different during this camp. They were an afterthought behind OU and Texas entering 2009 and were picked third in the league behind OU and Texas A&M in 2011. With a solid opponent waiting at the end of camp, the focus and urgency is always there during camp.

All eyes on: The coordinators. Mike Gundy brought in Mike Yurcich from the Division II ranks to run what's essentailly Dana Holgorsen's system. Linebackers coach Glenn Spencer was promoted to defensive coordinator after Gundy let Bill Young go at the end of a disappointing 2012 season defensively. Yurcich says he wants to go even faster than Holgorsen and 2012 coordinator Todd Monken, now the head coach at Southern Miss. Spencer balks at the suggestion that his defense will simply be more aggressive, but it'll be interesting to see what OSU preps in the next month ahead of that game against Mississippi State.

Key battle: Whatever you do, do not underestimate the impact of the guys whose feet touch the ball just a few times a game. Look no further than the 2011 upset loss to Iowa State for evidence of that. Quinn Sharp is gone, and now OSU is left to find a new punter, place kicker and kickoff specialist. Making matters tougher is Sharp was the best in the Big 12 at all three. Kip Smith is trying to win the punting and kicking jobs, but Michael Reichenstein (punter) and Bobby Stonebraker (kicker) will be competing as well. They've been Sharp's backups, and newcomer Ben Grogan joins the team for fall camp, too.

On the mend: Justin Gilbert's psyche. The cornerback looked like a rising star in his first year as a starter in 2011, but took big steps backward last season and got called out for his play by his head coach. He's as physically gifted as any corner in the league, even though his cover skills still leave a bit to be desired. The race for the Big 12's top cornerback by season's end will be interesting, but Gundy has expressed encouragement lately for Gilbert's progress since last year's rough go-around. He's got some good corners around him. Kevin Peterson is likely to win the starting job for the No. 2 corner, but Ashton Lampkin and Kansas transfer Tyler Patmon should provide some quality depth there.

Outlook: Oklahoma State brings back 14 starters from last season and for the first time in school history, has been picked to win the Big 12. "It's a tribute to a lot of players that have come before these guys that have worked hard," Gundy said. Expect OSU to be somewhere around No. 15 in the AP poll to start the season, but beginning the year with a target on their back is a brand new feeling for the Pokes.

Quotable: Gundy, on his approach of meddling "very little" in his coordinators' business. "I have a lot of confidence in the coaches on our staff and the decisions they make, and at the end of the day, they're the ones that have to instill it in the players in meetings and get it across to them on the practice field. They have to get them to perform on Saturday."
Cornerback Tyler Patmon leaving Kansas at the end of 2012 was a big surprise. It's rare you see a 28-game starter leave a program before his senior season, especially when it's "not his choice," as Patmon tweeted after the news broke.

Even rarer: A 28-game starter transferring within the conference. Both happened in Patmon's case on Monday.

From my news story:
Former Kansas cornerback Tyler Patmon has transferred to Oklahoma State, the Cowboys announced in a release on Monday. ...

When asked for comment back in December, Kansas coach Charlie Weis told the Lawrence Journal-World, "we appreciate all that he's done during his time at Kansas and we wish him well."

Patmon's 58 tackles were fourth most for the Jayhawks, and he started all 12 games at cornerback. He started nine games at nickel back as a redshirt freshman in 2010. He also had 11.5 career tackles for loss and broke up 22 passes in three seasons.

The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder is a native of Round Rock, Texas and will have one year of eligibility remaining.

I don't know the back story behind Patmon's exit, so I won't venture a guess, but there's plenty of skepticism surrounding Patmon's future impact.

But here's two reasons for Oklahoma State to be very happy it landed the senior:
  • Critique Patmon's cover skills all you'd like, but he still intercepted three more passes last year than any cornerback on OSU's roster. He returned one for a touchdown against Northern Illinois and his final pick of the year came against West Virginia's Geno Smith. Patmon's not exactly an impact corner, but you're crazy if you don't think he provides quality depth and a possible starter opposite Justin Gilbert. OSU's other two options are Ashton Lampkin and Kevin Peterson, a pair of green sophomores who will have their share of growing pains if they're first-year starters next season.
  • As for those cover skills, is it really fair to critique Patmon when he's trying to cover with the Big 12's worst defensive line rushing the passer? Have we really seen what he's capable of? No corner is going to look good having to cover for the length that Kansas' cornerbacks had to last season. The past two seasons when Patmon's played cornerback, Kansas has logged 20 total sacks. No other Big 12 team has posted fewer than 32. Like I said, Patmon's not a game-changer, but don't be surprised if he looks much, much better next fall at OSU than he did at KU.

It's not hard to see why Gundy took a shot on Patmon. Even if he doesn't start, he's badly needed. All-Name teamer Miketavius Jones was the only other scholarship cornerback in camp this spring for OSU, but that position's no doubt bolstered by adding Patmon, even if he doesn't start a single game in 2013.

Booms and busts of 2009 recruiting class

February, 11, 2013
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Colleague Jake Trotter ran down some big surprises and busts in the Big 12 recruiting class of 2008 last week, but let's take a closer look at the class of 2009 this morning.

We'll take a look at the top half of the Big 12 now, and the bottom half later today.

Baylor

Best surprise: OL Danny Watkins (British Columbia)

The Canadian firefighter was new to football, but Baylor gave him a shot after a strong juco career in Canada. How did Watkins repay them? He was a productive two-year starter at left tackle who the Philadelphia Eagles made a first-round pick in the 2011 NFL draft.

Biggest bust: WR Skyler Scott (Lancaster, Texas)

Scott, the nation's No. 53 receiver and the class' No. 3 overall signee, was arrested on gun possession charges in early 2010 and had little impact for the Bears.

Iowa State

Best surprise: LB A.J. Klein (Kimberly, Wisc.)

Klein was the nation's No. 116 linebacker and more highly rated than just four of Iowa State's four-year signees. He matured into a strong three-year starter and won the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2011.

Biggest bust: OL Aaron Moore (Frisco, Texas)

Moore was the class' top signee and the nation's No. 41 offensive tackle. He redshirted his freshman year, played three games in 2010 and left the team the following spring.

Kansas

Best surprise: CB Tyler Patmon (Cedar Park, Texas)

Patmon left the team in December, so it's hard to really laud him too much as a Jayhawk, but you can't ignore his contributions, despite being unranked at his position coming out of high school. He redshirted in 2009 but was a three-year starter in the secondary and one of the better players for KU's struggling defense in each of those seasons. He had three interceptions in 2012.

Biggest bust: LB Prinz Kande (Euless, Texas)

Kande was the class' top signee, but has yet to make a big impact heading into his senior season. He's been a reserve on the Jayhawks defense before finally emerging to make his first start last season in a loss to Rice. In that loss, though, he suffered a season-ending injury. He's had fewer tackles in every season since taking the field at KU.

Kansas State

Best surprise: S Ty Zimmerman (Junction City, Kan.)

Zimmerman was unranked coming out of high school but made an immediate impact and earned Freshman All-American honors in 2010 after redshirting. He's been a starter since and was one of three K-State defenders with five interceptions this season.

Biggest bust: S Thomas Ferguson (Grand Prairie, Texas)

Ferguson was the class' highest-ranked signee and was the nation's No. 23 safety but failed to notch double-digit tackles in any season on campus. He played in six games this year and had just six tackles.

Oklahoma

Best surprise: OT Lane Johnson (Groveton, Texas)

Johnson was a junior college quarterback who moved to tight end and came to Oklahoma where he promptly put on almost 40 pounds and became a tackle after a stop at defensive end in 2010, too. He earned All-Big 12 honors in 2012 and now has earned some hype as a possible first-round pick for the Sooners in April.

Biggest bust: DE Justin Chaisson (Las Vegas, Nev.)

Chaisson was one of a handful of players who signed with the Sooners out of Las Vegas, joining players like Ryan Reynolds and DeMarco Murray for the Sooners. Chaisson was plagued by legal issues, though, and the nation's No. 8 defensive end and No. 100 player overall in the class left the team before the 2010 season after redshirting in 2009.

Lunch links: Kansas State's big day

December, 14, 2012
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This mustard is from Reuben's reuben. That's what happens when you put a narcissist in charge of snack day.
Missouri trails Kansas in the second quarter, and James Franklin's poor play so far has been a big reason why.

The sophomore has struggled and has thrown three interceptions. The third pick was returned for a 64-yard touchdown by former receiver Bradley McDougald to put Missouri behind, 10-0.

That came on a 3rd-and-16 that came from the wrong read on a run play that resulted in a six-yard loss. Then he missed what should have been an easy throw on a swing pass to a running back.

So far, it's been his worst day of the season, and the Tigers' offense has looked ugly. He's just 4-of-11 for 41 yards with the three interceptions, adding 13 yards rushing on his four carries.

It's a windy day, and Franklin's passes have floated, especially his first interception hauled in by Tyler Patmon with one hand. At at some point, Missouri's offense has to adjust.

This one's pretty simple: Franklin has to be better, or Missouri will join Texas A&M in leaving for the SEC with an embarrassing loss as a favor to a longtime rival.

DBs weigh in on playing against Blackmon

November, 18, 2011
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Justin Blackmon's a whole lot of fun to watch.

Most agree, with the exception of Big 12 defensive backs.

Grantland's Robert Mays asked a few about life facing Blackmon. Check out the full interview here.

A couple highlights:

When you were through with a couple of series, what’s the one thing that had surprised you most?
Nigel Malone, Kansas State: His focus. I think for a lot of people, the first thing that would jump out at them is his athletic ability. That’s something that does stand out, but the underrated thing about him is his focus. When you go out and play against somebody one-on-one like that, you really get to measure somebody, and the intensity and the focus I got from him you expect, but in the game, it’s different. It’s something you can feel, and he has a great amount of it.

You never knew when it was going to be a run and a pass. Deep down, a lot of receivers just want to focus on the ball. Blackmon is going to get on you and grind you. Even it’s a toss play the other way, he’s going to try to get his hands on you. That separates him from a lot of guys I played against.
Down in the red zone, where quarterback Brandon Weeden likes to throw that fade pattern to him in the corner of the end zone — how do you even try to stop that?
Carrington Byndom, Texas: You’ve got to force him to do one thing or the other. He can beat you with the fade, or he can beat you with the slant. It’s a challenge, for sure. He does use his body so well. You’ve just got to try to take away one thing.
After playing against him, where does he stack up among the best receivers you’ve had to cover?

Tyler Patmon, Kansas: It’s probably between him and [Oklahoma wide receiver] Ryan Broyles. They’re just great receivers.

Byndom: He’s definitely up at the top. Throughout the game, you can just tell what makes him so good.

Malone: It’s him. After that game, it’s him. As an overall player, what he can do on the field, it’s something that’s unmatched in football. Even from what I’ve seen on film and other things. Playing against him is different than what people have seen. Until you’ve gone out and played against him, you can’t appreciate some of the things he’s done on a football field.


Check out all three full interviews at Grantland.
We'll move on to the cornerbacks today in our position rankings across the Big 12.

Here's what we've covered so far:
This group? Well, it's not very good. And considering the crazy depth in the Big 12 at receiver, it could be a long season for cornerbacks in this league. I love the upside of many of the Big 12 corners -- namely the guys at Missouri and Texas Tech (especially working with Chad Glasgow's 4-2-5 in Lubbock). Texas could also develop fast in its new defense, but outside of Texas A&M and Oklahoma, I don't see any Big 12 teams that should be completely comfortable with their cornerbacks.

Of course, for fans who love points, this could be a welcome development. For secondary coaches and defensive coordinators? Not so much.

[+] EnlargeJamell Fleming
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireJamell Fleming returns as the Big 12's top cornerback.
1. Oklahoma -- Jamell Fleming is the Big 12's top returner at the position and gives the Sooners a huge boost after being reinstated last week. Fleming had withdrawn from the university because of academic problems following the season. Aaron Colvin moved to safety during the offseason, but Fleming will still have to beat out Gabe Lynn in fall camp to start opposite Demontre Hurst. Julian Wilson also adds depth.

2. Texas A&M -- Fleming's return pushed the Sooners over A&M as having the Big 12's best group of corners. But Coryell Judie and Terrence Frederick could both challenge for first team All-Big 12 honors at the position. They are ahead of reserves Dustin Harris and Lionel Smith, who will get plenty of time on the field.

3. Missouri -- Missouri loses starters Carl Gettis and Kevin Rutland, but the coaches consider Kip Edwards a returning starter because of how much he played last season. Edwards could join E.J. Gaines in eventually becoming better than both Gettis and Rutland. Trey Hobson and Robert Steeples will get time in the rotation, too.

4. Oklahoma State -- OSU has to replace the Big 12's interception leader Andrew McGee , but Brodrick Brown's development should continue. He's likely a dark horse to earn first-team All-Big 12 honors after the season. The Cowboys didn't release a post-spring depth chart, but don't be surprised if return specialist Justin Gilbert edges out Devin Hedgepeth for the starting spot before the opener. Andrae May has earned playing time on special teams in both of his first two seasons on campus, but could be counted on for a much bigger role this year as the fourth corner.

5. Texas -- The Longhorns are fairly decimated at corner after losing three to the NFL in one offseason. Curtis and Chykie Brown joined Aaron Williams for one of the most talented sets of corners we've seen in this league, but now, secondary coach Duane Akina will have to replace them. Texas' depth chart is still as in flux as any in college football, but I'd be surprised if Carrington Byndom didn't emerge with a starting spot. True freshman Quandre Diggs might swipe the other, but A.J. White will be on the field, too.

6. Texas Tech -- The Red Raiders are likely to ascend this list by season's end, but for now, find themselves at No. 6. Injuries were costly for the defense last season, but Tre Porter and Derrick Mays should be much better, and Tech fans can be encouraged by the upside in Jarvis Phillips, Jeremy Reynolds and Eugene Neboh.

7. Iowa State -- This group might be a bit underrated, but with Iowa State's defensive problems last season, it's a bit hard to tell. Jeremy Reeves and Leonard Johnson return with loads of experience, and Anthony Young is a great additional piece as the third corner. Matthew Thomas should be in the rotation, too.

8. Baylor -- The Bears return both starters. Chance Casey has 15 career starts to Tyler Stephenson's four, but the Bears secondary struggled last season, especially the corners. Tuswani Copeland should be on the field under new coordinator Phil Bennett, whose work is cut out for him at this spot.

9. Kansas -- Kansas loses Chris Harris from last season's team, but Isiah Barfield is a playmaker at the position. Greg Brown, Tyler Patmon and Anthony Davis fill out the group.

10. Kansas State -- The Wildcats have a huge talent in David Garrett, who led the team in tackles last season and was the nation's leader in tackles for loss, but he's still just one player at a position that needs lots of depth in this league. Also, his coverage leaves a bit to be desired. For now, K-State doesn't look like it has that necessary depth. Terrance Sweeney and Stephen Harrison are gone, but the Wildcats need to find more talents at the position in fall camp. Watch for Thomas Ferguson to emerge as the other starter.

Kansas spring wrap

May, 6, 2011
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KANSAS

2010 overall record: 3-9

2010 conference record: 1-7

Returning starters: Offense (8), Defense (6) P/K (0)

Top returners: RB James Sims, WR Daymond Patterson, QB Jordan Webb, LB Steven Johnson, OL Tanner Hawkinson, DB Isiah Barfield, LB Huldon Tharp

Key losses: CB Chris Harris, LB Justin Springer, DL Jake Laptad, LB Drew Dudley, S Olaitan Oguntodu, WR Johnathan Wilson

2010 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: James Sims* (742 yards)

Passing: Jordan Webb (1,195 yards)

Receiving: Daymond Patterson* (487 yards)

Tackles: Steven Johnson (95)

Sacks: Jake Laptad (4.5)

Interceptions: Tyler Patmon*, Isiah Barfield* (2)

Three spring answers

1. Sudden strength up front. Pat Lewandowski redshirted last season, and former running back Toben Opurum tried to learn the intricacies of the defensive line. This spring though? Both were standouts and could be impact players up front for a Jayhawks defense that needs it badly. Kansas may have a couple solid athletes who underwent position changes at the back of the defense, too. Former receivers Keeston Terry and Bradley McDougald look like the Jayhawks' starting safeties.

2. Lightning to Sims' thunder. Leading rusher Sims returns and figures to log plenty of carries, but freshman Darrian Miller showed a burst that no other Jayhawks running back had previously. He enrolled early and started making plays immediately, which should land him on the field next season.

3. Add another receiver to the mix. Kale Pick is another Jayhawks player who dealt with a position change last year. He had little impact as a receiver after making the switch from quarterback, but he showed great hands all spring and led the team in receptions at the spring game. He looks like he’s got a natural understanding of the position and is following in the footsteps of another Jayhawks great: Kerry Meier.

Three fall questions

1. Can they be competitive? No amount of scrimmaging will give Kansas the answer to this question. The Jayhawks were blown out often last year, losing five games by more than 20 points. Is the program back to being one that can at least flirt with more than three wins in 2011? Kansas must show progress.

2. Who’s the QB? Webb has the edge ahead of Quinn Mecham after the spring, but the wild card shows up to campus this fall. Brock Berglund, the top prospect in Colorado, enrolled early before heading back home before practice began. He plans to be back this fall and could throw a wrench into the quarterback competition if he grasps the offense quickly.

3. Is Tharp back to 100 percent? Linebacker Tharp showed the makings of an All-Big 12 talent as a freshman in 2009. A leg injury kept him off the field in 2010, and he was limited this spring. Once he’s back on the field next fall, can he continue his development and look at least like his old self?

Kansas recruiting capsule

February, 5, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Kansas Jayhawks

Recruits: 24

Breakdown: 21 high school, three junior college.

Positions: 5 DL, 3 OL, 3 WR, 3 LB, 3 CB, 3 S, 2 QB, 2 RB

Where they came from: Texas 11, Kansas 4, Florida 2, Oklahoma 2, Michigan 1, Illinois 1, Missouri 1, Nebraska 1, Ohio 1.

The stud: S Prinz Kande, Euless, Texas (Trinity High School) -- Hard-hitting performer who is expected to immediately beef up production at one of the Jayhawks' primary weaknesses.

Recruiting-class sleeper: CB Tyler Patmon, Cedar Park (Vista Ridge) -- Undersized player who should mature after arriving at college. And his football genes are strong with both grandfathers and two uncles all playing college football before him.

The one who got away: LB Justin Isadore, Beaumont, Texas (Ozen) -- Athletic playmaker who was attracted to TCU by the Horned Frogs' underrated defense. He could have helped the Jayhawks, either as a speedy outside linebacker or a strong safety.

Needs addressed: Quarterbacks, defensive line, secondary.

Didn't need much help: Tight ends.

Scouts Inc. grade: C- (10th in the Big 12, fourth in North Division).

My take: Mark Mangino has done a better job than anybody in the Big 12 in developing under-recruited players once they arrived at college. He appears to have more talent with this recruiting class than most of his previous classes -- particularly in the secondary. And considering the Big 12's recent aerial bent, that's a wise place to concentrate.

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