Big 12: Will Davis

Big 12 pre-spring breakdown: LBs

February, 25, 2014
Feb 25
3:00
PM ET
As we await the start of spring ball, we’re examining and ranking the positional situations of every team in the Big 12, continuing Tuesday with linebackers. Some of these outlooks will look different after the spring. But here’s how we see the linebacking corps going into the spring:

[+] EnlargeDominique Alexander
William Purnell/Icon SMIDominique Alexander was a star as a true freshman and leads a loaded Oklahoma linebacking corps.
1. Oklahoma: After a couple of lean years, the Sooners are loaded at linebacker again. Dominique Alexander was the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year, Frank Shannon led the defense in tackles as a sophomore, and Eric Striker is budding into the most ferocious blitzing linebacker in the country (just ask Alabama). Jordan Evans played extensively as a true freshman, too. This is an athletic group that can cover, stop the run and get to the quarterback.

2. Texas: This will be as deep as any linebacking corps in the league, with starters Peter Jinkens, Dalton Santos and Steve Edmond all returning off a unit that improved dramatically after the rocky nonconference start. After allowing a school-record 550 yards rushing to BYU, Texas had the Big 12’s fourth-best rush defense in conference games. Whether this group can take another step up will depend on what happens with Jordan Hicks, who enters his fifth year in the program after suffering season-ending injuries in back-to-back years. Hicks was the No. 1 linebacker in the country coming out of high school and has played well when healthy.

3. West Virginia: This will be the strength of the defense, as Brandon Golson, Isaiah Bruce, Jared Barber and Nick Kwiatkoski all return with significant starting experience. Kwiatkoski was West Virginia’s leading tackler last season, and Bruce was a freshman All-American the season before. Wes Tonkery and Jewone Snow also have starting experience, and Shaq Petteway, who missed last season with a knee injury, was a key rotation player the previous year. This level of experience and production with give the new defensive regime of Tony Gibson and Tom Bradley a foundation to build around.

4. Baylor: Bryce Hager is one of the best returning linebackers in the league. He was a second-team all-conference pick two years ago and would have earned similar honors last season had he not missed the final three games of the regular season with a groin injury. Grant Campbell, a three-star juco signee, is already on campus and will vie for the vacancy of departing All-Big 12 linebacker Eddie Lackey. Kendall Ehrlich and Aiavion Edwards are the only other players at the position with any meaningful experience, but Raaquan Davis, a former four-star recruit who redshirted last season, could be a factor.

5. Kansas: Middle linebacker Ben Heeney was a second-team All-Big 12 selection after finishing fourth in the league in tackles per game. His wingman, Jake Love, got beat out by juco transfer Samson Faifili during the preseason but took over when Faifili suffered an injury and was solid. As long as Heeney remains healthy, the Jayhawks will be solid here.

6. TCU: Projected to be the Achilles’ heel of the TCU defense last season, Paul Dawson, Marcus Mallet and Jonathan Anderson actually gave the position stability. Dawson led the Horned Frogs with 91 tackles, Mallet was third with 70 and Anderson was fourth with 66. All three will be seniors in 2014 and should give the Horned Frogs a solid, reliable linebacking unit again.

7. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders and their 3-4 scheme graduate two very productive players in Will Smith and Terrance Bullitt. Smith was second in the Big 12 in tackles, and Bullitt led all Big 12 linebackers in pass breakups. Austin Stewart and Micah Awe go into the spring as the favorites to replace Bullitt and Smith, respectively. Two starters do return in Sam Eguavoen and Pete Robertson, who was honorable mention All-Big 12 thanks to his impact off the edge. Tech also has several intriguing young players, including Jacarthy Mack, Malik Jenkins and Kahlee Woods, who will all be second-year players.

8. Kansas State: The Wildcats lose two stalwarts to graduation in captains Blake Slaughter and Tre Walker. The only returner is former walk-on Jonathan Truman, who was second on the team in tackles from the weak side. The Wildcats will be hoping for big things from D'Vonta Derricott, an ESPN JC 50 signee who had offers from Miami and Wisconsin, among many others. Will Davis, who was Slaughter’s backup as a freshman last season, could thrive if he secures the starting role in the middle.

9. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys are somewhat decimated here with the graduations of all-conference veterans Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey. The only returning starter, Ryan Simmons, could move inside, which would open the door for hard-hitting jucos D'Nerius Antoine and Devante Averette to start on either side of him. Seth Jacobs, who was a four-star recruit two years ago, should jump into the rotation, and the Cowboys could get an instant boost from freshman Gyasi Akem, who was an ESPN 300 signee. The potential ascension of this group, though, hinges on what Antonie and Averette accomplish.

10. Iowa State: The Cyclones graduate their defensive cornerstone in Jeremiah George, who was a first-team all-conference performer after leading the Big 12 with 133 tackles. Replacing George won’t come easy. But there’s reason to believe that Luke Knott can become Iowa State’s next cornerstone at the position. The younger brother of Cyclone LB great Jake Knott, Luke Knott started five games as a freshman and quickly racked up 45 tackles before suffering a season-ending hip injury, which required surgery. If he makes a full recovery, Knott has the talent to become the next in a growing line of All-Big 12 Iowa State linebackers. Seniors Jevohn Miller and Jared Brackens, who combined for 19 starts last season, flank Knott with experience.

The Big 12 recruiting scorecard for 2012

August, 18, 2011
8/18/11
10:00
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It's mid-August. The season starts in two weeks and signing day is a little more than five months away. We are more than halfway through the recruiting season and here's how the Big 12 classes for 2012 look.

We'll try to offer a monthly scoreboard update between now and signing day next February. There hasn't been a ton of shifting and activity since our last update in July, but here's a look at where we stand now.

All numbers are courtesy of ESPNU Recruiting. You can see them by clicking on each team for more on each class. The teams are ranked below.

Very nice showing for the Big 12 so far, with six of the 10 teams in the league ranked in ESPN's top 25 class rankings, including fish-in-barrel shooters Texas, which tops the national recruiting rankings.

1. Texas Longhorns
National ranking: No. 1
Total commits: 18
ESPNU 150 commits: 9
Key commits: RB Johnathan Gray, DT Malcom Brown, WR Cayleb Jones, QB Connor Brewer
Personnel notes: Seven of the Longhorns' commits are offensive players, nine are on defense and another is designated as an athlete. Four of the top five commits, however, are skill-position players. Texas also has kicker Nick Jordan (No. 8 nationally) committed.

2. Texas A&M Aggies
National ranking: No. 8
Total commits: 21
ESPNU 150 commits: 4
Key commits: OLB Jordan Richmond, RB Trey Williams, ATH Bralon Addison, QB Matt Davis
Personnel notes: The Aggies swiped Addison from Oklahoma State and gave themselves four commits who are designated as athletes. Eight of their other commits are on defense and nine play offense. Davis was recently added to the ESPNU150 as the nation's No. 7 quarterback.

3. Oklahoma Sooners
National ranking: No. 10
Total commits: 12
ESPNU 150 commits: 4
Key commits: RB Alex Ross, WR Sterling Shepard, WR Durron Neal, OL Ty Darlington
Personnel notes: The Sooners are still after Dorial Green-Beckham, the nation's No. 1 receiver and No. 3 overall prospect. Oklahoma's class has just two defensive players and one athlete, Daniel Brooks. The other seven commits play offense. The Sooners swiped Neal from Missouri, where the in-state Tigers were hoping to add him to their 2012 fold. OU missed out on QB Gunner Kiel to former coordinator Kevin Wilson, who convinced Kiel to commit to in-state Indiana.

4. Texas Tech Red Raiders
National ranking: No. 15
Total commits: 17
ESPNU 150 commits: 3
Key commits: WR Reginald Davis, WR Dominique Wheeler, OT Michael Starts, OT Christian Okafor
Personnel notes: Davis and Wheeler could offer a big talent upgrade at the skill positions in the future. Nine commits play offense, two are athletes and six play defense.

5. Missouri Tigers
National ranking: No. 18
Total commits: 15
ESPNU 150 commits: 1
Key commits: OG Evan Boehm, DT Donald Hopkins, QB Maty Mauk, OT Germain Ifedi,
Personnel notes: Hopkins was a top addition for the class, which would get a huge boost with the addition of Green-Beckham. The class includes seven defenders (four linebackers) and five offensive players, with two of the top four commits being offensive linemen. Mauk and Boehm allowed the Tigers to jump into the top 25 class rankings and leapfrog Oklahoma State over the summer.

6. Oklahoma State Cowboys
Total commits: 11
ESPNU 150 commits: 1
Key commits: TE Dominic Ramacher, CB Kendall Sanders, OLB Jeremiah Tshimanga, OT Timothy Hines
Personnel notes: Oklahoma State added four commitments since our last update to a class that features four defenders, four offensive linemen and three offensive skill position players.

7. Baylor Bears
Total commits: 18
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: ATH Corey Coleman, CB Terrell Burt, WR Kiante' Griffin, LB Kendall Ehrlich
Personnel notes: Baylor's seen the biggest jump in the past month, adding six commits to its class. Art Briles' 2012 class currently has three athletes, 10 defenders and five offensive players.

8. Iowa State Cyclones
Total commits: 9
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: WR P.J. Harris, WR Quan West, DE Mitchell Meyers, QB Grant Rohach
Personnel notes: The Cyclones added a string of a couple players earlier this month with a handful of commits in just a few days. The class now consists of two receivers, two quarterbacks (including Luke Knott, the younger brother of LB Jake Knott), a running back and four defenders.

9. Kansas State Wildcats
Total commits: 7
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: WR Vernon Vaughn, DT Travis Britz, QB Tay Bender, OG Aderius Epps
Personnel notes: Kansas State added two commits since our July update. The Wildcats have three defensive commits, and four offensive commits.

10. Kansas Jayhawks
Total commits: 6
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: QB Seth Russell, ATH Bilal Marshall, DE De'Jon Wilson, OG Brian Beckmann
Personnel notes: Kansas added three commits since our July update, including Russell, a quarterback. The class now consists of two athletes, two offensive players and two defenders.

Big 12 recruiting -- 2012 classes take shape

July, 18, 2011
7/18/11
9:00
AM ET
It's mid-July. The season starts in six weeks and signing day is a little more than six months away. We are now almost halfway through the recruiting season and here's how the Big 12 classes for 2012 look.

We'll try to offer a monthly scoreboard update between now and signing day next February. There's been plenty of shifting and activity since our last update in June.

All numbers are courtesy ESPNU recruiting pages. You can see them by clicking on each team for more on each class. The teams are ranked below.

Very nice showing for the Big 12 so far, with six of the 10 teams in the league ranked in ESPN's top 25 class rankings, including fish-in-barrel shooters Texas, who top the national recruiting rankings.

1. Texas Longhorns
National ranking: No. 1
Total commits: 18
ESPNU 150 commits: 9
Key commits: RB Johnathan Gray, DT Malcom Brown, WR Cayleb Jones, QB Connor Brewer
Personnel notes: Seven of the Longhorns' commits are offensive players, nine are on defense and another is designated as an athlete. Four of the top five commits, however, are skill-position players. Texas also has kicker Nick Jordan (No. 8 nationally) committed.

2. Texas A&M Aggies
National ranking: No. 4
Total commits: 20
ESPNU 150 commits: 3
Key commits: OLB Jordan Richmond, RB Trey Williams, ATH Bralon Addison, ATH Matt Davis
Personnel notes: The Aggies swiped Addison from Oklahoma State and gave themselves four commits that are designated as athletes. Eight of their other commits are on defense, and nine play offense. Quarterback Trevor Knight recently switched to Oklahoma, but Davis is expected to play QB for the Aggies.

3. Oklahoma Sooners
National ranking: No. 12
Total commits: 11
ESPNU 150 commits: 4
Key commits: RB Alex Ross, WR Sterling Shepard, WR Durron Neal, OL Ty Darlington
Personnel notes: The Sooners recently added Knight, a quarterback, but would still love to add receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, the nation's No. 1 receiver and No. 3 overall prospect. Oklahoma's class has just two defensive players and one athlete, Daniel Brooks. The other eight commits play offense. The Sooners swiped Neal from Missouri, where the in-state Tigers were hoping to add him to their 2012 fold.

4. Texas Tech Red Raiders
National ranking: No. 14
Total commits: 16
ESPNU 150 commits: 3
Key commits: WR Reginald Davis, WR Dominique Wheeler, OT Michael Starts, OT Christian Okafor
Personnel notes: Wheeler is the class's top commit, but David and Starts are the other two ESPNU 150 prospects. Nine commits play offense, two are athletes and five play defense.

5. Missouri Tigers
National ranking: No. 19
Total commits: 12
ESPNU 150 commits: 1
Key commits: OG Evan Boehm, QB Maty Mauk, OT Germain Ifedi, ILB Donavin Newsom
Personnel notes: The Tigers beat out Oklahoma for in-state prospect Boehm, and would like to do the same with Green-Beckham. But for now, the class includes seven defenders (four linebackers) and five offensive players, with two of the top three commits being offensive linemen. Mauk (No. 14 QB nationally) was a recent addition. Mauk and Boehm allowed the Tigers to jump into the most recent top 25 class rankings and leapfrog Oklahoma State.

6. Oklahoma State Cowboys
National ranking: No. 24
Total commits: 7
ESPNU 150 commits: 1
Key commits: TE Dominic Ramacher, CB Kendall Sanders, OLB Jeremiah Tshimanga, OT Timothy Hines
Personnel notes: OSU has had a rash of decommitments, including two from ESPNU 150 listers Dalton Santos and Bralon Addison. The current class is headlined by Ramacher, one of four offensive players in the class. Two of the three defenders are cornerbacks. OSU also added a quarterback since our last update, 6-foot-4 Wes Lunt of Rochester (Ill.).

7. Baylor Bears
Total commits: 12
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: ATH Corey Coleman, CB Terrell Burt, WR Kiante' Griffin, ATH Terrence Singleton
Personnel notes: The Bears have three athletes in the group, five offensive commits and four defenders, including three defensive backs. Quarterback Jared Johnson was a high-profile recent pickup.

8. Iowa State Cyclones
Total commits: 6
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: WR Quan West, DE Mitchell Meyers, QB Grant Rohach, RB Barkley Hill
Personnel notes: The Cyclones have a second QB in Luke Knott, the younger brother of star linebacker Jake Knott, and four of the six commits are skill position players. The Cyclones also have a pair of defenders, with no offensive linemen currently committed.

9. Kansas State Wildcats
Total commits: 5
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: WR Vernon Vaughn, DT Travis Britz, QB Tay Bender, ILB Will Davis
Personnel notes: The Wildcats have three defensive commits, and both offensive commits are skill position players.

10. Kansas Jayhawks
Total commits: 3
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: CB Daniel Gray, OG Brian Beckmann, ATH Derek Keaton
Personnel notes: Turner Gill set the bar high with his first full class in Lawrence, and will need a late charge to surpass a fantastic effort in 2011 on the recruiting trail.

Big 12 links: Let's get it started

August, 30, 2008
8/30/08
11:48
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The first Saturday of football season finally is here. I can't wait.

My enthusiasm couldn't even diminished by a balky wireless system that kept me about three hours behind this morning. Fortunately, the hamsters were rousted and the power restored a few minutes ago. Hopefully, these links to whet your appetite on the first full day of the season will be savored.

Enjoy them and check back throughout the day. I'll have tidbits and information as the conference starts play at 2:30 p.m. CT when Oklahoma State squares off with Washington State in Seattle. That gives you guys most of the morning to catch up on your honey-dos before the games start in earnest.

But remember to read your links first. They are a better hangover cure than menudo, my friends back in San Antonio tell me.

  • Baylor coach Art Briles has named freshman QB Robert Griffin as his starter for the Northwestern State game next week. "He just gives us a few more options," Briles told the Waco Tribune-Herald. "His poise at quarterback is a given because he's played the position all his life and is comfortable with it and handles it well."
  • The Colorado-Colorado State game will return to campus sites in 2009 and 2010, the school's athletic directors announced on Friday.
  • Colorado coach Dan Hawkins expects several CU freshmen to have an impact in Sunday's game against Colorado State in Denver.
  • Strong debuts by both QB Austen Arnaud and Phillip Bates pleased Iowa State coach Gene Chizik, although he's still unwilling to name a starter for next week's game against Kent State.
  • Redshirt Missouri freshman T Elvis Fisher needs to take care of business Saturday night against Illinois All-Big Ten DE Will Davis in their epic "Viva St. Louis" debut.  
  • Jeffrey Martin of the Wichita Eagle/Kansas City Star reports that Kansas State players insist that last season's late collapse is behind them as they head into Saturday's opener against North Texas. But the Wildcats will have to start without LB John Houlik, who will be suspended three games after being arrested Aug. 1 for driving under the influence.
  • Kansas still is getting little respect nationally, Lawrence Journal-World columnist Tom Keegan writes. Maybe he's hasn't seen those national rankings. 
  • Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel writes that Nebraska football gets a clean slate with Bo Pelini's first official game as head coach.
  • Mike Gundy learned a lesson from his old boss Les Miles seven years ago. That's why he's calling plays as Oklahoma State's offensive coordinator as well as serving as its head coach Saturday, Tulsa World columnist Dave Sittler writes.
  • Chattanooga's visit to Owen Field today will be the biggest mismatch in modern Oklahoma history - even if Terrell Owens once played for the Moccasins, Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel writes.
  • Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds escapes the competitive world of college sports with a green thumb.
  • Texas will retire Vince Young's uniform number before tonight's game against Florida Atlantic and Tommy Nobis and Bobby Layne later this season. Austin American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls wonders who is next?
  • New Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman hopes to rally support from Aggie fans as he starts his head coaching career there against Arkansas State.
  • Texas Tech RB Baron Batch has a different attitude after enduring seven surgeries during an eight-month period.
  • Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News writes that Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp has a perfect stage tonight to debut the team's aggressive new style.

Five burning questions for Missouri

August, 29, 2008
8/29/08
6:22
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Missouri is entering the upcoming season with unprecedented publicity after winning the North Division last season. And to a man, the Tigers have adopted the mantra that they won't be satisfied unless they win the Big 12 championship.

The Tigers claimed the Big 12 North title, marred only by losses to Oklahoma midway through the season and in the conference championship game that killed their national title hopes. But they rebounded for a 38-7 blowout victory over Arkansas -- their first bowl victory on Jan. 1 or later since 1966 -- that has sent expectations soaring heading into the season.

Despite the return of most of their offensive weapons and 10 defensive starters, several critical questions remain that will keep Gary Pinkel concerned as the Tigers prepare for Saturday's pivotal rivalry game in St. Louis against Illinois.

1. What happens if Chase Daniel is injured?  The Tigers have two other graduates of the EA Sports Elite 11 Camp behind Daniel in senior Chase Patton and freshman Blaine Gabbert. But the two backups have combined to throw 13 passes during their college career, making their experience lacking. Patton has been hobbled by a sore hamstring during training camp and Gabbert is still learning his way with the Tigers' offense.

2. Can Derrick Washington replace Tony Temple?  The 220-pound Washington is a more effective inside runner than Temple and Jimmy Jackson and De'Vion Moore both are capable of becoming strong breakaway threats. But will the rotation replace what Temple brought to the team, capped by his record-breaking 281-yard effort against Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl?

3. Will a retooled offensive line adequately protect Daniel? Pinkel is taking a gamble by starting redshirt freshman LT Elvis Fisher, who will start his first college game by protecting Daniel's blind side Saturday night against All-Big Ten defensive end Will Davis of Illinois. But Fisher has been the talk of camp, developing so quickly the Tigers felt comfortable enough to switch Kurtis Gregory back to RG. C Tim Barnes will be the other new starter.

4. How will the Tigers' defensive push remain strong without NT Lorenzo Williams?  Junior Jaron Baston will replace Williams, an All-Big 12 performer who led the team in sacks last season. Even more important was Williams' leadership to the defense, which will be sorely missed.

5. How will the new punter work out?  Jake Harry was expected to win the job last season after arriving from Palomar Junior College, but never seriously challenged Adam Crossett after a struggling start. He switched his training regime and says he's ready to play, but remains a huge unknown until he receives some game experience.

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