Big 12: Willie Jefferson
Sooners lose another starter
It's been a less-than-ideal offseason for Oklahoma, which heads into the fall as one of the favorites to win the national title. It got even less ideal when starting right tackle Jarvis Jones suffered a ruptured patellar tendon in his knee.
"We were in a team period and it just buckled on him," coach Bob Stoops said in a release.
Jones started four games last season, but he's expected to miss six months and return in late September or October. That's a big deal for the Sooners, who play at Florida State, a likely top five opponent, on Sept. 17. If Jones can get ahead of schedule on his rehab, it wouldn't be shocking if he returned by then, but it's another setback for the Sooners.
Three starters had run-ins with the law before spring practice, and All-Big 12 cornerback Jamell Fleming, the team's best cover man, is not currently enrolled at Oklahoma after reported academic dishonesty. His future is still in flux, and though none of the offseason happenings are complete game-changers, they're all unnecessary distractions for the Sooners, who have admitted themselves that this season is all about gunning for the national title.
Baylor defense bounces back
Baylor's defense couldn't have played much worse in the team's last scrimmage, but new coordinator Phil Bennett had to be pretty happy with the effort in a weekend scrimmage.
The Bears had eight sacks and scored three touchdowns. Defensive end Willie Jefferson, a converted tight end, led the team with three sacks and scored on a 30-yard fumble return. Jared Edwards also had a pair of sacks.
"I thought we made some strides this week. I think we are starting to get some people in the right positions," Bennett told reporters after the scrimmage. "As I told them, we aren’t there yet, but I saw some steps. We put them in some tough situations. We moved the ball downfield, we did some red zone with one minute and they responded better. But like I said, we are not there yet. I told the guys that if we can stay on an even keel with our offense, we are going to get better and win some games.”
Terrance Ganaway put up a nice stat line with 42 yards on seven carries and a touchdown, and Darius Jones led all receivers with 70 yards on six receptions.
Kicker Aaron Jones struggled down the stretch after a fast start last season, but he was 4-of-5 on field goals, including a 57-yarder and another from outside 50 yards.
Oklahoma State sits Markelle Martin for spring surgery
Safety Markelle Martin should be one of the leaders of Oklahoma State's defense next spring, but Oklahoma State elected to end his spring for shoulder surgery.
"We cleaned his shoulder up,” coach Mike Gundy told reporters. "He really didn't need the surgery right now, but there was no reason [to delay the surgery], because we have a lot of depth at safety."
Top among those remaining safeties is Daytawion Lowe, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, but has impressed throughout the spring. Lavocheya Cooper is listed behind Martin at strong safety on the spring depth chart.
Cyclones snatch another Knott
Linebacker Jake Knott is already one of Iowa State's best players after making 130 tackles in 2010, third-most in the Big 12.
Now, his little brother, quarterback Luke Knott, is ready to follow. The native of Lee's Summit, Mo., gives Iowa State two 2012 commitments, both quarterbacks.
California native Grant Rohach committed to the Cyclones this month.
- Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register takes a look at Iowa State's two new linebackers off to good starts, A.J. Klein and Jake Knott.
- Mike Leach weighs in on what might as well be the de facto Leach Bowl this Saturday, when Texas Tech plays Oklahoma State. Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman has the story.
- How long do Texas A&M fans have to wait? Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News examines the question.
- Jake Trotter of The Oklahoman tells you why Oklahoma doesn't retire jerseys for former players.
- Army staff sergeant Brian Blair is in Iraq, and lets Kevin Robbins of the Austin American-Statesman in on how he follows his favorite team, the Texas Longhorns.
- Kansas is still having trouble with the basics of football, writes Tully Corcoran of the Topeka Capital-Journal.
- Carson Coffman may not have the NFL arm or prospects that Josh Freeman had, but at least he can beat Kansas, writes Austin Meek of the Topeka Capital-Journal.
- Baylor dismissed receiver Willie Jefferson, who was arrested with teammate Josh Gordon two weeks ago.
- The blame for Thursday night's loss to Kansas State falls squarely on Turner Gill, but any real talk of firing is premature, writes Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star.
- Missouri backup quarterback James Franklin is marked by a calmness, writes Vahe Gregorian of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- Nebraska is making its biggest home game of the year its biggest recruiting weekend of the year, too.
- Colorado's Will Jefferson is ready to make the switch from receiver to running back, writes Tom Kensler of the Denver Post.
Taylor Potts threw his second touchdown pass of the day to Alex Torres to take a 28-21 lead.
For Baylor, the defensive performance looks like the one it turned in against TCU, when the Horned Frogs racked up 35 first-half points on their way to a 45-10 win.
This time, however, the Bears' offense is keeping up, thanks to some timely special-teams play.
Baylor returned an onside kick for a touchdown -- the second time in two weeks Texas Tech has allowed that to happen -- and kept a drive alive with a 34-yard pass on a fake punt.
If one defense can stabilize -- and Texas Tech looks more likely to do it so far -- they might be able to run away with it. But in a game like this, a turnover might swing it, too.
Receiver Josh Gordon is playing for Baylor and has one catch for 34 yards. Gordon and fellow receiver Willie Jefferson were arrested for alleged marijuana possession last weekend, and were found passed out in the drive-through of a Taco Bell near campus.
Officers found marijuana in the car and the two are facing misdemeanor possession charges.
Baylor coach Art Briles declined to comment on the matter, but I wouldn't expect to see either make the trip to the Cotton Bowl for Saturday's game, which could be bad news for the Bears.
Though Kendall Wright earned most of the offseason headlines, Gordon had emerged as one of Robert Griffin's top targets, especially after a career game against Kansas on Saturday that included a 94-yard touchdown catch. He finished with 161 yards on four catches. The sophomore caught just one pass last season.
Jefferson has one catch this season, but he made it count. His 43-yard score against Buffalo on Baylor's second game put the Bears up 24-7. The sophomore tight end also had five catches for 101 yards and a touchdown last year, while starting one game and playing mostly at receiver.
Gordon's 14 catches this year are just fourth on the team, but his 327 yards and four touchdowns -- two on Saturday -- lead the Bears.
That's bad news for a Bears team looking for landmark victory, and to beat Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl -- a team Baylor hasn't beat since 1995.
"I’m 800 years old, but I feel like a kid," he said.
Part of that excitement comes from the growth he sees in his team, and not just in individual players, but in his team as a whole. In short: depth.
"We have competition at every position and that is something that I couldn’t say a year ago, and certainly couldn’t say two years ago," Briles said. "Anytime you have that, it makes the football team better."
Baylor's depth begins at quarterback, where sophomore Nick Florence returns as the backup to Robert Griffin. Injuries to Griffin and last year's backup, Blake Szymanski, forced Florence into a starting role, one he held for seven games in his first season. Florence completed 62 percent of his passes for 1,786 yards and six touchdowns, but will have plenty of mistakes (nine interceptions) to learn from as a sophomore. Most importantly, it was Florence behind center for Baylor's only conference win. Florence set career highs with 427 passing yards and three touchdowns during the Bears' 40-32 victory at Missouri on Nov. 7.
"We’ve got a guy that has his feet wet," Briles said. "You don’t have to worry about stickin’ em in the water."
Junior Kendall Wright returns as Baylor's leading receiver, but a group of young receivers behind him like Lanear Sampson, Willie Jefferson and Terrance Williams, all sophomores, will spend all spring proving they deserve a starting spot.
Another heated competition to replace both safeties will take place every day this spring.
"I’m excited to see those young guys progress and see if they’re ready to get out there on Saturday when the crowd’s hollering," Briles said.
And the spring affords Briles the opportunity to watch those battles, instead of focusing on an opponent looming over a month away, as teams do in fall camps.
"All our concentration is directed toward our personnel," he said. "That's the beauty of it, because we're evaluating us."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It was a debut that couldn’t have gone much worse.
Robert Griffin hoped to lead Baylor’s first game last season against Wake Forest. Instead, he sat helplessly on the bench watching his team fall into a huge early deficit before he was ever inserted into his first college game.
After battling Kirby Freeman all summer long for playing time, Coach Art Briles went with experience with the safe choice of starting Freeman against the Demon Deacons in his first game coaching the Bears.
“Last year was very uncomfortable,” Griffin said. “There were a lot of unknowns for us. We had a new quarterback, a new coach, just a whole new philosophy and system. It was pretty tough.”
By the time Griffin entered early in the second quarter, the Demon Deacons had charged to a 17-0 lead. The freshman had a credible appearance with flashes of productivity, but it was too late as Wake claimed a decisive 41-13 victory.
Only a year later, those bad memories are in the past for the Bears as they come into the season a fashionable pick as one of the nation’s surprise teams.
Before any of that comes about, Baylor and Griffin will face an immediate challenge. Their first task in trying to change the culture of a program with the Big 12's longest bowl streak will come Saturday at Wake Forest.
The difference between now and last year’s opener is stunning, Griffin said.
“We’re a lot more confident going into this game,” Griffin said. “We know the quarterback. We know the philosophy. We know what the other team is going to try and do so we’re hoping to go out there and get a win.”
The Bears made strong progress under Griffin as the season went on. Their offense perked up as they rushed for at least 200 yards in four of the last five games in the season.
And they should be able to build on that late surge with an improved cast of surrounding players on offense with their sophomore quarterback.
Leading rusher Jay Finley is back at I-back after rushing for a team-best 865 yards, capped by back-to-back 100-yard games to finish the season. He’ll be supported in the backfield by transfer running back Terrance Ganaway and redshirt freshman Jarred Salubi.
Kendall Wright led the Bears with 50 catches last seasons, but coaches have been raving about the progress of 6-foot-6 freshman Willie Jefferson throughout fall camp.
The biggest question for the Bears’ offensive success remains their offensive line and in particularly their new pair of starting tackles to replace Jason Smith and Dan Gay. How well they protect Griffin, who accounted for a school-record 28 touchdowns last season, could determine if the Bears will go bowling.
“Last year, I had confidence but not really experience,” Griffin said. “And that wasn’t only myself but the rest of the team. That’s something we’ve been building. There's a big difference when we go out now with all of the weapons I have around me.”
The Bears repeatedly came close last season, losing three games by a touchdown or less in a 4-8 season that could have turned on a couple of plays.
After those close finishes, the Bears are hopeful of being better prepared during Griffin’s second season as a starter.
“We might have opened some eyes and turned heads, but we didn’t finish many people off,” Briles said. “To have total respect, you have to win some of those games. People will pat you on the back and say you played well if you play somebody close. We don’t want that. We just want to win.”
We're headed down to the final week of camp as two-deep rosters are getting set for next weekend's openers across the conference.
A collection of talented freshmen have emerged at Big 12 programs so far in training camp. Here's a look at one newcomer to remember from each Big 12 team as
we head into the start of the season.
Baylor: Imposing 6-foot-6 freshman wide receiver Willie Jefferson has already played his way into the Bears' rotation at receiver. He's shown a knack for making acrobatic, leaping catches and has made a quick connection with Robert Griffin in the Bears' offense.
Colorado: Freshman defensive end Forrest West is mature enough physically to compete for playing time immediately from early in the season. Coaches rave about his quick learning abilities and his physical skill. They think he can position himself into the rotation early in the season.
Iowa State: Freshman middle linebacker A.J. Klein, who turned 18 in July, has already turned heads because of his physical play and knack for roaming from sideline to sideline for tackles. He's now No. 2 on the Cyclones' depth chart behind starter Jesse Smith and should see playing time from early in the season.
Kansas: Coach Mark Mangino has already said that freshman wide receiver Bradley McDougald performed better than any freshman he's had in his program. The converted defensive back is already earning snaps at wide receiver -- improving the Jayhawks in speed and talent at an already stacked position.
Kansas State: Freshman cornerback Thomas Ferguson has been an early producer at workouts and has a good chance to see playing time immediately because of the new 4-2-5 defensive alignment favored by coordinators Chris Cosh and Vic Koenning.
Missouri: Freshman running back Kendial Lawrence will get immediately playing time, despite the stacked roster in front of him with Derrick Washington and De'Vion Moore. Lawrence can provide a speedy element for the Tigers to be looking for after rushing for 2,679 yards and scoring 43 touchdowns last season as a high school senior.
Nebraska: Freshman I-back Rex Burkhead, who was impressive early and has kept getting better. With Quentin Castille being kicked off the team, Burkhead now is the No. 2 I-back on the roster behind starter Roy Helu Jr.
Oklahoma: Freshman cornerback DeMontre Hurst has emerged as one of the surprises at camp. Hurst had two interceptions at the Sooners' recent scrimmage and should have had another.
Oklahoma State: Freshman safety Daytawion Lowe, who has shown well at several recent practices despite playing one of the team's deepest positions. Lowe will play in the Cowboys' defensive rotation.
Texas: Freshman quarterback Garrett Gilbert has staked his claim for the backup position behind Colt McCoy, taking advantage of Sherrod Harris' slow recovery from knee surgery. Look for Gilbert to get playing time this season and position himself for a strong bid for Texas' 2010 starting job.
Texas A&M: Freshman linebacker Sean Porter played a lot with the first-team defense in the Aggies' most recent scrimmage. A&M coaches have been impressed with his speed and athletic ability and he's playing at a position of need for his team.
Texas Tech: Running back Eric Stephens has emerged in the Red Raiders' rotation behind Baron Batch and Harrison Jeffers. Coach Mike Leach has described the 5-foot-8, 185-pound Stephens as "built for combat." Look for him to be used immediately in the running game and also as a kick returner.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
We had the first scrimmage of preseason at several Big 12 schools. Here are some reports at various schools, compiled with the help of the media that covered them.
Baylor: More than 1,000 fans turned out to watch the Bears' scrimmage on Saturday. Robert Griffin rifled four touchdown passes. Combined, Baylor quarterbacks Griffin, senior Blake Szymanski and freshmen Nick Florence and Brody Trahan hit 42 of 58 passes for 498 yards. Another offensive star was 6-foot-6 freshman wide receiver Willie Jefferson, who made a pair of leaping touchdown grabs. All-Big 12 linebacker Joe Pawelek (hamstring) and starting tight end Justin Akers (pulled groin) did not play in the scrimmage, even though both suited up. Their injuries aren't considered serious as the Bears prepare for their Sept. 5 opener against Wake Forest.
Missouri: Quarterback Blaine Gabbert took a hammerlock on the starting job with a strong performance in the Tigers' scrimmage Saturday, leading the Missouri offense claimed a 54-31 victory over the defense. Gabbert completed 17-of-22 passes for 219 yards and also added a scrimmage-high 52 rushing yards, including an 18-yard TD. Gabbert hooked up with Danario Alexander on a 3-yard TD pass. De'Vion Moore accounted for the other touchdowns on runs of 2 and 4 yards. Freshman running back Kendial Lawrence was one of the biggest producers, rushing for 37 yards on four carries. Alexander produced seven receptions for 91 yards. Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Marcus Malbrough (two tackles for losses, sack) and junior linebacker Jeff Gettys (tackle for loss, two pass deflections, interception) were the defensive standouts. Defensive end Brian Coulter was sidelined late in the scrimmage which what Missouri coach Gary Pinkel called a bruised knee. Among those who were held out of the scrimmage include nose tackle Jaron Baston (groin), receiver T.J. Moe (foot), linebacker Josh Tatum (back), receiver Kerwin Stricker (finger), tight end Alex Sanders (leg) and defensive tackle Marvin Foster (knee).
Oklahoma State: Backup quarterbacks Brandon Weeden and Alex Cate alternated snaps at the Cowboys' closed scrimmage that took place Saturday. Starting quarterback Zac Robinson is expected to return to practice on Tuesday. Redshirt freshman Kye Staley suffered a knee injury that could sideline him for the season. Backup running back Keith Toston rushed for a pair of touchdowns, including a 50-yard scoring jaunt. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy told the Oklahoman he was pleased with his team's early work. "It was cleaner than I expected," Gundy said. "We didn't have as many (penalties) as I thought we would." The Cowboys got some conditioning benefits in the 115-play workout that took place in 92 degree weather.
Texas A&M: Cyrus Gray started the Sunday scrimmage with a 63-yard run, but bullish freshman tailback Christine Michael had his moments in the 90-play scrimmage. Michael finished with 56 yards and added a pair of touchdowns. Jerrod Johnson completed 8-of-12 passes for 120 yards and also added 40 yards rushing. Ryan Tannehill was 2-of-5 passing for 44 yards and Tommy Dorman completed 4-of-7 passes for 32 yards. Top receiver Jeff Fuller was kept out of the scrimmage with a hamstring injury. Leading receivers in his place were Howard Morrow (three catches, 65 yards), Jamie McCoy (three catches, 38 yards) and Terrence McCoy (three receptions, 37 yards). Hybrid defensive end/linebacker Von Miller notched two quick touch sacks before he was removed early in the scrimmage. Other defensive standouts included linebacker Ricky Cavanaugh and defensive end Matt Moss, who each produced two sacks.