Big 12 recruiting scorecard

July, 14, 2014
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The latest on what's happening on the recruiting trail in the Big 12 as we wind down summer camp and 7-on-7 season and inch closer and closer to putting the pads back on.

BAYLOR
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Longtime Baylor commit ATH Blake Lynch transferred to Gilmer (Texas) High School, a big-time East Texas program, this summer and is trying his hand at a new role. The former Troup (Texas) quarterback played wide receiver at the Texas state 7-on-7 tournament this past weekend, and that's the position our ESPN scouts see him playing in college. Lynch's commitment to BU remains solid.

IOWA STATE
Total commits: 6
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: RB Devine Ozigbo of Sachse, Texas, is set to announce his commitment next Tuesday and is down to eight schools on his list: Iowa State, Iowa, Kansas, Kansas State, Wisconsin, Boise State, Boston College and Mississippi State. The Cyclones are selling him on the chance to be the only rusher they take in their 2015 class, but ISU's top competition for Ozigbo might be its in-state rival.

KANSAS
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: ESPN 300 running back Tyreik Gray told our Damon Sayles this past weekend he wants to take official visits to Kansas, Oklahoma and Louisville before deciding on signing day. Gray is also expected to take an unofficial visit to Texas on Friday. Gray transferred to powerhouse Houston Lamar this spring and is being recruited as a RB/DB by most schools.

KANSAS STATE
Total commits: 7
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcats' newest commitment came from ILB Chase Johnston. The Carl Junction, Missouri, native impressed enough at a K-State camp this summer to earn an offer, running an impressive 4.6-second 40 at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds. Johnston also went to Arkansas and Missouri camps this summer and made a strong impression, but KSU was his first and only scholarship offer.

OKLAHOMA
Total commits: 7
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: The Sooners appear to be in the lead now for ESPN 300 offensive tackle Madison Akamnonu of Arlington (Texas) Bowie, and he could be closing in on a decision soon. The 6-foot-5 lineman's father attended OU, and this is likely going to come down to a Texas-Oklahoma decision for the rising four-star. For what it's worth, two of Akamnonu's high school teammates have already committed to TCU.

OKLAHOMA STATE
Total commits: 8
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Pokes are out in front for a sleeper wide receiver out of Louisiana. Don't be surprised if OSU locks up a pledge from Jalen McCleskey of Covington (Louisiana) St. Paul's in the near future. The 5-foot-10, 165-pound wideout has visited Stillwater several times and could end up being OSU's first WR pledge for 2015.

TCU
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: TCU is one of two early offers for Plano (Texas) Prestonwood linebacker Deonte Williams. Baylor has also joined the mix with an offer for the teammate of ESPN Junior 300 receiver Michael Irvin Jr., and Williams is planning to camp at Florida State soon. The Horned Frogs already got Williams on campus this summer and are in good shape so far.

TEXAS
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: Texas hosts its first-ever "Under The Lights" camp on Friday night inside Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, and a star-studded turnout is expected. Among those planning to attend are all 11 commits in this class and reportedly as many as 25-plus members of the ESPN 300 for 2015 and 2016, highlighted by WR Ryan Newsome, CB Holton Hill, CB Kris Boyd and possibly OLB Malik Jefferson. Top QB targets Kai Locksley (2015) and Shea Patterson (2016) will also be on campus.

TEXAS TECH
Total commits: 7
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: Texas Tech had just two of its commits qualify for Nike's The Opening in Oregon, but both were stellar. QB Jarrett Stidham finished in seventh place in the final Elite 11 standings and DT Breiden Fehoko proved he's one of the nation's strongest linemen with an event-best 42 reps of 185 pounds on the bench press. Both will play in the Under Armour All-America Game after their senior season.

WEST VIRGINIA
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: LB Riley Nicholson is expected to make his decision this week, and the Mountaineers are finalists along with UCF and NC State. The Kissimmee (Florida) Osceola standout visited all three schools multiple times during his recruitment, but UCF's rise to prominence in 2013 might be the difference-maker in this battle.

Ranking Big 12 games: Part I

July, 14, 2014
Jul 14
1:30
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Next week, the Big 12 football season begins (sort of) with Big 12 media days in Dallas. To tide you over between now and then, this week we’re ranking all 75 games in the league, both in conference out, from worst to first.

Factors include quality of opponent, interest level and expected competitiveness.

We’ll get started with the bottom 15 today, then work our way to the top over the course of the week.

No. 75: Northwestern (La.) State at Baylor (Sept. 6): The only compelling storyline in this one is whether Bryce Petty can get the Bears to 100. Last year, Northwestern State had the 74th-ranked pass defense -- in the FCS.

No. 74: Southeast Missouri State at Kansas (Sept. 6): Charlie Weis is guaranteed at least one win this season, and this is it. Southeast Missouri State is coming off a 3-9 record playing in the Ohio Valley Conference.

No. 73: Missouri State at Oklahoma State (Sept. 6): Missouri State is just the tonic the Cowboys will need after their opener with Florida State. As an aside, these two teams staged the first regular-season overtime game in college football history, with Oklahoma State escaping with a 23-20 victory in 1996.

No. 72: Central Arkansas at Texas Tech (Aug. 30): While West Virginia and Oklahoma State will be facing powers Alabama and Florida State, Tech QB Davis Webb will be getting warmed up against the Bears, who went 7-5 in the Southland Conference last year.

No. 71: Samford at TCU (Aug. 30): The Horned Frogs get a chance to test their new up-tempo offense against a middling FCS team. This will also be an opportunity for defensive end Devonte Fields to work his way back without much pressure after missing virtually all of the 2013 season.

No. 70: Stephen F. Austin at Kansas State (Aug. 30): This game is mildly interesting, only because K-State lost last year’s opener to an FCS school. Then again, Stephen F. Austin was among the worst teams in the FCS last year, while North Dakota State was the best.

No. 69: UTEP at Kansas State (Sept. 27): K-State could be coming off an emotional letdown after its clash with Auburn the week before. Then again, UTEP’s only two wins last year came against 1-11 Florida International and 2-10 New Mexico State.

No. 68: Louisiana Tech at Oklahoma (Aug. 30): This will be QB Trevor Knight's first appearance since shredding Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, so it'll be the first glimpse at whether Knight will be able to carry that level of play into this season.

No. 67: Kansas at Baylor (Nov. 1): In 2007, the Jayhawks hammered Baylor 58-10 on their way to the Orange Bowl. The Bears wouldn’t win a game in the Big 12 that year. How times have changed.

No. 66: Towson at West Virginia (Sept. 6): Games against Alabama and Maryland are why West Virginia’s nonconference schedule is the toughest in the league. But the Mountaineers better not overlook Towson, which is coming off an appearance in the FCS national title game.

No. 65: Baylor at Buffalo (Sept. 12): The Bulls don’t have linebacker Khalil Mack anymore.

No. 64: Central Michigan at Kansas (Sept. 20): Central Michigan has 19 returning starters, but this is a winnable game for the Jayhawks, and probably a must-win if Kansas is to build off last year’s win total of three.

No. 63: Kansas at Oklahoma (Nov. 22): The Jayhawks gave Oklahoma a game in Lawrence last year. But since Bob Stoops’ arrival in 1999, the closest Kansas has ever gotten against the Sooners is a two-touchdown loss.

No. 62: Toledo at Iowa State (Oct. 11): This could be a dangerous game for the Cyclones, who are rebuilding on defense and revamping on offense. The Rockets return 16 starters and are a contender in the MAC.

No. 61: UTSA at Oklahoma State (Sept. 13): J.W. Walsh's best performance of 2013 came against UTSA. Maybe the Roadrunners can get the Oklahoma State QB cooking again.

Big 12 lunchtime links

July, 14, 2014
Jul 14
12:00
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Looks like somebody's got a case of the Mondays.
During the summer, ESPN.com is taking a closer look at each scholarship player on Oklahoma’s roster in our Crimson Countdown series. Each day, we analyze each player’s impact on the program since arriving on campus, his potential impact this fall, and his long-term projection. Starting with No. 1 Dominique Alexander, the series follows the roster numerically through No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

No. 44 Jed Barnett, punter, 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, senior

Impact thus far: Barnett became the Sooners’ starting punter during his first season in 2013. He averaged 41.7 yards per punt on 65 punts including 22 punts inside the 20-yard line and 11 punts of 50 yards or more. His 12.3 punts inside the 10-yard line rate ranked second in the Big 12. But his 35.25 net yards per punt average was ninth in the conference.

Impact in 2014: Barnett should continue to be one of the better punters in the Big 12 but his net yards per punt average will need to improve before he can cement his name among the Big 12’s best this fall.

Long term upside: He’s shown the ability to be one of the nation’s top punters if he can improve his net punt average because his accuracy in pinning opponents deep in their own territory is already among the nation’s best.

Evaluation grade for Barnett: A. He’s done exactly what the Sooners recruited him to do. He stepped into the starting punter role and is an asset, particularly when OU is trying to pin their opponents inside their own 25-yard line.

Development grade for Barnett: A. Even though they signed him from the junior college ranks, OU didn’t just hand Barnett the job. He’s won it and never looked back.
ESPN's Stats & Information team released is official preseason projections last week, and the results are no shock: Oklahoma and Baylor are overwhelming favorites to win the league in 2014.

The Sooners have a 42 percent chance of winning the conference for the ninth time in Bob Stoops' tenure, per ESPN's projections.

Their odds of running the table to 12-0 are 6.2 percent, which ranks fourth-best among major-conference teams behind Florida State (40.3 percent), Oregon (12.6) and Ohio State (7.6).

Baylor comes in at No. 5 among the potential undefeated teams, with a 5.3 percent chance of a perfect season. The Bears' odds of winning a second consecutive Big 12 title, according to the ESPN projections, are 33.2 percent.

That leaves the rest of the Big 12 -- you know, "the field" -- with almost exactly one-in-four odds (24.5 percent) of securing the conference crown. Oklahoma State's Big 12 title odds are nearly 11 percent, with Texas (6.1 percent) and Texas Tech (3.1) the next most likely to win the league.

OU and Baylor have been receiving similar top-10 hype all offseason long, and the data is backing that up. This isn't just a collection of simple odds. Each prediction comes from crunching projected results for every single FBS game this season, and the projections will be updated weekly throughout the season.

A few more takeaways from the Big 12 conference title projections:
  • Oklahoma will undoubtedly be named the preseason Big 12 favorite when the league's annual media poll comes out later this month before Big 12 media days. Keep in mind, though: The last three Big 12 champs were ranked fifth (Baylor, 2012), sixth (Kansas State, 2011) and third (Oklahoma State, 2011) in that same preseason poll. In other words: Ever since the Big 12 went to 10 teams, the league's preseason poll has failed to predict the correct champion. Could we be making the same mistake this year?
  • Don't feel too bad about your imperfect seasons, Big 12 teams. In these ESPN projections, only 11 FBS teams were given more than 1 percent chance of winning out. Texas Tech was actually given the third-best odds of a perfect season among Big 12 teams, at 0.07 percent -- as in, 7-in-10,000 odds. (So you're saying there's a chance...)
  • According to ESPN's preseason projections, West Virginia's strength of schedule is tops in the league and seventh-toughest in FBS. Texas' schedule ranked 11th, and Kansas (19th) and Iowa State (24th) also cracked the top 25 in SOS. Baylor's schedule is ranked easiest in the league, but only 48th nationally.
  • Kansas is projected to have literally zero chance of winning the Big 12, but they have interesting company in that category. Penn State, Vanderbilt, North Carolina State, California, Colorado, Wake Forest, Boston College and Purdue were also projected as having no chance to win their respective conferences.

On Tuesday, we'll take a closer look at ESPN's win-loss projections for each and every Big 12 team.
The season is just around the corner.

It should be a fun year in the Big 12 with defending champion Baylor returning the conference offensive player of the year, Bryce Petty, yet finding themselves behind Oklahoma in several preseason projections. The Sooners used their Allstate Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama to spark themselves into the top 10 in several preseason prognostications.

It's our turn. Over the next week or so we will be predicting the entire season on the Big 12 blog. This morning, we kick things off with Week 1.

Iowa State 35, North Dakota State 31: North Dakota State looks poised to win its second-straight season opener against a Big 12 team after pulling the upset over Kansas State in 2013. But a pair of big plays from ISU tight end E.J. Bibbs and receiver Quenton Bundrage early in the second half help the Cyclones take a comfortable lead before a late Bison touchdown makes the final score look closer than is actually was.

Alabama 45, West Virginia 35 (in Atlanta): The Mountaineers are ready for the challenge against the Crimson Tide, taking them into the fourth quarter with WVU within striking distance. But Bama's running game eventually takes over to help the Crimson Tide pull away in the final quarter. Mountaineer quarterback Clint Trickett plays well but WVU's struggles in the trenches stifle its upset hopes.

Kansas State 42, Stephen F. Austin 21: Bill Snyder's team cruises in this one as Jake Waters and Tyler Lockett hook up for two early touchdowns and the Wildcats force a turnover to add another score to make this game a blowout before halftime. The lone downside for the Wildcats during an otherwise perfect start is the lack of a strong performance from any of its running backs.

TCU 49, Samford 17: The Horned Frogs new offense looks ready to roll as four different TCU receivers catch touchdowns in the win. And Gary Patterson's defense looks as dominant as ever with four sacks and two interceptions as TCU cruises in Week 1.

Texas Tech 56, Central Arkansas 14: Red Raider quarterback Davis Webb has the performance of the week with six touchdown passes in the first game of his sophomore season. Tech's defense surrenders an early touchdown but rebounds to have a solid opener once Webb and the offense get rolling and the confidence carries over to the other side of the ball.

Oklahoma 45, Louisiana Tech 20: The Sooners look like they haven't skipped a beat after the Allstate Sugar Bowl, taking a four-touchdown lead into halftime thanks to three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) from Trevor Knight.

Florida State 38, Oklahoma State 21 (in Arlington, Texas): The Seminoles simply overwhelm the Cowboys to start the season. OSU's young talent shows up in various moments against the defending national champions but its inexperience is the story of the night.

Texas 31, North Texas 14: Charlie Strong's debut game is up and down with the Longhorn defense taking a shutout into the fourth quarter but with the offense struggling to pull away from North Texas. Ultimately, UT is never really threatened but has plenty of room to grow after Week 1.

Baylor 63, SMU 42: Baylor's offense does what we've come to expect from Baylor's offense, but the Bears defense and secondary in particular struggle in the season opener against the Mustangs. BU quarterback Bryce Petty, once again making things look easier than they are, passes 400-plus yards and four touchdowns including two to Antwan Goodley as SMU never really has a hope of outscoring Art Briles' crew despite having plenty of success on offense.

Current Big 12 standings

1. Baylor -- 1-0
2. Iowa State -- 1-0
3. Kansas State -- 1-0
4. Oklahoma -- 1-0
5. Texas -- 1-0
6. TCU -- 1-0
7. Texas Tech -- 1-0
8. Kansas -- 0-0
9. Oklahoma State -- 0-1
10. West Virginia -- 0-1
Troy AikmanUSA TODAY SportsTroy Aikman played under Barry Switzer in Oklahoma before enrolling at UCLA.
Have you logged on Twitter today? Turned on the TV? Went to the grocery store or picked up your child from the babysitter? Then chances are you know the King has returned.

LeBron James is going back to Cleveland.



That has us at CFB Nation thinking: Which college football players originally left home only to transfer back to put together a successful career? So we racked our brains and came up with a handful of the most successful transfers from the last 25 years of college football. The condition, obviously, is the transfer had to be made back to a school in their native state or at least within 100 miles, give or take a few.

If LeBron ever asks, they can all attest that there truly is no place like (playing at) home.

QB Troy Aikman, UCLA (by way of Oklahoma)

The California native left the Golden State and played his high school football in Oklahoma before enrolling with nearby perennial power Oklahoma, led by legendary coach Barry Switzer. Aikman was promised the Sooners' offense would be more passer-friendly, but when Aikman broke an ankle Switzer went back to the wishbone offense. The Sooners went on to win the national championship under the direction of a freshman quarterback, essentially closing the door on Aikman's Oklahoma career. The Covina, California, product returned to the state and enrolled at UCLA. In his first season with the Bruins, Aikman was awarded with the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year. He led UCLA to consecutive 10-win seasons and finished third in the Heisman balloting in 1988. He was the No. 1 overall pick of the 1989 draft and is a three-time Super Bowl champion.

 Joe FlaccoMarvin Gentry/USA TODAY SportsJoe Flacco transferred to Delaware to play near his hometown in southern New Jersey.
QB Joe Flacco, Delaware (by way of Pittsburgh)

Technically Flacco did not return to his home state of New Jersey. However, Delaware's campus is less than an hour from Flacco's South Jersey home, making it a closer option than in-state Rutgers, the only FBS program in the state. Flacco played sparingly his first two seasons at Pitt before transferring to FCS powerhouse Delaware. He took the Blue Hens to the FCS national championship and his name is littered throughout the school's record book. He was taken in the first round of the 2008 NFL draft and has a Super Bowl ring and Super Bowl MVP award in his trophy room.

QB Scott Frost, Nebraska (by way of Stanford)

Rarely does an elite prep player from Nebraska leave the state, especially during the Cornhuskers' glory years under Tom Osborne. That's what Frost did, though, spending two seasons at Stanford before returning to the nation's heartland. In his first season, he was named the Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year. As a senior, he led Nebraska to an undefeated record and a share of the national championship. He was the first quarterback in school history to rush and pass for 1,000 yards in the same season.

QB Ryan Mallett, Arkansas (by way of Michigan)

The second-ranked quarterback in the Class of 2007, Mallett signed with then-Michigan coach Lloyd Carr as the heir apparent to senior Chad Henne. However, spread-option coach Rich Rodriguez replaced Carr at season's end, prompting the traditional pocket passer Mallett to transfer. The Batesville, Arkansas, native moved home to play for the Razorbacks and Bobby Petrino, and he had two exceptional seasons. A two-time All-SEC second-team selection, Mallett threw for more than 3,600 yards in both of his seasons in Fayetteville and led the Razorbacks to the Sugar Bowl in 2010. He finished seventh in Heisman voting that season.

WR Randy Moss, Marshall (by way of Notre Dame and Florida State)

Transferring was not entirely up to Moss, whose own transgressions cost him the opportunity to play at his dream school, Notre Dame, and under coach Bobby Bowden, who told Sports Illustrated in 1997 Moss was just as gifted as Deion Sanders. Notre Dame denied his enrollment for his role in a fight, and Florida State removed him from the football team after he tested positive for marijuana, violating his probation. Moss transferred to Marshall, which at the time was a Division I-AA school, allowing him to play immediately. In two seasons, he accumulated 174 receptions, 3,529 yards and 55 total touchdowns. He was taken in the first round of the 1998 NFL draft and is considered one of the greatest receivers in league history.

Cameron NewtonChristian Petersen/Getty ImagesGeorgia native Cam Newton won a Heisman Trophy after transferring to Auburn.
QB Cam Newton, Auburn (by way of Florida and Blinn College)

Much like Moss, Newton's transfer issues were self-inflicted. Urban Meyer removed Newton from the Gators' roster following charges of felony burglary, larceny and obstructing justice stemming from an incident in which he stole another student's laptop. He enrolled at Blinn College (Texas) and led the program to the junior college national championship. The following season, Newton was the starting quarterback at Auburn and won a second consecutive personal national title, leading the Tigers to an undefeated season and BCS trophy. He won the Heisman Trophy in the weeks leading up to the BCS national championship. He declared for the NFL draft in the days following the national title and went No. 1 overall to the Carolina Panthers. He was the 2011 Offensive Rookie of the Year and is a two-time Pro Bowler.

Honorable mention: Urban Meyer, Ohio State (by way of Bowling Green, Utah and Florida)

So he isn't a player and technically never transferred, but it certainly has a transfer feel to it. He left Florida after the 2010 season, sat out 2011 and then was named Ohio State's coach before the 2012 campaign. An Ohio native, Meyer's first college coaching job was as a graduate assistant at Ohio State. Even as the coach at other programs, he always spoke fondly of former coaches Woody Hayes and Earle Bruce, who hired Meyer away from a Cincinnati high school.

 

This week ESPN.com spent time looking at the future of college football, so here are a few players returning home -- not all are eligible in 2014 -- who could be the next impact transfers.

QB Jacob Coker, Alabama (by way of Florida State)

Coker is immediately eligible and is the favorite to be the Crimson Tide's starting quarterback for the opener. He left Florida State after the 2013 season after losing out on the job to Jameis Winston.

QB Brandon Connette, Fresno State (by way of Duke)

The change-of-pace and red zone quarterback for the Blue Devils' run to the ACC championship, Connette left for Fresno State to be closer to his ailing mother.

QB Tyler Murphy, Boston College (by way of Florida)

Murphy is from Connecticut, but there aren't many FBS programs up in New England, and Boston is only 100 miles from Murphy's hometown. The BC coaches believe Murphy is a better player than he showed at Florida and can help Steve Addazio take the program to the next level.

LB Mike Mitchell, Texas Tech (by way of Ohio State)

A blue-chip prospect in the 2013 class, Ohio State was considered the long-time favorite for the athletic product. He signed with the Buckeyes but only lasted one season before transferring to Texas Tech, which was not a finalist during Mitchell's recruitment.

DT Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA (by way of Notre Dame)

This situation got a little ugly last summer. Vanderdoes was the center of a signing day controversy as Notre Dame listed him on their list of signees before Vanderdoes publicly committed at his announcement later in the day. Before ever playing a down for Notre Dame, Vanderdoes decided he wanted to enroll at UCLA, but Notre Dame would not grant him a release. He petitioned the NCAA and was able to play at UCLA this past fall.
Only three Big 12 players popped up Friday on the watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to college football's most outstanding defensive back:
The three players above also were named to the watch list for the Nagurski Trophy, which is awarded to the best defensive player overall. Carter and Diggs also were on the watch list for the Bednarik, which goes to the defensive player of the year.

On Monday, the watch list releases will continue with the Butkus Award (best linebacker) and Lombardi Award (best lineman).

Big 12 lunchtime links

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
12:00
PM ET
Cleveland or Miami?
  • Kansas State's athletic donors gave a record $46.4 million in 2013-14.
  • Texas' chancellor says beer will not be sold at football games this year, the Austin American-Statesman's Brian Davis reports.
  • The Charleston Gazette's previews West Virginia's Week 3 opponent, Maryland.
  • The Sporting News' Matt Hayes gives Dorial Green-Beckham "zero" percent chance of playing at Oklahoma this season.
  • Safety Isaiah Johnson is next in the Lawrence Journal-World's crucial Jayhawks, according to Tom Keegan.
During the summer, ESPN.com is taking a closer look at each scholarship player on Oklahoma’s roster in our Crimson Countdown series. Each day, we analyze each player’s impact on the program since arriving on campus, his potential impact this fall, and his long-term projection. Starting with No. 1 Dominique Alexander, the series follows the roster numerically through No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

No. 40 P.L. Lindley, defensive end, 6-foot-2, 262 pounds, junior

Impact thus far: Lindley has made an impact but has not been a major difference-maker during his first two seasons on the field. Last season saw his biggest impact with 10 tackles and one fumble recovery in 10 games played (two starts). As a redshirt freshman in 2012, Lindley played in seven games as a special teamer and finished with four tackles.

Impact in 2014: Lindley could continue the role he carved out in 2013 as a option for the Sooners with his bulk and strength against run-heavy offenses. He can easily slide into OU’s 3-4 look when the Sooners need to get bigger and stronger, but other players will be vying for that role this fall, so he will have to fight to keep his spot.

Long-term upside: If he wants his role to expand he will need to prove he can excel against any offense, not just offenses looking to run the ball.

Evaluation grade for Lindley: B. Initially brought in as a linebacker, Lindley moved to defensive end as OU looked to get faster and more athletic. He might not have been a great evaluation at linebacker, but he has shown versatility and enters his junior season having started a pair of games as a sophomore which cannot be overlooked.

Development grade for Lindley: A. The move to defensive end has been great for Lindley and the Sooners even though the position is littered with talent. Lindley still fought his way into playing time even if it was a specialized role. He would have been unlikely to do the same if he had remained at linebacker.
Unfortunately it's the time of year when off-the-field missteps litter the headlines as college football players remind us they aren't much different than many other college students outside of their athletic endeavors. And while occasional misdeeds are getting the headlines other college football players are going out of their way to make a positive impact.

With that in mind, it's never a bad time to look at guys who impact their football team on the field yet strive to have a positive impact on their worlds off the field as well. Here are five Big 12 players to root for this fall, regardless of your normal allegiances:

Deep snapper Nate Boyer, Texas

If you aren't cheering for Boyer to excel, something is wrong with you, die-hard fans of the Sooners, Bears, Red Raiders included. His road to becoming the Longhorns long snapper has been well-documented, from his exploits as a Green Beret to his time in Darfur. Boyer has been a solid special teams' contributor at UT during the past two seasons. The recipient of the 2012 Disney Spirit Award, which is given annually to college football's most inspirational figure, Boyer is entering his final season at UT.

Quarterback Bryce Petty, Baylor

Petty isn't just exceptional on the field. He's a guy whose impacts lives off the field as well. The reigning Big 12 offensive player of the year is active in Big Brothers, Big Sisters and FCA. He also has spent time in Kenya on a mission trip with fellow Baylor athletes in 2011 and was a finalist for the Big 12 male sportsperson of the year in 2013. On the field, Petty is a guy who knows how to lead, shoulders the blame during tough times, brings a positive attitude to the Bears' football squad and elite production behind center. Petty's exploits during his time in Waco, Texas are probably coming to an NCAA student-athlete commercial near you at some point in the future.

 

Defensive end Ryan Mueller, Kansas State One of the Big 12's top sack masters, Mueller befriended Kaiden Schroeder, a nine-year-old boy who suffers from Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. Their relationship lead to one of the Big 12's most memorable moments in the spring when Schroeder scored a touchdown in the Wildcats' spring game. Mueller, who had 11.5 sacks in 2013, was a finalist for the Big 12 male sportsperson of the year and has been named as one of KSU's captains for the 2014 season.

Cornerback JaCorey Shepherd, Kansas Another guy who is active with Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Shepherd also volunteers at local elementary schools. He won KU's Galen Fiss Award, which is given for exemplary service to the community and campus. On the field, he's a impact cornerback and kick returner for the Jayhawks leading KU with 15 passes defended in 2013. He was a finalist for the Big 12 male sportsperson of the year.

 

Quarterback Trevor Knight, Oklahoma

Knight is just starting to approach his potential on the field but he's already made a mark off it. The Allstate Sugar Bowl MVP has gone to Haiti twice as a member of OU's “Sooners4Haiti” contingent and is active in FCA, often appearing as a public speaker when his schedule allows. On the field, he's developing as a leader and playmaker and could rise to battle Petty for All-Big 12 honors with consistent performances in 2014.

 
In this week's mailbag, we discuss West Virginia and TCU in their third year in the league, the College Football Playoff and BYU yet again.

To submit a future mailbag entry, simply go here.

Now, on to the 'bag:

Kevin H. in San Antonio, Texas, writes: It'd be interesting to hear your take on the TCU-Baylor "revivalry." I realize most people in t he Big 12 probably don't know about one of the longest traditions in football and I think it deserves a little limelight. Plus, I’m tired of this "blossoming" TCU-Texas rivalry nonsense.

Trotter: TCU-Baylor is one of the more interesting games on the conference schedule, particularly with how the game went down last year. After two rounds of conference realignment, this league needs to build new and rekindle old rivalries. TCU-Baylor has some heat right now, and could be a game we all look forward to in the Big 12, given the animosity and the contrast of strengths.


Dennis in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, writes: Bill Snyder is a classy guy with a great coaching tree. But he’s old. Has he ever mentioned retiring? The Wildcats have never won without Bill as their coach. If and when he does retire, who do you think takes his place?

Trotter: I hope Snyder never retires (again). The Big 12 is way more fun with him in it. But if he hangs it up, here are three names K-State might consider: Snyder’s son, Sean, who is also K-State’s associate head coach; offensive coordinator Dana Dimel, who has head coaching experience; and TCU coach Gary Patterson, who has been wooed before and is a K-State alum.


Dave in Dallas, Texas, writes: Have you ever seen this much parity in recruiting in the Big 12? Mack Brown and Bob Stoops used to have a lock on talent.

Trotter: There is no doubt there is more recruiting parity in the Big 12, particularly in the state of Texas. In 2008, Oklahoma and Texas landed seven of the state’s top 10 players, and 11 of its top 20. At the moment, neither Red River school has a single commitment from the state’s top 10. And the two bluebloods only have four of the state’s top 20. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State has a pair of top 10 Texas players (running back Ronald Jones II and cornerback Jaylon Lane), Texas Tech has the fourth-best Texan (quarterback Jarrett Stidham) and Baylor has four of the Texas top 50. Factor in the level Texas A&M has been recruiting at lately, along with the SEC incursion, and the Lone Star State has never had so many tentacles grasping for the high-end players.


Dalan in Lubbock, Texas, writes: In lieu of a conference title game, could the Big 12 champion play BYU to close out the regular season. I have come to realize my mistake, but is that type of a semi-preplanned game possible? The idea would be to further enhance the Big 12 top contender’s resume prior to selection of the four playoff teams.

Trotter: The SEC and ACC don’t think BYU is worthy of including in their non-conference scheduling mandate, but the Big 12 champ is going to solidify its playoff spot by playing a 13th game against the Cougars? Even if it were logistically possible, little good would come of it; but, potentially, a whole lot of bad.


10 ` XII, guys in Towson, Maryland, writes: If BYU were the 11th school to get a full share, why not add Boise State at a fractional share? They could be football only, so it would be easy to only give them a smaller piece of the pie. Twelve really only matters to football, the rest of the sports teams can live at 11.

Trotter: I’m sure Boise State would jump at the chance to join a conference in which it would be treated as a subclass member.


Chris in Exton, Pennsylvania, writes: Hey Jake, love the blog, you and the other guys that cover college football are awesome! Big Sooner fan here and was wondering what you could tell me and other OU fans about LB coach Tim Kish. We always hear about the Stoops Brothers, and the other assistants, but Kish seems to lay low. How is he received in Norman?

Trotter: Thanks, Chris. Kish’s popularity in Norman hinges on the play of his linebackers. And considering he has one of the top units in the country right now, he’s pretty popular.


Coop in DC writes: Jake, you've mentioned that WVU and TCU have understandably struggled in their first two years adjusting to life in the Big 12. Assessing their programs today, how do you think both have done in regards to addressing what it takes to compete regularly in the Big 12?

Trotter: Both have made strong adjustments this offseason that I think will do them well. TCU coach Gary Patterson had to do something after two dreadful offensive seasons. He brought in Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham to install an up-tempo offense, and also convinced quarterback Matt Joeckel to transfer in from Texas A&M. Those moves could significantly upgrade TCU’s points per game. West Virginia’s hiring of longtime Penn State assistant Tom Bradley was very shrewd. He should bring a calming effect to a team that has been all over the place the past two seasons. Both squads have noticeably better depth, which should really help, too. TCU has a rosier outlook in part because of the scheduling difference. But I think both teams, potentially, could take steps forward this season.


Joe Ratliff in Frisco, Texas, writes: When the committee starts selecting its four teams for the playoff, do you think that the strength of a conference should be determined by how competitive the conference is over a team can beat up on its weak conference opponents?

Trotter: That is why the non-conference portion of the schedule will be so important. That will go a long way in differentiating the strength of the conferences. In other words, it would really help if the Big 12 could win a couple of these marquee non-conference games this season.
Several Big 12 players popped up on the watch lists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, awarded to college football's best defensive player, and the Outland Trophy, given to the best interior lineman.

Here are the Big 12 players that made each list:

Nagurski
Outland

Already this week, the Maxwell (player of the year), Bednarik (defensive player of the year), Hornung (most versatile player), Mackey (best tight end), Rimington (best center), Groza (best kicker) and Guy (best punter) watch lists have come.

Below is the rest of the preseason watch list schedule:

Friday, July 11
- Jim Thorpe Award, best defensive back

Monday, July 14
- Butkus Award, best linebacker
- Lombardi Award, best lineman

Tuesday, July 15
- Biletnikoff Award, best receiver

Wednesday, July 16
- Davey O’Brien Award, best quarterback.

Thursday, July 17
- Doak Walker Award, best running back

Friday, July 18
- Walter Camp Award, best player

Top 10 projected CFB programs

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
11:05
AM ET

CFB Future Power Ranks10 future stars | Chat wrap | 2013 FPR

In case you missed it, ESPN Insider released its College Football Future Power Rankings on Wednesday. Travis Haney led a panel of Insider experts who voted in five categories to determine the top 25 college football programs during the next three years using this methodology. We wanted to find out if our data projections agreed.

One of the foundational elements of our annual Football Outsiders projections is our weighted five-year program ratings. According to our research, program trajectory helps forecast future performance better than previous-year data -- and not just for the upcoming season, but for seasons beyond. We calculated future winning percentages based on current program ratings data, recent program trajectory and projected schedule strength, then adjusted the FPR methodology to identify the potential for each program to be in the hunt for the four-team College Football Playoff at least once during the next three seasons.

Here are the top 10 projected teams, according to our numbers, for the next three years. Alabama is No. 1, but our experts and the data diverge significantly across the rest of the top 10.


1. Alabama Crimson Tide

Future Power Rankings Rank: 1
2013 Program Fremeau Efficiency Index Rank: 1
Projected FBS win percentage 2014-2016: 85.4 percent (minus-3.8 percent from 2011-2013 span)
Projected likelihood of at least one playoff appearance 2014-2016: 93.8 percent

Alabama has distanced itself from the pack in our program ratings trajectory analysis, a result of three national championships in the past five seasons and a top-three ranking in our opponent-adjusted drive efficiency ratings in all five. The Crimson Tide send stars to the NFL draft each year, but coach Nick Saban also brings in one of the nation's top recruiting hauls annually. An SEC West division loaded with other national contenders is the only real reason the Tide may trip up on occasion during the next three years, but Alabama has proven it has what it takes to stay on top of the college football world.

During the summer, ESPN.com is taking a closer look at each scholarship player on Oklahoma’s roster in our Crimson Countdown series. Each day, we analyze each player’s impact on the program since arriving on campus, his potential impact this fall, and his long-term projection. Starting with No. 1 Dominique Alexander, the series follows the roster numerically through No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

No. 39 Nick Hodgson, kicker, 6-foot-2, 198 pounds, senior

Impact thus far: Hodgson’s junior season was the first year he made a significant impact. He became OU’s kickoff specialist under new special teams coach Jay Boulware and excelled in his new role. Hodgson led the Big 12 in touchback percentage (62.3 percent) and yards per kickoff (63.7).

Impact in 2014: There’s no reason to remove Hodgson from his kickoff specialist role, as he’s proved to be among the Big 12’s best with his kickoffs.

Long-term upside: One area of improvement would be his ability to place kickoffs inside the 25-yard line whenever the Sooners want to try to pin teams deep.

Evaluation grade for Hodgson: C. The senior is a walk-on who has made an impact but hasn’t made the Sooners look silly for not offering him a scholarship out of high school. The Sooners generally ask kickers to prove themselves before a scholarship offer is considered, and Hodgson was no different.

Development grade for Hodgson: B. Give OU credit for recognizing Hodgson was the best kickoff specialist on the roster and using him even though Michael Hunnicutt is one of the top kickers in the nation.

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