Big 12 lunchtime links

July, 9, 2014
Jul 9
12:00
PM ET
The biggest meltdown in the history of sports? It might have been.
  • After nudging Mack Brown out the door, Texas president Bill Powers faces a similar fate, writes The Dallas Morning News' Chuck Carlton.
  • The Texas regents are expected to ratify the deal to keep the Oklahoma game at the Cotton Bowl.
  • Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard explains to the Ames Tribune's Bobby La Gesse why he wanted to put the Cyclones' game with Texas on the Longhorn Network.
  • Former Oklahoma QB and congressman J.C. Watts discussed the changing landscape in college football with The Oklahoman's Jason Kersey.
  • Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury wants to keep pushing the limits.
  • Red Raiders QB commit Jarrett Stidham is impressing at the Elite 11 football camp.
  • West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck says improvement this season may not necessarily be measured in wins.
  • The Charleston Gazette previews West Virginia's game with FCS power Towson.
  • Kansas State coach Bill Snyder's legend grows, writes the Leavenworth Times' Mac Stevenson.
  • The Lawrence Journal-World's Tom Keegan has been counting down the 25 most crucial Jayhawks to the 2014 season.
  • TCU is working to enhance its game-day experience.
  • Baylor will be introducing an app to help with game-day traffic to McLane Stadium.
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. 36 Dimitri Flowers, fullback, 6-foot-1, 244 pounds, true freshman

Impact thus far: Flowers is an early enrollee who participated in spring football and impressed coaches and teammates with his smooth transition into the program.

Impact in 2014: It would be a surprise if Flowers doesn’t have a significant impact as a true freshman. He was getting first-team reps during the spring and his versatility has drawn comparisons to Trey Millard, a four-year starter in crimson and cream.

Long-term upside: Flowers is so similar to Millard it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him have a similar career as a four-year starter and all-conference level player. Obviously its early to heap those type of expectations on a player who has never played in a game at OU, but Flowers was exceptional during the spring and the Sooners love to utilize players with his skills. Even if he never reaches the heights attained by Millard, he should be an impact player during his career.

Evaluation grade for Flowers: B. The only reason this isn’t an A is because Flowers hasn’t done anything on Saturdays yet, so it’s all based on praise and conjecture to this point. But if he continues on his current path the Sooners will have unearthed another versatile gem, which is not easy to do considering they had to project him into this role.

Development grade for Flowers: NA. It's too early to give a development grade for a player who has never had the opportunity to play in a game. But all signs point to the Sooners throwing him right into the mix this fall.
Earlier this morning we gave you our preseason All-Big 12 picks. Here are some additional thoughts:

The other player I most considered for Offensive Player of the Year?

Chatmon: Tyler Lockett was tough to leave in Bryce Petty's wake. The Kansas State receiver means as much to the Wildcats' attack as anyone in the conference. He's unstoppable in one-on-one situations and transforms the Wildcats offense when he's on the field. He's able to single-handedly take over games from the receiver position in ways very few receivers have done in the Big 12.

Olson: Petty is the undisputed king for this honor, but Lockett is the clear runner-up. His game against Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl was terrific, but that was just a cherry on top after epic performances against Oklahoma (12 catches for 278 yards and 3 TDs) and Texas (13-237). He's a no-doubt All-American if you ask me.

Trotter: Lockett was the only other player deserving of consideration. He's going to have another monster year, and the biggest reason why K-State could be a darkhorse Big 12 title contender. But Petty is the reigning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, and there's no reason to believe he won't be even better in his second year as a starter.

[+] EnlargeTyler Lockett
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesKansas State receiver Tyler Lockett was next in line for Offensive Player of the Year behind Baylor QB Bryce Petty according to all three voters.
The other player I most considered for Defensive Player of the Year?

Olson: While I thought he was a tad overhyped last year, you just know defensive end Ryan Mueller is going to be in the DPOY conversation at the end of November. He's already tied Kansas State's single-season sacks record (11.5) and will probably break that this fall, even with opposing linemen paying more attention to him.

Chatmon: Even though I eventually settled on Devonte Fields, Oklahoma's Eric Striker is destined to cause havoc this fall. His Allstate Sugar Bowl performance is a glimpse at his pass-rush ability and the Sooners are going to spend much of the year trying to find ways to allow Striker to do what he does best. Quite frankly the main reason I settled on Fields is the fact Striker will have to beat offensive tackles AND teammates Charles Tapper and Geneo Grissom to the quarterback to rack up sacks in 2014.

Trotter: You could make a viable case for a half-dozen different defenders here. But the only other player I really considered was Striker. He's the Lawrence Taylor of the Big 12, and is going to be in the nightmares of opposing quarterbacks this year. The Sooners are loaded up front, which will give Striker plenty of opportunities to rush the passer without double teams. But right now, Striker seems to be a little too one-dimensional to pick as the conference's Defensive Player of the Year. Fields, meanwhile, is the total package -- when he's healthy.

The other player I most considered for Newcomer of the Year?

Olson: No disrespect to Harwell, who should be quite productive at Kansas, but I did give some consideration to Oklahoma's Joe Mixon. The freshman running back is capable of emerging as an elite playmaker from the get-go. Of course, if we knew he was eligible in 2014, Dorial Green-Beckham would be the runaway choice for this preseason honor.

Chatmon: It wouldn't surprise me in the least if Oklahoma State's Tyreek Hill beats out Harwell for the award. Hill will consistently be the fastest player on the field and has the quickness and change of direction skills to give teams fits. Harwell got the nod because KU has fewer playmaking options than the Cowboys, who also feature Jhajuan Seales, Desmond Roland, Rennie Childs and Marcell Ateman as potential playmakers.

Trotter: If I knew running back Rushel Shell was going to get the lion's share of West Virginia's carries, he would have received stronger consideration. But at the moment, Dreamius Smith sits atop the Mountaineers' depth chart, and West Virginia has other capable backs in Wendell Smallwood and Dustin Garrison, to boot. While Shell is an immense talent, it's unclear just how big a part he'll be of the West Virginia attack. There's no doubt Hill is going to be a focal point of the Oklahoma State offense. And after dazzling in the spring, there's little doubt Hill is in for big year thanks to his world-class speed.

What was the most difficult position to figure out?

Olson: I had to crunch the numbers on Malcolm Brown vs. Johnathan Gray, since Gray did have the superior YPG average when healthy. The tiebreaker went to Brown for his receiving production and TDs. I do think the discussion at cornerback will be interesting this year, too. I chose Zack Sanchez over Kevin White and Daryl Worley, but several others could step up in 2014.

Chatmon: The defensive line spot was easily the toughest with Brown and Baylor's Shawn Oakman finding themselves on the outside looking in. Both players got left off my first team but I wouldn't be surprised if either guy emerges as the Big 12's most dominant defensive lineman this fall, surpassing Tapper, Mueller, Reed and Fields. Defensive back was another tough spot with Oklahoma's Zack Sanchez, TCU's Chris Hackett and Kansas State's Dante Barnett each getting strong consideration.

Trotter: Defensive end was the most difficult position to sort out, because let's face it, there are actually five first-team All-Big 12 caliber players there. I ultimately went with Oakman alongside Fields because of the upside. But Reed, Mueller and Tapper are right there, and more deserving of being All-Big 12 than some of the other players that made my team at other positions.

The toughest omission from the All-Big 12 team was?

Olson: Because I am a man of honor and integrity, I selected two ends and two tackles for my All-Big 12 defensive line, even though this was not required. That made excluding Mueller and Shawn Oakman or Tapper a difficult but necessary call. But I stand by my admirable self-restraint.

Chatmon: Malcom Brown is going to make me regret leaving him off my list. The Texas defensive tackle could emerge as a nightmare in the middle for Charlie Strong's Longhorns. As much as I wanted to include him on my first team, I had to go with a few proven veterans ahead of him.

Trotter: Besides Mueller, Reed and Tapper, the toughest omissions were Baylor running back Shock Linwood and Oklahoma offensive tackle Daryl Williams. Linwood had a big two-game stretch last year that flashed his talent. But I also think he's going to share carries with Devin Chafin and Johnny Jefferson, which could drive down his individual numbers. Williams is the best of a terrific Sooners offensive line, which is tops in the league. But Oklahoma's strength up front lies in its depth, not just the talent of any one individual player.

Our All-Big 12 ballots

July, 9, 2014
Jul 9
7:30
AM ET
The deadline for media to turn in All-Big 12 ballots to the conference office comes Friday. The official All-Big 12 team won't be released until Big 12 media days in Dallas in a couple weeks.

But below, the Big 12 blog team released the ballots we turned in to the office to you for your viewing pleasure.

Later this morning we'll go into more depth about how we went about selecting our ballots.

But before we do that, the ballots:

BRANDON CHATMON'S BALLOT

Offense

WR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

TE: E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State

OL: Spencer Drango, Baylor

OL: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech

C: Dominic Espinosa, Texas

OL: Cody Whitehair, Kansas State

OL: Daryl Williams, Oklahoma

WR: Antwan Goodley, Baylor

QB: Bryce Petty, Baylor

RB: Malcolm Brown, Texas

RB: Shock Linwood, Baylor

PK: Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma

PR: Levi Norwood, Baylor

[+] EnlargePetty
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesBaylor QB Bryce Petty made it on all three ballots.
Defense

DL: Devonte Fields, TCU

DL: Ryan Mueller, Kansas State

DL: Cedric Reed, Texas

DL: Charles Tapper, Oklahoma

LB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma

LB: Bryce Hager, Baylor

LB: Ben Heeney, Kansas

DB: Kevin White, TCU

DB: Daryl Worley, West Virginia

DB: Kevin Peterson, Oklahoma State

DB: Sam Carter, TCU

P: Trevor Pardula, Kansas

KR: B.J. Catalon, TCU

Player of the Year Awards

Offensive Player of the Year: Bryce Petty, Baylor

Defensive Player of the Year: Devonte Fields, TCU

Newcomer of the Year: Nick Harwell, Kansas

Quick explainer: The Big 12 features more proven stars heading into this season than it did in 2013 but that didn't make my preseason All-Big 12 team any easier. Several young players seem ready to take their contributions to another level at the expense of established playmakers. The receiver position was a no-brainer (although two receivers on the squad seems a little odd), while the running back position is so littered with unknowns I considered just throwing a darts at the dart board and hoping for the best. Overall I ended up going with proven production over up-and-coming stars, meaning my postseason All-Big 12 squad could look much different than this version.

MAX OLSON'S BALLOT

Offense

WR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

TE: E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State

OL: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech

OL: Cody Whitehair, Kansas State

C: B.J. Finney, Kansas State

OL: Quinton Spain, West Virginia

OL: Spencer Drango, Baylor

WR: Antwan Goodley, Baylor

QB: Bryce Petty, Baylor

RB: Malcolm Brown, Texas

RB: Shock Linwood, Baylor

PK: Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma

PR: Levi Norwood, Baylor

Defense

DL: Devonte Fields, TCU

DL: Chucky Hunter, TCU

DL: Malcom Brown, Texas

DL: Cedric Reed, Texas

LB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma

LB: Bryce Hager, Baylor

LB: Ben Heeney, Kansas

DB: Quandre Diggs, Texas

DB: Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma

DB: Sam Carter, TCU

DB: Chris Hackett, TCU

P: Nick O'Toole, West Virginia

KR: B.J. Catalon, TCU

Player of the Year Awards

Offensive Player of the Year: Bryce Petty, Baylor

Defensive Player of the Year: Devonte Fields, TCU

Newcomer of the Year: Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State

Quick explainer: Petty, Lockett and Goodley are easy choices, but from there it gets tricky and you can make a case for a ton of players being deserving of preseason all-conference honors. On defense, the Big 12's ballot provides flexibility with DL, LB and DB as the three position categories, but I still tried to put together a unit with true defensive tackles and safeties. When in doubt, I went by 2013 production. How well these guys would all fit together on a playing field, who knows? But there's plenty of star power and proven talent in this lineup.

JAKE TROTTER'S BALLOT

Offense

WR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

TE: E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State

OL: Spencer Drango, Baylor

OL: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech

C: B.J. Finney, Kansas State

OL: Quinton Spain, West Virginia

OL: Cody Whitehair, Kansas State

WR: Antwan Goodley, Baylor

QB: Bryce Petty, Baylor

RB: Johnathan Gray, Texas

RB: Keith Ford, Oklahoma

PK: Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma

PR: Daje Johnson, Texas

Defense

DL: Devonte Fields, TCU

DL: Chucky Hunter, TCU

DL: Malcom Brown, Texas

DL: Shawn Oakman, Baylor

LB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma

LB: Ben Heeney, Kansas

LB: Bryce Hager, Baylor

DB: Daryl Worley, West Virginia

DB: Kevin White, TCU

DB: Sam Carter, TCU

DB: Quandre Diggs, Texas

P: Nick O'Toole, West Virginia

KR: Corey Coleman, Baylor

Player of the Year Awards

Offensive Player of the Year: Bryce Petty, Baylor

Defensive Player of the Year: Devonte Fields, TCU

Newcomer of the Year: Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State

Quick explainer: The official Big 12 ballot doesn't differentiate between offensive tackles and guards, defensive tackles and ends and cornerbacks and safeties. But like Max, I still tried to keep position integrity, which made putting this ballot together significantly more difficult. But unlike Max and Brandon, I attempted to project out this year's all-conference team instead of leaning on rehashing last year's, which is why Worley, Oakman and Ford made my preseason team over more conventional selections like Sanchez, Mueller and Linwood. Those three gambles could make me look incredibly smart at the end of the year -- or incredibly dumb. Time will tell.
When Baylor unveils McLane Stadium in its season opener, it will also be unveiling a bronze statue of the school's lone Heisman Trophy winner, Robert Griffin III, outside the stadium.

RG III's magical 2011 season helped spur the funding for the construction of the $260 million McLane Stadium. Midland, Texas, native Tom White of Tom White Studios in Prescott Valley, Arizona, completed the 9.5-foot bronze sculpture, which will stand in the south end plaza of McLane Stadium.

Griffin joins some exclusive company in the Big 12. Below is a sample of some of the football statues that have been erected outside other Big 12 stadiums:
Watch list week continued Tuesday with the release of the Mackey Award and Rimington Trophy. The Mackey goes to the most outstanding tight end, while the Rimington is for college football's top center.

Here are the Big 12 players that made each list:

Mackey
Rimington

Monday, the Maxwell (player of the year), Bednarik (defensive player of the year) and Hornung (most versatile player) watch lists were released.

Below is the rest of the preseason watch list schedule:

Wednesday
- Lou Groza Award, best place-kicker
- Ray Guy Award, best punter

Thursday
- Bronko Nagurski Trophy, best defensive player
- Outland Trophy, best interior lineman

Friday
- 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

Big 12 lunchtime links

July, 8, 2014
Jul 8
12:00
PM ET
No Neymar, no problem. Brazil over Germany today. Who you got?
  • New West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson has a big challenge in trying to figure out what Alabama's offense will look like, writes the Charleston Gazette's Dave Hickman.
  • The Sooners are still waiting on two freshmen to show up, according to The Oklahoman's Jason Kersey.
  • Oklahoma's games against Tennessee and Oklahoma State are sold out.
  • Former OU defensive lineman Larry Birdine faces domestic assault charges, the Norman Transcript's Jessica Bruha reports.
  • Baylor will be unveiling a statue of RG III at McLane Stadium.
  • Bears QB Bryce Petty was named one of the freaks of college football.
  • The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal's Nicholas Talbot weighs in on the punch that led to Nigel Bethel II's dismissal.
  • Iowa State named two football assistant strength and conditioning coaches.
  • Will this season be more of the same for the Jayhawks?
  • Texas freshman DT Poona Ford has been cleared and should be ready to go in August.
  • The Oklahoman's Cody Stavenhagen offers up 10 Cowboys who could break out this season.
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. 34 Daniel Brooks, running back, 5-foot-8, 185 pounds, sophomore

Impact thus far: Brooks has never played in a game for the Sooners. He redshirted during the 2012 season after injuring his ACL in high school then didn’t get any playing time as a redshirt freshman in 2013.

Impact in 2014: Brooks will have to force his way onto the field. He's in competition with several talented, young running backs for playing time this fall. There's is minimal experience returning at running back.

Long-term upside: Brooks is talented and showed flashes of ability during the spring game. Nonetheless he faces a tough road to playing time at running back in 2014 and beyond.

Evaluation grade for Brooks: C. Ideally, Brooks would have had some type of impact thus far, even if he just played a role on special teams. After all, several of his fellow 2012 signees are the foundation of OU’s 2014 title hopes, including receiver Sterling Shepard, quarterback Trevor Knight and defensive end Charles Tapper. And several 2013 signees surpassed his productivity in one year on campus. Brooks still has time to make an impact, but he’s clearly looking up at other signees of his class.

Development grade for Brooks: C. The Sooners could have given him a little playing time a year ago, particularly in blowout games, yet chose not to give him playing time. That said, the Sooners have given opportunities to several other players, so the lack of opportunities could fall on Brooks' shoulders as much as anyone else.
It's Take Two Tuesday again, when we give our opinions on a topic related to the Big 12.

Today's topic: Should Oklahoma have resorted to adding alternate uniforms?

Take 1: Brandon Chatmon -- Yes

It's been a long time coming for the Sooners. OU needed a new alternate look to keep up with the times in the arms race that is college football recruiting. The Sooners had a stellar close to its Class of 2014, landing several elite prospects in the final month of the recruiting cycle, a clear sign that uniforms aren't the end-all, be-all of recruiting.

Yet, they do have an impact.

Several recruits took to social media to express their approval including current commitment P.J. Mbanasor of Pflugerville, Texas/Hendrickson and local target Will Sunderland of Midwest City, Oklahoma/Midwest City. And several former players expressed their envy of current Sooners who will get the chance to don the alternate uniforms this fall. Players love alternate uniforms and uniform options so the Sooners' decision to add them was the correct decision.

For OU to dig its heels in the ground and refuse to tinker with their uniform options would have been silly. Uniforms help win recruiting battles and winning recruiting battles wins games. Uniforms are completely in the Sooners' control and it's taken too long for the Sooners to take advantage of this opportunity as it is.

Better late than never.

Take 2: Jake Trotter -- No

The past few years, I had the parent of a player email me many times, inquiring as to why Oklahoma didn't have alternate uniforms.

My answer was always the same. The Sooners had an iconic brand and an iconic look, and didn't need to resort to such tactics.

Sure, the uniform craze has worked wonders for the likes of Oregon and instate rival Oklahoma State, the first school in the Big 12 to follow the Ducks and repeatedly change up its look. Yet before this millennium, Oregon and Oklahoma State football had very little identity. The snazzy uniforms helped give them one.

But Oklahoma already had an identity. And while most kids have never heard of Barry Switzer, much Less Bud Wilkinson, kids are smart enough to know who the “it” schools in college football are. Oklahoma, I always thought, was one of them. Apparently the Sooners themselves weren't so sure.

The new uniforms, no doubt, will generate excitement with the players (see this video) and drum up enthusiasm with recruits.

But there's a reason you don't see Alabama changing its looks for the sake of appealing to recruits. The Crimson Tide don't need to.

I didn't think Oklahoma needed to, either. Like Alabama, I thought the Sooners were above that.

I, apparently, was wrong.
The 2014 season could be a critical one for several Big 12 seniors.

It’s their final chance to maximize their potential, show off for NFL scouts and push their teams to higher heights. In other words, it’s now or never for several Big 12 players who are poised to play the final 12 games of their college careers. Last week we looked at five offensive players who are facing now-or-never seasons. Here’s a look at five seniors on the defensive side of the ball who could have a major impact on their teams' success or hamper those chances for success if they struggle as individuals.

[+] EnlargeJordan Hicks
Cooper Neill/Getty ImagesTexas linebacker Jordan Hicks has been productive when healthy.
Linebacker Jordan Hicks, Texas

Why he might excel: Talent and production have never been the issue for Hicks. He was poised to become a star until back-to-back season-ending injures derailed his junior and redshirt junior seasons. If he returns to full health and remains healthy, he should be one of the Big 12’s top defenders. The Ohio native had 40 tackles in four games in 2013. If he's productive and healthy, Texas' defense is better and more experienced.

Why he might struggle: Much like teammate David Ash, Hicks' injury history makes it tough to build around him. Hicks has played in seven games in the past two seasons, with a hip injury in 2012 and a Achilles injury in 2013. There’s no guarantee he can return to be the active, productive player who was donned the burnt orange No. 3 during the past few seasons.

Cornerback Kevin White, TCU

Why he might excel: White has quietly performed at a high level for the past two seasons but has remained relatively unnoticed while being overshadowed by the excellence of fellow cornerback Jason Verrett, the San Diego Chargers’ 2014 first-round draft pick. White has started in 24 games in the past two seasons and earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors as a junior. His senior season offers a chance for him to cement himself as one of the top defenders in the conference, particularly as TCU’s top cover man.

Why he might struggle: He will be asked to be the man in the secondary. While lining up opposite Verrett, White was tested plenty during the past two seasons. But can he hold his own when consistently asked to cover the Big 12’s top receivers? If he stumbles, there aren't a lot of experienced options to turn to in the Horned Frogs' secondary.

Defensive tackle James Castleman, Oklahoma State

Why he might excel: Castleman has been productive for the Cowboys during the past two seasons and has all-conference potential. This season is his last opportunity to fulfill that potential. He enters the season with 70 tackles, including 11.5 tackles for loss and two sacks in his first three seasons. If Castleman is a disruptive force in the middle, he would help the Cowboys' inexperienced secondary greatly.

Why he might struggle: Castleman has seemed like a guy who could have a breakout season since his sophomore year. Yet it hasn’t really happened during his first three seasons. With Calvin Barnett moving on, Oklahoma State will lean on Castleman to fill the void and take his game to another level. He has supreme talent, but needs to finally maximize his potential during his final season.

[+] EnlargeGeneo Grissom
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesIf Geneo Grissom finds a home on Oklahoma's defense, look out.
Defensive end Geneo Grissom, Oklahoma

Why he might excel: He’s an NFL-level talent with unique physical gifts. Grissom finally began to show his ability to be a dominant player in the final stretch of the 2013 season, particularly the Allstate Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama. His junior season was easily his most productive with 40 tackles, including nine tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries and an interception. The Sooners clearly view him as a critical piece in the defense and he could be a guy who helps Eric Striker and Charles Tapper create havoc for opponents.

Why he might struggle: Grissom’s exceptional athleticism has been an anchor during his career in some ways. Recruited as a defensive end, Grissom moved to tight end at one point during his career and he even practiced at linebacker during the spring. The constant moving might be one reason for inconsistency in his play. If he consistently plays his best football, he can be an All-Big 12 performer and rise up NFL draft boards. If he doesn't maintain his Cotton Bowl production, Oklahoma's defense would take a step backward.

Linebacker Kenny Williams, Texas Tech

Why he might excel: He’s a terrific team player and is very versatile. He’s proved he can be a quality Big 12 running back and appears poised to start at linebacker during his final season at Texas Tech. Williams has a unique ability to play several roles and make an impact. If he can excel at linebacker, it gives the Red Raiders a little more piece of mind about a defense that will have to improve greatly for Tech to make a Big 12 title run.

Why he might struggle: He’s listed as a starter at a position he hasn’t called home during his time as a Red Raider. He enters the season as Tech’s most productive returning running back, but his move to linebacker is the best move for the team. It could take him a while to adjust and become productive.
video

Matt Millen and Andre Ware debate whether the risk is worth the reward for Oklahoma to bring in Dorial Green-Beckham.
video
LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. -- ESPN 300 offensive tackle Andre James appeared calm when he arrived at The Opening, which was to be expected, as the No. 165 overall prospect recently came to a decision regarding his college choice. The 6-foot-5, 275-pound lineman narrowed his list to Ohio State, Oklahoma, UCLA and USC and will announce where he will attend during the event.

CFB Future Power Rankings

July, 7, 2014
Jul 7
3:17
PM ET

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

It's Insider's second go-round projecting college football's next three years in our Future Power Rankings.

What did we learn from our first edition? For one, teams can make a substantive move in just a year's time. Just look at Auburn, which jumped from 23rd to fifth after a run to the championship game. USC, now with coaching stability, made the biggest leap (25th to sixth). Oklahoma, UCLA, FSU and Baylor were among other risers, and you'll soon read why.

On the other side, we were high a year ago on Florida and Michigan. Oops. The Gators' injury-plagued 4-8 season dropped them from No. 4 to No. 14, while the Wolverines, who lost five of their last six games, fell from fifth to 20th. We know Will Muschamp's job is in danger, but is that an omen for Brady Hoke's future in Ann Arbor?

Alabama is again our No. 1 team, but with two losses to end the season, its lead shrank. Is that a subtle signal that the Tide might have peaked under Nick Saban?

We'll examine those topics and more in the Future Power Rankings.

Here's how we compiled it: Our panel -- myself, Brad Edwards, Brock Huard, Tom Luginbill and Mark Schlabach -- provided 1-10 ratings in five different categories that we found to be comprehensive in determining current positioning, as well as a projection for the 2015 and 2016 seasons.

Here are the top 25 college football teams over the next three years:


  • 1
Alabama Crimson Tide
SEC FPR RANK: 1

The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category. Category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

Coaching: Saban did not receive a perfect 10, as he did a year ago. Maybe the one panelist who gave him a nine dinged him for how he managed the final second of the Iron Bowl.

But seriously, Saban is still well ahead of No. 2 Urban Meyer (9.2) and No. 3 Bill Snyder (9.0). (Have to appreciate that Snyder gets that kind of love, even if K-State didn't break the Top 25.)

Edwards thinks 2014 is a big year for Saban because it will show whether he can adapt his defense to better handle tempo offenses. Look at how Saban's defenses mightily struggled last year against not only Texas A&M, but also Auburn and Oklahoma.

"You put them all together and you realize, 'You know what, Alabama might have an issue with this,'" Edwards said. "I happen to believe Saban and [defensive coordinator] Kirby Smart have done enough to deserve the benefit of the doubt. Let's see what they can come up with this year before I decide the dynasty is over. Saban is now recruiting to find those types of players [to defend tempo offenses]."

As for the best coach in the state?

"I want to see Gus Malzahn beat Nick Saban one more time before I say he's a better coach," Edwards said, "which is a conclusion a lot of people are already making."

Current talent: There are more positional questions than in the past few years, especially the offensive line and cornerback spots. Rival coaches are even rumbling about it. "I don't know about them," one SEC coordinator said. But do not be fooled for an instant into thinking the Tide have suddenly become as barren as a bachelor's refrigerator in terms of talent.

Bama still has the top running back group in the country with T.J. Yeldon, Kenyan Drake and Derrick Henry, who was a bright spot in the otherwise drab Sugar Bowl performance. The time could be now for LB Reuben Foster and FS Landon Collins to shine on defense. MLB Trey DePriest will be the defense's rock.

And what about QB Jake Coker? His old coach at FSU, Jimbo Fisher, believes Coker is capable, which is why Coker nearly beat out last year's Heisman Trophy winner to start at FSU.

Recruiting: This is why Alabama earned association with the word "dynasty" -- it started winning almost every major recruiting battle, and the program became the closest thing there is on the planet to the NFL's minor league system. It has not dipped, and there's no reason to believe it will as long as Saban is around; he will not let it slide.

Title path:  It's going to happen, and it could happen this year: The SEC is going to knock itself out of the playoff. The strength of the top half of the league could turn out to be a bad thing in some seasons.

The Tide are regularly part of a kickoff game of some kind, playing the likes of Clemson, Virginia Tech or West Virginia, but the nonconference slate is typically manageable. The conference schedule always works for and against the SEC. For the Tide, Auburn is the new-slash-old menace.

The rating suggests that it isn't the ideal road to the playoff, but it should not be preventive for a power program such as Alabama.

Program power: Like the coaching category, Bama still received four 10s and a nine. The takeaway: It's hard to remain perfect.

"We all know that every dynasty comes to an end, but when you look back on every dynasty, you know where the turning point was," Edwards said. Will we say it was the Iron Bowl and Sugar Bowl, perhaps? "I think what you have is a lot of people trying to be the first one to predict the end of the dynasty," Edwards said. "They want to be the ones to say they didn't miss it. I think they're jumping the gun a little bit."

Which is why Alabama is still No. 1. But one program is making up ground in a hurry ...


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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. 29 Rashod Favors, defensive end, 6-foot-1, 253 pounds, senior

Impact thus far: Favors' impact has been minimal during his first four years on campus and featured a position change. After a redshirt season in 2010, he played in one game in 2011 as a linebacker. ... In 2012, he had the lone production of his career with 10 tackles, including 1.5 sacks, in nine games played. ... In 2013, he played in 12 games, largely in a special teams role. He’s played in 22 career games with zero starts heading into his final season in crimson and cream.

Impact in 2014: Expect Favors to play a similar role to 2013 when he saw spot duty on defense and played a special teams role. He should be a contributor but it would be a surprise if he earns a start this fall.

Long term upside: He’s a contributor, not a game changer, but his experience could prove useful as a senior.

Evaluation grade for Favors: D. He’s a contributor, but entering his senior season without a start drops this grade below average. Favors has played in 22 games as a Sooner, which cannot be overlooked, but more is expected from a Sooners’ signee.

Development grade for Favors: C. Favors flashed some pass-rush ability early in his career but wasn’t moved to the defensive line until his junior season. Yet it’s hard to say he hasn’t gotten opportunities because he has gotten some chances on defense, but other players have simply outperformed him.
With the dead period hitting last week and coaches taking much-needed vacations, the recruiting trail is as quiet as it gets during the year during the next week or so. Here’s the latest in recruiting around the Big 12:

BAYLOR
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Bears have had a couple of decommits in recent weeks but are still in terrific shape at the skill positions. Adding some beef up front, particularly along the offensive line, will be key for Baylor as this recruiting cycle progresses.

IOWA STATE
Total commits: 6
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Cyclones' recruiting class looks much better today than it did early last month with Paul Rhoads' program landing five commitments in June including Austin (Texas) Westlake quarterback Dominic DeLira. It will be important for the Cyclones to hold off other suitors for DeLira and build this class around him now that he is on their commit list.

KANSAS
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Jayhawks added another junior college commitment when Trinity Valley Community College (Texas) defensive back L.B. Bates picked KU on June 29. Bates is a 6-foot, 175-pounder who is originally from Allen, Texas, and can play cornerback or safety.

KANSAS STATE
Total commits: 6
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: K-State has two commitments from Georgia -- running back Kalin Heath and Isaiah Zuber -- among their six total commitments. Bill Snyder’s program is one of many Big 12 schools that have recognized the opportunity to land overlooked hidden gems in SEC country.

OKLAHOMA
Total commits: 7
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: OU added alternate uniforms last week, with an eye on giving its recruiting a boost while maintaining its tradition. Several recruits liked the move, which had been in the works since last year with the help of former players Trey Millard, Aaron Colvin and Gabe Ikard contributing to the design.

OKLAHOMA STATE
Total commits: 8
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Cowboys are off to a solid start on the recruiting trail, particularly at the skill positions. Nacogdoches (Texas) cornerback Jaylon Lane, a current Cowboys commit, is at The Opening this week and is considered one of the top cornerbacks in the nation.

TCU
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Horned Frogs might be in the best shape of any Big 12 school with more than half of its recruiting class already secured. TCU, which doesn’t have a ESPN300 member on its commit list, can now focus on rounding out its class with elite signees.

TEXAS
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: The Longhorns are in solid shape along the offensive front with three offensive linemen on their commit list including ESPN300 members Toby Weathersby of Houston, Texas/Westfield and Patrick Vahe of Euless, Texas/Trinity.

TEXAS TECH
Total commits: 7
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: Kliff Kingsbury’s program got terrific news last week when ESPN300 defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko of Honolulu, Hawaii/Farrington decided he would not take any more recruiting trips and is 100 percent committed to the Red Raiders. He will also take part in The Opening this week.

WEST VIRGINIA
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: The Mountaineers are late to the party but WVU threw its hat into the mix in the race to sign elite Class of 2017 prospect Anthony Hines III of Plano, Texas/East. Hines has 43 total offers but has been committed to Mississippi State since Oct. 13.

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