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
11:06
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.
In 2008, the Big 12’s strongest position was quarterback with a deep roster that featured Heisman winner Sam Bradford, Heisman finalist Colt McCoy and national passing champ Graham Harrell, among several other noteworthy QBs.

Five years later, the league’s top position turned out to be cornerback, headlined by eventual first-round picks Justin Gilbert and Jason Verrett.

SportsNation

Which Big 12 defensive end will have the best 2014 season?

  •  
    22%
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    23%
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    35%
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    11%
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    9%

Discuss (Total votes: 3,997)

This season, the Big 12’s best position is looking more and more like it will be defensive end, notably thanks to Kansas State’s Ryan Mueller, Texas’ Cedric Reed, Oklahoma’s Charles Tapper, Baylor’s Shawn Oakman and TCU’s Devonte Fields -- all of whom have All-American potential.

Mueller was a first-team All-Big 12 selection last year after finishing second in the league with 11.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss. Only Jackson Jeffcoat, the departed Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, topped Mueller in either category.

Just one spot behind Mueller, Reed finished third in the league with 10 sacks, and was a second-team All-Big 12 pick. Even though his teammate Jeffcoat racked up all the accolades, many coaches around the league felt Reed was the tougher assignment.

Tapper was another tough assignment, and the only underclassman defender to earn first-team All-Big 12 honors last season. Tapper was timed running the 40-yard dash in 4.55 seconds during the spring, underscoring why he’s such a nightmare matchup for opposing offensive linemen.

Speaking of nightmare matchups, Oakman presents just that with his 6-foot-9, 275-pound frame. Despite being a part-time player last year, Oakman still finished sixth in the conference with 12.5 tackles for loss. According to coach Art Briles, Oakman was unblockable during spring ball and could be in for a monster breakout season.

Fields already broke out two years ago, when he was the AP’s Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year as a true freshman. A suspension followed by season ending foot surgery turned Fields’ sophomore campaign into a disaster. But by all accounts, Fields was his old self again this spring, and seems primed to have a dominating season.

But which of these defensive ends will have the most dominating 2014 season?

We put the question to you via our weekly Big 12 poll.

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:

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