Big 12 lunchtime links

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
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Baylor receiver Clay Fuller's wedding proposal was pretty soild.
This summer, ESPN.com is taking a closer look at each scholarship player on the Oklahoma Sooners' 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. 80 Isaac Ijalana, tight end, 6-foot-4, 247 pounds, sophomore

Impact thus far: As a spring enrollee, Ijalana has only spent one semester with the Sooners. He was a member of the ESPN JC 50.

Impact in 2014: The competition at tight end has amped up with Blake Bell’s position change and Taylor McNamara’s continued development. He will have to earn any playing time he gets this fall, but he’s one of the reasons the Sooners should feel better about the overall talent at the position heading into this season.

Long-term upside: The Sooners are hopeful he can eventually provide a versatile receiving target at tight end, even if it is not this season.

Evaluation grade for Ijalana: C. The junior-college transfer has only been on campus for one semester, so it’s hard to expect him to walk right into a starting spot or critical role in the offense. But he has three seasons to make an impact and the skill set to do so.

Development grade for Ijalana: NA.

Top Big 12 players: Nos. 5-1

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
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With the season just a month away, we’ve used this week to rank the top 25 players in the Big 12.

You can click here to see the previous four installments.

Today, we wrap up the series with who we think the top five players in the league will be in 2014:

5. Cedric Reed, DE, Texas: Overshadowed by his Big 12 defensive player of the year teammate in 2013, Reed had almost as productive a season as Jackson Jeffcoat. Reed was third in the Big 12 with 10 sacks, fourth with 19 tackles for loss and tied for first with five forced fumbles. With Jeffcoat gone, Reed takes over as the centerpiece of coach Charlie Strong’s defense. He bring as much speed off the corner as any defensive end in the league and could play himself into the first round of the NFL draft with another big season.

4. Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma: He’s the Lawrence Taylor of the Big 12. Striker still needs to refine other parts of his game, but when it comes to rushing the passer off the blitz, there’s no one better in the country. Everyone remembers his three sacks in the Allstate Sugar Bowl win over Alabama, including the game-clinching forced fumble that led to an exclamation-point touchdown. But Striker had a penchant for creating big plays all season. On the first possession at Notre Dame, Striker slammed into quarterback Tommy Rees, knocking the ball into the air and into the arms of linebacker Corey Nelson, who gave the Sooners a quick 7-0 lead on the way to a 35-21 victory. Reed, Shawn Oakman and Ryan Mueller are all double-digit sack contenders, but Striker could be the odds-on favorite to win the Big 12’s sack crown in 2014.

3. Antwan Goodley, WR, Baylor: Goodley was arguably the league’s most improved player in 2013. He exploded right along with the Baylor offense, hauling in 1,339 receiving yards and a Big 12-best 13 touchdown catches. The big-play deep threat also led the nation with five receptions of 60 yards or more. Goodley won’t sneak up on anyone this season, but that doesn’t mean anyone will be able to contain him. The Bears have plenty of other weapons in the passing game and one of the nation’s top quarterbacks to get him the ball in Bryce Petty. Goodley has a legitimate chance to join Justin Blackmon and Michael Crabtree as the third Big 12 wideout to win Biletnikoff Award.

2. Tyler Lockett, WR, Kansas State: One of Goodley’s prime competitors for the Biletnikoff Award figures to be Lockett. Prone to utterly unconscious performances in big games, Lockett combined for 35 receptions, 631 yards and six touchdowns in the three games against Texas, Oklahoma and Michigan last season. He’ll have a prime opportunity to show the nation what he can do in September, when defending SEC champion Auburn visits Manhattan, Kansas, for a Thursday night clash. Lockett is on pace to break every school career receiving record held by his father, Kevin Lockett. Tyler Lockett will square off against Goodley in the final week of the regular season in a showdown featuring two of the best wideouts to come through the Big 12.

1. Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor: The Dairy Queens in Salem, Oregon, might not appreciate Petty, but we do here, as slotting Petty No. 1 was the easiest decision we made while putting together this top-25 player ranking. In his first season as a starting quarterback, Petty totaled 46 touchdowns and threw just three interceptions while earning Big 12 offensive player of the year honors. It will be difficult for Petty to replicate such gaudy numbers, but with a year of experience behind him operating Art Briles' offense, Petty should be even sharper in 2014. If he is, he’ll have a chance to become the second Baylor quarterback to capture the Heisman Trophy in the past four seasons.

That’s it for our top 25 player ranking. Did we get it right? Send your thoughts to the Big 12 mailbag.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Imagesnull
Oklahoma was the lone Big 12 team to receive a first-place vote in the preseason Amway Coaches Poll, which was released on Thursday. The Sooners are the conference’s highest ranked team at No. 3 with Baylor, Kansas State and Texas joining OU as Big 12 representatives in the poll. Florida State, the defending national champion, is ranked No. 1.

Here’s the actual rank for each Big 12 team and a couple of quick thoughts on the ranking:

No. 3 Oklahoma (1382 points, 3 first-place votes): The momentum from OU’s Allstate Sugar Bowl win over Alabama continues but the Sooners still find themselves looking up at No. 2 Alabama in this preseason ranking. If OU, particularly quarterback Trevor Knight, plays like it did against the Crimson Tide, there’s no reason to think the Sooners can’t fulfill this ranking or higher. If not, they’ll likely find themselves outside of the top 10 at some point this season.

No. 10 Baylor (965 points): The Bears could be ranked even higher after a stellar 2013 campaign but memories of Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles making big plays against BU’s defense have cast a shadow that’s made people forget the Bears' 11-1 regular season and first Big 12 title. With Bryce Petty at the helm, Baylor has the ability to rise to the top of this poll. But it won’t happen until some untested players step up on defense.

No. 21: Kansas State (257 points): The Wildcats enter the season with plenty of respect after a strong end to the 2013 season and their first bowl win in 11 years. Quarterback Jake Waters and receiver Tyler Lockett are one of college football’s top quarterback-receiver duos and defensive end Ryan Mueller is disruptive and productive. A playmaker emerging at running back could be the key to K-State rising higher than No. 21 this season.

No. 24: Texas (143 points): The Longhorns are an interesting case. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Charlie Strong’s team rise into the top 10, but it also wouldn’t be a surprise to see UT fall out of the rankings altogether. UCLA provides a tough early-season test but also an opportunity for the Longhorns to send a Strong message to the nation.

NR/RV Oklahoma State (56 points): It wouldn’t be the first time the Cowboys entered the season with muted expectations then rose up the Big 12 standings and national polls. A date with No. 1 Florida State to start the season will be the first opportunity for Mike Gundy’s squad to show the world they’re being underestimated yet again.

NR/RV TCU (54 points): Gary Patterson’s squad is nipping at the heels of OSU despite a 4-8 season a year ago. We can always count on the Horned Frogs to play good defense, so TCU’s new offense would likely be the key reason if it finds itself as a consistent member of this Top 25 this season.

NR/RV Texas Tech (8 points): The Red Raiders’ National University Holiday Bowl win was an impressive finish to the 2013 season. The Sooners got all the attention but Tech and Davis Webb had a performance second to none in the Red Raiders' win over Arizona State. Webb will have to carry that stellar display into this season and get some help from a defense which is replacing several key playmakers if Tech expects to break into the Top 25 in Kliff Kingsbury's second season.

Coaches pick Florida State as No. 1

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
2:02
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The Florida State Seminoles aren't going anywhere, as the defending national champions are the No. 1 team in the preseason Amway Coaches Poll, which was released Thursday.

FSU, led by Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston, got 56 of the 62 first-place votes.

"We're very excited about being No. 1 and happy to be No. 1, but we understand that we have to play like No. 1 and play great football," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher told USA Today. "That's going to be our objective. We're proud to start there and now we just have to go play great football."

Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon and Auburn, which lost to FSU in the final BCS title game last season, round out the top five. Ohio State starts at No. 6, and is followed by UCLA, Michigan State, South Carolina and Baylor.

Overall, the SEC leads the way with seven teams in the poll. The Pac-12 is represented by six teams, and the Big 12 and Big Ten each have four teams in the poll.


(Read full post)


Big 12 lunchtime links

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
12:00
PM ET
I would have expected a higher number than five here, Kliff.
This summer, ESPN.com is taking a closer look at each scholarship player on the Oklahoma Sooners' 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. 79 Daryl Williams, tackle, 6-foot-6, 329 pounds, senior

Impact thus far: Williams has been outstanding for the Sooners and appears to be taking his contributions to another level with his senior season approaching. Williams started his first college game as a redshirt freshman before injury issues limited him to nine games in 2011. In 2012, Williams became a mainstay on the Sooners' offensive line, starting 10 games before a knee injury ended his season. Last season, Williams earned second-team All-Big 12 honors by starting all 12 regular-season games at right tackle before shifting to left tackle in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Impact in 2014: Williams should be one of the anchors of the offensive line and offense as a whole. All-conference honors are within his sights and he has emerged as a team leader heading into the season.

Long-term upside: He should go down as a three-year starter and two-time all-conference honoree when his career is over.

Evaluation grade for Williams: A. What more could you possibility expect from a three-star signee? Williams started his first game in crimson and cream and only couldn’t regain his starting spot because Lane Johnson, a future No. 4 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, had replaced him. Williams became one of the league’s better tackles since he was given the opportunity.

Development grade for Williams: A. If Williams hadn’t redshirted in 2010, he would have exhausted his eligibility by now. Instead, he'll be a veteran anchor to the 2014 offensive line during his fifth year on campus.
The unfortunate part of our Top 25 ranking of the Big 12’s best players is that only 25 players can make the cut.

We’re down to the unveiling of the final five players, which will come out Friday morning. You can review who has made the list so far by clicking here.

But what about the players who narrowly didn't make the list?

SportsNation

Who has the biggest gripe being left out of our top 25 ranking of the Big 12's best players?

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    32%
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    16%
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    18%
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    18%
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    16%

Discuss (Total votes: 4,735)

When putting this ranking together, we gathered a strong case for a dozen other players who didn’t make it -- standouts like Oklahoma receiver Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma offensive tackle Daryl Williams, TCU cornerback Kevin White, West Virginia safety Karl Joseph, Texas center Dominic Espinosa and Kansas wideout Nick Harwell, who once finished second in the country in receiving at Miami (Ohio).

But there were five players specifically who were the most difficult to leave out, including two of the league’s top returning running backs.

Malcolm Brown was previously known as Johnathan Gray's wing man in the Texas backfield. But Brown proved he could handle a starring role after Gray suffered a season-ending Achilles injury Nov. 9. Brown stepped in and rushed for 128, 131 and 130 yards in the Longhorns’ final three games. Gray, who did make our top 25 list, is back from the Achilles tear. But Brown will still be a big part of the Texas offense.

Baylor’s Shock Linwood also started out last season in a backup role. But when Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin both suffered injuries against Oklahoma, Linwood stepped in and the offense didn’t miss a beat. He rushed for 182 yards against the Sooners, then 187 the following week against Texas Tech. Despite being Baylor’s third-team running back, Linwood finished sixth in the Big 12 in rushing. With Seastrunk and Martin gone, Linwood will step into the starting lineup full time this season.

The other notable omissions from our top 25 reside in the trenches.

Oklahoma defensive tackle Jordan Phillips was on his way to an All-Big 12 type of campaign before suffering a season-ending back injury. Phillips is healthy again and might be the best player on one of the nation’s deepest and most disruptive defensive lines.

On the other side of the ball, West Virginia guard Quinton Spain and Kansas State tackle Cody Whitehair were on my preseason All-Big 12 ballot. Spain has 26 career starts and might be the best guard in the league after Texas Tech’s Le'Raven Clark. Whitehair is also a two-year starter and earned second-team All-Big 12 honors as a sophomore last year. Whitehair has moved to left tackle, where he’ll be protecting the blind side of quarterback Jake Waters.

Now, we put the question to you in our weekly Big 12 poll.

Who has the biggest gripe being left out of our Big 12 Top 25 player rankings?

Top Big 12 players: Nos. 10-6

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
9:00
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With the season just a month away, we’re taking this week to rank the top 25 players in the Big 12.

This is a ranking of who we think the best 25 players will be over the course of the 2014 season.

You can click here to see the previous three installments.

Today, we continue the series with Nos. 10-6:

10. Le'Raven Clark, OG, Texas Tech: Clark was a freshman All-American tackle two years ago and a first-team All-Big 12 performer last season as the anchor of the Texas Tech offensive line. With the addition of junior-college tackle Dominique Robertson, Clark is moving inside to guard, a more natural position for his 315-pound frame. Clark already has proven to be a terrific pass-blocker, but he could also become a road-grader in the run game in his new spot.

9. Spencer Drango, OT, Baylor: Sometimes you don’t realize what you’ve got until it’s gone. Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty found out the hard way just how valuable his left tackle is when Drango suffered a season-ending back injury in early November. With Drango protecting his blindside, Petty was sacked only eight times through the Bears’ first nine games. With Drango sidelined, Petty was sacked nine times in Baylor’s last four games -- two of which the Bears lost as their high-powered offense sputtered down the stretch. The good news for Petty, and Baylor, is that Drango is healthy again and ready to help keep one of the nation’s most lethal quarterbacks upright.

8. Charles Tapper, DE, Oklahoma: One offensive lineman at Big 12 media days noted that Tapper was the most difficult defender to block in the Big 12. The 6-foot-4, 281-pound junior runs like a linebacker with the strength of a defensive tackle. He was the only defensive underclassman to be named first-team All-Big 12 last season, and considering he’s only started 12 games in his career, he figures only to get better playing alongside one of the most talented and deepest defensive lines in the country.

7. Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor: Coach Art Briles has been effusive in his praise of Oakman, whom he called “unblockable” during the spring. The 6-foot-9, 275-pound outspoken defensive end could be an unstoppable force this season in the Big 12. Despite being a part-time player in 2013, Oakman still finished sixth in the league with 12.5 tackles for loss. The switch just now appears to have flipped for Oakman this offseason, which is a frightening proposition for Big 12 quarterbacks not named Bryce Petty.

6. Ryan Mueller, DE, Kansas State: Mueller doesn’t have the length or the athleticism that Tapper and Oakman do. But the former unrecruited walk-on finds a way to make plays. In 2013, Mueller finished with 11.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss, both of which were second in the league only to Jackson Jeffcoat, the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. Mueller forced four fumbles, too. There are players, and then there are playmakers. Mueller fits the latter.

Coming Friday: Nos. 5-1 ...
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Steve Spurrier calls it the "talking season," when everybody's craving a little football and exercising their right to free speech during the buildup to the real season.

Maybe it's the anticipation of the first College Football Playoff, and a little bit of early-season campaigning. It's as close as we're ever going to get to coaches turning into fans, wearing their emotions on their sleeves, and saying what's really on their minds.

Spurrier, obviously, is a special case. When has he not said precisely what was on his mind, whether it was zinging Tennessee, Florida State, Georgia or anybody else he deemed fair game?

With the Head Ball Coach, everybody's fair game.

"We're just all talking right now," Spurrier said. "Kacey Musgraves has that song, 'Blowin' Smoke.' I like that song. It goes on about smoking cigarettes ... 'We all say we'll quit someday, but we're just blowin' smoke.' That's all we're doing this time of year, just talking."

And you know what? It's pretty darn entertaining. Refreshing, really.

We get enough monotony during the season, stone-faced coaches sounding more like programmed robots and going to painstaking efforts not to provide any bulletin-board material. It's as Belichickian as it gets.

But these last couple of weeks, as coaches have made the rounds at their conference media days and the ESPN car wash, they have been as chirpy as anything we might hear on talk radio or read on an Internet message board.

Maybe the planets have aligned just perfectly. We'll see if noted astronomers Dabo Swinney and Spurrier have checked their manuals.

After Swinney told media members that he and Spurrier were from different planets -- that Swinney was from Mars and Spurrier was from Pluto -- Spurrier had his response loaded and ready.

"Dabo probably thinks there's only, what, nine planets out there," Spurrier said. "I think I read where Pluto may not be considered one now."


(Read full post)


The Oklahoma Sooners reported for the start of fall camp Wednesday. And this year, the Sooners went digital with their playbooks, passing out iPads to the players before their first practice Thursday.



The playbook for Oklahoma kicker Michael Hunnicutt, however, came loaded with just one play.



Hunnicutt, who will vie to become the first All-American kicker in Oklahoma history, knows how to kick the ball through the uprights. He went 24 of 27 on field goals last season.

Of course, that's not all Hunnicutt can do. He scored a touchdown off a fake field goal in the upset win at Oklahoma State that catapulted the Sooners to the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Hunnicutt did not divulge on Twitter whether his iPad also included another fake play.

Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon has been suspended from the team as police investigate allegations that he punched a woman during an altercation in Norman last week.

"Joe Mixon is not reporting for team activities at this time," a school spokesman said in a statement Wednesday. "We will continue to monitor the situation."

Mixon has not been charged with any crimes. But an Oklahoma female student claims that Mixon punched her, breaking four bones in her face.

Mixon met with police investigators Monday, but his attorney has maintained that Mixon "has done nothing wrong."

Mixon, a native of Oakley, Calif., was the top-rated signee in Oklahoma's most recent recruiting class.

The Sooners open fall camp Thursday.


(Read full post)


For all those people fretting that a playoff in college football would somehow water down the regular season, I offer up the blockbuster weekend of Sept. 3. 2016.

Yes, it’s still a couple of years away and we’re supposed to be focusing on what’s right in front of us. But, geez, that Saturday to open the 2016 season could very well provide the most attractive lineup of nonconference games on one day that we’ve ever seen.

For that, at least in large part, we all have the College Football Playoff to thank.

Some of the matchups were already set or in the process of being set. But the real impetus in beefing up all these nonconference schedules was that a playoff was coming.

And, now, with a selection committee holding the keys to those coveted four playoff spots, we’re going to be in store for some terrific nonconference showdowns in the regular season for years to come. Simply, teams that don’t play and win those types of games are going to be on the outside looking in, which makes the regular season as important as ever.

My only knock on that weekend to kick off the 2016 season is that there are too many good games. I want to watch them all.

We’ve all been clamoring for an Alabama-USCmatchup. Well, we’re finally going to get it in Arlington, Texas to open that season.

And if you like your football Southern style, Clemson at Auburn has a nice ring to it. Lewis Grizzard, the late Southern humorist, once said that Clemson was Auburn with a lake. In a lot of ways, they’re virtual clones of each other right down to their break-neck style of offense. Even more enticing, this is a home-and-home series with Auburn traveling to Clemson the next year.

There won’t be a more unique game that weekend than LSU facing Wisconsin in historic Lambeau Field. Perhaps we’ll get to see Les Miles perform the “Lambeau Leap” if the Tigers win.

Have the remote control ready because we also get UCLA at Texas A&M, Notre Dame at Texas and BYU Cougars at Arizona (in Glendale, Ariz.).

That’s just the first weekend, too.

A week later, Tennessee and Virginia Tech will “trade paint” at Bristol Motor Speedway. And two weeks later, Ohio State travels to Oklahoma and Oregon visits Nebraska.

So much for opening the college football season with a tune-up … or two.
ESPN.com has taken on the monumental task of ranking the top 100 players in college football going into the 2014 season. The rankings were done based on the expected contributions of each player for the 2014 season, regardless of position.

The first 40 players have already been released. Today, the unveiling continued with Nos. 60-41.

Here are the Big 12 players that made the third installment:

No. 42: TCU DE Devonte Fields

No. 49: Kansas State WR Tyler Lockett

No. 52: Oklahoma LB Eric Striker

Striker and Lockett are two of the most explosive players in the Big 12.

Lockett was virtually unstoppable at times last season, hauling in 237 receiving yards against Texas and 278 against Oklahoma. He also capped off a tremendous season with three touchdown receptions in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against Michigan. With Jake Waters settled in at quarterback, Lockett could put up even bigger numbers in 2014, which is a scary thought for Big 12 defenses.

Speaking of scary, Striker figures to be one of the most feared pass rushers in the country after a breakout sophomore campaign. He sacked Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron three times in the Allstate Sugar Bowl and forced the game-clinching fumble late in the game.

It would have been a crime had Lockett or Striker been left off the top 100.

It will be interesting to see if Fields sees the field at all this season. The voting for the top 100 players was done before Fields was arrested on allegations of assaulting his ex-girlfriend. TCU has since “separated” from Fields, pending the outcome of the case. For that reason, we actually didn’t include Fields in our top 25 ranking of Big 12 players.

By the way, this national list, which was compiled by the entire ESPN.com college football team, won’t necessarily line up with our top 25 ranking of Big 12 players, which was compiled exclusively by Brandon Chatmon, Max Olson, and myself.

Make sure to track the top 100 rankings the remainder of the week, as there will be Big 12 players in the final two parts, as well.

Coming Thursday: Nos. 40-21.

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One Thing To Know: Big 12 Recruiting
Recruiting reporter Damon Sayles discusses the top storyline to watch in 2015 college football recruiting within the Big 12. Oklahoma continues to hang around top upper echelon of the conference.
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