Oklahoma announced Missouri transfer Dorial Green-Beckham will not be eligible to play for the Sooners in 2014 after his waiver request to make the receiver immediately eligible was denied by the NCAA on Friday.
Now Knight, the Sooners starting quarterback, is left with junior Sterling Shepard as his lone proven receiver to target heading into this season. Shepard had 51 receptions for 603 yards and seven touchdowns a year ago. The rest of the receivers on the Sooners' roster combined for 17 receptions for 228 yards in 2013.
The Sooners were hoping Green-Beckham would become eligible to provide a proven playmaker on the outside after the 6-foot-6, 225 pound receiver had 59 receptions for 883 yards and 12 touchdowns for Missouri in 2013 before his dismissal last spring.
Much of the burden is likely to fall upon Durron Neal, the second-leading returning receiver on the roster. Neal was an Army All-American when he arrived on campus but has yet to fulfill those high expectations with 18 career receptions for 251 yards in his first two seasons.
"I think we have some real stability with Shepard and Neal on the perimeter," receivers coach Jay Norvell said earlier this week. "Then we've got some young guys, K.J. Young and Michiah Quick, that are kind of coming on in the slot."
Sophomore Derrick Woods is another receiver the Sooners are counting on to become an impact player on offense for the first time in his career after a redshirt freshman season that featured just two receptions for 29 yards including a clutch third-down reception in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
"We could play with Derrick Woods as a starter," Norvell said. "There's no question and feel confident doing that. He's been in the fire. He made a huge play in the Sugar Bowl and the one thing about that kid, you get him in a competitive situation, he really responds."
A portion of the onus could also fall upon covered tight end Blake Bell, who made the switch from quarterback in January with an eye on becoming an big target for Knight.
Keep an eye on a pair of redshirt freshmen who will get more opportunities with Green-Beckham out of the equation. Jordan Smallwood, who has impressed since he arrived on campus in the summer of 2013 but was forced into a redshirt season by a broken foot in the preseason a year ago, and K.J. Young, who has emerged as an potential impact player in the slot for the Sooners, have both used a redshirt year in 2013 to put themselves in position to make an impact this fall.
"K.J.'s just playing a lot faster," Norvell said. "He really has an understanding of what we want him to do inside. He's playing really fast, roaring off the football. That's a big thing here at Oklahoma. We really stress coming off the ball and playing with speed, and when you watch guys like Kenny Stills and Jalen Saunders, when those guys played, they roared off the football, and K.J.'s starting to get that."
Incoming freshman Michiah Quick is another player who could see his role expand with Shepard's ability to play in the slot or on the outside allowing the Sooners to move Shepard around with a goal of getting their top three or four receivers on the field.
It's clear the Sooners like their talent at receiver but it is largely unproven. OU's season opener against Louisiana Tech on Aug. 30 and second-non conference game against Tulsa on Sept. 6 will be critical for the Sooners offense to figure out which receivers can be counted on heading into their home matchup with Tennessee on Sept. 13.
NORMAN, Okla. -- Dorial Green-Beckham will not be allowed to play for Oklahoma this season after the NCAA denied the school's request for a waiver that would have made the talented receiver eligible to play immediately.
"The University of Oklahoma has learned that the waiver request it entered on behalf of Dorial Green-Beckham has been denied by the NCAA," the university said in a statement released Friday night. "The University accepts that decision and will continue to provide the appropriate assistance to Dorial, just as it does with other students in helping him grow personally from the many opportunities available to him at OU."
Green-Beckham transferred to Oklahoma after being dismissed by Missouri in April following several run-ins with the law during his two years at the school.
NCAA rules require players to sit out a season when they transfer from one Football Bowl Subdivision school to another, but Oklahoma requested a waiver to allow Green-Beckham to play this season on the grounds he was "run off" the team at Missouri.
Green-Beckham is a former five-star recruit from Springfield, Missouri, who was developing into one of the top receivers in the country last year as a sophomore. He caught 59 passes for 883 yards and scored 12 touchdowns.
But his time at Missouri also was filled with off-field troubles.
Green-Beckham was charged in October 2012 with marijuana possession and later pleaded guilty to trespassing.
He also was arrested along with two other men in January in his hometown of Springfield when police found a pound of marijuana in their car. No criminal charges have been filed in that case against Green-Beckham.
As an aside, the season starts next week, which means we'll be looking to select our first guest picker of 2014. Click here and sell us on why you should be the Week 1 guest picker. And, as always, creativity counts.
Now, to the 'Bag:
Trotter: Eventually, yes. When, who knows? But it will happen. Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox reportedly performed well this preseason, but so have De'Andre Mann and Corey Avery. I think the Jayhawks will be fine at running back -- provided nobody else there gets injured.
@Jake_Trotter do you think UT/A&M will ever schedule a permanent OOC game between them? College football would be a better place for it...— Kevin Collins (@kevinkwc) August 21, 2014
Trotter: This has more to do with Trevone Boykin -- and the work he's put in this offseason -- than it does anyone else. Obviously Boykin has responded well to having Sonny Cumbie as his position coach. But Boykin has gotten into phenomenal shape and really focused on becoming a better quarterback. As result, it appears that he has. Jordan Evans showed as a true freshman last year that he can play at a high level. The Sooners would be better with Shannon on the field. But they're not going to be that much worse off without him, either.
@Jake_Trotter What can we make of the teas leaves that point to Boykin starting at TCU? How bad must of the OCs been last year!— Geoffrey Mitchell (@geoffmitchell) August 21, 2014
Trotter: I'm not sure Baylor is going to have the best front in the country, as Art Briles suggested in the spring. But it has a chance to be one of the three-best in the Big 12. Andrew Billings is one of the best young tackles in the league. Shawn Oakman has the ability to become a star. And Bryce Hager is one of the most proven linebackers in the conference. This has the potential to be a special group.
@Jake_Trotter Will Baylors defensive front seven really be that good?— Spencer Smith (@smith1_spncr) August 21, 2014
Trotter: That would be tough. The Baylor loss would happen late in the season. It would rob Oklahoma of its best chance for landing a marquee win. And Baylor, by defeating the Sooners, would theoretically surge ahead in the Big 12 playoff pecking order. So I don't see Oklahoma making the playoff without a win over the Bears.
@Jake_Trotter I believe the hype this year about OU. But if 1 loss to lets say Baylor could we still get into playoff?— Rocket Raccoon!!! (@Samy_III) August 21, 2014
Trotter: I can't see it, not this year at least. This isn't the Big 12 of 2008. Let's assume that the playoff would at the least include Florida State and the SEC champ. The Big 12 then getting two teams in would entail the playoff committee leaving out the champs from the Pac-12 and Big Ten, plus a potential second team from the SEC. There are a couple scenarios, however, where it might be feasible. Say Kansas State beats Auburn, loses at Oklahoma, but beats Baylor in the season finale. An 11-1 K-State would be an attractive second Big 12 playoff possibility (along with, say, an undefeated Oklahoma) because of the marquee non-conference victory over Auburn and the marquee win at the end of the season in Waco. So it's not impossible. Then again, it's probably more likely that the Big 12 gets left out completely than it gets two teams in.
@Jake_Trotter Do you foresee a way in which two Big 12 teams could make the playoffs, possibly facing off against each other?— Nick Lawton (@NickLawtonKTVE) August 21, 2014
Trotter: Deante Burton is the player to watch. He had a big spring, and has the size and strength to go up and get the ball downfield. With every defense focused on containing Lockett, Burton should get plenty of one-to-one opportunities.
@Jake_Trotter Besides Tyler Lockett, who do you see emerging as another playmaker in Wildcats' offense?— Laura Forster (@LauraBForster) August 21, 2014
Trotter: Some possibilities include: Baylor-Oklahoma on Nov. 8; the Red River Showdown on Oct. 11; Kansas State-Oklahoma on Oct. 18; Baylor-Texas on Oct. 4; and Oklahoma-Texas Tech on Nov. 15. DeMarcus Robinson nor Charles Jones nor Jarvis Leverett seized the job in the spring gives Dalvin Warmack the chance. It's been radio silence in Manhattan the last week or so. But if Bill Snyder (who likes redshirting his freshmen) announces before the opener he's not going to redshirt Warmack, that will be the sign that Warmack is going to play a lot.
@Jake_Trotter What Big12 games do you think could possibly be GameDay?— Garrett Purcell (@GarrettPurcell2) August 21, 2014
Trotter: If West Virginia gets back to a bowl game facing such a difficult schedule, I would consider it to be a successful season. Especially with what the Mountaineers would have coming back for 2015.
@Jake_Trotter what would be a successful season for WVU?— Sam Fisher (@sfisher46) August 21, 2014
Trotter: Texas has one of the most iconic looks in all of college football. Many schools need alternate uniforms to grab the attention of recruits and generate energy in their programs. Texas is not one of them.
@Jake_Trotter Keeping on the alternative uniform track: Why doesn't Texas have alternative uniforms? What will it take to change this?— Mike Elias (@MikeEliasC) August 21, 2014
Here's where the battle stands:
Contenders: sophomore Ahmad Thomas, sophomore Hatari Byrd, freshman Steven Parker.
What happened last season: Returning starter Quentin Hayes and departed starter Gabe Lynn were a solid safety duo for the Sooners in 2013. They combined for 133 tackles and six interceptions. Hayes' versatility was an asset during his first season as a starter, and Lynn provided a veteran presence during his first and only season at safety.
Byrd saw limited duty as a true freshman but was solid in his lone extended action against Tulsa after an injury forced Lynn out of that early-season contest.
Thomas got better and better as the season went along. He was a core member of OU’s special teams and worked himself into the defensive rotation late in the season.
Parker arrived on campus this summer as the No. 139 player in the ESPN 300 for the Class of 2014.
Replacing Lynn has been a focus for the Sooners this offseason. Lynn and cornerback Aaron Colvin are the lone starters OU’s defense must replace heading into this season.
What they offer: It’s quite possible the Sooners’ safeties will be even better this fall, as all three contenders for playing time at the position appear to be securing themselves roles in the defense.
Thomas and Byrd have been so good that Hayes has migrated into the nickelback slot vacated by Julian Wilson, who has moved to cornerback to replace Colvin. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Thomas and Byrd alongside each other at safety this season, with Parker battling to earn time with the first team while providing a quality backup option.
Byrd is a fierce hitter with leadership traits that should allow him to develop into an important voice in the secondary. He’s made a clear jump from his freshman to sophomore season.
Thomas appears to be on the road to stardom. He can do it all in the secondary with good range, instincts and playmaking ability from his safety spot.
OU coaches have praised Parker as one of the most prepared freshmen they’ve seen, and he could force his way onto the field with his versatility and coverage skills.
Prediction: The Sooners will not only replace Lynn, they will use three safeties on the field at the same time quite a bit this fall. The emergence of the young safeties have made it easier to replace Colvin with Wilson’s move from nickelback to cornerback and Hayes' move from safety to nickelback. It’s all been done with an effort to get the Sooners' best 11 players on the field. OU’s safeties could be both younger and better in 2014 than they were in 2013.
Look for an uptick in conference recruiting as the fall approaches, but here’s an analysis on how Big 12 teams are looking as of now for the Class of 2015.
"The Big 12 is a quarterback league," the Horned Frogs senior said. "When the game is on the line, the ball will be in the air."
Yet the Big 12 seemed to lose its way a year ago.
Outside of the exploits of Baylor’s Bryce Petty or Texas Tech’s true freshman duo of Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield, quarterbacking in the conference took a clear step backward.
The Bears and Red Raiders were the only Big 12 teams that finished in the top 25 in the FBS in passing yards or averaged more than 300 passing yards per game. Two seasons ago, in 2012, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia joined Baylor and Tech in the top 10 in that category and averaged at least 330 passing yards per contest.
"I think time will take care of that," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. "There were so many years with top-notch guys that got drafted. It’s the same schools, recruiting the same kids, being coached by the same guys and playing the same type of ball in the Big 12 for the last decade and a half. Time will tell."
Petty is the unquestioned face of Big 12 quarterbacks heading into 2014, the guy every team in the conference would love to call its own. He’s an ultraproductive, experienced leader who still has room to grow as a senior. Alongside Petty, the league features young talents led by Tech’s Webb and OU’s Trevor Knight. Kansas State’s Jake Waters, Kansas’ Montell Cozart and West Virginia’s Clint Trickett are other Big 12 quarterbacks who entered preseason camp as clear starters at their respective schools and still have room to grow as quarterbacks.
"I just think they have to get older," Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said of the Big 12’s return to prominence at quarterback. "I don’t think it’s anything other than that. You have some stars that are younger guys getting broken in in this league. They’re a year older, year wiser. You had such a good run of three or four years, now it’s these guys’ chance."
That run is well-documented. No league supplied the NFL with more first- or second-round picks in the past five NFL drafts then the Big 12. Six quarterbacks who played in the conference have been drafted in the first two rounds since 2010, including a No. 1 overall pick in Oklahoma's Sam Bradford. The SEC and Pac-12 are tied for second with three apiece during that span.
The trend slowed a bit in recent years, as former West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith is the lone quarterback who played in the Big 12 to be drafted in the first two rounds in the past two drafts. But Petty, who enters the season as Mel Kiper's top-ranked senior quarterback, could hear his name called in Round 1 or 2 of the 2015 NFL draft, while Knight or Webb could find themselves in a similar position if their development continues during the rest of their careers.
Petty's proactive nature has helped cement his reputation as the Big 12's top quarterback, as he has refused to be satisfied with the accolades he earned a year ago. The Midlothian, Texas, native spent some of his offseason with quarterback guru George Whitfield, who has played a key role in Petty’s development. Petty says he would recommend time with Whitfield to any young quarterback looking to excel in the Big 12.
"When we have breaks, I want to work," Petty said. "A lot of times, because of NCAA regulations, I can’t do that with my coach [at Baylor], so Coach Whitfield is kind of my outlet to keep working."
It’s an approach Kansas coach Charlie Weis understands. The veteran coach believes the quarterback position has been in need of better coaching, be it individual quarterbacks coaches or more detailed coaching at their school, for years.
"I think the quarterback position used to be the most undercoached position, of all positions, even though it's the most important," Weis said. "Usually it’s because the title of quarterbacks coach almost always went to the offensive coordinator who has to worry about every single position. I think having a quarterbacks coach helps every offensive coordinator invaluably. It’s easily the most important position on your team."
Improved coaching is just one aspect. Simple game experience is another. The value of playing games in the conference is just as invaluable. At this time a year ago, none of Big 12’s top quarterbacks in 2013 were proven commodities.
"Each and every year, there have been guys emerge that were ‘no name’ guys because of youth or inexperience. Or they just hadn’t matured or developed yet," Holgorsen said. "We have some young guys that will make a name for themselves, probably starting this year."
Petty went from unproven to Heisman Trophy candidate and Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year. Webb was a true freshman fighting for a job, and Knight was about to be named OU’s starting signal-caller. Twelve months later, that trio represents the Big 12’s biggest hope for a return to the forefront of the elite quarterback landscape in college football.
"I think our league has a reputation and commitment to throw the football," OU co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said. "And because of that, we develop quarterbacks in our league, and I think we’ll see a strong group this year."
That’s what I asked the 65 coaches from the Power Five conferences and Notre Dame to do. Describe their team in one word.
Some coaches were one-word wonders, but a few insisted they needed two words. That’s fine because the descriptions shed some insight into how coaches view their team and/or what they want the public perception of their team to be.
In all, the 65 coaches used 44 different descriptions.
Well, here’s to taking it one “word” at a time. My word: Enjoy.
Baylor’s Art Briles: Mad
Iowa State’s Paul Rhoads: Hungry
Kansas’ Charlie Weis: Quiet confidence
Kansas State’s Bill Snyder: Valued
Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops: Hard working
Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy: Youthful
TCU’s Gary Patterson: Unknown
Texas’ Charlie Strong: Hard work
Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury: Improved
West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen: Experienced
After announcing that he'd be listing his five official visits, Marshall tweeted six schools, as Florida State, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Texas all made the list. The five-star prospect offered a little clarity, saying he is town between Oklahoma and Texas, then asked the fan bases of those two schools to help him decide which to see for his fifth visit.
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Here we go:
QB: Bryce Petty, Baylor
Easy choice. Petty is the reigning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year after he threw for 4,200 yards and 32 touchdowns with just three picks. He should be even better in Year 2 as a starter.
RB: Johnathan Gray, Texas
Malcolm Brown finished strong in place of Gray the past season, but there’s a reason Gray was Texas’ No. 1 back before he suffered an Achilles injury. Gray is healthy again, which gives Texas the best one-two punch at running back in the league.
RB: Shock Linwood, Baylor
Despite being Baylor’s third-string running back the past season, Linwood still finished sixth in the Big 12 in rushing. He’s the featured back now and could wind up the league’s top rusher.
WR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
Lockett was literally uncoverable at times last year. Just ask Texas, Oklahoma and Michigan, which surrendered a combined 631 receiving yards and six touchdowns to Lockett. With Jake Waters settled in at quarterback, Lockett could put up even bigger numbers in 2014.
WR: Antwan Goodley, Baylor
Goodley might have been the most improved player in the league the past season. He was also one of the most dominant, with 1,339 receiving yards and a national-best five catches of 60 yards or more.
TE: E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State
With Jace Amaro gone, Bibbs takes over as the top receiving tight end threat in the league. Only Amaro had more catches and yards than Bibbs among Big 12 tight ends the past season.
OT: Spencer Drango, Baylor
With Drango in the lineup, Petty was sacked only eight times through the Bears’ first nine games last year. After Drango was sidelined with a back injury, Petty was sacked nine times in Baylor’s last four games. Suffice it to say, Petty is glad to have Drango back protecting his blindside.
OG: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech
The Red Raiders previously had plans to move Clark inside to guard, but they still have him manning left tackle this season. Whether he stays at the bookend or slides to guard, Clark is one of the most dominating offensive linemen in the league.
C: BJ Finney, Kansas State
Finney owns a Big 12-best 39 starts over the past three years. The former walk-on is also a two-time first-team All-Big 12 selection and will be the favorite to garner such recognition again as the linchpin of the K-State offensive line.
OG: Cody Whitehair, Kansas State
Whitehair is capable of manning either guard or tackle, but the Wildcats will be showing their trust in him by asking him to protect Waters’ blindside this season.
OT: Daryl Williams, Oklahoma
Williams is the best piece on the league’s best offensive line, which returns four starters and plenty of capable backups.
AP: Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech
Grant finished sixth in the league in receiving yards per game, despite being the third option in Tech’s passing attack the past season. Grant is now the first option in the passing game, as well as an electric playmaker on special teams.
K: Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma
The Sooners have never had an All-American kicker before, but they have a strong candidate in Hunnicutt, who converted 24 of 27 field goals the past season.
DE: Ryan Mueller, Kansas State
In 2013, Mueller finished with 11.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss, which were second in the league only to Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Jackson Jeffcoat. Mueller, who also forced four fumbles, has one of the conference’s best noses for finding the ball.
DT: Chucky Hunter, TCU
The Horned Frogs still had a formidable front the past season, even without Devonte Fields, due in large part to Hunter. TCU won’t have Fields again. But Hunter is back to anchor a defensive line loaded with quality players.
DT: Malcom Brown, Texas
This former blue-chipper broke out the past season with 68 tackles, including 12 for loss. He and Cedric Reed team up to form the best inside-outside defensive line combination in the league.
DE: Cedric Reed, Texas
Reed was third in the Big 12 in 2013 with 10 sacks, fourth with 19 tackles for loss and tied for first with five forced fumbles. He gives the Longhorns a chance to feature the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season.
LB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma
When it comes to rushing the passer, there’s no one better in the league. Striker has spent this offseason refining other parts of his game to become a more complete player. But his pass rushing alone makes him one of the top players in the league.
LB: Ben Heeney, Kansas
Heeney was a tackling machine last year for a defense that performed valiantly despite getting little help from its offense. Heeney will get plenty of help from his defense, though, which returns eight other starters.
LB: Bryce Hager, Baylor
Hager has notched 195 tackles over the past two seasons, while twice earning second-team All-Big 12 honors. With Ahmad Dixon and Eddie Lackey gone, he takes over as the leader of a defense angling to prove it can be as good as the past year’s.
CB: Quandre Diggs, Texas
Diggs, who has never been afraid to speak his mind, is the heart and soul of the Longhorns. If the rest of the team takes on his mentality, Texas could have one feisty team in Charlie Strong’s first season.
CB: Daryl Worley, West Virginia
Despite being just a second-year player, Worley has already taken over as one of the vocal leaders of the West Virginia defense. He’s also already one of the best cover corners in the league.
SS: Sam Carter, TCU
Carter has nine interceptions the past two years, the most of any returning Big 12 player. He leads arguably the best secondary in the league, too.
FS: Karl Joseph, West Virginia
Joseph has started all 25 games for the Mountaineers since he stepped foot in Morgantown. No other returning Big 12 defensive back has more career tackles than Joseph’s 170.
P: Nick O'Toole, West Virginia
The “Boomstache” ranked 15th nationally last year, with an average of 44.1 yards per punt. He also has the best mustache in the league, which has to count for something.
Here’s a look at how each Big 12 coach has fared against the AP Top 25 at their current school. For a look at their career record, you can go to the original piece on The Wall Street Journal’s website.
Art Briles at Baylor: 7-19
Paul Rhoads at Iowa State: 4-19
Charlie Weis at Kansas: 0-8
Bill Snyder at Kansas State: 23-43
Bob Stoops at Oklahoma: 50-23
Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State: 15-20
Gary Patterson at TCU: 14-14
Charlie Strong at Texas: 0-0 (2-2 at Louisville)
Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech: 2-3
Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia: 5-6
A few quick thoughts:
- These numbers just reinforce Stoops' ability to win games against top competition. People like to point at OU’s Allstate Sugar Bowl win over Alabama as the return of “Big Game Bob” but that conveniently overlooks road wins at Florida State and Notre Dame in games that garnered plenty of national attention in the past three years.
- It shouldn’t be a surprise to see Gary Patterson join Stoops as the lone current Big 12 coaches with a record of .500 or better against AP Top 25 teams. A couple of substandard seasons in the Big 12 shouldn’t completely erase years of dominating performances from the Horned Frogs under Patterson.
- It’s quite revealing to see Kingsbury has faced more AP Top 25 teams than Strong. In one season at Tech, Kingsbury saw a Top 25 squad five different times yet Strong coached four games against AP Top 25 teams in four seasons at Louisville. It will be interesting to see how Strong handles the clear step up in competition, week in and week out.
- Four wins against AP Top 25 teams shows the ability of Paul Rhoads to get the best out of his Iowa State teams. His 4-19 record isn’t great but it could be a lot worse.
- Bill Snyder and Mike Gundy rank second and third in total wins against AP Top 25 teams which is to be expected as Snyder at KSU and Gundy at OSU have taken their programs to previously unseen levels during their time as head coach at their respective schools.
- Holgorsen's 5-6 record is solid, particularly for a coach on the hot seat heading into the season. His five wins against AP Top 25 teams in three seasons at WVU could be one reason not to overlook the Mountaineers' chances to surprise in 2014.
After Bryce Petty, Davis Webb, Trevor Knight and Jake Waters, who will lead the Big 12 in passing?
Chatmon: This is a tough one, but I’m going to go with West Virginia’s Clint Trickett. The Mountaineers have the skill-position talent to support Trickett, and the senior has a year of experience in Dana Holgorsen’s offense under his belt. I fully expect to see an improved Mountaineers’ offense and Trickett should play a key role in that improvement.
Olson: Gee, we’ve really narrowed that down, haven’t we? The best way I can put my answer is this: Oklahoma State will finish with more passing yards as a team than Texas, so I guess I have to go with J.W. Walsh. While I can envision Daxx Garman earning a couple starts at some point, I still think Walsh will put up good numbers. David Ash might be a smarter choice here, but his injury history makes it a tough call.
Trotter: I can’t pick any of the quarterbacks from Oklahoma State or TCU, since it’s still unclear how much any of them will play. And I can’t go with Montell Cozart, given that his best asset right now is his wheels. That leaves Ash, Trickett and Sam B. Richardson. Ash has an injury history. Then again, so do Trickett and Richardson.And while West Virginia and Iowa State have other intriguing quarterback options, Texas really does not.This is Ash’s show. And he has shown at times in the past he has the ability to put up big passing numbers.
Chatmon: Johnathan Gray is a easy choice for me. A healthy Gray is easily the best running back in the Big 12, and Texas’ offense will be built around its running game. Gray, who has a 4.8 yards-per-carry average in his career, will get plenty of opportunities, and he will take advantage of them.
Olson: Gray. It’s a really difficult prediction because I do think Shock Linwood will surpass 1,000 yards. I also think Baylor loves Devin Chafin and Johnny Jefferson enough that there’s going to be a equitable sharing of carries in Waco. Texas, meanwhile, won’t have Baylor’s passing game and should go all-in on a run-first mentality. Gray was on pace for more than 1,100 yards last year before his Achilles tear. He’s healthy again, and I think he can have a huge year.
Trotter: I have to agree with Brandon and Max. When healthy, Gray has proven to be the best all-around back in the league, and he is the best bet here. But keep an eye on Oklahoma State running back Tyreek Hill. If the Cowboys make him their offensive workhorse, he has the big-play ability to have a monster season. Sure, durability would be a question. But speed would not.
After Tyler Lockett and Antwan Goodley, who will lead the Big 12 in receiving?
Chatmon: Jakeem Grant immediately comes to mind here, but I’m going to go with Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard. The Sooners’ passing game should be improved with an improved Knight, and Shepard has the skills to make defenses play for leaving him in one-on-one situations. Grant will garner increased attention from secondaries while Shepard, helped by OU’s running game, should have more chances to make game-changing plays.
Olson: Did you know: In 2013, six of the Big 12’s top eight receivers in yardage played for either Baylor or Texas Tech. So I would be pretty stupid not to go with Grant here. Not only was he one of those six and very productive as a No. 3 option, but he’s also going to get a nice chunk of the 106 receptions (!) and 152 targets (!!!) that went to Jace Amaro last year. Tech’s No. 2 option, Eric Ward, had more catches (83) and targets (122) than Goodley. That’s insane. Grant is going to feast on their leftovers.
Trotter: Grant missed two games and was the third banana in Tech’s passing offense last year. And he still finished sixth in the league in receiving. With Ward and Amaro gone, Grant will take over as the Red Raiders’ primary receiving threat. And with quarterback Webb budding with confidence and the Red Raiders primed to air it out, Grant is easily the best bet here.
No. 98 Chuka Ndulue, defensive tackle, 6-foot-3, 289 pounds, senior
Impact thus far: Arguably the most overshadowed contributor on the roster. He’s displayed terrific versatility and production during his time as a Sooner. He’s started 19 of 32 career games with 91 tackles including 12 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. In 2013, he brought a veteran presence to the defensive line with nine starts in 12 games played and 42 total tackles.
Impact in 2014: Ndulue should be a core contributor for the Sooners’ defensive line for the third straight season. His versatility and experience are key assets on a defensive front that could become the Big 12’s best unit.
Long-term upside: Much like 2013, he’s likely to be outshined by Eric Striker, Geneo Grissom, Charles Tapper and the rest of OU’s attacking pass rush, thus missing out on postseason honors, but he’s a key part of the Sooners' defense.
Evaluation grade for Ndulue: A. Anytime a signee becomes a three-year starter, he’s a pretty good evaluation. Brought in as a defensive end, Ndulue should the willingness and ability to move around the defensive line to help OU get its top performers on the field.
Development grade for Ndulue: A. Thanks to a redshirt season in 2010, Ndulue is around to provide a productive, experienced player in the middle of OU’s defensive interior.
"I thought they were kind of small," Oklahoma's veteran coach said during Big 12 media days last month after being asked about trying to replace the Sooners "big" trio of running backs.
Big, small or otherwise, there's no doubting the production of three departed running backs leaves a major hole in the Sooners backfield.
Brennan Clay, Damien Williams and Roy Finch combined for 1,857 of OU's 2,911 rushing yards in 2013. The Sooners return 153 rushing yards from running backs currently on the roster in Keith Ford's 134 and Alex Ross' 19.
Clay, Williams and Finch combined for 348 total carries last season, so plenty of opportunities remain for what could be the Sooners' new trio of Ford, Ross and Perine.
But nobody has separated as at the No. 1 guy during preseason camp. And the Sooners don't expect that to change before they kick off the season against Louisiana Tech on Aug. 30.
"They're all getting snaps now and we'll see how they do early," Stoops said. "A lot will be determined in what they do in their initial opportunities."
Ford is a physical, tough runner, who forced his way onto the field despite having three seniors in Clay, Williams and Finch standing between himself and playing time as a true freshman. He entered the offseason as the favorite to slide into the starting lineup and remains in line to be play a significant role.
Ross brings a terrific size/speed combination to the offensive backfield and was one of the Sooners' stars of the spring.
Perine is the wild card, bringing a big back option to the table at 5-foot-11 and 243 pounds. The No. 220 player in the ESPN300, he appears ready to make an immediate impact as a true freshman.
"He's one of the freshman that has an opportunity to contribute," co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said. "He's a big physical kid, he's taking care of the football and we're gaining confidence in him every day. He runs with his pads very well and he's learned quickly. Kids that play as freshman carry themselves with maturity. And he's done that."
Ford and Ross are likely to sit first in the queue on game day. But, after that, all bets are off.
"You'll find out, sometimes with a running back, when the lights come on, in the [middle] of action how they'll respond," offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. "Ultimately on game day we're going to find out who the guy is."
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BIG 12 SCOREBOARD
12:00 PM ET North Dakota State Iowa State 3:30 PM ET West Virginia 2 Alabama 7:00 PM ET Louisiana Tech 4 Oklahoma 7:00 PM ET Samford TCU 7:00 PM ET Central Arkansas Texas Tech 7:10 PM ET Stephen F. Austin 20 Kansas State 8:00 PM ET North Texas Texas 8:00 PM ET 1 Florida State Oklahoma State