Charlie StrongAP Photo/Eric GayCan Charlie Strong put the Longhorns back in the mix of contenders in his first season?
As we count down 50 days until the start of the 2014 college football season, ESPN Insider Travis Haney is answering at least one big question a day until South Carolina and Texas A&M’s kickoff Aug. 28.

Heisman contenders, breakout freshmen, conference winners -- it will all be covered as part of Insider’s Ultimate Season Preview.


Today’s question: Could the Texas Longhorns be a surprise contender in the Big 12?

It feels a little early to project the Longhorns as a viable threat in Charlie Strong’s first season. But when you start looking around the league, it doesn’t feel all that far-fetched.

Assuming the Oklahoma Sooners and Baylor Bears are the favorites, that next tier is rather open.
Our series of preseason picks for every single Big 12 game of 2014 continues today with Week 12. Not a good week to be the home team, evidently.

More Big 12 predictions for 2014.

Texas 28, at Oklahoma State 27: Even with the Pokes in the bottom half of the Big 12 standings, you knew this game was going to be a tricky one for Texas. The Longhorns find the end zone with 2 minutes left -- no controversial fumble this time, either -- and Charlie Strong's defense clamps down once J.W. Walsh crosses the 50, securing victory with a fourth-down sack off the edge on a risky blitz from Quandre Diggs.

TCU 35, at Kansas 15: TCU lets the Jayhawks into the red zone too many times early on, but keeps forcing field goals and rallies in the third on some big-time playmaking from Trevone Boykin, who notches a touchdown reception and a long touchdown run as a Wildcat quarterback. The missed opportunities in the first half cost KU a chance to capitalize off its win over ISU the week before.

Oklahoma 38, at Texas Tech 34: The Trevor Knight vs. Davis Webb duel, with the crown for the Big 12's second-best QB on the line, does not disappoint. Tech takes a double-digit lead into the start of the fourth quarter, but Knight flips the switch with heroics that can only be described as Sugar Bowl-caliber and connects with Taylor McNamara on third-and-goal for the go-ahead score in the final minute to clinch victory in a downright brawl.

Current Big 12 standings

1. Oklahoma -- 9-1, 6-1
2. Kansas State -- 7-2, 5-1
3. Baylor -- 7-2, 4-2
4. Texas -- 7-4, 5-3
5. TCU -- 7-3, 4-3
6. Texas Tech -- 6-4, 3-4
7. Oklahoma State -- 5-5, 3-4
8. West Virginia -- 4-6, 3-3
9. Kansas -- 3-7, 1-6
10. Iowa State -- 2-7, 0-6
DALLAS -- The first day of Big 12 media days delivered several compelling storylines. Here's what to expect from Day 2 in Dallas:

Iowa State Cyclones

Attending: Coach Paul Rhoads, tight end E.J. Bibbs, center Tom Farniok, defensive end Cory Morrissey, linebacker Jevohn Miller.

Storyline: The Cyclones missed out on a bowl game last season after back-to-back appearances. But Rhoads appears to have the offensive pieces to get back to bowl eligibility. Bibbs was a preseason All-Big 12 selection, and Farniok leads an offensive line that trails only Oklahoma in the league in career starts. Rhoads appears to have the offensive coordinator, too. Mark Mangino has returned to the Big 12 after four years away from coaching in the FBS. Mangino's résumé includes a national championship as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, and an Orange Bowl victory as the head coach at Kansas.

Kansas State Wildcats

Attending: Coach Bill Snyder, quarterback Jake Waters, receiver Tyler Lockett, center BJ Finney, defensive end Ryan Mueller, linebacker Jonathan Truman.

Storyline: From start to end, the Wildcats were the most improved team in the Big 12 last season. The biggest reason was the emergence of Waters at quarterback during the second half of the year. Waters actually outperformed Baylor quarterback and Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year Bryce Petty during the final seven games in QBR. Waters has one of college football's top playmakers to throw to again in Lockett, and the team is solid again on both sides of the trenches. Snyder's squads usually improve over the course of a season. But if K-State starts out this season the way it finished the previous, look out.

Oklahoma Sooners

Attending: Coach Bob Stoops, quarterback Trevor Knight, offensive tackle Daryl Williams, defensive end Geneo Grissom, safety Julian Wilson.

Storyline: After a brief malaise, the bloom is back on Oklahoma. That's what a 45-31 bowl win over the preeminent program in college football will do. But can the Sooners carry over the momentum generated from the Alabama win into this season? The answer to that question will depend largely on Knight, the sophomore quarterback. In the Sugar Bowl, Knight was sensational, throwing for 348 yards and four touchdowns. But he has started and finished only three games in his young career. If he can rekindle the Sugar Bowl magic, the Sooners will push for inclusion in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Texas Longhorns

Attending: Coach Charlie Strong, running back Malcolm Brown, center Dominic Espinosa, defensive end Cedric Reed, cornerback Quandre Diggs.

Storyline: The Strong era is afoot in Austin.

Regardless of what he has or hasn't said this offseason to boosters or high school coaches, Strong ultimately will be measured by how many games he wins on the field. At almost every position, the Longhorns are equipped for success. But that won't amount to much if they don't get better quarterbacking than they have the previous four seasons. That makes David Ash the most important player on the roster. He missed almost all of last season with concussion issues and then the spring with a fractured foot. If Ash can stay healthy, the Longhorns can make a serious run in the Big 12. If he can't, the Strong era could be off to a tumultuous start.

West Virginia Mountaineers

Attending: Coach Dana Holgorsen, receiver Kevin White, cornerback Daryl Worley, punter Nick O'Toole.

Storyline: It's make-or-break time for Holgorsen, who has produced a pair of mediocre seasons in West Virginia's first two years in the Big 12. The schedule is brutal, but that won't discharge Holgorsen from showing improvement from last year's 4-8 season. The Mountaineers have good running backs and receivers. But do they have the answer at quarterback? Holgorsen unexpectedly gave the early nod this summer to Clint Trickett, even though he missed all of spring ball recovering from shoulder surgery. Holgorsen's fate figures to be intertwined with that of his senior quarterback.
If you see members of the Texas Longhorns coaching staff smiling during Tuesday's Big 12 media day session, don't be surprised if it's because of its newest commitment.

ESPN 300 athlete Louis Brown became the Longhorns' 12th pledge of the 2015 class Monday night. Ranked the nation's No. 20 athlete, Brown is expected to play defensive end in college.

video 

Jake Trotter and Max Olson discuss Big 12 media days Day 1.

QB David Ash cleared to practice

July, 21, 2014
Jul 21
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[+] EnlargeDavid Ash
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesDavid Ash, who missed most of last season with concussion symptoms and part of spring drills with a broken left foot, has been cleared for contact.

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas quarterback David Ash has been cleared to participate in contact drills when the Longhorns return for training camp.

Ash missed most of last season with concussion symptoms and missed part of spring drills with a broken left foot.

Trainer Anthony Pass also cleared sophomore running back Johnathan Gray, who missed part of last season with an Achilles tendon injury. Senior linebacker Jordan Hicks, who had hip and Achilles tendon injuries the last two seasons, also has been cleared to practice.

Texas starts the season under new coach Charlie Strong on Aug. 30 at home against North Texas.


(Read full post)


Big 12 recruiting scorecard

July, 21, 2014
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The Big 12's head coaches are in Dallas today for Big 12 media days, but that doesn't mean they aren't busy as usual recruiting like crazy. The latest on each Big 12 program's recruiting efforts:

BAYLOR
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Bears are capitalizing on their 2013 success in a big way for the future: Baylor might have the nation's top 2016 recruiting class at this point with six verbal pledges. Baylor landed one of its most impressive victories in a long time Friday when offensive tackle Patrick Hudson, a top-20 prospect for 2016, flipped to BU after being committed to Texas A&M for nearly four months. But that's not all. Art Briles and his staff also landed receiver Tren'Davian Dickson and local defensive back Eric Cuffee this weekend and locked up a big-time talent last week in ESPN Junior 300 running back Kameron Martin.

IOWA STATE
Total commits: 6
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: We mentioned him in last week's Big 12 scorecard, and the big week is finally here. Running back Devine Ozigbo is set to announce his commitment on Tuesday at 2 p.m., and trimmed his list of 20 offense down to three: Iowa, Iowa State and Boise State. The three-star back is a top-100 recruit in the state of Texas and would be an important get for the Cyclones who could play right away for them.

KANSAS
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: When you're able to get a player as talented as receiver Kevin Thomas on campus, you've got to lock him up. The Jayhawks did just that last week, securing a commitment from the three-star wideout from Texas powerhouse DeSoto High School, during his unofficial visit. Thomas chose KU over offers from the likes of Wisconsin, Nebraska and Clemson and is now KU's highest-rated pledge.

KANSAS STATE
Total commits: 8
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcat's newest commitment came from three-star defensive end Josh Little of Oklahoma City Millwood. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound lineman picked KSU over a handful of offers, including from Arizona State, Purdue, Washington State and Iowa State. Little hails from the same high school that produced All-Big 12 receiver Tyler Lockett and racked up 76 tackles and five sacks as a junior.

OKLAHOMA
Total commits: 7
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: Former Sooners commit defensive tackle Du'Vonta Lampkin has set a decision date for Sept. 15, and he still has OU in his final three. The three-star recruit from Houston Cypress Falls is down to OU, Texas and LSU. While Texas is currently in the lead, Lampkin is planning to give the Sooners one last chance to sway him with his official visit for the Sept. 13 game against Tennessee.

OKLAHOMA STATE
Total commits: 8
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Three-star offensive tackle Joshua Jones released his top five this weekend and Oklahoma State made the list along with TCU, Texas Tech, Purdue and Wake Forest. The big 6-foot-6, 271-pound lineman hails from Bush High School in the Houston area, and it wouldn't be a surprise if this comes down to an OSU-TCU battle.

TCU
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: TCU landed its first verbal commit for the class of 2016, from defensive end Jonathan Marshall, during its final summer camp. The Shepherd, Texas, standout is 6-foot-3 and 256 pounds and had early offers from Oklahoma State and North Texas. It's possible another commitment could come Monday from three-star DeSoto (Texas) defensive tackle Bryce English, a former Texas commit who is set to choose between TCU, Arkansas, Arizona State and UCLA.

TEXAS
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: Texas did not land any new commitments off its inaugural "Under The Lights" camp on Friday, but ESPN Junior 300 offensive tackle J.P. Urquidez came close to announcing a decision Saturday and has Texas and Baylor at the top of his list. The Longhorns also hosted a critical unofficial visit from four-star QB Kai Locksley and his father, Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley. He's set to make a commitment to either UT, Florida State or Maryland during his season opener.

TEXAS TECH
Total commits: 7
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: The Red Raiders got a big opportunity recently to ensure one of their top commits stays in the fold. Three-star running back Corey Dauphine, who has long been rumored to be considering a flip to Texas A&M or Baylor, took an unofficial visit to Lubbock and went home saying he felt 100-percent solid with his commitment. Dauphine could still take a trip to A&M in early August, but this was a big step in the right direction for Tech's chances.

WEST VIRGINIA
Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: WVU's newest pledge should be a familiar name: Three-star QB David Sills. As a 13-year-old, he made a (very) early commitment to USC and then-coach Lane Kiffin. He went back on the market this year -- he didn't have much of a relationship with Steve Sarkisian -- and the Mountaineers won out for the standout from Eastern Christian Academy in Maryland. Stills is up to 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds and should be a fairly polished passer when he arrives in Morgantown after years of training with famed QB coach Steve Clarkson.
Our series of preseason picks for every single Big 12 game of 2014 continues today with Week 11. Oklahoma and Baylor, the preseason favorites in the Big 12, face off at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in one of the season's most anticipated games.

More Big 12 predictions for 2014.

at Kansas 35, Iowa State 34: One of the most entertaining games of the season goes largely unnoticed as the Jayhawks and Cyclones offenses go back-and-forth in the fourth quarter. A late Montell Cozart touchdown run followed by an interception by Ben Heeney cements the win for KU.

Kansas State 23, at TCU 20: Bill Snyder’s squad uses a Tyler Lockett kickoff return for a touchdown and a late TCU turnover to grab the road win over the Horned Frogs and further cement its place among Big 12 title contenders. Neither offense is stellar but K-State makes key plays and key conversions when they need them while TCU’s offense fails in those key moments, ultimately providing the difference as K-State improves to 5-1 in the Big 12.

at Texas 31, West Virginia 21: With UT treading water at .500 in Big 12 play, the Longhorns take on an “us against the world” mentality and begin what they hope will be late-season rally, starting with a home win over the Mountaineers. Longhorn running back Johnathan Gray finishes with 150 yards and two scores as WVU’s defense doesn’t have an answer for the Longhorns running game.

at Oklahoma 35, Baylor 24: The Sooners defense is stellar against Baylor’s offense, limiting the Bears to three touchdowns while forcing two turnovers that set up a pair of Sooners scores. OU's Trevor Knight outduels BU's Bryce Petty, throwing for two touchdowns and zero interceptions while Petty’s two touchdown tosses are offset by an interception and fumble. And four different OU defenders record sacks as OU harasses Petty into one of his worst games of the year. Ultimately, the hostile road environment at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium is too much for Art Briles' group to overcome as the Sooners cement themselves in the driver's seat in the Big 12 title race.

Current Big 12 standings

1. Oklahoma -- 8-1, 5-1
2. Kansas State -- 7-2, 5-1
3. Baylor -- 7-2, 4-2
4. Texas -- 6-4, 4-3
5. TCU -- 6-3, 3-3
6. Texas Tech -- 6-3, 3-3
7. Oklahoma State -- 5-4, 3-3
8. West Virginia -- 4-6, 3-3
9. Kansas -- 3-6, 1-5
10. Iowa State -- 2-7, 0-6
video

Longhorns coach Charlie Strong explains how he is putting the "T" back in Texas.
Texas held its first-ever "Under The Lights" night camp inside Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Friday. While the event did not immediately result in new scholarship offers or commitments, we still learned plenty from Charlie Strong's final summer camp of 2014, which featured well more than 100 participants including at least 30 ESPN 300 prospects. Here's what stood out:

1. Out-of-state commits shine

Zach Gentry had seen his future teammates on recruiting websites and kept up with them via one long group text message. But Friday's camp provided the ESPN 300 quarterback commit the first real chance for him meet the rest of the class -- and for them to meet him.

The Albuquerque, New Mexico, native flew out for the night camp and lived up to the legends of his startling size -- he's now 6-foot-7 and 237 pounds, and swears he's done growing -- while performing well under Shawn Watson's tutelage.

Gentry gravitated toward two other Texas commits with whom he shares plenty in common as outsiders: 2015 RB Kirk Johnson and 2016 WR Collin Johnson. The committed brothers from San Jose, California, made their third trip to Austin and earned rave reviews. Collin, a ESPN Junior 300 prospect, was especially impressive with 6-foot-4 size and major leaping ability.



The Johnson brothers are proud to say they did their part to ensure Gentry joined the class in May, and the trio stays in touch frequently. Surely they'll soon reach out to their newest out-of-state future teammate, Garrett Thomas of Many, Louisiana. The four-star tackle did make it to Austin as well Friday after delivering his commitment last week.

Another out-of-state recruit everyone was watching Friday: four-star QB Kai Locksley. He made his first visit to Austin this weekend and brought along father Mike Locksley, Maryland's offensive coordinator. Locksley showed off a quick release and impressive athleticism. Heck, he might be just as good a receiver at the next level, too.

Strong and Watson dedicated a lot of time to Locksley and his father after the camp wrapped up. It's going to be Texas, Florida State or Maryland in the end, and Locksley said he wants to make his decision soon.

2. Young linemen didn't disappoint

By the end of the night, most of the recruits who were getting significant buzz for their performances were underclassmen defensive linemen.

Fort Worth (Texas) All Saints defensive tackle Mike Williams, an ESPN Junior 300 prospect, was one of the breakout stars of the night and got plenty of attention from the coaching staff afterward. As usual, massive DT Kendell Jones of Killeen (Texas) Shoemaker was a star. The 6-5, 310-pound big man ranked No. 36 in the ESPN Junior 300 has visited Texas at least three times this year, including two camp trips.

Another player we'll all be talking about a year or two from now was Houston Episcopal's Marvin Wilson. The 6-foot-4, 285-pound defensive tackle, a 2017 prospect, said after the camp the Longhorns are his early No. 1 school ahead of TCU, Ohio State and Texas A&M. Texas also got one of the state's best at camp in Houston Westfield DT Edward Oliver. He'll be as coveted as any in-state defensive lineman in the 2016 class.

3. Brown an exciting project

New defensive line coach Chris Rumph had to be just as excited about what he saw from the defensive ends, particularly ESPN 300 athlete Louis Brown and Texas three-star commit Charles Omenihu.

Brown, a former Baylor commit capable of playing defensive line, linebacker or tight end, shined in 1-on-1 work as a speed-rushing end. In fact, on back-to-back reps, he easily got past one of the camp's best linemen, coveted 2016 tackle J.P. Urquidez. For a kid from a small Class 2A school (Burton) who isn't used to big-time competition, Brown was unfazed.

Omenihu has been bulking up and received plenty of pointers during the camp from preseason All-Big 12 end Cedric Reed. It was clear throughout the night that Omenihu and Brown have a good bond. Brown will be a project early on in college, especially in the weight room at 6-5 and 210 pounds, but there's big potential. It's probably a safe bet he ends up choosing the Longhorns.

4. Commitments coming soon?

In addition to Brown, we'll give you three more recruits who might be on commitment watch in the not-too-distant future.

Three-star center Tyler Moore (Houston/North Shore) already has his offer and was back at camp. He and his father had an extended conversation with Joe Wickline afterward, but no pledge. Four-star defensive tackle Du'Vonta Lampkin (Houston/Cy Falls) visited Texas before the night camp and left with some news: He's announcing his decision on Sept. 15 and it's down to Texas, Oklahoma and LSU. The former OU pledge has repeatedly said the Longhorns are in the lead.

And keep an eye on WR Ryan Newsome. The ESPN 300 speedster from Aledo, Texas, came down to Austin for a full academic tour on Friday and spent time catching up with close buddy Jerrod Heard. He's not looking to decide until December after five official visits (Texas, Oklahoma, UCLA, Oregon, Tennessee) but admitted he'll be back for several Texas games in the fall, including his official for Baylor-Texas on Oct. 4.

5. The guys on the sideline

The campers who showed up but did not compete on Friday night were truly just as critical.

ESPN 300 cornerbacks Holton Hill and Kris Boyd spent much of the night together watching on the field along with four-star ATH J.W. Ketchum. They spent a lot of time with Texas freshman safety John Bonney, who played with Hill last year at Houston Lamar.

Boyd and his brother, 2016 LB Demarco Boyd, visited Baylor on Friday morning and then made the trip down to Austin. Demarco is seen as potentially the key to Kris' decision, and Texas has wisely been recruiting the younger Boyd for a while now.

Texas also hosted the No. 2 recruit in the state for 2016, safety Deontay Anderson, along with a large group of his teammates at Manvel (Texas) High School. Two more big names on the sidelines: Four-star DT Darrion Daniels and ESPN 300 WR John Humphrey Jr., the former Baylor pledge who hopes to earn a UT offer soon.
Our series of preseason picks for every single Big 12 game of 2014 continues today with Week 10, a week that will likely be remembered for battles between teams in the middle of the pack.

More Big 12 predictions for 2014.

at Kansas State 38, Oklahoma State 31, OT: It's not a marquee matchup, but this goes down as one of the better Big 12 games of the season. Kansas State gets a stop on the first possession of overtime, then Tyler Lockett goes for the kill with the 25-yard walk-off touchdown. Back-to-back wins over Texas and OSU have the Powercats back on track.

Texas 40, at Texas Tech 21: The Longhorns notch their sixth consecutive victory over Texas Tech thanks to some wizardry from Daje Johnson, who contributes a rushing touchdown, a receiving touchdown and a bunch of TTU missed tackles in a bounce-back performance. Davis Webb is sharp early on, but has no run game to lean on.

at Baylor 63, Kansas 10: Poor Kansas. Nobody wants to play the angry Bears on this week, after their loss to West Virginia and a bye to recover. Bryce Petty gets the Heisman Trophy campaign back on track with five touchdown passes and three Baylor running backs find the end zone.

at West Virginia 27, TCU 24: The Horned Frogs' fourth-quarter rally comes up just short against the tag team of Rushel Shell and Dreamius Smith, who run wild behind an underrated WVU offensive line and give TCU's linebackers lots of trouble. Dana Holgorsen gets a Red Bull bath as celebration for knocking off the one-loss Frogs.

Oklahoma 45, at Iowa State 13: The Sooners are rolling again and Trevor Knight is growing more confident. Having the powerful Keith Ford (two rushing touchdowns) and the lightning-quick Joe Mixon (65-yard TD run) at his disposal certainly helps. For ISU, there's at least hope on the horizon with a trip to Kansas next on the schedule.

Current Big 12 standings

1. Baylor -- 7-1, 4-1
2. Oklahoma -- 7-1, 4-1
3. Kansas State -- 6-2, 4-1
4. TCU -- 6-2, 3-2
5. Texas Tech -- 6-3, 3-3
6. Texas -- 5-4, 3-3
7. Oklahoma State
-- 5-4, 3-3
8. West Virginia -- 4-5, 3-3
9. Kansas -- 2-6, 0-5
10. Iowa State
-- 2-6, 0-5
In today's mailbag, we discuss TCU's defense, Texas' recruiting and Oklahoma's backfield.

To submit a future mailbag entry, simply go here.

Now, on to the 'bag:


Bo McKown in Charleston, West Virginia writes: Jake, just saw that you were a W&L grad. I play football for the Generals, but I'm also a huge WVU fan. I would love to hear your predictions for this WVU team this upcoming year. If we get decent QB play, I think we could win eight games. If the defense comes along nicely, I think we could put together a solid season. Thoughts?

Trotter: Always great to hear from a fellow General, Bo. I actually believe there’s a good chance West Virginia will be improved this fall. The addition of Tom Bradley to the defensive staff should really bring a calming influence to that unit. There’s also quality depth at running back, receiver, linebacker and in the secondary. But even if Clint Trickett plays well, I’m not sure where the eight wins come from. Essentially, the Mountaineers would have to win five games they probably won’t be favored in. That’s asking a lot. I’m much more bullish on the Generals’ 2014 outlook. Good luck on the upcoming season, Bo.


Mitch in Fort Worth, Texas, writes: Most of what I have read regarding TCU football for 2014 talks only of our new additions for the offense. I was wondering what you knew about new developments in our defense for the 2014 season (not including Devonte Fields returning).

Trotter: The TCU defense should be one of the best in the country. Kevin White looks ready to take over for Jason Verrett as the team’s No. 1 corner. Opposite White, redshirt freshman Ranthony Texada had a tremendous spring and will move into the starting lineup. Junior-college safety Kenny Iloka impressed during the spring as well and will boost an already stout group at safety that includes Sam Carter, Chris Hackett, Derrick Kindred and Geoff Hooker. Of course, the biggest development this offseason was Fields returning to form. He’s the X-factor. If he plays the way he did as a freshman two years ago, look out.


 Eric Robinson in Dayton, Ohio, writes: I read a lot about how Texas is getting bludgeoned on the recruiting trail by Texas A&M. Other than ego, why should Texas care? Shouldn't it be more concerned about what OU and Baylor are doing?

Trotter: They ought to care care, Eric, because those are players that might otherwise be going to Texas. The more talent the Longhorns get, the better they’re likely to be. And the Aggies are snagging players a lot of players that in the past would have ended up in Austin.


 Crimson runner in Tulsa, Okla., writes: Will OU's running game be a one-two punch with Alex Ross and Keith Ford?

Trotter: Maybe more like a three-headed monster. Incoming freshman Joe Mixon has really been turning heads this summer. The Sooners have recruited extremely well at the position. Mixon, Ford and Ross were ranked 53rd, 27th and 70th in the ESPN 300 coming out of high school. All three players figure to get carries, but it will be interesting to see who emerges as the primary running back. Ford showed promise as a true freshman. But a lot of people in Norman think it might be Mixon.



John Madison in Salt Lake City writes: Jake, there has been a lot of buzz around the Red Raiders and something great is growing in Lubbock. Writers and analysts have nodded to the great things happening there, but still Texas Tech is projected to finish 6th or 7th in the conference. Are they really still an underdog in all but three or four games?

Trotter: This might be the first mailbag entry by way of Salt Lake that wasn’t about BYU. The Red Raiders, John, still have much to prove. The win over Arizona State was very encouraging. But before that, Tech lost five straight to the top five teams in the conference by an average margin of more than 20 points. To finish any higher than sixth in the league, the Red Raiders are going to have to show they can beat some of those teams. I think they can this year. But that’s why you don’t see Tech getting picked higher this preseason.

Burnt Orange Breakdown: D. Jackson

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18
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Before Texas begins its first season under Charlie Strong, we took a deep dive this summer into all the talent he inherits in 2014. Our Burnt Orange Breakdown series offered a closer look at each scholarship player returning this fall and what we can expect from him. We went down the entire roster, starting with No. 1 Shiro Davis, and today we complete the series with our final player, No. 99 Desmond Jackson.

No. 99 Desmond Jackson
Senior defensive tackle


Recruitment rewind: The state's top defensive line prospect in 2011 considered two schools: Texas and Alabama. But once Jackson got his Texas offer at a 2010 junior day, he committed on the spot and never wavered. The Houston Westfield standout ranked 31st in the final ESPN 150 for his class, was the state's No. 4 overall recruit and played in the Under Armour All-America Game.

Career so far: Jackson showed flashes as a true freshman, with 10 tackles and two sacks in 12 games, and joined the starting lineup as a sophomore. He started 11 of 13 games and recorded 33 tackles, seven TFLs and two more sacks. He backed up Chris Whaley as a junior until Whaley went down with a torn ACL at West Virginia. Jackson was credited with starts in two of Texas' final four games but was thrust back into a major role to end the year. He worked with the No. 1 defense again in spring ball.

Best-case scenario for 2014: Jackson becomes a consistent problem up the middle for interior linemen, teaming with Malcom Brown to give the Longhorns one of the nation's best defensive tackle duos. He's always been a good run-stuffer at 6-foot-1 and 305 pounds, a weight-room warrior and one of the Longhorns' strongest players. He might even be one of Texas' most underrated assets on defense. But Jackson has yet to prove he can play like an all-conference performer week in and week out.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: You know Brown, being the behemoth he is, will draw extra attention from opponents this season and probably more than a few double teams. Jackson will have to capitalize on those prime opportunities and help this defensive line get the push it needs against the run and the pass. He's been good for two sacks a year, and it'd be disappointing if Jackson isn't in the backfield wreaking havoc more often as a senior.

Future expectations: The senior came to Texas as a top-five defensive tackle prospect nationally and seems like a sure bet to end up playing in the NFL. His on-field resume to this point, while solid, probably wouldn't be enough to ensure a selection in the draft next spring. But there's no reason to think Jackson has peaked, and working with a new defensive line coach with new ideas could bring out the best in him. If the new staff can coax bigger, better things out of its veteran players like Jackson, that might make the difference between Texas being a good team and a great one.
Our series of preseason picks for every single Big 12 game of 2014 continues today with Week 8. It's a good week to be playing at home, and we'll just leave it at that.

More Big 12 predictions for 2014.

at Oklahoma 27, Kansas State 17: ESPN's preseason projections say OU is 16 points better than Kansas State, but the Wildcats play them much closer than that in a game reminiscent of the 2013 nail-biter (just with fewer coverage busts). Tyler Lockett has 10 catches, but that is not enough and the Sooners' defense clamps down in the red zone to pull away in the fourth quarter.

at TCU 24, Oklahoma State 20: You would expect fireworks from the Mike Gundy vs. Doug Meacham reunion, but this game comes down to the points created by TCU's vicious defense. Devonte Fields records three sacks and forces two fumbles, and the Frogs' offense capitalizes.

at Texas Tech 45, Kansas 27: A closer-than-expected affair in the first half gets blown open when Davis Webb finds his groove in the third quarter and finds Jakeem Grant for three of his four passing touchdowns. At a loss for answers offensively, Kansas lets its top three quarterbacks all play in the loss.

at Texas 31, Iowa State 13: No goal-line controversy, no jaw-dropping stunner in Austin, just another forgettable afternoon game that makes ISU fans glad they didn't watch online. Texas gets a bounce-back win after the Red River loss thanks to a heavy dose of Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray.

at West Virginia 35, Baylor 34: Tormented by the memory of giving up 73 points and 864 yards to the Bears last season, WVU's defense steps up in a big way with an inspired showing. Clint Trickett avenges his brutal game from a year ago and guides a fourth-quarter rally to stun the defending Big 12 champs.

Current Big 12 standings

1. Oklahoma -- 6-1, 3-1
2. Texas Tech -- 6-1, 3-1
3. Baylor -- 6-1, 3-1
4. TCU -- 5-1, 2-1
5. Kansas State -- 4-2, 2-1
6. Oklahoma State -- 4-3, 2-2
7. Texas -- 4-3, 2-2
8. West Virginia -- 3-4, 2-2
9. Iowa State -- 2-5, 0-4
10. Kansas -- 2-5, 0-4
video

Alabama coach Nick Saban reacts to the news that Texas was reportedly willing to offer him $100 million to coach the Longhorns.

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In Focus: Charlie Strong
Longhorns coach Charlie Strong explains how he is putting the "T" back in Texas.
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