Only three Big 12 players popped up Friday on the watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to college football's most outstanding defensive back:
The three players above also were named to the watch list for the Nagurski Trophy, which is awarded to the best defensive player overall. Carter and Diggs also were on the watch list for the Bednarik, which goes to the defensive player of the year.

On Monday, the watch list releases will continue with the Butkus Award (best linebacker) and Lombardi Award (best lineman).

Big 12 lunchtime links

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
12:00
PM ET
Cleveland or Miami?
  • Kansas State's athletic donors gave a record $46.4 million in 2013-14.
  • Texas' chancellor says beer will not be sold at football games this year, the Austin American-Statesman's Brian Davis reports.
  • The Charleston Gazette's previews West Virginia's Week 3 opponent, Maryland.
  • The Sporting News' Matt Hayes gives Dorial Green-Beckham "zero" percent chance of playing at Oklahoma this season.
  • Safety Isaiah Johnson is next in the Lawrence Journal-World's crucial Jayhawks, according to Tom Keegan.

Burnt Orange Breakdown: Cedric Reed

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
10:00
AM ET
Before Texas begins its first season under Charlie Strong, we're taking a deep dive into all the talent he inherits in 2014. Our Burnt Orange Breakdown series takes a closer look at each scholarship player returning this fall and what we can expect from him. We're going down the roster from No. 1 Shiro Davis all the way to No. 99 Desmond Jackson.

No. 88 Cedric Reed
Senior defensive end


Recruitment rewind: Reed, a four-star defensive end from Cleveland, Texas, came down to a final four of Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and LSU. After taking several spring visits to UT and A&M, Reed settled on the Longhorns in April 2010. He racked up 344 tackles and 40 sacks in his three years of starting at Cleveland High and earned all-state honors as a senior.

Career so far: Reed played in seven games in his freshman year as a reserve end. As a sophomore, he was thrust into the starting lineup at midseason when Jackson Jeffcoat went down and recorded 2.5 sacks and 13 QB pressures in his six starts. Alex Okafor graduating opened up a spot for Reed to start across from Jeffcoat, and he thrived as a junior: 10 sacks, 19 TFLs, five forced fumbles and four pass breakups. For that, he earned first-team All-Big 12 honors from the AP and second-team honors from the league's coaches.

Best-case scenario for 2014: Reed's game is a step better in every area -- as a pass-rusher, run-stopper and locker room leader -- and he goes on to win Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors and earn a few All-America nods. The guy came back with unfinished business on his mind and will benefit greatly from Chris Rumph's instruction. The end Jeffcoat used to call "Too Tall" leverages his killer size and power into some big-time numbers and fills up his trophy case the way Jeffcoat did in 2013.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: Beyond a season-ending injury, which would be a devastating blow for Texas' defense and the team in general, there isn't a whole lot to fear with Reed. If he's drawing double teams and is less effective than a year ago, that's just going to create big opportunities for Malcom Brown and Desmond Jackson rushing up the middle. Texas was dreadful at defending the read option last season, and that's one area where Reed and Texas' ends will get exploited again if they aren't better coached-up to handle the pressure.

Future expectations: Reed is not a surefire first-round NFL draft pick, at least not yet. He needs to continue developing his pass rushing moves and his strength/physicality this fall. But Reed absolutely passes the eye test and, at 6-foot-6 and 258 pounds, should become a coveted draft prospect if he matches or improves upon last year's production. But, again, draft stock isn't the only reason Reed decided to come back. This is a man on a mission to get Texas back on the right track before he goes off to the pros, and that's his sole focus for now.
Unfortunately it's the time of year when off-the-field missteps litter the headlines as college football players remind us they aren't much different than many other college students outside of their athletic endeavors. And while occasional misdeeds are getting the headlines other college football players are going out of their way to make a positive impact.

With that in mind, it's never a bad time to look at guys who impact their football team on the field yet strive to have a positive impact on their worlds off the field as well. Here are five Big 12 players to root for this fall, regardless of your normal allegiances:

Deep snapper Nate Boyer, Texas

If you aren't cheering for Boyer to excel, something is wrong with you, die-hard fans of the Sooners, Bears, Red Raiders included. His road to becoming the Longhorns long snapper has been well-documented, from his exploits as a Green Beret to his time in Darfur. Boyer has been a solid special teams' contributor at UT during the past two seasons. The recipient of the 2012 Disney Spirit Award, which is given annually to college football's most inspirational figure, Boyer is entering his final season at UT.

Quarterback Bryce Petty, Baylor

Petty isn't just exceptional on the field. He's a guy whose impacts lives off the field as well. The reigning Big 12 offensive player of the year is active in Big Brothers, Big Sisters and FCA. He also has spent time in Kenya on a mission trip with fellow Baylor athletes in 2011 and was a finalist for the Big 12 male sportsperson of the year in 2013. On the field, Petty is a guy who knows how to lead, shoulders the blame during tough times, brings a positive attitude to the Bears' football squad and elite production behind center. Petty's exploits during his time in Waco, Texas are probably coming to an NCAA student-athlete commercial near you at some point in the future.

 

Defensive end Ryan Mueller, Kansas State One of the Big 12's top sack masters, Mueller befriended Kaiden Schroeder, a nine-year-old boy who suffers from Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. Their relationship lead to one of the Big 12's most memorable moments in the spring when Schroeder scored a touchdown in the Wildcats' spring game. Mueller, who had 11.5 sacks in 2013, was a finalist for the Big 12 male sportsperson of the year and has been named as one of KSU's captains for the 2014 season.

Cornerback JaCorey Shepherd, Kansas Another guy who is active with Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Shepherd also volunteers at local elementary schools. He won KU's Galen Fiss Award, which is given for exemplary service to the community and campus. On the field, he's a impact cornerback and kick returner for the Jayhawks leading KU with 15 passes defended in 2013. He was a finalist for the Big 12 male sportsperson of the year.

 

Quarterback Trevor Knight, Oklahoma

Knight is just starting to approach his potential on the field but he's already made a mark off it. The Allstate Sugar Bowl MVP has gone to Haiti twice as a member of OU's “Sooners4Haiti” contingent and is active in FCA, often appearing as a public speaker when his schedule allows. On the field, he's developing as a leader and playmaker and could rise to battle Petty for All-Big 12 honors with consistent performances in 2014.

 
In this week's mailbag, we discuss West Virginia and TCU in their third year in the league, the College Football Playoff and BYU yet again.

To submit a future mailbag entry, simply go here.

Now, on to the 'bag:

Kevin H. in San Antonio, Texas, writes: It'd be interesting to hear your take on the TCU-Baylor "revivalry." I realize most people in t he Big 12 probably don't know about one of the longest traditions in football and I think it deserves a little limelight. Plus, I’m tired of this "blossoming" TCU-Texas rivalry nonsense.

Trotter: TCU-Baylor is one of the more interesting games on the conference schedule, particularly with how the game went down last year. After two rounds of conference realignment, this league needs to build new and rekindle old rivalries. TCU-Baylor has some heat right now, and could be a game we all look forward to in the Big 12, given the animosity and the contrast of strengths.


Dennis in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, writes: Bill Snyder is a classy guy with a great coaching tree. But he’s old. Has he ever mentioned retiring? The Wildcats have never won without Bill as their coach. If and when he does retire, who do you think takes his place?

Trotter: I hope Snyder never retires (again). The Big 12 is way more fun with him in it. But if he hangs it up, here are three names K-State might consider: Snyder’s son, Sean, who is also K-State’s associate head coach; offensive coordinator Dana Dimel, who has head coaching experience; and TCU coach Gary Patterson, who has been wooed before and is a K-State alum.


Dave in Dallas, Texas, writes: Have you ever seen this much parity in recruiting in the Big 12? Mack Brown and Bob Stoops used to have a lock on talent.

Trotter: There is no doubt there is more recruiting parity in the Big 12, particularly in the state of Texas. In 2008, Oklahoma and Texas landed seven of the state’s top 10 players, and 11 of its top 20. At the moment, neither Red River school has a single commitment from the state’s top 10. And the two bluebloods only have four of the state’s top 20. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State has a pair of top 10 Texas players (running back Ronald Jones II and cornerback Jaylon Lane), Texas Tech has the fourth-best Texan (quarterback Jarrett Stidham) and Baylor has four of the Texas top 50. Factor in the level Texas A&M has been recruiting at lately, along with the SEC incursion, and the Lone Star State has never had so many tentacles grasping for the high-end players.


Dalan in Lubbock, Texas, writes: In lieu of a conference title game, could the Big 12 champion play BYU to close out the regular season. I have come to realize my mistake, but is that type of a semi-preplanned game possible? The idea would be to further enhance the Big 12 top contender’s resume prior to selection of the four playoff teams.

Trotter: The SEC and ACC don’t think BYU is worthy of including in their non-conference scheduling mandate, but the Big 12 champ is going to solidify its playoff spot by playing a 13th game against the Cougars? Even if it were logistically possible, little good would come of it; but, potentially, a whole lot of bad.


10 ` XII, guys in Towson, Maryland, writes: If BYU were the 11th school to get a full share, why not add Boise State at a fractional share? They could be football only, so it would be easy to only give them a smaller piece of the pie. Twelve really only matters to football, the rest of the sports teams can live at 11.

Trotter: I’m sure Boise State would jump at the chance to join a conference in which it would be treated as a subclass member.


Chris in Exton, Pennsylvania, writes: Hey Jake, love the blog, you and the other guys that cover college football are awesome! Big Sooner fan here and was wondering what you could tell me and other OU fans about LB coach Tim Kish. We always hear about the Stoops Brothers, and the other assistants, but Kish seems to lay low. How is he received in Norman?

Trotter: Thanks, Chris. Kish’s popularity in Norman hinges on the play of his linebackers. And considering he has one of the top units in the country right now, he’s pretty popular.


Coop in DC writes: Jake, you've mentioned that WVU and TCU have understandably struggled in their first two years adjusting to life in the Big 12. Assessing their programs today, how do you think both have done in regards to addressing what it takes to compete regularly in the Big 12?

Trotter: Both have made strong adjustments this offseason that I think will do them well. TCU coach Gary Patterson had to do something after two dreadful offensive seasons. He brought in Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham to install an up-tempo offense, and also convinced quarterback Matt Joeckel to transfer in from Texas A&M. Those moves could significantly upgrade TCU’s points per game. West Virginia’s hiring of longtime Penn State assistant Tom Bradley was very shrewd. He should bring a calming effect to a team that has been all over the place the past two seasons. Both squads have noticeably better depth, which should really help, too. TCU has a rosier outlook in part because of the scheduling difference. But I think both teams, potentially, could take steps forward this season.


Joe Ratliff in Frisco, Texas, writes: When the committee starts selecting its four teams for the playoff, do you think that the strength of a conference should be determined by how competitive the conference is over a team can beat up on its weak conference opponents?

Trotter: That is why the non-conference portion of the schedule will be so important. That will go a long way in differentiating the strength of the conferences. In other words, it would really help if the Big 12 could win a couple of these marquee non-conference games this season.
Before Texas begins its first season under Charlie Strong, we're taking a deep dive into all the talent he inherits in 2014. Our Burnt Orange Breakdown series takes a closer look at each scholarship player returning this fall and what we can expect from him. We're going down the roster from No. 1 Shiro Davis all the way to No. 99 Desmond Jackson.

No. 86 Jake Oliver
Redshirt freshman wide receiver


Recruitment rewind: The record-setting ESPN 300 receiver from Dallas Jesuit was the second member of Texas' 2013 class after Jake Raulerson and chose UT over Oklahoma and more than 50 other offers (no, really, check that list). He caught a whopping 93 passes for 1,354 yards and 18 TDs as a senior and broke Jordan Shipley's Texas high school state record with 308 career receptions, which ranked second all time nationally.

Career so far: Oliver redshirted as a freshman in 2013, and an injury prevented him from making his debut this spring. He suffered a minor elbow injury that did not require surgery but was held out of the Orange-White game and should be fully recovered by now.

Best-case scenario for 2014: Oliver could push his way up to the No. 4 receiver spot behind Jaxon Shipley, Marcus Johnson and Kendall Sanders. He's a big 6-foot-4, 216-pound target who can be an impact blocker immediately in the run game, and Oliver should see a decent amount of targets. He has some of the best hands on the team and could team with Jacorey Warrick to give Texas some exciting options beyond the starting trio.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: To get that kind of playing time, Oliver will have to hold off the new freshmen -- namely Armanti Foreman and Lorenzo Joe -- and he'll also get some strong competition from fellow second-year receiver Montrel Meander. As we've acknowledge throughout this series, Texas has so many options at receiver and it's going to be a wide-open battle until the end of August.

Future expectations: Oliver has four years left in the program, and there's really no telling what that position group will look like a couple years from now. Texas inked nine wideouts in its last two classes (now eight, because Chevoski Collins moved to DB) and you figure the best of the bunch will rise up. Oliver can develop into a multi-year starter and a nice red-zone target if he plays his cards right and shows the new staff what he's capable of this fall.

Big 12 lunchtime links

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
12:00
PM ET
I would write a better intro, but I can't stop checking Twitter to see if LeBron has signed.
  • Texas Tech sold out its season football ticket allotment for the first time in program history.
  • Texas Tech QB recruit Jarrett Stidham is outperforming the competition at the Elite 11 camp, according to USA Today's Paul Myerberg and Daniel Uthman.
  • University of Texas President Bill Powers resigned, and will leave his post in 2015.
  • The Longhorns picked up a commitment from a Louisiana offensive lineman.
  • Was Charlie Strong the right hire for Texas?
  • West Virginia's season ticket sales are as low as they’ve been in nine years, according to the Charleston Daily Mail's Mike Casazza.
  • West Virginia faces a tough road to redemption, according to the Daily Athenaeum's Connor Murray.
  • The Mountaineers could play Virginia Tech at FedEx Field in Washington, D.C., in 2017.
  • Former Jayhawk Brad Thorson announced that he's gay. The Topeka Capital-Journal's Jesse Newell has the details.
  • Baylor coach Art Briles say his program will do whatever it can to help troubled Cleveland Browns and former Baylor standout Josh Gordon.
  • TV plans are set for Oklahoma State's first four games.
  • The return of Devonte Fields could put TCU's D-line over the top, according to the Dallas Morning News' Ryan Gerbosi.
  • Is TCU's Jaden Oberkrom college football's best kicker?
  • The Ames Tribune's Bobby La Gesse gives his take on the Iowa State-Texas game appearing on the Longhorn Network.
  • The Waco Herald-Tribune's Brice Cherry says four games will make or break Baylor’s Big 12 title quest.
Several Big 12 players popped up on the watch lists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, awarded to college football's best defensive player, and the Outland Trophy, given to the best interior lineman.

Here are the Big 12 players that made each list:

Nagurski
Outland

Already this week, the Maxwell (player of the year), Bednarik (defensive player of the year), Hornung (most versatile player), Mackey (best tight end), Rimington (best center), Groza (best kicker) and Guy (best punter) watch lists have come.

Below is the rest of the preseason watch list schedule:

Friday, July 11
- Jim Thorpe Award, best defensive back

Monday, July 14
- Butkus Award, best linebacker
- Lombardi Award, best lineman

Tuesday, July 15
- Biletnikoff Award, best receiver

Wednesday, July 16
- Davey O’Brien Award, best quarterback.

Thursday, July 17
- Doak Walker Award, best running back

Friday, July 18
- Walter Camp Award, best player
In 2008, the Big 12’s strongest position was quarterback with a deep roster that featured Heisman winner Sam Bradford, Heisman finalist Colt McCoy and national passing champ Graham Harrell, among several other noteworthy QBs.

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

SportsNation

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

  •  
    22%
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    23%
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    35%
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    11%
  •  
    9%

Discuss (Total votes: 4,330)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We put the question to you via our weekly Big 12 poll.
Before Texas begins its first season under Charlie Strong, we're taking a deep dive into all the talent he inherits in 2014. Our Burnt Orange Breakdown series takes a closer look at each scholarship player returning this fall and what we can expect from him. We're going down the roster from No. 1 Shiro Davis all the way to No. 99 Desmond Jackson.

No. 85 M.J. McFarland
Junior tight end


Recruitment rewind: A four-star tight end from El Dorado High out in El Paso, McFarland's decision was supposed to come down to Texas and Texas Tech. But he took a junior day visit to UT in 2010, locked in his commitment and never looked back. McFarland put up 2,604 receiving yards and 39 TDs at El Dorado and was able to enroll early at Texas in the spring of 2011.

Career so far: McFarland redshirted in 2011 and walked into some big expectations as a redshirt freshman. He hauled in eight passes for 125 yards and one touchdown in 12 games (four starts) that year, but he suffered a concussion late in the season. McFarland was relegated to a more limited role last fall and did not record a catch in the 11 games he played.

Best-case scenario for 2014: For years, McFarland has been trying to live up to the hype that he could be the Longhorns' next great tight end, its next Jermichael Finley. He hasn't come close to that bar yet, but there's still time for McFarland to become a weapon over the middle. He can be Texas' best pass-catcher at tight end and could get a lot more looks if he breaks back into the starting lineup. After all, Louisville's top tight end last year (Gerald Christian) did get 36 targets and finished with 426 yards and four TDs.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: Geoff Swaim and Greg Daniels have a leg up on McFarland in the tight end room, even with Daniels missing spring ball, and it's entirely possible juco transfer Blake Whiteley rises up and becomes the superior receiver of the group. Simply put, McFarland has to put in a lot of work this summer and has fall camp to prove he deserves to be on the field ahead of that trio.

Future expectations: Swaim and Daniels are both seniors, and Texas does not have a tight end committed for next year. Unless another juco transfer or a game-changer like ESPN 300 TE Will Gragg comes on board, that's going to mean a McFarland-Whiteley tandem in 2015. There's plenty of untapped, unrefined potential in McFarland. If the new staff is able to coax it out of him this fall, an already deep receiving corps gets much better.

Big 12 lunchtime links

July, 9, 2014
Jul 9
12:00
PM ET
The biggest meltdown in the history of sports? It might have been.
  • After nudging Mack Brown out the door, Texas president Bill Powers faces a similar fate, writes The Dallas Morning News' Chuck Carlton.
  • The Texas regents are expected to ratify the deal to keep the Oklahoma game at the Cotton Bowl.
  • Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard explains to the Ames Tribune's Bobby La Gesse why he wanted to put the Cyclones' game with Texas on the Longhorn Network.
  • Former Oklahoma QB and congressman J.C. Watts discussed the changing landscape in college football with The Oklahoman's Jason Kersey.
  • Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury wants to keep pushing the limits.
  • Red Raiders QB commit Jarrett Stidham is impressing at the Elite 11 football camp.
  • West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck says improvement this season may not necessarily be measured in wins.
  • The Charleston Gazette previews West Virginia's game with FCS power Towson.
  • Kansas State coach Bill Snyder's legend grows, writes the Leavenworth Times' Mac Stevenson.
  • The Lawrence Journal-World's Tom Keegan has been counting down the 25 most crucial Jayhawks to the 2014 season.
  • TCU is working to enhance its game-day experience.
  • Baylor will be introducing an app to help with game-day traffic to McLane Stadium.
Before Texas begins its first season under Charlie Strong, we're taking a deep dive into all the talent he inherits in 2014. Our Burnt Orange Breakdown series takes a closer look at each scholarship player returning this fall and what we can expect from him. We're going down the roster from No. 1 Shiro Davis all the way to No. 99 Desmond Jackson.

[+] EnlargeJohnathan Gray, Geoff Swaim
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsGeoff Swaim (left) served as a quality blocker in his first season at Texas.
No. 82 Geoff Swaim
Senior tight end


Recruitment rewind: Swaim was an absolutely unknown commodity prior to his Texas commitment. The junior college tight end from Butte College in California took an official visit to UT in June 2012, got his offer and committed. Credit Bryan Harsin and Bruce Chambers for finding a true sleeper, a juco transfer with no other offers and zero pre-commitment publicity. He ended up being a four-star prospect and ESPN's No. 26-rated juco recruit.

Career so far: Mack Brown would not sign junior college prospects unless he thought they could contribute immediately at a need position. That's what Swaim did in 2013: He played in all 13 games and was credited with nine starts. The honorable mention All-Big 12 tight end was used almost exclusively as a blocker, but he did record three catches for 14 yards.

Best-case scenario for 2014: There figures to be more opportunities for tight ends in Texas' new offense, and Swaim should see his role expand. He was praised by Shawn Watson for having a great spring, and the staff trusts him to set the edge as a blocker. Swaim has never been much of a receiving threat, but his targets should multiply a good deal from the five he got last year. He won't be confused for Jace Amaro, but Swaim can be a sneaky good piece to this offense regardless of who's playing QB.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: Being relegated to a blocking-only option would probably be the only thing that would make his senior season a disappointment. Texas has so many talented receivers coming back this fall and will put guys such as Jaxon Shipley and Daje Johnson in the slot a lot, so that might not create a ton of opportunity for Swaim and his fellow tight ends in spread sets. And, of course, if someone else such as M.J. McFarland has their breakthrough, that could mean limited snaps for Swaim.

Future expectations: Swaim's playing time in burnt orange is almost up already. He enters his second and final season at Texas having built up a solid reputation at his position, and he had no trouble transitioning from California juco ball to Big 12 play. The Longhorns are going to run the ball a lot this fall, and Swaim is going to be a big help on that front. He's an important piece to the offense and is getting better.
Earlier this morning we gave you our preseason All-Big 12 picks. Here are some additional thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was the most difficult position to figure out?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our All-Big 12 ballots

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

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

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

But before we do that, the ballots:

BRANDON CHATMON'S BALLOT

Offense

WR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

TE: E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State

OL: Spencer Drango, Baylor

OL: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech

C: Dominic Espinosa, Texas

OL: Cody Whitehair, Kansas State

OL: Daryl Williams, Oklahoma

WR: Antwan Goodley, Baylor

QB: Bryce Petty, Baylor

RB: Malcolm Brown, Texas

RB: Shock Linwood, Baylor

PK: Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma

PR: Levi Norwood, Baylor

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

DL: Devonte Fields, TCU

DL: Ryan Mueller, Kansas State

DL: Cedric Reed, Texas

DL: Charles Tapper, Oklahoma

LB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma

LB: Bryce Hager, Baylor

LB: Ben Heeney, Kansas

DB: Kevin White, TCU

DB: Daryl Worley, West Virginia

DB: Kevin Peterson, Oklahoma State

DB: Sam Carter, TCU

P: Trevor Pardula, Kansas

KR: B.J. Catalon, TCU

Player of the Year Awards

Offensive Player of the Year: Bryce Petty, Baylor

Defensive Player of the Year: Devonte Fields, TCU

Newcomer of the Year: Nick Harwell, Kansas

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

MAX OLSON'S BALLOT

Offense

WR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

TE: E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State

OL: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech

OL: Cody Whitehair, Kansas State

C: B.J. Finney, Kansas State

OL: Quinton Spain, West Virginia

OL: Spencer Drango, Baylor

WR: Antwan Goodley, Baylor

QB: Bryce Petty, Baylor

RB: Malcolm Brown, Texas

RB: Shock Linwood, Baylor

PK: Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma

PR: Levi Norwood, Baylor

Defense

DL: Devonte Fields, TCU

DL: Chucky Hunter, TCU

DL: Malcom Brown, Texas

DL: Cedric Reed, Texas

LB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma

LB: Bryce Hager, Baylor

LB: Ben Heeney, Kansas

DB: Quandre Diggs, Texas

DB: Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma

DB: Sam Carter, TCU

DB: Chris Hackett, TCU

P: Nick O'Toole, West Virginia

KR: B.J. Catalon, TCU

Player of the Year Awards

Offensive Player of the Year: Bryce Petty, Baylor

Defensive Player of the Year: Devonte Fields, TCU

Newcomer of the Year: Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State

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

JAKE TROTTER'S BALLOT

Offense

WR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

TE: E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State

OL: Spencer Drango, Baylor

OL: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech

C: B.J. Finney, Kansas State

OL: Quinton Spain, West Virginia

OL: Cody Whitehair, Kansas State

WR: Antwan Goodley, Baylor

QB: Bryce Petty, Baylor

RB: Johnathan Gray, Texas

RB: Keith Ford, Oklahoma

PK: Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma

PR: Daje Johnson, Texas

Defense

DL: Devonte Fields, TCU

DL: Chucky Hunter, TCU

DL: Malcom Brown, Texas

DL: Shawn Oakman, Baylor

LB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma

LB: Ben Heeney, Kansas

LB: Bryce Hager, Baylor

DB: Daryl Worley, West Virginia

DB: Kevin White, TCU

DB: Sam Carter, TCU

DB: Quandre Diggs, Texas

P: Nick O'Toole, West Virginia

KR: Corey Coleman, Baylor

Player of the Year Awards

Offensive Player of the Year: Bryce Petty, Baylor

Defensive Player of the Year: Devonte Fields, TCU

Newcomer of the Year: Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State

Quick explainer: The official Big 12 ballot doesn't differentiate between offensive tackles and guards, defensive tackles and ends and cornerbacks and safeties. But like Max, I still tried to keep position integrity, which made putting this ballot together significantly more difficult. But unlike Max and Brandon, I attempted to project out this year's all-conference team instead of leaning on rehashing last year's, which is why Worley, Oakman and Ford made my preseason team over more conventional selections like Sanchez, Mueller and Linwood. Those three gambles could make me look incredibly smart at the end of the year -- or incredibly dumb. Time will tell.
Before Texas begins its first season under Charlie Strong, we're taking a deep dive into all the talent he inherits in 2014. Our Burnt Orange Breakdown series takes a closer look at each scholarship player returning this fall and what we can expect from him. We're going down the roster from No. 1 Shiro Davis all the way to No. 99 Desmond Jackson.

No. 81 Hassan Ridgeway
Sophomore defensive tackle


Recruitment rewind: Three days after his junior day visit to Texas in 2011, Ridgeway got on the phone with Mack Brown and made a commitment, turning down offers from Texas A&M and TCU. The four-star Mansfield (Texas) defensive lineman didn't play football until his sophomore year but developed into an all-state talent. Ridgeway took a late January visit to A&M and has admitted he came very close to flipping to the Aggies, but he stuck with Texas on signing day.

Career so far: Ridgeway redshirted in 2012 and moved inside from defensive end to defensive tackle following his freshman year. As a redshirt freshman, he played in 12 games as a reserve and recorded 13 tackles, five QB pressures and one pass breakup. Most of those numbers came in nonconference play. Exiting spring ball, Ridgeway was Texas' top backup at defensive tackle.

Best-case scenario for 2014: New defensive line coach Chris Rumph takes Ridgeway's game to the next level. Texas' previous staff was plenty excited about the young lineman's high ceiling a year ago, and there is great need for depth at defensive tackle. Ridgeway is a powerful 6-foot-4, 309-pound force who can make life tough for quarterbacks. His role is set to expand in a big way.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: Behind Malcom Brown and Desmond Jackson, the depth at defensive tackle is largely unproven. Alex Norman and Paul Boyette Jr. haven't made any impact thus far, and stud incoming freshman Poona Ford isn't on campus yet. If Ridgeway gets hurt or underperforms, Texas could find itself in real trouble in the middle as the season progresses.

Future expectations: What if Brown is so good this fall, he elects to declare for the NFL draft early? If he and Jackson are both gone after this season, Ridgeway will almost definitely have to step into the starting lineup in 2015. Even if Brown sticks around, Ridgeway will probably be the favorite to take Jackson's place. This should be the year the third-year defensive tackle breaks through -- and when he does, look out.

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