[+] EnlargeCardale Jones
Ohio State AthleticsCardale Jones may have led the Buckeyes to a national championship, but he'll have to fight to keep the starting job.

Many FBS programs around the country have reached the midpoint of spring practice, including defending national champion Ohio State, where coach Urban Meyer still hasn't picked from among three really good quarterbacks.

Michigan and Syracuse will play their spring games Saturday (we haven't confirmed whether the winning team in Ann Arbor will have to run extra stadium steps), and then glorified scrimmages will begin en masse in the coming weeks.

What have we learned so far? Georgia, Notre Dame and Ohio State have really interesting quarterback competitions. Texas is going to play faster (and hopefully better) on offense, and "Coach Boom" is already laying the boom on the Plains. New Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is really popular at his alma mater (but not popular enough to be elected student body president), and USC might have identified another star receiver.

Here's a look at some of the biggest developments in spring practice so far:

1. Meyer is losing sleep

Meyer has a dilemma that a lot of coaches would love to have: He has to choose from among three quarterbacks who have won big in college.


(Read full post)


10 spring developments: Big 12

March, 30, 2015
Mar 30
10:00
AM ET

Colleague Mark Schlabach offered up a nice breakdown on Monday of some key things we have already learned from spring practices around the country. Here is a closer look at some Big 12 spring storylines and developments worth watching going forward:

1. Sooners rally after scandal: Oklahoma's football team took a 16-day break from spring practice after the school was rocked by the release of a video featuring racist chants from a now-defunct campus fraternity. Bob Stoops and his players participated in demonstrations, spoke out frequently against the racism and worked hard to rally both their team and their community in the wake of the scandal. The Sooners returned to practice on Tuesday in black uniforms, seemingly more unified than ever.

[+] EnlargeSeth Russell
Tony Gutierrez/Associated PressSeth Russell seems to have taken control of Baylor's quarterback competition.

2. Seth Russell proving himself: Although Baylor coach Art Briles hasn’t showered Seth Russell with praise after his scrimmage performances, the quarterback has clearly sent a message this spring to anyone questioning whether he’s ready to lead the Bears. He threw for 345 yards and four TDs in the Bears' Friday Night Lights scrimmage, and from day one of spring practice, there has been very little talk of a true quarterback controversy in Waco.

3. TCU’s battles still unresolved: Coach Gary Patterson is paying close attention to a handful of vacancies in his starting lineup and hasn’t named any clear-cut starters just yet. Although cornerback Torrance Mosley recently earned some praise in the big-time battle to replace Kevin White, that race is undecided. Same goes for the five-man battle at linebacker and the four-man competition for the No. 2 quarterback job. The battles will continue until Patterson gets the answers he needs.

4. Beaty bringing his own style: New Kansas coach David Beaty says the first day of practice was the most fun he’s had since taking the gig, and you can tell he’s getting creative to make an impression. He’s highlighting Kansas' Players of the Day on his Twitter account and pushing the Jayhawks to places they have never gone in terms of tempo with 94 plays in 44 minutes on their first day of spring ball.

5. Texas Tech quarterback battle won’t end soon: Coach Kliff Kingsbury hasn’t seen enough to name Patrick Mahomes or Davis Webb his guy at quarterback. After Tech’s scrimmage in Midland, Texas, on Saturday, he told reporters the competition could continue into the fall. With Webb still limited in contact situations and Mahomes working to balance his time between football and baseball, it’s probably no surprise that no decision is imminent.

6. Swoopes has early lead at Texas: That is an awfully premature take because the Longhorns haven’t even been practicing for a full week, but Tyrone Swoopes worked with the No. 1 offense to start off the spring as he splits reps with Jerrod Heard. In the only practice open to reporters, Swoopes displayed superior passing ability, but both ran the ball much more than usual in the up-tempo attack. Players say Swoopes is their incumbent starter for now, and we’ll see whether that changes much in April.

7. ISU loves its WRs: Iowa State's dream offensive scenario -- getting Allen Lazard, D'Vario Montgomery and Quenton Bundrage all on the field together -- is starting to come to fruition this spring now that Bundrage is back from his season-ending injury. Paul Rhoads and his staff have high hopes for the trio and their ability to make this offense far more explosive, and they expect Lazard to become one of the league's premier wideouts.

8. Walsh stays; Garman goes: Oklahoma State’s three-quarterback situation resolved itself right away this spring when Daxx Garman elected to transfer and J.W. Walsh decided to return and compete for whatever playing time he can get. Walsh is finally healthy again and says he will keep prepping as if he’s the starter, but he’s done an admirable job of taking young starter Mason Rudolph under his wing in the meantime.

9. Mountaineers focused on margins: Dana Holgorsen says he’s putting more emphasis at the start of spring practices on one area that must improve: turnover margin. West Virginia ranked 120th in FBS in that category last season (minus-15) and is devoting more time to ball security, strips and takeaways. "If we can get better at that," Holgorsen says, "that’ll win us some more games." He’s not wrong.

10. Watch out for McGowan: As devoted Big 12 blog readers know, we’ve long been fascinated by Baylor’s mountain-sized lineman LaQuan McGowan. If you missed Jake Trotter’s feature on the 400-pounder, his background and his move to tight end this spring, be sure to check it out. If Briles allows McGowan get the ball in his gigantic hands more often, we’ll all be in for a fun season.

NEW ORLEANS -- When you have some of the best defensive linemen in the nation in attendance at an event like the New Orleans Opening regional, you expect a lot of great one-on-one battles.

And nothing makes for better footage than watching a dominating defensive lineman go to work. Fortunately, high profile prospects like Alabama commitment Raekwon Davis and Edward Oliver did not disappoint at Saturday’s camp.


NEW ORLEANS -- At 6-foot-7 and 314 pounds, Alabama defensive tackle commitment Raekwon Davis towered over the competition at Saturday's Opening Regional at Joe Brown Park in New Orleans. He also loomed large over his peers with his play.

Davis, who is from Meridian (Mississippi) High School and ranks as the nation's No. 243 player, earned an invitation to The Opening finals, which will be held from July 5-10 at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. Davis took a little while to get going during drills, but by the time the one-on-ones arrived, he performed admirably, winning repetitions at defensive tackle, defensive end and even offensive tackle.


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In today's Twitter mailbag we discuss 400-pound tight end LaQuan McGowan, players off the radar that could become All-Big 12 selections, and the backfields at TCU and Oklahoma.

Condolences to West Virginia fans for Thursday's historical beatdown. Still, I know of eight other Big 12 fanbases that wished their teams would have advanced to the Sweet 16.

On to the 'bag:

I actually asked Seth Russell which would be worse, getting sacked by Shawn Oakman or trying to tackle McGowan. He said Oakman. I respectfully have to disagree. Oakman is a bad dude, but nobody is stopping McGowan with a head of steam, Oakman included.

Trotter:You mean in one game? By the way, I hope you guys took time to read my McGowan piece earlier in the week. I enjoyed interviewing him. Interesting kid with a fascinating backstory.

Trotter: Texas would be the most attractive destination. Any of Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett or Cardale Jones would start with little resistance from what the Longhorns have on the roster. And Texas would be an option for any of the three for obvious reasons, including the track record of Charlie Strong and his staff working with Teddy Bridgewater at Louisville.

Trotter: At this moment, it's difficult to envision the game going much differently than it did last season. The addition of transfer linebacker Mike Mitchell and freshman defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko will help the run defense, and coordinator David Gibbs will have the players in the right gaps. But the Razorbacks completely mowed over the Red Raiders last season. You either have the horses or you don't, and Tech has long way to go to prove it can up its own again up front against a power-running team such as Arkansas.

Trotter: No update. Carry on.

Trotter: If I had to bet, I'd put heavy money on Baker Mayfield being the opening-day starter. There's a lot to like about Mayfield, notably his confidence and savvy. But people, notably Sooners fans, seem to forget that Mayfield really struggled against the better teams while at Texas Tech two years ago. Can OU win a Big 12 championship with Mayfield behind center? I'm not sure.

Trotter:It's a possibility. He's going to be buried on depth chart behind Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon. True freshman Rodney Anderson had been turning heads this spring, too, before he suffered an MCL sprain. Apparently, Keith Ford's sister posted something on Facebook suggesting he might transfer. But Ford was at practice this week.

Trotter:The TCU backfield is going to be good. Aaron Green, who can reel off big plays, is an all-conference caliber talent; Shaun Nixon, meanwhile, was highly touted coming out of high school. But I don't know that it's necessary going to be markedly better than last year's group. Don't forget, B.J. Catalon was excellent before suffering the head injury.

Trotter:Hmm... I would definitely take Trevone Boykin, Mason Rudolph and Pat Mahomes over Sam B. Richardson. But after that, there are no slam dunks. Seth Russell obviously could have a big season, but he has only one career start. Skyler Howard is going to have to be more accurate to rank near the upper tier of Big 12 QBs. Joe Hubener has potential, but he's an unknown. I mentioned my concerns with Mayfield above. So is it unthinkable that Richardson becomes the fourth- or fifth-best QB in the league? No. He'll have good wideouts to throw to, and he has a ton of experience. The key for Richardson is health. He's been severely banged up the last two years, and when that's happened, his effectiveness has plummeted.

Trotter: Not sure how off the radar you want to go, but here are a few guys who have never had any honorable-mention recognition that could be first-teamers in 2015: Oklahoma State safety Jordan Sterns, Baylor nickelback Travon Blanchard, Oklahoma center Ty Darlington, Iowa State guard Daniel Burton, Texas defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway, Texas Tech cornerback Nigel Bethel and TCU cornerback Ranthony Texada.

Trotter:Well, if you believe you're a big-time program that can compete with anyone, you go out and schedule the Ohio States of the world. Oklahoma has been doing it since Bob Stoops arrived, and it served the Sooners well during the BCS era. Texas has recently ramped up its scheduling as well. As a conference champ, you have to beat someone of note in the non-conference to guarantee yourself a spot in the playoff. TCU will have plenty of opportunities to do that in the coming years.

Trotter: Who didn't see that TCU fan tweet coming?

NEW ORLEANS -- Many said the absolutely loaded 2014 recruiting class in Louisiana would never be matched. Somebody forgot to tell that to the players in 2016 class. The Bayou State is again stacked, and many of those national recruits will be on display at Saturday’s Nike Opening regional at Joe Brown Park. More than 20 players ranked in the ESPN Junior 300 will be in attendance, including nine of the top 20 players in Louisiana.

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The past two weeks, we've examined some the Big 12 players on the spot this spring. Below in our weekly roundtable, we likewise explore the Big 12 position groups that are also on the spot this spring:

What offensive position group is on the spot this spring?

Jake Trotter: Other than the quarterback derbies taking place in Norman and Austin, which will both be fascinating, I'm interested to see what happens with running back at Kansas State. The Wildcats have several viable contenders for the featured role, including returner Charles Jones, redshirt freshman Dalvin Warmack and true freshman Alex Barnes, who has enrolled early to participate in spring ball. Jones had a prime role in the K-State offense last season, scoring 13 touchdowns. But he also ranked 21st in the Big 12 in yards per carry. Warmack is an intriguing option, having rushed for more than 4,500 yards and 77 touchdowns his final two seasons of high school. Then there's Barnes, who physically looks ready to compete for time now. Whatever happens, with Jake Waters and Tyler Lockett gone, the Wildcats will need more production next season from their primary rusher.

[+] EnlargeTyrone Swoopes
Scott Sewell-/USA TODAY SportsTyrone Swoopes has the upper hand for Texas' starting quarterback job but can he keep it?

Max Olson: Texas quarterbacks. They've been in a rough spot for a few years now, and I think there's a lot of pressure on Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard this spring. I don't doubt that Texas will pursue a transfer quarterback after spring ball as a necessary move for competition. You have to wonder how much confidence these two can inspire over the course of 15 practices. Swoopes still has the upper hand at the moment, but how much progress can he make? Can Heard grow up and catch up?

Brandon Chatmon: Someone needs to emerge among Oklahoma’s receivers to help All-Big 12 candidate Sterling Shepard. There are some good candidates with Dede Westbrook, a junior college transfer, and Michiah Quick, a sophomore who should improve in Year 2, sitting atop the list. Lincoln Riley’s offense should give the receivers plenty of opportunities to shine and we’ve seen how a system change can completely the effectiveness of a receiver.

What defensive position group is on the spot?

Trotter: I would say the Baylor secondary, except all four returning starters have been limited by injuries this spring. So I'll go with the Oklahoma secondary instead. The Sooners ranked ninth in the Big 12 in pass defense last year, and graduated a pair of starters in Julian Wilson and Quentin Hayes, leaving cornerback Zack Sanchez as the only proven performer. Former ESPN 300 signee Steven Parker could make a big jump after playing a key role as a true freshman last season. But the Sooners need some combination of Stanvon Taylor, Ahmad Thomas, Hatari Byrd, Jordan Thomas and/or junior-college transfer Will Johnson to step up, as well, in order for Oklahoma to bounce back in 2015.

Olson: Doesn't sound like TCU has found a whole lot of clarity when it comes to its two vacant linebacker spots, though I did like Gary Patterson's idea that he should start at one spot. Sammy Douglas, Paul Whitmill and Ty Summers will do a fine job, I'm sure, and I think Patterson is onto something when he mentions possibly moving a safety into the second level. But still, these are inexperienced guys taking over for senior playmakers on a team with giant expectations.

Chatmon: I agree with Max. I’m really intrigued with what is going to happen at TCU as the Horned Frogs try to replace Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallett. Dawson got most of the attention but Mallett was exceptionally productive in his own right. Finding quality linebackers could be the difference between another Big 12 title run, or even College Football Playoff run. Coach Gary Patterson has hinted the Horned Frogs will try plenty of different options including safeties in those spots.

What position group will be most improved?

Trotter: The Oklahoma State offensive line was absolutely dreadful for much of last season, before the lightbulb flickered late in the year. I'm not saying the Cowboys will now be mowing over people. But with the bulk of last year's group back, coupled with the addition of capable transfer tackles Victor Salako and Brandon Pertile, Oklahoma State should be able to build off last year's encouraging finish to field one of the league's better lines in 2015.

Olson: I think a group poised to take a big step is Texas Tech's secondary. That's a super young group and I'm interested to see how David Gibbs' teachings influence them. I look at that roster and see some talented guys like Justis Nelson, Nigel Bethel II, Tevin Madison, Jalen Barnes and Payton Hendrix who ought to develop more confidence under the guidance of Gibbs and Kevin Curtis and force more turnovers in the fall.

Chatmon: I expect Baylor’s secondary to be much improved. A talented group of athletes will be a year older, a year wiser and much more comfortable as the back end of BU’s defense. Not to mention it won’t hurt to go against the Bears receiving corps on a regular basis. Improvement from guys like Xavien Howard, who has loads of potential, and the addition of talented newcomers such as redshirt freshman Verkedric Vaughns could help the Bears defensive backs be much better this fall.

Running back Chris Carson could hold the key to Oklahoma State’s offense, wide receiver DeDe Westbrook could take Oklahoma’s new spread attack to another level and defensive tackle Demond Tucker could provide much-needed strength in the middle of Iowa State’s defense.

That trio is among the nine ESPN Junior College 50 recruits who signed with Big 12 schools and have the potential to become household names in the conference this fall.

SportsNation

Which ESPN JC50 signee will have the biggest impact in 2015?

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    20%

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    36%

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    26%

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    8%

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    10%

Discuss (Total votes: 2,985)

Which ESPN JC 50 newcomer do you expect to have the biggest impact?

Carson was a late addition to the Cowboys' signing class as OSU looked to secure a backfield mate for quarterback Mason Rudolph. The No. 12 player in the ESPN JC 50, Carson brings good size (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) and the ability to be a workhorse for Mike Gundy’s program.

Westbrook is already on campus and participating in spring drills with the Sooners. The No. 14 player in the ESPN JC 50 combines quickness and speed with good size (6-1, 175), which makes him a candidate to excel in the slot or on the outside in Lincoln Riley’s offense.

Rasul Douglas will add to a talented West Virginia secondary in the summer. The No. 23 player in the ESPN JC 50 has the size (6-2, 200) and athleticism to be a versatile asset for WVU’s defense, with the skills to play cornerback or safety.

Tucker was a much-needed addition for the Cyclones defense. After Iowa State struggled with its depth and production along its defensive front in 2014, Tucker is participating in ISU’s spring practices with a eye on making an major impact this fall. His quickness could help him become a disruptive force for the Cyclones defense.

Five other ESPN JC 50 signees could have a similar impact in the Big 12. Cornerback Will Johnson (No. 15 in the ESPN JC 50) is already impressing during the first few practices at OU, and the Sooners secondary is looking for playmakers heading into the fall.

Offensive tackle Maurice Porter (No. 31 in the ESPN JC 50) could add additional depth for Baylor’s offensive line when he arrives in the summer.

Guard Jamal Danley (No. 39 in the ESPN JC 50) is going through spring drills with OU as he battles to make an impact on a Sooners offensive line that must replace four starters.

Texas is hoping Quincy Vasser (No. 45 in the ESPN JC 50) can help lessen the loss of Cedric Reed at defensive end.

Motekiai Maile (No. 49 in the ESPN JC 50) could help replace James Castleman in the interior of OSU’s defense, helping free opportunities for returning Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year Emmanuel Ogbah.

Who do you think will have the biggest impact? Vote now and leave a comment below.

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas Longhorns' first day back in the world of spread ball looked just like any other in Big 12 country.

Quarterbacks Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard practiced faking handoffs -- a nod to prepping for pop passes -- before firing throws. They got the Longhorns lined up in three-receiver shotgun and pistol sets. They didn’t hesitate to tuck and dash for the sideline when they found space. And once one play ended, the next began seconds later.

“It’s very fast,” running back Johnathan Gray said. “We hit the field running and didn’t stop until practice was over. Guys were pretty dog tired.”

[+] EnlargeCharlie Strong
AP Photo/Michael ThomasAfter finishing last season ninth in the Big 12 at 68 plays per game, Charlie Strong's Longhorns are looking to pick up the pace on offense.

Gray and his Texas teammates are embarking on their third offensive overhaul in three years, though this round feels like more of a redesign than a full reboot.

In fact, the first comparison that crossed Gray’s mind after practice Wednesday was how similar Texas’ practices looked in 2013, back when Mack Brown and Major Applewhite decided to try a more up-tempo approach.

Players welcomed that blueprint two years ago. They sound happy to give it another go this spring.

“I like how it spreads out everything where you can run and pass,” Gray said. “It mixes up everything. The defense doesn't know what's going to happen. It helps out the running back, quarterback, the wide receivers and the offensive line. I love this offense.”

Center Taylor Doyle was reminded of his prep days, back when he grew up in an up-tempo spread at Lake Travis High under now-SMU coach Chad Morris.

"It's always fun to come back to the tempo offense," Doyle said.

Why make the move back to a spread scheme now? After a year on the job, Charlie Strong can admit he has a better understanding of his turf. Pro-style ball won him a lot of games at Louisville. The spread has already won the state of Texas.

“I would say probably 98 percent of this state is a spread offense,” Strong said this week. “The key players that you need to really recruit, those guys are the ones that are in the spread offense. So that's what you're looking for.”

Texas isn’t going to start throwing the ball 60 times on Saturdays. Nor does Strong plan to engage in any 60-59 shootouts. As a defense-first coach, he joked, “I don’t think I can live with that at all.” Still, the transition made too much common sense, especially when considering Texas’ peers as well as its own personnel for 2015.

“But you still have to find a way to go stay physical and go run the football,” Strong said.

The hints of power football were easy to spot Wednesday, starting with Texas utilizing its tight ends as H-backs who motioned pre-snap before locking into blocks. It’s clear the Longhorns intend to pick up their pace, too, after finishing ninth in the Big 12 at 68 plays per game in 2014.

“And we want an explosive team,” Strong said. “We didn't create the big plays.”

Only Kansas did a worse job of creating those big plays in the Big 12 last season. Texas produced explosive gains (defined as 12-plus yards on a rush and 16-plus yards for a pass) on only 10 percent of its snaps, while failing to gain yards on nearly 35 percent. Finding new ways to spark this group was an absolute must.

There’s a reason, though, why this didn’t work out in 2013: quarterback play. When David Ash went down against BYU, Applewhite had to scrap the blueprint. Texas had to find a different way to win with Case McCoy. Watson experienced similar back-to-the-drawing-board challenges last season with Swoopes after losing Ash and three of his best linemen.

What Texas will get from Swoopes and Heard in 2015, or how quickly either gets this spread offense rolling, seems impossible to predict. Then again, this was only Day 1 of spring ball. Pads don't even go on until Saturday.

The Longhorns don't need to know all the answers right now, but at least they're starting off with the right one.

video

The Texas Longhorns produced several eligible NFL Draft athletes who participated in Pro Day Tuesday afternoon in Austin, Texas.

Fielding a strong pass defense is critical in the Big 12.

The conference is full of offenses that look to spread opponents and attack them through the air, putting pressure on defensive backs and pass rushers alike. Yet it can be difficult to measure defensive success against those offenses as passing yards per game and completion percentage can be misleading particularly on teams that feature high-scoring offenses that end up forcing opponents to throw for the majority of the game.

Passing yards per attempt is one key stat that give a good gauge of which teams have efficient pass defenses that are harder to defeat than it may appear. With the help of ESPN Stats and Information, here's a look at the Big 12 rankings in passing yards per attempt (conference games only) since TCU and West Virginia joined the conference in 2012.

[+] EnlargeDavid Porter
AP Photo/LM OteroThe Kansas State Wildcats have allowed only 6.7 yards per pass attempt over the past three seasons.

1. Kansas State 6.7

Summary: The Wildcats are very good at forcing offenses to take what they are willing to give. Opponents 61.5 completion percentage is ninth among Big 12 teams yet their low yards per pass attempt average is a sign they tackle well after limiting opponents to short completions. Outside of standouts Ty Zimmerman and Randall Evans, KSU doesn’t tend to have superstars in the secondary but their performance as a unit is unmatched.

2. Oklahoma State 6.86

Summary: The Cowboys allow 277.85 passing yards per game but their yards per pass attempt average make them one of the Big 12’s top pass defenses. OSU’s up tempo, high scoring offense resulted in the defense facing a conference-high 40.52 pass attempts per game during the past three seasons. Talented defensive backs like Justin Gilbert and Kevin Peterson have helped the Cowboys withstand the barrage.

3. Texas 6.93

Summary: The Longhorns defense has been solid overall, ranking first in passing yards per game (220.3), sack percentage (8.4 percent) and touchdowns per pass attempt (3.6). A combination of talented defensive backs (Kenny Vaccaro, Quandre Diggs) and pass rushers (Jackson Jeffcoat, Alex Okafor) cemented UT’s place in the top three.

4. Oklahoma 7.02

Summary: The Sooners are among the top two in passing yards allowed (241.7) and completion percentage (54.9) helping to land them a spot in the top half of the conference. Current NFLers Aaron Colvin and Tony Jefferson are among the former Sooners who made OU’s pass defense one of the Big 12’s better units before a disappointing 2014 season put dents in that reputation.

5. TCU 7.18

Summary: The Horned Frogs’ opponent completion percentage (54.9), third-down conversion percentage (31.3) and first down per pass attempt percentage (28.8) were the best in the Big 12. But TCU’s yards per completion percentage (13.57) was ninth in the conference and doomed them to a spot outside the top four despite featuring some of the Big 12’s best defensive backs in Jason Verrett, Chris Hackett and Kevin White.

6. Baylor 7.39

Summary: The Bears explosive offense resulted in BU’s pass defense facing 37.67 pass attempts per game which contributed to them finishing in the bottom third of the conference in passing yards per game (278.33, eighth) and third down conversion percentage (43.4, tenth). This is one element of Art Briles program that requires continued improvement if BU is going to extended its Big 12 title run.

7. Texas Tech 7.68

Summary: The Red Raiders ranked near the bottom of the Big 12 in several categories but their touchdown-to-interception percentage stands out above the crowd. Tech gave up 3.88 touchdowns per interception during this span, nearly a full touchdown worst than any other team in the Big 12. Nigel Bethel, Tevin Madison and Justis Nelson are among the young defensive backs on the roster with the talent to help turn this Red Raider trend around.

8. Iowa State 7.74

Summary: The Cyclones landed at the bottom of the Big 12 in passing yards allowed per game (292.3) and sack percentage (3) as ISU struggled to slow the pass happy attacks of the Big 12. Cornerback Nigel Tribune and safety Kamari Cotton-Moya provide hope the Cyclones can improve their pass defense in 2015.

9. West Virginia 8.21

Summary: The Mountaineers pass defense is one main reason WVU has been up and down during its first three seasons in the conference. Losing one-on-one battles and shoddy tackling have resulted in a Big 12-worst 13.92 yards per completion. Yet WVU enters the 2015 with the Big 12’s best combination of talent and experience in the secondary so the Mountaineers could start to build a better reputation this fall.

10. Kansas 8.24

Summary: The Jayhawks struggled in pretty much every category, allowing opponents to complete 62.9 percent of their attempts while also allowing 35 percent of those attempts to result in first downs. A lack of sacks (3.6 sack percentage, eighth) and interceptions (2.2 interception percentage, ninth) helped cement KU’s spot at the bottom of the Big 12. To make matters worse KU enters the 2015 looking to replace the bulk of its secondary including All-Big 12 cornerback JaCorey Shepherd.

video
On Monday, we ranked the best bang-for-the-buck coaching values in college football. Today we look at the opposite end of the spectrum and discuss coaches who are overpaid, based on bloated salaries and a lack of results.

Note that some of the coaches below are still relatively new, but the money they’re making will rapidly increase expectations, which will lead to angst if those expectations aren’t met.

The estimated salary figures come from a combination of documents obtained by ESPN.com and the USA Today coaches’ salary database.

1. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Estimated 2015 salary:
$4 million
Iowa fans are already rolling their eyes. They’ve heard all this before because they’ve seen their school handcuffed for years by the worst contract in college football. If not for a buyout that at one point would have pushed $20 million, Ferentz likely would have been out. No, he definitely would have been out. Instead, because of an unheard of 10-year deal he signed after the 2009 season, Iowa continues to pay top-10 money for a program that isn’t sniffing the top 10 in the polls. Coaches agree that Iowa isn’t the easiest place to win, but the resources and facilities are well above average and the division is the most winnable in the country. For $4 million per season, the Hawkeyes should get something more -- far more -- than Ferentz’s 6.8 victories a year since he signed the extension. As the buyout becomes more reasonable as the contract nears its 2020 completion, it’ll be interesting to see at what point the administration is willing to pull the trigger.


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Big 12 morning links

March, 25, 2015
Mar 25
9:00
AM ET

Deep-fried nachos sound like they have potential, but I'd prefer some Fried S'mOreo.

  • Is TCU the No. 3 team in the country right now? Not in the opinion of Gary Patterson, who expressed some displeasure after the Horned Frogs' practice on Tuesday. His team got tired in the heat, his defensive line isn't playing great, his linebackers aren't there yet and he knows there's a long way to go before the season opener. No reason to fret, TCU fans: this is more about Patterson sending a message to his team. He's going to have to guard against complacency and inflated ego in his locker room as expectations continue to rise.
  • Kansas opened spring ball on Tuesday, and senior quarterback Michael Cummings took the first-string snaps ahead of Montell Mozart, according to Jesse Newell of the Topeka Capital-Journal. New coach David Beaty says there's no need to read too much into that, though he did declare he plans to pick one starter and won't rotate QBs. More importantly, the Jayhawks got their first taste of their new pace with 94 plays in 44 minutes. That's pretty dang quick.
  • E.J. Bibbs quieted a lot of the concerns about his knee on Tuesday at Iowa State's pro day. The tight end, a likely late-round pick who underwent postseason surgery, ran a nice 40 time (4.86) and showed off his athleticism with some good testing numbers in front of NFL scouts. Knowing how hard it is to find good tight ends at the college level, you'd think Bibbs will get a long look from a few organizations during this draft process. Good to hear he's healed up nicely after missing the Cyclones' final two games.
  • Texas opens spring practice on Wednesday with some glaring issues along its defensive line. The Longhorns released their pre-spring injury report, and half of the team's scholarship defensive linemen are going to be out or at least limited this spring. That includes potential starters Desmond Jackson, Caleb Bluiett and Quincy Vasser. We won't get to see exciting redshirt freshman Derick Roberson until the fall, either. The good thing for new D-line coach Brick Haley is a bunch of his healthy guys -- Poona Ford, Shiro Davis and Naashon Hughes stand out -- could really use those extra snaps.
  • And finally, in case you need a little extra to bring some joy to your morning, here's a video of beloved Baylor tight end LaQuan McGowan catching passes with one hand. We're not worthy! The 400-pound behemoth continues to establish himself as the most interesting man in the Big 12 this spring, and Jake is going to have a lot more on him in a great story today.

Seth Russell's stellar spring scrimmage, Texas Tech's Davis Webb, and West Virginia's chances lead the mailbag. As always, thanks for your questions. To submit questions for next week's mailbag, click here.

[+] EnlargeRussell
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsSeth Russell's spring has given Baylor fans every reason to believe a third consecutive title is a real possibility.

Robert in Tulsa writes: How far away was Seth Russell last Friday from Baylor three-peating?

Brandon Chatmon: Russell had a terrific scrimmage for the Bears, no question about it. He left no doubt he won’t give up his starting spot without a fight with 345 passing yards and four touchdowns. I think we saw the reason Baylor should be considered right alongside TCU as the favorites in the Big 12 despite losing Bryce Petty. A three-peat is a definite possibility.

Lillian in Austin, Texas, writes: If the Longhorns are able to figure out the quarterback problem, will they have a shot at the Big 12 Title?

BC: Absolutely. The Longhorns went 5-2 when ending a game with a Total QBR above 50 (which is considered average) in 2014. A good quarterback can cure a lot of ills, and the Longhorns have enough talent in their locker room to join the fight for a Big 12 title if they are getting consistent quarterback play from Tyrone Swoopes, Jerrod Heard or whoever wants to step up.

Michael in Dallas writes: True or false: Kliff Kingsbury continues to favor Davis Webb in order to try and prove that letting Baker Mayfield slip away was the right call?

BC: False. That sounds like a good way to end up searching for a new job. You can’t favor anyone after a 4-8 season. To be clear, I think Patrick Mahomes should be the guy, and ultimately will be the guy, but I don’t think Kingsbury should be handing out jobs to anyone, particularly a young quarterback with four starts under his belt during a bowl-less season.

Omar C. in Flower Mound, Texas, writes: Do you think it would be justifiable if NCAA mandated all Power 5 conferences to play one Power 5 and one Group 5 in their schedules to level the playing a field a little bit?

BC: First off, you’re giving the NCAA more credit and power than it has. If the Power 5 conferences decided to move forward with this idea, I think it would be a good one for fans and observers alike. I’m all for anything that helps to put schedules closer to an even playing field. I don’t see it happening unfortunately because it would require all of those schools to give up their power over their own schedules while risking losing money and/or games. I don’t see that happening.

Lonely in Lubbock, Texas, writes: When the old Big 12 changed everyone was making a big fuss about Texas losing its second-best rival Texas A&M, but in Lubbock we lost our main and only rival. After three years of this new version, do we have any hope of finding a new rival as good as the Aggies?

BC: I’m not a big fan of creating rivalries. I like when they organically emerge. I could Oklahoma State, TCU or even West Virginia as good potential candidates. But it requires something special to happen and leave a lasting memory for a rivalry to be born. And we haven’t seen that yet. I don't think you can force rivalries to happen so we might have to be patient until one develops on its own.

John Newcomb in Rochester, Pennsylvania, writes: I have to ask you, if William Crest and Dontae Thomas-Williams come out and become the starters with all the new wideouts including Ka'Raun White what levels could this team rise on defense and offense? Shot at the title in the near future?

BC: I don’t see it happening. Crest may win the starting quarterback job but DTW has Rushel Shell and Wendell Smallwood ahead of him at runing back. Nonetheless, I could see the Mountaineers getting a shot at a Big 12 title as early as this fall. An efficient quarterback could make WVU the surprise of the Big 12 this fall.

Jacob Worcester in Manhattan, Kansas writes: Kyle Klein should be back from an injury, and he even started two games in 2013. What type of impact will he have when he comes back for the Snydercats?

BC: He can be an asset for the Wildcats' offense. I don’t see him replacing Tyler Lockett (who can?) nor do I see him reaching the heights of older brother Collin. But he would bring experience to a relatively inexperienced receiver group.

Chris in Arden, West Virginia writes: What is your take on Joe DeForest at West Virginia?

BC: DeForest is a solid coach who seems to take a lot of undue heat from Mountaineers fans for some reason. His safeties should be among the Big 12’s best with Karl Joseph and Dravon Henry leading the way and his special teams helped win games in 2014 with Josh Lambert coming up clutch several times while punter Nick O’Toole was solid. Granted the WVU punt return unit was laughable at times so his units and players aren’t perfect, but whose are?

Cole in Oklahoma City writes: Will DeDe Westbrook and Joe Mixon share punt return snaps this spring ... leading in to the summer to see who is going to be returning punts for Oklahoma? Would you consider Heard to be the starting QB for Texas? Who is more of a dark horse Big 12 team?

BC: Three for one huh? Punt return duties are at the bottom of OU’s priority list but Westbrook or Michiah Quick would be good candidates. I think Heard should get every opportunity to win the job, and personally think he will. West Virginia is a good dark horse team to keep an eye on, particularly if the quarterback position becomes a strength.

Big 12 morning links

March, 24, 2015
Mar 24
9:00
AM ET

The St. Louis Raiders? Seriously? I'm all for bringing the NFL to L.A., but come on.

  • After a break of more than two weeks, Oklahoma returned to the practice field on Monday. Its players are wearing black to continue their efforts toward eliminating racism on OU's campus following the SAE fiasco. You have to respect the fact that Sooners players are taking this problem seriously and haven't just moved on now that the national controversy has seemingly passed. As for on-field news, Joe Mixon and Dede Westbrook are earning praise, and all four quarterbacks are reportedly getting near-equal reps.
  • Charlie Strong talked quarterbacks and a whole lot more on Monday to kick off Texas' first week of spring practice. Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News offers a solid recap here and makes some good points about the kind of building that's ahead for Strong and his Longhorns. Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman offers a fine take on talk of rebuilding, too. As I wrote about yesterday, Strong is still working to build up a lot more than just the talent level when it comes to this team.
  • Kansas is opening spring practice on Tuesday, and David Beaty sounds fired up to get started. Matt Tait of the Lawrence Journal-World caught up with the new head coach on the eve of practice and got him to lay out some of his goals for spring ball. You will notice Beaty rarely talks about specific players in these interviews -- it sure seems like he's trying to bring a clean-slate mentality to finding out what he's working with on this roster. Beaty's emphasis on establishing a clean brand of football in terms of penalties, turnovers and special teams is probably a good start, too.
  • Former Oklahoma tight end Taylor McNamara is transferring to USC, he announced Monday night via Twitter. His plans to depart had been largely expected for the past month, and McNamara seems to be making a smart move here. He'll graduate from Oklahoma in May and play right away for a Trojans team that's thin at tight end while Bryce Dixon is suspended. Blake Bell's move to tight end really marginalized McNamara's chances to help Oklahoma in 2014, so you can't blame him for wanting to start over closer to home.
  • Here's an interesting look by Bobby La Gesse of the Ames Tribune at Iowa State's Jake Campos and why improved flexibility is going to be a difference-maker for the touted tackle this fall. It's a close examination of how a 6-foot-8, 295-pound lineman can get more effective simply by making a change as minor as doing more ankle stretches. If you're an O-line junkie, I think you'll enjoy this read.

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Texas Longhorns Show Out On Pro Day
The Texas Longhorns produced several eligible NFL Draft athletes who participated in Pro Day Tuesday afternoon in Austin, Texas.
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