Texas junior long snapper Nate Boyer has been honored as the Big 12's Sportsperson of the Year.
Boyer, who was placed on scholarship last August as a sophomore, was a member of the Green Berets Special Forces before coming to Texas to play football. He also won the Disney Spirit award last year as college football's most inspirational story.
The 31-year-old earned a Bronze Star for his duty, which began as a response to the Sept. 11 attacks and included work in the Darfur region of the Sudan, as well as providing assistance to autistic children.
He began another tour of duty in May. Coach Mack Brown called it the "most unique story" he'd ever seen. Perhaps most unique: Boyer didn't even play high school football because his school didn't field a team.
He's found a niche on the Longhorns' team, and the Big 12 honored him with more hardware on Monday. Throughout the award season, though, he's only earned more respect. He brought two Wounded Warriors with him to the College Football Awards in Orlando and has earned a status much more prominent than just the guy who charges the field at Texas games as the first player out of the tunnel with the American flag in his hand.
"Nate sets a tremendous example for our guys and is a daily reminder of how our military personnel give so much to protect and provide us freedom," Brown said in a release. "He is a great example for student-athletes across the country and someone who is worthy of any award or recognition that comes his way."
I'll second that sentiment from Brown. See more on Boyer's incredible story here.
I have my own opinions on that for every team, but I'll ask the fans what they think first before I weigh in on what game I'd pick and why.
You can define "important" in a number of ways, which is why this exercise should be intriguing.
vs. TCU, Sept. 12: Texas Tech's first major test will come at home with what should be a huge crowd ready for the real start of the Kliff Kingsbury Era. It'll come against a hyped TCU team that, if you weren't aware, Texas Tech fans aren't too fond of. Renewing old Southwest Conference rivalries like these is always fun, and the best part of TCU joining the Big 12. Tech won in triple overtime in Fort Worth last season, but getting off to a good start with a win over a top 10 or top 20 team on national TV on a Thursday night would be huge for the program and could get things rolling for Kingsbury.
at Oklahoma, Oct. 26: Tech's one of just a handful of teams to win in Norman against Bob Stoops, but more often, it's endured some tough beatings at Owen Field. This will be one of the least hyped Oklahoma teams in awhile, but beating one of the Big 12 national powers feels good in any situation. Win this one and you might just make your entire season.
vs. Baylor at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas; Nov. 16: The Bears are a fast-rising program and they've gotten the best of Texas Tech in consecutive seasons after losing 15 consecutive to the Red Raiders since the Big 12 began. Texas Tech's road back to relevance all of a sudden has Baylor right in the middle of it. The Bears are a good team, but not great. Tech needs this win to convince folks they're a legitimate team in the top half of the Big 12 this season.
at Texas, Nov. 28: The Longhorns have only lost to Tech once since 2002, but Tech hasn't won in Austin since before Kliff Kingsbury even played. That was in 1997, and Texas was a sub-.500 team under John Mackovic that year. Kingsbury would turn a lot of heads with a win in this one over what should be a very, very good Texas team, and the Longhorns are a historic in-state rival.
vs. Oklahoma State, Nov. 2: Oklahoma State's my Big 12 favorite, and the Cowboys could definitely be undefeated and in the top five for this game in Lubbock. Regardless of Tech's record, the fans will be hyped for this game. A win over a contender can launch you to bigger things in the future, but it always feels good and can take an average season to another level. Ask Baylor's 2012 team.
Vote in our poll.
Bob Stoops started the parade by trumpeting the Big 12's depth and said the SEC's mystique and reputation are attributable in part to "propaganda."
Texas coach Mack Brown later patted Stoops on the back, saying he was proud of his Oklahoma counterpart for sticking up for the conference. In an interview with ESPN.com, Kansas coach Charlie Weis, too, said that Stoops had a point.
Still, it's going to take more than talk to knock off No. 1.
Phil Steele ranked the college football conferences for his preseason magazine, and he's got the Big 12 sitting in second place, behind the SEC. The Big 12 actually finished ahead of the SEC in the computer rankings in 2011 and held a lead for much of 2012, but in tabulations by ESPN Stats & Information, the SEC was king by the end of that season.
Steele explains that without a preseason top-10 team in the Big 12, his ranking of the league might be a bit surprising, but notes that Texas and Oklahoma State were in his top 10, and could both be 9-0 when they meet Nov. 16 in Austin. The Big 12 has four more teams in Steele's top 40 and he pointed out that the conference had the best mark (26-4) in nonconference games last season.
He also notes, and I agree, that those numbers can be influenced by scheduling. This year, though, the Big 12 can settle more on the field. By the end of September, the Big 12 and SEC will have played three games and will meet in the Cotton Bowl at the end of the season. The two leagues met on the field just once in the 2012 regular season, with Texas routing Ole Miss in Oxford. Texas A&M famously rolled over Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl.
The 2013 meetings between the leagues -- including TCU/LSU and Oklahoma State/Mississippi State on neutral fields on opening weekend -- should be fun, with plenty of bragging rights up for grabs.
Still, no amount of victories will do much to change anyone's mind about the SEC's superiority -- unless they get to take home a crystal football after the game's over.
Months later, they proved to be two of the hottest things associated with the sport. Sumlin helped lead the Aggies to a stunning 11-2 season and watched as his quarterback -- Johnny Manziel -- became the first freshman to ever win the Heisman Trophy.
But with that success has come more attention thrown the Aggies' way, especially Sumlin. He told the San Antonio Express-News on Wednesday that he's had opportunities to take his coaching talents to the NFL. The article even states that Sumlin was offered by the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles and Auburn after the stellar season he and his Aggies had.
However, Sumlin is still in College Station, and it doesn't sound like he's leaving anytime soon.
"Maybe later — some time later," Sumlin said of the chances on him heading for the NFL. "But it won't be anytime soon. My family likes living here and I like living here. Heck, we just got here. People ask me to respond to the (NFL talk), and I say, 'You've got to be kidding me.' Because I remember what was being said at this time a year ago.
"I didn't really respond to that last year, and there's no reason to respond to this now."
One reason Sumlin isn't looking to skip town is that he isn't quite satisfied with the job he's done with the Aggies. Sure, last year was a special season for the program, but Texas A&M was still behind Alabama and LSU in the SEC Western Division.
All that razzle-dazzle for third place.
This program has far more than third place on its mind.
It would have been easy for Sumlin to bolt for the NFL or a more high-profile college job, but he decided to stick with the Aggies. In fact, he probably didn't decide anything. He knew where he wanted to be.
Sumlin's name will continue to come up in NFL circles, but he has unfinished business to take care of at A&M.
One half was Crimson and the other half was mostly silver, with a few masochistic Longhorn fans in burnt orange dotting the bleachers instead of electing to leak into the fairgrounds.
There's lots of talk about Texas being "back" this season, but the fans and I agree. No talk about that will really be complete unless Texas' 2013 season includes a win over Oklahoma. Nothing ruins a season faster than a loss to the hated Sooners, and 60 percent of voters said that's Texas' most important game of 2013. No contest here. It almost felt a little silly even making that poll, but we're walking through each team's schedule. No team's most important game has been more emphatic than the Longhorns'.
Just 13 percent of voters checked the Kansas State game, and the game against my Big 12 favorite for 2013, Oklahoma State, got just 12 percent of the vote.
Games against in-state rivals TCU (six percent) and Baylor (nine percent) didn't hit double digits.
Oklahoma's left the Texas State Fair as a winner in each of the past three seasons, but it's worth noting that the last time Texas won, it went 12-0 and played for a national title.
It's a little unfair to say Mack Brown is really on the "hot seat" this fall, but if he loses a fourth consecutive game to Oklahoma -- especially one that's not competitive in the second half -- the voices who say it's time for a change at Texas will be hard to drown out. The rest of the season is important, too, but that Oklahoma game always sets a tone for the season, and this year will be no different.
Any big year for Texas requires a win over Oklahoma to be truly satisfying.
Just like most years, Texas' ceiling is sky-high. This year, though, with experience and a solid depth chart, that's especially true.
Other best and worst-case scenarios.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Is Texas back?
I'm not sure. Ask Alabama. The Crimson Tide got a front-row seat to the Longhorns' last truly great team, but only for a few minutes before Colt McCoy trotted off the field at the Rose Bowl for good, holding his throwing shoulder.
Four years later, on the same field, Texas finally ended the SEC's streak of 19 consecutive national titles. ... Or maybe it just felt like 19. Either way, it's over. Safe to say you'll get no argument from Alabama about whether or not Texas is "back."
The Longhorns rolled over New Mexico State and BYU to start the season and made Ole Miss look very average in a 24-point win in Austin to start the season. Still, we'd seen this before, and skepticism abounded. Beating Kansas State a week later was a small step toward respect, but the Wildcats are rebuilding. So was Iowa State, which fell victim in Ames a week later by 17 points in a nationally televised Thursday night game with a hyped crowd hoping for an upset.
Still, nobody was taking Texas truly serious until it beat the team that tormented it the last two seasons. You want revenge? Joe Bergeron got it on a short swing pass. He took it upfield, hurdled one Oklahoma cornerback and stiff-armed a Sooners safety on the way to a 64-yard score in the first quarter. The undefeated Sooners rallied to take a 10-point lead in the second half, but a late charge led by David Ash and Johnathan Gray put the Longhorns over the top. Ash's 40-yard touchdown bomb to Mike Davis with just over a minute to play proved to be the game winner and the play that made the country finally sit up and pay attention to the Longhorns.
Two weeks later, the Longhorns found themselves in a fistfight with TCU, but earned a 21-13 win in Fort Worth with a late defensive stop. Kansas and West Virginia did little to slow the Longhorns' run, but a one-loss Oklahoma State team didn't come close, either. The Longhorns sacked Clint Chelf four times and picked him off twice in a 14-point win.
Wins over in-state rivals Texas Tech and Baylor iced the cake and sent them to Pasadena once again for a shot at the title they never truly got to chase without McCoy for most of the game at the end of the 2009 season.
This time, though, they took advantage, and the crystal football is headed back to Austin for the first time since 2005 -- coincidentally, the last time a team from outside the SEC won the national championship.
FINAL RECORD: 13-0
AUSTIN, Texas -- Trade any discussion about "Is Texas back?" for talk about if it's time to make a change in leadership.
The cracks in the foundation were obvious in a home loss to Ole Miss, and the wound felt a little fresher when Texas A&M thrashed the Rebels by 30 a month later, reminding the Longhorns of the on-field gap between them and their former rival.
A week later, Kansas State did it again, throwing seven passes in a win over the Longhorns to move to 8-2 overall against Texas in Big 12 play.
At 2-2, Texas' Big 12 title hopes weren't dead just yet, but the season was more about keeping the wheels from falling off than capturing any trophies. The Longhorns barely survived a road date against Iowa State, but the next Saturday was a familiar scene at the State Fair of Texas.
Not again. Oklahoma 41, Texas 17.
The Sooners scored a couple of late touchdowns to make the score worse than it really was, but that's a score folks in Austin and around the Big 12 won't forget the rest of the season.
A narrow loss the next week dropped Texas to 3-4 and officially cast the "failure" label over one of the most hyped seasons at Texas in some time.
The Longhorns beat Kansas and West Virginia to get back on the right side of .500, but then Oklahoma State humbled Texas for the third time in four seasons in Austin, knocking them back to 5-5 with games against Texas Tech and Baylor left to play. The Longhorns managed to hold serve in Austin against Texas Tech and became bowl eligible, but the final game at Floyd Casey Stadium was unfriendly for Texas, which watched the Bears charge past them by double digits for another 10-win season, sending Texas to the Pinstripe Bowl in NYC for the first time.
FINAL RECORD: 6-6
As you might expect, the Big 12 was well represented.
Texas had the highest unit among both groups, ranking No. 3 with its talented, deep group of running backs. Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown were both the No. 1 running backs in their respective recruiting classes and both have been productive throughout their careers. Bruiser Joe Bergeron and speedster Daje Johnson add more depth. No surprise seeing Texas there.
I might have included Kansas on this list, actually, but Oklahoma and Baylor made appearances at No. 10 and 11, respectively.
Baylor has better overall running backs for me, but the Sooners' depth likely landed them at No. 10, led by Damien Williams, who Steele had on his All-Big 12 first-team earlier this month. Williams is showing up on plenty of NFL draft lists heading into the season, so the former juco transfer will have a lot to play for in 2013. Still, the Bears' Lache Seastrunk is the league's best overall back heading into 2013.
The departure of guys like Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and Terrance Williams left a weak class of elite receivers in the Big 12, but there's still plenty of above average talent.
Oklahoma State's Josh Stewart is the league's leading returner in receiving yardage, and headlines the Big 12's best group according to Steele. The Pokes are at No. 4.
I'm betting by season's end, Baylor would have a case on this list, but the Bears are a no show for now.
Texas and Oklahoma are Nos. 10 and 11 on the list respectively. I'd probably case a vote for Texas Tech and Baylor ahead of Texas, and maybe even TCU, but Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley could both break out on a national level this year.
Go check out Steele's rankings. You'll need Insider to see them all, but what do you make of the Big 12 candidates?
It got more bad news when coach Gary Patterson confirmed that reserve cornerback David Jenkins, coincidentally an LSU transfer, was kicked off the team amid burglary charges.
TCU 360 first reported the story.
Jenkins turned himself into police and was dropped from classes as well as removed from the football team. Patterson told the school news platform that he was "very disappointed" in Jenkins' actions. Jenkins posted bond and was released.
The sophomore had never taken the field for the Horned Frogs, but showed promise as a scout-team player and was listed behind Kevin White on TCU's post-spring depth chart, opposite Jason Verrett, the Big 12's best returning corner. Jenkins was the No. 21 corner in the 2011 recruiting class and the 6-foot-1, 204-pounder had a physical presence.
The Carrollton, Texas, native transferred closer to home after redshirting at LSU, but it's always sad to see a story like this take a tough turn.
"When our student-athletes do not conduct themselves as proper members of the campus community, they lose the privilege of representing Texas Christian University and wearing the Horned Frogs uniform,” TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in a statement.
It's a big loss for TCU's defense as a whole, but nobody's losing more from the situation than Jenkins.
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is not one to hold back his emotions. He's a very engaging person, both on and off the field, but his actions away from the gridiron can sometimes get him in trouble.
Especially with that blessing and curse known simply as Twitter.
According to a report by the Dallas Morning News, Manziel's Twitter personality (@JManziel2) sparked some controversy over the weekend when the reigning Heisman Trophy winner tweeted, "Bulls--- like tonight is a reason why I can't wait to leave college station...whenever it may be," early Sunday morning.
The tweet was quickly deleted, but Manziel followed up with this:
"Don't ever forget that I love A&M with all of my heart, but please please walk a day in my shoes."
An A&M spokesman said he didn't expect any sort of statement from Manziel about the tweets.
Although we don't know why Manziel decided to tweet his frustrations out to his 360,000-plus followers, maybe it's time for Manziel, who is juggling being a full-time quarterback and celebrity, to lie low until August rolls around. Maybe he doesn't need to bathe in the limelight as much for a little while.
There's absolutely nothing wrong with Manziel being the big man on campus. There's also nothing wrong with him being a big fish in A&M's little pond, but he has to realize that he's in an age when celebrities are monitored more and more. Everyone has a cellphone and anyone can read your tweets. One's narcissism is more readily available to the public like never before.
While Manziel is part of A&M's university, he has to make himself fit.
Manziel has to decide whether he's Johnny Football or a celebrity first. The thing that makes Manziel so fascinating to watch is that he's created his celebrity image through actual skill. He was relatively unknown before he was arrested last summer and charged with disorderly conduct and having a fake ID. At the time, most people thought he had squandered any hopes of being A&M's starting quarterback.
Five months later, Manziel was a college football rock star and the first freshman to win the Heisman.
Then, he started showing up everywhere. From late-night TV to the Super Bowl, Manziel's face was all over the place. Again, there's nothing wrong with that, but you have to be careful.
Tim Tebow didn't even garner this sort of attention, and he spent four years on Florida's campus. Sure, he was the most loved/hated player in the game, but he didn't have the off-field celebrity status Manziel has. He had no Twitter account to spout off on, and most of his vacations consisted of mission trips.
Also, Tebow arrived at Florida with a mountain of hype on his shoulders. He was one of the best high school players around, so he had been dealing with fame long before Manziel did and was properly prepared.
But that's not Manziel's fault. No one, including himself, thought he'd blow up like he did. It was great to watch, but if Manziel isn't careful with this whole celebrity persona, he could tumble in 2013.
A colleague brought up a very interesting point about Manziel: He has to decide whether he's Kanye West or Kim Kardashian. Kanye built his fame on being an amazing artist and producer while also having the bravado to tick people off. Kanye can be a certifiable jerk, but his credibility is never questioned because he's great at his craft: music. He can get away with his antics because when he goes into the studio, he cuts gold. Kim made her fame off much less and has to constantly be in the public eye or else she'll fade into nonexistence.
Manziel has that Kanye vibe about him when it comes to his craft, but he has to continue to cut gold on the field or he'll fade.
Manziel has so much going for him on the football field that his days in College Station are likely dwindling. He just has to make it to August and then through the season.
Maybe it's time for him to focus on the Aggies side of things and scale back his celebrity image. I'm not saying he shouldn't go out and have fun, but he could slow down a bit. If he doesn't want the attention, he can avoid it. He might be the biggest person in College Station, but he can hide if he really wants to.
If Manziel's celebrity stature outweighs football, people will turn on him in a way that I don't think he's ready for. Our society is good at building people up, but it's even better at breaking them down.
These are the guys with the most to prove on their respective Big 12 teams.
Next up: Texas Tech
More guys with plenty to prove.
Plenty to prove: TE Jace Amaro
Not long after he got the job as Red Raiders head coach, I got some time to talk with Kliff Kingsbury about his new team. Kingsbury said he wasn't too familiar with the personnel just yet -- getting tunnel-vision while coaching at another program in another conference will do that, even if it's your alma mater -- and hadn't gone back to watch any of Texas Tech's games from the previous season. He wanted to go in fresh, but said he knew a few names, and the first one he dropped was no big surprise.
Jace Amaro. He's a freak athlete with the potential to be a game-changing tight end -- and he has been that at times. Amaro's got speed uncommon for his position, great hands and a fantastic ability to use his 6-foot-5, 257-pound frame to box out defenders and free up space to use those hands. He just hasn't done it enough yet. Along the way, he's had a few bumps. Some his fault. Some not.
There was the arrest last March on alleged credit-card abuse and a bowl-game ejection for punching a defender he'd pinned on the ground. At the very least, neither is what you'd want to see out of a team leader.
A fluky hit in a blowout win over West Virginia left Amaro with an internal injury that cost him six games after the biggest one of his career -- a five-catch, 156-yard outburst against the Mountaineers. In his second season on the field, it was a flash of what he could be. This season, in what should be a high-powered offense under Kingsbury, with promising quarterback Michael Brewer at the helm, the potential is there for a breakout season for Amaro. There's certainly not a more gifted tight end in the Big 12, a player capable of being the go-to target in an offense.
Amaro can be that, but as a junior, he's got to prove he can do it, stay healthy and stay out of trouble. If he does all three, the Red Raiders will reap major benefits.
It's no surprise to anyone who follows the league, but the exact numbers were eye-popping. Texas and Florida are neck-and-neck every year for the most FBS signees, but the 10-team Big 12 signed 102 players from Texas last year.
The entire league signed 170 prospects, meaning 60 percent of the league's signees are Texas-bred players. Eliminating newcomer West Virginia from that mix increases the percentage to 66 percent, Haubert reports.
That's just insanity.
Competition in the state has heated up, but it's still somewhat divided by the caliber of players. Texas, Oklahoma and Big 12 expat Texas A&M are consistently competing for elite players, and have the most crossover among those types of four and five-star players.
Baylor, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and TCU get in the mix for some of those guys, but the Frogs have joined that group of programs who most often fight over the next level of player. Schools like Iowa State, Kansas and Kansas State have a tough time grabbing in-state players of that second group away from in-state schools, but often grab a different caliber of player.
The result is a competitive state, but hardly a free-for-all like we often see in SEC country.
The Big 12 teams are now having to fend off even more schools from outside the state, but West Virginia hasn't really filled the niche in the state yet that Missouri left behind when it left the Big 12.
Take a look at Haubert's full post. Great breakdown of the recruiting trail within the state and conference.
I have my own opinions on that for every team, but I'll ask the fans what they think first before I weigh in on what game I'd pick and why.
You can define "important" in a number of ways, which is why this exercise should be intriguing.
vs. LSU in Cowboys Stadium, Aug. 31: Devonte Fields' suspension for this game has taken some of the air out of TCU's balloon, but nothing would announce TCU's arrival in 2013 like a win here. There's a decent shot "College GameDay" will be in town for this one, and it could be a pair of top 15 teams. Additionally, nothing endears you to Big 12 fans like beating an SEC team, especially a good SEC team like LSU.
at Oklahoma, Oct. 5: The Frogs nearly knocked off OU in Fort Worth last season, a win that would have denied the Sooners a share of their eighth Big 12 title. Gary Patterson was one of just two coaches to beat Bob Stoops in Norman from 1999-2011, and he brings his Frogs to Owen Field for the first time as a Big 12 member. TCU won in Austin last year. Can it do the deed in the Big 12's other national power's house?
at Oklahoma State, Oct. 19: TCU's chasing a Big 12 title, but its schedule doesn't set it up well to get it. Getting a split on the road against the Oklahoma teams -- both Big 12 contenders -- would be huge. OSU is my pick to win the league, but a win for the Frogs here would give them the inside track and avenge last season's loss in Stillwater, the only game of the season in which TCU wasn't competitive.
vs. Texas, Oct. 26: Nothing meant more to the program in its first year in the Big 12 than beating Texas in Austin on Thanksgiving night. Patterson explained to me this spring how much that win meant to the boosters and fans still patting him on the back for it. Beating the Longhorns in Fort Worth, where the Frogs are still winless in Big 12 play (I know, right?) might be even sweeter and help their Big 12 title hopes.
vs. Baylor, Nov. 30: Recruiting and the quality of play in Texas is heating up. Texas A&M has ascended and looks the part of another national power in the state finally living up to its potential, but TCU and Baylor are still dealing with Texas and Oklahoma in the Big 12. Both have seen their recruiting surge in the past couple years, and a win in this one could help give one the leg up over the other. Adding to the intrigue: The all-time series between these teams stands at 51-50-7, in favor of the Frogs.
Let's wrap up with TCU.
More most indispensable players.
Most indispensable player: QB Casey Pachall
2012 stats: Completed 64-of-97 passes for 948 yards, 10 touchdowns and an interception.
Why TCU can't afford to lose him: Haven't we been here before? There's a reason Pachall grabbed this label last year, and you saw what can happen when he takes a seat. TCU was 4-0 with Pachall in the lineup and finished 3-6 without him. Trevone Boykin did well filling in a tough spot, and he's improved this year, but I really think it's this simple: TCU can win a Big 12 title with Pachall. It cannot with Boykin.
By my count, TCU wins games against Texas Tech, Iowa State and Michigan State with Pachall in the lineup. Beating Oklahoma would have been close, too. Going 10-3 is a lot different than going 7-6. Might TCU be a preseason top 5-10 team if it hadn't lost Pachall last season? They'd definitely be the Big 12 favorite.
We saw up close what TCU would look like with Pachall, who's one of the most prudent distributors of the ball in the league when he's at his best. He threw just seven picks with 343 attempts in 2011 and just one in his 97 attempts last year. Boykin tossed 10 picks in just 292 throws last year.
The Frogs' receiving corps took a hit with the loss of Pachall's favorite target and workout buddy Josh Boyce, but Brandon Carter and LaDarius Brown could both be poised for breakout seasons this year. Last year, those two and Boyce were underrated across the league because Boykin struggled to get them the ball on target with consistency.
Pachall could provide, but even this designation requires a clarification: TCU's most indispensable player was the 2011 and 2012 version of Pachall. He naturally had rust after missing the final nine games of 2013 while seeking treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. If he's not back to his old self, he's anything but the Frogs' most indispensable player.
I'm betting a summer of work getting back in the weight room and in 7-on-7 with the team will get him back in the swing, and a fall camp full of scrimmages will get him close enough to his old self to officially win his job back. We'll see just how close he is to the Casey Pachall we're used to seeing once TCU tees off its season opener against LSU in Cowboys Stadium.
These are the guys with the most to prove on their respective teams.
Next up: TCU
More guys with plenty to prove.
Plenty to prove: WR Brandon Carter
This was a really tough call since TCU's entire team has a ton to prove this season. It's the first year the Frogs really have a roster that looks capable of winning a Big 12 title. After a two-game suspension to start the season and a quiet second half of the season, defensive end Devonte Fields has plenty to prove.
And then that's that Casey fella crouched under center after returning from rehab for drug and alcohol addiction and missing the last nine games of 2012. We've written plenty about Casey Pachall this offseason, though, so I'm taking Carter as the Frog who's got the most to prove this season.
Last season, with Trevone Boykin learning on the go and clearly not quite prepared to take over TCU's offense, the production at receiver suffered. For Josh Boyce and Carter, topping 1,000 yards was difficult in a run-heavy offense with a quarterback learning to make quick decisions and struggling to be consistently accurate.
Boyce is gone, though, and Pachall's got tons of experience and accuracy. There should not be an excuse this time around. Carter has to prove he can be an elite receiver in this offense if the Frogs are going to make a Big 12 title run. I'm talking something like 1,300 receiving yards by season's end.
Carter's shown an ability to make the showstopping play, but we're talking about a player who has yet to log a 600-yard season and never had more than two catches in a game in the final seven games of the season. That's just not acceptable. He snagged an 80-yard score in a close loss to Oklahoma, but that was his only catch of the day. He caught six balls for 94 yards in Boykin's first start -- a blowout loss to Iowa State -- but what the heck happened over the rest of the season?
With Pachall back in the lineup, can Carter get back to the outstanding production he had before?
In wins over Kansas and Virginia, Carter caught 13 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns. He had just two scores the rest of the season after beating the Cavaliers. He'll have some help in guys like LaDarius Brown and Cam White, but Carter's a junior who's been a big part of this offense for two seasons. He should be ready to take the reins as one of the Big 12's best receivers. That means being consistently productive and setting an example for how receivers should carry themselves on and off the field.
If you want to win big in the Big 12, you have to be able to score points and move the ball through the air. If Carter can't step into a bigger role and easily clear 1,000 yards, you can pretty much write off TCU's Big 12 title hopes.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Baylor coach Art Briles discusses the incredible progress the program has made over the past two seasons, the challenges of having three different starting quarterbacks in three years, the parity in the Big 12 and more.
Play Podcast Kirk Herbstreit joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss Bob Stoops' recent comments about the SEC and the pending college football playoff, what appears to be an unpredictable Big 12 in 2013, how the Aggies will handle expectations and more.
Play Podcast Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin talks about the improvements being made to Kyle Field, what those improvements will to for the program, the success of last year, Johnny Manziel's offseason and the expectations for the Aggies in 2013.
Play Podcast Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Russillo talk about Texas A&M's decision to expand its stadium and say although the Aggies had a fantastic year, the school must also be careful not to overextend its resources based on a single hot stretch.
Play Podcast Baylor head coach Art Briles joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss what kind of player the Cowboys are getting in Terrance Williams.
Play Podcast Arlington and Texas A&M product Luke Joeckel, the potential No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Richard Durrett to discuss the draft, coaches and advice from his dad.
Play Podcast Florida Gulf Coast athletic director Ken Kavanagh joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss his school's Cinderella story and playing in the Sweet 16 at Cowboys Stadium.
Play Podcast Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby joins Fizsimmons & Durrett to discuss Cowboys Stadium as a venue, the state of Big 12 basketball, the new 2014 college football format, why there's no hurry to have a Big 12 football championship and much more.