Dallas Colleges: Big 12

In this week's Big 12 roundtable, we examine the major storylines leading into signing day, including the most compelling uncommitted recruit still out there, and the team to watch in the final week before recruits can sign their letters of intent:

Which Big 12-targeted uncommitted recruit is most intriguing?

[+] EnlargeDaylon Mack
Tom Hauck for Student SportsTexas and TCU are among the competitors for 6-foot-1, 330-pound defensive lineman Daylon Mack, ranked No. 6 in the ESPN300.
Chatmon: It has to be Daylon Mack. It’s hard to find game-changing defensive linemen, and Mack fits the mold at 6-foot-1, 330 pounds. Texas and TCU are among the competitors for the No. 6 player in the ESPN300, who has the talent to make an impact during his first season, not matter where he decides to call home for the next few years. Mack moves with the quickness and explosion of a player who weighs in at 230 pounds, not 330, making it easy to see why he would be the gem of any recruiting class.

Olson: I think Chris Warren III is going to make one Big 12 team very happy on national signing day. He's one of the best running back recruits in the country, and he can make an immediate impact at Texas, Oklahoma State, or Texas Tech. All three earned official visits, and Washington gets his final one this weekend. Don't sleep on that visit -- his father Chris Warren was an All-Pro running back for the Seattle Seahawks, so the distance isn't a prohibiting factor -- but it's a safe bet Warren ends up in Big 12 country, and ends up getting a lot of snaps as a true freshman.

Trotter: Mack would be a tremendous capper for TCU's class at a position of need; he would also seal what already is a fabulous class for Charlie Strong at Texas. Without a high school running back committed, Oklahoma State would love to sign Warren III, though he would boost the classes in Austin and Lubbock, too. But to me, the Kyler Murray saga is the most fascinating storyline in Big 12 country. Forget the schools, the contentions chase for the nation’s No. 13 overall player and top dual-threat quarterback has even triggered a feud between recruiting writers in Austin and College Station. If the Longhorns can pluck Murray away, what a message it would send to Texas A&M.

Who is the Big 12 team to pay attention to leading up to signing day?

Chatmon: I’ll be among many keeping an eye on the Longhorns as Texas looks to make a statement with the first full recruiting class under Strong. It’s already a strong class, but it feels like the Longhorns are poised to finish with a couple of surprises. Will they be good surprises, or bad surprises? Well, that’s why Texas is the team to watch as it looks to flip quarterbacks Murray and Kai Locksley, close on Mack and Soso Jamabo, and lock down the rest of its class.

Olson: Texas could be the talk of the country on signing day and finish with a top-three caliber class. Or the Longhorns could strike out. It's a high-risk, insane-reward gamble. If the Longhorns somehow persuade Murray to flip from A&M, I really wouldn't be surprised if Mack, Jamabo, and Damarkus Lodge follow him. Throw in Warren and cornerback Holton Hill, too, and you're talking about a group of potential Day One starters all teaming up in Austin after a 6-7 season. If that pans out, it would be one of the most improbable signing day sweeps we've ever seen.

Trotter: It's definitely the Longhorns, in my opinion. With quarterback issues that date to 2009, Texas is gambling it can flip a quarterback in the final week. But what if Murray sticks with A&M, and Locksley stays true to Florida State? Texas will be in a major hole at the most critical of positions, which could set Strong's rebuilding back for years. The Longhorns also remain in the mix for several high-profile prospects. It will be compelling to see how Texas finishes.

Who is your underrated (non-4 or 5-star) Big 12 commit to watch?

Chatmon: It will be interesting to see what Tony Brown can do in Texas Tech’s offense. The three-star receiver from California decided to play for Kliff Kingsbury despite offers from UCLA, Nebraska, Arizona State, and others. He would bring terrific size (6-foot-1, 185 pounds) to the Red Raiders' receiving corps. He doesn’t have blazing speed, but would bring quickness and good ball skills to Lubbock.

Olson: There are way too many three-stars in the Baylor and TCU classes. And by that, I mean you just know a bunch of these guys are going to outperform those above-average expectations over the next few years. I particularly like several of the Frogs' receiver commits, led by Dallas-area playmakers Jaelan Austin and Jarrison Stewart, and I think Baylor linebacker commit Clay Johnston will be sneaky good.

Trotter: At Kansas State, it will be interesting to see whether quarterback Alex Delton or running back Alex Barnes can become the rare players to see the field for Bill Snyder as true freshmen. The Wildcats have a void at quarterback, though sophomore Joe Hubener will be the massive favorite to succeed Jake Waters. Still, Delton has a skill set in the mold of past K-State signal callers. Though the passing attack with Waters was tremendous, the Wildcats had a mediocre running game last season. At 212 pounds, Barnes brings much needed size to the position. He has a chance to be an immediate factor.
In today's Big 12 mailbag, we discuss the Top 25 player ranking, the looming QB derbies in Waco and Manhattan, the Texas recruiting wars, Oklahoma State running backs and, curiously, Kurt Russell.

On to the 'bag:

Trotter: We're big fans of Washington here on the blog. We made him a second-team All-Big 12 selection. But the top 25 player ranking was a tough list to crack. A number of other terrific players like Oklahoma's Sterling Shepard and Baylor's Antwan Goodley didn't make the list, either. Washington has a chance, though, to open next year on the preseason top 25 list as one of the league's top returning running backs.

Trotter: Rennie Childs is the obvious bet at this point, since he's the only healthy scholarship running back currently on campus. But I think the Cowboys land a marquee back before signing day. Oklahoma State has a powerful pitch to make, and that's immediate playing time. Keep an eye on Chris Carson, who is an ESPN Junior College 50 prospect. Carson has been committed to Georgia since August, but he's reportedly taking a visit to Stillwater this weekend. Because they can offer playing time -- and Georgia can't having Nick Chubb -- I think the Cowboys have a decent chance to flip Carson.

Trotter: I believe that Briles believes or was told that. But after Heather Dinich spoke with College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock, it doesn't seem very likely that Briles got good info, considering the playoff votes are taken via secret ballot over computer.

Trotter: The Red River Showdown hasn't been the league's most important game in seven years. I don't see why next season would be any different.

Trotter: "Miracle." But "Death Proof," "Escape from L.A.," "Tombstone," "Poseidon" and even "Overboard" have high rewatchability.

Trotter: Yes, but only if he's not the best quarterback. If he is, Baylor should start him. That would give him four seasons.

Trotter: I think so. Incoming freshman Alex Delton is an intriguing prospect, but Bill Snyder isn't prone to playing true freshmen anywhere, much less at quarterback. Joe Hubener has three years in the system, which gives him a huge advantage over the others. He has good size, good speed and a good arm, from what I hear. If he takes care of the ball he will be tough to unseat.

Trotter: No latest. If you read my Q&A with commissioner Bob Bowlsby from earlier this week, you'll know that there are no immediate plans for either. The only change I see the Big 12 making is eliminating the "co-champions" rule. Otherwise, expect status quo.

Trotter: I already did a too-early Big 12 power poll for 2015, and I had Oklahoma State third. The Cowboys clearly have something that OU, Texas, Kansas State and West Virginia don't at the moment, and that's a quarterback (Mason Rudolph).

Trotter: Pretty good. Last I checked, Trevone Boykin is still on the roster.

Trotter: He will if he flips the gem of Texas A&M's recruiting class, Kyler Murray who is the nation's No. 13 overall player and top dual-threat quarterback, to Texas. That would send a strong message to College Station.

Q&A: Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby Part II

January, 22, 2015
Jan 22
4:00
PM CT
After an eventful 2014 football season, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby recently conducted a lengthy phone interview with ESPN.com to discuss the state of the Big 12, the controversial co-champions rule and the possibility of expansion.

Part I of the interview ran Wednesday. Part II is below:

What are the pros and cons of having a conference championship game?

[+] EnlargeCharlie Strong, Malcom Brown
AP Photo/Eric GayBig 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby expects traditional league powers such as Oklahoma and Charlie Strong's Texas to rebound from down years.
Bowlsby: The pros are you have the same number of data points as everyone else, that is to say 13 games instead of 12 games. I suppose there is some revenue to be garnered from playing the 13th game. And I think it makes us look like everyone else. So I would say all those things would be favorable. On the unfavorable side, we play everybody already and the rule doesn't permit us to play a championship game under its current structure. The other thing is with a full round robin of the league, it's always going to be a regular-season rematch. So you could obviously ask the question, is it fair for the winning team to play the losing team again, and maybe lose out as a result of it. There are legitimate pros and cons on either side. Some years we'll be very glad we're not playing a playoff game, when we'll have to risk having our best team lose to another team. And other years, we'll wish we could play one more game in order to demonstrate that we belong there.

What about the pros and cons of expansion?

Bowlsby: No, I'm not going into that at this point. Those are things that we evaluate, but I don't need to have that out there for public consumption.

You indicated during a radio interview last month that the league would be more apt to expand east than west. Why is that?

Bowlsby: What I said was there are more likely candidates east than west. We don't have any candidate list. We have zero candidate list. We're at 10 now. We expect to be at 10 going forward. There are more people looking for a home, if you aggregate the list nationally of those that might be tempted to either change leagues or join a league, there are more of them in the eastern half of the United States than there are in the western half. Just like there are more institutions, more people, more everything in the eastern half.

Have the struggles of Texas and Oklahoma, especially in their bowl games, damaged the overall perception of the league?

Bowlsby: OU and Texas both have storied football traditions. OU was picked in the top four in the country at the beginning of the year, so I'm sure they're disappointed. On the other hand, Texas has a new coach (Charlie Strong) who has done a great job and I think they made progress throughout the year. So they're on an upward trend. Those programs aspire to win national championships. So anytime they don't win national championships they want to get better.

With Oliver Luck leaving West Virginia, you guys have to submit a new representative to the playoff selection committee. How will that work?

Bowlsby: It's my appointment. I appointed Oliver, and I'll appoint the next person. It will come from within our athletic directors and the meeting that is going to be held in early February is our board of directors meeting. And I notified Bill Hancock that I wanted to socialize my decision with them before I announced it publicly.

What traits will you be looking for?

Bowlsby: Their ability to serve, their integrity, their football knowledge, their past participation perhaps, the esteem they're held in among their athletic director colleagues. What they have on their plate and their general willingness and ability to serve because it's a very time-consuming undertaking. All of those things.
This week, we've been counting down the Big 12's top 25 players of 2014. Friday, we'll unveil our top five players.

But before then, we want to mention the players who narrowly missed the cut.

The unfortunate part of our top 25 ranking is that only 25 players can make the cut. But we considered at least a dozen other standouts who were also worthy of inclusion.

SportsNation

Who has the biggest gripe being left off the Big 12 top 25 player ranking?

  •  
    13%
  •  
    27%
  •  
    45%
  •  
    7%
  •  
    8%

Discuss (Total votes: 2,712)

Standouts like Baylor's KD Cannon, who totaled more than 1,000 receiving yards as a true freshman; Texas' Jordan Hicks, who led a stout Longhorns defense in tackles; West Virginia's Mario Alford, who was a big-play threat on offense and special teams; Kansas State's Curry Sexton, who was third in the league in receptions despite playing alongside Tyler Lockett; Baylor's Shock Linwood, who finished second in the Big 12 in rushing; and Texas' John Harris, who finished fifth in the league in receiving.

But there were five other players who proved most difficult to leave out.

Oklahoma receiver Sterling Shepard most definitely would have made the top 25 had he not suffered a groin injury that severely limited him late in the season. Still, with more than 900 receiving yards before November, Shepard almost made the cut anyway.

So did his teammate, offensive right tackle Daryl Williams. The first-team All-Big 12 selection helped pave the way for the Sooners' powerful running game. His tackle cohort Tyrus Thompson, however, did crack the top 25 at No. 20.

Like Shepard, Baylor wideout Antwan Goodley would have been a lock had it not been for an early-season injury. After totaling more than 1,300 yards receiving last year, Goodley finished with just more than 800 this season. Still, Goodley re-emerged as one of the most dominant pass-catchers during Big 12 play, placing seventh in the league in receiving during conference games. He had 158 yards receiving and two touchdowns in Baylor's critical 61-58 victory over TCU.

The final two players who nearly made the list didn't play for prolific teams, but they stood out nonetheless. Iowa State tight end E.J. Bibbs tied for seventh in the Big 12 with eight touchdown receptions. Kansas' JaCorey Shepherd, meanwhile, surfaced as one of the top cover corners in the conference for an underrated Jayhawks defense. Shepherd was fourth in the country with 18 pass breakups.

So we put the question to you in our weekly Big 12 poll.

Of Shepard, Williams, Goodley, Bibbs and Shepherd, who has the biggest gripe about being left out of our Big 12 top 25 player ranking?
For a few weeks last season season, Mike Gundy didn’t look like he was having much fun.

The tension spilled over with the media, culminating in the final regular-season press conference when the Oklahoma State coach declined comment on virtually every question; at one point in the middle of it, he picked up his phone and answered a text message. After mega-booster Boone Pickens gave Gundy a backhanded vote of confidence, rumors began to surface Gundy and Oklahoma State might part ways after the season, despite the success Gundy had brought the Cowboys over the previous nine seasons. Even the Oklahoma State student newspaper concluded Gundy should be gone.

[+] EnlargeMason Rudolph
Brett Deering/Getty ImagesFreshman QB Mason Rudolph helped breathe new life into the Cowboys during the final three games of the 2014 season.
Instead, it's those days that are gone. And armed with a potential rising star at quarterback and a host of other key starters, Gundy seems rejuvenated about his standing in Stillwater.

“We’re climbing back to where we were when we lost all those guys a couple of years ago,” Gundy reportedly told a small group of beat reporters following the TicketCity Cactus Bowl.

The impetus of Gundy’s perceived rejuvenation coincided with Oklahoma State’s stunning, come-from-behind win at Oklahoma -- Gundy’s first Bedlam road victory as a player or coach.

The Sooners led by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. But behind promising true freshman quarterback Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State rallied to topple Oklahoma in overtime.

After the game, Gundy got back to having fun, unleashing his patented locker room dance for the players.

Gundy would later call the Oklahoma victory the biggest of his tenure in Stillwater. It not only made the Cowboys bowl eligible, it seemingly changed the mood and perhaps the 2015 trajectory of the program.

Leading up to the TicketCity Cactus Bowl, Gundy shelved the cold demeanor that had defined him for much of the 2014 season. He publicly expressed a desire to patch things up with Pickens. He even took a selfie with the Oklahoma State media.

Then, his team went out and played with the same looseness in the bowl game, handling Washington 30-22 in an inspiring performance that included Gundy putting 300-pound defensive tackle James Castleman at fullback for a touchdown run and a 48-yard reception.

Fresh off their phenomenal finish to last season, the Cowboys now have high hopes they can get back in 2015 to making noise in the Big 12 championship chase.

“We’ve got 21 guys that we played that are either freshmen or redshirt freshmen,” Gundy said. “Those guys are better, but they’re still not where we were because they don’t have that kind of experience. They will toward the middle part of next year.”

The biggest key for the Cowboys, though, will be the continued development of Rudolph, who shined after having his redshirt pulled for Oklahoma State’s final three games.

“When Mason came in -- and timing is important in everything we do -- he just kind of provided a lift,” Gundy said.

“He has some grit and toughness. How much? I don’t know because he has only played three games. I’m going to find out. I’m going to find out about his leadership skills. Is he going to bust his [tail] in the offseason? Is he going to step up? Is he going to have that same demeanor? Is he going to spend all his time in the [meeting room] by himself, like Peyton Manning does? We’re going to find out.”

The Cowboys, however, should be better on the offensive line, a unit that struggled most of last season but came together in front of Rudolph at the end.

Despite facing a talented Washington front seven, Oklahoma State controlled the line of scrimmage in the bowl game. With four starters back and plenty of transfer help on the way, offensive line figures to be a strength again for the Cowboys next season.

"We played with a senior, two sophomores and two freshmen, so I was surprised that they performed as well as they did,” Gundy said. “You’re playing on the road at Norman, and then you’re playing against a Washington team that had three All-Americans on defense. I think we had only one procedure penalty.”

Rudolph will also have his entire receiving corps back, including starters Brandon Sheperd, David Glidden and James Washington, who also had a banner true freshman season.

Defensively, Oklahoma State returns seven starters, including defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, linebacker Seth Jacobs and safety Jordan Sterns, who all broke out as sophomores.

Still, challenging in the Big 12 won’t be easy. TCU and Baylor are loaded again and will likely open in the top five of the preseason polls. Oklahoma and Texas are banking on having better seasons, too.

But Gundy is back to being his old self again.

Which is exciting news for the Cowboys in 2015.

Big 12 morning links

January, 21, 2015
Jan 21
8:00
AM CT
Who is he, Tom Haverford?
  • Ever wonder which teams spend in waves on the recruiting trail and which teams take a more frugal approach? Bleacher Report has an interesting look at the recruiting expenses for men's teams at FBS schools. The story reveals that no Big 12 is among the top 10 spenders and Oklahoma State gets the most bang for its buck. It isn't a major surprise that the Cowboys are able to combine wise spending with landing well-regarded recruiting classes. With the facilities at OSU, if they can get a recruit on campus, that is half the battle.
  • Kansas added another Texan to its commitment list with a pledge from cornerback Shola Ayinde of Richmond, Texas. The Jayhawks were already starting to stick their foot into the state of Texas before David Beaty was named head coach and it continued with Ayinde's decision. KU's class has a strong Texas slant with 15 of its 23 current commits from Texas.
  • Tommy Hicks of Al.com took a Senior Bowl player poll asking 20 players if they would have included TCU in the College Football Playoff. The players seemed just as split as the general public with 11 saying the committee got it right and nine saying TCU should have been included. It's good to know college football players are just as uncertain as the rest of us. Although I should note they were kind of busy on Saturdays this fall so it would have been hard for them to see all the teams in action as much as the rest of us. It's an interesting poll nonetheless.
  • It's never too early for 2015 predictions and Athlon comes through with its ranking of the Big 12 from top to bottom. They had a couple of teams a little low but West Virginia at No. 7 strikes me as particularly low. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Mountaineers rise towards the top of the standings in 2015 and even possibly force their way into the Big 12 title race. They were on that road this year and played TCU and Baylor as well as anyone in the conference. TCU and Baylor are the clear favorites but WVU could surprise.
  • Baylor's Bryce Petty is one of the players with the most to gain Insider at the Senior Bowl, writes ESPN Insider's Todd McShay. Petty could play his way into the conversation as a first-round pick with a strong showing at the Senior Bowl. I was asked about Petty's pro prospects in Tuesday's mailbag and I think he will have a solid NFL career. There are a lot of things to like about Petty but, most importantly, he's a winner. It's a big week for several former Big 12 stars with Kansas State's Tyler Lockett and TCU's Kevin White already creating some buzz early in the week. It should be fun to keep track of these guys after watching them excel in the Big 12 the past few weeks.

Underclassmen to watch in the Big 12

January, 20, 2015
Jan 20
10:00
AM CT
You already know all about young bucks like Samaje Perine, Mason Rudolph, Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield, so we will spare you the more obvious rising stars of the Big 12. Instead, here’s a closer look at 10 underclassmen worth watching in 2015.

Baylor WR Davion Hall: When you are as stacked at receiver as Baylor was last season, somebody is bound to be the odd man out. Once Big 12 play got going, that was Hall. The true freshman put up 13 catches for 192 yards and a touchdown in non-conference play, but caught two balls the rest of the season. Departing seniors Antwan Goodley, Levi Norwood and Clay Fuller accounted for one-third of all Baylor completions. Hall’s share should be going up soon.

Iowa State OT Jake Campos: We haven’t forgotten about Allen Lazard, Kamari Cotton-Moya or the rest of the young Cyclones. But Campos deserves credit. He was thrown into a tough spot, forced to fill in as a starter for 11 games this season because of injuries. Asking a redshirt freshman to handle right tackle and then moving him to left tackle is quite a challenge, and Campos handled it as best he could. The experience will help in 2015.

Kansas LB Kyron Watson: It’s easy to trust the guy Ben Heeney has selected as his successor. The top backup at middle linebacker this season, Watson played in 11 games as a reserve and on special teams. Heeney took the former top-150 recruit under his wing last season and taught him plenty. You can’t teach Watson’s athleticism. Watch out for him.

Kansas State LB Elijah Lee: He wowed right away for K-State as a true freshman, racking up a KSU freshman record 4.5 sacks. Along the way, he steadily worked to prove he’s ready to be an every-down player. Lee’s athleticism and maturity make him a major asset, and one of the league’s better young defenders.

Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon: No Big 12 underclassman will face more attention and scrutiny in 2015, right? Mixon is on track to be reinstated after his season-long suspension. He has maintained good behavior and is out to prove he deserved his second chance. He’s also a terrific fit for Lincoln Riley’s offensive scheme. Mixon’s return could give Oklahoma one of the best running back groups in the nation.

Oklahoma State WR James Washington: A great off-the-radar discovery for Mike Gundy’s staff, Washington was an unknown true freshman from a tiny Texas town who just so happened to lead the Pokes with six touchdown receptions. The small speedster recorded eight catches of 20-plus yards and will keep growing into a big-play threat.

TCU CB Ranthony Texada: Starting a redshirt freshman at cornerback in this conference? Good luck with that. Texada acquitted himself well in his debut season, breaking up seven passes and picking one off as defenses attacked him to avoid Kevin White. There will be some fresh faces in this TCU secondary, making his play in 2015 even more important.

Texas WR Armanti Foreman: It only took a few catches to prove he’s one of Texas’ most explosive playmakers. As a true freshman, Foreman hauled in a 45-yard score at Oklahoma State and took a screen pass to the house for a 73-yard touchdown against TCU. His role the rest of the season was inconsistent, but perhaps playing for new receivers coach Jay Norvell -- who heavily recruited Foreman while at Oklahoma -- will solve that problem.

Texas Tech LB Mike Mitchell: Now this guy is exciting. The Ohio State transfer sat out the 2014 season after redshirting at OSU in 2013. Mitchell, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound sophomore, has worked at inside and outside linebacker in Tech practices and promises to be a game-changer no matter where he lines up. In fact, he’ll be one of the Red Raiders’ best defensive players in 2015.

West Virginia QB William Crest Jr.: There is reason Crest has been getting admiringly called "Little Geno" for a while now. He has a big arm and big potential, which we didn’t see much of in 2014. A shoulder injury suffered in his debut against Towson led to a medical redshirt. Crest should be OK for spring ball and might be the Mountaineers’ quarterback of the future.

Big 12 morning links

January, 20, 2015
Jan 20
8:00
AM CT
The Phog strikes again...
  • TCU QB Trevone Boykin conducted a Q&A with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram from the Walter Camp Football Foundation national awards in New Haven, Connecticut. Boykin told the Star-Telegram's Carlos Mendez that "we’re no longer last year’s team. We have to prove ourselves once again." That is definitely true. After going 12-1, the Horned Frogs will have a target on their chest next season. But coming off a 42-3 demolition of Ole Miss in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, they will have the confidence that they can play with -- and defeat -- anyone in the country.
  • Kansas picked up a commitment from Carter Stanley, a 6-foot-2 quarterback from Vero Beach, Florida, over the weekend, and in the opinion of the Lawrence Journal-World's Tom Keegan, Stanley could challenge Michael Cummings for the starting job. That might be a little bold. Stanley has good size, but his only other major offer was from Connecticut, which went 2-10 this past season. Cummings played pretty well after taking the starting job midseason and seems to be fairly ingrained, even with the coaching change. But Keegan brings up a good point. The addition of Stanley gives new coach David Beaty the option to experiment with Montell Cozart at receiver. Who knows, maybe the coaching change will flip the switch for Cozart at quarterback this offseason. But if not, he's a good enough athlete to help the Jayhawks elsewhere on the field.
  • Allen Taylor of MetroNews ranked the Big 12 coaches in terms of job security. Not surprisingly, Baylor's Art Briles and TCU's Gary Patterson topped the list in terms of having the most security. Interestingly, Taylor has Iowa State's Paul Rhoads at the bottom. Rhoads still has the support of the administration, but after winning just five games in the last two years, Rhoads needs to have a bounce-back season in 2015 to feel comfortable about his long-term standing in Ames.
  • In this week's Reese's Senior Bowl, former Baylor QB Bryce Petty will look to separate himself from the other five quarterbacks there. Mike Herndon of AL.com notes that Petty might have the best chance to position himself immediately behind Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota as the No. 3 QB prospect in the NFL draft. Petty's draft hopes will hinge on whether he can show he's not a "system" QB and that he can operate NFL-style offenses with the same efficiency he demonstrated at Baylor. This week will be a big audition for him to prove that.
  • The Oklahoman's Jason Kersey breaks down the upcoming QB battle in Norman, which will carry even more intrigue with Lincoln Riley's arrival to coordinate the offense. Kersey speculates that the Sooners will drift away from running the QB under Riley, even though Riley has a track record of occasionally dabbling with the QB run game. Ultimately Kersey writes that the winner of the QB derby, whether it's Baker Mayfield, Trevor Knight or Cody Thomas, will depend on which quarterback best leads and distributes. I would add a third caveat: The winner of the job will also be the one that takes care of the ball. Knight tossed three pick-sixes, and another interception that was returned to the 1-yard line, which contributed to four of the Sooners' five losses.

Best of the visits: Big 12

January, 18, 2015
Jan 18
4:21
PM CT
The third weekend in January is always a busy -- if not the busiest -- weekend in the recruiting cycle. College coaches are allowed to contact recruits face-to-face again and the college football season is over, so both players and coaches have turned their attention to the final few weeks of recruiting. It was a busy weekend around the Big 12 with almost every conference program hosting recruits on official visits. Here’s a look at some of the best of the best form those visits.

ESPN 300 running back Nick Brossette has been a longtime LSU commitment, but that hasn’t stopped him from giving Texas a long, long look. Texas would like to land an impact running back in the 2015 class, and Brossette remains one of its best options. Brossette has built a great relationship with Horns coach Charlie Strong, and from all indications he had a good time in Austin this weekend.


Oklahoma landed a much-needed commitment from Dallas Kimball three-star cornerback Antoine Stephens on Sunday. The 6-foot-1, 187-pound Stephens was also offered scholarships by Texas Tech, Baylor, Louisville, SMU, Washington State and others.


After losing five commitments in the past few weeks, Iowa State received positive news from three-star inside linebacker De'Amontae Jackson over the weekend. The 6-foot, 235-pounder was a big get for the Cyclones out of the Sunshine State. At one point in time, Jackson had offers from Alabama, Florida State, Kentucky, Miami and others.


It also looks like Iowa State did a very impressive job with No. 10 junior college offensive tackle Jaypee Philbert this weekend. He posted about loving his time at the Kansas-Iowa State basketball game and also posted a picture of him hanging out with Cyclones offensive coordinator Mark Mangino.


Three-star defensive tackle Tyrell Jacobs joined fellow Louisianan Reggie Walker on an official visit to Kansas State this weekend. Jacobs, who visits Missouri and Illinois the next two weeks, was also accompanied by his mother.


Texas Tech had a large group of visitors on campus this weekend, including Kansas three-star athlete pledge Arico Evans. The 6-1, 190-pounder from Dallas Hillcrest seemed to be having a good time on his trip to Lubbock.


Oklahoma State also had some big prospects on campus, including eight players who were already committed to the Cowboys. This includes players like three-star safety Za'Carrius Green, who definitely liked what he saw with the black Oklahoma State uniform.

Season report card: TCU Horned Frogs

January, 16, 2015
Jan 16
12:00
PM CT
After finishing 4-8 in 2013, an eight- or nine-win season that got the TCU program back on track to being competitive in the Big 12 would've been a reasonable aspiration in 2014. A 12-win season in which the Horned Frogs shared a Big 12 title and finished No. 3 in the AP poll is pretty good, too.

We conclude our Big 12 team-by-team season report card series with TCU:

Offense: A+

The Frogs had it all: a brand new Air Raid-inspired scheme; a quarterback in Trevone Boykin who finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting and instantly began playing at an elite level; a much-improved line; a loaded supply of skill talent all over the field; and the No. 2 scoring offense and No. 5 total offense in the country that scored a Big 12-best 47 points per game in conference play. It’s incredible how explosive these Frogs became on offense and how effectively they built up and maintained that level of play.

Defense: A-

A top-five unit nationally in measures that matter: three-and-outs, yards per play, turnovers, third-down defense and red-zone defense. With star talent at every level, led by Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Paul Dawson and defensive backs Kevin White and Chris Hackett, the Horned Frogs ranked No. 8 in scoring defense by holding seven opponents to 14 points or fewer. Their pass defense was slightly more generous but still fourth best in the Big 12. You can get away with that when your team grabs 40 takeaways, second most in FBS.

Special teams: B+

TCU had an All-Big 12 placekicker in Jaden Oberkrom, a great kick returner (when healthy) in B.J. Catalon and a punt returner in Cameron Echols-Luper who probably won TCU a game with his TD at Kansas. Even punter Ethan Perry did a nice job of pinning punts inside the 20 and 10.

Coaching: A+

The honors don’t lie. Gary Patterson has already racked up at least nine national Coach of the Year awards this offseason. He did a masterful job managing this team, especially once the expectations ratcheted up. His hiring of co-offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie and their ability to apply and install their vision proved brilliant. Patterson's ability to rally this team after the Baylor loss and win out was special. From staffing to scheme to preparation to week-by-week improvement and survival, this was a master class in coaching.

Overall: A+

TCU enjoyed a dream season, simple as that. Had the Frogs been able to hold onto their fourth-quarter lead in Waco, they would’ve made the College Football Playoff. Instead, they blasted No. 9 Ole Miss in the Chik-fil-A Peach Bowl and more than proved their legitimacy. This was one of the great surprise turnarounds in college football, and the future looks bright.

Big 12 all-bowl team

January, 16, 2015
Jan 16
11:00
AM CT
Below, we recognize the best individual performances of the 2014-15 bowl season with our Big 12 all-bowl team:

OFFENSE

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
AP Photo/LM OteroBryce Petty had a huge game in his college finale.
QB: Bryce Petty, Baylor. Petty didn’t go out with a win, but he did go out with a monster performance, as he threw for a Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic-record 550 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for another score.

RB: Desmond Roland, Oklahoma State. Roland ran for more than 100 yards for the first time all season and finished with 123 yards on 32 carries in Oklahoma State’s TicketCity Cactus Bowl win.

RB: Samaje Perine, Oklahoma. Perine was about the Sooners’ only positive in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Playing on a bum ankle, he ran for 134 yards to finish his true freshman season with a Big 12-best 1,713 rushing yards.

WR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State. Lockett fueled a furious second-half comeback in the Valero Alamo Bowl with 164 receiving yards and two touchdowns. The rally came up short, but Lockett was fabulous in his final game at K-State.

WR: Kevin White, West Virginia. White was unstoppable yet again in his last college game. He finished with 129 yards receiving and a touchdown in West Virginia’s loss to Texas A&M in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.

WR: K.D. Cannon, Baylor. By hauling in eight caches for 197 yards and two touchdowns, Cannon became just the seventh receiver and first underclassman in Baylor history to finish with more than 1,000 yards receiving.

AP: Aaron Green, TCU. Green ignited a 42-3 onslaught of Ole Miss in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl by hauling in a 31-yard pass on a trick play for TCU's first touchdown. He scored the Horned Frogs’ second touchdown too and finished with 114 yards rushing and receiving.

OT: Halapoulivaati Vaitai, TCU: With “Big V” locking up one of the edges, the Horned Frogs dominated the line of scrimmage and finished with 177 yards on the ground.

OG: LaQuan McGowan, Baylor. The 400-pound backup guard delivered one of the most unforgettable plays of the bowl season, when he lined up as an eligible receiver then snagged an 18-yard touchdown pass to give Baylor a 20-point lead.

C: B.J. Finney, Kansas State. With K-State struggling to protect quarterback Jake Waters through the first half, Finney swung from center to right tackle after halftime. The Wildcats had no trouble moving the ball the rest of the way.

OG: Brady Foltz, TCU: Foltz had one of the best games of his TCU career as the Horned Frogs rolled up 423 total yards against Ole Miss’ talented defense.

OT: Zach Crabtree, Oklahoma State. Crabtree’s return to the lineup late in the year helped stabilize the line. With Crabtree, the Cowboys controlled a Washington front seven that featured three All-Americans.

DEFENSE

DE: Ryan Mueller, Kansas State. Mueller finished with seven tackles and produced a huge forced fumble of the Bruins in the third quarter that sparked K-State’s rally.

DT: James Castleman, Oklahoma State. Castleman’s biggest contributions actually came on offense. In Oklahoma State’s heavy set, Castleman rushed for a 1-yard touchdown, then late in the game hauled in a 48-yard yard reception off play-action that helped propel the Cowboys to victory.

DT: Malcom Brown, Texas. Brown did what he could in a 31-7 loss to Arkansas in the Advocare V100 Texas Bowl by leading Texas with eight tackles, a tackle for loss and a pair of QB hurries.

DE: James McFarland, TCU. McFarland essentially ended the game when he came up with an acrobatic, diving interception of Bo Wallace in the Ole Miss end zone that put the Frogs ahead 28-0 just before halftime.

LB: K.J. Dillon, West Virginia. Dillon had a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown that gave West Virginia a 10-point lead over the Aggies and early command of the game. Neither the lead nor the command lasted, however.

LB: Marcus Mallet, TCU. The Horned Frogs brutalized Ole Miss’ offense, and Mallet was a big reason for that. He put up a game-high 10 tackles and forced and recovered a fumble, as the Rebels finished with just 9 yards rushing.

[+] EnlargeOklahoma State, Deric Robertson, Kevin Peterson
AP Photo/Rick ScuteriKevin Peterson (1) and the Oklahoma State defense made plenty of stops against Washington.
LB: Taylor Young, Baylor. Young had a game-high 15 tackles and very nearly produced the game-clinching play. His 84-yard fourth-quarter interception return, however, was called back by a penalty.

CB: Kevin Peterson, Oklahoma State. In addition to providing solid coverage all night, Peterson came up with the game-clinching interception of Washington in the final seconds.

CB: Ramon Richards, Oklahoma State. The sure-tackling true freshman had perhaps the best performance in his young career and finished with six tackles, a tackle for loss and two pass breakups.

S: Karl Joseph, West Virginia. Joseph led the Mountaineers with 10 tackles and delivered yet another devastating hit that resulted in a forced fumble.

S: Derrick Kindred, TCU. Kindred picked off the Rebels in the first quarter and finished with five tackles and a tackle for loss as the TCU secondary swarmed Ole Miss' receivers all game.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: Matthew McCrane, Kansas State. McCrane nailed 47-yard and 29-yard field goals and nearly pulled off a remarkable onside kick using the “Rabona” soccer technique. Honorable mention honors here go to West Virginia’s Josh Lambert, who broke the FBS season record with 39 made field goals.

P: Kip Smith, Oklahoma State. Smith placed all four of his punts inside the Washington 20 to help the Cowboys control the field-position battle.

Returner: Mario Alford, West Virginia: The electric Alford had two big kick returns, as well as a 45-yard touchdown reception off a quick pass in his final game as a Mountaineer.

Big 12 NFL draft deadline winners, losers

January, 16, 2015
Jan 16
10:00
AM CT
At midnight, we hit the deadline for underclassmen to declare intention to enter the NFL draft. In all, just five Big 12 players elected to forgo eligibility and go pro. Some big-name ones elected to stay put, too. Here's a roundup of how the Big 12 programs affected by the underclassmen deadline fared.

Biggest winner: Baylor. Defensive end Shawn Oakman could've been a first-round pick. Left tackle Spencer Drango already has his degree and two All-Big 12 seasons. Both are coming back to Waco, Texas, to chase a third consecutive conference title and shouldn't have a hard time improving their draft position. Oakman is such a freaky athlete that you'd think scouts would fall in love with him at the NFL combine anyway. Luckily, we get to watch him play another season of college ball first. The draft advisory board recommended Drango go back to school, and that's terrific news for Seth Russell or whomever takes over the Baylor quarterback job.

Biggest loser: Oklahoma. The Sooners lost defensive tackle Jordan Phillips and receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, and it's hard to know which one is more damaging. Phillips, a fourth-year junior, flashed major potential but logged only one full season as a starter after missing most of 2013. Looks like he made a good choice: Phillips is No. 11 in Todd McShay's rankings and 27th in Mel Kiper Jr.'s Mock Draft 1.0. Insider And then there's Green-Beckham, the Missouri transfer whose total contribution at OU was one season on the scout team. Kiper has him projected to go 18th. DGB could've been one of the most talented players in the Big 12 next season, but we will never got to see him play a down in Norman, Oklahoma. It'll be interesting to see how much that one semester at OU helped repair his image and draft stock.

Most expected: Texas DT Malcom Brown. For probably four months or so, it's seemed obvious that Brown would be taking his talents to the NFL early. Even before the third-year junior turned in a season worthy of the ESPN.com Big 12 defensive player of the year honor, Brown's circumstances made this a smart move. He's married with two children (as we detailed in November) and plays at an elite level at a premiere position. What more could he have proven in 2015? Brown is projected at No. 23 in Kiper's mock and is No. 29 in McShay's prospect rankings.

Tough loss: TCU S Chris Hackett TCU was already set to lose senior defenders Paul Dawson, Kevin White, Sam Carter, Chucky Hunter and Marcus Mallet, so adding Hackett to that group doesn't help. Snagging a conference-best seven interceptions and thriving in a big role for the Frogs helped raised his profile this season, so you can see why he'd want to cash in. Hackett actually had a pretty nice backup in juco transfer Kenny Iloka, so there might not be much drop-off here.

Most unexpected: Kansas WR Nigel King. The graduate transfer from Maryland produced one of the top plays in college football this season with his 78-yard touchdown against TCU, but that was also his only touchdown as a Jayhawk. King felt he was ready to move on after logging a pair of 100-yard games and finishing with 537 yards on 30 catches this fall. He could've been a nice weapon for new coach David Beaty in a KU offense that will throw the ball around more.

Also coming back -- worth noting: When looking ahead to 2015 nonconference play, a few departures could be deemed good news for the Big 12. West Virginia won't have to face game-changing Maryland receiver Stefon Diggs again. He scored a 77-yard touchdown and finished with 127 receiving yards against WVU last season. TCU doesn't have to defend Minnesota's Maxx Williams, a matchup nightmare at tight end.
If Baylor didn’t make the point clear, Clemson certainly did.

Oklahoma -- more specifically the Bob Stoops era at Oklahoma -- had come to a crossroads.

Thirty-four point losses to Tigers and Bears called for desperate measures, and Stoops fired a coordinator for the very first time, letting go of Josh Heupel, who quarterbacked the Sooners to that national championship that one time many years ago.

This week, in turn, Stoops made the hire that will come to define the twilight of his Oklahoma tenure, putting his future and the future of the program in the hands of a 31-year-old whiz kid.

[+] EnlargeBob Stoops
Tom Pennington/Getty ImagesBob Stoops is shaking up his offense with a return to the air raid attack he originally unleashed on the Big 12 in 1999.
Lincoln Riley arrives in Norman amidst hopes he can establish an offensive identity for a squad desperately in need of one, while also creating a buzz for a program, well, desperately in need of one.

Riley wasn’t the most seasoned coordinator Stoops could have hired. Except for a single bowl game, he’s never called plays for a Power 5 offense.

But there is no ambivalence to Riley’s philosophy. He is a direct descendant of the Mike Leach air raid attack, which Stoops originally unleashed on the Big 12 in 1999, which in turn fueled the Sooners to the national championship a year later.

Riley’s offenses at East Carolina have been among the most prolific in the country, this past season ranking fifth nationally in total offense. Like Dana Holgorsen, Riley has added his own touch to the air raid, with an emphasis on running the ball. Riley featured a 1,000-yard rusher the previous two seasons, and almost had another this past season. Of course, like Leach, Riley’s attack, however, is predicated on getting receivers the ball in open spaces.

Riley brings precisely what Oklahoma has lacked the past two seasons.

Offensive identity.

With the ambition of turning Trevor Knight into the next Johnny Manziel, Stoops pushed for a transition to a zone-read pistol attack that would showcase Knight’s athleticism. The shift resulted in Oklahoma losing its identity. The Sooners never felt comfortable running Knight, and Heupel never looked comfortable calling such a drastically different scheme. Despite having a Freshman All-American at running back in Samaje Perine, the Sooners ranked just fifth in the Big 12 in total offense. Heupel ultimately lost his job; Knight could be on the verge of losing his, too.

Essentially putting that fiasco in the past, Stoops is going back to what has worked best at Oklahoma -- at least when Adrian Peterson wasn’t in the backfield -- the air raid.

Yet a return to the air raid isn’t all that Riley is bringing to Norman.

Since 2008, the Sooners brand has gradually turned stale. The past six seasons, Oklahoma has been unable to seriously contend for a national championship into November. Over the same span, the Sooners have captured one outright Big 12 title, after completely dominating the league from 2000-08.

This was supposed to be the season that elevated the Sooners back to title contention. Oklahoma smoked Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, and returned the bulk of its team, including Knight.

Capitalizing on the momentum, the school launched a $400 million capital campaign that would turn Gaylord Family Memorial Stadium into the most luxurious venue in college football by 2016.

Instead, despite having a favorable schedule, the Sooners suffered through the most disappointing season of the Stoops era, finishing 8-5, with a stunning home loss to Oklahoma State sandwiched between the Baylor and Clemson blowouts. Struggles on the field led to struggles on the stadium fundraising trail (the price of oil dropping hasn’t helped, either).

Shortly after the season, Stoops and president David Boren concluded that drastic changes had to be made to restore excitement off the field. And improve the play on it.

All of that will fall on Riley.

Who now carries the legacy of Stoops and Oklahoma football on his young shoulders.

Overreacting in the Big 12

January, 15, 2015
Jan 15
11:00
AM CT
We're all guilty of the same crime from time to time: reading too much into one result, overreaching with some opinion, buying too much stock when it might actually be time to sell. It comes with the territory of covering this unpredictable game. Here's a look back at a few things we thought we knew during the 2014 Big 12 season. A lot of them were wrong.

Aug. 30: Oklahoma State almost beat Florida State!

Season openers can be consistently pretty good at making people look foolish. With all the prep time coaches have, the results can be about as meaningful and enduring as bowl games. In this instance, Oklahoma State played No. 1 Florida State a lot closer than most expected. The Seminoles won 37-31 at AT&T Stadium but almost squandered a 17-0 lead. That game was a coming-out party for Emmanuel Ogbah and Tyreek Hill, who went on to have great seasons, but the Pokes finished 7-5. We sensed that OSU's showing and West Virginia's close game against Alabama signaled that the Big 12 can play with anyone. That might be right, but the Cowboys' season didn't get much easier from there.

Oct. 18: Texas has its QB of the future!

[+] EnlargeTyrone Swoopes
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezIt was a seesaw-type season for Texas QB Tyrone Swoopes.
On the jump to conclusions mat, we hopped to this spot a couple of times during the season. Tyrone Swoopes definitely had his moments in 2014. Against Oklahoma, Iowa State and Oklahoma State, he threw for 300-plus yards in each game, and it appeared the Longhorns could lean on him for the future. In this particular week, against the Cyclones, he came up clutch by driving 68 yards in two plays to set up the game-winning field goal in a 48-45 win. The next week, Texas lost to K-State 23-0. His impressive showing against Oklahoma State was followed up by the debacle against TCU. In a year of highs and lows for Swoopes, it was probably unrealistic to make such bold and definitive statements.

Nov. 1: Sugar Bowl Trevor is back!

Speaking of quarterbacks with highs and lows, Oklahoma's Trevor Knight was also a tough dude to peg during the 2014 season. Once again, we witnessed a quarterback shred Iowa State and believed this meant progress. Knight was at his dual-threat best on Nov. 1: 230 yards passing, 146 rushing and six total TDs in a 59-14 beatdown in Ames. That "Sugar Bowl Trevor" label of how good he can be on the right day remains both unfair and elusive, though, as the Sooners' showing against Baylor the next week proved.

Dec. 2: TCU is making the College Football Playoff!

They really got us good with this one. We didn't make such a bold prediction at the time, but all the indicators were there, right? When the playoff committee boosted the Horned Frogs up to No. 3, ahead of Florida State, going into the final weekend of the season, it seemed reasonable to conclude that a blowout win against Iowa State would be enough to secure TCU's playoff bid. This ended up being a false hope, and it was heartbreaking for Horned Frogs fans. Baylor fans were angry at the time, too, but didn't need to be. A few days later, the playoff committee finally bumped the Bears ahead of TCU, which lost to Baylor in October.

Have you had enough yet? No? Here's a preview of a few talking points you're sure to hear about in the offseason that might in fact be regrettable overreactions. Only time will tell, really, but we have to discuss 'em anyway.

Mason Rudolph is a star!

The way Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph closed out the season with three inspiring starts, including the shocking upset of Oklahoma in Norman, is inspiring a lot of confidence about where the Pokes are heading in 2015. But he was a true freshman, and surely there will be speed bumps along the way as he grows in his sophomore year. Let's have a little patience, shall we?

Paul Rhoads is on the hot seat!

You knew this talking point was coming eventually. To this point, the job of beloved Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads has never really seemed to be in jeopardy, despite the on-field results (2-10). But the Cyclones just endured a winless conference season and have lost 23 of their past 29 games. Recruiting isn't going great, either. The pressure will build if Rhoads can't produce more promising results in 2015.

Maybe TCU and Baylor can both make the playoff!

Putting both teams in the top three of our Way-Too-Early preseason rankings might lead to this viewpoint, but it's probably a shaky one. Only one of these teams can go undefeated, and there are no guarantees for one-loss teams. Whoever wins their Black Friday showdown in Fort Worth should be in great shape. But who knows what that game will mean for the loser?
video
There are 30 players committed to Big 12 schools in the final update of the ESPN 300 for the Class of 2015. That number is comparable to the Big Ten and the Pac-12, but definitely trails behind the ACC and SEC. What also has to be troubling is the lack of top-flight national recruits ending up at Big 12 schools. Only two top-50 players and seven in the top 100 are heading to Big 12 programs. The good news is that those numbers could change down the stretch as some good talent remains on the board in Texas and Oklahoma.

SPONSORED HEADLINES