Dallas Colleges: 2012 fall camp previews

Opening camp: Texas Tech Red Raiders

August, 10, 2012
8/10/12
11:00
AM CT
Camp is open over in Lubbock. Before we get too deep in sweltering practices, I'll offer up a quick preview of what you need to know heading into the season.

See more fall camp previews.

Next up: Texas Tech.

Media's predicted finish: Ninth.

Biggest storyline: Texas Tech is on a little redemption tour of its own after breaking the Big 12's longest stretch without a losing season, one that reached back nearly two decades. Last year's 5-7 season was aided by injuries, but the defense simply wasn't good enough. The pundits clearly aren't convinced Texas Tech is ready to rebound and reach the postseason, but the Red Raiders should have the offense. Can they stay healthy and finally turn the corner after a couple of rough seasons to begin the Tommy Tuberville era? He's recruited really well. The Red Raiders have the athletes to make it happen.

Biggest question mark: The entire defense. Texas Tech was by far the nation's worst run defense last season. That's an accomplishment especially in the Big 12, where passing is the name of the game. The Red Raiders gave up 12 more yards a game than New Mexico, the next-worst rush defense and a team that won one game. They gave up 25 more yards a game than the 116th-ranked rush defense. New coordinator Art Kaufman is the fourth man in four years to be in charge of the Texas Tech defense, which fell victim to poor depth in 2011. Coach Tommy Tuberville says the basic terminology and schemes haven't changed, even though the alignments have, from a 4-3 in 2009 to a 3-4 in 2010 to a 4-2-5 last year and back to a 4-3 this year.

Who needs to step up: The defensive line. Even with the injuries, the offense was good enough to win 7-8 games or more last season, averaging almost 34 points a game. Still, there's no underestimating the importance of this unit's improvement. If Tech can't stop the run any better than last year, the offense won't have a chance. Defensive tackle Delvon Simmons must emerge at the front line of the defense. Tackle Kerry Hyder and ends Branden Jackson and Dartwan Bush are the guys who can have the biggest influence on whether or not Texas Tech's rise begins in 2012.

On the mend: This list could go on and on and on, but we'll focus on the biggest guys who need to be back on the field. That starts with running backs Eric Stephens and DeAndre Washington who are returning from knee injuries. Receivers Alex Torres (knee) and Darrin Moore (ankle) are back and healthy, though Moore is facing disciplinary action after an offseason DWI arrest.

Breaking out: Texas Tech may have a pair of linebackers who are household names by the end of the season. Juco transfer Will Smith took over this spring and earned a starting spot at middle linebacker. Tuberville wants him on the field as much as possible. Terrance Bullitt, a converted safety, is playing outside linebacker and the 215-pound senior is a big hitter who can fly around and be everywhere. He just needs to prove he can be where he needs to be when he needs to be there. He's got the athleticism to make it happen.

Don't forget about: WR Eric Ward. Torres has had a great career already, and Moore has all the potential in the world, but Ward was the guy producing in 2011, and returns as the team's leading receiver. He was steady during a rocky 2011, catching 84 balls for 800 yards and 11 scores.

Opening camp: Texas Longhorns

August, 10, 2012
8/10/12
9:15
AM CT
Camp is open in Austin. Before we get too deep in sweltering hot practices, I'll offer up a quick preview of what you need to know heading into the season.

See more fall camp previews.

Next up: Texas.

Media's predicted finish: Third.

Biggest storyline: Texas was a lot better last year than it was in 2010's five-win season, but how much better will Texas be in 2012? Eight wins won't cut it with the expectations facing this year's team. An offense full of freshmen is now an offense full of sophomores, but the Longhorns are still trying to climb back up the mountain after a Big 12 title in 2009 and two forgettable seasons since. Is this the year the Horns reach the summit once again?

Biggest question mark: Quarterback. No question about this one. For now, coach Mack Brown still says the position isn't settled between David Ash and Case McCoy, but Ash has reportedly received nearly all of the first-team reps since a strong performance in the win over California in the Holiday Bowl. Ash has the bigger upside and more impressive physical attributes, but he's got to start making good on that upside. He'll have plenty of help around him with a strong backfield and two good, young receivers in Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis.

Who needs to step up: The linebackers. Junior Jordan Hicks is the leader of the group, but there's a huge leadership void there with the loss of Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson. That leadership has shifted to guys like Alex Okafor, Kenny Vaccaro and Jackson Jeffcoat. Steve Edmond is a big presence and a promising player at 255 pounds in the middle of the defense, and former blue-chip recruit Demarco Cobbs is ready to take over at the other outside linebacker spot. He missed six games last season with a broken arm, but he's got absurd speed for his position.

Fun fact: Texas has exactly 12 players on its roster who are not from Texas. Who came from furthest away? How about freshman kicker Michael Davidson, from Aberdeen, Scotland.

New addition: Don't underestimate the impact of newcomer Anthony Fera, who gives Texas a huge upgrade at one of its biggest question marks: kicker. He may also get in the mix at punter, but Fera's an experienced kicker who transferred to Texas after the NCAA hammered Penn State with severe sanctions, including a four-year bowl ban. He made 14 of 17 kicks last season. Texas' defense should produce a lot of close, low-scoring games. Here's guessing Fera will have a big influence on how many of those are wins and how many are losses.

Don't forget about: WR Mike Davis. Shipley grabbed a lot of headlines last year, but Davis is still a big talent, too. The junior grabbed 45 passes for 609 yards and a touchdown last year. I'd be shocked if he doesn't have a major boost in production this year.

Breaking out: RB Johnathan Gray. Gray was the nation's top running back in the 2012 recruiting class, and joins Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron in a loaded backfield for the Longhorns. Still, where he fits and what kind of impact he'll have is one of the league's most fascinating developments. It's not every day the nation's Gatorade Player of the Year shows up on a Big 12 campus.

Opening camp: Oklahoma State Cowboys

August, 9, 2012
8/09/12
2:12
PM CT
Camp is open up in Stillwater. Before we get too deep in sweltering hot practices, I'll offer up a quick preview of what you need to know heading into the season.

See more fall camp previews.

Next up: Oklahoma State.

Media's predicted finish: Fourth.

Biggest story line: Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon are gone. The Cowboys are going from a 28-year-old quarterback to an 18-year-old quarterback, but he's got to find a handful of new targets to come close to what Oklahoma State was used to with Weeden and Blackmon in 2010 and 2011. The Cowboys enter the season in the unfamiliar position of defending champs, but outside of the quarterback and pass-catching spots, this team is anything but rebuilding.

Biggest question mark: Wes Lunt. We know he beat out J.W. Walsh and Clint Chelf this spring to amazingly win the job as a true freshman who should have still been in high school, but how will he handle the first year of major college football? It won't be easy, especially considering the strength of the league's defenses, which should be stronger than they've been in recent seasons. Can Lunt be productive and also take care of the ball?

Who needs to step up: The cornerbacks. Justin Gilbert and Brodrick Brown should be absolutely nasty at cornerback, but they simply have to be great this season. The margin for error for the defense is nothing like it was last season. It may surprise some, but the Cowboys actually led the Big 12 in scoring defense in conference games last season. That's nice. OSU still has to be better, and it's going to start with the Pokes' pair of returning starters at corner.

Biggest position battle: Starting left tackle Michael Bowie broke team rules and was suspended, but chose to leave the team, leaving the Cowboys reliant on a sudden position battle at left tackle. Parker Graham started three games there last year and may grab the spot, but sophomore Daniel Koenig, redshirt freshman Devin Davis and juco transfer Chris Grisbhy will be in the mix, too.

Don't forget about: RB Jeremy Smith. Joseph Randle is the headliner. Herschel Sims was the superstar recruit kicked off the team this spring. Smith will have to join Randle in supporting his new quarterback, proving that their success on the ground -- the duo combined for almost 2,000 yards -- was more than defenses being distracted by Weeden and Blackmon. Smith is a power back, but even he broke out for scores from 74 and 30 yards against Texas, the league's best defense.

Breaking out: There are lots of receptions to be had in this offense. The only question? Who's going to get them? Tracy Moore, Isaiah Anderson and Josh Stewart are the most likely candidates, but look out for spring breakout star Charlie Moore and newcomer Blake Jackson, one of the nation's best juco tight ends a year ago.

Opening camp: Baylor Bears

August, 8, 2012
8/08/12
2:42
PM CT
Camp is open down in Waco. Before we get too deep in sweltering hot practices, I'll offer up a quick preview of what you need to know heading into the season.

First up: Baylor.

Media's predicted finish: Seventh

Biggest story line: Can Nick Florence fill RG3's legendary cleats? Florence is a much, much different player, but he's mobile and has plenty of experience for what's essentially still a first-year starter. Better yet, he's got a fantastic offensive line headlined by Ivory Wade and Cyril Richardson. He'll have two of the league's best receivers in Terrance Williams and Tevin Reese, and be supported by an outstanding trio of backs in Jarred Salubi, Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin.

Biggest question mark: The defense. Baylor won't have a Heisman winner to outweigh a rough season from the defense. The Bears were the first team in FBS history last season to win four consecutive games in a single season while also giving up at least 30 points in each win. Phil Bennett is ready for Year 2, and his defense has a lot to prove after finishing ahead of only Kansas in total defense. The Bears forced lots of turnovers late in the season, helping them finish strong, but will that continue?

Fun fact: The Bears' six-game win streak is the longest of any team in one of college football's six major conference. The MAC's Northern Illinois (9) is the only team who has won more consecutive games entering 2012.

Who needs to step up: Williams and the backfield. Baylor had the Big 12's leading rusher in Terrance Ganaway and leading receiver in Kendall Wright last season. Those losses are big, too. Williams and the backfield trio have the potential to be great replacements for the Bears, who have had 1,200-yard rushers in each of the past two seasons. Who knows if a featured back will emerge, but this group has to be productive if Baylor's going to reach a third consecutive bowl.

Don't forget about: S Ahmad Dixon and CB K.J. Morton. Neither get the same recognition as guys who earned a reputation as the league's best at their position, but after really strong finishes to 2011, Dixon and Morton might make a run in 2012 that proves they deserve a place in the conversation as one of the Big 12's best defensive backs.

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