Dallas Colleges: 2013 position rankings
Here's how I rank the league's receiving units. (Note: The league's crop of tight ends is pretty thin, so I lumped in those guys to the receiver rankings.)
2. Texas Tech: Eric Ward is the Big 12's only returning 1,000-yard receiver, and TE Jace Amaro is the Big 12's best player at his position. Jakeem Grant is ready for a breakout season and is one of the league's most dangerous players with the ball in his hand. Bradley Marquez is also back after a minor league baseball stint with the New York Mets. Just a solid, solid group all around with a great balance of size, speed and route-running ability.
3. Baylor: Who cares if Terrance Williams is gone? He led the nation in receiving a year ago, but the Bears have tons of impressive pieces ready to fill the void. Tevin Reese will have a bigger role after catching 53 balls for 957 yards a year ago, and Levi Norwood nearly topped 500 yards himself. Keep an eye out for two new names: Redshirt freshman Corey Coleman and true freshman Robbie Rhodes. Older players like juniors Clay Fuller and Antwan Goodley make this group very, very deep, and don't be surprised if unknown Jay Lee becomes a major factor in the offense after a huge spring. His 2012 was marred by knee injury and he never quite got on track.
4. Oklahoma: Jalen Saunders has a case as the Big 12's best returning receiver, and sophomore Sterling Shepard is a future star. Kenny Stills is gone, but OU is hoping Trey Metoyer can finally live up to the hype of the past two springs. Durron Neal and Lacoltan Bester should get in the mix this season, too. Jaz Reynolds could be a factor as well after being suspended for all of 2012.
5. Texas: Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley are a great 1-2 punch, and Davis benefited greatly from QB David Ash's ability to throw more accurately down the field. If TE M.J. MacFarland and Kendall Sanders can improve after good offseasons as sophomores, Ash will benefit even more. Losing Cayleb Jones hurts more than you might think, though.
6. Kansas State: You can't ever look at the numbers with this group, especially after two seasons of throwing the ball fewer times than just about anyone in the Big 12. Collin Klein and John Hubert were great players, but don't take the lack of tosses as an indictment of Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson's skills. They could be 1,000-yard receivers in different systems. Junior Curry Sexton will be called on a bit more this season.
7. West Virginia: I feel a little foolish with this group this far down the list, but I'd feel equally foolish giving the Mountaineers a higher spot with so many unproven players. I voted Kevin White as the Big 12's Newcomer of the Year and he's my pick to lead WVU in receiver, but Ivan McCartney is back on the team. Connor Arlia and K.J. Myers are two more big talents, and true freshman Daikiel Shorts and sophomore Jordan Thompson give WVU even more depth. Don't be surprised if WVU is arguably the best receiving corps in the league by season's end, but they've got a lot to prove.
8. TCU: Losing Josh Boyce and Skye Dawson hurts, but TCU has a ton of potential at this spot, too, even if it's unproven. Brandon Carter figures to have his first 1,000-yard season with Casey Pachall back at QB. LaDarius Brown and Cam White have tons of potential. Florida transfer Ja'Juan Story has turned heads since coming to TCU and finally takes the field later this month. Gary Patterson has raved about tight end Stephen Bryant, too. This group could be in the top 3-4 by season's end.
9. Iowa State: Quenton Bundrage and Ernst Brun will be better this season than people think, but ISU still has to replace its top three receivers and lacks depth at this position. Jarvis West is a good playmaker with the ball in his hand, and Tad Ecby needs to become a bigger factor this fall.
10. Kansas: By now, odds are high that you realize Kansas' receivers caught as many touchdowns last season as you, me and Charlie Weis did. Oklahoma transfer Justin McCay provides some hope for the position, but he's still a guy without a catch as a collegiate athlete. Tre Parmalee and Christian Matthews can make plays with the ball in their hands, and I suppose I'll count Tony Pierson as a part of this position group now that he's working out of the slot some. Juco star Rodriguez Coleman needs to emerge, and as of last week, the Jayhawks won't have Miami (OH) transfer WR Nick Harwell until 2014.
Here's how I rank it:
2. TCU: The Frogs boast the best returning cornerback in the league in much-improved Jason Verrett, who led all corners last season with six interceptions. Kevin White starts opposite Verrett and Keivon Gamble is a solid third corner.
3. Oklahoma State: Justin Gilbert's shortcomings last season were a big story in Stillwater, but he's still talented enough to hear his name very early in next year's NFL Draft. Bringing in Kansas transfer Tyler Patmon gives OSU a great option who knows his way around the Big 12. He'll likely compete with Kevin Peterson to start and fill Brodrick Brown's vacated spot. Miketavius Jones and Ashton Lampkin are promising reserves, too.
4. Baylor: It's a new day in Waco. This is the most experienced and talented set of corners we've seen under Art Briles at Baylor. K.J. Morton, Joe Williams and Demetri Goodson are all three above average starters and Xavien Howard should provide depth as a redshirt freshman. Williams and Morton have 37 career starts and Goodson should bounce back after an arm injury last season. They combined for four interceptions and Williams led the way with 15 pass breakups.
5. Oklahoma: Aaron Colvin is right behind Verrett as the Big 12's No. 2 overall corner, but the Sooners will be battling inexperience with this unit. Possible starter Gary Simon is off the roster and Oklahoma will likely rely on Arizona transfer Cortez Johnson, who played in eight games as a freshman in Tucson before joining Mike Stoops and Tim Kish in Norman. Johnson could be a great player after a strong spring, but he's still an unknown entity. Look for true freshman Stanvon Taylor to make an impact, and not just by necessity.
6. Kansas State: The Wildcats' front seven is nearly all gone from last year's team, but corner Randall Evans played well behind Nigel Malone and Allen Chapman last season and looks ready to step into a starting role. Evans was third on the team with 77 tackles and Kip Daily should battle juco transfer Nate Jackson for the other starting spot. Carl Miles Jr. could provide some more depth.
7. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders don't have a ton of raw talent at the position, but the team's top three corners all are seniors, which could pay off. Bruce Jones, Olaoluwa Falemi and Derrick Mays had to adjust to a new system this spring. Sophomore Jeremy Reynolds also has some promise. Falemi didn't make a start as a juco transfer last season, but made eight tackles. Mays had a few spot starts in each of the last three seasons, but Jones made six starts in his first season last year and broke up seven passes.
8. West Virginia: Brodrick Jenkins headlines the unit after making 33 tackles and picking off a pass with two breakups last season and will be an experienced senior this fall. Nana Kyeremeh should be a first-year starter, though Division II transfer Rick Rumph has a pretty interesting backstory. Brandon Napoleon should provide some depth after redshirting last season.
9. Kansas: The Jayhawks' defense is improving, but call me skeptical when your great hope in the unit is a juco transfer. Cassius Sendish comes to KU and has impressed after a good career at two different schools and should join fellow juco transfer Dexter McDonald, who returned to KU after spending last season at Butler Community College. JaCorey Shepherd should provide some depth and maybe make a start or two after transitioning from receiver and Tyree Williams played sparingly as a freshman last season.
10. Iowa State: Yes, I love that Iowa State's No. 3 corner has the same name as it's quarterback, but beyond Sam Richardson, the Cyclones corners have a lot to prove. Jansen Watson missed the spring but should return for the season. Jeremy Reeves is a solid talent, but reserves Kenneth Lynn, Charlie Rogers and Damein Lawry have almost no experience. Only Lynn has appeared in a game before, and he has two career tackles.
More preseason position rankings.
2. Baylor: Lache Seastrunk is the Big 12's best back and Glasco Martin would be an above-average starter for most of the rest of the Big 12. The duo was just shy of 2,000 rushing yards last season but should clear it easily in 2013. They're the best 1-2 punch in the Big 12.
3. Oklahoma: Oklahoma doesn't have an elite runner, but Damien Williams is very close, and the Sooners have a ton of talent behind him, even if it's been mostly potential to this point. Brennan Clay and Roy Finch are starter-quality backs and freshman Alex Ross could get a few touches this season.
4. Kansas: This is the biggest strength of a Jayhawks team trying to rebuild. KU's been strong here even under Turner Gill, but never stronger than it is right now. James Sims is the headliner coming off a 1,000-yard season, but the depth here is silly. Tony Pierson is one of the league's best home-run hitters and Darrian Miller is back on the roster after a strong freshman season and being dismissed from the team before the 2012 season. If Brandon Bourbon can stay healthy he could contribute and Taylor Cox is a decent reserve, too.
5. West Virginia: The Mountaineers got a big pickup in Houston transfer Charles Sims, and he joins a pair of solid scat backs in Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie. Buie led WVU with 850 yards last season and if Garrison can get healthy again, he'll provide another great starting option.
6. TCU: The Frogs got robbed at this position last year by injury, but Waymon James (875 yards, six touchdowns in 2011) is back from a knee injury and Nebraska transfer Aaron Green's shiftiness and speed has TCU fans excited. Last year's leading rusher, B.J. Catalon, returns after rushing for 584 yards last season. It'll be interesting to see if incoming recruit Kyle Hicks earns any playing time.
7. Iowa State: Shontrelle Johnson should be healthy and prove himself again as the team's most talented back, but James White led the team with 505 yards last season and Jeff Woody is incredibly difficult to bring down when he gets a head of steam upfield. Juco transfer Aaron Wimberly has lots of potential and a strong spring game performance from DeVondrick Nealy got ISU fans fired up.
8. Oklahoma State: It feels a little silly to have OSU this far down the list, mostly because Jeremy Smith may well lead the Big 12 in rushing. Still, he's never had more than 700 yards in a season and will have to get used to being a featured back. Desmond Roland is a great backup, but behind him, OSU doesn't have any reliable options, unless you want to count Kye Staley at fullback.
9. Kansas State: John Hubert has a shot to win the Big 12 rushing title, but a lack of depth caused K-State's slide down this list. Hubert is solid, but the group behind him isn't strong. Angelo Pease is gone, but no other player on K-State's roster has logged a season with double-digit carries. Robert Rose and DeMarcus Robinson will have to change that this season.
10. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders have a solid starter in Kenny Williams and a good backup in SaDale Foster, but they're simply not as deep as the rest of the Big 12. Quinton White and DeAndre Washington could get some run this season.
Here's how I rank the Big 12 teams at quarterback:
1. Oklahoma State: Wes Lunt is gone, but OSU still has two quarterbacks capable of winning a Big 12 title with this roster in likely starter Clint Chelf and short-yardage specialist J.W. Walsh. Walsh nearly knocked off Texas in his first career start last season. Chelf has lots of experience in the system, and Walsh led the Big 12 in passer rating last season.
2. TCU: Casey Pachall has to prove he can get back to his old self, but he's got a strong case as the Big 12's best quarterback. Trevone Boykin improved a lot over the 2012 season and coach Gary Patterson raved about his progress this spring, making Pachall's likely reclamation of his starting spot a tougher assignment than most figured. Boykin's arguably the Big 12's best playmaker at QB with his feet. No QB in the Big 12 has a stronger on-field résumé at this point in their careers than Pachall. That carries a lot of weight in these rankings.
4. Texas: David Ash has a shot to be the Big 12's best quarterback this season, but has to shake off rough games like he had against Kansas to do it. Case McCoy isn't the most physically gifted specimen at the position, but there's no denying his playmaking ability. Even Texas A&M fans would have to admit that. Tyrone Swoopes turned some heads during the spring game, and Connor Brewer is a solid prospect.
5. Oklahoma: Blake Bell should be an above average Big 12 starter, who proves he can throw the ball and is more than just a threat around the goal line. The inexperience all over the Big 12 at this position makes ranking this spot extremely difficult, but Kendal Thompson and Trevor Knight behind Bell would be intriguing to watch if they're forced into duty. All three are playmakers with their feet.
6. West Virginia: The Mountaineers probably have more upside than any team on this list, and have three guys who could probably carry the Mountaineers to 7-8 wins this season. That's a luxury, but other than Ford Childress, I'm not sure I see a real game changer in Clint Trickett or Paul Millard. Still, don't be surprised if whoever wins the job racks up 3,500-plus yards in this offense.
7. Texas Tech: Tech is right behind West Virginia in potential at this position. Michael Brewer breaking out and proving himself as the Big 12's best quarterback this season wouldn't surprise me at all. True freshman Davis Webb has impressed Kliff Kingsbury, but Brewer's inability to beat him out for the job is something of a red flag. Not much depth at the position slides the Red Raiders down the list a bit.
8. Kansas State: K-State has an intriguing race between Daniel Sams and Jake Waters. Bill Snyder has historically preferred dual-threat quarterbacks, and Sams will easily be the fastest quarterback in the Big 12, but I want to see him operate the whole offense and not do so while nursing big leads before I truly buy in. Waters isn't a statue, but Sams could surpass Boykin as the Big 12's best running quarterback.
9. Kansas: Jake Heaps is the great hope for the Jayhawks, who don't have another serviceable quarterback on the roster. Heaps has earned some rave reviews during the spring and had moderate success at BYU. He'll have a strong running game and a better group of receivers around him than Dayne Crist did last season. Michael Cummings played some last season after replacing Crist, but the results were far from inspiring.
10. Iowa State: Sam Richardson has to prove he improved a lot in his first offseason as the team's unquestioned starter. Grant Rohach is a decent backup, but this position has been a constant struggle recently in Ames. I'm not entirely sold on Richardson being the guy to change that.
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