Dallas Colleges: Aaron Green

Big 12 media days live: Day 2

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22
9:40
AM CT
The Big 12 media days continue on Tuesday in Dallas, as Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and new Texas coach Charlie Strong each take the stage. Keep this page open throughout the day's proceedings as we bring you the latest from our reporters, who will cover all 10 teams at the event.

TCU spring wrap

May, 1, 2014
May 1
8:00
AM CT
A recap of what we learned about TCU this spring as the Horned Frogs work to rebound from a 4-8 season.

Three things we learned in the spring:

1. Devonte Fields is back. The former Big 12 AP Defensive Player of the Year missed most of 2013 due to a foot injury and played like the guy who was a freshman phenom this spring, particularly in the final weeks of practice. If he stays healthy, he can be one of the nation’s top defensive ends once again.

2. The QB battle begins. Weeks after wrapping up spring practice, TCU got good news for its quarterback conundrum when Texas A&M transfer Matt Joeckel announced that he’s heading to Fort Worth. The senior will challenge Trevone Boykin and incoming freshmen Foster Sawyer and Grayson Muehlstein in what should be a competitive summer battle.

3. Spring ball is essential for getting a better grasp of what you’ve got in the fall, and coach Gary Patterson got some questions answered on that front. He liked how TCU’s offensive line came together, and successors in the secondary began to emerge. TCU’s overall depth seems to be steadily improving entering Year 3 in the Big 12.

Three questions for the fall:

1. Offensive mastery is a big one. Patterson brought in two quality up-tempo spread coaches in Doug Meacham (Houston) and Sonny Cumbie (Texas Tech) to install a new scheme. Learning how to execute that attack with consistent success takes times and lots and lots of reps, plus a steady QB. If you don’t get it down, you’re left with an offense that gets off the field quickly.

2. Must get the running back stable healthy. TCU was left with only one healthy scholarship rusher for the spring-ending scrimmage due to a variety of injuries. The run game is essential to how Patterson sees this offense operating, and there’s talent with B.J. Catalon, Kyle Hicks, Aaron Green, Trevorris Johnson and incoming frosh Shaun Nixon.

3. There really is no replacing Jason Verrett, so no point in phrasing it that way. What’s obvious is TCU needs several cornerbacks to step up if it hopes to replicate the impact of the future first-round pick. Ranthony Texada, a redshirt freshman, is the guy to watch, with senior Kevin White expected to hold down the other side.

One way-too-early prediction:

Expect TCU to still be one of the surprises of the Big 12 this fall. Yes, the schedule provides challenges early and often, with Minnesota on the nonconference slate and the Frogs opening Big 12 play against conference favorites Oklahoma (at home) and Baylor (in Waco), but don’t be shocked if the Horned Frogs are already sitting on six wins by the first week of November.

Big 12 post-spring breakdown: RBs

April, 29, 2014
Apr 29
3:00
PM CT
With spring ball done, we’re reexamining and reranking the positional situations of every Big 12 team, continuing Tuesday with running backs. These outlooks will look different in August. But here’s how we see them post-spring:


1. West Virginia (pre-spring ranking: 4): West Virginia running backs coach JaJuan Seider has one of the best and most difficult jobs in the Big 12. Seider has an embarrassment of riches at his position in Dreamius Smith (the No. 1 juco back in 2013), Wendell Smallwood (who played last year as a true freshman), Rushel Shell (who before transferring from Pitt set the Pennsylvania state high school rushing record), Andrew Buie (the team’s leading rusher in 2012) and Dustin Garrison, West Virginia’s leading rusher from 2011, who, finally healthy again, enjoyed a resurgent spring. The Mountaineers also will add four-star signee Donte Thomas-Williams in the summer. The difficult part for Seider will be divvying up carries to so many capable backs. But if the Mountaineers can keep everyone happy and find the right combination, this could become a devastating and versatile running back stable.

2. Texas (1): Coach Charlie Strong delivered promising news on Monday in San Antonio, suggesting Johnathan Gray could be cleared from his Achilles injury by mid-June. Strong also said that Joe Bergeron will be rejoining the team shortly, too, after sitting out the spring to focus on academics. When healthy and eligible, the trio of Malcolm Brown, Gray and Bergeron is a formidable bunch and the backbone of the Texas offense.

3. Baylor (3): Shock Linwood and Devin Chafin exited spring as the co-starters, but Johnny Jefferson left the biggest impression in the spring game. The Bears have a track record of spreading carries around, which means Big 12 fans will become very acquainted with the talented redshirt freshman next season.

4. Oklahoma State (5): One of the biggest surprises of the spring was how much the Cowboys used Tyreek Hill at running back. Oklahoma State is planning to utilize the nation’s top juco playmaker the way West Virginia did Tavon Austin two years ago. In other words, Hill could line up in the backfield one play then slot receiver the next. Either way, arguably the fastest player in college football gives the Cowboys a dynamic lightning component to complement the thunderous running of senior Desmond Roland, who led all Big 12 backs in touchdowns last season.

5. Oklahoma (3): There might not be a Big 12 backfield with more upside than Oklahoma’s. Of course, with that upside comes little experience. Sophomore Keith Ford has the potential to be a punishing inside runner, but he had fumbling issues last season as a freshman that re-emerged during the spring. If he can’t hang onto the ball, he won’t play, no matter how tough he runs between the tackles. After getting passed by Ford on the depth chart last year, Alex Ross bounced back with an impressive spring. Early enrollee Dimitri Flowers was a revelation this spring as a powerful run-blocking fullback in the mold of Trey Millard. If fellow incoming freshman Joe Mixon lives up to his recruiting hype, the Sooners could feature their most potent rushing attack in years.

6. Iowa State (8): The most underrated one-two punch at running back in the league resides in Ames. According to first-year offensive coordinator Mark Mangino, Aaron Wimberly and DeVondrick Nealy were sharp all spring and will spearhead an offense that could surprise in 2014. The key will be keeping the slight but explosive Wimberly relatively healthy, which he never really was before and after rushing for 137 and 117 yards back to back against Tulsa and Texas. Wimberly, however, was 100 percent all spring, and it showed, as he racked up 68 yards on just nine touches in the spring game.

7. TCU (7): TCU had to make do without its three top backs in the spring due to injuries. Aaron Green suffered a broken collarbone, Kyle Hicks had a shoulder bruise, and returning leading rusher B.J. Catalon dealt with a nagging hamstring injury. All three, however, should be fine for the fall, and could form a reliable rotation at running back. Four-star recruit Shaun Nixon could help out, too, once he arrives on campus.

8. Texas Tech (6): The Red Raiders dropped two spots, largely because returning starter Kenny Williams played outside linebacker all spring and could remain there for good. But even if Williams becomes a full-time linebacker, Tech still could be solid at running back with veteran DeAndre Washington, sophomore Quinton White and incoming four-star freshman Justin Stockton, whom the Texas Tech coaching staff is very high on. Head coach and offensive play-caller Kliff Kingsbury wouldn’t have given Williams the go-ahead to move to defense if he didn’t feel optimistic about what remained in the backfield.

9. Kansas (9): Though they come in ninth here, running back could be a position of strength for the Jayhawks next season. Brandon Bourbon, the favorite to start, rushed for 96 yards on 12 carries in the spring game, but Taylor Cox (63 yards on 15 carries) and Darrian Miller (50 yards on seven carries) had nice outings, as well. The Jayhawks also will welcome De’Andre Mann, the nation’s fifth-best juco running back, in the summer, as well as four-star freshmen Traevohn Wrench and Corey Avery. Until they start winning more games, it’s difficult to give the Jayhawks the benefit of the doubt in these position rankings. But with this collection of runners, they might not miss All-Big 12 performer James Sims as much as first thought.

10. Kansas State (10): The spring brought little clarity about who John Hubert’s primary replacement will be. Jarvis Leverett and Charles Jones both ran hard in K-State’s spring game, though neither broke a run for longer than 11 yards. Meanwhile, DeMarcus Robinson, who has the most experience of the three, sat out the scrimmage with an injury. As a result, incoming freshman Dalvin Warmack, who rushed for 4,500 yards and 70 touchdowns while averaging almost 9 yards per carry his final two years in high school, will have an opportunity to be a factor once he joins the team this summer.

TCU hopes new offense levels playing field

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
9:30
AM CT
FORT WORTH, Texas -- For years, TCU stuck to an offensive philosophy built around trying to out-physical foes and trick them with play action. That style won the Horned Frogs five conference titles while in the Mountain West and Conference USA. They have not won many Big 12 games.

After two years in his new league and a 6-12 record in Big 12 play, TCU coach Gary Patterson knew it was time for a new approach.

[+] EnlargeGary Patterson
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsTCU coach Gary Patterson brought in new coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie to change the team's offense.
“We’re going to a style of offense that I thought evened the playing field,” Patterson said.

He went out and landed a pair of offensive coordinators who know Big 12 ball to design a hybrid Oklahoma State-Texas Tech scheme that Patterson says will still have “some of the old TCU” in the run game.

But this is the new TCU. No playbook, no huddle, no looking back.

The struggles of 2013 weren’t the lone motivator for Patterson’s change of plans, but the evidence was hard to ignore. Last season, TCU’s offense hit 10-year lows in points per game (25.1) and yards per play (5.03) and 10-year highs in turnovers (30) and three-and-outs (49).

The Horned Frogs had an offense that averaged 8.8 points in the first half of games, behind an offensive line that Patterson admits got “pushed around” at times due to injuries and departures. You can’t keep up with high-speed Big 12 offenses that way.

Another motivator? Patterson’s belief that a seemingly unexciting Horned Frogs offense wasn’t helping his cause in recruiting.

“I had watched too many skill players leave the city. Right now, they don’t know what this offense is about,” Patterson said. “Right now, they think TCU has a defensive coach. But to be honest with you, I have no problem winning 45-31.”

He’s putting his full trust in Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie to build up the new-look offense, so much so that Patterson says he’s taken a hands-off approach to the transition. He just tried to defend it in spring practice, and that wasn’t fun.

Meacham spent eight years learning and teaching one of the nation’s finest spread offenses at Oklahoma State, then left to run his own at Houston in 2013. TCU’s new playcaller has already served as an OC at five other schools in his career.

He’ll collaborate with Cumbie, a Mike Leach disciple who coached the past four years at Texas Tech and will oversee the TCU quarterbacks.

As Tech’s quarterback in 2004, Cumbie put up 70 points on the Frogs -- two touchdowns more than a Patterson-led TCU team has ever given up. And yes, that came up in the job interview.

Both are respected offensive minds and recruiters in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, and previous coordinators Rusty Burns and Jarrett Anderson are still on staff and have a say in game plans.

“Their relationship is awesome,” Patterson said. “I think the whole group has meshed real well. They’ve brought a lot of energy and new ideas.”

[+] EnlargeTy Slanina
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsHorned Frogs receiver Ty Slanina caught 19 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown as a freshman last season.
Installing the new attack meant coming up with new terminology, since at least three other Big 12 programs run similar sets, and new answers to how to outsmart opponents.

“It’s not so much you don’t know what’s coming, but can you out-execute it?” Patterson said. “It’ll be very important for us to be able to run the football, because I think going in that’s where our strengths are -- our offensive line and our running backs and our quarterback can run, especially Trevone [Boykin].”

The offensive line should be better and much, much bigger. Six of TCU’s best exiting spring ball -- Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Tayo Fabuluje, Frank Kee, Matt Pryor, Joseph Noteboom and Aviante Collins -- average 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds.

TCU’s top running backs all got hurt in spring ball -- literally -- but there are options there with B.J. Catalon, Aaron Green, Kyle Hicks, incoming freshman Shaun Nixon and a few others.

At receiver, Patterson says TCU has the guys needed to stretch a defense. Whether or not Brandon Carter returns, the staff is excited about speedsters like Deante' Gray and Kolby Listenbee and incoming freshmen Emanuel Porter and Corey McBride to go along with David Porter, Josh Doctson, Cameron Echols-Luper, Ty Slanina and Jordan Moore.

“I think we’ll have enough weapons to be able to move the football,” Patterson said.

Quarterback is still the question mark, especially if the versatile Boykin isn’t the choice. No matter who runs the show, the initial goal will be simple: first downs, points and a tempo that causes trouble.

“They’ve been awfully fast this spring,” Patterson said. “The biggest thing is to go fast enough to make people uncomfortable.”

That, after all, is the goal here: An offense that can prove as challenging as Patterson’s stingy defenses. The Horned Frogs’ mission for transformation isn’t guided by some sort of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” sentiment.

No, this is adaptation, and it’s necessary. After its first two Big 12 seasons ended in frustration, TCU is working on a new way to beat ‘em.

Spring battle spotlight: TCU RB

March, 6, 2014
Mar 6
1:00
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Even though TCU’s new offense is sure to put the football in the air, the Horned Frogs will undoubtedly try to run the football and establish balance this fall. Several talented running backs should battle to emerge as the main ball carrier for the Horned Frogs this season, and that battle for carries begins this spring.

Departed: Senior Waymon James.

Spring contenders: Junior B.J. Catalon, junior Aaron Green, redshirt freshman Kyle Hicks, redshirt freshman Trevorris Johnson.

Summer contenders: True freshman Shaun Nixon.

[+] EnlargeCatalon
Jim Cowsert/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Getty ImagesB.J. Catalon looks like the favorite to emerge as TCU's lead RB, but that doesn't mean other backs won't find their way on the field too.
The skinny: Finding the strengths of each running back could be as important as developing overall depth or finding a clear starter at the position for TCU this spring. Once the Horned Frogs identify the strengths and weaknesses of each guy they can start to prepare them for different roles during August practices with a goal of having fresh (and capable) legs in the offensive backfield at all times.

Catalon has game-changing quickness and playmaking ability so he could be considered the favorite to earn the bulk of the carries after leading the squad with 569 rushing yards as a sophomore. He averaged 5.32 yards per carry in 2013, so the fact he didn’t surpass the 1,000-yard mark lands more on the shoulders of the coaching staff than Catalon.

Green brings terrific talent in his own right but wasn’t the playmaker that Catalon was a year ago. This spring is his chance to show he deserves more opportunities this fall.

Hicks was a highly regarded signee in the Class of 2013 as the No. 220 player in the ESPN 300. He has the ability to be an every-down back but would really help his cause if he shows he can excel as a receiver and pass blocker during spring drills.

Johnson is easily the most overlooked competitor in this battle but could bring a physical running style to the table that earns him a short yardage or goal line role. He probably has a ways to go before he’s considered a threat to rise atop the depth chart but should not be dismissed as a non-contributor despite the overall talent at the position.

Nixon fits in perfectly with this group as another talented option. But his overall versatility and big-play ability could help him rise up the depth chart and make an immediate impact as a true freshman.

Prediction: Catalon separates himself from the rest of the pack during the spring. His athleticism, desire and versatility will cement himself a spot in the lineup. Yet don’t be surprised if other running backs also cement places in TCU’s offensive attack. The Horned Frogs offense wasn’t exactly overflowing with playmakers in 2013, so if any of the remaining backs prove they can make big plays if given the opportunity, new offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie will probably find ways to use them, even if that means playing alongside Catalon at times.

Big 12 pre-spring breakdown: RBs

February, 19, 2014
Feb 19
3:45
PM CT
As we wait for the start of spring ball, we're examining and ranking the positional situations of every team, continuing Wednesday with running backs. Some of these outlooks will look different after the spring. But here’s how they compare at the moment:

1. Texas: The three-headed monster of Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron gives Texas the best 1-2-3 punch in the league. Whether this group goes from good to great hinges on a healthy return for Gray, who is coming back from an Achilles injury and will sit out spring drills. Either way, this will be the backbone of Charlie Strong’s first offense.

[+] EnlargeShock Linwood
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsShock Linwood showed breakaway ability as a Baylor reserve in 2013.
2. Baylor: Shock Linwood takes over in the backfield after a dynamic freshman season in which he finished seventh in the league in rushing despite being a third-team running back. The competition for carries after Linwood will be interesting. Devin Chafin is the favorite to be Linwood’s wing man, but he could be pressed by Johnny Jefferson and/or incoming four-star freshman Terence Williams, who is already on campus.

3. Oklahoma: The potential of this running back crop has no bounds. But it will be young and inexperienced after seniors Brennan Clay, Roy Finch and Damien Williams (until he was kicked off the team) hoarded the carries last season. Keith Ford, who was the nation’s No. 3 running back recruit in the 2013 class, will take over the starting role. Joe Mixon, this year’s No. 6 RB recruit, won’t get to Norman until the summer, but he should supply the lightning to Ford’s thunder. Alex Ross, who was the nation’s No. 7 RB recruit in the 2012 class, rounds out a fearsome threesome with tremendous pedigree.

4. West Virginia: The Mountaineers lose All-Big 12 performer Charles Sims, but still claim a glut of capable rushers. Dreamius Smith and Wendell Smallwood thrived playing behind Sims last year. West Virginia also has Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie, its leading rushers from 2011 and 2012, respectively. (Buie is back after leaving school for a semester.) On top of all that, Pittsburgh transfer Rushel Shell figures to be in the mix. Shell was the No. 26 overall recruit in the country coming out of high school after becoming the all-time leading rusher in Pennsylvania high school history. If that weren’t enough, the gem of the incoming recruiting class, Donte Thomas-Williams, is also a running back. Suffice to say, the competition for carries will be fierce in the league’s deepest backfield.

5. Oklahoma State: Desmond Roland helped fuel Oklahoma State’s midseason turnaround after seizing a starting role. Roland was great in short yardage and led the Big 12 with 13 touchdowns, but he wasn’t a big-play runner, with an average of only 4.6 yards per carry (14th in the league). The Cowboys are banking that Rennie Childs can complement Roland as the breakaway back. Childs showed flashes as a true freshman. Roland and Childs can form a solid combo, but four-star freshman Devon Thomas, who is enrolled for the spring, should not be discounted, nor should Sione Palelei, who has the good hands that past Oklahoma State running backs also possessed.

6. Texas Tech: The returning trio of Kenny Williams, DeAndre Washington and Sadale Foster won’t do much damage between the tackles. All three, however, are excellent pass-catchers, making them supreme fits for Kliff Kingsbury’s spread attack. Together they combined for 82 receptions, and that number should go up in 2014 as quarterback Davis Webb settles in as a sophomore.

7. TCU: The Horned Frogs were a disaster offensively last year, but the potential at running back is a reason why TCU could be equipped for a bounce-back season. Aaron Green, Kyle Hicks and incoming freshman Shaun Nixon were all ESPN 300 recruits. That doesn’t include B.J. Catalon, either, who led the Frogs with 569 yards and six touchdowns last season. With a new regime making the play calls, there’s reason to believe this could become one of the better units in the league.

[+] EnlargeDalton Santos
David Purdy/Getty ImagesIf Aaron Wimberly can stay healthy, Iowa State has a potentially dynamic returning running back.
8. Iowa State: When healthy, Aaron Wimberly can be a game-breaker. He torched Texas for 137 yards as the Cyclones nearly pulled off a Thursday night upset. Wimberly, however, was never really healthy the rest of the season, and never had the same impact. After Wimberly, though, the Cyclones don’t have much returning firepower. Firepower, however, could be on the way. Oklahoma native Michael Warren went overlooked in recruiting, but he can fly; he rushed for more than 2,500 yards as a high school senior.

9. Kansas: The Jayhawks gradated their heart and soul in James Sims, who was an all-conference selection even though Kansas won only one Big 12 game. Tony Pierson returns as an electric playmaker, but he has never been a full-time running back, often flexing out as a receiver. It will be interesting to see who emerges in Sims’ shoes. Brandon Bourbon (191 yards) will have the first crack in the spring, but newcomers De'Andre Mann and Traevohn Wrench could vie for time once they arrive in the summer.

10. Kansas State: It’s difficult to believe K-State will be at the bottom here once the season starts, but running back is a major hole for the Wildcats going into the spring. That’s because longtime starter John Hubert is gone. Hubert, senior backup Robert Rose and QBs Jake Waters and Daniel Sams combined for 492 carries last season. Nobody else had more than five. Rising senior DeMarcus Robinson, who has only 11 career carries, will probably be atop the depth chart going into the spring. It’s also possible that Sams will get a look at running back with Waters having nailed down the full-time QB job. But the player to watch here is freshman Dalvin Warmack, who rushed for more than 4,500 yards and 70 touchdowns his final two seasons in Blue Springs, Mo. Warmack isn’t big at 5-foot-8 and 185 pounds. But his size fits the mold of past K-State running backs Hubert and Darren Sproles.

Could Petty be the next Manziel?

August, 15, 2013
8/15/13
12:00
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Very few people knew the name Johnny Manziel at this time last year. Twelve months later, the Texas A&M quarterback is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and sits in the center of the college football landscape.

This season, we’ll sit back and watch as other names emerge and become difference-makers or even Heisman Trophy contenders for their teams. The Big 12 is littered with candidates who fit the bill, but none of them seems more prepared to make that leap than Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty. And if the Bears can compete for the Big 12 title, don't be surprised if Petty can work his way into the Heisman conversation.

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsBaylor QB Bryce Petty has the tools and the talent around him to potentially become a Heisman candidate in 2013.
The junior quarterback has spent his college career as an apprentice to Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence, two of the conference’s most productive quarterbacks in the past two seasons. At 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, Petty brings great size and a live arm to the Bears’ backfield alongside running back Lache Seastrunk and has a deep group of talented, though somewhat inexperienced, receiving targets led by Tevin Reese.

Thanks to a talented surrounding cast, Petty doesn’t feel pressured to be as productive as Griffin and Florence.

“I really don’t,” he said. “I think that’s because [making plays] is what I was brought here to do. There’s no pressure to do that. I feel like the guys I have around me are going to make that happen, I just need to get the ball to them.”

The early returns are good for Petty, who was 11-of-16 for 166 yards and one touchdown in the Bears’ scrimmage on Aug. 10. He appears to be getting much more comfortable as a main man behind center.

“Bryce is more calm and collected,” Seastrunk said. “He’s making better decisions. It’s great to see.”

Petty isn’t the only relatively unknown name that could make major waves in the Big 12 in 2013. Here’s a look at one candidate from each school who could rise from unknown to game changer this season.

PODCAST
Randy Galloway, Matt Mosley, and Mark Friedman react to Dez Bryant's comments regarding the NCAA's ongoing investigation of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.

Listen Listen
CB Charlie Rogers, Iowa State: The redshirt freshman is poised to start at cornerback. At 6-1, 202 pounds, Rogers brings unique size to the perimeter and has shown terrific improvement since he arrived in Ames, Iowa.

TE Jimmay Mundine, Kansas: The junior enters the season with 21 career receptions in two seasons but might be ready for a breakout season in 2013. He could emerge as the favorite target of quarterback Jake Heaps as teams focus on slowing running back James Sims.

S Dante Barnett, Kansas State: He played in all 13 games as a true freshman, recording 24 tackles while helping the Wildcats earn a BCS berth. He should embrace a much larger role as a sophomore in KSU’s secondary.

WR Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma: Shepard was so impressive as a freshman, he helped transform the Sooners’ offense into a four-receiver attack. He finished his first year with 45 receptions for 621 yards and three touchdowns and is poised to become a primary target alongside Jalen Saunders as a sophomore.

WR Jhajuan Seales, Oklahoma State: As the next Cowboy to don No. 81, the name Justin Blackmon looms over Seales’ shoulder. Fortunately for OSU, he seems to have the size, power and athleticism to rise to the occasion. The buzz in Stillwater says Seales is destined to be a game changer in the future. And the future could be as early as this year.

WR Daje Johnson, Texas: Every time he touched the football as a true freshman, he was electric. With the Longhorns turning up the tempo, it could provide Johnson more opportunities to use his game-breaking speed to terrorize defenders.

RB Aaron Green, TCU: A well-known name out of high school, Green sat out last season after transferring from Nebraska. Even though the Horned Frogs have some quality running backs already in the fold, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Green rise to the top of the depth chart and emerge as one of the Big 12’s top runners.

LB Micah Awe, Texas Tech: One of two true freshmen to escape a redshirt season for the Red Raiders in 2012, Awe is poised to start at linebacker as a sophomore. With natural football instincts, a physical mentality and leadership skills, he could be the anchor of the Red Raiders' defense.

WR Mario Alford, West Virginia: The junior college transfer could help Mountaineers fans get over the loss of Tavon Austin. At 5-9, 175 pounds, Alford is another quick, versatile talent at the disposal of Dana Holgorsen.

Opening camp: TCU Horned Frogs

July, 31, 2013
7/31/13
4:00
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Three Big 12 teams open fall camp on Thursday, but all 10 will be preparing for the season by next Thursday. We'll take a closer look at each team around the time camp begins. Let's get started.

Schedule: TCU opens camp on Thursday in preparation for its season opener on Aug. 31 against LSU at Cowboys Stadium.

Setting the scene: TCU returns 15 starters -- more than every Big 12 team but Texas -- from last year's seven-win team, but the return of quarterback Casey Pachall is the biggest story in Fort Worth this fall. The Frogs earned a ton of respect across the league in their first season, fighting for a successful season despite dealing with more injuries and losses than any team in the Big 12. It lost a couple of key players in Josh Boyce and Stansly Maponga, but no team in the Big 12 has more proven impact players on defense.

PODCAST
TCU head coach Gary Patterson joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the maturation of quarterback Casey Pachall, the wide-open Big 12 conference, his expectations for his team heading into the 2013 season and his thoughts on Twitter.

Listen Listen
All eyes on: Pachall. For now, he's not officially the starter after returning to the team in January following a drunk driving arrest in October and a subsequent stay in a drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility. Coach Gary Patterson talked about bringing him to media days and has continually dropped hints throughout spring that Pachall is likely ready to reclaim his spot from Trevone Boykin. Boykin is a solid runner who played well considering his circumstances and inexperience a year ago (he practiced as a running back the week of Pachall's arrest before being moved to starting QB), but Pachall gives TCU a much higher ceiling. He didn't throw a ball from October to January, but he'll have to prove he can look like his old self through fall practices after a summer working out and throwing with teammates.

Stepping up: Boyce and receiver Skye Dawson are gone, but TCU needs a promising receiving corps to have big camps in preparation for a big year. Brandon Carter is the headliner who's proven himself as a situational playmaker in the past, catching 36 balls for 590 yards and six scores as a sophomore a year ago. Florida transfer Ja'Juan Story has turned heads this offseason, but LaDarius Brown and Cam White are a bit more experienced and should give Pachall plenty of great targets.

Outlook: The Big 12's media picked the Frogs to finish third in the league, but they garned nine first-place votes from 43 voters. That was more than every team but league favorite Oklahoma State. However, the players across the Big 12 apparently view TCU as the favorite to win the league. Expect TCU to be somewhere between No. 15 and No. 20 in the preseason polls heading into its opener against LSU.

On the mend: Waymon James is back on the field after suffering a knee injury against Kansas last season and missing the final 11 games of the season. He's the best back in a group of really good ones for the Frogs. Matthew Tucker and Aundre Dean are gone, but I spent some time with James during media days, and he was singing the praises of a much-improved B.J. Catalon heading into fall camp. Add in hyped Nebraska transfer Aaron Green and TCU should be well prepared for any injuries at that spot.

Quotable: Gary Patterson, on playing defense in the Big 12: "You've got to get it to where you have an advantage as far as you know it's a passing down. ... And you've got to minimize the big plays. You can't allow them to score within 1:30. It's really hard to win ball games if you allow people to do that. I said a year ago you've got to learn how to make people kick field goals, and we did that to an extent. It's one thing to play in the middle of the field, and it's another thing to play in the red zone. We've got to keep emphasizing that, along with everybody else, I'm sure, in the league is doing that."

Big 12 well-stocked with impact transfers

July, 19, 2013
7/19/13
1:37
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Colleague Travis Haney named his top 15 impact transfers across college football , and a third of his list is coming to the Big 12. One more is leaving, too.

West Virginia running back Charles Sims tops the list, bringing his impressive résumé to Morgantown after scoring 14 touchdowns and accounting for 1,219 yards last season. Most importantly for his new offense, he caught 37 passes a year ago. That versatility will give him a lot of opportunities.

Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters is No. 4 on the list. Color me skeptical that juco transfers should count (I kid!), but if he can beat out Daniel Sams for the quarterback job, I totally agree with Haney. Bringing back most of his offensive line and having John Hubert, Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson surrounding him is a recipe for success.

BYU transfer Jake Heaps is hoping to have better fortunes than another impact transfer to Kansas at quarterback a year ago: Dayne Crist. Heaps will definitely have a big impact one way or another, but there's no telling how this experiment will go. He'll have a better supporting cast on offense than Crist did, but nobody forecast a midseason benching for Crist.

Nebraska transfer running back Aaron Green will debut at TCU this fall, but with B.J. Catalon and Waymon James in the backfield finding immediate carries won't be an easy task. I think he'll develop into a big-time player eventually, but finding time now and making a huge impact is asking a lot.

The Sooners' backup quarterback, Drew Allen, graduated and headed to Syracuse and made No. 15 on Haney's list, but we'll close with No. 14, who's coming to Norman.

Oklahoma's secondary needs playmakers, and Arizona transfer Cortez Johnson will try to provide it. He followed Mike Stoops and Tim Kish from Tucson, and Oklahoma will probably need him to start opposite Aaron Colvin. The Sooners are going to be very young all over on defense, which is the biggest reason I see a down year ahead in Norman, but a nice debut from Johnson could help change that.

Tracking the Big 12 rushing race in 2013

July, 12, 2013
7/12/13
2:30
PM CT
The field of Big 12 running backs is deep in 2013, and the vote for the league's leading rusher reflected that. Baylor's Lache Seastrunk has had a brief run of success, but the spectacle of that success has him on the short list of the league's best returning offensive players.

He's my pick to lead the Big 12 in rushing this season, but collected just 26 percent of the fan vote from our readers. "The field" earned a solid 38 percent of the vote. Oklahoma State's Jeremy Smith would lead that group for me, possibly followed by Waymon James at TCU, despite a crowded backfield. We'll get to your emails and some surprising picks in a bit.

Kansas State's John Hubert would be my No. 2 pick to lead the league in rushing, but he earned just 15 percent of the vote. Like Seastrunk, Oklahoma's Damien Williams isn't very experienced at the major college level, but he earned 13 percent of the vote. Kansas' James Sims brought up the rear of the vote with 8 percent of the vote. Kansas' backfield is crowded with Tony Pierson and Taylor Cox, and Sims is a workhorse who's tough to bring down near the line of scrimmage, but his yardage comes with a big pile of carries.

Who would the fans campaign for? Here's a bit of what you had to say:

Marshall Stirtz in Iowa writes: For the Big 12 leading rusher in 2013, I believe that maybe not as an individual but as a team Iowa State should have one of the best rushing offenses in the Big 12

Cole in Wilson, N.C., writes: Charles Sims -- West Virginia. Saw he was the 5th ranked 2014 pro prospect (RB) and he is on a team desperate for offense and has not even named a QB ... so looks like they will be executing a lot of running plays as well as screens and WVU's favorite "drop pass" that they made popular in the Orange Bowl against Clemson

Phillip in Vernon, Texas, writes: I think with a healthy OL and new OC, Johnathan Gray will have a breakout year 2013 and challenge for the leading rusher title in the Big 12!!!

Stephen Lopez in Fort Worth, Texas, writes: What about Waymon James and/or Aaron Green? James rushed for 99 yards vs Kansas before being taken out in the fourth quarter (Lache Seastrunk rushed for 103 yards vs Kansas) and had 168 yards in two games. I bet if he wasn't injured, he would have had an incredible season and would be on this list. And Aaron Green was same situation as Lache Seastrunk was in before transfering: 5 star recruit out of high school, went to a school where they didn't have a lot of playing time, then transferred. I think he is poised for a grand season. And don't you forget about B.J. Catalon, Kyle Hicks.

Clifford Mitchell in Guthrie, Okla., writes: You know Jeremy Smith will lead the league in rushing. He's a better runner than Randle was, Tailback U for a reason. We have the best O-line returning and we're the only spread in the country that proves year-in-year-out we can run the football. Kid at Baylor tremendous talent, but I am afraid his mouth has already written some checks his you-know-what won't be able to cash. One of those runners from UT would look good in OSU's backfield unfortunately for them poor line and no qb play...keep up the good work and Bedlam decides Big 12 ship and I'm goin with the Pokes

Sean in Flower Mound, Texas, writes: I would make a strong case for the Big 12's most overlooked RB -- TCU's Waymon James. To refresh memories, he went out in the 2nd game in 2012, but had already accumulated 168 yards rushing on a rediculous 9.9 per carry mark for the season at the time of the injury ... ran for 99 yards on 12 carries while adding two receptions and a season-long 28-yard kickoff return in that game at Kansas. He's TCU's human bowling ball who increased his ypc mark each year and looks to explode next year as the featured back with a true throwing threat back to force defenses not to load the box.

Alex in Ames, Iowa, writes: Referring to your rushing leader question, I think you have to have the ISU backfield at least on the radar. I don't specify an individual because there are too many options to be certain. James White and Shontrelle Johnson are the obvious frontrunners, but DeVondrick Nealy and Aaron Wimberly are two guys that have impressed coaches in the spring. Woody, of course will do his work as a pound-it-out back as well. The biggest reason for the excitement is the focus on the pistol offense ISU will have with the new OC, coupled with the strong offensive line. The Cyclones may not field the Big 12's leading rusher, but don't be surprised if they lead the league as a team.

TCU a Big 12 title contender or pretender?

March, 20, 2013
3/20/13
4:00
PM CT
We're back again looking at a different Big 12 team with title aspirations next fall. The Frogs limped (literally) through their first season in the Big 12, dealing with more injuries and personnel losses than any team in the Big 12, but still managed to finish 7-6 and earn a whole bunch of respect in its first season as a team in a BCS automatic qualifier conference.

SportsNation

What do you think of TCU's 2013 Big 12 title chances?

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    57%
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    43%

Discuss (Total votes: 4,255)

So what happens in Year 2? Do you buy that a Big 12 title is in reach? Vote in our poll whether you believe TCU has a real chance or not. With Casey Pachall back on the field and back in practice, hopes are certainly high, but the Frogs' biggest asset is the Big 12's No. 1 offense from 2012 that returns nine starters.

Pachall still has to officially beat out Trevone Boykin, who was streaky but showed some promise filling in for Pachall over the last 2/3 of the 2012 season.

Defensive end Devonte Fields, the AP's Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, highlights the Frogs' hyped defense alongside cornerback Jason Verrett, the league's top shutdown corner from a year ago who led the league with six interceptions and 16 pass breakups. Great secondary play is a must-have in the Big 12, and TCU's got it.

The Frogs have to deal with the loss of receiver Josh Boyce, but the position is still strong with Brandon Carter returning and LaDarius Brown looking ready for an increased role after catching 27 passes for 385 yards and five scores last season.

The running backs will be a strength for the Frogs next season with Waymon James returning from a knee injury and B.J. Catalon and Nebraska transfer Aaron Green providing depth and variety to James' powerful running style.

Will it be enough to truly contend for a Big 12 title for the first time ever? Or are the Frogs a paper tiger bound for disappointment in 2013? Cast your vote. We'll revisit the results later.

Tech's Brewer primed for breakout?

March, 15, 2013
3/15/13
11:13
AM CT
I've been saying it plenty this spring, but apparently the readers are on board, too.

If you want to see a breakout player in the Big 12 this spring, look no further than Lubbock, Texas, where new coach Kliff Kingsbury has a talented signal-caller to build his program around in Year 1.

I'm buying sophomore quarterback Michael Brewer as a breakout star this season, and the fans weighed in with a rousing 44 percent of the vote as the biggest spring star in the league. That was 25 percent more than the second-place finisher.

I buy Baylor's Bryce Petty as another breakout star at quarterback, but he received just 19 percent of the vote to come in a distant second. There's a lot of possible breakout guys at quarterback this year, but those are the two I buy most. I like the combination of experience within the program, good pedigree and solid physical skills. We'll see what they have between the ears once they take the field, but those two will have plenty of eyes on them this spring.

Oklahoma defensive end D.J. Ward is still waiting to be officially cleared to practice this spring, but the Oklahoma high school star checked in with 13 percent of the vote.

TCU running back Aaron Green grabbed 12 percent of the vote along with Oklahoma State defensive end Sam Wren. No respect for the lesser-known guys, but they'll get their chance on the field this spring.

Who is the Big 12's spring breakout star?

March, 12, 2013
3/12/13
4:33
PM CT
Spring has sprung across the Big 12, but every spring, we see names emerge we haven't necessarily heard much about before. Who are you betting on this spring as the Big 12's signature breakout star? Unknowns a year ago, these guys could be bona fide stars this time next year.

Vote in our poll.

SportsNation

Who will be the biggest spring breakout star?

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    48%
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    10%
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    21%
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    11%
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    10%

Discuss (Total votes: 3,462)

Michael Brewer, QB, Texas Tech: Brewer earned some spot duty last season and looked good when he got it. We saw what Kliff Kingsbury did with redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M. Manziel is clearly special, but Brewer is more experienced and was more highly recruited. Could this spring be the start of something special for the Austin native?

D.J. Ward, DE, Oklahoma: Ward was the best prospect in Oklahoma last season, and is the nation's No. 137 overall player and No. 12 defensive end. Oklahoma needs a ton of help at defensive end after losing David King from last year's set of DEs, which struggled and ranked just 104th nationally in tackles for loss. Can Ward, a 6-foot-3, 225-pounder, help change that this spring?

Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor: Petty's got a lot of experience in the system and measurables that NFL scouts could be drooling over very soon. Can he grip the starting spot this spring and become the next in a long line of passers for the Quarterback Whisperer, Art Briles? The third-year sophomore checks in at 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds and has a huge arm. I've loved what I've seen from him in my Waco visits, and he'll have to prove he can be a good decision-maker and productive this spring.

Sam Wren, DE, Oklahoma State: Oklahoma State needs help on the defensive line, too, after losing three seniors at end from last year's team. Wren is a Texas native from junior college in Arizona who ranks as the nation's No. 16 overall juco prospect. He could offer an immediate solution at 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds for the Cowboys, who find themselves in a similar spot as the Sooners in terms of pass-rushers this spring.

Aaron Green, RB, TCU: Everybody wants to see the shifty Green take the field after transferring from Nebraska. TCU's offensive backfield is crowded with Waymon James and B.J. Catalon, but the same was true of Baylor's backfield this time last year, and we saw the kind of impact that Lache Seastrunk had. Could Green, who signed with the Huskers as the nation's No. 3 running back and No. 11 overall prospect, have a similar impact? He ran for 105 yards and two scores on his 24 carries back in 2011 for Nebraska.

Breaking down spring camp: TCU

March, 4, 2013
3/04/13
9:13
AM CT
TCU opened spring practice Friday for the second time as a Big 12 member. Let's take a closer look.

Schedule: The Frogs began spring practice on Friday, which will be the first of 15 NCAA-allowed practices. TCU rarely holds a spring game, and will not hold one this season.

What's new: Very, very little, especially on defense. TCU lost coach Randy Shannon to Arkansas this offseason, but returns 15 starters from last year's seven-win team, second most in the Big 12 (only Texas has more) and 24th nationally. Shannon was replaced by DeMontie Cross, who comes to TCU from Kansas' staff under Charlie Weis. On the field, there are big pieces that must be replaced (defensive end Stansly Maponga and wide receiver Josh Boyce), but the Frogs will largely have the same personnel next season as they had in 2012.

All eyes on: Quarterback Casey Pachall. He's the biggest story of spring in the Big 12 by far. Pachall was one of the Big 12's best at the position a year ago, but left the team after a DUI arrest to seek treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. He's back on the team now and TCU's Big 12 title hopes hinge on him returning to form after time away from the game. He's also going to be watched closely when he's off the field. Will he be able to make the necessary adjustments to make his new lifestyle a permanent, healthy change?

New faces: TCU will be welcoming three early enrollees this spring, headlined by quarterback Zach Allen, the nation's No. 56 pocket passer. He'll be joined by tight end Bryson Burtnett from Springtown, Texas, and Georgia offensive tackle Eason Fromayan. There aren't many immediate contributors in that group, I'd say, but it's always good for freshmen to get a head start in spring practice.

Question marks: We've mentioned this previously, but you can't underestimate the importance of offensive line play in the Big 12. It can make any offense look great, and TCU will have to replace two of its best players on the line in guard Blaize Foltz and center James Fry. Sorting out their replacements will be a primary objective this spring.

Position battle: TCU's running back spot is going to be really strong and intriguing. I expect all the backs to get carries in the fall, Waymon James will be returning from a knee injury and trying to hold off B.J. Catalon to retain his starting position. What people really want to see, though, is Nebraska transfer Aaron Green's debut as an eligible player. He was one of the nation's top 10 prospects in the 2010 recruiting class and sat out last season after coming home to Texas.

Poll: WVU's Gibson biggest impact frosh

February, 21, 2013
2/21/13
4:00
PM CT
Earlier this week, I asked you to vote for which incoming freshman you thought would have the biggest impact in 2013.

The fans spoke, and West Virginia receiver Shelton Gibson finished solidly in the No. 1 spot with 33 percent of the vote. He was well ahead of the No. 2 finisher, Baylor receiver Robbie Rhodes, who grabbed 23 percent of the vote.

I'd agree with those two having an immediate impact. I don't know if you can expect either to finish with 90 catches, but I'd be surprised if both Gibson and Rhodes didn't both make their presence known next fall. For freshmen, opportunity might be more important than skill itself. Both players obviously have the latter, but Baylor and West Virginia's offenses both provide opportunity. With a pair of receiving corps that are drained (more so West Virginia than Baylor), the pass-happy offenses will have to find targets. Rhodes is in the middle of the road when it comes to size, but Gibson's small and shifty frame could help him get open and get touches early in his career.

Oklahoma safety Hatari Byrd will have an opportunity with a pair of lost safeties from last year's team, and he edged out Ra'Shaad Samples with 18 percent, compared to Samples' 17 percent. Samples is entering a situation similar to Rhodes and Gibson, but Oklahoma State has a few more established weapons like Josh Stewart, Tracy Moore and the expected return of Michael Harrison, as well as the late emergence of Austin Hays.

Incoming TCU running back Kyle Hicks grabbed just 9 percent of the vote. It sound like the other 91 percent of voters didn't believe he could fight through Aaron Green, B.J. Catalon and Waymon James to earn some touches in TCU's offense.

These guys will be fun to watch over their careers, and it's not all about the first season on campus.

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