Dallas Colleges: Adam Davis
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1. Devonte Fields, TCU: You could make a case for either of these two guys, and Fields wasn't as productive in conference play, but Fields' raw talent is eye-popping. I give him the No. 1 spot on this list after leading the league with 18.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks.
2. Meshak Williams, Kansas State: Williams' motor runs higher than anyone else's in this league, and the juco transfer made a ton of the talent he was given to win the Big 12's Defensive Lineman of the Year Award. He was second in the league with 10.5 sacks and added 15.5 tackles for loss.
3. Alex Okafor, Texas: Okafor finished his career in unbelievable fashion, making 4.5 sacks and dominating Texas' Alamo Bowl win over Oregon State. That jolted him into the Big 12 title with 12.5 sacks and he was second in the league with 16.5 sacks. His career has been a bit up and down, but this was a fitting crescendo to a big talent.
4. Calvin Barnett, Oklahoma State: Barnett was the league's best interior defensive lineman this year, constantly getting a push and generally being a handful for offensive lines. He fixed his early-season penalty issues and finished with nine tackles for loss.
5. Jake McDonough, Iowa State: McDonough wasn't too far behind. He was a breakout star in the middle for Iowa State this season, pushing his way to two sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. You can't grade interior linemen on numbers, but watch Iowa State's defense sometime. McDonough freed up a lot of space for the rest of the defense, one of the league's most underrated.
6. Adam Davis, Kansas State: Davis doesn't have the name recognition around the league that Williams did, but he was solid on the other side of the line, ranking fourth in the league with six sacks and eighth in the league with 11.5 sacks. K-State's defense was one of the Big 12's best last year. The D-line was a huge reason why.
7. Kerry Hyder, Texas Tech: Hyder was a breakout star this season for the much-improved Tech defense. He was fifth in the league with 14 tackles for loss and seventh with 5.5 sacks. The 6-foot-2, 281-pounder is versatile along the defensive line and could be due for a big 2013.
8. Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas: Jeffcoat's junior year came to a sad end when he injured his pectoral and underwent surgery, but even with the abbreviated season, he still had four sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss in just six games. Ridiculous. He could be a top 10 pick next April after electing to return to Texas for his senior season in 2013.
9. Stansly Maponga, TCU: Maponga was a little underwhelming this year, but still turned in a solid effort when you look from a wide angle and not from the high expectations he brought in as the Frogs' only preseason All-Big 12 selection and an All-Mountain West first-teamer. He battled injuries all year and finished with four sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss.
10. David King, Oklahoma: Maximus was mighty for the Sooners this season, who needed him to do a lot. Injuries and suspensions forced him to move all over the place on the defensive line. He was inside, outside and every other possible side. He finished with 2.5 sacks this season.
Honorable mention: Dartwan Bush, Texas Tech; Vai Lutui, Kansas State; Chris McAllister, Baylor; Chucky Hunter, TCU
DL: Jake McDonough, Iowa State
McDonough quietly put together a season that was definitely an All-Big 12 first-team type of year. His numbers aren't eye-popping (31 tackles, 5.5 TFL, two sacks), but you can't often grade nose guards on their statistics. The 280-pounder was a force in the middle of the line for the Cyclones.
DL: Kerry Hyder, Texas Tech
Hyder was a big piece of Texas Tech's defensive resurgence under Art Kaufman this year. The defensive tackle bulled his way to 13.5 tackles for loss, the same number as Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year Meshak Williams. Tech needed help rushing the passer and slowing the run. Hyder did both.
DL: Adam Davis, Kansas State
Meshak Williams and Arthur Brown get all the press on K-State's defense, but Davis was a huge force, too. He had two sacks in the win over Miami, 1.5 sacks in the win over West Virginia and finished sixth in the league with 11.5 tackles for loss. He was fourth in the league with six sacks.
DL: Toben Opurum, Kansas
Opurum's got a well-chronicled road to his current spot on the D-line, leading KU in rushing in 2009 before switching postitions under Turner Gill. KU's defense was better this year, and so was Opurum. It's tough to put up big numbers when KU was getting beaten, but he made six tackles for loss and forced two fumbles.
LB: Bryce Hager, Baylor
Yes, when your offense is on the field, you get more opportunities to make tackles, but ask K-State what it thinks of Hager. He was a cruise missile against the Cats and seemed to be in Collin Klein's face all night. He led the league with 115 tackles and added eight tackles for loss and three sacks. He also forced two fumbles and had six games with double-digit tackles.
LB: Ben Heeney, Kansas
Heeney's another playmaker all over the field for a defense that struggled at times. He's a speedy, versatile playmaker for the Jayhawks, who made 112 tackles and 12 tackles for loss.
LB: Jarell Childs, Kansas State
Childs' biggest play of the season was the scoop and score against Oklahoma, but he was solid for the Wildcats all year, and filled in admirably after Tre Walker's knee injury forced him into more playing time. He recovered two fumbles and finished with 64 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss.
DB: Karl Joseph, West Virginia
Joseph broke out as a true freshman and was basically the lone bright spot on a deservedly maligned West Virginia defense this season. He forced three fumbles, intercepted two passes, made seven tackles for loss and racked up 95 tackles. There's a big career ahead of him.
DB: Bradley McDougald, Kansas
McDougald was the Jayhawks' best defender this season and one of the big reasons for KU's big improvement on that side of the ball. He picked off three passes, forced two fumbles, had four tackles for loss and made 92 stops at safety.
DB: Durrell Givens, Iowa State
Givens was a turnover machine this season. He forced four fumbles, picked off three passes and made 77 tackles. His money stat, though? He recovered a nation-high six fumbles for the Cyclones. That's just ridiculous and is good enough on its own to land him on this list.
DB: Cody Davis, Texas Tech
The Red Raiders' leader doesn't get the press of the league's elite safeties like Kenny Vaccaro, Tony Jefferson or even Ty Zimmerman, but he's solid, even if he doesn't have the physical skills of Vaccaro or Jefferson. He's still one of the league's brightest players. That shows up in his decision making and on-field discipline that kept Tech from giving up the bushels of big plays it did a year ago.
While the Kansas State linebacker took care of his business there, a "K-S-U" chant echoed through Norman after Bill Snyder's Wildcats finished making history. Walker was climbing to get off the field, but the rest of his team never wanted to leave after Kansas State's 24-19 victory over Oklahoma. Coaches and players hugged and high-fived.
Kansas State and Oklahoma players both had glassy eyes, for very different reasons.
"I mean, I was shocked," defensive end Adam Davis said.
Sure, the Kansas State faithful knew they could win. But that they would? History shot disapproving glances the way of anyone who believed otherwise.
Oklahoma was a perfect 14-0 versus ranked teams at home under Bob Stoops, dispatching opponents by an average of 28.2 points dating all the way back to 1999. The Wildcats hadn't beaten the seven-time Big 12 champs in the regular season since 1997.
Those stats, though, hadn't reached Davis. And he was still shocked. So were the raucous 85,276 Sooners fans in attendance who provided the best Big 12 atmosphere to date.
"It feels like you're on top of the world," Davis said of the postgame party on the field.
The big names on Saturday will attract plenty of attention. Landry Jones' shortcomings. Collin Klein's toughness and passing prowess, highlighted by a 12-yard completion on third-and-11 to Tramaine Thompson that all but iced the game in the final minutes.
Snyder, ever the exploiter of weaknesses, saw a big one in Jones that plenty of others saw, too.
Asked if Jones was "spooked," Davis replied: "I noticed it in the first half. When we'd get upfield, he'd start jabbing his feet real quick and moving. That let us know that he don't like nobody in his blind side, and we tried to attack it all night."
The Wildcats succeeded. They flushed Jones from the pocket in the first quarter and linebacker Justin Tuggle, playing defensive end on that particular play as part of a specialized package, caught Jones from behind and stripped the ball. Jarell Childs scooped it up just a yard in front of the goal line and scored.
Kansas State's defense believed.
"What we did all week was worked on trying to flush him out of the pocket, because we know he ain't good with pressure," Davis said. "If we get to his blind side, he's going to get jittery and try to move out the pocket and scoot up and stuff. We tried to get our D-tackles to cause pressure on the edge and try to get him."
The Wildcats notched two sacks, but the constant pressure had Jones looking mediocre for most of the night. His second turnover came when tackle Vai Lutui lunged at Jones from his knees. Jones threw off his back foot and promptly sailed a probable completion into the waiting arms of Kansas State safety Ty Zimmerman.
"It was a little bit of a struggle offensively. ... Our defense, I think, created the turnovers that took place, by and large," Snyder said. "I thought they did a heck of a job."
Snyder was a cool customer holding a hot cup of coffee with cream and sugar, taking sips while he answered questions after the victory in his Cotton Bowl windbreaker on a brisk fall night in Oklahoma. At one point during the conference, a cricket flew in and landed an inch from Snyder's left eye. He broke an answer for only a moment to swat away the pest.
Nothing could get to the unflappable SnyderCats on this night.
"When you play somebody as good as an Oklahoma team, it really does mean something special to them, and they feel good about it," Snyder said.
Snyder's demeanor wouldn't have been much different if the 14-point underdogs had gotten waxed by 30, like so many teams at Owen Field before them. Still, his message to the team remained consistent.
"He said he was very proud of us," Davis said with a grin.
Expecting maybe something a little more dramatic?
"Yes, we were, but you never really know what to expect," Davis said.
Well, that just wouldn't be very Snyder. Saturday's win, though? Doing what no team had ever done before and getting outgained in total yardage while doing it?
Could anybody else but Snyder do that?
The Oklahoma quarterback wasn't sacked once in the worst loss of Kansas State's season. He finished with 505 yards passing.
That's tough to do in any context, but it's much easier if you have enough time in the backfield to write a midterm paper.
"We’ve put up good numbers on offense but we need to play better, we can still be cleaner and protect the quarterback better. It’s one of those things where you’ll never be satisfied with the way you’re playing," Oklahoma center Gabe Ikard said. "It’s never going to be perfect, so you can still strive to get better, and that’s what we try to do every day in practice."
For Oklahoma, a lack of experience along the offensive line is one reason for the early struggles. Ikard is playing center only because three-year starter Ben Habern retired because of lingering neck and back issues. Guard Tyler Evans also will miss the season with a torn ACL, trimming Oklahoma's returning starts from 102 to 43. That turned the Sooners from the Big 12's most experienced team on the line to one of its least experienced.
"Some of the stuff is simple -- mental errors," Ikard said. "Some of the stuff is just being at your peak physically. You’ve got to just get better every day at practice. We work on technique every single day and worked on technique last week during the bye week. It’s been trying to correct our mistakes and trying to get better."
For Kansas State's defensive line, it could be a whole new ballgame, though it's going on the road for the first time in 2012.
In the Wildcats' biggest challenge of the season, against Miami, the defense notched five sacks. Only once in 2011 did the line duplicate that output.
Six Wildcats have sacks through three games, and defensive end Adam Davis already has a pair.
"We had played well and were showing improvement through the first couple of ballgames, but I think that we really struggled against North Texas. And North Texas has a pretty fine offensive line, but the University of Oklahoma has an excellent offensive line," coach Bill Snyder said. "So, we’re going out of the frying pan into the fire, so to speak, and that improvement we had in the first couple weeks needs to come back in a hurry."
If Kansas State is going to slow Jones and his receivers this time around, it will have to start on the line of scrimmage. A powerful running game that can slow the pace and limit the number of plays can be one piece of the puzzle.
The Wildcats' pass rush can be another. Sooners coach Bob Stoops has been impressed with the improvement through three games from Snyder's front four.
"Those guys are very active, play physical. They’ve got a good number of sacks, they get good pressure," he said. "They’re just a group that you can tell just plays real disciplined and plays tough."
Oklahoma's offensive line must answer with plenty of its own toughness, or the Wildcats will spring the upset and become only the fourth team to beat Stoops in Norman since his 1999 arrival and the first to ever do so as a ranked team.
Best offensive performance: Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State. Klein dominated in the Wildcats' 52-13 win over Miami, showcasing an improved arm and the same toughness that made him a franchise player for K-State a year ago. He finished with three rushing touchdowns and 71 yards on 22 carries, while completing 9 of 11 passes for 201 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Honorable mention: Tracy Moore, WR, Oklahoma State, Damien Williams, RB, Oklahoma
Best defensive performance: Adam Davis, DE, Kansas State. Davis was a wrecking ball on the defensive line for K-State, the game's most consistently disruptive force. He finished with just four tackles, but he had two sacks and forced two fumbles, one of which was scooped up by Arthur Brown. Honorable mention: Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State
Best play: Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State. Knott clinched the Cy-Hawk Trophy for Iowa State by tipping a James Vandenberg pass to himself for a game-ending interception, cutting off a promising Iowa drive in the final minute of the Cyclones' 9-6 win over the Hawkeyes. Honorable mention: Cody Davis, S, Texas Tech; Kenny Williams, RB, Texas Tech
Worst play: Kansas State's ... something. It was half jump pass, half behind the back Statue of Liberty ... or something. Bill Snyder called a timeout and the Wildcats ran the trick play at the goal line. However, Klein's behind the back pass to Chris Harper ended up going for a 19-yard loss and the Wildcats missed a field goal on the next play.
Second-worst play: Calvin Barnett, DT, Oklahoma State. It's been a long time since I've heard of a player getting two personal fouls on the same play, but Barnett pulled it off in the first quarter, getting flagged for two personal fouls to take care of 30 yards for Arizona on a 75-yard touchdown drive. He was flagged for roughing the passer and again for unnecessary roughness, and finished with 45 penalty yards, 18 more than Arizona's entire team. Oklahoma State finished with a school-record 167 penalty yards on 15 flags. Dishonorable mention: Dayne Crist's fourth-quarter interception to set up Rice's game-winning field goal.
Best team performance: Kansas State. We saw a complete game for 60 minutes and complete domination from the Wildcats. K-State sent a pretty decent statement with one of the best all-around games we've seen all season from anybody in the league, routing Miami 52-13, and outmuscling a pretty athletic Hurricanes squad.
Worst team performance: Oklahoma State. The Jayhawks gave OSU a run for its money in this one, but when you add up the aforementioned penalties, four turnovers and zero forced turnovers and the fact they came against a middling Arizona squad, the 21-point game was a pretty jarring wake-up call. Yes, it was the first time on the road for a young passing game, but OSU has a lot of experience elsewhere. This year won't be an easy one for Oklahoma State, but making Wes Lunt throw the ball 60 times a night isn't the answer. Dishonorable mention: Kansas.
Worst quarter: Oklahoma State's fourth quarter. The Cowboys were still in it after a Quinn Sharp field goal cut Arizona's lead to 37-31 entering the quarter. However, turnovers and an inability to stop the run turned it into a borderline embarrassing loss. The Cowboys were outscored 22-7 in the quarter and left the desert as losers in their first major test. Rough way to close the outing. Dishonorable mention: Kansas' fourth quarter, when the Jayhawks entered with an eight-point lead and lost.
Best quarter: TCU's first quarter. The Frogs scored on the very first time they touched the ball in the rebuilt Amon G. Carter Stadium. Not bad, eh? Deante' Gray scooted 70 yards to return a punt for a score, and by the end of the first quarter, the Frogs led 28-0, with a rushing touchdown, a passing touchdown, a special-teams score and a defensive score on a 28-yard Elisha Olabode interception return. That'll work.
Oddest performance: Malcolm Brown, RB, Texas. Brown's not exactly a bell cow, but he's the featured runner for the Longhorns. Mack Brown said Malcolm Brown was healthy, but the sophomore and Longhorns leading rusher a season ago carried the ball just two times for 5 yards on Saturday. Three other players, including QB David Ash and freshman RB Johnathan Gray, had more plays called for them. What's up there?
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