Dallas Colleges: Alex Okafor

Transfer DE Riser ready to join Longhorns

March, 6, 2013
3/06/13
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Zeke Riser couldn’t pass up an opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream and play for Texas, even if that means paying his own way.

The former Houston starting defensive end will join the Longhorns program this summer as a walk-on with one season of eligibility.

[+] EnlargeZeke Riser
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesZeke Riser, who graduated from Houston in December, started 27 games for the Cougars.
Riser started 27 career games at Houston, including nine in 2013. He recorded 38 tackles, three sacks and eight tackles for loss as a junior for the Cougars and received his release from the school in February.

A Texas spokesperson could not confirm that Riser is joining the program because he has yet to enroll in classes, but the lineman said his plans to transfer are “a done deal.”

“I’m definitely pumped up about it,” Riser said. “If nothing else, I have a lot of experience to offer, especially with those younger guys. These guys are super talented -- otherwise, they wouldn’t be at Texas -- so me having already played three years, I can bring a lot of experience to the table.”

Riser attended his first Longhorns spring practice on Saturday and plans to move to Austin, Texas, in May. He graduated from Houston in December and is taking graduate courses at UH this spring.

The 6-foot-4, 255-pound defensive end is making the move because he wants to play his final season of college football closer to his family. Riser grew up in La Vernia, Texas, a town located 75 miles south of UT’s campus.

“That’s really the driving force,” Riser said. “I think I would’ve regretted it if I hadn’t at least taken the chance. It’s really going to work out best for me as a player and then after college family-wise.”

The Longhorns lose starting defensive end Alex Okafor, a potential first-round NFL draft pick, but bring back veteran starter Jackson Jeffcoat in 2013. Riser said he hasn’t been guaranteed any playing time, but he’s serious about competing for a starting job when he joins the team.

“I wouldn’t go to any place that I wasn’t expecting to compete for a starting spot,” Riser said. “I’ve never sat on the bench in my life and I don’t plan to at Texas. I’m definitely going to be fighting for a starting spot and at the very least in the playing rotation. I’m not coming to Texas just because it’s a big name. I’m coming to Texas to play.”

Riser’s head coach at La Vernia, Bo Robinson, lettered at UT from 1989 to 1992 and is friends with former teammate and current Longhorns defensive ends coach Oscar Giles. That connection helped get the ball rolling for Riser, who’d originally looked into transferring to UTSA.

“Coach Giles is awesome,” Riser said. “Seeing the way he coaches and what he expects out of his players, I can really relate to his coaching style. We’re on the same page. I think it’s going to work out real well. I’m excited to get to work.”

Connections with Jeffcoat -- whose father, Jim, coached Riser and UH defensive linemen through 2010 -- and Texas defensive end Logan Mills, a fellow La Vernia native, made the final decision even easier for Riser.

He said he’s been told a scholarship is still a possibility if the Longhorns have any roster attrition this summer, but if that doesn’t work out Riser is fine with paying to be a Longhorn for one year.

After talking with Giles and Mack Brown on Saturday, Riser knows he’ll have plenty of catching up to do when he gets on campus. He’s confident his decision will end up being worth the risk.

“They’re expecting me to come in and play,” he said. “They told me I need to be ready as soon as I get here because I don’t have time to slow down and pick up the scheme. That’s OK with me, I know how things work. Again, I’m not going there to sit on the bench, and they’re not expecting me to.”

The best individual games of 2012: No. 3

February, 21, 2013
2/21/13
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We're counting down the 10 best individual games for any Big 12 player in 2012. Bowl games and nonconference play count, but these are the performances that topped them all at the end of the season.

No. 3: Texas DE Alex Okafor vs. Oregon State

Date: Dec. 29, 2012

Why it's on the list: Oh, poor Cody Vaz. He wasn't without fault (get rid of the ball, son), but there was zero help from his supporting cast on the sideline and the coaching staff. The running game was abandoned and they refused to offset Okafor's dominance with screen passes or other quick-release plays. Instead, Okafor went crazy with the single-most dominant defensive performance in the Big 12 this past season. Oregon State's offensive line looked lost and hopeless against the Longhorns senior playing in his final game. Without him, especially in the second half, Texas doesn't come back to beat Oregon State 31-27 in the Alamo Bowl. He finished with eight tackles, but grabbed the Big 12 sack title after notching 4.5 and five tackles for loss against the Beavers. He also forced a fumble. Beavers coach Mike Riley had to be upset by the end of this one, but it's been awhile since we've seen one player frustrate an entire team as impressively as Okafor did, completely wrecking Oregon State's offense in the second half.

The rest of the list:

Ranking the Big 12's top 25 players: No. 11

February, 11, 2013
2/11/13
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We’re continuing our countdown of the Big 12's top 25 players from the 2012 season. Here's more on my criteria for the list. You can take a peek at how the preseason list looked here.

The official list is locked away in a vault in an undisclosed location, but we'll be revealing one player a day moving forward.

On with the show ...

No. 11: Alex Okafor, DE, Texas

2012 numbers: Made 61 tackles and 16.5 tackles for loss. Had 12.5 sacks and forced four fumbles. Blocked a kick and broke up a pass.

Most recent ranking: Okafor was No. 14 in our preseason list of the Big 12's top 25 players.

Making the case for Okafor: If you asked Mike Riley or anyone associated with Oregon State, they might make an impassioned plea for Okafor to be No. 1 on this list. He finished the season in a flurry, making 4.5 sacks in a big Alamo Bowl win over the Beavers, but his big finish pushed him to second in the Big 12 in tackles for loss and gave him the Big 12 title in sacks, two more than any other player in the league. He established himself as one of the Big 12, and perhaps the nation's best, pass rushers. His career was filled with a lot of transition among positions, but he found a home at defensive end, and capped his career with a bang on the way to what could be very promising NFL career.

The rest of the list:

Thirty Big 12 players off to NFL combine

February, 7, 2013
2/07/13
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The NFL scouting combine is the biggest annual showcase of future football stars before the NFL draft, where players who have entered the draft get measured, run through drills and show scouts and coaches what they can do without any pads on.

This year, a record 333 players have been invited, and the Big 12 landed 30 invitations.

Draft stock can swing wildly during the week, with the main event -- the 40 time -- often serving as the catalyst for that stock. Call it silly, and in some ways it is, but it's the reality of the process. Here's who's headed to Indianapolis from the Big 12:
Pretty good set of players there. You can see them when the combine kicks off Feb. 20.

Assessing the Big 12's needs filled: Part II

February, 7, 2013
2/07/13
10:00
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Signing day has come and gone, but we'll have plenty of coverage looking more closely at each Big 12 team's class. This morning, we're looking at how each team filled its needs. We ran down the top of the Big 12 alphabet earlier today. Here's the second half:

OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS

Needs filled: The Cowboys once again lost both starters at defensive end, and junior-college transfer Sam Wren could have an immediate impact. ESPN 300 member Vincent Taylor is a big presence and might contribute early, too. In all, OSU signed six defensive linemen. In this offense, you can never have too many receivers, especially gifted ones. Marcell Ateman and Ra'Shaad Samples will have some fun in Stillwater.

Holes remaining: The Pokes lost one starter at linebacker and will have two seniors on next season's team, but didn't sign a linebacker in this class. We'll see if they can make up for that with development and recruiting in 2014.

TEXAS LONGHORNS

Needs filled: Texas is getting some big upgrades on the offensive line, headlined by the nation's No. 1 center, Darius James. Kent Perkins and Jake Raulerson are also top-10 tackles nationally and guard Rami Hammad and juco tackle Desmond Harrison fill out the class, which was one-third offensive linemen.

Holes remaining: Texas kept striking out with defensive linemen and ended up signing zero, despite losing Alex Okafor and Brandon Moore, and with Jackson Jeffcoat a rising senior. That could be a problem soon, but the Longhorns lost Daeshon Hall and missed out on Andrew Billings, who went to Baylor.

TCU HORNED FROGS

Needs filled: The running backs were drained after last season, but the Frogs had one of the league's best hauls at the position, grabbing ESPN 300 member Kyle Hicks and Trevorris Johnson, two of the best backs in Texas. The Frogs are also loading up on 6-foot, 200-pound linebackers who'll be able to cover in the open field. Paul Whitmill headlines that group, but the Frogs signed three linebackers with that profile.

Holes remaining: Josh Boyce and Skye Dawson are gone, and though LaDarius Brown and Brandon Carter will be there for 2013, you need a lot more big-time receivers than that to win in the Big 12. TCU signed four athletes, but no pure receivers in this class.

TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS

Needs filled: Receivers are always a must in this offense, and Tech got a pair of good ones in Dylan Cantrell and Justis Nelson. After Seth Doege graduated and Scotty Young transferred, Tech needed a quarterback to follow Michael Brewer and Davis Webb, the nation's No. 24 pro-style passer, could be that guy.

Holes remaining: The Red Raiders might be a little thin at defensive tackle after signing just one in this class. Kerry Hyder will be a senior and Leon Mackey graduated. Tech will have to develop that position and maybe put some weight on some defensive ends -- a position where Texas Tech is well-stocked.

WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS

Needs filled: Defense, defense, defense. West Virginia needs some talent upgrades all over the field, and landed linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton and ESPN 300 member Darrien Howard. Hodari Christian is another talented linebacking prospect and Dontrill Hyman will try to have an immediate impact as a pass-rusher out of junior college. WVU signed four outside linebackers and two defensive ends.

Holes remaining: Where are the cover guys? WVU needs help in the secondary and got it in safeties Malik Greaves and Jeremy Tyler, but didn't sign a pure cornerback in this class.

Postseason position rankings: Defensive line

February, 5, 2013
2/05/13
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We're back ranking the top 10 players at positions across the Big 12. Today, we'll turn our eyes to the defensive lines across the Big 12. Here's what you've missed so far:

Here's what you've missed so far:
Let's get to it.

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

Offseason to-do list: Texas Longhorns

January, 25, 2013
1/25/13
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Every year, there's lots of turnover and change for every college program. What do the Big 12 teams need to do before next fall? Let's continue our look with the Longhorns down in Austin.

1. Figure out the offensive identity. Bryan Harsin is gone, and he's probably taking most of his pre-snap shifts with him. Will Major Applewhite still look to run a power offense? Texas has recruited and developed its offensive line really well lately, but David Ash has matured, and even with a wealth of backs in Malcolm Brown, Johnathan Gray, Joe Bergeron and Daje Johnson, Texas hasn't been able to keep them healthy or get consistent production out of one for an entire season. Will Applewhite put more responsibility in Ash's hands? He was good at times last season, but the rising junior was inconsistent. His ceiling is probably a legitimate Heisman campaign. His floor is probably getting benched in favor Connor Brewer or Jalen Overstreet -- or maybe even incoming freshman Tyrone Swoopes. Where will he fall on the spectrum? Will Texas continue to try to pound the trenches?

2. Plug up the middle of the defense. Texas' defense made no sense last season. The personnel is absolutely there to be great up front. The defensive tackles are deep and talented, led by guys like Malcom Brown, Ashton Dorsey, Desmond Jackson and Chris Whaley. The linebackers were solid, even without Jordan Hicks, who should be back next season. Peter Jinkens is a rising star and a few others have potential. Coordinator Manny Diaz didn't take another job, electing to stay in Austin and attempt fix the most underwhelming unit in the Big 12. It all starts with the ability to stop the run, something Texas never did consistently last season. Fix that, and the rest of this defense comes around, I say.

3. Discover and develop leadership. Texas was still a pretty young team last season after rebooting on both sides of the ball after the 2010 season. The freshmen and sophomores who contributed in 2011 are juniors and seniors now, but the team is losing guys like Alex Okafor and Kenny Vaccaro, players who had been around awhile and served as role models for younger guys. Look for Jackson Jeffcoat and David to fill the role this year, but other players, like Malcolm Brown or Jaxon Shipley, might emerge, too. We'll see who steps up in the spring.

More offseason to-do lists:

Senior Bowl buzz from the Big 12

January, 25, 2013
1/25/13
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You can keep up with our scouts in Mobile, Ala., at the Senior Bowl this week with ESPN Insider, but here's a taste of what they've seen from the Big 12 talents this week:

Kansas State receiver Chris Harper got his first notebook mention of the week Insider after a strong practice for the North team. Scouts love his size (228 pounds) and ability to box out defenders for the ball, but had big questions about his speed and ability to get off the line. I'd agree with those. He's not a physical freak, but he's a great route-runner with really good hands. That can pay off at the next level. Our scouts said he had trouble getting free on underneath routes. We saw that at Kansas State. He's most effective out on the edge with cornerbacks, where safeties and linebackers couldn't necessarily help.

Texas defensive end Alex Okafor's up and down week continued, but he impressed on Wednesday in 1-on-1 workouts. There's some questions about his run-stopping ability and breaking loose against double teams, but he's at least earning some attention.

Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson is turning heads for the South team Insider this week. Scouts are raving about his long arms and quickness. Considering he's a former quarterback, that's not much of a surprise.

Checking on the Big 12 at the Senior Bowl

January, 23, 2013
1/23/13
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Senior Bowl practices are in full swing, and our team of scouts are on the ground in Mobile, Ala. offering updates. What have they found from the Big 12 talents?

Baylor's Terrance Williams is already blowing up, and looked the part of the best receiver at the entire event, writes colleagues Todd McShay and Steve Muench Insider. Scouts loved his "elite speed" and ability to catch the ball over his shoulder and pluck it out of the air, as well as the ability to make defenders miss. He's not shifty, as you saw last year, but his straight-line speed is giving defenders fits.

Landry Jones stood out as the "best arm" of the South's quarterbacks, but drew criticism for holding on to the ball too long, even though our scouts cited some nice throws during team drills.

Our own Kevin Weidl came away impressed Insider with Texas DE Alex Okafor's performance out at the North practice. There was some inconsistency, but Weidl loved his length, power and use of his hands, even if he lacks some explosiveness, too.

One other tough note from Mobile? West Virginia receiver Tavon Austin was one of five players who canceled in the 72 hours before the game, reports our trio Insider.

They called those decisions "immature" and something that angers scouts, and will necessitate later explanation.

Season report card: Texas Longhorns

January, 17, 2013
1/17/13
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We're grading each Big 12 team's season right now, and we'll move on to the next team on the list: The Oklahoma State Cowboys.

OFFENSE: It was obvious from the start that this offense would only go as far as David Ash would take them, and the offense looked really, really strong in the first four games, including wins on the road against Ole Miss and Oklahoma State. He played well against West Virginia, but the wheels came off for everything in a blowout loss to Oklahoma. Ash was benched against KU and Case McCoy rescued a win, and McCoy got some run against TCU and K-State when Ash suffered a rib injury. Ash was OK this year, but has to eliminate the rough outings. The receivers were solid, but the running game still has yet to become the force that the raw talent at running back suggests it should be. It's been good, but the Longhorns still keep their backs healthy. The offense was better this year and earned Bryan Harsin a head-coaching job at Arkansas State, but there's a lot of room for improvement for this unit. GRADE: B-

DEFENSE: This is where it could get ugly, considering we generally grade these units on a curve relative to the talent present. Texas looked like a runaway candidate for the Big 12's best defense. The defensive line was beastly and deep at defensive tackle, and the linebackers were young, albeit promising. The secondary returned all of its best talents and Kenny Vaccaro and cornerbacks Carrington Byndom and Quandre Diggs could arguably be considered the Big 12's No. 1 and No. 2 corners. That was in the preseason, though. Texas never found much ability to slow the run, and Diggs and Byndom were disappointments compared to their 2011 seasons. The linebackers had to deal with the loss of leader Jordan Hicks for most of the season, so they get somewhat of a pass, and the defensive line recovered well from the loss of Jackson Jeffcoat. Alex Okafor was one of the Big 12's best defenders, but that inability to stop the run cost the Longhorns. GRADE: C-

OVERALL: That 4-0 start had plenty of folks, myself included, thinking Texas was back. The loss the following week to a top-10 West Virginia team (back then, anyway) was nothing to be ashamed of. That Red River loss, though, cast a huge shadow over the season and even a late four-game winning streak and a big win on the road at Texas Tech couldn't erase that. A Thanksgiving night disastrous loss to TCU might have repercussions on the recruiting trail in the future, and the Longhorns weren't ready to play 60 minutes with Kansas State, who ran away in the second half. The bowl win over Oregon State was Texas' best win of the season, but in a season in which Texas hoped to be back, it simply wasn't enough. Nine wins doesn't cut it at Texas. GRADE: C+

More Big 12 report cards:

Best and worst of the Big 12 bowl season

January, 10, 2013
1/10/13
3:00
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The Big 12 bowl season is over, but just as we did for the weekend rewind all season long, it's time to look back on the best and worst of the bowl season.

Best offensive performance: Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia. West Virginia got stuck in a snowstorm in New York City, and producing offense in that wasn't easy. Still, Bailey put together the best performance, grabbing seven passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns in the Mountaineers' loss to Syracuse.

[+] EnlargeAlex Okafor
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsDefensive end Alex Okafor set the Alamo Bowl record with 4.5 sacks against Oregon State.
Best defensive performance: Alex Okafor, DE, Texas. This was the best performance of any player in the Big 12 the whole bowl season. Okafor was unblockable in the second half, racking up 4.5 sacks and five tackles for loss in the Longhorns' comeback win against Oregon State. He made eight tackles and forced a fumble.

Best play: David Ash, QB, Texas. Ash was nearly dragged down in the backfield, but somehow slipped out of a sack and rolled to his left to extend the play. Running back Johnathan Gray leaked out of the backfield, and Ash threw a perfect strike across his body and hit Gray in the hands for a 15-yard touchdown pass to get the Longhorns to within three points midway through the fourth quarter. Honorable mention: Ash's 36-yard bomb to Marquise Goodwin to take the lead with 36 seconds to play.

Biggest impact play: D.J. Johnson, S, Texas Tech. The Red Raiders hadn't forced a turnover since Oct. 20, but Johnson intercepted a pass in the final minute, returning it 39 yards to set up a game-winning field goal. Minnesota was driving in a tie game, but the Red Raiders' late flurry produced an unlikely comeback win.

Best catch: Isaiah Anderson, WR, Oklahoma State. Anderson caught five balls for 78 yards, but his crazy, spinning, aerial catch in the back of the end zone for a 37-yard touchdown put OSU up 45-0 and provided the best highlight of the Big 12 bowl season.

Worst play: Cornelius Lucas, OL, Kansas State. Kansas State faced a fourth-and-1 at Oregon's 18, but tried to draw Oregon offside and probably planned to go for it anyway after taking a timeout. The Wildcats trailed 15-10, but Lucas inexplicably moved early on a play that probably never would have happened. It backed up Kansas State five yards, and the powerful short-yardage offense couldn't go for it. Anthony Cantele missed the 40-yard kick that ensued, and Oregon answered with a quick touchdown before half to go up 12.

Most boneheaded play: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech. Amaro, who might be Tech's most talented player, missed half the season with a rib injury. He finally got to return, but he didn't seem to take that privilege very seriously. Right in front of an official, he pinned a Minnesota defender and threw a punch. He drew a flag and was ejected, but that flag backed up Texas Tech from the Golden Gophers' 1-yard line to the 16. The ensuing field goal was blocked, and Tech needed a late-game rally to win.

Craziest reaction to a boneheaded play: Texas Tech. According to a report from Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Texas Tech officials had to relay a message to Amaro telling him not to tweet about his ejection. Hours later, he tweeted a weak apology: "I want to apologize for being ejected. As bad as it seems, which it does, I had no intention of a punch. But the idea to get off of him," he wrote.

Best moment: Ash gets the win. It was an emotional bowl week full of distractions for Texas' team as two players were sent home after a police investigation into an alleged sexual assault. Texas' offense struggled for much of the first half, but Ash got hot late and capped the game with a 36-yard touchdown pass over the top to the speedy Goodwin. It gave Texas a huge win, the Big 12's best win of the entire season.

Worst moment: Michigan State takes the game back. TCU inexplicably blew a 13-0 lead when Michigan State's offense came alive, but Jaden Oberkrom gave the Frogs hope with a 53-yard kick to get the lead back, 16-14. It didn't last long. Michigan State strung together a drive and with 61 seconds to play, Dan Conroy boomed a 47-yard kick to take the wind out of TCU's sails after a difficult, emotional season.

The All-Big 12 Bowl Team

January, 10, 2013
1/10/13
11:00
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The Big 12 had nine teams in bowl games this season, and here is the best of the best in the Big 12's postseason. Let's get to it.

[+] EnlargeDavid Ash
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsDavid Ash's big plays fueled Texas' comeback against Oregon State.
QB: David Ash, Texas: He edges out Clint Chelf because of his game-changing plays in the Longhorns' win against Oregon State. Ash had the best play of the entire bowl season with a crazy escape and acrobatic touchdown pass to Johnathan Gray, and he hit Marquise Goodwin on a 36-yard bomb to put the Longhorns ahead in the final minutes. He finished 21-of-33 with 241 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 22 yards and a score.

RB: Lache Seastrunk, Baylor: Seastrunk helped Baylor rout UCLA with 138 yards and a score on 16 carries in the Bears' Holiday Bowl win.

RB: Glasco Martin IV, Baylor: How many rushers did the Big 12 have this bowl season who had at least 95 yards? Two, and both played for Baylor. Martin scored three touchdowns in the Holiday Bowl and carried the ball 21 times for 98 yards. Heck of a night for the Bears backs.

WR: Darrin Moore, Texas Tech: Moore was the most consistent receiver in the bowl season with 11 catches for 84 yards, keeping the chains moving for the Red Raiders in their Meineke Car Care Bowl win against Minnesota.

WR: Stedman Bailey, West Virginia: Despite playing in a snowstorm, Bailey had the best performance of any Big 12 receiver. He caught eight balls for 121 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It wasn't enough to get the Pinstripe Bowl win, but no other Mountaineer scored a touchdown.

WR: Marquise Goodwin, Texas: The track star's touches were limited, but he had a huge impact. His 36-yard grab with 2:24 to play proved to be the game winner, and he finished with four catches for 68 yards. He also had one carry -- which he turned into a 64-yard touchdown, looking as fast as any player in college football while streaking to the end zone.

TE: Ernst Brun Jr., Iowa State: Brun caught four passes for 102 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown, to get the first-quarter party started for the Cyclones, which scored 17 points in the quarter. The rest of the game was forgettable, but Brun had one of the longest plays of Iowa State's season.

OL: Cyril Richardson, Baylor: The Bears' left guard was a big reason why Baylor had so much success running the ball. Baylor racked up 306 yards on the ground against UCLA.

OL: Lane Taylor, Oklahoma State: Purdue's Kawann Short is a stud and arguably the team's best player, but Taylor helped Oklahoma State rack up 58 points and helped hold the Boilermakers defensive tackle to just one tackle and one sack. Short had minimal impact throughout the game.

OL: LaAdrian Waddle, Texas Tech: The Red Raiders ran the ball well -- on the few occasions they did -- and Seth Doege had plenty of time. Waddle was a big reason why for both.

OL: Lane Johnson, Oklahoma: Texas A&M wrecking ball Damontre Moore declared for the NFL draft before the Cotton Bowl, but credit Johnson at tackle, who helped hold him to five tackles, one tackle for loss and zero sacks, despite Landry Jones throwing 48 passes.

OL: Ivory Wade, Baylor: Those 306 yards rushing for the Bears didn't come easy. Most of them came on the interior, and Wade was a solid presence in the middle of the line.

DEFENSE

DL: Chris McAllister, Baylor: He was one of a handful of guys to hold UCLA's Johnathan Franklin to 34 yards on 14 carries, had five tackles, including two sacks, and batted down a pass to help keep UCLA's passing game grounded.

DL: Alex Okafor, Texas: Okafor is my defensive MVP of the Big 12 bowl season. He gave Oregon State's offensive line nightmares and helped the Longhorns stage a late comeback with 4.5 sacks, five tackles for loss and eight stops. He also forced a fumble.

DL: Meshak Williams, Kansas State: The Wildcats had a rough night against Oregon, but Williams played pretty well with nine tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack.

DL: Terrance Lloyd, Baylor: Lloyd was part of the Baylor gang who helped UCLA have its worst running game of the season. He had four tackles, three tackles for loss and a sack. No zone read for you.

LB: Terence Garvin, West Virginia: Garvin was everywhere for the West Virginia defense, which largely struggled in a blowout loss to Syracuse. He forced a fumble, recovered a fumble, broke up a pass, had two sacks, made three tackles for loss and had 15 tackles.

LB: Tyler Johnson, Oklahoma State: Johnson blew up what Purdue likes to refer to as its "passing game." He made six tackles, had two sacks and forced two fumbles, including a huge hit on Purdue quarterback Robert Marve.

LB: Eddie Lackey, Baylor: Lackey was another part of Baylor's defense that put together one of its best games of the season. He made 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack and five tackles.

DB: Jason Verrett, TCU: Most of Michigan State's night was frustrating in the passing game before some late success, and Verrett was a big reason for those struggles. He broke up two passes, made a tackle for loss and had 12 tackles.

DB: D.J. Johnson, Texas Tech: Johnson made 14 tackles and is on this team for one of the biggest plays of Texas Tech's season. The defense hadn't forced a turnover since Oct. 20, but Johnson picked off a Gophers pass in the final minute with Minnesota driving and the game tied. He returned it 39 yards, helping to set up the winning field goal as time expired.

DB: Jeremy Reeves, Iowa State: Reeves returned a Cody Green interception 31 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter of the Liberty Bowl loss. He had six tackles with a tackle for loss and a pass breakup.

DB: Daytawion Lowe, Oklahoma State: No second-half comebacks for Purdue. Lowe opened the half with a 37-yard fumble return for a score and made seven tackles with half a tackle for loss.

SPECIALISTS

KR: Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech: This one is pretty simple. Grant returned a kickoff 99 yards for a score, giving Texas Tech a 7-3 lead early in the first quarter of its Meineke Car Care Bowl win.

PR: Josh Stewart, Oklahoma State: Purdue faked a punt to keep its opening drive alive but punted on its next set of downs. The always-shifty Stewart delivered a 64-yard punt return, giving Oklahoma State the ball on the Purdue 19-yard line. The Cowboys scored for a 7-0 lead to kick off the Heart of Dallas Bowl rout.

K: Jaden Oberkrom, TCU: He edges out Texas Tech's Ryan Bustin, who kicked a 28-yard winner, for making all three of his attempts, including a crazy 53-yarder for a 16-14 lead with 2:42 to play. He also made kicks of 47 and 31 yards.

P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State: He narrowly edges out Oklahoma's Tress Way (five punts, three inside 20, long of 58 yards, average 49.4 yards) for this award after pinning Purdue inside its 20-yard line on two of his three punts. He boomed a 65-yarder and averaged nearly 53 yards on his three punts. He was more valuable for Oklahoma State because field position mattered to Purdue. It didn't to Texas A&M.

Big 12 sending six (so far) to Senior Bowl

January, 3, 2013
1/03/13
8:05
PM CT
The Senior Bowl, hosted each year in Mobile, Ala., is the biggest postseason showcase for upperclassmen to be noticed by NFL scouts in advance of the pre-draft combine.

Six players from the Big 12 have been invited and accepted so far, with later additions still possible. The bowl made some headlines earlier this offseason when a report surfaced that Kansas State's Collin Klein wouldn't be invited, but here's who's going to Mobile from the Big 12.
That's a pretty solid group. As the name suggests, only seniors are eligible. Okafor is coming off a strong bowl showing, and Harper, Brown and Jones all have big games still ahead to get some buzz going before building their draft stock.

Instant analysis: Texas 31, Oregon State 27

December, 29, 2012
12/29/12
9:46
PM CT

SAN ANTONIO -- Texas has been a team searching for any sort of tangible evidence that the program was at least starting to turn around after two-plus seasons that were subpar by the program's standards. Saturday night's 31-27 win against Oregon State might have done just that. While the Beavers are not exactly a juggernaut in college football, any win against a BCS-ranked team for Texas is valued and pouted at as proof that better things are on the horizon.

It was over when: Texas quarterback David Ash went up top to wide receiver Marquise Goodwin for a 36-yard touchdown pass with 2 minutes, 24 seconds left in the fourth. The touchdown gave Texas its first lead of the game at 31-27.

Game ball goes to: Texas was down to just one viable option at quarterback with Ash following the suspension of backup Case McCoy. The sophomore started slowly but came through in the end. Ash finished 21-of-33 for 241 yards with two passing touchdowns against one interception. He also rushed for another touchdown on an 11-yard run.

Stat of the game: Texas' defense posted an Alamo Bowl-record 10 sacks for minus-81 yards. Alex Okafor led the charge with a bowl-record 4.5 sacks. While Oregon State quarterback Cody Vaz spent much of the game on his back, Ash was his team's second-leading rusher with 22 yards and a touchdown.

Stat of the game, part 2: Texas had 23 yards in the first quarter and failed to get a first down. In the fourth quarter, the Longhorns (9-4) had 165 yards and scored 14 points.

What it means for Texas: The Longhorns will be spared months of questions about the direction of the program and who the quarterback of the future might be. Ash was able to take control of the game when it mattered and should be the clear favorite as Texas heads into spring practice.

What it means for Oregon State: The Beavers (9-4) still had one of the top turnarounds in college football, going from a three-win season to a nine-win season, but they lacked a signature win in 2012. No doubt the solid showing against the Longhorns in Texas will help coach Mike Riley pull more players out of the state.

Preseason All-Big 12 checkup: Defense

December, 28, 2012
12/28/12
12:00
PM CT
It's always fun looking back on what we thought in the preseason, and today, we'll take another look.

Here's who made the postseason team.

How did our All-Big 12 preseason team stack up at season's end? Here's how the preseason All-Big 12 offense ended up. Now, let's look at the defense.

DL: Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas

Jeffcoat was off to a solid start with 9.5 tackles for loss and four sacks with a pair of forced fumbles in his first six games, but a torn pectoral muscle ended his season early and he didn't make the postseason team.

DL: Stansly Maponga, TCU

Maponga was TCU's lone representative on the preseason team, but he didn't quite live up to expectations, and was overshadowed by teammate Devonte Fields. Maponga made just six tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks, neither of which ranked in the top 10 of the Big 12. He did force two fumbles but didn't make the postseason team.

DL: Alex Okafor, Texas

Okafor was solid this season, and wasn't far off from being the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year. He was third in the league with eight sacks and sixth in the league with 11.5 tackles for loss. He also forced two fumbles and made the postseason team.

DL: Meshak Williams, Kansas State

I took some flack for including Williams on my preseason team, but I'll have the last laugh here. I loved his relentless motor and underrated technique and use of hands in 2011. This year, it paid off with a Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year trophy after leading the league with 9.5 sacks and finishing third with 13.5 tackles for loss. He obviously made the postseason team.

LB: A.J. Klein, Iowa State

Klein returned as the league's Defensive Player of the Year and had a really solid year with 98 tackles and an interception returned 87 yards for a score. He also had 2.5 tackles for loss and made the postseason team.

LB: Arthur Brown, Kansas State

Brown didn't have a huge statistical year but he held together a solid K-State defense and flew around all season, even playing through a painful ankle injury. He won Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors for his efforts and made 91 tackles, six tackles for loss and intercepted two passes, returning one for a score. He obviously made the postseason team.

LB: Jake Knott, Iowa State

Knott was having a great year with 79 tackles and two interceptions through eight games, as well as five pass breakups and two forced fumbles. He suffered a shoulder injury that required surgery, though, and played one last game, going out on top with a win over Baylor. Despite the injury, I still placed him on the postseason team.

CB: Carrington Byndom, Texas

Byndom was my pick as the league's top corner this year, but he was part of Texas' defensive struggles and got surpassed by some better players. The Longhorns pass D ranked third in the league, but Byndom was 21st in pass breakups, though he did have three interceptions and two blocked kicks.

CB: Brodrick Brown, Oklahoma State

Brown and teammate Justin Gilbert were two of the bigger disappointments across the league this year. The duo combined for 10 picks a year ago. Neither had one this year, and OSU ranked seventh in the league in pass defense. He was surpassed by better performances on this year's team by Aaron Colvin and Jason Verrett.

S: Kenny Vaccaro, Texas

Vaccaro had a solid year with 93 tackles, two interceptions 3.5 TFLs and two forced fumbles, but I gave the narrow nod to K-State's Ty Zimmerman for the second safety spot on the postseason team.

S: Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma

Jefferson was one of the league's best defenders this year and finished second in the league with 113 stops. He picked off two passes and broke up three more. He made the postseason team.

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