Dallas Colleges: Beau Blackshear

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 6

October, 6, 2014
Oct 6
10:00
AM CT
Taking stock of Week 6 in the Big 12:

Team of the week: The Horned Frogs landed their biggest win since joining the Big 12, with a 37-33 victory over then fourth-ranked Oklahoma. TCU’s revamped attack moved the ball up and down on Oklahoma’s vaunted defense.Then in the fourth quarter, the Horned Frogs locked up the Oklahoma offense, which had the ball three times on the TCU side of the field in the final 7 minutes and failed to score a point. With the preseason favorite Sooners vanquished, TCU can take command of the Big 12 race this weekend with a win over the defending Big 12 champs in Baylor.

Disappointment of the week: On a weekend in which Oregon, Alabama, Texas A&M and UCLA all loss, the Sooners had an opportunity to cement their status as a playoff team. Instead, Oklahoma fell victim to the upset, as well. The Sooners had their chances. But two Trevor Knight interceptions in the fourth quarter helped seal the TCU win late. The Sooners aren’t out of the playoff race yet. But their chances took a hit.

Big (offensive) man on campus: Trevone Boykin went into the offseason not knowing if he would be a quarterback or a wide receiver on the TCU offense. But Boykin’s rededication to the finer points of being a quarterback culminated with a speculator effort against Oklahoma. Boykin accounted for a career-high 395 yards of offense, and two touchdowns. TCU is finally a contender in the Big 12, and Boykin's dramatic improvement as a quarterback is a major reason why.

Big (defensive) men on campus: The linebackers often get overshadowed by the rest of the TCU defense, but nobody played a bigger part in the Horned Frogs’ win over Oklahoma than Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallet. Dawson picked off Knight at the beginning of the fourth quarter and raced 41 yards for the touchdown that would put TCU up for good. Then late in the fourth quarter on fourth-and-1 Mallet stuffed Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine short of the first down to help clinch the Horned Frogs’ victory. Together, the two combined for 21 tackles in a pair of Herculean efforts.

Special-teams players of the week: As Baylor’s offense sputtered, its special teams trio of Beau Blackshear, Terrell Burt and Spencer Roth was the difference in the Bears’ 28-7 win over Texas. Blackshear blocked Texas’ 52-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter, and Burt scooped it up and returned it for a score, which remained Baylor’s only touchdown until Roth sparked the next in the third quarter. The Baylor veteran punter called his own fake, and dashed 19 yards for a first down to midfield. Three plays later, Bryce Petty hit Antwan Goodley with a 29-yard touchdown pass, catapulting the Bears to the win in Austin.

video video Play of the week: Tyler Lockett is the man at wide receiver for Kansas State, but Curry Sexton has emerged as a dynamic wingman, highlighted by this one-handed touchdown grab in K-State’s 45-13 win over Texas Tech.

video Stat of the week: Kansas' Trevor Pardula punted 14 times in a 33-14 loss at West Virginia. The 14 punts were the most by an FBS team in one game since 2010. The Jayhawks punted on their first 10 possessions, and took only one snap in West Virginia territory until late in the third quarter.

Quote of the week: "I don’t know how things change, but it’s frustrating and it’s not fair." -- Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard, on Big 12 officiating

Quote of the week II: "Trevor Knight, call me!" -- Katy Perry, while hitting on the Oklahoma quarterback during her guest picker segment on "College GameDay"

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 6

October, 5, 2014
Oct 5
9:00
AM CT
Honoring the best performances from the Big 12 in Week 6:

QB Trevone Boykin, TCU: Not many people expected him to outplay Trevor Knight, but Boykin did that and a lot more. He made a statement on a national stage, throwing for 318 yards and two scores and rushing for 77 in TCU's 37-33 upset of No. 4 Oklahoma. Boykin ranks No. 7 among FBS quarterbacks in total offense and is playing like arguably the Big 12's most improved player.

LBs Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallet, TCU: What a day for these two. Dawson jumped a fourth-quarter pass from Knight and returned it 41 yards for the go-ahead touchdown that proved to be the winning score. Then Mallet stuffed Samaje Perine on fourth-and-1 to kill a Sooners drive that had reached the TCU 22-yard line. The duo also combined for 21 tackles and helped TCU hold Perine to 87 rushing yards and OU to 152 on the ground.

DT Beau Blackshear, Baylor: Art Briles rightfully lauded Blackshear as one of the unsung heroes of Baylor's 28-7 victory. Not only did he block a 52-yard field goal attempt that Baylor returned for a touchdown, he also recovered Texas' fumbled snap at the 1-yard line to stop a touchdown. In a tight first half, that's an absolutely critical 14-point swing in Baylor's favor.

QB Jake Waters, Kansas State: It's probably time to start crediting Waters with becoming a dual threat. In addition to his 290 passing yards and four TDs on efficient 24-of-31 passing, Waters also broke runs of 50, 22, 19 and 18 yards to finish with 105 on 17 carries in a 45-13 beatdown of Texas Tech. He's already surpassed his rushing total from 2013 with 320 yards through five games.

RB Rushel Shell, West Virginia: Shell broke 100 yards for the first time in his brief time at West Virginia, rushing for 113 and a touchdown to help pace WVU's 33-14 win over Kansas. While Kevin White and Mario Alford continue to make huge plays, the Pittsburgh transfer has scored in four consecutive games and is giving this unit importance balance.

WR Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State: The Big 12's most dangerous man struck again, adding a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to his highlight reel. Hill finished with 222 all-purpose yards in OSU's 37-20 victory over Iowa State and, between offensive snaps and returns, he touched the ball 21 times. He ran his nearly 100-yard dash in under 11 seconds despite needing a juke and a stiff-arm to break free. That's blazing.

Big 12 post-spring breakdown: DL

May, 5, 2014
May 5
3:00
PM CT
With spring ball done, we’re re-examining and re-ranking the positional situations of every Big 12 team, continuing Monday with defensive line. These outlooks will look different in August. But here’s how we see them post-spring:

[+] EnlargeDevonte Fields
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsWith a healthy and productive Devonte Fields this fall, TCU's defensive line could be an elite unit.
1. TCU (pre-spring ranking: 2): Devonte Fields appears to be back, which is a scary proposition for the rest of the Big 12. The 2012 Big 12 AP Defensive Player of the Year basically had a fruitless sophomore campaign, which ended with season-ending foot surgery. But this spring, defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas noted that Fields was making the plays he did as a freshman All-American. Even without Fields, this would be a good D-line, headlined by veteran tackles Chucky Hunter and Davion Pierson. But with Fields playing up to his potential, this line could be elite.

2. Oklahoma (1): Not only did the Sooners return the entire line that destroyed Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, they’ve added three redshirt freshmen who are clamoring for playing time. Charles Walker is the most athletic tackle on the roster, and he ran the fastest tackle 40 time (4.67 seconds) of the Bob Stoops era. Tackle Matt Romar quietly emerged this spring and could be on the verge of taking away snaps from some of the veterans inside. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo showed this spring he's yet another Sooner capable of getting to the quarterback off the edge. There's a debate on the best D-line in the league. There’s no debate on the deepest, with Oklahoma capable of going three-deep across the board.

3. Baylor (6): Coach Art Briles believes he has one of the best defensive lines in the country, and there's reason to believe he might be right. The Bears made the biggest jump on this list, thanks to the development of end Shawn Oakman and emergence of tackle Javonte Magee. Briles called the 6-foot-9 Oakman “unblockable” during the spring. Oakman already flashed plenty of potential last season as a sophomore, finishing sixth in the league with 12.5 tackles for loss. Magee, who might be the most highly-touted high school defender Briles has ever signed, sat out his freshman season while dealing with a personal issue. But he established himself this spring and could beat out returning starter Beau Blackshear. With former four-star signee Andrew Billings (who played as a true freshman) also poised for a big year at the other tackle spot, Briles could indeed be proven correct in the fall.

4. Texas (3): The Longhorns boast two of the league’s blue-chip defensive linemen in end Cedric Reed and tackle Malcom Brown. But whether this unit rises to the top of the league will hinge on the supporting cast. If athletic end Shiro Davis and run-stuffing tackle Desmond Jackson play up to their potential, and the Longhorns can get a boost from incoming freshmen Derick Roberson and Poona Ford, this could be a foundational positional unit in Charlie Strong’s first season.

5. Kansas State (4): Like Texas, the Wildcats have two blue-chip pieces returning up front in All-Big 12 end Ryan Mueller and tackle Travis Britz. They’re banking they’ll soon be adding a third in Terrell Clinkscales, who will be arriving to Manhattan shortly. Clinkscales, whom the Wildcats snatched away from Nebraska, was the nation’s No. 4-rated juco DT, and at 315 pounds, could be the run-stuffer K-State currently lacks.

6. Oklahoma State (5): With so much turnover elsewhere, the Cowboys will be counting on their line to be their anchor defensively. There’s reason to believe it could be that and more. Sam Wren received votes for Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year last season, while Emmanuel Ogbah garnered consideration for Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year. Throw in promising redshirt freshmen Vili Leveni, Ben Hughes and Vincent Taylor, who all showed signs this spring they might be ready to contribute, along with veterans James Castleman, Ofa Hautau and Jimmy Bean, and Oklahoma State could have the anchor up front it needs while the rest of the defense retools.

7. West Virginia (7): This will probably be the weakest area of West Virginia defense, but with their talent at linebacker, the Mountaineers don’t have to be great up front. Dontrill Hyman, Christian Brown and Kyle Rose are currently the starters coming out of the spring. But the player to watch up front is sophomore Darrien Howard, who rapidly progressed since having his redshirt pulled late in 2013. If Howard develops into an impact player, he could give the Mountaineers a huge jolt up front.

8. Texas Tech (9): The Red Raiders tried to get by this spring while awaiting the horde of defensive line help set to arrive this summer. All told, the Red Raiders signed four juco D-linemen, only one of which – Keland McElrath -- enrolled early (McElrath was hobbled by a stress fracture all spring to boot). To be better up front, Tech, which ranked ninth in run defense last fall, will need at least a couple of its juco transfers to hit.

9. Kansas (10): Keon Stowers quietly has become as one of the better tackles in the league. He was the defensive MVP of Kansas' spring game after collecting eight tackles from his defensive tackle spot, and he was voted captain for a second straight year. Stowers and linebacker Ben Heeney will lead a defense that returns nine starters and could surprise after gaining confidence from playing Oklahoma and Texas tough last season.

10: Iowa State (8): The Cyclones took it on the chin this spring, with projected D-line starters Rodney Coe and David Irving both getting kicked off the team. Iowa State got a boost shortly after spring ball ended when 2013 starting tackle Brandon Jensen changed his mind about leaving the team. The Cyclones should be solid at end with Cory Morrissey and Mitchell Meyers, but even with Jensen’s return, interior line depth is a major concern.

Spring depth chart analysis: Baylor

April, 28, 2014
Apr 28
9:00
AM CT
Over the next two weeks, we’ll be analyzing the depth charts of every Big 12 team coming out of the spring. We start with Baylor, which released an official two-deep shortly after concluding spring ball in early April.

OFFENSE

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsCan Bryce Petty be even better this season?
QB: Bryce Petty (Sr.), Seth Russell (So.)

The Bears have one of the top returning quarterbacks in college football in Petty, who was phenomenal last year in his first season as a starter. With a year of experience under his belt, there’s no reason to believe he won’t be better in 2014. Russell performed well in limited duty last year, suggesting the Bears could survive at least a minor injury to Petty.

RB: Shock Linwood (So.) or Devin Chafin (So.), Johnny Jefferson (RFr.), Terence Williams (Fr.)

The Bears boast four potentially outstanding runners who all have at least three seasons of eligibility remaining. Linwood finished sixth in the Big 12 in rushing last season, despite backing up Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin. Jefferson, however, was the back who created the most buzz during the spring. The 5-foot-11, 200-pounder looks poised to give the Bears a dynamic home-run threat to complement the rest of the backfield. It’s not often a program can lose two talents like Seastrunk and Martin and remain loaded.

WR: Antwan Goodley (Sr.), Davion Hall (Fr.)

WR: Jay Lee (Jr.) or Robbie Rhodes (So.), Quan Jones (RFr.)

IR: Corey Coleman (So.) or Clay Fuller (Sr.), Cal Spangler (Jr.)

IR: Levi Norwood (Sr.), Lynx Hawthorne (So.)

TE: Tre’von Armstead (So.) or Gus Penning (Jr.), Jordan Feuerbacher (Fr.)

Despite graduating all-conference performer Tevin Reese, the Bears should easily have the deepest collection of pass-catchers in the Big 12. Coleman was tremendous all spring, capped by a 47-yard receiving effort in the spring game. He and Rhodes could have breakout campaigns in their second years in the rotation. Goodley is one of the two best wideouts in the league along with Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett, and Lee, Fuller and Norwood are all proven commodities. More firepower is on the way this summer, including hotshot freshman K.D. Cannon, who looks like a virtual lock to crack the rotation somewhere.

LT: Spencer Drango (Jr.), Pat Colbert (Jr.)

LG: LaQuan McGowan (Jr.) or Blake Muir (Jr.)

C: Kyle Fuller (So.), Tyler Edwards (Sr.)

RG: Desmine Hilliard (Jr.), Jarell Broxton (Jr.)

RT: Troy Baker (Sr.), Tyler Edwards (Sr.)

The Bears lose unanimous All-American guard Cyril Richardson, but will get a huge boost if Drango makes a full recovery from a back injury he suffered late last season. With Drango out, Baylor’s blindside pass protection also suffered the final month of the season. When healthy, Drango is one of the best pass-protecting left tackles in the country. Baker, who started as a sophomore, returned late last season after tearing his ACL last spring to reclaim his starting job, which he held through the spring. With Hilliard returning at guard, Fuller locking down the starting job at center and other quality depth inside, the Bears should be very solid on the offensive line -- provided Drango can get healthy and Baker can stay healthy at the bookends.

DEFENSE

[+] EnlargeShawn Oakman
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsShawn Oakman has elevated his game.
RE: Shawn Oakman (Jr.), K.J. Smith (RFr.)

NT: Andrew Billings (So.), Suleiman Masumbuko (Jr.)

DT: Beau Blackshear (Jr.) or Javonte Magee (So.), Byron Bonds (So.)

LE: Jamal Palmer (Jr.), Sam Ukwuachu (Jr.)

Last week, Baylor coach Art Briles said he’d put his top-seven defensive linemen against any other top seven in college football. The unit still has a lot to prove to reach that level, but there’s no denying the potential. Oakman elevated his game to another level this spring, and was basically unblockable. He’s a candidate to be an All-Big 12 performer even in a league that’s stocked at defensive end. The fact that Magee is listed as a co-starter with Blackshear -- a starter last season -- underscores what the coaching staff thinks of Magee, who before taking last year off due to personal matters was among the most highly touted recruits Briles had ever signed. This group is high on ability, and has the capability to prove their coach right in the fall.

WLB: Aiavion Edwards (So.), Taylor Young (RFr.) or Raaquan Davis(RFr.)

MLB: Bryce Hager (Sr.), Grant Campbell (Jr.) or Kendall Ehrlich (So.)

Hager missed the final four games of last season due to a groin injury, which also kept him out this spring. But Hager is about as reliable as it gets in the Big 12, having earned second-team all-conference honors the last two years. Edwards is the one to watch. He was given the first nod on the weak side, after playing in the middle last season and in the spring in place of Hager. But he’ll have to perform to fend off the competition, including Young, who impressed defensive coordinator Phil Bennett during the spring with his nose for the ball.

NB: Collin Brence (Sr.), Pat Levels (So.)

CB: Terrence Singleton (So.), Ryan Reid (So.)

CB: Xavien Howard (So.) or Chris Sanders (Jr.)

DS: Orion Stewart (So.), Alfred Pullom (RFr.)

CS: Terrell Burt (Jr.), Taion Sells (So.)

This unit comprises by far the biggest question mark on the team. The Bears should be in good shape at safety. Burt, the only returning starter in the group, will be back shortly from offseason shoulder surgery that kept him out of a spring ball. Briles also singled out Stewart for having a very promising spring as the replacement for All-American Ahmad Dixon. After a series of injury setbacks early in his career, Singleton returned to win a starting job at corner, at least for now. Howard also showed a ton of promise during the spring, but he’ll have competition from Sanders, one of the top juco corners in the country, who had a shoulder injury this spring. Brence, a walk-on, was the biggest surprise in the secondary, and is listed as the starter at nickelback. How this untested unit comes together could ultimately determine whether the Bears repeat as Big 12 champs.

Briles pumped about Baylor's D-line

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
4:30
PM CT
During the Big 12 spring teleconference this week, Baylor coach Art Briles was not bashful about touting his defensive line, which is loaded with potential if somewhat short on experience.

“I’ve been saying it for four months,” Briles said, “I would put our D-line up against any D-line in the United States of America, when you’re looking at six- or seven-deep personnel and say, hey, let’s roll the ball out there and let’s play, let’s see who’s better.

“I think our guys are really good up there.”

The Big 12 could be chock-full of talented defensive lines this season.

[+] EnlargeShawn Oakman
John Rivera/Icon SMIBaylor defensive end Shawn Oakman has been nearly unblockable this spring.
Oklahoma basically returns the entire unit -- led by ends Geneo Grissom and Charles Tapper -- that overwhelmed Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Sooners will also be getting back tackle Jordan Phillips, who was playing at an All-Big 12 level last season before undergoing season-ending back surgery in early October. Tackle Charles Walker, who redshirted as a freshman last fall, has been turning heads, and reportedly ran the fastest defensive tackle 40 time (4.67 seconds) since Bob Stoops became coach.

TCU could be formidable up front, too, especially if end Devonte Fields returns to his 2012 Big 12 Defensive-Freshman-of-the-Year-form, as Horned Frogs defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas suggested he had this week.

Texas and Kansas State should be stout along the line as well, spearheaded by the returns of all-conference ends Cedric Reed and Ryan Mueller, who combined for 22.5 sacks last season.

Baylor, however, has a chance to field a defensive line as good as any in the league.

The defensive tackle trio of Andrew Billings, Beau Blackshear and Javonte Magee could be especially menacing.

Billings, a four-star signee last year who chose the Bears over Texas, instantly became a key rotation player inside as a true freshman. Blackshear started last season but is getting pushed for that starting spot by Magee, who shined in the spring after sitting out last season due to a personal issue. Like Billings, Magee was a highly-touted recruit coming out of high school and had offers from the likes of Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, LSU, Michigan and Oregon.

The Bears are talented on the outside, as well.

Shawn Oakman, who was sixth in the Big 12 with 12.5 tackles-for-loss last season, will take over a full-time starting spot. At 6-foot-9, 280 pounds, Oakman has the size to be a dominant player. He showed that during the spring.

“I think the same thing I’ve thought all spring -- we can’t block him,” Briles said after the Bears’ spring game. “And I don’t think anybody else will either.”

Opposite Oakman will be returning starter Jamal Palmer as well as Sam Ukwuachu, who will be eligible this season after transferring in from Boise State last year. Ukwuachu was a starter for the Broncos in 2012 as a redshirt freshman and was second on the team in sacks.

The Bears have questions elsewhere defensively. At linebacker, only Bryce Hager returns, and he was out this spring recovering from a groin injury. In the secondary, only safety Terrell Burt comes back, and he also missed spring ball recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.

But Baylor could overcome those questions in its back seven with a dominating defensive line -- something Briles firmly believes he’ll have in 2014.

“These guys can play, and they’re good,” he said. “I really think these guys are that special up front.”
On Saturday, Baylor will hold its spring game, Oklahoma State will hold its “Orange Blitz” and TCU will hold its final practice of the spring -- all three of which are open to the public.

Here’s a closer look at all three events:

BAYLOR

When: 11 a.m.

Where: Highers Complex practice fields

What to watch for:
  • Young receivers: Wideout Tevin Reese is gone, but the Bears have a stable of dynamic, young options primed to take his place. Corey Coleman and Robbie Rhodes were both highly recruited players and should have expanded roles in 2014.
  • Defensive line: In Andrew Billings, Beau Blackshear and Shawn Oakman, the Bears believe this will be the best defensive line they’ve had in the Art Briles era. If the defense is to have any chance of slowing down their offensive teammates on Saturday, the D-line has to dominate, especially with left tackle Spencer Drango still recovering from a back injury.
  • RB Johnny Jefferson: Jefferson is one of the most intriguing players in the league who redshirted last year. The Bears didn’t need Jefferson in 2013 because they had Lache Seastrun, Glasco Martin and Shock Linwood. But Jefferson, who had offers from the likes of Ohio State and Notre Dame coming out of high school, has the talent to play a major role in the Baylor offensive machine alongside Linwood and Devin Chafin next season.
OKLAHOMA STATE

When: 1:30 p.m.

Where: Boone Pickens Stadium

What to watch for:
  • Quarterback battle: For the third straight spring, the Cowboys have a quarterback derby, this time featuring veteran J.W. Walsh, walk-on Daxx Garman and true freshman Mason Rudolph. Walsh still appears to have the edge, but Garman, who possesses a cannon for an arm, has been creating some buzz this spring. He’ll have a chance to create more Saturday.
  • RB/WR Tyreek Hill: Speaking of buzz, no player in the Big 12 has created more than Hill, who might be the fastest player in college football next season. Hill has been devoting some of his spring to a phenomenal track season. But when he has had the football in his hands, he is phenomenal, too. Hill appears to be the real deal.
  • New defensive faces: With seven starters and six all-conference performers gone, Oklahoma State is in rebuild mode defensively. Cowboys fans who show up on Saturday will get a chance to examine the bevy of Oklahoma State newcomers to the two-deep defense, including safeties Jordan Sterns and Deric Robertson, linebackers Devante Averette and Seth Jacobs and defensive linemen Ben Hughes, Vincent Taylor and Vili Leveni.
TCU

When: 11 a.m.

Where: Amon G. Carter Stadium

What to watch for:
  • New offense: Gary Patterson completely revamped his offense this offseason by bringing in spread gurus Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie. How far along are the Horned Frogs with this new hurry-up, no-huddle approach? Saturday will provide the answer.
  • DE Devonte Fields: After earning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year recognition as a freshman, Fields flopped as a sophomore because of suspension, shape and injury. Patterson said earlier this spring that Fields is back to playing the way he did as a freshman, which would be a huge boost for a program also looking for a bounce-back year.
  • QB Trevone Boykin: Boykin has been only a part-time quarterback the last two seasons, but he has practiced the position full time this spring while learning the new spread offense. Boykin has distanced himself from the other quarterbacks on campus this spring, but is he the long-term answer or just the short-term placeholder for one of the two incoming freshman quarterbacks?

Top-10 player spring update: Baylor Bears

March, 24, 2014
Mar 24
3:00
PM CT
Over the next two weeks, we’ll be breaking down the 10 best players at the moment on every team in the Big 12.

These lists won’t include junior college or freshman signees who haven’t arrived on campus yet. Rather, they will include only the players currently on their teams this spring. Some of these rankings might look different after the spring, but this is how we see them now.

On Monday, we start with the defending Big 12 champs: the Baylor Bears.

1. QB Bryce Petty: Petty is the reigning All-Big 12 quarterback and will begin the 2014 season on the Heisman short list after recording 46 total touchdowns throwing and running with only three interceptions last season. The Bears will start out as a legitimate playoff contender, and Petty will be a major reason why.

[+] EnlargeAntwan Goodley
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsBaylor's Antwan Goodley gives quarterback Bryce Petty a playmaking, go-to wide receiver.
2. WR Antwan Goodley: Every big-time QB needs a go-to receiver, and Goodley is just that and more. He finished with 1,339 receiving yards last season, second in the Big 12 only to Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro by 13 yards. Goodley is physical and he can fly, making him a nightmare matchup for opposing cornerbacks. Like Petty, Goodley will enter the season as an All-American candidate.

3. ILB Bryce Hager: With Eddie Lackey and Ahmad Dixon gone, Hager will be the clear-cut anchor of the Baylor defense once he returns from groin surgery. Hager is a tackling machine and will be a reliable piece for a defense that will be debuting several new starters.

4. LT Spencer Drango: Those outside the Baylor program learned just how valuable Drango was when he wasn’t in the lineup in 2013. After Drango suffered a season-ending back injury, Baylor’s pass protection of Petty slipped substantially the final month of the season. Even though he missed the final three games of the regular season, Drango deservedly was named first-team All-Big 12. With Outland finalist Cyril Richardson gone, Drango will be the headliner on the Baylor offensive line.

5. RB Shock Linwood: Despite being Baylor’s third-team running back last year, Linwood still finished sixth in the Big 12 in rushing with 881 yards. Some of that was due to Art Briles’ system and Baylor’s other offensive weapons. But some of it was due to Linwood’s talent, too. In his first significant action, Linwood shredded Oklahoma’s defense for 182 rushing yards, then followed that up with 187 yards against Texas Tech. Linwood is now the starter, and though he’ll likely share carries with Johnny Jefferson and Devin Chafin, he could put up a full season worth of big rushing totals.

[+] EnlargeLevi Norwood
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsBetween his receiving and kick-returning abilities, Levi Norwood is a dangerous weapon for the Bears.
6. WR Levi Norwood: When Tevin Reese was lost for the regular season with a wrist injury, more throws went Norwood’s way. And he capitalized on those opportunities, totaling 156, 83 and 83 receiving yards in three straight games near the end of the season to finish in the top 10 of the Big 12 in receiving along with teammates Goodley and Reese. Norwood is also a dangerous returner, taking two punts to the house last year. With Reese gone for good, Norwood will step into the No. 2 receiving role alongside Goodley, giving the Bears a formidable one-two punch for Petty to operate with.

7. DT Andrew Billings: Billings was one of the gems of the 2013 recruiting class and commanded a role along the defensive line as a true freshman. In his second year in the program, Billings could be primed for a breakout season. He has the talent, strength and quickness to be the best defensive tackle in the entire league.

8: DT Beau Blackshear: He might get overshadowed by Billings’ hype, but Blackshear has become a solid cog in Phil Bennett’s defense up front. Together, Blackshear and Billings could give the Bears a defensive tackle tandem as good as any in the Big 12.

9. DE Shawn Oakman: At 6-foot-9, 275 pounds, Oakman has the size and length to be a menacing defensive end. He flashed his immense potential several times last year and finished tied for sixth in the Big 12 with 12.5 tackles for loss despite being a part-time player. Oakman will take on a much bigger role on the defense this season, and he has the capability to be an All-Big 12 performer. The trio of Billings, Blackshear and Oakman is the foundation of what Baylor’s defensive line could be under Briles.

10. P Spencer Roth: The Bears featured one of the best special-teams units in the country in 2013, and Roth spearheaded that effort. The All-Big 12 punter was sixth nationally with an average of 45.8 yards per punt. Because of how prolific the Baylor offense is, Roth doesn’t get to punt often. But when he does, he usually swings field position the other way.

Season report card: Baylor

January, 6, 2014
Jan 6
3:00
PM CT
Baylor had one of the best seasons in school history, winning 11 games for the first time, making its first BCS bowl and winning the Big 12 for the first time. Those accomplishments easily could have been forgotten with the Bears' horrible showing in their 52-42 loss to UCF in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, but this season will be remembered fondly in Waco, Texas.

Offense: A+

[+] EnlargePetty
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesBryce Petty led Baylor to a nation's-best 52.4 points per game.
Is there anything higher than an A-plus? What more could Bryce Petty & Co. do? The Bears averaged 52.4 points per game, 618.8 yards per game and 7.49 yards per play as their offense led the Big 12 in nearly every offensive category. During his first season as the starting quarterback for Baylor, Petty earned Big 12 offensive player of the year honors and was the driving force behind the Bears' title run.

The running backs were superb, with Lache Seastrunk, Shock Linwood and Glasco Martin each finishing with at least 500 rushing yards, helping Baylor lead the conference in rushing. The receivers were just as good, with Antwan Goodley and Tevin Reese ranking among the Big 12’s top receivers and Levi Norwood, Corey Coleman and Clay Fuller providing quality depth.

The foundation was the offensive line, led by Lombardi Award finalist Cyril Richardson. Their offensive front allowed Petty’s accuracy to draw praise, Seastrunk’s shiftiness to frustrate defenders and Reese’s deep speed to scare Big 12 secondaries.

Defense: A-

The defense was the biggest reason the Bears won their first Big 12 title. In recent history, the Baylor offense has been good consistently, always explosive. This season, the defense held up its end of the bargain, finishing among the top 10 nationally in yards per play at 4.75, ranking ninth among FBS teams.

Safety Ahmad Dixon was the emotional leader of the defense and set a tone for its aggressive approach with his physical presence in the secondary. Cornerback K.J. Morton was a playmaker on the outside and linebackers Eddie Lackey and Bryce Hager were versatile tackling machines in the middle of the field.

The defensive line did its part as well, leading the Big 12 with 99 tackles for loss and recording 31 sacks. Defensive ends Shawn Oakman and Chris McAllister were active throughout the season and defensive tackle Beau Blackshear was an underrated presence in the middle.

The lone reason the Bears don’t get an A-plus was their performance in Baylor’s two losses. They allowed 594 yards to Oklahoma State and 556 yards to UCF. As good as Baylor's defense was in 2013, it took a step backward on the big stage against the Cowboys and Knights.

Special teams: C

Baylor’s special teams weren’t special; they were average. The Bears finished ninth in the Big 12 in field goal percentage, seventh in kickoff returns and eighth in punt returns. Baylor did have two punt returns and one kickoff return for touchdowns this season, but its special teams units didn’t win games. But the Bears didn’t need their special teams do to anything but operate efficiently and allow their offense and defense to perform.

Overall: A+

The Bears will receive rings that say "Big 12 champions" on them. What more could you ask for from a team that opened the season picked to finish fifth in the conference?

Hidden gems key to Baylor's rise

December, 26, 2013
12/26/13
3:00
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Baylor’s rise from the bottom of the Big 12 to the top of the conference standings can be attributed to a lot of different things. Coach Art Briles’ confidence, an exciting offensive system that attracts playmakers and a clear plan to build the program have been key.

Recruiting plays a major role as well, but the most overshadowed characteristic of the rise has been the Bears’ ability to evaluate prospects. Year after year the Bears seem to have playmakers emerge who were overlooked during their prep days.

Here are five key contributors to Baylor’s first conference championship who represent BU’s ability to evaluate prep prospects.

[+] EnlargeShock Linwood
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsShock Linwood has 800-plus rushing yards, not bad for No. 3 on the depth chart at running back.
Running back Shock Linwood, redshirt freshman

Then: A two-star recruit in the Class of 2012, Linwood had offers from Arkansas State, North Texas, UTSA and TCU. He was committed to the Horned Frogs before a late switch to Baylor.

Now: Linwood started several games with Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin battling injuries. He finished with 125 carries for 862 yards, averaging 6.9 yards per carry, with eight touchdowns. His quickness and slashing style created problems for Big 12 defenses. He had four 100-yard rushing games including in wins over Oklahoma and Texas Tech.

Linebacker Eddie Lackey, senior

Then: A junior college signee, Lackey had offers from Hawaii and New Mexico State when he signed with Baylor in the Class of 2012.

Now: Lackey was the anchor of Baylor’s defense, which finished atop the Big 12 in several categories. He led the team with 97 tackles, 26 more than any other Bear. He added a team-high 13 tackles for loss with 4.5 sacks, two interceptions, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. He played as well as any defender in the Big 12 and didn’t miss a game while being a driving force behind BU’s 11-1 regular-season record.

Receiver Antwan Goodley, junior

Then: A three-star signee in the Class of 2010, Goodley had offers from Arizona and Texas A&M.

Now: Goodley was the Big 12’s most productive receiver, giving defenses fits with his size, speed and big-play ability. He finished with 67 receptions for 1,319 yards, averaging 19.69 per catch, and 13 touchdowns to finish among the top five receivers in every Big 12 category.

Defensive tackle Beau Blackshear, sophomore

Then: A three-star defensive end prospect in the Class of 2011, Blackshear had offers from Houston and TCU.

Now: Blackshear was a quiet, consistent presence in the middle of the Bears' defensive line. He started 11 games, finishing with 31 tackles including five tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. He’s one reason Lackey and fellow linebacker Bryce Hager were able to finish 1-2 in tackles as he helped keep blockers off the Bears’ tackling duo.

Guard Desmine Hilliard, sophomore

Then: A two-star prospect in the Class of 2011, Hilliard had offers from Kansas and Kentucky.

Now: Hilliard worked his way into the starting lineup as a sophomore and looks poised be an anchor of the Baylor offensive front in the future. The Bears' offensive line was the foundation of the eye-popping success the Bears had on offense and was the reason BU led the league in rushing at 265.17 yards per game despite battling injuries at the running back position.

Weak and Strong: Baylor Bears

April, 17, 2013
4/17/13
2:30
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Turnover is an annual tradition in college football, but with that, teams' strengths and weaknesses constantly shift, too. Today, we'll wrap our series looking at the biggest strengths and weaknesses for each Big 12 team.

We'll close with those Baylor boys in Waco.

Strongest position: Running back

Oregon transfer Lache Seastrunk emerged as the Big 12's best running back over the final month of the season, sprinting to a 1,000-yard season and returning to Waco for a highly anticipated encore. He's the Big 12's most dangerous player with the ball in his hands and will get plenty of chances to showcase his game-breaking speed. He's sometimes a bit too ambitious and and takes losses in the backfield, but it's definitely worth it, and he's working on being more north-south through the first line of the defense this spring.

He's not alone, either. Running back Glasco Martin "runs angry," Bears coach Art Briles told me on my visit earlier this month. We've seen that to be the case over his career, but the duo definitely balances each other out well. Martin is a more physical runner capable of earning tough yards, and he'll come in handy in short-yardage situations this season. The depth is impressive, but the Bears' 1-2 punch at running back is the Big 12's best entering the season. I don't know if I buy talk of them both hitting 1,000 yards this year, but they're going to be tough to handle all season.

Weakest position: Defensive tackle

Beau Blackshear and Javonte Magee have potential, but both combined for just 1.5 tackles for loss in spot duty last season, and they'll be forced into starting duty this season. Neither of them have a career start, though reserve Trevor Clemons-Valdez made three last season before being passed up on the depth chart this spring. Baylor's had issues stopping the run, and though it should be better at safety and defensive end this year, that development won't look nearly quite as impressive if the teeth of the defense doesn't toughen up a bit.

The position isn't a huge weakness, but when you look at the rest of the Bears' roster, it pops out to me as the biggest question mark on a defense that should be improved.

Big shoes to fill: Baylor Bears

March, 7, 2013
3/07/13
9:00
AM CT
We're moving on with a new series today looking at the players across the Big 12 who have to replace program legends. We might as well call this the Nick Florence Memorial team, but today we'll tackle his old team, the Baylor Bears.

Big shoes to fill: Baylor's defensive tackles

We've talked about filling Florence's shoes, and even those left behind by Terrance Williams and Lanear Sampson. We're looking a little closer at Baylor today, and I'm staring right at the front of Baylor's defense. Both defensive tackles, Nick Johnson and Gary Mason Jr. are gone, and Baylor's left with a hole in the front of the defense that only about 600 pounds can fill.

Smart money is on rising sophomore reserves Beau Blackshear and Trevor Clemons-Valdez stepping up to replace Mason and Johnson. Clemons-Valdez made four starts a year ago and should be a strong replacement, and the duo combined to make 21 tackles a season ago, including a tackle for loss from Blackshear and a fumble recovery from Clemons-Valdez. Baylor's trying to build its defense, but if it starts getting gashed up front, any development elsewhere will ultimately be for naught. Filling those emptied spots is paramount this spring.

See more shoes to fill.

The Big 12's official 2012 All-Name Team

August, 17, 2012
8/17/12
12:00
PM CT
It's time to officially unveil the Big 12's All-Name Team for 2012.

Any player on a current roster, regardless of role on the team, is eligible. The only requirement: Your name must be awesome.

These are, quite simply, the best names of players in the Big 12. Some are catchy. Some are fun to say. Some are just the best. I love all of these.

Here goes:

Coach: Major Applewhite, OC, Texas

OFFENSE

QB: Daxx Garman, Oklahoma State
RB: Lache Seastrunk, Baylor
RB: Brandon Bourbon, Kansas
FB: Glenn Gronkowski, Kansas State
WR: Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma
WR: Lynx Hawthorne, Baylor
WR: Kolby Listenbee, TCU
TE: Kurt Hammerschmidt, Iowa State
OL: Dylan Admire, Kansas
OL: Will Ash, Kansas State
OL: Cody Whitehair, Kansas State
OL: Blaize Foltz, TCU
OL: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech

DEFENSE

DL: Keba Agostinho, Kansas
DL: Beau Blackshear, Baylor
DL: Noble Nwachukwu, West Virginia
DL: Stansly Maponga, TCU
LB/DE: Toben Opurum, Kansas
LB: Curtis Smelley, West Virginia
LB: Shaq Petteway, West Virginia
DB: Yves Batoba, Oklahoma State
DB: Terrance Bullitt, Texas Tech
DB: Happiness Osunde, Texas Tech
DB: Kip Daily, Kansas State

SPECIALISTS

K: Bobby Stonebraker, Oklahoma State
P: Ryan Erxleben, Texas Tech

Who's your MVP? Anybody get snubbed?

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