Dallas Colleges: Ben Grogan

Big 12 spring breakdown: Special teams

February, 27, 2014
Feb 27
3:00
PM CT
As we await the start of spring ball, we’ve been examining and ranking the positional situations of every team in the Big 12. Thursday, we close this series out with special teams.

1. TCU: Honorable mention All-Big 12 place-kicker Jaden Oberkrom was 13 of 14 on field goals inside the 50 last season and drilled a 56-yarder late in the fourth quarter at Kansas State. B.J. Catalon was second in the league in kickoff returns and took one to the house in the opener against LSU. Freshman Cameron Echols-Luper took his first punt return 51 yards and had a 41-yarder in the season finale against Baylor. Brandon Carter has had moments in the return game in the past as well. Ethan Perry will be a three-year starter at punter, rounding out a formidable special teams unit.

2. Baylor: Corey Coleman led the league in kick returns, and Levi Norwood scored twice off punt returns. The Bears are loaded with potential game-breakers in the return game and welcome back All-Big 12 punter Spencer Roth. If Kyle Peterson proves to be a reliable replacement for departing kicker Aaron Jones, this special teams unit will have no weakness.

[+] EnlargeTyler Lockett
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesAlong with being a top-flight wide receiver, Kansas State's Tyler Lockett can also provide big plays in the return game.
3. Kansas State: The Wildcats feature one of the best kickoff return men in the game in Tyler Lockett, who doubles as an All-American WR candidate. Jack Cantele, the younger brother of All-Big 12 K-State kicker Anthony Cantele, only missed two field goal attempts as a sophomore and nailed a 41-yarder as time expired to beat TCU. Defensive tackle Travis Britz also returns after leading the nation with four blocked kicks.

4. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders will feature a lethal one-two punch in the return game in Jakeem Grant and Reginald Davis, who took a kick back for a touchdown in the bowl game. Receiver Jordan Davis also has return experience. Kicker Ryan Bustin returns after garnering honorable mention All-Big 12 honors last year.

5. Oklahoma: The Sooners lose the most explosive return duo in the league in Jalen Saunders and Roy Finch. Sterling Shepard and Alex Ross could be among the players who replace them. Oklahoma boasts the league’s most efficient returning place-kicker in Michael Hunnicutt, who nailed 24 of 27 field goal tries last season. The Sooners have a secret weapon in Nick Hodgson, who led the league in touchback kickoffs last season. Jed Barnett, fifth in the Big 12 in punting average last season, returns as well.

6. Iowa State: The Cyclones had four players make first- or second-team All-Big 12 last season, and departing punter Kirby Van Der Kamp was one of them. Replacing his production won’t be easy, though incoming three-star freshman Colin Downing will try. DeVondrick Nealy, Jarvis West and Aaron Wimberly all had several dynamite moments returning kicks. Cole Netten was 13-of-18 on field goals as a freshman,

7. West Virginia: Nick O'Toole leads the Mountaineers on special teams. The “Boomstache” was 15th nationally in punting last season. The Mountaineers have all their returners back in Wendell Smallwood, Mario Alford and Jordan Thompson, though more big plays are needed from this group -- the Mountaineers ranked last in the league in both punt and kick returns in 2013. Josh Lambert comes back after making 17 of 23 field goals as a freshman. The Mountaineers also enjoy a luxury in Michael Molinari, who can do a little bit of everything.

8. Texas: The Longhorns lose their punter and their kicker in consensus All-American Anthony Fera. That hurts. Nick Jordan, who made nine of 15 field goals in 2012, could reclaim his job. Daje Johnson -- who returned a punt for a TD against Oklahoma -- Duke Thomas, Quandre Diggs, Marcus Johnson, Kendall Sanders and Jaxon Shipley all have experience returning.

9. Kansas: Return men Connor Embree (punts) and JaCorey Shepherd (kicks) both come back. The Jayhawks also return kicker Matthew Wyman, who connected on a game-winning 52-yard field goal to beat Louisiana Tech. The freshman, however, only made two field goals after that and eventually lost that job to departing senior Ron Doherty. Trevor Pardula was third in the Big 12 in punting as a junior and received votes for Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year.

10. Oklahoma State: After enjoying All-Americans Dan Bailey and Quinn Sharp the last few years, the Cowboys were finally mediocre in the kicking game last season. Ben Grogan struggled as a freshman, making just 11 of 18 field goals while missing two critical attempts in the early-season loss at West Virginia. The Cowboys were also last in the league in punting. Oklahoma State signed three-star kicker Zach Sinor with hopes of curing some of those ills. The Cowboys were still dynamic in the return game, but with Justin Gilbert and Josh Stewart both gone, Oklahoma State could lean on juco transfer and track star Tyreek Hill for a jolt on returns.

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 15

December, 8, 2013
12/08/13
8:00
AM CT
Recognizing the best of the best from the Big 12 in Week 15:

CB K.J. Morton, Baylor: After sitting out last week’s game against TCU with an abdominal strain, Morton came back big against Texas. He picked off Case McCoy twice, returning one for a touchdown that ended up being called back on a penalty. That fourth-quarter INT, on an errant screen pass, ended up finishing off Texas and securing the Bears’ Big 12 championship and Tostitos Fiesta Bowl bid. Morton also had two pass breakups and three tackles on the day.

K Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma: Hunnicutt was 2-for-2 on field goals and hit all three of his extra-point attempts. But his performance in this Bedlam game won’t be remembered for those makes. It’ll be for the 8-yard touchdown pass he caught from Grant Bothun on a third-quarter trick play that tied the game at 17-17 and helped swing momentum considerably.

QB Blake Bell, Oklahoma: What a comeback and a moment for Bell, whose junior season had highs and lows, but it closes with a remarkable high. With Trevor Knight knocked out of the game, Bell came off the bench as the third-string option and threw for 140 yards on 10-of-16 passing, capped by the 7-yard game-winning touchdown to Jalen Saunders. He ran a near-perfect two-minute drive to knock off a hated rival and perhaps send the Sooners to a BCS bowl. Doesn’t get much better than that.

RB Glasco Martin, Baylor: Bears WR Antwan Goodley put up big numbers too, as usual, but Martin’s contribution was critical in the second half. A Baylor run game that was limited to 62 yards on 19 rushes in the first half finally got rolling late, thanks to the bruising senior. Martin gained 102 yards on 22 carries and sealed the victory with an 18-yard touchdown.

K Ben Grogan, Oklahoma State: I know, I know, how can two kickers earn Helmet Stickers? What about Goodley, Desmond Roland, Jalen Saunders, Eddie Lackey or lots of other deserving candidates? Well let’s talk about Grogan, who achieved as ridiculous a feat on Saturday as we saw in the Big 12 this season: He nailed a 41-yard field goal in the middle of an earthquake. A 4.5-magnitude earthquake, in fact. Even with the loss, it’s an accomplishment he’ll get to talk about it for the rest of his life. And he’ll always have the shaky camera footage to prove it.

Cowboys handed catastrophic Bedlam loss

December, 7, 2013
12/07/13
7:24
PM CT
STILLWATER, Okla. -- The ground rumbled and the frozen earth quaked.

And even though the ending was seismic, the result was not.

[+] EnlargeOklahoma Celebration
Richard Rowe/USA TODAY SportsOklahoma State again had to watch the Sooners celebrate a Bedlam win.
Yet again, Oklahoma ripped the heart out of its in-state rival.

Another phenomenal Bedlam victory for the Sooners. Another catastrophic Bedlam loss for the Cowboys.

Despite shuffling through three quarterbacks and not scoring an offensive touchdown until the final 19 seconds, Oklahoma ruined Oklahoma State’s Big 12 title and BCS-bowl hopes with a 33-24 victory Saturday.

“The feeling in the locker room is a bad feeling right now,” Oklahoma State running back Desmond Roland said. “We had it right on the line, and we couldn’t finish it.”

This one, however, was most disastrous in a long line of Bedlam disappointments for the Cowboys.

Oklahoma State had everything on the line this time.

A chance for its second Big 12 title in three years.

A chance at a top-five finish and a Fiesta Bowl berth.

And, perhaps most important, as a double-digit Bedlam favorite for the first time since Vegas began keeping track, the most golden of opportunities at home to send a message that Oklahoma State was finally on equal ground with the Sooners.

Instead, Oklahoma downed the Cowboys in the final seconds for the third time in the past four years.

“A tough one to swallow,” Oklahoma State linebacker Caleb Lavey said.

Maybe the fact a magnitude-4.5 earthquake struck Boone Pickens Stadium just as the Cowboys were attempting a second-quarter field goal should have been a sign. Ben Grogan made the kick. But fate, yet again in this rivalry, would not be wearing orange.

With starting quarterback Trevor Knight out and backup Kendal Thompson erratic, Blake Bell returned from his sarcophagus to lead the Sooners on a game-winning touchdown drive in the final two minutes, capped by a 7-yard scoring strike to Jalen Saunders in the corner of the end zone with 19 seconds remaining.

It was Oklahoma’s first offensive touchdown of the game.

And it was the only one the Sooners would need, as linebacker Eric Striker delivered the exclamation point by scooping up a fumble and returning it for a touchdown as time expired.

“We like to have the pressure on us, the defense,” Lavey said. “That’s something you wish you could have back. But that’s not gonna happen.”

The Cowboys would like to have several plays back.

On their first from scrimmage, Roland broke free around the edge for an apparent 75-yard touchdown. But wideout Charlie Moore was flagged for holding, and the play was called back.

“We didn’t look like the normal Oklahoma State offense,” Roland said. “We moved the ball the whole game, but we couldn’t capitalize. I feel like we could have put up more points than we did.”

The Cowboys entered Bedlam red-hot offensively, especially quarterback Clint Chelf, who had the highest QBR of any signal-caller in the nation in the month of November. But in sub-10-degree temperatures, Chelf lost his rhythm. And he completed just 2 of 10 passes on third down without a conversion against Oklahoma, causing several promising drives to stall out.

“Our mental focus just wasn’t there,” Roland said.

[+] EnlargeRoland
Richard Rowe/USA TODAY SportsThe Sooners' defense and special teams kept Oklahoma in the game.
Eventually, the Sooners took advantage.

Later in the first quarter, with Oklahoma State up 7-0 and seemingly in control, Saunders, who sparked Oklahoma’s fourth-quarter comeback last season with a punt-return touchdown, weaved through defenders before dashing right for a 64-yard punt-return score.

In the third quarter, Oklahoma State regained control. With Knight out with a separated non-throwing shoulder, the Sooners failed to get a first down their first four drives of the half. And when Chelf hit a wide-open Roland for a 15-yard wheel-route touchdown, it looked as if the Cowboys would finally put the game away.

Instead, the Sooners answered again with a 37-yard reverse from Saunders, who took the ball to the Oklahoma State 7. After the drive stalled, Bob Stoops called his first successful fake field goal in 11 years, and holder Grant Bothun flicked the ball on the run to place-kicker Michael Hunnicutt for a touchdown to again tie the game.

“Did Bob make some great calls? You bet,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said of his counterpart. “We lost the kicking game. When you do that, it’s always tough to win.”

The Cowboys, as they have five other times in Bedlam since 2000, lost the final two minutes, too. Ultimately dooming them again.

After going up 24-20 on Roland’s 1-yard touchdown plunge with 1:46 remaining, all the Big 12’s best defense had to do was keep Oklahoma’s third-string quarterback out of the end zone.

Instead, Bell came alive. He found Sterling Shepard for two big pass plays, then forced a defensive pass interference.

For a moment, it looked as if Oklahoma State had made the winning play that had eluded the program in Bedlam for so many years. Justin Gilbert appeared to come down with an interception, but the ball popped out at the last moment, and Gundy didn’t challenge the incompletion.

Five plays later, Oklahoma did what it’s usually done to the Cowboys.

“It hurts,” said Oklahoma State cornerback Kevin Peterson, who originally committed to the Sooners coming out of high school.

“Feels like a missed opportunity.”

Oklahoma State’s biggest Bedlam miss yet.

Freshmen impact in the Big 12

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
10:30
AM CT


Having a highly ranked recruiting class and a bunch of four-star signees sounds good in the spring and summer, but it's a different story when the season begins. The freshmen who are game-ready are the ones who get the playing time, no matter their star rating. Here's a look at the five Big 12 schools getting the most from their true freshmen:

[+] EnlargeBaker Mayfield
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesFreshman Texas Tech signal-caller Baker Mayfield, a walk-on, has been the surprise of the Big 12 thus far.
1. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders practically earn this top spot by default by relying on two true freshmen at quarterback. Baker Mayfield made a big first impression, but it seems the battle is opening back up after two solid games from freshman Davis Webb, and the imminent return of Michael Brewer. Still, going 4-0 with two rookies behind center makes coach Kliff Kingsbury’s bunch a worthy No. 1 on this list.

Tech has played eight other true freshmen in 2013, and a few are making solid contributions. Receiver Dylan Cantrell has six catches for 56 yards, linebacker Malik Jenkins has recorded five tackles and a pass breakup and receiver Carlos Thompson already has a 73-yard kick return and 35-yard punt return.

2. Oklahoma: Is it possible Oklahoma’s best running back is its fourth-string freshman? Keith Ford, the gem of the Sooners’ class, has rushed for 66 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries and wowed in OU’s last game against Tulsa.

Fellow freshman Stanvon Taylor earned his first career start against Tulsa, and he’s one of several newcomers contributing in the secondary along with Hatari Byrd, Ahmad Thomas, L.J. Moore and Dakota Austin. Linebacker Dominique Alexander has also chipped in six tackles through three games.

3. West Virginia: Of all the new skill players who joined West Virginia’s offense this year, who would’ve expected Daikiel Shorts would be the Mountaineers’ leading receiver and Wendell Smallwood would be their No. 2 back? Shorts has 12 catches for 151 yards and two touchdowns, and Smallwood has 139 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries thus far.

A total of seven true freshmen have played for WVU this season, and four of them are defensive backs. Corner Daryl Worley is off to a nice start with six tackles, a tackle for loss and a pass breakup.

4. Oklahoma State: Many expected Ra’Shaad Samples to be OSU’s breakout true freshman receiver, but so far that distinction belongs to Marcell Ateman. He has hauled in eight passes for 92 yards, good for fourth-best on the team.

Freshman kicker Ben Grogan has hit all 19 of his extra-point attempts and is 1-for-2 on field goals, and defensive backs Jordan Sterns and Deric Robertson have combined for eight tackles this season.

5. Baylor: Baylor might have two of the conference’s most talented true freshmen in receiver Robbie Rhodes and defensive tackle Andrew Billings, but they haven’t had to do much so far. Rhodes has 65 receiving yards and Billings has recorded three tackles, including one tackle for loss. Kiante’ Griffin is also contributing at linebacker with three tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.

TCU can also make a case for the No. 5 spot. The Frogs don’t have a Devonte Fields-caliber breakout star yet, but receiver Ty Slanina has two reception and is currently listed as a starter, and former ESPN 300 prospect Tevin Lawson is breaking into the rotation at defensive tackle with two stops already.

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