Dallas Colleges: Chad Glasgow
Next up: TCU.
Strongest position: Secondary
Allow me to apologize to the Frogs' running backs, who were narrowly edged out by this solid unit that helped TCU navigate a rocky first season in the Big 12 but emerge with the league's No. 1 defense and seven wins. TCU's secondary was the best in the Big 12 last season and returns all five starters in the 4-2-5 scheme under Gary Patterson. Chad Glasgow returned to coach safeties and had three great ones in Sam Carter, Elisha Olabode and Chris Hackett. TCU gave up just 32 passes longer than 20 yards last season, tied with Kansas State and Texas Tech for the fewest in the Big 12. Those three are a big reason why, and though all three are solid players, it was clear that TCU's best overall player in the secondary was a corner.
Jason Verrett was the Big 12's best shutdown corner a season ago, breaking up 16 passes and intercepting six more, both the most in the Big 12. Kevin White, Deante Gray and Keivon Gamble offer solid depth at the position, too. TCU defended (PBUs or interceptions) 86 passes last season, which was 15 more than any team in the Big 12. The secondary is the biggest strength of what should be the Big 12's best defense yet again in 2013, and if the Frogs win a Big 12 title in just their second year in the league, the secondary will be a huge reason why.
Weakest position: Offensive line
Let me preface this by saying TCU doesn't have a glaring weakness next season if Casey Pachall returns and is anything close to his form from 2011 and early 2012. Still, I'm going with a rebuilt offensive line ahead of an average set of defensive tackles for the Frogs. Guard Blaize Foltz and center James Fry exhausted their eligibility (and opposing defensive lines), but the Frogs will have to find replacements for a line that was just OK last year, and had to deal with losing the team's top three running backs for some period of time after the season. Trevone Boykin's youth and sometimes frustrating indecision was a factor, but the Frogs gave up 29 sacks last season, four more than any team in the Big 12. It also averaged just 3.86 yards per carry, the lowest number in the Big 12. Like I mentioned before, injuries had something to do with it, but the offensive line has a lot to prove in 2013.
More Weak and Strong.
See more fall camp previews.
Next up: TCU.
Media's predicted finish: Fourth (received one first-place vote).
Biggest story line: TCU always wanted to be in the Big 12, and now, the Horned Frogs legitimately won their way into rejoining their former Southwest Conference rivals in Texas. But after a steady diet of schedules with only a few featured opponents, can TCU handle a tougher week-to-week schedule in the Big 12? Depth could be an issue, but so could preparing for a brutal line of great opponents in the Big 12.
Biggest question mark: Linebacker. Depth questions were going to come all season long, but the Horned Frogs are now razor thin in the middle of the defense. Tanner Brock was kicked off the team before spring after being arrested in a campus drug sting, and promising linebacker Deryck Gildon is off the team because of academic issues. Kenny Cain is back in the middle of TCU's 4-2-5 defense, but look for Joel Hasley to grab the other spot. It was a disappointing offseason for the Frogs.
Who needs to step up: The safeties. Sam Carter, Elisha Olabode and Jonathan Anderson will likely start the season as the three safeties, but this unit struggled last season in spots. Safeties coach Chad Glasgow is back in Fort Worth after a disastrous season coordinating the defense for Texas Tech, but we'll see if he's able to step right back into his old gig.
Possible distractions: None were bigger than the recent news that quarterback Casey Pachall failed a Feb. 1 drug test and admitted to police he had used cocaine and ecstasy. Gary Patterson earned some criticism for not coming down harder on Pachall considering the recent drug issues on TCU's team, but he did what was required of him in the school's student handbook. Pachall apologized and pledged he'd do better. We'll find out if that's the case.
Don't forget about: DE Stansly Maponga. Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor get all the accolades down in Austin, but don't be too surprised if Maponga blows up in his first year in the Big 12 and outshines either one of them or both. He's got plenty of experience and made nine sacks while also forcing five fumbles. That earned him first-team All-Mountain West honors, but he's a preseason All-Big 12 honoree, too. Expect him to validate it.
Breaking out: WR LaDarius Brown. You know about the trio of Josh Boyce, Brandon Carter and Skye Dawson. They're outstanding. Brown might end up being better than all of them. Maybe not this year, but expect the freshman to show flashes. He's 6-foot-4, 220 pounds and coming off a redshirt year. Beware.
Schedule: Practice opens Friday at 5 p.m. ET and will conclude on April 5. Various practices may be open, but the plan has not been officially announced. TCU does not host a formal spring game.
What's new: The task ahead, mainly. You'll see a renewed sense of purpose this spring at TCU. The Horned Frogs know they have to be better to compete for a Big 12 title. In the Big 12, you put it on the line every week, and everybody can beat everybody. Ask Baylor and Kansas about that one. Or Iowa State and Oklahoma State. One win can't make a season, and 1-2 games don't decide a conference title like they do in the Mountain West.
New faces: TCU is welcoming four new faces to campus this spring as early enrolling freshmen: Quarterback Tyler Matthews, running back B.J. Catalon, transfer cornerback Keivon Gamble, and receiver Kolby Listenbee, who also made our 2012 Recruiting All-Name team.
Rekindling old flames: Former safeties coach Chad Glasgow returned to his post in Fort Worth after a season as the defensive coordinator at Texas Tech. He helped TCU lead the nation in total defense in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Those days are over for the Horned Frogs in the offense-heavy Big 12, but TCU fell to 15th last season in the Mountain West. Finishing there in the Big 12 in 2012 would be huge.
Big shoes to fill: Linebacker Deryck Gildon. Tank Carder (and his armbands) wrapped up their eligibility last year, but hopes are high that the 6-foot-2, 235-pound Gildon can be the man to hold TCU's defense together at the linebacker spot. His importance is amplified by the exit of Tanner Brock, who is among four players "separated" from the team while the legal process plays out following their drug sting arrests.
Breaking out: Receiver Brandon Carter. You probably already know about Josh Boyce and maybe Skye Dawson. But Carter, a freshman, could join them for a pretty dangerous third weapon in TCU's passing game for quarterback Casey Pachall. Among Carter's biggest catches last year was the game winner against Boise State, but this could be a big spring for him. And to think, Oklahoma only wanted him as a cornerback.
All eyes on: Player conduct. Four players were arrested in a drug sting by local police and reports indicated that five players tested positive for marijuana while 11 others showed trace amounts in a surprise Feb. 1 drug test administered by the team. However, comments from players to undercover police in police affidavits suggest that usage was much higher. Either way, the microscope is firmly on what's otherwise been a spotless program before these recent troubles.
Spring football is already under way at Texas Tech, but in the coming weeks, the Big 12's other nine programs will join the Red Raiders in taking the field as a team for the first time since January, December, or November for some.
Here's a preview of what to expect:
Spring practice start date: March 19
Spring game: April 14
What to watch:
- Nick Florence: It's not official, but the Baylor quarterback job is Florence's to lose. That means he inherits the unenviable task of replacing the school's first Heisman winner. He replaced RG3 in 2009 with mixed results, but showed some major potential in a win over Texas Tech when RG3 took a shot to the head and sat out the second half. Can he keep the bowl streak alive at Baylor? We'll get an idea this spring.
- The defense's progression: You didn't need to see much more than the 67-56 Alamo Bowl win over Washington to know the Bears needed some work on defense. In the month of November, Baylor became the first team in FBS history to win four consecutive games in a single season while also giving up at least 30 points in each of those games. The defense can't make Florence pick up the slack to that level. Year 2 under Phil Bennett must be better. Baylor has no excuses. They have the athletes on campus necessary to be at least a decent defense.
- The team's attitude/motivation: Baylor played with a lot of purpose the past two seasons, and made history in both, cracking a 16-year bowl drought and winning 10 games this year. Is that fire still there? Baylor has to prove it is without RG3 (and Kendall Wright) carrying the team on the field, emotionally and mentally.
Spring practice start date: March 20
Spring game: April 14
What to watch:
- The quarterback battle: Or is it? Jared Barnett looked like the man of the future in Ames late in the season, leading the Cyclones to a historic upset of No. 2 Oklahoma State. But in the ugly Pinstripe Bowl loss to a mediocre Rutgers team, Barnett's inaccuracy posed big questions. He was benched and Steele Jantz stepped in, though he didn't play much better than Barnett. Turnovers were an issue for Jantz early on, but Barnett has to bounce back in the spring to make sure the job doesn't come open.
- The receivers: Darius Reynolds was the big-play man for the Cyclones, but he's gone. It's going to be tough to replace him. Slot receivers Aaron Horne and Josh Lenz were productive, but did little to stretch defenses like the Reynolds did. Can ISU find someone to fill the void?
- The new man at left tackle: Iowa State had the luxury of having a future pro at left tackle, Kelechi Osemele, for the past three seasons. He earned All-Big 12 nods in each of those seasons, but he's gone now. Junior Carter Bykowski was behind Osemele on the depth chart, but will the converted tight end be the new man at tackle for the Cyclones?
Spring practice start date: March 27
Spring game: April 28
What to watch:
- Uh, everything?: I mean, what's not to watch at KU? Charlie Weis steps in for the fired Turner Gill and tries to build KU up from nothing. The Jayhawks were one of the worst teams in Big 12 history last season, losing six games by at least 30 points. Weis will speak his mind and watching him rebuilding the Jayhawks is going to be fun. It all starts next month -- on the field, at least.
- KU's new pass-catch combo: Dayne Crist is on campus, and so is Oklahoma transfer Justin McCay, a former blue-chip recruit who didn't quite catch on in Norman. Quarterback and receiver were arguably the two biggest positions of need for KU last year, and we'll get a preview of what could be a productive combo next season. McCay isn't officially eligible for the 2012 season yet -- he needs the NCAA to waive its mandated redshirt year after a transfer -- but the coaching staff is confident he'll have it granted.
- The uncertainty on the depth chart: When a new staff comes in, you never know what to expect. Kansas' leading rusher in its final season under Mark Mangino, Toben Opurum, is now one of its best defensive linemen. Look for Weis to shake things up, too. Where? Who knows?
Spring practice start date: April 4
Spring game: April 28
What to watch:
- Collin Klein's maturation: Kansas State's quarterback could be fun to watch this spring and next fall. His throwing motion isn't pretty, but his accuracy improved in a big way throughout the season. If that continues at a pace anything close to what we saw last year, K-State's going to be a load for everyone. Look out.
- Developing depth at running back: John Hubert is back, and so is seldom-used Angelo Pease. Bryce Brown is gone, though. Klein handles a lot of the heavy lifting in the running game, but it'd be some nice insurance if K-State could establish some more depth in the backfield. Making Klein carry the ball 300 times again is tempting fate.
- Stars becoming superstars: Kansas State brings back more starters than all but seven teams in college football, so this team is going to look remarkably similar in 2012 to the way it did last year. However, it should get better. And its two transfers could look dominant this spring. Cornerback Nigel Malone and linebacker Arthur Brown emerged as stars last year, but we could see the duo emerge as true game-changers this spring. Look out, Big 12 offenses.
Spring practice start date: March 8
Spring game: April 14
What to watch:
- New faces on, off the field: Mike Stoops' arrival as the defensive coordinator was the biggest news this offseason in the Big 12, and Brent Venables, who had been at OU for all of Bob Stoops' tenure, left for Clemson rather than become co-defensive coordinator. Hopes are high that Stoops can revitalize Oklahoma's defense. He was in charge when the Sooners rode a dominant D to the 2000 national title, and the Sooners have the talent to win it all in 2012. Receiver Trey Metoyer joins the team this spring, and could be a major contributor immediately. Two of the team's four new tight ends are also enrolled early.
- QB Blake Bell's role: The Belldozer is back ... but so is full-time quarterback Landry Jones. How will the balance between the duo look this spring? And what new wrinkles will we see in Oklahoma's simple, yet near-unstoppable short-yardage formation that saw 13 touchdowns in the second half of 2011?
- The battle at defensive end: Oklahoma must fill two huge holes at defensive end. Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Frank Alexander is gone, as is possible first-round pick Ronnell Lewis. R.J. Washington contributed late and has potential, but David King filled in for Lewis in the final three games of the season. The duo could be great, but it could also be pretty pedestrian. We'll get an idea this spring, but Lewis and Alexander set a high, high bar.
Spring practice start date: March 12
Spring game: April 21
What to watch:
- The quarterback battle: This will easily be the highest-profile, highest-quality quarterback battle in the Big 12. It won't be at the level of Texas Tech in 2010, but it won't be too far off. Clint Chelf, J.W. Walsh and Wes Lunt will go head to head. All have plenty of potential, though Lunt may have the most. The big-armed true freshman also has the least experience. Anything could happen here.
- Which receivers rise: Justin Blackmon and Josh Cooper leave huge holes behind. It's not every day a two-time Biletnikoff Award winner walks on campus. Hubert Anyiam is gone, too. Michael Harrison is unlikely to play for the 2012 season, but the school has offered no confirmation on his status. He had the most potential, but OSU is deep at the position. Who emerges as the top target? Isaiah Anderson? Tracy Moore? Josh Stewart? Anything could happen there, too.
- Defense needs a leader: Safety Markelle Martin has been the heart of the defense the past two seasons, but his big-hitting days are over. Who becomes the new voice of the defense? It needs to find leadership this spring heading into summer voluntary workouts.
Spring practice start date: Feb. 23
Spring game: April 1
What to watch:
- The quarterback competition: I still think having a competition at the spot, which Texas says it will, isn't the best option, but David Ash and Case McCoy will go at it alongside early-enrolling freshman Connor Brewer. If Ash secures the job, expect an announcement heading into summer officially anointing the sophomore.
- More sophistication on both sides of the ball: The progression is natural and likely. Offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz had good first years in Austin, but this is Year 2. The spring won't be devoted to learning the playbook. It's time to master it. Both units could look markedly different, and much more refined next fall. Deny it all you like: Texas is back on its way to the top after a rough two years.
- Maturing offensive weapons: Last season, the Longhorns relied on two true freshman running backs (Malcolm Brown/Joe Bergeron), a freshman/sophomore rotation at quarterback and its top receiver (Jaxon Shipley) was a true freshman. No. 2 (Mike Davis) was a sophomore. I hope I don't have to tell you what freshmen and sophomores do in college football. Look. Out.
Spring practice start date: Feb. 25
Spring end date: April 5
What to watch:
- Can TCU shut out the scandal? Four team members were arrested in a recent drug sting and kicked off the team. How much of a distraction will that be for a program undergoing the most monumental change in its history? Quantifying the effects of the scandal will be pretty impossible, and we've got no idea how they'll handle the change, but will it be on players' minds?
- The offense tightens up: The Horned Frogs' offense is absolutely loaded and ready to go for 2012. Quarterback Casey Pachall returns and brings his top three weapons (Josh Boyce, Skye Dawson and Brandon Carter) with him. Running backs Waymon James, Ed Wesley and Matthew Tucker each topped 700 yards rushing in 2011 and all return. The spring will be all about fine-tuning an already stellar offense, and it'll be fun to watch.
- Replacing departed starters: All-America linebacker Tanner Brock was among the four football players arrested and booted from the team, as was all-conference defensive tackle D.J. Yendrey and likely starting safety Devin Johnson. Those were unforeseen losses, but TCU can't feel sorry for itself. Gary Patterson has no choice but to find new faces to fill those holes.
Spring practice start date: Feb. 17
Spring game: March 24
What to watch:
- Once again, a new defense: Texas Tech sounds like a broken record these days when it comes to defensive coordinators. This time, Art Kaufman will be stepping to the microphone as the fourth defensive coordinator in Lubbock in four years. He's bringing a 4-3, a shift back to what Ruffin McNeil ran in 2009. Chad Glasgow's 4-2-5 and James Willis' 3-4 failed miserably in 2011 and 2010, respectively, the first two years under Tommy Tuberville.
- The battle at running back: No one knows yet if Eric Stephens will be back next season. There's still a long way to go in his rehab from a dislocated knee he suffered last season in a loss to Texas A&M. DeAndre Washington is also out this spring after tearing his ACL against Missouri. Harrison Jeffers hung up his cleats. Who will prove to be reliable this spring? Look for the Red Raiders to try to use sophomore Bradley Marquez, freshman Javares McRoy and junior SaDale Foster in a manner similar to the way Oregon uses scatback De'Anthony Thomas, with lots of short passes and bubble screens to get them the ball in space, where they can use their speed and shiftiness to make plays.
- Team health: Tuberville said earlier this month that the team is missing 15 players this spring. It can't afford any more injuries. It's already going to be tough to get enough done this spring, but Tech can't start getting banged up.
Spring practice start date: March 11
Spring game: April 21
What to watch:
- Dana Holgorsen's offense in Year 2: Holgorsen didn't get a chance to coach his talented offense at Oklahoma State in its second year. The results could have been crazy. They might be at West Virginia in 2012, and the beginning steps will be taken this spring as Geno Smith & Co. get more and more comfortable with the system and Holgorsen adds more wrinkles.
- The battle at running back: Sophomore Dustin Garrison hurt his knee in practices leading up to the Mountaineers' 70-33 Orange Bowl win over Clemson, and won't be there for the spring. What does senior Shawne Alston have in store for the spring? Garrison was the featured back last season, but a big spring could help Alston earn a few carries next year.
- Defense needs help: Najee Goode leaves a big hole at linebacker, and defensive back Eain Smith's exit means the Mountaineers enter the season without two of their top three tacklers from a year ago. Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller's talents on the defensive line will be tough to replace, and in a league that requires a great pass rush, Irvin, Goode and Miller's 19 combined sacks must be replaced somehow.
After 14 weeks of the regular season and eight bowl games (the Big 12 went 6-2), here's how the league sits.
1. Oklahoma State (12-1, beat Stanford, 41-38 in overtime): The Cowboys needed some help from Stanford's kicker to get their BCS win, but their spot atop the Big 12 was never at stake. The Cowboys proved themselves as the Big 12's best team throughout the season and beat Stanford to make history. Stillwater's never seen a season like this, and Mike Gundy was rewarded with a $1.6 million raise after the season for his efforts.
2. Kansas State (10-3, lost to Arkansas, 29-16): The Wildcats' Cotton Bowl experience wasn't a fun one after early mistakes, but K-State earned its first double-digit-win season since 2003 and earned the tiebreaker against Baylor on the field. Arkansas, too, is a whole lot better than Washington. This was a disappointing end for the purple folks from the Little Apple, but they bring back almost the entire core of the 2011 team. The Wildcats look like 2012 Big 12 title contenders.
3. Baylor (10-3, beat Washington, 67-56): The Bears put on a show and Terrance Ganaway's 200 yards, along with two other 100-yard rushers, iced the win over the Huskies. That gave Baylor the third 10-win season in school history and the first bowl win since 1992. Now, the big question awaits: Is RG3 gone, or is the allure of one more year in college for the Heisman winner enough to convince him to provide one more memorable season in Waco?
4. Oklahoma (10-3, beat Iowa, 31-14): The Sooners stumbled at the end of the season, but closed it in fine fashion, not playing their best game but soundly beating Iowa. Landry Jones will return. Will former DC and former Arizona coach Mike Stoops? Oklahoma's secondary was a liability this year, and Sooners fans would love to see Bob Stoops' brother put in charge to change it.
5. Missouri (8-5, beat North Carolina, 41-24): Missouri's season wasn't too memorable, but the Tigers rebounded from a 3-4 start to win eight games, including the best offensive performance of the season against the Tar Heels. That gave Mizzou eight wins for a sixth consecutive year. Only a handful of programs have duplicated that feat.
6. Texas (8-5, beat California, 21-10): The Longhorns' defense shut down the Bears and David Ash made a few big throws to make Texas' return to the postseason a good one. Ash has to show he's the guy for Texas moving forward. He'll get more offseason work than he did last year, which may show up in the fall. Freshman Connor Brewer will be joining, but it looks like a juco quarterback won't.
7. Texas A&M (7-6, beat Northwestern, 33-22): The Aggies head to the SEC after the most disappointing season in recent history. A team stocked full of NFL talent and toting a top-10 ranking lost four of its final five Big 12 games, with the only win coming at home over 2-10 Kansas. Now, new coach Kevin Sumlin returns to lead A&M into its new conference after coaching four years at Houston and winning 10 games in two seasons.
8. Iowa State (6-7, lost to Rutgers, 27-13): Paul Rhoads is already only the second coach to win a bowl game at Iowa State, but he couldn't win his second bowl in three years in Ames. Either way, the Cyclones have a good shot to be even better in 2012. Redshirt freshman Jared Barnett showed a lot of promise, and he'll progress during the offseason, even though he was benched in the bowl game for Steele Jantz, who started the season's first half.
9. Texas Tech (5-7, idle): A disappointing season gave way to a tumultuous offseason in Lubbock, with a handful of new assistant coaches and defensive coordinator Chad Glasgow heading back to TCU, who joins the Big 12 next season. The Red Raiders have to be better. Offensively, they were good enough, despite injuries, in 2011. They weren't great, though, like Texas Tech has been. Defensively, they've been awful for both seasons under Tommy Tuberville. Injuries have played a role in that, but improvement starts there.
10. Kansas (2-10, idle): Get ready to see much-needed new blood in Kansas. Turner Gill is out after two terrible seasons and a 2-10 record in 2011 that included six losses by at least 30 points. Now, it's time for Charlie Weis to take over, and he's brought two big quarterbacks and a receiver with him.
DALLAS -- Texas Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville stressed speed would be the biggest factor on defense under new defensive coordinator Chad Glasgow, a disciple of TCU coach Gary Patterson.
Tuberville hired Glasgow in January to takeover a unit that was ranked 114th nationally in total defense last year. The defense will now use a 4-2-5 base, utilizing five defensive backs to contain the high-powered offenses in the Big 12, rather than the 3-4 base used last year.
“You don’t really have to worry about size,” Tuberville said. “You worry about quickness and speed. I’ve always believed in that anyway. That’s the type of defense I’ve been around.”
Glasgow was the defensive backs coach at TCU for 10 years before taking the job in Lubbock. The TCU defense finished No. 1 in the nation in overall defense for three consecutive seasons in which the Frogs played in consecutive BCS games the past two seasons, including winning the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin in January. TCU’s defense allowed 228.5 yards a game last season, and was also No. 1 in pass defense, allowing 128.7 yards a game.
Tuberville said Tech used nickel-package defenses about 95 percent of the time last year, but now the defense will be more versatile using the 4-2-5 as its base.
“We’ll still run some run some three-man front, but the whole philosophy of defense is getting as many on the field in defense that you can run as much as possible, fast as possible,” Tuberville said. “You play Oklahoma, you play Texas A&M last year, they just run you down. And it kind of reminds me of defenses I’ve been part of when we’ve had good success. That’s how you win championships. It’s not with anything else other than the speed on defense."
There's a lot of turnover in this space, and the bottom half was pretty hard to sort out. We haven't seen a lot of these new faces on the field for extended periods of time, so it's somewhat of a crapshoot. I don't feel like there's a wide gap between teams 7-10, and each of those squads have at least one linebacker who could be due for a huge year and shoot them up this list.
I see Nos. 1-3 possibly being great, with dropoffs before the No. 4 and No. 7 teams.
Also, if you missed them, here are the other position rankings we've done so far.
So, without further ado, here's how I ranked the linebackers. (Nickel backs are included in this list, hybrid DE/LBs will be with defensive lines)
2. Iowa State -- The Cyclones boast two of the Big 12's best in Jake Knott and A.J. Klein, who combined for more tackles than any two teammates in the Big 12 last season. They had 241 stops, and, after healing from a broken leg suffered midseason last year, Matt Tau'fo'ou should join them at middle linebacker.
3. Texas -- Texas' offense may be lacking, but the defense will be strong once again, led by two others likely to earn spots as some of the Big 12's best. Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho were Texas' top two tacklers last year with 187 stops, and return as likely captains come fall camp. Texas' depth chart is wide open, but look for former blue-chip recruit Jordan Hicks to emerge as another star this year, despite being forced to sit out spring camp with a broken foot. Dravannti Johnson played some defensive end last year at the Buck position for the Longhorns, but may find his way back to linebacker. Tevin Jackson was ineligible last year, but he's ready for 2011, and could make an impact.
4. Oklahoma State -- The Cowboys "Star" linebacker is occupied by co-Defensive Freshman of the Year Shaun Lewis, and sophomore Caleb Lavey is charged with replacing Orie Lemon, the leader of last year's defense. Oklahoma State has questions on the weak side, but LeRon Furr and Chris Dinkins will compete next fall. Kris Catlin could be a factor, too.
5. Texas A&M -- The Aggies must replace their leading tackler, Michael Hodges, and don't have a clear replacement heading into fall camp. The good news: They've got two others with lots of experience in the linebacking corps that look like budding stars. Garrick Williams should be one of the defense's leaders and Sean Porter returns after making 74 tackles last year to rank third on the team.
6. Missouri -- The Tigers have lots of experience at middle linebacker, where a pair of seniors (albeit frequently injured seniors) Will Ebner and Luke Lambert will be on the field a lot. One of the Big 12's most exciting players, junior Zaviar Gooden, will hold down the weakside and perhaps become a household name by season's end. Sophomores Andrew Wilson and Donovan Bonner, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, will likely compete for strongside duties in fall camp. Andrew Gachkar, the team's leading tackler, is gone, but here's guessing Gooden emerges as the defense's top playmaker.
7. Kansas -- The Jayhawks linebackers were solid last year, and could be pretty good again, despite losing Drew Dudley and Justin Springer, two of the team's top four tacklers. Steven Johnson, the team's leading tackler in 2010, is back and he'll be joined by possible star Huldon Tharp, who missed all of last season with a leg injury. Fellow sophomore Darius Willis earned a starting role after spring.
8. Kansas State -- K-State's front seven struggled last year, but will get a big boost from Arthur Brown. One man won't be enough to totally fix the Wildcats rush defense problems, though. K-State gave up 26 more yards on the ground per game than any other team in the Big 12 (more than 231 per game) but Brown may be playing in a 4-3 next fall rather than the 4-2-5 the Wildcats have employed since Snyder's return. Alex Hrebec, Emmanuel Lamur, Tre Walker and Blake Slaughter will likely fill the rotation along with Brown.
9. Baylor -- Baylor's defensive depth chart, like Texas', is a bit amorphous after bringing in a new coordinator, but Elliot Coffey figures to be the Bears biggest playmaker at linebacker. Chris McAllister should be solid and Ahmad Dixon is promising at nickelback, too. Brody Trahan is a great story, but him going from third-string quarterback to starting linebacker isn't a ringing endorsement for Baylor's depth at the position.
10. Texas Tech -- Tech will be moving to a 4-2-5 this year under new coordinator Chad Glasgow, and could rise up this list, but the Red Raiders lose a lot of talent from last season's team, which ran the 3-4. Bront Bird and Brian Duncan are both gone, and youth will be a big factor with this group. Cqulin Hubert's outstanding potential is matched by his more outstanding first name, and freshman Blake Dees showed promise after arriving early this spring. They'll likely be the rotation at middle linebacker spot alongside Daniel Cobb and Zach Winbush. Terrance Bullitt could be a playmaker at his new safety spot, listed as a strong safety but with plans to spend lots of time near the line of scrimmage, a la nickelback.
The ball is kicked...
That's how it goes, right?
College basketball is over, but brackets live on forever. Or something. Anyway, inspired by our friends over at the SEC blog, we'll try our hand at a little bracketology on the football field.
What if the Big 12 played a single-elimination tournament?
Ten-team brackets are a little unusual and more complex than the NCAA Tournament bracket, so if you're unfamiliar, we'll be working off this bracket.
I seeded the tournament based on my pre-spring power rankings (which, admittedly, have fluctuated already since January) and in true NCAA Tournament fashion, all the games will be played on neutral sites. Additionally, these games will be played riiiiight ... now!
That means no incoming freshmen unless they enrolled early, and no time to settle position battles, get players healthy or improve.
Wrenches being thrown everywhere! The humanity!
So ... here we go.
No. 7 Texas Tech vs. No. 10 Kansas: Texas Tech may be breaking in a new quarterback, trying to work with new receivers and giving the ball to inexperienced running backs (albeit backs loaded with potential) but the Red Raiders should win this one easily. Kansas doesn't have the skill position talent to exploit the Red Raiders' defensive weaknesses and won't be able to stop them. Seth Doege has shown signs of being far better than competent, but the same can't be said for Kansas' quarterbacks. The Red Raiders should be pretty good up front and slow the Jayhawks' running backs. Texas Tech 34, Kansas 13
No. 8 Kansas State vs. No. 9 Iowa State: Last year's Farmageddon was an underrated game in terms of entertainment, but both teams lost their workhorses. Alexander Robinson and Daniel Thomas won't face off in this one, but Kansas State is the only team in the Big 12 who hasn't started spring practice yet. Undone by unforeseen scheduling! The Wildcats' revolving door of quarterbacks can't find a rhythm against the Cyclones, who use Jerome Tiller like Nebraska used Taylor Martinez last year and zone read the Wildcats with Tiller and Shontrelle Johnson for the upset win. Iowa State 21, Kansas State 17
No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 9 Iowa State: Last year, Oklahoma beat these guys 52-0 in Norman. It won't be that bad this time, but the Sooners return just about everybody (save the secondary) and Iowa State lost its two best players, Austen Arnaud and Robinson. Sometimes, it's just that simple. Oklahoma 48, Iowa State 13
No. 2 Texas A&M vs. No. 7 Texas Tech: Texas A&M's deep receiving corps has worked together for awhile and can definitely take advantage of Texas Tech's youth in the secondary. The Red Raiders' safeties had a nice spring and did a nice job grasping new defensive coordinator Chad Glasgow's system from TCU, but the Aggies just have too many offensive weapons. Another big day for Tannehill, who won't touch his school-record 449 yards like he did last time against Tech in his first career start, but he clears 300 yards. Texas A&M 31, Texas Tech 21
No. 3 Oklahoma State vs. No. 6 Baylor: Baylor got steamrolled in their first big test once they climbed atop the Big 12 South standings, falling behind 34-0 in Stillwater. Both teams bring back loads of talent, and Baylor's defense should be slightly improved, but still learning. Baylor learns from the big-game failures from last year, but Oklahoma State is still the better, more balanced team. Oklahoma State 38, Baylor 35
No. 4: Missouri vs. No. 5 Texas: The one game this round that didn't happen last year, Texas will have a tough time capitalizing on Missouri's two big question marks: Quarterback and secondary. Missouri goes with Tyler Gabbert for most of the game and mixes in James Franklin for a few series with good results. Texas tests the Tigers' deep with a newly aggressive offense, but none of the quarterbacks even came close to completing a deep ball on Sunday. Kip Edwards grabs a couple picks on balls forced into Mike Davis and the Tigers get enough offense for the win. Missouri 27, Texas 14
No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 4 Missouri: Missouri won't have a raucous crowd or a locker room bent on beating OU for the first time under their current coach this time around. Missouri hangs around early, but the Tigers don't have enough offense. Although Oklahoma is playing without All-Big 12 corner Jamell Fleming, Missouri still doesn't have a deep threat or a quarterback quite comfortable with trying to find one. The Sooners zero in on T.J. Moe and the running game and knock off the Tigers. Oklahoma 31, Missouri 24
No. 2 Texas A&M vs. No. 3 Oklahoma State: These two weren't separated by much last year, and I'd have loved to see them play one more time. Their 38-35 classic last year was one of the league's best games and both teams look loaded up for another big year. A&M still has defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter, but Oklahoma State lost Dana Holgorsen. Bad news? Yes. But the good news for Oklahoma State is Texas A&M is missing three starters from the secondary this spring. Play this thing in July and we might have another classic. But now? Another heartbreak for the Aggies. Oklahoma State 34, Texas A&M 31
No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Oklahoma State: Bedlam may very well decide the Big 12 title next November, and it decides our little bracket party here with a spring tournament. Both offenses are breaking in new offensive coordinators, but Oklahoma's Josh Heupel is much more ingrained in the system than Oklahoma State's Todd Monken, who was being taught the offense by the current Cowboys this spring. Both offenses lost big-name running backs, and both have solid replacements in line with depth. Jeremy Smith and Joseph Randle at Oklahoma State match up well with Oklahoma's Roy Finch, Brandon Williams and Brennan Clay. Both have receiver depth and Oklahoma State should have an advantage against a young OU secondary. The league's co-Defensive Players of the Year, S Tony Jefferson of Oklahoma and LB Shaun Lewis of Oklahoma State, validate the award with big nights. But Oklahoma State has to convince me that it can win a big game with so much (humor me, here) on the line. It played well in last year's Bedlam but came up short. They're even closer this time, but Oklahoma takes home the title in another classic. Oklahoma 41, Oklahoma State 38 (OT)
Luther, take it away!
- Junior quarterback Seth Doege threw for 317 yards and four touchdown on 20-of-35 passing. He also had an interception for the only turnover of the day, picked off by Daniel Cobb, who returned it 22 yards.
- Safety D.J. Johnson and linebacker Cqulin Hubert led the team with eight tackles each. Hubert had a sack and led the team with 2.5 tackles for loss. He also broke up a pass.
- Doege's day was highlighted by a pair of long throws. He hooked up with new outside receiver Tramain Swindall for a 55-yard score and hit Alex Torres for a 63-yard gain on Torres' only catch of the day.
- Ben McRoy led the team with 61 yards on seven carries, but likely starter Eric Stephens had 48 yards on seven carries.
- Texas Tech had hoped for 25-30,000 fans, but 12,400 made their way into Jones AT&T Stadium on Saturday. Among them: New athletic director Kirby Hocutt and basketball coach Billy Gillispie.
- As with all these spring games, it doesn't matter much, but the Black team beat the Red team 27-26. It's not out of character for these games, but players switched teams often. Doege, for instance, was 12-of-23 for 231 yards and three scores for the Red team. For the Black team, he was 8-of-12 for 86 yards and a score. Saboteur!
- Doege did everything he could to maintain a stronghold on the starting job over backup Jacob Karam. Coach Tommy Tuberville won't make an official announcement until midway through fall camp, but Doege was receiving the majority of the snaps in practice this spring. It would be very, very surprising if he didn't lock up the job for sure in fall camp. Barring injury, he should finally get his shot next season. "Seth is definitely in front right now,” offensive coordinator Neal Brown told reporters on Saturday. "He’s making better decisions, leading the offense better at this point. Not to a point where he’s the bona fide starter, but there is a difference. Then Jacob and Scotty [Young] are right there duking it out right now to be in that second position and come up and battle Seth."
- Red Raiders fans have to be happy about the contributions from the newcomers. Juco receiver Marcus Kennard enrolled early and caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from Doege in the second quarter. True freshman Ronnie Daniels had impressed all spring, and caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from Young. Kennard finished with two catches for 32 yards. Daniels finished with 34 yards on 11 carries. The touchdown was his only catch of the day. Another early enrolling freshman, linebacker Blake Dees, had seven tackles and half a tackle for loss.
- The defense still has plenty of work to do, giving up five pass plays of longer than 25 yards, but the Red Raiders are going to be a work in progress on that side of the ball all season. Defensive coordinator Chad Glasgow and Tuberville have been preaching it: It's all about speed for this defense. Part of that comes with recruiting. Part of it comes with making players comfortable with the defense's schemes and playing without thinking. Both of those take time. Glasgow's new scheme puts a heavy emphasis on winning one-on-ones, and the Red Raiders have a lot to prove in showing they can do that consistently in Big 12 play.
"Right now Seth is ahead, but we want to give (Jacob Karam) a chance to throw his name in there. We're not looking for just one quarterback, we're looking for two. We lost both quarterbacks last year. Both of these guys will step up and compete and make each other better." -- Tuberville.
Within that, the Red Raiders were one of just two teams to give up at least 150 pass plays of longer than 10 yards.
"We just got outran," said coach Tommy Tuberville. "That’s the bottom line."
Solution one: The Red Raiders need more speed. Part of that comes with recruiting. Tuberville addressed the need in his 2011 class, recruiting a handful of pass-rushers to provide more depth.
But those injuries meant freshmen on the field, defensive tackles trying to play defensive end and even a few offensive players moving to the defensive side of the ball.
"It didn’t look good for us early, but if guys kept getting hurt, we’d have really been in trouble," Tuberville said. "We’d have ended up with Taylor Potts playing safety."
Two of the team's best pass-rushers played early, Aundrey Barr (knee) and Scott Smith (suspension) missed the majority of the season, which didn't do the defense's back line any favors.
"The main thing for us next year is if we can stay healthy and get playing time underneath our belt, there’s potential," Tuberville said. "A lot of them just don’t have a clue what they’re doing."
The hope is that changes this year with new defensive coordinator Chad Glasgow, who came from TCU as one of the nation's best secondary coaches. Most welcome, he came preaching simplicity.
"We were confused about some calls and everybody didn’t know what everybody else was doing, so simplifying this should be better this year," said safety Cody Davis, second on the team with 87 tackles last year. "Everybody should know what they’re doing."
Glasgow is also implementing a 4-2-5 that will put more defensive backs on the field.
"I think it fits us very well because we have so much experience at safety and lack of depth elsewhere," Davis said.
For immediate help changing that, Tuberville brought in Leon Mackey and Dennell Wesley, a pair of junior college defensive linemen.
"They’re a little older guys. They’re not like big-eyed 17-year-olds coming in," Tuberville said. "You throw them up against a Big 12 team in the first month, at least you’ve got a little experience."
Despite the defensive struggles, Texas Tech still managed to win eight games, but to tally any more than that, it'll have to stay on the same page, healthy and in front of high-powered Big 12 offenses which got behind it all too often in 2010.
"We didn’t have near enough speed to compete this year, and it showed up," Tuberville said. "We had some good players, but we just didn’t have enough of them."
That's when the advantage of having a coach that's been around awhile kicked in for the Red Raiders' supporters.
At breakfast before their round of golf, Tuberville arranged for Palmer himself, the golfing legend, to come spend some time with the donors during the meal.
Numbers across the board are up, and it's not hard to get an idea why.
"Every time the doors opened and high school coaches were going to be there or fans or alumni, we were there," Tuberville said, now on the job for 15 months. "And we invited them here. We tried to open up new doors. We can’t just keep pounding on the same doors."
Personal touches like introducing boosters to Palmer are little things that would have been out of character for Tuberville's predecessor, his on-the-field success aside. So is getting out on the road and being in every high school and alumni event possible. Nothing kick-starts a program more than talented recruits and deep-pocketed boosters willing to pony up and support a program they believe in.
When Tuberville first took the job, the popularity of the departed Mike Leach worried him, but he did the only thing he could do: Get out and talk with fans, ease their worries about wholesale offensive changes and promise big things in the future with talk of championships.
"This is not my team. It’s theirs. We’re here. No matter what’s happened the last few months. Whether you’re glad, mad or sad, it doesn’t make any difference. It’s time to jump on, because it’s not going to get done. We can’t do it by ourselves," Tuberville said of the fan base. "People said 'You’re gonna change everything,' but I said 'Hey, I’m a football coach. I’m going to do what we need to do to win as many games as we can.'"
For all the excitement that came with Tuberville's arrival, criticism came as well. Many thought Tuberville, who had spent 14 seasons as an SEC head coach versus one as a coordinator in the Big 12, was biding his time until an SEC job came open.
"I’ve not been one of those guys that went somewhere and just left immediately. I stayed four and a half years at Ole Miss, 10 years at Auburn. I left both times on my terms," Tuberville said. "I’m not one of those young guys that’s looking to work his way up."
Tuberville says the marriage between himself and Texas Tech was a "perfect match," and hopes the feeling is mutual from fans and administration.
"Hey, I know what it’s like to go to a place, to build it up and enjoy it. That, rather than go to a place, and every day you’re looking at other places like, 'What’s going to be easier and better?' I mean, I’m past that now," he said. "They hired a guy that was the perfect situation for them. A guy that wanted to get back and had been out for a year, had obviously won games and had some good experience with some good head coaches and understood the game and understood recruiting."
Tuberville's enthusiasm and sales prowess -- "Never miss an opportunity when you’re on the road to sell your program," he says, and backed it up with a commitment to play in the Byron Nelson Classic pro-am in Dallas in May -- have meant big success off the field.
On it, the Red Raiders are still a work in progress. Tuberville said midway through the season that the Red Raiders had already had 10 players, out of the team's 50 major contributors, undergo surgery. Considering the injuries and the fact that it was his first year, an 8-5 record was nothing to be ashamed of in 2010. But Tuberville provided hope that he could get Texas Tech over the Texas-and-Oklahoma-sized hump that's kept the Red Raiders out of Big 12 championships and BCS bowl games.
He navigated Auburn to a 13-0 season in 2004, an 11-win season in 2006 and four more seasons with at least nine wins in the span of just a decade, so expectations are hardly unrealistic. Building further anticipation for the future was Tuberville's 2011 recruiting class, which the program trumpeted as the best in school history.
Elite success on the field is likely another year away with an offense that lost two senior receivers, a senior running back and two senior quarterbacks. The defense struggled and is adjusting to new coordinator Chad Glasgow.
But off the field, business is booming. When will that leak onto the turf at Jones AT&T Stadium? Only time will tell.
Some schools have addressed these needs with their current class. Some haven't. Others are still trying.
Here's our look at the South, after running down the Big 12 North earlier this morning.
Defensive tackle: The Bears are loaded on offense and have a ton coming back, but anyone who watched Baylor in 2010 knows the big problems are on defense, starting with the front four. Phil Taylor is headed to the NFL and Nicolas Jean-Baptiste will be a senior next year. Reserve Chris Buford is gone, too. The Bears need to fill out some depth up front to avoid a repeat of their Texas Bowl debacle defending the run against Illinois.
Punter: Derek Epperson was rock solid as a four-year starter for the Bears, averaging near 44 yards a punt for his past three seasons. He's gone now, and the Bears will need a replacement. The good news is Baylor's offense with Robert Griffin III doesn't make the position nearly as important as it used to be.
Receiver: Ryan Broyles, a senior, and Kenny Stills look ready for big years in 2011, but senior Cameron Kenney is gone. Trey Franks, Dejuan Miller and Joe Powell could contribute in 2011, but beyond that, another big-time threat across from Stills would certainly help. One of the Sooners' top 2011 commits, Trey Metoyer, could become that player.
Safety: Both starters, Quinton Carter and Jonathan Nelson, have graduated, and the Sooners will try to replace them with Sam Proctor, who has started plenty of games, and Javon Harris. The Sooners are pretty well-stocked about everywhere, but more depth in the secondary is always welcome.
Defensive line: Three of the Cowboys' four starters are gone, and it's always necessary to fill in some depth behind them. Shane Jarka, Chris Donaldson and Ugo Chinasa all had good years in 2010.
Offensive line: Oklahoma State brings back all five starters for 2011, but four will be seniors. That means replacing them in 2012, which will be a lot easier if those replacements don't end up being true freshmen. Oklahoma State kept offensive line coach Joe Wickline, a candidate for the same job at Texas, and his development of the line last year with four new starters was a big reason for the Cowboys' success. He'll need to do it again in 2012.
Running back: Fozzy Whittaker and Cody Johnson will both be seniors in 2011, and Tre Newton's career is over because of issues with concussions. Texas would be well-served if its top 2011 commit, Malcolm Brown, can come in and be effective immediately as a true freshman.
Cornerback: Aaron Williams left early. Curtis and Chykie Brown graduated. Texas needs help at corner and will have big problems in the near future if they don't get it.
Linebacker: Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson will be seniors in 2011, and Dustin Earnest and Jared Norton already graduated. New talent behind them will help prevent a drop-off in 2012 after Acho and Robinson split.
Kicker: Randy Bullock will be a senior in 2011, but Texas A&M is already hoping his spot is filled by incoming freshman Taylor Bertolet, the nation's No. 2 kicker who won the Under Armour All-American game with a last-second field goal earlier this month.
Linebacker: Michael Hodges and Von Miller have graduated, and Garrick Williams will follow them in 2011. The Wrecking Crew was pretty stout for most of 2010, but filling those holes in a four-linebacker front will be key in ensuring things stay that way.
Secondary: LaRon Moore and Franklin Mitchem are gone, so Texas Tech will be breaking in some new blood in the secondary for new coordinator Chad Glasgow and cornerbacks coach Otis Mounds. Freshmen cornerbacks Jarvis Phillips and Tre Porter made plays in 2010, but they also allowed offenses to make a few of their own. Stopping that will be a big step in Texas Tech getting things rolling under Tommy Tuberville.
Receiver: Texas Tech already needs to replace Detron Lewis and Lyle Leong, and Tramain Swindall and Jacoby Franks will follow suit after 2011. Alex Torres was hampered by a back injury all year, but the Red Raiders will need some depth around him at receiver to keep the offense humming.
Glasgow, 38, was a member of Gary Patterson's original staff. Tech also promoted Otis Mounds, 39, from graduate assistant to assistant coach in charge of cornerbacks.
"It’s my goal to bring our defense to a championship level and Chad Glasgow is the right person for the job," Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said in a statement released by the school. "With his experience and knowledge of the game and recruiting, he will be a great addition to our staff."
Glasgow replaces James Willis, who was at Tech for one season.
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