Dallas Colleges: Emmanuel Ogbah

In this week’s Big 12 roundtable, we discuss players to watch down the stretch, and how many teams will sit atop the Big 12 standings at the end of the regular season:

Who will be the one offensive player to watch in the league down the stretch?

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY SportsBryce Petty's completion percentage has plunged during Big 12 play.
Max Olson: To me, all eyes are on Bryce Petty. Still seems like we haven't seen him at his 2013 best yet, which makes you wonder what's coming next. He's completing 52.2 percent of his passes in Big 12 play and has to face the league's top two scoring defenses. He doesn't have to be phenomenal to beat Oklahoma and K-State, but Petty does have to be sharper, and you get the sense he recognizes that based on his post-Kansas comments. If he's locked in for this final four-game stretch and keeps the Bears' offense humming, he can decide this Big 12 race.

Brandon Chatmon: Kansas State receiver Tyler Lockett could hold the keys to a second Big 12 title in three years in his hands. The senior tends to play big in the biggest games and with TCU and Baylor left on K-State’s schedule, I think the Big 12’s top all-purpose threat will put up some numbers that will make everyone take notice. He has been a joy to watch for four seasons in Wildcat purple and he might have saved his best for last.

Jake Trotter: I agree with Max, I think it’s Petty. He has had such a weird season so far, with the back injury, then the paltry completion percentage in Big 12 play. Petty is a tremendous quarterback talent who really hasn’t found his groove yet. It will be interesting to see if he can catch fire here down the stretch and push the Bears to the top of the Big 12 standings and into the playoff conversation. He definitely has the capability to do it.

Who will be the one defensive player to watch?

Olson: So, who's our Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year at this point? You can make a decent case for Paul Dawson, Eric Striker, Shawn Oakman, Malcom Brown, Ben Heeney, maybe a few others. I'm sorry to give you five players to watch, but really, we've yet to see one of these guys take control of that race. With lots of big games left to be played, somebody is poised to steal the conference's attention. I'm tempted to guess it's Dawson or Oakman who steps up in these huge games, but we shall see.

Chatmon: Nobody has noticed because his team’s offense has been one of the storylines of conference play with its staggering struggles but Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah has quietly become a monster on the Cowboys defense. The sophomore has eight sacks including six in conference play after he started the year by putting his name on the map with two sacks against Florida State. OSU’s offense might not be fun to watch, but seeing Ogbah in action is enough to make you tune in to watch the Cowboys final three games.

Trotter: I’m going with K-State defensive end Ryan Mueller, who has had a very quiet season so far. For the Wildcats to run the table, they’ll need Mueller to produce the big plays he did last season when he earned first-team All-Big 12 honors.In TCU, West Virginia and Baylor, K-State is about to face three teams that like to throw the ball. Mueller will have plenty of opportunities to get after the passer.

How many teams will be at the top of the Big 12 standings at the end of the season?

Olson: Three. I don't know if I really believe it, but let's talk about that anyway. I don't think the following chaotic scenario is impossible: Baylor loses at Oklahoma, TCU loses to Kansas State, K-State loses at West Virginia and Baylor. And we'll say OU somehow loses one more game, too. That leaves us with a trio of 7-2 teams atop the Big 12 standings. Baylor would hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over both, but would they get into the College Football Playoff in that situation? I'm really not so sure. The Big 12 would love to have "One True Champion" this year, I'm sure, in the interest of a seat in the CFP. But I think things are about to get a little messy.

Chatmon: One. I said before TCU’s trip to West Virginia that I felt like the winner of that game would win the Big 12 title. Nothing has changed after the Horned Frogs’ buzzer-beating 31-30 win. If TCU survives against K-State on Saturday, its final three opponents (Kansas, Texas, Iowa State) have combined to win eight games this season. Trevone Boykin rebounds with a big game on Saturday and the Horned Frogs carry that to a 11-1 record and College Football Playoff berth.

Trotter: I’m sort of rooting for Four True Champions, so the Big 12 will be forced to dump its stupid slogan, “One True Champion.” But when the dust settles, I think the most likely scenario will be TCU alone at the top of the Big 12 standings with the lone conference loss.

ESPN.com midseason All-Big 12 team

October, 14, 2014
Oct 14
We're halfway through the season, which means it's time for our midseason All-Big 12 team. There's plenty of football still to play. And this midseason team might be very different from the end-of-season one. But this list recognizes the players who have distinguished themselves thus far.

After careful consideration and friendly debate, our midseason All-Big 12 team:


QB: Clint Trickett, West Virginia: Baylor's Bryce Petty had the Big 12's best game last weekend, but Trickett has had the better season so far. He leads the Big 12 in QBR and completion percentage and is third nationally in passing, fueling the Mountaineers' surprising 4-2 start.

RB: Shock Linwood, Baylor: The Big 12's top rusher has 326 rushing yards over Baylor's last two games, including 104 in the fourth quarter of the Bears' monumental comeback win against TCU.

RB: Samaje Perine, Oklahoma: This true freshman is second in the league in rushing, first in rushing touchdowns and delivered an historic performance at West Virginia with 242 yards and four scores.

WR: Kevin White, West Virginia: White has been as dominant as any player in the league. He easily leads the country with an average of 148 yards receiving per game, and has come up with a hundred yards receiving in every game.

WR: Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma: It's hard to imagine where the Oklahoma passing game would be without Shepard. He has accounted for 48 percent of Trevor Knight's passing yards.

WR: K.D. Cannon, Baylor: The true freshman might already be the most dangerous big-play receiver in the league, averaging 62.5 yards per catch on his six touchdowns.

TE: E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State: The senior has been a big part of the Cyclones' offense with 22 receptions for 190 yards and four touchdowns, including a one-handed scoring grab at Oklahoma State.

OL: Spencer Drango, Baylor: The Bears' franchise left tackle is thriving again after a return from a season-ending back injury. He has graded out the highest on the offensive line of the nation's top scoring offense.

OL: Joey Hunt, TCU: Hunt is the best offensive lineman on the Big 12's most improved offense, which is second in the league in scoring with almost 46 points per game.

OL: B.J. Finney, Kansas State: Finney is well on his way to a third consecutive All-Big 12 season as the lynchpin of the K-State offensive line.

OL: Quinton Spain, West Virginia: He and Mark Glowinski form one of the top guard duos in the country for the league's second-best passing offense.

OL: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech: Arkansas coach Bret Bielema singled out Clark's prowess after facing him. Despite throwing the ball on almost every down, Tech leads the league in fewest sacks allowed with Clark protecting Davis Webb's blindside.

AP: Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State: The speedy Hill has kick return touchdowns the past two weeks, and has proven to be tough and durable as well as really fast.


DE: Shawn Oakman, Baylor: The freaky 6-foot-9 end is second in the league with five sacks and fourth with eight tackles for loss.

DT: Chucky Hunter, TCU: Hunter has been the anchor of the TCU defensive line, joining Davion Pierson to give Gary Patterson's squad one disruptive duo up front.

DT: Malcom Brown, Texas: This 320-pound monster has been unblockable, and the most disruptive defensive player in the league.

DE: Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State: Ogbah has broken out with five sacks, including two on defending Heisman winner Jameis Winston in the opener. In addition to being tied for second in the Big 12 in sacks, he's also second with 9.5 tackles for loss.

LB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma: Striker has 4.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss, and his relentless pass-rushing ability makes him the primary focus of opposing offensive coordinators.

LB: Jordan Hicks, Texas: The Longhorns' fifth-year senior is racking up 10 tackles per game, and is bringing leadership to the Texas defense after an injury-plagued career.

LB: Paul Dawson, TCU: The Big 12's leading tackler is on pace for the most single-season tackles in the Gary Patterson era. He also had the game-winning pick-six to upset the Sooners.

CB: Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma: Sanchez has given up some big plays, but he's countered with big plays of his own. He's second nationally with five interceptions, including a pick-six against Texas.

CB: Danzel McDaniel, Kansas State: McDaniel hits more like a linebacker than a cornerback. He's been another impressive junior-college find for Bill Snyder.

S: Sam Carter, TCU: Carter doesn't have eye-popping numbers, but he's once again been the heart of the TCU defense.

S: Karl Joseph, West Virginia: The enforcer of the West Virginia secondary is second among Big 12 defensive backs with 45 tackles.

Special teams

K: Josh Lambert, West Virginia: All he's done is nail two game-winning field goals as time has expired to beat Maryland (47 yards) and Texas Tech (55 yards) on the road.

P: Trevor Pardula, Kansas: He's gotten plenty of chances, but he's made the most of them, averaging 44.8 yards per punt, while putting 37.8 percent of them inside the opponents' 20.

PR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State: Lockett, who is second in the nation in punt returns, once again has been an electric all-around playmaker. He's also sixth in the league in receiving.

KR: Alex Ross, Oklahoma: Ross leads the nation in kickoff returns, taking two of his nine kick returns to the house for touchdowns.

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 7

October, 12, 2014
Oct 12
It's that time again! Let's honor the Big 12's top performers over the weekend:

CB Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma: The sophomore has been a feast-or-famine player in crimson and cream but seems to consistently make big plays in the Sooners' biggest games. His 43-yard interception return for a touchdown gave the Sooners breathing room while the offense was struggling in the first half and he finished fourth on the squad with eight tackles. He also added three pass breakups in OU's 31-26 win over Texas.

QB Tyrone Swoopes, Texas: Swoopes played with a presence and poise we had rarely seen from the sophomore during his stint as the Longhorns' starting quarterback. Playing in his first Red River Rivalry, he passed for 334 yards and rushed for 50 yards, accounting for three touchdowns along the way. It was a losing effort but Swoopes performance provides a glimmer of hope for UT.

K Josh Lambert, West Virginia: Not only did Lambert make 3 of 4 field goals, including a 55-yarder to give the Mountaineers a 37-34 win over Texas Tech, Dana Holgorsen actually talked to him. That, my friends, is the definition of winning.

DB Kennon Ward, Texas Tech: The sophomore finished with 16 tackles (11 solo) and 0.5 tackles for loss and one pass break up. It was a disappointing but productive day for Ward.

K Chris Callahan, Baylor: The Bears kicker entered the game 1-of-6 on field goal attempts this season. It didn't matter on Saturday as he went 4-of-4 in the Bears 61-58 win, including the 28-yard game winner as time expired. Redemption must have felt pretty sweet.

RB B.J. Catalon, TCU: Catalon finished with 213 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns in the Horned Frogs' loss. He made big plays as a runner, receiver and kickoff returner while giving the Bears defenders fits throughout the game.

WR Corey Coleman, Baylor: The sophomore receiver quietly had a monster game in the Bears win, finishing with 253 all-purpose yards including eight receptions for 144 yards and two touchdowns. He added 22 rushing yards and 87 kick return yards.

QB Sam B. Richardson, Iowa State: It was looking like Toledo might ruin the Cyclones' homecoming before a pair of Richardson touchdown tosses in the fourth quarter helped put the game out of reach. The junior finished 37-of-53 for 351 yards and three touchdowns without an interception in the 37-30 win. He added 13 carries for 31 yards.

DE Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State: It's officially a breakout season for the sophomore. Ogbah finished with 10 tackles including 5.5 tackles for loss and two sacks in Oklahoma State's 27-20 win over Kansas.

QB Bryce Petty, Baylor: His eye-popping numbers have become so commonplace he almost didn't make the list but I don't want to live in a world where 510 passing yards and six touchdowns isn't enough to earn a helmet sticker. Do you?

Big 12 players in Week 2 spotlight

September, 4, 2014
Sep 4
Last week, we took a shot in the dark and identified one player for each Big 12 team that might be poised for a breakout week. And we hit on a few of those picks, most notably Tyreek Hill, DeAndre Washington, Dravon Henry and Dylan Haines. So let's give this another shot. Here are 10 players we're keeping an eye on Saturday.

Baylor WR Davion Hall: The nation's best wide receiving corps will enter this weekend without the services of arguably its four best pass-catchers. That's going to mean a lot of targets for Jay Lee and K.D. Cannon, and this could be a huge week for Hall. The true freshman was hard to stop in the second half against SMU and finished with seven receptions for 86 yards on 10 targets. He could blow up against Northwestern State.

[+] EnlargeEmmanuel Ogbah
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezOklahoma State's Emmanuel Ogbah proved to be a force against Florida State last Saturday.
Oklahoma State DE Emmanuel Ogbah: One of the breakout stars of Week 1, Ogbah sacked Florida State's Jameis Winston twice, broke up two passes and notched six tackles. If he can do that against perhaps the best offensive line in the country, he should have no trouble matching that production against Missouri State.

Kansas RB DeAndre Mann: Corey Avery will get lots of play, but Mann seems to be the more complete and experienced back at the moment and coach Charlie Weis has high expectations for his debut. Mann was prolific at the junior college level and couldn't have picked a better situation to play right away.

Texas OT Kent Perkins: Perkins might be Texas' most talented offensive lineman (he's easily its strongest) and is more comfortable playing guard, but a switch to tackle seems imminent. It's entirely possible the suspensions of Desmond Harrison and Kennedy Estelle extend past one game, so it's crucial that Perkins gets comfortable against BYU and keep quarterback Tyrone Swoopes clean.

Texas Tech WR Cameron Batson: The true freshman earned punt return duties for his first career game and has wowed Texas Tech coaches with his quick mastery of the offense. They're pushing to get him in the lineup this week and want to use him as an outside receiver.

Kansas State RB DeMarcus Robinson: The Wildcats' backfield is still a timeshare, but you have to like what Robinson did with his reps last week. He accounted for 96 total yards on his 15 touches, and his efforts as a pass-catcher offer a useful dynamic for Jake Waters and the passing attack. Let's see more from him.

TCU CB Ranthony Texada: The redshirt freshman almost made his first big play last week against Samford on a second-quarter pass breakup, but linebacker Paul Dawson snagged his interception out of the air. That ain't right. Texada will get a pick to call his own soon.

Iowa State OT Jake Campos: Jake Gannon's abrupt and unexpected decision to quit the team on Thursday thrusts Campos into one heck of a challenge. He's expected to take over at right tackle and will be asked to hold off Kansas State's talented defensive line as best he can. Campos was a top recruit in ISU's 2013 class, and this is his big chance to break out.

Oklahoma TE Blake Bell: After the much-hyped offseason transition from quarterback, Bell did not record a reception against Louisiana Tech and wasn't targeted, either. Trevor Knight should get that fixed this week. Whenever Bell does get that first catch, he's not going to be easy to bring down.

West Virginia RB Wendell Smallwood: Rushel Shell and the rest of the Mountaineer running backs got bottled by Alabama, but Smallwood's production as a receiver -- six catches, 73 yards -- suggests he brings a versatility that makes this offense more dangerous. Against Towson, he'll have an easier time making a dent on the ground, too.

Big 12 morning links

September, 3, 2014
Sep 3
Can someone tell James Harden what's going on please?
  • Kansas expects to play the seven freshmen listed on its depth chart, reports Jesse Newell of the Topeka Capital-Journal. After creating some preseason buzz with their practice performances, it's no surprise to see running back Corey Avery and linebacker Kyron Watson on the list of true freshman set to play when KU faces Southwest Missouri State on Saturday. But keep an eye on receiver Derrick Neal, a 5-foot-10, 155-pound dynamo who has displayed early playmaking ability and could eventually emerge as another offensive weapon alongside Tony Pierson and Nick Harwell.
  • The Oklahoman's John Helsley introduces you to Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, who burst onto the scene as the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week with his stellar two-sack performance against Florida State. Ogbah showed flashes of his ability a year ago, recording four sacks as a redshirt freshman. The sophomore started to emerge during the spring as a potential breakout performer and didn't disappoint against the Seminoles. Now the challenge facing him will be his ability to handle the increased attention from opposing offenses and continue to be productive along the Cowboys' defensive front.
  • The stinging disappointment of Texas Tech's 42-35 win over Central Arkansas remains in the minds of Red Raiders players. "I felt better about some of the losses we had last year than the game on Saturday night," linebacker Sam Eguavoen told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. The numbers aren't as bad as the actual performance and lackluster intensity from the Red Raiders. This could be where the Red Raiders' hope of having better depth in 2014 could really be tested. If the current starters can't or don't approach the game with the right mindset, limit mistakes and focus on the little details, better depth would mean those players could be replaced without hesitation.
  • Iowa State running back Aaron Wimberly and Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters will be reunited when the Wildcats and Cyclones meet on Saturday. The pair were roommates at Iowa Western, writes Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register. It's interesting that Waters, an Iowa native, was never really on the priority list for the Cyclones during their forays on the recruiting trail, with Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads saying his program wasn't looking to sign a junior college quarterback when Waters decided to play for K-State.
  • Kansas State could be looking at a two-back system, writes Kellis Robinett of the Kansas City Star. DeMarcus Robinson and Charles Jones were each productive in the Wildcats' season-opening win over Stephen F. Austin. Robinson finished with 96 all-purpose yards (49 rushing, 47 receiving) while Jones had 72 all-purpose yards, including 55 rushing yards and two touchdowns. If both players continue to be productive, there's really no reason to hand the bulk of the carries to one or the other. Even though it's good to have a bell cow in the backfield, it's even better to have multiple productive running backs that can complement each other or carry the load.

Stats to improve: Defense

June, 4, 2014
Jun 4
It was an unusual year in the Big 12 in 2013, with several defenses carrying their teams to success in a conference known for high-scoring offense a year ago. Yet every Big 12 defense will head into 2014 with room to improve.

We looked at key offensive stats each school could improve this fall on Tuesday. On Wednesday, with the help of ESPN Stats and Information, we take a team-by-team look at one key defensive stat from last season and how to improve the number in 2014.


Key stat in 2013: Much like its offense, BU’s defense finished atop the Big 12 in most categories but still had room to improve. The Bears allowed touchdowns on 5.2 percent of opponents’ pass attempts, ranking No. 9 in the Big 12 and No. 78 in the nation. Baylor’s struggles to stop the passing game were particularly apparent in its losses to Oklahoma State and Central Florida.

How to improve in 2014: It’s not going to be easy with Baylor forced to replace the bulk of its starting secondary this fall. But BU could have one of the top defensive lines in the Big 12, possibly the nation, which could help drop this number significantly with disruptive pressure that knocks quarterbacks out of their comfort zone.

Iowa State

Key stat in 2013: The Cyclones' defense wasn’t very good in 2013, finishing near the bottom of the Big 12 in almost every category. ISU allowed touchdowns on 28.9 percent of opponents' drives, ranking last in the Big 12 and No. 93 nationally.

How to improve in 2014: It’s going to require the unit playing as a whole as opposed to a few standout individuals making most of the plays like linebacker Jeremiah George and safety Jacques Washington did in 2013. ISU has a lot of unknowns on defense but if they jell as a unit, the defense could improve.


Key stat in 2013: Big plays were a problem for the Jayhawks defense. KU allowed 10 yards or more on 21.4 percent of opponents' plays last season, ranking last in the Big 12 and No. 92 nationally.

How to improve in 2014: The Jayhawks defense is too talented to allow so many big plays. The defense has several veteran playmakers, including linebacker Ben Heeney and safety Isaiah Johnson, so a season playing together should help this number drop.

Kansas State

Key stat in 2013: The Wildcats struggled to get off the field at times in 2013. KSU forced opponents to go three-and-out on just 13.8 percent of drives last season, last in the Big 12 and No. 118 nationally. The other seven teams that joined K-State in the bottom eight of the FBS in this category combined for 13 wins in 2013.

How to improve in 2014: KSU added speed and playmaking to its defense with several junior college signees in February which should help its defense be more aggressive and athletic. The Wildcats are losing some veterans, but the overall athleticism of the defense should be improved. A more talented defense should help improve this number this fall.


Key stat in 2013: The Sooners defense was strong in 2013 but could have been more opportunistic. OU forced a fumble on just 1.5 percent of opponents’ running plays, ranking last in the Big 12 and No. 103 nationally.

How to improve in 2014: One of the Sooners’ spring goals was to be more physical in the running game. If they are, more forced fumbles are likely to be the result in 2013. Improving this category is one way OU can strive to field the Big 12's and possibly the nation’s top defense in 2014.

Oklahoma State

Key stat in 2013: The Cowboys had one of the Big 12’s best defenses last season but one of the worst pass rushes. OSU had a 4.4 sack percentage, ranking No. 8 in the Big 12 and No. 103 nationally.

How to improve in 2014: OSU could have one of the better defensive lines in the conference this fall, particularly with improvement from defensive ends Jimmy Bean and Emmanuel Ogbah. That duo finished 1-2 in sacks for the Pokes and could be much improved this fall, helping improve OSU’s pass rush and helping a young and inexperienced secondary.


Key stat in 2013: Texas' defense struggled to step up in key moments last season. UT allowed opponents to score 68.4 percent of the time once they got inside the Longhorns’ 40-yard line. UT ranked ninth in the Big 12 in that category and No. 79 nationally. Baylor, OSU and OU ranked 1-2-3 in the category in 2013.

How to improve in 2014: The arrival of Charlie Strong will be a huge help. His Louisville squad finished tied for third nationally with Florida State, allowing opponents to score on 50 percent of drives inside the 40-yard line in 2013.


Key stat in 2013: TCU’s defense finished among the top three in several categories last season. The Horned Frogs could improve however, allowing 12.71 yards per completion in 2013, ranking No. 8 in the Big 12 and No. 91 nationally.

How to improve in 2014: The TCU defense doesn’t need much improvement but the return of defensive end Devonte Fields should help, particularly if TCU can replace cornerback Jason Verrett, an NFL first-round draft pick.

Texas Tech

Key stat in 2013: The Red Raiders' defense finished in the middle of the Big 12 in most categories, but one major area of improvement is missed tackles. Texas Tech missed 82 tackles in 2013, the third-most in the Big 12 behind Texas (88) and Kansas (85). For comparison’s sake, Baylor (68) and Oklahoma (71), ranked 1-2 in missed tackles.

How to improve in 2014: Working on tackling fundamentals will help, and Tech will need each defender to take pride in his individual tackling prowess. Texas Tech is replacing several starters so the Red Raiders could see more playmakers emerge to help lessen the number of missed tackles.

West Virginia

Key stat in 2013: The Mountaineers’ defense was horrible on third down. WVU allowed opponents to convert an eye-popping 46.6 percent, ranking last in the Big 12 and No. 118 nationally.

How to improve in 2014: Improving its third-down defense has to be a focus for new defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. Shuffling on the defensive staff should help as will the addition of transfer defensive end Shaquille Riddick, who should help improve the pass rush.

Big 12 post-spring breakdown: DL

May, 5, 2014
May 5
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.

Oklahoma State spring wrap

May, 1, 2014
May 1
A recap of what we learned about Oklahoma State this spring as the Cowboys try to replace a senior-laden defense and find a quarterback.

Three things we learned in the spring:

1. Big 12 defensive coordinators aren’t going to like Tyreek Hill. The junior college transfer made a smooth transition into the Oklahoma State program after starring on the track earlier this semester. Hill showed he can be a game-breaking threat as a running back or receiver and should be one of the centerpieces of the offense this fall.

2. J.W. Walsh is the best option at quarterback. True freshman Mason Rudolph stepped on campus with all the accolades and Daxx Garman impressed during spring drills, but Walsh brings veteran maturity and experience to the offensive backfield. His experience was apparent during the spring as he operated the offense like someone who has started eight games during the past two seasons. Coach Mike Gundy says the competition rages on, but Walsh looks like a clear favorite.

3. The Cowboys’ defensive line should be pretty good. Defensive tackle James Castleman, defensive end Jimmy Bean and defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah look as if they could be the foundation of a disruptive defensive front. There are major question marks at linebacker and in the secondary, but the Cowboys defensive line is a great starting point.

Three questions for the fall:

1. Rebuild or reload? The Cowboys have won 50 games in the past five seasons but has Gundy raised the level of this program to simply reload instead of rebuild after losing so many seniors? In addition, a lot of the players who helped build the program are no longer in Stillwater, Okla. Do the new players understand what it will take to win 50 games in the next five seasons at OSU?

2. Will the young Cowboys mature quickly? They had better. If Oklahoma State's young players aren’t ready for the big stage, they are likely to be embarrassed by Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and Florida State in the season opener. Oklahoma State has upgraded its talent in the past five years and features a deeper and more athletic roster, so a loss is not a certainty. But those players will have to show they’ve matured and are ready to produce in order to knock off the reigning national champions.

3. Is Walsh the answer? Walsh is the clear favorite to start the season at quarterback, but is he the long-term answer? He can prove doubters wrong with a strong start to the season. But if he stumbles out of the blocks, he can expect Cowboys fans to start calling for Garman or Rudolph to take over.

One way-too-early prediction:

The Cowboys will have an up-and-down season but will show an competitive nature and resolve after being humbled early in the season. Oklahoma State will finish the 2014 campaign strong, thus setting up the Cowboys to be considered one of the Big 12 favorites in 2015, with several key playmakers returning.

Depth chart analysis: Oklahoma State

April, 30, 2014
Apr 30
Over the next two weeks, we’ll be analyzing the depth charts of every Big 12 team coming out of the spring, continuing Wednesday with Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have yet to release an official depth chart, so this is only a projection:

OFFENSE (projected starters in bold)

QB: J.W. Walsh (Jr.), Daxx Garman (Jr.) OR Mason Rudolph (Fr.)

Walsh lost the job to Clint Chelf last season, but he all but reclaimed it with a steady spring. Coach Mike Gundy said the competition would continue into the fall, but barring injury, it’s only a matter of time before Walsh is named the starter for the opener against Florida State.

[+] EnlargeTyreek Hill
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiExpectations are high for newcomer Tyreek Hill.
RB: Desmond Roland (Sr.) OR Tyreek Hill (Jr.), Rennie Childs (So.)

FB: Jeremy Seaton (Jr.), Teddy Johnson (Sr.)

The Cowboys added what figures to be the favorite to be named preseason Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year in Hill, who was dynamic in the spring despite splitting duties with the track team. With Roland back to grind out yards between the tackles and Hill a threat to go the distance whenever he touches the ball, the Cowboys have the opportunity to create problems for opposing defenses when they play on the field at the same time, which should happen a lot next year. Childs, who rushed for 189 yards as a freshman, adds depth to the position, while Seaton is a solid lead-blocking fullback who can also catch passes out of the backfield.

WR: Jhajuan Seales (So.), C.J. Curry (So.)

WR: Marcell Ateman (So.), Brandon Sheperd (Jr.)

IR: Austin Hays (So.), Ra’Shaad Samples (RFr.)

IR: Blake Webb (So.), David Glidden (Jr.)

TE/FB: Blake Jarwin (So.), Jordan Frazier (Fr.)

From Rashaun Woods to Justin Blackmon, the Cowboys have often had the luxury of a superstar wideout to throw the ball up to. The strength of his group, however, will be in its number. Seales, who had 39 catches as a freshman last season, headlines this unit, but Ateman, Hays, Webb, Glidden and Sheperd have all played in big games before. Hill will also boost this group whenever he moves from running back to the slot. Samples was banged up most of the spring, but he’ll also eventually bring speed to the rotation.

LT: Devin Davis (So.), Brandon Garrett (Sr.), Michael Wilson (So.)

LG: Chris Grisbhy (Sr.), Zachary Hargrove (Jr.)

C: Paul Lewis (So.), Jaxson Salinas (RFr.)

RG: Zac Veatch (So.), Colby Hegwood (Jr.)

RT: Daniel Koenig (Sr.), Zachary Crabtree (RFr.)

The Cowboys have some major questions up front that won’t be answered until the fall. Davis missed all of last year after tearing his ACL in the preseason, and still wasn’t cleared in the spring. Garrett’s leg was broken in the AT&T Cotton Bowl, and he too is still working his way back. On top of that, longtime position coach Joe Wickline is now at Texas. If Davis and Garrett return to 100 percent, Lewis is able to successfully man his new position at center and new offensive line coach Bob Connelly builds on Wickline’s success, the Cowboys could field yet another banner offensive line. Of course, that is a lot of "ifs."


DE: Jimmy Bean (Jr.), Trace Clark (Jr.)

DT: James Castleman (Sr.), Vincent Taylor (RFr.) OR Vili Leveni (RFr.)

DT: Ofa Hautau (Sr.), Ben Hughes (RFr.) OR Eric Davis (So.)

DE: Sam Wren (Sr.), Emmanuel Ogbah (So.)

Even though the Cowboys graduated all-conference tackle Calvin Barnett, this should be the strength of the defense. Castleman is capable of performing at an All-Big 12 level, and Wren, Bean and Ogbah can get to the quarterback. Oklahoma State will be even stronger along the defensive line if former four-star signees Hughes and Taylor emerge in their second years on campus.

MLB: Ryan Simmons (Jr.), Dominic Ramacher (So.) OR Demarcus Sherod (So.)

WLB: Devante Averette (Jr.) OR Kris Catlin (Jr.) OR Seth Jacobs (So.)

Simmons moved inside this spring after flanking All-Big 12 veterans Caleb Lavey and Shaun Lewis last season. Simmons will be the new leader of this unit. The Cowboys also seemed pleased with the development of Averette and Catlin during the spring. Oklahoma State signed a very highly touted linebacking class in February, but chances are, those freshmen won’t be ready to contribute until at least 2015.

NB: D’Nerius Antoine (Jr.) OR Josh Furman (Sr.)

CB: Kevin Peterson (Jr.), Darius Curry (RFr.) OR Taylor Lewis (RFr.)

CB: Ashton Lampkin (Jr.), Miketavius Jones (Jr.)

FS: Jordan Sterns (So.), Larry Stephens (Sr.) OR Jerel Morrow (RFr.)

SS: Deric Robertson (So.), Tre Flowers (RFr.)

Like with so many other teams in the Big 12, Oklahoma State’s secondary is an uncertainty. Peterson, who is one of the top budding cover men in the league, will anchor the group as its lone returning starter. The Cowboys should be in good hands at the other corner with Lampkin, who has appeared in every game his first two years and had a pick-six in Oklahoma State’s “Orange Blitz” scrimmage. Safety is a complete unknown as Robertson and Sterns have little experience. The Cowboys could get some much-needed help from Furman, who transferred in from Michigan during the offseason and will be eligible immediately.
Coach Mike Gundy and Oklahoma State opened up spring practice to the media on Tuesday, with the team holding a lengthy scrimmage that featured several big plays from the offense. Here are five thoughts on the Cowboys after the scrimmage:

1. Daxx Garman is inserting himself into the quarterback competition: QB J.W. Walsh looked like the leader of the offense and has the command of a veteran behind center, making some big plays of his own in the scrimmage. Yet Garman, a walk-on who transferred from Arizona, was the best thrower of the bunch while sharing some snaps with the starters in the scrimmage. He’s proving he can be a solid No. 2 option and make the quarterback competition with Walsh last deep into August no matter how quickly highly regarded freshman quarterback Mason Rudolph, who saw limited action in the scrimmage, develops. Garman has received praise throughout the spring for his ability to throw the ball.

“He can really rotate the ball, really spin it, when it comes out of his hands, it’s different,” offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said of Garman. “It’s not just one throw where he’s able to reach out and do it, he does it when he wants to. Even my wife would look and say, ‘Wow, that dude is really good throwing the football.'"

2. Tyreek Hill is going to create problems for Big 12 defenses: The junior college transfer has made headlines with his track exploits this spring but proved he’s not just a “track guy” during the scrimmage. He took several snaps at running back, showing quickness and big-play ability, including a long touchdown scamper. He should emerge as a playmaker in OSU’s offense as the coaching staff searches for the best ways to utilize him.

“We looked at him some at receiver, and we’ve played him some at tailback," Gundy said. "Hopefully we can fit him into our offense enough to get him the football. He seems to be holding up. If he can figure out what we’re doing based off of the positions we’re playing him at, he should be able to help us because he is really fast.”

[+] EnlargeDaxx Garman
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsWalk-on quarterback Daxx Garman took some first-team reps in the Cowboys' scrimmage.
3. Hill is not the only playmaker: While Hill stood out on offense, several other returning skill players look like playmakers. The Cowboys have a receivers room full of playmakers. Sophomore Jhajuan Seales has All-Big 12 ability -- it’s just a matter of time if he continues to develop -- and Blake Webb made several plays during the scrimmage. Marcell Ateman, C.J. Curry and Austin Hays are among several potential options at the receiver spot, and OSU could go three deep at running back with Hill, Rennie Childs and Desmond Roland, who is sitting out the spring with an injury. Finding playmakers won’t be a problem for Yurcich.

4. None of it will matter if the offensive line doesn’t come around: New offensive line coach Bob Connelly has a tough task ahead putting together a quality offensive line that will allow those playmakers can make big plays. Injuries and attrition made it impossible to evaluate the offensive line during Tuesday’s scrimmage because OSU is down in numbers and without projected starter Devin Davis. Yet the offensive line did win enough battles on Tuesday for Hill and Webb to star, so all is not lost up front for the Cowboys.

5. The defensive line will be the foundation of any success: The Cowboys defensive line is the deepest unit on that side of the ball. The Cowboys should have depth and a solid foundation with their defensive front. Defensive tackle James Castleman will be a solid anchor in the middle and defensive ends Jimmy Bean and Emmanuel Ogbah are talented. OSU is young and inexperienced at linebacker and safety so expect it to lean on an active defensive line to help mask some of the inexperience in the defensive backfield and linebacking corps.