Dallas Colleges: Jake Knott

Catching up with the Big 12 free agents

April, 29, 2013
More than 250 players were drafted over the weekend, but not everyone who plans on playing in the NFL made it happen.

Minicamps aren't far away, but players can sign with teams as soon as the draft ends. Many did over the weekend. Here's a look at the Big 12's notable signings.
A few thoughts:
  • Collin Klein is the obvious headliner on this list, and I'm torn on him. On the one hand, there's nothing like playing quarterback, and that's the position he wants to play and loves to play. On the other, he hasn't looked like an NFL passer at any point in his career, and he did his future career a disservice by not letting scouts get a look at him at receiver or tight end. He's a big body and an athletic, tough guy. If he wants to play quarterback and only quarterback, then fine. That's up to him. If he really is open to doing something else at the next level, he should have done more work at other positions. I don't see him making an NFL roster as a quarterback.
  • Safeties Tony Jefferson and Cody Davis should definitely make their respective rosters, however, and I'll be intrigued to see what Jefferson looks like and says once he's in camp. He sounded pretty salty on Twitter over the weekend. "I can't even attempt to express how I feel right now. Y'all really don't know how hurt/confused I am!" he tweeted. "Y'all don't even understand the fire inside of me man." Him going undrafted was definitely the most shocking Big 12 development of the draft for me, but he'll have a whole lot of motivation and a lot to prove.
  • I have to think Jake Knott would have gotten drafted if not for his shoulder surgery and being limited in workouts for NFL teams. He makes his name on his smarts, instincts and toughness because he lacks speed and a ton of agility, but being banged up and not testing well certainly didn't bode well for him in the immediate future. Mildly surprised that somebody didn't start drooling over his game tape and take a shot on him in the sixth or seventh round.
  • First guy in this group to get paid big soon? My money is on Quinn Sharp, the do-everything special teamer.
  • Very surprised to see Darrin Moore and Meshak Williams go unsigned so far. Moore is physically gifted, but lacked production and didn't make a team fall in love with him. Williams, though? I get that he's not exactly ideal size, but for his effort and production, how does some team not at least bring him into minicamp? That's just insane.
  • Watching the Big 12 quarterbacks is always interesting. Doege didn't have great arm strength, but had solid accuracy. Crist had the big arm, but his decision-making and accuracy were lacking. We'll see if either of those guys can make a splash with a fresh start in a new spot.
  • One final thought: If I have to hear the phrase "chip on their shoulder" another time in the next week, I'm going to lose it. For the record, if you really did have one, I'm fairly certain that's something that would require surgery.

Looking ahead to Big 12 pro day schedule

February, 28, 2013
The NFL scouting combine has come and gone, but there are still plenty of workouts left on the table and guys who can make a name for themselves in the next month and end up getting drafted.

UT safety Kenny Vaccaro joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss reports that he wants to be a Cowboy, the emergence of A&M as the class of college football in Texas, what he brings to an NFL team and his friendship with TCU quarterback Casey Pachall.

Listen Listen
Campus pro days will kick off in March, and here's when the Big 12's teams will be holding theirs, according to NFL.com.

Baylor - March 20

Iowa State - March 26
  • You'll be able to get a look at A.J. Klein and Jake Knott here for sure. Klein missed a few workouts this week after suffering a knee injury, and Knott is still waiting for his shoulder to heal up from surgery. Both should be on display at this workout.
Kansas - March 15

Kansas State - March 12
  • An injury kept Arthur Brown from recording a 40 time and doing a handful of other workouts, so expect a whole lot of NFL teams to show up in Manhattan for this one. We'll see if Collin Klein sticks with his plan to stay at quarterback or does some other position work at pro day, too. I'm betting on the former, but you never know. This is probably the most interesting pro day of any in the Big 12.
Oklahoma - March 13
  • Kenny Stills was blazing and did a nice job on the bench press at the combine, so expect him to take a seat for much of Oklahoma's pro day, but we'll see what Landry Jones has to offer, too.
Oklahoma State - March 12
  • Not a ton of intrigue in Stillwater, but I'm interested in seeing if Joseph Randle can improve on a poor 40 time at the combine. He tallied a 4.63 40 time in Indianapolis. He doesn't have breakneck speed, but that seems about a tenth of a second slow for him. Something in the 4.55 range would help him out. He can get there. Randle should also do some position work and the bench press after sitting out following thumb surgery at the end of the season.
Texas - March 26
  • Marquise Goodwin did some major damage at the combine with the fastest 40 time of anyone in attendance, but his position-specific work could talk more scouts into him and improve his stock. He's got to show a better ability to track the ball and haul it in.
TCU - March 8

Texas Tech - March 6

West Virginia - March 14
  • Not a ton to see here. Geno Smith sounds like he was the best of the QBs at the combine, but USC's pro day when Matt Barkley throws may have more impact on Smith's stock. Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey are who we thought they were after a strong combine.

Just missed: 2012's best individual games

February, 27, 2013
We wrapped up our countdown of the Big 12's best individual games of 2012 earlier this week, but just like our top 25 players, let's take a look at a few games that just missed the list, in no particular order.

Baylor LB Bryce Hager vs. Kansas State: Hager was everywhere for Baylor's defense in the Bears' breakout game. Every snap it seemed like he was in Collin Klein's face, even though a lot of his play didn't show up in the stat sheet. He made 10 tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack. He's on this list for his disruption, though. He's a huge reason why K-State's offense had its worst outing of the year in this game.

Texas Tech QB Seth Doege vs. TCU: Doege was on the money against the Big 12's best defense, throwing for 318 yards and seven touchdowns on 30-of-42 passing, helping the Red Raiders knock off the Frogs, 56-53, in triple overtime. His toss to Alex Torres won the game, but he was on the money in the three overtimes, and helped Tech score 15 more points on TCU than any team this season.

Baylor QB Nick Florence vs. West Virginia: Florence is yet another strong performance in a legendary Big 12 debut from West Virginia. It was in a losing effort, but you can't just shrug at 581 passing yards and five touchdowns on 29-of-47 passing yards.

Kansas State CB Allen Chapman vs. Oklahoma State: Chapman was one of three K-State defenders to log five interceptions last season, but he nabbed three of them in a 44-30 win over Oklahoma State. Better yet, he returned one off of Wes Lunt 29 yards for a touchdown. He also had two pass breakups in the game, along with five tackles.

Baylor LB Eddie Lackey vs. Texas Tech: I love guys with a knack for big plays, and Lackey showed the potential in a huge spot for the Bears. Lackey made just five tackles, but he gave Baylor its first lead of the game on a 55-yard interception returned for a touchdown in the eventual shootout win in Cowboys Stadium. He hopped on a fumble in the red zone earlier in the game and ended Tech's comeback attempt by sealing the game with a second interception off Doege.

Iowa State LB Jake Knott vs. Baylor: This game goes on the list because of the pure guts from Knott, and performance in a tough spot. It doesn't hurt that the win over the Bears all but clinched a bowl berth for the Cyclones. Knott knew it would be the last game of his career, and he badly needed shoulder surgery, but he convinced trainers to let him suit up one last time. He made 11 stops and forced a fumble while Iowa State's defense stymied Baylor's offense, holding the Bears to just 21 points. When I think back on Knott's career, this game might be the one I remember most.

Big 12 combine storylines to watch

February, 22, 2013
The NFL scouting combine is underway, with the first set of physical workouts to begin today. You can see the full schedule here.

A few things you can watch for from the Big 12's talents this week:

Who's the No. 1 quarterback? USC's Matt Barkley isn't throwing at the combine workouts, but West Virginia's Geno Smith surprised some by announcing that he planned to give it a try. If he performs well, he could definitely ascend to the No. 1 spot. He's already close behind Barkley, but his combine performance will have an impact. But in the new NFL where mobile quarterbacks are en vogue, Smith's versatility that WVU didn't use could come into play. He'll put up some very interesting measurables, and his accuracy will show up if he calms his nerves. If not, NC State's Mike Glennon or Arkansas' Tyler Wilson could jump over him in the pecking order.

What about the No. 1 receiver? Baylor's Terrance Williams will be in the house and so will West Virginia's Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson is widely accepted as the top prospect, but could any of the Big 12's heavyweights make some noise with solid workouts and fight their way into first-round status?

Fixed up, but not quite ready to go. Jake Knott is still healing from his shoulder surgery this fall, but TCU's Stansly Maponga and Matthew Tucker should be all healed up from nagging ankle injuries. Knott won't be able to fully work out, but he'll do well in the interview process and was one of the most respected players in the league. It'll be interesting to see what NFL folk have to say about him after this week, despite not being able to see him work out.

Klein catching anyone's eyes (or their passes)? Collin Klein's Senior Bowl snub had fans around the Big 12 fired up and wondering how the Heisman third-place finisher could be left out of the premier postseason exhibition for scouts, but he doesn't quite fit the NFL mold. He's been working with former Denver Bronco Jake Plummer over the past few weeks, though he struggled in his one postseason all-star game experience. Could he build some buzz this week, either at quarterback or another position (receiver, tight end?) and convince an NFL team to fall for him? He'll knock his interviews out of the park.

Fastest man in the building. Could Austin take home the title? What about Marquise Goodwin? We may finally get some answers about who truly is the fastest man in the Big 12, and perhaps all of college football. The combine tells all, and the 40 times are always reliable. Seeing what those two put on the board will be interesting. How close to 4.3 could we see?

Time is money. Tony Jefferson has big-time instincts and plays physically, but he could help himself out in a big way by posting a great 40 time. His straight-line speed is his biggest knock, but he's spent the last month or so working out, and we'll see how much his work has paid off. Some of that speed work is so specifically tailored to 40 times that sometimes it doesn't show up on the field, but silliness aside, Jefferson has a ton to gain in that workout.

Big moving day? Every year somebody wows at the combine and ascends from out of nowhere to becoming a consensus first-round pick. Call it silly if you'd like, but that's the truth. Could any Big 12 talents be that guy this year? Keep an eye out. The Big 12 is likely to be shut out of the top 10 and may only have two to four first-round picks. That could change this week. Here's a few guys who might make that happen.

Postseason position ranking: Linebackers

February, 15, 2013
We'll continue looking at the best at positions across the Big 12 today with the men in the middle of the defense: the linebackers. There's a lot of strength at this position, especially at the top. Let's get to it.

Here's what we've covered so far:
[+] EnlargeBrown
Scott Sewell/US PresswireArthur Brown is ranked the fifth-best outside linebacker prospect in this year's NFL draft by ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.
1. Arthur Brown, Kansas State: Brown is probably the most instinctive guy on the list, and can make plays from one side of the field to the other that no other linebacker in the league can. He's a star, and he'll be fun to watch at the next level. He made 100 tackles and seven tackles for loss with a pair of interceptions and a touchdown.

2. A.J. Klein, Iowa State: Klein didn't repeat as the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year, but he finished third in the league with 117 tackles. The 248-pounder plays physically and has been one of the Big 12's best linebackers for three seasons. He picked off one pass this season and returned it 87 yards for a touchdown against Texas Tech.

3. Jake Knott, Iowa State: Knott and Klein have been the Big 12's best linebacker duo in each of the past two seasons, though Knott missed the last five games of the season. He had double-digit stops in each of his last four games and closed with a win over Baylor. He finished with 79 tackles, despite missing the end of the year after undergoing shoulder surgery.

4. Kenny Cain, TCU: Cain helped TCU put together the Big 12's best defense and made 86 tackles with 5.5 tackles for loss and a pair of picks. TCU's linebacking corps was depleted by off-the-field issues before the season, but Cain was a constant for the Frogs.

5. Bryce Hager, Baylor: Hager made a big debut with 14 tackles in a blowout win over SMU. He rallied with a strong finish and played his best ball throughout Baylor's four-game winning streak to close the season. He was all over the place and made 10 stops in the upset win over Kansas State. He finished the year with 124 tackles to lead the Big 12.

6. Shaun Lewis, Oklahoma State: Lewis hasn't quite ascended to stardom like it seemed he would after winning Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors in 2010, but he's been solid for the Cowboys. He made 58 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss with four pass breakups and a forced fumble.

7. Ben Heeney, Kansas: Heeney was a bright spot for KU's struggling defense in 2012, making 112 tackles and 12 tackles for loss for the Jayhawks, who had just 50 in all of 2013. He's has a ton of speed and could blossom under Dave Campo's leadership next season.

8. Eddie Lackey, Baylor: Lackey made waves by winning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week in the final two weeks of the regular season, thanks to returning a pair of picks for touchdowns. He finished with four on the year, but he was fifth in the league with 104 tackles and made a big impact after transferring from junior college.

9. Jarell Childs, Kansas State: Childs had to play a bigger role for the Wildcats after Tre Walker went down with a knee injury, and he impressed his teammates with the additional responsibility. The Kansas City native and converted running back made 66 tackles and returned a fumble for a touchdown, adding 4.5 tackles for loss.

10. Terence Garvin, West Virginia: Garvin, who missed the spring with a knee injury, played well for the Big 12's worst defense out in Morgantown. He bounced back and made 83 tackles with 11.5 tackles for loss in his third year as a starter.

Thirty Big 12 players off to NFL combine

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

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

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

Looking back on the 100-tackle defenders

January, 24, 2013
Defensive numbers are always harder to project than offensive numbers, because they're so dependent on other teams' schemes. Still, let's take a look back at the most likely players to top 100 tackles before the season, and how they did this season.

The Big 12 had nine players with 100 tackles this season. There were 89 players in FBS with at least 100 tackles. Let's have a look at projections vs. reality.

1. Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State: Knott was on track to hit 100, but a shoulder injury ended his career four games early. He was stuck on 79 tackles to end the season after nine games, capped by a home win over Baylor.

2. A.J. Klein, LB, Iowa State: Klein was third in the Big 12 with 117 tackles, closing strong with 33 tackles in his final two games. After Knott's injury, Klein had six or fewer tackles in three consecutive games, but the strong finish helped him easily clear the 100-tackle threshold.

3. Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State: Brown made nine tackles in K-State's loss to Oregon to hit the 100-tackle mark on the number and finish ninth in the Big 12 in tackles.

4. Jordan Hicks, LB, Texas: Hicks got off to a great start, making 20 tackles in Texas' first two games, but a hip injury ended his season early against Mississippi in the third game of the season. He earned a medical redshirt and will still be a sophomore next season.

5. Mike Hicks, S, Baylor: Baylor's linebackers shouldered the load for tackles this year and were much stronger up front. Hicks needed just 67 tackles this season.

6. Alex Elkins, LB, Oklahoma State: Elkins was Oklahoma State's leading tackler, but finished the season with just 75 tackles. In four of his last five games, he had five or fewer tackles.

Here are the guys we overlooked:

Bryce Hager, LB, Baylor: Hager came out of nowhere to lead the Big 12 with 124 tackles. He made just 13 tackles in 2011.

Tony Jefferson, S, Oklahoma: Oklahoma's scheme change under Mike Stoops funneled a whole lot more tackles Jefferson's way, and he was there to make the plays. He had just 74 tackles in 2011, but racked up 119 this season to finish second in the Big 12.

Ben Heeney, LB, Kansas: Heeney made a rousing eight tackles in 2011, but emerged as a playmaker this season to finish fourth in the Big 12 with 112 tackles.

Eddie Lackey, LB, Baylor: The juco transfer became Baylor's biggest big-play threat on defense late in the season with a pair of pick-sixes, but he also made 104 tackles.

Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia: The true freshman became WVU's defense's biggest playmaker, racking up takeaways but making 102 tackles.

Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor: Baylor had two safeties make 100 tackles last year, but Dixon was the only one this year. It's hard to believe Baylor had three 100-tackle defenders this year, though. Dixon had 102.

Cody Davis, S, Texas Tech: Davis is the least surprising player who I didn't project for 100 tackles. He's been a huge part of Tech's defense, and nearly topped 100 stops in 2011. This year, he made 101 as a senior four-year starter.

Early Big 12/SEC power rankings for 2013

January, 8, 2013
The season is done, but ask any coach and he'll tell you the 2013 season already has begun. That's true on this blog, too. So, how would I slot the Big 12 heading into the fall? With a month before national signing day and a couple of months before spring football kicks into high gear, here's my first crack at slotting the conference.

To me, it looks as if we have four legitimate contenders for the conference title and three possible dark horses. We'll see how the latter three develop, but I'm sold on the top four as teams that could realistically win the league next season.

1. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys will be loaded, and that's especially true if running back Joseph Randle comes back. Cornerback Justin Gilbert is returning, but we saw this season that they can win with any one of their three quarterbacks. That's a recipe for success in this league. The defense was a bit streaky; this season was the first under defensive coordinator Bill Young that the Cowboys didn't finish in the top 15 in turnovers forced. If they can get back to forcing turnovers in bunches next season, another Big 12 title could be headed to Stillwater.

2. TCU: The Frogs are growing up fast, but their spot here is assuming that quarterback Casey Pachall will be back on the field this spring to reclaim his job. The defense looks likely to be the best in the Big 12, and as much offense as this league has, you can't win it without a solid defense. TCU's offense will win it some games; its defense might win it a Big 12 title. Look out for Devonte Fields' encore.

3. Oklahoma: The Sooners look like they may lack a true star on next season's team, but they are still solid across the two-deep and will be good enough to be in the mix for a title even without quarterback Landry Jones. A wealth of losses on the defensive end is a bigger concern, but receivers Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard also will have to navigate a transition to a new QB after three-plus years with Jones. The Sooners ought to feature fullback Trey Millard a bit more in the offense next year.

4. Texas: Believe it or not, but David Ash is the Big 12's most experienced passer. Can he look the part on the field? We'll see, but the biggest problem for Texas is continuing its defensive improvements. Jackson Jeffcoat could be back, and Jordan Hicks will be one of the league's biggest talents if he is able to recover from a hip injury. The time is now if the Longhorns' trio of backs are going to mature into true impact players.

5. Baylor: I'm a believer in the late-season run for these guys translating to 2013. The defense made big strides, and we'll see if those continue, but the offense will be fine. I buy Bryce Petty as a big talent and the next in the long line of Art Briles' quarterback disciples. Lache Seastrunk will help him out early, too. Don't be surprised if he surpasses Randle next year as the Big 12's best back.

6. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders are a huge wild card and might have the biggest upside of any team in the bottom half of these rankings. Michael Brewer is a promising QB, and he now has Kliff Kingsbury -- the former Texas A&M offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach who helped the Aggies far surpass expectations -- as his new head coach. Could Tech do the same? The Red Raiders have tons of talent on both sides of the ball, thanks to a couple of great recruiting classes from Tommy Tuberville (who left to become the coach at Cincinnati).

7. Kansas State: No Collin Klein and Arthur Brown? You know about that, but there's no Chris Harper, Travis Tannahill, Braden Wilson, and the entire defensive line is gone, including star DE Meshak Williams. Both starting cornerbacks are gone, too. Point is, K-State's probably a bowl team next season, but to come back from that mountain of losses and be in the top half of the Big 12 is going to be a tall, tall task.

8. West Virginia: The Mountaineers' trio of wide receivers Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin and quarterback Geno Smith was outstanding this year. Not much else in Morgantown was. All three are gone, and that team only went 7-5. Coordinator Keith Patterson has got to fix this defense in the spring and apply some lessons learned in a disappointing Year 1 in the Big 12. The QB derby between Paul Millard and Ford Childress should be interesting.

9. Iowa State: Sam Richardson was severely ill while playing in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, but he still didn't inspire a lot of confidence in the future of the QB spot in Ames, despite a strong finish to the season. With linebacking pillars A.J. Klein and Jake Knott both headed to the NFL, the odds once again will be against Iowa State winning six games and getting to a bowl. Without consistency at the quarterback spot, it's going to be tough, especially with the defense likely to take a step back.

10. Kansas: Gotta prove something before the Jayhawks move out of the basement. Charlie Weis is bringing in tons of juco talent, but after the Dayne Crist experiment didn't work, BYU transfer Jake Heaps simply must be better for KU to begin its climb back to the postseason.


2. Texas A&M:
The Aggies might have been the hottest team in the country at the end of the 2012 season. Maybe defenses will have a little better handle on Johnny Manziel the second time around, but Johnny Football will have a little better handle on defenses, too. If offensive tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews return for their senior seasons, look out. Losing Damontre Moore on defense will hurt, but the Aggies like their young talent.

Preseason All-Big 12 checkup: Defense

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

Here's who made the postseason team.

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

DL: Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas

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

DL: Stansly Maponga, TCU

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

DL: Alex Okafor, Texas

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

DL: Meshak Williams, Kansas State

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

LB: A.J. Klein, Iowa State

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

LB: Arthur Brown, Kansas State

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

LB: Jake Knott, Iowa State

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

CB: Carrington Byndom, Texas

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

CB: Brodrick Brown, Oklahoma State

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

S: Kenny Vaccaro, Texas

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

S: Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma

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

Passing out some Big 12 Christmas gifts

December, 24, 2012
Christmas is only a few hours away, but I hope you've been shopping for your favorite folks across the league. Here's a wish list for a handful of folks across the Big 12.

Charlie Weis: A quarterback. Kansas made some big upgrades to its team via the juco ranks, but this is the Big 12. None of it will matter much if BYU transfer Jake Heaps doesn't pan out and become the player Weis hoped he would be when he brought him to Lawrence. Maybe Michael Cummings makes life interesting, but Heaps has heaps of starting experience, and if KU is going to get any better, it has to be much, much better at the quarterback spot after the Dayne Crist Experiment turned out to be a bust.

Oklahoma State fans: Forgiveness and selective memory. Yes, Oklahoma State fans, Mike Gundy disagreed with AD Mike Holder on scheduling philosophy and flirted with Tennessee and Arkansas to the point that some erroneous reports had him accepting the job as the new head Hog. Yes, he almost ruined a hugely beneficial relationship on both sides, but in the process, he damaged it some. Don't hold it against him. He says he gets along with Holder on "95 percent" of what they talk about as it relates to Oklahoma State. OSU gave him opportunities he wouldn't have gotten elsewhere, like becoming a position coach at 23 years old, and becoming a head coach at 36. He provided the program something no other coach could in a long, long time: An outright conference title. Focus on that, not on the aggravations of the offseason.

Kansas State's defense: Rocket-powered roller skates. This Oregon offense is no joke, and they've got backs faster and more talented than anything Kansas State has seen all season in the Big 12. De'Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner are going to be a handful, and quarterback Marcus Mariota has wheels of his own. Kansas State's defense might need a little help keeping up.

Oklahoma's defense: A dash of extra self-discipline. Speaking of keeping up, Oklahoma better subscribe to the LSU and Florida School of Johnny Football Defense. That is to say, keep contain and make him throw to beat you. If he gets loose in the secondary, it's going to be a long, long day for the Sooners. Keep him under wraps and in the pocket, and the Sooners will have a great shot to force a few turnovers (something they've struggled to do all season) and get a big win for the Big 12.

Iowa State linebacker Jake Knott: A hug. Shoulder surgery ended his career early, but everybody in the Big 12 respects what Knott did over his fantastic career. His leadership and toughness are rivaled by few to ever play in this league. He'll have to be in Memphis watching his fellow seniors close out their careers on the field. That's not easy to watch. Give him a hug and a pat on the back on the way to the NFL Combine. Best of luck, Jake.

Texas Tech fans: A chill pill. Excitement is through the roof in Lubbock, and Tech fans are dreaming of titles as season tickets fly out the door and fans celebrate Kliff Kingsbury's hire in the streets. Give the man time, though, and don't expect him to start racking up Big 12 titles right away. Maybe he will. I'm not saying he won't. I'm just saying the relationship between Kingsbury and Tech has a chance to be really, really special. He's still young, and still going to be learning how to run an entire program where he's making all the decisions. Give him time if it starts out rough, and don't force upon him crazy expectations.

West Virginia: Some new enemies. The poor Mountaineers didn't really find anybody to hate in their first season in the Big 12. TCU rekindled their old Southwest Conference ready-made rivalries with Texas and Texas Tech and Baylor, but the Mountaineers might get a little something going eventually with Tech (John Denver Bowl), Oklahoma State (Dana Holgorsen Bowl) or others. It doesn't help when you're getting stomped by both, and beaten by a bunch of others. For now, they'll have to settle with facing old friend from the Big East, Syracuse, in the Pinstripe Bowl.

TCU's young talents: Earplugs. The Frogs are very young and very, very promising. Over the next eight months, prepare to hear a whole lot about how good the Frogs will be, especially if Casey Pachall shows up in spring camp with his same old arm and a new way of seeing life. The freshmen and sophomore-heavy crew can't listen to it, though. That's the surest way to make it nothing more than hype.

Texas: No more Heisman mistakes in Texas. I really do feel bad for Texas. They recruit by selecting more than recruiting, and a whole lot of guys are going to be left wanting to go to Texas but not going to Texas. Offering guys like RG3 and Manziel to play defensive back while Case McCoy and David Ash hold down the quarterback spot at Texas? It's not a good look for the Longhorns. Some better quarterback evaluations are necessary, but there are a lot of good quarterbacks in the state and not all of them can go to Texas. The Longhorns would love it if guys who don't end up at Texas would stop winning Heismans.

The Big 12's Super Seniors of 2012

December, 20, 2012
This week, we're taking a look at guys who have invested four or five years into their respective programs, and earned a spot as one of the greats after providing some big-time senior leadership.

[+] EnlargeNick Florence
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesNick Florence has stepped up when called upon during his career at Baylor.
Nick Florence, QB, Baylor: Florence is a great story of what college football is all about. When Baylor needed him, he stepped in and was ready to play as a true freshman in 2009 when Robert Griffin III tore his ACL. Then, when Griffin went down in 2011 with a concussion, Florence stepped in and tossed two long touchdown passes to help beat Texas Tech and preserve a 10-win season and a Heisman Trophy for RG III. With that game, though, he sacrificed his redshirt. Did he complain once? Nope. He gave it up when his team needed it, and this year he was honored as a member of the NFF Scholar-Athlete class, nominated for the Campbell Trophy, commonly known as the Academic Heisman.

Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State: Knott's got my nod as the toughest player in the entire Big 12, but a serious shoulder injury that required surgery finally kept him off the field. He's been a three-year starter for the Cyclones, but even opponents recognized the kind of player and teammate he was. Texas coach Mack Brown sent a personalized letter to Knott after his season ended. Knott broke his arm in spring practice and less than 24 hours later was back on the practice field encouraging his teammates. He's the same guy who dislocated his shoulder three times against Baylor last year and had a career game anyway. This year, he knew his shoulder needed surgery, but suited up one last time at home and helped beat the Bears and end his career in the right way.

Tanner Hawkinson, OL, Kansas: Hawkinson's seen a lot in his four years at KU. He's been under three different coaches and never got to play in a bowl game, but he's still remained one of the most consistent talents in the Big 12 and may have an NFL future to show for it. He started a school-record 48 games in four years along the Jayhawks' offensive line, and even helped recruit quarterback Dayne Crist to transfer to KU this year. More players like Hawkinson will help KU get back into Big 12 respectability and the postseason.

Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State: What else is there to say about Klein? He's put K-State on his back the past two seasons and helped Kansas State win its first Big 12 title since 2003 and notch 21 wins in two seasons. This year, he'll get to finish his career in the Fiesta Bowl against Oregon, and a win would basically seal the deal for the 2012 team as the greatest in Kansas State history. Klein began his career with a position move to receiver, earned spot duty alongside Carson Coffman in 2010, but showed he was more than ready to lead the team in 2011. He was better than anyone could have ever guessed, and his leadership on and off the field endeared himself to his teammates.

Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma: Jones' career began with a panic. A 2009 season began with national championship aspirations and a returning Heisman winner at quarterback in Sam Bradford. Jones was supposed to be in the background with a clipboard and a headset, learning from Bradford. Before halftime of the season opener at Cowboys Stadium, a banged-up Bradford led Jones right to center stage. He didn't win that game, but he's won a whole bunch since, including a pair of Big 12 titles. He's had up and downs in his career and made his share of mistakes on the field, but he'll leave the Sooners as a guy who matured greatly over his final three years and likely will have thrown for more passing yards than all but two quarterbacks in the history of FBS football.

Keep an eye out for Part II later this week.

Grading preseason fearless predictions for Big 12

December, 18, 2012
Every season, we take 10 big swings before the games begin. Sometimes we connect. Sometimes we miss. Either way, we're out on a limb. Sometimes is snaps. Sometimes it doesn't. Let's take a look at how this year's fearless predictions looked.

Want to check how I've done in the past? Here are my grades for the past two seasons: 1. Landry Jones' interception total will be in the single digits. Jones had 41 career interceptions in three seasons and had never thrown fewer than 12 in a season. He got off to a good start, but threw six interceptions in his final five games to reach 10 before the bowl game. Result: Miss, but just barely.


How would you grade David Ubben's fearless predictions?


Discuss (Total votes: 3,052)

2. Wes Lunt will throw for 4,000 yards. Curse the luck. Lunt suffered injuries to his head and knee and was in and out of the lineup all season. He threw for 1,096 yards, which was third-most on his team. Crazy. The most concerning stat: He had seven interceptions to just six scores. Result: Thanks a lot, injuries.

3. David Ash will start 13 games for Texas. He rotated with Case McCoy last season, and got benched twice this season, but the second benching was due to a rib injury that's left his status for the bowl game up in the air a bit, too. Either way, this prediction crashed and burned in the final game of the season when McCoy made his first start against K-State with Ash's ribs banged up. Do I deserve partial credit for Ash not getting the hook for a complete game? Result: Close, but not close enough.

4. Trey Metoyer will lead Oklahoma in receiving. Probably the biggest whiff of the bunch here. Landry Jones locked in on transfers Justin Brown and Jalen Saunders, but returning star Kenny Stills led the team with 897 yards. I bought into the Metoyer hype, but he finished seventh on the team, behind even running back Damien Williams. Result: Not even close, bro.

5. Texas Tech will play Baylor for a chance to play in a bowl game. My intention with this prediction is that Texas Tech and Baylor would meet and both would have five wins. Baylor held up their end of the deal, but Texas Tech already had seven wins before the Baylor loss. Result: Half right, I suppose. I picked Baylor to win it, too. They did.

6. West Virginia will lose to an unranked team. I bought into the WVU hype to some extent, but I figured the Mountaineers would lose a game no one expected. That's been an unfortunate hallmark of the program for some time, now. WVU proved me right again and again, losing three games to ranked teams, including their first loss of the season as the nation's No. 5 team. Result: On the money ... and then some.

7. TCU will reach the top five and then fall out of the top 20. I saw a big start for TCU, picking the Frogs to start 7-0 before losing four of their last five games. TCU fell out of the top 20 pretty quick, but never rose higher than No. 13 in the polls. Result: Almost doesn't count.

8. Kansas will win a conference game, and Baylor will qualify for a third consecutive bowl game. Oh, KU. My faith was misplaced. This is a pretty historic losing streak that now reaches 21 games in Big 12 play. I didn't really have much doubt that Baylor would reach a bowl early in the season, but that 0-4 start in Big 12 play made me sweat it out. Result: Half right, but KU nearly made me completely right against Texas and Texas Tech.

9. Iowa State's Jake Knott and A.J. Klein will rank first and second in the Big 12 in total tackles. Knott suffered a shoulder injury late in the season, firing a pretty serious torpedo at this prediction. Klein was fifth in the league with 98 tackles. His production slowed considerably after moving positions following Knott's injury. Result: You're no fun, injuries.

10. Kansas State will finish in the Big 12's top two in rushing offense. This looked like a slam dunk until Collin Klein's head injury and some awful games against TCU and Baylor. The Wildcats slipped all the way to fourth in the Big 12, behind even 1-11 KU. Result: Makin' me look bad, y'all.

Not exactly a banner year for my bold predictions. The only possible takeaway from this? I don't know anything about anything. Vote in our poll and grade my predictions.

Who had the Big 12's best defense?

December, 12, 2012
This wasn't much of a debate in the preseason. Texas looked loaded. The Longhorns reeled in 61 percent of the fan vote as the Big 12's best defense.


Who had the Big 12's best defense in 2012?


Discuss (Total votes: 5,713)

They finished fifth in the Big 12 and ranked dead last in rushing defense after four consecutive seasons atop the Big 12 total defense ranking. They won't be in this poll. Neither will Texas Tech, who undid a solid start by giving up an average of 39 points a game in Big 12 play. So, who had the Big 12's best defense? Vote in our poll.


TCU joined the Big 12 and its defense was ready, despite tons of personnel losses and lots of youth all over the field. Credit Gary Patterson for proving his prowess as a defensive mastermind. Cornerback Jason Verrett was one of the Big 12's best, and the media crowned DE Devonte Fields the league's Defensive Player of the Year. The Frogs led the league in total defense and forced 32 turnovers, tied with K-State for the Big 12 lead.


K-State made its money with those 32 turnovers, finishing third in the league in total defense. Also, the Wildcats led the league by a full two points in scoring defense in the full season, and led the league by more than three points a game in scoring defense in conference play. Arthur Brown is an All-American and the coaches' Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. K-State was third in the league in yards per play.


Oklahoma forced just 15 turnovers, second-fewest in the Big 12, but still finished fourth in the league in total defense and behind only K-State and TCU in total defense in league play. In conference play, Oklahoma gave up fewer than 27 points a game, second in the Big 12. That's not easy to do, especially without turnovers. OU didn't have the defensive standouts up front they've had on other teams, but CB Aaron Colvin and S Tony Jefferson are two of the Big 12's best, boosted by the arrival of new DC Mike Stoops.


OSU only ranked sixth in the league in total defense, but was second in the league in yards per play, and only gave up 30 points a game in Big 12 play to rank fifth, despite forcing just 17 turnovers, third-fewest in the Big 12. The defense didn't make the big plays it did a year ago, but this unit might have still been better than last year's D.


The Cyclones lost Jake Knott late in the season, but gave up just 27 points a game in league play, good for third. Iowa State was just seventh in total defense, but teammate A.J. Klein led the team with 98 stops. Jeremiah George stepped in and helped in Knott's absense, but safety Durrell Givens was a breakout star for the Cyclones, forcing four fumbles and picking off three passes.

ESPN.com's 2012 All-Big 12 team

December, 10, 2012
Congrats to all these guys for turning in fantastic seasons. Naturally, there will be some snubs and some things that need to be explained. Check the blog later today for more thoughts.

Without further ado, here's the All-Big 12 team from ESPN.com.


QB: Collin Klein, Kansas State
RB: Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State
RB: James Sims, Kansas
FB: Trey Millard, Oklahoma
WR: Stedman Bailey, West Virginia
WR: Terrance Williams, Baylor
WR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia
TE: Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
OL: Cyril Richardson, Baylor
OL: Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
C: Joe Madsen, West Virginia
OL: Lane Taylor, Oklahoma State
OL: LaAdrian Waddle, Texas Tech


DL: Devonte Fields, TCU
DL: Meshak Williams, Kansas State
DL: Calvin Barnett, Oklahoma State
DL: Alex Okafor, Texas
LB: A.J. Klein, Iowa State
LB: Arthur Brown, Kansas State
LB: Jake Knott, Iowa State
CB: Jason Verrett, TCU
CB: Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma
S: Ty Zimmerman, Kansas State
S: Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma


PK: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
KR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
PR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia

Honorable mention: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia; Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma; Anthony Cantele, K, Kansas State; Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas; Justin Brown, PR, Oklahoma; Tanner Hawkinson, OL, Kansas; Jake McDonough, DL, Iowa State; Lane Johnson, OL, Oklahoma; John Hubert, RB, Kansas State; Travis Tannahill, TE, Kansas State; Durrell Givens, S, Iowa State; Cody Davis, S, Texas Tech

Big 12 did you know: Week 12

November, 16, 2012
We're back again with facts and tidbits from our ESPN Stats & Information team and various sports information departments around the Big 12.

We love you. You make your readers the smartest folk at their tailgates.

Let's get to it!

Did you know ...
  • Since the end of the 2003 season, Big 12 teams have been No. 1 in the BCS on eight occasions, including K-State this week.
  • Those teams are just 2-5 in their next game.
  • One of those teams (Texas, Oct. 23, 2005) won its next game and still fell out of the No. 1 spot.
  • Saturday will be one day short of the one-year anniversary of Iowa State's upset of No. 2 Oklahoma State, a loss that knocked the Cowboys out of the BCS title game.
  • Kansas State leads the nation in average starting field position, at their own 41. K-State opponents average at their own 27. That plus-14 differential is 5 yards greater than any team in the country.
  • Collin Klein accounts for 65.7 percent of his team's yardage. Last year, Robert Griffin III accounted for 65.6 for Baylor.
  • Klein also accounts for 66 percent of his team's touchdowns. RG3 accounted for 61 percent.
  • Baylor had 24 turnovers as a team, and 11 by RG3 last year. Kansas State has six turnovers, and three by Klein.
  • Klein completed 44 percent of his throws longer than 20 yards last year for four touchdowns and two interceptions. This year, he's completing 60 percent with seven scores and no picks.
  • Klein has completed 24 of those throws to three different receivers. All three have at least seven catches longer than 20 yards downfield.
  • Baylor's Nick Florence has thrown 15 touchdown passes longer than 20 yards this season. That number leads the FBS.
  • Florence, though, is completing just 44 percent of his throws longer than 20 yards, with 15 touchdowns and five interceptions.
  • Last week's loss to Oklahoma was the first game this season in which Florence didn't complete a touchdown pass longer than 20 yards downfield.
  • With a victory on Saturday, Oklahoma will have at least eight wins for the 13th consecutive season.
  • Tavon Austin's 684 yards after the catch lead the Big 12.
  • Oklahoma and West Virginia have never met in Morgantown.
  • Texas Tech's collective 1,770 yards after the catch lead AQ teams this season.
  • Geno Smith completed 72.4 percent of his passes longer than 15 yards in his first four games. He had nine touchdowns and no interceptions over that span.
  • Since, he's completed 16.3 percent with two touchdowns and three interceptions.
  • Smith averaged 432 passing yards a game in September. Since then, he's averaging just 262.6.
  • Oklahoma's Blake Bell has 20 touchdowns on 29 rushes in goal-to-go situations since the beginning of last season. That's the highest touchdown percentage (69 percent) of any player with at least 10 attempts.
  • Oklahoma State has 51 completions of 20 yards or longer this year, the second-most in FBS.
  • Texas Tech has given up just 19 such completions, the fewest in the Big 12 and fifth-fewest in FBS.
  • Oklahoma State's three-game winning streak versus Tech is its longest in the series since winning four consecutive games from 1942-45.
  • Texas Tech (minus-5) and Oklahoma State (minua-8) are a combined minus-13 in turnover margin, the two worst marks in the Big 12.
  • Oklahoma State was plus-21 in that stat last season.
  • Oklahoma State has won 10 of 11 games against teams from Texas, with the one loss coming this season to Texas on a controversial touchdown in the final minute.
  • Kansas leads its all-time series against Iowa State, 49-36-6.
  • Kansas offensive lineman Tanner Hawkinson will set a school record if he makes his 47th start on Saturday.
  • Paul Rhoads is already the first coach in Iowa State history to reach bowl games in two of his first three seasons.
  • Until the Oklahoma game this season, Rhoads had never coached a game without linebacker Jake Knott on the field.
  • Iowa State safety Durrell Givens has five fumble recoveries and three interceptions. That ties him for the national lead in takeaways.