Dallas Colleges: James White

A&M spring surprises: James White

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
4:00
PM CT
Editor's note: This week we'll take a brief look at Texas A&M players who surprised us with their performances during spring practice, which wrapped up for the Aggies earlier this month.

Texas A&M isn't hurting for talent at running back. The Aggies have had strong depth at the position since coach Kevin Sumlin arrived.

This season is no different. Even though one back graduated (Ben Malena), three lettermen return from a season ago: Tra Carson, Brandon Williams and Trey Williams.

But it's the fourth scholarship back, one who redshirted a season ago, who opened eyes during spring football for the Aggies: James White.

"I think the surprise has been James White," Sumlin said in late March. "He has really come on to be pretty solid. He's a guy that's going to play special teams for us this year and then we'll see where he fits in this group. James does everything pretty good. He's big enough at 215, 220 [pounds]. He has soft hands, is a good runner, a good blocker, so he's another guy that gives us a mix."

Because of the presence of three players who have SEC experience in Carson and the Williamses, there likely won't be many spare carries to go around, but White has shown he can contribute in several ways. While working on special teams, White has been part of the kickoff return team in a role similar to that of Malena the past two seasons and Carson last season.

At 6-foot, 218 pounds, White has good size and a wide range of skills to go with that size. The depth and versatility he can provide will be welcome in the SEC, where the Aggies have shown it isn't easy to get through a season without incident. Last season, Carson, Brandon Williams and Trey Williams all missed at least two games while recovering from injuries. All four active scholarship backs on the roster were used last season. Don't be surprised if that's the case this fall, too.

Throughout the spring, White showed he's ready to contribute.

"He's picked up on the offense," running backs coach Clarence McKinney said. "The tools are there. He can run the ball, he's big, he's physical, he can catch it as well as any of those guys. Just learning the offense and protection is really important for him to pick up right now."

Aggies pleased with running back depth

April, 2, 2014
Apr 2
3:30
PM CT
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Running back is one of positions on Texas A&M's roster with few, if any, real question marks or concerns heading into 2014.

There is talent and depth. Most of the returning players have experience. The main question might be which player emerges as the most reliable and productive.

The candidates are plenty, though, and that's pleasing to head coach Kevin Sumlin.

[+] EnlargeTra Carson
Nelson Chenault/USA TODAY SportsTra Carson has had a good spring, but still faces plenty of competition to be Texas A&M's first-string running back.
"We feel real good with our depth at running back," Sumlin said.

Junior running back Tra Carson has been the most consistent of the group this spring. Sumlin has praised his work several times in recent weeks, and the 6-foot, 230-pound Carson seems to be positioning himself well for the fall.

"I think Tra Carson has been very, very solid," Sumlin said. "I think James White has progressed and is probably a little bit further ahead than I thought he would be. Brandon Williams is doing well. Trey Williams -- they're all good backs. It depends on what you want to do."

Both Trey Williams and Brandon Williams had to miss brief portions of spring practice with minor injuries, but they have returned. Sumlin noted earlier this spring, particularly when Trey Williams was out, that every day he missed was "not helping his cause." Since returning, both have been able to shoulder more of the workload in practice.

"Trey's healthy and has been involved in the return game, obviously," Sumlin said. "Brandon has come back. We worked Tra Carson pretty hard early. Those guys missed a little bit, so Tra Carson's getting a little bit of a rest right now and they're catching up. But we know what we've got in those three guys."

Trey Williams is the returning yardage leader of the group, with 407 yards and six touchdowns on 58 carries last season. Carson is the returning leader in touchdowns (7) and logged 329 yards on 62 carries in 2013. Brandon Williams contributed but didn't play as much as Carson or Tra Williams, logging 44 carries for 269 yards and a score.

But with Malena (115 carries last season) gone, there are carries available. It's reasonable to expect the returning trio will get more carries, but don't count out White, a redshirt freshman, being a factor as well based on his spring performance.

"I think the surprise has been James White," Sumlin said. "He has really come on to be pretty solid. He's a guy that's going to play special teams for us this year, and then we'll see where he fits in this group. James does everything pretty good. He's big enough at 215, 220 [pounds]. He has soft hands, is a good runner, a good blocker, so he's another guy that gives us a mix."

Sumlin expects all of them to push each other as the Aggies wrap up spring practice and continue preparing for the 2014 season.

"That competition will continue and they know that," he said. "It's good for all of us to have to compete for playing time, and that's what happens in a real program."

A&M spring predictions: Carson emerges

February, 26, 2014
Feb 26
9:00
AM CT
Editor's note: This is the third part in a weeklong series of predictions for Texas A&M spring football practice, which begins on Friday.

Texas A&M is not hurting for talent at running back.

It is perhaps the deepest position on the Aggies' roster and typically has been since Kevin Sumlin arrived prior to the 2012 season. The team has consistently used a rotation of running backs and that is likely to be the case this season, with the junior trio of Tra Carson, Trey Williams and Brandon Williams all returning and redshirt freshman James White joining the fray.

The previous two seasons saw Ben Malena emerge as the No. 1 running back in terms of workload and total production, but Malena has bid Aggieland farewell.

With Malena gone (as well as quarterback Johnny Manziel, who led the team in rushes each of his two seasons as quarterback), there are many carries up for grabs for the returning backs. Who will get the lion's share this fall?

[+] EnlargeTra Carson
Nelson Chenault/USA TODAY SportsTra Carson's combination of size and speed make him a prime candidate to become Texas A&M's featured running back.
That can be a game-to-game, or even series-to-series, decision for the offensive coaching staff because all of the above names are talented. But if I had to guess which back might emerge as the next one to lead the Aggies in rushing attempts, Carson comes to mind.

He's the biggest back of the group, checking in at 6-foot-1 and around 235 pounds. He showed the ability last season to not only be a short-yardage back, but also illustrated his knack for getting larger chunks of yards by consistently breaking tackles.

The Texarkana (Texas) Liberty-Eylau product will never be confused with Trey Williams or Brandon Williams in terms of pure speed, so it would be unreasonable to expect him to start breaking off 60-yard runs. But he had a carry of 10 or more yards in eight of the 11 games in which he appeared last season, including touchdown runs of 29 yards and 21 yards in the final two games of the season. He finished last season with 329 yards and seven touchdowns on 62 carries.

His size and physicality makes him an ideal between-the-tackles back, and running backs coach Clarence McKinney noted last season that Carson has the best hands of the running back group. So even though he hasn't been used much in the passing game (Carson had three catches last season), McKinney's words suggest that Carson can fill that role when needed.

Trey Williams (58 carries, 407 yards, six touchdowns in 2013) is probably the most elusive back of the group and showed that in several opportunities last season. He'll continue to be a significant part of the Aggies' attack and likely could see his touches increase also with Malena and Manziel gone. His smaller frame (5-8, 195) is something to keep in mind when it comes to workload, however, and Williams has dealt with nagging injuries throughout his A&M career.

Brandon Williams had a lot in terms of expectations going into last season, but a foot injury during preseason camp disrupted his season's start. Once he got on the field, carries came sparingly (44 attempts). But he has appealing speed and playmaking ability, so it will be interesting to see how his workload is affected and where he winds up in the pecking order.

In A&M's uptempo offense, there is no such thing as an "every-down back," though Malena was as close to one as the Aggies had the last two seasons. I'm betting Carson is the most likely to emerge as the next one in that role this spring and fall.

Blog debate: Gordon vs. Seastrunk

October, 23, 2013
10/23/13
1:00
PM CT
You can argue over who's the best running back in college football, but there's little doubt who the two most efficient runners are.

Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon and Baylor's Lache Seastrunk are essentially picking up a first down on every rush attempt. Gordon is averaging 9.46 yards per carry, while Seastrunk is at 9.16. Those are the top two yards per carry averages by running backs in the FBS and trail only Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota among all players. Big Ten blogger Brian Bennett and Big 12 blogger Jake Trotter discuss what makes both runners so dynamic and try to figure out whether they should be touching the ball even more.

[+] EnlargeMelvin Gordon, Wisconsin Badgers
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsWisconsin tailback Melvin Gordon has rushed for more than 100 yards in six of the Badgers' seven games this season.
Brian Bennett: Jake, let's start with Seastrunk. We all know Baylor's offense is an astronomical phenomenon. How big a part of that is Seastrunk, and what makes him special in that offense?

Jake Trotter: He's a huge part. There's a reason why receivers Tevin Reese and Antwan Goodley have combined for 10 touchdowns of 40 yards or more. Sure, those guys are blazing fast. But defenses are so concerned about Seastrunk running wild on them, that Reese and Goodley end up in one-on-one situations downfield.

What about Gordon, Brian?

BB: Gordon is incredibly talented, so much so that Montee Ball said before Gordon ever took the field that he might be the most talented Wisconsin back ever. That's saying something. At 6-foot-1, Gordon gobbles up the field with his long-striding form and is almost impossible to catch once he finds a seam. He has touchdown runs of 70, 71 and 80 yards this season. The Badgers also know just how to use him right. He not only lines up in conventional positions, but he is often employed on jet sweeps where he can get a full head of steam as he heads out to the perimeter.

Of course, we'd be remiss not to mention Wisconsin's offensive line, which is once again stacked with massive human beings who create gaping holes for their backs. That's a major reason for the program's tradition of star tailbacks, and it undoubtedly contributes to Gordon's success, though I think he'd be wildly effective in any system. Which leads me to my question for you: how much of Seastrunk's stats stem from Baylor's system, and how much is just on his own talent? In other words, do you think he'd have the same type of numbers if he and Gordon switched places tomorrow?

JT: The system is a big part of it. Coach Art Briles' track record dating back to the Robert Griffin III years speaks for itself. But the supporting cast is a big part, too. Guard Cyril Richardson leads an offensive line that excels at paving running lanes. The threat of Bryce Petty throwing the ball downfield to Reese and Goodley means defenses can't even think about loading the box. Seastrunk also has a capable wingman in Glasco Martin, who takes some of the rushing load off Seastrunk's shoulders. This Baylor offense is awesome, and Seastrunk is just one part of it. That is a big reason why he's such an efficient runner. He plays on a great offense.

[+] EnlargeOregon Ducks' Lache Seastrunk
Cooper Neill/Getty ImagesBaylor running back Lache Seastrunk, who transferred from Oregon, already has three more rushing touchdowns (10) than he had all of last season.
That takes away from his carries. But he doesn't need a lot of carries to be effective. What about Gordon?

BB: Yeah, Seastrunk is averaging a little under 14 carries per game, while Gordon is getting just a little more than 15 rushing attempts per game. In Gordon's case, Wisconsin has another stud running back in senior James White, who ranks No. 29 in the FBS in rushing yards and who has over 3,200 career rushing yards. Four times already this season, Gordon and White have gone over 100 yards in the same game, and White came within two yards last week at Illinois of making it five times. Coach Gary Andersen has basically split the carries between the two, which keeps them both fresh, and I think he feels a little more comfortable with the veteran White in there for pass protection purposes.

But it makes you wonder what kind of numbers Gordon could put up if he got a steady 20-to-25 carries per game. What do you think Seastrunk could do with a heavier workload, and do you think the lack of carries will hurt either back when it comes to major awards like the Doak Walker or All-America honors?

JT: I don't think it will hurt Seastrunk in either category as long as Baylor keeps winning. The key stat with Seastrunk is yards per carry. He is averaging a whopping 9.16 per rush. As long as he keeps that up, Baylor keeps pouring on points and the Bears keep winning, he'll remain at the forefront of the Doak Walker and All-American candidacies. Seastrunk, however, probably has almost no shot at the Heisman. Petty has divided the Baylor vote, and in many ways overshadowed the running back by leading the nation in Total QBR through the midway point of the season. If Petty keeps putting up monster numbers, he -- not Seastrunk -- will likely emerge as the Baylor candidate for the Heisman.
Nine Big 12 players are on the list for the Doak Walker Award, given annually to college football's top running back.

Very nice haul from the Big 12. Running back is probably the Big 12's strongest position of any to start the season, and you can see that on this list. Two teams (Baylor, TCU) have multiple backs on the watch list, and there's no question about any of those guys. I'm very surprised Texas didn't get a name on the list. In theory, Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron all had a case to be on here. Texas Tech's Kenny Williams probably could have been added to this list, too, and perhaps Oklahoma's Brennan Clay.

Seastrunk has a great chance to win this award, but guys like Williams, Sims, James and Hubert could all make the list of finalists.

Texas' Cedric Benson (2004) was the last player from the Big 12 to win the award. The Longhorns are the only school in college football with three winners all-time. Texas Tech (Byron Hanspard, Bam Morris) is one of just three schools in college football with multiple winners since the award began in 1990.

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 2

September, 4, 2012
9/04/12
10:35
AM CT
Fun weekend of games across the league. This is heavily influenced by how each team plays the previous week, so when there's a logjam of teams, you'll see a ton of movement. Teams 1-2 are super close, and teams 3-6 are nearly interchangeable. Don't get too bent out of shape this early. The body of work is tiny, and can look markedly different this time next week.

Here's how I sort out the league after Week 1:

1. West Virginia (1-0, last week: 2) The Mountaineers were the league's most impressive team in Week 1, and grab the No. 1 spot ahead of Oklahoma after the Sooners' near disaster in Week 1. You heard plenty about West Virginia's offense Saturday. Everybody on that unit, from the QBs to receivers, backs and O-line, validated it. Just have to do it every week. If that happens, this squad's winning the Big 12 title -- and maybe more.

2. Oklahoma (1-0, last week: 1) Be very concerned, Sooners fans, but don't come anywhere close to writing this team off. The offense was awful, but the defense was strong. For now, chemistry on offense can be a legitimate excuse, with room to grow. Landry Jones entered the night with one receiver who had ever caught a ball from him in a game, and the offensive line was still trying to replace a pair of three-year starters.

3. Kansas State (1-0, last week: 3) The Wildcats started slow, but where the heck did that 35-point fourth quarter come from? A pretty good performance from Collin Klein, but it seems clear that Bill Snyder is trying to limit the punishment Optimus Klein takes when he doesn't need to take it. He had 12 carries Saturday night. He got 25 carries in the opener last year, and 13 in a rout over Kansas. Twelve was a new low for him as a starting QB.

4. Oklahoma State (1-0, last week: 6) Don't overreact to this one, folks. The one encouraging thing you can take from Saturday? Even though his receivers were constantly wide open, Wes Lunt looked really good, connecting with Isaiah Anderson on a deep ball downfield for his biggest highlight of the night. Who figured OSU would win a game by 84 points and its starting QB wouldn't throw a TD, though?

5. Texas (1-0, last week: 4) The Longhorns started slow, and were one of just three teams to trail on Saturday, along with Iowa State and Oklahoma. Still, this won't be the first time Texas grinds out a win, or the last time it notches two 100-yard rushers.

6. Baylor (1-0, last week: 7) The Bears didn't look much different with Nick Florence at the helm, but the Big 12's no joke. The defense looks much improved, but tougher tests await than a Garrett Gilbert still trying to get his sea legs in a new offense. I was impressed, and the upside with this group is high, but the battle among this league's top eight teams is going to be brutal. Somebody's got to be really disappointed eventually. The Bears know how to win tight games, though. That helps.

7. TCU (0-0, last week: 5) The Frogs held a fan appreciation day on Saturday, but get to christen the sparkling new Amon G. Carter Stadium, fresh off a $164 million upgrade, against Grambling State next week. The place looks nothing like the old stadium. No shame in dropping two spots. Baylor and Oklahoma State played well enough to hop over the Frogs.

8. Texas Tech (1-0, last week: 8) Good day from Tech with the 44-6 win over FCS Northwestern State. It needed to experience a win pretty badly. The Red Raiders ended their five-game losing streak, but this set of backs is sneaky underrated. Eric Stephens, SaDale Foster and Kenny Williams will be fun to watch. Is there a budding star in Lubbock in TE Jace Amaro, too?

9. Iowa State (1-0, last week: 9) The Cyclones' flaws were on display early with some offensive troubles and a defense getting picked apart by a passer not as skilled as what ISU will normally see in Big 12 play. Its strengths were on display late, though. This team is underrated along the offensive line, and Shontrelle Johnson teams up with James White to make a really good backfield. Good win. Not enough to leapfrog Texas Tech.

10. Kansas (1-0, last week 10) KU looked a little shaky at times, and Dayne Crist's stat line (17-36, 169 yards, TD, INT) won't wow anybody. Still, his level of skill at the position is obvious, and an upgrade over what KU's used to seeing these past few years. Still some work to do defensively, though. Can't get away with giving up 99-yard rushing touchdowns in the Big 12.

Big 12 position rankings: Running back

August, 14, 2012
8/14/12
9:00
AM CT
We're moving on with our rankings of the top 10 players at each position in the Big 12. Today, we tackle the running backs, a position with a lot of potential but not very much returning talent. My only rule for this list: No freshmen or newcomers. You don't know until you know.

Let's get started.

1. Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State: Randle is the Big 12's only returning 1,000-yard running back, and even the league's best back has something to prove in 2012. Quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon took a ton of pressure off him and opened up a lot of space. Can he help carry the offense early this season with a true freshman at quarterback and unproven receivers in the passing game?

[+] EnlargeMalcolm Brown
Ray Carlin/Icon SMIMalcolm Brown has the talent to emerge as the top rusher in a crowded Texas backfield.
2. Malcolm Brown, Texas: Brown's nose for tiny creases in the line is unparalleled in this league, even though he doesn't have breakaway speed. He's tough to bring down and loves to fall forward. In short, he's a perfect fit for Texas' offense, and the likeliest member of Texas' talented backfield trio to top 1,000 yards in 2012.

3. John Hubert, Kansas State: Life is good for Hubert when defenses focus heavily on quarterback Collin Klein, but you can't argue with his production. He averaged nearly five yards a carry and racked up 970 rushing yards last season.

4. Waymon James, TCU: James averaged a silly 7.23 yards per carry last season, leading TCU's trio of backs in rushing, though all three had between 120 and 123 carries (seriously). Ed Wesley is gone, and James' yards per carry average will drop as he faces tougher defenses this season, but he's still a big talent.

5. Jeremy Smith, Oklahoma State: Smith is the forgotten man in Oklahoma State's backfield until he keeps his legs churning and converts third downs, and chips a blitzing nickel back in the backfield to give Wes Lunt a couple more seconds to get rid of the ball. He's faster than he gets credit for, and averaged better than seven yards a carry in the Big 12 last season, the league's second-highest average.

6. Eric Stephens, Texas Tech: Stephens' season was cut way short last year by an awful knee injury. There's no telling how he'll look when the season starts back up, but not many guys were better than him over the first half of last season.

7. Dominique Whaley, Oklahoma: Whaley's season was cut short, too. He suffered a broken ankle, but the former walk-on is back and will try and make a run at a 1,000-yard season for the Sooners' pass-heavy offense. If he plays like he did last season before the injury, expect it to happen, and expect him to hog the carries in a crowded backfield.

8. Matthew Tucker, TCU: Tucker joins James in TCU's backfield. He scored 12 touchdowns last season, which ranks second among returning Big 12 running backs. Without Wesley, Tucker is due for more touches. The trio combined for more than 2,300 yards on the ground last season. Watching Tucker and James race for 1,000-yard seasons will be fun.

9. Roy Finch, Oklahoma: Finch loves to put defenders in the spin cycle, but could hardly get on the field last season until Whaley was injured. Once he did, though, he made a big impact. He topped 83 yards four times in five weeks late last season, but he has to be more consistent. He also had four yards on six carries against Iowa. We'll see if he showcases his explosiveness as a junior in 2012.

10. James White, Iowa State: Iowa State badly needed White to step up when Shontrelle Johnson went down with a neck injury, and White did. He topped 135 yards twice after Johnson's injury and scored eight times, including two in a triple-overtime win against Iowa early in the season.

Honorable mention: Dustin Garrison, West Virginia; Joe Bergeron, Texas; James Sims, Kansas; Shontrelle Johnson, Iowa State; Tony Pierson, Kansas
Today is the next step in a new series on the Big 12 blog that we've never done before. I love predicting the standings from top to bottom, but we're going to do it week by week leading up to the season. The goal is to offer my official prediction for each Big 12 team's record heading into the bowl games.

Remember, these are preseason predictions. We'll obviously still do week-to-week picks once the season arrives, and they might change between now and then. There are a lot of preseason practices, and a lot of games between now and the end of the season.

There are always teams that disappoint and teams that surprise. But here's how I see the Big 12 shaking out in Week 12.


PREVIOUS PREDICTIONS

My predictions for Week 12 in the Big 12:

Oklahoma 41, West Virginia 38: Just one more stop was all Oklahoma needed. It got it. The Big 12 Game of the Year lives up to the hype, and it's decided by two of the league's best talents. Tony Jefferson makes an acrobatic interception on a Geno Smith ball intended for Stedman Bailey in the final minute to seal the game. Landry Jones tosses four touchdowns and has all day to throw. He's not sacked once, and hardly ever knocked down to dirty his jersey. Those big-game jitters on the road? Jones did a heck of a job silencing them on this night ... but one more dangerous road game awaits.

Oklahoma State 44, Texas Tech 31: Wes Lunt keeps getting better, and slings three touchdown passes, including two in the red zone to Blake Jackson. The Cowboys don't run all over a handcuffed Texas Tech squad as they did in 2011's 60-point victory in Lubbock, but OSU wins this one convincingly to put Texas Tech's bowl hopes on thin ice.

Kansas State 24, Baylor 20: Just like last year's game, this one comes down to the wire, but Bill Snyder goes with the gutsy play in the final seconds, giving the ball to his Honey Badger on a run-pass option in the red zone on third down, instead of kicking the game-tying field goal. Quarterback Collin Klein drags two Baylor defenders into the end zone and proves the Big 12's silver fox still has plenty of magic left. K-State's ball-control offense hogties its powerful Baylor counterpart into one of its lowest outputs of the season.

Iowa State 17, Kansas 13: Kansas keeps threatening, but the Cyclones duo of Shontrelle Johnson and James White overcomes a pair of fumbles to win this one, icing it late with a six-yard run from Johnson to seal the game with a first down near midfield. Kansas' offense looks out of sorts in its final home game of the year, and even though the Jayhawks keep looking competitive, they can't get over the hump.

BIG 12 STANDINGS (after Week 12)
1. Oklahoma: 10-0 (7-0)
2. West Virginia: 9-2 (6-2)
2. Kansas State: 9-2 (6-2)
4. Texas: 8-2 (5-2)
5. TCU: 7-3 (4-3)
5. Oklahoma State: 7-3 (4-3)
7. Baylor: 5-5 (2-5)
8. Texas Tech: 5-6 (2-6)
9. Iowa State: 4-7 (2-6)
10. Kansas: 3-8 (0-8)

The Big 12's most underrated players

August, 9, 2012
8/09/12
1:15
PM CT
Not everybody gets their just deserts in college football, but it's time to do my part to change that. Sometimes, it's the team they play for. Sometimes, it's an underappreciated position. Other times, it's a combination of several things. Either way, here are the Big 12's most underrated players heading into 2012.

Tevin Reese, WR, Baylor: Reese is undersized at 5-foot-10, 165 pounds, sure. Who cares? He's productive, and should only be more so without Kendall Wright in Waco this season. Reese will likely be the second option behind Terrance Williams, but the speedster at inside receiver managed to rack up 877 receiving yards, eighth-most in school history, as the third option for RG3 last season.

[+] EnlargeTrey Millard
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireKeep an eye out for Sooners fullback Trey Millard this season.
Toben Opurum, DE/LB, Kansas: Opurum used to be a running back, but he's learned his new position well, playing the "Buck" spot last year for the Jayhawks. Opurum's a high-motor type of player, and ranked 10th in the Big 12 last season with 10.5 tackles for loss and made four sacks.

Trey Millard, FB/TE, Oklahoma: Millard is a jack of all trades for the Sooners, and played three positions last year. He's invaluable for the Sooners, and may be even more so this season. Look for him to grab some touches at tailback this season, probably in short yardage situations that require a power back.

Alex Elkins, LB, Oklahoma State: Elkins was second on the team with 90 stops, including five tackles for loss. The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder is a solid tackler, but too often, the former walk-on who didn't play football until junior college gets written off as one of the league's top linebackers.

James White, RB, Iowa State: White looked like a non-factor last season, but after Shontrelle Johnson went down with a neck injury, White ascended to starter status. He finished with 743 yards and eight scores, including the game-winner against Iowa in triple overtime.

Seth Doege, QB, Texas Tech: Doege's offense put up big numbers last year, but he didn't have much of a chance to win big last season. Doege's name never comes up among the league's best passers, but despite having no running game and tons of injuries on the offensive line, Doege topped 4,000 yards and threw for 28 touchdowns with just 10 picks. If Tech starts winning (which wasn't much of Doege's fault in 2011), his name might come up in the debate for the Big 12's best passer.

Jaxon Shipley, WR, Texas: Shipley's instincts and great hands are two things you simply can't coach. Now, he'll only get better as a sophomore, and his numbers will balloon if his quarterback improves and Shipley can stay healthy. Even with the revolving door at QB last year and an injury that caused him to miss three games, he finished with 607 yards and three scores on 44 catches.

K.J. Morton, CB, Baylor: Baylor's defense caught big criticism last year, but Morton was a big bright spot late in the season. The Bears were +10 in turnover margin over the last six games, and Morton was a big reason why. All four of his interceptions came in the final three games of the regular season. Now, he's got to improve his coverage skills.

John Hubert, RB, Kansas State: You know about Collin Klein, but it seems like nobody's paying attention to Hubert, who just so happens to be the Big 12's No. 3 returning rusher with 970 yards on just 200 carries.

Eric Ward, WR, Texas Tech: Texas Tech's 2011 season was rough, but Ward emerged as the most consistent target for a receiving corps racked by injuries. It wasn't fun last year, but now, the Red Raiders have some serious depth, and Ward gets no attention, despite catching 84 balls for 800 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Player rosters set for Big 12 Media Days

July, 10, 2012
7/10/12
11:45
AM CT
Big 12 Media Days are set for the Westin Galleria on July 23-24, but we now know who'll be attending from each Big 12 team.

Here's the list:

BAYLOR
IOWA STATE
KANSAS
KANSAS STATE
OKLAHOMA
OKLAHOMA STATE
TCU
TEXAS
TEXAS TECH
WEST VIRGINIA

Should be fun. I'll have some more thoughts on this on Wednesday.
Today is the next step in a new series on the Big 12 blog that we've never done before. I love predicting the standings from top to bottom, but we're going to do it week by week leading up to the season. The end goal is to offer my official prediction for each Big 12 team's record heading into the bowl games.

Remember, these are preseason predictions. We'll obviously still do week-to-week picks once the season arrives, and they may change between now and then. There are a lot of preseason practices and a whole lot of games between now and the end of the season.

There are always teams who disappoint and teams who surprise. But here's how I see the Big 12 shaking out in Week 6.

PREVIOUS PREDICTIONS
TCU 27, Iowa State 24: The Cyclones nearly trip up the Horned Frogs' undefeated season in a physical game in Fort Worth, but Waymon James rumbles in for a three-yard, go-ahead score in the final minute to deny Paul Rhoads another big upset. James White tops 100 yards, but the struggles at quarterback are catching up to the Cyclones a bit.

Kansas State 44, Kansas 17: The Sunflower Showdown is no longer a joke, but the state is still very much owned by Kansas State. Kansas prevents the Wildcats from scoring 59 points this year (a feat it failed to do in 2010 and 2011), but the Wildcats save their best performance of the season so far for the rival Jayhawks, who leave Manhattan limping.

Oklahoma 41, Texas Tech 34: Call this one revenge. The Sooners haven't won in Lubbock in three tries since 2003, and the Red Raiders knocked off top-ranked OU at home last season. The Sooners hold off a late Texas Tech rally behind Eric Ward and Seth Doege, but escape West Texas as winners, an unfamiliar feeling for Sooners in some time.

West Virginia 31, Texas 27: Can West Virginia walk into Austin and leave with a win in its first year as a Big 12 member? Yes, yes it can. The Longhorns don't make it easy. It's a fistfight. Geno Smith is sacked five times and throws two interceptions. Malcolm Brown tops 150 yards on the ground against an inexperienced front seven for the Mountaineers, who somehow find a way to get the program's biggest win in awhile.

And looky who's sitting all alone at the top of the Big 12. It's the new guys.

BIG 12 STANDINGS (after Week 4)

1. TCU: 5-0 (2-0)
1. West Virginia: 5-0 (2-0)
3. Oklahoma: 4-0 (2-0)
4. Kansas State: 4-1 (1-1)
4. Texas: 4-1 (1-1)
4. Texas Tech: 4-1 (1-1)
7. Oklahoma State: 3-1 (0-1)
7. Baylor: 3-1 (0-1)
9. Kansas: 3-2 (0-2)
10. Iowa State: 2-3 (0-2)

Breakout running backs in the Big 12

January, 30, 2012
1/30/12
5:49
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We ranked the top backfields in the Big 12 in 2011 last week. What about names will you need to know soon?

ESPN Insider KC Joyner named his top five in college football this year, and Texas' Malcolm Brown is the only Big 12 player on the list.
The Longhorns' schedule strength is based on a projection that could change somewhat as the Big 12 finalizes its 2012 slate, but it was still favorable enough to make colleague Ryan McGee's list of the top 10 early schedule winners of 2012.

Add that to the four returning starters on the offensive line and things would seem to look great for Brown the upcoming season.

Well, they would until one reviews Brown's YPC and GBYPA totals, both of which ranked dead last in this comparison. It's not as if the Longhorns had a bad run-blocking win rate, either, so some of this has to fall on Brown. If the schedule stays just as favorable and Brown can improve his yards per carry rates, an All-Big 12 conference honor could be in his near future.

So what about other backs in the Big 12?

Here's a few guys I'd keep an eye on:

Shontrelle Johnson, Iowa State: Johnson had a chance to break out in 2011, but suffered a neck injury early and missed the rest of the season. He's a shifty back with lots of speed, too. James White and Jeff Woody filled in well for Johnson this year, but Johnson is a highlight reel waiting to happen.

Eric Stephens, Texas Tech: Stephens was in the process of breaking out in 2011 before suffering a dislocated knee early in conference play and before the Red Raiders closed the season on a five-game losing streak. He's expected to return in 2012. He was easily on track to become the first Tech running back to rush for 1,000 yards before the injury.

Johnathan Gray, Texas: So, he's not a Longhorn just yet, but Texas has the nation's No. 1 running back coming to campus next year after reeling in Brown, the nation's No. 2 running back, in its 2011 class. Gray broke the national record with 209 career rushing touchdowns, and he figures to score a few times in his first year on campus, too. Carries will be hotly contested in Austin next year, but Mr. Football USA, according to ESPN HS, will try to earn his touches.

Lache Seastrunk/Glasco Martin, Baylor: Seastrunk was another highly recruited player (No. 6 RB in 2010 class), but transferred to Baylor from Oregon and had to sit out 2011. Martin's got plenty of talent, too. They'll join Jarred Salubi in 2012 to try and replace Terrance Ganaway. Baylor's had a 1,200-yard rusher in each of the past two seasons. You have to like one of those three players' chances to continue the streak in 2012.

Big 12 position rankings: Running back

January, 26, 2012
1/26/12
1:30
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We're continuing our look at the postseason rankings for each position in the Big 12. Here's a look back at where the running backs ranked in the preseason.

In this position, unlike quarterback, depth is a major, major factor in these rankings.

1. Texas A&M

The Aggies had the two most talented backs, and despite injuries to both, proved it through an otherwise frustrating 2011. Christine Michael suffered a torn ACL, but still managed 899 yards on just 149 carries. Cyrus Gray injured his shoulder late in the season, but secured his second consecutive 1,000-yard season and ranked third in the Big 12, despite carrying the ball just 198 times. This duo should have easily surpassed 1,000 yards, but even when they were injured, Ben Malena played well in the final two games.

[+] EnlargeChristine Michael
AP Photo/Brandon WadeChristine Michael averaged 6 yards per carry before a torn ACL ended his season.
2. Missouri

Mizzou dealt with injuries, too, first to Kendial Lawrence and De'Vion Moore. Cue Henry Josey. Josey became the best back in the Big 12 this year before suffering a major knee injury that included torn ligaments. He may not be back in 2012. His 1,168 yards were third most in the Big 12, despite carrying the ball just 145 times. Lawrence finished 12th with 566 yards.

3. Oklahoma State

Joseph Randle stole the show this year, rushing for 24 scores and ranking second in the Big 12 with 1,216 yards. Only Collin Klein ran for more touchdowns and Terrance Ganaway was the only player with more yardage. Still, Jeremy Smith had averaged more than 7 yards a carry, and he'd be able to start for anyone else in the league. Herschel Sims showed promise, too, with 242 yards on 31 carries.

4. Baylor

Ganaway led the Big 12 in rushing with huge performances late in the season, including a 200-yard, five-touchdown game in his final outing as a college athlete in the Alamo Bowl. He averaged more than 6 yards on his 250 carries and had 330 more yards than any other back in the league. Jarred Salubi added 331 yards, too.

5. Texas

Texas' Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron were banged-up late in the season, but Fozzy Whittaker played well until suffering a torn ACL against Missouri, too. Scatback D.J. Monroe was effective in the passing game as well. Four running backs topped 300 yards and Brown led the team with 742 yards, despite missing three games and having his carries limited early in the season.

6. Oklahoma

Oklahoma got great contributions from walk-on Dominique Whaley early on, and he proved to be the team's most effective runner and best runner between the tackles. He fractured his ankle in midseason, and finished with just 627 yards to lead the team. Roy Finch emerged late in the seasons after a quiet first half and added 605 yards.

7. Kansas

KU's James Sims led the team in rushing again with 727 yards. Darrian Miller was excellent, too, with 559 yards, though he was dismissed after the season. Freshmen Tony Pierson and Brandon Bourbon have plenty of promise, both averaging more than 5.5 yards a carry in 2011. The bad news: All their carries were limited by an awful defense that limited KU's chances to run the ball.

8. Kansas State

K-State's rushing attack centered around Klein, but John Hubert, a slippery back from Waco, Texas, had a good year. Hubert was seventh in the Big 12 with 970 yards. Bryce Brown offered basically nothing to K-State, and beyond Klein and Hubert, the Wildcats were pretty thin. Additionally, without Klein, would Hubert have duplicated his success?

9. Texas Tech

An awful knee injury derailed Eric Stephens' likely 1,000-yard season, and the rest of Texas Tech's backfield got banged-up, too. Stephens will probably return in 2012 from his dislocated knee, and finished with 565 yards, 17th in the Big 12. Aaron Crawford and DeAndre Washington both topped 300 yards.

10. Iowa State

ISU lost Shontrelle Johnson for the season early on, but James White filled in well. He finished with 743 yards, which ranked ninth in the Big 12. Jeff Woody had 380 yards and provided quality carries late, including the game-winning touchdown against Oklahoma State.

Big 12 position rankings: Running back

June, 22, 2011
6/22/11
8:49
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Here's the next in our look at the Big 12 rankings by position: Running backs.

Last year's class was one of the best in recent history, but this year's class? Unassuming to begin the season. There are a few possible stars looming, but very, very little talent returning. Cyrus Gray ranked seventh in rushing yards last year (thanks to an insane finish), but he's the only player returning to the Big 12 from the conferences' top 10 rushers in 2010.

That's nuts.

The Aggies are the only team with a truly elite backfield tandem, though I could see Oklahoma and/or Oklahoma State joining that group by the end of the year.

The rest of the league? Every team has at least a couple of players to get excited about, and teams 5-10 are all pretty close. No one is really understaffed at the position, but obviously, they're fit to be ranked.

Here's where I have them:

1. Texas A&M

[+] EnlargeTexas A&M's Cyrus Gray
AP Photo/Eric GayCyrus Gray had at least 100 yards rushing in each of A&M's final seven games last season.
I wouldn't have been surprised if Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael were the Big 12's top leading returning rushers this year, but a midseason injury from Michael prevented it from happening. Regardless, his return gives Texas A&M by far the best tandem in the Big 12, and arguably the best in the country. When Mister Jones isn't cranking the Counting Crows on his stereo, he's a pretty good reserve, alongside Ben Malena, who impressed me on my visit to College Station this spring.

2. Oklahoma

Oklahoma will try and replace do-everything forever (or whatever) back DeMarco Murray with a platoon likely led by shifty Florida native Roy Finch. True freshman Brandon Williams made a big impact in spring camp, and Brennan Clay will likely earn a few touches, too. Health concerns raise questions about a pair of other OU backs' knees (Jermie Calhoun, Jonathan Miller), but walk-on Dominique Whaley led the team in rushing in the spring game.

3. Oklahoma State

The Cowboys have a great pair in sophomores Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith, and a nice set of backs to spell them if needed, too. Kye Staley, once a top-flight recruit, returned this spring after quitting the team following a severe knee injury, and might earn a few touches this spring. Also, Abilene, Texas, native and 2011 ESPNU 150 signee Herschel Sims arrives this fall and may jockey for time and the opportunity to shed a redshirt.

4. Missouri

What the Tigers lack in a truly elite back, they have in depth. Missouri has four backs who are all capable of being very good in the Big 12, even though neither of the four topped 600 yards a year ago. A big reason for that was none of the four got more than 100 carries, but with the carries they did get, every back averaged more than five yards per carry. The platoon approach works for Missouri, but senior De'Vion Moore and junior Kendial Lawrence will lead the way with sophomores Henry Josey and Marcus Murphy not far behind.

5. Kansas

[+] EnlargeKansas' James Sims
John Rieger/US PRESSWIREJames Sims is the No. 2 returning rusher in the Big 12 this season.
Running back will be a strength for Kansas next year, who might have found a second back this spring that perfectly complements power runner James Sims, a rising sophomore who racked up 742 yards last year after not playing in the opener. Believe it or not, he's the Big 12's No. 2 returning rusher, behind A&M's Gray. Darrian Miller burst onto the scene this spring, and figures to be a big part of the team in the fall. I see him being the Jayhawks' biggest home-run threat. DeShaun Sands and Brandon Bourbon offer even more depth at the position.

6. Texas Tech

The Red Raiders lose backfield constant Baron Batch, but have a good group lined up for 2011. Tommy Tuberville's effort to establish a more efficient running game is a realistic possibility with Eric Stephens as the likely feature back, and Aaron Crawford, Ben McRoy and Harrison Jeffers in the mix. True freshman Ronnie Daniels' strong spring likely earned him some time, too, rather than a redshirt.

7. Baylor

Baylor loses a 1,200-yard rusher in Jay Finley, and figures to use a thunder-and-lightning approach with 6-foot, 240-pound bowling ball Terrance Ganaway and shifty, 5-foot-9, 205-pound Jarred Salubi. Glasco Martin, a more balanced back, may earn a few carries, too. Regardless of who has the ball, life is good for Baylor backs, who get a bit more room from defenses that are forced to respect Robert Griffin III's legs.

8. Kansas State

The Wildcats' top two rushers, including two-time league rushing champ Daniel Thomas, are gone. Hopes are high for Wichita native and former blue-chip back Bryce Brown, but he's still entrenched in a position battle with John Hubert and Robert Rose heading into fall camp.

9. Texas

Texas brings back a pair of seniors in Fozzy Whittaker and Cody Johnson, but if the Longhorns are going to climb up this ladder by year's end (and they might) it's likely to be on the back of hyped incoming freshman Malcolm Brown, who is on campus and set to begin fall camp. D.J. Monroe might be the fastest player in the Big 12, but he'll have to master the nuances of pass blocking to get more than a few touches every game. Jeremy Hills can offer some depth at the position, too, after Tre Newton was forced to quit the game because of concussions.

10. Iowa State

Shontrelle Johnson showed some flash last year, but he still brings just 35 career carries into his 2011 effort to replace Alexander Robinson. Jeff Woody and James White offer a bit more depth, too. Florida native DeVondrick Nealy might get into the mix if he can put together a strong fall camp.

Downhill Badgers are Gary Patterson's focus

December, 6, 2010
12/06/10
3:05
PM CT
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Gary Patterson has put his TCU Horned Frogs defense to the test on multiple occassions through the years. Most notable remains the 17-10 win over the Adrian Peterson-led Oklahoma Sooners in 2005, and the 12-3 victory over Mike Leach's points-happy Texas Tech Red Raiders in 2006.

But, neither of those outfits compare with the downhill rushing attack of the No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers-- tied with TCU as the fourth-highest scoring offense in the land (43.3) -- will bring to the 97th Rose Bowl on New Year's Day. This will be Patterson's greatest challenge of his career.

The Wisconsin offensive line far outweighs TCU's excellent defensive line, and a trio of running backs -- James White, John Clay and Montee Ball -- have at least 800 yards each, combining for nearly 3,000 yards and 44 touchdowns.

"You know what they’re going to do and they do a great job of running the football; they do a great of play-action," Patterson said. "They’re not one of those teams that are going to try to fool you. They come after you and say, 'Are you better than us?' And, for us we’ve got to go out and get ready to play and we’re going to have to tackle and tackle some more and tackle some more, and get ready to go."

The TCU defense, statistically No. 1 in total defense for a record third consecutive season, has been particularly stingy against the run this season, ranking third in the nation, surrendering less than 90 yards a game. The Frogs haven't allowed a team to rush for 100 yards since Oct. 23 and only the option attack of Air Force (184 rushing yards) and SMU (190) have topped 100 yards on the ground all season.

However, No offense the Frogs have faced, not Oregon State with Jacquizz Rodgers, not Air Force and not San Diego State with Mountain West Conference leading rusher Ronnie Hillman can compare to what Patterson's defense will see from the big, bad Badgers, the nation's 12th-ranked rushing offense.

"I don't know if we've played anybody specifically just like Wisconsin where they just keep coming at you with the power running game and then they try to stretch you on the edge," Patterson said. "It will be a great challenge for us because you find out as a football team what is the highest level you can play at, and that's why you play in the Rose Bowl. "

There is interesting film for Patterson to study, which he said he started breaking down last week. In its three games against Top 25 opponents, all within Big Ten play -- wins over Ohio State (31-18) and Iowa (31-30), and a loss to Michigan State (34-24) -- Wisconsin has rushed for an average of 163.7 yards, well below its season average of 247.3 yards.

"Obviously they come downhill and they come at you all day long," Patterson said. "As a football team, the best way to keep them off is for us to do well on offense. That’s one of the ways that you stop them. We have to tackle well. It’s one of the reasons why two weeks ago once we got done with the season, we got back in the weight room. We got back to running, getting ourselves back into beginning-of-the-season shape and getting our shoulders and our legs stronger.

"Good tackling teams tackle because you’re healthy and we’re going to need to be a healthy football team going into that ballgame."

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