Dallas Colleges: Jared Johnson
We'll start at the most obvious position: Quarterback, a position that I'd argue is more important in the Big 12 than in any other conference.
Depth will be a huge factor in these rankings, though at quarterback, it's the toughest to gauge, considering how little we see of backup quarterbacks.
Here's how each Big 12 team ranks at the quarterback position:
Oklahoma learned the hard way in 2009 about the importance of the backup quarterback, but even in his limited experience, Drew Allen has impressed Bob Stoops after narrowly losing out on the backup job behind Sam Bradford in 2009. Landry Jones is a great one, and with his opportunities, has become a Heisman Trophy favorite. Could Allen have done the same if he had beaten out Jones in 2009? Blake Bell, the nation's No. 3 quarterback in the 2010 class, will likely be Oklahoma's No. 3 in 2011.
2. Oklahoma State
Brandon Weeden's profile spiked when he led the Cowboys to a comeback win over Colorado on a Thursday night game in 2009. He took over as the starter shortly after, but going into that game Weeden was a third-stringer. Alex Cate transferred after it became evident that Weeden would be the starter in 2010, and behind Weeden is Clint Chelf and two solid recruits: Johnny Deaton and J.W. Walsh, who was the nation's No. 10 QB (just outside the ESPNU 150) in 2011 and enrolled early.
3. Texas A&M
Ryan Tannehill is entrenched at the starting spot, with a lot of youth behind him. Matt Joeckel and Jameill Showers will try to hold off incoming freshman Johnny Manziel for the No. 2 spot this fall. Manziel was impressive during the spring, and will contend for the starting job in 2012, but he'll likely redshirt unless he wins the backup job.
4. Texas Tech
Seth Doege looks ready to grab the reins for two seasons, barring injury. Jacob Karam is probably ready to start in the Big 12 right now, he's just not as good as Doege. Behind them are two promising prospects with upside and development to do: Scotty Young and Michael Brewer. The Red Raiders are the last of the Big 12 teams who have truly solid depth at quarterback.
Robert Griffin III will probably hold every school record for quarterbacks by the time he leaves Waco, but the Bears need to find a true replacement behind him. Nick Florence filled in well in 2009 when Griffin missed the final nine games with a knee injury, but he's a junior like Griffin and their eligibility will expire simultaneously. Redshirt freshman Bryce Petty and 2012 commit Jared Johnson could battle for the spot in 2013.
The Tigers depth took a hit after Tyler Gabbert's transfer following spring practice, but expectations are high for sophomore James Franklin, who got a bit of experience in 2010 behind Blaine Gabbert. Senior Jimmy Costello quit the team after last season to focus on an impending fall enlistment in the Army, but rejoined after the Gabbert brothers' departures from Columbia. He's likely to be the backup, with Ashton Glaser and walk-on Ryan Howerton filling out the rest of the quarterback spots. Corbin Berkstresser, a 6-foot-3, 218-pound quarterback from Kansas City that ESPN ranked No. 43 at his position, will arrive in the fall, too.
How long until we see a quarterback make the kind of plays Garrett Gilbert made against Alabama in the national championship? Those kinds of long scores were rare last year, but the Longhorns will have a competition this fall that sounds like it's pretty open heading into camp. If Gilbert wins, he'll likely have a much shorter leash in 2011 than he did in 2010, before Case McCoy or Connor Wood gets a crack, and dark horse true freshman David Ash could make things interesting, too.
8. Kansas State
Collin Klein made a nice move toward winning the job with a strong spring game performance. But coach Bill Snyder says he still didn't see a ton of separation between Klein and his backups, Sammuel Lamur and Boston College transfer Justin Tuggle, who spent last year replacing Cam Newton at Blinn College in Texas.
9. Iowa State
James Capello transferred after the spring, but Iowa State's race has likely boiled down to two men: Jerome Tiller and Steele Jantz. Jantz, a juco transfer, is the wild card and Tiller will need to show that his struggles in spot duty last season were temporary. He didn't show the progress you'd expect from a maturing player when he played for an injured Austen Arnaud in a few games early and late in 2010. Jared Barnett is still battling in Ames, but him winning the job would be a huge upset.
The Jayhawks could use a couple more years of Todd Reesing. The Jayhawks saw a huge drop off at the quarterback position in 2010, as Jordan Webb, Quinn Mecham and Kale Pick all got time under center. Kansas will likely run its offense through a strong group of running backs, but unless newcomer Brock Berglund shows potential and proves he's the best of the group, expect Kansas to remain near the bottom of the Big 12 by the end of 2011.
So, the question is obvious, even though Art Briles has helped build a deeper and better Bears team in his brief three seasons in Waco: What happens when Griffin leaves?
We won't know for sure until he actually does, but Briles got a big commitment on Wednesday from Jared Johnson, a quarterback from Grand Prairie, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. And who did Johnson pick the Bears over?
Oregon and Pittsburgh, to name a few.
"A lot of colleges only take one QB in a recruiting class, so it does put slight pressure to make a decision," Johnson told Sporting News. "I loved the vibe of the coaches and their coaching style and I loved the university and all it has to offer. ... College coaches like my style of play because I have grown as a passer as I’ve matured, and I can make all the throws, but I'm also a good athlete that will make plays when things break down."
Johnson, a 6-foot, 195-pounder, sounds like a perfect fit for Baylor's offense, which requires a mobile quarterback like Griffin to operate the way Briles wants it to. If Griffin stays four years and Johnson sticks with Baylor through February, he'll have a year to sit and learn from one of the most experienced QBs the Big 12 has ever seen, and compete for the job in the 2013 season.
Here's our scouts' take on Johnson:
"If Johnson was taller he would be a high profile BCS level recruit. However, his height is limiting his recruitment, but that does not negate the fact that Johnson can really sling it. He has good bulk and a very live arm. His release is so smooth and consistent and he is capable of making every throw on the field when his feet are set. He is a pocket passer first. He possesses very good arm strength. Shows great zip on the deep out route. Shows touch and timing as a vertical passer. Can drive the ball downfield and will fit it into tight spots. Has a quick release and shows the ability to get rid of the ball in a hurry. He shows good overall accuracy. Displays nice RPMs on intermediate routes. Works primarily from the shotgun and wastes little time getting set, working through progressions and getting the ball out. He is a good athlete, but a passer first. Can and will run, can keep plays alive and throws very well on the move and when off balance. Has the arm to make deep downfield throws on the move and across his frame. Makes a lot of plays on his own with his feet and is a threat to run."
It's pretty obvious why Briles wanted him. That sounds like a young Griffin III to me. Johnson, ranked by ESPN as the nation's No. 68 quarterback, gives the Bears another addition to a solid recruiting class.
He's the 10th player in the 2012 class to commit to the Bears.
Last year, as a junior at South Grand Prairie High, Johnson passed for 1,600 yards and 18 touchdowns, and added 579 yards and seven scores on the ground.
On a final note, considering how many times Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson was called "Jared," it'll be nice to finally have someone in the Big 12 who fits the moniker.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Part 2 of the articles on OSU's involvment in academic fraud was released. Some claim the expose is unfounded. Ian and Richard warn that there are two sides to all stories.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss Mack Brown, Manny Diaz and all the latest with the Texas Longhorns.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett give you the latest on the Johnny Manziel story and Charles Barkley weighs in. You won't believe who the outspoken NBA Hall of Famer is disappointed in and what he thinks about the autograph allegations.
Play Podcast Kirk Herbstreit joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett for his weekly visit to preview the 2013 college football season.
Play Podcast Former TCU and current Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the expectations for the Bengals this season, give a prediction for the TCU-LSU game and talk about what it's like having the Hard Knocks cameras follow him.
Play Podcast Randy Galloway, Matt Mosley, and Mark Friedman react to Dez Bryant's comments regarding the NCAA's ongoing investigation of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Play Podcast Richard Durrett, Ian Fitzsimmons and Glenn "Stretch" Smith react to Dez Bryant sounding off yesterday after practice about Johnny Manziel and the shadiness of the NCAA.
Play Podcast Former NCAA investigator and Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to weigh in on the Johnny Manziel drama and give some insight as to what goes on during an NCAA investigation.