Dallas Colleges: Jason Verrett
Last season the strongest position of the league was defensive back, headlined by Justin Gilbert, Jason Verrett, Ahmad Dixon, Aaron Colvin and Ty Zimmerman, among others.
But those players are all gone. So what will be the strongest position in 2014?
With such players such as TCU’s Devonte Fields, Oklahoma’s Charles Tapper and Texas’ Cedric Reed returning, we believe it will be defensive line.
Maybe you think it will be another position such as receiver, which includes All-American hopefuls Antwan Goodley and Tyler Lockett, and a host of potential 1,000-yard threats such as Texas Tech’s Jakeem Grant, Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard, Iowa State’s Quenton Bundrage, Oklahoma State’s Jhajuan Seales and Texas’ Jaxon Shipley.
Perhaps it’s your opinion that the strength of the Big 12 will be at linebacker, where Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, Kansas and TCU bring their entire units back, and virtually everyone else has at least one proven performer returning.
Maybe the conference’s best unit is the offensive line, with experienced centers BJ Finney (Kansas State), Dominic Espinosa (Texas) and Tom Farniok (Iowa State); talented tackles Spencer Drango (Baylor), Le'Raven Clark (Texas Tech) and Daryl Williams (Oklahoma); and versatile stalwarts Cody Whitehair (Kansas State), Quinton Spain (West Virginia) and Daniel Koenig (Oklahoma State).
Or with Baylor’s Bryce Petty, Kansas State’s Jake Waters, Texas Tech’s Davis Webb and Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight, do you believe quarterback is on its way back to becoming the dominant position in a league that not long ago was the nation’s preeminent conference for that position?
Tell us by voting in the weekly Big 12 poll.
Here’s how the positions of the league rank going into 2014:
1. Defensive line: This was easily the most difficult position to rank by team, as line figures to be the defensive strength of TCU, Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. The Horned Frogs had the league’s best run defense last season, and on top of returning basically the entire unit, will be adding back 2012 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Devonte Fields. The Sooners are also loaded, led by All-Big 12-caliber ends Geneo Grissom and Charles Tapper and tackle Jordan Phillips, and the could also go three-deep across the board next year. The Longhorns have two potential first-round picks up front in tackle Malcom Brown and end Cedric Reed. And Baylor coach Art Briles is already on record stating his D-line could go toe-to-toe with any in the country. Collectively, this should be the best the conference has been at the position since Gerald McCoy and Ndamukong Suh roamed the middle five years ago.
2. Wide receiver: The league has two superstars at receiver in Baylor’s Antwan Goodley and Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett, who have the résumés to garner preseason All-American consideration. But they aren’t the only prolific playmakers here. Texas Tech’s Jakeem Grant, Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard, Iowa State’s Quenton Bundrage, Oklahoma State’s Jhajuan Seales and Texas’ Jaxon Shipley are all capable of 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Baylor might feature the best receiving corps in the country, Oklahoma State is a solid nine deep and West Virginia returns its entire starting lineup from last season. Even Kansas has the nation’s second-leading receiver from 2011 in Miami (Ohio) transfer Nick Harwell. Assuming the league’s quarterbacks can get them the ball, this could be another banner year for the Big 12’s pass-catchers.
3. Linebacker: Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, Kansas and TCU return virtually their entire linebacker units from last year. And from Texas Tech’s Pete Robertson and Kansas State’s Jonathan Truman to Baylor’s Bryce Hager and Oklahoma State’s Ryan Simmons, the rest of the league basically has at least one proven linebacker coming back, too.
4. Offensive line: The strength of the Big 12's offensive lines resides in experienced centers and talented tackles. Kansas State’s BJ Finney, Texas’ Dominic Espinosa and Iowa State’s Tom Farniok are all four-year starters with a combined 113 career starts. At tackle, Baylor’s Spencer Drango, Texas Tech’s Le’Raven Clark and Oklahoma’s Daryl Williams have NFL futures. The league also boasts three other very stout and versatile players up front in Kansas State’s Cody Whitehair, West Virginia’s Quinton Spain and Oklahoma State’s Daniel Koenig, all three of which can man either guard or tackle.
6. Running back: Half the teams lost their leading rushers from last season, and that doesn’t include Texas Tech’s Kenny Williams switching positions to linebacker. The Longhorns pose a potentially devastating one-two punch in Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray, and the Mountaineers could go five-deep with Dreamius Smith, Wendell Smallwood, Rushel Shell, Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie. But the rest of the league will be leaning on potential more than past performance. That said, there is a lot to like in Baylor’s Shock Linwood, Iowa State’s Aaron Wimberly, TCU’s B.J. Catalon, Oklahoma State’s Tyreek Hill and Oklahoma’s Keith Ford.
7. Defensive back: With Gilbert, Verrett, Dixon, Colvin, Zimmerman, Cook and Byndom all gone, this position took a major attrition hit. Thanks to Sam Carter, Chris Hackett and Kevin White, TCU remains well stocked in its secondary. Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas have veterans back, too. Everywhere else, there is rebuilding to be done. But the next wave of secondary stars appears to be on its way. Cornerbacks Nigel Tribune (Iowa State), Justis Nelson (Texas Tech) and Daryl Worley (West Virginia) all started as true freshmen. So did Oklahoma State corner Kevin Peterson and West Virginia safety Karl Joseph, who are now both juniors. It might not be long before defensive back is a strength of the league again like it was last season.
CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State: Cleveland Browns (No. 8 overall)
Ranking: No. 39 ATH
What our scouts said then: “Gilbert is a dual-threat quarterback. ... is a player that will likely be moved to wide receiver or safety. He is a gifted athlete with good football awareness and an athlete that has his best football ahead of him. ... once he commits to the position full time at the next level.”
What happened: Gilbert quickly found a new position at cornerback, and was one of the best at that position in the country last year.
What our scouts said then: No report
What happened: Verrett graduated high school as a running back with no stars and no offers. At juco, the coaching staff moved him to the secondary, setting the stage for him to become one of the best cornerbacks in college football.
TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech: New York Jets (No. 49)
Ranking: No. 28 TE
What our scouts said then: “Amaro is a productive receiving tight end. He has good size and appears on film to have the frame to be able to add more good bulk with time in a college weight program. He will play and block from an in-line position, but at this point it seems the strength of his game is a receiver. Can be a productive receiver.”
What happened: Well, Amaro added 30 pounds of bulk and became one of the most productive receiving tight ends in college football history.
RB Charles Sims, West Virginia: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 69)
Ranking: No. 114 RB
What our scouts said then: “If a college program is patient with Sims' development, they are going to get a future workhorse in the backfield. Hands are soft adding to his upside as a future featured back. Potential sleeper on the national scene as well and could blow up with a big senior season and added size prior to next fall.”
What happened: At Houston, Sims was named the Conference USA Freshman of the Year after rushing for nine touchdowns. His final year, he transferred to West Virginia to raise his pro profile. Displaying those “soft hands” out of the backfield, Sims led all Big 12 running backs in receiving.
DE Will Clarke, West Virginia: Cincinnati Bengals (No. 88)
What our scouts said then: No report
What happened: Clarke committed to rival Pitt, but never signed there. Instead, in late March, he faxed his letter-of-intent to West Virginia. Clarke became a three-year starter at defensive end, and the first and only Big 12 defensive lineman to get taken in the draft.
WR Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma: New York Jets (No. 104)
What our scouts said then: No report
What happened: After two banner seasons at Fresno State, Saunders transferred to OU and became one of the Sooners’ top playmakers. He had 1,136 all-purpose yards as a senior, and helped fuel OU’s late surge to the 2013 season.
CB Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma: Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 114)
Ranking: No. 40 S
What our scouts said then: “Colvin should be a very solid safety at the next level especially from the strong position and be a very solid zone pass defender.”
What happened: Colvin played a key part in the OU secondary for four seasons. He would have been a higher pick had it not been for a knee injury he suffered in the Senior Bowl.
OG Cyril Richardson, Baylor: Buffalo Bills (No. 153)
Ranking: No. 64 OT
What our scouts said then: “Great size and a large wing span which can be beneficial especially in pass protection. Wins most battles at the line of scrimmage when base and drive blocking. Richardson should develop into a very good tackle at the next level.”
What happened: Richardson actually settled in as one of the elite power-blocking guards in college football, and became an Outland finalist as a senior. Richardson didn’t have the best pre-draft workouts, but he’ll have a chance to play in Buffalo.
ILB Jeremiah George, Iowa State: New York Jets (No. 154)
Ranking: No. 55 OLB
What our scouts said then: “George plays inside linebacker but is a little undersized for the position at the major level of competition. However this is a very active, hard-hitting player with the athleticism we like to see in second level defenders.”
What happened: George never let his size be a hindrance, and had a spectacular senior season, leading the Big 12 in tackles and earning all-conference honors.
Ranking: No. 6 RB (ESPN 150)
What our scouts said then: “Fast, explosive, electric, either way you slice it, Seastrunk is arguably one of this class' biggest game-breakers at the running back position.”
What happened: Seastrunk signed with Oregon, but took off after transferring to Baylor. Despite missing two games to injury, Seastrunk led the Big 12 with 1,117 rushing yards last year.
CB Demetri Goodson, Baylor: Green Bay Packers (No. 197)
Ranking: No. 11 point guard (ESPN 100)
What our scouts said then: “Demetri is a true leader, and has the proper mentality to play the point and run a team. He can really push the ball down the court and he gets wherever he wants with it.”
What happened: After starting two seasons of hoops at Gonzaga, Goodson transferred to Baylor, and found his new calling on the gridiron. He finally broke out as a senior last season, earning the starting nod at cornerback, where he improved with every appearance.
OL Tavon Rooks, Kansas State: New Orleans Saints (No. 202)
What our scouts said then: No report
What happened: After transferring in from Navarro Junior College, Rooks instantly became a two-year starter at right tackle for K-State.
OLB Will Smith, Texas Tech: Dallas Cowboys (No. 238)
What our scouts said then: “Smith has large frame and shows promise on film. His taller frame and lack of ideal top-end speed and elusiveness may see him get recruited more at outside linebacker; his measurables could eventually be better suited on defense if his body continues to physically develop. Could be a late bloomer on the recruiting trail.”
What happened: Smith went to Riverside (Calif.) Community College, and indeed became a late bloomer. This past season, he finished second in the league behind George with 120 tackles, and was one of Texas Tech’s most consistent defensive performers all year.
WR Tevin Reese, Baylor: San Diego Chargers (No. 240)
What our scouts said then: No report
What happened: Reese played for plenty of scouts at Temple (Texas) High School, but only because they came to see his teammate, Seastrunk. Even though Reese was incredibly slight at less than 160 pounds, the Baylor coaching staff loved his explosiveness. He started four games as a true freshman, and eventually became a star in the league.
OLB Corey Nelson, Oklahoma: Denver Broncos (No. 242)
Ranking: No. 3 OLB (ESPN 150)
What our scouts said then: “Nelson may be a bit raw and inexperienced in linebacker play but after watching film on this guy it's hard not to see a special linebacker prospect. A defensive playmaker with the quick-twitched burst and striking short-area power you just can't coach.”
What happened: Nelson played a true freshman, but never really became a full-time starter until his senior year. He had a great first month, then suffered a season-ending pectoral injury.
FB Trey Millard, Oklahoma: San Francisco 49ers (No. 245)
Ranking: No. 59 ATH
What our scouts said then: “Overall, Millard brings a lot to the table physically for a program to mold and develop. Not going to wow you on film ... but grows on you the more you watch and just does a lot of the little things right.”
What happened: On his way to earning all-conference honors three times, Millard did many little things right at OU, whether it was blocking, catching passes or even carrying the ball himself. A senior injury hurt his draft stock, but he’ll have a chance to stick in San Fran.
SS Ahmad Dixon, Baylor: Dallas Cowboys (No. 248)
Ranking: No. 3S (ESPN 150)
What our scouts said then: “Dixon is an exceptional defensive back that really is a prototype free safety. A real hitter that is a true leader by the effort he gives every play.”
What happened: After flirting with Tennessee, Dixon became one of the most high-profile recruits ever to sign with Baylor during the Art Briles era. He became a three-year starter, and last season as an All-American was a key piece on Baylor’s first Big 12 title team.
Below is a recap of how the Big 12 fared this weekend in the NFL draft. Baylor led the league with five picks, and Texas failed to have a selection for the first time since 1937.
Should start immediately opposite Pro Bowl CB Joe Haden.
CB Jason Verrett, TCU: San Diego Chargers (25th)
His aggressive cover corner skills will instantly boost an ailing San Diego secondary.
TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech: New York Jets (49th)
The Jets needed weapons for their passing game, and they got a big one here.
RB Charles Sims, West Virginia: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (69th)
Pass-catching skills makes him the likely third-down back in Tampa.
DE Will Clarke, West Virginia: Cincinnati Bengals (88th)
If he can develop his frame, he could be a factor down the line.
WR Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma: New York Jets (104th)
Brings major playmaking to the slot and the return teams.
CB Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma: Jacksonville Jaguars (114th)
Would have been a second-round pick if not for the Senior Bowl injury.
OG Cyril Richardson, Baylor: Buffalo Bills (153rd)
A mauler who will probably need to trim down to succeed at the next level.
ILB Jeremiah George, Iowa State: New York Jets (154th)
Tackling skills could make him a force on special teams.
RB Lache Seastrunk, Baylor: Washington Redskins (186th)
Had to wait a while, but gets to join former Bear RG III in the backfield.
CB Demetri Goodson, Baylor: Green Bay Packers (197th)
The former basketball player has upside that intrigued the Packers.
OL Tavon Rooks, Kansas State: New Orleans Saints (202nd)
It's a mild surprise that he was the first and only K-State alum drafted.
OLB Will Smith, Texas Tech: Dallas Cowboys (238th)
Big-time college tackler who will contribute on coverage teams.
WR Tevin Reese, Baylor: San Diego Chargers (240th)
Will be interesting to see if San Diego can take advantage of Reese’s top-end speed.
OLB Corey Nelson, Oklahoma: Denver Broncos (242nd)
Has a nose for the ball and probably would’ve gone higher had it not been for the pectoral injury.
FB Trey Millard, Oklahoma: San Francisco 49ers (245th)
A typical talented 49ers draft pick coming off an injury.
SS Ahmad Dixon, Baylor: Dallas Cowboys (248th)
Brings a physical presence, but improvement in coverage will determine whether he sticks on the defense.
Here's a look at what the experts were saying about Gilbert and Verrett on Twitter after they were selected:
Joe Haden and Justin Gilbert? Can't be mad at that, Browns fans. Remember Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield? #NFLDraft— Michael Smith (@michaelsmith) May 9, 2014
Surprise pick for the Browns, who trade up to take CB Justin Gilbert. Has all the talent in the world - long arms and crazy athletic...— Terez A. Paylor (@TerezPaylor) May 9, 2014
#Browns coach Mike Pettine wanted the tallest CB w/ a 1st-rd grade & that was Justin Gilbert. Needs 2 lock-down CBs to play his D!— Vic Carucci (@viccarucci) May 9, 2014
One of the top priorities for Mike Pettine tonight was to come away with a potential shutdown CB. The #Browns see that in Gilbert— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) May 9, 2014
Interesting tandem on the defensive boundaries in Cleveland. Joe Haden and Justin Gilbert have the potential to cause a lot of problems.— Dion Caputi (@nfldraftupdate) May 9, 2014
Justin Gilbert on playing opposite @joehaden23: "It's a dream come true." Did he have sense Browns would pick him? Laughed: "Not. At. All."— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) May 9, 2014
Verrett to the Chargers is another really good pick. Were he taller, he'd be drafted higher, to me. Can play all coverages, tackle, & blitz.— Dion Caputi (@nfldraftupdate) May 9, 2014
Love the #Chargers pick. Verrett is pigeonholed as a slot corner but he is much more. Can play the catch pt much better than many longer CBs— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) May 9, 2014
Mighty Mouse to San Diego! I'm all-in on Jason Verrett. Height challenged and all, but best feet of any CB in the #NFLDraft.— Charles Davis (@CFD22) May 9, 2014
Jason Verrett was burned for 3 of @RGIII 6 TD passes vs TCU in 2011, was so upset almost quit. Stuck with it, balled out.. now first round— trey wingo (@wingoz) May 9, 2014
It all begins tonight at 8 p.m. (ET) and the draft will continue through Saturday. Several Big 12 players should be selected in the next three days, so here is a team-by-team NFL draft primer, which includes each school’s top prospect, one sleeper/value pick and a list of each potential draftee. All projections are courtesy of ESPN Insider's draft board , and the potential draftees listed are players with an ESPN.com Scouts Inc. ranking of 31 or above. All draft projections are listed by day, i.e. Day 1 (Round 1), Day 2 (Rounds 2 and 3) and Day 3 (Rounds 4, 5, 6 and 7).
Top prospect: G Cyril Richardson. The Bears’ All-American guard is projected to be an early Day 3 selection and could provide quality depth (or even start) during his first NFL season.
Sleeper pick: WR Tevin Reese. Slated as a late Day 3 selection, Reese could surprise with his speed and take the top off NFL defenses, particularly on a team with a strong running game.
Other potential draftees (projected selection): RB Lache Seastrunk (Day 3), S Ahmad Dixon (Day 3), CB Demetri Goodson (Day 3).
Top prospect: LB Jeremiah George. The Cyclones’ undersized but athletic linebacker didn’t wow scouts with his measurables but it would be unwise to brush him off as a player unable to make an impact on Sundays. He’s projected to go late on Day 3 and could, at the very least, carve out a special teams role.
Sleeper pick: None.
Other potential draftees: None.
No Jayhawk is projected to be drafted or has a ESPN.com Scout’s Inc. rating of 31 or above.
Top prospect: S Ty Zimmerman. He was extremely productive during his time at KSU and is projected to go late on Day 3.
Sleeper pick: OT Cornelius Lucas. Projected to be a late Day 3 selection, Lucas would be worth taking a flyer on for most NFL teams due to his mammoth size (6-foot-8, 316 pounds).
Other potential draftees: None.
Top prospect: CB Aaron Colvin. Projected to come off the board early on Day 3, Colvin would be drafted much higher if he hadn’t torn his ACL during Senior Bowl practices. It’s quite possible some team will eventually get Day 1 or Day 2 production from Colvin if they’re patient with his recovery.
Sleeper pick: FB Trey Millard. Another Sooner coming off an ACL injury, Millard is the type of guy who won’t get any headlines this weekend but will end up playing 10 years in the league as a key contributor on offense and special teams. He projected to be drafted on Day 3.
Other potential draftees: WR Jalen Saunders (Day 3), RB Damien Williams (Day 3), C Gabe Ikard (Day 3).
Top prospect: CB Justin Gilbert. Gilbert is projected to go in the first round and is considered one of the top cornerback prospects in the draft. He’s likely to be the first Big 12 player selected.
Sleeper pick: WR Josh Stewart. His physical attributes aren’t going to make NFL scouts drool, but Stewart seems to consistently find ways to make plays and could initially make an impact as a returner. He’s projected to be a late Day 3 selection.
Other potential draftees: None.
Top prospect: CB Jason Verrett. The elite cover cornerback sits right alongside Gilbert among the draft’s top cornerbacks. He’s projected to join Gilbert as a first-round selection.
Sleeper pick: None.
Other potential draftees: None.
Top prospect: DE Jackson Jeffcoat. He finished his Texas career with an extremely productive senior season. He’s projected to be an early Day 3 selection.
Sleeper pick: WR Mike Davis. He has a bunch of talent and upside but never really became a difference maker in the Big 12. Davis is projected to be selected on Day 3 and could be a steal if his NFL team can push him to maximize his potential.
Other potential draftees: OG Trey Hopkins (Day 3), DT Chris Whaley (Day 3).
Top prospect: TE Jace Amaro. The Big 12’s biggest mismatch creator could transition into an individual matchup nightmare in the NFL as well. He’s projected to go early on Day 2 and will give some NFL team a unique weapon.
Sleeper pick: DT Kerry Hyder. The former foundation of the Red Raiders’ defensive line is expected to be drafted late on Day 3. He’s the type of player NFL teams can draft and hope for the best because he does have some NFL traits that could earn him a spot on a roster.
Other potential draftees: None.
Top prospect: HB Charles Sims. It’s quite possible Sims would be projected to go higher if the overall value of running backs as a whole was not trending down. One of the most versatile running back prospects, Sims is projected to be selected on Day 2.
Sleeper pick: DE William Clarke. The lanky defensive end prospect is projected to be drafted early on Day 3. His athleticism and instincts could make in him Saturday steal.
Other potential draftees: None.
Thursday, ESPN Insider Todd McShay released his 2014 NFL Mock Draft 4.0, which includes the first two rounds of the draft.
McShay has three former Big 12 players going in the top two rounds: Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert, TCU cornerback Jason Verrett and Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro.
To see when and where McShay has the Big 12 trio going, click here .
TCU (March 6)
Big name: CB Jason Verrett. A total of 26 NFL teams had reps at the Horned Frogs’ pro day, and you know many of them came for Verrett. He didn’t look to improve his 40 time from the NFL combine (4.38), but he did show off a 39 ˝-inch vertical and benched 19 reps.
Sleeper: QB Casey Pachall. While he’ll have to answer lots of questions about his off-field issues, Pachall’s on-field work at pro day was encouraging. He checked in at 6-foot-3˝ and 216 pounds, ran his 40 in the mid-4.9s and completed 62 of 72 passes, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Kansas State (March 11)
Big name: S Ty Zimmerman. Though 20 Kansas State players worked out at pro day, Zimmerman was not one of them. He’s still recovering from labrum surgery and reportedly plans to hold a workout next month to show his progress.
Sleeper: OT Cornelius Lucas. Hard to project how things will play out for Lucas, a mammoth tackle at 6-8 and 316 pounds, after he discovered a stress fracture in his left foot at the NFL combine. He’s supposed to be out up to eight weeks but plans to work out along with Zimmerman on April 28.
Oklahoma (March 12)
Big name: CB Aaron Colvin. The Sooners had 28 NFL organization represented at their pro day, but a few key players were still on the mend. Colvin, who suffered a torn ACL at the Senior Bowl, did not work out but hopes to be running again by late April and vowed his recovery is ahead of schedule.
Sleeper: C Gabe Ikard. While Ikard elected to stand by his combine numbers, which were strong for his position group, he did use the pro day to show in position drills just how athletic an interior lineman he can be for an NFL club. Running back Damien Williams also made a solid impression, and receiver Jalen Saunders drew mixed reviews after poor shuttle times.
Oklahoma State (March 13)
Big name: CB Justin Gilbert. The Steelers have the No. 15 pick, so it made sense that Mike Tomlin and his GM were among the many coaches in Stillwater to scout Gilbert. He stood by his 4.37 in the 40 from the NFL combine but did agility drills and reportedly wowed in his position drills. He’s a first-rounder, no doubt.
Sleeper: WR Josh Stewart. Well, OK, he’s not much of a sleeper. But Stewart had work to do to raise his stock, and pro day should’ve helped. He improved his 40 slightly, from 4.69 at the combine to 4.59 at pro day, and showed what he can do as a receiver and returner. Safety Daytawion Lowe also made a good impression.
Texas Tech (March 14)
Big name: TE Jace Amaro. The All-America tight end tried to secure a spot in the first round with improvements in the 40 (4.68) and vertical, and at 6-5 and 266 pounds he evoked comparisons to Vernon Davis from one 49ers scout.
Sleeper: CB Bruce Jones. He’s undersized at 5-7 and 183 pounds, but Jones did grab some attention at pro day with a run of a 4.5-second 40 time and team-best vertical of 41 inches.
Kansas (March 14)
Big name: RB James Sims. A dozen scouts showed up for the Jayhawks’ pro day, and the highlight was probably Sims busting off a run of 4.56 seconds in the 40. The 6-foot, 205-pound back was not invited to the NFL combine and told the Lawrence Journal-World he felt good about the numbers he put up.
Baylor (March 19)
Big names: OT Cyril Richardson, RB Lache Seastrunk, S Ahmad Dixon. Richardson shed 20 pounds after his senior season, which had to encourage NFL scouts, and he did nothing at his pro day to diminish his chances of being a top-50 pick. Seastrunk was as explosive as expected, with a time of 4.37 in the 40 and a 4.36 second shuttle, and tried to show off his pass-catching ability. Dixon ran a 4.64 in the 40 at the NFL combine and improved that to 4.48 at pro day.
Sleeper: TE Jordan Najvar. At nearly 6-6 and 280 pounds, Najvar certainly has the size to make the NFL. His speed had been a question mark, but his reported best for pro day was 4.86 seconds in the 40.
West Virginia (March 21)
Big name: RB Charles Sims. A nice showing at the NFL combine (40 time: 4.48) meant Sims needed only to do positional drills, and he drew good reviews for his pass-catching ability despite small hands.
Sleeper: DE Will Clarke. Knowing it’s possible he’ll be asked to play outside linebacker in an NFL scheme, Clarke worked out at both end and linebacker on pro day and tried to show what he can bring to pass coverage as a nearly 6-6, 268-pound defender.
Iowa State (March 25)
Big name: LB Jeremiah George. After a subpar showing at the combine, George had a nice day in front of 30 NFL officials. He hit 4.69 in the 40-yard dash, posted a big improvement in his broad jump and was solid in positional work.
Sleeper: CB Jeremy Reeves. How’s this for a success story? Reeves played at ISU from 2010-12, missed last season with a pectoral injury and showed up to pro day to prove he’s still got it. He had a crazy good day: 4.29-second 40, 43-inch vertical, 11˝-foot broad jump. The New York Jets signed him on Friday.
Texas (March 26)
Big name: DE Jackson Jeffcoat. Like most other top prospects, Jeffcoat stuck with his NFL combine testing numbers. The 6-3, 253-pound end demonstrated his coverage ability in position drills amid talk that he might have to be a 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level.
Sleeper: CB Carrington Byndom. Questions about the three-year starter’s speed were put to rest when he ran his 40 in 4.37 seconds. Byndom was happy with his positional drills and is starting to line up meetings.
But the coach who has worked with Gary Patterson at four other schools in the past knows what this program is capable of if everyone can shake off the disappointment of last season’s 4-8 campaign and move forward and embrace some competition.
Bumpas recently spoke with ESPN.com about replacing Jason Verrett, getting Devonte Fields back and finding contributors at several other spots.
Is the spring, for you about installing or just getting everyone back up to speed?
It seems like that house will be back in good shape going into 2014.
Bumpas: Well, I haven’t counted up the numbers, but I do know we’ve got a lot of kids coming back. The one thing that’s been my experience is the kid who’s played a while is better than he was the year before. So hopefully that’ll have some merit. We’re just excited about it. We’ll have to wait and see.
Tell me about where Devonte Fields is right now.
Bumpas: Well, his foot seems in pretty good shape. It tweaks him every once in a while. I’m excited about him. I think he’s hopefully going to continue where he left off. It was very frustrating for him to come back and break the dang thing and have to sit out a year, but he’s starting to look like his old self and he should have a good year.
What do you think that setback did not only for how hungry he is but also another year of maturity?
Bumpas: Yeah, I think that’s the one thing, too. Being away from football made him appreciate it a lot more. He really enjoys football and I think that’s even more so because he can get where he wants to get to. He just loves football and when he doesn’t have it, it’s very frustrating.
Replacing Jason Verrett is a big one, but what are the areas where you have to address question marks this spring?
Bumpas: You can’t really replace a kid like Jason Verrett. He’s such a special kid. But we’ve got some good, young kids at that position, and the thing right now is it’s exciting to watch them compete and that’s all we can ask for. I think there’s going to be some healthy competition for that spot and, really, every position. When that happens, everyone gets better.
I’m sure you’re getting phone calls from NFL guys inquiring about Verrett. What is the way you sell him to those guys when they ponder whether he’s a first-rounder?
Bumpas: Well, if I’m not mistaken, he only gave up one touchdown pass last year and, with the people he played against, I think that’s a pretty good résumé. Now it just really gets down to, OK, what are you looking for? If you’re looking for a guy that competes and will play hard, he’ll do that, he’ll go cover that guy, he’ll support the run. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. Whoever gets him will get a real good one.
I know Coach Patterson has said he’s encouraged by what Ranthony Texada is doing at corner. What do you think of him and where you do stand with those other options?
Bumpas: Ranthony is doing a lot of good things, and the one thing he does have, he’s a really fast kid. You can’t coach them to run faster. If you start with that as a base, you can throw in a lot. We have a lot of strong possibilities back there, and we’re excited about it. We have one guy who’s been an injury-prone kid in Travoskey Garrett, he really hasn’t played a whole lot because he’s been banged up a lot. But he’s another kid that I think will come on and really have a chance to compete for some playing time. And of course with Kevin White back that gives us three pretty good kids, and as long as you’ve got three of them, that’s good competition.
You had inexperience at linebacker last year, so how is that group coming along?
When you went back to the 2013 film, are there things you find that you know will be solved by this season?
Bumpas: We’re certainly hoping so. But we will find out. The hurry-up offenses create some problems for you that, if you’re not careful, you’ll give up some big plays because you weren’t ready for the ball to be snapped. We’re just trying to eliminate that, and then it’s about who people are trying to pick on, and what are they trying to pick on. Where do they want to throw the ball, and where are they trying to take advantage?
Do you get the sense your players feel like they have some unfinished business and are unsatisfied by 2013?
Bumpas: I think they were frustrated last year. They lost so many close games, and that’s a great motivator. It makes people work harder, makes people pay more attention. When you go back and look at what could’ve been, I think they’re motivated and where you like them to be.
- Here's a Q&A with Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker.
- The Sooners are going to be featured in an upcoming documentary about academics.
- Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich is excited about developing freshman quarterback Mason Rudolph.
- OSU quarterback J.W. Walsh has a clear leadership advantage in the race to be the Cowboys' signal-caller.
- Defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer has a tough task with a inexperienced defense in his second year at OSU.
- New West Virginia assistant coach Tom Bradley is excited to be back in coaching.
- Cornerback Jason Verrett was named TCU's MVP for the second straight season during the Horned Frogs' 2013 team banquet.
After a sparkling scouting combine showing, McShay has Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert going to the Minnesota Vikings at No. 8. Writes McShay:
If they stay put, I think the Vikings take the best player available, either offensive tackle Jake Matthews or cornerback Justin Gilbert out of Oklahoma State. I'll go with Gilbert, the top corner prospect on our board who has excellent speed, size and playmaking ability.Gilbert isn't the only Big 12 cornerback in McShay's mock draft. McShay has TCU's Jason Verrett, who also shined at the combine, getting picked No. 25 overall by the San Diego Chargers. Writes McShay:
Verrett would be a great fit here, with his excellent speed, quickness and ball skills. He is lacking in size, but he plays big enough that I don't think it should be that big of a concern. San Diego can grab a pass-rusher and offensive guard in middle rounds.
Defensive returner ready to take the next step: Derrick Kindred has never been "the guy" at either safety spot during his first two seasons, but he started at least one game in 2012 and 2013. The junior should make a seamless transition into a starting safety spot, particularly after starting the final three games of 2013 and finishing seventh on the squad with 48 tackles. He's an active playmaker who is always around the ball and should help TCU's secondary continue to rank among the conference's top units.
Redshirt freshman to watch: Several eyes will be on cornerback Ranthony Texada, who opened the spring as Jason Verrett’s replacement opposite Kevin White. A three-star prospect out of high school, Texada is known for his speed but faces a tough task as the player sliding into Verrett’s spot. This spring will be key for Texada to show he can match the competitiveness and desire that Verrett brought to the table each Saturday.
Most significant position battle: The quarterback battle might not be decided during the spring but its easily the most important competition in this program. New offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie need to find a signal-caller with Trevone Boykin, Tyler Matthews and Zach Allen taking reps this spring. If Matthews or Allen steps up during the spring, it gives the coaching staff the freedom to move Boykin to receiver, where he excelled after Casey Pachall returned to the lineup late in the 2013 season.
Key midterm enrollee: The Horned Frogs are hoping Frank Kee’s arrival at the guard position can help solidify the offensive interior and spur competition among TCU’s offensive front. Kee, a junior-college signee, brings bulk and athleticism at 6-foot-4 and 345 pounds. He’s set to battle Jamelle Naff at left guard this spring.
Question that could be answered: How will Boykin be used? That question could be as important as who wins the starting quarterback job. Matthews or Allen’s emergence during the spring would be the best-case scenario because Boykin looked like TCU’s best receiver when he lined up on the outside in 2013. If Meacham and Cumbie aren’t worried about the quarterback spot, it opens up ways to use Boykin all over the field and, more importantly, it gives the coaching staff the summer months to devise the best ways to use Boykin without worrying about the quarterback position. The talented junior has the most experience at quarterback, but it could be his least effective position in the offense in 2014.
Question that won’t be answered until fall: Can TCU count on Devonte Fields to return to his freshman form? Even if Fields has a stellar spring and looks like the dominant force he was as a freshman, the Horned Frogs are going to make him earn his starting spot back. Fields begins the spring listed with the second-team defense, a sign that he will have to regain the trust of the coaching staff. Fields will need to carry any momentum he creates during the spring into August practices and September games before he re-establishes his name among the Big 12’s best defenders.
Here’s a look at the Big 12’s top performers during the 2014 combine:
Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State cornerback: Gilbert ran the fastest time among defensive backs, clocking a 4.37 in the 40 while finishing tied for third with 20 reps at 225 pounds in the bench press. Add his 35.5 inch vertical and 10.5 broad jump and Gilbert seems to have secured himself a spot in Round 1 as arguably the best cornerback in the draft. He was expected to excel at the combine, and he did.
Jace Amaro, Texas Tech tight end: The Big 12’s best tight end set the standard for tight ends at the combine, finishing among the top five in the 40-yard dash (4.74, 5th), bench press (28 reps, tied for 2nd), vertical jump (33 inches, tied for 5th), broad jump (9 feet, 10 inches), 20-yard shuttle (4.3, tied for 3rd) and 60-yard shuttle (12.26, 4th). Amaro moves like a much smaller man and proved it with strong combine numbers.
What a difference a year makes for Justin Gilbert. Awesome.— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) February 25, 2014
Jason Verrett, TCU cornerback: Verrett was nipping at the heels of Gilbert and Amaro as the Big 12’s best performer at the combine. He ran 4.38 in the 40 (tied for 2nd), recorded a 39-inch vertical (tied for 3rd) and 10.6-foot broad jump. Questions remain about his size, at 5-foot-9, 189 pounds, but his physical abilities could help lessen those worries.
Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas defensive end: The Big 12 co-defensive player of the year along with Verrett, Jeffcoat probably helped himself by finishing among the combine’s best defensive linemen in several drills. His 6.97 in the 3-cone drill was second among defensive linemen and his 4.63 in the 40 and 10-foot, 3-inch broad jump were fourth among defensive linemen. Concerns about his lack of ability haven’t been at the forefront of his draft résumé, but it was still a strong showing for the former Longhorn.
Real intersted to see where Jason Verrett ends up going-Great football player, but short...smart teams won't care even with #Seahawks model— Matt Williamson (@WilliamsonNFL) February 26, 2014
Notable: Oklahoma center Gabe Ikard had the best 20-yard shuttle among offensive linemen, recording a 4.37 and the best 3-cone drill, recording a 7.3. ... Former Oklahoma running back Damien Williams ran a 4.45 in the 40, fourth among running backs. ... Baylor tight end Jordan Najvar recorded the best 60-yard shuttle among tight ends at 12.02 and tied for second in the 3-cone drill at 7.14. ... Iowa State linebacker Jeremiah George recorded 28 reps on the bench press, tying for third among linebackers.
The NFL combine is underway with on-field workouts beginning on Saturday. The Big 12 has 25 participants in the combine, and several former conference standouts can make themselves some money. Here are eight former Big 12 playmakers that could help themselves with strong performances at the combine.
Cyril Richardson, Baylor guard: The anchor of the Bears’ offensive line, Richardson is aiming to prove his Senior Bowl performance was an aberration. The combine gives him the opportunity to show his body of work at Baylor is more representative of his NFL future than a week which saw him struggle in Mobile. He has the talent to make an impact on Sundays so it will be a key week for Richardson from the interviews to the on-field work. Richardson is projected as an early Day 3 selection.
Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma center: One of the most productive offensive linemen in OU history, Ikard needs to show he can overcome physical limitations to earn a spot on an NFL roster. Questions about his athleticism surround Ikard so Saturday’s on-field drills for the offensive linemen are key. He has the intelligence and versatility to become a valuable asset for an NFL team but he will have to prove his assets are more important than his weaknesses during the combine. Ikard is projected as a potential Day 3 pick.
Josh Stewart, Oklahoma State receiver: The combine provides Stewart the opportunity to prove his decision to leave school a year early was a good one. Questions about his size and speed have hurt his draft stock and, while he’s not going to grow taller in Indianapolis, he can show he’s faster and stronger than NFL scouts think. Stewart is projected as a Day 3 selection.
Jason Verrett, TCU cornerback: Much like Stewart, size limitations sit upon the shoulders’ of Verrett. Nobody questions his competitiveness, production or coverage skills, but if he wows NFL scouts with his athleticism and impresses them during the interview process, he could prove himself too talented to ignore and spark a rise up NFL draft boards. Verrett is projected as a Day 2 pick that could slip into the first-round conversation.
Mike Davis, Texas receiver: Davis has the physical skills to be an impact NFL receiver but he needs to use the combine to show scouts their concerns about his production, mindset and commitment are unwarranted. If he comes out focused and tries to dominate during on-field workouts on Sunday, Davis could help earn himself some money. If not, he will have even more obstacles to overcome before draft day. Davis is projected as a Day 3 selection.
Jace Amaro, Texas Tech tight end: It’s a big week for Amaro. ESPN.com draft expert Todd McShay included Amaro in his list of prospects with the most riding on the combine . Amaro needs to perform well in drills and show he has unique athleticism to combine with his size (6-foot-5, 265 pounds). Saturday’s drills and on-field work will be critical for the most productive tight end in college football in 2013. Amaro is projected as a first- or second-round pick.
Charles Sims, West Virginia running back: Sims could really boost his draft stock with a fast 40-yard dash time and strong performance in other drills. When the running backs hit the field on Sunday, Sims needs to excel. He’s likely to stand out during receiving drills but if he runs a bad time it could erase all the good work he does during the receiving drills. Sims is projected to be an early pick on Day 3.
- Trey Millard, Oklahoma
- Jeremiah George, Iowa State
- Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma
- Ahmad Dixon, Baylor
- Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
- Demetri Goodson, Baylor
- Jason Verrett, TCU
- Marcus Heit, Kansas State
- Anthony Fera, Texas