Dallas Colleges: Justin Tuggle

Path to BCS title appears clear for K-State

November, 10, 2012
11/10/12
11:37
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FORT WORTH, Texas -- Whether it was true or not, you've got to applaud the effort. Kansas State kept a straight face when it was over.

A few guys eyed the scores in pregame, they admitted, but nobody knew that a win at Amon G. Carter Stadium for Kansas State held an extra special significance only moments after the game began. Alabama's home loss to Texas A&M more than 600 miles away went final just after kickoff, and a win would likely land Kansas State the school's first No. 1 ranking in the BCS.

On the field, Kansas State looked like a team doing what it had done most every week this season: It played sound defense, grabbed a double-digit lead and coasted to a casual win. This one was a 23-10 yawner against a young, scrappy but ultimately overmatched TCU team that clawed its way to bowl eligibility with a double-overtime thriller a week ago.

Still, Bill Snyder said he didn't find out about the result that might have changed Kansas State's season until he was safely in the locker room. His reaction? Little more than a shrug.

A few more found out on the field after the game, but not many -- if any -- Wildcats were fessing up to having the results spoiled before their domination of the Frogs was complete.

"The fans were yelling at us, but they weren't yelling about the Bama game," linebacker Justin Tuggle said with a laugh.

Tuggle and the rest of the defense walked off the field to "K-S-U" chants from a sizeable purple contingent that stood out among the TCU "Blackout," an impressively loud crowd of 47,292.

[+] EnlargeKansas State's Collin Klein
Jim Cowsert/US PRESSWIRECollin Klein and Kansas State appear headed for the top spot in the BCS. Klein rushed for two touchdowns against TCU.
It's a great irony, this willful ignorance of the Snyder CopyCats. Without Alabama's loss, Snyder could have pieced together a perfect 12-0 season and still been shutout of the BCS National Championship Game. Instead, the odds are high that the Wildcats would meet Oregon in the game's season finale, boxing out an undefeated Notre Dame team. (Imagine the laughter that sentence would have produced hardly more than a decade ago.)

Kansas State, though, turned its blinders on to outside factors that could have a profound impact on its future fortunes. Do otherwise and those same outside factors might very well be rendered irrelevant by a Kansas State loss. Either way, the first No. 1 ranking in school history seems imminent after an "any questions?" type of performance that featured a 23-0 fourth-quarter lead and a final score that might indicate the game was closer than it really was.

"There's a lot of work to be done," Tuggle said. "...Being No. 1 in the BCS doesn't mean anything. You don't get anything, any trophies for that or anything like that. There's still a lot of work to be done."

Kansas State's done that work so far this season, leaving little to no doubt about the best team on the field for 10 Saturdays running now. The Wildcats led by double digits late in a 24-19 win at Oklahoma, and didn't allow Iowa State's possible game-winning drive to cross midfield in a 27-21 win in Ames earlier this year.

The other eight wins on Kansas State's spotless résumé? Saturday's 13-point win is the closest, followed by a pair of 14-point wins over Oklahoma State last week and North Texas all the way back on Sept. 15.

"We've been going now for almost 3½ months now without any let-up," Snyder said. "The fact that you're winning, I think, keeps the mental freshness to a certain degree."

Kansas State has looked like mentally fresh every week, offering little to no evidence that a letdown like the double-overtime heartbreaker back in 1998 is coming. A 4-5 Baylor team awaits next week. Then two weeks to prepare for a hot Texas team in Manhattan. The Longhorns might just be inside the top 10 and provide a boost in the BCS rankings that K-State almost certainly doesn't need anymore. Get passed up by Oregon at some point? Who cares? Win, and Kansas State is in.

After the game, TCU coach and K-State alum Gary Patterson had a simple request for the man who built a program from nothing in The Little Apple: "Go win it," he told him.

Meanwhile, Snyder is shrugging on the doorstep of territory Kansas State has never tread upon. He's doing it with a blank look on his face, a freebie windbreaker from last year's Cotton Bowl on his back and a hot cup of coffee in his hand while tackling postgame questions and dodging those who request injury information.

"I apologize for being noncompliant," Snyder said before leaving the podium. Think again if you expect an update on the status of two very important ankles: those of starting safety Ty Zimmerman (five interceptions this year, including one on Saturday) and receiver/kick returner Tyler Lockett, who has returned a pair of kicks for scores this year and ranks second in return TDs in Big 12 history.

Snyder's message to the team after Saturday's win was one that couldn't help but spark his players' imaginations.

"This team has no idea what it's capable of being and where it's capable of going," linebacker Arthur Brown recalled a few minutes later. "We have to continue to focus and continue to focus in on what's gotten us this far, and the sky's the limit."

If by the sky, Snyder means hoisting a crystal football on South Beach in early January, he's got the Wildcats pointed in the right direction.

Defensive redemption propels KSU upset

September, 23, 2012
9/23/12
12:20
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NORMAN, Okla. -- Tre Walker climbed the wall in the southeast corner of Owen Field just to reach a few loved ones Saturday. He had to hug somebody, and couldn't wait until his pads were off to do it.

While the Kansas State linebacker took care of his business there, a "K-S-U" chant echoed through Norman after Bill Snyder's Wildcats finished making history. Walker was climbing to get off the field, but the rest of his team never wanted to leave after Kansas State's 24-19 victory over Oklahoma. Coaches and players hugged and high-fived.

Kansas State and Oklahoma players both had glassy eyes, for very different reasons.

"I mean, I was shocked," defensive end Adam Davis said.

Sure, the Kansas State faithful knew they could win. But that they would? History shot disapproving glances the way of anyone who believed otherwise.

Oklahoma was a perfect 14-0 versus ranked teams at home under Bob Stoops, dispatching opponents by an average of 28.2 points dating all the way back to 1999. The Wildcats hadn't beaten the seven-time Big 12 champs in the regular season since 1997.

Those stats, though, hadn't reached Davis. And he was still shocked. So were the raucous 85,276 Sooners fans in attendance who provided the best Big 12 atmosphere to date.

"It feels like you're on top of the world," Davis said of the postgame party on the field.

The big names on Saturday will attract plenty of attention. Landry Jones' shortcomings. Collin Klein's toughness and passing prowess, highlighted by a 12-yard completion on third-and-11 to Tramaine Thompson that all but iced the game in the final minutes.

[+] EnlargeJarell Childs, Ryan Mueller
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireJarell Childs (26) celebrates with Ryan Mueller after recovering a Landry Jones fumble in the end zone for Kansas State's first touchdown.
The real story? A dogged defense that harassed Jones into two game-breaking turnovers and got lucky with a third when a low snap scooted past Blake Bell, leaving the Belldozer broken down on the way back to the sideline instead of into the end zone.

Snyder, ever the exploiter of weaknesses, saw a big one in Jones that plenty of others saw, too.

Asked if Jones was "spooked," Davis replied: "I noticed it in the first half. When we'd get upfield, he'd start jabbing his feet real quick and moving. That let us know that he don't like nobody in his blind side, and we tried to attack it all night."

The Wildcats succeeded. They flushed Jones from the pocket in the first quarter and linebacker Justin Tuggle, playing defensive end on that particular play as part of a specialized package, caught Jones from behind and stripped the ball. Jarell Childs scooped it up just a yard in front of the goal line and scored.

Kansas State's defense believed.

"What we did all week was worked on trying to flush him out of the pocket, because we know he ain't good with pressure," Davis said. "If we get to his blind side, he's going to get jittery and try to move out the pocket and scoot up and stuff. We tried to get our D-tackles to cause pressure on the edge and try to get him."

The Wildcats notched two sacks, but the constant pressure had Jones looking mediocre for most of the night. His second turnover came when tackle Vai Lutui lunged at Jones from his knees. Jones threw off his back foot and promptly sailed a probable completion into the waiting arms of Kansas State safety Ty Zimmerman.

"It was a little bit of a struggle offensively. ... Our defense, I think, created the turnovers that took place, by and large," Snyder said. "I thought they did a heck of a job."

Snyder was a cool customer holding a hot cup of coffee with cream and sugar, taking sips while he answered questions after the victory in his Cotton Bowl windbreaker on a brisk fall night in Oklahoma. At one point during the conference, a cricket flew in and landed an inch from Snyder's left eye. He broke an answer for only a moment to swat away the pest.

Nothing could get to the unflappable SnyderCats on this night.

"When you play somebody as good as an Oklahoma team, it really does mean something special to them, and they feel good about it," Snyder said.

Snyder's demeanor wouldn't have been much different if the 14-point underdogs had gotten waxed by 30, like so many teams at Owen Field before them. Still, his message to the team remained consistent.

"He said he was very proud of us," Davis said with a grin.

Expecting maybe something a little more dramatic?

"Yes, we were, but you never really know what to expect," Davis said.

Well, that just wouldn't be very Snyder. Saturday's win, though? Doing what no team had ever done before and getting outgained in total yardage while doing it?

Could anybody else but Snyder do that?

Breaking down the Big 12 QB derbies

August, 9, 2011
8/09/11
9:00
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Today is all about the QBs here at ESPN.com, and here's a look at each of the quarterback races in the Big 12.

IOWA STATE

[+] EnlargeJerome Tiller
Nelson Chenault/US PresswireJerome Tiller is expected to open as Iowa State's starting QB.
The safe bet: Jerome Tiller. Tiller, a junior, has filled in for Austen Arnaud much of the past two seasons, but struggled late last season after Arnaud suffered a season-ending knee injury. Tiller quarterbacked a win at Nebraska in 2009, but didn't look much improved in the game time he earned in 2010.

The wild card: Steele Jantz. Jantz is a speedy transfer from junior college in California who also arrived at Iowa State with his top receiver from the City College of San Francisco, Aaron Horne. Jantz will have to keep learning the offense, but can he inject life into the offense with his legs like Taylor Martinez did for Nebraska? Iowa State's version of The Decision is set for Aug. 20. Who will be taking their talents under center at Jack Trice Stadium? Give me the underdog in this race.

The dark horse: Jared Barnett. James Capello, a fourth contender, transferred, but Paul Rhoads says Barnett still has a chance. Can he make enough noise in fall camp to make that a reality?

KANSAS

The heavy favorite: Jordan Webb. Webb started seven games as a redshirt freshman in 2010, and appeared to take control during the summer, but he struggled last season. He should learn from experience, too. Last year's opening-day starter, Kale Pick, is now a receiver. Webb will almost certainly get the call for the season opener, but if he doesn't improve, that could change fast.

The underdog: Quinn Mecham. Mecham started four of the final five games for the Jayhawks, but the senior and junior college transfer might not be the best long-term option for Kansas. Webb learning on the go could pay off in the future, while any lessons Mecham learns will be out the door after the season. Mecham as the backup might be a better role for the team's greater good.

The wild cards: Brock Berglund and Michael Cummings, a pair of true freshmen. Cummings enters with a bit less talent but much less baggage. Berglund was a blue-chip recruit from Colorado, but legal issues stemming from an April assault charge have him spending much more time back home than anticipated. Berglund also missed summer voluntary workouts because of the charge and went back to Colorado before spring practice began, despite enrolling at Kansas in January, a semester earlier than the rest of the freshman class. Expect a redshirt for one of the two, but the two quarterbacks in front of them haven't exactly set the bar high. If the favorites struggle, don't be surprised to see Cummings or Berglund get a chance.

KANSAS STATE

The heavy favorite: Collin Klein. Coach Bill Snyder has already given Klein the status as Day 1 starter, but the Wildcats have played two quarterbacks before under Snyder, and Klein's backups could benefit from a similar strategy this season. The only rumors surrounding Klein are those of vast development during the summer, but he'll have to prove it during fall camp and early in the season to get a stranglehold on the job.

The hype man: Justin Tuggle. Tuggle replaced Cam Newton at Blinn Junior College and transferred to Kansas State before spring practice after originally playing for Boston College out of high school. Tuggle sounded like a strong contender entering spring practice, but didn't make it happen. We'll see if his status changes during fall camp.

The backup plan: Sammuel Lamur. Lamur was the No. 3 quarterback last season, and took over the No. 2 spot on the depth chart ahead of Tuggle during the spring. We haven't seen much of Lamur during his career, but this might be the year.

TEXAS

The favorite: Garrett Gilbert. Gilbert, despite his struggles in 2010, never got pulled and started all 12 games for the Longhorns. He looked unimpressive in the spring game, but indications from his teammates are that he's embodied the leadership aspect of the job, something coach Mack Brown covets. That might earn Gilbert the job, but if he doesn't look like a vastly different player this season, he'll lose it.

The wild card: Case McCoy. McCoy, the younger brother of that other McCoy kid you might have heard of, has taken on a bit of a fan-favorite role after his performance in the spring game, when he outplayed Gilbert. Despite his good numbers in the spring game, however, he looked uncomfortable and must make up for his lack of experience to oust Gilbert for the reins of the offense.

The mystery man: Connor Wood. Wood is a former high school All-American, but redshirted in 2010 and played sparingly in the spring game. Outside of a few snaps in spring, no one outside the locker room has had much of a chance to see Wood play, but if he starts making noise during fall camp, you'll hear it.

The young gun: David Ash. Coaches lauding true freshman quarterbacks in the spring is rare, but Ash arrived in Austin early and got a lot of compliments from the new Longhorns coaches. He's the long shot in this race, and Brown apologized to him for not getting him enough snaps in the spring game, but the coaches indicate he's still alive in the race.

Ranking the Big 12's top 10 quarterbacks

July, 22, 2011
7/22/11
10:00
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We wrapped up our position rankings by team on Thursday, but today, we'll start ranking the 10 best players at each position. Obviously, the quarterback rankings won't look vastly different, but we'll get plenty of variance in the other positions.

This is a good group this year. There's a big dropoff after the first four, but plenty of others could join that group by season's end.

Also, I picked each team's representative according to who I picked to win the job in fall camp.

So, without further ado, let's get it on.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Weeden
Chuck Cook/US PresswireOklahoma State's Brandon Weeden seems destined to deliver dominant statistics again this season.
1. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State -- We've been over this several times, but Weeden and Jones' numbers are extremely similar when you factor in Oklahoma's deep love for the bubble screen, and heading into this season, I lean toward Weeden because he's less likely to make a back-breaking mistake. Jones threw for almost 500 more yards, but Weeden had 106 fewer attempts, and averaged nearly a full yard more (8.4 vs. 7.6) per attempt than Jones.

2. Landry Jones, Oklahoma -- That said, my bet is on Jones taking the No. 1 spot from Weeden by season's end. We'll see a much more confident Jones this season, further development in his naturally quiet personality. I expect that to manifest on the field and Jones has enough talent around him to mount a serious Heisman campaign, as well as come close to or exceed his 4,718 yards and 38 touchdowns last season. It won't be for a lack of confidence. Jones threw the ball more than any quarterback in the nation last season.

3. Robert Griffin III, Baylor -- Griffin made big strides as a passer in 2010, and I'd expect that to continue this season, especially with the likely emergence of Josh Gordon as a big target with more experience. People peg Griffin, a junior, as a dual-threat quarterback, and there's no denying his speed, but if you took that away from him, he'd still be No. 3 on this list after throwing for 3,501 yards and completing 67 percent of his passes, the highest percentage of any returning quarterback in the Big 12.

4. Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M -- Tannehill will try to avoid the Texas A&M senior quarterback curse this season, but you have to love his chances with the way he played in the Aggies' final seven games of 2010, including a 5-1 record in his six starts. Tannehill, like Griffin, has the luxury of returning almost his entire receiving corps. Just nine receptions from last season's team won't return in 2011.

5. Seth Doege, Texas Tech -- The risk with Doege is significantly less than the risk that comes with James Franklin at Missouri. To me, it boils down to experience. Doege has been in the program for three seasons already, and he'll finally get his chance to start in his fourth fall on campus vs. Franklin in his second. He might not have the support at the skill positions that Franklin has, but he'll have five returning starters on the offensive line and an offense that's provided success for a lot of quarterbacks before him, even more than Missouri's.

6. James Franklin, Missouri -- Franklin, a sophomore, has a bit more upside than Doege, but I'd expect Franklin to learn a lot more during 2011 than Doege will. Franklin's thrown 14 passes at Missouri, but he might surpass that in the first half against Miami (OH) in the opener. Tyler Gabbert's departure after spring didn't help the Tigers' depth, but here's guessing it did wonders for Franklin's suspect self-confidence.

7. Collin Klein, Kansas State -- Klein was a big, versatile piece of Kansas State's offense last season, integral in a satisfying 39-14 stomping of Texas in Manhattan. He'll need to develop more as a passer to be the complete quarterback Kansas State needs, but for now, it looks like he'll hold off Justin Tuggle and Sammuel Lamur to win the job officially.

8. Garrett Gilbert, Texas -- Gilbert's potential is clear, but it feels like time and quality receivers are necessary for him to start making good on that potential. He might not have either this season. I expect him to be better, but his leash will be much, much shorter if he beats out Case McCoy and Connor Wood in fall camp. He made it through 2010 without being benched, but if he shows any of the same struggles in 2011, he won't get far before McCoy or Wood get a chance, or even freshman David Ash.

9. Steele Jantz, Iowa State -- Jantz's speed is something Iowa State hasn't had from a quarterback since Seneca Wallace, and that playmaking ability can put pressure on defenses and allow Iowa State's backs to make plays and receivers see less blanketing coverage. I'll pick him over the more experienced Jerome Tiller up in Ames, and he'll love playing with former juco teammate Aaron Horne at receiver.

10. Jordan Webb, Kansas -- Webb sounds like he's distancing himself from Quinn Mecham this summer, but he still has a long way to go before he proves he's a quarterback that can get Kansas into the postseason. The position is more important in the Big 12 than in perhaps any other league in college football, and until Kansas improves there, losing seasons will continue.

Big 12 position rankings: Quarterback

June, 20, 2011
6/20/11
10:45
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We'll kick off our look today at the position rankings for each team in the Big 12 before looping back around to rank the top 10 at every position in the Big 12.

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:

[+] EnlargeLandry Jones
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireLandry Jones leads the Big 12's deepest and best group of quarterbacks.
1. Oklahoma

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.

5. Baylor

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.

6. Missouri

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.

7. Texas

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.

10. Kansas

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.
Springtime is almost here. And here's a look at what to expect across the Big 12 when it gets into full swing here in the next couple weeks.

BAYLOR BEARS

Spring practice starts: February 28

Spring game: April 2

What to watch:
  • Big changes on defense. Baylor brought in Phil Bennett as its new defensive coordinator, and he says his scheme will be multiple, built to fit the Bears' personnel. Considering the Bears' recent recruiting successes in the secondary, look for a 4-2-5 type of look.
  • Recruiting stars: time to shine. Both safeties, Tim Atchison and Byron Landor, are gone. Baylor, though, has two former ESPNU 150 recruits at safety who would be well served to start filling their potential. Prince Kent was a reserve last season and at one time, the nation's No. 51 overall recruit who originally signed with Miami. Ahmad Dixon, meanwhile, was the No. 15 overall prospect in the 2010 class. The opportunity is there. Baylor needs big talent at the position. Briles has recruited it. Can they develop into players who make Baylor a contender?
  • Running back competition. Jay Finley topped 1,200 yards in 2010, but he's gone. Who steps into his void? Terrance Ganaway is a bowling ball at 5-foot-11, 235 pounds, but the shifty Jarred Salubi could get a good amount of carries, too. They could begin to share carries this spring.
IOWA STATE CYCLONES

Spring practice starts: March 22

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Quarterback competition. It should be a good one in Ames this spring. Jerome Tiller is the name most recognize after getting lots of meaningful time and starts because of injuries to Austen Arnaud over the past two seasons. But juco transfer Steele Jantz sounds confident he can win the job. Rising sophomore James Capello and redshirt freshman Jared Barnett will compete, too.
  • Paging Cyclone receivers. Iowa State had one of the most underwhelming receiving corps in the league during the past season, and three of its top five pass-catchers won't return in 2011. Of those three, however, one is a tight end (Collin Franklin) and another is a running back (Alexander Robinson). The new quarterback will need some help, and Darius Darks and Darius Reynolds will need to provide it as seniors.
  • Shontrelle's time or not? Freshman Shontrelle Johnson looked like the running back with the most pop behind Robinson for most of 2010, but two other freshmen running backs jockeyed for carries, too. Paul Rhoads is hardly handing the job over to Johnson, but spring could be the time when he really separates himself from the pack.
KANSAS JAYHAWKS

Spring practice starts: April 1

Spring game: April 30

What to watch:
  • What are they doing behind center? Kansas never got much consistent play out of the quarterback position last year, but freshman Brock Berglund is one of the 2011 class' top recruits, and enrolled early to compete in the spring with Jordan Webb and Quinn Mecham. With a building program like Kansas, there's perhaps some value in handing the program to a younger player like Webb or Berglund, but they'll have to earn it. Doing so will start in the spring, but don't expect the Jayhawks to have a set-in-stone starter by spring's end.
  • Top linebacker back on the field. Huldon Tharp missed all of 2010 with a foot injury, but he says he's 100 percent and ready to get back on the field. As a freshman in 2009, he was fifth on the team in tackles, with 59, and looked like one of the league's possible budding stars. Now, he'll get his chance to join fellow linebacker Steven Johnson as one of the team's top tacklers, and he'll do it as a sophomore after redshirting in 2010.
  • Toben rising? Turner Gill raised plenty of eyebrows when he moved his team's leading rusher in 2009, Toben Opurum, to linebacker in fall camp, and eventually slid him up to defensive end. But toward the end of 2010, Opurum started showing some major signs of growth at the position. We'll get a better idea this spring if he's one of the league's most unlikely new stars at defensive end.
KANSAS STATE WILDCATS

Spring practice starts: April 6

Spring game: April 30

What to watch:
  • Prodigal Kansan sons come home. There's no doubt that the Wichita native Brown brothers are the main attraction at Kansas State this spring, a season after transferring back home. Bryce Brown, the running back, was the nation's No. 8 prospect in the 2009 class. Arthur Brown, the linebacker, was the nation's No. 6 prospect in the 2008 class. Bryce transferred from Tennessee and Arthur from Miami. The Wildcats are pinning much of their hopes on the duo, and we'll get a good sense of what they can provide soon.
  • Quarterback competition. Carson Coffman is gone, and two new faces will challenge for the job: juco transfer Justin Tuggle and Daniel Sams. Sammuel Lamur is also up for the gig. Collin Klein may or may not be; Bill Snyder hasn't explicitly confirmed a past comment from Sams saying Klein had moved to receiver. Don't expect a starter to be named by spring's end, but a general order could start to form.
  • Can the defense show improvement? Kansas State had the Big 12's worst overall defense last year, and the worst rushing defense in college football, giving up 3,008 yards on the ground. Coordinator Chris Cosh looks like he'll still be around in 2011, and defensive backs David Garrett and Tysyn Hartman are solid pieces to try and build around. But this young maturing defense must get better to make a bowl game again with so many questions on offense. That starts in the spring.
MISSOURI TIGERS

Spring practice starts: March 8

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Franklin comes alive! Blaine Gabbert bolted to the NFL early, and Missouri has a gaping hole a quarterback. The position, however, is surrounded by a lot of quality talent that likely makes the Tigers a Top 25 team. There's no understating the importance of the position for the Tigers, and that will begin to be decided in the spring. James Franklin, a rising sophomore, saw spot duty in 2010 as more of a runner, and may have the inside track on the job, but Tyler Gabbert, Blaine's younger brother, and Ashton Glaser should make it an interesting competition in the spring. If neither of them impress early, don't count out incoming freshman Corbin Berkstresser.
  • Here is the new secondary. Same as the old secondary? After years of pass defense being one of the Tigers' biggest weaknesses, it became a strength in 2010 behind the leadership of senior corners Kevin Rutland and Carl Gettis. But the Tigers lose them and safety Jarrell Harrison. Rutland emerged as one of the team's most impressive players last spring, but was Missouri's success in the secondary a one-time thing or the beginning of a welcome trend?
  • Time to dominate the trenches? Missouri played without likely first-round pick Aldon Smith for much of the previous season, but the defensive and offensive lines for the Tigers were as good as ever in 2010. How will they look in 2011? Impact juco transfer Sheldon Richardson won't be enrolled by the spring, but the four returning starters on the offensive line should get some solid work against Brad Madison, Jacquies Smith and Terrell Resonno.
OKLAHOMA SOONERS

Spring practice starts: March 21

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Freshmen on display. Coach Bob Stoops hasn't been shy about saying his 2010 recruiting class was his best ever, but it could look even better after this spring. Two of his best emerging recruits, Justin McCay and Geneo Grissom, didn't even play in 2010, and could start to make an impact. The same goes for Corey Nelson, who will try to earn some more time somewhere backing up star Travis Lewis.
  • Is there a golden boot in Norman? Jimmy Stevens was much more accurate in 2010, finishing 19-for-23, but his attempts outside 45 yards were sparse. The good news is he missed none of his 53 extra points. Field goals have been a bit of an adventure for the past couple years, but continuing in the spring what he started last year would be a good sign for Oklahoma. The Sooners are strong everywhere and need good special teams play to reach their lofty title goals.
  • Are the Sooners' backs back? Roy Finch missed the Fiesta Bowl with a stress fracture, and his durability is certainly questionable entering 2011. When he's healthy, he looks like the next star in the Sooners' backfield, but they'll need some depth behind the 5-foot-8, 173-pounder. Jermie Calhoun, Jonathan Miller and Brennan Clay have all looked good at times, but there should be some good competition from newcomers Brandon Wegher, an Iowa transfer who'll be in camp this spring and eligible next season, and blue-chip recruit Brandon Williams, who enrolled early.
OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS

Spring practice starts: March 7

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Every piece of the offense. The spring in Stillwater is all about keeping or improving upon the status quo. Had it kept Dana Holgorsen, there'd be little doubt that would happen, but Oklahoma State must make the most of its five returning offensive linemen, quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon. The opportunity for a historic season is there, but they'll have to pick up the nuances of the new offense quickly in the spring like they did last year.
  • What about the kicker? Dan Bailey won the Lou Groza Award as the nation's top kicker in 2010, but he's gone. Oklahoma State needs to fill that role quickly, and we'll likely know who will get the nod after the spring.
  • Who steps up on the defensive line? The Cowboys lose three starters up front on defense, including All-Big 12 performer Ugo Chinasa and tackles Chris Donaldson and Shane Jarka. Can senior Richetti Jones become a star in the Big 12? We'll have a good idea if he, or any of the Cowboys' other defensive linemen, can by the end of April.
TEXAS LONGHORNS

Spring practice starts: February 24

Spring game: April 3

What to watch:
  • New coaches and their students/players. Texas has five new coaches. Although it's hard to get a good read early on, how they relate with the players on the field, in the film room and around the facilities will have a big impact on how the 2011 season plays out in Austin. The young-blooded coordinators could serve themselves well by relating to players and the players will need to spend plenty of extra time learning new schemes and plays.
  • Quarterback competition ... or not? Mack Brown says the gig is open and it is, for now. Garrett Gilbert can close it with a strong spring. If Garrett struggles on the field or has difficulty grasping the new system, the door will be wide open for Connor Wood or Case McCoy to step in and close it. Gilbert didn't get much help, but he did very little in 2010 to inspire a lot of breathing room with McCoy and Wood clamoring for playing time.
  • And you've got to defend the pass, too. Texas loses its top three cornerbacks to the NFL, and only Carrington Byndom and A.J. White got much meaningful playing time last season. Younger players can earn some rare early playing time with a strong spring. Will anyone step up?
TEXAS A&M AGGIES

Spring practice starts: March 22

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • New linebackers in the running. Spring isn't so scary when you bring back nine defensive starters, but the two Texas A&M lost were the heart of its defense. Linebackers Michael Hodges and Von Miller are gone. Kyle Mangan didn't look fantastic when forced into action during the Cotton Bowl, but the time is now for Damontre Moore and Dominique Patterson, a pair of sophomores, to make their impact.
  • Tannehill's tuning things up. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill played about as well as anyone could have hoped late last season, but he'll need it to continue his performance with a solid spring nailing down the timing with his receivers, who all return. He's already got a leg up on last year's quarterback, Jerrod Johnson, who was held out of team drills last spring after shoulder surgery that eventually derailed his senior season.
  • Christine's back. Christine Michael missed the second half of the season with a broken leg, giving way to Cyrus Gray's rise among Big 12 backs. It should make Texas A&M's depth at the position even more impressive, but we'll see how Michael looks coming back from the injury.
TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS

Spring practice starts: February 19

Spring game: March 26

What to watch:
  • Past defending that pass defense. Texas Tech had the Big 12's worst pass defense last season, but has a pair of big potential players at cornerback in rising sophomores Tre Porter and Jarvis Phillips. Starters LaRon Moore and Franklin Mitchem are gone, but if returning starters Cody Davis and Will Ford can continue to mature, the defense should improve in the area most important for success in the Big 12.
  • And they're off! There's a four-man quarterback derby set in Lubbock this spring between Seth Doege, Jacob Karam, Michael Brewer and Scotty Young. I don't expect it to be settled until midway through fall camp, similar to last season, but there should be a solid front-runner and more clarity after spring. Coach Tommy Tuberville was extremely impressed with Doege and Karam last spring after Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield went down with injuries.
  • Time to find new stars. Most of the big names on Texas Tech's defense are gone. Colby Whitlock, Bront Bird, Brian Duncan will all continue their careers elsewhere. The leaders on the defense will have to begin to emerge in the spring. Is it Scott Smith? Cody Davis? A younger, unexpected player? We'll find out. Sometimes these types of situations aren't as easy to predict as they might seem, like Missouri's strength in 2010 emerging in the secondary.
Tags:

Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Texas Longhorns, Baylor Bears, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Texas A&M Aggies, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Mack Brown, Von Miller, Bob Stoops, Art Briles, Taylor Potts, Garrett Gilbert, Steven Sheffield, Jerrod Johnson, Blaine Gabbert, Brandon Weeden, Brian Duncan, Turner Gill, Jarvis Phillips, Phil Bennett, Travis Lewis, Justin Blackmon, Ryan Tannehill, Jay Finley, Cyrus Gray, Collin Klein, Jerome Tiller, Paul Rhoads, Christine Michael, Quinn Mecham, Carson Coffman, Ahmad Dixon, Byron Landor, Jarred Salubi, Terrance Ganaway, Corey Nelson, Dan Bailey, Damontre Moore, Bront Bird, Cody Davis, Colby Whitlock, Michael Hodges, Kyle Mangan, Bill Snyder, Carl Gettis, Chris Donaldson, Franklin Mitchem, LaRon Moore, Shane Jarka, Tre Porter, Ugo Chinasa, Sheldon Richardson, Ashton Glaser, James Franklin, Tyler Gabbert, A.J. White, Aldon Smith, Alexander Robinson, Arthur Brown, Brad Madison, Brandon Wegher, Brandon Williams, Brennan Clay, Brock Berglund, Bryce Brown, Carrington Byndom, Case McCoy, Chris Cosh, Collin Franklin, Connor Wood, Corbin Berkstresser, Daniel Sams, Darius Darks, Darius Reynolds, David Garrett, Dominique Patterson, Geneo Grissom, Huldon Tharp, Jacob Karam, Jacquies Smith, James Capello, Jared Barnett, Jermie Calhoun, Jimmy Stevens, Jonathan Miller, Jordan Webb, Justin McCay, Justin Tuggle, Kevin Rutland, Michael Brewer, Prince Kent, Richetti Jones, Scott Smith, Scotty Young, Seth Doege, Shontrelle Johnson, Steele Jantz, Terrell Resonno, Tim Atchison, Toben Opurum, Tysyn Hartman

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