Dallas Colleges: Lanear Sampson

Baylor Bears spring wrap

May, 1, 2013
5/01/13
11:15
AM CT
2012 record: 8-5
2012 Big 12 record: 4-5
Returning starters: Offense: 6; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 1

Top returners: OL Cyril Richardson, RB Lache Seastrunk, S Ahmad Dixon, WR Tevin Reese, LB Eddie Lackey, DE Chris McAllister, LB Bryce Hager, K Aaron Jones

Key losses: WR Terrance Williams, QB Nick Florence, WR Lanear Sampson, S Mike Hicks, C Ivory Wade, DT Gary Mason Jr.

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Passing: Nick Florence (4,309 yards)
Rushing: Lache Seastrunk* (1,012 yards)
Receiving: Terrance Williams (1,832 yards)
Tackles: Bryce Hager* (124)
Sacks: Chris McAllister* (6)
Interceptions: Eddie Lackey* (4)

Spring answers:

1. Bryce is the guy. It was going to take a lot for Bryce Petty to lose his starting spot, but he looked like a guy who suited up for his fourth spring this year and cemented his status as the heir apparent to a crazy-good quarterback tradition under Art Briles. He'll follow Robert Griffin III and Florence, who both set school records for passing yards.

2. Defense changes its identity. The Bears didn't have a ton of speed in the secondary last season, and as a result, relied heavily on zone and didn't play a lot of tight coverage. To start fixing the problem, Dixon moved back to traditional safety, and as the defense's most physically skilled talent, that was a wise decision. Baylor wants to play more man and play tighter this year, and we'll see if it pays off in the fall.

3. Offense finds its playmakers. Williams is gone and so is Sampson, two of the team's top three receivers. Reese returns, but Antwan Goodley and Jay Lee emerged to win starting spots this spring, and both look like big-time targets for one of college football's best offenses. Count on those guys and Clay Fuller to keep the tradition going.

Fall questions

1. Can the defense prove itself? The Bears were definitely one of the best defenses in the Big 12 over the last month of the season. The same unit, however, was also a big reason why Baylor limped to an 0-5 start in conference 12 play before ripping off four wins to end the season. The defensive line should be improved and young talents like Javonte Magee and Shawn Oakman could make names for themselves this fall.

2. Is the offensive line deep enough? Baylor's history under Briles at this position makes me pretty confident, and the Bears have a solid starting five. But losing Troy Baker this spring is a big knock, and the Bears only had 10 healthy offensive linemen this spring. Come fall, more injuries could force the Bears to force inexperienced players into the rotation. This was probably the biggest concern for Briles all spring.

3. Just how good is Petty? He looks good for now, and was productive and impressive during the spring. That's also the spring. RG3 and Florence broke school records for passing yards in consecutive seasons, though, so the bar is sky-high. There's every reason to believe in Petty, but expectations are high and reaching them won't be easy. The good news is he has a huge talent in Seastrunk and a solid receiving corps around him to support his efforts.

Breaking down spring camp: Baylor

March, 1, 2013
3/01/13
9:00
AM CT
Baylor kicks off its spring practice later today. Let's take a closer look at what you can expect.

Schedule: The first of Baylor's practices will be today, concluding with a spring game in Waco on April 6. The Bears usually hold a controlled scrimmage at the practice field as part of a day-long festival, rather than a game at Floyd Casey Stadium.

What's new: Not a whole lot beyond the loss of skill position talent, which is welcome news for the Bears. There weren't any staff changes for Baylor this offseason, and we'll talk a bit more later about the factors that could make Baylor a dangerous team carrying the Big 12's longest winning streak (four games) into the 2013 season. No one else in the league has a streak of more than one game.

New faces: Baylor is welcoming four players onto the practice field this spring as early enrollees from its 2013 recruiting class. Junior college transfer Gus Penning brings some size to the tight end spot at 6-foot-5 and 245 yards, and he's joined by quarterback Chris Johnson, the nation's No. 5 dual-threat passer. Receiver Kiante' Griffin and linebacker Brian Nance are also suiting up this spring.

Getting defensive: This is Year 3 under Phil Bennett, but we saw some major, major improvement late in 2012. The Bears had a similar jump in 2011, but it didn't stick through 2012. The pieces are in place with guys like Chris McAllister, Bryce Hager, Eddie Lackey and Ahmad Dixon, but every time I visit Waco in the spring, the defense gets worked over. We may get an idea of their progress this spring in scrimmages and workouts. Progress has to happen now if Baylor's ever going to take the leap to Big 12 title contender.

Question marks: Does Baylor have enough firepower at receiver to keep its offense rolling? We'll talk about quarterbacks later, but the Bears lose Terrance Williams and Lanear Sampson, and I don't necessarily buy Tevin Reese as a ton more than a deep threat who stretches the field. Can guys like Levi Norwood or Antwan Goodley become big threats underneath? Look out for tight ends Jordan Najvar and Jerod Monk to play a bigger role in the offense, too. They've got tons of experience.

Breaking out: LT Spencer Drango. He had a great first season on Baylor's offensive line, but look out for the former blue-chip recruit to start looking like one of the Big 12's best offensive linemen alongside Cyril Richardson. He's already solid, but he may blossom into a star this offseason.

Much to prove: RB Lache Seastrunk. He turned heads and produced headlines when he predicted he'd win the Heisman next season, but Baylor's got a solid group of backs and we'll see how he handles the bulk of the first-team reps and the attention that comes with his bold proclamation. He's got the skills to back it up, but it'll be interesting to see what kind of tone he strikes in interviews this spring.

All eyes on: QB Bryce Petty. If Baylor's going to continue this run, it simply has to be excellent at quarterback. I'm not ready to completely write off Seth Russell, but I love what I've seen from Petty in my visits to practice in Waco the past couple springs. He's got a big, NFL-quarterback body at 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, and a big arm, but decision-making and ability to move the offense is something you can't tell until it's time to take over the team. That time is now for Petty.

Thirty Big 12 players off to NFL combine

February, 7, 2013
2/07/13
2:00
PM CT
The NFL scouting combine is the biggest annual showcase of future football stars before the NFL draft, where players who have entered the draft get measured, run through drills and show scouts and coaches what they can do without any pads on.

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

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

Trending up or down: Big 12 in 2013

December, 18, 2012
12/18/12
11:00
AM CT
Colleague Phil Steele checked in with our ESPN Insider folks for a look at all 70 bowl teams Insider... in 2013.

What can they all expect next season? You'll need Insider to see his full comments, but he weighed in on the nine Big 12 bowl teams.

Baylor's stock: Down

My take: I'd lean more toward even for the Bears. They're losing Nick Florence and Terrance Williams, but Tevin Reese is a strong candidate to continue the receiver tradition at Baylor under Art Briles, and Lache Seastrunk might end up being the Big 12's best back next year. Don't be surprised if new QB Bryce Petty is even better than Florence. It's very easy for me to see Baylor winning seven (or more) games next year, and once again, it's hard to see the defense getting worse.

WVU's stock: Even

My take: The record might be the same (7-5) next year, but I would lean toward trending down for WVU, just because it won't have the upside or potential of this year's team. WVU was good enough to win 9-11 games this year, but with a new QB, no Tavon Austin and no Stedman Bailey, it's tough to see next year's team being able to make that claim.

Texas' stock: Up

My take: How up depends on David Ash's development, once again. When he played well early in the season, Texas looked like it could beat a whole lot of teams. When he struggled against KU and Oklahoma, Texas didn't look like it could beat anyone. The defense can't be any worse.

TCU's stock: Up

My take: Way, way, up. Maybe more up than any team in the country. TCU was 70 percent freshmen and sophomore this year and still managed to go 7-5. It has tons of talent on both sides of the ball, and running back Aaron Green, a blue-chip transfer from Nebraska, will be on the field. Quarterback Casey Pachall may return, too. Big 12 title contenders.

Iowa State's stock: Even

My take: I'd agree. Sam Richardson showed some promise, but I don't know if I see a true impact player there. ISU still has to improve its skill position talent in a big way to truly make the jump from fringe bowl team.

Oklahoma State's stock: Up

My take: Other than TCU or Texas, no Big 12 team's stock should be more up next year. OSU can absorb the loss of Joseph Randle if he leaves, and if he stays, OSU will likely have the Big 12's best offense with a good O-line, maturing QBs and experienced backs. They'll go from seven wins to a Big 12 title contender.

KSU's stock: Down

My take: Agreed here. It's pretty simple. This is a very, very experienced team with two huge talents in Collin Klein and Arthur Brown that will be difficult to replace. K-State has a lot of potential at QB in Daniel Sams and juco commit Jake Waters, but Chris Harper will be gone, too. John Hubert and Tramaine Thompson will have to play big, and the offensive line will have to lead the way.

Midseason report: Baylor

October, 16, 2012
10/16/12
11:15
AM CT
BAYLOR

Record: 3-2, 0-2 Big 12

The season started bright, and even a seven-point loss at West Virginia was a reason for encouragement. The panic outside the program though is starting to set in after getting outplayed in about every way a team can be outplayed in a 49-21 loss to TCU at home on Saturday. The loss included nothing short of a fourth-quarter meltdown on both sides of the ball.

The Bears' best performance of the season came in the opener against SMU, when a 45-3 lead in the third quarter suggested both offense and defense would be in excellent shape. A road comeback against a decent Louisiana-Monroe team showed plenty of guts but lots of questions, too. The defense isn't any better under Phil Bennett, and though the offense has played well, it's still not like it was a year ago.

Nick Florence has filled in fantastically for Robert Griffin III, even though he lacks the eye-popping physical attributes of the school's lone Heisman winner. The running game looks a little confused with no clarity between the three backs, Jarred Salubi, Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin. Terrance Williams has been as good or better than Kendall Wright, and offered Florence a big-time target alongside Tevin Reese and Lanear Sampson.

Baylor has been a bit underwhelming early, and a loss to Texas next week would mean a three-game losing streak and a big 0-3 hole to try and climb out of over the season's final six games. Nobody in Waco wants that.

Offensive MVP: Terrance Williams, WR. If you had any doubts that Williams could be a No. 1 target, there's no way you could any more. His 830 yards lead the nation, and he's averaging 22.4 yards on his 37 catches. He's stretching the field for Florence and validating his status as one of the best NFL receiver prospects in the country. His eight touchdown catches are tied for third-most nationally.

Defensive MVP: Bryce Hager, LB. I was torn on this one. You could definitely give this one to Ahmad Dixon, but I lean Hager because of the secondary's shortcomings this season. Hager leads the team with five tackles for loss and has 61 tackles to lead the team by 13. He's also forced a pair of fumbles and has a sack, too.

Big 12 stock report: Week 7

October, 10, 2012
10/10/12
1:00
PM CT


Preference shares! Input tax! Feasible portfolio! Paying agents!

Oh, I'm back with this week's stock report, preceded by some fantastic nonsensical financial terms that only an accountant could make sense from. Let's get to the football, though. Here's a few stocks with rapidly rising or falling values:

Rising: West Virginia explosiveness

The Big 12 rankings for the most plays longer than 10 yards? The top three players are all from West Virginia. It's a bit silly, really. Running back Andrew Buie is No. 1, with 24 plays from scrimmage longer than 10 yards, followed by Tavon Austin, who has 22. Stedman Bailey? He's slacking at 21. The surprise No. 4? Kansas running back Tony Pierson, who missed much of last week with an ankle injury.

Falling: Kansas State mistakes

Every year, people think it might just be a cliche with no real meaning anymore. It's not. Bill Snyder teams are consistently the most well-coached in the country. This year is no different. Kansas State has been penalized NINE TIMES in five games. Oklahoma State got flagged 15 times in the Arizona loss alone. K-State's nine flags are 11 fewer than any team in the Big 12, and the 71 yards on those flags is just 14.2 yards a game, almost half the next-best team in the Big 12. No other team in college football has fewer than 13 penalties and Central Michigan's 111 penalty yards are the next fewest. Ridiculous. The Wildcats have also lost just three turnovers all season, the third-fewest in the nation and tied with Texas for the fewest in the Big 12.

Rising: Oklahoma takeaways

The Sooners forced just one turnover in their first three games, but finally broke through against Texas Tech. Oklahoma picked off Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege three times, though one interception was later fumbled by Jamarkus McFarland, whom Doege injured with a hit on the play. Oklahoma is still tied with Oklahoma State for last in the Big 12 in the stat, but it was a big step to make that many plays on the road.

Falling: Kansas takeaways

The Jayhawks were on fire early this season, grabbing 12 takeaways in the first three games of the season, leaving them tied with Alabama for the national lead. Since then, though? Kansas State predictably left KU without a takeaway, and the Jayhawks forced just one in a loss to Northern Illinois. This week, Oklahoma State comes to town, and turnovers will be KU's best chance to spring the upset.

Rising: Texas' defensive line

It got four sacks against West Virginia, which slid the Mountaineers wayyy down the Big 12 rankings in sacks allowed. WVU had given up just four sacks all year, and just three on Geno Smith. After the win at Texas, West Virginia moved from third in the Big 12, behind only Kansas State and Oklahoma State to a tie for seventh in the league, ahead of only Iowa State and Kansas. The Longhorns are wrecking shop up front. Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor have a combined 14.5 tackles for loss and both rank in the Big 12's top four. Okafor leads the league with six sacks, and Jeffcoat is fourth, with 3.5.

Falling: Pass defenses against Baylor and West Virginia

Want to talk route running, speed, depth and hands? Look no further than Waco or Morgantown. Five of the Big 12's top seven in receiving either play for Baylor or West Virginia. Terrance Williams, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey are Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the national rankings, averaging 166, 142 and 132 receiving yards a game, respectively, with 27 touchdown catches in the combined 14 games they've played. Ridiculous. Meanwhile, Tevin Reese and Lanear Sampson have combined for 735 receiving yards already, along with seven touchdown catches. Great schemes and great quarterbacks beget great receiving numbers.

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 5

October, 1, 2012
10/01/12
11:00
AM CT
It's time to pass out some awards and look back on the week that was in the Big 12.

Best offensive performance: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia. Can't be any question on this one, folks. Sorry. Geno had one of the best performances by a quarterback I've ever seen. He threw 51 passes. Eight went for touchdowns. Six were incomplete. I counted maybe two or three (depending on your judgment) that had any chance of getting picked off. That's near perfection. Honorable mention: Nick Florence, QB, Baylor; Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor; Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia; David Ash, QB, Texas

[+] EnlargeSmith
Rob Christy/US PresswireGeno Smith was close to perfect Saturday -- throwing for 656 yards and eight touchdowns.
Best defensive performance: A.J. Klein, LB, Iowa State. Klein gets the narrow nod here for a huge day that featured 11 tackles and the biggest play of the day for the Cyclones. ISU harassed Seth Doege for most of the first half, but Klein took advantage of a big mistake, stepping in front of a pass over the middle and returning it 87 yards to put ISU up 7-0 in an eventual loss to Texas Tech. Honorable mention: Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas; Shaun Lewis, LB, Oklahoma State; Devonte Fields, DE, TCU

Best game: West Virginia 70, Baylor 63. This one was too much fun. There was a lot of bad defense but it wasn't all bad. Don't overlook the fact that Smith and Florence are two really, really good quarterbacks throwing to really deep, with really, really good receiving corps. Not many defensive backfields could cover those guys well. Better than giving up 63 and 70 points? Probably. But this one was the game that left everybody talking on Saturday.

Second-best game: Texas 41, Oklahoma State 36. Sadly, this game got overshadowed a bit by the craziness of the early session.The Longhorns and Cowboys traded the lead six times, including four times in the game's final 10 minutes. It featured a pair of clutch Texas drives, and a fourth-down toss from Ash for the books at Texas. It also nearly ended in even more spectacular fashion, but we'll get to that later.

Best offensive performance by a freshman: J.W. Walsh, QB, Oklahoma State. Walsh didn't run as much as some expected, but he helped make a good Texas defense look very average. Much of the trouble was tackling downfield, but Walsh made great decisions for the most part and took care of the ball, moving the chains and capitalizing for big plays. He completed 18 of 27 passes for 301 yards and two touchdowns, adding 57 yards rushing. Great stuff from the youngster in relief of Wes Lunt.

Best defensive performance by a freshman: Fields. Is there any doubt that Fields is writing the early chapters of a story that ends with him being one of the best defenders to come through this league in a long while? In his first four games as a true freshman, Fields has five sacks. He finished with four tackles for loss against SMU and seven tackles, bringing his TFL total to 8.5, more than any defender in the Big 12. Crazy.

Worst play: TCU punt team. Facing a fourth-and-18 on their 25-yard line, the snap to punter Ethan Perry was mishandled, and SMU took over on TCU's 1-yard line in a 24-10 game early in the fourth quarter. Fortunately for the Frogs, Fields came to the rescue and the defense held, giving up zero points.

Best play: Ash to D.J. Grant for 29 yards. Facing a fourth-and-6 on the Longhorns' final drive with just more than 90 seconds to play, Ash stood tall in the pocket with the crowd at Boone Pickens as loud as it had been all night. He found Grant dragging from his left to right, and hit Grant squarely in the numbers to keep the game alive and extend the eventual game-winning drive. Mack Brown called the toss "unbelievable" after the game.

Biggest eye-opening revelation: West Virginia's coaches. After Saturday's game, they revealed to CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman that Smith checked live at the line of scrimmage into a play that wasn't even in the game plan, because he saw something in the Bears' coverage he could exploit. The result: one of his eight touchdown passes on the day. Ridiculous. Smith's a whole lot more than a big arm, folks.

Second-worst play: West Virginia's defense on the final play of the first half. If somebody says to you, "Prevent this team from reaching the end zone 67 yards away in one play," most defenses would hold up. West Virginia's? Well, Baylor's Lanear Sampson and Florence hooked up to prove they could embarrass WVU to tie the score at 35 after the first 30 minutes.

Best play that nearly became legend: Walsh to Charlie Moore on the final play versusTexas. I was on the sideline for this one, and the play on the south side of the field (Boone Pickens Stadium, if you didn't know, runs east to west) looked like a mess. Walsh fired a backward pass all the way across to the north side of the field to Moore, who was all alone. He caught the ball about 10-to-15 yards right in front of me. I careened my head down the sideline ... all green pastures ahead of Moore. That kind of feeling? That's why we love football. Not much can duplicate that, and I wasn't even playing. I can only imagine what it felt like for Moore. With another block or two, that might have been the greatest play in Big 12 history, edging out Graham Harrell to Michael Crabtree back in 2008.

Best quote: Dana Holgorsen, on Smith's day. "He was 45-of-51 for 656 yards with eight touchdowns and zero interceptions. Can you please explain to me how you can improve on that?"

Bears will be just fine with Nick Florence

September, 4, 2012
9/04/12
9:54
AM CT
WACO, Texas -- Where had we seen this before?

A Baylor receiver celebrating a long touchdown catch in the end zone while his quarterback sprinted toward him?

Exactly one year earlier, Robert Griffin III kicked off his Heisman-winning season with five touchdown passes in an upset of TCU.

On Sunday night, Nick Florence threw four of his own, leading to the same celebration after a 36-yard rainbow to Lanear Sampson that gave the Bears a six-touchdown lead in their 59-24 blowout win of former Southwest Conference rival SMU.

[+] EnlargeNick Florence
Cooper Neill/Getty ImagesQuarterback Nick Florence got off to a strong start Sunday night.
The only difference was Florence's bushy beard fighting to be freed from his chinstrap, versus Griffin's braids flapping out the back of his helmet.

"Nick was Nick, and that's what you are going to love about him," coach Art Briles said. "That's what we love about Nick; he's going to be that way every time he steps on the football field."

Florence earned playing time in 2009 when RG3 sat with a torn ACL and rallied the Bears for a win over Texas Tech in Cowboys Stadium last November, but in his first game as the new face of Baylor football, he finished 21-of-30 for 341 yards and no turnovers.

"He's going to continue improving," Briles said. "Honestly, for him percentage-wise [Sunday], it was a little low."

Baylor's history-making quarterback wasn't in attendance on Sunday (even if his top target a year ago, fellow first-round draft pick Kendall Wright was), but even in his absence, his presence was felt.

His toothy smile after receiving last year's Heisman Trophy adorns the western wall of Floyd Casey Stadium. Throughout Sunday's rout, the Washington Redskins' starting quarterback tweeted encouragement to his former teammates and celebrated their successes with almost as much gusto as he did his own a year ago.

"The touchdowns just keep coming," he wrote. "Ha ha gotta love this."

(Read full post)

Bears open post-RG3 era with a bang

September, 2, 2012
9/02/12
9:18
PM CT
WACO, Texas -- Baylor was missing its most famous face on Sunday (Robert Griffin III), but the Bears didn't look too gloomy with Nick Florence at the helm.

Florence sat the game's final 15 minutes after completing 21 of 30 passes for 341 yards and four touchdowns, and a 21-point third quarter helped Baylor embarrass SMU, 59-24.

The most welcome development for the Bears? What may be a stingy defense. Phil Bennett's second season in Waco had high hopes, and though SMU sustained several drives, the Bears capitalized with three turnovers, including an interception near the goal line that preserved a second-quarter, 14-3 lead.

Three plays later, the lead ballooned to 21-3 and the Bears looked firmly in control.

Plenty more to come tonight from Waco, but Sunday was exactly what the Bears wanted to see in their season opener. No doubt about which the better team was.

Jarred Salubi finished with 91 yards and a touchdown on just 13 carries. Terrance Williams hauled in seven passes for 138 yards. Lanear Sampson caught five passes for 69 yards and two touchdowns.

Baylor spring wrap

May, 10, 2012
5/10/12
10:00
AM CT
2011 overall record: 10-3
2011 conference record: 6-3
Returning starters: Offense (6), Defense (8), P/K (2)

Top returners: WR Terrance Williams, WR Tevin Reese, S Ahmad Dixon, S Sam Holl, CB K.J. Morton, S Mike Hicks, OL Cyril Richardson, OL Ivory Wade

Key losses: QB Robert Griffin III, WR Kendall Wright, RB Terrance Ganaway, OL Philip Blake, LB Elliot Coffey, DT Nicolas Jean-Baptiste, DL Tracy Robertson

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Terrance Ganaway (1,547 yards)
Passing: Robert Griffin III (4,293 yards)
Receiving: Kendall Wright (1,663 yards)
Tackles: Elliot Coffey (114)
Sacks: Tracy Robertson (4.5)
Interceptions: K.J. Morton* (4)

Spring answers

1. Don't sweat the quarterbacks: Anybody who thinks Baylor's destined to go back to 3-4 win seasons in the post-RG3 era isn't paying much attention. Nick Florence had a rough time as a true freshman filling in for RG3 in 2009, but he's grown up a whole lot since then, and he'll get a chance to show it this fall. Behind him, Bryce Petty is itching for a chance, too, but Florence's leadership and decision-making assured him the job in the spring.

2. The receivers are ready to roll: And what about Kendall Wright's absence? He led Baylor in receiving for each of the past four seasons, but Baylor's going to be just fine in his wake, too. Terrance Williams is a future NFL draft pick, and Tevin Reese is ready to see an increased role in the offense, too. Lanear Sampson offers more depth and playmaking ability at the position.

3. Lache Seastrunk is a lot more than just hype: The Temple, Texas, native couldn't quite catch on at Oregon, but he's proving he'll be a factor at Baylor at some point, if not immediately. The backfield is still crowded, but he exploded for 138 yards and a touchdown on seven carries. He's the fastest of the Baylor backs, but he's got to prove he can be the most productive too.

Fall questions

1. How much better can the defense get? Baylor doesn't have the RG3 Express to fall back on anymore. He helped make the Bears the first team to ever win four consecutive games in a single season while also giving up at least 30 points. BU won games in 2011 while giving up 56, 48 and 42 points, too. Phil Bennett's defense has the athletes, but it's got to force more turnovers like it did the second half of the season and get those point totals down. Florence is good, but he's no RG3. If the defense doesn't improve, making a bowl will prove difficult.

2. Can Baylor truly carry on without Robert Griffin III? Baylor has all the pieces in place to get back to a bowl game, but RG3 had plenty of truly intangible attributes that are hard to duplicate. He was a compelling leader who always seemed to make everyone around him better. Florence sounds like he has many of those same things, but will they translate into wins? You never quite know for sure. RG3 was a truly transcendent player unlike anything Waco had ever seen.

3. Will the Bears have a featured running back? Seastrunk made lots of noise in the spring game, but Jarred Salubi and Glasco Martin have a lot more experience, and that could pay off in playing time when it comes to things like pass blocking and doing the little things right. Jay Finley and Terrance Ganaway grabbed starring roles the past two seasons, but will coach Art Briles use a committee come fall? Or will he find a back to lean on?
Miss Baylor's spring game on Saturday? We've got you covered.

What happened:
  • Nick Florence ruined the defense's day, completing 14-of-18 passes for 180 yards and three touchdowns. Bryce Petty completed 18-of-27 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown.
  • Lache Seastrunk stole the show with 135 yards on just seven carries, including a 75-yard touchdown.
  • Lanear Sampson caught five passes for 65 yards and a touchdown. Tevin Reese had four catches for 89 yards.
  • Josh Wilson led all tacklers with 10 stops.
  • The Bears ran 112 plays in the 75-minute scrimmage.
  • About 2,750 fans showed up.
What we learned:
  • When I visited Baylor this spring, Seastrunk was the third man in what looked like a pretty balanced backfield by committee. Now, though? If he's that productive for the rest of fall camp, he may be validating that recruiting hype and hoopla that followed his transfer from Oregon. His competition, Jarred Salubi (88 yards, seven carries) and Glasco Martin (58 yards, TD eight carries) were productive, but Seastrunk has that home-run capability. Salubi does, too, but the senior hasn't shown it on the field. Fall camp should be an interesting race. All three could be productive, but Briles prefers to have a featured back in the offense. Jay Finley and Terrance Ganaway were outstanding the past two years, and I like Baylor's chances to have a third 1,000-yard rusher.
  • Color me unsurprised at Florence and Petty's big day. Baylor, Oklahoma and West Virginia all have a case as the league's deepest roster of QBs.
  • The easy rebuttal from those numbers is Baylor's defense is terrible. Well, it was last year. It won't be great this year, and it might not be a ton better. That said, putting up those kinds of numbers is difficult, and my point is this: Baylor's still going to have one of the league's most productive offenses. RG3 had lots of help around him and lots of potential behind him. We'll get a chance to see it this year. The spring game didn't change my mind about Baylor as a 6-8-win team, but this is not a program that's going to flatline without RG3 at quarterback. The receivers are really talented, really deep and really smart. The offensive line should be really good and the running backs will be productive.
They said it:
"I'm learning. I know my teammates are going to keep helping me. As long as I keep my head in the books and keep understanding all the checks and calls, I'll be fine." - RB Lache Seastrunk, on his day

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 1

September, 1, 2011
9/01/11
12:00
PM CT
Here are ten things I'm keeping an eye on in Week 1 of Big 12 football.

1. Garrett Gilbert. Everything else aside, Gilbert is ultimately the one guy who will decide how far Texas gets this season. Or, at least whoever Texas' quarterback is by midseason. Gilbert needs to play well to a) make sure he's that guy and b) help Texas rebound from last year's debacle.

[+] EnlargeGarrett Gilbert
Brendan Maloney/US PresswireThe success of Texas' season likely rides on the shoulders of Garrett Gilbert ... or his replacement.
2. Does Baylor have a second go-to receiver? Josh Gordon is a huge loss. Everything pointed to a breakout year for the big receiver, but who's going to emerge as Robert Griffin III's other top target. Baylor has talent at the position, but it's going to help if one receiver makes his presence clear. Terrance Williams? Tevin Reese? Lanear Sampson? Bueller?

3. Oklahoma's safeties. Javon Harris and Aaron Colvin have a ton of potential, but they've got a tough test in Week 1. Last year, Oklahoma broke in two brand new corners against Utah State and nearly was upset on its home field. G.J. Kinne is a stud, and with both of last year's safeties in the NFL, are Harris and Colvin up for the task?

4. Weeden2Blackmon. Here's the deal: This game won't be close. But I love watching these two play. And they're going to be putting up some big highlights for the first time in eight months. Football! Finally!

5. James Franklin's arm. We've seen Franklin run plenty as a freshman playing behind Blaine Gabbert. But Missouri will go about as far as Franklin's arm will take them. His teammates have been impressed with what he's down through the air in the offseason. Will he validate them in the opener?

6. Steele Jantz's legs. Nobody outside Ames has really seen Jantz, a transfer from a California junior college, do much. But he won the starting job over the more experienced Jerome Tiller (before he was ruled academically ineligible for the season) and has Cyclones fans excited. Is he the dynamic playmaker Iowa State's offense has been missing?

7. Kansas State's running backs. Bill Snyder called it the closest competition on the team. The WIldcats have three co-starters, and third on the list is the Big 12 transfer with the most hype: Bryce Brown. Will he establish himself as the clear replacement for Daniel Thomas, who led the Big 12 in rushing the past two seasons?

8. Kansas' point total. Kansas simply needs to show it can execute. It did it against New Mexico State last year and briefly against Colorado, but this is largely the same team from last year, with a handful of new faces added. How much better is the offense? Good enough to compete in the Big 12? Because the Jayhawks weren't close in 2010.

9. Texas A&M's linebackers. Most of the attention is paid to quarterback Kyle Padron, but the Mustangs' 230-pound, rumbling running back Zach Line is no joke, either. He had at least 94 yards rushing in six of the past seven games in 2010, and the Aggies have a big hole at middle linebacker that Jonathan Stewart will try to fill.

10. Texas Tech's playcalling. Tommy Tuberville wants a new commitment to the running game, but where will that show up? The Red Raiders have what I think will be a good QB, but lots of unanswered questions at receiver next to a deep stable of running backs and a good offensive line. I'm also excited to see what freshman tight end Jace Amaro can do.
The Big 12 might be weak at the top of the running back heap, but it's definitely not at receiver. The conference has at least three of the top five receivers in the country, and the top two. They highlight a very strong group of receivers across the league, and I continue our position rankings with receivers today.

Remember that depth plays a big part of these rankings. We'll be ranking the top 10 individuals at each position later on before the season begins.

Other position rankings: 1. Oklahoma

[+] EnlargeRyan Broyles
J.P. Wilson/Icon SMIRyan Broyles finished the 2010 season with 131 catches for 1,622 yards and 14 touchdowns.
The Sooners have the nation's No. 2 receiver, Ryan Broyles, but found a handful of others to surround him in 2010 and should have a couple more in 2011. Sophomore Kenny Stills broke Broyles' freshman receiving record and looks like a budding star. Dejuan Miller came on strong before a season-ending knee injury, but he's back. The Sooners lose Cameron Kenney, but Trey Franks had a strong freshman campaign, and freshmen Justin McCay (redshirt) and Trey Metoyer could provide even more playmakers.

2. Oklahoma State

The Cowboys boast the returning Biletnikoff Award winner and 2011 favorite, Justin Blackmon, with a great group around him, too. Slot machine Josh Cooper returns for his senior year, and fellow senior Hubert Anyiam (the team's leading receiver in 2009) is hoping to return to form after being slowed by an ankle injury in 2010. Isaiah Anderson is a shifty speedster, while Michael Harrison and Tracy Moore offer a more aerial approach to receiving.

3. Texas A&M

The Aggies have the Big 12's No. 3 receiver, Jeff Fuller, who is arguably one of the top-five in the college game. But they also have the Big 12's most experienced receiving unit, with guys who won't be surprised by anything they see in Big 12 play. Juniors Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu are the team's second and third options, but fellow juniors Kenric McNeal and Brandal Jackson could be bigger pieces of the offense in 2011. Tight end Nehemiah Hicks should see his profile rise in his coming sophomore year.

4. Baylor

Top target Kendall Wright will likely end his career as the Bears' leading receiver for all four of his seasons on the field, and 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior Josh Gordon looks like the new Jeff Fuller. Terrance Williams, Lanear Sampson and Tevin Reese round out the Bears' top five, who all had at least 40 catches last season, and all return.

5. Missouri

Missouri still lacks a proven big-play threat, but has two pass-catchers who have some of the best hands in the game. Receiver T.J. Moe and tight end Michael Egnew won't drop many passes, and combined to catch 182 for 1,807 yards and 11 touchdowns. Wes Kemp and Jerrell Jackson bring a lot of experience and both had at least 39 catches last season. If Marcus Lucas or Rolandis Woodland can become a consistent downfield threat, Missouri will rise up these rankings by season's end.

6. Texas Tech

Tech's top two receivers, Lyle Leong and Detron Lewis, must be replaced, but the Red Raiders have a few solid candidates to do it. Junior Alex Torres will likely lead the group, but fellow junior Austin Zouzalik and seniors Jacoby Franks and Tramain Swindall will be counted on for more production. Dark horse/juco newcomer Marcus Kennard could blossom into a household name across the Big 12 by season's end.

7. Texas

Sophomore Mike Davis and redshirt freshman Darius White are loaded with potential, but two of the team's top three receivers (James Kirkendoll, John Chiles) are gone, and no Texas receiver caught more than two touchdowns last season. Malcolm Williams and Marquise Goodwin are as different as two receivers could be, but both need to break out to help whoever becomes the Longhorns quarterback next fall.

8. Kansas State

Brodrick Smith will be back this season after breaking his leg in a loss to Nebraska. But two of the team's top three receivers are gone, leaving converted quarterback Chris Harper as the leading returner, though Smith might have held that title if he'd stayed healthy. Sophomore speedster Tramaine Thompson can make plays if he gets the ball with some space.

9. Iowa State

The Cyclones will be breaking in a new quarterback this season and they will need a playmaker to step up. Tight end Collin Franklin led team in receiving last season but he is now gone. Darius Reynolds looks like a possible candidate to fill the role, although incoming slot receiver Aaron Horne might rack up a few catches in space. Darius Darks and Josh Lenz should earn some more targets too.

10. Kansas

Converted defensive back Daymond Patterson is the team's top receiver, but the team's No. 3 receiver junior Bradley McDougald, moved to safety in the middle of the season. Tight end Tim Biere is one of the Big 12's best and led the team with four touchdowns last season. Chris Omigie and D.J. Beshears have some potential, and converted quarterback Christian Matthews keeps showing up in spring games. But all three, along with the rest of the group, would benefit from some consistency at the quarterback spot.

Spring superlatives: Baylor

March, 23, 2011
3/23/11
2:51
PM CT
We'll kick off a series today looking at the weakest and strongest positions for each team in the Big 12. First up: the Baylor Bears.

Strongest position: Wide receiver

Key returnees: Kendall Wright, Josh Gordon, Terrance Williams, Tevin Reese, Lanear Sampson

Key losses: None, although tight end Brad Taylor graduated after catching 20 passes for 269 yards last year.

Analysis: Quarterback Robert Griffin III keys Baylor's offense, but he's got plenty of targets to throw to, and last year he distributed the ball well. All five of his top receivers had at least 40 receptions and 390 yards, and Wright led the group with 79 receptions for 952 yards and seven scores. Wright is already one of the Big 12's best receivers. Gordon could become one this year after emerging as a big red-zone target at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds. Former blue-chip recruit Darius Jones also looked impressive during my visit to Waco for spring practice last week. Because Griffin has so many targets and isn't forced to rely on just one, none of the five may ascend to the Big 12's absolute elite, but Gordon and Wright both have that potential. At worst, all five will be solid and keep Baylor's passing game a huge boost to the Bears hopes at being a Big 12 title contender.

Weakest position: Linebacker

Key returnees: Elliot Coffey, Chris McAllister

Key losses: Antonio Johnson, Chris Francis, Earl Patin

Analysis: Baylor already ranked ninth in the Big 12 in rush defense last season, and loses Francis and Johnson, two of four Bears to make at least 70 tackles last season. Johnson was also one of the defense's leaders. The Bears' D has had problems stopping the run early in spring practice, and needs someone to help solidify the defense's second line. McAllister has plenty of potential after a strong freshman season in 2010, but he'll need to turn that potential into production to help the linebackers eliminate their status as a weakness before the season. Baylor loses both safeties -- the team's two leading tacklers from last season. Though the depth chart is still very much in flux, there's plenty of talent on the back line, as Ahmad Dixon and Mike Hicks that could be ready to replace Tim Atchison and Byron Landor.

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