Dallas Colleges: Mark Mangino
With spring practice off and rolling, plenty of questions surround the league’s programs. And while many of those won’t be fully answered until the season begins in the fall, here are some of the biggest ones Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Oklahoma will face this spring:
How will Baylor replenish its secondary?
Can Mangino turn Iowa State’s offense around?
As a big part of their disappointing 3-9 record last season, the Cyclones ranked ahead of only Kansas in Big 12 scoring offense. As a result, Paul Rhoads fired offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham and brought in Mark Mangino to revive the Iowa State attack. Mangino was offensive coordinator during Oklahoma’s national championship season, and he took Kansas to the Orange Bowl. His track record as an offensive mind is not in dispute. But can he turn around an offense that hasn’t ranked higher than ninth in the Big 12 in scoring since 2005? Mangino will have some pieces to work with. Wideout Quenton Bundrage, running back Aaron Wimberly and quarterback Grant Rohach all had moments in 2013. Whether Mangino can put them in position to produce a lot more of those moments will go a long way in determining if Iowa State can bounce back.
Can Harwell fill Kansas’ go-to WR need?
Kansas’ lack of production at receiver the past few seasons has been astounding. Justin McCay caught a touchdown pass in the 2013 opener to become the first Kansas receiver to catch a touchdown in almost two full seasons. But Kansas receivers would catch only two more touchdowns the rest of the season (for context, Baylor receivers totaled 35 such grabs). Senior transfer Nick Harwell, however, could be the answer to that woeful drought. Two years ago at Miami (Ohio), Harwell led the Mid-American Conference with 7.6 receptions and 96.7 receiving yards per game while earning All-MAC honors. Going into his final college season, Harwell already has 229 receptions for 3,166 yards in his career. Oh yeah, he has 23 touchdowns over those three years, too. The Jayhawks have desperately been in search of a go-to receiver. They’ll find out this spring whether they can stop that search.
What will K-State do with Sams?
Daniel Sams proved to be one of the league’s best playmakers last season, leading all Big 12 quarterbacks with 807 rushing yards and 15 total touchdowns. Sams’ role, however, diminished late in the season, as Jake Waters emerged as the majority-of-the-time quarterback. Sams is too dynamic with the ball in his hands to watch games from the sidelines. But Waters isn’t going anywhere at quarterback, either. Before the bowl, Sams hinted that he’d like to try another position to get onto the field more. K-State whiffed on signing a quarterback last month, so Sams will still have to keep ties with his old position for depth purposes. But the spring will also give the Wildcats the opportunity to experiment using Sams elsewhere -- like receiver -- if they so choose.
How will Oklahoma build on the Sugar Bowl?
By beating Alabama, the Sooners notched arguably the program’s most significant win since defeating Florida State all the way back in the 2000 national championship game. After struggling at times during the 2013 season, the Sooners suddenly have the look of a preseason top-five team going into 2014. Yet, in many ways, this is still a very young team. QB Trevor Knight has only five career starts, two of which he left early due to injury. Projected starting running back Keith Ford has loads of potential, but only 23 carries in his college career. And of the returning receivers, only Sterling Shepard delivered more than 13 catches last season. In the Sugar Bowl, OU flashed its capability. And the Sooners have tons of momentum, underscored by their furious recruiting finish. But to be a legitimate national title contender this fall, the Sooners can’t rest on their laurels of besting the Tide. And OU’s young players have to continue building off that experience.
Here's a team-by-team look at what to watch in the Big 12 this spring:
Spring start: Feb. 28
Spring game: April 5
What to watch: Who will replace Lache Seastrunk? The Bears' running back was the engine that helped keep the Baylor offense balanced and defenses honest. Shock Linwood will step in, but is he ready to handle the burden of keeping the offense balanced? . . . Baylor, the 2013 regular-season champion, has to find key replacements on a defense that is losing half of its starters. But several second-teamers -- including Jamal Palmer, Shawn Oakman, Andrew Billings and Orion Stewart -- are poised to fill the void . . . The Bears need to replace guard Cyril Richardson along the offensive line. Several candidates, including junior college transfer Jarell Broxton, will battle for the job. Baylor has arguably the league's best group of skill position players, but that will mean nothing if its offensive line takes a step backward.
Spring start: March 10
Spring game: April 12
What to watch: New offensive coordinator Mark Mangino arrives in Ames to bring more points and creativity to the Cyclones’ offense. The spring is the first opportunity for Mangino to get a feel for the playmakers and the players to get a feel for Mangino’s expectations . . . The quarterback competition is another thing to keep an eye on. Grant Rohach ended the season as the starter, but Sam B. Richardson could take his job back with a strong spring. And there are other young quarterbacks on campus who could insert themselves into the mix . . . Defensively, the Cyclones need to replace linebacker Jeremiah George and safety Jacques Washington, who finished 1-2 in tackles in the Big 12 in 2013 and finished their careers with 59 career starts combined. Iowa State seems to always have quality linebackers, so finding a replacement for Washington could be the defense’s top priority in the spring.
Spring start: March 4
Spring game: April 12
What to watch: Shuffling the offensive coaching staff has been the theme of the offseason. New offensive coordinator John Reagan, who was a KU assistant from 2005 to 2009, returns to the Jayhawks after running Rice’s offense last season. The spring is Reagan’s first chance to identify the playmakers who will be the foundation of his offense this fall. Expect wide-open competition across the board after KU finished 115th in the FBS in points scored ... The quarterback position will grab the headlines, with T.J. Millweard joining the competition with Jake Heaps and Montell Cozart, who each started games in 2013. Millweard transferred to KU from UCLA before the 2013 season.
Spring start: April 2
Spring game: April 26
What to watch: Finding John Hubert’s replacement sits high on the Wildcats’ priority list. The former running back carried the ground attack for the past three seasons, and there’s no clear favorite to step into his shoes. Will someone step up during spring football? . . . What will happen with quarterback Daniel Sams? The Wildcats have a proven Big 12 playmaker in Sams, a junior, and another proven quarterback in Jake Waters. Sams is an exceptional open-field runner who started two games in 2013, but look for Kansas State to start exploring ways to have both on the field together this spring . . . Replacing Ty Zimmerman’s playmaking and leadership on defense is another key this spring. The defense has to replace several starters in the secondary and at linebacker. Keep an eye on junior college defensive back Danzel McDaniel, who has the versatility to step in at several different spots.
Spring start: March 8
Spring game: April 12
What to watch: With Trevor Knight poised to start at quarterback in 2014, Blake Bell moves to tight end after starting eight games under center in 2013. Bell’s transition to tight end will be the talk of the spring, with the senior’s commitment to the program and OU's need for help at the position . . . The battle to be the starting running back is another storyline, with sophomores Keith Ford and Alex Ross hoping to make a statement this spring before ESPN 300 running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine arrive in the summer. Ford forced his way into the lineup as a freshman before an injury slowed him . . . The Sooners will be looking to shore up the secondary after the departure of All-Big 12 cornerback Aaron Colvin and starting safety Gabe Lynn. Sophomore Stanvon Taylor could be set to replace Colvin, while sophomores Hatari Byrd and Ahmad Thomas will battle to replace Lynn.
Spring start: March 10
Final spring practice: April 5
What to watch: Incoming freshman Mason Rudolph enrolled early to participate in spring football with the hope of replacing quarterback Clint Chelf. J.W. Walsh has won a lot of games in a Cowboys uniform, but will have to hold off stern competition to earn the starting spot as a junior . . . The Cowboys lose seven seniors off one of their best defenses in recent memory. The overall quality might be upgraded, but spring football will be the first chance to see if those talented yet inexperienced defenders are ready to step into the fire. Defensive end Jimmy Bean, linebacker Ryan Simmons and cornerback Kevin Peterson could emerge as the foundation of the defense . . . Who will step up at receiver? The Cowboys lose three of their top four receivers, with Jhajuan Seales as the lone returnee. But several youngsters appear poised to step in, including sophomore Marcell Ateman and redshirt freshman Ra'Shaad Samples.
Spring start: March 1
Final spring practice: April 5
What to watch: Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie have arrived to take over as co-offensive coordinators at TCU. The Horned Frogs need a jump start and could get it from the “Air Raid”-style offense the duo will bring to the table. This spring will be an important first step in improving the offense . . . Who will be the quarterback? Trevone Boykin started several games in 2013 but might actually be TCU’s top receiver. Tyler Matthews, a redshirt freshman, also saw time under center, but he faces stiff competition. Don’t expect the battle to end until fall camp . . . TCU needs someone to step up in the secondary, with Jason Verrett NFL-bound after spending the past two seasons as one of the Big 12’s top coverage cornerbacks. Ranthony Texada and Travoskey Garrett are among several young defensive backs who could try to fill the void.
Spring start: March 18
Spring game: April 19
What to watch: David Ash's health will be one of the main storylines of Texas’ first spring under coach Charlie Strong. Ash has the talent to be a key piece of the puzzle, but head injuries are always tough to overcome. If Ash is 100 percent healthy, the Longhorns will feel better about the overall status at quarterback . . . Strong has talked of instilling a tough mindset in Austin since he arrived in January, and spring football will be the first real taste of what the Longhorns’ new coach is trying to bring to the program . . . Where are the playmakers? Texas has a talent-laden roster, but didn’t have the exceptional talent who could consistently change games. This spring gives several returning skill players, including receiver Jaxon Shipley and all-purpose standout Daje Johnson, the chance to become the foundation of the offense in 2014.
Spring start: March 5
Spring game: April 12
What to watch: Davis Webb's health is the No. 1 priority for the Red Raiders, who have seen three quarterbacks leave the program since the beginning of the 2013 season. Coach Kliff Kingsbury could have the toughest job of the spring as he tries to manage the lack of quarterbacks with the desire to have a productive spring for the roster as a whole . . . The Red Raiders have some consistency among the defensive coaching staff, meaning they could improve in 2014 despite losing multiple starters, including defensive tackle Kerry Hyder, linebacker Will Smith and safety Tre' Porter. Tech could start seeing dividends of that continuity . . . The Red Raiders have to replace Jace Amaro and Eric Ward, who combined to catch 189 passes for 2,299 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. Jakeem Grant and Bradley Marquez made a bunch of plays in 2013 and Devin Lauderdale, a junior college transfer and early enrollee, will get the chance to show why he had Texas Tech fans buzzing when he initially signed in February 2013.
Spring start: March 2
Spring game: April 12
What to watch: Finding a quarterback is critical for the Mountaineers, who have talent at the skill positions but won’t transform into an explosive offense without efficient quarterback play. Clint Trickett is recovering from shoulder surgery, meaning Paul Millard, junior college transfer Skyler Howard and former receiver Logan Moore will run the offense this spring . . . Tony Gibson takes over as WVU’s defensive coordinator after coaching the safeties in 2013. His promotion allows some continuity on the defense after former DC Keith Patterson left for Arizona State after the season . . . Replacing defensive tackle Shaq Rowell and defensive end Will Clarke, who started 56 combined career games for WVU, won’t be easy. The Mountaineers will lean heavily on veteran juniors Isaiah Bruce and Karl Joseph, who have started since their freshman seasons.
To the 'bag:
Jake Trotter: Statically, he was a top five receiver this season. There are some big-time receivers returning in the league, notably Tyler Lockett and Antwan Goodley. But Grant is loaded with big-play talent and could become the top slot receiver in the league along with Sterling Shepard.
James in Overland, Kan., writes: With Charlie Strong's staff now in place what are the chances Texas wins 10-12 games in 2014?
Trotter: It all comes down to quarterback for Strong. The other pieces are pretty much in place for Texas to reach double-digit wins. If Strong gets better quarterback play than Mack Brown did the last four seasons, it’s conceivable. But if the quarterback play remains inconsistent and turnover prone, then it will be a long shot, given the strength of the Big 12 and the Longhorns’ tough nonconference schedule, which includes UCLA and BYU.
Hugh in Hot Springs Village, Ark., writes: Are there any tight ends available that could even be three-fourths of what Jace Amaro was, and could Texas Tech land that player?
Trotter: Sure. I also hear the Red Raiders are in on a slot receiver from Oklahoma City named Les Lelker and a stud wideout out of Dallas, as well, named Michael Treecrab.
Jesse in Lubbock, Texas, writes: I have to admit, I wasn't in favor of Davis Webb starting until his impressive showing in the Holiday Bowl. With the poise he showed against Arizona State, I'd be ok calling him the Webbslinger as Tech moves forward with him as the starter. Thoughts on the nickname?
Trotter: It must really be the offseason, since we’re back to spitballing nicknames for every player in the league. Paging Andy in Austin …
Blake Bell in Norman, Okla., writes: Help! What should I do? I've been told that you are all-knowing. Should I stay at OU or transfer? If I do stay, should I try and become a tight end?
Trotter: Since you asked, I think I would stay. Trevor Knight is the clear-cut No. 1 QB, but given his style of play, he’s prone to injury. Bell has thrived in the clutch as a quarterback off the bench, and could still serve a valuable role as the No. 2 QB. There’s also the possibility of playing time at tight end, given that OU is void of reliable options at that spot. If Bell stayed, I would expect him to dabble there in the spring while also getting reps at quarterback. On the flip side, there’s no guarantee Bell would get playing time if he did transfer. Look no further than former OU QB Drew Allen, who transferred to Syracuse for his final year, and sat the bench this season. Bell could give it a shot elsewhere. But because of his Bedlam performance and game-changing plays previously in the “Belldozer” package, Bell is beloved by Sooner fans. There are worse things to be in college.
Alex in Ames, Iowa, writes: Iowa State hasn't finished better than ninth in yards per play in the Big 12 since 2005. Despite awful offenses, Iowa State has found a way to win under Paul Rhoads. This year, Iowa State has more options than I can remember on offense and an offensive coordinator in Mark Man-genius, who is a proven wizard. How high is the ceiling for a Rhoads team with an offense?
Trotter: Iowa State is shaping up to be one of my sleeper teams in the Big 12 next season. You’re correct, the Cyclones have options offensively. Running back Aaron Wimberly, wideout Quenton Bundrage and tight end E.J. Bibbs can all make plays. Quarterbacks Grant Rohach and Sam Richardson have experience and will make each other better competing for the job. I agree, the Cyclones always play solid defense, even though they have to replace a couple of long-time stalwarts. Is this a team that will contend for the Big 12 title? No. But I could see Iowa State getting back to a bowl next year while also being a tough out in Ames all year.
Chris in Lubbock, Texas, writes: Baylor's offense (scoring) will probably be No. 1 in the Big 12 again next season. Who do you see as the second-best scoring offense next season and why?
Trotter: Because of their style of play I’m not sure it will be the second-highest scoring, but I would give the edge to Kansas State as the Big 12’s second-best offense going into 2014. The Wildcats have a superstar in Lockett, and a capable, consistent quarterback in Jake Waters. Oklahoma and Texas Tech could factor into the conversation because of their young quarterbacks, who both turned the corner in their respective bowl games. Oklahoma State will be a team to watch, too. The Cowboys lose a lot, but they always seem to reload offensively, and have featured one of the Big 12's top three offenses every year but once since 2006.
Jake Trotter: Tyler, it's too soon to tell what immediate impact Strong will have on recruiting. As for the QB situation, it should be interesting. Ash's future is in question with the concussion issues. Swoopes is really athletic with a big arm, but he needs polish. Don't discount Jerrod Heard, either, who just won another state title for Denton Guyer.
Ted (TX): I'd like to ask the brass at Texas if they envisioned replacing Mack Brown with Charlie Strong. I can't fathom that the guy was even in their top five. Your thoughts...
Derrin (Plano, TX): Jake, Bob Stoops walked the walk, and talked the talk, in New Orleans last week. I think people should give him credit, instead of trivializing it as Bama not wanting to be there. Your thoughts?
Jake Trotter: I didn't think Bama even played all that poorly. OU just took it to them.
Jay (Cloud 9, Oklahoma): ISU might need a bump in your power poll, Mark Mangino is an amazing hire for [the Cyclones] at offensive coordinator.
Jake Trotter: Am I the only one who likes the offensive talent coming back there? Grant Rohach, Aaron Wimberly, Quenton Bundrage, E.J. Bibbs, Derek Farniok... With Mangino pulling the strings, that's an offense that can do some damage.
Brian (Waco): Jake, why are you such an OU homer? Baylor should be the favorite to repeat next year as Big 12 champs.
Jake Trotter: We must have watched different bowl games.
Frank (Kansas): Can Charlie Weiss get us out of the cellar and at least [be] above West Virginia next year?
Jake Trotter: It would help if his own fans learned how to spell his name right.
David (Austin): I personally am very excited about Coach Strong. I think he will bring in some much-needed swagger and toughness that has been lacking of late. Horns have seemed to have the mentality that the burnt orange sticker on their helmets guarantees them wins.
Jake Trotter: One thing Strong is going to bring is toughness and intensity. And I think he's going to slay on the recruiting trail.
Colby (Stillwater): What are the chances that Trevor Knight just played outside of himself against Bama and will return to his earlier form next year? I think he will keep getting better, but you have to wonder because he never played like that all year. Kind of like Case McCoy against OU.
Jake Trotter: The difference being that McCoy was a senior and Knight was a freshman. McCoy is who he is. Knight should only get better. On top of that, we'd been hearing this is who Knight had been behind OU's closed practices. It just finally manifested on the field. It's no guarantee that Knight will get better. But it's a pretty good bet.
Chase (Dallas): Did the month off before the Fiesta Bowl end up hurting Baylor? Bryce Petty looked off on all of his deep throws in the first half, which are the home run plays that he used to hit all the time during the regular season.
Jake Trotter: I don't buy it. Everyone has the same amount of time off. The fact of the matter is, Baylor wasn't the same team the last quarter of the season. It's hard to maintain a high level of success for 13-14 games. Ask the 2012 K-State Wildcats, who also ran out of steam late in the year.
Manny (Lubbock): I like the overall nonconference schedule next year. Big 12 stepped it up a couple notches.
Jake Trotter: I like it, too, except the Big 12 might also get its head kicked in. WV-Bama, OSU-Florida State, Texas-UCLA, K-State-Auburn... If the Big 12 went 2-2 in those games, it would be a banner nonconference performance.
rtXC1 (Denison, TX): I think Jameis Winston showed Clint Chelf how to have a game-winning drive last night. Gotta dink and dunk and take what is open instead of forcing the ball downfield.
Jake Trotter: Don't blame Chelf. He led OSU on a potential game-winning drive in Bedlam, and on the drive before the fumble against Missouri. OSU's defense, which was great all season, collapsed both times when it really mattered.
Bonnie (Claire, West Virginia): How big of a hit did the SEC take when Alabama lost to Oklahoma and Auburn lost to Florida State?
Jake Trotter: The SEC didn't build its reputation on two games. It won't lose it in two games, either. The gap, however, was definitely narrowed to some degree this bowl season.
ESPN Insider's Phil Steele says Brown is the No. 1 coach on the hot seat entering 2013, and there is a faction of the Texas fan base that agrees and believes Brown’s best days are behind him. But if history tells us anything about canning coaches, the grass isn’t always greener.
Brown’s contract runs through 2020, and he isn’t looking to retire any time soon. He’s 27 victories away from becoming the winningest coach in school history. Will he reach that milestone?
A look at the recent history of successful Big 12 coaches being shown the door reminds us that a new hire brings no guarantees of success. And there might not be a better example of that than the man considered the league’s best coach today.
Big 12 precedents: Bill Snyder, Kansas State; Dan McCarney, Iowa State; Chuck Reedy, Baylor
Bill Snyder, 170-85-1 at Kansas State
Prior to his arrival: The list of coaches who came before Snyder is a long one, but the last to win more games than he lost at Kansas State left in 1934 after one season. Snyder’s predecessor, Stan Parrish, coached the Wildcats for 33 games and won two. The team was mockingly called “Futility U” before Snyder’s debut, and had lost more games than any program in college football history.
Why he resigned: The white-haired wizard was everything to Kansas State and achieved the most improbable rebuilding job college football has ever seen. But there reached a point in time, even after four Big 12 North titles, where KSU was ready to move on, in 2005. Leadership thought that after consecutive losing seasons, Snyder’s heart just wasn’t in it to go another season, even if he was hesitant to surrender the throne.
The aftermath: In came Ron Prince, the 36-year-old Virginia offensive coordinator who had no ties to the KSU program. His best season was his first, and after consecutive 5-7 seasons, he was fired in November 2008 -- after agreeing four months earlier to a contract extension through 2012. Snyder heroically returned, and you know the rest.
Some believe Brown, 61, is getting old. Snyder was 66 when he was ousted. He was named 2012 Big 12 Coach of the Year at age 73 and got a new five-year deal this past offseason.
Dan McCarney, 56-85 at Iowa State
Prior to his arrival: No, the track record of McCarney at Iowa State is not even close to what Brown has achieved at Texas. But no coach won more games at ISU than McCarney, who enjoyed five winning seasons in six years (2000-2005) and nearly won the Big 12 North outright twice. His predecessor, Jim Walden, retired after going 0-10-1 in 1994 and finished his ISU tenure with a record of 28-57-3. No Cyclones coach had won a conference title since 1912.
Why he resigned: McCarney led the Cyclones to five bowl games, but the 2006 season went downhill and he stepped down. At the time he announced his decision, ISU was 0-6 in Big 12 play.
The aftermath: Iowa State got as sexy a hire as it could have hoped in Texas defensive coordinator Gene Chizik. Then, after going 5-19 in two seasons, he bailed on the Cyclones for the Auburn job. Paul Rhoads has done a respectable job in Ames, with three bowl games in four seasons. McCarney is entering his third year as head coach at North Texas. His record there isn’t great (9-15), but the Mean Green at least appreciate that they’ve got a good coach.
Chuck Reedy, 23-22 at Baylor
Prior to his arrival: Yes, this is a bit of an obscure choice. Baylor had a solid, competitive program during the 21-year tenure of the great Grant Teaff and enjoyed winning records in eight seasons of his final decade in charge. When he retired, BU offensive coordinator Reedy was promoted to the head gig.
Why he was fired: Replacing Teaff wasn’t easy. The Baylor administration wasn’t happy with some aspects of Reedy’s coaching style, including recruiting high-risk players who were unlikely to qualify. But what sealed his fate was going 1-7 in conference play in the Big 12’s inaugural year and losing four straight to end the 1996 season with a 4-7 record.
The aftermath: Baylor didn’t know it was signing up for a decade of futility when it canned Reedy. His replacement, Dave Roberts, went 4-18. The three coaches that came after Reedy went a combined 30-94 and finished last in the Big 12 South eight straight years. Art Briles has led an impressive rebuild, but he inherited enough of a mess that it took five years to get his career mark at Baylor above .500 (32-30).
I know what you’re thinking. We’ve left out three coaching departures that are considered some of the biggest in recent Big 12 history: Barry Switzer, Mark Mangino and Mike Leach.
Considering Switzer resigned amid a flurry of scandal and NCAA probation, and Mangino and Leach departed after allegations of player abuse, they’re not all that applicable to Brown or any current Big 12 coaches. But in the cases of Kansas and Texas Tech, who enjoyed unparalleled rises under Mangino and Leach, respectively, and haven’t been the same since, it’s another reminder that you never know what you’ll get when you let a successful coach go.
"Kansas! Turner Gill's team last season was the worst in the history of the Big 12!"
Yes, those Jayhawks were one of only six teams in Big 12 history to go winless in conference play, and this year's Jayhawks have a chance to make it seven if they don't beat West Virginia on Saturday.
The 2011 team lost six games by at least 30 points and the historically bad defense gave up at least 59 points on four separate occasions. However, those same Jayhawks led a 10-win Baylor team led by Heisman winner Robert Griffin III by 21 points early in the fourth quarter and ran up a 20-point lead on Texas Tech early in the season. They also lost to Iowa State by only three points and beat the MAC champion, Northern Illinois.
Still, I hate to break it to you. Do the research, and you'll find that KU team was probably the best winless team in Big 12 history. Not exactly an accomplishment that will do much except get the coach fired, but on ESPN.com today, we're taking a look at some of the worst teams in the history of the game. Here's how I'd rank the worst teams in the history of the Big 12:
1. 1999 Baylor (1-10, 0-8 Big 12)
Coach: Kevin Steele
Win: 23-10 vs. North Texas
Lowlights: The Bears were in Year 1 of Steele's four-year tenure that peaked with a three-win campaign in 2002. I give these Bears my seal of approval as the worst team in Big 12 history. They lost to Boston College and UNLV in nonconference, and the closest they got to any Big 12 team all season was 20 points, and even that game was in the season finale against Oklahoma State. Along the way, they suffered losses of 62-0 (Texas), 37-0 (Colorado) and 48-7 (Nebraska).
2. 2003 Iowa State (2-10, 0-8 Big 12)
Coach: Dan McCarney
Wins: Northern Iowa, Ohio
Lowlights: This was an oddly awful season sandwiched between four seven-win seasons for McCarney, the best coach in Iowa State history before Paul Rhoads arrived in 2009. ISU lost to Northern Illinois out of conference and had by far the worst finish of any team on this list. In its final five games, it scored seven points twice in blowout losses to KU and Mizzou, and was shut out by Nebraska and K-State. It did score 10 points in a 34-point loss to Colorado, though! ISU came within 21 points of only one Big 12 team that season, losing 40-19 to Texas.
3. 1997 Iowa State (1-10, 1-7 Big 12)
Coach: Dan McCarney
Win: 24-17 vs. Baylor
Lowlights: These Cyclones are the only team on this list with a conference win, but they're a team that deserved special consideration. They went winless in nonconference play with losses to Wyoming (46 points!!), Minnesota (34 points) and Iowa (43 points). They came within seven points in the season opener against Oklahoma State, but suffered a handful of humiliating losses, including a 77-14 beatdown against Nebraska. Missouri (24 points), Texas A&M (39 points) and Kansas State (25 points) all continued the parade.
4. 2002 Kansas (2-10, 0-8 Big 12)
Coach: Mark Mangino
Wins: Southwest Missouri State, Tulsa
Lowlights: This was the first season on the road to an eventual BCS bowl for Mangino. The former OU offensive coordinator had a tough start, getting blasted by Iowa State by 42 points to kick off the season. They also suffered losses to UNLV and Bowling Green. The Jayhawks came within three points of Baylor, but no other Big 12 game was decided by fewer than 24 points. They also suffered a 64-0 loss to K-State and a 45-7 loss to Nebraska.
5. 2007 Baylor (3-9, 0-8 Big 12)
Coach: Guy Morriss
Wins: Rice, Texas State, Buffalo
Lowlights: This was the final season for Morriss at Baylor, and the Bears didn't come within 20 points of winning a Big 12 game. BU kicked off the season with a 27-0 loss to TCU but suffered 31-point losses to Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma to close the year and the Morriss era, ushering in the Art Briles era in Waco. The Bears lost to BCS-bound KU by 48 points that year and suffered a 38-point loss to a Ron Prince-coached Kansas State team.
6. 2008 Iowa State (2-10, 0-8 Big 12)
Coach: Gene Chizik
Wins: South Dakota State, Kent State
Lowlights: Chizik parlayed his 5-19 career record into a head job at Auburn and a national title before being fired earlier this week after a winless season in SEC play. The Cyclones were bad, but far from hopeless. ISU lost its final 10 games, including a loss to UNLV, but also had three Big 12 losses decided by a single possession. It did lose games by 42 (Oklahoma State), 32 (Mizzou) and 28 (Nebraska and Baylor).
Oklahoma's Bob Stoops grabbed the top spot in the league at No. 2, behind only Ohio State's Urban Meyer.
No arguing that spot, in theory. Stoops has four former assistants who jumped from OU to become head coaches: Kevin Sumlin (Houston, now at Texas A&M), Mike Leach (Texas Tech, now Washington State) and Kevin Wilson (Indiana).
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini spent 2004 as the co-defensive coordinator before eventually getting the Huskers job in 2008 after three years coordinating LSU's defense.
Not bad, and that's without even mentioning other guys from Stoops' tree who have been fired since becoming head coaches. Mark Mangino is out at Kansas now, and brother Mike Stoops is back as defensive coordinator after nearly a decade as the head man at Arizona.
Former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach even gets credit for his own tree. He checked in at No. 4 on the list for spawning Art Briles (Baylor), Sonny Dykes (Louisiana Tech) and West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen.
Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy just missed the list, but may join it soon with former coordinators Larry Fedora (North Carolina), Holgorsen and Tim Beckman (Illinois) in charge of big-time programs.
Texas Tech's Tommy Tuberville and Kansas State's Bill Snyder just missed the list. Snyder's tree begat Stoops and Wisconsin's Brett Bielema, which is impressive enough on its own. Without Snyder, plenty of the guys mentioned in this post wouldn't be the coaches they are today.
What other coaches' trees impress you?
Spring football is already under way at Texas Tech, but in the coming weeks, the Big 12's other nine programs will join the Red Raiders in taking the field as a team for the first time since January, December, or November for some.
Here's a preview of what to expect:
Spring practice start date: March 19
Spring game: April 14
What to watch:
- Nick Florence: It's not official, but the Baylor quarterback job is Florence's to lose. That means he inherits the unenviable task of replacing the school's first Heisman winner. He replaced RG3 in 2009 with mixed results, but showed some major potential in a win over Texas Tech when RG3 took a shot to the head and sat out the second half. Can he keep the bowl streak alive at Baylor? We'll get an idea this spring.
- The defense's progression: You didn't need to see much more than the 67-56 Alamo Bowl win over Washington to know the Bears needed some work on defense. In the month of November, Baylor became the first team in FBS history to win four consecutive games in a single season while also giving up at least 30 points in each of those games. The defense can't make Florence pick up the slack to that level. Year 2 under Phil Bennett must be better. Baylor has no excuses. They have the athletes on campus necessary to be at least a decent defense.
- The team's attitude/motivation: Baylor played with a lot of purpose the past two seasons, and made history in both, cracking a 16-year bowl drought and winning 10 games this year. Is that fire still there? Baylor has to prove it is without RG3 (and Kendall Wright) carrying the team on the field, emotionally and mentally.
Spring practice start date: March 20
Spring game: April 14
What to watch:
- The quarterback battle: Or is it? Jared Barnett looked like the man of the future in Ames late in the season, leading the Cyclones to a historic upset of No. 2 Oklahoma State. But in the ugly Pinstripe Bowl loss to a mediocre Rutgers team, Barnett's inaccuracy posed big questions. He was benched and Steele Jantz stepped in, though he didn't play much better than Barnett. Turnovers were an issue for Jantz early on, but Barnett has to bounce back in the spring to make sure the job doesn't come open.
- The receivers: Darius Reynolds was the big-play man for the Cyclones, but he's gone. It's going to be tough to replace him. Slot receivers Aaron Horne and Josh Lenz were productive, but did little to stretch defenses like the Reynolds did. Can ISU find someone to fill the void?
- The new man at left tackle: Iowa State had the luxury of having a future pro at left tackle, Kelechi Osemele, for the past three seasons. He earned All-Big 12 nods in each of those seasons, but he's gone now. Junior Carter Bykowski was behind Osemele on the depth chart, but will the converted tight end be the new man at tackle for the Cyclones?
Spring practice start date: March 27
Spring game: April 28
What to watch:
- Uh, everything?: I mean, what's not to watch at KU? Charlie Weis steps in for the fired Turner Gill and tries to build KU up from nothing. The Jayhawks were one of the worst teams in Big 12 history last season, losing six games by at least 30 points. Weis will speak his mind and watching him rebuilding the Jayhawks is going to be fun. It all starts next month -- on the field, at least.
- KU's new pass-catch combo: Dayne Crist is on campus, and so is Oklahoma transfer Justin McCay, a former blue-chip recruit who didn't quite catch on in Norman. Quarterback and receiver were arguably the two biggest positions of need for KU last year, and we'll get a preview of what could be a productive combo next season. McCay isn't officially eligible for the 2012 season yet -- he needs the NCAA to waive its mandated redshirt year after a transfer -- but the coaching staff is confident he'll have it granted.
- The uncertainty on the depth chart: When a new staff comes in, you never know what to expect. Kansas' leading rusher in its final season under Mark Mangino, Toben Opurum, is now one of its best defensive linemen. Look for Weis to shake things up, too. Where? Who knows?
Spring practice start date: April 4
Spring game: April 28
What to watch:
- Collin Klein's maturation: Kansas State's quarterback could be fun to watch this spring and next fall. His throwing motion isn't pretty, but his accuracy improved in a big way throughout the season. If that continues at a pace anything close to what we saw last year, K-State's going to be a load for everyone. Look out.
- Developing depth at running back: John Hubert is back, and so is seldom-used Angelo Pease. Bryce Brown is gone, though. Klein handles a lot of the heavy lifting in the running game, but it'd be some nice insurance if K-State could establish some more depth in the backfield. Making Klein carry the ball 300 times again is tempting fate.
- Stars becoming superstars: Kansas State brings back more starters than all but seven teams in college football, so this team is going to look remarkably similar in 2012 to the way it did last year. However, it should get better. And its two transfers could look dominant this spring. Cornerback Nigel Malone and linebacker Arthur Brown emerged as stars last year, but we could see the duo emerge as true game-changers this spring. Look out, Big 12 offenses.
Spring practice start date: March 8
Spring game: April 14
What to watch:
- New faces on, off the field: Mike Stoops' arrival as the defensive coordinator was the biggest news this offseason in the Big 12, and Brent Venables, who had been at OU for all of Bob Stoops' tenure, left for Clemson rather than become co-defensive coordinator. Hopes are high that Stoops can revitalize Oklahoma's defense. He was in charge when the Sooners rode a dominant D to the 2000 national title, and the Sooners have the talent to win it all in 2012. Receiver Trey Metoyer joins the team this spring, and could be a major contributor immediately. Two of the team's four new tight ends are also enrolled early.
- QB Blake Bell's role: The Belldozer is back ... but so is full-time quarterback Landry Jones. How will the balance between the duo look this spring? And what new wrinkles will we see in Oklahoma's simple, yet near-unstoppable short-yardage formation that saw 13 touchdowns in the second half of 2011?
- The battle at defensive end: Oklahoma must fill two huge holes at defensive end. Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Frank Alexander is gone, as is possible first-round pick Ronnell Lewis. R.J. Washington contributed late and has potential, but David King filled in for Lewis in the final three games of the season. The duo could be great, but it could also be pretty pedestrian. We'll get an idea this spring, but Lewis and Alexander set a high, high bar.
Spring practice start date: March 12
Spring game: April 21
What to watch:
- The quarterback battle: This will easily be the highest-profile, highest-quality quarterback battle in the Big 12. It won't be at the level of Texas Tech in 2010, but it won't be too far off. Clint Chelf, J.W. Walsh and Wes Lunt will go head to head. All have plenty of potential, though Lunt may have the most. The big-armed true freshman also has the least experience. Anything could happen here.
- Which receivers rise: Justin Blackmon and Josh Cooper leave huge holes behind. It's not every day a two-time Biletnikoff Award winner walks on campus. Hubert Anyiam is gone, too. Michael Harrison is unlikely to play for the 2012 season, but the school has offered no confirmation on his status. He had the most potential, but OSU is deep at the position. Who emerges as the top target? Isaiah Anderson? Tracy Moore? Josh Stewart? Anything could happen there, too.
- Defense needs a leader: Safety Markelle Martin has been the heart of the defense the past two seasons, but his big-hitting days are over. Who becomes the new voice of the defense? It needs to find leadership this spring heading into summer voluntary workouts.
Spring practice start date: Feb. 23
Spring game: April 1
What to watch:
- The quarterback competition: I still think having a competition at the spot, which Texas says it will, isn't the best option, but David Ash and Case McCoy will go at it alongside early-enrolling freshman Connor Brewer. If Ash secures the job, expect an announcement heading into summer officially anointing the sophomore.
- More sophistication on both sides of the ball: The progression is natural and likely. Offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz had good first years in Austin, but this is Year 2. The spring won't be devoted to learning the playbook. It's time to master it. Both units could look markedly different, and much more refined next fall. Deny it all you like: Texas is back on its way to the top after a rough two years.
- Maturing offensive weapons: Last season, the Longhorns relied on two true freshman running backs (Malcolm Brown/Joe Bergeron), a freshman/sophomore rotation at quarterback and its top receiver (Jaxon Shipley) was a true freshman. No. 2 (Mike Davis) was a sophomore. I hope I don't have to tell you what freshmen and sophomores do in college football. Look. Out.
Spring practice start date: Feb. 25
Spring end date: April 5
What to watch:
- Can TCU shut out the scandal? Four team members were arrested in a recent drug sting and kicked off the team. How much of a distraction will that be for a program undergoing the most monumental change in its history? Quantifying the effects of the scandal will be pretty impossible, and we've got no idea how they'll handle the change, but will it be on players' minds?
- The offense tightens up: The Horned Frogs' offense is absolutely loaded and ready to go for 2012. Quarterback Casey Pachall returns and brings his top three weapons (Josh Boyce, Skye Dawson and Brandon Carter) with him. Running backs Waymon James, Ed Wesley and Matthew Tucker each topped 700 yards rushing in 2011 and all return. The spring will be all about fine-tuning an already stellar offense, and it'll be fun to watch.
- Replacing departed starters: All-America linebacker Tanner Brock was among the four football players arrested and booted from the team, as was all-conference defensive tackle D.J. Yendrey and likely starting safety Devin Johnson. Those were unforeseen losses, but TCU can't feel sorry for itself. Gary Patterson has no choice but to find new faces to fill those holes.
Spring practice start date: Feb. 17
Spring game: March 24
What to watch:
- Once again, a new defense: Texas Tech sounds like a broken record these days when it comes to defensive coordinators. This time, Art Kaufman will be stepping to the microphone as the fourth defensive coordinator in Lubbock in four years. He's bringing a 4-3, a shift back to what Ruffin McNeil ran in 2009. Chad Glasgow's 4-2-5 and James Willis' 3-4 failed miserably in 2011 and 2010, respectively, the first two years under Tommy Tuberville.
- The battle at running back: No one knows yet if Eric Stephens will be back next season. There's still a long way to go in his rehab from a dislocated knee he suffered last season in a loss to Texas A&M. DeAndre Washington is also out this spring after tearing his ACL against Missouri. Harrison Jeffers hung up his cleats. Who will prove to be reliable this spring? Look for the Red Raiders to try to use sophomore Bradley Marquez, freshman Javares McRoy and junior SaDale Foster in a manner similar to the way Oregon uses scatback De'Anthony Thomas, with lots of short passes and bubble screens to get them the ball in space, where they can use their speed and shiftiness to make plays.
- Team health: Tuberville said earlier this month that the team is missing 15 players this spring. It can't afford any more injuries. It's already going to be tough to get enough done this spring, but Tech can't start getting banged up.
Spring practice start date: March 11
Spring game: April 21
What to watch:
- Dana Holgorsen's offense in Year 2: Holgorsen didn't get a chance to coach his talented offense at Oklahoma State in its second year. The results could have been crazy. They might be at West Virginia in 2012, and the beginning steps will be taken this spring as Geno Smith & Co. get more and more comfortable with the system and Holgorsen adds more wrinkles.
- The battle at running back: Sophomore Dustin Garrison hurt his knee in practices leading up to the Mountaineers' 70-33 Orange Bowl win over Clemson, and won't be there for the spring. What does senior Shawne Alston have in store for the spring? Garrison was the featured back last season, but a big spring could help Alston earn a few carries next year.
- Defense needs help: Najee Goode leaves a big hole at linebacker, and defensive back Eain Smith's exit means the Mountaineers enter the season without two of their top three tacklers from a year ago. Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller's talents on the defensive line will be tough to replace, and in a league that requires a great pass rush, Irvin, Goode and Miller's 19 combined sacks must be replaced somehow.
Gundy beat out LSU's Les Miles, Kansas State's Bill Snyder, Michigan's Brady Hoke and Clemson's Dabo Swinney to win.
He led the Cowboys to an 11-1 season and the school's first Big 12 title, as well as its first BCS bowl bid.
The 11 wins equaled a school record set in 2010, when Gundy was a finalist for the award.
"It's a testament to our players and our coaching staff that we are in the position that we are in," Gundy said in a release. "I want to thank the Football Writers Association of America for recognizing our team in this way."
Former Kansas coach Mark Mangino was the last Big 12 coach to win the award in 2007. Oklahoma's Bob Stoops also won in 2000.
Gary Patterson won the award at TCU in 2009.
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