Dallas Colleges: Paul Dawson

ESPN.com midseason All-Big 12 team

October, 14, 2014
Oct 14
11:00
AM CT
We're halfway through the season, which means it's time for our midseason All-Big 12 team. There's plenty of football still to play. And this midseason team might be very different from the end-of-season one. But this list recognizes the players who have distinguished themselves thus far.

After careful consideration and friendly debate, our midseason All-Big 12 team:

Offense

QB: Clint Trickett, West Virginia: Baylor's Bryce Petty had the Big 12's best game last weekend, but Trickett has had the better season so far. He leads the Big 12 in QBR and completion percentage and is third nationally in passing, fueling the Mountaineers' surprising 4-2 start.

RB: Shock Linwood, Baylor: The Big 12's top rusher has 326 rushing yards over Baylor's last two games, including 104 in the fourth quarter of the Bears' monumental comeback win against TCU.

RB: Samaje Perine, Oklahoma: This true freshman is second in the league in rushing, first in rushing touchdowns and delivered an historic performance at West Virginia with 242 yards and four scores.

WR: Kevin White, West Virginia: White has been as dominant as any player in the league. He easily leads the country with an average of 148 yards receiving per game, and has come up with a hundred yards receiving in every game.

WR: Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma: It's hard to imagine where the Oklahoma passing game would be without Shepard. He has accounted for 48 percent of Trevor Knight's passing yards.

WR: K.D. Cannon, Baylor: The true freshman might already be the most dangerous big-play receiver in the league, averaging 62.5 yards per catch on his six touchdowns.

TE: E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State: The senior has been a big part of the Cyclones' offense with 22 receptions for 190 yards and four touchdowns, including a one-handed scoring grab at Oklahoma State.

OL: Spencer Drango, Baylor: The Bears' franchise left tackle is thriving again after a return from a season-ending back injury. He has graded out the highest on the offensive line of the nation's top scoring offense.

OL: Joey Hunt, TCU: Hunt is the best offensive lineman on the Big 12's most improved offense, which is second in the league in scoring with almost 46 points per game.

OL: B.J. Finney, Kansas State: Finney is well on his way to a third consecutive All-Big 12 season as the lynchpin of the K-State offensive line.

OL: Quinton Spain, West Virginia: He and Mark Glowinski form one of the top guard duos in the country for the league's second-best passing offense.

OL: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech: Arkansas coach Bret Bielema singled out Clark's prowess after facing him. Despite throwing the ball on almost every down, Tech leads the league in fewest sacks allowed with Clark protecting Davis Webb's blindside.

AP: Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State: The speedy Hill has kick return touchdowns the past two weeks, and has proven to be tough and durable as well as really fast.

Defense

DE: Shawn Oakman, Baylor: The freaky 6-foot-9 end is second in the league with five sacks and fourth with eight tackles for loss.

DT: Chucky Hunter, TCU: Hunter has been the anchor of the TCU defensive line, joining Davion Pierson to give Gary Patterson's squad one disruptive duo up front.

DT: Malcom Brown, Texas: This 320-pound monster has been unblockable, and the most disruptive defensive player in the league.

DE: Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State: Ogbah has broken out with five sacks, including two on defending Heisman winner Jameis Winston in the opener. In addition to being tied for second in the Big 12 in sacks, he's also second with 9.5 tackles for loss.

LB: Eric Striker, Oklahoma: Striker has 4.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss, and his relentless pass-rushing ability makes him the primary focus of opposing offensive coordinators.

LB: Jordan Hicks, Texas: The Longhorns' fifth-year senior is racking up 10 tackles per game, and is bringing leadership to the Texas defense after an injury-plagued career.

LB: Paul Dawson, TCU: The Big 12's leading tackler is on pace for the most single-season tackles in the Gary Patterson era. He also had the game-winning pick-six to upset the Sooners.

CB: Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma: Sanchez has given up some big plays, but he's countered with big plays of his own. He's second nationally with five interceptions, including a pick-six against Texas.

CB: Danzel McDaniel, Kansas State: McDaniel hits more like a linebacker than a cornerback. He's been another impressive junior-college find for Bill Snyder.

S: Sam Carter, TCU: Carter doesn't have eye-popping numbers, but he's once again been the heart of the TCU defense.

S: Karl Joseph, West Virginia: The enforcer of the West Virginia secondary is second among Big 12 defensive backs with 45 tackles.

Special teams

K: Josh Lambert, West Virginia: All he's done is nail two game-winning field goals as time has expired to beat Maryland (47 yards) and Texas Tech (55 yards) on the road.

P: Trevor Pardula, Kansas: He's gotten plenty of chances, but he's made the most of them, averaging 44.8 yards per punt, while putting 37.8 percent of them inside the opponents' 20.

PR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State: Lockett, who is second in the nation in punt returns, once again has been an electric all-around playmaker. He's also sixth in the league in receiving.

KR: Alex Ross, Oklahoma: Ross leads the nation in kickoff returns, taking two of his nine kick returns to the house for touchdowns.

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 6

October, 6, 2014
Oct 6
10:00
AM CT
Taking stock of Week 6 in the Big 12:

Team of the week: The Horned Frogs landed their biggest win since joining the Big 12, with a 37-33 victory over then fourth-ranked Oklahoma. TCU’s revamped attack moved the ball up and down on Oklahoma’s vaunted defense.Then in the fourth quarter, the Horned Frogs locked up the Oklahoma offense, which had the ball three times on the TCU side of the field in the final 7 minutes and failed to score a point. With the preseason favorite Sooners vanquished, TCU can take command of the Big 12 race this weekend with a win over the defending Big 12 champs in Baylor.

Disappointment of the week: On a weekend in which Oregon, Alabama, Texas A&M and UCLA all loss, the Sooners had an opportunity to cement their status as a playoff team. Instead, Oklahoma fell victim to the upset, as well. The Sooners had their chances. But two Trevor Knight interceptions in the fourth quarter helped seal the TCU win late. The Sooners aren’t out of the playoff race yet. But their chances took a hit.

Big (offensive) man on campus: Trevone Boykin went into the offseason not knowing if he would be a quarterback or a wide receiver on the TCU offense. But Boykin’s rededication to the finer points of being a quarterback culminated with a speculator effort against Oklahoma. Boykin accounted for a career-high 395 yards of offense, and two touchdowns. TCU is finally a contender in the Big 12, and Boykin's dramatic improvement as a quarterback is a major reason why.

Big (defensive) men on campus: The linebackers often get overshadowed by the rest of the TCU defense, but nobody played a bigger part in the Horned Frogs’ win over Oklahoma than Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallet. Dawson picked off Knight at the beginning of the fourth quarter and raced 41 yards for the touchdown that would put TCU up for good. Then late in the fourth quarter on fourth-and-1 Mallet stuffed Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine short of the first down to help clinch the Horned Frogs’ victory. Together, the two combined for 21 tackles in a pair of Herculean efforts.

Special-teams players of the week: As Baylor’s offense sputtered, its special teams trio of Beau Blackshear, Terrell Burt and Spencer Roth was the difference in the Bears’ 28-7 win over Texas. Blackshear blocked Texas’ 52-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter, and Burt scooped it up and returned it for a score, which remained Baylor’s only touchdown until Roth sparked the next in the third quarter. The Baylor veteran punter called his own fake, and dashed 19 yards for a first down to midfield. Three plays later, Bryce Petty hit Antwan Goodley with a 29-yard touchdown pass, catapulting the Bears to the win in Austin.

video video Play of the week: Tyler Lockett is the man at wide receiver for Kansas State, but Curry Sexton has emerged as a dynamic wingman, highlighted by this one-handed touchdown grab in K-State’s 45-13 win over Texas Tech.

video Stat of the week: Kansas' Trevor Pardula punted 14 times in a 33-14 loss at West Virginia. The 14 punts were the most by an FBS team in one game since 2010. The Jayhawks punted on their first 10 possessions, and took only one snap in West Virginia territory until late in the third quarter.

Quote of the week: "I don’t know how things change, but it’s frustrating and it’s not fair." -- Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard, on Big 12 officiating

Quote of the week II: "Trevor Knight, call me!" -- Katy Perry, while hitting on the Oklahoma quarterback during her guest picker segment on "College GameDay"

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 6

October, 5, 2014
Oct 5
9:00
AM CT
Honoring the best performances from the Big 12 in Week 6:

QB Trevone Boykin, TCU: Not many people expected him to outplay Trevor Knight, but Boykin did that and a lot more. He made a statement on a national stage, throwing for 318 yards and two scores and rushing for 77 in TCU's 37-33 upset of No. 4 Oklahoma. Boykin ranks No. 7 among FBS quarterbacks in total offense and is playing like arguably the Big 12's most improved player.

LBs Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallet, TCU: What a day for these two. Dawson jumped a fourth-quarter pass from Knight and returned it 41 yards for the go-ahead touchdown that proved to be the winning score. Then Mallet stuffed Samaje Perine on fourth-and-1 to kill a Sooners drive that had reached the TCU 22-yard line. The duo also combined for 21 tackles and helped TCU hold Perine to 87 rushing yards and OU to 152 on the ground.

DT Beau Blackshear, Baylor: Art Briles rightfully lauded Blackshear as one of the unsung heroes of Baylor's 28-7 victory. Not only did he block a 52-yard field goal attempt that Baylor returned for a touchdown, he also recovered Texas' fumbled snap at the 1-yard line to stop a touchdown. In a tight first half, that's an absolutely critical 14-point swing in Baylor's favor.

QB Jake Waters, Kansas State: It's probably time to start crediting Waters with becoming a dual threat. In addition to his 290 passing yards and four TDs on efficient 24-of-31 passing, Waters also broke runs of 50, 22, 19 and 18 yards to finish with 105 on 17 carries in a 45-13 beatdown of Texas Tech. He's already surpassed his rushing total from 2013 with 320 yards through five games.

RB Rushel Shell, West Virginia: Shell broke 100 yards for the first time in his brief time at West Virginia, rushing for 113 and a touchdown to help pace WVU's 33-14 win over Kansas. While Kevin White and Mario Alford continue to make huge plays, the Pittsburgh transfer has scored in four consecutive games and is giving this unit importance balance.

WR Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State: The Big 12's most dangerous man struck again, adding a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to his highlight reel. Hill finished with 222 all-purpose yards in OSU's 37-20 victory over Iowa State and, between offensive snaps and returns, he touched the ball 21 times. He ran his nearly 100-yard dash in under 11 seconds despite needing a juke and a stiff-arm to break free. That's blazing.

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 3

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
9:30
AM CT
Taking stock of Week 3 in the Big 12:

Team of the week: West Virginia. The Mountaineers paid regional rival Maryland back for last year’s 37-0 beating with a dramatic 40-37 victory on a game-winning field goal as time expired. Truthfully, the Terrapins were fortunate just to be in the game. West Virginia jumped to a 28-6 lead and could have routed the Terrapins had it not self-destructed several times on Maryland’s side of the field. Still, the Mountaineers once again moved the ball at will. Clint Trickett was dishing out dimes. Mario Alford and Kevin White were producing plays. And a certain field-goal kicker, who I’ll get to later, came through in the clutch.

Disappointment of the week: Texas Tech. Something I was thinking about over the weekend: Had it not been for the sparkling win over Arizona State in the National University Holiday Bowl, what would the perception of the Red Raiders be right now? Outside that Arizona State win, Tech hasn’t played a clean game since losing 38-30 at Oklahoma on Oct. 26 of last year. Meanwhile, Arkansas ran right at the Tech defense Saturday, and there was nothing the Red Raiders could do. The offense behind Davis Webb hasn’t been crisp enough to overcome all the deficiencies defensively. Given how difficult the back end of the schedule is again, the concern level in Lubbock should be high.

Big (offensive) men on campus: Trickett and White. If the season ended today, the three All-Big 12 receivers would be K.D. Cannon, Sterling Shepard and White, who is now second in the country (behind Cannon) in receiving. And if the season ended today, the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year would be Trickett, who threw for 511 yards and four touchdowns in the win over Maryland. The Trickett-to-White pass-catching combo has been nothing short of awesome so far this season.

Big (defensive) man on campus: Paul Dawson. TCU’s senior linebacker led the purple crushing of the Minnesota offense in a 30-7 win over the Gophers. Dawson finished with 15 tackles, including four for loss, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup. Overall, the Horned Frogs forced five turnovers and limited Minnesota to just 268 yards of offense.

[+] EnlargeCole Netten
Charlie Neibergall/Associated PressCole Netten connected on a last-second field goal to give Iowa State a big win over in-state rival Iowa.
Special-teams players of the week: Josh Lambert (West Virginia) and Cole Netten (Iowa State). Field-goal kicking seems to have become a lost art in college football. But Lambert and Netten turned back the clock with their heroics in delivering game-winning field goals that beat Maryland and Iowa, respectively. Netten’s was a 42-yarder, while Lambert connected from 47 yards out. Both kicks resulted in massive wins for their teams.

Play of the week (other than the Lambert and Netten field goals): Late in the second quarter with the game knotted at 3-3, Texas elected to go for it facing fourth-and-8 at the UCLA 38-yard line. And in the biggest play of his young career, quarterback Tyrone Swoopes rolled out and delivered a 33-yard strike to John Harris. Three plays later, Swoopes hit M.J. McFarland for a touchdown to give Texas a 10-3 lead and all the momentum heading into halftime.

Stat of the week: Oklahoma QB Trevor Knight has two 300-yard passing games in his career, and both have come against SEC opponents. Knight threw for 348 yards in last season's Sugar Bowl win over Alabama, and he passed for 308 yards in Oklahoma’s 34-10 win Saturday over Tennessee.

Quote of the week: “I haven't talked to Josh Lambert since he got on campus, and we are going to keep it that way. I know his name and who he is, but other than that, I'm taking the hands-off approach.” -- West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, when asked what he said to Lambert before the game-winning kick. Holgorsen added he likes only special-teams coach Joe DeForest talking to his kicker.

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 3

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
9:00
AM CT
Here's our weekly recognition of the finest performances in the Big 12. Lots of tough choices as usual, and a lot of first-time honorees this week. These guys got our attention:

K Cole Netten, Iowa State, and Josh Lambert, West Virginia: College kickers! We mean that in a good way this time. Lambert lifted West Virginia to a 40-37 victory with a 47-yard game-winner at Maryland. Netten, after Kirk Ferentz kindly iced a miss with a timeout, hit a 42-yarder on the road to steal the Cy-Hawk Trophy from Iowa, 20-17. Difficult kicks, clutch results, huge wins for their respective teams.

WR Kevin White, West Virginia: He's played at an All-Big 12 level in each of West Virginia's first three games. This time, White went for 216 receiving yards, including a 44-yard TD, on 13 catches in the last-second win at Maryland. He's surpassed nine catches and 100 yards in every game this season.

CB Julian Wilson, Oklahoma: As far as icing on the cake goes, it's hard to beat a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown to secure a 34-10 victory over Tennessee. Wilson grabbed a ball deflected by Jordan Evans and took it all the way to make a statement for the Sooners' defense.

LB Paul Dawson, TCU: Dawson was all over the place in a 30-7 win over Minnesota, racking up 15 tackles (nine solo), four tackles for loss, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup. Josh Doctson had a heck of a day too, with one of the prettiest touchdown catches you'll see in the Big 12 this season. But we've got to tip our caps to a dynamite day from Dawson.

WR Lynx Hawthorne, Baylor: Sorry, Bryce Petty and KD Cannon. You'll get yours some other day. Hawthorne, a sophomore who caught two passes last year, is getting more run with all those Baylor receivers sidelined and making the most of it. He hauled in seven passes in Baylor's 63-21 victory over Buffalo on Friday for 123 yards and the first two touchdowns of his career, further confirming the belief that the Bears could not get much deeper at the receiver position.

LB Josh Furman, Oklahoma State: Why not give love to the defenders this week? The Michigan transfer shined with six tackles, two sacks and a pass breakup to help the Cowboys romp to a 43-13 win over a UTSA squad that had proven it can play. Honorable-mention props to Daxx Garman for a nice showing in his first career start.

Big 12 poll: Best imaginary team?

May, 15, 2014
May 15
10:30
AM CT
Earlier Thursday, we concluded our 22-round draft of current Big 12 players. Below are the three lineup outcomes of that draft, and as you can see, each of us went in different directions.

SportsNation

Who had the best imaginary Big 12 player draft?

  •  
    30%
  •  
    38%
  •  
    32%

Discuss (Total votes: 2,440)

Like the St. Louis Rams, Max and Brandon built up their defensive lines before worrying about the rest of their rosters. While I grabbed the best quarterback in the league and surrounded him with protection and weapons.

After each lineup, read our final takes on our teams. Then, decide who drafted best in the weekly Big 12 poll.

BRANDON CHATMON’S TEAM

OFFENSE
DEFENSE
What Brandon says about his team: “Offensively, as soon as Petty was gone with the first pick I knew I wouldn’t take a quarterback until my final pick. Knight could be the steal of the draft. Versatility is the name of the game with the rest of the offense. We can put Pierson and Smallwood in the backfield and go read option or really ruin your Saturday and throw Daje back there in the Diamond. When you bring more guys in the box, you leave Seales and Lockett one-on-one. Or we can just go five wide and you can try to cover running backs who run routes like receivers with your linebackers. And an experienced offensive line will be the foundation of it all. Defensively, it would be wise for opposing quarterbacks to tell their families to stay home when facing this group. We’re going to man up and have our mail forwarded to the opposing backfield and make you want to take your ball and go home. And with a secondary full of coverage guys, I’m not concerned about the back end of the defense holding up. We’ll win more battles than we lose. By the final whistle, my team will have earned the moniker 'Chatmon’s chaos creators' with Tapper, Reed, Brown, Hunter, Alexander and Robertson living in your backfield.”

MAX OLSON'S TEAM

OFFENSE
DEFENSE
What Max says about his team: “You do not want to play against my team. That was my goal going in, and I constructed exactly the team I wanted. I have a great QB in Webb who gets to throw to Goodley, one of the nation's best receivers, and he'd help Jaxon Shipley put up Jordan Shipley numbers. I have the two-back punch of Linwood and Gray. I have Hill, who can do everything, and a good line. We're going to spread the ball around like crazy. Good luck stopping that. On defense, you have Fields, Oakman and Grissom all rushing the passer. That's deadly. We can go three-man fronts or even put Oakman in the middle, letting the 6-foot-8 stud swat your passes down. And while you're worrying about him and Grissom, you have the Big 12's best defensive player [Fields] coming after you. Hager and Shannon will hold it down at the second level, and the secondary is full of playmakers. This is a fun team, plain and simple, and one that can frustrate the heck out of anybody.”

JAKE TROTTER’S TEAM

OFFENSE
DEFENSE
What Jake says about his team: “Max and Brandon are good at talking smack. I’ll give them that. But my players do their talking on the field. Once I was fortunate to land reigning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year Bryce Petty as my quarterback, my goal was two-fold: to keep him upright from pressure off the edge; and, to surround him with firepower. I accomplished both ends, and then some. I wasn’t able to get either of the two elite receivers in the league in Goodley or Lockett. But I put together the best overall receiving corps in Grant, Shepard and Bundrage, who could all deliver 1,000-yard receiving seasons in 2014. On top of that, I snagged the best pass-catching tight end on the board in Bibbs, as well as Brown, so that we can pound the ball between the tackles when we need. Speaking of tackles, aware that Brandon and Max were focused almost solely on their pass rush in the early rounds, I also added two of the most reliable pass-protecting bookends in the league in Drango and Williams. Defensively, I can bring pressure, too, with Mueller and Striker, who last season respectively placed second and fourth in the Big 12 in sacks. Castleman and Britz are roadblocks, Heeney and Dawson are tackle machines and my entire secondary has All-Big 12 potential. We don’t talk. We just dominate.”
Following up on NFL draft weekend, we’ve been conducting our own draft, picking from current Big 12 players to fill out three 22-man lineups.

Below is a recap of the first 15 rounds of the draft from the past two days, followed by rounds 16-22.

As another reminder, this is NOT a Top 25 player ranking. It’s only an exercise in determining where the value of the league lies, and the different strategies to putting a team together from the league’s present talent pool.

Jake Trotter:
Brandon Chatmon:
Max Olson:
Round 16

  • Olson: WR/RB Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State
  • Chatmon: OLB Pete Robertson, Texas Tech
  • Trotter: OLB Brandon Golson, West Virginia
  • Analysis: "To combat the offensive attacks I would face in the Big 12, I'm going with a 3-4 on defense. Golson, who led the Big 12 in forced fumbles last season, is another playmaking outside linebacker who would fit in nicely in this scheme opposite Striker." -- Trotter
[+] EnlargeJohnathan Gray, Tanner Jacobson
AP Photo/Eric GayGetting potential Big 12 rushing leader Johnathan Gray in the 17th round could be a big steal for Max Olson.
Round 17

  • Trotter: LB Paul Dawson, TCU
  • Chatmon: C Dominic Espinosa, Texas
  • Olson: RB Johnathan Gray, Texas
  • Analysis: “I ended up getting a potential All-Big 12 running back in the 17th round. So I feel pretty good about that. Gray should be healthy for the opener, and he leads all returning Big 12 rushers with 86 rushing yards per game last season." -- Olson
Round 18

  • Olson: OT Troy Baker, Baylor
  • Chatmon: SS Quentin Hayes, Oklahoma
  • Trotter: OG Mark Glowinski, West Virginia
  • Analysis: "I wanted a safety who is comfortable in holding his own in coverage, while also having the ability to make plays all over the field. Hayes is the guy. With Worley, Shepherd, White, Barnett and Hayes in the secondary, I can unleash the rest of my defense on the quarterback and feel comfortable about my secondary holding its own against anyone." -- Chatmon
Round 19

  • Trotter: OG Nila Kasitati, Oklahoma
  • Chatmon: WR Tony Pierson, Kansas
  • Olson: SS Terrell Burt, Baylor
  • Analysis: "With Max and Brandon hoarding centers, I needed to attack the interior of my offensive line. Kasitati can excel manning either guard or center, and Glowinski is one of the league’s top returning guards." -- Trotter
Round 20

  • Olson: OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, TCU
  • Chatmon: WR Jhajuan Seales, Oklahoma State
  • Trotter: WR Quenton Bundrage, Iowa State
  • Analysis: "The guys I wanted for my second guard spot weren't available at this round, so I'm going with the mammoth "Big V" Vaitai (6-foot-6, 308 pounds) and moving one of my other tackle selections inside. I ended up with a fairly good offensive line, which was pretty much my plan going in." -- Olson
Round 21

  • Trotter: CB Nigel Tribune, Iowa State
  • Chatmon: WR Wendell Smallwood, West Virginia
  • Olson: LB Nick Kwiatkoski, West Virginia
  • Analysis: “I picked up Bundrage in the previous round to seal up what I feel is the best all-around receiving corps, even if I didn’t get Goodley or Lockett. Tribune, the only true freshman to play for Iowa State in the past two seasons, is a corner with a ton of upside and, paired with Kevin Peterson, should provide me plenty of tenaciousness against the pass.” -- Trotter
Round 22

  • Olson: WR Jaxon Shipley, Texas
  • Chatmon: QB Trevor Knight, Oklahoma
  • Trotter: C Jared Kaster, Texas Tech
  • Analysis: “I just got the steal of the draft, and I knew I would wait until the final round to do so. As soon as Jake snapped up Petty, I knew I would be content with Davis Webb or Trevor Knight and wouldn’t draft a quarterback until the final round. The fact that Max opted for Webb made things even better for me as Knight has the versatility to run a run-heavy offense or spread things out and use his arm. He fits perfectly with the versatility I was striving for with each pick.” -- Chatmon

Big 12 post-spring breakdown: LBs

May, 6, 2014
May 6
3:00
PM CT
With spring ball done, we’re re-examining and re-ranking the positional situations of every Big 12 team, continuing Tuesday with linebackers. These outlooks will look different in August. But here’s how we see them post-spring:

1. Oklahoma (pre-spring ranking: 1): While the future of inside linebacker Frank Shannon remains unclear, the Sooners have a tailor-made replacement in Jordan Evans ready to go. Shannon was OU’s leading tackler a year ago, but Evans was the defensive MVP of the spring game in his place. Blitzing outside linebacker Eric Striker had a huge spring coming off his three-sack performance in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. And the Sooners had another blitzing linebacker in juco transfer Devante Bond emerge in March, which could give them flexibility to move Striker around. Dominique Alexander, the reigning Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year, solidifies OU’s perch atop this positional ranking, even with Shannon’s future in limbo.

2. Texas (2): Steve Edmond sparked controversy with his Baylor comments, but he also impressed coach Charlie Strong this spring with his knack for making tackles. Edmond and Dalton Santos team up to give the Longhorns a reliable combination on the inside. Athletic sophomore Timothy Cole took advantage of his opportunities with the first-team defense during the spring but should fall back into a spot role once Jordan Hicks returns this summer from a second consecutive season-ending injury. This will be a good group of linebackers, but Hicks playing up to his five-star potential is what could make it great.

3. West Virginia (3): After struggling at the “Spur” linebacker spot in 2013, Isaiah Bruce moved back inside this spring, where he starred as a freshman All-American two years ago. Bruce said he didn’t feel as comfortable playing outside and that showed, as he didn’t record a sack last season despite playing off the edge. Taking over in the Spur is converted safety K.J. Dillon, who was as impressive as any West Virginia defender this spring. With the ability to drop back in coverage, attack the run and rush the quarterback, Dillon seems to be a much better fit at the Spur. If he continues to progress at his new spot and Bruce gets back to his old self playing alongside tackling machine Nick Kwiatkoski inside, the Mountaineers will be stout at the second level.

4. Kansas (5): If the Jayhawks finally climb out of the Big 12 cellar for the first time in six years, it will be on the back of Ben Heeney and a Kansas defense that returns nine starters. One of those nine returners is Heeney’s linebacker wingman, Jake Love, who delivered a strong spring game with a scrimmage-high 10 tackles. The Jayhawks have several weaknesses, but the tackling of their linebackers is not one of them.

5. TCU (6): They get overshadowed by the units in front of and behind them, but linebackers Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallet simply fulfill what’s asked of them. The Horned Frogs were surprisingly solid at linebacker last year. They should be even better in 2014.

6. Texas Tech (7): The Red Raiders received a huge boost in the spring from Kenny Williams, who made a seamless -- and voluntary -- position switch from running back to the “Raider” linebacker position. With honorable mention All-Big 12 pick Pete Robertson on the other outside spot and veterans Sam Eguavoen and Micah Awe and Utah transfer V.J. Fehoko manning the middle, the Red Raiders have a solid foundation. Ex-Ohio State linebacker Mike Mitchell, who attended Tech’s spring game, could give the unit another boost in the summer. He was an ESPN 300 recruit last year and could be eligible immediately at his next school.

7. Kansas State (8): Coach Bill Snyder seemed to be reasonably pleased with returners Jonathan Truman and Will Davis, who have locked up two of the linebacker spots. If D'Vonta Derricott, who was in the ESPN Junior College 50 and had offers from Miami, Wisconsin, Arizona State and a host of Big 12 programs, can make an impact at the third linebacker spot, the Wildcats could quickly solidify their biggest question spot defensively.

8. Baylor (4): Middle linebacker Bryce Hager will be fine once he finally recovers from a groin injury. That means Aiavion Edwards, who exited spring as the starter on the weak side, will be the key as the Bears attempt to overcome the graduation of All-Big 12 performer Eddie Lackey. Baylor, though, still has big expectations for juco transfer Grant Campbell, even though he finished spring as a backup on the depth chart. After a shaky first few practices, Campbell began to come on late in spring drills.

9. Oklahoma State (9): The Cowboys picked up a valuable transfer during the spring in former Michigan safety Josh Furman, who will be eligible immediately after getting his degree. Furman isn’t a star, but he has plenty of experience and could be a real asset teamed with juco transfer D'Nerius Antoine at Oklahoma State’s “Star” linebacker spot. On the weak side, fellow juco transfer Devante Averette really shined before suffering some mild injuries at the end of spring ball. The Cowboys will be even better there if 2012 four-star signee Seth Jacobs emerges.

10. Iowa State (10): The Cyclones remain in transition mode at linebacker while working to replace the production of departed All-Big 12 performer Jeremiah George. Redshirt freshman and former QB Alton Meeks was one of the defensive surprises of the spring; he currently sits atop the depth chart at middle linebacker. The other big defensive surprise was walk-on senior Drake Ferch, who beat out returning starter Jared Brackens on the strong side. Jevohn Miller is the third starting linebacker, but he figures to be a placeholder on the weak side until Luke Knott returns from last year’s season-ending hip injury.

Spring depth chart analysis: TCU

May, 6, 2014
May 6
9:00
AM CT
Over the next two weeks, we’ll be analyzing the depth charts of every Big 12 team coming out of the spring. We continue today with TCU, which released an official two-deep after wrapping up spring ball. After its recent addition at QB, here’s our take on what the Horned Frogs’ depth chart now looks like:

OFFENSE (projected starter in bold)

QB: Matt Joeckel (Sr.) OR Trevone Boykin (Jr.), Zach Allen (RFr.)

Joeckel announced last month he will transfer from Texas A&M to TCU, but the paperwork isn’t officially done so TCU has made no formal announcement. When he does arrive in Fort Worth, expect Joeckel to become the frontrunner for the QB spot due to his experience running the Air Raid offense. Boykin will fight for his job but is versatile enough to be a legitimate contributor at receiver. Freshmen Foster Sawyer and Grayson Muehlstein arrive in the summer.

[+] EnlargeCatalon
Jim Cowsert/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Getty ImagesB.J. Catalon is the most experienced player in a crowded, unsettled TCU backfield.
RB: B.J. Catalon (Jr.) OR Kyle Hicks (RFr.) OR Aaron Green (Jr.) OR Trevorris Johnson (RFr.)

The three-OR move isn’t about Gary Patterson refusing to tip his hand. It’s more a sign that the Horned Frogs will rely on a committee of backs, and by the end of spring Catalon, Hicks and Green had all suffered injuries. The competition to find that No. 1 back continues in the fall, and freshman Shaun Nixon will be in the mix then, too.

WR-X: Ja'Juan Story (Jr.) OR Kolby Listenbee (Jr.)

WR-H: Ty Slanina (So.), Deante' Gray (Jr.)

WR-Y: David Porter (Sr.), Cameron Echols-Luper (So.), Griffin Gilbert (So.)

WR-Z: Josh Doctson (Jr.), Jordan Moore (Jr.)

TCU will need several of these guys to step up to make the high-speed passing game thrive. Two-year starter Brandon Carter is not listed on the post-spring depth chart but is still a member of the program. The athletic Moore might’ve finally found his position after moving over from running back. Gilbert moved over from tight end and could be a factor, while Cliff Murphy and Buck Jones are now the options at tight end in short-yardage situations. This group gets better and deeper in the summer when touted signees Emanuel Porter and Corey McBride show up.

LT: Halapoulivaati Vaitai (Jr.), Tayo Fabuluje (Sr.)

LG: Jamelle Naff (Jr.), Bobby Thompson (Jr.)

C: Joey Hunt (Jr.), Brady Foltz (Jr.), Patrick Morris (So.)

RG: Frank Kee (Jr.), Matt Pryor (RFr.)

RT: Joseph Noteboom (RFr.), Aviante Collins (Jr.)

Patterson felt much better about the strength and depth of this group following spring ball. Noteboom was the surprise of the group, and Kee made a big impression coming out of junior college. Collins was listed as the starter at left tackle entering the spring, but “Big V” Vaitai impressed, and Fabuluje should contribute again after leaving the team last fall. Don’t be surprised if Thompson eventually wins the job at left guard. TCU adds four freshmen, and each one could redshirt if the depth holds up.

DEFENSE

LE: James McFarland (Jr.), Josh Carraway (So.), Bryson Henderson (RFr.)

DT: Chucky Hunter (Sr.), Mike Tuaua (Jr.)

DT: Davion Pierson (Jr.), Tevin Lawson (So.)

RE: Devonte Fields (So.), Terrell Lathan (Jr.)

[+] EnlargeDevonte Fields
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsNow healthy, Devonte Fields is working to returning to his All-Big 12 form of 2012.
Fields is listed as the backup right end on TCU’s official post-spring depth chart, but that’s more a measure for motivation. The former Big 12 AP Defensive Player of the Year is healthy and hungry. Hunter and Pierson forms one of the Big 12’s better defensive tackle combos. McFarland, Carraway and Lathan will all compete for the left end job, and Lathan and Tuaua can play several spots on the line.

MLB: Jonathan Anderson (Sr.), Paul Whitmill (RFr.)

SLB: Marcus Mallet (Sr.) OR Paul Dawson (Sr.), Sammy Douglas (So.)

The Horned Frogs bring back their entire linebacker corps this fall and have some nice pieces for these two starting spots. Dawson will continue to push Mallet and let the team with 91 tackles in 2013. It’ll be interesting to see what Douglas, a special teams contributor last season, and Whitmill can provide in their second year in the program.

CB: Kevin White (Sr.), Travoskey Garrett (Jr.)

CB: Ranthony Texada (RFr.), Cyd Calvin (RFr.)

SS: Sam Carter (Sr.), Denzel Johnson (So.), George Baltimore (RFr.)

FS: Derrick Kindred (Jr.), Geoff Hooker (Sr.), Steve Wesley (RFr.)

WS: Chris Hackett (Jr.), Kenny Iloka (Jr.)

With Jason Verrett gone, White is the leader of the corners now, and TCU needs several others to be ready to contribute by August. Texada was consistently praised by his coaches this spring and is the favorite to take the vacant starting spot after redshirting last season. Carter, Hackett and Kindred form a talented safety trio, but don’t sleep on Iloka and Johnson. Both are expected to see the field a lot in 2014.

Top-10 player spring update: TCU

April, 1, 2014
Apr 1
3:00
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This week, we continue breaking down the 10 best players at the moment on every team in the Big 12.

These lists won’t include junior college or freshman signees who haven’t arrived on campus yet. Rather, they will include only the players currently on their teams this spring. Some of these rankings might look different after the spring, but this is how we see them now.

Next up, the TCU Horned Frogs:

1. SS Sam Carter: Devonte Fields and Jason Verrett have overshadowed Carter the last two years, but Carter, a second-team All-Big 12 selection the last two seasons with 25 career starts, is an excellent safety and a keystone of the defense. He is sitting out the rest of spring ball with nagging injuries, but the Horned Frogs know what Carter can do.

[+] EnlargeDevonte Fields
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsDE Devonte Fields is aiming to return to the form that made him one of the league's most feared players two years ago.
2. DE Devonte Fields: Fields might be the biggest enigma of the entire league. He was dominant as a true freshman two years ago. Last season, he was basically a non-factor before suffering a season-ending foot injury. When at the top of his game, Fields can be as prolific as any defender in the conference. The reviews so far this spring have been positive, which is an encouraging sign that Fields will bounce back in 2014.

3. DT Chucky Hunter: Though TCU struggled last season, Hunter did not, taking over for Fields as the Horned Frogs’ primary force along the defensive line. Hunter is one of the three-best defensive tackles in the Big 12, if not the very best.

4. CB Kevin White: With Verrett gone, White takes over as TCU’s No. 1 cornerback, and should be up to the task. White was an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection as a junior after finishing in the top 10 of the conference in pass breakups and interceptions. The Horned Frogs figure to be difficult to throw on again, and White will be a big a reason why.

5. FS Chris Hackett: Notice a trend here? Yes, TCU is going to be formidable in the defensive backfield yet again. Hackett has started the last two seasons and been stout coming up to help against the run, finishing 10th in the league last season in tackles. Hackett and Carter gives TCU the best safety combination in the league

6. QB Trevone Boykin: Boykin finished out last season at receiver, but so far this spring, he’s been sharp as the No. 1 quarterback in Doug Meacham’s and Sonny Cumbie’s new scheme. Boykin might be a better fit as a receiver, but if he’s the best option at quarterback, that’s where he’ll play.

7. RB B.J. Catalon: The only other offensive player on this list, Catalon has proven to be a solid all-around playmaker for the Horned Frogs. Catalon was second in the Big 12 in kickoff returns, and led TCU with 569 yards rushing and six touchdowns. Catalon will have help in the backfield with Aaron Green and Kyle Hicks, but he will start out as the primary option.

8. DT Davion Pierson: Pierson is an underrated complement to Hunter at tackle. The trio of Fields, Hunter and Pierson along the defensive line has the potential to be as good as any in the Big 12.

9. K Jaden Oberkrom: Oberkrom, who will wind up being a four-year starter barring injury over the next two seasons, gives TCU a huge advantage in field goals. He nailed a 56-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter that almost gave the Horned Frogs the win at Kansas State. That 56-yarder was the longest field goal in the Big 12 during the 2013 season.

10. LB Paul Dawson: Dawson stepped up into a starting role and stabilized the linebacker position last season. He led the Horned Frogs with 91 tackles and teamed with Marcus Mallet to give TCU a solid and reliable one-two punch at linebacker.

Q&A: TCU DC Dick Bumpas

March, 26, 2014
Mar 26
9:00
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Dick Bumpas is entering his 11th season as TCU’s defensive coordinator and knows there’s plenty that must get addressed in spring ball if this 11th year will be a resurgent one for the Horned Frogs.

But the coach who has worked with Gary Patterson at four other schools in the past knows what this program is capable of if everyone can shake off the disappointment of last season’s 4-8 campaign and move forward and embrace some competition.

Bumpas recently spoke with ESPN.com about replacing Jason Verrett, getting Devonte Fields back and finding contributors at several other spots.

Is the spring, for you about installing or just getting everyone back up to speed?

[+] EnlargeDick Bumpas
Andrew B. Fielding/USA TODAY SportsLongtime TCU defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas is in the unfamiliar position of needing his unit to bounce back in 2014.
Bumpas: It’s back to the basics. You can build a house a hundred times, but unless you have a good foundation, you’re going to have to build it a hundred times. We’re going back to fundamentals and that way hopefully next year the kids will be schooled in the fundamentals of the game and ready to go.

It seems like that house will be back in good shape going into 2014.

Bumpas: Well, I haven’t counted up the numbers, but I do know we’ve got a lot of kids coming back. The one thing that’s been my experience is the kid who’s played a while is better than he was the year before. So hopefully that’ll have some merit. We’re just excited about it. We’ll have to wait and see.

Tell me about where Devonte Fields is right now.

Bumpas: Well, his foot seems in pretty good shape. It tweaks him every once in a while. I’m excited about him. I think he’s hopefully going to continue where he left off. It was very frustrating for him to come back and break the dang thing and have to sit out a year, but he’s starting to look like his old self and he should have a good year.

What do you think that setback did not only for how hungry he is but also another year of maturity?

Bumpas: Yeah, I think that’s the one thing, too. Being away from football made him appreciate it a lot more. He really enjoys football and I think that’s even more so because he can get where he wants to get to. He just loves football and when he doesn’t have it, it’s very frustrating.

Replacing Jason Verrett is a big one, but what are the areas where you have to address question marks this spring?

Bumpas: You can’t really replace a kid like Jason Verrett. He’s such a special kid. But we’ve got some good, young kids at that position, and the thing right now is it’s exciting to watch them compete and that’s all we can ask for. I think there’s going to be some healthy competition for that spot and, really, every position. When that happens, everyone gets better.

I’m sure you’re getting phone calls from NFL guys inquiring about Verrett. What is the way you sell him to those guys when they ponder whether he’s a first-rounder?

Bumpas: Well, if I’m not mistaken, he only gave up one touchdown pass last year and, with the people he played against, I think that’s a pretty good résumé. Now it just really gets down to, OK, what are you looking for? If you’re looking for a guy that competes and will play hard, he’ll do that, he’ll go cover that guy, he’ll support the run. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. Whoever gets him will get a real good one.

I know Coach Patterson has said he’s encouraged by what Ranthony Texada is doing at corner. What do you think of him and where you do stand with those other options?

Bumpas: Ranthony is doing a lot of good things, and the one thing he does have, he’s a really fast kid. You can’t coach them to run faster. If you start with that as a base, you can throw in a lot. We have a lot of strong possibilities back there, and we’re excited about it. We have one guy who’s been an injury-prone kid in Travoskey Garrett, he really hasn’t played a whole lot because he’s been banged up a lot. But he’s another kid that I think will come on and really have a chance to compete for some playing time. And of course with Kevin White back that gives us three pretty good kids, and as long as you’ve got three of them, that’s good competition.

You had inexperience at linebacker last year, so how is that group coming along?

[+] EnlargeDevonte Fields
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsThe return of DE Devonte Fields from a foot injury that sidelined him most of last season will be a key for the Horned Frogs.
Bumpas: It wasn’t necessarily that they were young in age, which they were, but they really hadn’t played much linebacker. Jonathan Anderson is getting to be a senior but only one year at linebacker. Paul Dawson, he’s got a chance to improve. Last year was really his first year. You have two young kids. Paul Whitmill has looked better and better every day, and there’s Sammy Douglas. I tell you, the one veteran kid who gets overlooked is Marcus Mallet. He knows what to do.

When you went back to the 2013 film, are there things you find that you know will be solved by this season?

Bumpas: We’re certainly hoping so. But we will find out. The hurry-up offenses create some problems for you that, if you’re not careful, you’ll give up some big plays because you weren’t ready for the ball to be snapped. We’re just trying to eliminate that, and then it’s about who people are trying to pick on, and what are they trying to pick on. Where do they want to throw the ball, and where are they trying to take advantage?

Do you get the sense your players feel like they have some unfinished business and are unsatisfied by 2013?

Bumpas: I think they were frustrated last year. They lost so many close games, and that’s a great motivator. It makes people work harder, makes people pay more attention. When you go back and look at what could’ve been, I think they’re motivated and where you like them to be.

Big 12 pre-spring breakdown: LBs

February, 25, 2014
Feb 25
3:00
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As we await the start of spring ball, we’re examining and ranking the positional situations of every team in the Big 12, continuing Tuesday with linebackers. Some of these outlooks will look different after the spring. But here’s how we see the linebacking corps going into the spring:

[+] EnlargeDominique Alexander
William Purnell/Icon SMIDominique Alexander was a star as a true freshman and leads a loaded Oklahoma linebacking corps.
1. Oklahoma: After a couple of lean years, the Sooners are loaded at linebacker again. Dominique Alexander was the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year, Frank Shannon led the defense in tackles as a sophomore, and Eric Striker is budding into the most ferocious blitzing linebacker in the country (just ask Alabama). Jordan Evans played extensively as a true freshman, too. This is an athletic group that can cover, stop the run and get to the quarterback.

2. Texas: This is the deepest linebacking corps in the league, with starters Peter Jinkens, Dalton Santos and Steve Edmond all returning off a unit that improved dramatically after the rocky nonconference start. After allowing a school-record 550 yards rushing to BYU, Texas had the Big 12’s fourth-best rush defense in conference games. Whether this group can take another step up will depend on what happens with Jordan Hicks, who enters his fifth year in the program after suffering season-ending injuries in back-to-back years. Hicks was the No. 1 linebacker in the country coming out of high school and has played well when healthy.

3. West Virginia: This will be the strength of the defense, as Brandon Golson, Isaiah Bruce, Jared Barber and Nick Kwiatkoski all return with significant starting experience. Kwiatkoski was West Virginia’s leading tackler last season, and Bruce was a freshman All-American the season before. Wes Tonkery and Jewone Snow also have starting experience, and Shaq Petteway, who missed last season with a knee injury, was a key rotation player the previous year. This level of experience and production with give the new defensive regime of Tony Gibson and Tom Bradley a foundation to build around.

4. Baylor: Bryce Hager is one of the best returning linebackers in the league. He was a second-team all-conference pick two years ago and would have earned similar honors last season had he not missed the final three games of the regular season with a groin injury. Grant Campbell, a three-star juco signee, is already on campus and will vie for the vacancy of departing All-Big 12 linebacker Eddie Lackey. Kendall Ehrlich and Aiavion Edwards are the only other players at the position with any meaningful experience, but Raaquan Davis, a former four-star recruit who redshirted last season, could be a factor.

5. Kansas: Middle linebacker Ben Heeney was a second-team All-Big 12 selection after finishing fourth in the league in tackles per game. His wingman, Jake Love, got beat out by juco transfer Samson Faifili during the preseason but took over when Faifili suffered an injury and was solid. As long as Heeney remains healthy, the Jayhawks will be solid here.

6. TCU: Projected to be the Achilles’ heel of the TCU defense last season, Paul Dawson, Marcus Mallet and Jonathan Anderson actually gave the position stability. Dawson led the Horned Frogs with 91 tackles, Mallet was third with 70 and Anderson was fourth with 66. All three will be seniors in 2014 and should give the Horned Frogs a solid, reliable linebacking unit again.

7. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders and their 3-4 scheme graduate two very productive players in Will Smith and Terrance Bullitt. Smith was second in the Big 12 in tackles, and Bullitt led all Big 12 linebackers in pass breakups. Austin Stewart and Micah Awe go into the spring as the favorites to replace Bullitt and Smith, respectively. Two starters do return in Sam Eguavoen and Pete Robertson, who was honorable mention All-Big 12 thanks to his impact off the edge. Tech also has several intriguing young players, including Jacarthy Mack, Malik Jenkins and Kahlee Woods, who will all be second-year players.

8. Kansas State: The Wildcats lose two stalwarts to graduation in captains Blake Slaughter and Tre Walker. The only returner is former walk-on Jonathan Truman, who was second on the team in tackles from the weak side. The Wildcats will be hoping for big things from D'Vonta Derricott, an ESPN JC 50 signee who had offers from Miami and Wisconsin, among many others. Will Davis, who was Slaughter’s backup as a freshman last season, could thrive if he secures the starting role in the middle.

9. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys are somewhat decimated here with the graduations of all-conference veterans Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey. The only returning starter, Ryan Simmons, could move inside, which would open the door for hard-hitting jucos D'Nerius Antoine and Devante Averette to start on either side of him. Seth Jacobs, who was a four-star recruit two years ago, should jump into the rotation, and the Cowboys could get an instant boost from freshman Gyasi Akem, who was an ESPN 300 signee. The potential ascension of this group, though, hinges on what Antonie and Averette accomplish.

10. Iowa State: The Cyclones graduate their defensive cornerstone in Jeremiah George, who was a first-team all-conference performer after leading the Big 12 with 133 tackles. Replacing George won’t come easy. There’s reason to hope that Luke Knott can become Iowa State’s next cornerstone at the position. The younger brother of Cyclone LB great Jake Knott, Luke Knott started five games as a freshman and quickly racked up 45 tackles before suffering a season-ending hip injury, which required surgery. If he makes a full recovery, Knott has the talent to become the next in a growing line of All-Big 12 Iowa State linebackers. Seniors Jevohn Miller and Jared Brackens, who combined for 19 starts last season, flank Knott with experience.

Season report card: TCU

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
3:00
PM CT
TCU began the year as the player's pick to win the Big 12. The Horned Frogs ended the season as the conference’s most disappointing team.

Gary Patterson’s squad fielded a quality defense again but the offense made life much harder than it should have been with mental mistakes and turnovers handcuffing the Horned Frogs’ dreams of winning the Big 12. The injury bug didn’t help, hitting 2012 Defensive Freshman of the Year Devonte Fields and starting quarterback Casey Pachall. All in all, not much went right for TCU in 2013.

Offense: F

TCU’s national offensive rankings read like basketball scores: No. 104 in total yards (344.8), No. 103 in yards per play (5.03), No. 112 in third down conversion rate (32 percent) and No. 87 in points scored (25.1).

Ugly numbers, indeed.

But the main reason the Horned Frogs get an "F" is because they had way too much offensive talent campus to finish lower than 50th nationally in every major offensive category. With Pachall, B.J. Catalon, Trevone Boykin and others, the offense had playmakers. It just didn’t make plays and, worse yet, its 30 turnovers ranked No. 114 in the country.

Boykin, who started the majority of the season at quarterback, was the bright spot as the most explosive playmaker on the offense and arguably the best receiver on the roster when Pachall returned to the lineup.

Defense: B

[+] EnlargeJason Verrett
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsThe 2013 season didn't go as planned for cornerback Jason Verrett and the Horned Frogs, but Verrett could still be a first-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
The defense was the reason TCU played several close games as Texas was the lone team to blowout the Horned Frogs. The unit finished among the top three in the Big 12 in several categories including total yards (356.4), yards per play (4.83), rushing yards (130.83) and yards per carry (3.31).

Big 12 co-defensive player of the year Jason Verrett led one of the Big 12’s best secondaries and blanketed receivers from his cornerback spot, safety Sam Carter finished among the Big 12 leaders in interceptions (5) and Paul Dawson was among the conference’s most productive tacklers with 91.

Its struggles on third down and in slowing down the pass are the lone reasons the defense didn’t earn a higher grade.

Special teams: C-

Outside of its kick return units, TCU’s special teams units were pretty average. Catalon returned 32.1 percent of his kickoff return attempts for more than 30 yards and finished with a 26.54 average to provide a game-changing threat on kickoffs.

The Horned Frogs finished in the bottom half of the Big 12 in punting, net punting, kick return average allowed and opponent starting position so their special teams didn't do things to change games and turn the momentum in their favor.

Overall: D

The defense was the lone cause for hope for the Horned Frogs for the majority of the season. They easily could have finished 8-4 or better but turnovers, the inability to make key plays when they needed them and injuries doomed the Horned Frogs to a bowl-less season. They finished the season without a signature win, yet they aren't that far away from being in the thick of the Big 12 title race.

Big 12 unsung heroes: Week 11

November, 11, 2013
11/11/13
3:00
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Here are the Big 12’s unsung heroes for Week 11:

[+] EnlargeK.J. Morton, Jordan Najvar
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsK.J. Morton and Baylor's defense made it a difficult night for Oklahoma's offense last Thursday.
Baylor cornerback K.J. Morton: The senior was active and physical in Baylor’s 41-12 win over Oklahoma last Thursday. Morton’s hit on Sooners receiver Sterling Shepard set an aggressive tone for the Bears’ defense early. He finished with seven tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss, and was one of the reasons the Bears' defense has surpassed expectations this season.

Iowa State tight end E.J. Bibbs: The junior was the Cyclones' leading receiver with seven catches for 63 yards in ISU’s 21-17 loss to TCU. Bibbs provides a solid athletic target, particularly on third downs. He had three receptions for 28 yards (two first downs) on third down against the Horned Frogs.

Kansas linebacker Darius Willis: The senior was productive in spot duty for the Jayhawks in their 42-6 loss to Oklahoma State. He had a season-high six tackles, including four solo stops, and looked like one of the few KU players who was engaged and excited to compete against the Cowboys.

Kansas State cornerback Randall Evans: Playing alongside Ryan Mueller, who had three sacks, and Ty Zimmerman, who returned an interception for a touchdown, it was easy to overlook Evans’ performance. He had 10 tackles, one pass breakup and one interception in KSU’s 49-26 win over Texas Tech.

Oklahoma linebacker Dominique Alexander: Corey Nelson’s replacement has been growing into his role during his first four games as a starter. Even though he still shows his inexperience at times, he flashes the upside that had OU’s coaches raving about his ability earlier this season. He finished with 11 tackles, including eight solo stops, one sack and one forced fumble in OU’s 41-12 loss to Baylor.

Oklahoma State receiver David Glidden: The sophomore was terrific after standout receiver Josh Stewart left with an injury. Glidden finished with six receptions for 73 yards in OSU’s 42-6 win over Kansas. He entered the game with eight career receptions but filled in admirably against the Jayhawks. Three of his six receptions came on third down.

Texas defensive tackle Desmond Jackson: The junior stepped right in for the injured Chris Whaley with little drop off in the Longhorns’ 47-40 overtime win over West Virginia. He had eight tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss, with two sacks and one forced fumble. It’s rare to lose a player like Whaley without taking a step backward, but Jackson seamlessly filled in to help UT remain undefeated in the Big 12.

Texas Tech running back Kenny Williams: The junior is a solid threat as a running back in the Red Raiders’ offense. Kansas State took control of the game and limited Williams’ opportunities, but he finished with 15 carries for 66 yards, averaging 4.4 yards per play. He hasn’t had a 100-yard rushing game this season, but he is a quality running and receiving threat in coach Kliff Kingsbury’s attack.

TCU linebacker Paul Dawson: The junior quietly has been playing as well as any linebacker in the Big 12 during the past month. He’s recorded double-digit tackles in four of his past five games, including the past three. Dawson had 14 tackles, including eight solo stops and two tackles for loss, in TCU’s 21-17 win over Iowa State.

West Virginia receiver Mario Alford: The junior had arguably the most explosive game by a Mountaineers’ receiver this season. He finished with 205 all-purpose yards, including 97 receiving yards, 88 kick-return yards and 20 rushing yards. His 72-yard touchdown catch and run in the fourth quarter looked like last season's WVU offense.

First glance: TCU Horned Frogs

October, 21, 2013
10/21/13
10:00
AM CT
A look ahead at the next opponent of Texas’ month on the road, TCU. The Longhorns and Horned Frogs meet Saturday at 6:30 p.m. CT in Fort Worth.

All-time record vs. Texas: 21-61-1

Last game: Another poor showing from TCU’s offense, plus some game-swinging special teams, proved costly in a 24-10 loss to Oklahoma State in Stillwater. Trevone Boykin threw three interceptions and was briefly benched, and the Horned Frogs didn’t get on the scoreboard until late in the third quarter. They enter this weekend with a 3-4 record and are 1-3 in the Big 12.

Last meeting with Texas: In its biggest win of its Big 12 debut season, TCU defeated No. 16 Texas 20-13 in Austin on Thanksgiving. The Frogs’ defense forced four turnovers, three coming from an injured David Ash, and Case McCoy’s last-ditch effort at a fourth-quarter rally ended in an interception. The loss killed a four-game win streak for Texas and its slim hopes of sneaking into a BCS bowl.

Key player: TCU’s best player, by far, is cornerback Jason Verrett. He leads the Big 12 in passes defended and did pick off a pass against the Longhorns last season. But considering the run-heavy offense Texas operated against Oklahoma the key guys might be TCU’s linebackers, a somewhat inexperienced group. Paul Dawson has stepped up recording a combined 24 tackles in his first two starts.

Why TCU might win: The Horned Frogs have followed every win with a loss and every loss with a win this season. It’s just been that kind of a year. Despite their struggles, they still have the No. 1 run defense in the Big 12 and force more turnovers than anyone in the conference, and Boykin’s rushing talents proved problematic for Texas in 2012. TCU’s losses have all come against ranked foes, and only one of those came by more than 10 points. Don’t be surprised if this is a close game.

Why TCU might lose: By the standards of the Big 12, this is a below-average offense in nearly every way. TCU plays close games and tends to make second-half pushes, but the fact is Boykin has struggled and the offense is averaging less than 7 points per game in the first half this season. If Texas can produce the kind of fire it showed in the Cotton Bowl and get some momentum, you’d have to like its chances of starting 4-0 in the conference.

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