Dallas Colleges: Philip Blake
Here's the link.
Heisman winner Robert Griffin III will throw today for scouts for the first time after skipping the exhibition during the combine. If he's going to buck expectations and become the No. 1 pick, today will be the day he does it.
RG3's showcase is the main attraction, but it's not the only attraction.
Can Big 12 receiving champ Kendall Wright improve on his disappointing 4.61 40 time at the combine?
Here are the members of Baylor's 2011 team who'll be taking part in all drills today:
RG3 and Wright are both probable first-rounders and should put on a show while they partake in some drills. Big 12 rushing champ Terrance Ganaway and center Philip Blake will also be partial participants. Check it out. We'll have some coverage later in the day.
I’ll be writing about this in detail in the coming weeks, but first things first: the quarterbacks.
- It was a windy day with what I’d say were easily 30-40 mph gusts, so the Bears moved inside for the second half of practice, but even in the wind, quarterback Nick Florence looked really good. Throwing into the wind, he hit Terrance Williams and Tevin Reese on consecutive deep balls down the field in one-on-one drills. Reese and Williams, by the way, looked great ... but you already knew that.
- Bryce Petty is a step above Florence when it comes to physical skills, but Florence isn’t that far behind. Petty has a bigger arm and a bit more velocity, but both quarterbacks can definitely “make all the throws,” as they say. We’ve seen Florence do it in game action, but ultimately, it’s hard to see Florence losing this job. He’s been in this system since 2009, and it shows. He’s decisive. He’s got a quick release. He makes moving the ball in pass skeleton or 11-on-11 look effortless at times and he takes care of the ball.
- I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Florence will be a well above average quarterback in this league, but Petty could already start for a handful of Big 12 teams. Bottom line is I think this plays out like most think. This is Florence's team in 2012. Baylor can feel good about that. In 2013 and 2014, this is Petty's team. Baylor can feel really, really good about that. Art Briles has to sleep easy at night when it comes to worrying about quarterbacks.[+] EnlargeSarah Glenn/Getty ImagesEarly indications from spring practice shows Nick Florence will be Baylor's starter this fall.
- I’ll have more on him today, too, but hyped transfer Lache Seastrunk looks like he’s bulked up a whole lot. It shows in his shoulders and calves, especially. He’s much thicker, which I have to think he understood he needed after an unproductive stop at Oregon before transferring to Baylor. His development will be fun to watch. Right now, he’s getting some reps with the first team, but Jarred Salubi was getting the majority of first-team reps. Surpassing him will be tough, but I think Seastrunk will get a decent chunk of touches this year. He’s got an explosiveness and shiftiness that’s rare; it’s easy to see why he was so highly recruited. But will that mean production? We’ll see. Late in practice, he disappeared in the pile during 11-on-11 drills, but broke outside and outran everybody down the left side for what would have been an 80-yard touchdown run.
- That wowed the defenders on the sideline. "He’s been hanging out with one of the best backs around, LaMichael James," exclaimed defensive end Tevin Elliott on the sidelines, to no one in particular. “That must be where he gets some of his swag from."
- That said, don’t let the hype from Seastrunk distract from what looks like a strong effort by Salubi to win this job ahead of Glasco Martin as well. He’s running hard inside the tackles and showcasing a physical style we didn’t see much of last year. Terrance Ganaway provided that all last season, and the Bears need someone to duplicate it. Salubi looks like he wants to answer the call and be known for more than shiftiness on the outside.
- One scary thing to watch for, Bears: Replacing center Philip Blake. I don’t recall many bad snaps last year, but the first two to Florence during 11-on-11 drills on Monday were bad, and I counted at least six through the rest of the practice. Four with the first unit. There’s a lot of time to fix that, but center is one of those positions people don’t quite appreciate until they don’t have a good one.
- A rough day for the defense. The athletes are there for the Bears, but the offense moved the ball at will in most of the team drills. Such is life going up against a high-powered set of skill players like the ones the Bears have. You couldn’t get much of a feel for the physicality, however, because players were only wearing shoulder pads.
- Baylor’s one of the most fun teams in the league when it comes to trick plays; the Bears successfully executed quite a few in wins over TCU and Oklahoma. They’ve got some more fun ones drawn up along the goal line; plays we didn’t see in 2011 and ones I haven’t seen anyone duplicate. Detailing those is a good way to make sure you don’t ever see a practice again, but I’ll say this: They’ll be fun when Baylor busts them out.
- With Baylor’s pro day looming on Wednesday, lots of the team’s departing seniors were on hand at Monday’s practice, back from training for the combine and pro day. Quarterback Robert Griffin III was on the field and for the first half and in the huddle for some of that period talking with Briles and various players. Receiver Kendall Wright and Ganaway were also on hand, and stuck around to watch the second half of practice indoors.
- We’ll have some more from Griffin later today, but don’t be surprised if he busts out some bright cleats at his pro day showcase on Wednesday. He showed up Monday toting cleats reminiscent of the “Electricity” uniforms Baylor’s basketball team wore this postseason. Scott Drew would be proud.
Here's what each team across the Big 12 needs. You'll find Texas A&M and Mizzou on the SEC blog and West Virginia on the Big East Blog.
Quarterback: This one's pretty simple. Robert Griffin III is taking his talents to the NFL early. Nick Florence is waiting to take over, and the Bears have Bryce Petty behind him, but more reinforcements at quarterback are needed. Dual-threat quarterbacks, ideally.
Defensive tackle: Baylor already was one of the nation's worst teams (102nd nationally) at stopping the run. Now it'll need to replace both its interior linemen, Nicolas Jean-Baptiste and Tracy Robertson.
Offensive linemen: Baylor's offensive line, meanwhile, has been solid. It loses junior college transfer and two-year starter Robert T. Griffin, as well as All-Big 12 center Philip Blake. John Jones, a reserve guard, also has exhausted his eligibility.
Receiver: This has been a weak spot for the team for several years, and its top overall talent, Darius Reynolds, is gone. Darius Darks is, too. Aaron Horne and Josh Lenz will be the team's best weapons in 2012, but the pair of shifty slot guys will be seniors. This position needs reinforcements.
Defensive back: The DBs have been a quiet strength for ISU, especially in 2011. Cornerback Leonard Johnson and safety Ter'Ran Benton both have exhausted their eligibility, though, and defensive backs coach Bobby Elliott left for Notre Dame. You'll see plenty of new faces in the Cyclones' secondary next year.
Defensive line: Experienced starters Stephen Ruempolhamer and Jacob Lattimer are both gone, and Iowa State has struggled to stop the run consistently the past few seasons.
Quarterback: Kansas landed high-profile transfers Dayne Crist (Notre Dame) and Jake Heaps (BYU), but this is still a huge position of need. Last year's starter, Jordan Webb, left the team. Quinn Mecham is out of eligibility. Heaps is sitting out his NCAA-mandated year after transferring. Crist is the starter, but he badly needs a backup, especially if Brock Berglund's transfer appeal allows him to leave.
Wide receiver: Kansas lacks a big threat at this position. It needs a talent upgrade in a big way. Oklahoma transfer Justin McCay is joining the team, but he's no guarantee to a) be granted immediate eligibility or b) become an impact player.
Defensive tackle: Kansas is thin here, too. Richard Johnson, Patrick Dorsey and Michael Martinovich are gone, and Kansas couldn't stop much of anything on defense. Some push up front could help make everything look better. A late addition to the 2012 class from a junior college seems like a no-brainer. The Jayhawks need physically mature players to contribute immediately.
Offensive line: K-State's offensive line was much better in 2011 and could be again in 2012. It needs help replacing All-Big 12 lineman Clyde Aufner, though. Starter Colten Freeze is also gone.
Defensive line: Kansas State is bringing back about as many starters as anyone in the Big 12, but the biggest losses are along the defensive line. Kick-blocking specialist (five in 2011) Ralph Guidry is gone, along with tackle Ray Kibble. Juco transfer Jordan Voelker exploded onto the scene this year, but he's gone, too.
Defensive backs: Cornerback David Garrett leaves a huge hole behind. Tysyn Hartman may not be as talented as teammate Ty Zimmerman, but his experience leaves a big hole. Zimmerman will have to mentor a younger safety in the near future.
Receiver: The Sooners are thin here in a big way. That was obvious late in the season when Ryan Broyles' storied college career ended a few weeks early with a knee injury. The team also lost Justin McCay (transfer) to Kansas. Jaz Reynolds and Kenny Stills are the likely top two targets, but they need help.
Tight end: This position inspired a bit of panic at the end of the season. Seniors James Hanna and Trent Ratterree are gone. Austin Haywood wasn't allowed back on the team, and two more tight ends left the team for various reasons. That left the Sooners suddenly without a scholarship player at the position returning in 2012.
Offensive line: Starting tackle Donald Stephenson must be replaced, as will guard Stephen Good, who moved in and out of the starting lineup throughout his career. The Sooners bring back a lot of talent and aren't dying for depth there, but those two will leave holes. Three more offensive line starters will be seniors in 2012.
Offensive line: The Cowboys need a whole lot of help here to fill in behind young players stepping into the starting lineup. Starters Levy Adcock, Nick Martinez and Grant Garner are gone. Backup center Casey LaBrue is gone, too. Those are two All-Big 12 linemen who leave big shoes to be filled.
Receiver: Justin Blackmon surprised no one by leaving a year early, and Josh Cooper leaves with perhaps the most underrated career of any receiver in school history. In OSU's offense, there's always room for depth here. Nine receivers had at least 19 catches in 2011. Blackmon and Cooper combined for 192, though.
Defensive ends: The pass rush was solid for Oklahoma State this year, but both starters, Jamie Blatnick and Richetti Jones, are gone. Replacing both is a necessity.
Receiver: Texas lacks a true game-changer at the position, though Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis may develop into that role in 2012. Former blue-chip recruit Darius White left for Missouri, too.
Quarterback: David Ash and Case McCoy didn't show a ton of potential at quarterback this year, though Ash may grow with an offseason to prepare as starter. Garrett Gilbert got a big chunk of the work in the spring, summer 7-on-7 and fall preseason camp. Even if Ash does grow, the Longhorns need reinforcements at the position.
Linebacker: Two senior impact players are gone. Texas is left trying to replace Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson, though Jordan Hicks may mature into a star in 2012.
Offensive line: TCU's offensive line is headed for some major turnover. OT Robert Deck, OG Kyle Dooley and OG Spencer Thompson are gone. Two more starters, OG Blaize Foltz and C James Fry, will be seniors in 2012.
Defensive linemen: TCU isn't losing a lot at this spot, but Ross Forrest and D.J. Yendrey will be seniors in 2012. The Horned Frogs would be well-served to prepare, and offer some depth next year.
Specialists: TCU will have to break in a pair of new starters on special teams next season. Kicker Ross Evans and punter Anson Kelton have exhausted their eligibility.
Receiver: The Red Raiders' offense requires a lot of depth here. Tramain Swindall is the only loss at the position, but three more (Alex Torres, Cornelius Douglas, Darrin Moore) will be seniors. Douglas moved to cornerback this year after the team was racked with injury, but we'll see whether he moves back this offseason.
Offensive line: Tech has a huge need here. Four players won't be returning in 2012. Lonnie Edwards, Mickey Okafor and center Justin Keown must be replaced.
Defensive linemen: Tech's Donald Langley and Scott Smith are both out of eligibility, and juco transfer Leon Mackey will be a senior.
Receiver Kendall Wright, running back Terrance Ganaway and center Philip Blake have accepted Senior Bowl invitations.
The game is Jan. 28 in Mobile’s Ladd-Peebles Stadium. The game and all practices will be televised live by NFL Network.
The game, though, is usually secondary to what are highly scrutinized practices that can make or break players' draft stock. Ganaway and Blake have a lot to gain as two of the Big 12's most overlooked talents, and Wright should be an interesting player to watch.
He's projected as around second-round pick, but as an undersized player at his position, he'll have a chance to prove he can compete against future NFL defensive backs and still be productive.
In college, that's the one thing you can't argue with about Wright. He led Baylor in receiving every year, and increased his production every year, leading the Big 12 in receiving this season, despite the league having two Biletnikoff finalists in Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon and Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles.
It's been a fun season across the Big 12, with a few big names who didn't play as well as we thought, and lots of unknowns who became household names by the end of the season.
I'll offer my comments below, but here's our All-Big 12 team for 2011.
All-purpose: Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
RB: Terrance Ganaway, Baylor
RB: Henry Josey, Missouri
FB: Trey Millard, Oklahoma
WR: Kendall Wright, Baylor
WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
WR: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
TE: Michael Egnew, Missouri
C: Grant Garner, Oklahoma State
OL: Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State
OL: Levy Adcock, Oklahoma State
OL: Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
OL: Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
DE: Frank Alexander, Oklahoma
DT: Dominique Hamilton, Missouri
DE: Alex Okafor, Texas
DE: Jamie Blatnick, Oklahoma State
LB: Sean Porter, Texas A&M
LB: Jake Knott, Iowa State
LB: Emmanuel Acho, Texas
NB: Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma
CB: Nigel Malone, Kansas State
CB: Carrington Byndom, Texas
S: Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
S: Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State
P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
PK: Randy Bullock, Texas A&M
PR: Dustin Harris, Texas A&M
KR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
Finally, a few notes and explanations:
- I loved the media's idea to craft an all-purpose spot to accomodate Collin Klein. The Big Ten did the same for Michigan's Denard Robinson last season. I followed suit, and did so on the defensive side of the ball with a nickel-back spot for Oklahoma's Tony Jefferson. Two players that missed first-team designation by the coaches, but clearly deserve to be recognized.
- Additionally, I prefer the teams to reflect the Big 12 style of play, so the nickel back fits. Each team doesn't have 11 players, but there were deserving linebackers. The same with Egnew and Millard. Does every team use a fullback or a tight end? No, but both are standout performers. They'd rotate in anyway, just as Jefferson would in a theoretical package.
- Tough call to leave Philip Blake from Baylor off my team, but Garner's been better. Blake is very, very close, though.
- Hated to leave off Brodrick Brown and E.J. Gaines, but I went with a more traditional two corners and two safeties, rather than four corners like the media's team.
- Steven Johnson and Arthur Brown would have been right behind my three linebackers. That race was probably closer than at any other position, except maybe cornerback. Difficult to leave either of those guys off my first team, but the three on the team were better. I gave Brown my Newcomer of the Year nod, though.
- I don't like going with three defensive ends and one defensive tackle, but there wasn't a defensive tackle who deserved the honor more than Okafor, my third defensive end. Okafor was a defensive tackle last year anyway, so that's close enough, right? He moved from tackle to end before spring practice earlier this year. In the Big 12, an additional pass rusher is necessary, too, right?
- I made a similar move with my offensive line. Went tackle-heavy, but the guards didn't have quite as many standouts.
Here's what we've covered so far:
This group is subject to more change during the season than perhaps any other position. You never quite know how chemistry will develop, and in these rankings, you really have to rely heavily on experience, similar to quarterbacks. It's not the only factor, but you have to acknowledge that it's a major one.
So, here's how I rank them:
2. Baylor: The Bears might be a bit of a surprise here, but Baylor's strong skill-position talents wouldn't look nearly as good without this group, which lost a first-round pick at left tackle in Danny Watkins. However, Philip Blake is one of the league's best centers and four starters return from a line that helped Baylor finish second in the Big 12 last season in yards per carry, just behind Nebraska but nearly a half-yard more than Oklahoma State, the third-place team.
3. Missouri: The Tigers suffered a big loss in center Tim Barnes, a three-year starter and the offensive line's leader, but they return four starters from last season line and have the most career starts on the line of any team in the Big 12, with 105, which ranks 11th nationally.
4. Texas A&M: A&M's rising sophomore tackles, Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews, had to learn on the go last season, but their development should be fun to watch this season on an offensive line blocking for the Big 12's best overall collection of skill-position talents. The line returns four starters, replacing only center Matt Allen.
5. Oklahoma: The Sooners' goal-line problems last season cost them a game at Texas A&M, but this line was very solid the rest of the season and has plenty of upside. Likely starter Jarvis Jones won't be available until perhaps October, so the Sooners will turn to touted redshirt freshman Daryl Williams at right tackle in the interim. Center Ben Habern and tackle Tyler Evans add a lot of experience.
6. Texas Tech: Tech boasts one of the Big 12's best guards in Lonnie Edwards, but don't be surprised if Mickey Okafor grabs the Big 12's first-team spot at right tackle by season's end. The Red Raiders return all five starters, and will have to play well to support new faces at every skill position on offense.
7. Kansas: Four of the Jayhawks' starters are juniors and another is a senior, and for all of KU's struggles last season, it did have some success running the ball in spots, even though its 1,615 total rush yards were the fewest in the Big 12. James Sims (742 yards, 9 TDs) returns and KU adds a possible home-run threat in Darrian Miller, but the offensive line returns 97 total starts, 15th-most in college football and second-most in the Big 12. That has to pay off eventually, if not this season.
8. Iowa State: The Cyclones boast the league's best left tackle, Kelechi Osemele, but center Ben Lamaak is gone and ISU might turn to redshirt freshman Tom Farniok as his replacement. Brayden Burris is solid at right tackle, but sophomore Ethan Tuftee, who has very little experience (just five appearances total), enters fall camp as the starter at right guard.
9. Texas: No, I don't know how this happens. But it's hard to deny. Run blocking has been a struggle for Texas, and new position coach Stacy Searels will have to change that for the Longhorns, who have kept quiet about any real depth-chart developments throughout the spring and into fall camp. Tray Allen's health is a concern, but Mason Walters played well in 2010 and David Snow has a lot of experience at center with 19 starts and 39 appearances. If this group can't ascend in these rankings during the season, Texas' turnaround from last season 5-7 campaign will not happen. Texas, though, has the fewest career starts in the Big 12, with 36, which ranks 105th nationally.
10. Kansas State: Kansas State has had the Big 12's leading rusher the past two seasons, but he's gone and so are three offensive linemen, including the unit's best blocker, guard Zach Kendall. Center Wade Weibert and guard Kenneth Mayfield also are gone, leaving gaps in the interior. Senior Zach Hanson joins Manese Foketi and Clyde Aufner on a unit that returns just 42 career starts, second-fewest in the Big 12 and 97th-most in college football.
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