Dallas Colleges: SaDale Foster

Big 12 pre-spring breakdown: RBs

February, 19, 2014
Feb 19
3:45
PM CT
As we wait for the start of spring ball, we're examining and ranking the positional situations of every team, continuing Wednesday with running backs. Some of these outlooks will look different after the spring. But here’s how they compare at the moment:

1. Texas: The three-headed monster of Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron gives Texas the best 1-2-3 punch in the league. Whether this group goes from good to great hinges on a healthy return for Gray, who is coming back from an Achilles injury and will sit out spring drills. Either way, this will be the backbone of Charlie Strong’s first offense.

[+] EnlargeShock Linwood
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsShock Linwood showed breakaway ability as a Baylor reserve in 2013.
2. Baylor: Shock Linwood takes over in the backfield after a dynamic freshman season in which he finished seventh in the league in rushing despite being a third-team running back. The competition for carries after Linwood will be interesting. Devin Chafin is the favorite to be Linwood’s wing man, but he could be pressed by Johnny Jefferson and/or incoming four-star freshman Terence Williams, who is already on campus.

3. Oklahoma: The potential of this running back crop has no bounds. But it will be young and inexperienced after seniors Brennan Clay, Roy Finch and Damien Williams (until he was kicked off the team) hoarded the carries last season. Keith Ford, who was the nation’s No. 3 running back recruit in the 2013 class, will take over the starting role. Joe Mixon, this year’s No. 6 RB recruit, won’t get to Norman until the summer, but he should supply the lightning to Ford’s thunder. Alex Ross, who was the nation’s No. 7 RB recruit in the 2012 class, rounds out a fearsome threesome with tremendous pedigree.

4. West Virginia: The Mountaineers lose All-Big 12 performer Charles Sims, but still claim a glut of capable rushers. Dreamius Smith and Wendell Smallwood thrived playing behind Sims last year. West Virginia also has Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie, its leading rushers from 2011 and 2012, respectively. (Buie is back after leaving school for a semester.) On top of all that, Pittsburgh transfer Rushel Shell figures to be in the mix. Shell was the No. 26 overall recruit in the country coming out of high school after becoming the all-time leading rusher in Pennsylvania high school history. If that weren’t enough, the gem of the incoming recruiting class, Donte Thomas-Williams, is also a running back. Suffice to say, the competition for carries will be fierce in the league’s deepest backfield.

5. Oklahoma State: Desmond Roland helped fuel Oklahoma State’s midseason turnaround after seizing a starting role. Roland was great in short yardage and led the Big 12 with 13 touchdowns, but he wasn’t a big-play runner, with an average of only 4.6 yards per carry (14th in the league). The Cowboys are banking that Rennie Childs can complement Roland as the breakaway back. Childs showed flashes as a true freshman. Roland and Childs can form a solid combo, but four-star freshman Devon Thomas, who is enrolled for the spring, should not be discounted, nor should Sione Palelei, who has the good hands that past Oklahoma State running backs also possessed.

6. Texas Tech: The returning trio of Kenny Williams, DeAndre Washington and Sadale Foster won’t do much damage between the tackles. All three, however, are excellent pass-catchers, making them supreme fits for Kliff Kingsbury’s spread attack. Together they combined for 82 receptions, and that number should go up in 2014 as quarterback Davis Webb settles in as a sophomore.

7. TCU: The Horned Frogs were a disaster offensively last year, but the potential at running back is a reason why TCU could be equipped for a bounce-back season. Aaron Green, Kyle Hicks and incoming freshman Shaun Nixon were all ESPN 300 recruits. That doesn’t include B.J. Catalon, either, who led the Frogs with 569 yards and six touchdowns last season. With a new regime making the play calls, there’s reason to believe this could become one of the better units in the league.

[+] EnlargeDalton Santos
David Purdy/Getty ImagesIf Aaron Wimberly can stay healthy, Iowa State has a potentially dynamic returning running back.
8. Iowa State: When healthy, Aaron Wimberly can be a game-breaker. He torched Texas for 137 yards as the Cyclones nearly pulled off a Thursday night upset. Wimberly, however, was never really healthy the rest of the season, and never had the same impact. After Wimberly, though, the Cyclones don’t have much returning firepower. Firepower, however, could be on the way. Oklahoma native Michael Warren went overlooked in recruiting, but he can fly; he rushed for more than 2,500 yards as a high school senior.

9. Kansas: The Jayhawks gradated their heart and soul in James Sims, who was an all-conference selection even though Kansas won only one Big 12 game. Tony Pierson returns as an electric playmaker, but he has never been a full-time running back, often flexing out as a receiver. It will be interesting to see who emerges in Sims’ shoes. Brandon Bourbon (191 yards) will have the first crack in the spring, but newcomers De'Andre Mann and Traevohn Wrench could vie for time once they arrive in the summer.

10. Kansas State: It’s difficult to believe K-State will be at the bottom here once the season starts, but running back is a major hole for the Wildcats going into the spring. That’s because longtime starter John Hubert is gone. Hubert, senior backup Robert Rose and QBs Jake Waters and Daniel Sams combined for 492 carries last season. Nobody else had more than five. Rising senior DeMarcus Robinson, who has only 11 career carries, will probably be atop the depth chart going into the spring. It’s also possible that Sams will get a look at running back with Waters having nailed down the full-time QB job. But the player to watch here is freshman Dalvin Warmack, who rushed for more than 4,500 yards and 70 touchdowns his final two seasons in Blue Springs, Mo. Warmack isn’t big at 5-foot-8 and 185 pounds. But his size fits the mold of past K-State running backs Hubert and Darren Sproles.

Q&A: Texas Tech RB Kenny Williams

October, 18, 2013
10/18/13
1:00
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LUBBOCK, Texas -- Texas Tech is already bowl eligible for the 20th time in 21 years, thanks to a 6-0 start. But the Red Raiders have their sights set on higher goals, such as winning a Big 12 championship.

Running back Kenny Williams has been a big part of the No. 16 Red Raiders’ hot start. As part of a versatile backfield trio that also includes DeAndre Washington and SaDale Foster, Williams has totaled 310 yards rushing and receiving with five touchdowns.

As the Red Raiders prepare to travel to West Virginia this weekend for a huge road test, Williams spoke with ESPN.com about all of Tech’s offensive weapons, contending for a Big 12 title and who he thinks Tech’s biggest rival is.

[+] EnlargeKenny Williams
John Weast/Getty ImagesKenny Williams is a versatile offensive standout for 6-0 Texas Tech.
The calling card of the Texas Tech running backs has been catching the ball out of the backfield (Williams, Washington and Foster all have at least 11 receptions). Is that something you guys emphasize and do you feel like you guys do that as well as anyone in the league?

Kenny Williams: Definitely. Especially being at Tech. We like to throw the ball around a lot. To play running back here, you have to be able to catch the ball out of the backfield and make plays.

Do you think the skill talent surrounding the quarterbacks is a big reason why the quarterbacks have been successful despite the lack of experience?

Williams: We have a lot of weapons. The key is trying to utilize everybody the best we can. But everyone does what they have to do when they don’t have the ball in the their hands. I feel like that’s a big part of the success we’ve been having.

Even though you are 6-0, do you feel like people are still doubting you guys?

Williams: There’s always going to be doubters. But we’re not going to worry about that. We’re going to take it one game at a time. Try to practice hard. And let the rest take care of itself.

The next two weeks are going to be telling you for how the rest of the season is going to go, with road games at West Virginia and Oklahoma. Are you excited about showing what you can do on the road?

Williams: We’re definitely excited about it. There’s a lot of talk going around. But this group, we know what we can do and we’re going to try and prove that.

You guys are averaging more than 40 points a game, but everyone seems to only be talking about Baylor’s offense. You get tired of hearing about that?

Williams: It’s kinda frustrating. But we’re going to let that take care of itself.

Who is Tech’s biggest rival?

Williams: I have to go A&M.

But you guys don’t play them anymore.

Williams: I know. But that rivalry goes back. It has some history to it.

Would you like to see that game get scheduled?

Williams: Oh, yes. Definitely.

Coach (Kliff) Kingsbury has a reputation for dressing well. Who is the best dressed player on the team?

Williams: It's actually a coach. Definitely Kevin Curtis. Our cornerbacks coach. Yeah, I know, the coaching staff dresses pretty good here.

Your favorite local place to eat in Lubbock?

Williams: The Triple J [Chophouse & Brew Co.]. Great steak.

Midseason report: Texas Tech

October, 15, 2013
10/15/13
6:00
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At 6-0, the Red Raiders have been the biggest surprise in the Big 12. And they’ve remained undefeated, despite having to rotate a pair of true freshman quarterbacks.

Baker Mayfield and Davis Webb have had their freshman moments. But overall, the two have played well. Helping them along the way has been a collection of pass-catchers that is as good as any in the Big 12, and that includes Baylor, the nation’s leading offense.

Jace Amaro, Eric Ward, Jakeem Grant and Bradley Marquez all rank in the top eight in the league in receptions. Running backs Kenny Williams, DeAndre Washington and Sadale Foster have been effective safety valves for Mayfield and Webb out of the backfield.

But while the offense has been efficient, an upstart defense is the No. 1 reason why the Red Raiders are undefeated. Behind disrupting nose guard Kerry Hyder, Tech ranks 23rd nationally in total defense, and ninth in third-down defense.

The great start has Lubbock abuzz about the Kliff Kingsbury era. But what Tech does over the next two weeks will determine whether the Red Raiders are truly contenders. So far, Tech has only had to travel to SMU and Kansas. This week, the Red Raiders go to Morgantown, followed by a trip to Norman the following weekend. Tech will need its freshman quarterbacks to play with poise. And its defense needs to continue getting off the field on third downs. If those two things happen, the Red Raiders could be a major factor in a wide-open Big 12 race.

Offensive MVP: There might be no tougher matchup in the league than Amaro. Built like a tight end, Amaro has the quickness and hands of a wide receiver. He can outmuscle safeties. And outmaneuver linebackers. At the moment, he leads the Big 12 with 47 receptions while commanding the full attention of opposing defenses.

Defensive MVP: Hyder is the unquestioned leader and catalyst of this Tech defense. Despite getting double-teamed often as the nose guard, Hyder leads the Big 12 with nine tackles for loss. At 6-foot-2, 280 pounds, Hyder is not big for an interior defensive lineman. But because of his quickness, he’s as disruptive as any in the conference.

Texas Tech Red Raiders spring wrap

May, 1, 2013
5/01/13
10:45
AM CT
2012 record: 8-5
2012 Big 12 record: 4-5
Returning starters: Offense: 5; defense: 8; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners: WR Eric Ward, RB Kenny Williams, TE Jace Amaro, DE Kerry Hyder, DE Branden Jackson, LB Will Smith, CB Tre Porter, DE Dartwan Bush

Key losses: QB Seth Doege, S Cody Davis, S D.J. Johnson, WR Darrin Moore, OL La'Adrian Waddle, RB Eric Stephens

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Passing: Seth Doege (4,205 yards)
Rushing: Kenny Williams* (824 yards)
Receiving: Eric Ward* (1,053 yards)
Tackles: Cody Davis (101)
Sacks: Dartwan Bush*, Kerry Hyder* (5.5)
Interceptions: Cody Davis (3)

Spring answers

1. Springing to safety. Replacing Johnson and Davis at safety was a huge concern since that kind of experience and talent isn't easy to find. But J.J. Gaines and Tre Porter, had a strong spring and that position looks to be in good hands. There may be some trouble with inexperience, but defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt has to feel pretty good about the group.

2. More depth at quarterback. I don't buy that there's competition between Michael Brewer and Davis Webb. Brewer was consistently praised all spring, and coach Kliff Kingsbury remarked at how quickly he picked up the schemes and how well he kept the up-tempo pace. Webb, a true freshman, adds comfort as a backup, but this is Brewer's job.

3. A spring miracle in Lubbock. Injuries have just been a constant for the last few years. Every spring and fall, it's been surgery after surgery, injury after injury. Not this year. Apparently the Red Raiders' practice fields are not, in fact, cursed. Getting through the spring without any serious losses is a huge deal considering the school's recent bad luck.

Fall questions

1. Can they weather the storm? I've written about this in the past, but I'm curious to see how the young coaching staff handles the inevitable crises and issues that will come with a season of college football. Kingsbury's a first-time head coach in a big job and stocked Tech's staff with a ton of Red Raider alums. It's an interesting approach, but adjusting on the go in a season full of learning experiences will be interesting to watch.

2. Is there an identity crisis? Tech will air it out plenty, but the full identity on both sides of the ball is still forming and Kingsbury is still getting to know his team. The defense will play some three and four-man fronts and has a lot of strength on the defensive line, but both sides of the ball will adjust on the go to what works and what doesn't next season. Both sides could look different in December than it does in August.

3. Where will the running game factor in? Tech has a ton of strength at running back in Kenny Williams and SaDale Foster, along with DeAndre Washington and Quinton White adding some additional depth. The big question for any post-Mike Leach coach in Lubbock is how much they plan to run the ball. Kingsbury will throw it plenty, but can Tech break its streak of well over a decade without a 1,000-yard rusher? And how much will Brewer be asked/allowed to run? He's no Johnny Football, but he's got wheels and can keep Big 12 defenses on their toes.

Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas keys

December, 28, 2012
12/28/12
1:30
PM CT


Let's take a look at three keys for tonight's Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.

1. Grab a turnover or two. Texas Tech's defense has to be very, very frustrated by now. The last time the Red Raiders forced a turnover was all the way back on Oct. 20. Since then, the Red Raiders are 1-4 with the only win coming at home in overtime against 1-11 Kansas. That stretch has sent Tech to minus-12 in turnover margin, which is seven takeaways below any team in the Big 12 and tied for 110th nationally. If Texas Tech can't crack the streak and force a turnover, this one will turn into a game quickly.

2. Force the tempo. It might be a little odd for Texas Tech without offensive coordinator Neal Brown in charge of things. Offensive line coach Chris Thomsen has taken over as interim coach and receivers coach Sonny Cumbie is stepping up to call the plays. There aren't a lot of teams in the Big Ten who run with the tempo that Texas Tech wants, but Cumbie's got to be quick on the trigger and keep the Tech offense rolling. Schematically, Minnesota can slow down the Red Raiders, but going with a lightning pace in Brown's absence will give the Golden Gophers problems.

3. Don't forget about Kenny Williams and Eric Stephens. Texas Tech didn't win the game, but its 208 rushing yards against Baylor was nearly enough to knock off the Bears and helped Tech put 45 points on the board. Minnesota ranks 77th nationally in rush defense, and though Tech loves to throw it around the yard, some balance would no doubt help the Red Raiders. Against Kansas and Oklahoma State, Tech averaged fewer than three yards a carry, but the team posted nearly seven yards a touch against Baylor. Williams, Stephens and SaDale Foster all average nearly five yards a touch and combined for more than 1,600 yards and 13 touchdowns. Cumbie's not a very experienced playcaller, but he's got to keep those guys active, too.

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 8

October, 22, 2012
10/22/12
10:30
AM CT
Let's take a look back at the week that was in the Big 12:

Best offensive performance: Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State. Klein accounted for seven touchdowns (four rushing, three passing) in his first-ever game with at least three scores on the ground and through the air. He finished with a career-high 323 yards passing on 19-of-21 passing and rushed for 41 yards in the Wildcats' 55-14 win over West Virginia. For his efforts, he was named the Walter Camp National Player of the Week.

[+] EnlargeKansas State Wildcats quarterback Collin Klein
Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIREKansas State quarterback Collin Klein had a monster performance against West Virginia.
Best defensive performance: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU. Verrett was all over the place for the Frogs, making 11 tackles and two tackles for loss in a triple-overtime loss to Texas Tech. He also broke up three passes. Honorable mention: Meshak Williams, DE, Kansas State; Javon Harris, S, Oklahoma

Best team performance: Kansas State. The Wildcats delivered a sound beating to the Mountaineers in Morgantown, one of the worst in school history. Along the way, they seized control of the Big 12 title race, despite a major test ahead when Texas Tech comes to Manhattan. The Wildcats are looking the part of national title contender.

Best quote: West Virginia QB Geno Smith, on Kansas State's performance: "They kicked our butts."

Worst team performance: Once again, you've got no choice but to leave this one to West Virginia. Two weeks in a row, two complete eggs, and this one was at home and even worse. WVU couldn't stop anything Kansas State did and gave up touchdowns on seven consecutive possessions after giving up a field goal on the first. Meanwhile, the offense has inexplicably fallen off a cliff, failing to score until the game was well out of hand late. This after looking like maybe the best offense in the country through five weeks. What the heck is happening in Morgantown?

Best game: Texas Tech 56, TCU 53 (3OT). Both teams erased double-digit deficits and TCU did it in less than three minutes late to force overtime. Both teams got clutch TDs in overtime, but Tech got the win when Seth Doege found Alex Torres for an eight-yard touchdown pass that ignited a huge celebration at Amon G. Carter Stadium for the Red Raiders, who moved up to No. 14 in this week's BCS standings.

Best play: Trailing by 10 with less than three minutes to play, it looked grim for TCU, but Trevone Boykin found fellow redshirt freshman LaDarius Brown down the left sideline for a perfect 60-yard bomb to get the Frogs within three and later force overtime against a defense that had given up fewer plays longer than 20 yards than any team in the country this season.

Most incredible play: You can't make a much better catch than the 13-yarder Alex Torres had on Texas Tech's go-ahead drive early in the fourth quarter. Facing a second-and-2, Seth Doege slung it to the sideline, but Torres fully laid out and snagged it with one hand, coming down on the sideline. The play was originally ruled incomplete, but a review overturned it and gave the Red Raiders a first down. Torres later capped the drive with an eight-yard touchdown catch.

Most questionable play call: Doege had the hot hand in the fourth quarter, completing nine of his last 11 passes. With a chance to ice the game with a third-down conversion on third-and-7 after recovering TCU's onside kick attempt, the Red Raiders took the ball out of his hands and called a draw play to SaDale Foster, who was tackled by Devonte Fields for a two-yard loss. Texas Tech punted, and TCU came back to tie the score on its next drive and force OT. Dangerous stuff that almost cost Tech. Have a little faith in your QB. At least Tommy Tuberville admitted after the game he'd have thrown it if he had it to do over again.

Best quarter: Oklahoma's second quarter. The Sooners outscored KU 28-0 in the period, which included a crazy-good 90-yard punt return by Penn State transfer Justin Brown. Three other players scored. Landry Jones threw a touchdown pass, Damien Williams ran for one, and Blake Bell dozed his way in for a one-yard score. The Sooners spread the love and were stingy on defense, giving up only four first downs and earning an interception.

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 2

September, 4, 2012
9/04/12
10:35
AM CT
Fun weekend of games across the league. This is heavily influenced by how each team plays the previous week, so when there's a logjam of teams, you'll see a ton of movement. Teams 1-2 are super close, and teams 3-6 are nearly interchangeable. Don't get too bent out of shape this early. The body of work is tiny, and can look markedly different this time next week.

Here's how I sort out the league after Week 1:

1. West Virginia (1-0, last week: 2) The Mountaineers were the league's most impressive team in Week 1, and grab the No. 1 spot ahead of Oklahoma after the Sooners' near disaster in Week 1. You heard plenty about West Virginia's offense Saturday. Everybody on that unit, from the QBs to receivers, backs and O-line, validated it. Just have to do it every week. If that happens, this squad's winning the Big 12 title -- and maybe more.

2. Oklahoma (1-0, last week: 1) Be very concerned, Sooners fans, but don't come anywhere close to writing this team off. The offense was awful, but the defense was strong. For now, chemistry on offense can be a legitimate excuse, with room to grow. Landry Jones entered the night with one receiver who had ever caught a ball from him in a game, and the offensive line was still trying to replace a pair of three-year starters.

3. Kansas State (1-0, last week: 3) The Wildcats started slow, but where the heck did that 35-point fourth quarter come from? A pretty good performance from Collin Klein, but it seems clear that Bill Snyder is trying to limit the punishment Optimus Klein takes when he doesn't need to take it. He had 12 carries Saturday night. He got 25 carries in the opener last year, and 13 in a rout over Kansas. Twelve was a new low for him as a starting QB.

4. Oklahoma State (1-0, last week: 6) Don't overreact to this one, folks. The one encouraging thing you can take from Saturday? Even though his receivers were constantly wide open, Wes Lunt looked really good, connecting with Isaiah Anderson on a deep ball downfield for his biggest highlight of the night. Who figured OSU would win a game by 84 points and its starting QB wouldn't throw a TD, though?

5. Texas (1-0, last week: 4) The Longhorns started slow, and were one of just three teams to trail on Saturday, along with Iowa State and Oklahoma. Still, this won't be the first time Texas grinds out a win, or the last time it notches two 100-yard rushers.

6. Baylor (1-0, last week: 7) The Bears didn't look much different with Nick Florence at the helm, but the Big 12's no joke. The defense looks much improved, but tougher tests await than a Garrett Gilbert still trying to get his sea legs in a new offense. I was impressed, and the upside with this group is high, but the battle among this league's top eight teams is going to be brutal. Somebody's got to be really disappointed eventually. The Bears know how to win tight games, though. That helps.

7. TCU (0-0, last week: 5) The Frogs held a fan appreciation day on Saturday, but get to christen the sparkling new Amon G. Carter Stadium, fresh off a $164 million upgrade, against Grambling State next week. The place looks nothing like the old stadium. No shame in dropping two spots. Baylor and Oklahoma State played well enough to hop over the Frogs.

8. Texas Tech (1-0, last week: 8) Good day from Tech with the 44-6 win over FCS Northwestern State. It needed to experience a win pretty badly. The Red Raiders ended their five-game losing streak, but this set of backs is sneaky underrated. Eric Stephens, SaDale Foster and Kenny Williams will be fun to watch. Is there a budding star in Lubbock in TE Jace Amaro, too?

9. Iowa State (1-0, last week: 9) The Cyclones' flaws were on display early with some offensive troubles and a defense getting picked apart by a passer not as skilled as what ISU will normally see in Big 12 play. Its strengths were on display late, though. This team is underrated along the offensive line, and Shontrelle Johnson teams up with James White to make a really good backfield. Good win. Not enough to leapfrog Texas Tech.

10. Kansas (1-0, last week 10) KU looked a little shaky at times, and Dayne Crist's stat line (17-36, 169 yards, TD, INT) won't wow anybody. Still, his level of skill at the position is obvious, and an upgrade over what KU's used to seeing these past few years. Still some work to do defensively, though. Can't get away with giving up 99-yard rushing touchdowns in the Big 12.

How I voted: Big 12 preseason awards

July, 27, 2012
7/27/12
1:00
PM CT
The Big 12 preseason awards have been announced. West Virginia's Geno Smith won the preseason Offensive Player of the Year Award. Texas defensive end Alex Okafor won Defensive Player of the Year and Oklahoma wide receiver Trey Metoyer won for Newcomer of the Year.

Here's how I voted:

Offensive Player of the Year: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia. In talking with people involved with the conference voting process this week at media days, I learned that the final vote between Smith and Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones was very, very close. I went with Geno. It's pretty close, but I didn't debate this one very much. Smith was inconsistent at times last year, sure, but when it mattered most, he was great. Jones faltered in big spots. Sure, Jones doesn't have the same quality of targets for all of last season after Ryan Broyles went down, but when it came to numbers, Smith dominated. Additionally, he takes care of the ball much more efficiently than Jones. That counts for a lot. Even though Smith has never played a down in the Big 12, I went with the Mountaineers' man for the preseason award.

Defensive Player of the Year: Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State. There's no slam dunk here. You could probably make a case for no fewer than seven or eight guys. After a lot of debate, I voted for Brown. I mostly did so because of his importance to Kansas State's defense. His speed in the middle and locked-in tackling make him more valuable to his team than any other player in the league. The SnyderCats aren't loaded on depth and athletes, but Brown has the measurables to play for anybody in the league. He's irreplaceable for Kansas State and his speed and athleticism make him a specimen anybody would love to have. Anybody else remember him hurdling a blocker in the Cotton Bowl against Arkansas? Not many guys can do that.

Newcomer of the Year: Trey Metoyer, WR, Oklahoma. This was a tough vote, too. You hear a lot about these guys and have to go by players' words in these days of closed practices. For me, Newcomer of the Year comes down to opportunity and need, though. Metoyer has been hyped by coaches and teammates since he arrived on campus as a freak athlete, but he's got to do more than contribute. Oklahoma needs him to be a huge factor, and he'll have every opportunity to do so. He's got a Heisman candidate in Jones throwing him the ball, an established weapon in Kenny Stills to take some attention from defenses and a great offensive line. All the pieces are in place for him to be very, very productive. For me, that earned him my vote just ahead of guys like Wes Lunt and Blake Jackson at Oklahoma State, Dayne Crist at Kansas, Brandon Moore at Texas, Will Smith and SaDale Foster at Texas Tech and Lache Seastrunk at Baylor.

Texas Tech spring wrap

May, 10, 2012
5/10/12
8:30
AM CT
2011 overall record: 5-7
2011 conference record: 2-7
Returning starters: Offense (9), Defense (10), P/K (1)

Top returners: QB Seth Doege, S Cody Davis, WR Alex Torres, S D.J. Johnson, S Terrance Bullitt, RB Eric Stephens, WR Eric Ward, WR Darrin Moore

Key losses: DE Scott Smith, TE Adam James, DB Brett Dewhurst

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Eric Stephens* (565 yards)
Passing: Seth Doege* (4,004 yards)
Receiving: Eric Ward* (800 yards)
Tackles: Cody Davis* (93)
Sacks: Scott Smith (5.5)
Interceptions: D.J. Johnson* (2)

Three spring answers

1. An answer in the middle: When you recruit junior college talent, you never quite know what you're going to get. That was a good thing for Texas Tech this spring, which found a starting middle linebacker in Will Smith. He's already the team's best at the position, according to coach Tommy Tuberville. They found him while recruiting running back SaDale Foster in California, but Tech found a hidden gem that made a huge impact.

2. Depth developing at running back: Texas Tech was thin at running back during the spring with DeAndre Washington and Eric Stephens sidelined by knee injuries. Stephens' return in 2012 isn't guaranteed, but the spring gave Tech a nice chance to see what it had at running back. Newcomer SaDale Foster played well, as did Kenny Williams. The position's in good shape, even though Ronnie Daniels transferred.

3. Familiar unfamiliarity on defense: Art Kaufman arrived in Lubbock this spring to install his 4-3 defense, which on its own wouldn't be all that notable. What makes it notable? He's the fourth defensive coordinator in four years at Texas Tech. The biggest task in front of him is building depth and developing his linebackers, who were among the Big 12's worst in 2011, ranking dead last nationally in rush defense.

Three fall questions

1. Will Eric Stephens be back in time? Stephens' dislocated knee against Texas A&M looked ugly, but the impact was even bigger than anyone could have imagined. Stephens had tons of experience, and was not only the team's best runner, but was the best pass-blocking back (a huge deal in Tech's offense) and pass-catching back. Tech is hopeful he'll be back by the beginning of the season, but he'll be limited in fall camp.

2. Who's the top receiver? Is Eric Ward the most talented receiver on the team? I'd vote more for Alex Torres and Darrin Moore. Still, you can't deny Ward's production in Torres' and Moore's absence with injuries in 2011. They'll be in a derby this fall to catch passes from Doege, and look out for guys like Tyson Williams and Marcus Kennard, too. Hyped freshmen Dominique Wheeler and Reginald Davis are on the way, too.

3. Can Texas Tech stay healthy? Nothing's hurt Tech more the past two seasons than injury. They've been everywhere on defense, and last year, the team's top two receivers and running backs both suffered big injuries. There hasn't been a clear reason Tech seems to have been snake bitten so badly, but the injuries exposed the lack of depth in 2011. Reasons aside, Tech has to stay healthy to get back into a bowl after ending a nearly two-decade streak of winning seasons with the 5-7 campaign in 2011.

Lessons learned in Tech's forgettable flop

March, 29, 2012
3/29/12
11:00
AM CT
Texas Tech's record stood at 5-2, but its hopes were much higher.

The Red Raiders had seen a close loss to what would be a 10-win Kansas State team and a five-point loss to top-25 Texas A&M, but bounced back for a season-making upset at No. 1 Oklahoma on Oct. 22.

The Sooners hadn't lost in Owen Field to a Big 12 team in 10 years, but Texas Tech did it, and the Red Raiders flew back home to Lubbock with smiles on their faces.

Those would be the last postgame smiles for the season's remainder. The Red Raiders didn't win again. What happened?

"I thought we were a decent team," coach Tommy Tuberville told ESPN.com this week. "and then the bottom fell out on injuries."

The bottom line about that bottom falling out? Texas Tech lacked the necessary depth for a Big 12 season — and it showed.

"When you don’t have depth, that’s when it starts showing up — when you have injuries," Tuberville said. "If we hadn’t had injuries, we probably would have been a little bit better team, but those are things you can’t control."

No side of the ball was spared. In the Texas A&M loss, the Red Raiders lost their leading rusher and best pass blocker, Eric Stephens to a serious knee injury. His backup, DeAndre Washington, suffered the same fate weeks later in a loss to Missouri. Receivers Marcus Kennard and Darrin Moore were hampered by various injuries throughout the season.

"There was one time last year we started five kids on defense that weren’t on scholarship," Tuberville said. "We just didn’t have them here. They hadn’t been recruited."

There's no time to complain. Texas Tech had its first losing season in two decades, finishing 5-7 and sitting at home while half of college football prepped for bowl games.

This spring, the main goal was clear: Develop depth by any means necessary.

The Red Raiders signed nine junior-college prospects and half enrolled in the spring.

[+] EnlargeTommy Tuberville
Sue Ogrocki/AP PhotoTommy Tuberville tapped the juco ranks for depth after Texas Tech unravelled last season.
"At our position as coaches, that’s a coaching move, in terms of going out and finding not just starters, but depth players, and that’s the reason we went out and took some junior-college guys," Tuberville said. "We had to have immediate help at some positions, whether it was starter or backup or third team. So, our depth chart looks better. I think 17 or 18 true freshmen coming in in June will enhance it."

The Red Raiders got help at running back in SaDale Foster, who finished atop the depth chart for Tech's depleted running back corps at the end of spring.

Linebackers Chris Payne and Will Smith established themselves as contributors; Smith was the team's best linebacker when spring practice concluded Saturday. Rashad Fortenberry, another junior-college signee from Mississippi, adds a solid tackle to an offensive line in need of help.

"Defensively, whatever we do is going to be better. We didn’t coach, we didn’t play, we didn’t act like a good defense last year. We looked like we were in shell shock all year long in terms of playing against teams that had great players. This conference last year, offensively, was unbelievable from top to bottom," Tuberville said. "We knew we were going to be very short defensively experience-wise, and then we get people hurt. And then we’re playing against some of the better players to play in this conference. I think we’re going to be better in matchups. That’s what you look for, is matchups in college football."

Tech hopes strategic decisions during a trying 2011 season pay off down the line.

"We didn’t take the redshirt off a few guys because they probably wouldn’t have been any better. But they’ve got the talent. We redshirted them and we saved them, and now they’ve got four years to play," he said. "It’s going to help us in the long run. It didn’t help us in the immediate future, but it’ll help us in the long run. That’s what we’re building for. We’re building to make this team start to be strong at a certain point."

That point hasn't arrived, but Tech should be well ahead of where it was in 2011 after top-25 recruiting classes in 2011 and 2012, combined with the quick-fix juco signings.

"We’ve just been a disaster in terms of depth. The parts hadn’t been there to work with," Tuberville said.

He says Texas Tech is still one more recruiting class away from being where it needs to be in terms of athletic ability, but the talent necessary to win is on campus now.

The goal for fall is to develop the depth Tuberville and his staff have established.

"Are we ready to compete for a championship? No, not really, just because of inexperience. I think we’re going to have some talent that can make some plays on both sides of the ball that we haven’t had in the last couple of years," Tuberville said. "I think we’re going to be much more competitive in terms of each position with a little bit more depth."

Big 12 spring football preview

February, 21, 2012
2/21/12
11:36
AM CT


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:

BAYLOR BEARS

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.
IOWA STATE CYCLONES

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?
KANSAS JAYHAWKS

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?
KANSAS STATE WILDCATS

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.
OKLAHOMA SOONERS

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.
OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS

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.
TEXAS LONGHORNS

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.
TCU HORNED FROGS

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.
TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS

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.
WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS

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.

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