NCF Nation: Bryce Brown

Signing day has come and gone, but we'll have plenty of coverage looking at each Big 12 team's class. This morning, we'll look at how each team filled its needs.

BAYLOR

Needs filled: Prerogative No. 1 for Baylor is fixing its defense, and the Bears are getting some help at linebacker in prep transfer Brian Nance, Raaquan Davis (No. 28 outside linebacker) and Travon Blanchard (No. 37 OLB). Future defensive tackle Andrew Billings was a home-grown talent who should compliment Javonte Magee well up front in the years to come. The Bears also need to keep the offensive machine humming. They seem to have done that with their two top signees, Robbie Rhodes, the nation's No. 3 receiver, and Chris Johnson, the nation's No. 5 dual-threat passer who coach Art Briles raved about in his signing day presser.

Holes remaining: Debate their quality all you'd like, but the Bears lost players in the secondary like Chance Casey and Mike Hicks, and cornerback Joe Williams will be a senior. There's not a lot of strength at defensive back in this class, unless Taion Sells (No. 46 safety) and Alfred Pullom (No. 67 safety) can blossom in Waco.

IOWA STATE

Needs filled: Rodney Coe comes to Ames via junior college and will try and replace some losses along the defensive line, but the biggest need for the Cyclones has been offensive playmakers. Aaron Wimberly checks in via the juco ranks at running back, but can ISU develop Texas receivers Brandon Harris and Bryan Ajumobi into major weapons at the Big 12 level?

Holes remaining: The Cyclones lost a pair of starters at linebacker and signed just one linebacker in this class, Florida native Brian Mills. Besides that, Iowa State did a nice job of bringing in big bodies along the defensive line and filling some offensive line holes, too, headlined by in-state prospect Jake Campos, who Iowa State swiped from Mizzou.

KANSAS

Needs filled: I'll be honest here, KU could use a big talent upgrade at pretty much every position on the field, other than running back. It's all about the jucos for the Jayhawks. Marquel Combs could be a major player up front to help KU stop the run and collapse pockets, but KU got a pair of big-time playmakers at receiver, too, in Ishmael Hyman and Rodriguez Coleman. Chris Martin offers another solid option as a pass-rusher. The Jayhawks also added a pair of quarterbacks in Montell Cozart and Jordan Darling.

Holes remaining: Did KU get enough high-quality linemen to replace its three lost starters? Ahongalu Fusimalohi is a juco transfer and Joey Bloomfield is the nation's No. 118 offensive tackle, but replacing solid starters like Tanner Hawkinson and Trevor Marrongelli is no easy task.

KANSAS STATE

Needs filled: K-State basically lost its entire defense from last year, so any defenders will be greatly appreciated. Four of the classes' top five signees are defenders, highlighted by inside linebacker Nick Ramirez and juco corner Nate Jackson. Inside linebacker Tanner Wood and juco defensive end Devon Nash will also help fill the Wildcats' big losses defensively.

Holes remaining: The Wildcats are solid at running back this year, but it could be looking a bit thin in the future. John Hubert will be a senior this year and Bryce Brown didn't pan out, so K-State might have used a running back in this class. It didn't happen. K-State was shut out at the position.

OKLAHOMA

Needs filled: Defensive line was the biggest one, and the Sooners grabbed two pass-rushers in the ESPN 300, D.J. Ward and Matt Dimon. Those two should pay off big, and Ward has enrolled early. Hatari Byrd also gives the Sooners an answer in the secondary while the nation's No. 3 running back, Keith Ford, helps provide solid depth at running back.

Holes remaining: Oklahoma lost Tom Wort to the NFL draft and Corey Nelson will be a senior next year, but Oklahoma didn't stock this class with a single linebacker. The Sooners don't put many traditional linebackers on the field and has converted a lot of safeties into outside linebackers, but still.

Signing day booms and busts revisited

February, 6, 2013
2/06/13
3:34
PM ET
There are always surprises and disappointments in every signing class.

It’s just the nature of the business, although I’m not sure it’s politically correct to refer to recruiting as a business. At least, not in the SEC.

Anyway, with most of the hay in the barn from national signing day 2013, keep in mind that it’s impossible to evaluate prospects only hours after their letters of intent are faxed in. So much can happen -- both good and bad -- over the next couple of years.

If you don’t believe so, here’s a look back at the “best surprises” and “biggest disappointments” for all 14 SEC teams going back four years ago to the 2009 signing class.

ALABAMA

[+] EnlargeChance Warmack
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsAlabama's Chance Warmack developed into one of college football's top offensive linemen.
Best surprise: OG Chance Warmack (Atlanta)

Warmack was not an ESPN 150 prospect, and 34 other players were ranked ahead of him that year in the state of Georgia. The home-state Bulldogs didn’t recruit him, but he landed at Alabama and became a three-year starter for the Tide and established himself this past season as the most dominant interior offensive lineman in college football.

Biggest disappointment: WR Kendall Kelly (Gadsen, Ala.)

Ranked as the No. 7 receiver in the country by ESPN, Kelly moved to defensive back, experienced some health issues and wound up taking a medical hardship.

ARKANSAS

Best surprise: WR Cobi Hamilton (Texarkana, Texas)

Unranked among the top 40 receivers nationally, Hamilton didn’t get an offer from Texas until two weeks prior to signing day. He stuck with the Hogs and blossomed in Bobby Petrino’s offense. Hamilton led the SEC this past season with 1,335 receiving yards and caught 18 career touchdown passes.

Biggest disappointment: CB Darius Winston (Helena, Ark.)

Winston was the most coveted in-state prospect since Darren McFadden and ranked by ESPN as the No. 3 cornerback in the country. But he never developed into a full-time starter at Arkansas and struggled with consistency. He was injured for part of this past season, his final one in a Hogs uniform.

AUBURN

Best surprise: WR Emory Blake (Austin, Texas)

Blake was ranked as the No. 73 receiver in the country by ESPN and chose Auburn on signing day over Texas Tech and Colorado. He finished his career as Auburn’s fifth all-time receiver with 128 catches and 16 touchdown receptions.

Biggest disappointment: QB Tyrik Rollison (Sulphur Springs, Texas)

Rollison was a Parade All-American and considered one of the Tigers’ prized signees in the 2009 class. He redshirted his first season, and after being suspended for the Outback Bowl, transferred to Sam Houston State that next spring and then to Tyler (Texas) Junior College.

FLORIDA

Best surprise: OG Jon Halapio (St. Petersburg, Fla.)

The Gators got Halapio as the No. 144-ranked offensive guard in the country, and when he committed in May, he had very few offers. Now heading into his senior season at Florida, Halapio has 33 starts under his belt and is one of the leaders of the Gators' offense.

Biggest disappointment: DT Gary Brown (Quincy, Fla.)

Brown was ranked as the No. 2 defensive tackle in the country by ESPN, but reported to school overweight and redshirted his first season. He was dismissed that next February without ever playing a down at Florida following his arrest for allegedly slapping a woman at a party.

GEORGIA

Best surprise: S Shawn Williams (Damascus, Ga.)

Williams was not ranked among the top 30 prospects in the state of Georgia. He made his mark initially on special teams and then emerged as the Bulldogs’ enforcer in the secondary from his safety position. He was second on the team with 98 tackles this past season.

Biggest disappointment: RB Washaun Ealey (Twin City, Ga.)

Ealey was an ESPN 150 prospect and ranked as the No. 8 running back in the country. He led the Bulldogs in rushing each of his first two seasons, but a pair of suspensions landed him in hot water with coach Mark Richt. Ealey was encouraged to move on following his sophomore season and wound up transferring to Jacksonville State.

KENTUCKY

Best surprise: OG Larry Warford (Richmond, Ky.)

Not ranked among the top 50 guard prospects in the country, Warford established himself as one of the top guards in the SEC the past two seasons and earned All-SEC recognition as a senior.

Biggest disappointment: QB Morgan Newton (Carmel, Ind.)

An ESPN 150 prospect, Newton made the SEC All-Freshman Team his first season. But his career never took off from there, and he was plagued by a shoulder injury in 2011. He served mainly as a backup this past season and finished his career with 15 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions.

LSU

Best surprise: DT Bennie Logan (Coushatta, La.)

Logan was ranked as the No. 72 defensive end in the country, and LSU initially offered him as a grayshirt. But a firm offer came in the weeks leading up to signing day, and Logan blossomed into one of the SEC’s top defensive tackles each of the past two seasons.

Biggest disappointment: DT Chris Davenport (Mansfield, La.)

Davenport was one of 10 ESPN 150 prospects LSU signed in 2009, and he was ranked as the No. 7 defensive tackle in the country. Some had him ranked as a five-star prospect, but he was never able to crack the defensive line rotation at LSU and eventually moved to offensive line. He transferred to Tulane after this past season without ever starting a game at LSU.

MISSISSIPPI STATE

[+] EnlargeJohnthan Banks
Spruce Derden/US PresswireJohnthan Banks went from unnoticed out of high school to arguably the nation's top defensive back.
Best surprise: CB Johnthan Banks (Maben, Miss)

Banks’ only scholarship offer was to Mississippi State. He was from a tiny town in Mississippi and flew under the radar, but wound up being a four-year starter and won the Jim Thorpe Award this past season as the top defensive back in college football. He finished with 16 career interceptions to tie the Bulldogs' all-time record.

Biggest disappointment: RB Montrell Conner (Monroe, La.)

Conner had offers from USC, Oklahoma, Georgia and Tennessee and was ranked as the No. 7 running back prospect in the country by ESPN. He redshirted his first season and left the program in August of that next year. He attended junior college in 2010 and then signed with Troy.

MISSOURI

Best surprise: RB Kendial Lawrence (Rockwall, Texas)

Lawrence picked Missouri over SMU, Louisville and Iowa State and was ranked by ESPN as the No. 100 running back in the country. He capped a solid career at Missouri this past season by rushing for 1,025 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Biggest disappointment: QB Blaine Dalton (Blue Springs, Mo.)

A dual-threat quarterback and one of the top prospects in the state of Missouri, Dalton enrolled in school early. But he was arrested twice in less than four months and dismissed from the team before he ever played in a game.

OLE MISS

Best surprise: LB Mike Marry (Largo, Fla.)

Ranked as the No. 94 prospect in the state of Florida and unranked in the ESPN 150, Marry has been one of the leaders of the Ole Miss defense the past two seasons from his middle linebacker position. He had 10.5 tackles for loss this past season to finish second on the team. A three-star prospect, Marry picked Ole Miss over Duke, Iowa State and South Florida.

Biggest disappointment: WR Pat Patterson (Macon, Miss.)

Ole Miss beat several big-name teams, including Alabama, to get Patterson, an ESPN 150 prospect and widely considered the top prospect in the state of Mississippi that year. He showed flashes as a true freshman, but couldn’t stay out of trouble off the field and was dismissed prior to his sophomore season after catching just 12 career passes.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Best surprise: S D.J. Swearinger (Greenwood, S.C.)

A three-star prospect, Swearinger was originally committed to Tennessee, but backed off that pledge after Phillip Fulmer was fired and signed with South Carolina. Swearinger ended up being a three-year starter for the Gamecocks and finished second on the team in tackles each of the past two seasons. He was a second-team All-SEC selection this past season.

Biggest disappointment: RB Jarvis Giles (Tampa, Fla.)

An ESPN 150 prospect and ranked as the No. 6 running back in the country, Giles left the team early during his sophomore season after plummeting down the depth chart behind Marcus Lattimore and a few others.

TENNESSEE

Best surprise: WR Zach Rogers (Nashville, Tenn.)

Even though he wasn’t nearly as heralded as most of the signees in the Vols’ 2009 class, Rogers emerged this past season as one of the more underrated receivers in the SEC with 32 catches, including seven touchdowns, and averaged 15.3 yards per catch.

Biggest disappointment: RB Bryce Brown (Wichita, Kan.)

Brown has some serious competition for this dubious distinction. There were multiple disappointments in the Vols’ 2009 class. But as ESPN’s No. 2-ranked running back prospect in the country, Brown gets the nod. He rushed for 460 yards as a freshman, but sat out that next spring practice and never played again for the Vols after Lane Kiffin left for USC.

TEXAS A&M

Best surprise: WR Ryan Swope (Austin, Texas)

Swope was more of a running back coming out of high school and ranked by ESPN as the No. 116 athlete in the country. He carved out a splendid career at Texas A&M in becoming the Aggies’ all-time leading receiver. In his last two seasons, he caught 161 passes, including 19 touchdowns.

Biggest disappointment: DT Chris Henderson (Dallas)

Henderson was ranked by ESPN as the No. 16 defensive tackle in the country, but failed to qualify academically and didn’t make it to campus.

VANDERBILT

Best surprise: RB Zac Stacy (Centerville, Ala.)

Alabama and Auburn both passed on Stacy, who was ranked by ESPN as the No. 98 running back prospect nationally. He finished his Vanderbilt career this past season by rushing for 1,000 yards for the second straight year and set the Commodores’ all-time rushing record in the process.

Biggest disappointment: WR Brady Brown (Argyle, Texas)

Brown was ranked among the top 60 prospects in the state of Texas, and the Commodores were hoping he could add some punch to their passing game. He suffered a leg injury as a freshman and wound up leaving the program following the 2011 season without catching any career passes.
Is there a direct correlation to highly ranked signees and wins in the SEC?

Well, you be the judge.

Over the past four years (2009-12), Alabama and Florida have tied for the most ESPN 150 prospects signed with 41 apiece. During that span, the Crimson Tide have won an SEC-high 49 games and three national championships.

The Gators, meanwhile, have won 10 fewer games (39) than the Crimson Tide and haven’t won any SEC or national titles during that span. In fact, they’ve been shut out of the SEC championship game the last three years.

The most ESPN 150 prospects any SEC school has signed in one year going back to 2009 was Florida in 2010 when the Gators signed 17 ESPN 150 prospects.

For perspective, that’s more than eight SEC schools -- Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Missouri, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt -- have managed to ink in each of their last four signing classes.

Every SEC school has signed at least one ESPN 150 prospect over the past four years, although Kentucky and Vanderbilt have both been limited to one each. The Wildcats’ only ESPN 150 signee during that period was quarterback Morgan Newton in 2009, while the Commodores signed running back Brian Kimbrow last year.

The school doing the least with the most over the last four years has been Tennessee. The Vols have signed 20 ESPN 150 prospects since 2009, which is tied for the fifth most in the SEC. However, the Vols are just 23-27 during that stretch (9-23 in the SEC) and have suffered through three straight losing seasons.

Tennessee signed six ESPN 150 prospects in 2009, Lane Kiffin’s only signing class in Knoxville. But four of those players (Jerod Askew, Janzen Jackson, Darren Myles, Jr., and Nu’Keese Richardson) were kicked off the team, and the other two (Bryce Brown and David Oku) wound up transferring out of the program.

The school doing the most with the least has been South Carolina. The Gamecocks have signed 13 ESPN 150 prospects since 2009, which is seventh in the league. But the Gamecocks have the third-best record over the last four years (38-15) behind only Alabama and LSU. They’re also one of two teams in the league (along with Alabama) to have won 11 or more games each of the last two seasons.

As the Head Ball Coach himself would say, somebody’s coaching ‘em up in Columbia.

Arkansas, prior to its collapse this past season, had managed a nice run despite not reeling in very many highly ranked signees under former coach Bobby Petrino. The Hogs won 11 games in 2011 and 10 games in 2010, including a trip to the Sugar Bowl, and signed just five ESPN 150 prospects between 2009-12.

Below is a breakdown of how many ESPN 150 signees each SEC school has signed over the past four years along with each school’s overall and SEC record during that span. We’ve also included Missouri and Texas A&M even though they’ve just played one season in the SEC.

Of the Aggies’ nine ESPN 150 prospects signed over the past four years, five came last year in Kevin Sumlin’s first signing class.

One other interesting nugget is South Carolina is the only team to have played in the SEC championship game over the past four years that hasn't signed at least 20 ESPN 150 prospects during that span.

Here’s a closer look:
  • Alabama: 41 ESPN 150 signees, 49-5 (.907), 27-5 SEC
  • Florida: 41 ESPN 150 signees, 39-14 (.736), 22-10 SEC
  • LSU: 28 ESPN 150 signees, 43-10 (.811), 25-7 SEC
  • Georgia: 26 ESPN 150 signees, 36-18 (.667), 21-11 SEC
  • Auburn: 20 ESPN 150 signees, 33-19 (.635), 15-17 SEC
  • Tennessee: 20 ESPN 150 signees, 23-27 (.460), 9-23 SEC
  • South Carolina: 13 ESPN 150 signees, 38-15 (.717), 20-12 SEC
  • Texas A&M: 9 ESPN 150 signees, 33-19 (.635)
  • Ole Miss: 6 ESPN 150 signees, 22-28 (.440), 8-24 SEC
  • Arkansas: 5 ESPN 150 signees, 33-18 (.647), 17-13 SEC
  • Mississippi State: 4 ESPN 150 signees, 29-22 (.569), 13-17 SEC
  • Missouri: 3 ESPN 150 signees, 31-20 (.608)
  • Kentucky: 1 ESPN 150 signee, 20-30 (.400), 7-25 SEC
  • Vanderbilt: 1 ESPN 150 signee, 19-31 (.380), 8-24 SEC

Big 12 spring football preview

February, 21, 2012
2/21/12
9:00
AM ET
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. The Bears 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 an 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 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, Kelechi Osemele, at left tackle 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 scored 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.
We're continuing our look at the postseason rankings for each position in the Big 12. Here's a look back at where the running backs ranked in the preseason.

In this position, unlike quarterback, depth is a major, major factor in these rankings.

1. Texas A&M

The Aggies had the two most talented backs, and despite injuries to both, proved it through an otherwise frustrating 2011. Christine Michael suffered a torn ACL, but still managed 899 yards on just 149 carries. Cyrus Gray injured his shoulder late in the season, but secured his second consecutive 1,000-yard season and ranked third in the Big 12, despite carrying the ball just 198 times. This duo should have easily surpassed 1,000 yards, but even when they were injured, Ben Malena played well in the final two games.

[+] EnlargeChristine Michael
AP Photo/Brandon WadeChristine Michael averaged 6 yards per carry before a torn ACL ended his season.
2. Missouri

Mizzou dealt with injuries, too, first to Kendial Lawrence and De'Vion Moore. Cue Henry Josey. Josey became the best back in the Big 12 this year before suffering a major knee injury that included torn ligaments. He may not be back in 2012. His 1,168 yards were third most in the Big 12, despite carrying the ball just 145 times. Lawrence finished 12th with 566 yards.

3. Oklahoma State

Joseph Randle stole the show this year, rushing for 24 scores and ranking second in the Big 12 with 1,216 yards. Only Collin Klein ran for more touchdowns and Terrance Ganaway was the only player with more yardage. Still, Jeremy Smith had averaged more than 7 yards a carry, and he'd be able to start for anyone else in the league. Herschel Sims showed promise, too, with 242 yards on 31 carries.

4. Baylor

Ganaway led the Big 12 in rushing with huge performances late in the season, including a 200-yard, five-touchdown game in his final outing as a college athlete in the Alamo Bowl. He averaged more than 6 yards on his 250 carries and had 330 more yards than any other back in the league. Jarred Salubi added 331 yards, too.

5. Texas

Texas' Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron were banged-up late in the season, but Fozzy Whittaker played well until suffering a torn ACL against Missouri, too. Scatback D.J. Monroe was effective in the passing game as well. Four running backs topped 300 yards and Brown led the team with 742 yards, despite missing three games and having his carries limited early in the season.

6. Oklahoma

Oklahoma got great contributions from walk-on Dominique Whaley early on, and he proved to be the team's most effective runner and best runner between the tackles. He fractured his ankle in midseason, and finished with just 627 yards to lead the team. Roy Finch emerged late in the seasons after a quiet first half and added 605 yards.

7. Kansas

KU's James Sims led the team in rushing again with 727 yards. Darrian Miller was excellent, too, with 559 yards, though he was dismissed after the season. Freshmen Tony Pierson and Brandon Bourbon have plenty of promise, both averaging more than 5.5 yards a carry in 2011. The bad news: All their carries were limited by an awful defense that limited KU's chances to run the ball.

8. Kansas State

K-State's rushing attack centered around Klein, but John Hubert, a slippery back from Waco, Texas, had a good year. Hubert was seventh in the Big 12 with 970 yards. Bryce Brown offered basically nothing to K-State, and beyond Klein and Hubert, the Wildcats were pretty thin. Additionally, without Klein, would Hubert have duplicated his success?

9. Texas Tech

An awful knee injury derailed Eric Stephens' likely 1,000-yard season, and the rest of Texas Tech's backfield got banged-up, too. Stephens will probably return in 2012 from his dislocated knee, and finished with 565 yards, 17th in the Big 12. Aaron Crawford and DeAndre Washington both topped 300 yards.

10. Iowa State

ISU lost Shontrelle Johnson for the season early on, but James White filled in well. He finished with 743 yards, which ranked ninth in the Big 12. Jeff Woody had 380 yards and provided quality carries late, including the game-winning touchdown against Oklahoma State.

What we learned in the Big 12: Week 5

October, 2, 2011
10/02/11
10:00
AM ET
Here's what I saw on an eventful week of football across the Big 12.

[+] EnlargeArthur Brown
AP Photo/Charlie RiedelArthur Brown's fourth-quarter interception was huge for Kansas State.
It's time to start taking Kansas State seriously. This is not an elite defense, but it's a very, very good one led by a guy who will finish the season as one of the Big 12's best playmakers: Arthur Brown. I've been aboard the Arthur Brown bandwagon for awhile now, eschewing the Big 12 media's pick of Bryce Brown as the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and voting for Arthur. Check my fearless predictions, too. He's getting it done, and made the biggest play of Kansas State's season on Saturday, intercepting Robert Griffin III for the first time this season. Brown's speed totally changes this defense, which showed an ability to stop the run on Saturday after giving up 3,008 rushing yards last year. Safety Tysyn Hartman said it best last week in regard to Brown: "He really moves at a different speed than everybody else. ... Once he gets you wrapped up, I mean, you’re going down."

Texas A&M may have a very big problem. I was willing to dismiss last week as one off quarter in an otherwise stellar early start to the season. But after another second-half meltdown and another shocking loss, how do you not question the mental toughness of an experienced Texas A&M team with solid senior leadership? "I never felt it was out of our hands. I was consistently getting my guys together and telling them, 'Hey, we're not letting this one go,'" said quarterback Ryan Tannehill. It did, though, and the Texas A&M offense and defense both had plenty of chances to prevent it. That's got to be troubling. Ultimately, we'll learn what this team is made of as conference play progresses, but the past two weeks have been perplexing. Texas A&M still is that good, but it's disappeared when huge games have been on the line.

Oklahoma and Texas are gearing up for what should be a classic. Oklahoma has looked like the team we thought it was, even as Alabama and LSU have been more impressive early this season. Texas has been about as good as we could expect after last year's struggles and an offense stocked with freshmen. But next week, it's the Sooners with everything to lose and Texas with everything to prove. I can't wait. I can smell the corny dogs already. Granted, that might be because I live upwind of the fairgrounds, which opened on Friday.

This loss will cost Baylor late in the season. Baylor just has to win games like this if it wants to be taken seriously as a top-15 team or a Big 12 contender. The Bears still look like an eight- or nine-win team to me, but with a nine-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, you have to win. Great teams don't lose those leads or lose those games. Baylor was a sneaky upset of one of the Big 12's best teams away from an unbelievable 10-win season. Now?

Iowa State's bubble has burst. I was a little more sold on Kansas State than I was on Iowa State, but you can't escape the fact that the Cyclones could just as easily be 0-3. To me, Texas feels like it will finish as a fringe top-20 team, but Iowa State looked like it was playing completely out of its league. The upside for K-State was greater than Iowa State, but the Cyclones didn't leave much to be encouraged about. They have to get better. Elsewhere on Saturday night: UConn lost to Western Michigan at home 38-31.

Wrapping up Week 1 in the Big 12

September, 4, 2011
9/04/11
12:08
AM ET
Helmet stickers will be on the way tonight. Here are some thoughts on Saturday's more drama-filled games.

Iowa State 20, Northern Iowa 19: This one? Well, it wasn't pretty. But Iowa State got the win with a brand-new quarterback and without its top playmaker from last year, Alexander Robinson. Steele Jantz was uninspired early, throwing three interceptions, but there's no denying what he did late. Facing a 4th-and-10, he hit Josh Lenz for a 26-yard score to go ahead late in the fourth quarter. He led a nine-play, 60-yard game-winning drive to take the lead for good in the final minute. Jantz's performance had warts all over it, but if you're an Iowa State fan, take those positives late as progress for Jantz. When he produces 267 yards of total offense, scores three touchdowns and gets a win in his first start ever, that's a good thing.

Kansas State 10, Eastern Kentucky 7: Kansas State is a more experienced team, but five turnovers against any team puts you in big danger, even when it's an FCS opponent. The Wildcats offense was actually third in the Big 12 last season, but still lacks a lot of explosiveness. Collin Klein finished with 13-of-21 for 128 yards and the game-winning, 33-yard touchdown pass to Chris Harper. Bryce Brown's stat line (three carries, 16 yards) is unavoidable, but K-State was able to run the ball. John Hubert and Klein combined for 169 yards on 42 carries, so it's clear this team's identity hasn't changed, as expected. Zone reads and ball control. It was ugly, but like Iowa State, a win is a win. Both of these teams are most likely on the outside of the bowl season, but it'll be close. Games like this have to be won.

Texas 34, Rice 9: Texas struggled early, but the offense came alive in the second half. You have to love what that kind of momentum could do heading into next week's game against BYU, who struggled Saturday at Ole Miss, but erased a 13-point lead against the Rebels in just over four minutes for a 14-13 win. Garrett Gilbert heard the boo birds, but finished 13-of-23 for 239 yards and a touchdown. Case McCoy played late but didn't complete either of his two passes. True freshman David Ash looks like he won't redshirt. He came in early on, but lined up at receiver. The Malcolm Brown Era is off to a great start with 86 yards on 16 carries. He had a fumble, but for a true freshman to do that in his first start -- against anyone -- is a fantastic sign for the Horns. Mike Davis also had a pair of 50-plus yard catches, finishing with three catches for 115 yards.

We'll run down the other four games shortly.

Big 12 narrowly escapes FCS loss(es)

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
10:34
PM ET
It's the fourth quarter, and Iowa State and Kansas State were both approaching nightmare territory.

Kansas State had five turnovers and missed a 37-yard field goal, but made a kick from 36 yards to trail 7-3 with just over 10 minutes to play in the game.

Iowa State trailed Northern Iowa by six and quarterback Steele Jantz had three interceptions with just over 10 minutes to play.

Both teams survived, though.

Kansas State used a late touchdown and a late interception from Nigel Malone to beat the Colonels, 10-7.

Iowa State needed a touchdown in the final minute at the goal line to beat the Panthers, 20-19.

Ugly results for both teams, but both could serve as a footnote now, rather than a black eye like Kansas' 6-3 loss to North Dakota State last season.

Kansas State running back Bryce Brown finished with three carries for 16 yards. The Wildcats were led by John Hubert's 91 yards on 17 carries.

Jantz finished 18-of-40 for 187 yards and a touchdown, with his three picks.

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 1

September, 1, 2011
9/01/11
10:15
AM ET
Here are ten things I'm keeping an eye on in Week 1 of Big 12 football.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10. Texas Tech's playcalling. Tommy Tuberville wants a new commitment to the running game, but where will that show up? The Red Raiders have what I think will be a good QB, but lots of unanswered questions at receiver next to a deep stable of running backs and a good offensive line. I'm also excited to see what freshman tight end Jace Amaro can do.

Big 12 power rankings: Week 1

August, 29, 2011
8/29/11
10:00
AM ET
Oh, yes. It is game week.

Today is Monday, which means we'll kick off our weekly power rankings and continue doing so each week throughout the season.

1. Oklahoma: The Sooners are clearly the class of the Big 12 but will have to start proving it early with a hyped trip to Tallahassee to face a Florida State team that yours truly thinks is a bit overrated. Saturday, though? Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles will open the season at home against an underrated Tulsa team that won more games in 2010 than Florida State but will travel to Norman perhaps without its top playmaker, Damaris Johnson. G.J. Kinne is great, but he'll have to be spectacular for the Golden Hurricane to be a serious threat.

2. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys gave college football fans a treat with the return of Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon, who will kick off their encore seasons against Louisiana-Lafayette, a team that spawned Weeden's trust in Blackmon originally last season. The opener should be a snoozer, but next week's rematch of the Alamo Bowl against Arizona could produce big fireworks on a Thursday night national broadcast.

3. Texas A&M: This is an absolute coin flip. Until the teams meet on Sept. 24, I'll probably flip OSU and A&M depending on who was more impressive the previous week. The Aggies will have the best chance to impress with a Sunday nighter against an underrated SMU team coming to Kyle Field with a crowd that could get a huge boost from the prospect of a future in the SEC, which might be announced later this week.

4. Missouri: We'll get our first real look at James Franklin when the Tigers suit up against Miami (Ohio). After struggling early in spring camp during his competition with Tyler Gabbert, Franklin has only gotten better. This week will be big for the Tigers' offensive line, which has to find a suitable replacement for stalwart left tackle Elvis Fisher, a 40-game starter who will miss the season with a torn patellar tendon. The Tigers' first big test is just six days from Saturday, when they travel to Tempe, Ariz.,to play Arizona State.

5. Baylor: Baylor's new-look defense will get a pretty good test from TCU. The Bears are the Big 12's lone team matched up with a ranked opponent in Week 1. A win against the defending Rose Bowl champs with the nation's eyes watching a Friday night ESPN broadcast could be a big coming-out party for Art Briles and Robert Griffin III on a national scale.

6. Texas: obody knows what to expect from the Longhorns, but we might find out who'll be starting at quarterback for the Horns later today. The defense, which has led the Big 12 in total defense the past four seasons, should still be stout in spite of a young secondary, but an amorphous offseason depth chart will take shape this week.

7. Texas Tech: There are a lot of new faces on the field for the Red Raiders, but Year 2 under Tommy Tuberville will probably get off to a yawn-worthy start with FCS Texas State heading to Lubbock for the opener. Tech is a bit of a wild card that might be as good as the league's fourth-best team. This is probably as low on the power rankings as you'll see the Red Raiders all season.

8. Kansas State: The Wildcats caught a break with Arthur Brown and Bryce Brown being given limited immunity by the NCAA and avoiding eligbility issues from the mess at Miami, but we'll finally get a chance to see K-State's hyped transfers take the field. Arthur Brown emerged as one of the defense's top playmakers during the spring, but what will Bryce Brown have to offer? And has Collin Klein improved enough as a passer to help the Wildcats claw into the next tier of Big 12 teams?

9. Iowa State: The Cyclones might be better than this, but they're going to have to prove it. No one above them in the power rankings finished with a worse record last season. The Big 12 had only one team (Kansas) that finished with a record worse than 5-7. New quarterback Steele Jantz, replacing three-year starter Austen Arnaud, should be fun to watch.

10. Kansas: Improvement is the name of the game for the Jayhawks, who dropped a game to an FCS team in Week 1 last year. It's doubtful we'll see a repeat against McNeese State this time around, but how much better will Kansas be? We'll get a better sense when the Jayhawks tangle with an underrated Northern Illinois team in Week 2 and ACC foe Georgia Tech the next week.
A day after Georgia declared there would be no eligibility issues for tight end Orson Charles after being linked to an ex-Miami booster in a Yahoo! Sports report, Florida released a statement on its two players linked to the story.

Florida wide receiver Andre Debose (see the allegations against him) and offensive tackle Matt Patchan (here are the allegations against him) were both named in the Yahoo! Sports report as athletes who were improperly brought to Miami booster Nevin Shapiro so that he could try to persuade them to sign with the Hurricanes.

Florida said in a statement released by the university that neither player has any eligibility issues.

"We have been in communication with the NCAA and there are no eligibility issues with Andre Debose and Matt Patchan as it relates to recent reports," the statement said. "Andre, Matt nor the University of Florida will have any additional comments regarding this matter."

Florida wide receivers coach Aubrey Hill was also linked to the report as a coach who Shaprio said was knowingly involved in the impermissible recruitment of Miami recruits, including Debose, while he was the Hurricanes' wide receivers coach. Shortly after Yahoo! Sports' report was published, Florida issued a statement on Hill, saying that he was confident he did nothing wrong during his time with the Hurricanes.

"While we declined comment for Yahoo's request, Coach Hill indicated he was very comfortable with, and very confident in how he conducted himself while at the University of Miami," associate athletics director/communications Steve McClain said in a statement.

Former Tennessee running back Bryce Brown, now a member of Kansas State's football team, was also cleared of eligibility issues after he was also named in the Yahoo! report.
Yahoo! Sports' investigative report, which unearted all kind of violations at Miami, had arms that reached as far as West Texas, but its biggest impact in the Big 12 was felt in Manhattan, Kan.

Current Wildcats Arthur Brown (see his allegations here) and Bryce Brown (his allegations are here) were named in the report, which alleged that Arthur Brown received free meals, and a visit to a strip club that featured free drinks and entertainment in a VIP area. It also alleged that Arthur Brown received transportation in violation of NCAA rules and a hotel room for his family, including Bryce Brown, who also took part in one of the meals.

[+] EnlargeKansas State's Bryce Brown
AP Photo/Wade PayneBryce Brown's transfer from Tennessee to Kansas State may have saved him from suspension.
Kansas State, however, says the allegations will not affect the eligibility of either.

"Kansas State University has been in communication with the NCAA," the university said in a release. "Regarding Arthur Brown and Bryce Brown, the NCAA staff has informed the institution that it has no concerns about their eligibility to compete at K-State."

Kansas State also added that it would have no further comment.

What has allowed each player to escape punishment? According to a professor of sports administration at Ohio, Bryce Brown's enrollment at Tennessee and Arthur Brown's transfer from Miami.

From the Wichita Eagle:
"Based on current NCAA legislation, the ruling is what you would expect," said B. David Ridpath, a professor of sports administration at Ohio. "So is the timing. Violations like these don't follow you from school to school. As transfer students, there really is no way to punish them."

Recent NCAA rulings on player eligibility had K-State fans worried and considering a range of possibilities. While both players head into the upcoming season as planned, history also indicates they could have faced suspensions and missed up to as many as five games.

"I can't think of a case where violations have followed a kid to a new school," Ridpath said earlier Wednesday, before K-State's announcement."... That usually doesn't happen. It's almost like a get-out-of-jail free card."

The paper contacted the Brown brothers' adviser, Brian Butler, who admitted that they accepted a lunch and hotel room courtesy of Nevin Shapiro, the central figure of the scandal at Miami.

Arthur and Bryce Brown should both be major contributors for Kansas State this fall, but after the NCAA's decision, it looks like Wildcats fans can breathe a little easier.

SEC names tied to ex-Miami booster

August, 17, 2011
8/17/11
10:27
AM ET
The damning allegations made by convicted Ponzi schemer and former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro might cripple University of Miami athletics, but Shapiro's actions might affect some schools outside of Coral Gables.

In a Yahoo! Sports report, Shapiro said he provided impermissible benefits to at least 72 Miami athletes and other athletes, and also committed NCAA violations with members of the Miami coaching staff when he had improper recruiting contact.

It is an NCAA violation for a school's booster to be involved in the recruitment of prospective student-athletes.

Three SEC schools -- Florida, Georgia and Alabama -- were linked to Yahoo! Sports' report.

First-year Alabama assistants Jeff Stoutland and Joe Pannunzio have been accused by Shapiro of steering recruits to him in order to help persuade them to sign with Miami.

The Yahoo! Sports report quoted Shapiro as saying Stoutland, Alabama's current offensive line coach, was among coaches who brought prospects to his home or luxury suite for recruiting pitches. The story also said Pannunzio, Alabama's director of football operations, was involved, though the report only cited unnamed sources when referring to Pannunzio.

Stoutland was the offensive line coach at Miami from 2007-10, while Pannunzio spent the past five years as the Hurricanes' tight ends coach/special-teams coordinator.

Alabama released a statement Tuesday night through team spokesperson Doug Walker.

"The University of Alabama is aware of the story, but we will have no further comment," Walker said.

Shapiro told Yahoo! Sports that Florida wide receiver Andre Debose and offensive tackle Matt Patchan were athletes who were improperly brought to him so that he could try to persuade them to attend Miami. Shapiro also alleged that current Florida wide receivers coach Aubrey Hill was one of the coaches present when impermissible contact with three recruits, including Debose, took place in 2008.

According to the report, Debose, along with two of his high school teammates, was brought to Shapiro's multimillion dollar mansion by Miami recruiting coordinator Clint Hurtt. The report also stated that Hill, who was Miami's receivers coach at the time, was also there.

"I took [Debose, Armstrong and Dye] in my car the first night," Shapiro told Yahoo! Sports. "They came to my house. They were there with Clint Hurtt, who at the time was the recruiting coordinator, and Aubrey Hill, who was the receivers coach. I gave them a strong pitch on why they should come to the University of Miami. Ray-Ray Armstrong and Dyron Dye were both already in the boat, meaning they were ready to come. Debose was the only one who was wavering."

Shapiro also said he gave Miami equipment assistant Sean Allen around $2,000 to $3,000 in cash and told Allen to show the players "a good time." The reports states that Allen later used the cash to take the three players to nightclubs and a strip club.

Shapiro alleges that two Miami assistants were with Patchan, three members of his family and several other Miami players. Shapiro also said Stoutland was there.

Florida released a statement through Associate Athletics Director/Communications Steve McClain in regards to Hill's role at Miami.

"While we declined comment for Yahoo's request, coach Hill indicated he was very comfortable with, and very confident in how he conducted himself while at the University of Miami," McClain said.

Georgia tight end Orson Charles was also listed as a player who had impermissible contact with Shapiro. The report stated that Charles allegedly toured Shapiro’s mansion in 2008 with Tampa (Fla.) Plant coach Robert Weiner and then-Miami quarterback Robert Marve, who also played at Plant.

Florida and Georgia will not face program violations, but it's unclear what could happen to Debose, Patchan and Charles.

A former SEC name also linked to the Yahoo! report is former Tennessee running back Bryce Brown. He originally committed to Miami, but signed with Lane Kiffin at Tennessee after national signing day, before transferring to Kansas State last year.

Shapiro alleges he provided a lunch costing more than $500 and a hotel room for more than $1,000 for Brown, his family and family adviser in 2008.
The Big 12 has released its All-Big 12 preseason team as voted on by the media, including yours truly.

Here's my ballot, for reference.

And here's the preseason team, in all its glory.

OFFENSE

QB: Landry Jones, Oklahoma
RB: Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M
RB: Bryce Brown, Kansas State
RB: Roy Finch, Oklahoma
WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
WR: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
TE: Michael Egnew, Missouri
OL: Levy Adcock, Oklahoma State
OL: Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State
C: Ben Habern, Oklahoma
OL: Lonnie Edwards, Texas Tech
OL: Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M

DEFENSE

DL: Brad Madison, Missouri
DL: Ronnell Lewis, Oklahoma
DL: Kheeston Randall, Texas
DL: Frank Alexander, Oklahoma
LB: Travis Lewis, Oklahoma
LB: Jake Knott, Iowa State
LB: Keenan Robinson, Texas
DB: Coryell Judie, Texas A&M
DB: Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State
DB: Blake Gideon, Texas
DB: Demontre Hurst, Oklahoma

SPECIALISTS

K: Grant Ressel, Missouri
P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
KR: Coryell Judie, Texas A&M
PR: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma

AWARDS

Offensive Player of the Year: Justin Blackmon, WR, OSU

Defensive Player of the Year: Travis Lewis, LB, Oklahoma

Newcomer of the Year: Malcolm Brown, RB, Texas

Selections by team: Oklahoma (9), Oklahoma State (4), Texas A&M (4), Missouri (3), Texas (3), Iowa State (2), Kansas State (1)

And a few thoughts:
  • Generally, I agree with most of the selections. Nothing was really shocking. Brandon Weeden vs. Landry Jones is pretty close to a coin flip, and let's not act surprised that the quarterback from the bigger program got the nod. Perception is reality, even if the numbers are so, so close. Jones has the Heisman hype coming into the season, certainly more than Weeden, based on little more than the possibility his team runs the table.
  • Running back is going to get a lot of attention, but let's not get riled up. This is going to sound bad, but believe me when I say I don't mean it to: Bryce Brown's selection is more an indictment of the returning talent at running back in the Big 12 than an endorsement of the hype surrounding Brown, who isn't even the clear-cut starter at K-State just yet. Here's what I wrote when I posted my ballot earlier this month. "The second running back spot is near impossible. Just about anyone might get it on the official vote when its revealed by the Big 12. You could realistically make a convincing case for James Sims, Eric Stephens, Joe Randle, Roy Finch and even newcomers like Malcolm Brown, Bryce Brown or Oklahoma's Brandon Williams. And that's the first team!" Well, there you go. For the record, I voted for Christine Michael, and still feel good about it.
  • Finch and Brown tied for votes, giving the Big 12 three running backs. There weren't three spots on the ballot. And it also explains how Malcolm Brown got Newcomer of the Year and Bryce Brown got first-team All-Big 12 running back, despite both being newcomers. It's a little confusing, I suppose, and maybe not everyone did it, but my guess is a lot of ballots had Finch as the first-team running back and Malcolm Brown as the Newcomer of the Year. Not all that surprising.
  • I originally had Luke Joeckel on my ballot, but took him off for Missouri's Elvis Fisher. I think Joeckel will end up being better, and maybe even by the end of this year, but right now, Fisher is the better lineman, and that's how I define the ballot. Perhaps others see it differently. There's no concrete rubric for this.
  • I'm not very surprised to see Ronnell Lewis and Blake Gideon grab spots on the team, though I voted for Tony Jerod-Eddie and Trent Hunter in those spots on my ballot. Second safety and defensive line were pretty tough for me to fill out. Neither spot is very deep in this league, and both Lewis and Gideon have two of the biggest names, which matters in a media vote.
  • Quite a huge gap between Oklahoma and the rest of the league. The Sooners had a lot of guys on my ballot that were close, but five more selections than anyone else in the league? That's impressive, and if ballot deadlines had been after Jamell Fleming's reinstatement, Oklahoma might have had 10 guys on the team. My ballot had Oklahoma State leading the way with seven selections, followed by Texas A&M with six and Oklahoma with five. My ballot also only had six teams represented. The media's Bryce Brown vote put Kansas State on the board, making it seven teams represented on the official team.
Here's the next in our look at the Big 12 rankings by position: Running backs.

Last year's class was one of the best in recent history, but this year's class? Unassuming to begin the season. There are a few possible stars looming, but very, very little talent returning. Cyrus Gray ranked seventh in rushing yards last year (thanks to an insane finish), but he's the only player returning to the Big 12 from the conferences' top 10 rushers in 2010.

That's nuts.

The Aggies are the only team with a truly elite backfield tandem, though I could see Oklahoma and/or Oklahoma State joining that group by the end of the year.

The rest of the league? Every team has at least a couple of players to get excited about, and teams 5-10 are all pretty close. No one is really understaffed at the position, but obviously, they're fit to be ranked.

Here's where I have them:

1. Texas A&M

[+] EnlargeTexas A&M's Cyrus Gray
AP Photo/Eric GayCyrus Gray had at least 100 yards rushing in each of A&M's final seven games last season.
I wouldn't have been surprised if Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael were the Big 12's top leading returning rushers this year, but a midseason injury from Michael prevented it from happening. Regardless, his return gives Texas A&M by far the best tandem in the Big 12, and arguably the best in the country. When Mister Jones isn't cranking the Counting Crows on his stereo, he's a pretty good reserve, alongside Ben Malena, who impressed me on my visit to College Station this spring.

2. Oklahoma

Oklahoma will try and replace do-everything forever (or whatever) back DeMarco Murray with a platoon likely led by shifty Florida native Roy Finch. True freshman Brandon Williams made a big impact in spring camp, and Brennan Clay will likely earn a few touches, too. Health concerns raise questions about a pair of other OU backs' knees (Jermie Calhoun, Jonathan Miller), but walk-on Dominique Whaley led the team in rushing in the spring game.

3. Oklahoma State

The Cowboys have a great pair in sophomores Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith, and a nice set of backs to spell them if needed, too. Kye Staley, once a top-flight recruit, returned this spring after quitting the team following a severe knee injury, and might earn a few touches this spring. Also, Abilene, Texas, native and 2011 ESPNU 150 signee Herschel Sims arrives this fall and may jockey for time and the opportunity to shed a redshirt.

4. Missouri

What the Tigers lack in a truly elite back, they have in depth. Missouri has four backs who are all capable of being very good in the Big 12, even though neither of the four topped 600 yards a year ago. A big reason for that was none of the four got more than 100 carries, but with the carries they did get, every back averaged more than five yards per carry. The platoon approach works for Missouri, but senior De'Vion Moore and junior Kendial Lawrence will lead the way with sophomores Henry Josey and Marcus Murphy not far behind.

5. Kansas

[+] EnlargeKansas' James Sims
John Rieger/US PRESSWIREJames Sims is the No. 2 returning rusher in the Big 12 this season.
Running back will be a strength for Kansas next year, who might have found a second back this spring that perfectly complements power runner James Sims, a rising sophomore who racked up 742 yards last year after not playing in the opener. Believe it or not, he's the Big 12's No. 2 returning rusher, behind A&M's Gray. Darrian Miller burst onto the scene this spring, and figures to be a big part of the team in the fall. I see him being the Jayhawks' biggest home-run threat. DeShaun Sands and Brandon Bourbon offer even more depth at the position.

6. Texas Tech

The Red Raiders lose backfield constant Baron Batch, but have a good group lined up for 2011. Tommy Tuberville's effort to establish a more efficient running game is a realistic possibility with Eric Stephens as the likely feature back, and Aaron Crawford, Ben McRoy and Harrison Jeffers in the mix. True freshman Ronnie Daniels' strong spring likely earned him some time, too, rather than a redshirt.

7. Baylor

Baylor loses a 1,200-yard rusher in Jay Finley, and figures to use a thunder-and-lightning approach with 6-foot, 240-pound bowling ball Terrance Ganaway and shifty, 5-foot-9, 205-pound Jarred Salubi. Glasco Martin, a more balanced back, may earn a few carries, too. Regardless of who has the ball, life is good for Baylor backs, who get a bit more room from defenses that are forced to respect Robert Griffin III's legs.

8. Kansas State

The Wildcats' top two rushers, including two-time league rushing champ Daniel Thomas, are gone. Hopes are high for Wichita native and former blue-chip back Bryce Brown, but he's still entrenched in a position battle with John Hubert and Robert Rose heading into fall camp.

9. Texas

Texas brings back a pair of seniors in Fozzy Whittaker and Cody Johnson, but if the Longhorns are going to climb up this ladder by year's end (and they might) it's likely to be on the back of hyped incoming freshman Malcolm Brown, who is on campus and set to begin fall camp. D.J. Monroe might be the fastest player in the Big 12, but he'll have to master the nuances of pass blocking to get more than a few touches every game. Jeremy Hills can offer some depth at the position, too, after Tre Newton was forced to quit the game because of concussions.

10. Iowa State

Shontrelle Johnson showed some flash last year, but he still brings just 35 career carries into his 2011 effort to replace Alexander Robinson. Jeff Woody and James White offer a bit more depth, too. Florida native DeVondrick Nealy might get into the mix if he can put together a strong fall camp.

SPONSORED HEADLINES