NCF Nation: Danny Amendola
Baylor’s Tevin Reese and Antwan Goodley, however, have a chance to top that list.
But Reese and Goodley aren’t the only big-time duos in the Big 12 this year.
Kansas State’s Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett have been lighting it up since returning from injury. The last two weeks the two have totaled five touchdown catches.
Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard lead the Sooners with five touchdowns apiece. Texas Tech’s Eric Ward and Jakeem Grant are fifth and sixth in the league in receiving. Oklahoma State’s Josh Stewart and Tracy Moore are beginning to warm up with Clint Chelf at QB. And Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis have been stalwarts in this league for years.
But who are the best tandems ever to play Big 12? We lay it out below.
Tight ends were not included (sorry Jermaine Gresham and Chase Coffman). The tandems were evaluated on what they accomplished together, not on whether their careers simply overlapped (eliminating Jeremy Maclin and Danario Alexander, for example); and, this is a list for duos, not singles, trios or quartets (apologies to Rashaun Woods, and the 2008 Oklahoma and 2010 Baylor receiving corps).
To the list:
1. Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin, West Virginia (2012): In their only year in the league, this tandem was one-two in the Big 12 in receiving, combining for 224 receptions and 2,914 receiving yards. Bailey himself had 25 receiving touchdowns; nobody else in the league had more than 13. Austin, meanwhile, also rushed for 344 yards in one game at running back. As Bailey tweeted out earlier Monday morning on this topic, “case closed.”
2. Michael Crabtree and Danny Amendola, Texas Tech (2007): Crabtree got all the headlines in 2007 on his way to winning his first of two Biletnikoff awards. But out of the slot, Amendola quietly put up 109 receptions for 1,245 yards, as Tech went 9-4.
3. Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby, Texas (2008): Shipley and Cosby starred on one of the three best Big 12 teams that didn’t win a conference title. The two each had 1,000 receiving yards and double-digit TDs from QB Colt McCoy, as the Longhorns finished the year 12-1, their only loss coming on Crabtree’s game-winning touchdown in the final seconds in Lubbock. The two were also prolific on special teams, with Shipley’s kick return touchdown sparking Texas’ 45-35 comeback win over Oklahoma.
4. Justin Blackmon and Josh Cooper, Oklahoma State (2011): As with Crabtree-Amendola, Blackmon got all the attention on his way to a second Biletnikoff award. But Cooper was a pivotal piece in OSU’s first Big 12 title team, as he racked up 71 receptions out of the slot. Blackmon, of course, had a monster year with 121 catches and 18 touchdowns.
5. Kendall Wright and Terrance Williams, Baylor (2011): Reese was actually the third wheel to this duo, which shined with RGIII at quarterback. Wright was an All-American with 108 catches, 1,663 yard and 14 touchdowns. Williams was big time, too, finishing fifth in the Big 12 in receiving before taking over the No. 1 role in 2012.
6. Ryan Broyles and Kenny Stills, Oklahoma (2010): Broyles led college football with 131 receptions on his way to becoming the all-time FBS leader in career catches. Stills broke OU’s freshman single-season receiving record, as the Sooners stormed back to capture the Big 12 crown after a pair of midseason losses.
7. Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas (2008): It might be difficult to remember now, but the Jayhawks used to play some ball. Meier tied Crabtree for second in the league with 97 receptions. Briscoe trailed only Dez Bryant with 1,402 receiving yards. This was an underrated duo.
8. Quincy Morgan and Aaron Lockett, Kansas State (1999): On one of the first passing teams in the Big 12, Morgan and Lockett shined. Morgan had 42 receptions for 1,007 yards and nine touchdowns and was a first-team all-conference selection. Lockett, Tyler Lockett's uncle, was a second-team all-league pick for the Wildcats, who went 11-1 and finished the year ranked sixth in the polls.
9. Jarrett Hicks and Joel Filani, Texas Tech (2005): Neither might be a household name around the Big 12 anymore, but these two were both first-team All-Big 12 selections in ’05 along with Iowa State WR Todd Blythe.
10. Mark Clayton and Travis Wilson, Oklahoma (2004): Clayton carried the moniker of best receiver in OU history until Broyles came around. Because of Adrian Peterson, Clayton’s numbers dipped in ’04, but he was still an All-American with 66 catches. Wilson led the Sooners with 11 TD grabs, as OU advanced to a second consecutive national championship game.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
An old recruiting adage says that college football is more about the Jimmys and the Joes than the Xs and the Os.
Texas Tech's defense is confounding that notion today, taking a group of unheralded recruits and combining them into one of the Big 12's most productive units.
The Tech defense isn't dotted by four- and five-star recruits. The Red Raiders don't consider internet rankings when they are filling in players for their defense.
"We recruit to fit our system," Texas Tech defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill said. "Coach Leach has always done that and we as a defense are doing it now, too. We go by film only and how we think guys will help in how we play defense."
Starting defensive end Jake Ratliff was an undersized tight end in high school in Lawton, Okla. Nose tackle Colby Whitlock got more notoriety as a state wrestling champion in Noble, Okla., than he did for football. Making his development even more intriguing is that Noble is only a couple of long touchdown passes away from Norman, where the Red Raiders will be playing for a shot at the Big 12 South title Saturday night against the Sooners.
And defensive end Brandon Williams, the Big 12's leader in sacks, was discovered playing defense and rebounding in a basketball game for his high school in Fort Worth.
"He must have weighed about 215 pounds at the time," McNeill said. "(Safeties coach) Carlos Mainord saw him playing basketball and thought he might be able to eventually help us."
After extensive work in college, Williams has blossomed into a 265-pound sacking specialist who has wreaked havoc on Big 12 offenses throughout his career. He's just another one of Tech's underrated defenders who came to the South Plains and got better.
Daniel Charbonnet arrived at Lubbock as a walk-on, mainly because of his friendship with former Texas Tech wide receiver Danny Amendola. He had started his career at Duke as a freshman starting cornerback who got homesick repeatedly losing with the Blue Devils. Charbonnet wanted to come home and Tech provided him that opportunity.
"I was looking around and Tech looked like the best place for me," said Charbonnet, who has combined with free safety Darcel McBath to contribute 11 interceptions this season. "It's worked out well for me. This is a great situation for me."
The Red Raiders' group of defensive overachievers has been the underrated component of a 10-0 team that is off to the best start for Texas Tech since 1938.
The defense almost was an afterthought in some of coach Mike Leach's early teams. But the installation of McNeill has helped them develop into a cohesive unit that meets the specifications of the coach.
"I think the key is more good, solid, overall defense," Leach said. "Just to not have flaws in your defense. Understand the other guy is going to get some yards, and then just outlast them and keep making plays
The little team that could has blossomed under McNeill's tutelage.
After taking over four games into last season -- after Tech was blistered for 49 points and 610 yards in a loss to Oklahoma State -- McNeill has built a defense in his vision.
His mantra is "fast legs and clear minds" and the Red Raiders are playing like it. He jokes that he took his original playbook of concepts and then cut it in half to enable his players to have a clearer understanding of his philosophy.
Over the last nine games last season, Tech was No. 1 in the Big 12 in total defense. This season, the Red Raiders are second and have been especially effective in recent weeks holding high-powered offenses like Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma State well below their averages for scoring and total offense.
"Their defense is playing with almost an offensive style," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said.
But the biggest challenge will come this week against Oklahoma, which leads the nation in scoring offense, is third in passing offense and fourth in total offense. Adding to the difficulty is that Oklahoma is 59-2 at home under Bob Stoops.
"You have a lot of confidence, but going to Norman is a tough place to play," Ratliff said. "This is a completely different team. And I wouldn't expect to see much of what they did last year. This will be two different teams going against each other."
McNeill utilizes one of the most basic philosophies in the Big 12. The Red Raiders like to sit back in a zone defense and make opposing offenses go the length of the field to beat them.
With Tech rarely making turnovers on offense and the Red Raiders' potent attack scoring a high probability of the time, it gives the Tech defense a unique advantage. If they can contribute two or three stops during the course of the game, they should be in good shape.
"It's a very good defense and very solid," Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford said. "There's lot of zone coverages they use. They try to force mistakes and end drives with their zone defense and don't make many mistakes. We're going to have to be disciplined and take what they give us within our system if we're going to be successful."