NCF Nation: Darius Reynolds

Big 12 position rankings: Receivers/TEs

February, 14, 2012
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We're continuing our look at the postseason rankings for each position in the Big 12. Here's a look back at where the receivers ranked in the preseason.

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

More postseason position rankings:
[+] EnlargeJustin Blackmon
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesJustin Blackmon highlighted Oklahoma State's deep group of receivers this season.
1. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys boasted two-time Biletnikoff winner Justin Blackmon, but he wasn't the only weapon. The Cowboys had nine (!) receivers with at least 19 catches and 200 yards receiving this season. Insane. Life is good with Brandon Weeden at quarterback.

2. Baylor: Kendall Wright actually outperformed Blackmon and Ryan Broyles on the stat sheet, catching 108 balls for 1,663 yards. The Bears didn't have the insane depth of OSU, but the trio of Wright, Terrance Williams (59 rec, 957 yards, 11 TDs) and Tevin Reese (51 rec, 877 yards, 7 TDs) were all in the Big 12's top seven receivers.

3. Texas A&M: Ryan Swope emerged to become one of just four Big 12 receivers to notch 1,000-yard seasons. Jeff Fuller's season was disappointing, but he still finished eighth in the league in receiving, and Uzoma Nwachukwu was in the league's top 15 in receiving.

4. Oklahoma: The Sooners weren't quite as solid as they thought to begin the season. Broyles was as advertised, though his Biletnikoff-contending season was cut short by a torn ACL. The unit was productive, but came down with the drops late in the season. Broyles and Kenny Stills were both in the league's top seven in receiving, and Jaz Reynolds caught 41 passes for 715 yards to crack the top 10.

5. Texas Tech: Tech's top target, Darrin Moore, battled injuries all year, but Eric Ward emerged as the team's most consistent target, catching 84 passes for 800 yards and 11 scores. Alex Torres missed two games, but added 616 more yards.

6. Missouri: The Tigers' receivers had their production dip with a dual-threat passer in James Franklin who ran the ball more than his predecessor, but they were still pretty good, despite lacking a true big-time threat. T.J. Moe caught 54 passes for 649 yards and four scores. Tight end Michael Egnew added 50 grabs for 523 yards and three scores. L'Damian Washington, Marcus Lucas and Wes Kemp had unremarkable individual seasons, but their production added up to a good year for Mizzou's receivers.

7. Kansas State: Kansas State was better than most thought to begin the season, but the ground-based offense limited their receivers' ability to finish with big production. Chris Harper (40 rec, 547 yards, 5 TDs) led the group. Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett showed some good promise, too.

8. Texas: The Longhorns could get really good, really fast at this spot. The uncertainty/struggles at quarterback limited this group, but Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis could both mature into absolute stars. For now, though, they didn't quite crack the top 15 in the Big 12 in receiving. Both topped 40 catches and 600 receiving yards.

9. Iowa State: Darius Reynolds' size downfield will be missed, but Aaron Horne and Josh Lenz are tough covers working the middle of the field. Reynolds caught seven touchdowns, and Horne and Lenz both topped 38 catches.

10. Kansas: Yikes. The Jayhawks didn't have a receiver in the league's top 20, but D.J. Beshears led the team with 40 grabs for 437 yards and three touchdowns. He was the only Jayhawk in the Big 12's top 32 in receiving.

Big 12 recruiting needs in 2012

January, 24, 2012
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Signing day is coming fast. Next Wednesday, the next round of players will sign up for their respective programs and start what could be storied careers.

Here's what each team across the Big 12 needs. You'll find Texas A&M and Mizzou on the SEC blog and West Virginia on the Big East Blog.

BAYLOR

Quarterback: This one's pretty simple. Robert Griffin III is taking his talents to the NFL early. Nick Florence is waiting to take over, and the Bears have Bryce Petty behind him, but more reinforcements at quarterback are needed. Dual-threat quarterbacks, ideally.

Defensive tackle: Baylor already was one of the nation's worst teams (102nd nationally) at stopping the run. Now it'll need to replace both its interior linemen, Nicolas Jean-Baptiste and Tracy Robertson.

Offensive linemen: Baylor's offensive line, meanwhile, has been solid. It loses junior college transfer and two-year starter Robert T. Griffin, as well as All-Big 12 center Philip Blake. John Jones, a reserve guard, also has exhausted his eligibility.

IOWA STATE

Receiver: This has been a weak spot for the team for several years, and its top overall talent, Darius Reynolds, is gone. Darius Darks is, too. Aaron Horne and Josh Lenz will be the team's best weapons in 2012, but the pair of shifty slot guys will be seniors. This position needs reinforcements.

Defensive back: The DBs have been a quiet strength for ISU, especially in 2011. Cornerback Leonard Johnson and safety Ter'Ran Benton both have exhausted their eligibility, though, and defensive backs coach Bobby Elliott left for Notre Dame. You'll see plenty of new faces in the Cyclones' secondary next year.

Defensive line: Experienced starters Stephen Ruempolhamer and Jacob Lattimer are both gone, and Iowa State has struggled to stop the run consistently the past few seasons.

KANSAS

Quarterback: Kansas landed high-profile transfers Dayne Crist (Notre Dame) and Jake Heaps (BYU), but this is still a huge position of need. Last year's starter, Jordan Webb, left the team. Quinn Mecham is out of eligibility. Heaps is sitting out his NCAA-mandated year after transferring. Crist is the starter, but he badly needs a backup, especially if Brock Berglund's transfer appeal allows him to leave.

Wide receiver: Kansas lacks a big threat at this position. It needs a talent upgrade in a big way. Oklahoma transfer Justin McCay is joining the team, but he's no guarantee to a) be granted immediate eligibility or b) become an impact player.

Defensive tackle: Kansas is thin here, too. Richard Johnson, Patrick Dorsey and Michael Martinovich are gone, and Kansas couldn't stop much of anything on defense. Some push up front could help make everything look better. A late addition to the 2012 class from a junior college seems like a no-brainer. The Jayhawks need physically mature players to contribute immediately.

KANSAS STATE

Offensive line: K-State's offensive line was much better in 2011 and could be again in 2012. It needs help replacing All-Big 12 lineman Clyde Aufner, though. Starter Colten Freeze is also gone.

Defensive line: Kansas State is bringing back about as many starters as anyone in the Big 12, but the biggest losses are along the defensive line. Kick-blocking specialist (five in 2011) Ralph Guidry is gone, along with tackle Ray Kibble. Juco transfer Jordan Voelker exploded onto the scene this year, but he's gone, too.

Defensive backs: Cornerback David Garrett leaves a huge hole behind. Tysyn Hartman may not be as talented as teammate Ty Zimmerman, but his experience leaves a big hole. Zimmerman will have to mentor a younger safety in the near future.

OKLAHOMA

Receiver: The Sooners are thin here in a big way. That was obvious late in the season when Ryan Broyles' storied college career ended a few weeks early with a knee injury. The team also lost Justin McCay (transfer) to Kansas. Jaz Reynolds and Kenny Stills are the likely top two targets, but they need help.

Tight end: This position inspired a bit of panic at the end of the season. Seniors James Hanna and Trent Ratterree are gone. Austin Haywood wasn't allowed back on the team, and two more tight ends left the team for various reasons. That left the Sooners suddenly without a scholarship player at the position returning in 2012.

Offensive line: Starting tackle Donald Stephenson must be replaced, as will guard Stephen Good, who moved in and out of the starting lineup throughout his career. The Sooners bring back a lot of talent and aren't dying for depth there, but those two will leave holes. Three more offensive line starters will be seniors in 2012.

OKLAHOMA STATE

Offensive line: The Cowboys need a whole lot of help here to fill in behind young players stepping into the starting lineup. Starters Levy Adcock, Nick Martinez and Grant Garner are gone. Backup center Casey LaBrue is gone, too. Those are two All-Big 12 linemen who leave big shoes to be filled.

Receiver: Justin Blackmon surprised no one by leaving a year early, and Josh Cooper leaves with perhaps the most underrated career of any receiver in school history. In OSU's offense, there's always room for depth here. Nine receivers had at least 19 catches in 2011. Blackmon and Cooper combined for 192, though.

Defensive ends: The pass rush was solid for Oklahoma State this year, but both starters, Jamie Blatnick and Richetti Jones, are gone. Replacing both is a necessity.

TEXAS

Receiver: Texas lacks a true game-changer at the position, though Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis may develop into that role in 2012. Former blue-chip recruit Darius White left for Missouri, too.

Quarterback: David Ash and Case McCoy didn't show a ton of potential at quarterback this year, though Ash may grow with an offseason to prepare as starter. Garrett Gilbert got a big chunk of the work in the spring, summer 7-on-7 and fall preseason camp. Even if Ash does grow, the Longhorns need reinforcements at the position.

Linebacker: Two senior impact players are gone. Texas is left trying to replace Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson, though Jordan Hicks may mature into a star in 2012.

TCU

Offensive line: TCU's offensive line is headed for some major turnover. OT Robert Deck, OG Kyle Dooley and OG Spencer Thompson are gone. Two more starters, OG Blaize Foltz and C James Fry, will be seniors in 2012.

Defensive linemen: TCU isn't losing a lot at this spot, but Ross Forrest and D.J. Yendrey will be seniors in 2012. The Horned Frogs would be well-served to prepare, and offer some depth next year.

Specialists: TCU will have to break in a pair of new starters on special teams next season. Kicker Ross Evans and punter Anson Kelton have exhausted their eligibility.

TEXAS TECH

Receiver: The Red Raiders' offense requires a lot of depth here. Tramain Swindall is the only loss at the position, but three more (Alex Torres, Cornelius Douglas, Darrin Moore) will be seniors. Douglas moved to cornerback this year after the team was racked with injury, but we'll see whether he moves back this offseason.

Offensive line: Tech has a huge need here. Four players won't be returning in 2012. Lonnie Edwards, Mickey Okafor and center Justin Keown must be replaced.

Defensive linemen: Tech's Donald Langley and Scott Smith are both out of eligibility, and juco transfer Leon Mackey will be a senior.

The Big East ended the Big 12's perfect record in bowls by way of the 27-13 Rutgers win over Iowa State in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, played Friday inside Yankee Stadium.

Iowa State fought late, but it's a solid win for the Scarlet Knights, playing only about an hour away from their campus.

How the game was won: Rutgers climbed out of an early 6-0 hole with a 17-point second quarter to take control of the game. The Scarlet Knights used a powerful running game to dominate Iowa State's front seven, while Iowa State's offense sputtered for much of the final three quarters.

Turning point: Iowa State made it interesting with a 20-yard touchdown run by Jeff Woody to cut the lead to 20-13, and the Cyclones got the ball back. But after a punt, Chas Dodd hit 6-foot-6 Brandon Coleman for an 86-yard touchdown with 5:47 to play. That basically wrapped this one up. Matching up 5-foot-7 Jeremy Reeves against Coleman? Not a great idea.

The Cyclones had a drive reach the red zone, but a fourth-down pass to Darius Reynolds in the end zone fell incomplete.

Stat of the game: This one was the antithesis of a thrilling nightcap Thursday, won by Baylor over Washington, 67-56. These two teams combined to convert just four of 26 third downs. So many punts. So few first downs.

Stat of the game 2: Rutgers won the turnover battle 3-0.

Player of the game: Jawan Jamison, RB, Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights averaged just 91.5 yards per game on the ground entering today's game. Only five teams in college football were worse, but Jamison's diminutive size (5-foot-8, 198 pounds) didn't prevent him from bruising the ISU defense and running hard for 134 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. He had topped that production only once all season, with a 200-yard game in a win over Cincinnati. He and the Rutgers' running game took control in the second half.

Best call: Iowa State got off to a nice start with a gutsy move from coach Paul Rhoads. He faked a field goal on fourth-and-2 from Rutgers' 31-yard line on his second possession of the game. Holder Brett Bueker narrowly got the first down, and extended the drive by taking the snap and running straight ahead. It swung momentum, but after a sack, Iowa State had to settle for a field goal just 3 yards closer, which gave it a 6-0 lead. The Cyclones didn't score again until Woody's touchdown.

Second guessing: Rhoads' reluctance/refusal to put Jared Barnett back in the game after benching him for Steele Jantz. Jantz had a few nice runs to spark the offense when he came in, but he didn't help the offense convert very many third downs and wasn't much of an improvement over Barnett, who struggled early, completing just two of seven passes for 23 yards. Jantz's passes sailed on him for much of the night, while Barnett most often threw passes at receivers' shoelaces. Not a sharp day for the ISU quarterbacks. Barnett was a bit gimpy when he left the game in the first half, but if he was capable of playing, why not give him another shot in the second half?

Jantz finished 15-of-31 for 197 yards and two interceptions.

Well wishes: Big East defensive player of the year Khaseem Greene announced his plans to stay at Rutgers another year, rather than enter the NFL draft. The junior linebacker went down with an ugly right leg injury late in the fourth quarter, though, after a hit on Jantz. It didn't look good, and he was attended to by trainers on the field for several minutes, while in obvious pain. His teammates came on the field to encourage Greene before he left on a cart with his right leg in an air cast.

What it means: This wasn't the way Iowa State offensive coordinator Tom Herman wanted to go out. He'll leave Iowa State to join Urban Meyer's staff as his offensive coordinator and playcaller at Ohio State next season. Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads was denied his second bowl win in three years, but Rutgers coach Greg Schiano won his fifth consecutive bowl game.

Jantz also failed to recapture his fourth-quarter magic from early in the season. He quarterbacked the Cyclones to three fourth-quarter comebacks against Northern Iowa, Iowa and UConn, but the effort wasn't enough in this one.

Record performance: In the first half, Rutgers junior receiver Mohamed Sanu snatched the school record for receptions. He finished his season with 210 career catches, breaking running back Brian Leonard's record.


Shaky start for the Cowboys in this one, and it hasn't gone how Oklahoma State would like, but the Cowboys are in a good spot, leading 17-7 after a mistake-filled first half that featured a couple big plays.

Time for some analysis.

Turning point: Iowa State quarterback Jared Barnett converted a third down with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Darius Reynolds to pull the Cyclones within 10-7 midway through the second quarter. Barnett's thrown the ball a bit more than Iowa State would probably like, and he's been streaky while his receivers have been plagued by drops, but no pass was bigger than that one, and showed that the Cyclones meant business.

Stat of the half: Oklahoma State has 20 rushing yards on eight carries, and one of those carries went for 10 yards. Slowing the Cowboys offense is one of college football's most difficult tasks, but stopping the running game from rolling is the best way to make it manageable and give your defense a chance to make plays. Iowa State's linebackers have been outstanding.

Best player in the half: Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State. Weeden's been given all kinds of time by his offensive line, and he's made the Iowa State defense pay while the Cowboys have struggled running the ball. He's completed 23 of 30 passes for 267 yards and a touchdown. Despite being in just his second year as a starter, Weeden also broke the school record for career passing yards.

What Oklahoma State needs to do: Iowa State is in the game because of turnovers. Joseph Randle coughed up a fumble near midfield and Weeden threw an interception deep in ISU territory because he was pressured and forced an uncomfortable throw off his back foot. Chances are OSU scores on at least one of those drives and this game looks different without those miscues. The second-half objective should be obvious, then. OSU hasn't run the ball well and the Cowboys went with Jeremy Smith after the Randle fumble. Simply put, Oklahoma State does not lose this game if it plays a turnover-free second half.

What Iowa State needs to do: It's a scary proposition, but it must keep bringing the heat on Weeden and try to force him to make mistakes. The defensive line is getting no pressure when the Cyclones don't blitz, and Weeden will torch any defense with that kind of time — to say nothing of a defense like Iowa State's, which is far from elite. When ISU has blitzed, good things have happened. Keep doing it, and you might give up a big play, but you might make a few with blitzes. Iowa State's not going to win letting Weeden pick them apart. It slowed down the blitzes late in the second half and Weeden found his rhythm and started hitting on throws all over the field.

Furthermore, if OSU gives up turnovers in the second half, Iowa State has to take advantage. Neither first-half turnover cost Oklahoma State any points.

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 9

October, 27, 2011
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Here's what I'm watching for in the Big 12 this weekend.

1. Kansas State Snydering so hard on Oklahoma. No risky plays for big losses. No head-scratching turnovers (seven in 2011, the fewest in the Big 12). No penalties (only OU has fewer than K-State's 41) and opportunistic special teams and defense. Oklahoma's more talented, but K-State has put itself in position to win games this year ... and then won them. I'd be surprised if K-State wasn't in position to win another game via Snyderball.

[+] EnlargeBill Snyder
Michael C. Johnson/US PresswireWill Kansas State coach Bill Snyder have his team in position to win another game and remain unbeaten?
2. Bounce back for the Sooners' stars. Landry Jones' accuracy was off last week against Texas Tech. Ryan Broyles had a dropped pass and an inexplicable fumble that we haven't seen from him often, if ever. Kansas State's defense will be better than Tech, but will the Sooners' offense rebound? Those two will need to make it happen.

3. RG3 on the loose. Oklahoma State fans love noting that the most-often statuesque Brandon Weeden (19 yards) outrushed the track star Robert Griffin III (15) in last year's win over Baylor. Will that be the case again? Or will RG3 go back to having success as a true dual threat?

4. Brandon Weeden's complementary threats. The Cowboys think Justin Blackmon is going to play after getting "dinged" in the head last week and undergoing concussion tests this week. If he does, he won't have Hubert Anyiam with him. Isaiah Anderson slides into his role, but does Weeden look Josh Cooper's way more without his fellow No. 2 target?

5. Which Kansas shows up? Texas is a winnable game for KU, but the Jayhawks went from showing some fight for a game and a half against OU and Kansas State to getting trounced in the second half. A win on Saturday would be the biggest for Turner Gill at Kansas, and would go a long way toward inspiring some confidence in the future. The Jayhawks are just 1-18 in their past 19 Big 12 games, dating back to the final seven games of 2009, before Gill arrived.

6. The Texas quarterback shuffle. Case McCoy and David Ash have split reps in practice this week, despite Ash playing the entirety of a loss to Oklahoma State two weeks ago. Does anyone make a case for himself as the full-time starter this week against Kansas? Or does this dance continue? My bet is the latter.

7. Texas Tech's receivers. Darrin Moore was on the field, but clearly not healthy against Oklahoma last week. Alex Torres and Eric Ward picked up the slack very nicely. Does the offense get another boost as Moore returns to being the big-play weapon he was in the first couple of games this season?

8. Jared Barnett. Iowa State's freshman quarterback is making his first start, after filling in with lots of good moments and a few bad ones against Texas A&M last week. Can Darius Reynolds help out after struggling last week, and can Josh Lenz keep making plays to help the Cyclones pull the upset?

9. Big plays, but for whom? Texas A&M might have the most fascinating defense in the country this year -- leading the nation in sacks, but giving up more passing yards than anyone. Which does Missouri quarterback James Franklin see more of on Saturday? It'll be a tough atmosphere, but these are two of the best rushing teams in the league.

10. S-E ... see? I mean, this just has to be awkward. Do Texas A&M fans and Missouri fans engage in a flirtatious S-E-C chant? Does either team begin a misguided taunt before realizing the other is coming with them? Hopefully there's some pregame conversations to discuss chanting logistics.

Cyclones should go with Barnett at QB

October, 22, 2011
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An 0-of-4 start with an interception meant an early hook for Steele Jantz in Iowa State's 33-17 loss to Texas A&M.

In his place, a freshman: Jared Barnett.

Barnett wasn't great, finishing 16-of-36 for 180 yards and no touchdowns. But a bigger number was the zero in the interception column.

He carried the ball 13 times for 66 yards, too.

Jantz has struggled with turnovers all season, throwing nine interceptions (the most in the Big 12) to just 10 touchdowns in six games.

Barnett didn't get much help from his receivers Saturday, who struggled with drops. His top target, Darius Reynolds, had just one catch for seven yards and dropped an easy pass down the middle of the field late in the first half that likely would have led to points.

Josh Lenz, though, stepped in with a career day, catching eight passes for 117 yards for his first 100-yard day.

Jantz has to progress as a passer, but it's clear Barnett isn't far behind. Jantz is battling a foot injury as well.

Barnett made plays and kept his team in the game. Not something you would expect from a freshman playing in his first meaningful game. Who knows how Barnett will grow if the Cyclones keep him at the helm and give him his first start next week.

Jantz is a junior, but the juco transfer is playing his first season of major-college football, too.

Iowa State doesn't have a ton of firepower offensively, and it can't afford to have possessions end in turnovers, even if Jantz's fourth-quarter heroics pushed the Cyclones to a 3-0 start.

Barnett didn't turn the ball over on Saturday, and until he does, he shouldn't have to turn the job over either.

ISU quarterback play subpar in Ames

October, 22, 2011
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Steele Jantz got benched without completing a pass, including an interception in his first four attempts.

After a strong start, Jared Barnett has completed just 6-of-19 passes for 52 yards and ISU trails, 30-14.

He's not gotten much help with a handful of drops, including a perfectly thrown deep ball near the end of the first half.

The team's leading receiver, Darius Reynolds, dropped that ball and doesn't have a catch today.

Josh Lenz has been a bright spot, with six catches for 92 yards, the only Cyclone with more than one catch.

Iowa State had to score points to stay in this game. That starts with the quarterback play.

The Cyclones haven't been good enough at that position today to threaten Texas A&M.

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 3

September, 18, 2011
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Time to hand out a few awards for some late-arriving action in the Big 12.

Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma: Stills made the biggest catch of the season thus far in the Big 12, hauling in a 37-yard touchdown pass over Florida State's Greg Reid on a jump ball in the fourth quarter. The game was tied, and Florida State had just erased a 10-point deficit. The crowd was the loudest it had been all night. And Stills came through. He finished with seven catches for 125 yards (both game highs) and a touchdown in OU's 23-13 win.

Henry Josey, RB, Missouri: Josey was the last man standing in Mizzou's banged-up backfield, and ran for an insane 263 yards and three touchdowns on just 14 carries. Unreal. That's an average of 18.8 yards per carry and the Tigers led by 42 at halftime in the 69-0 win over Western Illinois.

Seth Doege, QB, Texas Tech: Doege's day already got its own post, and this helmet sticker is a mere formality by now. He completed 40 of 44 passes for 401 yards and five scores in Texas Tech's 59-13 win over New Mexico. That's a completion percentage of 90.1 percent, which broke Tech QB Kliff Kingsbury's record.

Darius Reynolds, WR, Iowa State: Reynolds was the Cyclones' top performer, and, like Stills, came through in huge spots for the Cyclones. He scored the game-winning touchdown on a 20-yard catch-and-run that featured a hurdle over two defenders on the way to the end zone. He also caught a 40-yard touchdown pass on a trick play. He finished with four catches for 128 yards and two scores in Iowa State's 24-20 win over Connecticut on Friday night.

Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor: Two games, two helmet stickers for the Baylor QB. His night was done by the time weather abbreviated the Bears' 48-0 win over Stephen F. Austin, but he completed 20 of 22 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 78 yards on eight carries. Griffin now has eight touchdown passes and eight incompletions in two games. His offense has hung an average of 49 points a game, too.

Instant analysis: Iowa State 24, UConn 20

September, 16, 2011
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That was an ugly 60 minutes, but Iowa State got a big 24-20 road win in East Hartford, Conn., over the reigning Big East champs, Connecticut.

Some instant analysis for you:

How the game was won: Iowa State trailed 10-0 early on, just as it did against Iowa last week. The Cyclones took a third-quarter lead and earned it back in the fourth quarter with their third consecutive fourth-quarter comeback and a 24-20 win. Quarterback Steele Jantz threw three interceptions on his first four pass attempts, and suffered what looked like an ugly lower leg injury just before halftime, but bounced back for a strong second half.

Turning point: Iowa State gave up a 39-yard touchdown pass to Kashif Moore in the fourth quarter that gave the Huskies a 20-17 lead on a pass that should have been intercepted by Jeremy Reeves. Iowa State answered with an eight-play, 65-yard drive to take a 24-20 lead, capped by an acrobatic catch on the sideline by an outstretched Josh Lenz followed by a catch, run and hurdle over two defenders for a 20-yard touchdown catch by Darius Reynolds.

Stat of the game: Steele Jantz started the game 0-of-4 with three interceptions, and suffered an injury just before half. He bounced back from both to finish 18-of-29 for 200 yards and a touchdown, with no turnovers in the game's final three quarters. The Cyclones forced three turnovers and took care of the ball after the rough start.

Player of the game: Iowa State receiver Darius Reynolds. Every pass he caught was huge. He hauled in a 48-yard catch in the second quarter to get Iowa State's offense going on the first touchdown drive. Then he caught a 40-yard pass from fellow receiver Josh Lenz for a touchdown before scoring the game winner in the fourth. He also extended a fourth-quarter drive with a 20-yard catch on a third down. He finished with four catches for 128 yards and two scores.

Best call: Needing a jolt early in the third quarter, Iowa State ran a reverse pass from Lenz to Reynolds to take a 14-10 lead.

What Iowa State learned: Once again, early struggles and fourth-quarter deficits won't be enough to keep the Cyclones down. In all three wins this year, the Cyclones have trailed early and erased a fourth-quarter deficit to win. The word of the night, as always with Iowa State: Resiliency.

What it means: Iowa State starts 3-0 for the first time since 2005 and will take next week off before Texas visits on Oct. 1. Iowa State had a difficult nonconference schedule, but it beat the Huskies and rival Iowa to maintain perfection. Can the Cyclones reach a bowl game? We'll find out soon, but a 3-0 start is exactly what had to happen if ISU was going to reach the postseason as it did in 2009, when it beat Minnesota in the Insight Bowl.

Another game-changing Jantz drive

September, 10, 2011
9/10/11
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Last week, Steele Jantz twice led Iowa State's offense to go-ahead, fourth-quarter touchdowns in a win against Northern Iowa.

He's tied this week's game against Iowa at 24 with just over a minute left by making a handful of huge plays.

The first-year starter, a junior college transfer, is growing up fast and making Iowa State fans swoon.

He scrambled to throw a 45-yard touchdown pass to a wide open receiver, but it was called back for holding.

No problem, he hit Darius Reynolds for a 40-yard gain on the next play. He also converted a fourth-and-inches on a quarterback draw. Last week he scored the game-winning touchdown against Northern Iowa on a sneak at the goal line.

Facing third-and-goal, a called jump-pass failed, but Jantz ad-libbed, slipped out of a tackle and rolled right for an four-yard touchdown pass to Darius Darks that tied the game.

It's been a heck of a game, and just like Missouri last night, we're headed for bonus football.

Missouri's James Franklin, another first-year starter, showed major progress in last night's game. Jantz has done the same so far. He's proved his ability as a playmaker against a good Iowa team.

Jantz is 21-of-31 for 254 yards and three touchdowns.

Fumbilitis ends with Iowa State happy

September, 10, 2011
9/10/11
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I don't know if there was excessive butter on the corn supplied by game sponsor Iowa Corn, but it got pretty sloppy in the second quarter.

Iowa State was driving, but Shontrelle Johnson fumbled and the Hawkeyes recovered. But two plays later, Iowa's Marcus Coker answered with a fumble of his own, setting up an Iowa State touchdown to bring the game within 10-7.

Steele Jantz hit Darius Reynolds on the left side of the end zone for an 11-yard score on third down.

It's been a nice rebound after some very frustrating plays for the Cyclones, who are right back in this game.

The string of fumbles was a bit crazy, but Iowa State's defense has looked much better in this quarter. The Cyclones set up that drive with a punt inside the 10-yard line and a three-and-out to force a punt.
The Big 12 might be weak at the top of the running back heap, but it's definitely not at receiver. The conference has at least three of the top five receivers in the country, and the top two. They highlight a very strong group of receivers across the league, and I continue our position rankings with receivers today.

Remember that depth plays a big part of these rankings. We'll be ranking the top 10 individuals at each position later on before the season begins.

Other position rankings: 1. Oklahoma

[+] EnlargeRyan Broyles
J.P. Wilson/Icon SMIRyan Broyles finished the 2010 season with 131 catches for 1,622 yards and 14 touchdowns.
The Sooners have the nation's No. 2 receiver, Ryan Broyles, but found a handful of others to surround him in 2010 and should have a couple more in 2011. Sophomore Kenny Stills broke Broyles' freshman receiving record and looks like a budding star. Dejuan Miller came on strong before a season-ending knee injury, but he's back. The Sooners lose Cameron Kenney, but Trey Franks had a strong freshman campaign, and freshmen Justin McCay (redshirt) and Trey Metoyer could provide even more playmakers.

2. Oklahoma State

The Cowboys boast the returning Biletnikoff Award winner and 2011 favorite, Justin Blackmon, with a great group around him, too. Slot machine Josh Cooper returns for his senior year, and fellow senior Hubert Anyiam (the team's leading receiver in 2009) is hoping to return to form after being slowed by an ankle injury in 2010. Isaiah Anderson is a shifty speedster, while Michael Harrison and Tracy Moore offer a more aerial approach to receiving.

3. Texas A&M

The Aggies have the Big 12's No. 3 receiver, Jeff Fuller, who is arguably one of the top-five in the college game. But they also have the Big 12's most experienced receiving unit, with guys who won't be surprised by anything they see in Big 12 play. Juniors Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu are the team's second and third options, but fellow juniors Kenric McNeal and Brandal Jackson could be bigger pieces of the offense in 2011. Tight end Nehemiah Hicks should see his profile rise in his coming sophomore year.

4. Baylor

Top target Kendall Wright will likely end his career as the Bears' leading receiver for all four of his seasons on the field, and 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior Josh Gordon looks like the new Jeff Fuller. Terrance Williams, Lanear Sampson and Tevin Reese round out the Bears' top five, who all had at least 40 catches last season, and all return.

5. Missouri

Missouri still lacks a proven big-play threat, but has two pass-catchers who have some of the best hands in the game. Receiver T.J. Moe and tight end Michael Egnew won't drop many passes, and combined to catch 182 for 1,807 yards and 11 touchdowns. Wes Kemp and Jerrell Jackson bring a lot of experience and both had at least 39 catches last season. If Marcus Lucas or Rolandis Woodland can become a consistent downfield threat, Missouri will rise up these rankings by season's end.

6. Texas Tech

Tech's top two receivers, Lyle Leong and Detron Lewis, must be replaced, but the Red Raiders have a few solid candidates to do it. Junior Alex Torres will likely lead the group, but fellow junior Austin Zouzalik and seniors Jacoby Franks and Tramain Swindall will be counted on for more production. Dark horse/juco newcomer Marcus Kennard could blossom into a household name across the Big 12 by season's end.

7. Texas

Sophomore Mike Davis and redshirt freshman Darius White are loaded with potential, but two of the team's top three receivers (James Kirkendoll, John Chiles) are gone, and no Texas receiver caught more than two touchdowns last season. Malcolm Williams and Marquise Goodwin are as different as two receivers could be, but both need to break out to help whoever becomes the Longhorns quarterback next fall.

8. Kansas State

Brodrick Smith will be back this season after breaking his leg in a loss to Nebraska. But two of the team's top three receivers are gone, leaving converted quarterback Chris Harper as the leading returner, though Smith might have held that title if he'd stayed healthy. Sophomore speedster Tramaine Thompson can make plays if he gets the ball with some space.

9. Iowa State

The Cyclones will be breaking in a new quarterback this season and they will need a playmaker to step up. Tight end Collin Franklin led team in receiving last season but he is now gone. Darius Reynolds looks like a possible candidate to fill the role, although incoming slot receiver Aaron Horne might rack up a few catches in space. Darius Darks and Josh Lenz should earn some more targets too.

10. Kansas

Converted defensive back Daymond Patterson is the team's top receiver, but the team's No. 3 receiver junior Bradley McDougald, moved to safety in the middle of the season. Tight end Tim Biere is one of the Big 12's best and led the team with four touchdowns last season. Chris Omigie and D.J. Beshears have some potential, and converted quarterback Christian Matthews keeps showing up in spring games. But all three, along with the rest of the group, would benefit from some consistency at the quarterback spot.
We took a look earlier today at five players with the most to prove in the Big 12. Here are five more from the remaining Big 12 programs.

Darius Reynolds, WR, Iowa State

Reynolds was a highly-recruited juco prospect, but broke his leg after a strong start to the 2009 season and caught just 25 passes in 2010. This spring, coach Paul Rhoads went out of his way to note the improvement his 6-foot-3, 190-pound receiver made, and the Cyclones need him to prove Rhoads right. These receivers were the worst in the Big 12 in 2010, and they'll be breaking in a new quarterback in 2011. Can Reynolds prove he's a viable go-to receiver in this league?

Bryce Brown, RB and Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State

There's no question about this one. This pair, despite not playing a down of Big 12 football yet, have attracted a ton of attention because of their accomplishments in high school back in Wichita and their modest careers at Miami (Arthur Brown) and Tennessee (Bryce Brown). But none of that matters now. Can these two prove they're more than just recruiting hype, and get Kansas State back in the postseason?

[+] EnlargeLandry Jones
Tim Heitman/US PresswireLandry Jones passed for 4,718 yards and 38 touchdowns for Oklahoma last season.
Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma

Jones made big strides as a sophomore in 2010, both as a passer and a leader, but there's no getting past his struggles. He's prone to bad stretches and questionable decisions, and a fourth quarter at Missouri and the first half against Texas A&M cost Oklahoma two losses in 2010. If the Sooners are going to win the national title in 2011, Jones will have to be the guy to lead them there, and those kinds of lapses can't happen. Can he prove he's past them, and give the program its eighth national title and, perhaps, its sixth Heisman winner?

Garrett Gilbert, QB, Texas

I don't recall a player falling further short of his hype as Gilbert did in 2011. Place the blame (media, Gilbert, Greg Davis, Texas O-line, Alabama's second-half defense, etc.) where you'd like, but nobody thought he'd be a player who threw 10 touchdowns to 17 interceptions in his first year as a starter. Now, he finds himself in a quarterback competition that might end with him on the bench. Can he prove he's the top-flight quarterback Texas recruited, or will he lose his job to a younger teammate?

Alex Torres, WR, Texas Tech

Torres had a huge freshman year (67 catches, 806 yards, 6 TD), but injuries kept him from getting going at the same rate as a sophomore in 2011, when he finished with just 39 catches for 481 yards and three scores. The Red Raiders top two receivers are gone now, though, and they'll be breaking in a new quarterback, Seth Doege. For Torres, now is the time. Can he prove he's capable of keeping the Texas Tech offense humming at the same rate it's done for the past decade and longer?
Springtime is almost here. And here's a look at what to expect across the Big 12 when it gets into full swing here in the next couple weeks.

BAYLOR BEARS

Spring practice starts: February 28

Spring game: April 2

What to watch:
  • Big changes on defense. Baylor brought in Phil Bennett as its new defensive coordinator, and he says his scheme will be multiple, built to fit the Bears' personnel. Considering the Bears' recent recruiting successes in the secondary, look for a 4-2-5 type of look.
  • Recruiting stars: time to shine. Both safeties, Tim Atchison and Byron Landor, are gone. Baylor, though, has two former ESPNU 150 recruits at safety who would be well served to start filling their potential. Prince Kent was a reserve last season and at one time, the nation's No. 51 overall recruit who originally signed with Miami. Ahmad Dixon, meanwhile, was the No. 15 overall prospect in the 2010 class. The opportunity is there. Baylor needs big talent at the position. Briles has recruited it. Can they develop into players who make Baylor a contender?
  • Running back competition. Jay Finley topped 1,200 yards in 2010, but he's gone. Who steps into his void? Terrance Ganaway is a bowling ball at 5-foot-11, 235 pounds, but the shifty Jarred Salubi could get a good amount of carries, too. They could begin to share carries this spring.
IOWA STATE CYCLONES

Spring practice starts: March 22

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Quarterback competition. It should be a good one in Ames this spring. Jerome Tiller is the name most recognize after getting lots of meaningful time and starts because of injuries to Austen Arnaud over the past two seasons. But juco transfer Steele Jantz sounds confident he can win the job. Rising sophomore James Capello and redshirt freshman Jared Barnett will compete, too.
  • Paging Cyclone receivers. Iowa State had one of the most underwhelming receiving corps in the league during the past season, and three of its top five pass-catchers won't return in 2011. Of those three, however, one is a tight end (Collin Franklin) and another is a running back (Alexander Robinson). The new quarterback will need some help, and Darius Darks and Darius Reynolds will need to provide it as seniors.
  • Shontrelle's time or not? Freshman Shontrelle Johnson looked like the running back with the most pop behind Robinson for most of 2010, but two other freshmen running backs jockeyed for carries, too. Paul Rhoads is hardly handing the job over to Johnson, but spring could be the time when he really separates himself from the pack.
KANSAS JAYHAWKS

Spring practice starts: April 1

Spring game: April 30

What to watch:
  • What are they doing behind center? Kansas never got much consistent play out of the quarterback position last year, but freshman Brock Berglund is one of the 2011 class' top recruits, and enrolled early to compete in the spring with Jordan Webb and Quinn Mecham. With a building program like Kansas, there's perhaps some value in handing the program to a younger player like Webb or Berglund, but they'll have to earn it. Doing so will start in the spring, but don't expect the Jayhawks to have a set-in-stone starter by spring's end.
  • Top linebacker back on the field. Huldon Tharp missed all of 2010 with a foot injury, but he says he's 100 percent and ready to get back on the field. As a freshman in 2009, he was fifth on the team in tackles, with 59, and looked like one of the league's possible budding stars. Now, he'll get his chance to join fellow linebacker Steven Johnson as one of the team's top tacklers, and he'll do it as a sophomore after redshirting in 2010.
  • Toben rising? Turner Gill raised plenty of eyebrows when he moved his team's leading rusher in 2009, Toben Opurum, to linebacker in fall camp, and eventually slid him up to defensive end. But toward the end of 2010, Opurum started showing some major signs of growth at the position. We'll get a better idea this spring if he's one of the league's most unlikely new stars at defensive end.
KANSAS STATE WILDCATS

Spring practice starts: April 6

Spring game: April 30

What to watch:
  • Prodigal Kansan sons come home. There's no doubt that the Wichita native Brown brothers are the main attraction at Kansas State this spring, a season after transferring back home. Bryce Brown, the running back, was the nation's No. 8 prospect in the 2009 class. Arthur Brown, the linebacker, was the nation's No. 6 prospect in the 2008 class. Bryce transferred from Tennessee and Arthur from Miami. The Wildcats are pinning much of their hopes on the duo, and we'll get a good sense of what they can provide soon.
  • Quarterback competition. Carson Coffman is gone, and two new faces will challenge for the job: juco transfer Justin Tuggle and Daniel Sams. Sammuel Lamur is also up for the gig. Collin Klein may or may not be; Bill Snyder hasn't explicitly confirmed a past comment from Sams saying Klein had moved to receiver. Don't expect a starter to be named by spring's end, but a general order could start to form.
  • Can the defense show improvement? Kansas State had the Big 12's worst overall defense last year, and the worst rushing defense in college football, giving up 3,008 yards on the ground. Coordinator Chris Cosh looks like he'll still be around in 2011, and defensive backs David Garrett and Tysyn Hartman are solid pieces to try and build around. But this young maturing defense must get better to make a bowl game again with so many questions on offense. That starts in the spring.
MISSOURI TIGERS

Spring practice starts: March 8

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Franklin comes alive! Blaine Gabbert bolted to the NFL early, and Missouri has a gaping hole a quarterback. The position, however, is surrounded by a lot of quality talent that likely makes the Tigers a Top 25 team. There's no understating the importance of the position for the Tigers, and that will begin to be decided in the spring. James Franklin, a rising sophomore, saw spot duty in 2010 as more of a runner, and may have the inside track on the job, but Tyler Gabbert, Blaine's younger brother, and Ashton Glaser should make it an interesting competition in the spring. If neither of them impress early, don't count out incoming freshman Corbin Berkstresser.
  • Here is the new secondary. Same as the old secondary? After years of pass defense being one of the Tigers' biggest weaknesses, it became a strength in 2010 behind the leadership of senior corners Kevin Rutland and Carl Gettis. But the Tigers lose them and safety Jarrell Harrison. Rutland emerged as one of the team's most impressive players last spring, but was Missouri's success in the secondary a one-time thing or the beginning of a welcome trend?
  • Time to dominate the trenches? Missouri played without likely first-round pick Aldon Smith for much of the previous season, but the defensive and offensive lines for the Tigers were as good as ever in 2010. How will they look in 2011? Impact juco transfer Sheldon Richardson won't be enrolled by the spring, but the four returning starters on the offensive line should get some solid work against Brad Madison, Jacquies Smith and Terrell Resonno.
OKLAHOMA SOONERS

Spring practice starts: March 21

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Freshmen on display. Coach Bob Stoops hasn't been shy about saying his 2010 recruiting class was his best ever, but it could look even better after this spring. Two of his best emerging recruits, Justin McCay and Geneo Grissom, didn't even play in 2010, and could start to make an impact. The same goes for Corey Nelson, who will try to earn some more time somewhere backing up star Travis Lewis.
  • Is there a golden boot in Norman? Jimmy Stevens was much more accurate in 2010, finishing 19-for-23, but his attempts outside 45 yards were sparse. The good news is he missed none of his 53 extra points. Field goals have been a bit of an adventure for the past couple years, but continuing in the spring what he started last year would be a good sign for Oklahoma. The Sooners are strong everywhere and need good special teams play to reach their lofty title goals.
  • Are the Sooners' backs back? Roy Finch missed the Fiesta Bowl with a stress fracture, and his durability is certainly questionable entering 2011. When he's healthy, he looks like the next star in the Sooners' backfield, but they'll need some depth behind the 5-foot-8, 173-pounder. Jermie Calhoun, Jonathan Miller and Brennan Clay have all looked good at times, but there should be some good competition from newcomers Brandon Wegher, an Iowa transfer who'll be in camp this spring and eligible next season, and blue-chip recruit Brandon Williams, who enrolled early.
OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS

Spring practice starts: March 7

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Every piece of the offense. The spring in Stillwater is all about keeping or improving upon the status quo. Had it kept Dana Holgorsen, there'd be little doubt that would happen, but Oklahoma State must make the most of its five returning offensive linemen, quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon. The opportunity for a historic season is there, but they'll have to pick up the nuances of the new offense quickly in the spring like they did last year.
  • What about the kicker? Dan Bailey won the Lou Groza Award as the nation's top kicker in 2010, but he's gone. Oklahoma State needs to fill that role quickly, and we'll likely know who will get the nod after the spring.
  • Who steps up on the defensive line? The Cowboys lose three starters up front on defense, including All-Big 12 performer Ugo Chinasa and tackles Chris Donaldson and Shane Jarka. Can senior Richetti Jones become a star in the Big 12? We'll have a good idea if he, or any of the Cowboys' other defensive linemen, can by the end of April.
TEXAS LONGHORNS

Spring practice starts: February 24

Spring game: April 3

What to watch:
  • New coaches and their students/players. Texas has five new coaches. Although it's hard to get a good read early on, how they relate with the players on the field, in the film room and around the facilities will have a big impact on how the 2011 season plays out in Austin. The young-blooded coordinators could serve themselves well by relating to players and the players will need to spend plenty of extra time learning new schemes and plays.
  • Quarterback competition ... or not? Mack Brown says the gig is open and it is, for now. Garrett Gilbert can close it with a strong spring. If Garrett struggles on the field or has difficulty grasping the new system, the door will be wide open for Connor Wood or Case McCoy to step in and close it. Gilbert didn't get much help, but he did very little in 2010 to inspire a lot of breathing room with McCoy and Wood clamoring for playing time.
  • And you've got to defend the pass, too. Texas loses its top three cornerbacks to the NFL, and only Carrington Byndom and A.J. White got much meaningful playing time last season. Younger players can earn some rare early playing time with a strong spring. Will anyone step up?
TEXAS A&M AGGIES

Spring practice starts: March 22

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • New linebackers in the running. Spring isn't so scary when you bring back nine defensive starters, but the two Texas A&M lost were the heart of its defense. Linebackers Michael Hodges and Von Miller are gone. Kyle Mangan didn't look fantastic when forced into action during the Cotton Bowl, but the time is now for Damontre Moore and Dominique Patterson, a pair of sophomores, to make their impact.
  • Tannehill's tuning things up. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill played about as well as anyone could have hoped late last season, but he'll need it to continue his performance with a solid spring nailing down the timing with his receivers, who all return. He's already got a leg up on last year's quarterback, Jerrod Johnson, who was held out of team drills last spring after shoulder surgery that eventually derailed his senior season.
  • Christine's back. Christine Michael missed the second half of the season with a broken leg, giving way to Cyrus Gray's rise among Big 12 backs. It should make Texas A&M's depth at the position even more impressive, but we'll see how Michael looks coming back from the injury.
TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS

Spring practice starts: February 19

Spring game: March 26

What to watch:
  • Past defending that pass defense. Texas Tech had the Big 12's worst pass defense last season, but has a pair of big potential players at cornerback in rising sophomores Tre Porter and Jarvis Phillips. Starters LaRon Moore and Franklin Mitchem are gone, but if returning starters Cody Davis and Will Ford can continue to mature, the defense should improve in the area most important for success in the Big 12.
  • And they're off! There's a four-man quarterback derby set in Lubbock this spring between Seth Doege, Jacob Karam, Michael Brewer and Scotty Young. I don't expect it to be settled until midway through fall camp, similar to last season, but there should be a solid front-runner and more clarity after spring. Coach Tommy Tuberville was extremely impressed with Doege and Karam last spring after Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield went down with injuries.
  • Time to find new stars. Most of the big names on Texas Tech's defense are gone. Colby Whitlock, Bront Bird, Brian Duncan will all continue their careers elsewhere. The leaders on the defense will have to begin to emerge in the spring. Is it Scott Smith? Cody Davis? A younger, unexpected player? We'll find out. Sometimes these types of situations aren't as easy to predict as they might seem, like Missouri's strength in 2010 emerging in the secondary.
Tags:

Baylor Bears, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas State Wildcats, Missouri Tigers, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Texas Longhorns, Texas A&M Aggies, Colby Whitlock, Brennan Clay, Christine Michael, Von Miller, Alexander Robinson, Chris Cosh, Steven Sheffield, Brandon Wegher, Turner Gill, James Franklin, Tysyn Hartman, Bill Snyder, Bront Bird, Case McCoy, Brandon Williams, Dan Bailey, Justin Blackmon, Franklin Mitchem, Richetti Jones, Connor Wood, Ryan Tannehill, Terrance Ganaway, Cody Davis, Travis Lewis, Cyrus Gray, Scotty Young, Chris Donaldson, Bryce Brown, Jerome Tiller, Brian Duncan, LaRon Moore, Justin Tuggle, Darius Darks, Paul Rhoads, Brad Madison, Art Briles, Sheldon Richardson, Bob Stoops, Jerrod Johnson, Blaine Gabbert, Jay Finley, Jared Barnett, Taylor Potts, Jimmy Stevens, Arthur Brown, Mack Brown, Garrett Gilbert, Jermie Calhoun, Collin Franklin, Phil Bennett, Jacquies Smith, Jarred Salubi, Collin Klein, Carl Gettis, Seth Doege, Scott Smith, Terrell Resonno, Carson Coffman, Aldon Smith, Brandon Weeden, Toben Opurum, Shane Jarka, Tyler Gabbert, Ahmad Dixon, Corey Nelson, Prince Kent, Shontrelle Johnson, Geneo Grissom, Quinn Mecham, Damontre Moore, Byron Landor, Darius Reynolds, Ugo Chinasa, Kevin Rutland, Roy Finch, Jacob Karam, Michael Brewer, Jordan Webb, A.J. White, Huldon Tharp, Ashton Glaser, Jarvis Phillips, Tim Atchison, Michael Hodges, Tre Porter, Kyle Mangan, Brock Berglund, David Garrett, Carrington Byndom, Justin McCay, Corbin Berkstresser, Daniel Sams, Dominique Patterson, James Capello, Jonathan Miller, Steele Jantz, Will Ford

Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each program heading into the spring:

Baylor Bears
Spring practice starts: March 16
Spring game: April 10

1. Quarterback Robert Griffin III's surgically repaired right knee. Griffin hasn't played since tearing the ACL in his right knee in the third game of the '09 season. He recently said he's ahead of schedule in rehabilitation, but probably won’t do much during spring practice. He'll wear a heavy knee brace and won’t participate in contact drills.

2. New linebackers. The Bears lost strongside linebacker Antonio Jones and middle linebacker Joe Pawelek, who combined to make 190 tackles last season. Senior Earl Patin, who also has played some defensive end during his career, is poised to replace Pawelek in the middle. But Patin will have to hold off highly regarded youngsters Chris McAllister and LeQuince McCall, who redshirted in ’09. Senior Chris Francis is probably the top candidate to replace Jones on the strong side.

3. Safety. The Bears must replace both of their starting safeties, including All-Big 12 performer Jordan Lake, who started 36 games in a row. Junior college transfer Byron Landor and sophomore Mike Hicks will get the first looks in the spring. But they'll have to hold off incoming freshman Ahmad Dixon, one of the top prospects to ever sign with Baylor, after he arrives for fall camp.

Colorado Buffaloes
Spring practice starts: March 6
Spring game: April 10

1. Michigan transfer Toney Clemons. Buffaloes coach Dan Hawkins called Clemons his team's most exciting receiver while he sat out the '09 season under NCAA transfer rules. The cousin of Arizona Cardinals receiver Steve Breaston, Clemons could bring an interesting dynamic to the CU offense. His arrival couldn't come at a better time, either, after Markques Simas was suspended indefinitely for violating team rules.

2. Linebacker. The Buffaloes must replace their two most productive linebackers after losing Marcus Burton and Jeff Smart. The departed seniors combined to make 105 solo tackles and 6.5 sacks last season. Senior Michael Sipili is the top candidate to replace Burton in the middle, and sophomore Jon Major might get the first crack at replacing Smart on the weak side.

3. Offensive line. The unit's inconsistency has dogged Hawkins' offense in each of his first four seasons. Eight offensive linemen had significant playing time in '09, so the Buffs are looking for more stability up front. The return of sophomore guard Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner from a pair of knee injuries, and early arrival of junior college transfer Eric Richter might shore up the interior line.

Iowa State Cyclones
Spring practice starts: March 23
Spring game: April 17

1. Linebackers. The Cyclones lost each of their starting three linebackers: Josh Raven, Jesse Smith and Fred Garrin. Junior Jacob Lattimer is in line to replace Raven on the strong side, and two highly regarded sophomores are in line to fill the other spots. A.J. Klein, who had 17 tackles in 13 games as a freshman, might get the unenviable task of replacing Smith, who led the Big 12 in tackles in '09. Jake Knott, who had 23 tackles as a freshman, is the top candidate to start on the weak side.

2. Wide receiver. Iowa State lost leading receiver Marquis Hamilton, who had 50 catches for 606 yards with four touchdowns in '09. Tight end Derrick Catlett, another top receiving threat, also is gone. The good news: Junior Darius Reynolds returns from a broken leg that caused him to miss all but four games last season. Reynolds, who earned the moniker "Money" for his big-play potential, had 13 catches for 72 yards before he was hurt in practice in late September. Junior college tight end Ricky Howard enrolled in classes in January and will participate in spring practice.

3. Defensive line. Two starters will have to be replaced after ISU lost right end Christopher Lyle and tackle Nate Frere. Lyle led the team with five sacks in '09; Frere was a pretty good run-stopper. Sophomores Cleyon Laing and Roosevelt Maggitt will get strong looks at end, and senior Austin Alburtis and sophomore Jake McDonough will move into the tackle rotation.

Kansas Jayhawks
Spring practice starts: March 27
Spring game: April 24

1. Quarterback. New Kansas coach Turner Gill might have one heck of a competition on his hands. Sophomore Kale Pick is a mobile option, after averaging 11.9 yards per rushing attempt in 2009. Junior college transfer Quinn Mecham, who enrolled in classes at Kansas in January, threw for 3,091 yards with 40 touchdowns and 11 interceptions at Snow College in Utah last season.

2. Wide receiver. The Jayhawks have to replace departed stars Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe, which will be no easy task. The duo combined to catch 186 passes for 2,322 yards with 17 touchdowns last season. Bradley McDougald and Johnathan Wilson were proven targets last season, but younger players such as Chris Omigie and incoming freshman Keeston Terry will have to help this fall.

3. Secondary. The Kansas defense gave up too many big passing plays and didn't create enough turnovers last season. The Jayhawks will have to replace strong safety Darrell Stuckey, who led them with 93 tackles in '09. Senior Phillip Strozier will get the first crack at replacing the heart and soul of the Kansas defense.

Kansas State Wildcats
Spring practice starts: March 21
Spring game: April 24

1. Oregon transfer Chris Harper. In 2008, Harper played wide receiver and quarterback for the Ducks as a freshman. He became the first Oregon player in eight years to run, pass and catch a touchdown in the same season. Harper, a native of Wichita, Kan., might figure into Kansas State's quarterback or wide receiver plans after sitting out the '09 season under NCAA transfer rules.

2. Quarterback battle. Harper and two other players will probably battle to replace departed senior Grant Gregory. Senior Carson Coffman, who started the '09 season at quarterback, figures to be back in the mix, along with junior college transfer Sammuel Lamur.

3. Defensive line. The Wildcats have a couple of gaping holes to fill up front defensively. End Jeff Fitzgerald, who had 40 tackles and 10 tackles for loss in '09, has to be replaced, along with tackles Daniel Calvin and Chidubamu Abana. Junior college transfer Javonta Boyd, who has already enrolled in classes, could help in the interior line.

Missouri Tigers
Spring practice starts: March 9
Spring game: April 17

1. Wide receiver. The Tigers have to replace Danario Alexander, who led the country with 1,781 receiving yards in 2009. Juniors Jerrell Jackson and Wes Kemp both caught more than 20 passes last season, but younger players like T.J. Moe and Rolandis Woodland are going to have to contribute more. Incoming freshman Marcus Lucas could help in the fall.

2. Linebacker. The Tigers bring back two of their starting three linebackers, but three-time All-Big 12 selection Sean Weatherspoon is the one who left. Sophomore Donovan Bonner heads into spring camp as the top candidate to replace Weatherspoon on the weak side, and Will Ebner and Andrew Gachkar are back at the other linebacker spots.

3. Defensive line. Two starters are gone on the defensive front: end Brian Coulter and nose tackle Jaron Baston. At least the Tigers know they’re set at one side, with end Aldon Smith coming back after totaling 19 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks in '09. Marcus Malbrough and Jacquies Smith will battle for starting end, and Terrell Resonno could move into the vacant tackle spot.

Nebraska Cornhuskers
Spring practice starts: March 24
Spring game: April 17
What to watch:

1. Will quarterback Zac Lee keep his starting job? After Lee was plagued by inconsistency throughout the '09 season, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson is expected to open the competition during spring practice. Sophomore Cody Green, senior Latravis Washington and freshman Taylor Martinez will all be given a fair chance to win the job.

2. Defensive tackle. Nebraska fans won't see All-American Ndamukong Suh commanding double-team blocks along the line of scrimmage. Even after losing one of the most decorated players in school history, the Cornhuskers figure to be pretty good up front. Jared Crick and Baker Steinkuhler will man the middle, with Pierre Allen and Cameron Meredith entering spring camp as the favorites at ends.

3. Rex Burkhead. The sophomore burst onto the scene after Roy Helu Jr. was hurt early in the Huskers' 33-0 rout of Arizona in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl, rushing for 89 yards with one touchdown. Burkhead was very explosive running out of the Wildcat package, so look for Watson to try and utilize him even more to make the Nebraska attack less predictable.

Oklahoma Sooners
Spring practice starts: March 8
Spring game: April 17

1. Offensive line. The Sooners have a lot of questions up front on offense, after left tackle Trent Williams and right guard Brian Simmons departed. Will junior Donald Stephenson finally be ready to contribute at left tackle after being suspended for all of the ’09 season? Will center Ben Habern be ready after breaking his leg late in the ’09 season? When will Jarvis Jones return from a broken heel?

2. Linebacker Ronnell Lewis. The sophomore had a break-out game in the Sooners’ 31-27 victory over Stanford in the Sun Bowl, finishing with six tackles and a forced fumble. With starting linebackers Keenan Clayton and Ryan Reynolds departing, Lewis will assume a starting role on the strong side. Redshirt freshman Tom Wort is projected to start in the middle, with junior Travis Lewis starting on the weak side.

3. Secondary. The Sooners have shuffled their defensive backs after losing cornerbacks Dominique Franks and Brian Jackson. Sophomore Demontre Hurst is in line to replace Franks at field cornerback, and senior Jonathan Nelson has moved from strong safety to boundary cornerback. Junior Sam Proctor is expected to replace Nelson at strong safety, and senior Quinton Carter is back at free safety.

Oklahoma State Cowboys
Spring practice starts: March 8
Spring game: April 17

1. Quarterback Brandon Weeden. The 26-year-old junior is the top candidate to replace Zac Robinson, who broke nearly every OSU passing record. Weeden was a second-round choice of the New York Yankees in the 2002 amateur baseball draft. If he can grasp new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorson's spread offense quickly, the Pokes' passing game should again be potent in 2010.

2. Defense. Defensive coordinator Bill Young will have his hands full this spring trying to replace nine starters. The only returning starters are defensive end Ugo Chinasa and strong safety Markelle Martin. The Pokes have to replace three starters on the defensive line, three linebackers and three defensive backs. Three newcomers -- linebacker Caleb Lavey and defensive backs Devin Hedgepeth and Malcolm Murray -- will get early looks in spring camp.

3. Offensive line. The Cowboys will have to replace star left tackle Russell Okung, left guard Noah Franklin, center Andrew Lewis and right tackle Brady Bond. Juniors Nick Martinez, Casey LaBrue and Grant Garner will be the top candidates to fill open starting spots.

Texas Longhorns
Spring practice starts: Feb. 26
Spring game: April 4

1. Quarterback Garrett Gilbert. The sophomore was thrust into action after Colt McCoy injured his shoulder against Alabama in the Citi BCS National Championship Game and played admirably well in tough circumstances. The Longhorns might change their identity on offense with a young quarterback under center, so developing a running game to take pressure off Gilbert might be a top priority.

2. Defense. The unit is in good hands with coordinator Will Muschamp, but he'll have to replace many of the star players from 2009. End Sergio Kindle, tackle Lamarr Houston, linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy and safety Earl Thomas are all gone. Younger players such as end Alex Okafor and tackle Tyrell Higgins will have to turn it up a notch during spring practice.

3. Wide receiver. Jordan Shipley, who was McCoy's favorite target, also departed. Seniors James Kirkendoll and John Chiles, junior Malcolm Williams and sophomore Marquise Goodwin will have to be more consistent in their route running and pass catching. Other receivers such as D.J. Monroe and DeSean Hales will be trying to crack the receiver rotation during the spring, before talented freshmen like Darius White, Mike Davis and Demarco Cobbs arrive on campus.

Texas A&M Aggies
Spring practice starts: March 23
Spring game: April 17

1. New defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter, who built one of the country’s best units at Air Force last season. He inherits an A&M defense that was woefully porous last season and will switch to a 3-4 scheme. Nine starters are coming back on defense, including pass-rushing specialist Von Miller. DeRuyter will spend the spring trying to install his system and getting his players comfortable with it.

2. Offensive line. The Aggies must replace three starting offensive linemen: left tackle Michael Shumard, center Kevin Matthews and right tackle Lee Grimes. Juniors Joe Villavisencio and Danny Baker and sophomore Stephen Barrera have to be ready to step up this spring.

3. Special teams. The Aggies’ special teams weren’t so special last season, as they ranked 104th in net punting, 91st in kickoff return defense and 49th in kickoff returns among FBS teams. Aggies coach Mike Sherman is putting a new emphasis on special teams, which cost his team dearly in its 44-20 loss to Georgia in the Independence Bowl.

Texas Tech Red Raiders
Spring practice starts: March 7
Spring game: April 17

1. Quarterbacks. With former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville replacing Mike Leach at Texas Tech, senior quarterbacks Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield figure to start spring camp on a level playing field. Potts started 10 games last season, throwing for 3,440 yards with 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Sheffield started two games and threw for 1,219 yards with 14 touchdowns and four picks. New offensive coordinator Neal Brown, who was hired from Troy, runs a version of the spread offense, but Tuberville will probably incorporate more of a traditional running game into the offense.

2. Defensive line. New defensive coordinator James Willis has to replace three starters on his defensive front: ends Brandon Sharpe and Daniel Howard and tackle Richard Jones. Making matters worse, the top two reserve ends in 2009 were seniors, along with the backup nose tackle.

3. Offensive line. O-line coach Matt Moore, who was retained from Leach's staff, has to replace three starters: center Shawn Byrnes, right guard Brandon Carter and right tackle Marlon Winn. Juniors Justin Keown and Mickey Okafor and sophomore LaAdrian Waddle will probably be given first crack at replacing them. Incoming junior college transfer Scott Smith could play stand-up end in Tech's 3-4 scheme, and junior college defensive tackle Donald Langley might also have an impact in spring practice.
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