NCF Nation: Ian Harris
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
All questions aren't settled during the course of spring practice as teams still have much work to upgrade their weaknesses heading into the season.
Obviously, some will receive a boost from incoming freshmen who will arrive later. But here's how each team's biggest liability shakes out heading into the summer.
Baylor: The Bears are desperately looking for help at offensive tackle after losing No. 2 overall draft pick Jason Smith and Dan Gay as their starters. Former Canadian firefighter Danny Watkins has established himself at Smith's old position protecting Robert Griffin's blind side. And on the right side, junior Chris Griesenbeck and redshirt freshmen Cameron Kaufhold are competing for the starting job with Tyler Junior College's Phillip Blake and Blinn College's Marquis Franklin set the arrive later this summer.
Colorado: Wide receiver has been a question mark for the Buffaloes throughout Dan Hawkins' coaching tenure. The Buffaloes return four scholarship wide receivers and had a chance to work out several new players with Scotty McKnight injured during the spring. Josh Smith and Markques Simas are the top playmakers coming out of the spring. Non-scholarship players like Jason Espinoza and Ryan Maxwell emerged, but the Buffaloes definitely need a big upgrade at the position from their arriving freshman class.
Iowa State: The Cyclones will be facing a big hole at left tackle, where two-year starter Doug Dedrick departs. It could be filled by Matt Hulbert, who started two games last season when Dedrick was hurt. Or it could be massive 354-pound junior Hayworth Hicks or freshman Brayden Burris at the position. Whoever emerges will face a huge challenge in filling Dedrick's experience as he protects the blind side of the Iowa State quarterbacks.
Kansas: Coach Mark Mangino will be facing a few huge rebuilding job at linebacker, where the Jayhawks lose key contributors Joe Mortensen, Mike Rivera and James Holt from last season. Mangino is talking about using a two-linebacker set as his base defense with fifth-year senior Jake Schermer and senior Arist Wright getting the starting jobs leaving spring practice. Sophomore Steven Johnson and converted running back Angus Quigley were competing for playing time during the spring and another boost is expected when junior linebacker Justin Springer, who is recovering from a torn ACL last season, returns in the fall.
Kansas State: Carson Coffman appeared to have claimed the starting job at quarterback -- at least for a few weeks -- after a strong effort during the latter stages of spring practice. But Coffman's late binge has to be tempered considering he is playing against the weak Kansas State secondary. So it's fair to say there are some lingering questions at the position. Coffman apparently has beaten back the challenge of challengers Collin Klein, Joseph Kassanavoid, Trey Scott and Milton McPeek. But the arrival of South Florida transfer Grant Gregory and heralded junior-college transfer Daniel Thomas will mean more competition in the summer.
Missouri: The Tigers will be facing a challenge of replacing NFL first-round draft pick Evander "Ziggy" Hood at defensive tackle to play opposite nose tackle Jaron Baston. Redshirt sophomore Terrell Resonno appeared to have claimed the job out of the spring, with Dominique Hamilton, Chris Earnhardt and converted linebacker George White perhaps earning their way into the rotation.
Nebraska: After the graduation of top receivers Todd Peterson and Nate Swift from last season, the Cornhuskers need to fill both positions. Leading returning receiver Menelik Holt appears to have a hammerlock on one position, but Niles Paul lost a chance to take a big step forward after missing the spring after he was suspended for driving under the influence. Antonio Bell was the biggest surprise, but converted I-back Marcus Mendoza, Chris Brooks, Wes Cammack and Curenski Gilleylen all showed flashes during the spring.
Oklahoma: There was concern before spring practice, considering the Sooners were replacing four-fifths of their starting offensive line with only Trent Williams back from last season's starters. And it got worse when Bob Stoops called out the young replacements because of their lack of diligence in their preseason conditioning. Williams emerged at left tackle with Brian Simmons and Stephen Good at guards, redshirt freshman Ben Habern at center and either LSU transfer Jarvis Jones or Cory Brandon at right tackle. The depth took a hit when center Jason Hannan left early in training camp and sophomore guard Alex Williams chose to leave after spring practice. The group struggled against the Sooners' talented defensive line, allowing Sam Bradford to be touch-sacked twice in three possessions in the spring game and produced only 27 rushing yards in 52 carries.
Oklahoma State: The loss of veteran center David Washington produced a huge hole in the center of the Cowboys' interior line. Andrew Lewis returns to his natural position, leaving Oklahoma State needing two new starters at guard. Noah Franklin and Jonathan Rush have staked claims to the starting positions with Anthony Morgan and Nick Martinez getting repetitions inside. This group needs to improve if it hopes to equal the standards of previous seasons, when the Cowboys led the Big 12 in rushing each of the last three seasons.
Texas: The tight end was rarely used for the Longhorns after Blaine Irby dislocated his kneecap last season against Rice. He still wasn't ready to go during the spring as Greg Smith, Ahmard Howard, Ian Harris and D.J. Grant all got work. None of them emerged. And with Irby's return remaining iffy, it means the Longhorns again could reduce the use of the tight end and utilize four-receiver sets when they want to move the ball. Don't look for the Longhorns to use the tight end much unless this production improves.
Texas A&M: The Ag
gies were wracked with injuries during the spring as projected starters Lee Grimes, Kevin Matthews and Lucas Patterson were sidelined all spring as A&M was down to only nine healthy offensive linemen for some practices. It still doesn't excuse the lack of offensive production for A&M's starting unit, which produced only 9 yards rushing on 24 carries against Texas A&M's first-string defense. Coach Mike Sherman will be counting on immediate production from an impressive group of incoming freshman at fall practice, but it's fair to characterize the Aggies' offensive line as the team's biggest spring concern -- especially after allowing 39 sacks last season and ranking last in the conference in rushing yards per game.
Texas Tech: The loss of productive starters Daniel Charbonnet and Darcel McBath left a gaping hole at safety for the Red Raiders. Junior Franklin Mitchem earned the free safety position leaving spring practice and redshirt freshman Cody Davis emerged at strong safety.Jared Flannel , Brett Dewhurst and converted linebacker Julius Howard also got some snaps at safety. It will still be a challenge to combat the explosive Big 12 defenses with such an inexperienced group at the position.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
AUSTIN -- So much for grabbing the bully pulpit.
|Jamie Squire/Getty Images|
|Mack Brown thinks the Longhorns should play in the Big 12 title game, but if they don't, he said they "won't pout about it."|
Texas coach Mack Brown resisted the chance to openly campaign for his team's inclusion in the Bowl Championship Series or next week's Big 12 title game after an impressive 49-9 victory over Texas A&M.
Starting quarterback Colt McCoy was taken out of action with 11:23 left in the fourth quarter and most of his starters even earlier.
And unlike in 2004, when his late lobbying helped push the Longhorns into the Rose Bowl -- the first BCS appearance in school history -- Brown left a lot unsaid Thursday after his team's impressive victory.
"I think voters have a tough decision because there's a lot of really good football teams out there," Brown said. "Oklahoma is a great team. Texas Tech is a great team. I do not want to sit up and take anything from any one of those teams.
"It would really be classless for me to sit here and say they aren't a great team. I don't want to say Oklahoma and Tech aren't deserving too, because they are really, really good football teams."
The decision to remove McCoy was an easy one for Brown, even though he had to convince his quarterback to go along with it.
"I can't sit here and say we believe in sportsmanship and sit there and throw it every snap at the end," Brown said. "And if the difference in 49-9 and 56-9 is going to make the difference, the system is more screwed up than I think it is."
The Longhorns are involved in a three-team conundrum in the South Division. Texas beat Oklahoma, 45-35, on a neutral field. Oklahoma smacked Texas Tech last week in Norman, 65-21. And Tech beat the Longhorns, 39-33, on a play settled in the final seconds.
If the Red Raiders and Sooners both win on Saturday, it will result in the first three-team tie in Big 12 South Division history. And it end up being settled on the fifth tiebreaker -- with the team with the highest standing in the BCS advancing.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
AUSTIN -- Revenge was sweet for Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, even if he didn't have to say anything.
|AP Photo/Erich Schlegel|
|In addition to completing 23 of 28 passes for 311 yards, Colt McCoy ran for 49 yards and two scores.|
After losing to Texas A&M in each of the last two seasons, McCoy's personal losing streak to the Aggies came to a crashing halt Thursday night.
And in the process, he boosted some life into his Heisman Trophy candidacy while pushing his team to the brink of another BCS appearance and a potential berth in the Big 12 title game.
McCoy was the ringleader in an impressive Texas performance as the No. 2 Longhorns claimed a 49-9 victory over the Aggies.
Two years ago, McCoy had been carted off the field against the Aggies after sustaining a neck injury. He saw his team struggle last year in a disappointing upset loss at College Station.
But those bad memories didn't faze McCoy as much as energize him Thursday night.
"Every time you go out on the field, you have to treat it like it's a new game," McCoy said. "You have to be focused the whole time. We've been unfortunate the last couple of years, but tonight, we left it all out on the field. A win is a win and I'm excited for them all."
McCoy completed 23 of 28 passes for 311 yards and two touchdowns and added 49 yards rushing yards to key the Longhorns' attack that jumped on the Aggies from the opening possession.
His value was best shown at the end of the first half, shortly after he had been stunned by a hard hit by Texas A&M defensive end Von Miller that left him gasping for breath.
What did he do after that play? He rebounded to hit his final three passes of the first half, including a pair of dramatic improvisational plays capped with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Quan Cosby for Texas' last touchdown with 12 seconds left in the half.
McCoy's early play helped pump some life into a lethargic start for the Longhorns. But he clicked on two long third-down plays on Texas' first possession to get the Longhorns pointed to an opening scoring drive capped by his own 14-yard TD run.